Sunday, May 21, 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.

Another quiet week, which is totally fine as I am trying desperately to catch up. Annual is in a month!

Gifted: I attended the first ever SLJ Innovator's Basecamp at Simmons College in Boston yesterday. Rita Williams-Garcia was the closing keynote speaker and each attendee received a copy of her latest book, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. I was first in line to have mine signed to my students and whispered that I had the honor of writing the SLJ review of this profound and lovely story.


Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia. 166 p. Amistad/ HarperCollins Publishers, May 9, 2017. 9780062215949.

Publisher synopsis: From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love that will appeal to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander.
Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

Also gifted: one of the conference organizers put out a selection of books for the taking. I chose this one:

Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to interstellar space by Alexandra Siy. 80 p. Charlesbridge, June 13, 2017. 9781580897280.

Publisher synopsis: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager mission as the twin space probes that traveled to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, now journey beyond our solar system into interstellar space, where no probe has ventured before.
Learn the fascinating story of the scientists, how the Voyager probes work, where the probes have been and what they’ve seen, and what they carry on board—including the Golden Record, a recording of sounds and images about life on Earth.
Critically acclaimed science writer Alexandra Siy chronicles the ongoing saga of the Voyagers in a lively story full of nail-biting moments, inspiring scientists, and incredible NASA images.

For review:

King of the Bench: Control Freak by Steve Moore. King of the Bench series #2. 214 p. Harper/ HarperCollins Publishers, September 12, 2017. 9780062203328.

Publisher synopsis: In the second book of this new, highly illustrated middle grade series by the nationally syndicated cartoonist of “In the Bleachers,” Steve reprises his role as perpetual bench-warmer. Perfect for fans of Timmy Failure and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, King of the Bench is an ode to teammates, underdogs, and bench-warmers everywhere.
Steve is King of the Bench. No brag. That’s just a fact. And this season, Steve and his friends are ready to sit on the sidelines of the Spiro T. Agnew Middle school football field. But then they stumble upon an old-school video game controller, and they become convinced it can control sports plays. With it, Steve might become King of Football too!
Oh, and if you’re wondering why Steve would write a book and tell complete strangers about a mysterious magic device that pretty much controlled his first season on the football team, too bad! It’s a strict rule when writing a book that you have to build suspense first.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

SLJ Innovator Basecamp

So, I'm in Boston for my first ever SLJ Innovator Basecamp! I have never been able to get to one of their summits (Get it? Basecamp, summit?)  partly because that's usually in September and school's just gearing up and once because I didn't register early enough. So when I saw the ad for the Basecamp in Boston, I was on it in a flash. A plus was, it was an opportunity to visit #4, who lives nearby.

I am very excited about the whole program and had trouble choosing my breakout sessions! Looking forward to a fantastic day!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: Moto and Me by Suzi Eszterhas

Moto and Me: my year as a wildcat's foster mom by Suzi Eszterhas. 40 p. Owlkids Books, April, 2017. 9781771472425. (Review from copy borrowed from public library.)

I was browsing the new books section at my spectacular public library  the other day. Honestly, I love the public library that is conveniently located across the street from my school! My own town's library is small and lovely and completely serviceable, thanks to the ability to ILL. My second public library, the one I visit most often is Amazing! 

Now, I ask you, how can you possibly resist this cover? It definitely has the "aw" factor. Once lured, readers are in for a lovely memoir of the months the author/ photographer spent fostering a serval. A serval is a medium-sized, spotted African wildcat. They have the longest legs and the biggest ears of all the cats for their body size, lending an air of goofiness. They use those long legs to jump really high and run really fast. (p. 38)

Ms. Eszterhas is a wildlife photographer who travels the world photographing animals. She spent nearly three years in the Masai Mara, a wildlife preserve in Kenya. Moto, named for the Masai word for fire, was being carried by his mother across a road to escape a brush fire, when she was startled by a jeep carrying tourists. She dropped her kitten and fled to safety at the side of the road. The jeep stopped to investigate; but the tourists didn't see her and they carried the helpless kitten to a park ranger, who then contacted the author. The kitten was only about two weeks old and required a lot of attention and care. She also had to take care not to domesticate him. 

