Smackdown Books 2019

Piecing Me Together
We Are Okay
Hello, Universe
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
The Marrow Thieves
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
The Poet X
Children of Blood and Bone
Far from the Tree
Long Way Down
The Goat
Amina's Voice
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
The First Rule of Punk
24 Hours in Nowhere
The Astonishing Color of After
Obsessed: : A Memoir of My Life with OCD
Train I Ride

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Okay Grimm Monster! - My Final Vote

As the champion of A Monster Calls from all the way back in round one I am sticking with my choice.  No, it isn't a book that is for all students and certainly I believe that I would hesitate to use it with large groups or all students.  But in the right hands, at the right time and with the right guidance it is a moving, ground breaking, breathtaking piece of literature which deftly incorporates images and words along with a tear inducing, heart wrenching story.

I enjoyed Okay for Now and think it is a good story which will keep the reader interested to the end.  I personally was disappointed in the ending, both with the father and the (girl)friend but there are too many strengths to this novel for these two events to write the novel off for me.

A Tale Dark and Grimm was an interesting read for me.  I liked the way the audience was addressed directly and I felt that the humour in these portions of the novel would engage some of my more reluctant readers.  I found it to be accessible for my junior high students and even some reluctant readers.  I liked the connections to fairy tales I feel I could make and extend with students either as a class or as individuals.

Overall though A Monster Calls gets my vote as I can't even find the words to fully explain just how fabulous I think this book is.  To me, it is true literature.


A Monster Called Me...

So...I feel that I must confess something. A Monster Calls wasn't actually my first pick to add to the Smackdown. It was because of extensive technical difficulties that I ended up ditching the first title and picking A Monster Calls. (I'm guessing you want to know what the other book was. I'll never tell but I'm sure that you can get it outta Dia as she can't seem to keep a secret!) I figured something or someone somewhere was telling me that A Monster Calls was the book for the Mighty Smackdown.

I quickly grew tired of the intrusive narrator in A Tale Dark and Grimm (sorry, Dia) and prefer more gritty realistic fiction over Okay for Now. Having said that, A Monster Calls doesn't quite fit that bill but I don't know that I have ever read a book that has ever hit me in the gut like A Monster Calls. Admittedly, I don't think it is a book for every kid - is the right book for a kind who needs it at a very personal time.

A Monster Calls is my vote as the winner of this year's Mighty Smackdown!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Am I too late to vote?

I loved all of the final three.  Tales Dark and Grimm was a book I could recommend to all the kids at my school - I think the older kids would have enjoyed the campiness of it.  Okay for Now was just a great story showing how you can do good for someone other than yourself and I really connected to the art.  But Monster Calls will be my pick.  It was a beautiful tale that I did not think I could read without thinking about my own mom who passed away three years ago from cancer but it was all good.  The imagery just spoke to me.  It would not be for every student but I am voting for a great overall book.
See you all next year!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tough Choice

Wow! So hard to choose...I really enjoyed the narrative voice and the connection to Audubon's art in Okay for Now (the combination of art and narrative reminded me of the combination of physics and narrative in The Freak Observer, and they would make an interesting study in tandem). I really felt for the protagonist and bought into the magic realism/fantasy involving the yew tree monster in A Monster Calls. AND I chuckled aloud and can hardly wait to read A Tale Dark and Grimm aloud to my grand-daughter (when she gets old enough - she's not yet one).

SO..........since I don't have anyone to argue me down, I'm going to say that I totally agree with Dia's post on May 24th. I'm picking A Tale Dark and Grimm. (Feel free to smack me down, but you'll have to cybersmack me because I have a dentist appt. I can't get out of and will have to miss the May 31st meeting - sorry!)

I'm picking A Tale Dark and Grimm because I think it is the book that would appeal to the widest audience (I can hardly wait to read it aloud to my 7's next fall). I also think it opens up a whole new world of exploring the original Grimm tales, which may especially appeal to my German Bilingual students here.  I agree, however,  that it would be a bit young for high school students.

Unfortunately, I find that the majority of my kids are not quite into realistic fiction, and although I passed my copy of A Monster Calls along to a family who has experienced a recent loss, I don't think I would tackle it as a whole class read aloud and would likely recommend it to only select students. It is definitely the better written piece of literature, and I don't mind at all if it wins!  Okay for Now was maybe more of a high school read, I think. Again, I had the same feelings as others have stated with the ending, but I did love the artwork!

