Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Freebie Week

This week's TTT theme over at Broke and Bookish is blogger's choice, choose a theme we might have missed or make our own. I'm flying home from ALAAC16 later today so I thought I'd feature the top ten arcs I am most excited to have snagged at the conference!



Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. 240 p. Scholastic Graphix, September 13, 2016. 9780545540612. 



Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes. Highlights Press, October 4, 2016. 9781629797472.



Moo by Sharon Creech. 278 p. HarperCollins Publishers, August 30, 2016. 9780062415240



Gutless by Carl Deuker. 328 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 6, 2016. 9780544649613.



Best Man by Richard Peck. 240 p. Penguin Young Reader's Group, September 20, 2016. 9780803738393.



Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce. 304 p. Atheneum/ Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, April, 2016. 9781442473553.



Wish by Barbara O'Connor. 240 p. Farrar Strauss Giroux/ Macmillan, August 30, 2016. 978037402733.



Nine Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin. 208 p. Atheneum/ Simon & Schuster, June, 2016. 9781442485068.



Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. 272 p. Bloomsbury, February 14, 2016. 9781681191058.


Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos. 325 p. Bloomsbury, January 3, 2017. 9781681190358.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: The Great Leopard Rescue: saving the Amur Leopards by Sandra Marle


The Great Leopard Rescue: saving the Amur Leopards by Sandra Markle. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, August 1, 2016. 9781467792479. (Review from purchased finished copy.)

So it's Monday and I'm at ALA. I didn't set up a non-fiction review for today. Now that it's summer, I am trying to push myself to review more. Slow start. Anyway, the picture book I thought was a biography, is told in dialogue from the subject and I thought that even though it's beautiful and it's powerful, it might not be strictly non-fiction. Then I walked past the Lerner booth on my way to the post office (where I had to wait an hour and a half to ship my two boxes of books!) and this book called to me. I have Ms. Markle's earlier book, The Great Monkey Rescue on my summer pile to read and review. After finding out that it was for sale, I grabbed it and went to wait and wait and wait online. 

Now I'm poolside at my hotel, having lunch and just having read The Great Leopard Rescue. If you don't immediately fall in love with this book thanks to the sedate, snow-covered leopard staring stoically out of the cover, you will fall in love with the smooth narrative depicting dramatic and dangerous loss of this beautiful big cat. 

The Amur leopard is named for the area in Russia where they range and they now number in the thirties - down from an estimate of about 2400 in 1956. The Russian taiga has been clearcut in search of ore and to support agriculture. The leopard population is also a favorite of poachers, who suffer little consequences if they are even caught.

Since the 1990s conservationists have been working hard to protect the leopard population. The latest effort is to borrow leopards from zoos, transport the male and female to a specially designed enclosure on the taiga, where the female will live for the two years it takes to raise her cubs to maturity. Eventually, the mature wild-born cubs will be released to the taiga and the mom will return to her home zoo. Efforts will be made to avoid cross-breeding and the cubs will need to be taught how to avoid the Amur tiger, their only predator besides humans.

Plentifully illustrated with large full-color, well-captioned photos, this is a well-designed book. Leopards and cubs appear in a variety of situations - cub play, adult hunting, tranquilized while being tended to by conservation scientists. There's a map of the area where the leopards are found. The narrative flows like a story, neatly incorporating the meaning of some difficult words like, murmers, in parentheses. There's a glossary of sixteen additional words at the back but these are not bolded in the text. An author's note, timeline, a page with five additional "Did you know?" facts, sources notes, and suggestions for further study round out an important addition to school, public and classroom libraries. 

Sandra Markle, a former science teacher, has a knack for explaining complex environmental issues into an accessible narrative for all readers interested in saving our planet. Don't miss this. 



ALAAC16: Awards

Yesterday was a l-o-n-g day beginning at 7AM with the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast. I try not to miss this event. I love the energy in the room. I love that all honorees give acceptance speeches. I love that there is an award given to recognize new talent (The John Steptoe Award). What a lovely way to mentor and nurture new artists and writers!

All the speeches were deeply personal and all were inspiring. The incredibly talented Jason Reynolds delivered two speeches for his two honor awards and they were two very different speeches. In the first, he reflected (without notes, btw) on his family and his place as a sensitive "crier" among rock hard parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The second was delivered with such passion and poetry that it washed over me like a tidal wave and left me stunned. I wish it was videotaped so that I could view it again. I hope to at least get to read a copy to digest what he said for deeply.

