Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

A fantastic audiobook. Will Patton (Armageddon, y'all) was the perfect voice for The Raven Boys. A magical story, town, and characters. For supernatural readers who enjoyed Westerfeld's Midnighters series.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Tess finds herself torn from her quiet ranch life and thrown into the privileged life of the Washington, D.C., elite. Tess ends up at the center of a mystery that involves murder, cover-ups, and the constant hunt for power. Tess is a strong female character who is loyal to her new friends Vivvie, Asher, and Henry. She is the teen Olivia Pope ("It's handled.") No romance for the main character in this one, but lots of action otherwise! A very different story from The Naturals series, but the same great writing style and psychological thriller elements are still there. The revelations at the end resolved some questions but left the reader ready for book 2 (June 2016)! 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette has been in confinement, alone, for a long time until Adam is thrown into her cell. When she touches someone, it bring immense pain, but she soon discovers that Adam, whom she remembers from her past before her confinement, can be touched by her with no pain. Together, they fight against the Reestablishment and Juliette discovers that her power may not be unique. For my dystopian, steamy guy readers, this is a good mix of both!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

THE LIVING by Matt de la Pena

The Living by Matt de la Pena

"Best prepare yourself, young fella. The sea is fittin' to make itself known tonight."

You're going to want to carve out some time to dive into The Living by Matt de la Pena. Not because of the length, but because you will be obsessed. Obsessed with the writing. Obsessed with the main character, Shy. Obsessed with starting the next chapter.

Matt de la Pena hooks you in the first chapter. Clutch for many readers. Shy is on his first run for his new job on a cruise ship to help his mom with money when he is involved in An Incident that serves as the catalyst for the rest of the book. De la Pena slowly reveals Shy's backstory and we learn that in the world of The Living, an epidemic called Romero's Disease is quickly spreading. Though seemingly removed from the issues going on back home, things on the ship rapidly decline and that's when I got sucked in. It was right around page 100 that I knew I wasn't stopping any time soon. 

Get The Living today. And while you're at it, you're going to want the sequel The Hunted, too. 

Getting autographed copies at ILA in St. Louis

Friday, July 31, 2015


I could not get enough of The Conspiracy of Us. It was The DaVinci Code meets Red Queen. Geography, history, and secret societies meet in Maggie Hall's fast-paced first book in the Conspiracy series. 

Avery West has moved around all of her life, and just when she gets asked to prom by the cute new guy, her mom gets another phone call and it's time to move. But, when Avery sneaks out to the prom to meet Jack Bishop, her life changes in an instant. She learns she is a relative of one of the families in the Circle of Twelve, an ancient society going back to the days of Alexander the Great. And when Jack tells her about the prophecy (the One and the girl with the violet eyes), Avery realizes that she is in way over her head. Once she reveals that her brown contacts disguise her real eye color - purple - Avery becomes the target of the most powerful families in the Circle of Twelve. Jack and Stellan (another Keeper) eventually help Avery escape the grasp of the power-hungry families, and in following the clues left behind from their common mentor, the three come to realize that Avery and someone she least suspects is the key to fulfilling the prophecy. 

The Conspiracy of Us ends on a total cliffhanger, and I am so excited to read the next book, Map of Fates, which comes out next year. This will be on the top of my stack of books to recommend to my incoming seventh graders when school starts!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


My students love this series and since Book 1 was on the Caudill list, I knew it was my chance! I snagged the audiobook from my library and over a couple of weeks in July, I read this book with my ears! Michael Vey can manipulate electricity with his touch. But soon, an elite private school wants him to enroll, and he realizes that his powers may not be a secret anymore. There's a good variety of characters in this book and some great action scenes. This is definitely a good read for X-men lovers and comic book readers looking to get into something lengthier. 


I read this ARC in one day on the road trip back from IRA St Louis. It was a page turner! Definitely for lovers of Gone Girl but VERY mature young adult. High school and up!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga

On my way to nErDcampMI, I got sucked into Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers (2012). It was so good, I'm pretty sure I was the only one who wished I could be on I-94 longer just so I could keep listening! I am a Jo Nesbo fangirl, so this story about the son of a notorious serial killer warmed my cold heart. It was sooo good, and sooo creepy. 

