Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend

Image (or lack thereof): Little, Brown
Hollowpox: the hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. 336 p. Nevermoor series #3. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 10, 2020. 9780316508957.

Publisher synopsis: Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts of the Accomplished Wundersmith, and control the power that threatens to consume her.

Meanwhile, a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. There are whispers – growing louder every day – that this catastrophe can only be the work of the Wundersmith, Ezra Squall.

But inside the walls of Wunsoc, everyone knows there is a new Wundersmith – one who’s much closer to home. With Nevermoor in a state of fear and the truth about Morrigan threatening to get out, the city she loves becomes the most perilous place in the world. Morrigan must try to find a cure for the Hollowpox, but it will put her – and everyone in Nevermoor – in more danger than she could have imagined.

Perhaps I should've waited until closer to the far off publication date, or at least until there was cover art, to feature book three of the Nevermoor series I have come to love. Oh well. I'm sure the cover will be phenomenal. If you haven't yet started, the time is now!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~8 hours. Read by Elizabeth Knowelden. Balzer + Bray/ HarperAudio, October, 2018. 9780062890238. (Review of finished e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday TMS Readers! We've had a string of nice days here. I hope you've gotten outside for some fresh air and exercise before settling down with a great book. My YA reading this summer has skewed decidedly to high school, so this "Teen Tuesday" recommendation is for former students. I crosspost "The Daily Book Talk" to the Closter Library Facebook page as well as my blog, so former students have the opportunity to see my recommendations.

Teen Tuesday features Damsel by Elana K. Arnold. Arnold won a 2019 Printz Honor for this fierce, feminist fairy tale. One fairy tale motif (theme or pattern) is the rescue of the "damsel in distress." In Damsel, Prince Emory, upon the death of his father, the king, is tasked to go forth and rescue a damsel from the clutches of a dragon as a condition for becoming king. He then marries the damsel, who will produce an male heir destined to do the same, and so on. Emory names his damsel Ama, for she has no memories and ensconces her in the palace, where she is to learn the ways of the court. Ama is troubled by her amnesia, especially when she glimpses flashes of memory. She also has a will of her own, which surprises and dismays Emory, who has a cruel side and is intent on molding his prize to be obedient and docile. 

Thoughtful and mature teen readers who are fans of fairy tales have much to ponder here. The pace is quick and intense as Ama gradually pushes against the role she is expected to place and discovers who she is and claims her identity.

Initially, I found the narrator's sing-songy voice a bit cloying and affected. I soon learned to ignore it and focus on the lovely language and startling imagery of the writing. Her character voices were varied and distinct. Her pacing remained steady even as events crescendoed. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Wundersmith: the calling of Morrigan Crow

Image: Little, Brown Young Readers
Wundersmith: the calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~12 hours. Read by Gemma Whelan. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/ Hachette Audio, December, 2018. 9781549147296. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from the public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features Wundersmith: the calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. If you've been reading "The Daily Book Talk," you may remember that book one of the Nevermoor series was highlighted in last week's "Middle Grade Monday" feature. Book two is darker and the world-building is just getting better. If you loved the Harry Potter series, you will love Nevermoor. 

Morrigan feels as if things will finally fall into place now that she's a student at the Wundrous Society. But, once she arrives, via the coolest conveyance ever (and I thought the Brolly line was neat!), Morrigan is dismayed to find that her schedule contains only one class and it is the most boring class ever! Meanwhile, her best friend, Hawthorne gets to ride and train dragons! Jupiter, who is supposed to be looking out for her is mostly away solving a rash of unexplained accidents. 

There's no "book two lull" here! Would anyone like to guess what's going to be featured in "Waiting on Wednesday" this week?

Gemma Whelan continues to maintain distinct and interesting voices as well as a brisk pace. I think I would enjoy reading this series with my eyes but the audio experience is just fantastic. I can't wait for the next installment!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Arc Review: Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! by Mike Lowery

Image: Scholastic
Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! by Mike Lowery. 128 p. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc., October 15, 2019. 9781338359725. (Review of arc obtained from the publisher at ALAAC19.)

