Saturday, June 30, 2018

What's New? Stacking the Shelves ALAAC18

Oh! The riches! I returned home from ALAAC18 Tuesday evening with a checked suitcase that was three pounds over the 50 lb. limit for checked bags. I removed three books and avoided a hundred dollar fee. My carry on wasn't weighed but was stuffed with books, so these three got stuffed in my backpack, which already had three airport reads, my computer and a gift for my husband. I also received this message from the friendly TSA:

It was nearly 50 pounds of books and dirty laundry folks. Nothing to see here!

Here's a photo of most of the books I received from many very generous publishers. There are a couple of doubles which I am shipping to my friend e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, who runs the non-profit, Never Counted Out, which gets books into the hands of at-risk kids. The website doesn't appear to be functional, but you can connect with them on Facebook.

I am so excited to read every one of these book. I've already read Winger and Killer of Enemies but had to pick them up as they both have been stolen permanently borrowed without being checked out. Both authors chuckled over that.

I checked in at my school on Wednesday to tie up some end-of-year paperwork since I missed the last to days of school to attend ALA. I discovered a package from Candlewick! Squee!

Lost Soul, Be at Peace by Maggie Thrash. 190 p. Candlewick Press, October 9, 2018. 9780763694197.

Publisher synopsis: A year and a half after the summer that changed her life, Maggie Thrash wishes she could change it all back. She’s trapped in a dark depression and flunking eleventh grade, befuddling her patrician mother while going unnoticed by her father, a workaholic federal judge. The only thing Maggie cares about is her cat, Tommi . . . who then disappears somewhere in the walls of her cavernous house. So her search begins — but Maggie’s not even really sure what she’s lost, and she has no idea what she’ll find. Lost Soul, Be at Peace is the continuation of Maggie’s story from her critically acclaimed memoir Honor Girl, one that brings her devastating honesty and humor to the before and after of depression.

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks. 244 p. Candlewick Press, September 11, 2018. 9780763695651.

Publisher synopsis: Elliot has lived his first thirteen years confined to his home, incapacitated by fear. Now he’s out of pills, snow is falling, and his only safe person is missing. A terrifying thriller from Carnegie Medalist Kevin Brooks.

From the moment of his birth, Elliot’s life has been governed by fear of almost everything, even of his own fear — a beast that holds him prisoner in his room. The beast is kept at bay, though not eliminated, with a daily regimen of pills. But on Christmas Eve, a mix-up at the pharmacy threatens to unleash the beast full force, and his mother must venture out in a raging snowstorm to a store that should be only minutes away. Hours later, when she still hasn’t returned, Elliot sees no choice but to push through his terror, leave the house, and hunt for her. What happens if the last of his medication wears off and the beast starts scratching at the doors of his mind? Everyone has a breaking point — will Elliot come to his? With plot twists and turns that keep readers on the edge of their seats, multi-award-winning author Kevin Brooks offers a high-suspense exploration of fear and what it means to truly be afraid.

I have been a fan of Kevin Brooks since I read Martyn Pig. Can't wait to read this.

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith. 298 p. Candlewick Press, October 9, 2018. 9780763681142.

Publisher synopsis: When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?

When I realized that I missed the opportunity to meet the author at a signing of this, I was bummed. I am so happy that my Candlewick arc-fairy sent this! Thank you!

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Post a link with your comments and I will visit!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fact Friday and Review: Grandad Mandela by Zazi Ziwelline and Zindzi Mandela

Grandad Mandela by Zazi Ziweline and Zindzi Mandela. unpgd. Frances Lincoln Children's Books/ Quarto, June 28, 2018. 9781786031365. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy belated book birthday to Grandad Mandela. I've been excited about this book since seeing some initial artwork for it at a Quarto preview last summer. And here it is; and signed by Sean Qualls too!

Doesn't he have the neatest signature? So cool!

Back to the book. 2018 is Mandela's centenary. His youngest daughter, Ambassador (to Denmark) Zindzi Mandela wrote this biography of her father with her granddaughters, Zazi and Ziwelene Mandela in a question and answer format. Children love family stories. They love and need to hear them over and over. When Zazi and Ziwelene were visiting Grandma Zindzi, they find a photograph of their great-grandfather, Nelson and ask her to tell his story. 

