Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Important Announcement: Reading Posters Worthy of Mockery

Excuse the lack of posting. It was due entirely to the excitement involved in preparing for a new section being added to this blog. Right.

On to the announcement:

Since joining the ALA, I have been receiving 'ala graphics' a catalog of posters and bookmarks for libraries to get kids interested in reading. I love getting these catalogs. The celebrity posters are so very mockable. And so one day, I had a thought. "Chele," I thought. "Woah, who are you?" I replied. "Brain," I thought. "Where have you been?" I asked. After a while of this my brain finally got to the point. "Why not share some of the particularly noteworthy Celebrity Read Posters on your blog." "Kay," I replied, not bothering to ask why. Brain has proven to be the sometimes-smarter one of the two of us.

So, I present to you, few but dear readers, the first ever...


We will start with an actor whom I love dearly (to demonstrate that all who pose may end up mocked):

Oh, Alan Rickman, how you look as though you just might be in pain.  How it looks as though you just might be swearing that you'll kill the camera person if he or she does not finish soon.  Or perhaps it is The Catcher in the Rye that has induced the trauma.  Sadistic literature teacher's have been using the book to make students cry for decades.

But then, perhaps I am wrong.  Perhaps the slight upturn of the left side of your mouth is not a twitch of suffering passed off as amusement.  Perhaps it is a demonstration of your acting ability to channel the angsty king of angst, Holden Caulfield.  Perhaps you are trying not to laugh at one of angsty Holden's many angsty antics.  Which part are you at, Alan?  Has Holden been expelled?  Has he checked into the hotel?  Befriended a prostitute?  Inquiring readers want to know.  But some of us may be able to content ourselves with you reading aloud a page or so.  Maybe you could read the page where Holden gets beaten by the prostitute's pimp.  I know that part always bring's a tear to my left eye just as it has brought a slight smirk to dear Alan's left side of his mouth.

Love the actor.  Hate the book.  'Ehh' the poster.  What are your thoughts?

Monday, January 26, 2009

And the 2009 American Library Association Winners Are...

Oooh, new award in the name of Virginia Hamilton for lifetime achievement by African American Children's authors

Alex Award (Adult books that appeal to young adults):

-City of Thieves 
-The Dragons of Babel
-Finding Nouf
-The Good Thief
-Just After Sunset
-Mud Bound
-Over and Under
-The Oxford Project
-Sharp Teeth
-Three Girls and Their Brother

Schneider Book Award (Artistic expression of disability experience)

-Piano Starts Here:  The Young Art Tatum
-Waiting for Normal
-Jerk California

Coretta Scott King Award (African American Authors and Illustrators who promote understanding)

Illustrations (honors and winner)
-New Talent Award:  Shandra Strickland'a illustrations for Bird
-We Are the Ship
-Before John was a Jazz Giant
-The Moon Over Star 

-The Blacker the Berry (Winner!!!!!!)

Author Awards (honors and winner)
-Keeping the Night Watch
-The Blacker the Berry
-Becoming Billie Holiday

-We Are the Ship (Winner!!!!!!)

Odyssey Award (Audio Book)

-Curse of the Blue Tattoo
-Elijah of Buxton  
-I'm Dirty
-Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

-The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Margaret A. Edwards Award (Lifetime for YA author)

-Laurie Halse Anderson

William C. Morris Award (Unpublished YA author)

-A Curse Dark as Gold
-Absolute Brightness
-Mad Apple
-Me, The Missing, and The Dead


-A Curse Dark as Gold

Printz Award (YA literature)


-Astonishing Life of Octavius Nothing II
-The Disreputable History of Frankie Landou
-Tender Morsels


-Jellicoe Road

Belpre Award (Latino)

Honors (Illustration)
-Papa and me
-The Storyteller's Candle
-What Can You Do with a Rebozo

Winner (Illustrator)
-Just in Case

Honors (Author)
-Reaching Out
-Just in Case
-The Storyteller's Candle

Winner (Author)
-The Surrender Tree:  Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom

Arbuthnot Honor Lecture (a talk to be given in a few months)

-Kathleen T. Horning (From Cover to Cover:  Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books)

Mildred A. Batchelder Award (Published in another language and translated)

-Carmann's Summer
-Tiger Moon


Sibert Medal (Informational Books)

-Bodies from the Ice
-What to Do About Alice?

