Thursday, February 28, 2019

#tbt: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Myers. 288p. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. 9780060280772. (Own.)

#tbt features Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Monster was published in 1999 and is a story told partly as a diary and partly in screenplay format. It was a National Book Award Finalist in 1999, was given a Coretta Scott King Author Honor and won the very first Printz Award in 2000. 

Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder in a robbery that went bad. While he was coerced into participating in the robbery, he did not pull the trigger. Myers explores themes of peer pressure, race and justice in this short, riveting docudrama. Fun Fact: the cover was illustrated by his son, Christopher, who often collaborated with his father along with writing and illustrating his own books.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Frankly in Love by David Yoon. 432 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, September 10, 2019. 9781984812209.

Publisher synopsis: High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo—his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents' traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance—"Date Korean"—which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful—and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they'll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it's the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy's fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love—or himself—at all.

Fell instantly head-over-heels for this cover when I saw the reveal a couple of weeks ago on Twitter. Then I fell again for the premise. Here's a link to David Yoon's web page.Cannot wait to share this with my students! 

ETA: David posted a video of the creation of that fantastic cover here

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~14 hours. Read by Steve West. Ashland/ Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018. 9781549147319. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Own hardcover.)

Teen Tuesday features Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. This is book two of the duology that began with Strange the Dreamer. Teen readers absolutely must have read Strange the Dreamer to understand and appreciate Muse of Nightmares. Taylor's books are not for the faint of heart. They are long, layered and complex, feature intriguing otherworldly and human characters, gods and monsters, intricate worldbuilding, some humor, romance and a good deal of violence.

Muse of Nightmares picked up immediately after Stranger the Dreamer's breathtaking conclusion. Spoiler alert: Sarai is a ghost. Lazlo is a god. Minya is the only thing tethering Sarai to this world. She wants Lazlo to destroy Weep and do her bidding. If Lazlo does not, he loses Sarai. If he does, he loses everything. It is truly a no-win situation for all. 

Steve West's growly performance transported me right back to the citadel and all its mysteries. Some were unfolded near the end of Strange the Dreamer, others unfolded in book two and confused until it all came together in a rather stunning climax. I'm becoming a fan of duologies. I like getting to know characters and don't mind a cliffhanger if I know it'll all be resolved in the next book. Series that go on and on with cliffhanger after cliffhanger tend to lose steam and the cliffhanger no longer has the intensity it once had. Instead, it induces eye rolls and a grudging acceptance.*

West's pace was almost leisurely and he handles the many distinct voices seamlessly making the fourteen-plus hours of listening fly. 

I highly recommend both books for your mature readers of fantasy. I'm in a middle school and have them on my eighth grade only shelf. It's a rare younger teen with the stamina and maturity to tackle such books, but I do happily have a few and am happy to have Laini Taylor's books to hand to them. 

*Last summer I read a book with my ears that I thought was the end of the series. As I approached the final disc, I realized that a lot of action was still happening and there was very little time for resolution. I sighed and sort of switched to auto-pilot listening through the last disc in resignation as I prepared to cliff hang for the next and hopefully final installment. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Miles Morales: Spider Man by Jason Reynolds

Miles Morales: Spider Man by Jason Reynolds. Unabridged audiobook on six compact discs. 414 minutes. Read by Guy Lockard. Books on Tape/ Listening Library, 2017. 9780525527144. (Review of audiobook borrowed from public library. Own hardcover.)

Middle Grade Monday features Miles Morales: Spiderman by Jason Reynolds. This Marvel Comic adaptation is set in Brooklyn and features Afro-Latino teenager Miles, who, thanks to his uncle, was bitten by a mechanical spider and now possesses superpowers. He feels some anger toward his uncle and guilt over his death. At school his spidey sense has sent him on some false alarms and has gotten him in trouble with his vile history teacher, who seems to have it in for him. This novelization of the Marvel hero is an action-packed page-turner; yet it also manages to create a vivid Brooklyn setting and nuanced characters. 

Guy Lockard has narrated most of Reynolds' audiobooks and he does a fine job here. He has a nice variety of voices and his pacing is brisk. Miles Morales belongs in every school and public library. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Double the Fun Picture Book Review! We've Got the Whole World in our Hands by Rafael López

We've Got the Whole World in our Hands adapted and illustrated by Rafael López. 


