Waiting on Wednesday–Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I have an unexpected snow day today so I’m taking advantage of it and putting this post together (and hopefully a few more!). My students and I are BIG Don Calame fans, so we’re super excited about his April release, Dan Versus Nature. I actually just book talked his book Swim the Fly yesterday and one of my freshmen borrowed it after my book talk and hearing another freshmen in class reaffirming what I was saying. So yeah, we’re fans and this is going to be a must-buy for my classroom.

Dan Versus NatureTitle & Author: Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

From screenwriter Don Calame comes another outrageously funny and raunchy tale of teen boys whose plans go awry — this time, on a survivalist camping trip.

Shy and scrawny Dan Weekes spends his time creating graphic novels inspired by his dream girl and looking out for his mom as she dates every man in the state of California. Then his mom drops a bomb: she and her latest beau, Hank, are engaged, and she’s sending her “two favorite men” on a survivalist camping trip to “bond.” Determined to trick Hank into showing his true — flawed — colors on the trip, Dan and his nerdy germaphobe best friend, Charlie, prepare a series of increasingly gross and embarrassing pranks. But the boys hadn’t counted on a hot girl joining their trip or on getting separated from their wilderness guide—not to mention the humiliating injuries Dan suffers in the course of terrorizing his stepdad-to-be. With a man-hungry bear on their trail, no supplies, and a lot of unpleasant itching going on, can Dan see his plan through now that his very survival depends on Hank?

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the SeaTitle: Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Philomel Books

Release Date: February 2, 2016

Interest: Author / Historical Fiction

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

I finished Salt to the Sea Saturday morning and I really have no idea where to begin this review. Simply put, it’s tragic and amazing.

A couple weeks ago I listened to Ruta Sepetys speak about Salt to the Sea at her book signing at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. I was in the middle of reading another book, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, but after listening to her talk about this maritime disaster and the research she did, I knew I had to read it right away. So I set my book aside that night and started reading her third novel.

Let me tell you, I cried and gasped multiple times while reading this novel. The tears weren’t always full-fledged, but I certainly sniffled and wiped my eyes a time or two. And then of course the end really got to me, but I knew that would happen considering the story. Ruta Sepetys is a passionate writer and it comes through in her stories. So many of the images she created were vivid and often shocking. Also, this was a tough read as a mom considering how many children were lost and the idea of having to choose which children would live and if they’d live at all.

Another part of the Salt to the Sea that really worked for me was the short chapters and the multiple character points of views. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the characters switching and hearing their voices, but once I did it made for smooth, quick reading. I was attached to all of them, even the characters who didn’t have their own chapters. Although, I never really connected with Alfred; he rubbed me the wrong way.

I feel like I’m moving through this review too quickly, but it’s because my thoughts are still all over the place. I’m still picturing those last scenes; my heart is still heavy. It doesn’t matter that these are fictional characters because I know they’re based on real people who suffered the way they did. And it’s even harder thinking about the Syrian refugees who are suffering today. Salt to the Sea is a book that I want my students to read and teachers to read as well. I wish I could bring Ruta Sepetys to school because I know she’d inspire my students to not only read this novel, but to also become passionate about research and finding stories.

Waiting on Wednesday–Saving Red by Sonya Sones

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I wouldn’t normally write a Waiting on Wednesday post about a book with a release so far away, but I just saw Saving Red pop up on Goodreads and I love Sonya Sones. I’m not sure if this is another book written in verse; I hope it is! Regardless, I know my students are going to be excited to read this since I have so many fellow Sones fans in my classes. And don’t you love that striking cover?!

Saving RedTitle & Author: Saving Red by Sonya Sones

Release Date: October 18th, 2016

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Right before winter break, fourteen-year-old Molly Rosenberg reluctantly volunteers to participate in Santa Monica’s annual homeless count, just to get her school’s community service requirement out of the way. But when she ends up meeting Red, a spirited homeless girl only a few years older than she is, Molly makes it her mission to reunite her with her family in time for Christmas. This turns out to be extremely difficult—because Red refuses to talk about her past. There are things Molly won’t talk about either. Like the awful thing that happened last winter. She may never be ready to talk about that. Not to Red, or to Cristo, the soulful boy she meets while riding the Ferris wheel one afternoon.

