Friday, February 28, 2014

Taking Stock - February

My this month went fast!

Total posts: 14
Total books read this month: 28
Total books read this year: 52

Audio Books: 4/8
Debut Author: 0
Mount TBR: 0
Picture Books: 8/ 12

The Good: 28 books!

The Bad: Oops! No debuts read yet. Nothing off the TBR either. Didn't review much. 

The Books: * indicated favorites
25. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Making Money by Tommy Greenwald (2/1)
26. Juvie by Steve Watkins (2/1)
27. Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick (2/2)
28. Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford (2/2)
29. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord (2/5)
30. Foul Trouble by John Feinstein (2/10)
31. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2/14)
32. Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (2/14)
33. My Dog: the paradox: a lovable discourse about man's best friend by Matt Inman (2/15)
34. National Geographic Kids Myths Busted by Emily Krieger (2/16)
35. March (Book One) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell (2/17)
36. Extreme Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (2/17)
37. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (2/17)
38. The Mad Potter George E. Ohr: eccentric genius by Jan Greenberg & Sandra Jordan (2/17)
39. The Titan's Curse: the graphic novel adapted by Robert Venditti (2/18)
40. When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill (2/20)
41. Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee (2/21)
42. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg (2/22)
43. The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer (2/22)
44. Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History by Lois Miner Huey (2/23)
45. Junkyard by Mike Austin (2/23)
46. Fall Ball by Peter McCarty (2/23)
47. Speeding Down the Spiral: an artful adventure by Deborah Goodman Davis (2/23)
48. A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley (2/24)
49. The Good-Pie Party by Liz Garton Scanlon (2/24)
50. Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service and Room Service by Jenny Lee (2/25)
51. Chomp of the Meat-eating Vegetables by Troy Cummings (2/25)
52. The Living by Matt de la Peña (2/28)

Friday Memes: Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

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

Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr. (Blackwell Pages #2) 342 p. Little, Brown and Company, May 13, 2014. 9780316204989.

Publisher synopsis: Seven kids, Thor's hammer, and a whole lot of Valkyries are the only things standing against the end of the world.
When thirteen-year-old Matt Thorsen, a modern day descendant of the Norse god Thor, was chosen to represent Thor in an epic battle to prevent the apocalypse he thought he knew how things would play out. Gather the descendants standing in for gods like Loki and Odin, defeat a giant serpent, and save the world. No problem, right?
But the descendants' journey grinds to a halt when their friend and descendant Baldwin is poisoned and killed and Matt, Fen, and Laurie must travel to the Underworld in the hopes of saving him. But that's only their first stop on their journey to reunite the challengers, find Thor's hammer, and stop the apocalypse--a journey filled with enough tooth-and-nail battles and larger-than-life monsters to make Matt a legend in his own right.  

First line: If there was one thing worse than seeing a giant's head rise from the ground, it was seeing two giant heads.

Page 56: Two other warriors stood, one on each side of him, blocking the gap between the burial mounds. All three looked-well, they looked dead. There was no other way to describe it. Their clothing was tattered, their faces gray and drooping, like they were one good beard-tug from sliding off.

I really enjoyed book one of this series, Loki's Wolves, as do many of my students. As a matter of fact, I was delayed in starting this because one of those students spied it on my desk a few weeks ago and begged me to read it. When her classmates saw it, they begged me to be next. So-o-o... 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Non-Fiction Monday - Plastic Ahoy!

Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman. Photographs by Annie Crawley. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner, April 1, 2014. 9781467712835. (Finished copy proved by publicist for review.)

Three grad students spent three weeks on board the ship, New Horizon, participating in the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) in 2009. They were part of a crew who motored out to a huge area in the Pacific Ocean know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the North Pacific Central Gyre, formed by four oceans and the winds and currents which direct plastic  and other bits of pollution to the area and don't allow it to escape. 

The scientists had many questions that they wanted answered and used the scientific method to start to find answers. The book focuses on three young women who were graduate students and the specific experiments they were performing. Chapters also include information about the rest of the crew and what life is like on board. For instance, it took a week to even get to the gyre. What did the scientists do? The reader learns that organized and tested equipment, dealt with seasickness, bunked with a roommate in rooms so small that "only one could stand on the floor at a time," and worked out on exercise equipment on deck. (8) 

Once they hit the gyre, they were hard at work collecting samples on the surface and below. The crew collected plastic in "130 of their 132 net tows over 1,700 miles of open ocean." (36) While plastic doesn't biodegrade, it does break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Pieces that are ingested by sea life. Pieces that contain poisons. The scientists hope to discover how this affects the animals.

