Sunday, April 22, 2018

Book Review: Things I'd Rather Do Than Die

Things I'd Rather Do Than Die

Pub Date:   

Read courtesy of

I recently reviewed Christine Hurley Deriso's All the Wrong Chords, which I loved. I really wanted to like Things I'd Rather Do Than Die as much, but alas, I give it 4 instead of 5 ⭐.  I also read Deriso's Acknowledgment section of this novel, and I'm glad she took the advice of her editor; having the main characters tell their tale in alternating scenarios made this story more thoughtful than if it had been a one-sided story. Stereotypes of jocks, brains, Jesus freaks, popularity, race and ethnicity,  financial status, family structures, and illnesses became something about which I wanted to contemplate rather than be swayed. I can picture my teen readers discussing this story.

However, it was those amount of topics Deriso tried to squeeze into this one novel that caused my rating to lose a potential star. Maybe teens with slightly shorter attention spans won't mind the topic hopping, but I found it a bit distracting. I think it will affect my ability to discuss and recommend the book to my students. Other than being able to remember the basic plot, it's the nuances that might be lost to what I usually try to relate with enthusiasm.

On the other hand, Deriso handled all of the sensitive topics well. She allowed the characters to present their different points-of-view just like 'real' teens would. Kudos to that!!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

National Board Certification - almost 10 years later...

In November 2009 I posted that I was waiting for my National Board Certification test results. Obviously, I passed, since I'm writing about my renewal submission 😃

Last week I submitted my renewal portfolio to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. My initial certification expires in 2019 (10 years), but we're given two years to renew our certifications in the last two years of our current certification. 

Now I wait --again-- until November 2018 to see if I've achieved renewal of my certification from 2019-2029. I got lucky, too, by mere timing ... 

Beginning in 2021, NBCTs will be required to demonstrate their knowledge and skills every five years

... I'll have 10 more years of being a NBCT instead of only five. And I'm certainly glad about that!

Previous renewal candidates report the PPG process takes 30-40 hours

While that doesn't sound like a lot it is! And I know I took way more than 40 hours, since I worked on my submission at least 8 hours every weekend from December 2017 to April 2018 in addition to the weekday hours I spent filming, writing, editing, researching, and amassing for my submission.

NOTE: I am one of eight Library Media/Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood NBCT in New Jersey. There's no monetary or status benefit in NJ to being an NBCT other than my own continuing education. (Compare, for example, that there are 696 Library Media/Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood NBCT listed in North Carolina because that state compensates the achievement.)

Book Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Book Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
courtesy of
publish date: May 8, 2018

Sarah Crossan brought me into a world I don't think I'll ever encounter in my own life, but she brought me into it nonetheless. Great job helping me to be a part of someone else's life, especially when I'd have no understanding otherwise.

What it is like having your older brother on death row, having a family that can barely take care of itself, having the seesaw conviction of unconditional love with others telling you to forget about your brother... mix in a great [unexpected] plot twist... creates a story full of sympathy, doubt, and life.

I really enjoyed Crossan's writing style; it helped with the rhythm of the story and with the personalities of the characters. Not quite prose paragraphs and not quite verse novel, the format added motion and emotion to the narrative.

I read this right before I read, The Hate U Give, and Moonrise is it's own unique tale, not derivative or redundant, and it provides a great addition to the repertoire of life stories I never would encounter without the aide of Angie Thomas or Sarah Crossan.

I can see this book working for a YA book club, especially because of the moral issues tackled: death sentence, race, poverty, family, and addiction.

I'm looking forward to having this book in my high school library.

Book Review: What You Left Me

What You Left Me
by Bridget Morrissey
publication date June 5, 2018
courtesy of

Magical realism.  As a result of a drunk driving accident during their high school graduation, friends get connected through dreams to the friend who "is stuck" in limbo from his injuries. I might have liked this better if the characters beyond the three main characters were more developed. The other 'friends' are not stereotypical; it's just that they're not described enough for me to empathize or connect with any of them. They are more like plot devices than participants.

