Every Exquisite Thing

I don’t quite know how I feel about my latest read, Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick. This book, which will be released next month, is the first Matthew Quick book I’ve read, but I doubt it will be the last. (Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has been on my TBR pile for quite a while.) Even though I’m still pondering what I think about the book, the most important thing is that it did make me think. I have a feeling many other readers will feel the same way.

Nanette O’Hare is a girl who has it all together. She’s a good student, a star soccer player, and a rule-follower. She thinks she knows exactly what path her life is going to take…until her favorite teacher introduces her to The Bubblegum Reaper, a book that changes everything Nanette believes about herself and the world around her.

Nanette quickly becomes obsessed with The Bubblegum Reaper and its author, and, for the first time in her life, she questions the path she’s on. What if she doesn’t want to play soccer? What if she doesn’t want to hang out with her superficial friends? What if she doesn’t want to go to college? Suddenly, it’s okay to ask these questions and break free from everything she’s supposed to do.

While Nanette is rebelling against the life others have chosen for her, she’s joined by Booker, the reclusive author of The Bubblegum Reaper, who never wants to talk about his only published work; Alex, another fan of Booker’s novel, a boy who maybe takes the whole “rebel against the norm” thing too far; and Oliver, a kid who is tormented at school and needs someone to fight for him. Nanette believes she’s found kindred spirits in all three of these people, especially Alex.

Nanette and Alex grow closer, united in their rebellion against the status quo. But what will happen when Alex begins to lose himself, when he gets into trouble that he can’t talk his way out of? How will Nanette cope? Will she lose herself, too? Will she revert to the girl she once was–just going through the motions of “normal” life–or will she find a way to remain true to herself?

Read Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick to witness how a book changes one girl’s life, helps her find her voice, and makes her really look at the world around her and begin to find her own place in it.


When I was reading this book, I sympathized with Nanette, worried about her, and kind of wanted to be her. When she finally asserted herself and demanded that others see the “real” her, I cheered…and wished that I could do the same thing. When Nanette was both drawn to and repelled by Alex and his almost manic sense of rebellion, I wanted to shout at her to run away from what would surely be a destructive relationship. (In many ways, I was absolutely correct.) When she did what was expected of her, I did a bit of internal screaming, raging at her to wake up and live her own life. Suffice it to say, this character–the whole cast, really–elicited a lot of feelings, and most of them weren’t particularly comfortable.

Throughout the course of this book, I wanted those around Nanette–especially her parents–to see just how lonely she was and find some way to truly understand her. While that only sort of happened, Nanette did gain a greater understanding of herself. She was no longer content to simply do what everyone expected of her. Yes, some people got hurt, some judged her, and even those closest to her didn’t get why she was, in their eyes, throwing everything away. Nanette didn’t care. She eventually learned to live her own life instead of the one others wanted her to live. That’s something that many adults–myself included–still struggle with.

I guess, thanks to putting my thoughts into this post, I’ve realized just how much I really did like this book. It isn’t a happy-go-lucky book, and it’s not something you can read and never think about again. This book, like The Bubblegum Reaper, makes readers think and examine their own lives and who they’re living for. To some adults, that’s a dangerous concept to present to teen readers (and may explain why The Catcher in the Rye is still one of the most banned books around).

I do think Every Exquisite Thing is a book for mature teen readers. It deals with some adult situations and language that the vast majority of middle grade readers (and some teens and adults) are not ready to handle. This is a novel that invites some fairly intense philosophical questions, so be prepared for that.

For those that want to learn a bit more about Every Exquisite Thing, which will be out on May 31st, and other novels by Matthew Quick, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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!

Dangerous Waters: An Adventure on the Titanic

I typically don’t have a problem “selling” books about the Titanic to my students, so I was pleased to see Dangerous Waters on this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee list. This adventure story, written by Gregory Mone, is a quick, exciting, entertaining book that young readers–especially those fascinated by the Titanic and its fateful voyage–will devour. (I’ll likely have to order more copies to meet demand.) I would definitely recommend this book for all libraries (and classrooms) that serve elementary and middle grade students.

Patrick Waters wants to work. He wants to be seen as valuable to his family, particularly his big brother James, who has a job in the engine room of the new ship, Titanic. One night, Patrick gets the chance of a lifetime. He finds a way to sneak aboard and work on the Titanic himself, but he’s not exactly cut out for the engine room. (He’s only twelve, after all.) Instead, Patrick finds a place as a steward on the mammoth ocean liner, and this position will change his life forever…

Patrick catches the eye of a wealthy passenger, Harry Elkins Widener, and eventually becomes the man’s private steward, not realizing that this new job will lead him down an intriguing and dangerous path. Harry is in possession of a rare and valuable book, and there are a couple of nefarious types on board who will do anything to steal such a prize.

