Monday, February 18, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate

The Last by Katherine Applegate. Endling Book One. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~7 hours. Read by Lisa Flanagan. HarperAudio, May, 2018. 9780062841452. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Own the hardcover.)

Little Byx, the youngest and smallest of dairnes, disobeys her parents to wander away from their home. She gets caught up in the rescue of a wobbyk, and nearly loses her life. When she finally returns home, it is to discover that her entire clan has been slaughtered. She is the last, the endling, but there is a legend of a pack that are hidden away and with the help of the wobbyk, Tobble and a human, she sets off on a quest to find them.

I must admit upfront that, eager as I was when I learned that Applegate had a new book dropping, my eagerness waned when I saw the cover and read the synopsis. Oh! Me of little faith! This story is absolutely gorgeous! The world building is vivid, help along by the occasional illustrations (in the book) to mark the parts. The characters were engaging, some endearing, some scary. The story was also surprisingly and sometimes scarily violent. But there were also moments of poignancy and subtle social connections to our present climate. 

New-to-me narrator, Lisa Flanagan delivered a fine range of voices but it was the emotional performance that stood out. I felt totally immersed. 

Endling is highly recommended and I cannot wait for the next installment, The First, due out May 7. 

Saturday, February 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:

We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey. 249 p. Crown Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, March 5, 2019. 9781524773042.

Publisher synopsis: Imagine being forced to move to a new planet where YOU are the alien! From the creator of the Tapper Twins, New York Times bestselling author Geoff Rodkey delivers a topical, sci-fi middle-grade novel that proves friendship and laughter can transcend even a galaxy of differences.

The first time I heard about Planet Choom, we'd been on Mars for almost a year. But life on the Mars station was grim, and since Earth was no longer an option (we may have blown it up), it was time to find a new home.

That's how we ended up on Choom with the Zhuri. They're very smart. They also look like giant mosquitos. But that's not why it's so hard to live here. There's a lot that the Zhuri don't like: singing (just ask my sister, Ila), comedy (one joke got me sent to the principal's office), or any kind of emotion. The biggest problem, though? The Zhuri don't like us. And if humankind is going to survive, it's up to my family to change their minds. No pressure.

I won this thanks to a giveaway by the author. I was so happy to even see the tweet and put the book on my order because I am a huge fan of his Tapper Twins books. I was lucky to review the first two for SLJ and have three in my library. Imagine my surprise when I looked up We're Not from Here to order and learned of a fourth Tapper Twins book! Who knew?

Purchased: Still have gift cards but still have a mountain of books on the tbr pile! Enough!

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, February 15, 2019

Fact Friday and Audiobook Review: Proud (Young Reader's Edition): living my American dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Proud: living my American dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori L. Tharps. Unabridged audiobook on 8 compact discs. ~9.2 hours.  Read by the author. Hachette Audio, 2018. 9781549172908. (Review of audiobook borrowed from the public library. Own Young Reader's Edition.)

Fact Friday features Proud: living my American dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad is the first hijabi to win Olympic bronze and one of few people of color in the predominantly white sport of fencing. Her memoir covers her life growing up in Maplewood, NJ, a suburb of Newark through the 2016 Olympics, where she and her teammates captured the bronze medal in the saber event. 

As the only Muslim in her class, she often encountered racism and micro-aggressions. But when she began wearing hijab, comments and taunts escalated and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she often faced blatant hatred. She found strength in her religion, her close-knit family and sport. However, competing in sport was often a challenge due to the necessity to be covered modestly. When Muhammad was in eighth grade, her mother noticed the fencing team practicing at their local high school. The team members were covered from head to toe in protective clothing. Ibtihaj would not stand out. But, she eventually would stand out as a fencer.

Participating in a predominantly white sport as the first muslim athlete brought many challenges, adding to the stress and loneliness of high caliber training and competition. Honestly, I don't know how she did it. The racism and animosity were relentless and infuriating. This is an inspirational and important story. Hand to fans of sports memoirs and fencing fans.

I accidentally ordered the wrong edition of the audiobook from the public library. The adult version is narrated by the author, whose performance, though earnest lacked variety of expression and nuance. The Young Reader's Audiobook is read by someone else, I assume a professional reader and will check that out when my hold comes up. I recommend reading this with one's eyes. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

#tbt: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. The Bartimaeus Trilogy #1. Miramax Books/ Hyperion Books for Children, 2003. 9780786818594. (Own.)

