Monday, October 16, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. 608 p. Scholastic Inc., September, 2011. 9780545027892. (Purchased)

I read this back when it was published in 2011 but didn't blog about it, nor was I on Goodreads then. I recall enjoying the story. I did not have the chance to reread the book before seeing the movie the other but took the opportunity to do so over the weekend. 

Wonderstruck tells parallel stories - one set in 1927 and one in 1977. The 1927 story is told in illustrations. It is the story of Rose, a child who was born deaf to a famous actress. Rose lives in Hoboken, NJ with her stern and cold father while her mother lives in New York City to pursue her acting career. Rose meticulously clips articles about her mother's career and lovingly keeps a scrapbook. She loves to watch her mother in movies because they are silent and accessible to her. One cannot skip a single illustration because each one advances the story and each one is remarkable.

Ben's story is the one set in 1977. He was born deaf in one ear and never knew his father. His mother recently died in a crash and he's living with his aunt and uncle. He finds a clue to who his father might be while searching through his mother's belongings. After a freak accident takes away his hearing in his good ear and lands him in the hospital, Ben decides to run away to New York to find his father.

There are a couple of plot contrivances to swallow, and there is a distinct nod to From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Celebrating 50 years this year), but suspend belief and go along for the ride. It's a satisfying one.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

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:

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares. Unpgd. Candlewick Press, 

Publisher synopsis: Separation and miles cannot keep a determined cardinal from his loved one in an ode to serendipity and belief that is destined to be a new Christmas classic.

Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it’s just the season for miracles. . . . From Matt Tavares comes a heart-tugging story combining the cheer of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: how important it is to be surrounded by love.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht. Illustrated by Jarvis. Unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2017. 9780763695712.

Publisher synopsis: A festive read-aloud brimming with all the joy and excitement of Christmastime — beginning, of course, with picking out a tree!

Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. With style and warmth, debut author Patricia Toht and Jarvis, the author-illustrator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, evoke all the rituals of decorating the tree — digging out boxes jam-packed with ornaments and tree trimmings, stringing tinsel, and, at long last, turning on those twinkling lights. Joyously drawn 

Traveling the Blue Road: poems of the sea collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Bob Hansman and Jovan Hansman. unpaged. Sea Grass Press/ Quarto, October 17, 2017. 9781633222762.

Publisher synopsis: Gorgeous illustrations surround a collection of poetry written for children about the courage, beauty, and promise of sea voyages. Compiled and edited by award-winning poet Lee Bennett Hopkins, the poems describe how the sea has historically shone as a metaphor for hope and despair and served as a pathway for people searching for new life, including poems about the pilgrims coming to the New World, the Mariel boatlift, the Vietnamese boat people, a Dutch slave ship, the current migration situation in the Mediterranean, and the voyage of the St. Louis.

I have coveted this one ever since viewing a couple of pdf printouts from the book at the July publisher preview at Quarto. Thanks Michelle!


After the Fall by Dan Santat. unpgd. Roaring Brook Press, October, 2017. 9781250179371.

Publisher synopsis: From the New York Times–bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend comes the inspiring epilogue to the beloved classic nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty.

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after?

Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat's poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall—that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.

Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

I adore this man and his work. He just keeps getting better.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck (Movie)

Boy, when it rains, it pours! I have been so busy with children's books-related events these last few weeks, but especially this past one! Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a special showing of Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck thanks to Scholastic and Lizette Serrano. 

I brought my husband as a plus one. We met #3 son, who lives and works in Manhattan down the block for dinner. We ate at Uncle Jack's Steakhouse a few doors down from the Whitby Hotel, where the screening was to be held. As NY steakhouses go, this was pretty good. Interesting decor, very attentive waiter and delicious food.

I wondered about how the screening would work at a hotel instead of a movie theater. When I found the smallish, boutiquey place, I really wondered! The lobby was filled with art. We were directed downstairs where there were several rooms, one of which was a screening room with comfy seats. We were welcomed, Brian said hello and the movie commenced.

It has been quite some time since I read the book and I did not have time to reread before the screening but it all came back. While Wonderstruck is not my favorite of Selznick's three bricks, I did like it and am in awe of his style, the magnificent visual storytelling and how he takes the reader on an unforgettable journey in every one of his projects. I think he told a fascinating story and probably introduced a new generation to the wonder of the silent film era as well as a window into the lives of the hearing impaired. 

