Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Memes: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 271 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 5, 2015. 9780399162596.

Publisher synopsis: The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.
“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

First line: It's always there. Like the ground beneath my feet.

Page 56: He stares down at my black cube. Then he clears his throat before looking back up. "Okay. Thank you for being honest, Ally."

I'm so relieved he isn't mad.

"Ally?" He pauses. "Can you tell me why you don't want to be seen?"

"I think it would be easier to be invisible."


I shrug. I want to give him an answer, but I have both too many words and not enough.

I've already read and reviewed this achingly lovely story (here) but love it so much I want to talk about it wherever I can.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger

A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger. Illustrated by Dan Santat. unpgd. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, December, 2014. 9780316376389. (Purchased.)

He's back and he's bad and he's mad about Valentine's Day. If Crankenstein weren't already firmly ensconced in my heart, he would be with this book. As one who detests the holiday, I can relate.

Poor Crankenstein! He's awakened on this dreadful day by his mother, who knows exactly how Crankenstein feels about Valentine's Day and does not care a fig. She has heart-covered tighty-whites for him to wear and is sending him off to school with roses to give to his teachers. On the bus, Crankenstein can't manage to fend off a kiss from someone who is seriously crushing on him. Do we see a second Crankenstein in the back of the bus?

When forced to make a Valentine card, Crankenstein is quite the poet, 
      Roses are red.
      Violets are blue.
      Valentine's Day stinks.
      Seriously, P.U.

He endured a candy disaster and mushy garland making but the last straw is having to play the part of Cupid in a Valentine's Day pageant. 

Santat marvelously captures Crankenstein in all his curmudgeonly glory. His illustrations make the humorous text pop. And I want some candy hearts from the front end-pages. 

This will be a sure-fire hit at Valentine's Day storytime. Fans of Crankenstein will be happy he's back and new fans will seek out the prequel.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 271 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 5, 2015. 9780399162596. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Ally Nickerson has a secret. She has been able to keep it because her family has moved just about yearly for each of the six years she has been in school. She can't read. The letters swim before her eyes and she gets headaches each time she tries to read. She'd love to read. She has decided that she's just too stupid to learn and has devised ways to hide her secret. Unfortunately, her solution is to act up until she is sent to the principal's office. She'd love to stay out of trouble. She feels for her mother, who works long hours as a waitress while her father is deployed in Iraq. She really doesn't want to add to her mother's worries but she is stuck. 

This is the first year she'll be attending the same school two years in a row. Her sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hall, is leaving to have a baby and she wants Ally to try and write something for Mr. Daniels, the teacher who will be replacing her. Ally digs her heels in and won't; so she's sent to the principal's office. Mrs. Silver is growing weary of Ally's obstinance.

Class mean girl, Shay, seems to have it in for Ally but includes Albert and Kiesha in her sniping. The thing is, neither one of them seem to let Shay get to them. This intrigues Ally. It isn't long before the three of them form a tentative friendship. 

Mr. Daniels is not like any teacher Ally has encountered. First of all, he calls his students "Fantasticos" and seems to celebrate everything. Most importantly, he doesn't get mad at Ally's antics. He seems to want to truly understand her. 

From page 56 of the arc: "Ally?" He pauses. "Can you tell me why you don't want to be seen?"

"I think it would be easier to be invisible."


I shrug. I want to give him an answer, but I have both too many words and not enough.

My arc is totally dog-earred as rarely did a page go by that I wasn't struck by something - a turn of phrase, a phenomenal simile, Ally's hysterical observation, or a bit of dialogue that rang so true, I needed to savor it. This is a book I will definitely reread more than once. I see it's releasing as an audiobook as well so that's a definite reread. I can open to any page and settle right in.  While Ally catapulted into my heart in the first paragraph, Albert, Kiesha, Oliver, Travis, Mr. Daniels and even Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson found spots as well. 

