Thursday, November 30, 2017

Taking Stock - November - 2017

Total posts this month: 44
Total books read this month: 29
Total books read this year: 361

Audio: 9/86
Debut: 3/25
Picture Book: 14/131

The Good: 44 posts this month! I have nearly reached my Goodreads goal of 365 books ahead of time. 

The Bad: Tried to celebrate Picture Book Month but lost momentum when I went to AASL earlier this month and never regained it. I read the most picture books in January this year, 21. Go figure.

The List:
333. After the Fall: how Humpty Dumpty got back up again by Dan Santat (11/1)*
334. Pig the Winner by Aaron Blabey (11/2)
335. Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares (11/3)*
336. Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel (11/3)
337. Love by Matt de la Peña (11/3)
338. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (11/4)
339. Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz (11/4)
340. Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske (11/6)*
341. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (11/6)*
342. The One Day House by Julia Durango (11/7)
343. Jack B. Ninja by Tim McCanna (11/8)
344. Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey (11/8)*
345. Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison (11/12)(SLJ)
346. The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson (11/12)*
347. Traveling the Blue Road: poems of the sea edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (11/16)*
348. Once and for All by Sarah Dessen (11/18)
349. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (11/19)
350. The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (11/20)
351. Graceful by Wendy Mass (11/20)
352. Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key taught the world about kindness by Donna Janell Bowman (11/21)*
353. The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His Lesson the Hard Way by Patrick McDonnell (11/22)*
354. Writing Radar by Jack Gantos (11/23)
355. Slider by Pete Hautman (11/25)
356. Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht (11/27)
357. The Getaway (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #12) by Jeff Kinney (11/27)
358. The Quilts of Gee's Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin (11/28)*
359. Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin(11/29)
360. Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone by Alice Briere-Haquet (11/30)
361. Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford (11/30)

#tbt: The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. 349 p. Chicken House/ Scholastic Inc., February, 2001. 9780439404371.

This is another student recommendation. The Thief Lord was originally published in Germany in 2000. Cornelia Funke is Germany's equivalent to J.K. Rowling. The story was translated and brought to the United States in 2001. It is the story of two brothers, Prosper and Bo, who have run away from a mean aunt and uncle who are supposed to be taking care of them. They fall in with a group of runaways who live in an abandoned theater and are led by the charismatic "Thief Lord." All is not as it seems however and the boys find themselves trying to elude the detective their aunt has hired to find them. The streets and canals of Venice come alive in this atmospheric stand-alone novel. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His Alphabet the Hard Way by Patrick McDonnell

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His Alphabet the Hard Way by Patrick McDonnell. unpgd. Little Brown Books for Young Readers/ Little, Brown and Company, September, 2017. 9780316502467. (Review of purchased finished copy)

I try to keep up. I really do. I get four review journals. I try to read most of the reviews. But I don't always get through them in a timely fashion so I rely on other online sources to keep me up-to-date. I have a lot of author "friends" on Facebook and have learned of new titles that way. I have a couple hundred blogs in an RSS feed and learn about books that way as well. Thankfully, that's how I found out about this wordless gem of an alphabet book. 

Wordless alphabet book? Why yes! Who'd have thunk? Don't skip the initial pages folks. While the end-pages are decorated with letters of the alphabet, there is a page with a bit of spot art before the title page. The story really starts there and continues on the Title page. The little red cat in question has awakened and spied an open door. It isn't long before it runs into an alligator! Next up comes a bear, then a chicken. All three are chasing the little red cat until they all stop dead upon encountering a dragon! This causes a rather hysterical reaction on the part of the chicken!

Cartoonists are masters of simple lines conveying lots of meaning. Take your time to read the pictures as this is cartoon gold. I adored it when I read it and happily reread it several times. But the proof of a picture book hit is sharing it as a read aloud. I shared it with a small group this morning and the audience loved the group reading. They were fully engaged throughout and laughed out loud frequently. We even did a little predicting. 