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned when Zindzi was only eighteen months old. He was imprisoned for speaking out against Apartheid, which was the law in South Africa that separated blacks and whites. Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison. Grandma Zindzi answers her grand-daughter's many questions in short, honest, easily understood answers. American readers may not be familiar with some of the terms and place names; but Sean Qualls' evocative and beautiful acrylic, collage and color pencil art provides some context. At its heart is story, family story and unconditional love as well as the mission of instilling social conscience in the next generation. The work is unfortunately, never done.

The art is utterly gorgeous. The design features sturdy paper that will hold up to multiple readings. Font size separates questions from the answers. The writing is accessible and appropriate for the age group. Grandad Mandela will be added to my picture book biography unit though I am a tad disappointed to find little backmatter for students to work off of in the unit. I don't know whose decision it is to include valuable resource material such as source notes, timelines and websites and books for further research. I appreciate them when they are there and teach my students to look for backmatter when doing their own research.

Friday Memes: Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

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

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech. 165 p. Joanna Cotler Books/ HarperCollins Publisher, September 11, 2018. 9780062570734. 

Publisher synopsis: Louie doesn't have the best of luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini-donkey, he's determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won't survive, especially Louie's quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie's bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

First line: In the laundry basket on the kitchen floor was a lump.

Page 56: 
      "Erm. yes. Not my favorite job. [changing Winslow's diapers] I also have to give him shots."
     "Shots? You know how to do that?"
     "Still learning."
     "Claudine stroked Winslow's head. "Will he make it?"
     "He'll make it, Louie said. "He will."

I adore Sharon Creech. I am writing/ scheduling this Tuesday and will have finished it by the time I board my plane home from ALAAC18 later; but I already know I am in love. I was from the very first line, which instantly reminded me of another memorable and classic first line, "Where's papa going with that ax?" Indeed, Saving Winslow may be an instant classic.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

#tbt: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos. 154 p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. 0374336644. (Own)

#tbt features Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos. This is the first of five "Joey Pigza" books. It was published in 1998 and was a National Book Award Finalist that year. This is the first-person narration of Joey, who's up-front about himself. Consider this first line, "At school they say I'm wired bad, or wired mad, or wired sad, or wired glad, depending on my mood and what teacher has ended up with me. But there is no doubt about it, I'm wired." Joey is a good kid, with an unsettled home life and what he calls "dud meds." He wants to behave; but once those meds wear off after lunch, he's on a rollercoaster. So is the reader. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking. Writing these words and remembering this character makes me want to reread the book! Perhaps I will, with my ears, later this summer. Jack Gantos narrates and his narrations are always a treat.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #4. Penguin Young Readers Group, October 2, 2018. 978025555629.

Publisher synopsis: Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated throughout by haunting vintage photographs, but with a striking addition for this all-new, multi-era American adventure—full color.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Jazz Owls: a novel of the Zoot Suit riots by Margarita Engle

Jazz Owls: a novel of the Zoot Suit riots by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. 179 p. Atheneum/ Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, May, 2018. 9781534409439. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features Jazz Owls: a novel of the Zoot Suit riots. This novel in verse is told from multiple points of view and dramatizes a little known (at least to me) event in 1943. Young sailors heading off to war spend their last nights on leave dancing with Jazz Owls, young,  mostly Mexican American women who work long hours in the local cannery under harsh conditions; but who contribute to the was effort by entertaining the troops through the U.S.O. at night. The girls are accompanied by male relatives for protection. These men often wore baggy suits known as Zoot suits. This fashion statement, much like certain fashion statements of today, was used as an excuse for police to start targeting the men, especially after a murder. Then, the sailors began a rampage. It was ugly. It was racially motivated. And, sadly, seemed all too familiar.

I can always count on Engle to educate me by writing about historical events that did not make it into mainstream history books. While I was aware of the cannery workers' dangerous conditions and brave efforts to unionize; I had no knowledge of the riots.

The primary characters are siblings, Lorena, Marisela and Ray. Their brother, Nicolás is off fighting overseas. Lorena longs to save enough money to attend secretarial school, Marisela loves to dance and Ray longs to be old enough to go and fight. Other voices show different points of view from sailors to policemen to reporters (who are not, shall we say, objective) to Manolito, a musician from Cuba who falls in love with Marisela.