Even though the teachers at my school are extraordinary at identifying student learning issues, my thoughts kept turning to one teacher in particular. Mr. Daniels reminds me of her. I want her to read the book next. But I want all the teachers to read it and will encourage them to read it aloud to their students. Students will find much to relate to and to discuss. Finally, I know just which of my readers are going to love Fish in a Tree. I don't expect to see it sit much once a finished copy hits my library's shelf.

I enjoyed Ms. Mullaly Hunt's debut, One for the Murphys and was so looking forward to her sophomore offering. I was feeling such jealousy of folks who were lucky receivers of arcs. Then, I received an arc at a book event but was unable to get to it till now. I'm glad I didn't squeeze it in among my other reading obligations. This one deserved 100% attention. I also resisted swallowing it whole. The buzz and hype are well-deserved. Hooray for Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Fish in a Tree!

Waiting on Wednesday - The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles of upcoming releases.

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. 362 p. Random House Children's Books, March 24, 2015. 9780375870774.

Publisher synopsis: With over one million copies sold, this series of modern classics about the charming Penderwick family, from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller Jeanne Birdsall, is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager.

Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family.

Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart.

Filled with all the heart, hilarity, and charm that has come to define this beloved clan, The Penderwicks in Spring is about fun and family and friends (and dogs), and what happens when you bring what's hidden into the bright light of the spring sun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

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

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin. 176 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 16, 2015. 9781442485037.

Publisher synopsis: Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel from the author of The Summer Before Boys that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked.
Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, most secret secret: her mother is in prison.
Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend—but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.

I have adored many of this author's books in the past and am quite psyched to read this one. And, how much do I love the cover?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blog Tour: Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel's Dream: the true story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. unpgd. Schwartz & Wade/ Random House Children's Books, January 6, 2015. 9780449817445. (Finished copy courtesy of Blueslip Media for review.)

Parents, educators and librarians looking for a gentle story of inspiration, courage and determination need look no further than this book. It is the story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah, who was born with a deformed leg in Ghana to a mother who accepted her son and his deformity.  In Ghana, the prevailing notion was that babies born with deformities were cursed. Parents were encouraged to abandon or even kill these infants. Emmanuel's mother, Comfort, could not and loved her son unconditionally. Emmanuel's father could not accept his son and left the family. In fact, that scene depicting the father leaving mother, child and grandmother behind as he leaves their hut is heartbreaking.

Ensuing pages show that Comfort nurtured Emmanuel but did not baby him. She expected him to fetch water and he even shined shoes to earn money. When it came time for Emmanuel to start school, Comfort carried him there. He was the only child with a disability at school and endured being excluded. As a solution, he saved his money and purchased a soccer ball and learned to play using the crutches that his grandmother was able to find for him. When he became too heavy for his mother to carry him to school, he hopped there.

He left school at the age of thirteen when his mother became too ill to work in order to support the family. No one would hire him. He was expected to take to the streets to beg. A food vendor hired him to work at his stall and when Emmanuel wasn't busy preparing food, he shined shoes and sent his money home to support his family. 

He was able to return home to visit before his mother died. Her last words to him were, "Be respectful, take care of your family, don't ever beg. And don't give up." He returned to his job contemplating how he would honor those words. "He would honor them by showing everyone that being disabled does not mean being unable." He found a way to raise money for a bicycle and decided to bike across Ghana to raise money and awareness. 

The text is spare and poetic. Its slightly matter-of-fact tone doesn't hit the reader over the head with its message. The message is amazing but Ms. Thompson trusts Emmanuel's actions to speak for themselves. The collage illustrations are spare as well. The peachy beige background allow the figures to pop. The warm skin tones and vibrant colors of the clothing of Emmanuel, his family and friends engage the eye. There's energy, there's sadness, there's joy. It all tumbles out of the pages.

An author's note provides additional information about Emmanuel's continued efforts, including the suggestion to visit the Emmanuel Education Foundation and Sports Academy website for more information.

