Book Review: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

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Caleb Franklin narrates the story of how he and his brother, Bobby Gene, met Styx Malone and got into the “biggest trouble we’ve ever gotten into in our lives.” The first page is one of those excellent leads we talk about in English class. You know when you read the first page, the story isn’t going to let you go until you finish. I love the line, “It all started the moment I broke the cardinal rule of the Franklin household: Leave well enough alone.” (p. 1)

Styx Malone lived in the woods near the Franklin house in Sutton, Indiana. He was a 16, a loner, and quite extraordinary. Caleb was drawn to Styx the moment he laid eyes on him. Caleb didn’t want to be ordinary. He spent his time dreaming of what was out there in the world, while Styx lived it. In the back woods of Indiana, one could get stuck in the ordinary of each day (like Mr. Franklin), but Caleb and Bobby Gene decided that hanging out with Styx Malone could get them places — maybe even Indianapolis, or beyond.

Styx Malone showed the brothers what it was like to live: how to talk so that you get what you want, how to act cool, how to pull off the impossible. The boys spent the summer learning about the Great Escalator Trade — a way to trade small things for bigger ones, all the way up to items that could make dreams come true. Caleb liked the stories Styx told, and being with Styx made him feel extraordinary, but it also got him grounded, and eventually changed his life — and his family’s lives — forever.

Kekla Magoon tells amazing stories, and The Season of Styx Malone is no different. The adventures, the fun, the trouble — many twists and turns in this tale of teen friendships and family issues kept me reading and wondering what would happen next. Since Ms. Magoon grew up in Indiana, I felt a connection to her and the story of small town life vs. big city dreams. I, too, once dreamed of living in a big city like Indianapolis, or Chicago, or New York City. One quote that stuck out for me, especially as a writer, was, “A happy ending depends on where you stop the story.” (p. 117) Kekla Magoon stopped this story at the perfect point — making The Season of Styx Malone an extraordinary must-read.

Published in 2018 by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books

Book Review: The Thing With Feathers, by McCall Hoyle

The Thing With Feathers, By McCall Hoyle 

Emilie is a teenager with issues. She struggles with returning to school after homeschooling, with making high school friends, and with navigating her first crush, a handsome athlete named Chatham. She also has two other problems: grieving her father’s death from cancer and living with epilepsy.

Emilie’s mom and Dr. Wellesley, her therapist, desperately want her to succeed in public school, and try to help her gain confidence, but she doesn’t want anything to do with school. She wants to stay at home, where she’s comfortable and unafraid, and where her service dog, Hitch, is by her side. With all the love and care she has around her, from her mom to her teachers to the school nurse, what does Emilie think could possibly go wrong at school? Well…everything.

The Thing With Feathers is for every person trying to survive the ups and downs of daily life: the teen with medical issues, the popular jock, the peers in English class, the cheerleaders, the parents, the teachers, the animal lovers, the poets, and the community volunteers. The setting — a small community in the Outer Banks — is perfect for this twisting, turning plot of changing tides, smooth and rough waters.

This is a story of a teen wrapped up in a life of high school drama, and more. It’s a story of hope in the midst of chaos. Best of all, it’s a story of love against all odds.

#MustReadin2019 — Books From 2018 I Didn’t Finish

Carrie Gelson of “There’s a Book For That”(https://thereisabookforthat.com/) hosts a hashtag for all the readers who didn’t get to finish their TBR lists in 2018 – #MustReadin2019. (Thank you, Carrie! I see I’m not alone.) I read over 140 books in 2018 (I’m terrible at posting on goodreads.com), but these are the titles I didn’t get to yet. As I head back to work tomorrow, my 2018—>2019 list of “Must Reads” looks like this:

mustreadin2019_2018booksleftover
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorrman
Marshfield Memories by Ralph Fletcher
Blended by Sharon Draper
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Becoming by Michelle Obama

aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-9781442408937_lg
I’m finishing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (from Simon & Schuster, 2014) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz tonight.

 
What are you reading in 2019? Share with us in the comments, so we can add to our To-Be-Read lists. Happy reading!

 

A Five-Star Year: Best of 2018 Books

I’ve seen a number of “Best of” book lists this week, and I always wonder how my list would stack up against the others in any given year. This year, I used a friend’s recommendation to review my Goodreads.com list, and when I looked, I found many books that received my rare “5-Star” rating (maybe not-so-rare, then). Just a note, there happens to be 20 titles on the list. I didn’t limit the list to 20; it just worked out that way.

Other notes of importance for readers…

Before I show you my “Best of 2018” list, please know that I read many books this year, and that most of them I rated “4-Star” reads. I usually like the books I read (I don’t abandon often), so I have a tremendous amount of “recommended” books. I wrote a post, #MustReadin2018″ and many of the books I read are not on this “Best of” list. To narrow this “Best of” list, I chose only the “5-Star” books from my Goodreads account. Also, I limited this list to the “5-Star” books that were published in 2018. I categorized these titles by format, but I don’t have them in any particular order. Here they are:

Picture Books — Yes, this list is heavy on the picture books. I successfully used these books at school, and/or my PD sessions, “Picture Books are Perfect for Middle School” and I highly recommend them.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

What If… by Samantha Berger

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

A Seed Is the Start by Melissa Stewart

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner

Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Got to Get to Bear’s by Brian Lies

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton

Graphic Novels — Graphic novels are becoming a favorite in school and here at home. These two titles stayed with me.

