Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: The Adventures of Henry Whiskers 1 & 2 by Gigi Priebe

The Adventures of Henry Whiskers by Gigi Priebe. Illustrated by Daniel Duncan. 160 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, January, 2017. 9781481465748. (Finished paperback.)

The Long Way Home by Gigi Priebe. Illustrate by Daniel Duncan. The Adventures of Henry Whiskers #2. 160 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, August, 2017. 9781481465779. (Arc and finished ppb courtesy of Blue Slip Media)

Henry Whiskers lives in the storage bins of Queen Mary's Dollhouse with his family. Twenty-five generations of Whiskers have lived there. Henry's most favorite room in the house is the library, making him instantly endearing to this librarian. According to Whisker history, it was Prince George himself who installed the first Henry Whiskers in the dollhouse. Henry's mother has one hard and fast rule. That is not to be seen by any of the caretakers of the dollhouse. "If they find one of us, they will look for all of us." But other dangers lurk besides humans. There are rats and an evil cat. When Henry's little sister Isabelle goes missing. He must summon all his courage and set out with his cousin and best friend, Jeremy to find her. 

There's plenty of action, humor and suspense in these short chapters to keep newly fluent readers turning pages. Black and white cartoonish art depicts the mice in old-fashioned clothes and the automobiles are vintage. 

In Henry Whiskers' second adventure, he finds a mysterious map with an X on it. He wants to go exploring with Jeremy but they end up being caught in the kitchens of Windsor Castle and instead of being exterminated, they are dumped in a park some distance from the castle. Now, they need to find their way back. They encounter strange mice, one of whom knew Henry's father. Henry learns his father had an adventure outside the castle as well. He must deal with a storm at sea (a fountain) and a hungry bird of prey before making his way back with his best pal. 

Priebe keeps the action brisk and Duncan's spot art provides the visuals. This edition provides a photograph of the real dollhouse at the end of the book. This series is sure to intrigue newly fluent chapter book readers or would make for a fun elementary read aloud. 

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Astronaut, Aquanaut: how space science and sea science interact by Jennifer Swanson

Astronaut, Aquanaut: how space science and sea science interact by Jennifer Swanson. National Geographic, January 9, 2017.

Publisher synopsis: Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don't think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics—such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas—readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

Jennifer Swanson's books are always interesting, timely and accessible.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel. 304 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August, 2011. 9781442403154.

You may be aware of Mary Shelley's gothic horror novel, Frankenstein, published in 1820. Canadian author Kenneth Oppel wondered what Victor Frankenstein was like as a teen. He wondered what happened in his youth that shaped his desire to create life out of "non-living matter" as an adult. Victor lives in a castle on the shore of Lake Geneva with his twin brother Kondrad and Elizabeth, their beautiful cousin. The three stumble upon a secret room in the castle and when Victor's father discovers this, he makes them promise never to go to it again. But Konrad falls ill and Victor is convinced that the secret to making him well lies in that room. This story is atmospheric and compelling. Readers with familiarity of Shelley's masterpiece will be tickled by the allusions and foreshadowing but knowledge of the story is not required. This Dark Endeavor is book one of a duology that concludes with Such Wicked Intent.

Kenneth Oppel visited our school in the fall of 2011 to talk about the writing of the novel. Note the original cover on the screen. We've got many of his novels in the library. Come on in and check them out. Here's a link to his website and here's a link to the book trailer that S&S created. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Daily Booktalk/ Review/ Guest Post for Middle Grade Monday! Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

I am changing things up a bit on today's Middle Grade Monday to post a kind of three-in-one blog post. My Daily Booktalks are sort of mini-reviews of books I've either recently read or some older favorites. Here, I am sharing a longer review of Things That Surprise You, a fun middle grade book I received from Blue Slip Media. It releases tomorrow so, happy book birthday!

When I received an email from Barbara from Blue Slip asking if I'd be interested in hosting a guest post by the author, Jennifer Maschari, I thought it would be fun. Jennifer is also hosting a giveaway. Look for the link after the essay!

Jennifer's Guest Post: 
Finding a Friend in Middle Grade Books

We first met in Sunday School in kindergarten. We rode on the same bus. Even better, we lived just five minutes away from each other, though a busy road in between us meant we couldn’t ride our bikes to each other’s houses. 

