Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.424 p. HarperTeen/ HarperCollins Publishers, May 5, 2020. 9780062882783. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher, ALAMW.) 

Elizabeth Acevedo returns to verse form for her third novel and it's intense! Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and sees her beloved father only during the summers. Yahaira Rios lives in New York City and misses her father terribly when he leaves each summer to visit the DR. Camino arrives at the airport to greet her dad to find crying people at the airport. Her father's plane crashed. Yahaira is called out of class and told by her mother that her father died in a plane crash. Two girls, two countries, one father. A secret exposed.

This dual narrative switches between Camino and Yahaira as they grieve and eventually learn of the other's existence. While Camino's dad sends enough money to provide tuition to a private school and some comforts for her and her Tia, she still lives in a poor neighborhood where girls often become prey to sexual predators. Her father has been paying off El Cero to leave her alone. Now that he's gone, not only are her hopes to attend Columbia as a pre-med gone, but she's not sure she can escape El Cero's plans for her.

Yahaira's situation is more stable with two working parents. Her life in Morningside Heights is comfortable. She has a girlfriend and was a rising star in the chess community until she abruptly quit a year earlier after discovering part of her father's secret. 

Don't let the page count intimidate you. Both girls' voices grab from the beginning. This is an intense read with a lot of heartbreak along the way to healing and hope. If you have Acevedo fans among your students, this is an absolute must read. If you haven't yet read anything by her, certainly start here. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Middle Grade Monday Review & Giveaway: Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis

Image: Candlewick Press
Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis. (Movie Tie-in Edition) Timmy Failure series #1. 293 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2020.  9781536209075. (Review of finished paperback courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made by Stephan Pastis. Our narrator, Timmy Failure runs a detective agency, Total Failure, which he hopes will soon become a Fortune500 company. The only problem is, he's a clueless, inept detective. His partner, a polar bear named Total, is only interested in garbage and not much help to Timmy. Still, he soldiers on. School is a nuisance. He has no use for Scantron tests, except to create dot-to-dot pictures, which of course, causes him to fail, much to the consternation of his group. His single mom is caring but trying hard to stay afloat financially and probably doesn't pay enough attention to Timmy. Then, there's the new boyfriend.

There's a lot of humor in this illustrated novel/ hybrid graphic novel, some of it is kind of sad. There's depth too, along with the hijinks. One might believe that Timmy's delusions are a sign of mental instability. I submit that they are a survival mechanism. Thank goodness for the humor! Just as I would melt with sympathy, Pastis lightened the mood. I haven't felt this much emotional whiplash since... Hm, since watching Charlie Chaplin movies.

Adding to the appeal, there's plenty of visual humor in the copious spot art, featuring round-eyed characters. Mistakes were Made was originally published in 2013. My library's copy hasn't been checked out in a while. Perhaps the Disney movie will re-ignite interest in the series. I hope so. Timmy Failure endears.

Thanks to Candlewick Press, I am hosting a giveaway. Comment on this review by Wednesday morning, April 1 and you're entered for a chance at winning a movie tie-in edition of Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made! U.S. & Canada only and no P.O. Boxes. I can give away two copies. Please understand that delivery may be delayed slightly.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fact Friday: Tornado Scientist: seeing inside severe storms by Mary Kay Carson.

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Tornado Scientist: seeing inside severe storms by Mary Kay Carson. Photographs by Tom Uhlman. Scientists in the Field series. 76 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March, 2019. 9780544965829. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features Tornado Scientist: seeing inside severe storms by Mary Kay Carson. This entry in the Scientist in the Field series sure does wow. Meteorologist Robin Tanamachi got hooked on tornados when she seven-years-old and the local news showed film of a tornado ripping through a local park. She told author Carson, "That was when I knew I wanted to be a research meteorologist studying severe weather." Tanamachi is a storm-chaser dedicated to studying tornadoes. In this photo-filled book readers learn about the project she headed, all about the two tornado corridors in the U.S., the physics and life-cycle of a tornado and more. There's even a list of storm-chaser slang in addition to a glossary, which explains many of the acronyms associated with the field. Other back matter includes websites, books, source notes and photo credits.

