Sunday, March 31, 2019

Taking Stock - March


Total Books 35/ 89
Total Posts: 32
Total Reviews: 16

Challenges:
Debut: 2/2
Audio: 11/23
Picture Books: 14/39

The Good: Fell behind in my GR Challenge. Nearly caught up thanks to all the picture books I was sent to review.

The Bad: Nothing really. I am managing my reading even with all the grading I need to do now.

The List:

55. Wild Orca: the oldest, wisest whale in the world by Brenda Peterson (3/1)
56. You are Light by Aaron Becker (3/2)
57. The Wicked King by Holly Black (3/3)*
58. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (3/5)
59. Yogi: the life, love and language of baseball legend Yogi Berra by Barb Rosenstock (3/6)*
60. Granted by John David Anderson (3/7)
61. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (3/14)
62. Dear Sister by Alison McGhee (3/14)
63. Itch! Everything you didn't want to know about what makes you scratch by Anita Sanchez (3/14)
64. The Unwanted: stories of the Syrian refugees by Don Brown (3/15)*
65. The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (3/17)*
66. Circle by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen (3/17)*
67. Smile: how young Charlie Chaplin taught the world to laugh and cry by Gary Golio (3/17)*
68. Blended by Sharon Draper (3/17)
69. The Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta (3/24)
70. Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes (3/24)
71. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (3/24)*
72. Little Monsters of the Ocean: metamorphosis under the waves by Heather Montgomery (3/25)
73. The Brilliant Deep: rebuilding the world's coral reefs by Kate Messner (3/26)
74. Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (3/26)
75. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertali (3/27)
76. The Last Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles (3/28)
77. The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a changing India, and a hidden world of art by Barb Rosenstock (3/28)
78. Sewing the Rainbow: the story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag by Gayle E. Pitman (3/30)
79. The Bridge Home by Padma Ventkatraman (3/30)*
80. Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt (3/30)
81. Camp Tiger by Susan Choi (3/31)
82. My Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero (3/31)*
83. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes (3/31)
84. A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman (3/31)
85. Hello, I'm Here by Helen Frost (3/31)*
86. A Piglet Named Mercy by Kate DiCamillo (3/31)
87. Power Up: your incredible, spectacular, supercharged body by Seth Fishman (3/31)
88. Vacation for Dexter by Lindsay Ward (3/31)

Arc Review: The Last Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles


The Last Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles. 287 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019. 9781328460837 (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Cousins Otto and Sheed live with their grandma in Logan County, Virginia. They've spent the summer sleuthing and bickering. Both are mourning the approach of the last day of summer though Grandma is not. She's got it circled on the calendar. As they argue over just how they should spend their final day of freedom, a strange man named Flux appears out of nowhere with a camera that freezes time. He allows Otto to take a picture of the town but another man appears out of nowhere and fights Flux for the camera before he can take a picture of the boys. They run away with the camera and discover that everyone in town is frozen. Who is the rubbery man with the camera? Who is the second man? Why is everyone in town except them frozen? This might just be the case of their lives! 

Buckle up because this mind-bending romp takes off running and doesn't stop. It zigs and zags wildly and hilariously. The characters in this quirky little town are distinct and memorable. The humor ranges from slapstick to wry, so there's something to amuse everyone. And there's plenty of fun wordplay. The brotherly relationship between the cousins is a bit competitive lending a realistic, relatable element. 

While this really should have wide appeal, hand to your fans of time-travel, fast-paced adventure, and/ or humorous books. Giles rocks his MG debut. More please. 

Saturday, March 30, 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:

Hello, I'm Here! by Helen Frost. unpgd. Candlewick Press, March, 2019. 9780763698584.

Publisher synopsis: Peek in as a sandhill crane hatchling makes its first wobbly stand and takes its first steps alongside its brother. With their parents close by, they flap their wings and dance before enjoying a buggy treat. Someday they will fly with the majestic cranes overhead, but for now, Mama’s soft feathers beckon. With a lyrical narrative and lovely photo illustrations, this latest venture from an acclaimed creative team makes a perfect new baby gift — and will appeal to bird lovers, too.

OMG! How can anyone resist that cover? Or this one?


