Thunderhead- Neal Shusterman
This sequel to Scythe was incredible. Jaw dropping twists, the characters are compelling and the mystery that is woven through the story is so engaging. Without spoiling Scythe I can’t post much here but please go out and read Scythe and then set aside the time to enjoy this epic tale before the third book in this series comes out. Run don’t walk to go pick up this book. I am almost certain it will spend a lot of time off the shelves in my classroom.
The Serpent King- Jeff Zentner
Oh this book was a departure from my normal reading choices. Oh my land I am so glad I took the advice of others to check it out. This story ripped my heart out at different moments and glued it all back together in others. 3 friends, each misfits in their own way weave together a story that is haunting. The son of a “fallen from grace” religious leader with a disturbing family history, the girl who is a fashion blogger that does not fit in her small town and the gentle giant with an abusive father all tell parts of the story from their perspective. This YA novel addresses a lot of tough material and you are sure to require some tissues. I don’t want to spoil it but please check out The Serpent King by Zentner, you won’t regret it.
The Wild Robot Escapes – Peter Brown
If you have not read the first adventures of our Wild Robot please make sure to check it out. The sequel has our main character Roz the Robot purchased to work on a small family farm. She helps get the farm going again and makes friends with the cows after demonstrating that she can speak to them and understand them. Roz deals with broken farm equipment, some nasty wolves and a growing affection for her farm family. Roz never stops thinking about her friends from the island or her son. Tales of Roz spread and eventually she is reunited with her son and plans an escape. This is a great story that is heartwarming and helps us look at acting against the norm and how being unique is something that should be celebrated.
Lions and Liars-Kate Beasley
If you are looking for a heartwarming tale with a relatable character with problems that most students are going through trying to manage friendships and personalities this story is for you. An argument between friends finds Frederick in a boat washed up on the shore of a transformational camp for troubled boys. He assumes the identity of a late to arrive camper and gets to pretend he is someone other than the flea on the butt of an antelope those close to him thinks he is. When the truth comes out, a category 5 hurricane approaching and some issues at a Zoo all come together we learn that we are a lot more than the labels people put on us but that those labels can be crippling if we don’t have the support of those around us. A wonderful story that I would recommend to anyone.
Bat and the Waiting Game- Elana K. Arnold
I love this book. There is not a lot out there in the MG book world that so accurately represents students on the autism spectrum. As I have gotten to know BAT in both of Elana’s stories I appreciate the accuracy and memories of interactions with students that it brings up. For most of this book a smile did not leave my face, even in his tougher moments, the supporting cast is written with such compassion and understanding. Just love it.
Scythe- Neal Shusterman
I have not enjoyed a book as much as I have enjoyed Scythe since Harry Potter. A very cool concept with there being a cure for death and disease and Scythes the appointed people to keep the population down through legal killing or “gleening” The story focuses on two awesome characters in Citra and Rowen as well as a unique and captivating supporting cast. I don’t want to spoil anything but this is an exciting book, full of action and suspense. A fair bit of violence but some very interesting commentary on society. Man, I loved this book.
The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus-Dusti Bowling
Delightful story. Aven is a strongwilled, independent, fierce, confident young girl that is forced to move from the only home she ever knew and her friends to relocate to Arizona with her parents, she also has no arms. Born with a genetic condition Aven has been taught by her adoptive parents to do much for herself. She makes a new best friend (Connor) who has Tourette’s syndrome. Their differences are a key point in the story but not in the way you would typically expect, their disabilities do not define them and the story has so much more going on than the characters dealing with these challenges. This is a heartwarming story that I would recommend to anyone. Fantastic story.
Wishtree- Katherine Applegate
This really is a wonderful book that caught me by surprise with how much it impacted me as I approached the end of the text. The authors way of creating a community within a 200 plus year old tree, the animals and their interacting with each other and the friendship that is born between two characters that you do not at first expect. This story is full of wisdom and thought provoking statements. I love when a book leads me to ponder things more, and this story really did make me consider how the bystander effect is real, how one can stand up for what is right but still follow the rules and how people can make change. Loved it, will be reading it in class and sharing with my students.
Ban This Book-Alan Gratz
How one author can write Refugee (one of my all time favourites) and Ban This Book and it be so incredibly different but equally awesome is a talent I am very jealous of. The story of an over protective mom that gets the school board to ban books that she is “protecting” kids from versus the student who loves books that finds something terrible with the idea of removing the choice of students from what books they can read. This story started a little slow for me but once it hit its stride I had a hard time putting it down.
