Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Taking Stock - April, 2013

2013 is 1/3 over! How did that happen? 7 weeks of school left and 8 weeks till ALA Annual, which, I still haven't registered for. <Sigh>

Total Posts: 23 (+ 2 drafts)
Total Books Read this Month: 35
Total Books Read this Year: 145

Audio Books: 8/ 25 ytd
Debut Author: 0/ 4 ytd
Mount TBR Challenge: 0/ 9 ytd

Picture Books: 3/ 31 ytd

The Good: According to Goodreads, I continue to be right on track for my 2013 Reading Challenge. I tried to celebrate National Poetry Month by focusing on poetry books. Did well in the early part of the month then petered out.

The Bad: I read 35 but reviewed only 13 (which is five more than I reviewed in March). I made no progress with my Debut Challenge or Mount TBR Challenge and meh with the Picture Books Challenge.

The list:

111. Clementine and the Spring Trip by Sara Pennypacker (4/2)
112. A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (4/2)
113. Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine (4/3)
114. Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: the life of Marc Chagall in verse by J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen (4/4)
115. The Girl Guide: finding your place in a mixed-up world by Christine Fonseca (4/5) (SLJ)
116. The Marble Queen by Stephanie J. Blake (4/5)
117. Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee (4/5)
118. National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis (4/6)
119. A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix (4/8)*
120. Rotten by Michael Northrop (4/9)
121. The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin (4/10)
122. All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers (4/10)
123. Reel Culture: 50 classic movies you should know about (so you can impress your friends) by Mimi O'Connor (4/11)
124. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (4/12)
125. The New Normal by Ashley Little (4/13)
126. What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt (4/14)
127. Wild Boy by Mary Losure (4/14)
128. Paul Thurlby's Wildlife (4/14)
129. Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares (4/15)
130. Jackie Robinson: American Hero by Sharon Robinson (4/15)
131. Mommy's Little Monster by Dawn McNiff (4/15)
132. Puffins by Ruth Owen (4/18)
133. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (4/20)*
134. Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie (audio reread) (4/21)*
135. Sports Illustrated Kids Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything Baseball (4/22)
136. Snowy Owl by Ruth Owen (4/22)
137. It's Not You, It's Me by Kerry Cohen Hoffman (4/23)
138. Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems by Kristine O'Connell George (4/24)
139. A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland (4/24) (SLJ)
140. The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (4/25)
141. Get the Scoop on Animal Poop by Dawn Cusick (4/25)
142. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant (4/25)
143. The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman(4/25)
144. Speechless by Hannah Harrington (4/26)
145. Falling Down the Page: a book of list poems compiled by Georgia Heard (4/29)        

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week's theme is top ten words/ topics that instantly make me buy/ pick up a book.

1. Books with "wimp appeal" aka, notebook format books. Even though I don't particularly like Greg as a character, I absolutely love what the Wimpy Kid books have done for reluctant readers. So I'm always on the lookout for more to beef up the collection.

2. Novel-length fairy tales. This one's for me, as no matter how much I booktalk my favorites, there's rarely interest on my student's part in reading them. I must admit that I've fallen a bit behind in keeping up with them though.

3. GLBTQ novels, especially those suitable for middle school readers like So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez and Absolutely, Positively Not...(Gay) by David LaRochelle. Also looking for novels in which a character is gay but it's no biggie, as in Drama or The Popularity Papers or the like. 

4. Dual/ multiple narrator. Gold standard: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Legend by Marie Lu, Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones.

5. Middle grade science fiction. There isn't much out there currently that is readable, honestly. This is why Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass got me so excited. Solidly middle grade, containing action and humor but also depth.

6. Middle grade fantasy. See #4. 

7. Middle grade fiction, period. It is so hard to write good middle grade fiction! I've been reading some clunkers lately. Hm-m, that's a bit harsh. Um, I haven't been excited about what I've read lately. 

8. Books in which the author nails the voice of a main character of the opposite sex. Think: Laurie Halse Anderson in Twisted or E.M. Kokie in Personal Effects or Erin Jade Lange in Butter. Hm-m, having trouble coming up with a male author, but I know I've read some. Will ETA if I come up with them.

9. Books in which the kid sounds like a kid and not some precocious, adult-sounding kid. Well now, perhaps this post is veering off from the topic. I mean, could you see a marketing dept. using that as a hook? But #8 got me thinking about voice, and I recently read, but did not yet review Navigating Early. As much I as thought this was a lovely and layered story, I kept thinking that Jack sounded wise way beyond his years and that took me out of the story a bit.


Leaving 10 blank for now as I'm running out of morning and must walk the dogs again, put the garbage out and get ready for work. It's day 2 of state testing, so I will chew on an entry for #10 while I walk around the room proctoring and add it after school.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Get the Scoop on Animal Poop! by Dawn Cusick

From Lions to Tapeworms: 251 Cool Facts about Scat, Frass, Dung, and More! 80 p. Charlesbridge Publishing Inc., February, 2012. 9781936140428. (Purchased.)

Well. The title just about says it all, doesn't it? If that isn't hook enough, the cover photograph just reels the reader in. But lest you think this an 80 page excuse just to yuck it up over bodily functions, there's real science embedded in this invitation to a marathon of potty humor. 

It's slightly over-sized and crammed full of full-color photos of animals pooping, animals rolling in poop, animals eating poop, animals that look like poop and so much more. It's a browser's dream, although I often found myself wanting more information. 

Pages are colorful, the font is large and it's a surprisingly attractive book considering the subject matter. I made the mistake of reading it while eating thinking it was just a humorous romp through poo. Well, my stomach did some flip-flops and I had to stop reading and eating.

There's a glossary of terms at the end that is helpful, but strangely, not alphabetized.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, in which we share the titles of upcoming books we are eagerly awaiting.

The Shade of the Moon (Life as We Knew It series, #4) by Susan Beth Pfeffer. 304 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 14, 2013. 9780547813370.

Publisher synopsis: It's been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Sports Illustrated Kids Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball

by Sports Illustrated Kids. 96 p. Time Home Entertainment Inc., September, 2012.  9781618930064. (Purchased)

As I sat at my computer attempting to describe this book, the word trifecta popped into my head because it embodies three kid-appealing attributes: it's colorful; it's about baseball; it has lists/ trivia. Then I thought, wrong sport. Then I contemplated possible baseball analogies but it's too early in the morning and I'm not that big a fan. Then I realized that I don't really know what a trifecta is because it occurred to me that I might be mixing it up with triple crown, which is where a horse wins the three big races in one year. So I did what any self-respecting librarian does. I looked it up. It still fits. Sorta.

SI Full Count is big, not huge. It's big enough to stand out in a crowd and small enough to fit easily on a shelf, thank you SI. It's colorful. The cover, sporting a huge, bright white baseball, with raised, bright red seams, screams, "Pick me up and touch me!" The back cover promises: the top 10 oddest deliveries, the top 10 rivalries, the top 10 mascots, the top 10 sluggers, the top 10 ugly uniforms, top 10 families and much more! The end-papers are appropriately, the distinctive plaid mown outfield even though the color is wrong. The an unidentified catcher glares out behind his mitt on the cover page which, on second thought, is kind of creepy. I mean, who wants to be intimidated when opening a book? The following page, featuring the adorable Lou Seal, mascot of the San Francisco Giants is definitely more welcoming (and captioned). The double-page table of contents brackets a shot Derek Jeter's photogenic grimace and pigeon-toed stance as he rockets a ball presumably to first base. 

Thirty-six lists fill ninety-six pages and are featured in a variety of fonts, appropriately beginning with "Leadoff Hitters," and ending with "Closers." Sandwiched in-between are titles like, "Hit Robbers," and "Most Intimidating," and "Facial Hair," and "Caps." The book lends itself to browsing. It is also appealing to casual fans, such as myself, who knows the basics and a bit of history. Die-hard fans and baseball history buffs will enjoy it as well, if only to argue about who made the lists and who was omitted. 

While attributes of some of the lists are easily calculated, many seem up for debate. Top ten caps? Facial hair? Still, the pages are filled with photos and trivia and sure won't sit on the shelf very long.

I first learned about the book at the PTO book fair. It's held in my library and I get to spend two and a half days helping my students browse and choose books. I also get to spend two and a half days trying not to buy nearly every title at the fair. Three copies of Full Count sat on the table calling to me. I said to myself, "Leave it. If one is available on the last day of the sale, then buy one." All three sold on day one. Phew. I spend enough of my own money on books for my library. So I put the title in my book order.

