Ms. Bixby’s Last Day- Book Review

Ms. Bixby's Last DayMs. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad this book was my last read for 2016. It is full of friendship and life. It also broke my heart in the best possible way. Usually sad MG books are not my thing because rarely do they offer any kind of realistic and uplifting moments. Many have endings that seem contrived and thrown together. When I picked this one up I was worried that it would be one of those books. One of my co-workers highly praised this one as a great middle grade read and make sure I had a box of tissues ready. She wasn’t wrong. It exceeded my expectations.

Topher, Steve, and Brand have one of the “Good ones.” Ms. Bixby is a teacher who makes you want to come to school. She sees the good and is truly one of a kind. When they learn that she is very sick and will leave their school before the end of the year, they come up with the ultimate plan. It will take courage, humor, and some clever negotiating skills to pull it off. Told through through three different perspectives, we learn about how one life can change the future.

What I loved:

Each character except for one, felt like a real person. Topher, Steve, and Brand feel like actual 6th grade boys. Each one has a different story and they all highlight the joys and pitfalls of friendship in the best possible ways. The friendship between the boys was realistic and sweet. It never felt fake or forced. I think that many MG students will find a piece of themselves in this story. I really liked that the story was broken into little bits. It made me want to keep reading. There were little twists and revelations that made the book very hard to put down.

Ms. Bixby is a teacher that all educators should strive to be. She is not perfect, but she is kind and compassionate. Her illness and story really make you feel like there is more to life than awards and accolades. It’s about the lives that you change for the better. Her character made me remember all the wonderful teachers I had growing up who saw more in me than that I saw in myself.

A tiny issue-

The only thing that I didn’t care for was part of the mission that these boys set out on. I felt that their goal of getting all these items off their teacher’s best last day list was pretty realistic except for the alcohol and it’s not for the reason that you think. Their run in with the creepy tattoo guy was the part that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. I feel like it could have been left out and the story would have been just as great. They already had a confrontation with a teacher and had a few other more realistic crisis moments thrown their way. The fight with the 28 year old guy was the only thing that didn’t fit. Having him take their money.. sure makes sense. Three 6th graders chasing down a grown man and giving him the beat down? Not so much.
I would have liked it better if they had realized that they didn’t need everything on the list to make a perfect day. But, this part is so minor to the rest of the story that it didn’t affect me that much.

Overall feel-

This is a good one for middle grade students. It is realistic where it counts and has enough humor to overcome the super sad parts. The ending is sweet and well written. It left me a teary sad mess at 1 a.m. I can see this being a classroom read aloud and I think it will turn up on many state award lists in the coming years. It is one of my favorite reads for 2016.

View all my reviews

Seasonal Passive Programming for YA

We do a lot of passive programming in our teen department. Most of it is themed and seasonal. Some of it follows special library events such as Banned Books Week. The most popular at our library is anything that involves art or drawing. I have a really creative group of kids that like to leave drawings around the library. We have a bulletin board in the department and I try to display as much as I can so the teens feel at home. Here are some ideas from our fall and winter displays. All of these ideas can created using die cuts.

 

Fall: Graffiti your Gourd 

The clever title was a suggestion from a post I made in Teen Services Underground. Thanks Jeretta! I think the pumpkins turned out amazing! I didn’t want to take them down for winter!

img_7832

 

Winter: Do you want to design a snowman? 

This one came from one of my teens. She sings this particular snowman song all year long and very loudly. I did have to toss a few snowmen due to carrots in inappropriate places. Other than that, they kept it clean! The snowman wearing the Led Zepplin shirt is my favorite!

img_8001

 

Passive Winter Prompt: Caption this Pet edition

This one is always entertaining. I love the this prompt. The “Caption this” idea came from Sherry at our Brentwood branch! We do this a few times a year at different branches with silly pictures or geeky movie stills.  I use post-it’s for the captions to cut down on the stuff I have to erase for being inappropriate. I also only put out pencils!

img_7997 img_7998

As you can tell it’s finals week, so a few of my teens are pretty stressed out!

