Butter

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life, so it’s often difficult for me to read what I’ve dubbed “fat kid fiction.” Usually, these books are about overweight girls who are desperate to lose the pounds to please some guy, and, miracle of miracles, they do it. They make it look easy. (It’s not.) Well, that’s where Butter, a 14-15 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominee by Erin Jade Lange, changes things up a bit.

First of all, Butter is about a guy. He receives the nickname Butter in the cruelest of circumstances, but he kind of takes it on as his own personal banner. Secondly, he’s not all that eager to change his ways. Food is his comfort in a world that would like to pretend he doesn’t exist. Sure, he’d love to win the heart of the prettiest girl in school, but losing the weight to do it just isn’t possible. Finally, when Butter actually makes a plan to shake things up, losing weight isn’t part of the equation. Losing his life, however, is.

After some particularly upsetting comments on an online forum, Butter decides that it’s time to do something to really get everyone’s attention. He vows to eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve. He doesn’t know exactly how things will play out, but Butter doesn’t expect his classmates to cheer him on. All of a sudden, he’s Mister Popular, and everyone wants to know what his “last meal” will be.

Butter isn’t prepared for his new-found popularity, and he wonders if these people–many of whom made fun of him in the past–are really his friends and how they’ll react if he decides not to go through with his plan. Do any of them really care that he’s essentially planning his suicide while they watch?

Butter is at war with himself. Should he go through with his morbid plans, end his suffering, and become a local legend? Or should he finally seek out help? Will anyone speak up for him when things begin to snowball out of control, or is Butter truly on a collision course with death?

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So, I finished this book on Saturday, and I’m honestly still not sure how I feel about it. In many ways, it hit too close to home. (No, I’m not going to end it all because I’m fat…but I can see where Butter is coming from.) It’s not easy to live in a world where people either stare or pretend you’re invisible solely because of your size. It’s not easy to hear the taunts or loud-enough-to-hear whispers that you should just stay home or do something about your weight. News flash: It takes a long time to put on weight. It can take even longer to take it off. These things don’t happen in an instant…no matter what other books may want people to believe.

Aside from Butter’s struggles, I’m also unsure how I feel about his so-called “friends.” These people were basically cheering for him to die. I understand morbid curiosity. All of us have rubber-necked at the scene of a car accident. But to place bets on a guy’s last meal or if he’ll go through with killing himself? I like to think most teens–most people–are above that. (Having worked with people of all ages, though, I know that’s not always the case.) It was hard to read these scenes with Butter and the popular kids knowing that they were only interested in him as long as he was planning to commit suicide. Butter knew what was going on, but the starvation for some kind of connection–with someone or something other than food–was so keen that he just couldn’t back out of his foolish plan and really get some help.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear that I’ll give away what happens in this book. I will say, though, that Butter is definitely a book that makes the reader think. What would you do if you were Butter? What would you do if you saw his plan plastered on a website? Were there signs of trouble that people–mainly adults–around Butter missed? Why is it still acceptable in our society for people to be judged based solely on their size? If you know the answer to that last question, I’m all ears…

For more information on Butter and author Erin Jade Lange, you can go to the author’s website, Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook. You may also want to check out the book trailer from Bloomsbury Kids below.

Published in: on November 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My True Love Gave to Me

When I heard the author lineup for My True Love Gave to Me, an anthology of YA holiday stories, I immediately knew that I would have to read what I was sure would be an outstanding collection. With favorite authors like Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White–among others–contributing short stories, I was hooked before I even started reading. And when I didn’t think anything was ever going to get me in the holiday spirit this year (Humbug!), this book managed to fill me with a bit of cheer.

My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of twelve holiday stories that kind of touch on everything: New Year’s, winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, and even Krampuslauf (something I’d never heard of before). There’s really something for everyone (except Festivus for the rest of us), and I think this would be a perfect gift for any teen reader…or adult reader who loves YA lit.

