Friday, May 31, 2013

Taking Stock - May

Total Posts: 18
Total Books Read this Month: 31
Total Books Read this Year: 176

Audio Books: 7/ 31 ytd
Debut Author: 8/12 ytd
Mount TBR Challenge: 3/ 12ytd

Picture Books: 2/33 ytd

The Good: Got eight debuts read!

The Bad: Read only 31 books this month. My reading hampered a bit by eighth grade trip to Washington, DC, where little reading was done. You know, wrangling 130 eighth graders in the 90+ degree heat for 15 hours each day doesn't leave a lot of time to read. It was a great trip though.

The list:

146. Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko (5/2)*
147. Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham (5/2)   
148. Red Hat by Lita Judge (5/3)
149. Hoop Genius: how a desperate teacher and a rowdy gym class invented basketball by John Coy (5/3)
150. Pieces by Chris Lynch (5/4)  
151. My Name is Not Easy by Debbie Dahl Edwardson (5/4)
152. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (5/5)
153. Awesome Blossom by Lauren Myracle (5/6)
154. The Bronte Sisters: the brief lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef (5/6)
155. I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb (5/8)
156. Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun by Liz Kessler (5/11)
157. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation by Tommy Greenwald (5/12)
158. 33 Minutes by Josh Hasak-Lowy (5/13)
159. Hero by Mike Lupica (5/14)
160. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh (5/15)*
161. Uh-oh, Dodo! by Jennifer Sattler (5/15)
162. Bats: Biggest, Littlest by Sandra Markle (5/15)
163. The Mystery of Darwin's Frog by Marty Crump (5/15)
164. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (5/17)*
165. The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale (5/19)
166. Poseiden: Earthshaker (Olympians #5) by George O'Connor (5/20)
167. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (5/21)
168. Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos (5/22)
169. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Extra Credit (audio reread) (5/24)
170. Hero on a Bicycle by Rosemary Wells (5/25)
171. Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi (5/25)
172. The Year of the Baby by Andrea Cheng (5/26)
173. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (5/26)
174. Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood (5/26)
175. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (5/28)*
176. Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden (5/28)*

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles we are eagerly anticipating.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. 376 p. Amulet Books, August 20, 2013. 9781419707933.

Publisher synopsis: For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now . . . not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them . . .

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is a freebie. Since my school year ends on June 21 and I'm starting to talk up summer reading plans with my students, I thought I'd share the top ten books I'm looking forward to reading this summer. A few have already been featured on Waiting on Wednesday posts, a few have been recently released but already sitting on the tbr pile.

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem. 320 p. Dial/ Penguin, August 15, 2013. 

I am lucky enough to be waiting for the arc to arrive and will be a blog tour stop. I haven't done any blog tours and find I suddenly have three.

Middle School: How I survived bullies, broccoli and Snake Hill by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. 309 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, June 24, 2013. 

I had snagged an arc of the very first book but it didn't immediately grab me, so I shelved it. Then, Ms. Frazer read it to her fifth grade class as the first read aloud of the year (September, 2011). Suddenly, I had fifty fifth graders telling me that it was the best book ever! Of course, I had to read it. I've been a fan ever since and recently reviewed My Brother is a Big Fat Liar for SLJ.

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine. 352 p. Scholastic Inc., June? I thought it was releasing in June, but I saw a September release date on BN just now. Perhaps Scholastic will be giving out arcs at Annual. I've been a huge fan of the author since I read Mockingbird, which won the National Book Award for Literature for Young People (such an awkwardly named award). 

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. 480 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, May, 2013. 

This one's out already and I've been reading nothing but rave reviews. I'm always recommending the author's Alfred Kropp series and The Monstrumologist series to readers who want action. Something tells me this one has action.

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. 240 p. Nancy Paulsen Books, May, 2013.

I so enjoyed the author's debut, Gringolandia and am looking forward to reading Rogue. 

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff. 337 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, June 11, 2013.

Of Triton by Anna Banks. 256 p. Feiwell & Friends, May 28, 2013.

