Monthly Archives: October 2014

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing

Angel, A. (2010). Janis Joplin: Rise up singing. NY: Amulet.


The book is about Janis Joplin and her journey to fame and her drug use story that eventually led to her death caused by overdose. It reads in chronological order of Janis’ life, and has some great photos of her while she rose to fame. It also includes stories of how she is remembered after her death and a timeline of her life. I think that the intended audience for this book would be about 8th-9th grade, but because of its content and Janis’ constant drug use, I probably wouldn’t give it to students before 10th grade at the earliest. Follow up reading could be On the road with Janis Joplin, which I assume is just more stories of her drug use.


It’s Perfectly Normal

Harris, R. (2009). It’s perfectly normal. Boston, MA: Candlewick Press.

its perfectly norma

It’s perfectly normal is a nonfiction book that guides students through their bodies as they grow and change, sex, and basically where and how babies are made or come from. I think this book would be great around 6th grade, because even though it is a little explicit, the content is nothing that kids aren’t curious and talking about anyway. And it is a perfect time because their little bodies are beginning to change. Students would learn not only about their bodies, the opposite sex’s bodies, but also may answer questions that they have (obviously) about sex. I know that many parents may not want to have “the talk” with their kids, so giving them this book may help. I would also use this book in a science or health class. Major strengths in this book are keeping the vocabulary simple and easy to understand, great use of pictures for students who may not be on the book’s reading levels, and the two comical birds throughout the book that provide that provide comic relief when the information is a little much.


Anderson, L. H. (1999). Speak. NY: Penguin


Melinda is a self-muted freshmen student who is shunned by her peers for calling the police to crash a party that she as raped at. It takes the entire book for Melinda to come to terms with what happened to her and as the reader, I struggled with it as much as she did. I did not want to believe it either, but through Melinda trying to help her former best friend get away from the boy who raped Melinda, when she helps herself, she also helped me. I don’t know if I would give this book to students in a similar situation, but I do think that it is an extremely important book for teens to read so that they can understand that people have their own reasons for doing what they do whether we understand them or not. I would follow this up with Catalyst, also by Laurie Anderson.

Looking for Alaska.

Green, J. (2005). Looking for Alaska. NY: Dutton


John Green is the best writer at making me fall in love with characters with tragic endings. Looking for Alaska is another great love story about Pudge (Miles) and his friend, Alaska at a prep school. Throughout the book, Pudge makes many nicknamed friends, finds his way to having a social life, experiments with drugs and alcohol, and most importantly, falls in love with a girl who not only has a boyfriend, but is emotionally unstable. Alaska blames herself for not calling 911 when her mother died when she was younger, and this is one of the reasons for her drunken suicide in the end of the story. During a prank war amongst Pudge, his roommate, and Alaska, Alaska remembers her mother’s death’s anniversary and drunkenly leaves the school and crashes. (This part is still hard for me to believe that she committed suicide because I don’t want to believe it, but the book makes it seem as if the contrary is true.) The story ends with the boys getting a stripper to come strip for the class on Speaker Day. It also ends with one of my favorite quotes, “When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail” (Green, 221). I would definitely follow this book with any other John Green book.


Westerfield, S. (2005). Uglies. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.


Tally cannot wait to have the surgery to be a “pretty” because she is currently an “ugly.” What she does not know is that when you become a “pretty,” it also changes your personality. Tally’s best friend, Peris, is already a pretty, so Tally sneaks over to new pretty town to see him, where she meets Shay and David. When it is time for Shay to have her operation, she runs away and leaves clues for tally to find her in a place called “The Smoke.” There she learns all about the changes that happen to one’s brain once they become a pretty, but her new community is overtaken by Special Circumstances, and Shay is taken and made a pretty. In order to help save the others, the book ends with Tally offering herself to become a pretty. Honestly, I thought that this book could have been written better, but is perfect for my 6th graders. A few that read it told me that they love it and would recommend it to others who don’t know how to think for themselves or don’t know what friendship is. I would recommend the rest of the series, but after the first one, I felt that the rest of the series was silly.