I recommend this to introduce a unit on social justice or disability awareness for young readers all the way through middle school. It would be very easy to follow the reading with discussion and follow that with a viewing of the documentary, Emmanuel's Gift. 

Other bloggers have posted a series of interviews with the author. Click on the links below to read these. Thanks to Barb at Blueslip Media for the chance to read Emmanuel's Dream.

Mon, Jan 12: Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13: 5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14: Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15: Sharpread
Fri, Jan 16: Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17: Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19: Once Upon a Story
Wed, Jan 21: Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22: Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23: The Fourth Musketeer
Mon, Jan 26: NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27: 
Teach Mentor Texts

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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

For review:

My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando. Illustrated by T.L. Bonaddio. 253 p. Running Press Book Publishers, April 

Publisher synopsis: Twelve-year-old Kate Marino thinks she is a real mastermind. At least when it comes to hatching a plan to dissuade potential buyers from purchasing Big Red, the old farmhouse that has been the only home Kate has ever known, and which her parents are selling in order to downsize.

Kate has not even moved yet, and already everything seems to be changing in unwelcome ways. Suddenly every moment and memory seems fleeting, even if it has been something that Kate has taken to be a forever truth. Making dioramas of the people she loves in the places that she holds dear gives Kate a sense of calm. But it may take several bags of stink, the help of her best friends, and a few fake dogs in order for her to be able to keep her life the way that she knows and loves it.

With sincerity and humor, author Tara Altebrando (The Battle of Darcy Lane) thoughtfully explores the pain—and promise—of letting go. Artist T.L. Bonaddio’s warm interior illustrations accentuate the tangible shoebox moments that make an impression for a lifetime.


A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger. Illustrated by Dan Santat. unpgd. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, December, 2014. 9780316376389.

Publisher synopsis: CRANKENSTEIN!

See what happens to an ordinary kid on the most lovey-dovey, yuckiest day of the year-Valentine's Day!

Cheesy cards, allergy-inducing bouquets, and heart-shaped everything? It's enough to turn anyone into a monster!


But Crankenstein might just find a way to turn his sour day sweet... because even the crankiest monsters have hearts!

Also, the PTO book fair was this week and I bought 20 books there but I'll probably spread them out over the next few StS posts.

Happy reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beautiful Moon by Tonya Bolden

Beautiful Moon: a child's prayer by Tonya Bolden. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. unpgd. Harry N. Abrams Inc., November, 2014. 9781419707926. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

A young boy awakens suddenly. Was it the light of the gorgeous full moon flooding his room or the remembrance of forgotten prayers. Bathed in the golden yellow light, the boy earnestly prays for the homeless, for those fighting wars overseas, for the hungry and for his own family. 

The illustrations accompanying those wishes are dark and foreboding despite the fullness of the moon. The illustrations are luminous and the text is lyrical making for intimate and cozy bedtime reading, especially for those who end their day in prayer. 

Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood

Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood. Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell. unpgd. Charlesbridge Publisher, October, 2014. 9781934133576. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Imani is constantly teased by the members of her Maasai tribe for her short stature. What she lacks in height, she makes up for with determination and imagination thanks to her supportive mother who fuels Imani with stories each night. Tales of the moon goddess and Anansi sustain her and it is her heart's desire to touch the moon. As she tries and fails, the taunts do not diminish her intentions. Magical realism is deeply embedded in this lilting story. The bright, energetic illustrations are endearing and add to the sweetness of the story.  

Full Steam Ahead by Paul A. Reynolds

Sydney & Simon: Full Steam Ahead by Paul A. Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 48 p. Charlesbridge, September, 2014. 9781580896757. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Sydney and Simon are spirited and colorful twin mice endowed with a healthy dose of inquisitiveness and a bent for problem solving. Both siblings keep a wonder journal, only Sydney's is a traditional notebook, while Simon's is a tablet. This enables him to take pictures and shoot videos while the two use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) to learn about the water cycle to try to save the wilting plants in their window box. 