The story is engaging and well-organized. The font is pleasing and there's plenty of white space. There are plenty of well-captioned photographs documenting all the milestones in Moto's life. Some are full-page, some are collages and others are more snapshot-sized. Each one is cuter than the last. Case in point, my class was doing some writing so I thought I'd work on this post. A student looked over as I flipped through the book and said, "Aw-w! Let me see!" Soon, there was a gaggle of sixth graders oohing over it. See what I mean? Display this prominently and it won't spend much time on the shelf.

The book has value as a conversation starter in a conservation unit or as an introduction to said unit. It can also be used as a mentor text in a memoir unit. A final page in the book contains additional facts about servals. There is no other back matter. The book is dedicated to all the wildlife rescuers in the world. According the jacket flap, a portion of the royalties are being donated to the Mara Conservancy. Visit Ms. Eszterhas' beautiful website here. This is the first book I've read by the author, but won't be my last. I am shocked that I have missed her work. Don't you! Moto and Me is a wonderful addition to any collection.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Non-Fiction Monday: The Search for Olinguito: discovering a new species by Sandra Markle

The Search for Olinguito: discovering a new species by Sandra Markle. 40 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, January, 2017. 9781512410150. (Review from purchased copy.)

I'm a great fan of Sandra Markle's work. She not only writes accessibly but beautifully about her subjects, but they are always unique and fascinating. (Great Leopard Rescue, The Great Monkey Rescue, The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats, to name but a few.)

This short book highlights and celebrates scientific curiosity. What is science, after all, but the work of curious people? People who are careful observers who also have open minds, and, in many cases in the past, a good deal of courage and commitment. (Galileo springs to mind as does Semmelweis.)

In The Search for Olinguito, scientist Kristofer Helgen, who worked for the Smithsonian and was in charge of its mammal collection, noticed that a pelt of an animal classified as an olingo looked rather different than the rest of the olingo pelts. Olingos are mammals that are related to raccoons. They live in Central and South America. (p.7) He wondered if this was just a case of specimens from different regions or whether it was a different species. Museums around the world house olingo specimens as researchers have been studying them for over a hundred years. Thus he set out on what would be a ten-plus year quest to establish the fact that there indeed was a new species in the raccoon family tree!

The storytelling is compelling here as Markle deftly explains the science; folds in past research and not only connects all the dots in Helgen's work, but brings the scientist to life. His work required a load of patience, lots of travel as well as a campout in the cloud forest in Ecuador.

Plenty of full-color photos and maps illustrate the story of scientific sleuthing in action. This is perfect for any science class or career-readyness unit and is just the ticket for getting students excited about science. Backmatter includes an author note, source notes, tips for being a science detective, a glossary and three websites and a book for further reading. The book is beautifully designed as well, with green backgrounds decorated with green leaves lending a color to the already vibrant text. 

I do have one question though - why is it that while it was the reddish fur that first attracted Helgen's attention (photo, p. 9), subsequent photos of the olinguito(s) they found in the cloud forest do not appear to have that distinctive red coat?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: How to Build a Museum by Tonya Bolden

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tonya Bolden. 60 p. Smithsonian series. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, September, 2016. 9780451476371. (Review from purchased copy.)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is free to the public, as are all of the Smithsonian museums, only, since its debut in September of 2016, it has become the hottest ticket in town. Seriously, if you are going to DC, don't plan on wandering in as you would all the other museums. You need to reserve a ticket online and there are none available until September. Only those won't be released until July! So, take a tour (of sorts) with this lovely book.

The road to this newest addition to the National Mall was long and arduous - 100 years long, suspended by the Great Depression, challenged by fundraising and finding the right spot for groundbreaking. Author Tonya Bolden chronicles the history succinctly, including the search for artifacts, one of which, an entire train car, that needed to be installed during construction of the museum because it was just too big to get in any other way. The second half of the books features themes and images from the museum's permanent collection.

Photos and maps are well-captioned and plentiful. The book is well-designed with a square trim and creamy backgrounds edged with lattice-work that mimics the lattice facade of the museum. A page with facts and figures, pages of Notes that include urls and an index conclude the volume.

