Monday, March 31, 2014

Taking Stock - March

My this month went fast!

Total posts: 26
Total books read this month: 42
Total books read this year: 94

Audio Books: 3/11
Debut Author: 1
Mount TBR: 0
Picture Books: 17/28

The Good: 38 books! And a debut! And I reviewed a bit.

The Bad: Oops! Still haven't read anything off the TBR. 

The Books: * indicated favorites

53. Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr (3/4)
54. A Bunny in the Ballet by Robert Beck (3/5)
55. The End (Almost) by Jim Benton (3/5)
56. Clara and Davie by Patricia Polacco (3/5)
57. Stage Fright (Looniverse #4) by David Lubar (3/5)
58. The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jim Gownley (3/6)
59. Spinning Through the Universe by Helen Frost (3/7)
60. Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson (3/7)
61. Face to Face with Penguins by Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott (3/7)
62. Hi, Koo! by Jon Muth (3/7)
63. Discover More Dolphins by Penelope Arlon (3/7)
64. Rump by Liesl Shurtliff (3/8)
65. Kung Pow Chicken: Bok! Bok! Boom! by Cyndi Marko (3/12)
66. Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania by Cynthia Lord (3/12)
67. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd (3/13)*
68. Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (3/13)
69. Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue* by Tom Angleberger (3/14)
70. The Romans: Gods, Emperors and Dormice by Marcia Williams (3/16)
71. Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham (3/16)
72. Hunter Moran Hangs Out by Patricia Reilly Giff (3/19)
73. The Great Big Green by Peggy Gifford (3/19)
74. Big Pigs by Leslie Helakoski (3/19)
75. The Streak: how Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero by Barb Rosenstock (3/19)
76. Mysterious Patterns: finding fractals in nature by Sarah C. Campbell (3/19)
77. The Secret Life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar by Laurence Pringle (3/19)
78. Are We Out of the Driveway Yet? by Jerry Scott (3/20)
79. Babe Conquers the World by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace (3/21)*
80. Schools of Hope: how Julius Rosenwald helped change African American education by Noman H. Finkelstein (3/21)*
81. Aphrodite: goddess of love by George O'Connor (3/28)
82. Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld (3/29)
83. Olivia and the Fairy Princess by Ian Falconer (3/29)
84. Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems (3/29)
85. The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson (3/29)
86. Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon (3/29)
87. The Big, Bad Wolf Goes on Vacation by Delphine Perret (3/29)
88. How to Lose a Lemur by Fran Preston-Gannon (3/29)
89. When Elephant Met Giraffe by Paul Gude (3/29)
90. Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton (3/29)
91. Chick 'n' Pug by Jennifer Gordon Sattler (3/29)
92. Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull (3/30)
93. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (3/30)
94. Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Boston Weatherford (3/31)

The Streak: how Joe DiMaggio became America's hero by Barb Rosenstock

The Streak:  how Joe DiMaggio became America's hero by Barb Rosenstock. Illustrated by Terry Widener. Calkins Creek/ Boyds Mills Press, March 1, 2014. 9781590789926. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

I chose this in honor of baseball season opening this week.

In 1941, the war that would be World War II was raging in Europe. That summer was to be the last summer of peace in the United States and it was also the summer that Yankee great, Joe DiMaggio had a hit in 56 consecutive games. Batters often have a routine they perform before they're ready for a pitch. It might involve some sort of tic or sequence of swings, or tapping the bat on the plate. Not Joe, according to this highly readable account of that season. He spoke with his bat, which he named Betsy. 

Baseball players are notoriously superstitious. But when Betsy was stolen when his streak stood at 41, he found himself hitless the first three times at bat. Then he grabbed another bat that teammate Tommy Henrich offered and hit number 42. And he kept on hitting. Betsy was found. He kept on hitting. Betsy broke and he kept on hitting.

The illustrations, in earth tones, are not terribly detailed but convey the period details such as the baggie uniforms and a variety of stances and baseball action scenes. The font of the number of hits and the word, streak, are red and leap out of the black of the other words on the page. 

A two-page Author's Note follows the narrative and includes additional hitting statistics as well as historical context. There are also quotes from the press as well as other ball players scattered throughout. Two concluding pages provide source notes, a lengthy bibliography suggesting books, articles, video and websites. 

A fine read aloud to kick off baseball season or to give to young baseball enthusiasts. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

StS is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to see what other bloggers got this week.