A lot happens in this brief, fast-paced novel. Readers will fly through the pages needing to find resolution. Hopefully, they will turn back to the beginning and reread to savor the language and the ink illustrations.

Jazz Owls is an important addition to any library.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and arc review: She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah,Yeah by Ann Hood

She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah,Yeah by Ann Hood. 256 p Penguin Young Readers Group, June 26, 2018. 9781524785116. (Review from arc received courtesy of publisher.)

I nearly forgot about Middle Grade Monday! Oops!
She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah by Ann Hood is a historical fiction and a love letter to the Beatles. It's 1966 and life is good for Trudy Mixer. She has a best friend, everyone calls her Trudy instead of her hated given name, Gertrude and, most importantly, she is the founding member and president of the Beatles fan club at her school. But, when she returns after break, she learns that her favorite teacher has taken a leave and his sub insists on calling her Gertrude. Her best friend has not only drifted away but thinks the fan club is stupid. It seems others feel the same because when she convenes her club, she finds that only two people remain - the least popular kids at her school! On top of that, her father is becoming distant and she feels that she has let him down. When she learns that the Beatles will be playing a concert in Boston, Trudy sets her sights on going to it and trying to speak with her fave Beatle, Paul McCartney. If she can accomplish this, all will be right with the world.
This lovingly crafted homage to the Beatlemania that swept the nation in the 1960s gives readers a glimpse into the turbulence of that era and just how cultural seismic these four lads from Liverpool were. Trudy is at turns endearing, clueless and impulsive. Readers will relate to her as she tries to navigate the shifts in her life. They may not share the faith that Paul will fix all, but they will enjoy the ride. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

What's New? Stacking the Shelves: Night of Novels edition

I had the privilege of attending Simon & Schuster's Night of Novels dinner at the historic Napoleon House. There was a buffet of sandwiches, cheese and crackers and pasta as well as waiters carrying trays of goodies around. I tried alligator!!! Yikes! I thought it was sausage and it kind of tasted like sausage.

I am genuinely excited to read each of these books. The authors changed tables every few minutes in a sort of speed-dating. It's always fascinating to hear the story behind the story.

Not a bad start to my summer reading! The titles are (from top to bottom):
Dry by Neal Shusterman and his son, Jarrod (who is Neal's mini-me!)
I'm OK by Patti Kim (OK is pronounced like pork without the p and r, according to the author.)
Everything I Know about You by Barbara Dee
The Boy the Boat and the Beast by Samantha Clark
Rabbit and Robot by Andrew Smith
What I Leave Behind by Allison McGhee (told in 100 100-word chapters - intriguing!)
A Heart in the Body of the World by Deb Caletti
To the left is a three-chapter teaser of Sharon Draper's next mg, Blended. 

I learned from Andrew Smith that the restaurant was truly Napoleon's residence! Here are some pics.

Friday at ALAAC18

Woo-boy! What a day!

I started the day with Beignets and cafe au lait by the Mississippi River.
Then, I waited for the Let's Ride Tour Shuttle to pick me up for a group tour of The Whitney Plantation. I found out about the plantation in the backmatter of the book Forgotten Bones: uncovering a slave cemetery by Lois Miner Huey. I don't know about you, but I read every page of a book from the front flap through the end pages, including the dedications, acknowledgements and backmatter. When I saw the Whitney Plantation listed, I wondered if I could squeeze this side trip into my packed conference schedule. The only way to do it was by doing it the morning before the opening ceremonies. Luckily, a friend was proactive and found this tour shuttle and put out a query on FB that I happened to see. Thanks Monica!

If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend making time to see this plantation. There are plantation tours available all throughout the south, but this is the only museum dedicated solely to the lives of the enslaved and man, it is powerful. I am still processing all that I learned yesterday. Here are some of the many pictures I took:

I received a phone call on the shuttle back to the convention center from my vice principal! Yikes! Turns out I omitted posted grades for two students! Thanks to him for picking that up! I remedied that as soon as I got back and headed over to join the long, long line walking in to hear Michelle Obama!

The energy in the meeting room for the opening session was very high. It got even higher when Trombone Shorty's students took the stage and reached a crescendo when Carla Hayden sat down with Michelle Obama! I adore and admire both of these women and could've sat and listened well into the evening. 

Energizing start to my ALAAC18!

Friday, June 22, 2018

#ALAAnnual: New Orleans!

