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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top Five Books of 2017

2017 was a great year for some really exciting books, but because of a back injury toward the end of the year, I have a huge pile of books I have read but have not been able to review yet.  I will be getting to those in the next couple of weeks.  For now, though, here are the top five books I reviewed in 2017:  (Remember these are books I read in 2017 --but not all were published in that year.)

Anderson, M.T.,Offerman, Andrea (2017) Yvain:  The Knight of the Lion.  Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

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For English teachers, this is an excellent graphic novel to introduce anything that touches on King Arthur.  Though Arthur only makes a cameo or two in the book, it captures the excitement of a knight with a pet lion fighting against evil magic, a dragon, and enemies -- but also concerns itself with the relationship between Sir Yvain and the queen whose husband he killed in battle.  It is a relationship with intense hate and, eventually, deep love as well.  Ideal for late middle school and high school.

Pratchett, Terry (2015)  The Shepherd's Crown  New York: Harper.

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Terry Pratchett's fantasy series are not exactly Young Adult fiction.  They are written for an open audience that might include everyone from middle school through adulthood.  My friend Kris introduced me to the Tiffany Aching series and I continue to love them.

Tiffany Aching serves two villages as their wise woman/witch, even though she herself is very young.  Though she faces remarkable challenges, she alwasy seems to come out on top, partly because she has been adopted by a group of utterly unpredictable and savagely loyal allies, the Wee Free men -- eight inch tall, hard-drinking, tough-as-nails-and-about-as-bright celtic creatures.  The story is great, the writing is exceptional, and these are excellent books.

Some parents might objcet to the existnce of witches in this book -- but the witches Pratchett depicts are more on the order of wise woment in the village than they are the horrid, evil,toad-sacrificing women from other corners of the children's ltierature world.  Worth reading.

Shusterman, Neal (2016) Scythe  New York:  Simon and Schuster.

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This is my favorite book that I read this year.  Schusterman is excellent at world-building and has created a utopian future where a benign computer called the Thunderhead protects humans and regenerates them through healing nanites such that they need never die.  Unfortuantly, since the planet cannot sustain a growing population, the Thunderhead creates an independent group of humans, the Scythes, to randomly glean people and keep the population under control.  When a group of scythes starts flaunting the rules and gleaning people for the joy of killing them and watching them panic, two teenaged apprentice sythes find themselves on opposite sides of escalating conflict.  Masterfully written and utterly gripping,-- this is the sort of book that you (and your students) can't wait to loan out.  Upper middle school and high school.  Nothing here any reasonable person would object to.  Good stuff.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series

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I reread it this year.  Harry and his friends still completely captivate me and have me on the edge of my seat.  This is a world worth revisiting.

For first time readers, it is worth noting that while the first couple of books are ideal for a forth or fifth grade audience, later books become much more dark, scary, and sometime violent.  In our family, we read them all out loud to our kids to slow things down. I recomment this approach.

Busby, Cylin; Busby, John (2008) The Year we Disappeared  New York:  Bloomsbury.

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This also was not written specifically as a YA book, but it is an amazing true story that high school students would find utterly captivating.  John Busby, a police officer in a Massachusetts seaside town, was driving to work one night when another car pulled alongside him and fired a shotgun through his window, blowing off his lower jaw.  The book tells the story of how he evaded the other car, got help, eventually recovered, determined who had shot at him and that they were still after him, and decided to take his family into hiding. 

High school students would love this book.  It will grab and hold their attention throughout.  Obviously it is violent and sometiems scary -- but ultimately the message of Busvy's recovery is that he has to let go of hate. 

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