For review:

The Prank List by Anna Staniszewski. 221 p. Sourcebooks Inc., July 1, 2014. 9781402286391.

From the arc cover: Rachel Lee never thought she'd fight for the right to clean toilets. But when a rival cleaning business starts stealing her mom's clients, Rachel will do whatever it takes to save herself the horror of moving to Connecticut-which would mean giving up her sort of boyfriend, her fantastic new pastry classes, and her best friend Marisol.

Operation Save Mom's Cleaning Business is a go!

But when a series of pranks Rachel and her BFF cooked up to take down the competition totally backfires, Rachel worries that her recipe for success is a dud. You know what they say-if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen...

Nerd Camp 2.0 by Elissa Brent Weissman. 282 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, May 6, 2014. 9781442452947.

Publisher synopsis: Gabe’s happily headed back to Nerd Camp—but can he handle a cool-kid invasion?
For Gabe, the equation for ideal summer bliss equals six glorious weeks of vigorous learning immersion at the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment—aka, Nerd Camp. Last year was amazing, and this summer will be even better.
At least, that’s what Gabe thinks until a new variable is introduced: Zack, Gabe’s cool stepbrother, was supposed to attend a camp nearby, but in the aftermath of a recent wildfire, Zack’s camp and nerd camp will be sharing territory. As these two very different worlds collide, will both camps—and both stepbrothers—survive the summer?

Gift: Back in January, I had the opportunity to share my love for Poached by Stuart Gibbs with Christian at the Simon & Schuster booth at ALA MW. The review I wrote for SLJ was published in this month's issue and excerpted on the author's web site along with other positive reviews. He promised me a promotional tote bag and it came this week! Thanks Christian! Poached is due out April 8th. If you have a kid who wants action, humor and/ or mystery, hand him (or her) Poached.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. Fifth Wave series #2. 480 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, September 16, 2014. 9780399162428.

Publisher synopsis: How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.
Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

I've read and enjoyed much by this author, the Alfred Kropp series, the Monstrumologist series and now, this one. I've know it was coming for a while, but Jill at the O.W.L. revealed the cover last week.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Non-Fiction Monday: Babe Conquers the World: the legendary life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Babe Conquers the World: the legendary life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace. 272 p. Calkins Creek/ Boyds Mills Press, March, 2014. 9781590789810.

Mildred Ella Didriksen was born on the same day a barge exploded in Port Arthur, Texas. She was the sixth child of Ole Nickolene Didriksen (Babe later changed the spelling) and his wife, Hannah Marie. Ole immigrated to the United States from Norway and struggled to earn a living for his wife and seven children. Babe was the sixth. It wasn't long before Babe began challenging the boys for a place on the sandlot.

In nine chapters, named rounds, the Wallaces chronicle the hurdles Babe overcame as she challenged notions of gender in sports. The final hurdle she faced was colon cancer. While she eventually succumbed, she proved the doctors who said she would never play golf again, wrong.

The stuff of Babe's life is legend and the storytelling pretty much lets the legend speak for herself. The authors provide historical context and comparisons that help young readers, who have grown up seeing women compete in sports, understand just how courageous Babe Didrikson was. A pleasing font, plenty of white space and tons of photographs enhance the interest. I also loved the many quotes by Babe, her friends and family. "Babe never saw a person in her life, male or female, she was afraid of."

The volume concludes with a timeline, FAQ pages, numerous source notes and nearly three pages of bibliography. A fantastic addition to the biography collection!

Be sure to visit the Non-Fiction Monday blog for more notable non-fiction titles.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Memes: Babe Conquers the World: the legendary life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

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

I usually pick a work of fiction to highlight on Fridays. I thought I'd switch it up a bit and pick a biography.

Babe Conquers the World: the legendary life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace. 272 p. Calkins Creek/ Boyds Mills Press, March, 2014. 9781590789810.

Publisher synopsis: Babe Didrikson Zaharias had one driving goal: to become the greatest athlete who ever lived. And she made good on that promise with a meteoric rise to famed basketball player, Olympic medalist, and top female golfer. But there was more to Babe than just sports. Noted novelists and sportswriters Rich and Sandra Wallace expose the many controversies surrounding this famous female athlete—her upbringing, personality, marriage, and even her early death. This action-packed story of a womanESPN ranks as #10 of the top North American athletes of the twentieth century also includes personal and professional photographs, quotes, a bibliography, and an index.

