Paper Things

Paper Things 

Release Date: February 10, 2015
Pages:384 
Audience:  12 and up 

The Story 

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been "couch surfing," staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Story from Goodreads 

Book Trailer

Strengths 

I really enjoyed how this book addresses what it is like to be homeless.  I think it will make many stop and be thankful for the little things like food, a shower, and a safe place to sleep. I think it could also stir up some discussion on how homeless people are portrayed too.  

Weaknesses 

When I got done with this book, I was so frustrated. All Ari had to do was call her guardian to get out of this situation. Why did Ari's guardian just let her go with her brother?  There wasn't a situation that made them leave other than her brother didn't like his guardian. It just didn't feel real to me. 

 It would have been more real if Ari's mom or guardian  lost her job, couldn't pay for her rent, and got kicked out of their home and the family ended up homeless. This happens more than we like to think. The plot of this story was just too over the top for me personally, but I do think that middle grade readers who enjoy problem novels may enjoy this one. I also think it could be a favorite for teachers and I could see it possibly making some state nominee lists.

Overall, despite my frustration, Ari has stuck with me and I did really appreciate this novel. It made me rethink my life and be thankful for the little things that I have. It also made me rethink how as a society we handle the homeless situation, and how I can help. Perhaps I was just too wrapped up in the character Ari.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Pamela 



Sweet Sounds: Listen Up!

Hello friends!

First of all, this is our 100th blog post! Whoohoo!

via GIPHY
I know you probably think I have been kidnapped by pirates, on an expedition to find bigfoot, or lost in Narnia. While I have embarked on none of these exciting adventures, I have been trying to tame the monster that is my Master's in Library and Information Science.
 Can anyone relate?

However, I have been listening to quite a few audiobooks I am excited to write about. Here is a preview: Have you listened to or read any of theses? 








Until Next Time,

Alyssa

Writing Tips from Clare Vanderpool


Writing Tips from Clare Vanderpool


In April, I got the pleasure of hearing Clare Vanderpool speak. I am always interested in hearing  writing tips from authors, and she delivered a great presentation on this subject. 


In my own words, here are some of the things she covered in her presentation. 





Background


Clare Vanderpool is from Kansas. She always loved to write, but was never formally trained. She was 46 when her first book was published. She went on to win 2001 Newbery Award and she was also
2014 Printz Award Winner


To become a writer you need to be….


Optimistic
Clare was rejected 76 times by publishers. It is okay to fail. Sometimes that is part of the fun, but always be optimistic and persevere.


Hard Working
Set aside time to write everyday. This will help you to master your craft.


Playful
Have fun, travel, pay attention to detail. These things will inspire you & it may find its way into your book.  


A Reader
In order to master the craft of writing, you need to study it. Read as much as you possibly can and pay attention to other writer’s writing styles.


Be Humble
Be modest and open to new ideas.


Be Apart of a Group
Writing is a solitary activity. You need other people. It is important to join a writing organization or club. It is also important to study writing. Go to writing workshops and take writing classes.


When Writing…




Let it Go
Try not to think too hard about character conflict, the climax of the story, or the story itself.  Instead, let your character take on the story. If you do this, these things will naturally fall into place. More importantly, you can only do this by doing it.
Remember to practice, practice, practice!


Know there is Power in a Story
Connect to your story and create a journey for readers to go on.


Pay Attention
Listen to other’s stories and visit other places.  Sometimes these places and  truth stories can even stranger than fiction. Let that inspire you.


Have Perspective
The way you see your story is different from how readers will see it. Pull back and try to see what you are about as a writer.

Aren't these great?! I hope to someday turn these writing tips into a successful writing program, but I haven't found the right time or formatting for it.

Has anyone put on a successful tween writing program?

-Pamela



Honey


Honey 
By: Sarah Weeks 


Release Date: January 27, 2015
Pages:  160
Audience: Ages 8-12

The Story 

For a girl like Melody and a dog like Mo, life can be both sticky and sweet.
 
Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It's been just her and her father, and she's been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone Honey -- and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It's up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden.
 
Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn't remember much from when he was a puppy . . . but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he's sure, will change everything.
 
In HONEY, Sarah Weeks introduces two characters -- one a girl, one a dog-- who are reaching back further than their memories in order to figure out where they came from and where they're going.

Provided from Goodreads 


Strengths 

The mystery of trying to figure out who her dad was dating was decent. I also enjoyed learning about Melody's mom as the character did. That in itself was like a slow mystery as she slowing learned bits and pieces and had to put it together. 

Weaknesses 

I hate to say it, but I really didn't like the dog's narrative! I felt like it didn't flow with the rest of the story. The change of view points between Melody, the dog, and the Bee Hive owner was also a little confusing. I think this might especially confuse some of my younger readers. 

Overall 
Although this book could make some readers shed some tears, I did enjoy it. 
This was a fun quick read. The book Pie by Sarah Weeks is one of my all time favorites. The book Honey stays true to Weeks' writing style, and it is great for her fans or for other readers who enjoy realistic fiction. 

- Pamela 

Circus Mirandus


Circus Mirandus 
By: Cassie Beasley 



The Story 

From School Library Journal

Micah Tuttle has been living with his Grandpa Ephraim since his parents died. The two are close; Grandpa Ephraim teaches Micah how to tie complicated knots and tells him fanciful tales about the magical Circus Mirandus and its many performers, including a powerful illusionist called the Lightbender. When Grandpa Ephraim becomes gravely ill, his sister, the strict Aunt Gertrudis, comes to take care of the household. She severely limits Micah's time with his sick grandfather, and the boy is distraught at the idea of losing the only important person in his life. In a stolen moment, Grandpa Ephraim surprises Micah by revealing that the Circus Mirandus is real, and that the Lightbender promised him a miracle when he was a child. Michah then begins to hope that his grandfather will get well. The Circus Mirandus arrives in town on the wind, and Micah, with the help of his classmate Jenny Mendoza, seeks out the Lightbender and tries to retrieve the miracle that Grandpa Ephraim has requested. During a whirlwind adventure in the Circus, Micah learns about his family and discovers that the miracle that Grandpa Ephraim asked for might not be the one that Micah had in mind. 

Strengths 

I loved the relationship between Micah and his grandfather. I was also really impressed by the world building. It in itself  & the circus is like magic. After reading this book, I can easily see why it was  star reviewed and it was on many Newbery watch lists.  It reminds me of the magic of reading the Polar Express as a child. It makes you want to believe in magic and in the impossible.

Weaknesses 

When the book ended, there were a lot of loose ends. I am told, however that there will be another book to tie up the loose ends that were left.  I can't wait to read the sequel!




Update: I waited to write this review. After waiting so long, my thoughts on this book have changed. When I first read it, I was really blown away by the world building and the circus. Normally, I hate books about grief and dying, but I liked the theme of letting go. I am really disappointed to say that I have completely forgotten most of the plot. After you finish the book, I think the magic quickly fades. I do think it is still worth reading though! I would recommend it to readers who like fantasy circus stories.

What did you think of this book? 

Pamela





We Are All Made Of Molecules



We Are All Made of Molecules 
By: Susin Nielsen 


Release Date: May 12, 2015
Pages: 256 
Audience: Ages 12 and up 

The Story 

Thirteen-year old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.
Fourteen-year old Ashley is the undisputed "it" girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it, but Ashley is 110% horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out. "Spewart" could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one they in common: they- like everyone else-are made of molecules.


Story provided by Goodreads

Strengths 

I liked how Stewart and Ashley were complete opposites. It gave this book a lot of humor.

For example, Stewart thinks Ashley is hard of hearing because she ignores him. This leads to some humorous scenes where Stewart is yelling at Ashley because he thinks she can't hear. 

It gave this book a great rhythm, and I had trouble putting it down! 


I also appreciate the cover and the theme. I think it could appeal to both boys and girls. 


