Thursday, January 31, 2019

Taking Stock - January, 2019


Total Posts: 27
Total Reviews: 19

Challenges:
Debut: 0
Audio: 7
Picture Books: 7

The Good: Posted a lot and reviewed a fair amount.

The Bad: Already behind in my GR goal of 365 books.

The List:
1. Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Hess (1/1)
2. We are Grateful by Traci Sorell (1/1)
3. The Orca Scientists by Kim Perez Valice (1/6)
4. New Kid by Jerry Craft (1/6)*
5. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (1/6)
6. The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk (1/7)
7. My First Mandarin Words with Gordon & Li Li by Michele Wong McSween (1/8)
8. The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth (1/13)
9. Endling: the last by Katherine Applegate (1/13)*
10. Death Eaters: meet nature's scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls (1/16)
11. Weird Animals by Mary Kay Carson (1/19)
12. Peace and Me by Ali Winter (1/20)*
13. The Great Rhino Rescue: Saving the Southern White Rhinos by Sandra Markle (1/20)*
14. The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters (1/20)*
15. Ph(r)ases of the Moon: lunar poems by J. Patrick Lewis (1/21)
16. A Place to Start a Family: poems about creatures that build by David L. Harrison (1/21)
17. Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (1/22)
18. The Never-ending Story by Michael Ende (1/23)
19. light filters in: poems by Caroline Kaufman @poetic poison (1/23)
20. The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (1/26)
21. Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds (1/30)
22. Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the birth of American art by Hudson Talbott (1/31)
23. Counting on Katherine: how Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker (1/31)
24. Through the Window: views of Marc Chagall's life and art by Barb Rosenstock (1/31)

#tbt: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott


The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Book #1. 400 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, May, 2007. 9780385733571.

#tbt features The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. The Alchemyst is book one of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. This sweeping six-book saga features many figures from various world mythologies as well as prominent historical figures, such as Flamel, who have chosen to become immortal. There is a prophecy about a twin brother and sister in a book called The Codex. Flamel believes twins, Sophie and Josh Newman may be those twins and he hopes to awaken their latent magic and recapture The Codex, which was stolen from him. The fast-paced globe-trotting will keep readers engaged and guessing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Fast Break by Derek Jeter


Fast Break by Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter's Contract series #6. 176 p. Paula Wiseman Books/ Simon & Schuster, April 16, 2019. 9781534436275.

Publisher synopsis: In the sixth book in the New York Times bestselling middle grade series inspired by the life of iconic New York Yankee Derek Jeter, young Derek bites off more than he can chew when he decides to enter the school talent shaw and try out for the basketball team.

I read the first book or two in the series and found them pleasant yet predictable. Nice lessons about sportsmanship, commitment and time management. My students enjoy them and sell the books to each other. In fact, it was a student who finished book 5 who asked for the next installment that alerted me . Thanks Joe!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Teen Tuesday: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce


Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. Chronicles of Numair #1. Unabridged audiobook on 13 compact discs. ~15 hours. Read by Ari Meyers. Listening Library, February, 2018.  9780553552379. (Review of finished audiobook borrowed from the public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. Faithful TMS Readers may recall that I featured a Pierce novel on #tbt two weeks ago. Pierce returns to the world she built there with a prequel in Tempests and Slaughter, which begins a new series called The Numair Chronicles. 

Arram Draper is the youngest student at Carthak's Imperial University. In him lies the potential to become the most powerful mage of all time. He has a knack for attracting trouble as well as the attention of the gods. The book clocks in at 480 pages and the audio spans 15 hours. It may seem daunting, but Arram's personality and adventures will enthrall readers. Pages or hours will fly.

I must admit that I wasn't a huge fan of the narrator. Nor of Arram's continued self-doubt and and self-deprecation. It felt a bit twee and was reinforced by the narration. The story grew on me and I am eager for the next installment, which I will most likely read with my eyes.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Middle Grade Monday - Youth Media Awards are Announced Today

Middle Grade Monday departs from its usual highlighting of wonderful middle grade books to report that later on this morning (8 PST/ 11 EST), the Youth Media Awards will be announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Seattle. Some eighteen awards will be announced across the various age groups culminating in the announcements of the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Awards. If you are lucky enough to be in the room during the announcements, you can't help but feel the excitement and join in the applause for each winner, even if your personal favorites don't win. I always have a list of favorites I hope will win, but have never made a prediction post. I favorited eighty-eight books in 2018 across the age groups fiction and non-fiction. Here are five books I'd love to see a sticker on:


Sweep: the story of a girl and her monster by Jonathan Auxier.



