Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan

This was the first and only “humorous” book that I read for class. And I do have to admit, that I really enjoyed it! Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan is a lighthearted story about a boy who is invited to join an exclusive club formed by anonymous students called the Chaos Club. When Max Cobb first receives the invitation, it’s a dream come true. The Chaos Club is a club that has been around for the past 40 years pulling off some of the greatest pranks in the history of the school. So when Max goes to meet the club members, he is surprised to find four other “misfit” students whom have also been given invitations. It is soon apparent, that Max and these other four, have become the latest recipients of a prank by the Chaos Club.

After the initial shock, the five, now calling themselves The Water Tower Five (you’ll have to read the book to find out why!), agree to take down the Chaos Club and reveal the identities of the members. Now it becomes an all-out prank war. Who will come out on top: the Chaos Club or The Water Tower Five? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I really did enjoy this book; it was a very quick and easy read. Students are going to enjoy reading about the pranks that are pulled, and finding out who is behind the “Chaos Club”. I believe any student who is looking for a light, funny read will thoroughly enjoy this novel. It does have a couple of innuendos that are more of the mature variety, but I don’t believe it’s anything most teenagers have never heard. Overall, it was nice to have a book that was on the lighter side, I tend to read more books with a darker tone to them.

Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton

Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton was a novel I read as my “outside my comfort zone” book. This is not the type of book that I would have normally picked up to read, but I am SO glad I did! This has now went to the top of most favorite YA books ever!

Soldier Boy is a story about Ricky Anywar, a fourteen year old Ugandan boy who was taken by Joseph Kony’s guerrilla army in 1989 and forced to fight for them. It’s a heart-breaking story that brings you into what life is like in Uganda with the civil war and what the young people go through when they are kidnapped by the rebel armies. It’s a story of pain and resiliency.

The story then continues twenty-years later with a fictional boy named Samuel. Samuel was also part of the kidnapped Ugandan boys who were made to fight. He is actually a representative of all the children that find themselves in that situation. Samuel has been freed from their grip, but now is having a hard time trusting anyone or dealing with life after what has happened. With the help of the “Friends of Orphans” program, which was founded by Ricky, Samuel learns to trust again.

I found myself gasping, crying, and angry throughout the entire book. I knew what happens to the children taken was not good, but when you actually read the story and hear what they go through, it brings a whole new perspective. I believe this is an important subject that is easily forgotten with us. Students should read this as it would open their eyes to how lucky they are to be here and learn that there are injustices in the world that all people should be aware of.


Book Love ~ Final Chapters

pexels-photo-186447.jpegThere are so many things in Penny Kittle’s book that I have marked, that my book looks like it is bleeding yellow. These last two chapters were no exception. I really enjoyed reading about the “big idea books” where she labels them with themes in literature (Kittle 117-119). I really might consider using this next year to try and bring more conversation on the types of themes found in the books. Also, the quarterly reflections are another part that I found interesting and extremely useful. The other thing that I think I may try is the idea of the “order” of literature across her back wall where they connect books to one another. I like the fact that everytime I read this, I discover more areas that I would like to improve on for my future classes.


There were again, many things that I marked in the last chapter of the book. The first things that I marked were areas that I agreed with Kittle when looking at how standardized testing does not measure the intense portion of reading. I loved when she stated, “Speed reading is of little value in the world, yet speed is at the center of standardized testing…” (Kittle 138). This was one of the issues I had during my days as an elementary teacher. Practicing speed reading was one of the things we had to do. I had an issue with this because I’m not a fast reader yet I still manage to comprehend and get things done. Many of the students would worry so much about their reading-rate and not worry about the comprehension they should be gaining from it. I also agree with her when she says the only way to get real information on a student’s reading is by sitting down with a student, listening and talking to them. Finally, in this section, she says what I think we all say when American school’s are judged against other countries, “…we are not testing the same populations” (Kittle 139)!



The next thing that I LOVED was how her school mandated a school-wide reading time! What a wonderful idea! I have a reading time in my class, but what a great concept to show EVERYONE that reading is important. I would like to talk to my administration about this concept. I can see where, I believe, this would be a wonder

ul endeavor! I know that getting all involved would be an undertaking, but I think the benefits would be amazing. There would be those that would think this would be taking valuable time away from “real” teaching, but if they can’t read, they can’t do anything else!

Summer reading was the last portion that I thought was interesting. I never was made to read during the summer. I know that students have a reading loss caused by summer vacation, and in a perfect world, we would be able to get them to continue to read during the summer so that loss doesn’t come. I commend her if she is actually able to get students to do the summer reading, as I do think it’s a great idea, but in reality, I can not see a lot of middle school/high school students actually doing it. The ones that read on their own would again be the only ones that would read for the summer homework. Would I like for this to happen? Of course, do I see it happening, nope.

