School Year Reading Reflection

I know many book bloggers reflect on their reading life at the end of the calendar year, which I do as well, but as a teacher I like to also reflect on my school year reading. It helps me plan my summer reading so I can work on filling in any gaps I may have had over the school year. I don’t like to plan my summer reading too much, however, because it’s my time to truly dig into my reading pile and relax. Plus, I don’t know what my new group of students will need in terms of reading, but it’s still good for me to always be mindful about my reading choices.

During the 2015-2016 school year I read 56 books which is an increase from last year. I’m sure most of that has to do with Jack being older and I made a concerted effort to listen to more audiobooks this school year. For this post, I’m going to break down my reading life by different categories and some books will be listed more than once depending on the category. It’s important to remember that one book can appeal to a variety of readers for different reasons.

School Year Reading

Historical Fiction/Historical Novels (10 novels read): This school year I tried genre binges which I can tell REALLY helped me diversify my reading since I tend to read mostly contemporary realistic fiction. Through this process I discovered a real interest in reading historical novels.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • Girl at War by Sara Novic
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowry
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Fantasy (Roughly 8 novels read): Another binge reading genre for me was fantasy novels mostly because of my fantasy panel at ALAN this past year. I always enjoy reading fantasy, but I’ve noticed that a fantasy novel isn’t always the first one I grab from my TBR pile when choosing a book. I really need to work on that because I sometimes feel like I’m always recommending the same fantasy novels to my students.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (I reread this as a read aloud/paranormal fantasy)
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins (one of my classes wanted me to read the sequel as a read aloud)
  • Jackaby by William Ritter (this has paranormal elements)
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (I go back and forth about whether to qualify this as fantasy)
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk (maybe paranormal because of the whole Cupid thing)

Mystery/Thriller (8 novels read): My students this year, maybe more than previous years, love and often requested more mystery titles. This category is tough for me to break down because so many books can be viewed as mystery depending on the plot and the reader.

  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Science Fiction (3 novels read): I simply don’t read enough of this genre. I would love some current (2015-2016) sci-fi recommendations!

  • Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  • Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Racially Diverse Characters (10 novels read): I’m really trying to expand my knowledge of books with racially diverse characters because even though the district where I teach is not racially diverse, I don’t want a “white-washed” classroom library. And I know my students don’t want that either; they want broader perspectives than their own. This is still an area of improvement, however.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (this also works as a loose Romeo & Juliet retelling)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features racially diverse characters in some of the short stories)

LGBTQ Characters (5 novels read): I’ve been working on this area of my reading life for years now. Within the last few years I can tell that it’s making a difference because more and more of my students are openly requesting more of these titles and sharing them once they’ve read them. Also, for the purpose of this post I’m only listing books that feature an LGBTQ main character.

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features multiple LGBTQ short stories)

More Than One Point of View (13 novels read): My students love books written with more than one point of view.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (occasionally see the serial killer’s POV)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Graphic Novels/Illustrated Novels (3 novels read): I really enjoy reading graphic novels, but I know I don’t read enough of them during the school year.

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Romance (22 novels read): Not all of these are strictly romance, but many of them feature romantic storylines.

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (this one isn’t as romantic as her others, but there’s still an element there)
  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (I like that this one applies more as dealing with mental illness)
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
  • Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel

Some other areas of reading/genres/categories I want to read more of are memoirs, books dealing with mental illness, books featuring characters with disabilities, and more books dealing with sexual violence/rape culture. I read a couple books this school year with characters in poverty and I’d like to read more like those. I also noticed that I only read one novel in verse this school year, which is really unusual for me.

Book Trailer Thursday (169)–The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner

Book Trailer Thursday

 

I was sent this information about The Diary of a Teenage Girl being made into a movie, along with the link to its movie trailer. It sounds like an interesting movie and book, so I figured I’d go ahead and share it with all of you.

The movie stars Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni and Kristen Wiig. It releases on August 7th, 2015.

