Thursday, April 30, 2015

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han


To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. Unabridged audiobook on 7 compact discs, 8 hours, 15 minutes. Read by Laura Knight Keating. Recorded Books, 2014. 9781490619385. (Borrowed from the public library)

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song Covey is determined to step up once her sister Margot leaves to attend college in Scotland. Ever since their mother died, Margot has organized the family and has been the perfect daughter. Baby sister, Kitty is the spunky one, leaving Lara Jean kind of lost in the middle. 

Lara's entire family adores Josh, the boy next door who is also Margot's boyfriend. Lara actually crushed on him first, but stepped aside when Margot started liking him. Ever practical Margot breaks up with Josh days before leaving for Scotland, leaving him crushed. Lara Jean wonders how she, Kitty and Daddy will continue their friendship with him.

To get over her crushes, Lara Jean writes letters, brutally honest letters explaining why she fell in and out of love. She puts the letter in an envelop, addresses it and stores it in a hat box that was a present from her mother. There are five of them and one was addressed to Josh. 

The letters are mysteriously mailed, as Lara Jean learns when she is confronted by a seriously confused Josh. She's understandably mortified; but even more so when Alpha male, Peter Kavinsky receives his and confronts her as well. But Peter has a plan. He and his girlfriend recently broke up and Lara Jean doesn't want Josh to think she still likes him. She and Peter decide to pretend that they are going out.

Lara Jean seems way younger than her sixteen years. At first, I found her naiveté kind of charming. Then it became grating and annoying. What sixteen-year-old still refers to her parents as "Daddy or Mommy?" The performance by Laura Knight Keating reflected this very well. Her voice had a playful, young, musical quality to it.

One thing Jenny Han does very well is dialogue and angst. Teens are all about drama. My teens eat up her Summer I Turned Pretty series. Belly drove me absolutely berserk, but then, I'm old as dirt. There was a time, for like, five minutes, in my teens when I lived for this kind of drama. My teens will adore this one too and line up for the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, which is due out May 29th.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko

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


Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. 288 p. Random House Children's Books, August 4, 2014. 9780385742535.

Publisher synopsis: Newbery Honor–winning author Gennifer Choldenko deftly combines humor, tragedy, fascinating historical detail, and a medical mystery in this exuberant new novel.

   San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.
   The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.

I learned of this early last month from the author's FB page. I learn about a fair number of new releases through social media. I so enjoy Ms. Choldenko's books, especially her Al Capone trilogy. I'm hoping to pick up an arc at ALA Annual which, coincidentally, will be in San Francisco in June!

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Books Which Feature Characters Who...

Today's Top Ten Tuesday theme, hosted by Broke and Bookish, is, Books Which Feature Characters Who... I chose books with characters who suffer from mental illness.



It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. I read this one when it pubbed back in 2007 and thought it was one of the best and truest depictions of teenage depression I ever read. While it is a tad mature for my most of my students, I have it on the "eighth grade only" shelf for "that" reader. Tragically, the author committed suicide.



Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern. Right on the heels of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Julie Halpern's book released and was equally compelling. A sequel, Have a Nice Day, pubbed in 2012 and dealt with the aftermath of Anna's three-week hospitalization in a mental ward.



Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo. Again, this YA debut was a tad mature for my crowd, but it was one of the first books I had read that dealt with OCD.



Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! This was one of my favorite audiobooks ever! While not explicitly stated, Blink is probably schizophrenic. He hears voices. Blink is a homeless teen. Unfortunately, a fair number of the homeless do suffer from a variety of mental illnesses and receive no treatment.



Inside Out by Terry Trueman. Trueman's debut and Printz Honor-winning novel, Stuck in Neutral, absolutely gutted me. And so did Inside Out, which, if I'm not mistaken is his sophomore novel.



Jump by Elisa Carbone. The mental illness in this story is secondary to the rock climbing adrenaline rush these two climbers go seeking. It sure was a fantastic read.



Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. This extraordinary debut was a 2014 Morris Award Finalist. James Whitman is depressed and attempts to channel Walt Whitman as he deals with his abusive father, his sister being kicked out and a royally dysfunctional family situation. 



