Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Memes: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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

The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. 233 p. Illustrated by Scott Fisher. Magisterium series #4. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October, 2017. 9780545522366.

Publisher synopsis: A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt.

Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on.

But Call has no idea.

It is only when he's broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine's plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power.

In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead.

First line: Prison was not like Call expected it to be.

Page 56: "I can't believe your original escape plan requires another escape plan," Jasper said. "You suck at escaping."
     Tamara fixed him with a glare. "I guess the more we escape, the better we'll get at it."
     After a moment, Jasper brightened. "Maybe it's not so bad that we've been kidnapped. I mean, this is all very dramatic. When Celia understands what's happened to me, she's going to feel terrible about dumping me..."

This is book four in a series that you really need to read in order. It's quite popular at my school.

Fact Friday: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman. Photographs by Annie Crawley. 64 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, October 28, 2017. 9781512415711. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I reviewed this on the blog here but I featured it on the morning announcements at school today. I had scheduled it for today weeks ago but when I spied this picture at the Phoenix Zoo outside their conservation center on Sunday,
I was thrilled by the happy coincidence.

This was the announcement: It's time for Fact Friday. When Ms. Kahn was in Phoenix, Arizona for a conference last weekend, she visited the Phoenix Zoo. She spied a giant poster of a black-footed ferret outside the Conservation Center, which is a building staffed by scientists who are trying to save the black-footed ferret as well as five other animal species from extinction with breeding programs. She first learned of these kinds of zoo scientists in the book, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman. This highly readable book features three scientists who work at three different American zoos and highlights their conservation work. It's a beautifully designed book full of fascinating full-color photographs of the animals as well as the scientists at work. The book focused on the ferret conservation work being done at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, but the two zoos are partners in this conservation effort.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

#tbt: The Adventures of Captain Underpants: the first epic novel by Dav Pilkey

The Adventures of Captain Underpants: the first epic novel by Dav Pilkey. Scholastic, September, 1997. 

#tbt features The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Tra-la-la! It has been 20 years since Capt. Underpants burst on the scene to captivate younger readers and annoy adults like parents, teachers and librarians (Not me! I snort-laugh) with its ubiquitous potty humor. Dav Pilkey was a creative kid who had trouble reading and sitting still. He spent a lot of time at a desk out in the hallway and was 7 or 8 when he created the characters of George and Harold. He was actually told by one of his teachers that he would not amount to much. His first book, World War Won, was published in 1987 when he was 21 but he had written and illustrated it as a teenager. He submitted it to a writing contest where he won first place. The prize was publication of the book. Thanks for persisting Dav!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating

Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating. The World of Weird Animals series. Random House Children's Books, August, 2018. 

Found out about this on the author's FB page last week. I couldn't find anything about it on RH webpage so I grabbed the image off the author's FB page and cobbled together the information from Goodreads. Jess Keating is a zoologist turned author who, with illustrator, David DeGrand create eye-catching, fun-fact-filled informational books. So excited for this because Pink as a Blobfish is a real crowd-pleaser at my school. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan

Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan. 272 p. Candlewick Press, April, 2017. 9780763690342. (Purchased)

Teen Tuesday features Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan. This debut is set in a tiny fishing village in Louisiana on the gulf coast before and after Hurricane Katrina decimated the area in 2005. Evangeline Riley is turning sixteen and loves nothing more than to glide out onto the water on her skiff and fish. Her sister is more interested in cheerleading and boys and can't wait to flee their tiny town. When they have to evacuate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, their world is turned upside down as their town is nearly destroyed, and their friends scatter to different parts of the country. This evocative novel has a strong sense of place and a sweet romance.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick

Sometimes I coordinate my review with the Daily Booktalk for our morning announcements. I read and reviewed this back in July. Even though I was posting the Daily Booktalk to my blog and our school's public library web page through the summer, I chose to wait until school started to make sure as many students heard as possible. Then I forgot. Until Thursday, when I heard Jordan speak twice about the two books he has out this year. Remedying now:

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick. 193 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., August, 2017. 9780545863223.

