Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Taking Stock - May, 2016

Total posts this month: 22
Total books read this month: 45
Total books read this year: 158

Challenges:
Audio: 10/37
Debut: 1/7

The Good: 45 books! I'm on fire!

The Bad: Still not reviewing everything I'd like.

The Books: * = favorite
114. The Boy Who Drew Birds: a story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies (5/1)*
115. The After Room by Maile Meloy (5/3)
116. Cecil's Pride by Craig Hatkoff (5/5)*
117. One day, the End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich (5/5)
118. Bird and Diz by Gary Golio (5/6)
119. Body of Water by Sarah Dooley (5/6)
120. Slappy's Tales of Horror by R. L. Stine (5/9)
121. Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton (5/10)
122. Oh No, Astro! by Matt Roeser (5/10)
123. Ada's Violin: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood (5/10)*
124. Are We There Yeti? by Ashlyn Anstee (5/10)
125. Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Six Guiding Beliefs by Angel Farris Watkins, PhD (5/10)
126. Mimi and Shu in I'll Race You by Christian Trimmer (5/10)
127. No, No Gnome! by Ashlyn Anstee (5/10)
128. What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis (5/10)
129. Pax by Sara Pennypacker (5/10)*
130. The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John (5/12)*
131. Everything Robotics by Jennifer Swanson (5/13)*
132. Billy's Booger by William Joyce (5/13)*
133. Dinotrux Dig the Beach by Chris Gall (5/13)
134. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg (5/13)
135. Breaker by Kat Ellis (5/15)
136. Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka (5/16)*
137. Jazz by Walter Dean Myers (5/17)*
138. Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin (5/18)*
139. Typewriter by Bill Thompson (5/19)8
140. Yaks Yak by Linda Sue Park (5/19)*
141. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (5/19)*
142. Waddle, Waddle by James Proimos (5/23)
143. Dear Yeti by James Kwan (5/23)
144. The Turnip by Jan Brett (5/23)
145. Gordon and Tapir by Sebastian Meschenmoser (5/23)
146. Emma on the Air #3 - Showtime by Ida Siegal (5/23)
147. Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes (5/24)
148. Animal Planet Animal Atlas...(5/25)
149. Jack by Liesl Shurtliff (5/26)
150. Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty (5/27)*
151. The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd (5/27)*
152. Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (5/28)*
153. Doreen by Ilana Manaster (5/28)
154. Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner (5/29)
155. The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash (5/30)*
156. The Whale by Ethan and Vita Murrow (5/31)*
157. A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston (5/31)*
158. The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler (5/31)*

Top Ten Tuesday - Beach Reads

This week's TTT theme over at Broke and Bookish is beach reads. Since the Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and since many of my colleagues across the country are already out for summer, I am going to start the list with two I read this weekend.



The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 14, 2016. I am participating in a blog tour for this fun read next week. This is the book to read if you're looking for a humorous romance or are into comic conventions. 



Doreen by Ilana Manaster. Running Press Book Publishers. June 7, 2016. My review of this is scheduled for tomorrow. This one features a tony boarding school, mean queens, broken hearts and revenge.

These are the top of my pile for the summer:



Home Sweet Motel Welcome to Wonderland #1 by Chris Grabenstein. Random House Children's Books, October 4, 2016.

Publisher synopsis: Eleven-year-old P. T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever. 

They need to think BIG. They need to think BOLD. They need an OUTRAGEOUS plan. Luckily for them, Gloria is a business GENIUS, and OUTRAGEOUS is practically P.T.’s middle name. With Gloria’s smarts and P.T.’s world-famous stories and schemes, there’s got to be a way to save the Wonderland! 

BONUS: Includes fun extras like P. T. Wilkie’s outrageous (and sometimes useful) things you learn living in a motel. Installment 1: How to say “Help! The toilet is clogged!” in over twenty languages!


Two Summers by Aimee Friedman. Scholastic Inc. April, 2016.

Publisher synopsis: ONE SUMMER in the French countryside, among sun-kissed fields of lavender . . .
ANOTHER SUMMER in upstate New York, along familiar roads that lead to surprises . . .
When Summer Everett makes a split-second decision, her summer divides into two parallel worlds. In one, she travels to France, where she’s dreamed of going: a land of chocolate croissants, handsome boys, and art museums. In the other, she remains home, in her ordinary suburb, where she expects her ordinary life to continue — but nothing is as it seems.
In both summers, she will fall in love and discover new sides of herself. What may break her, though, is a terrible family secret, one she can't hide from anywhere. In the end, it might just be the truth she needs the most.


