Thursday, July 7, 2011

Florida Teen Reads Titles round 1

Each year FAME (Florida Association for Media in Education) names 15 young adult titles to the Florida Teen Reads list. Titles are chosen by a committee of 13 media specialists and voted on at year's end by teens throughout the state. At my school, our reading coach, Dr. Beth Scanlon, plans grant-funded literacy events around the titles each year. Grant funds purchase sets of the titles for English teachers that request them and enable us to build a reading culture through monthly "Chat and Chew" lunch book clubs and after school celebrations (Family Literacy Night and the Florida Teen Reads Round Table Awards). My favorite is the final round table awards ceremony--imagine a media center nearly filled to capacity, students and teachers buzzing and book talking books. It's amazing. Teachers from all content areas, deans and even administrators "champion" a title from the Florida Teen Reads list and a round-robin session of book talking begins. Students move through 3 rounds of book chat at tables manned by book champions. We have Italian ice, vote on the best teen titles and give students tickets for participating that are drawn for door prizes provided by the wonderful Mary Ramsey, community relations manager extraordinaire from our local Barnes and Noble. This year even the principal championed a book! More than a thousand students participated in literacy events at school last year. Can you feel the excitement?

With a new school-year fast approaching, I need to read through this year's titles so that I can pick the book I want to champion. For the first time in many years the list came out with 15 titles I'd never read. I've finished four and am looking forward to reading the remaining 11 before July's end. Here are reviews to my  first four Teen Reads 2011 titles:

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Born from the dark depths of what you can imagine as a futuristic, elevator shade, Thomas arrives in "the Glade" knowing only his name. Surround by boys of various ages this reader first thought he'd be instantly attacked. But no. The boys are not savage (think Golding's Lord of the Flies crew meets the order of Bachortz's Candor). Instead they have organized a nearly self-sufficient and orderly civilization in the Glade, a place they've lived (without memories and under control of the Creators) for two years. Fans of dystopian novels, action and survival books will enjoy The Maze Runner.

For teachers, I can imagine using the opening chapter to teach a vocabulary strategy lesson. Before reading, I might have students predict the meaning of words in Gill's future-speak (shank, glade, griever, greenie, etc)and then revisit the text to examine/discuss context clues or how background knowledge affects our understanding of words to wrap up the mini-lesson.

View all my reviews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Who knew that the devil demands collateral on wish fulfilled, sold-soul purchases? At times, Gill's novel--a 2011 Florida Teen Reads pick--seemed like a fantastical game of "Would You Rather." Would you rather live with a "bruja" (witch) or be evicted? Run from the devil or face his minion in a basketball game? Bug Smoot's grandfather sold his soul for his dream car, a classic Cadillac, and used Bug as collateral. Paranormals, demons, seances, psychics and more will delight supernatural fans. Bug's grit and determination will keep girls cheering her on as she battles for her soul and perhaps love in the process.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A vintage pink convertible with leather seats and a glove box full of cash? Who wouldn't go for a ride? Destiny does and her journey becomes her "one fair day"-- a day full of coincidence and joy.

Despite a secret she must confront, Destiny and 3 friends experience crystalline moments where the sun shines, the blue sky brightens and all goes their way. "Small, in-between moments, where there is magic and purpose and design and they are so perfectly beautiful they ache"(252). If only my students lives were as filled with whimsy.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Imagine a world--living, watching, listening, shifting--around you. Such is Incarceron, a living prison created to be paradise. Finn, a starseer, believes outside exists and is driven to find it with the help of his friends. Will the crystal key take him to his dreams of another world?

Action packed, description-rich, Incarceron tests your ability to imagine an alternative world. If you like dystopian fiction or even the artwork of M.C. Escher, you'll delight in Incareron.

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