Our eighth graders travel to DC every spring for three days and two nights. It's a packed trip and everyone comes back exhausted but happy. To prepare for the trip, each eighth grader has to research the city and the Mall and the monuments to create a travel binder. This book will make for a great resource for the assignment. 

It is truly a first-purchase!

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.


Yellow by Megan Jacobson. 259 p. Penguin Random House Australia, 2016. 9780143573333.

Publisher synopsis: If 14-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn't bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth.

Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She'll prove who murdered him almost 20 years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn't haunt her. Things aren't so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.

I actually read this recently with my ears and quite enjoyed it! As I wrote in my review, I wanted to reread to note the lovely language but I also thought my students would enjoy reading it. I have audiobooks in my library collection, most of them donated by me, but very few check them out. I used Gene Luen Yang's "Reading without Walls" theme to booktalk and included Yellow in the "Read an unfamiliar format" section. Students asked for the book. 

I had already placed an order through Book Depository, who was out of stock but awaiting replacement. Even though it was only available in paperback, I will reread and donate the copy so that my students can read it with their eyes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Alex Rider: Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider: Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz. 368 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, October 10, 2017. 9781524739300.

Publisher synopsis: Following the events of Scorpia Rising, Alex relocates to San Francisco as he slowly recovers from the tragic death of his best friend and caregiver, Jack Starbright, at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA. With Jack gone, Alex feels lost and alone, but then, out of the blue, he receives a cryptic email--just three words long, but enough to make Alex believe that Jack may be alive. Armed with this shred of hope, Alex boards a flight bound for Egypt and embarks on a dubious quest to track Jack down.

Yet SCORPIA knows Alex's weakness. And the question of whether Jack is alive soon takes a backseat to a chilling new terrorist plot--one that will play with Alex’s mind as he grasps the magnitude of what is at stake.

From Egypt to France to Wales, from luxury yachts to abandoned coal mines, Alex traverses a minefield of dangers and cryptic clues as he fights to discover the truth. The #1 New York Times bestselling series, perfect for fans of James Bond and Jason Bourne, is back with a vengeance!

I learned about this from PW a week or so ago and was pretty tickled. The first Alex Rider book I read was Point Blank, not realizing it was the second in a series. I thought the ending was terrific and turned right away to read Stormbreaker. The series became my go-to books for students who want action. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Bear Who Wasn't There by LeUyen Pham

The Bear Who Wasn't There by Le Uyen Pham. unpgd. Roaring Brook Press, November, 2016. 9781596439702. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library)

When I glimpsed this on display at my local library, I thought it was a remake of The Bear That Wasn't.* Turns out this delightful little romp is something entirely different.

This book is supposed to be about a bear only, he doesn't show up. An opportunistic mallard pops up everywhere from the cover to the front jacket to the final end page to dis the bear and to promote himself and his own book, The Duck Who Showed Up.

HILARIOUS! This is one you will have so much fun reading aloud and you won't mind reading it again when your audience begs for an encore, or two or three.

A variety of animals comment on whether or not the bear is here, has been here, or will be here. There are clues. Brown footprints seem to indicate that there is a bear. Duck insists that bears are unreliable. There's also an "anonymouse" prankster who points the way to where the bear surely will be. Build in some wait-time as your audience will need some time to roll on the floor laughing.

There's wordplay and visual humor. The author is even dragged reluctantly into the story. This is a barrel of mixed-media, metafictive fun! The ending happens on the final end-page and folks who borrow the book from a library that decides to tape the cover firmly in place will have trouble viewing the resolution and final joke. 

The Bear Who Wasn't There is a great addition to most collections and will sure to be a read aloud favorite.

*The Bear That Wasn't by Frank Tashlin, a satire written in 1946.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Non-Fiction Monday: Malala: activist for girls' education by Raphaële Frier

Malala: activist for girls' education by Raphaele Frier. Illustrared by Aurelia Fronty. Unpgd. Charlesbridge, February, 2017. 9781580807853. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I'll make this short and sweet. Make room for this picture book biography on your middle school shelves, your elementary school shelves, your classroom library shelves and public library shelves. Have I forgotten any?

