Share

The Forest Queen
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Published: August 7, 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Guest Review by Rachel Krieger

Summary: When sixteen-year-old Sylvie’s brother takes over management of their family’s vast estates, Sylvie feels powerless to stop his abuse of the local commoners. Her dearest friend asks her to run away to the woods with him, and soon a host of other villagers join them. Together, they form their own community and fight to right the wrongs perpetrated by the king and his noblemen.

Review: Anyone familiar with the tale of Robin Hood likes the idea of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Betsy Cornwell’s twist on this idea changes it just enough to give the story some flavor and novelty. The characters were compelling and the relationships were truly touching, but everything felt a little too convenient to me. There were several times when characters all but died and ended up making it out without a scrape. In a world where all of the favorable characters are on the lamb, there was a fair amount of luck and inaction that saved nearly every one of them. As a gender bent twist on a fairytale and a lively retelling of an old story, this novel had merit, but there wasn’t quite enough to it to call it a masterpiece.

However, as far as representation goes, Betsy Cornwell hit it on the head. The Forest Queen, as the title lets on, has a female leading things. The role of Robin Hood was usurped by a woman and amplified by the fact that the woman is stealing from her own family to give to the poor. The other females in the novel show strength in the face of things like rape and a shocking lack of agency. There are even LGBTQ characters that add to the sense that women in this world are the epitome of overcoming their circumstances.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation:This novel is a great outlet in which to discuss rape culture. Although it is not the most prominent part of the story, it plays a part and is represented in an ideal way in relation to discussion. Because this subject is extremely difficult to discuss in general, let alone in a classroom, talking about it within the realm of this fantastical society may make it a bit easier. It would be interesting to reflect upon the similarities between the culture in the novel and our own culture in this society. It is so incredibly important to discuss difficult subjects in the classroom, but when it is in reference to a novel like The Forest Queen, it can be looked at in a more academic way.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Did Sylvie have a right to encourage the village people to rebel against her brother?
  • What do the ties to the story of Robin Hood do for this novel?
  • How do women take power in this story and how does that differ from classic fantasy?

Read This If You Loved: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

RickiSig

Share

The Lost Girl
Author: Anne Ursu
Published February 12th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: Sometimes you need to lose something in order to find yourself.

Beloved author John David Anderson returns with a heartwarming, heartbreaking and unforgettable story of the true power and limits of family.

    Ron Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jelly beans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always onstage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.

    He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays, handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially since his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.

    Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but fell that that’s not the end of the story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.

    He doesn’t know how right he is.

About the Author:John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s never eaten seven scoops of ice cream in a single sitting, but he thinks it sounds like a terrific idea. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

Praise: 

“Readers will be happily swept along by Rion’s first-person narration, which is often amusing, sometimes bemused, and occasionally even tender as he shows how his family was unwittingly drawn together by their shared experience. Anderson offers another original novel written with wit and compassion.” – Booklist

“Humor, plot twists, and quirky characters abound in this earnest middle grade tale of self-discovery.” – School Library Journal

“Eccentric yet believable characters and Rion’s perceptive narration prevent Anderson’s unpredictable tale from feeling overwrought as the relationships between three generations of fathers and sons are rewritten anew.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Review: The characters’ last name says it all: Kwirk. This book is full of quirks. I found the beginning so funny that I had to read it out loud to my son and husband while we were driving, and that was literally and figuratively just the beginning. I have read all but one of Anderson’s books, and reading Finding Orion reminded me again why I enjoy his writing so much: that Anderson does so brilliantly, when he tackles humor, is that he can combine a serious topic (death) with humor and it doesn’t seem far fetched or cheap. It seems perfect. 

The cast of characters, though over the top at times, added so much to the story. They are extravagant, a bit weird, and very entertaining. While Rion sometimes found himself just along for the ride, the other characters took the wheel and drove us through the story.

Another winning book for Anderson that I cannot wait to share with my students.

Educators’ Guide: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • When was a time that you felt like an outcast in your family?
  • What jelly bean flavor would you want to try? Would never try?
  • How did Papa Kwirk’s personality affect how different his son is?
  • Rion and his sisters are more alike than he wants to admit. Create only a comparison chart showing how they are alike with text evidence to support it.
  • How did the fun-neral change Rion’s perspective on his grandfather?
  • How did learning about the whole other life his grandfather have affect Rion?
  • What roles did the animals play in the story?
  • How is the author’s ability to create quirky characters change the trajectory of the story?