All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nivens. While I didn't feel the absolute devotion and love that many expressed about this book, I thought that the writing was beautiful. 

I hesitate to add the next three as I may be spoiling the reading experience but they are too good not to mention.



I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña. Kidd is a good kid, who has escaped from a group home and really, really wants to make a fresh start away from the negative influences of a friend.



Tighter by Adele Griffin. Page-turning thriller. That is all.



Liar by Justine Larbalestier. This first-person account by a self-admitted compulsive liar is absolutely gripping. It was also one of the first covers (that I knew of) to be called out on white-washing. 





Monday, April 27, 2015

Non-Fiction Monday: When Rivers Burned: the Earth Day Story by Linda Crotta Brennan

When Rivers Burned: the Earth Day story by Linda Crotta Brennan. Illustrated by Lisa Greenleaf. Once, In America series. 80 p. Apprentice Shop Books, LLC, January, 2012. 9780984254996. (Purchased)

I discovered this while perusing the list of Outstanding Science Trade Books that the National Science Teachers Association issues yearly. I've been trying to beef up the collection in the area of the environment to support the science curriculum. 

The lovely cover and catchy title should be enough of a lure but this is no lightweight covering of the topic. Students should be prepared to read an in-depth reporting of the movement, which was the brain-child of Senator Gaylord Nelson. First, Brennan sets the stage by providing a bit of historical context - unregulated pesticide use, rampant dumping of waste into rivers by large companies, billowing smokestacks poisoning the air. Next, readers learn about Gaylord Nelson, WWII veteran who as the Governor of Wisconsin began a state-funded program of buying open space and preserving it as wilderness. In 1962, he ran for the U. S. Senate and won. He soon found that his colleagues in the Senate knew little about environmental issues. He set to work convincing President Kennedy that he should make a conservation tour. Unfortunately, other political events got in the way. Nelson persevered and, after convincing college student, Denis Hayes to spearhead the national campaign, the very first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970.

Other early environmental activists are highlighted, including Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich, making this an ambitious undertaking for an 80-page book and perhaps lending to some abrupt shifts (I actually thought I skipped a page at one point.) The photos were all well-captioned save one.  

The photographs, both black and white and full-color are at turns fascinating and appalling. There are also maps and photographs of newspaper headlines as well. Plenty of text-boxes add to the interest. The book also contains illustrations, which, while competently done were not really necessary given the plethora of photos. Several timelines, a glossary, index and photo sources conclude the volume. Curiously, there were no suggestions for further reading. 

Still, this history is an important addition to any classroom or school library.       

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff


Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. 298 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group (USA), May 26, 2015. 9780399164064. (Arc courtesy of the publisher)

I have occasionally wondered, usually in response to a news article, how one learns to live with oneself after accidentally killing another. I can't imagine it and I'm an adult, supposedly with a lifetime of coping skills. Lisa Graff revisits the tragedy from Umbrella Summer. In Lost in the Sun, we learn how Trent deals with the aftermath of being the one responsible for killing his friend. 

Understandably, the twelve-year-old is consumed with guilt, has withdrawn from family and friends, and suffers panic attacks when faced with trying to play any sport. Although he saw a counselor for a while in the beginning, he no longer does. He has continued to follow her advice to keep a journal but finds himself filled with rage that erupts in frightening ways. He's raging at his father, his new homeroom teacher and his gym teacher, who happens to be his ex-best friend's uncle and coach of the intra-mural baseball team. Luckily, he is close with his brothers and his mother, with whom he shares a passion for the Dodgers. But even they are at a loss as to help Travis. It seems he has also snagged the attention of Fallon, a girl who dresses a bit oddly and has a mysterious scar. She has every intention of making Travis her friend and he reluctantly goes along.

Trent's voice is immediately engaging. Trent's a likable kid who has walled himself off from the world and trying to find a way out. His guilt and rage are palpable. He's in pain and the people around him who love him can do nothing to ease it because there is no timetable with grief. Only he can forgive himself. So they wait. But now, as the rage boils over, he's in danger of hurting himself and others.