Now, I’m not going to go through each and every story here. That would take forever, and, honestly, it would probably spoil a couple of the stories for you. Instead, I’ll briefly highlight a few of my favorite stories from this collection.

My favorite story in the collection comes from the book’s editor herself, Stephanie Perkins. Her story is titled “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.” This short story, like Perkins’ longer works, introduces readers to a true gem of a guy. North Drummond, like Étienne St. Clair, Cricket Bell, and Josh Wasserstein, is almost too good to be true, but that just makes me–and Marigold, his “love interest”–adore him more. He seems to really “get” Marigold, even though her life is less than traditional. He works to make her world a better one after knowing her only a short while. Every girl should be so lucky. (I’m militantly single, and even I felt my cold heart melting for North.) If you enjoyed Stephanie Perkins’ enchanting novels, you’ll likely feel the same way about this lovely story.

One of my other top picks from this collection was “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell. (If you follow this blog at all, this should come as no surprise.) This story involves two best friends who seem to just miss being together at midnight each New Year’s Eve. This year, though, things might just be a little different. (Since this is essentially a YA holiday romance anthology, you can probably guess what will happen. Even so, the story is heart-warming and brings on the feels.)

Finally, I have to talk a bit about “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter. This was the only story in the book that actually made me cry. The basic premise is this: Mysterious girl exchanges plane tickets with someone else, pretends to be someone she’s not (in order to hide from her own life), gets found out, and ultimately finds something she never knew she needed. Such a moving story that I had to grab a couple of tissues. There was a romantic element to this one, but, at least for me, this particular story was about the love that can be found with friends, family (not always blood relatives), and people who deeply care about what’s really best for those they love.

Those were just three of the stories that really spoke to me. Truthfully, there’s not a stinker in the bunch, and every story resonated with me in some way.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Krampuslauf, or no holiday at all, this collection is an outstanding, moving, entertaining read for anyone who believes in the power of love…in all of its many forms.

Published in: on November 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Revenge of Seven

Warning! Spoilers ahead! If you’re not totally caught up with the entire I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies) series, you might want to go ahead and take care of that. And when I say “totally caught up,” I mean reading the four previous novels as well as all nine short stories. Here’s a reading list to get you started.

In my opinion, it is essential to read the novellas to fully understand what’s happening, particularly in The Fall of Five and The Revenge of Seven. These short stories add so much depth to the story, and they help readers really get to know the motivations that drive certain characters.

There are a few other journal entries and things that you may also want to take a look at. You can see a full list at Goodreads.com. (I plan to explore those as soon as I finish with this post.) For now, though, let’s dive into the fifth novel in the Lorien Legacies saga, The Revenge of Seven.

When last we left the remaining members of the Lorien Garde, things were looking rather bleak. An unexpected betrayal resulted in the death of one of their own. Now, the Garde is scattered and on the run. They don’t know who they can trust or how deep the Mogadorian threat has infiltrated the government, but they know they must fight, or Earth will surely fall to the Mogs.

Four, Sarah, Sam, Malcom, and Adam (a Mogadorian who sympathizes with the Loric cause) escape from the horror that befell them in Chicago and journey to the Mog stronghold in Washington, DC. Their aim is to hit the Mogs where it hurts…and hopefully learn a thing or two that will help them win this war.

Six, Seven (Marina), and Nine are in Florida, and they’ve just endured a shock to their systems. They witnessed the betrayal of Five–a betrayal that resulted in Eight’s death. They’re reeling from what has happened, but they must also prepare for the battle to come…a battle in which the Mog forces are seemingly unbeatable. In their quest to get a jump on the Mogs, however, they’ll receive help from an unlikely ally. This help gives them just enough time to flee the Mogs in Florida and join up with Four and company in their Washington stronghold.

