Saturday, January 13, 2018

Spinning Through the Universe by Helen Frost

Genre:  Poetry, Novel
Source: My shelves

Helen Frost has written a novel in verse. This type of writing is becoming one of my favorites for many reasons.  It is written in small vignettes. We get a glimpse into the lives of students in Room 214. These students could be any student in any classroom across the world.  We see their thoughts, frustrations, concerns, joy and so much morel We even hear from the teacher.  Because these are all made up it made it even more interesting. I sat there reading and plugged in my own students.  The book gives us an emotional look into the lives of students. As teachers we often don’t know the baggage children carry to school with them. It is often that courageous friend who lets us in on the secrets so that we can in some way understand or help out.  The other reason I like this author’s books is because she explains in the back some of the forms she used for the poems.  This helps me as a writer try out different forms. I was first introduced to this author and her magical poetry in her book Hidden, (you can find my review here). In this book she has once again done something spectacular in my eyes. One part of the book the poems are written in an acrostic form. When you go back and read the words down the side you get a deeper meaning for the poem.  I have several students who have read this book because they have to read a book of poetry for my class. I wonder how many read the back and how many found the magic?

Friday, January 12, 2018

This Property is Condemned by Max Elliot Anderson

Genre:  Middle Grade, Adventure, Mystery
Source:  I purchased a copy

Sam Cooper and his friends Tony and Tom find themselves in a terrible predicament. Riding their bikes down the steepest hill in Harper’s Inlet Sam Cooper realizes he has no breaks. He is riding a bike his father picked up out of the trash for him. Sam is sure that this can’t turn out good in any way. His friends keep telling him to land in the grass and it will be okay. At the bottom of the hill Sam hits the fence and is thrown backward over his friend’s head. This turned out to be extremely good in many ways. As Sam picks himself up he sees a sign that reads, ‘This property condemned”. As always, Sam has to find out more. He learns the old mansion belongs to an elderly lady who lives in the place called Remington Mansion. Her husband had built the house.  Now someone is trying to take it away. Can Sam and his friends save the day again?

This was a very intense read for me. Every time there was some sort of danger I found myself sitting on the edge of my couch, rocking back and forth.  The author does a wonderful job of creating realistic characters, and enough tension to keep you turning page after page.  I can’t speak highly enough about the Sam Cooper Series. I have loved each and every one of the books in the series.  Highly recommended, especially for that reluctant reader in your life.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

At the Buzzer - Max Elliot Anderson

Genre:  Middle Grade, Adventure, Mystery
Source: I purchased a copy

This is the fifth book in the Sam Cooper Adventure. Sam Cooper and his friends are awaiting the beginning of the basketball season. Sam keeps having the same dream. They are on the basketball court. It comes down to him making the winning three point shot. The crowd screams.  In reality the star of the team is his best friend Perry.  Perry is the tallest person on their team. He plays center and Same plays point guard. Sam has been working on making three point shots from anywhere on the court.  Sam has a bigger concern.  Perry knows he is good. He believes he is so good that he shouldn't have to worry about homework. He is sure that with his talent, if he fails a class they will let him play anyway. He sees no use for education. He knows he is going to be a star and make millions. He doesn't need to learn anything else.  Unfortunately his father feels the same way.  But what happens when a freak accident takes him out of the game?

I could relate to this book so much. I taught at a school where the international students were semi-pro sports players.  I had a tennis player tell me he didn't need to learn English or pass my class because he was going to be a tennis star. It didn't matter what I said to him.  I asked him what would happen if he injured himself in an accident or something and could no longer play. His response was shocking. He said he'd kill himself.  I asked him if he thought he was of so little value that his life didn't matter? I told him with that attitude he would never go pro because those looking for his talent would consider him high risk. He told me that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was "just a teacher".  I told him that he could always coach others if he loved the sport so much. He left my class that year barely passing my class. I figured I wouldn't see him again. The next year I had another student just like him, different sport.  This young man looked at the other student and threw my speech at him. I was in shock. He realized that no matter what we do in life we are a team of people, not an island.  

This book is important for kids everywhere to read this book to see what decisions Perry makes.  I absolutely love all of Max Anderson's books. They are full of important yet gentle lessons.