Deep Blue – Review by Rifka

-1Rifka is funny, unique, and spirited, as I hope you can tell by the picture she decided to use for this post. She makes me laugh all the time, and she loves to talk as much as I do (and that’s saying something!). She makes me think and she brings up really good points that cause me to alter or add to my lessons, like when she pointed out that we hadn’t learned about women of the Civil Rights Movement, so we did. The book she picked is rather beloved by the kids in my class, so I think I need to check it out myself. 

 

Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donnelly-2

“When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera’s mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.” – The Book Smugglers

Deep Blue is not your average mermaid book and nor is Serafina your average mermaid. This book is for people who like fantasy and mermaids but are tired of the “brave prince saves princess, happy ending” cliche, as well as clueless and shallow mermaids. Sera and her friends have amazing powers that they must use to save the oceans from a terrible power that threatens. I like how each mermaid has a different character and weakness. Sera is royal and strong but has moments of uncertainty and is sometimes impulsive. Neela is first portrayed as shallow and frilly, but she can think fast and follows her dream, designing, even though it goes against the wishes of her family. Deep Blue is a moving and entertaining book, that will keep you hooked. The second one, Rogue Wave, has just come out and I just cannot wait for the third, Dark Tide!

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The Westing Game – Review by Hanako W.

imageHanako is currently a 6th grader in my class. Insightful, sweet, bright and sincere, this kid is going places. She likes to sit at the front of the room and acts like I’m pretty interesting and funny, which I enjoy, especially, since it’s the last class of my day and the fourth time I’ve delivered the same lesson.

 

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin71MT0ceUanL

When sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, an extraordinary game begins. Although no one understands why the unconventional, game-loving millionaire has chosen a possible murderer to inherit his extensive fortune, the players all know that Sam Westing may not be alive, but that won’t prevent him from playing one last game.    

This book was spectacular. It was a detailed, edge-of-your-seat kind of story, with twists and turns on every page. The Westing Game is full of mysteries just waiting to be solved, and, as a reader, in a way, you get to. The characters are so deeply developed that you can imagine what he or she may do before he or she does it. This allows for the reader to have a “day in the life of a detective” and further expands on their understanding of the story. In the plot, there was a lot of working together involved. Players of the Westing Game are put in pairs, and then required to try and figure out who murdered Sam Westing. In the end, the only way that the players can win is to use one another’s individual talents. This was one of the themes of the book, but it was very subtle, and not as cliché as books that I have read before. I read The Westing Game this past year, and was perplexed as to why I had never read it before. I recommend this book to students and adults of ages 9 and up, simply because some of the parts can be a bit confusing. For me, however, that is one of the parts of the book that I enjoyed. Ellen Raskin tied the short, simple things that, as readers, we may sometimes overlook, into the larger, more complex areas, to create a slowly thickening plot. This was a beautiful book about how teamwork can open up opportunities that may not typically come without the help of complementary personalities working together.

 

Fish in a Tree – Review by Maria

9s8cGHqYV85RzSyXHwkZdwo7f6ygh4VUkyi6IgWHVwvoH2F4GCULH77l-jh74VfdpUZDpiiYal1BBAX-_diTkpitZpjna5OCXvi8kl4FAXUqVw=s0-d-e1-ft Maria is currently in my 6th grade literature elective. She is delightfully earnest and thoughtful. Every day she responds with care in writing and during discussions, she works to connect our books to current events and history, and stops on her way out the door at the bell to make a last comment or just to say thank you.

She has chosen to review Fish in a Tree, which was written by one of my EMLA agency mates and Facebook friends, but I assure you, this choice and her ideas are all her own.

Fish In A Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is a book that faces the problems of growing up and believing in yourself. It tells the story of Ally, a girl who has dyslexia. She is ashamed, teased, hides it. But her newest teacher sees who Ally truly is: a smart, creative girl. With his help, Ally becomes more confident and discovers that there is more to herself than she and others know.