 

Do you do passives in your teen area? What are your most popular prompts? I would love to hear about them. As always feel free to steal these ideas! If you use the photos, please be sure to credit the source.

Holiday YA Books

Are you in the mood for a bit of Holiday Romance? Check out these titles:

festive-holiday

 

Titles:

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares- By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily- By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

What Light- By Jay Asher

Ex-Mas- By Kate Brian

Let it snow- By John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Decked with Holly- By Marni Bates

Top Ten Clues you’re Clueless- By Liz Czukas

Books make great gifts

The holidays will soon be here and one of the best things to put on your shopping list is books! This past weekend our library had their top 2016 books you can gift to friends and family. I’m tackling the YA list and to be honest, it’s been a bit of a tough year for groundbreaking YA titles. I have seen lots of amazing sequels, prequels, and series finales. But I am still waiting on the next big trend in YA. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I have talked with quite a few colleagues and they all feel like we are in the dreaded “what’s after Hunger Games” slump. Which is sad because there are some wonderful books getting overlooked while we wait for the next big breakout title.

My goal with this post is to highlight my top 5 picks from my presentation that would be great for Middle and Young Adult Readers. It is by no means exhaustive, since there are tons of great books that I have missed getting to read this year. My TBR pile is massive! I would also love to hear some of your recommendations. If you have a book or books that everyone should read and/or gift please let me know in the comments below.

Historical Fiction for Teens

Salt to the Sea- By Ruta Sepetys

By far this is one of my top 3 favorites for 2016. It is heart wrenching and beautifully written. Told from the perspective of 4 teens who are seeking freedom on the Wilhelm Gustloff during WWII, we learn the heavy price of perceived freedom. The sinking of this ship claimed 9000 lives and is one of the worst little-known disasters of WWII. I had never heard about this ship until I read the book. It’s tragic, raw, and the pace is very fast. This is a good one for teens that love well researched historical fiction.

 

Fantasy Fiction for Teens

 Rebel Of The Sands- By Alwyn Hamilton

This books is a mix of western and fantasy with dash of romance for good measure. It has some familiar elements from Arabic mythology but does a good job of coming up with an original story line with lots of adventure. Amani is a talented sharpshooter with one fatal flaw, she is a girl. Determined to get out of her dusty town she dresses as a boy and enters a shooting contest. When chaos ensues and she is on the verge of being discovered, she takes off into the wild desert sands with a boy who is not who he seems and has the entire army of the Sultan after him. There is lots of action and adventure with a romance that doesn’t take over the whole plot. This is a good one for teens that liked “Girl of Fire and Thorns” and other stories with a strong female lead.

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Night Parade- By Kathryn Tanquary

Saki leaves the comforts of Tokyo and her friends for to visit her Grandmother in the Mountains. Her family gathers there to take part in the yearly Obon ceremony to honour their departed ancestors. Bored out of her mind, Saki decides to cause some mischief in the graves with some local “cool” kids. However, all that messing about at the shrine has stirred to life an ancient curse. A curse that will lead Saki on a night time journey through the most fantastical parade on earth, with special  guides who are not quite what they seem. She only has a few days to set things right before she is trapped in the land of the dead forever.

This book would be a good choice for fans of “Spirited Away” and other popular Studio Ghibli films. It has a bit of a slow start, but readers will soon be caught up in the adventure and the magical creatures they meet along the way. 

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Inquisitor’s Tale- By Adam Gidwitz

One night in the year 1242, a man hears a story about 3 amazing children and their magical dog. The tale starts in France with a capture, follows them to a castle where they dine with a King, expands as they save a kingdom from a dastardly farting dragon, and ends at Mont Saint-Michel where they will attempt to thwart the burning of ancient texts. Can these children really perform miracles? Did their dog really come back to life?

