Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Winterwood Winterwood
by Shea Ernshaw

ISBN-13: 9781534439412
Publication date: November 5th, 2019 by Simon Pulse
Purchased through Owlcrate

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

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I very much enjoyed Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw. The story takes place over less then a week, in a snowed in cottage area in the mountains. There’s a spooky,aggressive forest, a bottomless lake and a camp for wayward boys. Add in our main character Nora, and we have the makings of a moody, tense, mystery with a smaaaaall love story. Just the way I like it!

If you like character driven plots with wonderfully detailed backstory teased throughout, mysteries and only the simplest of teenage romance than I think you’ll enjoy Winterwood. The writing is beautifully descriptive and I lost myself in Nora’s witchy world. Oh yes; did I mention the witches? 😉

Review: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown

ISBN-13: 9780316381994
Publication: April 5, 2016 from Little, Brown BYR
Purchased by me

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her…

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The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is a class favourite. It has taken a number of years to find decently long chapter books that are suitable as read alouds for my grade one/two class – children aged 5-8 (it’s quite a range!) and The Wild Robot is a winner. It’s written in amazingly kid friendly language using a fantastic mix of “big” words and simple sentences in a vivid visual manner, and the narrator often speaks to the audience. The story doesn’t shy away from the often harsh aspects of life for wild animals (and wild robots) living on a wild island. It speaks of death plainly and matter-of-factly, but also the beautiful moments of living in and with nature.

I read The Wild Robot near the end of the school year, around March – my kiddos are more mature and I leave myself enough time to read the sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes if they ask for it. And they always do. Students become attached to Roz and Brightbill and the other animals of the island, and need to know what happens after the end.

I found this story perfect for helping students visualize, infer and predict. Chapter titles help students predict what will be happening next, and they use their knowledge of the characters and the island to read between the lines in many scenes. The illustrations are nice additions to their own visualizations.

The Wild Robot is a book that is here to stay in my classroom!

New Decade, New Look!

Whew. Hi friends. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Last time we really spoke it was 2015 and I was in my first full year of teaching elementary school. In addition to that, I moved in with my boyfriend officially becoming a homeowner to a fixer-upper. Between those two things, my reading really suffered. I stopped buying books, and though I read for half an hour every day, it was to my students! I re-read many favourites that year.

Since that year, I’ve made the switch to lower elementary, teaching grade 1/2 combined, adopted two beautiful amazing cats, got engaged, have gone through no end of renovations to the house, have a new niece and my parents moved an hour away. And now I’m trying to plan a wedding amidst COVID-19 and all the social distancing and event closures that comes with it. I’ve already accepted a honeymoon may not happen, but I’m holding out hope for my July 11 wedding. I’m on scheduled March break right now but school has officially closed for two weeks after this – and that may be extended if things get worse. The first cases have appeared in my province and I haven’t left my house except to walk around the block in four days.

All this to say – I need books right now. I need to read, and escape reality for a little bit. So I’ve cracked open a book for the first time in literal months (since last August I think) and brushed off this blog with a new look and new direction. Reviews will bo short and sweet, and I’ll have a lot of educational literacy content. I feel excited to dive back in to this blog: I missed it! In the meantime while I finish some posts, here’s a picture of my two best girls: Roxi and Freya.

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Review: It Should Have Been a #GoodDay by Natalie Corbett Sampson

GoodDayIt Should Have Been a #GoodDay
by Natalie Corbett Sampson

ISBN-13: 9-780987-994103
Publication: February 2016 from Clubhouse Press
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

Sometimes a situation is not what you think it is
The new girl — Emily had hoped to leave a painful event behind her by starting at a new school, but it looks like that’s just a pipe dream.

The golden boy — Brogan was the big man on campus until a knee injury had him sidelined. Now he’s struggling to hold on to his top dog position while dealing with the fact that his life is falling apart.

The popularity seeker— Thomas desperately wants to be one of the popular kids. He can feel it in his grasp, as long as he doesn’t let his nice guy status get in the way.