We've Got the Whole World in our Hands/ Tenemos el Mundo entero en las Manos adapted and illustrated by Rafael López. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc. October, 2018. 9781338177367 (English). 9781338299502 (Spanish). (Reviews of finished copies courtesy of publisher.)

I love decorated end-pages. I love it when artists find a way to connect their illustrations. I love yarn. It can entangle but it mostly knits together to form something beautiful. I also happen to love the spiritual, We've Got the Whole World in our Hands. It's short range matches mine and I could always manage to sing it at mass without embarrassing myself. It's a pleasant earworm to have and I've had it since reading these two delightful editions.

This book has it all, a gorgeous embossed cover, luscious end-pages and vibrant, joyful double-page spreads connected by an endless ball of variegated yarn. One cannot help but smile while reading the book. Actually, one should not read it. One should sing it - even with a pitiable voice as mine. It also possesses a cover dilemma:

What could make the book better? Why, a bilingual edition of course! Backmatter includes a note about the spiritual an illustrator note and the sheet music. Either or both of these books are a must-have for all kinds of libraries. 

Saturday, February 23, 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:

You are Light by Aaron Becker. 16 p. Candlewick Press, March 26, 2019. 9781536201154.

Publisher synopsis: This is the light that brings the day.

Open this beautiful book to find a graphic yellow sun surrounded by a halo of bright die-cut circles. Now hold the page up to the light and enjoy the transformation as the colors in those circles glow. In an elegant, sparely narrated ode to the phenomenon of light, Aaron Becker follows as light reflects off the earth to warm our faces, draws up the sea to make the rain, feeds all the things that grow, and helps to create all the brilliant wonders of the world, including ourselves.

Gifted: I went out for dinner with an author friend of mine, who passed on a box filled with books that I will pass on to Never Counted Out and this:

Not if I Can Help It by Carolyn Mackler. 234 p. Scholastic Press, July 30, 2019. 9780545709484. 

Publisher synopsis: Willa likes certain things to be certain ways. Her socks have to be soft . . . and definitely can't have irritating tags on the inside. She loves the crunch of popcorn and nachos . . . but is grossed out by the crunch of a baby carrot. And slimy foods? Those are the worst.

Willa can manage all these things -- but there are some things she can't deal with, like her father's big news. He's been keeping a big secret from her . . . that he's been dating the mom of Willa's best friend Ruby. Willa does NOT like the idea of them being together. And she does NOT like the idea of combining families. And she does NOT like the idea of her best friend becoming her sister overnight. Will she go along with all of these changes? NOT if she can help it!


Granted by John David Anderson. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs. 7.5 hours. Read by Cassandra Morris. HarperAudio, February, 2019. 9781538498439.

Publisher synopsis: From John David Anderson, author of MS. BIXBY'S LAST DAY, one of the most acclaimed and beloved books of 2016, comes GRANTED--a hilarious, heartfelt, and unforgettable novel about a fairy-in-training, and her first wish-granting assignment.

If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or whatever that's called. But I will check out your stack!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Fact Friday: How to be a good creature: a memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery

How to be a good creature: a memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery. 200 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September, 2018. 9780544938328. (Review of purchased copy.)

Happy Friday TMS Readers! Fact Friday features How to be a good creature: a memoir in thirteen animals by Sy Montgomery. Close listeners to the student announcements and/ or close readers of the posts in our TMS Reads! group might recognize the author as her books have been featured here on Fact Friday. She goes on research expeditions with working scientists, assists, observes and returns home to write award-winning books about the scientists, their work and the animals they study. She has been an animal lover from childhood and this collection of thirteen essays featuring animals, as well as pets that inspired her is lovely. The stories are illustrated in black and grey-toned folk-style spot art and followed by pages of photographs of most of the animals that inspired Montgomery to be a better creature. Additional backmatter consists of books that have influenced Montgomery as well as a list of her books for both adult and young readers. 

Hand How to be a good creature to thoughtful animal lovers, students looking for a unique memoir, or just about anyone. The stories are deeply personal and wonderful.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#tbt: Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Deadline by Chris Crutcher. 316 p. Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publisher, September, 2007. 9780060850890. (Own.)

