Need a Good Book to Read?

At North View Middle School we believe that our students education does not end when the school bell rings. Because of this belief, I would like to use this post to recommend books for your middle level learner to engage with at home. Please read the information provided by Allison Sirovy, an 8th grade English teacher at North View Middle School, below to put a great book in your students hands. If your interested in a good book, consider reading “A Long Way Gone.

A story of war written through the eyes of it’s youngest victims. I started reading it on Sunday and haven’t been able to put it down!


I Was Too Busy Reading

I apologize, folks. I did not write a blog about Black authors like I said I would, and I feel terrible about that. Sometimes, I forget about this blog because I am too busy reading, and I feel like reading middle grade and YA books is a requirement for my position as 8th grade English teacher because I need to keep up with amazing authors for my students. It’s not a bad gig!

Because I failed in my attempt to celebrate Black authors, this blog will focus on a bunch of authors who are authors of color and write with young people of color as their main characters. It’s such a great time to be a reader of middle grade and YA literature! Support your authors of color!

Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

I finished this book a few minutes ago, and that’s what prompted me to write a new blog post. This book is a must for all to read! Author Samira Ahmed creates a strong story with Maya Aziz as the protagonist. Maya is torn between two worlds: her parents world and what she wants for herself.

Goodreads blurb:

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir 


Okay, I finished this book in about a day once I had time to read it. I am not a fantasy fan, but . . . OMG! This book is amazing!! Romance (in all different directions), action, corruption, morality, magic – this book has it all! I am waiting anxiously for the second book, A Torch Against the Night, to be delivered to our local indie book store – Buffalo Books and Coffee. (FYI – Support your local book stores!) One of my 8th grade students and I are fighting over who gets to read the second book first since she is waiting for me to pick up the book when it comes in. (I might be selfish with this one and read it before her.)

Goodreads blurb:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

American Panda by Gloria Chao

I was laughing out loud on the first page, so that was a good sign! Author Gloria Chao weaves parts of her life story and other’s stories into one fictional story about Mei, who like Maya from Love Hate & Other Filters, has to determine if she wants to lead the life she wants or the life her parents want for her.

Goodreads blurb:

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Watched by Marina Budhos 


I didn’t rate this book as high as the other three books in this post, but it is a decent book. It simplified things a bit too much for me, but I think that simplification would actually work for the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders who read it. It’s a deep topic, so the simplification might help kids understand better.

Goodreads blurb:

Marina Budhos’s extraordinary and timely novel examines what it’s like to grow up under surveillance, something many Americans experience and most Muslim Americans know

Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.

Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero—a protector—like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?

Acclaimed author Marina Budhos delivers a riveting story that’s as vivid and involving as today’s headlines.

On a side note . . . I read a few other books along with these since my last post, but they were just okay and I didn’t find much value to them as an adult reader reading with kids in mind. Not gonna share those.


 You can learn more about great books for middle school students and connect with Alison Sirovy here.
If you have any questions about this or anything else related to North View Middle School please connect with me here or follow me at @NVMSPrincipal.

Need a Good Book to Read?

At North View Middle School we believe that our students education does not end when the school bell rings. Because of this belief, I would like to use this post to recommend books for your middle level learner to engage with at home. Please read the information provided by Allison Sirovy, an 8th grade English teacher at North View Middle School, below to put a great book in your students hands.


 In an effort to get folks thinking about guns and the deadly harm they inflict, I am recommending some books that focus on gun violence. Some of these books I have read and some my students have read. I recommend that teens and adults read these books. We owe it to the younger generation.

Please feel free to leave a comment or suggest a book. Thank you.

This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp 


Goodreads Blurb: 10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds 

 
Goodreads Blurb: 
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick 

 
Goodreads Blurb: Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate, Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting look at a day in the life of a disturbed teenage boy, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out. 

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult 


Goodreads Blurb: In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five….In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.

Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens — until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town’s residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.

Nineteen Minutes is New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult’s most raw, honest, and important novel yet. Told with the straightforward style for which she has become known, it asks simple questions that have no easy answers: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who — if anyone — has the right to judge someone else?

Shooter by Walter Dean Myers 

 
Goodreads Blurb: The groundbreaking and widely praised novel about a school shooting, from the acclaimed author of Monster. Multiple narratives, a personal journal, and newspaper and police reports add perspective and pull readers into the story.

“Questions of guilt and innocence drive the plot and stay with the reader,” said Hazel Rochman in a starred Booklist review. “Highly readable.”

