Saturday, July 20, 2019

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:
Image: Little, Brown
Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler. 296 p. Little, Brown and Company, October 8, 2019. 9780316524742.

Publisher synopsis: Back in his old basketball league, Carlos Cooper owned the court, sprinting and jumping and lighting up the scoreboard as opponents (and teammates) watched in awe. Now thirteen-year-old “Cooper the Hooper” is out of his league, new to life in a wheelchair, and struggling to pull his weight with his wheelchair basketball team, the Rollin’ Rats.

Just when Carlos starts to get the hang of the game, the city shuts down the Rollin’ Rats’ gym. Without the gym, the team can’t practice, and if they can’t practice, they might as well kiss their state tournament dreams goodbye. Carlos will need to fully embrace his new friends, and his new role in the sport he loves, in order to truly become part of the team–and help save their season.

Image: Simon and Schuster
Look Both Ways: a tale told in ten blocks by Jason Reynolds. 190 p. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum, October 8, 2019. 9781481438285.

Publisher synopsis: This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

Purchased: Nothing! I never did post an ALAAC19 haul. I have so-o many books to read and review!

If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or Wordpress or FB or anything that makes commenting difficult and gives my data to miners. But, I will definitely check your stack!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Fact Friday: A Ray of Light by Walter Wick

Image: Scholastic Inc.
A Ray of Light: a book of science and wonder by Walter Wick. 40 p. Scholastic Press, Scholastic Inc., February, 2019. 97804391655877. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Friday TMS Readers! If you're a fan of Walter Wick's "I Spy" series, as I am, you will be intrigued by our Fact Friday feature. Wick took his formidable photography skills to illustrate scientific concepts. He did it a few years ago with the book, A Drop of Water. His newest project is called, A Ray of Light: a book of science and wonder. Everything you want to know about incandescence, iridescence, the color spectrum, magnification, refraction and more is explained briefly and illustrated with remarkably beautiful photographs. Back matter provides more in-depth explanations of the concepts. 

This is a book that requires more than one close reading. Some of the concepts are quite hard to wrap one's mind around! Give your science teachers a heads up about this one. A Ray of Light is a first-purchase for any STEM collection. 

Friday Memes: The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble

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

Image: Penguin Random House
The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble. 214 p. Delacorte Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, June, 2019. 9780525578505.

Publisher synopsis: A deeply felt sibling story set in a town where people have a mysterious magical power and one girl is determined to discover what it is, for readers of Lauren Myracle and Ingrid Law. 

Willow knows the unknown is scary. Especially when your little brother has been sick for a long time and nobody has been able to figure out why. All Willow wants is for her brother to get better and for her her life to go back to normal. 

But after a bad stroke of luck, Willow and her family find themselves stranded in an unusual town in the middle of nowhere and their life begins to change in the most unexpected way. Willow soon discovers that the town isn’t just unusual—it’s magical—and the truth is more exciting that she ever imagined.

Will Willow find that this could be the secret to saving her family—or discover that the root of magic could lead them to something greater?

First Line: "Are we going to die?" Wisp asks from the depths of his blankets in the backseat.

Page 56: "Someone always finds you," Topher says with confidence. "Layla and James found you, didn't they?

Willow isn't sure how to respond to this. While it's true that they were found, it is also possible that they wouldn't have been. And then what would have happened? Willow shivers. She doesn't want to ever think again about the car tilting on the bridge that night and the rushing waters below them.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Picture Book Review: Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell

Image: Scholastic
Maybe Tomorrow? by Charlotte Agell. Illustrated by Ana Ramírez González. unpgd. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc. March, 2019. 9781338214888. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Elba, a sweet but sad looking fuchsia hippo, drags a big, heavy block by a string everywhere she goes. Norris, a jovial, green alligator exudes joy and is surrounded by butterflies everywhere he goes. Norris doesn't judge Elba when she turns down his invitation to picnic with him. Instead, he joins her on her block and gently asks about it. He senses something sad inside the block, but Elba doesn't feel a thing. 