-We Are the Ship

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (Lasting contribution)

Ashley Bryan

Andrew Carnegie Medal (Video)

March On:  The Day My Brother Marten Changed the World

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Beginning Reader)

-Chicken Said, "Cluck!"
-One Boy

-Are You Ready to Play Outside?

Caldecott Medal (Picturebook illustration)

-A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever
-How I Learned Geography
-A River of Words:  The Story of William Carlos Williams

-The House in the Night

Newbery Medal:

-The Underneath
-The Surrender Tree
-After Tupac & D Foster

-The Graveyard Book

Certified Resolution Writing Endeavor Review Report: Week Four

I made it again.  Just barely.

And I know I said I 'just barely' made it last week too.

But this week's 'just barely' makes last week's just barely seem like a wide easy clearing of gapiness.

Isn't that a fun word...gapiness.  I think I may have to work it into an academic paper.

In other news.  The 2009 Printz, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, etc. award winners will be announced in 15 minutes--fewer than 15 minutes due to my typing.

Let's see if I've read any of them.  (I have a bad history of having never heard of the books)

And then let's buy them all on Amazon.  For reals.  Publishers and bookstores are given no warning of which books will win.  Chaos ensues.

I'll post the winners for you as soon as I know them...and as soon as I've already purchased my copies.  No way I'm fighting you for them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

REVIEW: Emiko Superstar

Tamaki, M., & Rolston, S. (2008). Emiko Superstar. New York: DC Comics.


This graphic novel introduces readers to a teenager named Emily as she struggles with choices about her future. After deciding not to attend a summer-long Young Executives Retreat, Emily finds herself splitting her time between babysitting and attending weekly artistic ‘Freak Shows’ at a factory.

Set in Canada, Emily struggles with her identity as she becomes a performer, reading the words written by someone else and chooses the name, Emiko, and the clothes she inherited from her Japanese-Canadian grandmother.

Emily’s story is broken into acts and scenes and the graphics interact well with the text and dialogue.

In many ways, Emiko Superstar has a similar feel to some of the works done by Francesca Lia Block exploring the experiences of expressive and artistic teen characters, but Tamaki and Rolston’s graphic novel lacks the underlying dysfunction and darkness in some of Block’s narratives.

One of the supporting characters in the story is homosexual. While Susan is treated relatively fairly, there is one moment in the narration that a reader could interpret negatively: “Susan was in New York City with her, uh, partner. I hope she’s happy” (p. 147). While in general the implication is supportive, the hesitation before the word ‘partner’ could lead to a debate over the implications of that ‘uh.’

Activities to do with the book:

Since the book makes many references to the works and artistic endeavors of Andy Warhol, reading this graphic novel would lend itself to a discussion of Warhol’s art and life.

The graphic novel also invites discussions of what ‘text’ and ‘art’ are. A teacher could also encourage contemplation and artistic expressions over ideas of identity, appearances, choices, secrets and the condition of being an outsider and an insider.

Favorite Quotes

“Clearly, I had passed the “I am not a serial killer” test” (p. 20).

“I was at what this book I found described as a “classic crossroads.” Where one thing gets left behind…and something else gets spotted in the distance” (p. 34).


Saturday, January 24, 2009


Just wrote a poem.

Can't get the

Out of my head.

I may forever
think in

The Great Submission Debate

In the great debate (that probably goes on in my head alone) between submitting manuscripts by USPS or email. I am officially declaring my allegiance to the email side.

I get rejected so much more quickly with emails and I don't have to pay postage to hear about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

REVIEW: The First Part Last

Johnson, A. (2003). The First Part Last. New York: Simon Pulse.


