Sunday, October 25, 2015

Textbook Chart Analysis


Lesesne, T.S. (2003).  Making the match: The right book for the right reader at the right time. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Martian

Weir, A. (2014). The Martian. NY: Broadway Books.

Mark Watney becomes a Martian when a freak accident during a mission causes him to be stranded on Mars. His team believes he is dead.  He has to learn to survive and make his supplies last for as long as possible in the hopes of being rescued.  During a routine check of satellite images of Mars, NASA discovers that Mark has survived. Now the race begins to keep Mark alive and the plans for a rescue begin.  Mark’s team turns around and heads back to Mars to get him.  Mark must travel a great distance to meet them at a different landing spot.  He encounters many setbacks along the way, but finally makes it.  His team eventually manages to rescue him just in time.  I really enjoyed this book. I couldn’t stop telling my family and friends about it while I was reading it.  I loved the wit, sarcasm, and positive attitude of the main character.  He has the strength of character that I think many of us wish and hope we also possessed. This book is a great example of a science fiction novel.  It was filled with “real science” to make the scenarios so believable.  This sci-fi novel could truly apply to the real world.
This book could be used with grades 11-12.
 To see a great Quizlet for this book, click HERE!

Check out these great trailers for the movie based on this book!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Slouka, M. (2013). Brewster. NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
Jon is growing up in a small rundown town called Brewster. It’s 1968 and the world he knows is going through many changes. When Jon’s little brother dies, his mom becomes distant and blames Jon.  Jon unexpectedly makes friends with Ray, a boy who has his own family problems.  Ray’s dad is an abusive alcoholic.  To cover up the abuse, Ray starts fights with others. Jon doesn’t really know that Ray’s dad is abusing him, he believes the stories that Ray is boxing at a club for money. When Ray finally tells the truth, Jon tells him he needs to get out.  Ray begins making plans to secretly leave with his girlfriend.  Ray's dad finds out and uses Ray’s little brother Gene against him to get him to stay.  On the day that changed everything, Jon walks in on Ray’s dad beating him so badly that he almost dies.  Jon tries to protect Ray and ends up hitting Ray’s dad with a metal club and killing him.  The police don’t believe that it was Jon that did it, they think the constant troublemaker, Ray is the one who killed his father.  Ray’s punishment is to enter the Army and be sent to the war in Vietnam.  Jon later finds out that Ray was killed in action.  Jon’s parents adopt Ray’s little brother and raise him as their own. This book was beautifully written and so emotional.  The ending was sad, but satisfying. As I was reading, I was thinking of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development.  The main character, Jon, is in the conventional stage as he tries to do the right thing and tell others that he was the one that killed Ray’s dad. He wants to follow rules and laws and be honest about his involvement.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.
Check out this short book trailer I made for this book!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Clark, K. (2013). Freakboy. NY: Ferrar Straus Giroux.

Brendan is a high school athlete, good student, boyfriend, and loving big brother. In his senior year he is finding out that he is different.  He loves his girlfriend Vanessa, but sometimes wonders if he actually wants to be her…to be a girl.  He feels that inside he is a girl, but doesn’t want to admit that.  He tries to live the lie, but it is catching up to him.  When he meets a stranger on the bus in front of a teen
center that helps kids that are struggling with their identity, things begin to slowly change.  The stranger, Angel gives Brendan her number and offers help.  He later works up the courage to begin talking to her and finds out that she is transsexual, and he may be too.  When his best friend walks in on him wearing a woman’s bra, Brendan’s nightmare really begins.  His friend tells everyone on the wrestling team and Brendan’s secret is out.  He quits the team, distances himself from his girlfriend, and considers suicide. Angel eventually helps him understand his feelings and Brendan tells his girlfriend the truth and he asks his mom to see a therapist.  This book was written in verse that was amazing to read.  I chose this book because of the title and the book cover.  It is so amazing! Kids really do judge a book by its cover, this book would circulate because the title and cover art is so intriguing.
This book could be used with grades 11-12.