Oh, how I want to be a friend like Norris! He seems to know when to press and has the patience to wait things out. I know there are children like Elba who quietly carry their sadness and can get lost during the school day. They need the time and attention and sometimes we adults have it to give but often, not.

The cheerful watercolor and digital art offers a gentle counterweight to Elba's sadness. 

This is a beautiful exploration of grief and sadness and should be shared with readers of all ages.  

#tbt and Audiobook Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Image: Little, Brown Young Readers
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Illustrated by Carson Ellis. Unabridged E-Audiobook, ~ 13 hours. Narrated by Del Roy. Listening Library, February, 2007. 9780739354971. (Review of digital copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy #tbt TMS Readers! This past June, I featured a new "Mysterious Benedict Society" book that is due to publish in late September. The series circulates well at TMS and guess what? I have never read it! I remedied that situation in early July and the first book, The Mysterious Benedict Society,  was my 20th book of summer vacation reading. It was written by Trenton Lee Stewart and was published in 2007. It is illustrated by Carson Ellis and is the story of four gifted children who are orphaned or have run away from neglectful parents. 

Their mentor is Mr. Benedict and the four are called "the mysterious Benedict society." They are tasked with infiltrating a school called L.I.V.E., the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. It seems a nefarious plot to take over the world originated at the school, which is on an island. Reynie, Stickie, Kate and Constance need to go undercover as students to investigate. 

The twists and turns of this fast-paced plot will keep you on your toes. If you like action and mystery and puzzles and puns, this is the book for you! 

If I continue the series, I will probably switch to reading with my eyes. I wasn't a fan of the narration. The narrator's raspy, breathy delivery grated. While, I usually don't mind a narrator's choice not to use different voices for the characters, I found myself wondering who was talking from time to time. The books are long. Hence the audiobooks are LONG! There is no rushing an audiobook. You are stuck with the narrator for the duration. 

There's a rather well-done website for the series, but it needs updating. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle for the Ages is not on it as of today. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Image: Macmillan

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi. Children of Örisha series #2. 609 p. Holt Books for Young Readers/ Macmillan, December 3, 2019. 9781250170996.

Publisher synopsis: After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari's right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy's wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

I saw the Essence cover reveal in the spring but my W-o-W schedule was full until now. It's a great article with a gorgeous author photo and that cover! Just breathtaking! 

Somehow, I lucked into receiving an arc of Children of Blood and Bone. As you can tell from my review, I am a fan. So, I can't wait for this to release. Due to the amazing and well-deserved critical reception of her debut, I doubt that I will luck into receiving an arc of Children of Virtue and Vengeance, but there's always hope. I placed a hold on the audio of Children of Blood and Bone. It's narrated by the incomparable Bahni Turpin. By the time my hold comes through, I anticipate that I will be refreshed on all things Örisha and ready for Children of Virtue and Vengeance!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Image: Simon & Schuster
There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~12 hours. Read by Soneela Nankani and Vikas Adam. Simon & Schuster Audio, May, 2019. 9781508294900. (Review of finished e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features There's Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon. This is Menon's third book and something of a companion to her debut, When Dimple Met Rishi. This dual narrative is Rishi's brother, Ashish's story along with Sweetie Nair. Sweetie is the only child and dutiful daughter. She's also a track star who happens to be fat, something her well-meaning mother always reminds her of. Ashish lost his basketball mojo in the aftermath of being dumped by the beautiful and white, Celia. When Ashish's parents suggest making a match, he thinks, "Why not?" After all, they matched Dimple and Rishi and that relationship seems to be working out. What neither Ashish nor his parents expect is rejection. Sweetie's mother outright refuses Mrs. Patel, leading Sweetie to launch the "Sassy Sweetie Project." Though breezy, this novel has depth, exploring issues of fat-shaming and culture through two smart, sensitive and winning characters. There's Something about Sweetie can stand alone.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Image: Random House
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty. 304 p. Random House Children's Books, May,2018. 9781524767570.