Happy Thursday, TMS Readers! As we slide onto the downside of our February break, I hope you are reading lots and having fun. #tbt features Deadline by Chris Crutcher, one of my favorite authors. Deadline was published in 2007. Eighteen-year-old Ben Wolf is our narrator. The fact that Ben is eighteen is very important here because when he gets his routine yearly sports physical and blood tests show he has a fatal blood disease and maybe one year to live, with or without treatment, Ben decides against treatment and demands confidentiality from his doctor. His mother suffers from a debilitating mental illness and his rock-steady father is often on the road. He wants to live his best life in the time he has. Weepie warning! You will cry! But you will also laugh and fall in love with Ben Wolf.

My "Daily Booktalks" for the morning news show, my TMS Reads group in Schoology and for the Closter Public Library's FB page are, by necessity short. It is here on my blog where I can carry on a bit more when I have the time or inclination.

Last week, while making room on the YA shelves at school, I realized that I never featured Chris Crutcher on a #tbt post! I can't remember how I learned of him or which of his books I read first, but I've read most of them and adored them all. Choosing which to feature was a tough one. I opted for Deadline partly because it's the newest of his older titles and partly because my personal copy happens to be signed by him.

I had read it already when I attended an ALAN workshop in 2007. I saw him at the Author Cocktail Party and raved about the book and how it should've come with a box of tissue. Oh, how I cried. I hadn't started blogging yet so I've no record of my thoughts about the book but it sure did stick with me over the years. I nearly got sucked into settling in to reread it as I created this post. As luck should have it, a copy was in the box and he spoke at the workshop, so I hopped on the signing line and got this:

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

The Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt. 336 p. Atheneum/ Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, March 12, 2019. 9781442421097.

Publisher synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is an angel thief. After his mother’s family rejected him for being born out of wedlock, he and his dad moved to the apartment above a local antique shop. The only payment the owner Mrs. Walker requests: marble angels, stolen from graveyards, for her to sell for thousands of dollars to collectors. But there’s one angel that would be the last they’d ever need to steal; an angel, carved by a slave, with one hand open and one hand closed. If only Cade could find it...

Zorra, a young ocelot, watches the bayou rush past her yearningly. The poacher who captured and caged her has long since lost her, and Zorra is getting hungrier and thirstier by the day. Trapped, she only has the sounds of the bayou for comfort—but it tells her help will come soon.

Before Zorra, Achsah, a slave, watched the very same bayou with her two young daughters. After the death of her master, Achsah is free, but she’ll be damned if her daughters aren’t freed with her. All they need to do is find the church with an angel with one hand open and one hand closed...

In a masterful feat, National Book Award Honoree Kathi Appelt weaves together stories across time, connected by the bayou, an angel, and the universal desire to be free.

A new book by Kathi Appelt is always something to look forward to! Her books always have such rich language and emotional intensity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Teen Tuesday: Fat Angie Rebel Girl Revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat Angie Rebel Girl Revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. 344 p. Candlewick Press, March 5, 2019. 9780763693459. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Good morning TMS Readers! Teen Tuesday features Fat Angie: rebel girl revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. Readers of Fat Angie know that Angie was in a better place at the end. Unfortunately, KC decided to move in with her dad and moved away from Angie, leaving her to start the school year alone. Jake, her best friend has been acting weird lately. Her awful mother continues to be awful. Her brother, Wang continues to be Wang and her sister is still dead. So, she runs the gauntlet alone knowing Gary Klein is lying in wait. And then there's the monument the town has built to honor her sister. It's all just too much. When Gary attacks her and she fights back, bloodying his nose in the process, it is Angie who is suspended. Her mother grounds her and threatens have her committed to a psychiatric hospital before leaving on a business trip. Angie trashes her room and decides to take that road trip her sister wrote about in a postcard. She does this with an ex-best friend, Jamboree and her friend Zeke and her cousin Darius, of all people. Darius, who saw what Gary did and stood by. Did nothing. Said nothing. 

There's a lot of heartbreak on the road to hope here. Angie found a permanent place in my heart in Fat Angie so I was thrilled, but worried to visit with her again. (Kind of like the feeling I get when a student who had a hard time in middle school comes back to visit - equal parts delight, hope and anxiety.) Her inner dialogue is so brilliantly astute and often hilarious. It rarely comes out of her mouth because the people around her would prefer to pass judgment than to take the time to see. Her self-worth has been emotionally (and sometimes physically) beaten out of her and she is intensely grieving the loss of the only person who really knew her and loved her unconditionally.

