Posted in 2021 Books, Book Reviews, Possible Trumans 2021-22

The Unteachables – A Review

Goodreads summary here. And while you’re clicking things, add me as a friend on Goodreads.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My quick summaryMr. Zachary Kermit is beginning his very last year of teaching. He has worked the numbers and he can claim early retirement at the completion of this year. He’s in for a surprise at the beginning of the year when he is told he is teaching the “self-contained” classroom. (Side note – as a public school teacher, the way this classroom is described hopefully does not exist.) The classroom has been labeled by the staff and the district as “The Unteachables”, and no teacher lasts. Mr. Kermit doesn’t fight the placement. He’s been pushed around from class to class, and he knows this is the superintendent’s way of getting him to quit. However, Mr. Kermit is not going to quit. He’s got one more year, and he can do anything for one year.

This was my third Gordon Korman novel. Only three! From someone who has written over 80 books. I cannot even imagine writing that many books. From a quick glance at his website, he writes mainly middle grade/teen books. The three I have read are all more for middle grade, maybe even upper elementary.

The Unteachables was definitely my favorite of the ones I have read by Korman. The book is written from multiple different perspectives. While there have been a lot of novels published over the last couple years from dual perspectives, this novel dedicates at least a chapter to nearly every character in the book. I’m torn about this writing technique. It’s nice to see the story from different view points, but I also feel that I’m sometimes not getting enough character development. I didn’t feel like that with this book.

The book is really funny. There were plenty of times that I laughed out loud which drew looks from my daughters as I disrupted their video gaming. I do think that even though this book is clearly written for middle schoolers that many adults (especially teachers) will really enjoy it. I will probably purchase it for my classroom library, and I could see using it at a whole class read to discuss point of view.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Mascot – Book Review

Image result for mascot book

Back in October, I was looking for a book to read aloud to my two reading classes. These classes are full of students who are two grade levels or more behind grade level. One of the biggest struggles for these readers is they fatigue and have a hard time finishing a book. Many of them didn’t have parents who read out loud to them, or if they did, stopped at too early of an age. It is vitally important to read to your kids, even your middle school kids (and I would dare say, many of your high school kiddos could benefit from it as well). By reading out loud and finishing a book, it helps the students realize that they can succeed in reading a book and persevering through it. This will hopefully encourage them to do it on their own as well.

So in my search for a book that my students would enjoy, and one that was on my to-read list, I found this one. Antony John does a fantastic job of channeling the brain of a 7th grade boy. The main character, Noah, is in a wheelchair. The result of a horrible car accident that took the life of his dad. (Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything with this. You find this out within the first chapter or two.) Noah is from St. Louis and a big baseball fan (and former player). Thus the Arch and the cardinal on the cover.

The story weaves through Noah trying to navigate new friendship, old friendships, his injury, emotions around losing his father, and his mom’s new “friend”. There are a lot of emotional elements throughout this book, but John uses middle school humor and some grown up insight to wade through them without making it too heavy. I definitely recommend this for middle schoolers.

I brought this book home over break, so my students haven’t finished it yet. I’m interested to see how they will react to the last part of the book. Many of them have predicted that Noah will walk again. I won’t give that away here though!

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews by Charis

I Am Princess X – A guest book review

By Charis, age 11

Do like mystery books? If so, you should read I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest. There are many reasons why this is a great book.

First of all, the illustrations are great. Although it’s not multi-color, they’re still beautifully drawn. Actually, the fact that it’s not multi- colored makes it more interesting! This book is mostly a chapter book, but occasionally there are comic pages.

Second, it has clue-filled adventures. In the beginning of the book, the main character, May, lost her best friend and found something that they had worked on together. She found a sticker in a shop window and website called http://www.iamprincessx.com and found many comics about Princess X. Also, in the last comic, someone tells Princess X “Inside her black cup, you will find the black mirror.”

Third, it has mysteries. For example, May’s friend, Libby, is she really dead? On www.iamprincessx.com, May finds information on the Four Keys, which aren’t really keys. They’re objects, a gold mask, a red box, a black mirror, and a dead gray girl!

Clearly, I Am Princess X is a great book for many reasons. The illustrations are beautiful, it had clue-filled adventures, and it’s full of mystery. If this sounds like a book you’ll enjoy reading, find it at your local library or bookstore. Take it from me, this book is really good.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Game Changer Book Review

Read a summary of the book here.

Another of the twenty-two possible Truman nominees for 2020-21.