My suspension of disbelief isn't working when someone with a class rank of 11 gets over a year to make up one exam in order to keep her class rank. The real pressures of high school report cards, class rank, and accountability required magical realism to make this work.

I'd like to think teens are smarter than to ditch in the middle of their high school graduation ceremony in order to go on a drunk joy ride all while expecting to return to the ceremony and have no one notice they'd been gone. The ditch, the drinking... as well as magically connecting to one's alphabetical neighbor for the first time at graduation?

I did appreciate the humorous lightness Morrissey offered throughout the story, but it wasn't enough to undo the falseness of the ending, "Do you really think you had control over what was going to happen to you?" Yes, don't get into a car with your impetuous, impulsive drunk friend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Book Review: Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger

Tell Me No Lies by A.V. Geiger
publication date: June 5, 2018
read courtesy of

Love, love, LOVE it! I read it in less than a day. It grabbed me and kept me. I can't wait to get this for my HS Library! I didn't read "Follow Me Back," so I had no preconceived notions and no background and STILL loved it! It's modern and realistic; its characters are hopeful and immature and believable. The only character not fully developed is the one created as the diversion to the deception (the costume designer). I loved being twisted and confused and guessing. Well done, A.V.!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Infographics by Arlen Kimelman

I haven't shared any of my infographics here in a while...

This is the one of which I'm most pleased.

It describes who I am, what I do, and what I'm worth all in one picture. win-win-win


This one shows the unique and the collaborative roles school librarians and teachers have with regard to student success.


This one is "Fact or Fake?"


School Librarian Leadership, obviously...


Here, the difference between school librarians and tech coaches is highlighted.


Please contact me before using any of these infographics.                              (c) Arlen Kimmelman

Book review: Whisper by Lynette Noni

by Lynette Noni
Pub Date: 01 May 2018   |   Archive Date: Not set

Thank you to for this preview!

I wanted to like this more than I did. I just felt like in our current social culture, it was another you-don't-know-who-to-trust and everyone-who's-not-like-you-is-to-be-approached-with-caution and look-what-we've-done-to-our-world... I know that's what dystopian fiction is, but this wasn't unique enough to wow me.  Noni did her best to make the reader flip flop as to 'who's to blame,' but it was too easy to figure out, which made me lose a little sympathy for our hero (victim?). I'm no longer a YA, so perhaps YA readers will enjoy the challenge more of deciding which side deserves their loyalty. Characterizations are diverse enough to get to know them as individuals - this is a plus. In spite of my critique of the thematic premise, the plot was interesting enough that I do plan on reading the next book in the series. My curiosity is piqued.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: How You Ruined My Life

Preview read courtesy of
"How You Ruined My Life"
By Jeff Strand @Jeff Strand
Publication date: April 3, 2018

Thanks to for providing this advanced readers copy.

Humor without curse words! A high school punk rock band without curse words! A book that would work in either middle school or high school without curse words!

"How You Ruined My Life" is a humorous story based on the premise of opposite finances. Two high school cousins who haven't seen each other in 10 years have to live together for three months. Rich cousin from California has to live with poor cousin in Florida. The author does a good job of creating the main characters' personalities including having the reader flip-flop back-n-forth over which cousin is the crazier one.

Written as if the Florida cousin is narrating the story to the reader, the first-person storytelling effectively conveys the desperate need for the cousin to have the reader on his side, while at the same time admitting how awkward his convincing is. Struggling readers may need some reminding that the style of writing is at times conversational, at times an internal dialogue, and at times a brief, stray off topic - just as anyone relaying a longer story might stray off topic.

The book comes across as a battle of wits and wills, pranks and pratfalls, while at the end there's a bit of a Bildungsroman. This sets up the possibilities of a conversation with readers if they would forgive and forget or hold a grudge, if they would go one with their intended paths or forge a new plan for their futures.

