IMWAYR – September 19, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicHappy Monday!  This past week I really got into a couple of books.  I mean, they were so good that I couldn’t put them down.  Interested?  Let’s check them out…..

First up, we have Shannon Hale and Dean Hale’s story of an awesome, crime-fighting princess, Princess in Black.  In this one we are introduced to our superhero princess, Princess Magnolia.  She has the nosy Duchess Wigtower over for hot cocoa.  Just then, the secret monster alarm goes off.  Magnolia excuses herself and takes on her ninja-like crime fighting identity – the Princess in Black!  The Princess in Black goes to save the goat herd and send the invading monster back to his land.

With gorgeous illustrations, fast moving plot, and engaging action, Princess in Black is a must read for children of all ages!

I then went in a different direction and read an amazing YA novel.  Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, tells the story of Melinda.  Melinda is a high school freshman who is suddenly outcast from her group of friends.  As the novel progresses, Melinda speaks less and less.  The reader discovers why she is not speaking, and the events surrounding the night that changed her life forever.

This powerful novel was a tough one to put down.  It is written without much dialogue, but rather, as a stream of consciousness type narrative.  Laurie Halse Anderson has said that she woke up one night from a nightmare to hear a girl screaming.  That inner girl is the character who became Melinda.  I loved the writing and totally relate to Melinda’s feelings of being lost within oneself.

Finally, I went back to one of the books on my TBR from last fall’s Children’s Lit class.  The Poet Slave of Cuba, by Margarita Engle, tells the story of Juan Francisco Manzano.  Juan was a slave in Havanna who is incredibly talented at reciting and creating poems and songs.  This biographical tale, adapted from Juan’s own autobiography, explores the confusion, frustration, and growth of this amazing poet.

I loved the verse writing style!  She truly attempted to keep close to the essence of Manzano.  His story is one of heartbreak, joy, pain, and love.  This was a true “book-a-day” read as I started and finished it in an afternoon!

Well, that’s what is up for this past week!  I am currently reading a twisted Sleeping Beauty tale and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige.  My Amazon account estimates I’ll get that one by Friday – a full 2 1/2 days post publication day.  I guess I have to survive though!


IMWAYR – April 18, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicThis week was a long and short week.  Could be that I didn’t do any homework on Wednesday because it was my birthday.  Could be that the weather has been weird and makes me feel wonky.  Who knows.  But I certainly got my 4 hours in with reading The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

This novel, by Sherman Alexie, follows the story of Arnold Spirit Junior.  Junior (as he is known on the reservation) is a big-headed, strong minded Spokane Indian just trying to discover who he is and what his role in life will be.  After getting suspended because he threw a book at a (white) teacher, Junior is encouraged and then demands to attend the white school in nearby Reardan.

When he goes to Reardan, Arnold (as he is known by his white friends and teachers) navigates the world of high school.  We follow him through a tumultuous freshman year.  His older sister Amy marries quickly and move to Montana.  His grandmother passes away.  His best friend Rowdy, and nearly all of the other members of his tribe, consider him to be a traitor.  He is first ignored by the white students, then slowly becomes friends with them. He gets a semi-girlfriend.  He navigates the boys basketball season – even being a freshman Varsity starter.

I loved this book.  While many of Arnold’s struggles are specific to a Native American or other outsider, I related to so much of his life.  His journey really is one that mirrors all of our journeys – discovering who we are, what our identity is, and the often confusing and hilarious struggle of our life.

Have you read this Sherman Alexie novel? What book have you read that mirrors the journey of discovering our identity?  Let’s talk below…

Expert Book Lists

It is a snowy day here in Wyoming.  Today, I had the pleasure of exploring the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) website and blog.  I’m grateful for the chance to add to my personal lists from the wealth of resources from knowledgeable advisors.

The Book Lists

I think the best feature of the YALSA website is the numerous book lists that they gather.  I found myself lost in the lists, gathering resources for my future classroom library.  These are just a few of the amazing lists I combed today!

  • Best of the Best (2016)
    • Collection of YALSA Top Ten Lists
  • Audiobooks
    • A 10 amazing audio books for teens
  • Best Fiction
    • 2016’s top 10 YA Lit fiction picks
  • Graphic Novels
    • Graphic novels are super popular right now.  This is a list of 10 YA graphic novels to explore.
  • Paperbacks
    • Paperback picks for teen readers
  • Quick Picks
    • We know that we will encounter some reluctant readers.  This page has a huge list of options we might recommend to these readers.

The Hub – a YALSA Blog

The experts at YALSA also curate a blog called The Hub.  I fell down a huge rabbit hole when I visited The Hub.  Some of the articles I loved are listed below!

I really loved all the book lists and the tie-ins to other popular culture (the True Crime article has a tie in to The People v. OJ Simpson, the Serial podcast and the Netflix series Making a Murderer).

What did I learn?