When We was Fierce by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. Candlewick Press, August 9, 2016.

Publisher synopsis: In an endless cycle of street violence and retribution, is there any escape? A powerful verse novel by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.


We wasn't up to nothin'
new really.
Me and Jimmy, Catch and Yo-Yo.
We just comin' down the street keepin' cool.
We was good at stayin' low
Especially around the Wooden Spoon.
Guys hang around there, they got teeth on ’em
Sharper than broken glass.
Words that slit ya’from chin to belly. And that’s just their words.

Fifteen-year-old Theo isn’t looking for trouble, but when he and his friends witness a brutal attack on Ricky-Ricky, an innocent boy who doesn’t know better than to walk right up to the most vicious gang leader around, he’s in trouble for real. And in this neighborhood, everything is at stake. In a poignant, unflinching novel of survival told largely in street dialect, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo enters the lives of teenagers coming of age in the face of spiraling violence among gangs, by police, and at home.



You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July, 2015. 

Publisher synopsis: “Do not ignore a call from me when you know I am feeling neurotic about a boy. That is Best Friend 101.” —Nash
        Maggie and Nash are outsiders. She’s overweight. He’s out of the closet. The best of friends, they have seen each other through thick and thin, but when Tom moves to town at the start of the school year, they have something unexpected in common: feelings for the same guy. This warm, witty novel—with a clear, true voice and a clever soundtrack of musical references—sings a song of love and forgiveness.




Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder. Capstone Press, August 15, 2016.

Publisher synopsis: After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she's ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must confront issues with the environment, peer pressure, bullying, and most of all, the difficulty of forgiving those who don't deserve it. A quirky, emotional middle grade novel set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Be Light Like a Bird features well-drawn, unconventional characters and explores what it means to be a family—and the secrets and lies that can tear one apart.



The Raven King
by Maggie Stiefvater. Raven Cycle #4. Scholastic Inc., April, 2016.

Publisher synopsis: All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.



Falling Over Sideways
by Jordan Sonnenblick. Scholastic Inc., September 27, 2016. 

Publisher synopsis: It's not easy being Claire. (Really.)
Claire's life is a joke . . . but she's not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she's dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there's a boy, Ryder, who's just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody's really listening to her -- if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.
Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic -- while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious -- and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.



A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January, 2017.

Publisher synopsis: In the vein of It's Kind of a Funny Story and All the Bright Places, comes a captivating, immersive exploration of life with mental illness.

For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to conceal her diagnosis by keeping everyone at arm's length. But when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.
As the walls of Mel's compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst-that no one will accept her if they discover what she's been hiding. But would her friends really abandon her if they learned the truth? More importantly, can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?
In A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, Eric Lindstrom, author of the critically acclaimed Not If I See You First, examines the fear that keeps us from exposing our true selves, and the courage it takes to be loved for who we really are.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: Animal Planet Animal Atlas


Animal Planet Animal Atlas. Text by James Buckley, Jr. Maps by Aaon Meshon. 96 p. Liberty Street, May 2016. 8671618931658. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher) 

Personally, I love atlases. I love the many iterations maps can take - political, topographical, population and so on. I actually mourn the fact that many kids today can't read maps. But I do keep a number of atlases in my library for those very occasional days when I am asked for one.

I cannot say that I have ever read an animal atlas. A quick search reveals that there aren't many. National Geographic published one in 2010 that I somehow missed.  

I was sort of thrilled this over-sized beauty arrived in the mail. It has been awhile since I've gotten to settle down with a book about animals. Coincidentally, I had just finished hosting a fifth grade science class for a few days while they did research for their biomes unit. You can imagine my delight when I cracked open the book to find these words in the introduction: "The maps in this book are a little different. They show the borders of the major biomes of the world." 

The introduction also explains a couple of text boxes and provides an overview of the eight biomes that can be found on nearly every continent. A world map follows the introduction and each continent's travel guides are introduced.

One thing I noted the fifth grade science teacher constantly repeating was the reminder that students look at their assigned biomes in more than one place in the world. It seems that in their research, they tended to stop at the first or the most familiar location without reading a bit more deeply. This book will do much to help his quest for deeper reading.