Weaknesses 

I would categorize this book as young adult. There is a scene where Ashley's boyfriend Jared gets Ashley drunk. He gets her so drunk she passes out, and Jared takes her up to her room. While she is passed out, Jared invites his buddies up to her room too. There they take off her clothes and take pictures of her in her underwear. Stewart stops it, but it is hinted that there was more going on that the character Stewart didn't understand. We need books like this to share with kids, but this content is a little much for my 8-12 audience. It would be better suited for 8th grade and up. 



Overall, I enjoyed this book! I think it has the elements that could put it on some state award lists. 


Have you read this book yet? What did you think? 


Pamela 





Listen, Slowly

Listen, Slowly 


Audience: grades 5-8
Release date: February 17, 2015
Pages: 272

The Story 

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead,  she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.


Story description provided by Goodreads 

The Book Trailer 




Strengths

With this book, I traveled to Vietnam.
I traveled the towns with Mai, I ate exotic food,  and vividly saw all of the Vietnam Animals.
Its description was so vivid, I could see it all.To me, this is what makes this book special.

Another aspect that sets it apart, is the description of the Vietnam War, and the mystery behind what happened to Mai's grandfather in the war.  I was not exposed to the Vietnam War until I was in college. I really appreciated this history in a middle grade book. It is the perfect foothold to introduce it to my library kids. I also think that many schools will use it in in their curriculum for this purpose.


Weaknesses

With this setting, I wanted to love this book. I wanted it to win me over in rereads, but I had the hardest time connecting to the character. I felt like Mai was just a brat. She did develop a little throughout the book, but she was very whiny & selfish.  I wanted to give Mai a time out!

I will say that this book has stuck with me. I think it is a powerful one.

Overall, I do think it is a wonderful book! It does have an audience and literary merit.


Pamela 







Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan

It is Mark Twain Nominee Monday! 

Here is the Nominee & the discussion questions of the week: 

Counting by 7's 
By: Holly Sloan 


The Story 

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
 
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone. Told from four different viewpoints, Willow must overcome her grief and find a new family. 


Also, check out this great book trailer!







My Thoughts 

This reminded me a lot of the books Wonder and Out of My Mind. Since it exhibits many of the same qualities of these books, I think that is why my tweens are flocking to it.

It is a very popular one at my library, but I have to admit, I had some trouble with this one. I just did not feel like it was realistic at all. I don't want to give too much away, but I wish the author made the character go through more of a struggle. I just felt like everything worked out too perfectly, but maybe after all the great reviews I read on this I expected too much & it didn't even out!



Please don't get me wrong though, I do think that there are some worth while themes in the book that are important. For instance, I think a lot of tweens enjoy this book because it hits on the aspect of not fitting in. It also touches on how everyone tries to put people into categories and giving them labels.




 The majority of this book is how the characters deal with these struggles. I think this is something that many of our tweens deal with on a daily basis. In this aspect, I do feel like this makes this book a worth while read for this age group. I think it is especially important to us as educators to use this book in our discussions to try & open door to discuss some of these feeling and hardships.

Discussion Questions 

What makes Willow different?

Is Dell a good counselor? Why does he take interest in Willow?

Pattie does not have much to offer Willow. Why does she agree to take Willow in? Is she the right person to take care of Willow?

After the social worker does the house check, Patti says: “What we expect rarely occurs; what we don’t expect is what happens.” What does she mean by this? Is this true?

Why did they think Willow cheated on her test? Could Dell have changed their mind? Why didn’t he? Why didn’t Willow tell her parents?

How does gardening & running help Willow heal?

Mai believes that her acorn is lucky & her mom, Patti, believes that wearing red finger nail polish is lucky. Do you think that it was luck that changed their situation around? Does luck exist or is it what you make of your situation?

How does Willow change the people around her? How does Willow change throughout the course of the book? How does she address her grief throughout the book?

What is significant about the number 7 in the book?

Willow compares her life to a plant. How is her life like a plant? Willow tries to not set down roots. What does this mean? Does end up doing so anyway?

Willow says that giving in is different than giving up. What does she mean by this? Is this true? Willow also says it is impossible to put people in categories (which Dells does) is this true?

