Saturday, April 25, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

StS is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

For review:

Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash. 286 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 19, 2015. 9781481439312. 

Publisher synopsis: In this summer romance, two teens find unexpected harmony amid the crowd at a legendary music festival.
Michael is unsure about most things. Go to college? Enlist in the military? Break up with his girlfriend? All big question marks. He is living for the moment, and all he wants is a few days at the biggest concert of the summer.
Cora lives in the town hosting the music festival. She’s volunteering in the medical tent. She’s like that, always the good girl. But there is something in the air at this concert, and suddenly Cora finds herself wanting to push her own boundaries.
When Michael and Cora meet, sparks fly, hearts race, and all the things songs are written about come true. And they’ve got three days of the most epic summer ahead of them…

The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy. 245 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, May 12, 2015. 9780385739436. 

Publisher synopsis: A girl who can see the past tries to save the future in this compelling tween mystery.

A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.

When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.

But is it too late to save Emily?
The Disappearance of Emily H has everything—a quirky, believable heroine, a complex mystery that keeps you guessing, and even a touch of the paranormal. Readers won’t put this one down until the final sparkle.” — Gordon Korman, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“An extra-special extrasensory suspense story with unexpected twists and turns.” —Eric Walters, author ofThe Rule of Three

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link in the comments.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Memes: Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. 298 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group (USA), May 26, 2015. 9780399164064. (Arc courtesy of the publisher)

Publisher synopsis: From the author of A Tangle of Knots and Absolutely Almost, a touching story about a boy who won't let one tragic accident define him.
Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can't get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he's not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is.
If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.
It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it.

First Line: It's funny how the simplest thing, like riding your bike to the park the way you've done nearly every summer afternoon since you ditched your training wheels, can suddenly become so complicated.

Page 56: "Sit your ass back down, Trent," Mr. Gorman told me. "I'm not even close to done."
     He said that. He said "ass." I'm pretty sure teachers aren't supposed to say "ass."
     "But the bell rang."
     The look Mr. Gorman gave me then-well, I knew in that instant there was a reason he'd become a P.E. teacher. I bet he could've wrestled a bear and won.
     I sat my ass back down.

I've already finished this and my review is scheduled to post this Sunday, one month before its release date of May 26. I adored this book and want to talk about it everywhere I can. It has gotten a ton of love already - four stars so far! I can't wait to book talk it to my kids.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles we can't wait to release.

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith. 336 p. Random House Children's Books, July 14, 2015. 9780553511932.

Publisher synopsis: In this stunning debut novel, two very different characters—a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina and a white boy in Vermont who loses his best friend in a tragic accident—come together to find healing.

A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.

I learned about this from Kathi Appelt's FB page when she posted a link to a starred review by Kirkus. I was so happy about the heads up. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - All-Time Favorite Authors

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and Bookish. This week's theme is - all-time favorite authors.

Ha! I can't believe I actually looked ahead for this week! I'm glad I did because I have a huge list of favorite authors, many more than ten. I decided that my all-time favorite list would consist of authors whose book or books tore my heart out of my chest. That narrowed it down but there were still more than ten. I chose five women and five men and here they are alphabetically.

Sherman Alexie: I have lost track of how many times I have read Alexie's only YA offering, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I have read it both with my eyes and with my ears and sob each and every time. I can think of no other book that brings me from hysterical laughter to sobs in a heartbeat. I heard a few years ago that there was a sequel in the works. I would love to revisit Junior. Recently, the book was name the most banned book in America. I heard the author tweeted that he was proud to be the author of the most banned book.

Laurie Halse Anderson: I was working as an aide in a school library shortly after Speak won a Printz Honor when the librarian asked me to do her a favor and read the book. An eighth grader had written a book report on it and her teacher was concerned. I told the teacher, the librarian and the principal that Speak should be mandatory reading for all eighth graders. Her historical fiction, Fever, 1793 and Chains were astounding. Twisted was riveting, as was Catalyst

M.T. Anderson: It took me several tries to get into Anderson's National Book Award Finalist, Feed. Once I did, I was so very scared because the possibilities seemed so real. With each passing year and the "improvement" in technology, I often think about how prescient the book was. I am totally creeped out when I visit an online store only to have it pop up in the ads of my social media feeds seconds later. A few years later, Anderson won the National Book Award for the brilliant, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party. This is historical fiction at its very best.

Matt de la Peña: I have written often how de la Peña's books gut me. We Were Here and Mexican White Boy are seared into my memory. This is an author who sublimely explores the emotional landscape of young males. 

Sarah Darer Littman: Talk about gut-wrenching, I've read only one book by Littman and am reading her latest now; but both pack a wallop. Want to go Private was one of the most provocative, uncomfortable books I've ever read. 

