Bruised by Sarah Skilton



Author: Sarah Skilton
Published March 5, 2013 by Amulet/Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Imogen has always believed that her black belt in Tae Kwon Do made her stronger than everyone else–more responsible, more capable. But when she witnesses a holdup in a diner, she freezes. The gunman is shot and killed by the police. And it’s all her fault.

Now she’s got to rebuild her life without the talent that made her special and the beliefs that made her strong. If only she could prove herself in a fight–a real fight–she might be able to let go of the guilt and shock. She’s drawn to Ricky, another witness to the holdup, both romantically and because she believes he might be able to give her the fight she’s been waiting for.

But when it comes down to it, a fight won’t answer Imogen’s big questions: What does it really mean to be stronger than other people? Is there such a thing as a fair fight? And can someone who’s beaten and bruised fall in love?

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Imogen is broken and she must overcome this feeling of hopelessness that surrounds her constantly. What an intense way to introduce us to a character? We then go on a journey with Imogen as she tries to rebuild her life, her memories, her friendships, and her family.

At first I struggled with this book because the timeline was choppy, and Imogen was hard to pinpoint. But then, through the flashbacks, Imogen starts to become clearer to us, the reader, and Imogen’s memories start to become clearer to her. Then you are so sucked into wanting to know everything, and you can only know everything if you stick with the book and see Imogen’s memories as they are revealed. This is a pretty brilliant tactic in making the reader feel like they are in the protagonist’s brain.

Bruised actually reminds me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Both young ladies are thrown into a tragedy, let that tragedy eat away at their hearts and souls, and have to figure out how to find themselves again. Truly a remarkable journey to go on with a character.  And, like Speak, there are some intense topics/themes dealt with in Bruised that will definitely grab a teen’s attention: sibling rivalry, a disabled parent, disconnected family, friendship, sex, love, survival, and martial arts. It is one of those books that teens need to read, so they can learn to become resilient and to overcome whatever is in their path.

Discussion Questions: Is it ever okay to lie?; Would you have been able to forgive your best friend if she’d done what Shelly did?; Was it right of Imogen to call Grant down during the demonstration?; Why was having Ricky there such an important part of Imogen’s recovery?

We Flagged: “Don’t you recognize me?” says Ricky after a moment.
Confused, I force myself to look up from the floor, up his legs and along his body, until I’m looking him in the eyes.
I hear gunshots, the cashier crying, and the police sirens, but I don’t look away.
He’s my friend from under the table.” (p. 60)

“Today, eleven days later, I slide down the wall of my own shower and curl up in a ball, tuck my knees under my chin, and wrap my arms around my head. I’ve taken showers since the diner, but this one’s different. Get smaller. Small as you can be. Low to the ground is comforting, standing up is bad. Why is standing up bad? What happins if you stand up? (You don’t want to know.) Reset button. Start at the beginning. Gretchen’s in the bathroom when the gunman comes in. I see the glint of his gun, and I hide under the table. There’s Ricky, under a different table, he brings his finger to his lips. Shh…” (p. 95-96)

Read This If You Loved: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Stained by Cheryl Rainfield, Rape Girl by Alina Klein

Recommended For: 



Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Kellee’s Review)



Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published September 10th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Press

Goodreads Summary: A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . . But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?  And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Ricki’s Review: Ricki was lucky enough to read this book before me and wrote a wonderful review in December, so check that one out too!

Kellee’s Review: You know a book is good when in the first 5 pages you already know and feel for you main character. Cath is like many college freshman–afraid. She has known one world for so long and everything around her is changing. This book is about her figuring out her way. Anyone that went to college will connect with Cath and her struggles of finding a balance between who you were in high school and who you are becoming. I really appreciate Rainbow Rowell’s main characters and how they are not perfect–this makes them so much more relatable. (I just give a shout out to the Emergency Dance Party scene–this made me love Cath so much!)

Oh, and the dialogue! I love the way her characters converse. The banter is hilarious and just perfect. Also, I cannot review this book without giving props to the secondary characters. They are so solid and thought out. Although Cath is the main character, no one feels like Rainbow Rowell didn’t put love and time into them. I especially love their father who is probably the most flawed character but is so full of love. (Oh, and Levi. Who cannot love Levi?!?!?!)