Rising sixth grader, Esther K. recommended today's feature! Esther sent me a message to say that she loved The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl and I think it's a great choice for Middle Grade Monday! I haven't highlighted it here in The Daily Book Talk because I reviewed it for School Library Journal. You can read that review here

Ever since Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning, she has been a math genius. So much so, that between that and her OCD, she has been homeschooled by her grandmother. She's ready for college math now but her grandmother wants her to try middle school for one year, make one new friend and read one book that isn't math related. Read this is you love books about friendship, middle school or math. Read it even if you hate math. Lucy and her grandmother are wonderful characters!

Thanks Esther!

ETA: I was thrilled to pick up an arc of The World Ends in April at ALAAC!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fact Friday: Titanosaur: discovering the world's largest dinosaur by Dr. José Luis Carballido & Dr. Diego Pol

Image: Scholastic Inc.
Titanosaur: discovering the world's largest dinosaur by Dr. José Luis Carballido & Dr. Diego Pol. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc. February, 2019. 9781338207392. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Slightly oversized picture book treatment of the discovery and excavation of the world's largest dinosaur bones in Argentina. Beautiful paintings illustrated the text, which was written by the paleontologists who worked on the dig. Sidebars add extra scientific information along with photos of the scientists and the dig. This is sure to please any budding paleontologist. 

My only quibble is the fact the authors chose not to name the gaucho who discovered the femur and who made the trek to the museum with the information. I am always telling my students to give credit for sources. Surely he deserved a lot more credit than, "a gaucho." 

I also wondered about the destruction of the the land on the ranch in the name of science. Sure, the team dug the bones out carefully, but was the land restored when work was complete? Why did they need to build a road? What sort of road was built? How did it affect the ranch? Was the owner compensated? I think students today should be made aware of these issues and encouraged to question the effects and ethics of scientific exploration. 

Perhaps this could've been addressed in the back matter. But aside from a short author's note and additional pictures, there was no other back matter - no suggestions for further reading or glossary. The end-pages were cute and the flip side of the cover revealed a poster of the titanosaur.

ETA: My google search revealed a number of articles from such reliable sources as the New York Times and the BBC. Neither source mentions the rancher's name! Interestingly, Wikipedia does identify him as Guillermo Herridea. 

A good book will prompt questions, so it's not a bad thing, just an observation. Truthfully, I'm a bit more disappointed in the spare back matter; but then, I've been on a bit of a back matter crusade lately. That said, Titanosaur belongs in any library catering to young and old dino fans!

Friday Memes: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

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

Image: G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. 306 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers / Penguin Young Readers Group, June, 2019. 9780525514022.

Publisher synopsis: This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

First Lines: We believe in luck. The good kind and the cruel. The kind that graces and cripples. The kind that doesn't care what you deserve.

Page 56: ..."While you sister did very well today and is generally healthy, she's a bit anemic."

     "What's that mean?" Gabi asks, her mouth full of ice cream.

     "It means that Marisol wasn't eating as well as she should have been."

     "That's because she gave me most of the food," Gabi says.
      I push my empty bowl away. "No, I didn't. I just wasn't hungry."

    Gabi uses her spoon to make her points...

Thursday, July 11, 2019

#tbt: Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret

Image: Simon & Schuster
 Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret. 151 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster, September, 2004. 

#tbt is a recommendation from rising sixth grader Leane, who messaged me with her suggestion to feature Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret. This book, as well as many of the author's books, are favorites among fifth and sixth graders at TMS. Want to know a secret? I have yet to read any of Kehret's books! Yikes! Should I turn in my librarian badge?

Kyle is looking forward to his family vacation on the Oregon coast until he learns his tormenter from school is staying at the same hotel. What a way to ruin a vacation! Little does Kyle know that he will soon be on the run for his life with his sister and Daren when a tsunami hits. 