We already own another of SI's big-format sports book - SI Kids All Access. This doesn't sit much.

In searching for a cover image, I just discovered other interesting titles, like this one:

Non-fiction Monday is hosted today by A Mom's Spare Time. Pop over there to see what informational books other bloggers are highlighting.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Unabridged audiobook on 1 MP3-CD. Read by Nick Podehl. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, September, 2013. 9781469206677. (Purchased)

Seventeen-year-old Matt is still reeling six months after the death of his much older brother, TJ, in Iraq. He's barely holding it together at school, even knowing that if he blows it, his abusive father will force him to enlist. He's a walking time bomb of bottled rage, which he unleashes on an obnoxious classmate, whose in-your-face anti-war sentiments rub Matt the wrong way. 

While Matt is cooling his heels at home during an out-of-school suspension after sending said classmate to the hospital when he crosses the line of decency by wearing a provocative tee shirt bearing TJ's name, Matt ponders the months since the casualty assistance officers knocked on the front door to inform his dad and him of TJ's death, the closed-casket funeral where Matt was terrified of crying in front of his father, the unopened condolence cards, the missing dog tags. It seems that Matt's dad is determined to erase TJ's existence in the same way he erased Matt's mother after she left the family and ultimately died. So when three trunks of TJ's "personal effects" are delivered, Matt knows he must act fast if he is to be able to hold on to anything that was TJ.

When he does summon the courage, in addition to the familiar items, sweatshirts, iPods and hiking books, he discovers bags filled with letters that reveal TJ's life away from Matt, which leads Matt to question whether he knew his brother at all. When Matt finds an unsent letter, TJ's last to this mystery girl, who may or may not have had TJ's kid, he decides to ditch finals despite the fact that his father will surely kill him and travel to Madison, Wisconsin to deliver the letter and learn more about TJ.

This is actually an audio reread for me. I read the arc way back last April and was totally blown away by this sad, sad story. My heart broke for Matt and TJ over and over and over. Even though it was one of my favorites of 2012, I never did blog about it. Terrible omission, though I did give it 5 stars on Goodreads. 

I can't remember where, but I happened upon a review, which I believe was starred, where I learned that one of my favorite narrators, Nick Podehl, performed the story. A quick check of my library cooperative revealed that no libraries owned it, so I purchased it.

I fell in love with the recording within minutes. Matt's voice is heartbreaking from moment one and Podehl absolutely nailed it. I could feel it. He didn't just narrate; he inhabited Matt. 

The present-tense, first-person narration makes for an emotional, often suspenseful read with one's eyes. Matt is an earnest, endearing, wounded, and bewildered young man. He's a memorable character and I just wanted to hug him and call DYFS on his awful, hateful father. In Podehl's capable hands, Matt felt as though he was sitting in the car with me. (I listened in the car.) That's how real it felt. Even though I already knew what Matt would discover in Madison, Matt's shock and rage still surprised. 

That this was a debut novel is most impressive. I can't recall any "ah, no" moments, even upon rereading. I don't understand why it didn't get any Morris committee love. I've read only two titles from the list, Seraphina and one other. Seraphina, the winner, was spectacular. The other, not so much. I will get to the other three eventually. I was happy that it made the BFYA list. I'm also eager to read Ms. Kokie's sophomore novel. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Pop on over there to share your new books and ogle what other bloggers got.

It was a quiet week here and thank goodness for that! I'm drowning in books!


The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3-CD, 6 hours, 51 minutes. Read by Joshua Swanson. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, April, 2013. 9781469285887.

Publisher synopsis: The first time Tucker saw the disk, his father disappeared into thin air. The Reverend Adrian Feye had climbed onto the roof to fix a loose shingle  —  and suddenly he was gone. An hour later, the Reverend came walking up the road, tattered and sunburned, bringing with him an unspeaking, yellow-haired, dark-eyed girl. He refused to say where he had been, instead declaring that there would be no more prayer in the Feye house: He had lost his faith.
Now Tucker’s family is unraveling. The Reverend spends hours brooding in his study. Tucker’s once warmhearted and loving mother withdraws from the world, claiming she doesn’t care to be watched by ghosts. And, above them, the unearthly disk comes and goes.
Then, one day, both of Tucker’s parents vanish.
From the distant past to an even more distant and terrifying future, Tucker desperately searches for his parents  —  and discovers the astonishing secrets of the Klaatu diskos.
I received an arc of the sequel to this, The Cydonian Pyramid, a few weeks back and realized that I never read book 1. When I saw it was being released in audio, narrated by someone whose work I usually enjoy, I picked it up to read with my ears.
That's what's new with me. What's new with you?
Happy Reading.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, in which we share the titles of books we are eagerly awaiting.