Again, I just want to say that this is one of the best PD books that I have read and it is definitely not one that you should read only once and put on the shelf. This book has helped me realize the type of teacher I hope to be someday.


Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. Heinemann, 2013.

Summer Reading Plans

pexels-photo-963060.jpegSummer is just around the corner ~ YEAH!! Well hopefully, considering we just got done this weekend with an April blizzard! With summer creeping upon us, and with this class winding down, continuing on this reading journey has been something I’ve been thinking a lot about. It has been wonderful to get back to reading. Before this class, I was still reading, but I wasn’t making it a priority. With the “push” from class, I have again found my reading passion, and I plan to continue on even after we are done here.

I already have so many books on my TBR list that I can’t wait to get into during the summer. From finishing a few series: The Testing, Shatter Me, and Caraval; to continuing on my journey with YA diverse books, I have plenty of books just waiting for me to read. At this point, I have 32 books that are stored on my Goodreads TBR list, and the number continues to climb as I read recommendations and see new listings that appeal to me.

I’m extremely competitive by nature, therefore I know that if I join a book club pexels-photo-234118.jpegchallenge, that will help me continue on during the summer. I already have a 40 book challenge set up for the year on Goodreads (as of right now, I have 23 of those read!), but I am thinking about also incorporating Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and Nightstand’s Book Bingo into my reading. Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday challenge seems fun too! YA books are not the only types of books on my summer reading list, however. I have some PD books that I want to finally get read and others that I want to re-read.

I feel if I’ve been able to find time during the school year reading; finding time this summer will hopefully not be a problem. (I’m still amazed I was actually able to finish 23 (maybe 24 by the end of this week) books in 16 weeks all while working, too!) I’m planning on taking two summer courses; one that will continue on with this YA journey. I’m excited to continue to delve deeper into YA as this class has done more for me than most of my other ones combined. I think that continuing to read as much as possible is what will make reading a habit. And of course, with all the social media accounts that I now follow on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and the “friends” I feel I’ve connected with in this class, etc. finding terrific books for my continuation with reading should not be hard!


Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!


The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

This week I finished the book The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry. This book was one that was chosen by my book club, Chimney Rock Readers. It was also a Golden Sower novel nominee. The story is told from the point of view of the main character, Ariel Benson (who is now known as Olivia Reinhart). When Ariel was three, she and her parents went to the woods to find a Christmas tree. While there, her mother was brutally murdered, with Ariel being taken to a WalMart and dropped off. Her father’s pickup was found at the airport later on, therefore it was presumed her father had killed her mother. Ariel in the meantime goes to live with her grandmother, until her death, and then is shuffled from foster home to foster home, finally to be adopted.

Fast-forward fourteen years later, Ariel’s father’s jawbone if located around the area where her mother was killed. Ariel, now known as Olivia, heads back to her hometown for her father’s funeral. At this point in Ariel’s life, she and her adopted mother are no longer in contact; Ariel now is now an emancipated minor. When Ariel returns, no one knows who she is. Ariel then goes to her grandmother’s house (which she will eventually inherit) and befriends the next-door-neighbor (her grandmother’s friend). She decides to stay in the town to find out what really happened to her parents. There are many suspects: her mom’s old boyfriend, his girlfriend, her dad’s old flame, and a few more. She feels she’ll be able to do this alone, but eventually a boy she was neighbors with when she was three discovers who she is, and together they solve the mystery.

This was a great mystery, with so many plausible suspects, you couldn’t decide which one would end up being the real killer. The first thing I really enjoyed was the way Henry began the novel, with the climax. It’s a wonderful way to catch anyone’s attention within the first couple pages. This book is one that could be recommended to a wide array of ages and grades: from fifth grade on up. I think anyone that likes a good mystery of “who done it” would enjoy this exciting novel.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The second book I finished this week was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book tells the tale of freshman, Melinda Sordino, who returns to school for the new year after calling the police on a party she attended right before the year began. She is not able to say what had happened at the party and therefore she mostly quits speaking altogether.  As she returns, she is seen as a pariah because of what she had done at the party. All her old friends want nothing to do with her and the only people she is able to connect with is a new girl from Ohio, Heather, who eventually ditches her for another group of girls, and Mr. Freeman, her art teacher who eventually teachers her how to express herself through art.

