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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

The ARC (Advanced Reader Club) Reviews Are In!

What's next for the ARC readers?

Last year, lightning struck when I figured out the time-efficiency equation that is crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing, as many of you know, means farming out to the general public a request for ideas, actions, or input that one person alone cannot possibly undertake.

I was that person. Faced with the perpetual challenge of keeping up with my ever-growing my to-read stack, which dwindles only slightly in summer and then mushrooms during the school year, I started an ARC: Advanced Reading Club in my sixth grade class.

The idea was to recruit my very best readers to help me prescreen, rate on a scale of 1 to 10, and review boxes of ARCs—advanced reading copies—from publishers and independent authors and filter out the definite "no's" (zero) while raising to the top the "yes, yes, yesses! (10's)" The first task was to determine if a book is "appropriate" for sixth grade (we talked about that a lot) and, secondly, merits a coveted spot in my FREADom Classroom Library.

The program launch was an enormous success, with the excitement and enthusiasm spilling over into the general population such that there was a bit of a feeding frenzy each time I opened a box. (Seriously! Read that earlier post!)

I promised to get back to you about what last year's ARCs found. Here's a selection of the very first reviews, in the words of the sixth graders, who clamored to be "the first!" to read books that hadn't yet been published. (But, now they are now!)

My Secret Guide to Paris, by Lisa Schroeder. ARC rating: 9!

"I’ve always wanted to go to Paris and it’s about a girl who gets to go because it was her grandma’s favorite spot. Grandma had always told her about it. She goes with her mother and brother after her grandma dies." Kirkus's review was a little less enthusiastic.

The Porcupine of Truth, by Bill Konigsberg. ARC rating: 0! (yep, nada)

"This book is not for kids."

True. I agree. It's far more suitable for teen readers; here's a review.

The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of a Pig," by Emer Stamp. ARC rating: 11! On a 10-point scale!

"Age limit 8-12 – [but it's] for younger readers. A lot of jokes. A pig is being fattened by a farmer to be slaughtered and the pig doesn’t know, thinks the farmer is his best friend. Finally, realizes when his friend Duck takes him to the slaughterhouse and he wants to escape. Evil chickens poop on cows. Chickens are in a space race – a ship being built from old tractor powered by poop. Pig should be the pilot because he’s expendable. He goes into space – so fat (from eating slops) he had to release fuel and replace it with slop. He has to eat all the slop to get himself to Pluto. Things go wrong!"

Note: It's not written in English; it's written in Pigish.

Burning Nation, by Trent Reedy. ARC rating: 10! (with caveats, see below)

"The state of Idaho is fighting against the rest of the USA to be independent. The federal government keep pestering them and they rebel. The governor leads the revolt. This book is not appropriate for 6th grade – swearing and sex."

Note: It's the second book in a trilogy.

Woven, by Michael Jensen and David Powers King. ARC rating: 9

"A kid gets killed by a tree – everyone thinks a tree fell on him, but he’s murdered by a magician. The boy turns into a ghost and he needs the princess help, but she can’t stand him. They go on a journey to find a needle to sew him back into reality. I think it’s very different (the plot)."

Here's the official site for this fantasy book.

The Game of Love and Death, by Martha Brokenbrough. ARC rating: 10!

"It's on the border of being appropriate for 6th grade – no swearing, but there’s a lot of romance. I really like it because it’s a love story between a black girl and a white guy during a time when that was not accepted (1950-60). The game is hard to explain but there is love and death that are like gods that can take the form of humans and make up the game (and choose the players for the game). The players do not know they are in a game. If they lose they are devoured."

WOOF: A Bowser and Birdie Novel, by Spencer Quinn. ARC Rating: 1000! (On a scale of 1 to 10 ;-)

"This dog in an adoption center for a month and he used to live with a gang. One day he wants to get adopted by a girl named Birdie. They adopt him and Birdie’s grandma doesn’t want to give her a dog, but does anyway. Birdie names him Bowser. Told from the dog’s point of view – he loves Birdie and protects her. The grandma owns and works at a store. A prize fish was stolen so Birdie and Bowser are trying to figure it out like detectives."

More info at Scholastic.

Beneath," by Roland Smith." ARC rating: 6

"I don’t like it! It's meant for 5th graders. Told from the perspective of a journal. Patrick’s brother is Cooper and he’s really strange (he dug a tunnel that runs for 30 miles and hit an underground pool – there was a gas leak and explosion – he survived). Cooper runs away when he’s older and Patrick tries to find him. Parents divorced. Dad in Brazil and he’s supposed to go to Florida, but goes to NY instead."

The Shadowshaper," by Daniel José Older. ARC rating: 10!

"It's about a girl named Sierra whose grandfather got mixed in with the shadowshapers. This is a person who can, if you draw a picture, put their soul into your picture and bring it to life. Humans cannot see them when they go into a picture. It's fantasy and adventure."

So, there you have it. On a scale of 1 to 10, a "6" means "don't read it!" and 1,000 is the score to beat.

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