I will be adding it to a wordless unit the ELL teacher and I do every few years. We are due to introduce it this January. It will do double duty both by reinforcing the English alphabet and allowing ELL learners to tell their own story.

Don't miss this Vimeo between Victoria Stapleton and Patrick McDonnell discussing the story and art. And run, don't walk to pick up a copy to read aloud, to give as gifts, to recommend to your favorite readers. Remember, one is never too old for picture books!

Waiting on Wednesday: Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer

Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer. 320 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, June 12, 2018. 9780399163944.

Publisher synopsis: In the midst of the Vietnam War, a young girl struggles to embrace change in this tender family story for fans of Cynthia Lord and Wendy Maas

Lucy is a practical, orderly person—just like her dad. He taught her to appreciate reason and good sense, instilling in her the same values he learned at medical school. But when he's sent to Vietnam to serve as an Army doctor, Lucy and her mother are forced to move to San Jose, California, to be near their relatives—the Rossis—people known for their superstitions and all around quirky ways. 
Lucy can't wait for life to go back to normal, so she's over the moon when she learns her father is coming home early. It doesn't even matter that he's coming back "different." That she can't ask too many questions or use the word "amputation." It just matters that he'll be home. But Lucy quickly realizes there's something very wrong when her mother sends her to spend the summer with the Rossis to give her father some space. Lucy's beside herself, but what's a twelve-year-old to do? 

It's a curious boy named Milo, a mysterious packet of photographs and an eye-opening mission that makes Lucy see there's more to life than schedules and plans, and helps to heal her broken family. The latest from critically-acclaimed author Tracy Holczer is a pitch-perfect middle grade tale of family and friendship that's sure to delight fans of One for the Murphys and Rules.

Is that not the most gorgeous cover? I learned about this from The Nerdy Book Club a week or so ago and did a happy dance! I really loved The Secret Hum of a Daisy from a couple of years back. I never did get to review it, which sort of bums me out since it is a favorite of mine. I recommend it all the time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Girl, Stolen by April Henry. 224 p. Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), September, 2010. 9780805090055.

Today's Teen Tuesday feature is a title that was recommended by a sixth grade student. Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of her step-mother's car while she pops into the pharmacy to pick up antibiotics for Cheyenne's newly diagnosed pneumonia. Griffin is under instructions to steal a car for his father and his criminal cronies. When he discovers Cheyenne in the backseat, he's worried that his dad will do something drastic until his dad learns that Cheyenne's father is rich. He decides to hold her for ransom instead. Complicating matters is the fact that Cheyenne is blind. She's also in very grave danger. Tension ratchets up as things go wrong. You may need to read this suspenseful novel in one sitting!

I happened to read this one with my ears four years ago. It is exactly the type of book I cannot stand reading because of the suspense. It was especially hard reading it with my ears despite the excellent performance by Kate Rudd because I couldn't read ahead! There is a sequel out called, Count All Her Bones which I may have to read though I get the willies just reading the synopsis.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm

Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. Jennifer Holms Sunny Series #2. 224 p. Scholastic Inc., September, 2017. 9780545741729. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher)

In this sequel to Sunny Side Up, Sunny has returned home from spending the summer at Grandpa's during the summer. She's about to start middle school and her big brother, Dale is away at a military boarding school. She's missing him but also worried about starting middle school. Luckily, she has her best friend and Grandpa calls frequently to check on Sunny. She always says she's fine, even when she's not. When Dale does come home for a visit, he has changed, leaving Sunny bereft and confused. 

This installment seemed a bit more episodic and there were lots of pop culture references that made me smile. But I wonder if kids will get them. My suspicion is that they won't; but it won't matter because the Holms have a solid fan base and the story is compelling. Sunny is endearing and her middle school troubles are so relatable. Her concern for Dale is poignant and his treatment of her is heartbreaking. The story ends on a hopeful note. It looks as though the series might continue, which pleases me.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Picture Book Review: Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht. Illustrated by Jarvis. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2017. 9780763695712. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

In our family, we have a section of our home library devoted to holiday books. We read to our boys each night at bedtime and had a tradition of reading holiday favorites* each year while trying on some new books to see if they would become new traditions. 