The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.



The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis.



Just Like Jackie by Lindsay Stoddard. I didn't get to review this beautiful debut. The writing is lovely and the characters are unforgettable.  


The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Conor. 

ETA: As I was reviewing this post, it occurred to me that No Fixed Address is ineligible for Newbery as the author is Canadian. Leaving it here at the bottom though, because it is a favorite and shouldn't be missed.


No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. 

Picking those five meant I left off quite a few others that I would be thrilled to win. That's the tough part. You read a lot of books and make your lists of favorites but if you're on a committee, your fellow committee members also make their own lists. 

I admit that the anticipation is hard to resist. I also admit to feeling a bit ambivalent about the awards, especially the Newbery and Caldecott. How can one choose a single book that is distinguished above all others? How many of my students come in clamoring for a book with the Newbery medal on it? The only one I can remember demand for was Holes. A few years ago, a sixth grade LA teacher did a book bingo that included a Newbery winner square and Newbery Honor square, so that it was a bit unavoidable and I had students trudging in to fulfill that requirement. 

Personally, I anticipate the Notables list that release a day or two post YMA announcements. But even they are missing some wonderful titles due to the fact that it is limited to sixty books and must include the YMA winners.

One book has received a ton of buzz this year that I really don't get. It's a fine story. It's an important one. I liked it; but I don't see how it is distinguished. Sometimes buzz does not equal and Newbery. The committee does what it does, supposedly independent of the buzz. Sometimes I love the winner and can't get a single kid to read it. Occasionally, I can't get through the winner and it becomes a rare dnf. 

Sadly, I skipped Midwinter this year but I will tune in to the livestream at 11AM and celebrate whatever the outcome. Then, I will go back to my job of finding the right book at the right time for the right reader. Each of those books are winners regardless of whether there's a sticker on it. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cover Coincidence - Backpacks and Art-filled Profiles

Cover coincidence is the occasional post that is prompted by the question, "Now, where have I seen that before?"

I just read a PW article of most-anticipated 2019 books and this triggered my "coincidence" sense:


I think I would've noticed this even if I were not reading this:



Because this is one of my all-time favorite YA books:



I am super-psyched about Benjamin's sophomore novel and will feature it in a "Waiting on Wednesday" post. I was absolutely entranced by her debut, The Thing about Jellyfish as are my students. They consistently ask if I have more books by her and now I can say, "Yes!"













Saturday, January 26, 2019

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 Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles. 287 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019. 9780358147216.

Publisher synopsis: The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Tollbooth, in the new century! When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected.

Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for un, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town-and each other-before time stops for good.



Shortcuts by Amy Bearce. 358 p. A Singularities Book/ Cbay Books, April 9, 2019. 9781944821760.

Publisher synopsis: Parker Mills has it all. She's the two-time winner of the Miss Divine Pecan Pageant, head of the eighth grade dance committee, and a secret psychic empath. Since she absorbs any strong emotion around her, Parker has committed herself to finding shortcuts to happiness. Whether acting as a tutor, a coach or a matchmaker, Parker knows that when others are happy, she is happy. Granted, all that fixing other people's drama means her own crush has no idea how she feels, but it's still a win-win as long as her psychic methods remain a secret. At least, that was always how it worked before Mia came to town. With her mysterious past and dark cloud of depression, Mia's moods threaten to rain on Parker's happiness parade. After Parker's usual shortcuts fail-even after bringing gorgeous Josh on the scene-she is forced to kick things up a notch, or two. But when Parker's psychic powers go haywire, dangerous secrets start to unravel... starting with her own. 

Purchased: nothing!


If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or whatever that's called. But I will check out your stack!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Fact Friday: The Great Rhino Rescue: Saving the Southern White Rhinos by Sandra Markle


The Great Rhino Rescue: Saving the Southern White Rhinos by Sandra Markle. Sandra Markle's Science Discovery Series. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, August, 2018. 9781541524729. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Markle delivers another informative and outstanding entry in her "Discovery" series. She does have a flair for dramatic storytelling and getting readers invested immediately. As in The Great Penguin Rescue, the author tugs at the reader's heartstrings. In this case, we are introduced to a mama and baby white rhino calmly foraging until mama is darted by poachers seeking her horn. Her calf cries as mama collapses. The reader is left hanging as the next chapter talks about the species near extinction in the 1800s. She fluidly explains their loss of habitat to European settlers hunting them for sport and farming great expanses of the savanna. 

