Monday, October 15, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Sunny by Jason Reynolds


Sunny by Jason Reynolds. Track series #3. Unabridged downloadable audiobook, 3 hours. Narrated by Guy Lockard. Simon & Schuster Audio, April, 2018. 9781508246169 (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library. Own print copy.)

Let Middle Grade Monday bring a little sunshine on yet another rainy Monday. Sunny by Jason Reynolds is the third book in his very popular track series. Sunny lives up to his name because he is quick with a smile and a good word for his teammates on the Defenders, the elite middle school track team Sunny runs for. But all is not well at home. Sunny is growing tired of trying to please his distant father - a father who insists Sunny call him by his first name - Darryl. The only thing that seems to please Darryl is when Sunny wins the mile run. What happens when Sunny quits the mile run just as he's about to win? Can Sunny still be the track team if he can't/ won't run?

I do so love this series, but I think Sunny might be my favorite so far. Guy Lockard does an amazing job of portraying Sunny's energy. I am not sure I would've read Sunny's exuberance quite so well with my eyes. I especially loved the commentary at the end featuring the author and the narrator speaking about their friendship. I happened to be in the audience when Guy Lockard spoke at the Odyssey Award reception (Ghost won an Odyssey Honor) and thought of his and Jason's remarks as I listened to this story.

My students and I eagerly await the release of Lu on October 23. There's a waiting list already. I will most likely read it with my ears as, you guessed it, Lockard is the narrator. It will be a bit sad to see this series end; but I'm certain that Reynolds has a few things lined up.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

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: Big week for me. A box came from Penguin Random House but I will parcel them out over the next few weeks of "stacking" posts because I'm excited about all of them. Brought these home from the preview!



The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods. 198 p. Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, January 8, 2019. 9781524737092

Publisher synopsis: On Gabriel's twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike—and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad's auto shop. Gabriel's dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions. 
Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the Army's all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in WWII. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Sadly, danger finds Meriwether, anyway, when his family receives a frightening threat. The South being the way it is, there's no guarantee that the police will help—and Gabriel doesn't know what will happen if Meriwether feels forced to take the law into his own hands. 



Tarot by Marissa Kennerson. 280 p. Razorbill/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 19, 2019. 9780451478412.

Publisher synopsis: Her fate is so much more than the cards she was dealt.

Born of a forbidden union between the Queen and the tyrannical King's archnemesis, Anna is forced to live out her days isolated in the Tower, with only her mentors and friends the Hermit, the Fool, and the Magician to keep her company. To pass the time, Anna imagines unique worlds populated by creatives and dreamers--the exact opposite of the King's land of fixed fates and rigid rules--and weaves them into four glorious tapestries.

But on the eve of her sixteenth birthday and her promised release from the Tower, Anna discovers her true lineage: She's the daughter of Marco, a powerful magician, and the King is worried that his magical gifts are starting to surface in Anna. Fearing for her life, Anna flees the Tower and finds herself in Cups, a lush, tropical land full of all the adventure, free-spiritedness, and creativity she imagined while weaving. 

Anna thinks she's found paradise in this world of beachside parties, endless food and drink, and exhilarating romance. But when the fabric of Cups begins to unravel, Anna discovers that her tapestries are more than just forbidden expression. They're the foundation for a new world that she is destined to create--as long as the terrors from the old world don't catch up with her first.

The special guest for the event was Laurie Halse Anderson. These previews are usually packed, but this one was PACKED! Our tables were decorated by the crafty Rachel, who painted pages and cut and folded. I didn't get enough of the orange leaves into the pic. They mirror the cover nicely.
Laurie graciously stopped at every table to converse, then spoke passionately, as she always does. There seemed to be some tech troubles so she had to hold this weird little mic.


There was a signing and I was near the end of the line. The perk was that there were some extra copies on the table. I asked if I could take an extra for my author friend, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. She runs a non-profit called Never Counted Out. She collects book donations and gets them into the hands of at-risk youth. We met on a signing line for Jack Gantos at ALA Annual some years ago where I recognized her as the author of Fat Angie. (See below) We got to talking and I learned that she was buying books for Never Counted Out. Since then, I always try to fill a box or two each year to send. I can't wait to get this out to her:



Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. 290 p. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, March 12, 2019, 9780670012107.

