Friday, March 30, 2012

Teach Mentor Texts' Dystopian vs. Post-Apocalyptic Blog Hop

It's your turn!
I was lucky enough to be invited by one of my favorite middle school teacher tweeps Kellee to participate as a guest poster in Teach Mentor Texts' Dystopian vs. Post-Apocalyptic feature. Now, after ten weeks of author, teacher, and blogger guest posts delving into the topic, it's your turn!
Kellee and Jen (another awesome tweacher), who blog together at Teach Mentor Texts, are wrapping up the series with a Blog Hop to allow others to share their views on this genre. And what perfect timing as one of the most well-known dystopians hit movie screens this week! So, get thinking, get typing, and get over to Teach Mentor Texts to participate in their Blog Hop on Saturday!

Have fun - I'm excited to see what you all have to say!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TAKE A BOW by Elizabeth Eulberg

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher:  Point (a Scholastic imprint)
Release Date: April 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 278
Source of Book: ARC from NCTE Convention

From the fantastic author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom & Prejudice comes a story of all the drama and comedy of four friends who grow into themselves at a performing arts high school.

Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.

I adore Elizabeth Eulberg and I love, love, love her books and writing. It all started with THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB in January 2010, I was drawn in by the cover and I immediately loved it and recommended it to a few students who started passing it on to each other until I had to buy a second copy to meet demand. Then came the wonderfulness of PROM & PREJUDICE last year which was a lovely modern retelling of the classic Jane Austen story (and a title my students recently chose for an impromptu book club). You may have seen me mention one or both of those titles on twitter whenever someone asks for a cute, light-hearted, contemporary with some romance. The thing I love most about her books is that they are very accessible read and completely appropriate for the middle schoolers I recommend them to the most. And TAKE A BOW is no exception. In fact, I think this might be her best one yet!

One of the cool things about Elizabeth's books is that they all incorporate music in some way. Now, if you follow her on twitter or her blog, you'll quickly realize that Elizabeth loves music in real life and is always on the look out for the next concert, and I think that's something that many students can relate to. Sometimes it's more subtly included than others, but it's always there. In TAKE A BOW, it's a huge part of the story, but also done in different ways based on the characters. As I was reading I kept thinking back to Fame and that this is what it must really be like in these performing arts high schools. I love the whole concept and setting for this book-it's like high school drama on steroids when you add in the musicians and actors. This is one of those books where you're going to want to say, "I'm with the band!"

There is an honesty to Elizabeth's writing that I really appreciate and can relate to. It's not angsty just to be angsty, these teens are dealing with real issues that affect their lives and hopes for the future. Carter, Sophie, Ethan, and Emme are each their own definitively unique characters and all come across and realistic portrayals of people we could all know out in the world. They are not stereotyped, they have depth, they have real emotions and feelings, and they aren't always perfect. Even the good guy (and I appreciate having a true good guy, not just the bad boys) isn't perfect in how he deals with his emotions and feelings, which is realistic. They are teens and they are learning how to get by and figure out their lives in this cuthroat environment reaching for their dreams. Even the secondary characters are well-drawn and add some needed commentary and humor. I really appreciated that this story was told from the four different points of view, and the way in which they overlapped was so well done that I got the feeling of the complete story. Sometimes it was a little hard to distinguish what was happening in the present from the past memories helping us get background, but the voices were each distinct from each other.

I passed my ARC on to one of my students who was looking for a new book (and who had read Elizabeth's other two books and loved them) and asked her to share her thoughts with me when she was done, and she gave me a bullet pointed list of her thoughts. This is what she had to say (*caution-spoilers ahead): "Liked how it was from four people's points of view and how they all knew each other. Loved how Sophie was using Emme by Emme didn't realize it for awhile, loved how Emme stood up to Sophie, glad Sophie got what she deserved. Love the band. LIked how they were talking about college. Liked Carter's point of view. Liked how Ethan has always like Emme and glad Ethan and Emme are a couple." And my favorite comment from my student: "Loved how the book made me want to read more every time I put it down!"

This is definitely one to add to any middle school or high school classroom library or recommendation list. Especially recommend it to your drama kings and queens and your passionate musicians. And I hear it's already on store shelves, so go get it today and come back and let me know your thoughts about it! I am eagerly anticipating whatever Elizabeth Eulberg will share with us next!

Tweet for Puffins with Walden Pond Press & NEVERSINK!

Tweet for Puffins! 