The movie was just gorgeous. Beautifully cast with veteran and new actors alike; gorgeous cinematography; and music that was just perfect. I was unaware until the interview at the end of the movie that Millicent Simmonds, who stars as Rose, is deaf and that the casting call went out seeking a deaf actress. This is Millicent's first movie and she just shines. Her story is told silently in black and white and her close-ups reveal such intensity and beauty. New York of the 1920s is beautiful as well as the Museum of Natural History.

My husband, who hadn't read the book, thought the film was lovely. So, I hope that it reaches people beyond the children's literature community because it is quite special. 

I rarely go to movies but I am seeing two within the span of a few days. On Sunday, I am joining my colleagues and some students and Sarah Weeks for a special screening of So B. It at the AMC Theaters in the Palisades Mall. Tonight, I am trekking back into the city to listen to Laurie Halse Anderson interview Sherman Alexie. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian turns ten this year! 

Fact Friday: Fire Birds: valuing natural wildfires and burned forests by Sneed Collard

Fire Birds: valuing natural wildfires and burned forests by Sneed Collard. Bucking Horse Books, January, 2015. 9780984446070. (Review from purchased copy)

Each year, thousands of acres of woodlands are lost to devastating wild fires. They seem to becoming more frequent, especially this year. Fact Friday features, Fire Birds: valuing natural wildfires and burned forests by Sneed Collard. This beautiful book chronicles how forests recover after fires and focuses on the work of biologist, Richard Hutto. Did you know that there are quite a number of species of birds that make their homes ONLY in burnt out forests? This slim volume is crammed with full-color photographs taken by the author and a compelling story. Other pluses include plenty of sidebars and charts, a glossary, bibliography and index. The design includes plenty of white space and glossy pages. Fire Birds would make a great addition to STEM collections anywhere.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

#tbt - Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. Alex Rider series #1. 192 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, 2000. 0399236201.

#tbt features Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. This first book in the Alex Rider series was published in Great Britain in 200 and in the United States in 2001. Alex Rider was a fourteen-year-old school boy living a quiet life with his banker uncle and American nanny when the two receive word that Ian Rider was killed in a car crash. Details don't add up. Alex investigates and discovers that his uncle was a spy for MI6 and the director wants Alex to complete the mission.

Fast-paced and suspenseful, the whole series is quite popular at TMS. Horowitz thought he wrote his last Alex Rider book in 2011 but found he had more adventures for our favorite teenage spy. Ms. Kahn got to meet Mr. Horowitz a a local bookstore yesterday and had him autograph a book for TMS students. It will be available for checkout as soon as she reads it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko. Penguin Young Readers Group, May 8, 2018.

I am beyond excited about this upcoming story from the Tales from Alcatraz series! I adore Moose Flanagan and all the folks on Alcatraz! I knew it was on the horizon but just found the cover reveal last week, thanks to Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Teen Tuesday: The Reader by Traci Chee (audiobook review)

The Reader by Traci Chee. Sea of Ink and Gold bk. 1. Unabridged audiobook on 10 compact discs. 12.5 hours. Read by Kim Mai Guest. Penguin Random House Audiopublishing, September, 2016. 9780147525710. (Review from audiobook borrowed from the public library)

It's Teen Tuesday! This week's feature is a high fantasy called The Reader. The Reader is author, Traci Chee's debut and the first book in the Sea of Ink and Gold series. Sefia is an orphan who has been on the run with her Aunt Nin ever since her father was brutally murdered years earlier. She has only one item connected to him - a strange rectangular object which opens to reveal paper decorated with odd scratchings. It is a book, but Sefia and nearly everyone in her world are illiterate. She is in grave danger because the powers that murdered her father are after the book, and her. The suspense is high throughout this layered and nuanced book as readers struggle along with Sefia to figure out they mystery.

The audio performance by Kim Mai Guest was well-done, although it took a bit of extra attention to realize that there is a book within the book. There's a light-as-air, musical quality to her voice that is very easy to listen to. A bit of patience is required through the set up but well worth it. The world building here is quite vivid and the writing is lovely. The tension slowly ratchets up and once the pieces began clicking into place, the book ends, leaving readers panting for the next installment. The Speaker is due out November 7. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge. 176 p. Random House Children's Books, May, 2017. 9781524713577. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Monday TMS Readers! Betcha thought I forgot about posting Middle Grade Monday! I did not. But, I got in so late last night from my conference in Nashville and was so-o busy today at professional development that I had no time to post! The conference was great, by the way. 

