Summer is the perfect time to enjoy some new books and authors!
I have a number of books I will recommend in a future post, but for now, I want to give you a list of recommended books put together by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Don't let the picture books turn you off-- there are many middle grade and YA options listed, as well. You can search by region if you are looking for local authors or just look at each YA section if you only want YA.
Mer-Charmer is in the International-Other section, because I'm living in Germany right now and that's the division Germany is included in for SCBWI's regions. I'm delighted to be included in the list!
So scroll through these books and think about which ones you want to take with you to the pool, to the beach, or on your camping trip. Many of these will be perfect to enjoy on a rainy Monday afternoon, too, just curled up on your couch with your favorite treat to eat.
And if you have any book recommendations for others, please feel free to share in the comments!
It's that time of the year again... final exams are looming, the gate through which you must pass to reach summer vacation.
But don't worry. I've got your back.
Here are five steps to follow to finish out your school year with style and grace, instead of blood, sweat, and tears.
1. Don’t cram
Research says cramming isn’t effective, even though a lot of people keep trying. It’s far better to study for 10-15 minutes each day for a week than a bunch all at once. Think of it like taking sips of a slushie instead of gulping it—and getting a brain freeze. Cramming may let you feel like you’ll succeed because the material will look familiar and it’s easy to think, “Yeah, yeah, I know this, I know that,” but recognition is not the same as recalling it. Instead, dedicate a little bit of time every day to study for each final exam. Depending on how much material your test covers, a chapter per day for a week might work.
2. Write out Your Notes
The science is in: writing things by hand helps us remember things much better than typing them out. You may not be able to write down every word the teacher says—but that’s precisely what will help you discern what is actually important to know and summarize as you listen, so you can write down only the critical stuff. Or even if you take notes in class on a laptop, go home and make notecards the old-fashioned way to help lock in the information you’ll need.
Sleep is critical to our health, but also to our learning. Sleep consolidates our new knowledge and organizes memories. Getting a good night of shut-eye is your best tool for making sure you remember what you studied the night before. Logically, this means that pulling “an all-nighter” is a really bad idea. Not only are you cramming (see point 1) but you aren’t giving your brain any time to absorb the material.
4. Eat well.
We all know that eating well is a priority, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Breakfast in particular can be tough to maneuver on a busy school morning. But on test days, it’s critical that you eat a solid breakfast with protein so your brain has the energy to carry you through the day. As a bonus, eggs contain a nutrient that is thought to help improve memory and cognitive performance. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Fast and easy ideas: Yogurt parfait, breakfast burrito, fruit smoothie with protein powder, oatmeal made with soy or dairy milk for a protein boost.
5. Decide your goal and go for it.
Writing down your goals or stating them in public helps people reach their goals. Goals help us stay more accountable. So write down your test goal and post it in your room. Tell your friends, parents or teacher that your goal is to make whatever grade you need—an A, a B…even if it's just to pass! You are much more likely to do so once you’ve officially committed to doing it. Goals transform people from wishers to doers.
So there you go—five steps for taking charge of your academic success during final exams. This all assumes, of course, that you’ve been paying in class (because you have, right??) and listening with intention. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache if you learn as you go, with the understanding that you might as well do it right the first time. Don’t find yourself sitting in summer school while your friends are heading out to the pool.
With a little planning and dedication, you can ace all your finals and soar off into summer with victory. Decide to rock your finals and end your school year strong.
You’ve got this.
Take the quiz to find out which Fairy Keeper character you are! (If the quiz isn't showing in the preview pane, click on the post itself and it should appear within the bigger post.)
The Myers-Briggs personality test has been around for a long time. Like, even since *I* was in high school. It sorts people into 16 basic types. Of course, everyone is unique and no one is the same way all the time. This is about your general, first-response preferences. And preferences can change over time. But if you are curious about what your preferences say about you in this one short snapshot in time, feel free to take this free, condensed version of the Myers-Briggs test. Then maybe browse the description of your type to see if you agree.
Also, here is a short test-- really short-- based on the Myers Briggs by 16 Personalities, but I got the same result as usual: INFJ. If you use Facebook, it's been floating around on there, so you may have already taken it.
I scored as an INFP for many years and for years, identified more with that type than INFJ. They are very similar anyway, but I have realized lately-- NOPE, I'm really an IFNJ. To look over the different types, read this page or this page. it has a great summary of each type.
You are the final judge of what you are like and in the end, knowing yourself is what's important. People who know who they are, deep inside, feel less pressure to act in ways that don't match their own values. I think that's part of why I enjoy taking personality tests. It affirms who I am. Yes, I'm introvert. I'm not anti-social and I'm not weird. Well, okay, I'm weird, but so's everyone! But it sure helps me understand why some people are harder for me to get along with than others.
Personality tests help me take things less personally, as funny as that sounds. They help me see that others have their own unique way of looking at the world, like each of the characters in my stories. And just because they see things differently than I do, doesn't make them automatically wrong. It's just different. I recommend trying the test and reading through all the different "types." Knowing that someone else may see something totally differently can help you resolve differences quicker and more smoothly. Understanding each other is a key step toward compassion and peace.
*Image used with permission, copyright free, from Morguefile. Greyerbaby. "djfdklj.jpg" Morguefile. <http://mrg.bz/W0HlXa>
My daughter and I just listened to the first Septimus Heap book on CD. I don't normally like audio books because I get impatient at the slow pace. However, the narrator did a fantastic job with Ms. Sage's story.