In another turn of events, Ella (also known as Ten) has been captured by the vile Mog leader, Setrákus Ra, a sinister being who is more powerful than anyone she’s ever encountered. Setrákus Ra is bent on the domination of Earth…and he wants Ella by his side when it happens. Why? What’s so special about her? Why would Setrákus Ra want to ally himself with one of the Lorien Garde? Is there anything Ella can do to escape his clutches and warn the other members of the Garde of what is to come?

The Mogadorians are close to a full-scale invasion, and the Lorien Garde and their allies are the only beings capable of stopping them…even though the Garde is severely outnumbered. Is there any way for the Garde to claim victory, or is Setrákus Ra simply too powerful to stop?

The Loric and the Mogadorians are careening toward a war that will envelope the entire planet. Who will win? Who will lose? Well, that’s not entirely clear. One thing is certain, though…something has just been unleashed that could change everything.

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If it’s not already clear, The Revenge of Seven is not the last book in this series. We’ve got one more novel to go (I think) and probably a few more novellas. Unlike The Fall of Five, though, I was at least a little prepared for the cliffhanger at the end of this book. No urges to fling the book across the room.

My mind is spinning from what happened at the end–and the implications for the next book–and I’m pretty sure that the final installment will be more action-packed than anything we’ve seen before. I doubt all of our heroes will survive until the end, but I foresee them doing a lot of damage to the hated Mogs before all is said and done.

A couple of my librarian friends actually judge me a bit for being so into this series, but I really don’t care. (I’ll never apologize for liking a book.) If you’re looking for a series with loads of action, adventure, intrigue, suspense, aliens, government conspiracies, and even a teensy bit of romance, I think you’ll enjoy the Lorien Legacies books as much as I do. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be just as eager for the final installment as I am. (I just hope we get a somewhat happy ending. These kids have been through enough!)

There’s no word yet on the title or release date for the next book, but I would expect it to be out in late summer of next year. The next series of novellas will come out before then. The ebook version of novella #10, The Fugitive, will be out on December 23rd.

For much more information on this exciting series, go to the I Am Number Four Fans website. You may also want to check out the book trailer for The Revenge of Seven below.

*A word of advice from me: Avoid the movie adaptation of the first book. It doesn’t begin to compare to its source material.*

Published in: on November 7, 2014 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

As you may know, a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was released yesterday. After I voted, I rushed to my closest bookstore and purchased ten copies for my school library. (I’m fully aware that this is probably not enough.) Before I took the books to school, though, I sat down to read this ninth installment, The Long Haul.

In The Long Haul, Greg Heffley is about to take part in that most dreaded of family activities–the road trip. Greg’s Mom thinks this will be the greatest summer activity in the world, and she’s billing it as a vacation and learning experience all rolled into one. Well, it’s definitely a learning experience, but I doubt dear old Mom had these lessons in mind…

From rundown hotels to lost wallets and cell phones to destructive pigs to unfortunate car mishaps, the Heffley family goes through loads of mayhem and madness on this most epic of road trips. Everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong on this horrible vacation.

Crammed in the back of the family van, Greg tells readers all about his vacation misadventures, and readers young and old will find it all too easy to sympathize with Greg’s plight. (Who hasn’t endured a heinous family road trip?!)

Will Greg and his family make it out of this with their sanity intact? Can anything go right for them during this trip? What more could they possibly endure?

Join Greg Heffley on yet another wild ride when you read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul!

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I don’t have to do a whole lot to sell this book to my students. Setting it out on the shelf is usually enough. I do plan to tell them, though, that The Long Haul is probably my favorite of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It’s just so relatable, no matter what the reader’s age may be. I can remember long car rides with my family–my sister and I fighting over the smallest things, my parents getting more irritated by the minute, all of us fussing about my dad’s choice in music, having no escape from all the togetherness. Oftentimes, we needed another vacation from our vacation. I think lots of readers–like myself–will be able to see themselves in everything that goes wrong with the Heffleys’ road trip.

I’m sure we’ll see more of Greg Heffley and his infamous diary in the future. The Long Haul didn’t wrap up in a nice, neat little bow, so be on the lookout for another book this time next year.

