Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. 432 p. Daughter of Smoke and Bone series #1. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September, 2011. 9780316134026.

The Teen Tuesday feature is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Karou is an art student in Prague whose sketch book is filled with creatures who cannot possibly exist except in the imagination. She regularly disappears to run "errands." Her errands consist of traveling to far-flung places to collect teeth for her foster father, Brimstone. She uses portals to save time but someone, or something is closing these portals and bent on finding Brimstone. This first book of a trilogy takes its time setting up but it is well worth your patience. The worlds Laini Taylor has created are truly fantastical, somewhat terrifying and wholly believable. The audiobooks are terrific! Khristine Hvam narrates and her accents and voices are so entertaining. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy. 448 p. HarperCollins Publisher, May, 2012, 9780062117434.

Middle Grade Monday features The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. This is book one in The Hero's Guide series and was the author's debut. The story centers around four Princes Charming. They are the anonymous princes from the fairy tales, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Rapunzel. Life is not "happily ever after" for these princes. After the hapless lads are thrown out of their castles, they stumble upon a plot that will endanger their kingdom and now it's up to them to save the kingdom! Ms. Kahn highly recommends the audio version of this hysterically funny and inventive tale. It is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, whose range of voices and accents adds dimension. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney. unpgd. Little, Brown and Company, May, 2017. 9780316341578. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Folk tales and fairy tales are constantly being retold and illustrated or re-illustrated. Some are more successful than others. Let's just agree to retire all the fairy tales after the masterful Jerry Pinkney does the retelling and illustrating. 

Fairy tales and folk tales were a bedtime staple when the hub and I took turns reading to our sons each night. Both of us owned well-loved, well-worn fairy tale collections from our own youth. Mine was a collection of Hans Christian Anderson tales and his was a collection of Brothers Grimm. We read from collections, some of which were illustrated, some were, in fact, collections illustrated by Pinkney. As I became a fan, I sought out more books illustrated by him. John Henry, the tall tall retold by Julius Lester and illustrated by Pinkney absolutely gutted me. So did his own retelling of The Little Match Girl. I thought he was robbed when Noah's Ark garnered a Caldecott Honor instead of the medal. (Though I did come to appreciate My Friend Rabbit, the winner.) I vowed to be done with Caldecott should Lion & Mouse not win. Thankfully, it did and I can continue my love/ hate relationship with the big awards. 

I admire the obvious care and thought that gets put into each new book. His settings and supporting characters get as much attention to detail as the main characters. His author notes are always informative and offer a glimpse into his process. I appreciate that his publisher invests in producing books that will hold up to multiple readings. The paper stock is sturdy and the books are lovingly designed.

Readers will want to linger over each spread, starting with that gorgeous wrap-around cover. Don't forget to look at the end-pages either. The littlest goat is just sassy as can be. The troll is a study in grossness from his overgrown toenails bursting through the toe of one shoe all the way up to his tusks and fish detritus in his "Jerry Pinkney Red" cap.  This is one that gets better with each reading. Be prepared for your young charges to ask for it again and again. You will not mind in the least.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bookfest@Bankstreet 2017

So Bookfest@Bankstreet happened today. I've attended quite a few and written about some here and here and here and here. I skipped it last year and can't remember why. I very nearly skipped this year but for Jerry Pinkney being on the roster. You see, I am a stalker of poor Jerry Pinkney. As soon as I learned about his appearance, I emailed my colleague and fellow Pinkney stalker, Maggie.

Maggie's the ELL teacher at my school and she is phenomenal. We collaborated on a lesson built around Pinkney's Lion & Mouse. We had begun the lesson before the Youth Media Awards were announced. When Lion and Mouse nabbed the Caldecott, we did a happy dance! I missed Bookfest in 2012 because Maggie and I presented at a workshop featuring Pinkney at the Hudson River Museum. That happened to coincide with the weekend of Superstorm Sandy. Good Times.

Our day began with coffee and breakfast in the lobby. We quickly found The Three Billy Goats Gruff at the table of books for sale through the Bankstreet Book Store. Then headed in to find seats in the auditorium. Again. There were not enough seats to be had and folks were sitting on the stairs. Not that the seats are all that great - straight-backed, albeit padded with very little leg room. They really need to find a bigger venue or limit registration further. 