Graff tackles the unimaginable and makes the subject manageable. Students who read this unflinching portrayal of grief and forgiveness will walk away changed. I can't recommend this one enough. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

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:

Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash. 286 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 19, 2015. 9781481439312. 

Publisher synopsis: In this summer romance, two teens find unexpected harmony amid the crowd at a legendary music festival.
Michael is unsure about most things. Go to college? Enlist in the military? Break up with his girlfriend? All big question marks. He is living for the moment, and all he wants is a few days at the biggest concert of the summer.
Cora lives in the town hosting the music festival. She’s volunteering in the medical tent. She’s like that, always the good girl. But there is something in the air at this concert, and suddenly Cora finds herself wanting to push her own boundaries.
When Michael and Cora meet, sparks fly, hearts race, and all the things songs are written about come true. And they’ve got three days of the most epic summer ahead of them…


The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy. 245 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, May 12, 2015. 9780385739436. 

Publisher synopsis: A girl who can see the past tries to save the future in this compelling tween mystery.

A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.

When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.

But is it too late to save Emily?
The Disappearance of Emily H has everything—a quirky, believable heroine, a complex mystery that keeps you guessing, and even a touch of the paranormal. Readers won’t put this one down until the final sparkle.” — Gordon Korman, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“An extra-special extrasensory suspense story with unexpected twists and turns.” —Eric Walters, author ofThe Rule of Three

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link in the comments.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Memes: Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

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



Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. 298 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group (USA), May 26, 2015. 9780399164064. (Arc courtesy of the publisher)

Publisher synopsis: From the author of A Tangle of Knots and Absolutely Almost, a touching story about a boy who won't let one tragic accident define him.
Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can't get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he's not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is.
If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.
It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it.

First Line: It's funny how the simplest thing, like riding your bike to the park the way you've done nearly every summer afternoon since you ditched your training wheels, can suddenly become so complicated.

Page 56: "Sit your ass back down, Trent," Mr. Gorman told me. "I'm not even close to done."
     He said that. He said "ass." I'm pretty sure teachers aren't supposed to say "ass."
     "But the bell rang."
     The look Mr. Gorman gave me then-well, I knew in that instant there was a reason he'd become a P.E. teacher. I bet he could've wrestled a bear and won.
     I sat my ass back down.

I've already finished this and my review is scheduled to post this Sunday, one month before its release date of May 26. I adored this book and want to talk about it everywhere I can. It has gotten a ton of love already - four stars so far! I can't wait to book talk it to my kids.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

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



Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith. 336 p. Random House Children's Books, July 14, 2015. 9780553511932.

Publisher synopsis: In this stunning debut novel, two very different characters—a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina and a white boy in Vermont who loses his best friend in a tragic accident—come together to find healing.

A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.

I learned about this from Kathi Appelt's FB page when she posted a link to a starred review by Kirkus. I was so happy about the heads up. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - All-Time Favorite Authors

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and Bookish. This week's theme is - all-time favorite authors.

Ha! I can't believe I actually looked ahead for this week! I'm glad I did because I have a huge list of favorite authors, many more than ten. I decided that my all-time favorite list would consist of authors whose book or books tore my heart out of my chest. That narrowed it down but there were still more than ten. I chose five women and five men and here they are alphabetically.

Sherman Alexie: I have lost track of how many times I have read Alexie's only YA offering, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I have read it both with my eyes and with my ears and sob each and every time. I can think of no other book that brings me from hysterical laughter to sobs in a heartbeat. I heard a few years ago that there was a sequel in the works. I would love to revisit Junior. Recently, the book was name the most banned book in America. I heard the author tweeted that he was proud to be the author of the most banned book.