Reading this comic book treatment of prehistory awakened memories of #3 son twenty-seven years ago. Now, all four of my sons had a thing for dinosaurs, but none with the depth and intensity of #3. He became a real expert around age three, blithely and confidently pronouncing those multisyllabic names. He was not shy about correcting adults who mispronounced any! I wonder what he would've thought of this energetic, hyperbole filled book filled with "a gazillion true facts!" 

There's a prelude of sorts containing a thank you note from the author, instructions on how to use and a geologic timeline spanning four pages before the Table of Contents.

The book is divided into eight parts but part two: A Brief History of the Earth takes up the bulk of the book. Then we get to meet the dinos. This is the second largest portion. Chapters in this section explain what dinos ate, traits, giant dinos and various dino distinctions. Then there is a part devoted to explaining the extinction theories; a part about the work of paleontologists; more prehistoric beasts; instructions for drawing dinos; a field guide; resources and finally, dino jokes, though these are liberally sprinkled throughout the text. 

The cartoon art is very bold, busy and colorful. Fonts constantly change in type and size. There are lots of "text boxes" filled with bits of information and "weird facts." There are also lots of humorous asides, such as a sweltering dino sporting shade asking when air conditioning will be invented. Pronunciation keys are consistently presented as well as the occasional scale comparison, such as pizza, kid or school bus. 

Apparently, this is the beginning of a series. There's a preview at the end of volume two, which is coming in fall of 2020. It is called Everything Awesome about Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures! This series is sure to please young fact hounds, and fans of graphic novel, comics, Captain Underpants. If you have a dinosaur fan in your life, check out Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Beasts! It's due to be published in mid-October. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

FNG Review: Just Because by Mac Barnett

Image: Candlewick
Just Because by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September 10, 2019. 9780763696801. 

Bedtime rituals are important in a child's life. They signal the body that it's time to wind down and ease into sleep. Answering a curious child's questions is also important. It signals that you care. It encourages curiosity and builds confidence and self-esteem. A smart child will learn the art of the well-timed question quickly. A discerning parent will walk that fine line with varying degrees of success.

In Just Because, a young girl who has been tucked into bed snags her father's attention just as he's about to make his escape with " Why is the ocean blue?" Turn the page to discover her father's wtf response gorgeously executed in a double-page spread.

I just loved everything about this but most especially the retro art, which adds humor to Barnett's already funny story. The spreads invite pause. I can see this becoming a bedtime favorite.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Fact Friday: Thirty Minutes over Oregon: a Japanese pilot's World War II story by Marc Tyler Nobleman

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thirty Minutes over Oregon: a Japanese pilot's World War II story by Marc Tyler Nobleman. Illustrated by Melissa Iwai. unpgd. Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October, 2018. 9780544430761. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher, ALAAC19.)

Happy Friday TMS Readers! We are approaching the halfway point of our summer vacation! Week five is almost in the books! How's your summer reading going? I can't wait to here about your faves! Fact Friday features Thirty Minutes over Oregon: a Japanese pilot's World War II Story by Marc Tyler Nobleman. You all know that my motto is, "never too old for picture books," right? I learn the best things from picture books! Like this. What? The Japanese actually bombed the mainland? Whoa!

We all know about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But did you know that in September of 1942, Nobuo Fujita was catapulted off of a submarine in his plane toward the United States. His target was the forest beyond Brookings, Oregon. He dropped two bombs and returned unnoticed to the Pacific Ocean where the sub removed him and his plane and dove. The Japanese had hoped the bombs would result in a terrible forest fire. It did not. But news of the bombs made the residents of Brookings uneasy. Twenty days later, Fujita returned, this time under the cover of night. 

After the war, Fujita opened a hardware store and thought often, of the residents of Brookings, Oregon. In 1962, the residents of Brookings invited Fujita to attend their Memorial Day parade as a way to boost tourism to the area. While there was some protest to the idea, there was also support from notable citizens, including President John F. Kennedy. Fujita returned, apologized and gifted the town his family sword.

