Monday, January 18, 2016

Speed Dating with Middle Grade: Part 9

Ok, I spared you guys the barrage of middle school books for an entire semester, but now this backlog of posts is really starting to build up!

My absolute favorite day of the school year comes in May with our district-wide Battle of the Books competition—and I've deemed it my favorite day despite having only experienced it once! It's this great day where 20+ middle schools come together, each with a 4-5 student team as representation, to battle it out trivia-style on a pre-selected list of 20 books. Though this one day is SO MUCH FUN, it's actually an event that builds for several months of the year as students prep, teams are created, and schools must decide who gets to attend the main competition.

If I didn't say it last year, this is how these Speed Dating posts began, as I make sure to read the whole list along with my students. Having read them and written out these summaries actually ends up really helping with recommendations AND helping our BoB teams study. [Also, I adapted this review format to the library and have been having kids write their own brief reviews. SO helpful for our library website!]

Alright, enough chit chat...

Title: Trash Can Nights
Author: Teddy Steinkellner
Genre: Realistic
Read If You Like...: Stories with multiple characters/plots/perspectives; real-life drama; this book's precursor, Trash Can Days
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Jake, Danny, Hannah, and Dorothy return in this sequel that brings a more mature follow-up to their last story. Jake has returned to San Paulo Junior High as the guy who got stabbed, is dating Dorothy, and still avoiding Danny, while Hannah is beginning her Freshman year at a new school where she's determined to earn the title of Queen Bee. While, for me, this one didn't have the same uncensored, humorous appeal as its predecessor, it was still a realistic, relatable story that deals with some pretty heavy issues.

Title: Guys Read: Terrifying Tales
Author: Jon Scieszka, ed.
Genre: Short Stories, Horror
Read If You Like...: Short story collections, a variety of writing styles, and odd/unusual/frightening things
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Terrifying Tales is the sixth installment in the Guys Read series of short stories, and this theme of this one is the weird and creepy. Stories from well-known middle grade authors like Kelly Barnhill, Dav Pilkey, and R.L. Stine cover every kind of scary: imaginary friends who stick around too long, vengeful ghosts, little brothers who disappear, old lady neighbors without the best intentions. The chill factor varies, but this is a good choice for fans of scary stories and readers with short attention spans. (Also, definitely NOT just for guys. I have mixed feelings on this marketing angle.)

Title: Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor
Author: Nathan Hale
Genre: Nonfiction, Graphic Novel
Read If You Like...: History adventures, true stories, and surprise reveals
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Araminta Ross is one of history's most important figures; you just know her by a different name. Born as a slave in Delaware, she escaped by running north and, once free, led many many more slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. This was my first foray into the Nathan Hale series, and in this one (like all the rest, apparently), he shares Harriet Tubman's story with accuracy, intrigue, and a great deal of passion for history and storytelling that will be felt by the reader. (Sidenote: I met the author at a conference and dude is HILARIOUS.)

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