Young Adult Lit

This summer I am on a quest to read all of the 2015 & 2016 Rebecca Caudill nominee books. This is kind of an Illinois thing, so let me explain (copied and pasted from their website):

The Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award is an annual award given to the author of the book voted most outstanding by students in grades four through eight in participating Illinois schools.

The award is named in honor of Rebecca Caudill who lived and wrote in Urbana, Illinois, for nearly 50 years. The award is given in recognition for her literary talent and the universal appeal of her books which have touched the hearts of many children and young adults.

Any school in Illinois with students enrolled in any of the grades four through eight and agreeing to meet the requirements may participate in the program. Any public library in Illinois serving students in grades four through eight (from schools that are not registered to participate) and agreeing to meet the requirements, may participate in the program.

There is a chance I may teach reading next year, so I want to brush up on my YA literature. This isn’t exactly painful for me as I often prefer young adult books to adult books. I’m not sure exactly what this means about my maturity level but let’s just leave that be.

So far, I have read four. All of the reviews I also post on my classroom Facebook page. Click the titles to see the titles on Amazon and to read a plot summary.

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook


My thoughts: My favorite narratives are those told in a creative way, and this book did not disappoint. Structured around the tales of the family cat, Zook, the story is really about a young girl and her brother trying to make their way in a world without their father. In English class I always say, “Let the reader into your head”, and this author did an excellent job of letting the reader in. Five stars to this book. I read it all in one sitting–I couldn’t put it down.

Navigating Early


My thoughts: I had to read about two thirds of this book before I became really interested in it, but I’m no quitter and I saw it through. The last third was quite spectacular, though, and I’m glad to have experienced it. I also think boys would become interested a lot more quickly than I did. The story is about a young boy who is sent to a boarding school right at the end of World War II. There, he meets another boy who most likely has either autism or Aspberger’s, although it would not have been called such during that time period. The main character follows his new friend on a very unusual and very risky quest, and through this journey he learns to “navigate” his new friend “Early”, and also himself. Like The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, the story is told in a creative way, and you are able to connect the dots, as the author says, at the end.

A Monster Calls


My thoughts: This book is well-written and thought-provoking, but so, so sad. I have a hard time with books that are so very sad. It’s a story about the struggles of a boy whose mom has cancer.

Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin


My thoughts: This was a lighthearted, fun book about a boy unfortunately named “Rump”, who lives in a land where your name is your destiny. Maybe Rumpelstiltskin has just been sorely misrepresented in the traditional fairy tale all along.

Do you like to read YA lit? Have you read any of the Caudill books? Here are the lists: 2015 Caudill Nominees and 2016 Caudill Nominees.

The Divergent Series & Some Good Writing Tips

I haven’t posted in a few days because of this:

and this

and this

The Divergent series. It’s so hard to put down. I just started the series on Friday and I’m about halfway through book 3. Here’s a synopsis of Divergent from Goodreads.com:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

The books are similar to, but better than (in my opinion) The Hunger Games. They are also similar to the series Uglies and The City of Ember. All of these series are about the end of the world as we know it, due to some type of world war destroying  most of civilization. They are about mini societies that are created as an attempt to solve the problems of the world. These societies include a controlling government, which the heroic main characters (teenagers) attempt to change or outsmart. I can see why teens and pre-teens like them–who doesn’t like a story in which the adults have it all wrong and the teenagers are solving the problems? Even Harry Potter is a story about kids taking charge and making things right.

I don’t adore these books, but they are pretty good. They are hard to put down (all of the series I mentioned are actually). I do like them better than the Hunger Games. They are just not my style, really. I love books like Wonder and Okay for Now and The Secret Life of BeesOf all of the futuristic, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it books, the Divergent series is my favorite. If you like this genre, you will LOVE this series.

In Googling some images for this post, I came across the blog of Veronica Roth, who wrote the series. She has some really great blog posts for aspiring writers!  I plan to share some of these with my students, who get frustrated when writing isn’t always easy and when editing isn’t fun. There is a whole list of her writing posts at the bottom of her FAQ page. If you are an aspiring writer or a teacher of aspiring writers, you must check them out!