Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett: An Origami Yoda Book

Angleberger, T. (2013). The surprise attack of Jabba the puppet: an origami Yoda book. NY: Amulet Books.

With this installment from the Origami Yoda series, Dwight, Tommy and Sara are on a mission against a new enemy. They are taking on the Fun Time Education System. This system wants to raise standardized test scores. The gang does not enjoy the new videos or mascots, and drama, art, and band have been cancelled. The group turns to Origami Yoda for help. He tells them that they must come up with their own group and a plan to defeat their enemy.  The students all come together with their own origami puppets to help battle. Dwight and the gang eventually find out that the school board dumped Fun Time Education System on them to comply with state regulations and then again to comply with the regulations from Washington, DC.  The fight is big and must go on. As an educator, I could really identify with this book.  It was silly, but spot on when I think about all the new regulations that educators and students struggle with today.  I imagine this book could lead a student to that unconscious delight stage. The real world slips away, and the student gets lost in the silliness of this book. The graphics are fun, and the origami directions at the end are an added bonus.
This book could be used with grades 4-6.
To see folding instructions for Origami Yoda and Darth Paper, click HERE!


Smith, A. (2011). Stick. NY: Feiwel and Friends.

Stick (Stark McClellan) is a young boy that was born with only one ear.  All his life he has been bullied and made fun of by kids at school, and his own parents.  Stick's parents are very strict with him and his older brother Bosten. When the rules aren’t strictly followed, the boys are beaten and locked in a room for days. After Bosten beats up a boy that is bullying Stick, things start to change.  Stick discovers that his brother is gay and in love with his best friend.  Stick also discovers that he is really in love with his best friend Emily too. When the truth comes out about Bosten’s relationship, his dad beats him and he runs away. Stick then begins the journey to find Bosten and save him if he can. With the help of his older brother, Bosten and his best friend Emily, Stick learns to step up and defend himself and be the person he really wants to be.  I could not put this book down.  It was heartbreaking and beautiful. Ted Hipple has noted some great criteria for finding good young adult books. One item on the list that applies to this book is that it reflects real life and has artistry in detail. This book was uniquely written to show the way a young boy with one ear would hear and speak.  Sadly, this book truly could reflect real life.
This book could be used with grades 9-12. You should definitely preview this book first, due to some graphic content.

Check out this great book trailer!

Paper Towns

Green, J. (2008). Paper towns. NY: Dutton Books.

Quentin has a next door neighbor named Margo that he has known his whole life and has had a secret crush on for as long as he can remember. One night Margo appears at his window and they begin her strange journey of driving around all night righting wrongs that have been done to her. Through this journey, Quentin can really see the depth of Margo’s depression and the fact that this very popular and outgoing girl is struggling with life. After their memorable night, Quentin wakes up one day to find that Margo has disappeared.  He begins looking for and finding secret clues and messages left by Margo that will eventually lead to her location.  With the help of his friends, Quentin searches and finally finds Margo.  The ending that Quentin was hoping and dreaming for is very different than the reality of what is to happen.  Margo didn’t intend for him to find her, she doesn’t want to be with him or go back to her family.  She just wants to be alone to find herself and understand her feelings.  The story is serious and deep, but humorous at the same time. I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of John Green's books. The plot and the characters were both very unique and I got caught up in the mystery of finding Margo. I think this book showcases the young adult life and points out to kids that what is on the surface is not always the same as what is inside.  This may be a real life timeless struggle for most teens.
This book can be used with grades 9-12.
To download a great discussion guide for this book, click HERE!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Annie on My Mind

  Garden, N. (1982).  Annie on my mind.  NY:  FSG

Liza and Annie come from two different backgrounds but become close friends. They share a very close friendship that eventually turns into love. When Liza is suspended from school, the girls become closer and this time together leads to their first kiss. When two of Liza’s teachers go on vacation during spring break, Liza volunteers to take care of their home and feed their cats.  During this time Liza and Annie stay together and are discovered there by a school administrator. Liza is forced to tell her family about her relationship. The book is narrated by Liza as she is beginning to write a letter to Annie. As I was reading, I just kept thinking that this book was published in 1982! I can only imagine the controversy over this book.  It was a great read.
As Havinghurst's tasks state, adolescents must define their appropriate sex roles. Dealing with these roles with the pressures of society is an important topic that this book relates to.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.

To see a study guide for this book, click HERE.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Knife of Never Letting Go

   Ness, P.  (2008).  The knife of never letting go.  Boston, MA:  Candlewick Press.

This dystopian thriller is about a young boy named Todd that grows up in a world with noise.  Because of the noise germ on New World, men’s thoughts can be heard by everyone else at all times. As Todd comes closer to his thirteenth birthday, the time when he will be a man, his world begins to change.  He is forced to leave the home he knows and is on the run for his safety. Along the way he meets a young girl that crashed on the New World planet. Together they race away from the army that is searching for them.  Todd learns that the life he has known is full of lies and he must figure out the truth. This is a fast-paced thriller that I couldn’t put down. This book was so different and unique.  I couldn’t wait for Todd to have Viola or someone, read his mother’s journal to him! This book is a great example of having a unique plot as well as an original setting.  The author had to describe the New World as well as the language and society.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.

