National Book Awards: The Next Bracket

national book awards

In June, I posted about a project that I am doing with a group of other educators. Dr. Steven Bickmore (you should go read his YA blog, by the way) gathered a bunch of us together to read all of the National Book Award winners and runners up since the award for YA turned twenty this year. We divided up the books by year (there are five books per year); my year was 1996 and I posted about those books here.

We each chose a “winner” from our year to move on to the next round. I chose A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer (a finalist in 1996; the winner that year being Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez).

From there we were put into groups of five to read each other’s picks and work together to nominate one from our group to move on. These are the next four books I read (in addition to A Girl Named Disaster):

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (2000 National Book Award Winner)

Maybe it’s my historical fiction kick, but I really loved this book. In fact, this is tied for me with A Girl Named Disaster to move on to the next round.

So what is the book about? Koly is only thirteen years old when her parents arrange a marriage for her. While an arranged marriage is typical in India, Koly’s takes a tragic turn and she is left to fend for herself in a large city. The book is a quick read and appeals to all levels. It’s set in India and asks the reader to wonder about family structures, cultures, and traditions while also addressing the idea that the individual does not have to fit a mold to be a happy part of society.

Godless by Pete Hautman (2004 National Book Award Winner)

While Homeless Bird was my favorite of the four new books I read, this was my least favorite. I wanted it to be my favorite. I wanted to fall into it and find a bit of myself in it. The book is narrated by teenager Jason Bock whose family is very Catholic. Jason identifies as a “agnostic-going-on-atheist”. His parents try to get him into the fold of religion by sending him to a class at church for teenagers to talk about issues. The class only solidifies Jason’s apathy toward organized religion. In a moment of boredom and, according to Jason, clarity, he decides to create his own religion–one that worships the town water tower.

I really wanted this book to push the envelope and dig into the questions many teens have about religion and God. I was one of those teens and I craved books that showed others feeling and questioning as I did. This book fell short and only seemed to graze the surface. I was disappointed.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (2008 National Book Award Finalist)

This was another one that I loved. I almost put this as my vote to move on, but didn’t just because I think Homeless Bird appeals to a larger range of students than Chains does.

Chains takes place just as the Revolutionary War is about to begin. Isabel is a 13-year old slave in Rhode Island whose mistress dies. She and her sister are to be freed according to their mistresses will, but that does not happen and she is sold to a cruel New York City couple who side with the King and not with the American Revolution. Isabel finds herself befriending a slave boy who works for the Rebels and delivers messages and makes other dangerous errands that could get her beat…or worse.

This book was brilliant. It was long, and took a bit to get into, but the way Anderson wove both history and fiction together was flawless. Anderson has a follow up novel, Forge, and also a third, Ashes. I think students who love American History and have more reading stamina will fall in love with this series.

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (2012 National Book Award Finalist)

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction and what I do read is usually memoir, and I definitely don’t read books about science, war, or bombs, so I waited to read this one until the very last. Where Godless disappointed me, this one thrilled me. Bomb is written as a narrative of how the nuclear bomb was imagined, theorized, tested, and finally created. It also weaves in Russia’s attempts to steal the bomb using primary source quotes from American and Russian spies. It’s a real-life story of war and espionage. While I know what happens in the end–we make the bomb before he Germans and bomb Japan–I was still on the edge of my seat for the personal stories of the scientists who worked on the bomb…and those who leaked information to the Russians. The photos throughout were also a wonderful addition to the book. I want a separate category for books like this, but I feel like maybe this is one of a kind.

Overall I think the books I can see my 8th graders picking up and reading on their own are Homeless Bird and A Girl Named Disaster. Those are tied for me and I would be happy to move either on to the next round!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

What I Read: 2015

Somebody (I don’t remember who anymore, sorry!) asked me for a post of all the books I read in 2015. Since I’m on Goodreads, I like to do the yearly challenge. Last year I set my goal at 25 books. I figured a couple a month was a fair goal with a new baby and all. As you can see, I surpassed that goal; I read 35 books!

