January 30, 2013

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Copy Obtained: Bought

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here - one of whom was his own grandfather - were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive.

This book has been out for a bit now, and it had buzz right away because of the odd pictures scattered throughout the book.  The cover alone is amazing.  I had just never gotten around to reading it.  We picked it for a literature circle book for my 8th graders, so I knew it was time.  Hmmmmmm what did I think??  I knew going into the story that it had gotten mixed reviews.  Some people love it and others not so much.  I fall into the "not so much" category.  I didn't hate it by any means, but I just wasn't super excited about it.  I think the man reason was the pacing.  To me it moved really slow before it really picked up.  

Ok what did I like?  I liked Jacob.  I really did.  It was because I liked him that I kept reading.  If I hadn't liked him I would've stopped.  He was determined, brave and genuine.  He accepted the children quite easily, and that would've come across as unbelievable if it had been for his grandfather.  Because of his relationship with his grandfather, I could believe Jacob's reactions very easily.  As a side note - I loved his relationship with his parents.  I found that super believable, and it actually made me giggle a little.  

As for the pictures - they were definitely interesting.  I know my students are drawn to the book for the pictures alone, and if that gets them to pick it up and read it I'm happy!  Every once in awhile it seemed the story was twisted just so the picture would fit where as the story would've been fine without the picture being included.

My students seem to love this book! They all find it creepy/scary.  As long as they love it, it doesn't matter what I think of it!

Final Thought: Kids love it - that's enough for me
Best stick-with-you image: The first time he sees the house as it was
Best for readers who: Like a bit of creepy and a bit of mystery
Best for ages: 12+

For the Guys? For sure! Jacob is definitely a character boys will like, and the story is one they'll enjoy.  

January 28, 2013

Book Reveiw: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

My Review

I'm not going to go on and on about this book, because I think most of you have probably read several reviews of it by this point.  But I do want to share my thoughts.  

In short - it was fantastic. Read it.

To say a bit more - I'm a teacher and I hate bullying with a white hot passion.  Bullying makes me angry more than anything else.  Why?  No one has the right to make someone else's life horrible and difficult and unhappy.  No one has the right to target another person for no real reason.  No one.  I just can't fathom someone thinking it's ok to do! So this book hit home a lot.  To watch Auggie go through what he did hurt my heart.  Yes my heart was healed in the end, but it hurt to watch him have to cope with the cruel behavior of others.  I'd love to be naive enough to think stuff like this doesn't happen.  I so wish that was true.

I loved the way the story was told.  To hear from multiple characters was amazing.  It created this completely full and well rounded story.  You came to understand what was happening with many characters, and you could understand more why they did what they did.  It also helped you gain a stronger understanding about how bullying affects all people involved not just the person being bullied.  It would not have been the story it was without constructing the book this way.

Really - if you haven't read this book you should.  Yes it was hard for me to watch it all unfold, but the hope and optimism at the end was so much stronger and uplifting.  

Final Thought: Read it
Best stick-with-you image: Halloween day at school
Best for readers who: Want a good story
Best for ages: 9++++++++

For the Guys? Without a doubt!

January 24, 2013

Cover Crush: The Wig in the Window

I love book covers. Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me. I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

As I've said before I love MG covers done in this style.  And this one is no expection.  
The girl standing looks just fun (she's wearing Chucks how could I not love her!).
What are they doing peeking into the window?
A wig?? Why a wig?
And I just love the purple hues.
Well done.

Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game of spying on their neighbors, but when they stake out the home of notoriously phony middle school counselor Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward), they stumble across a terrifying scene.

Or do they? The girls are convinced that Dr. Agford’s sugary sweet façade hides a dark secret. But as they get closer to the truth about Agford, the strain of the investigation pushes Sophie and Grace farther apart. Even if they crack their case, will their friendship survive? 

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a Rear Window twist.

