Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Wonderful Re-Read

I love to re-read books but I don't often have the time to re-read young adult or children's novels -- there are just so many on my to-read shelf that I can't justify re-reading them. One exception, however, is when I have to read books on the North Carolina Battle of the Books list. These books I read to help prepare my students for competition, so I must be very familiar with them.

Last fall I submitted The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt as a book to be considered for the 2009-2010 list. I didn't have much hope it would make the list -- I had never had a nominated book actually be accepted (and I tried for years with Ender's Game). I was thrilled when the list came out and The Wednesday Wars was included. I've therefore spent the past two days re-reading it and loving it all over again.

How can one pass up the first line: "Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me."

I must thank Becky of Becky's Book Review for bringing the book to my attention two summers ago. Her review made me rush to order it. If you haven't read any of her blog entries, you should -- she reads like crazy and I must say I agree with most of her reviews.

If you haven't read The Wednesday Wars yet -- go out to your nearest library and get it immediately. It won a Newbery Honor, for heaven's sake!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wildwood Dancing

Wildwood Dancing

Juliet Marillier

Surely you’ve heard the story before. Widower is struggling to make ends meet. He’s ill, and he has a number of daughters to take care of. He goes away to get better and sell his goods, leaving the two oldest daughters in charge. Unfortunately, there is an evil cousin who wants everything, including the second daughter’s hand in marriage.

So, you say, “I’ve read this, or something similar to it and so I can skip it.” Let me just tell you, you’d me making a horrible mistake. Wildwood Dancing is a wonderfully written story incorporating several popular fairy tales – and it has vampires! Actually they are called Night People, but we would associate them with the vampire myth.

Jena is the second daughter. She considers herself plain, especially when compared to her beautiful older sister Tati. Jena and her four sisters have a secret. Each month on the full moon, they open a secret portal and cross into the Wildwood to dance with all the magical creatures that inhabit this other world. The sisters follow explicit rules while in the Wildwood because although they love their journeys, they know they are not without danger.

In the real world, Jena’s family is struggling. Her father has left to regain his health, and her cousin is determined to take over. In the land of Transylvania of the Middle Ages, the opinion of women isn’t valued, and the suspicions of the people are great. Jena has much to fight against if her world is not to be destroyed.

As it should be obvious, I loved this book. I stayed up an hour past my bedtime to read it, and that just doesn’t happen on a school night (and I paid for it today!). If you love fairy tales, you must read Wildwood Dancing. (And I didn’t even mention the frog who you’ll love more than Kermit!)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah
Nora Raleigh Baskin

When I picked up this book, I thought it would be about a twelve-year old girl trying to decide whether or not she wanted to have a Bat Mitzvah. It was more about a young girl who was deeply grieving over her grandmother's death. Caroline's mother is Jewish and her father is Christian and Caroline doesn't know what she is. Besides a token celebration of Hanukkah and Christmas, she has grown up religious at all. When her grandfather gives her the Star of David necklace that belonged to her grandmother, Caroline is thrown for a loop. Does she want to be Jewish? Her best friend is busy planning her Bat Mitzvah -- does Caroline want one too?

For the most part I liked this book. My one complaint is that I thought it was too short. I wanted Baskin to delve more deeply into Caroline's exploration of her heritage and her faith.