Split Decision

Two for A Monster Calls and one for Okay for Now from the ladies at Westmin.  Renae still really likes Okay for Now from the first round, even given the too-tidy ending.  She thinks the kids will enjoy it.  I agree with her, but, personally, I am still talking with colleagues about Monster.  I think it has become an all-time favourite for me.  However, I think I will need multiple copies of all three of the books to use in my classroom.  How do I go about tripling my budget, Dia?

Monday, May 28, 2012

I just finished my last Smackdown book this weekend, and while all three had their merits, I was easily able to take A Tale Dark and Grimm out of contention.  For me, it read quite young.  The second person narrative voice in between stories became annoying quickly, and I found myself skipping over them so I could get on with Hansel and Gretal's adventures.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, don't tell me that it's going to get scary; let the monster come on stage and roar.

Then it was between Okay for Now and A Monster Calls.  Having read Okay last round, I was quite set on championing it to the finish.  I really enjoyed reading this story, even with the feel good happy ending bits like the remorseful father, kicking cancer girlfriend, and accepting Vietnam vet brother.

And then I read Monster, and had to concede to the stronger story.  Visually appealing, well written, and metaphorical to boot.  I have since shared it with a few of my colleagues, because it was such a touching story. I think I even shed a tear at the end.  But just a small one, and very quickly, so no one  could see.  I enjoy teaching a number of texts that involve nasty things happening to young children ("A Modest Proposal", "Celebration", Popular Mechanics", Tsotsi), so when a story really captures me, I can only bow down to the talents of the author and be grateful I had the opportunity to share his/her world for awhile.

So I am plugging for A Monster Calls, and fingers crossed it makes the final cut!


Bottom Line...

...  for Barb and Mona -
A Monster Calls was a better book whether reading it with a class, or reading it on your own.  The other books were good, but not as good!!
We both enjoyed the voice in Okay for Now. It was a decent story up until the abrupt turn-around of the dad - without any rhyme or reason.  A Tale Dark and Grimm was an amusing and entertaining story but we felt it should have moved along more quickly at the end.
 A Monster Calls was beautifully written, spanned all ages and is our choice for the winner.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grimm Monster?

Recently I suggested that I may, just may, vote for A Tale Dark and Grimm over A Monster Calls. It wasn't pretty. I was bashed about and my points were drowned out over the thumps delivered to my head. Fine bullies, but you can't stop me from saying the following:

1. Grimm would make an amazing read aloud
2. This would be a great book for exploring that time when you begin to realize that parents and adults may not be all wise and knowing
3. It was funny and gory which would make it go over really well with a certain segment which includes me.

Having said that, A Monster Calls is luminous and well done though I still believe best when brought in and guided by a teacher.  Okay for Now soared at times but ultimately crashed for me with the abrupt change of the dad - but I'd still gladly put it in hands and lit circles if asked. When it is all said and done I'll vote for A Monster Calls and spend a part of my summer reading Mal Peet's book: Life: An Exploded Diagram as it beat a Monster Calls in School Library Journal's Battle of the Book. Who knows maybe that shows up in our list next year....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's the Finals Baby!

Here it is folks all the blood, sweat, haikus and words have led to this! A MONSTER CALLS vs OKAY FOR NOW vs your zombie pick....A TALE DARK AND GRIMM.

Now we've heard the murmuring...nothing could beat such and such, how could you think such and such, what is the best book and just what the heck is the criteria for picking anyway? All of this unsureness pleases us because as all good teachers know there is no right answer which is why many of us ended up doing this zany work.Pick your book and support it. Maybe it is the best book for kids to pick up and read, maybe its the best book to work with kids on in the classroom, maybe its the best book for you.

All comments welcome and all of our thanks goes out to our fantastic bloggers who are this close to getting books for work - yeah!

Deadline for your final SMACK of this school year is MAY 31st.

A Monster Wins

A Monster Calls Wins
Insightful Literature, Tears
Truth, Love, Fear, Scary


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

a revolution?
no assault to my senses
poetry perfect

narrative flawed.
no compassion for Andi
no love for this tale.

I'm okay for now
It touched my heart, gave joy
okay forever


Split Monster

Edgy. Action-packed.
Keep you wondering? You bet!
Finish? Forget it.

A universal
story? Inevitable?
Death. A monster calls us all.

A Monster Calls is my vote to move forward.
No zombie pick for me!

Fictional Monsters VS Real Monsters

A Monster Calls

Sad, Dark, Depressing

Struggle, Death, Understanding

Brave, Truth, Life Lessons

(I liked and hated it!)