Not gonna lie: this is a tough read. The violence Angie endures at the hands of Gary and her mother stuns. The debilitating panic attacks Angie suffers are so vivid, I didn't realize that I was holding my breath until I let it out. And, I dare you not to sob near the end in the scene at the Ohio River. It is so hard to read through tears.

Fat Angie Rebel Girl Revolution can stand alone but do yourself a favor and read Fat Angie first.  

Monday, February 18, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate

The Last by Katherine Applegate. Endling Book One. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~7 hours. Read by Lisa Flanagan. HarperAudio, May, 2018. 9780062841452. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Own the hardcover.)

Little Byx, the youngest and smallest of dairnes, disobeys her parents to wander away from their home. She gets caught up in the rescue of a wobbyk, and nearly loses her life. When she finally returns home, it is to discover that her entire clan has been slaughtered. She is the last, the endling, but there is a legend of a pack that are hidden away and with the help of the wobbyk, Tobble and a human, she sets off on a quest to find them.

I must admit upfront that, eager as I was when I learned that Applegate had a new book dropping, my eagerness waned when I saw the cover and read the synopsis. Oh! Me of little faith! This story is absolutely gorgeous! The world building is vivid, help along by the occasional illustrations (in the book) to mark the parts. The characters were engaging, some endearing, some scary. The story was also surprisingly and sometimes scarily violent. But there were also moments of poignancy and subtle social connections to our present climate. 

New-to-me narrator, Lisa Flanagan delivered a fine range of voices but it was the emotional performance that stood out. I felt totally immersed. 

Endling is highly recommended and I cannot wait for the next installment, The First, due out May 7. 

Saturday, February 16, 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:

We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey. 249 p. Crown Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, March 5, 2019. 9781524773042.

Publisher synopsis: Imagine being forced to move to a new planet where YOU are the alien! From the creator of the Tapper Twins, New York Times bestselling author Geoff Rodkey delivers a topical, sci-fi middle-grade novel that proves friendship and laughter can transcend even a galaxy of differences.

The first time I heard about Planet Choom, we'd been on Mars for almost a year. But life on the Mars station was grim, and since Earth was no longer an option (we may have blown it up), it was time to find a new home.

That's how we ended up on Choom with the Zhuri. They're very smart. They also look like giant mosquitos. But that's not why it's so hard to live here. There's a lot that the Zhuri don't like: singing (just ask my sister, Ila), comedy (one joke got me sent to the principal's office), or any kind of emotion. The biggest problem, though? The Zhuri don't like us. And if humankind is going to survive, it's up to my family to change their minds. No pressure.

I won this thanks to a giveaway by the author. I was so happy to even see the tweet and put the book on my order because I am a huge fan of his Tapper Twins books. I was lucky to review the first two for SLJ and have three in my library. Imagine my surprise when I looked up We're Not from Here to order and learned of a fourth Tapper Twins book! Who knew?

Purchased: Still have gift cards but still have a mountain of books on the tbr pile! Enough!

If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or whatever that's called. But I will check out your stack!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Fact Friday and Audiobook Review: Proud (Young Reader's Edition): living my American dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Proud: living my American dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori L. Tharps. Unabridged audiobook on 8 compact discs. ~9.2 hours.  Read by the author. Hachette Audio, 2018. 9781549172908. (Review of audiobook borrowed from the public library. Own Young Reader's Edition.)

Fact Friday features Proud: living my American dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad is the first hijabi to win Olympic bronze and one of few people of color in the predominantly white sport of fencing. Her memoir covers her life growing up in Maplewood, NJ, a suburb of Newark through the 2016 Olympics, where she and her teammates captured the bronze medal in the saber event. 

As the only Muslim in her class, she often encountered racism and micro-aggressions. But when she began wearing hijab, comments and taunts escalated and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she often faced blatant hatred. She found strength in her religion, her close-knit family and sport. However, competing in sport was often a challenge due to the necessity to be covered modestly. When Muhammad was in eighth grade, her mother noticed the fencing team practicing at their local high school. The team members were covered from head to toe in protective clothing. Ibtihaj would not stand out. But, she eventually would stand out as a fencer.

Participating in a predominantly white sport as the first muslim athlete brought many challenges, adding to the stress and loneliness of high caliber training and competition. Honestly, I don't know how she did it. The racism and animosity were relentless and infuriating. This is an inspirational and important story. Hand to fans of sports memoirs and fencing fans.