I credit my students and our Reading Workshop. Since I have told my students that reading matters, and that when something matters, you find time to do it, I have made a commitment to reading every day. Usually I do it after the kids are in bed, but sometimes, if I’m not conferencing with my students, I will read my book when they have their reading time.  In fact, because of this I am already on my second book of 2016!

what i read

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This is a look back at the books I read in 2015, in order that I read them. I am too lazy to link to all of them, by the way, but I know you all know how to use the search function on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I put the MUST READs  in bold if you need some to add to your to read list (although to be fair, there is not a book on here I would say “meh” to. They are all recommendations, really. Just get them all, but read the ones in bold first). The books with a * are Young Adult Lit.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (nonfiction)
  • The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr (nonfiction)
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn
  • Apron Strings by Mary Morony
  • Open Boxes by Christine Organ (nonfiction)
  • Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster (nonfiction)
  • The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Jeffery Hunter McQuain
  • The Potty Mouth at The Table by Laurie Notaro (nonfiction)
  • From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler*
  • Butter by Erin Jade Lange*
  • All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven*
  • Paper Towns by John Green*
  • Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews*
  • The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (nonfiction)
  • The Chosen by Chiam Potok*
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart*
  • We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen*
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (nonfictionish)
  • Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher (nonfiction)
  • Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson (nonfiction)
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher*
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio*
  • George by Alex Gino*
  • Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen*
  • Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen*
  • Stand Off by Andrew Smith*
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan*
  • Fightball: Dying of Suck by Kris Wehrmeister (nonfiction)

This year I set my goal at 40. I think I can do it if I keep up the momentum that I set for myself in 2015.

Another thing I started doing this year is writing in a Reader’s Journal. I want my students to do this, so I model it by doing it myself. I have my notebook available in the classroom for students to flip through to see examples. They also like to flip through it for book recommendations. I admit I love reading their notebooks for this same reason. My To Read List grows as I talk to my students and read their thoughts about their books!

Knowing my students are looking to me as a model reader helps keep me reading. I try to read a mixture of Young Adult Literature and “regular” fiction/literature, just as I try to read a variety of fiction and nonfiction. That is part of my modeling for students too. Sometimes they get stuck on a genre and I want to show them there is awesome stuff across genres.

My other book goal for 2016 is to increase my classroom library by 100 more books. I added just under that (82 books) in 2015, so I think I can hit that goal this year. Right now my records show that I have 928 titles, and if I can surpass 1000 by the end of the year? Well, I will be ecstatic! To think that in the spring of 2014 I only had 104 books is crazy!

If you want to help, I keep a Wish List on Amazon of books that my students request as well as books I read about that I know my students will enjoy (I read a lot of new release and award lists).

Now tell me…what are you reading? What do you want to read? What should I read?

Because of You…

I’ve been blogging for eight years right here on Sluiter Nation. At this point, I can’t imagine my life without this blog. My life would definitely not be the same without my space here on the internet, because really, blogging hasn’t just been me writing here. It’s gone way beyond that.

From my chair, I can look around me and see ways blogging has touched our lives.

I have books on the shelf next to me by bloggers and friends. I have books on the shelf that I am included in. My writing. Writing that would have never ever found it’s way to a book if it wasn’t for this space, social media, and all the people who put up with love me around the interwebs.

There are photos and gifts from people I wouldn’t know without this blog.

All three of my children’s lives have been documented here. Alice is currently sucking on a doll that was sent to her from a blogger friend. My coffee that I am sipping is from a mug from another blogger friend.

If I am being totally honest, I am a mom of three, in part, because of you. You who have supported me and given me encouraging words and prayers. You who helped me through those very very dark days when Eddie was a baby. You who continue to send your love when I falter.

Probably the most visible way the interwebs have supported me though, is through my classroom library.

I wish more than anything that I could take you all into my classroom and show you the library. Show you the transformation from 104 books to over 600 titles. Show you how my students came to rely on those books and love them. And yes, even lose some of them because they were so loved.

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I created a Classroom Wish List on Amazon. Originally there was about a hundred titles and I needed to keep adding more because you all responded like crazy!

Now, there are over 500 titles on that wish list. Those titles came mostly from my students asking for more books! Others came from my anticipating the needs of students, reading new book lists, and getting recommendations from other readers of YA lit. I’ve also purchased about ten books this summer (and hope to take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for some more!).

I always have a need for more books.

In fact, I just created a project on DonorsChoose.org to hopefully fund a project that will put 50 new titles in my classroom library. Check out my project here.

I am not asking you to donate (although I would certainly love that, but so many of you have already to this library in various ways already). I would love it, though if you would share my project. Maybe with a business that is looking for a cause to give to.

I only need $300 more to get the project funded. This week each dollar donated with the code SPARK will get matched. Which means I REALLY only need about $150 in donation dollars to get my project funded*.

