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Top Teen Titles # 70-74

  • Posted on March 30, 2010 at 12:00 AM

#74 House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. A Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers , 2002. ISBN13:  9780689852220. 400pp 

Quotes from two of the nominators:
One of the best sci-fi teen titles. 
The first science fiction book I loved. 

A review by Ayesha Court in USA Today states:
"Unlike some science fiction, Scorpion relies on realistic, sympathetic characters dealing with a different reality, rather than high-tech droid wars or rampaging aliens."

Reader’s Guide Description prepared by Pat Scales: 
Matt is a clone of El Patrón, a powerful drug lord of the land of Opium, which is located between the United States and Mexico. For six years, he has lived in a tiny cottage in the poppy fields with Celia, a kind and deeply religious servant woman who is charged with his care and safety. He knows little about his existence until he is discovered by a group of children playing in the fields and wonders why he isn’t like them. Though Matt has been spared the fate of most clones, who have their intelligence destroyed at birth, the evil inhabitants of El Patrón’s empire consider him a "beast" and an "eejit." When El Patrón dies at the age of 146, fourteen-year-old Matt escapes Opium with the help of Celia and Tam Lin, his devoted bodyguard who wants to right his own wrongs. After a near misadventure in his escape, Matt makes his way back home and begins to rid the country of its evils.


National Book Award, 2002, 
ALA Newbery Honor, 2003, 
ALA Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book, 2003, 
Buxtehuder Bulle, 2003 (Germany), 
ABC Children’s Bookseller’s Choices,
ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 
IRA Young Adults’ Choices, 
Sequoyah Young Adult Award (OK), 
Volunteer State Book Award, (TN) 2006, 
Arizona Young Readers Teen Award, 2005, 
South Carolina Junior Readers Award, 2005-2006, 
Rhode Island Teen Book Award nominee, 2004, 
Young Hoosier Book Award, 2006, 
Nevada Young Readers’ Award, 2005, 
Senior Young Readers’ Choice Award, 
Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award, 2005, 
Bay Area Book Reviewers’ Association Award for Children’s Literature
Blue Spruce YA Book Award Nominee (CO)
Booklist Editors’ Choice
California Collections 
Florida Teens Read Master List 
Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee (NJ) 
Iowa Teen Award Master List
Maud Hart Lovelace Award Master List (MN)
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Finalist 
Rosie Award Nominee (IN)

Visit Nancy Farmer’s home page to find a reading guide and an excerpt. review by Amy Alessio. 
SF Signal blog review
Mythopoeic Society review
State Library of Louisiana’s Center for the Book review

Ross Bussell on the Litera Buss blog states: 
The questions this book brings up involve cloning, the pros and cons, as well as ethnics and morality, behind the use of embryos and living cells of damaged humans to better the lives of the living. It also brings up issues involving governmental corruption, the dichotomy of good and evil, and the intended good but overall evils of communism.

Curious Incident of the Teacher in the Classroom review (an interesting blog by a first year teacher who quit that same year) includes this information:  
I am happy to say that Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion changed my mind about YA Lit once again … Nancy Farmer (also, author of The Ear, The Eye and The Arm) exhibits, in this novel, a perfection of timing. The House of the Scorpion is the perfect balance between beautifully detailed descriptions of character and setting and action. Building suspense with each turn of the page, Farmer keeps this almost 400 page novel moving smoothly, without imposing artificial excitements or leaving loose ends. Perhaps, more importantly from a teacher’s point of view, Farmer’s novel touches on a variety of weighty and provocative themes, including what it means to be human, the responsibilities of a society to the people who create it, the influence of nature vs. nurture on the personality of a human being, the ability of greed to corrupt and the opportunity to make good or bad decisions.

Check out some of these YouTube Video Trailers:
Alisha’s trailer for a high school English competition
ireadkidsbooks trailer for House of the Scorpion 

House of the Scorpion is so disturbing because author Nancy Farmer uses her background growing up in a "ragtag hotel on the Arizona/Mexico border" (as noted on Barnes & to create a believable environment where ethics disappear to further the selfish whims of the rich and the powerful. Every media story on cloning brings this title to mind. The recent Neal Shusterman book "Unwind" with its concept of parents’ disassembling their children for their organs brought House of the Scorpion to mind. While I was frustrated with the length of the title and wanted it edited down while reading it the first time, House of the Scorpion wanders through the world of Opium full-circle to bring this amazing science fiction novel to completion.

#73 We Were Here by Matt de la Peña. Delacorte, 2009. ISBN13: 9780385736671. 386pp

Quote from one of the nominators:
Matt de la Peña has mad talent. The three friends/ runaways in We Were Here felt so real to me. I just wanted to adopt them. I also loved Mexican White Boy as well. de la Peña’s male characters struggle with identity, emotion, anger in such a way that I believe he allows young male readers to connect or wonder about their own emotions.

ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers 
A Junior Library Guild Selection 
2010 – New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age

We Were Here Reviews:

". . . fast, funny, smart, and heartbreaking." – Booklist 

"A story of friendship that will appeal to teens and will engage the most reluctant readers." – Kirkus 

"Miguel’s raw yet reflective journal entries give de la Peña’s coming-of-age story an immersive authenticity and forceful voice. The suspense surrounding the boys’ survival and the mystery of Miguel’s crime result in a furiously paced and gripping novel." – Publishers Weekly

Publisher’s Description:
When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.

But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.

Life usually doesn’t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.

Read an Excerpt here

Online Reviews: 
Sheryl from the blog A True Reality writes: "I think what I liked most of all is that this novel is written in first-person and Miguel has a strong, engaging, and authentic voice. It was also very existential."

Melissa at iHeartDaily blog "Read It: Bookish Boys to Love" lists this as one of three "recent reads in which the male narrators made me angry, happy, tearful, giddy, sympathetic, grossed out and confused. You know, just like real guys do.

Amy Bowlan interviewed Matt de la Peña as part of her SLJ series "Writers Against Racism"

Genrefluent Teen’s Talk About Books includes three quick student reviews. Do you use a format like this for your student reviews?

Sara Zarr (author of the way too cool titles Sweetheart and Once Was Lost) interviewed Matt de la Peña on her site. 

Doret reviews We Were Here at the Happy Nappy Bookseller blog.

#72 Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor. HarperCollins, 2008.  ISBN13: 9780060890889. 304pp

Publisher’s Description: 
Addie is waiting for normal. But Addie’s mom has an all-or-nothing approach to life: a food fiesta or an empty pantry, jubilation or gloom, her way or no way. All or nothing never adds up to normal.

All or nothing can’t bring you all to home, which is exactly where Addie longs to be, with her half sisters, every day. In spite of life’s twists and turns, Addie remains optimistic. Someday, maybe, she’ll find normal.

Leslie Connor has created an inspiring novel about one girl’s giant spirit. waiting for normal is a heartwarming gem. 

New York Public Library’s "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing"
School Library Journal Best Book
ALA Notable Children’s Book
ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults
ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults
Schneider Family Book Award
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Texas Lone Star Reading List
Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice 

Online Reviews: review 
Read this interview with Leslie Connor
The blog Kiss the Book reviews Waiting for Normal.
Literate Lives blog
Look Books blog

52Projects blog says "The novel is one of the most honest and heartfelt I have ever read — it jerks your heart around, but in the best of ways, in the way it should be jerked around, in a way that reminds us that goodness is at the core, even in people and places that are marred by mistakes and shortcomings."

Myrna Marler at KLIATT writes "This book persuades that good people and delightful possibilities are all around, even in the most unpromising circumstances." 

Even Betsy Bird reviewed Waiting for Normal on SLJ. I found this unusual because the book may be marketed to 10 year olds and up, but I prefer putting it in the hands of sixth graders and up. Betsy tends not to reviews YA novels. She mentioned how she struggled with "the audacity of hope."

The blog Read, Read, Read! by a 5th grade teacher points out that teachers encounter students like Addie who are resilient and survive terrible things. 

Real students who are neglected, like fictional character Addie, break a teacher’s heart. Social services responds quickly to physical abuse. Proving neglect and getting help is so much more difficult. There is a reason we teachers stay poor… We are often giving students lunch money, shoes, school supplies, and clothes to help. We may not be able to solve all the problems, but knowing there are real children like Addie out there gives teachers hope, also.

#71  TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY – Jay Asher. Penguin, 2007. ISBN13: 9781595141712. 304pp

This book has an amazing website. The story of how this little book became a hit through word of mouth was featured in the New York Times, also.