Anywho. The first panel was moderated by Stephen Savage and was the main event for Maggie and me. #NoWords: Picture Books for Children. Savage started things off by avering that the he doesn't like the term "wordless." He finds it demeaning and requested that we stop called these books wordless. Jerry Pinkney, Barbara Lehman and David Wiesner joined him on this panel. 

Savage entertained with photos of each book taken "in the wild."


Next up was the panel entitled, "it makes Me Laugh: Humor in Children's Literature moderated by Betsy Bird, who has edited an anthology of short stories called Funny Girl. Her panelists were Carman Agra Deedy, Jon Scieszka and Rita Williams-Garcia. It was a bit hard to take notes due to all the laughing, but here are a few quotes I scrawled illegibly in my notebook: 

"The King's fool is always most powerful." Carman Agra Deedy.

"Being funny takes a lot of work." Jon Scieszka.

"I cackle a little when I take my characters down a peg." Rita Williams-Garcia.

Leonard Marcus spoke about the history of Golden Books. 

Then we broke out into our book discussion groups. As usual, there were so many great groups to choose from! I ended up choosing, "A Funny Thing Happened" moderated by SLJ YA books editor, Shelley Diaz. She chose five excellent titles that were laugh-out-loud funny, which is kind of a rarity in YA lit. 

Our box lunch was delish. 

The afternoon consisted of a panel moderated by Carole Boston Weatherford called, "The New Golden Age of Nonfiction for Young People." Her panelists included, Don Tate, author of Strong as Sandow; Candace Fleming, author of Giant Squid and ; Tonya Bolden, author of Pathfinders: the extraordinary journey of sixteen black souls and Eric Velasquez, illustrator of Schomburg: the man who built the library, which was written by Carole Boston Weatherford. I've already purchased each of the books by the panelists. I am particularly excited about the two picture book biographies, which are part of my unit with sixth graders this year.

Finally, Carman Agra Deedy delivered the keynote. I very nearly left early since I heard her speak in Atlanta at ALA Midwinter. I am so glad I stayed. She is an electrifying storyteller.

Another Bookfest@Bankstreet recorded for posterity.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Memes: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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

Publisher synopsis: A young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi Lee—Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

First line: On the morning we are to leave for our Grand Tour of the Continent, I wake in bed beside Percy. For a disorienting moment, it's unclear whether we've slept together or simple slept together.

Page 56: I do a valiant job of ignoring Percy for the next few days. He keeps his distance as well-I can't decide if he's avoiding me or just giving me space to cool off - though not so far that I don't notice the rather telling mark on his neck that his collars aren't quite high enough to cover. It's a fine reminder of the most mortifying thing I've ever done.

This 500+ page book is one of five I need to have read by tomorrow. I'm going to Bookfest@Bankstreet and the breakout group I signed up for is called, A Funny Thing Happened: Not all YA is gloom and doom...The books were fun. This one is an absolute hoot.

Fact Friday: Tank Man: how a photograph defined China's protest movement by Michael Burgan

Tank Man: how a photograph defined China's protest movement by Michael Burgan. 64 p. Captured World History Series. Capstone Press, March, 2014. 9780756547875. (Purchased)

Fact Friday presents Tank Man: how a photograph defined China's protest movement by Michael Burgan. Sometimes, with the click of a shutter, a photograph captures a pivotal moment in time. These become iconic. They wake the world up. In spring of 1989, students began protesting China's corrupt communist government in Tiananmen Square in Bejing. By June, the Chinese government had had enough and sent in troops to disperse the protesters. The student's rocks and firebombs were no match for the Chinese Army's guns and tanks. There was a massacre. As tanks rumbled into Tiananmen Square, one lone man confronted the tanks. Photographer Jeff Widener capture the moment the anonymous man stepped in front of a line of tanks. This book provides historical context for this amazing act of bravery. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

#tbt: Crispin: the cross of lead by Avi

Crispin: the cross of lead by Avi. 272 p. Disney Press. 9780786808281.

