Monday, February 19, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods


Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods. 136 p. Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, September, 2011. 9780399255076. (own)

In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, readers get to know eleven-year-old Saint Louis Armstrong Beach. He's a confident kid who lives with his parents in the Tremé section of New Orleans. He's also an accomplished clarinetist who often busks for cash. He doesn't think this hurricane is going to be a big deal. Just as he's about to evacuate the city, Shadow, the neighborhood dog runs off and Saint decides to go looking for him, becoming trapped as the storm surges.

Saint is an engaging narrator. His heart is in the right place and he loves his city and its denizens. Suspense ratchets up as the levees break and Saint has to think quick if he's to save Shadow and his neighbor. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Cover Coincidence: Canoes

Cover Coincidence is the occasional post prompted by the question, "Where have I seen this before?" In this case, it is two books that I will be highlighting in Waiting on Wednesday posts in the next few weeks.


Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender. 224 p. Scholastic Inc., March 27, 2018. 9781338129304.

Publisher synopsis: Caroline Murphy is a Hurricane Child.

Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. She's hated and bullied by everyone in her small school on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, a spirit only she can see won't stop following her, and -- worst of all -- Caroline's mother left home one day and never came back.

But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline's luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline's first and only friend -- and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush.

Now, Caroline must find the strength to confront her feelings for Kalinda, brave the spirit stalking her through the islands, and face the reason her mother abandoned her. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline's missing mother -- before Caroline loses her forever.


Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay. 210 p. Papillote Press, February, 2016. 

Publisher synopsis: From award-winning Jamaican author Diana McCaulay, Gone to Drift is a powerful voice-driven middle grade novel about family set in Jamaica.

Lloyd comes from a long line of fishermen. Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Lloyd feels most at home with the sea and his grandfather, Maas Conrad, at his side.

When his grandfather doesn’t return from a fishing trip, Lloyd fears he has gone to drift. The sea may be in Lloyd’s blood, but as he searches for his grandfather, he discovers a side of the ocean—and the people who use it—that he’s never known before.

Okay, now I'm confused. The image above is the cover of the paperback(?) which currently unavailable (?) and below is the cover image of the hardcover which his pubbing on April 3 from HarperCollins.


Okay, so technically, not a coincidence, but still interesting that two middle grade books from Caribbean authors feature a canoe on the cover.

Saturday, February 17, 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:

Ella Queen of Jazz by Helen Hancocks. upgd. Frances Lincoln Children's Books/ Quarto, February, 2018. 9781847809186.

Publisher synopsis: Ella Fitzgerald sang the blues and she sang them good. Ella and her fellas were on the way up!It seems like nothing could stop her, until the biggest club in town refused to let her play... and all because of her color. But when all hope seemed lost, little did Ella imagine that a Hollywood star would step in to help.

The inspiring, true story of how a remarkable friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe was born-and how they worked together to overcome prejudice and adversity.



Blue Grass Boy: the story of Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass music by Barb Rosenstock. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. 40 p. Calkins Creek/ Highlights, March 6, 2018. 9781629794396.

Publisher synopsis: Here is the story of Bill Monroe, whose deep Kentucky roots helped him to create the unique American music called bluegrass.



Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer. 253 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons, June 12, 2018. 978-399163944.

Publisher synopsis: In the midst of the Vietnam War, a young girl struggles to embrace change in this tender family story for fans of Cynthia Lord and Wendy Maas
Lucy is a practical, orderly person—just like her dad. He taught her to appreciate reason and good sense, instilling in her the same values he learned at medical school. But when he's sent to Vietnam to serve as an Army doctor, Lucy and her mother are forced to move to San Jose, California, to be near their relatives—the Rossis—people known for their superstitions and all around quirky ways. 

     Lucy can't wait for life to go back to normal, so she's over the moon when she learns her father is coming home early. It doesn't even matter that he's coming back "different." That she can't ask too many questions or use the word "amputation." It just matters that he'll be home. But Lucy quickly realizes there's something very wrong when her mother sends her to spend the summer with the Rossis to give her father some space. Lucy's beside herself, but what's a twelve-year-old to do? 

     It's a curious boy named Milo, a mysterious packet of photographs and an eye-opening mission that makes Lucy see there's more to life than schedules and plans, and helps to heal her broken family. The latest from critically-acclaimed author Tracy Holczer is a pitch-perfect middle grade tale of family and friendship that's sure to delight fans of One for the Murphys and Rules.


When Paul Met Artie: the story of Simon & Garfunkel by G. Neri. Illustrated by David Litchfield. Candlewick Press, March20, 2018. 9780763681746. 

Publisher synopsis: From childhood friendship to brief teenage stardom, from early failures to musical greatness — the incredible story of how Simon & Garfunkel became a cherished voice of their generation.