Chris Lynch: The first Lynch book I read was Inexcusable, which was a 2005 National Book Award Finalist. It is a tad mature for most of my population but I do have it on the eighth grade only shelf and believe it might be as important to read as Speak is. Mind blown. His Vietnam series is just heartbreaking. And, his upcoming Hit Count (May 19, 2015) tackles an important issue in high school athletics. 

Melina Marchetta: I have to work really hard when reading Marchetta's books. No whipping through them reading with half a mind. The layering, character development, worldbuilding and rich language are all things to marvel whether reading her realistic fiction or fantasy.

Walter Dean Myers: Children's literature lost giant this past summer. Walter Dean Myers, one of the bravest, honest writers out there, wasn't afraid to experiment. He's done it all - poetry, picture books, biographies, a memoir, middle grade and YA. His 1999 book, Monster, won the inaugural Printz Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. I really enjoyed his biography of Muhammed Ali and found his memoir, Bad Boy, so touching; but it was Fallen Angels that brought me to my knees emotionally.

Barbara O'Connor: I've written before that Barbara O'Connor is the perfect middle grade writer. Her books are not long and yet each one packs such an emotional wallop. I have enjoyed every one of her books. They are each quite different. I have to say, though, my heart will always belong to the very first O'Connor book I read, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. "Drip. Drip. Drip." (sob!)

Sarah Weeks: is another versatile author. She has written picture books, early chapter books and middle grade fiction. She first came on my radar with So B. It. Oh my. This is one of my go-to books for tweens who crave sad. 

Honorable mention:
Gennifer Choldenko
Lisa Graff
Suzanne LaFleur

Monday, April 20, 2015

Non-Fiction Monday: Winnie: the true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker

Winnie: the true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker. Illustrated by Jonathan Voss. unpgd. Henry Holt and Company, January, 2015. 9780805097153. (Purchased)

Harry Coleman was a veterinarian and soldier in the Canadian Army during World War I. He and his regiment were traveling by train enroute to shipping out overseas when, at a brief stop, Harry spotted a man holding a bear on a leash. Turns out, the man had killed the cub's mother and, being unable to care for the bear, was selling her for $20. This may seem like a pittance, but I used an inflation calculator and that $20 from the early 20th century would be equivalent to $342. That was the kind of man Harry Coleman was. 

His Captain certainly was not pleased but was soon won over and Winnipeg became part of the regiment. It wasn't long before her name was shortened to Winnie. She followed Harry everywhere and slept under his cot. She soon got used to the horses that Harry was in charge of. When Harry could not be with Winnie, his buddies took turns caring for her. She even shipped out with the unit to England but once they received orders to move to the front, Harry understood Winnie would not be safe. He made arrangements for her to board at the London Zoo. 

She was a great favorite there. She was so gentle that the zookeepers allowed children to pet her, feed her and ride on her back. Once the war was over Harry made the difficult decision to leave her at the zoo rather than take her back to Canada. Eventually, Winnie made the acquaintance of young Christopher Robin Milne, who renamed Edward, his stuffed bear, Winnie, adding "the Pooh."

This beguiling story is nostalgically illustrated in browns and yellows. There's a short author's note as well as suggestions for further reading. Most intriguing are the endpages, which feature photos of Winnie as well as her intake card at the London Zoo and a photo of Christopher Robin and his father.

As a student of children's literature, I probably should have known this. But that's what makes my job so much fun. I learn something new every time I read a children's book. What a sweet biography of sweet bear.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hit Count by Chris Lynch

Hit Count by Chris Lynch. 368 p. Algonquin Young Readers, May 19, 2015. 9781616202507. (arc received at the ALAN workshop)

Hit Count is the first-person narrative of Arlo Brodie told over his four years in high school. We first meet Arlo as an articulate, hopeful freshman living in the shadow of his rather brutal older brother, who is a football star and sadistically enjoys putting Arlo in his place. Arlo recognizes that his brother probably received one too many hits over the course of his illustrious playing career but refuses to put the brakes on his own football hopes and dreams. He knows his father is proud of him and his mother is disappointed. She collects data about traumatic brain injury, which she adds to "The Book" and she wishes her boys would quit football. He can't please both. Besides, he loves football and recognizes his own potential.

He soon realizes that potential thanks to the hard work and extra effort he's willing to devote. Once he experiences the adrenaline rush of the "perfect hit," his appetite is insatiable. His star rises meteorically, in fact. By sophomore year, he's a varsity starter known as "Starlo." 

I could not put this book down. I have a bit of a love/ hate relationship with football. I grew up with a father who was a rabid NY Giants fan. Since my family owned only one black and white television, Sundays were spent with my dad alternately explaining the intricacies and beauty of football to me and screaming obscenities at the tv when a play went wrong. Later, it killed me in high school to see the football jocks rule the school. Still later, as an ER nurse, I was well acquainted with treatment of high school athletes. When the push for peewee football descended on my town while my own sons were growing up, I was happy they were soccer players (although I later read about the incidence of traumatic brain injury in soccer players is also high, like second or third with ice hockey. And soccer players wear no helmets).

