Tag Archives: scholastic

That’s Not What Happened (Kody Keplinger)

4 Sep

Happy September, Squinks!  We’ve had a crazy-busy spring and summer in our little corner of the world, so while I’ve been updating our school library shelves and spotlights list, I haven’t had much time to write on this blog.  But September is a great time for new beginnings, right?  There’ve been tons of awesome books published in the last few months, and I can’t wait to share them all with you here.

First up is Kody Keplinger’s unforgettable That’s Not What Happened.  A few years ago, a YA novel about school-shooting survivors would not have been on my TBR list.  I don’t usually opt to read sad stories, especially those involving kids – I get too sad too easily.  But something about the premise of this novel really called to me, and not only did I request this book, but I bumped it up to the top of my list when it arrived.

 

That's Not What Happened Squinklethoughts

1.  That’s Not What Happened is about survivors whose perspectives don’t get as much play in the media as the victims’.  We read and hear a lot about the lives of the victims and their futures that were taken away, but we don’t get as much information about the people who have to keep on going after witnessing their friends die.  Above all else, this novel gives us a story told from much-needed perspectives.

2.  Speaking of perspectives, while the story is told from the point of view of Lee Bauer – one of the witnesses, and best friend of one of the victims – Keplinger masterfully allows the other survivors to tell their tales, too.  The survivors have a voice, and the victims’ stories are told by people who knew them best.  There are many times that I think a story with multiple narrators would have been better told from just one person’s point of view, but I’m really pleased with how Keplinger neatly sews together the various narrators’ sections to create a seamless storyline.

3.  This novel was very unputdownable for me.  I read it in a couple of days, and it only took me that long because I started on a weekday, and couldn’t read much while teaching (though I snuck in a few pages here and there).  I really, really wanted to know, first, what detail about Sarah (Lee’s best friend) everyone keeps getting wrong, and, second, what Kellie has to do with it.  These mysteries propel the story forward, on top of the fact that I was very invested in all of the survivors’ lives since the tragedy of three years ago.  The six survivors are treated by the police, the school community, and the town at large as one group, but the shooting occurred at different moments in their lives, which inevitably leads to very distinct ways of dealing with it.

 

That's Not What Happened 2  

4.  This is the kind of story that you have to read for yourself.  I can’t tell you exactly what might compel you to read through to the end, but for me, it was a combination of memorable characters, authentic dialogue, angst and conflict and misunderstandings, and a desire to know what really happened.  I know some people weren’t particularly moved by the story, and I think that’s just proof that how much a story or character affects a reader is based on when that story or character enters a reader’s life.  Some readers will devour this book, while others might think it’s just another YA title.  Regardless, I think this is an important book to be accessible to all readers in case there’s one out there who might need it.

5.  Teachers, there are a lot of ways this title can be incorporated into your lessons.  Potential topics include: truth, THE truth vs. what is accepted as truth, loyalty, finding your voice, survivor’s guilt, life after tragedy, bullying, knowing when a story is yours to tell, reconstructing a shattered life, and controlling the narrative.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Kody Keplinger’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic, for sending me a copy of That’s Not What Happened in exchange for an honest review.  All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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Don’t Cosplay with My Heart (Cecil Castellucci)

26 Dec

My last new read for 2017 is Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci, and you’ll love it if you’ve ever felt like any fandom universe is sometimes much better than the real world.

 

Don't Cosplay with My Heart

Squinklethoughts

1.  The cover and title totally hooked me.  I love the girl’s pink hair and purple mask – they drew my attention right away.  Also, there’s a popular song that I grew up with called “Please Be Careful with My Heart”, and the title of this book made me remember the lyrics of the song, so I wanted to see how many parallels the two would have.

2.  Edan Kupferman, the heroine of our story, is going through so much.  I just feel for her.  What’s great (for the reader, not for her) is that she’s in an unusual quandary, so it’s not like I could have predicted how things would turn out.  In fact, I was quite surprised at how the problems within her family ultimately develop.  (All the more interesting for me is that there’s a bit of Hollywood and behind-the-scenes allusions to Tinseltown in the story.)  I like that Edan has a hard time telling her best friend, Kasumi, what’s really going on with her parents.  She tells the audience right away how close they are, but there are some secrets that are difficult to share even with best friends, and this felt really realistic for me.  I don’t know that I would have allowed things to develop the way Edan does, but her choices about this make the rising action more interesting.  I also love that Edan’s family is comprised of three strong women who are tested to the core.