Summary (From Goodreads):

So begins the wrenching diary of Minnie Goetze, a fifteen-year-old girl longing for love and acceptance and struggling with her own precocious sexuality. Minnie hates school and she wants to be an artist, or maybe a speleologist, or a bartender. She sleeps with her mother’s boyfriend, and yet is too shy to talk with boys at school. She forges her way through adolescence, unsupervised and unguided, defenseless, and yet fearless.

The story unfolds in the libertine atmosphere of the 1970s San Francisco, but the significance of Minnie’s effort to understand herself and her world is universal. This is the story of an adolescent troubled by the discontinuity between what she thinks and feels and what she observes in those around her. The Diary of a Teenage Girl offers a searing comment on adult society as seen though the eyes of a young woman on the verge of joining it.

In this unusual novel, artist and writer Phoebe Gloeckner presents a pivotal year in a girl’s life, recounted in diary pages and illustrations, with full narrative sequences in comics form.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Will Probably Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I wasn’t expecting ever expecting to see this as a top ten topic! It’s fun though because it’s not a topic I’ve ever really considered before. I’m so used to thinking about what books I want to read and how that list is never ending. Does anyone else participating this week feel the same way? Or have any of you who aren’t participating this week thought about books you’ll never read?

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck–Unless I end up teaching juniors, I don’t plan on ever reading this novel. The topic doesn’t interest me and I’m certainly not interested in tearing this book apart via literary analysis.

2. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare–I’m a Cassandra Clare fan, but I haven’t really wanted to keep up with all of her spin-off series. It’s expensive and I’m happy sticking with The Mortal Instruments series.

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert–I don’t know that I have a reason, really, but I’m not interested.

4. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey–I always enjoy reading memoirs, but I don’t feel compelled to read a story that’s supposed to be true, but isn’t.

5. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult–Nope, I simply can’t read it. Too many tears will be shed.

6. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin series–The HBO series is too awesome. I know that if I read the series I probably won’t enjoy the show anymore and that will make me incredibly sad.

7. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman–I’ll occassionally watch the show, and I’m a fan of graphic novels, but I don’t know if I want to experience zombies graphically on top of watching the show.

8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy–I suppose it would be cool to say I’ve read all 1,392 pages of this classic, but I think I’d rather spend that time reading more than just one book.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen–This admission makes me feel like a horrible English teacher, but honestly, I’m just not interested in reading this. I might, however, read Sense and Sensibility since that’s my favorite Austen movie adaptation.

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott–I remember trying to read this when I was in middle school and ultimately abandoning it. This is a book that’s cherished by many, but it doesn’t hold much appeal for me.

Book Trailer Thursday (149)–Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

Book Trailer Thursday

Ellen Hopkins shared this book trailer on Facebook yesterday. After watching it I knew I had to share it here and make sure I buy a copy. I’m also going to share it with my department since it will be a perfect fit for our sophomore war novel unit.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner is a graphic novel that released from Disney-Hyperion on April 15th, 2014.

GaijinSummary (From Goodreads):

With a white mother and a Japanese father, Koji Miyamoto quickly realizes that his home in San Francisco is no longer a welcoming one after Pearl Harbor is attacked. And once he’s sent to an internment camp, he learns that being half white at the camp is just as difficult as being half Japanese on the streets of an American city during WWII. Koji’s story, based on true events, is brought to life by Matt Faulkner’s cinematic illustrations that reveal Koji struggling to find his place in a tumultuous world-one where he is a prisoner of war in his own country.

Review: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks

PrimatesTitle: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

Authors: Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks

Publisher: First Second

Release Date: June 11th, 2013

Interest: Graphic Novel

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

When I first heard about Primates (I’m going to shorten the title in this review since the title is so long) I knew I wanted to read it because it appears to be non-fiction.  After finishing it, I don’t really feel comfortable labeling it as such.  It is an enjoyable graphic novel, although I do have some issues with it.

