Monday, April 30, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. 262 p. HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2013. 9780061962790. (Own.)

Middle Grade Monday features Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhaa Lai. This free-verse narrative is set in 1975 first in Vietnam and then in Alabama. It is the story of ten-year-old Há as she and her family flee Saigon as it falls leaving behind relatives and her POW father. Loosely based on the author's own experience, this is an evocative story of a refugee/ immigrant's journey. It won both the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

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:

Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald. 294 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, September 11, 2018. 9781419731433.

Publisher synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood is in a coma fighting for his life after an unspecified football injury at training camp. His family and friends flock to his bedside to support his recovery-and to discuss the events leading up to the tragic accident. Was this an inn inevitable result of playing a violent sport, or was something more sinister happening that day? Told in an innovative, multimedia format combining dialogue, texts, newspaper articles, transcripts, an online forum and Teddy's inner thoughts, Game Changer explores the joyous thrills and terrifying risks of America's most popular sport. 

This Moment is Your Life (and so is this one): a fun and easy guide to mindfulness, meditation and yoga by Mariam Gates. 241 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, May 22, 2018. 9780399186622.

Publisher synopsis: This lively, hands-on guide to meditation, mindfulness, and yoga is a perfect introduction for tweens and teens.

Don't just do something, be here.

The key to happiness is being able to find comfort in this moment, here and now. When you are completely present and not distracted by regrets, worries, and plans, even for a little while, you begin to feel more confident and can deal more easily with everything you experience. This is mindfulness: paying attention to this very moment, on purpose and without judgment—simply being present with curiosity.

This engaging guide, packed with simple exercises and endearing full-color artwork, provides a handy starting point for bringing mindfulness into your daily life. Chapters on meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing explain the benefits of these practices, and you are free to pick and choose what to try. There are quick exercises throughout, and a more extensive tool kit at the end of each chapter. The final chapter offers satisfying five-day challenges that map out ways to pull all of the book's mindfulness techniques together in your day-to-day life.

With the appeal of a workbook or guided journal, and full of examples relevant to tweens and teens today, this book will be your trusted companion as you begin the valuable, stress-relieving work of being still with skill.

I am rather excited about this. I practice yoga daily and think it's a great option for students. I also enjoyed but did not review the author's picture books, Good Morning Yoga and Good Night Yoga.

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. unpgd. Candlewick Press, May 22, 2018. 97807636907458.

Publisher synopsis: In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.

Purchased: nothing!

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a comment with a link to your stack and I'll stop by.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fact Friday: His Name was Raoul Wallenberg: courage rescue and mystery during World War II by Louise Borden

His Name was Raoul Wallenberg: courage rescue and mystery during World War II by Louise Borden. 136 p. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January, 2012. 9780618507559. (Own)

Raoul Wallenberg was born to wealthy Swedish parents in 1912. He was bright, kind, inquisitive and had a knack for languages. He spoke five fluently. He led a life of privilege and decided to use his talents and influence to provide safe passage for thousands of Hungarian Jews. His disappearance at the end of the war remains an unsolved mystery. He was last seen in the custody of the Russian Army. This verse biography is compelling reading. It's profusely illustrated with photographs and maps, and the author's scholarship is evident in the lengthy backmatter.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

#tbt: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. 112 p. Joanna Cotler Books/ HarperCollins Publisher, July, 2001. 0060292873. (Own.)

I don't want to
because boys 
don't write poetry.

Girls do.

My heart melted at the opening words of Jack's poetry journal. He is such an endearing character! He's equal parts resistant and eager to please and shows such growth over the course of the year he spends with Ms. Stretchberry. I read this aloud to many classes and cried each time. I also love the fact that Ms. Creech included the poems that were mentioned/ modeled in the book. Love That Dog is a perennial favorite at TMS.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Dog Man: Lord of the fleas by Dav Pilkey

Dog Man: Lord of the fleas by Dav Pilkey. Dog Man #5. 256 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., August 28, 2018. 9780545935173.