When Molly realizes that the friends who Red keeps mentioning are nothing more than voices inside Red’s head, she becomes even more concerned about her well-being. How will Molly keep her safe until she can figure out a way to get Red home? In Sonya Sones’ latest novel, two girls, with much more in common than they realize, give each other a new perspective on the meaning of family, friendship, and forgiveness.

Audiobooks Round-Up

Audio Review

The end of the first semester really wore me out and stressed me out, so I fell behind on my book reviews. I’ve listened to a few audiobooks since then, so I’m putting together a few quick reviews since I promised myself and my readers that I would be better about posting reviews this year. I plan on writing full reviews of the other audiobooks I’ve listened to lately as well.

Instead of posting all of the summaries, I’m linking to them via Goodreads.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapien AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Goodreads):

Becky Albertalli’s debut has received numerous accolades and rightfully so. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is so sweet and so authentic. I really felt for Simon while I listened to this and often wanted to give him a good nudge in the right direction while simultaneously giving him a hug. I hated that he was being blackmailed and felt like he was being forced to come out before he was really ready to. I loved his supportive family and friends, however. This is a story that will appeal to a vast variety of readers because many teens, despite their sexual orientation, go through rough patches in friendships, want to fall in love, and have had secrets brought out in the open. I highly recommend reading this. In fact, I book talked this when I finished reading it and it was instantly borrowed.

The Last Leaves FallingThe Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (Goodreads):

Sarah Benwell’s debut is about a Japanese teenager, Sora, who suffers from ALS. I was really excited to read this because I haven’t read a book about a teenager diagnosed with ALS and it’s not often that I read a book that takes place in Japan. Sora’s story is certainly about ALS, but it’s also about friendship, family, and bravery. Sora feels alone because of his illness and finds friendship online. I was left disappointed, however, because I wanted more Japanese culture woven into the story. It didn’t help that the narrator is British and not Japanese. I don’t recommend the audio at all, but I do think The Last Leaves Falling is worth reading, it just didn’t please me as much as I wanted it to.

This Raging LightThis Raging Light by Estelle Laure (Goodreads):

I enjoyed Estelle Laure’s debut much more than I thought I would. A while ago I started reading the ARC during SSR, but it wasn’t holding my attention for whatever reason. That’s why I tried the audio. It’s only 5 hours and 36 minutes long and narrated by Sandy Rustin. The audio was able to hold my attention better than the physical book. I was intrigued by Lucille and Wren and also really disturbed by their mother abandoning them. This Raging Light is a story of sisterhood, friendship, love, loyalty, and strength. I was often reminded of Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory because Lucille, like Hayley, is forced to act as an adult/parent before her time. The writing in this novel is wonderful and I’m looking forward to reading more of Estelle Laure’s novels.

Book Trailer Thursday (182)–I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Book Trailer Thursday

I didn’t know about the book trailer for I Crawl Through It by A.S. King until Gae Polisner posted a Facebook status about the book the other night. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read A.S. King’s most recent release, especially since I adore her novels, but I’m still excited to share this book trailer with my students because I think it will really grab some of them. She’s an incredibly smart and talented author that I want more of my students to discover and appreciate. Also, it’s awesome that e.E. Charlton-Trujillo created this trailer.

I Crawl Through ItSummary (From Goodreads):

Our big explosion is coming any day now. Can’t you hear the ticking?

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

Tick.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

Tick.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience—and find the way out.

Tick.

Book Trailer Thursday (181)–Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Trailer Thursday

Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors because she’s a fantastic writer and storyteller, but also because she writes about untold stories. I love learning something new and exposing those stories to my students. I can’t wait to read Salt to the Sea!

