Can You Handle this 2019 YA Book Challenge?

(Okay…it’s two months late, but that only adds to the challenge) Here’s my 2019 YA book challenge (but you can definitely adapt it to ANY reader!) There are twenty-five challenges that’ll make any booklover more well-rounded. An additional challenge? Create a unique hashtag for your library and get those who do this challenge (or any challenge for that matter!) to post selfies of them with the number they’re on and the bookcover to prove it. Challenge accepted?

A YA Fiction and Non-fiction Novel to Read RIGHT NOW

2019 started out with a BANG! I started a TBR list and these two were at the top of the stack. I couldn’t have chosen better. They are STUNNING reads. I included a book trailer (when possible) as well as a book pairing for each. Let’s begin this YA novel joyfest!!

Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Graphix, 2018.  There has to be something said about writing your biography using the talents you possess, which is what this graphic novel is about. It’s also about what the definition of family is and how he learned from them, grew up with them, and loved each and every one of them, including the ones he never knew existed.

Jarrett’s family life has had starts and stops. His mother had him when she was a teenager and trying to balance a baby and life took it’s toll on her. His grandparents tried to help, but could only do so much until she ended up in rehab and Jarrett ended up living with his grandparents. He’d receive an occasional card from his mother (hence the title) but there wasn’t a lot of connection between the two.

His life with his grandparents wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. He finally found himself with family, something everyone craves, including Jarrett. His grandfather, Joe, worked hard and owned his own business. Sometimes at night he’d come home later than usual and the arguing would ensue. Joe loved his grandson and was a catalyst behind his talent, urging him to use it to find purpose. His grandmother, Shirley, was a woman who had a manage a large family and had a mean streak in her that would rear its ugly head. But it went as quickly as it came and Jarrett knew how much she loved him despite are actions sometimes.

It’s important in today’s society to understand the complexities some kids go through when it comes to family dynamics. This essential graphic novel shows a dysfunctional family dynamic many young adults can identify with. Highly recommended.

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel. 2019, Sourcebooks Fire.  Hannah spent her summer in California, rooming with Agnes while they both worked hard attending courses to get a step up on their college applications. Then Jonah came…he and Agnes became a couple, but that didn’t stop Hannah from letting him know of her affection for him too, which led to a secret relationship to form the perfect toxic relationships.

Now, Hannah finds herself surrounded by four walls, small windows, a narrow bed, and regular visits from a psychiatrist she nickenames “Lightfoot,” which visits her regularly. Before coming here, she tried to see Agnes in the hospital but was told to never come back. It wasn’t her fault what happened to Agnes…it truly was an accident.

Now, all Hannah wants to do is “pass” Lightfoot scrutiny to get back to New York in time for school and finishing her college applications. That’s all she can think about, living by herself in a small room with no interaction with others living there, including eating meals and showering. Hannah scoffs at the label they put on her – A danger to herself and others but she’ll play the game as long as it takes to be able to leave.

What exactly happened and how dangerous is Hannah?

Riveting from the beginning, you’ll wonder if what the main character is saying is true or not, real or not, and how dangerous they think she is. Thrilling throughout, the psychology and psychiatry built into the plot only adds to the thrill.

Book pairs:

Reduce Your Chaos with Canvas

Many districts are moving toward online classrooms (LMS), whether it is Google Classroom, Edmodo, Blackboard, or Canvas, students do the majority of their classwork online. This not only decreases the amount of paperwork, but in my opinion, it also makes students more responsible when they can practically see LIVE their assignments being submitted and graded. As my principal says, it makes everything “transparent”. No more argument from a student saying they turned something in when you can see whether or not an assignment has been submitted.

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Can you tell my opinion of these Learning Management Systems? My district is 1:1 with iPads, and next year we are slowly switching over to ChromeBooks; because of this we use Canvas as our LMS. When I saw the amount of time students were spending on Canvas, completing assignments for their classes, it made a lightbulb go off and I asked myself, “Why can’t I do the same thing for my library???” What better way to get information to my students then putting it right there with the rest of their classes?!

With the help of my Tech Guy, I was able to create a course in Canvas called AJH Library. I added a QR code for the course to my library orientation and had all of the students enroll in my Library Canvas course (students are automatically enrolled in courses on their class schedule through the registration process. In order to add them to a newly created class, they have to enroll. You can have them enroll individually, but you can also enroll them on a larger scale by their ID#).