I accidentally ordered the wrong edition of the audiobook from the public library. The adult version is narrated by the author, whose performance, though earnest lacked variety of expression and nuance. The Young Reader's Audiobook is read by someone else, I assume a professional reader and will check that out when my hold comes up. I recommend reading this with one's eyes. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

#tbt: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. The Bartimaeus Trilogy #1. Miramax Books/ Hyperion Books for Children, 2003. 9780786818594. (Own.)

#tbt features The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. This is book one of The Bartimaeus Trilogy in which the chapters alternate between the first-person, foot-noted narrative of Bartimaeus, an ancient Djinni and Nathaniel, the twelve-year-old apprentice who released him, and whose story is told in the third-person. Nathaniel is a prickly, arrogant and unlikeable apprentice magician whose mentor, Arthur Underwood is uninterested at best and negligent at worst. Since Underwood won't teach him properly, Nathaniel sets out to teach himself. He releases Bartimaeus and enslaves him to do his bidding. Barti is magically bound to do so, but seeks to kill Nathaniel at the first opportunity. This alternate universe fantasy is thrilling, suspenseful and often hilarious. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm

Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm. 224 p. Graphix/ Scholastic, October 1, 2019. 9781338233155.

Publisher synopsis: Too cool for school...or the least groovy girl in the grade?

Sunny's made it to middle school... and it's making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny's not against any of these things, but she also doesn't understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She's much more comfortable when she's in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends. Because when you're sword fighting and spider-slaying, it's hard to worry about whether you look cool or nor. Especially when it's your turn to roll the 20-sided die.

Trying hard to be cool can make you feel really uncool...and it's much more fun to just have fun. Sunny's going to find her groove and her own kind of groovy, with plenty of laughs along the way.
This series is wildly popular at my school. I can't wait for this!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jacket/ Cover Dilemmas

I've been working in school libraries for twenty-one years this month. Over the years, I've covered a lot of books. First, I was the aide and that was part of my job. Then, when I was hired as the full-time librarian, my position was eliminated! So, no aide for me and I refused to spend the money to buy my books pre-cataloged. Actually, I did that one year and realized that I had no idea what I put on the shelf. There's value in cataloging and handling every single book even if processing takes a really long time because you stop to peruse more than a few books!

Every so often I would notice a cover decoration different than the jacket illustration, but I'd tape that baby down as tight as possible. Students can be very hard on library books! I definitely noticed when I covered Matthew Cordell's Wolf in the Snow. I opted not to tape the front part down. I thought I took a photo of it, but can't find it.

I don't know why, but it seems like I've noticed quite a few recently. 

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown.

Hey Kiddo! by Jarrett Krosozcka.

Strongheart by Candace Fleming.

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling.

It's kind of funny that I never take the jackets off books in my personal library, so these are only discovered thanks to my being a librarian. But then, I need to tape down the covers to prolong the life of the book. Such a dilemma! I plan on paying more attention and posting as the dilemmas arise, like my occasional "Cover Coincidence" posts. Stay tuned. 

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook. ~9 hours. Read by Eileen Stevens. (Review from e-book borrowed from public library.)

Willowdean Dickson is confident and brazenly unapologetic about her size despite being the daughter of a teen beauty pageant-winning mother who takes pride in still fitting her gown from the pageant. Will's confidence is due in large part due to her relationship with her Aunt Lucy, her mother's morbidly obese sister, who died six months earlier of a massive heart attack. Will is still grieving. Her mom has refused to talk about Lucy and she's about to start cleaning out Lucy's room in order to turn it into a crafts room. Lucy basically raised Willowdean to allow Will's single-parent mom to work as an aide in a nursing home and run the pageant yearly. She loved Willowdean unconditionally. 

When her secret crush on "private school boy" seems reciprocated, Will swoons into her first kiss until he embraces her and runs his hand over her back-fat, causing her to lose confidence and fear the reactions of her classmates should word get out. 

She pities several classmates who are bullied mercilessly, namely another fat girl named Millie and Hannah, who is made fun of because of her crooked teeth. Also unsettling her is her friendship with Ellen. They've been bfs forever, ever since bonding over a shared love of Dolly Parton. But Ellen, has a boyfriend and is considering losing her virginity, which leaves Will feeling even more left behind. Also, Ellen's skinny co-workers openly wonder why she's friends with Willowdean. All this tests their friendship. Ellen supports her decision to enter the beauty pageant, but it is Willowdean's suggestion that Ellen not compete in the pageant that fractures the friendship.