Publisher synopsis: There's a new bunch of baddies in town, and they have something sinister in store for Petey the Cat. Once again, Dog Man is called into action-but this time he isn't alone. With a cute kitten and a remarkable robot by his side, the Supa Buddies must join forces with the most unlikely of heroes to save the day. But will that villain Petey avoid vengeance and finally venture toward virtue?  

I am so-o behind in my Dog Man reading! I can never get to them because they are never on the shelf! A student alerted me to this one. Thanks Georgie!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Death Coming up the Hill by Chris Crowe

Death Coming up the Hill by Chris Crowe. 208 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October, 2014. 9780544302150. (Own.)

Teen Tuesday features Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe. This blank verse novel is told in a series of haiku. As if the constraints of the form were not challenging enough, the total number of syllables in this book add up to the total number of soldiers killed in Vietnam in 1968. 

Douglas Ashe is a senior in high school. He's about to turn eighteen and has no college prospects to help him defer the draft. His social studies teacher posts the number of soldiers killed in action each week and regularly discusses the politics of the war. His new girlfriend is opposed to the war. Douglas is considering dodging the draft and fleeing to Canada after graduation. Only a war of sorts is being waged in his home that may force him into a different decision. His parents marriage is loveless and their fighting has escalated. This verse novel is powerful and perfect for any kind of reader. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Crossing Stones by Helen Frost

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost. 183 p. Frances Foster Books/ Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009. 9780374316532. (Own)

Middle Grade Monday features Crossing Stones by Helen Frost. This verse novel is set during World War I. Two families farm on either side of Crabapple Creek. The Jorgensen and the Norman families are great friends and they use the crossing stones in the creek to visit each other often. Muriel is discovering that her feelings for Frank Norman might be more than just friendship. Then he enlists to fight in the war and his brother, Ollie, lies about his age to join him. Muriel opposes the war and is also intrigued by her aunt's work for women's suffrage. 

The poems in this beautiful work of historical fiction are "cupped hand" sonnets and their shape also symbolize the crossing stones that connect the two families and their farms. This remarkable verse novel brings the events of America's entrance into the first World War as well as other issues of the day, to vivid life.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

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:

A Long Line of Cakes An Aurora County Novel by Deborah Wiles. 288 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., August 28, 2018. 9781338150506.

Publisher synopsis: Emma Lane Cake has five brothers, four dogs, and a family that can't stay put. The Cake family travels from place to place, setting up bakeries in communities that need them. Then, just when Emma feels settled in with new friends . . . they move again.

Now the Cakes have come to Aurora County, and Emma has vowed that this time she is NOT going to get attached to ANYONE or ANYTHING. Why bother, if her father's only going to uproot her again?

But fate has different plans. And so does Ruby Lavender, who is going to show Emma Lane Cake a thing or two about making friendship last.

Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson. 220 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publisher, May 1, 2018. 9780062484970.

Publisher synopsis: Award-winning comics creator and author of the bestselling Invisible Emmie Terri Libenson returns with a companion graphic novel that captures the drama, angst, and humor of middle-school life. Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, and Victoria Jamieson.

Middle school is all about labels.

Izzy is the dreamer. There’s nothing Izzy loves more than acting in skits and making up funny stories. The downside? She can never quite focus enough to get her schoolwork done.

Bri is the brain. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just a report card full of As. At the same time, she wishes her mom would accept her the way she is and stop bugging her to “break out of her shell” and join drama club.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of a school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic than either Bri or Izzy could have imagined.

Purchased: Nothing! Polishes halo.

That's what's new with me. Leave a comment so I can visit your Stacking post. Happy reading!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fact Friday: Twelve Rounds to Glory: the story of Muhammed Ali by Charles R. Smith Jr.