So. Middle Grade Monday features The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge. This is a sad one. Albie has recently lost his mother to cancer. Both his parents were world-renowned scientists. His mother had worked with the Hadron Collider and developed theories about parallel universes. His father is a television personality who explains science so that anyone can understand Quantum Physics but he has very little time for Albie. When Albie finds a box with his mother's research notes, he decides to travel into parallel universes in search of one in which his mother is still alive. 

While there are humorous moments, Albie's grief is palpable. And that final universe? Grab your tissue box kids. It's a heartbreaker. 

SLJ Summit - Day 3

So-o tired this morning! I worked on yesterday's blog post and munched on my leftover filet mignon. Then we went to breakfast, where I did not expect this:

It was delicious. 

The breakfast keynote was Tamika Brown, School Librarian of the Year with her interesting career. But it was the panel with two superintendents that I found fairly energizing. "At the end of the day, I am a teacher first." Thomas S. Tucker, 2016 AASA National Superintendent of the Year. Earlier, he stated, "there should be sacred time devoted to independent reading every day."

Dr. Bill Chapman, superintendent from Texas: "My librarians push me every day. My librarians make reading fun."

The breakout session was with Alvin Irby who challenged me in so many ways. He was a teacher before starting a non-profit initiative to get books into the hands of black boys, called The Barbershop ...

We had a Town Hall meeting that provided me with more food for thought and some ideas to pursue. 

The closing keynote was Alvin Irby again.

Before we left, we took a trip to the Parthenon. 


We were going to have lunch before my roomies dropped me at the airport but none of us were hungry, so I decided to just get to the airport really early and work. 

I've been so used to TSA-Pre that I totally failed at the security line! Now our flight is delayed an hour with no reason given.

Sigh. Oh well. Small price to pay for a spectacular weekend of professional development.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

SLJ Leadership Summit - Day 2

Saturday dawned cloudy and warm and rain was in the forecast; but the weather didn't matter because a long, full day was on tap.

Breakfast was self-serve and healthy - fruit, yogurts, I skipped the danish and grabbed a bran muffin. 

John Green was the keynote speaker. He has a new book, Turtles All the Way Down coming out next Tuesday and I sort of hoped that we'd get a copy; but there's an embargo on it so we all got a signed copy of Looking for Alaska, which turns ten this year! Yay! I will have to wait until Tuesday along with the rest of the world to read Turtles. His speech was funny, incisive and surprisingly emotional. I jotted a couple of quotes that resonated with me: I don't think the internet can fix the internet." 'Algorithms value clicks over nuance." And, "online tools jumpstart discussion, don't replace it."  

There was a panel called World Tour of Administrators: The literacy challenge and beyond. I didn't take any notes and am having trouble dredging up talking points. The only thing I wrote was, "Digital citizenship is not a lesson but a way of thinking and behaving and should be ongoing." A point I happen to agree with.

I chose Trust Me: media literacy for research as my first breakout session. This was pretty dynamic and very useful. I took tons of notes and both got some new ideas and feel that I'm on the right track with what I'm teaching this year.

The lunch buffet was grand as was the lunch keynote. Alan Miller spoke about The News Literacy Project. Lots of notes to follow up on there. 

The first afternoon panel was, Using Graphic Novels to Develop Racial Literacy. A high school librarian and language arts teacher brought four students to discuss how Gene Luen Yang's Printz Award winning book influenced them. Each student was incredibly articulate and thoughtful. I kept throwing quotes up on my FB feed. Totally bowled over, as was Gene. He kept saying that he couldn't add to what they said. One student, who identified as "not straight" and used or coined the term, overcompenstraight, was particularly thought-provoking. He asked for help "to completely be me." And used interesting similes and metaphors like the experience was like "reaching into a bucket of eels." He dislikes the term, micro-aggression, preferring instead, the term, macro-oppression. He claims this removes the dichotomy of aggressor and victim. Instead, he chooses to find a way to love the aggressor. Wow. 

The next panel was entitled: Visual Literacy; extending meaning through art and featured Cece Bell, Gareth Hinds and Javaka Steptoe. 

Panel moderator, Daryl Grabarek asked some interesting questions and each artist presented fascinating slides showing their process.