I arrived in the Crescent City late yesterday afternoon for the conference proper, which starts this afternoon. My flight actually landed in NOLA early but is was a long haul before I got to my hotel. This was partly due to traffic and mostly due to the fact that I opted for a shuttle instead of a cab. Anytime I've ever taken a shuttle, I'm invariably the last to be dropped off and the first to be picked up on the return trip. Then the line to check in was long. My very cheery hotel clerk tried to get me to upgrade my check-in explaining that I would be getting over a hundred dollars worth of perks for just sixty extra dollars per night. My travel-addled mind could not compute. I almost said yes until I realized that I rarely eat hotel breakfasts and I never use the health facilities. This tickled me though:

I adored Interrupting Chicken and enjoyed reading it to my classes back when I was a K - 8 librarian. I am looking forward to revisiting her. (It's my room key, btw)

After settling in to my room, I set out into the steamy, mostly cloudy evening to walk the neighborhood. I did a lazy loop that included part of the French Quarter and headed back via the riverwalk, which offered no breezes. I would've walked longer but realized that I was starving and hadn't eaten much. The very entertaining shuttle bus driver and my seat-mate spoke about barbecued oysters so that was on my mind. 
They were delicious. I also ordered fish and chips, which were tasty but I got full quickly and they went to waste. I did not ask for a doggy bag because I couldn't be sure that there was a fridge in my room. There was. Oh well. Fish is best eaten hot, I think.

I had a great night's sleep and am ready to set out to pick up my registration materials, grab a beignet and wait for a shuttle to pick me up. I'm joining some friends for a tour of the Whitney Plantation. It was suggested in the backmatter of a book I read a few months ago. A conference friend organized the shuttle and I was in! I will post about the experience later. 

Fact Friday: Sharing Posts: the spread of fake news by Stephen Currie

Sharing Posts: the spread of fake news by Stephen Currie. 80 p. Referencepoint Press, August, 2017. 9781682822975. (Own)

THINK before you post/ share posters adorn most of the hallways at my school. Is the post True, Helpful, Inspiring, Nice and Kind. In my digital citizenship units, I ask my students to hit the pause button before posting or sharing posts to ask themselves, "Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?"

4 I like that. When in doubt, ask a librarian.

I've added this to my school and personal collection. I also bought an unlimited access e-book and am planning several lessons using it next school year. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

#tbt: Babe by Dick King-Smith

Babe the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. 128 p. Random House Children's Books, 

#tbt features Babe the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. Originally published in Great Britain in 1983, entitled The Sheep-Pig, it was published in the U.S. in 1985. In 1995, it was adapted into a successful film. It is the story of Babe, a piglet that Farmer Hogget won at a livestock fair by guessing its weight. As a sheep farmer, he has no use for a piglet, but his wife decides to keep him and fatten him up for holiday dinner. Poor Babe is frightened in the unfamiliar surroundings but the sheep-dog, Fly and her puppies take him in and teach him the ways of the farm. This is a gentle, humorous story about belonging and kindness. The movie adaptation stayed true to the book and was excellent.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey

Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey. Dog Man #6. 224 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., December 24, 2018. 9781338236576.

Overview: Is Dog Man bad to the bone? The heroic hound is sent to the pound for a crime he didn’t commit! While his pals work to prove his innocence, Dog Man struggles to find his place among dogs and people. Being a part of both worlds, will he ever fully fit in with one?

My students and I just love Dav Pilkey. Dog Man is such a hoot and the puns in the titles are utterly hilarious.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Reckless by Cornelia Funke. 394 p. Reckless series #1. Little, Brown and Company, September, 2010. 9780316056090. (Own.)