We follow Melinda as you see her delve further into depression, unable to come to terms with what had happened to her. **SPOILER ALERT** It is later revealed that a senior boy she had met at the party raped her. As she watches her ex-best friend, Rachel, begin to date Andy, she eventually tells Rachel what happened to her. Rachel at first has a hard time believing her but then breaks up with Andy and he attacks Melinda in a janitor’s closet that she had made her “sanctuary”. She is able to finally find her voice and get help. When the rest of the students find out what had happened, Melinda is no longer an outcast.

I really enjoyed this book. I think that it’s a good book for discussions about being able to find your voice, especially when something traumatic has happened. It’s also a good book for discussions on the signs of depression. Melinda was giving off many signs but no one seemed to notice.  I think this is a book teens would enjoy and it’s very relevant with current issues in society. The flashback to the rape scene is handled very gently as to not have any graphic issues. I wouldn’t have any issues recommending this book to high school students.


Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Oh my gosh! This is probably going to the top of my list as one of my favorite books of all time! Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a story about two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, who live on an island with their ruthless father and dream about escaping someday. Scarlett, through the years, has written to Legend, the Master of Caraval, a magical adventure-type performance in which the audience members are the participants, and the winner is awarded a wish; has never received any response. She has finally given up her dream of ever getting to see Caraval, and has instead accepted an arranged marriage as her and Tella’s ticket off the tiny island and away from their father.

Tella, in the meantime, has a plan of her own. She has procured the help of a handsome sailor (Julian) to take the sisters off the island. Before this happens though, Scarlett receives the long-awaited invitation from Master Legend to participate in Caraval.  Julian helps the girls escape to Caraval, but when they land on the island, Tella is taken and Scarlett is immersed into the heart of Caraval. In order to save her sister, Scarlett must win the game of Caraval, where she is warned that not everything is as it appears and some participants, who allow themselves to become too deeply involved, have either died or gone completely insane.

Navigating through the magical world of Caraval, Scarlett meets an eclectic array of characters. She must use her wits to figure out clues to find her sister and win the game of Caraval. But will she be able to trust what she sees, or will she allow herself to become too involved in the game?

I so much wanted to tell what happens in this book, but I don’t want to spoil it! I believe this is one of the most beautifully written books that I have read. Stephanie Garber has written a tale that draws the reader in. The imagery woven into the book, pulls you into the heart of the Caraval. I love puzzles, and this book was just like walking through a puzzle where there could be dead-ends at every point. There were so many twists and turns in the plot, I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Another piece that I felt was done extremely well were the characters. Not only were the main characters plausible, the minor characters were intriguing. I think any student who enjoys fantasy, would enjoy reading this book. I can see it appealing to many different students. I can’t wait until the second book in the series, Legendary, comes out on May 29, 2018.

the smoking mirror

The Smoking Mirror by David Bowles

The second book that I finished this week (last night to be exact) was David Bowles’s The Smoking Mirror. The Smoking Mirror was a Pura Belpre Award honor book. The story is about two 12-year old twins (Carol and Johnny Garza) whose mother has gone missing and father is not in a good place psychologically. Each twin has been facing some disturbing things happening to them that they have not been able to explain. At one point Carol wakes up from sleep to discover a dead rabbit lying in her hands. Their father decides to send them to relatives in order for him to get his life back together.

While at relatives, they discover they are naguals, shape-shifters. Legend has it that naguals happen every so often in families, but there has never been an occurrence of twins both being naguals. They learn from their grandmother, on her death bed, that she is also a nagual as well as their mother. It is then revealed that their mother has been taken to the Aztec Underworld, and they need to rescue her.

They travel to a cave where they find tzapame, who are like Aztec elves,  the holders of “The Smoking Mirror” which is the passage to the Underworld. In the Underworld, they must pass through many areas where they meet a wide array of Aztec and Mayan creatures from mythology. They are helped along their journey by Xolotl, the giant hound who is a recreation of Quetzalcoatl. During their journey, Carol finds that she has also been blessed with a magical song ability that helps them in times of need. This power along with the power of shape-shifting, helps the twins eventually locate their mother while defeating many Aztec/Mayan Gods and demons along the way.

This was not my favorite book for a couple of reasons. The first one is that this type of genre where people can morph into other creatures is usually not my cup of tea. It is the first book I’ve read during class, where I can see this would appeal to middle school and maybe lower high school, but as an adult, I really couldn’t get into the book. The second reason I had a hard time with the book is because it did have a lot of Spanish words in it and all the Gods and demons were hard to remember who was who because the names. Even though I have read about Quetzalcoatl and others, I just had a really hard time following who was who throughout the book. The book does come with a dictionary in the back for translations, but when I have to keep going to the back to see what I’m reading, it just was becoming such an exhausting task. I do think this book is written wonderfully and steeped with a lot of Mayan and Aztec history, and I can see where some middle and high school students would enjoy it. I would though, be worried that unless the students have grown up learning or knowing about this history, they may find, like I, that this read is very taxing.

