Sunday, May 31, 2015

Taking Stock - May 2015

And, another month bites the dust! Wow! 
Total posts this month: 24
Total books read this month: 37
Total books read this year: 152

Challenges:
Audio: 9/ 27
Debut: 0/3

The Good: Well, I read a fair amount and, in the beginning of the month, I posted a lot. Reading and posting fell off towards the end as I got busy with school stuff. My audiobook count took a spike. Summer's a-coming!

The Bad: I've got to seek out more debuts. I know there are a few on the tbr, but review commitments keep pushing them down. 

The books:
116. The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going (5/2)
117. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre (5/3)
118. The Contract by Derek Jeter (5/4)
119. Carter's Unfocused One-track Mind by Brent Crawford (5/8)
120. Hit & Miss by Derek Jeter (5/9)
121. Scary Snakes by Lauren Brown (5/9)
122. Teensy Weensy Animals (5/9)
123. Explorers by Penelope Arlon (5/9)
124. Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash (5/12)
125. The Magic School Bus Presents: Insects (5/12)
126. Silver People by Margarita Engle (5/14)
127. The Magic School Bus Presents: Dinosaurs (5/14)
128. The Night Parade by Lily Roscoe (5/14)
129. The Notebook of Doom #5: The Whack of the P-Rex by Troy Cummings (5/14)
130. Paleontologists and Archaeologists by Ruth Owen (5/15)
131. The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle (5/15)*
132. Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman (5/15)*
133. Superstars of History: the good, the bad and the brainy by Basher and R.J. Grant (5/15)
134. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (5/16)*
135. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein (5/16)
136. Starring Jules: Third Grade Debut by Beth Ain (5/16)
137. The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier (5/16)
138. The Chimpanzee Children of Gombe by Jane Goodall (5/17)
139. A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone (5/17)
140. I Wish You More by Amy Kraus Rosenthal (5/18)
141. The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker (5/19)
142. The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry (5/20)
143. Literally Disturbed: tales to keep you up at night by Ben H. Winters (5/22)
144. Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando (5/23)
145. Purge by Sarah Darer Littman (5/25)
146. Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford (5/26)
147. I'm My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein (5/26)
148. Two by Kathryn Otoshi (5/26)
149. Scholastic Year in Sports 2016 (5/26)
150. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (5/30)*
151. The World Series by Matt Doeden (5/30)
152. srsly Hamlet by William Shakespeare + Courtney Carbone (5/31)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


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

For review:

The Marvels by Brian Selznick. 672 p. Scholastic Inc., September 15, 2015. 9780545448680.

Publisher synopsis: In this magnificent reimagining of the form he originated, two stand-alone stories-the first in nearly 400 pages of continuous pictures, the second in prose-create a beguiling narrative puzzle.
The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage.
Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with an uncle in London. Albert Nightingale's strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.
A gripping adventure and an intriguing invitation to decipher how the two narratives connect, The Marvels is a loving tribute to the power of story from an artist at the vanguard of creative innovation.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a Scholastic BEA event to launch The Marvels this past Wednesday. It was a memorable evening. I left with a signed copy of The Marvels and a tiny velvet gift bag. If you ever get the opportunity to hear Brian Selznick speak, grab it. He is such a talented man! He's also an engaging, funny speaker with an infectious passion for his work. 

Purchased: Yes, I've gone and bought more books to add to the tbr.


The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg. 325 p. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc., May, 2015. 9780545648936.

Publisher synopsis: The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can't have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.
Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn't really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who's long held a secret regarding Carson's grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson's dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the "Porcupine of Truth" in all of their lives.


srsly Hamlet by William Shakespeare + Courtney Carbon. OMG Shakespeare series. 110 p. Random House Children's Books, May, 2015,  9780553535389.

Publisher synopsis: Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?!
 
Imagine: What if Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and the tragic Ophelia had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this fun and funny adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!
 