I must admit that I didn't think I would enjoy Of Poseidon, the author's debut as much as I did. I've read a couple of good reviews of the sequel already.

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. 496 p. Walden Pond Press/ HarperCollins Publishers, April, 2013. 

I actually recently read the first book, The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom with my ears. It was absolutely hysterical but made doubly so by Bronson Pinchot's amazing narration. I am eager to read the sequel. I don't know if there are plans for an audiobook, but I'd reread it with my ears if there are.

Poison by Bridget Zinn. 288 p. Disney/ Hyperion, March 12, 2013. 

Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. 272 p. Candlewick Press, March, 2013. 

These are just 10 of the books I'd like to read this summer but there are at least 65 others that haven't been added. I started reading a book a day during summer vacation back in 2006. What are you planning for summer reading?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood

I am pleased to be hosting Non-fiction Monday this Memorial Day. Please leave your links in the comments below and I will add them through the day. My offering is:

Photography by Jan Sonnenmair. 40 p. Wordsong/ Boyds Mills Press, March, 2013. 9781590787936. (Review copy provided by publisher for PLNNJ) (Cross-posted at

The rodeo is brought to life in this lovely homage in poetry, expository narrative and photos from sundown the day before a competition to sundown on the day of the competition. The design is pleasing, from the collage of rodeo participants and would-be participants on the end- pages, through the dramatic opening poem featuring the reflections of a nervous competitor juxtaposed with a dramatic photograph of a cowboy practicing throwing his rope at sundown. Each page invites young readers to experience the excitement of the rodeo as a sport and the commitment to it as a way of life.

The rodeo may be foreign to my students, living as we do in northern New Jersey. They may have seen one on television but might not be aware of how integral it is in the Navajo community. I admit that I was not. I liked how the author compares a young Navajo's dreams of competing in big-time rodeo competitions to suburban kids dreams of Major League Baseball. 

Readers may be surprised to learn that children as young as three compete in rodeos. I know I was. Those pint-sized cowboys were too adorable. It's also a family affair. One of my favorite poems was, That's My Grandpa, which was a dialogue between a granddaughter and her grandpa, who was a world champion bronco rider and is now a rodeo announcer.  Many of the events from wooly riders to team roping are covered. So it the Midway, where the food looks amazing. The day ends with a poem in which a father comforts his son about losing, explaining that, "Losing is part of rodeo/ Falling is how you learn..."

The narrative portions explain the workings from setting up the arena to heading home, with a page at the end which sums up some rodeo history and hopefully whets the reader's appetite for more. If they turn the page, the author provides books and websites for further exploration.

Not only does this volume fill the need to share diverse cultures in school and public libraries, but it can be used as a mentor text in the classroom. ETA: look here, it's already done for you! 

Author's website and guest post.

Other reviews:
The Pirate Tree

Booktalking#kidlit's Anastasia is in first with Dolphins in the Navy, part of America's Animal Soldiers series.

Ami, of A Mom's Spare Time was surprised by a biography of
Jennifer Lawrence. 

Jeanne is featuring Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim at True Tales & a Cherry on Top

Myra shared some books about art that she bought in India as well as several other memes over at Gathering Books.

Pop over to Jean Little Little Library where Jennifer comments on two books in ABDO's Garden to Table series.

The country of India figures in this post submitted by Tammy
from Apples with Many Seeds.

Liz at Kid Lit About Politics reviewed a new book by one of my favorite non-fiction writers, Kathleen Krull, What Was the Boston Tea Party?

Over at Stacking Books, Rashema posted a review of Barack
Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A letter to my daughters.

Karen of Ms. Yingling Reads features a fun looking cookbook 
called, Kids in the Kitchen by Sandy 
Mary Ann of Great Kids Books is collaborating with 100 Scope Notes, The Nonfiction Detectives and Kid Lit Frenzy to highlight books and their Common Core Connections. Click here to read about their vision and here and here to find out how books about frogs connect to the Common Core.

Who's next?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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

Bought: (bad Brenda busts the budget)

Zits: Chillax by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. 241 p. HarperTeen/ HarperCollins Publishers, May, 2013. 9780062228512. 