“A haunting story that uncovers the pain of several high school students,” according to Teenreads.com. “It explores the tragedies of school violence and how the result of bullying can go to the most dramatic extreme. Myers has a gift for expressing the voices of his characters. Shooter is not a light read, but it will leave you reeling.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon 

 
Goodreads Blurb: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Homeboyz by Alan Lawrence Sitomer 

 
Goodreads Blurb: When Teddy Anderson’s little sister Tina is gunned down randomly in a drive-by shooting, the gangstas who rule the streets in the Anderson family’s rapidly deteriorating neighborhood dismiss the incident as just another case of RP, RT-wrong place, wrong time. According to gangsta logic, Tina doesn’t even count as a statistic.

Teddy’s family is devastated. Mrs. Anderson sinks into deep depression while Pops struggles to run both the household and his declining laundry business. The Andersons are shocked still further when Teddy is arrested and thrown in prison for attempted homicide after his elaborately laid plans for revenge against his sister’s killer are foiled by the cops.

Teddy soon finds himself out of prison on house arrest, and in the capable hands of Officer Mariana Diaz, the smart, tough probation officer assigned to oversee his endless hours of community service. As part of the innovative rehabilitation program Diaz runs, Teddy is assigned to tutor Micah, a twelve-year-old orphan and would-be gansta.
As Teddy goes through the motions of complying with the terms of his probation, Diaz has no idea that he is using his genius-level computer hacker skills to plot his final vengeance and to defraud the state education system of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But even though Teddy thinks he knows it all, he fails to see how Micah’s desperate need for love and trust just might have the power not only to pierce all Teddy’s defenses, but to save his family.

 You can learn more about great books for middle school students and connect with Alison Sirovy here.
If you have any questions about this or anything else related to North View Middle School please connect with me here or follow me at @NVMSPrincipal.

Need a Good Book to Read?

At North View Middle School we believe that our students education does not end when the school bell rings. Because of this belief, I would like to use this post to recommend books for your middle level learner to engage with at home. Please read the information provided by Allison Sirovy, an 8th grade English teacher at North View Middle School, below to put a great book in your students hands.


 Thank Goodness for School Libraries!

I’ve been reading social media posts lately about schools that don’t have libraries. WHAT?? No libraries at some schools? Have we lost our minds as a society? My heart breaks when I hear this. Why aren’t parents, teachers, kids, community members, community leaders shouting from the rooftops about the importance of school libraries and the importance of school librarians? School libraries should be the community center of a school.  Take a look at the importance of school libraries from the American Library Association: Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students.

With that being said, I’ve been checking out books from our library at North View Middle School. Our Media Center Specialist does an amazing job at keeping our school library up-to-date and relevant for our sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Our students and staff are incredibly lucky to have so many amazing middle grade and YA books to choose from.

Here are some of the books I’ve read over the past month, and many of them are in our school library. Enjoy! Happy I Love to Read Month!

(Next blog will focus on Black History Month and great reads from black authors!)

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

My review on Goodreads: Young and old should read this book. If trees could talk, they would teach us a lot about ourselves.

Goodreads Blurb: 

Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui 

My review on Goodreads: What a beautiful and amazing book! I can’t wait to share Thi Bui’s memoir with my students!

Goodreads Blurb: 
An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.


At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

My review on Goodreads: This book tore my heart apart and kind of put it back – just kind of.

Goodreads Blurb: 

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman 

 
My review on Goodreads: Loved. This. Book. Don’t want it to be over.
Goodreads Blurb: 
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.


But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

North of Happy by Adi Alsaid
 
My review on Goodreads: Don’t know how this book has a rating of under 4 on Goodreads. I was skeptical at first. How good could a book about cooking be? Well, it could be amazing!! I am a sucker for realistic fiction and realistic fiction by all of these terrific new authors, so I’m not surprised I loved this book. There are so many fabulous authors out there – diverse authors – who give readers a chance to experience a different world. Adi Alsaid’s books. Read them. At least this one. I’ve only read this one, but I will be reading more of his books.
Goodreads Blurb: 
 
His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the

US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas 

 
My review on Goodreads: Ollie is a born storyteller, and Mo is a super hero in disguise. Two boys who can never meet captured my heart from the first page. This book will not disappoint although it will break your heart at times – humans can be so cruel.