I loved the idea presented in this book that we can all interpret books in different ways but that we can not tell others how to interpret them. In a not so far stretch this also addresses how we as teachers expect students to react to a book in a certain way and the difficulty in assessing them.
This is a great story about freedom of choice, a love of books and friendship all told around a character finding out about who they are and the strength they really have inside them. Just wonderful. Here is my favourite quote
Orbiting Jupiter- Gary D. Schmidt
I kept hearing about this beautiful little story and thought to myself that it can’t be as good as the hype. Well I was wrong. I read this story in one afternoon and wished it would go on forever. I heart wrenching story about an 8th grade boy named Joseph, his foster family and his baby girl Jupiter. No spoiler but the ending will take your breath away.
Dear Martin-Nic Stone
An interesting story and premise as a boy who is the victim of police brutality, racial profiling and casual racism from “friends” enters a dialogue through letters with Martin Luther King. Issues like inter racial relationships, friendship, forgiveness and of course racism are explored in a unique story about a character you really root for.
Long Way Down-Jason Reynolds
An incredibly powerful book written in verse as a boy decides the direction his life is going to take. Too many details will spoil it but if you had a chance to see what you life could become depending on your actions what choice would you make?
Miles Morales-Spiderman- Jason Reynolds
This is a great book. When I first bought it I was expecting a superhero story. What I got was so much more. A focus on a great character that is dealing with real life things (crushes on girls, boring job, family financial stresses, school problems) as well as some zombie like bad guys and a creepy old cat man. This story addresses racism and the struggles of youth in an engaging way with a superhero twist. I highly recommend this book. It was off my shelf and in the hands of students minutes after my first book talk.
Some Kind of Happiness- Claire Legrand
Finley Hart is staying at her Grandparents for the summer, the grandparents she never speaks to. Her parents are “working” on their problems but Fin has problems of her own. Problems she dare not speak about. Anxiety and depression are written about in a way that is so real I saw my own struggles. Every character brings their own importance to the story, the picture perfect Grandma that has secrets of her own, the aunties and cousins, the neighbours across the river and of course The Everwood. Adventure and self discovery come together in a beautiful story that examines the struggles of depression and anxiety in a way that I have not seen in middle school literature. There are highs and lows. An Orphan Queen and her Pirate Prince. This book was wonderful on every account.
A Boy Called Bat-Elana K Arnold
BAT is a wonderful boy who lives with his mom and sister and every other weekend he stays at his Dads. BAT has a hard time with change, social situations and making friends. BAT also is on the autism spectrum. BATs mom, a veterinarian, brings home a baby skunk and BAT learns the importance of caring for others as well as how to interact better with those around him. It is a beautiful story that I would recommend to all but especially grades 1-6 as a class read aloud.
I have really lucked out this summer reading great book after great book. It doesn’t hurt that I have followed the great @MrSchuReads on twitter, everyone should do it because he just suggested greatness in book form all the time. Solo is no exception. I loved this story in such a different way than other books I have read. There is an almost reality TV feel to the delivery. I felt I was watching a show more than reading a book at times. The most touching, beautiful show with moments that will make you sing (pardon the pun) but also cry (full disclosure I had some leaky eyes). The main character Blade and his journey to find his true self, to come to terms with his father and their relationship and confront his own fears was just a beautiful ride to be a part of. The way Mr.Alexander crafted these characters makes you care about them, heck I have never disliked a character as much as I did one “spider” in this story. Much like Crossover, Booked or the Playbook all wonderful additions to a classroom library by Alexander, Solo needs to be on your shelves. It will move you. I blogged about my own heart reactions to this beautiful story here https://thingsmrgsays.com/2017/08/08/mirrors/ please have a read 🙂
I wrote about this powerful book here.
The Girl Who Drank The Moon-Kelly Barnhill
While a few summer adventures got in the way of finishing this wonderful story quickly taking my time was so worth it. My students made fun of my “type” of books always being fantasy and this one is now right on top of the list. There is a large discrepancy in the number of strong female characters in children’s books. When they are present they tend to be paired with an even stronger male character that serves as their teacher or guide or “strong” friend. This story is full of strong female character. Magic and love take center stage in a tale of a young girl who comes by magic do to an act of love that goes awry. The messages around the dangers of too much power or too much knowledge without being able to handle it tie in perfectly with the journey of Luna from infancy to teenage years. The imagery that Kelly Barnhill creates brought to mind my need for Hayao Miyazaki to read this book and option an animated feature. The villain is simply evil and downright creepy. This is a great story for all readers. I took some time to map out a little reflection on the book. Go read this book!
