Friday, June 30, 2017

Taking Stock - June

Total posts this month: 17
Total books read this month: 25
Total books read this year: 196

Audio: 7/41
Debut: 2/7
Picture Book: 4/84

The Good: At the end of the school year, with all the madness and school trips and events to chaperone, it's amazing any reading gets done! Good thing I got ahead of myself in the previous months. Summer reading!

The Bad: Again, not reviewing more. 

The books: June (25)
172. Snappsy the Alligator and his Best Friend Forever by Julie Falatko (6/2)
173. Before She was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome (6/2)
174. The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow (6/2)
175. Sea Otter Rescue by Suzi Eszterhas (6/2)
176. Welcome: a Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals (6/2)
177. The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (6/3)
178. Their Great Gift by John Coy (6/5)
179. The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill (6/5)*
180. Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating (6/5)
181. Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: snowshoe hares, science and survival by Sneed Collard (6/6)
182. Stepping Stones: a refugee family's story by Margriet Ruurs (6/7)*
183. King of the Bench: Control Freak by Steve Moore (6/8)
184. Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot by Dav Pilkey (6/9)*
185. The Playbook:52 rules to aim, shoot, and score in this game called life by Kwame Alexander (6/10)
186. Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty (6/10)
187. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandyha Menon (6/10)
188. In the Shadow of Liberty: the hidden history of slavery, four presidents and five black lives by Kenneth C. Davis (6/11)
189. Be the One by Byron Pitts (6/12)
190. Dog Man Unleashed by Dav Pilkey (6/14)* (reread aloud with students)
191. Demon Dentist by David Walliams (6/15)
192. Pathfinder by Angie Sage (6/19)*
193. Super Diaper Baby Two: the invasion of the potty snatchers by Dav Pilkey (6/21)
194. The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (6/26) (SLJ review)
195. The Gathering (Shadow House #1) by Dan Poblocki (6/28)
196. Orangutan Orphanage by Suzi Eszterhaus (6/29)

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: Stitching a Revolution: the making of an activist by Cleve Jones

Stitching a Revolution: the making of an activist by Cleve Jones. 320 p. HarperCollins Publisher, June, 2001.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt Project turns 30 this year. Author Cleve Jones was one of the conceivers of the project and Stitching a Revolution is his memoir. The NAMES Project was formed and the first panels were completed in June of 1987. Volunteers make, collect and curate quilts made to honor the memory of a family member or friend who died of AIDS. There were several installations on the National Mall of the entire quilt, the last one being in 1996. Eighth grade students at TMS made their own quilts several years ago as part of Ms. Cummings' health class. Money was raised and sent to an AIDS hospital in Africa.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

ALAAC17 - The Odyssey Reception

The Odyssey Award honors the best producer of a book for children and has been awarded yearly since 2008. The winners are announced each January as part of the Youth Media Awards announcements. 

Those of you who know me know I am a great fan of audiobooks going back 30+ years and I have two crates of audiocassettes to prove it. In my first year of school librarianship, a language arts teacher called me out for suggesting an audiobook to a struggling eighth grade reader. "How dare you!" she said,"How do you expect him to learn to read if he doesn't read?" Admittedly, I was a bit cowed, but mumbled something along the lines of, "He hates reading, why not make him love story?"

I'm proud to say that I have listened to nearly all the winners and honor winners, many before the awards were announced. I also try to make sure I'm in town for the announcements. One year, I forgot they were usually on Monday night and made arrangements to fly from conference in Anaheim to San Fransisco to visit my husband's uncle. I was so sad.

When the awards are presented, the committee usually plays an audio clip of the book, and they usually have technical difficulties, which is kind of funny and ironic. Also, a bit unnecessary since, most of the time, the actor or actors are ready to give a short speech and perform part of the book live, which I find much more interesting. If the actor can't make the ceremony play the clip, if they're there, don't. My two cents. 

When Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit was announced as the winner back in January, I was not surprised. Narrator Allan Corduner, whose narration of The Book Thief made him my first voice crush, did an astounding job with this intense, emotional story. 

