unRequired Reading Blog

Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo, by Thien Pham, is a quiet tale about a sport of epic proportions. Scott is a twenty-something football player who has missed his shot at NFL glory. Now that his girlfriend has left him, he has no sense of himself anymore. So like any lost youth pining for a change, he moves to Japan to become a sumo wrestler.

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by Dawn Metcalf, et al.

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories

A lot of writers for teens have excellent memories for very painful things. Some remember what it was like to be a targeted teen--the dread of going to school every day knowing what would probably happen, whether it was going to happen in a hallway, a locker room, a classroom, or on a school bus. Being pulled apart emotionally and humiliated was often just an everyday occurrence for them. The usual.

But some writers remember high school very differently. They were the people who just stood to one side AND DIDN’T DO ANYTHING while watching their friends and classmates being bullied. And in a few, a very few, cases they did the bullying themselves. Dear Bully is a collection of reflections of writers for teens who share their true stories of hurt and regret and how these experiences changed them.

I Heard the Owl Call my Name by Margaret Craven

I heard the Owl Call my Name cover

My favorite book when I was in high school was I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven, so I decided to reread it to see how I related to the book now.  Even though it is almost 50 years old, the book is still just as timely and beautifully-written as it was in the 60’s. Perhaps its message is even more important in today’s world.  It is about a young Vicar, Mark Brian, who has been diagnosed with only a few years to live.  His Bishop has been told his diagnosis, but the Vicar has not. 

When the Bishop learns of the young Vicar’s diagnosis he says, “So short a time to learn so much? It leaves me with no choice. I shall send him to my hardest parish. I shall send him to Kingcome on patrol of the Indian Villages.”

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Cover image of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

I have been planning to write a review of Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, since I first read it several months ago. But I kept putting it off. I think I'm afraid that I won't do justice to this amazing book. 

In Seraphina's world, humans and dragons live in an uneasy truce. Fear and distrust runs high on both sides, and interaction between the two is strictly limited. Seraphina is a half-breed who will never belong in either world. In fact, dragons find the very idea of her existence disgusting, and humans would kill her if they discovered her secret. Though she lives in fear of discovery, she refuses to hide away. A talented musician, she becomes the assistant to the court composer shortly before the arrival of the dragons' leader for a state visit celebrating the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty.

Cafe Book Chancellor Middle School: Top Teen Picks 2013

Book cover of Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

The 7th and 8th Grade Cafe Book participants at Chancellor Middle School know a good book when they read one. Here are this year's favorites.

Top Pick:

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Monsters walk the streets of San Francisco and three teenaged descendants of Medusa in Greek mythology must reunite and embrace their fates to overcome them.

Other favorites:

Starters by Lissa Price The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson Michael Vey by Richard Paul Evans

Ultraviolet by R.J. AndersonApothecary by Maile Meloy Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

Starters by Lissa Price

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

Cafe Book is supported by a generous donation from the Carver family in memory of their mother Ruth -- middle school librarian, literacy advocate, and lover of reading.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Alina Starkov has never felt like she belonged. Orphaned and adopted by a duke, Alina meets an equally parentless boy named Mal. The two are inseparable, referred to by the duke's servants as melenchki, little ghosts, as they giggle  throughout the vast house. Of course, such things cannot always stay the same.

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, is set in an alternate version of pre-revolution Russia. In this nation, known as Ravka, the new world is starting to infringe on the old. It used to be the Grisha who maintained order. The Grisha are powerful beings who can manipulate living things, the elements, and metals as if using magic. New weaponry and a multiple-front war are changing all of that though.

The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley

Cover to The Great Good Thing

There are many fantasy books that lead you to other places filled with wizards, royalty, and magical creatures. They provide an escape for their readers.  But what if the characters wanted to escape?  The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, is about a princess who wants something more out of her fairy tale life—if only she can get the chance.  

For ages and ages, no one had opened the book. Just as Sylvia sat weeping in boredom by the edge of the lake, pleading for something to happen, a fan of light began opening in a corner of the sky, sending flashes of color across the water. "Rawwwk! Reader!" screamed an orange bird. "Boooook open! Ooopen! Boook open!" groaned a bullfrog.

The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli

The Magic Circle

"Don't you love it, Mother? We can shut our eyes and pretend we live in a candy house. All candy. Everywhere."

The Ugly One in The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli remembered how her child loved sweets. Asa was beautiful, and her mother tried to give her all the beauty she could though they were poor.

She worked as a midwife in the village where she was accepted for her healing gifts. She took simple things in exchange for her services: some food, a bit of wool, or perhaps a lovely ribbon for Asa's hair.

The hunchbacked woman was simply good, happy knowing that her talents were used to help others. Yet her neighbor Bala knew they would be rich if she could persuade the Ugly One to drive the demons from the burgermeister's son. The Ugly One protested. She was a midwife, an herbal healer sometimes, nothing more than God wished her to be. But when she saw the boy, yellowed and dying from a tormenting demon, she believed that God had given her another path.

In Darkness by Nick Lake

Cover of In Darkness by Nick Lake

"In Darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me.
      One: I am alive,
      Two: there is no two."

In Darkness, by Nick Lake, is set in Haiti immediately after the devastating earthquake of 2010. It is the story of Shorty, a boy who has grown up in a violent slum of Port-au-Prince called The Site. But Shorty's life is somehow interwoven with the spirit of Touissant l'Ouverture, visionary leader of Haiti's slave revolution of 1791 to 1803.