Friday, July 20, 2018

Fact Friday: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol


Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. 256 p. First Second, April, 2018. 9781626724457. (Own)

Fact Friday features Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. This is Brosgol's second graphic novel and, unlike her debut, Anya's Ghost, this one is a memoir about nine, almost ten-year-old Vera's time spent at a summer camp for Russian children. Vera lives with her single mother, brother and baby sister. She doesn't quite fit in with her savvier, wealthy classmates as scenes from two birthday sleepover parties show. When a prickly girl from Vera's Russian church tells her about her Russian culture summer camp, Vera begs her mother to go. Her cash-strapped mom signs Vera and her very reluctant younger brother up for two weeks. Vera is ecstatic. Her brother? Not so much. 

Hilarity ensues as Vera tries to fit in with two fourteen-year-old bunkmates and camp life which includes using outhouses and speaking entirely in Russian. 

The art is predominantly greens and browns. Changes in panel size and crisp, authentic dialog keep the reader engaged and alternately cringing and rooting for Vera. 

Be Prepared is perfect for graphic novel fans, especially fans of gn memoirs. There have been so many good ones lately and this one holds its own.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

#tbt: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer


House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. 400 p. Atheneum/ Richard Jackson Books, September, 2002.(Own)

#TBT features House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. This sci/fi/ dystopian was published in 2002 and won the National Book Award as well as a Printz Honor and a Newbery Honor. It takes place in the future in Opium, which is a strip of land between Mexico and the U.S., where it is legal to grow Opium. Mateo is the main character. He is a clone of the drug lord, El Patron. He is meant to supply tissue and organs for the aging patriarch as his own fail. Pretty grim stuff. Ms. Farmer published a sequel in 2013 called The Lord of Opium.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Muse of Nightmares by Lainie Taylor


Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Strange the Dreamer series #2. 528 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October 2, 2018. 9780316341714.

Publisher synopsis: Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Oh! How I adored Strange the Dreamer! I missed my opportunity to snag an arc of this at ALAAC18.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Speak: a graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson


Speak: a graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. Illustrated by Emily Carroll. 384 p. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, February, 2018. 978037400289. (Review from copy borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Speak: a graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. Illustrated by Emily Carroll. The novel, Speak, was published nearly twenty years ago, in 1999. It won a Printz Honor. I recall saying to a colleague, "This should be required reading for every rising eighth grader, boys and girls, before heading to high school." Since then, I have reread it several times and find it just as (sadly) relevant and powerful.

Melinda has lost her voice after an awful attack at a big high school summer bash. She starts her freshman year as an outcast because she called the police, not to bust up the party, but to report the attack. She could not speak of it - not to the police, her parents or her best friends. 

Laurie Halse Anderson reworked her novel to accommodate the graphic novel format and updated it to reflect the technology that wasn't available back then. Emily Carroll's haunting black and white illustrations depict Melinda's isolation and loneliness. 

When Speak: a graphic novel published, I was out of budget money.Speak: a graphic novel  will join her sister, Speak at TMS in the fall. Both are must-reads for teens.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck


Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck. 266 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, May, 2018. 9781419721410. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I have often pondered (*) the vagaries of popularity and what makes something cool or uncool. Rebecca Petruck explores that as well as racism, white privilege and wrestling in this engaging story. She adroitly serves up insight along with shiver-inducing delight. The alliterative, embossed cover will definitely garner attention if displayed prominently in your library. Every kind of reader will be intrigued with Boy Bites Bug. 

When seventh grader Will Nolan chooses to pop a stink bug into his mouth to defuse a tense situation between one of his best friends and a new student in school, he's convinced that he will be the school pariah when he returns the following day, especially given the fact that he puked in front of his whole class. Instead, he finds himself dubbed, "Bug Boy," and his feat is now school legend. But he's still wrestling with the racial slur that flew so effortlessly from his friend, Darryl's  mouth and he'd rather be concentrating on making the wrestling team. When the new boy, Eloy Herrera expresses an interest in trying out, Will agrees to help Eloy make the team. The budding friendship is soon tested when Will inadvertently insults Eloy, who calls Will out on his covert racism. Will wants to keep his friendship with Darryl as well; but that may not be possible.