[As a teacher, I also liked the look into Levi’s struggle with reading yet his amazing intelligence. I think it is a great conversation starter and a great example of many of the students I encounter. Pg. 168 is Levi’s explanation of his struggles–powerful.]

And all of the book love! Anyone who has ever loved a book or series will adore the fangirl moments. Although an obvious allusion to Harry Potter, Cath and Wren’s love of Simon Snow will make any reader think about their favorite novel which they lose themselves in.

Also this book is about writing: the beauty of good writing and the struggle of good writing. Cath can write in the world of Simon Snow, but struggles in finding her own world. This actually runs parallel quite beautifully with her finding of her self. She is literally and figuratively trying to find her own voice. (And I love that a teacher plays a role in this.)

Overall, a just-right book. I read it in one sitting and didn’t want to put it down. (It did remind me a lot of Anna and the French Kiss–did anyone else feel this way?), but it really was a solid story filled with just enough love, nerdy, and soul searching.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: I can see how many aspects of this novel could be used in a creative writing course. So much of Cath’s story revolves around writing and different scenes or pieces of fanfiction could be pulled out to use in class. I especially like the discussion about “Why write fiction?” on pg. 21-23.

I also would love to analyze more the excerpts that are put before each chapter and how they connect with the chapter. Many have theme connections or direct character connections. They were placed very intentionally and discussing why would be so interesting.

Check out Ricki’s recommendations here.

Discussion Questions: Cath loves to write, but often finds it hard; what is something you do that you love, but often find challenging? How do you overcome this?; How does Simon Snow compare to Harry Potter?

We Flagged: “Cath wasn’t sure how she was going to keep everything straight in her head. The final project, the weekly writing assignments–on top of all her other classwork, for every other class.  All the reading, all the writing. The essays, the justifications, the reports. Plus Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays writing with Nick. Plus Carry on. Plus e-mail and notes and comments… Cath felt like she was swimming in words. Drowning in them, sometimes.” (p. 100)

Read This If You Loved: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes, You Against Me by Jenny Downham, My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody

Recommended For: 

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Hearts by Thereza Rowe & Never Too Little to Love by Jeanne Willis


Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Today I wanted to share with you two picture books I have read recently that are perfect to read with your children on Valentine’s Day (or any day to promote love and kindness).


Never Too Little To Love
Author: Jeanne Willis
Illustrator: Jan Fearnley
Published February 7th, 2005 by Walker Books Ltd

Goodreads Summary: Whimsical watercolors illustrate a comical, cumulative tale of an amorous mouse who aims impossibly high — and learns that you’re never too little (or too big) to love.

Tiny Too-Little loves someone who’s very, very tall, and Tiny wants a kiss. What if he stands on his tiptoes on top of a thimble? What if he stands on his tiptoes on top of a matchbox on top of a thimble? Clever cut-away pages show Tiny’s precarious pile growing higher and higher, while the object of his affection stays just out of reach. When the teetering stack finally falls with a crash, will his hopes be dashed? How can a tiny mouse get the kiss he needs?

My Review: This story of opposites attract will tug at the heart strings of its readers. It is so cute to watch the mouse try everything it can to reach up to give his love a kiss.  It also has great opportunities for choral reading as it is much like “There’s a hole at the bottom of the sea” and I can see children reciting all the different things that Tiny Too-Little stands on. And the moral behind the story (everyone deserves to be loved) is one that every little reader needs to hear. This will be such a fun book to read to my son!


Author: Thereza Rowe
Published January 7th, 2014 by Toon Books

Goodreads Summary: When Penelope the Fox drops her heart into the sea, she’s swept off on a perilous journey, dodging sharks and royal cat-guards until a cartwheeling chicken leads her to the land of lost things. Young readers will fall in love with Thereza Rowe’s bold and playful designs. And as they follow Penelope (and her heart!), they will learn what is truly precious.