Long before they became one of the most beloved and successful duos of all time, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were just two kids growing up in Queens, New York — best friends who met in a sixth-grade production of Alice in Wonderland and bonded over girls, baseball, and rock ’n’ roll. As teens, they practiced singing into a tape recorder, building harmonies that blended their now-famous voices until they sounded just right. They wrote songs together, pursued big-time music producers, and dreamed of becoming stars, never imagining how far their music would take them. Against a backdrop of street-corner doo-wop gangs, the electrifying beginnings of rock ’n’ roll, and the rise of the counterculture folk music scene, G. Neri and David Litchfield chronicle the path that led two young boys from Queens to teenage stardom and back to obscurity, before finding their own true voices and captivating the world with their talent. Back matter includes an afterword, a discography, a bibliography, and a fascinating list of song influences.

(I am so-o happy about receiving this! I've been looking forward to this since featuring it here.)

Purchased: Nothing, so frugal!

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave your link and I will definitely visit and comment. 

Graphic Novel Review: Time Shifters by Chris Grine


Time Shifters by Chris Grine. 266 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, May, 2017. 978054592657. (Review of finished ppb copy courtesy of publisher.)

This graphic novel adventure begins on a somber note with the accidental death of Luke's brother, Kyle. Months later, Luke is still grieving when his mom suggests that he get some fresh air. A flash of light in the woods behind his house makes Luke curious so he leaves his porch to check it out. He stumbles upon a hapless trio of henchmen who also happen to be dead. They've dropped a device in the snow and Luke accidentally picks it up not realizing that it is a time travel device. It becomes locked on his arm and the henchmen are about to kidnap him but he's rescued in the nick of time by a crew of time-travelers that include a robot named Abraham Lincoln, a shape-shifting dinosaur and a smart-mouthed teenaged ghost girl. They are led by the scientist who invented the device. 

Readers may suffer from a bit of whiplash trying to keep up with the random but often laugh-out-loud predicaments. The crew ends up on a wild-west-styled planet peopled with giant hungry spiders so not only are they being pursued by the undead trio of hapless henchmen, but trying to avoid becoming spider food.

The art is colorful and adds to the energy. Panels are easy to follow. There is thought and depth here as Kyle makes a poignant choice at the end leaving open the possibility for more adventures.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Fact Friday: 28 Days: moments in Black History that changed the world by Charles R. Smith


28 Days: moments in Black History that changed the world by Charles R. Smith. Illustrated by Shane Evans. 56 p. Roaring Brook Press, January, 2015. 9781596438200. (Own.)

This beautifully illustrated collective biography highlights 29 notable African-Americans. Most are fairly well-known, though there are a few lesser known figures. Some figures receive a double-page spread, others single-pages and one pair of astronauts share a page. There are eulogies and poems and even quotations from Supreme Court decisions to convey the importance of people and events chosen.

The illustrations are the stars here. Evans' brilliantly colored art bursts with energy and emotion. Backmatter consists of a bibliography of books for young readers who may be interested in further exploring Black History Month.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

#tbt: Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper


Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper. 320 p. Simon & Schuster, May, 2001. 9780756916299. (Own)

#tbt features Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper. This retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette is set in the present day Cincinnati, Ohio and was published in 2001. New student Julio catches Romi's eye after he moves to Cincinnati from Texas. The two start a romance even though Romi is African American and Julio is hispanic and there is racial tension between the two groups. Readers familiar with the Shakespeare play will get a kick out of the many parallels. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday (arc review): Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. 224 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 17, 2018. 9780316262286.

The cover on the right is the cover on my arc. The cover on the left looks to be the finished cover. I think both covers are powerful but the red one does pack a wallop.

I'll put this out there right now - no library collection is complete if it is missing any of Ms. Rhodes' books. She is a masterful middle grade writer whose superpower is making tough subjects accessible to tender young readers. 

Twelve-year-old Jerome is the narrator of this timely yet heartbreaking tale. We meet him as he realizes he is dead and views his own dead body bleeding onto the playground dirt. A white police officer has mistaken his toy gun for a real gun and fatally shot him. 

Jerome isn't even allowed to play with guns but his new friend, Carlos gave it to him to play with. He witnesses his family's grief and his father's anger and wants to comfort them. He realizes, with a start that his grandmother is aware of his presence but unable to see him. No one can see him until he crosses paths with the daughter of his shooter. Why is it she can see him when no one he cares about can? Jerome isn't alone in this limbo, he is soon joined by another victim of a racial killing - Emmett Till.

As Jerome tries to navigate this new reality, he confronts hard truths and feels myriad emotions from sadness to anger. Through Jerome, thoughtful readers might come to reflect on their own biases as well as society's and work toward overcoming them.






Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Teen Tuesday: How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon


How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. 352 p. Henry Holt & Company BYR, October, 2014. 9780805098693.

Our Teen Tuesday feature, How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon is un-put-downable! Fact: twelve-year-old Tariq is sho dead by a white man who witnesses him running from a store and the store owner yelling for him to stop. What the shooter doesn't know is that Tariq left the store without his change and the storeowner was calling after him to give it to him. The shooter jumped to a deadly conclusion based on Tariq's race and the fact that he was wearing a hoodie. This book explores the aftermath from multiple points-of-view and is as timely as it is important. 

Middle Grade Monday (arc review): The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson


The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. 352 p. Scholastic Inc., March 27, 2018. 9780545946179. (Review of arc courtesy of book seller.)

Middle Grade Monday features The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. If you loved The Westing Game or the Mr. Lemoncello books, you will love The Parker Inheritance

Twelve-year-old Candace is not happy having to move into her deceased grandmother's house after her parents' divorce. But she makes a friend in next door neighbor, Brandon, whose favorite book is The Westing Game. When she finds a cryptic note from her grandmother, the two embark on a quest to solve the puzzle of "the Parker Inheritance." This is no lighthearted lark as their research uncovers some town secrets and its painful history of racism. As readers bounce from the present day to the 1950s south and back, clues are slowly uncovered leading to a satisfying conclusions. The Parker Inheritance is due out in late March.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Fact Friday: A Poem for Peter: the story of Ezra Jack Keats and the creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney


A Poem for Peter: the story of Ezra Jack Keats and the creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. 60 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, November, 2016. 9780425287682. (Own.)

Did you love the book, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats when you were younger? Our Fact Friday feature is a biography in verse called, A Poem for Peter: the story of Ezra Jack Keats and The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Keats was born in Brooklyn, New York to parents who were immigrants from Poland. They were hard-working but poor and Ezra's dreams of going to art school were not within reach. Through the poems, readers learn how Keats' experience with anti-semitism led him to change his name; about working for the WPA, the Works Project Administration; and serving in World War II. Readers learn about how a series of photos of an African American toddler in a 1940 Life magazine article gave him joy so he clipped the photos. Twenty years later, those photos of that little boy served as a model for Peter in what was a groundbreaking book in children's literature. The Snowy Day was published in 1962 and won the 1963 Caldecott Medal.

The poems are accessible and lovely. Two collage illustrators perfectly blend their own styles with Keats resulting in gorgeous spreads. If you are looking for a unique biography, A Poem for Peter is a wonderful choice.



Thursday, February 8, 2018

#tbt: Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes


Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. 176 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, December, 2003. 9780142501894. (Own)

The eighteen students in Mr. Ward's english class are studying the Harlem Renaissance. When one student, Wesley, writes a poem instead of an essay for an assignment, Mr. Ward is inspired to host open mic and encourages his students to write and share their poems. This class is filled with students from a variety of cultures and mostly poor families. Readers learn about them - their struggles at home and in school - and come to appreciate how important this class becomes for each. 

Nikki Grimes won the 2003 Coretta Scott King Author Award for Bronx Masquerade. She has written a number of verse novels between then and now. A sequel of sorts, Between the Lines is due out on February 13. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebound by Kwame Alexander


Rebound by Kwame Alexander. 416 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2018. 9780544868137.

Publisher synopsis: Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.    
 
A novel in verse with all the impact and rhythm readers have come to expect from Kwame Alexander, Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck "Da Man" Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family's past.  

Ooh, I am so excited for this. My students will be too when I share the news with them.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Teen Tuesday: X: a novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon



X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. 384 p. Candlewick Press, January, 2015. 9780763669676. (Own.)

This fictionalized biography of the boy who would grow up to be Malcolm X is totally riveting. Co-written by his daughter and Kekla Magoon, the story bounces backward and forward in time between 1930 and 1948. The reader learns of incidents that shaped Malcolm's childhood and teen years. The present tense narration is tough, emotional and totally engrossing as readers gain an understanding of the events and decisions which defined him and later informed his radical views. It would be the rare middle school student to gravitate to this work due to the complex nature of the subject and harsh realities Malcolm faced. But I've had a few mature, well-read eighth graders read the book and love it. X is certainly a must-purchase addition for any high school collection.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney


The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Sean Evans. 336 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September, 2014. 9780316247801. (Own.)

Amira is looking forward to turning twelve and being able to wear a toob, a symbol of womanhood. She lives happily with her parents and crippled younger sister in a village in southern Darfur. Her best friend has moved away to the city so she could attend school. Amira would love to attend school. Her beloved father is open but her traditionalist mother is not. All of this becomes moot when Amira's village is attacked by Janjaweed militants. Her father is viciously murdered and Amira and her remaining family must flee to a refugee camp.

