1st Hour Book Love

After reading Cindy’s blog post about the ALA awards, I came up with the idea to ask my students which books are their favorites and deserve awards.  I asked my 1st-3rd hour to list books they read and loved in 2012.  I expressed that it’s great if they’re 2012 releases, but it’s okay if they’re not.  With the help of my fabulous cadet teacher (senior class student who plans on becoming a teacher), Tristan, I have the top books listed for each class.  I’m posting the 1st hour results today, and I’ll post the next two class results over the next two days.

Top Choice: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson
**Side note–A few students cheered when I told them this was the top choice 1st hour**

If I Lie

What students said about If I Lie (Goodreads):

“I listed this book because she stayed true to her friend no matter how badly it affected her.” -Trista

“It’s touching and super cute.” -Kaelyn

Honorary Titles:

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Goodreads)

I Hunt Killers final

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)
“It’s just good all-around” -Joe (a very to the point answer :))

Stupid Fast

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads)
“I love how she slowly uncovers everything.” -Katie

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington (Goodreads)


Divergent by Veronica Roth (Goodreads)
**Side note–This class is very excited about the third book releasing & this being made into a movie.**


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Goodreads)
“It’s different and not predictable at all.” -Kara


Shut Out by Kody Keplinger (Goodreads)

Shut Out

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (Goodreads)


Looking for Alaska by John Green (Goodreads)
**Side note–Announcing this title sparked a lot of debate because some loved it and others didn’t like it at all.**

“I love the Before and After because it allows us to see how Pudge handles everything **avoiding spoiler** after.” -Hannah B.


NCTE/ALAN 2012 Recap

It’s been a while since I’ve written a lengthy post, but preparing for NCTE/ALAN was a lot of work.  And then there was the convention itself.  It gets better every year I attend, so I can only imagine how awesome Boston will be next year!

It’s hard to decide where to start because the entire trip was fantastic.  If you haven’t attended NCTE or ALAN, I HIGHLY recommend you attend at least one of them, if not both.  Not only is it an excellent way to connect with other teachers, it’s also incredibly refreshing and rewarding.  I love my job, but teaching tends to be an isolating profession.  I know many of us collaborate on a regular basis in our buildings and online, but actually being able to attend a vast array of sessions and meet so many inspiring teachers is an entirely different experience.  There are literally hundreds of sessions to choose from that range in focus from elementary to college.  This year, most of them tied in with Common Core since it’s such a big issue in our profession.  I met more of my Twitter PLN in person, but I also made connections with other teachers as well.  It’s good to get out of the building and connect with teachers who share my passion for teaching.  It’s good to meet these teachers and learn from them and also learn that I’m not alone in what I’m doing in my classroom.

The “Nerdy Book Club” group at the ALAN cocktail party

I really wish I could physically spend more time with my Twitter PLN.  Seeing Jillian, Jenn, Lea, and others once a year simply doesn’t cut it.  Luckily, Beth and Brian live in Michigan so I get to see them more often at author signings and such.  We need to find a way to connect our group in the spring or summer so we don’t have to wait until November in Boston to see each other.

Post preso with Mindi, Jillian, and Danielle. (That’s a bright photo!)

I flew into Vegas late Thursday night, so I didn’t get to see anyone until breakfast Friday morning.  Jillian, Danielle, Mindi and I presented on Friday afternoon, so we met up for breakfast to chat and go over our presentation.  I’ve never met Danielle in person (@mymercurialmuse), so I’m happy we finally met!  She’s awesome and a passionate teacher.  Plus, our presentation was great!  We presented in a small room which was perfect, especially after seeing some presentations in the larger rooms which didn’t feel as inviting.  We started with a small group, but eventually it filled up to around 40 people.  We received some really positive feedback; some people even stopped us in the hall after to tell us how much they enjoyed our presentation!  I was nervous, but it ended up being really fun.  I hope to present more often in the future 🙂  If you’re interested, here’s the link to our presentation via SlideShare.

I finally met Geoff! 😀

I was a little more low key this year because I didn’t want to wear myself out like I did last year.  If there was a session I was interested in, I went, and if not, then I didn’t bother.  Thankfully the ones I attended were great.  Jenn and I went to a cool session which featured round table discussions about sports and literature.  Geoff Herbach, Matt de le Pena, and Matthew Quick were a few of the featured authors.  They had a chance to speak and then went to designated tables where teachers had topics and discussions planned for each table.  Jenn and I sat at Geoff’s table and gained so many lesson/writing ideas.  There were even extra handouts available from the other tables to take back to school!  At the end of the session there was the chance to propose a round table idea for next year.  Jenn and I wrote up a proposal for sports and bullying and we’re hoping Joshua C. Cohen will be able to join the session to discuss his debut, Leverage in relation to that topic.  **Fingers crossed it works out**

