A Wrinkle in Time – Review by Moriah

Moriah is thoughtful, mature, and really smart. It makes sense that she would enjoy this complex, thought-provoking novel that speaks to imaginative readers. She is not only in my class but also part of our school’s creative writing club. Glad the group was encouraged to write reviews for the blog!

 

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, is a story about a girl in middle school named 9781250003430_p0_v5_s550x406Meg Murry, whose father has mysteriously gone missing for years. This has huge negative effects on her; she drops to the lowest class in her grade, she becomes closed off to others, gets into fights, and everyone just makes fun of her and shrugs her off. Things luckily take a slightly positive turn when she meets the three celestial entities, the wacky Ms. Whatsit, the intellectual Ms.Who, and the wise Ms. Which. They then lead her on an intergalactic journey through a the tesseract.

 

On this journey they travel through many different worlds and dimensions, until finally reaching Camazotz and coming face-to-face with IT-the manifestation of pure evil.

 

In this moment and throughout the whole of the journey, we see a little girl growing up and becoming stronger in the midst of the battle between dark and light. IT corrupts everything, and IT’s power is inevitable; which is why someone must stop it. But the darkness is beckoning, and light can only do so much unless someone finds the power to fight back. This is a great story that I would recommend for everyone (there is one kiss near the end but that’s about it).

 

A Wrinkle in Time is a beautiful story about the universe and the power inside each and every one of us. It brings literal tears to my eyes when I think about the theme of this dazzling story, and it’s my favorite book. What’s more, it’s deals with so many complex concepts, like good and evil, the universe, the extent of the mind and soul’s power, and so many other spiritual concepts.

 

In the face of darkness you see death and misery, and it never stops coming, never stops trying to destroy all light in the universe. There’s no stopping it no matter what, and one day, it will claim everything. Yet, in each of us, light and love can grow, and that’s all it takes to destroy evil.
While this story might seem like a great work of fiction, IT really exists; and it can take away everything. Just know all of us can do something to help stop it.

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Review by George Chang AND Lillian Dow Paterson

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This week we have the SAME book independently reviewed by TWO different students. The book was recently made into a movie called Love, Simon, which I saw with my daughter and her friend, and we all loved it. It’s  everything I loved about 80s teen movies with more diversity/true representation of the world they’re growing up in (and none of the creepily questionable depictions of women, which I didn’t notice as a teen). Great acting, great writing, great message, and now I need to check out the book!

Anyhow, the two students writing here today are George and Lillian. Lillian is a returning reviewer (her last one was for Every Last Word), and she’s still great fun and super energetic. George is new to this book review party, and he is a kind, thoughtful, determined guy with a smile that lights up a room. As we fly through the last quarter of the school year, I’m pondering how much I’ll miss then and their classmates come summer.

Everyone deserves a love story.

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. -Amazon

George writes: When you read Becky Albertalli Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, there will certainly be tears, laughter, and, most importantly, realness. Simon Spier, a gay teenager who is still ‘in the closet’, is just trying to define himself, and trying to love himself for who he really is, while life just keeps on throwing obstacles in his way. How the book depicts Simon as just a normal high-schooler going through life, makes me so happy. Most times, books with a LBGTQ+ protagonist goes out of the way to center the plot about the difficulties about coming out, and coming to terms about your sexuality, but not this one. It’s a genuinely heart-warming novel, a simple and sweet romance, one that makes you smile when you think of it, one that makes you feel so happy, as if you just ate a rainbow and there’s now flowers growing within your bones. The book really stands for the rights in the community, firmly stating that only you can come out, on your own accords, and that in the end, being gay really isn’t that special. Simon asks, “Why is straight the default?” It’s so sad that even in 2018, people are still homophobic and acts viciously cruel towards gay people. Everybody, whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, whatever; this novel is truly a must-read, one that will make you think about it months after you finished it.

 

Lillian writes: Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda is a book by Becky Albertalli. Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is about a “Not so openly gay” teenager Simon. This is the one secret that Simon is hiding from everyone, his friends, and his family… except for one person, “Blue”, the one person who Simon trusts with everything, his sexuality, his life, and his thoughts. But… one day . . .  [note from M. Ray – I cut spoilers] Now, what will happen next in this story? Find out by reading this amazing book by Becky Albertalli. This is in my top five favorite books, and it can easily become yours, for this book is a work of art. Out of ten (one being AWFUL and ten being BEST BOOK EVER), I would rate this a 9, it’s an inspiring, funny, heartfelt book that definitely needs to go on your reading list. I definitely recommend this book to kids ages 10 and up.

Shadow House – Review by Campbell Stoughton

-1Campbell is thoughtful, reflective, and sweet. She’s in the class that likes to “huzzah” when good things happen, and she always smiles at it with a mix of “this is so funny” and “I can’t believe this is happening”. It’s a great expression. Campbell always has great ideas, both on paper and when sharing with a group, so I’m thrilled she chose to share her book review with you.

