Erika Romero

PhD Candidate and Education Blogger

Category: Children’s & YA Literature

ARC Review Month, Book Review #5: Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway

As promised, for today’s post I’ve reviewed my ARC of Joanna Hathaway’s debut YA novel, Dark of the West. Unlike Alone Together, which I reviewed here, today’s novel is the first in a new YA series (called Glass Alliance), rather than a standalone text. The publication date has been pushed back, but I wanted to post this review now while the book is still fresh in my mind. This novel is set to be released on February 5, 2019, so I’m going to stay clear of any major spoilers. But, as always, a few details not included in the book blurb will be included in my three-part review. This is the last ARC I’ve had the pleasure to get my hands on, but I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to read and review other new YA reads.

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ARC Review Month, Book Review #4: Alone Together by Sarah J. Donovan

I’ve been lucky enough to receive advanced reader copies (ARCs) of two YA novels set to be published in May 2018. It seems, then, that this month is the perfect time for blogging about these two new releases! I’m especially excited to share my thoughts on these books, as they are both debut novels. This week, I’m reviewing Sarah J. Donovan’s verse novel, Alone Together. In two weeks, I’ll be reviewing Joanna Hathaway’s historical fantasy novel, Dark of the West. As a disclaimer, my ARC reviews will be pretty spoiler-free, but of course a few details not found in the blurbs will be included in my reviews. If you’d like to see the other book reviews I’ve done, you can check them out here, here, and here.

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Looking for Your Next Dystopian Read? Book Review #3: Unplugged by Donna Freitas

The weekend after I received approval from my dissertation committee to defend my proposal (otherwise known as last weekend), I read three novels and quite a bit of fanfiction. Reading is my go-to activity when I’m feeling nervous, and with Axis 360 (a library app that I wrote about here) just a click away, I had plenty of books to pick from when I wasn’t in the mood to find a new fic or reread some of my favorites. Unplugged was the first novel I read this past weekend (Fan Art was the second, and I reread Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda in order to prep for teaching my classes this week). Unplugged is the first book in The Wired trilogy, and I haven’t read the second and third installments that came out last year, The Body Market and The Mind Virus. The first book was an interesting read for multiple reasons, which I’ll get into in today’s (very spoiler-y) book review.

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Top 5 Diverse Young Adult (YA) Novels I’m Looking Forward to Reading This Year

 

As I’m in the middle of teaching my Young Adult Literary Narratives course for the first time, I’m currently rereading a novel a week as part of my preparation for class discussions. With all my other responsibilities -and the fanfiction I read – I haven’t had much time to read novels not directly related to my class in the past few weeks. I’m the type of reader who has trouble not finishing a book in one sitting (or at least one day) if I am really enjoying it. With this lack of willpower in mind, I’ve compromised by making a list of books I want to read once I have a bit more time on my hands. Spring break is only a couple weeks away, and I’m definitely planning on doing some non-work reading during that time. In today’s post, I’ve listed five of the books I’m most looking forward to reading along with a short explanation as to why I’m feeling this way.

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New Year, New Reading Challenge: 40 Book Prompts to Inspire My Reading in 2018

 

Last year, I completed the Ultimate PopSugar Reading Challenge 2017 with one day to spare. I actually read about ten books during the first half of my winter break in order to reach that goal. I’m hoping not to cut it so close this year. For 2018, I’ve designed my reading challenge as part of my Christmas gift to my brother. He had challenged himself to read 12 books last year, I challenged him to do 40 with me instead, and he ended up at 30 (here’s his list from 2017). As he wanted to try again this year, I created reading prompts that have connections to each of us, along with more general prompts that can inspire us to branch out from our usual genres and topics. A few of the prompts were inspired by challenges I saw online while creating the list. So, without further ado, here’s the “Romero Sibling Reading Challenge of 2018.”

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A Year in the Life: Looking Back on Top Moments during 2017

 

As my last post of 2017, I’m officially one post away (two weeks) from my blog’s six-month anniversary. Though varying greatly in length, I’ve managed to keep to my original posting schedule of every other Friday, with the exception of Back-to-School August in which I blogged every week. I plan on keeping to this schedule in the new year, and I’m excited about all the post ideas I’ve added to my brain dump list in the past few days. While I’ll wait until my first post in January to write about my resolutions and goals for 2018, I thought I’d use this post to look back on my top moments in 2017.

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Time to Head Over to the Theater? Movie Review #1: Disney/Pixar’s Coco

 

This week is finals week here at Illinois State University. The children’s literature folks in our program tend to get together at least once a month to catch up and relax after weeks of work and personal responsibilities. Last Friday, a few members of our group decided to head to the theater before dinner. The movie we went to watch, of course, was Coco. As ChLit readers, viewers, and scholars, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us were interested in checking out this new children’s movie that has received such great reviews from most people who have watched it (the movie has a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes). I’ve broken down my review into three parts, just like with my book reviews. I do include major spoilers in this review (especially in the “viewer” section), so if you don’t want to know about any major plot points yet, I suggest coming back once you’ve watched the movie.