Salt to the SeaSummary (From Goodreads):

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

Audiobook Review: Girl at War by Sara Nović

Audio Review

Girl at WarTitle: Girl at War

Author: Sara Novic

Narrator: Julia Whelan

Publisher: Random House

Release Date: May 12th, 2015

Interest: Alex Award Winner

Source: Audio purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads):

Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Jurić is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost.

Audiobook Review: Julia Whelan has become one of my favorite audiobook narrators, especially after listening to Gone Girl last year. Her voice is really easy to listen to and she does a pretty good job changing it for different characters and even using various accents. I decided to listen to Girl at War because it won an Alex Award and also because I don’t have a physical copy (yet). Plus, Julia Whelan as the narrator was an automatic win. It was nice to hear the names and words pronounced correctly since I know I’d butcher them if I read it myself. It was hard at first not hearing Amy from Gone Girl, but after listening for a while that went away and Ana took full form for me.

Book Review: Girl at War is about a war I know little about even though I was alive during that time period. I’m thankful that this debut exists because more readers, especially teen readers, need to know about more wars in history. Our sophomores have an independent reading war poetry unit that requires them to read a novel dealing with war. I’m going to share Sara Novic’s novel with those teachers in my department so they can consider adding it as a recommended book.

There are other qualities that make me want to recommend it to the teachers in my department. The writing it beautiful and full of emotion. I don’t know anything about Sara Novic, but I imagine based on the story she’s written, that this war hits close to home. The end of Part I had me crying and many other scenes caused me to tear up as well. I wish I had a physical copy while I listened because there were plenty of scenes that I wanted to mark based on the writing alone. Girl at War is full of vivid imagery and smart writing overall.

If you’re looking for a novel that will pull at your heartstrings and make you aware of a war, that in my mind hasn’t been covered enough, look no further than Girl at War. I’m looking forward to reading more of Sara Novic’s novels. Even though this is a short review, please don’t let think that I didn’t love this book, because I did. I couldn’t get enough of the audio; I was completely enthralled and connected to the characters.

Waiting on Wednesday–The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

 

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Before I mention why I’m featuring this 2016 debut, I need to point out the cover. It is so pretty and eye catching! Also, I’m excited to read a book featuring the summer before college begins; it’s such a transitional and exciting time. The summary leaves me feeling like The Loose Ends List will be a good combination of handling grief and all things sweet. I really wish it was June and not cold, gray January.

The Loose Ends ListTitle & Author: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Release Date: June 7th, 2016

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads):

A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Recently Added to My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

There are currently 1,384 books on my Goodreads to-read shelf. I know I’ll probably never read all of them, but that’s okay because I’m always adding to that list! Today’s post focuses on the ten books I’m most excited about that have recently been added to my ever growing list.

Which books have you recently added to your TBR?

 

Is “getting along fine” good enough?

On May 29th, 2012 I wrote a blog post about creating and managing my classroom library. I had previously received a number of requests to post something of the like so I finally took the time to do so. Since that day it has been one of my most popular blog posts; it’s been pinned over 7,000 times! I’m certainly not an expert on managing a class library and need to make some changes (Booksource, anyone?), but I offer a good starting point for those who wish to begin a class library or want to improve their system.

A few months ago a student teacher found that post and left a comment that still concerns me.

I’m currently in a teaching program and I would love to have a class library, but I’m a little intimidated by the prospect. At this point, I’m just not sure whether it’s worth the time it would take to keep and maintain. I think it could be very useful for building healthy relationships with students and I like your ideas around having students be responsible for some of the upkeep. What other benefits have you seen to your library? Part of me just wants to have a library to have an excuse to buy and read more books and maybe that’s a good enough reason. I think it will also revolve around my school’s expectations for student reading. If my school ends up having SSR, I can’t see going without a library, but my current mentor teacher doesn’t really have a class library and he gets along fine. Thank you for detailing some of the nuts and bolts of your library. That helps my thought process a lot.