To see a great discussion guide for this book, click HERE!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's Perfectly Normal

Harris, R.  (2009). It’s perfectly normal.  Boston, MA:  Candlewick Press
This is a book all about sexuality that was created for kids, parents, and teachers.  It covers every kind of question from conception, to puberty to sexually transmitted diseases.  It also discusses gender identity. The book is written in a way that is less like a text book and more like a graphic novel that will interest teens.  It has illustrations, speech bubbles and labels to show all the important stuff that teens may have questions about.  It really covers everything that teens need to know. When I was reading this book, I was thinking that I wish I had this when I was a teen. There's so much information in this book that every teen needs to know about. Havinghurst's theory of developmental tasks says that adolescents have to adapt to their physical bodies.  This is a book that may help teens to know what to expect and make adapting a bit easier.
This book is for ages 10 and up.

Brown Girl Dreaming

    Woodson, J. (2014). Brown Girl Dreaming.  NY: Nancy Paulsen Books
An autobiography written in verse that details a young black girl’s life and what it was like to grow up in the 60’s. Dealing with the changes in the country as well as the tragic changes going on in her family. She moves to the south to live with her grandparents after her parents divorce, then eventually ends up in New York with her mother.  During this time, she deals with the death of her aunt and her grandpa, who she was very close to.  She also learns that her fun-loving uncle is arrested and sent to prison, where she goes to visit him and sees a very sad and changed man. The unique way this book was written, made it easy to read.  I enjoyed the lyrical format. I would say this book has a very unique style. The sentence patterns and figurative language, make this book a very emotional and moving experience.
I think this book could be used with Grades 5-8.
To find some book club ideas and lessons to use with this book, click HERE!


Gino, A. (2015).  George.  NY: Scholastic.
George was born a boy, but really identifies as a girl and knows deep down that she is a girl. George is living a secret life, but things begin to change when the teacher announces that they will perform the play Charlotte’s Web.  All George wants to do is play the part of Charlotte.  George tries out for the part but is told that she can’t be Charlotte because Charlotte is a girl. With the help of her best friend, George sneaks in to the performance to play the part of Charlotte.  George’s best friend Kelly is supportive and loyal, even after she learns the truth about George.  Kelly even helps George dress up as a girl for the first time and go out to the zoo with her uncle. The story ends with George being happier than she has ever been, and dreaming about all the possibilities waiting for her in the future. I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but it was enjoyable and really made me think about my students and the struggles that they may be going through that I don't really know about or understand.  It reminded me that I really need to be open and ready to listen. Havinghurst's theory of developmental tasks states that adolescents must define their appropriate sex roles and sometimes these roles are dictated by society, which is evident in this book. Sometimes teens don't fit into the defined boxes that society creates for them.
This book could be used with grades 6-8.
This book is so new that teaching units and book talk information is not out there yet. There is a BIG conversation that could happen with this book!

Monday, September 14, 2015


   Sartrapi, M. (2004).  Persepolis.  NY: Pantheon.

Persepolis is a serious and historical graphic novel. It details the history of Iran through the eyes of a young girl named Marji.  She describes the tragic events that eventually lead to war in her country.  She is constantly surrounded by the reality of her family and friends being imprisoned, tortured, and executed for believing things that are not approved by the rulers of the country.  The story ends with Marji’s parents sending her to a school in Austria to keep her safe and allow her to get a good education.  She fears that she will never see her parents again. You must get the next book, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return to continue following Marji's story. I am not usually a fan of graphic novels, but I truly couldn't put this one down.  I love history, and this was an interesting inside look at the history of Iran through the eyes of someone who actually grew up there. It made me want to continue with the next book and continue to do my own research to learn more from others as well. This book is an autobiographical account of Ms. Sartrapi's life growing up in Iran, which provides us an interesting reading experience.  Reading about people can open students' eyes to other cultures, races, and ethnicities.  I think this book does just that.
This book could be used with grades 8-12. It does contain some graphic language and a couple graphic images.

To download a book talk guide for this book, click HERE!

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces

Quintero, I.  (2014).  Gabi: A girl in pieces.  TX:  Cinco Puntos.
Gabi journals her senior year in high school in a very hilariously blunt yet moving way.  She details the dynamics of her family that include a very strict mother, a delinquent younger brother, and father who is a drug addict.  She struggles through her senior year with her two best friends that have their own issues.  One friend is gay and after telling his family, is kicked out of his home. Her other friend finds out she is pregnant and later tells her two friends that she was actually raped by another boy that goes to their school. Gabi struggles with her weight, learning about boys, and dealing with her father’s drug overdose.  She learns to use poetry to cope with her feelings and ends up meeting the perfect boy who supports her through their last year in high school.  I laughed out loud and also had tears in my eyes while reading this book.  I could completely relate to the angst of the teenage years and remember why I'm glad they are over! One thing that really stuck out to me was the cover of this book. How amazing! It is true that kids (and adults) judge a book by its cover.  "The best book in the world will not circulate if the cover appears "dorky" to your kids."  This book will definitely circulate. 
I suggest that this book be used with grades 9-12.  It does contain some mature content, so definitely preview the book before using with students.