Publisher’s Description:
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

New York Times Best Seller Publishers Weekly Best Seller
California Book Award Winner
Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA)
Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers (YALSA)
Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults (YALSA)
Borders Original Voices finalist
Barnes & Noble – Top 10 Best for Teens
International Reading Assoc. – Young Adults’ Choices
Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice
Book Sense Pick – Winter
Chicago Public Library Best Books
Association of Booksellers for Children – Best Books
State Awards – Winner (voted on by students): Florida, Kansas, Kentucky 

Jay Asher has his blog, there is a blog called Hannah’s Reasons written from Hannah’s point of view, and there are YouTube tapes inspired by the book.

Hannah’s Reasons includes information on teen suicide. This year teachers at my school dutifully viewed the DVD for Jason’s Foundation.  We lost one of our seventh graders this year to suicide. The guilt as a teacher for not noticing any symptoms is so strong. I review the documentation and wonder what I could have done. When we first heard the news of our student, several students came in to whisper to me, "She wasn’t in the library club." I won’t pretend that belonging would have saved her, but it has strengthened my resolve to include every student who does wish to join (282 currently our of 900 students at my school). 

This year I have personally bought extra copies of 13 Reasons Why for students who insisted they couldn’t wait for the library copy to return. As I place this in their hands, I make sure that I know the student. I want to know their names, their interests, and I want them to know that I’m available to them if they need an ear. It’s of interest to me that four times as many boys have checked this out as girls. Since there are two stories in this one, one from Hannah and one from Clay’s point of view, I believe this shows the power of Jay Asher’s writing and appeal to boys.

Online Reviews: 

Young Adult Lit/Crit blog includes this comment: "It may seem like a story of teen suicide (and it is, in part), but it’s about so much more. It depicts the social trauma of high school – the power of rumor and reputation. It hits on so many topics: rumors, promiscuity, reputation, adolescents’ burgeoning romantic and sexual identities, cliques, accountability, objectification of women, the ethical struggle to do the right thing or turn a blind eye, missed opportunities and the snowball effect of all these things together." states: "If you have the chance to only read one novel this year, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY should be that book. It’s sad, amazing, heartbreaking, and hopeful, all at the same time. I dare you to read it and not become so immersed in the story that you lose track of time and your surroundings. You’ll cry, several times, while reading this story. You’ll have no choice but to think about your actions, and wonder what type of effect they have on other people. And, in the end, you might also find the need to say "thank you.""


The Book Battle Blog includes curriculum connections. AND… comments. Every blog I read online included many comments from readers about this book. 

TeacherTube Video book trailer
There are many other book trailers there, so be sure to check them out.

#70  Call of the Wild by Jack London. 1903 Available from Tor Classics Call of the Wild by Jack London: Book CoverISBN13: 9780812504323 128pp

Quote from one of the nominators:
This is the ultimate dog book, but it’s as if the dog was all men who wanted to return to the wild. 

The companion title to this (White Fang) showed up as number 76 on this countdown. 

SparkNotes information
Read online at the Jack London Collection
Call of the Wild ThinkQuest 

Call of the Wild was written over 100 years ago, yet it remains on the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list. #88 on the Board’s List and #75 on the Reader’s List. 

Visit the site to read some of the history of Call of the Wild and see how much Jack London was initially paid for his writing. Here’s a quote:

The Call of the Wild proved that realism was what the new generation wanted. The reviewers and critics had mixed emotions . . . some called it ‘just another dog story,’ while others acclaimed it as ‘the best dog story ever written.’

TeacherTube videos
Video Booktalk
A thirty second teachertube video with teen music. 

I can always count on the WebEnglishTeacher to provide interesting curriculum links. 
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Top Teen Titles #75-79

  • Posted on March 28, 2010 at 8:00 PM

WHOA! There is a theme going on with the five titles on today’s list. Read on and see if you can detect it… 

Night Cover# 79 Night by Elie Wiesel. Hill and Wang; Revised edition (January 16, 2006)  ISBN13: 9780374500016. 128pp

Quote from one of the nominators:
First read this as a sophomore in high school, and it has stayed with me ever since. Some heavy stuff here, but really makes studying the Holocaust personal to the reader. 

Publisher’s Note:  A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

The context of the novel from the Sparknotes website tells us:

After observing a ten-year vow of silence about the Holocaust, in 1956 Wiesel published Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (Yiddish for And the World Remained Silent), an 800-page account of his life during the Holocaust. In 1958, he condensed his work and translated it from its original Yiddish into French, publishing it under the title La Nuit. The work was translated into English and published in 1960 as Night. Some scholars have argued that significant differences exist between Un di Velt Hot Geshvign and the subsequent French/English publications, chiefly that in the Yiddish text, Wiesel expressed more anger toward the Nazis and adopted a more vengeful tone.

Although publishers were initially hesitant to embrace Night, believing that audiences would not be interested in such pessimistic subject matter, the memoir now stands as one of the most widely read and taught accounts of the Holocaust. From a literary point of view, it opened the way for many other stories and memoirs published in the second half of the twentieth century. 

Elie Wiesel is a 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. UCF has a video on their Digital Booktalk site to help introduce this book. I’d recommend showing it several times while a class reads Night. 

An interesting review of Night by Cynthia Ozick of the New York Times Book Review relates this to The Diary of Anne Frank: 
"The seminal story of a child the Germans intended to murder, more to the point than the partial narrative of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ since it describes the place of Anne Frank’s doom." Cynthia Ozick, New York Times Book Review

Also from Sparknotes

It is implied throughout the text that silence and passivity are what allowed the Holocaust to continue. Wiesel’s writing of Night is itself an attempt to break the silence, to tell loudly and boldly of the atrocities of the Holocaust and, in this way, to try to prevent anything so horrible from ever happening again.

One reason why I believe this title is important to teens is that many of our teens are learning how to question what is happening around them and how they respond. This title and the discussion that ensues helps teens focus on action and personal responsibility to the larger world around us. You may want to look at the webquest "Who Should Be Remembered?"

Students who tell me they don’t like history class do insist this is a worthy book to read. They are moved by the horrors suffered and understand that something like this should never happen again. I wonder how we help them realize that studying history in general helps us to prevent the horrors of the past from re-occurring?

This is one of Oprah’s Book Club titles. Her site has many resources for you to use including a teacher’s guide. 
I’m happy it is available in paperback as I have many young men asking for a copy. I need multiple copies of this title. In fact, I seem to become a clearinghouse for used copies because the community will donate worn copies of Night and I will give them away to middle and high school students. I recognize that this title has changed many people’s lives through their reading, so I am happy to assist them in obtaining their own copy.

There are resources available through the Schools of California Online Resources for Educators (SCORE) Project. I found many student versions of booktalks on youtube doing a simple search. The WebEnglishTeacher site has activities and links. The Macmillan website has both a reader’s guide and a teacher’s guide. 

Be sure to visit the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Their mission is "to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogues and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality."

#78 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Currently available: Aladdin (December 26, 2006). ISBN13: 9781416936473. 192pp

I don’t think I need write much about this title. Instead, I can just point out to you that Betsy Bird’s survey of titles for Children’s Novels placed Hatchet #26 with 28 votes. Her blog post is extensive and contains many Hatchet Coverquotes, reviews, and covers. Here is a snippet from her blog:

In an interview with School Library Journal in June of 1997 Paulsen said that when writing this book, "I didn’t think of boys at first. At one point, I actually toyed with the idea of writing Hatchet with a girl protagonist." Later, when asked which of his books are his favorites he says, "Hatchet is in the sense that it struck some nerve that I still don’t understand, and that has made it one of my favorite books. It was not when I wrote it."

So what can I add that is unique? 

Hatchet was a 1988 Newbery Honor book losing to Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman. Why do I repeat that fact? 1989 was my first year teaching as a school librarian in Highland Park, Illinois. I wanted to share my love of reading with students and introduce them to award winning and honor books. Hatchet was an instant hit with my students and teachers at Sherwood Elementary school and inspired many young boys to become readers. Lincoln: A Photobiography was read during February then filed on the shelf as an "award winner."

The impact of reading Hatchet helped many discover that reading could be fun and enjoyable. Students would come to me and say that they were "thinking" while they were reading. It sparked a need for survival titles that continues today. I found links to libraries with teen survival lists at places like the Berkeley Public Library, Ocean County LibrarySan Jose Public Library‘s Survival List (and their Adventure List), Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, the Madison Public Library,  the Logan, Utah Public Library list of survial and list of adventure novels, the Wheaton IL Public Library list in pdf format, and the Tulsa, OK library list. When I get bored during my next break, I think I’ll have to compile a personalized list for my library. I have reading teachers who spontaneously decide to send all of their students (95-120 of  them) to the library to check out a book in the adventure genre.

To this day when a reluctant reader seeks help finding something, I will ask "Have you ever read Hatchet?" From their response I can tell which way to go with reader’s guidance. Girls do love reading this book, but by having a male protagonist, my young male readers who reject anything that resembles a "chick book" can claim ownership. Each of them believes Gary Paulsen has written this book for them. 