In case readers do not know what a savanna is, a blue text box explains. Readers also learn about rhino growth and development as well as the differences between white rhinos and black rhinos. Photos, charts and maps adorn every page.  They are crisp, clear and full-color depicting single rhinos, mothers and babies, males fighting, rhinos wallowing and groups of rhinos. All are well-captioned. A couple are quite disturbing though.

One that was particularly upsetting to me depicts a chain saw wielding man and a horn-less rhino starting bleakly and helplessly at him. Granted, this amputation was being done safely and proactively to make the rhino worthless to poachers but personally, I could've done without the image. And, readers learn later, that this "solution" was not a great one. Sobering and effective, to be sure.

The other was of a rhino suspended upside down from a helicopter. Yikes! The reason for this was the rescue was from a remote area inaccessible by truck. The photos of rhinos recovering from poacher attacks are not easy to see either. Not easy, but necessary. We must be educated about our wildlife and the importance of every animal to the ecosystems they inhabit. I particularly admire the dedication of anti-poacher workers and their canine companions. 

Young researchers will find the backmatter quite useful. It includes an author's note, timeline, source notes, a glossary and books and websites to learn more. High quality books about animal conservation are needed now more than ever. As protective laws are being relaxed, we need to instill a love and respect for the environment in our youth. The Great Rhino Rescue is a first-purchase. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

#tbt and Audiobook Review: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende


The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Unabridged e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Narrated by Gerard Doyle. ~13 hours. 9781452626307.

#tbt features The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. This book was originally published in Germany in 1979. It was translated and published in English in 1983. It is the story of Bastian Balthasar Bux, who is about twelve and very unhappy. He's still grieving the loss of his mother. His father is distant and uninvolved. He's a bully-magnet due to his small size and the fact that he's overweight. He's fleeing from a gang of bullies when he hides out in a book store and discovers and old copy of a book entitled, The Neverending Story and decides to steal it. At school, he cuts classes, holes up in an attic and begins reading. He's immediately transported to Fantastica, where the "Nothing" is swallowing the land and everything in its path. While books have the power to transport the reader, The Neverending Story does so literally, with Bastian soon becoming part of the story. If you have seen the movie, you only know half of the story.

I was excited to read this one with my ears because it was performed by Gerard Doyle. Only problem was, this story truly is never-ending! I wasn't aware it was a book when I saw the movie in the late 80s with my sons. They just loved the movie. The movie is very faithful to the first half of the book and then it ends with Bastian returning home. In the book, he stays in Fantastica for a long time having repetitive experiences. Doyle's rather sing-song, soft-spoken delivery did not help ease the boredom. I listened to the bitter end because I'm stubborn like that. I'm afraid this is an example of the movie being better than the book. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal by Jeff Kinney


Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal by Jeff Kinney. 224 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, April 9, 2019. 9781419740275.

Publisher synopsis: Get ready for a whole new look into Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Introducing the newest Wimpy Kid author—Rowley Jefferson! Rowley’s best friend Greg Heffley has been chronicling his middle-school years in thirteen Diary of a Wimpy Kid journals . . . and counting. But it’s finally time for readers to hear directly from Rowley in a journal of his own. In Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, Rowley writes about his experiences and agrees to play the role of biographer for Greg along the way. (After all, one day Greg will be rich and famous, and everyone will want to know his life’s story.) But Rowley is a poor choice for the job, and his “biography” of Greg is a hilarious mess. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal offers readers a new way to look at the Wimpy world—one fans won’t want to miss!

This should be fun! 

ETA: I scheduled this post two Wednesdays ago. Later that day, a newsletter from Abrams popped into my email with a link to this cute trailer

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters


The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters. 362 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, April 16, 2019. 9781419733628. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

The author imagines the master of the macabre as a teen who is eager to leave his foster father's house to attend the University of Virginia. The chapters alternate POV between Edgar Allan Poe and Lenore, his muse. Readers somewhat familiar with Poe's works and his life will get a kick out of the many Easter eggs sprinkled throughout; but such knowledge is not necessary to enjoy the story. 

