30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

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I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

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My Teaching Philosophy

For my education class, we have to come up with our philosophy on teaching.

The thing is the more I learn about being an educator, the more emotional I get. Sometimes I feel like I can’t wait to be a teacher, and other times I feel terrified to stand in front of my own class. It’s a HUGE job! And in a week or so I’ll begin my field experience where I go into a class and (hopefully) get to experience teaching some high school students. Or grade papers. Either way, I’m excited to learn!

I now have to think about what KIND of teacher I’ll be. Some days I feel like I’ll be this teacher:

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Other days I’m all:

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I’m hoping I can pave the road to teaching heaven with good intentions because there’s nothing I love more or am more passionate about.

SO here’s my official (for now) teaching philosophy:

I do not like to limit learning to one type of learning in a classroom. I am more of a non- traditionalist. I want my students to know that learning is constantly taking place and that exchanging ideas and experiencing new things and learning from other people is part of being educated. I think it is important for the teacher to give clear expectations to students so that students can rise to the occasion and become self-sufficient learners. Teachers should use discussion often in the classroom to help expand students’ knowledge and also allow the students to form critical thinking skills. I believe teachers must make an effort to get to know their students as individuals and their classes as a whole so that they can tailor their lessons accordingly. In order to best reach students, a teacher must do their best to be knowledgeable about their subject area, teaching techniques, and new technology. It’s important to always be learning and evolving so that students can follow that example. Teachers should be flexible, caring, and knowledgeable. Ultimately my goal as a teacher is to develop independent students who care about their world, are curious, and are critical thinkers. 

I’d like to hear from you about what you think makes a good or bad teacher. Maybe you could share your memories of your favorite/ least favorite teachers?

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 21 – Favourite Book from my Childhood

I’m cheating with this entry, but this is my blog so I’ll make the rules!

Back in the days of elementary school yore, when Scholastic book fairs were like school holidays,

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and they sent these things home with us so we could beg our parents to order us things (and it was hard for them to say no because they’d basically be telling you not to read),

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I was obsessed with The Bailey School Kids series. And it was a great series to fall in love with because there were over EIGHTY books!

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Basically, the books have a Scooby-Doo-like formula. The kids became suspicious of a figure in their lives like a lifeguard, teacher, or other adult because, let’s face it, adults are super strange and mysterious and always seem to have secrets.  They suspect that an adult is a mythical creature like a vampire, skeleton, witch, etc. Then they collect a bunch of reasons why they believe that, for example, their camp counselor is a werewolf.  This may seem a little outlandish, but if you think back to when you were in elementary school, you probably believed a host of crazy things like thinking your teacher lived at school or thinking little elves operated traffic lights (No? Just me?)

These books were brilliant because they capitalized on childhood suspicion and imagination. Plus, the reader never knows if the kids are right in their accusations! Sure, it’s unlikely that the librarian is a wizard.

But you never know…
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Here are some of my favorites:
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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 10- Favorite Classic Book

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It quickly became one of my favorite books when I read it my senior year of high school English. Everyone else HATED reading it. I admit, it was a book I had to read in absolute silence with no disturbances so that I could fully concentrate. It ignited my love for Russian literature. The prose is so rich and complex that it’s a challenge to read it, but it’s well worth it. It opened my mind at an important time in my life, exposing me to the shades of gray that exist when it comes to good and evil. The characters are fantastic, and the plot is intriguing. I really hope I get to teach this book in my classroom someday!

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 7- Most Underrated Book

Day 7- Most Underrated Book

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I’m not sure if underrated is the right word, but I feel like no one is talking about Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, maybe because it was written in 2008. I was once again reading this book in a post-Twilight world where EVERYTHING was about vampires and werewolves. I love a good vamp/wolf story, but I was ready for something new. I read it a few years ago, and thought it was so timely and smart and entertaining. It’s a clear allegory for race or sexuality or anything that makes people different. BUT WITH ZOMBIES! It’s great because (before warn bodies hit theaters) it seemed like zombies got no love. For obvious reasons, they are seen as The Abject because they’re basically just walking corpses and aren’t all seductive and mysterious like vampires.