12 Rounds to Glory: the story of Muhammed Ali by Charles R. Smith Jr. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 80 p. Candlewick Press, November, 2007. 9780763616922. (Own)

Fact Friday features 12 Rounds to Glory: the story of Muhammad Ali written by Christopher R. Smith and brilliantly illustrated by Bryan Collier. Muhammad Ali never backed down from a fight. He fought just as hard against prejudice out of the boxing ring as he boxed opponents in it. He won Olympic gold in 1960 as an eighteen-year-old named Cassius Clay. By age twenty-two, he was the heavyweight champ, an outspoken Civil Rights activist and a convert to Islam. From then on, he was Muhammad Ali. It is apt that this biography is written in poems as Ali was also a poet. He would trash talk his opponent in poems but he would also write serious spoken word poems, which, it could be argued, were the precursors to rap. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

#tbt: The Underneath by Kathy Appelt

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by David Small. 320 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, May, 2008. 9781416950585. (Own)

#tbt features The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. Happy tenth anniversary to Kathi Appelt and her impressive debut! She adeptly weaves three narrative strands together in this atmospheric, suspenseful story that takes place in a bayou in east Texas. A pregnant stray cat follows the sound of a baying hound to the place underneath the porch of a rickety shack. The hound is concerned for the cat's well-being since his owner is abusive. His attempts to warn her away fail and the two and her eventual kittens bond. It is a story of loyalty and love. It is also the story of a mythical beast and a human one. Have tissues at hand. The language is lovely and lyrical. The illustrations add interest. The Underneath is a memorable and satisfying read.

Press release: Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the PEN USA Award. Her other novels include The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, a National Book Award finalist, and Maybe a Fox, one of the Bank Street Books Best Children’s Books of the Year. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, and to find curriculum materials and activity pages, visit her website at

Check out the trailer for The Underneath!


Fifteen lucky winners will receive an autographed paperback copy of The Underneath. In addition, one Grand Prize winner will win a classroom set of 20 copies of the book PLUS a 30-40 minute Skype visit for her/his school, classroom, or library with award-winning author Kathi Appelt. Enter here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald

Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald. 304 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, September 11, 2018. 9781419731433. 

Publisher synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood is in a coma fighting for his life after an unspecified football injury at training camp. His family and friends flock to his bedside to support his recovery—and to discuss the events leading up to the tragic accident. Was this an inevitable result of playing a violent sport, or was something more sinister happening on the field that day? Told in an innovative, multimedia format combining dialogue, texts, newspaper articles, transcripts, an online forum, and Teddy’s inner thoughts, Game Changer explores the joyous thrills and terrifying risks of America’s most popular sport.

I am a huge fan of the author's Charlie Joe Jackson books as well as his Crimebiter's  books. He shared news of this in February on his FB page. I really love the cover.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Teen Tuesday and Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Unabridged audiobook on 3 compact discs. 3.5 hours. Read by the author. HarperAudio, March, 2018. 9781538500231. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library.)

(This went on our broadcast this morning)Teen Tuesday features The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Sixteen-year-old Xiomara Batista tries to follow her mother’s strict rules; but at six-feet tall, it’s hard to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. She has learned to fight with her fists and pours her heart out in a leather notebook her twin brother gave her for their birthday. Sophomore year brings X a language arts teacher who sees the poet in her and Aman, her biology lab partner with whom she shares her love of music and whom her mother must never know about. This debut is gritty and raw. Readers will root for X as she struggles to find her voice.

Review: The Poet X is one impressive debut! I loved X's voice from the first line. I also loved the author's performance. My heart ached for Xiomara, who is up against a lot - the catcalls and leers her curves elicit in her Harlem neighborhood and at school and her religious mother's assumption that she will succumb to those catcalls, all the while yearning for an education that will get her out of Harlem. She loves her twin fiercely but is upset that he doesn't stand up for himself against the bullying his gentle, nerdy self attracts. She's also a tad jealous that he's smart enough for a fancy magnet school that puts him that much closer to escape. X is fierce but caves to the discipline of her mother. She's a nuanced and complicated teen whom readers will relate to as she comes of age.

Not to be missed for teen collections.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: House Arrest by K.A. Holt

House Arrest by K.A. Holt. 304 p. Chronicle Books LLC, October, 2015. 9781452134772. (Own).