The book is attractively designed. Pages have an hombre background of sea green. They are filled with plenty of crisp, full-color photographs, maps and interesting text boxes and sidebars. A final chapter includes information about what the reader can do to help reduce this problem.

The back-matter includes links to some videos of the SEAPLEX team in action, other websites as well as books for further reading. Source notes, a glossary and index round out the volume.

I've mentioned before on this blog that I love these types of science-in-real-life books. This one belongs right up there with my best-beloved titles. I heap some additional love on it because the scientists are young and female, hopefully encouraging more young women to consider studying science. The text and photographs work together so effectively to hammer home the seriousness of this problem and encourage the reader to rethink habits.

This book will fit in beautifully in several curriculum areas at my school, especially in seventh grade science. Surely a must-purchase item for school and public libraries.

Visit the Nonfiction Monday blog for a round-up of other titles. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

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.

For review:

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. 183 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, March 18, 2014. 9781419710339.

Publisher synopsis: I did a mean thing.
A very mean thing.
I HATE that I did it.
But I did.
This is worse than carrot juice on a cupcake or a wasp on my pillow or a dress that’s too tight at the neck.
In the third installment from the team who created Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger, Eleanor’s relationship with her best friend, Pearl, experiences its first growing pains. When a glamorous new student transfers to school, at first Eleanor’s excited about the possibility of a new friend. But when Pearl is assigned to be the new girl’s buddy, Eleanor fears she can’t compete. To make matters worse, Eleanor’s been chosen for the lead role in the springtime musical, which means she has to sing a solo in front of the entire school!
From overcoming stage fright to having a secret crush, young readers will relate to Eleanor as she navigates the bittersweet waters of growing up.

What are you waiting on?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

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

My anticipation of this one began yesterday at 6AM when I read the review on Fuse#8. Having read three of the four books Betsy refers to in the review, and liking only two, I am interested in reading both that fourth book and this one.

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. 176 p. Roaring Brook Press, May 20, 2014. 9781596437425.

Publisher synopsis: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.

What are you waiting on?

Saturday, February 15, 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 was a quiet week, thankfully. I am so, so behind in my reading, I need a nap just thinking about it. My energy levels have been low, so my book-a-day is suffering. Still, I couldn't resist buying these:

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler. 230 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 6, 2014. 9780803737259.

Publisher synopsis: August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

I can't remember where I learned of this one, but I adore the cover and am really in the mood for something gentle.

My Dog: the paradox: a lovable discourse about man's best friend by Matthew Inman. 32 p. Andrews McMeel Publishing, May, 2013. 9781449437527.

Publisher synopsis: In My Dog: The Paradox, Inman discusses the canine penchant for rolling in horse droppings, chasing large animals four times their size, and acting recklessly enthusiastic through the entirety of their impulsive, lovable lives. Hilarious and heartfelt, My Dog: The Paradox eloquently illustrates the complicated relationship between man and dog.
We will never know why dogs fear hair dryers, or being baited into staring contests with cats, but as Inman explains, perhaps we love dogs so much “because their lives aren’t lengthy, logical, or deliberate, but an explosive paradox composed of fur, teeth, and enthusiasm.”
You may have seen this on the Internet. I hadn't until this week. When I learned it was made into a book, I had to buy it for my husband. Every time I catch him feeding the dogs from the table, he declaims, "But their lives are so short! You are going to deny them this pleasure?" It's his Valentine's gift.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? 
Happy Reading!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Memes

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

Elvis and the Underdogs: secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee. Illustrated by Kelly Light. 334 p. Balzer + Bray/ Harper/Collins Publishers, May 20, 2014. 9780062235565.

Publisher synopsis: It's been months since Benji's former therapy dog, Elvis, was whisked away by the Secret Service, but Benji still misses him terribly. Luckily, because Elvis is now the president's dog, Benji can keep tabs on him via all the pictures and videos that are online.
While watching footage of the president's speech on the White House lawn, Benji and his friends Alexander and Taisy notice Elvis doing something very strange with his tail. Could he be trying to send them a message?
And so begins another madcap adventure in which these underdog best friends will have to find a way to get to DC, discover the truth behind Elvis's secret-coded cry for help, and solve a national pastry crisis . . . or Benji may have to say good-bye to his beloved Elvis for good.
First Line: This story starts with me superglued to a window-seat cushion on a sunny Saturday in March.