Jason Reynolds introduced Guy Lockard, narrator of his Ghost. The two are childhood friends and Lockard also narrated Reynolds' As Brave as You. His voice for Coach is superb and Reynolds praised Lockard's spot-on performance. I told Lockard later that he was one of my latest voice crushes and that I hoped to hear more from him. 

The companies of the winners provide free audiobooks at the end where we are reminded to take just one and given the opportunity for a second if there are any left over. The only recording I didn't already own was Dream On, Amber, so my choice was easy.

The reception consisted of cheese and fruit and one beverage and enabled folks to mingle and talk. I recall an early reception, I want to say Chicago in 2009, where the spread was quite impressive. Then there was a little recession and the receptions were scaled back but still appreciated. I'll be a bit negative and say that it's way better than paying $30 to eat potato chips at the Printz reception. As much as I loved hearing speeches from all the winners at Printz, why do I get charged $30 to eat chips? One year, there were sad, stale desserts. So thank you Odyssey, for allowing all the winners to speak and to the companies who generously fund the reception and giveaways.

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/ Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling.

Can you believe it has been twenty years since a lonely eleven-year-old orphan living under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive received his acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? 

The book was published by Bloomsbury in the UK with the title, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stones. It was published in the US by Scholastic and re-named, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. According to the Blooomsbury Harry Potter page, HP has sold over 450 million copies worldwide. According to an article in The Guardian, only 500 books were printed in the first-run. Those first editions are now worth over $30,000.

New Feature: The Daily Booktalk

One of my favorite jobs as school librarian is reader's advisory. All students in my school are required to carry a book for independent reading every day. My library doors are always open. My colleagues know that they can (almost always) send me a student in need of a book. I never know who's going to walk through the doors looking for their next favorite book. I like to think I'm pretty good at this. They keep coming back. I do occasionally get compliments. My favorite this year (and possibly for all-time) came from an eighth grader who said, "Could you just pick a book for me? I have loved every book you've recommended to me since fifth grade. I trust you." No pressure.

Some students arrive knowing exactly what they want. Others like to browse until something speaks to them. Occasionally, a student will ask for "a book just like this one." Still others have no idea what will speak to them and ask for help directly.

Readers advisory can also take the form of "booktalking" to an entire class. One LA teacher loved the energy generated from a book talk that she committed to scheduling her class to come once per month to keep that energy going. Other teachers have asked for specific themes or genres.

During the 2015-16 school year, I started doing occasional themed mini-book talks on the morning broadcast. I would either pop on camera or I would write a script for the student anchors to read. I wasn't sure how many students would actually pay attention and was gratified the occasional student would come to the library asking for "that book that was on TBN." That was all it took for me to commit to a daily booktalk during the 2016-17 school year. I started picking books last September. Books from the current week reside on my library home page and the entire year is archived on this sub-page. The booktalks are under a minute and there's a set theme for each day.

Middle Grade Monday
Teen Tuesday
Waiting on Wednesday
Fact Friday

A teacher stopped me in the hall one day and asked where I get the booktalks. I'm not sure he believed me when I told him that I write them daily. They do take a fair amount of time, but it is a labor of love. Sometimes I have trouble choosing and sometimes I'm scouring my brains trying to come up with ideas. I had planned on taking the summer off to recharge but during a summer reading booktalk to fifth graders, I decided to keep them up. Then, I thought, why not add the content here? So here we are! I hope you find them helpful.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Monday @ ALAAC17 - Little Brown Breakfast

It's a good thing I am a morning person because I had a 7:00 breakfast date with the folks at Little, Brown. I would've liked a bit more sleep as it took me quite a while to wind down from Newbery the previous evening; but, hey, it's Little, Brown!

Whether it's publisher previews in New York or events at conferences, Little Brown events are always special. Their books are consistently not only superb, but appealing to children. (We will not discuss the three-peat lest we jinx <cough> <Mighty Moby> cough). I feel lucky and honored to receive invitations. But, I felt super-lucky yesterday morning to learn that attendees were the first/ only folks to receive arcs of Peter Brown's sequel to The Wild Robot, The Wild Robot Escapes. Spoiler Alert!