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (illustrated by Emily Carroll)

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Professional Texts — I’m always reading to learn, and these PD books really did change the way I think.

Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed

Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

Fiction/YA/MG — These stories captured my heart and stuck with me.

Loser’s Bracket by Chris Crutcher

In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Have a Happy New Year! I look forward to reading with you in 2019.

My 2018 One Little Word — Venture

OLW2018_Venture

My “One Little Word” for 2018 was VENTURE. As I look back over the year, I found that I ventured out more than I ever thought I would. I took risks and made mistakes; I laughed and I cried. I spent more time thinking and planning, but also “doing” in 2018. As I acted out each day, I found that “venture” was the perfect word to guide me.

I wrote for some new projects and I read 140 books this year. I was a member of another Kwame Alexander launch team – this time for the book, Swing (a wonderful and heart-wrenching book by Kwame and Mary Rand Hess).  I traveled to Michigan (for NerdCampMI), Texas (for #NCTE18), and Illinois (for RSAC) for professional development that proved (once again) to be highlights of my year. My friends and I created a proposal for #NCTE19, too, and I’m excited to see if we are accepted for a session.

I lost a job and found a new one — a relief and a dream all rolled up and presented to me as a gift from God. I love being a middle school librarian, and I am working hard to become a literacy leader in my new school. There’s so much more to come! I was able to keep my primary schools (that I oversee) as well, and that was a blessing.

My family encountered many blessings this year, as well: one engaged child, one college graduate, one college-bound child. I’m going to need to eat right and exercise more to keep up with these girls in the future. Health is an issue, always, so I move forward — setting new goals and tweaking my lifestyle just a little more than the year before. Keep moving! That’s the key going into 2019.

So 2018 was a year of adventures, and it was a fabulous year. I wish each of you Happy New Year and best wishes for 2019!

Now…what should my new OLW be?

IMWAYR: H is For Haiku

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Amy Losak, Sydell Rosenberg’s daughter, sent me her mother’s work, H Is For Haiku. Amy knows I love poetry and short texts I can read to my middle school students for enjoyment and for study. As I read each A to Z poem, I realized that every one was different, and that some didn’t follow the haiku rules — 3 lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 on the second line, and 5 on the third line. As I re-read, I reviewed the note to readers at the beginning of the book:

“…But many haiku writers aren’t so strict about syllable counts or the subject matter, including Syd. What’s most important about writing haiku is to focus on those many small moments we may overlook and make them special.” (Amy Losak, “Dear Reader” page)

When I re-read the poems, I enjoyed the small moments more — connecting some poems to my own life experiences, such as “First Library Card,” “Plunging Downhill,” and “Up and Down the Block.” It turns out that Syd, a teacher, was a rebel — one who broke writing rules — and we middle school teachers love the chaos! 

If you’re up for some poetry, colorful and light illustrations (by artist Sawsan Chalabi, whose work reminds me a little of Dr. Seuss here), and another way to write A to Z texts, check out H is For Haiku. Enjoy your reading time!

(H is For Haiku was published in April, 2018 by Penny Candy Books. All pictures were received from Amy Losak, and under copyright.)

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

 

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: So Little Time…

With the little time that I have this week, I’m reading…

The New Kid by Jerry Craft

I opened this one just now. It’s a graphic novel, so my middle schoolers will love it, I’m sure. I will use this book to add to my “Fabulous First Lines” list of titles: “This is how I feel every single day of my life, like I’m falling without a parachute. I mean, I’m not really falling. That’s called a metaphor. I learned about them in English.” An English teacher’s dream — students who use the knowledge! The New Kid is due out February, 2019.

 

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

I love the cover! I haven’t started yet, but I liked the jacket description: “Inkling is funny and fizzy and brimming with adventure…”

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

IMWAYR: PD Week

This could be a long post, but I am thinking you would be upset, so I won’t list every picture book from my PD session today at #RSAC2018. If you want the list of books we used in the session, please feel free to ask in the comments (or email me) and I’ll help. In the meantime, the books I’m reading this week are:

GAME CHANGER! BOOK ACCESS FOR ALL KIDS by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

This book IS a Game Changer for teachers and anyone else who wants to get books in the hands of kids! This text is full of the “WHY” and “HOW”, with researched best practices, personal interviews, and stories about helping students have access to books. ALL students!

 

THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle

I just started, but I already love the storytelling — McCall Hoyle is one of my new favorite authors.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

IMWAYR: My To-Be-Read List Grew After #NCTE18

My TBR list grew exponentially after #NCTE18. It’s amazing to live in the literacy world and I’m honored to meet with authors and illustrators all over the country. It’s a special time to be a reader.