We formed a sticker club (I still have my prized sticker book) in third grade. When we got a little older, we spent summer Saturdays riding the coasters and eating LaRosa’s pizza at Kings Island. We were partners in our middle school science lab and together, dissected an owl pellet. 

Teresa was my very best grade school friend. 

Teresa, my best grade school friend, and me, on our 8th grade trip to Washington, DC.

Whether it’s one true friend or several, having someone you can count on through the ups and downs, the big and small changes of middle school is special and important. I write a lot about friendship: great friendships, evolving friendships, new friendships. In my most recent middle grade novel, Things That Surprise You, the main character, Emily Murphy, and her best friend Hazel start to grow apart. This is so confusing for Emily. Can’t they go on as they always have – ordering their favorite pizza from the Slice and dressing up as the characters from a book series they both love? 

Emily’s language arts teacher, Ms. Arnold, has a fantastic classroom library. I bet she’d recommend some grade middle grade books featuring the joys and challenges of friendship to Emily. Here are three of my favorite: 

1. Nest by Esther Ehrlich – Set in Cape Cod in the 1970s, Chirp and Joey are neighbors who form an unlikely friendship, founded in their own family hardships and their love of the natural world. 

Because Emily’s going through her own hardships at home with her parents’ divorce and the challenges of her sister’s eating disorder, Emily would benefit from seeing how true friends, who really understand you, can help you get through tough times. 

2. The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito – Ella and Skyler are looking forward to going to high school together but find their friendship is growing apart. Ella comes up with a bucket list full of fun items they can do together - like committing random acts of kindness or hosting a dinner party - that will hopefully bring them closer. 

This is a perfect book to show Emily that old friendships change and evolve and new friendships can form and grow. It will give Emily some much needed hope!

3. The Someday Suitcase by Corey Ann Haydu – Clover and Danny are the very best of friends. In fact, science-loving Clover believes they are symbiotic, meaning that they need each other to survive. When Danny gets sick, Clover needs to figure out how to balance being both a good friend to Danny and a good friend to herself. In The Someday Suitcase, Clover opens herself up to new friendships with fellow classmates. 

This would be good for Emily to see as a model as she forges her own new friendships. 

The waters of middle school can be tough to navigate, but some great real life friends (and a few fictional ones!) can bring joy, understanding, and comfort to the journey. 


Thank you Jennifer! I've read Nest, but will have to check out the other two titles. Here's a link to Jennifer's colorful website, a handy curriculum guide and a giveaway entry! Students, please check with your parents first before entering!


Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari. 278 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, August 22, 2017. 978006243928. (Review from arc courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Summer is ending and middle school looms. Emily Murphy can/ cannot wait. She's definitely anxious about it. What she can't wait for is the release of the next Unicorn Chronicles book. She and best bud, Hazel are mega-fans. They love to dress up in costume and get in line on release day. But when Hazel shows up at Emily's house, she not only doesn't have a costume but she's sporting blond streaks in her light brown hair and Very Berry lip gloss on her lips. What's more, Hazel gets impatient when Emily talks to a boy in a terrific costume at the bookstore. Turns out, the boy is known as Soap Boy and Hazel informs Emily that she shouldn't be seen associating with the likes of him. Then, when they head to the pizza joint, Hazel suddenly doesn't want to share their usual pizza and opts instead for a veggie pizza and water. When Hazel's field hockey friends stop by the pizza place, she invites them without asking Emily. Emily feels and is made to feel out of place and is left unsure about her friendship with Hazel.

Emily's dealing with stuff at home. She and her mother are still processing her mom's divorce. Her father and stepmother moved to a new house where Emily does not feel at home despite her stepmother's invitations to make her room her own. Additionally, her beloved older sister Mina has been in an in-patient treatment facility for an eating disorder. Emily has no idea how to feel about that because while she loves Mina, the drama of her disease takes center stage and Emily is expected to deal with her own problems. She's furious and then feels guilty for her fury. 

Childhood friendships come and go, wax and wane but the effects of this seem intensified in middle school. These years are filled with such flux, emotionally and physically. Some kids hit puberty early, bewildering shifts in social hierarchies leave some behind. Emily clearly doesn't get the new code and finds herself constantly saying and doing the wrong things much to Hazel's chagrin and to the mean delight of Hazel's new friends.