While my students don’t care about the role of divorce Brian agonizes over, they do relate to the mental struggles of survival. After reading Hatchet, many will pick up The Dangerous Book for Boys just so they can "be prepared." Should this title be on both Betsy’s Children’s Novel list and my list of the Top 100 Teen Titles? Absolutely! Any teen who reaches middle school and hasn’t read Gary Paulsen’s book Hatchet needs you to place it in their hands.

The Diary of a Young Girl Cover#77 Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Bantam pb, 1953. ISBN13: 9780671824495. 258ppAnne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl

Quote from one of the nominators:
"The Diary of Anne Frank is important for girls to read because Anne is going through the same emotions they are. It helps them see that they are not the only person who has ever felt this way."

Publisher’s comments from Powell’s: 

"Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic — a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annex" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short."

Powell’s has an impressive list of books on Anne Frank. The lovers and haters of this book make for very interesting reading on Here’s a teen’s review from TeensReadToo

The Diary of Anne FrankThe 1959 film version won several Academy Awards among other awards. Every eighth grader in Nashville, TN, reads the Diary of Anne Frank since it is on their Essential Literature list. I wish I could take my students to the Anne Frank center in New York. Instead, I can take them to the Anne Frank Center website. Even better, we can visit and see the former hiding place where she wrote her diary, teaching materials, and the YouTube channel devoted to Anne Frank.

For a brief time Disney considered producing a new movie version of the Diary of Anne Frank with David Mamet directing. It was rumored to not be a direct adaptation of the book but to focus "instead on a contemporary Jewish girl who goes to Israel and learns about the traumas of suicide bombing." The MTV Movies blog carried an interesting article and discussion on this. What? You don’t read MTV’s blogs?! I thought you taught teens. Good thing you’ve got us out there finding all the bizarre news of the day. Anyway the status right now is that Disney has rejected the script for being too dark. The Jewish Journal and the Hollywood Jew blog by Danielle Berrin has an interesting view of this topic and a link to the only nine seconds of film footage of the real Anne Frank. 

White Fang (Puffin Classics) Cover#76 White Fang by Jack London. Puffin Books, June 2008 edition. ISBN13: 9780141321110. 307pp

Quote from one of the nominators:
I always was a sucker for stories featuring animals as a main character. Loved this one.

Publisher Comments:
In the desolate, frozen wilds of northwest Canada, a wolf cub soon finds himself the sole survivor of the litter. Son of Kiche — half-wolf, half-dog — and the aging wolf One Eye, he is thrust into a savage world where each day becomes a fight to stay alive.

The men in my life have a passionate love of all things Jack London. I wish I could share their love, but when I read White Fang in fourth grade, I just wasn’t as excited. I had to turn to Sparknotes on White Fang for an unbiased view. It helped to read about the two stories in one. Learning about the primal nature and the concept  "Eat or Be Eaten," I understand why this appeals to others. I know it goes with the Call of the Wild and is almost a reversal in a whole survive the Alaskan frontier kind of way. 

Wikipedia states: The novel was first serialized in The Outing Magazine in May to October 1906. It is the story of a wild wolfdog‘s journey toward becoming civilized in Yukon Territory, Canada, during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century. White Fang is a companion novel (and a thematic mirror) to London’s best-known work, The Call of the Wild, which concerns a kidnapped civilized dog turning into a wild animal.  

White FangFrom Simon & Schuster White Fang by Jack London. Illustrated by Ed Young. Trade Paperback, 368 pages

Jack London’s adventure masterpiece is not only a vivid account of the Klondike gold rush and North American Indian life, but it is also an intriguing study of the effects different environments have on an individual. Celebrate the centennial anniversary of the classic tale of a wolf-dog who endures great cruelty before he comes to know human kindness.

YouTube had many versions of White Fang. Here is a youtube video slideshow of many different covers.

Of course I was really intrigued by this French animated version of a trailer. It made me want much more.  

#75 Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Harcourt Books, 2006. ISBN13: 9780152058265. 352pp.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

I discovered this book from blogs in 2007 and had to write my own post on my pre-SLJ blog I was feeling very full of myself and wittingly (in my own opinion) called the post "I’m a Pfeffer, He’s a Pfeffer, She’s…" I have some very interesting links to other points of interest so I hope you will click back and read.

 Since then two other titles have been released to extend this story and provide more viewpoints. Life As We Knew It is Miranda’s view. The Dead And The Gone is told from Alex’s viewpoint in New York City. This World We Live In brings both sets of characters together. Every week I hand Life As We Knew It to a student because I enjoyed  reading it. Even though I found some of the selfish actions of the characters deplorable, I recognized their egocentricity as being realistic.

Many teens recommended it for the best book of 2006., TeensReadToo, GoodReads, and LibraryThing provide links to positive (and some negative) reviews. My buddy Ed (Edward T.) Sullivan has written a downloadable pdf guide to Life As We Knew It.

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A Booklist Editors’ Choice
A CCBC Choice
A Junior Library Guild Premier Selection
An Best Book of the Year
A YALSA Teens’ Top Ten Book
2009 — Evergreen Young Adult Book Award (WA)

So readers, what theme did you sense in these five titles?

How do you combine skills teaching? AKA review of Enslow's America's National Parks series

  • Posted on March 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Do you ever twitch near standardized testing time when teachers suddenly realize their students haven’t grasped Nonfiction Mondaycertain standards and they need your help … desperately… immediately… and in multiple areas at the same time? Okay, it’s probably just me.

One example recently was our need to teach about Media Literacy Persuasive Techniques (recognizing propaganda), about note-taking, and about primary and secondary sources. Since I have a new victim… ahem! I mean student teacher/practicum librarian… one day a week, I decided we’d use this as the basis of a set of mini-lessons for part of a unit. 

We needed something unusual to spark their interest and that would provide enough variety to force every student to be involved. My eye fell upon this series from Enslow that I love but hadn’t incorporated into a lesson yet. America’s National Parks! This series from Enslow includes:|

My big idea was that we’d introduce students to media techniques of propaganda, training them to recognize these. Then we’d illustrate how to gather the facts about these different national parks and recognize which were primary and secondary sources. Finally, we’d take our facts and incorporate them into presentations to convince their classmates to visit these parks using propaganda techniques. 

Lesson one on day one involved a powerpoint presentation on Propaganda we found online. 

Unfortunately, this was not enough. Specifically we needed to teach:

  1. Bandwagon
  2. Name Calling
  3. Plain Folks
  4. Testimonials
  5. Loaded Words

So back to searching the net. For Lesson Two I found and adapted this lesson on loaded words for the students from a National Parks website. It was extremely effective because the students needed more examples.  I tried using the Kraft Cheese vs Embalmed Cheese example from Wikipedia but it seemed to make them ill. 

When Kraft Foods invented processed cheese in the early 1900s, traditional cheese makers wanted the new cheese be labeled "embalmed cheese" by law. The U.S. government considered that term to be too disparaging, and required the product to be labeled "process cheese".  From "Cheese" documentary on Modern Marvels, History Channel (November 22, 2007)  

I discovered a powerpoint presentation with many visuals to share with students on the Associated Content website. It was created by Autumn Miller. Since I was having difficulty using the document, I contacted Autumn directly and she sent me 4 additional files to accompany this one. One was called Persuasive Strategies & Propaganda Techniques which was very useful for students taking notes. The other was Persuasive Techniques Homework. (I enjoyed assigning that homework for students by the way.)

To utilize this wonderful series from Enslow called America’s National Parks, my practicum student Alisa Breece developed a worksheet to assist students in taking notes. In Lesson One of note-taking, she introduced the titles to students as they worked in groups of no more than 3 to gather facts on "their" park. Since one class period would not be enough to read the entire 128 page book, the students focused on Chapter 6 of each book which focused on Things To Do And See in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, et al. Also, Alisa taught the students about the two-page spread of Facts at the beginning of each book. Finally she led students to the website where they could enter the unique password hidden in each book to utilize a variety of primary and secondary sources to gather up-to-date information. 

At the end of that period, we weren’t satisfied with their note-taking ability. Alisa took all ten books home, utilized post-it flags to highlight every place where the answers could be located and then we had students complete a different graphic organizer during Lesson Two of note-taking.

We still were not satisfied with their results and debated with the teacher whether the problem was their inability to recognize relevant facts (a skill very important for the standards testing) or whether they were being lazy. I decided to tackle it as an unmotivated issue, so for the next lesson "putting things together" I reviewed Persuasive Techniques, gave them some simple examples of how I would take facts from my paper to twist them into propaganda to convince everyone in the room to visit my park, and gave them a big shock.