Human monster Dad

Teens and broken family

Abuse, real life

The real monster Dad beats the Tree monster.

Split! Winner for me!

Donna O

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

no split here

Real bad dad, teen angst,
and soccer. What’s not to like?
Then, a monster called.

I don’t think this was really much of a contest. Split certainly offered much of what one might want in young adult fiction: a sympathetic, yet edgy (and, of course, as we’re told ad nauseum, sexy) protagonist; a clearly defined villain; several burgeoning love stories; and healthy doses of suspense throughout. I would imagine that there would be aspects of this novel that many of our students would enjoy and some would undoubtedly appreciate the way the whole thing is packaged. And therein lies the problem. This novel struck me as a YA package, even though the author is clearly trying to show us that she has moved beyond some YA tropes (which is, in itself, part of the package, but, I digress). A Monster Calls, on the other hand, was original, thought-provoking and moving. I have a lot to say about both of these works, but I’ll respect the spirit of the haiku round and stop in a second. As I mentioned, there are aspects of Split that are appealing, but there were many more that I found sublimely irritating, however, a detailed bashing wouldn’t seem to offer much at this point. If anyone needs convincing (I’m looking at you, Dia!), just let me know, and I’ll lay out my case. As for A Monster Calls, I’ll refer you to Brad’s eloquent and detailed review from a couple of rounds back. I think he covered everything that I could possibly address. It’s quite lovely.  Here’s the bottom line for me: Split is the kind of book that someone writes when they are trying to write”YA” fiction; A Monster Calls was a story that needed to be told and that story will appeal to young adults, as well as everyone else.

A Zombie Pick? Hmm. A Monster Calls was the best book I read during the smackdown. Beauty Queens, Sign Language, A Tale Dark and Grimm and Yummy all offered more, for my money, than either Split or Okay for Now, but I don’t think any of them are in the same league as A Monster Calls. Can I choose not to put forth a zombie pick?

Hard Choice

Fractured family
Struggle to SPLIT from abuse
Struggle to forgive

Luminous writing
Slows my reading to savour
The monster lessons

I read Split first and I really liked it. The tension was crazy at the end and I felt myself wanting to shout at the characters to get moving near the end when they go back for Mom. It was sad and mature but a book that could be dived into by many. It was my first pick. Then I read A Monster Calls.....darn that Arlene for picking such a book! It is just ridiculous. I cried at the illustrations and the words. Nothing anyone else hasn't said already. However, I will say I found the Henry character a little forced but still it is so good!  That's the problem. Would a kid say it was that good? Once again I sit on the edge of spectacular book but spectacular kids book?

The easy thing here is my vote isn't going to go against 5 others. In that case just for the above reason - accessibility  I vote SPLIT.

A Monster Calls beats Split

Westmin agrees with each other again.  Darn.  I was really hoping to Smack someone in this Smackdown.  Furthermore, we agree with Vanessa and Jaylene to put A Monster Calls through to the final.  I agreed to make the post if Wendy and Renae would write haiku poems! 

So, Wendy created two poems that she claims she didn’t like, but are better than my efforts: 

Gut roiling, tears spill
Imagination captured
Prosaic Split lost   

Angst fair and angst foul
Recipes for quick healing
Story beats the pill

Here are Renae’s brilliant Haikus:

Anger and bruises
A father’s mark on a son
Will Jace overcome?

Tragedy abound
A tree teaches a lesson
A Monster Calls wins

Renae also said:  I really liked both of these books for different reasons. Split is harsh, real, and fast-paced. I wanted to know how all of the characters turned out in the end and I think for mature readers this book offers a lot for discussion around the topic of abuse.

A Monster Calls also dealt with a situation that many people face in losing a loved one to cancer, and I really liked the character of the monster/yew tree in showing Connor a truth about himself and about life, and how he dealt with his mother’s illness and his guilt surrounding it.

That said, since all of the other books I previously voted through are now in the final round, I vote Split as my zombie pick! 
(Unless, for some reason, Okay for Now doesn’t win it’s round, then she’ll pick that one). 

On that topic, Wendy claims her Zombie pick has to be the first book she read—Now is the Time for Running.

And, I think we should give A Tale Dark and Grimm another look in the Zombie round, unless someone makes a compelling post lobbying for another choice.  

Vive la Revolution!

This book had me at
"Shine on You Crazy Diamond,"
The four saddest notes.

Revolution please!
History and music, it
makes for a great read.

My zombie pick is "This Dark Endeavor." Didn't make it past Brad in the first round, but I loved it.