The exhibition floor was much better this year than last year.  It was open and all in one space which made it much easier to navigate.  I have one complaint, however, that I need to get out of the way before I continue.  I hope the people who organize NCTE read this because the exhibition floor policies need to change.  There is absolutely no reason for teachers to bring suitcases into the hall.  None.  Last year I saw a number of carry on size rolling suitcases, but this year teachers were filling up entire full size suitcases with books.  They take up too much space and get in the way. They were rolling over feet and bumping into people.  It was obnoxious.  And on top of that, the greedy teachers were embarrassing.  Just because books are free doesn’t mean all sense of professionalism should go out the door.  It’s embarrassing watching teachers interrupt conversations and run up to booths simply to grab a free book, especially when they don’t know anything about it.  I can’t stress enough the importance of connecting with the publishers.  They know which books are best for age levels and which books are parts of series and so on.  They’ll be more than happy to tell you about the books they’re excited about.  I came prepared with a specific list of books my students and I hoped to receive, and the only time I strayed from that list was when a publisher told me about a book he/she was excited about.  It’s not a race or a competition.  Most publishers were happy to take my information if a book I wanted wasn’t available so they could send me one later.  Or, you know, I’ll just buy a copy when it releases.

End of rant.

With Holly Cupala at the ALAN party

Happier exhibition memories.  HarperCollins brought Holly Cupala to NCTE which was SO EXCITING.  She is a stellar contemporary author and my girls in class love her books.  It was exciting meeting her on Friday (?) because I had just included her book, Tell Me a Secret in my presentation, and she was at the HarperCollins booth signing copies of that book and her newest novel, Don’t Breathe a Word.  They were giving the copies away for free, so I grabbed both to get signed since they’re both so popular.  When I was in line, I told her about one of my students who loved Don’t Breathe a Word so much, she hopes there’s a sequel.  I had Holly sign that copy for that student.  Holly remembered me because in the spring when some of my students were reading Tell Me a Secret for our To Kill a Mockingbird thematic unit, I tweeted her about their rave reviews.  The following day, Holly found me on the exhibit floor and took me out to lunch!  It was surprising and such an honor.  We had a fantastic time discussing her books, our lives, teaching, my students, etc.  It was really special and exciting.

One of the cool things about the exhibit floor and ALAN was the number of graphic novels available.  I have a big group of students who love graphic novels, so getting a few in my ALAN box and being able to buy a couple to get signed was pretty fantastic.  I was hoping for more LGBT novels as well which I ended up getting.  Actually, Jenn and I went to a wonderful session on LGBT issues in sports and at school and how to be an advocate and a safe person at school.  It was a powerful session and I’m really glad I went.  I also received some awesome resources with lists of books in YA that feature LGBT issues.  I have to say that the exhibitors were awesome again this year.  I can’t explain just how wonderful and patient they are.  It’s a crazy few days for them, but they kept their cool and handed out so many books.  I was amazed at how many free finished copies they provided this year.  HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster had free copies for almost all of the author signing books.  I already have copies of In Honor and If I Lie, but I couldn’t pass up free copies to get signed for my classroom, especially considering how much my students love those books.

With my convention buddies, Jenn and Jillian, at ALAN

ALAN is always on Monday and Tuesday, but it kicks off with the ALAN cocktail party on Sunday night.  That was a lot of fun since so many Twitter friends were there.  This year I spent most of the night hanging out with Jenn and Jillian.  Jenn and I spent a big chunk of the evening talking to Matthew Quick.  It was really cool talking to him about his teaching career and how he ended up becoming an author.  Even though I was exhausted and grouchy on Monday, ALAN started off great.  This year they featured way more author panels than last year.  It was really cool listening to so many authors, but I think last year’s amount was perfect.  I needed more of a break between the authors this year because it was hard sitting still for such a long time when I was so tired.  I will say that my ALAN box of books this year was way cooler than last year’s.  I never bash free books, but this box contained so many books that my students want to read.  I shipped it home, so hopefully it arrives soon so I can booktalk them at school.

At lunch with Trish Doller. Make sure you read Something Like Normal! 🙂

Another couple of author highlights feature Rae Carson and Trish Doller.  Martha Mihalik is Rae Carson’s editor at HarperCollins and she invited me and two other teachers (Paul Hankins and Daria Plumb) to have dinner with her and Rae.  We had dinner at Fiamma at MGM and it was pretty tasty.  Plus, Rae is really cool and laid back.  I already love her Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, but after meeting her I like it even more.  Getting to meet Martha was cool as well because she’s incredibly sweet.  If you don’t know of Daria Plumb, check out her site Get’em Reading!  She’s a fellow Michigan teacher.  I saw her present at MCTE a few years ago and was really impressed.  Now she’s pretty involved in ALAN and is a really cool person.  And if you don’t know Paul (@PaulWHankins), you should really start connecting with him because he’s wonderful and such a good teacher.

