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Insignia — Vortex — Catalyst

The first two books Insignia and Vortex were so popular in my classroom I had to purchase multiple copies of each of them.  The boys would tear through them — read them faster than any other books that I had in my room.  Vortex was published last year and I remember a young man crumpling to the floor as I told him the third one was not out yet, and I didn’t even now when it would be.  “Why do you do this to me?” he asked.  “You shouldn’t even put books on the shelf until the whole series is published.”  

Here are two reviews from past students about the first book:


Insignia Review and Top 10 Books 

Last week at the Teen Book Club held at Red Balloon Books in St. Paul, one of my students grabbed two ARCS of the third book, Catalyst.  One he hoarded for himself — his review is at Derpy Reviews, and the other he handed to my son Quinn.  My son is sometimes reader.  He’ll read if he’s into a book, but he doesn’t always have a book going.  He’ll tell you his favorite book ever is Ready Player One, (his review) and he most recently devoured Grasshopper Jungle.  He told me — “Now if more books were like this one, more kids would read!”  He was handed Catalyst on Friday evening.  He finished the book on Sunday morning.  He read all day on Saturday and declared it a great ending to the series.  

I think this is a must have series for a middle school classroom.  Catalyst will be released on October 28.  

What are you reading Monday?

The Thickety: A Path Begins

Currently reading: The Thickety  and it is as wonderful and scary as the person who recommended it to me said.  For the kids who liked Doll Bones this will be a must read.  Good adventure, good strong girl character and a bit scary.


Finished over the weekend: Landline. (Grown-up Read!)   I really enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s writing.  Take a story of someone unraveling, both their marriage and emotional stability, and then make it funny.  How does she doe this?  How does she take something heartbreaking and make me giggle?  And although I loved the writing, and the story, in the end I didn’t much care for Georgie McCool and her character.  She made me mad…. I just wanted her to stop and enjoy her own kids and not be so anti-mother.  But don’t worry, I’ll keep reading this same author.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

In the car I listened to: The Raven Boys.  This is one of my favorite authors.  My daughter and I were on a bit of a road trip as I attended nErDcampMI, an edcamp for teachers.  On our way home we stopped in Madison, Wisconsin to attend a book signing.  We also stalked the parking lot for her famous blue camaro.

photo (20) photo (22)


What are you reading this week?

Non-fiction? Mrs. Severson’s Favorites!

I grew up with dad who watched lots of Nova and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (and golf — but that is irrelevant for this list!)

My dad knew that knowing stuff was important, and the world that we live in is interesting. As much as I am a fan of fictions, I also love a great non-fiction book. I’m always on the look-out for non-fiction that is interesting to the middle school reader.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous  

I think there are a couple books in this series right now.  The books are funny, but the facts and the stories are there.

   Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy  

Nathan Hale…. writing about Nathan Hale.  What could be better?  There are now four books in the Hazardous Tales series.  For a student who loves history, these are great books.  Yes, they are graphic novels, but they are dense books — stuffed with facts and side-bars.  I adore these books.  Warning:  The Donner Dinner party is a bit gruesome — but it is based in historical events!

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and MaryAmelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia EarhartThe Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum

I love all of Candace Fleming’s non-fictions stories.  There are lots of pictures, and side-bars and a sense of humor that keeps reader’s interested.


Other great books…. 

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science

Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Inventions

I love the Tony Robinson’s books.  They are really accessible and funny — but full of facts.  I’ve had to order a couple that I wanted through UK books stores (through Amazon).  




What Are You Reading Monday?


During the summer months I really push myself to read lots and lots.  I follow the twitter feed for #bookaday and set a goal for myself to read a book a day.  Does this happen?  Rarely — but it does give me motivation to set aside extra minutes to finishing books.  Last week I found myself on a family trip to Iowa.  I finished two books early in the week and two books during the trip.

I Kill the Mockingbird

I adored this book.  It focuses on three students who are assigned summer reading.  This isn’t a drag for them because they love to read.  Inspired by a past English teacher they conspire to raised demand To Kill a Mockingbird and try to create buzz about reading the book.  They start small, but the project starts to get out of their control.  The book is funny and smart.  I did feel like the book subject matter and the reader might not match up.  Most of the kids I have known that read TKAM, do so in late eighth grade or high school.  But the book felt like it was written more for middle grade readers.  Do students need to have the background knowledge about TKAM in order to understand the references?  That is the question I want to figure out.  I’ll be asking for readers to really give me feedback about this book.  I think it would make a great read aloud for either seventh or eighth grade.

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside

Second book I read was Starbird Murphy and the Outside World by Karen Finneyfrock.  I first read this author two years ago.  I loved her book, The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door.  Every student that I have given it to has found it funny, but also full of truths.  It is a book that I would give to anyone that has felt picked on, or on the outs with the popular kids.  When I saw that Finneyfrock had published another book, I knew that I had to pick it up right away.  Starbird is a book that also explores the themes of being on the outside of the normal society. Starbird has been raised on a commune, and she travels to the city to work at the restaurant owned by the commune.  I can’t say too much more without giving things away.  The theme of belonging and fitting in, and yet staying true to yourself is a theme in this book as well.  This is one of my favorite things for kids to read about.  We all struggle with belonging, but I think even more so as a teenager. Pick up this book — you will enjoy the adventure with Starbird.  (Side note, this book really reminded me of the Lauren Groff book,Arcadia. (Link to the Goodreads review of Arcadia.)