#tbt features Crispin: cross of lead by Avi. This was Avi's 50th book, was published in 2002, and won the 2003 Newbery Medal. It is book one of a trilogy set in Medieval England. It is the story of a fatherless, thirteen-year-old boy known only as Asta's son. When his mother dies, Asta's son has no one to turn to. His village priest tells him his name is Crispin and gives him a cross of lead with some writing on it. Before he can tell Crispin anymore, he is murdered by men sent by the steward of the village's feudal lord. Mystery and action make this a page-turner.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: From Hero to Zero by James Patterson with Chris Tebbetts

From Hero to Zero by James Patterson with Chris Tebbetts. Middle School series #10. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 5, 2018. 9781316346900.

Publisher synopsis: After a mostly-successful stint at Hills Valley Middle School, Rafe is excited to visit the incredible city of London with his class. Sightseeing around a foreign country sounds like a blast, until Rafe finds out his roommate will be none other than Miller the Killer, bully extraordinaire! Then Rafe is forced to work on a class project side by side with his crush Jeanne Galletta and her too-perfect boyfriend, which might be even more torturous than rooming with Miller. And it's no surprise that Rafe's bad luck follows him across the pond, putting him in one crazy situation after another-all under the watchful eye of his bad-tempered principal. Out of all his adventures, this trip could prove to be Rafe's most embarrassing yet, undoing everything good he has going for him back home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Life is Like a Musical: how to live, love and lead like a star by Tim Federle

Life is Like a Musical how to live, love and lead like a star by Tim Federle. Unabridged audiobook on four compact discs. Four hours. Read by the author. Hachette Audio, October, 2017. 9781478997733.

Teen Tuesday features Life is Like a Musical: How to live, love and lead like a star by Tim Federle. Tim visited TMS in January, 2014 to promote his second children's book, Five, Six, Seven, Nate the day after he won two Youth Media Awards for his first children's book, Better Nate Than Ever! Tim drew on his experience as a theater kid in a middle school who valued football over theater and brought his message of positivity and acceptance whenever he visited schools. He went on to write a YA novel, The Great American Whatever and the libretto for the Broadway musical, Tuck Everlasting since then. In Life is Like a Musical, Tim shares 50 tips about life he learned from his experience on the stage - on Broadway and off-off Broadway; chorus boy to dance captain, in hilarious 50 chapters. 

Ramblings and review: The above is the necessarily short announcement/ posting on the student announcements/ my library web pages. My ramblings and review follow.

When I went to order this, I put the hardcover in my shopping basket. Then, it occurred to me to check to see if there was an audiobook available. Tim narrates his own work and is an author who can and should narrate his own work. There was; so I switched out the hardcover for the audio. While listening to Tim's warm and humorous performance of his book, I kept wishing for the hardcover so that I could dog-ear pages or, <gasp> HIGHLIGHT the funny, wise, just plain decent advice he imparts. I did end up ordering the book to reread with my eyes. I am donating both print and audio copies to my school library. 

Just as he did with his adult beverage recipe books (really, they are such fun. Look them up),Tim breathes new life into the self-help genre with his witty analogies to theater. While self-identified theater geeks will eat this one whole, any teen reader will be able to relate to Tim's gentle, positive humor. It's like getting advice from a cool big brother. Without the headlocks and noogies.

If you're looking for a fresh new title to liven up the self-help section, Life is Like a Musical is your ticket! 

Optional reading:
Full disclosure here: I cannot be objective about Tim Federle! I adored Better Nate Than Ever so much that when I spied a man reading it while on the security line at Newark Airport, I wanted to start a conversation. He was lucky because the snake of a security line never wound close enough. I was on my way to ALA Annual in Chicago. Imagine my surprise when I recognized Tim in the Simon & Schuster booth on the exhibit floor! I told him how much I loved Nate and my experience at the airport. He seemed genuinely interested and pleased. Then he told me that he had written a sequel and asked if I wanted an arc! 

Later that year, I was asked if I wanted to host Tim while he toured to promote Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Duh! Of course! As I mention above, his stop at TMS happened to be the day after his wins at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia. No one in the YMA audience was cheering louder than me. I had just finished rereading Better Nate Than Ever with my years as I pulled into my hotel parking lot on the Friday before the awards announcements.

