Monday, October 21, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Image: Simon & Schuster
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner. 272 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster, September, 2019. 9781534431454. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features a debut graphic novel, The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner. Moth Hush doesn't fit in at school. Her single-mother is silent about her father or any other family. It has always been just the two of them. But when Moth suddenly comes into her magic while being bullied on Halloween, her mother reveals that she comes from a long line of witches dating back to Colonial Salem. Moth's grandmother fled into a portal to live under the protection of Hecate but Moth's mother decided to leave. She forbids Moth from practicing magic but Moss finds her diary. With the help of a talking black cat, begins training herself. What could go wrong? 

This graphic novel coming-of-age story is quite relatable even if you don't have magical powers. Inventive and engaging. The story is unique with compelling characters. The arc's art was in black and white but samples show lush coloring. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Fact Friday and Review: Playlist: the rebels and revolutionaries of sound by James Rhodes

Image: Candlewick Press
Playlist: the rebels and revolutionaries of sound by James Rhodes. Illustrated by Martin O'Neill. 68 p. Candlewick Studios/ Candlewick Press, October, 2019. 9781536212143. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

One vivid memory I have from my senior year of high school has to do with a brand new LA class called "Humanities." It was taught by a brilliant woman named Miss Kehoe. She had that rare combination of control and approachability and she was so cultured! Thanks to her, I can pretty accurately identify the major (and some minor) artists through the ages. 

She touched a bit on musicians as well. I recall a bunch of boys rolling their eyes at the idea of classical music and extolling the musical virtue of groups like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and the Rolling Stones. She was prepared; explaining that most rock and roll musicians had classical training and were even adapting classical pieces in their own music. She used ELP's "Pictures at an Exhibition" as an example. Color me impressed.

Color me impressed by Rhodes' approach in this book. Colorful, cool,  and occasionally comic, this LP-sized book will captivate students of music as well as lure readers who are not musicians.

These sixty-plus pages brim with information. In straightforward and conversational text, Rhodes immediately engages the readers making the hundreds-year-old history relevant. He talks about seven classical musicians (acknowledging that they are all white and male) and highlights two pieces from each. You might be wondering how he can do this in print. He created a Spotify playlist for each and readers can log on to hear the examples he provides. 

Each musician gets a two-page "Facts of Life" spread followed by pages devoted to explaining the pieces that were chosen. There's added information about orchestras as well as a timeline interspersed among the biographies. Eye-popping sometimes psychedelic illustrations add energy and zest. A two-page vocabulary concludes the book. There are no source notes and specific recommendations for further reading. 

Playlist is a first-purchase! Book talk it and display it prominently and it won't sit. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

#tbt: Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Image: Scholastic
Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. 272 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October, 2004. 0439755190. (Own)

#tbt celebrates the fifteenth anniversary of Jordan Sonnenblick's debut novel, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie. This first-person novel is a TMS favorite. Steven relates the story of his eighth grade year starting at graduation, then flashing back. When his younger brother, Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, the entire family dynamic shifts. Everyone is rightfully worried about Jeffrey. Steven tries to keep this news hidden from his friends and teachers. He just wants to get through eighth grade and get better at drumming. But fear and financial worry as well as treatment setbacks for Jeffrey take a toll on everyone. At turns poignant and hilarious, readers who don't like sad books will fall in love. Readers who do, will find a new favorite. The voice is captivating from page one. 

Most of Sonnenblick's books are favorites here at TMS. There is a companion novel called, After Ever After. BTW, if you are looking for a great author visit, Jordan's visits are outstanding. He really connects with students. Visit his website for details about his visits

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs

Image: Simon & Schuster

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs. 336 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, March 24, 2020. 9781534443754.

Publisher synopsis: In the latest novel in New York Times bestselling author Stuart Gibbs’s FunJungle series, Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident sleuth to solve his most improbable mystery yet—with a victim that’s 65 million years old.

Teddy was all set for a campout at his friend Sage’s family ranch—but then Sage gets terrible news: The skull of a rare dinosaur that was being excavated on his property has mysteriously vanished overnight in the middle of a rainstorm, even though it weighed 500 pounds. Not a single footprint has been left behind. Since the dinosaur was top secret, the police don’t believe anyone outside the dig could have stolen it.

A T-rex skull can sell for millions of dollars, and everyone is a suspect—including J.J. McCracken, the owner of FunJungle.