The watercolor and ink drawings beautifully convey this spare, yet emotional story of duty and reparation. Lovely, affecting and emotional. Check it out!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble

Image: Random House
The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble. 216 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, June, 2019. 9780525578505. (Review of finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

"Are we going to die?" sure is attention-grabbing. This is the question Willow's younger brother, Wisp asks from the backseat of their family's car, and also the first line of the book. They are heading home from Willow's hockey game in Canada and it's snowing. Hard. Like "blizzard of the century" hard. Willow flinches because no one is supposed to talk about death around Wisp. He has an undiagnosed, potentially fatal illness. Willow's mom has devoted all of her time, energy and attention to Wisp to the detriment of her marriage and possibly, her relationship with her daughter. Willow feels a toxic cocktail of guilt and anger swilling beneath the surface of her studied calm and competence. 

The car slides off the roadway and crashes through the bridge railing leaving the three passengers terrified as it teeters over a freezing rushing river. Miraculously, a couple arrive in a tow truck. They are able to rescue the family, but the car and all of their belongings crashes into the river. They are brought to the town of Kismet, Maine where Cora, owner of a bed and breakfast has rooms prepared for them. She even places a bucket next to Wisp in case he needs to vomit. This foresight puzzles Willow. It isn't long before other weird coincidence begin cropping up. Worst of all, there's a hospital and a doctor in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere giving Willow's mother more medical straws to grasp at. Something is off in this town and Willow intends to get to the bottom of it.

As a medically trained adult, the deadly, undiagnosable illness as a plot contrivance drives me bonkers. As a kid, I would've eaten it up though. So setting that aside, this was a suspenseful present-tense read featuring a fierce, intelligent little girl caught in the middle of one terrible problem, followed by another and then a third difficult dilemma. The dreamy, otherworldly setting is compelling and the main characters are interesting. Young readers who like magic and thinking about fate vs. free will will love this book. Fans of Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting might enjoy The Root of Magic.

#tbt: Holes by Louis Sachar

Image: Macmillan
Holes by Louis Sachar. 272 p. Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR), August, 1998. 

#tbt features Holes by Louis Sachar. Holes was published in 1998 and won both the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal! Holes is the story of Stanley Yelnats III and his cursed family. Stanley receives a pair of sneakers, a special pair of sneakers, from the sky and finds himself arrested for theft. He's ultimately sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center, where he is informed he has to dig holes - five feet deep and five feet around. The intricate plot travels back in time to tell two stories; that of a school teacher and a Black man who grows onions and wants to learn to read, as well as Stanley's grandfather's story. While humorous, this affecting novel touches on issues of racism as well as incarcerated teens. The book was optioned for a film, which released in 2003. 

Holes is the rare Newbery winner that becomes popular with students. I very clearly recall a student's reactions when it was assigned for summer reading by an LA teacher, "Finally! A winner I enjoyed reading!"

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Image: Simon & Schuster

Look Both Ways: a tale told in ten blocks by Jason Reynolds. 190 p. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum/ Simon & Schuster, October 8, 2019. 9781481438285.

Publisher synopsis: This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

My students and I are huge fans of Jason Reynolds! We cannot wait for this!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Image: Scholastic
Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~13 hours. Read by Jayne Entwistle. Scholastic Audio, May, 2019. 9781338357677. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday TMS Readers! Don't let the rain get you down! Go out and sing in it, then dry off and curl up with a good book! Teen Tuesday features Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly. Author Donnelly begins at the end of the Cinderella tale and weaves a wholly original tale of identity and redemption. 

If the Disney version of Cinderella is the only one you are familiar with, then you're in for a bit of a shock. You see, Cinderella's stepmother had one stepdaughter cut off her heel in order to fit into the glass slipper that was left behind at the ball. When that didn't work, thanks to some tattletale birds living in the linden tree, she had the other stepsister, Isabelle, cut off her toes in order to fit the slipper. 

Isabelle doesn't want to. All her life, she has been told she doesn't fit in - she's too bold, she's too headstrong, her interests in horseback riding and fencing aren't feminine and she certainly has no interest in marrying the prince! Her heart belongs to someone else; someone who left her brokenhearted. 

We know that the stepsisters' ruse did not fool the prince and the archduke. What we don't know is what happened to the stepsisters after Cinderella's "happily ever after." Donnelly's fierce, feminist, wholly engrossing and original fairy tale is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, a must-read if you are a fan of fairy tale retellings, magic and fantasy and intricately plotted adventure. Isn't that cover gloriously gory?