January 22, 2013

Book Review: Deadly Little Secret (Touch #1)

Title: Deadly Little Secret (Touch #1)
Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz

Until three months ago, everything about sixteen-year-old Camelia's life had been fairly ordinary: decent grades; an okay relationship with her parents; and a pretty cool part-time job at an art studio downtown. But when Ben, the mysterious new guy, starts junior year at her high school, Camelia's life becomes far from ordinary.

Rumored to be somehow responsible for his ex-girlfriend's accidental death, Ben is immediately ostracized by everyone on campus. Except for Camelia. She's reluctant to believe he's trouble, even when her friends try to convince her otherwise. Instead she's inexplicably drawn to Ben...and to his touch. But soon, Camelia is receiving eerie phone calls and strange packages with threatening notes. Ben insists she is in danger, and that he can help – but can he be trusted? She knows he's hiding something...but he's not the only one with a secret.

My Review

Hmmmm what did I think of this one?  I liked it that much was true although I will admit I wasn't crazy-wow-in-love-with-it.  First I I had to (and don't kick me here) shake the Twilight comparison right from the start with the car almost hitting her etc.  But once I got over that I saw that it really wasn't a Twilight knock off.  I think what I liked the most was the mystery in the story. Someone is stalking Camelia, but you don't know who! I loved the guessing game with that whole part of the plot.  It was between like three people but you never knew which one.  I would think it just had to be one guy, but then something happened and I knew it wasn't.  But then I would go back to him again.  I liked that part, because I've always enjoyed mysteries even as a young child.

The characters:  They were pretty good, but again I will admit I didn't love them.  I didn't find myself really really caring about them.  I was more interested in that mystery.  I know there are several more books in the series, so I'm curious to know if, as I follow the characters, will I begin to care about them more.  This also was true for the chemistry between Camelia and Ben.  It was there, but I didn't completely feel it.  I'm wondering if, as I read more, will I see it more.  

Over-all it was good quick read.  I plan on reading at least one more in the series, because I do want to see how the "love connection" and characters develop.  And if all the books are mysteries, I'll really enjoy that.  

Final Thought: Good fun book
Best stick-with-you image: The ending when all is revealed
Best for readers who: Like a mystery
Best for ages: 12+

For the Guys? No not really.  

January 17, 2013

Cover Crush: Destiny, Rewritten

I love book covers. Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me. I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

I'm a sucker for good MG covers.  And a real sucker for the ones done in this style.  (there's two others like it I love Drizzle and Falling In), so when I saw this one I loved it right away.

You know what I really like - the CAT! What is he looking at???
Plus look at all those books.  She seems like a girl after my own heart.

Des·tin·y: |destinē/
(noun) The hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn’t even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then a seeming tragedy strikes: just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she accidentally loses the special copy of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily’s understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

January 14, 2013

Team Owl Review: The Golden Door by By Emily Rodda

Today I have a review from one of my 6th grade boys on the book The Golden Door by Emily Rodda.  
If you aren't aware, she is the same author of the Deltora Quest books (I have several students who LOVE those books).  
This her newest book.  

Three magic doors you here behold,
Time to choose wood, silver or gold?

The Golden Door
By: Emily Rodda
272 pages of a great book

In the Golden Door, the first story in the trilogy of the three doors, the story begins in the household of young Rye, the main character and the quest issued by the Warden for those who are 18 and older.The quest is to find and stop the person sending the skimmers, which are scaly winged creatures who hunt in the night. Written by Emily Rodda, the author of the series Deltora Quest, the story has Rye set out to find the villain behind the attacks, and to find his brothers who went out and did not come back. 

In a thrilling and action packed adventure, Rye journeys outside the walls of his safe city Weld and goes to explore the wondrous island of Dorne. I think the setting and storyline are a wonder to behold. Rye is the man for the job, because he is persistent and brave, and a true fighter until the end. He will do anything to find his brothers and be the hero he always wanted to be. 

I think this book is definitely a good read for people who like science fiction and fantasy. The Island of Dorne is a great setting for this adventurous boy who wants an adventure, full of danger and mystery and the great things in a book with this great quality. 

