Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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5th Grade Adventure Booktalk

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High School Banned Books Booktalk

Here! Have a booktalk presentation I did to my local library’s TeensReach group for Banned Books Week 2013. (If I had been planning this better, I would have posted this during THIS year’s Banned Books Week. Oh well.)


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Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

DaCosta, B., & Young, E. (ill.) (2012). Nighttime ninja. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN: 9780316203845

Annotation: Late at night, when everyone is asleep, a ninja creeps through the house on a secret mission.

Reaction: This is an exciting adventure story that highlights a child’s imagination and ability for creative play. Throughout the story we see the ninja as he sees himself, and it’s not until the end when he’s busted while on his mission that we see him as he really is. I love the way his mother plays along with him and gives him a new “back-to-bed mission” rather than scolding him or ignoring his play.

The illustrations are what really make this book outstanding. Young’s use of paper, cloth and string add texture and depth to the images and really make the story come alive. Dacosta’s text is simple and plain and allows the illustrations to do most of the heavy lifting.

I think this book could inspire kids do some of their own creative play and let their imaginations create new personas and adventures.

Winner 2013 Children’s Choice Book Awards

Media Used: Cut paper, textured cloth, string and colored pencil

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website


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One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Buzzeo, T., & Small, D. (ill.) (2012). One cool friend. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780803734135

Annotation: Elliot is a proper young man, who discovers the perfect pet on a trip to the aquarium.

Reaction: This book is so adorable and funny. I love seeing Elliot’s efforts to take care of his new pet, and I love the little surprise Buzzeo and Small give readers at the end.

As always, David Small’s artwork is fantastic, with just the perfect amount of whimsy and his facial expressions are completely delightful. The palette is primarily black and white, but the small splashes of color he adds keeps it feeling fresh and vibrant.

I think is a little long to use during a storytime, but it would work for kids in smaller groups, and my husband thought it was HILARIOUS.

2013 Caldecott Honor Book
2013 Notable Children’s Book

Media Used: Pen and ink, ink wash, watercolor and colored pencil

Author’s Website (she’s a librarian!!)

Illustrator’s Website


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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Green, J. (2012). The fault in our stars. New York: Dutton Books. ISBN: 9780525478812

Annotation: Hazel has terminal thyroid cancer and has to drag around an oxygen tank. At a cancer kids support group, she meets Augustus Waters who changes her life.

Reaction: So let’s talk about The Fault in Our Stars. DO NOT read this book if you don’t enjoy crying your eyeballs out at the end of the story. That is not a spoiler. This is a book about kids with cancer. Let’s not even pretend like you’re not going to cry. First we meet Hazel, the narrator, who tells us up front that she’s got terminal cancer. So you spend the book preparing for her death and some sort of third person post death epilogue and girding yourself for that inevitable moment when she can fight no longer. But when the end comes, it’s SO MUCH WORSE than you could ever have imagined. Completely heartbreaking and shattering and JOHN GREEN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!

This guy, he’s a freaking phenomenal story teller: funny and smart and quick witted and snarky, but man oh man. The only other book that I’ve read by him, Looking for Alaska, which is also so so so great and which I highly recommend, ALSO made me cry and cry and cry and cry. (It also dealt with death by motor vehicle less than a year after my older sister was killed in a hit and run, so your mileage may vary with the crying in this one.) I’m a little scared to read more of his books because what if they’re ALL heartbreaking and tragic?! I’m gonna have to suck it up, though, because I think he’s too good to miss out on.

He writes teens that are relatable and real. They’re kids you might have known or might wish you had as friends, and they’re dealing with some stuff. In this one, Hazel and Augustus refuse to let their cancer get in the way of having a life and doing the things they want to do, even if it isn’t exactly normal teen stuff. These two, and their friend Isaac, and all the other kids from cancer support group have been through more pain and suffering than most adults ever have to deal with. And Green shows them dealing with it like real people, flawed and angry and hurt and completely infuriated by the injustice of it all.

Just a note: I listened to the audiobook of this, narrated by Kate Rudd, and I really enjoyed it.

I would recommend this book to EVERYONE (mature readers only!), and it’s totally in my Top Ten Favorites.

Odyssey Award (2013)
Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction (2012)
ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012)
The Inky Awards for Silver Inky (2012)
Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014)

Author’s Website


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The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Lanagan, M. (2012). The brides of Rollrock Island. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 9780857560339

Annotation: After being mistreated her entire life, Misskaella discovers the magic to bringing humans out of seals, and she makes bargains with the men of Rollrock Island to give them seal wives.

Reaction: I really love Margo Lanagan. She’s got a great storytelling voice, and this really beautiful, descriptive prose that is magical and wonderful. A previous novel of hers, Tender Morsels, was involved in the early 2011 Bitch Media Book List kerfluffle. That book was beautiful and poignant and a little heartbreaking and made me want to read more of Lanagan.

This book did not disappoint. Lanagan tells this story through six different narrators, over the course of two generations. Through these narrators, which include Misskaella (the witch), one of the daughters who abandons the island after the seal wives arrive, and a seal son, the reader is given the full account of what happened on Rollrock Island. I love that Lanagan includes Misskaella’s perspective, in addition to other townsfolk. She makes the witch a sympathetic character and as much a protagonist as any of the other narrators, so that even when the other narrators describe her cruelty and humiliation of everyone, the reader doesn’t forget how Misskaella came to that place. It creates tension as the reader tries to reconcile the girl who suffered with the witch who causes suffering.

This is a book for teenagers and lovers of folktales. Lanagan examines the animal nature within humans and the consequences when someone binds the two natures together. She tells the story of how a community can be torn apart and then rebuilt stronger than before.

I loved this book. I love selkie stories; they’re not used overly often in literature, so it’s always fun for me to read a new selkie perspective, and Lanagan gives readers a really beautiful, heartbreaking one. She takes that folktale and looks at it from all angles, creating really complex characters. Her writing is haunting and really sticks with me even after I finish reading.

The novella “Sea-Hearts,” the Australian published story which was expanded into The Brides of Rollrock Island, won the 2010 World Fantasy Award for novella.

Author’s Website


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One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

Image from Goodreads.com

Bunting, E., & Lewin, T. (ill.) (2006). One green apple. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN: 9780618434770

Annotation: Farah feels lost during her first field trip on her second day at a new school in a new country. She dresses differently than the other kids and speaks a different language, but she learns that not everything is different.

Reaction: This book is quiet and sweet, and Bunting really captures the way it probably feels to be a new immigrant who doesn’t know any English or any way of connecting with the people around her. Farah worries that she doesn’t fit in and that people won’t like her because of her home country, but her classmate Anna makes an effort and includes her. By the end of the day, Farah discovers that things like laughs and belches and fun are the same, and she has new hope about fitting in and making friends.

Lewin’s illustrations are lush and gorgeous. The paintings are very detailed and allow the reader to feel like they are part of the story.

I think this would be a great book to help teach kids about diversity and tolerance and how all people are really the same, even though they seem different.

Arab American National Museum Book Award 2006

Media Used: Watercolor

Author’s Website: None

Illustrator’s Website