Winters does a great job of transporting readers back to the antebellum south and depicting Poe as a sensitive, angsty teen who has had a great deal of tragedy in his young life. Lenore's POV is eerie and mysterious. Is she real? Is she a figment of Poe's imagination? If so, how do the townsfolk see and fear her? 

The Raven's Tale is atmospheric, vivid, compelling and intriguing. Impeccably researched with notes on Poe's life and works following the narrative. These notes put things nicely in context for young adult readers and might inspire further reading. 

The cover is absolutely gorgeous. I'd be very interested in re-reading this as an audiobook. I wonder if there are plans for one. The Raven's Tale is a must-read for any fan of Poe's works, for fans of horror or gothic novels or for potential fans of the inventor of the mystery genre. 


Monday, January 21, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: New Kid by Jerry Craft


New Kid by Jerry Craft. 226 p. HarperCollins Publisher, February 5, 2019. 9780062691194. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features New Kid by Jerry Craft. This graphic novel follows Jordan Banks, a kid from Washington Heights (Manhattan), who would rather be getting ready to apply to an art high school than attending a snooty prep school in Riverdale (Bronx), but does so to please his parents. He's a scholarship student who travels via public transportation while his classmates arrive in all sorts of high end vehicles, some actually driven by chauffeurs. He's one of the few kids of color and is chagrined when teachers often call him by the wrong name. While he does make a few friends, he deals with assumptions and micro-aggressions all day and they are exhausting; as is the code-switching he does traveling to and from school. He pours his observations into his sketchbook.

The art is energetic and vibrant. The dialogue rings true. Jordan is likable, bright and an astute social observer. There are moments of humor but also head-desk moments of bias. Readers will root for him as he navigates two worlds. New Kid is a must-purchase addition to any public, school or classroom library collection. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Review: Weird Animals by Mary Kay Carson


Weird Animals by Mary Kay Carson. 24 p. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., January, 2019. 9781354929673. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Sometimes, readers want just the facts. There may be no patience or desire for flowing narrative nonfiction. Enter expository nonfiction to explain and describe in an appealing manner. 

Weird Animals does just that beginning with its intriguing, even humorous cover. The end-pages continue to pique interest with close-ups of two unusual animals peering right out of the book. A short introduction explains the "why behind the weird," followed by a page explaining the layout of each entry. Each begins with a series of questions in which certain words are color coded green, blue and red. A crisp, clear, full-color photo of the animal is centered on the page with three color-coded sentences arranged around the photo. A yellow box at the bottom of each page provides the animal type, scientific name, size and habitat. A few, such as the Red-Lipped Batfish (who adorns the cover) and Pink Fairy Armadillo, get double-page spreads. All are fascinating and may be just the ticket to inspire young zoologists. 

A glossary and index are the only backmatter. Suggestions for further reading or relevant websites might have added research value. Small quibble. Younger readers will be entranced by these unusual animals and will want to share with friends. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Fact Friday: Death Eaters: meet nature's scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls


Death Eaters: meet nature's scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls. 40 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, August, 2018. 9781512482003. (Review of purchased finished copy.)


If the title doesn't lure readers, the enticingly repulsive cover is nearly impossible to resist. This informative volume will provide your fact hounds with everything they want to know about the science of decomposition and the animals that help in the process and thrive on it. I never knew that sea gulls' ease in finding garbage to eat at waterways have impacted their role as scavenger!  Also surprising was the ripple effect caused by India trying to eradicate vultures resulting in a spike in the population of feral dogs. I think I'd prefer the vultures. Ever since learning about Bio-urns, I have wanted an eco-friendly burial. Now, I want to be buried at sea. Definitely looking into that!

Conversational in tone, the fascinating text is accompanied by equally fascinating full-color photos served with a side of gross. Backmatter includes a glossary, source notes, books, websites and videos for further reading and an index.

Display this prominently and it won't sit! A delightful addition to the STEM collection!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

#tbt: Alanna: the adventure begins by Tamora Pierce


Alanna: the first adventure by Tamora Pierce. Song of the Lioness series #1. 210 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Reissue edition September, 2014. Originally published in 1983. 9781481439589.

Twelve-year-old Alanna of Trebond wants nothing more than to be a knight. But girls are not knights. She convinces her twin, Thom, to help her become Alan and keep her secret.  

