Monday, August 29, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Too many novels edition #IMWAYR 08/29/16

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

Middle Grade / Middle School

Over the summer I have been focusing a lot of my reading time & energy on books that might appeal to my seventh graders. But I have a bad habit of starting the next book without taking the time to write up and document each one as I go. So, here's a bit of an end-of-summer dump of books I haven't yet mentioned on The Logonauts. (Read this summer if not this week.) Apologies if some of these are a little blunt, but I was rushing.

Something about America (2005) by Maria Testa. This is a quick novel in verse that explores what it means to be an immigrant to the US - from the perspective of a recent immigrant from Kosovo who received an expedited immigration process. Short but it will make you think. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

How Tia Lola Learned to Teach (2010) by Julia Alvarez. This is actually the second book in the Tia Lola series but the only that I've read. I'm hoping to use several of these chapters as mentor texts for my middle schoolers when we get to our short story unit. Some of them deal with some real big issues around immigration and fitting in, even though this is a book geared towards younger students.

The Jumbies (2015) by Tracy Baptiste. The story is based around Trinidadian folklore about jumbies (various forest creatures). Corinne accidentally gets the attention of the main jumbie, Severine, who realizes that Corinne is her niece. This leads to a showdown between humans and jumbies for the fate of the island. Lots of suspense, adventure, and "ghost story" elements.

Blackbird Fly (2015) by Erin Entrada Kelly. Middle schooler and Filipino-American Analyn (Apple) is trying to navigate the horrors of middle school after being ranked as the third ugliest girl on the school's unofficial "Dog Log." This is a story about the power of acceptance and true friendship contrasted with the terrible bullying and racism of middle school. I bought this one for my classroom library.

Full Cicada Moon (2015) by Marilyn Hilton. This novel-in-verse is set during all of 1969, following Mimi Yoshiko Oliver who had just moved to Vermont with her black father and Japanese -American mother. The story focuses on issues of racism and sexism, and the plot seemed very predictable. Good but not great.

The Firefly Code (2016) by Megan Frazer Blakemore. I found this one really disappointing. It feels like a book that is relying on being part of a series, which means that it was an incredibly slow starter (the "twist" is very late in the game) and ends in an abrupt place. Had potential but maybe the eventual series will more fully realize it.

Still a Work in Progress (2016) by Jo Knowles. This is an important book, because it deals with eating disorders in a middle grade (well, middle school) focus, as younger brother Noah is stuck trying to sort it all out. There seemed to be a lot crammed into this book, and a lot of the farts and friend fights didn't do it for me. Will be interested to see what students think. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

Young Adult


The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I've had several friends recommend this series to me, and I finally managed to dive in this past week. Amazing! Great writing, fascinating characters and world views that pull you in immediately. So far, no content that would make me overly nervous recommending these to advanced middle schoolers.

The Memory of Things (Sept. 6th, 2016) by Gae Polisner (ARC from nErDcampMI). One of the many 9/11 stories making the rounds this year, The Memory of Things begins with the towers coming down and the events of the following week, as told through the eyes of a high school boy, Kyle, and the mysterious girl he encounters when fleeing the city (whose POV is interspersed in free verse). I had a hard time getting into this one, as YA books that mainly focus on boy/girl relationships don't always hold my attention. Good but not great.

First Crossing: stories about teen immigrants (2007) edited by Donald Gallo. This is a powerful collection of short stories about the immigrant experience from a teenage point-of-view, though I wish the stories had more details about how many of them are purely fiction vs. autobiographical. I will definitely be using some of these stories with my middle schoolers. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

Open Mic: riffs on life between cultures in ten voices (2013), edited by Mitali Perkins. I really liked this short story collection and am planning on using several as mentor texts for my students. Authors share stories about growing up and navigating their backgrounds, heritages, and family situations. Many seem to be memoirs or at least directly-inspired by personal experiences. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

Happy Reading!


  1. I've enjoyed many of the books on your list here. I'm passionate about The Raven Boys series and agree with your take on it. Blakemore's Spy Catchers of Maple Hill didn't impress me as much as The Water Castle, but I am looking forward to The Firefly Code.

  2. I've used The First Crossing in a study of immigration with students, really an eye-opening book. Thanks for all of these Katie, have read some, will look for the Tia Lola books especially.

  3. I loved Still a Work in Progress! Nice to have a book like this from a boy's point of view!

  4. Thank you for the list of middle grade books! I loved Still a Work in Progress and Cicada, but I haven't read the rest.
    I have Open Mic to read, and I can't wait to read it.

    Happy reading this week :)

  5. It is great to hear that Open Mic would make a good mentor text. I am going to read it soon! Thanks for sharing!


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