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, March 6, 2014

Four Books Remain...

Four Books Remain:
Bomb vs. Leonard Peacock and More Than This vs. Counting by 7s

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's Embarrassing to Be Late For Dinner When You Cooked the Meal

Though we decided yesterday we still managed to be late a day in posting. For shame. That being said, let's get on with the show. I admit that I thought this was a done deal....Bomb was just that good and this was a bracket in my house - the home of the Mighty, where all opinions are my opinions. What can I say- too much House of Cards, damn you Netflix!

As we sat at our pd session, I called role: Donna in absentia voted Blood and Shadow (What, she teaches Social grrrr), Tristin Blood and Shadow, Arlene (say it isn't so) Blood and Shadow. Briefly Jeff Probst stopped by to remind me 3 votes Blood and Shadow. Come on Holly...Bomb, Dia Bomb Annabel...couldn't vote didn't finish. Andrew....Bomb. All tied up and waiting on the TD Baker two who boldly voted for Bomb. Phew.

Reasons you ask. Tristin liked the junior DaVinci Code plot but the rest just felt meh about Bomb and that was the cruelest cut of all. Those of us that loved Bomb felt that this book did an excellent job of making history accessible and exciting for the reader. We hope it goes on, as it has in other similar contests, to dominate; but what do I know...booktator no more.

Counting By 7s

A lot has been written about Counting by 7s and Aristotle and Dante. The decision was unanimous to advance 7s so team Spruce Ave thought we'd include our quick review of the winner. Enjoy!

Well, after a slow start, I found it very easy to get involved with Willow and her band of misfits.  At first I was caught off guard by the strangeness of the main character, and worried for her safety in our less than forgiving society.  I wondered how mainstream students would be able to connect to this brilliantly strange little girl.  However, her strangeness became endearing, and the group of people that eventually band around her demonstrate how everyone can find a group to which they can belong.  It became easy to relate to some aspect of each of the characters, and recognize that together they were able to grow and shine in their own way.  I like that this book can work for a wide range of students, and while it is definitely for a younger audience, it could work for many.  A nice, feel good story that shows we all have strengths and purpose, even if we don't recognize it right away.  

Going Ape for More than This

*As a disclaimer, Amanda was unable to post this from home. This post is from the folks at Vimy Ridge*

Andrew, Tracy, and I unanimously agree that More Than This will be advancing to the next round. While all of us do agree that both books were well done - Tracy going so far to say, "Ivan was alright. I mean, it's a book about an animal." And if you know Tracy and her 'love' of animal books, then this was as close as she gets to endorsing a book featuring a gorilla - the depth and complexity of More Than This makes it a more accessible book for the 7 - 12 demographic.

The One and Only Ivan is a great book. I will be buying it for my children when they get a little bit older. I know that one of the other posts mentioned that they didn't overly like the idea that it was written from Ivan's perspective, but this is one aspect about the book that I loved. I think that seeing the story and situation from Ivan's eyes made the story unique and more powerful than it would have been otherwise. Ivan is well written, is touching, is thought provoking (if you choose to teach it or read it that way), and is a great book. However, in my opinion, to beat Patrick Ness you have to "know yourself and go in swinging".

I don't even know where to begin for More Than This. I love it. And what's funny is, I can't even pin point what exactly I love so much about it. I guess, if I could try and put it into words, I love the fact that I felt uneasy reading it from start to finish. The quality of Patrick Ness' writing is (for me) next to none. I love how he has taken an earth-shattering event, captured it in a way that - against my will - places me right there along Seth and forces me to embark on his journey with him. It is an extremely ambitious novel and one that I will buy and read again. It is not for the student that is just looking for an easy read but it will appeal to those who enjoy looking deeper, using their brains, and being left with thoughts and ideas that will stay with them far longer than 472 pages.

*I read the first 2 1/2 pages to one of my grade 8 classes the other day, and since then, 4 kids have showed up in class with copies that they asked their parents to buy for them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

More than...Ivan

I have to say I found The One and Only Ivan a pleasant surprise.  From the moment I realized that it would be written from the perspective of a gorilla, I was not impressed.  As the story moved forward I laughed and I cried, and I found myself rooting for the characters.  I love that the resolution was more or less natural and not supernatural.  I found it to be a light, engaging, easy read.  I think it would be enjoyable to a wide audience. 