Starting with Asia, each continent gets its own chapter and sections within each chapter identify the biomes from bottom to top or top to bottom. Each chapter ends with a double page spread called "Where in the World?" that focuses on one animal up close. It includes a super-close-up shot of the animal, a ROAR (Reach out. Act. Respond) box as well as a text box featuring animal facts - common name, scientific name, habitat, and diet. 

The book is well organized and filled with gorgeous full-color photographs and hand-drawn maps. While this will not be the definitive source for researchers, it certainly is a great and inspirational starting point. A glossary and index of animals concludes the volume along with photo credits. I am thrilled to be able to add this to our collection. I will probably need a few more copies. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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:

Home Sweet Motel Welcome to Wonderland series by Chris Grabenstein. 304 p. Random House Children's Books, October 4, 2016. 9780553536027.

Publisher synopsis: Eleven-year-old P. T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever. 

They need to think BIG. They need to think BOLD. They need an OUTRAGEOUS plan. Luckily for them, Gloria is a business GENIUS, and OUTRAGEOUS is practically P.T.’s middle name. With Gloria’s smarts and P.T.’s world-famous stories and schemes, there’s got to be a way to save the Wonderland!

BONUS: Includes fun extras like P. T. Wilkie’s outrageous (and sometimes useful) things you learn living in a motel. Installment 1: How to say “Help! The toilet is clogged!” in over twenty languages!

Explore Forces and Motion! by Jennifer Swanson. Illustrated by Bryan Stone. Nomad Press Explore Your World series. 96 p. Nomad Press, June 14, 2016. 9781619303553.

Publisher synopsis: Everything moves! Kids run around the playground, cars drive on the road, and balls fly through the air. What causes all this motion? Physics! Forces and motion rule the way everything moves through space.

In Explore Forces and Motion! With 25 Great Projects, readers ages 7 through 10 discover that the push and pull of every object on the planet and in space depends on how a force acts upon it. Things float because of a force called buoyancy, we stick to the ground because of a force called gravity, and we make footprints in sand because of a force called pressure.

Physics becomes accessible and interactive through activities such as a experimenting with a water cup drop, building a bridge, and spotting magnetic field lines. Simple machines such as levers, pulleys, and wedges are used as vehicles for discovery and comprehension of the foundational concepts of physical science. Using a theme familiar to everyone—motion—this book captures the imagination and encourages young readers to push, pull, twist, turn, and spin their way to learning about forces and motion.


The Curse of the Were-hyena by Bruce Hale. 204 p. Monstertown Mysteries #1. Disney/ Hyperion, July 5, 2016. 9781484713259.
Publisher synopsis: What do you do when your favorite teacher starts turning into a were-hyena?
a) Flee in terror? 
b) Try to cure him? 
c) Bring him carrion snacks?

Mr. Chu, the coolest teacher ever, has developed some very unusual habits, like laughing hysterically for no reason, sniffing people's homework, and chasing chickens. When best friends Carlos and Benny decide to find out what's happening to him, they get caught up in some moonlight madness. And it looks like just the beginning of the weirdness that has arrived in the town of Monterrosa. . . . This first entry in a silly, sassy, and suspenseful new series will leave readers howling with laughter.

Purchased:

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. Unabridged audiobook on 4 compact discs. Read by Alison McGhee. Simon & Schuster Audio, March, 2016. 9781442394353.

Publisher synopsis: Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.
Told in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.

Those familiar with my blog my recall that I read and raved about this book. I loved it so much that when I heard it had been produced as an audiobook, I will reread it with my ears. 


The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. Raven Cycle series #4. Unabridged audiobook on 11 compact discs. 11 hours, 53 minutes. Read by Will Patton. Scholastic Audiobooks, May, 2016. 9780545649087.

Publisher synopsis: All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

I adore this series. I read the first but listened to the second and Will Patton does such a spectacular job narrating that I am happy to wait for the audiobook.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to Read Aloud a Book about Jazz When One has a Tin Ear

Six-plus years of piano lessons and one traumatic year of ballet lessons were wasted on me because I have no rhythm and my ability to memorize is not good. Nor am I able to carry a tune. My youngest, who happens to have perfect pitch told me, "No sing, Mommy!" whenever I tried to croon at him. Yet, I do love listening to music and admire those who play, dance and perform. 