It’s a charitable donation, so it’s tax deductible as well.

Thank you. Thank you for reading me and hearing me and loving me.

But mostly? Thank you for loving my students whom you have never met.

Because of you, they read.

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*If the giving goes over what I need, it will be saved in gift codes for me to apply to future projects I create for my classroom.

 

 

4 More Books for You and Your Teen

A while back I did a post about books I recommend to teens (and their parents). I also told you about these five books that you and your teen really need to read.

Well guess what? I keep reading, so I have more recommendations! Yay!

Here are four more to add to your To Read Pile and which I have added to my classroom library.

Books for You and Your TeenThe first on my list is Butter by Erin Jade Lange.

Butter is a high school junior and he weighs well over 400 pounds. Miserable and on a quest to take control of the gossip about himself, Butter sets up a website where he announces he will eat himself to death live on the Internet on New Year’s Eve.

He expects pity and gossip, but he really never expects this announcement to gain him acceptance with the most popular kids in school.

As the deadline approaches, Butter has some decisions to make: go through with it or live with what people will say if he “chickens out”.

This book is cleverly written and humorous, while at the same time emotional and dark. Lange captures teen angst coupled with the sorrow of being an outcast perfectly, while giving Butter a strong, witty voice. I laughed out loud at the way Butter tells his story, but I also found myself wishing I could dive into his world and either hug him or shake him.

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Books For You and Your Teen

Next up is All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

Oh this book. This is a book about Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. They are high school seniors who run with totally different crowds.

Finch is a “freak” who is fascinated by death–and how he might die. He is constantly striving to stay awake and alive. He looks for a reason each day to stay in this world.  Violet is completely focused on graduation and getting out of their tiny Indiana town. She feels defined by her sister’s death and is finding a hard time going back to her old friends and hobbies.

Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of a bell tower at their school and ultimately save each other. They end up partners in a Geography project that has them “wandering” all over the great state of Indiana and then report back to their class. Clearly they are thrown together in love…but their story is so heart-wrenching and beautiful.

If you liked Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, you will LOVE this book. If you didn’t care for Eleanor & Park, you will still love this book. It puts suicide and mental illness in a new light.

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PaperTowns2009_6A

My next pick is Paper Towns by John Greene.

Like a metaphor rendered incomprehensible by its ubiquity, there was room enough in what she had left me for endless imaginings, for an infinite set of Margos” (173).

Quentin and Margo have lived next door to each other in Orlando, Florida their entire lives, but run in different crowds (notice a theme here? Come on, it’s YA lit). Quentin hangs out with mostly kids in band and likes his self-proclaimed boring routine. Margo is exciting and popular and pulls all sorts of crazy stunts like running away and spending the night in Disney World.

One night, Margo shows up at Quentin’s window and takes him on a ridiculous night-long adventure, but then disappears. It seems she has left clues, but they are for Quentin to figure out. What happened to her?

I read this book over a weekend, but if I had not had children needing me, I could have easily read it in one sitting. It’s fast-paced and hard to put down. I wanted to know what in the heck was going to happen! I also love the way John Green portrays teenagers. Some criticize him for making characters that are not believable, but as someone who has taught teenagers for twelve years, I can say that teens like these do exist. And they are my most favorite.

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My last pick is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

I grabbed this book from Barnes & Noble because I had a 20% off coupon on top of my membership discount. And the back of the book said it was the “funniest book about death” ever. Sold.

Greg is a high school senior who gets along with everybody, but has no actual friends. Well, other than Earl. And Earl is not so much a friend as a “co-worker”. They make films together. Terrible films that they show no one because they are terrible.

Greg’s mom makes him hang out with Rachel, who is dying from Leukemia. And that’s when things get weird.

The hilarity of this book is how honest and self-deprecating Greg is. He lets the reader know right off the bat that this is not a heart-warming “cancer book”. He does not fall in love and he claims not to learn anything. In fact, he thinks he may be worse for the entire experience. I don’t know if I agree with him, but I think the story is more of what might happen in real life than say, The Fault in Our Stars. There is some bad language and sexual humor, so reader beware if that is something that offends you.

4 YA books that you will enjoy as much {if not more than} your teen!

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What is your favorite YA book? What are you (and/or your teen) reading this summer? I want to know what to put on my reading list/classroom library list next!

