Saturday, September 23, 2017

Picture Book Review: Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion

Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion. Illustrated by Joyce Wan. unpgd. Beach Lane Books, July, 2017. 9781481449779. (Review from finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Pug and Pig are back! They are not only more adorable than ever but they speak to my eight-year-old heart.* That hilarious cover tells the reader that clearly Pug has a problem with his costume. I laughed out loud at the title page featuring the rotund pair in silhouette with no detail save the glow-in-the-dark bones on the costumes. Ever cheerful Pig loves everything about her costume from those glow-in-the-dark bones to the snug fit and gets a trill from contemplating if people will even know who she is!

Pug is less than delighted. He feels squished in his costume and worries that no one will know who he is. He likes the costume better when it is ripped to shreds all over the yard! Pig now worries he won't have someone to share Halloween with but Pug has an idea. He finds a brilliant solution that will thrill and delight readers young and not-so-young alike.

The palette is decidedly and appropriately darker than Pug and Pig. Wan perfectly conveys Pig's joy and Pug's dismay as well as fun little details in the background, such as a cauldron full of treats standing by the front door and a photo wall of Pug and Pig. Each spread is such a delicious combination of humor and warmth as the two friends work out a mutually beneficial agreement enabling each to enjoy the holiday. 

You NEED to add Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat to your Halloween collection. It's sure to become a read aloud favorite. Read it often and share it widely. 

*I clearly remember detesting my Halloween mask.

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.


We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3 CD. 10 hours; 9 minutes. Read by Will Ropp and Whitney Dykhouse. Brilliance Audio, August, 2017. 9781543619768.

Publisher synopsis: The Face on the Milk Carton meets The Impossible Knife of Memory in this ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown.

Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared.

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.

I was nearly halfway through reading this with my eyes in late August when I left it on the kitchen table instead of bringing it with me on vacation. Then it was time to get ready to teach. Then school started and other books needed to be read for review. Each time I tried to pick up where I left off, something derailed my reconnecting. I recalled that it was available as an audio and will hopefully finish what was a fascinating story.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fact Friday: ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!: Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Olinguito, from A to Z!: Unveiling the Cloud Forest

¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!: Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Olinguito, from A to Z!: Unveiling the Cloud Forest by Lulu Delacre. unpgd. Lee & Low Books, Inc., February, 2016. 9780892393275. (Purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z!: Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Olinguito, from A to Z!: Unveiling the Cloud Forest. This colorful, bilingual, alphabet picture book invites readers to explore the Ecuadoran Andes searching for the elusive Olinguito. The Cloud Forest ecosystem is perfect for these racoon-like mammals. The language is simple and playful and the mixed-media illustrations are vibrant. Backmatter, which is also bilingual, includes more details about the plants and other animals that inhabit the Cloud Forest.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

#tbt: Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Before We were Free by Julia Alvarez is our #tbt feature. it was published in 2002 and won the Pura Bel Pré Award. It is 1960 and Anita de la Torre is about to turn twelve. She lives in a compound with her extended family in the Dominican Republic. Her life changes when a dictator comes to power. The Secret Police visit the compound. People start disappearing. Anita and her mother have to hide in a closet. Eventually, she and most of her family flee to the United States leaving her beloved uncle behind. This story has a bit of a slow start, but suspense builds as danger nears. 

Before We were Free by Julia Alvarez. 176 p. Random House Children's Books, August, 2002. 9780375915444.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Arc review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. 304 p. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers, October 17, 2017. 9781481438254. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Will lives on the seventh floor of an apartment building where he shares a bedroom with his brother, Shawn. Make that shared a bedroom. Shawn has been murdered. Gunned down in the street while he was running an errand for his mother. Shawn has been killed as revenge for his killing of another and now it's Will's turn to step up. His turn to avenge Shawn's killing. Because there are just three rules in Will's world: 1. No crying. 2. No Snitching and 3. Take revenge.