A kingdom on the brink of war.
A stolen throne.
A boy seeking revenge.
 
<3 and h8. The classics just got a whole lot more interesting. ;)
 

The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher. 336 p. HarperCollins Publisher, May, 2015. 9780062272775.

Publisher synopsisPerfect for fans of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is Stonewall Award-winning author Brian Katcher's hilarious he said/she said romance about two teens discovering themselves on an out-of-this-world accidental first date at a sci-fi convention.
When Ana Watson's brother ditches a high school trip to run wild at Washingcon, type-A Ana knows that she must find him or risk her last shot at freedom from her extra-controlling parents.
In her desperation, she's forced to enlist the last person she'd ever want to spend time with—slacker Zak Duquette—to help find her brother before morning comes.
But over the course of the night, while being chased by hordes of costumed Vikings and zombies, Ana and Zak begin to open up to each other. Soon, what starts as the most insane nerdfighter manhunt transforms into so much more. . . .



Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy. 288 p. HarperCollins Publisher, April, 2015. 9780062322432.

Publisher synopsis: Friendship can be a bumpy road. . . .
Lana and Cassie have met only once before, at the wedding of Lana's Grandpa Howe and Cassie's Grandma Tess two months ago. The two girls couldn't be more different, and they didn't exactly hit it off—but they're about to spend an entire week together for their grandparents' honeymoon, road-tripping from California to Maine in the backseat of a Subaru.
It's going to be a disaster.
Told in alternating chapters between Cassie and Lana, Drive Me Crazy is a tween rivalry-turned-friendship story bursting with humor and heart.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - House Arrest by K. A. Holt

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



House Arrest by K. A. Holt. 304 p. Chronicle Books LLC, September 29, 2015. 9781452134772.

Publisher synopsis: Timothy is on probation. It's a strange word—something that happens to other kids, to delinquents, not to kids like him. And yet, he is under house arrest for the next year. He must check in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, and keep a journal for an entire year. And mostly, he has to stay out of trouble. But when he must take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be. By turns touching and funny, and always original, House Arrest is a middlegrade novel in verse about one boy's path to redemption as he navigates life with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.

I enjoy this author's work. I like Rhyme Schemer so much that when a seventh grade LA teacher came in looking for some good books for some lit circles for her reluctant readers, I immediately recommended it. She did choose it and her students approved!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


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

For review:
When I started reading the email asking if I would be interested in Foulsham, book 2 in the series, I nearly stopped reading. I was about to beg off because whenever I haven't read a series from the beginning, I feel compelled to read the first books before reading the book I've been asked to review. I am so booked that I didn't think I'd have the time or energy. But then I read the synopsis and it sounds like the kind of book I'd enjoy. When the rep offered to supply book one along with the arc of book two, how could I not?



Heap House written and illustrated by Edward Carey. Iremonger series #1. 405 p. The Overlook Press, January, 2015. 9781468309539.

Publisher synopsis: Welcome to Heap House, the sprawling, slipshod maze of a mansion, built on the “Heaps,” a collection of forgotten trash and curios.
Young Clod Iremonger and his eccentric family, the “kings of mildew, moguls of mold,” made their fortune from this collected detritus. The Iremongers are an odd old family, each the owner of the birth object they must keep with them at all times. Clod is perhaps the oddest of all—his gift and his curse is that he can hear all of the objects of Heap House whispering.
Yes, a storm is brewing over Heap House and the house’s many objects are showing strange signs of life. Clod is on the cusp of being “trousered” and married off (unhappily) to his cousin Pinalippy when he meets the plucky orphan servant Lucy Pennant, with whose help he begins to uncover the dark secrets of his family’s empire.
The first installment of the Iremonger Trilogy, Heap House introduces readers to a gloriously imagined dark world whose inhabitants come alive on the page—and in Edward Carey’s fantastical illustrations. Heap House is a book that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl and Mervyn Peake, young and old alike. Mystery, romance, and the perils of the Heaps await!