Oh my! How I adore this book! It took me forever to get to because most of the reviews' recommended age is grade 9 and up and I've a hard enough time keeping up with middle grade and younger YA! As soon as it was adapted for movie, I knew I had to read it and put myself on the lo-ong waiting list for the audio. As soon as any YA book is made into a movie, I have fifth graders coming in to check the books out and I have to invite them to go across the street to public library. 

The movie cut out most of the frank stuff that caused reviewers to recommend the reading to high school readers. And that is a shame because it's smart and incisive stuff, like deciding to lose one's virginity. I was also sad to see that the Mitchell storyline was cut from the movie. I loved Mitchell and my heart just broke for his earnest self.

But  this is supposed to be an audiobook review. Eileen Stevens is a new-to-me narrator and I need to look up what else she's done because her voice was like honey. She differentiated the female characters well. Added bonus: she sounded like a teen. 

Dumplin' is the best body-positive book I've read in a long time! It's one all teens should read-with the eyes or with the ears. Just read it! I loved it and can't wait to read its companion, Puddin'.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook, ~5 hours. Read by Sullivan Jones. Listening Library, August, 2018. 9780525643524. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Own hc edition.) 

Have you ever met a new friend who is fun and exciting and a bit older? Middle Grade Monday features The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon. Ten-year-old Caleb and eleven-year-old Bobby Gene are looking forward to summer but live in the most boring town ever with the most over-protective father ever. Bobby Gene is fine with this; but Caleb wants adventure and finds it when sixteen-year-old foster child Styx Malone moves in nearby. He oozes cool and seems to like Caleb. He likes Caleb so much he's even willing to let the boys in a what he calls "The Great Escalator Trade." What could go wrong?

Magoon is such a versatile author. From gritty realism to reimagined Robin Hood, she excels at developing characters we find interesting and come to care about. Readers will relate to the brothers' dilemmas after hooting about the fact that they traded their baby sister for a sack of fire works. This is a story that invites you in to sit awhile. Before you know it, you never want to leave. And can't, because first you just want to find out what hijinks is going to happen next. Then, once the real action starts, there's no way to close the book until you've read till the end.

Hilarious and heartbreaking, you won't soon forget Caleb, Bobby Gene and Styx. New to me narrator, Sullivan Jones nails the performance with unique voices and perfect pacing. Read with your eyes. Read with your ears. Make time to read The Season of Styx Malone.

Saturday, February 9, 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: nothing! Thank goodness since I am woefully behind!

Purchased: Finally got around to spending some of my gift cards!

The Wicked King by Holly Black. Folk of the Air series #2. Unabridged audiobook on _ compact discs. __ hours. Read by Caitlin Kelly. Hachette Audio, January, 2019. 9781549171314. 

Publisher synopsis: Don't read if you haven't read The Cruel Prince! After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince. Plus I have intense cover love for both books. 

If you leave a comment, I will definitely stop by and try to comment back - unless commenters have to sign onto Discus or whatever that's called. But I will check out your stack!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Fact Friday: Counting on Katherine: how Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker

Counting on Katherine: how Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. unpgd. Christy Ottaviano Books/ Henry Holt and Company, June, 2018. 9781250137524. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Fact Friday features Counting on Katherine: how Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker. Johnson of Hidden Figures fame gets her own picture book biography where readers learn that she loved to count at an early age. In fact, she was such a mathematical genius that she skipped three grades, graduating high school at age 14. Readers learn of the obstacles Katherine and her family had to overcome thanks to segregation in order for Katherine to receive the education she needed and that once she finished college, she could not find work as a research mathematician because the only jobs open to women were teaching and nursing. 

Thanks to the formation of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, Katherine was hired as a "computer," eventually earning such a reputation that astronaut John Glenn famously refused to fly until she had checked the numbers.

Johnson, who celebrated her 100th birthday last August, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015.

The computer-generated illustrations are vibrant, expressive and brilliantly incorporate math in them. Also effective were two that bookend the story, of young Katherine and adult Katherine contemplating the moon. Even the end-pages sport mathematic calculations.

Backmatter includes a page and a half with more about Katherine and nine sources. This is a worthy addition to any library.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

#tbt: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. 311 p. The Underland Chronicles #1. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October, 2003. 9780439435369. (Own.)