Books like this one 



Until next time,

Pamela 

Finding Someplace

Finding Someplace 
By: Denise Lewis Patrick 


Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: 224 
Audience:  Grade 4 and up 

The Story 
In August of 2005, all Reesie can think about is her upcoming thirteenth birthday. It is going to be the best birthday in New Orleans! She has been preparing for it for weeks by sewing the perfect birthday outfit. As her birthday arrives, Hurricane Katrina bares closer and closer to New Orleans. After realizing that the family will be directly hit by the massive hurricane, Reesie’s family cancels her party. Her mom (a nurse) and her father (a policeman), are called into work. Before they go, they arrange for Reesie to leave the city of New Orleans with her uncle. Reesie goes to sleep and waits for her uncle to pick her up the next day. When she wakes up the next morning, her uncle calls to tell her that he is having trouble getting to her. In the rush of canceling her party and leaving for the storm, Reesie forgot to cancel the order on her birthday cake. As she waits for her uncle she decides to pick her cake up  at Ms. Martine’s house.  While she is there, her uncle calls to let her know that he cannot come. Reesie must weather the storm with Ms. Martine.


As the storm hits, Ms. Martine tells Reesie about her life to help keep her mind off the storm. As quickly as it came, it ends. When there is a knock at the door, Reesie expects it to be her parents, but it is her friend’s older brother, Dre, and his new wife with bad news. There is water coming. Reesie and her new friends climb to the roof where a boat comes by to save them. Reesie briefly goes to the Superdome where she is mugged. Luckily, her police officer father has been looking for her & finds her there.  With the mass destruction in their neighborhood, there is no going back home. Thankfully, Reesie’s mom has family in New Jersey. Both Reesie and her mother move to New Jersey while her dad stays in New Orleans to rebuild. Even though the hurricane is over with, Reesie faces PSD. Will home ever be the same? Reesie learns that home is not the place you live, but it is the people that you are with that make it home.


Strengths


I had trouble putting this book down! I really became invested in the characters. I especially love Ms. Martine! I wish she was in the story more. I respect the author’s ability to create such interesting supporting characters. I was interested in following all of them to see what happened. In middle grade books, this is rare & it really made the book come alive for me.


Weaknesses


The ending did not feel complete to me. I did like that Reesie went back to New Orleans, but I still felt like there was a lot of unanswered questions like what will her family do now? Perhaps the author left the ending this way to portray how evacuees felt, but it still felt incomplete.
I especially wanted more with Reesie’s relationship with Orlando. I felt like this part could have either been taken out of the book or there could have been more added to it to help tie up some loose ends with this new relationship. Perhaps Dre and his wife could have visited Reesie with Orlando to make it flow better?


Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
For the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this was a great tribute to people of New Orleans & it gives a wonderful timeline of the events to keep its memory alive.


Other Resources 

Facts for Kids 

Survivor Stories- 10 Years Later

More Books Like This One 






- Pamela


     

The Detective's Assistant



The Detective's Assistant 
By: Kate Hannigan 


Release Date: April 17, 2015
Audience: Grades 4 and up 
Pages: 368 

"And suddenly I understood what it meant to have faith in someone. Faith wasn't about evidence and eyewitnesses, like with Aunt Kitty and Mr. Pinkerton's other detectives. Faith was something you knew inside- from your heart all the way to the tip of your toes."


The Story 

From Goodreads 

Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt's doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it's the miserable Home for the Friendless. Her aunt is immediately hesitant to take Nell in. Nell's father killed Kate's husband. 

Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate...and not just by helping out with household chores. For Aunt Kate is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present. It is up to Nell solve the biggest mystery of all and to find out what happened to her uncle and prove her father's innocence. 

Based on the extraordinary true story of Kate Warne, this fast-paced adventure recounts feats of daring and danger...including saving the life of Abraham Lincoln!
 


Strengths

Two things I liked about the story:

1. The main character, Nell, has a African American best friend.  As they write each other throughout the book, they discuss the racial issues, underground railroad, and abolition. This is such a sneaky way to teach kids about these issues!