Trish is the talented author of the fantastic debut Something Like Normal.  She and I were trying to meet at ALAN and I knew I was going to miss her panel since it was during my flight home, so we made plans to get lunch on Sunday.  I invited her to have lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant with me, Jillian, Jenn, Lea, Sherry, and Brian.  Even cooler?  She brought Corrine Jackson (author of If I Lie) with her!  I was so excited to finally meet her because I LOVE her book.  Getting lunch with them was so much fun, especially after hearing how they geek out about meeting teachers and other authors just like we do 🙂  Trish told us about her new book which made me want to read it even more than I already did.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things, but it was a full five days.  I made some fantastic connections and strengthened existing connections.  I brought home quite a few books, but they’re all books my students and I will read.  I met some authors and hung out with some too.  It was an experience I won’t soon forget, and one I hope will be even better next year in Boston!

Keith was able to pack all of my NCTE books so I didn’t have to ship them. Alice is excited about all of our upcoming reading 🙂

Review: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Title: If I Lie

Author: Corrine Jackson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: August 28th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Contemporary

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

This year has been a big year for war-related contemporary YA.  When I found out about Corrine Jackson’s debut, If I Lie, I knew I had to read it and I’m really glad I did.

I don’t know what it is about serious contemporary YA novels, but I love them.  I’ve realized that my class library is full of them.  If I Lie is serious and emotional, but there’s a nice mix of humor and warmth as well.  Jackson covers some heavy issues like varyious forms of bullying.  Quinn’s turned into a pariah and deemed a traitor after a compromising picture of her cheating on her boyfriend is spread across the Internet.  The cyber bullying is a primary focus, but it’s present enough to give a reader pause.  Quinn is bullied constantly.  Her locker is violated, her friends have abandoned her, and she’s called names over and over again.  I was shocked that she handles it as well as she does.  I would hope that a military town would act differently, but in this war-ridden climate it’s easy to believe what happens to Quinn.  Most of the humor comes from Quinn’s interactions with the war veteran, George, she spends time with.  I loved his character because he’s really caring but he’s sharp and witty too.

After around 50 pages or so I started wondering where the story was going to take me.  Corrine Jackson sets it up so we discover the big secret early on, but the full picture and background of it is broken up throughout the story.  Once I realized that was happening I understood the pacing better and enjoyed it.  Besides bullying, Quinn’s life is paralleled with her mother’s life.  Her mom faced a similar situation as Quinn which haunts Quinn regularly.  She feels like she’s lived up to the town’s expectations that she’d be just like her mother.  So along with flashbacks to before the picture was taken and spread around town, we get flashbacks to when Quinn was still with her mother and what happened at home.  The flashbacks are written well and easy to identify when reading.  I’m picky about that when I read a book like If I Lie.

Readers who enjoy Courtney Summers or books like Speak will most likely enjoy If I Lie.  It’s a quick read full of heart with a main character who, despite what everyone around town thinks, is incredibly loyal.  I predict it will be popular in my classroom since there’s so much students can relate to.  Readers who have tough relationships with their parents will connect with this.  Readers who have been subject to bullying and gossip will connect with this.  Readers who have fallen for the wrong person will connect with this.  If I Lie is a strong contemporary debut and I look forward to reading more of Corrine Jackson’s work.

Students Want to Know Corrine Jackson

Have you added If I Lie by Corrine Jackson to your TBR piles yet?!  I did as soon as I read the summary because it sounds fantastic!  I’m thrilled that she volunteered to be interviewed by my students because they’re now just as excited to read If I Lie as I am.  I hope you enjoy this interview with Corrine Jackson; I know my students are eager to read her responses.

Summary of If I Lie (From Goodreads): A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

** Corrine Jackson’s Website **
** Follow Corrine Jackson on Twitter **
** If I Lie releases on August 28th, 2012 from Simon Pulse **

Ashley B:

  • Are you from a small town?
    I was born in a town that is hardly a blip on the map. It had one stop light, the population was less than 1,000, and it takes up all of a half mile. My family moved to southern California when I was very young, but I used to go back to Haxtun, Colorado to visit my father. The simplicity of that place has stayed with me. I once rode a lawnmower down the sidewalk at age six, the only restaurant in town gave Dum Dums suckers to all the kids, and a whistle blew at noon every day to tell the grain factory workers that it was lunch time. Everyone knew everyone else, and sometimes I daydreamed about a swimming through the piles of grain. Those are the kinds of things I think about when I write about small towns.
  • Does the military play a role in your life?
    My uncle did two tours in Vietnam. He was mentally ill the rest of his life and spent a lot of time at the VA Hospital. I also have an honorary uncle who fought in Vietnam. The stories I’ve heard from them and my family definitely had an impact on my writing and the inspiration for IF I LIE.

