Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - Rise and Fall by Elliot Schrefer

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles we are eagerly anticipating.

Rise and Fall by Elliot Schrefer. Spirit Animals series #6. 192 p. Scholastic Inc., January 6, 2014. 

Publisher synopsis: There is none. It's a secret. "Confidential" according to the publisher. Sigh. I can't decide whether this is a cop out or a cheap marketing ploy. Either way I find it annoying. Not that "the epic adventure continues" which was the entry for the books 2 - 5, is any better. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Non-Fiction Monday: Saber-Toothed Cat by Sarah L. Thomson

Saber-Toothed Cat
by Sarah L. Thomson. Illustrated by Andrew Plant. Ancient Animals series. 32 p. Charlesbridge Publishing Inc., October, 2014. 9781580894005. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Budding young paleontologists will sink their teeth into this entry as ferociously as, well, a saber-toothed cat. The imagined opening prehistoric scenario, in which the camouflaged cat lies in wait, serves as a great hook. The paintings are fairly realistic and surprisingly, not gory, save one. The animals are labeled throughout with their scientific names. There is not a great deal of text on each page, so there's plenty of white space and the text is succinct. Two pages with other large-toothed predators and a page with recommended books, videos and websites conclude the volume.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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

For review:

The Tapper Twins Go to War (with each other) by Geoff Rodkey. 219 p. The Tapper Twins Series. Little, Brown and Company, April 7, 2015. 9780316297790.

Publisher synopsis: This brand-new series by a popular screenwriter is a pitch-perfect, contemporary comedy featuring twelve-year-old fraternal twins, Claudia and Reese, who couldn't be more different...except in their determination to come out on top in a vicious prank war! But when the competition escalates into an all-out battle that's fought from the cafeteria of their New York City private school all the way to the fictional universe of an online video game, the twins have to decide if their efforts to destroy each other are worth the price.
Told as a colorful "oral history" by the twins and their friends, and including photos, screenshots, chat logs, online gaming digital art, and text messages between their clueless parents, The Tapper Twins is a hilariously authentic showcase of what it's like to be in middle school in our digitally-saturated world.

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper. Illustrated by Raul the Third. 112 p. Chronicle Books, November 14, 2014. 9781452121550. 

Publisher synopsis: Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team's favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.

I went to Bookfest@Bankstreet today. This is an annual event that I try not to miss. For many years, it was hosted at NYPL and for the last five(?) years, at Bankstreet College. These were in our goodie bag:

Full Steam Ahead! by Paul A. Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 48 p. Charlesbridge Publishing Inc., September, 2014. 9781580896757.

Publisher synopsis: Sydney and Simon are twin mice on a mission to save the wilting flowers in their window box. During a humid heat wave, their window got stuck, and now they can't open it to water their blossoms before the neighborhood flower show. The young chapter book underscores how the characters use STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) to learn about the water cycle on earth and in the home and, ultimately, to rescue their flowers. Curious readers can learn more in a glossary and author's note.

If You Find This by Matthew Baker. 358 p. Little, Brown and Company, March 15, 2015. 9780316240086.

Publisher synopsis: Mixing mystery and adventure in the tradition of Louis Sachar, Avi, and E.L. Konigsburg, If You Find This is the story of unlikely friendships, unexpected bravery and eleven-year-old Nicholas Funes's quest to prove his grandfather's treasure is real.
Nicholas is a math and music genius with no friends and a huge problem: His father has lost his job, and they'll have to sell their house, which holds the only memory Nicholas has of his younger brother. Just in time, Nicholas's senile grandfather arrives, filled with tales of priceless treasure he has hidden somewhere in town—but where?
With the help of misfit classmates, two grandfathers, a ghosthouse, hidden messages, séances, and an uncanny mind for numbers, Nicholas stages a nursing home breakout, tangles with high schoolers in smugglers' tunnels, and gets swept up in a duel with the biggest bullies in the neighborhood. Will it be enough to find the treasure and save his house?
If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I received an arc of this.
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John. Illustrated by Kevin Cornell. 216 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, January 13, 2015. 9781419714917.

Publisher synopsis: Miles Murphy had it made. He lived in a great town near the ocean, he had two best friends, and, most importantly, he had a reputation for being his town’s best prankster. All of which explains why he’s not happy to be moving to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town that’s famous for one thing and one thing only: cows. Worse than that, Miles quickly discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, and a great one. If Miles is going to take the title from this mystery kid, he is going to have to raise his game.
It’s prankster against prankster in an epic war of trickery, until the two finally decide to join forces in order to pull off the biggest prank ever seen: a prank so huge it would make the members of the International Order of Disorder (a loose confederacy of pranksters that flourished a couple of centuries ago) proud.
In THE TERRIBLE TWO, bestselling authors and friends Jory John and Mac Barnett have walked an impressive tightrope: They’ve created a series that has its roots in classic middle-grade literature yet feels fresh and daring at the same time.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 271 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 5, 2015. 9780399162596.