 

Some houses are more than just haunted… they’re hungry. Dash, Dylan, Poppy, Marcus, and Azumi don’t know this at first. They each think they’ve been summoned to Shadow House for innocent reasons. But there’s nothing innocent about Shadow House. Something within its walls is wickedly wrong. Nothing — and nobody — can be trusted. Hallways move. Doors vanish. Ghosts appear. Children disappear. And the way out? That’s disappeared, too… Enter Shadow House… if you dare.”  –Amazon

 

Creepy ghosts that are dressed up as dolls trying to capture you, what’s better? Well, the-gathering-shadow-house-book-1-maybe being able to find the way out of a haunted house that has no exit. Dash, Dylan, Poppy, Marcus, and Azumi have been summoned to Shadow House for a variety of reasons that they think are real. Shadow House: The Gathering is a horror fiction book that gets graphic at times making it PG-13. Asides from that, this book is the perfect pick for people who love to read imaginative horror and don’t get scared very easily. You’ll also love this book if you like things along the lines of trapped spirits, solid ghosts, dolls filled with ash, dolls that have been decapitated, mirrors on fire, a hungry haunted house, and death. If not, well, that’s really to bad because it also includes lots of adventure, mystery, and cliff hangers which will leave you on the edge of your seat wanting to know more. In the end, this is a great book worth reading for all of its wonderful features.

The Fault in our Stars – Review by Charlotte Lucas

Image result for singapore skylineCharlotte Lucas, a literary young lady with a literary name. Charlotte writes well, thinks well, reads well, and is kind. She’s unassuming and on the quiet side, but when you get her sharing a thought on paper or aloud, whether with the whole group or in a pair, prepare to be impressed. She’s recommending a book that seems very much like her: sweet and deep and funny.

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.”                — Amazon

 

Every child deserves to read a book of truth like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.Image result for the fault in our stars book cover The Fault In Our Stars is about a girl named Hazel coping with her inevitable death. She’s lost her childhood from her battle of cancer, she takes college courses at the age 16, and doesn’t have any close friends. I truly recommend this book because in American culture it isn’t normal to talk about cancer and death so openly. Through Hazel’s perspective the reader finds a new way to think about live. This book is known to slowly mesmerize you with the live performance inside your head. It’s astounding to say that some teenagers don’t like this book because it is so open about topics that have a stigma surrounding them. Reality is always there, and hating or avoiding what you don’t like won’t make it go away. Teenagers that are staying with the comfortable topics aren’t doing any favor to themselves, and the story of Hazel and Augustus is one you can take with you for the rest of your lives. Hazel is a human and she wants to live, even if it may not be presented that way in some parts of the book. The last reason I’d recommend this book it because it isn’t just a drama like it is sometimes advertised. Adventure, comedy, and romance are very pivotal, and balance the tone of the story throughout the book. This way, there’s something to enjoy for everyone. The best type of reader for this book is someone who can deal the pain of stories without becoming upset, but also needs the closure at the end of the tale. People develop this as they get older, so I would say you should be around twelve. Though there are some moments that are inappropriate for younger children, sometimes it’s very heavy on romance and drama. In my opinion, everyone should read The Fault In Our Stars to get another perspective on life as we know it. Yes, there is a fault in everyone’s stars, but it is shown that we are not the fault in them.

Nine, Ten – Review by Maggie Megosh

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Maggie comes to class bright-eyed and ready to learn every day.  She asks great questions, shares insightful comments, and (note the image she submitted instead of a photo) loves Harry Potter, which brings her closer to my heart. Here she reviews a book of an event that happened before she was born, but which, for adults, is still too fresh in memory. I’m glad to see a new generation understanding what the big deal was about 9/11. As Maggie says in her review, children see everything. They’re taking in what we say and do, and we must be mindful of our messages and actions, and celebrate the young people growing up as readers and thinkers.

“From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a “tense…and thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.” – From Amazon

61qogjhxgulChildren see everything, we really do, and the book Nine, Ten is able to capture what specific children saw in the days that led up to 9/11. The book Nine, Ten is centered around four children’s lives; Aimee, Will, Naheed and Seigo. Their lives are all very different which is seen in the days leading up to September 11th; September 9th and 10th. They are seen doing everyday things such as going to school and hanging out with friends, but as the events of 9/11 unfold, the four kids’ stories begin to intertwine. Nora Raleigh Baskin, the author puts what people said about the morning of 9/11 (“it was a perfect day”) into reality as the author described the clear skies. It was also different and interesting to see kids my age noticing this event and the ways that they knew it would change history, even though they didn’t always know what was happening. Learning about our country’s history by looking into the lives of young kids experiencing it has been very rich and engaging, which is another reason that I recommend this book. Finally, I learned how to be a decent human from all of the actions displayed by the kids before 9/11. Since the kids spend time dealing with their changing families, it is compelling to see reactions to these everyday things and the reactions to the attacks. This book is great if you love historical fiction and realistic fiction, as it is a combination on the two. September 11th changed our lives, and throughout this story, I was able to see why.

