Post Tagged with: "YA readers"

Books to read before the movies come out

Vampire Academy book cover (by Richelle Mead, published by Razorbill)Buzzfeed has produced a terrific list of books to read this year before their corresponding movies come out.

I’m a huge proponent of movies based on books because I think it helps to get kids reading.

I call them “book extensions.” There are many other “book extensions,” including video games, websites and games based on books. Whatever will bring a kid back to the original book is great, as far as I’m concerned.

Harry Potter and Hunger Games are excellent examples of books that have gotten many kids turned on to reading.

The Buzzfeed list includes some adult-oriented films, but a few noteworthy Young Adult (YA) books including the very popular Vampire Academy series and the Divergent series.

Here’s Buzzfeed’s list of books to read.

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Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene BoudreauNo they don’t. They don’t wear toe rings and you wanna know why? ‘Cause when they change from human to mermaid that toe ring flies right off–ping!–to who-knows-where.

Finding her toe ring is but one of the many challenges Jade Baxter faces in the first book in this series. Others are: finding a bathing suit that hides her muffin-top, crushing on a boy named Luke and – being a mermaid sometimes.

I’m not normally drawn to supernatural literature, where the main characters are vampires or angels or werewolves. However, I was intrigued by Hélène Boudreau’s mermaid series for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Jade isn’t a reed-thin, blonde, perky-perfect teenager. She’s — normal — like Boudreau’s readers (well, except for the tail). So readers will find a character who is flawed but endearing and strong. And that’s good.

For another thing, kids do like supernatural main characters so when you find a decent book with a believable main character in one, it’s a significant find. Also, it’s got a rollicking good plot that involves saving Jade’s mother from evil mer-people who are holding her in the sea against her will.

Toe Ring is the first of three books in Boudreau’s mermaid series.

The second one is Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath, in which Jade and her friends take on an eco-challenge.

And the third one, Real Mermaids Don’t Need High Heels (again, so true) comes out in Spring 2013. That one has Jade saving her fellow “mers” as the evil Mermish Council tries to lure them away from land forever.

I understand from her Facebook posts and her website that Boudreau is working on a fourth one, Real Mermaids Don’t Sell Sea Shells.

Although it’s apparently not great to judge a book by its cover, I’ve got to add that Boudreau’s books have lovely covers. Embossed and watery, in a nice way.

Another thing I like about them is that each one contains a very teenager-friendly, decadent (wait for it)… recipe. Each recipe is for something Jade and her friends make in the story. For instance, peanut-butter s’mores (which include the genius addition of a Reese’s peanut-butter cup), or Jade’s Five-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake.




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This passage from Jane Eyre will stay with you

  • May 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm
  • Great books
  • Comments Off on This passage from Jane Eyre will stay with you

Eighteen-year-old Queen Victoria; Image:’m currently nose-deep in Jane Eyre; I came across this wonderful and evocative passage.

Jane has just dashed downstairs to the kitchen to snatch up a hasty dinner for her young charge; she hoped to avoid the fine ladies gathered at Thornfield Hall:

Presently the chambers gave up their fair tenants one after another: each one came out gaily and airily, with dress that gleamed lustrous through the dusk. For a moment they stood grouped together at the other extremity of the gallery, conversing in a key of sweet subdued vivacity: they then descended the staircase almost as noiselessly as a bright mist rolls down a hill. Their collective appearance had left on me an impression of high-born elegance, such as I had never before received.

Is classic literature difficult to read? Yes, sometimes. Is it worth it? Yes, always.

I almost didn't want to put a picture with this post, so as to leave it all to your mind's eye--but then I saw this lovely and appropriate one on the blog Real West Dorset.
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An awesome way to remember “subject” and “predicate”

“Mr. Morton is the subject of the sentence and what the predicate says – he does!”

Thanks to Tina, via her FB page, for this.
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The Hunger Games – not for me

mockingjay pinI think I now have a better understanding of kids who don’t enjoy reading.

Sometimes, it’s the subject matter that puts them off.

Take me and The Hunger Games, for instance.

I have tried to read it several times. But every time I picked up the book… yep, still about children killing each other.

It’s not for me.

I don’t get the whole dystopian thing. I find it creepy, depressing and scary.