He was utterly charming on stage at TMS. Both students and teachers were engaged and enthusiastic. My fandom was firmly cemented. Since then, I've listened to him speak on panels and accept an Odyssey Award for his second Nate book. (In other words, stalked.) I laughed and cried over his YA debut, The Great American Whatever. Later, I did the same when I reread it with my ears. The world of children's literature is filled with many very nice authors. Tim stands out as the nicest among the nice. He's unfailingly polite and positive.

And yes, I splurged on tickets to see Tuck Everlasting with the hub. I would've seen it again but unfortunately, it closed quickly. Too bad.

Total fangirl here.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: (arc review) The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos. 320 p. Disney Press, October, 2017. 9781484788011. (arc courtesy of Books, Bytes and Beyond)

Middle Grade Monday features The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos. Centuries before, monsters attacked the world and Freestone was one of the few surviving cities. Since then, the residents and the city have been under the protection of magical wards that keep the monsters out. The Mages Guild is responsible for the protection of the city and that's the guild that Zed, a half-elf, half-human, wants to be chosen for in the upcoming Guildculling. His best friend, Brock, expects to be chosen for the Merchants Guild, continuing a family tradition. After each were claimed by the guild of their choice, Zed's world was turned upside down when the dangerous, Adventurers Guild claimed him. Brock, impulsively joins Zed and the two plus, two others barely survive their initiation night. The Adventurers Guild is the authors' debut and the beginning of a series. The authors are best friends and Dungeons and Dragons fans. 

The above blurb was put on the morning announcements as well as my web pages at my school. They, by necessity need to be short. I'd like to talk about it a bit more here.

I first learned of this book when I received an email from Trish at Books, Bytes and Beyond*, asking if I'd be interested in hosting the authors in November. Truthfully, I wasn't that eager. Getting permission for those drop-in authors-on-tour assemblies is tricky. Plus, I feel terrible when book sales are weak. It is very hard to get middle school students to take those flyers home! And, many of them are content to borrow the book from the library. But, interest was there on the part of the LA teachers, and permission was obtained so I received the arc to read so I could book talk the book. 

Well, I read the book in one big gulp! I read a fair amount of fantasy and after a while, as enjoyable as they are, they kind of blur into the same book. This one was funny, fast-paced and had fantastic world building. The third-person POV switches between Zed and Brock. These two are instantly endearing. Zed is earnest, Brock is sassy. They are best friends in the truest sense. The secondary characters are all well-drawn. So are the monsters, or Dangers that are waiting to prey on Freestone and its citizens. 

There was plenty of humor as well as adventure and suspense. I found myself chuckling frequently at the banter and smart dialogue. The book does not end in a cliff-hanger; but Freestone is not yet safe, leaving readers satisfied but also eager for the next installment. 

Unfortunately for us, a scheduling glitch forced us to cancel the visit. I am so disappointed. I was really looking forward to hearing from the authors about their creative process.

Give The Adventurers Guild to your fantasy fans, especially those who love The Septimus Heap series. You might also try it with dormant readers or those who enjoy a lot of action in their reading. I know the book will be popular here at TMS!

*If you live in the Bergen County area and want personal service with your book ordering, call Books, Bytes and Beyond. Ditto if you are hosting an author. Trish will work with you - advise on titles, ordering, etc.

Saturday, October 21, 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.

Purchased: (I actually forgot to write about the first two in my last Stacking post!)

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. 286 p. Dutton Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, October 10, 2017. 9780525555360.

Publisher synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz. 349 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, October, 2017. 9781524739300.

Publisher synopsis: The world’s greatest teen spy is back in action in a thrilling new mission: destroy once and for all the terrorist organization SCORPIA. Americans may have purchased more than 6 million copies of Alex's adventures, but now, more than ever, we all need his heroics.

Following the events of Scorpia Rising, Alex relocates to San Francisco as he slowly recovers from the tragic death of his best friend and caregiver, Jack Starbright, at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA. With Jack gone, Alex feels lost and alone, but then, out of the blue, he receives a cryptic email—just three words long, but enough to make Alex believe that Jack may be alive. Armed with this shred of hope, Alex boards a flight bound for Egypt and embarks on a dubious quest to track Jack down.

Yet SCORPIA knows Alex's weakness. And the question of whether Jack is alive soon takes a backseat to a chilling new terrorist plot—one that will play with Alex’s mind as he grasps the magnitude of what is at stake.