If you're into weather, technology, science, or just the adrenaline rush of the chase, The Tornado Scientist is the book for you! This one might be my new favorite entry! Robin Tanamachi is bad-ass!

This book so would've appealed to my now adult son when he was young. He was obsessed with weather from an early age and began predicting it quite accurately without all the tools and gadgets that are available now. Even now, his interest in weather remains high and his his predictions (using the gadgets) are accurate! He did start college as a meteorology major but couldn't get past the second year of calculus.

Friday Focus - Elly Swartz

Clipart: OpenClipArt

Our very first "Friday Focus" author is a favorite of mine, Elly Swartz! I first met Elly at a debut party for the "Sweet Sixteens." Her debut novel, Finding Perfect was published in 2016. Get it? Sweet Sixteens?

She just bubbles with enthusiasm and generosity, as you will see when you explore the Padlet her young friend Olivia* created for her second book, Smart Cookie. Olivia's Padlet is called "Long Liv Books." There is a lot to explore here, so have fun! There are links to videos of Elly Swartz reading Smart Cookie aloud! If you are looking for a book to read, how about trying Smart Cookie

Here's a link to her website.
Be sure to check out her "Books in the Kitchen" videos too.

I have read all three of Ms. Swartz's books. Here are three mini-book talks:

Image: Macmillan


Molly Nathan likes things just so. Her cherished collection of glass animals has to be arranged perfectly. Her homework is not allowed to have one erasure. She's at odds with odd numbers. And that moment just before she recites her poetry in the slam, is perfect. Unfortunately, it's getting harder for Molly to achieve perfect. Her brother keeps disturbing her animals. The work is getting harder in school. The rituals she keeps to keep her anxiety down are starting to get in the way. She's terrified that her best friend might find out. She's also yearning for her mom to return to the family. She thinks that if she wins the poetry slam, her mom will have to come back.

Eleven-year-old Frankie Greene is a girl with a secret. She lives with her widowed dad and maternal grandmother in a bed and breakfast that distinguishes itself by being named for board games and serving homemade, fresh from the oven cookies at check-in. She has a lot of responsibility helping her dad run the B & B. She'd also like a mother so she has posted a profile for her dad on a dating site and is screening "possibles." Frankie is not the only family member with secrets. Gram has a locked shed in the backyard and maybe a secret boyfriend at the senior center. Dad is having whispered arguments with a sleazy developer who wants the B & B. Her best friend, Elliot is obsessed with finding ghosts and her former best friend, Jessica is just being vile.

Image: Scholastic

Image: Macmillan
You may remember this book talk from a "Middle Grade Monday" post earlier this month!

Change is hard! Children in particular, might have a hard time coping with change, especially when it brings sadness, as is Maggie's case. She's been hit by a triple-whammy of change. Maggie's beloved grandmother recently died, but before that, she suffered from dementia. One day, her grandmother just forgot who Maggie was. So Maggie began saving things in order not to forget anything in her life. Only these weren't just memorable objects. They were odd things, like gum wrappers and empty milk containers.

Then she finds out that her shooting coach father has invited a boy to join her all girl trap-shooting team! And, when her family temporarily fosters a newborn named Isabella, Maggie becomes attached. Even though her mother cautions that the situation is only temporary, Maggie hopes Izzy will stay. Her compulsion to save/ hoard gets out of control. And so does her anger. When her mother discovers her hoard of stuff.

* Apologies to Olivia for not realizing that it was she and not Elly who created the Padlet. Way to go Olivia!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

New Feature! Friday Focus Starts Tomorrow!

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you are quarantining well, washing hands, staying sane, getting exercise and reading! Our district is just completing its second full week of Virtual Learning. The feedback has been mostly positive. My colleagues in both the elementary and middle schools have jumped in and given their all - sharing ideas and resources freely. 

As I was trying to organize all these ideas into a more user-friendly document, I spied a link to this Padlet on author, Elly Swartz's FB page. We "Specials" have been asked to contribute to a "Fun Friday" internal website, where students will take a break from academics each week to participate in art, music, PE, etc. The academic teachers then get some time to prepare new lessons, answer emails, assess and the myriad of behind-the-scenes magic that all teachers do. As I was linking to Elly's site on my page for my fifth graders to explore, the idea for Focus Friday popped into my head thanks to her. I'm going to add Focus Friday here as well and will focus on a different author each week. For now, it will be middle grade authors since I have fifth graders for specials this trimester. Once we're back in school, or when summer vacation hits, I will expand the focus to include YA authors. 