Alexis K.:

  • What goes on with this other guy to make her do what she does?
    Sh. I can’t tell. Honest. It would ruin the book for you if I gave away all the secrets.
  • Does this other guy know her boyfriend?
    Yes, he’s a close friend. In fact, he’s Carey’s BEST friend. Scandalous, right? Things aren’t always what they seem to be, though.


  • When you started writing this book, did you expect it to get published?
    At first, I didn’t know what I had. I couldn’t figure out where to start the story and wrote about six different beginnings to IF I LIE. The problem was that I knew how I wanted to open the book, but it required me to weave flashbacks and memories throughout the story. I was taught that flashbacks are like your mom wearing Crocs – something she should know better than to do. But then something clicked and I figured out how to weave those moments in so they felt natural. After that, the pieces fell together and I thought I had something that might see a bookshelf.


  • As an author, what do you feel is the most important aspect of your work?
    I think it’s important to do my best to get the story “right.” For me, this means doing a lot of research. In IF I LIE, Quinn is from a military town and her father is a Marine. Quinn is also working with a Vietnam Vet on the Veterans History Project, which is a project run by the Library of Congress to record the stories of our soldiers. I was sick that I would do this experience an injustice. My publisher sent IF I LIE to the Veterans History Project, and my greatest fear was that they would tell me I was off base. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and I’m proud to know that they were very touched by the story.
  • Who’s your favorite author?  What do you like about his/her work?
    Laurie Halse Anderson. Hands down. SPEAK blows me away, and I used to read sections of WINTERGIRLS to inspire me while I was writing IF I LIE. She’s brilliant at symbolism and voice. I also love her willingness to play with structure. For example, SPEAK is told in a journal format and WINTERGIRLS has an awesome use of strikethroughs and repetition that mirrors the internal angst of the narrator. Most of all, I find her use of language to be borderline poetic at times, and I love to sink into some of her lines and reread them. She makes me feel things when I read her work and that is a huge gift.

Sarah W:

  • Do you like the cover?
    I couldn’t imagine what the cover would look like. My main request to my publisher was that we stay away from girls in pretty dresses. I thought that would make light of the story or make it seem like a different kind of book than it is. My editor emailed me the cover while I was at my day job. My coworkers gathered around when I opened it, and I cried like an idiot. I think it’s so beautiful and mirrors the heart of IF I LIE in a way that surprised me. The black-and-white photo is both stark and full of emotion, and I could hug the designer for giving me that cover.
  • Have you ever been cheated on?
    Not that I could prove, but I had strong suspicions once. The fact that I couldn’t trust my boyfriend was enough to wake me up, and I ended up breaking the relationship off. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t stay with someone who didn’t respect me. I believe cheating causes a lot of damage. Beyond the pain it unleashes, cheating can break up families and leave kids growing up in a single-parent home. We should make t-shirts that say, “Cheating Sucks. Don’t Do It.”


  • Who would you recommend this book to?
    The reactions from my male and female readers so far are pretty balanced, so I think that both boys and girls will like it. It’s kind of heavy and emotional, but I wouldn’t really call it a “girl” book. I think the topics it covers are pretty universal and not unique to any gender.
  • Who is your favorite character in the book?
    Aside from Quinn, I love George. He’s a Vietnam Vet that Quinn gets forced to work with at the VA Hospital. He’s grouchy, flirts with all the nurses, and cheats at cards. I love the scenes with Quinn and George because they have fun and don’t take any crap each other. He can make Quinn laugh when she feels like crying, and that’s a valuable trait in a friend.


  • Do you think “cheaters” in real life are really abandoned by friends because of what they did/have done?
    It depends on the friends and the community. If you’re in a military family or dating/married to a soldier, cheating is considered deplorable. In all the interviews I did and the research I conducted, everyone agreed that cheating on a deployed soldier makes you the scum of the earth. When a soldier goes to war, they are comforted by the thought of the family waiting for them at home. In that community, it’s considered a betrayal to abandon that person. Outside the military (and maybe some religious communities), though, I think that friends will often choose sides. Some friends will stick by the “cheater,” and others won’t.


  • What does the title have to do with the book?
    Good question! Quinn is keeping a major secret to protect her boyfriend. She can tell the truth and free herself from the town’s condemnation, or she can lie to protect her boyfriend. She is constantly asked to choose between her boyfriend and herself, and she struggles to act with honorable when her sacrifices add up to more than she can take. What would you give up for someone you loved? Would you lie to protect them at great cost to yourself? That’s what the title is about.


%d bloggers like this: