Category Archives: Book Recommendations

First Book Shares of the New Year!

My students delighted me this week by doing books shares right back from vacation. I gave them the option of waiting until next week, when they’d had time to prepare themselves. In my 10th grade class, the student scheduled to share chose to wait, I was ready to do one, when Noah volunteered. He finished BZRK by Michael Grant a month or so ago and had talked about it as he was reading it, but hadn’t formally shared it. He did a fabulous job with his summary and explanation.


9th grader Jordyn quickly scanned my shelves for one of the series she read in the past, and shared Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel, explaining its connection to Clare’s previous series, and giving students advice on reading order.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d6e/69623540/files/2015/01/img_0973.jpg My seniors are challenging each other to read books that are completely the opposite of what they normally would select for themselves. Today Alex shared the book his classmates selected for him: Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson.



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Student Book Talk: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

This week we only had one book share. Last week was a short week, and I forgot to remind the sophomore and freshman who would be next. I gave them the option of going next week, which they gladly took. I had reminded my senior, and he was ready. CJ is an avid reader and many of his books he donates to my classroom library. Even if he forgets it is his turn, he can plunk from the shelf a book he has enjoyed and talk about it.

He read The Rook by Daniel O’Malley a couple of years ago, but the story stuck with him.


It does sound like an intriguing story

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Friday Night Reads- Book Lovers Unite

Friday nights in our house are reserved for listening to In Tune with Sara Willis on MPBN radio and reading. In Tune is a fabulous local music program on our public radio station that airs week nights at 10, Friday nights at 8 for three hours, and Sunday mornings at 10 for two hours. Sara plays some fabulous music and often will feature local artists. Friday nights we put the radio on and settle in with a good book. Some weeks I’m so tired I don’t make it the whole three hours and I fall asleep reading. Other weeks I finish an entire book. Both last week and this week were the latter.

Last week I read I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. This is a book that I have been hearing about from many people, and it did not disappoint. It is a fun book. It takes place over the summer between 8th & 9th grade for three friends. The new English teacher has assigned among other wonderful books, To Kill a Mockingbird. Not everyone is excited about the list, and Lucy, Elena, and Michael come up with a plan to get everyone talking about the book. But the plan gets away from them. Acampora creates a beautiful blend of friendship, growing up, love for books, and teenage decision making (which, as anyone who has teens or works with teens knows, isn’t always well thought out!) I kill the Mockingbird is a slim novel, but one that I’m looking forward to reading again because it has so much depth.

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This week I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Again, another book that I have had recommended to me by numerous people. It’s been sitting on my shelf for close to a year. I’ve wanted to read it, but hadn’t gotten to it yet. Last night I picked it up, and I am glad I did! Anyone who loves books, games, puzzles, and libraries will enjoy this story of a group of 12 years who get to spend the night in a brand new library playing games and reading books. In the morning they discover they have the opportunity to participate in an ultimate game: find their way out of the library by finding and solving clues and in the process, learn the value of libraries and reading.

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Student Book Recommendation

Today Jenny shared Stolen by Lucy Christopher with the seniors. This is a book she read awhile ago, but it has stayed with her and has left her wishing for a sequel!


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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Today we had two student book shares. Sam shared Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with 10th grade and Heather shared Hunger, the second book in Michael Grant’s Gone Series with 9th grade. You can see she is already on to Plague. She is very much enjoying this series! Sam requested I not take his picture.



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Student Book Shares

This year I finally figured out how to successfully implement student book talks. It’s not a complicated thing. I’ve always understood the importance of it, but somehow I never figured out how to make it a habitual part of our English classes. This year I saw some photos on Facebook of some of Jason Stephenson’s (@teacherman82) students doing a weekly book share and suddenly it all clicked for me. Two of my classes meet on a modified block schedule so we have a 40 minute class every Monday and longer classes two days later in the week. My seniors have two really long classes. It’s hard to do much in a 40 minute period, so that is our day to work on grammar and vocabulary and to book talk! We have a set schedule and each Monday a different student shares a book they are reading or have read.

These are the shares from so far this year.

IMG_0739Brandon shared Eoin Colfer’s Half Moon Investigations.

IMG_0740Katie talked about The Maze Runner by James Dashner, giving us great insight into the differences between the book and the movie.

IMG_0774Jordyn shared War of the Worlds by HG Wells and led a great discussion on some of Wells’ writing choices.

IMG_0798  CJ shared The Enemy by Charlie Higson.IMG_0807  Alex shared Andy Andrews’ The Final Summit.IMG_0826  Lucy shared Songs of a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson.IMG_0827  Katrina talked about Gone by Michael Grant.IMG_0829  Seyya shared Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go.IMG_0845  Amanda shared The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks.