Thanks for the suggestion Leane! Maybe Escaping the Giant Wave will be my first Peg Kehret book! If any student would like to recommend a title for The Daily Booktalk, send me a message through Schoology. The themes are: Middle Grade Monday, books of interest to students in grades five and sixth; Teen Tuesday, books of interest to students in grades seven and up; Waiting on Wednesday, titles for any age you are looking forward to releasing in the next year; #tbt, titles for any age that were published ten years ago or more; and Fact Friday, informational titles for any age. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Picture Book Review: The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Sarah Jacoby. 42 p. Balzar + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, May, 2019. 9780062393449. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

This post is as much rumination as review. I did read Goodnight Moon to my sons. I loved the bunny's bedtime ritual of saying goodnight to everything. Our ritual was reading each night after dad sang taps. Two of my boys shared a room and each got to choose two books (and later, two chapters) for me to read each night. Dad took turns when he could. He was more a storyteller though, and regaled them with The Castle Boys, an original serial starring them, which invariably wound them up instead of winding them down. 

Runaway Bunny was less appealing to me and thankfully, to them as well. (Egad, that mother!) But our love of Goodnight Moon had us poking around Brown's other books and mostly enjoying them. We were surprised to learn that she had written over a hundred books and especially surprised after learning that she died so young at age 42.

Which is the exact number of pages in this picture book "biography." In some respects, The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown is less a biography and more a conversation about a remarkable person and what is important. Barnett mirrors MWB's storytelling, which deeply respected a child's intellect, wonder and capacity to think deeply. 

Picture books are typically 32 pages long. Occasionally, they are 40 pages and sometimes, a longer form picture book will weigh in at 48 pages. I don't know why. I'm too lazy to research the reasoning. Perhaps it's some kind of printer math or publisher rule. But, like MWB, Mac Barnett is a rule breaker. Of course, there's a good, writerly, symbolic reason for insisting that this story contain 42 pages, but he breaks the rules in other ways. Such as telling the (presumably) young reader that MWB skinned one of her rabbits after it had died and wore its pelt. Yikes. She liked to swim naked in cold water (sure to send kids into peals of laughter), bought a whole cartful of flowers with the money she made from her first book and how her books were not like other books for children at the time. 

And just as MWB would suddenly shift gears in one of her stories, Mac Barnett switches from biographical tidbits about MWB to NY Public Library Librarian, Anne Carroll Moore. She was a gatekeeper whose stamp of approval was sought if a children's story were to succeed. Apparently, Anne Carroll Moore did not approve of MWB. He digresses for a few pages illustrating just how eccentric Anne Carroll Moore was (despite the many ways she advanced library services to children) before getting back to MWB and the hilarious stunt she and her editor Ursula Nordstrom pulled when they weren't invited to a snooty party at the NYPL.

The illustrations are evocative of Garth Williams, who illustrated more than a few of MWB's picture books. Whimsical and watery, the retro feel of the pictures are perfect here. 

The story ends as abruptly as Brown's life with the explanation that lives can end suddenly and can be many things from happy to sad but that MWB wrote important books. 

Typically, biographies contain back matter. Little things like author's notes, which might add detail that didn't quite fit into the story; or source notes; or suggestions for further reading. This lovely, provocative story of the life of Margaret Wise Brown contains no back matter whatsoever. Interesting choice. This is definitely going into my picture book biography unit. I can't wait to see what my students make of The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown.

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebel by Marie Lu

Image: Macmillan
Rebel by Marie Lu. 320 p. Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan, October 1, 2019. 9781250221711.

Publisher synopsis: Respect the Legend. Idolize the Prodigy. Celebrate the Champion. But never underestimate the Rebel. 
With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale.

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe—even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

It has been quite a while since I sobbed my way through the final installment of the Legend Trilogy. I am very eager to revisit the world. And, I love the cover!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Image: Penguin Young Readers

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. 310 p. Dial Books/ Penguin, September 17, 2019. 9780593108178. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher, ALAAC19)

Juliet Milagros Palente took a women's studies class at college because she had a crush on a girl. She fell in love with the girl and the writings of Harlowe Brisbane, feminist author, as well. She wrote to Brisbane asking for a summer internship. When she got it, she packed her bags for Portland, Oregon and came out to her family just before leaving for the airport. Things did not go great. Additionally, Lainie, her first love, on an internship of her own in D.C. isn't returning her texts. As a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx," Juliet has a lot to learn, about Portland, feminism, and being a queer poc. And it isn't from Harlowe, who, though she considers herself an ally, often can't get past her white privilege and fragility. 