House Arrest is twelve-year-old Timothy's court-ordered journal. He has to spend one year under house arrest as the terms of his probation for stealing money to buy his ailing baby brother medicine. The only other places he can go to are his weekly visits to a therapist and his probation officer. That gives him a lot of time to reflect. He's angry at his dad for leaving his family. He's scared for his brother who is often in danger of losing his life. He is supposed to be showing signs of remorse, but if he's honest, he would steal again if his brother needed medicine his mom can't afford. This blank verse novel is unputdownable. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

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.


Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman. Unabridged audiobook on 1 MP3-CD. 13 hrs, 1 min. Read by Greg Tremblay. Brilliance Audio, April, 2018. 9781978614307.

Publisher synopsis: Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the chilling sequel to the Printz Honor Book Scythe from New York Times best seller Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe? it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the "new order." But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier. Unabridged audiobook on 1 MP3-CD. 11 hours. Read by Michael Page. Brilliance Audio. October, 2016. 97815366`8334.

Publisher synopsis: It's been two years since Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. In that time, they have traveled far and wide in search of adventure. Now they have been summoned by Professor Cake for a new mission: To find a 12-year-old bookmender named Sophie Quire.

Sophie knows little beyond the four walls of her father's bookshop, where she repairs old books and dreams of escaping the confines of her dull life. But when a strange boy and his talking cat/horse companion show up with a rare and mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave your link and I will definitely visit and comment. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Fact Friday: Forgotten Bones: uncovering a Slave Cemetery by Lois Miner Huey

Forgotten Bones: uncovering a slave cemetery by Lois Miner Huey. 56 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, October, 2015. 9781467733939. 

A backhoe operator digging up a street outside of Albany in 2005 happened to spot a skull roll down the pile of dirt he was making. Work on the sewer line had to stop while the police were called. They needed to determine whether or not the area was a crime scene. The police summoned the medical examiner, who eventually determined that the skull was several hundred years old. The utility workers could not resume however, since archaeologists were now interested in finding out whether this was the site of a burial ground. Remains were found in the area at another time of a single grave. What if this was an unmapped burial ground? The land was near to the site of a farm owned by the Schuyler family. They owned slaves. Could this be their slaves' burial ground? Now, archaeologists wanted to set up a dig to discover a new slave burial ground. The utility work would have to wait.

I found this book fascinating. The narrative was well-organized and filled with lots of detail about the meticulous work of the archaeologists both in the field and in the lab. Two chapters were devoted to explaining slavery in the north.  Backmatter includes an author's note, two-page glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, books and websites and places to visit. 

I loved the design as well. How can one resist that cover?  Compelling photos abound inside from color photos of the dig through black and white historical photos and maps. The layout is pleasing with the background alternating between creamy tan and graph paper and sometimes both. Readers learn the importance of graph paper and meticulous notes to an archaeologist, so it's a fitting design detail. 

I have no idea how I missed reading this but am glad I finally did. A great addition to any library collection.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

#tbt: So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez

So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez. 240 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September, 2004. 9780689865640. (Own)

New boy, Frederick, catches the eye of chatty and popular Xio. This helps ease the transition from Wisconsin to Southern California for him as she enfolds him into her group of friends. Xio is fun and Frederick likes her. He also joins a pick up soccer team and clicks with Victor. Xio's feelings for Frederick become stronger and Frederick doesn't reciprocate. He worries about their friendship and is confused about his growing feelings for Victor. This novel, at turns hilarious and poignant, perfectly captures middle school and feelings of first love. Chapters switch the point of view between Frederick and Xio and both narrators endear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: From You to Me by K. A. Holt

From You to Me by K. A. Holt. 208 p. Scholastic Inc., May 29, 2018. 9781338193305.

Publisher synopsis: Amelia Peabody lives in a small town where nothing changes. And that's just fine by her. After losing her big sister, Clara, a few years ago, Amelia can't handle any more change. But when she starts eighth grade, she accidentally receives a letter that Clara had written to herself. In it, there's a list of things she'd wanted to do before the end of middle school and never finished, like get on the softball team and throw an awesome birthday party on the lake.