The narrative moves along jauntily as the twins turn to the helpful adults in their lives who support and step back. The whimsical, energetic illustrations add appeal. A glossary of terms and note to the reader asking, "Are You a STEAM thinker?" conclude the volume, the first in a series. This is a pleasing addition to the STEAM (STEM) collection.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ashley Bryan's Puppets by Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan's Puppets: making something from everything by Ashley Bryan. Photographed by Ken Hannon. 80 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, July 2014. 9781442487284. (Purchased)

This book is a photo essay in poems and it's simply gorgeous.  Renowned author, illustrator, poet, and now, puppet maker, Ashley Bryan created a tribe of puppets made of objects found while walking the shores of his beloved Cranberry Isles island of Islesford.

Bryan has created more than thirty unique puppets, named them with African names and imbued them with distinct voices and personalities through poems. One of my favorites is Jojo, the storyteller. Her adorable face is fashioned out of a battered knit glove, mismatched button eyes and a marrow bone for a mouth that gives her either a perpetually surprised expression or the impression that she's always talking. Apt.

The book is a feast for the eyes, brimming with joy and possibility. I have already told the art teacher I have a perfect resource for her unit on found art. This book should serve as a source of inspiration. LA teachers will have much to mine here as well.

I must admit that I possess no objectivity when it comes to Mr. Bryan. I am a long-time fan of his. The Cat's Purr is one of my all-time favorites and sadly, no longer available in hard cover. If you ever get the chance to hear this humble, joyous and vibrant man speak, do please. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cover Coincidence

The PTO book fair is taking place in my library this week. It's a Scholastic Fair so the perimeter of the room is lined with those giant carts that open up and displays books face-out. The selection this year is fantastic and I have a pile of books I NEED to buy for the library right now! 

I noticed these two covers:

And thought, didn't someone do a post about jars on covers? Yes, Travis Jonkers' Cover Curiosity did notice. Click here to check out other covers featuring jars.

Waiting on Wednesday - Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

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

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt. 224 p. Henry Holt & Company (BYR), April 14, 2015. 9780805080223.

There is no publisher synopsis yet. I don't care. I want it. I am also feeling some serious cover love here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Didn't Get to in 2014

This week's TTT theme over at Broke and Bookish is "2014 books not gotten to in 2014." 

Sigh. Story of my life. So many books, so little time, energy, attention. There are plenty more than ten, but these are books I most regret and will get to soon. I hope.

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis.

West of the Moon by Margie Preus.

Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter.

Port Chicago 50: disaster, mutiny and the fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin.

Because They Marched: the people's campaign for voting rights that changed America by Russell Freedman.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles.

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson.

Circa Now by Amber MecRee Turner.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier. 

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Non-Fiction Monday: Drones by Martin Dougherty

Drones by Martin J. Dougherty. 80 p. Scholastic Inc., July, 2014. 9780545664769. (Finished copy provided by publisher for review.)

This well-designed book is chockfull of full-color photographs and peppered with descriptions and fact boxes about a variety of drones designed for both civilian and military usage. Each drone also has a box featuring its scale as compared to the average human. The majority are used by the military but civilian uses of the technology include Amazon delivery, farming and oceanography.

While use of this technology has its positives, there's a scary side as well, including loss of privacy. Excepting for a brief mention of the possibility of an Amazon delivery droid falling out of the sky and hurting someone, and the necessity to change some laws to allow the use of droids, there was no further discussion. An index concludes the volume but no source notes were included.

Accessible and appealing, make sure to get it into the hands of your fans of military informational books but don't be surprised if the casual browser picks it up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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


Reborn by Jennifer Rush. 336 p. The Altered series #3. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, January 6, 2015. 9780316197069.