I love this book. I think it’s a great read, and I can even see myself teaching it in the classroom. Pick it up and give it a read. PLEASE!

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Goodreads blurb:

Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.

All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them.

The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic.” But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good.

When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Remember the sweet fairy tales of Cinderella or the Disney movie with the catchy songs about true love? Marissa Meyer changes everything you thought you knew about the story and turns up the volume. Meyer trades Cinderella, damsel in distress, to Cinder, cyborg on a mission, frolicking animals for androids, and the glass slipper with a mechanical foot.

Set in the futuristic streets of New Beijing, the novel opens on Cinder, a renowned mechanic replacing her mechanical foot with a new, more proportional model when a disguised Prince Kai visits her booth and urges her to fix a very important android for him. Not moments after his departure, a sign of the plague that has been ravaging New Beijing makes an appearance, setting everything into motion. When the plague hits her family and she becomes involved in finding a cure as well as the handsome Prince Kai’s affairs and a potential war with the lunar people from the moon, Cinder begins to learn more about her mysterious past and how her existence may change everything for the world.

It’s no secret that Fairy Tale Revisited is extremely popular right now. For me, it started with Beastly by Alex Flynn, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that was made into a movie a few years ago. There have been dozens of other contributions to this growing genre including TV shows like Ever After and Grimm and movies like Snow White and the Huntsman. We don’t seem to grow out of our love for fairy tales.

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. These stories have been around for centuries and come from all parts of the world, constantly changing form for their audience but never losing relevance. Could Charles Perrault or the Brothers Grimm have ever imagined a cyborg version of their Cinderella?

Probably not. Enter the genius of Marissa Meyer.

I can’t begin to express how much I enjoyed this book. The characters, even the background ones, are so great. Cinder is a more modern (obviously) and independent upgrade. She has no need for a fairy godmother, though she is stuck with an evil stepmother and sister. Cinder is an excellent role model because she is so hard working and brave without being inhuman. She has vulnerabilities and valid emotions. THIS is how you create a great young adult novel female protagonist.

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She also represents minorities in that cyborgs in New Beijing are essentially second-class citizens. People treat her with disgust. I think this speaks to readers who find themselves in between identities like those of mixed race or even those with prosthetics. I think discussing these issues would be great in a classroom setting or a book group. Have we ever felt like we didn’t belong because of something that makes us different?

I also enjoyed that the story took place somewhere OTHER than Europe or North America. In fact, it is believed that the story of Cinderella originated in China during the 9th century. Today, China is a booming technology giant. They’re also known for their royal families. Obviously, Meyer knew what she was doing when she set this scene for her story. It is told that Cinder is from Europe (though her exact origin is unknown), but her prince charming, Prince Kai, is clearly Chinese. Interracial love! I don’t think we see enough of it in young adult literature. This could be another discussion point.

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The story has a few flaws as far as practicality and continuity and exploring more of what the author sets up, but there are also three more books in the works after this one so maybe all is explained in the sequels.

As far as teaching the book, I can’t see myself using it in curriculum just because I don’t think the academic tone or writing is there. I also don’t know that this novel would interest young male readers. However, I think the whole cyborg and android thing might carry some weight when trying to appeal to the masculine reader.

I would definitely recommend this to others! I can see it being very popular with late middle school to early high school readers.

Movie rights HAVE been sold and the screenplay is finished. I can’t wait for it to premiere on the silver screen. Romance and robots can’t fail.

Pick this book up immediately. It’s a great and quick read full of futuristic mystery and just enough sweet romance to make your heart do little flips. To tell you how much I enjoyed reading it, I literally downloaded the sequel Scarlet an hour after I finished Cinder. The second book continues where the first left off, adding a Red Riding Hood character into the mix. The next two installments of the series are set to include Rapunzel and Snow White.

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If you enjoy both of these books, Meyer has also come out with short stories, “Glitch” and “The Queen’s Army” as prequels to both of the books. You can read them both for free here:

http://www.marissameyer.com/books/short-stories/

Meyer’s website also includes her book recommendations that I have already added to my MUST READ list. Check it out here:

http://www.marissameyer.com/books/book-recomendations/

Check out Meyer’s pinterest board (how cool) for the Lunar Chronicles here:

http://pinterest.com/marissameyer22/the-lunar-chronicles/

Read an awesome fan interview with Meyer here:

http://izabella.tumblr.com/post/55065922902/we-skyped-with-marissa-meyer-and-she-answered-our

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The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

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A children’s book! With pictures! Blasphemy!

