Friday, September 30, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

By Veronica Roth
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books, 2011
496 pages (hardcover)

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.  (from

In the past year I have picked up quite a few books set in a dystopian society where a big event is coming up for the main character that will set the course for the rest of his/her life. Some of those books I read, but wasn’t thrilled with the book and some of the books I couldn’t get past the first few badly-written chapters. I had heard great things about Divergent but I wasn’t too excited for yet another dystopian society book.

Then I started reading Divergent. Wow! The dystopian society was set up well and I really wasn’t confused about how things worked. Also, the story was great. I was hooked by the writing, the choices Tris had to make, and the results of her decisions. There were plot twists, a little romance, friends who became dangerous, friends who might be more than friends, enemies who were not as dangerous as they seemed, enemies that were way more dangerous then they seemed, and relatives who had to decide if faction or family was more important.

Divergent is the first in a series of books and I am excited about the next book. Although the book may seem a bit long, it was such an engaging and interesting story that it was a quick and enjoyable read.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TOP TEN TUESDAY: The Top Ten Books I Want To Reread

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Books I Want To Reread.

Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
I love books and movies where you have to figure out how everyone is connected and what people’s secrets are. I read this book every few years and each time I notice new secrets and connections.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I reread this book this summer and I picked up on a lot of things I had missed before. It is such a good book.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The movie comes out in just over a year. I definitely need to reread The Hobbit before then.

Revolution by Jennifer DonnellyThere are a lot of historical references and people that I want to know more about. Also, this book is just amazing.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is my favorite Jane Austen book. I’ll reread the book and then watch the BBC movie version. Sounds like a good day to me!

The Giver by Lois Lowry
A favorite from growing up. It really made me think about memories and how knowledge of the past can affect us.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
This book is fun and clever and makes school seem like an adventure.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Not only is this a book I think most teenagers should read, but also educators. Besides being well written, it is compelling and an insightful look into the lives of teenagers. AND it is an interesting story.

Matilda by Roald Dahl
I wish I had magical powers to get revenge on really mean people J

Divergent by Veronica Roth
 I just finished this book and I already want to read it again. It is THAT good. And I want the sequel to come out NOW.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read!
September 25th - October 1st is Banned Books Week. This is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. It highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom- the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular- provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read and it was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. (from the ALA Banned Books Week info page)

For more information about banned books, check out the American Library Association's page About Banned & Challenged Books.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TEACHER REVIEW - Revolution By Jennifer Donnelly

By Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Random House Children's Books, 2010
496 pages (hardcover)

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Revolution is not just your run of the mill historical fiction book.  At its heart, it is about the inner turmoil and anguish the main character, Andi, goes through after the death of her brother.  What makes this books so interesting though, is that Donnelly is able to weave together a story that shows the parallels of the French Revolution with the chaos and frustration one goes through in growing up.  As a reader, you connect with the characters, not because the historical events are fascinating (and they are), but because you can relate to the feelings and emotions of Andi, the 21st century narrator, as well as Alex, the 18th century, underground heroine (of sorts).  As in political revolutions, both Andi & Alex, struggle to reconcile ideas & emotions…and learn what is right versus what is wrong. –By Ms. Ackerman

Mrs. Ruud’s thoughts: This book was amazing. I was hooked from the start and couldn’t put it down. One of the things that made this book memorable, to me, was that this book motivated me to do research about the historical events in the book. I LOVE history, but I hardly do research about a book while I am reading it. I couldn’t get enough of this book or all the information I found about the French Royal Family during the French Revolution. Not to give anything away (hopefully), but I kept hoping as I scoured the Internet for information, that the fate of the King’s son would have a good ending. That there would be something positive that someone really did centuries ago that would make this historical fiction novel have an uplifting ending. I’ll tell you this- the ending is not what I hoped for, but the author did have a good ending that tied the events of the past and present together in a way that made me want to start the book all over again just so I could enjoy every last word one more time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

UMS Reads

What Is UMS Reads?
UMS Reads is a way to get students to think about what they read by figuring out what they like about certain books and what they don’t like about certain books. UMS Reads is completely voluntary, but since students need to be reading anyways, this is a great way to write about what was read and to be rewarded for reading!
How does UMS Reads work?
  • Read a book (fiction or nonfiction)
  • Pick up and fill out a UMS Reads Review form from the UMS Library or an ELA teacher
  • Turn the UMS Reads Review from into your grade level basket in the UMS Library
  • At the end of each month Mrs. Ruud will draw names from the baskets.
    • Grand Prize Winner: A book & a pizza certificate
    • 1st Place Winners (1 per grade level + 1 staff member): A treat & a pizza certificate
    • 2nd Place Winners: A pizza certificate
The winners are chosen randomly and the more times you enter, the better chance you have of being a winner each month.