The spare free verse is strong on imagery and the accompanying illustrations, while spare as well, enhance the emotion of verse. This middle grade novel tackles some hard truths in a respectful and gentle manner.

Saturday, February 3, 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:

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World:  true story about an accidental invention (really!) by Barry Wittenstein. Illustrated by Chris Hsu. unpgd. Charlesbridge, February 13, 2018. 9781580897457. 

Publisher synopsis: Did you know Band-Aids were invented by accident?! And that they weren't mass-produced until the Boy Scouts gave their seal of approval?

1920s cotton buyer Earle Dickson worked for Johnson & Johnson and had a klutzy wife who often cut herself. The son of a doctor, Earle set out to create an easier way for her to bandage her injuries. Band-Aids were born, but Earle's bosses at the pharmaceutical giant weren't convinced, and it wasn't until the Boy Scouts of America tested Earle's prototype that this ubiquitous household staple was made available to the public. Soon Band-Aids were selling like hotcakes, and the rest is boo-boo history.


Chadwick's Epic Revenge by Lisa Doan. 288 p. Roaring Brook Press, June 26, 2018. 9781250154095.

Publisher synopsis: The victim of endless pranks turns the tables on his nemesis—Chadwick Musselman decides it’s time to get revenge in this hilarious school story.


Chadwick Musselman has spent years being terrorized by Terry Vance, aka the Nile Crocodile. His luck changes when it appears that Terry has flunked the fifth grade—Chadwick will swagger into sixth grade as a ruler of the school without him. Sadly, Terry has no intention of ending his reign of terror, and Chadwick decides to turn the tables and finally get revenge!

In Chadwick and the Epic Revenge by Lisa Doan, a battle of wits, pranks, misunderstandings, and embarrassing moments abound in this quirky and uproarious novel.


The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine. 367 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons, June 19, 2018. 9780399174520. 

Publisher synopsis: Claudia Dalton's father has disappeared. What began as a late night at work has spiraled into a missing persons case-one that's left twelve-year-old Claudia questioning everything she's ever known about her father and their family.

But when she finally gets word from her dad, it turns out he isn't missing at all. He's just gone to "think things over" and visit an old friend, whatever that means. Feeling confused and hopeless, Claudia starts to assemble a scrapbook, gathering emails, receipts, phone transcripts and more, all in a desperate attempt to figure out what's happening with her dad. Claudia's investigation deepens at her grandfather's house, where she receives an envelope contains a puzzle piece and a cryptic message. 

It is this curious first clue that sets Claudia on an unexpected treasure hunt that she hopes will bring her dad home and heal whatever; s gone wrong with her family. Told through the pages of Claudia's scrapbook, The Jigsaw Jungle is a moving story of a family lost and then found, with a dash of mystery and loads of heart.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave your link and I will definitely visit your blog and comment. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fact Friday/ Review: Heroes of Black History by the Editors of Time for Kids


Heroes of Black History: biographies of four great Americans by the Editors of Time for Kids. America Handbooks, a TIME for Kids series. 192 p. Liberty Street/ Time Inc. Books, December, 2017. 9781683300120. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publicist.)

There's no denying that Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks and Barack Obama are Civil Rights champions. This collective biography highlights the life and work of each well-known figure. This attractively designed volume features an introduction by Civil Rights activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault and a helpful time-line of black history in America before introducing each subject chronologically. 


The large font size, abundance of white space and plentiful photos and illustrations are pleasing. The photos are well-captioned. Text boxes add context and points of interest. The information is presented in an engaging manner, making it a solid resource for report writers. Each section ends with a timeline of the subject's life. Thumbnail biographies of additional Civil Rights figures begin the backmatter with a glossary and index that follow. Point your teachers to these links for additional information: curriculum guide and fast facts sheets. 

This volume belongs in most collections, especially if older biographies of the subjects are in tatters. That said, I am hoping that future collective biographies of Civil Rights heroes feature some lesser known but equally courageous individuals whose work should also be acknowledged. 




Thursday, February 1, 2018

#tbt: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

The Daily Booktalks for the month of February will highlight books written by African American writers. We will kick off the month with one of my favorite writers of all time - Walter Dean Myers.



Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. 336 p. Scholastic Inc., 1988. (Own.)

Fallen Angels is the first-person narration of Richie Perry, a young, black soldier recently drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. It may be hard to fathom that college was beyond reach for many teenagers in the early sixties and just not an option for Richie Perry, a bright African American boy in Harlem. This novel chronicles Richie's time "in country" from the boredom and tedium of certain duties to the abject terror of combat. Originally published in 1988, Fallen Angels ranks sixteenth on the American Library Association's list of most frequently challenged or banned books between 1990 - 2000 and eleventh for the years 2000 - 2010.