A student recommended this book to me some thirteen or fourteen years ago. I loved it and went on to read the rest of the quartet and most of the companion quartets. The world building is vivid and the characters are memorable. I highly recommend this author to my fans of fantasy. 

The author wrote a prequel of sorts that is a new series beginner. The book is called Tempest and Slaughter and I am currently reading it with my ears.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon


There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. 384 p. Simon Pulse, May 14, 2019. 9781534416789.

Publisher synopsis: Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so...sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other? 

I adored When Dimple Met Rishi! I really got a kick out of Ashish and am thrilled that he's getting his own book! Thanks to Crissi Reads for the heads up on this and nine other new releases of 2019. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Teen Tuesday and audio review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor


Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~8hours. Narrated by Yetide Badaki. Tantor Audio, 2018. 9781977322425. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Own hard cover edition.)

Teen Tuesday features Okata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. This fantastic fantasy is set in Nigeria and its worldbuilding is so vivid, its characters are so engaging, you will not want to leave it. Twelve-year-old Sunny was born in America but has been living in Nigeria for the past three years. She doesn't feel like she fits in anywhere and the fact that she's an albino makes her a target for bullies. Her life begins to change when she meets Orlu, Chichi and Sasha, who introduce her to the Leopard People and help her develop her magic. 

I've had the hardcover since its publication but am so glad that I got to it on audio. The narration was perfectly paced, melodious and certainly added depth to the already epic story. I can't find the sequel, Akata Warrior on audio, so I will be reading that with my eyes soon, with Badaki's voice in my head. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Dog Man Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey


Dog Man Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey. Dog Man series #6. 224 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., December, 2018. 9781338236576. (Review from purchased finished copy.)

Dog Man is back in book #6 and he's in trouble! A trio of flea bad guys have framed Dog Man for a robbery and now he's in doggie prison where he is shunned because he's not dog enough. Never fear, his loyal friends led by Cat Kid are on the case. As usual, the humor and gags come fast and furious along with the usual flip-o-rama segments. The palette is vibrant and energetic and even Petey is becoming endearing. Thankfully, this series shows no sign of flagging. I have two copies of each installment and the shelf where they live is usually empty. Keep 'em coming!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

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:
I must admit, the cover of this made me laugh out loud when I opened the package. It happened to be on a tough Wednesday afternoon.



Weird Animals by Mary Kay Carson. 26 p. Sterling Children's Books, January, 2019. 9781454929673.

Publisher synopsis: Slime-oozing slugs, red-lipped fish, spine-covered bugs, and tubed-nosed bats. These animals are weird-and AWESOME! But have you ever wondered why they look so strange? Find out!




Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen. 385 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., August, 2019. 9781338148473.

Publisher synopsis: Chaya Lindner is a teenager living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Simply being Jewish places her in danger of being killed or sent to the camps. After her little sister is taken away, her younger brother disappears, and her parents all but give up hope, Chaya is determined to make a difference. Using forged papers and her fair features, Chaya becomes a courier and travels between the Jewish ghettos of Poland, smuggling food, papers, and even people.


Where Birdie Lives written and illustrated by Elena Tsvetaeva. unpgd board book. Clever Publishing, January, 2019. 978194818003. 

Publisher synopsis: Perfect for toddlers who love to play as they read, this adorable interactive picture book is sure to entertain children and their parents! This heartwarming tale tells the readers about the quest of an endearing little puppy in search of a birdie. The young reader is challenged to solve a mystery and to look for a birdie under each flap, and then be delighted to find it at the very end. 
I actually read this with my ears back in October and found it almost unbearably suspenseful. So happy to have it for review. 

Purchased: I have started a shopping cart for my gift cards but have not hit send yet.


If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or whatever that's called. But I will check out your stack!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Fact Friday: The Orca Scientists by Kim Perez Valice


The Orca Scientists by Kim Perez Valice. With photographs by Andy Comins and the Center for Whale Research. Scientist in the Field series. 80 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July, 2018. 9780544898264. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Orcas, like hyenas, (see last Friday's Fact Friday) suffer from a bit of a bum rap. Viewed as "killers," these whales, actually, the largest porpoises, are not a menace to humans but devoted pod members who care for each other, teach the young and hunt together. Scientists are studying two pod groups in the Pacific Northwest and their numbers are dangerously declining due to overfishing and water pollution.

