Monday

The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos - book review

Publisher’s Blurb: “Two weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt. The trip was supposed to be a short routine voyage to log their required spacetime for summer quarter. But routine goes out the airlock when they’re attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years. With the captain and crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that’s left to warn the ESC. And soon they find out exactly why the Tremist chose this ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever. Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn’t a war left to fight.”

My thoughts:  At first I thought that there was nothing new here: tired sci-fi themes, typical kidlit absent parents, a bit of Star Trek, a sprinkle of Ender's Game. But then I remembered that the target audience does not include Trekkies nor Ender's Game readers (and the movie is still months away) so I was just showing my middle age years!

To top it off, this story is highly engaging. The pacing is exceptionally good, with cliffhanger chapter endings and high adventure around each turn. The characters are well-drawn (villains too) and by the end we are fully invested, waiting on a sequel. In other words, don't judge a book by your preconceived middle-aged notions - by chapter three I was hooked!

Great middle grade title that appeals to many readers, especially boys and reluctant readers lured in by the action pacing. 

Saturday

What is a Reading Specialist? The most honest post I have ever written.

Reading Rumpus is mainly, by far, a place where I babble about children's literature with an educational slant in mind. But occasionally, no matter what good intention my bibliophile heart holds, my work life emerges. Usually this is a passing sentence or a neutral comment, tightly tethered so my employer won't fire me.

Recently I met with a young teacher to discuss his "data" (because there is a lot of discussing of data in education these days) and our conversation turned to my job description. When I became a reading specialist I had two lofty goals: help kids become stronger readers & help my colleagues guide young readers. I adored teaching reading under a principal who believed in my professional freedom in the age before high stakes testing took it away. I devoured children's literature, understood its complex nature, and thought that I might have the collaborative skills to assist my colleagues in building strong readers. In explaining my job description, here is what I told the young teacher.......

"My job is to extinguish the flame of the next Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan."