Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Game World

by Christopher John Farley. Black Sheep, 2014. Middle grade fantasy with an inclusive cast of characters. Sixth grade gamers are sucked into their favorite video game and have the chance to become heroes battling giant spiders, evil hummingbirds, and plant people. Heavily drawn from Jamaican culture and video game story lines. Farley's children and their friends read the drafts and gave editorial advice, which gives it a genuine kid voice. My own two sons age 9 and 12 loved the book. I read it to them at bedtime over a couple weeks and they were begging for more at the end of every chapter. I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the story myself because it is so much like a video game, and I am not a gamer. During the same time we were reading it I started playing Pokemon with my 9 year old and after that the book made more sense to me and I enjoyed it more. It's definitely a book kids will connect with and get into. Recommended to middle grade readers, fantasy lovers, and gamers.

Publisher's site for the book with links to features and interviews with the author. He has a lot to say about inclusion and getting kids more into reading.

Kirkus Review

Interview with the author, who speaks about bullying, gaming, and integrating fantasy worlds:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Upsidedown in the Middle of Nowhere

by Julie T. Lamana. Chronicle Books, 2014. Every time I think about Katrina now, I think about this book. Armani lives in the Ninth Wards of New Orleans with her family. She's looking forward to celebrating her 10th birthday with a big party, cake and presents, when Katrina hits. Her party is canceled and her family is rocked by the storm that brings tragedy and intense challenge for all of them. This gripping story will never leave you. Young people in grades 4 - 7 (and older) will experience the heartbreak of these events from a vivid, down to earth telling that makes it more real than any news story. Even as an adult I understood the catastrophe more deeply after reading this absorbing account. Descriptions are clear and crisp and emotions are raw and tender. I love this book. It would make such a fantastic read aloud for middle grades, engendering great discussions. The only hesitation I had with the book is the ending, which I thought tied up loose ends a little too neatly. I can forgive that because the reality of the central drama was so poignant and disturbing.

Kirkus review

Book trailer


Sunday, June 08, 2014

48 Hours Later...

I have finished the 48 Hour Book Challenge 2014! I read from Friday, June 6, 7am to Sunday, June 8, 7am. I read 8.5 hours on Friday, 8.25 hours on Sat., and 2.25 hours on Sunday morning, for a total of 19.25 hours. That is the most I have read in one weekend in over 11 years!! My eyes are tired but I am happy. I am looking forward to spending today and tomorrow reading all the blogs of other participants (starting line list of bloggers@ Mother Reader's).

The theme this year was diversity, so I chose my titles accordingly. I was moved and delighted by all of them. Here's the list of titles for me:

Sarah by Marek Halter

Gameworld by C. J. Farley

Upside Down In The Middle Of Nowhere  by Julie T. Lamana

Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah

I am still in the middle of a couple of them, and more reviews will follow on the blog in the coming days. This has been a great experience and I hope everyone else who spent time reading enjoyed it as well! Hop over to Mother Reader's on Monday to see how everyone did. I understand there will be prizes awarded....

Summer of the Short Bus

by Bethany Crandell. Running Press Teens, 2014. Review copy.  Cricket Montgomery, a teen used to a privileged life, is sent to work at a summer camp for special needs middle schoolers. She can't be more dismayed and disgusted, until she meets the hottie who becomes her summer love. This is a fun, fast read that reveals healing and a hopeful, empathetic turn around for our princess. The language is a little salty for my ears,
but perhaps that is a plus in a YA title.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Great Greene Heist

by Varian Johnson. Arthur A Levine / Scholastic. 2014, Review copy. This is a fun read about a crew of Middle School kids trying to win a Student Council election. The have a history of pranking and conning the adults at school, but are determined to reform their ways and play by their own version of an honor code called "Rules of Conduct". It's a fast and clever story full of fun and games. A diverse set of characters with a wide range of talents and quick wit. Recommended for Middle School or Upper Elementary.

Sarah by Marek Halter

Translated into English, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2004. Originally published in France by Robert Laffont, Paris 2003. This is a fascinating re telling of the life of Biblical Sarah, wife of Abraham. She was born to a wealthy merchant in the Sumerian city of Ur, fell in love with Abram as a young girl, and followed him all over the Middle East in a series of adventures. I gained a great deal of insight into what their cultures must have been like and marveled over the intersection of beliefs, hopes and passions that shaped their lives. This is a great read for lovers of historical fiction and family saga. Adult or YA crossover. 

I started it last week and finished the last third as part of the Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend. This is a weekend set aside for consent rated reading binging. Haven't done this in years, but my kids are finally old enough I think I can try it!

Friday, June 06, 2014

48 Hour Book Challenge: And We're Off!

Mother Reader's Starting Line Post

This is my starting line for Mother Reader's  Ninth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge 2014!  I am going to spend as much time reading as possible in the next 2 days. I've already blocked off my calendar and prepped my kids. I can't wait to dig in!

Here's my TBR book pile:

 And here's my spot:

What are you doing this weekend? It's not too late to Drop. Everything. And. Read!!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

48 Hour Book Challenge 2014

It's been a while since I've blogged here, but I have been reading, honest! I am coming back to blog about the 9th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge organized by Mother Reader. It's happening this weekend, June 6 - 8. Basically you read as much as you can for the whole weekend. I am going to be focusing on early Friday morning through Sunday morning, and plan to skip as much housework as possible! :) You can skip whatever you want as long as you read, read, read!! I am building my stack of books and getting ready to dig in. Anyone who signs up here, follows the rules, and reads more than 12 hours total is eligible for PRIZES. The theme this year is focusing on diversity, because WeNeedDiverseBooks happened. What's on your weekend agenda? If you would rather be reading, why don't you join us?

Friday, November 01, 2013

Giving Thanks; Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving

Edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson, Illustrations by Pamela Dalton.Chronicle Books, 2013. (review copy) I was delighted to receive this lovely, timely book in the mail the other day. It is absolutely gorgeously illustrated with paper cut done by Dalton in a sixteenth century German and Swiss technique called "Scherenschnitte" or "scissor cuts," which was brought to the States by Pennsylvania German settlers. See some of her work and read more about it at her site http://www.pameladaltonpapercutting.com/. The team of Paterson and Dalton also produced Brother Sun, Sister Moon in 2011.

Giving Thanks is a collection of short prayers, poems and praise songs taken from a variety of cultures and traditions. Opening to a random page one can find wisdom and beauty shared from Islamic prayers, Chinese proverbs, Native American poems, Vietnamese prayers, King James Bible verses, and traditional American blessings. It is a balanced and graceful smorgesbord that will charm a child's heart and lift the spirits of weary adults gathering the family together at the end of a long day or preparing to face the day's challenges. Hildegard of Bingen and Matsuo Basho share a page to remind us of the simple joys found in a single, precious day:

Katherine Patterson introduces each section of the book with a reflection of her life and growing up years. Her stories are just the right touch to bring us closer to finding meaning and unity in this diverse, wide ranging panorama of the celebration of thanks in the human heart. If you are looking for a refreshing splash of thankfulness and joy this season presented with beauty and exquisite skill - this is the book for you and your family!

Publisher's Weekly review

Friday Poetry is hosted by Linda at Teacher Dance on this All Saint's Day. Enjoy!