Publisher synopsis: A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she's never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society's failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice-- and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

And, from Candlewick:



Fat Angie: rebel girl revolution by e.E Charlton-Trujillo. 344 p. Candlewick Press, March 5, 2019. 9780763693459.

Publisher synopsis: More trouble at school and at home — and the discovery of a missive from her late soldier sister — send Angie and a long-ago friend on an RV road trip across Ohio.

Sophomore year has just begun, and Angie is miserable. Her girlfriend, KC, has moved away; her good friend, Jake, is keeping his distance; and the resident bully has ramped up an increasingly vicious and targeted campaign to humiliate her. An over-the-top statue dedication planned for her sister, who died in Iraq, is almost too much to bear, and it doesn't help that her mother has placed a symbolic empty urn on their mantel. At the ceremony, a soldier hands Angie a final letter from her sister, including a list of places she wanted the two of them to visit when she got home from the war. With her mother threatening to send Angie to a “treatment center” and the situation at school becoming violent, Angie enlists the help of her estranged childhood friend, Jamboree. Along with a few other outsiders, they pack into an RV and head across the state on the road trip Angie's sister did not live to take. It might be just what Angie needs to find a way to let her sister go, and find herself in the process.

Purchased: Nothing! Too busy with what's being sent to me and reading for Cybils. But I still have those Amazon gift cards!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fact Friday: Science Comics: Rockets: defying gravity by Anne Drozd and Jerzy Drozd


Science Comics: Rockets: defying gravity by Anne Drozd and Jerzy Drozd. 128 p. Science Comics Series. First Second, June, 2018. 9781626728257. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Fact Friday features Science Comics: Rockets: defying gravity by Anne Drozd and Jerzy Drozd. In this latest entry in the Science Comics series, a duck, a rooster, a sheep and a bear walk the reader through 2000 years of history explaining things like Newton's Laws and concepts like thrust and introducing the scientists who calculated, designed, experimented and eventually succeeded. The repartee is witty and the art is vivid in this slim volume. Backmatter includes a timeline, a glossary and suggestions for further reading.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

#tbt: Smile by Raina Telgemeier


Smile by Raina Telgemeier. 214 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., 2010. 9780545132060. (Own)

#tbt usually highlights books that are ten years old or older but, given my excitement over the coming publication of Guts, I decided to break my own rule. Smile, Telgemeier's graphic novel memoir about the time in her life after she severely damaged her front teeth in a fall, was published in 2010. It spent more than four years on the New York Times bestseller list, was named a Horn Book Non-fiction Honor Book and received the coveted Eisner Award. It's easy to see why. This memoir is brightly illustrated, humorous, and relatable, as is its companion memoir, Sisters. All of Telgemeier's books are popular at my school. 

Audiobook Review: A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti


A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti. Unabridged downloadable audiobook, 9 hours. Read by Julia Whelan, Simon & Schuster Audio, September, 2018. (Review of audiobook downloaded from public library.)

Annabelle Agnelli should be enjoying her senior year of high school. Instead she's withdrawn and hobbled by guilt and grief. Over what? Do not be impatient to find out. Be with her as she attempts to cope with a triggering incident that sends her running - literally running from Seattle to Washington D.C. Appreciate her slightly dysfunction but indomitable and staunchly supportive extended family. Yearn for friends like Zach and Olivia. Witness Annabelle's courage as she peels back the scarring to face the unthinkable. Acknowledge her doubt. Weep when she is able to face her pain and finally rejoice for there is always, always hope.

The hardest reviews to write are the ones of books that I absolutely love. This one just gutted me. It is stunning, searing, brilliant, devastating and unquestionably and unfortunately, timely. The voice grabbed me from the start. I adore Annabelle. She's a gifted runner, a great sister, a somewhat snarky daughter, a girl everyone finds easy to like and wants to befriend. I hate running. Honestly, I can't run three strides without wanting to heave myself on the couch; but I do admire runners. I loved reading about Annabelle's running. I loved the brutal monotony, the rituals, the interior dialog. It almost made me want to try again but I think my bones are too heavy. Really. I am dead weight.