The photos are the stars in this entry. Crisp, clear, full-color photos show just how impressive these creatures are! The prose is not as fluid as other books in the series. There were a few occasions where the narrative was difficult to follow, requiring backtracking to reread, and the jargon was not explained. Still, The Orca Scientists is a wonderful resource to get young ecologists excited about saving this magnificent species. I just read in the Times the other day that the pod of orcas featured prominently in this book continues to decline. I still read actual papers; here's a link to the article online

Backmatter includes how one can get involved in conservation efforts, glossary, suggestions for further reading, source notes and an index. Definitely a title to add to any collection.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

#tbt: The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis


The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. 224 p. Delacorte Press, Random House Children's Books, September, 1995. 9780385321754. (Own.)

#tbt features The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. This was Curtis' debut and what a splash he made, winning both a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor. Kenny is the middle sibling in the "weird Watson" family. He narrates the story of the summer his parents decide to pack up the family car and drive south to visit with family. They have decided to leave their eldest child, Byron with his maternal grandmother to straighten him out. Kenny's voice is lively and often laugh-out-loud funny as he dryly comments on the antics of his family. Readers learn a great deal about the Jim Crow south and the dangers faced by people of color at the time. Still, readers will be unprepared when the story takes a tragic turn.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Stay by Bobbie Pyron


Stay by Bobbie Pyron. 320 p. Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins Publisher, August 13, 2019. 9780062839220.

Synopsis via the author's websitePiper needs something to hold on to. Her family just moved into a homeless shelter in a whole new city. And her life may never be normal again! But Hope House brings new challenges and new friendships, including Firefly troop 423 and a sweet dog named Baby.

Baby feels lucky. He gets to live in a park with his person, Jewel. A pack of two. But Jewel isn’t well, and there’s only so much her Baby can do to help her.

Piper makes Baby feel like he’s got another heartbeat on his side. And Baby makes Piper feel like she matters—even if it’s just to one little dog. So when Baby and his person are torn apart, Piper knows she’s the only one who can help. But that means learning to trust her new friends—and herself—before Baby gets taken away for good.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Piper and Baby, this heartwarming friendship tale proclaims the importance of hope, the power of story, and the true meaning of home.

Learned of this via a FB post by Barbara O'Connor, who praised it to the heavens. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi


Pride: a Pride and Prejudice remix by Ibi Zoboi. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs. 6.5 hours. Performed by Elizabeth Acevedo. HarperAudio, September, 2018. 9780062855046.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites. I try to reread it every few years, usually with my ears. Ms. Zoboi's 2017 debut, American Street was a favorite book of 2018. So when I learned of this remix, I was excited! I got the book and then learned that the audio was not only available, but performed by Elizabeth Acevedo, who knocked my socks off with Poet X. What could go wrong?

Absolutely nothing! This was a pure delight from beginning to end. Fans of the original will love discovering how the author modernized and adapted the classic. Readers who have not read Pride and Prejudice will enjoy the romance and setting. 

This book is a love letter to Brooklyn in general and Bushwick, in particular. The setting is so vivid; as is Zuri's fierce love for her neighborhood and its culturally diverse denizens. The story is narrated by aspiring poet Zuri Benitez, the second eldest of the five Benitez sisters. She's upset by the gentrification of Brooklyn, and especially upset by the Mcmansion that was recently constructed across the street from her apartment. She already hates the rich family about to move in. The feeling is reinforced when she meets the Darcy brothers, especially Darius. She is dismayed by her older sister's instant infatuation with Ainsley. Themes of race and class are explored here as Zuri and Darius trade barbs as each resists attraction to the other. 

Acevedo brings Zuri's fierceness to life in a terrifically paced performance. Read Pride with your ears or your eyes; but just read it. It's wonderful!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Review: The Hidden Witch by Molly Know Ostertag


The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag. 208 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, Inc., October, 2108. 9781338253757. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

In this sequel to The Witch Boy, Aster is happily training along side the girls in his family and they are accepting. His best friend, Charlie, who attends regular school has befriended a new girl, Ariel and is excited to play in her first basketball game. During the game, Charlie feels like something has taken over. Indeed, magic has interfered and only the reader is aware. Meanwhile, Aster's grandmother asks for his help in healing her brother. This is a difficult ask, since it was he who nearly killed Aster in The Witch Boy.