I would recommend this book to the middle grade section, about the ages of 10-13. Some parts,( I won’t mention, I’m not going to just tell you.) are a little frightening for anyone scared of ,well, scary monsters. It is not a terribly frightening book, but it is not the perfect one either. 

I think this book is geared to more boys then girls, because of the action, but some girls who like action might enjoy Sonia, the other main character. All of these qualities, and those you only get by reading the book, are enough to make me rifle through the pages, and I think it will make you do this too.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this book!!!!

January 12, 2013

Great Site for Middle Grade Books

I just found the link to Simon and Schuster's SimonKIDS' page for middle grade books!  

If you have a middle schooler in your life (and even younger),  you should check it out!

Here's the link - In the Middle Books

January 10, 2013

Cover Crush: Winger

I love book covers. Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me. I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

You have to admit that this cover gets your attention! But here's why I like it.  The main reason - it's not like any other cover out there.  It's so unique.  I'm so use to the "typical" YA cover right now that this one just screams out because it completely different.  For one thing there is a guy on the cover! Rare.  Very rare.  And then the stitches and bloody nose.  What happened?????

Love it :)

A teen at boarding school grapples with life, love, and rugby in a heartbreakingly funny novel.

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn infographics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

January 8, 2013

Review: One Came Home by Amy Timberlake +GIVEAWAY

Don't forget to read my interview with Amy Timberlake and enter the GIVEWAY for a copy of the book. (I fixed the lack of way to enter from  yesterday! -yikes)

Title: One Came Home
Author: Amy Timberlake
Released: Today!

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

This is a book I will be talking up to my middle schooler - especially those that like historical fiction.  But what I will make clear to them that this is a book that goes beyond JUST being historical fiction.

On the surface this book could just be about the huge passenger pigeon nesting in 1871 and a young girl looking for the truth behind her missing sister.  And with that it would be a good story.  But what makes it a great story is how it goes beyond that.  This isn't just a story of Georgie wanting to know if who they think was her sister really was.  Instead its about a young girl learning who she is and what her place in this world is.  Georgie is a character that under goes a huge amount of change.  I teach my students about static vs. dynamic characters.  Georgie is the perfect example of a dynamic character.  At the start of the book, she's almost a snotty little girl.  Not completely but whoa does she have attitude.  Now that attitude isn't gone at the end of the book, but the immature component of it is gone!  Throughout the course of her drive to find out what happened to her sister she sees the world beyond her own selfish thoughts, wants and emotions.  It was so cool to see her change like that!

Georgie, if she were my daughter, would both frustrate me to no end but make me so filled with pride at the same time - especially at the end of the story.  What more could I ask for in a character????

Ok beyond Georgie what did I think of the story?  The plot was great.  It had some good twists and turns that really pulled together nicely.  I didn't find they hard to believe.  It all seemed plausible.  Sometimes in a mystery situation in a book how things come together can seem so far-fetched that I just can't buy it.  That wasn't the case here.  Although I will admit  there were a few things that happened later in the year that didn't seem completely necessary to go into.  I understand they were historically accurate, but just sticking to Georgie's story would've been ok with me too.  It wasn't a big deal at all because it was a smaller part of the book.  It added to Georgie's growth, but I would've been just as happy with the book without it.

Lastly the pigeons - wow!  Wow wow wow! I really need to learn more about passenger pigeons now.  I was asking people if they had heard anything about this huge nesting that happened in 1841 in Wisconsin, and no one knew! Now I live in Minnesota, so the fact we didn't know was even more amazing.  I want to learn more, and I'm thinking about tying it into a lesson for one of the grades I teach.  Well done there!  I read a good story AND learned some history.  

Final Thought: More than just historical fiction
Best stick-with-you-image: The cougar!
Best for readers who: Like history and some mystery
Best for ages: 12+ (maybe 9+ if you know the child because of the story of her sister's death)

For the Guys? You know even though it has a girl main character I think boys could like it.  It's not girly at all - Georgie isn't so how could it be?? I'll share it with boys :)

January 7, 2013

Author Interview: Amy Timberlake Author of One Came Home +GIVEAWAY

Today I'm very excited to welcome Amy Timberlake to The O.W.L. Amy is the author of the book One Came Home just being released this week!

