Monday, December 11, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Arc Review: The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta


The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta. Illustrated by Vivienne To. Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1. 368 p.Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., February 27, 2018. (Review of arc received courtesy of publisher)

Twelve-year-old Kiranmala goes to sixth grade in Parsippany, New Jersey, has the misfortune of having Halloween as her birthday, and is regularly embarrassed by her immigrant parents, who insist on loudly discussing her fiber intake and insists that she is really an Indian princess. When she returns home from school on Halloween expecting to celebrate her birthday, she finds her parents are missing. They have left a curious birthday card though. It contains foreign money and some sort of map along with instructions not to try to find them. She settles in to an evening of handing out candy to trick-or-treaters when two boys about her age ring the bell. She's confused when they call her princess and seem to think she should know them. They want her to come with them. She just wants to find her parents. She's convinced to go with them when a giant, snot-spewing monster destroys her house and tries to eat her.

It seems Kiranmala really is an Indian princess and her twelfth birthday was the expiration date of the spell protecting her from her father, the Serpent King. She travels to a parallel universe with the two princes and finds she needs to rely on her wits as well as the many Bengali folktales her parents plied her with throughout her childhood. 

This debut and series starter hits the ground running and doesn't let up. A kick-ass heroine + epic world-building + snarky and hilarious dialogue = one memorable ride! Fresh, funny and relatable, give this to your Percy Jackson fans whom you want to branch out to other mythologies. I have quite a few fans of Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry trilogy who will love this. Really, any reader looking for fast-paced adventure and laughter will gobble this whole.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fact Friday: The Quilts of Gee's Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin


The Quilts of Gee's Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin. 56 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers Abrams/ June, 2017. 9781419721311. (Review from purchased copy)

I don't recall now when I first learned about the quilts of Gee's Bend. It might have been when Jacqueline Woodson's Show Way was published (2005) and I got interested in the history of quilting in the south among enslaved women.  Gee's Bend popped into my consciousness again in 2011 when I read Belle, the last mule of Gee's Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud. I also became a fan of Susan Goldman Rubin after reading her biography of Diego Rivera. Books by her are basically an automatic purchase by me even if I can't get to read them all. 

The Quilts of Gee's Bend is just gorgeous through and through from the trim size through the cover to it's meticulous writing and arresting photographs of both the quilts and portraits of the quilter artist. 

The history of Gee's Bend dates back to the 1800s, when enslaved women would toil all day before returning to their quarters to cook, tend their family and quilt. Quilts were important in a variety of ways from the practical to the symbolic. New generations of quilters learned at the knees of mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other women. Once the Civil War and slavery ended, most stayed on in Gee's Bend and became sharecroppers. Most lived in abject poverty and constant debt that they could never pay off. Still, they were a tight-knit community who supported each other through good times and bad.

Readers will get to know a few of the more prominent quilter artists through the leisurely flowing text. There is hardly a page without a photograph of either the quilts (in full-color) or archival black and white photos and portraits taken during the late 1930s when FDR sent a team of photographers to the town to document the condition after an article was written by a journalist named Beverly Smith. 

Plenty of care went into the details of the book's design, with plenty of "white space." The background of the text is a creamy ecru with top-stitching that frames each page, a colorful, bright red, yellow and cream border along the top and page numbers framed in red and blue quilt rectangles.
Backmatter includes cheerful instructions for making a quilt square complete with traceable patterns. Three pages of notes follow. The bibliography includes six books, six articles, a video and three websites. Acknowledgements, image credits and an index conclude this fine volume.

Friday Memes: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

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


The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty. 290 p. Random House Children's Books, May 1, 2018. 9781524767587.

Publisher synopsis: Middle school is the one problem Lucy Callahan can't solve in this middle-grade novel perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by 7s.

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test—middle school!

Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty's smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

First line: I don't remember the moment that changed my life 4 years ago.

Page 56: "Well, can she take it over?" She pauses for an answer that i can't hear. "I see." Pause. "Certainly." Pause. "Thanks for calling. Good-bye." She puts the phone down on the counter.
     "Wrong number?" I joke.
     "That was your math teacher. He said you got a 0 on today's test."
     What!" It wasn't even a test. It was an assessment.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

#tbt: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo


The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. 272 p. Candlewick Press, August, 2003. 978763617225. (Purchased)

#tbt features The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. This Newbery Award-winning book was suggested by a student. It was published in 2003 and was DiCamillo's third novel. It tells the story of Despereaux Tilling, a very small mouse with big ears who resides in Princess Pea's castle. She is in danger and Despereaux is determined to protect her from the rats of the castle. It is told from a variety of points of view and is beautifully illustrated.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: How I Resist: activism and hope for a new generation edited by Tim Federle and Maureen Johnson

How I Resist: activism and hope for a new generation edited by Tim Federle and Maureen Johnson. 286 p. St. Martin's Press/ Macmillan, May 1, 2018. 9781250168368.

Publisher synopsis: An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA authors Tim Federle and Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they're bound to inherit. They're ready to stand up and be heard - but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O'Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Shaina Taub, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson and Lambda-winning novelist Tim Federle.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.

I learned about this from Tim Federle's Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. I am so thrilled about this collection. One, I have gutted my story collection and need new, relevant additions. Two, it's edited by Tim Federle and Maureen Johnson! Three, the topic! Four, the line-up of authors! Can. Not. Wait!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Six of Crow #1. 480 p. Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), September, 2015. 9781627792127.

Teen Tuesday features Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Six of Crows is the first in a dualogy by the author of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. Six of Crows is set in the same world as Shadow and Bone, the Grieshaverse, but can be read on its own. 

Kaz Brekker is a criminal mastermind and survivor in the harsh and unforgiving world of Ketterdam. He allows no one to get close to him. When he is offered a huge sum of money to pull off an impossible, even suicidal heist, Kaz can't resist the lure of the payoff. This book features epic world-building, memorable characters, unbearable suspense, surprising twists and a cliffhanger ending that left me panting for the sequel. You don't have to wait, both are available in TMS library!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer


The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. Land of Stories #1. 448 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July, 2012. 9780316201575.

This is a student recommendation but I have also read this and the second book of the series. When twins, Connor and Alex Bailey turn twelve, their grandmother gifts them an old book called, The Land of Stories. They are thrilled with the gift because they remember being read fairy tales from the book when they were younger. When the book begins buzzing one night, Alex discovers that it is a portal into the actual Land of Stories where they meet Cinderella, Goldilocks, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood as well as other citizens. In order to find their way back to their own world, they need to cross The Land of Stories to find The Wishing Well; but find adventure along the way. 

The Land of Stories is the first of a six-book series. There are also five companion books. Additionally, The Wishing Well was optioned and is in development by Twentieth Century Fox with Chris Colfer serving as screenwriter and director.