Page 56: Billy Thompson had bullied me for years at school. I had been totally terrified of him, but when Elvis was here, Billy and I had a showdown. And Billy even helped save my life. Then I found out he has a secret fake foot.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cover Reveal - Drift by M.K. Hutchins

Drift by M.K. Hutchins. Tu Books/ An imprint of Lee & Low Books, May, 2014. 9781620141458.

Publisher synopsis: Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Only those poor enough to need children to support themselves in old age condescend to the shame of marriage. Tenjat is poor as poor gets, but he has a plan. 

In the center of the island rises a giant Tree, where the Handlers—those who defend and rule the island—live. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. He couldn’t have picked a more dangerous time. The Turtle is nearing a coral reef where it desperately needs to feed, but the naga will swarm just before they reach it. Even novices like Tenjat are needed for the battle. 

Can Tenjat discover his sister’s secrets in time? Will the possibility of love derail all his plans for a richer, marriage-free life? Long-held secrets will at last be revealed in this breathtaking debut from M. K. Hutchins.

How gorgeous is that cover? If there weren't several other reasons for me to want to read this one, the cover would totally sell it. Other reasons I want to read this: I'm intrigued by the environmental theme; it's a debut; it's a Lee & Low book. I always root for small publishers as a rule, but Lee & Low consistently delights me with their lists. In addition to actively cultivating diversity, the stories are unique and engaging.  

Author website here.
Drift product page here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - Middle School Ultimate Showdown

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

Middle School Ultimate Showdown by James Patterson and Julia Bergen. 256 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 31, 2014. 9780316322119.

Publisher synopsis: Readers get a chance to participate in James Patterson's wildly successful Middle School series in this interactive book featuring more than 80 hilarious anecdotes from dueling siblings Rafe and Georgia Khatchadorian--plus dozens of fun-filled activities!
The Khatchadorian kids are an opinionated duo, and as readers of the Middle School stories know, they don't exactly see eye to eye. But when wild-card Rafe and mostly-straight-laced Georgia go at it, the only thing more fun than their ranting is getting to join in! Their back-and-forth banter on a range of topics--from bullying to cafeteria food to school dress codes--introduces more than 40 writing and drawing prompts and other games, along with room for readers to share their own points of view. (Includes over 200 illustrations.)
I don't know about you, but I can't keep these on the shelf. I have at least two of each volume and it's very rare to see them sit.
What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford

231 p. Scholastic Press, February 25, 2014. 9780545346504. (Review from arc obtained at ALAMW)

Lavender and Scarlet go to the same school and share the same birth date, but that is where the similarities end. Scarlet, rich, blond and popular cruises at the top of the social food chain. Lavender, short, clumsy and a bit hairy is the prey. Her various nicknames include Lav, as in bathroom, and Yeti. She seems impervious to these daily assaults. Indeed, she's quite snarky. Unfortunately, she's also brutally snarky to her few friends.

Both Lavender and Scarlet intend on trying out for the lead in the school musical. Scarlet has the looks for the lead, but not the vocal ability. Lavender has an amazing singing voice. The music teacher directing the production gives the auditioning students a verse to recite to help them win the part. Scarlet and Lavender each recite the verse as they blow out their birthday candles. The next morning, they wake up in each other's bodies.

I will admit that I picked this up off the table at the Scholastic booth at ALAMW purely for its cover and seeming middle grade appeal. When I read the synopsis, I wasn't expecting all that much as these "freaky Friday" type plots generally don't hold much appeal for me. I was utterly sucked in and won over. The girls are complex, flawed characters. The dialogue and social situations were realistically drawn. There was a message, lightly delivered with humor. There were endearing secondary characters and the ending was just right. 

I have a cadre of sixth grade girls who have been passing around my aged copy of Freaky Friday this year. I can't wait to suggest this one to them. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

218 p. Scholastic Press, February 25, 2014. 9780545035330. (Review from arc received at Scholastic Preview ALAMW)

Lucy and her parents are moving household, again. This time from an apartment in Boston to a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire. Her dad is leaving on another photography assignment, again. This time, he'll be shooting endangered insects in Arizona. At the end of the summer, she'll be starting a new school, again. 