This book is hilarious and full of adventure. Not only are you reading a story in the text but there is another story happening in the margins of each page. Which tale is really the truth? Gidwitz is a master of gross out humor and dark twists. This was one of my favorite books of the year and a ton of fun to read. Perfect for readers who like snark, blood and guts, good adventure, and lots of laughs. 

Realistic Holiday Fiction for Teens- 

What Light- By Jay Asher

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—and every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. Sierra has always lived two lives and this year she is missing home more than she expected. When she meets a cute local boy with dark past, will she learn about forgiveness or will with rumors end their relationship before it even gets started? 

This was a wonderful book and perfect for the holidays. I so enjoyed reading this and it totally warmed my heart. It’s sweet and has a nice message about the power of forgiveness and trust. A total fluffy romance that is perfect to read during the holiday season.

 

 

Moving and other fun news!

Dear readers-

This year has been a bit crazy and I have not kept up with blogging on a regular basis. To add to the craziness of 2016, we are moving!! My hubby has accepted a job in Colorado and will report there in January. I get the lovely task of packing and attempting to sell the house. This also means I am leaving my Library. This news makes me so very sad, because I love where I work and I adore my teens. It is going to be a big change and I am hoping to jump back into the library world as soon as possible. Being a Teen Librarian is the most rewarding and challenging job I have ever had and I hope I can get back to it as soon as the move is complete.

For now, my blog will mostly be book reviews and the occasional programming post. I want to add as many programs as I can so I can keep record of all the awesome things we did at my library this past year. This also means some of the links on my other posts might be broken once I leave my current job. I am working hard to move all my documents to a better sharing platform as soon as possible. If something looks hinky let me know and I will personally send you your request.

I’m also excited to announce I am a final round judge for the Cybils Awards!!! I’m so honored that I get to help choose the award for Middle Grade Fiction. If you are unfamiliar with the Cybils Awards check them out here.

The Cybils

I hope everyone has a Happy Turkey Day with friends and family! Be sure to read a good book after all the festivities!

~Valerie

Geekarella- By Ashley Poston

GeekerellaGeekerella by Ashley Poston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Sometimes you need a book that is lots of fun, a little unbelievable, and utterly charming! Geekerella is that book.

Cinderella is re-imagined as the ultimate fangirl with a wicked stepmother and posh upscale wannabe stepsisters. Elle, is a Starfield superfan and a devoted blogger. When she is not slaving away under the critical eye of her step-monster, she is dreaming and plotting her way to freedom and her own happy ending. When she gets a chance to enter a cosplay contest dressed as her favorite character from her beloved fandom she decides to go all out. Even if it means meeting the new star of the show that is way to perfect to be real.

Darien Freeman is an up and coming teen star with a secret geeky past. When he gets the lead role in the new Starfield reboot he is both thrilled and terrified. Can he win over the mega fans and do the character justice? Or will the blogger world, his controlling father, and one creepy stalker, ruin his chance to play his all time favorite character on screen?

What I liked:

This book was fun. I really needed it to be fun, silly, a bit romantic, and to hit me in the geek girl feels. It happens to do all three. I like that this book is lighthearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The romance is predictable and it has it’s cheesy moments, but that is what I wanted as a reader. It’s a fun nerdy twist to the well known Cinderella story and I had fun suspending my belief and enjoying it from a fangirl’s point of view.

What came a bit short:

It is a bit predictable, which some readers might not like. It doesn’t break any new ground and it tends to be a little bit silly with the giant pumpkin food truck. But I didn’t find them to be big flaws. Just something other readers might not enjoy.

Final thoughts and recommendations:

This book is just fun. It’s silly and full of geeky references and has a cute made for the movies romance. Think “Princess Diaries” and “A Cinderella Story.” I had a lot of fun reading it and I think teens looking for a fun lighthearted book about what it means to be a fan with a light romance and some silly humor would enjoy this book! It’s going on my list of Great Geeky Reads at our library!

View all my reviews