3.  Yuri.  Ugh.  I did not like him right away.  I see why he might have been interesting for Edan, but I just felt like she fell under the whole sunk-cost fallacy.  She spent so much time pining for Yuri that she can’t see how terrible he is for her.  I mean … just his friends are hard to hang around with, and even Edan can see that clearly.  I wish there were more just deserts for Yuri, but I suppose Castellucci leaves that to the reader’s imagination.

4.  Just as Yuri is so ugh, I felt myself rooting for Kirk almost right away.  It’d have been great to have had a friend like Kirk in high school, though I’m sure I would have been just as emotionally invested in his home life as Edan eventually is.  Edan and Kirk work well for me because even though they have their own really difficult dilemmas to deal with, they both have enough compassion in them to help one another out.  This doesn’t always happen (and, for sure, I wish this had happened when I was in school), so to read about two characters who could think beyond themselves, even for a little while every so often, was quite refreshing for me.

5.  I’ve been to many cons and conferences (though none as big as SDCC), and I love that world.  I love being immersed in a fish tank of like-minded individuals for a few days.  Even though I don’t cosplay myself, I do wear tailored tees and other paraphernalia to show my fandom love.  It was particularly interesting for me to read about some of the rules, expectations, and backstage info about what happens in other cons (even the fabricated one here).  Castellucci writes about Disney bounding and ticket lotteries with an authority that makes me think she’s been to a fair (faire, ha) few cons herself.  If you are a “real nerd” (used in quotes because, well, read the book to find out why), you’ll love these bits in the novel.

6.  I loved all the back stories on Team Tomorrow, Edan’s fandom of choice.  These were the parts of the story that I thought were so well written, and I wonder if the author first thought of the Team Tomorrow backstory and just sort of built Edan’s story around it … which is so cool to speculate.  There are lots of details about the made-up characters (Gargantua, Green Guarder, Lady Bird, etc.) and real comic-book life (ashcans, story arcs, writer-illustrator-creator-producer relationships, etc.), and I really wanted to learn more.  Plus, there are tons of allusions to real fandoms that my Disney-Harry-Potter-Doctor-Who-Sherlock/Elementary-Murdoch-Mysteries-loving heart just eats up.  I guess I’m all about the behind-the-scenes stuff.  Anyway, the Team Tomorrow BTS pages were my favourite parts of the whole story.

7.  There’s one part though that I wasn’t too fond of, which is the constant references to boys objectifying girls and Edan being super feisty (or thinking about doing something super feisty) every time it happened.  I one-hundred-percent believe that girls should be treated with respect and should never be made to feel uncomfortable.  But I felt, more times than not, that the way the author presented this was unrealistic.  When Yuri’s friends are talking about how great a girl looks, Edan sometimes gets upset right away.  Maybe it’s because people who talk poorly about girls like they do wouldn’t stay my friends for very long, or maybe it’s because I think commenting on someone’s looks is not always demeaning nor are those looks mutually exclusive of a person’s intelligence.  I just can’t see myself getting as steamed as Edan does (and still being with Yuri … ugh again).  Either way, I think this would make a great starting point for discussions among my students.

 

4 squinkles

 

Cecil Castellucci’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTubeChapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic Canada, for sending me a copy of Don’t Cosplay with My Heart in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Have Sword, Will Travel (Garth Nix & Sean Williams)

3 Nov

I picked this book up because of the slogan that was pitched to me: “Live by the sword … Die by the sword … No matter how often the sword yells at you.”  Seriously, Squinks, you’ll get sucked in because of the talking sword, but you’ll stay for the adventures.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel Squinklethoughts

1.  Odo and Eleanor are great friends, and that, for me is the mark of a great story.  Odo is thoughtful and patient, but he doesn’t necessarily want to be a knight.  Eleanor, on the other hand, is also considerate, but a little more impulsive, and has always wanted to be knighted, to take after her mom.  It’s a great set-up for some excellent conflicts in the story.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel 3  

2.  Biter is funny!  He’s sarcastic and quick-witted, but pragmatic and to the point, too.  At many times throughout the story, I actually thought that there were three people travelling north.  Then I remembered that while Biter is a great character who moves the plot along and is instrumental to the action, he’s just a sword, bobbing his way alongside Sir Odo and Squire Eleanor.

