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Quick Pic: “And Some Hairy Bacon”

Hi there!

One of my Battle of the Books team students came into the Media Center to show off her socks which she called “An ode to The Graveyard Book“.  The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, was one of this year’s fifteen Florida Sunshine State Books HairyBaconthat the team studied and competed on.

In the book, one of the characters, Ms. Owens, sings a song and she’s unsure of the final lyrics.  Since she’s not sure what the lyrics actually are she sings them as “and some hairy bacon”!  This student in particular loved this part of the story so when she found her socks she had to have them! Today she ran into my Media Center to show them off! 

Aren’t they hilarious?! And I love that they’re bookish!

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History and Humor: 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis

Hola!

Contemporary history isn’t something I know a lot about, unless it has to do with the Southern Civil Rights movement of the 1960s (my focus as a History major). So my interested was piqued when I saw that 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis was on this years Florida 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-GalbisSunshine State book list.

When Julian’s parents make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away from Cuba to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation, the boys are thrust into a new world where bullies run rampant and it’s not always clear how best to protect themselves.

Operation Pedro Pan?! Living in Florida I’d known a little bit about this program but not very much.  For those of you who don’t know what Operation Pedro Pan began when Cuban parents afraid the Cuban government would take away their parental authority sent their children to the United States. For two years, (December 1960 to October 1962) more than fourteen thousand Cuban children arrived alone in the United States in what is now known as the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied  minors in the Western Hemisphere. Super interesting huh?!

The story of Operation Pedro Pan is told through the eyes of Julian, the youngest boy in his family. Loveable Julian is often overlooked as the “baby” but wants to be treated like his older brothers and in the end is the one who makes his mark in the lives of many.

Because this is a middle grades story about preteens and teenagers 90 Miles to Havana is full of boys being boys and kids being kids; competing against one another, playing pranks, and trying to win the attention of girls. The interactions between the kids in the camp are hilarious and believable (I work in a middle school where competition, pranks and attention-getting are all common occurrences!). There were so many times I chuckled to myself just picturing my students in the story! Flores-Galbis mixes the history with humor so you just “get” Julian’s story.

Flores-Galbis, who himself was sent to Florida under Operation Pedro Pan at the age of 9, plays on the idea of a dictatorship by creating a very tyrant-like character who is in charge of the kids at the camp in the United States. The children think they’ve been saved from a totalitarian regime only to discover that this type of leadership can exist anywhere; even amongst a group of teenagers at a camp. Their method of toppling this ruler is both serious and humorous.

So far my students at school have really enjoyed this book, especially those of Hispanic background. If you’re looking for a middle grades novel with a little more depth to it (and one relating to Florida history!), you should most definitely read 90 Miles to Havana. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Author: Enrique Flores-Galbis

Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press (August 3, 2010)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 304 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:  90 Miles to Havana

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Coming of Age Amidst the Storm: Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods

Hello there! 

As you may already know, one of my goals is to read all fifteen books on the Florida Sunshine State list every year so I can better promote these books to my students.  Well, I read Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods a few months ago, but hadn’t been able to get around to writing the review until now.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda WoodsSaint is a boy with confidence as big as his name is long. A budding musician, he earns money playing clarinet for the New Orleans tourists. His best friend is a stray dog named Shadow, and it’s because of Shadow that Saint’s still in town when Hurricane Katrina hits. Saint’s not worried about the hurricane at first – he plans to live to be a hundred just to defy his palm-reader friend Jupi, who told him he had a short life line. But now the city has been ordered to evacuate and Saint won’t leave without Shadow. His search brings him to his elderly neighbor’s home and the three of them flee to her attic when the waters rise. But when Miz Moran’s medication runs out, it’s up to Saint to save her life – and his beloved Shadow’s.

This is a quick read about a teenage boy caught up in the middle of the historic Hurricane Katrina. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, our main character, is as lovable and energetic as his beloved New Orleans. Although a story about Hurricane Katrina, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is really a coming of age story where Saint is forced to reckon with the truly meaningful issues in life.

Wood’s writing had me hooked and from the beginning I wanted to read more and more.  She included so much pre-hurricane build up that by the time the storm sets in, you’re already anxious with anticipation. Living in Florida since middle school I’ve experienced my own share of hurricanes (although none as devastating as Katrina) and I can say that Woods hits the pre-storm anticipation and build-up right on the nose!

So far, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach has been very popular with my students.  I have a school full of reluctant readers and this book is high interest and very short in length (heaven in their eyes!).  I sincerely recommend this book if you’re searching for a good read for the reluctant reader in your life, but remember  it is also captivating enough to entertain those middle school book lovers as well.

Author: Brenda Woods

Publisher:  Penguin Books (September 1, 2011)

Format: Paperback

Length: 144 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:  Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

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So Legally Blonde: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

Hello there!

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison is the seventh of the fifteen Florida Sunshine Book I’ve read this summer.

My Fair Godmother by Janette RallisonFinding your one true love can be a Grimm experience! After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah’s gum-chewing, cell phone–carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she’s only Fair—because she’s not a very good fairy student—Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah’s class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight.

When I first saw the 2012-2013 Sunshine State list, I could tell automatically by the cover that its my type of book!  The title and cover just scream “FAIRY TALE!” which you know I love (!) I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I do and I don’t care!  Isn’t it (the cover) adorable!?

So yea, I completely, 100% love fairy tales re-tellings and mash-ups.  There is just something so fun about hearing a story you’ve heard since childhood be told in a different way.  My Fair Godmother has smatterings of Cinderella, Snow White and other fairy tales mixed all up into one giant fun story!