There's lots to love here. The art is vibrant. The characters are likable. Themes of friendship and jealousy are relatable. 
Fans of The Witch Boy will gobble this sequel up and ask for more. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Fact Friday: The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery


The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery. Photographed by Nic Bishop. 70 p. Scientists in the Field series. May, 2018.9780544635111. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows of my love for this series. Certainly my seventh graders do as the series is a huge part of the selection of scientists at work books they have to choose from for a unit on narrative non-fiction. Sy Montgomery has written quite a few of the books and Nic Bishop has photographed quite of few of them as well. They have outdone themselves here. 



Montgomery was the morning keynote at SLJ Basecamp in Boston this past August, where attendees received copies of the newly published book. I never thought I would come to appreciate hyenas, but did first after hearing her speak and then again reading this superb book. 

The reader gets up close and personal not only with the hyenas but with the team of scientists, led by Kay Holekamp, who has studied spotted hyenas in Kenya for thirty years. Each scientist who works at camp observing and recording data about the hyenas gets a page of biography. Montgomery and Bishop got to go out on observations and Montgomery even got to tend to a male hyena who was darted in order to be tagged and studied! The photos Bishop took reveal hyenas in all their glory as well as other animals in the ecosystem. 

Backmatter includes fast facts about spotted hyenas, books and websites for further reading, acknowledgments and an index. I expect to hear it winning something come January as it has garnered three starred reviews, popped up on many year-end best lists and was named a CYBILS Middle Grade Non-fiction Finalist on January 1.

The Hyena Scientist is a first-purchase addition to any library collection! 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

#tbt: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt


When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. 240 p. Henry Holt & Company/ Macmillan, October, 1999. 9780805061161. (Own)

#tbt features When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. This October will mark the twentieth anniversary of the publication of this book. It won the National Book Award the following month and was adapted for film in 2003. Zachary Beaver is billed as the world's fattest boy. He arrives in a trailer and the townsfolk of Antler, Texas are willing to line up in the summer heat to pay to view him. Toby, the story's narrator is coping with quite a few changes in his life and wants to learn more about Zachary. This quiet coming-of-age story is perfect for introspective readers. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Lost Heir (Wings of Fire Graphic Novel Series #2)


The Lost Heir (Wings of Fire Graphic Novel Series #2)  by Tui Sutherland. Illustrated by Mike Holmes. 224p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., February 26, 2019. 9780545942201.

Publisher synopsis: The lost heir to the SeaWing throne is going home at last.
She can't believe it's finally happening. Tsunami and her fellow dragonets of destiny are journeying under the water to the great SeaWing Kingdom. Stolen as an egg from the royal hatchery, Tsunami is eager to meet her future subjects and reunite with her mother, Queen Coral.

But Tsunami's triumphant return doesn't go quite the way she'd imagined. Queen Coral welcomes her with open wings, but a mysterious assassin has been killing off the queen's heirs for years, and Tsunami may be the next target. The dragonets came to the SeaWings for protection, but this ocean hides secrets, betrayal -- and perhaps even death.

This series suddenly got popular at my school and I don't have the first five books! I enjoyed the graphic novel adaptation and am looking forward to catching up with the series via the gn series.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland


Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. Unabridged e-audiobook, 10 hours. Narrated by Bahni Turpin. HarperAudio, April, 2018. 9780062822956. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Now, I don't like horror in general and zombie stories in particular. Except when I do. I force myself to read it because I have students who love horror. When I do read horror, it's usually been well-reviewed. I'd been hearing a lot about this one so when it popped up on the "new" list of audiobooks on Libby, I gave it a try. Bonus points for Bahni Turpin narrating. 

I will try to give a synopsis of this alternate history/ zombie mash-up; but I won't do justice to the world that Ireland has built. Zombies rise during the battle of Gettysburg derailing the efforts to abolish slavery. We don't know much about Jane McKeene except she's a crack zombie fighter training to become an elite attendant who will protect Baltimore's wealthy, white elite from zombie attacks. Plans go awry and Jane, her nemesis and her ex are shipped out west.

I loved Jane's voice from the start, smart and sarcastic, brash and bold. Of course she gets in trouble thanks to her mouth! The story is fast-paced and suspenseful. Events are totally believable! There are a fair number of social parallels to today as well. I was unaware that this is the first of a duology and cannot wait for the next installment.

As usual, Bahni Turpin turned in another flawless performance.