3.  I love the names of the villages and townsfolk that Nix and Williams came up with.  They definitely give me nostalgia for my university classes where we learned about various Alfrics and Æthelreds.  I read the ARC version of this book, which didn’t have the illustrations in the final text, but I’m happy to say that the published book has a map for endpapers!  I love maps.  It’s so much easier to appreciate Odo and Eleanor’s adventures when you can see (not just imagine) how far they travel.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel - Map 

4.  I like that lady knights are not just possible in this fictional world, but commonplace.  And not just knighthood through marriage or royal blood either … the authors depict ladies as knights with the intent to combat enemies and defend honour.

5.  I don’t know if there’ll be many more books in this series, but I sure hope so.  There is still so much growing up to do by Odo, Eleanor, and even Biter whose recollection of his own story is a bit fuzzy.  I want to know more about Odo’s siblings and Eleanor’s mother.  I want to encounter Toland, Master Thrytin, and the urthkin again.  Mostly, I want more adventures, and I want to see how the friendship develops between Odo and Eleanor – not necessarily romantically.  It’s always interesting for me to see how a character changes alongside another character with whom he/she has been friends since childhood.  I can only imagine the kinds of conversations the two will have about the best routes to travel, the most efficient ways to parry a blow, and the need to wash every day (Odo).

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Garth Nix’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Sean Williams’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic Canada, for sending me a copy of Have Swords, Will Travel in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Secret of Nightingale Wood (Lucy Strange)

26 Oct

If you like reading stories with strong and sweet heroines, family relationships, and life after a war, I’m sure you’ll love Lucy Strange’s The Secret of Nightingale Wood.

 

Secret of Nightingale Wood Squinklethoughts

1.  It’s been nearly 100 years since the Great War ended, and most of my students AND the people around them are far removed from the effects of the war.  But it’s called the Great War because it’s the first time that so many people from so many lands and across so many fronts have been affected by a mutual event.  There are lots of great stories about soldiers before, during, and after battles, including one we read in French class called Journal d’un soldat.  But some of my favourite stories are about the people at home – mothers, sisters, and friends, awaiting news of their loved ones, and rebuilding their lives upon their loved ones’ return or … permanent leave.  The Secret of Nightingale Wood reminds you of how war often rips apart families.

2.  Henry is a lovely, authentic heroine.  She’s at the great age where she’s stuck between having true independence in her teenage years and enjoying enough freedom to think and feel the way she wants to, regardless of how other people tell her to behave.  She loves her little sister, Piglet, and if I didn’t like Henry for anything else, I’d respect her for that.  What a great older sister to have.

3.  Henry is brave but not reckless.  I would have been too scared to enter the woods, so I applaud her courage in doing so, but she also recognizes when to be on her guard.  She takes calculated risks, including visiting her mother who’s been locked in a room, if need be or if her heart can’t take it any longer.  She is also wracked with guilt that her last conversation with her brother, Robert, was a fight.  I don’t know if this is what makes her push herself to be brave, but she tries really hard to keep her family together once her family seems to be ripped apart.

4.  I like that Henry’s plan towards the end of the story isn’t completely out of this world.  I don’t like endings that employ deus ex machina or have some sort of implausible, neatly tied dénouement, so I like that Henry’s solution isn’t too easy to be believable.

5.  I was a bit annoyed with Nanny Jane.  Her heart seems to be in the right place, but I feel like she bends too easily to forces outside Hope House.  If Henry and Piglet are her primary charges, why would she let others’ opinions sway her from doing her job?

6.  Dr. and Mrs. Hardy – ugh.  Dislike both of them with a sneer.  And Dr. Chilvers, too.  Aren’t the best characters to hate the ones you know smile with duplicity (even though you can’t actually see them smiling)?