Laurie Halse Anderson: I was working as an aide in a school library shortly after Speak won a Printz Honor when the librarian asked me to do her a favor and read the book. An eighth grader had written a book report on it and her teacher was concerned. I told the teacher, the librarian and the principal that Speak should be mandatory reading for all eighth graders. Her historical fiction, Fever, 1793 and Chains were astounding. Twisted was riveting, as was Catalyst

M.T. Anderson: It took me several tries to get into Anderson's National Book Award Finalist, Feed. Once I did, I was so very scared because the possibilities seemed so real. With each passing year and the "improvement" in technology, I often think about how prescient the book was. I am totally creeped out when I visit an online store only to have it pop up in the ads of my social media feeds seconds later. A few years later, Anderson won the National Book Award for the brilliant, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party. This is historical fiction at its very best.

Matt de la Peña: I have written often how de la Peña's books gut me. We Were Here and Mexican White Boy are seared into my memory. This is an author who sublimely explores the emotional landscape of young males. 

Sarah Darer Littman: Talk about gut-wrenching, I've read only one book by Littman and am reading her latest now; but both pack a wallop. Want to go Private was one of the most provocative, uncomfortable books I've ever read. 

Chris Lynch: The first Lynch book I read was Inexcusable, which was a 2005 National Book Award Finalist. It is a tad mature for most of my population but I do have it on the eighth grade only shelf and believe it might be as important to read as Speak is. Mind blown. His Vietnam series is just heartbreaking. And, his upcoming Hit Count (May 19, 2015) tackles an important issue in high school athletics. 

Melina Marchetta: I have to work really hard when reading Marchetta's books. No whipping through them reading with half a mind. The layering, character development, worldbuilding and rich language are all things to marvel whether reading her realistic fiction or fantasy.

Walter Dean Myers: Children's literature lost giant this past summer. Walter Dean Myers, one of the bravest, honest writers out there, wasn't afraid to experiment. He's done it all - poetry, picture books, biographies, a memoir, middle grade and YA. His 1999 book, Monster, won the inaugural Printz Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. I really enjoyed his biography of Muhammed Ali and found his memoir, Bad Boy, so touching; but it was Fallen Angels that brought me to my knees emotionally.

Barbara O'Connor: I've written before that Barbara O'Connor is the perfect middle grade writer. Her books are not long and yet each one packs such an emotional wallop. I have enjoyed every one of her books. They are each quite different. I have to say, though, my heart will always belong to the very first O'Connor book I read, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. "Drip. Drip. Drip." (sob!)

Sarah Weeks: is another versatile author. She has written picture books, early chapter books and middle grade fiction. She first came on my radar with So B. It. Oh my. This is one of my go-to books for tweens who crave sad. 

Honorable mention:
Gennifer Choldenko
Lisa Graff
Suzanne LaFleur

Monday, April 20, 2015

Non-Fiction Monday: Winnie: the true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker


Winnie: the true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker. Illustrated by Jonathan Voss. unpgd. Henry Holt and Company, January, 2015. 9780805097153. (Purchased)


Harry Coleman was a veterinarian and soldier in the Canadian Army during World War I. He and his regiment were traveling by train enroute to shipping out overseas when, at a brief stop, Harry spotted a man holding a bear on a leash. Turns out, the man had killed the cub's mother and, being unable to care for the bear, was selling her for $20. This may seem like a pittance, but I used an inflation calculator and that $20 from the early 20th century would be equivalent to $342. That was the kind of man Harry Coleman was. 

His Captain certainly was not pleased but was soon won over and Winnipeg became part of the regiment. It wasn't long before her name was shortened to Winnie. She followed Harry everywhere and slept under his cot. She soon got used to the horses that Harry was in charge of. When Harry could not be with Winnie, his buddies took turns caring for her. She even shipped out with the unit to England but once they received orders to move to the front, Harry understood Winnie would not be safe. He made arrangements for her to board at the London Zoo. 

She was a great favorite there. She was so gentle that the zookeepers allowed children to pet her, feed her and ride on her back. Once the war was over Harry made the difficult decision to leave her at the zoo rather than take her back to Canada. Eventually, Winnie made the acquaintance of young Christopher Robin Milne, who renamed Edward, his stuffed bear, Winnie, adding "the Pooh."