Victoria Stapleton warned us that we were marked if any appeared on eBay. Like that would ever happen at my house! Just ask my patient husband who trips over books everywhere. I usually save my signed arcs on a carefully curated shelf. eBay my foot. I have actually stopped frequenting a local indie because he sells arcs. I found this out when he broke the embargo on a rather hyped book five years ago and haven't been in since.

Again, I digress. Three books were featured at the breakfast, Peter's, and The Star Thief by Lindsey Baker as well as Wade Albert White's second book in his "Adventurer's Guide" series (and his second book, period), The Adventurer's Guide to Dragons (and Why they Keep Biting Me). The Star Thief is on my summer TBR and I am embarrassed to admit that I missed The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes. I must remedy that because it sounds like a lot of fun.

From the breakfast, I had to trek down to the convention center before the exhibits closed because I had put five or six audiobooks aside at the BOT booth. I always buy five audiobooks at conference in addition to the one they are giving away because, conference prices! This year, I almost purchased ten, but set the five aside and added just one on further deliberation. There's only so much money one can spend even at convention prices.

One of the problems managing conference when it's in Chicago is needing to travel a lot. There's only one hotel near the convention center and a fair number of meetings and publisher events are held off-site. Trekking back and forth took time but I refused to spring for cab fare this trip. I took the el in and am taking it out. It's the shuttle or my feet. 

Speaking of which, I used them to trek back to the convention center for the Odyssey Awards ceremony. After purchasing my audiobooks, I shuttled back to my hotel, grabbed my Simon & Schuster Art Lunch gift bag and trundled a few blocks to a FedEx store. Honestly, my arm and shoulder muscles really got a workout this weekend! I thought I might have dislocated my right elbow when I arrived at the FedEx store and attempted to lift the bags I was carrying with that hand up. My elbow wouldn't bend!

I want to post this and also spend some time writing about Odyssey.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott. 224 p. Farrar Straus and Giroux, October 17, 2017. 9780374305505.

Publisher synopsis: Owen and his best friend, Sean, are both eleven years old. They’ve lived on Cape Cod all their lives, and now that they’re a little older, they’ll finally be free to spend some time on their own. But Sean’s mother has a different idea—she hires a babysitter to look after Sean. Paul is in his twenties, and a well-liked guy from church.

Paul starts doing things that just feel wrong. Because they’ve always been as close as brothers, Sean tells Owen, and no one else. What’s not certain to Owen is what he should do. Sean warns him not to tell anyone what is happening. But if Owen doesn’t tell, could something even worse happen to Sean?

This harrowing and sensitively told tale of child abuse is a must-read for anyone who might ever be called upon to help a friend in need.

I learned about this from the author's Facebook page last Thursday (6/22) when he announced that he was signing books at ALAAC on Friday. Unfortunately, I couldn't be on the exhibit floor to snag a copy. I am very interested in reading how this topic is handled for a middle grade audience.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sunday @ ALAAC17

Sunday started re-eally early with the Coretta Scott King Awards breakfast. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I didn't fall right to sleep on Saturday night and woke frequently. Still, my body clock insists on waking me in the early morning hours. 

I had planned on walking to the hotel and left plenty of time for the walk but then I had a brain fart, misremembered the hotel, and ended up leaving later. On the Michigan Ave. bridge, I remembered where I actually needed to be and double-timed it. The hotel was nearly a mile away.

I arrived late, breathless and sweaty. The Grand Ballroom was PACKED, which makes me glad because this has always been my favorite award ceremony. I was so glad when the committee moved it from the last day of the conference to Sunday of conference. I've only missed it once (when I'm at conference) and I regretted it. That was the year that was the year Christian Robinson danced for his speech. 

It's my favorite award ceremony because all the winners get to give speeches. Admittedly, it does make for a rather long event, but the speeches are always eloquent, classy, and inspiring. They also begin the breakfast with song. Now, I can't sing to save my life, but I sing Lift Every Voice and Sing, my voice sliding all over the place. How can I not? 

I was searching for words to describe what sets this ceremony apart and Victoria Stapleton provided them, "literary church." Perfect. 