Jayne Entwistle turns in an absolutely fabulous performance. Her vocal changes are subtle and consistent. The pace is careful, almost leisurely giving the listener time to savor the delicious writing and wry commentary. This is one I may reread with my eyes and underline (yes, underline) all the examples of terrific writing and plotting.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Nevermoor: the trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Image: Hachette 
Nevermoor: the trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~11 hours. Read by Gemma Whelan, Hachette Book Group, October, 2017. 9781478923435. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features Nevermoor: the trials of Morrigan Crow. If you love fantasy, you must try this book! It has been on my tbr forever and I'm so glad I finally got to it.

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Anything and everything that goes wrong in her town is blamed on her and her father has to pay. She's supposed to die on the eve of her eleventh birthday. Instead, she is whisked away by Jupiter North, who smuggles her into Nevermoor, where he intends to sponsor her for a spot in the Wundrous Society. 

The worldbuilding is unique as are the characters. There's suspense, humor, action and surprises. Something for everyone. The Trials of Morrigan Crow is book one of the Nevermoor series, published in 2017 and was Australian author, Townsend's debut.

The narration was brisk and engaging. Gemma Whelan had distinct voices and perfect pacing. Totally beguiled, I moved directly onto the second book and that will be highlighted next Monday. 

Saturday, July 20, 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:
Image: Little, Brown
Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler. 296 p. Little, Brown and Company, October 8, 2019. 9780316524742.

Publisher synopsis: Back in his old basketball league, Carlos Cooper owned the court, sprinting and jumping and lighting up the scoreboard as opponents (and teammates) watched in awe. Now thirteen-year-old “Cooper the Hooper” is out of his league, new to life in a wheelchair, and struggling to pull his weight with his wheelchair basketball team, the Rollin’ Rats.

Just when Carlos starts to get the hang of the game, the city shuts down the Rollin’ Rats’ gym. Without the gym, the team can’t practice, and if they can’t practice, they might as well kiss their state tournament dreams goodbye. Carlos will need to fully embrace his new friends, and his new role in the sport he loves, in order to truly become part of the team–and help save their season.

Image: Simon and Schuster
Look Both Ways: a tale told in ten blocks by Jason Reynolds. 190 p. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum, October 8, 2019. 9781481438285.

Publisher synopsis: This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

Purchased: Nothing! I never did post an ALAAC19 haul. I have so-o many books to read and review!

If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or Wordpress or FB or anything that makes commenting difficult and gives my data to miners. But, I will definitely check your stack!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Fact Friday: A Ray of Light by Walter Wick

Image: Scholastic Inc.
A Ray of Light: a book of science and wonder by Walter Wick. 40 p. Scholastic Press, Scholastic Inc., February, 2019. 97804391655877. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Friday TMS Readers! If you're a fan of Walter Wick's "I Spy" series, as I am, you will be intrigued by our Fact Friday feature. Wick took his formidable photography skills to illustrate scientific concepts. He did it a few years ago with the book, A Drop of Water. His newest project is called, A Ray of Light: a book of science and wonder. Everything you want to know about incandescence, iridescence, the color spectrum, magnification, refraction and more is explained briefly and illustrated with remarkably beautiful photographs. Back matter provides more in-depth explanations of the concepts. 

This is a book that requires more than one close reading. Some of the concepts are quite hard to wrap one's mind around! Give your science teachers a heads up about this one. A Ray of Light is a first-purchase for any STEM collection. 

Friday Memes: The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble

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

Image: Penguin Random House
The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble. 214 p. Delacorte Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, June, 2019. 9780525578505.

Publisher synopsis: A deeply felt sibling story set in a town where people have a mysterious magical power and one girl is determined to discover what it is, for readers of Lauren Myracle and Ingrid Law. 

Willow knows the unknown is scary. Especially when your little brother has been sick for a long time and nobody has been able to figure out why. All Willow wants is for her brother to get better and for her her life to go back to normal. 

But after a bad stroke of luck, Willow and her family find themselves stranded in an unusual town in the middle of nowhere and their life begins to change in the most unexpected way. Willow soon discovers that the town isn’t just unusual—it’s magical—and the truth is more exciting that she ever imagined.

