Review: The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Kate Messner has long been an author of must buy books.  Her range and talent mean that she is represented quite well in my classroom library, and the students love her work as much as I do.  Kate Messner gets it when it comes to writing books for kids about kids and that kids will want to book talk to others.  She writes from the heart, yes, but she also writes from a deep place of wanting to make this world a better place for any kid who may need the book she has created.  She writes so that children can find themselves in her books or can learn more about others.  And that is the beauty of her latest book; it is a book that will not only allow children to relate, but also for them to learn about a reality that many children face, and often a reality that not many children share out loud.

The moment I heard about the controversy surrounding The Seventh Wish by Kate I was torn up about it.  After all, here is a book that handles a topic that often is out of the maturity range for students and yet is so gravely needed in our middle grade classrooms. In fact, I wrote a blog post dedicated to the preservation of hard topic books and why they are so important for our classroom libraries.   The Seventh Wish is about figuring yourself out, reconnecting with your family, and yes, it is also about a child dealing with an older sibling’s addiction problem and the effects on the family.  The Seventh Wish is a book I wish didn’t have to be written, but it does, and it is so well done.  And the thing is, this book is not “just” about opiate addiction and the effects of it on a family.  It is about a girl trying to come to terms with what it means to be a middle schooler, who is trying to create the type of life she envisions for herself.

This book can be handled to those who may have experiences with drug addiction, but even more so, it can be handed to those who haven’t.  And while it may not be a great fit for some kids, it is for others, and it is for those kids that this book should be a part of a classroom library.  So yes, this book is appropriate for the grades it is written for.  Yes, this book is needed in our classroom libraries.  Yes, this book is not too much, nor too mature for our students.  It is a book that will stay with you for a long time, that can lead to discussions, that can lead to  a kid perhaps making better choices later in life.   I don’t often give books 5 stars, I am rather stingy that way, but this book.  This one got 5 stars.

For a much better worded review, please see the Barnes and Nobles Kid Blog.

From Amazon:

Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life away at college, everything else always seems to be more important than Charlie’s upcoming dance competition or science project. Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes, despite her best intentions. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they’ve ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish.

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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I knew this book existed, after all, I had heard its name many times in circles of trusted readers.  Yet for some reason A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay had never made it into my classroom, let alone my hands.  Yet when I heard Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker discuss that it would be featured on The Yarn, one of the best podcasts out there for book lovers, I knew I had to read it before I listened.  

So I did.  Over two glorious days my world was in the skillful hands of Patrick Ness.   I ended the book in my classroom, choosing to read the final pages rather than prep for the next day.  The book is mesmerizing.  The book is thought provoking. The book calls to be shared and read again and discussed with as many people as possible.  I book talked it the very next day to my students, unsure of what to really say.  How do you book talk a book that is unlike anything you have read before?  How do you convince them of something so beautiful without giving it away?  It turned out, I really didn’t have to as the book spoke for itself.  I know how a long list of 7th graders eager to read it and experience it for themselves.  And that is the power of an incredible book.

From Amazon:

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

 

 

Review Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo has been haunting my Amazon account for a long time.  Every time I went in to order another book, an occurrence that happens a lot, there it was being suggested as my very next read, as the one book I should not be missing out on.  When I was awarded a $25 gift card I knew it was the universe aligning telling me to read this book.

The first night I picked it up, I didn’t get what the fuss was about. I found the different story lines confusing and all of the random new nouns.  A lot of them had Dutch and Danish origins so my Danish brain kept wanting to translate them.  But then the second night, it happened.  I was totally sucked into the pages, having to read until 12:30 AM just to see how it would end and now anxiously waiting its sequel.  I gave this book 5 stars.

Yes, this book is violent – the eye ball incident made me gasp, and yes, this book is confusing in the beginning.  But it is so good.  And for once it doesn’t remind me too terribly much of all of those other books I have read.  So for some 7th graders and up for sure.

From Amazon:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands #BookADay

It is completely appropriate that The Blackthorn Key is released the very same day that I go back to school.  Why?  Because this is the book to give to students to read.  This is a book for anyone who loves a good mystery, fantasy, action, and hopefully something that will turn into a series.  This book, which again was an ARC given to me by Scholastic, will be a great book to hand to those students that loved Harry Potter or The False Prince.  And it will be one that I cannot wait to read aloud.