My Review: This is a much more complex story than I thought it would be. The book is being advertised as “A first comic for brand-new readers,” so I thought it meant brand new, but it is actually more of a book that I’d use and share with soon to be school-age children. It’ll be so much fun to talk through the comic with a new reader as there is much that s/he could narrate and many opportunities to discuss what is happening. A great introduction to sequential comics (the back of the book even has”How to read comics with kids” tips). There are also lots of twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes as they follow Penelope on her quest for her heart.

Wishing you all a day filled with love!


**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing copies for review**

Romeo and Juliet by Garth Hinds



Romeo and Juliet
Adaption and Illustrator: Gareth Hinds
Author: William Shakespeare
Published September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Gareth Hinds’s stylish graphic adaptation of the Bard’s romantic tragedy offers modern touches — including a diverse cast that underscores the story’s universality.

She’s a Capulet. He’s a Montague. But when Romeo and Juliet first meet, they don’t know they’re from rival families — and when they find out, they don’t care. Their love is honest and raw and all-consuming. But it’s also dangerous. How much will they have to sacrifice before they can be together? In a masterful adaptation faithful to Shakespeare’s original text, Gareth Hinds transports readers to the sun-washed streets and market squares of Shakespeare’s Verona, vividly bringing the classic play to life on the printed page.

Review and Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This graphic novel does for Shakespeare’s text what Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo and Juliet film did for the play. It makes it so accessible and helps the reader SEE what is going on in the play so that the Shakespeare’s words are easier to interpret. This graphic novel should be in every classroom and school library and should be used whenever the play is.  I also found Garth Hinds’s afterword very fascinating and gives a deeper look into Verona.

Discussion Questions: Gareth Hinds decided to make his characters multicultural to show the universality of the story. How does making his characters multicultural make the story more accessible and show the universality?; Garth Hinds had to abridge the play a bit to fit it into the graphic novel. After reading the play and the graphic novel, what did he remove? Does it change the story?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, The Odyssey by Garth Hinds

Recommended For: 

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Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott



Author: Elizabeth Scott
Published: January 28th, 2013 by Harlequin Teen

GoodReads Summary: Life. Death. And…Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

My Review: I should start by mentioning that I will read anything by Elizabeth Scott. She does a great job developing characters in unique situations, and I always get lost in the plots of her stories. This book was different from the other titles I have read by Scott because it is quite a sad story. Emma’s situation is heart-wrenching, and I felt the pain of her grief. What I liked most about this story was Emma’s growth as an individual. She shows an incredible amount of strength and isn’t afraid to examine her beliefs as she tries to determine what is right and true.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to help readers learn about the stages of grief. It would be interesting to hold a debate about who is more justified in his or her position: Emma or her stepfather. Students might research the laws and practices of life support to help them think more deeply about the novel.

Discussion Questions: Is Emma’s position justified? Do you think she is being fair?; How does Emma’s relationship with Caleb help her grow as an individual?; Where is the turning point of the story? Why?; Do you think Emma’s mother should be kept on life support?

We Flagged: “When someone you love…when they die, you want it undone. You’d do anything to have them back, and it’s easy to believe that if only this had happened or that had happened, everything would be fine. And that’s what makes you angry. What makes you hate. You don’t want to believe that sometimes bad things happen just because they do.”

Read This If You Loved: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork, Boy21 by Matthew Quick, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Hold Still by Nina LaCour, Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Recommended For:



**Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle



Let it Snow
Authors: John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Published October 2nd, 2008 by Speak

Goodreads Summary: Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

My Review: You cannot go wrong with those authors! What I found was not only a romantic, funny book, but a perfect holiday read! Let it Snow is like those movies where you follow three very different stories and then eventually they intertwine and everything seems to follow into place. I loved reading each story, wanting to learn more about a certain character and then realizing the next story was about them! The authors also did a fantastic job throwing in aspects of Christmas and pushing the holiday cheer without shoving it down your throat. Let is Snow is one of those books that I want to curl up and read by the fire while it snows outside.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to read this book in its entirety with students and then try to make a timeline of the three stories and how they overlap. It would be a great discussion of connections and sequence. Also, you could look at the voice of characters and how each author made theirs distinct (and how the others authors kept them distinct in their sections). This could also lead to a great discussion about style.