Guy in Real Life

I also finished the book Guy in Real Life.  I’ll be honest — this book was a slow go for me.  Part of it was school was wrapping up and I was sick, and the other part of it was this book was work for me.  There are many, many references to gaming online and role playing games.  I just didn’t get it.   It took work for me to try to make sense of it for me.  But, towards the end, when I was able to dedicate an hour to the book (thanks oil change!) I really started to enjoy it.  The action started to pick up and it was very sweet.  Someone recently told me that this looked like a girl book.  I have to disagree.  First, I don’t really like girl book/boy book distinctions.  Secondly, this book is told from a male perspective.  I really think boys would like this book.   I also really liked that the book took place in St. Paul and if the RPG references confused me, at leasts the setting was familiar! And one more fast read I finished last week…

West of the Moon

This one I picked up because it is already getting Newbery Award buzz.  Hmmm…. I just don’t know about this one.  While I liked the story, and the references to all the folk tales, I just don’t know who the audience is for this book.  I don’t know if kids will pick it up for fun reading. Other books that are in progress…

Between Two Worlds      Three Bird Summer           An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)

Books I hope to start (and finish) this week:

Searching for Sky            Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander, #8)

What are you reading this week?  Post it here and let me know!

The Boy on the Wooden Box

The Boy on the Wooden Box

By: Leon Leyson (Leib Lejson)

Review by: Jack F., 8th Grade

Publisher: Atheneum

Page count: 206


Little Leib Lejson loved the city life in Kraków, Poland that his parents worked so hard to create for him and his five siblings. But then the Germans were every where, in the city, on the streets and his home. Suddenly all his friends were his enemies all because he was a Jew. He lived in the ghettos, through the Płaszów work camp and miraculously along with him and his dad, mom and two of his siblings found their way onto the infamous Schindler’s List. Oskar Schindler became the savior of his and 1,200 other Jews life.


This book, oh my gosh. The assignment in my English class was to read a Holocaust novel, I have been through the history unit of World War Two and wanted nothing to do with the horrors inside of a concentration camp. But that was the assignment and this was my book. I cannot even imagine the things that happened and this book helps with that, I am horrified that this is non-fiction and not a fake story. But this is the truth and this is what happened in our world. This heart wrenching and shocking story will capture you and stay with you. Read it.

¨Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.¨ George Santayana


I would recommend this book to…

  • People who like non-fiction
  • People interested in World War Two
  • Anyone looking for a heart wrenching and incredible novel


¨Not even the scariest of fairy tales could have prepared me for the monsters I would confront while just a boy of ten… Or for the hero, disguised as a monster himself, that would save my life¨

-Leon Leyson


Spring Break Reading Selfies

Micayla M, 7th grade

Over the spring break, I read five books.  When I read, I like to be in a very quiet place.  For example, I prefer to read in my room, the family room, or the living room because those places are mostly quiet.  I enjoy reading in my room because I sometimes mouth the words or read out loud.  I think mouthing the words and reading out loud helps me remember what I read because I actually say the words.  Before I read, I make sure that nobody  will distract or bother me while I am reading, and I make sure that I have a warm blanket and pillow because then I feel cozy and will not want to put the book down.  Overall, my favorite place to read is in my bed right before I go to sleep because sometimes I even dream about the book in my sleep.


Of all of the books I read over break, I liked them all, except for one.  I did not like Because of Winn-Dixie because I felt that it was boring and mostly talked about the main character’s summer adventures.  I felt like it was on that topic for too many pages of the book.  I was actually surprised that I did not like the book.  It looked interesting, but it really lost my interest half way through the story.

Of the books that I liked, it is hard to decide which one is my favorite book.  In the book House of Danger, you can have different adventures every time you read it.  As you read the book, you have options on which adventure path to take by turning to different pages at certain places throughout the book.  This book was really interesting and caught my interest from the first chapter.

I absolutely loved Asylum, which was about horror, thriller and mystery.  This book was really suspenseful, and it was actually scary to read.  It was scary to read because of what the characters were finding throughout the asylum.  It was a really creepy story because it talked about past lives that happened in the asylum.

The next book, Tomorrow Girls, is actually two books.  The first book was titled Behind the Gates, and the second book was titled Run for Cover.  I liked Behind the Gates because it was in first person, and I like books when it is in first person or when it is based on one person.  I liked the mystery and all of the information the main character, Louisa, and her friends find out.  The book takes place in 2018, and there is a war going on in Chicago.  The story takes place when the kids are sent to a safe camp.  The futuristic setting and how the things today are old to them is also interesting to me.

I liked Run for Cover because it is more mysterious and occurs in a different place.  The story changes from the safe camp to the forest.  I really liked that the story continued in a different setting.  This book caught my interest within the first couple of chapters, and I just kept reading.  It was really a fun book to read.    pic2.jpg


Book Selfies!


Claire, 8th Grade

While I was in Mexico on break I read two books. The first book I read was This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith.. This is What Happy Looks like is a really cute, fun, romance book. Of all of the books I have read by Jennifer E. Smith this book is my favorite. The book is about a superstar named Graham Larkin and a ordinary girl, Ellie O’Neill. One day Graham accidentally sent Ellie a email about his lost pig. These two teenages start emailing back and fourth. When Graham finds out where Ellie lives is the perfect place to shoot his movie, he and the crew hop on a plane and head up to Maine. Graham searches for Ellie all over and when they meet it’s like magic, but Ellie doesn’t want to be all over the media.

The second book I started was Great by Sara Benincasa. I am still not really sure what this book is about because I am currently reading it.  So far what I like in the book is Naomi Rye’s (the main character) attitude, she is funny and snarky. I haven’t read a mystery book in a while so I wanted to try it.

While on break some of my favorite places to read was on the beach in Mexico, on the porch by the ocean, and by the pool. I read a lot in Mexico because I just love that picture of reading on the beach. I read on the beach a lot because in some movies when the girl is reading on the beach a cute guy comes over and flirts with her. I also loved having my toes in the warm sand with the sound of the waves in the background. So that is what and where I read over break.