Flagged Passages: Read an excerpt here! It is the first few pages that had me actually laughing out loud while reading it.

Read This If You Love: The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman, Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard, Death and Douglas by JW Ockler, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t miss out on the other stops in the blog tour!

Blog Tour May 6-14, 2019

May 6 Nerdy Book Club
May 7 Bluestocking Thinking
May 8 The Book Monsters
May 9 Maria’s Melange
May 13 This Kid Reviews Books
May 14 Kirsti Call

Signature

**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

Tagged with:
 
Share

IMWAYR 2015 logo

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Bold_line

Thursday: Guest Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Friday: The Atlas of Monsters by Sandra Lawrence and Stuart Hill

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “Dares, Diseases, and Decisions: How Wreck Came to Be” by Kirstin Cronn Mills

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

Bold_line

Kellee Ricki

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Bold_line

Tuesday: Blog Tour with Giveaway, Educators’ Guide, and Review!: Finding Orion by John David Anderson

Thursday: Guest Review: The Forest Queen by Betsy Cornwell

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “Combining History with Fantasy – Why and Three Hows” by Malayna Evans, Author of Jagger Jones & the Mummy’s Ankh

Bold_line

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

 Signature andRickiSig

 
Share

“Dares, Diseases, and Decisions: How Wreck Came to Be” Trigger Warning: Death, Assisted Suicide

In the summer of 2015, an editor said to me, “You know, I’ve never seen a YA novel about assisted suicide.”  And I thought, “Game on,” because I’m a dumbass, of course.  In hindsight, it was a completely stupid idea to tackle. It was hard and huge. But I knew I had a lot of grief I could loan to a book like that, so I had the emotional resonance I’d need to create a character who was dealing with such a huge topic. But outside the necessary emotional knowledge? Big shrug. How the hell could a person write about that topic? After the editor’s dare (she had no idea was a dare), the idea for WRECK came to me in a big gush, while I was working with students at my college. I went to the library in between registration events and wrote a paragraph that outlined the idea. I knew it would be a father/daughter book, and I knew the dad needed a reason for assisted suicide, but I didn’t know what it was.

My first thought: active dude, marathon runner, then he suddenly can’t run. That would make anyone despondent. However, my agent at that time was a very wise, kind woman who acquired a disability in her 30s. She was very clear that Steve couldn’t just have a car accident and want to die—it’s unfair and unethical to suggest that acquiring a disability should mean you should kill yourself. She was exactly right, of course. So then I had to figure out an illness or situation where an awful end was inevitable. Then the dad’s choice would be a decision about agency, and retaining control in an uncontrollable future.

I decided early on not to write about cancer. The loved ones I’ve had with cancer have recovered. I had a loved one with Alzheimer’s, which does, in fact, lead to a horrible end, but it’salso a slow end. To be realistic, the book would have to cover years of time. But then a writing group member was telling me about her friend whose father had ALS, which is maybe more devastating than all of the terrible illnesses combined. I started doing research, and developed the utmost respect for the tenacity ALS patients and families show in the face of an infuriating, destructive, and relentlessly shitty illness.

Before I talked with the man whose dad had ALS, I had been doing  different research about assisted suicide, and ran across an article about an academic (one I remember studying, as an undergrad), who decided to end her life early because she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The New York Times did a story about her decision, and as I read it, I thought, “Here we go. This is what my character’s dad can do.” I knew how to hasten my character’s inevitable, awful end.

Then I had all my story elements: a teen and her dad, an illness to cause a horrific demise, and a way for the dad to carry out his decision. But I still didn’t have a place to set everything.

A few weeks after I scribbled that initial paragraph, we went on our annual family vacation to Duluth, and the light bulb went off again. No matter how many times I stick my feet into Lake Superior, I’m always shocked by how brutally cold the water is. And that cold became a metaphor. Then we spent some time on a beach on Park Point, where I saw an old, beat-up house among all the mansions. Suddenly Tobin and Steve had a place to live.

And then I had to write it. And it was horrifying. All of the emotional resonance I had with grief came in handy. When I wrote the most intense scene between Tobin and her dad, I had to cry for about twenty minutes before I could even get a word on the page. I had more than one weep session, in the process of the book, but none as intense as that one.