Germany's version of J.K. Rowling has created an original fairy tale in the tradition of the brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. In Reckless, Jacob and Will's father has disappeared. Twelve-year-old Jacob travels through the mirror in search of him. He's unsuccessful but returns with treasures from Mirrorland. He continues his search and treasure collecting for twelve years until his brother, Will follows him into Mirrorland, is injured by a goyl and is slowly turning to stone. Now, Jacob must find the Dark Fairy if his brother is to be cured. This dark and creepy tale would thrill the original Jacob and Will. It will not be to a reader's taste if he or she prefers the "Disney version" of fairy tales.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3 CD. 6 hours and 42 minutes. Read by MacLeod Andrews. Scholastic on Brilliance Audio, 2017. 9781536681796. (Own)

Twelve-year-old Jonathan Grimsby sits handcuffed in a boat speeding across the choppy sea on a chilly evening. He's seasick and scared and the pilot of the boat isn't helping things by taunting him about the evil place he's about to enter. Slabhenge is a stone reformatory that sits on a rock of an island off an un-named coast. It used to house an insane asylum; but Jonathan doesn't care. When Jonathan is ushered into the headmaster's office. He's made to kneel on a device called a Sinner's Sorrow, which, after a few minutes, causes the kneeler to suffer excruciating pain. But Jonathan doesn't care. The next morning, all the boys are trooped up to the roof to stand balancing in the pouring rain. Again, Jonathan doesn't care. He feels he deserves everything he's getting. 

What terrible thing did Jonathan do to land in Slabhenge? The reader does not find out till the very end of this Holes meets Lord of the Flies thriller. Often over-the top but nearly constantly suspenseful, readers are quickly drawn in and ignore the plot holes. Well, young readers do. They drove me a bit berserk. That said, I booktalk Scar Island like crazy for my tweens who like gothic suspense and plot-driven books. 

One of my favorite narrators performed this one. His many voices and brilliant pacing kept me involved; though I figured out Jonathan's crime well before the reveal. Enough clues were sprinkled throughout that observant readers will too.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fact Friday: Double feature audio review: Girling Up and Boying Up by Maiyam Bialik

Fact Friday presents a double feature:

Girling Up: how to be smart, strong and spectacular by Mayim Bialik, PhD. Unabridged audiobook on three compact discs. 3 hours, 44 minutes. Read by the author. Listening Library, 9781524780388. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold and Brilliant by Mayim Bialik, PhD. Unabridged e-audiobook. Read by the author. Listening Library, 2018. 978052551982. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

There is not a lot of difference in content between these two chatty, informative audiobooks. Bialik provides information on the opposite sex in each. I felt like I was listening to the same book. That's fine. The experience was pleasant, positive and earnest, sort of like listening to your friend's cool mom. Listening without the book deprives the reader of the line drawings, but it did add that human, "mom" dimension. The science of puberty is presented in easily understandable, straightforward language with lots of reassurances that most everyone's experience is "perfectly normal." There is a lot of talk of acceptance with a discussion about gender roles and ideals of masculinity and femininity, which leads into talk about gender fluidity. There is little to no conversation about same sex attraction in Boying Up and none that I can remember in Girling Up.

Boying Up had snippets of unattributed "He Said" additions to compensate for the fact that the author isn't a total expert on the male experience. Neither volume breaks new ground with the content, but the author's name recognition and encouraging tone should make this easy for tween and teen readers to relate to.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

#tbt: Savvy by Ingrid Law

Savvy by Ingrid Law. 342 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Reader's Group, May, 2008. 9780803733060. (Own)

#tbt celebrates the tenth anniversary of Savvy by Ingrid Law. Law made her debut with Savvy in May of 2008 and received a Newbery honor for it in January of 2009. It is the first-person narration of Mississippi Beaumont, or Mibs and she's about to turn thirteen. That's when all the members of the Beaumont family come into their savvy, or gift. No one knows what it will be and how it might upend their lives. The family had to move inland when Mibs' older brother, Fish turned thirteen. His savvy is a hurricane.

Just before her big day, Poppa's sent to the hospital after a terrible accident and Mibs now wants a savvy that will save him. 

This fast-paced work of magical realism will engage readers with its endearing narrator, short, cliffhanger chapters and  tall-tale quality. Here's a picture of the tenth anniversary paperback:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova. Berrybrook Middle School Series #3. 224 p. Yen Press, October 30, 2018. 9780316363242.

I am so happy that this charming series is continuing. My students love Awkward and Brave.