Patrick isn’t sure what’s so special about this old book, so he does whatever he can to learn more. It seems this book may have the key to unlocking the most powerful force in the world, and some people will do anything–even kill–to learn its secrets. Patrick does his best to help Harry protect the book, but the Titanic is on a path that could put Patrick’s quest–and his very life–in jeopardy…

As the Titanic makes its way to its eventual demise, Patrick is trying to keep himself, his brother, Harry, and his precious book safe. In the process, Patrick discovers his own strengths and what really matters to him.

Will Patrick be able to save Harry’s book from those bent on stealing it? And will he be able to save himself from the tragedy that is to come? Join Patrick on his adventure aboard the Titanic when you read Dangerous Waters by Gregory Mone!

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The author’s note at the end of Dangerous Waters lets readers know that many of the characters in this book were based on real people. With the exception of Patrick, his brother, and a few others, all of the people mentioned in this book were actually on board the Titanic. (The Widener Library at Harvard University is named for Harry Elkins Widener.) I think that healthy dose of historical fact will make this event more real to young readers, many of whom think the story of Titanic is “cool” but don’t really think about those who died when the ship sank or had to go on with their lives after losing family and friends in the tragedy.

*An interesting exercise–following a reading of the book, of course–could be to write about the aftermath of the Titanic‘s sinking from the perspective of someone who survived. Putting students in touch with primary sources could make this even more poignant. Something to think about for this school year!*

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Dangerous Waters is an easy sell to most students. I know my students will love it, and I hope it will lead them to further research about Titanic, the people on board, and the books that were so important to Harry Elkins Widener.

For more information about Dangerous Waters and author Gregory Mone, check out his website, blog, Goodreads page, or Twitter. Enjoy!

Big announcement from Leap Books!

Three Young Adult Authors Walk into a Book Store…and Come Out Managing a Publishing House

leapbooksThat’s very nearly what recently happened to young adult authors Shannon Delany, Judith Graves, and Jen Murgia  except there was no book store and they don’t live close enough to do much “in real life” together. “That’s the great thing about technology and social media,” Delany laughs.

“This all began because I opened my mouth on Facebook and it earned me a phone call. I was toying with the idea of founding my own little publishing house and Judith Graves contacted me. After a few emails and one fateful phone call the ball was rolling!”

Graves, a longtime Leap author (and a respected script writer and author with additional houses) suggested she and Delany team up and take over the SHINE e-novella line she was building through established small publisher Leap Books LLC.

When owner Laurie Edwards heard about it, she suggested they take on the entire company. Not long after, Delany found herself the owner and publisher of the well-loved house with Graves as her very capable co-publisher.

But the duo knew it would take even more people to give Leap’s books and authors, both old and new, the attention they needed. Delany contacted author Jennifer Murgia and asked her to come aboard as Marketing Director. With the addition of William Gee as CFO and additional team members to bolster the services they provide authors, the new Leap management team feels certain they can each focus on the things they do best.

Readers can look forward to edgy and memorable stories filled with characters who leap off the pages. Of special note is the new e-novella line, SHINE, headed up by Graves and specializing in YA and NA.

Authors of all YA and NA genres can submit through their agents to any of Leap’s lines (submission details are HERE). And, this year to celebrate Delany’s birthday in mid-October, Leap will open its doors for unagented stories for a brief period.

For now Delany suggests readers and writers alike leap into the contest running until August 8th at http://leapbks.blogspot.ca/ and says if you’re serious about writing for a publisher, first give a few of their books a read.

Find Leap Books at all major online retailers and:

Enter our Rafflecopter contest to win three Leap e-books of your choice:

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

After a much-needed break from blogging, I’m back at it with one more nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve now read ten of the nominees. Halfway there!)

It took me a little while to get into Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, but, once I did, I didn’t want to put the book down. (I imagine that most library/book nerds will be able to relate.) It reminded me of The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman and my absolute favorite children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. (Even the characters in the book recognize the similarities between their situation and Charlie Bucket’s adventures in Willy Wonka’s candy factory.) While the kids in this book are competing for a fantastic prize, they’re also learning a lot about the power of books, their new (and totally unbelievable) town library, and how to work as a team.

Kyle Keeley loves games of all kinds, and his favorites are the creations of the amazing Luigi Lemoncello, an eccentric genius who just happened to grow up in Kyle’s hometown.

Kyle’s town has been without a public library for years, but everyone is excited that a new library is about to open–and that excitement only grows when it’s revealed that Mr. Lemoncello himself designed the new building. Kyle is sure that the library is awesome–even though he doesn’t like to read all that much–and he is determined to be one of the first people to see just how cool it is.