Middle Grade Monday features The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick. This is the story of Maverick who is entering sixth grade. To say that his life has been tough is an understatement. His dad died while on deployment in Afghanistan and his alcoholic mom can't seem to hold a steady job or find a stable boyfriend - or, at least one that doesn't hit her. Mav has been the parent to his mom, constantly protecting her when he rarely has enough to eat or clothes that are clean or fit. Jordan Sonnenblick is a master at telling a sad story with a light hand and there's always hope in his stories. While you will cry, there is also a lot of humor in this affecting story.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

AASL17 is a wrap

Well, the conference is over. There was a fairly large exodus of librarians from Phoenix yesterday. Seeing them tugging their luggage behind them as they squeezed in their last sessions before heading to the airport kind of made me regret staying the extra day in Phoenix. 

The pros: I get a day of sightseeing. I mean what's the point of traveling to a city I've never been to if not to take in some of the sights. I suppose I could skip sessions to do so, but then, what's the point of attending conference?

The cons: I don't get a day of rest before heading back to school. I pay for an extra night for the hotel. Plus, I miss my husband and my dogs.

I had a horrible night's sleep, waking every 45 minutes and then rising at 4:15 when I realized that sleep was hopeless. This does not bode well for a day of activity before leaving. Here it's nearly 6:30 and I'm ready to go back to sleep. But, I always sleep poorly the night before travel. Not that I'm the best sleeper in the best of times.

I think I'll spend the morning at the zoo. It's going to be a beautiful day and since climbing Camelback isn't in the cards (not recommended on weekends due to crowds), it's a way to be out in nature of sorts. 

If there's time before heading to the airport, I will walk the downtown area though there is absolutely no room in my suitcase for any purchases.

I still need time to process all that I experienced but feel good about the conference and happy to return to work to try out some ideas that have germinated.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

AASL17 Day 3

My final day of conference was wonderful! I got a decent night of rest and woke up refreshed instead of headachey. The day started with Scholastic's Breakfast with Mr. Schu. I've heard John Schu speak many times and each time am amazed at his energy, stamina and message of positivity. I love my job, truly, but I always walk a little lighter after hearing John speak.


I dashed out of that a bit early to attend Jason Reynold's keynote. Another person I admire greatly. Jason is articulate, humble and slightly provocative. Some quotes I illegibly scrawled in my conference notebook were:

"At the end of the day, I'm sifting through the digital web and figuring out which threads I want to tug on..."

"I get to come to schools, make a mess of things, then vanish."

"Secret space of a book," said while reminding us that we never know where our students are coming from, what they are dealing with.

"My books are thank you notes."

"The elevator (in Long Way Down) is nothing but a metaphor for trauma - it's cold, small and hanging by a thread."


Next up was a signing by Jack Gantos. The line was long and moved slowly because this gracious gentleman takes his time! His autographs are works of art and he likes to engage. Totally worth the wait even if I arrived at my session a bit late.

Mirror, Mirror panel moderated by Carole Boston Weatherford, who asked great questions of Bill Konigsberg, Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Ellen Oh and Icy Smith.

Brown Bookshelf hosted a distinguished panel. I have their blog in my feed and always appreciate their special spotlight each February for African-American History Month.

Had to sneak out of that panel a tad early to attend a luncheon hosted by Ebsco, where I learned of some new features coming our way.

Took an hour to drop my books off at my hotel, grabbed my audiobook and plugged in and sat in the sun in the garden courtyard. (I am returning home tomorrow to 17 degrees. Need to soak up this warmth and sun!)

I totally forgot that I had bookmarked a session on Mindfulness in the school library. Sigh. Missed it.

My last session was quite thought-provoking and challenging and dovetailed nicely with Jason Reynolds' keynote. Addressing White Privilege and Unconscious Bias in the Classroom: Becoming an Ally.

After that, I got on a lo-ng-g-g-g line for a "Meet the Author" book signing. We got six tickets and got to choose to get on lines for books by a variety of authors - from picture books to YA. I am a tad worried about packing my suitcase. I check a half-packed large bag figuring the $25 checked bag fee is close to the amount I'd pay to ship the books home. Besides, my carry-on nearly always ends up getting checked because folks hog the overhead bins. By the time my cheap-ass boarding group gets on, there's no room.

So, now I am waiting for my appetite to bounce back because I have a reservation for one at the roof top restaurant here at the Hyatt. Yeah, I know. Lame.

Tomorrow, I have an afternoon flight, which leaves the morning for some Phoenix exploring. What to do? Walk the neighborhoods? Trek to the Zoo? Can't go to the mountain to climb because it'll probably be too crowded on the weekend. Next time. That and a Grand Canyon helicopter tour.

