Waiting on Wednesday–Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame


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?

Unleashing Readers Blog Hop–Reading Favorites

Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsberg created a new blog called Unleashing Readers.  It’s designed to help teachers find the resources they need when teaching reading and various types of literature.  A group of us (teachers) have been asked to participate in a blog hop and share a few of our favorite books that we use for different types of reading.

Unleashing Readers LaunchWeek2

1. My favorite read aloud–This is a tough one because I’ve read so many books aloud and I always get a different reaction from every class.  Right now Boy 21 by Matthew Quick and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate are tied.  They couldn’t be more different in terms of audience, plot, and characters, but my students have loved both for many reasons.  And I love reading them aloud and how I feel while reading them.

Boy21The One and Only Ivan

2. My favorite close read/analysis book–I’ve been thinking about this one for a few days now, and I’m still not sure.  My YA Lit students read Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn and almost every time I teach that class, my students find something different to discuss or analyze.  We spend a lot of time comparing Nick in the past (based on his journals) and Nick in the present (after the restraining order).  We also discuss his future, his family background, how society reacts to stories like his, and so on.

If I’m choosing a classic, I think I’d go with Lord of the Flies and Hamlet.

Breathing Underwater Original Cover

3. My favorite lit circle/book club book–I’m honestly still navigating lit circles because I never feel like I get them right.  A lit circle book works best when there’s plenty to discuss.  According to my students, it can’t drag on and be too slow either. 😉  My YA Lit II students appeared to really enjoy discussing Unwind by Neal Shusterman in their lit circles.    There are multiple points of view, plenty of big issues, lots of action, diverse characters, etc.


4. My favorite book for my classroom library–I had to pack up all of my books this summer because many of us are switching classrooms, myself included.  I counted up my books and I think the final total ended up around 1,300.  So this is a tough one to decide on because I have so many books to choose from!  I’m cheating, again, and choosing more than one.  My favorite book for girls who want to read something edgy even though they don’t like reading would be Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.  It hooks them almost every single time, but this is a TOUGH read. I’ve had more than one student put it back, but almost all of those girls want to read another book after they finish it.  For my boys who need something funny to hold their attention, I am choosing Swim the Fly by Don Calame and Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach.  Both are funny books that hook my reluctant guys, but there’s also something more than humor in each book.

livingdeadgirlStupid FastSwim the Fly audio

5. My favorite book in general–I don’t have kids yet, but that is like asking me to choose a favorite child. Oh my goodness.  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was one of the books I read for my college YA Lit class and it struck a cord with me.  I remember being so disappointed that I wasn’t going to be in class the day we discussed this one because I had so much to say about it.  After finishing it, I wanted to read more books like it.  I’ve read it aloud multiple times to my freshmen classes.  Laurie Halse Anderson was the first author I’ve Skyped with.  Whenever a new edition of Speak comes out, I buy it.  I don’t connect with it on a personal level, but it stayed with me.


2nd Hour Book Love

Yesterday I posted the results from my 1st hour Honors Sophomore Seminar class, and today I’m posting the results from my 2nd hour Honors Sophomore Seminar class.  This is the smaller of the two classes, and I have a nice mix of both avid readers and revitalized readers.  When I went over the results with them, some were surprised by the favorites and others were excited about them.  I’m kind of surprised that so many backlist titles made the list, to be honest, but I’m happy they’re still so popular.

Top Choice: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

What students said about The Hunger Games trilogy (Goodreads):

“I really like the idea and concept of the trilogy.” -Jenna
“It has a great combination of action, comedy, drama, and romance.” -Hannah

Honorary Titles:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (Goodreads)
**Side note–Ellen Hopkins’ school visit really made an impact on my students 🙂 Reading Crank was a different experience for them after hearing Ellen speak about her life and the story behind the book.**
“Meeting Ellen Hopkins in person really made a difference.” -Hallie


Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (Goodreads)

“It’s a really fast read that’s intense and depicts a harsh reality.” -Sophie


Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (Goodreads)
**Side note–I don’t like this new cover at all, but I’m using it in case you’re looking for a copy at the store.**

“I like the way it’s written in reverse order and that we get to read Nick’s journals.” -Hannah

Breathing Underwater Paperback

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)
**Side note–This just released in paperback!**

“I loved this book.” -Haylee

The Pull of Gravity paperback

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)

“It’s really funny.” -Emma

Swim the Fly audio

Split by Swati Avasthi (Goodreads)

Split paperback

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins (Goodreads)


My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (Goodreads)

“It’s freaky to think that’s actually real and that as a kid he did all of that stuff.” -I can’t remember which one of my students said this :/

My Friend Dahmer

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman (Goodreads)

“Intense, a harsh reality, and I like the multiple points of view.” -Jenna


Cooking and Listening (1)

I’ve been a cooking fiend since the summer.  I’ve also been listening to quite a few audiobooks.  Pairing the two has helped me feel like I’m being “reading productive” since I sometimes feel like I need to sacrifice one for the other.  Does anyone else ever feel that way?  It seems silly, but I feel guilty spending time doing other things (working out, cleaning, cooking, driving around), when I could spend that time reading.

My cooking inspiration is all in thanks to Pinterest.  I currently have a “Recipes Worth a Try” board with 420 pins.  And that’s not counting my “Delicious Desserts” board…  Also because of Pinterest, I’ve started making freezer dinners.  I can’t tell you how much of a time saver it’s been!  Even better?  I’ve found some pretty healthy crock pot dinners, including ways to make many of these dinners gluten free.