Well, I first learned to explore the YALSA sites with my TBR at hand!  I only added 11 titles to my TBR.  Here are the ones I added.MoreTBRsI also learned that the amazing people at the YALSA are experts at what they do!  The depth of quality and breadth of topics covered on the site and the blog really show their expertise.

Have you added to your TBR List?  Did you find another amazing corner of the YALSA sites?  Let’s talk below…


IMWAYR – March 7, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicAnother month has gone by…can’t believe it is March!  This week I read only 2 books….life got in the way of reading.  I wanted to share them with you anyway!

This week I finished the Pura Belpre winner Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina.  I did a reading log about this book and my thoughts, so check it out over here.

Overall, I really loved this book.  I was a little bit confused with the blending of Spanish words and phrases.  I did really, really get into the book.  The author does a great job delving into the realities of being a victim of bullying, finding yourself as you go through high school, and discovering your strength.  I really recommend this book for those who have ever struggled to discover who they are (aka all of us!).


My second book was a graphic novel for this week’s book club discussion.  American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang, blends the stories of Danny, Jin Wang, and the Monkey King.  It is a colorful and beautifully illustrated graphic novel.

I have to say that my understanding has been enhanced by discussion with my husband.  He knows more about Asian beliefs and sacred stories.  He even helped me out with translating a few of the Chinese characters.  Putting this book into the context has deepened my understanding.  I would put this book in my “Restricted” section right now because I am not sure if all middle schoolers could read this book with an open mind-frame.  However, once I know a student, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Well, that’s it for this past week!  Coming up is mid-term break for CSC.  That means more free time to read YA and share with you!

Reading Response: Yaqui Delgado

Such a crazy week, but I finally finished Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina.  This book was really good.  What follows is my reading log.  I wrote about the book a little bit each time I read.

**The following Reading Log contains multiple spoilers.  Continue at your own risk!**

Date: February 27, 2016 Pages: 1-33
The language in this section seems important because the author has our main character (Piddy) and her family speak Spanish phrases and words. This really helps me to see how important her heritage and her family will be to the book.   Granted, I knew that a Pura Belpre winner would be focusing on a Latina main character, but the mixing of Spanish and English has thrown me off a bit so far. I am certainly using this book as a window. However, the unfamiliar words/phrases are disorienting for me so far.  
Date: February 28, 2016 34-56
The most important event in this section is the food fight. It seems like Piddy has upset Yaqui because she perceives her boyfriend liking Piddy.   The food fight/flying milk bottle is important because this is one of the first outwardly aggressive acts that Yaqui commits. It is also important that Yaqui continues to stare. She is not afraid of the adults at school and doesn’t fear consequences. Yaqui certainly wants Piddy to be threatened. I was surprised by the way the teacher reacted. I could not believe she acted like it was Piddy & friends’ fault they were milked!  
Date: February 29, 2016 57-88
I need to find out more about Piddy’s dad.   Is he really married? I feel like her dad has been this enigma in her life up to this point (almost 16). I need to learn about how Piddy’s mom and dad got together and the circumstances of their relationship. I also really need to know why he is so hidden from Piddy. Is her mother ashamed of her relationship with him?   Is he a bad guy? Why did they get together? This section brings up many questions about how other people see Piddy’s mom too. Why does no one talk about her dad? But, more importantly, why do they still speak badly about her mother because of the relationship?  
Date: March 1, 2016 89-116
I understand Darlene, Piddy’s friend, quite a bit from the passage on 94-95. Darlene calls Piddy to say that Yaqui was busted at school. She is quite the rule follower, just like I was (am?) in school. However, she bends the rules to tell Piddy that the coast is clear from Yaqui – at least from now. Darlene has become fast friends with Piddy – helping her navigate the world of DJ High School. I really like her intentions and the type of friendship she offers Piddy.  
Date: March 4, 2016 117-134
I need to know more about Clara and her relationship with Piddy’s dad. The whole scene at Piddy’s birthday dinner, and the drive home, really point to the hurt that Clara experienced because of her relationship with Piddy’s dad.   I couldn’t believe that Clara flat out asked Raul if he had ever been married! I also can’t believe that Lila didn’t just turn around and Clara to knock it off! Lila is the type of person who calls people on their garbage, but for some reason she doesn’t call Clara on this one.  
Date: March 5, 2016 135-152
I wonder about Mitzi. She has so quickly become friends with the girls at her new, richer school. She is doing sports she had never done before and becoming someone totally different than the girl Piddy was friends with. Why isn’t she calling Piddy back? Does she feel guilty that she has new friends and is leaving Piddy friendless?   I feel like I really don’t like Mitzi because she has just turned her back on Piddy like Piddy never was her best friend. Why wouldn’t she ask Piddy what is going on? This section just gave me more questions than answers!  
Date: March 5, 2016 153-180
This section is important because Yaqui and her friends have finally jumped Piddy. I can’t believe how badly they beat her. I feel like the fight isn’t as bad as the fact that Yaqui rips Piddy’s shirt off and takes off her bra. The worst part of it all is the video that Yaqui’s crew makes. Not only is Piddy being bullied at school verbally, physically, and emotionally, now she will be facing cyberbullying because of the access Yaqui and her friends have to technology.