Jumping back and forth in time, The First Part Last tells the story of sixteen-year-old Bobby and his experiences being the boyfriend of a pregnant teen, then the father of a newborn girl. Readers feel Bobby’s struggle to take responsibility, to figure out what he wants and to make his art.

The First Part Last won the Coretta Scott King Award and normalizes blackness by assuming it and placing Bobby’s family in middle class. Bobby’s parents are divorced. His mother is a photographer and his father owns a restaurant.

The weaving between the two narratives creates tension, causing the reader to wonder how Bobby ended up being the primary guardian of his daughter when he and his girlfriend, Nia, had made different plans and how his daughter ended up with the name Feather. The structure challenges the reader to think, reflect and even to reread as they try to understand what happened between ‘then’ and ‘now.’

One chapter is told in the voice of Nia, making it worth of discussions with students. A teacher may also make note of the different parenting approaches present in the narrative.

Now on to my SPOILER-ish note. Admittedly, I’ve only read one other teen pregnancy book recently (Draper’s November Blues, 2007) but in both cases the pregnant teens face complications. Now this could be a crazy rumor, but I had always been led to believe when younger women got pregnant, they tended to face fewer complications than older women.

Activities to do with the book:

This book could trigger a number of discussion, including ones about parenthood, love, sex education, teen pregnancy, making choices with others in mind, city life as compared to small-town life.

Since the narrative makes jumps in time, students could write their own stories that follow the same structure.

Favorite Quotes:

“But I figure if the world were really right, humans would live life backward and do the first part last. They’d be all knowing in the beginning and innocent in the end” (p. 4).

REVIEW: The Willoughbys

Lowry, L. (2008). The Willoughbys. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.


Lois Lowry, made famous for her explorations of distopias and historic moments in The Giver (1993) and Number the Stars (1998), went in a more humorous direction with The Willoughbys. I had wanted to say ‘a lighter direction,’ but alas, that would be mistaken. The plot features a family of four children attempting to rid themselves of their parents so they may become orphans. Don’t feel too bad for the parents though, they are also looking to be rid of their sons and daughter. While the lack of sympathy and sentimentality among the characters may shock a few, it will likely amuse most.

The Willoughbys includes reference after reference to classic or ‘old-fashioned’ children’s literature in what feels like an extensive running gag. A well-written running gag.

If a teacher were to choose to share it with students, he or she would have to be careful of the expectation of prior knowledge on the part of the reader as well as some of the jabs that could be viewed as marginally offensive to the French or Presbyterians. While the book includes humorous appendices of both the book’s vocabulary and references, few young readers would probably actually use it. On the plus side, even if the students don’t initially know what stories The Willoughby characters are referencing, I have no doubt it was Lowry’s goal that students might seek out some of those books after finishing her novel.

I couldn’t help but notice a slight-tiny-itty-bitty mistake with the narrative. The plot takes up several strands of narratives (which a teacher might have to provide support for anyway). The main plot takes place over several days, while weaving with another subplot that takes place over one afternoon (unless the reader is expected to believe a baby remained unattended and unfed on the porch of a mansion for several days). However, few will probably notice this discrepancy in the chronology of the narrative. I must admit I didn’t notice it until I was reading the book for the third time.

Activities to do with the book:

This would be a great book to use as a class read aloud. Students would no doubt be entertained by their teacher’s attempts at speaking faux-German. Plus this way the teacher could pause over vocabulary words, over characters mentioned and described from different perspectives and over references to classic children’s literature and encourage students to read those books. (There are enough books referenced that each student could probably be assigned to read one and report to the class about the plot)

The Willoughbys also would lend itself to enacting some parts of the narrative to help students visualize the scenes.

Favorite Quotes:

“Barnaby and Barnaby were ten-year-old twins. No one could tell them apart, and it was even more confusing because they had the same name; so they were known as Barnaby A and Barnaby B. Most people, including their parents, shortened this to A and B, and many were unaware that the twins even had names” (p. 11).

“Their lives proceeded in exactly the way lives proceeded in old-fashioned stories.
One day they even found a baby on their doorstep” (p. 13).