Publisher synopsis: The Branch is in shambles, but Anna, Sam, Cas, and Nick can't rest easy. Remnants of the organization lurk unseen and the flashbacks to their old lives are only getting stronger—especially Nick's.
Following scattered memories and clues from his Branch file, Nick sets off alone in search of answers and in search of the girl who haunts his dreams. But the sleepy town where she lives in full of secrets and Nick soon learns that uncovering their shared past may have deadly consequences.
I read the first book, Altered as an arc and decided it was just a tad mature for my crew but kept the arc around for "that" reader. Somehow, I also received an arc of Erased. This year, an eighth grader is that reader. This girl is blowing through books! Seventeen so far for this school year. She blew through the first two just in time for the release of the third. I did not receive an arc but ran out and bought the hardcover because I love this girl's enthusiasm.

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September, 2014. 9780544331648.

Publisher synopsis: “When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

Gracefully Grayson by Amy Polonsky. 256 p. Disney-Hyperion, November, 2014. 9781423185277.

Publisher synopsis: What if who you are on the outside doesn't match who you are on the inside?
Grayson Sender has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: "he" is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender's body. The weight of this secret is crushing, but sharing it would mean facing ridicule, scorn, rejection, or worse. Despite the risks, Grayson's true self itches to break free. Will new strength from an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher's wisdom be enough to help Grayson step into the spotlight she was born to inhabit?
Debut author Ami Polonsky's moving, beautifully-written novel about identity, self-esteem, and friendship shines with the strength of a young person's spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Popularity Papers 7: The less-than-hidden secrets and final revelations of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang

The less-than-hidden secrets and final revelations of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow. Popularity Papers series #7. Amulet Books/ Abrams, September, 2014. 9781419712708. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

As BFFs Lydia and Julie near the end of seventh grade, disasters of all shapes and sizes roll in. A nearby school has a fire and students from there need to attend Hamlin Junior High. With the student body nearly doubled, initial excitement gives way to resentment over crowds and locker sharing and body odor. Julie and Lydia organize a dance to try to unite the students but their journal goes missing and soon photocopied pages plaster the hallways causing everyone to get mad at them and endangering their plans for the dance and their popularity.

I'm so sorry to see this series end. While I haven't read each installment, I didn't need to as it is a popular series at my school. It rises above Wimpy kid and its knockoffs in quality both for the writing and illustrating. Ignatow has a keen ear for authentic dialogue and relatable middle school angst. Her cast of characters are diverse and endearing. She keeps things gentle, opting to avoid snarky cynicism. Her use of tons of color and a variety of fonts keep the eye engaged. The books really do look like notebooks created by two different girls.

I'm eager to see what's next for Ms. Ignatow.

Friday Memes: Astrotwins by Mark Kelly

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

Astrotwins: Project Blastoff by Mark Kelly with Martha Freeman. 224 p. Simon & Schuster/ Paula Wiseman Books, March 24, 2015. 9781481417365.

Publisher synopsis: A team of middle schoolers prepares for blastoff in this adventure from the author of the New York Times bestsellingMousetronaut, based on the childhoods of real-life astronauts Mark Kelly and his twin brother Scott.
It’s a long, hot summer and Scott and Mark are in big trouble for taking apart (aka destroying) their dad’s calculator. As a punishment, they’re sent to their grandfather’s house, where there’s no TV and they have to do chores. And Grandpa is less tolerant of the twins’ constant bickering. “Why don’t you two work together on something constructive. What if you built a go-kart or something?” Grandpa suggests.
But it’s not a go-kart the twins are interested in. They want to build a rocket. With the help of Jenny, nicknamed Egg, and a crew of can-do kids, they set out to build a real rocket that will blast off and orbit the Earth. The question soon becomes: which twin will get to be the astronaut?
Written by a NASA astronaut with four space flights under his belt, this exciting story includes extensive back matter on the space program with fantastic facts and details.
First line(s): This time the twins were determined. Nothing would go wrong.

Page 56: Everybody else just looked at Howard, who finally shrugged. "There's nothing else to explain. That's it."

    "Maybe for you," Mark said. Then  he looked at Barry. "You want to try that in regular human-speak?"