Then there's Dr. Pauletta Bracey who presides over the event with dignity and calm. I always remind myself to bring tissues because I always cry.

And this year's winners! I had read most of the books before the awards were announced and they are wonderful. Nicola Yoon/ The Sun is also a Star; the always great Jerry Pinkney/ In Plain Sight; R. Gregory Christie/ Freedom in Congo Square. The joyous and frail, Ashley Bryan won both an illustrator honor and an author honor for Freedom over Me: eleven slaves and their lives and dreams brought to life. Illustrator winner, Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: the story of young Jean-Michel Basquit also won the Caldecott so his day was bookended with speeches. At one point during his speech, he broke down while speaking of his father, John Steptoe and, the entire ballroom, many with their own tears streaming lent silent support. My eyes are watering right now remembering. 

I hadn't planned on going to the convention center on Sunday, but I had to because I forgot to pick up my Newbery ticket from the Junior Library Guild booth on Saturday. I was invited by Deborah Ford, who presents wonderfully enthusiastic webinars and travels about the country presenting workshops. I was so honored.

I had also learned that graphic novelist, Mike Maihack had a booth and was selling Cleopatra in Space # 3 & 4! I only had 1 & 2 on my shelf and needed to remedy that asap. At the end of the year #2 was left on my desk and when I checked it in, found it had not been checked out. I never say books were stolen, only that they have been borrowed without being checked out. Though five or so years ago, I did have one student who systematically stole from the graphic novel collection at recess, when the library was covered by a lunch paraprofessional. It was only when he was moving and his mother was packing that she found and filled a bag with books to return before they moved!

My but my mind is wandering this morning!

I checked back at the Scholastic booth and scored an arc of Jordan Sonnenblick's next middle grade book, The Sheriff of Sixth Grade, due out in late August. I picked up a few other books here and there, including stopping to get an autographed copy of Jeanette winters' newest picture book biography before heading to the Palmer House Hilton for the Simon & Schuster Art Luncheon. I totally forgot that she was going to be there! Now I have two but one autograph is personalized to my students. 

The luncheon was fantastic! Marla Frazee, Brendan Wenzel, Peter Brown, and a display of original art from all the books. 

I took a leisurely walk laden with books back to the hotel (over a mile) intending to take a nap but couldn't fall asleep.

I attended the LJ/SLJ Reviewer Party and got to meet some conference friends and make a few new ones, one of whom I gave the Newbery ticket I purchased and couldn't get a refund for. He was quite thrilled to go, so yay!

I will post separately about the banquet. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Saturday at ALA AC17

Yesterday was a jam-packed day at ALA. I couldn't figure out why I did not fall right to sleep when I finally turned off the light at midnight. Turned it back on and read for an hour and still tossed and turned till nearly 2. I awoke at 5:30 and am wondering how I am going to get through today on so little sleep. My day starts at 7AM at the Coretta Scott King breakfast and ends late tonight with the Newbery Banquet. Oy.

But yesterday, I took the shuttle to the convention center and hit the exhibits. I had no real plan other than to wander around to see what there was to see. Waited on a few lines for author signatures. 

Met Adele Griffin and told her my story about my students who cannot wait for Oodlethunks 3. She confessed to getting teary hearing about how much they got into the Oodlethunks.

Took tons of pics of books I don't want to forget to order. Went to the Scholastic Picture Book Brunch and listened to Molly Bang, Peter Sis, Sean Qualls and Alan Say talk about the making of their latest picture books. 

I had to duck out early because I had forgotten that I bought a ticket to the Margaret Edwards Award brunch where Sarah Dessen spoke. I enjoy her books and have a gaggle of seventh and eighth grade girls who adore her. We each received a copy of her newest, Once and for All.

I wandered the exhibits and sent the first two boxes of books off.


I wandered around some more and took photos with authors real and standee.


I attended the Disney brunch, organized by the effervescent Dina Sherman, and listened to Rick Riordan speak about his new imprint at Disney and the first book set to be published by an Indian writer, featuring an Indian girl and Indian mythology. I purposely didn't take arcs from the Disney booth since I thought I'd get some at the preview. Unfortunately, nothing was left! I guess I didn't get there early enough. Bummer.

