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.

Purchased: 

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.