A Piglet named Mercy by Kate DiCamillo. unpgd. Candlewick Press, April 2, 2019. 9780763677534.

Publisher synopsis: Mr. Watson and Mrs. Watson live ordinary lives. Sometimes their lives feel a bit too ordinary. Sometimes they wish something different would happen. And one day it does, when someone unpredictable finds her way to their front door. In a delightful origin story for the star of the Mercy Watson series, a tiny piglet brings love (and chaos) to Deckawoo Drive — and the Watsons’ lives will never be the same.

When I worked in a K-8 school, I had a riot reading aloud the Mercy Watson stories.


Purchased: 

Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt. Unabridged audiobook on five compact discs. ~ 5 hours. Read by Laurel Kathleen. Simon & Schuster Audio, March, 2019. 9781508276975.

Publisher synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is an angel thief. After his mother’s family rejected him for being born out of wedlock, he and his dad moved to the apartment above a local antique shop. The only payment the owner Mrs. Walker requests: marble angels, stolen from graveyards, for her to sell for thousands of dollars to collectors. But there’s one angel that would be the last they’d ever need to steal; an angel, carved by a slave, with one hand open and one hand closed. If only Cade could find it...
Zorra, a young ocelot, watches the bayou rush past her yearningly. The poacher who captured and caged her has long since lost her, and Zorra is getting hungrier and thirstier by the day. Trapped, she only has the sounds of the bayou for comfort—but it tells her help will come soon.

Before Zorra, Achsah, a slave, watched the very same bayou with her two young daughters. After the death of her master, Achsah is free, but she’ll be damned if her daughters aren’t freed with her. All they need to do is find the church with an angel with one hand open and one hand closed...



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, March 29, 2019

Fact Friday: Little Monsters of the Ocean by Heather Montgomery


Little Monsters of the Ocean: metamorphosis under the waves by Heather Montgomery. 56 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, January, 2019. 9781541528987. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Fact Friday features Little Monsters of the Ocean: metamorphosis under the waves by Heather Montgomery. Most students learn about the metamorphosis of butterflies and frogs. Students at my school study monarchs in depth in seventh grade. They may be surprised to learn that many other animals undergo the process. The catch is that most are microscopic. 

In a casual, conversational tone, the author introduces these fascinating creatures with complicated, multisyllabic names. The cover of this attractive, slightly oversized book will entice. The many full-color photos and illustrations help the careful reader make connections with the text. Backmatter consists of an author's note, a helpful chart of life stages that lists all the animals discussed in the text, a brief glossary, selected bibliography and suggestions of books, videos and websites where budding scientists can learn more.

If your students learn about metamorphosis in science, this book belongs in your collection. If you want to inspire awe, this book belongs in your collection. If you have fact hounds in your school, this book belongs in your collection. Give your science teachers a heads up. Mine can't wait to read Little Monsters of the Ocean!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

#tbt: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld


Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. 312 p. RazorBill/ Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005.

#tbt features Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. If you are a mature teen reader, this mind-bending vampire story with a scientific twist is unlike any you've ever read. Our narrator is Cal, who finds himself a carrier for a parasite that causes vampirism. He has infected his last three girlfriends and they have become peeps, or parasite positives, and are wreaking havoc. He is tasked by an organization called The Night Watch with hunting them and other peeps down. The reader learns more than he or she will ever want to know about a variety of parasites in this delightfully surprising urban legend.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The First by Katherine Applegate


The First by Katherine Applegate. Endling series #2. 400 p. HarperCollins Publishers, May 7, 2019. 9780062335562.

Publisher synopsis: To learn if she is truly the last dairne in the world-the ending-Byx and her friends must travel into the snow-covered mountains of the country of Dreyland, where they hope to uncover the truth behind the legend of a hidden dairne colony. 

I cannot wait for this sequel. The Last delighted me. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas


On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3-CD. 12 hours. Narrated by Bahni Turpin. HarperAudio, February, 2019. 9781538496831. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Teen Tuesday features On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Thomas' smashing debut, The Hate U Give remains on the New York Times best seller list and a TMS student favorite. Her sophomore effort, On the Come Up does not disappoint. 

