Monday, September 30, 2019

Taking Stock - September

Wowzers! September sure went by fast! 

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

Challenges:
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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Teen Tuesday Banned Books Week Edition: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Image: HarperCollins
Teen Tuesday Banned Books Week Edition features The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Thomas' searing debut hit the New York Times bestseller list immediately and stayed there for a year. It also won numerous awards including the Morris Award, Coretta Scott King Author Award and a Printz Honor. it was published in 2017 and was a top ten challenged book in 2017. In 2018, it was the fourth most challenged book of the year for its mature themes, language and criticism of law enforcement. Both of my school library copies are falling apart from use. It's an eighth grade favorite! Check out my review here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Middle Grade Monday Banned Books Week Edition: George by Alex Gino

Image: Bannedbooksweek.orghttps://bannedbooksweek.org/

Image: Scholastic
George by Alex Gino. 224 p. Scholastic Inc., August, 2015. 9780545812542. (Own)

The last week of September is designated as Banned Books Week in the U.S. by the American Library Association to call attention to the fact that each year, books are challenged, burned and banned. Middle Grade Monday features George by Alex Gino. George was Gino's debut novel and was published in 2015. (Click here for my review of the arc.) It is the story of a fourth grader who wants to be cast as Charlotte in the school play. It is one of the first novels to feature a transgender character in middle grade fiction and, for that reason was one of the top ten banned or challenged book of 2016 and 2017. It was #1 for 2018.

Reading should be a matter of choice. Individuals may choose not to read a book for any reason. If you are a child, your parent may limit the type of book you are allowed to read. Individuals may not and should not demand the removal of books or limit access to materials for others. Celebrate your freedom to read.

Saturday, September 21, 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:
I am attending SLJ Leadership Summit in Baltimore this weekend. Lerner Publisher has a table and we were able to choose one free book from a large selection of titles. 
I chose:
Image: Lerner Publishing Group

More Than a Game: Race, Gender and Politics in Sports by Matt Doeden. 64 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, September, 2019. 9781541540941. 

Publisher synopsis: Sports has never been only about what takes place on the playing field. Author and sports fan Matt Doeden explores past and current controversies including black boxer Jack Johnson’s fight with the “Great White Hope” Tommy Burns, Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, Muhammad Ali’s refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, Colin Kaepernick’s protests, #MeToo and the US gymnastics team, and much more. Doeden weaves in information about Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter, and other essential background young readers will need. This book is sure to engage everyone interested in sports, history, and civil rights.

They also had a stack of copies of Queer. Much as I was tempted to grab that one, I chose to buy that title as an unlimited access e-book to allow my students to ability to explore without the potential embarrassment of checking out the book or carrying it. I am very excited about the title.

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 20, 2019

Conference Time!

Image: SLJ
This is my third SLJ Leadership Summit and I am so hooked on this PD! I took a personal day today in order to have a stress-free, leisurely drive down after the morning rush hour instead of smack dab in the evening one! Plus, driving at night and me? Not so fun!

I took a walk around the neighborhood and found Edgar Allan Poe's grave. No self-respecting librarian would visit Baltimore and not stop here! It was such an interesting place! I took tons of pictures of all manner of interment, from headstone to obelisk to mausoleum and I think I spied some catacombs through an opaque window. 

I will post pix later. I took my school computer and can't remember my FB password to get the pix downloaded!

I used to have such a great sense of direction. The cemetery was a short walk from the hotel and I managed to get lost returning. The day was gorgeous but I was tired and need to finish reading a book to review, so I sat in the lounge, had a beer and read. I adore this book!

This evening's activities include an opening reception and a dinner with a vendor. I am looking forward to an excellent weekend. 

Fact Friday: This Bridge Will Not be Gray by Dave Eggers

Image: Chronicle Books
This Bridge Will Not be Gray by Dave Eggers. Illustrated by Tucker Nichols. 112 p. Chronicle Books, March, 2018. 9781452162805. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features This Bridge Will Not be Gray by Dave Eggers. This book is really a biography—a biography of a bridge. Eggers takes the reader back to a time when the Golden Gate was passable only by boat. If you wanted to get to the towns beyond, you went the long way around. Then, someone got the idea to build a bridge across the Golden Gate. There were some who argued against it saying it would mar the natural beauty. Eggers delivers this story succinctly and with his distinctive deadpan humor. Nichols' minimalist cut paper collages are crisp and colorful making this an enjoyable informational read.   