From Egypt to France to Wales, from luxury yachts to abandoned coal mines, Alex traverses a minefield of dangers and cryptic clues as he fights to discover the truth. The #1 New York Times bestselling series, perfect for fans of James Bond and Jason Bourne, is back with a vengeance!

Life is Like a Musical: how to live, love and lead like a star by Tim Federle. Unabridged recording on 4 compact discs. Read by the author. Hachette Audio, October, 2017. 9781478997733.

Publisher synopsis: From the author of the hit cocktail books Tequila Mockingbird and Gone with the Gin comes a guide to getting ahead in life, love, and leadership—Broadway style!Before Tim Federle became a beloved author (his award-winning novels include Better Nate Than Ever, which Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda declared as “highly recommended” in the New York Times), Federle worked in the showbiz trenches as a Christina Aguilera back-up dancer, Radio City Polar bear, and card-carrying chorus boy on Broadway. Along the way, he discovered that the hard-earned lessons he was learning onstage could be applied to his life, too.Life Is Like a Musical features fifty tips and anecdotes, with chapters such as “Let Someone Else Take a Bow,” “Dance Like Everyone’s Watching,” and “Save the Drama for the Stage.” This charming and clever guide will appeal to all ages and inspire readers to remember that they are the stars of their own life story.

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor. Unabridged recording on 3 compact discs. 3 hours. Hachette Audio, September, 2017. 9781478988045.

Publisher synopsis: In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana's fantastical first date--as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her "rabid fairy," her "voodoo eyes" are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or "Violin Boy," her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It's a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter's night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy--the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.

For review:

Dogman: a tale of two kitties by Dav Pilkey. Dogman series #3. 256 p. Graphix/ Scholatic Inc. August, 2017. 9780545935210.

Publisher synopsis: He was the best of dogs... He was the worst of dogs... It was the age of invention... It was the season of surprise... It was the eve of supa sadness... It was the dawn of hope... Dog Man, the newest hero from the creator of Captain Underpants, hasn't always been a paws-itive addition to the police force. While he can muzzle miscreants, he tends to leave a slick of slobber in his wake! This time, Petey the cat's dragged in a tiny bit of trouble — a double in the form of a super-cute kitten. Dog Man will have to work twice as hard to bust these furballs and remain top dog!

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. 186 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/ Little, Brown and Company, April 17, 2017. 9780316262286.

Publisher synopsis: A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions.

Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today's world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Memes: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. 186 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/ Little, Brown and Company, April 17, 2017. 9780316262286.

Publisher synopsis: A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions.

Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today's world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

First line(s): How small I look. Laid out flat, my stomach touching the ground. My right knee bent and my brand-new Nikes stained with blood.

Page 56: "Dad? Is it true he was twelve?"
     Officer Moore holds Sarah at arm's length. "It's a rough neighborhood."
     "Same age as me."
     "You don't know him. You didn't see him."
     Sarah looks at me. She does see me. We're the same height. Probably in the same grade. Seventh.
     "He's-" She points, stops, stutters. "He was my height."
     Her father blinks, like he doesn't recognize her. Like he can't believe she's contradicting him.
     She plunges on, "You said he was big. Scary."

I was having dinner at the hotel bar last July when I went to the Scholastic Reading Summit in Virginia. Ms. Rhodes was the afternoon Keynote Speaker. When she sat down next to me to wait for friends she was meeting for dinner, I interrupted her solitude to say how much I enjoyed her address. We ended up chatting and she talked more about Ghost Boys. I put the title on my "to order" list. 

I was supposed to attend the Little, Brown preview earlier this month and hoped that there would be arcs of Ghost Boys, but I was not able to attend and was sad about that because these previews are the highlight of my life. Imagine my surprise when John Leary, from Hachette, booktalked it (among other titles) at my local school librarians meeting yesterday after school! He had a variety of arcs, including Ghost Boys for the taking. Guess who made a beeline for Ghost Boys at the end? 

I have three YA books that need to be read by October 28, but I put them on hold to dive into this. 

Fact Friday: Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. 56 p. Roaring Brook Press, February, 2017. 9781596439504.