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I cannot say how much I loved, enjoyed, and was amazed by this book! It is a truly original story about being confident and being yourself. Unlike other stories, the problem isn’t magically solved. This book describes in detail the shame and hate Ally receives. I read this in about 2 days, and cried at the end of it. Hunt has many descriptive, heart – wrenching paragraphs about Ally’s bullies, and her dad, who is off in the military. In one paragraph, it says, “I’ve been drawing pictures of myself being shot out of a cannon. It would be easier than school. Less painful.” Hunt uses amazing sentences such as this that will make the reader, no matter who, feel as if they are Ally. Despite being a bit of a tearjerker, I would recommend this amazing story to anyone 9 – up. Some of the parts are very sad and emotional, and not all kids might enjoy the more cruel and sad scenes. But aside from that, anyone can enjoy this story, as we have all been an outsider at a time and will be able to sympathize with Ally’s struggle. I loved the ups and downs, the descriptions and drama, and the wonderful quote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Drumroll, Please . . . The First Review is Up! — THRONE OF GLASS

imagesOUR VERY FIRST REVIEW (I’m excited, so I’m going all caps here) is by a fabulous former student of mine named Keira. She didn’t want a picture of herself posted, but having just finished both acting in and making costumes for our school’s production of Alice in Wonderland, I decided to make her image The Cheshire Cat.

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

★★★★ 1/2 out of 5

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[Keira has decided to use a star system. Others can do as they wish. Kind of a free-wheeling blog right now.]

“In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.”

Ask anyone who’s read Throne of Glass, they’ll recommend it to you immediately. Now, it took me a while to get around to reading it, but I’m so glad that I did! This book was phenomenal, in almost all regards. The protagonist, Celaena Sardothien (according to the exceedingly helpful pronunciation guide included, it’s Sell-lay-nah Sar-doth-ee-en) is an assassin who is stuck in a death camp, until the Crown Prince showed up with the prospect of freedom, in exchange for service to the King. The only thing she needs to do is to beat 23 other contestants in tests of strength, speed, and skill. It’s Hunger Games and Game of Thrones-esque, and yet this is an amazing book all of its own. Although it has an element of romance to it, the romance doesn’t overpower the story in the slightest, and I was left satisfied with where the romance might lead in future books. That leads me to my next point: brace yourselves — this is part of a six book series! In a world dominated by trilogies, it’s incredibly refreshing to have an actual series to look forward to reading. I loved the characters in Throne of Glass. It’s incredibly easy to connect to them. Somehow even in an alternate universe Sarah J. Maas has managed to construct characters that a middle school student can relate to. It has its funny moments, as Celaena is the master of the witty retort. Throne of Glass is heartbreaking as well, and you can never predict what will happen next. Finally, and improbably, in a book about assassins and murder, Throne of Glass has made me go “Awww” at the love between Celaena and her adorable dog. The only issue I had with Throne of Glass is that there was a tad too much world-building for my taste. I realize that this is a six book series, but sometimes I just wanted to get to the action. That being said, the action scenes are so well written, you can’t help but root for the protagonist no matter what she’s doing. The only cautionary thing to mention is that it can be gory at times, and there’s some implied/mentioned sexual content, but nothing graphic. Given that it’s set in alternate-universe medieval times, there’s no swearing at all. I absolutely adored Throne of Glass (I’ve already gone out and bought/read the sequel), and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who likes high-fantasy books with powerful heroines.

This Blog’s Purpose and Books That Might Change Your Life! (or at least be fun to read)

t_cms_news-44_image_bildIn thinking about my new website and starting a blog, I thought about what I wanted as a reader, a teacher, and a writer. As a reader, I want to know what good books are out there, especially outside of my go-to genres. As a teacher, I want to know what my students are reading and loving. As a writer, I have wanted opportunities to share my thoughts and (to be honest) to get my name out there as a guest blogger. So I thought: why not create a blog that potentially meets the needs of readers, writers, and teachers?

My students, current and former, tend to be avid readers, great writers, and enthusiastic sharers. Many of them love to press books into my hands, saying, “This will change your life, Ms. Ray!”

While I admit few have (I’m an old dog, and there aren’t many new literary tricks likely to be life-changing the way The Outsiders was when I was thirteen or Their Eyes Were Watching God when I was seventeen), I do like trying new things and am open to the possibility that one day, my life might be changed again by a book.d93cfaa9f22f46ee52e0001fe757a355

The plan is to start with the students and eventually open this up to other guest bloggers. If you might want to review a book here, contact me.

The big rule: I’ve asked the students to be positive. Even if they don’t like something about a book, I told them to be kind about it, reminding them that what they are reading is an author’s best effort and to treat the artists gently. Online respect is in short supply sometimes.

So that’s it. I hope you like the new blog and the reviews that follow. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new book here that will change your life!