Thursday, September 19, 2019

#tbt: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Image: Little Brown BYR
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. How to Train Your Dragon series #1. Unabridged audiobook on 4 compact discs. 3.5 hours. Read by David Tennant. Hachette Audio, 2005. 9781478954002. (Review of audiobook borrowed from public library.)

#tbt features How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. Cowell featured Hiccup in a picture book called Hiccup: the Viking Who was Seasick in 2001. How to Train Your Dragon is the first of a twelve-book series featuring Hiccup and his Viking clan. It was published in the UK in 2003 and in the US in 2005. 

Though Hiccup is son of the clan leader, he's a bit of an outsider. However, he does prove to be resourceful, earning the grudging respect of his father. Three animated films were very loosely adapted from the books. If you enjoy fantasy and action, give this series a try.

David Tennant is quickly becoming a favorite narrator of mine and seems to be the go-to voice actor for Cowell. They are well-matched. This was a fun listening experience. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell

Image: Hachette Book Group
Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell. The Wizards of Once #3. 400 p. Little, Brown BYR/ Hachette Book Group, October 15, 2019. 9780316508421.

Publisher synopsis: Xar and Wish are heroes with a huge task ahead–confronting the Nuckalavee is not for the faint hearted. But with Magic and Iron together, they might just have a chance of saving their beloved homes from those who seek to destroy everything they hold dear. The third electrifying book in The Wizards of Once series fizzes with magic and introduces us to a host of glorious new characters: bears and piskies and magical pins and needles to name but a few.

Beloved, bestselling author Cressida Cowell once again brings her trademark wit and stunning combination of action, adventure, humor, and incredible artwork to this epic new adventure, sure to transport and enchant readers. Stunningly written, magnificent in scope, hilarious and thrilling, Knock Three Times immerses you in a world you won’t ever wish to leave.

Woohoo! We don't have too long to wait for this!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Teen Tuesday: Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Image: Books on Tape/ Listening Library
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~8 hours. Read by Anthony Mark Barrow and Karissa Vacker. Listening Library/ Books on Tape, March, 2019. 9781984843128. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

In this dual narrative, the POV shifts between Hugo and Mae. Hugo is one of a famed sextuplet living in Surrey, England. He is often overshadowed by his siblings and seeks to strike out on his own. The problem is that they all have a scholarship at a local university and his parents aren't in the position to pay for Hugo to go elsewhere. Besides, he loves his sibs. 

A more pressing problem happens when Hugo's girlfriend dumps him shortly before their planned train trip across the United States. He'd still like to go, but all the tickets and hotels were booked in Margaret's name and are non-transferable. So, Hugo advertises in search of another Margaret Campbell who would be willing to step in and share the trip.

Mae's full name is Margaret Campbell. She lives in upstate New York with her two dads. She's a budding filmmaker and is going to be heading to LA for college anyway, so she answers the ad after her beloved grandmother encourages her to live a little.

The two make an instant connection, but all is not smooth training.

This one was fun, as all Jennifer E. Smith romances are. Romance is definitely not my genre. But I don't mind reading Smith's because the romances are smart, featuring characters that are usually endearing and relatable. I've always wanted to go on a cross country train ride, so that was a draw as well. 


The two mc's were so interesting, especially Hugo. His family, especially his sibs, were a hoot. There were some holes that distracted, like Mae's dads easy agreement to send their daughter off on a train to college. I was all about moving my (4) kid(s) in when they went off—not hovering—just moving them in, scoping the situation out and saying goodbye. Were I going to say goodbye at a train station, I'd insist on meeting this roommate she's apparently going off with. Still.

I expected the audiobook to add to the charm since Hugo is a Brit and the narrator is as well. And it did. Mostly. It's just that his American accent for Mae was an utterly atrocious mix of Boston and Brooklyn. (Picked Brooklyn for the alliteration, I don't know from borough accents.) It was a generic and mildly insulting New York accent with some Bostonisms thrown in. And she's from somewhere upstate - Hudson Valley, a totally different New York accent. So, no, that got annoying and distracting. And it certainly did not reflect Mae's narrator voice at all. She did a passable job with her British accent when voicing Hugo.


I definitely recommend reading this one with your eyes. I have a ton of Smith fans and romance fans at my school, so I don't expect this to sit. Nor should it. Your romance fans will gobble it up.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

Image: Hachette Book Group
Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell. The Wizards of Once series #2. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~6 hours. Read by David Tennant. Hachette Book Group, November, 2018. 9781478999461. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Purchased hc.)

Middle Grade Monday features Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell. Book two picks up where The Wizards of Once left off. Xar the Enchanter's son is imprisoned and Wish, daughter of the Warrior queen is locked in a cupboard in the castle. That won't stop the evil that Xar unwittingly unleashed. No one has escaped the magical prison, but Xar is determined. Someone has to save the kingdom! 