An essay contest will determine which twelve seventh-graders are invited to a lock-in at the new library. Even though Kyle’s essay efforts are a bit rough, he is selected to spend the night in the greatest library the world has ever known! Filled with holograms, a Wonder Dome with changing scenes overhead, hover ladders that reach the highest shelves, state-of-the-art technology, and books galore, the library is more than any of the kids ever dreamed…and so is the contest that led them here.

When the lock-in is over, these twelve kids are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. They may extend their stay and play the most exciting game of their lives, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library! Whoever finds the escape route from the library within the next twenty-four hours becomes Mr. Lemoncello’s spokesperson for all of his gaming products! Kyle doesn’t even need to think about whether or not he’ll stay. (Not everyone feels the same.) This is more than he ever dreamed of, and he’s in it to win it. (He’s not the only one.)

During this exciting day, Kyle teams up with some friends–old and new–and uses knowledge of books, the library, games, and Mr. Lemoncello himself to find a way out of this most unusual library. Will they be able to escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library before time runs out? Before someone else beats them to it? And what will they learn along the way?

Play the game along with Kyle and company and see if you can figure out how to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library!

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As thrilled as I am that this book is a Children’s Book Award nominee for my state, I honestly believe that many adults will appreciate this book more than younger readers will. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is filled to the brim with literary allusions, and part of the fun of reading it–at least for me–was thinking about the books or authors that the characters were alluding to. I don’t know if many of my students are well-read enough to pick up on all of these tidbits…but their teachers may be. (This could result in a giggle or two if teachers–or librarians–decide to use this book as a read-aloud…which I recommend.)

Like the character of Kyle Keeley, I predict that many kids who read this book will find themselves making a list of books they need to read. From Sherlock Holmes to Harry Potter to the works of Dr. Seuss, Kyle encountered many wonderful stories in the library, stories full of fun and adventure that added to his enjoyment of his experiences in the library. Kyle wasn’t much of a reader before this contest, but that definitely changed in a very short time.

I think librarians who read this book will likely be insanely jealous of Mr. Lemoncello’s fantastic library. I know I am. I imagine many of us would have libraries like this one if we were blessed with unlimited funds. (If I ever win the lottery, I may just make this happen in my town. Of course, one does have to play the lottery to win it.)

It might be kind of fun to have students who read this book come up with a design for their own dream library. I wonder what they would include. Probably something very different from what I envision, but this could be an intriguing–and informative–activity with interested students. (This would be a creative way to see how we could improve library programs. We may not be able to build new buildings, but we can always do something.)

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a captivating read that illuminates the power of books, libraries, teamwork, and fun in learning. It is a must-read for all who love children’s literature and those who believe that libraries–and librarians–can truly change lives.

For more on author Chris Grabenstein, check out his website, Facebook, or Twitter.

The Book Thief

As is the case with so many books, I’m late to the party on this one. The Book Thief has been in my I’ve-been-meaning-to-read-this-for-a-while-but-haven’t-gotten-around-to-it pile since I first became a school librarian (way back in 2005 when the book came out). Like Ender’s Game, it was the desire to see the movie adaptation that really spurred me to finally read the book…and I’m so glad I did.

I finished reading The Book Thief less than an hour ago, and I was so moved by the book that I was sitting in my library crying my eyes out. My students and my clerk thought I’d lost my mind. (By the way, I have no problem taking some time to read at school every now and then. How can I expect my students to learn to love reading if they don’t see me modeling it?)

Anyhoo, back to The Book Thief. This book tore me apart, and I can only hope that the movie will, in some small way, live up to its source material. I’m going to see the movie this afternoon, and I fully expect my heart to be in shreds by the time I get home tonight. Here’s hoping…

The Book Thief takes place in Molching, a small town outside of Munich, Germany, during World War II. It is told from Death’s point of view, and the story follows the journey of a young girl, Liesel Meminger, the the lives she touches, and the books she steals during this turbulent period.

I’ve read quite a few fictional accounts of WWII, but most of those tend to focus on the experience of Holocaust victims and survivors. This may be one of the first books I’ve read that details the experience of a German teen who has to at least pretend to tow the party line while quietly protesting the world around her. Liesel finds power in words, and she does everything she can to gain access to as many words as possible…and share those words with those most important to her.

From her foster parents to her best friend to community members to the Jewish man hiding in her basement, Liesel, through both words and deeds, touches every life around her and demonstrates how much one girl–a book thief–can impact so many lives…and can make even Death stop to take notice.