While biographies of this brave young activist abound, this vibrantly illustrated, present-tense picture book shines. I consistently add picture books to my school library's biography section and encourage students who need to read a biography to explore subjects through a picture book biography before committing to a 100+ page biography. While Malala is consistently high-interest, students will find the attractive, folk-style illustrations (Aurelia Fronty also illustrated the gorgeous Wangari Maathai: the woman who planted millions of trees.) and succinct and simple text appealing. They will also love the many pages of back-matter if they are doing research. Included are photos, a time line, a map, geographical and cultural information, excerpts from speeches and suggestions for further reading.

Truly a first-purchase!

Sunday, May 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.

A bit late posting this. I forgot that I received a few books to review!

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson.149 p. Candlewick Press, September 12, 2017. 9780763687892.

Publisher synopsis: When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth — but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem "classic" Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go — and what he’s willing to sacrifice — to give the vuvv what they want.

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew. 342 p. Candlewick Press, November 14, 2017. 9780763691257.

Publisher synopsis: Nazi England, 2014. Jessika Keller is a good girl — a champion ice skater, model student of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, and dutiful daughter of the Greater German Reich. Her best friend, Clementine, is not so submissive. Passionately different, Clem is outspoken, dangerous, and radical. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend, her first love. But which can she live without? Haunting, intricate, and unforgettable, The Big Lie unflinchingly interrogates perceptions of revolution, feminism, sexuality, and protest. Back matter includes historical notes from the author discussing her reasons for writing an "alt-history" story and the power of speculative fiction.

Echo after Echo by Amy Rose Capetta. 421 p. Candlewick Press, October 10, 2017. 9780763691646.

Publisher synopsis: Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared — for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; or for death in the theater.
Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater — and then another — especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole — and cast lantern light on two young women, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

There was a fourth book, but one of my voracious readers grabbed it along with an armful of books. #lovemyjob

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Memes: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

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

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. 278 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster Childrens, March, 2017. 978481484473.

Publisher synopsis: Mattie is chosen to play Romeo opposite her crush in the eighth grade production of Shakespeare’s most beloved play in this Romeo and Juliet inspired novel from the author of Truth or Dare.

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

First Line: It wasn't about me, I knew. But still.

Page 56: Anyway, thinking about the play was a good distraction as I spent the day avoiding Willow and all her many teammates. I also avoided Elijah as much as I could-which wasn't easy, because he was in most of my classes. As for Gemma, it was funny how completely she'd vanished into her circle of friends. Not that I thought she'd leave a note in my locker (Wanna sit together at lunch?)-but on the balcony, it almost seemed as if she wanted to get to know me, or at least to understand why we couldn't be friends.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Getaway by Jeff Kinney

I came across this cover reveal last week. Woo-hoo! This month, Wimpy Kid and friends celebrated ten years. Keep 'em coming Kinney!

The Getaway by Jeff Kinney. Diary of a Wimpy Kid # 12. 224 p. Abrams/ Amulet Books, November 7, 2017. 9781419725456.

Publisher synopsis: To escape the stress of the holidays, the Heffleys decide to get out of town and go to a resort instead of celebrating Christmas at home. But what's billed as a stress-free vacation becomes a holiday nightmare.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Non-Fiction Monday: The Ultimate Guide to Gardening: grown you won indoor, vegetable, fairy and other great gardens

The Ultimate Guide to Gardening: grown you own indoor, vegetable, fairy and other great gardens by Lisa J Amstutz. 112 p. Craft it yourself series. Capstone Young Readers/ Capstone, April, 2017. 9781623706494. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher)

I was lucky to live in a two-family house with my maternal grandmother. She enjoyed gardening and baking and introduced me to both. I believe she planted the seeds of two of my most favorite activities because I continue to enjoy tending my own gardens and lawn as well as cooking and baking. What a great gift!

Children need to be outside and moving. They need to learn how the world works. They need to know the wonder of nature and how we are connected to it and each other. They also need to feel useful. All of this is the work of childhood. This colorful and inviting DIY manual is just the ticket to get yourself and the young people in your life off the couch and growing and caring for living things together.