I just reread my review and saw that I promised myself to read the second installment with my eyes because I found the sound effects jarring. Oops. Well, I'm glad I read with my ears because Tennant is such a delight. I am also happy to report that there seemed to be fewer sound effects. The world building is wonderful and Cowell's characters are vibrantly alive!

As in Wizards of Once, there are lots of laughs along with lots of action. Secrets are revealed, but all is not solved. And, who is our narrator?  Readers will eagerly await book three, Knock Three Times, due out mid-October. Check this week's "Waiting on Wednesday" post for deeds.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Picture Book Review: Mother Goose of Pudding Lane: a small tall tale by Chris Raschka

Image: Candlewick Press
Mother Goose of Pudding Lane: a small tall tale by Chris Raschka. Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. 48 p. Candlewick Press, September 10, 2019. 9780763675233. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Kablam! That's the sound of all the possible opening lines of this post colliding. So here's a stream of consciousness: At first, I thought this was a straight-up biography of Mother Goose. It's not. But there are many biographical facts wrapped in playful verse. Two, all Mother Goose rhymes are nursery rhymes but not all nursery rhymes are Mother Goose. Or are they? Is there a French Mother Goose? A British one? Three, thanks to my conference friend Linda, I had already knew that Mother Goose was buried in Boston. We visited her grave when we attended ALA Midwinter together in January of 2010. I thought I had a photo, but cannot find one. Google it and you will find plenty.

Upon opening the book to the front end-pages, I did a double-take because I thought the someone had drawn and written in the book! "Impossible," I thought. Not only is there a figure scribbled in to appear to be smelling the painted flowers, but there is writing near the top. 

Turns out, it is the dedications! The delight continues with the page turn where the reader is asked, "Who is Mother Goose?" Turns out, there was an Elizabeth Foster who married an old widower named Isaac Goose in 1692 in Boston. She was step-mother to his ten children and they went on to have four of their own. Certainly, I wouldn't know what to do with so many children. However, the nursery rhyme about the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe is not attributed to Mother Goose. 

There is a story in rhyme set in red type near the top of the verso pages that tells Elizabeth's and Jacob's story. This is juxtaposed with nursery rhymes that might have reflected what might've been their chaotic life. Humorous spot art fills in the rest of the page space.

I love this curious book but will admit to wondering who the audience is? I despair sometimes when I realize that many of my students seem to be unaware of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Last year, I read a biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to my sixth graders and there was a reference to "sugar and spice and everything nice" in the back matter. I asked my students what the rest of the rhyme was and they had a hard time coming up with it. Such a sad moment for me. Certainly, a dedicated primary school teacher might build a unit around it. Kudos, if they have the time with all the pressure to move kids along quickly. 

I was sad to find there was no back matter to offer context. 

Still, I was entertained and intrigued; especially by the rear end pages. I noted the space and flipped the back flap to find a final delightful joke which will be lost in any library copy as the flaps are taped down.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Fact Friday: Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan

Image: Peachtree Publishers
Seven and a Half Tons of Steel by Janet Nolan. Illustrated by Tom Gonzalez. unpgd. Peachtree Publishing Company, August, 2016. 9781561459124. (Own.)

Sometimes, a book is so enduring or important that it needs to be read multiple times. Sometimes, it is for a happy occasion, such as my yearly read aloud of The Polar Express, Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins, or Casey at the Bat. In this case, it's for a more somber occasion. I shared this with my classes this week.

The steel that was removed from the rubble of Ground Zero was claimed by a variety of institutions. In the town that I live in, an Eagle Scout created a memorial next to one of our fire houses using two beams. In the town that I work in, a marble slab faces east and there is a hole in it that allows the rays of sun at 8:42 AM on September 11 to pour through to land on a bit of steel from the towers. 

In Seven and a Half Tons of Steel, Janet Nolan succinctly relates the story about a huge beam that was transported to a shipyard in Louisiana, melted down and molded into a bow that was meant for the USS New York. That journey was not without tragedy as Hurricane Katrina left many of the shipbuilders homeless. 

This is a gut-wrenching story that is stunningly illustrated by Tom Gonzalez. His oversize, double-page watercolor illustrations grab the eye and don't let go. Readers will linger over each spread. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

#tbt: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Image: Penguin Random House

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. 200 p. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children's Books, July, 2009. 9780385737425. (Own.)