They had ten minutes exactly to prepare an oral presentation where everyone in the group had to participate in "selling" their park to the entire class. Go! While students frantically filled in blanks, identified who was doing what portion, and scripted their remarks, I calmly moved their 30 chairs into a big circle in the corner of the room. At exactly ten minutes they took their seats in groups and we began. 

The teacher had her grade book out and recorded both listening and speaking grades while I made notes on both their use of details and propaganda techniques. After each group presented their 1-2 minute speech, I led the larger group in a discussion of whether they had included any interesting facts to intrigue us and if anyone could identify the propaganda techniques they used. Every group presented quickly and caught on to what made a great presentation. When the bell rang, everyone stayed in their seats until the last group finished. 

Amazingly they did a very good job putting together their speeches. They realized they weren’t going to be perfect and they’d all worked with me enough to know I love the timer and taking notes on their presentations so they were going to HAVE to participate. 

At the end, I asked them if they were happy to settle for their grade for that period or if they’d prefer the opportunity to improve their presentations with more details and use of a powerpoint presentation. They unanimously voted for the powerpoint, so after we return from Spring Break tomorrow, they will have one more day with me to put everything together. 

The teacher is putting together the rubric for their powerpoint presentation and I’m hoping their hard work on this will translate to a deeper understanding of these standards. Was it too much to ask of them? Maybe. They don’t usually perform at such a high level of synthesizing and analyzing, but they are capable of it. 

At the beginning of this lesson 76% of seventh graders could not proficiently identify relevant vs irrelevant facts. We taught these lessons to 3 classes a day with one teacher and I worked on the media techniques with an additional ten classes and three more teachers to perfect the instruction. 

I’m grateful Enslow had sent me this series of books to review. They were perfect for sharing with middle school students, contained interesting photographs and websites with detailed instructions on usage. Each title contained an extensive two-page spread of websites to support the subject and the website MyReportLinks kept everything current. The text was well-balanced with illustrations and there were many headings and subheadings to use in teaching SQ3R. The writing was concise and clear without being condescending.

Your state standards may not include a lesson on National Parks, but I strongly encourage you to purchase this entire set to meet your language arts standards. They were better than textbooks for teaching data extraction, are entertaining to read, and contain an intense amount of information. These titles lend themselves to group projects for struggling, for proficient, and for gifted readers.

Top Teen Titles #80-84

  • Posted on March 21, 2010 at 3:00 PM

ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE Japanese cover#84 Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. Atheneum, 2002. ISBN13: 9780689853234. 240pp

What you have here, readers, is a big fan of Tamara Pierce! I enjoy her Beka Cooper, the Circle Opens, and the Circle of Magic series, but long before those titles came the Song of the Lionness Quartet beginning with Alanna. Check out many of the covers here and here in the cover gallery.


  • Main Selection, Children’s Book of the Month Club
  • Author’s Citation, The Alumni Association, New Jersey Institute of Technology, 17th Annual New Jersey Writers Conference, March 24, 1984
  • Recommended Fantasy (list) of "GenreCon" (the Preconference on Genres of the Young Adult Services Division of the American Librarians Association, June 1991)
  • A YALSA Popular Paperback for Young Adults, 2003

     Pure fantasy fun and a good introduction to fantasy writing for middle schoolers. 

    Check out the reviews:
    SFF World

    Books Love Me 

    OMS Book Blog states:
    Alanna is a strong, heroic young girl who wants to be a knight, but in her world, like ours, it’s not something girls do. So she disguises herself as a boy and goes to the palace for training. She is small and gets picked on, but she works hard and has a gift for magic, and so she triumphs eventually. It’s a very convincing fantasy world without dragons or strange creatures. It’s almost a combination of medieval times and a fantasy world with sorcerers and magic.

    These reviews get why I like this book. It has a strong female character and the emphasis is on Girl Power! Still Jezebel’s Emily Gould reviews it in her way to show that:

    Back then, I accepted its message — that by working twice as hard as the boys, you can beat them at their own game — very credulously, now that I think about it. But I didn’t pay much attention to the book’s other implicit lesson, which is: If you show any sign of "femininity" or weakness, you leave yourself open to attack. Alanna can vanquish her demons with magic, but the rest of us are gonna have to figure things out on our own.

  • #83 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Delacorte Press, 1999. ISBN: 0385323069. 256pp
    Quote from one of the nominators:
    "Convinced he remembers his father’s name, Bud journeys to find him. You get so caught up in your own perspective that you can’t see what others see and what should be obvious to you."

    SLJ Review:
    Gr 4-7-When 10-year-old Bud Caldwell runs away from his new foster home, he realizes he has nowhere to go but to search for the father he has never known: a legendary jazz musician advertised on some old posters his deceased mother had kept. A friendly stranger picks him up on the road in the middle of the night and deposits him in Grand Rapids, MI, with Herman E. Calloway and his jazz band, but the man Bud was convinced was his father turns out to be old, cold, and cantankerous. Luckily, the band members are more welcoming; they take him in, put him to work, and begin to teach him to play an instrument. In a Victorian ending, Bud uses the rocks he has treasured from his childhood to prove his surprising relationship with Mr. Calloway. The lively humor contrasts with the grim details of the Depression-era setting and the particular difficulties faced by African Americans at that time. Bud is a plucky, engaging protagonist. Other characters are exaggerations: the good ones (the librarian and Pullman car porter who help him on his journey and the band members who embrace him) are totally open and supportive, while the villainous foster family finds particularly imaginative ways to torture their charge. However, readers will be so caught up in the adventure that they won't mind. Curtis has given a fresh, new look to a traditional orphan-finds-a-home story that would Bud, Not Buddybe a crackerjack read-aloud.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC

    As always, I am grateful to Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site for her comments and activity links.

    Read an excerpt on the Random House page and check out their teacher’s guide
    Annette Lamb has developed Teacher Resources for Bud, Not Buddy on eduscapes.
    Soon after Christopher Paul Curtis learned he’d received both the Newbery Award and the Coretta Scott King award, he visited Powell’s and gave an interview

    Winner of the 2000 ALA Newbery Award
    2000 ALA Coretta Scott King Award
    ALA Notable Children’s Books
    School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
    IRA Children’s Book Award for Older Readers
    ALA Best Books for Young Adults 
    Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year 

    Reading Rockets has a video interview of Christopher Paul Curtis.

    Christopher Paul Curtis remains one of my favorite authors and is a delight to speak with. I welcome every opportunity to promote his works because they impact my students. The books inspire them. Christopher’s messages to young people and to writers are some of the best to share. Bud, Not Buddy is a title that I knew would cross over the lines into the list Betsy Bird is compiling for the Top 100 Children’s Novels so I deliberately collected my information before reading her post. She has wonderful links that you’ll want to be sure to see as Bud, Not Buddy came in #47 on her list. Enjoy.

    #82 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Warner Books, 1960. ISBN13: 9780446310789. 288pp

    Front cover: To Kill a MockingbirdQuote from one of the nominators:
    "A beloved classic that had to be on my top ten teen books list."

    In the July 2007 blog post called Brown V Board of Education, Marc Aronson began with this line: "Nonfiction Matters Because of Who We Sit Next to In Class." But then he throws in this sentence:
    I cannot imagine why any teacher would assign yet another class to read To Kill a Mockingbird when, instead, her class could be studying and debating this ruling — which is likely to decide who each student in that class is likely to sit next to, share a table with at lunch, and befriend.To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee

    Ouch! Now, Marc, my reader’s can tell you that I am passionate about nonfiction and thinking, but your statement insulted everyone who has been impacted by the book To To Kill a Mockingbird: The 40th Anniversary Edition of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novel CoverKill a Mockingbird….and there are many people. Did anyone bother to respond to Marc in the comments? No. We let this comment lie there festering. 

    To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) has been called a nearly perfect novel and the best novel of the 20th century. It won the Pulitzer prize in 1960. Many adults comment upon the impact TKAM has had on their life and how they treasure their copies. Others talk about reading it as an adult and gleaning so much more than from their childhood reading.

    While facebook has a page celebrating To Kill a Mockingbird’s 50th anniversary, there is a To Kill a Mockingbird (UK Edition) Coverpage called I Was Forced to Read To Kill A Mockingbird which has 475 fans. Of course, several of those fans admit to liking it, but recognize they were "forced" to read it in middle school. I found many who read it in college as a freshman and they had vastly different opinions. 

    Did you know the Sparknotes for To Kill a Mockingbird can be downloaded on your ebook or as a pdf now? If you are assigning this book, chances are your students will stumble upon the TKAM Survival Guide which has over 400 annotations to understand the words, allusions, and idioms. 

    The National Endowment for the Arts on The Big Read page describes To Kill a Mockingbird this way:

    To Kill a Mockingbird (Large Print) CoverHarper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the rare American novel that can be discovered with excitement in adolescence and reread into adulthood without fear of disappointment. Few novels so appealingly evoke the daily world of childhood in a way that seems convincing whether you are sixteen or sixty-six.

