Monday, October 21, 2013

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Peachtree Publishers

Sam is a geek movie-buff with a ragtag group of loser friends who have been taking abuse from the popular kids for years. But when the super-cool Camilla moves to town, she surprises everyone by choosing to spend time with Sam's group. Suddenly they go from geek to chic, and find that not everything boils down to us and them. With their social lives in flux, Sam and Camilla spend more and more time together. They become the best of friends, and Sam finds that he's happier and more comfortable in his own skin than ever before. But eventually Sam must admit to himself that he's fallen in love. If he confesses his true feelings to Camilla, will everything change again?

  I think we have all had those moments when someone joins our group of friends and we wonder "What the heck are you doing?". Not because we are mean, but because we really are confused as to why this person who we think would never associate with us is suddenly taking an interest in us. Well Sam can relate to us in that aspect. Camilla has moved to Australia and into Sam's life when he and his friends are perfectly fine with being the geeks they are. I loved the characters in this book and don't really know if I could pick a favorite because they were all written so well. 

So many times I read books that are written about teenagers where the characters don't seem real. The characters in this book are teenagers- dialogue, actions, and quirks! Sam has a quirky sense of humor which I just love and couldn't get enough of. Being a teenager is the same no matter which continent you are on and that proves true with this novel. I love that it is evident in this novel that teenagers everywhere deal with the same issues! 

Enter to win a copy of Life in Outer Space here!!

Happy reading!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Hardcover, 286 pages
Published January 1st 2011 by Arthur A. Levine Books 
In the tradition of SHABANU, DAUGHTER OF THE WIND and THE BREADWINNER, a beautiful debut about a daughter of Afghanistan discovering new friends and opportunities after the defeat of the Taliban.

Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her--"Inshallah," God willing.

Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to her village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha--but can she dare to hope they'll come true?

I must admit that this book has been on my shelf for a while and I haven’t read it. Why? I have no good excuse for you…especially now that I have read it! After reading Torn by David Massey, I knew that this book must be my next. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time not only because of the powerful story that was written, but because of the knowledge that I gained about the Afghan culture and people through Trent Reedy’s words.

Zulaikha was born with a cleft lip and when she is spotted by the American soldiers who come into her village, they make every effort to help her fix her lip. This is only the surface level of the story. Zulaikha’s life is full of many trials and tribulations that impact her life that we (as privileged Americans) will never comprehend. I loved that my eyes were opened to a whole other culture and way of life. As I am cleaning my house now, I will not complain about what little I have to do in comparison to the young women like Zulaikha. Every emotion from rage to heartbreak was brought out of me through this novel. At one point, I was scared that I was going to completely melt down in front of my students as we were all reading. Can you imagine those parent phone calls? “My son told me you blubbered about a character in a book. Are you sure you’re okay?!” Haha!!

This summer I read a book called The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam which had a profound impact on me and opened my eyes to other cultures that are often labeled as “terroristic” because of something that people from their nation choose to do. I loved in the “Author’s Notes” Reedy pointed out how he had a view of the people from Afghanistan as being the evil monsters who terrorized and attacked our nation. However, when he went to the villages to help these people, he realized that there was a difference in the “dangerous groups like the Taliban and the typical, peace-loving Afghan people” (p. 253). It is through books like this and the many others that are out there that over privileged American’s like me can learn to distinguish between the two as well.

Happy reading….

Monday, October 7, 2013

Halloween picture books for your little monster

I don't know about you, but it is hard to believe that Halloween is right around the corner! Jaxon (my 4 year old) wants to be a dragon and I have decided to make the costume... what was I thinking?! And I have no clue what Kylie (my 8 year old) will wind up being. She is constantly changing her mind. At least we have some cute reads from Candlewick Press to tide us over and give us ideas! 

Ghost in the House
by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Candlewick Press 
 There’s a ghost in the house, In the creepy haunted house, On this dark spooky night all alone.
When a little ghost goes slip-sliding down the hallway, he suddenly hears...a groan! Turns out it’s only a friendly mummy, who shuffles along with the ghost, until they encounter...a monster! As the cautious explorers continue, they find a surprise at every turn — and add another adorably ghoulish friend to the count. But you’ll never guess who is the scariest creature in the house!
 Cute book that could be used to teach sequencing and the use of repetition.  It is also a great book for counting seeing as Ghost meets more friends along the way!!