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On my Library Canvas page, I am able to post announcements, discussions, and “assignments”. Say goodbye to paperwork, because everything is online! I am able to post sign-ups for the 3D printer, tutorial videos for MakerSpace, and I’ve even posted a permission slip that parents can sign directly on their student’s device. I’m using the LMS for my advantage, not only do the students see my library’s course every time they log into Canvas, but my announcements pop up as notifications on their iPads!

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Discussions: I like to post questions to my students, such as “When is the best time to attend Book Club?” so that the students have an input and I can get the feedback. My most popular discussion post is about book orders. Students are able to comment with titles that they would like for me to purchase for the library. This has been a great way for me to make sure I am purchasing books the students want to read, but it is also giving the students an ownership into the library. I like that I can reply back on the discussions as well. I am able to tell a student, “No, I was not able to find any biographies on Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s fourth president” (actually question) but I usually recommend something else.

Assignments:  3d Printing is so popular in the library’s MakerSpace, and I can’t seem to keep up! But through Canvas, I was able to create a 3D Print module that had assignments the students had to complete before being allowed to print. I took each of the lessons from TinkerCAD and made them into an assignment where the student had to attach a screenshot of their completed lesson. Once the student completed all seven lessons, they were able to fill out a Google Form where they told me they were ready to print. I also made sure to post the Google Form responses so that students could see when their print was finished and they weren’t coming to the library during every passing period to ask if it was finished!

Quizzes: I used the Quiz function in Canvas to create Ungraded Surveys for students to vote on different things. The students voted on a name for our new library snake (winner: Monty Python) and right now I’m working on a March Madness where the students will be able to vote on their favorite book in each bracket! This way of surveying the entire student population has become so popular that my Yearbook teacher is now planning on using it to survey our students and put results in the yearbook.

MakerSpace: Every Wednesday during our WIN Time (study hall) students have the opportunity to come to the library for a MakerSpace activity. I’ve created a page for my MakerSpace that gives students dates, pictures, and How To videos for all of our MakerSpace activities. I’ve included another Google Form for students to sign up to come. This gives me to opportunity to know how many students to expect as well as vetoing any students I know might cause a problem. I have a group of students that sign up for each week as soon as I post it, no matter what the activity is! As long as they are passing all of their classes, I welcome them into the library every time!

Overall… if your students are using one platform for all their classes, then make sure that your library is included as well! Forget about getting on the morning announcements or taping up posters in the hallways, use Canvas or your other available resources to get where the kids are!

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Region XI Library iCon presentation

 

 

 

Top Middle Grade Books for 2018

As a librarian, I wear many hats. Not only am I simply the librarian at a junior high campus with 500 seventh and eighth graders, but I am also the iPad guru, the keeper of the 3D printer, the administrator of the district’s Accelerated Reader, the Canvas chaos coordinator, and I still find time to teach research and conduct daily book talks! On top of my campus duties, I also present at Region XI and TLA annual conference; and I’m a member of the Texas Library Associations Lone Star Reading Committee.

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For those of you not from Texas, the Lone Star list is a list of twenty books chosen by librarians for students in grades 6-8. I have been reading the books on the Lone  Star list for over ten years, as long as I have taught in a middle school setting. I think the best way to get students to read is to talk about books that they would read. So in this post, I’m going to give a quick rundown/my personal opinion of my Top Ten from this year’s list. Because even if you don’t live in Texas, or promote the Lone Star list, it is still a good place to get ideas for good books to purchase for your school library!

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City of Ghosts
by Victoria Schwab

Scary story about a girl who had a near-death experience and can now cross the “veil” between the living and the dead.

This book is perfect for guys and girls and I read an article that says the CW is planning a new series based on the book (loosely based, they’ve made Cassidy a college graduate). Book two is called Tunnel of Bones and will be released September 2019.

 

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Letters to the Lost
by Brigid Kemmerer
Romance that takes place through letters between strangers that are left at a grave.

It is a really great romance  that will have you falling in love with the characters and shedding tears over them as well. There is a sequel called More Than We Can Tell about Declan’s best friend, Rev.

 

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Not if I Save You First
by Ally Carter

An action adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat. The story involves the president’s son, Russian kidnappers, a snowstorm, and a kick-butt heroine to save the day!