    Lee tells two deftly paired stories set in a small Southern town: one focused on lawyer Atticus Finch’s defense of an unjustly accused man, the other on his bright, bratty daughter’s gradual discovery of her own goodness. For many young people this novel becomes their first big read, the grown-up story that all later books will be measured against. 

    On the Amazon review page Patricia A. Powell writes: Harper Lee had one incredible story to tell and she I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Leetold it well. Don’t read this novel for inventiveness. Read it for the near perfect writing. Read it to be moved. Read "To Kill a Mockingbird" because it is a sin not to. 

    May I suggest you also include in your collection this biography called I Am Scout: the biography of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields? It was on the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults list and was the Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year. I loved it and it truly enhanced my reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. Another title to purchase is Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal which I blogged about.

    So, back to Marc’s blog post… I agree that we should provide more books of nonfiction to discuss issues of segregation and the concept of separate but equal. Since moving to Nashville, TN, I see continuing evidence of racial prejudice and attempts to segregate into "neighborhood schools." We need novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, Hurricane Song, and My Mother the Cheerleader to help us see through fiction the realities of prejudism.

    #81 The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer. Orchard Books, 1994. ISBN13: 0531086798. 311 pp

    Quotes from some of the nominators:
    "A completely bizarre future-world that isn’t based on the US or Europe is something I don’t usually find. This book was heavily influenced by the African country it is set in and is beautifully written."

    "I’m officially kicking the Hunger Games off this list so that I can include this title instead, which is SO WONDERFUL and totally needs more love, and just barely missed making my top ten for middle grade, so since it’s really more a young-YA anyway I am squeezing it on here instead. How many other science-fiction-fantasy-adventures-with-a-touch-of-humor-set-in-22nd-century-Zimbabwe are you ever going to find out there?" 

    My very favorite review is this letter from Aunt Bridgette Redman to her niece Saralinda.

    SLJ Review:
    Gr 7-10-Set in Zimbabwe in 2194, this sci-fi/fantasy combines a coming-of-age quest with its attendant dangers and rewards and an interweaving of elements from African mythology. Tendai, 13; his younger sister, Rita; and preschool brother, Kuda, are children of Matsika, their country’s Chief of Security. Frustrated by their choreographed existence, they attempt a cross-city trip that will fulfill requirements for a Scouting merit badge in exploring. They little realize the opportunity this unchaperoned escapade will afford their father’s enemies, and find themselves abducted soon after their trip begins. Prisoners of the "She Elephant," so-called queen of a toxic dump known as the Dead Man’s Vlei, the children discover they are not to be ransomed, but to be worked and then sold to a terrorist group called The Masks, deadly and spirit-damning. Matsika calls in "The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm Detective Agency," whose three agents each have a special power to aid in their search for the captives. They are steps behind as the children escape from one dire situation to another. Ultimately, the Masks are unveiled and destroyed, and the family is reunited. Rich in setting, the story is as complex as a weaver’s kente pattern, as symbolic as an eijiri figure, as sophisticated as a Benin bronze. Demanding and intricate, but often convoluted, it will be rewarding to readers willing to travel beyond everyday places and to work to untangle its many strands.-Patricia Manning, Eastchester Public Library, NY 
    The Ear, The Eye And The Arm
    According to Rosella Maggie, Resident Scholar on
    This series of events helps the children mature and start to become the adults they will someday be. The whole ordeal creates a closer bond between them and their parents and helps Mr. and Mrs. Matsika reevaluate their roles as parents. "
    A booktalk prepared for the Margaret O Brown library.
    Take a trivia quiz on The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm. 
    A TeenInk review.
    Aaron Shepard has an excerpt adapted as a reader’s theatre piece
    Reading Rants: Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists reviews and comments
    Literature Plans and lessons for Nancy Farmer’s work
    Read Nancy Farmer’s interview about writing books set in Africa

    SF Site Featured Review by Lisa DuMond states: 
    If every imprint was coming out with titles of this quality, we would be able to reach those last few holdouts that J.K. Rowling didn’t and pull them away from television and video games and get their noses back in books, where they belong…..The Ear, The Eye And The Arm is one of those books you finish and immediately want to call everyone you know to recommend. Hmmm… I suppose that’s what I’m doing right now. In a book that speaks so eloquently about the deceptive nature of appearances, it may seem odd to compliment the striking cover art by Mark Harrison, but even the cover speaks to that same book cover of The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm byNancy Farmertheme. Of course, The Ear, The Eye And The Arm is also a coming-of-age tale and an important illustration of the, often ignored, reserves of strength and ingenuity in children. As the detectives work ever closer to rescuing the lost children, the children are working just as hard at surviving and rescuing themselves. It makes for a breathtaking journey and a much-needed nudge in the ribs for all of us. 

    Newbery Honor Book
    an ALA Best Book for Young Adults
    an ALA Notable Children’s Book
     Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books 1994 Blue Ribbon Book
    Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Honor
    1994 Parents’ Choice Story Award
    Hal Clement [Golden Duck] Award
    Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award
    The Ear, the Eye and the Arm received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Nancy Farmer continues to write fascinating books that appeal to middle and high school readers. I hope she’s on your list of authors to watch for new works. 

    #80 My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. My Sister's Keeper Atria Books, 2003; paperback version, Washington Square Press, 2005. ISBN13: 9780743454520. 432 pp

    Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate – a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?  

    Honors and Awards

    • Winner, Best Novel, Spanish or Biligual – 2009 Latino Book Awards
    • Winner of the 2007 Virginia Readers’ Choice Award
    • Winner of the 2006-2007 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award in the high school division.
    • The Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award (2007)
    • Vermont Green Mountain Book Award Master List (2007)
    • Winner of the Margaret Alexander Edwards Award (the Alex Award) given by the American Library Association
    • Best Book of the Year (2005),
    • Nominated for an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
    • Shortlisted for the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year in the UK, and nominated for a British Book Award, 2005.

    You may have viewed the movie starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason Patrick, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, and Evan Ellingson.  My Sister's KeeperThe movie was nominated for several awards and did win the Teen Choice Award for Summer Drama. I noted on the author’s website she told fans she was not responsible for the change in the ending of the book. This piqued my curiosity so I ran to Redbox and rented the movie to watch. If you can’t watch the movie, you can read wikipedia’s version of the differences between the book and the movie, but I warn you there are too many spoilers. 

    One of the reasons I believe this title is so popular with older teens is because it allows them to think, to anguish, to ponder "what if?" and to seriously consider the issue of control of their own bodies. Having the chapters alternate points of view enables teens to consider life (and this story) from someone else’s viewpoint.

    The review from SLJ by Susan H. Woodcock includes this explanation:
    Everyone’s quandary is explicated and each of the characters is fully developed. There seems to be no easy answer, and readers are likely to be sympathetic to all sides of the case. This is a real page-turner and frighteningly thought-provoking. The story shows evidence of thorough research and the unexpected twist at the end will surprise almost everyone. The novel does not answer many questions, but it sure raises some and will have teens thinking about possible answers long after they have finished the book.

    Other interesting reviews:
    Teen Ink
    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
    teen review
    Teen Reads


    Wonder what’s next? There are 79 more titles on this list. Will you recognize them?

  • Learning new Stuff

    • Posted on March 19, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    Just so you know, I am currently at the Tennessee Library Association conference in Memphis, TN, learning NEW STUFF! Life is fun when you learn something new. I’ve been posting on twitter and facebook, but let me take a quick second during this session to share with you some of the great links. 

    Scratch! A Way to Satisfy the Itch for Technology Programs for Teens. Program presented by John Lloyd, Hillary Pesson, and Mary Seratt from the Memphis Public Library and Information Center – Youth Services. 
    Here are some links John said I could share:
    MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten 

    Learn Scratch is a site with great info and video tutorials


    Some basic Scratch tutorials

    Soungle is an easy way to search for free sound effects
    IDEO’s Ten Tips for Creating a 21st Century Classroom Experience: 

    Plus they mentioned that there were videos on LegoWeDo so I searched and found LOTS of fun links like this: 

    Top Teen Titles #85-89

    • Posted on March 15, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    #89 City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.  ISBN: 1416914285. 485pp 

    From Wikipedia: "City of Bones is the first book in The Mortal Instruments trilogy, a young adult urban fantasy series set in New York written by Cassandra Clare. It was originally published in the USA in hardcover on March 27, 2007, and was released in the UK on July 2, 2007. It was also released in paperback in the USA on February 19, 2008. It achieved #8 on the New York Times Best Seller list (Children’s books) in April 2007. City of Bones received considerable praise from Publishers Weekly, Locus, and authors Holly Black and Kelly Link. Criticism was also received from School Library Journal."  