#tbt features The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. This is book one of The Bartimaeus Trilogy in which the chapters alternate between the first-person, foot-noted narrative of Bartimaeus, an ancient Djinni and Nathaniel, the twelve-year-old apprentice who released him, and whose story is told in the third-person. Nathaniel is a prickly, arrogant and unlikeable apprentice magician whose mentor, Arthur Underwood is uninterested at best and negligent at worst. Since Underwood won't teach him properly, Nathaniel sets out to teach himself. He releases Bartimaeus and enslaves him to do his bidding. Barti is magically bound to do so, but seeks to kill Nathaniel at the first opportunity. This alternate universe fantasy is thrilling, suspenseful and often hilarious. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm

Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm. 224 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, October 1, 2019. 9781338233155.

Publisher synopsis: Too cool for school...or the least groovy girl in the grade?

Sunny's made it to middle school... and it's making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny's not against any of these things, but she also doesn't understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She's much more comfortable when she's in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends. Because when you're sword fighting and spider-slaying, it's hard to worry about whether you look cool or nor. Especially when it's your turn to roll the 20-sided die.

Trying hard to be cool can make you feel really uncool...and it's much more fun to just have fun. Sunny's going to find her groove and her own kind of groovy, with plenty of laughs along the way.
This series is wildly popular at my school. I can't wait for this!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jacket/ Cover Dilemmas

I've been working in school libraries for twenty-one years this month. Over the years, I've covered a lot of books. First, I was the aide and that was part of my job. Then, when I was hired as the full-time librarian, my position was eliminated! So, no aide for me and I refused to spend the money to buy my books pre-cataloged. Actually, I did that one year and realized that I had no idea what I put on the shelf. There's value in cataloging and handling every single book even if processing takes a really long time because you stop to peruse more than a few books!

Every so often I would notice a cover decoration different than the jacket illustration, but I'd tape that baby down as tight as possible. Students can be very hard on library books! I definitely noticed when I covered Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow. I opted not to tape the front part down. I thought I took a photo of it, but can't find it.

I don't know why, but it seems like I've noticed quite a few recently. 

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown.

Hey Kiddo! by Jarrett Krosozcka.

Strongheart by Candace Fleming.

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling.

It's kind of funny that I never take the jackets off books in my personal library, so these are only discovered thanks to my being a librarian. But then, I need to tape down the covers to prolong the life of the book. Such a dilemma! I plan on paying more attention and posting as the dilemmas arise, like my occasional "Cover Coincidence" posts. Stay tuned. 

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook. ~9 hours. Read by Eileen Stevens. (Review from e-book borrowed from public library.)

Willowdean Dickson is confident and brazenly unapologetic about her size despite being the daughter of a teen beauty pageant-winning mother who takes pride in still fitting her gown from the pageant. Will's confidence is due in large part due to her relationship with her Aunt Lucy, her mother's morbidly obese sister, who died six months earlier of a massive heart attack. Will is still grieving. Her mom has refused to talk about Lucy and she's about to start cleaning out Lucy's room in order to turn it into a crafts room. Lucy basically raised Willowdean to allow Will's single-parent mom to work as an aide in a nursing home and run the pageant yearly. She loved Willowdean unconditionally. 

When her secret crush on "private school boy" seems reciprocated, Will swoons into her first kiss until he embraces her and runs his hand over her back-fat, causing her to lose confidence and fear the reactions of her classmates should word get out. 

She pities several classmates who are bullied mercilessly, namely another fat girl named Millie and Hannah, who is made fun of because of her crooked teeth. Also unsettling her is her friendship with Ellen. They've been bfs forever, ever since bonding over a shared love of Dolly Parton. But Ellen, has a boyfriend and is considering losing her virginity, which leaves Will feeling even more left behind. Also, Ellen's skinny co-workers openly wonder why she's friends with Willowdean. All this tests their friendship. Ellen supports her decision to enter the beauty pageant, but it is Willowdean's suggestion that Ellen not compete in the pageant that fractures the friendship.

Oh my! How I adore this book! It took me forever to get to because most of the reviews' recommended age is grade 9 and up and I've a hard enough time keeping up with middle grade and younger YA! As soon as it was adapted for movie, I knew I had to read it and put myself on the lo-ong waiting list for the audio. As soon as any YA book is made into a movie, I have fifth graders coming in to check the books out and I have to invite them to go across the street to public library. 

The movie cut out most of the frank stuff that caused reviewers to recommend the reading to high school readers. And that is a shame because it's smart and incisive stuff, like deciding to lose one's virginity. I was also sad to see that the Mitchell storyline was cut from the movie. I loved Mitchell and my heart just broke for his earnest self.

But  this is supposed to be an audiobook review. Eileen Stevens is a new-to-me narrator and I need to look up what else she's done because her voice was like honey. She differentiated the female characters well. Added bonus: she sounded like a teen. 

Dumplin' is the best body-positive book I've read in a long time! It's one all teens should read-with the eyes or with the ears. Just read it! I loved it and can't wait to read its companion, Puddin'.