For all things Diary of a Wimpy Kid, be sure to visit wimpykid.com. For a quick look at The Long Haul, you may also want to take a peek at the video below. You can find loads more videos on the Wimpy Kid YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Map to Everywhere

Next week, an outstanding new book will be released to the masses. That book is The Map to Everywhere, the first book in a new fantasy series by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis. I was lucky enough to read a review copy of this book via NetGalley, and I was thoroughly enchanted. I would have liked to see the artwork that will be included in the final copy, but I guess that’s one way to ensure reviewers like me buy the book! (And I will buy several copies of this one for my school library.) I’m sure the illustrations will only add to what is already a wonderful, captivating story!

Fin, a young thief living in the treacherous land of Khaznot Quay, is a boy who is easily forgotten. Seriously. As soon as someone meets him, they forget he ever existed. Pretty handy if you’re a thief, especially one surrounded by pirates, con artists, and, well, other thieves. Not so much if you need help looking for something…or someone.

Marrill is a girl who’s just been handed a shock, and she’s trying to make sense of her new circumstances. That is going to be much more difficult after she sees a huge ship sailing through what was a parking lot just minutes ago. So what does Marrill, girl adventurer, do? She climbs aboard the ship…and quickly realizes that she can’t find her way back home.

Marrill does have a bit of hope, though. The ship she’s currently on is home to a wizard, Ardent, and his companion, Coll. This unlikely pair is looking for a mysterious map. The Map to Everywhere. This map will lead anyone wherever they need to go. So what’s the problem? Well, the map is in pieces, and it could be quite the quest to find the pieces and put them together. Marrill, Ardent, and Coll will have to navigate the magical waters of the Pirate Stream to even attempt their mission.

And that’s where Fin comes in…

Marrill and company sail into Khaznot Quay. After getting herself into a sticky situation, Marrill encounters Fin (who is also in a sticky wicket of his own). Unlike everyone else he’s ever met, Marrill actually remembers him, and Fin is eager to hold onto that tenuous connection to someone. He stows away on Marrill’s ride, and joins the crew’s search for the Map to Everywhere (an object that he’d also like to get his hands on).

Also, Fin would kind of like to get away from the Oracle, an evil wizard who spreads sorrow wherever he goes. Fin has something that the Oracle wants, and this shadowy figure will stop at nothing to claim his prize. It seems he is also searching for this powerful map, but what he wants to do with it could be devastating for everyone, everywhere.

Now, Marrill, Fin, Ardent, and Coll are on the hunt for the pieces of the Map to Everywhere, each for their own reasons. Can they work together to complete this dangerous puzzle before everything is torn from them? Will they succeed in their quest to bring the Map together, or will the Oracle beat them to it? Will Marrill ever find her way home? Will Fin find what he’s looking for? Nothing is certain, but one this is clear. We’re in for one heck of an adventure!

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I think The Map to Everywhere is an excellent addition to any library that serves upper elementary and middle grade readers. It’s action-packed, full of humor, and it teaches some pretty valuable lessons–the importance of friendship, how horrible it is to be forgotten, the destructive power of rumors, etc. I can’t wait to add this book to my own school library and, more importantly, talk about the book with my students!

My favorite part of this entertaining read was probably Ardent, the wizard. This guy was as powerful as you’d want a wizard to be, but he was also kind of hilarious. He reminded me a bit of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. He didn’t take himself too seriously, but you also wouldn’t want to meet him in a fight. Ardent was very wise, but that didn’t always show. It seemed that he wanted those around him to learn lessons for themselves instead of him jumping in to save the day constantly. (And that came in handy when one of his companions had to jump in and save him.) An admirable character and one that I think readers will take an instant liking to!

I look forward to seeing the illustrations in the finished book. If they’re anything like the cover, I’m sure they’ll be just as fantastic as the book’s text.