I fell in love with Juliet on page one and gobbled this story up in two sittings. Juliet is a joyous character, so open and honest and curious and enthusiastic. It hurt to watch her bump up against unkindness. I also loved that the many Spanish words and phrases were not translated for outsiders like me. It's up to me to look them up. I would love to reread this with my ears. 

There were one or two teeny-tiny things that niggled, tiny things like, "Can you hear a click when someone disconnects a cell phone call?" that were mostly lost under the rest of the awesomeness. 

This is the author's debut novel but it was published as a paperback a couple of years ago. It was an Amelia Bloomer finalist, but this got by me. Hopefully, Dial/ Penguin will bring readers to this not-to-be-missed story. It's a tad mature for my middle school crowd, having more to do with serious discussions of feminist theory and intersectionality than language, drug use or sex. Smart teen fans of edgy, hilarious, thought-provoking novels will love it.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Operatic by Kyo Maclear

Image: House of Anansi
Operatic by Kyo Maclear. 160 p. Groundwood/ House of Anansi, April, 2019. 9781554989720. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher. Received at SLJ Day of Dialog)

Happy third Monday of summer vacay, TMS readers! Have you read anything great lately? Put some titles in the comments or send them in a Schoology message.

Middle Grade Monday features Operatic by Kyo Maclear. Eighth grader Charlotte, Charlie, Noguchi, one of only three Asians in her class, wants to fly under the radar and is a keen observer of the pecking order in her middle school. It is spring of her final year of middle school, the due date for her music project is looming and she hasn't yet picked a song that defines her. She's also worried about a missing classmate, Luka, a transfer student with a gorgeous voice who wears his hair long and has a unique fashion sense which made him a target. As this spare story flashes back to the fall and forward to spring, Charlie reflects on all the music history she learned and realizes that opera, specifically, Maria Callas, speaks to her most. 
This is an unusual choice for a contemporary eighth grader and Charlie needs to figure out if she wants to play it safe and stifle who she is or take a lesson from Luka and be true to herself despite the often cruel opinions of her peers. 

The art in this unusual graphic novel is just gorgeous with its swirling colors and dreamy panels. It's also beautifully designed. Graphic novel fans will learn a bit about music and music loving students will learn to love graphic novels with Operatic.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Arc Review: Stanislaw Lem's The Seventh Voyage illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Image: Scholastic
Stanislaw Lem's The Seventh Voyage illustrated by Jon J. Muth. Translated by Michael Kandel. unpd. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., October 1, 2019. 9780545004626. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher at ALAAC19.)

Astronaut Ijon Tichy's (Ee-yon TEE-khee) solo space voyage goes horribly wrong when a teeny tiny asteroid pokes a hole in his space ship causing him to lose all maneuverability. He knows how to fix the problem, but the fix requires two people and, he is alone. 

Alone until he enters a vortex in which, it seems, the space-time continuum is altered. It seems he is trapped in a time loop. He is awakened by himself. Or, a version of his future self. He can't quite believe it and goes back to sleep. But his past and future selves keep replicating, arguing with him, assaulting him and eating his carefully planned rations. He cannot take advantage of these extra selves to fix his rudder because there is only one space suit. And so. And so, pandemonium and hilarity ensues until the space-time continuum spits out two of his younger selves. 

While I enjoy science fiction, I am, by no means, an expert. My English major husband recognized Stanislaw Lem's name when he spied my arc. An introduction and adaptor's note otherwise clues in the uninformed. 

The art in this graphic novel adaptation is absolutely sublime. Watery panels perfectly capture the contemplative, rather lonely mission Ijon is on. Careful reading is required here as the action is a bit mind-bending. But so much fun! I cannot wait for the finished product! I also cannot wait to share the title with my group of graphic novel loving rising sixth graders! 