Maschari depicts middle school and tween interactions realistically with dialogue that sounds authentic. Emily's first-person narrative is honest and endearing. The adults in Emily's life are imperfect but loving. Her relationship with Mina has changed and Mina's relationship with food will be an ongoing concern. After a few mis-steps, Emily finds friendship with Hector and his sister. Readers will root for and relate to Emily. An author's note at the end informs readers about her choice to depict eating disorders from Emily's perspective. She cautions about how serious they are and recommends four web sites for further information about them.

Growing up is hard. A middle school library can't have too many books about friendship and change on its shelves. Things That Surprise You is a fine addition. Hand this to fans of Frances O'Roark Dowell's The Kind of Friends We Used to Be or Lauren Myracle's Winnie Years series. 

Saturday, August 19, 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:

Streetcar to Justice: how Elizabeth Jennings won the right to ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth. 138 p. Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, January 2, 2018. 9780062673602.

Publisher synopsis from back jacket of arc: One hundred years before Ros Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Elizabeth Jennings's refusal to leave a segregated streetcar in the Five Points neighborhood of manhattan set into motion a major court case in New York City. On her way to church one morning in July 1854, Elizabeth Jennings was refused a seat on a streetcar. When she took her seat anyway, she was bodily removed by the conductor and a nearby police officer and returned home bruised and injured. With the support of her family, the African American abolitionist community of New York, and Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Jennings took her case to court. Represented by a young lawyer named Chester A. Arthur (a future president of the United States) she was victorious, marking a major victory in the fight to desegregate New York City's public transportation.

I had the privilege of attending a preview at Quarto Publishing in Manhattan on Thursday. Director of Library Marketing, Michelle Bayuk and her colleague Daniel Tushaj presented a selection of upcoming titles from ten Quarto Children's imprints. There's lots to look forward to in the coming months and there will be a blog post on that soon.

These were in our bag:

50 Cities of the U.S.A. by Gabrielle Balkin. Illustrated by Sol Linero. Wide Eyed Editions, September 7, 2017. 9781847808707.

How Could We Harness a Hurricane? by Vicki Cobb. 48 p. Seagrass Press, August, 2017. 9781633222465.

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer. 20 p. words & pictures, March, 2017. 9781682971369.

Deep in the Woods: a folk tale by Christopher Corr. 32 p. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, April, 2017.

The Great Race: story of the Chinese zodiac by Christopher Corr. 32 p. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, January, 2018. 9781786030658.

And a grown-up title: Cooking with Nonna by Rosella Rago. 248 p. Race Point Publishing, March, 2017. 9781631062940

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: Beauty and the Beak by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. unpgd. Persnickety Press/ Cornell Lab Publishing Group, August 27, 2017. 9781943978281. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy Fact Friday Summer Readers! Today, I'm featuring Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. This beautiful volume is really two books in one. First, a gorgeous photoessay about the birth of a female eaglet. The authors depict the life of an eaglet from the struggle to crack her egg through fledging and first migration. Really, so much can endanger the life of an eagle, including other eagles that might swoop in to capture hard-earned prey. With their sharp vision, strong talons, and vicious beaks, eagles are apex predators. Humans and their actions are the threat to eagles from habitat destruction to power lines to automobile accidents to poaching. It was a gunshot that tore most of this eagle's beak off. The eagle was starving when a police office discovered her and brought her to a wildlife center. It had no room for her but co-author and raptor biologist Jane Veltkamp did. She brought Beauty to her raptor center in Idaho and set about trying to figure out how to make a prosthetic beak for Beauty.

The second half of this book provides an update on Beauty, Bald Eagle symbolism, a note from Veltkamp,an additional five pages of information about eagles, information about it's status as no longer endangered, caution that eagles are still at risk, advice about how the reader can help, and resources, some of which include QR codes. 

This really is a must-read! High-interest topic, engagingly told, accompanied by stunning full-color photos and a beautifully designed book from covers through endpages.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine by Libba Bray. 496 p. Random House Children's Books, September, 2009. 9780385733977.