There’s no word yet on when we can expect the second book in The Map to Everywhere series, but I’m guessing we’ll see something in November of next year. Here’s hoping!

To learn more about this fantastical tale, go to http://www.themaptoeverywhere.com/.

 

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hidden Enemy

Caution! It is absolutely necessary to read all of the I Am Number Four (aka Lorien Legacies) series if you plan to pick up Hidden Enemy, an anthology of novellas 7-9 in The Lost Files. Here’s a handy reading list for those new to the series:

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read through The Fall of Five, turn back now! (Also, I’m not going do much explanation of back story. If you’re not already familiar with the series, you’ll probably be lost.)

If you’ve read my post on The Fall of Five, you probably know I was a tad frustrated with how things ended. If you read the actual book, you likely share my frustration. Well, in Hidden Enemy, we get a little more information on what made Five the person he came to be.

The first story, Five’s Legacy, gives readers a look at Five’s early life. We see him with his ailing Cêpan (guardian/trainer), Rey, as they move from place to place in an effort to stay healthy and evade the Mogadorians. Five is not happy with his life of isolation, and he’s sure the other members of the Loric Garde are together and training without him. His legacies (special powers) haven’t manifested yet, and he’s getting a little tired of waiting. Finally, though, when things seem most hopeless, Five begins seeing evidence that his legacies have arrived. He’s telekinetic, and he can fly. Those powers will serve him well as he tries to make a new start. That new start will, unfortunately, deliver him right into the hands of those that Rey tried so hard to protect him from. Five is insecure and vulnerable, and certain people know just how to take advantage of that. They play on Five’s feelings of powerlessness and promise him a future that looks brighter than anything he could have imagined. The price? He’ll have to turn his back on his own people…

Return to Paradise, the second novella in this book, is told from the perspective of Mark James. You may remember him as the jock who made Four’s life miserable. He was also Sarah’s ex-boyfriend. Well, you may also remember that he had a rather huge change of heart during the battle at the end of I Am Number Four. This story picks up during the aftermath of that battle. Mark can’t really go back to how things were before. He knows too much now. How can he be expected to care about partying when evil aliens are bent on enslaving humans and destroying the planet? He knows more is going on than the public is aware of, and the only person who he can talk to is Sarah, a girl who is still maddeningly hung up on her alien boyfriend, the guy who dragged them into this mess. Mark also does some investigating of his own, and he discovers that the Mogadorian threat goes deeper than he realized. Can he, a mere human, do anything to stop this? And what will happen when Four returns to town and Sarah goes missing? Is there any way Mark can help Sarah and the Lorien cause?

Finally, in Five’s Betrayal, we return to Five’s story. He’s now in the “belly of the beast,” so to speak. He’s becoming more powerful by the day, and he’s earning the notice and respect of the very beings he was always taught to despise. Five is studying war tactics and Mogadorian history, and he knows that the Loric Garde have no chance to best their enemies. His solution? Join the enemy and gain more power than he ever thought possible. The Mogadorians have given Five more attention and freedom than he ever enjoyed as one of the precious Garde, so he’s willing to do whatever it takes to stay in their good graces. Even if that means sacrificing the only friend he has left in the world…

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The highlights of this anthology were, obviously, the first and last novellas. They shed some light on the character of Five and let readers know why he made the decisions he did. I still don’t like Five, though. I think he’s a self-indulgent cry baby. (Maybe I’m being too harsh.) He allowed others to prey on his weakness, and he lost all ability to think for himself. He fell victim to Mogadorian propaganda and didn’t question the line of bull he was being fed. It was all I could do not to scream at him the entire time I was reading his story. (I may be reacting so strongly to this because I read the book during election season. It’s way too easy to see the parallels.)