First Line: Babe Didrikson donned a baseball uniform and rode to the pitcher's mound on the back of a donkey.

Page 56: On February 5, 1930, Colonel Melvorne McCombs walked into a Houston high-school basketball game looking for a star to lead his semipro women's team. The top scorer with 19 points against Houston's Reagan High was the Miss Royal Purple standout-Babe Didrikson.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Great Big Green by Peggy Gifford

The Great Big Green by Peggy Gifford. Illustrated by Lisa Desimini. unpgd. Boyds Mills Press, April 1, 2014. 9781620916292. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Here's another book celebrating the color green. This time, it's a guessing game. Just what is the great big green? Playful language provides clues on each page that includes all manner of green things, living and non-living.   

If the lush, inviting cover doesn't hook young readers, I don't know what to say. The computer-generated collages are the stars here. There's so much to see, the eye just doesn't know where to settle. Younger children will have a blast lingering on each page.  

I'm not a huge fan of the color green, I love looking at it in nature, but am hard-pressed to purchase any green clothing although I did buy a green-leather couch. I was particularly tickled by the "dark and dangerous greens" and "tornado-sky greens." 

The Great Big Green is a nice addition to the pre-school collection. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - Curses and Smoke: a novel by Vicky Alvear Shecter

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

Curses and Smoke: a novel by Vicky Alvear Shecter. 336 p. Scholastic Inc., May 27, 2014. 

Publisher synopsis: When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto?
TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But his warrior's heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.
LUCIA is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she's been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air. . . .
When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them -- to Lucia's father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?
I was just tickled by Ms. Shecter's biography of Cleopatra, Cleopatra Rules!, a few years back and tickled again by Cleopatra's Moon. She also has a fun new series that started with Anubis Speaks, called Secrets of the Ancient Gods with Boyds Mills Press.

What are you waiting on?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger. An Origami Yoda Book (#5). 184 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, March 4, 2014. 9781419710520. (Review copy courtesy of publisher.)

This hilarious, yet deep series continues to surprise and delight. Even though the initial stories can kind of stand alone,* this book continues the story started in book 4, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett. The Rebel Alliance took on the principal, school board and Fun-Time, a state test prep company and learned of a surprise ally in their quest. Principal Rabbski left the students under the impression that something would be done about all the boring test prep at the end.

Now, it's several weeks later and Tommy and the gang are still stuck with Fun-Time and each time they approach the principal, she puts them off. The rebel forces are trying to stay strong, but they are losing support. Even Tommy admits that it's scary trying to attempt to sabotage test results by not doing his best. 

It seems that someone has stolen the case files and has given them to the principal. Has someone gone over to the Dark Side? The subversive fun continues as everyone weighs in on the goings on at McQuarrie Middle School. 

This is a great series to give to any reader, but kids looking for funny or Wimpy Kid read alikes will find much to laugh about here. 

*I recommend starting at the beginning. Really.

Non-Fiction Monday - Discover More Dolphins

Discover More Dolphins by Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris. Scholastic Discover More series. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., February, 2014. 9780545627382. (Finished copy courtesy of the publisher for review.)

I just love the Discover More series for middle school and was delighted to get a look at this one aimed at a younger audience. It's beautifully designed and crammed with full-color photographs. Sections are well-organized. Each double-page spread simply and clearly explains a feature about dolphin life. The accompanying ebook is worth a look as well. It contains stories, additional information and some cute games.The topic is certainly high-interest and this package delivers.

There's a glossary and index but aside from photo credits, no source notes or suggestions for further reading. Still, it's a nice addition to the animal collection and sure to please your budding fact hounds.

Be sure to visit the Non-Fiction Monday blog for other suggestions. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to see what other bloggers got this week.

For review:

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue by Tom Angleberger. An Origami Yoda Book (#5). 184 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, March, 2014.  9781419710520.

Publisher synopsis: At McQuarrie Middle School, the war against the FunTime Menace—aka test prep—wages on. Our heroes have one battle under their belts, and they’ve even found a surprising ally in Jabba the Puppett. But to defeat the Dark Standardized Testing Forces they’re going to need an even bigger, even more surprising ally: Principal Rabbski. But with great forces—aka the school board—pushing her from above, will the gang’s former enemy don a finger puppet and join the Rebellion—or will her transformation to Empress Rabbski, Dark Lord of the Sith, be complete?