The mixture of middle school boy banter and pranks, the wrestling and fascinating facts about entomophagy (bug eating) will tempt readers to swallow this one whole. The recipes at the back of the book may or may not get readers to swallow an insect; but are definitely food for thought. I do admit that I haven't been able to bring myself to try the little bag of ant popcorn the author gave everyone at the Abrams luncheon that celebrated four middle grade titles. Yes, this does embarrass me. I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater. I am humbled. 

The Insectarium was already on my New Orleans itinerary when the author recommended visiting it. It is a wonder to behold. 

Thanks to Jenny and everyone at Abrams for bringing us Rebecca Petruck and Boy Bites Bug! This one won't sit on your shelf for long!

(*) Ever since seventh grade, to be exact. That might be fodder for another post.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


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

For review:


The Assassination of Brangwian Spurge by M/T. Anderson. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 530 p. Candlewick Press, September 25, 2018.97807636982214.

Publisher synopsis: Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms.

Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.

Purchased: I was setting up this week's "Waiting on Wednesday" and realized that I never read book three! So I remedied that asap.


The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage. Mo & Dale Mystery #3. Unabridged audiobook on 7 compact discs. 8.5 hours. Read by Lauren Fortgang. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House, October, 2015. 9781101892398.

Publisher synopsis: The trial of the century has come to Tupelo Landing, NC. Mo and Dale, aka Desperado Detectives, head to court as star witnesses against Dale's daddy--confessed kidnapper Macon Johnson. Dale's nerves are jangled, but Mo, who doesn't mind getting even with Mr. Macon for hurting her loved ones, looks forward to a slam dunk conviction--if everything goes as expected.

Of course nothing goes as expected. Macon Johnson sees to that. In no time flat, Macon's on the run, Tupelo Landing's in lockdown, and Dale's brother's life hangs in the balance. With Harm Crenshaw, newly appointed intern, Desperado Detectives are on the case. But it means they have to take on a tough client--one they'd never want in a million years.

For everyone who's already fallen for Mo and Dale, and for anyone who's new to Tupelo Landing, The Odds of Getting Even is a heartwarming story that perfectly blends mystery and action with more serious themes about family and fathers, all without ever losing its sense of humor.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link to your haul in the comments and I will stop by. 

Picture Book Review: Thank You, Earth: a love letter to our planet by April Pulley Sayre


Thank You, Earth: a love letter to our planet by April Pulley Sayre. unpgd. Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, February, 2018. 9780062697349. (Review from copy borrowed from public library.)

Ah, thank you notes! A lost art! I am a pretty faithful thank you note writer who tries not to notice when thank you notes don't arrive after I've done some gift giving. After all, the pleasure should be in the giving, no? However, I will admit to feeling a certain amount of pleasure when I do receive a thank you note. 

Gratitude is a practice. I practice yoga daily and most of my teachers devote part of our practice to identifying at least one thing to be grateful for. I like this ritual. It's stabilizing. Stopping to feel gratitude is humbling and helps with perspective. 

Thank You, Earth is a beautiful meditation. It is an exercise in perspective and humility, an invitation to appreciate our planet. The gorgeous shots of nature pair beautifully with the spare and lovely sentiment in the text. A note from the author invites readers to find ways of not only thanking our planet but actively working to save it by investigating, sharing, participating, helping and acting. There is also a list of resources budding conservationists can consult. The extensive list of picture credits identify animals and landforms for interested readers. 

Thank You, Earth is a vibrant example of #nevertoooldforpicturebooks and belongs in all kinds of libraries for readers young and not-so-young. Thank You, Earth needs to be shared widely.