Publisher synopsis: Jeremy Duncan, high school sophomore and future rock god, offers up a comedic outlook on teenage life, including school, parents, chores, bands, and friends.
Jeremy and his best friend, Hector Garcia, are planning to achieve a lifelong dream…going to a rock concert! Without parental supervision. But the Gingivitis concert falls on the same night their friend Tim is donating bone marrow for his mom, a cancer patient. Not a problem: Jeremy and Hector are determined to go to the show…for Tim.

Splintered by A. G. Howard. Unabridged audiobook on 10 compact discs, 12.5 hours. Read by Rebecca Gibel. AudioGo, May 28, 2013. 9781620647257.

I've already read this intriguing debut, but read a review of the audio on The Starry-Eyed Revu and knew I needed to reread with my ears. Maybe not soon, but definitely rereading. Especially since the sequel, Unhinged, (need to feature in a WoW) is due to drop in January. So excited for that as well.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. Unabridged audiobook on 1 MP3-CD, 6 hours, 50 minutes. Read by Roxanne Hernandez. Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, March, 2013. 9781469275208.

Publisher synopsis: That’s what some girl tells Piddy Sanchez one morning before school. Too bad Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is, let alone what she’s done to piss her off. All Piddy knows is that Yaqui hates her — and she better watch her back because Yaqui isn’t kidding around.
At first Piddy just focuses on trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off and running away from her problems?
In this poignant and all-too-realistic story from award-winning author Meg Medina, Piddy is forced to decide exactly who she is versus who others are trying to make her become — and ultimately discovers a rhythm that is all her own.

I'm with Stupid by Geoff Herbach. 309 p. Sourcebooks, May 7, 2013. 9781402277917.
Publisher synopsis: It's nerd-turned-jock Felton Reinstein's last year before college, and the choices he makes now will affect the rest of his life. That's a lot of pressure. So, he's going to make a list. What would he be if he weren't a jock? He'll try everything—comedian, partier, super student—and which ever identity he likes best he'll stick with. Poof. Stress gone.
Except not... Because the list leads to:
1. The whole state of Wisconsin hating him.
2. His track coach suspending him.
3. His mom moving out.
Before leaving home forever, Felton will have to figure out just who he is, even if, sometimes, it sucks to be him.
If you have yet read Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, please do so. Felton Reinstein lives in a special place in my heart. 
So that's what's new with me. What's new with you?

While you're enjoying this Memorial Day weekend, please take some time to be grateful for the sacrifices made by the men and women in our military.

Happy reading!

Friday, May 24, 2013

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

307 p. Sourcebooks/ Jabberwocky, April 2, 2013. 9781402281068. (Purchased)

Eleven-year-old Ratchet, decides to start a brand new notebook to start a new school year. Of homeschooling. She has never been to school and she kind of wonders what she's missing, especially in the friend department. It has just been Ratchet, well, Rachel and her dad since her mom died. Since her dad likes to move into junky houses and rehab them instead of paying rent, they move a lot. It's just easier to homeschool than to continually change schools.

And, yeah, even though Ratchet's dad supposedly checks her work, she's really on her own to do it and finds that she's interrupted most days when her dad needs help repairing cars anyway. She's his right-hand gal, hence the nickname. 

Each journal entry is a writing response to an assignment in her homeschooling kit. There are quick-writes, poems, dialogues, essays, and life events journal entries, among other forms. Through these we get glimpses of Ratchet's lonely life and her attempts at making a friend.

Ratchet is the first to admit that her environmental-activist father is a bit of a nut-job. He's always embarrassing her by attending city council meetings to suggest ways of saving the environment. He insists on recycling everything, which means that Ratchet never has new clothes. She shops at thrift stores but would so love to have something new to wear. He also steadfastly refuses to discuss her mother with her. But, he's her "important person" and really, without a mother, where would she be without him?

Ratchet found a place in my heart pretty quickly. Her voice is engaging and sincere. She's bright and mechanically inclined, open-minded and observant. She just aches for a friend and to somehow fill the spot where her mother used to be. The structure of her journal is unique, allowing for the glimpses into her life to come together in a satisfying way. The cover is appealing. The notebook style will appeal to fans of that format, but though there is humor, they will find depth as Ratchet asserts herself.

