August 15, 2012

Let Me Explain My Blog to You

As I'm looking at the new school year starting, I'm also thinking about my blog.  Here's why.  

This school year I will begin teaching one class each of 5-8th grade high potential students.  For the last 10 years I've taught straight 7th grade with one class a day of readers who struggle.  This school year is going to be different, challenging, scary, AMAZING! But I couldn't be more excited about it.  The thing is that as I look at changes as a teacher, I'm looking at changes in my blog.  

As I've always said my blog reviews middle grade books (MG), but I have a waaaaaaaaaaay different definition of middle grade than the publishing industry.  I want to try to explain it.

The industry classifies MG as 9-12 year olds and YA as 12+ or sometimes 14+.  When I taught 7th graders only I had 12-13 yr olds.  Do you see how that crosses both definitions????  And some kids were completely on that YA end while some were completely on the MG end.  If you've never taught middle school or had a child in middle school you know how different kids this age can be.  Well now this year add in the fact I'll be teaching 10 and 11 year olds on the young side and 13-14 year olds on the old side! That's a span of 10-14! Now 21-25 year olds - they aren't that different.  But 10-14!!!! OH YIKES!!

That means the type of books I'm looking at just widened by a ton.  

What does this mean for the blog???? You'll see:
  • Way more diversity of what I read and review.  It may seemed very unfocused to you, but for mean it will be my job :)
  • You'll see more clear marking of what books are for what ages.  I may label a book YMG (young middle grade) or OYA (old young adult), so you know where it falls.  Just typing this now makes me realize I should create a four label system and put it in my sidebar.  Using baby owls to older owls would be cute.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm :-D Maybe I could even get a boy owl to mark a book "guy friendly". 
  • I might be asking you for more help when it comes to finding books.  Especially as I navigate the younger crowd.  I have NEVER taught anyone younger than 12!!
  • And you may see fewer posts.  I try to post every day, but as I'm learning this new job I may not have the time,
I know that the diversity of books I'll be looking at may lose me some followers that are really only looking for one more specific level, but my hope is that others will find more of what they need!

Thanks for sticking with The O.W.L.  As excited as I am about my new job, I'm also excited about what it means I can bring to my blog.  It's going to be a fantastic year!!!

To kick this off - can you tell me:
a great MG book you've read lately? 
or What cute labels would you give to the different levels of books I'll review? 
or Your sympothy for going from teaching one prep to 4! 
or Good luck!  

And maybe, just maybe I'll pick a responder and give them a prize.  What is that prize?  IDK we'll see!


  1. I can not wait to see the changes.
    I love your idea of categorizing the age.
    If I had more experience with kids that age I would do that too.
    I did recently listen to and loved About Average ( something I would definitely recommend to a 10 year old girl.
    I LOVED Three Times Lucky (I think you read that one).
    The The Mysterious Howling: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place ( would be great for your young ones too.
    Good luck.
    I can't wait to see what you find and love the boy owl idea btw. ;)

  2. I loved The Apothecary by Maile Meloy!

  3. Congratulations on your new job! You bring so much enthusiasm to your work, of COURSE it will be an amazing year! I think smaller-to-bigger owls would would great as a ranking system. MG book I recently read and loved: "Danny, Champion of the World," by Roald Dahl. An oldie but a goodie :-)

  4. I finally picked up Wonder by R.J. Palacio and really enjoyed it (it would make a great read-aloud, perhaps for the 11-12 year olds). Also, I liked Prairie Evers too, it was pretty sweet. Love the idea of the young and old owls!

  5. Nice on the new job! And yep yep on that crazy age range. I had a book club, in a wee town, and I had ten kids come---their ages were 8 to 14 and I was always going in with a pile of books-everything from Ivy and Bean to Hunger Games, Evernight.

    I recently read The Templeton Twins...quirky, different and might have a wide appeal because of the narration.

    Totally LOVE the owl idea and designating YMG, OMG YYA

  6. Wow! That will be a huge jump! The last MG I read and loved was A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner and I loved it. I love how Scholastic is going interactive with their book series.

  7. I'm looking forward to seeing how your reviewing changes! I'm a pre-service teacher hoping to teach middle school, so getting a better idea of 6th versus 8th grade will be good for me. :) I love the idea of using different sized owls as labels (and LOVE the guy-friendly idea! I wish more blogs did that!). I HIGHLY suggest looking into Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy and Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans. I read & enjoyed both this summer, and I'm actually looking forward to using Words in the Dust in my future classroom. Good luck!

  8. Four preps? That's insane. Just sayin'....
    As for great MG reads, I would have to list a few that are exceptional.
    1. Wonder by RJ Placios
    2. Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt
    3. Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin (Newbery Honor, another duh)
    4. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    5. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
    6. Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
    And #7 is a pick from my son - Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins.

  9. I'll be interested in your new classification system! It's so confusing for writers when what publishers define as MG is different than what people think of as middle schoolers.

    My favourite MG reads of this year are The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

    I also enjoyed Wonder, but my daughter thought the kid sounded too old to be MG.

  10. I just tried to type a message and it ninja vanished on me. Hopefully it doesn't suddenly show up somewhere.

    I am so excited about the changes to your site because I have a daughter in 6th grade and a son in 8th. Finding books for my son is pretty easy. He likes the kind of books I like. Right now he's reading Insignia by S.J. Kincaid on my recommendation. We have to drag him out of his room on occasion so he'll eat. My daughter, on the other hand...her tastes change with her mood swings. Finding books she'll read is a challenge.

    Good luck in your new position!

  11. Categorizing with different aged-owls sounds adorable! :)

  12. Congrats on your new, exciting adventure! I hope this is an amazing school year. I look forward to your reviews- and the broader range. I like the way you will be categorizing.

    My co-author is a 5th grade teacher, so we review a lot of MG books on our blog. Some of my favorites are: Wonder by RJ Palacio, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

    Happy reading! ~Jess