Top Ten Tuesday: If These Authors Write It, I’ll Buy It

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It’s not very often that I’ll auto-buy an author’s book, but these 10 authors have made the cut for various reasons. Which authors’ books will you buy automatically? I’d love to know which authors I should add to this list.

Miranda Kenneally

1. Miranda Kenneally–Although the Hundred Oaks series isn’t your typical series, I usually get bored after five books. That’s simply not the case with these books. I can’t get enough of them! I’ve read all six and every single one is different and very much its own book. I’ll buy whatever Miranda writes.

2. Trish Doller–I don’t think I need an explanation for Trish’s books either, to be honest. Her books never fail to make me swoon and/or cry.

3. Matthew Quick–Adult or YA, I will automatically read his books. They are so utterly fabulous, which is why he’s my author crush.

Sarah Dessen

4. Sarah Dessen–Does this choice really need an explanation? 🙂

5. Amy Fellner Dominy–Amy’s books keep getting better and every time I read one I thoroughly enjoy it.

6. Geoff Herbach–Geoff Herbach’s writing has such a strong and authentic voice that it’s impossible to resist reading his books. Not that I would ever feel the need to resist reading one!

Michelle Hodkin

7. Michelle Hodkin–The Mara Dyer trilogy was too much fun not to trust that the rest of Michelle Hodkin’s books will be great.

8. Laurie Halse Anderson–Maybe not her middle grade since I’m not as drawn to MG titles, but I’ll definitely always buy her YA. There are times that I find myself craving a Laurie Halse Anderson book, which is usually when I decide to read Speak out loud to my students.

9. Neal Shusterman–I still need to finish reading the Unwind dystology and I plan on reading Challenger Deep before school starts, but nevertheless, he’s a staple in my classroom library. His books are smart, insightful and engaging.

10. John Green–It feels like a cliche adding him to this list, but I have to be honest. Even though I’m not into all the hype, I do enjoy his books and know that I will.

Run Much? YA Titles Featuring Runners

When I think about sports books I’m typically thinking about football, basketball, and baseball. I honestly have a difficult time getting into those stories, but I’m try to read at least a few titles under that category each year. I think, however, that it’s easy to forget about our students who don’t participate in those sports. I need to remind myself that I also have runners, soccer players, swimmers, etc. in my classes. Thankfully I caught myself reading a few books in a row featuring runners. I’m going to guess that I’m not the only teacher or librarian who forgets about this, which is why I decided to write a post about YA characters who run for one reason or another.

Anna from Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (Goodreads): Anna runs on a team (cross-country, I believe), but she’s also running to clear her head. I liked this part of the story because while it added another element to the plot, it also added another layer to the conflict.

Jessica from The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (Goodreads): I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jessica’s story is so much more than a story about a runner. It’s about overcoming adversity, friendship, family, and more. I was really touched by how much of a family Jessica’s track team was to her.

Felton from Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads): If you’ve followed my blog for a while then you know how much I love this book. Felton is a stupid fast runner who runs on the track team (how his speed was discovered) and is a fast runner on the football team. Sports in general help Felton work through his family troubles and his personal conflicts.

Alice from On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor (Goodreads): Alice is a fun and quirky character who has decided she’s going to be a runner when her college plans don’t work out. I like that she’s goal-oriented and driven because so many of my students are. This is a great book for my seniors who are overwhelmed and stressing out about college, especially those who haven’t been accepted to their first choice schools. I’m not a runner by any means, but Alice’s story made me feel like I could be a runner, too.

Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (Goodreads): Annie has decided to train for a marathon in honor of her boyfriend who died tragically. Miranda Kenneally’s characters continue to become more interesting with each book that she writes. I really enjoyed watching Annie become a marathon runner and watching her work through her grief.

Kate from Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads): Kate’s plate is more than full. She’s in charge of taking care of her family, she’s only applied to one college, her mother has passed away, and her father has taken in a family who she doesn’t get along with. Running is a way for her to calm her nerves and keep some control in her life. This is one of my favorite books written by Laurie Halse Anderson and one that I wish more of my students would read.

