Monday, October 24, 2016

Court of Fives

Court of Fives
Kate Elliott
Little, Brown and Company, 2015
Genre: dystopian
Source: purchased on Kindle
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

In Court of Fives the obstacles are intense. Jessamy has always wanted to run The Fives and found the perfect time to sneak out and secretly do it. Just once. Until her father returns home earlier than expand her chances may be ruined. Unless she can do it without anyone finding out. If the truth was revealed that she ran the Fives it could mean her father's job, her mother's semi-acceptance in society, and her sisters' livelihoods at stake. Yet Jessamy can't resist the pull of the Fives.

There is a lot of action and suspense in Court of Fives as Jessamy not only runs complex Ninja Warrior like obstacle courses, but navigates the Patron world in which she only halfway belongs.  Jessamy's father is a Patron, a member of the elite class and a commander in the army. Her mother is Efean born, a Commoner, and not allowed to marry her father. Yet after twenty years he has remained faithful to her, even after four girls were born and no male. Jessamy is caught between the two worlds, not really able to be a part of either.

Her love interest is only somewhat interesting. I mostly felt like Kal was a puppy dog following her around. He's a prince and a bit whiny about it, wanting to run The Fives instead.

There is a lot of world and history building to help explain customs. Maybe some of it becomes more important in the second book, but it seemed pretty heavy. Plus most of the names in the Patron class are complicated and similar. So when they're referred to later on it's hard to remember who that was. Is it important? Maybe, but not to the degree spent on it.

Despite all the building, I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the second one soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Letting My Own Child Choose Her Books

As a teacher I'm all about choice in reading and not limiting my students to levels or curriculum or genres.

Teacher Me: You love that one series that is horribly written and just makes no sense? I don't, but go ahead and read it! I'll cringe in my head as you happily pour through your beloved books, and feel happy that you've found something that you love reading. I'll work on a list of other books you might enjoy! 

As the mom, though, I'm finding it much more difficult. Is this because my daughter reading means me reading to her and I can't read that awful book about the goat one more time? Or because I want to read the story about Vasya Kandinsky? 

Mom Me: Thursday is Show and Tell. You get to bring your favorite book! Which book do you want to choose? 
Three year old: *names a random book you've only a few times and she complains about when you suggest it most of the time* 
Mom Me: Well, okay, but I didn't realize that was your favorite. * Secretly grateful she didn't choose any of the "bad" ones*
Three year old: It is my favorite. 
Mom Me: Okay. *desperately thinking of a way to sway her towards a "better" choice 
The following day
Three year old: I'm going to bring (fill in the blank) to school! 
Mom Me: What? Why? 
Three year old: It's my favorite. I love it. 
Mom Me: Are you sure? What about (fill in the blank)? 

And it goes on until I realize that I'm not allowing my daughter choice. And I'm keeping her from expressing her genuine excitement for this book because we have "better" books. 

And hours later I'm still thinking about all the books she loves and how this other one gets the status of favorite. Is it just the mom part, wanting the best for my child? But don't I want the best for my other kids? Or is it that as their teacher I can separate my emotions and understand that it's more important that they love their books than they read something that I have deemed good? Or I just want/need my daughter to be a reader and to be the kind of reader I want her to be? 

We still have all day tomorrow to make her choice. And she's three, so it's likely to change at least two more times. The biggest question is whether or not I'll be able to keep my mouth shut and myself out of her favorite book choice. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

An Argument for Staying Up Late to Read

Sure you're exhausted and you feel zombie-like the next day as you trip over your feet and shove your hair into a ponytail. So maybe you close your eyes for five minutes during your plan time and feel the need to set a timer so you're not awoken by the bell and 25 kids tumbling into your class. There is the possibility you will lose all ability to function by the time 3:00 rolls around and you remember that you have that meeting today after school and a dentist appointment after that.  Your dental hygienist won't mind if you take a quick nap while she cleans your teeth--right?  Because you're going to need that power nap when you arrive home to your beautiful and energetic three year old who wants to play and cuddle and play some more.  And by the time she goes to sleep, you'll cram in a few things that need grading, just in time to start a new book.  But you promise to go to bed on time (or at least close to it) because you're pretty sure you'll end up falling asleep anyway.