More Than This was anything but.  I found it engaging, but light and easy...not so much.   I adored the beginning, it hooked me right away.  I was intrigued by the next section of the book.  I found it meatier than most YA novels, with a depth and sophistication that was refreshing.  The storyline was fantastic and the character development was impeccable.  This novel was a unique page-turner that allows for rich discussion and would be engaging for a large youth audience.  This type of novel would evoke a strong reaction in the reader, whether positive or negative, and I think that makes a better novel than one that is just  'likeable.'

While I enjoyed both novels, and Ivan has a special place in my heart, my vote goes to More Than This

Sunday, March 2, 2014

More Than This and The One and Only Ivan


One of the frustrations and delights of The Mighty Smackdown is having two very different books matched up against each other. It makes the process of making that eliminating decision a challenge, but it also provokes  a broader discussion  about the depth and breadth of YA literature. I enjoyed both of these books on different levels and I could be them both being perfect for very different students.  There has been a lot of thoughtful commentary on both books already, so I’ll keep this fairly short and to the point (Cut to wild cheering by the Smackdown masses).

The One and Only Ivan is perhaps the most accessible book that I’ve come across in my time participating in the Smackdown. It’s not typical of a book I’d choose for myself, but I enjoyed it on a few different levels. I could imagine many of my upper elementary and junior high students enjoying the novel, and I also think my seven year old would enjoy it and therein lies its greatest strength and limitation. I think this is a really great book for a K-9 school library where students from a wide range of grades could enjoy this straightforward and generally thought-provoking tale. The novel’s greatest strength is that it opens the door to some very complex emotions, but in a way that would allow readers of varying ages and ability levels to enter into that discussion. A natural limitation of a book like this, however, is that its accessibility limits the depth and complexity of the narrative for more advanced and older readers.

This will not be an issue for those who choose to pick up More Than This, where the trope of “More Than” runs through both the narrative and the reading experience. As previous bloggers have mentioned, this is a difficult novel to write about with any specificity for risk of denying future readers any of the pleasures and terrors that Ness’ narrative provokes by putting us continually in discovery mode. Ness has crafted a complex – and sometimes flat-out perplexing –novel in which he shows an impressive capacity for dealing with the most intimate aspects of human relationships , while also – often simultaneously –delving into those big universal questions that have always united us through space and time. This is dangerous ground for an author to tread – particularly if your target audience is young adults – where that line between being trite, pretentious and insightful can sometimes come down to a few words. Ness, our previous Smackdown victor for A Monster Calls, walks this tightrope with skill and confidence, primarily by providing his characters with the self-awareness to voice many of the doubts and reservations we raise as readers.

These are both excellent novels that would be the perfect fit for some kids, but More Than This is a truly ambitious novel and really, a fully-realized experience that kept me thinking about it long after I put it down. My vote is for More Than This.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Will Leonard Peacock get "schooled" by Good and Evil?

The School for Good and Evil.... best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime or are they?  As you read this book you might question this really an adventure I would like to continue to read?  Our group, like those of you who read it in the past, had mixed reviews.  We had a few who "battled" through the first part of the book and ended up liking it.  We had someone who liked it from beginning to end and we had an anecdotal story of a young reader devouring it; however most of us found it boring(yes I did bold that word for emphasis) and a few of us could not seem to find the energy to finish it all.

On the other hand...

Forgive me Leonard Peacock's main character is a teenager, who feels let down by adults and out of step with his sheep like classmates.  Leonard is an endearing person and you are drawn to his pain, humor and insights.  While reading you find yourself crossing your fingers that he does not follow through with his intentions (no I will not share all because you might want to read this book after the blog).  Those of our group who engaged in our email conversation (sorry to Carolyn and Jacquelyn as we did not get to hear your opinions) loved this book.  We felt it was powerfully written (I personally found the footnotes distracting) and tackles several difficult subjects we believe are necessary ones for us to talk about.

So I am sure there is no surprise which book we picked for a winner.  The book that will move forward to the next round from the seven of us is Forgive Me Leonard Peacock.

Respectfully submitted by Maureen on behalf of Robin, Laura, Wendy Christina, Renae and Kevin