Game Changer tackles (pun intended) the difficult topic of whether or not football needs to be changed. The book begins where we find Teddy unconscious in the hospital after a football related injury.

I really enjoyed how this book was written, and I think that middle school students will like it as well.

The book is broken into parts instead of specific chapters. When people are in the hospital room, we “hear” everything from Teddy’s unconsciousness. It’s written in what looks like verse, but it’s not like the typical rhyming or rhythmic verse. It’s more like stream of consciousness, and the way it was written made it read very fast. Other sections show text message conversations – it literally looks like a phone conversation on the page, or a social media type post.

When I say this read fast, it really did. I finished in about 2 hours total.

Not a fan of football? That’s okay. I think you’ll like this book anyway. There is drama between Teddy’s parents, a secret that the entire football team is trying to keep, and a friendship that is tested. All the perfect elements of a good young adult drama.

Simply for the unique way the book was written, I gave this 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Posted in Stories, Story Sunday, Untitled

Story Sunday!

Sorry it’s been almost a month since I updated the story! School starting has really taken up a lot of my time.

Untitled – Chapter 2, Page 2

First page
Last page

The soldier couldn’t find his words. He stared at the woman in front of him. Her dark hair was pulled back out of her face, her eyes were still bright, but she looked older, tired. She stared back, and there was no readable expression on her face. No one else in the room moved or spoke for what felt like an eternity. The soldier and the woman continued to stare at each other until the door opened and both directed their attention to the entraint. 

“Is there a problem?” the person speaking was older, female, and followed by two large guards. She walked across the room to the woman who had identified the soldier as Eric. 

“I need to be excused from this questioning.” The older woman nodded and the younger made her way out.

Finally the soldier found his voice, “Andra, wait!” She hesitated a moment at the sound of her name, but didn’t look back before she walked out and shut the door behind her. The older woman straightened her jacket and picked up the clipboard left by Andra.

“So, it looks as though you know each other.” Eric didn’t reply. He let his head hang down. How many years had it been since he looked at those eyes? Three? No, definitely longer than that. It was before the re-election of Peters, so four years. Four years since he had seen the love of his life. Four years since he told her that he couldn’t follow her anymore. He still remembered the pain in her eyes; he remembered her simply walking away. She didn’t fight him, didn’t try to convince him that she was right; she just walked away.

“You willingly surrendered to our officers. That will bode well for you here, since your life would definitely had been taken had the State gotten to you before we did. 

“But before I get to know you, let me tell you a small part of what we are doing here. Then you can make your decision as to whether or not you would like to join us. Our main goal is to eliminate President Peters, although we know this simple act will not immediately remedy all Peters has done, it will be a start. At this moment, we have supporters in every area of the government, military, secret service, and the State media outlets. We currently have millions of people supporting our cause. Many of whom are willing to die to make sure our plan comes to fruition. In fact, Andra has been one of the most vital supporters to our cause. She is my 2nd in command.

“So, Eric, your loyalties obviously are not so strong to the State, or else you would not have sat. My question is, can whatever loyalty you had toward the State be completely quenched so that you can join us, or will you walk out the door?”

Eric watched the woman, “You would let me just walk.”

“Yes.”

“That doesn’t make sense. You capture me to just let me go?”

“Eric, we are not the State. We do not kill people who do not take our side. But I can assure you that if you walk out the door, your fellow soldiers will do to you what you fear.”

“So I don’t have a choice,” he was getting frustrated. He was sick of having to pick a side, sick of playing a game just to keep his life.

“It’s America, Eric. You are always free to choose,” another of Peter’s favorite lines to use when dictating another decree.

Eric laughed out of frustration, “Fine, fine. I’ll stay, on one condition.”

The older woman raised her eyebrows, “By all means, what?”

“I will report directly to Andra, no one else.”

She half smiled, “Are you sure about that, Eric? She is quite the drill sergeant.”

“Yes, no one but Andra.”

“Done.” The two guards who had remained still the entire time went to Eric, helped him stand, and guided him to the door behind the older woman, “This way then.”

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Posted in Book Reviews

Not if I Save You First

Ally Carter creates pretty kick ass teen female characters. Her other book I read was All Fall Down, (which is part of a series, that I have not finished). I read that one back in 2017, and I remember really liking the main character in it as well.

This book starts out pretty quickly where we meet the main character, Maddie. Her father is a part of the secret service for the President of the US, and Maddie is best friends with the president’s son, Logan. After a pretty intense kidnapping attempt, Maddie’s father decides that it’s time to retire from secret service duty, and he relocates himself and Maddie to the middle of Alaska. We never really find out why Alaska, or why he ran away, so if you like reasons, you aren’t going to get any when it comes to that. (I mean, there is a brief conversation, but I don’t feel like I really know why after finishing the book.)