“Shouldn’t we be orphans?” Barnaby B asked” (p. 28).

REVIEW: M is for Mischief

Ashman, L. (2008). M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children. New York:
Dutton Children’s Books.


As the title implies, this alphabet picturebook features 26 misbehaving baddies. The rhyming and playful nature of the poems lend a person (read: me) to imagine he or she is the narrator on the show Gossip Girl, reporting what bad deeds Chuck Bass has done this week.

While all of the poems feature alliteration of that page’s particular letter, not all of the poems include poetic justice. I personally found this less than ideal. “Let them have it,” I thinks.

The illustrations are fun and interesting—a mix of colorful sketches and photographs.

Activities to do with the book:

Students could come up with the own poems of children behaving badly. They could also turn the poems into skits and have a classmate narrate the poems.

Favorite Quotes:

“Abby's apt to argue anytime and anyplace.
She'll argue over apricots, an acorn, or an ace.
She'll argue with an astronaut, an artist, or a waiter.
A shame she had to argue with that awful alligator.”

“It's quirky how Quincy is so quick to fight.
He quarrels with all, convinced he is right.
He quibbles with teachers, then quacks, "How absurd!"
He quizzes his classmates, then mocks every word.

When warned of the quicksand, he questions the scout.
He might quarrel less...if he's ever pulled out.”

REVIEW: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones

Sanderson, B. (2008). Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones. New York: Scholastic


So I know I reviewed the first Alcatraz book a few weeks ago, but what can I say, I enjoyed it. So here’s the second book. This time around, Alcatraz must search for his father and grandfather in the great Library of Alexandria (turns out it wasn’t destroyed, just moved. It’s a conspiracy).

While I will admit to loving this fantasy/science fiction series, I have a very small bone to pick with the titles. While the ‘versus’ technique is cute on one hand, it always places Alcatraz in opposition. But on the other hand, opposition creates tension and tension helps make for a good read. But on the other hand, in a binary infested world do we really need more binaries. Hmmm. That’s enough rambling and too many hands.

Now lets move on to the opening sentence. The “So, there I was,” phrasing is used in both books multiple times. This could turn into a fun writing exercise to do with students—Have them create their own stories beginning with “So, there I was….”

Once again, Sanderson includes the use of guns and violence in the book with no serious consequences. (however there is a repeated promise of death to the character, Bastille) On the plus side though, Sanderson maintains the strength of his enjoyable and humorous meta-narrative that explores the conditions of leadership and heroism. I made be forced to add him to the short list of authors that I would marry no questions asked. (This is a big deal, guys! This is a very short list and Sanderson just might get his name put on it).

Activities to do with the book:

Along with considering discussions of how to construct a tense and drama –filled narrative, students can also discuss if Alcatraz is a trustworthy narrator.

Another discussion would be to consider the way Western culture is viewed in the Alcatraz books. A reader can feel like an anthropologist, examining their own culture.

Overall, Alcatraz’s sarcastic voice could manage to entice many struggling readers. If that is the case, it’s important to maintain the sense of fun inherent in this series.

Favorite Quotes:

“You think you know me. You’ve listened to the storytellers. You’ve talked with your friends about my exploits. You’ve read history books and heard the criers tell of my heroic deeds. The trouble is, the only people who are bigger liars than myself are the people who like to talk about me” (Foreword).

For some reason, the more powerful a pair of Oculatory Lenses is, the less cool they tend to look. I’m developing a theory about it—the Law of Disproportional Lameness.)” (p. 2).

“I feel I need to break the action here to warn you that I frequently break the action to mention trivial things” (p. 7).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Certified Resolution Writing Endeavor Review Report: Week Three

Okay, so I made it again.  And by 'made it again,' I mean last night I wrote down random thoughts until I filled enough pages.

But I made it.  

This officially marks my longest running New Year's resolution EVER.  I'm committed!  I'm motivated!  I'm afraid of the punishments my readers might invent!  Be impressed.  I kind of am.

Let's see if I can keep it up for yet another week, shall we?