Caletti has assembled a memorable cast of characters around Annabelle. Even the most fleeting of background characters have impact. Annabelle has found a permanent place in my heart, because of these remarkable secondary supporting characters. 

I read this with my ears and, at first I didn't realize that it was read by a narrator of whom I am not a fan. Her style fit. I still don't love her male voices though. The performance was very good and I am glad to have read it that way; but there were so many bits of brilliant writing, luscious metaphors, startling imagery and glimpses of hope that I wished I were reading with my eyes so as to dog-ear the particularly evocative passages. This is definitely one for the reread pile. And that cover! Oh man, the cover is perfect!

A Heart in a Body in the World is a first-purchase for all high school and public libraries as well as anyone who serves teens. I can't recommend it enough and will be recommending it to my more mature student readers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Guts by Raina Telgemeier


Guts by Raina Telgemeier. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., September, 2019. 

From the author's website. Raina's synopsis: More Than Just Tummy Trouble . . .

A True Story

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away . . . and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and eventually conquer — her fears.

There isn't a lot of information out about this new release by Raina Telgemeier, but it doesn't matter. It's a new graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier (!) = automatic purchase of multiple copies!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide


Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide by Isabel Quintero. Illustrated by Zeke Peña. 96 p. Getty Publications, March, 2018. 9781947440005. (Review of finished copy borrowed from the public library.)

I am not sure I ever read a biography written in the first person. This short but lyrical and intimate portrait of Mexican photographer/ artist Graciela Iturbide is strangely compelling. The photographer only shot in black and white and the illustrations are in black, white and grey. They also incorporate some of the photographer's portraits. 

Iterbide left a life of privilege and wealth to pursue her art. She also objects to various interpretations of what she is trying to say. Her photos are haunting and her life is compelling. This short graphic novel biography is entrancing and should intrigue teen readers.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: The Cardboard Kingdom by Chris Sell


The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and other. 288 p. Random House Children's Books, June, 2018. 9781524719388. (Review of copy borrowed from public library, but purchasing for library collection)

It's going to be a graphic kind of week this week, TMS Readers. This is because I will be attending Bookfest@bankstreet in a few weeks. In addition to listening in on panel discussions about children's literature and hearing a keynote, attendees choose a themed book discussion group led by a variety of librarians from the New York area. I chose Christopher Lassen's group, Graphic Novels for Everyone. I don't read enough graphic novels. Though I had already read two, most of the other titles were new to me and some will be featured tomorrow and Friday.

Middle Grade Monday features The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Take a diverse group of neighborhood kids, add a bunch of cardboard boxes and the result is a summer filled with imaginative role playing that has no bounds. A boy can be an evil sorceress. A girl can be as loud as she wants. A bully might even find some friends. 

There are so many things I love about this starting with the cardboard boxes. My brother built a "fort" in our backyard with junk found around the neighborhood. We had so much fun finding and building and playing. Sure, it was an eyesore; but man, there were adventures. One of my sons built a fort with his back-door friend on an overgrown "paper street" that abutted his friend's yard. Imaginative free play is such an important part of healthy child development and I worry for over-scheduled kids who are deprived of this.

Each kid was working through his or her own stuff, whether it was dealing with fighting parents, absent parents or identity and it all happened organically. While there were supportive adults around, the kids did the work.

The diversity did not feel forced. 

This episodic and exuberantly illustrated graphic novel is a perfect read for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson.