Publisher synopsis: The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.
“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins. 259 p. HarperCollins Publishers, August, 2014. 9780060092757,

Publisher synopsis: How far would you go for a friend? In Nuts to You, the funny and moving new novel by Newbery Medalist Lynne Rae Perkins, two squirrels go very far indeed to save a friend who has been snatched up by a hawk. Nuts to You is short, funny, and surprising—an Incredible Journey with squirrels. It features black-and-white art by the author on every page and will appeal to fans of animal fantasies by Kate DiCamillo, Kathi Appelt, and Avi.
The squirrels Jed, TsTs, and Chai are the very best of friends. So when Jed is snatched up by a hawk and carried away to another realm, TsTs and Chai resolve to go after him. New communities are discovered, new friends are made, huge danger is encountered (both man-made and of the fox and bobcat variety) and mysteries are revealed.Nuts to You is wholly original, funny, lively, and thought-provoking. It is a deeply satisfying piece of storytelling about the power of stories to save the world; about the power of friendship and the importance of community.
This beautiful book is illustrated in black-and-white on every page by the author and includes an introduction, epilogue, and funny footnotes throughout. A terrific read aloud!
Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. 310 p. Scholastic Inc. February 24, 2015. 9780545810623.

Publisher synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, Twylla isn't exactly a member of the court.
She's the executioner.
As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each week, she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla's fatal touch, avoids her company.
But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla's been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.
However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?
Purchased: I just had to pick up Coe Booth's middle grade novel and get an autograph for my students.

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth. 248 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., August, 2014. 9780545224963.

Publisher synopsis: Jarrett doesn't trust Kevon.
But he's got to share a room with him anyway.
It was one thing when Jarrett's mom took care of foster babies who needed help. But this time it's different. This time the baby who needs help has an older brother -- a kid Jarrett's age named Kevon.

Everyone thinks Jarrett and Kevon should be friends -- but that's not gonna happen. Not when Kevon's acting like he's better than Jarrett -- and not when Jarrett finds out Kevon's keeping some major secrets.

Jarrett doesn't think it's fair that he has to share his room, his friends, and his life with some stranger. He's gotta do something about it -- but what?

From award-winning author Coe Booth, KINDA LIKE BROTHERS is the story of two boys who really don't get along -- but have to find a way to figure it out.
That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link to your post in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - Hellhole by Gina Damico

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles of books whose release we are eagerly anticipating.

Hellhole by Gina Damico. 368 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 6, 2015. 

Publisher synopsis: A devil is a bad influence . . .
There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder.
Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max’s choices are no longer his own. The big red guy has a penchant for couch surfing and junk food—and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high. With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time, and all the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss, run out.
Gina Damico, author of the Croak series, once again delivers all the horror, hilarity, and high-stakes drama that any kid in high school or hell could ever handle.

Learned about this one through an SLJ webinar called Teen Book Buzz. The elevator pitch was Beetlejuice meets Hellboy, neither of which I've seen. It kind of made me think of Soul Enchilada by David Macinniss Gill, a book which I recall quite fondly.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Non-fiction Monday: Chasing Cheetahs: the race to save Africa's fastest cats by Sy Montgomery

Chasing Cheetahs: the race to save Africa's fastest cats by Sy Montgomery. Photographs by Nic Bishop. 70 p. Scientists in the Field series. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April, 2014. 9780547815497.

Chasing Cheetahs is another spectacular collaboration by Montgomery and Bishop in the Scientist in the Field series, which just keeps getting better and better. The two veterans traveled to Namibia to the Cheetah Conservation Fund's African headquarters to interview Dr. Laurie Marker, a renowned expert on cheetahs. This former grape farmer made a serendipitous career switch some thirty-plus years ago when she visited a local zoo, Wildlife Safari, with the intention of donating a pair of goat bucks from her farm. She eventually worked her way up to director of the clinic and fell in love with cheetahs when she cared for a pair born in captivity. Under her direction, Wildlife Safari became so successful at breeding cheetahs in captivity that she was hired by the National Zoo to help set up other captive breeding programs.