#tbt celebrates the tenth anniversary of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This time travel novel is set in New York City in the late 1970s. It published in the summer of 2009 and won the 2010 Newbery Medal as well as hitting the NYT Bestseller list and many "Best Books" lists. She drew from memories of her own childhood growing up in New York City to write this novel. Stead was also influenced by her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time. The story follows Miranda through her sixth grade year and explores themes of independence and friendship.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Image: Macmillan
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang. 448 p. First Second/ Macmillan, March 17, 2020. 9781626720794.

Publisher synopsis: In his latest graphic novel, Dragon Hoops, New York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.

Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it's all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

I just love Yang's graphic novels and cannot wait for this one!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Teen Tuesday: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~12 hours. Narrated by Rebecca Soler. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, June, 2019. 9780062938640. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. Seventeen-year-old Emma Saylor Payne barely remembers her mother, who died when she was ten. While she has a good relationship with her dentist father, he's tightlipped about her mother except to acknowledge her addictions and how they contributed to their marriage failing as well as her death. It also probably contributes to her tendency toward anxiety and perfect behavior. Otherwise, she knows nothing and none of the relatives on her mother's side. All that changes when her father remarries and his plans for Emma to stay with a friend for the three weeks of their honeymoon fall through. She is sent to North Lake to stay with her grandmother and her extended family. 

North Lake is a resort community divided by class—a rich country club resort on one side of the lake and more modest hotels on the other. Emma's mom came from the poorer side. Emma's dad from the other. Her relatives are all strangers to her, but they seem to know all about her and definitely know a ton about her mom.

As with any Sarah Dessen book, the pace is quite leisurely and the reader really gets to know the characters. Her heroines tend to be exceedingly self-deprecating, nice, anxious and over-analytical. In other words, at once relatable and annoying. She and her characters are like that perfect friend you have that occasionally drives you to mad, jealous, petty tirades that ultimately make you feel guilty because they are just so nice. My teen self would've eaten this up and asked for more. My old-as-dirt self gets a bit impatient. Still, teen fans of Dessen's will eat this breezy, leisurely novel up and ask for more.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Review: Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi


Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi. Illustrated by Corinna Luyken. 240 p. Candlewick Press, October 1, 2019. 9780763694937. (Review of arc courtesy of publicist.)

Middle Grade Monday features Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi. Eleven-year-old Penny Rose is new to town. She might've won a couple of science competitions, but making new friends is not her strong suit. She prefers to hole up in a shed in her backyard building robots. She also keeps a "conversation" notebook to help her interact with her peers. She may be on the autism spectrum. This is not explicitly stated. She is very observant. The methodical and logical way she allows the blossoming of a friendship with equally quirky Lark is so endearing! Lark is an outlier as well. Her passion is birds and all things birding. But she brings a unique perspective to Penny Rose's interest in her robots. You see, Penny Rose has created some unique robots from spare parts. Each one has a different personality and Lark helps to encourage their talents. 

Still, Penny Rose is not quite confident in this new friendship and when she receives notes stating that a secret science club is interested in her joining, her commitment to her friendship with Lark wavers. 

Oh my. This book! This book! Not only is it a sweet story of fledgling friendship, but, science! Whoa! Science! Penny Rose does not equate an interest in science with popularity and so, her mind is blown when she learns about who belongs to the secret science club. Can she keep her two worlds separate?

Black and white illustrations add to the interest. Spot on dialog, enticing intrigue, and an unabashed love of science make this friendship novel stand out. Engaging, humorous, suspenseful, this is one to hand to a multitude of readers. 


Saturday, September 7, 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: Candlewick Press
Mother Goose of Pudding Lane: a small tall tale by Chris Raschka. Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September 10, 2019. 9789763675233.

Publisher synopsis: We all love to hear Mother Goose rhymes and riddles. But did you know that there was a real Mother Goose who lived in Boston more than three hundred years ago? In 1692, Elizabeth Foster married a widower with ten children. His name was Isaac Goose, and after they married, Elizabeth became Mother Goose. She and Isaac had four more children together, and to help her care for such a big and boisterous family, Mother Goose sang songs and lullabies and made up rhymes and poems. Her nursery rhymes and stories were published at a print shop on Pudding Lane in Boston, though no copies of her book exist today. In a book featuring some of Mother Goose’s best-loved works, Vladimir Radunsky’s bright and humorous illustrations and Chris Raschka’s rhyming poems tell the little-known story of the Goose children, Isaac, and Elizabeth herself — the Mother Goose of Pudding Lane.


Image: Penguin Random House
Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage. 342 p. Crown Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, January 14, 2020. 9780525645689.