Since I've been all about Libba Bray these past two days, I picked her Printz Award winner for #tbt. Going Bovine was published in 2009. It is the story of Cameron Smith, sixteen-year-old slacker son of two Texas college professors and brother to a sister who is "perfect." Turns out Cameron has contracted Mad Cow Disease and will probably die. When a winged being named Dulcie appears in his hospital room and tells him that she can help him, he figures, "Why not?" and goes along for the road trip joining a video-gaming dwarf and a garden gnome who may be a Norse god. This madcap mother of all road trips loosely parallels Don Quixote with a nod to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy mixed in. Weighing in at close to 500 pages, it's long and rambling but so hilarious you don't notice. Teens looking for a satisfyingly challenge need look no further.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. The Diviners #3. 560 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, October 3, 2017. 9780316126069.

Publisher synopsis: 
New York City.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming...

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the four-book Diviners series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

I am a huge fan of Bray. Really, read everything she writes including her blog. The Diviners series is a bit of a weighty commitment for most of my students but I've had a few advanced, sophisticated readers devour them. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesay: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray. 496 p. The Diviners #1. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September, 2012. 9780316224260.

Our Teen Tuesday features The Diviners by Libba Bray. It is the Roaring Twenties and Evie is the life of the parties in her boring Ohio town. She has this neat party trick where she can divine the secrets of someone by hold a personal object of theirs. When she drunkenly reveals a scandalous secret of a prominent bachelor, her parents ship her off to New York City to live with an uncle. Evie is initially thrilled because, well, New York! When she arrives, she discovers that her Uncle Will owns and curates a dusty museum devoted to the occult that is in danger of closing. NYC police detectives are trying to solve a series of grisly murders and enlist Will to help. Evie's talents are eventually required and she gets caught up in this paranormal investigation that is truly terrifying. This 496 page book is not for the faint of heart - the murders are grisly. But Bray's atmospheric novel introduces a colorful, memorable cast of characters and spectacularly evokes Jazz Age New York. Recommended for mature readers grade 8 and up.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack. 176 p. Cleopatra in Space series #1. Scholastic, Inc. February, 2014. 9780545528436.

Happy Monday Summer Readers! Counting down the Mondays till school starts again! I recently read the second installment of the Cleopatra in Space series, Secret of the Time Tablets, by Mike Maihack and thought I'd highlight the first here. There are four books out so far of a planned five.

When tween-age Cleopatra finds herself transported into the distant future, she learns that there's a prophecy that she will be the savior of galaxy. Say what? When Cleopatra decides to ditch her tutor to explore some ruins with her best friend, she never expects to be transported to the future! Once there, she soon realizes that she cannot escape algebra even though she loves target practice with lasers - they are much cooler than her slingshot.

The art is zingy and there's plenty of action and humor in this space fantasy. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.

National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.: the most amazing sights, scenes & cool activities from coast to coast! 176 p. National Geographic Society, March, 2012. 9781426323140. (Review from copy borrowed from public library.)

It's Fact Friday folks! Today's feature is National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A: the most amazing sights, scens & cool activities from coast to coast. I can't remember what prompted me to search the BCCLS catalog for National Parks earlier this summer, but I sure am glad I found this gem of a guidebook. As with any Nat Geo publication, it is beautifully designed, contains spectacular full-color photographs and is very kid-friendly. It was published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Services. President Theodore Roosevelt, aka The Conservation President wanted to preserve the beauty of wild places in the United States to ensure that generations of Americans could enjoy them. Roosevelt established 5 National Parks and 18 National Monuments before leaving office. Starting with Acadia National Park in Maine, readers will traverse the country, including Alaska and Hawai'i. Most of the parks get a four-page treatment, featuring maps, ranger tips, places for the best views, information about activities from relaxing to extreme and tidbits about the animals that make their homes in these protected place. But the National Parks Service is much more that wilderness preserves. Information about other National Parks Service preservation projects are scattered throughout the book, such as the USS Constitution in Boston, Ellis Island in New York, and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The plentiful backmatter includes a list of National Park Properties by state or territory, a glossary, six websites for further information and an index. This guide is a wonderful way to learn about our national treasures, inspire road trips and, hopefully advocate for preservation.

I am purchasing this title for my own library as well as my school's library. While I have visited quite a few National Parks Service properties, the wilderness parks are places I'd like to explore some day.  