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Lesson Planning: Designing My First Young Adult (YA) Literature Course

 

 

It’s that time of the semester. No, not the drowning in final exams and papers time. That’s still three weeks away. Nor is it the can’t-see-any-surface-in-my-house because-of-all-the-books time. That happens way earlier on in the semester. No, the time I’m talking about is when you receive an email letting you know what course(s) you’re teaching next semester, and asking you to submit your textbook request form ASAP. As half of my graduate assistantship is currently devoted to my work for our Writing Program, this next semester is likely the last one in which I’ll only be teaching one course. I’ve been assigned my top choice, ENG 125: Literary Narrative, and I’ve decided to use a different design than the one I used last year. Instead of a ChYALit adaptations course, my new 125 class will be a YA literary narratives course. [Update: Here’s the page all about this course.]

 

 
 

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PopSugar Reading Challenge 2017: An Update with Star Ratings and One Line Reviews

 

If today’s featured photo looks familiar, it’s because I used it a few months ago for my reading challenge post. I’ve decided to share an update on my progress, as there are only about two-and-a-half months left to complete the challenge. While I have updated the original post with the books I’ve read since I began, in this post, I’ll provide my star ratings of each book along with a one line review. If you need another book for your TBR list, perhaps this list will inspire you. I’ve listed the books in order of how many stars I gave each book. The last two books are still in progress, which is why I’ve put them at the end with no star ratings (yet). I’ll update this post as I continue reading more books.

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Looking for a Classic Read? Book Review #2: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The majority of my recent blog posts have focused on school-related topics. As such, I thought this week was the perfect time for another book review. There’s still some pedagogical considerations in this post, but I’m hoping that this review inspires teachers and non-teachers alike to give this children’s classic a chance, if they haven’t already done so. My last review was for a very new and trendy YA novel, but today’s is all about one of my favorite children’s novels: The Phantom Tollbooth. I won’t say this book is perfect, as it isn’t (see: colonization origin-story for the secondary world). However, just because a book has its issues, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a read. This motto is definitely the case for Phantom.

So, if you’re a lover of fantasy novels, allegories, puns, or educational tales, click on the link below to…

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Touring “Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos, and Toys in the Attic” with the Author/Illustrator

 

Growing up in Miami, Florida, I’ve always had many opportunities to participate in some amazing cultural experiences. We have quite a few museums in town, for example, including the Lowe Museum that is operated by the University of Miami. This summer, this museum is exhibiting the retrospective of award-winning children’s writer and illustrator, Walter Wick. If you can’t place his name immediately, he’s the illustrator of the I Spy series and the writer/illustrator of the Can You See What I See? series and Hey, Seymour! (amongst other works). The exhibit opened on June 22 (an auspicious day, considering it’s my birthday), and will continue on until September 24, 2017. For those who will be in the area during this time, here’s the link to the museum’s website if you’d like more information.

As someone who studies and teaches children’s literature (ChLit), and who has a particular interest in visual rhetoric, having the chance to see the exhibit in person (it’s been showcased in various museums over the past decade or so) was amazing. Having the chance to tour it with Walter Wick himself, though, was even better than I imagined. While I don’t want to give too many details away (definitely go see it yourself if you have the chance), I thought I’d devote this blog post to sharing a few of my favorite pieces from the exhibit as well as a few behind-the-scenes details I learned from Walter* throughout the tour.

*Side note: How I was able to tour the exhibit with Walter is a long story that also ties into why I’m referring to him as “Walter” and not “Wick”, as is usual when talking about authors/illustrators in this context. 

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Looking for a New Read? Book Review #1: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

When deciding what book to read next, I try to think of ones that I’ve been hearing a lot about and/or ones that I think have potential for future use in my classroom. Adding Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star to my PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge reading list was a direct result of both these considerations. I was originally assigned a fall semester course that provided me with the opportunity to add young adult (YA) literature to my required booklist. While I’ve been assigned a new course that cannot include YA lit, three of the books I’ve completed for my reading challenge were read in consideration for that prior class: The Sun Is Also A Star, The Hate U Give, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. While I enjoyed all three of these novels in different ways (it’s hard to use the term “enjoy” when referring to The Hate U Give), I’ve chosen my favorite of the three for my first book review on this blog. If you’ve read any or all of these three YA novels, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments section below.

One final note before getting to the “meat and potatoes” of this post. I plan for each book review post to have the same elements:

  • a brief introduction
  • a “basic information” section
  • and, a review of the book from my perspective as
    • a reader
    • an educator
    • a fan (as in, someone who takes part in fandom)
Now, on to the main event…(warning: a few *spoilers* ahead)

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How to Read More? Take On a Reading Challenge!

 

When planning what types of posts to include in this blog, I knew that one category had to be ChYALit book reviews. Reviews are so easy to find online and can be so helpful when deciding what to read, either for fun or as a potential booklist addition for one of my classes (or both). Luckily, one of the goals I set for myself (and my brother) this year is to complete a reading challenge: the 2017 Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge. As I spend most of my free time reading fanfic rather than ChYALit, I decided I would give my challenge the theme of children’s and young adult literature. While there will be an exception or two on the list, the ones that do fall under my ChYALit theme are perfect candidates for my book review posts.

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