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine. 352 p. Scholastic, Inc. October 1, 2013. 9780545464406. 

Publisher synopsis: National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine delivers a powerful story of family, friendship, and race relations in the South.
Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He's a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown, Rocky Gap, Virginia.
Red's daddy, his idol, has just died, leaving Red and Mama with some hard decisions and a whole lot of doubt. Should they sell the Porter family business, a gas station, repair shop, and convenience store rolled into one, where the slogan -- "Porter's: We Fix it Right!" -- has been shouting the family's pride for as long as anyone can remember?
With Daddy gone, everything's different. Through his friendship with Thomas, Beau, and Miss Georgia, Red starts to see there's a lot more than car motors and rusty fenders that need fixing in his world.
When Red discovers the injustices that have been happening in Rocky Gap since before he was born, he's faced with unsettling questions about his family's legacy.
The majority of my social networking friends are children's literature-related, authors, publishers, and librarians. By doing this I learn things about my favorite authors, like signings and new releases that I otherwise might not. This is a good example. The author released the cover on her page and it's not even on the online booksellers' sites yet. 
And, it's a great cover. 
Mockingbird was brilliant and I absolutely adored The Absolute Value of Mike. I am so looking forward to reading this one.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares

40 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2013. 9780763656461. (Finished copy provided by publisher to review for InfoLinkNJ.)

Matt Tavares hits another one out of the park. This time, he sends us back in time to 1902, when George Herman Ruth, age 7 is about to be turned over to Saint Mary's School for Boys because he's "incorrigible." Told in the present tense, in spare short lines that look like verse, the reader learns a bit about the life of 800 boys who need structure and rules. George chafed against the rules and lived for the end of the day. The highlight of his day was being able to play baseball and to watch Brother Mathias slug baseballs over the treetops.

The paintings and spot art depict a variety of scenes, baseball and otherwise. The palette juxtaposes the grays and browns of life inside the institution with the greens and blues on the baseball field. The depiction of this larger than life man is age-appropriate, focusing on his drive, his skill and his gratitude and generosity. Although it must have been heartbreaking when Ruth's parents gave him up, who knows what might have happened had they not?

As a side note: this is the second picture book that I've read recently in which a priest serves as a mentor to a young boy. In Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop relates the story of learning forgiveness with the guidance of Father Trevor.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Pop on over there to share your new books and ogle what other bloggers got.

For review:

A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland. 372 p. EgmontUSA, July 9, 2013. 9781606840306.

Publisher synopsis:

Fans of The Mother Daughter Book Club (Heather Vogel Fredericks) and The Wedding Planner's Daughter (Coleen Paratore) series will fall in love with the humor, classic charm, and very determined heronine of Lindsay Eland's sophomore novel.
When you're the third of six kids, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Sunday Fowler is determined that this summer she'll find the one thing that makes her stand out from her siblings.
And when she discovers a silver box in the basement of the library her parents are renovating, she might just have found something to gain her the attention she so craves. Inside is a series of letters addressed to "The Librarian" and a manuscript. But who wrote them? With the help of annoying neighbor-turned-new-friend Jude, Sunday is determined to track down the author. And when she unveils this novel to the world, she'll be famous!

As a matter of fact, I did enjoy the one Mother Daughter Book Club that I read as well as the one Wedding Planner's Daughter book. I'm reading this to review for SLJ. 

I was lucky enough to snag an invite to the Little Brown Fall Preview and even luckier not to have to take a personal day to attend as I was off for spring break. There are lots of cool titles in the pipeline. I really wanted to blog about it by now, but I've been busy with chores. I snagged these two to take home with me. Cover art is not yet available online:

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi. 292 p. Little, Brown and Company, September, 2013. 978316220781.