Though humorous books are sometimes a hard sell, I'd purchase this for my HS library (and recommend it to our MS library) because it's an accessible, light-hearted read.

Book Review: Reversed, a Memoir

Read courtesy of
Reversed - A Memoir
By Lois Letchford
Publication date: March 3, 2018

Resilience, perseverance, advocacy, inspiration, caring, love... it's got it all. 

This story has great messages: go with your gut... think creatively... advocate for what you think is right. It's not eloquently written, but that's part of the point, too. Anyone can do what's right. Education doesn't have to be as prescriptive as it is, and Mrs. Letchford's experience gives hope that parents and teachers can find creative and effective ways to teach. 

This book is on par with "To Sir with Love" by E. R. Braithwaite, "Small Victories" by Samuel G. Freedman, and Jaime Escalante's "Stand and Deliver." The only drawback in the whole telling is that the book was about her middle child, but the few times when she mentioned her youngest child, it wasn't very flattering - maybe realistic, but unnecessary to the telling. 

I highly recommend this book for anyone who teaches and for any parent who sees a spark in their child that others don't.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Book Review: You Will Be Mine

Book Review: You Will Be Mine by Natasha Preston
Publication date: February 6, 2018
Read courtesy of

The author did a really good job of throwing the reader off the trail of the real killer in You Will Be Mine. I normally don't pick up mysteries or murder mysteries to read, but I liked trying to guess this who-dunnit. However, the other possible victims hung around too long for me to read the rest of the story as any more than a Scooby Doo mystery ... a little too unbelievable to be true. Leaving the potential victims in the thick of the story doesn't make the story scary and suspenseful for me; it makes it a "how dumb are these people, and how can I believe this story?"story.

The fact that this British tale is sold in the U.S. won't detract from the story. I saw one reviewer who thought that some of the references or allusions were too vague for an American audience. I disagree; the author's contexts were enough to guide the reader through the minor cultural differences.

I was bothered, though, by the bungling, inept law enforcement depicted throughout the story even to the end. A plot of the-police-can't-solve-a-crime-but-young-adults-can perpetuated the Scooby-like mood. In spite of the author's ability to get me to speculate about the wrong killer, moving the action forward by way of an entirely flawed police force was wholly dissatisfying.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: The Future Will Be BS Free

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh
Publication Date: July 24, 2018
Read Courtesy of

The plot is a winner; the characters are secondary. If you read The Future Will Be BS Free with this in mind, you'll have a good time. True, it's another teen-saves-the-world sci-fi action adventure, but it's also thought-provoking. My favorite line in the book is, "Secrets aren't the same as lies." Here's the true moral dilemma faced by the characters, as well as by the government, as well as by the reader. The intriguing aspects of their invention are if technology has the ability to differentiate between a lie and a secret, and how soon in the future could this become our reality. Even though the details of why and what kind of war there was are vague, that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the cyborg aspect of the characters that evolved from the back story. They were fun, tough underdogs, and I found myself rooting for them - especially because these cyber-enhanced characters had more personality than the main, teen characters. Don't let the underdeveloped teen characters deter you from sitting back and enjoying the tension - both in action in in morality.

Book Review: The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred
Courtesy of
Publication date May 8, 2018

The premise of this book makes you want to like it -- non-judgmental self-discovery should be everyone's luck to have. However, in order to get there, these characters took us on a shallow roller coaster ride of stereotypes. I liked the main characters as people, but everyone else around them played to the message instead of the story. If I suspended disbelief and went with the flow, I enjoyed the story, the struggle, the humor, the self-deprication. Granted, I'm not a teen in 2017-18, but I really wonder how authentic the thoughts and dialog were as opposed to being manipulated to convey a message. I understand it is fiction, so this book provides a point-of-reference for jumping into a dialogue with teens about gender issues. Teens reading this as fiction will enjoy it; teens hoping for a template for a self-help guide will be disappointed.