Some years ago, I came across the book, Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, written and illustrated by a favorite of mine, Chris Raschka. I read through the simple text and decided against using it as a read aloud. Too short, too non-sensical. I didn't get the book. Some years later, I discovered that Live Oak Media produced an audiobook and checked it out. 

Wowzers! I suddenly got the book! There was no way I could ever do justice to the rhythm and delightful playfulness of Raschka's words by doing a straight read aloud, so I shared the audiobook with my elementary classes. This gave me a unique opportunity to really observe each student during read aloud. In each class, there was at least one to whom the music spoke. He or she could not resist moving to the music.

When I made the move to a fifth through eighth grade middle school and a totally flexible schedule, I did not have any opportunities to revisit the book. I did loan the set to the ELL teacher when she mentioned that she was introducing jazz to her students. This year, I have been working with a small, self-contained class and after they seemed to enjoy Bird & Dizz a few weeks back, I dug out Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. 
by Chris Raschka. unpgd. Music Maker Series. One book and one compact disc. Performed by _____ . Live Oak Media, July, 2000. 9780874996692.

The bright palette of the illustrations pop and even the typography gets into the act as the font size changes according to the mood.

I came across this during the search of my shelves for Charlie Parker Plays Be Bop in my home library:
Jazz by Walter Dean Myers. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. Performed by James "D Train" Williams and Vaneese Thomas. Live Oak Media, September, 2007. 9781430100225.

The fifteen poems in this collection required a lot more time and attention. We split the reading over two periods. The volume begins with a brief introduction to provide historical and musical context. The poems and paintings that follow are visual and aural feasts. Myers senior's poems vibrate with rhythm and exude energy and joy. The poems are perfectly married to Myers junior's evocative paintings. The palette is bold, thick outlines lend a sense of movement and playfulness. The background jazz music of the production gets the foot a-tapping and the performances by Mr. Williams and Ms. Thomas are stellar. No wonder it won an Odyssey Award! A glossary and detailed timeline conclude this wonderful introduction to a truly American musical genre. 

I have long been a fan of audiobooks and have two boxes full of books on cassettes stored in my basement to prove it. Reading with one's ears is reading. In this case, reading these books with my ears helped me understand jazz. I highly recommend sharing these wonderful audiobooks with your students.


Waiting on Wednesday: We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

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


We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen. 56 p. Candlewick Press, October 11, 2016. 9780763656003

Publisher synopsis: Hold on to your hats for the conclusion of the celebrated hat trilogy by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen, who gives his deadpan finale a surprising new twist.

Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat. . . . Evoking hilarity and sympathy, the shifting eyes tell the tale in this brilliantly paced story in three parts, highlighting Jon Klassen’s visual comedy and deceptive simplicity. The delicious buildup takes an unexpected turn that is sure to please loyal fans and newcomers alike.

Oh man, I am such a fan of Klassen's and am so looking forward to this. I really enjoyed I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat. But I must say, after hearing him talk about both books at an NCTE luncheon, I love them even more.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: Ada's Violin: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood


Ada's Violin: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood. Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. unpgd. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May, 2016. 9781481430951. (Review from finished copy won in a blog giveaway.)

Rambling Review Alert!

A couple of reviews ago, I lamented my inability to keep up with the output of children's literature. So many gems gone unread. Today, I am mourning the loss of my news hound self. Once upon a time, I read a couple of newspapers practically cover-to-cover. Once upon a time, I listened to NPR so constantly, I often listened to segments two and three times as it recycled through the day. Once upon a time, I regularly watched not only nightly news, but sought out weekly news shows like 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday. Now, I skim my newspapers and audiobooks fill my driving time. And I hardly ever watch television so it's no surprise that I misses this.

And it's not a surprise that I did not know about Ada's Violin and might not have had I not won it along with every other book Christian Trimmer edited. Talk about overflowing with riches! Thanks again Christian!

Judy Freeman once, okay, many times, has said, "I learn so many interesting things from picture books!" "So true, Judy," says this "never too old for picture books" gal. I adore informational picture books. Well done ones present little nuggets of information to nibble on, ponder, wonder and inspire further reading. I adore this book. Each time I return to it, I love it more. 