2. It brings to light the history of Kate Warne & gender roles. The book also covers how Kate Warne saved Abraham Lincoln from an assassination attempt. I loved that it highlighted this. Girls can do anything!


Weaknesses 

 My biggest concern is that I felt like it was too long for most middle graders. This would have been better if it covered one or two mystery cases. My middle graders tend to like things that are about
150 -250 pages.  If it is anything more, their little eyes go big and they ask for something else.

With this, I think it will only appeal to my eager reading historical fiction lovers. Unfortunately, there is just not a lot of these kids.

Overall, I do feel like this is a face paced and exciting read.

I will try my best to sell this one to my library kids.


Extras 

At Graceland Cemetery

Interview with the Author

Discussion Questions


Non- Fiction Book Pairings 







Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye


Pamela 







What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World


What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World 
By: Henry Clark 


The Story 


While waiting for their bus to come, Freak, River, and Fiona find a mysterious couch. As they sit down on the couch to relax before their bus comes, they find a crayon and a sock in the couch cushions. The next day, Fiona reports that she looked the crayon up online, and it is worth a lot of money! The kids agree to sell it online & split the money. As they post this ad up online, the kids unknowingly become involved in a plot to take over the world. Freak, River, and Fiona, must now try to stop invaders from another world from taking over the world before it is too late.


My Thoughts for Reader's Advisory 

This science fiction novel is one of a kind. One thing that sets this book apart is its political humor. It has a little bit of everything for both kids and adults. If you do pick it up, I would recommend going into it with an open mind. Like the title, this story line is a bit over the top. I had trouble with some of these outlandish plot lines, but I do see many of my tween boys enjoying this book. 


Discussion Questions 

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World
Discussion Questions

  1. What is significant about the crayon? Even though the crayon is small, it caused a lot to happen! Has there ever been a time when something big happened over something small in your life?

  1. Do you think River, Freak, and Fiona would be friends even if they did not go on this adventure? How did their friendship change over the course of the book?


  1. Cell phones were used to control characters in the book. What message do you think the author is trying to send with this? Do you think that cell phones control us?

  1. There is a lot of futuristic technologies in this book. If you could have any of the technologies from this book, which one would it be and why?

  1. In this book, a parallel world exists. If you could create a world of your own, what would be in it?  

  1. Who is the leader of this group? Describe some characteristics of a good leader. Can everyone be a leader in their own way?

  1. Why doesn’t Alf tell the kids everything when he first meets them? Should the kids have trusted him? Would you? Why or why not?

  1. At the end of the story, River sees his parents, who died several years before. Do you think he really saw them?

  1. What will happen to River, Freak, and Fiona now? Do you think that Edward Disin is really gone?

  1. In the book, the couch can teleport. If you could teleport anywhere, where would you go?


More Books Like This One 


Until next time, 

Pamela




Best Homework Sites For Tweens


Today, I had a bus full of tweens visit me for a tour of my college work place.  I noticed a lot of staff roll their eyes, drink lots of extra coffee, and brace themselves for their arrival. As the buses arrived, this negative energy created an ominous feel. It was so ominous, as the kids filed off the buses you could hear the Imperial March playing.

 (I just got done watching a Star Wars marathon. Anyone else excited for the movie?)

My fellow coworkers reaction was normal. Any bus full of kids arriving at a work place would cause this reaction.

I only mention this story because it made me realize how sometimes we don't provide the best services to tweens just because of their age & reputation.

When it comes to reference services, I think tweens don't always get the best service either.

I know sometimes I am guilty of this.  I might  be tempted to spend more time with an adorable toddler who is looking for a Disney book than try and tackle a grumpy tween looking for a book for class the night before an assignment is due.

Today, I wanted to share some of my favorite sites for tweens (ages 8-12) & their educators.

I hope that by sharing some of these resources, we can provide better library service to tweens.

Here are my 2015 favorites: 

DK Encyclopedia



When this site launched this year, I was blown away. It is an interactive visual encyclopedia. I especially like this resource for looking up math vocabulary questions. 