Nastya from The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (Goodreads): This is one of my favorite books and it’s because I got to know the characters so well. Nastya is dealing with more than her fair share of issues and running helps her feel in control. Running has also led her to Josh Bennett who is also dealing with too much. This is a wonderful story that I couldn’t get enough of.

Nico from Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads): Nico is another character who runs to escape. His brother has died and so has his friend. Running helps him clear his head and relieve some of the anger he feels.

Top Ten Tuesday Freebie: Strong Female Protagonists

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It has been a LONG time since I’ve written a Top Ten Tuesday post! I love that today happens to be a freebie because I’m working on a new bulletin board for my classroom. Four out of five of my classes are seniors and since they’re gone for the school year and I’m going to be on maternity leave at the beginning of next school year, I want to use some of my extra time putting together bulletin boards for next year. I really doubt bulletin boards are going to be a high priority when I’m ready to pop. 🙂

Anyway, in April I posted the survey results about whether my girls see themselves in what they’re reading. One of the questions I asked them is what they’d love to see in the books they’re reading and a majority of them wish to see strong female characters (their definitions of this vary). Back in February I created a bulletin board featuring book recommendations based on what my students are reading and interested in reading. I’ve decided to merge these two ideas; one section of the bulletin board will feature some strong female characters that my girls are searching for. I’m also thinking about adding a section that features girls in YA who play various sports. Of course, those two ideas can easily be one in the same.

1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Goodreads): Elisa isn’t your average royal YA fantasy character. She’s a little bit insecure, she’s very religious, and she’s fat (she describes herself this way). What I love about her, however, is that throughout the first book and the series itself she becomes increasingly self-reliant and a strong leader.

2. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (Goodreads): A.S. King is one of my favorite authors for reasons like this book and Astrid’s story. Astrid is a character who sees beyond labels, especially those that label sexuality, and simply wants to find herself and where she fits in the world. Plenty of readers will be able to connect with her.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Goodreads): Frankie is still one of my favorite characters and for good reason, too. She’s smart, independent, and full of spunk. I also like that this book features a strong female protagonist and is light-hearted at the same time.

4. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads): One of the things I like about this book is that while there’s a romance, it’s not the center of the story. The main focus of the story is how Hayley is dealing with her father’s PTSD and in turn her own PTSD from dealing with her father. She’s self-reliant almost to a fault. Her journey through this story is touching.

5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (Goodreads): I can’t imagine growing up with a prostitute as a mother, especially living in a brothel. Like many of the characters on this list, Josie is independent, smart, and strong-willed. This is an excellent piece of historical fiction and example of how strong a YA character can be.

6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (Goodreads): Tana’s wakes up as the only one living after vampires attack a party she attended so she takes a huge risk by entering Coldtown to save a few of the other survivors. Tana is tough, resourceful, and resilient. This is a vampire book and Tana is no Bella Swan.

7. We Are the Goldens by Dana Rheinhardt (Goodreads): This just released today and thankfully I had the ARC to read already. This is a great story about the power of sibling relationships. Nell is extremely close to her older sister Layla, but because of a secret Layla’s keeping, Nell is being pushed away and is forced to figure out who she is without her sister.

8. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John (Goodreads): I really like Piper. I like that she’s deaf and managing a band. I like that she’s looking out for her little sister and trying to connect with her family. This is a fun, engaging, heartwarming book.

9. Sold by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads): Surviving being sold into prostitution. Enough said.

10. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu (Goodreads): Have you seen the show Hoarders? Reading Lucy’s story is like watching an episode of Hoarders. Her mom has suddenly died in their home and Lucy feels it’s up to her to keep her mom’s secret and clean up their home before anyone arrives to get her mother’s body. Talk about strong and independent.

Top Ten Books in My Winter TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Normally I would have a winter TBR list full of books that will be releasing this winter. This year I’m serving on the Michigan Reading Association’s Great Lakes Great Books Award committee, so I’m trying to read as many 2013 releases as I can. I’ve received quite a few recommendations from friends and I always like adding to my already long list of books to read. Today’s post consists mostly of books I still want to read and consider for the award along with a few 2014 releases that I picked up at NCTE.