Will knows where Shawn's gun is. He knows what he has to do. It should be a short elevator ride down from the seventh floor, but it stops at every floor. This would be annoying except that Will simply cannot believe who gets on at each floor. 

First, let me rave about that cover. THAT COVER! It's brilliant! I love it. Next, the design! The spattered pages, the elevator gates bookending the book, the chapter breaks. All ingenious! 

Now, the story. Intense. Gripping. Gritty. The language? The imagery? Gorgeous. 
   How do you small-talk your father
     when "dad" is a language so foreign
     that whenever yo try to say it,
     it feels like you got a third lip
     and a second tongue? (p. 205)

Reynolds' many fans will be tripping over each other to grab this title. Give it to your readers who want an intense, emotional read, readers who enjoy verse novels and readers who want to think. It is small wonder that Long Way Down was chosen for the NBA longlist. Expect to see it on all the year-end "Best" lists. Long Way Down is not to be missed. 

Waiting on Wednesday: by The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. 369 p. HarperCollins Publishers, March 6, 2018. 978006266804.

Publisher synopsis: Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing #ownvoices novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

I enjoy verse novels. I am also highlighting #ownvoices for Hispanic Heritage Month and found this. I am very excited to read this debut. I also adore this cover! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cover Coincidence - Girl in Profile

Cover coincidence is the occasional post that is prompted by the question, "Now, where have I seen that before?" The screen shot of the NBA Long List prompted not one but two cover coincidences!

Teen Tuesday: The Cipher series by Daniel José Older

Teen Tuesday features The Cipher series by Daniel José Older. Older made his YA debut in 2015 with Shadowshaper, the first book in this urban fantasy series. Shadowhouse Fall, the second, recently release. Sierra Santiago's summer plans include painting a mural on a wall of an abandoned building in her Bed-Stuy neighborhood and hanging with friends, but the a corpse crashes a party and another mural in the neighborhood appears to be shedding tears, Sierra realizes that she and a newfound friend might hold the key to protecting everyone. Shadowshaper is a pulse-pounding page-turner for fantasy fans. I cannot wait to read Shadowhouse Fall!


Monday, September 18, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Regular readers of this blog might be thinking, "Wait, didn't she review this already?" You get an A for the day, faithful and observant reader! Yes, I have! But I recently reread it with my ears and it's the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Unabridged Audiobook on 5 compact discs. 5 hours, 7 minutes. Read by the author. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House Audio, May, 2017. 9781524775179. (Audiobook purchased.)

I reviewed the arc here in April. I rarely get to reread books, but this was a book I didn't mind rereading with my ears when I learned that the author did the recording.

It sure was nice to visit with the Zamora family again! In April, I wrote that Arturo is an endearing character who clearly loves his large, boisterous extended family. The drama and sweetness of this debut held up on rereading. The author sounded suitably young and read his work well. I especially loved to hear the fluent Spanish words and dialogue.

Hispanic Heritage Month begins in the middle of September because September 15th is a significant date for quite a few Latin American countries, like Costa Rica, which gained their independence on this date. With the exception of Banned Books Week, I will be highlighting books written by Hispanic authors or about Hispanic characters until October 15. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cover Coincidence

The National Book Award long lists were announced earlier this week. Here's a link and below is a screenshot of the ten books.

I have read just three of the titles (Clayton Bird (reviewed for SLJ), The Hate U Give and Long Way Down(had just started when awards announced, review soon), but several more were on my radar. I have a bit of reading to do in the next few weeks! As I looked at the covers, I got this, "Where have I seen this before?" feeling.


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:

Life on Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island by Loree Griffin Burns. 73 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 14, 2017. 9780544687233.

Publisher synopsis: On November 14, 1963, a volcano fifteen miles off the shore of Iceland exploded under the sea, resulting in a brand-new island. Scientists immediately recognized Surtsey for what it was: an opportunity to observe the way life takes hold.  