If you’d like to donate to my classroom library, I just updated it with a bunch of junior high titles. Almost 500 books to choose from to donate, many under $8 each. I also created a DonorsChoose profile that collects donations toward my project–50 books for my classroom library.

Book links are affiliates. That means if you click and buy, I get a couple cents. Just trying to earn some Amazon dollars to buy books for my classroom library!

The Potty Mouth At the Table

9781451659399

I like to laugh, so I decided to read a Laurie Notaro book. It’s really that simple.

I have only read one other book by Notaro,There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble, and it was funny. It was REALLY funny. So I figured if Notaro’s fiction is that hilarious, her memoir stuff was going to be even better.

Plus people told me, her memoir stuff is even better.

So I picked the most recently published of all of them,The Potty Mouth at the Table despite the fact that all the GoodReads snobs users seemed to think this was not her best.

If this is not her best? I need to make sure I am not drinking anything while I read her earlier stuff because liquid WILL come out of my nose.

Potty Mouth is a collection of personal essays that made me say to my husband, “I am pretty sure this sort of thing only happens to extremely funny people who can tell a good story. Otherwise these sorts of things would be lost. Why have someone get in a cab with someone with the worst breath ever if they can’t weave that into a story that makes you gag and laugh your face off?”

The essays range in topic from opera about Anne Frank to lists of the worst Foodie words and phrases ever. Because I was constantly chuckling out loud, I ended up reading a bunch of it out loud to Cortney. He loves when I do that. Ok he does not really love it, and he usually doesn’t really listen, but this time he actually chucked too and said, “what book is that?”

It’s totally a quick, easy read too. I basically read it over a weekend. And it was a busy weekend, so take it to the beach or to the pool or even just to the couch and get your giggle on.

Then come back here and thank me.

And you’re welcome in advance.

What authors make you giggle right out loud?

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I bought the book myself. The links are affiliate though and if you purchase the book through one of those links I may some day earn enough to buy one of my children something from the ice cream truck. No. Nevermind. That thing is creepy.

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

51OXR+YUIIL._UY250_I’ve mentioned before that part of my story as a reader includes the years I was into mysteries. I haven’t really picked up a good murder mystery since Dan Browns’ The Da Vinci Code, so I was ready for one.  Plus, mysteries are just good quick summer reads.

I was sent a copy of The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Jeffrey Hunter McQuain to read and review which is perfect because A) mystery and B) Shakespeare!

Christopher Klewe and his best friend Mason Everly, a fellow Shakespeare expert, were about to make a ground-breaking announcement regarding the Bard at The Globe Theater in London when Klewe finds out Everly has been murdered in Washington D.C. by a secret society. As Klewe finds out about the murder a reporter, Zelda Hart, loiters around and ends up joining him as he searches for answers about the killer. The search leads the pair from D.C. to Paris, London, and Stratford Upon Avon.

I will admit that when I started reading the book, I found the names of the characters pretty cheesy, but as I continued to read, I really didn’t care. The Shakespeare Conspiracy is just a great, traditional murder-mystery that keeps you turning pages. All the chapters are super short, but end on some sort of cliff-hanger that makes you say, “eh, what is one more chapter? They’re short!” Before you know it, you’ve blown through the whole book in a matter of days.

McQuain has a PhD in Literary Studies from American University and is an expert himself on The Bard. The information he injects in the story is fascinating and helps to move the plot along. The information both Everly and Klewe have about Shakespeare and the announcement they planned to make about him is fed to the reader as it is fed to Zelda via Klewe. Like other historical or literary conspiracy-based fictional mysteries, this one is chocked full of research, but it’s not weighted down by it.

The only part I find lacking (besides the goofy names) is that the characters lack an emotional connection. The reader gets that there are friendships and romantic feelings, but it isn’t done very well. It’s not distracting, however, since few murder mysteries focus on the emotions, rather they feed on the logic of the reader.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it as an easy, light summer read. Especially if you want to learn a little something about one of the world’s greatest writers.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The book was sent to me for review, but the opinions are all mine. Links are affiliate which means if you click and buy I will get a few dimes thrown my way.

Apron Strings

apron-strings-newcover-351x351I love historical fiction. Some of my favorite books fall under this genre: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Red Tent, East of Eden, among many more. So when I was offered the chance to read/review a book that goes between the late 20’s/early 30’s era and the late 1950’s, I jumped on it.