This is the first graphic novel I’ve read by Jim Ottaviani and I’d like to read more of his work.  Maris Wicks has done a fabulous job with the art.  I love how some of the scenes, especially the action scenes, spread over from one panel to the next.  It’s visually appealing and adds movement to the page.  I should mention that this is a full color graphic novel.  I’m so happy it wasn’t printed in black and white!

Primates is broken up into three different sections, one for each researcher.  A couple of times the switch confused me, but for the most part I was able to follow along and keep track of each researcher and when the three would come together.  Some of the narration text boxes changed colors for different speakers, which I found helpful.  I knew a decent amount about Jane Goodall, but I didn’t know anything about Fossey and Galdikas.  I also didn’t know–and wouldn’t have guessed–that the three were connected.  This is why I appreciate this story and think it has a place in classrooms and libraries.  It’s an accessible way for readers to learn about these three researchers.  Hopefully Primates will spike their interest and prompt them to learn more about these women especially since so much information is left out.

This leads me to my next point.  Even though Primates was introduced to me as a non-fiction graphic novel, I figured it wouldn’t be completely non-fiction.  And it’s not.  The author has a note at the end saying as much.  My bigger issue with Primates is the information left out.  Not the fictionalized pieces to make this a story.  There were too many times while reading that I had to stop and ask myself why something happened or what I had missed.  For instance, Louis Leakey is the man who helped Jane Goodall get her start and helped the other two women as well.  It is often alluded that he was sexually inappropriate with these women, but there isn’t anything specific as to what he did, why the women didn’t do anything about it (that we know of), or why that’s even relevant information.  I understand that this graphic novel appeals to a younger audience which may be why only allusions are made, but if that’s the case, why even include those?  All it did was distract me and ultimately irritate me since I didn’t know the full story there.  There are some other holes as well.  On pages 14 and 15 Jane Goodall leaves her tent to start studying the chimps, but we discover that she leaves the tent naked to get dressed somewhere else.  We don’t know why she does this.  Galdikas studies orangutans, and in her section she takes a baby orangutan to release into the wild.  It says that it would take five days, but she carries it with her throughout her section which spans longer than five days.  I’m not sure if she actually released it and took another one or not.  Also, she sits in something that makes her sick, but we don’t know what it is or what it did to her.  If I was confused by this, then I’m sure my students will be as well.  On the flip side, this could be used as a research project to fill in the multiple gaps and learn more about the researchers.

The story gaps are my biggest issue, but I also had a problem with some of the writing.  Primarily in the Dian Fossey section there are quite a few fragmented sentences.  I’m not sure if Fossey spoke this way or what because I didn’t notice it as much in the other sections.  Most of the time personal pronouns are missing in the narration and I had a hard time reading those parts smoothly.

Even though Primates is an ambitious story considering what Jim Ottaviani has tried to do, it’s still an enjoyable one.  I liked reading it, but as a teacher in particular, I couldn’t look past some of those details I pointed out.

Review: Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Will & WhitTitle: Will & Whit

Author: Laura Lee Gulledge

Publisher: Abrams

Release Date: May 7th, 2013

Interest: Author / Graphic novel

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Wilhelmina “Will” Huxstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

Laura Lee Gulledge is both a talented author and artist, which Will & Whit is further proof of.

It’s hard not to compare Will & Whit to Page by Paige since I loved it so much.  Gulledge’s beautiful artwork is present in Will & Whit, especially her use of visual metaphors.  The characters are quirky and fun to read, and I enjoyed the storyline.  I do, however, feel like something is missing from the story.