When I reviewed Red and Lulu earlier this month, I said that it would've made the cut. This one would've as well. The cover of Pick a Pine Tree reminded me of one of our holiday favorites, Night Tree by Eve Bunting (1994) in which a family "decorates" a tree in the woods with edible ornaments each Christmas. Closer examination reveals that the tree is decorated with lights, not food. Yet, it's still a gorgeous cover, literally wrapped up with a sparkly, red bow and featuring lush and lovely pine trees. 

This story of a family of four who sets out to choose a Christmas tree is told in jaunty rhyme and the gorgeous illustrations of pencil, chalk and paint lend a retro feel. The palette of colors is rich and vibrant featuring verdant greens and warm Christmas colors. It's a lovely story of choosing and decorating a tree. My only quibble is the timing of placing the tree topper. We do it first. But this is a small detail in an otherwise warm and lovely addition to the holiday cannon.

*Some of our regular holiday reads:
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present by John Burningham
The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman but we have a collection illustrated by different artists
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Uncle Vova's Tree by Jan Brett
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Again, we have a few editions of this by various artists, but perhaps the recording narrated by Patrick Stewart is the family favorite.
Silver Packages: an Appalachian Christmas story by Cynthia Rylant
Christmas at Long Pond by William T. George
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. Again, several editions of this by various artists including a hysterical one featuring little green goblins.

Saturday, November 25, 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.

Happy Thanksgiving (U.S.) weekend all. We hosted a lovely family celebration on Thursday. Sons #1 & 3 were able to make it along with two of my sisters and my brother along with in-laws, my lone niece and most of the nephews. Son #1 came with his fiancé  and they brought her father. Here's to expanding family.

For review:

Don't Forget Dexter! by Lindsay Ward. unpgd. Amazon Publishing, January 2, 2018.

Publisher synopsis: Introducing Dexter T. Rexter, the toughest, coolest dinosaur ever. At least he likes to think so.

When his best friend, Jack, leaves him behind at the doctor’s office, Dexter T. Rexter panics. First he tries to find Jack. Then he sings their special song. Then he sings their special song even louder. But when Jack still doesn’t appear, Dexter starts to wonder. What if he’s being replaced by another toy? It can’t be—after all, he can STOMP, RAWR, and CHOMP! Right? Right?!

This hilariously neurotic dinosaur will do whatever it takes to get his friend back—even asking the reader’s advice—in this first book of a brand-new series.


Writing Radar by Jack Gantos. Unabridged recording on 3 compact discs. 3.5 hours. Read by the author. Macmillan Audio, August, 2017. 9781427291219.

Publisher synopsis: Newbery Award–winning author Jack Gantos shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book.

With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Gantos instructs young writers on using their "writing radar" to find story ideas in their own lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires listeners to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create and revise their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos's own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who—many unwittingly—inspired Gantos's own writing career.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's the Hard Way by Patrick McDonnell. unpgd. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September, 2017. 9780316502467.

Publisher synopsis: Bestselling and award-winning artist Patrick McDonnell uses the ABC's to tell a hilarious, high-energy alphabetical adventure.

It starts with an ALLIGATOR and a BEAR chasing a CAT. When a DRAGON (and a chicken and an egg!) join in pursuit, things start to get REALLY interesting. A wild and wacky chase through snow and ice, and to jungles and over mountaintops, leads the whole crew to a wonderful realization: They're better off as friends.

From New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott Honor recipient Patrick McDonnell comes an exciting new take on the alphabet book for everyone who has ever wondered what's just beyond the front door.