Friday Memes: We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

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

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson. 370 p. Dial Books/ Penguin Random House, August, 2017. 9781735227828.

Publisher synopsis: The Face on the Milk Carton meets The Impossible Knife of Memory in this ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown. 

Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared. 

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.

First line(s): Chapter 1 - That Day - Beth

We'd been studying on his couch, our Advance Chemistry textbooks sitting on the coffee table, suffering through questions about alkali metals and noble gases, when Donal made a joke about gas being ignoble. And I laughed, like I always did at his dumb jokes. And then our knees touch and our shoulders bump and suddenly we start kissing each other. Like, a real kiss, deep and forceful, sending gentle sparks up my back. I'm wondering how in the world this happened when my cell phone starts ringing.

Page 56: From Chapter 2 - The White Truck - Josh

She opens the door then, looks at me while I sit at my desk with my books. "Do you want to talk about it?she says. "I know it's a lot to take in."

"I've still got a lot of homework." I turn back to my book, but I know she's staring at me, like she's trying to see if I'm okay or if I'm going to break down and cry or something.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Heffley


Happy Thursday Summer Readers! Do you know that it was 10 years ago this past April that Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid was first published? This November will see the publication of the 12th book starring Greg Heffley and his hilariously dysfunctional family, friends and enemies. The Heffley family saga was first published in a series of online comics starting in 2004 and soon became so popular that fans asked for books. Of course, a movie was made as well. The series continues to be enormously popular at TMS. I automatically purchase two copies of each new installment. While I have not read every single book in the series, whenever I do drop in to read them, I continue to find them slyly funny. If you are ever in the Boston area, make time for a side trip to Plainville, MA., where you will find An Unlikely Story on South Street. Kinney and his wife renovated an old factory building and turned it into a beautiful bookstore/ cafe complete with party/ gathering room on the second floor! Fun piece of trivia: Jeff Kinney rocks karaoke!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs

Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs. Moon Base Alpha series #3. 336 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, April 24, 2018. 9781481477796.

Synopsis via author's websiteAfter solving a murder on the moon and locating a missing base commander, all Dashiell Gibson wants to do is have a calm thirteenth birthday.  But that plan goes down the tubes when someone tries to poison trillionaire space tourist Lars Sjoberg — and Dash gets forced into helping the investigation.

The problem is: everyone hated Lars — even his own family.  Every other Moonie has a motive, but Dash needs to figure out who it is fast.  Because the culprit is willing to do anything to protect their identity, and Dash’s life now hangs in the balance.

I enjoy Stuart Gibbs' books and they circulate briskly at my school. My book club read Space Case one month and many of them went on to read Spaced Out.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. 416 p. Scholastic Inc., October, 2011. 9780545224901.

Teen Tuesday features one of my favorite books, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It's a dual narrative set on the fictional island of Thisby, off the coast of Ireland. Capaill uisce (cup-all  ish-ka) or water horses live in the ocean off the coast of Thisby. These fierce man-eating beasts are very hard to tame but Sean Kendrick has a gift with both horses and the capaill uisce. In fact, he has won the famed Scorpio Races for the past four years. This is a race held every November and the winner earns fame and fortune. Unfortunately, the losers often lose their lives. This year, Puck, a seventeen-year-old orphan, desperate to save her family home, enters the race with her land horse, Dove. The superstitious islanders are outraged because no girl has ever entered and riding a land horse means she has little chance of surviving. The story starts out a bit slow but both narrators reveal compelling stories and the island and water horses work their magic. It's an exceptional story and a superb audiobook as the two narrators are Irish and pronounce the Irish words fluidly. Additionally, the music in the audiobook was written and composed by the multi-talented author who is also an artist. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley. 233 p. G. P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, April, 2017. 9780399165047. 

If you are a reader who loves sad books, Ashes to Asheville is just your ticket. Really, anything by Sarah Dooley is. This is her third book and I have loved the three I have read. Her strengths as a writer lie in gorgeous writing and character development. Each of her main characters just wiggle right into my heart and stay there. In Ashes to Asheville, two sisters won me over on page one. (Her secondary characters tend to be memorable as well.)