Also, some reviews will be used on this blog!

STUDENT REVIEW - Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs

Go Big or Go Home
By Will Hobbs
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, 2009
202 pages (paperback)

Last October Will Hobbs came to talk to all the students about his books. Let me tell you, the places Will Hobbs has been and the things he has heard are amazing. He writes adventure books that often take place in wild and remote areas. He has been to most of the settings he describes and it was cool to see pictures of those actual places during his presentation. Books by Will Hobbs became popular among students after his visit, particularly because it provided a cheap, adventurous vacation for anyone who picked one up.

Brady Steele's love for all things extreme is given a boost when a fireball crashes through the roof of his house. It turns out that Brady's space rock is one of the rarest meteorites ever found. In fact, a professor from a nearby museum wants to study it in search of extraterrestrial bacteria, hoping to discover the first proof of life beyond Earth.
During a wild week of extreme bicycling, fishing, and caving, Brady discovers he's able to do strange and wonderful feats that shouldn't be possible. At the same time, he's developing some frightening symptoms. Could he be infected with long-dormant microbes from space? Is his meteorite a prize...or a menace? (from

This book is good because it’s kinda mysterious. It’s mysterious because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. This book needs more scary and mysterious things. Yes, [I would recommend this book to middle schoolers] because its about taking adventures. –Ramon I.

Yes, [this book was good]. I love the big imagination. It is so awesome because I also have a big imagination. –Diamond C.

The lively boom in the book [was good]. Nothing [could be improved]. It is good as it is. Yes, [I would recommend this book to middle schoolers]. –Aaron M.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Books for UMS Tigers!

A shipment of new books just came in! Be one of the first to check out these great fiction and nonfiction books. We have everything from witches and bullies to summer loves and middle school blues. 

Most of the new books are on the display cart at the front of the library (by the big window). Another shipment should also be coming soon too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst
By Michael Scott
Published by Random House Children’s Books, 2008
400 pages (paperback)

He holds the secret that can end the world.
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.
The records show that he died in 1418.
But his tomb is empty.
The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects—the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.
Sometimes legends are true.
And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time. (from

I had been wanting to read this book for a while, but it was checked out pretty much all of last year and I didn’t get around to it this summer. So, when my husband, son and I had to head up to Minnesota for a family reunion, I chose this to be our audiobook because 1) I had heard it was awesome and 2) I thought that it might be a book that both my husband (enjoys fantasy & creatures that talk) and I (enjoys books about teens & drama/angst) might like. As usual, I was right.  

This book hooked us from the beginning. Explosions. Magic. Good vs. evil. Immortals. Secrets. Historical & mythological references. Car chases. Creepy creatures. Sibling bonding/rivalry. Witches. Vampires.

Sometimes I can guess what will happen next in a book, but I couldn’t with this one. Every scene was another plot twist. The only thing I expected was to expect the unexpected. The mortal characters in this book, Sophie and Josh, also start out in disbelief at all the things they are encountering. As the book goes on they start to expect anything and that is when I, as a reader, also began to feel like anything is possible. At one point I read something unbelievable and thought to myself, “why, of course he would have that.” This was a great story, but it also made me think as a reader about what is possible.

Admittedly, there are a lot of fantastical creatures and some of them I had trouble imagining. I mean, thugs made out of mud? Really? But this was a really creative book that stretched my imagination as well as what I knew about myths, folklore, fairy tales, and history (though it was ok if I didn’t know about those things). Sometimes with books that incorporate the past, present, and fantasy, everything gets jumbled up and it is confusing. However, this book puts everything together well and engages the reader. Plus, the author’s writing style makes reading fairly quick & easy and although there are a lot of descriptions, it is a fast-paced book.