Foulsham written and illustrated by Edward Carey. Iremonger series #2. 325 p. The Overlook Press, July 7, 2015. 9781468309546.

Publisher synopsis: At the Iremonger family offices in the aptly named borough of Foulsham, London's great repository of filth, Grandfather Umbitt Iremonger has found a way to make objects assume the shapes of people, and how to turn people into objects. Clod, whom he sees as a threat, has been turned into a gold coin and is being passed as currency from hand-to-hand through the town. Meanwhile, Lucy Pennant has been discarded as a clay button, abandoned in the depths of the Heaps. Will they be found and returned to human form? Enter Binadit and Rippit...Meanwhile Umbitt builds an army of animated objects to retrieve the missing gold coin. All around the city, thing—ordinary things—are twitching into life, and the reader is held in breathless suspense as questions of life and death, value and disposability, rumble through this dark and mesmerizing world.

Purchased: I know, I know I should not be spending any more money on books! Especially when I have so many to read for review!


Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone. 311 p. Sourcebooks Fire, May, 2015. 9781402291500.

Publisher synopsis: WHAT IS NORMAL?
For Trevor, normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes, and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves him with no band, no teammates, and no chance of graduating. It's kinda hard to ace your finals when you've been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor-those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.
For Everly, normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service, and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor's daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.
This achingly beautiful story about two damaged teens struggling through pain and loss to redefine who they are-to their family, to themselves, and to each other-is sure to melt your heart.
I can't remember where I read a review of this and it seems a tad old for my crowd; but there was something about it that called to me. 


Galgorithm: a guy. A girl. A formula. by Aaron Karo. 310 p. Simon Pulse/ Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, May, 2015. 9781481440639.

Publisher synopsis: A romantic comedy about high school, heartbreak, and having all the answers.
What if the secrets of dating and love were revealed in one simple formula? That’s the tantalizing proposition high school senior Shane Chambliss offers the hopeless and hapless guys who come to him for relationship advice.
After the girl of his dreams breaks his heart, Shane devises a mysterious formula called the Galgorithm and establishes himself as the resident dating guru at Kingsview High School. But his attempts to master the art of romance go outrageously awry.
As Shane tries to navigate the ensuing drama, he must follow his heart, abandon all the rules, and ignore his own advice in a quest for true love. What he discovers, no formula could ever predict...
I really enjoyed an earlier book of his called Lexapros and Cons. While the description somewhat evokes John Green's An Abundance of Katherines, I am eager to be delighted and surprised

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Memes: The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

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


The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy. 244 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, May, 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?
First Line(s): For once I'd like to go to a school with a really unique mascot. Like a garden gnome. Or a three-toed sloth. Or a geoduck.

Page 56: Seriously, guys are so clueless when it comes to social stuff. The Emilys of middle school do not get invited to sleepovers by the Jennifers. That's like saying I'll wake up fluent in Spanish. Or my mother will marry a stable guy with a full-time job and a bank account and live happily ever after in the same house until she dies. Willow even said Alyssa and her friends picked on Emily.

I have enjoyed this author's "I So Don't..." series. I will be posting a review in June as part of a blog tour. I started reading it today while waiting for the medical school commencement of my second son on Thursday. Reluctantly put it away once the ceremony started;-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

WoWzers! Scholastic Fall Preview!

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

I usually share just one title per week and have WoW posts scheduled already through June; but I'm bumping the schedule to post this in a timely fashion. I sure am glad I carefully read the items in my spam folder at work, or I would've missed this link to the Scholastic Fall Preview!

I just love these productions. I want every single one of these books! I've already highlighted one, Sunny Side Up, in an earlier WoW. If I had to choose one to highlight today, it would be the second book in the Magisterium series. Every kid that has checked the first book, The Iron Trials, out rushes it back in, breathlessly asking, "Where's the second book?" Then, "What?!?" when I explain that (at the time) there was no release date for it (believe me, I looked).