About the book

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

I was able to read and advanced copy of the book.  In short - love it!  Watch for my full review tomorrow.

But for now let's get to the interview.

Welcome Amy!

Let's start with the easy questions:

What Point of View -1st or 3rd:  First
Boy or Girl main character (or both!): Girl

Ha! You’re going to have to answer this one because I don’t know. Here’s the facts: I was strongly influenced by the western. I also love mysteries, as well as big epic adventures like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And then there are the passenger pigeons. Having them as part of the story means the book is set in the past, so historical fiction. But wait! That enormous nesting and all those birds make for an eerie setting that to me almost seemed like science fiction. So what do you think? 

Middle Grade or Young Adult:
The publisher is saying older middle grade, some people are thinking it’s YA. 

More boy or girl book (stereotypically):
Another one for you to decide! 

Now the Serious Questions! 

For One Came Home what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about? I love Georgie’s voice. It’s first person so you can really hear her speak, and she’s actually speaking to the reader, telling you her story. Once I got her voice down, I liked her way of directly addressing her readers a lot. 

One Came Home is set in 1871 – can you talk about what that was like? Why that time? What research, if any, did you do? 1871 became the setting because I was reading The Passenger Pigeon by a historian named A. W. Schorger. While reading, I came upon a passage about a nesting that Mr. Schorger said was probably the last great passenger pigeon nesting. Now this was no ordinary nesting—the nesting was estimated to have covered 850 square miles (over half the size of Rhode Island). Because of the size, Schorger made an educated guess that nearly every passenger pigeon in North America may have taken part in this nesting. How many birds is that? Thousands? Or a million or more birds? Unfortunately, no one knows. 

But imagine living next door to this nesting. When those birds flew they could block out the sun. All day, there would be the noise from the nesting, along with a pungent smell. When they flew overhead (which they did in great flocks at least two times a day) there would be a sort of “sleet” that fell. (People in 1871 called this “pigeon lime.”) Add to this, the fact that hunters (called “pigeoners”) followed passenger pigeons wherever they went, and now, you’ve got two invasions happening in short order: birds and then thousands of pigeon hunters.

And all of this happened in my home state of Wisconsin and I didn’t know a thing about it! How was this possible? So I did what I do in cases like these: I started writing about a small, fictional town that neighbored the nesting.

Research? I did a lot—most of which did not make it in the book, but that’s the way it often goes (so I’ve heard). 

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write One Came Home from idea to finish? Please tell about revision if you can! My students just did NaNoWriMo, so they are very curious about revision. 

The book took about three years to write. Another year (or so) after it sold, as I worked through edits suggested by my editor, Alison Wortche at Knopf. 

I do rewrite a lot. My best writing comes out of the rewriting process. I don’t keep track of how many drafts I do, but I’ll guess that it’s not uncommon for me to have over twenty drafts of a book—and I mean, literally re-workings from beginning to end. It’s a long process for me. When I am working on a book length work, I work (or try to work) about four hours a day.

Revision—for me—is doing anything I need to do to get the story better. I’ll try anything too. I’ve been known to cut 60 pages down to 12 so I can have a tighter plot arc in say, the first chapter. Sometimes I make an outline from a finished piece of writing to see, in the outline’s shortened form, what I’ve written. Then I’ll re-arrange and re-write. I’ve been known to cover doors with Post-Its. (This didn’t work well for me—but I sure looked productive.) I’ve tossed out ten pages and kept a line that somehow speaks to me. I’ve also tossed a lot of backstory too.

The first draft is wonderful because you have a glimpse of the story you’re going to tell and it’s so nice to be done with the blank white page. So the first draft is worthy of celebration, but for me, the first draft is only a glimpse of the final book because revision is the source of almost all of my writing. 