7.  Moth is a lovely, bittersweet character.  She’s caring and motherly towards Henry, but sadness and pain just oozes out of her.  I’m glad that she has small bits of beauty in her life.  I think Henry saves Moth just as much as Moth saves Henry.  I can imagine them having a nice, long friendship.

 

Secret of Nightingale Wood 3

 

8.  I let my book fall open on a page, and it happened to be on one where there is a letter set in a different font from the rest of the story.  The final copy of the book may have this letter in a different font than the ARC I read, but the font – Janda Elegant Handwriting or something remarkably similar – has been one of my favourite ones for as long as I can remember.  It’s even the font I use for the header of my blog, which tells you how much I love it.  I guess I knew from the moment I saw that letter in the book that this was going to be a good, heart-tugging story.

9.  Teachers/parents, there are many lessons you can do with this novel.  The biggest one is a discussion on the effects of war and death on an entire family and community.  Right from the beginning, we know that Robert, Henry’s older brother, has died, and with him, bits of their parents have died, too.  We also find out later on about another boy who has died.  The two deaths, though from different causes, rock two families and a community.  This could be a teachable moment in terms of the ripples people make.  Also, there are tons of allusions to classic lit, which would make a great side project.

10.  The Secret of Nightingale Wood is set to pub on October 31.  You definitely want to put this on your bookshelf!  There’s so much heart in this story.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Lucy Strange’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic Canada, for sending me a copy of The Secret of Nightingale Wood in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

All the Crooked Saints (Maggie Stiefvater)

13 Oct

If you’re in the mood for a tale full of magic and mystery, Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints may be just what you need!

 All the Crooked Saints

Squinklethoughts

1.  Okay, Squinks.  This is my first Maggie Stiefvater book.  I know, right?  So many of you have suggested that I read The Raven Cycle series, and I just might pick it up, knowing how great her writing is.

2.  Here is a thing I felt after reading a few chapters of All the Crooked Saints: This is not the book for me.  Here is a thing I felt on the last page of the book: Boy, am I glad I stuck it out.

 

All the Crooked Saints 2  

3.  I like magical realism, and I’d definitely describe this story as such.  But this wasn’t the magical realism I expected.  There is a priest with a coyote head, a snake entwining twins, and a girl who, like Echo, can only speak when spoken to, repeating the very same words she is told.  If I had known that from the very beginning, I may not have picked this book up at all.  So if you’re into that kind of stuff, you’ll have a lot of fun with this book.

4.  What kept me going even after I realized that the elements of the story weren’t quite what I expected was Stiefvater’s incredible writing.  She has such a way with words and telling life truths that I got lost in her magical turns of phrases, and I just kept on reading.  Her writing prowess is reminiscent of J.K. Rowling’s own pen wizardry.  They’re both so quotable, so authentic.

 

All the Crooked Saints - Quotations

 

5.  Once I got the dramatis personae all figured out, it was a lot easier to get into the Soria family’s and the pilgrim’s plights.  Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel have such a close bond.  It was great to see that among cousins and among people who are quite different from one another.  The relationship between Antonio and Francisco was really interesting.  How could a couple get that way when they obviously love each other so much?  The pilgrims all have very intriguing stories, too.  I was especially enamoured by Marisita’s back story, which I’m glad Stiefvater reveals.  I also like the relationship that develops between Tony and Pete – strangers who become friends because of circumstances.  By the end of the story, I was rooting for all the Sorias and pilgrims to get what they needed … not just what they’re looking for.

6.  Teachers, there are a lot of things you can do with this book in school.  Lots of themes pop up throughout the novel, especially ones about family, friendship, and courage.  The title might seem like this is a super-religious book, but even without knowing much about Catholicism or saints or caring about any religion at all, readers will still enjoy the plot.  If I were to pick this book up as a text for a class, I’d definitely do some explorations on character POVs, a big discussion on metaphors and allegory, and a lesson on the writer’s craft, using Stiefvater’s fine writing as an example.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Maggie Stiefvater’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
Indigo/Chapters

 

Thank you, Scholastic Press, for sending me a copy of
All the Crooked Saints in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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