Friday, October 5, 2018

Fact Friday: Ivan: the remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla by Katherine Applegate


Ivan: the remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla by Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. unpgd. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October, 2014. 978054252301. (Own)

Anyone who has read The One and Only Ivan  by Katherine Applegate knows that this work of fiction was based on a true story Fact Friday features Ivan: the remarkable true story of a shopping mall gorilla. Katherine Applegate gently tells Ivans story of capture by poachers and his journey to the U.s. The muted illustrations by G. Brian Karas mirror the tone of the narrative. Backmatter includes photos of the real Ivan, who died in 2012. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

#tbt: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. 200 p. Candlewick Press, 2006. 0763625892. (Own)

#tbt features The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. This gorgeously illustrated story of a vain toy rabbit who was lost at sea, then found only to be passed between a series of owners before finding a forever home was published in 2006. It was DiCamillo's fourth book. It won the 2006 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and in 2012, was named to the National Education Association's Top 100 Books by teachers. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Woolly Monkey Mysteries: the quest to save a rain forest species by Sandra Markle


Woolly Monkey Mysteries: the quest to save a rain forest species by Sandra Markle. 40 p. Lerner Publishing Group, January 1, 2019. 9781512458688.

Publisher synopsis: Readers will learn how scientists use camera-trap technology to study woolly monkeys in the Manu Biosphere Reserve. These camera traps helped scientists discover information about the woolly monkeys' diet, behavior, and habitat. Known as the rainforest's gardeners, their activities and behaviors are essential to the survival of the trees and animals in the rainforest. Scientists must learn more to save this keystone species and protect the rainforests.

Anything new by Markle is pretty much an auto-purchase for me; but this series fits nicely with my seventh grade scientist unit in Digital Media. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Teen Tuesday: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Raven Cycle series #1. Scholastic Inc., September, 2012. 9780545424929. (Own)

Teen Tuesday features The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater. The Raven Boys is book one of a four book paranormal series called The Raven Cycle. Blue Sargent lives in Henrietta, Virginia in a family of psychics but has no psychic power herself. She is cursed by the prophecy that she will kill her true love with their first kiss. Henrietta is also the location of Aglionby Academy, an exclusive prep school for rich boys. Blue is not interested in them, but one boy, Gansey, is on a quest. He is hoping to find an ancient Welsh king. This work of magical realism is peopled with fascinating characters and set in a town so vivid it is almost a character itself. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Black Panther: the young prince by Ronald L. Smith


Black Panther: the young prince by Ronald L. Smith. Unabridged audiobook on five compact discs. 5 hours, 45 minutes. Read by Dion Graham. Listening Library, January, 2018. 9780525531319. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library. Own print copy.)

I must state up front I am totally ignorant in that I have not seen the movie, Black Panther, nor am I familiar with the comic. I have no idea how faithful to the character and canon this story is, but it's an engaging one. This book focuses on young T'Challa. He's twelve and living the life in Wakanda, training and messing around with his best friend, M'Baku. T'Challa's father, the Black Panther, sends him and M'Baku to Chicago for their protection when danger threatens Wakanda. The two are to keep their citizenship and identity a secret and support each other while attending middle school. 

The boys are thrust head-first into American culture and middle school complete with cliques, sports and bullies. M'Baku soon comes under the thrall of Gemini Jones and T'Challa befriends nerdy kids, Zeke and Sheila. There may or may not be a mysterious stranger following them. 

This was a fast-paced adventure featuring a soon-to-be super-hero as a teen facing what many teens face - the need to belong and fit in - in addition to being thoughtful about his destiny. The audiobook was narrated by a favorite - Dion Graham, but I was a bit disappointed. His delivery was very, very breathy. Distractingly breathy. Perhaps even a bit over-the-top with his staccato delivery. Once I distanced myself from that distraction and ignored a couple of, "Really?" moments in the plot, I decided that the target audience will enjoy this adventure. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Taking Stock - September

Oh golly! September already!

Total Books: 21/ 270
Total Posts: 28
Total Reviews: 13

Challenges:
Debut: 2/13
Audio: 7/ 64
Picture Books: 8/91

The Good: Still managed to review nine books!

The Bad: I fell a bit behind in my GR goal.