That’s where this post inspiration comes from.  Why not blog about some of the audiobooks I’m listening to and recipes I’m making?  If you’ve been doing the same thing, I’d love it if you leave a comment!  Share your favorite Pinterest recipe and/or audiobook 🙂

Picture from What’s Cookin, Chicago? I forgot to take my own picture!

Delicious Freezer Recipe #1:

Because I don’t want to take credit away from the blogger who originally shared this recipe, I’m only going to provide the link.  In the future if I alter any recipes I’ll share the altered recipe with original blogger credit.

I made Spring Chicken with Spring Vegetables, Lemons, and Capers courtesy of What’s Cookin, Chicago? (Click the link for the recipe.)  The blogger provides instructions for how to make the dinner fresh and how to prepare it as a freezer meal to make later.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but it ended up tasting extremely fresh, and the chicken was really moist.  I made it last night and Keith (my husband) definitely wants to eat it again!  It was really easy to put together and freeze as well.

Audiobook Review:

Title: Beat the Band

Author: Don Calame

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Source: Purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): Cooper Redmond has only one thing on his mind: tagging as many bases as possible by the end of sophomore year. He’s already picked out a prime target: the divine Prudence Nash, whose sexy serpent tattoo haunts his dreams. But when Coop is paired with the infamous “Hot Dog” Helen for a semester-long Health project on safe sex, his hopes of making it to the Majors are suddenly DOA. It’s going to take something seriously epic to resuscitate his reputation  —  something like winning the Battle of the Bands with his best buds, Matt and Sean.

There’s just one problem: they totally suck.

Get ready for riffs on hot girls, Health class, and social hell in this hilarious follow-up to Swim the Fly.
From the Publisher (Brilliance Audio)

Duration: 08:09:16

After finishing the Swim the Fly audiobook, I immediately bought and downloaded the audio for Beat the Band.  And just as I expected, it is fantastic!  Matt’s friend Coop is telling the story in this book, which takes place right where Swim the Fly left off.  I had mixed feelings about Coop, so I was wondering how much I would enjoy his character, but I ended up really liking him.  There’s much more “bathroom” humor in Beat the Band because that’s part of Coop’s personality.  Coop is also more devious than Matt.  And I have to mention how much I enjoyed Coop’s dad’s character.  He’s rough around the edges, but he has heart and is really funny.  What I enjoyed the most about Coop in Beat the Band is how much his character grows from the beginning to the ending of the book.  He matures a great deal and learns to take responsibility for his actions.  If you’re looking for a book with lots of humor and guy-appeal, then I really suggest you listen to Swim the Fly and Beat the Band.

Audiobook Review: Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Title: Swim the Fly

Author: Don Calame

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Publisher: Candlewick Press / Brilliance Audio

Release Date: April 14th, 2009

Interest: Student recommended / Guy appeal / Contemporary

Source: Purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Sean and Coop, always set themselves a summer-time goal. This year’s? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time. As far as Matt is concerned, they’d have better luck finding the lost city of Atlantis. But seeing a girl in the buff starts to seem like child’s play compared to the other summertime goal Matt sets for himself: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) in order to impress Kelly West, the hot new girl. So what if he can’t manage a single lap, let alone four? He’s got the whole summer to perfect his technique. What could possibly go wrong?
From the Publisher (Brilliance Audio)

Duration: 07:30:46

Do you enjoy laughing out loud?  (I’m going to assume your answer is yes.)  Then you need to read Swim the Fly by Don Calame, or even better, listen to the audiobook.  Seriously.  Do it right now. 😉

I’m pretty sure Swim the Fly was first brought to my attention a year or so ago when someone posted a link about the author and how popular he and his book was at some middle school.  I read the article and decided I needed to add this book to my classroom library since it holds so much guy appeal.  Why did I wait so long to read it?!  I was in an audiobook lull when I decided to give Swim the Fly a shot.  I am SO HAPPY I did.

Nick Podehl is now my favorite audiobook narrator.  He’s simply awesome.  I love that he had a different, distinguished voice for every single character and never slipped when switching characters.  Listening to him narrate Don Calame’s story was like watching a movie, a completely hilarious and entertaining movie.  Honestly, I keep wondering if the book is as funny when reading traditionally as it is when listening to the audiobook.  I have a feeling Nick Podehl read it exactly how Don Calame heard it in his head when he was writing it.

The guy appeal in Swim the Fly is fantastic.  It’s full of “bathroom” humor which may or may not appeal to you, but while I’m being honest, I loved it in this book.  It’s honest humor.  I have a younger brother, so I easily remember the gross jokes he and his friends would tell.  I overheard plenty of their conversations.  Their jokes and conversations very much match the tone, situations, jokes, etc. found in Swim the Fly.  Besides the humor, it has quite a bit of heart too.  Matt may not have the most honorable intentions for his summer, but he’s kind and really a good guy.  He’s loyal to his friends and close with his mom, brother, and grandpa.  The scenes with his grandpa are priceless.  I laughed the hardest because of some of the things his grandpa said and did.  I loved seeing the different sides of Nick that presented themselves when he was with different characters.  He’s stumbling and awkward when he’s around Kelly, but at ease and himself when he’s around Valerie.  He holds back and does his best for his mom.  He’s usually a voice of reason when he’s hanging out with the guys.

The plot is kind of predictable, but I think you’ll be able to overlook that since the story itself is so entertaining.  I’ve only experienced Swim the Fly as an audiobook, so I can’t say how entertaining it is traditionally, but my students have been reading it like crazy.  I honestly think you should listen to the audio if you have the means because it’s that good.  As soon as I finished it I bought the next book, Beat the Band, which takes place at the end of the summer and is told from Coop’s point of view this time.  (Side note–it’s also super funny.)

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