All tagged Middle Grade

Review: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

Caroline Starr Rose brings a historical mystery to life in her beautifully crafted novel in verse, Blue Birds.

It is 1587 and 117 English men, women and children are left on the lush island of Roanoke near the shores of what is now Virginia.They expected fertile soil and friendly people. They were not disappointed in the land. But, the friendly Native people had become understandably jaded. The English who came before them brought disease and death to their island. 

Guest Post: Caroline Starr Rose on Young Readers and the Magic of Verse Novels

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to Clear Eyes, Full Shelves novelist Caroline Starr Rose, author of the critically-acclaimed May B and a new novel, Blue Birds, both middle grade historical novels in verse.

I posed this question to her: Some of my favorite verse novels are in the middle grade category--why do you think the verse format works so well for young readers? And she had a great answer for me!

Young readers are still open minded. They haven’t been around long enough to decide they don’t like a certain writing style before trying it. While I’ve heard adults talk about how strange a verse novel looks on the page and feels as reading material, I’ve never heard a kid say this. 

Recommendation Roundup: June 2014

I don't know about you, but reading has been weird for me lately. Between summer and a stressful couple of work projects, I'm finding myself in a bit of a funk. 

I keep starting books and then they lose my attention. However, Nafiza's wonderful graphic novel recommendation list came to my rescue and it's been just what the doctor ordered. I've gone way down the Saga rabbit hole and am official obsessed. 

I also picked up a couple of fabulous middle grade verse novels I'd been meaning to read and that was a pretty solid life decision. I got Kwame Alexander's beautiful and moving The Crossover from the library and I'll definitely be buying a copy for my own shelves. It's one of my favorite reads of 2014 for sure. I want everyone to read it so that I can nerd out about it with other people!

Onward to the recommendations!

Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Guest Post by Allie of In Bed with Books

Kwame Alexander's newest novel, THE CROSSOVER, is a verse tour de force. It's told through poems by the main character, Josh Bell a.k.a. Filthy McNasty. He and his twin brother Jordan (JB) are talented basketball players, but jealousy threatens to split them apart when JB gets a girlfriend.

I love how many levels of story are woven into this novel. 

THE CROSSOVER is the kind of book I never would've picked up when I was younger because I didn't like sports. There is the sports story promised by the cover, all leading up to a big championship game, but it is far from the only plotline. Nor is it the most important plotline. That's reserved for all the family stuff.


Review + Giveaway: Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s novel Under the Egg dazzled me with its complexity, its unexpected turns and its classic Shakespearean misdirection.

Early in the novel, I found the text interesting, yet without knowing precisely when, the depth and ingenuity of Fitzgerald’s writing crept up on me. The story is both profound and intricate and I could comfortably read it on any number of levels, each with its own kind of joy.

“It’s under the egg,” he rasped, his once-icy blue eyes now foggy. “Look under the egg.”

Theo’s bound by her uncle’s last words. She must delve into his mysterious legacy, go on a quest in search of an unknown treasure. Under the egg will lie both a treasure and a letter taking thirteen year old Theodora, Theo, into a world she pieces together like a painting, color by color, layer upon layer, as she delves into the puzzling enigma of her uncle’s secrets.

Verse Week Review: May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

Before putting my fingers to the keyboard to write my review of May B., a middle grade novel in verse by Caroline Starr Rose, I went to the Poetry Foundation's website to see if my confusion between poetry and prose could be clarified. The answer I found didn't particularly surprise me.

To put it in the simplest of terms, it's all about snobbery. Poetry, according its aficionados, stands several rungs above verse. Verse does not--according to them--employee the sophisticated use of language that poetry does.

Alrighty then...

Keats apparently writes poetry and Robert Service apparently writes verse. What's the difference? I've yet to answer that one but I will say that I read Service for pleasure, for the joy of his playful and often robust use of language. Keats I read as assigned work in my studies at the universities where I earned my degrees. I enjoy and appreciate Keats, so I am not picking on his work, I promise. My point is about the joy of language, pure and simple.

Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor creates a world that sparkles like a lake on a summer afternoon in her 2007 novel for middle grade/early YA readers,  Blackbringer (Faeries of Dreamdark #1).

It’s a diverse world of faeries, a band of crows, imps, Djinns and tattooed warriors beguiling while plunging me into into a fanciful world where legends are,

…meeting life. [Where] every choice casts a shadow, and sometimes those shadows stalk your dreams.

Beautiful, delicate and fierce faerie Magpie Windwitch is the granddaughter of the West Wind who travels with her band of crows across the landscape of their world, Dreamdark,  the forest filled with all creatures bright, fanciful, dangerous and dark.. Cacophonous, her boisterous and funny crow buddies, entertain and protect, love and fight and carry the dreams of all of the creatures in their Dreamdark Forest in their hearts. Magpie comes from dreams, made from their fabric and woven into the tapestry of Dreamdark.

Dark forces gather to eradicate all that is beautiful and free in Dreamdark. Because the setting is fanciful and beautiful, the darkness encroaching upon it folds itself across the pages smothering all that shines with laughter and joy. The Blackbringer lives in a netherworld where the stars are ripped out. And, he’s been set loose to wreak his revenge upon all that is good. She holds her destiny to save her world and those she cherishes as the fuel that powers her actions.

{Review} Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall 
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.

I understand
because Brother Khoi
nodded into my head
on the bike ride home
when I asked if kids
said the same things
at his school.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha LaiThanhha Lai writes her verses in her award winning middle grade novel in verse, Inside Out and Back Again, from the heart, and memory of deeply felt experience.

She poignantly and artistically brings emotion, both painful and joyful, straight from the page and into the senses. She recounts her family’s escape before the fall of Saigon through the eyes and the voice of Ha Ma. With other refugees they’re packed into small, often unsanitary quarters on a ship that will take them to safety, freedom and a new culture. 

Ha Ma, her brother Quang remembers,  “was as red and fat as a baby hippopotamus” when he first saw her, thus inspiring her name, Vietnamese for river horse. He could not have imagined that in a few years her name would become the stick that tormented her in a foreign land (Alabama) far from her beloved Saigon.

I taught in a public high school for many years and some of my students were children of those leaving their homelands in search of a better or freer life. Children that were just like Ha Ma. I went through the process to become certified to teach English as a Second Language. Yet with all my training and experience I realize that I could not have known the real pain these children lived with each day, in a new and strange environment.