It has been six months since Zany (Zoey) and Fella's (Ophelia) Mama Lacey died. The sisters no longer live together because Fella's maternal grandmother, Mrs. Madison, sued Mama Shannon for custody of Fella and won. Neither Mrs. Madison nor the state of Virginia accepted Mama Lacey and Mama Shannon's relationship. (It is 2004, before marriage equality laws were passed.) Mrs. Madison even took her daughter's ashes. Mama Lacey's wish was for her ashes to be strewn in the place where she was happiest, Asheville, North Carolina. Sixteen-year-old Zany has decided to steal Mama Lacey's ashes and Mama Shannon's car and drive to Asheville with Fella to do so. Things go wrong from the beginning starting with Mrs. Madison's annoying poodle coming along for the ride.

Road trip books are a bit tricky. Road trip books that involve children hitting the road are even trickier. The reader needs to suspend belief and just go along for the ride, ignoring plot conveniences. It helped to have these girls propelling the story; their squabbling and fierce love for each other take center stage and are alternately amusing and heartbreaking.
So grab a box of tissues and settle in because you might just read this one in one big gulp. 

Saturday, August 5, 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.

It has been a bit quiet around here lately as I try not to buy books and catch up on the HUGE tbr pile! Couldn't resist this purchase though.

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson. 370 p. Dial Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, August 1, 2017. 9780735227828.

Publisher synopsis: The Face on the Milk Carton meets The Impossible Knife of Memory in this ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown. 

Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared. 

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.

I loved Wilson's debut, What They Always Tell Us and can't wait to read his sophomore effort. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: Animal Planet: Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Charles Ghigna

Happy Friday Summer Readers! Our Fact Friday feature is an oversized visual feast for the eyes. 

Animal Planet: Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Charles Ghigna. 128 p. Liberty Street/ Time Inc. Books, October, 2016. 

This book is absolutely gorgeous and crammed with trivia about tons of animals, many I have never heard of before! Sure, we've got our blobfish and our naked mole rat; but I never heard nor saw the likes of the red-lipped batfish or the frilled shark or the thorny dragon, and many more fascinating creatures. The photos are gorgeous, up-close-and-personal, like the one of the rare Philippine eagle, that has a wingspan of over 7 feet! Check it out!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt:

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. 279 p. Hyperion Books for Children (Disney), April, 2001. 9780786808014. (Own first edition copy)

Welcome to #tbt! #tbt features older titles and this week's feature is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. This Irish import was published in the U.S. in 2001 by Hyperion Books, which later became Disney. It is the story of a twelve-year-old boy named Artemis Fowl II. He lives on the Fowl estate in Ireland with his fragile, mentally ailing mother and his father, scion of an underworld empire, is missing. Artemis is a genius and he has cracked the fairy code and stolen the fairy's gold. Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon unit is on the case and Artemis does not know what he's up against. This was the first of what became an eight book series. It is wildly funny, peopled with memorable characters, and action and intrigue keep you turning the pages. I own a first edition and prefer the original cover, shown left above. The newest cover is to the right. The audiobooks are especially well done as the narrator, Nathanial Parker has a large repertoire of voices, which add richness. 

The book was optioned for a movie ages ago but, it wasn't until 2015 that it was announced that Kenneth Branagh would be directing with an anticipated 2018 release. The series has a website. Here's the link, but I couldn't get into it. (Kept getting a message that I needed to download Flash even when I did.) The UK site works and I was a bit startled by the UK covers! Take a look!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Arc Review: Side Tracked by Diana Harmon Asher

Side Tracked by Diana Harmon Asher. 233 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, August 22, 2017. 9781419726019. (Review from arc obtained courtesy of the publisher at ALAAC)

Joseph Friedman is the narrator of this winning debut. He begins seventh grade hiding from the soccer ball in gym class because he knows Charlie Kastner's going to find a way to mow him down. Just as that's about to happen, Charlie ends up on the ground and the ball is stolen by a new girl who runs fast. She runs so fast, no one can catch up with her. After she hip-checks the only player between her and the goal and makes the goal, there is no cheering. In fact, some students are hostile and the gym teacher's only response is to suggest that she try out for the school's soccer team. For some reason, this new girl is on the outs immediately. But, while Joseph's strategy is to lie as low as possible, Heather's is to fight back.