Will Willow find that this could be the secret to saving her family—or discover that the root of magic could lead them to something greater?

First Line: "Are we going to die?" Wisp asks from the depths of his blankets in the backseat.

Page 56: "Someone always finds you," Topher says with confidence. "Layla and James found you, didn't they?

Willow isn't sure how to respond to this. While it's true that they were found, it is also possible that they wouldn't have been. And then what would have happened? Willow shivers. She doesn't want to ever think again about the car tilting on the bridge that night and the rushing waters below them.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Picture Book Review: Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell

Image: Scholastic
Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell. Illustrated by Ana Ramírez González. unpgd. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc. March, 2019. 9781338214888. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Elba, a sweet but sad looking fuchsia hippo, drags a big, heavy block by a string everywhere she goes. Norris, a jovial, green alligator exudes joy and is surrounded by butterflies everywhere he goes. Norris doesn't judge Elba when she turns down his invitation to picnic with him. Instead, he joins her on her block and gently asks about it. He senses something sad inside the block, but Elba doesn't feel a thing. 

Oh, how I want to be a friend like Norris! He seems to know when to press and has the patience to wait things out. I know there are children like Elba who quietly carry their sadness and can get lost during the school day. They need the time and attention and sometimes we adults have it to give but often, not.

The cheerful watercolor and digital art offers a gentle counterweight to Elba's sadness. 

This is a beautiful exploration of grief and sadness and should be shared with readers of all ages.  

#tbt and Audiobook Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Image: Little, Brown Young Readers
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Illustrated by Carson Ellis. Unabridged E-Audiobook, ~ 13 hours. Narrated by Del Roy. Listening Library, February, 2007. 9780739354971. (Review of digital copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy #tbt TMS Readers! This past June, I featured a new "Mysterious Benedict Society" book that is due to publish in late September. The series circulates well at TMS and guess what? I have never read it! I remedied that situation in early July and the first book, The Mysterious Benedict Society,  was my 20th book of summer vacation reading. It was written by Trenton Lee Stewart and was published in 2007. It is illustrated by Carson Ellis and is the story of four gifted children who are orphaned or have run away from neglectful parents. 

Their mentor is Mr. Benedict and the four are called "the mysterious Benedict society." They are tasked with infiltrating a school called L.I.V.E., the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. It seems a nefarious plot to take over the world originated at the school, which is on an island. Reynie, Stickie, Kate and Constance need to go undercover as students to investigate. 

The twists and turns of this fast-paced plot will keep you on your toes. If you like action and mystery and puzzles and puns, this is the book for you! 

If I continue the series, I will probably switch to reading with my eyes. I wasn't a fan of the narration. The narrator's raspy, breathy delivery grated. While, I usually don't mind a narrator's choice not to use different voices for the characters, I found myself wondering who was talking from time to time. The books are long. Hence the audiobooks are LONG! There is no rushing an audiobook. You are stuck with the narrator for the duration. 

There's a rather well-done website for the series, but it needs updating. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle for the Ages is not on it as of today. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Image: Macmillan

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi. Children of Örisha series #2. 609 p. Holt Books for Young Readers/ Macmillan, December 3, 2019. 9781250170996.

Publisher synopsis: After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari's right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy's wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

I saw the Essence cover reveal in the spring but my W-o-W schedule was full until now. It's a great article with a gorgeous author photo and that cover! Just breathtaking! 

Somehow, I lucked into receiving an arc of Children of Blood and Bone. As you can tell from my review, I am a fan. So, I can't wait for this to release. Due to the amazing and well-deserved critical reception of her debut, I doubt that I will luck into receiving an arc of Children of Virtue and Vengeance, but there's always hope. I placed a hold on the audio of Children of Blood and Bone. It's narrated by the incomparable Bahni Turpin. By the time my hold comes through, I anticipate that I will be refreshed on all things Örisha and ready for Children of Virtue and Vengeance!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Image: Simon & Schuster
There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~12 hours. Read by Soneela Nankani and Vikas Adam. Simon & Schuster Audio, May, 2019. 9781508294900. (Review of finished e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. This is Menon's third book and something of a companion to her debut, When Dimple Met Rishi. This dual narrative is Rishi's brother, Ashish's story along with Sweetie Nair. Sweetie is the only child and dutiful daughter. She's also a track star who happens to be fat, something her well-meaning mother always reminds her of. Ashish lost his basketball mojo in the aftermath of being dumped by the beautiful and white, Celia. When Ashish's parents suggest making a match, he thinks, "Why not?" After all, they matched Dimple and Rishi and that relationship seems to be working out. What neither Ashish nor his parents expect is rejection. Sweetie's mother outright refuses Mrs. Patel, leading Sweetie to launch the "Sassy Sweetie Project." Though breezy, this novel has depth, exploring issues of fat-shaming and culture through two smart, sensitive and winning characters. There's Something about Sweetie can stand alone.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Image: Random House
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty. 304 p. Random House Children's Books, May,2018. 9781524767570.