Apron Strings by Mary Morony tells two stories. The main story is told by seven-year-old Sallee Mackey growing up in the late 50’s, in the South, smack in the middle of desegregation. Sallee’s family has their share of issues. Her Yankee father, Joe, quit his job as a lawyer to build and open a controversial shopping center. Her Southern mother, Ginny, is concerned about what people are saying and copes by drinking. And their maid, Ethel, who has been with Ginny and the family since childhood and has been Sallee’s touchstone and mother figure when her own mother couldn’t, has her own personal and family problems.

The other story is told by Ethel, the Mackey family’s black maid. Morony’s novel jumps back and forth between Sallee’s voice telling a first person account of her family and Ethel’s first person account (which seems to be directed at Sallee) about growing up and working for Sallee’s mother’s family.

I very much enjoyed Morony’s writing. I felt that she captured the confused and often times naive voice of a seven-year-old trying to make sense of racism and the judgment of adults very well. In fact, she seemed to capture all the voices of her characters well. I get skeptical when a white person writes a black character, but Ethel and her family members seemed to have dialect that would fit both the time and location for the story.

I think my one issue was, that after I read the last line and closed the book, I wondered what story I just read. I enjoyed reading it all the way through, but when I got to the end I wasn’t sure what the main take away of the book was supposed to be. Both Sallee’s and Ethel’s stories were interesting and fun to read, but that is all it felt like, just the life stories of two different people. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a statement against racism or drinking. Or maybe it was about the importance of family. It felt like maybe it was trying to do too much at once with a lot of characters that didn’t all seem necessary.

For instance, Sallee’s weird neighbor Mr. Dabney shows up in Ethel’s stories. We find something out about him, but I thought it would have a lot more relevance to the story. It did not. It didn’t seem to effect the outcome of the book at all, but I found it interesting. Like real life, I suppose.

So I feel like I am in a weird position. On the one hand, I very much enjoyed reading the writing and the stories these characters had to tell. On the other hand, I’m not sure all the characters or the details were necessary to the story as a whole. I wouldn’t tell anyone to NOT read it because it’s a nice little read, but I don’t know that it’s the first thing I would recommend to someone looking for a new read either.

I will say that in the end, I do wonder what happens to Sallee after the book is over. I wonder about all her siblings and her parents too. That is the mark of a good story and good writing.

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was sent a copy of Apron Strings to read and review. I received no compensation. All the opinions are my own.

Gone Girl

21480930I picked up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn completely due to peer pressure. That and I like a good mystery/suspense novel.

My mom got me hooked on mysteries when I was in middle school. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had read all that was available to me by way of Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High and all the other series that were aimed at my age group. I needed something more challenging.  That was when my mom introduced me to Agatha Christie. It didn’t take me long to read through ALL of Christie’s novels. More than once.

By high school, I needed something else. My cousin introduced me to Mary Higgins Clark and from there I also found John Grisham. I haven’t picked up too many mystery/suspense books since then, although when a good one comes along, I try to get to it.

That being said, I wasn’t going to read Gone Girl because I don’t tend to like books with a lot of hype. But everyone hated the ending and everyone was so mad when they finished, so of course I figured, “well now I have to read it because I will probably like the ending…or at least be able to defend it,” because I am snobby and full of myself that way.

Ok so I started it and I was bored to tears. It took me forever to get through the first third of the book. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters–not enough to care about them or root for them or anything. The story is an old one: wife goes missing; husband is a suspect; reader tries to figure out if he’s guilty before the book tells you. The challenge is to keep it interesting, which it was NOT for the first part of the novel. I liked that every other chapter bounced between first person accounts from the husband and the wife–his present-day thoughts and her past-tense thoughts from her diary, but it wasn’t enough. I quit the book.

I told all this to a friend of mine who then asked, “Well what part are you up to?” When I told her she replied, “Oh stuff is about to BLOW UP. Start reading again!”

She was right. I read another chapter and then BOOM! Plot twists and turns and bombs dropped. Just when you think you know what’s going on? Nope.  So I started binge reading.

Then I got all bored again once I knew what happened to the wife.

By the time I got within a few chapters of the end of the book, I totally knew how it was going to end, but I couldn’t put it down because this book had just enough surprises that even though I thought I knew, I wasn’t sure I knew. Ya know? I ended up being mostly right about the end, but I wasn’t angry like everyone else was.

I didn’t think the ending was “fair”, but it didn’t surprise me.