When she sees that there are children her age in the neighboring cabins, she's thrilled at the possibility of starting a new school WITH friends. Unfortunately, Nate and Megan are just here for the summer and Megan doesn't seem to keen on sharing her summer friend with Lucy.

She and Nate hit it off though, and soon she's accompanying him and his sister, Emily on Loon Patrol. Nate's grandmother, Lilah, has been recording data for a local conservation group for many years, but is no longer able to get into a kayak to get close enough to observe the loons. Lucy has never paddled a kayak, but soon finds her rhythm and enjoys the outings. She also finds many opportunities to take intriguing photographs. Each time she frames a shot, her mind is on what her dad might say or think.

When Lucy learns of a national photography contest, she's interested in participating. But when she finds out that her father is the judge, she wonders about the ethics of it. Would he dismiss her work? Would he judge it more harshly? Nate helps her with her project by making suggestions and helping to set some photos up. She wonders if he could consent to having his name on the application instead of hers. Would that be ethical? 

Lucy confronts another ethical dilemma when Nate objects to her using a photo of Lilah looking lost and frightened in the portfolio. She understands his feelings, but it's an artful shot, one that really grabs the viewer's attention. It's honest. She debates with herself about who owns the shot, her because she took it or Lilah because she's the subject. She reasons that Nate doesn't have a say, but doesn't want to jeopardize their budding friendship.

This quiet coming-of-age story doesn't have dramatic, edgy issues. It's gentle and totally relatable with deep themes - interpersonal relationships, identity, conservation, friendship and loss. Lucy is likable, introspective and arty as well as a tad competitive. Her hero-worship of her dad is becoming a bit tarnished, which is good because he's a bit of a self-centered twit. The boy-girl friendship is realistically drawn; the dialogue is authentic; and the imagery and descriptive language is lovely. The cover is gorgeous.

Give this to your thoughtful readers, your artistic readers, your readers wanting something a bit sad. They won't be disappointed.

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.

For review: 

Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee. 334 p. Balzer + Bray,May 20, 2014. 9780062235589.

Publisher synopsis: Perfect for fans of R. J. Palacio and Gordon Korman, this is the hilarious and heartwarming sequel to Elvis and the Underdogs from author Jenny Lee, former writer on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up, the number one–rated kids' show in the country.
It's been months since Benji's former safety dog, Elvis, was whisked away by the Secret Service, but Benji still misses him terribly. Luckily, because Elvis is now the president's dog, there are plenty of pictures and videos of him online. While watching footage of the president's speech on the White House lawn, Benji and his friends Alexander and Taisy see Elvis thumping his tail repeatedly. Is he trying to tell Benji something? The kids realize it's actually a code! And Elvis needs their help.
And so begins another madcap adventure in which these underdog best friends will have to find a way way to travel to D.C., find out the truth behind Elvis's distress signals, and uncover state secrets without getting caught . . . or they may have to say good-bye to Elvis for good.

Leftover ALAMW arcs:

The Magic Trap by Jacqueline Davies. The Lemonade War Series #5. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 1, 2014. 9780544052895.

Publisher synopsis: Jessie and Evan Treski have waged a lemonade war, sought justice in a class trial,unmasked a bell thief, and stood at opposite ends over the right to keep secrets.
   Now they are creating a magic show—a professional magic show, in their own backyard! They practice, they study, and they practice some more. And who shows up? Their father, who has done such a good job of disappearing over the past few years.
   Just as Evan and Jessie took on running a business in The Lemonade War and a court of law in The Lemonade Crime, in this fifth novel of the bestselling Lemonade War series, they take on the challenges of magic and illusion all while discovering some hidden truths about their own family. Another fresh, funny, emotionally charged novel by the author whom Books for Kids calls, "one of the best writers for the middle grades around."

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach. 311 p. Sourcebooks Fire, May 6, 2014. 9781402291418.

Publisher synopsis: It's geeks versus jocks in an epic battle of the beverages!
From "one of the most real, honest, and still funny male voices to come around in a while" (YALSA) comes a brand-new cast of quirky characters, pitting fat boy Gabe against the high school cheerleading team in a battle over control of the school's soda machine.
The war is ON! Never have the stakes been so high. Never have the trenches been so deep. Never has one soda vending machine been so vital. When the high school cheerleading team takes over the machine's funds previously collected by the pep band, Gabe will not stand for it. Something must be done.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. 210 p. Candlewick Press, May 27, 2014. 9780763662677.