#tbt features Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. This is book one of a five-book epic saga featuring young Gregor, reluctant hero and his intrepid baby sister, Boots. With his father missing for several years and his mother working to make ends meet, Gregor is in charge of babysitting Boots. He really doesn't mind. When she slips through a laundry chute in their  New York City apartment and disappears, Gregor follows after her. The two end up miles below New York City in a city called Regalia, where giant bats and cockroaches co-exist with humans. Giant rats, led by a king are threatening the rest of Regalia and there is an ancient prophecy involving a young overlander who will save them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin. 368 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 16, 2019. 9780316380881.

Publisher synopsis: When Caitlyn Breen enters the tiny Mitchell School in rural Mitchell, Vermont, she is a complete outsider: the seventh grade has just ten other kids, and they've known each other since kindergarten. Her classmates are in for a shock of their own: Paulie Fink—the class clown, oddball, troublemaker, and evil genius—is gone this year. 

As stories of Paulie's hijinks unfold, his legend builds, until they realize there's only one way to fill the Paulie-sized hole in their class. They'll find their next great Paulie Fink through a reality-show style competition, to be judged by the only objective person around: Caitlyn, who never even met Paulie Fink. Who was this kid, anyway—prankster, performance artist, philosopher, or fool? Caitlyn's quest to understand Paulie is about to teach her more about herself than she ever imagined.

Told via multiple voices, interviews, and other documents, The Next Great Paulie Fink is a lighthearted yet surprisingly touching exploration of how we build up and tear down our own myths...about others, our communities, and ourselves.

I read about this happy news in a PW article a couple of weeks ago. Love the cover, though it did trigger a "Cover Coincidence" post. As I noted there, I am psyched for this. I adored Benjamin's debut, The Thing about Jellyfish as do my students. I have two copies and they are usually checked out. Students usually come back with their friend in tow for me to check the book out to them! They also frequently ask for more books by the author. So thrilled I can now say yes!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Teen Tuesday and Audio Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahareh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea: a novel by Tahareh Mafi. Unabridged e-audiobook, 6.75 hours. Read by Priya Ayyar. HarperAudio, October, 2018. 9780062888198. (Review from audiobook downloaded from public library.)

Sixteen-year-old Shirin starts yet another new school due to her father's constant search for a higher paying job. It is one year since the 9/11 attacks and the hijab she takes comfort in wearing has made her a target of taunts and threats. Her defense is to appear impenetrable. Aside from her family, she lets no one close. When she's paired with Ocean in biology, she just wants to get the work done, but Ocean appears genuinely interested in her. She's not interested but there is something different about Ocean. 

This is a whip-smart romance with such an incredible voice in Shirin.  She's cynical, snarky and heartbreakingly blunt about the racism she encounters daily. The narration by Priya Ayaar was pitch perfect. She captured Shirin's introspective nature and punctuated it with subtle pauses and shifts in inflection.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea should be on all YA shelves. It's a unique romance, even for readers, like me, who dislike the romance genre.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, U.S. A. by Brenda Woods

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, U.S. A. by Brenda Woods. 208 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, January, 2019. 9781524737092. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

When Gabriel receives a brand new bicycle for his twelfth birthday, he cannot wait to ride it. Unfortunately, he runs a red light and seems headed for bone-crushing disaster when he is pushed out of the way by bystander. The bike is totaled but Gabriel is not, thanks to Meriwether, an African American man who is in town looking for a job. He fixes Gabriel's bike and Gabriel convinces his father to hire Meriwether to fix cars in his gas station. Not all are pleased with this arrangement in the Jim Crow south. Most notably, another mechanic named Lucas, who is rumored to be associated with the KKK. As a genuine friendship grows between Gabriel and Meriwether, Gabriel's awareness of the racism Meriwether deals with on a basis daily also grows.

Gabriel's voice is instantly engaging and the setting of Birdsong is vividly painted. I wrote on GR that Brenda Woods is the unsung hero of MG fiction. Seriously, most of her books clock in around 200 pages, feature interesting main characters with fascinating dilemmas and the writing is lovely. I just love her books.