A Place Beyond the Map- Samuel Thews
While this one started a little slow pulling me in once it did I was hooked. Phinnegan Qwyk is a 12 year old that loves to read fairytales and is not the first to jump in and play sports. He gets mixed up with a renegade Fae and is taken to you guessed it A Place Beyond the Map. He must over come many challenges to find his way home and learns a lot about what he can accomplish along the way. I very much enjoyed this story. The ending may be a bit too wide open but for that that just means a guaranteed return trip to a world that I really enjoyed getting to know. There are a few nude pixies that made a 12 year old blush and will probably make your twelve year olds blush too but it was a really fun story with an incredibly likeable protagonist.
Have you ever considered what it would be like to start over? Well in Restart the main character Chase, a horrible bully, gets amnesia following an accident and gets this chance. No one else has forgotten Chase and his reign of terror however. Kids run in fear, the goons he runs with are waiting for his triumphant return. But what if this chance to be someone different is all he needed to change his path? This is a fantastic story about bullying, second chances, identity and friendship. I highly recommend this book to all audiences.
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
I say this a lot but man this book was great. Some Kind of Courage was some kind of WONDERFUL. Both Joseph and Ah-kee are characters you get invested in. The constant memory moments Joseph has getting his advice from his parents to make the decisions he has to make are touching. The bond with his horse and the growth he has throughout the book finding his family. Such a great story. My eyes got a little hot a few times while reading. If you are looking for another wonderful story by this author check out The Honest Truth, I will be buying his newest Scar Island next week.
Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
A touching story that explores the concepts of family, growing up and change. I very much enjoyed this warm story of 9 children living on a rather pleasant island. Every year the oldest of the group leaves as a younger arrives. The next oldest becomes the Elder and teaches their “care” before their time to continue the cycle arrives. I must say the hype online about this book got me to check it out as it is not my typical genre choice. That said I was engrossed in story within the first hour of reading. The visuals that are painted by the author, the characters that all have their own strengths and flaws and the mystery surrounding the island all just pulled me in. There could be prequels and sequels written about this book and I would buy everyone of them. A wonderful story with a few sad notes but highly recommend.
The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence
A wonderful story in the tradition of Hatchet. Two boys find themselves stranded in the Alaskan Wilderness and must learn to survive while also discovering things about themselves. While this story has some fantastical moments I could not put it down. The boys are such different characters that are forced to come together not without their fair share of conflict, with each other and nature. A forgotten cabin in the woods and a curious raven round out the cast of this story. A wonderful tale of survival, friendship and perseverance.
Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke
I can’t give a bigger recommendation than I do for this book. Nearly pocket-sized this is the story of a father talking to his children through letters. Giving them advice on how to live their life in accordance with that of a Knight. It is an incredibly easy read packed full of life lessons. I fully intend to build my classroom around these concepts. A perfect nightly read. Go and get it today.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I could not put this book down. A mix of humour, heart and heartache. A very current and serious subject that is written with strong characters that as a reader I just wanted to know more. Starr Carter torn between her neighbourhood and the “other” her, that attends a gated school in a nice community, is on a journey of self discovery all around the events of her childhood friend being killed by a police officer. Innocent of wrong doing Starr must decide if she will simply let her friend be painted as a drug dealer that put the police officer in danger or stand up and tell everyone who her friend truly was and expose the truth of events that night. A powerful story. (Some language and mature content)
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
I have never read a book that shook me to my core as much as A List of Cages. This story focuses on two characters, Adam and Julian. Adam is a fun loving senior with everything all worked out except for his crush on Emerald. Julian is a young boy who lost his parents at a young age and lives in a very abusive situation. Adam was once Julians foster brother and they reconnect. Adam learns more and more about the Julian he was long separated from and becomes his friend once again. I don’t want to spoil anything but this story is both beautiful and haunting. The power of kindness and friendship is put on display while the terrible power of abuse is also examined. I recommend this story to my fellow teachers as an example of how we never know what could be happening in the lives of our students. I would caution those who do what to red this book as some scenes are very hard to read through. This book changed me. The characters even in supporting roles are pivotal and so well developed. I loved this book but I was sad many times throughout.
My goodness this was a great quick read. Life lessons throughout. Peak is a young boy who because of some illegal antics must go live with his father. Dad happens to be a world famous rock climber and takes Peak on his next adventure to summit Mt.Everest. Great character, you will find yourself rooting for Peak. Many twists, turns and challenges will keep you on the edge of your seat. A heartwarming tale of self discovery as a young 14 year old attempts the seemingly impossible.