This first-person narration is set in Garden Heights some months after the riots that concluded The Hate U Give but features different characters. Here, sixteen-year-old Briana (Bri) is an aspiring rapper at a performing arts charter school in Garden Heights. As one of the few brown skinned students in this school, she finds herself frequently in detention for being "aggressive," suspended or profiled by the school's security guards. Added to that are her worries about her family's financial situation. Bri's mom is behind on her bills and when she loses her secretarial job, those bills pile up and the family is facing eviction. After Bri wins a rap competition, she has the opportunity to make it big with a questionable, yet successful manager and a recording contract, but this may come at a cost. Is it one Bri is willing to take?

Thomas' strengths as a writer are in her storytelling and character development. Her characters are strong and prone to astute social observation and provocative statements. In addition to challenging her readers' assumptions, she paints an in-depth picture of the creative process of rap poets. 

Bahni Turpin continues to amaze me with her narrative ability. She voices the huge cast of characters uniquely and with seamless ease. She truly is a wonder.

Read On the Come Up with your ears or with your eyes, but read it. You NEED to read it. 




Monday, March 25, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol


The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. Unabridged audiobook on 7 compact discs. 7 hours and 34 minutes. Read by Elizabeth Knowelden. Scholastic Audio, 2017. 9781338159721. (Review of audio borrowed from public library. Own hc.)

Middle Grade Monday features The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. Nicol's delightful debut features Arianwyn Gribble, an insecure student witch who is haunted by a mysterious symbol and bullied relentlessly by Gimma. When she flunks her witch's final, she's not sure what the future holds until her influential grandmother pulls some strings, Arianwyn is dispatched to Lull as an apprentice witch. Lull is not as dull as one might think, especially with the dark woods just outside its borders. Woods that might hide any manner of evil being. Will Arianwyn be up to the task of being Lull's apprentice witch?

This was such a fun read made all the more enjoyable by the performance of new-to-me narrator, Elizabeth Knowelden. Her narration was perfectly paced and her vocal inflections were easy to follow. The world that Nicol created is vivd and its characters are all memorable. They are a lovable, eccentric bunch. Lonely and self-doubting Arianwyn is achingly relatable. Readers will just want to give her a hug. 

This is a great book to hand to your fans of magic and witchcraft. The ending wraps up nicely but leaves room for book two, A Witch Alone, which is on shelves now and which I cannot wait to read. 

Saturday, March 23, 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 Color of the Sun by David Almond. 218 p. Candlewick Press, September 10, 2019. 9781536207859.

Publisher synopsis: One hot summer morning, only weeks after his father’s death, Davie steps out his front door into the familiar streets of the Tyneside town that has always been his home. But this seemingly ordinary day takes on an air of mystery and tragedy as the residents learn that a boy has been killed. Despite the threat of a murderer on the loose, Davie turns away from the gossip and sets off toward the sunlit hill above town, where the real and imaginary worlds begin to blur around him. As he winds his way up the hillside, Davie sees things that seem impossible but feel utterly right, that renew his wonder and instill him with hope. Full of the intense excitement of growing up, David Almond’s tale leaves both the reader and Davie astonished at the world and eager to explore it.


What Makes Us by Rafi Mittlefehdt. 340 p. Candlewick Press, October 15, 2019.9780763597501.

Publisher synopsis: A viral video reveals a teen’s dark family history, leaving him to reckon with his heritage, legacy, and identity in this fiery, conversation-starting novel.

Eran Sharon knows nothing of his father except that he left when Eran was a baby. Now a senior in high school and living with his protective but tight-lipped mother, Eran is a passionate young man deeply interested in social justice and equality. When he learns that the Houston police have launched a program to increase traffic stops, Eran organizes a peaceful protest. But a heated moment at the protest goes viral, and a reporter connects the Sharon family to a tragedy fifteen years earlier — and asks if Eran is anything like his father, a supposed terrorist. Soon enough, Eran is wondering the same thing, especially when the people he’s gone to school and temple with for years start to look at him differently. Timely, powerful, and full of nuance, Rafi Mittlefehldt’s sophomore novel confronts the prejudices, fears, and strengths of family and community, striking right to the heart of what makes us who we are.


The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones. 226 p. Candlewick Press, September 10, 2019. 9781536202649.