This is the perfect introduction of life in the Jim Crow south for younger readers. An author's note provides context about the problems African American veterans encountered when they returned home from serving honorably during World War II. Seriously folks, a first-purchase. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Fact Friday: Barbara Jordan: politician and Civil Rights leader by Duchess Harris, JD, PHD

Barbara Jordan: politician and Civil Rights leader by Duchess Harris, JD, PHD. Freedom's Promise series. 48 p. Abdo Publishing, December, 2018. 9781532117664. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features Barbara Jordan: politician and Civil Rights leader by Duchess Harris, JD, PHD. Barbara Jordan grew up poor in Houston during the Jim Crow era. Her parents valued education and Jordan was bright and excelled in school.  She discovered debate in college and her team tied with Harvard in a competition. This inspired her to attend Boston University Law school. She was one of two black women in her class in 1959. Barbara Jordan's work ethic and her intellect earned her respect as a lawyer and she eventually moved into politics, where she was a pivotal figure in Richard Nixon's impeachment. 

This short, succinct biography of Barbara Jordan packs a punch. It is filled with photos and text boxes that provide context and extra information. Harris also challenges the reader to think critically and practice paraphrasing. On page 15, Harris quotes from Jordan's speech to the 1976 Democratic National Convention, then invites readers to adapt the passage. Helpful backmatter contains more facts about Barbara Jordan, a glossary and links to online resources. Page 44 contains ideas for extension activities that challenge critical thinking and encourage writing. 

Last fall, I reviewed the picture book, What do you do with a voice like that? The story of the extraordinary congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton. I was excited to add it to my 'Picture Book Biography Unit' for my sixth graders and went in search of a longer biography to add to my collection. Around the same time, I attended SLJ's Leadership Conference and learned that a brand new biography would be published by Abdo in the spring. Serendipity! Picture book biographies give students a taste for the subject and motivation to learn more. Harris' thoughtful rendering of the larger-than-life Jordan helps young researcher understand the complexities of the woman and the times. A solid purchase for any library. 

Friday Memes: Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo

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

Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo. 344 p. Candlewick Press, March 3, 2019. 9780763693459.

Publisher synopsis: More trouble at school and at home — and the discovery of a missive from her late soldier sister — send Angie and a long-ago friend on an RV road trip across Ohio.

Sophomore year has just begun, and Angie is miserable. Her girlfriend, KC, has moved away; her good friend, Jake, is keeping his distance; and the resident bully has ramped up an increasingly vicious and targeted campaign to humiliate her. An over-the-top statue dedication planned for her sister, who died in Iraq, is almost too much to bear, and it doesn't help that her mother has placed a symbolic empty urn on their mantel. At the ceremony, a soldier hands Angie a final letter from her sister, including a list of places she wanted the two of them to visit when she got home from the war. With her mother threatening to send Angie to a “treatment center” and the situation at school becoming violent, Angie enlists the help of her estranged childhood friend, Jamboree. Along with a few other outsiders, they pack into an RV and head across the state on the road trip Angie's sister did not live to take. It might be just what Angie needs to find a way to let her sister go, and find herself in the process.

First Line: Okay, this is a tough one because there are two pages containing a line or two of text before the first chapter which is entitled, "Cruel Summer."

i. There was a girl. Her name was Angie. She had fallen out of love...

ii. Well, not exactly.

1. This was the beginning, again.

Page 56: 
     Angie grinned. Her favorite part of any "family meal' was watching Wang duel with John/Rick.
     "You shouldn't eat that much wasabi," John/Rick advised. "It will make you sick."
     Wang picked up his sushi roll with the giant portion of wasabi and launched it into his mouth. Within seconds, tears screamed down his cheeks as he grin-chewed and swallowed.
     "Wang," said their mother.
     "What?" he said. "Now you're gonna tell me how to eat? Whatever.
      "Don't disrespect your mother, Wang." John/ Rick said. 
      Angie paused, chopsticks hovering over a Philadelphia roll.
      "You're not my dad, John/Rick," Wang said. "You have no authority in this house."

Angie earned a permanent place in my heart in Fat Angie. I am so thrilled that she's back even though she's in a terrible place. She's grieving the only individual in her life who loved her unconditionally and facing nearly constant bullying and put-downs at school as well as home. But she's whip-smart and very, very funny. I just adore her internal dialogue. Here's a sample from page 57:

...He would burn his esophagus out to spite John/ Rick-have fiery poop blaze out of his butt for an hour if necessary. Wang was fearless and, of course, not forward-thinking in his rebellion. Fiery poop was, well, fiery. Still, Angie wished she had a fraction of Wang's pushback...