The great Jerry Pinkney accepted the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award - such a gracious, gentle, brilliant man! My day ended at the Newbery/ Caldecott Banquet, where Mr. Pinkney received the Wilder Award, as he should. He has illustrated over a hundred books, won 7 Caldecott Honors and 1 Caldecott Medal (personally, I think at least one of those Honors, should've been the Medal). What a body of work!

Several years ago, I had the honor of watching him paint at a workshop for ELL teachers at the Henry Hudson Museum. It was incredible to watch the painting emerge from the paper as he casually chatted to the bunch of us! Later, my own ELL colleague and I shared a unit we created around his Newbery-winning Lion and Mouse. We tried not to be intimidated by the fact that he was in the audience!

Of course, Sophie Blackall's and Matt de la Peña's speeches were brilliant, inspiring, touching and just plain wonderful to experience. I cannot wait to relive them when they get posted. 

I did not take too many photographs. There are tons online already. I did take a photo of the program, designed by Sophie Blackall. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

ALA Annual Conference 2016

So I've been in Orlando since Thursday and already ALAAC16 is a blur. I really should blog as I go but I am terrible at taking notes and try to be present in the moment as much as possible. 

I arrived ridiculously early on Thursday. I had originally booked my hotel for Friday to Tuesday but, by the time I got around to booking my flight, I couldn't find one to get me in to Orlando in time. So I had to arrive a day early. By that time, I couldn't get convention rates for my room. No matter. I am here!

I got into my room early. Grabbed a quick nap and headed to Universal Studios where I spent three or so hours at SeaWorld.




These were the first ducks I encountered on my trek.

Of course, I am also interested in texture:





I have a triptych of succulents from my trip to Albuquerque seven or eight years ago. I may need to make a new one to add to my collection. These are intriguing.  

Of course, flamingos are always amazing.

For some reason, this guy
reminded me of this guy

Seaworld was fun. I recommend visiting it.

On Friday, I had the entire day until exhibits opened at 5:30. I opted for a trip to Universal Studios and cabbed over there in time for the park's opening. Of course, I beelined to Diagon Alley where I spent a blissful three or four hours.






I purchased a Hermoine wand (non-interactive) among other things. The place is truly enchanting; kind of makes me want to reread the entire series all over again (for the third time).

Having now idea what I was in for, I wandered into the Escape from Gringotts line. It was rather long. After committing, I realized that I missed the warnings about motion sickness and back problems. 


Thank goodness it was short. It was fantastic! I wish my inner ear was not such a traitor to my body.

I had a delicious lunch in The Leaky Cauldron. I am sorry that I did not take any pics but highly recommend the fish and chips.

I spent entirely too much money and had a high old time. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man


Bucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man by Cornelius Van Wright. unpgd. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, July, 2015. 9780399164279. (Review from finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media)

My, my. How did I miss adorable homage to imaginative play? Many thanks to Blue Slip Media for remedying this. 

Bucky and Stu, two adorable bffs clad in homemade superhero outfits (the yellow rubber gloves are a hilarious touch) do battle against a variety of homegrown baddies delightfully constructed of various and sundry household items, such as boxes, vacuums and mops. I actually had this flashback to the clubhouse my brother made way back in the time of dinosaurs when I was young. That rickety contraption was a fort, a war bunker, a ship, and even a space ship and provided hours of play when our mother kicked the six of us out of the house for the day to find our own entertainment.

Bucky and Stu are totally in sync, totally engaged in their story, which is collaborative and a perfect outlet for their seemingly boundless energy, until it's time for lunch. Then food is the only thing on their minds. Once recharged, Bucky shows Stu, Mikanikal Man, a super-duper robot villain that only needs a power source for them to do battle with. A rain storm drives the boys indoors and a lightning strike powers Mikanikal Man. 

The next day, the boys are puzzled when they find that Mikanikal Man is missing, then terrified when he looms over them. Have the superheroes met their match?

The water color and pencil illustrations perfectly capture the boys' frenetic energy as does the ever-changing type-face. The illustrations have a graphic novel feel and contain lots of fun little details. This is definitely one to ham up during read aloud. The group I read the book to loved it and they all wanted to look at the book again to chuckle over the pictures.

Bucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man might just inspire some free play in the library and, hopefully out of doors instead of in the basement on electronic devices. 

Don't miss this gem. Here's hoping to seeing some more of this dynamic duo in action.


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.

I'm presently in Orlando at ALA Annual trying to be judicious about which arcs I'll be sending home. These came from Candlewick Press early this week.