But here's the good part: You stayed up late to finish your book and no one interrupted you.  You were able to pace back and forth when you needed to do so and you could snack on those twizzlers you had stashed away for stress eating situations.

You found yourself short of breath several times and anxious for the characters you're now considering your friends.  And finally you found out what happened, how your friends survived (hopefully), and if they'll be okay.  Even though you crawled into bed at 3:00am in an attempt to catch 2 hours of sleep, you crawled into bed happy and content.  Your heart felt warm and glowing, like the words you read seeped from the pages of the book and into your veins.  Coursing through your, they filled you with nutrients you never knew you needed and when they finally reached your heart, it filled with warmth.

So enjoy your late night reading, but maybe don't do it every night.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea
Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin
Genre: graphic novel, middle grade, friendship
Source: Borrowed from School Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Yes, ladies and gentleman who grew up in the 80's-90's, the Baby-Sitters are back and they are in graphic novel form.  One of my students came up to me at the start of the school year to ask if it was okay if she read this book and held up the graphic novel.  At first I didn't quite register what book she was holding up, but asked her why she thought she couldn't read it.  "It's all pictures," she told me and flipped through the pages.  I nodded and told her that they're called graphic novels.  She asked again if she could read it and I asked her if she enjoyed it.  When she finally realized that I would not be telling her that it didn't count and she had to find a "real" book she scampered away as if she was getting away with something. Little did she know that I was thrilled to see her reading this!

At some point during this discussion, I focused in on the title and on the inside was thinking, "I need to read this!"  Now, I'm not a huge graphic novel person.  I don't have anything against them, they're just not what I gravitate towards.  I do, however, gravitate towards Ann M. Martin and The Baby-Sitters Club so as soon as our school library's copy was returned, I snatched it up and sped through it, allowing all my students to see me reading a graphic novel in the process.

It was awesome!  Raina Telgemeier did a fantastic job depicting the story and translating it into graphic form.  It made me feel nostalgic for my old copies of The Baby-Sitters Club, which may be in my parents' basement still, or may not.  I have a modge podge of the novels in my classroom and ever since I read this book and pointed out that they're also in novel form, they've been flying off the shelves as well as the graphic novles.  I may need to invest in more...

So go check it out!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

For Darkness Shows the Stars

I just started For Darkness Shows the Stars, so I'm not sure yet what I think. 

Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.
Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.
But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.
Inspired by Jane Austen's persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
I'm not sure what drew me to it initially, but so far it's pretty good. If you read this post, you'll see how I normally respond to romances.  But I still chose this book.  So far, I'm glad I did.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Currently Reading

I'm going to finish this book soon. It's a tough read, but important. I'll write more later. But you should check it out


IRC 2016

This year I have been privileged not only to attend the Illinois Reading Council Conference, but I was the recipient of the Barack Obama Classroom Library Award. Being surrounded by people who love books and teaching and kids (not necessarily in that order) has been inspiring for me. 

I haven't been posting in awhile because I have felt overwhelmed at school and simply trying to continue to afloat.  Being here has reminded me of why I teach. It has given me new goals and ways to reach them. I have met new people in different parts of the state to collaborate with and contact and work with. 

I'm hoping to keep up the positivity and get some important things done in the next few weeks that will help me keep up the enthusiasm. 

So if you're a teacher of reading or literature or English and work in Illinois, you absolutely need to join the IRC. Check it out here. Then make sure you attend the conference next year. Even if it's for only one day. Just do it. 

I'm hopeful that all the inspiration I've gained this conference will carry me through the year.