It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee from Unleashing Readers host a weekly linkup party with a kidlit bent called It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Go check them both out! 

I am definitely not good at the weekly, or even semi-regular posting thing. There just always seems to be a million things to get done, and writing blog posts slips down the priority list. The silver lining of that particular procrastination means that I have more books to talk about for IMWAYR.

Without further ado….

23309730Ruby on the Outside
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
For ages 9 and up

I love most of Nora’s stuff. Our fifth graders read Anything But Typical, which they love, and she has come several years to our school to work with them on creative writing and to talk about her books. This new one is a great middle grade read.
Ruby’s mom is in prison for 20-25 years for being an accessory to a murder when Ruby was only 4 years-old. Ruby lives with her aunt who tries her best to be a good parent, but it’s not always easy. Ruby is eleven and finally starting to realize that she harbors a good deal of anger towards her mother, and she has a lot of questions about what really happened and why her mom was there, and part of the crime. Ruby also struggles with friendships, as she is reluctant to let anyone get too close so they won’t find out about her mom. But in the summer before middle school Ruby meets Margalit whose friendship might mean enough to her to actually share her deepest, darkest secret.
I loved Ruby’s conflicted feelings about her; the desire to be loyal butts up against her very real anger that her mom is not in her life because of bad decisions. I’ve already book talked this one a few times and kids have been clamoring for it every time. It’s right around 200 pages, which I love, makes it completely accessible to so many kids.

23281891Lost in the Sun
by Lisa Graff
Ages 10 and up

Trent is still carrying around an enormous amount of guilt because a hockey puck that he hit into a fellow hockey player with an undiagnosed heart condition, died. Trent’s method of coping is to make sure that everyone around him hates him as much as he thinks they should, and so he checks out of school, antagonizes his father, and basically makes a complete ass of himself. I liked this one a lot, but Trent is a hard kid to like, and it takes most of the book to come around to finding some sympathy, at least for me that’s how it went. Graff’s books are always reliable, accessible realistic fictions, and I love sharing them with students.

20483085Poisoned Apples
by Christine Heppermann
Greenwillow Books, 2014
Ages: 14 and up

This slim volume of poems packs quite a punch. It got a lot of talk and great reviews when it came out last year, but I resisted buying it for my library because of the recommended age level, my school only goes through the 8th grade. Just recently I saw it mentioned somewhere and decided to go ahead and get a copy and I’m glad I did. These fairy tale poems cover a lot of ground about beauty, bodies, eating disorders, girls and love. Together they are quite powerful, I read the lot in only two short sittings, but even taken separately there are some really important poems here that are worth sharing with teens. With titles like “Mannequins Make Me Feel Like a Failure” and “The First Anorexic” readers are immediately drawn in. I can easily see teachers and advisors at my school wanting to share some of these with the older students, girls and boys alike, to spark discussion about some the issues that are prevalent throughout middle and high schools.
Highly recommended.

23310697Rhythm Ride
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
for ages 12 and up

In this one, Pinkney writes much like she presents. I had the pleasure of seeing her speak at a conference this summer and she was mesmerizing, and completely compelling. It was like a spoken poem. This history of Motown Records is told in the narrative voice of “the groove” and the words just bounce to their own funky rhythm. I loved reading it, and loved finding out more about the artists that made some of my most favorite music. The motown sound was running through my head throughout the book. I can’t recommend this one enough and can’t wait to share it with my 7th and 8th graders, even if they don’t know Motown music. They will!


Pieces of Why
by K.L. Going

This one I reviewed separately on my blog here.

Phew. It was some good reading these past few weeks, I’m glad to be back into the routine of school, which helps me find the time to read more consciously.

Can’t wait to see what everyone else has been tackling this week!



Pieces of Why by K.L. Going

piecesofwhyPieces of Why
by K. L. Going
Penguin September 8, 2015
Ages: 10 and up

E-ARC provided by NetGalley

I do love me some K.L. Going; been a fan of her writing since I first The Liberation of Gabriel King and this new title does not disappoint.

