Thursday, January 31, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska
By John Green
Published by Penguin Group, 2006
256 pages (paperback)

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same. (from

[Looking for Alaska] had many action filled moments. It was a great book because it showed what it was like to grieve. I don’t think that Lara was a necessary character. No [I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to middle schoolers], because it is sometimes inappropriate for kids.
--Isabella S.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: The Top Ten Most Frustrating Charactes Ever

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever.

Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind 
She seriously drove me nuts. And just when I would start to like Scarlett she would do something that would make me what to slap her. I feel like Scarlett should take up the top 5 spots because she is just that frustrating.

Bella from Twilight
Could you STOP whining for just a few minutes? The over-dramatic moping is not attractive.

Artemis Fowl from Artemis Fowl
He is the main character and the books are named after him but I can’t stand the guy. What a thieving jerk!

Effie from The Hunger Games
She is soooooooo clueless and such a snob. But lovable in an odd sort of way.

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Stop being a prideful stupid-head and just tell Elizabeth you love her!

Lenny from Of Mice and Men
Why can’t you just be more gentle? Please?

Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye
Although Holden is a whiny underachiever who needs to think about someone other then himself, he does kind of grow on you. 

Colin from An Abundance of Katherines
Just stop dating Katherines. Seriously.

 Jack from Dead End in NorveltJack is just a hot mess.

Gollum/Smeagol from The Hobbit & The Lord of the RingsDon’t give into the ring’s power dude. You’d simply be poor and pathetic (and loveable) if you weren’t so evil sometimes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Americus by MK Reed

By MK Reed
Published by First Second, 2011
224 pages (paperback)

Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living. (from

I think I put this on my order list a long time ago so I really had no clue what it was going to be about. But I picked it up because reading a graphic novel seemed like a fun thing to do at the end of a busy week.


This book had me hooked from the first few pages. As a librarian (and history teacher and lover of books and someone who appreciates diverse intellectual pursuits), this book, whose plot revolves around censorship, got me fuming. I mean, if the material is age appropriate, why are there a few adults/students who try to take away the books from everyone. Just because a few people don’t like it or the subject matter doesn’t mean that others can’t benefit from it. Especially when it comes to books, why should some people try take away the joy of reading from others just because they want attention and to show how “upstanding” they are.

Americus does give a few brief descriptions of the fictional fiction series that has the town almost ready to storm the public library with pitchforks and torches and the books seem a lot like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series because there is witchcraft. Yeah, did you know that Harry Potter has been challenged and banned numerous times? I even know of at least one school in Champaign-Urbana that does not allow Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be on the shelves! If it weren’t so sad it would be hilarious because there are WAY bigger issues in the world then Harry’s quidditch matches and his feud with Lord Voldemort. With all that being said, I am thankful to work in a city and school district that strongly supports intellectual freedom and encourages students to read… no matter what type of book it is.

Politics and censorship aside, Americus was a good story. It is about finding your purpose and voice. It is about not letting the ignorant voices of a few ruin the education and enjoyment of many. And it is about discovering your niche in the world, even though you didn’t expect that was where you would end up. I seriously hope that students, teachers, librarians, and parents read this. It brings up a lot of things about what divides us in America, but that we may not be all that different from each other if we actually listen to one another.   

Want to know more about censorship or books that have been banned? Check out these links…
ALA Frequently Challenged Books:  Have you read a challenged or banned book lately?  
Banned Books Week: Celebrate Banned Book Week by reading something that has been banned recently  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award Voting Breakfast

Now is the time to sign up to attend the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award Voting Breakfast that will be held on Thursday, January 21st during 1st period. If you have read/heard at least 3 of the nominated books, stop into the UMS Library to fill out a sign-up form and start thinking about which book you want to win the 2013 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award!

2013 RCYRBA Nominees
  • The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger 
  • Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin 
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper 
  • Dark Life by Kat Falls  
  • Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari  
  • Bounce by Natasha Friend 
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman  
  • How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart   
  • The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins  
  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm 
  • Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur 
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai 
  • Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer    
  • Trash by Andy Mulligan 
  • As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Thursday, January 24, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver
By Lois Lowry
Published by Random House Children’s Books, 2002
192 pages (paperback)

December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man-the man called only the Giver-he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world. (from

[I liked that] someone could pass on memories to someone else by touching them. They could have told what happened to the boy and baby at the end*. Yes [I would recommend this to a middle schooler] if they love books that are science fiction.
--Landon M.

*Lois Lowry has written 3 other books set in this ‘world’ that gives updates on some of the characters from The Giver.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: The Top Ten Settings I'd Like to See More Of

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Settings I'd Like to See More Of....