AASL17: Day 2

Day two meant an early start for me after a sort of late night on Thursday. Overdrive hosted a breakfast and I wanted to learn more about the company/ product since my principal is interested in adding digital audiobooks to our collection since so few of our students own cd players and most of the school's computers have no disc players.

I am sorry to admit that the sessions I chose to attend were not as informative as I would've liked. When I attend conference, I like to be able to bring one thing home to do in my library. The ironic thing was, the one session I bailed on because fatigue caught up with me and I had to nap or not get through the evening activity, was wonderful according to the new friend I met on the bus! Sigh.

It's not the sessions were delivered poorly; it's just that I have been to similar sessions and learned nothing new. For someone new to the topic, they were fine. 

Also, I struck out on the author signing lines, always joining just as the publisher ran out of books! Sigh.

The evening activity was a visit to the Corona Ranch for a buffet, dancing (I don't dance) and a rodeo. I always feel guilty whenever I am entertained by trained animals and I'm not sure how I feel about bucking broncos. I enjoyed the show. This place is a small, family-run business and the emcee really did his research because his jokes about librarians were hysterical. Speaking of hysterical, he also chose several from the audience to participate in a couple of events such as putting a giant pair of underwear on a calf and milking a goat. 

Can't wait for the Saturday sessions to start. Jason Reynolds is delivering the morning keynote! 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fact Friday: Animals on the Move by Dorothea DePrisco

Animal Planet: Animals on the Move by Dorothea DePrisco. Animal Bites series. 80 p. Liberty Street/ Time Inc. Books, March, 2017. 9781618931795. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Children who love animal facts will love this over-size, colorful volume. Animals move in a variety of ways and speeds. There's plenty of full-color photos of animals in action as well as supplementary information about habitat, maps, facts and figures all attractively designed. 

Friday Memes: The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta

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

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta. Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1 368 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., February 27, 2018. 9781338185706.

Publisher synopsis: Meet Kiranmala: Interdimensional Demon Slayer (Only she doesn't know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey...until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents' fantastical stories - like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world. Gripping and hilarious, The Serpent's Secret is a magical journey to a land inspired by Indian mythology, with would building as vibrant as the characters themselves. 

First line: The day my parents got stalled by a rakkhosh and whisked away to another galactic dimension was a pretty crap-tastic day. The fact that it was actually my twelfth birthday made it all that much worse.

Page 56: "I'm sorry guys, I can't do this anymore." My voice shook and I swiped furiously at my nose. "I mean, killer demons? Different dimensions? Black holes? I'm just an ordinary kid from New Jersey. I can't deal with all this!"
     Lal's face softened and he looked like he was going to say something nice, but his brother cut him off with a furious exclamation. "Don't be such a 2-D!"
     I whipped around. "What did you call me?"
     "A flatfoot, a ruler, a 2-D!" Neel ground out the words like they were curses.


Ever since I read Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry trilogy, I've been eager to read more books featuring Indian mythology and folklore. I am so happy to have received this arc! 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

AASL17 - Day One

The day dawned clear and beautiful here in Phoenix. I opened my curtains to take in the view and found that my little quiet corner room has none. I face a wall. If I crane my neck to look right, I can see some blue sky. Funny. I did think about upgrading to a high floor and panoramic views of the city for $20 a night but decided not to. I don't spend that much time in my hotel room at conference. Was it worth $80 more?

Headed out to register and then wait for my tour - the Desert Botanical Garden. It was beautiful and our docent was entertaining and informative. I took way too many pictures of cacti and other succulents. I just love the textures. 

Once we got back to town, I grabbed a quick bite before heading to another hotel for an "Authors in the Afternoon" panel. I forgot that it was lunch, so I grabbed my sandwich and boxed it for another time. Silly me. 


Christian Robinson spoke about his creative process. His presence is a joyful as his art.

Jordan Sonnenblick made me tear up with the story behind his last two books, Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade and Falling Over Sideways.

And Sarah Dessen entertained with her tales from high school and her inspiration for her latest book. 

Next up was the General Session with all sorts of welcoming remarks and thanking of sponsors, etc.

The Keynote speech was given by Jaime Casap, Google Evangelist. He was warm and funny and thought-provoking. I jotted down a lot of tweetable quotes and wish I had the time to parse through them now, but I have a dinner to attend. 

One that stuck was, "Instead of asking a child what do you want to be when you grow up, ask, what problem do you want to solve."