I’m not going to say much more about this book other than it is at once heart-breaking and heart-warming. I was pulled in by the unique way this story was told, and I stayed because I truly grew to care about Liesel, her family, and her friends. The Book Thief has more than its share of tragedy, but there’s so much more to take in here. Even in the midst of a war, people find ways to experience joy, peace, laughter, friendship, and courage. Some of those things may reveal themselves in unexpected ways…perhaps in the form of a stolen book.

If the movie adaptation is even half as good as the book, I think I’ll be pretty happy.  I guess we’ll find out at 4:25 this afternoon!

For those who haven’t seen The Book Thief yet, here’s a movie trailer to whet your appetite. It worked for me!

The Rise of Nine

Danger, Danger! This post will focus on The Rise of Nine, the third book of the Lorien Legacies. If you haven’t already read the first two books, I Am Number Four and The Power of Six, please do so posthaste! These books are pretty cool (much better than the horrid movie adaptation of the first book). Action-packed doesn’t even begin to cover it!

I started my journey with the Lorien Legacies series in 2010. Now, three years later, I’ve finally found time to read the third book, The Rise of Nine. This book came out last summer, and I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I finally fit it into my reading schedule. (To be honest, the movie adaptation of I Am Number Four also put a sour taste in my mouth, and it’s been difficult to get into the rest of the series because of that. I hope Hollywood leaves the rest of this series alone!) It took me a little while to get into this third installment because it had been so long since I read the second, The Power of Six. Eventually, though, I was drawn back into the world of the Garde of Lorien and their quest to battle the evil Mogadorians and their leader, Setrákus Ra.

The Rise of Nine takes place immediately following the events of the second book, so it might behoove you to read the last couple of chapters of The Power of Six before starting book three. Like The Power of Six, this third installment is told in alternating viewpoints. Readers are privy to the thoughts of Four, Six, and Seven (better known as Marina). Each character’s “voice” is presented in a different font, so it’s fairly easy to identify who is “speaking.”

Six has finally found two other members of the Lorien Garde, so what’s next? How can she find the other members of the Garde, reunite with Four, and somehow defeat the Mogadorians and save both Earth and her home planet of Lorien? Well, it won’t be easy, and dangers are abundant, but Six is a fighter, and she’s determined to do everything possible to complete her mission. Luckily, she won’t have to face what’s ahead alone. She’s found Seven (Marina) and the unexpected Ten (Ella) in a Spanish convent, and they will join Six in her search for the other Garde members. First stop? India, where there have been reports of mysterious occurrences than can only come from one of them. Have they finally located one of their own? If so, what next? If not, what are they walking into?

Four, also known as John, has escaped a Mogadorian stronghold with another of the Garde, Nine, but he had to leave his best friend behind. Four is determined to mount some kind of rescue, but he must put those plans on hold for a while. He and Nine must work together–which is not exactly easy–to fight Mogs and their surprising allies, hide from enemies when they can, try to find the remaining Garde members, and train to destroy Setrákus Ra. Through everything, though, Four thinks about saving Sam, his best friend, and Sarah, the girl he still loves despite the knowledge that she may have betrayed him.

As the Garde members travel closer to each other, they’re also traveling closer to what may be their ultimate destruction. None of them truly realizes just how strong Setrákus Ra really is or what he is capable of. And when they discover just who is working alongside the Mogs, their journeys become even more perilous.

The Garde is stronger when united, but will their combined strength be enough to defeat their most dangerous and powerful enemy? What sacrifices will be made in the quest to save both Earth and Lorien, and what will the Garde discover about themselves and their abilities along the way? The road ahead is not an easy one, and the Lorien Garde will have to use every weapon at their disposal to get out of this one alive. The question is…will it be enough?

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To say that I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. While I was reading, I felt like an explosion-filled action movie was playing in my head. (This went well with the nearly constant thunderstorms and fireworks that have been going on around me lately.) I’m so captivated by this series that I plan to spend the rest of the day reading The Lost Files. (I’ve already read Six’s Legacy, but I’m eager to read the others:  Nine’s Legacy, The Fallen Legacies, and a few others. There are even more on the way! Check out Goodreads for a full list.) I probably won’t post about these, but I’ll most likely put my reaction on Knight Reader’s Facebook page.

The fourth and final (?) book of the Lorien Legacies will be out in less than two months. The Fall of Five (rather ominous title, no?) is supposed to be out on August 27th. Hopefully, I will be well past my back-to-school, Mortal-Instruments-movie-fog by then, and I’ll be able to dive into this book immediately. In the meantime, though, I can read The Lost Files and stay updated through the series website, http://iamnumberfourfans.com/. Join me, won’t you?