Rising sixth grader, Esther K. recommended today's feature! Esther sent me a message to say that she loved The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl and I think it's a great choice for Middle Grade Monday! I haven't highlighted it here in The Daily Book Talk because I reviewed it for School Library Journal. You can read that review here

Ever since Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning, she has been a math genius. So much so, that between that and her OCD, she has been homeschooled by her grandmother. She's ready for college math now but her grandmother wants her to try middle school for one year, make one new friend and read one book that isn't math related. Read this is you love books about friendship, middle school or math. Read it even if you hate math. Lucy and her grandmother are wonderful characters!

Thanks Esther!

ETA: I was thrilled to pick up an arc of The World Ends in April at ALAAC!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fact Friday: Titanosaur: discovering the world's largest dinosaur by Dr. José Luis Carballido & Dr. Diego Pol

Image: Scholastic Inc.
Titanosaur: discovering the world's largest dinosaur by Dr. José Luis Carballido & Dr. Diego Pol. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc. February, 2019. 9781338207392. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Slightly oversized picture book treatment of the discovery and excavation of the world's largest dinosaur bones in Argentina. Beautiful paintings illustrated the text, which was written by the paleontologists who worked on the dig. Sidebars add extra scientific information along with photos of the scientists and the dig. This is sure to please any budding paleontologist. 

My only quibble is the fact the authors chose not to name the gaucho who discovered the femur and who made the trek to the museum with the information. I am always telling my students to give credit for sources. Surely he deserved a lot more credit than, "a gaucho." 

I also wondered about the destruction of the the land on the ranch in the name of science. Sure, the team dug the bones out carefully, but was the land restored when work was complete? Why did they need to build a road? What sort of road was built? How did it affect the ranch? Was the owner compensated? I think students today should be made aware of these issues and encouraged to question the effects and ethics of scientific exploration. 

Perhaps this could've been addressed in the back matter. But aside from a short author's note and additional pictures, there was no other back matter - no suggestions for further reading or glossary. The end-pages were cute and the flip side of the cover revealed a poster of the titanosaur.

ETA: My google search revealed a number of articles from such reliable sources as the New York Times and the BBC. Neither source mentions the rancher's name! Interestingly, Wikipedia does identify him as Guillermo Herridea. 

A good book will prompt questions, so it's not a bad thing, just an observation. Truthfully, I'm a bit more disappointed in the spare back matter; but then, I've been on a bit of a back matter crusade lately. That said, Titanosaur belongs in any library catering to young and old dino fans!

Friday Memes: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

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

Image: G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. 306 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers / Penguin Young Readers Group, June, 2019. 9780525514022.

Publisher synopsis: This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

First Lines: We believe in luck. The good kind and the cruel. The kind that graces and cripples. The kind that doesn't care what you deserve.

Page 56: ..."While you sister did very well today and is generally healthy, she's a bit anemic."

     "What's that mean?" Gabi asks, her mouth full of ice cream.

     "It means that Marisol wasn't eating as well as she should have been."

     "That's because she gave me most of the food," Gabi says.
      I push my empty bowl away. "No, I didn't. I just wasn't hungry."

    Gabi uses her spoon to make her points...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

#tbt: Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret

Image: Simon & Schuster
 Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret. 151 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster, September, 2004. 

#tbt is a recommendation from rising sixth grader Leane, who messaged me with her suggestion to feature Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret. This book, as well as many of the author's books, are favorites among fifth and sixth graders at TMS. Want to know a secret? I have yet to read any of Kehret's books! Yikes! Should I turn in my librarian badge?