Today I read two new titles (to me) and re-read some Ryan T. Higgins books again to prepare for the upcoming author visit on Saturday. Sunday I travel to the Chicago area again to talk about how “Picture Books are Perfect” in middle school. They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel is one of my favorite picture books to use in these professional development presentations. Another exciting week!

When I Was Eight, by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton  This is the story of an Inuit girl who dreamed that one day she could read like her sister. Through much hard work, far from home, and terrible dealings with the cruel “outsiders,” Olemaun’s determination led her to achieve her dream. I can’t get over the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s Fatty Legs, re-written in this book for children. School Library Journal writes, “This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings.” I agree.

 

The Word Collector, by Peter H. Reynolds (The Reynolds brothers closed the NCTE annual conference this year, and the session was marvelous!)  This is the story of a boy who collected words. He learns to use the words to write poems, to make songs, and to share with others. “Words connect, transform, and empower” in this splendid tale.

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

 

#NCTE18: A Love of Learning

NCTE’s annual conference was an amazing awesome adventure! All my friends were there, from all my groups, and I saw almost all of them (for at least a few minutes each) during my stay in Houston. I loved the theme this year, Raising Student Voice; I learned there are many ways to raise student voices, and that we also have a long way to go in literacy education learning and practice. I’m so happy to be a part of this amazing organization.

#G2Great: The Good-to-Great Teaching team — These are my friends and virtual “cousins.” I was thrilled to meet Brent and Amy in person this year. Nice to see you again Jan, Kim, Kathryn, Gerilyn, JoAnne, Dani, Justin, Todd, Travis C., Mary, Valinda, Fran, Margaret, Erica, Jenn, and Jill!

 

Kwame Alexander, Londa Alderink, Carmen Oliver, Jen, and the rest of the SWING Launch Team members in Houston were able to get together for a while. Thanks, Kwame, for continuing to include me in your travel shenanigans.

 

Nerdy Book Club nerds were everywhere in the Hilton Americas lobby. We definitely took Houston by storm! I can’t name all of you because it would take three pages of blogging to type all your names, but I love you all and it was so nice to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author friends: it was nice to see you again and/or meet you for the first time. Travis, Minh, Kylene, Bob, Teri, Penny, Kelly, Colby, Donalyn, Gae, Allison, Jon, Rachel, Laurie, Olivia, Cornelius, Sara, Jonathan, Lester, Katie, Maggie, Kate, Elissa, Linda Sue, Alex, Dan, and Barbara. Wow! Meeting authors is the best way to learn how to spread the “book love” (Thanks, Penny Kittle and the Book Love Foundation).

 

Michael Guevara, I cannot believe it’s been that long since college, but I guess it was. (I’m not that old, though.) Don and Donalyn Miller, thanks for allowing me to crash your lunch. I’m so happy I got to sit with you all and chat.

Kelly Vorhis, you are the best roommate and friend! I can’t believe we don’t have a picture of the two of us. We will remedy that next time.

 

Look for more posts about #NCTE18 this coming week and plan to attend next year, if you can.

P.S.: I love literacy learning!

 

I’m at #NCTE18!

I’ve been reading more than writing lately, which is strange, because my round table session on Friday at 2:00 at #NCTE18 is called “Overcoming the Fear and Seemingly Impossible.” (Stop by Room 320AB) I’ll be talking about FEAR and what I have done to overcome it in regards to writing. But am I still afraid? Yep.

This is my BIG week of learning each year. NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) is my event! I’ll reunite with my #g2great “cousins” and learn with the “#BowTieBoys (I hear the #HairBowGirls will be here next year!). I’ll see some fellow Swing Launch Team members and Kwame Alexander. I’ll hang out with my #NerdyBookClub friends and talk about the National Book Awards (Congratulations, Elizabeth Acevedo for winning the YA Award with The Poet X!).

If you cannot be here, follow my tweets (@jdsniadecki) — I’m sure I’ll be retweeting everything the next 3 days. Reading and writing are so much more fun with friends!

IMWAYR: Re-reading and New Titles

IMWAYRTitles102918

What a week! I spent time re-reading some titles and digging into new ones.

We are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell — This book is beautiful and I’m grateful to have it in my hands! I’m grateful for the ability to read and celebrate reading with my friends and family. I love learning about new places and people, and this hit the spot! Perfect for fall holiday season.

Booked by Kwame Alexander — This is still my favorite Kwame Alexander book, probably because of the cool librarian. My soccer students loved this one, too. Reading it aloud in class was the best!

Lu by Jason Reynolds — I just started this one (the fourth in the Track series). The cover is so inviting! “Sometimes you gotta jump anyway…” It’s the championships, but there’s a twist coming; I can see it now. Mr. Reynolds is famous for plot twists.

Just Like Rube Goldberg by Sarah Aronson (coming in 2019) — I’m lucky to be in the #booksojourn reading group, and Ms. Aronson allowed me to read this F & G (Folded and Gathered) book preview. She’s so sweet! Just look at the cover and be amazed! Rube Goldberg was quite the cartoonist and thinker. He “built” funky contraptions to complete everyday tasks. Do YOU know the only sanitary way to lick a postage stamp? Oh, Rube! How much fun is this? (LOTS of fun!)

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.