Publisher synopsis: Fast-paced, evocative, and intensely suspenseful, Tim Wynne-Jones’s latest psychological thriller finds a teenager setting his wits against the frigid wilderness and a menacing crew of escapees.

Four months after his best friend, Dodge, disappeared near their families’ camp in a boat accident, Nate is still haunted by nightmares. He’d been planning to make the treacherous trek to the remote campsite with a friend — his first time in winter without his survival-savvy father, Burt. But when his friend gets grounded, Nate secretly decides to brave the trip solo in a journey that’s half pilgrimage, half desperate hope he will find his missing friend when no one else could. What he doesn’t expect to find is the door to the cabin flung open and the camp occupied by strangers: three men he’s horrified to realize have escaped from a maximum-security prison. Snowed in by a blizzard and with no cell signal, Nate is confronted with troubling memories of Dodge and a stunning family secret, and realizes that his survival now depends on his wits as much as his wilderness skills. As things spiral out of control, Nate finds himself dealing with questions even bigger than who gets to leave the camp alive.

I adored the author's Blink and Caution. This sounds nail-bitingly delicious.


As Far as the Stars by Virginia Maggregor. 432 p. HQ/ HarperCollins Publishers, May 21, 2019. 9780008274504.

Publisher synopsis: How do you change what’s already written in the stars?Christopher is the sort of guy that no one notices, yet when Air catches sight of him making intricate paper birds in the airport, she can’t look away. But their worlds are about to collide in ways they never expected. Someone they love is on Flight 0217 from London Heathrow. And it’s missing. Convinced that her brother was on a different flight, Air drives them hundreds of miles across the country, on a trip that will change their lives forever. But how do you tell the person you’re falling for that you might just be the reason their life has fallen apart?

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, March 22, 2019

Fact Friday: The Unwanted: stories of Syrian refugees by Don Brown


The Unwanted: stories of Syrian refugees by Don Brown. 105 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September, 2018. 9781328810151. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Fact Friday features The Unwanted: stories of Syrian refugees by Don Brown. It is so easy to demonize "the other," especially when the country and culture are far removed from one's own. Graphic novelist Don Brown cogently explains the events that led to the mass exodus of Syrians from their homeland. Meticulously researched and evocatively drawn, this unflinching portrait is a difficult and yet important read. And do not skip the backmatter. It includes journal entries and photos by the author, a Postscript, Source Notes and an eight and a half page Bibliography!

The Unwanted is a first-purchase for all school and public libraries. Recommend it to your students who read Refugee or Nowhere Boy and who might want to learn more.



Thursday, March 21, 2019

Picture Book Review: Smile: how young Charlie Chaplin taught the world to laugh and cry by Gary Golio


Smile: how young Charlie Chaplin taught the world to laugh and cry by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Ed Young. unpgd. Candlewick Press, March 26, 2019. 97807636967617. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Oh, how my heart sang when I received an email about reviewing Smile! First off, I am a huge Chaplin fan. Secondly, I am a fan of Golio's biographies, especially his earlier collaboration with Young, Bird and Diz. It wasn't hard to be objective. 

Smile beguiles from first glance. The cover design is absolute genius with the author's and illustrator's names incorporated into the "Little Tramp's" noteworthy mustache and eyebrow. Be sure to open it up and appreciate more design treats, such as the spotlit silhouette that starts on the spine and bleeds onto the front cover. The back cover pays homage to silent films with a title card that displays the title, creators and the promise that, "You'll laugh! You'll cry!"

Remove the cover to find this:



This will probably appear in a "Cover Dilemma" post soon. I must confess, while I love the colorful, torn tissue paper collage work on the jacket, I don't get the connection to Chaplin. I see the color motifs carried over into the word, "smile." Maybe there is no significance other than beauty. It is quite beautiful and a shame to tape down the cover as one must in a library.

Golio's spare and lyrical biography is the perfect introduction of the complex and flawed Chaplin for young readers. He gently plucks the reader's heartstrings with Charlie's rough beginning. Luckily, Charlie was loved by his mother who cultivated a love a performing and story. Reader's will come to learn about resiliency and creativity as Charlie works to adapt to the changing times. 