The Seventh Voyage will be a hit with all your graphic novel fans, your sci-fi fans, as well as any thoughtful reader. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Fact Friday: The Eye That Never Sleeps: how detective Pinkerton saved President Lincoln by Marissa Moss

Image: Abrams
The Eye That Never Sleeps: how detective Pinkerton saved President Lincoln by Marissa Moss. Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes. 48 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers, November, 2018. 9781419730641. (Review of finished copy purchased at ALAAC19)

Fact Friday features The Eye That Never Sleeps: how Detective Pinkerton saved President Lincoln by Marissa Moss. Have you ever wondered where the term "private eye" came from? You will find out in this intriguing picture book biography. Allan Pinkerton was born in Scotland. He grew up quite poor but very observant. As a young man, he agitated for worker's rights and was wanted by the government, so he fled to the U.S. with his bride and established a business as a cooper (barrel maker). He continued to observe though. While gathering wood for his barrels on a island, he noted the remnants of a campfire and wondered who would be on the island and for what. Turns out, it was a band of counterfeiters. As the headline of the Chicago Daily Tribune said, the "Cooper Becomes a Copper." Pinkerton was hired as the Chicago Police Department's first detective. 

After a year on the force, he founded his own agency and wrote his own manual for his trainees to study. By the 1850s his agency was well-known for solving murders and recovering stolen goods. Pinkerton was hired by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad in 1860 to protect the railway from secessionists who were conspiring to blow up the tracks. During the investigation, Pinkerton heard rumors of a plot to assassinate President-Elect Abraham Lincoln. I will leave it to you to read about the thrilling details.

Helpful back matter includes a timeline, artist's note, author's note, source notes and a bibliography. The illustrations were digitally rendered to look like scratchboard. The palette is muted shades of purples, reds and orange. There's lots of spot art and speech bubbles adding visual appeal. The compelling narrative is somewhat dwarfed by the illustrations though, and is mostly relegated to the far left of each spread. This arrangement sort of lends itself to a sort of silent film effect. I found it a bit distracting and read through the text first, then backtracked and read the illustrations. (Click on the link to the page for the book on the Abrams website. There is a slide show of some of the spreads.)

This is definitely going in my Sixth Grade Picture Book Biography Unit! I had a short conversation with the author and her editor as she signed my book about back matter and what makes a good picture book biography. Remember, you are never too old for picture books. This one is terrific! 

Friday Memes: The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty

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

Image: Random House
The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty. 368 p. Random House Books for Young Readers, September 3,2019. 9781524767617.

Publisher synopsis: Is middle school drama scarier than an asteroid heading for Earth? Find out in this smart and funny novel by the author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl.

Every day in middle school can feel like the end of the world.

Eleanor Dross knows a thing or two about the end of the world, thanks to a survivalist grandfather who stockpiles freeze-dried food and supplies–just in case. So when she reads about a Harvard scientist’s prediction that an asteroid will strike Earth in April, Eleanor knows her family will be prepared. Her classmates? They’re on their own!

Eleanor has just one friend she wants to keep safe: Mack. They’ve been best friends since kindergarten, even though he’s more of a smiley emoji and she’s more of an eye-roll emoji. They’ll survive the end of the world together . . . if Mack doesn’t go away to a special school for the blind.

But it’s hard to keep quiet about a life-destroying asteroid–especially at a crowded lunch table–and soon Eleanor is the president of the (secret) End of the World Club. It turns out that prepping for TEOTWAWKI (the End of the World as We Know It) is actually kind of fun. But you can’t really prepare for everything life drops on you. And one way or another, Eleanor’s world is about to change.

First Line: Mack Jefferson, my best-and only-friend, reads to me from his Braille edition of The Outsiders.

Page 56:
     "You need to promise me, if you're worried about this or if you have more questions, talk to me, please. I know you get worked up about things."

      "Okay." And this is an absolute lie. I won't talk to Dad again until I have more proof. Until I can convince him this is real. As the asteroid gets closer to Earth, there's no way other scientists will stay quiet. There will be better pictures and more data. I have to be patient. Even though the world is ending in spring, that still two quarters of a school year away. And school years last forever.