Loree Griffin Burns follows entomologist Erling Ólafsson on a five-day trip to Surtsey, where since 1970 he has studied the arrival and survival of insects and other species. Readers see how demanding conditions on Surtsey can be, what it’s like to eat and work while making the smallest impact possible, and the passion driving these remarkable scientists in one of the world’s most unique fields ever! 

Purchased: I bought Patina rather than wait for my next school order because I have a student who ADORED Ghost and has been looking forward to reading Patina since.

Patina by Jason Reynolds. 233p. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September, 2017. 9781481450188.

Publisher synopsis: A newbie to the track team, Patina must learn to rely on her teammates as she tries to outrun her personal demons in this follow-up to the National Book Award finalist Ghost by New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay...where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs. 7.5 hours. Read by Kim Mai Guest. Harper Audio, May, 2017. 9781538456818.

Publisher synopsis: For readers who loved Sara Pennypacker's Pax and Lois Lowry's The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them-and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.Today's Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny's best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now-to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they've always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back-and take her away forever from the only home she's known?

Hook's Tale: being the account of an unjustly villainized pirate written by himself. Unabridged audiobook on six compact discs. Seven hours, fifteen minutes. Narrated by John Leonard Pielmeier. Brilliance Audio, July, 2017. 9781543601473. 

Publisher synopsis: A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.

Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.

Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.

Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.

I just love retellings from the villain's POV!

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Memes: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

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

I discovered this just in time to read it before Banned Books Week (9/24 - 9/30).

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. 255 p. Starscape/ Tom Doherty Associates, August, 2017. 9780765385567.

Publisher synopsis: An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library—by starting her own illegal locker library!

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read.

First line: it ll started the day my favorite book went missing from the library.

Page 56: "Mommmmm! Amy Anne is reading with her flashlight!" Alexis cried, and I screamed and exploded out from under my blanket. Alexis screamed because I'd surprised her, and the dogs went crazy barking like the mailman had suddenly appeared in the room, and the whole ruckus brought Mom running.

Fact Friday: Good Dog! by Nicola Jane Swinney

Good Dog! by Nicola Jane Swinney. 96 p. QEB Publishing, 2017. 9781682971581. (Review from purchased copy.)

Now, I ask you, how can anyone resist that face? That face, coupled with the fact that my students adore books about dogs, is the reason why it was in my shopping cart at the Scholastic Reading Summit book fair this past July. I finally sat down to read it before I cataloged it for school.

This is a beautiful book, slightly oversized. Its 96 pages make it un-intimidating. Six chapters cover a variety of canine companions in chapters entitled, Popular Pets, Hounds and Hunting Dogs, Pocket-sized Companions, Farming Dogs, Pets with a Purpose and Unusual Breeds. Each dog breed gets a double-page spread containing at least four, full-color photos of the breed as a puppy and in action. There's a short history of the breed and a Fact File text box containing the basics - color, average size, lifespan and character. It's a great book for browsing or reference, especially if you're in the market for a pet.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

#tbt: Swear to Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanan

Swear to Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanan. 144p. Random House Children's Books, October, 2003. 9780375825057.

When Russell Cooper moves with his family to Pickett Lane and meets his neighbor, Joey Banks, he's not sure what to think. But, quick as anything Joey nicknames him Rusty because, "You ain't never gonna survive around here with a name like Russell!" The two become fast friends and are getting into all sorts of hijinks together but swearing to howdy that they will keep their secrets. But when a prank goes horribly wrong, swearing to howdy that they will keep the secret becomes increasingly difficult. This short, intense read was published in 2003. Van Draanan is the author of the popular Sammy Keyes mysteries and Flipped.

When I decided to feature this as a #tbr post, I decided to reread it because I recall how stunned I felt by the turn of events. The story held up on reread some 14 years later. I'm not really loving the change in the cover art though.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: When Paul Met Artie by G. Neri

When Paul Met Artie: the story of Simon & Garfunkel by G. Neri. Illustrated by David Litchfield. 48 p. Candlewick Press, March 20, 2018. 9780763681746.