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced:  One week!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

REVIEW: Even Firefighters Go to the Potty

Wax, W., & Wax, N. (2008). Even Firefighters Go to the Potty. New York: Little Simon.


As this blog demonstrates, I’m still struggling to get published. Because of this, I have often had to resort to checking new books out of the library to do these reviews instead of buying my own copies. The library copy of Even Firefighters Go to the Potty, strangely enough, reeks of pickles. I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much though. It is a potty training book and it could stink of things much worse.

The book makes use of onomatopoeia, repetition and tabs to keep its young readers engaged. In terms of potty books that have ‘passed’ before, this one feels most similar to Everybody Poops (2001) in that both normalize the activity and both are unintentionally hilarious. Of course, Everybody Poops includes animals and explicit imagery while Even Firefighters Go to the Potty is more concerned with people (who have jobs) and the actual use of a toilet as opposed to… the outdoors.

It could be the germaphobe in me, but I struggled with the fact that only a single illustration showed one of the many adults (the waiter) washing his hands. While an important step, I personally wouldn’t have minded if an entire page of text was devoted to reminding its readers, young and *cough* OLD, to wash their hands.  (I've used a public restroom!  I know you're out there, avoiders of cleanliness)

While a doctor, baseball player and pilot are all featured as having to go to the potty. I couldn’t help but feel a few occupations were missing. Does the teacher not go to the potty? The prison inmate?  And given the current economic climate, where does the laid-off factory worker go to the bathroom? Is his or her bathroom as nice as the factory owner’s? I don’t think so.

Activities to do with the book:

Honestly, I have no ideas beyond the, umm, obvious….

Favorite Quotes:

“The rocket ship is about to take off. But an astronaut is missing. Where could he have gone?”

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced:  8 Days

Saturday, January 17, 2009

REVIEW: There Are Cats in This Book

Schwarz, V. (2008). There Are Cats in This Book. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.


After having read There Are Cats in This Book, I can swear that there are, in fact, cats in this book. Fun, high maintenance cats. This picturebook does an excellent job of engaging young readers from end page to end page. It includes multiple direct orders to its readers and many tabs to flip. I do foresee one potentially disastrous page: At one point the cats manage to get drenched. Afterwards, the reader is told to “blow on the page…” to dry them. I imagine that when many young readers attempt to make a gentle breeze may accidentally result in the creation of a spit storm drenching the page, which could be a problem if the book is a classroom copy.

This story is a fun and cute read that presupposes that its reader will be fond of cats (or will become fond of the cats as they read). But it does manage to create tension and (hopefully) enthusiasm as the child flips through the pages.

Activities to do with the book:

This is probably best as a one-on-one read. It’s good for working on fine motor skills (flipping the many tabs, turning the pages themselves) and noticing cause and effect with the cats’ actions.
This book could be used to help prepare a child for sleep.
Also, if a reader is familiar with cats, they could create their own ideas or illustrations for other things that a cat might do. Or the general structure of the book could be adopted by a parent or teacher to accommodate another animal with the child or class creating more adventures.

Favorite Quotes:

“The cats aren’t on this page.”

“Turn the page! What are you waiting for?”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

REVIEW: The Goats

Cole, B. (1987). The Goats. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux


When campers do a mean prank to two outsider thirteen-year-olds by stranding them naked on an island, the bullied boy and girl decide to escape the island and not return to the camp. The journey that follows feels like a Gary Paulsen book set a few miles closer to civilization.

More than anything the boy and the girl (as they are referred to throughout most of the book) seem to desire control over their lives and respect from the people they must deal with. Throughout the book, they gradually grow from victims to rule breakers to confident friends who are committed to each other. As thirteen-year-olds, both the boy and the girl are dealing with issues of sexual awakening.

It is also worth noting that the story is told from multiple perspectives. Readers see overlaps of accounts of events not only from the perspectives of the boy and the girl, but also from the perspective of the girl’s mother.

The book also contains subtle references to works of art and Greek gods and considers, to some extent, issues of race and class.