There's a brief introduction to the basics followed by four chapters that groups the types of gardens into: Edible; Indoor; Creative and Enchanted gardening. Each chapter features 9 - 11 different planting projects, each one more appealing than the last. Really, you will have trouble choosing which one to try. If you want to get your child to eat their vegetables, consider growing them!

Each project gets a double-page spread featuring a clear, full-color photo of the finished garden and a list of items needed on the verso. The recto page lists step-by-step instructions, an additional photo and a text box featuring tips or extra information. Especially appealing are the projects that recycle or up-cycle items you might have around the house. Watering instructions are provided for some of the trickier plants. 

This is a fine addition to any school, public or home library. Art teachers and public librarians can build an activity around any of the projects. Parents will find endless uses. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Taking stock - April

Wowzers! And another month bites the dust! 

Total posts this month: 23
Total books read this month: 25
Total books read this year: 144

Audio: 8/27
Debut: 2/5
Picture Book: 7/67

The Good: Reviewed a couple more books than usual.

The Bad: Still not reviewing everything I'd like to signal boost. Also didn't manage a book a day. I'm still ahead on my Goodreads goal though.

The Books: * = favorite
121. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (4/5)*
122. Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (4/7)
123. The Land of Stories: the enchantress returns by Chris Colfer (4/8)
124. My First Book of Soccer by SI Kids (4/9)
125. This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (4/10)
126. Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee (4/10)* (audio reread)
127. Brave by Stacey McAnulty (4/11)
128. Yvain: the knight of the lion by M.T. Anderson (4/14)*
129. Pig and Goose and the First Day of Spring by Rebecca Bond (4/14)
130. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (4/16)
131. I am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer (4/18)
132. Wires and Nerves by Marissa Meyer (4/18)
133. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (4/18)**
134. Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey (4/19)
135. Yellow by Megan Jacobson (4/20)*
136. Josh Baxter Levels Up by Gavin Brown (4/21)
137. Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz (4/23)*
138. Big Book of Animals: A Lego Adventure in the Real World (4/24)
139. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (4/24)
140. Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce (4/26)
141. And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Janet Stevens (4/28)*
142. Six Dots: a story of young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant (4/28)
143. The Night She Disappeared by April Henry (4/28)
144. Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan (4/29)*

145. The Ultimate Guide to Gardening by Lisa Amstutz (4/30)

Saturday, April 29, 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:

The Ultimate Guide to Gardening: Grow Your Own Indoor, Vegetable, Fairy, and Other Great Gardens by Lisa J. Amstutz. 112 p. Craft It Yourself series. Capstone Young Readers, April, 2017. 9781623706494. 

Publisher synopsis: It's your turn to grow something just for you! The Ultimate Guide to Gardening is perfect for newbie gardens. This book is full of many types of gardens. Step-by-step instructions ensure everyone has a green thumb. Whether you want to grow a garden that's edible or something truly creative, you will find inspiration inside these pages.


A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. 240 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October, 2005. 9780316058254.

Publisher synopsis: Mia Winchell has synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. Forced to reveal her condition, she must look to herself to develop an understanding and appreciation of her gift in this coming-of-age novel.

I bought this to replace the one that was lost/ stolen from my library. My jobber doesn't have it in hardcover, so it'll be another donation to my school library.

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf. Unabridged Audiobook on One MP3-CD. 10 hours; 11 minutes. Performed by Michael Page, Phil Gigante, Christophe Lane, Laurel Merlington and Angela Dawe. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, 

Publisher synopsis: Arrogance and innocence, hubris and hope--twenty-four haunting voices of the Titanic tragedy, as well as the iceberg itself, are evoked in a stunning tour de force.
Millionaire John Jacob Astor hopes to bring home his pregnant teen bride with a minimum of media scandal. A beautiful Lebanese refugee, on her way to family in Florida, discovers the first stirrings of love. And an ancient iceberg glides south, anticipating its fateful encounter. The voices in this remarkable re-creation of the Titanic disaster span classes and stations, from Margaret ("the unsinkable Molly") Brown to the captain who went down with his ship; from the lookout and wireless men to a young boy in search of dragons and a gambler in search of marks. Slipping in telegraphs, undertaker's reports, and other records, poet Allan Wolf offers a breathtaking, intimate glimpse at the lives behind the tragedy, told with clear-eyed compassion and astounding emotional power.

