Tag Archives: teaching literature

Five Titles I Can’t Wait to Book Talk This Year

With the school year almost upon me, and a lot of free time on my hands (I am sitting in my recliner, recovering from a septoplasty), I am starting to get really excited about all of the great books I have read over the summer. Net Galley has certainly been kind to me.

While I have definitely worn out the new “New Adult” genre this summer (I kinda hate it now), I have also read a ton of great books in my favorite genre- Young Adult. I love reading YA for two reasons- first, the YA authors out there are putting out some really great stuff that isn’t all depressing or pretentious like adult fiction can get. Second, I LOVE being able to bring YA to my middle school readers that is just appropriate for them… that’s the stuff that they really get excited about reading. My eighth grade boys were drooling over titles like World War Z and Rot and Ruin a couple of years ago, and I like to keep it coming.

Without further adieu…

41TzYsSC84L._SY300_Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone. So many sequels fall flat or completely lose the tone of the first book, but this is an awesome sequel to Time Between Us. Since I am Bennett’s age, I love reading from his point of view, too. Going back to 1995, in my hometown (Chicago), is pretty cool- and I love the fact that teachers and librarians can talk to kids about when we grew up without sounding stupid.

51ZhFCzTS9L._SY300_The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. This is another sequel, but I have to say- Maggie Stiefvater is probably the best paranormal writer for teens out there right now. The Shiver series sees a ton of circulation every year, and now the Raven Boys has seen the same kind of popularity. I like the fact that Stiefvater’s heroines aren’t weak and her narrative voice doesn’t make kids sound stupid.

41SzknL9faLKindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman. So many books touch on the insecurities of girls, but not many capture the real emotions that go through boys’ heads these days- and so realistically. I actually felt the dirt under my fingernails as I read this one. The tone of the book is so gritty and the way in which the protagonist interacts with the world will resonate with introverts everywhere- whether down-and-out like this guy, or not.

51xb9EOj5HLThe Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. I have read a couple of Witness Protection program books lately, and I watched My Name is Earl from start to finish with my son this summer, so I feel like an expert on the genre (insert sarcasm icon here). This one surprised me. I love the fact that this isn’t action- it is a classic mystery. Mystery is a genre that so often gets bogged down by paranormals and sci fi. When I find a good one that is just a good mystery, I hang on to it. I will be hanging on to this one for sure.

51g07mPX-7LBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead. Like number three, this is a “boy book” that isn’t cheesy. Even boys can only handle so many teenage spy books.  I loved this book when I read it a while back, and it stuck with me. Who doesn’t like a good amnesia mystery? The fascinating thing about this book is the fact that it is a mystery and a coming of age story wrapped in one beautiful, lyrical package. When I want boys to read deeper and experience more, I will turn to this one first.

I hope Net Galley keeps em coming, because I get a lot of my best stuff because of them.  I can’t justify buying YA for my middle school library unless I have a chance to read it first, you know?  If you like hearing about YA that is just appropriate for middle schoolers, let me know in the comments or “like” this post and I will keep the suggestions coming.  🙂  Thanks!



The Green Brothers are Awesome

As if they weren’t awesome enough, John and Hank Green have launched a new (?) series on their YouTube channel.  I am in Geek Heaven.

Crash Course

For those of you who do not know, John Green is probably the most talented YA author writing today.  I am almost evangelical about his novel Looking for Alaska with my 8th graders.  I have reached more reluctant readers with that novel than any other.  Time Magazine named his newest novel, The Fault in Our Stars, the #1 novel of the year – not just the #1 YA novel – the #1 novel.  Period.  Now I am getting all hipster- like “Hey- I liked John Green before John Green was cool.”  Which is ridiculous, because the thing I am going to talk about today already has over 400,000 YouTube subscribers, and I just found out about it.

John teamed up with his brother, Hank, to create the Vlog Brothers, the Nerdfighters, and they are fighting WorldSuck with the Project For Awesome.  When they talk, I’m all, “I totally remember you from AP English in high school.”  Except I don’t.  I grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, and they didn’t.  But they are geeks in the same way that I am a geek and the same way that my friends were geeks.  I will never forget the nights spent drinking coffee after orchestra rehearsal in Elgin… trying to stump each other at The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, dropping literary references and obscure music references because we were just that cool… Ah, the good old days.

Anywho… the reason I am ranting about John and Hank Green… I just found out about “Crash Course,” their educational channel on YouTube.  Hank talks about science and John talks about history and literature.  I can see them coming in handy with high schoolers or gifted middle schoolers.  Sorry, guys- you use really big words for the typical middle schooler.  John’s breakdown of The Great Gatsby is like watching live-action Cliffs Notes.  Except.

The two things that make this so much better than Cliffs Notes, aside from the fact that the Brothers Green are at the helm, are…

1. It isn’t boring.  It actually sucks you in.  I know all of the stuff he said about Gatsby already, and I was still really engaged.

2. It isn’t a plot summary.  Oh, how I hate plot summaries.  If you have ever read book reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, you will know what I mean.  The plot summary is up above.  Next to the picture of the book.  Do. not. summarize. again.  Please.  Just tell me what you thought of the book.  For the love of god.

My favorite book about books is How to Read Literature Like A Professor by  Thomas C. Foster.  In it, he breaks down symbolism and makes it so much more accessible to the average reader.  When I was in high school, I always thought my English teachers were pulling some of the stuff they said out of thin air.  Foster’s book made it all make so much more sense to me.  Why couldn’t my teachers just explain it to me the way Foster did???  The Green boys do just that- explain the nuances in a much more accessible way.