 
Goodreads: 
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

La Línea by Ann Jaramillo 

My review on Goodreads: Quick read but a read that is worthwhile. I hope people will take the time to read this book, especially those who believe “illegal” immigrants are the terrible people Trump and the GOP make them out to be. When it comes down to it, people are people, and we need to take care of one another no matter our country of origin since countries are arbitrary lines made by humans.
Goodreads Blurb: 
Miguel’s life is just beginning. Or so he thinks. Fifteen-year-old Miguel leaves his rancho deep in Mexico to migrate to California across la linea, the border, in a debut novel of life-changing, cliff-hanging moments.
But Miguel’s carefully laid plans change suddenly when his younger sister Elena stows away and follows him. Together, Miguel and Elena endure hardships and danger on their journey of desperation and desire, loyalty and betrayal. An epilogue, set ten years after the events of the story, shows that you can’t always count on dreams–even the ones that come true.

 You can learn more about great books for middle school students and connect with Alison Sirovy here.
If you have any questions about this or anything else related to North View Middle School please connect with me here or follow me at @NVMSPrincipal.

Need a Good Book to Read?

At North View Middle School we believe that our students education does not end when the school bell rings. Because of this belief, I would like to use this post to recommend books for your middle level learner to engage with at home. Please read the information provided by Allison Sirovy, an 8th grade English teacher at North View Middle School, below to put a great book in your students hands.


 Knowledge Is Power

“The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.”
~ David Bailey, English photographer
I don’t know about you, but our country’s politics make me feel anxious and sad every day – not for me but my students. My students are the most amazing 8th graders, and they rise up to my high expectations day in and day out. Yet . . . many of my students have obstacles that they are trying to overcome: poverty, homelessness, racial inequities, religious discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, immigration issues, parental incarceration . . . The list could go on and on, and still my students come to school because they know that “knowledge is power.”
Some days, I wonder if I truly am helping my students. There is so much hate in our country right now. Too many Americans look down on my students because of their race, social economic status, religion, and so on. Is the fact that I show up to school every day going to make a difference in my students’ lives? I have hope that I do make a difference.
My main focus is helping the kids to understand that reading and writing gives them power – power to beat the system and power to be who they want to be. My students are reading books with characters like them (mirrors) and reading books about characters not like them (windows). With all of this reading, my students are able to see our country and the world from multiple perspectives, which gives them power – power to help make the world a better place.
Because I have such a diverse group of students, I read quite diverse books. I love middle grade and young adult novels because I feel more connected to my students that way and I can help my students find books that speak to them.
I have to give a quick shout-out to our amazing Media Center Specialist, Anna Teeple, because she has a way with helping our most “still developing” readers find books they love! It’s a team effort at our school, and I appreciate all of her support with our students. Thanks, Anna!
Now, on to the books I have read recently that I hope you will enjoy as well . . .
Posted by John David Anderson 
 
This is a must-read for all middle school students, parents of middle school students, teachers, administrators, counselors, you name it. It delves into the topic of how words really do hurt and how we treat others. I plan on using this for a read-aloud in my Advisory class soon. This book will definitely make for good classroom conversations.
Goodreads blurb: In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.


When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch series, book #2) by Nnedi Okorafor 

 If you are into fantasy books, this is the series for you. I enjoyed the first book Akata Witch and enjoyed the second book in the series as well. It’s great to have books to share with my students that take place in other countries, and this book takes place in Nigeria, from which I have several students. It’s a fun, fast-paced, and intense book that gives the reader a different view of the world.

Goodreads blurb: A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
 
I didn’t start out loving this book. I didn’t like the main character because I felt she was the stereotypical, upper-middle class white girl with typical problems. She seemed standoffish to me and a little self-centered, but . . . about forty to fifty pages in I had to check myself. I was being critical of a character because of my preconceived notions – exactly what I tell my own children and my students not to do because people are dealing with issues that are usually hidden. The main character, Bailey, is dealing with problems, and I shouldn’t have judged. Well, I loved this book! It reminded me that books give us knowledge and help us to be more empathetic, which is what I obviously needed.
 
Goodreads blurb: The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green 

 

 
Author John Green has the ability to take the lives and emotions of teenagers and turn them into books that everyone loves. Now, I know John Green is famous for his novel The Fault in Our Stars, but that wasn’t my favorite books of his. I love his many other books that feature quirky teenage characters from all walks of life.Turtles All the Way Down doesn’t disappoint. Aza, Daisy, and Davis are truly likable characters, each dealing with their individual problems.

Goodreads blurb: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

 You can learn more about great books for middle school students and connect with Alison Sirovy here.

If you have any questions about this or anything else related to North View Middle School please connect with me here or follow me at @NVMSPrincipal.

Need a Good Book to Read?

At North View Middle School we believe that our students education does not end when the school bell rings. Because of this belief, I would like to use this post to recommend books for your middle level learner to engage with at home. Please read the information provided by Allison Sirovy, an 8th grade English teacher at North View Middle School, below to put a great book in your students hands.