Spoiler!! Summary for myself:
Jasper (Jazz) Dent is the son of Billy Dent, the worst serial killer in history. The story starts four years after Billy is caught by the small-town sheriff of Lobo's Nod, where Jazz and Billy lived. Until then, Billy hadn't murdered locally to remain hidden. However, for some reason, he started breaking that rule and was caught. Jazz is now around 17, and lives with his senile Grandmother, Billy's mom in Lobo's Nod. Growing up, Billy ("Dear Old Dad") taught Jazz the ways of a serial killer. But Jazz is determined to resist what may or may not be the same urges his dad faced. He wants to use his insider knowledge to track down a copycat killer who has begun to mimic Billy's early murders. With the help of his best friend Howie, and against the wishes of his girlfriend, Connie, Jazz tracks down the murderer. Just in time for his dad to escape prison. There are gruesome details about the murders, rough language when Jazz faces his dad for the first time in years (only making that character even MORE vile), but it is very suspenseful and intriguing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Teachers Write 7/7/15

Teachers Write Tuesday Quickwrite

I love this prompt! So fun. I need, and will, do this more. Essential to writing authentic characters and dialog. Thank you! This is very rough. I look forward to playing around with it more!

Starbucks, Jackson, Michigan 7:00 AM

7:00 Two male customers already seated.

One female waiting for an order, nurse. She didn’t use the drive-thru option. Instead, opted to come in for her to-go order. Wearing scrubs; plain, no fun patterns. She must work with adult patients. Perhaps had a complicated order and didn’t want to hold up the drive-thru line.

7:06 My breakfast sandwich sat, unclaimed. Older male, on his way out for the morning, checked with myself and other remaining male guest for ownership. Kindly wished everyone a great morning on his way out. Casually dressed, tshirt and khaki shorts, sandals. On a Tuesday morning, he looks like he is on vacation or retired. He makes Starbucks his first stop in the morning. He reads the paper and catches up on the day’s news.

7:09 Young adult male walks in, black jeans, black tshirt, bookbag. He waves to the staff when he walks in. They say hello back. The barista asks, “Any breakfast?” He pauses. “No.” Mumbles order. Tired. Maybe a server who worked the late shift, and now, he is coming in to use the free wifi before he has to go to work later.

7:11 Order came up. “There you go, Drew. Thank you!” “Thanks.” Sat near first seated male. “Can I sit here?” “Sure!” Guys occupying the two leather, cushy chairs in the seating area. Young male has one earplug in. Both guys on devices! Come here for free wifi! But that’s why I’m here too!

7:14 Another female nurse in scrubs come in. Nurses and coffee save lives! "Hello!"

Monday, July 6, 2015

Teachers Write 7/6/15

Here is today's Teachers Write post (An Invitation to Wonder):

I wonder if I could eat my way through the Panera menu.
I wonder if I will ever get enough sleep again.
I wonder how one becomes a songwriter.
I wonder what it would be like to be the kid of a songwriter.
I wonder what it would be like to be the kid of a celebrity.
I wonder what would happen if music didn’t exist.
I wonder what why music brings back memories.
I wonder what would happen if all of your exes were in the same room.
I wonder what would happen if the songs that reminded you of your exes were compiled.
I wonder if you could catalog happy and sad songs. 
I wonder if someone’s happy song could be someone else’s sad song and why.
I wonder why people have an internal reaction/pull to certain songs. 
I wonder why some songs just make you want to dance.
I wonder why some songs just make you want to cry.
I wonder what would happen if you were sent on a trip to relive favorite songs from movies, people, places.
I wonder if I could remember specific people, places, memories that songs bring back.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby

Holy moly. If you've ever woken up, grasping for the details of a nightmare, Laura Ruby has done it. This was a nightmare put on the page. Somehow Laura Ruby managed to capture and make real the fuzzy edges of nightmares. I loved it. The writing was beautiful; eye-opening and suffocating, in a good way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reading Totals Day

These kiddos read 586 books!

These kiddos read 762 books!

Reading Totals Day: one of my favorite school days of the year. I wish I could bottle the energy of students counting their reading lists and release it on the first days of school like a magician. *sprinkle, sprinkle* Here kids! The reading magic is all here! Rub it in! Reading is cool, see?

As you can see from the pictures, our reading totals have a range. Let's be honest; not every kid left my classroom with summer reading books falling out of their backpacks. But let's be real; some did! Some filled out their reading lists when reminded, and some didn't! Are the totals exact? Nope. Does every reader like keeping track of their reading? Nope. I mean, some of their totals are smaller than the number of READ ALOUDS we did, so do I think they are perfect numbers? Not a chance. But here is where we are on June 3rd, with three days left of the school year (three days that were added on because of bad weather in was fun in January, wasn't it? Not so much now that we could be at the pool.....with a book?!). 