I'll be reviewing this for SLJ. I will admit that I'm geeking out over the STEM possibilities and have already given the eighth grade science teacher a heads up.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blog Tour: Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings

Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings. Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin. 103 p. Egmont Publishing, January 6, 2015. 9781606845967. (Finished copy provided by publisher for review.)

The jacket flap of this hysterical early chapter book asks, "What does a cat need to do to take a cat nap?" 

The aptly named Hissy lives with the Fitz family a bit grudgingly. As humans go, they are okay, especially when they feed him but they just don't know how to treat a cat. Cats are singular, solitary creatures with particular tastes (freshly killed food) and desires (to be left alone) and this family just does not get it. It doesn't help that curmudgeonly Hissy is a bit of a diva. He's even hard on his cat friends. Mr. Fitz is a carpenter and spends his days banging and sawing - highly incompatible with Hissy's desired nap. Eight-year-old Georgie wants to pet him constantly in places Hissy definitely doesn't like. Out-of-control, rambunctious three-year-old Zeb terrorizes Hissy. Zeb's twin, Abe, on the other hand, shows promise as does Mrs. Fitz, who reliably feeds Hissy.

I just loved the voice. Sure it conjures up the Internet sensation Grumpy Cat, but I read the book with the voice of that cute Friskies commercial or the Sad Cat Diary - deep, long-suffering, cynical, sardonic and resigned. The spot art humorously reflect the goings on and who can resist that purr-fect cover? 

I happened to have the book on my desk at work when a fifth grader came into the library to check out some books. One of the titles she was interested in was Grumpy Cat. Unfortunately for her, it was checked out. I was putting it on hold for her when she spotted Hissy Fitz. "Ooh! Can I take this?" I told her to put her name on a post-it note and that as soon as I finished this post, I'd catalog, cover the book and check it out to her. She left the library very excited. She's a huge reader and very prone to dragging her friends in to check out her faves. I don't really expect to see much of it now as it gets passed around the fifth grade. (Sighs happily.)

While this is an early chapter book, it certainly has a place in classrooms and libraries up to fifth or sixth grade. Not only do we still have struggling readers in these grades, but cat humor can be enjoyed at any age. Even fluent and above grade readers deserve to kick back and read a fun and satisfying story.

There are links to blogs that are having giveaways on
Miss Yingling Reads.

You can also follow Hissy on Twitter @thehissyfitz.

Buried Sunlight: how fossil fuels have changed the Earth by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

Buried Sunlight: how fossil fuels have changed the Earth by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm. unpgd. Blue Sky Press/ Scholastic Inc., September, 2014. 9780545577854. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

Do you need help explaining what fossil fuels are formed and how human consumption is not only outstripping creation but burning a hole in the ozone layer? Look no further than this gorgeous picture book for older readers. It's absolutely gorgeous and absolutely understandable. I know I had to answer questions about photosynthesis on standardized tests way back when and, until my spectacular advanced biology teacher explained it in a way I could understand, I never got it. I wish this book was around then.

The sun is our narrator here. It took millions of years for the Earth to create the oxygen necessary for living things to survive. Tiny bacteria evolved into sea plants, plants that tiny sea animals could eat. Animals and plants eventually moved to land when there was enough oxygen in the air to support them. Over millions and millions of years, the dead plants and animals were buried deeper and deeper into the earth where, eventually, they changed into oil, coal and gas. In the two hundred years since humans have been industrialized, not only are fossil fuels being depleted, but the excess CO2 is burning a hole in the ozone layer and causing global temperatures to increase. 

The palette is dominated by rich greens and blues and the folk style make the illustrations accessible and pleasing. Six pages of notes conclude the book with further explanations of the science and energy alternatives, making this a perfect picture book for slightly older readers. Teachers will definitely want to consider using it (and its companions, Ocean Sunlight and Living Sunlight) to introduce a unit in science or the environment.