Monday, April 28, 2008

Demonata 2--The Demon Thief

This post was submitted by one of my students, Jon Fajardo. Thanks Jon!!

In the book there is this boy named, Kennel Fleck. He is a young magician who can open portals to other universes es, like demon universes. Kennel is a bit weird in the beginning, but he gets cooler during the middle. And he has a little brother named Ant, it turns out that his brother is something he is not supposed to be. Kennel has to figure out a tricky question. Read the book and you'll know what I mean.

I thought that it was a great book. In the beginning it wasn't so good, but as it goes on it's great. I recommend this to anybody that liked book 1.

I think in book 3 the characters will change. In book 1 the character was Grubb Grady, now it's Kennel Fleck, so I think that it will effect book 3 too. Also in book 1 we had a character named Lord Loss. He is in both books so I think he's going appear again in book 3.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I have to admit when I think of Kate DiCamillo I automatically think of Winn Dixie. It is not only one of the sweetest books that I've come across, but it is also one of the first books a teacher-mentor of mine told me to give to students. It was in my first week of teaching, and he told me that Winn Dixie is one of the easiest books to get kids into--and it's great. He was right (and still is), and now I get to add a new DiCamillo to the list.
Edward Tulane is a meticulous and self-centered china rabbit. One who has been specifically designed for a very well-to-do little girl. Edward's life consists of waiting for his companion to come home, enjoying his fine silk suits, and waiting to watch the stars through the window at night (his eyes are painted open, you see).
Without giving too much away from this lovely, quick read, the journey that Edward embarks on truly teaches the reader about the very nature of love. As he is thrown overboard, found in a garbage heap, taken on the road with a hobo, rocked by a dying girl, and finally broken and rebuilt, Edward begins to truly understand what it means to be loved. Trapped in his form, he struggles to communicate his feelings while being overwhelmed with his own powerlessness, for he is only a china rabbit.
The end of this book leaves the reader longing for another Velveteen Rabbit. If only Edward could become real...and yet we see that the truth of the matter is, we are all created to love each other, in whatever form we are.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

New Moon and Eclipse

One of my students has been racing me to finish Stephanie Meyer’s vampire trilogy. I’m afraid that she will be sorely disappointed with the fact that I finished book three, Eclipse, on Saturday morning—after spending almost 5 hours reading Friday night. I honestly didn’t mean to read quite that much. I do enjoy drawing out the final chapters of a good series, but a la Harry Potter, it was a lost cause. I found myself rocketing through New Moon and then Eclipse, simply because Meyer’s has really done something right. She’s given us compelling and complicated relationships, thrown in some danger, and then left us torn about whom to love.
New Moon opens with what feels like will be happiness. Bella and Edward are together; they’re in love, and all of the trouble from James and his mate Victoria seems to be gone. Unfortunately, this calm does not last. As suddenly as everything seems to be going right, it goes wrong. The Cullen’s leave Forks, and Bella is heartbroken. It is here where Meyer’s truly gives us a portrait of adolescent despair. Rather than spending three or four chapters watching Bella morn, she gives us nothing. We flip through pages titled October, November, December, January, waiting for something to happen, and then a paragraph long chapter called Waking Up. Bella slowly shifts from catatonic to remotely alive, seeking comfort from the only person that makes her feel warmth: Jacob Black. (And so the triangle completes…)
This friendship/potential romance is what coaxes Bella out of herself and back into the world. Her recovery, though far from complete, finally allows her to take risks—occasionally leading to injury—and finally let someone new into her life. While Bella convinces herself that she is not in love with Jacob, we see over and over how much he loves her, and we wait for some sign of impending doom. It arrives about halfway through the book: Jacob is not just any boy from the reservation. He is a werewolf. Bella is now faced with an even more difficult choice. Werewolves hunt vampires, and though the Quileute and the Cullens have a peace treaty in place, the two hate each other. The rivalry tears Bella apart until we find ourselves racing through the scariest ending of all three books. Though everyone is reunited we quickly see that the past cannot be undone.
Meyer’s moves us into the final installment with a much darker edge. Suddenly Bella is torn between the family that she wants to become a part of and her feelings for Jacob. Within each novel the risk of love is emotional, physical, and often boarders on manic. Meyer never lets us forget that love is the most dangerous adventure that two people can partake in, and in that danger is the weight of choice. Will Bella stay with Edward? Will she admit that she loves Jacob? Will she leave her world behind, and never experience the joys of aging and human life? These are the questions that haunt Eclipse, and along with it the kind of danger that we have been dreading for two books now. I fear that I will give too much away, but I will leave you with this. The ending is heartbreakingly perfect, and that I am so sad to let these characters go. Meyer has truly challenged her characters to work through some of life’s most complex emotions and dilemmas, each time connecting classic pieces of literature, historical archetypes, and fantastical monsters. Suddenly beauty has new meanings, love can be eternal, and time is both our best and worst friend.
Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book wont be released until August, so I guess that gives us all time to read these three again and again!