When you were in middle school kind of student were you? Did you write then? Did anything from this time show up in One Came Home?
If you read my first novel, That Girl Lucy Moon, you’ll get a sense of who I was as a middle school student. Lucy feels injustice acutely. There’s also a lot of me in Georgie Burkhardt—she’s fierce, strong, determined and she gets things done. I wasn’t as brave as either Lucy or Georgie, but they do represent the person I wished I was at the time. 

Otherwise, I’d describe myself as a middle of the road student who occasionally took on the odd project. One of these projects was a newspaper called “The Birch Bark Press,” which contained all sorts of middle school news—so I guess yes, I did write in middle school. But I didn’t consider the newspaper “writing” per se, I thought of myself as an entrepreneur starting up a newspaper business. (It fell apart in a matter of months, but I did try it.) 

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? OR WHOOO do you like to read or really enjoyed in HS or middle school?
You’ve got so many great writers writing for people in middle school—it’s impossible to name everyone I admire, but I will say that Polly Horvath is one my all-time favorites. 

The Fun Questions! (based on what middle school students do!) 

Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind?
Not a lot. This is because I forget I’m chewing and then hours later, my jaw cramps up. But my family has a favorite chewing gum—Big Red cinnamon gum. Growing up, my mom chewed it by the handfuls, so it was always around. When I think “gum,” I think “cinnamon.” 

Do you text? 

Yes but I’m new at it. I joined the rest of the world and I got my first cell phone two years ago. (Sort of proud of that. Can you tell?) 

Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?! 

Actually, I didn’t mind it. But I remember choosing when I ate school lunch (mostly I ate bagged lunches). My favorite school lunch? Hamburger and tater tots. Who knows what made up the meat in those burgers, but I still get cravings for tater tots. That’s from school lunch. Thanks, lunch ladies!

Thank you so much for sharing all this Amy.  I have to say that all the information about the pigeons was amazing.  I want to learn mroe about them, and I plan on telling my students all about them as well! Especially because we live in Minnesota, so it would've been really close to us.  

To learn more about Amy and passanger pigeons check out the links below:
Amy's Pintrest board on Passenger Pigeons

Now the Giveaway
Blueslip Media has given a copy of One Came Home for a giveway
Fill out the Rafflecopter Form
Must be US resident
Must be at least 13

a Rafflecopter giveaway

January 5, 2013

New Layout

As you may have noticed I've changed the layout and template of the blog.  

I LOVED my new design when I first got it. It was fun and bright and cheerful and perfect.  But lately it's just been too bright and active for me.  

I really needed something with less.  
Less color.  
Less stuff.  
Less owls here and owls there.  
I just needed to simplify.  
Kinda like how I need to simplify what I'm doing on the blog and not let it stress me out. 
So I looked for something less.  

I hope you like the new colors and simplicity.  
I know I do :) I'm sorry if you liked the colorfulness.  It's still kinda there with the owl labels!

Ps I got this at Suck My Lolly.  I had to do a bit more of my own work, but not biggie.  

January 3, 2013

Review: Dead City by James Ponti

Title: Dead City
Author: James Ponti

The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins says this paranormal action-adventure “breathes new life into the zombie genre” and has “a terrific twist of an ending.”

Most kids have enough to deal with between school, homework, extracurricular activities, and friends, but Molly Bigelow has something else on her list: hunting zombies. By day, Molly attends MIST—the Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology—but outside the classroom she’s busy dealing with the undead. Because not only do zombies exist, they’re everywhere, and it’s her job to help police them and keep the peace. Sure, she’d like to be a regular kid, but given that her mother was the most revered (or feared, depending on your perspective) zombie hunter in the history of New York City, “regular” just isn’t possible. Molly’s got some legendary footsteps to follow—and some undeadly consequences if she fails.

What a fun book! I love zombie books, I really do.  So when I found a middle grade zombie book I had to check it out. Plus the blurb on the cover from Suzanne Collins also made me interested and curious.  I so glad I picked this book up.  I really think my middle graders will enjoy this book.