 New experiences . . . all from my living room couch

 I apologize for not writing on this blog for a few weeks, but I’ve been hooked on reading so many great books (and teaching 8th grade English)! In looking over my most recent reads, I’ve read books ranging from a Native American childhood in the Southwest to an Egyptian girl, who was sold as a slave at eight years old to a wealthy family.

These books have made me cry, have made me laugh, and have made me think about how lucky I am to live the life I live. Reading lets me experience the lives of others without ever leaving my couch, and I am so thankful that middle school students and high school students have a multitude of fabulous books by fabulous authors to chose from. Here are the four books I have read in the past four weeks:

Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood by Ednah New Rider Weber

I’ll be honest; I usually judge a book by it’s cover. That’s terrible – I know, especially since I’m an English teacher, and this book had sat in my closet for over a year because I didn’t like the cover. Well, I finally decided to read it, and I wonder why I waited so long. It was an eye-opening book. The author, Ednah New Rider Weber, shares brief stories about her childhood – about her friends and family and her times at an Indian boarding school, which she, along with thousands of other Native children, were forced to attend by our government in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ms. New Rider Weber has a way of telling each story with heart yet at the same time making each story brief, so she can share as many of her wonderful (and heartbreaking) stories as possible.

Goodreads blurb (a really quirk blurb that doesn’t do the book justice): EdNah, a seven-year-old Pawnee girl, goes to live with a father she hardly knows on a Navajo reservation after her grandmother dies.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson


Just read this book! That’s all I need to say.

Goodreads blurb: Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall
 
Recently and over the past several months, there have been news stories about human trafficking in the United States and across the globe, but it never really dawned on me what was truly happening to these children, teens, and adults who were sold into slavery or captured into slavery. Shyima Hall’s story begins in Egypt where she is a happy child even though she lives in abject poverty. At eight years old, she is sold by her parents to a wealthy family in Egypt; this family eventually leaves Egypt and takes Shyima with them to the United States to be their slave from before sun-up to well after sundown. There is a happy ending to this real-life story, but that happiness comes slowly to Shyima.
Goodreads blurb: Shyima Hall was born in Egypt on September 29, 1989, the seventh child of desperately poor parents. When she was eight, her parents sold her into slavery. Shyima then moved two hours away to Egypt’s capitol city of Cairo to live with a wealthy family and serve them eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. When she was ten, her captors moved to Orange County, California, and smuggled Shyima with them. Two years later, an anonymous call from a neighbor brought about the end of Shyima’s servitude—but her journey to true freedom was far from over.

A volunteer at her local police department since she was a teenager, Shyima is passionate about helping to rescue others who are in bondage. Now a US citizen, she regularly speaks out about human trafficking and intends to one day become an immigration officer. In Hidden Girl, Shyima candidly reveals how she overcame her harrowing circumstances and brings vital awareness to a timely and relevant topic.

Patina (Track series, #2) by Jason Reynolds
 
If you’ve never read a book by Jason Reynolds, I highly recommend everything he has written! Reynolds has a way of getting to the heart of the characters in his story and making his readers want to finish one of his books in one sitting.

Patina is another one of these books. It is the second book in his Track series. (Ghost was the first one in the series, which

I also highly recommend.) Patina, a.k.a. Patty, will have you cheering her on as she deals with her mom’s illness, her new school, and doing her best to take care of everyone around her, including her younger sister, Maddy.

Goodreads blurb: Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

You can learn more about great books for middle school students and connect with Alison Sirovy here.

Pic of the Day: Literacy O’ Lantern


At North View Middle School we recognize the fundamental importance of literacy to expanding life opportunities for our students. As a result of this understanding, we work diligently to ensure that literacy is alive in our building and in our student’s lives inside and outside of the school day. Because of this belief, we make every attempt to get students and their families engaged in our literacy engagement opportunities. 

This year for example, our school hosted our first “Literacy-O-Lanternsevent in our Media Center for students and their families to enjoy during parent-teacher conferences last night. Armed with Sharpies and a pumpkin, hand picked by one of our Reading Teachers, they were able to decorate the pumpkins with characters from a children’s book or their imagination. This year’s event will conclude with an opportunity for our students to continue their work after school on Tuesday. 

Our ultimate goal is to foster a genuine love of reading within our school communities, and to get kids talking about their favorite books. Our hope is that events like these will provide them with an opportunity to become avid readers. 

If you have any questions about this or anything else related to North View Middle School please connect with me here or follow me at @NVMSPrincipal.

Fantabulous Summer Reads!