Tune in tomorrow for the first  "Focus Friday."

#tbt: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Image: Penguin Random House
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. 192 p. Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children's Books, August, 2000. 9780679886372. (Own.)

#tbt features Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Thanks to Zoe for the idea. Stargirl is the story of how "normal" Leo is captivated by Stargirl from the moment of her arrival at Mica High School, where her unique attire and penchant for singing "Happy Birthday" while strumming her ukulele in the cafeteria make her the object of scorn. Gradually, her unconventional style and sincerity wins over the students, though it is short-lived and kind of heartbreaking. Stargirl was published in 2000, so it'll be celebrating its 20th anniversary later this summer! Love, Stargirl, a sequel was published in 2007. Just this month, the movie adaptation started airing on Disney+. Here's a link to the trailer and below is the movie tie-in cover.

Image: Penguin Random House

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Arc Review: When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter

Image: LBYR
When You Know What I Know by Sonja K. Solter. 216 p. Little, Brown and Company, March 24, 2020. 9780316535441. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher/ ALAMW)

Happy belated book birthday to When You Know What I Know. It released yesterday and I had really hoped to get this review up before its release date but most of my energy has been spent trying to switch to virtual teaching these past weeks. My reading for this month sure has taken a hit as well. My apologies.

When You Know What I Know is a tough book to talk about. It'll be tough a book talk to have if/ when we return to school. But we must. The topic cannot be relegated to YA because children are victimized. Sonja K. Solter's debut, written in blank verse, is Tori's first-person account that begins immediately after her Uncle Andy molests her when he's supposed to be babysitting her. 

It's enough to know it happened without having the details of what exactly happened. It's enough to understand that she's terrified. Then the terror of what happened is compounded when She. Isn't. Believed! Her mom doesn't initially believe it and Tori feels betrayed. Her grandmother refuses to believe it and takes her son's side, causing a rift in an already fragile family. 

She's terrified. She's embarrassed. What if someone finds out? Her best friend senses something is wrong but Tori can't confide and that jeopardizes the friendship. Tori can't learn anything at school. Activities she's previously enjoyed, such as chorus, become unbearable. Memories invade constantly. 

The verse format lends itself well to portraying all the turmoil that Tori is feeling. The delivery is age-appropriate and accessible. She is resilient and, with support, takes steps toward healing. An author's note and resources follow. When You Know What I Know belongs in every library collection. We need to be having these uncomfortable conversations and we need to leave our hearts and doors open for these kids. 

ETA: Here's a link to an SLJ interview of Ms. Solter and another debut author, Mary Cecilia Jackson.

Waiting on Wednesday: Star Wars Jedi Academy #9: At Last, Jedi by Jarrett J. Krososkza and Amy Ignatow

Image: Scholastic 

Star Wars Jedi Academy #9: At Last, Jedi by Jarrett J. Krososkza and Amy Ignatow. 176 p. Scholastic Inc., April 21, 2020. 9781338597516.

Publsiher synopsis: The epic conclusion to the Starspeeder saga in this 9th volume of Jedi Academy by Jarrett Krosoczka and Amy Ignatow!

As told through a mix of comics, doodles, and journal entries, Christina Starspeeder takes us on a new adventure at the advanced Jedi Academy campus! There are unfamiliar faces and old ones too, but one thing remains the same: Jedi Academy is full of laughs and warm moments that fans and readers discovering the series for the first time will love.