This beguiling story is nostalgically illustrated in browns and yellows. There's a short author's note as well as suggestions for further reading. Most intriguing are the endpages, which feature photos of Winnie as well as her intake card at the London Zoo and a photo of Christopher Robin and his father.

As a student of children's literature, I probably should have known this. But that's what makes my job so much fun. I learn something new every time I read a children's book. What a sweet biography of sweet bear.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hit Count by Chris Lynch


Hit Count by Chris Lynch. 368 p. Algonquin Young Readers, May 19, 2015. 9781616202507. (arc received at the ALAN workshop)

Hit Count is the first-person narrative of Arlo Brodie told over his four years in high school. We first meet Arlo as an articulate, hopeful freshman living in the shadow of his rather brutal older brother, who is a football star and sadistically enjoys putting Arlo in his place. Arlo recognizes that his brother probably received one too many hits over the course of his illustrious playing career but refuses to put the brakes on his own football hopes and dreams. He knows his father is proud of him and his mother is disappointed. She collects data about traumatic brain injury, which she adds to "The Book" and she wishes her boys would quit football. He can't please both. Besides, he loves football and recognizes his own potential.

He soon realizes that potential thanks to the hard work and extra effort he's willing to devote. Once he experiences the adrenaline rush of the "perfect hit," his appetite is insatiable. His star rises meteorically, in fact. By sophomore year, he's a varsity starter known as "Starlo." 

I could not put this book down. I have a bit of a love/ hate relationship with football. I grew up with a father who was a rabid NY Giants fan. Since my family owned only one black and white television, Sundays were spent with my dad alternately explaining the intricacies and beauty of football to me and screaming obscenities at the tv when a play went wrong. Later, it killed me in high school to see the football jocks rule the school. Still later, as an ER nurse, I was well acquainted with treatment of high school athletes. When the push for peewee football descended on my town while my own sons were growing up, I was happy they were soccer players (although I later read about the incidence of traumatic brain injury in soccer players is also high, like second or third with ice hockey. And soccer players wear no helmets).

While there's plenty of football action to please those who crave that in their novel reading, there's much more to offer a variety of readers. Arlo's is an engaging, charming voice - the likable jock, the scholar-athlete. He's crushing on new girl Sandy and is so endearingly awkward, it hurts. Even his complicated family dynamics are interesting. We definitely root for Arlo and almost don't notice that he's becoming a bit less articulate and less in control of his anger until it's too late. The bone-crunching football Arlo plays is thrilling. We get it. 

A couple of years ago, Carla Killough McClafferty wrote a powerful book called, Fourth Down and Inches: concussions and football's make or break moment. You can read my thoughts here, but I wrote that, "This book should be mandatory reading for every coach, parent and, yes, even player in the country." I think this book is so important it is usually front and center on my book display. 

The two would make a perfect fiction/ non-fiction pairing. In fact, I might take to our morning broadcast show with a book talk on both books next week to follow up on a presentation that the eighth graders at my school attended the morning of this writing (April17).

A former student who is now a senior, studied athletic injuries, specifically, ACL tears and concussion, for her Gold Star (Girl Scout) project. She put together an informative presentation and spoke very comfortably to the eighth graders. I learned that our regional high school has a policy that prohibits play (for the rest of high school) by a student when he or she suffers the fourth concussion. Whether this policy would lead to student athletes underreporting is a topic for another time but I was impressed that such a policy was in place. Timely coincidence, eh?

Hit Count is a must-purchase for school and public libraries. The only other YA novel I can think of that deals with this issue is Pop by Gordon Korman. In Pop, a young football player befriends Pop, a football legend who is suffering from the effects of multiple concussions. Hit Count definitely hits closer to home. Don't miss it.

ETA: I don't know if there are any plans to produce an audiobook. I think it lends itself to the format quite nicely. Both Nick Podehl and MacLeod Andrews spring to mind as perfect for the part. Both are terrific, especially conveying male adolescents. Both inhabit whatever book they narrate. Indeed, they don't narrate. They perform.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

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:

The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York by Geoff Rodkey. 261 p. Little, Brown and Company, September 29, 2015. 978031634268.