The rest of the book takes place 6 years after the kidnapping attempt. Each chapter (or at least most of them; I’ve already returned the book and can’t check) starts with a letter Maddie wrote to Logan. We never see a response, because Logan never writes back. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened there.

Pretty early on, you learn that Maddie doesn’t care for Logan anymore, at least that is what she tries to convince herself of when Logan ends up in Alaska with her. Drama happens, and Maddie has to save Logan’s life.

So here is what I liked

  • Maddie is a really strong, resourceful character. Having six years of experience living in remote Alaska, she has learned how to survive with limited resources. It was actually interesting to read how she navigates through the wilderness and why she does the things she does.
  • I liked Logan’s character. He was funny and sarcastic, and despite his rich boy, entitled moments, he was likable.
  • The plot was really fast paced. There were moments when it was uncertain if different characters died, so it definitely kept the suspense going throughout the book.
  • The setting – Alaska is a fascinating place.

What I didn’t like – there was really just one thing (spoiler ahead…but really if you read YA, you probably already know what I’m going to say)

  • Maddie and Logan falling in looooooooooooove. This has got to be my biggest pet peeve of the young adult genre. Yes, teens are quick to “fall in love” and romantic relationships are a big part of growing up, and I’m sure life and death situations make feelings even more intense. BUT, I am a teacher. I see students DAILY in relationships, even boy – girl relationships, that are very close and STRICTLY just friendships. I feel like the YA books are pushing the romantic relationship when I know plenty of students who don’t WANT to have a boyfriend/girlfriend. I think authors need to start tapping into this group. Maybe show kids that it is okay to be close friends with someone without it being romantic. (exits soapbox)

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but the romance took it from a 5 star rating on Goodreads to 3. Maddie was such a strong character, and the book would have been absolutely amazing without the romance.

Posted in Stories, Untitled

Untitled – page 1

So, I like to write stories. I’ve yet to finish one in adulthood. I had plenty of spiral notebooks filled with stories when I was in junior high/high school. I would write when I was supposed to be taking notes for class. Shhhh, don’t tell my daughter or students. They should pay attention. I just always felt like my mind was full, and I had to get it all down. I haven’t written much since getting married and having kids, but I started to last summer. I don’t have much, but I figured I should start sharing and maybe it would encourage me to keep it up. All that said, enjoy the first page.

The silent soldier continued his patrol around the city center. Snow was falling, but it was still too warm to stick to the roads. The grass and the tree branches were beginning to accumulate the white powder. It was a stark contrast to the dark night. Few street lights remained in the area, but it didn’t matter to the soldier, equipped with his standard night vision glasses. The commanders’ glasses had extra features, most still a mystery to the general public.

He turned the corner at Main, looked left and right and continued north. It had been nearly a year since protesters tried to enter the Capitol. Nearly a year since 8000 unarmed, peaceful protesters were slaughtered on the steps of the Capitol. Of course, the news reports stated a different story. Capitol Thwarts Ambush by Thousands of Armed Terrorists. This sparked the gun-ban that was quickly passed and made into law. Soldiers slowly started replacing the police force who refused to confiscate the citizens’ guns. Within six months of the new law, the Capitol announced that they had acquired over 95% of the citizens’ gun and declared anyone found with a firearm would be considered a terrorist and shot on sight. After that declaration “Safe Drop Zones” were added throughout the major cities for people to turn in their weapons without penalty. That’s how it was portrayed to the general public; however, each person who dropped at a safe zone was questioned in great detail and then released to return home. Within a week, a garrison would arrive in that person’s neighborhood and begin constant patrols.

Another turn down North Street. Sometimes the quiet was welcoming, but tonight, something felt off. Maybe it was the first snow of winter, but the soldier couldn’t shake that it was something more.

A strong gust made the snow whirl around, looking much grander than it actually was. A single sheet of paper swirled up in the snow. At first the soldier ignored it, but as he neared where the sheet had landed, he noticed the bright red symbol of the Capitol, but something seemed off.

He bent slowly, never really looking down, the way he was trained, and grabbed the paper. As he rose, his suspicions about the evening were confirmed. He collapsed, his face landing in the grass. A bright red stained the snow and the soldier took his last breath, the single sheet of paper slipped from his lifeless hand just as another gust of wind blew and directed the paper to the stairs of the Capitol.

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