Reading Vacation

Now that I’m not teaching every day, my life doesn’t revolve around school vacation weeks quite as much as it once did. As a consultant, I work in four different districts. Three of them are on vacation this week and one is off next week. That means I’m only working a little this week.

However, my writing schedule stays the same and I don’t seem to find whole days for a reading vacation the way I once did. I loved those days when I could fall into the world of a book and only emerge for food. I loved making a pile of the books I’d read and figuring out an order for them for my week of vacation.

So, even though I’m not on “vacation” this week, I’ve decided I need a reading vacation—at least an afternoon for it—and I’ve decided that this afternoon is it. I have a perfect book: Robin Wasserman’s upcoming The Book of Blood and Shadow
which I was lucky enough to get as an advance reader’s copy (thanks, Trish!). It’s a mystery with murder and history and Latin and amazing characters and writing. It’s been all I can do not to sit and devour the whole thing in one big 400+ page gulp. But this afternoon, I’m going to allow myself to do just that. I can’t wait.

My copy says the actual book will be released April 10. I have mine ordered already. Order yours! Don’t miss this one!

And take a reading vacation someday soon! Tell me what you read on your “vacation”!

March Madness

I know it’s only February, but one thing I look forward to every year is School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books which is scheduled to happen roughly the same time as basketball’s March Madness. BoB is a 16 book battle, with a judge responsible for each round and much witty discussion about books. The contest is set up on a chart that looks like the basketball March Madness form.

In school last year, I made a large form for my bulletin board and hung it in the hallway right across from a basketball form. Anyone who wanted to participate filled out brackets before the contest started and the librarian displayed the books in the library along with the write-ups about each.

Last week SLJ announced the sixteen books that will be competing this year. You can find the list here:

This is a fun contest all in fun. The judges write-ups are great to read. I loved reading them to my classes to show students how you can talk passionately about books and to encourage them to read the contenders.

I’m on my 5th book of the 12 right now. How many have you read?

The Winners Are…

Newbery Award



Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos  

   I love all of Jack Gantos’s other books, so I can’t wait to read this one—as soon as I can find a copy!


  Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

This is the only one of the winners I read before the awards! Short novel in verse.

  Breaking Stalin’s Nose Eugene Yelchin

   I had never even heard of this one before the awards.



Printz Award


Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley   

I’d seen and been intrigued by the cover of this, but it hadn’t made it to my to-read pile yet. It certainly has now!


   Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

   I thumbed through this at the bookstore a week ago. It looks interesting. Heavily illustrated with heavy paper, it’s a strikingly beautiful book. Daniel Handler is Lemony Snicket.

   The Returning by Christine Hinwood

Never heard of this book or author–

   Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Or this one!


I have a lot of reading to do!


The American Library Association (ALA)’s mid-winter meeting begins this weekend in Dallas, Texas. On Monday, January 23, the winners of the various big awards will be announced. Last year I watched the ceremony live on my computer with my school librarian and a couple people who wandered into the library. The year before I had the winners texted to my phone while I waited for a friend at an appointment.

This year I have a meeting that begins right about the same time as the awards. I may have to follow the awards on twitter and try to contain my enthusiasm for the winners. I would prefer watching with other book-loving friends and being able to cheer as winners are announced.

The two awards I’m the most interested in are the Newbery and the Printz.

Last year the Newbery went to:

   Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

with honors to


Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm   

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Dark Emporer and other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia


The Printz went to:

    Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

with honors to



Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Nothing by Janne Teller

I haven’t read all the winners. I enjoyed Turtle in Paradise and One Crazy Summer a lot. Turtle is about a girl sent to live with relatives in the Florida Keys in the 1930’s, and One Crazy Summer is about three sisters who spend a summer across the country in California with their unknown mother during the 1960’s. Two books grounded in events of the times where characters learn about their families. I’m looking forward to the sequel to One Crazy Summer!

Ship Breaker takes place in a bleak future where people survive by collecting scrap metal and wire from ships and other places and selling/trading to try to stay alive. It has adventure and survival themes, plus bio-engineered “monsters”, rich girls who appear dead but aren’t, and hurricanes. The companion novel, The Drowned Cities, will be out in May. I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy. Although it doesn’t have many of the same characters, it is another great adventure in this world.