Publisher synopsis: From childhood friendship to brief teenage stardom, from early failures to musical greatness — the incredible story of how Simon & Garfunkel became a cherished voice of their generation.

Long before they became one of the most beloved and successful duos of all time, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were just two kids growing up in Queens, New York — best friends who met in a sixth-grade production of Alice in Wonderland and bonded over girls, baseball, and rock ’n’ roll. As teens, they practiced singing into a tape recorder, building harmonies that blended their now-famous voices until they sounded just right. They wrote songs together, pursued big-time music producers, and dreamed of becoming stars, never imagining how far their music would take them. Against a backdrop of street-corner doo-wop gangs, the electrifying beginnings of rock ’n’ roll, and the rise of the counterculture folk music scene, G. Neri and David Litchfield chronicle the path that led two young boys from Queens to teenage stardom and back to obscurity, before finding their own true voices and captivating the world with their talent. Back matter includes an afterword, a discography, a bibliography, and a fascinating list of song influences.

I adore G. Neri's work. I adored Simon & Garfunkel as a kid. This would be the perfect addition to a picture book biography unit I have for my sixth graders. So excited!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Teen Tuesday (audiobook review): All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Unabridged audiobook on six compact discs; 6.5 hours. Read by Keith Nobbs and Guy Lockard. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015. 9781442398689. (Review from recording borrowed from public library)

This compelling dual narrative won the pair a Coretta Scott King Author Honor. Rashad and Quinn attend the same high school. Rashad is a good student, fantastic artist and a member of the junior ROTC. Quinn is a basketball star looking forward to getting scouted by a top college. When Rashad stops by a local bodega on the way to a party, all he wants is a bag of chips. But when he and a white woman accidentally trip over each other, the store owner assumes Rashad is shoplifting and the policeman who happens to be in the store rushes in and rushes to judgment. Not only that, he beats Rashad mercilessly. Quinn and his best friend witness this and Quinn is stunned by the brutality of the arrest. Complicating things is the fact that the cop is his friend's brother and has always been a hero and mentor to Quinn. Then, a video taken by another witness is released and everyone in town is taking sides. The topic of this thought-provoking, beautifully written novel is timely and worthy of discussion.

This is one of the few books that I booktalked without reading. It went out almost immediately and has been steadily checked out via word-of-mouth among my students.

The audio performances were outstanding. Nobbs is a new-to-me narrator, I thought his portrayal of Quinn, all laid-back and mostly confident, rang true. Guy Lockard is my newest voice crush. He hits it out of the park again in this one. Rashad springs to vivid life in his hands. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Karl, Get Out of the Garden! Carolus Linnaeus and the naming of everything by Anita Sanchez

Karl, Get Out of the Garden! Carolus Linnaeus and the naming of everything by Anita Sanchez. Illustrated by Catherine Stock. 48 p. Charlesbridge, March, 2017. 9781580896061. (Review of finished copy courtesy of the publisher.)

The scientist we know as Karl Linnaeus, father of the classification system of plants and animals we still use today was born Karl Linné in Sweden in May, 1707. Apparently, Karl's love of nature began early in infancy as he was calmed when placed in the garden. He was fascinated by everything in nature from plants to insects. He preferred to be in the garden than studying and it drove his mother, who hoped he would become a minister, scholar or lawyer, nuts. Thanks to a teacher who recognized Karl's affinity for plants, Karl went to medical school. He studied hard but soon realized that it was often difficult to tell which plants were which since the same plant went by different names. So he set about trying to name everything!

His classification system did not go over well. Rather than argue, he taught and his students loved him. Eventually, he was knighted by the king of Sweden. He also gave himself a scientific name: Carolus Linnaeus.