I’d love to know what’s on your list! If you’ve read any fantastic 2013 YA releases this year please tell me about them in the comments!

P.S. Sorry this isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing or informative post; I have poetry presentations to grade so I’m rushing. :/

2013 Releases TBR…

The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski (Goodreads)

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads)

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi (Goodreads)

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell (Goodreads)

Six Months Later by Natalie Richards (Goodreads)

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (Goodreads)

2014 Releases TBR (My ARCs from NCTE are tempting me away from my committee reading…)

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale (Goodreads)

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer (Goodreads)

Top Ten Tuesday: Contemps I’d Love to Teach

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I’ve been really fortunate in the past few years to teach some great young adult novels. I’m teaching in a new district this year, and as far as I know, we don’t teach any young adult novels. Hopefully I can change that in the future 🙂  This list is going to be based on what I have taught and what I’d like to teach.

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This is a great book to pair with Of Mice and Men which my former district started doing a couple years ago.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (Goodreads)–This is a fabulous book. Marcelo has Aspergers and sees the world in a completely different light than the average person. We paired this us up with To Kill a Mockingbird since both are coming of age novels.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This isn’t exactly realistic fiction since there’s an element of the supernatural, but it’s a fantastic book that I’d love to teach in a unit dealing with empathy.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time  Indian by Sherman Alexie (Goodreads)–This is a great book to teach when discussing racism, coming of age, and more. We also taught this with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Goodreads)–If you haven’t read Wonder yet, I really hope you do soon. This may be middle grade, but many of my sophomores read this last year and loved it. I’m reading it to my seniors and one class of sophomores this year at the start of the year to help build our classroom community. I have a bulletin board in my room with the words “Choose Kind” to add to our read aloud experience. I want my students to think about those two words inside and outside my room, so I have paint chips at the bottom of the board for them to write moments of kindness on and post on the bulletin board.  Wonder could be used in a bullying unit, in a community unit, etc.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–Again, this isn’t exactly realistic fiction, but it’s such an excellent, beautiful book. I’d love to teach this as an introduction to allegory before introducing my students to Lord of the Flies.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–There are multiple possibilities for the placement of Speak in schools. I’ve taught it to freshmen who were repeating a trimester of English 9, which went over very well. I’d also teach it with The Scarlett Letter or use it as a read aloud during that unit.

I would love to create a Young Adult Literature elective in my new district. Here are a few titles I would consider teaching since I love them, they have a strong message, strong characters, etc.

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–There are so many reasons that I want to use this in a YA Lit class. So many.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (Goodreads)–Astrid is a wonderful character. I love that this book speaks to the importance of not labeling people.

The Spectacular  Now by Tim Tharp (Goodreads)–I have mixed feelings overall about this book, but it’s an excellent example of a character with addiction. I think it would promote a wide variety of discussions in a YA Lit class.

Stock Your Shelves: Class Library Must-Have Titles

The start of a new school year is just around the corner, although for many of you it’s already started.  Whenever this time of year approaches I’m always making a list of books I need to buy for my classroom library.  I figured I’m not the only one, so I decided to make a list of books that I want to buy and that I recommend for a classroom library.  If you’d like additional title recommendations feel free to leave a comment.

Summer/Fall Releases:

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (Goodreads)–This releases on August 20th August 27th (edited on 8/20, sorry for the mistake!), so I’ll have a review up shortly. Basically, this is all-around wonderful.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads)–This releases on Sept. 24th. I’ll have a review up on the Nerdy Book Club blog before the release and that same review will post here on the release date.  Trish Doller writes magic, people.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon (Goodreads)–Think The Fault in Our Stars from a funny guy’s point of view, yet totally standing apart from John Green’s hit. I know that might be confusing. This releases on Sept. 3rd.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (Goodreads)–It’s an awful lot like Looking for Alaska, but not as sad (or at least I didn’t think so). Still, it has a different kind of voice and will appeal to teens.  This releases on August 27th.