Ada lives with her sister in a slum that was built around a garbage dump. Garbage from the city of Asuncion, Paraguay. The residents of Caleura make their living by picking through the tons of garbage to collect anything that can be recycled. Ada and her sister attend school but she and her parents and grandmother worry about her future, especially as she reaches her teenage years. She sees hopeless teens joining gangs. When Favio Chavez posts a notice about free music lessons, Ada's grandmother signs them up without asking.

Ten children show up for the first class but Chavez has only six instruments. Unfortunately, that is not the only problem. He realizes that since the instruments cost as much as a house, they are not safe from theft so he devises a way to make the instruments out of recycled material with Nicolas Gomez  and Tito Romero. "They transformed oil drums into cellos, water pipes into flutes and packing crates into guitars!" Talk about ingenuity!

The students really had to commit. They had three hour lessons and since they had no classroom, they played outside, often in 100+ degree heat. The children were expected to practice at home. Ada would practice for two hours. Talk about grit! 

The lessons went beyond music. Señor Chavez expect them to respect him, themselves and each other. Some dropped out but in time the Recycled Orchestra was born. The rest of the population benefited. "Gancheros trudging home from the landfill might lift their heads to hear the sounds of Ada's violin...or the strains of Bebi's cello... or the strum of Noélia's guitar. A symphony of sound helped to lift them beyond the heat, the stench and their aching backs."

The mixed media collages are absolutely perfect, vibrant hues, and bits of labels, newspaper and such to add texture, depth and interest. Sally Wern Comport managed to convey the deplorable living conditions along but also imbues her subjects with light and hope. 

Back-matter includes an author's note, a color photograph of the orchestra and their instruments and websites and videos, which should definitely be shared with your students. These children play magnificently. The final page includes source notes, a quote from Margaret Mead, a photograph of some instruments up close and a note stating that Simon & Schuster is making a donation the to orchestra and an invitation for readers to do the same.

Ada's Violin is surely, a must-purchase title for all ages. Add the title to your #WNDB list and share widely.



Saturday, May 21, 2016

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:

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick. 272 p. Scholastic Inc., September 27, 2016. 9780545863247.

Publisher synopsis: It's not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire's life is a joke . . . but she's not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she's dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there's a boy, Ryder, who's just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody's really listening to her -- if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.

Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic -- while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious -- and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.

I am so looking forward to cracking open a new Sonnenblick offering! My arc arrived with a sheet featuring all of Jordan's titles sporting mostly new designs AND a copy of his debut, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie. Thank you Lizette!

Purchased:

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner. Unabridged audiobook on 1 MP3 CD. 6 hours, 52 minutes. Read by Sandy Rustin. Brilliance Audio, September, 2015. 9781501249952.

Publisher synopsis: Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the Internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident—maybe because of Torrey and her videos—Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's Internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems to accept Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?


If You're Reading This by Trent Reedy. unabridged audiobook on 1 MP3 CD. 9 hours, 14 minutes. Read by Ramon Ocampo. Brilliance Audio, February, 2016. 9781511361576.

Publisher synopsis: Mike was seven when his father was killed in mysterious circumstances in Afghanistan. Eight years later, the family still hasn't recovered: Mike's mom is overworked and overprotective; his younger sister Mary feels no connection to the father she barely remembers; and in his quest to be "the man of the family," Mike knows he's missing out on everyday high school life.

Then, out of the blue, Mike receives a letter from his father—the first of a series Dad wrote in Afghanistan, just in case he didn't come home, meant to share some wisdom with his son on the eve of Mike's sixteenth birthday. As the letters come in, Mike revels in spending time with his dad again, and takes his encouragement to try new things—to go out for the football team, and ask out the beautiful Isma. But who's been keeping the letters all these years? And how did Dad actually die? As the answers to these mysteries are revealed, Mike and his family find a way to heal and move forward at last.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Blog Tour: Breaker by Kat Ellis


Breaker by Kat Ellis 334 p. RP Teens/ Running Press, May 24, 2016. 9780762459087. (Review from arc courtesy of the publisher.)

When sixteen-year-old Kyle and his mama move from the hatred in their North Carolina town, they are looking for a fresh start. So Kyle has a new last name because most folks would recognize his old one. His father was a notorious serial killer called The Bonebreaker. He is cautiously optimistic about his fresh start but that evaporates in homeroom the first morning of classes. One of his classmates is Naomi Steadman, the daughter of his father's last victim, the only person to have seen the Bonebreaker and lived. He vows to keep his distance but he has already caught Naomi's eye and there's no denying the instant spark between them.