In fact, I likened Gone Girl to The Great Gatsby in the following ways: it’s sort of a boring basic plot, none of the characters are likable–or trustworthy, for that matter, and the ending pretty much makes you mad because that is NOT how it’s supposed to go.

The difference is that The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels of all time particularly because I know so much about Fitzgerald’s process and his writing style/word choice make my literature nerd heart happy. Gone Girl, on the other hand has Ok writing, but it’s not enough to make me want to re-read and love to hate the characters the way I do with Tom, Nick, and Daisy.

I’m not mad that I gave in and read Gone Girl, and despite this review, I would actually recommend that if you haven’t read it, maybe you should. I do want to see the movie too.

Talk to me: have you read it? Have you seen the movie?  Thoughts?

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

91hvgvo-tlI love to read books that are super good, but are not the ones that are being talked about all over Facebook and the Today show. The ones that someone recommends to you because they loved it, but whenever you ask anyone else if they’ve read it, they say no.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin came to me in church. A friend came up to me with it and said, “Hey Katie, our book club just finished this book and I just think you will really like it. I always think of you and your classroom when I read a really good book and want to pass it along.”

I was busy reading The Giver and Animal Farm and getting ready to plan out those units before I went on maternity leave, so I put it on my To Read pile. Just before Alice was born, I picked it up and totally got hooked.

The title character, A.J. Fikry, reminds me a lot of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, only literary instead of sciencey. He is the ornery, particular, owner of the only bookstore on Alice Island, Massachusetts.  As a middle-aged widow (his beautiful, care-free wife died in a car accident), he talks to few and is rude to many.  Then a series of strange things happen–an almost priceless Edgar Allen Poe piece is stolen, a “package” shows up in his store–that change his life.

The book is separated into chapters with titles the same as short stories–which Fikry claims to prefer over novels–and a brief synopsis of what the short story is about.  Literature nerds like myself will appreciate all the literary references and allusions not just from the chapter title pages, but throughout the entire novel. And as cliche as it sounds, I really can’t give away more of the plot because it would ruin the magic of it unfolding for you.

It’s a quick read–especially if you do lean more toward the literary–but it’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking, if that is possible. There are times when you totally see what’s coming, but it’s not a bad thing. And then there are times when you are blindsided and you want it to be all cliche and happy.

I found The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  to be the perfect read for helping me relax in the evenings as my csection date with Alice approached, and then for the evenings in the hospital before I went to sleep. It wasn’t too heavy, but it wasn’t just fluff either.

Because this book straddled my time between pregnant with Alice and her first week home, I’ll always remember it fondly.

Have you read this one? What are you reading right now?

 

March Book Shower

March is when Alice is coming (the 6th).  March is Charlie’s third birthday (the 13th).  March is my thirty-seventh birthday (the 27th).  March is also READING MONTH.

March also means my last day of teaching until fall. While it is exciting to think of being done for six months, it also stressful for me getting ready to leave my students–and my classroom library–with someone else for 12 weeks.  Will the sub love and care for my books the way I do?  Will my students continue to be responsible about checking out and returning books without stealing or losing them?

What I know for sure is that I have students who are definitely reading those books. I would say that over 75% of my classes are doing more than required one independent book per marking period, and of the remaining 25% of students, less than 10% are just not reading or doing their required work.

With only 4 days left of work for this year, I would say my biggest success has been Reading Workshop. I have many things I would like to add or adjust for next year, but as my first year trying Reader’s Workshop AND being in a new grade-level and building, I would say it’s been more successful than I could have hoped.

That said, I always, always need more books. So rather than having a baby shower, I was told I should throw a book shower!

If you want to participate in my March Book Shower to celebrate the birth of Alice, mine and Charlie’s birthdays, Reading Month and the success of my first year of Reader’s Workshop just click the imagine below and it will take you to my classroom wishlist.

library

This wishlist has been compiled by my students as they read and request books. There are over 300 titles, so if you click through, you can find something you would love to add to our library.

It would only take a gift of ONE book per blog reader and my students would be able to have the books that will keep them reading!

I would love it if you would share this post with others too! You can either click on the share buttons below, or you can use this when you share via twitter or Facebook:

Join me in throwing @ksluiter a Book Shower in honor of March being Reading month, her new baby girl, and her students’ love of reading! http://wp.me/p1qChn-2yS

It’s about to get crazy in Sluiter Nation…help us celebrate!

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