Authors were available to autograph their books following the conference. A cocktail reception followed featuring local authors signing their books and a strolling fiddler.

I piggybacked onto an invitation by Abdo books to dinner at Southern. The conversation was rambling and hilarious and the food was A-Mazing!

Several "pumpkin coaches" trotted by.

After dinner, we walked across the pedestrian bridge to burn some calories and take in the view.

All-in-all, a stupendous day.

Fact Friday: a few days late: The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk

Oops! I forgot to schedule this post and was a bit busy in Nashville on Friday. 

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill. 44 p. Groundwood Books, October, 2016. 9781554988645. (Review from purchased book.)

Fact Friday features The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill. This never-too-old-for-picture books picture book is as beautifully written as it is illustrated. For hundreds of thousands of years, these birds thrived in the icy north Atlantic seas. They had relatively few predators and while clumsy and slow on land, they were swift and strong swimmers. Then humans took to the seas, found their nesting places and plundered them. By 1844, this magnificent bird was extinct. 

This is a short but compelling read. Readers may be surprised at the emotional reactions they are sure to feel while they learn about this poor species' extinction. Solid science is beautifully embedded in lovely prose. Readers will also linger over the absolutely stunning illustrations. 

SLJ Leadership Summit! Day One

I am in Nashville for the first time attending the School Library Journal Leadership Summit for the first time. And I am quite excited about FINALLY getting to one! I learned the hard way that I cannot wait to register for the amazing conferences SLJ puts together. 

I arrived late Thursday evening hoping to get a little sightseeing in on Friday, before the afternoon focus group I was scheduled to attend. My roommate learned of a hot breakfast place called Biscuit Love, known for its chocolate gravy covered biscuits so we hoofed it over on a gorgeous morning. There was a line, but we were assured that it was short by Biscuit Love standards so we chatted and caught up with each other while we waited. Once we got in, I resisted the amazing merch - mugs, tee shirts, cookbooks, jars of jam and honey and just ordered.

I decided on those biscuits with chocolate gravy and added a side of sautéd mushrooms and something they call chronic bacon - spicy, sweet, thick-cut bacon. 

Dee. Lish. Us!

After that, we met our third roommate and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. It's a beautiful space and it turns out I know more about country music than I thought!

My pals trekked off to visit some family and I wandered up and down "Music Row" checking out the scene. The windows of all the bars and honky-tonks were flung open and all the live bands competed with one another. The street was crowded and the afternoon was gorgeous. Crammed in among the competing live music venues were a bunch of stores selling boots. Now, my boot collection is not as extensive as my collection of cons, but I suddenly felt I should've worn boots instead. Lots of booted gals (and guys) were about. The stores were crammed and the boots were expensive! 

I joined a focus group with the folks from Gale. I sat with three librarians and listened to two separate presentations about changes being made to an existing product and a possible new product. We were shown dummies of possible layouts and asked for our opinions. I've never done this before. It was fascinating. 

Then, there was a cocktail party (Thank you Capstone!) on a deck as the sun set on a gorgeous day. I saw Javaka Steptoe in conversation with on of my SLJ editors and said hello. I spied a fellow focus group member and we chatted. It turns out she was invited to the same dinner I was, so we strolled over to that restaurant together.

Dinner, thanks to Mackin, was at a restaurant called Kitchen Notes. The wall decor was arrangements of recipe cards blown up and framed and the food was quite tasty - crab cakes, fried green tomatoes and a choice of three entrees. 

I was so tired and full at the end of a long day that I could not blog about it. I started this post on Saturday, but couldn't get Internet access at the meeting and was too tired Saturday night to blog. So-o, here it is Sunday morning and I'm scrambling like a middle schooler to catch up. My post will probably be filled with typos and bad grammar, but there you have it.

Fun times! 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

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.


Refugee by Alan Gratz. Unabridged audiobook on 7 compact discs. 7 hours; 37 minutes. Read by Michael Goldstrom, Kyla Garcia and Assaf Cohen. Scholastic Audio, July, 2017. 9781338191073.

Publisher synopsis: JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.

This is a Good Story by Adam Lehrhaupt. Illustrated by Magali LeHuche. unpgd. Paula Wiseman Books/ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September, 2017. 9781481429351.