Joseph's only respite is Mrs. T., short for Teitelbaum in the resource room. Mrs. T. understands his ADD and the variety of phobias and quirks that plague Joseph and make him a bully magnet. She helps him with strategies and suggestions. Her suggestion on the first day of seventh grade is that Joseph join the brand new cross country team. Joseph has no interest in running and his objection that he's the slowest kid in the seventh grade does not sway Mrs. T., so Joseph signs up for cross country. Turns out, Heather joins cross country as well and the two form a friendship. It also helps that Mrs. T. is the coach and that several students from the resource room are on the team.

There's a lot to like here - colorful characters, authentic middle school situations, the ins and outs of cross-country running, and dialogue that rings true. Give this to students who like gentle reads, books about unlikely friendships, books about running and fans of Jordan Sonnenblick. In fact, I think that Maverick from Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade and Joseph would become friends in the real world.

I can't wait to booktalk this when school starts. 

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Hooper by Geoff Herbach

Hooper by Geoff Herbach. 336 p. HarperCollins Publishers, February 20, 2018. 9780062453112,

Publisher synopsis: From Geoff Herbach, the critically acclaimed author of the Stupid Fast series, comes a compelling new YA novel about basketball, prejudice, privilege, and family, perfect for fans of Jordan Sonnenblick, Andrew Smith, and Matt de la Peña.

For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.

But life is more complicated off the court. When an incident with the police threatens to break apart the bonds Adam’s finally formed after a lifetime of struggle, he must make an impossible choice between his new family and the sport that’s given him everything.

I adore Geoff Herbach's books and am so ridiculously excited about this!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Taking Stock - July - 2017

Total posts this month: 34
Total books read this month: 43
Total books read this year: 239

Audio: 12/53
Debut: 6/13
Picture Book: 13/97

The Good: 34 posts for July! That's because I started posting the daily booktalks I've been posting to my school library's website to this blog as well as the public library's FB page. But I also got around to reviewing more. 

The Bad: Not much. Wish I could review more because much of what I'm reading is quite wonderful!

The List:
July (43)
197. Welcome to Camp Woggle (Oodlethunks #3) by Adele Griffin (7/1)
198. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (7/1)
199. Babymouse: Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (7/2)
200. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (7/3)
201. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (7/4)*
202. Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (7/5)
203. Melvin the Mouth: Young Mel Blanc...before he was the Man of 1000 Voices by Katherine Blanc (7/6) (SLJ review)
204. See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (7/7)
205. All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (7/8)*
206. Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to interstellar space by Alexandra Siy (7/9)*
207. Strong as Sandow: how Eugen Sandow became the Strongest Man on Earth by Don Tate (7/10)
208. Matylda Bright and Tender by Holly McGhee (7/10)*
209. The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown (7/11)*
210. The Secret Project by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter (7/11)
211. Not Quite Narwal by Jessie Sima (7/11)
212. Life by Cynthia Rylant (7/11)
213. Pocket Full of Colors: the magical world of Mary Blair, Disney artist extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville (7/11)
214. The World is Not a Rectangle: a portrait of architect Zaha Hadid (7/11)
215. Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds (7/11)
216. Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets by Mike Maihack (7/12)
217. Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Peña (7/12)
218. Why am I Me? by Paige Britt (7/14)*
219. Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer (7/14)
220. Bizzy Mizz Lizzie by David Shannon (7/14)
221. The World is not a Rectangle: a portrait of architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter (7/14)
222. The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine (7/15)
223. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (7/16)*
224. Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (7/16)*
225. ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest by Lulu Deacre (7/18)
226. Lemons by Melissa Savage (7/19)
227. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (7/20)*
228. The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick (7/21)*
229. The Call by Paedar O'Guillin (7/23)
230. Hockey Then to Wow! by SI Kids (7/23)
231. Side Tracked by Diana Harmon Asher (7/24)*
232. Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah (7/25)*
233. Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson (7/26)*
234. Koala Hospital by Suzi Eszterhas (7/27)
235. The Names Project by Larry Dane Brimner (7/27)
236. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (7/28)
237. Dreidels on the Brain by Joel Ben Izzy (7/29)*
238. Bugs by Animal Planet (7/30)
239. Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari (7/31)