At any rate, I’m now more than ready to dive into the next full-length novel in this series, The Revenge of Seven. It’s sitting on my coffee table right now, just waiting on me to pick it up. After I finish one more read-in-progress, I’ll journey once more into the fight between the Loriens and the Mogadorians. From what I’ve heard, there will be just one more book after this one, so I’m sure The Revenge of Seven will illicit the same response that The Fall of Five did. I’ll likely want to hurl it across the room at the end. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mobile Library

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of surprises. That’s not the case when I read. I kind of love it when an author takes what I think I know about a story, flips it around, and gives me something unexpected. That’s just what happened in Mobile Library by David Whitehouse. (The title should tell you why I wanted to read this book. Thank you, NetGalley, for the opportunity!) This book won’t be released to the masses until January, but I recommend putting it on your to-read list now.

Mobile Library begins with a glimpse at the ending, and I thought I had things figured out. Let’s face it. Many, many books are rather predictable. I thought this one would be no different. This is one instance when I’m glad I was wrong.

Bobby Nusku is a kid with a rather sad life. His mother left a long time ago. He walks on eggshells around his father and Cindy, his dad’s horrible girlfriend. He has only one friend at school. He’s a target of bullies. Bobby’s big plan to get back at those who would hurt him is to turn his best friend, Sunny, into a cyborg. As one can imagine, that plan doesn’t exactly turn out the way Bobby would have liked. Sunny is taken away, and Bobby is left all alone in the world.

Things change, however, when Bobby encounters Rosa, a girl whose disability makes her vulnerable to bullies, and her mother Val. These two kind people offer Bobby a refuge from his life. Val cleans the town’s mobile library (known to many as a Bookmobile), and she introduces Bobby to the escape offered in the pages of books.

Val provides Bobby the love he’s been starving for, and Bobby quickly becomes part of Val’s family. But not everyone understands their relationship. They think something sordid is going on, and that results in ostracism, vandalism, and Val losing the job she needs to care for herself and her daughter.

Even though he’s been warned away from Val, she’s his only solace after his father beats him one night. He runs to her house, and Val knows she has to do something to get Bobby away from his dad. So what does she do? She takes Rosa, Bobby, her dog Bert, and she steals the mobile library–the one no longer used by the town, the one she still has the keys for–and escapes into the night.

Val realizes that she and her small family are always one step from being found, and she’s always looking over her shoulder, but she and the kids soon find help in an unexpected place. While hiding out in the woods, Bobby runs across Joe, a homeless man with reasons of his own for staying under the radar. Joe joins forces with Val, Bobby, and Rosa, and this ragtag team journeys across England and into Scotland in the hopes of finding safety, peace, and a home of their own. Once again, though, things don’t go exactly according to plan.

The authorities are closing in on Bobby, Val, and company, and they’re running out of places to hide. Is anyone willing to help them? Can they get out of this mess and still remain together? What will become of Bobby, Val, Rosa, and Joe, and will anyone ever understand how these people came together to form their own family within the walls of a mobile library? Is there any hope for a happy ending? Find out for yourself when you read Mobile Library, an novel by David Whitehouse!

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I love all of the misdirection in this book. I had several “What the crap!” moments while reading, and that’s always fun. I admit that I jumped to some conclusions at the beginning of the book (which was also the ending) that mirrored the town’s concerns regarding the relationship between Bobby and Val. That was just one thing that was turned on its ear. There were quite a few surprises in this book, and their eventual revelations made for a page-turner of a book.

The librarian in me enjoyed the literary allusions in Mobile Library…not to mention the bulk of the story actually occurring in a library on wheels. Bobby’s reading list will connect with those who’ve read the same books…and it may just encourage others to pick up the books he’s enjoyed so much.

Even though a few of the characters in this book are children, I think Mobile Library is definitely an adult book. Some teen readers may be fine with it, but this is a book with a lot of subtext, a bit of profanity, and some mature situations. I would recommend this book for public library collections. Not so much for school libraries.