As a person who has spent a number of summers at camps, I must admit I had ‘suspension of disbelief’ issues with the camp administrators and with one of the mother’s reactions to two campers going missing. Other struggles include the fact that the narrative is a little dated (pre-cell phones, pre-credit cards).

Activities to do with the book:

This would be a good book to use to begin a discussion on bullying or victimization.  

Some of the plot points could likely trigger a strong emotional response from readers at one of several points in the narrative, so it could be used with particularly taciturn students to get them sharing their opinions.

Favorite Quotes:

“When he came back to the beach with wood for the fire Bryce grabbed him from behind. The firewood scattered, bouncing off his knees and shins” (p. 3).

“What…” he said carefully, trying to think of something that would quiet her down. “What if we weren’t here when they came back?” (p. 10).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Certified Resolution Writing Endeavor Review Report: Week Two

I made it again!

(Wrote two picturebooks this week--of varying quality and even edited and submitted one of them to a publisher.  (I submitted the higher quality story, not the lower quality one (I feel the publishing world is working against me enough (I don't need to sabotage myself (although wouldn't that be fun (maybe not so fun)))))

However, pesky school work is already starting to make getting to writing and 'frivolous-fun-reading-that-I-personally-deem-necessary-for-life-and-writing-but-my-teachers-may-not-see-such-reading-in-the-same-enlightening-light' difficult.  

While I still hope for success next week, you may want to start thinking of some ridiculous and terrifying ways to punish me in case of failure.  Feel free to post your ridiculous and terrifying ideas at any time.  I look forward to feeling ridiculed and terrified by them.

Maybe that'll keep me motivated.

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced: 14 Days AKA Two Weeks!!!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

REVIEW: Peter Pan

Barrie, J.M. (2003). Peter Pan. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.


It seems with several movie versions, Hook, Finding Neverland, and the actual play, nobody could escape knowing something of the story of Peter Pan. However, it seems that only a small number of people actually read the book these days. Those that do, will discover a shockingly complicated and difficult text. Jumps in time and point of view, numerous metaphors, images, cultural and historic references and an interrupting narrator will make this a challenging read for many young readers.

Plus Peter is really forgetful and potentially annoying.

Nonetheless, there are uses for this book and exercises that may be completed. Just don’t do them with too young of a crowd. If I were to use this book in the classroom it would be with high school students. Since there are so many rich themes and metaphors and since most students are probably familiar with some version of the narrative this book could be of good use in introducing analysis and literary theory.

It is undeniable that Barrie captured a sense of magic, fun, and childhood that most children’s writers cannot help but desire to equal. And because of this, there are great fun exercises that can be done, such as having children create or draw their own maps of Neverland. Since the book is also a play, it lends itself to being reenacted. This could help with visualization.

Also, a special note if teachers use the edition of the book forwarded by author Susan Cooper—Her comments would influence anyone’s reading of the text. For me, most striking is the delicate description of Barrie as ”yearning for little-boy love” (p. XVI).

Activities to do with the book:

Have students create their own Neverlands, analyze the book’s literary themes, enact scenes, research Barrie’s life, discuss the imagination and separation between reality and fantasy, consider issues of power and the conditions of motherhood, the construction of masculinity and femininity etc.

Students could also discuss the many reinterpretations and sequels to the narrative.

Favorite Quotes:

“All children, except one, grow up” (p. 1).

“To die will be an awfully big adventure” (p. 123).

“I’m youth, I’m joy” (p. 195).

So my few, but wonderful readers, have you read the complete text of Peter Pan?

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced: 16 Days

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Assistant in Your Rejection

Last night, I received an emailed rejection from a children's book agent.  The form letter came from an assistant.

It was very nice as far as rejections go.  But it made me think of one of my close friends, Holly, who is similarly an assistant to an editor.  She too must send out the dooming form rejection letters and accept potential authors' rage and ill-will in the place of her boss receiving such ire in the form of angry calls or vague threats of "You'll be sorry!  Wah!"

