Saturday, September 30, 2017

Taking Stock - September

Total posts this month: 33
Total books read this month: 30
Total books read this year: 314

Challenges:
Audio: 8/ 72
Debut: 3/22
Picture Book: 9/114

The Good: Still managed to get in a book-a-day despite school starting up. It's still a good thing I got ahead in the summer months and the beginning of September because today's book was the first in nearly six days!

I hosted an author visit with Sarah Weeks and it went great!

The Bad: No complaints.

The List: 
285. Frederick Douglass: the lion who wrote history by Walter Dean Myers (9/1)(92)*
286. Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the power of a protest song by Gary Golio (9/1)(93)*
287. Trudy's Big Swim: how Gerturde Ederle swam the English Channel and took the world by storm by Sue Macy (9/1)(94)*
288. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han (9/2)(95)
289. Streetcar to Justice: how Elizabeth Jennings won the right to ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth (9/3)(96)
290. Thornhill by Pam Say (9/3)(97)
291. Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler (9/4)(98)
292. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (9/4)(99)(Audio reread)*
293. Swear to Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanan (9/4)(100)
294. Fire Birds: valuing natural wildfires and burned forests by Sneed B. Collard III (9/6)*
295. Snakes! by James Buckley, Jr. (9/7)
296. Good Dog! by Nicola Jane Swinney (9/8)
297. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (9/9)*
298. Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks (9/10)
299. The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loren Clark and Nick Eliopulos (9/11)*
300. Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt (9/12)
301. A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy's Big speech by Shana Corey (9/13)
302. A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (9/13)*
303. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Adam Rex (9/14)
304. Our Food by Grace Lin and Ranida T. McKneally (9/14)
305. The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge (9/16)
306. Restart by Gordon Korman (9/17)
307. Ban This Book by Alan Gratz (9/18)
308. Balderdash! John Newbery and the boisterous birth of children's books by Michelle Markel (9/18)
309. Motor Girls: how women took the wheel and drove boldly into the twentieth century by Sue Macy (9/19)
310. Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho (9/20)
311. Hook's Tale: being the account of an unjustly villainized pirate written by himself (9/20)*
312. Listen: how Pete Seeger got America singing by Leda Schubert (9/24)
313. The Reader by Traci Chee (9/24)
314. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Carr (9/30)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fact Friday: It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris


It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. 96 p. Candlewick Press, July, 1994. 9780763634330.

Fact Friday features It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. This informational book about the changes the human body undergoes from birth through adulthood has been challenged so many times since its publication in 1994 that it landed #12 on the most challenged books of the decade from 2000 - 2009. 

Friday Memes: The One Memory of Flora Banks

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



The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. 290 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May, 2017. 9780399547010.
 Publisher synopsis: It's not a lie if you can't remember the truth.

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restory her memory and making her whole again. So, when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the owrld-in Svalbard, Noraway-Flora Knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

But will following Drake be the key to unlocking Flora's memory? Or will the journey reveal that nothing is quite as it seems?

First line: I am at the top of a hill, and although I know I have done something terrible, I have no idea what it is.

Page 56: My mom has called me twice, but I missed her. She sends a text that says: Morning darling. How are you and Paige? Remember your pills.
     I reply: Hi. We are OK. I will,and I take them. The landline rings, and when I pick it up, a girl's voice says:"Checking you haven't gassed yourself."
     "Paige!" I say, but she has hung up.
     Nothing else happens. After a while I lie on the sofa and put the TV on, drifting off to sleep.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Author Visit: Sarah Weeks Day at My School!


Sarah Weeks spent the day at my school yesterday and it was a fabulous success. The building was buzzing! You know an assembly is going well when the face of nearly every seventh and eighth grader is focused on the speaker. For anyone uninitiated to life in middle school, this is BIG! Getting their attention for ten minutes, let alone nearly an hour is really hard! Some of the feedback I got from my own sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes today was: "She looked really comfortable talking with us." "She told really funny stories." "I loved how she finds story ideas!" "It was good to hear that she has to revise."