Mobile Library won’t be released in the U.S. until January 20th, 2015. (The U.K. release is set for January 8th.) So, unless you’re a member of NetGalley or have some other source for advance copies, you’ve got about a three-month wait for this book. It’s worth the wait.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mobile Library and author David Whitehouse, check out the author’s websiteGoodreads, and Twitter.

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rain Reign

I finished a book today that I can hardly wait to share with my students and teachers at school. That book is Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. It was released last week, and it’s already earned a spot on several must-read lists. I predict that this book will find a place on several award lists as well. It’s absolutely amazing, and this book should be included in every elementary and middle school library collection (at the very least).

In Rain Reign, we meet Rose Howard, a young girl who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism (also known as Asperger’s Syndrome). Her voice shines on every page, and readers get a small glimpse of what life is like for Rose. Rain Reign is a must-read for anyone–especially educators and other caregivers–who have any interaction with high-functioning autistic children. I know I was able to see one of my students in the character of Rose, and this excellent book may have provided me with just a bit more understanding.

Fifth grader Rose Howard loves homonyms, prime numbers, rules, and her dog Rain (whose name has two homonyms). Rain is the one of the few gifts Rose’s father has ever given her, and their bond is a strong one. When nearly everyone else–including Rose’s father–gets irritated by Rose’s obsessions, Rain is always there to provide a comforting and calming presence.

Comfort and calm is something that Rose will sorely need in the days to come. Hurricane Susan is making a beeline for Rose’s small Massachusetts town, and her precious routines will be tossed to the winds. The power goes out, creeks turn into rivers, bridges are washed out, trees fall…and Rose’s father lets Rain out of the house without checking on her return.

When the storm finally passes through, Rose realizes that her dog is missing. Did she forget her way home in the horrible storm? Was she carried downstream by the powerful currents? Where is Rain? Rose doesn’t understand how her father could have let this happened, but she’s determined to find her beloved dog…even if that means letting go of her routines.

Rose searches high and low for Rain. She enlists the help of her uncle, her teachers, and even her classmates. Rose does everything humanly possible to find her dog, but how will she handle it when she finds more than she was looking for? Will her world be thrown into yet another storm, and how will Rose–a girl who needs routine and consistency–deal with the fallout? How will she handle the many changes to come? Read Rain Reign by the brilliant Ann M. Martin to find out.

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As soon as I return to school next week (I’m on fall break right now), I plan to hand this book over to my guidance counselor. (In addition to working with autistic students, she’s also a dog lover.) Several other teachers may also benefit from reading this book. I think Rain Reign could be unbelievably useful in communicating with and understanding autistic students.

In addition to being enlightening for educators and students, parents of high-functioning autistic children may also find this book to be helpful, especially if the parents don’t really know how to communicate with their children. Rose’s uncle provides an example of a good caregiver. Her father is the opposite. As a matter of fact, I wanted to punch Rose’s father in the face on more than one occasion.

Rain Reign is also a great book for students who have fondness for word and number play. This could even come into play in language arts or math lessons. Class studies of this book could include looking for homonyms that weren’t mentioned by Rose or finding prime numbers out in the “real world.” And don’t even get me started on how this book could be used to illustrate character’s voice. Read one chapter, and you’ll see that for yourself.

I don’t know that I’ve adequately conveyed it in this post, but I love everything about Rain Reign. It definitely tugged at the heartstrings (yes, I cried), but it taught valuable lessons. Rose was a brave girl who worked past her own issues when something was important to her. She tried to understand others even when it seemed like no one understood her. She always wanted to do the right thing and follow the rules…when it would have been much easier–and far less painful–to just “go with the flow.” Rose is a character, much like August Pullman in R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, who we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.

For more information on Rain Reign and other books by Ann M. Martin, go to her official website, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.

*I receive an advance copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.*

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus

Read you must all of Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books before proceeding! This is the sixth (and final?) book in the series, and I don’t want to spoil things for you…but I will! (I’m extremely in touch with the Dark Side of the Force!) Before picking up Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, make sure to read these prequels (which I guarantee are better than the actual Star Wars prequels).

