LIBRARY IDEA FOR NOVEMBER:

THANKSGIVING TRIVIA GAME: Looking for zero-prep Thanksgiving activities for middle school? This trivia game helps keep your students learning and engaged, even in the days before a holiday break. It’s zero-prep for you, and text and images are 99% editable.

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CHILDREN OF RAGNAROK:

Since Ragnarokthe great war between the gods and the forces of chaos—the human realm of the Midlands has become a desperate and dangerous place, bereft of magic.

Sixteen-year-old Eiric Halvorsen is among the luckier ones—his family has remained prosperous. But he stands to lose everything when he’s wrongly convicted by a rigged jury of murdering his modir and stepfadir. Also at risk is Eiric’s half-systir, Liv, who’s under suspicion for her interest in seidr, or magic. Then a powerful jarl steps in: He will pay the blood price if Eiric will lead a mission to the fabled Temple at the Grove—the rich stronghold of the wyrdspinners, the last practitioners of sorcery.

Spellsinger, musician, and runecaster Reginn Eiklund has spent her life performing at alehouses for the benefit of her master, Asger, a fire demon she is desperate to escape. After one performance that amazes even herself, two wyrdspinners in the audience make Reginn an irresistible offer: return with them to the Temple to be trained in seidr, forever free of Asger.

Eiric’s, Liv’s, and Reginn’s journeys converge in New Jotunheim, a paradise fueled by magic and the site of the Temple. They soon realize that a great evil lurks beneath the dazzling surface and that old betrayals and long-held grudges may fuel another cataclysmic war. It will require every gift and weapon at their command to prevent it.

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Review: Playground (Jackson)

AUTHOR: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Razorbill
PUBLICATION DATE: January 1, 2012 (originally published 11-1-11)
ISBN: 9781595144348
PAGES: 272
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: realistic; urban
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS boys

SUMMARY: Thirteen-year old “Butterball” is overweight, unpopular, and poor. His parents’ recent divorce sent him to a new school last year, and since he no longer has any friends, Butterball has eaten many lunch periods alone in the boys’ bathroom stall. Butterball does not get along with his overworked mom, and he misses his dad terribly. When Butterball beats up a classmate with a sock full of batteries, things seem to improve a little, causing Butterball to wonder if life as a bully is the answer.

READALIKES: Tyrell (Booth); Myracle’s Boys (Woodson); Camo Girl (Magoon)

RATING BREAKDOWN:

  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 4/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:

  • Language: moderate; several asses, damns, mofos, a few sh**
  • Sexuality: mild; homosexuality
  • Violence: moderate; two fights involving a sock full of D batteries
  • Drugs/Alcohol: moderate; teen boys get drunk (not the narrator)

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it, but I added two copies to my next order. I will have no problem moving this book in my library and recommending it highly to boys, especially my resistant readers. A must for middle school libraries. UPDATE: 6 months later, Playground is one of the most requested books in my library. We now have 7 copies, and all are checked out/on-hold. Our 8th grade English team is considering reading it with book groups next year.

WARNING: The reviews on this site are intended for librarians who need thorough book reviews in order to make informed purchasing decisions. As such, anything below this warning may contain mild spoilers. I try not to give away too much, but I do review the entire book.

WHAT I LIKED: Who knew I would love this book? Having never heard of it, I decided to give it a whirl mainly because of the colorful front cover and who the author is. Narrator “Butterball” is likeable, even though he is angry, violent, and oh-so-far from the perfect kid. His voice is genuine, and many teen readers will see themselves in him. Push all that anger and “fronting” aside, and he is a scared, insecure 13-year old kid whose life is spinning out of control despite his efforts to look cool and fit in with the kids at his new school.

Butterball’s parents are clearly drawn and realistic; it’s refreshing to see realistically flawed parents who are so central to the story, so important in Butterball’s life. I love that Butterball initially idolizes his dad (despite his incredibly hurtful comments to his own son), but Butterball slowly recognizes his father’s shortcomings. Butterball’s embarrassment concerning his mother’s homosexuality is totally realistic; half the book goes by before he will even admit the truth to himself.

The writing style is uncomplicated, and the action keeps the plot moving at a nice speed. For me, it was a page-turner; I really cared about Butterball and wanted to see how things would turn out for him. I read the whole book in one sitting.

Small illustrations scattered throughout do little to enhance the story, but they help break up the text a bit, making Playgroung a fantastic choice for reluctant readers. I showed the illustration of Butterball eating in the school restroom all alone to my seven-year old son, and we had a nice conversation about why the boy was eating lunch in the bathroom. Interesting that, though I didn’t tell him so, my son knew he was in there because of bullies.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: It’s rare that I have no criticisms, but truly, I loved the whole book. Middle school teachers and librarians, this one is a keeper!

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