Monday, November 25, 2013

Four Book Reviews by Teens for New YA Novels


Bookmarked will be ending its run as the resident teen book review group for the bi-weekly online newsletter, SLJTeen,  in December. If you enjoy these reviews by my teens, don't despair because I will be posting reviews from them in this blog. Watch when I tweet out those reviews, or just be sure to visit this blog every now and then to find out what the teens are reading and what they think about those books. You can see by the four book covers pictured here which books were reviewed this past week. Read the November 20th edition of SLJTeen here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Author, Todd Mitchell, Skypes with Bookmarked

On Monday, November 18th, the members of Bookmarked had the opportunity to talk with author, Todd Mitchell, via Skype. Todd's newest book, Backwards, was published last month. One of my students reviewed the book for SLJTeen, and the author and I made contact through that connection. I encouraged more students to read the book, and I read the book .

The students who had the chance to read the book were very curious about Todd's motivation for writing the story in the way that he did. In the book, the main character is living backwards inside a character who commits suicide. I am not giving away any spoilers because the book begins with the suicide. Todd told us that he will never write a book again with time shifting. He had to meticulously go through and add foreshadowing without giving away important plot points. There was lots of shushing throughout our discussion because the students who had not read the book yet wanted a chance to read it without knowing the final outcome. 

The author's main motivation for writing Backwards came about when a couple of young people whom he knew through teaching at Colorado State killed themselves. He wondered what fictional young adult ]literature was out there that addressed suicide. He found quite a lot, and he commenced reading. In his mind, all the fiction that he was reading either glorified suicide or was extremely depressing, there was not a story that emphasized the prevention of suicide. By writing this book, Todd became more compassionate towards the suicide victims whom he knew personally. He believes that anger from the family and friends of the victim does not help heal the hurt.  

The picture that you see below is the manuscript for Todd's newest book which is a paranormal romance with a guy protagonist. He explained that he thinks guys like that genre as much as girls but would prefer to have it written from a boy's point of view. He asked my students if they agreed. They did. This new book will run 500 pages or so which is twice as long as Backwards. Todd wrote Backwards as a way to take a break from this long one. My students were glad that he took that break.

Thank you Todd for allowing us to visit you and your office for 45 minutes. The students had such a great time and kept talking about you and what you said long after the Skype was over. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Selecting a Title for the Middle School Book Group, BRiMS

BRiMS, Books Rule in Middle School, met for the third time this year on October 30th. It was an easy decision to decide that horror would be our genre of choice for that particular meeting. Each student selected their own book. We went around the room sharing the titles of the books that we read and explaining why we liked or didn't like the book. Some of the shared books included: Mabury's Rot and Ruin about zombies; dystopian story, Monument 14, by Laybourne; Pit and the Pendulum by Poe, a classic; Croak by Damico which is not too scary but the characters are grim reapers; and the Harry Potter series, which the students thought the movies were scarier than the books. One student shared a story that he read online from creepypasta. He visits that site often to read stories that members can post. Since anyone who joins can post a story, not all the stories are quality, but he enjoys them nonetheless.

The next meeting is going to be in December. For the next scheduled meeting, everyone will read the same title. I hadn't picked anything when we met in October, so I decided to send out a survey to see what the kids would like to read. They really wanted an action/adventure story. 

You can see those results here:

I thought that it was interesting that neither romance nor realistic fiction had any interest at all. I had two write -ins for manga. There is no denying that manga is loved by the middle school students. Will I sound like a curmudgeon if I say that we won't read manga for book group?

Since I was creating a survey anyway, I decided to find out what made book group fun. I was happy to see that talking about books topped the list, and you can see their answers pictured below. I also asked the students to tell me what needed to be improved, and several students thought we needed more time for our meetings. We have 40 minutes for lunch, but by the time that the students get their lunch and bring it into the library, we only have about 30 minutes to talk. I think that since so many of them want more time, I am going to ask if we can meet during the study hall/lunch period. I agree with the students; we just don't have enough time for everyone to have a chance to talk and share. 

Our next meeting is December 11, and we are going to read Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider. I thought that I had the book on the shelves of my library. Actually, I don't have it in the library, and I am going to see if I can find a local bookstore this week that carries the book. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Teens Review New Historical Fiction and Thriller

When I asked the members of Bookmarked if anyone would be able to contribute to this week's SLJTeen, it was like pulling teeth. Sometimes the students get so overwhelmed with studies that they do not have time to read anything new. The president of Bookmarked realized that she needed to step up to the plate. So she chose a short book that was written in verse. She knew that she could read the book and get a review in to me in time. She is not a big fan of historical fiction, well, none of my students really are. You will be surprised by her review of Mariko Nagai's newest book. Another student was in her sick bed but was able to send me a review of Megan Miranda's thriller, Hysteria. The student didn't realize that the book's publication date was over six months ago. We try to submit SLJTeen reviews for books that have not been published yet. I have four students who promise me reviews for the next issue. SLJTeen is letting us go at the end of the year and a new teen book group will be begin publishing in 2014, so the students at PFTSTA only have three issues left in which they can be published. Open here to read the two reviews
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