#tbt: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, March 2000. 

This was DiCamillo's debut. It was award a Newbery Honor. Because of Winn-Dixie is the story of India Opal Buloni. She and her father, Preacher, move to a trailer park after her mother abandons them. She's lonely. When she spies a dog wreaking havoc at the local Winn-Dixie supermarket, she claims the dog is hers and names him Winn-Dixie, after the store. The two adopt each other and convince Preacher to allow him to stay. Slowly, and with Winn-Dixie's help India gets to know her neighbors and learns to help her father and herself heal. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I am Off to #AASL17

Phoenix here I come! I will be dashing right out of school today to catch a flight to Phoenix this evening for the semi-annual American Association of School Librarians Conference. My first was two years ago when it was in Columbus, Ohio. I had a grand old time there and vowed to do it again. 

I am hoping to continue my picture book month highlights. My reading always suffers on these busy conference and travel days. Perhaps I will review picture books I read earlier in the year but did not review. 

I can't tell you how excited I am about this trip. I anticipate getting to see fellow librarian friends I've made at conferences and online, meet and make some more new bffs and listen to author panels, see publishers and attend some keynotes. As usual, I've prepared very little and will probably miss something. Here's to four days of blissful madness!

Picture Book FNG review: Jack B. Ninja by Tim McCanna

Picture Book Month Day 8:

Jack B. Ninja by Tim McCanna. Illustrated by Stephen Savage. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc., June 28, 2018. 9780545917285. (Review from fng courtesy of publisher.)

This fng was in our goody bag from Bookfest@bankstreet. The first time I read through this jaunty play on the nursery rhyme, Jack be nimble, I didn't think the premise worked all that well despite the great illustrations. Then, I read it aloud to some students and grew to appreciate it so much more. Plus, the kids were tickled. This experience was a friendly reminder to myself to reread picture books a few times before reviewing. And, to try to grab a kid audience for one of the re-readings.

Jack is a ninja-in-training off on his first mission, but he falls into a trap and must escape some bad guys. The digitally rendered, vivid, graphic art is signature Savage - inviting and appealing, with a palette of mostly dusky blues and greens.

This would be a fun read aloud on its own or a great addition to a "fractured" nursery rhyme/ fairy tale unit. The rhyme scheme invites prediction, especially on the last page. 

By the way, Jack does eventually jump over a candlestick, or two.

Waiting on Wednesday: Super Gifted by Gordon Korman

Super Gifted by Gordon Korman. 304 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, January 2, 2018. 0890062563842. 

Publisher synopsis: Donovan Curtis has never been what anyone would call “gifted.” But his genius friend Noah Youkilis is actually supergifted, with one of the highest IQs around. After years at the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, all Noah dreams of is the opportunity to fail if he wants to. And he’s landed in the perfect place to do it—Donovan’s school.

Almost immediately, Noah finds himself on the wrong side of cheerleading captain Megan Mercury and alpha jock Hash “Hashtag” Taggart. Sticking up for Noah lands Donovan in the middle of a huge feud with Hashtag. He’s told to stay away from the sports star—or else.

Gordon Korman is a popular author at my school. My students are super eager for this sequel to Ungifted

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Picture Book Review: The One Day House by Julia Durango

Picture Book Month Day 7:

The One Day House by Julia Durango. Illustrated by Bianca Diaz. Charlesbridge, August, 2017. 9781580897099. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Young Wilson is friends with his elderly neighbor, Gigi. He notices that her house has become rather run-down. He promises her that, "One day,..." To each home improvement suggestion that Wilson makes, Gigi's response is the his friendship is all she needs. But, as Wilson shares his hopes and dreams for Gigi's house, his close-knit community listens and comes together to surprise her with the repairs she needs.

This is a warmhearted, lovely story of altruism featuring a diverse cast of characters and a wonderful friendship between Gigi and Wilson. It's a perfect read aloud that gently imparts lessons of kindness without being didactic. An author's note at the end shares the inspiration for the story as well as information about charities that help neighbors and neighborhoods. 

The mixed media illustrations have folk art appeal. The palette is vibrant and the art is textured. The art-within-the-art has the appearance of child-drawn art. 

The One Day House is a lovely book to share with any young reader.