I absolutely adored The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl and fell in love with this one on page one. And Science! Yay!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Review: Which One Doesn't Belong? Playing with shapes by Christopher Danielson

Image: Charlesbridge
Which One Doesn't Belong? Playing with shapes by Christopher Danielson. unpgd. Charlesbridge, February, 2019. 9781580899444. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

When I opened my review box a while back and saw this colorful, appealing cover, two things happened nearly at once. First, I started to hum that Sesame Street ditty, "One of these things is not like the other/ One of these things doesn't belong/ Can you guess which thing is not like the other/ Before I finish my song?" Yeah. Then, I figured that after I read and reviewed it, I would send it on to either my husband's niece with young children or my husband's niece who teaches first grade or my elementary school librarian colleague or... You get the picture. 

No way! I am keeping it for my middle school library and using it in my Digital Media Classes. Why? Well, while I can certainly see its use in math classes, I want to use it as an introductory exercise in critical thinking. I am constantly telling my sixth through eighth graders that they need to back up their opinions with reasons or examples. This is usually with regard to book evaluations that I have them write when they cycle through my class. 

There are no wrong answers here! Granted, the example is rather simple. There is easy justification for each shape presented. That is generally the way with examples. The groupings become progressively harder though, requiring a bit more time to parse reasons. The beauty of the book? There are no wrong answers! "The important thing is to have a reason why.Exactly! I can't tell you how many times I have read something like, "The art in this book is amazing." Or, "The writing is really great." I write back something like, "Examples? How was the art amazing?" Or, "What made the writing great? Give examples." My students actually lose points for failing to give examples. I accept even the lamest connection because they made an attempt. I think I might be able to drive home my point with this fun exercise. #nevertoooldforpicturebooks for the win!

I saw on the Charlesbridge site that their's is a reissue and found an image from the original. I must say the colors used in the reissue really pop and increases appeal. Bravo art department! Great choices! There's a guide available and the author's website offers links to resources and blog postings. He's working on a book about patterns now.

Which One Doesn't Belong belongs everywhere!

#tbt: Soldier's Heart by Gary Paulsen

Image: Penguin
Soldier's Heart: being the story of the enlistment and due service of the boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers by Gary Paulsen. 108 p. Delacorte Press/ Penguin Young Readers, October, 1998. 0385324987. (Own)

#tbt features Soldier's Heart: being the story of the enlistment and due service of the boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers by Gary Paulsen. This novella is a work of historical fiction set during the Civil War. Fifteen-year-old Charley Goddard lies about his age and enlists in the First Minnesota Volunteers with dreams of being a hero. Once on the battlefields however, the violent reality of gun battle and death stuns Charley. Yet, he must go on. Seeing battle after battle and being injured himself. Charley returns home at age nineteen changed in heart and soul. Neither his physical nor mental injuries heal, leaving him unable to work and wishing for release. An author's note explains that Charley Goddard really did exist but that certain events in his life were changed to fit the storytelling. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Arc Review: Nixie Ness: cooking star by Claudia Mills

Image: Holiday House
Nixie Ness: cooking star by Claudia Mills. After-School Superstars series #1. 118 p. Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House, June, 2019. 9780823440931. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Nixie Ness is one happy third-grader. She loves to bake and baking is doubly fun when she does it with her BFF, Grace. She and Grace have been best friends since they were two and they do everything together. They are in the same class, sit together at lunch, play soccer together on the weekend and, best of all, get to spend each day after school together at Nixie's house until Grace's mom gets home from work. Life couldn't get more perfect. 

Then, Nixie's mom gets a job in a bookstore and Nixie learns she'll be attending after-school camp. When she learns that Grace will not be attending camp, Nixie is upset. When she learns that Grace will be going home with Elyse, a classmate, Nixie is devastated. How can they remain best friends? What if Grace becomes best friends with Elyse? How can Nixie get rid of this friend stealer?