Even through all the sadness, the book got shaped, and then the editor who dared me to write it decided against it, and then it got shaped a few more times, and then it found another home, then it lost its second editor, then it found another, and . . . yeah. It was a process, as all books are. But it was the hardest, saddest book I’ve written. It used to be called THE SADDEST BOOK IN THE WORLD, but who’d buy that book?

This book caused more stress and heartache than most of my novels, but I’m proud of WRECK. I found a place to put my grief, I did justice to the father-daughter relationship between Tobin and Steve, and I wrote about one of the most beautiful places in the country. Gut-wrenching tears or not, I’m glad I did it.

More About Wreck by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Steve’s life as a paramedic and a runner comes to an abrupt halt just as Tobin is preparing her application for a scholarship to art school. With the help of Steve’s personal care assistant (and family friend) Ike, Tobin attends to both her photography and to Steve as his brain unexpectedly fails right along with his body.

Tobin struggles to find a “normal” life, especially as Steve makes choices about how his own will end, and though she fights hard, Tobin comes to realize that respecting her father’s decision is the ultimate act of love.

About the author

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is a writer and teacher. Her novel Beautiful Music for Ugly Children won the 2014 Stonewall Award from the American Library Association, and several of her books have received both state and national recognition. She lives with her family and her goofball animals in southern Minnesota, which is entirely too far from Lake Superior. Her website is: http://kirstincronn-mills.com.

Advance Reviews

“Wreck wrecked me. Kirstin Cronn-Mills has a singular way of getting inside characters heads and making their stories come to life. This book will make you cry.” —Bill Konigsberg, award-winning author of The Music of What Happens?

“A provocative, unflinching, and emotionally-complex deep dive into mortality and loss while Tobin and her father grapple with almost unfathomable decisions. A wrenching and empathetic look at the tumultuous waters and seemingly bottomless grief that can interrupt an otherwise placid life.” —Amanda MacGregor, Teen Librarian Toolbox

“This book has heart and empathy as vast and deep as the Great Lake on which it’s set.” —Geoff Herbach, award-winning author of Stupid Fast and Hooper

“Every so often a book comes along that is so sharp, so moving, so real, and so good, you want to press it into everyone’s hands and say, Read this! READ THIS!” —Courtney Summers, author of Cracked Up to Be, on Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

“A kind and satisfyingly executed portrait.” —Kirkus Reviews

Thank you, Kristin, for your post about going from an idea to a novel!

Tagged with:
 
Share

The Atlas of Monsters: Mythical Creatures from Around the World
Creators: Sandra Lawrence and Stuart Hill
Published April 23rd, 2019 by Running Press

Summary: A whimsical and imaginative catalog of fantastical beasts and creatures of myth and legend from around the world-complete with a code that needs cracking to uncover the mystery of the monster atlas!

One day a collection of very old maps is found in a dusty library. They show where in the world monsters and creatures from mythology and folklore can be found. According to the notes left with the maps, they were made by Cornelius Walters, an intrepid explorer from the 15th century. But did Walters really make these elaborate maps, or is it all a hoax? The librarian who discovered them is not certain . . . and what are the strange messages in a cryptic code that Walters records in his ship’s log? The codes throughout, once cracked, may indeed lead to something sinister that will happen should the atlas ever be published!

This is a gorgeously illustrated and comprehensive catalog of monsters, beasts, and mythical creatures from around the globe, with an easy-to-read format and incredible detail on each spread. It is many things, all at once:

  • A reference guide: Grouped by continent, this illustrated atlas lists and defines magical creatures from folklore around the world. Readers will find creatures from stories they’ve heard–like leprachauns, manticores, zombies–and learn about lesser-known creatures like the squonk, the tatzelwurm, and the fengu.
  • A journal: Presented as a record created by a fifteenth-century voyager named Cornelius Walters, the book includes Cornelius’s personal anecdotes about encountering monsters during his journey.
  • A mystery: The book also includes notes from a librarian who supposedly found the atlas and is trying to figure out whether Cornelius was making up stories for the monsters…or whether monsters are real.
  • A code: A mysterious code appears on each page and is referred to by both Cornelius and the librarian, encouraging readers to crack it…before it’s too late.

For kids (and adults) who love mythology, the supernatural, mysteries, or code-breaking, this whimsical blend of folklore and fiction provides both a joy and a surprise on every page.

About the Creators: 

Sandra Lawrence is an author and journalist. She is the author of two middle grade history books: Grisly History: Death and Destruction and Grisly History: Trials and Treachery. She lives in London, England.