Click on the link above to view the preview. I watched all 42 minutes of it because I still try to keep up with the picture books. The preview can be viewed by category if you're short on time.

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Magesterium #2. Scholastic Inc., September 1, 2015. 9780545522281.

Publisher synopsis: none. This book doesn't need it. We are breathlessly awaiting this sequel to The Iron Trials!
I do feel much cover love here.

What are you waiting on?


Blog Tour: Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash - Bonus! Giveaway!


Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash. 304 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. May 19, 2015. 9781481439312. (Review from arc courtesy of Blueslip Media.)

Three Day Summer actually takes place from Thursday through Monday, August 14 through the 18th,1969, when Max Yasgur rented his farm out for a three day concert known as The Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The actual concert was held in Bethel, New York. The story is told in alternating voices by Michael and Cora. 

Michael hails from a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts and arrives in Bethel on Thursday with his girlfriend Amanda and a car full of friends bent on listening to some great music and getting high. Michael isn't sure which direction his life should be taking. He has no desire to go to college and thereby deferring the draft. Nor does he wish to risk being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. His relationship with Amanda is on the rocks; it seems they argue about everything. At this point, his only passion is music and he is determined to enjoy this one-in-a-lifetime music experience. 

Cora is a hometown gal. Her older brother has been in-country for two years now. She is disturbed by his last letter home. She wants him out of there now. Her two-war veteran father is immensely proud of Mark and dismayed by his neighbor's willingness to rent his land to a bunch of war protesting hippies. He's also barely civil to Cora's twin brother,  Wes, who plans on attending the concert carrying signs protesting the war. Cora herself is a bit at sea. She's volunteering in the medical tent because she'll probably go to nursing school, but what she'd really like to do is go to medical school. She's still reeling from a recent breakup with her boyfriend, Ned.

The shifting POV works really well in this story. Cora meets Michael when he is brought to the medical tent after dropping LSD. He's not having a bad trip per se given the fact that he dropped the brown acid. Cora appears to be an exotic bird to him and he's entranced. She nurses him through his hallucinations and they go their separate ways until they meet again. Cora, ever the good girl, begins to question her whole life over the course of the weekend. The concert and Michael help to broaden her horizons. 

This appealing story gives the reader a strong sense of setting.  It would make for a great beach read. The weekend was all about sex, drugs and rock and roll so the content is a bit mature for most middle schoolers. But do give it to serious fans of rock music. Highly recommended for high school libraries. Pair it with Jordan Sonnenblick's Are You Experienced? to give contemporary readers insight into that pivotal weekend. I especially liked how the author ties in Rolling Stone magazine. Ms. Tash provides a playlist of songs on her website. She also guest blogs at several stops on the blog tour. 

Check out the other posts:
Mon, May 11
What a Nerd Girl Says
Tues, May 12
GreenBeanTeenQueen
Wed, May 13
Mother Daughter Book Club
Thurs, May 14
Curling Up with a Good Book
Fri, May 15
The Compulsive Reader
Mon, May18
The Hiding Spot
Tues, May 19
Adventures of a Book Junkie
Wed, May 20
Me!
Thurs, May 21
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Fri, May 22
Word Spelunker




Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, visit: sarvenaztash.com.
Twitter: @SarvenazTash

Finally, thanks to Blue Slip Media, I have a copy to give away. Leave a comment and/ or email me at bkahnlovesbooks (at) gmail (dot) com to enter. (U.S. addresses; please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Starring Jules (Third Grade Debut) by Beth Ain

Starring Jules (Third Grade Debut) by Beth Ain. Illustrated by Anne Keegan Higgins. Starring Jules series #4. 165 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., August, 2014. 9780545113586. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

My favorite budding actress, Jules Bloom, is less than enthusiastic about starting third grade. Transitions are hard and, let's face it, Jules has a lot on her plate what with filming her sitcom every day after school. She really, really wishes problems could be solved in 20 minutes the way they are on the show. She also wishes she could be brave and spunky like her character, Sylvie. Plus, she really, really wanted her former babysitter as her third grade teacher; but she's stuck with Mr. Santorini. Mr. Santorini wears Hawaiian shirts and has a star chart and talks like a sea captain and there's a third grade project called Wax Museum and, it's just all too much! 

