Category Archives: survival

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

140127095838-25-young-adult-book-awards-horizontal-gallery1With four starred reviews and a Pura Belpré Award on the cover, I knew this would be a good book. What I didn’t realize is that I would stay up until 1:30 in the morning reading the last chapters, needing to know how everything turns out for Piddy Sanchez. This is a gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story that ultimately offers hope in the power of making our own choices in life.

Publisher’s description:  One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has reached a cross-roads and has important choices or decisions to make

* struggles with poverty, or needs to be introduced to someone who does

* is being raised by a single parent

* is exploring what it means to be part of a particular culture or to straddle more than one culture (Piddy is bullied by Yaqui in part because Yaqui doesn’t think she is “Latina enough.”)

* responds to a teen voice that is honest and  unapologetic

Use this to discuss:

* Choices –Piddy has a slew of choices in front of her, and not one of them is easy. We see the choices that her friend Joey makes, and some of the choices that Yaqui makes. What choices does Piddy have in life? What are the ramifications of each? This would make for a good discussion, especially when paired with Steve Watkins’ young adult novel Juvie.

juvie-198x300

* Community–Although Piddy is being raised by her mother and has never met her father, she doesn’t lack for a support network. Lila, her mother’s friend, and the other ladies at the beauty salon where Lila works (and where Piddy works on the weekends) form a tightly-knit community that looks out for each other. Use Piddy’s story as a springboard to discuss various support systems that teens have in their lives.

* Point of View–Although we never get into Yaqui’s head, we get a glimpse of what her life must be like through Raul, a policeman who patrols Yaqui’s crime-ridden neighborhood, and Joey, Piddy’s friend and neighbor who lives with daily violence in his own home. Although Yaqui is the girl we want to hate, Meg Medina won’t let us, even though she keeps Yaqui’s point of view at arm’s length. How would Yaqui describe seeing Piddy for the first time? What bothers her so much about Piddy Sanchez?

* Bullying–One of the biggest choices Piddy must make is how to handle Yaqui’s bullying. Should she try to avoid Yaqui? Confront her? Tell an adult? This would make an excellent discussion starter about how to handle bullying and its lingering consequences.

Visit author Meg Medina’s website here, and read some sample chapters and see the string of honors this book has received here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-65859-5 (hardcover); 978-0-7636-7164-8 (paperback)

Number of Pages: 272

For ages 14 and up

Advertisements

Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

NotaDroptoDrink_final_1I could not put this book down. Aside from the intriguing premise–what would we do if water suddenly became a scare commodity?–I found the characters to be believable, flawed, and empathetic. The plot is a tapestry of both tension and moments of tenderness, with several believable plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I would hand Not A Drop to Drink to both boys and girls; with the survival elements and light (very light) romance, this book should have wide appeal with teens.

Publisher’s description:  Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

Hand this book to the teen who:

* enjoys dystopian tales and stories of survival

* likes strong female characters (Lynn is more skilled at self-defense and survival than is her friend Eli, a city-born teen.)

* wants (or doesn’t mind) books that have elements of light romance, yet doesn’t want (or need) romance to dominate the plot.

Use this to teach:

* Environmental Issues–Although the reason for the water shortage is never explained, this story is sure to spark discussions of resource conservation within the context of global warming and rising pollution levels.

* Human Nature--At which point does our survival instinct overcome empathy and charity towards others? Government policies and main character Lynn’s  believable shift in her world view will make excellent fodder for classroom discussion.

*Types of Conflict–Lots of examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, society, and nature.

*Text-to-Text Connections–Pair this with Melanie Crowder’s Parched and Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, as well as Mike Mullin’s Ashfall trilogy.

Resources for Educators here

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews and here for the author’s website.

Publisher: Harper Collins / Katherine Tegen

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0062198501

Number of Pages: 320

Interest Level: Ages 14 to 17

Paradox by Ammi-Joan Paquette

paradox_thumbToday Biblio Links once again welcomes prolific author Ammi-Joan Paquette! She’s had three picture books and two middle grade novels published so far, with another picture book coming out this fall.

Today’s review is for her thrilling sci-fi debut young adult novel Paradox.

Publisher’s summary:  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?

~

Once I realized that I could NOT put this book down, I immediately thought of several reluctant readers in my library who would love this fast-paced, sci-fi mystery. It’s got a strong female main character, an unfolding mystery, high stakes, danger, and a fascinating other-world setting. Really, what’s not to love?

As a librarian in a very culturally diverse school district, one of the things I appreciate most about Paradox is something I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews:  the book’s multicultural cast of characters. Ana Ortez is the main character, and she is eventually joined by three other teens, Todd Oslow, Ysa Klein, and Chen Wai. Race or culture doesn’t factor into the plot or dialogue at all. Love that.

JoanI asked Joan to tell us how Paradox might fit into your library or classroom.

