WHITE CAT by Holly Black

Let’s see…where to start with this one…

Well, first of all, there is the fact that Holly Black’s name looks so cool on the cover of a book called WHITE CAT.  But focusing on that too long is doing the inside of the book a disservice.  Because it’s fantastic – one that teachers will want to hand kids looking for a compelling, fast-paced read.

Set in a world where a touch can be powerful and deadly, WHITE CAT is a magical thriller, loaded with curses, organized crime families, and con artists with dangerous talents. I loved this book, especially the ending (It’s perfect – that’s all I’m saying), and I’m excited to share it with my middle school kids. WHITE CAT is the first in a series called CURSE WORKERS, and it’s one of those titles that both boys and girls are going to love.  I am already kind of tapping my fingers on my desk, wishing the next one would show up. Highly recommended.

(Reviewed from an ARC & available from Margaret McElderry today!)

Books I’ve Loved Lately

I’ve been deep in the depths of revision for the past few weeks — polishing up a picture book and a middle grade mystery.  They are both done (*pause for cheering & confetti here*) and on submission now, and I have big plans for a post-revision reading binge. But before I do that, I want to talk about a handful of books I’ve read lately that you might like, too.  Ready?

Amy Ignatow’s THE POPULARITY PAPERS: RESEARCH FOR THE SOCIAL IMPROVEMENT AND GENERAL BETTERMENT OF LYDIA GOLDBLATT AND JULIE GRAHAM CHANG is the book to hand to your girls who are fans of the Wimpy Kid series.  It’s that same diary/graphic novel blend that keeps even reluctant readers turning pages and laughing like crazy.  Interestingly enough, the main characters in this are in fifth grade, but it’s going over really well with some of my 7th grade girls, even though they’re a bit older.  (Due out from Amulet April 1st)

I can’t keep Lisa Schroeder’s CHASING BROOKLYN on my classroom library shelf – it’s one of those books that gets handed from kid to kid in the cafeteria and never makes it all the way back to my classroom, and that’s just fine.  I understand why the kids love it, too.  Set at the same high school as Lisa’s I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, her latest YA novel-in-verse is about love and loss, remembering and moving forward. It left me in tears, but they were good ones – the kind you cry when you’ve just read an amazing book that’s full of sorrow and beauty and hope all at once. It’s a a beautiful, beautiful book. (Available now from Simon & Schuster)

Fans of Jerry Spinelli’s MILKWEED and Lois Lowry’s NUMBER THE STARS will love ONCE by Morris Gleitzman.  One of my 7th grade students absolutely devours historical fiction set during the Holocaust, and she was waiting for this ARC, standing at my desk, tapping her foot as I turned the last page.

The main character, Felix, begins the story as a unique (and heartbreaking) unreliable narrator. He’s a Jewish boy, hidden in a Catholic orphanage, and utterly unaware of the danger he’s facing. When he sets out to find his parents, he sees evidence of the Nazis destruction but misinterprets much of it, placing himself squarely in harm’s way. Ultimately, though, he’s faced with too much reality to go on believing the stories he’s told himself, and from there, the book chronicles his loss of innocence and his coming of age in the worst of times. It’s beautifully written and though like many books set during the Holocaust, it’s tough to read at times, it’s certainly not without hope.  Highly recommended, it comes out from Henry Holt March 30th.

The premise is simple and kind of horrifying: A 7th grader climbs up into a tree and says he’s not coming down because there’s really no meaning in life anyway. His classmates, u…more So let’s talk about NOTHING by Janne Teller now.  I couldn’t decide at first if I should include this in a post about "books I love" because it’s hard for me to say that I loved this story.  I was mostly horrified by it.  But is it brilliantly well-written? And smart? And thought-provoking? Yes, yes, and yes. Plus, there’s the fact that I finished it a few weeks ago, and here I am still thinking about it, so that means something, too.

The premise is simple and troubling: A 7th grader climbs up into a tree and says he’s not coming down because there’s really no meaning in life anyway. His classmates, unsettled by his proclamation and desperate to make him come down out of that tree, begin to assemble a collection of "meaning," a heap of items… sacrifices, really…that they hope will convince the kid once and for all that there is meaning. The sacrifices start with simple, treasured kid-things and escalate in nature to the truly chilling.

This could make a very, very good literature circles choice for older middle school or high school kids. There’s sure plenty to talk about, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever read, except maybe Lord of the Flies. If you read it, I’d really love to hear what you think. (out now from Atheneum)

And finally, on a far more cheerful note…

This picture book from the author of the DAY-GLO BROTHERS is one of the funniest I’ve read in a long time. The premise is simple – two boys pull toys from a toy box and start a battle with them. One has a shark, the other a train, and the result is a hilarious series of competitions in which Shark and Train face off in everything from high-diving to trick-or-treating. Laugh-out-loud text with fun, lively illustrations and a lot of little details in the art that add another layer of humor for moms and dads reading aloud. Loved it!  (Coming from Little, Brown in April.)

Now I’m reading this…

An ARC of Holly Black’s WHITE CAT (coming from Margaret K. McElderry May 4th), and let me tell you… that Holly Black knows how to get a reader’s attention from page one –   Loving it so far!

What have you read & loved lately?  Anything I need to add to my post-revision reading binge pile?