This is such a sweet series for elementary readers. Jules is a star with talent and aspirations but she's also a daughter, sister, friend and student with very real, relatable worries and hopes. She loves her new best friend, Elinor; is perplexed about her old best friend, Charlotte (and jealous when Charlotte shows up late on the first day of school wearing cool, polka dot eye glasses) and is annoyed by her younger brother, Henry, who is starting kindergarten seemingly without a care in the world. Oh to be a kindergartener again!

The text is punctuated with breezy line drawings. My only quibble is that Jules looks to be a bit older than 8 or 9. The book design is zippy what with the bright yellow cover and red page-edges. 

This series is popular over at the elementary school where my colleague states they are rarely on the shelf. Recommended for anyone, especially fans of Clementine, Junie B. or aspiring thespians.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Non-Fiction Monday: Discover More: Explorers by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris


Discover More: Explorers by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris. Scholastic Discover More series. 80 p. Scholastic Inc., December, 2014. 9780545791229. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Another excellent entry in the "must purchase" Discover More series. Explorers is sure to ignite the imagination of middle grade readers. Beautifully designed and well-organized, this entry is divided into three sections: Into the Unknown; Voyages of Discovery; and Above and Beyond. And the bonus ebook is not to be missed. That highlights men and women who are 21st century explorers.

Beginning with the essential question, "Why explore?" readers contemplate the challenges and dangers of going where no man has gone before. There's a Hall of Fame and a world map that traces the routes of ten explorers. The section about Voyages of Discovery begins with ancient explorers. Each double-page spread focuses on an individual or group of people who set out for the unknown. Crammed with photos, maps, and artist's renderings, there is plenty to catch the eye.  A glossary and index conclude the volume. A code for the online book is provided at the beginning.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


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

For review:

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke. 341 p. Dysney/ Hyperion Books, 341 p. April, 2015. 9781423159797.

Publisher synopsis: Nere feels more at home swimming with the dolphins her mother studies than she does hanging out with her classmates. Nere has never understood why she feels so much more comfortable and confident in water than on land, but everything falls into place when Nere learns that she is one of a group of kids who-unbeknownst to them-have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of "The Neptune Project" will be able to build a better future under the sea, safe from the barren country's famine, wars, and harsh laws.
But there are some very big problems: no one asked Nere if she wanted to be a science experiment, the other Neptune kids aren't exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim through hundreds of miles of dangerous waters, relying only on their wits, dolphins, and each other to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids...dead or alive.
Fierce battles and daring escapes abound as Nere and her friends race to safety in this action-packed aquatic adventure.

I also received my finished copy of Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses, which I reviewed in the April issue of School Library Journal. I don't know why I never thought to post these in my Stacking posts. For some reason, receiving this finished copy just tickled me. I think my students, especially those who can't get enough of books with "Wimp-appeal" will like this.


Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses (and other good stuff) by L. Pichon. Tom Gates series #2. 340 p. Candlewick Press, May, 2015. 9780763674748.

Publisher synopsis: Middle-school comedian, homework dodger, rock-star wannabe, master doodler—Tom Gates is back with two more episodes full of visual humor and kid appeal.
No school for two whole weeks! Now Tom has plenty of time for the good stuff, like finding new ways (so many!) to annoy his big sister, Delia. Or watching TV and eating caramel candy. Or most important, band practice for DOGZOMBIES in his best friend Derek’s garage (while not encouraging Derek’s ’60s-music-crazed dad). All that stands between this band and rock greatness is, well, a song (besides "Delia’s a Weirdo"). And finding a drummer. And landing a gig. Will Tom let a killer toothache and pesky overdue homework get in his way?
That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Happy reading!