Using Picture Books to Interest Young Readers in New Genres – by author Henry Herz

13240064_1100770546649029_4587016448810551750_nI was lucky enough to meet Henry Herz on a cold, spring, rainy day under the SCBWI tent at the Gaithersburg Book Festival. I was selling books and chatting with awesome kids, teens, parents and authors, when Henry came up explaining that he, among other topics, wrote Shakespeare-inspired books for kids. His books are gorgeous, he’s great, and I’m thrilled he wanted to guest post here. Check out his newest venture MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, inspired by Queen Mab from Romeo and Juliet.

 

 

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NY Times bestsellers Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Steifvater, Kami Garcia, Jonathan Maberry & Zac (Heather) Brewer

 

I love fantasy. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are hooked me in elementary school. And J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings sealed the deal. I write fantasy picture books, like When You Give an Imp a Penny. I moderate fantasy literature panels at San Diego Comic-Con. I even edited a dark anthology, Beyond the Pale, featuring short stories by fantasy greats Saladin Ahmed, Peter Beagle, Zac Brewer, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Gillian Philip, and Jane Yolen.

As a parent, I wanted to share my love of fantasy with my young sons. I hit upon the idea of writing a fantasy story for them. This turned out to be a pivotal moment for me personally, as it led to my discovering a passion for writing children’s literature. But it also gave me a useful insight. If I wanted my sons to one day read The Lord of the Rings and other great fantasy novels, starting them on fantasy picture books could be a good way to plant that seed. A third unexpected boon was that my sons didn’t just read that story. They gave me feedback, essentially becoming junior co-authors. The fruit of that labor was our self-published fantasy early chapter book, Nimpentoad.

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I also fondly remember reading Bullfinch’s Mythology as an older kid. After a couple of years honing my writing craft, another inspiration struck. Why not write an anthology of fractured nursery rhymes that substituted mythological creatures for some of the original characters? Surely that might interest kids in reading mythology. The result was our first traditionally published book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes.

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Hey Doblin, doblin, the gnome and the goblin. The centaur ran through the lawn. / The minotaur laughed to see such sport, and the imp ran away with the fawn.

Although I’d been reading fantasy my whole life, it wasn’t until I had the pleasure of meeting author Kevin Hearne that I discovered urban fantasy. Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy set in an urban setting, typically in contemporary times. Note that the boundary between the subgenres of urban fantasy and paranormal romance is blurry. The use of magic and/or the lack of a romantic focus can help distinguish urban fantasy from paranormal romances like Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

I devoured Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, and went on to enjoy other urban fantasies like The Exile by C.T. Adams, Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Magicians series by Lev Grossman, Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, Rebel Angels by Gillian Philip, and Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (yes, technically it’s middle grade/young adult urban fantasy).

image4So, if I could plant literary seeds for fantasy and mythology, why not try urban fantasy? The answer to that question became the bedtime picture book, Mabel and the Queen of Dreams from Schiffer Publishing. Little Mabel was an expert at not going to sleep. She knew all the best bed-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty. I need to use the bathroom. Will you tell me a story?” Mom ALWAYS fell for that one. But Mom had the Queen of Dreams in her quiver of bedtime tales. The fae queen paints children’s dreams, so she can only visit when their eyes are closed. As Mom’s tale unfolds, Mabel gradually transitions from sitting on her bed, to slipping her feet under the covers, to laying her head on her pillow, to finally closing her eyes.

“Wait,” you ask. “Doesn’t the presence of the fae queen make this a fairy tail?” I’m glad you asked. The story’s contemporary urban setting violates Tolkien’s definition of a fairy tale. The story takes place in the “real” world, rather than in Faërie. So, Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, though featuring a fairy, is urban fantasy, not fairy tale, or as Tolkien preferred, Märchen (wonder tale).

image5But wait, there’s more! Mabel and the Queen of Dreams is inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen Mab influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot. An author’s note provides the original Shakespearean language. So, this story serves double duty, planting seeds of interest in both urban fantasy and Shakespeare. *drops mic*

Regardless of subgenre, I hope readers will find in my story what Tolkien posited for Märchen generally. “Far more powerful and poignant is the effect [of joy] in a serious tale of Faërie. In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.”

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Review by Samar

Photo on 11-9-15 at 8.35 PMThis is Samar’s second review on the blog, and I’m thrilled to have a repeat customer. We’re a month from the end of school and I can honestly say I’ll miss having Samar in class. Sweet, funny, kind, and “wicked smaaht” as my Boston cousins might say, she’s a pleasure to see every day. And she seems to be into my Shakespeare unit, which makes me endlessly happy.

 

51t8MOm-ZnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions. Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.” (goodreads.com)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a marvelous book about four friends experiencing their last few weeks of high school. The book is a spin on one of my personal favorite TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the “Indie” kids are off fighting vampires and strange immortals with blue lights for eyes, Mikey, Jared, Henna, and Mel have their minds set on graduating high school. This book, as Patrick Ness would say, is about finding “the extraordinary in the ordinary.” What I especially love about this book is that no character is good or bad. They all have their flaws, but they also each have something unique that makes each character special and well developed. This book really makes you think and wonder about each and every sentence. Every page reveals a new surprise and something else to consider. It was impossible to put down. There is much beyond the surface of the plot. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a heart-warming story that will change your ways of thinking.