This is a lovely debut. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles we are eagerly anticipating.

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles. 384 p. Candlewick Press, September 10, 2013. 9780763662806. 

Publisher synopsis: This isn't how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he'd be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around , partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home-new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Can-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can't forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a lose? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella's jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn't happen. And maybe it doesn't matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was  a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened and find a way to forgive.

I read Jumping Off Swings before I started blogging, so I have no written record of it but recall it positively. Perhaps I will find some time between now and September to reread it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation by Tommy Greenwald

Illustrated by J.P. Coovert. 231 p. Roaring Brook Press, May 7, 2013. 9781596437579. (Purchased.)

My favorite reluctant reader is back and I'm happy to report that momentum is not faltering. In author Greenwald's capable hands, Charlie Joe is fresher and funnier than ever. (And, he may be maturing, just a teensy bit, sh-h!)

Charlie Joe pleads temporary insanity when, on the last day of school, he decided to make his parents happy and attend Camp Rituhbukkee (pronounced, read-a-bookie). "Books were everywhere. And cell phones and video games were nowhere." (p. 2) 

What has Charlie Joe gotten himself into? One look at the camp schedule confirmed Charlie Joe's worst fears, that camp was school in disguise and that he risks turning into a reader, writer and quite possibly, nerd, unless he does some quick thinking. 

Luckily for Charlie Joe, he is not alone. Katie Friedman decided to attend camp and Nareem Ramdal, is a returning camper. But there are 75 other kids, many of them sporting tee shirts to Ivy League colleges, that think reading is fun, fun, fun. There is some time to swim and play basketball built into this schedule to achieve a "perfect balance of studies and recreation." In this environment, where it's cool to be nerdy, Charlie Joe is definitely the odd man out.

Unfortunately for Charlie Joe, there's a basketball rivalry between Camp Rituhbukkee and Camp Wockajocka. Charlie Joe learns that his arch-nemisis Teddy Spivero is on the team. Just great. He manages to make the best of it in his inimitable Charlie Joe style. 

Instead of Charlie Joe's tips, letters to and from camp are interspersed throughout to keep the reader up-to-date about news from the home front. Coovert's clever cartoons break up the text nicely as well. 

CJJ3 is a must purchase, preferably in multiple copies. I'm donating my copy to my school library, where there is a waiting list already and it's not even cataloged. 

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

I pulled this one from deep within TOM, my tbr mountain.

303 p. Razorbill/ Penguin Group (USA) Inc., October, 2009. 9781595142405. Purchased.

It's not enough that twelve-year-old Oliver Watson, is secretly a billionaire. The overweight tween from Omaha, Nebraska has been happily hiding behind the persona of the village idiot  while running his global empire. Happily, until the day a classmate nominates him to run for class president as a joke. He turns down the nomination, but when he learns at dinner that night that his "daddy" was class president, he wants a do-over. 

Oliver has had daddy issues since he was a day old (he remembers being born) and overheard his father express disappointment over him already. "It's interesting, on your second day of existence, to realize that your father is going to blame all the future failures of his life on you. Not an experience I recommend." (p. 62)

So he brings all his many resources, from bodyguards to his secret lair deep beneath the school, to first convincing the principal to allow him to run, and then running his campaign, which is fraught with a variety of hilarious snafus. 

The cover blurb, which is clearly aimed at adults purchasing the book for their tween offspring, declares, "If War and Peace had a baby with The Breakfast Club and then left the baby to be raised by wolves..."-Jon Stewart. Hm-m, I've been around middle school children for 15 years, more than a few of whom were incredibly smart, and I don't think any would get those cultural references. This led me to wonder why on Earth would Stewart be blurbing a book for children?