Here's a great book trailer for this book!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Doll Bones

Black, H. (2013). Doll bones. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Zach, Polly, and Alice have been friends for many years. They enjoy playing imaginary games that involve pirates and many adventures. When Polly discovers that an old porcelain doll may be inhabited by a ghost, the adventures become very real.  The three friends set out on a journey to return the doll to the grave where the ghost belongs.  They must travel to a small town in Ohio to return the doll.  They begin by bus, but when a strange man hassles them, they must leave the bus and take off on foot and then end up on boat.  When they finally reach the right town they are dirty, exhausted, and angry with each other. They eventually find the grave for the doll and have a funeral for her before their adventure ends. This book was very eerie and mysterious.  I loved the mystery and often wondered if the book was going to end up being a ghostly mystery or just a hoax put on by Polly. The theme of this book was showing how the friends are growing and changing.  They face the possibility that they may grow apart from each other. As Havinghurst describes, adolescents need to learn how to get along with peers.  This includes the changes in how relationships and friendships are made during adolescence. Friendships become based on shared interests, not just proximity of where our friends live.
This book could be used with grades 5-8.
To download a curriculum guide for this book, click HERE!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

King, A.S. (2014). Glory O'Brien's history of the future. NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Glory is preparing for her high school graduation. She is preparing in a different way than all the other soon-to-be graduates.  Glory’s mother killed herself when she was only four. She wonders if she is different like her mother and if she will kill herself too very soon. Everything changes when her and her friend Ellie find a dead bat and put it in a jar.  Later, when the bat is dust, they add beer to the jar and drink it.  After drinking the bat, they can both see transmissions from other people when they look at them. They can see everyone’s infinite past and future.  When Glory begins to see her own amazing future, she realizes that she does continue to live for a very long time.  She’s not like her mother and she will do great things in the future. This book was sad, funny, quirky, and I loved it. While reading this book, I thought of Havinghurst’s developmental tasks.  Specifically this book made me think of how adolescents undergo changing relationships with parents.  In this story, Glory begins to understand herself and her family and creates a new relationship with her father that makes him come out of his 13 year depression. Then, her father becomes a father again and takes charge of his life and helps Glory get on with hers.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.
To download an educator's guide for this book, click HERE!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Liar and Spy

Stead, R. (2012). Liar and spy. NY: Random House.

When Georges’ dad is laid off, his family is forced to sell their family home and move into an apartment. While him mom is busy working extra shifts at the hospital, Georges and his dad are on their own.  Georges quickly finds a friend in Safer, a quirky young boy in his apartment building. They start a spy club together that becomes very real for Georges. When things come to a head, Georges realizes that it was all a game and feels angry with Safer for playing this game with him without his knowledge.  Georges is also a target at school for the bullies. In the end, Georges learns to conquer his fears and deal with the difficulties in his life and he helps his friend Safer do the same. As I was reading, I was thinking about Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. The main character in this book could certainly explain the conventional stage. He is very concerned with obeying laws and displays a strong moral code.
This book could be used with grades 5-7
To download a great study guide for this book, click HERE!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Code Name Verity

Wein, E. (2012). Code name Verity. NY: Hyperion.

When Julie, or code name “Verity” is caught in France by the Gestapo, she must try to do anything to stay alive, even if it means revealing secrets. She is a spy and must give up all her secrets by writing them down.  She begins to weave a tale the seems to be true, but she is really changing the story so almost nothing is true and making up codes to throw them off.  She also manages to leave code for any of her supporters who may read the papers. All of this is not revealed until the very end when we hear the other side of the story from Verity’s best friend, Maddie, or code name “Kittyhawk”. Maddie last saw Julie right before she jumped from their plane that was about to crash.  They each believe the other is dead, until messages and events start to fall into place.  While trying to rescue Julie, Maddie ends up shooting her to save her from anymore torture.  Julie gives her the signal and Maddie does what her best friend asks.  When I read this part I was thinking, NOOOO!  I was so hoping for a happy ending.  This was a great story with a lot of intrigue.  A historical novel has to create a time and place and transport readers there.  This book certainly did this.  I imagine the author had to do a large amount of research to create such an amazing setting and plot with the different languages, scenes, and historical events that took place during World War II.
This book could be used with grades 11-12.

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Iron Trial

Black, H., Clare, Cassandra. (2014). Iron trial. NY: Scholastic.

