Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley

Dress Coded – Review

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Quick Summary: Molly attends 8th grade at Fisher Middle School, and she, along with many of the girls at her school, is getting annoyed with the school’s dress code. Girls are getting singled out more than the boys, and the principal has even hired someone specifically to monitor the dress code. Molly takes the matters into her own hands, starts a podcast, and begins a protest against the dress code.

This book is a great middle school book. The format was easy to read, and the text messages and podcasts were a good break to the regular novel format. The author did a good job of keeping the action moving throughout the book, which is vital to a good middle grade novel.

The main character, Molly, is a believable middle school student. She isn’t perfect, has family drama, and has to navigate bullies and friend drama. I appreciated the variety of characters within the story, even the older brother Danny who is the main cause of Molly’s family drama.

As a teacher, dealing with dress code is one of my least favorite things to do. In fact, most of the time, I just don’t say anything…except for hoods and hats, but that’s more for so we can see who they are. Most dress codes are unfairly focused on females, and I liked that this book tackled that subject.

As far as students who will like this book, I am thinking the 6th and 7th graders will like it more than the 8th graders. There is a little crush/romance, but it is a minute part of the book, but it does cause a little bit of friend drama.

My only complaint with this book is that most of the friendships are very surface level. Of course, that does seem to be the case with a lot of middle schoolers. The littlest thing can disrupt a friendship. Other than that, it is a good book that I think a lot of students will enjoy…especially those who hate their school’s dress codes.

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, Possible Trumans 2021-22, ProjectLitBookClub

New Kid – Review

This was a very quick read. I believe I finished it in under 2 hours, and I consider myself a slow reader. Graphic novels have become super popular over the last few years, and I am really glad about it. My struggling students are more willing to pick up a book with pictures, especially at the beginning of the year when they are about 99.9% against reading. (By the end of the year, we have turned most of them into at least willing-to-read readers, if not *fingers crossed* lifelong readers!)

Quick Summary: This book follows 7th grader Jordan Banks as he (if you couldn’t guess by the title) goes to a new school. His new school is a private school of some sort. It isn’t a religious private school, but a highly academic one that encourages *mandates* student after school participation in sports or theater. From the very beginning, Jordan and his dad worry that the school is lacking in diversity. And…it definitely is. There are a handful of minority students, but definitely not what Jordan was used to. He faces microaggression from fellow students and teachers and has to decide whether or not he is going to point out this “subtle” racism or not make waves.

I know this book is written for middle schoolers, but whew…I think there are plenty of adults who could learn a thing or two from these pages. This will definitely be a book I add to my classroom library, and I can even see us doing it in a small group or maybe even the whole class.

I’m definitely looking forward to Jerry Craft’s next graphic novel 🙂

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, ProjectLitBookClub

Clean Getaway review

Quarantine has given me a lot of free time. Even while I was teaching from home, I found myself with time where I was just waiting around to answer students’ questions, so I started looking for people to follow on social media.

First person I started following was Jason Reynolds. I have a serious author crush on him, and I love everything that I’ve read that he has written. From his page, I found Nic Stone. At this point, I had only read Dear Martin which I loved, so I decided to follow her. If you’re looking for people to follow that will make you love life and want to be a better person, follow her. She’s friends with so many other awesome authors, and I have been introduced to many people and things from following her.

One thing was Project Lit (click the link to learn more, especially if you’re a teacher!). The basic gist is this English teacher decided to start having his students read books that better represented them, and over the years it has turned into a multi-country book club for students. I’m late to this party since it’s been going on since 2017, but I signed up to be a Project Lit leader, and I am looking forward to starting a book club in our school whenever we can go back.

Okay, alllllll that to say, I found Clean Getaway from following Project Lit and Nic Stone on social media 🙂

Now to the review. This book is great. I didn’t expect anything less from Nic Stone since I loved Dear Martin so much. From my understanding, this is her first middle grade novel (but definitely not her last). The book is everything a middle grade book needs to be: accessible, funny, fast-paced, easy-to-read, interesting characters, and adventure.

The book begins with Scoob (nickname – real name is William Lamar) and his grandma in an RV heading on an adventure. The reader finds out pretty quickly that Scoob was supposed to be on spring break, but had gotten in trouble at school and was on punishment with his father. No fun spring break for him. However, this all changes when his grandma shows up with an Winnebago and a promise of adventure if Scoob wants to go. Of course he goes, who would choose punishment over adventure? Scoob conveniently leaves his phone at home so his dad wouldn’t call him, and Grandma doesn’t tell him much about the adventure, just that they have a long way to go.

What I loved about this book is that it definitely talks about racism in a way that will allow teachers to talk to younger students. William is black, and his grandmother is white. We see early on some subtle racism (is there such a thing???) on their first stop to get food. Lots of strange and disapproving looks from the other customers. The book also talks about The Green Book. This book allowed Black Americans to navigate the country by highlighting Black-friendly businesses. I can definitely see using this as a talking point with my students. I also loved the relationship between Scoob and his grandma.

There is definitely more to the book than what I have written, but too much more will give away some of the surprising aspects to the book. I would recommend this to any lower-middle school grade kids, and probably 4th and 5th graders as well.

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews

Fish in a Tree – Review

Soapbox moment

The last fiction book I finished was Four Days of You and Me which you can read about here. In that review I made the comment that adults would not enjoy the book. A few days later, I saw a different YA author tweet about getting the negative review that “adults wouldn’t like this book” and her reply was, “duh, it wasn’t written for you.”

Now, I know this is probably a common thought among YA authors, but good books, well-written books, books with good stories can and should be enjoyed by a wide range of people. I greatly enjoy many of my 5 year old’s picture books and early reader books she gets from the library, and I enjoy reading educational theories which are written at a much higher level than I probably am. YA authors should know that many of the books teens read are because a teacher and/or librarian recommended it. The list of books that make it to the top 10 lists or the different state’s award lists are determined by adults.

We adults that read YA know the books are not written for us, but we definitely will not recommend a book that has no plot, no great characters, and too much focus on what is not important to the teens in our lives.

Now – on to the review.

Summary from Goodreads

My 6th grader read Fish in a Tree this year in her ELA class. She told me that I should read it, and that it was a really great book. After finishing it this morning, I can tell you she is 100% right.

The book follows Ally as she navigates school. She knows that she can’t read and writing is difficult for her, but she doesn’t know why. Instead of asking for help, during times when reading/writing is required she avoids class. Sometimes she tries, but even during those times, her teacher and principal think that she is just trying to make a scene, and she ends up in trouble.

It isn’t until her regular teacher leaves for maternity leave and a long term substitute teacher arrives that things start to change for Ally. Mr. Daniels, who we learn is getting a degree in special education, sees Ally’s behavior as something more than just acting out. He begins to form a relationship with Ally, and she finds herself trusting a teacher and looking them in the eyes for the first time.

This book beautifully shows how difficult life can be for students struggling with a learning difference. It examines friendships, family, and bullies, and does so very well. This book will definitely be a book that I recommend to students, but it is more for upper elementary and early middle school.