Month: April 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 4/29/13

Posted on Updated on

Join the “It’s Monday! What are you reading?” meme hosted by!  Share your reading to-do list and pick up some great recommendations from other readers.

Here’s my (shamefully overdue) reading report for the week:

Books I’ve read:

Two stellar YA picks: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King and

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys mesmerized me.  Both, stories of young women seeking to break out of “the chains” that their community, their family, an society as a whole places on them.  What I loved about reading these two back-to-back is how relevant their message was.  One set in 1920s New Orleans and the other in contemporary, rural Pennsylvania–both are remarkable stories of young women striving to come into their own selves.  

Couple of my favorite moments:

“I am equal to a baby and to a hundred year old lady. I am equal to an airline pilot and a car mechanic. I am equal to you. You are equal to me. It’s that universal.

Except that it’s not.” 

“Sometimes we set off down a road thinkin’ we’re goin’ one place and we end up another. But that’s okay. The important thing is to start.” 

And on my quest to re-vision, re-design, and renovate my school library, the following two titles provide me with some excellent thinking material regarding the role of the 21st century school library: 

Books I’m reading:

This is hard for me.  The Yellow Birds is your quintessential war-novel. Following the friendship of two  privates catapulted into the height of the Iraqi conflict, the narration and characterization of this novel leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to the gruesome realities of war, including how de-humanizing it is for those in the middle.  I can only stomach about 20 pages at a time, but I feel like I need to understand more about war and this generation’s experience in particular.  

Books to read:

Here’s the biggest one for this next week….The Great Gatsby

Sure, I’ve read it countless times as a student and teacher, but it’s been at least a decade since I read it for pleasure, and I am pleased as punch about next week’s opening!

Here’s the recent tv-spot for your viewing and auditory pleasure to help get you in the Gatsby-mood. 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 4/8/13

Posted on Updated on

Join the weekly reading report meme hosted over at!
Catching up today for the last couple of missed Mondays. 
Before I start my reading report, I wan to talk for a minute about reading slumps.  It’s spring.  (Teachers and school librarians silently nodding their heads in agreement).  Anything and everything in the curriculum that hasn’t been reached is now being funneled into studetns’ brains, including research.  Students are resisting at all costs said information that is now streaming at a furious rate into their minds, which are most definitely more focused on prom, summer, and each other. 

That being said, I seem to experience a slump this time of year in my reading life.  There is more (pressing)work to do at school than hours and manpower available to do it, and family life is super-charged with nice weather for outings and holidays.  Donalyn Miller bared her reading soul this weekend over at Nerdy Book Club.   She shares, “I know that I will fall back in love with reading again. We are just taking a break. I have wandered into the reading doldrums before and I always find my way through them.” 

Donalyn shares some wonderful advice in her post on working your way out of the “reading doldrums.”  And, I’m going to take some of her advice this week.

Books I Read:

Looking back over these titles, I’m realizing that although there are only a few, they were all great in their own right.  I devoured Drama one morning sitting at the circulation desk.  My poor students patiently waited in line while I sped through the last half, dying to see how the young budding romances played out.  This book is pre-cious!  Love and Other Perishable Items continued my love affair with Australian YA authors.  The narrators were so honest and achingly real.  Kudos to Laura Buzo on this one!  And finally, When You Were Here.  I think I have a reading hangover with this work.  Check out last week’s review. You know when you read a book that you love so much that you are afraid to read something else because you know you’ll be disappointed that you don’t love it as much as the last one?  That’s me right now. 
So, I’m going to take Donalyn’s advice to 1) re-read some favorites and 2) try something I normally wouldn’t pick up.

Books to Read:

Some old favorites…

Hmm….I’m sensing a theme here.  It’s been a long time since I’ve relived Gemma Doyle’s adventures, and I could use a little Kartik time.  How GREAT!  I’ve felt a little sorrowful that the English III teams are diving into Gatsby, and I’m left out. Plus, I’m planning a HUGE Gatsby event leading up to the movie release, so I must find my inspiration. . 