When I first read this I had to stop and process it because I didn’t know where to start. First, I’m thankful that this pre-service teacher reached out to me and that I *hopefully* helped. These lines worried me the most:

I think it will also revolve around my school’s expectations for student reading. If my school ends up having SSR, I can’t see going without a library, but my current mentor teacher doesn’t really have a class library and he gets along fine.

Teachers should have classroom libraries regardless of a school’s stance on SSR and their expectations for student reading. I started teaching in a district that didn’t have any kind of stance on SSR or student reading, but I went in with a very fluid reading philosophy. I’ve posted before about how influential my classes with Dr. Steffel were; she’s the reason I began a classroom library and why I read aloud to my students every day. I began student teaching with the understanding that a teacher who reads what her students are reading is a teacher who will connect with her students. Students need to see their teachers, especially their English teachers, reading every day. If we expect them to become lifelong readers and find value in reading, then we need to show them that we are reading and valuing reading as well.

I know it’s not always easy to accomplish, but making time for SSR is a must in every English classroom. Even if it’s once a week or every other day, it needs to be done. Too many students only read when they’re in school. It is our job to provide them with time to read independently and to provide them with books to read. It’s not easy or cheap managing a classroom library, but it’s too important not to do. It’s also the reason why I provided tips in that blog post for providing books for the classroom without breaking the bank. I don’t know anyone who started a class library with hundreds of books; it’s a slow and steady and exciting worthwhile process. But having that classroom library, even a small classroom library, allowed me instant access to books to recommend to my students and provide for them during SSR. Those recommendations created an invaluable rapport with my students. I read the books I add to my classroom library, often while my students are reading during SSR, so that I know which books to recommend to certain students.

I could go on about this for much longer, but I think it’s more powerful to read what my past and current students think about classroom libraries and teachers who read/recommend books. This post isn’t here to pat myself on the back, but to inspire/motivate/encourage teachers and pre-service teachers to provide independent reading time and classroom libraries for their students. I know teachers can and have been “getting along fine” without providing time to read and without providing a classroom library, but is that really enough? Are our students “getting along fine” without it? Can’t we do better than “fine”? Don’t our students deserve better than that?

Fifty eight of my current students responded to a poll I created about my classroom library.

  1. Do you borrow books from my classroom library? 
    52–Yes
    6–No
  2. Does my classroom library benefit students? Explain your answer.

    –Yes because there are a variety of books that every student can relate to. There are so many different genres and we can use your help to find a book.
    –Yes more options of books to choose from, we can’t always go to you if we wan’t to talk about a book or wan’t a recommendation also a lot of students read the same books from the class room so we can talk with each other about a book we’re reading.
    –Yes because it offers books that are new and may be unheard of or books hat people want to read.
    –Yes, it seems like there’s a better variety and a more comfortable atmosphere to check out books
    –Yes because it offers a variety of books with insight from the teacher on the book.

    –Definitely. I used to read a little bit here and there but your library has really gotten me back into reading. Usually I wouldn’t sit at home reading, but now I just get wrapped up in these great books.

    –Yes, it broadens our horizons and opens us up to new genres
    –I do think that the classroom library benefits students because it is easy access to books. I feel that I have no time to go to the library to actually check out a book in between class or in the morning. So have the library every other day is very helpful for me.
    –Yes. It’s gives you more opportunities to find books you would have never tried before.
    –Yes, it makes class time fun, and it makes reading not a chore.
    –Yes, it opens my eyes to different books.
    –Yes, of course it does! I personally think it’s because your classroom is a comfortable place to be that feels like home AND a library in one. It also saves students the trouble from having to go to the library every time they want a book to read.