It's time for Fact Friday! What is eighteen miles wide, two hundred seventy-seven miles long and one mile deep? The Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years of erosion. The canyon is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna and a place of great beauty and wonder. Can't get there? Check out Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. The art in this informational picture book is astonishing and features impressive gatefolds and plentiful back-matter for would-be tourists, budding geologists and science teachers.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

#tbt: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. 192 p. HarperCollins Publisher, January, 1952.

In #tbt news, 2017 marks the 65th anniversary of the publication of Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. This story of a runty pig named Wilbur, who was rescued from the ax by a feisty girl named Fern and then saved from being turned into a Thanksgiving roast by a true friend named Charlotte, won White a Newbery Honor and leagues of fans. At 65, this timeless classic shows no signs of retiring. If you have not read it, you really must. And, the audiobook is not to be missed! White narrates it and his performance is superb!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Audiobook Review: Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz. Unabridged audiobook on 7 compact discs. 7 hours, 37 minutes. Read by Michael Goldstrom, Kyla Garcia, Assaf Cohen. Scholastic Audio, July, 2017. 9781338191073. (Review from purchased audiobook.)

When I received the arc of Refugee last summer, I was thrilled, but kept skipping it on the tbr pile because I just knew that it would gut me. I needed to be in a strong emotional place to read and reflect on what I was sure to be an important book. Somehow, I never got there. Recently, a fifth grader ran to me clutching his copy and asking if I had read it. When I said no, he put his book in my hands and said, "You HAVE to read this! Really! You have to!" Chastened, I said that I would. Then looked to see if was available as an audiobook so that I could read through the tears I knew were going to fall.

Gratz has lots of fans at my school, his Projekt 1065 and Prisoner B-3087 are consistently checked out and recommended student-to-student. Personally, I loved a couple of earlier books, Samurai Shortstop and The Brooklyn Nine. Recently, I enjoyed his latest elementary/ low middle grade title, Ban This Book.

Refugee is told from three points-of-view. There is Joseph, who is on the cusp of his thirteenth birthday and whose father was recently released from Auschwitz. The family has been told to leave Germany. They have secured passage on the ship, the St. Louis bound for Cuba with other Jewish families fleeing Nazi Germany.

Then, there is Isabelle, who is fleeing Castro's Cuba in 1994, when the Communist leader announced that anyone who wanted to leave Cuba could, with no repercussions. She, her parents and grandfather and her neighbors pile into a leaky boat to make the perilous 90 mile journey to the coast of Florida.

Finally, there is Mahmoud, a young Syrian boy, who is trying to flee Aleppo with his parents and younger siblings during the Civil War that is raging there right now. His flight is perhaps most perilous having to survive crossing the Mediterranean, then several countries before reaching Germany.

It would've been perfectly reasonable to keep these three stories separate and parallel. Each one is compelling in its own right. Gratz has brought each child's plight to vivid life. It would've made for a perfectly memorable book. That he chose to connect the three stories at the end adds an emotional wallop that, frankly, I don't think I will recover from. I mean that as a compliment. 

All three children face the unthinkable. All three are traumatized, yet push on. All three suffer from incredible guilt over an impossible decision each had to make. Gratz skillfully ratchets up the suspense as he cuts between the stories. Readers will quickly become invested in each child. I got a bit weepy through most of the recording, but was glad to be reading with my ears as the tears flowed pretty continuously through discs six and seven. Mahmoud's story evoked haunting memories of the photos from Aleppo that have shocked the world, notably, the little boy in the ambulance. It was very much on my mind during Mahmoud's story. 

I do believe that the performances of all three narrators heightened the experience of the book because two of the three narrators read with beautifully accented English and also fluently pronounced the Syrian or Spanish words. When I read with my eyes, I read with my own accent. Listening to a narrator who is fluent in both languages means I am not mentally butchering the pronunciation of the foreign language words.  

The Author's Note at the end is not to be missed. Allen Gratz provides historical context, including the importance of the photo I just spoke of, and what is real and fiction in the story as well as places one might donate to help present-day refugees in crisis. This is a first purchase for any library - both the audiobook as well as the hardcover. It would be a spectacular class read or book club book. But don't forget your tissues. Lots of tissues. I will need tissues when I booktalk this book.