Publisher synopsis: Fans of Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe and Melissa Savage’s own Lemons will devour this voice-driven novel packed with humor and heart about two friends who head off on an adventure to find the Loch Ness Monster.

Ada Ru finally thought her parents were going to agree to a Fitzhugh family vacation in Disney World the summer before sixth grade, until her father announces he’s taking a teaching position in Scotland, and moving the family there for the entire summer. 

Ada Ru is anything but happy. She doesn’t like their new home, she hates haggis, and she certainly doesn’t like the idea that she will be away from her best friend all summer. To top it all off, there is said to be a monster in the lake near their house! 

That’s when she meets Hamish Bean Timmy, Hammy Bean for short, captain of the Nessie Quest Monster Chaser boat tour. He knows everything there is to know about the fabled Loch Ness Monster and Scotland. But as the two unlikely friends embark on an epic adventure to spot the lake monster, they end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined.

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 6, 2019

Fact Friday: Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Image: Norton Young Readers

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. 208 p. Norton Young Readers/ W.W. Norton & Company, September 10, 2019. 9781324003601. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy book birthday next week to Free Lunch!

Fact Friday features Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. This debut is Ogle's memoir of his sixth grade year. Eleven-year-old Rex likes school. It gets him away from his mom and her boyfriend who have explosive fights and tend to discipline Rex with their fists. He is especially looking forward to starting sixth grade. All that changes when his mother announces that Rex is now on the "free lunch" program. He can take the stares his Good Will clothing elicits, but the daily humiliation of announcing to the cafeteria cashier, who is hard of hearing, that he's getting a free lunch infuriates him. Then, his friends drift away because Rex's mom won't sign the permission slip allowing him to try out for football. They all make the team, leaving him the odd guy out. On top of all that, his language arts teacher seems to hate him. He doesn't want to act out but he's sick of being poor and he's afraid of the instability at home. 

Back matter consists of an author's note, an author Q & A, a discussion guide as well as a writing guide(!) and resources for families in crisis. 

Rex's voice is instantly relatable. His home life is horrific and yet, there are flashes of normalcy and even love. How Rex can even learn while dealing with the chaos is testament to his strength.  Moments of humor and Rex's obvious love for his baby brother ease the tension. This powerful memoir depicts a family in crisis, one resilient child and is unforgetable. Free Lunch belongs in every school, classroom and public library. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

#tbt: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Image: Penguin

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. 320 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, 2010. (Own)

#tbt is another student recommendation. Sixth grader, Esther, recommends Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Mockingbird  was published in 2010 and won the 2010 National Book Award as well as many state awards.

Ten-year-old Caitlin has Aspergers and tends to see the world rigidly in black and white. She's odd and is aware that her classmates see her as "weird." Her brother, Devon, was her shelter. Now Devon is dead—killed with a teacher and another student in a school shooting—and Caitlin is adrift. Through Caitlin's first-person narration, readers see the world through her eyes and can't help but be impressed by her resiliency. Mockingbird is a great book to develop empathy. If you like emotionally intense books, this one's for you. While you're at it, check out some of the author's other titles like The Absolute Value of Mike or Seeing Red!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland. 336 p. Balzer + Bray, February 2, 2020. 

Publisher synopsis: After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.


I was totally riveted by Dread Nation and absolutely cannot wait to revisit this world.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Teen Tuesday: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Image: Penguin
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. 320 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers, June, 2019. 9780525514022. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. This powerful and timely debut tells the story of two sisters who are seeking asylum in the United States because they fear for their lives after their father disappears and their brother is murdered back in El Salvador. The two have walked for days and weeks, enduring harsh conditions; but they have been caught. Seventeen-year-old Marisol fears that her plea for asylum will not be granted and flees the detention center with her sister, Gabi. They are picked up by a government agent and offered a deal to stay in the U.S. Marisol can become a "grief keeper," an experimental conduit for grief or trauma in exchange for asylum. 

Medical experimentation can be an ethical slippery slope. Often test subjects are the least able to give informed consent and most likely driven by desperation—prisoners, poor people and those without power. Marisol is terrified of being sent back and hides the side effects of the transfer from the doctor and agent in charge. 

Through Marisol's careful, thoughtful narration, readers slowly learn her secrets as well as the secrets of Rey, the teenage daughter of a powerful DC businessman from whom Marisol must absorb traumatic grief. Tension is high in this genre-blender—part sci/fi, part thriller, part romance. Along the way, thoughtful readers might ponder issues of identity, governmental power, immigration policies, prejudice and institutional racism. Wholly engrossing and beautifully written, Marisol is a character who will linger long after you close the book.