Publisher synopsis: Jorge seems to have it all together. He's big enough that nobody really messes with him, but he's also a genuinely sweet guy with a solid, reliable group of friends. The only time he ever feels off his game is when he crosses paths with a certain girl... But when the group dynamic among the boys starts to shift, will Jorge be able to balance what his friends expect of him versus what he actually wants? 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Pop by Gordon Korman

Pop by Gordon Korman. 263 p. HarperColling Publishers, August, 2009. 9780061742286. (Own)

Marcus Jordan is a quarterback. He has moved to a new town and hopes to join the football team as a quarterback. He spends some time at the park hoping to meet some football players. Instead, he meets Charlie. Charlie is middle-aged and a bit of an oddball but boy, does he know football and the two strike up a friendship. Once school starts, Marcus finds that he isn't being welcomed with open arms, especially by the reigning QB, who happens to be Charlie's son. This fast-paced novel has great football action, humor and some sadness. It happens to be one of my favorite Korman titles. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and arc review: Soof by Sarah Weeks

Soof by Sarah Weeks. 208 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 9, 2018. 9780545846691.

When I heard about Soof back in the fall, my first thought was, "Ooh! I hope my SLJ editor assigns it to me!" I had the pleasure of reviewing Pie for the journal in 2011. Back in 2005, before I started blogging or reviewing, I adored So B. It. But really, I enjoy everything that Sarah Weeks writes. Then I remembered the 250 word maximum for reviews and the fact that I need to write more formally and objectively. I realized that I would be fine not reviewing Soof for SLJ. I thought that if I could get my hands on an arc, I could gush and meander to my heart's content here on the blog. Thanks to Mary and Trish at Books, Bytes and Beyond, who loaned me their arc.

Anyone who has read So B. It knows that "soof" (spoiler alert) is Heidi It's mother's word for love. They also understand the importance of the jar of jellybeans on the cover of Soof. But Soof can very definitely stand alone.

I will synopsize very loosely and vaguely. Ruby and Sheriff Roy finally had a daughter whom they named Aurora, or Rory. She's in fifth grade now. Soof is her first-person narration. She has no friends, except for her dog, Duck and acknowledges that she is weird. She has grown up hearing Heidi stories and how Heidi brought her parents luck. Blah, blah, blah. Aurora doesn't feel at all lucky and now that Heidi is married, about to have a baby of her own and coming to visit, Aurora is less than pleased. She might even be feeling a bit threatened.

I will admit that when I heard the premise, I wondered how Weeks would pull it off. Heidi would be around twenty-four, a bit young for someone to be married and having a baby in my neighborhood. I became curious about her story. What happened in the intervening years? But this is Aurora's story and it's just perfect. I fell in love with Aurora immediately. Her voice is instantly engaging. She's keenly observant, unapologetically frank and often hilarious. I warn you though; there will be tears. And goosebumps at the end. I ached for her. I also ached for Ruby, who loves her daughter fiercely and wants to do right by her.

Weeks has a knack for getting at emotional truths with an economy of words. Most of her books are under 200 pages but her characters and settings are vivid and memorable. Like Aurora, she's an astute observer who also has an ear for authentic tween dialogue. (She's not as prickly as Aurora though.) She visited our school back in September and the students were so attentive because she was incredibly interesting and connected to them. During her presentation, she shared a photo she took that inspired a scene in Soof. When I got to that scene in the book, I was floored. Again, I'm being deliberately vague here in order for you to approach this with as few preconceptions as possible. It's the tiny details that etch scenes into your heart. 

Soof is a first-purchase. A perfect book for any reader; but fans of So B. It will devour it whole and turn back to page one to begin again, as I did. I can also open the book at any page and fall in love again. Give it to fans of gentler books or books featuring endearingly oddball narrators. Look for it early October. 

Saturday, June 9, 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: 

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan. 263 p. Algonquin/ Workman Publishing, September 18, 2018. 978161207007. 

Publisher synopsis: For most of high school, Bijan Maid has flown under the radar. He gets good grades, reads comics, hangs out with his best friend, Sean, and secretly crushes on Elle, one of the most popular girls in his school. When he's called off the basketball team's varsity bench and makes the winning basket in a playoff game, everything changes in an instant.

But not everyone is happy that Bijan is the man of the hour: an anonymous cyberbully sends the entire school a picture of Bijan photoshopped to look like a terrorist. His mother is horrified, and the school administration is outraged. They promise to find and punish the culprit. All Bijan wants is to pretend it never happened and move on, but the incident isn't so easily erased. Though many of his classmates rally behind Bijan, some don't want him or his type to be a part of their school And Bijan's finding out it's not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends.
 Purchased: Whoa! Nothing, though I do have a few audios I've been meaning to purchase.

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