The List:
250. The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage (9/1)*
251. The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen (9/2)
252. Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the spirit of New Orleans (9/3)*
253. How Sweet the Sound: the story of Amazing Grace by Carole Boston Weatherford (9/3)
255. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (9/4)
256. Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins (9/5)
257. Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt (9/8)
258. Good Rosie! By Kate DiCamillo (9/8)
259. Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor: the woman who loved reptiles by Patricia Valdez (9/9)
260. Nothing Stopped Sophie: the story of unshakable mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe (9/9)
261. Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet by Jennifer Ziegler (9/10)
262. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (9/13)
263. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar (9/14)
264. Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (9/17)*
265. From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon (9/23)
266. Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers? By Tanya Lee Stone (9/23)
267. Bone Soup by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (9/23)
268. Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the first woman pilot by Matthew Clark Smith (9/23)
269. Fear by Bob Woodward (9/29)
270. Black Panther: the young prince by Ronald L. Smith (9/30)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

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:

America Border Culture Dreamer: the young immigrant experience from A to Z by Wendy Ewald. 60 p. Little, Brown and Company, October 16, 2018. 9780316484954.

Publisher synopsis: First- and second-generation immigrants to the US from all around the world collaborate with renowned photographer Wendy Ewald to create a stunning, surprising catalog of their experiences from A to Z. 


In a unique collaboration with photographer and educator Wendy Ewald, eighteen immigrant teenagers create an alphabet defining their experiences in pictures and words. Wendy helped the teenagers pose for and design the photographs, interviewing them along the way about their own journeys and perspectives.

America Border Culture Dreamer presents Wendy and the students' poignant and powerful images and definitions along with their personal stories of change, hardship, and hope. Created in a collaboration with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, this book casts a new light on the crucial, under-heard voices of teenage immigrants themselves, making a vital contribution to the timely national conversation about immigration in America.

Purchased: Nothing! Another virtuous week!

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link to your haul in the comments and I will stop by. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Fact Friday: We will Not be Silent:


We Will Not be Silent: the White Rose Student Resistance Movement that defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman. 104 p. Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May, 2016. 9780544223790. (Own)

This went on the morning announcements: Fact Friday features We Will Not be Silent: the White Rose Student Resistance movement that defied Hitler by Russell Freedman. This is the gripping true story of Hans Scholl and his sister, Sophie. Hans was a medical student and Sophie was a college student in 1943. Both were enthusiastic Hitler youth until they began to doubt Hitler and Nazi doctrine. Then they got to work organizing fellow students to produce anti-propaganda leaflets. Meticulously sourced and beautifully written, this story of resistance and courage is a must-read.

I reviewed it in 2016 here.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

#tbt: Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes


Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes. 338 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, 2007. 

Five misfit students who don't know each other sit in detention when a jingle on the radio causes each to play or sing along. Their impromptu collaboration inspires them to form a band and this leads to friendship. Disney adapted the book to film in 2011 and a sequel, Lemonade Mouth Puckers Up was released in 2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Picture Book Review: Bone Soup: a spooky, tasty tale by Alyssa Satin Capucilli


Bone Soup: a spooky, tasty tale by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Illustrated by Tom Knight. unpgd. A Paula Wiseman Book/ Simon & Schuster, July, 2018. 97814811486088. (Review from finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Three hungry witches find that their cupboards are bare, save for one little bone one Halloween morning. Naggy Witch tosses the bone into their cauldron and suggests they go door to door soliciting additions to their "bone soup!" The village is filled with ghoulishly delightful inhabitants like a monster, a ghost and a werewolf, all of whom contribute ew-worthy additions like claws and worms and even toenails. As the hungry crowd grows impatient, the witches find they need a little help from a little monster and all is well when the bone soup is ready.

The rhythmic text occasionally floats and meanders in larger, playful fonts on the page, inviting participation. The palette, with ghoulish green, black, orange and purple predominating, adds to its Halloween appeal. The illustrations have a bit of a retro feel to them and feature the characters that are a nice mix of cartoonishly approachable and scary.

It's a pleasing variation of the Stone Soup tale and a nice addition to any collection. Bonus points for doing double-duty as a Halloween story. The ESL teacher has a "Stone Soup" unit and is delighted to add Bone Soup to it. An author's note and a recipe for the bone soup (with edible substitutions) are found on the final page. Visit the author's webpage to download a story time kit.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unteachables by Gordon Korman


The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. 288 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins, January 8, 2018. 9780062563880.

Publisher synopsis: A hilarious new middle grade novel from beloved and bestselling author Gordan Korman about what happens when the worst class of kids in school is paired with the worst teacher—perfect for fans of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day.