Ah, a quick peek at the back flap reveals the answer. Okay. That explains it. The blurb mildly annoyed me throughout the reading of the book and continues to do so 11 days after finishing the book. Nothing against the hilarious Stewart per se, or the brilliantly snarky humor of the story, I kept wondering whom the audience was, especially as the humor became increasingly, uncomfortably cynical. I'm all for layering in humor aimed at adults in children's books, but a balance must be struck.

When I booktalk this in Reader's Advisory, I will tell my students, "Think Stewie as a twelve-year-old." That's the voice I read the book with. And, that's the pitch made in the overview online, "Family Guy meets Election...". That's a blurb that kids will relate to although I still wonder if they will hang in and, if they will be as disappointed in the ending as I was. 

Some final thoughts: I noted some cover changes when I searched online to see if the book was still in print. It's no longer available new, but is available as a paperback, sporting a new-ish look. 

Then, I noticed it was available as an audiobook. Am I intrigued enough to plunk down $18 to listen? But, wait. I do a double take at the cover on this page. Has Oliver been slimmed down a bit? Seems to me he has. I hadn't noticed it as much in the ppb edition because of the addition of the graffiti, but he's slightly slimmer in that one as well.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham

240 p. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2008. 9780399250026. Purchased.

Twelve-year-old Sam lives in a town, way up north, near the Canadian border, in Washington state. He's a good kid who gets in trouble a lot. In fact, he probably has a better relationship with the Chief of Police, Officer Myrmidon, than his own father. He actually doesn't mind spending the night in a jail cell.

Seventeen-year-old PJ Myrmidon might disagree with Sam about how cool his father is. He has just arrived in town rather reluctantly to visit. Shortly after his arrival, PJ's dad is called away and Sam is left in PJ's care. A border alarm goes off and the two decide to steal a police car to investigate. 

They discover a huge, tusked and furry creature and accidentally run it over with the police car in their panic. They drag the unconscious creature into the car and back to the cell. As they argue what to do about it, two strangely pale people show up claiming to be guardians and take command of what they say is a goblin. Apparently all of humankind are now in danger since a goblin made its way to the surface - an event the guardians are pledged to prevent.

The boys decide to follow the guardians through the trap door and discover a labyrinthine world beneath the surface, one as dangerous as it is awe-inspiring. The goblins are a brutish lot, led by General Eww-yuk and they like nothing more than tasty humans for a snack. 

The action is fast, furious and humorous as the boys get separated, captured, deal with man-eating grasses and fight giant insects. There are gruesome deaths and honorable heroes. The UnderEarth is a vivid, creepy, claustrophobic place. This is a great book for your students who want a little humor with their action.

Goblins has been languishing on TOM, my tbr mountain since its publication. Sadly, it seems to have gone out of print. 

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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


Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Extra Credit (CJJ series #2) by Tommy Greenwald. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3-CD, 4 hrs. 26 mins. Performed by MacLeod Andrews. Brilliance Audio, April 2, 2013. 9781469282503. 

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation (CJJ series #3) by Tommy Greenwald. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3-CD, 3 hrs. 54 mins. Performed by MacLeod Andrews. Brilliance Audio, May 7, 2013. 9781480504899.

Followers with good memory might be feeling a bit of deja vu. I did feature CJJ #3 in my STS post last week. I bought the book. I also read it this week and will be reviewing it this weekend. (Stay tuned) 

Something made me look to see if the sequels were recorded and, be still my heart, it was! CJJ#2 is playing in my car right now. Can't get enough of my favorite reluctant reader.

PS: If you live in the NYC area, the author is signing books at Books of Wonder tomorrow (Sunday, May 19), along with four or five other authors. I'm tempted to go, but my garden beckons. We'll see which wins.

For review:
The school and public librarian book evaluation group met this week and I chose seven books to review:

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes. 213 p. Candlewick Press, April 23, 213. 9780763660376. 