Waiting on Wednesday: One Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz

One Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz. 288 p. Scholastic, January 30, 2018. 9781338143560.

Publisher synopsis: Sometimes you need to keep a few secrets.

Frankie knows she'll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she's determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie's is missing a piece.

I adored Swartz's debut, Finding Perfect and am so looking forward to this. Plus, that cover! I have and have had hounds in my life who did exactly that!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Teen Tuesday: 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.

Teen Tuesday wishes Jason Reynolds' Long Way Down a happy book birthday! Reynolds burst on the scene a few years ago with When I was the Greatest and seven of his eight books have won multiple awards. Long Way Down was named on the National Book Award Longlist before it was even published. 

This powerful blank verse novel takes place in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the seventh to first floors of Will's apartment building. His brother, Shawn has been murdered and Will is following the rules of his neighborhood - don't cry, don't snitch, get revenge. As the elevator stops at each floor, time and reality bend as Will is joined by family and friends who were victims of gun violence and "the rules."

Click here for my full review of the arc. I can't wait to get a finished copy to add to my library collection!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. 608 p. Scholastic Inc., September, 2011. 9780545027892. (Purchased)

I read this back when it was published in 2011 but didn't blog about it, nor was I on Goodreads then. I recall enjoying the story. I did not have the chance to reread the book before seeing the movie the other but took the opportunity to do so over the weekend. 

Wonderstruck tells parallel stories - one set in 1927 and one in 1977. The 1927 story is told in illustrations. It is the story of Rose, a child who was born deaf to a famous actress. Rose lives in Hoboken, NJ with her stern and cold father while her mother lives in New York City to pursue her acting career. Rose meticulously clips articles about her mother's career and lovingly keeps a scrapbook. She loves to watch her mother in movies because they are silent and accessible to her. One cannot skip a single illustration because each one advances the story and each one is remarkable.

Ben's story is the one set in 1977. He was born deaf in one ear and never knew his father. His mother recently died in a crash and he's living with his aunt and uncle. He finds a clue to who his father might be while searching through his mother's belongings. After a freak accident takes away his hearing in his good ear and lands him in the hospital, Ben decides to run away to New York to find his father.

There are a couple of plot contrivances to swallow, and there is a distinct nod to From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Celebrating 50 years this year), but suspend belief and go along for the ride. It's a satisfying one.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

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

For review:

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares. Unpgd. Candlewick Press, 

Publisher synopsis: Separation and miles cannot keep a determined cardinal from his loved one in an ode to serendipity and belief that is destined to be a new Christmas classic.

Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it’s just the season for miracles. . . . From Matt Tavares comes a heart-tugging story combining the cheer of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: how important it is to be surrounded by love.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht. Illustrated by Jarvis. Unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2017. 9780763695712.

Publisher synopsis: A festive read-aloud brimming with all the joy and excitement of Christmastime — beginning, of course, with picking out a tree!

Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. With style and warmth, debut author Patricia Toht and Jarvis, the author-illustrator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, evoke all the rituals of decorating the tree — digging out boxes jam-packed with ornaments and tree trimmings, stringing tinsel, and, at long last, turning on those twinkling lights. Joyously drawn 

Traveling the Blue Road: poems of the sea collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Bob Hansman and Jovan Hansman. unpaged. Sea Grass Press/ Quarto, October 17, 2017. 9781633222762.

Publisher synopsis: Gorgeous illustrations surround a collection of poetry written for children about the courage, beauty, and promise of sea voyages. Compiled and edited by award-winning poet Lee Bennett Hopkins, the poems describe how the sea has historically shone as a metaphor for hope and despair and served as a pathway for people searching for new life, including poems about the pilgrims coming to the New World, the Mariel boatlift, the Vietnamese boat people, a Dutch slave ship, the current migration situation in the Mediterranean, and the voyage of the St. Louis.

I have coveted this one ever since viewing a couple of pdf printouts from the book at the July publisher preview at Quarto. Thanks Michelle!


After the Fall by Dan Santat. unpgd. Roaring Brook Press, October, 2017. 9781250179371.

Publisher synopsis: From the New York Times–bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend comes the inspiring epilogue to the beloved classic nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty.

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after?

Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat's poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall—that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.

Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

I adore this man and his work. He just keeps getting better.

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