This is the first in a series of books (why do I always get sucked into series?). I have already gotten through most of the second book and have the third book waiting. If the rest are as riveting and imaginative as the first, I think I will get through the series quickly (though I will have to wait a while for the last book!).  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hooray for New Zealand!

Happy New Zealand Appreciation Day on the UMS Tigers Read Blog!!! Why do I have all of this about New Zealand? Well the Rugby World Cup is starting up and this year it is in New Zealand. AND the New Zealand All Blacks are awesome. AND when I was in college I spent a semester (5 months) studying at the University of Canterbury in Christchuch so I really do love that country and the people in it.

So in honor of the beautiful country that is New Zealand and the start of the Rugby World Cup (if you don’t know much about rugby check out the rules) I am reviewing 2 books that remind me of New Zealand.

The Whale Rider
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987
152 pages (hardcover)

Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild—and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is up to Kahu to save the tribe. (from

Oh My Goodness. I LOVE this book. I lucked out that I read this book and saw the movie while in New Zealand (and studying New Zealand history and culture) so I really felt connected to the story. This is a great book that incorporates modern-day family situations with ancient folklore. It was like reading a folktale that is taking place right now. In the book there are references to Maori (the native people to New Zealand) traditions and language, but you can still understand the events in the book without knowing about the Maori and their culture.

Kahu had a spunky, but determined spirit and the descriptions about her frustrations & sadness about her great-grandfather’s annoyance that she not what he wants her to be will touch home with a lot of readers. When I read this book (or even watch the movie) I am transported back to the rolling hills and quiet beauty of New Zealand and all of the wonderful Maori people who welcomed me.

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1938
256 pages (hardcover)

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. (from

Ok, so The Hobbit wasn’t written in New Zealand and definitely doesn’t take place in New Zealand. BUT the movie is being filmed there (just like the three Lord of the Rings movies were) and I am definitely excited about seeing New Zealand on the big screen again.

Now, about The Hobbit. I don’t normally read fantasy books and I definitely don’t normally read books where pretty much every character is a guy. However, I really liked this book. It was different from most books I have read and engaging. The beginning got my attention quickly as a horde of dwarves invade Bilbo’s space and take him on this journey with all sorts of creatures. Just when I thought things were going to be ok for Bilbo & company, something else unexpected would happen and I would vigorously read through the pages to see what was going to happen next.

The Hobbit was written decades ago so sometimes the descriptions and language can be tough to get through. But there is a reason people have loved this book for decades- it stands the test of time. It’s an imaginative and adventurous book that takes your mind on a vacation to a wondrous place of mountains, elves, dwarves, raging rivers, and quiet hobbit houses.

So Happy New Zealand Appreciation Day and check out recaps from the Rugby World Cup over the next month or so!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

TOP TEN TUESDAY: The Top Ten Sequels I'm Dying To Read

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Sequels I'm Dying To Read!

Colonel Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt Trilogy #3) by Edmund Morris
One of my two favorite presidents is Theodore Roosevelt and it is because of Edmund Morris’s trilogy. In college I had to read parts of Theodore Rex (book #2) and besides learning what a great president he was I also found out awesome things like, as president, Teddy Roosevelt used to ride a horse through D.C. parks and shoot at squirrels. Hahaha! A year or two later I read the first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosvet and it was awesome. Teddy’s life reads like a soap opera. The writing was great and the subject matter was fascinating. Needless to say I was really looking forward to reading the final book on Teddy Roosevelt by Edmund Morris that came out this past winter.  Now I just need to find some time to read it!

The Magician (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #2) by Michael Scott
My husband and I listened to most of the Alchemyst on our way home from Minnesota. The Alchemyst was surprisingly good and engaging so I am looking forward to reading the next book (and the rest of the series).

The Iron Knight (The Iron Fey #4) by Julie KagawaThe adventures of Ash & Puck? The hope of a happy ending for at least most of the characters? Oh, I am definitely looking forward to getting this book and re-entering the world of faeries and little iron creatures.

Ashes (Seeds of America #3) by Laurie Halse AndersonI have a post-it note in my plan book to get this book and read it the day it comes out. I have to read it quick because I already have teachers and students asking for it! This series that includes Chains and Forge is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in a long long long time!