Something I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up….
I need some help here.  What should I read that might surprise me?  Nonfiction is notoriously my gap.  Also, boy books.  I struggle to keep up with my boy readers outside of realistic fiction.

Reel Reading for Real Readers: October Mourning

Posted on Updated on

Visit Three Teachers Talk for more book trailers for teens every Thursday and join in the meme!

It’s April and the display ideas, special events and activities, and poetry slams are blowing up the school library blogosphere.  We love National Poetry Month.

Today’s book trailer features a novel told through verse, October Mourning, that relates the events of October 6th, 1998 when gay teenager, Mathew Shephard, was lured from a bar, savagely beaten, tied to a fence post, and left to die.  Leslea Newman employs multiple points of view and verse to create a poignant homage and raise awareness of the tragedy.

Sometimes, poetry is the only means to express what our hearts are feeling.  Sometimes, poetry can turn the darkest, ugliest, most tragic moments into opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Book Review: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Posted on Updated on

“When someone you love has died, there is a certain grace period during which you can get away with murder.  Not literal murder, but pretty much anything else.”

I’ve never lost someone close to me to cancer.  Most of my loved ones who have passed have been from the older generation (great aunts, grandparents, etc.).  In this respect, I count myself very lucky.

The aching reality is that so many of our teens are living with cancer, living with a parent who has cancer, or living with the loss of someone close to them to cancer.  In 2012, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars beautifully portrays two teens whose friendship-turned-romance strives to overcome the daily battle of cancer remission and regression.  Augustus and Hazel bring lighthearted quip and literary banter into a very serious and sad scenario:  two teens living with cancer and falling in love.

But, this review isn’t about The Fault in Our Stars.  Daisy Whitney (The Mockingbirds) has crafted her own lovely story of Danny, a California teen who has lost his dad to a tragic accident and his mother to cancer.  This is not just another “cancer book.” 

 When You Were Here (Little Brown, June 2013) is a travelogue that takes its reader on a physical journey to Japan where we become part of Danny’s emotional and spiritual journey of healing.

The book came to me after Whitney posted on her Facebook wall that she had ARCs of her soon-to-be-released new novel.  It arrived a few weeks later with a hand-written note from Daisy and an address for an Enlish teacher in Oregon who I was to send the book on to when I was finished. 
When we first meet Danny, he is a surly, destructive, impulsive teenager immediately following his high school graduation where he gave the (shocking) valedictorian address.  He slams into cars parked on his street, destroys rare hand-crafted guitars, throws raucous parties, and closes himself to those who try to reach out to him.  Holland, Danny’s ex-girlfriend who dumped him several months earlier while away at college, enters the scene with a gentle understanding, lingering patiently in the background, taking his verbal blows in stride and re-appearing just as Danny seems to be about ready to let her go.

Danny’s journey begins when a letter arrives from Japan offering condolences and seeking guidance in removing and disposing of Danny’s mother’s medications from their Tokyo apartment. A seed is planted, and he embarks on aquest to unravel the mystery of his mother’s rapid decline and confront the man who was her last hope and healer.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Tokyo and its diverse neighborhoods and occupants portrayed the dynamic intersection of Western high-tech influences (i.e., robot-manned ice cream stands) and ancient Eastern philosophy and spiritualism (a temple made famous for its healing tea).  Quirky Kana embodies this with her Harajuku-style and Buddhist spiritualism.  Kana becomes Dana’s spiritual guide and companion.

This story is about death and love, true, but for me it is about the intersection of the two–healing.  How do we heal the rift in our hearts, souls, and minds when we lose a loved one either to death or parting?  How can two people help to facilitate that healing process when loss can become a major barrier between them?

I’m having a hard time letting go of Danny.  Since I finished it, there have been several moments each day when I want to reach for When You Were Here to pass it on to a colleague or student who I know needs it.  Those are the special books; the ones that will always be in circulation; the ones students come back and whisper to me how much it meant to them–and this one will definitely secure a place on that list.