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman. 321 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April, 2015. 9780545651264. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Fragile sophomore, Lara Kelly, attempts suicide after her online crush disses her publicly on Facebook. As if that wasn't hurtful enough, the comments that follow are hateful. Her eighth grade sister, Sydney, angry that Lara's been hogging the bathroom, realizes that it's too quiet in there and calls her mother to break the door down. Lara's ex-best friend and neighbor, Bree films Lara being wheeled on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance and posts the video- which prompts another avalanche of "likes" and comments. 

Ah, social media and the immediacy of unbridled, uncensored, unfiltered comments. Add to that the questionable decision-making skills of hormone-addled teens and we've got a new age of bullying. It's now 24/7, not just a fight after school in the parking lot. Even a casual glance at the comments section in most online outlets reveals that cyberbullying is not just a teen-age thing. Adults are jumping in, usually anonymously.

Lara's sophomore year was looking up for her. She successfully lost the weight that earned her such nicknames as Lardo and even made the cheering squad. This was after years of angst and therapy and, according to Syd, the world revolving around Lara. Syd feels guilty over feeling anger at the timing of Lara's suicide attempt, which prevented her from trying out for a coveted part in the school play.

Syd's not the only one tired of Lara's angst. Bree, her former best friend is as well. The story switches points of view between then and now and Lara, Syd, Bree and Bree's brother, Liam. Turns out, Bree created a fake FB page for Christian, Lara's crush. Lara knew she was violating her parents' rule when she friended a boy she didn't know. They had friends in common and he was good-looking and Lara was flattered. She quickly shared details of her life and fell for Christian, who seemed to return her feelings. 

I read this in one sitting. While there were a few false notes that threatened to take me out of the story, on a whole, it was timely and utterly compelling - like train wreck compelling. There's a message here, but it's an important one. The author illuminates many of the pitfalls of the dangers of social media as well as the nuances of sibling and best friend relationships. I enjoyed the shifting points of view, especially Sydney's and Liam's. 

This book could not have come at a more perfect time. Earlier this week, an eighth grader returned I Swear by Lane Davis. He wanted another just like it so I gave him Butter by Erin Jade Lange. He's plowing through that and told me yesterday, in the hallway that I need to find more books like those two. Phew! Thank you Sarah Darer Littman for writing this at just the right time. And, thanks to Scholastic for the opportunity to review it. I am certain Backlash won't spend much time on the shelf.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Bird & Squirrel on Ice by James Burks


Bird & Squirrel on Ice by James Burks. 125 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., September, 2014. 9780545563185. (Finished paperback courtesy of publisher for review.)

Bird and Squirrel swirl out of a snowstorm, crash into a mountain, cause an avalanche and find themselves in the Antarctic, where the penguin girl who rescues them thinks Bird is The Chosen One. The Chosen One is destined to rescue the village from The Great Whale. Bird relishes the attention. When Squirrel discovers that the chief is actually planning to sacrifice Bird and tries to tell him, Bird assumes that Squirrel is jealous and ignores the warning.

This is a perfect middle grade graphic novel. The art is vibrant; characters' expressions are communicative; and the dialogue is minimal but snappy and humorous. Panels are easy to follow. This is the second Bird & Squirrel installment. Somehow, I missed the first, Bird & Squirrel on the Run. A third, Bird & Squirrel on the Edge is due out in October. I must order these for my collection asap!

Friday Memes: Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

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



Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman. 321 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April, 2015. 9780545651264. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

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.
First Line: The words on the screen don't make sense. They can't.