Publisher synopsis: As a child takes her pencil and begins to draw pictures for a story, the narrator takes her and the reader through a rollicking sequence of events in this classic tale of bad guys and townsfolk and dungeons. With simplicity and flair, Adam tells a story and then a meta-story of the parts of the story at once! This Is a Good Story is a wonderful primer on the parts of a story and an imaginative way to encourage creative thinking, writing, and storytelling.

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

#tbt: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. 352 p. Scholastic Inc., November, 2008. 9780545093347.

It's time for #tbt. Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve was published in England in 2007. There have been many retellings of the legend of King Arthur since the Middle Ages. Here Lies Arthur is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur with a few tweaks and twists. It is told from the point-of-view of Gwynna, a young girl who disguises herself as a boy to travel with Arthur and his band. To Gwynna, Arthur is no shining paragon of chivalry but a pig-ish brute of a man as sixth century warriors were wont to be. And Merlin is not what the legends make him out to be either. A bit of knowledge of the stories of King Arthur is helpful to appreciate what Reeve has done here, but not necessary to enjoy this tale of adventure.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dork Diaries:

Tales from a Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe (Dork Diaries #12) by Rachel Renée Russell. 272 p. Aladdin, October 17, 2017. 9781534405608.

Waiting on Wednesday features Dork Diaries #12: Tales from a Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe by Rachel Renée Russell. The trials and tribulations of Nikki continue as the school year winds to a close and she needs to make plans for the summer. Fans of the series know they are in for plenty of drama and humor. Dork Diaries 12 releases October 17. 

These books continue to be popular at my school. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill by Pam Smy. 544 p. Roaring Brook Press, August, 2017. 9781626726543. (Review from purchased finished copy)

If you enjoy graphic novel hybrids or gothic horror, check out our Teen Tuesday feature. Thornhill by Pam Smy. Two stories are told in this debut, one in pictures and one in prose. The pictures take place in the present time and the prose is the diary of a girl who resided at Thornhill back in the days when it was an orphanage. It's a boarded up dilapidated wreck now but Ella, who has just moved in across the street spies a girl in the upstairs window and, because she is lonely, investigates.

This one is dark, creepy and disturbing. Dread grows as the diary entries unfold and the visual story is equally suspenseful, helped along by the tones of black and shadows. Atmospheric and a perfect choice to lure a dormant reader.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. 256 p. Tom Doherty Associates, August, 2017. 9780765385567. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Fourth grader Amy Anne is pretty quiet and quite shy, but when she finds that her favorite book has been removed from the school library along with five or six other titles because they have been challenged by a well-meaning parent, she takes action. First, she reads all the other books. Then, she opens a lending library from her locker. Find out what happens when Amy Anne and her friends exercise their freedom to read.

I really enjoyed this one. It's a great way to introduce intellectual freedom in a way younger students will understand. The discussion guide at the end is a plus as well. 

Amy Anne is a relatable character who finds her voice at home and at school. She becomes delightfully subversive in her solution to give her friends and classmates freedom to read and think for themselves. Amy Anne is a confident and thoughtful reader. I just love the fact that the first thing she did when she learned of the list of challenged books was read them. Something the school board didn't think to do. I also loved that Amy Anne knew her own tastes and comfort level as a reader and put off reading the title that she knew would make her uncomfortable. She was a critical reader who, while she did not like a certain popular book herself, (brilliant dig, btw) recognized that others had the right to read and like the book. 

I also appreciated that Gratz did not paint the parent who challenged the books as a villain with an ax to grind, but as a concerned and involved parent. 

Ban This Book is a great addition to any library. My only wish, being a middle school library is that Amy Ann was older. A book with younger characters is a hard sell. I'm hoping my students will be unable to resist that appealing cover.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman. Photographs by Annie Crawley. 64 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, October 28, 2017. 9781512415711. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I don't know about you, but I've been to a zoo or two. I remember childhood trips to the Bronx Zoo with my five siblings, entering darkened halls to peer through iron bars and wrinkling my nose against the smells. I took my own four to a variety of zoos over the years, large and far flung, small and local. Zoos have changed a lot since my childhood. Most, if not all having designed natural spaces where the animals have a bit more room than a cage, but caged, nonetheless. If I ever thought beyond the exhibits to the people behind them, my thoughts were of zoo keepers and vets with little thought given over to their education or training.