Bottom-line: 5th grade (or mature 4th graders due to the murders in it) and up.

From Amazon:

“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.

But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.

Echo #BookADAy

A favorite student of mine handed me a Barnes & Noble giftcard at the end of the year.  I was surprised because I was pretty sure middle school teachers do not get gifts and yet she handed me one of the best things in the world; a chance to get more books.  I therefore knew the books had to be special and I was not disappointed; Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is a masterpiece.  All 500+ pages of it.  Once again she weaves a tale so masterful that you have to just read one more page, even if it is past midnight and you know tomorrow will be a long day.    What I also loved about this book is it ageless and timeless quality, I immediately could think of 4th grader and 7th graders that needed to read this book.  I am so thankful this book was recommended to me and now I am recommending it to you.

From Goodreads:

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.
 
Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. 

This is the Book You Add to Your Classroom Library

I first came across Circus Mirandus when people whose book love I trust kept talking about it.  I felt like it was everywhere and so I knew that i had to read it, obviously.  Except, I ran into a small problem; it wasn’t out.  And so I waited and pined and then it was recommended as a possibility for the Global Read Aloud, strings were pulled, and miracoulously Cassie Beasley graciously sent me an ARC.  Thank you because…

I read it in one night.

And then it became a finalist for the Global Read Aloud.

And then I passed it on to anyone who needed a new book.

And they all agreed; Circus Mirandus is one of the best new books to have been written in a while.  And it’s her first book!

So while I tend to do a lot of book reviews on this blog, in fact, I reviewed this book already, I wanted to give an extra push.  It is one of those books that will be loved by many.  It is one of those books that will be passed on, lost, worn out, and then fondly remembered.  It is one of those books we will remember as we read to our own children.  So if you trust any of my recommendations, this is one to follow.  For sure, 3rd or 4th grade and up, and yes middle schoolers will love it as well.

From Goodreads:

Do you believe in magic?
Micah Tuttle does.

Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather.

The only problem is, the Lightbender doesn’t want to keep his promise. And now it’s up to Micah to get the miracle he came for.

Gimme A Call #BookADay

IMG_1272First day of summer vacation and Gimme A Call had been enticing me for a few weeks.  I have often wondered what I would change in the past if I could and this book takes that premise and runs with it.  I was sucked into the story, waiting to see what would happen next and ended up finishing it in one day.  Not bad when I was playing with the kids from 6 am to 7 PM.  The writing style was accessible and there was nothing too mature in it, which is why this can be recommended for fifth and up.

Book Review: Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

I received this book as an advance copy with the specific purpose of looking at it as a possible Global Read Aloud contender and boy was I happy I did.  Angelica Banks, who is really two authors, Heather Rose and Danielle Wood, has spun a masterful tale of adventure and finding ones place.  While there are many things that I love about the book, it was how clearly I knew who I could pass this book on to.  Which students will read this book and make it one of their favorites.

The book offers adventure, magic, and a heroine who may not always know the answer but continues toward The End no matter how hard her journey may become.  I loved the message of the book and cannot wait to hand it to students.

Bottomline: A must add for any classroom 3rd grade and up.  This one is a Global Read Aloud contender for 2015.

From Goodreads:

Tuesday McGillycuddy loves stories – and her mother is a writer. A very famous writer, who has locked herself away in her writing room to finish the final book in her best-selling series for children. But when Tuesday knocks on her door, she discovers her mother is missing!

In search of Serendipity, Tuesday and her faithful dog Baxterr soon find themselves on a very dangerous mission. They enter the magical world where stories come from, a mysterious and unpredictable world, full of real danger and heart-stopping adventure.

With the help of pint-sized heroine Vivienne Small, Tuesday will need all her wit, courage, perseverance and imagination in order to get to The End and be reunited with the people she loves.

Book Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

I so wanted to love this, in fact, I was grasping for words when my husband asked me whether I was reading a good book.  I finally told him it was a great story but there seemed to be too many words mixed in.  Too much repetition of nonessential things and too little build up of the different relationships, yet within those words was  a gem of a story.  A likable character and it was only one book, not a trilogy which was also oddly satisfying.

So while this does not meet “Matched” it is not a lost cause either.  Many of my 7th grade girls will like it, and Ally Condi will continue on as someone whose books I cannot wait to read.

From Goodreads:

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.