This will be a reread for me. I read it with my eyes when it originally published. 

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Slider by Pete Hautman

I learned about this from a post on Pete Hautman's blog a while back. So excited about this because I am a fan of his work.

Slider by Pete Hautman. 288 p. Candlewick Press, September 12, 2017. 9780763690700. 

Publisher synopsis: David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better: he’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, the world’s greatest pizza-eating contest, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally spent $2,000 on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday. As if training to be a competitive eater weren’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him Mal). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan. Master talent Pete Hautman has cooked up a rich narrative shot through with equal parts humor and tenderness, and the result is a middle-grade novel too delicious to put down.

I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Audiobook Review: Yellow by Megan Jacobson

Yellow by Megan Jacobson. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3 CD. 7 hours, 6 minutes. Read by Marny Kennedy. Audible Studios on Brilliance, July, 2016. 9781522642121. (Review from purchased audiobook)

Wow! It has been forever since I reviewed an audiobook! I've been reading with my ears quite a lot lately - 25 so far for 2017. I cannot recall how this one came on my radar. Perhaps it was via a starred review of the audiobook in SLJ. It wasn't available through my library cooperative, nor as a book. Since the audio was inexpensive online, I bought it.

I really wish the book was available in the U.S. I may have to send to Australia for it because the writing was often stunning. Since I listened in my car, note taking was not an option. I often gasped at all the lovely bits of imagery and unique metaphors. Quite an impressive debut! I would love to reread this with my eyes and a highlighter! I'd also love to read her next book! (Visit the author's website for a sneak peek of the cover!)

Okay, this review is a bit topsy-turvy. Usually I start out with a synopsis. What is it about? Fourteen-year-old Kirra is in crisis mode. She lives in public housing on the poor side of an Australian beach town with an alcoholic mother and a recently departed surfer-dude dad. This departure has escalated her mother's drinking and Kirra is tired of being the parent. She's devastated but not really surprised when her dad, Lark turns down her request to live with him. He lives with a new girlfriend who clearly calls the shots and, with a new baby on the way, insists there's no room for Kirra. She's bright but tries to keep her smarts under the radar so as not to draw attention to herself. She is routinely berated by her frenemies and is on the outs with them as the novel opens. She's tiny and quiet and absolutely hates her eyes, which are huge and yellow. In fact, her father's nickname for her is, Yellow.

As books that portray bullying go, this one is very good, excellent even. But there are tons and tons of good books about bullying out there. What sets this one apart? The ghost. Kirra answers a ringing pay phone (the story takes place in the 1990s) to find herself talking to a ghost named Boogie. He's lonely and wants her help in bringing his killer to justice. He tells Kirra that he was just fourteen when he was murdered and promises to help her if she helps him. When he reveals who his killer is, Kirra is truly scared but she agrees to try to help Boogie, especially if he can help with her popularity and getting her parents back together. The paranormal aspect lent an interesting twist and suspense was high throughout.

The Australian coastal setting was vividly drawn as well as the characters who peopled Kirra's community. It was small and stifling and folks tended not to move out.

Marny Kennedy's narration was pitch perfect. Her pacing, her voice, that gorgeous Australian accent all made for a riveting read. I will confess that I was let down a bit by the ending. It felt a bit rushed and too happy - not that I wasn't rooting for Kirra. And, while the portrayal of her mother's alcoholism was incredibly spot on, Kirra's, hm-m, (how to be non-spoilery?) solution was not. Still, the book is well worth a look. Kirra is a memorable character you won't soon forget.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Non-Fiction Monday: Big Book of Animals: a Lego Adventure in the Real World

Big Book of Animals: a Lego Adventure in the Real World. 128 p. Scholastic Inc., February, 2017. 9781338130072. (Review from finished copy courtesy of reviewer.)