Patricia Newman introduces three scientists presently working in three American Zoos on projects to protect three species of animals as well as educating the public about them. Readers step behind the scenes with Newman to meet Meredith Bastion of the National Zoo in Washington D.C., Jeff Baughman of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO and Rachel Santymire of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Each scientist receives a chapter in which Newman cogently explains about the animal, its natural habitat and the threats to them. Fact boxes with scientific information and a clear full-page, full-color photo opens each chapter as well. Readers also learn a bit about each scientist and how them came to specialize in each job. A final chapter recaps a brief history of zoos from collections to entertain, amuse or intimidate to the present emphasis on conservation. There's a practical list of eight ways any reader can work toward conservation efforts in addition to other work that scientists are doing to save wildlife.

The book is colorfully  and pleasingly designed. Each page features at least one well-captioned photograph, chart or map. Two pages of source notes, a glossary, selected bibliography, along with recommended books and websites and an index round out this must-purchase book. Display it prominently. Your fact hounds will love it and your science teachers will too. They will find multiple ways to use it in their classrooms from meeting career readiness standards to Next-gen science standards.

ETA: Here's a link to a terrific YouTube video about Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Thank you Patricia Newman!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Taking Stock - September

Total posts this month: 33
Total books read this month: 30
Total books read this year: 314

Audio: 8/ 72
Debut: 3/22
Picture Book: 9/114

The Good: Still managed to get in a book-a-day despite school starting up. It's still a good thing I got ahead in the summer months and the beginning of September because today's book was the first in nearly six days!

I hosted an author visit with Sarah Weeks and it went great!

The Bad: No complaints.

The List: 
285. Frederick Douglass: the lion who wrote history by Walter Dean Myers (9/1)(92)*
286. Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the power of a protest song by Gary Golio (9/1)(93)*
287. Trudy's Big Swim: how Gerturde Ederle swam the English Channel and took the world by storm by Sue Macy (9/1)(94)*
288. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han (9/2)(95)
289. Streetcar to Justice: how Elizabeth Jennings won the right to ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth (9/3)(96)
290. Thornhill by Pam Say (9/3)(97)
291. Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler (9/4)(98)
292. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (9/4)(99)(Audio reread)*
293. Swear to Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanan (9/4)(100)
294. Fire Birds: valuing natural wildfires and burned forests by Sneed B. Collard III (9/6)*
295. Snakes! by James Buckley, Jr. (9/7)
296. Good Dog! by Nicola Jane Swinney (9/8)
297. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (9/9)*
298. Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks (9/10)
299. The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loren Clark and Nick Eliopulos (9/11)*
300. Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt (9/12)
301. A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy's Big speech by Shana Corey (9/13)
302. A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (9/13)*
303. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Adam Rex (9/14)
304. Our Food by Grace Lin and Ranida T. McKneally (9/14)
305. The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge (9/16)
306. Restart by Gordon Korman (9/17)
307. Ban This Book by Alan Gratz (9/18)
308. Balderdash! John Newbery and the boisterous birth of children's books by Michelle Markel (9/18)
309. Motor Girls: how women took the wheel and drove boldly into the twentieth century by Sue Macy (9/19)
310. Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho (9/20)
311. Hook's Tale: being the account of an unjustly villainized pirate written by himself (9/20)*
312. Listen: how Pete Seeger got America singing by Leda Schubert (9/24)
313. The Reader by Traci Chee (9/24)
314. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Carr (9/30)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fact Friday: It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. 96 p. Candlewick Press, July, 1994. 9780763634330.

Fact Friday features It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. This informational book about the changes the human body undergoes from birth through adulthood has been challenged so many times since its publication in 1994 that it landed #12 on the most challenged books of the decade from 2000 - 2009. 

Friday Memes: The One Memory of Flora Banks

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

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. 290 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May, 2017. 9780399547010.
 Publisher synopsis: It's not a lie if you can't remember the truth.

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restory her memory and making her whole again. So, when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the owrld-in Svalbard, Noraway-Flora Knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

But will following Drake be the key to unlocking Flora's memory? Or will the journey reveal that nothing is quite as it seems?

First line: I am at the top of a hill, and although I know I have done something terrible, I have no idea what it is.

Page 56: My mom has called me twice, but I missed her. She sends a text that says: Morning darling. How are you and Paige? Remember your pills.
     I reply: Hi. We are OK. I will,and I take them. The landline rings, and when I pick it up, a girl's voice says:"Checking you haven't gassed yourself."
     "Paige!" I say, but she has hung up.
     Nothing else happens. After a while I lie on the sofa and put the TV on, drifting off to sleep.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Author Visit: Sarah Weeks Day at My School!

