Dead End in Norvelt–NerdyBookClub Blog

Today is a HUGE honor:

My esteemed colleague, Brent Peterson, and I are the bloggers on today’s Nerdy Book Club blog.

Authors, teachers, librarians, and readers from all over the country visit this blog daily.

Please click here to visit the site where we write our final review/conversation of

Or, if you prefer the UK cover…


Building Conversations Around Short Stories

The most memorable reading I’ve done is when I’ve been able to discuss what I’ve read.

We have been reading short stories in class to build our conversations skills and prepare for reading partnerships.

We read Thank You, M’am by Langston Hughes. It’s one of my favorites. I’m sure you will enjoy it too, and will have a fun time talking about it over dinner tonight. (The story starts on page 3 of the link–you’ll see.) The students had a good time talking about the story in their small groups today, as you can see in this video:

Partnerships will be forming and books will be chosen over the next couple days. This discussion practice is imperative for successful partnerships. I look forward to sharing more of our work with you.

Ring-the-Bell Monday & What Are You Reading Monday?

A new week, a new batch of books–both books finished and being read.  Today is…

Ring-the-Bell Monday

{Wherein we share what  books we have read in the past week.}


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

{Wherein we share the titles we are currently reading.}

Ring-the-Bell Monday


This week I read:

My students have read:

Class A

MS: Worst Years Of My Life, Clone Codes, Eleven, Every Soul a Star, Hate that Cat, Who Was King Tut, Wimpy Kid Movie Diary, Alex Rider: Point Blank GN, Black and White, Thirteen, Curse of the Wendigo

Class B

Wake, Fade, Franny K. Stein #1, #2, #3, #5, Who is King Tut, Big Nate on a Roll, The Auster Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, Warriors #5, Big Nate In Class By Himself, Football Hero, Amulet #1, Guardians of Ga’Hoole #3, D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom, Face on the Milk Carton, Bone #9, The Year of the Panda, Big Nate on a Roll, The Last Olympian, The Limit, MS: Worst Years of My Life, Origami Yoda, Amulet #3, Wonderstruck, Amulet #3 and #4, Big Nate #1 & #2, Big Nate #3, Sidekicks, the Clique GN, Defeating Dark Angel, Amulet #2

Class C:

Big Nate in Class By Himself, Big Nate on a Roll, Cirque du Freak #3, Hatchet, Bone #4, 39 Clues #5 & #6, Powerless, Rules, Firestar, Darkfire, Eleven, Does This Make My Head Look Big, Uglies, Pretties, Harry Potter and: The Order of the Phoenix & The Half-Blood Prince, Eleven, Twelve, Close To Famous, Extras, Bigger Than a Breadbox, Chatroom, Click, Trading Faces, Among the Hidden, Among the Imposters, The Boy on Cinnamon Street, Hunger Games, The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda, MS: The Worst Years


[Check out the home of “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading”: Teach Mentor Texts — and the spin-off: Sharpreads]

This week, I am reading:

My Students (those who didn’t get to share a completed book) are reading:

A: IQ, Tangerine, Wonder, Rapunzel-the One with All the Hair, Fetching, MS: Worst Years Of My Life, The Name of This Book is Secret, Dangerous Days of DanielX, Throne of Fire, Numbers, Hugo, Because of Winn Dixie, Hunger Games

B: Monsters Of Men

C: Lightning Thief, The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, Warriors: the New Prophecy #1, the Fourth Stall, Wednesday Wars, Fearless


What are the REST of you reading?

2011 LA Times Book Prize

Academy Awards.

Golden Globe Awards.

Grammy Awards.

CMA Awards.

It is awards season, and young adult literature is in the fray.

What–did you think that the Newbery was the end of awards for kidlit? Think again. The Printz award? Just the beginning.

A couple of the upcoming awards are the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes (the 32nd annual prizes will be awarded at a public ceremony April 20) and the Nebula Awards (awarded from May 17-20).

Today I’ll give a run-down of the books contending for the LA Times Book Prizes. I’ve included a picture of the book cover, and any additional commentary I might have in blue text. I’ve also included a trailer, if I was able to find it.For more information on each book, click the title.

Nominees for Young Adult Literature

Think of this as Survivor meets Lord of the Flies…with beauty contestants.  Yup, really.  This book has already won:
  • 2012 ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • 2012 Capitol Choices List of Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens.
I’ve actually read quite a few good things about this book.

You already know how I feel about this book.. and I’ve since found a cool new link with further reading and an interview. CLICK HERE.

Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countrysidE–just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that de? ne them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet’s latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

This book has already garnered quite a bit of praise. The description reminds me a little of Hunger Games:

The Scorpio Races

★ “Masterful. Like nothing else out there now.”
-Kirkus, starred review

★ “gets better and better…all the way, in fact, to best.”
-Horn Book, starred review

★ “a study of courage and loyalty tested . . . an utterly compelling read.”
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “A book with cross-appeal to lovers of fantasy, horse stories, romance, and action-adventure, this seems to have a shot at being a YA blockbuster.”
-Booklist, starred review

★ “plenty of action, conflict, excitement, and a heart-stopping climax . . . the result is marvelous”
-School Library Journal, starred review

“. . . a thrilling book that’s as unusual as it is alluring.”
-Los Angeles Times

“With this beautifully executed drama, Stiefvater has established herself as one of the finest YA novelists writing today.”
-Entertainment Weekly

“Tactile world-building, an island full of compelling characters, and the budding romance between Sean and Puck all make for an unforgettable book that’s quite unlike anything else out there.”
-NPR Books

“[Stiefvater] creates her world so fully that it’s a delight to lose oneself in it. Highly recommended.”
-Toronto Star

Acclaim for The Scorpio Races:

  • Michael L. Printz Award Honor, 2012
  • The Odyssey Honor Award 2012 for Best Audio Production
  • Los Angeles Times Book Times Award Finalist, 2012
  • ALA Notable Books for Children, 2012
  • The New York Times Notable Childrens’ Books of 2011
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2011
  • Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, 2012
  • Amazon’s Best Books for Teens 2011
  • School Library Journal‘s Best Books of the Year
  • Kirkus’ Best Teen Books of the Year (2011)
  • Horn Book Best Books of 2011
  • YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012
  • YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2012

Ring-the-Bell TUESDAY & What Are You Reading TUESDAY?

Forgive me–I took President’s Day off. So, today is…

Bell-Ringing TUESDAY


The book I finished this week is:

Summary from Booklist:

At 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a three-year stage IV–cancer survivor, is clinically depressed. To help her deal with this, her doctor sends her to a weekly support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor, and the two fall in love. Both kids are preternaturally intelligent, and Hazel is fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Most particularly, she longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, the enterprising Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. What happens when they meet him must be left to readers to discover. Suffice it to say, it is significant. Writing about kids with cancer is an invitation to sentimentality and pathos—or worse, in unskilled hands, bathos. Happily, Green is able to transcend such pitfalls in his best and most ambitious novel to date. Beautifully conceived and executed, this story artfully examines the largest possible considerations—life, love, and death—with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity. In the process, Green shows his readers what it is like to live with cancer, sometimes no more than a breath or a heartbeat away from death. But it is life that Green spiritedly celebrates here, even while acknowledging its pain. In its every aspect, this novel is a triumph.

This was a very well-written book with snarky dialogue and very grownup situations. NOT a sixth grade read.

[Check out the home of “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading”: Teach Mentor Texts — and the spin-off: Sharpreads]

This week, I am reading:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

And hopefully I will get to…

There is a TON of buzz surrounding this book.

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

And what are YOU reading this week? Please leave a comment so we can stay in touch. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

One of our trailers goes viral…

Well, not quite, but check this OUT!

I Tweeted a thank you and a link to Julia and Shayla’s trailer for Ultraviolet to the book rep (@trkravtin) who sent it to me.  She Tweeted it to the author, R.J. Anderson.

And Anderson responded. Here is the Twitter conversation:

Here is what the trailer looks like on her Tumblr (blog) page.

How does that compare with the “real” trailer?

Visit Monkey See, Monkey Do book store

I was recently Tweeting with a book rep (@trkravtin) who encouraged me to use independent book stores to find and purchase books.

Honestly, Barnes & Noble was always fine for me (I could spend forever there–especially with the Starbucks inside), but I like the idea of supporting private businesses.  I used the link for the IndieBound bookstore finder….

Click here to find a local independent bookstore

….. and found….


How did I not know Monkey See, Monkey Do existed? It was hiding in the very old-looking house in Main Street in Clarence. I stopped by with my wife over a weekend and was treated to hours of “booktainment”.



Back entrance


Monkey-themed shelf in entry.


Reading room. (Taken from a big, comfy chair.)


Additional room for parties, book clubs and such.


I love the rustic features.