While there's plenty of football action to please those who crave that in their novel reading, there's much more to offer a variety of readers. Arlo's is an engaging, charming voice - the likable jock, the scholar-athlete. He's crushing on new girl Sandy and is so endearingly awkward, it hurts. Even his complicated family dynamics are interesting. We definitely root for Arlo and almost don't notice that he's becoming a bit less articulate and less in control of his anger until it's too late. The bone-crunching football Arlo plays is thrilling. We get it. 

A couple of years ago, Carla Killough McClafferty wrote a powerful book called, Fourth Down and Inches: concussions and football's make or break moment. You can read my thoughts here, but I wrote that, "This book should be mandatory reading for every coach, parent and, yes, even player in the country." I think this book is so important it is usually front and center on my book display. 

The two would make a perfect fiction/ non-fiction pairing. In fact, I might take to our morning broadcast show with a book talk on both books next week to follow up on a presentation that the eighth graders at my school attended the morning of this writing (April17).

A former student who is now a senior, studied athletic injuries, specifically, ACL tears and concussion, for her Gold Star (Girl Scout) project. She put together an informative presentation and spoke very comfortably to the eighth graders. I learned that our regional high school has a policy that prohibits play (for the rest of high school) by a student when he or she suffers the fourth concussion. Whether this policy would lead to student athletes underreporting is a topic for another time but I was impressed that such a policy was in place. Timely coincidence, eh?

Hit Count is a must-purchase for school and public libraries. The only other YA novel I can think of that deals with this issue is Pop by Gordon Korman. In Pop, a young football player befriends Pop, a football legend who is suffering from the effects of multiple concussions. Hit Count definitely hits closer to home. Don't miss it.

ETA: I don't know if there are any plans to produce an audiobook. I think it lends itself to the format quite nicely. Both Nick Podehl and MacLeod Andrews spring to mind as perfect for the part. Both are terrific, especially conveying male adolescents. Both inhabit whatever book they narrate. Indeed, they don't narrate. They perform.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

StS is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

For review:

The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York by Geoff Rodkey. 261 p. Little, Brown and Company, September 29, 2015. 978031634268.

Publisher synopsis: In the follow up to The Tapper Twins Go to War, Geoff Rodkey delivers another ultra-modern comedy told as oral history with texts, screenshots and smartphone photos. When Claudia initiates a citywide scavenger hunt to raise money for charity, it's not just the twins' opposing teams that run riot. With the whole school racing to trade in sights seen for points to score front row tickets at Madison Square Garden, they may not get to the finish line with their dignity-and social lives-intact!

I reviewed The Tapper Twins Go to War with Each Other for SLJ and am just thrilled to receive this arc of the next in the series.

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman. 326 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic, April 28, 2015. 9780545651264.

Publisher synopsis: In critically acclaimed author Sarah Darer Littman's gripping new novel what happens online doesn't always stay online . . .
Lara just got told off on Facebook.
She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school's homecoming dance. It's been a long time since Lara's felt this bad, this depressed. She's worked really hard since starting high school to be happy and make new friends.
Bree used to be BBFs with overweight, depressed Lara in middle school, but constantly listening to Lara's problems got to be too much. Bree's secretly glad that Christian's pointed out Lara's flaws to the world. Lara's not nearly as great as everyone thinks.
After weeks of talking online, Lara thought she knew Christian, so what's with this sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse - are they true?
But no one realized just how far Christian's harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.
As online life collides with real life, the truth starts to come together and the backlash is even more devastating than than anyone could have imagined.
I found the author's earlier novel, Want to Go Private, to be one of the most provocative and uncomfortable novels I have ever read. I can't wait to crack this one.

A Conspiracy of Princes by Justin Somper. An Allies and Assassins novel. 480 p. Little, Brown and Company (BYR), May 26. 2015. 9780316338226.

Publisher synopsis: The newly crowned Prince Jared, ruler of All Archenfield, has inherited a kingdom in crisis. The murder of his older brother has revealed a traitorous plot in his court, calling into question who, if anyone, Jared can trust as he ascends the throne. Now the realm is on the brink of invasion from the brutal princes of Paddenburg and Jared must travel to neighboring kingdoms in search of allies to defend his throne. Little does he know that an even more dangerous plot is hatching in the Archenfield court--one that threatens to remove Jared from power. One put in motion by the very people he left in charge.
The second book in Justin Somper's Allies & Assassins series delivers another twisted tale of high-stakes betrayal and political machinations set amid a lush medieval background.
That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link in the comments.