I've got plenty to read.

I ended the evening with two events with Simon & Schuster. A party celebrating Ian Falconer and his new Olivia book, Olivia the Spy, followed by a dessert party. There was a chocolate fountain and Dr. Rob Bittner, my Converse twin. A few weeks ago, he posted a pic of his Newbery outfit, which included bright yellow Cons. I am a bit of a Converse collector hoarder and I. Had. To. Have. Them. He has been very gracious.

Then I spied Jason Reynolds and had to tell him how his book Ghost created a reader.

This sight greeted me as I turned onto Michigan Ave. All-in-all a wonderfully full day. I thought I would crash but ended up staying up till after one. Even then, I couldn't fall asleep. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Friday night @ ALAAC

I booked an early morning flight hoping to get some sightseeing done before conference started. My plan was to drop my bag at the hotel, shuttle to the convention center, register, then walk along the lake up to the museum campus and visit one of them for the afternoon. Alas, what with the three-hour flight delay and my mess-ups, there was no time for that. I did shuttle down to register, then shuttled back up for a Simon & Schuster Night of Novels at the Osteria Via Stato. What a night it was! I got to meet Melanie Crowder first. I reviewed her book, Three Pennies for SLJ and absolutely adored it. I will be so glad to add the signed copy to our collection and mark it a partnership read*

Sandhya Menon talked about her debut, When Dimple Met Rishi. Another book I adored and have yet to review here. I want to though. I read it with my ears and the audio is fantastic.

Hena Khan spoke about Amina's Voice. Tim Green spoke about his collaboration with Derek Jeter on Baseball Genius. Susan Vaught spoke about writing a character in a wheelchair for her own son in Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge. I am blanking on the other authors! Oh boy. I'm having a brain fart and it's only the first day of conference. Catherynne Valente's The Glass Town Game - a novel about the Brontes. 

I left there with a tote loaded with books and popped into the Holiday House cocktail party where I got to ogle what's coming up for them. I got to catch up with my review editor at SLJ and a bunch of conference friends. 

Sadly, I took no photos. Sometimes, I need to be just in the moment; but did decide to take a short walk to look for the Bean and take some photos along The Magnificent Mile. Laughably, I mis-remembered where it was, not realizing that the Millennium Park Grille is located right below it. No worries, it was a gorgeous night and a lovely walk. 


It's a good thing that I hardly ate anything yesterday because it's all I will be doing today!

ALA Annual Conference 2017 - Chicago

Oy! The saga!

My last day of school was supposed to be June 19. It was still June 19 when registration for Annual opened. Then, the snow days happened. Four of them.

So. I missed the last day of school today, which made me a bit sad but I will get over it.

Way back when I registered, the airfare to Chicago was around $200. But. #2 son is doing a neurosurgical residency in Peoria and I thought I would try to visit him so I did not book my airfare. Turns out, he's on nights and basically works all night and sleeps all day. He's free the weekend when I'm not. Once we got that straightened out, the airfare out on Thursday afternoon evening was between 5 and 6 hundred dollars. 


So I booked an early morning flight. 7AM, which meant that I wanted to be there around 5, which meant that I'd be leaving my house around 4:15. Only my husband doesn't like to get up that early and is always late as a philosophical stance. He insisted on driving me and I insisted he be on time.

Only, I held us up. Got to the airport a little later than I wanted. The TSA pre-approved (Yay! Got it!) line was really long - but moving. The other line was short and not.

All was well. I was early. I was tired because of course I went to be late and slept poorly as I always do before big trips. I wasn't hungry. Suddenly, the boarding time changed on the board. A half hour later. Then an hour. We finally boarded only to discover that we could not leave the gate due to conditions in Chicago. 

Two hours later, we were in the air. Two hours of sitting in an airplane seat. Then I got hungry. Luckily for me I packed a bag of plantain chips because I didn't get snacks at the terminal because I wasn't hungry. When I'm not hungry, very little appeals to me and airport food is so darn expensive. When we finally got up in the air, the attendants gave out little packages of Bischoff biscuits, which happens to be one of my favorites. 