Everyone has secrets in this modern gothic thriller. Naomi is haunted by the death of her mother. She's also grieving for her grandfather's slow decline due to Alzheimer's. She's fending off unwanted advances by a creepy custodian and tired of the mind games her former best friend is playing. 

Killdeer Academy has a grim history. It was a former asylum for the mentally ill. A section of it burned in a tragic fire, but there are plenty of turrets, secret rooms, dark hallways and urban mythology, not to mention taxidermied predators and prey to lend a suitably creepy atmosphere. Yikes! And that cover! I have a hard time looking away and it ties in so gruesomely to several pivotal scenes in the book. 

The story is told in the alternating points-of-view of Naomi and Kyle. The occasional news clipping or undelivered letter or transcript fill in the story. Do not miss the chapter names. There are plenty of suspects and red herrings to consider as the suspense builds. While I figured out the who relatively early, I did not figure out the why until the big reveal. Teen fans of gothic thrillers will race through this. I am not a fan of gothic thrillers for the very reason why this is so good. The suspense killed me. There were a few minor plot points that irked but not enough to take me out of the story. 

Too bad this is pubbing as a paperback. My students are going to pass this one around.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly

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



Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly. 366 p. Kathy Dawson Books, November 22, 2016. 

Publisher synopsis: A whip-smart, screwball noir myster-with snappy prose, wry humor, and breakneck dialogue-this sequel to Trouble is a Friends of Mine is perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, Sherlock, John Hughes and Carl. Hiassen.

After a fall semester of fiascos: getting arrested, then kidnapped, then blown up in an explosion (all thanks to the weird by brillian Philip Digby), Zoe Webster if looking forwad to a quiet spring. Now that Digby has left town, she's finally build a regular high school life for herself. She's dating Miles, the alternate QB; she knows tirls she considers friends: she's
learning to enjoy being normal and semi-popular. Which of course is when Digby comes back: he's got a new lead on his missing sister and he needs Zoe's help.

Suddenly Zoe is tussling with a billionaire arch-villain, locking horns with armed goons, and digging into what makes the Digby family tick, even as she tries to navigate the confusing and emotionally fraught world of high school politics and locker-room drama. After all, it's hard to explain Digby to a boy like Miles, especially when Zoe isn't sure how she feels about Digby herself - or  how he feels about her.

Now that Digby's back, get ready for another hilarious whodunit filled with razor-sharp dialogue, ridiculously funny action, and the most charismatic, dynamic duo you've ever met. And just try to stay out of trouble.

We dare you.

I learned about this a few weeks ago when the author posted a link to this tweet on FB. Trouble is a Friend of Mine is yet another book I read, I loved, I booktalked like crazy (and it circulated like crazy) and never reviewed! I did feature it in a Friday Meme post - twice, it seems.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Non-Fiction Monday: Bird & Diz by Gary Golio


Bird & Diz by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Ed Young. unpgd. Candlewick Press, February, 2015. 9780763666606. (Review from purchased copy)

Bebop is a jazz innovation that influenced and was influenced by  Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie "Birdman" Parker in the 1940s. This tribute captures the playfulness of Bird's and Diz's collaboration in an innovative format - the pages of the book accordion. While you can read it as a traditional book for the first half, you have a decision to make for how to read the second half. I opted for the dramatic. I put the book on the floor and said, "Wait a minute. Is this book finished?" Confused "No's" was the response. Then I lifted the pages to unfold them out along the floor and read the second half of the book while crouch-walking alongside the pages. This needs to be rehearsed. But the effect was fun. Don't forget to queue up Salt Peanuts! on iTunes for listening to after reading. You may find some budding jazz aficionados in your midst.

This exuberant portrayal of the creative genius and incredible friendship that these two musicians shared is a keeper! I correctly assumed that my group of students were unaware of who Bird and Diz were. I read the title and asked them to predict what they thought the book would be about. Of course, no one was even close. They were delighted by the playful rhythm and language of the text and intrigued by the pastel, impressionistic drawings. When laid out on the floor, the effect is something akin to elaborate sidewalk art.

An afterword provides further explanation of bebop, a discography and concludes with an invitation to draw! One possible extension activity could be to do just that - play Salt Peanuts! and see what images the music evokes. This book could be used in an LA class in addition to art or music class. 

Highly recommended!