Books with Guy Appeal:

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–I want to buy multiple copies of this.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)–A lot of my boys really like this book and the companion books. It’s a really funny, quick read.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–I’ve been raving about this book since before it was released in 2011.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads)–I still haven’t read this, but I have multiple copies because my boys in class LOVE it.

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (Goodreads)–This is a fantastic and realistic book about a boy in juvie.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Goodreads)–This is mysterious, funny, and features the son of a serial killer trying to help the police find a serial killer. Yep, it’s a hit with all of my students.

Verse Novels:

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads)–I recommend buying all of her books. This and Chasing Brooklyn are two of the most popular books in my room.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones (Goodreads)–This title has been around for a while. Every year it becomes a new favorite for many of my students.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams (Goodreads)–This is a great title to recommend to your Ellen Hopkins fans.

Ellen Hopkins–ALL of her books are huge hits with my students.

Oldies by Goodies:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This released in 2007 and became popular again when its sequel Unwholly released last fall. The final book in the trilogy, UnSouled, releases on November 7th.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–Every time this releases with a new cover I buy it. It should be in every library.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Goodreads)–This originally published in 1974 and I hook some pretty reluctant readers with it.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Goodreads)–This was my first Sara Zarr book and my favorite until I read How to Save a Life. Sara Zarr writes wonderfully realistic stories.

Forever by Judy Blume (Goodreads)–For many of my girls, this is the book that turns them into readers.

Sci-Fi/Dystopian:

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Goodreads)–Time travel, ghosts, and so much more. This is science fiction at its best.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–I recommend this every year, multiple times a year. It’s amazing.

Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads)–I love that this has two points of view and appeals to guys and girls. I’m planning on reading it to my seniors while we read 1984.

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Goodreads)–Gamers will love this.

“Quiet” YA:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This wonderful book may not have received a lot of hype from its publishers, but so many of its readers love it. Plus it pairs perfectly with Of Mice and Men.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–The main character is pregnant, but it’s more than a book about a pregnant teenager.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads)–This book will resonate with so many teenage girls. It’s fantastic.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Goodreads)–All it took was one of my girls to read this and rave about it for it to become an instant hit in my classroom.

So. Much. Hype!:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Goodreads): I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to like this. But I really did and my students adore it. My students who didn’t like Looking for Alaska at all loved this.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads): I’ve replaced this book multiple times because it’s gone “missing” so often.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads)–One of my boys in class read this and loved it; one of my girls who reads “edgy” books read this and loved it. It’s an all-around winner.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–I haven’t finished reading this yet, but it went around my room a couple times before the school year ended. The boys who read it said it’s awesome.

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.

unwind-cover

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.

Speak

Audiobook Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Title: Speechless

Author: Hannah Harrington

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Release Date: August 28th, 2012

Interest: Author / Contemporary

Source: ARC received from publisher via NetGalley, audio purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads):

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.

Audio Review: I’ve never listened to an audiobook narrated by Emily Bauer, but after listening to Speechless, I’ll definitely listen to more books she narrates.  Her voice fits Chelsea’s character, especially how she’s able to make herself sound snobby and catty like Chelsea is at the beginning.  I noticed, though, that as the story continued and Chelsea grew as a character, Emily Bauer’s voice became more compassionate and down to earth.  It’s a subtle change, but still noticeable.  Her range isn’t as broad as other narrators, especially when switching to male characters.  It’s good enough that I knew who was speaking when, but her narration might not work in a book with more male characters.

Book Review:  I really enjoyed Hannah Harrington’s debut Saving June, but I think I liked Speechless more.  There isn’t as much grief in Speechless which was one of the low points for me in Saving June (too much grief).