Filbert, the Good Little Fiend
by Hiawyn Oram, Jimmy Liao

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Candlewick Press 
Daddy and Mommy Fiend want their little Filbert to be gruesome and ghastly, but he won’t trample or terrify, roar or holler. He’d much rather help an old lady with her bags or go bird-watching. What are they to do with him? When Filbert starts school, he quickly learns that good behavior isn’t tolerated in class, and he is banished outside until he can act like a proper little fiend. Suddenly a little angel appears, flying fast and furious until...bump! Could this naughty Angel-School dropout be just the friend Filbert needs? Could they find a way together to make everyone accept them as they are?
Sometimes people (and monsters) just don't understand that it is okay to be different. In this adorable book, Filbert finds an unexpected pal who helps him see that he is just fine the way he is and helps him show everyone else that too!

Vampire Baby
by Kelly Bennett

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Candlewick Press 
When Tootie gets her first teeth, it’s clear to her big brother that she’s no ordinary baby. But how to convince Mom and Dad?

It happens overnight: little sister Tootie goes from cuddly, ga-ga-googoo, I-want-my-ba-ba baby...vampire baby. Now she’s sinking her pointy fangs into everything — furniture, toys, and especially her big brother ("Youch, Tootie! No bite!" ). Mom insists that it’s just a phase, but Tootie’s brother knows better. Just look at her hairline! Or the fact that all her favorite foods are bloodred! With perfect comic timing, Kelly Bennett and Paul Meisel give a fresh slant to the new-baby story, proving that even monstrous little arrivals have a funny way of staking their siblings’ affections.
  I have to say that I have often thought my siblings were strange, but never pegged them for vampire babies! Tootie, however, definitely fits the bill. This cute story of one sibling trying to get used to the new baby and all her oddities is a must have for all parents with new babies coming in. The lesson learned is... well, you will just have to read it! 

Happy reading all!!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Torn by David Massey

Hardcover, 288 pages

Published July 30th 2013 by Chicken House (first published August 2nd 2012)


Witnesses to a mystery on the battlefield, a British medic and an American Navy SEAL confront Afghanistan's fog of war.
In war-torn Afghanistan, a girl walks right into a hail of bullets: Elinor watches it with her own eyes. The young British army medic risks the line of fire to rescue her, only to realize the girl is gone.
To find the missing, mysterious child, Elinor enlists the help of an American Navy SEAL. But in all the confusion, with coalition troops fighting every day to maintain a fragile peace, does Ben have something to hide?
Elinor came to Afghanistan with the hope of changing hearts and minds: What she's about to discover will make her question everything she ever believed about love and war.

A war thriller. A cross-cultural love story with an undercurrent of magic realism. A powerful debut set in modern-day, battle-scarred Afghanistan. This is TORN.

War is something that (sadly enough) every generation is now familiar with.  As I look at my children (the ones in my house and the ones in my classroom), I often wonder how it will impact them and if they will ever understand the impact of those who are fighting for our freedoms. Some of them already get it. They have parents or siblings or other family and friends who have fought in another country and even some who have lost loved ones in a war of some kind. Literature, I have found, is the easiest way to allow them some kind of understanding of war in the past and now with the help of David Massey, a new perspective can be found through the eyes of Elinor.

I absolutely fell in love with this book. The war in Afghanistan is one that is confusing for many and hits close to home for many more. As I grow older, I find that more and more people I know are enlisting (people from my high school and now my students) and I am watching the news trying to understand what is going on. There are a slow trickle of books available to students and everyone else to read that give some insight through fictitious characters as to what the war is like. I have even toyed around with the idea of a book about this very topic and began Torn as a research piece to see the perspective of this author. I certainly gained more than that.

This novel is beautifully written, action packed and opens your eyes to a situation in which we often forget about. The children who are impacted most during these wars. I am lucky enough to have the Scholastic Bookfair at school right now and this book is on it, so I am sending all of my kiddos to it and telling them they won’t regret it. Trent Reedy’s Words in the Dust is up next for me. Once I get on a kick… it is hard to get away from it!

Visit David Massey here and see more about him and his works!!

Happy reading!
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