At North View Middle School we believe that our students education does not end when the school bell rings. Because of this belief, I would like to use this post to recommend books for your middle level learner to engage with over the summer. Please read the information provided by Allison Sirovy, an 8th grade English teacher at North View Middle School, below to put a great book in your students hands.


Hello!

We are about halfway through our summer vacation here in Minnesota, so it’s time to share what I’ve been up to with my reading life! The books are listed in order from most recently finished to least recently finished.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

First off, let me say that I am not a fan of fantasy. My 14 year old daughter loves fantasy books.  Me? Not so much, so I was hesitant to pick up this book and start reading it even though I purchased it at our local book store (Buffalo Books and Coffee in case you are interested!  Also, support your own local and independent book stores!)  Anyway, the book hooked me from the very beginning with a wonderful and true main character – Sunny – her companions (Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha), her teacher Anatov, and her mentor Sugar Cream (gained her name from a childhood peculiarity).  I also loved the fact that it took place in Nigeria, and, at times, would give a different perspective of America, which we Americans need at times. Plus, it’s book 1 of a series. The second book comes out in October, which I will definitely be buying!
Author Nnedi Okorafor

Here is the Goodreads summary of the book:

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
 
Ooooohhhhh, I loved this book!!  For some reason, I have a difficult time choosing books with a male main character.  Books with female main characters usually speak to me, but this book with a male main character is AMAZING!!  I loved Sal – Salvador! He is a real American teenage boy, not the stereotypical American teenage boy we see on television and social media, but a boy who is confused about what his life holds, tries his best, is a good friend and son, and has a good heart.  I loved this book for the fact that what we see on the outside isn’t necessarily what’s inside a person.
Goodreads summary: 
 
The first day of senior year:


Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

Flying Lesson and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh
 
This book is a collection of short stories written by famous authors like Kwame Alexander (The Crossover) and Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass). Ellen Oh, the editor of this book, founded We Need Diverse Books, and this is one of her projects to get books written by diverse authors into the hands of children and teens.  If you don’t like sitting down and reading a whole book with one story at a time, you can read this book story by story.  I promise – you won’t be disappointed!
Summary from Goodreads: 
Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill(who by the way lives in Minneapolis and whose daughter attended South High School by Lake Street in Minneapolis – support your local authors!)
This book is a beautiful story, written in beautiful language, with beautiful characters.  I could not put this book down, but I had to because I wanted the book to last forever. It didn’t last forever, and that breaks my heart. I want the story to continue . . . I’m not going to say much about this book except you won’t want to put it down. It will captivate you!
Goodreads summary: 
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

Enrique’s Journey: The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother by Sonia Nazario
 
This is a tough book to read, not because it has difficult words or anything, but because it’s a tough topic.  It’s especially important right now with the anti-immigrant feelings and ideas being spoken in our country currently.  What would you do in Enrique’s situation? What would you do in Enrique’s mother’s situation.  This is the young reader’s version of the adult version Nazario wrote after hearing about Enrique’s story and then taking his journey herself.  You won’t be disappointed, and you might have a better understanding of what propels young and old to come to the United States.
Goodreads summary:
 
 An astonishing story that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about immigration reform in the United States, now updated with a new Epilogue and Afterword, photos of Enrique and his family, an author interview, and more—the definitive edition of a classic of contemporary America

 
Based on the Los Angeles Times newspaper series that won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for feature writing and another for feature photography, this page-turner about the power of family is a popular text in classrooms and a touchstone for communities across the country to engage in meaningful discussions about this essential American subject.

Enrique’s Journey recounts the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, eleven years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States. Braving unimaginable peril, often clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains, Enrique travels through hostile worlds full of thugs, bandits, and corrupt cops. But he pushes forward, relying on his wit, courage, hope, and the kindness of strangers. As Isabel Allende writes: “This is a twenty-first-century Odyssey. If you are going to read only one nonfiction book this year, it has to be this one.”

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
 
There is no easy way to get around this.  This book is heartbreaking.  I knew a little about the war and genocide in Cambodia during the 1970s but not much. Ung’s personal story of destruction and then hope makes this a must-read for everyone. Warning: It can be graphic at times, but I truly believe that is important in understanding what Loung Ung and her family experienced. It breaks my heart that this time in world history is barely mentioned in American schools.
 
Goodreads summary (which doesn’t do the book justice): 
Chronicles the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, from the author’s forced ”evacuation” of Phnom Penh in 1975 to her family’s subsequent movements from town to town and eventual separation.

You can learn more about great books for middle school students and connect with Alison Sirovy here.