Well, it’s been quite a ride. I read my first Origami Yoda book nearly three years ago, and I finished the sixth book last night. As far as I know, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus is the last book in this highly entertaining (and thought-provoking) series, but I’m still hoping that this is not the last we’ve seen of Origami Yoda and friends. To borrow from Princess Leia…

Help me, Tom Angleberger. You’re my only hope…

Anyway, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus picks up where Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue ended, and the kids from McQuarrie Middle School are in for yet another adventure…one without Origami Yoda!

Now that the FunTime Menace is no more, the students of McQuarrie Middle now get to enjoy things like elective classes and, of course, their highly anticipated field trip to Washington, DC. But what will they do when Rabbski, their principal-turned-math-teacher declares that origami–especially Origami Yoda–is off-limits? How will these seventh graders survive without the sage advice of Origami Yoda?!

Have no fear! Dwight is here…with a bunch of Fruit Roll-Ups he folds into Fruitigami Yodas. Unfortunately, the vile Harvey also comes prepared with EMPEROR PICKLETINE, the most evil, sour, and smelly being in the galaxy! Harvey and Emperor Pickletine seem bent on ruining this field trip, and the Dark Side may be more powerful than anyone realized. Is Fruitigami Yoda strong enough to fight this new threat?

As the seventh graders of McQuarrie Middle explore Washington, DC (and get into a fair amount of trouble), a battle is brewing between the Dark and Light Sides of the Force.

Who will win? Will Yoda come through for the Origami Rebellion one more time? Well, I can’t say. But I can tell you that this final battle is full of mischief-making, fisticuffs, space food, and even a little bit of smooching! I’ll leave it to you to find out who does what!

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What can I say about this series that hasn’t already been said? It’s opened up so many cool conversations between my students and me. (They are fully aware of my love for all things Star Wars.) I know Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus will only add to those conversations…though I have to admit I may steer them away from making origami figures with pickles. Yuck!

I realize this may be the last Origami Yoda book–at least for a while–but I think I’ll be enjoying this series with my students for many years to come. (I still think we’ll see more from Origami Yoda. After all, we never thought we’d get Episodes VII, VIII, and IX of Star Wars either!)

To learn more about all things Origami Yoda, click here. You may also want to check out the video below. May the Force be with you!

The Blood of Olympus

So, the final book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, The Blood of Olympus, was released on Tuesday. As you may have guessed, I rushed to the nearest book store immediately after work and picked up several copies–one for me, one for my library clerk, and a few for my school library. (Honestly, if I’d gone to work on Wednesday without this book, a couple of my students probably would have rioted. Luckily, I was able to avoid that.)

I started reading The Blood of Olympus as soon as I got home. I would have liked to finish the book in one sitting, but, alas, my job and the need for sleep got in the way once again. At any rate, I finished the book two days ago, and I’ve been processing what happened ever since.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post because I want to avoid spoilers at all costs. I will say, though, that The Blood of Olympus delivered on all counts. It was action-packed and full of twists and turns, it contained a fair amount of the snark and humor I’ve come to associate with Rick Riordan, and it even tugged at the heartstrings a bit. I think fans of this series will be totally satisfied with how things concluded for Percy Jackson and the other heroes we’ve come to know and love. I know I was.

I’m pretty sure the first of my students to check out The Blood of Olympus probably finished it this weekend. I am really looking forward to geeking out with them about what happened. I’m also hoping that other students will see us getting so excited about this book, and they’ll want to see for themselves what the big deal is.

Since I’m not going to give any plot details away here, I’ll go ahead and start wrapping things up. If you’re reading this and wondering what’s so special about this series…well, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Here’s a handy reading list to get you started!

For more information on The Blood of Olympus, the thrilling conclusion an amazing adventure, from Rick Riordan himself, check out the video below…and read this book. You won’t be disappointed!

Still want more? Click here for all things demigod!

Published in: on October 12, 2014 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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