This book is also loved by students and should definitely be in teen libraries.

Discussion Questions: Think of a time when you were stuck somewhere that you didn’t want to be and couldn’t really do anything about it, how did you feel? What did you do to keep yourself busy? Did something happen that you would not have expected or that wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t stuck or stranded? 

We Flagged:
From “The Jubilee Express” by Maureen Johnson

“‘Oh my god!’ said one of the Ambers. ‘Is this not the worst trip ever? Did you see the snow?’
She was a sharp one, this Amber. What would she notice next? The train? The moon? The hilarious vagaries of human existence? Her own head?
I didn’t say any of that, because death by cheerleader is not really the way I want to go.” p. 22

From “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green

“I dashed upstairs, my socks sliding on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, and stumbled into my bedroom. I tore open the closet door and began feverishly sorting through the shirts piled on the floor in the vain hope that inside that pile there might be some wondrously perfect shirt down there, a nice striped button-down with no wrinkles that said, ‘I’m strong and tough but I’m also a surprisingly good listener with a true and abiding passion for cheers and those who lead them.’ Unfortunately, there was no such shirt to be found. I quickly settled on a dirty but cool yellow Threadless T-shirt under a black v-neck sweater. I kicked off my watching-James-Bond-movies-with-the-Duke-and-JP jeans and hurriedly wiggled into my pair of nice, dark jeans.” p. 131-132

From “The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle

     “Being me sucked. Being me on this supposedly gorgeous night, with the supposedly gorgeous snow looming in five-foot drifts outside my bedroom window, double-sucked. Add the fact that today was Christmas, and my score was up to triple-suck. And add in the sad, aching, devastating lack of Jeb, and ding-ding-ding! The bell at the top of the Suckage Meter couldn’t ring any louder. Instead of jingle bells, I had suckage bells. Lovely.” p. 215
Read This If You Loved:
Recommended For: 
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Christmas Classics: Gift of the Magi by O. Henry and The Shoemaker and the Elves by The Brothers Grimm



The Gift of the Magi
Author: O. Henry
Published 1906

Goodreads Summary: In a shabby New York flat, Della sobs as she counts the few coins she has saved to buy a Christmas present for her husband, Jim. A gift worthy of her devotion will require a great sacrifice: selling her long, beautiful hair. Jim, meanwhile, has made a sacrifice for Della that is no less difficult. As they exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, the discovery of what each has done fills them with despair, until they realize that the true gifts of Christmas can be found more readily in their humble apartment than in any fine store. O. Henry paints a masterly portrait of unfaltering love, a haven from the harsh world outside.

My Review: O. Henry has put so much emotion in a bit over 2,000 words. It is a beautiful story that left me tearing up and truly embodies the meaning of Christmas: the holiday spirit and true love.  You, too, can read this great story thanks to Project Gutenberg-

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This story would be a great one to discuss theme and morals as well as a fabulous introduction to O. Henry and classic short stories.
(Also, The Gift of the Magi is the story alluded to in the 2nd Salem Hyde book by Frank Cammuso.)

We Flagged: “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”

Discussion Questions: Della wants to get her husband the best gift possible for him, so she was willing to sacrifice her most precious belonging- have you ever sacrificed a precious item to help you get something for someone else? If not, would you? For whom? What is your most precious belonging? 


The Shoemaker and the Elves
Authors: The Brothers Grimm
Published 1806

Goodreads Summary: The beloved story of a poor shoemaker, kindhearted elves, and the giving spirit of Christmas.

My Review: This classic is one that is worth revisiting if you haven’t read it recently. There are many different versions, but The Brothers Grimm’s version has an ending that will just warm your heart. Once again available thanks to Project Gutenberg)-

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This story also would be a great discussion starter for morals and theme (like most Grimm tales). Another great way to use this story in the classroom is to look at all of the different versions and discuss how the original story has been changed.

We Flagged: “In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and knew not what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a masterpiece.”

Discussion Questions: Think about a time when someone has helped you even when there was nothing in it for them and share.

Both Recommended For: 


I hope you all have a fabulous holiday!