Teen Tuesday: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee. 384 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June, 2017. 9781481489331. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library for discussion at Bookfest@Bankstreet)

Tash, pronounced "tosh" because it's short for Natasha, is a budding director. She hosts a vlog and is in the middle of writing, producing and directing a web series called Unhappy Families based on the novel, Anna Karenina written by her hero, Leo Tolstoy. Her "perfect" sister is off to Vanderbilt at the end of the summer and has decided that she needs to have a "memorable" summer that doesn't include Tash or their parents.Tash may or may not be crushing on a fellow vlogger, Thom, with an "h." When a web celebrity give Unhappy Families a shout-out, Tash and the cast have to deal with the hate as well as the love that comes their way. If you are a teen who likes smart novels featuring smart, quirky teens or if you heart Tolstoy the way that Tash does, this is the novel for you.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Picture Book Review: Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske

Picture Book Month Day 6: I haven't posted a review a day for Picture Book Month but I am reading a picture-book-a-day to celebrate. I will review as many as I can!

Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske. unpgd. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April, 2017. 9781338098969. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted this review of Barnacle is Bored. It was such a surprise to open a box from Scholastic and find this companion. Regular readers of this blog know I never skip the end-pages and the front end-pages of Plankton is Pushy elicited a giggle from me and will from sharp-eyed readers who are fans of Barnacle is Bored. 

Plankton is a bit pushy when it comes to being polite. He seems to be a self-appointed polite police plankton. He greets Mr. Mussel and when he doesn't get a response tells him that he's being rude and proceeds to school Mussel, who sits impassively. Readers will chuckle over the series of increasingly hilarious panels. If you're reading this aloud, bring out your ham, especially when plankton finally resorts to begging.

The cartoon illustrations are pastel-hued and are a mixture of full-page and double-page spreads along with select smaller panels. Readers will delight when Mussel appears to get the last word on what appears to be the last page, but...Don't skip those end-pages! Plankton sure is pushy!

Plankton is Pushy is a great choice for a read aloud!

Middle Grade Monday: Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz. 352 p. Scholastic Inc., July, 2017. 9780545880831. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Refugee is a powerful, must-read book for every student (and teacher) in TMS. Three young refugees from three different time periods tell the story of their harrowing escape from Nazi Germany in the 1940s, Castro's Cuba in the 1990s and present-day Syria respectively. The parallel stories are compelling enough on their own, but author Alan Gratz weaves them together brilliantly, ratcheting up the danger and suspense along the way. Warning: there will be tears. 

Regular or observant readers of this blog might do a double-take as I did review the audiobook just last month. I couldn't wait to get my thoughts out on this absolutely timely, compelling, powerful MUST-READ book! Today, Refugee was featured today on "The Daily Booktalk" on my student announcements as written above. Those announcements are featured here daily so it appears here as well. It's well-worth repeating here. This book can't get enough praise as far as I'm concerned. I hope the committees are taking a look at it. It has already shown up on a "Best of 2017" list. Publishers Weekly published theirs last week along with a few other fine books. 

My school's first Scholastic Book Fair was last week and Refugee was featured prominently with lots of copies available for sale. As my principal and I were perusing the fair, I pointed to the book and told him how much I loved it. I said, "Were we ever to do a One-Book/ One-School read, Refugee would be my choice." 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Picture Book (FNG) Review: Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel. Illustrated by Micha Archer. unpgd. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Random House, February 6, 2018. 9781101996683. (Review from fng courtesy of publisher.)

Bobbi Gibb was a girl who loved to run. She lived during a time when girls had to wear skirts to school and were barred from participating in school sports. She ran anyway, every day. She especially loved running in the woods. One year, Bobbi went to watch the runners from the Boston Marathon pass by close to where she lived. She was smitten and challenged herself to become a marathoner. She trained in nurses shoes, presumably because there are no running shoes available for women. (In a later page, this is addressed.) In the Boston winters, she ran in boots. When she felt she was ready to compete in the marathon, she sent for an application but her request for an application is denied because, "Women are not physiologically able to run twenty-six miles..."

While this picture book biography is sure to serve as an inspiration as well as a reminder to young female athletes that women did not always have access to compete, I do have some questions.

The lovely textured oil and collage illustrations have a folk art feel and the smudgey details reinforce a bit of confusion as to the age Gibb was when ran the marathon. The story begins when she is a "girl." She loves to run. She is clearly young in the illustrations. But then the reader has no sense of the passage of time and the illustrations don't appreciably age her. No age is indicated on the page talking about how viewing her first marathon inspired her to train for one nor how old she was when she decided to run the marathon anyway. In the absence of this information in the text, I feel a timeline of her life, birth through what she is doing now as an athlete or a spokesperson, would've been helpful to clarify confusion.