In the early 1990's, with the status of cheetahs in the wild becoming increasingly threatened, Laurie realized that someone needed to stop the slaughter of cheetahs in Africa. As the world's fastest animal and smallest of the big cats, cheetahs were often blamed by farmers for preying on their livestock and were hunted relentlessly. Laurie realized that she was that someone and set up shop, first in a borrowed home. Using four "ambassador" cheetahs and a dog breeding program, Laurie and her team educate farmers and school children about the plight of the cheetah. "Laurie's maverick approach to conservation is changing minds and turning heads. She's using dogs to save cats and convincing farmers that killing predators doesn't protect livestock."(p. 13)

Ms. Montgomery uses a conversational manner to make the science of conservation accessible, even exciting to young readers. Mr. Bishop's plentiful and gorgeous full-color photographs provide the wow-factor. He carefully documents the field work of the scientists and teen volunteers and the photos of the cheetahs in action and at rest are just spectacular. Pages containing fast facts about cheetahs, the role of predators and the like are interspersed throughout the narrative, ending with one entitled, "Laurie's Advice for Saving the World." A short bibliography containing some fairly old titles and one website, The Cheetah Conservation Fund's, conclude the volume. The website is worth a visit, particularly the "About the Cheetah" for kids page.

This is a much-purchase series on its own, but if you need added incentive, it fills the careers in science section of the curriculum quite nicely.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

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: Two debuts from Llewellyn.

Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett. 354 p. Flux/ Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd., Sept. 2014. 9780738740294. 

Publisher synopsis: Anna O’Mally is a born writer—gifted, perceptive, headed for the stars. Or she was, until the tragic death of her uncle Joe. He was barely older than Anna herself, and she worshipped the ground he walked on. Best of all, Anna got to live in the glow of knowing that she was the most important person in his world, too.
Anna has promised everyone—her shrink, her parents, her best friend—that Joe’s one-year “deadaversary” will be the end of her period of mourning. But when a strange note suggests that her saintly uncle had deep secrets, Anna stumbles into a chain of events that changes everything she thought she knew about the past, the possibilities of love . . . and origami.

Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell. 324 p. Flux/ Llewellyn Worldwide, October, 2014. 9780738740812.

Publisher synopsis: For as long as she can remember, Lucy Aimes has been plagued by a dark, recurring dream of drowning. But when her family moves to an old plantation outside New Orleans, she starts having intense new dreams, vivid scenes of a bygone era filled with people she shouldn't know but does. Searching for answers to her haunting visions, Lucy reluctantly descends into the city's mystical culture.
What she finds is Alex, a charming but mysterious boy who behaves as if they've known each other forever. Lucy shouldn't be so drawn to him . . . but she is. As she tries to solve the mystery surrounding Alex, a centuries-old vendetta unspools around her, resulting in a vicious murder. Now trapped in a dangerous crossfire, Lucy must act fast to save her future—and everyone she loves.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Memes: Death Coming up the Hill by Chris Crowe

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

Death Coming up the Hill by Chris Crowe. 204 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October, 2014. 9780544302150.

Publisher synopsis: It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple, like the situation in Vietnam, has been engaged in a “senseless war that could have been prevented.”
     When his high school history teacher dares to teach the political realities of the war, Ashe grows to better understand the situation in Vietnam, his family, and the wider world around him. But when a new crisis hits his parents’ marriage, Ashe finds himself trapped, with no options before him but to enter the fray. 
First line: Ah, here's a tough one. The book is written in hiaku. 976 haiku to be exact - 16592 syllables. One for every soldier killed in Vietnam in 1968. Do I post just the first line of the the first haiku?

There's something tidy

Or, does the first line end with the first period? That would be nearly the first "chapter" of the book and ends in the middle of a haiku, which would be unkind not to finish. Right?

There's something tidy 
in seventeen syllables,
a haiku neatness

that leaves craters of
meaning between the lines but
still communicates

what matters most. I
don't have the time or the space
to write more, so I'll

write wat needs to be
remembered  and leave it to
you to fill in the

gaps if you feel like
it. In 1968
sixteen thousand five

hundred ninety-two
American soldiers died
in Vietnam, and

I'm dedicating 
one syllable to each soul
as I record my

own losses suffered
in 1968, a 
year like no other.

Page 56:

Her glistening  lips
formed a smile. "That is a good
question, Ashe, the right

question." For a few
awkward moments no words passed
between us, and my 

heart thudded so hard
I was afraid she'd hear it.
"Someone said there's a

Sadie Hawkins dance
in two weeks. Are you going?"
"Haven't been asked," I

replied. Then her smile 
widened, brightened, and she said,
"What about going

with me?" A wave of
heat flowed up my neck, and I
felt my face redden.

Intrigued? The symbolism is quite powerful. I've been eagerly anticipating the release of this one since I learned of it this past summer.