IMG_0847 Daniel shared Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

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Student Book Lists: Summer Reading Grade 10/11

Yesterday was the first day of school and the day that the summer reading assignments were due. My students were relieved and annoyed to discover that I would not be collecting them and they would not be sharing them until their first full English class. This year we did an orientation day for the first day where students had each class for 15 minutes and we spent time getting to know each other.

Today was the first full day of classes and I met with my Grade 10/11 English class. This year we have just 2 juniors, and one of them in an ELL from China, she is not in my English class, so we combined the two grades for most of their classes. Today’s class was about 70 minutes of students book talking. It was awesome! I loved hearing the kids thoughts on the books I had read, and hearing about new books I’m unfamiliar with. The kids shared great insights and inquiry as well as some pretty creative analysis. We had two power points, three papers, a blog, and a website. And the kids just talked about their books.

In addition to the free choice books, they had to read a book on Christian living and write a response paper. I’ve just started reading those and they are good! Some good thinking, although it is clear to me that I need to do more work with them on how to write a response paper. When they talked about their books today, they expressed their thoughts well, but when it came to the written responses, they seem to have a harder time expression their thinking. I’m excited; something to work on!

Tomorrow I will have the Senior English class and my Freshmen English class. I look forward to hearing about their books. 

Here is the list of books from the 10/11 English:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days & Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney

Kingdom Keepers:Power Play & Kingdom Keepers: Shell Game by Ridley Pearson

Looking for Alaska & The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green & The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Woods Runner & Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen

Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti & Samson: A Savior Will Rise by Shawn Hoffman

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston & The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

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Book Review: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I debated whether to post this review here or on my general blog because the book isn’t actually published yet. I received a copy from the publisher to read and pass on to other readers (the list is growing). Since this blog cross-posts to Ars Longa, Vita Brevis, I decided to go for it here.

fish in a tree - final cover


ARC provided by publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin

From the back cover:

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, sees the bright, creative kid underneath the troublemaker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her–and to everyone–than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

My review:

I love Ally! By the end of the first page, I was in love with her narrative voice. As I was pulled deeper into the story I fell more in love with this spunky protagonist. The teacher in me ached for her and her struggles with reading and writing…by page 13 I was tearing up and wanted to hug her and tell her she was not stupid! It didn’t take long for the little girl in me who struggled with math (and still does) to completely relate to Ally.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt does such a beautiful job capturing the struggle of having learning differences and believing the wrong voices. All her characters have a wonderful balance to them. I can see kids of a span of ages reading the book and relating comfortably to the characters. I believe this should be read by all educators. It will touch you and challenge you to be more mindful of what your students are dealing with. Kids are going to enjoy this too. They’ll see that it’s okay when your brain works different from others. It’s okay to stand up for yourself and for others. That most mean kids have another side to them, but it doesn’t excuse their actions. That you have a choice about how you respond and how you treat others, but sometimes you make the wrong choice. 

This book goes next to books like Cynthia Lord’s Rules as a book that will be impacting lives for years to come. A beautiful example of why we read…to know we are not alone.

Thank you, Lynda Mullaly Hunt for releasing Ally into the world and telling her story. Thank you also, Lynda, and Nancy Paulsen Books for giving me the chance to meet Ally early!


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Reading Ladder: The Magician’s Nephew-The Dream House Kings

One of the middle schoolers I am working with this summer is reading The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis for one of his summer reading books. I’m sure I read it when I was young. We had a box set of the Narnia series and I remember my mom reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I have vague recollections of some of the other books, but I don’t really remember the other stories. So I am reading The Magician’s Nephew along with my student and am currently at the part where they have arrived in Narnia as the Lion is singing into existence creation. What a cool depiction of the Genesis 1 Creation account! The Bible says that God spoke everything into being, but I really like the idea of the lion’s song and music creating the world!

The book is also reminding me of Robert Liparulo’s Dream House Kings series. The King family discover doorways in their attic that transport them to different worlds and points in history. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and Polly use rings and pools of water to travel. Both books play with the idea of what if someone from another world came into the modern world on Earth. Both books are thrilling, mysterious, and full of adventure and meaning.

Anyone from age 8 or so and up will enjoy The Magician’s Nephew. The Dream House Kings (a 6 book series) is a little darker and a little more violent. I would say its more appropriate for ages 12 and up. The Dream House Kings is good for those who like suspense, mystery, etc, maybe even horror.





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Book List Topic: World War II

Here are some books on World War II that I recommend. This list is by no means exhaustive!

Fiction Titles

The Book Thief

Code Name Verity

Between Shades of Gray

Boy at War

Code Talker

The Devil’s Arithmetic

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Sarah’s Key


NonFiction Titles

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy


Graphic Novels

Resistance by Jablonski

Maus I, II by Spiegelman

A Bag of Marbles by Joffo




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