I doubt there are many who will be able to resist this adorable tiger cub staring out from the cover of this attractive title. If the picture doesn't grab your young readers, perhaps the Lego log and brick design framing the cover will. What does Lego have to do with informational books? I wondered the same thing and my thoughts did turn a bit cynical, truth be told. Here's a link to the partnership page since the book just gives the main Scholastic link and I did not find a search box on the home page. This particular title is not shown (as of 4/24/17) in the line-up of titles, but has a downloadable building starter associated with it.

A bubble adjacent to the Table of Contents explains that Lego and Scholastic have entered into a partnership to bring a series of nonfiction titles out containing, "amazing facts, beautiful real-world photos, and mini figures everywhere." Let's start with the positive - real world photos? Check. Lots and lots of them. Beautiful? Double check - lots of crisp, clear, color photos. Many are close-ups. Mini figures? Check. There are explorer guides/ responsible for each of seven biomes and they are all dressed appropriately for their biomes. That said, they lead a rather eclectic group of explorers/ tourists whose running commentary is supposed to add humor. This is fine, but more information about the biomes and animals might have increased the value of this volume as a resource for reports.

Additionally, a construction guy appears periodically to suggest some building ideas, which is where the Legos come in. Presumably, young readers will be inspired to pull out his or her bricks and mini figures. This is encourages imagination and free play. This is sort of refreshing since there are so many themed kits available for purchase, some kids might not realize that Legos can be used for their own creations. I'm serious! A robotics teacher whose class I observed told me that she wanted the kids to build their own programs without relying on building/ programming instructions and most of her students couldn't do it.

Now for the amazing facts - where the pages are crammed with photos, the "amazing" facts are a bit brief. There's a text box of "Minifacts" on each double-page spread and a very general overview of a variety of animals in each biome. What I found particularly interesting was the group  name feature, which stated either none or the collective noun if the animal had one associated with it. Some of them were quite fun!

This is more a browsing book for most readers. Having raised a few Legomaniac fact hounds, I would've been all over this as a parent. If budget dollars are tight, its report value is limited. If you want enthusiastic browsers lining up and have the dollars, this title will be hot.

The books in the series are colorful and attractively designed. I would be interested in getting a few of the titles. A short glossary and index, as well as picture credits conclude the volume. There is no additional back matter.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review: Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Amy Laura Schlitz

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Amy Laura Schlitz. 74 p. Candlewick Press, March, 2017 9780763648220. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Princess Cora is born to her overjoyed parents who marvel at her perfection. However, it isn't long before they begin to fret that she isn't perfect enough. After all, if she will one day be queen, she must be strong and smart! So, they set about making that happen. The queen chains her to boring books most day, the king makes her do calisthenics for the rest of day and the nanny throws her into the bath at least three times a day in between. 

Princess Cora is frustrated. She also wants a pet. But dogs shed and a pet is forbidden so Princess Cora does what any self-respecting princess would do - she turns to her fairy godmother for help. She writes her a letter and lo and behold, the next day Princess Cora awakens to find a box by her bedside! Imagine her surprise though, when she opens the box and it is not a dog. It is a crocodile. The crocodile is willing to trade places with her so that Princess Cora can gad about for a day with "no baths, no books, no skipping rope. Just a day to do what I like."

Crocodile has to promise not to eat anyone and gamely dons one of Princess Cora's dresses. Princess Cora hilariously solves the problem of Croc's baldness with a wig made of, what else, a mop head. Once the disguise in in place, Princess Cora happily trots out of the palace for a day outside.

Action alternates between Cora and the crocodile. First the crocodile deals with Nanny, mindful that his promise not to eat anyone did not preclude biting them! Cora discovers that it is hard to climb a tree but once she does, it is blissful! As she explores, she gets dirty and scraped and loses her shoes and steps in poop. She has a spectacular day!

Brian Floca's watercolor and ink illustrations are traditional but exude humor and perfectly complement the text, which is perfect for reading aloud. Thoroughly modern, over-scheduled kids will relate to Princess Cora's predicament. This is a must-read for all helicopter tiger parents out there. Kids need to be kids. They need to get outdoors and explore. They need to get dirty. They need to make mistakes and know they are loved. All Cora wants is a pet and some down time. Children will cheer for Cora as she makes her break for freedom and laugh out loud at the crocodile's antics.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile is a first-purchase!