First - because it's middle grade it is not your bloody gory zombie book.  BUT that doesn't mean it doesn't have plenty of action, zombie bahavior and age appropriate gore.  It's just done in a way that makes it really easy to hand it off to one of my students without worry that it's going to cause them nightmares!

Ok the story.  I love Molly the main characters.  She's smart (very smart and I LOVED that) and determined but still has all those characteristics that made her a middle schooler.  She worries about popularity and being picked on, but doesn't care enough to stop her from doing what she knows she needs to do.  Although there were times I wished she wouldn't have done what she did! If I was her parent I'd be so mad at her!  Speaking of parents - Molly's mom had recently passed away from cancer.  The way this was handled in the book was well done.  It wasn't overplayed or used just to advance the story.  How Molly and her family were coping with it seemed very realistic, and I liked that.

The pace of the story was pretty good.  It did speed up in towards the end with a few leaps and bounds, but not to the point where it seemed realstic.  Well as realistic as it could seem considering Molly and her friends are charged with fighting and protecting New York from the zombies!  The action pulled me along well.  I didn't find myself overly bored - letting me finish it quit quickly.

About those zombie - they aren't the stereotypical zombies.  In this book there are 3 levels from almost normal to the more typical zombie that can't communicate and is only out to get people.  I found that to be an interesting way to create these zombie.  Instead of all zombies being unfeeling almost mechnical creatures, some of ones in this book have a heart!  It played well into the plot, and it also made a bit more tension because you never know if it's a zombie you can trust.

Oh and the ending - watch out!!!!! Nuff said there :)

Final thought:  Great take on zombies for the MG set
Best stick-with-you image:  The ending
Best for readers who:  Like action and zombie
Best for Ages: 9-13

For the Guys? Yup even though the main character is a girl.  I think the guys could enjoy it.

January 1, 2013

Cybils: 2012 Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2012 Cybils Award have been announced.  I was suppose to be a judge for middle grade fiction, but after a bit of a stressed laden freak out I had to step down! Valuable lesson learned about trying to take on too much!

The list of finalists in all the categories looks fantastic, but I want to share the finalists in Middle Grade Fiction.

Taken from the Cybils Website:

Middle Grade Fiction

Almost Home
by Joan Bauer
Nominated by: Sarah Potvin
Sugar's life is not easy. She has a gambling father who comes and goes as he pleases and a mother who often crumbles under financial hardship and single motherhood. Eventually Sugar is stranded in a strange city with only her puppy, Shush, to cling to. Then Child Protective Services steps in and Sugar finds herself in a foster home and a new school. 
The author skillfully weaves this story using Sugar's narrative voice, emails, thank-you notes and poems. This beautifully combines into a full view of Sugar's personality. Sugar and sweet she is, with a good amount of down-to-earth, funny thoughtfulness and caring for others sprinkled in, and bound with resilience. Compelling and multi-dimensional secondary characters make the story all the richer. The brisk pacing keeps the pages turning right up until an ending that is hopeful, but realistic. Sometimes we have to have patience and understanding where family is concerned. In doing so, we can accept them for who they are without sacrificing ourselves.

by Carl Hiaasen
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: June Morgan
Chomp is a novel set in the Florida everglades about Wahoo Cray, who lives in a private zoo and is missing a thumb from an alligator accident. His father is an animal wrangler with a headache that just won't go away. Derek Badger is a reality show star who believes his own hype, even though his show is totally faked, and hired Wahoo and his father to provide animals for his show. Tuna is a classmate of Wahoo's and is on the run from a bad home situation. Add these characters, mix with a storm and a manhunt or two, and what sounds like chaos is a funny, action-filled, and crazy story.
Full of colorful, larger-than-life characters, Carl Hiaasen's Chompis hilarious, even zany at times. Which characters will survive the storm, or even each other? The story draws you in to find out, and also to see what Badger's next stunt will be. Hiaasen has written several middle-grade fiction novels that feature a large number of characters who come together in the end. In this one it's clear how they all relate, and the fun is in finding out what will happen next.
-- Art Spencer, Book Voyages