I have a gorgeous biography called, Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the funniest man in the world, written by Sid Fleischman that only a single student checked out since its publication in 2010. I usually get blank looks when I try to hand-sell this one. One aim of my sixth grade Picture Book Biography unit is to give students a taste of a subject that will pique enough interest to invest time and effort to read a full-length biography. I have high hopes that some of my sixth graders will become Chaplin fans after reading Smile.

It is Young's mixed media collages that star here. Textures and color are combined to bring Charlie to life. Interestingly, this is done mostly through silhouette. One really doesn't get a sense about what Charlie looks like. It's pure emotion, action and, later, humor. It isn't until the final page of the book, where a black and white photo of "The Little Tramp" floats in the white space, that the reader see what his face (and persona) look like. 

An additional design delight pays homage to the silents by the placement of "The Little Tramp's" silhouette in the lower right corners of most the other pages. Careful flipping of the pages makes for a crude movie of sorts. I tried to film it with my phone to share on FB, but the page loaded sideways and the file is too big to share through an email for me to embed here. 

Do I hear the word, Caldecott?  

#tbt: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan


A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan. Cirque du Freak series #1. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April, 2001. 9780316603409. (own.)

#tbt features A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan. This is book one of the twelve book, Cirque du Freak series. It was originally published in the U.K. in 2000 and subsequently published in the U.S. in 2001. It is the first-person, "true" story of Darren Shan, who along with his friend Steven,  wins a ticket to an illegal freak show. Steven wants to become a vampire, Darren is fascinated by the giant trained poisonous spider. Both of their lives change when Darren decides to steal the spider. The book was adapted for film in 2009. If you like horror, you will enjoy this series. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Finding Orion by John David Anderson


Finding Orion by John David Anderson. 368 p. HarperCollins Publishers, May 7, 2019. 9780062643896.

Publisher synopsis: Rion Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jellybeans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always on stage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.

He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially as his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.

Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but feel that that’s not the end of his story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.

He doesn’t know how right he is.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Puddin' by Julie Murphy


Puddin' by Julie Murphy. Unabridged Audiobook on 1 MP3-CD. 11 Hours Read by Erin Mallon and Kyla Garcia. Balzer + Bray, May, 2018. 

Teen Tuesday features Puddin' by Julie Murphy. This companion to Dumplin' can potentially stand alone but it would enhance the reader's experience to have read Dumplin' first. Puddin' picks up months after Dumplin'  and is Millicent and Callie's story. The two alternate chapters to relate the events that throw them into each other's unwilling company. Both books are highly recommended for teen readers.

This was an engaging companion to Dumplin' though I must admit that Mallon's low-range voice and smooth snarkiness threw me a bit. Though it was not the way I envisioned the Millicent's voice, I grew to love her in Puddin'. This new-to-me narrator turned in a well-paced performance. Garcia, on the other hand, perfectly embodied the alpha girl Callie I heard in my head. 

The narrative bounces back and forth between the two and readers come to realize along with the characters that they are more than folks' assumptions. Commentary about body positivity is leavened with humor but is still sharp, smart and hits home. 

Puddin' is a must-read for all fans of Dumplin'! I thought I read somewhere that the story is in development for Netflix. I sure hope they do a better job adapting it than Dumplin'. While Dumplin' was entertaining if you hadn't read the book, some curious decisions were made about omitting a couple of important characters.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 288 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February, 2015. 9780399162596. (Own.)

Middle Grade Monday continues to celebrate Lynda Mullaly Hunt and her upcoming visit to TMS on May 6. Fish in a Tree is her sophomore effort and a TMS favorite as well. Ally is a master of deception. The fact that she has moved to seven schools in the previous seven years has helped her mask the fact that she can't read. That and her flippant persona that often land her in the principal's office and out of the spotlight in the classroom. When Mrs. Hall leaves to have her baby, Mr. Daniels is her long-term sub. He sees past Ally's machinations and refuses to let her hide. This is a touching story about a lost little girl and her inspirational teacher.  