Its attractive color scheme, pictures, and user friendly format will attract kids. 

This is perfect for  young users who need an online source. 


I am a visual learner, and I tend to sympathize with my other visual learning patrons. Mocomi is the perfect source for this! It provides online videos explaining concepts ranging from history- math. This is a fantastic resource to look at when asked those homework questions! 



Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I needed to teach young children how to code. Nor would I have thought that I would need resources to teach these kids how to code in a library setting. This resource provides fun games to explain to kids how coding works. This is similar to the program Scratch, but it uses characters that have more kid appeal such as Frozen. 




Get Epic is a online library. It is $5 a month for parents and kids, but it is free to educators. This resource is perfect for those teachers who need a ton of books on a subject & you don't have them on your shelf! I have had really good response showing them this resource. 

This resource may also benefit kids who have to read on a certain reading level for school. It breaks down a lot of popular books and if you pay the $5 they can read those books instantly. I was really impressed by the content. It has a lot of quality information and popular titles such as Big Nate. 







Common Core is a mystery to some parents. Lean Zillion is the first cloud based curriculum. It is competently free! It breaks down what your child is learning and why. From there, it has instructional videos and handouts explaining math concepts. I love to recommend this resource to parents and to kids who are struggling with their math. It is perfect for kids who learn in a different way. 

These are just a few resources! 

For even more resources, you can also visit ALSC Best Web Sites For Kids

Do you have any favorite go to online resources for kids? 


-Pamela

*Please note that none of these resources are mine. They are copyrighted by all of their individual owners. I am just sharing these websites as a learning tool. To learn more about them, please visit the websites provided.*

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing
By: Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing, #1)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same? 

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 


Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 


But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust


Review:


I'll be honest, this was not a book I would have picked up on my own. My first thought after reading the summary was, "This is going to be a bad knock-off of the Hunger Games and Divergent." "The Testing" was nominated for our 6th-8th grade state award, so I read it to discuss on an outreach visit to an intermediate school. After reading the book, I can verify that my initial reaction was correct for the most part. However, I do think teens who are still dystopian fans will enjoy this one.


Cia and Tomas are exceedingly flat and, frankly, boring characters. I could not connect with either character and had difficulty forming a good picture both her and Tomas in my mind. In addition, their romance has little substance and is poorly executed. This criticism; however, stems from my desire for all books to be well written and will probably not even be noticed by the teens. The plot was a little disturbing, but gentler than the Hunger Games. One of the issues I have with this book is that it cannot stand on its own. There is no way to read it without comparing it back to Hunger Games and Divergent. I did enjoy the survival/living off the land aspect of the plot. In addition, the plot progression kept me engaged for the most part. It was just interesting enough to give me the fortitude to finish "The Testing" and is the only reason I gave this two stars, instead of one. 




How do you weigh in on the dystopian argument? Are you a hardcore fan or just ready for something fresh?


~Alyssa



The Terrible Two

The Terrible Two 
By: Mac Barnett 


Release Date; January 13, 2015
Audience: Ages 8 and up 
Pages: 218


The Story 

Miles Murphy (the school’s best prankster) is forced to move to  the town of Yawnee Valley. Since it is a boring town, Miles Murphy expects school to be nothing less. He will easily be the school's best prankster in no time. As he arrives to school on his first day, he quickly finds he not the only prankster. Someone has blocked the school’s entrance with the principal's car! This sets into motion a hilarious battle of wits between Miles and the mysterious prankster. As they try to out prank each other, they quickly learn that sometimes it is better to work together.

The Book Trailer 




Strengths 

This is a hilarious book that it is filled with entertaining pictures. I found its humor to be witty and to appeal to all ages. I even thought it was clever that the author sprinkled facts about cows throughout the book. What a great idea for a book pairing!

Weaknesses 


This was fluffy and pretty predictable. The only thing I really didn’t like was the adults vs.kids aspect, but perhaps this is some of the appeal to kids. 

Overall, I think this one will be great for fans of Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It is one fast and funny read!


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What are some of your favorite books for tween boys? 

- Pamela