Publisher synopsis: In her first novel, beloved author Shirley Hughes presents a World War II adventure proving that in extraordinary circumstances, people are capable of extraordinary things.
Italy, 1944: Florence is occupied by Nazi forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though — and neither have thirteen-year- old Paolo and his sister, Costanza. As their mother is pressured into harboring escaping POWs, Paolo and Costanza each find a part to play in opposing the German forces. Both are desperate to fight the occupation, but what can two siblings — with only a bicycle to help them — do against a whole army? Middle-grade fans of history and adventure will be riveted by the action and the vividly evoked tension of World War II.
I happen to adore Shirley Hughes' picture books and have a fairly large collection. I even sent to the UK for some titles that were unavailable in the U.S. So I'm very excited for this, her debut novel.

ChickenHare by Chris Grine. 157 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, Inc., February, 2013. 9780545485081.

Publisher synopsis: Chickenhare: half chicken, half rabbit, 100% hero!
What's a chickenhare? A cross between a chicken and a rabbit, of course. And that makes Chickenhare the rarest animal around! So when he and his turtle friend Abe are captured and sold to the evil taxidermist Klaus, they've got to find a way to escape before Klaus turns them into stuffed animals. With the help of two other strange creatures, Banjo and Meg, they might even get away. But with Klaus and his thugs hot on their trail, the adventure is only just beginning for this unlikely quartet of friends.

Ruby Redfort: Take Your Last Breath (Ruby Redfort series #2) by Lauren Child. 432 p. Candlewick Press, May 14, 2013. 9780763654689.

Publisher synopsis: Crack open Ruby Redfort’s second adventure — and you will literally be on the edge of your wits.
Everyone’s favorite girl detective is back for a second mind-blowing installment, packed with all the off-the-wall humor, action, and friendship of the first book. This time, though, it’s an adventure on the wide-open ocean, and Ruby is all at sea. . . . Can she crack the case of the Twinford pirates while evading the clutches of a vile sea monster as well as the evil Count von Viscount? Well, you wouldn’t want to bet against her.
I have to say the cover graphic does not do justice to the color of the actual book, which is eye-popping neon.

Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham. 341 p. Candlewick Press, May 14, 2013. 9780763653620.

Publisher synopsis: Jane Arrowood, otherwise known as Shark Girl, has been living with just one arm for over a year. Now she’s searching for a new normal.
It’s been a year since the shark attack that took Jane’s arm, and with it, everything she used to take for granted. Her dream of becoming an artist is on the line, and everything now seems out of reach, including her gorgeous, kind tutor, Max Shannon. While a perfectly nice guy from her science class is clearly interested in Jane — removing her fear that no one ever would want a one-armed girl — Jane can’t stop thinking about Max. But is his interest romantic? Or does he just feel sorry for her? Formerly Shark Girl picks up where Kelly Bingham’s artful, honest debut novel left off, following Jane as she deals with a career choice (should she "give back" by trying to become a nurse, or is art an equally valid calling?) along with family changes and her first real romance — all while remembering who she was before she was Shark Girl and figuring out who she is now.

Casualties of War (Vietnam: book four) by Chris Lynch. 182 p. Scholastic Press, January, 2013. 9780545270236.

Publisher synopsis: Morris, Rudi, Ivan, and Beck are best friends for life. So when one of the teens is drafted into the Vietnam War, the others sign up, too. Although they each serve in a different branch, they are fighting the war together -- and they promise to do all they can to come home together.
Of the four, it's Beck that has the most to lose. He's the smart one of the bunch, and he could be -- SHOULD be -- going to college. His parents certainly think so. But he has a pact to honor, and so Beck enlists in the US Air Force.
As their tours of duty near completion and the war itself spirals further out of control, the four best friends are at last on a collision course. Will they all survive long enough to be reunited?

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. 289 p. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc., March, 2013. 9780545417792. 

Publisher synopsis: A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.
The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June's best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government's strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.
Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.
Well. I don't know what I'm waiting for. I'd better get busy! 

What's new with you? Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

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

Ya never know where the interwebz will lead ya. It sure can be a giant time-suck, but sometimes cool connections are made. I found Views from the Tesseract via Betsy Bird's blog last week, liked what I saw, stayed awhile to read, and found:

Sidekicked by John David Anderson. 320 p. HarperCollins Publishers, June 25, 2013.  9780062133144.