I just featured this in a WoW post. Thanks Candlewick!

The Curse of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker. 227 p. Candlewick Press, November 2014. 9780763661380. 

Synopsis from jacket: "Eleven is not too young for war," Ole said to Barfoot, who swished his tail agreeable, then lumbered to the yard table and stuck his nose in an unattended pie.

When Iowa is called up to represent the Union of the United States of America, Ike is beside himself with excitement. But he's left behind with Mother and the aunts and girl cousins while the Button men march forth toward glory. Ike fears his fate is sealed unless he can call on the ingenuity of his fabled (some say cursed) Uncle Palmer, disguise himself as a drummer boy, and meet up with the Iowa First. But some opportunities are meant to be missed. And some arrive when you least expect them. 

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

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hot Rod Hamster Monster Truck Mania by Cynthia Lord

Hot Rod Hamster Monster Truck Mania by Cynthia Lord. Illustrated by Derek Anderson. Unpgd. Scholastic Inc., March 25, 2014. 9780545462617. (Review copy courtesy of publisher.)

Hot Rod Hamster and friends are back. This time, he's visiting the fair. While Fearless Franco's Monster Truck Mania is the main attraction, HRH can't get enough of the rides! 

Rhythmic repetition and the question, "Which would you choose?" invite participation. The splashy, energetic, brightly-hued palette is pleasing. There's lots to look at as well as visual humor in each fun-filled spread. Fans of HRH will be thrilled and fans of monster trucks might just become fans of HRH. Ms. Lord and Mr. Anderson are a winning combo. Keep 'em coming!

Friday Memes: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

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

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods. 222 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA), January, 2014. 9780399257148. (Purchased.)

Publisher synopsis: Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brenda Woods’ moving, uplifting story of a girl finally meeting the African American side of her family explores racism and how it feels to be biracial, and celebrates families of all kinds.
Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds. Her mom is white, and her dad, who died before she was born, was black. She attends a mostly white school where she sometimes feels like a brown leaf on a pile of snow. She’s tired of people asking if she’s adopted. Now that Violet’s eleven, she decides it’s time to learn about her African American heritage. And despite getting off to a rocky start trying to reclaim her dad’s side of the family, she can feel her confidence growing as the puzzle pieces of her life finally start coming together. Readers will cheer for Violet, sharing her joy as she discovers her roots.
First line: Did you ever have a dream that's so good, you wish you could save it forever instead of having it go back to that place in your mind where dreams become quieter than whispers, quiet like snowflakes falling?

Page 56: "Your mom didn't kill you," she declared.
     I waved my arm in front of me as if to say I'm right here and replied, "Do I look dead?"
     "You could be a ghost. Maybe I see dead people."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson. Illustrated by Ag Ford. unpgd. Scholastic Press, January, 2014. 9780545166720. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

This family tale is narrated by the author and tells the story of her and her mother's trip to Tanzania for a family reunion and celebration of Bibi's eighty-fifth birthday. Phew! What a trek! First a long plane ride from the US to the west coast of Africa. After several days of talking and catching up, the whole extended family piled into a jeep to drive across Tanzania to the Serengeti National Park to safari for three days. There reunion trip ended at Bagamoyo, a former slave-trading post. 

That's quite a lot for a picture book to cover! I would've loved to have gotten to know the family a bit more as well as a little more about the safari and Bagamoyo. It felt as if three stories were crammed into one. A unique, multicultural family story got a bit lost and a bit teachy toward the end. 

The illustrations convey the happiness of the family's visit and their safari in a richly hued palette. A fascinating three-page author's note fills in some information about the family, the Swahili language and Tanzanian food. The book is a nice addition to the multicultural collection.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The End (Almost) by Jim Benton

The End (Almost) by Jim Benton. unpgd. Scholastic Inc., February, 2014. 9780545177313.

Jim Benton jumps onto the metafiction bandwagon with this bit of fluffy fun. A blobby, blue bear named Donut burps. The end. But wait, Donut isn't ready to have his story end. He argues, cajoles, departs, sneaks back. All to no avail as the narrator is firm. There is no more story. Finally, Donut is invited to read the story again.