The Unteachables are a notorious class of misfits, delinquents, and academic train wrecks. Like Aldo, with anger management issues; Parker, who can’t read; Kiana, who doesn’t even belong in the class—or any class; and Elaine (rhymes with pain). The Unteachables have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117.

Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, the most burned-out teacher in all of Greenwich. He was once a rising star, but his career was shattered by a cheating scandal that still haunts him. After years of phoning it in, he is finally one year away from early retirement. But the superintendent has his own plans to torpedo that idea—and it involves assigning Mr. Kermit to the Unteachables.

The Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction—and maybe even a shot at redemption.

A new book by Korman is something to celebrate.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry


Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry. Unabridged downloaded audiobook. Read by Michael Crouch. 9 hours, 4 minutes. HarperAudio, August, 2018. (Review from downloadable audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Michael's father has broken his promise and he is furious. His rather emotionally distant father has a penchant for moving the family whenever there is a possibility of a raise or a promotion. He had promised there wouldn't be a move until Michael finished high school. Now, Michael, a devout atheist  finds himself, not only moving, but attending a Catholic high school. He's not into the school uniform, his stern principal, his teachers, most of whom are nuns or his classmates, many of whom come off as pious and judgmental He fears he is destined to sit alone at lunch until he hears Lucy engage Sister in a discourse about saints, feminism, and religious patriarchy. Intrigued and hoping to have found someone to sit with, Michael rather creepily follows Lucy until she turns and confronts him. Reluctantly, she invites him to sit together at lunch where she introduces him to her bestie, Avi, who is Jewish. Eventually, he is inducted into Heretics Anonymous, a secret society. The other two members are Max, a Korean American who is a bit obsessed with capes and may be autistic and Eden, a Wiccan. Has Michael found his people?

Boy, do I love a smart novel dealing with religion and belief! This debut is impressive from its catchy title, irresistible cover somewhat evocative of "grilled cheesus" from the second season of Glee, to the voice of its narrator, Michael. Michael's bitterness is palpable and understandable. While he's a bit self-absorbed, he's also inquisitive and intelligent. Every character is interesting, including the zealously devout, his father and his teachers. They are not one-dimensional cardboard figures. 

Fave narrator, Michael Crouch turns in another great performance. I've listened to enough audiobooks narrated by him to amend my early impression that he is a chameleon. That said, he sounds appropriately youthful, imbues his character, Michael with humor and paces his narrations well. 

Heretics Anonymous is so appealing. Hand to your thoughtful teens who enjoy laughing and want a smart romance. I am eager to read more from Katie Henry and hope the Morris Committee is reading.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and Review: Revenge of the Teacher's Pets by Jennifer Ziegler

Revenge of the Teacher's Pets by Jennifer Ziegler. Brewster Triplets #4. 256 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2018. 9781338081236. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

The Brewster sisters are all set to start seventh grade with a splash until their schedules come and they discover that they have different schedules. The only class they have together is their elective and they are upset to find that they are in cheer instead of color guard. Seems that one of them were swayed by the snacks instead of devotion to color guard! They beg their principal to change their schedule but he suggests that it might be good for them to have differing schedules.

As with all the Brewster triplet books, the POV shifts between the painfully shy Darby, hyperactive Delaney and bossy Dawn as they negotiate middle school without being attached at the hip. Dawn's plans always seem to backfire and Darby and Delaney discover some new friends away from Dawn's constant direction.

It was such fun watching these girls grow up. This series is fun, frequently laugh-out-loud funny and oh so true in so many sisterly ways.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

FNG Review: Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora


Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora. Unpgd. Little, Brown and Company, October 2, 2018. 978031643218. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher via SLJ Basecamp.)

There is a note to the reader on the front end-pages that explains the pronunciation of "Omu," (AH-moo) and the fact that it is the Igbo term for queen. Take a closer look at the collage of a neighborhood and you see that the story actually begins there. A ribbon wafts out of a window at the top floor of a building. The title page shows a white-haired lady toting shopping bags in front of a building where a black pot sits in a top floor window. 