The heart of gold — Henry doesn’t know he’s different, although everyone else at his school does. And the popular kids have no problem letting him know he doesn’t fit in every chance they get.

As they go through an ordinary day of negotiating halls, classes and the baggage of their lives, each of them has no idea that their paths will cross in such a way that will change their lives forever.

Sometimes what should have been a #GoodDay turns out to be the worst day of your life.

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I read It Should Have Been a #GoodDay by Natalie Corbett Sampson in two sittings. The first chapter took me a bit by surprise – Henry’s narration is written in a way that I didn’t expect when opening the book. But by the time I had read the first chapters for Henry, Emily, Brogen and Thomas, I was hooked.

Taking place over the course of one school say (not even a full day), It Should Have Been a #GoodDay follows the same events from the points of view of four very different teenagers. In between each narration, are snippets of chat from the students in the school, letting you see glimpses into our four characters lives from others around them. I am completely attached to every one of these four characters, but Henry – oh Henry. I see some of my former students in him and I worry about their journey to high school. I have to say, I did not see the ending coming, at all. I was guessing that something was going to appear, but it come from not the character I was thinking of. I ache for Thomas and his mother, and Henry. I feel for Emily and both am grateful and upset at Brogan at the same time.

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It Should Have Been a #GoodDay breaks your heart. It immerses you into the world of high school today. Through phones, apps, chat and the harshness that can be a teenager, this book made me glad I’m not a teenager today. Of course it’s not the same for all students, but oh man. As a teacher I can tell you – this is very accurate. Ms. Sampson does an amazing job of portraying a tough subject and all the small details put into her writing have you holding your breath and wishing the students could see into each others brains. So many crossed wires and mixed signals. This is a great read and I highly recommend it!

e-ARC provided by Savvy Fox in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: George by Alex Gino

George George
by Alex Gino

ISBN-13: 9-780545-812542
Publication: August 2015 from Scholastic Press
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

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Librarians are wonderful people. My school librarian knows my love of YA and MG lit, and a few weeks ago put this book into my hands. She had just bought it for the school and hadn’t even put it into the system yet. She just said “read it.” So I did – finally. And oh my gosh. Beautiful. George is a fantastic book, and a great character.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is my first time reading a book with a main character who is transgender so I don’t have a lot to compare to, but I think the author did a fantastic job. If I hadn’t read the back of the book, I would have immediately assumed George was a girl in both gender and sex. Alex Gino uses “her” and “she” pronouns throughout the entire book, right form the beginning – the only thing that clued me in to the fact that George was born with a male body (besides the blurb) was the language used by friends, classmates and family in reference to George. It’s easy to see right from the first chapter who George is. She is someone who knows implicitely who she is, but being only ten, is struggling to be herself outside of her own throughts and feelings. I could and would never begin to understand the struggle of trying to explain that you are not who everyone thinks you are. Especially for a ten year old! To want everyone else to accept who she is on the inside and not what they see on the outside? George has a strong heart to not give into the fear of what others will think or say. That fear is there, of course, but she has to be true to herself first and foremost.

5 heartI loved that George had loud, outgoing support in the form of her best friend Kelly, and quiet comfortable support in her brother and principal. Mom struggles a little more, but George is her baby – it’s going to take some time. But you see the glimmer of acceptance begin. It’s inspiring to experience George’s confidence grow as she gets to let parts of true self shine through the school play and a visit to the zoo. Part of the grade six sexual health curriculum in my school board revolves around sexual identity and I think after I return this to my librarian, I’ll go strongly hint that the grade six teacher seek out this book as a read aloud.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

Waiting On Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Rules for Stealing Stars big Rules for Stealing Stars
by Corey Ann Haydu
Publication date: September 29, 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books

Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she’s too little for most things — especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and outbursts. This summer, Silly feels more alone than ever when her sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter and gold hair that looks like tinsel.

When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she’s soon forced to wonder if it could tear them apart.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Waiting On Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

The Marvels big The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Publication date: September 15, 2015 from Scholastic Press

Two seemingly unrelated stories – one in words, the other in pictures – come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.