The Sum: Tia is a little girl with a big voice! She sings in a local childrens gospel choir with her best friend Keisha, lives with her mother in a less-than-stellar neighborhood of New Orleans, and has a lot of questions about her father who is in prison and she hasn’t seen since she was four years old. Everyone around Tia seems to know more about her father’s history than she does, but when a shooting breaks the calm outside choir practice one evening, killing a baby in the crossfire, Tia decides it’s time to find out what her mother is keeping from her and the whole truth about her father’s violent past. The shooting has shattered Tia’s faith in humanity, leaving her unable to sing and unable to voice her emotions about everything that is going on around her.

The Good: Well-written, compelling characterizations, timely issues all come together to make for a wonderful middle grade read. Tia is full of life, full of questions, full of thoughts that are hard to put into words, and for a long time singing was her only outlet. Vivid, sensual descriptions of a post-Katrina New Orleans are rich with detail, and I love that the storm is only a sidenote to this story, but the imagery of the neighborhoods is real and visceral. The relationship between Tia, who is white, and Keisha, who is black, transcends race, and yet it is everywhere, woven throughout the story, rippling the surface of many of the interactions between characters.

The Less-Good: Not much to say here on my one and only reading of the story, but I did feel like the eventual meeting of the father in the prison visiting room felt a little too pat, and a little too happy endingish, but really it was a minor moment in a story about Tia’s growth and the development of her relationship with her mother.

The Overall: I really liked this one, it’ll find a wide audience at my school. It’s the second book this month that I’ve read about a youngster with a parent in prison, the other being Nora Baskin’s Ruby On the Outside, and that one took only one booktalk to make it a hot commodity around these parts. I can’t wait to share this one with students and teachers.

Top Ten Tuesday–Kidlit style

My second attempt at a Top Ten Tuesday post, and I’m not sure I have ten to share, but we’ll see if I get there.

A shoutout, and a link back, goes to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting and managing such a huge blogworld meme.

The topic this week is  Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With. I can think of one or two off the top of my head, a few more if I scan my Goodreads list to remind myself what I’ve read, and I still doubt I’ll end up at 10, but whatever.

In no particular order, other than my memory.

1) Gansey from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I know, I KNOW, I should love him. Everyone does. But wealthy, prep school kids who talk like adults annoy me, maybe because I work at a prep-ish school. Anyway, that leads me directly to my next victim.

2) Frankie from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart. Similar reasons. I liked the book, thought the writing was fantastic, but she bugged me. Just a little too clever, a little too….I don’t know what.

3) Ben from Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel. A lot of people loved this book, and I liked it, and I usually love Oppel’s stuff. I can read me some Airborn all the livelong day, but this character put me off. To me, it felt like there was a lot of gratuituos discussion of girl’s bodies, and it made me uncomfortable. Realistic for a teenage boy? I’m sure. But I got an ick factor off this kid that I couldn’t shake.

4) Grace from Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (don’t hate me, Maggie). I couldn’t even finish this novel. Grace’s obsession drove me to ditch this one. It felt like fan fiction.

I just want to take a moment here to tell you all that I LOVED Scorpio Races. Loved the characters, loved the mythology, loved the story. All of it. Just sayin’.

5) Hermione. WHAT? you say. I actually love  Hermione now, but when I first read Sorcerer’s Stone, she bugged me. A young know-it-all at private school. I guess there’s a theme. But she definitely grew on me, and by the time I finished Prisoner of Azkaban, I was a big fan of hers. (BTW, I love that I could just put her name without the title of the book and you all would know)

6) Ok, that’s all I could come up with, and in order to actually post this on a Tuesday I need to call it a day. Oh well. Consider them doubly annoying and I’ve got 10! 

Happy almost Hump Day!