    Review in SLJ (you may need to register for free to read it) I thought it was interesting that Wikipedia mentioned a critical review from SLJ, so I thought you should see the link. You can see some review excerpts here.

    From the Cassandra Clare FAQ page:
    What is the Mortal Instruments series about?
    A: City of Bones is the first of three books in my young adult urban fantasy trilogy, The Mortal Instruments. City of Bones is about a fifteen-year old girl named Clary Fray, whose search for her missing mother leads her into an alternate New York called Downworld, filled with mysterious faeries, hard-partying warlocks, not-what-they-seem vampires, an army of werewolves, and the demons who want to destroy it all. She also finds herself torn between two boys — her best friend, Simon, for whom she’s developing new feelings, and the mysterious demon hunter, Jace. She becomes a part of the secret world of the demon hunters, or Nephilim, and as she does she discovers that rescuing her mother might mean putting their whole world in jeopardy. City of Bones is followed by the second book, City of Ashes, and the third, City of Glass. You can find all sorts of detailed information about these books, their plots and characters, and release dates, on my Mortal Instruments website under FAQ: 

    Official Mortal Instruments website with an excerpt of Chapter One that will make you frantic to get your hands on the entire book. 

    The blog Book Reader had an interesting review, but I totally disagree with her dislike of the cover. I like male torsos on covers. I wonder if this goes back to my reading so many romance books during my teen years.  Be sure to check out this interview with author Cassandra Clare.

    Catherine, Called Birdy By Karen Cushman#88 Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. HarperCollins, 1995. ISBN13: 9780064405843. 224 pp

    Quote from one of the nominators:
    I tell students this all the time; my favorite is Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. She didn’t win anything for this book, but I think it’s one of the best ever. 

    Actually this title did win a few awards including the 1995 Newbery Honor Award and: 
    IRA/CBC Teachers’ Choice
    Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts (NCTE)
    Catherine, Called BirdyGolden Kite Award
    American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
    ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
    Newbery Honor Book
    ALA Notable Children’s Book
    ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults
    ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
    Horn Book Fanfare
    Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts (NCTE)
    Golden Kite Award
    American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
    ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
    Newbery Honor Book
    ALA Notable Children’s Book
    ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults
    ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
    Horn Book Fanfare 

    Publisher’s Description: 
    Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man–any rich man, no mater how awful.
    But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call–by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all.
    Unfortunately, he is also the richest.
    Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father?
    Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it! 

    Check out the resources on this webpage created by Carrie Rauer, Kristin Knode, Kara Clark, and Terry Davis. 

    “The vivid picture of medieval life presents a seemingly eye-witness view of a culture remote from contemporary beliefs. Fascinating and thought-provoking.”

    — SLJ.  
    Rhapsody in Books Webblog has one of my favorite reviews on it, including a list of the things girls were not allowed to do in the year 1290. 

    Houghton Mifflin published a discussion guide with questions for Catherine, Called Birdy. Of course you don’t want to miss Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site review and suggestions either.

    #87 Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant. Walker & CompanyBlood Red Horse, 2006. ISBN13: 9780802777348. 277pp
    Publisher’s Description:

    Two Boys. One girl. The adventure of a lifetime.
    You need three things to become a brave and noble knight:
    A warhorse.
    A fair maiden.
    A just cause.

    Will has a horse—a small chestnut stallion with a white blaze in his brow. Ellie is a fair maiden, but she’s supposed to marry Will’s older brother, Gavin. And as for the cause, King Richard is calling for a Crusade. The Knights of England must go to the Holy Land to fight. Will and Gavin will go. Blood will be shed. Lives will be taken. But through it all, two things will be constant—Ellie, and a blood-red horse called Hosanna. . . .

    The author’s biography page helps explain so much about her writing and the background of Hosanna that I hope you take time to click through to read it. 

    Check out the SLJ review: 
    “Based on the Third Crusade with England’s King Richard I and the Muslim leader Saladin, this novel takes readers from the de Granvilles’ Hartslove Castle to the bloody battlefields of the Middle East. It is a story of loyalty, honor, and nobility and centers around the loves of two brothers, Gavin and William; the fair maiden Eleanor whom they leave behind; and Will’s beloved red horse. Readers are caught up in the bloody battles, with alternating chapters revealing what is happening on the ‘home front,’ and in the Christian and in the Muslim camps. Tying these stories together is the red horse, Hosanna, who is the book’s most compelling and empathetic character. The futility of war is a theme throughout and readers will discover that, much like war today, combat in the 12th century had devastating consequences. The historical setting and the vocabulary may challenge younger readers but ensure that older ones will find the book a rewarding adventure, one not soon forgotten and one that lends itself to great discussion.”

    Read a sample chapterTake a quiz from the author page. Download the reading group guide. Do all of those things, but be sure to purchase all three of the de Granville titles: Blood Red Horse, Green Jasper, and Blaze of Silver. 

    While I was reading reviews online (like BookWormom’s), I noticed a trend of students who were forced to read Blood Red Horse leaving negative comments on blogs. Usually they were ranting and railing against the teachers who made them read this. Interesting trend?

    #86 America by E.R. Frank. Simon & Schuster/Anthenum Books for Young Readers, 2002. ISBN13: 0689847297. 224pp

    Awards and Nominations:
    Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee (NJ), German Youth Literature Award Nominee, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

    TeenReads review.   Reading Rants (Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists) has a review and 15 comments from teens – most of whom recommend this book. Check out the interview with author E.R. Frank where she explains how her frustration with how children are treated in our child-welfare and criminal justice systems may have been slyly at work in her writing America. 

    I’ve blogged on some other titles that involve abuse and depression. My students read and re-read A Child Called It, Everything’s Fine, and The Rules of Survival. I’ll be adding America to my collection soon to meet this demand.

    Publisher’s Description:

    You try not to think. You try not to imagine, but then those cracks pop up, and these flashes squeeze right through. At first, some of it’s not too bad, and you get stupid, maybe even wanting a little more, but then you pull yourself together, knowing what all is likely going to ooze out if you’re not careful….

    Fifteen-year-old America has been nowhere, has been nobody. Separated from his foster mother. A runaway. A patient. Without love. Without hope. And, eventually, without the will to live.

    Until Dr. B. steps in. To listen. To explore. And to find within America both the story and the boy who are lost.

    Information on the America Lifetime movie can be found here at the Glenside Public Library.

    #85 All-American Girl by Meg Cabot. HarperTeen, 2002. ISBN13: 9780060294694. 256pp

    I’m happy. A funny, silly, light-hearted novel showed up on this list. A quick reading comical book that’s great for the beach.  Do I think it will stand the test of time? Naw, but then, I’m not the one who nominated it for this list. I can still enjoy this and all of Meg Cabot’s books just as much as the teenage girls in my school do. Meg Cabot understands teens and has their voice down.

    Author’s note about All-American Girl:
    Samantha Madison is just your average disenfranchised sophomore gal living in D.C. when, in an idle moment sandwiched between cookie-buying and CD-perusing, she puts a stop to an attempt on the life of the president. Before she can say "MTV2" she’s appointed Teen Ambassador to the U.N. and has caught the eye of the very cute First Son.  

    I found many student video "takes" on All-American Girl. While I was researching this, my students enjoyed viewing these with me. Hope you have a light-hearted moment, too. 

    Teen girls like to write about this book. You can find reviews on GoodReads and on I enjoyed all these cover images from GoodReads, too.
    All-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1)All-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1)All-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1)All-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1)Pahlawan Amerika (All-American Girl, #1)All-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1)A Garota Americana (A Garota Americana, #1)Samantha, Tome 1 : Héroïne d'un jourAll-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1) Washington D.C.Total verliebt (All-American Girl, #1)A garota americanaSamantha, total verliebt (All-American Girl, #1)Samantha, 15 ans, héroïne d'un jour (All-American Girl, #1)All-American Girl (All-American Girl, #1) Should I mention there’s a sequel, also? Ready or Not, it’s there for you.

    Top Teen Titles #90-95

    • Posted on March 14, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    These nominees seems to follow the trend on this part of the list to lean towards the upper range of young adult. I’d say many of the titles in this portion are adult titles that appeal to youth than strictly titles written for young adults that also appeal to adults. But then, that’s just my opinion while reflecting on this portion of the list. Due to the nature of ranking submissions, it doesn’t take as many #1 votes to get a title on this end of the top 100 list. Since these did receive #1 rankings, it shows there is something very appealing about them.