Meanwhile, Teddy’s old foes, the Barksdale twins, have gotten into trouble with an illegally purchased anaconda, and Teddy’s girlfriend Summer wants to find out who’s behind the local trade in black market reptiles. The two cases will drag Teddy into more danger and chaos than ever before, in this mystery that’s stranger than fiction.

All of Stuart Gibbs series are top circulators at my school and, with good reason, they are consistently fantastic. I had the privilege of reviewing the first and second Funjungle books for SLJ. I haven't been able to continue the series partly due to time and mostly due to the fact that Gibbs' shelf is usually empty from the second week of school through the end of the school year!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Teen Tuesday: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

Image: Penguin Random House
The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~9 hours. Read by Sophie Amoss. Listening Library, March, 2019. 9781984837929. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Arc courtesy of publisher.)

Poe Blythe is bent on revenge. The eighteen-year-old is about to captain a ship that she designed. Two years earlier, her best friend, Call was murdered while they were crew on a ship that was dredging gold. The ship was stolen by the Raiders. Poe vowed to take revenge on the Raiders by designing an impregnable ship. That was the only thing that kept her alive these past two years and now she gets to take the ship on its last dredging mission. She has been assigned a crew by the Admiral. But can she trust them? Can she trust the Admiral? And, what of the Council, who are divided in their loyalty to Poe.

This dystopian unfolds slowly. Poe is aloof and difficult to know and so her first-person narration is guarded. Is she an unreliable narrator?  The world seems dangerous and forbidding and hopeless. People are desperate and vicious. This steampunk/ sci-fi/ dystopian is dark and unsettling. The narrator's terse, succinct delivery underscores Poe's detached demeanor effectively. 

If you're a fan of the dystopian genre, this book is for you. The patience needed in the beginning pays off as pieces start falling into place. Recommended!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Image: Simon & Schuster

Look Both Ways: a tale told in ten blocks by Jason Reynolds. 208 p. Atheneum/ Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, October 8, 2019. 9781481438285. (Review of borrowed arc.)

Middle Grade Monday features Look Both Ways: a tale told in ten blocks by Jason Reynolds. My library sits above the main entrance of my school. The dismissal bell rings at 3:10 and by 3:12 students start streaming out. There's a line of three buses and usually a fairly long line of late model cars lined up for pick-up; but a majority of our nearly six hundred students seem to walk - at least across the street to the library for a while before dispersing. I've often contemplated their lives, especially if I'm worried about any in particular. 

Jason Reynolds follows a few kids home in his new book, Look Both Ways. Any new book by Reynolds is cause to celebrate. He's an automatic purchase for me even if he writes the phone book. Not surprisingly, Look Both Ways is a National Book Award Finalist.

This collection of short stories follows ten or so children home from school on the day a school bus "fell from the sky." They are loosely connected and at turns poignant and hilarious.  It is a fabulous collection of short stories featuring interesting characters, gorgeous writing, and hi and low humor. Like all well-written short stories, each feels as though they could've been expanded into a full-length novel. Perfect for reading aloud.

Jason Reynolds is a TMS favorite. Most of his books have won some type of award from the Coretta Scott King to the National Book Award, where his popular book, Ghost, was a finalist. If you think you hate to read, you need to try one of Reynolds' books. Look Both Ways is a good place to start.

Saturday, October 12, 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.

It was a bit of a banner week for book mail.

For review:
Image: Candlewick Press
The Raymie Nightingale Three-Book Collection by Kate DiCamillo. Boxed set. Candlewick Press, October, 2019. 9781536210385.

Publisher synopsis: Kate DiCamillo’s sequence of novels about the Three Rancheros is now complete — and with this beautiful hardcover boxed set, readers can savor all three.

First came Raymie Nightingale, the “triumphant and necessary book”* that would become a National Book Award Finalist. Then followed the tender Louisiana’s Way Home, featuring “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” (The New York Times Book Review) and marking the first time the two-time Newbery Medalist had revisited the world of one of her novels. And finally, the much-hoped-for third novel, Beverly, Right Here, awaits its rapt audience. Here, the entire trilogy of novels — the perfect gift for both longtime fans and new devotees — is available in a beautifully designed set. Included are hardcover editions of: Raymie Nightingale
Louisiana’s Way Home
Beverly, Right Here

Image: Candlewick Press

Jon Klassen's Hat Box. Three-Book Set. Candlewick Press, October, 2019. 9780763666972.