Let's take a closer look at some of these numbers.

 Let's start with 132 Books Read. Could she have been any more humble about designing her number? Take out the magnifying glass. You are seeing correctly: one-hundred-and-thirty-two. That's almost one for every day of school! She read the most in both of my classes! Could she have done a multi-colored design with her number like our friends 44 Books Read or 6 Books Read or 20 Books Read? Of course! If I read 132 books, I would have busted out the bedazzler wand! (Stick? Marker? I don't know how that thing works.) But 132 Books Read is that kind of reader. Books are a no-brainer for her. Done with her homework? Time to read! Done with dinner? Time to read! I am so proud of her. But I didn't make her into a reader. She came to me a reader.

But 16 Books Read? 16 Books Read was hard work. Hours of interventions and strategies and conference prep. Strategically placed comprehension question post-its and side-by-side reading practice. I agonized over book recommendations for him because I didn't want him to call it quits in December. Do I fool myself into thinking that he gave up video games and sports for the summer and is blazing his way through the Maze Runner series? (Kind of?) But no. He worked hard this year, and he grew as a reader. I needed more time with him. But, I am so proud of him.

And 40 Books Read was one of my favorite readers. He was a reader when he came to me, but he was still a reader who needed care. He was popular and well-liked. A multiple athlete: football, track, swimming. Seventh grade could have easily been the year that he pushed reading aside. But he has a great support system at home. Academics is a priority, and he knows that reading is important. His end of year survey response to the question of "What has made you a stronger reader this year?" was "My goal for a stronger education has made me want to read more books. Also, the environment I am in with all my classmates and teachers is helpful." But he didn't just read to get good grades. He was a voracious reader. I couldn't recommend books fast enough! He would leave early every once in a while on Fridays for a swim meet and would come back on Monday with more than one book finished. He was always searching for the next great read. His favorites? It all started with The Fablehaven series. He wanted more like that. This year, he got into The False Prince series, the Legend series, and the Michael Vey series. I gave him a stack of books almost as tall as him when he asked me, "Mrs. Walsh, what should I read this summer?" I gave him Scott Westerfeld's books. My favorites: The Midnighters series and The Uglies series. 

I love that my students find Reading Totals Day so rewarding, but it's not just the numbers. I am still working on my practice and this day is a very tangible way for students to reflect on how they have grown as readers. Ideally, I want students to know this from our reading conferences, but this is a summer learning goal for me, time.

For now, I will sit on my patio, sipping iced coffee while my baby naps and think about what it will take to get to next year's Reading Totals Day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Week 1: Swamps

To keep us active and entertained, I decided to steal an idea from The Big P and choose a theme for each week of summer to guide some fun activities for our boys. We aren't getting too crazy, but there is so much out there to do, I wanted to have a little control, I mean, focus. 

Here are some of our fun activities:

Frog fountain at the Arboretum

Frogs learning bag from local library

Swamp animal clings 

Alligators at the local reptile house/free zoo

Turtles, too!

Alligator art

Snake art!

We had a lot of good timing with stuff this week. We'll see how "Oceans" goes next week!

Monday, February 2, 2015

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I couldn't put it down! Lara Jean's life is turned upside down when her secret stash of "I love you/I'm over you" letters gets sent out. A heart-tugging, stomach-twisting reminder that even the quiet girls love hard too.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker

I read Blizzard of Glass to my Social Studies class during our Canada unit. I wanted to put a face to the place. Sally Walker's narrative of this terrible event left us with many stories of tragedy and kindness. Well-researched, with intriguing photographs. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I loved that Rebecca Lohman performed this audiobook as well as Eleanor and Park! Fangirl took me back to my fangirliest Harry Potter moments and made me want to bust out the laptop and just write. A book for the nerdiest in each of us.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson

An amazing YA book. I've delayed writing a review for over a week since I finished it, because nothing I could say about it would do it justice. How do you write like Jandy Nelson? 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

I listened to the audiobook and was so enthralled, I considered pulling over several times so I wasn't a hazard on the road! The story: original, a train wreck, a gift. The narrator of Eleanor: mesmerizing. The characters: real. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

THE FAMILY ROMANOV by Candace Fleming

An absolutely brilliant book. Well-written, fascinating, and unforgettable. I can't imagine how much research went into writing this book. The dialogue, excerpts from letters, and photographs brought the history to life. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

25 years after reading my first Baby-Sitters Club book, I still love Ann M. Martin. I'm not a dog person, but I am a story person and this is a great story. I loved the narrator. Ann M. Martin got it right.