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I had been told about "Twilight" since November. One of the staff developers I work with from Teacher's College RAVED about how she just couldn't put it down. I took note of this, and promptly forgot. I then went to a workshop where Meyer's books came up again, then I put in a large book order, which it was back-ordered, and finally I just said "forget it, I'm buying a bunch of copies". One of my students and I have spent the last week reading this book, and I personally believe that it rivals Harry Potter for the "I Stayed Up All Night Reading It" award. This new trend of vampires, werewolves, and demons has taken flight with most of the readers in NYC. Perhaps it was Rowling who opened the door to fantasy again, but for whatever reason, these stories are HOT. Bella, a quiet and wonderfully clumsy girl from Phoenix, chooses to move to Forks, WA to live with her father. Her mother, and best friend, has recently remarried and Bella wants her to be able to travel with her new husband's job as a AA ball player. Having spent summers in Forks with her father, who Bella calls Charlie, she knows that she is heading for a SMALL town, a LOT of rain, and a probably lonely new life. Already, we see her generosity and sacrifice--themes that will return in the folds of Meyer's storytelling. It is in high school that we meet Edward Cullen, the strikingly pale, beautiful, and mysterious boy who catches Bella's attention. Bella, only aware of Edward's beauty and the intense physical response that she has to his presence on the first day of science, has no idea who or what Edward is or why he only spends time with his equally beautiful siblings.
As it turns out, Forks is also home to a coven of Vampires. Bella stumbles upon the truth as she is spending a day on the beach next to the Reservation, where Jacob (a boy who seems to be the rival love interest--though Meyer only hints at it in volume 1) a childhood playmate tells the story of the Cullen's relationship with the Reservation. Bella finally pieces together that they are indeed Vampires, and is now faced with more complexity that any first love should ever have.
This, though, is the real beauty of Meyer's work. Though a bit overdone at times, and a bit forced, falling in love for Edward and Bella is much more about racing pulses than about anything else. The magnetism of the two characters, their honesty with each other, the constant looming danger, and the fear of the unknown provide plenty of fodder for these two. Edward is always torn between his desire to love her and his physical needs to taste her. For a majority of the work, he is unsure of his self-control, wary of even touching her, for fear he could not stop himself. Bella, equally aware, has never been aware of her beauty, has never been near love, nor does she want anyone to be at risk for her. As their worlds collide and open into a dramatic end both of them are tested--turning romance into life or death situations fraught with the realities of what their relationship faces.
I rode local trains for 3 days to keep reading. I have now been stuck all weekend with New Moon, the second volume, at school. Though I admittedly like most things that I read, I haven't felt this drawn to a book in some time. Perhaps we all really want a little more danger, especially from something as simple as a kiss.


Finding good books for struggling boys is always a challenge. They want to read subject matter that they can relate to, but they also need to have text that they can navigate. Coe Booth's "Tyrell" is a great compromise for readers that are finally ready to read something with some meat to it. Tyrell, a fifteen year old, is fighting to get through every day. His father is in jail, again, and his mother is unable to do much of anything to help her family. As a result of her inability/unwillingness to find a job, Tyrell, his mom,and his little brother are homeless. While they await a housing placement (an already messy process that is further complicated by his mom's welfare fraud), Tyrell needs to find a way to support his family, be a good boyfriend, and keep his little brother safe--all while just trying to be 15.
Tyrell's girlfriend, Novisha, is pretty, smart, and loves him, but is faced with many of the same challenges that Tyrell is. Life in housing projects, no matter how together it may seem causes complications for everyone involved. Throughout this novel we see Tyrell battling an adult world with almost no help. As he searches for a way to make enough money to get his family out of the system, he has to confront his relationship with Novisha, the ghost of his father, the struggles of trying to figure out who you are at 15, and the harshness of poverty in New York. My boys have really loved this book, not just because of its frankness, but because Booth really lays out the complexities of the world my boys are faced with. There is no longer just the problem of growing up too fast, suddenly the whole world is crashing down and our 15 year olds are being expected to save it. Tyrell is one of the best written boys I've met in literature in a long time.

Jason and Kyra

Jason and Kyra, two teenagers from very different social worlds give us a look into all of the current complications of love.
Jason, arguably one of the hottest guys in school, has the “right” girlfriend (equally hot and willing to have sex whenever he wants), is the star of the basketball team. His mother, having passed away, has left Jason and his father in a tense relationship. His father is often traveling for work, leaving Jason feeling lonely and overlooked. Jason works incredibly hard to keep up his grades, to play well, all to impress his father. Instead of noticing, his father will drink, spend time with his girlfriend, and berate Jason for never being good enough. Thus our Romeo is often forlorn, desperately seeking someone who he can truly talk to.
Kyra is smart, honest, and unnoticed. She has a loving family that supports her, and challenges her academics. She is beautiful, but unaware, and charmingly strong, as you want Juliet to be. She has longed to be in love, but is painfully aware of how she compares with her older sister and brother—each of whom has found incredible success socially or academically--and so she is torn between her strengths as a student and her awkwardness socially (nappy-headed haunts her for the entire book). As the youngest she embraces her role willingly, though is looking for some sort of change. She meets Jason in AP English, and is upset that they will have to partner for an assignment. She assumes that he will bring her grade down, and he shows her up by both having a higher average (he got the only A on a pervious assignment) and his knowledge of the task at hand. Their relationship begins, as all good ones do, as friends. They are both amazed at the ease of their conversation, at their similarities, and their attraction.
Davidson switches between each point of view, writing the insecurities of each one’s age well. They are wholly in love, they are wholly out of love, they are anxious, nervous, happy, sad, angry…the works. One just wants to be heard and accepted, the other is insecure and needs to learn how to trust how special she is. This book is great for both boys and girls, and kept a smile on my face while I was trapped for 5 hours in the Atlanta airport. A must read.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Blood and Chocolate

Annette Curtis Klause's Blood and Chocolate, certainly falls into the current Hot Zone. Vivian, an attractive seventeen year old werewolf, struggles to fit into a world that does not even acknowledge that she exists. Though she lives with her extended familiar pack, Vivian is not sure that she truly wants the future that she is being offered. In rebellion she begins to date a human boy, and she suddenly finds herself falling in love. As Vivian desperately considers revealing her true self to her beloved, Klause thoughtfully challenges her reader's to contemplate the divide between instinct and intellect. Friendship, family, sex, relationships, love, desire, death, and violence weave together this hot and fast read, leaving the reading thinking about all about what it really means to grow up and to fall in love.