Getting Students to Read More

Motivation…what a powerful word when discussing students and reading. Getting students interested in reading more (or in some cases, at all) is the top concernpexels-photo-279470.jpeg for most teachers. One thing that I have become aware of in the past couple of years is that quite a few students have came out to say that they no longer like reading, even when they loved it in elementary. One of the main reasons that is often stated by them is the fact that they felt “forced” to read because of the AR (Accelerated Reading) program. Therefore, I really enjoyed reading the article “Curing the Reading GERM” by Jim Bailey. I must admit, when I was an elementary teacher, I was completely on the AR band-wagon. And when the high school students would tell me they hated reading now because of it, it was extremely hard to wrap my mind around. One of the reasons is because they always seemed so “driven” to get those points in order to earn the “prizes” at the end of each quarter. I can now understand that their motivation was only about the prize (extrinsic) instead about learning to love reading for reading itself (intrinsic ~ thanks to the article, “Raising Students Who Want to Read” by Phyllis S. Hunter). I thoroughly enjoyed reading how Mr. Bailey turned his whole teaching philosophy around when he started using the information he gained from Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell. 

pexels-photo.jpgThe main thing that these articles had me thinking about is how much I want to be that teacher who is able to instill the kind of love for reading that these articles talk about. As I was reading, I started to think of areas in my own teaching where I could incorporate more independent choice into what the students are learning. For example, when I teach my Science Fiction Unit, I think I’ll have the students pick a free choice Sci-Fi novel to read instead of the ones I usually assign. They will still be able to learn about all of the elements, but they will have more say in what they use as the learning material. The next thought that I had when reading all of these articles is how much I really would like to use more of a reading/writing workshop in my classrooms. When I was fresh out of college, these things were not around. I think I’ve come a long way from the “basal” reading of yesteryear, but I know there is still a lot that I need to learn. The thing I have going for myself is that I REALLY do want to continue to grow/learn, and these types of articles and classes are just what I need/want!

I also enjoyed reading about how it is also important for AP students to have the choice of what to read; why should they be treated any differently than other regular education students? Also, I found a couple of ideas from the article “6 Simple Ideas to Get Kids to Read” by Pernille Ripp. I already think I have been doing a fairly decent job of doing book talks, but I think I’m going to take her advice and try the 1 minute book talk for each of my classes. And since the school year is winding down, I will begin next year with this also in hopes that I can eventually turn that over to the students. A couple of other take-away ideas I’m going to incorporate next year is the “book doors” idea and the “locker tags” idea from Mr. Baily’s article. Hopefully, if I keep plugging along…sooner or later I will end up being that teacher.

Reading Response ~ It’s Monday!!

The serpenent king

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

While looking for a new independent reading book, I was browsing through the “Morris Award” book site and happened upon the 2017 award winner The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. I had never heard of this book, but it sounded intriguing, and I decided to give it a chance. Boy am I glad I did!

The Serpent King follows three high school seniors that live in Forrestville, Tennessee. Dillard Early Jr., Travis Bohannon, and Lydia Blankenship are your basic outcasts. Because of this, they form an incredible bond of friendship/love.

The story is about the three; their home lives, friendship, loss, and ultimately their future. We learn that Dill is the son of a disgraced Pentecostal snake-handling Pastor whom is currently serving prison time for child pornography. Travis is a gentle-giant of a kid who works at his family’s lumber yard and is obsessed with a fantasy series much like “Game of Thrones”. Unfortunately, Travis’s father is an abusive alcoholic and is not appreciative of Travis’s obsession. Finally there is Lydia, who comes from an upper-middle class family and runs a fashion blog while dreaming about her escape from their small-town after graduation.

The chapters are each told from the point of view of each character. Here we learn that Dill’s grandfather was the one known as “The Serpent King” after he basically went off the deep-end when his daughter was killed. He began slaughtering snakes and wearing their skins only to finally commit suicide by drinking poison; Dill therefore worries that he is destined to follow in his father-grandfather’s footsteps. Travis, deals with his obsession for his series and his abusive father along the way. And Lydia, who tries to keep Dill and Travis thinking about where they should take their futures, (and worrying about leaving the two behind) while trying to learn about herself in the process. Then on a dark night, tragedy happens…

This book was fabulous! I felt that the characters were extremely believable, and it’s a book about having faith in yourself. I think Zentner did a great job at bringing three characters together that a reader can instantly be drawn to. There is mild language in it, but it is really incorporated in the context of the story to help the reader understand what it would be like in certain situations. I think this book would be appropriate for students at least 14 on up.

The Serpent King – Book Trailer