By the time we landed in Chicago, the sun was out and the tarmacs were dry leaving me to wonder what the heck was going on this morning! 

Rather than wait for a shuttle or splurge on a cab, I opted for CTA. My sister, Barb, showed me how easy it is to use a couple of conferences ago. I found out how close to a line my hotel is and took the train instead. I got turned around upon leaving the hotel and detoured the wrong way for a few blocks. Thank goodness for Google maps on my Smart Phone. I turned myself around and walked along the river. It was dry and sunny and breezy. Just lovely...

...until I got to the Hyatt and tried to register. Turns out, there are five Hyatts in Chicago and I was at the wrong one! Luckily, the one I am registered at was a ten minute walk north, so I hoofed it yet again. 

It's a weird set up (take an elevator up to the lobby, then down the hall to the room elevators) and the room is dark and stark but the bed is comfy and it's a shuttle stop; so it's all good.

I am here.

Saturday, June 17, 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.

Another big week in the mailbox!

For review:
From Houghton Mifflin. Not sure how I got on a list for these arcs, but I'm thankful.

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks.308 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 29, 2017. 9780544759275.

Publisher synopsis: Dan Brown meets Jason Bourne in this riveting middle-grade mystery thriller. When a young boy is discovered in Washington DC’s National Gallery without any recollection of who he is, so begins a high-stakes race to unravel the greatest mystery of all: his identity.

      As the stakes continue to rise, the boy must piece together the disjointed clues of his origins while using his limited knowledge to stop one of the greatest art frauds ever attempted. Digitally interactive, this breathtaking museum mystery offers QR codes woven throughout the book that bring renowned paintings to readers’ fingertips.

Ten: a soccer story by Shamini Flint. 155 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June, 2017. 9780544850019.

Publisher synopsis: Maya is a passionate soccer fan eager to start playing soccer herself. This is extra challenging because soccer is considered a "boys' game" in Malaysia in 1986. She teaches herself basic soccer skills with only her mother and a potted rosebush as training partners, then gradually persuades enough girls to join her to form a team, all the while trying to keep her unpredictable biracial family together. Reading Maya's witty, observant first-person narrative will make readers want her on their team, and they'll cheer her on as she discovers that winning is great—but losing doesn't mean defeat.

Emily and the Spellstone by Michael Rubens. 278 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June, 2017. 978544790865.

Publisher synopsis: Emily picks up a stone that looks like a cell phone but has unexpected magical powers. It's a Spellstone! Now that she has become an unwilling Stonemaster—one who wields the power of the Stone—she has to figure out Spellstone technology fast if she is to survive a hair-raising adventure among giant dogs, demons, clones, mean girls, and deeply wicked people who want the Stone. A witty tale of a quiet girl who discovers she's a hero when she needs to be. Stonemasters rule!

Confessions from the Principal's Kid by Robin Mellom 264 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 1, 2017. 9780544813793.

Publisher synopsis: During the school day, fifth-grader Allie West is an outsider. Everyone knows the principal's kid might tattle to her mom! But after school, Allie is an insider. She's friendly with the janitor, knows the shortest routes around the building, and hangs out with the Afters, a group of misfits whose parents are teachers at their school. Although Allie secretly loves her insider life, she's sick of being an outsider—so she vows to join the Pentagon, the popular math team led by her ex–best friend. But can Allie change her status without betraying where she really belongs?

From Time Inc./Liberty:

Animal Planet: Snakes! Amazing animal facts. By James Buckley Jr. Animal Planet Chapter Book Series #3. 112 p. Liberty Street, June, 2017. 9781683300045.

Publisher synopsis: Animal Planet introduces information-packed nonfiction chapter books that are just right for pleasure reading and schoolwork.

Slither along to an amazing adventure in Snakes!. Meet the biggest, the fastest, and the most venomous snakes—from massive anacondas and pythons to fierce and fanged vipers and cobras. Learn about snakes that climb trees and others that swim in ocean waters. Snakes! is the perfect overview for developing readers ready to explore this popular animal subject on their own. Special features include full-color photography throughout, "Meet the Scientist" sidebars, and "In Your Newsfeed" articles about amazing new discoveries.

