Posted in Fantasy/Science Fiction, Michael Printz Award Winner, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Scythe

Title: Scythe

Author: Neil Schusterman

ISBN: 978-1442472426

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 22, 2016)

Age Range: 12 and up

Summary:

In the future, we know everything. All knowledge is stored in the Thunderhead- all anyone has to do is ask. Death is nonexistent. The world no longer experiences war. To control population growth, some people are ordained as Scythes, who are charged with randomly selecting people for death. Citra and Rowan have been chosen to compete against each other to become the next junior Scythe. As they progress through the program, they quickly realize that all is not as it seems within the Scythdom. The two must decide what they believe in, and make a stand against corruption in a society where corruption supposedly doesn’t exist.

My Impressions:

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a refreshing change of pace from the typical dystopian novels available to youth today. There are so many discussion topics hidden within these pages. This novel with cause readers to THINK- which is not something that all stories can boast these days.  Furthermore, the characters are extremely likable, the plot- thrilling and action packed. Events in the story were not easy to predict, making Scythe an enjoyable read even for adults. Likewise, the main plot was not overwhelmed by teen romance, which is rather refreshing. Yes, it is there, but it never becomes the main plot to the story.  I could not put this book down.  The teacher side of me kept thinking about what a fantastic middle grade read aloud this book would make. Young readers will not be able to get enough of this entrancing future world, and teachers will have a blast inciting moral discussion and debate in their students. I highly recommend this read.

Reviews:

Gr 8 Up—In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.—Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

“Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likeable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions. A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give

Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

ISBN: 978-0062498533

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray

Age Range: 15 and up

Summary:

Staar Carter’s life changes forever when her best friend is murdered in front of her when she is ten. Fast forward a few years, and Staar tragically witnesses the murder of her friend Kahlil by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The media quickly gets wind of the fact that Kahlil was unarmed, and the case gains national attention. Staar struggles with her desire to hide from the spotlight, and the need to speak out for justice. Ultimately, she must decide which is more important- her life returning to normal, or fighting for equality in an age of social injustice.

My Impressions:

I could not put this novel down. I even bought the audio book to supplement my print copy so that I could listen in the car. Staar Carter is a character that all teenagers can relate to, regardless of race. Her story compels the reader to stop and think about the world today, and the overflowing evidence of the social injustices surrounding minorities, especially African Americans, in the United States today. The plot is beyond engaging. and heartbreakingly real. Every reader (15 and up) should give this one a read. It will jump start your brain, and make you dream of a better future. Note: There is some content that may not be appropriate for all readers. Though it is all handled tastefully, there is a considerable amount of violence and gang/drug references throughout this novel. Consider reading it with your child, as there are many excellent discussion points along the way.

Reviews:

“Angie Thomas has written a stunning, brilliant, gut-wrenching novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time.” (John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars)

“Though Thomas’s story is heartbreakingly topical, its greatest strength is in its authentic depiction of a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about their lives with the way those lives are depicted—and completely undervalued—by society at large.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Pair this powerful debut with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s ALL AMERICAN BOYS to start a conversation on racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

Posted in Graphic Novels/ Comics, Module 10

Module 10: Cardboard

Title: Cardboard

Author: Doug TenNapel

ISBN: 978-0-545-41873-7

Publisher: Scholastic, Incorporated

Summary:

All Cam’s father wants is to find work so that he can buy his son the birthday present that he deserves. He hunts for construction work, but to no avail. Soon he happens upon a street stand selling cheap toys. The vendor convinces him that what his son will like best is an empty cardboard box, as long as he can follow two simple rules: Don’t come asking for more cardboard, and bring back any scraps that you don’t use. Cam’s father agrees, and brings the box home to his son. Cam and his father decide to build a boxer out of the cardboard, and work all night long to complete their project. Much to their surprise, the boxer comes alive. The next day, Cam takes his new friend outside, but the neighborhood bully gets jealous, and sprays the cardboard boxer with a hose. Cam is devastated, so his father figures out how to generate more cardboard, and the duo repairs him. When the neighborhood bully realizes that Cam can generate the cardboard, he steals the generator and creates his own monsters. The monsters quickly grow out of control, and Cam and the neighborhood bully must work together to defeat the monsters.

Ten Napel, D. (2012). Cardboard. United States: GRAPHIC.

My Impressions:

This was a decent graphic novel. I think that upper elementary readers will enjoy the illustrations, and the action of this story. Cardboard has an engaging plot, and good character development throughout the story. It is fun to examine the characters’ faces to watch how they change throughout the story. The monsters are wonderfully drawn, and really add to the novel.  I felt that the “monster battle” section was a little long, but young readers will likely enjoy it. Cam’s personal story is very compelling, and had me wondering if this family was going to be able to overcome their struggles. Cardboard has a little something for everybody, and would be an excellent addition to a classroom library.