Kyle is looking forward to his family vacation on the Oregon coast until he learns his tormenter from school is staying at the same hotel. What a way to ruin a vacation! Little does Kyle know that he will soon be on the run for his life with his sister and Daren when a tsunami hits. 

Thanks for the suggestion Leane! Maybe Escaping the Giant Wave will be my first Peg Kehret book! If any student would like to recommend a title for The Daily Booktalk, send me a message through Schoology. The themes are: Middle Grade Monday, books of interest to students in grades five and sixth; Teen Tuesday, books of interest to students in grades seven and up; Waiting on Wednesday, titles for any age you are looking forward to releasing in the next year; #tbt, titles for any age that were published ten years ago or more; and Fact Friday, informational titles for any age. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Picture Book Review: The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Sarah Jacoby. 42 p. Balzar + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, May, 2019. 9780062393449. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

This post is as much rumination as review. I did read Goodnight Moon to my sons. I loved the bunny's bedtime ritual of saying goodnight to everything. Our ritual was reading each night after dad sang taps. Two of my boys shared a room and each got to choose two books (and later, two chapters) for me to read each night. Dad took turns when he could. He was more a storyteller though, and regaled them with The Castle Boys, an original serial starring them, which invariably wound them up instead of winding them down. 

Runaway Bunny was less appealing to me and thankfully, to them as well. (Egad, that mother!) But our love of Goodnight Moon had us poking around Brown's other books and mostly enjoying them. We were surprised to learn that she had written over a hundred books and especially surprised after learning that she died so young at age 42.

Which is the exact number of pages in this picture book "biography." In some respects, The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown is less a biography and more a conversation about a remarkable person and what is important. Barnett mirrors MWB's storytelling, which deeply respected a child's intellect, wonder and capacity to think deeply. 

Picture books are typically 32 pages long. Occasionally, they are 40 pages and sometimes, a longer form picture book will weigh in at 48 pages. I don't know why. I'm too lazy to research the reasoning. Perhaps it's some kind of printer math or publisher rule. But, like MWB, Mac Barnett is a rule breaker. Of course, there's a good, writerly, symbolic reason for insisting that this story contain 42 pages, but he breaks the rules in other ways. Such as telling the (presumably) young reader that MWB skinned one of her rabbits after it had died and wore its pelt. Yikes. She liked to swim naked in cold water (sure to send kids into peals of laughter), bought a whole cartful of flowers with the money she made from her first book and how her books were not like other books for children at the time. 

And just as MWB would suddenly shift gears in one of her stories, Mac Barnett switches from biographical tidbits about MWB to NY Public Library Librarian, Anne Carroll Moore. She was a gatekeeper whose stamp of approval was sought if a children's story were to succeed. Apparently, Anne Carroll Moore did not approve of MWB. He digresses for a few pages illustrating just how eccentric Anne Carroll Moore was (despite the many ways she advanced library services to children) before getting back to MWB and the hilarious stunt she and her editor Ursula Nordstrom pulled when they weren't invited to a snooty party at the NYPL.

The illustrations are evocative of Garth Williams, who illustrated more than a few of MWB's picture books. Whimsical and watery, the retro feel of the pictures are perfect here. 

The story ends as abruptly as Brown's life with the explanation that lives can end suddenly and can be many things from happy to sad but that MWB wrote important books. 

Typically, biographies contain back matter. Little things like author's notes, which might add detail that didn't quite fit into the story; or source notes; or suggestions for further reading. This lovely, provocative story of the life of Margaret Wise Brown contains no back matter whatsoever. Interesting choice. This is definitely going into my picture book biography unit. I can't wait to see what my students make of The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown.

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebel by Marie Lu

Image: Macmillan
Rebel by Marie Lu. 320 p. Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan, October 1, 2019. 9781250221711.

Publisher synopsis: Respect the Legend. Idolize the Prodigy. Celebrate the Champion. But never underestimate the Rebel. 
With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale.

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe—even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

It has been quite a while since I sobbed my way through the final installment of the Legend Trilogy. I am very eager to revisit the world. And, I love the cover!