Don't miss the other books in the Animal Planet Chapter Books series: Bugs!, Dinosaurs!, and Sharks!.

Animal Planet: Bugs! Amazing animal facts by James Buckley Jr. 112 p. Animal Planet Chapter Book Series #4. Liberty Street, June, 2017. 978168330005.

Publisher synopsis: Animal Planet introduces information-packed nonfiction chapter books that are just right for pleasure reading and schoolwork.

Fly away on a fascinating journey to the world of Bugs!. Meet the fastest flyers and the long-distance travelers—from huge moths and colorful butterflies to busy bees and annoying fleas. Learn about massive locust swarms and hungry caterpillars. Bugs! is the perfect overview for developing readers ready to explore this popular animal subject on their own. Special features include full-color photography throughout, "Meet the Scientist" sidebars, and "In Your Newsfeed" articles about amazing new discoveries.

From Blue Slip Media:

Listen: how Pete Seeger got America singing by Leda Schubert. Illustrated by Raúl Colón. unpgd. A Neal Porter Book/ Roaring Brook Press, June, 2017. 9781626722507.

Publisher synopsis: Listen.
There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing. 
With his head thrown back and his Adam’s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up.

In this gorgeously written and illustrated tribute to legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger, author Leda Schubert highlights major musical events in Mr. Seeger's life as well important moments of his fight against social injustice. From singing sold-out concerts to courageously standing against the McCarthy-era finger-pointing, Pete Seeger's life is celebrated in this bold book for young readers with gorgeous illustrations by Raúl Colón.


You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie. Unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs. 12 hours. Read by the author. Hachette Audio, June, 2107. 9781478912811.

Publisher synopsis: A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner.

When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine--growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Memes: The Dog Ray by Linda Coggin

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

The Dog Ray by Linda Coggin. 193 p. Candlewick Press, November, 2016. 9780763679385.

Publisher synopsis: By turns humorous, poignant, and moving, this tale of a girl who comes back to Earth as a dog is a nuanced portrait of death, love, grief, and hope.
When my death came it was swift. Swift as a running horse. It wasted no time.
Daisy, age twelve, has died in a car accident. She finds herself in the afterworld, which resembles nothing more than a job center. Her soul is being returned to Earth, but not as a human being—she’s returning as a dog. A dog who retains Daisy’s thoughts and pluck and is determined to get back to her parents and to get back home. What she doesn’t expect is that life as a dog named Ray would come with such worries—and moments of jubilation—as she grows to care for others in a whole new way. Told in a compelling first-person voice, Linda Coggin’s incredible novel touches on loyalty and freedom, connection and acceptance, and is sure to stay with readers long after the story is done.

First Line(s): When my death came it was swift. Swift as a running horse. It wasted no time.

Page 56: She's not a boy. She's a girl," the old man says. "I remember her from when I was sleeping in some park or other. Shad some sort of name that made me think of the weather. But I can't for the life of me remember what it was."
     Oh, please don't remember, I think. I really don't want to be stuck with Misty for the rest of my life.

Saturday, June 10, 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.

Oh! The riches continue! Good thing summer break is coming up! I am so-o behind!

For review:

Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari. 278 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, August 22, 2017. 9780062438928.

Publisher synopsis: A poignant, charming middle grade novel, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and Fish in a Tree. A beautifully layered story about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.

Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She's sort of excited…though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents' divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She wants to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Saving Marty by Paul Griffin. 208 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, September 19, 2017. 97803995339077.

Publisher synopsis: Fans of Because of Winn Dixie will adore this warm and heart-wrenching story of the friendship between a boy and a pig who thinks it's a dog.

Renzo is a quiet kid, content to let his charismatic friend Paloma do all the talking while he dreams of playing the guitar and surfing out in California, becoming a veterinarian, and maybe learning more about the war hero  father he's never known. He lives on a farm with his mom, grandfather, and an extraordinary pig named Marty...a pig who thinks he's a dog, that is. Renzo and Marty’s friendship is one-of-a-kind, but the bigger Marty gets, the harder it is for Renzo to justify his unusual pet to his penny-pinching mom. So when she threatens to sell Marty—or worse—Renzo decides it’s up to him and Paloma to save Marty once and for all.