Now some would imagine this would mean that I would resist being upset by the rejection, knowing the assistant was merely doing as he was told to make some money in this sad economy.  (And to be honest, I'm not upset.  Rejection is the norm I have become hardened to.  And since the submission was by email, I didn't even have to pay for postage.  Score!)  But that is not my struggle.  Oh no, instead of being mad at the agent's assistant, I'm wondering if I should just be angry with Holly.  Tough call.

(Holly--if you read this, JUST KIDDING.  I have nothing but love for ya, truly.)  

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

REVIEW: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

Patterson, J., & Ledwidge, M. (2008). The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. New York: Little, Brown and Company.


Poor Michael Ledwidge. I feel bad for him. Patterson’s name graces both the spine and the top of the book cover, while Ledgwidge is tacked on in smaller font at the bottom. I won’t be staging a Show Michael Ledwidge Some Love Protest. For two reasons:

1. I’m lazy
2. Patterson’s name will make Mikey-boy a lotta money. He’ll probably be able to throw his earnings up in the air and sing The Flying Lizards’ “Money. That’s what I want.”
(I too can throw my money in the air and watch it flutter to the ground. However, seeing a $5 and a $1 bill land at my feet is far from exciting)

First off a warning: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X is (OF COURSE!!!!!) becoming a series. I suppose Daniel X had quite a few dangerous days as an alien hunter (I know I do). I offer this warning because, perhaps, like me you pick up what seems like an interesting book, read it, then discover to truly know what happens to the characters you’ve become attached to you will need to read a dozen more books. There goes several months worth of reading something better for you.

I’ll also give the spoiler-ish warning that a character gets shot, but survives. There is some pain and consequence involved, but it you hate seeing guns in the books you share with children, you may want to avoid this.

So what’s this book about? Well, it’s about an orphan alien hunter, of course. Daniel must hunt for one of the most dangerous aliens and also face betrayal while searching for a friend or family member. Oh, and he likes elephants.

Now on to the actual review. This is a fun and fast read. Lot’s of action, more action (too much action?) and very short chapters. This book would be a good teacher recommendation to a struggling YA reader who needs to build some confidence.  

The book include a lot of popular culture references that will date the narrative quickly. (But then, I don’t think Michael X’s dangerous days were meant to become classics) Overall, the plot feels thrown together. Don’t get me wrong, it flows well and is understandable. But it feels quickly written, which then lends itself to being quickly read without much thought.

Activities to do with the book:

Discuss how tension is created and maintained throughout the novel. Create illustrations to accompany the book or used found objects to recreate settings and scenes. Have students design their own alien—write a description and illustrate it.

Also, a teacher could briefly teach on the anatomies of the human ear and brain. (You’ll understand why once you have read the book)

Favorite Quotes:

“If this were a movie instead of real life, this would be the part where in a strange, ominous voice I’d say, “Take me to your leader!”
But since you are far more important in making a difference in this world than the earth’s leaders, and last time I checked on the Internet those leaders seem to have more than enough on their plates, and for the most part I’m not a total dork, I’ll just go with a simple “Hi”” (p. 3).

“Now pay attention, because this is important, and also way out of the ordinary. I suspect you’ve never seen, or heard about, or read anything like this before” (p. 30).

“And if you think about it, creating is the best superpower of them all. It’s a whole lot better than being part spider” (p. 45).

“After all my thinking and searching through annals of every strategy and warfare book ever written, I’d actually gotten the ploy from The Iliad, by Homer. Achilles gets Hector outside Troy’s walled gates to fight him one-on-one while both their armies watch. Check it out in The Iliad. Great Story!

(On a mythology note that is also spoiler-ish, there’s a scene that parallels Zeus’s birthing of Athena.)

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced: 20 Days

Monday, January 5, 2009

REVIEW: Hate That Cat

Creech, S. (2008). Hate That Cat. New York: Joanna Cotler Books.

As a person who loves cats and would choose a little antisocial, clawing beasty over a dog any day, I paused before picking up Hate That Cat. My love for the companion book Love That Dog (2001) helped me to overcome my hesitation. Both books help teach about poetic form, demonstrate how writing and reading can help students and also show how a teacher’s thoughtful comments and guidance can assist a student through difficult situations.  