Publisher synopsis: Hold on to all of your hats at once for this special collection of Jon Klassen’s celebrated hat trilogy.

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. A fish has stolen a hat; will he get away with it? Two turtles have found one hat, but the hat looks good on both of them. . . . Jon Klassen’s deliciously deadpan hat tales continue to surprise and delight readers of all ages, and they are all now available in one impeccably designed boxed set along with a free frameable print. Included are: I Want My Hat Back
This Is Not My Hat
We Found a Hat

This Book is Gray by Lindsey Ward. Unpgd. Two Lions/ Amazon Publishing, November 1, 2019. 978`541043403.

Publisher synopsis: Gray just wants to be included. But the other colors are always leaving him out. So he decides to create his own project: an all-gray book. Once upon a time, there lived a wolf, a kitten, and a hippo…

Gray just knows it’s going to be perfect. But as he adds page after page, the Primary and Secondary colors show up…and they aren’t quite so complimentary.

A book within a book, this colorful tale explores the ideas of fitting in, appreciating others, and looking at things from another perspective and also uses personality and wit to introduce basic color concepts.

Santa's Story by Will Willenbrand. unpgd. Two Lions/ Amazon Publishing, September, 2019. 97811542043380.

Publisher synopsis: Santa is ready to leave on Christmas Eve, but he can’t find the reindeer anywhere. Dasher is busy dashing, Donner is dozing, and Cupid is crooning. It isn’t until Santa remembers their annual tradition—reading a Christmas story together—that the reindeer are ready.

Reindeer merriment abounds in this charming yuletide tale about honoring the celebration of holiday customs with those you love.

Image: Penguin Random House
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim. 320 p. Kokila/ Penguin Random House, March, 2020. 9780525554974.

Publisher synopsis: One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura–and Yumi doesn’t correct them.

As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.

So far, everything I've read from Penguin's newest imprint has been awesome!

Riches from Greystone Kids via Sharon Sloan:

Image: Greystone Kids
Spur, a wolf's story by Eliza Robertson. Illustrated by Nora Aoyagi. unpgd. Greystone Kids, September, 2019. 9781771643412.

Publisher synopsis: This captivating tale will inspire children across the world to build compassion for an iconic yet vulnerable animal.

In award-winning author Eliza Robertson’s stunning debut children’s book, a young, brave wolf named Spur is looking for food with her brother when, suddenly, a flying beast appears in the sky. What was that thing? And where did her brother go? The next time the helicopter appears, Spur knows just what to do to save her wolf pack and reunite with her brother.

Stirring, gorgeous illustrations of wolves, snow, and trees illuminate this uplifting and empowering story, which offers a gentle message for protecting wild wolves in North America and beyond. Just like us, wolves have brothers, sisters, parents, and friends—and they very much need our help.

Image: Greystone Kids

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? Discovering the hidden life of the forest by Peter Wohlleben. 84 p. Greystone Kids, October, 2019. 9781771644341.

Publisher synopsis: With his groundbreaking, internationally bestselling book The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben established himself as a global advocate for forests and our relationship with trees. Now, Peter shares his famous imagination and storytelling style with children, asking surprising questions about trees with exciting quizzes, photographs, and hands-on activities to help even the most reluctant learners discover the answers.

Did you know that trees have parents, and tree grandparents with wrinkles? That tree kids go to school for hundreds of years? That there is such a thing as the forest internet? And that trees make us healthy and strong. Sometimes, even trees get sick, but we can help them heal.

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? shares the mysteries and magic of the forest in language kids will love and understand.

Image: Greystone Kids
Birdsong by Julie Flett. 48 p. Greystone Kids, September, 2019. 9781771644730.

Publisher synopsis: A tender, luminous portrait of art, nature, and connecting across generations.

When a young girl moves from the country to a small town, she feels lonely and out of place. But soon she meets an elderly woman next door, who shares her love of art and nature. Can the girl navigate the changing seasons and failing health of her new friend? Acclaimed author and artist Julie Flett’s textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes bring vibrancy and warmth to this powerful story, which highlights the fulfillment of intergenerational relationships and shared passions.

Image: Greystone Kids
Hello, Crow! by Candace Savage. Illustrated by Chelsea O'Byrne. unpgd. Greystone Kids, September,2019. 9781771644440.

