Friday, October 28, 2011

A Grim Wait

I can't say anything about Gina Damico's debut novel Croak until I say this: I hope the sequel is available SOON.

OK, OK, I'm not actually certain there will be a sequel. But I am certain that I hope so.

Lex has a practically perfect family, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming a juvenile delinquent. She rages out of control until her nearly-forgotten Uncle Mort insists he spend the summer on his "farm." Only, it's not a farm. Uncle Mort is the Mayor of Croak, a small town full of grim reapers, and he's recruited Lex to be a Junior grim.

Excitement ensues when a serial killer--erm, this is going to get confusing. Suffice it to say, there are a series of mysterious deaths. Also, love. But don't worry, it's not too mushy. And there are a lot of funny parts. And dead presidents. (No, not money. Actual dead presidents.) And Edgar Allan Poe. (Also dead.)

I'm not sure that I'll put this book in my 8th grade library, but I will surely be giving a copy to my 16-year-old daughter. Like her, the book is smart and snarky all in one. I think she'll really CROAK for it. Heheh.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


My great-grandmother, who was later the original owner of my home, left our small village of Oxford to attend the New York Institute for the Deaf and Dumb in Manhattan. Her great-aunt, Charlotte Lewis Currier, was the wife of Enoch Henry Currier, the school's principal and a "prominent and progressive man" of the late 19th and early 20th century. The Curriers provided my great-grandmother with a sense of stability she did not have at home, and she was the seeing and hearing companion of...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Brian Selznick left me Wonderstruck with his latest novel of the same name. Rose (who was a girl in 1927, by which point my great-grandmother had long been a mother raising her children in what is now my home) is a girl who escapes her father's strict rules in Hoboken and finds her way to her brother Walter in New York City. Ben (who is a boy in 1977 and has recently become both deaf and orphaned in unrelated accidents near his home on Gunflint Lake) is a boy who escapes his family and finds his way to--he hopes--his father Daniel in New York City. Both stories come unforgettably together in this beautifully illustrated tale.

Oh, I have so much more to say about this wonderful book. But first I need to begin my cabinet of wonders. I'm starting with the 1964 New York World's Fair Salt and Pepper Set. I found them in the attic not long after I moved into this old home...they're meant to look like buildings...

A Double Day

Today I did something very unusual: I left school shortly after dismissal (OK, an hour after dismissal) rather than my usual 6:00 I could hurry home and read. I started Meg Cabot's Abandon, a sort of retelling of the myth of Persephone and Hades (with a sprinkle of The Inferno for luck), last night and couldn't wait to finish it! Which, of course, I did...and was so excited about it that I couldn't possibly go to right to sleep when I was done. (Oh please, Meg Cabot, hurry with the sequel! I can't wait!)

So rather than lie in bed imaging all that will come to pass between Pierce and John Hayden now that she's (sort of) safe from the Furies (which obviously won't last long), I decided to browse NetGalley for a little light reading.

Which was clearly a mistake, because that was three hours ago, and I've just finished Jenny Valentine's brilliant thriller Double. What a book! Imagine a dark and murderous retelling of The Prince and the Pauper. Creepy, frightening, and un-put-down-able. Yikes. A completely satisfying thriller, but I recommend beginning it (a) when you have a few hours to finish it in one go, because you really won't be able to stop, and (b) BEFORE 10:00 on a school night.

I don't suppose I'll be giving anything away if I say that I was surprised not to learn that Mr. Artemis and Mr. Hathaway were the same person. That's not a complaint, really, just an observation. (By the time you know who either of them is, you'll be assuming the same thing, I imagine.)

So two good books in one great evening. Now if only I can make it through tomorrow without falling asleep in class...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Is a Journey...

Blake Nelson's Recovery Road is nothing if not a journey. Although (theoretically) named for the street on which Spring Meadow, Maddie's rehab, is located, it is surely the story of Maddie's journey through recovery.

The story begins at Spring Meadow, where Maddie has been sent at age 16 to face her drug and alcohol addiction. When her best friend Trish is released, Maddie meets a new friend, Stewart. Then Maddie is released, too, and has to face her past as "Mad Dog Maddie" when she returns to high school.

Oh, this is such a powerful book. I picked it up because there was a lot of buzz that it could win the Printz award this year, and I hope it does. It is such an honest and important story, and one that is all too often true. There are a lot of Maddies in the world, and even more Trishes and Stewarts. They don't need this book--it is their story--but all the rest of us do. Empathy and understanding often begins in the pages of a book. This is a good place to start.

Don't Interrupt Me, I'm Reading a Good Book!

I have been so busy reading these past few days that I have not wanted to stop--not even to blog. (What a wonderful problem to have, is it not?!) So today, I'm going to catch you up on all these things I've read. (Get it? "all these things I've read" is an allusion to my last blog about Gabrielle Zevin's new book All These Things I've Done. Clever, right?)

I loved loved loved reading Tom Angleberger's The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back. I loved them so much that I have already book talked them at our latest professional development workshop, made a sign to hang over the display at the book fair that says "Ms. Dorsey LOVES Origami Yoda!" and even bought a copy for a lucky 5th grader. These books are about just exactly what you think they are about: Origami Yoda, who dispenses wise advice to students at McQuarrie Middle School. He's the twist: Origami Yoda was made by Dwight, who carries Origami Yoda around on his finger; unlike Origami Yoda, who is clearly a Jedi, Dwight So Tommy sets out to learn whether or not Origami Yoda is real. I need to stop right there, though, because I have a bad habit when I love a book: I want to tell you the whole story. And I don't want you to do that here. I want you to go buy these books right now and get reading! Oh, sure, you could find a copy at your local library. That's fine too. But as Origami Yoda might say, "Read it you must. Sorry you will not be."

Then, since I was on a middle grade reading kick, I also read Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace. And I also liked it a lot, but sadly, it is probably not an 8th grade book. You see, Frankie Pickle appears to have a nasty case of test anxiety; lucky for Frankie, he also has a great teacher who sees this for what it is and tells him on Friday that he can retake his math test the following Monday. Frankie spends the weekend thinking about the math test, but not actually studying for it...or does he? Part traditional narrative, part graphic novel, this is a series that is sure to delight (I'd guess) 8-11 year olds. Once I finished, I immediately had a student deliver my copy to my favorite 6th grade team. I think they'll love it there.

Finally, I was super lucky (again) to read an advance copy of Cynthia Leitich Smith's latest installment in her series that began with (one of my favorites, BTW) Tantalize. Diabolical follows all the characters we have grown to love: Quincie, Kieran, Zachary, and Miranda; it will be released in February 2012. One of things publishers ask us to do when we are lucky enough to read advance copies of  a book is to keep it under our hats (metaphorically speaking) until closer to the release date: 30 days before release, to be exact. So I'm not really supposed to tell you that three of the four beloved characters are reunited in one location that is full of danger and adventure, while the fourth can watch but has little power to interfere. And I probably shouldn't tell you that this is the most exciting book in the series to date. So here is what I can tell you: I started reading it at about 3:00 yesterday afternoon and I was done by 10:00 last night. I was upset when our dinner plans interfered with my reading. It was that good. Here is something else I can tell you: I've already pre-ordered multiple copies so that I can get it into students' hands the day it is released, because I know they are going to love it. And here is a third thing I can tell you: if you haven't read the first three books in this series, what are you waiting for?! You're going to want to be ready for this one. It is GREAT.

Whew! Time for me to keep reading. Don't you want to do the same? Or perhaps I should say, "Keep reading I must. Try it you should. Like it you will."