Page 56: (Liam) 
     People clap when I'm done. Yes!
     Not only that, as I sit down, I notice I've wiped the smirk off Oliver's face. We may be friends, but we both like to win.
     I guess I got that from Mom. You know how some parents let their kids win when they're little so they feel good about themselves? Not my mom. Dad would, but Mom was like, "If you want to win, you have to earn it. All this 'give everyone a trophy' garbage is ruining this country."
      When I finally beat her at monopoly, I took a picture of the board, and then I never played her again.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Smart and Spineless: Exploring Invertebrate Intelligence by Ann Downer

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

Smart and Spineless: Exploring Invertebrate Intelligence by Ann Downer. 88 p. Twenty-first Century Books, Sept. 28, 2015. 9781467737395.

Publisher synopsis: none!

Learned about this from the author's FB post. I really love the cover, especially how the tentacle wraps around her name! I really enjoyed Wild Animal Neighbors and am looking forward to reading this new one.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cover Coincidence - Stars and Silhouettes

Cover Coincidence is the occasional post inspired by the question, "Now where have I seen this before?"





Stella by Starlight is on my tbr. Rules for Stealing Stars is due out this fall. It's the author's middle grade debut. Otherwise, there is no synopsis available and I can't recall where I saw the cover. 

5/16/15: ETA: Saw this on FB and had to add to my collection. I can't wait to read them all.



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Audio review: Carter's Unfocused One-Track Mind by Brent Crawford

Carter's Unfocused One-Track Mind by Brent Crawford. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3-CD. Performed by Nick Podehl. Brilliance Audio, August, 2013. 9781480543409. (Purchased)

Will Carter and his boys are now sophomores in this third book featuring the hilarious, horny and clueless crew. Abby is angsting over whether she should attend drama school in New York. She thinks Carter should come with her. Carter would love to, especially since it increases his chances of getting in her pants. Only, he doesn't really want to leave his boys. His appreciation for the "drama geeks" is growing as are his friendships with several, especially Jeremy. Rumor has it that Scary Terry is out of juvie and gunning for Carter and E.J. This has the boys practically wetting their pants with anxiety; so they start a fight club. They only have one pair of boxing gloves so they split the pair with a pair of ski gloves and take turns whaling on each other. Yeah. Good times.

These books are not everyone's cup of tea. There's something to offend just about everyone here- profanity, bodily fluids of all sorts, unfiltered, impolitic opinions, fighting, drinking, the unbridled desire to get laid crippled by the sheer terror of talking to and getting rejected by a girl, teenage pregnancy and vandalism. We can't forget the vandalism, nor the acts of mass stupidity that usually elicits the question, "If they jumped off of the bridge, would you follow?" by exasperated adults. 

It is also the perfect boy book. No, I don't mean this is just a book for boys or reluctant reader boys. It is a book for all boys and ex-boys and the girls and ex-girls who love them, teach them, mother them, are maddened by them or are stuck with them. Carter is so endearing. His voice is honest and yearning and hopeful. He's so lovably insecure, intuitive and courageous. He's a football jock who is also a drama geek. He befriends fellow drama geek, Jeremy, who is gay and doesn't hesitate to defend him when Jeremy is confronted by homophobic bullies. (Unnecessary help, by the way, since Jeremy was perfectly able to defend himself but sweet of Carter, nonetheless.) His perpetual tardiness and inattention earn him suicides in football and Saturday morning detention where, he hilariously finds he can actually get some work done!

Carter's world is magnificently brought to life in Nick Podehl's hands. Podehl is a gifted performer with all sorts of material (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Personal Effects, Boundless, Everlost, anything!), but he consistently and perfectly nails the comedy of male adolescence. His timing is impeccable. Carter's interior monologues are especially appealing. While his female voices are not the best, his stable full of male voices are distinct and fitting.

Teens who enjoy the Carter trilogy will love Don Calame's Swim the Fly books (which Podehl also nimbly narrated) and Geoff Herbach's Felton Reinstein trilogy.

While this is billed as the conclusion of a trilogy and does end quite nicely, I, for one, would not mind an installment featuring Carter and Abby at drama school.