Well, learning about this made me realize that I dropped the ball with this series. I have just the first six and they are always out! I'm a bit surprised that one of my students didn't give me a heads up. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Birthday: a novel by Meredith Russo

Image: Macmillan
Birthday: a novel by Meredith Russo. Unabridged e-audiobook read by Dana Aliya Levinson. Macmillan Young Listeners/ Macmillan Audio, May, 2019. 9781250129840. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Birthday: a novel by Meredith Russo. This unique dual narrative is told episodically, yearly in fact, on the birthday that both Eric and Morgan share. They were born in the same hospital on the same day and when a snowstorm kept the two families in hospital longer than expected, the parents bonded and became friends. Eric and Morgan became best friends. But dynamics are shifting by their thirteenth birthday. Morgan's mother died the previous year. She really was the glue that held the parents together and Morgan's dad's grief is fraying the edges of what is left. Morgan has a secret that he wants to tell Eric but can't. Morgan's not even sure what there is to tell. At thirteen, Morgan just doesn't have the words, and so, flounders in grief and confusion and doesn't always make the safest of choices. This powerful read is for the maturest of teen readers - readers with open hearts, open minds and much compassion for those who do not fit society's neat little boxes.

I read this book with my ears and with my heart in my throat for much of it. I absolutely ached for Morgan and was terrified for her. The narration by new-to-me narrator, Dana Aliya Levinson was engaging, though there were times when I couldn't tell whether it was Morgan or Eric speaking. 

As the story wound to it's conclusion, I was confused to see that there was still over forty minutes left on the recording and wondered where the story could possibly go. Turns out, there was an interesting and informative interview - conversation, really between the narrator and the author. Certainly not to be missed.

Birthday: a novel belongs in every teen collection.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein

Image: Penguin Random House
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein. 293 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books/ Penguin Random House, May 5, 2020. 978059312573.

Middle Grade Monday features Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein. Twelve-year-old Will Levine's receding chin isn't the only thing causing him to retreat to his room. Sure, there's that jerk, Jake, who never misses an opportunity to grab his chin and call him "Turtle Boy." And his best friend, Shirah is spending more time with her volleyball team, leaving him with Max, his super-hyper friend who's super into parkour. His turtles need him. His room is filled with terrariums and each one has a turtle he found in the marsh behind his school and "re-homed," including one he knows for sure is endangered. 

Will is also missing his dad, who died eight years earlier. He went into the hospital for a simple hernia operation and never came out. Will has been avoiding hospitals ever since. Now, his mom wants him to see a surgeon for a possible operation on his chin, which is causing some medical and dental issues. No way! As if it couldn't get any worse, Rabbi Harris has given him his Bar Mitzvah community service project - he has to visit a sick, possibly dying boy in the very same hospital where his dad died! 

It's basically dislike-at-first-sight when the two boys meet; but Rabbi Harris, who, is absolutely the best rabbi in the world, by the way, won't change his assignment. So R.J. and Will are left to work it out.

In addition to the bullying, friendship drama and community service disaster, is the fact that his beloved marsh is being eyed for development. If it seems there's a lot packed into this novel, don't worry. It works. Will's first-person narration endears. Sure the "help a dying child" thing has been done and done and done to death in children's literature. For some reason, I set my cynicism aside and was delighted. Maybe it was Will's voice; perhaps it was Rabbi Harris' comforting presence; perhaps it was his mom's support and tough love. I really don't know. It just worked.

It has been a while since I read a book through freely flowing tears. Turtle Boy gutted me in the best possible way. What an impressive debut!  I cannot wait to get this into the hands of my students. Turtle Boy should have broad appeal. It releases in May. Don't miss it!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Picture Book Review: Green on Green by Dianne White

Image: Simon & Schuster

Green on Green by Dianne White. Illustrated by Felicita Sala. unpgd. Beach Lane Books/ Simon & Schuster, March 17, 2020. 9781481462785.

A happy belated book birthday to Green on Green on Tuesday. The book got lost in the shuffle of end-of-trimester grading and the beginning of our school's virtual learning experience due to Covid-19. My apologies. Reading it today was the perfect antidote to a stressful, uncertain week.

A beautiful brown-skinned, blue-eyed child passes through a year in his idyllic home surrounded by nature and the love of his parents. The spare, impressionistic text focuses on color, the seasons and the family bond. Eagle-eyed children will spot small details in the background as the year passes. The warm, retro feel of the illustrations are the stars here. Each spread lusciously depicts the thriving, curious boy who is immersed in nature and his parents attention. Green on Green is a lovely addition to any library. 

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.