Libraries: They are awesome places too. (Beautiful Creatures)

Beaches: Even when it is freezing outside, a beach book warms me right up. (Twenty Boy Summer)

New Zealand: Because, you know, I love that place. (Whale Rider)

Secret Passages/Tunnels: I really want a hidden room in my house one day and awesome things happen secret places. (Tunnels; Revolution)

Farms: Why don’t more people know what farm animals actually look like? (Thimble Summer; Animal Farm)

Foreign Countries: Even when I can’t travel to far-away places, a book can give me all the quirks and culture I need. (Anna and the French Kiss; 13 Little Blue Envelopes)

The Future: I have to admit that Dystopian novels are quite interesting and most of the ones I have read were well-written. (Awaken; Divergent)

Big, Old Houses: The history! The mystery! The cool things you find! (Northanger Abbey)

The Victorian Era: There was so much going on in the late 1800s-early 1900s that more books need to be written during that period. (Clockwork Angel; Ripper)

Central/South America: This is such an interesting region… I don’t know why there aren’t more books set there. (Wanderlove)

Monday, January 21, 2013

So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George

So You Want To Be President?
By Judith St. George
Published by Penguin Group, 2004 (updated 2012)
56 pages (hardcover)

This new version of the Caldecott-winning classic by illustrator David Small and author Judith St. George is updated with current facts and new illustrations to include our forty-second president, George W. Bush. There are now three Georges in the catalog of presidential names, a Bush alongside the presidential family tree, and a new face on the endpaper portraiture.
Hilariously illustrated by Small, this celebration by St. George shows us the foibles, quirks and humanity of forty-two men who have risen to one of the most powerful positions in the world.

As you may have realized, I am a history-nerd (I was a history teacher for 5 years after all!). I find the lives/stories of people fascinating and quirky facts makes history all the more interesting.
Since So You Want To Be President? was first published I have loved it. It makes learning about the presidents fun- did you know that John Quincy Adams used to go skinny dipping in the Potomac River and Teddy Roosevelt had dozens of animals living at the White House? –and silly. Plus, it is a short picture book that can be read in about 10 minutes.
My son has already heard this book a few times and he likes to pick out Abraham Lincoln’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s pictures on the pages.    

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

By Kirsten Hubbard
Published by Random House Children’s Books, 2012
352 pages (hardcover)

Eighteen-year-old Bria wants to be a Global Vagabond. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. So when Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspoken sister, Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel through Mayan villages and remote Belizean islands, they discover they're both seeking to leave behind the old versions of themselves. The secret to escaping the past, Rowan's found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria realizes she can't run forever. At some point, you have to look back. (from

I picked this book up and could not put it down. Seriously. I gave up a winter break nap to keep reading this book!

I enjoy seeing new places and having interesting adventures and this book gave me lots of adventures as I sat on the couch on a cold day. It reminded me of the road trips I took while studying abroad in New Zealand. Sure, my friends and I hit some of the major tourist spots, but we also walked down trails few people were on, ate in local diners, and simply enjoyed the beauty around us. And that is what this book reminded me of. It reminded me of what else is in the world and that travel experiences teach us as much about ourselves as other cultures.

Of course, Rowan and Bria and Starling were fun characters to travel with and the book was beautifully written. Basically, you need to pick this up let it take you to a whole other place for a while. It is well worth the time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

By Katie Kacvinsky
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
309 pages (paperback)

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done online. She's okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Suddenly, she gets a feeling that maybe there is a better way to live, a way that is different from what her society and parents have told her. Now she must learn to stand up for herself, as she and Justin struggle to make their own space. (from

I have had this book for a while and kept wanting to read it (mainly because I thought the cover was cool; mason jars are such cozy decorations). I don’t know why I wanted to long to read Awaken. It was amazing. In the literary world, I feel like young adult novels are getting a bit bogged down with dystopian love stories. But this book was fresh with a new twist on dystopia and why electronics took over the world.

In fact, the electronic theme was a bit disturbing. A bit too realistic. This is a world where so much was done online (especially school) because of the violence in America. After so many school shootings that killed thousands of children and teens, school has become an online requirement and people rarely interact face-to-face. We all see all of this happening more and more. Americans spend ridiculous amounts of time using electronic devices. Even my 3 year old can use my phone like a pro. And whenever there is a tragic shooting we worry a little more and avoid going out when we can. Obviously technology is not bad, but it can’t take over our lives because there are serious consequences to that.

One flaw I found in the world created was that the serious threat of digital school didn’t seems so serious. I could read between the lines and understand the implications, but I wish the propaganda of living digitally was explained more… and in a more dire tone.

Anyways… beyond the theme, I loved the characters. They were complex and endearing. And instead of the love triangle being between a girl and two hot boys, it was between a girl, a boy, and a resistance movement. What will win out in the end? Katie Kacvinsky leaves the reader hanging onto every word and desperate for good and love to triumph. I am already on to the sequel and can’t put it down.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: My Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is My Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013.

Welcome back from Winter Break! I have 12 whole months to do lots of reading. Below are some of my goals for the year....

  1. Read a wider variety of books
  2. Read a chapter book to my 3-year-old son
  3. Read more nonfiction/history books
  4. Figure out how to read Manga
  5. Read more graphic novels
  6. Read the Percy Jackson series (yeah, I haven’t read them yet)
  7. Create a cozy reading area in my house
  8. Listen to audio books while driving
  9. Convince my husband to read even more young adult novels
  10. Reread a few favorite books