BiblioLinks:  A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Paradox. Who is this kid?

Joan: The ideal PARADOX reader is a student who looks for fast-paced stories and benefits from highly active, engaging storylines. It’s a spare, quick read that would be ideal for reluctant readers. It’s also great for kids with a scientific inclination, and those who like to puzzle out problems and collect data to come to a conclusion. The perfect read for analytical thinkers who want to put their active brains to recreational use!

BiblioLinks: I agree, Joan–this book will definitely appeal to reluctant (and avid!) readers. If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Paradox in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

 Joan: There are many science-based springboard discussions that could arise from this book: the development of disease and how contagious agents could be spread across a global landscape; the very real developments of space travel and the recent discovery of potentially habitable planets; rotation of binary solar systems and how they differ from our own. There’s also a lot of story connections to be made, connecting the generational links and organizing them into a time-sequential storyline, understanding the logic of how the different elements in the book all fit together. Students might also use the enclosed news articles as a springboard to writing their own articles highlighting recent real-life scientific breakthroughs they find exciting and groundbreaking.

 BiblioLinks: Lots of STEM connections for educators to explore. In addition to using the newspapers articles as springboards like you mentioned, the interview transcript with Ana’s mother could also spark spin-offs where students could create mock interviews with other characters in the story. The present-tense, third person point of view would also make for some interesting discussions.

Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

 Joan: You can find me on the web at www.ajpaquette.com, and for more about PARADOX specifically, visit the Random Buzzers forum to read some Q&As from teen readers here, or drop by here to read the opening chapter.

Biblio Links: Thanks for joining us, Joan!

Teachers and librarians, click here for rave reviews of Paradox.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0375869624

Interest Level: ages 12 and up

Number of Pages: 240

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Although Paradox is a young adult title, it’s recommended for ages 12 and up, so I’ve included it in Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday round up. Click here to visit her blog for more middle grade recommendations.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Parched by Melanie Crowder

parched Melanie Crowder’s debut novel Parched is stunning, haunting and, in the end, hopeful. The prose is just as spare as the setting–an unnamed swath of Africa that has been struck by extreme drought. The story opens and ends with brief chapters that are narrated by main character Sarel’s dog, Nandi. In between, this story is told at times by Sarel, at times by Nandi, and at times by Musa, a boy with a gift for finding water who has escaped from an abusive gang who try to profit from Musa’s special gift.

Publisher’s description:   In this haunting, lyrical novel told from three perspectives, Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land.

Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story.

~

Melanie Crowder Author PhotoMelanie Crowder, author and teacher, stopped by Biblio Links to talk about how her novel Parched can be used in the classroom.

Biblio Links: Welcome, Melanie!

A student walks into my library and I think: That kid needs a copy of PARCHED. Who is this kid?

Melanie: He or she is probably a pensive kid, a thinking reader with a big heart.  PARCHED is a slim volume, so it may appeal to reluctant readers and English Language Learners as well.

Biblio Links: As a former ESL teacher I agree with that last suggestion! It’s often hard to find stories that have themes that older readers want to explore, yet have text that is accessible to a wide range of readers. Parched will definitely spark some interesting discussion for a wide range of readers.

If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see or hear?

Melanie: You might see kids experimenting with the narrative voices of different animals, or describing their classroom through Nandi’s eyes. You might see them consulting encyclopedias or online resources to complete the PARCHED field guide (coming soon–check my website this fall). Perhaps a small group is preparing a report for the class on water as a resource and how its scarcity or quality affects people in different parts of the world. And the teacher is probably consulting the discussion guide found here.

Biblio LinksWhere can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Melanie: The best place to look is my website: www.melaniecrowder.net. I hope to see you all there!
Biblio Links: Thanks for stopping by, Melanie!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys survival stories,

* has lost a loved one,

* is concerned about/interested in environmental issues, or

* loves dog stories.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–This story is told from three points of view: Sarel, a girl who has just lost her parents and must keep her dogs (and herself) alive; Musa, the boy with the gift of finding buried water sources, and Nandi, Sarel’s trusted canine friend. How might certain scenes in the story be told from other points of view–not just one of the other three main characters, but what about the band of thugs who kidnapped Musa? How about Musa’s brother?

* Earth Day--Parched would pair beautifully with Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water and Mindy McGinnis’ Not A Drop to Drink (a young adult novel coming in September 2013). Display these books in the months of March and April and launch a book talk/discussion on Earth Day, April 22.

*Types of Conflict— Lots of examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character (human and canine), self, society, and nature.

Curriculum Guide here

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for glowing reviews from the likes of Kathi Appelt, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Franny Billingsly.

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN-10: 0547976518

ISBN-13: 978-0547976518

Number of Pages: 160

Reading Level: 5.4

Interest Level: Ages 10 and up

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!