Publisher synopsis: With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world.
We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.
Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in their first "real world" apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought — and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward.
Hard-hitting and compassionate, Girls Like Us is a story about growing up in a world that can be cruel, and finding the strength — and the support — to carry on.

Thicker Than Water by Bruce Hale. School for S.P.I.E.S. #2. Disney-Hyperion, June 24, 2014. 9781423168515.

Publisher synopsis: Just when Max Segredo learned that his father is still alive, he also learned that Simon Segredo was working for LOTUS, an evil spy operation that wants to take down the Merry Sunshine Orphanage (a.k.a. the School for S.P.I.E.S.) and take over the world. Now Simon is on the run from LOTUS, and Max's surrogate family at the orphange is being threatened from without and within. LOTUS is trying to drive the school out of business, while the Ministry of Health is investigating an anonymous complaint about the orphanage.To top it all off, the trainee spies are riddled by fear and squabbling among themselves.
Into this chaos strolls a mysterious billionaire who hires S.P.I.E.S. to steal a powerful mind control device. The fee for the job will help save the school, but there's a catch: they've got just three days to pilfer the device from an ultra-secure facility before LOTUS steals it first. Can the S.P.I.E.S beat their rivals to the prize before the orphanage doors close for good?
In this action-packed sequel to PLAYING WITH FIRE, it is impossible not to root for Max, a spy-in-training with mad skills, a spunky attitude, a way with the ladies (well, okay, maybe not so much), and a big heart.

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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick

181 p. Blue Sky Press/ Scholastic, February 25, 2014. 9780545633475. (Arc obtained at Scholastic Preview)

Twelve-year-old Zane Dupree is quite happy living with his mom in New Hampshire and doesn't even miss his dad, thank you very much. He died in an accident before Zane was born. "You can't miss somebody you never knew, can you?" So he's a bit chagrined at having to travel to Smellyville, aka New Orleans at the end of August, 2005 to meet his paternal great-grandmother. His mom, who knew little to nothing about his dad's childhood, has been searching for his family all these years and finally found Trissy, who raised Zane's dad. 

Zane won't go without Bandit, his beloved mutt. His mom relents and the two take off for New Orleans. Zane warms to Trissy but when he learns he had an uncle who, "got hissef killed," and nothing when he asks why his dad ran away from home, Zane also learns that when Trissy doesn't want to talk about something, she usually changes the subject. With ice cream.

When Hurricane Katrina bears down on the Gulf and the flight Zane's mom arranged for him and Trissy is canceled, Trissy's pastor arranges for them to be evacuated in the church van. He's not happy about including Bandit though. Unfortunately, Bandit bolts and Zane takes off after him. The dog leads Zane back to Trissy's house where the two hunker down for the duration.

And that's when the tension ratchets up. The descriptions of the storm are so vivid and terrifying.

     "A gust slams into the side of the house, rattling the    
     windows. Bandy hunkers down on his tummy, whimpering. 
     obviously scared of hurricanes. Smart dog.

        The storm gets stronger and stronger, until the house 
     whimpers, too." (36)

I found myself gripping the book when Zane describes the flooding that occurred when the levees broke following the storm. That wasn't the last time, nor was I immune to reading ahead when the suspense got too great. Zane is a terrific character who, while articulate, sounds like a kid. Malvina and Tru are compelling characters as well. I was so caught up caring for these three and Bandit that I didn't stop to question any coincidences. 

The author does a lot in 180 pages. Short chapters and the nearly constant tension and danger will keep even the most reluctant of readers engaged and flipping pages. I love the cover and the water-stained pages were a nice design touch. This is one I can't wait to put on the shelves. I will be booktalking this like crazy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - A Hero's Guide to being an Outlaw

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

A Hero's Guide to being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy. 528 p. HarperCollins Publishers, April 29, 2014. 9780062118486.

Publisher synopsis: The League of Princes returns in the hilariously epic conclusion to the hit series that began with Christopher Healy'sThe Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, which the Los Angeles Times called "one of the more clever, hilariously successful incarnations of the current literary rage to rip apart and rewrite fairy tales."
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don't you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they're on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar's murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.