This picture book biography is just superb - engaging text marries perfectly to gorgeous pen, ink and watercolor illustrations. The added quotes by Linnaeus that are scattered throughout the book are a bonus. The end-page decorations feature field sketch spot art of a variety of plants. The paper stock is nice and heavy and will hold up to repeated usage. Additional information at the end include more about the scientist, a note about names, information about the scientific classification system, a time line, source notes, a bibliography and resources for young readers.

Give your science teachers a heads up about this. In my school, the fifth grade science teachers do a big unit on classification. I can't think of a better way to introduce the unit than to read this book aloud. I'll be adding it to my picture book biography unit my sixth graders will be participating in. Hand this to your patrons who might be a nature lover or a budding naturalist.

Middle Grade Monday: Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan. Illustrated by Thomas Gonzales. unpgd. Peachtree Publishers, August, 2016. 

One is never too old for picture books. That is why Middle Grade Monday features Seven and a Half Tons of Steel. This beautifully illustrated, powerfully written book relates the story of how a seven and a half ton steel girder was salvaged from the wreckage of the Twin Towers and trucked to Louisiana where it was melted down to create the hull of the U.S. Navy's newest warship, but not before another tragic disaster struck, this one courtesy of Mother Nature.

Click here for my full review from early this year.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi. (Young Readers Adaptation) 176 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, September 5, 2017. 9780425287620. (Arc received courtesy of publisher)

This is the moving story of Welles Crowther and how one man's actions can make a difference. When Crowther was seven-years-old, his father gave him a red bandanna similar to the blue one he carried. Welles always carried one from then on. He used it as a headband when he played lacrosse in high school and college. He carried one in his suit pocket when he worked as an investment banker in the Twin Towers. And he wore it on his face to protect himself from smoke inhalation the day the towers fell. Twenty-four-year old Welles Crowther led a group of people out that day, including one severely burned lady he carried downstairs to safety. After he pointed the way out, he turned and ran back up the stairs to rescue more people. He never made it back out but quite a few people credited the man in the red bandanna with their rescue.

Crowther got out of the World Trade Center that day. He could've joined those fleeing the burning buildings and continued on with his life and pursue his dreams of becoming a New York City fireman. Instead, he turned around and went back in. What makes a person do that? Rinaldi tries to give the reader a glimpse into the childhood and too short life of a hero and the story of how "the man in the red bandanna" was eventually identified giving a grieving family some closure.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. 240 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September, 2007. 9780316013680.

#tbt features The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This semi-autobiographical work of fiction turns ten-year-old this month! It was published in September and won the National Book Award in November. It has also landed on a few Banned Books lists. At times hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes both simultaneously, this is the first-person narration by fourteen-year-old Junior, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation in abject poverty with his dysfunctional family. Sherman Alexie is a poet, screen-writer, producer, comedian and novelist who usually writes for an adult audience. This was his YA debut. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Dog Man & Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey

Dog Man & Cat Kid by Dav Pilkey. Dog Man series #4. 256 p.  Scholastic Inc., December 26, 2017. 9780545935180.

Publisher synopsis: Hot diggity dog! Dog Man, the newest hero from Dav Pilkey, the creator of Capt. Underpants, is back--and this time, he's not alone. The heroic hound with a real nose for justice now has a furry feline sidekick.

My students and I are huge fans of Dav Pilkey and Dog Man! Cannot wait for this!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To all the boys I've loved before trilogy by Jenny Han. 

Welcome back to school! It's Teen Tuesday! Last school year, I featured Jenny Han's Summer I Turned Pretty series. Seventh and eighth graders who love romance really enjoy these books. Han recently finished a second romance trilogy called, To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I call the first trilogy the Belly books and the second, the Lara Jean books for simplicity. This first-person narration tells the story of the Song girls. Lara Jean is the middle daughter in the Song-Covey family. Her older sister attends college in Scotland and her much younger sister is a bit of headstrong handful. Lara Jean is a hopeless romantic but has never had a boyfriend. She has had crushes though and when each crush ended, she wrote break-up letters and kept them all in addressed envelopes in her hat box. One by one, the boys receive their letters in the mail. How did this happen? What will she do?