I also enjoyed Vera Dietz which has an interesting format—even some of the buildings have chapters telling what’s going on from their point of view. The Revolver is about a boy whose father has just frozen to death. While he waits for help to arrive, a man shows up saying the boy’s father cheated him during the Alaskan Gold Rush. Good tense mystery!

Next week when the awards are announced, I’ll have lots of books to add to my reading piles! I can’t wait!

Sara Zarr

I have several authors whose work I anxiously await. Sara Zarr is one of them. Her books are all excellent and highly recommended.

Story of a Girl   

   Once Was Lost


And the newest: How to Save a Life


I finished How to Save a Life this week—staying up way too late because I couldn’t stop reading. This is the story of Jill who’s a senior in high school and whose dad died eight months before. When Jill’s mother decides to adopt a baby, pregnant teen Mandy moves into their household to wait to deliver and give up her baby.

Can you imagine having a pregnant girl your age living in your house? Can you imagine that this girl’s baby is going to be YOUR sister?

This story is told in alternating chapters between Jill and Mandy. Read it!

 And then you’ll find that you’re anxiously waiting for the next book Sara Zarr writes!

Novels in Verse

Most novels in verse annoy me because I’m not sure why they’re not in prose. They’re more interrupted lines rather than poetry. A few are works of poetry (see Sonya Sones—especially Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy) and a few need to be brief because of topic (see Patricia McCormick’s Sold), but often they’re just…short.


Of course, sometimes I like to read something short, something I can sit down and read in an afternoon or evening. And, truthfully, after a few pages when I get caught up in the characters and the story, I don’t notice the form that much anymore.


My first book read for 2012 was the verse novel, Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards. This is a historical novel that takes place in 1889 when the Johnstown Flood wiped out several towns in Pennsylvania. The flood was caused when a dam for a fishing pond at a wealthy resort dumped 20 million tons of water on the valley below.

The story is told in verse, alternating between wealthy Celestia, the hired boy from the village she falls in love with Peter, a nurse, Celestia’s father, and others. Class consciousness, which has partially caused this flood, is evident in the love story between Celestia and Peter. I was so caught up in the story, I didn’t notice how late it was until I finished. Read this one!


Other novels in verse you might enjoy:

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (about living in the Dust Bowl)

Exposed by Kim Marcus (about an abusive relationship with a best friend’s brother)

Ringside, 1925 by Jen Bryant (about the Scopes monkey trial)

Day of Tears by Julius Lester (about a slave auction)

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Holiday Shopping

It’s no surprise that I buy a lot of books for holiday presents. My local, independent bookstore knows me well. Here are a few of the books I’m gifting along with very brief description. Put these books on your list of books to read! I highly recommend all of them!


Pearl discovers much about her family and friends after her grandfather’s death.

Students in a school for kids who have been kicked out of regular school discover their behavior problems might be caused by special abilities.

It’s not easy being the son of the mob boss—especially when Vince dates the daughter of the FBI agent investigating his dad.

Two great characters, wonderful writing, and a surprising mystery make a perfect book.

The history of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary told like a Dickensian novel.

Plucky character and fun shenanigans!

When Zara moves to a small town in Maine, she finds something not-human in the sleepy town.

In a world where everyone must wear gloves to protect themselves from the slightest touch of Curse Workers, Cassel deals with being the only member of his family who is not a Worker.

What books do you have on your Holiday Wish List?

Ally Carter


I finally opened Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter last night, and was immediately thrilled to be back in Kat and Hale’s world and find out what Kat needs to steal next. This is book 2 in the Heist Society novels (book 1 is called Heist Society), and follows the teen children of professional thieves who are themselves thieves. Global travel, love interests, danger, and smart characters make these books fun and fast.

Ally’s other series is the Gallagher Girls books about a very private school for girls where they learn to spy. Cammie and her friends are great fun to follow. The first book is I’d Tell You I Love You, But then I’d Have to Kill You. Book 5 in the series comes out March 20, 2012.

Ally Carter’s website has loads of information about her books. Her blog is great fun to follow. If you’re a fan of the Heist Society or the Gallagher Girls, this is the place to find out what she’s working on and when the next book in the series comes out. I’ll have my copy of Out of Sight, Out of Time on order at my bookstore this March!