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Picture Book Review: Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen


Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Shape trilogy #3. unpgd. Candlewick Press, March, 2019. 9780763696085. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Triangle and Square are joined by Circle and the three friends decide to play hide and seek near Circle's place. Circle has two rules, 1. go and hide and, 2. do not hide behind the waterfall where it is dark and scary. Readers familiar with the trilogy will anticipate what happens next as sassy Triangle announces she's not afraid of the dark and heads where she has been warned not to go. Square, being Square, immediately rats her out to Circle. Brave Circle follows Triangle into the very dark until all the reader sees are her eyes. And then another pair of eyes appear. We assume they belong to circle. But wait!

As in all their previous collaborations, Barnett's spare yet droll text and Klassen's spare yet engaging art meld perfectly to provide read aloud delight. I really don't understand how Klassen manages to create such substance and texture with his digital and watercolor art. The illustrations appear so simple and yet are so beguiling. 

All three books are first purchases and perfect for any school, public, classroom or home library. More please!

Saturday, March 16, 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:

Vacation for Dexter by Lindsay Ward. A Dexter T. Rexter Book. unpgd. Two Lions/ Amazon Publishing, April 16, 2019. 97815420432025. 

Publisher synopsis: Dexter T. Rexter is on a plane—for the very first time.

Dexter can’t wait to go on vacation with his best friend, Jack. Supercool orange sunglasses? Check. Nifty travel hat? Check. Plane tickets? Uh, what? Dexter may be the toughest, coolest dinosaur around, but everyone knows T. rexes don’t fly! If anyone could do it, he could. It’s just that he’s suddenly feeling a little hot. And maybe a little nervous. But just as he starts to melt down, he notices Jack looks upset. Dexter realizes he has to be brave enough for both of them. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll start to have a bit of fun in the air.

Both nervous and funny, Dexter tells the readers what he’s feeling and even asks their advice as he comes to understand that being brave with a friend makes everything a little better. And hey, those cookies during the flight don’t hurt, either!


My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi. 252 p. Dutton Children's Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, August 27, 2019. 9780399187353.

Publisher synopsis: National Book Award-finalist Ibi Zoboi makes her middle-grade debut with a moving story of a girl finding her place in a world that's changing at warp speed.

Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction—especially Star Wars and Star Trek. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem.

Harlem is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and Ebony-Grace’s first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer's end, Ebony-Grace discovers that Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.

So excited to read Zoboi's Middle Grade debut! I adored her YA debut, American Street and her most recent YA, Pride.



All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker. 320 p. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, June 4, 2019. 978451479532.

Publisher synopsis: SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist—and in her neighborhood, that's normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye.

Then everything falls apart. Ollie's dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she's not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art. . . .

Olympia knows her dad is the key—but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.



Testimony from Your Perfect Girl by Kaui Hart Hemmings. 264 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May 14, 209. 9780399173615.

Publisher synopsis: Annie Tripp has everything she needs—Italian sweaters, vintage chandelier earrings, and elite ice skating lessons—but all that changes when her father is accused of scamming hundreds of people out of their investments. Annie knows her dad wasn't at fault, but she and her brother are exiled to their estranged aunt and uncle's house in a run-down part of Breckenridge—until the trial blows over. 

Life with her new family isn't quite up to Annie's usual standard of living, but surprisingly, pretending to be someone else offers a freedom she's never known. As Annie starts to make real friends for the first time, she realizes she has more in common with her aunt and uncle than she ever wanted to know. As the family's lies begin to crumble and truths demand consequences, Annie must decide which secrets need to see the light of day . . . and which are worth keeping.



Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya. 326 p. Kokila/ Penguin Young Readers Group, August 6. 2019. 9781984884800.

Publisher synopsis: Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It's hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family's auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear.

But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict. 

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya is a tender story about asking big questions and being brave enough to reckon with the answers.



I Am Not a Fish by by Peter Raymundo. unpgd. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, June 4, 2019. 9780525554592.

Publisher synopsis: Edgar is a jellyfish, but he doesn't look, act, or feel very much like a "fish." With a little help though from some friendly starfish, Edgar realizes that labels aren't important, and he should celebrate what makes him unique!