The Getaway by Jeff Kinney. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #12. 224 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, November, 2017. 9781419730603.

Publisher synopsis: Greg Heffley and his family are getting out of town. With the cold weather and the stress of the approaching holiday season, the Heffleys decide to escape to a tropical island resort for some much-needed rest and relaxation. A few days in paradise should do wonders for Greg and his frazzled family. But the Heffleys soon discover that paradise isn't everything it's cracked up to be. Sun poisoning, stomach troubles, and venomous critters all threaten to ruin the family's vacation. Can their trip be saved, or will this island getaway end in disaster?

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fact Friday: Step Right Up: how Doc and Jim Key taught the world about kindness by Donna Janell Bowman

Step Right Up: how Doc and Jim Key taught the world about kindness by Donna Janell Bowman. Illustrated by Daniel Minter. unpgd. Lee & Low Books, October, 2016. 9781620141489. (Review from purchased copy).

William Key was born enslaved in Tennessee, where he showed an early propensity with animals and a natural curiosity that was encouraged by his "kind" owners. He learned to read and was able to travel from plantation to plantation to care for and train animals, earning himself the nickname, "Doc." He observed that animals were routinely beaten into submission and maintained that they would learn faster and better through kindness.

After the Civil War was over, he settled in Shelbyville, Tennessee and began to set up a series of businesses around the care and treatment of animals. He made medicines, including a liniment, that were in demand and so, he traveled the south with his medicine cart to sell his goods. While traveling through Mississippi, he came upon a circus that was trying to sell off their horses. He spied Lauretta, a broken and abused mare and recognized that she was an Arabian. He bought her and nursed her back to health. He had hoped to breed her but when her foal was born sickly, those hopes were dashed.

Nonetheless, he cared for the colt that he named Jim and Jim bonded with Doc. Doc noticed how observant Jim was and set about to see just how much Jim could learn. A lot, it turned out. The pair performed at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, where they were a huge hit and soon in demand. Eventually, Doc Key teamed up with humane societies to spread their message of being kind to animals.

The linoleum block cut prints were painted with warm-toned acrylic. The mostly double-page spreads perfectly complement the engaging and well-told story. There's plenty of back-matter with more information about the famous pair, along with photos and historical context. Source notes and bibliography round out this unique and important addition to the biography section. 
I learned of this when it made the Notables List. Once I read it, I knew it would be a perfect addition to my sixth grade picture book biography unit. I appreciate it more with each reading. It makes for a great read aloud. I chose to read it to my sixth graders on the half-day before Thanksgiving break rather than dragging the laptops out for the half hour. They were rapt.

Visit Lee & Low's website for more information on how to use this book in the classroom. There's a downloadable teacher's guide on the book's web page as well as interviews and even a video of the artist discussing his process. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

#tbt: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Shiloh Quartet #1. 144 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September, 1991. 9780689316142. 

Shiloh, the story about an abused dog and the boy who insists on rescuing him won the Newbery Medal in 1992. Everyone loves a boy and his dog story and this one is sure to tug at your heartstrings. Marty lives in a quiet, rural community in the south where everyone minds their own business. When a beagle shows up on Marty's property and it's obvious he's been abused, Marty begs his father to keep him. His dad recognized the dog as belonging to Judd Travers, a neighbor, a hunter and a mean drunk. Since the dog is clearly Judd's, Marty's dad insists that he return the dog. But Shiloh keeps running back to Marty.

The book has undergone a number of cover reworkings, thankfully. Truth be told, I'm not a fan of the original, which is the one I read to my boys. Here are a couple of better cover images.

Shiloh was made into a movie, which I never saw, so of course, there was a movie version cover.

Perhaps my favorite is one that never was. A while back Travis Jonkers did a series called Covering the Newbery where he created or updated the covers. Here's the one he made for Shiloh:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Grump: the fairly true story

Grump: the fairly true tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff. 304 p. Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, May 29, 2018. 9781524717018.