Publisher synopsis: Will Franny ever prove to her dad that crows and kids can be friends?

Franny has a new friend—a crow who brings her presents in its beak. Like a red button! And a silver heart! Franny’s dad doesn’t believe her. He says crows and kids can’t be friends. But Franny knows better.

How will Franny prove her new playmate is real? And what will the crafty crow bring next?

Image: Greystone Kids
The Moose of Ewenki by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane. Illustrated by Jiu Er. 68 p. Greystone Kids, September, 2019. 9781771645386.

Publisher synopsis: When a Mongolian elder named Gree Shrek hunts a female moose by mistake, her young calf is left behind. Saddened by her loss, Gree Shrek names the calf Xiao Han (“Little Moose”) and the moose and man form an authentic attachment. Xiao Han accompanies Gree Shrek as the hunter-gatherer herds reindeer, sets up camp, forages for food in the forest, and visits his peoples’ village, where many fun adventures happen. But as the little moose grows bigger, Gree Shrek knows he must return his companion to the forest.

Richly detailed, painterly illustrations by Chinese fine artist Jiu’er bring authenticity and beauty to this thoughtful book, which illuminates the traditional and vanishing way of life for the Ewenki peoples of Inner Mongolia.

Purchased: Nothing!

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, October 11, 2019

Fact Friday: The Roots of Rap: 16 bars on the 4 pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford

Image: Little Bee Books
The Roots of Rap: 16 bars on the 4 pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. 48 p. Little Bee Books, January, 2019. 9781499804119. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features The Roots of Rap: 16 bars on the 4 pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford. I'll put it right out there. I loved this book! This gorgeous picture book dazzles from end-page to end-page and is the perfect marriage of text and illustration. 

After a forward written by producer and musician, Swiss Beatz, Weatherford's connects the rich past of African American storytelling and singing and poetry as a direct path to the rise of Hip-Hop music in a sprightly, rhythmic poem whose words flow beneath each double-page painting. Morrison's art pulses with life. Each spread exudes energy and spirit. Do not rush past these spreads. And don't skip the back matter! There's both an author an illustrator note, a glossary, and a timeline.

The Roots of Rap is a first-purchase. It's a must-read for all lovers of music as well as non-musicians. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

#tbt: Heat by Mike Lupica

Image: Penguin Random House
Heat by Mike Lupica. 224 p. Philomel/ Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006. 9780399243011. (Own)

#tbt features Heat by Mike Lupica. Heat is the story of Michael Arroyo, a twelve-year-old pitching phenom with an 80 mph pitch. Coaches don't think he's twelve and want him to produce his birth certificate only that's not easy because it's in Cuba and investigation by the authorities will reveal that Michael's father died and his not-quite-eighteen-year-old older brother has been caring for him. Lupica was a sports journalist who wrote a column for the New York Daily News. He wrote several biographies of sports figures and novels for adults before making his middle grade debut with Travel Team in 2004. Heat is his second book for young people published in 2006. Lupica published a sequel to Heat recently called Strike Zone.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: War Stories by Gordon Korman

Image: Mr. Schu Reads

War Stories by Gordon Korman. 240 p. Scholastic Inc., July 20, 2019. 9781338290202.

Waiting on Wednesday features War Stories by Gordon Korman. Korman is a TMS favorite and his many books are often checked out for most of the school year. I learned about this in a "Cover Reveal" on Mr. Schu's blog. (Link above.)

Publisher synopsis: There are two things Trevor loves more than anything else: playing war-based video games and his great-grandfather Jacob, who is a true-blue, bona fide war hero. At the height of the war, Jacob helped liberate a small French village, and was given a hero's welcome upon his return to America.

Now it's decades later, and Jacob wants to retrace the steps he took during the war -- from training to invasion to the village he is said to have saved. Trevor thinks this is the coolest idea ever. But as they get to the village, Trevor discovers there's more to the story than what he's heard his whole life, causing him to wonder about his great-grandfather's heroism, the truth about the battle he fought, and importance of genuine valor.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Superman by Matt de la Peña

Image: Penguin Random House
Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Peña. DC Icons series #4. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~ 7 hours. Narrated by Andrew Eiden. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, March, 2019. 9781984832610. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Own hc.)