Still, she must admit that After-School Superstars is fun. She's teamed with Vera, Nolan and Boogie. When she's there, she can almost forget her troubles. But when Vera makes shy attempts to extend the friendship past after-school camp, Nixie shuts her down out of loyalty to Grace.

Move over Ramona, Junie B. and Clementine. There's a new spunky heroine on the scene. Nixie is spirited and appealing in this gentle story about changing friendship. Elementary readers will relate to Nixie and her humorous and sometimes cringeworthy attempts to save her friendship. The dialogue is spot-on. The unfinished sketches and spot art will add appeal in their finished form. A recipe for Morning Glory Muffins is provided at the end of this satisfying story. Where can I sign up for After-school Superstars camp?

Waiting on Wednesday: Bootlace Magician by Cassie Beasley

Image: Penguin 
Bootlace Magician by Cassie Beasley. 416 p. Dial Books/ Penguin Young Readers, October 1, 2019. 978052552635.

Publisher synopsis: Fans of Cassie Beasley’s New York Times best-selling novel Circus Mirandus have long been clamoring for one thing: to go back to the circus! They will finally get their wish in this masterpiece of a sequel with even more magical creatures and surprises.

Micah Tuttle now lives at the Circus Mirandus full-time as an apprentice to the incredible Lightbender. It’s a dream come true! Micah spends most of days discovering and refining his magic, hanging out with a new baby unicorn, and making occasional trips outside to visit his best friend, Jenny Mendoza. Everything seems relatively peaceful and calm until Micah’s grandmother, Victoria, The Bird Woman, begins to seriously threaten the future of Micah’s new home. Worst of all, it’s looking like she might be successful in her evil mission to destroy the circus, especially since she has nothing to lose. Soon, it’s up to Micah and the Lightbender (with a little help from Micah’s best friend and the other magicians) to defeat Victoria and help keep the magical circus alive.

I absolutely adored Circus Mirandus and will be so happy to return to that world. I also loved Beasley's sophomore novel, Tumble and Blue!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Image: Boyds Mills Press 

Ordinary Hazards: a memoir by Nikki Grimes. 325 p. Boyds Mills Press October 8, 2019. 9781629798813. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features Ordinary Hazards: a memoir by Nikki Grimes. Resilience is a trait that gets bandied about a lot lately, especially when talking about children. Is it something we are born with or can it be cultivated? Grimes discovered the power of words, of reading them and writing them, to help her navigate the uncertainty of her childhood. She was born in Harlem to a mother who battled mental illness and alcohol and a mostly absent, though revered father. Her older sister, Carol, comforted and protected her as best she could. But there was only so much an older sister could do. There were rats, fights, cousins hooked on heroin, abusive caregivers and the gradual mental deterioration of their mother until she and her sister were removed from her home and placed in foster care. They were kept together for two years, but eventually, the girls were placed in separate homes. 

Grimes is a poet and author of such verse novels as Garvey's Choice, Words with Wings and Planet Middle School and hybrid verse/ prose novels such as Bronx Masquerade and its companion, One Last Word. She's also author of the picture book biography, Barack Obama: son of promise, child of hope. The vivid imagery of her poems takes the reader back to the early 1950s, to dresser drawer beds, to nodding heads, to locked closets, to a train to Ossining and back again. 

She found a good place with the Buchanan family though she missed her sister terribly. She found consolation in writing in notebooks. She wrote poems and bits of observations. After a few years, her mother got her life together and remarried. Nikki had to say goodbye to the Buchanans to return to her mother in Brooklyn and the hope of a new start that nine-year-old Nikki could not trust. 

This memoir in verse was unputdownable. Vivid, raw, compelling, heartbreaking and honest, I often had to remind myself to breathe. She turned out okay, I reminded myself. Improbably, she had the strength to learn and grow despite the traumas. How, when so many in similar situations fall victim? Thank goodness for Nikki Grimes' resiliency. I wish it for each person who struggles. 

Ordinary Hazards is extraordinary and not to be missed if you are a fan of the author, a fan of memoirs in verse or just a thoughtful reader with a heart.