Publisher synopsis: 

In this inventive, fast-paced novel, New York Times bestselling and Printz Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi takes on hard-hitting themes--from food safety to racism and immigration--and creates a zany, grand-slam adventure that will get kids thinking about where their food comes from.

The zombie apocalypse begins on the day Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are practicing baseball near their town's local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know the plant's toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters! The boys decide to launch a stealth investigation into the plant's dangerous practices, unknowingly discovering a greedy corporation's plot to look the other way as tainted meat is sold to thousands all over the country. With no grownups left they can trust, Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few of their enemies) if they want to stay alive...and maybe even save the world.

Love Bacigalupi's YA - Ship Breaker and Drowned Cities and am very eager to read his MG debut.

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. 279 p. Little, Brown and Company, December, 2013. 9780316217521.

This one isn't in any of the online bookstores yet. It's not even in Goodreads. The back cover lists a December pub date, the copyright page says 2014. That's good since I haven't yet gotten to Zarr's latest, The Lucy Variations. 

Here's the description from the back of the arc:

It's time to meet your new roomie. 

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, min-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer-and raises question about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives...and each other. Even though they've never met.

Sounds like fun. Oh. And the cover art of this one is not final.

That's what's new with me? What's new with you?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, in which we share the titles of books we are eagerly awaiting.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. 288 p. HarperCollins Publishers, May 21, 2013. 9780061938627.

Publisher synopsis: Things are changing in the Gaither household. After soaking up a "power to the people" mind-set over the summer, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern return to Brooklyn with a newfound streak of independence. Pa has a girlfriend. Uncle Darnell is home from Vietnam, but he's not the same. And a new singing group called the Jackson Five has the girls seeing stars.

But the one thing that doesn't change? Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep everything together. That's even harder now that her sisters refuse to be bossed around, and now that Pa's girlfriend voices her own opinions about things. Through letters, Delphine confides in her mother, who reminds her not to grow up too fast. To be eleven while she can.

An outstanding successor to the Newbery Honor Book One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven stands on its own as a moving, funny story of three sisters growing up amid the radical change of the 1960s, beautifully written by the inimitable Rita Williams-Garcia.

I am excited to read this as I adored One Crazy Summer and Delphine's voice.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is top ten favorites from before I started blogging.

I started blogging in December of 2008. Up until September of that year, I was webmaster at a K - 8 school and annotated everything that I read on my pages on that school's website. I never weighed in critically on my school pages because there is a reader for every book.

I had planned on continuing the practice of annotating my books on my new school's library pages, but decided to start a blog where I could be a bit more critical and to have something to keep if I ever left that school. You see, eight years worth of work disappeared in a key stroke when the new webmaster took over and, rightfully, made the site her own. 

When I read the theme, several books sprang immediately to mind and eventually, ten. I guess you might call it top ten all time faves since I can call them to mind without the help of tags in Goodreads or on my blog(s).

Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp. Random House Children's Books, 2006. 

I often recommend this, especially when folks on lists ask for "under-appreciated" or "below the radar" books. I also suggest it to students looking for a smart book with sports.

So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.

Really, any book written by Sanchez. I just adore him, but this is just the perfect book for middle school, where much of his other writing skews more toward high school.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2003.

I recently reread this one with my ears after watching the Indie movie on DVD. It remains one of my all-time faves.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2007.

Ender's Game (et al) by Orson Scott Card.

Ender's Game was originally published in 1985, but I found it through audio in 2005 and quickly read the rest of the quartet with my ears. The series was originally written for an adult audience and I find that most students do not care for the other three, which deal with Ender as an adult and other philosophical/ ethical questions. They do, however love the Shadow series, especially, Ender's Shadow.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. Scholastic Press, 2005.

Probably the best "cancer" book for teens & tweens ever. Sonnenblick gets so much right, including the medical stuff. 

Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. Disney Publishing Worldwide, 2006.

This is probably the best book about teenage depression that I have ever read. Haven't seen the movie though. Afraid to, actually.

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus Trilogy, #3). Hyperion Books for Children, 2007.

I really loved the entire trilogy, but found Ptolemy's Gate, which, in 2007, was the conclusion of a trilogy, so touching and satisfying that I cried. Haven't read the added fourth book yet, but want to. It's buried deep in TOM. 

Rash by Pete Hautman. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006.