For Use in the Library:

Use this text during a unit on characterization. Examine the characters’ actions, dialog, and, facial features to determine how they grow or change over the course of the book. Use this text during guided reading or literature circles to provide a change of pace for upper elementary readers, and to engage or motivate reluctant readers.

Reviews:

Cam Howerton’s out-of-work father is so broke, the best he can do for Cam’s birthday is an empty cardboard box purchased from a toy seller with two mysterious rules: return every unused scrap of cardboard and don’t ask for any more. “Worst present in the history of birthdays,” thinks Mr. Howerton, but the box becomes a project. What should father and son make out of the box? “A boxer,” Cam suggests. So, as with Rabbi Loew’s golem in sixteenth-century Prague or David Almond’s Clay, “Boxer Bill,” created from inanimate material, comes alive. Unfortunately, Marcus, the neighborhood bully, gets wind of the cardboard man, steals the scrap materials, and begins turning out a whole evil empire of cardboard monsters. He expects to lead these loyal minions, but after losing control of them he must unite with Cam and his father to defeat the massive cardboard army. The graphic novel format, with its dynamic panels and fast pacing, is a perfect vehicle for this tale. Early on, big questions are raised about what it means to be a man, what makes a good man, and what forms people’s character. Such philosophical musings give way to full-blown action that will grab the attention of graphic novel fans and video-game aficionados. A boldly imaginative and ambitious tale. dean schneider

Schneider, D. (2012). [Review of the book Cardboard, by D. TenNapel]. Horn Book Magazine, 88(4), 130. Retrieved from https://libproxy.library.unt.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=76923826&scope=site

Posted in ELA Instruction, Module 9, Poetry and Short Stories

Module 9: A Curious Collection of Cats

Title: A Curious Collection of Cats

Author:Betsy Franco

ISBN: 978-1-58246-248-6

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Summary:

A Curious Collection of Cats is a book of brightly illustrated cat poems that detail all of the quirks and personalities found in cats.The poems are often as unruly as the felines they portray, with upside down poems, curved words, and even a poem shaped like the fat cat that it is about. Each poem takes on a personality of its own, and helps any cat loving reader get closer to their purring pets.

Franco, B. & Wertz, M. (2009). A curious collection of cats. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press.

My Impressions:

This collection of concrete cat poems will have readers of all ages laughing out loud. Each poem in the collection is unique, and brilliantly illustrated. The art and the poems work well together- one would not be the same without the other. Several of the poems stuck out to me after I finished the book. I loved the hilarious haiku poems included, and thought that they could not have done a better job of portraying some of the less endearing personality traits cats posses. Perhaps my favorite  poem in the collection was completely symmetrical. The illustration is stunning, and captures the picture of two cats sitting on a chair perfectly. Cat lovers and haters alike will all find something worthwhile in this collection of poems. I recommend this book to readers of all ages.

For Use in the Library:

This collection would pair well with a work of fiction about cats, such as What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas. As it contains examples of many different types of poems, this collection would make an excellent addition to a poetry unit. The collection includes several great haiku poems, and even a symmetrical poem that could be used to supplement a geometry unit.

Reviews:

In an ideal match of subject and form, poet Franco uses the sinuous shapes and playful motions of cats to distill the essence of felines in all their grace and ridiculousness. Each of the thirty-two concrete poems is a mini-depiction of a particular cat, as in “Veronica Goes Wide”: “Veronica’s gotten so pudgy / and PLUMP, / she now mostly acts like a snuggable / lump”; the poem is written across the yellow cat, with the M in lump formed from her ears. Cats interact with dogs, with squirrels, with one another, and with people in a variety of funny ways, but Franco uses words so precisely to capture cats’ behavior that cat-lovers will feel a shock of recognition. Cat-haters may, too, as Franco lays bare the lesscharming aspects of life with cats, as in “cat haiku 1” (“Tuna fish dinner / Kitty washes down her meal / sips from toilet bowl”) and the self-explanatory “that cat peed on my hat.” Wirtz’s illustrations, monoprints adjusted in Adobe Photoshop, keep the words that wrap and weave around the cats readable while still creating visual interest in the backgrounds. Together, poet and artist convey the silliness of cats and their humans without ever being silly themselves. s.d.l.

S. D., L. (2009). [Review of the book A curious collection of cats, by B. Franco & M. Wertz]. Horn Book Magazine, 85(3), 314-315. Retrieved from https://libproxy.library.unt.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=37925775&scope=site