The NEVERSINK Adopt-A-Puffin Campaign 

Walden Pond Press, who have awesome middle grades books, have a fun campaign/contest they're hosting in honor of Neversink, a debut novel by Barry Wolverton releasing today! 
They're supporting The National Audubon Society's Project Puffin. They're going to Adopt-A-Puffin for every 100 tweets they receive of the message below. It sounds like such a great idea and a fun way to celebrate the release of this new book.
So, tweet away this message to help people get involved and support the cute puffins!
RT @WaldenPondPress In honor of #NEVERSINK by @wolvertonhill, help us support Audubon's Project Puffin! Every 100 RTs = 1 puffin adopted

Oh, and if they reach at least 100 tweets, they will randomly select one classroom, school, or library from all participants in whose name the puffin will be adopted. The chosen group will receive a photograph and biography of the puffin as well as a certificate signed by the Director of the program, Dr. Stephen Kress. 

See the fine print and all of the details about the Puffin Project on Walden Pond's blog at:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week #47

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

I haven't done an IMM for awhile because I've been so busy with teaching responsibilities, and I've been doing a lot of ebooks and netgalleys - and I'm finding it hard to keep track of those for posting, but I want to get back at it, and I got what I think will be an awesome book this week, so here it is. 

For Review

I was lamenting my drastic lack of books with boy appeal that I've read over the last six months, and asked for recommendations on twitter, and Kate Messner said this one was really good. With Kate's rec and the fact that it is a Walden Pond Press title (and they have a strong track record for middle grades books for me) I was excited to get a copy. This one is coming in May. Thanks WPP!

*If you want to see my whole list of books that were recommended for boy appeal, it's here on goodreads.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie - My Thoughts

I don't think my love for The Hunger Games series books is any secret. I read the first one in early 2009 after hearing all the buzz for it, and immediately proclaimed it one of my all-time favorite books and it became my number one book recommendation for all of my middle school students. It reaffirmed my love of dystopian (you can read more about that on my guest post on Teach Mentor Texts blog series on dystopian) and led many of my students down that same path. Now, I admit, it took me awhile to read it the first time. Let's admit, the beginning is a little slow, but once I went back to it and got to the Capitol, I couldn't put the book down.

So I was one of the (lucky or unfortunate whichever way you look at it) ones who had to wait a full year in between each book in the series. And then the news of the movie came, and all I could do was hope they didn't screw it up like the Twilight movies (come on, they're not that good), but could make it good like the Harry Potter movies, but without having to leave so much out. The thing is, I think a really good book to movie adaptation has the power to make someone want to read the book - and that's a great power to have. In fact, that's what happened to me when I saw the first Harry Potter movie. I hadn't read the books yet, but that movie made me go get them, see how good they were, and then I became a devoted fan of the series. And that's what I really hope The Hunger Games movie will do for this generation of adolescents.
I've had the release date on my calendar since it was announced...I've had the original movie poster in my classroom since it was available...I've had my reserved seat movie ticket for over a month...I've been talking about it with my students for the last two weeks...and I finally got to see the movie today. My thought before it began? I really hope it lives up to the hype and anticipation I've built up for it. What was my thought when it was over? That was so good-I need to go see it again! I think I feel like this whenever I go to a movie based on a book that I've read. The first time I see it, I'm thinking so much about comparing it to the book. The second time, I can enjoy it more. BUT, the difference this time was that the movie was so incredibly well done, that I wasn't in my head comparing it to the book the whole time, but I was falling in love with the story all over again. And wanting to go see it again was so I could enjoy it even more, and pay a little more attention to whether we could ever show it to our students or not.

The movie is darn good. Are there some small changes, of course, there have to be. My favorite though was getting a behind-the-scenes inside look at the gamemakers and how diabolical and strategic they were in making it all happen. Were there some questionable casting decisions-well, that depends on who you ask, but in my mind the casting was brilliant perfection (with the exception of Peeta-I'm still not sold). Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. Haymitch and Cinna are delightful. I'm already going to call foul if it doesn't win awards for makeup and costuming. This movie accomplished the task of bringing this book to life, and I never felt like there was anything that didn't look right to me from how I had pictured it when I read the book. That is quite a feat as such a fan of the book.

I walked out of this movie with a clear thought prevailing in my head (after wow, they really ended that perfectly to set up for Catching Fire and I can't wait for the next one!): I really want to read the book again. And for someone who has already read it three times, that's saying something. I can only hope that it has the same effect on my students and all of the others who go to see it who haven't read the books yet. This one was a winner.