I adored the first two books even though I didn't review them. They are so clever and laugh-out-loud funny. Being a fan of fracture fairy tales and/ or retellings, I was just tickled. I read the first book with my ears and the narration by Bronson Pinchot was just brilliant. Too bad sales didn't support a second audiobook. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves - Scholastic Edition

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

I didn't blog from ALA Midwinter due to technical difficulties. I blogged about the books I got at the Little Brown preview and thought I would try to reconstruct the conference each night this week. Um, yeah.

I attended Scholastic's Preview where, instead of editors booktalking, authors do a reader's theater. It was quite entertaining. And of course, I want to read each book, now.

Zane and the Hurricane: a story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick. 181 p. 9780545633475. February 25, 2014.

Synopsis: Zane Dupree is a charismatic 12-year-old boy of mixed race visiting a relative in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. Unexpectedly separated from all family, Zane and his dog experience the terror of Katrina's wind, rain, and horrific flooding. Facing death, they are rescued from an attic air vent by a kind, elderly musician and a scrappy young girl--both African American. The chaos that ensues as storm water drowns the city, shelter and food vanish, and police contribute to a dangerous, frightening atmosphere, creates a page-turning tale that completely engrosses the reader. Based on the facts of the worst hurricane disaster in U.S. history, Philbrick includes the lawlessness and lack of government support during the disaster as well as the generosity and courage of those who risked their lives and safety to help others. Here is an unforgettable novel of heroism in the face of truly challenging circumstances.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord. 224 p. 9780545035330. February 25, 2014.

Synopsis: When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her -- he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special -- or only good enough.
As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn't want to see: his grandmother's memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.

Hi, Koo by Jon J. Muth. 32p. 9780545166683. February 25 2014.

Synopsis: With a featherlight touch and disarming charm, Jon J Muth--and his delightful little panda bear, Koo--challenge readers to stretch their minds and imaginations with twenty-six haikus about the four seasons.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. 320 p. 9780545552707. February 25, 2014. 

Synopsis: Introducing an extraordinary new voice---a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.
Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.
But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.
Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.

Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy #2) by Deborah Wiles. 400 p. 9780545106078. April 29, 2014.

Synopsis: It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded.  Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They're calling it Freedom Summer.
Meanwhile, Sunny can't help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool -- where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.
As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel COUNTDOWN award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place -- and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what's right. 

And these were available at the booth:

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer. 288 p. 9780545551434. February 25, 2014.

Synopsis: Into the jungle. Into the wild. Into harm's way.
When he was a boy, Luc's mother would warn him about the "mock men" living in the trees by their home -- chimpanzees whose cries would fill the night.
Luc is older now, his mother gone. He lives in a house of mistreated orphans, barely getting by. Then a man calling himself Prof comes to town with a mysterious mission. When Luc tries to rob him, the man isn't mad. Instead, he offers Luc a job.
Together, Luc and Prof head into the rough, dangerous jungle in order to study the elusive chimpanzees. There, Luc finally finds a new family -- and must act when that family comes under attack.
As he did in his acclaimed novel Endangered, a finalist for the National Book Award, Eliot Schrefer takes us somewhere fiction rarely goes, introducing us to characters we rarely get to meet. The unforgettable result is the story of a boy fleeing his present, a man fleeing his past, and a trio of chimpanzees who are struggling not to flee at all.

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. 336 p. 9780545284172. February 25, 2014.

There really is no synopsis online. I guess it doesn't need one since it's the conclusion of The Ascendance Trilogy.

Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford. 240 p. 9780545346504. February 25, 2014.

Synopsis: What if your birthday wish turned you into someone else?
Lavender and Scarlet are nothing alike. Scarlet is tall, pretty, and popular -- the star of the soccer team and the queen of the school. Lavender is . . . well, none of these things. Her friends aren't considered cool, her hair is considered less than uncool, and her performance at the recent talent show is something nobody will ever forget -- even though she really, really wants it to be forgotten.
There's only one thing Lavender and Scarlet know for sure they have in common: the same birthday.
They've never had parties together. They've never swapped presents. But this year, because of two wishes that turned all too true, they are about to swap something much bigger than presents. Because the morning after their birthdays, Lavender is going to wake up in Scarlet's body . . . and Scarlet is going to make up in Lavender's. But in order to change back, they're going to have to figure out how to be someone completely opposite of who they ordinarily are . . 

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