I might be a little biased because I received a signed copy and personal note from the author, but my students absolutely love this book!

 

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In the Shadow of the Sun
by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Adventure story that takes place in North Korea, where an American brother and sister must escape after their father, an aid-worker, is arrested.

This book is so eye-opening to the real life oppression that is currently taking place in North Korea. Just Book Talking this title in my library led to so many great discussions!

 

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Ghost Boys
by Jewell Rhodes Parker

When twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer while playing with a toy gun, he comes back as a ghost and the only person who can see him is the daughter of the officer that killed him.

This book is a great middle-grade substitution for fans of The Hate U Give or All-American Boys. It also brings in a historical element because the ghost of Emmett Till helps Jerome cope with the afterlife.

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Nevermoor: Trials of Morrigan Crow 
by Jessica Townsend
Morrigan Crowe is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday. That is until a stranger rescues her from the hell hounds and whisks her off to the strange world of Nevermoor, where Morrigan will endure trials to be allowed into the prestigious Wundrous Society.

Have that student who loves Harry Potter and thinks no other book will ever compare? Give them the Nevermoor series! There are a lot of parallels, but I will admit, I love them both. Book two: Wundersmith is already out!

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Time Bomb
by Joelle Charbonneau

A bomb has gone off in the high school and the six students trapped inside need to survive long enough to figure out which one of them is the bomber.

Even though this book is about high school students, it is appropriate for middle school. It is a fast-paced thriller, but also delves into real-life drama like prejudice, stereotypes, suicide, and LGBT.

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Restart
by Gordon Korman

Chase falls off his roof and loses his memory. When he returns to school, he doesn’t exactly like the person he used to be, and tries to make up for it by joining the AV Club.

A great book for middle grade about bullying and it never being too late for a restart.

 

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After Zero
by Christina Collins

Elise has always been homeschooled and sheltered, but now that she is starting public school, she can’t seem to do anything right. It gets tot he point where maybe it’s better to not to speak at all. But when her silence begins to affect her friendships, can she really go back?

Mental illness is an important topic for students to be exposed to, but hardly ever is there a book written at a middle grade level on the topic. Christina Collins does an amazing job of showing how bullying and social awkwardness can lead to more serious problems.

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Everless
by Sara Holland

In a world where time is currency and your blood is taken straight for your veins to pay the kingdom’s taxes, the rich can live for centuries, while the poor can drain their lives just making rent.

Great fantasy novel for fans of Red Queen and it also reminds me a little bit of that Justin Timberlake movie, In Time . Book two: Evermore was just released!

There are so many amazing books on this list, that I could Book Talk every single one of them, but I really made myself stick with my Top Ten only. If you would like to see the entire list, and all of the resources that the committee has to offer, visit TLA’s Lone Star website.

Want to see more of my book recommendations? Follow me on Goodreads and Happy Reading!
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My List of 18 Best YA Books I’ve Read in 2018

It’s been a GREAT year for YA books!! I’ve read so many that were amazing, and I now have the daunting task of creating a list of the best.  The hardest part? Limiting it to eighteen (oh, the agony!!) But in no particular order here are my top picks in nine different genres I read based on recommendations and personal  choice, with a short one sentence review for each book, a recommendation for exceptional audiobooks, and a link to Goodreads.  Most of them are 2018, but there are a few exceptions for titles I missed in very recent years (haven’t we all done that? 🙂

  1. The Faithful Spy: Deitrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix. Abrams, 2018.  Graphic Novel/Biographical Narrative NF.  The reader gets to see the other side of WW II from the perspective of those Germans who wanted to defy Hitler with their will, solidarity, and faith in good that led to three almost successful attempts to end his reign of terror and to stop the war.

