Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday Shout-Out: Zac & Mia (Betts)

PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
NUMBER IN SERIES: standalone
GENRE: Realistic Fiction
READALIKES:The Fault in Our Stars (Green); This Star Won't Go Out (Esther Earl); My Sister's Keeper (Picoult); A Walk to Remember (Sparks)
Today's Saturday Shout-out goes to Zac & Mia by AJ Betts. Ms. Betts came to visit our school earlier this school year, and let me just say, she was absolutely riveting. My students, grades 6-9, and our teachers absolutely ADORED her! If your school ever has a chance to get Ms. Betts to speak to your students, do not pass up the opportunity. She was fabulous!

On to Zac & Mia. I haven't read this title yet, but I did recently purchase it for my Nook for $1.99. Yay! Though I haven't read it, my students have been all over this book. Thanks to The Suzhou Bookworm (who shared Ms. Betts with us), Ms. Betts signed the five copies The Bookworm donated to our library. Every one of them was checked out by the end of that day! At one point, we had 17 holds pending for Zac & Mia.

I'm sure some of the frenzy to check out Zac & Mia was due to the success of Ms. Betts' presentation with our students. I figured it would die down, and to an extent, it did. But students who read the book continually read it quickly and said they really loved it. I saw a girl and a boy at different times, with their noses buried in Zac & Mia. Neither of these students were avid readers, but they were engrossed in this book. Students recommended it to their friends, and holds took longer to fill because students were lending it to friends before they returned it to the library.

This has easy comparisons to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and students looking for "kids with cancer" books will find much to love from Zac & Mia. Professional reviewers from SLJ and Horn Book do compare the two titles, but they also say that Zac & Mia stands on its own next to The Fault in Our Stars. It does seem to be quite similar, so I will be interested to read the book to see if I agree with the other reviewers.

I will mention that the author AJ Betts is an English teacher who works with hospital-bound teens. She wrote this story for one of her teen cancer patients, who died suddenly while she was writing the book. Ms. Betts said that she stopped writing it for awhile because she didn't see any reason to continue with it.

TIPS FOR BOOKTALKING THIS BOOK: I am a big proponent of booktalking a wide variety of titles, even if you haven't read them. It does take some practice, but if you only booktalk books you have read, your students are missing out on great titles that you haven't read. The truth is, you can't read everything in your library. Some tips for booktalking this series:

  • If at all possible for your school, Skype with Ms. Betts or bring her to your school. She is Australian, so you may want to see if other schools could help with expenses or check to see if she is doing a USA tour. She was a huge hit at my school--you won't be disappointed!

  • Compare to The Fault in Our Stars. Even though reviewers say the two books are different, they clearly have a similar premise that will appeal to John Green fans. Ms. Betts' website FAQs also addresses comparisons with The Fault in Our Stars (scroll down about halfway). This would be fun to share with students as well.

  • Show video of Ms. Betts talking about her experiences as a teacher in a hospital oncology ward for teens:

Have you read Zac & Mia? Is it popular with your students? How similar is it to The Fault in Our Stars? Share your thoughts in the (CAPTCHA-FREE!) comments section below.

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