I had once tried to read this book on my own, and eventually set it down. I only chose it because it was one of the few audio books in our library that my daughter was remotely interested in. But this is a perfect example of giving a book another chance. Sometimes, we are just not in the right mood or place for a book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book the second time I tried it. It's a very epic-feeling book, with many characters and a rather omniscient point of view narrator, which you don't see very often these days. The plot has a good number of twists and turns and even though I think most readers will figure out one of the big secrets earlier, it made my daughter feel very in-the-know and part of a secret club when she realized what was going on before the characters in the story did.
I highly recommend to those who enjoy Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. This is another long series, but even if you only read book 1, it's well worth the time spent.
My daughter gave it five stars and she's pretty stingy with those. So check it out! And the cover is super cool and you'll understand why at the end. It has special meaning.
Summary from Goodreads:
"The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby's father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?
The first book in this enthralling new series by Angie Sage leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters and magykal charms, potions, and spells. Magyk is an original story of lost and rediscovered identities, rich with humor and heart."
I imagine most of you are familiar with this series. It spawned a huge fandom and I finally read them all, just to see what the fuss was about. Let me tell you-- it's about some amazing writing and a Romeo and Juliet kind of romance that makes readers yearn for hope and peace. The thing is, it's also a great deal about war, especially in books 2 and 3. So if you are going into these thinking it will be Twilight, you are mistaken. The characters are far more interesting, but the focus really is not romance for most of this series, despite the way the series kicks off. Given that I like a good romance and am not so huge into war/battle stories, I struggled some with books 2 and 3, but the writing continued to be beautiful and the whole thing is very action-packed.
I do wish I had understood more of what was going on at the end of book 3, though.
Y'all, I don't even like scary books, but I loved this one. It's scary, but the kids are so smart and resourceful that I trusted them to make wise choices. It's creepy as all get-out-- don't read this alone on a stormy night-- but it's not gory. If you like getting goosebumps from your books, this is a good pick for you!
I really enjoyed the book and finished it in two days. (It took longer to update my Goodreads account, sorry!)
The only reason this book doesn’t get five stars is because I really found it hard to believe that this boy wouldn’t foresee some problems getting back together with his girlfriend—who has been living for five years without him and is engaged and will forever be five years older than him now. Yes, they were in love, and yes, he feels like it was yesterday, but it was like he wasn’t prepared at all for her shock. He seemed too smart for that. I also understand he thought if he ever came back, it’d be like 70 years later, and this was just too close and too far all at once. Brilliant premise. I’m just saying I found his insistence that she’d just immediately fall back in love with him was not very believable to me.
You can get a great sense of his voice through the blurb—snappy, funny, fast and brutally honest. Two thumbs up.
Read Hook's Revenge immediately! Fast, fun, and hilarious, this debut novel by Heidi Schulz will appeal to elementary age and middle school kids for sure, but also even older people to include adults, because of the dry wit and rather inappropriate comments of the old pirate narrator who dislikes children. (He's my favorite part.)
It's a brilliantly conceived novel, based on the world of Peter Pan. Jocelyn is Hook's daughter, and though she has never met him, she is determined to be a dangerous pirate one day, nevermind that everyone else wants her to conform and be a nice little lady at finishing school.
When she learns of her father's death from the fearsome crocodile, she seeks revenge on the giant creature in Neverland itself. But this turns out to be harder than she thought it would be.
Funny, but also touching without crossing into sappy, this is a book for everyone. Hook's Revenge has received outstanding reviews from all sorts of critics, to include School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist. Furthermore, Hook's Revenge was selected as one of the top 100 children's books of 2014 by the New York Public Library. This is a book that is well worth your time.
Amusingly, the game the girls are playing was intended for little girls, so it's full of pink, purple, unicorns, flowers and tea parties. The game, though, resents the changes Emily has been making to it, and is fighting back. The little cotton-candy pink sprites that spit glitter are my favorite.
The story is very clever, well-written, and fast-paced. If you enjoy gaming, you'll have fun seeing how the main characters use the gaming world to reach their goals.
It's a great fit for upper-middle grade, on up. It's listed for 10-14 as the main audience and the main character is 14. So if you are in 5th-9th grade, this book is written especially for you. Don't let the pink cover throw you-- it suits both boys and girls, especially anyone who is a gamer. (And we all know there's plenty of awesome girl gamers out there!)
What I liked most is that this is a story about the relationship between two sisters. There are no boyfriends who feature in this story, though a bad breakup does play a small role in the back story, but the story is not about him. This has no lovesick drama, no sparkling vampires. Instead, it's about a little sister and big sister coming to grips with who they are, both alone and in relation to each other. I enjoy a good romance, but it's really nice to see girls solving problems and interacting without a guy being the focus. (Such a storyline is so rare in fiction and movies that there's even a name for it. It's called the Bechdel Test, to see if two female characters --who are actually named-- speak in a story without talking about a male. A fabulous YA book that passes the test with flying colors is Code Name Verity, which I reviewed in my other blog here.)
At ANY rate, the big sister is a smart game designer engineer who learns that running away from her problems isn't the way to deal with them, and the younger sister learns that she can do more than she thought she could, too. Grace always thought of herself as the plain, boring one compared to her high-achieving, popular sister (can anyone relate?), but now her sister needs help and Grace rises to the occasion.
It's really just a lovely story, and a fun one to read. Two big thumbs up! Now I think I'll go find some of her other books and see if I enjoy those as much as this one!
Reviews (as shown on Amazon):
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