I could've inserted Godless here, or Mr. Was. I found this alternately sly, funny and scary. 

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007.

I adore just about everything by Neal Shusterman. This one is riveting, as is Unwholly, the long-awaited second book in a planned trilogy. Also, if you ever get the chance to host him, he's amazing with the kids. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Clementine and the Spring Trip by Sara Pennypacker

150 p. Hyperion Books for Children, March, 2013. 9781423123576. (purchased)

It's spring in Boston. And that means that Clementine's friend, Margaret is going crazy with spring cleaning, including scrubbing Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings (the bronze sculptures in Boston Public Gardens). Her mom's belly is getting bigger with baby number 3 and she and her dad have a secret. They are building a five-sided table to accommodate their growing family. Her spring trip to Plimoth Plantation is looming as well. The big question in everyone's mind is whether the class will be stuck on bus #7. That, and what kind of lunch to bring on the trip due to the eating rules imposed by the fourth graders. Oh, and what to do about Olive, the new girl.

Ah, Clementine, Clementine, one of my favorite literary characters is back! Woo-hoo! Need I tell you that I absolutely adore Clementine? I first met Clementine way back in 2006, I was in a K - 8 school and read the first chapter to all my classes. For the younger ones because she was just perfect and for the older ones for the same reason and to hammer home the concept of voice. I have to say the older students were as interested in reading the rest of the book as the younger.

I was very happy to see that Clementine books were part of the collection when I made the move to a 5 - 8th grade middle school in 2008. I read the last two Clementine books with my ears and while Jessica Almasy did a great job of bringing Clementine to life, I really missed the spot art by Marla Frazee. 

Clementine's voice remains hysterical, but she is beginning to show some insight and some self-restraint. I continue to adore Mrs. Rice, Clementine's principal, as well as Margaret. And, I would really love to know what Clementine's little brother's name is.

My only criticism of this one is the timeline of the the class trip. Clementine goes to Plymouth Rock, Plimoth Plantation and, the Mayflower. In that order. Then, they seem to go back to Pimoth Plantation for lunch. Hm-m. 

Our seventh grade goes to Boston each year. We spend one jam-packed day in Boston, sleep in a hotel just outside of Boston, then we head down to Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower before hitting Plimoth Plantation the next day. There is no way any self-respecting class trip planner would go to Plymouth Rock, head to Plimoth Plantation, then go to the Mayflower and back to Plimoth Plantation for lunch. It doesn't make sense.

And, while I'm nit-picking, there's no way any student, let alone a third grader would be allowed to trek back, unaccompanied, to the village during the lunch break even if there were direct line of sight between the lunch area and the village, which there is not. Okay fine. It's the teacher in me. Most kids would probably not pick that up. 

I can't wait till Clementine becomes a big sister.

Non-Fiction Monday:Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: The life of Marc Chagall in Verse

by J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen. 40 p. The Creative Company, August, 2011. 9781568562110. (Purchased)

Two premier poets team up again, this time they use fourteen of Marc Chagall's paintings as inspiration for poems depicting various stages in his life. Full-page, full-color, fully annotated reproductions reside opposite a poem, which bears the name of the painting. Pale-tinted text boxes below each poem provide more information about the artist's life in prose and below that, if necessary are definitions of the Hebrew or Yiddish words used above. Several black and white photographs are also reproduced. The final page lists works that the authors consulted.

What a creative and intriguing biography! I was a bit surprised by the copyright date of 2011. How had I missed this? I don't remember what prompted me to put this in my school library book order, but I'm glad I did. It might lend itself to lovely cross-curricular collaboration with the art teacher, not necessarily biographical but perhaps having students choose a painting of an artist or artistic movement being studies and composing poetry along with a bit of additional research. Or, the book can be part of a literature circle with a verse biography theme, joining books by Marilyn Nelson (A Wreath for Emmett Till; Carver: a life in poems), Margarita Engle (Poet Slave of Cuba), Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Frida: Viva la Vida!), or Carole Boston Weatherford (Becoming Billie Holiday). 

Of course, it can be enjoyed all on its own and certainly deserves space in the poetry collection.