Publisher synopsis: Ever since he was a dwarfling, Borlen (nicknamed “Grump”) has dreamed of visiting The Surface, so when opportunity knocks, he leaves his cavern home behind.
     At first, life aboveground is a dream come true. Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.) is the best friend Grump always wanted, feeding him all the rubies he can eat and allowing him to rule at her side in exchange for magic and information. But as time goes on, Grump starts to suspect that Queen E.V.I.L. may not be as nice as she seems. . . .
     When the queen commands him to carry out a horrible task against her stepdaughter Snow White, Grump is in over his head. He’s bound by magic to help the queen, but also to protect Snow White. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the queen keeps bugging him for updates through her magic mirror! He’ll have to dig deep to find a way out of this pickle, and that’s enough to make any dwarf Grumpy indeed.

Two fifth graders did a happy dance in the library the other day when I told them this was coming. Their only disappointment is that they have to wait until May. Mine is the cover. Honestly not loving it, especially compared to the others. It has too much of a Disney vibe to it what with the palette and that cutesy rabbit. Still excited for the story though. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs; 6.5 hours. Read by the author. HarperAudio, 2017. 9780062663634. (Review from finished audiobook borrowed from the public library. Hardcover copy purchased.)

Teen readers who enjoyed Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase books might consider reading Gaiman's retellings to learn a bit more about those rascally Norse gods. Gaiman does a marvelous job of explaining the relationships between them and most of the stories are entertaining if not downright funny. Most students are readily familiar with the gods of Greek mythology; but other cultural mythologies are well worth reading. Personally, I've been trying to expand my own horizons. 

I read the book with my ears but the hardcover book is a thing of beauty, sporting a gorgeous embossed cover. The physical book also has a glossary I might have found useful for consulting were I reading with my eyes. Gaiman is a wonderful narrator though. Most of the stories are short but they are all interconnected and don't lend themselves to skipping around if you're reading with your eyes. 

The Norse gods were as harsh and brutal as the climate in the Nordic countries. There's plenty of deception, betrayal and gore as they hurtle their way, seemingly uncaring, to Ragnorok. Good stuff. Hand this to your readers who love mythology. Challenge your students to read beyond Greek mythology. Offer it to students who enjoy Gaiman's other work and his quirky sense of humor.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. 232 p. The Magisterium series #4. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October, 2017. 9780545522366. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

Here's what went on the morning announcements: Middle Grade Monday features The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This is book four in the Magisterium series so if you haven’t read the series, go start it right now with The Iron Trials. If you’re a fan of this terrific fantasy series, you need this book! The only problem with it is that we have to wait for another year to find out what happens in the fifth and final book of the series.

Fuller review: It is six months after the conclusion of The Bronze Key. Aaron is dead and Call is a prisoner in the panopticon. He's basically in isolation - no visitors, chained, 24/7 guards who keep their distance from the Enemy of Death. Oh, and he's interrogated. Frequently. 

He's surprised to be visited by Jasper, of all people. Then it's Jasper's turn to be surprised as he's caught up in a jail break when Tamara shows up to spirit Call away. Only, they are betrayed and they all end up prisoners on an island with Alex and Master Joseph. Call is tasked with finishing Constantine's work. He has to find a way to bring the dead to life. 

The pace is whiplash fast. This installment hits the ground running and doesn't leave you much room to breath as plot twists and surprises abound. Tears threatened and big questions were asked and not quite answered. Fans of this series will not be disappointed. They have been panting for this installment and will be gasping for the final installment. Too bad it'll be at least a year before we find out what's in store for Callum Hunt.

Friday, November 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

But Call has no idea.

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

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

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

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

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

Fact Friday: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Teen Tuesday: Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

AASL17 is a wrap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

AASL17 Day 3

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


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

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

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

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

"My books are thank you notes."

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AASL17: Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fact Friday: Animals on the Move by Dorothea DePrisco

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

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