    –Yes it does benefit me because it allows me to read and finish a book at my own pace without worrying about having to renew my book every 2 weeks.
    –Yes, I think it builds a relationship with you because we can relate. It makes it easier to get access to books, therefore if you didn’t have a classroom library I most likely wouldn’t read as much as I do.
    –The library very much benefits students because it gives them an opportunity to choose a book in the classroom without having to go down to the actual library, and they have something they can discuss with their teacher. It brings students closer on a common ground to make them feel comfortable.
  3. Did your English teacher last year have a classroom library? (I have seniors & freshmen and have never taught juniors)
    9–Yes
    48–No

I also reached out to my former students on Facebook who have graduated. I asked them about their experience with my classroom library and having time to read. Here are some of their responses:

Chloe–“Before your class I didn’t read much at all, especially not for leisure. Once I was in the class, that changed completely! You reading aloud to the class was a nice change from the usual English class I had been in, and it inspired me, and many students, to read in our free time. Having the extensive and up-to-date library in the classroom made it easy to find something I enjoyed. Having other students reading and giving their opinions helped make it an awesome environment for finding a great book as well. You took the time to get to know all of our tastes in books, and would make recommendations, which I personally loved because I always loved the books you suggested! I read more in your class than I had my whole life! When you left many of us talked about how awesome it was wanting to read and being encouraged to do so! I haven’t had a class like that since. I loved having book talks and discussing the topics we were reading, and I really believe having that environment has made a positive impact!”

Cortney–“Having you as a teacher is what started my love of reading. Before you being my teacher I had never read a book for fun before. What sparked my interest in reading is how you would read a book out loud to the entire class, I would look forward to your class so i could hear the next chapter. I then decided to take your young adult literature class and loved it! You introduced me to books I could relate too and that I enjoyed reading! Your classroom liberty was amazing because every book on your shelf was “pre-approved” to be a good story. If it weren’t for your class I definitely wouldn’t be the reader I am today!”

Alyssa–“I was never a reader until your class. I had you for English my freshman year and I also loved how you read to the class. This made me want to take your young adult lit. class. Honestly I haven’t stopped reading since your class.”

Zach–“I think the great part about your style of teaching and reading is you challenge the students to find books on their own that they may in turn love. While also attempting to have them read books they don’t normally read. You’ve also chosen to continue reading more and more books throughout all your teaching years, allowing you to keep up with current books and readings. It’s encouraging to see a teacher preaching what she teaches with her readings, and challenging students to do the same. I never would’ve started reading YAL novels without your classroom, and they’ve become some of my favorite books. (Beautiful Creatures, Wake, Fade, Gone, etc). Some, like Boy Toy and Hush Hush, have easily ranked my favorite of all time. Keep doing what you do, it works!”

Hannah–“Hi Mrs. Andersen! I’d be happy to help with your blog post in any way I can. You were the only teacher I ever had with any type of substantial classroom library (a few others had a few dozen books but nothing compared to yours), and you always knew exactly the type of books to recommend to each student based on their tastes and how to get us out of reading slumps (I’m still not sure how you always knew exactly what everyone would like).”

Caroline–“Not being much of a reader I wasn’t sure about taking this class [my YA Lit class] when I first walked in. Yet it quickly became one of my favorite classes. It really opened my eyes to how mesmerizing a story could be; how much emotion can be put into it. One of my favorite ways of finding a book to read was when we all had to read a book for a few minutes and then pass it along to read the beginning of another one. I think this helped each of us learn which genre of books we wanted to do our projects on. I loved having someone to recommend books to me whenever I didn’t know what to read next. Since taking this class I have collected my own small library worth of novels. I would recommend this class to anyone, even if they don’t believe reading is for them.”

Tristan–“I loved having access to so many different books at all times! I loved having suggestions from you and other students. I read a lot of books that I wouldn’t have found out about otherwise because it’s hard to go to the bookstore and know what books are actually worth the read. Also just being surrounded by so many books is inspiring and made me want to read that much more. I miss it all the time!”

It is my sincere hope that all teachers, especially English teachers, will create classroom libraries and provide SSR time. I’m working tirelessly to help spread this idea to teachers wherever I go. I’d love to hear from you if you’re also providing SSR time and/or a classroom library. Teachers and pre-service teachers read my blog and could benefit from your experiences as well.

Some images of my classroom library from within the last three years:

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