Non-Fiction Monday is being hosted this week by A Wrung Sponge.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: false apology poems by Gail Carson Levine

80 p. HarperCollins Publisher, March, 2012. 978--6178256. (Purchased)

40 short, mostly humorous, mostly irreverent false apology poems modeled after William Carlos Williams' "This is Just to Say." I laughed out loud at quite a few; groaned over some and scratched my head over others. Kids will have fun with these.

Poems plus black and white illustrations may beg comparison to Shel Silverstein, but these flights of fancy lean more towards Quentin Blake (thankfully) with a dash of Boynton.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar, and roar!

Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate. 185 p. National Geographic Society, September, 2012. 9781426310096. (Purchased)

This hefty volume is simply gorgeous and an absolute must-have. I bought this for my school library and I suspected that I would be getting one for my home as well when I ordered it. I hoped that I would be satisfied having read my school's copy, but there's no reading this just once. Nope. I want one for home.

The 200 poems are divided into 9 sections, an introductory, "Welcome to the World," "the big one," "the little ones," "the winged ones," etc. Not exactly the classification that my fifth graders are learning, eh? Sometimes there's just one poem on a page, sometimes more. Some animals seem to inspire several poems. Horses, I can see with four poems. They are magnificent, awe-inspring animals. Pigs? Who knew they inspired four poets as well?

The photographs are spectacular and plentiful, sometimes single-page spread, sometimes double and occasionally 3/4. Each one brings the reader pretty up close and personal with the subject in full color. I will admit to paying a bit more attention to the photos, than the poems. This is not a book to rush through.

The last section, aptly named, "Final Thought," requests the reader's promise to respect the planet and work to preserve it. This is followed by two pages about writing poetry: forms and suggestions. A selected bibliography, title index, poet index, first line index, and subject index is followed by text credits and photo credits.

Lovely, lovely.

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Pop on over there to share your new books and ogle what other bloggers got.

For review:

Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin. 414p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, August 6, 2013. 9780316203791.

Publisher synopsis: Teen rocker Ritchie Sudden is pretty sure his life has just jumped the shark. Except he hates being called a teen, his band doesn't play rock, and "jumping the shark" is yet another dumb cliché. Part of Ritchie wants to drop everything and walk away. Especially the part that's serving ninety days in a juvenile detention center.
Telling the story of the year leading up to his arrest, Ritchie grabs readers by the throat before (politely) inviting them along for the (max-speed) ride. A battle of the bands looms. Dad split about five minutes before Mom's girlfriend moved in. There's the matter of trying to score with the dangerously hot Ravenna Woods while avoiding the dangerously huge Spence Proffer—not to mention just trying to forget what his sister, Beth, said the week before she died.

This latest offering from acclaimed author Sean Beaudoin is alternately raw, razor-sharp, and genuinely hilarious.
The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin. 218 p. Aumlet Books/ Abrams, April 2, 2013. 9781419705250.
Publisher synopsis:
In this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat, Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, Oona tells the stories of his previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life. Each of Zook’s lives have echoes in Oona’s own family life, which is going through a transition she’s not yet ready to face. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has started a relationship with a man named Dylan—whom Oona secretly calls “the villain.” The truth about Dylan, and about Zook’s medical condition, drives the drama in this loving family story.
Last week, after I posted my haul for the week, I trekked to my favorite children's book store to sob and buy books. A week ago Thursday, I received an email from them stating that, after 20 wonderful years, the store was closing and that everything was on sale. This is terrible news! I adore that store! It's a bit out of my way and has to compete with the ease of online buying, but I always planned a trip there every few months and devoted the fiction portion of my school buying to the store. 
The good news is that service to schools and libraries will continue so I will not lose total contact. Still, it's sad that the brick and mortar presence will be gone.
I left there with five picture books, which I have already read and donated to my library and these novels.
From top to bottom: (with partial bibliographic info)
The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger. 190 p. Amulet Books.
Poison by Bridget Zinn. 276 p. Hyperion.
Struck by Lightning: the Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer. 256 p. Little, Brown and Company.
33 Minutes...Until Morgan Sturtz kicks my butt by Todd Hasak-Lowy. 210 p. Aladdin.
Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman. 216 p. Clarion Books.
The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale. HarperCollins Publishers.
That's it for me this week. Today is the first day of my spring break. I hope to get a ton of reading done this week. TOM, the tbr pile is threatening to take over my house. What did you get?
Happy Reading!