  2. Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham.  Little, Brown, 2017.  Historical Fiction.  This book places the reader in one place (Tulsa, Oklahoma) but at two very different times and reveals the horror and destruction prejudice and bias can do to tear apart relationships and families.  **exceptional audiobook booktrailer
  3. Neverworld Wake by Mariah Pessl.  2018, Delacorte Press. Fantasy Fiction/New Adult.  Five friends venture into a world that is warped by time and their living dreams, and their actions will impact their future where only one will survive based on the decisions of them all.  booktrailer
  4. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton.  2017, Random House.  Realistic Fiction.  The novel chronicles Adam’s struggle with schizophrenia along with a fresh start in a new high school, and with the help of a new drug, he begins to see improvement in his life until the drug begins to fail… **exceptional audiobook
  5. Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer.  2018, Houghton Mifflin.  Fantasy/Horror.  In Nita’s world, those with supernatural powers are curious to her while her mother knows they’re more valuable dead than alive and when the two clash over the next victim, Nita finds herself sold on the black market as a commodity with her life at stake.  
  6. 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling.  2018, Sterling Children’s Books.  Realistic Fiction/Mystery.  Gus lives in Nowhere, Arizona (the name says it all) and has to dodge the local bully and hide a secret crush until a date with a cholla cactus leads him on an impossible journey to make his life bully-free with a possibility of romance.  
  7. Impossibility of Us Katy Upperman.  2018, Swoon Reads.  Romance.  After her brother’s death serving in Afghanistan, Elise is adjusting to a new life when she meets Mati and where she also realizes she struggles with the prejudice her family has against him because of his Afghanistani heritage and culture and her love for him.  
  8. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.  2018, Delacorte Press.  Fantasy.  Theodosia saw the fall of her country to a brutal dictator and is now forced to live in the castle as a tortuous example of triumph until she is approached as the last hope of their people, where she will have to make a decision of life and death for them and her.  **exceptional  audiobook  booktrailer
  9. Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.  2018, Simon and Schuster.  Survival Fiction.  Southern California has reached Tap Out, where there is no more available water for the region and when Alyssa’s parents disappear trying to find water, she must navigate herself and others through danger from desperation and drought to survive.  
  10. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family in Crisis by J.D. Vance.  2016, Harper.  Biography/Narrative NF.  The 34 year-old author writes about his childhood and the struggles of the poor white working class culture he grew up in where generational poverty and abuse navigated his decisions and relationships, which ultimately molded his life and success as a lawyer.  **exceptional audiobook   
  11. Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo. 2018, HarperTeen.  Realistic Fiction/Novel in Verse.  Xiomara lives in the Bronx with  her twin brother in a very traditional family with strict expectations and with her growing sense of identity and physicality, which she chronicles in her poetry journal, a clash between both her personal and traditional worlds tears both apart. booktrailer 
  12. I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman.  2018, Penguin Teen.  Realistic Fiction.  In one single day, three teens are struggling with life that include a personal passion turned into a parent’s passion, the love of a boy, and the loss of a father, and they find themselves at the same place in Central Park where their stories are told and they help each other find the beginning of the paths they choose.  booktrailer
  13. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu. 2018, First Second. Biographies/Narrative NF Graphic Novel.  The author details the lives who brazen women (gasp!) that impacted history, but most importantly, about women whose lives are not nearly as spoken and written about as they should be and includes stellar ladies like Peggy Guggenheim, Agnodice, and Nzinga, to name a few.  
  14. Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. 2018, Roaring Brook Press.  Narrative Biography/Graphic Novel.  This beautifully illustrated GN traces Mary Shelley’s life along with the joy, tragedies and very complicated relationships that helped her create one of the most recognized monsters of her and our time and opens up the reader’s awareness of how Frankenstein parallels a woman whose personal strength ran deep.
  15. All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson.  2108, Razorbill.  Realistic Fiction.  When a bridge collapses in Boston, four teens nervously sit in the hospital waiting room to find out if their sister, parents, and loved one survived and during the time spent waiting, their stories come out about the impact of those who hopefully survived the bridge collapse made in their lives.                           
  16. Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics.  2015 Harlequin Teen.  Horror.  Amanda’s world changes when she finds her family is moving to the prairie to escape harsh winters, only to find herself living the tales of nightmarish horrors she’s heard about the prairie, all while trying to protect her siblings and her hidden pregnancy. **exceptional audiobook
  17. The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares.  2017, Delacorte Press.  Realistic Fiction/New Adult.  Every family has dysfunction, and this one is no different except that the siblings on both sides continue to have a strong bond beyond their parents’ divorce, the joy of an impending wedding celebration and the loss of life, all in a summer cottage and small town everyone grew up sharing.  
  18. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricial Hruby Powell.  2017, Chronicle Books.  Historical Fiction.  Told in two strong alternating voices, this novel brings to life the civil rights case for mixed marriage in a time when segregation still reared it’s ugly head, and where readers in today’s world can see the implications of this landmark decision in the United States today.  **exceptional audiobook