I picked this up on a Barnes and Noble excursion the other day. The cover drew me in. I, like many of you, grew up as an avid crayon user (pronounced “crown” where I’m from). Your art tools are rebelling!

This book is an absolute delight. I took turns reading it allowed with my little (Big Brother Big Sisters), and we had a great time reading why each crown decided to go on strike, each extremely self-righteous. It’s a very clever little book with an actual child’s drawings for illustration.

To take it to a deep, literary level, it challenges children to think about why they use the colors they use when drawing. It even throws in some gender commentary (which I obviously loved). I highly recommend to young readers as a unique read. Or…readers of all ages who enjoy a good crayon tale.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale, and Nathan Hale

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I absolutely loved this book. I was surprised to find it in the juvenile section in the library since it was featured in the YALSA list. It’s also about a fairy tale character so I wasn’t sure if this would be advanced enough for young adults.

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of humor and narration in the story. There was also a lot of violence as Rapunzel used her hair to whip and tie up the bad guys. The authors took a classic story and revamped it for a modern audience and an older reader demographic with great success.

The pictures in it are great because they look like the type that would be found in a young child’s picture book, colorful and cartoony, but also take on a comic book vibe with all of the action in each panel.

What I loved most about this book was how Rapunzel was an Annie Oakley style heroine instead of a damsel in distress. She’s funny and brave. She was a joy to read about.

The only criticism I have is that I found it difficult to read, but I believe that’s just because I’m not used to reading graphic novels. I would absolutely recommend this. AND there’s a sequel: Calamity Jack!

Curriculum Connections/ Caveats: I would suggest this book for a middle school reader, especially a girl. It’s a great transition from juvenile to young adult literature. It’s a more mature Junie B. Jones fun in graphic novel form. I think it’s also important that it features a girl protagonist since many super heroes and graphic novel characters are geared toward males. However, I would also suggest this book to young boys because it’s action packed enough to keep them interested, and it allows them to see a girl in a role that is not often seen.

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This is a book log entry I did for my education class:

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I picked The Scorpio Races because I read the Shiver trilogy Stiefvater wrote, and I loved it. However, I was disappointed with this novel. It wasn’t as interesting as the trilogy, and I found the writing to be less than stellar.

To begin, the novel has 400 pages. I thought they would go by quickly because, like I mentioned, I loved Stiefvater’s other books. This story dragged on for the first 300 pages. I understand the need to lay a foundation, but this took it to another level. The pace was sluggish, and the real action in the story didn’t even get started until around page 350. If I wasn’t reading this book for a class, I’m not sure that I would have kept reading.

The book’s redeeming quality lies in its characters. The narration switches every other chapter between Puck and Sean. Both of them become contestants in the Scorpio Races on their island. The races are run by water horses, monsters from the sea that must be tamed by the riders. Puck is a teenage girl who enters the race on her family horse, a pony, in order to win the prize money to save her family. Sean is a horse trainer who races to gain independence and his own horse. The struggles both of the characters go through is compelling, despise the sluggish narration.

Puck is a great heroine. She’s admirable and strong. She is the first girl to ever enter the races, and works hard for her family. Sean has integrity and is passionate about his horses. The two share a pretty PG-rated romance that doesn’t take from the plot. I would like to see more characters like Puck and Sean in young adult literature just because they’re so real and are great role models. The only issue is that the author doesn’t change voice when switching their narration so they end up having the exact same voice.

I enjoyed the race scenes and the characters, but overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book.

Curriculum Connections/ Caveats:

I don’t see myself teaching this book in the classroom. I also wouldn’t suggest it to a reluctant reader. However, I have noticed that it’s a popular book so I would recommend it to a strong, eager reader in early high school or an advanced middle school student.  It could be connected to The Hunger Games because of the characters’ ages and the violent nature of the races.