The graphic above does not do the book justice as the yellow screams, look at me! The Donut-blue endpages feature multiple Donuts in a variety of disguises. I have no clue why the title page features a talking ice cream cone who makes one more appearance on the last page. Donut is appealing in a role that is derivative of Pigeon. But one can't help feeling that this has been done before. If this is a child's first foray into metafiction, the reader might hear, "Again." If the reader puts on the ham, fun will be had. If either have had any experience with Pigeon, the response might be lukewarm.

Waiting on Wednesday - The Curse of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker

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

I learned about this from the author's website a week or so back. There's nothing about it yet online, so I got permission to swipe her photo and copied the jacket info.

The Curse of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker. 227 p. Candlewick Press, November 2014. 9780763661380. 

From the jacket: 

"Eleven is not too young for war," Ole said to Barfoot, who swished his tail agreeable, then lumbered to the yard table and stuck his nose in an unattended pie.

When Iowa is called up to represent the Union of the United States of America, Ike is beside himself with excitement. But he's left behind with Mother and the aunts and girl cousins while the Button men march forth toward glory. Ike fears his fate is sealed unless he can call on the ingenuity of his fabled (some say cursed) Uncle Palmer, disguise himself as a drummer boy, and meet up with the Iowa First. But some opportunities are meant to be missed. And some arrive when you least expect them. 

I absolutely adored the author's Luck of the Buttons and Button Down and am really looking forward to this one. The strong setting, the voice, the language, the humor are wonderful - the whole package wrapped up in nostalgic covers. 

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth

Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., February, 2014. 9780545166683. (Finished copy courtesy of the publisher for review.)

Koo (Zen Shorts) is back, tripping through a year and 26 haiku. While they all are not technically haiku, the reason explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, they all evoke simple joys found in each season. They are, at turns, contemplative, celebratory and hilarious. Each haiku is illustrated charmingly in watercolor and ink in a lovely palette dominated by greens and blues in the spring and summer, reds in the winter and browns in the fall. Adorably rotund Koo is front and center in each painting, but joined by two or more friends in most.

Arriving just in time to incorporate into a poetry unit for National Poetry month, this is a sparkling addition to your collection. 

Clara and Davie by Patricia Polacco

Clara and Davie by Patricia Polacco. unpgd. Scholastic Inc., January, 2014. 9780545354776. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Is there no one famous that Patricia Polacco is not related to? Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, is related by marriage. This is the story of her childhood and the seeds of her gift of healing. She was born on Christmas day and named Clarissa by her ailing mother and raised by her older sister. No other information is given about her mother, but this is essentially the story of the bond between Clara and her older brother Davie. He was the one who dubbed Clarissa Clara and he doted on her in every way including interfering with Dolly when she disciplined Clara for her lisp. He even went to bat for her with the family, insisting that she be homeschooled. 

Polacco is no stranger to ridicule by peers and it is a recurring theme in her many picture books. She captures the moments of cruelty and its aftermath in print and illustration so realistically and poignantly. The mixed media art sports a somewhat muted palette. Emotion and warmth seep from most every page. An afterword containing more information about Clara Barton concludes the story.

Top Ten Tuesday - All Time Favorite Realistic Fiction

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is favorite books in the genre of our choice.

I've got so many favorites that I will pick my go-to realistic fiction books when doing Reader's Advisory. They are, in no particular order:

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. This is such an easy sell. In fact, I don't need to sell it because my kids come in asking for it and it's usually checked out. Really, anything by Sonnenblick is go-to for me.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Another easy sell. I've read this one many times both with my eyes and my ears and I cry every time. I heard rumors of a sequel awhile back. I hope, hope, hope they're true!

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman. Shawn's voice is so raw and honest. I haven't had a kid bring it back un-moved.

We Were Here by Matt de la Peña. It was either this or Mexican White Boy, but We Were Here was the first book by this brilliant, young author that I read. 

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers. Or, anything by Walter Dean Myers. Fallen Angels is my go-to book for boys who want war. There's Sunrise over Fallujah and Invasion to hand out when done.

Shug by Jenny Han. Whenever I have fifth grade girls come in asking for romance, they get Shug. (Or Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen.)

The next two I recommend to girls who want to cry. I also adore the grandmothers in each of them.

Itch by Michelle Kwasney.

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur.

A Mango-shaped Space by Wendy Mass. I loved this Schneider Family Book Award winner before I recommended it to a girl who read it, loved it and returned it saying, "This is about me! I have synesthesia!"

Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee. You really must read the trilogy as the POV in each is quite hilarious and unique.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Non-Fiction Monday - Face to Face with Penguins

Face to Face with Penguins by Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott. Face to Face series. 32 p. National Geographic Society, October, 2009. 9781426305610. (Review from purchased copy.)

I discovered this older title on a search for penguin books to fill a hole in my school's collection. It seems that penguins suddenly became popular as a subject for a fifth grade Polar regions report. Of course, the gorgeous cover drew my eye and beguiled. Then I noted that it was a National Geographic publication. Sold! I clicked the wanted button and waited for it to arrive. 

While I waited, I wondered how I missed it. Later I learned that it is part of a series, so I checked out the eighteen titles and put a few in next year's book order. Sigh. After twelve-plus years of doing this, I still haven't found a foolproof system of keeping up.

Of course, penguins are rather high-interest animals that are quite photogenic. Of course, any Nat Geo publication is going to have spectacular photographs. But this slightly oversized, square book is most attractively designed from penguin-print motif endpage to endpage. I will call the two vibrant yellow of the endpages, Emperor penguin yellows. Very eye-catching!

The text is rather conversational and quite personal. The author describes her and her photographer husband's trip and their up-close and personal encounters with the penguins of South Georgia. One chapter asks the reader to imagine herself a penguin and is written in the second-person, which I personally do not care for. Still, young readers will most likely enthusiastically embrace the request. 

There's plenty of white space and photographs on nearly every page in a variety of size from 3/4 spread to full-page to snapshot size. Penguin paw-print decorated text boxes provide extra information with engaging titles like, "What's the scoop on penguin poop. Pink poop means that the penguin's diet consists mostly of krill. Green is an ominous sign. 

A chapter entitled Marine Sentinels warns of the effects of global warming on all polar life and includes suggestions that the reader can do to help reduce their family's carbon footprint. There's also a Facts at a Glance section for report writers, a glossary, suggestions for books, films and web sites to explore and an interesting note on the couple's research.

I believe this book will be a popular book for browsers and report writers alike.

Check out other Non-Fiction Monday posts at the Non-Fiction Monday blog.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley

The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley. 236 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, Inc., February 25, 2014. 9780545453479. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Graphic novelist, Jimmy Gownley, author of the popular Amelia Rules! series mines his adolescence in this entertaining memoir. Usually an excellent student, after a one-two punch of chicken pox followed by pneumonia, he finds himself academically slipping and discouraged. He loves to draw though and this memoir recounts his attempts at writing and publishing his own graphic novels. 

The palette is always changing to reflect the mood, the art is crisp and energetic, the lettering is easy to read and the panel designs are varied and interesting. Jimmy and his friends are a likable bunch and his friendship with Tony is realistically portrayed, warts and all. Readers should not skip the Author's Note, by the way.

I don't think this will sit long on the shelf. I have three or four graphic novel fans who spend each lunch recess hanging out on the floor in front of my small but growing graphic novel collection. Sometimes they check them out, occasionally they are stolen. I have even found them secreted away in far flung sections of the library. This will be loved by fans of Amelia Rules, fans of Smile, and fans of the format. In other words, most kids. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy. Scholastic Inc. February 23, 2014. 9780545284172. (Finished copy courtesy of the publisher.)

Jaron, our reluctant king,finds himself between a rock and a hard place when Carthya is surrounded by hostile kingdoms led by Vargan, the King of Avenia. Will Jaron's lying, cheating ways help or harm his hopelessly outnumbered forces?

When Imogen is kidnapped, Jaron realizes that Vargan will use Jaron's friends to get to him so he sends Amarinda and Tobias away. Mott insists on attempting to rescue Imogen and is captured as well. So, it is up to Jaron to infiltrate Vargan's camp to rescue them both. Along the way, he calls in a favor from the pirates, but he is unsure of where their allegiance lies. The only person he can count on is himself.

Jaron shows increasing maturity in this installment, but he still possesses the ability to infuriate. There's plenty of action and suspense as Jaron finds himself in increasingly dire predicaments. The body count is high and some deaths are shocking. Betrayals are inevitable. 

A totally satisfying end to a spectacular saga. I'm going to miss Jaron and his friends as well as the kingdom of Carthya. Ms. Nielsen succeeded in constructing a beguiling world and Jaron is a character that I won't soon forget. 

There are plenty of fans at my school panting for this one.