 


Sometime in the middle of last school year, two sixth graders came in looking for the book, So B. It. I had one copy that, surprisingly, was on the shelf. They both grabbed it and had a short tug-of-war over the book before appealing to me to solve the issue for them. I'm no Solomon, but suggested that one take Save Me a Seat and then, they could swap. One of them then asked if I could get Sarah Weeks to come to visit and the other echoed her request, punctuating it with little hops and a pleading face. I thought, "Hm, I haven't had an author in a while. Sarah's a school favorite. I always use her book, Pie, to teach the NoveList database to fifth graders, which usually results in a waiting list for the book. Why not?" 

It couldn't happen last school year because Sarah's schedule was pretty booked. She also teaches and, understandably, needs time to write. When she sent me available dates in September, my birthday happened to be one of them so I gave myself a birthday present and picked that date for the visit.

Let me tell you the most important secret to a successful author visit. You, your teachers and your kids must read at least one book by the author! Believe me, it makes for a better experience for everyone when the kids are invested. They listen more attentively and they ask more thoughtful questions during the Q & A. Now, Sarah Weeks could've walked in off the street any day and had a successful visit because her presentation skills are outstanding. Seriously, if you are looking for an author to inspire your students, check out Sarah Weeks. And because she does a lot of school visits, she's pretty seasoned. There's a fantastically informative page on her web site devoted to school visits that covers every thing you need to do to make it successful. 

Another element to a successful visit is getting the teachers on board, especially the LA teachers. That was absolutely no problem because each and every one of them have books by Sarah in their classroom libraries as well. Each and every face lit up when I proposed having her come for the day. You have to understand that sometimes it is difficult to disrupt the day's schedule for an assembly. No one hesitated. When the LA chair and I were brainstorming what Sarah's three sessions would look like, we thought the teachers might benefit from some PD advice on teaching writing from a pro. So they met with Sarah in the library. (See pics below.) We are so grateful to our principal for making that happen. That was a lot of coverage! We're also grateful to administration for allocating funds for the visit. 









Once we had all the permissions and date set, we promoted Sarah's books like crazy in the last weeks of school last June. We encouraged every student to choose one of her titles for their summer reading. Our teachers do not assign titles for summer reading. We encourage choice whenever possible. We have the expectation that reading will get done over the summer and compliance is pretty high.


I was lucky to receive help from a PTO mom who handled author visits at the elementary school (where they have more visits). It was a relief to hand over the paper work to her and I am forever grateful. The forms went out the first day of school and needed to be back the following Monday to enable Books, Bytes and Beyond time to place and receive the books. In middle school, book sales are always tricky, partly because students have to get that flyer home to mom and dad. Thank you Mrs. B.!

If you ever have the opportunity to host an author, consider Sarah Weeks. Also, if you live in an area where the independent film production of her book, So B. It is releasing, consider attending. Sarah brought some Soof bracelets and everyone wanted one. The stampede of students nearly mowed my poor parent-volunteer down! They were gone in a trice and there were many disappointed students. 

This morning, I decided to raffle off my bracelet and my principal agreed to add his to the raffle. To enter the raffle, the student needs to create his or her own "soof," take a photo, and print it out. I will put them around the school and library and send pics to Sarah. I wish I thought of that as a way to get a bracelet! 



These were two that I created. The Lego Soof is on our Lego makerspace. The glass stones were made on my counter with stones from forcing bulbs last spring.




This is sixth grade LA teacher, Ms. A's teacup soof: 


I stole the following off of Sarah's Facebook page: author Kate DiCamillo's pasta soof and author Barbara O'Connor's mealworm soof.

                                                                         



What are you waiting for? Read the book. See the movie. Make your own "soof!"




And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Illustrated by Henry Cole. unpgd. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, April, 2005. 9780689878459.