At first I actually liked Jane best, but soon I came to love her sister Savannah even more.  This surprised me at first because Jane is so bookish and focused on school, which was totally me in high school, so I had a hard time when Savannah actually turns out to be the main character. But in the end, like I said, I came to love Savannah and she makes a likable, if not flawed, main character.

Savannah’s fairy, I mean fair, godmother is hilariously bad at what she does. I love the idea of a fairy godmother who is more concerned with shopping and socializing than her actual magical  work.  Chrysanthemum Everstar adds a very Legally Blonde-like atmosphere to the story which is just adorable.

So, all in all My Fair Godmother is an incredibly enjoyable trip down fairy tale lane that I know my students will enjoy and you will too if you’re a fairy tale fan.  Also, I’m going to have to get my grubby little fairy-tale-loving fingers on the sequel, My Unfair Godmother!

Author: Janette Rallison

Publisher: Walker Childrens (December 22, 2009)

Format: paperback

Length: 320 pages

Series: First in a series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: My Fair Godmother

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Right in My Own Backyard: Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

The third 2012-2013 Florida Sunshine State book I’ve read this summer (out of fifteen).

A science-class field trip to the Everglades is supposed to be fun, but Sarah’s new at Glades Academy, and her fellow freshmen Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorbyaren’t exactly making her feel welcome. When an opportunity for an unauthorized side trip on an air boat presents itself, it seems like a perfect escape—an afternoon without feeling like a sore thumb. But one simple oversight turns a joyride into a race for survival across the river of grass. Sarah will have to count on her instincts—and a guy she barely knows—if they have any hope of making it back alive.

This is my favorite of the three Sunshine State Books I’ve read so far this summer!  I think the title, Lost if the River of Grass is fabulously foreboding and terrifying.  This is an incredibly exciting survival tale that is that much more exciting to me because the Everglades are only a few hours south of where I live so it makes it that much more real (and scary!).  After reading this book I am reminded of how much I need to learn about survival skills!  I know some basics (thanks Bear Grylls!) but I don’t think I’d know enough to get myself out of The Everglades alive.

I like Sarah, the city girl main character, and can totally understand her behavior when faced with intense difficulties and fear.  The way she complained and argued with Andy made total sense to me, even if I found it annoying at times.  If I had been stuck out on the swamp (IT’S THE SWAMP, PEOPLE!) with no way of getting out but walking through it surrounded by snakes, mosquitoes, gators and God knows what else, I’d be pretty annoying too!

Rorby’s descriptions of the Everglades and the problems you’d face were spot on.  I felt like I was there trudging alongside Sarah and Andy the whole way.  I was so engrossed with this page turner the whole way through that I actually prayed multiple times that I’d never, ever get stuck in the Everglades!

There is a pretty cute romance between Sarah and Andy, the boy who offers to take Sarah on a boat ride that I think girls will like, but it isn’t a huge part of the story so I think boys will still find Lost in the River of Grass interesting, despite the romance. In the end I think this survival story will appeal to readers in the middle grades and up, although I believe it will have special appeal to those living in Florida.

Note: Just realized author Ginny Rorby grew up in Winter Park, Florida where I live! I knew she went to school in my county, but had no idea she was from Winter Park! Very cool!

Author: Ginny Rorby

Publisher:  Carolrhoda Books (February 9, 2011)

Format: Paperback

Length: 255 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Lost in the River of Grass

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Men in Black? The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

Happy summer everyone!

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson is the first Florida Sunshine State book (of fifteen) that I’ve finished so far this summer. I haven’t ready any of James Patterson’s adult fiction, but am familiar with his Maximum Ride series’s, so I was excited to dig into The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. Also, I listened to the audiobook as part of the 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge!The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

The greatest superpower of all isn’t to be part spider, part man, or to cast magic spells–the greatest power is the power to create. Daniel X has that power. Daniel’s secret abilities – like being able to manipulate objects and animals with his mind or to recreate himself in any shape he chooses – have helped him survive. But Daniel doesn’t have a normal life. He is the protector of the earth, the Alien Hunter, with a mission beyond anyone’s imagining.
From the day that his parents were brutally murdered before his very eyes, Daniel has used his unique gifts to hunt down their assassin. Finally, with the help of The List, bequeathed to him in his parents’ dying breath, he is closing in on the killer. Now, on his own, he vows to take on his father’s mission – and to take vengeance in the process.

So, I know for a fact my boys at school are going to love this book. It’s like a teenage Men in Black as Daniel is pretty much an alien hunter. This is a fun, quick read that will appeal to my reluctant readers because the chapters are super short. In fact they were so short and choppy that I had to check my iPod multiple times to ensure that the tracks weren’t out-of-order (sometimes the tracks aren’t titled correctly so they skip around in iTunes.).

Every single chapter is jam-packed full of action as Daniel X follows the trail of the aliens across the country. Now, like I said this is a fast paced sci-fi thriller that is a fun read. However, because it’s so action packed Patterson doesn’t leave enough room for actual substance. I didn’t really feel for Daniel’s plight (his pain from being orphaned at the hands of alien super power, The Prayer). I mean I knew he was attempting to avenge his parent’s murder, but there wasn’t much depth to Daniel’s character.

Despite any shortcoming The Dangerous Days of Daniel X had I still feel strongly that my students are really, really going to enjoy this sci-fi thriller! Patterson’s goal was to write a book for teen readers and I think he succeeded! So, if you’re a middle grade reader in the mood for a fast adventure read, check out this book!

Author: James Patterson

Publisher: Hachette Audio (July 21, 2008)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 4 hrs and 30 mins

Narrator(s): Milo Ventimiglia

Series: First in the Daniel X series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X