Crossed (Matched Trilogy #2) by Ally Condie
I read Matched last year and I enjoyed the world that Ally Condie created. Now the story is headed out of the city and revolution (or something like it) is in the air. Of course, the love story is a major plus!

Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld
Yes, the steampunk aspect confused me a bit at first, but I really like that this series takes place during World War I (the Great War back then) and has great characters.

Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven #2) by Brandon Mull
The first book included a crazy party by faeries and other wild fantastical creatures. I can’t even begin to imagine what will happen in this next book.

Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6) by Jeff Kinney 
Dairy of a Wimpy Kid books pretty much fly off the shelves. I have read parts of all the books, but not one book all the way through. So why am I excited about this sequel? It is simply because it gets students excited about reading. This series is funny and silly and if students are lined up to read this then GREAT!

Pandemonium (Delirium #2) By Lauren Oliver
I found Delirium to be similar to Matched in that they have futuristic societies where pretty much everything is decided for people. I am definitely glad there is a sequel because Delirium had an ending that I wasn’t satisfied with.

Any sequel/prequel to Redwall by Brian Jacques
Several years ago my husband & I listened to Redwall on our way to Minnesota. This was my husband’s favorite book growing up and we have several Brian Jacques books in our house. Redwall was the first book I had read (heard) by this author and I LOVED it! I haven’t read any more lately, but I want to. Unfortunately Brian Jacques died this past February and but his last book did come out this past May so I may have to read it when I need a good imaginative book.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

TEACHER REVIEW - Woods Runner By Gary Paulsen

Woods Runner
By Gary Paulsen
Published by Random House Children's Books, 2010
176 pages (hardcover)

Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston.
But the war comes to them. British soldiers and Iroquois attack. Samuel’s parents are taken away, prisoners. Samuel follows, hiding, moving silently, determined to find a way to rescue them. Each day he confronts the enemy, and the tragedy and horror of this war. But he also discovers allies, men and women working secretly for the patriot cause. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City. (from

This is a wonderful, historical fiction novel for the young adolescents.  It is a short story (only 161 pages) about a thirteen year old boy named Samuel and his experiences at the start of the Revolutionary War.
What I find most interesting about this book is the fact that Paulson chooses to focus the story on the experiences of a civilian.  There is no talk of legendary battles or of American War Heroes.  It is just a snapshot of what an average day might look like if you lived during this time period.  In addition, Paulson throws in sidebar-style commentary throughout the book giving the reader additional background knowledge to help make sense of the scenes about to be presented.
As an adult, this book may seem very juvenile, but as a teacher it would make a great addition to an early American Social Studies curriculum.  Because the reading level seems to be late elementary and the book is short, it would be easy to read it during class as a read aloud or individually to help Middle School students paint a clearer picture of what life was like during this time period. ---Review by Ms. Ackerman, 7th grade Social Studies teacher

STUDENT REVIEW - The Test By Peggy Kern

The Test (Bluford Series #17)

By Peggy Kern
Published by Townsend Press, 2011
144 pages (paperback)

Liselle Mason is in trouble. For weeks, she ignored the changes in her body and tried to forget her brief relationship with Oscar Price, her moody classmate at Bluford High. But when Liselle's clothes stop fitting, and her brother notices her growing belly, she panics. A pregnancy test confirms her biggest fears. Unwilling to admit the truth, Liselle suddenly faces a world with no easy answers. Where will she turn? Who will she tell? What will she do? (from

It was good because it was about tough subjects and I want to learn a ton about that kinda stuff. I don’t really think it needs anything improved.  –Mercedes H.

This book was interesting. Every chapter was something new with Liselle. There could have been more action in this book. I would recommend this book to a middle schooler to teach some of these young people what it’s like to have a baby at a young age. --Tiera W.

[This book was good because] she inspires others to not have a baby at a young age. [There is] nothing [that could be improved about this book]. --Tyren M.

I [liked] the description of how upset Liselle was when she found out she was pregnant. I think that if the whole thing was a flashback it would be easier to understand. Yes, [I would recommend this book to middle schoolers] because it teaches us to not get pregnant at a young age because it is not easy to go to school and take care of yourself and a kid. --Alexus I.

The action [in this book was good and] the way it seemed realistic. [The book could be improved if there was] more about her life after she has the baby. Yes, [I would recommend this book because] it teaches you not to get pregnant at 16. --Josh R.