But I also get that The Hunger Games, and the whole dystopian genre, is hugely popular with kids. They love it.

The Hunger Games is well-written and compelling. The characters are well-rounded, the world itself intricate and thoroughly thought-out.

But… it’s about children killing each other.

I saw the movie on the weekend.

When the lights went down, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster to a scary destination, from which I couldn’t disembark. And essentially that’s what happened.

From the first moment, when we see how the people in District 12 are living – and all throughout the movie – it’s my version of hell. Watching children living in horrible distress, being set up by adults, and ultimately watching some of them die.

It’s the reason I walked out of Slumdog Millionaire. (Which was billed as “uplifting” – a marketing lie I still haven’t forgiven.)

I didn’t want to see the The Hunger Games, but as a children’s literacy blogger and writer I could no longer avoid this literary juggernaut. I had to get into that rollercoaster and buckle up. (With my 10-year-old, who thoroughly enjoyed every second, wasn’t very disturbed by it, and helped me through the scary bits. “Remember, it’s just a movie, mom!”)

All of this has given me insight into kids who are forced to read material they haven’t chosen for themselves.

No matter how well-written or popular it is, sometimes you’re just not into certain books.

If I were a kid and The Hunger Games was on the curriculum, I can imagine the teacher saying, “it’s a great book! Millions of kids love it!” But it wouldn’t be my choice and all those other kids loving it still wouldn’t make me want to read it.

I’m glad I saw the movie. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to get through the books – although now that I’ve met Katniss Everdeen I do kind of want to know her better.

In the meantime, where did I put my copy of Scott Pilgrim? I need a chaser.

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World Read-Aloud Day is Wed., March 7

wrad2012badgeIt’s very important to read to your child.

In fact, we consider it one of the top three most important things you can do to help your kid develop a love of reading.

Every day – but especially on Wed., March 7 – take the time to read to your child.

Or even someone else’s. Or a bunch of kids. There’s no downside – and a huge upside.

More information on WRAD here.

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Get your kid excited about the news

newspapersEvery week, I do a half-hour presentation at my son’s school on “the news.”

It’s often the best half-hour of my week. And a lot of the kids – and the parents – tell me they look forward to the class.

What I do is pretty simple; you can do it, too. Either at your kids’ school (especially if they’ve got an open-minded teacher like ours) or just at home.

What it will do for your kid is to get him interested in reading the newspaper, following news stories and learning about what’s going on in the world. You’ll be helping him develop a life-long habit of curiosity and general knowledge.

Here’s what I do
I read the newspapers for a week. Simple – most of us do it anyway. So at the end of the week I know stuff, like that Kim Jong-Il died, and that there’s a problem in Syria, and that Sidney Crosby’s out of the game again, and that Justin Bieber’s in Toronto doing a charity concert. In other words – the news.

Then, once a week, I tell the kids about it.

And although it’s a class of grade fours and fives, when I’m talking about the news you can hear a pin drop. That’s because kids are very interested in knowing what’s happening.

In half an hour I might do six or seven stories. The most important thing I do is to use my “adult” knowledge of the world and put events in context. For instance, when an adult reads “Kim Jong-Il has died,” we think “uh-oh – what will that mean for South Korea?” Whereas kids think, “What is a Kim Jong-Il?”

So I open by explaining that there’s a country in Asia called North Korea, and for 17 years it’s been run by guy named Kim Jong-Il… and I explain. I don’t get too graphic and I certainly avoid scary stuff – and I try to point out the positives. For instance, in this case to illustrate his eccentric nature I tell them about how Kim Jong-Il used to dress up as Elvis and sing Blue Suede Shoes. The kids laugh but then they quickly jump to the understanding that if the leader of your country is doing that stuff, it may be amusing but it’s probably not good.

One of the kids in the class is now working on a news website himself. He wants to become a journalist. My son is thinking about a career as a sports journalist. Other kids in the class go home and talk about the news with their parents. One time, I had a parent come up to me and say, “my son explained to me what the G8 is!” So that’s pretty fun.

More than that, the kids are reading. Reading. Seeing newspapers as relevant to them, and not just boring adult stuff.