#tbt features a picture book that has been at or near the top of every "Most Frequently Challenged" list since its publication in 2005. It is the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chin strap penguins who resided at the Central Park Zoo. They were a bonded pair and their keeper would notice that they would attempt to hatch stones. When he found an abandoned egg, he gave it to them to hatch. The two tended the egg and its hatchling, who was named Tango. This lovely story about what makes a family was written by  Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday usually focuses on upcoming books that I am eager to read and share. I cannot possibly predict which upcoming book might be challenged or banned. Considering that 5 of the 10 top ten challenged books have lgbtq characters, future books with lgbtq characters might find themselves on the list. Thankfully, that does not deter authors from telling a story. Remember, we need mirrors and windows in our literature. It is our choice, as readers, which stories we want to spend time with. If a story does not speak to you, close the book. If a story offends you, close the book. Someone once said, a great library has something to offend everyone. We all should enjoy our right to read. Many more than ten books were challenged and/ or banned in 2016. Other reasons for challenging or banning a book are: profanity, violence, risky choices such as drinking or drug use, too sad, differing religious or political viewpoints and unsuited to age-group. Let's celebrate our freedom to read.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. 320 p. First Second, May, 2014. 9781596437746.

Teen Tuesday features This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. This coming-of-age graphic novel's art received a Caldecott Honor in 2015 and the book won a Printz Honor as well as the Eisner Award. It also landed #1 for 2016 on the ALA Most Frequently Challenged list for foul language, drug use, risky situations, poor choices and the presence of an lgbtq character. The graphic novel explores how relationships between family and friends change. While the themes are mature, they realistically portray choices that face many teens. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Drama by Raina Telgemeier


Drama by Raina Telgemeier. 240 p. Scholastic Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., September, 2012. 9780545326995.

Since 1982, the last week of September has been designated by the American Library Association as Banned Books Week. It is a campaign to raise awareness about the hundreds of books that are challenged and/ or banned in school and public libraries each year. Each title highlighted in the daily booktalks this week will feature a title which has appeared on lists of frequently banned/ challenged books. 

Middle Grade Monday features Drama by Raina Telgemeier. This graphic novel about a middle school girl named Callie who joins Drama Club, has crushes and makes new friends was #2 on last year's ten most challenged books. The reason cited was the presence of two gay characters. Telgemeier was quoted as saying, "finding your identity whether gay or straight is a huge part of middle school." Books are both mirrors and windows. Readers should be able to find people like themselves in books. They should also read about others, other races, other cultures and other identities in an effort to appreciate the diverse world we live in.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Picture Book Review: Listen: how Pete Seeger got America Singing by Leda Schubert


Listen: how Pete Seeger got America Singing by Leda Schubert. Illustrated by Raul Colon. unpgd. A Neal Porter Book/ Roaring Brook Press, June, 2017. 9781626722507. (Review from finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media)

Okay. Full disclosure here. I adore Pete Seeger. I also love Leda Schubert and Raul Colon. But back to Pete Seeger. I grew up the oldest of six children born in ten years. My childhood was imperfect with a capital I. But the songs of Pete Seeger were a part of it. My dad admired him. Fast forward to 1979 when I discovered Harry Chapin. I attended too many of his concerts to count and "Old Folkie" always brought me back to my dad and his admiration for Pete Seeger. Fast forward to today when I mention Pete Seeger or Woodie Guthrie to my students and am met with blank stares. 

If ever there was a time that need this biography, now is the time. The reader is asked to Listen. Listen. Listen as Pete got folks singing. He'd sing old songs, new songs and prompt tenors, altos and basses to join in to create four part harmony that "would rise to the rafters and drift to the stars."

This lyrical, spare blank verse biography brings Pete Seeger to life for children who may sing his songs without understanding the story behind them. Pete sang the Truth. He was unafraid to  to join union organizers or farmers or hoboes. He stood up the to House Un-American Activities Committee of the United States Congress. He joined the fight for Civil Rights. He campaigned for a cleaner Hudson River. He walked the walk. He talked the talk. And now is the time for a new generation to lift their voices. 

Raul Colon's illustrations follow Pete from his early days through his later years. The scratchy watercolor and pencil drawings capture the folk singer's commitment to social justice and is sure to inspire a new generation of social activists. A timeline, endnotes, selected bibliography and recommended recordings round out this remarkable picture book biography. I can't wait to share this with my students.




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.

Purchased:

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!