Sarah Weeks spent the day at my school yesterday and it was a fabulous success. The building was buzzing! You know an assembly is going well when the face of nearly every seventh and eighth grader is focused on the speaker. For anyone uninitiated to life in middle school, this is BIG! Getting their attention for ten minutes, let alone nearly an hour is really hard! Some of the feedback I got from my own sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes today was: "She looked really comfortable talking with us." "She told really funny stories." "I loved how she finds story ideas!" "It was good to hear that she has to revise."


Sometime in the middle of last school year, two sixth graders came in looking for the book, So B. It. I had one copy that, surprisingly, was on the shelf. They both grabbed it and had a short tug-of-war over the book before appealing to me to solve the issue for them. I'm no Solomon, but suggested that one take Save Me a Seat and then, they could swap. One of them then asked if I could get Sarah Weeks to come to visit and the other echoed her request, punctuating it with little hops and a pleading face. I thought, "Hm, I haven't had an author in a while. Sarah's a school favorite. I always use her book, Pie, to teach the NoveList database to fifth graders, which usually results in a waiting list for the book. Why not?" 

It couldn't happen last school year because Sarah's schedule was pretty booked. She also teaches and, understandably, needs time to write. When she sent me available dates in September, my birthday happened to be one of them so I gave myself a birthday present and picked that date for the visit.

Let me tell you the most important secret to a successful author visit. You, your teachers and your kids must read at least one book by the author! Believe me, it makes for a better experience for everyone when the kids are invested. They listen more attentively and they ask more thoughtful questions during the Q & A. Now, Sarah Weeks could've walked in off the street any day and had a successful visit because her presentation skills are outstanding. Seriously, if you are looking for an author to inspire your students, check out Sarah Weeks. And because she does a lot of school visits, she's pretty seasoned. There's a fantastically informative page on her web site devoted to school visits that covers every thing you need to do to make it successful. 

Another element to a successful visit is getting the teachers on board, especially the LA teachers. That was absolutely no problem because each and every one of them have books by Sarah in their classroom libraries as well. Each and every face lit up when I proposed having her come for the day. You have to understand that sometimes it is difficult to disrupt the day's schedule for an assembly. No one hesitated. When the LA chair and I were brainstorming what Sarah's three sessions would look like, we thought the teachers might benefit from some PD advice on teaching writing from a pro. So they met with Sarah in the library. (See pics below.) We are so grateful to our principal for making that happen. That was a lot of coverage! We're also grateful to administration for allocating funds for the visit. 

Once we had all the permissions and date set, we promoted Sarah's books like crazy in the last weeks of school last June. We encouraged every student to choose one of her titles for their summer reading. Our teachers do not assign titles for summer reading. We encourage choice whenever possible. We have the expectation that reading will get done over the summer and compliance is pretty high.

I was lucky to receive help from a PTO mom who handled author visits at the elementary school (where they have more visits). It was a relief to hand over the paper work to her and I am forever grateful. The forms went out the first day of school and needed to be back the following Monday to enable Books, Bytes and Beyond time to place and receive the books. In middle school, book sales are always tricky, partly because students have to get that flyer home to mom and dad. Thank you Mrs. B.!

If you ever have the opportunity to host an author, consider Sarah Weeks. Also, if you live in an area where the independent film production of her book, So B. It is releasing, consider attending. Sarah brought some Soof bracelets and everyone wanted one. The stampede of students nearly mowed my poor parent-volunteer down! They were gone in a trice and there were many disappointed students. 

This morning, I decided to raffle off my bracelet and my principal agreed to add his to the raffle. To enter the raffle, the student needs to create his or her own "soof," take a photo, and print it out. I will put them around the school and library and send pics to Sarah. I wish I thought of that as a way to get a bracelet! 

These were two that I created. The Lego Soof is on our Lego makerspace. The glass stones were made on my counter with stones from forcing bulbs last spring.

This is sixth grade LA teacher, Ms. A's teacup soof: 

I stole the following off of Sarah's Facebook page: author Kate DiCamillo's pasta soof and author Barbara O'Connor's mealworm soof.


What are you waiting for? Read the book. See the movie. Make your own "soof!"