Callum Hunt has always been told by his father that magic is dangerous. He has been taught to stay away from it and not be a part of the Iron Trial.  He was taught to fail the Iron Trial so he won’t get into the Magisterium, a school for mages. But at the Iron Trial things don’t go as planned and Callum is chosen to go to the Magisterium for training. While there, he learns how to control his magic along with his other new friends. He also learns that he hasn’t been told the whole truth about who he really is.  As the story unfolds, we learn that Callum is really the Enemy of Death that has inhabited his body.  The other enemies have been waiting for him to come and help them start a war against the other mages. Callum is trying to be true to his father, his friends, and the mages.  Now that he knows who he is, he has to decide what to do about it.  This story ended with a big cliffhanger!  I already have my copy of book 2 on the way!  According to Norton, an important ingredient for good fantasy for young adults is that the theme be a universal one. It needs to apply in the real world. The Iron Trial’s main character is one who is weak and damaged with many questions and must struggle through life trying to keep up with his peers.  This is definitely a universal theme for young adults today.
This book could be used with grades 5-8.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Hillenbrand, L. (2014). Unbroken. NY: Random House.

Unbroken is the biographical account of the life Louis Zamperini. It tells the tale of Louis growing up in California as a poor Italian immigrant that turns into a delinquent that is frequently in trouble.  When his brother takes him under his wing and shows him how to be a competitive runner, Louis soon finds himself heading to the Berlin Olympics.  But when World War II begins, Louis becomes an airman.  His bomber crashes in the ocean and Louis, his best friend, and another airman are the only survivors. Louis and his best friend survive the perils of the ocean, only to be picked up by the Japanese soldiers and sent to a prison camp.  This book details the brutality of a prisoner of war.  It describes Louis’ strength and determination. Louis was eventually released at the end of the war and began the long road to overcoming what he went through.  This was a book that I couldn’t put down.  At every turn of the page I was amazed at the strength and positive attitude of Louis Zamperini. He is someone that we can all learn something from. This is a great example of a biography. Norton states, “Good biography and autobiography should first and foremost use many of the techniques of fiction to draw the reader into the life story of the subject.”  This book is a prime example of that.  It was extremely engaging.  Students will be amazed by the strength and character of Louis Zamperini.

This book could be used with grades 9-12.
To download a study guide for this book, click HERE!

And We Stay

Hubbard, J. (2014). And we stay. NY: Delcorte Press.

Emily is a young, average high school girl. She goes to school. She has a boyfriend.  Life is normal. Then she finds out she’s pregnant.  She tells her boyfriend and her parents so they can help her decide what’s best.  Her parents push her to have an abortion.  When she tells her boyfriend Paul of her plans, he doesn’t accept things the way Emily has accepted her new life.  Emily feels she must break up with Paul because things will be too hard.  After breaking up with him, he is so distraught that he comes to school with a gun and threatens Emily. After a confrontation with a teacher, he ends up shooting himself.  After her abortion and the traumatic events at school, Emily is sent to a boarding school.  With the help of her new roommate, and a kind teacher, Emily eventually learns to heal.  This book was written in a very unique way with flashbacks and bits and pieces of information given at a time.  It kept me reading so I could figure out the full details of the traumatic events in Emily’s life. This book could be considered contemporary realistic fiction.  The plot, characters, and setting are very possible and in fact could have been “ripped from the headlines” of today’s paper. 
This book could be used with grades 9-12.

Check out this great book trailer!

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Crutcher, C. (1993). Staying fat for Sarah Byrnes. NY: Greenwillow Books.

Eric Calhoune is a young man that is overweight and bullied and made fun of at school.  His best friend has a more serious problem though.  Sarah Byrnes was burned in a mysterious accident when she was three years old.  She has had to develop a very serious and cold demeanor to deal with life. As the two unlikely friends go through middle school and high school, they stick together.  When Eric joins the swim team and begins to drop the weight, he is worried that Sarah Byrnes will not need him as a friend anymore. He tries to overeat to stay fat for his friend. In their senior year of high school, things start to change.  Sarah Byrnes suddenly stops talking and is put in the hospital in a coma-like state.  As Eric sticks by her side and tries to talk to her to keep things normal, he soon realizes that Sarah Byrnes is really faking her state to stay away from her dad who is actually the one who burned her in the first place.  Eric tries to come up with a plan to save Sarah Byrnes from her father and keep her as a friend.  In the end, Eric protects Sarah Byrnes and with the help of a beloved teacher, his family, and friends, they get Sarah away from her father and into a safe home.  This book was funny and dark. I loved the wit and sarcasm of the characters.  It had more suspense and excitement than I was expecting. I thought this book was a great example of an author creating memorable characters.  Sarah Byrnes had an amazing presence and attitude that really showcased her strength as a person. The author also created an authority figure (a teacher), that was a positive influence on the other characters. This is something that young adults should be able to easily identify with.
This book could be used with grades 9-12.

To see a great discussion guide and lesson ideas, click HERE!