Amelia wonders if it's a sign from Clara. Maybe if she completed the list, her heart would stop hurting so much, and she could go back to being her old self. But as she makes her way through, Amelia finds that there's no going back, only forward. And she realizes she'll have to put her own spin on Clara's list to grow and change in the ways she needs to.

K. A. Holt's beautiful new novel is about grieving and growing up, and the ripples loss creates for a girl, a family, and a community.

I really loved Rhyme Schemer and House Arrest and can't wait to read this one!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Teen Tuesday and Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess

Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess. Unabridged 3audiobook. 4 hrs. 2 min. Narrated by Kwame Alexander with Randy Preston. Zondervan, 2017. 9780310761891. (Review from audio borrowed from cloud library.)

In this free verse collaborative effort, Alexander turns from sports to music. Blade Morrison is the seventeen-year-old youngest son of a rock star father who has been tabloid fodder thanks to his addictions and outrageous behavior. All Blade wants is to write music and be with his girlfriend, Chapel. But when his dad embarrasses him at his high school graduation and Chapel betrays him and his sister reveals a life-changing family secret, Blade has had enough. He heads to Ghana in search of some answers and distance from his family.

While Alexander's blank verse flows and is easy to read, hearing the poet read his own work is a real treat. Interspersed throughout are album titles, singers and record producers listed. Alexander even manages to make them sound like poems. He reads with energy and clarity and much emotion. Blade is a sympathetic character in search of identity. The original music performed by Randy Preston added depth. I highly recommend reading this with your ears!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and Review: The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag. 224 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, October, 2017. 9781338089516. (Review from finished ppb courtesy of publisher.)

Thirteen-year-old Aster lives in a magical family. All the females are witches and all the males are shapeshifters. Aster often eavesdrops on his sisters' magic  lessons because he has no interest in shapeshifting. All his friends are getting glimpses of the shapes they may eventually shift into. Aster? Nothing. The setting is contemporary but the magic is old. There is also a family secret. When a couple of Aster's friends go missing, the adults in the community mobilize to find out what happened to them. Aster decides to test his magical ability in an effort to help.

This was an engaging story of identity featuring a diverse cast of characters. The art is vibrant. Aster is a sympathetic character whom readers will root for. The fast pace of the graphic novel will appeal as well. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

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.

It has been quiet for me these last few weeks. I am trying to make a dent in the old tbr pile!

Purchased: Went to a signing this week and heard Kwame Alexander! He's such a dynamic speaker!

Rebound by Kwame Alexander. 414 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2018. 9780544868137.

Publisher synopsis: Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.   

A novel in verse with all the impact and rhythm readers have come to expect from Kwame Alexander, Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck "Da Man" Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family's past.  

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave your link and I will definitely visit and comment. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Fact Friday: Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People by Carole Boston Weatherford

Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People by Carole Boston Weatherford. 53 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, January, 2002. 0399237267.   (Own.)

Fact Friday features Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People by Carole Boston Weatherford. This powerful collection of poems highlights pivotal events over four hundred years of African American history from the earliest slave traders' arrival in Africa through the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and America's first African-American female astronaut. Heroes both named and anonymous, male and female who helped shaped history. The book is beautifully designed and the poems are paired with archival photos and engravings, some of which are quite difficult to view. An author's note describes the origin and history of the book's journey from graduate class assignment to the finished book. There are many cross-curricular possibilities to explore here. No library collection is complete without this title. I was very sad to learn yesterday that the book has gone out of print. Such a shame. I hope nothing happens to my library's copy.

Friday Memes: Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart

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

Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart. 290 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., March 27, 2018. 9781338053883. 

Publisher synopsis: Brodie was a good dog. And good dogs go to heaven.

Except Brodie can't move on. Not just yet. As wonderful as his glimpse of the afterlife is, he can't forget the boy he left behind. The boy he loved, and who loved him in return.