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, March 15, 2019

Fact Friday and Review: Itch! Everything you didn't want to know about what makes you scratch by Anita Sanchez


Itch! Everything you didn't want to know about what makes you scratch by Anita Sanchez. Illustrated by Gilbert Ford. 74 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March, 2018. 9780544811010. (Review of finished copy courtesy of author.)

Fact Friday features Itch! Everything you didn't want to know about what makes you scratch by Anita Sanchez. If the title doesn't make you want to scratch, just wait until you take a deep dive into this fun, engaging, informative text. After learning the basics of the largest organ of the body, Sanchez covers plants and animals that make us itch and why in a playful, conversational tone. Nine short chapters cover lice, fleas, plants, mosquitoes, tarantulas, fungus and bedbugs concluding with a chapter about a surprising benefit of itching and other fun facts. I can now defend my less than stellar housekeeping habits. 

Busy, bright illustrations vie for attention and amuse, though I'm not sure about the wooden frames around the edges of the pages. The backmatter includes an Author's Note, Glossary, Notes and a Bibliography for readers "itching" to know more. (I know. I couldn't help myself.)

I really enjoyed, Karl, Get Out of the Garden and was so pleased to be asked to read Itch! Here's a link to the author's website to learn more about her and her books. 

Display prominently and Itch is sure to attract and inform. Itch is a fine addition to any school or classroom library.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

#tbt: Everlost by Neal Shusterman


Everlost by Neal Shusterman. 336 p. Skinjacker Trilogy #1. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August, 2006. 9780689872372. (Own.)

#tbt features Everlost by Neal Shusterman. It is book one of The Skinjacker's Trilogy and was published in 2006. Allie and Nick have not survived the car accident they were in but they are stuck in between life and whatever happens after death. They are in what they learn is Everlost along with other souls who didn't make the leap either. It's an eerie, mysterious, potentially dangerous place where Allie and Nick need to constantly move or they are in danger of sinking beneath the soil and getting stuck. Atmospheric and unlike anything you've ever read, Everlost and its companions are must-reads. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Just Jaime by Terri Libenson


Just Jaime by Terri Libenson. 256 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, May 7, 2019. 9780062851062.

Publisher synopsis: Friends. Frenemies. Middle school...

The last day of seventh grade has Jaime and Maya wondering who their real friends are. Jaime knows something is off with her friend group. They've started to exclude her and make fun of the way she dresses and the things she likes. At least she can count on her BFF, Maya, to have her back...right?

Maya feels more and more annoyed with Jaime, who seems babyish compared to the other girls in their popular group It's like she has nothing in common with Jai anymore. Are their days as BFFs numbered?

Libenson's companion novels, Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy are quite popular at my school as are graphic novel hybrids. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Teen Tuesday: Tamar by Mal Peet


Tamar: a novel of espionage, passion and betrayal by Mal Peet. 432 p. Candlewick Press, January, 2007. 9780763634889. (Own.)

Teen Tuesday features Tamar: a novel of espionage, passion and betrayal by Mal Peet. Originally published in 2005 in England, where it won a Carnegie Medal, which is a prestigious literary prize, It published here in the U.S. in 2007. The story begins in 1995 when a fifteen-year-old Tamar, grieving her grandfather's death finds a box labeled, Tamar, which contains clues to his mysterious past. The novel flashes back to occupied Netherlands in 1945 and the efforts of the Dutch resistance. Tamar  is a sophisticated, satisfying read for teen fans of historical fiction.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 288 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May, 2012. 9780399256158. (Own.)

To celebrate our highly anticipated book tour visit by Lynda Mullaly Hunt on May 6, Middle Grade Monday will feature her debut, One for the Murphys, this week and her sophomore title, Fish in a Tree, next week. 

Carly doesn't have the most stable home life, so she has built walls and defenses, but she does love her mother. When it has become unsafe for her to stay with her mom, Carly enters foster care and is placed with the Murphy family. Mrs. Murphy is thrilled to have a daughter. Carly, not so much. This heartfelt debut will make you laugh and cry. I did both and I absolutely adore the end-pages design.

Come check out both of Lynda's titles before her visit and go to the Closter PTO's web page later today to place an order for her upcoming book, Shouting at the Rain! Thanks to Books, Bytes and Beyond for this opportunity and generosity, as a portion of the sales are donated to the PTO.