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova. 248 p. Yen Press, May, 2017. 9780316363174. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library).

Earlier this summer, I came across Awkward by this author and liked it enough to checkout its sequel of sorts, more a companion graphic novel, Brave

Brave is Jensen's story. He's the chubby outcast in the art club, the one who is obsessed with sun spots and teased mercilessly about it. Jensen is a hero in his own mind but he's just starting to get an inkling that the friends he thinks he has just aren't. He thought he belonged in art club, but he's teased mercilessly. He's always daydreaming so he misses important parts of lessons, especially math. He's never picked when partners need to be chosen for project, so when the dynamic duo who run the school newspaper seem to need him, he's like a puppy dog. 

This installment of stories from Berrybrook Middle School is even better than the first! Jensen is such an endearing character! The middle school dialogue and drama ring true. I just know these won't sit on the shelf at my library for long. (I've ordered them.) I hope there are more books coming from Berrybrook Middle School!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Fact Friday: Birds vs. Blades? Offshore wind power and the race to protect seabirds by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Birds vs. Blades? Offshore wind power and the race to protect seabirds by Rebecca E. Hirsch. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, August, 2016. 9781467795203. (Purchased.)

One might think that harnessing the wind a couple of miles out the Atlantic Ocean is a good thing what with the quest for clean, renewable energy resources. But the Atlantic Ocean is not just a blank space. In addition to the sea life under the water, it is a flyway for lots of migrating sea birds. What effect would towering windmills have on relatively tiny winged creatures?

A team of scientists that specialize in sea birds set about netting gannets, red-throated loons and surf scoters in order to discover more about their migratory paths. Teams would set out nightly in a small boat braving cold weather, fog and choppy seas to scoop up birds, return to shore, fit them with transmitters and return them to sea before the stress of capture would hurt the animals. 

It's a beautiful book. That cover image is so intriguing! It's bound to draw readers in. Six chapters are filled with lots of color photos, maps and charts. Tight writing captures and keeps the reader's interest. The concluding chapter suggess ways students might become stewards of the environment. Backmatter includes author's note, source notes, glossary, and suggestions for further reading. 

I have been on the lookout for books that focus on the work that real scientists do in the field ever since the seventh grade science teacher and I collaborated to create a careers in science unit some eight or nine years ago. The project was more or less scrapped with changes in my schedule and Next Gen science standards, but I have a new class and plan on using these types of books as the basis for a research project. This is a perfect addition to any library and fits nicely into more than just a STEM/ science curriculum. Let your language arts and social studies teachers know about the title as well. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Taking Stock - August, 2017

Total posts this month: 32(!)
Total books read this month: 45 (!)
Total books read this year: 284

Audio: 11/64
Debut: 6/19
Picture Book: 8/105

The Good: Read a lot and posted a lot! Deciding to post the daily booktalks I do for my students really boosted my blog posting. Now, why didn't I think of that sooner? 

The Bad: I'm happy for once.