Since newspapers are not specifically kid-friendly, I point kids to our website,, which offers daily kid-friendly news articles. You certainly don’t have to use this website, but if you need kid-friendly news articles, it’s always appropriate. Plus, it’s free.

However you do it, introduce your kids to the news. You’ll quickly find out that they want to know what’s happening in the world, and not just what the toy companies tell them is important. And it’ll get them reading.


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Why your kid needs a bookshelf

My bookshelfMy bookshelf and my books have been held captive in my attic for eight years.

Last week I hired a professional organizer. Long-story short, my bookshelf is now where it belongs – in my home-office, with all of my favourite books on it.

There’s the Pelican Shakespeare, with the tissue paper leaves; The Tragedies, The Comedies, The Histories and The Romances. This is the Shakespeare that I used to lie in bed with, cram for my mid-terms with, enjoy with a glass of white wine in the days before I was sophisticated enough for red wine.

Timothy Findley, himself, signed that copy of You Went Away. I stood in line, he signed it, I slammed it shut and I scurried away with my autographed copy, like a squirrel with a treasured nut. Later, I opened it to read my sage’s inscription at my leisure, and share it with my friend. To our amazement, and then hilarity, we could not decipher what on earth he had written. “Cordially free”? I looked at her. We peered at the handwriting again. Cordially free? For years, my girlfriend and I would happily greet each other with, “cordially free!” It was only yesterday that I opened it again, 17 years later, and there – clear as a bell – it says “with cordial feelings.”

There is the copy of Marshall McLuhan’s Counter-Blast. Inside the front cover is a plate: Awarded to Joyce Grant of Woburn Collegiate Institute for Outstanding Achievement in CREATIVE WRITING; Dated this 20th day of February, 1981. A fittingly formal kick-off to what will prove to be a lifelong career in writing (albeit, not every word of which will turn out to be either creative or outstanding).

The first-edition Gone With The Wind from my first husband — now himself, gone with the wind.

My Norton Anthologies, from which I’d proudly slogged through The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost – until someone years later pointed out that both were “abridged,” and doused any hope I had of bragging that I’d read either of them all the way through.

Every book on my shelf tells a story.

I pass my fingers over the embossing on the covers. I open the older books and riffle the pages to smell the memories. The sight of my bookshelf, back where it belongs, by my side in the room where I write each day, almost makes me cry.

And that is why your kid needs a bookshelf of his own.


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The School for the Insanely Gifted, by Dan Elish

School for the Insanely Gifted by Dan ElishI heard about this book and thought it sounded interesting.

Long-story (oh-so-long!) short, I ended up having to get a review copy sent to my vacation-hotel in California because the publisher wouldn’t ship to Canada.

Was it worth it? Yes. Memorable characters and interesting premise. Things get a little wild and crazy in the middle, which became a bit distracting for me, but of course that’s just the sort of stuff kids love.

It’s a story about a bunch of gifted kids who run into some bad guys and use their own gifted creations to get away from them.

Here’s my precis.

The School for the Insanely Gifted, by Dan Elish
Daphna writes music that puts people into a trance. Harkin has developed a flying car. And Wanda is designing a bridge from New York to Moscow.
If these are the projects the students at the Blatt School for the Insanely Gifted are working on, just imagine what Mr. Blatt himself is creating!
As Daphna and her fellow students prepare for the upcoming Insanity Cup competition, they’ll also have to solve the riddle of her mother’s disappearance and reveal the enormous secret Mr. Blatt is hiding from the world.
Join in a race around the globe as the kids try to outrun the bad guys using their own inventions, clues from Daphne’s mother and their insanely awesome brains.

Probably the thing I like most about this book (besides main characters Daphna and Harkin) is the author. Dan Elish has written a number of kids’ novels, and lives in New York with his wife and two kids; he seems. from our email correspondence when he helped me obtain a copy of his book, like a truly nice guy. Check out his website.

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Advice from a young author: Dare to suck

Do you have a kid you’re trying to encourage to write more?

Is your kid discouraged because she’s worried that her writing isn’t good enough?

Here’s some great advice from a young author, Maureen Johnson, who is currently working on her 10th novel for teens.

She will tell your kid (in her own inimitable way) that in order to write well, first you need to suck. (3:56 but it goes fast.)

Here’s a link to Maureen’s website.

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