I like Chelsea’s character as well.  She’s not very likeable, at all, in the beginning, but as a reader you know that will change.  What’s she’s done is positively horrible and I spent a bulk of the story wondering how she was going to fix what she did.  She takes the vow of silence, yes, but she needs to do something more.  She needs to think beyond herself in relation to what she did and who she hurt.  Her revelation is a great moment in the book and really secured how much I like her character.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my all-time favorite books, so I enjoyed the parallels between it and Speechless.  Chelsea is choosing not to speak because of something she did wrong, whereas Melinda stops speaking because of something done to her.  It’s a distinct difference, but many of the outcomes of this silence are similar.  Like Melinda, Chelsea becomes an outcast at school.  Chelsea also needs to decide when it’s the right moment to start speaking again.  Much of this is based on school, new friendships, family, and self-discovery.  Yes, the reasons for not speaking are quite different, but the themes in both books are similar.  I’ll be recommending Speechless to my Speak fans.

I will admit that there were times during the story that I wondered what was going to happen.  The reason for Chelsea’s silence takes place so early in the story that I couldn’t imagine what the turning point in the story was going to be.  At times I felt like I was reading a daily account of Chelsea’s life and vow of silence, but eventually that changed and I understood where Hannah Harrington was taking the story.  Regardless, I still enjoyed reading it and that never failed me.  None of the parts were slow or left me wanting to put the book down, I simply think authors need to be conscious of the pacing when writing a book with a strong turn of events early on in the story.

Book Trailer Thursday (77)–Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

I haven’t heard much about Intentions, but it just released this week so I decided to feature it today.  Have any of you read it yet?  I’d love to know what you think!  Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my all-time favorite authors, so whenever she blurbs a book I want to read it (her blurb is featured in the trailer).

Here’s a little background about the author that was provided for me: Deborah Heiligman’s last book, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, was a Printz Honor book and a finalist for the National Book Award. Here’s what Booklist said about Intentions in a starred review:

“The fastmoving, powerful narrative in Rachel’s present-tense voice will easily draw teens, not only with its dark drama, but also with the spot-on teen banter and wry viewpoint.”

Summary (From Goodreads): Rachel thought she was grown up enough to accept that no one is perfect. Her parents argue, her grandmother has been acting strangely, and her best friend doesn’t want to talk to her. But none of that could have prepared her for what she overheard in her synagogue’s sanctuary.

Now Rachel’s trust in the people she loves is shattered, and her newfound cynicism leads to reckless rebellion. Her friends and family hardly recognize her, and worse, she can hardly recognize herself. But how can the adults in her life lecture her about acting with kavanah, intention, when they are constantly making such horribly wrong decisions themselves? This is a witty, honest account of navigating the daunting line between losing innocence and entering adulthood—all while figuring out who you really want to be.


 

 

 



 

My Favorite Read Alouds

Did you have any teachers in high school that read a book to your class simply for the enjoyment of listening to a good book?  I didn’t.  I really don’t remember any of my middle school teachers doing this either.  A few of my elementary school teachers read to us, but it was less frequent after 3rd grade.  I’m thankful my parents read to my brother and me on a regular basis since this didn’t happen all that much at school.  When I was working towards my bachelor’s degree the idea of reading aloud to my future high school classes never occurred to me.

The summer I took Dr. Steffel’s YA Lit class at CMU my plans changed.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Steffel many times before, and it’s because she’s been such a positive influence on my teaching career.  On the first day of our class, we sat in a circle and she read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos.  She used different voices and everything.  I was astounded!  I couldn’t believe we were being read to in a college course, but I loved it.  Even though Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is young for a high school classroom, I really enjoyed the story.  Everything we did in class and everything Dr. Steffel did in class served a purpose; she wanted us to follow her lead and bring these lessons, strategies, ideas, etc. into our classrooms.

I tried my first read aloud while student teaching.  I had a few sophomore English classes, so I decided on Shattering Glass by Gail Giles.  It’s an edgy book, and there’s some bad language and mature situations, but it’s an excellent pick for reluctant readers.  I was  nervous about reading this during student teaching, but I went ahead and did it anyway.  I had a rationale prepared and everything.  My students loved it and often asked me to read “just one more chapter.”  Since then I’m much more comfortable reading books where characters swear, but I make sure to choose books that aren’t over the top in that category.  It sometimes shocks my students to hear me read those parts, but we have a conversation about why that language is in the book and how we won’t be using that language in class.