Teen Tuesday features Superman: dawn breaker by Matt de la Peña. This is the fourth book in the DC Icons series where YA authors weigh in with origin stories of sorts of well, four DC superheroes. Superman: dawn breaker tells of high school senior Clark Kent's coming of age. He always knew he had powers that none of his peers had, but now his strength is scaring him. He's afraid that he will do more harm than good when he's called upon to use them because he has trouble harnessing his power. At the same time, immigrant workers are disappearing and a corporation has been buying up the area farms. de la Peña cleverly blends contemporary immigration issues as well as other ethical dilemmas here. The thoughtful parts are punctuated with actions scenes that should keep fans of the the superhero engaged. 

Eiden was a new-to-me narrator when I listened to his performance of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. My Goodreads note said I was delighted with the performance. I didn't love his growly delivery in this one and his female character vocalizations were annoying. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and arc review: Roll with It by Jamie Sumner

Image: Simon &  Schuster
Roll with It by Jamie Sumner. 256 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, October1, 2019. 9781534442559. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

For most of her life, it has just been Ellie and her mother living in Nashville, dealing with wheelchairs, cerebral palsy and IEPs. Her mom successfully advocated for an aide for Ellie, but she occasionally finds a way to escape. Ellie is not your typical sunshine and roses kid in a wheel chair. She has an edge and a dream. She loves to cook and bake and aspires to be a celebrity chef. Life is pretty good in Nashville; but then Ellie's grandad's Alzheimer's disease begins to worsen, Ellie's mom decides to move the family to Oklahoma. This means living in a trailer where Ellie can't navigate without help. It also means attending a school that is not quite equipped to handle Ellie's special needs as well as being the new kid - in a wheelchair. 

Well, I swallowed this one whole. I loved the voice from page one. Terrific writing. Great characters. Realistic issues. Kids are going to adore this, especially if they enjoyed Out of My Mind! Impressive debut! Looking forward to Ms. Sumner's sophomore novel.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

#tbt: A Series of Unfortunate Events Turns 20!

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1. 224 p. HarperCollins Publishers, August, 1999. 

#tbt features The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. The Bad Beginning was published in August of 1999, making this the 20th anniversary. This book launched the thirteen book series featuring the Baudelaire siblings and all the unfortunate events that happen to them starting with the death of their parents in a fire. The evil Count Olaf is intent on adopting them in order to obtain the fortune left to them. The books are darkly humorous and feature the siblings facing one terrible situation after another.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Wrecking Ball by Jeff Kinney

Image: Abrams
Wrecking Ball by Jeff Kinney. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14. 224 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, November 5, 2019. 9781419739033.

Publisher synopsis: In Wrecking Ball, Book 14 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series—from #1 international bestselling author Jeff Kinney—an unexpected inheritance gives Greg Heffley’s family a chance to make big changes to their house. But they soon find that home improvement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Once the walls come down, all sorts of problems start to crop up. Rotten wood, toxic mold, unwelcome critters, and something even more sinister all make Greg and his family wonder if the renovations are worth the trouble. When the dust finally settles, will the Heffleys be able to stay . . . or will they need to get out of town?

This the circulation for this series remains robust. Even I cannot wait.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Teen Tuesday: Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

Image: Penguin Random House

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon. 368 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, August, 2019. 9780525517641. (Review of finished book borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon. Brandon's debut is a historical fiction set in 1973 during the Watergate hearings, when Americans are still fighting in Vietnam and homosexuality is considered to be a mental illness. Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins lives a sad and lonely life at home and at school. He's bullied at school, his alcoholic father is distant; he misses his mother terribly and he's also missing his best and only friend, Starla, who is away demonstrating agains the war. His only refuge is a small crawlspace beyond his closet where he retreats to write, commune with his hero, Ziggy Stardust and occasionally talk to his mother and other dead relatives. When new kid, Web enters his life, Jonathan is thunderstruck. Web is everything Jonathan is not, fearless, comfortable in his own skin and, impossibly, Web seems to like Jonathan!

This coming-of-age novel vividly evokes the tumult of 1973 as well as Jonathan's journey to self-acceptance in his first-person, stream-of-consciousness narration. I will admit that it took me a while to feel comfortable with it. I kept stopping to reread because I felt I missed something. Once I settled, the book was hard to put down. Jonathan's story is painfully compelling. Thankfully, there were lighter moments to ease the tension. 