Page by Paige read like a complete story and the imagery is breathtaking.  I wasn’t awed by the art in Will & Whit, and I often felt like I was missing something while reading.  I love how Laura Lee Gulledge uses light and dark to further develop Will’s fear of the dark and her past.  There’s an entire section of black pages in the book to really get the mood across; it’s a very impressive graphic novel.  Unfortunately, I had to stop and look back a few pages a number of times to see if I missed something.  The story kept jumping and events happened and things were said without me knowing enough to follow it.  For instance, it’s never explicitly stated what happened to Will’s parents.  It seems like she feels responsible or something–based on how she acts–until the end when only a little bit of the back story is cleared up.  Also, Will works on a big project towards the end, and when it’s revealed I didn’t understand what it was and exactly why she made it or what it meant to her.  Maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the pictures, but I purposely slowed myself down when I read this.  I’m not sure if the panels need something different or if more dialogue needed to be included, but I think some extra editing or something would have helped me get more from the story.

Regardless of the gaps in the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Will & Whit.  Some of the language is inappropriate for younger readers, so I wouldn’t hand this off to one without reading it first.  I’m looking forward to sharing this with my students in the fall because I really want to discuss it with them (or anyone).

Also, this is not really related to anything, but I have to mention that I am completely jealous of Will’s hair.  I never thought I’d be jealous of a fictional character’s hair, but I am.  I’m sure you’re happy to know that 😉

Book Trailer Thursday (111)–Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Laura Lee Gulledge is a fantastic graphic novelist.  Her debut graphic novel, Page by Paige, is my absolute favorite graphic novel, so I can’t wait to read her sophomore release, Will & Whit.  I also found a cool video she created that demonstrates her artwork process.  Will & Whit released on May 7th, 2013.

Will & WhitSummary (From Goodreads):

Wilhelmina “Will” Huxstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

Waiting on Wednesday–Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

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.

newwow2

I really love Laura Lee Gulledge’s debut Page by Paige.  The art is stunning and the story is engaging.  There’s an incredible amount of depth to the images she created, many of which I still think about.  Most authors improve with each book they write, so I’m really excited to read Will & Whit.  I hope a book trailer is created for her sophomore release so I can get a peak at some of the images.

Will & WhitTitle & Author: Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Release Date: May 1st, 2013

Publisher: Amulet Books

Summary (From Goodreads): Wilhelmina “Will” Huxstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

Book Trailer Thursday (74)–Ripper by Stefan Petrucha & Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

I get kind of excited when I find more than one book trailer to post that I really like.  I haven’t read Ripper by Stefan Petrucha yet, but a few students have read it and told me they like it.  I have read Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony, illustrated by Rodrigo Corral and had to read it more than once to feel like I had a better understanding.  Honestly, I’m still not sure I understood everything going on in that graphic novel, but I love that.  I love rereading it and passing it on to my students to get their perspective.  Anyway, I like both trailers so I hope you enjoy them as well!

As always, if you’ve read either or both of these books I’d love to know what you think! 🙂

Summary of Ripper (From Goodreads): You thought you knew him. You were dead wrong.

Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies.

Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets, and featuring a then New York City Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything you thought you knew about the world’s most famous serial killer.

 

Summary of Chopsticks (From Goodreads): After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song “Chopsticks.”

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory’s reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it’s up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along….

Waiting on Wednesday–Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

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 love graphic novels, so when I heard about Cardboard by Doug TenNapel during a #titletalk chat I immediately added it on Goodreads.  Many of the boys in my class like reading these, especially when they finish quickly and get to add another book to our reading goal chart.  From a literacy standpoint, graphic novels are wonderful because you have a small amount of text supported by strong, complex images to create a story.  Anyway, I haven’t seen any of the art in Cardboard, but based on the cover I’m guessing it’s fantastic. I do hope the art is in color, though.  (Many of my students specifically requested I buy more graphic novels that aren’t drawn in black and white.)

Title & Author: Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Release Date: August 1st, 2012

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Summary (From Goodreads): When cardboard creatures come magically to life, a boy must save his town from disaster.

Cam’s down-and-out father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday and he knows it’s the worst present ever. So to make the best of a bad situation, they bend the cardboard into a man-and to their astonishment, it comes magically to life. But the neighborhood bully, Marcus, warps the powerful cardboard into his own evil creations that threaten to destroy them all!

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