Publisher synopsis: Andrew Bean might be a part of h.e.r.o., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn't mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there's Drew's power: Possessed of super senses—his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet—he's literally the most sensitive kid in school. There's his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than fighting crime. And then there's his best friend, Jenna—their friendship would be complicated enough if she weren't able to throw a Volkswagen the length of a city block. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.
But this is all before a supervillain long thought dead returns to the city of Justicia, superheroes begin disappearing at an alarming rate, and Drew's two identities threaten to crash head-on into each other. Drew has always found it pretty easy to separate right from wrong, good from evil. It's what a superhero does. But what happens when that line starts to disappear?
Or click on the link here to read Stephanie's review.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko

214 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, August 20, 2013. 9780803734722. (Arc provided by the author.) 

It's January, 1935 on Alcatraz Island. Moose Flanagan's dad has just been promoted to Assistant Warden and Moose thinks things might be looking up for the Flanagans until he discovers that the inmates have a game where they earn points for insulting employees, or worse, and the higher up the employee, the higher the points. As if that weren't enough to worry Moose the worrier, Darby Trixle was counting on getting that promotion and now he and his wife seem to be gunning for Natalie, especially after a suspicious fire guts the Flanagan's apartment.

Did Natalie set the blaze? Moose can't admit to his parents that he fell asleep when he was supposed to be watching Natalie. If she didn't set it, then who did? What does the message Moose found in a drainpipe mean? Where is Piper getting the money to buy presents for Moose and his friends? And, why is Al Capone, aka #85, writing cryptic messages in his notebook?

The author has created a unique, vivid, slightly surreal and claustrophobic world filled with memorable characters. Morally ambiguous folks reside on either side of the prison wall and Moose tries to parse it all while trying to protect those he loves. I just loved every second of this final book in the Tales from Alcatraz trilogy and was so tempted to swallow the thing whole. Personally, I wouldn't mind if this trilogy morphed into a quartet should the author find more to tell...

Moose Flanagan is one of my favoritest of favorite characters in children's literature. He's earnest and thoughtful, athletic and intelligent. He's also way, way wise and responsible beyond his years thanks to having an older sister who's autistic, although autism was not well understood back then. His parents, as nice as they are, rely on Moose to handle Natalie far too much. And Moose takes on far too much. He understands Natalie in ways adults do not, but that doesn't mean that he's also not baffled by her. Feelings between siblings can be fierce and complicated but none so fierce and complicated when anger and guilt are factored into the equation.

Though I read and fell in love with Al Capone Does My Shirts back in 2004, way before I started blogging, I may have mentioned once or twice how I was rooting for it to win the 2005 Newbery. I was lucky enough to receive an arc of its sequel, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, which I adored just as much, if not more. I am not the most objective reviewer when it comes to Moose.

So here I am, gifted with an arc of Al Capone Does My Homework. I need to disclose that one of my students and I are credited with giving Ms. Choldenko the idea for the title. I can honestly state though, that I would've adored this book anyway. 

A bit of history: In 2006, I read a piece in Horn Book Magazine by Ron Koertge entitled, Unlikely Titles. His list tickled me, so I shared the article with my students and challenged them to come up with some unlikely titles of their own. Al Capone Does My Homework was one of the better submissions. I don't recall how I let Ms. Choldenko know about it, but she remembered (!) and wrote (back in 2008 or so) to ask if I could credit the student so she could send him or her an arc of Al Capone Shines My Shoes. Unfortunately, the student I thought wrote it said he hadn't. He couldn't recall who did and I didn't keep the papers. Lost, lost, lost. This student would now be completing his sophomore year in college. Perhaps he or she will see the book in a book store this August and think, "Huh! What a coincidence. I remember when Mrs. Kahn had us make up some unlikely titles and look at that!" Maybe this student will send me an email. Then, I could heap accolades upon this student and get him or her in touch with the author and we would all live happily ever after.

The connections we all make are kind of cool. The trilogy is fine storytelling. Just today, a fifth grader noticed the arc on my desk and said, "Wait, is that a NEW Al Capone book?" Multiple copies are on my order for the next school year and should be on yours as well.