Omu is making red stew. When she tastes it, she proclaims it the best she ever had. With the aroma of her stew drifting out the window, she goes to read a book while the stew simmers and thickens.

Someone knocks on the door. She opens it to find a little neighbor boy drawn by the delicious smell. She shares it with him. Once he is on his way, she returns to her book only to hear another knock at her door. It is a police officer. The stew is large, so she shares. And shares. And shares as one neighbor after another knocks.

At dinnertime, Omu finds her stew pot empty. But then there is another knock at her door.

This exuberant debut is sure to be a favorite read aloud. It's sort of a reverse Stone Soup. The crisp collages help propel the story of a generous soul. There's a lot to like here from the multicultural cast of neighbors to the small details in the collage work to the heartwarming story. Thank you, Omu! is not to be missed!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

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:


Bone Soup: a spooky, tasty tale by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Illustrated by Tom Knight. unpgd. Paula Wiseman Books/ Simon & Schuster, July, 2018. 9781481486088.

Publisher synopsis: Three little witches and a bunch of spooky characters come together to prepare a delicious batch of Bone Soup in this Halloween tale based on the beloved fable, Stone Soup. This just-scary-enough picture book comes with a recipe for Bone Soup—perfect for Halloween eating.

Trick-or-treat? Trick-or-treat!
We’ve something usually good to eat!

One Halloween morning three witches are looking for a tasty treat and they find only a small bone in their cupboard. So they decide to go from door to door in their village to find just the right ingredients for their Bone Soup. No one in the village is convinced that soup can be made from a bone, until the littlest monster reveals just what the special ingredient should be.

Purchased: Nothing! But I do have a few books in the shopping cart on Amazon b/c I have gift certificates to spend.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a link to your haul in the comments and I will stop by. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fact Friday and review: The Great Penguin Rescue: saving the African penguins by Sandra Markle


The Great Penguin Rescue: saving the African penguins by Sandra Markle. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, September, 2017. 9781512413151. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Did you know that there are penguin colonies off the coast of the African countries of Namibia and South Africa? Back in the 1800s, they numbered in the millions, but human interference such as harvesting eggs, overfishing, and disturbing nesting sites have driven their numbers down to less than 50,000. Fact Friday features The Great Penguin Rescue by Sandra Markle. 

Science writer Markle explains the plight of the African penguin in a beautifully designed book filled with plenty of gorgeous full-color photographs. She tugs at the reader's heartstrings with the story of a hungry chick awaiting her parents' return. Adult penguins return from the ocean to feed their young, but our little chick waits in vain. Another day and night go by before the chick wanders off. Sob!

Markle's strength as a science writer is her ability to make an emotional connection with the reader and then explain complicated science concepts in a straightforward, accessible manner. She also highlights the work of scientists and conservation volunteers. Lerner's strength is in designing beautiful backgrounds, colors and font that keep the reader engaged. There is at least one full-color photo on every page. All are well-captioned and support the text. There are also maps and charts to enhance understanding. 

Backmatter includes an author's note, a "Did You Know?" page, a timeline, source notes, a glossary, a list of three books and four websites for readers who want to learn more about African penguins. This book belongs in every school, public and science classroom library. 

A visit to Ms. Markle's website revealed the news that she has a new book releasing this January! Thanks for the heads up! 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

#tbt: Redwall by Brian Jacques


Redwall by Brian Jacques. Illustrated by Troy Howell. 351 p. Philomel Books, June, 1987. 9780399214240. (Own)

#tbt features Redwall by Brian Jacques (pronounced Jakes). Jacques wrote Redwall for the special friends he had been reading to at a school for the blind. He didn't like the books and wrote his own. Redwall is the first book in the Redwall series and was published in 1986. He wrote twenty two more until his death in 2011, with the last book being published posthumously.

Redwall is an abbey where animals live in peace. Young Matthias dreams of adventure. That comes in the form of Cluny the Scourge, a huge rat with a poisonous tail. He dreams of making Redwall Abbey his own. All the characters are animals and they all have their own curious dialect, making the reading a bit difficult. Hang in there. The books are satisfying reading, especially if you enjoy animal fantasy.

My family owns the tenth anniversary edition. I love the cover of this one.