Thursday, 22 June 2017

Spotlight: Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea

Today I thought that I might do something I little bit differently. Recently I read two of Ruta's books; Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea and instead of reviewing them individually I decided to do a little feature on them. 

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys (Rūta Šepetys) is an internationally acclaimed author of historical fiction published in over forty-five countries and thirty-three languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Her novels, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy are both New York Times bestsellers, international bestsellers, and Carnegie Medal nominees. Her books have won or been shortlisted for over forty book prizes, are included on twenty state reading lists, and have been selected for several all-city read programs. (more can be found at Ruta's website here)

Her Books

Ruta has three books, all in the historical fiction genre. They are Out of the Easy, Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea.

I've only read two of these books- but I will definitely be reading Out of the Easy soon! Out of the Easy tells the story of a young woman torn between worlds in New Orleans, Between Shades of Gray is the story of a young Lithuanian girl who is sent to a camp in Siberia and Salt to the Sea tells the story of the world's greatest naval disaster, the Wilhem Gustloff

My absolute favourite thing about her books is that they tell stories that, for whatever reason, the world has ignored and forgotten. Before I read Salt to the Sea I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff and I would have assumed that the world's greatest naval disaster was either the Titanic or the Lusitania. My family (who are pretty smart people) hadn't heard of it either. I think that as authors really are storytellers and that it is their job to share and spread the stories that have been forgotten. Reading both Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea has made me super interested in finding out more about parts of history that have been ignored.

Not only are the stories engaging, the characters that Ruta has written are so intensely real. Even when I wasn't reading I found myself wondering how the characters were doing. I was thinking about them like they were actually people I knew, because I cared for them, I was rooting for them.

Overall, I just loved Ruta's writing style and characterization so she has definitely been added to my auto-buy list.

Have you guys read any of Ruta's books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, 19 June 2017


I'm very excited to bring you this amazing graphic novel for young readers from Macmillan! Since I am both a reader and a teacher I thought I would share both my thoughts as a reader and as a teacher.

By:  John Patrick Green
Published: May 10th
Publisher: First Second
Source: Publisher (Macmillan)
My Rating: 4/5


The zoo isn't what it used to be. It's run-down and falling apart. Hippo hardly ever gets any visitors. So he decides to set off for the outside with his friend Red Panda. To make it in the human world, Hippo will have to become a Hippopotamister: he'll have to act like a human, get a job, and wear a hat as a disguise. He's a good employee, whether he's a construction worker, a hair stylist, or a sous chef. But what he really needs is a job where he can be himself.

My Reader Thoughts

Within a few seconds of starting this book my very first thought was "oh this is cute!". I'll admit I sat down, started reading and didn't stop until I'd turned the last page. I found that it was a very captivating read, I couldn't wait to see what Hippo and Red Panda were going to do next. It was a very fun read, but still managed to have a nice lesson- which I think it necessary in children's book! I really enjoyed the pacing and the humor, plus the illustrations were super cute and well done. As a grown-up I really loved it, and I can imagine all the kids I know enjoying it too!

Just look at this cute hippo!

My Classroom Thoughts

As a teacher whenever I read MG or kid lit in the back of my mind I am always thinking about what I could do with this book lesson wise, which of my students would enjoy, which of my teacher friends I'd recommend it to and more! So without further ado-my teacher thoughts:
  • Perfect for reluctant readers. I find that graphic novels are a great way to help kids who might struggle with reading or are more reluctant to read. The combination of the pictures with the words helps to boost their confidence and get them excited about reading
  • Great daily reading book. I try to read to my class everyday, even if its only a chapter or two. This book would be perfect for that because its fun and engaging for everyone
  • Jump off for a "try-new-things" assignment. Like the teacher I am I love when I can have a reason for reading a book. Reading this book to the class would be a great way to introduce an assignment to have the kids try something new (whether it was big or small) and have them journal about it later
  • Animal/Zoo based assignment. For a younger crowd this would be a great book to kick off a animal assignment, like a resource report (that maybe even ends in a field trip to the zoo?!)

About the Author

John Patrick Green grew up on Long Island and has worked in New York City since graduating from the School of Visual Arts with a degree in graphic design. He was the comics consultant for Disney Adventures magazine, where he wrote and often drew the popular Last Laugh feature. John is the co-creator and illustrator of the graphic novel series Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden and Teen Boat!, both with writer Dave Roman. He has also worked as a writer, illustrator, or designer on comics and graphic novels for Nickelodeon Magazine, DreamWorks, Scholastic Graphix, and DC Comics. John lives in Brooklyn with zero cats and way too many LEGOs.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Book To Film: BFG


The BFG is a children's book written by Road Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is a book that many (now) adults grew up loving and have now introduced it to their kids. 
Just this year the movie, by Steven Spielberg was released in theatres to delighted audiences

"Captured by a giant! The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It's lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants-rather than the BFG-she would have soon become breakfast. 