    #95 Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills by Charles Henderson. Berkley Publishing Group, 1988. ISBN13: Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills Cover978-0425103555 

    Aha! Not a vampire love story. Here we have facts, a hero, biography, and history. Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock II’s story is told in Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson Berkley. His is a fascinating story with many sources available online including the wikipedia article, the Marine Sniper Scout site, and Marine Corps Sniper Heroes. From GoodReads:

    Marine Sniper is not only one of the most astonishing true stories to emerge from the Vietnam War, it has become a classic of military nonfiction, inspiring a sequel, Silent Warrior: The Marine Sniper’s Vietnam Story Continues.

    There have been many Marines. There have been many marksmen. But there has only been one Sergeant Carlos Hathcock. A legend in the Marine ranks, Hathcock stalked the Viet Cong behind enemy lines-on their own ground. And each time he emerged from the jungle having done his duty. His record is one of the finest in military history, with 93 confirmed kills.

    This is the story of a simple man who endured incredible dangers and hardships for his country and his Corps. These are the missions that have made Carlos Hathcock a legend in the brotherhood of Marines.

    The nomination of Marine Sniper surprised me as I had not considered it a young adult title, but as an adult title. I had to stop and consider that teens are children one moment and adults the next. This is a quick read which engenders a strong emotional response in the readers who have left reviews all over the internet. Some people hated it because they cannot tolerate the idea of glorifying killing as heroic. Others saw this as an example of someone who did a necessary evil for his country and then went on to further the sniper program.  No matter your personal opinion, there is a strong market for military titles in Young Adult and Adult literature.

    Looking for something for older teens beyond Fallen Angels, Cracker, The Purple Heart, and Sunrise Over Fallujah? Pull out Marine Sniper.

    Many Waters Cover#94 Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle. Many WatersMany Waters (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986. ISBN13: 978-0374347963. 

    Awards: American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults

    Recommendations: Booklist; Children’s Book Review Service; Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review; New York Times Book Review; VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates); Washington Post Book World; Wilson Library Bulletin

    Part of the Time Trilogy/Quartet/ Quintet/Septology?? books about the Murray family, Many Waters did not get an excellent review from SLJ in 1986, yet you can find unique reviews and comments from children, teens and adults after reading Many Waters all over the internet. It is so unlike the fantastical world of A Wrinkle in Time yet Many Waters impacted me as a teenager when I first found it. 

    This story of the middle children – 15 year old twins Dennys and Sandy – intrigued me when I was a teen with its exploration of growing sexual interest and intermingling of science fiction/fantasy with Biblical lore. As a college student I revisited A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and An Acceptable Time to try to put this family in order and to explore the idea that the author might be a "Christian writer". Many Waters stood out then as different.Will others in this series appear on the list? You’ll have to wait and see.

    The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)#93 The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. Disney Hyperion Books, 2009. ISBN13: 9781423101475. 400pp

    Librarians can be dweebs. I spent an enjoyable half hour swapping quotes from the  Percy Jackson books on Facebook one night. One of the aspects that appealed to adults in this series was the humor. While The Last Olympian wrapped up the series and answered many questions, it seemed to lack some of the unexpected humor of previous titles. My personal favorite remains the Lightning Thief because it draws in new readers each year and hooks my middle school students on Greek mythology. While every middle school student studies Greek and Roman mythology, only those who sample The Lightning Thief become passionate partakers of mythology musing. 

    My middle schoolers have an interesting outlook on book releases. They believe if a bookstore stays open til midnight to begin selling a book, I should be able to excuse them from school the next day while they stay home and avidly read the title. When The Last Olympian came out last May 5th, I had notes from students begging for more time to read and less work at school.

    The Percy Jackson series has its own website. Logical since the movie has appeared in theaters. Each of my students have raced in to tell me their opinions of the movie. Everyone has an opinion. There is quite a bit of indignation regarding Clarice’s role in the movie (or lack of!) Do you think the Last Olympian is the best book of this series? What’s your opinion?
    Here’s one of my favorite YouTube videos by Rick Riordan:

    The Journeys of Socrates Cover#92 The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman. HarperOne, 2006. ISBN: 9780060833022 Pages: 352; $14.99; Ages: 18 and Up

    Check out the author’s page at to read some of the comments from readers. 

    There are some interesting Reader’s Guide Questions like these: 
    Why do Sergei’s grandparents give him the nickname "Socrates"? Heschel describes Socrates the Greek as being "among the wisest and the best of men." What do you learn about Socrates the Greek by reading The Journeys of Socrates? Is the name a good choice? How does Sergei resemble Socrates the Greek over the course of the novel? What else do you know about the ancient sage? 

    Since this is part of the Peaceful Warrior’s Way, it is important to address this question in the RG: 
    What is a "peaceful warrior"? Why does Heschel call Socrates the Greek a peaceful warrior? How does a peaceful warrior differ from a warrior? When does Sergei become a peaceful warrior?

    Martial arts followers, historical fiction buffs, Russian history fans will particularly enjoy the philosophical interests of The Journeys of Socrates. 

    Reviews online: 
    Guardian Spirit
    Peter’s Soapbox
    after he saw the movie Peaceful Warrior
    Dusk Before Dawn

    #91 The House of Night series by PC Cast and Kristen Cast
    Publishers description:
    HOUSE OF NIGHT is a thrilling, New York Times bestselling book series that follows 16-year-old Zoey Redbird as she is “Marked” by a vampyre tracker and begins to undergo the “Change” into an actual vampyre. She has to leave her family in Broken Arrow, OK, and move into the House of Night, a boarding school for other fledgling vampyres like her.

    It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. Although Zoey has awesome new powers, it’s hard to fit in when everyone knows you’re “special.” As Zoey tries to make new friends and maybe find a hot boyfriend (or two), she comes up against all kinds of evil, from the perfect-looking, super-popular girl with not-so-faultless plans, to the mysterious deaths happening at the House of Night and all over Tulsa. Things at the House of Night are not always what they seem. Can Zoey find the courage deep within herself to find the truth and embrace her destiny? 

    The appeal of vampire books is not limited to Twilight. There are many readers avidly seeking teen titles with supernatural or paranormal activity. The House of Night series appeals to my 8th graders and older teens along with the series Vampire Academy and Blue Bloods. Each release of a new title in the series brings enthusiastic girls to the library to show their copies. I admit that I can’t wait either. 

    Issues of bullying, cliques, conspiracies, teenage jealousies, sexual exploration, and leadership are explored in this collaborative effort by mother Phyllis Cast (P.C. Cast) and daughter Kristin Cast. This interview in the Wall Street Journal shows why both are needed to create this series. 

    According to the article: "There are 4.3 million copies of the first four "House of Night" books in print, and 650,000 copies of "Hunted," which went on sale March 10. St. Martin’s Press has signed the Casts for 12 books in the series, and Empire Pictures has optioned the screen rights."

    Some parents have read these titles and questioned their inclusion in our middle school (come on, a blow job scene?!), but they understand that we have many other titles to place in their sixth graders hands instead of Marked. When parents questioned Marked, I was able to discuss reader’s guidance with them. We had wonderful conversations about maturity levels and exposure to more mature themes. They understand that I guide younger students to other titles first and went away pleased that their children had options. The parents realized that I wasn’t going to police their children, but they were able to have the conversation with their child to express their concerns. 

    Debbie Reese has blogged about her problems with the series co-opting Cherokee and mixed native myths. None of this has slowed the enthusiasm the series enjoys from our vampire series lovers. [Burneduk.jpg](Debbie’s blog includes four posts about House of Night)

    [Burned_FinalCvr.jpg]Titles in the series include:

    Marked, 2007
    Betrayed, 2007
    Chosen, 2008
    Untamed, 2008
    Hunted, 2009
    Tempted, 2009
    Burned release date is April 27, 2010

    The US cover is on the left, the UK cover on the right. 
    Check out P.C. Cast’s blog for updates.

    #90 The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star by Nikki Sixx. Pocket Books, 2007. ISBN13: 9780743486286. 432 pp
    Nikki Sixx - The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star
    A biography makes it in at #90. The Heroin Diaries comes from the actual diary of Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx during on year of his addiction to heroine and cocaine. He has come far from being clinically dead to testifying on the hill in 2007 for National Alcohol And Drug Recovery Month.  

    BlogCritics review
    Chad Bowar’s Review
    GoodReads’ compilation

    Recently while perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, I was struck by the large number of memoirs of Rock ‘n Roll band members.

    Readers, I want to apologize. I had to have a pouting pity party because I had written a large number of blog posts that suddenly disappeared. I was so upset at having to re-write, that I just stayed away for a week to regather myself. Look forward to a mass of writing coming this week and I slap myself in the head and say (via Cher) "Snap out of it!"


    • Posted on March 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    Ever get frustrated with ALA and want to vent? Want to make some changes? Want to know that someone is listening? Talk to the Young Librarians Working Group on their blog or on ALA Connect.