The List:
240. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (8/1)(47)
241. Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley (8/1)(48)
242. Dara Palmer's Major Drama by Emma Shevah (8/2)(49)
243. Time for Kids Presidents of the United States (8/3)(50)
244. Animal Planet: Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals (8/3)(51)
245. The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick (8/4)(52)
246. Greenglass House by Kate Milford (8/5)(53)
247. Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey (8/6)(54)
248. Shark Lady: the true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean's most fearless scientist by Jess Keating (8/6)*(55)
249. Abraham by Frank Keating (8/6)(56)
250. Brave by Svetlana Chmakova (8/7)*(57)
251. The Adventures of Henry Whiskers by Gigi Priebe (8/7)(58)
252. Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins (8/8)*(59)
253. The Long Way Home by Gigi Priebe (8/8)(60)
254. Sting: a Loot Novel by Jude Watson (8/8)(61)
255. Beastly Bones (Jakaby #2) by William Ritter (8/10)*(62)
256. National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide (8/11)(63)
257. Garbage Night by Jen Lee (8/11)(64)
258. The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi (8/12)(65)
259. Ghostly Echoes (Jakaby #3) by William Ritter (8/13)(66)
260. Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (8/14)(67)
261. Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp (8/16)*(68)
262. P.S., I Still Love You by Jenny Han (8/16)(69)
263. How Could We Harness a Hurricane by Vicki Cobb (8/18)(70)
264. Bull by David Elliott (8/19)(71)
265. The Dog Ray by Linda Coggin (8/19)(72)
266. Billy Bloo is Stuck in Goo by Jennifer Hamburg (8/19)(73)
267. Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson (8/20)(74)
268. Grand Canyon by Jason Chin (8/20)*(75)
269. The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays by Jason Quinn (8/21)(76)
270. Martin Rising: requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney (8/22)*(77)
271. Birds vs. Blades? Offshore wind power and the race to protect seabirds by Rebecca E. Hirsch (8/22)*(78)
272. Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley (8/22)*(79)
273. This is Really Happening by Erin Chack (8/23)(80)
274. Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan (8/24)*(81)
275. Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko (audio reread)(8/24)*(82)
276. Animal Planet: Animal Bites: Baby Animals (8/25)(83)
277. Animal Planet: Animal Bites: Animals on the Move (8/25)(84)
278. Tank Man: how a photograph defined China's protest movement by Michael Burgan (7/26)(85)
279. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti (8/26)(86)
280. Gone by Michael Grant (8/30)*(87)
281. Karl, Get Out of the Garden: Carolus Linnaeus and the naming of everything by Anita Sanchez (8/31)*(88)
282. The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito (8/31)*(89)
283. Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion (8/31)(90)*
284. Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman (8/31)(91)*

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. 240 P. HarperCollins Publishers, May, 1997. 9780060275105.

#tbt feature Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Ella Enchanted was published in 1997 and won a 1998 Newbery Honor. It is a retelling of Cinderella in a world that also contains mythical creatures. Ella has been given the "gift" of obedience by the fairy, Lucinda. This means that Ella must do as she is told even if the command is wrong or harmful. Her mother and their cook, Mandy have protected Ella as best they could, but when Ella's mother dies and Ella is sent to boarding school, someone finds out about the gift and uses it to her advantage. Levine's other books include Fairest, a Snow White retelling and The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud

The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud. Lockwood & Co. series #5. 448 p. Disney Press, September 12, 2017. 978148778722.

Publisher synopsis: Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it?

This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family's past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle. And to prevail they will have to rely on help from some surprising and shadowy allies.

I just realized that I haven't read the fourth book! I'd better get on that soon! I thought The Screaming Staircase was superbly scary and suspenseful and loved the chemistry of the trio.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant. 576 p. Gone series #1. HarperCollins Publishers, June, 2008. 9780061448768.

It's the last Tuesday of summer vacation! Just think, Summer readers, I will see your smiling faces in a week from today as we start another fun and successful school year together! The Teen Tuesday feature is a sci-fi/ horror genre-blender called Gone by Michael Grant. It is the first book in the six-book Gone series. It's just another school day in the fictional town of Perdido Beach, California. Sam is zoning out, thinking about surfing when, poof, his teacher is suddenly gone. Blinked out of existence along with every other person above the age of fourteen as well as all forms of communication - no cell phones, television or Internet. Later, the kids find an impenetrable barrier. Their initial glee over the absent adults soon turns to fear as they realize the potential dangers of fire, illness and injury and dwindling food. Then, there are the bullies who take charge. It's a sort of modern day Lord of the Flies but with a supernatural twist.