Stuart Hill is an illustrator and designer. He is especially interested in printed textures, hand-lettering, and map illustration. He lives in England.

Review: This book is really everything that the summary states. It is fascinating! And beautiful! There is some humor because of the voyager’s anecdotes and the librarian’s notes, too, which is always nice. And the addition of the code adds an interactive element to the text. Highly recommended for any teacher teaching mythology or any traditional stories with monsters/creatures.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text would be perfect for teaching and discussing the Literacy.RL.9 standard which discusses how modern texts uses traditional text. Using The Atlas of Monsters, students can get an introduction to allusion around a discussion of where they have heard of the monsters before. And this is just the beginning! It would be so much fun to make your own Atlas of Monsters!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Find the clues throughout each page, and crack the codes in the book.
  • How many different points of view are shared in the book? How does this affect the reading experience?
  • Pick one of the creatures and do further research and create a longer profile about them.
  • Before reading about one of the continents, do your own research and try to predict which mythical creatures will be mentioned.
  • What are some similarities/differences between what you knew about ____ and what is in the text?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Cryptozoology, Folklore, the supernatural, code breaking

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

Signature

**Thank you Running Press Kids for providing a copy of the book to review!**

Tagged with:
 
Share

The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Published: April 11, 2018 by Balzer + Bray

Guest Review by Rachel Krieger

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Review: This heart-warming, flirtatious, love-filled book will bring you a wave of nostalgia. From the sunny summer days to all of Molly’s firsts, Becky Albertalli’s story is sure to set your heart a-flutter. The main characters make up an interracial family with LGBTQ members and an amazing affinity for love and forgiveness. With every passing page, the characters grow a little more, figuring out how to live their own lives while still making time for each other. There can be no doubt for the reader that despite all the conflict, Molly and Cassie will survive their teenage years with their strong relationship intact. Albertalli’s firm grasp on young love makes this book sweet and fun, with twists and turns that will make you read until the last word. This is a must read for any young adults, parents of teens, teachers, or anyone who enjoys a quick, uplifting read.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: The Upside of Unrequited can start a lot of amazing conversations in the classroom. One really important aspect of the story is the main character, Molly’s weight. She has felt her whole life as though she deserves the harsh words people send her way simply because of her weight. It could be very interesting to start a conversation with students about bullying and the effect it can have on people in the long run. Another important aspect of the story that can be brought up in the classroom is identity. In the novel, Molly self-identifies as fat. She doesn’t necessarily want to become skinnier or have people stop looking at her as fat, but she wishes that her weight didn’t matter. She adopts it as part of her identity and wants acceptance for it. It would be really beneficial to discuss identity and the specific positives and negatives that can stem from it.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did the first-person point of view do for the story?
  • Did you find the adult characters in this novel realistic?
  • What was important about the familial relationships in this novel?
  • What is the poignancy of the title?

We Flagged: “I think this is me letting go. Bit by bit. I think these are our tiny steps away from each other. Making not-quite-identical footprints in not-quite-opposite directions. And it’s the end of the world and the beginning of the world and we’re seventeen. And it’s an awesome thing.”

Read This If You Loved: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

RickiSig

Tagged with:
 
Share

IMWAYR 2015 logo

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Bold_line

Tuesday: In-Class Book Clubs in Kellee’s Classes

Thursday: Guest Review: Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Friday: Blog Tour with Review and Giveaway!: We Are (Not) Friends by Anna Kang

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “Environmental Science Activities for Kids” by Donna Latham, Author of Biomes: Discover the Earth’s Ecosystems with Environmental Science Activities for Kids

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

Bold_line

Kellee

  • Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly is a story about a girl connecting with the story of a lonely whale and doing anything to be there for him.
  • My students are right! The Land of Stories true conflict doesn’t truly begin until Beyond the Kingdoms. WOW! Craziness!

Ricki

Ricki is away on maternity leave and will return mid-June. Happy reading!

Bold_line

Kellee

  • Reading: Finding Orion by John David Anderson
  • Listening: Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot by Adam Gidwitz and Joseph Bruchac
  • Reading with Trent: Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot by Dav Pilkey
  • Listening with Trent: A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
  • Reading next: ?? The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd, The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Black, or Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Bold_line

Thursday: Guest Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Friday: The Atlas of Monsters by Sandra Lawrence and Stuart Hill

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “Dares, Diseases, and Decisions: How Wreck Came to Be” by Kirstin Cronn Mills

Bold_line

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

 Signature andRickiSig