    "The Young Librarians Working Group is a project on behalf of librarians under the age of 35: the Millennial librarians, the first-career librarians, the new-to-the-field, full-of-enthusiasm librarians who often join ALA only to get frustrated and disenchanted with the size and seeming rigidity of the association."

    I noticed they had posted an entry about their Text-athon and encouraged everyone to share it widely.  They ask you to text any suggestions you have for making ALA a better fit for you to (520) 344-3886  starting Friday, March 5 at 3:30 pm (PST). The text-a-thon officially ends on Friday, March 12, but they’ll be recording your responses until mid-May.

    They encourage you to text as many ideas you have, as often as you get them. I urge you to participate because they will gather your responses and take them to the ALA Executive Board where they WILL be heard.

    Women's History Month Resources

    • Posted on March 7, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    Just a quick shout out for some excellent resources for March’s Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Museum web site has Educational Resources including quizzes, timelines, and lesson plans. I received the following information in a press release. 

    The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) is pleased to announce that "Honoring Amazing Young Women in History," a PowerPoint presentation for educators, is now available.  The presentation follows NWHM’s Young and Brave: Girls Changing History cyberexhibit, an online exhibit featuring girls and young women who have made significant achievements at an early age in the fields of science, business, social reform, art and more. The presentation includes interesting information on a variety of young females, including Shirley Temple, Charlotte Forten Grimke and Pocahontas. 


    An accompanying guide provides educators with information to share with their students and use as a basis for curriculum development and classroom activities.  The program also includes many motivational quotes from adult women of achievement and a short quiz.


    The presentation offers educators an opportunity to celebrate Women’s History Month in March while providing inspiration as well as information on women’s history that could be integrated into the curriculum all-year-round. This exhibit will motivate young girls and boys to explore their potential.

    To request a copy of the presentation, please go to

    Top Teen Titles #96-99

    • Posted on March 5, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    Ready for more surprises on our countdown of the Top 100 Teen Titles?
    Running Loose Cover#99 Running Loose by Chris Crutcher. Greenwillow Books, 2003. ISBN: 9780060094911 224 pp

    Honors received:
    ALA Best Book for Young Adults
    New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
    Booklist Editor’s Choice
    ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults
    SLJ Best of the Best Book 2000
    Nominee, 1988-1989 Iowa Teen Award
    Nominee, 1995-1996 ILF Rosie
    2003 Mock Printz Survey for 1983 

    Can you tell for whom these covers are marketed?

    I think the publishers chose the fewest words possible from reviews to describe Running Loose. 

    “The book raises important issues for adolescents to consider.”
    — School Library Journal

    “A tightly plotted tale. Compassionate, funny, and sensitive.”
    — Publishers Weekly

    “A hard-hitting and candid coming-of-age story.”

    — ALA Booklist 

    So what is Running Loose about? The publisher’s blurb states: 

    Louie Banks has it made.  He’s got a starting spot on the football team, good friends, and a smart, beautiful girlfriend who loves him as much as he loves her.

    Early in the fall, he sees all his ideas of fair play go up in smoke; by spring, what he cares about most has Running Loosebeen destroyed. How can Louie keep going when he’s lost everything?

    Aha! A coming of age book from the guys point of view. Some tragedy. Football. Bullying. Racism. One of the more interesting reviews I found of this online was actually on the Amazon website. (Shame on me for being elitist) The Amazon site had yet another cover to make it fall in line with the series look. 

    There are reviews on GoodReads, LibraryThing, and on 

    You can read an excerpt of Running Loose on the HarperCollins site. My copy was worn out, so looks like I’ll be placing a reorder soon.

    #98 Prama by Jamie Ponti. Simon Pulse Publishing, 2008. ISBN13: 9781416961000 Prama Cover194 pp

    Read an excerpt from Powell’s.

    There weren’t many reviews out there, but reading the one on TeensReadToo helped me understand from a teen point of view why this title is wanted and needed. Prom is Drama. This book is told from 6 points of view. 

    This is a hard title to get my hands on. It isn’t in any Nashville School library and it’s only at one branch of the massive Nashville Public Library. I do have some of the Romantic Comedies written by Jamie Ponti and explored her website.

    Need a listing of books about Prom? Check out this one from RIYL (Read If You Like). In the meantime, I hope some of you have read Prama and can chime in with more information. 

    #97 The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, December, 2009 ISBN13: 9780385906739. 288 p.

    The author/publisher’s blurb: 
    Lotus Lowenstein dreams of moving to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Yet here she is trapped in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a New-Agey mom, an out-of-work dad, and a chess champion brother who dreams of being a rock star. Merci à Dieu for Lotus’s best friend, Joni, who loves French culture enough to cofound their high school’s first French Club with Lotus. At the first meeting, the cutest boy in the world walks in. His name is Sean, and he too loves French culture and worships Jean-Paul Sartre.   Things come to a head when all three depart for Montreal with their teacher, Ms. G, on the French Club’s first official field trip. Will Sean choose Joni over Lotus? And will Lotus and Joni’s friendship ever recover?    

    Did you even know how to spell existentialism  when you were a sophomore? I confess that I do love many things French. I have visited the south of France and Monte Carlo, but have never been to Paris. <sigh> Every year I hang an Eiffel Tower ornament on my tree. Lotus and I would have been friends. I kept a diary. She writes a diary. She wants to visit France. I want to visit France. I wanted to study French (but after one class, they forced me to take Home Ec instead in order to schedule high level math/science classes. You could either study math & science at my since-demolished high school or foreign languages. I still hate Home Economics.) 

    If you’ve missed this new title, check out the appeal which popped it into 97th position and read an excerpt here

    Check out this interview on Alice’s CWIM Blog.

    GreenBeanTeenQueen participated in the blog tour and suggested Lotus may help fill the void being left by the finale of The Princess Diaries and The Georgia Nicolson Series this year. 

    The quick synopsis suggested everywhere is An adorable, completely original YA voice.

    Shelf Elf posted her interview of Libby Schmais during the blog tour with the great name: My-Life-Is-Merde-but-Have-a-Bonnes-Fêtes-Anyway Blog Tourapalooza. Okay, readers, to make it easier, here was the complete schedule so you can go back and catch all of the blog tour. 

    December 2, 2009 –  YA Authors Café
    December 3, 2009 – Carrie’s YA Bookshelf 
    December 4, 2009 – GreenbeanTeenQueen
    December 7, 2009 – Pop Culture Junkie 
    December 8, 2009 – Steph Su Reads  
    December 9, 2009 –  The Book Butterfly  
    December 10, 2009 –In Bed with Books  
    December 11, 2009 – Book, Line and Sinker  
    December 14, 2009 – Bookworming in the 21st Century  
    December 15, 2009 – Booking Mama  
    December 16, 2009 – Shelf Elf
    December 17, 2009 – Chick Lit Teens
    December 18, 2009 – Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

    You can check out The Pillow Book Of Lotus Lowenstein’s facebook page and the YouTube Book Trailer.

    Convinced you might have missed something yet? Stay tuned to see what else is popping up in this list. 

    #96 Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park. Apple Soup/Knopf, 1995 ISBN 0-679-87088-1 88 pages. Mick Harte Was HereGrades 3+. Available from Random House.

    Grades 3+? How did it end up on the Top Teen List? Well, while it is a bit smaller, easier read with a totally different focus, Mick Harte Was Here deals with grief. We librarians of teens can tell you many stories about them dying to read about dying. (Is Lurlene McDaniel popular at your school, too?) 

    Barbara Park manages to whip out a message book that doesn’t knock you down with the punch, but sticks to you. It’s almost like she has written a sticky-hand-like novel. Sticky Stretch HandKnown widely now as the author of the Junie B. Jones books, Barbara Park’s books for older readers were must-have’s in my upper elementary collection, so I shouldn’t be surprised you readers chose one for the top 100.

    As Carol Hurst pointed out on the Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site,  
    "The difficult part is the tragedy it tells us about. We hear about it from Phoebe, Mick’s older sister, and she tells us right away, "I don’t want to make you cry. I just want to tell you about Mick. But I thought you should know right up front that he’s not here anymore. I just thought that would be fair." The reader hopes she doesn’t mean that he’s dead. Perhaps she means he’s gone away. We’re in denial with the family for at least part of the book. "

    The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute includes a review on their website. Gretchen Behrens Lenart prepared the first draft of a Teaching Guide in May 2000 and the work was completed under the direction of the Bicycle Head Injury Prevention Program of the California Department of Health Services, State and Local Injury Control Section under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is available in pdf format online. 
    Book trailers available

    These 5th grade students created a bike safety video after reading the book Mick Harte was Here.

    What’s next? Check back again soon. Oh, and for those of you who want to read 30,000 word essays on each title… get over it. I’d much rather post a little bit and sit back for you to comment on the titles on this end of the spectrum.