When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off in England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her"


I spur of the moment went to see The BFG with my best friend of 16 years. A few minutes into the movie she leaned over and whispered "she looks like you did as a kid!" of the main character Sophie. Between Sophie and The BFG the cuteness factor of this movie was pretty high!

It was at times heartbreaking, we just wanted to give Sophie and The BFG a big hug and a cup of tea! But it was also one of the most magical movies I've ever seen. Everyone, from the little kids to the old grandparents at the theatre was absolutely enchanted. You could hear people's gasps as the dreams whizzed around the screen, their anger at the mean giants. There was sadness, anger, joy all wrapped into one amazing movie. There were moments where the entire theatre was full of belly laughter and giggles, where tears silently slid down cheeks. I would recommend this movie to all because it is a truly magical film! I can definitely see it becoming a timeless classic, just like the book it was based on.

 As we were walking out of the theatre, the hallway was filled with murmurs of "that was amazing!", "I really enjoyed that", and even "can we see it again?".

I would say that if you wouldn't read The BFG to your child they are probably too young to see it. Roald Dahl doesn't pull any punches and so the film is a bit dark/scary for younger kids.


The BFG was a super enchanting story just like all of the Dahl's stories. They have that perfect balance of absurdity that makes both and adults and kids enjoy the story.

Somehow, despite the slightly terrifying nature of the storyline (children and people getting eaten by bloodthirsty giants) somehow the flow and style of the book almost makes the reader forget that it's a horrible thing they are fixing. The BFG's speech is so slanted that I did enjoy actually hearing it more in the movie as opposed to reading it.   

I will say that at parts I did enjoy the book more because it allowed Sophie to be more of the hero that she was, and it allowed her to help save the day way more than the movies did. Overall the movie was fairly faithful to the original and I would definitely recommend it to fans of the book. And to other people who are looking for a slightly dark, but enchanting movie.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Beauty Queens

By: Libba Bray
Published: May 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 out of 5


When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest; the first time I read this book I didn’t really like it. The next time I read it I thought it was alright and lent it to a friend (in the hopes she would just keep it). I read it again and oh boy do I LOVE this book! I’m not sure what turned me off the first time I read it but if I had to guess I would say that the snarky humour sort of threw me off. But know that I am older I adore all the snark and sarcasm of this book.

The snark comes from the incredible cast of teenage girls who show that they are a bright, creative, resilient diverse group of people. The voices of these characters are so fabulous and they suck you right into the story. It’s definitely a unique style of writing, with chapters from the point of view of each of the girls interspersed with chapters from The Corporation.

The other great thing about this book is that the girls are a diverse group and there is lots of representation. The struggles of different groups (women, LGBTQ+, the disabled, POC) are highlighted and discussed, without being super down in the dumps and sad and depressing. I just find that many books with representation tend to be sort of disheartening and this book was anything but. In the end this story celebrates the uniqueness and power of teenage girls which I loved. Being a teenage girl is super hard and so having something that celebrates them is amazing!

I would definitely recommend this book to EVERYONE (and don’t get put off by the cover!) because it tells a story that is so important in so many ways.

Teacher's Corner 

Reasons you might want to use this book in your classroom:
  • Great representation. Its always fantastic when students can see themselves in books and this one has such a great cast that you don't see very often
  • Challenging assumptions. Books are an amazing tool to help students learn about the world around them and to help them learn to challenge their assumptions. This book has some diverse characters and would be an interesting way to challenge students and their ways of thinking
  • Comparison to Lord of the Flies. It would be very neat to read Lord of the Flies and Beauty Queens and do a comparison focused on societal differences, writing style, gender roles etc 
  • Investigating satire and sarcasm. Satire and sarcasm are integral parts of this book and for older students you could dig deep into how this impacts the reader and influences the story line 

I'm Back!

Wow! It's been almost 10 months since I've blogged but I'm ready to come back! The reason I've been missing  is that I have had the absolute pleasure of spending the last year teaching! I love my classes and the kids with all my heart, but unfortunately teaching takes up a lot of time. Teaching has also changed my reading habits because I've found myself reading more to find books to use in lessons or that my students might enjoy- which kind of put this blog in a weird spot. I think I've decided how I'm going to manage this change so that means I'm ready to come back to blogging!

I've decided to incorporate more of my teaching/reading for my students into my blog, since that is such a big part of my life. Stay tuned for more updates, reviews and teacher's corners! Part of this change means I'm going to be reformatting old reviews- so some of them might be missing for a bit until I change them around

In the last ten months I have read so many books, but here are 5 of my favourites!

1. What Do You Do With An Idea?
by Kobi Yamada

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 
by Roald Dahl

My Grade 3's adored this book!

3. Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty 

I actually did a book talk on this one so that my fellow teacher friends could use it as a resource!

4. Furthermore
by Tahereh Mafi

Thanks so much for sticking through my unplanned hiatus! I hope you continue reading my blog because I've got some pretty cool things planned