The boy who's still in danger.

So Brodie breaks the rules of heaven. He returns to Earth as a spirit. With the help of two other lost should - lovable pitfall Tuck and surly housecoat Patsy - he is determined to find his boy and to save him.

Even if it costs him paradise. Even if he loses his eternal soul.

Because it's what a good dog would do.

First Line: Brodie didn't remember the exact moment that he died.

Page 56: He stopped running. He looked over to the trees, to where that memory lived.
     Tuck noticed and stopped, circled back, came up to him slow.
      Brodie looked at him.
      "I need to find him. Now. I need to know he's okay."
     Tuck's run-happy wagging slowed, but he stepped up to snuffle encouragingly at Brodie's ear.
      "All right. That's what we're here for, right? Lead the way, buddy."

While I enjoyed the author's debut, The Honest Truth, I did have some criticism. Nonetheless, I book talk it constantly and those kids who love sad books gobble it up. It is a fifth grade favorite at my school. My three copies are often checked out! 

His second book, Some Kind of Courage, just didn't grab me, so I didn't read it. Scar Island, his third was quite different than the other two and very suspenseful! It's perhaps my favorite of his. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

#tbt: Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge. 128 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2003. 9780763621162.

#tbt features Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge. Eighth grader Kevin Bolland lives and breathes baseball. When he is benched for months thanks to mono, he needs something to do so he writes a poem in his journal. This leads him to look for a book about writing poetry in his dad's study and suddenly Kevin can't write fast enough. He writes about middle school, girls and grief over his mother's recent death. This brief verse novel was published in 2003 and has a sequel called Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs

Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs. Spy School series. 352 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October 2, 2018. 9781481477857.

Publisher synopsis: Ben is taken to Mexico by his nemesis in the hopes that he’ll finally be able to take down SPYDER in this latest addition to the New York Times bestselling Spy School series.

Thirteen-year-old Ben Ripley has been caught in the snares of SPYDER more than once and knows well enough to be suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true—despite needing special tutoring in advanced survival techniques. So when Murray Hill finally breaks his silence with an offer to hand over the SPYDER elite, Ben knows that there must be something going on. But his hesitation doesn’t stop the assignment.

The Mission: Follow Murray Hill to an undisclosed location with no one else but Erica Hale to identify SPYDER leadership. Once found, contact the CIA to sweep in and finish the job. DO NOT CONTACT SPYDER DIRECTLY.

However, as Ben suspected, nothing goes as planned, and what should be an easy mission quickly turns deadly. Now, Ben and Erica will have to face rogue agents, trained killers, and even very hungry crocodiles in a race against the clock to find out what SPYDER is up to this time—and thwart their evil plans.

I learned of this the first week of February from Gibbs' FB page but had February WoW posts scheduled and March's reserved for Women's History Month. My students are going to flip over this! The shelf housing Gibbs' books in my library is usually fairly empty from the start of the school year to the end. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kwame Alexander Signing

So I gave up my yoga class today to attend an author signing about 25 miles away from my home. Yeah. That's big. I practice daily and don't like to miss a single class. But I did -for Kwame Alexander. I am a huge fan of his work. Just today I read Animal Ark and just last weekend I read Solo with my ears. 

He was appearing (with his bus) at Words Books in Maplewood. I was very happy to learn that this signing was at five instead of the usual four.  Four o'clock signings during the week are impossible for me to leave school and arrive on time. Five o'clock is doable. But what with the rain and the usual Garden State Parkway traffic, a 35 minute ride was close to an hour. Believe me, I almost turned around. But it was Kwame Alexander and all I could think about was the two students who are his biggest fans at my school and how happy getting to read Rebound would make them. 

I did arrive late, but didn't miss anything. It started a bit late. Didn't get a seat either, but I'm used to standing. Here's what I learned about Rebound:

While it took him five years to write The Crossover, it took two years to write Rebound.