Publisher synopsis: In the follow up to The Tapper Twins Go to War, Geoff Rodkey delivers another ultra-modern comedy told as oral history with texts, screenshots and smartphone photos. When Claudia initiates a citywide scavenger hunt to raise money for charity, it's not just the twins' opposing teams that run riot. With the whole school racing to trade in sights seen for points to score front row tickets at Madison Square Garden, they may not get to the finish line with their dignity-and social lives-intact!

I reviewed The Tapper Twins Go to War with Each Other for SLJ and am just thrilled to receive this arc of the next in the series.


Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman. 326 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic, April 28, 2015. 9780545651264.

Publisher synopsis: In critically acclaimed author Sarah Darer Littman's gripping new novel what happens online doesn't always stay online . . .
Lara just got told off on Facebook.
She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school's homecoming dance. It's been a long time since Lara's felt this bad, this depressed. She's worked really hard since starting high school to be happy and make new friends.
Bree used to be BBFs with overweight, depressed Lara in middle school, but constantly listening to Lara's problems got to be too much. Bree's secretly glad that Christian's pointed out Lara's flaws to the world. Lara's not nearly as great as everyone thinks.
After weeks of talking online, Lara thought she knew Christian, so what's with this sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse - are they true?
But no one realized just how far Christian's harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.
As online life collides with real life, the truth starts to come together and the backlash is even more devastating than than anyone could have imagined.
I found the author's earlier novel, Want to Go Private, to be one of the most provocative and uncomfortable novels I have ever read. I can't wait to crack this one.



A Conspiracy of Princes by Justin Somper. An Allies and Assassins novel. 480 p. Little, Brown and Company (BYR), May 26. 2015. 9780316338226.

Publisher synopsis: The newly crowned Prince Jared, ruler of All Archenfield, has inherited a kingdom in crisis. The murder of his older brother has revealed a traitorous plot in his court, calling into question who, if anyone, Jared can trust as he ascends the throne. Now the realm is on the brink of invasion from the brutal princes of Paddenburg and Jared must travel to neighboring kingdoms in search of allies to defend his throne. Little does he know that an even more dangerous plot is hatching in the Archenfield court--one that threatens to remove Jared from power. One put in motion by the very people he left in charge.
The second book in Justin Somper's Allies & Assassins series delivers another twisted tale of high-stakes betrayal and political machinations set amid a lush medieval background.
That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link in the comments.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Memes - Eighth Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

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



Eighth Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. 324 p. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc., January, 2010. 9780545096768. (Purchased)

Publisher synopsis: In this terrific debut, a Brooklyn middle-schooler finds the superhero within himself thanks to old friends, new dreams, and a pair of magical "Dora the Explorer" sneakers.
Ever since a deeply unfortunate incident earlier this year, Reggie's been known as "Pukey" McKnight at his high-intensity Brooklyn middle school. He wants to turn his image around, but he has other things on his mind as well: his father, who's out of a job; his best friends, Ruthie and Joe C.; his former best friend Donovan, who's now become a jerk; and of course, the beautiful Mialonie. The elections for school president are coming up, but with his notorious nickname and "nothing" social status, Reggie wouldn't stand a chance, if he even had the courage to run.
First Line: "Hey, Pukey, got a pen?" Hector Vega jabs me in the back. He does this every day.

Page 56: "Are you scared?" he asks.
     "Of what?"
     "You know, the whole shelter thing," he says. "I mean, those homeless people. They're not...My dad wouldn't let me get near a place like that."
     He says "a place like that" like it's another planet, full of living nightmares too horrible to describe. And "they're not..." what? Most of the homeless people that I see have skin closer to mine than his, and I wonder if he would talk about me the same way. I say, "A place like what? What are you talking about?"
     "Forget it," he mutters, picking up a magazine.
     Good. Because we need to leave this conversation alone.