To download a great teaching guide for this book, click HERE!


 Myers, W. D. (1999).  Monster.  NY: Harper.
Monster is the frightening story of a teenage boy named Steve Harmon that is arrested for the murder of a convenience store clerk. As he sits in jail awaiting the completion of his trial, he begins journaling his thoughts, feelings and experiences.  He also begins to write a screenplay of the events that take place during the trial.  As the trial proceeds, we can see that in the neighborhood where Steve lives, he is surrounded by young criminals that feel little remorse for their actions.  Steve is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is used as a lookout for the crime that the other young boys were about to commit. As the story proceeds we are led to believe that Steve actually had no part in the events that took place, which his lawyer tries to point out and prove during his trial. While reading this story, I was saddened by the thought that even though this is fiction, a story similar to this could actually be happening in our world right now. This was very interesting to read because of the unique style in which it was written. It is part journal and part screenplay. Even though we think of figurative language, word choice, or sentence patterns when thinking of style, I believe this book has it's own special style because of its unique format.
This book would be good for grades 8-12.
To see a few book talk examples for this book, click HERE!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

El Deafo

  Bell, C. (2014).  El Deafo.  NY: Abrams

El Deafo is the graphic novel that details the story of a young girl named Cece who gets sick and when she recovers she finds out that she has suffered major hearing loss. She is fitted with an amplifier so she can hear others, but it doesn’t seem to help her much.  Much of the conversation is muffled and hard for her to understand.  She begins learning to read lips to help her.  When she goes to school, she tries to hide the amplifier under her clothes so other kids won’t ask questions or make fun of her. Her teacher also wears a microphone so she can hear better, but she often forgets to turn off the microphone when she leaves class to go to the teacher’s lounge or even the restroom.  Cece realizes that she now has super powers like a special superhero “El Deafo”.  She is just trying to fit in, but her hearing loss makes it difficult to find true friends that support her. She finally makes a true friend that understands her and sticks by her side through her struggles. I'm not usually a big fan of graphic novels, but I read this book quickly and really enjoyed it. Havinghurst describes developmental tasks that  healthy individuals should be able to accomplish.  When I think of this book, it reminds me of one task, Adolescents need to learn how to get along with peers. Friendships often develop, but then change as their interests or lives change.  We see this happen in the book after Cece learns of her hearing loss.  Her life changes and so do her relationships
This book is appropriate for ages 8-12.

To download a great cross-curricular teaching guide, click HERE!


    Anderson, L. H.  (1999). Speak.  NY:  Penguin
 Melinda was raped at an 8th grade party.  She tried to call 911 at the party to report the rape, but was so traumatized that she couldn’t speak.  After the police showed up and broke up the party, her fellow party goers are very angry at her. So her freshman year of high school starts off rough with the students, including her best friend, ignoring her and making fun of her. She can’t do anything about it, she can’t speak about it, in fact, she barely speaks at all. She becomes a nervous introverted and depressed young girl.  When a new girl named Heather tries to befriend Melinda, she at one point thinks that maybe things are turning around.  As Heather tries to fit into the popular crowd at school, she soon leaves Melinda behind. Things begin to change when Melinda’s former best friend Rachel begins to date the boy who raped her. Melinda tries to warn her, but her friend just thinks Melinda is jealous. Rachel does begin to have doubts about this boy. When Rachel finally breaks up with Andy Beast, he gets angry and corners Melinda in a closet at school. When he attacks Melinda in the closet, she finally finds her voice.  Other students come running and end the confrontation. Her story is now out in the open and Melinda is comforted by her understanding art teacher and begins to find heal and find her voice. I thought this book was scary and powerful. I just wanted to jump into the book and protect Melinda.  This is a great example of contemporary realistic fiction.  It is very possible for the events, plot, characters, and setting to happen in the real world.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.
A great resource for book talks, teacher guides, and lesson ideas can be found HERE!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian.  NY:  Little Brown.

Junior is living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He was born with many medical problems that make him a target for bullying by everyone on the “rez” except his best friend Rowdy.  Rowdy is a brutal bully himself, but has always protected Junior.  When a teacher comes to Junior to tell him he needs to get out of the rez to make something of himself, Junior decides he is right.  Junior starts attending a school in Reardon, off the reservation. Even though this means losing his best friend and being treated as a traitor by the other residents of the reservation. During his time at the school, Junior is faced with several tragedies.  He must deal with the death of his beloved grandmother, his father’s best friend, and his sister. Along the way, Junior discovers how strong he is and how many opportunities are out there for him if he continues to work hard. This book is an eye opening and hilarious read.  This book made me laugh out loud and tear up at the same time.  One characteristic of a good book is how the setting can play an important part in the story.  The author had to really describe the life on the reservation carefully so readers would understand the way of life there without compromising the story events.
I suggest that this book be used with grades 9-12.  It does contain some mature content, so definitely preview the book before using with students.

A great teaching guide to use with this book can be found HERE!