I was sorry to be reading a library copy because there were quite a few passages of absolutely gorgeous writing I would've highlighted to savor later. I also adored the voice and may check to see if there are plans for an audiobook. This is one I would definitely reread. Mature teen readers are in for quite a bit of discomfort as Jonathan's journey unfolds. Jonathan and Web are two characters who will leave an indelible mark on your heart. An author's note at the end helpfully provides historical context and more information.

Ziggy, Stardust and Me is the book for you if you love historical fiction, romance and David Bowie. Impressive debut. I look forward to reading more from James Brandon.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Taking Stock - September

Wowzers! September sure went by fast! 

Total Books: 14/ 266
Total Posts: 27
Total Reviews: 14

Debut: 2/13
Audio: 6/75
Picture Books: 0!

The Good: Good thing I got 10 books ahead in my GR goal during the final week of summer break because now I'm 7 books behind! 

The Bad: I might be in a bit of a reading slump that can't be totally blamed on the energy I need to get back into the swing of school, lesson planning and grading. Added to that was the stress of taking care of my ailing dog most of the summer. We had to put him down on August 28. I am definitely still grieving. While I was crying all day that day, my husband was on the Internet searching for a puppy. We all grieve differently. We always got our puppies in June when I was off and had the time to housebreak and set consistent rules. This extra stress is taking its toll on my reading as well. He's adorable though and quite smart and sassy. His name is Boo, as in Boo Radley. He came very close to being called Soof. 

The List: 253. Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (9/1)*(90)
254. We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (9/2)(91)

Summer reading total (91)

255. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie (9/7)
256. Mother Goose of Pudding Lane: a small tall tale by Chris Raschka (9/10)
257. Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan (9/10)
258. The Unteachables by Gordon Korman (9/11)
259. This Bridge Will Not be Gray by Dave Eggers (9/17)
260. Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1) (9/20)
261. Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage (9/22)*(SLJ)
262. Diary of a Pug: Pug blasts off by Sonia Sander (9/22)
263. To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (9/23)
264. White Rose by Kip Wilson (9/27)
265. Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich (9/28)
266. Wannabe Farms by Brian McCann (9/29)(SLJ)

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy. 288 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, October 1, 2019. 9780062473073. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy. Happy book birthday tomorrow to Dear Sweet Pea, Murphy's middle grade debut. Older readers might be familiar with Murphy's YA fare, Dumplin' and Puddin'. 

Patricia "Sweet Pea" DiMarco's parents are getting a divorce. They want to keep things civilized and easy for Sweet Pea, so her father buys a nearly identical house two doors down the block. It's a little weird spending half the week in her dad's new house. She has belongings in both places, only her cat, Cheese remains at mom's house. Each time she changes houses she passes Miss Flora Mae's house. Miss Flora Mae is usually in her sun room working on her advice column, "Miss Flora Mae I?" Sweet Pea is fascinated by her. She has even written to her asking for advice and wonders why Miss Flora Mae did not write back. At school, she's stuck sitting near her ex-best friend, Kiera, who disses her at every opportunity. Luckily, her new best friend, Oscar is there to prop her up.

When Miss Flora Mae has to go away for a few weeks, she asks Sweet Pea to tend to her plants and forward her mail. She's very particular about how she wants Sweet Pea to perform these duties. One day, Sweet Pea spies a letter with familiar handwriting on it and decides to open it. Once she reads it, she writes her advice and mails it to Miss Flora Mae's editor. Seeing her words published gives Sweet Pea such a thrill that she can't resist answering a few more letters. What can go wrong?

Whelp, I devoured this in one sitting. Murphy makes a splash with her middle grade debut here. It's wonderful! Great voice, terrific characters, funny and relatable. I would love to reread this with my ears. Sweet Pea is matter-of-fact about being a bit overweight. Her parents do not make an issue of it. They are also attentive and involved in her life. She's a thoughtful seventh grader who is distracted by most things most seventh graders are distracted by. 

Readers who want a gentle, humorous story about navigating family changes, friendship changes and school will love Sweet Pea. Highly recommended!

Saturday, September 28, 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: Simon & Schuster
The Unmapped Chronicles: Casper Tock and the Everdark Wings by Abi Elphinstone. 373 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, January 7, 2020. 9781534443075.