The Dog Ray by Linda Coggin. 193 p. Candlewick Press, November 8, 2016. 9780763679385.

Publisher synopsis: By turns humorous, poignant, and moving, this tale of a girl who comes back to Earth as a dog is a nuanced portrait of death, love, grief, and hope.
When my death came it was swift. Swift as a running horse. It wasted no time.
Daisy, age twelve, has died in a car accident. She finds herself in the afterworld, which resembles nothing more than a job center. Her soul is being returned to Earth, but not as a human being—she’s returning as a dog. A dog who retains Daisy’s thoughts and pluck and is determined to get back to her parents and to get back home. What she doesn’t expect is that life as a dog named Ray would come with such worries—and moments of jubilation—as she grows to care for others in a whole new way. Told in a compelling first-person voice, Linda Coggin’s incredible novel touches on loyalty and freedom, connection and acceptance, and is sure to stay with readers long after the story is done.


Radical by E.M. Kokie. 437 p. Candlewick Press, September 13, 2016. 9780763669621. 

Publisher synopsis: Determined to survive the crisis she’s sure is imminent, Bex is at a loss when her world collapses in the one way she hasn’t planned for.
Preppers. Survivalists. Bex prefers to think of herself as a realist who plans to survive, but regardless of labels, they’re all sure of the same thing: a crisis is coming. And when it does, Bex will be ready. She’s planned exactly what to pack, she knows how to handle a gun, and she’ll drag her family to safety by force if necessary. When her older brother discovers Clearview, a group that takes survival just as seriously as she does, Bex is intrigued. While outsiders might think they’re a delusional doomsday group, she knows there’s nothing crazy about being prepared. But Bex isn’t prepared for Lucy, who is soft and beautiful and hates guns. As her brother’s involvement with some of the members of Clearview grows increasingly alarming and all the pieces of Bex’s life become more difficult to juggle, Bex has to figure out where her loyalties really lie. In a gripping new novel, E. M. Kokie questions our assumptions about family, trust, and what it really takes to survive.


Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles. 312 p. Candlewick Press, August 2, 2016. 9780763672171.

Publisher synopsis: In a return to middle-grade fiction, master of perspectives Jo Knowles depicts a younger sibling struggling to maintain his everyday life when his older sister is in crisis.
Noah is just trying to make it through seventh grade. The girls are confusing, the homework is boring, and even his friends are starting to bug him. Not to mention that his older sister, Emma, has been acting pretty strange, even though Noah thought she’d been doing better ever since the Thing They Don’t Talk About. The only place he really feels at peace is in art class, with a block of clay in his hands. As it becomes clear through Emma’s ever-stricter food rules and regulations that she’s not really doing better at all, the normal seventh-grade year Noah was hoping for begins to seem pretty unattainable. In an affecting and realistic novel with bright spots of humor, Jo Knowles captures the complexities of navigating middle school while feeling helpless in the face of a family crisis.


The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs. 307 p. Candlewick Press, September 13, 2016. 9780763678517.

Publisher synopsis: Seven tightly interwoven narratives. Three harrowing hours. One fateful day that changes everything.


Delaware, the morning of April 19. Senior Skip Day, and April Donovan’s eighteenth birthday. Four days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the country is still reeling, and April’s rare memory condition has her recounting all the tragedies that have cursed her birth month. And just what was that mysterious gathering under the bleachers about? Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Lincoln Evans struggles to pay attention in Honors English, distracted by the enigmatic presence of Laura Echols, capturer of his heart. His teacher tries to hold her class’s interest, but she can’t keep her mind off what Adrian George told her earlier. Over in Idaho, Phoebe is having second thoughts about the Plan mere hours before the start of a cross-country ploy led by an Internet savant known as the Mastermind. Is all her heartache worth the cost of the Assassins’ machinations? The Light Fantastic is a tense, shocking, and beautifully wrought exploration of the pain and pathos of a generation of teenagers on the brink—and the hope of moving from shame and isolation into the light of redemption.



It Looks Like This by Rafi Mittlefehldt. 327 p. Candlewick Press, September 6, 2016. 9780763687199.