by Watt Key
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: DLacks
Foster is still struggling with the death of his father, and is irritated that his mother is dating a volatile and unpleasant man who is cruel to his dog, Joe, rude to Foster, and controlling with his mother. One day, Foster meets Gary, a mysterious Army veteran walking across the US to get to Texas. Gary stays the night in the barn, and becomes indispensable to the family as they work through their difficulties. Told in spare but evocative prose,Fourmile has enough action and suspense to keep casual readers turning the pages, but is supported by a multilayered examination of identity, community and loyalty that will intrigue the minds of those who seek deeper meaning in books long after the unsuspected ending.
-- Karen Yingling, Ms. Yingling Reads

Liar & Spy
by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books
Nominated by: Monica Edinger
Georges (the "s" is silent) and his family have just moved from his childhood home into an apartment, and the fact that he's still in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where he's always lived doesn't make the transition any easier. Georges feels picked on at school, but in his hours at home he befriends Safer, a boy his age who lives upstairs and who has undertaken a spy mission. As Georges gets involved in Safer's increasingly risky surveillance scheme, he starts to adjust to his new normal and learn what it takes to stick up for himself--with bullies, classmates, friends and his family. This novel is equal parts funny, suspenseful and heartfelt, and readers can't help but relate to Georges' underlying hopefulness throughout a trying time in his life.
-- Amy Koester, Show Me Librarian

The Adventures of Beanboy
by Lisa Harkrader
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: Kyle
When it comes to superheroes, there are the loners like Superman and Spiderman, but then there are those with sidekicks, such as Batman and Robin. In The Adventures of Beanboy, the world is introduced to the next major sidekick. Tucker MacBean is a seventh-grader bearing up under his parents' bitter divorce, a younger brother with special needs and a girl bully named Sam. To make matters worse, his favorite comic book is not being published for months. Then he reads about a contest to find the perfect sidekick for the superhero. The grand prize is a college scholarship.
The Adventures of Beanboy is quirky. What made this book so enjoyable were the relationships between the characters. Tucker learns how his actions affect those around him, and appearances can be very deceiving. There are touching parts when Tucker realizes why his archenemy and tormentor acts the way she does. There are funny parts. Let's get real--the superhero is called Beanboy, so you know what the superpower has to be.
-- Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader

The Lions of Little Rock
by Kristin Levine
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Teacher.Mother.Reader
Marlee lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. Laws are changing and African Americans are gaining rights they've never had before, but the segregationists of the south and the governor of Arkansas are against the integration of public schools. When Marlee meets Liz, a black girl "passing" as white, their friendship feeds the fire of discrimination and endangers Liz's life. Middle-grade readers will easily connect with the bond Marlee and Liz share. Their loyalty in the face of violence and familial hardships and their personal growth and sacrifice make these two characters memorable. Race relations, abuses of gubernatorial power, family sacrifice, real danger, and the strength and conviction of two young girls makes this historical fiction worthy of a spot on the bookshelves.
-- Ali Breidenstein, Literary Lunchbox

by R. J. Palacio
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Flowering Minds
August Pullman is an ordinary fifth grader who feels the same as everyone else on the inside; he loves Star Wars, he argues with his sister, he loves his dog, and he misses his best friend who moved away. The thing is, he was born with a facial deformity that has required over twenty surgeries but it still startles and frightens people. He has been homeschooled up to now, but his parents have decided it is better for him to join the mainstream school and learn to make his way in the world. Palacio does a brilliant job of drawing us into August's struggles with friendships and the social hierarchy of middle school. What is really precious about this book is the courage, honesty and humor with which he faces all these challenges. Auggie is a regular kid with a one-of-a-kind winning combination of warmth, wisdom and quirky sense of humor. What makes this book unforgettable is the simple but truly precious way he has of showing the value of kindness.
-- Andromeda Jazmon Sibley, A Wrung Sponge

What a great looking list!!!
To see the other finalists in all the categories click below.