Publisher synopsis: Casper Tock hates risks and is allergic to adventures. So it comes as a nasty shock to him one day when he hides from bullies in an ancient grandfather clock—and ends up finding an entire world inside.
Casper discovers that this sky kingdom of Rumblestar is one of the four Unmapped Kingdoms in charge of controlling the weather in Casper’s own world. What’s more, Casper is now stuck in Rumblestar, and the only person there who doesn’t think he’s a demon spy is a strange girl named Utterly, who hates rules and is allergic to behaving.

All Casper wants is to find his way home, but Rumblestar is in trouble. An evil harpy called Morg is trying to steal the magic of the Unmapped Kingdoms. And if these kingdoms fall, Casper’s world will be destroyed as well.

And so, together with Utterly and her miniature dragon, Arlo, Casper embarks on a quest full of cloud giants, storm ogres, and drizzle hags. Can he, Utterly, and Arlo—the unlikeliest of heroes—save both their worlds from the clutches of Morg?

Image: Hanover Square Press
A Truth Worth Telling: a reporter's search for meaning in the stories of our times by Scott Kelley. Hanover Square Press, May, 2019. 9781335999146.

Publisher synopsis: An inspiring memoir from the frontlines of history by the award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent.

Don’t ask the meaning of life. Life is asking, what’s the meaning of you?

With this provocative question, Truth Worth Telling introduces us to unforgettable people who discovered the meaning of their lives in the historic events of our times.

A 60 Minutes correspondent and former anchor of the CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley writes as a witness to events that changed our world. In moving, detailed prose, he stands with firefighters at the collapsing World Trade Center on 9/11, advances with American troops in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reveals private moments with presidents (and would-be presidents) he’s known for decades. Pelley also offers a resounding defense of free speech and a free press as the rights that guarantee all others.

Above all, Truth Worth Telling offers a collection of inspiring tales that reminds us of the importance of values in uncertain times. For readers who believe that values matter and that truth is worth telling, Pelley writes, “I have written this book for you.”

Pelley was the closing keynote of the SLJ Summit I attended this past weekend. 

Purchased: Nothing!

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, September 27, 2019

Fact Friday Banned Books Week Edition: This Day in June by Gayle E. Pittman

Image: Magination Press

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pittman PhD. Illustrated by Kristyna Litten. unpgd. Magination Press/ APA, 2014. 978-1-4338-1658-1.

Fact Friday Banned Books Week edition features This Day in June by Gayle E. Pittman PhD. This informational picture book for all ages is a story in rhyme that takes place at a Pride parade and is joyously illustrated by Kristyna Litten. Back matter includes facts about LGBTQ history as well as discussion points for guiding acceptance and respect for differences. Half of the top ten books that were banned or challenged in 2018 were because of LGBTQ content. Let's celebrate our freedom to read and work to understand and respect other points of view.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

#tbt Banned Books Week Edition: Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Image: Scholastic
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. 144 p. Scholastic Inc., September, 1997. (Own)

#tbt features The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. In September of 1997, Captain Underpants burst on the scene with main characters, George and Harold causing hilarious mayhem around their elementary school much to the dismay of the principal, Mr. Krupp. The original series was done in black and white interior illustrations. In 2013, the series was reissued in color.

Captain Underpants grew into a twelve-book series, with several spin-off series, most notably, Dog Man. It is an international best seller which has been translated into over 30 languages and adapted for film.  It hit the list of most banned and challenged books in 2013 and 2014. In 2018, it was number three on the list. The reason for challenging? The series encourages children to misbehave as well for depicting a same-sex couple in one of the books.

Tra-la-la! Celebrate your freedom to read!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Dogman #8: Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey

Image: Scholastic Inc.
Dogman #8: Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey. 240 p. Scholastic Inc., December 10, 2019. 9781338323214. 

Publisher synopsis: Petey the Cat is out of jail, and he has a brand-new lease on life. While Petey's reevaluated what matters most, Li'l Petey is struggling to find the good in the world. Can Petey and Dog Man stop fighting like cats and dogs long enough to put their paws together and work as a team? They need each other now more than ever — Li'l Petey (and the world) is counting on them!

I couldn't really continue the "Banned Books Week Theme" with a "Waiting on Wednesday" post. No one can predict which books coming down the pipeline will be challenged or banned. Potentially, any book can for any reason. So I chose an author who has a book coming soon and who also had one of his books make the top ten of 2018. Tune in tomorrow for #tbt.