The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Ness, P. (2008). The knife of never letting go. Boston, MA: Candlewick Press


Ok, let me start by saying that I HATED this book the entire way through. From discovering that Todd is being lied to by “Prentisstown,” his home, to running away with Todd as he tries to save himself and his new friend, Viola,(a completely platonic relationship based on the pair’s need for each other in order to survive.) who has no Noise. Noise is a germ that all of the men have that makes them able to hear their thoughts, everyone and everyone’s thoughts-except women. I spent an entire Friday night finishing the last quarter of the story where Todd and Viola are running from the Army and Manchee (Todd’s dog) was killed (where I bawled like a baby) bawling my eyes out over the horrible ending of Todd carrying a dying Viola in her arms into Haven, the town that was supposed to save them, which has been taken over by the man who was after them the entire time. It was so FRUSTRATING! Now, as a future librarian, I am not one for violence against books, but I wanted and still want to stab this book! I hated the ending! It was not fair! Todd and Viola lost so much along the way and fought so much only to be forsaken. The entire time i was reading I swore that I was not going to read the rest of the series, but now (after I finish reading the rest of the books for this class) I am going to have to. C’est la Vie. I would follow this book with a prediction lesson in a classroom and have students write what they think is going to happen since it has such a great cliff hanger. I would also only recommend it to upper high students because of the horrible spelling and primary confusion in the beginning of the story, also for the violence.


(I know these posts are supposed to be shorter, but I couldn’t help it.)

Annie on my mind

Garden, N. (1982). Annie on my mind. NY: FSG.


Nancy Garden did a beautiful job with such an honest story of friendship being something more between two girls. It is the story of Liza and Annie and how they fall in love when being gay is not something that people spoke about (not out loud anyway). Liza struggles through the entire book with her sexual identity and has to face her decision at the end of the story when she and Liza are caught “with their pants down” so to speak. Because Liza attends a private school this is a huge deal and she is suspended from school, all the while still struggling with who she is. Once things calm down, she returns to school, graduates, and attends college where she writes letters to Annie, but never knows if she should send them. In the end, she finally gets the nerve to call Annie and they make plans to see each other again. I loved this book and its honesty. It was not modern or full of slang or erotic scenes, it was the honest story of a girl who falls for another girl. I highly recommend it. I would follow it up with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe  and have  discussion or have students create a venn diagram on how the stories are similar between boys and girls.


Smith, A. (2013). Winger. NY: Simon & Schuster.


Ryan Dean is the most honest fourteen year old I have ever had the pleasure of meeting-or reading, rather. He is a fourteen year old who attends a high school/prep school and is the youngest student there. He plays on the rugby team and is (obviously) the smallest member of the team. He falls in love with his best friend (female) and ends up living in the trouble maker dorm where it is very hard for him to see her. But nevertheless, they admit their feelings for each other in the end. Along the way, though, Ryan Dean learns how cruel people can be and what friendship and love are all about. After reading this, I would recommend it to any student who needs to know what a friend truly is and follow it up with Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe or The throne of glass. 


Korman, G. (2012). Ungifted. New York, NY: HarperCollins.


Ungifted was a great read for a teacher who teaches gifted students because it was a perfect reflection of how these students behave and think. The main character, Donovan, gets sent to the Academy for Gifted Students when he is hiding from the superintendent after causing a huge catastrophe at his middle school. While at the gifted academy, he is placed on the robotics team where he teaches his team about being “regular” kids. He teaches them about YouTube, friendship, and loyalty. And in return, they teach him how to be true to himself. The superintendent finally finds him and confronts him about his incident at the middle school, and he is forced to return to his old school, but gets to take a friend with him. This book is great for teachers as well as students, especially those who need to read about being a friend or telling the truth.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Angleberger, T. (2010). The strange case of origami yoda. New York, NY: Abrams Books.


Origami Yoda is exactly what he sounds like. He is a paper folding meant to look like Yoda that is worn on Dwight’s finger. Dwight is a little weird, but the rest of the kids at their middle school don’t mind him. He offers Origami Yoda to give advice to those who need it. The book is a set of case files where all of the other students write their stories of how Origami Yoda has or hasn’t helped them out so that the main character, Tommy, can decide to listen to Origami Yoda about asking his crush to dance or not. In the end, Tommy follows Yoda’s advice and ends up having a great time at the school dance. I would definitely continue reading the rest of the series, this would be a fun set of stories to read as a class novel and have students make their own Yodas!

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