I think this is a passage that many people could relate to. Many of us have been bullied in our lives. Some of us have been physically beaten. I would think that this situation would be familiar to some students.

Date: March 5, 2016 181-260
This final section of the book was amazing!   A lot of things fell together for Piddy and her situation. I understand more about Mitzi, Piddy’s best friend. Now that Mitzi and Piddy have had a chance to talk, I see that Mitzi is just trying to become adjusted at her new school just the way Piddy is adjusting to DJ.

I am amazed at Piddy’s decision to report the bullying/fight/video. This is a very brave decision. Piddy must feel both empowered and embarrassed. It was a great act of strength on Piddy’s part to confront Yaqui and report the bullying.

I was just as irate as Lila when the principal was claiming there were too many students to simply make sure everyone was safe. Lila is ready to take on the world to protect Piddy. I get Lila’s anger – every student should be safe at school.   Period.

I understand Clara a lot more after she shared about Augustin. The shame that Clara feels was displayed in her actions as Piddy’s mom.

I feel like many of the characters in this book at various times. At times I am like Piddy – angry, frustrated, and unable to control a situation. Other times, I am like Mitzi – trying to fit in somewhere new. Then, I am like Clara – struggling to atone for mistakes that are not always my fault. I’m like Darlene – I want to help my friends, but know I need to take care of myself. I’m like Lila – no nonsense and ready to right the wrongs of society.


What did you think?  Have you read about Yaqui?  Let’s talk below….

IMWAYR – February 15, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicThis week was filled with a lot of different reading.  I attempted to read more than one book at a time – I’m not sure it quite worked out.  I feel like I am not making progress on any of the books!

Besides my YA reading, it was a busy week with staff development at work and church activities for Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.  Needless to say, I’m not thrilled with my reading progress this week, but it is what it is.

I was able to spend at least 4 hours reading.  I never actually timed it, so I wonder how much I typically read in a week!  I’d guess between 5 and 7 hours…but now I’m curious.  hmmmm……

The Book I Finished!

This week’s book club selection was a nonfiction book.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: The Young Readers Edition, by William Kamkwamba, is the story of young William – a Malawian farmer who builds a windmill.  This memoir tells the story of his growing up, the struggle faced by his family during the years of famine, and his desire to keep learning despite his lack of money to attend school.  William is able to borrow books from his library and gets the idea to build a windmill to bring his family light, electricity, irrigation to their crops, and a better life.

William’s story is inspiring.  I really love how he was able to continue to learn and experiment.  He has such a passion for learning and a desire to keep learning that would be inspirational to students.  This Young Readers Edition reads like fiction – something that appealed to everyone in our book club.  One member even found us some amazing YouTube videos of him speaking.  (Check out his original TED talk here.)

This is a great book for reluctant readers, those who learn by doing, and those who are interested in what inspires others.  It would be an excellent tie-in to a cross-curricular unit with science (physics, energy, electricity) and/or social studies (history of Malawi, rural life in Africa, geography and weather, human-environmental interactions).

This Week’s Book Club Book!

Besides this amazing book, I have also been devouring our next book club selection.  Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan, has been really interesting, and really good!  The book follows several young men over the course of a weekend.  There are the two boys who are attempting to complete a world record longest kiss, their friends and family, and other teens in the area who are struggling with various aspects of their identity and relationships.

So far, it is AMAZING.  I even started a Padlet to house all the life lessons I am finding in this work.  Levithan is a prolific writer who states humanity’s truths in the lines of this work. More to come next week!…..

The Book I Want to Devour, But….

I’m also working on Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare.  Set in Victorian England, Tessa has stumbled upon a world filled with Shadowhunters who battle Downworlders (demons, vampires, etc.) underneath the nose of the Mundanes (regular humans).  She needs to find her brother Nate and fears something happened to him.

Tessa must discover who she is (she can turn herself into the physical bodies of other people – mostly dead), what her abilities mean, find (and save?) her brother, and attempt to understand a world she did not know existed.

I am really enjoying this book.  Here is my problem though – it is 500 pages and I feel like I am not making any progress!  Sure, I’ve read about 200 pages so far this week, not too shabby, but I am not sure that I am making the story go anywhere.  I love Clare’s imagery and the sense of wonder that Tessa explores the world with.  I really am just battling the mental wall of Am I ever going to finish this book?

I am determined to finish it for two reasons.

1. I really am enjoying it.  The people who have recommended it did a great job!

2. I have only ever, in my ENTIRE LIFE, left one book unfinished.  I think it is my book OCD that makes me finish them.  I know, Reader’s Rights tell us we can leave a book, but I just don’t want to!

Alright, what’s a girl to do?  How do you break through the mental wall of a “doorstop novel”?  What should I try to feel like I am making progress?  Let’s talk below…