I adored the author's When Friendship Followed Me Home. I also got a signed copy at Day of Dialog so I will send this one to my friend, e.e. Charlton-Trujillo's not-for-profit, Never Counted Out.

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi. 369 p. Dutton Children's Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, November 14, 2017. 9781101994795.

Publisher synopsis: Embark on a wondrous journey through the land of Whichwood in this stunning companion to Tahereh Mafi’s acclaimed bestseller Furthermore.

Our story begins on a frosty night . . . 

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way) and she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days scrubbing the skins and souls of the dead in preparation for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore not only her ever-increasing loneliness, but the way her overworked hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair. 

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appear, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship. 

Lush and enchanting, critically-acclaimed author Tahereh Mafi weaves together an all-new magical adventure in this dark, Persian fantasy, a companion to the New York Times bestselling Furthermore.

There's Someone inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. Dutton Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, September 26, 2017. 9780525426011.

Publisher synopsis: Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

I usually avoid horror like the plague having been scarred for life by Stephen King and Dial M for Murder as a teen. I enjoyed Perkins' Anna books and am curious about this "fresh take."

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Arc Review: A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond by Bao Phi. Illustrated by Thi Bui. 32 p. Fiction Picture Book Series. Capstone Press, August 1, 2017. 9781479597468. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

A young Vietnamese boy tells the story of being awakened in the early morning hours by his father. A bare bulb illuminates a spare kitchen where the wall calendar says the year is 1982. Together, they head out into the darkness to fish. As the boy contemplates the quiet, early morning streets he listens to the stories his father tells and remembers, "A kid at my school said my dad's English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain."

After a stop at a bait shop, the boy and his father arrive at their fishing spot. They have to climb over a divider and pass a posted, "No Trespassing" sign to get to the river. They are occasionally joined by others, but this morning, they are alone. The boy is proud to be given the responsibility of making a small fire - especially when it lights with one match. He declines baiting the hook with a minnow and knows that's okay with his dad. While they wait for the fish to bite, they eat the sandwiches that his father prepared before awakening him. His father tells him of a different pond, one in Vietnam that he used to fish at with his brother, his brother who never came home from the war that the boy's father fought in.

When they catch enough fish to eat that night, the two wash up and return home. They drive through the breaking dawn and present their catch to mother, who is nearly ready for work. With both of his parents off to work, the boy is left home with his older siblings. He bristles at being called baby brother because he helped catch dinner. 

There is so much to love here. While it is a picture book, the illustrations do have a graphic novel art feel. The palette of dark blues and greens creates a lush night-time atmosphere and contrast nicely with the warm hues of the boy's home. The family is working class and their neighborhood is an urban one. There is a view of the city from their fishing spot. There might be homeless people seen through the early morning light. The mom rides a bike to work. There are many little details to notice in the gorgeous illustrations. This book will provide both a window and a mirror. 

The book began as a poem and reads aloud beautifully. The imagery is lovely and the book's themes are universal from the boy's coming-of-age through the father-son experience to the story of immigrant struggle. I loved the ritual associated with these fishing trips, the camaraderie the boy felt when he and his dad were joined by the "regulars" and how he loved it when they were alone too. The recognition of his and his dad's "otherness" reflected in the comment about his dad's accent was so poignant. The warmth, love and support shown by all the members of this large family is palpable. Finally, the affirmation of the importance of story within a family is important.

Both the author and the illustrator were born in Vietnam. In the Author's Note, Bao shares a picture of himself as a baby with his father, who was the inspiration for the book. He speaks beautifully about wanting to honor his parents' struggle. 

I was all set to make this a Non-Fiction Monday feature until I looked up the publisher particulars and saw the it is part of a series called Fiction Picture Books. I still think it could be used in a memoir unit as a prompt. It not only belongs in every ESL/ ELL classroom, but in any classroom, as it is a remarkable read aloud with enormous discussion potential. It is truly a first purchase for any school or public library and an outstanding example of why we need diverse books everywhere.