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: Lies We Tell Ourselves (Talley)

AUTHOR: Robin Talley
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Teen
PUBLICATION DATE: Sept. 30, 2014
ISBN: 9780373211333
PAGES: 304
SOURCE: publisher’s ARC
GENRE: historical fiction
GIVE IT TO: HS

SUMMARY: On the first day of her senior year, Sarah Dunbar faces hatred, scorn, and racism when she and eight other African-American students enroll at the all-white Jefferson High School in Davisburg, Virginia in 1959. Linda Hairston, a pretty, popular white girl, at first hates the new black students, but when she is assigned to work with Sarah on a French project, she begins to see the other side of the school desegregation controversy.

IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: peanut butter fudge–the rich storyline will give readers lots to chew on; take small bites and enjoy

WHAT I LIKED: So many things! First off, I have a personal connection with this author and this story. Author Robin Talley and I grew up in the same hometown and lived there (Roanoke, VA) around the same time. The story is set in a fictional town in Virginia, but there was a Jefferson High School in Roanoke that closed before I was born. It had been there for 50 years, so it was around for the desegregation movement. The old JHS building has been converted into a community center, but what a cool history that building has!

So I knew going in that I was going to at least identify heavily with the setting. But there were so many other things I loved about this book! I love the alternating viewpoints between Sarah and Linda. I love the authentic dialogue and Talley’s attention to detail. I love the girls’ strength, even though they come from two very different worlds. I love the way the chapter titles are the lies that Sarah and Linda tell themselves in order to get themselves through the day. I love the way Judy’s port wine stain marks her as an outsider, forever setting her apart from her white peers.

And the writing! This is Talley’s debut novel, and I hope to see more from her in the future. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen an author who so clearly cares about her characters. It’s almost like Talley is an artist painting every single detail–hair and skin and eyes and lines–of someone she loves. Talley takes her time establishing the girls’ families, hopes, fears, appearance, social life, strengths, and weaknesses. The dialogue is so authentic, I can almost see the look on Sarah’s face when Linda says something Sarah doesn’t agree with. I feel like I really know these girls, that the characters in this story could actually live in my neighborhood or be students at my school.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: For all my gushing (and it does sound a lot like gushing!), I think Talley took too big a bite of the issue pie. Of course, we have racism and female gender roles in the south–kind of a given considering the 1959 setting–but the addition of child abuse, spousal abuse, alcoholism, and homosexuality is just too much.

Don’t our protagonists have enough to deal with considering all the racism and sexism they face every single day? By the middle of the story, it started to feel “piled on” rather than part of the story. And I’m really so sad about that because this character-driven story doesn’t need a lot of hot-button issues to gussy it up.

In this case, less is definitely more.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Lies We Tell Ourselves is a beautifully-written, heartbreaking story of friendship and desegregation in the south. Too many social issues detract from character and plot.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don’t have it; better for high school audiences.

READALIKES: Lions of Little Rock (Levine)

RATING BREAKDOWN:

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

CONTENT:

  • Language: medium-high; frequent use of “n-word” and other racial slurs
  • Sexuality: mild-medium; homosexuality, slut-shaming, crude sexual remarks, allusions to teens having sex
  • Violence: medium; lots of crude name-calling, spousal and child abuse, brutal assault
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; alcoholic parent
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