Through reading Jack’s poems written throughout a school year, Jack struggles with defining poetry—it’s rhythm and line length, and he learns and applies some techniques such as metaphor, alliteration, onomatopoeia. Jack also struggles with learning how to accommodate his deaf mother while trying to move on to love a new pet.

While Hate That Cat deals with the same themes as Love That Dog and includes charming poetry, it still falls short of its predecessor. It’s a little less funny, a little less poignant.

Activities to do with the book:

This is a good book to use while teaching poetry terms since Jack both uses the terms and applies them throughout the book. Having students create illustrations for the poems would be a good way to check comprehension. They could also write their own poems in conversation with Jack, Miss Stretchberry or their teacher.

Favorite Quotes:

“Her arms hold you in
so you won’t fall
and will feel
safe” (p. 79).

“I never knew
a writer could do that—
tell a whole story
poems” (p. 113).

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced: 21 Days

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Certified Resolution Writing Endeavor Review Report: Week One--That Saddle Seems High...You Expect me to Do What with My Leg? Back In the Saddle

So, in the hopes of meeting my first goal for my Resolution Writing Endeavor, I actually had to, you know, write.

As the first time doing extensive creative writing work, in oh, months, it was hard.  Painful, all-I-wanted-to-do-was-stop-typing,-get-up-and-walk-away-and-find-something-to-distract-me hard.  I had to constantly fight the compulsion to be distracted by anything or everything.  I wondered how I had committed myself to such a Hell.  Had I actually chosen this?  How much of a failure would I be to not even meet my Resolution Writing Endeavor for the first week?  

Apparently, I won't have to find out.  I made it!  Joy. Am not a complete failure. 

After, I finished the torture that was writing for the first time, I was finally able to feel happy about my progress.  So happy, I just might be willing to go through the process again.  Let's see if I can manage it next week--when the distractions of three classes to take and two classes to teach get in the way.

Cath, what do ya say? Let’s drink some Gin and Vodka from some flasks on N. High and toast the remains of Larrry’s Bar.

Time until the ALA Award Winners Are Announced: 22 Days

Saturday, January 3, 2009

REVIEW: The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen

Collier, J.L. (2008). The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen. New York: Bloomsbury
U.S.A. Children’s Books.

Set during the Great Depression, The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen begins with a ghost speaking to the protagonist, Gene. After that, several town members are mysteriously injured or killed and Gene and two of his friends must find out what the adults in their town are keeping secret.

While including some historical references, The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen feels like a relatively typical ghost mystery. The writing is fair, but Collier does manage to create tension as effectively as R.L. Stine and other authors of supernatural suspense have done previously.
Collier does do a good job of portraying Gene’s reactions to having an absentee father. Issues of class and death are also considered.

There is a brief moment when Gene and one of his friends smoke a cigarette. The scene could trigger discussion on past treatments and views on smoking.

Activities to do with the book:

Teachers could lecture on the Great Depression, searches for oil and gender roles in the 1930s. Also a teacher could initiate a discussion and have students consider the nature of fatherhood and economic classes. This could also lead to some reflective writing as well as discussions of ethics in journalism.

Projects could include creating an edition of the Magnolia Chronicle newspaper, researching the Social Security Act, writing their own ghost stories, etc..

Favorite Quotes:

“Oh, I expect I’ll get bigger. I don’t see no harm in that. Get big enough so I don’t have to take stuff from nobody. But I don’t aim on being a grown-up” (p. 11).

“I thought a lot about what it would be like to have a dad. Was that the same as missing him?” (p. 32).

“Well, I don’t guess a kid could ever exactly be on the same wavelength as a grown-up. They had too many different ideas about things” (p. 151).

“Perfect day for baseball, but I was too sore at the world for it. Too sore at the world for delivering groceries, too. The heck with them; they could carry their own groceries” (p. 157).


Related Posts with Thumbnails