So let’s get to my favorites already! 🙂  I like these books for a number of reasons, but one of the most important qualities I look for in a potential read aloud is the amount of dialogue.  Too much dialogue can get confusing when reading it aloud, especially since the kids don’t have the book in front of them to follow along.  I also try to pick books that I know will be entertaining and have a nice moral. Shorter chapters are always a plus too.  And I need to really like the book too, because otherwise I’m not going to enjoy reading it out loud over and over again.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–I’ve read Speak out loud so many times!  It’s such a powerful story and so easy for my students to relate to.  Plus, since Melinda isn’t speaking to anyone all that much, most of the book is made up of her thoughts and opinions which is easy for the kids to follow.  The characters are well developed, and well, it’s Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Do I need more reasons? 😉

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads)–Last trimester is the first time I’ve read this out loud.  My freshmen were really interested in it because of the upcoming movie (Ahh!! This Friday!!), so I decided to give it a shot as a read aloud.  Some of my students weren’t sure at first because the beginning of the book is a bit slow as the world develops and we get to the training center and the actual games.  Once we reached that point, they were begging for more chapters.  It helps that many of the chapters end with cliffhangers.  My only complaint is that the chapters are so long.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Goodreads) (My Review)–I don’t remember what prompted me to choose Hex Hall as a read aloud, but I did for the first time last year.  I read it to my freshmen and the majority of them LOVED it.  In one class, we even went on to read the sequel Demonglass.  Oh my gosh did we race through that book!  It ran right into the very end of the school year, but we finished it.  Sophie is very clumsy, sarcastic, and easy to like.  She reminds me of  a female Ron Weasley.  There’s some foul language in Hex Hall, but nothing that was overly shocking or made me pause.  I should note that in general, I’m on the liberal side of things when it comes to YA and what I put in my classroom.  Many of my students prefer realistic fiction, but besides one or two in each class, even my die-hard contemps fans liked Hex Hall.  The guys even laughed and wanted me to read more 🙂  I read it again this year to a new group of freshmen and had the same enthusiastic response.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I’m actually in the middle of reading Boy21 aloud for the first time.  I’m reading it to my freshmen classes, but I wasn’t sure what they would think.  After reading Hex Hall and The Hunger Games this year, I didn’t know how my kids would react to a sudden switch to something realistic.  We voted on Friday, and the majority of all my classes chose to keep reading it.  Boy21 is a powerful read with a fantastic message without being preachy.  It’s diverse, has guy appeal without alienating the girls, and it’s humorous.  The chapters are short so I have more flexibility in how much I choose to read each day.  Finley doesn’t like to talk that much, so the dialogue is balanced with Finley’s thoughts and observations.  Right now my kids are really curious about Russ, aka Boy21, and what’s going to happen between him and Finley as the story progresses.

Here are a few more titles I’ve had success with reading aloud:

  • My Brother’s Keeper by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads)
  • Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen (Goodreads)
  • Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)

Here are some titles that I’ve recently read and plan to read aloud in the future:

  • Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I just finished reading this book, and I just know my students would love it as a read aloud.  It has a wonderful balance of narration and dialogue.  It’s really funny and full of heart.  It’s a clean book in regards to sex and language, but there is a minor scene that involves drinking.  I think it’d work for middle school classrooms as well as high school classrooms.
  • Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin (Goodreads) (My Review)–We read so many serious stories in high school that I like to mix it up and read something funny out loud when I get the chance.  Kelsey is hilarious and just a fun character to read.  This is a pretty clean book as well which I always appreciate.  There are a couple scenes with drinking, but I they’re definitely not glorifying it!  I think we’re going to finish Boy21 with enough time to read another book, and if that happens I’ll be reading this one to my freshmen next 🙂  I love this book and would read it to more than just my freshmen.
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