After looking around a bit, and owner Kim Krug brewed a fresh pot of coffee for me to enjoy while reading some of the books I found on the shelf. What did I find? I looked through multiple shelves of picture books and snapped a picture of just a couple I was looking for:


This is an instant classic... worth reading for the last page.


A Caldecott Honor book from this year.

I moved on to the middle grade shelves and the YA shelf and found, among others:


An edgy dystopian novel--life after a volcano blows and changes life as they know it. As the blurb on the cover says: "The scariest apocalypse is one that could really happen."


The very highly regarded The Fault in our Stars. I'm reading it now, but it seems way too mature for 6th grade.

Monkey See, Monkey Do has website:


(Click to visit the site.)

And as it says,

If it’s not on our shelves, we will get it.
If you don’t know the full title, we will find it.
If you can’t come in, we will deliver it.

Case in point: I went in looking for the book The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (@gaepol), which has been recommended by members of the Nerdy Book Club. The book was ordered for me and delivered to school. Mrs. Krug was kind and generous enough to throw in a second book for free. What was the last time B&N did that?


I took a photo of my delivery today.

Thank you, Kim–and Monkey See, Monkey Do–for taking such good care of me. You will be my preferred bookstore from this day forward.

Please visit if you can. Check their website for programs and classes that are available. You can even follow them on Twitter (@monkeysread) and Facebook ( FYI: this is not just a children’s book store. They do have–and can order–adult novels as well.

TBR Piles

Do you have a TBR pile? I hope you do. TBR stands for To Be Read.

We’ve talked many times in class about needing to know what book we’re reading next. Brent Peterson calls it a Book on Deck–pretty clever for a Red Sox fan. Readers often have MANY books on deck–hence, a pile. I have encouraged my students to keep a TBR list in the back of their agendas/planners–a place to which they can quickly and easily refer when they are ready for a new book.

Today we celebrate TBR piles.

The Nerdy Book Club (a “club” for anyone who considers him or herself a reader) asked for its members to send in pictures of our TBR piles. They put together this video compilation:

Here is my TBR “pile”, which has taken a digital form in my public library queue, and shows up in the above video at the 46-second mark:



(I’m glad to say that The Fault in our Stars has since come in and is in my BR (Being Read???) pile.

I’m pleased that this TBR piling has been passed down to my children.  Here is a picture I snuck of my daughter’s TBR pile:


In fact, my wife just told me that she counted seven+ books that we are currently reading on our living room end tables. Check this:


Some of those we are reading individually; A Wrinkle in Time and A Monster Calls are read-alouds–the former for my kids, the latter for my wife. (See the Monster Calls post here.)

So… what is in YOUR TBR pile? We’d love to know. We’d also like to see it if you can find a way to link to a picture in your comments.

Now… get reading!

A MONSTER CALLS–Reading aloud

Like poetry, a novel often takes on a new life when read aloud.

In October, I was reading a lot of Twitter chatter about A Monster Calls by an author named Patrick Ness. As a thank-you for some computer assistance I was able to offer, Alyson Beecher (@alybee930) sent me an ARC (advanced reader copy) of the book. I read it on the train to New York City, captivated by the mix of prose and unusual ink drawings.

Here is the book blurb fromt Ness’s site,

A Monster Calls

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Check out the awesome trailer:

And yet it wasn’t until my friend Brent Peterson read it and we started talking about it that I truly appreciated the book. Books can be like that: they are meant to be shared. And the tree of ideas that grows out of a conversation–fertilized by insights from both sides–is a thing of beauty.

If you know the book, you know why I chose tree for that metaphor.

After seeing the book passed around my classroom, and talking with other teachers who have since read it, I knew I needed to read it again. After finishing The Mighty Miss Malone, I knew it was the perfect time.

And still, I wanted to share it with my wife. I had told her so much about it. So as we were finishing dinner the other night I asked her if she’d let me read to her. She agreed, and after the kids were in bed we settled into the couch and I began.

I was amazed at how different the words felt coming off my tongue compared to how they bounced around inside my head. And my appreciation of the book grows all the more. It should be known that my wife was in no hurry for me to stop–38 pages later.

Here is a great recording of Ness reading from the first chapter of the book, followed by an interview with some background (it will pop up in a new window):

I’ll write more another time about the book itself. Perhaps you’d like to borrow a copy–or buy one yourself…

Whatever book you choose, try reading some of it aloud. Read to those older; read to a child; read to your peers. Let the words build a bridge between you.

In today’s Nerdy Book Club blog, Donalyn Miller–AKA “the Book Whisperer”–serendipitously posted about the importance of reading aloud. Check it out.