I reorganized my double-stacked and burgeoning tbr bookshelves over spring break and found this. I have so many books on the tbr mountain that I will never read them even if I never bought another book (gasp!) and lived to be 100. This is a tragedy.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson


Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. 240 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, March, 2015. 9780803740167. (Purchased)

Astrid and Nicole have been bffs since first grade when evil Rachel told Astrid (and everyone else) she had rabies after she touched a dead squirrel. Nicole assured Astrid that she did not. From then on, they did everything together and evil Rachel moved away in third grade.

When Astrid's mom surprises them with an outing to a Roller Derby, Astrid is entranced. Nicole not-so-much. Astrid decides right then and there that she wants to go to Roller camp for the summer undaunted by the fact that she has never even roller skated. Nicole would rather go to ballet camp. Astrid is caught up short because they have always done everything together. Nicole rather gently points out that Astrid always dictates what they will be doing. Astrid blithely assumes that Nicole will come around. Not only does she not, but she'll be attending ballet camp with evil Rachel!

Tween lit is filled with stories about the changing nature of best friendships, especially between girls. I work in a middle school and witness the drama unfold on a daily basis. Do I need yet another book about the implosion of a best friendship? I sure do! My students inhale these books. I was thrilled to add it to my collection, especially one that does so as freshly and exuberantly as Roller Girl does. I knew exactly who I was giving it to first.

I remember watching roller derby when I was a kid back in the stone age of 13 channels on a black and white television. I had not realized that roller derby was still a thing. Apparently it is thriving, as a visit to the author's web page attests. There's a link to a roller derby organization and the author herself skates with the name of Winnie the Pow.

This impressive graphic novel debut (the author has illustrated several picture books) will have wide appeal. Definitely give this to fans of graphic novels, especially fans of Raina Telgemeier and Jimmy Gownley; but fans of friendship books would experience a nice introduction to the graphic novel format with this perfectly paced story. The full-color art is crisp, energetic and attractive. Panels are easy to follow. The characters are fully realized and the dialogue feels authentic. Astrid is spirited and opinionated. While she doesn't always handle her frustration and challenges well, readers will relate and root for her. This reader learned a great deal about the sport and it didn't feel didactic. In fact, I'd like to learn more about the rough and tumble sport. I'm also eager for more middle grade offerings from the talented Ms. Jamieson.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker


Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. 179 p. Disney/ Hyperion, March, 2015. 9781423123583. (Borrowed from public library)

The end of third grade is fast approaching and Clementine refuses to say "Good-bye" to Mr. D'Matz. While she's looking forward to summer, she does not feel ready for fourth grade and all its demands and surprises. She's looking forward to the summer though. She has been giving her father the silent treatment because he un-apologetically ate meat. She has been drawing pictures of sad animals and leaving them in strategic places. She wants her mom to have this baby already but is a bit worried that her new sibling is going to be a dud like Mr. D'Matz's. 

Sob! The very last Clementine book! Can it be? This final installment is as fresh and funny as the first and makes me want to go back and read them all right in a row. Clementine has come a long way in third grade thanks to two great parents plus one fantastic teacher plus one spectacular principal. They all appreciate her gifts and work to gently yet firmly rein in her impulses.

Clementine is a spirited handful - ever observant, rarely reserved and exceeding creative. Her growth from book to book was realistic. The dialogue rang true. The spot art that usually began on the title and verso and dedication pages captured Clementines energy brilliantly. A perfect ending to a fun series. Uh-oh! I just realized that we never learn her brother's name! Clementine sure came up with some doozies for him over the course of the series. She comes up with a perfect name for her newest sibling.

Waiting on Wednesday - The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

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


The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. 320 p. Henry Holt & Company BYR, July 7, 2015. 

Publisher synopsis: Whether wrangling a rogue armadillo or stray dog, a guileless younger brother or standoffish cousin, Callie Vee and her escapades will have readers laughing and crying in this return to Fentress, Texas. Travis keeps bringing home strays. And Callie has her hands full keeping the animals—her brother included—away from her mother's critical eye. Will she succeed?

I really enjoyed The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. I read it in 2010 but did not write a review. I do remember loving the relationship Calpurnia had with her grandfather as well as her budding interest in science. I can't recall where I saw this right now, but I am so thrilled that I did!