Publisher synopsis: In spare, understated prose heightened by a keen lyricism, a debut author will take your breath away.
A new state, a new city, a new high school. Mike’s father has already found a new evangelical church for the family to attend, even if Mike and his plainspoken little sister, Toby, don’t want to go. Dad wants Mike to ditch art for sports, to toughen up, but there’s something uneasy behind his demands. Then Mike meets Sean, the new kid, and "hey" becomes games of basketball, partnering on a French project, hanging out after school. A night at the beach. The fierce colors of sunrise. But Mike’s father is always watching. And so is Victor from school, cell phone in hand. In guarded, Carveresque prose that propels you forward with a sense of stomach-dropping inevitability, Rafi Mittlefehldt tells a wrenching tale of first love and loss that exposes the undercurrents of a tidy suburban world. Heartbreaking and ultimately life-affirming, It Looks Like This is a novel of love and family and forgiveness—not just of others, but of yourself.



Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner. 352 p. Candlewick Press, September 13, 2016. 9780763682057.

Publisher synopsis: How do you move on from an irreplaceable loss? In a poignant debut, a sixteen-year-old boy must learn to swim against an undercurrent of grief—or be swept away by it.
Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.



Someone I Wanted to Be by Aurelia Wills. 324 p. Candlewick Press, September 6, 2016. 9780763681562.

Publisher synopsis: When an insecure teen starts impersonating someone else, her life spirals dangerously out of control in a realistic, relatable novel about finding yourself—and discovering your true friends.
Leah Lobermier dreams of becoming a doctor, but it’s hard to stay focused on getting good grades when boys make oinking sounds at her in school and her mother spends every night on the couch with a bottle of wine. Leah’s skinny and popular "friends," Kristy and Corinne, aren’t much better and can hardly be counted on for support. When the girls convince a handsome older man to buy them beer, Leah takes his phone number and calls him, pretending to be Kristy—coy and confident—and they develop a relationship, talking and texting day after day. But as the lie she created grows beyond her control, can Leah put a stop to things before she—or Kristy—is seriously hurt?

Then I got this from Time-Life Books:



Time for Kids: Awesome America: everything you ever wanted to know about the history, people and culture. 208 p. Time Home Entertainment, Inc., May, 2016. 9781618930.

Publisher synopsis: TIME For Kids explores America from sea to shining sea!
Discover what makes America unique in this comprehensive timeline and photographic overview of American history—pre-Columbus through the present—highlighting the milestone events and important people that have made America awesome.
Perfect for both dip-in reference and longer-form reading, Awesome America is organized into thematic sections, each comprised of bite-sized articles, engaging factoid sidebars, colorful charts, graphics and interactive quizzes to help make learning about American history interesting, interactive, and fun. From America's early history all the way to present day, kids will learn about what it was like to grow up in the 1700's, 1800's, 1900's and today and discover the inventions, innovations, and important social movements great American's have created over the years.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Arc Review: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz


Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz. 304 p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, October 18, 2016. 9780374303129. (Review from arc courtesy of the publisher.)

Molly Nathan likes things just so. Her cherished collection of glass animals has to be arranged perfectly. Her homework is not allowed to have one erasure. She's at odds with odd numbers. And that moment just before she recites her poetry in the slam, is perfect. Unfortunately, it's getting harder for Molly to achieve perfect. Her brother keeps disturbing her animals. The work is getting harder in school. The rituals she keeps to keep her anxiety down are starting to get in the way. She's terrified that her best friend might find out. She's also yearning for her mom to return to the family. She thinks that if she wins the poetry slam, her mom will have to come back.


In the last two months, I have read four books in which the main character suffers from OCD - two YA and two MG. All were well-drawn, engaging and tugged at my heartstrings. In my book, it is most difficult to write middle grade fiction. The author has to get so much right and it's so easy to get things wrong. In Finding Perfect, we have a winning main character in Molly. She's not only facing common problems - family dysfunction and friendship conflict -  but she's battling irresistible rituals that are taking over her life.

I think it's safe to say that we all have a Molly in our life, especially if we are in education. We just might not know it yet. I think this is an important book. I'm not real into bibliotherapy. I tend prefer to give books not to the "sufferer" per se, but friends and classmates so that they might gain some compassion and insight. I guess I'm on a bit of mission to eradicate offhand comments like, "I am so-o-o OCD!" in both adults and students. No! No! No! No! Young people who are in the grips of this are crippled by anxiety and rituals. This book effectively, even brilliantly portrays the stark reality at an age-appropriate level for the middle grade reader.  (I highly recommend The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten for a brilliant YA treatment.)

Finding Perfect also features well-drawn secondary characters, including sympathetic adults.The dialogue is realistic and Molly's narration is nearly pitch-perfect. I think this would make for a terrific audiobook with the right, young-sounding narrator. I also think the cover is pretty perfect (take a gander at the spine art).

Another notable debut from the "Sweet Sixteens!" I can't wait to booktalk this next school year!