He had never intended on writing more/ a sequel to The Crossover, but as he traveled and visit with kids, they kept asking for a sequel. If you haven't read The Crossover, I won't spoil why a sequel would've been hard. Once he nailed down the possible plot, he wrote. He wrote in planes and hotel rooms and at his mom's hospital bedside. Rebound is dedicated to his mother.

He brought along a friend with a guitar. His name, Randy Preston, rang a bell. Once he started singing, I recognized him as the singer in Solo. More about that book in a Teen Tuesday blog post later this month.

There were about twenty-five kids sitting on the floor at his feet so eager to hear what he had to say. It was so obvious that they all read his books - closely. They finished his rhymes. They laughed at the in-jokes and even made some. They had inhaled and assimilated his books. There was even a young beat boxer in the audience who provided beats for part of the reading. 

Here are some photos:

Teen Tuesday: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3 CD. 12 hours, 4 minutes. Read by Hallie Ricardo. Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio, January 2018. 978154368924. (Own)

In 17th century England, class lines are firmly entrenched but that does not stop the aristocracy from dalliances with the help. The bastard children of these trysts are usually discarded without a second thought, but in the case of the Fellmottes, if the bastard child possesses a certain gift, a family trait not as obvious as the Fellmotte cleft chin, then that child has value.

It is a time of civil unrest in England as Parliament and the king are at odds. The Fellmottes have allied with the king. It is in their best interests for him to stay in power. Makepeace knows she is a bastard child but has no idea who her father is. She has grown up among Puritans with her strict and secretive mother. When she shows signs of having what we learn to be the Fellmotte trait, her mother takes to locking her in a graveyard at night to "toughen her up." Her birth father is a mystery to her until her mother is killed during a riot and an agent from the Fellmotte family comes to claim her when her aunt no longer wants responsibility for her.

First she is imprisoned in a third story room and subjected to inhumane "treatment" for her ills. Then, she's made to work in the kitchen where she forms bonds with the dogs and her half-brother James. James and Symmond, the eventual heir of the estate are close but Symmond harbors a secret. 

While I am not quite satisfied with my synopsis of A Skinful of Shadows, it'll have to do. Hardinge creates such complex, nuanced, unpredictable, original plots that they are difficult to wrap up in a tidy little summary. I don't have too many readers sophisticated enough for her books in my library but I am so glad to have them for that special middle school reader.

The sights, sounds and smells of 17th century England come alive in Hardinge's hands. The writing is lovely; the large cast of characters are intriguing and the suspense builds slowly.

I will admit to some bemusement over a narrator using an American accent to narrate a British novel that takes place in England. New-to-me narrator Haillie Ricardo has an arsenal of voices and accents from Scottish to lower and upper class British accents to depict the many characters and make them stand out.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and Review: The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis. 248 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., January, 2018. 9780545156660. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Ain't nothin' little about Little Charlie Bobo. He's only twelve but is the size of a full-grown man and he sure does have a heap of heartache and troubles for one so young. It is 1858 and he subsists with his sharecropper parents on the Tanner plantation. When his father is killed in a freak accident while felling trees, he and his mother aren't sure what they'll do to survive. Then, Cap'n Buck, the plantation overseer comes to their door and claims that Little Charlie's father owes Mr. Tanner a heap of money. Seems that means that Little Charlie has to work it off by helping Cap'n recover some stolen property up north.

Don't like to read dialect, eh? Get over it. Little Charlie's first-person narrative is short, compelling, suspenseful and not to be missed. Christopher Paul Curtis is a masterful storyteller and The Journey of Little Charlie might be his best yet. Moments of suspense and, yes, utter terror are leavened with humor. Charlie may be uneducated but he is a keen observer, has heart and is quick to learn. He may have accepted slavery as a way of life, but he doesn't like cruelty. When he observes the ease with which blacks and whites live in Canada, Little Charlie grows to understand the injustice but feels helpless to act.

Cap'n Buck is truly, terrifyingly evil. His acts of brutality are not easy to read. Some care should be given to whom this book might be recommended. Give it to a thoughtful reader who likes to be challenged. Highly recommended!