The title adds to the confusion. Yes, women were referred to as girls back in the sixties and yes, folks were probably asking, "Is that a girl?" when realizing that a woman was, in fact, running the marathon. But being referred to as a girl was/ is demeaning and condescending. I thought she ran the marathon as a girl during my first read-through of the book! 

The afterword says that Gibb spent two years training and later said that she is listed in news reports by her married name, Bingay. She was the first woman to complete a marathon. Important stuff. Surely, an extra half-page of explanation about this aspect of women's sports history and as well as some women's history context, might have been helpful as well?

Also curious to me was the fact that Kathrine Switzer is not mentioned in the list of female marathoners that appears on the hill on the last spread. Gibb ran unofficially again in 1967 and in 1968 according to the afterword. But Switzer entered the Boston Marathon using just her first initial in 1967 and received a race number. There is a semi-famous video of the race organized furiously trying to grab her number off her jersey. Surely, she deserved her name on that hill?

Picture book biographies have been getting better and better lately. I don't think it's just because I am collecting them for a sixth grade research unit. It seems everywhere I turn this year, there's a well-written picture book biography featuring unusual people complete with copious source notes, context and backmatter. This is an interesting story that might have been better with a little extra in the way of context and backmatter.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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

For review:

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison. 361 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, April 17, 2018. 9781419728648.

Publisher synopsis: In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told have in prose and half in very, Lauren prides herself in being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren's parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren's wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don't have her family's resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong.

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta.368 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., February 27, 2018. 9781338185720.

Publisher synopsis: Meet Kiranmala: Interdimensional Demon Slayer (Only she doesn't know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey...until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents' fantastical stories - like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world. Gripping and hilarious, The Serpent's Secret is a magical journey to a land inspired by Indian mythology, with would building as vibrant as the characters themselves. 

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Picture Book Review: Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Picture Book Month Day 3:

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2017. 9780763677336. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I have a personal collection of holiday books within my home library. Since our family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, we have collected stories about both holidays over the years. The collection is quite fairly large and varied but there were favorites that were requested each year. Were my sons still small, Red & Lulu would become a fast favorite and one of those requested frequently. It's totally lovely.

Red & Lulu are a cardinal couple who make their home in the branches of a huge Norway spruce conveniently located in the backyard of a family with a bird feeder in the yard. It's an ideal home for the devoted couple being close to a reliable food source and densely branched so that they are protected. Their favorite season is winter because of the Christmas caroling and lights that are strung. O Christmas Tree is their favorite carol. They sometimes even sing along.

On one chilly morning, Red sets out to find some food. A spot illustration reveals that the feeder appears to be empty and a squirrel is perched on it scavenging for seed. A glance at the full-page recto illustration shows a top-down, bird's eye view of the yard, the tree, and Red flying off. But the family is gathered in the yard and one of the children appears to be flagging something down. Two trucks are trundling down the street.

The family's tree is being cut down and for some reason, Lulu doesn't fly away but hunkers down in a cavity. When Red returns, he finds his home strapped to the flatbed of one of the trucks and Lulu singing. He follows the truck to the George Washington Bridge but soon can't keep up.The city is a strange place to this suburban bird and a series of luscious illustrations depict a variety of New York City locations, including one of the lions in front of the New York City Library as well as Times Square. Soon he hears the sound of O Christmas Tree being sung and Red finds his way to Rockefeller Center where his tree is being lit with thousands of colored lights. The double-page spread depicting Red & Lulu's reunion is one to be lingered over. But what happens when their tree is taken away on the day after New Year? Read this instant Christmas classic and find out. 

A page at the end of the story provides information about how the tradition of a decorated tree at Rockefeller Center began. Don't forget to turn the page though. A final illustration provides the perfect environmentally friendly wordless ending as the copyright/ dedication page. It is hard to rush past the watercolor illustrations. They come in a variety of sizes and feature nifty little details and perspectives. Eagle-eyed readers have much to spot, including the family taking a selfie at Rockefeller Center in front of their tree.

Red & Lulu is a first-purchase and a much needed addition to any library collection. I wish I had a little one to curl up with to share this heartwarming story.