My March reading goals are shot to heck what with the end of the trimester grading demands and now, virtual teaching and it's learning curve. I hope all are healthy and staying home. 

For Review:
Image: HarperCollins
The Princess Rules by Philippa Gregory. 256 p. HarperCollins Children's Books, May 12, 2020. 9780008388317.

Publisher synopsis: Princess Florizella may live in a classic fairy-tale world, but she’s no ordinary princess…

These three stories were originally published under the titles Princess Florizella, Princess Florizella and the Wolves and Princess Florizella and the Giant.

They were originally dedicated to her daughter but have been reimagined in this edition which she has dedicated to her grandchildren.

“Princess Florizella was friends with some of the princesses who had studied the Princess Rules, and behaved just as the Rules said they should. Florizella thought their hair was lovely: so golden and so very long. And their clothes were nice: so richly embroidered. And their shoes were delightful: so tiny and handmade in silk. But their days bored her to death…”

Instead, Princess Florizella rides her horse, Jellybean, all over the kingdom, having adventures of her own…

Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes & Dr. Melissa King. Illustrated by Jennifer Latham. Walker Books U.S./ Candlewick Press, January, 2021. 9781536214765.

Publisher synopsis: Getting your period for the first time can be mortifying, weird, and messy—and asking questions about it can feel even worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This taboo-free guide is packed with honest advice and big-sisterly wisdom on all the things girls need to know: from what cramps feel like to whether you can feel blood coming out, to what you should do if your pad leaks onto your clothes. Welcome to Your Period includes case studies, first-person accounts, questions from real teens, and answers from health journalist Yumi Stynes and adolescent health specialist Melissa Kang, MD. Cheerful illustrations keep the tone fun, and help with how-tos on different period supplies. There are even suggestions for throwing a first-period party. With its inclusive, body-positive message, pocket size, and reassuring vibe, this must-have menstruation manual will make girls feel not only normal but proud.

Sylvie by Sylvie Kantorovitz. 352 p. Walker Books U.S./ Candlewick Press, February 9, 2021. 9781536207620.

Publisher synopsis: Sylvie lives in a school in France. Her father is the principal, and her home is an apartment at the end of a hallway of classrooms. As a young child, Sylvie and her brother explore this most unusual kingdom, full of small mysteries and quirky surprises. But in middle and high school, life grows more complicated. Sylvie becomes aware of her parents’ conflicts, the complexities of shifting friendships, and what it means to be the only Jewish family in town. She also begins to sense that her perceived “success” relies on the pursuit of math and science—even though she loves art. In a funny and perceptive graphic memoir, author-illustrator Sylvie Kantorovitz traces her first steps as an artist and teacher. The text captures her poignant questioning and her blossoming confidence, while the droll illustrations depict her making art as both a means of solace and self-expression. An affecting portrait of a unique childhood, Sylvie connects the ordinary moments of growing up to a life rich in hope and purpose.

Purchased: Nothing! But I am building a cart to spend some more of my holiday gift cards. There are quite a few new releases I have my heart set on. 

If you leave a comment, leave the link to your stack. I will pop by and to check out your stack!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Fact Friday: Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II by Andrea Warren

Image: Holiday House

Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II by Andrea Warren. 224 p. Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House, April, 2019. 9780823441518. (Review of finished purchased copy.) 

Fact Friday features Enemy Child: the story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II by Andrea Warren. A lesser known but no less shameful part of our history during the second World War is the fact that thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent effectively lost everything - their rights, their savings, their jobs and their homes. They were ordered to report to detention centers and treated like prisoners. Norman Mineta was ten at the time. He was an American citizen who loved baseball. This is the story of his family's experience.

The book is beautifully designed with glossy pages, heft, plenty of white space and more than eighty photos. Plentiful back matter provides additional information. An absolute must-read for any student of history, but more importantly for everyone else.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

#tbt: Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Image: Simon & Schuster

Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. 256 p. Simon & Schuster, September, 2000. 9780689838583. (Own)

#tbt features Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is the summer of 1793 in Philadelphia, the new nation's capitol. Fourteen-year-old Mattie lives with her mother and grandfather above their coffee house. Mattie has visions of making it into a more respectable establishment even though she avoids chores at all costs. Then, yellow fever sweeps the city and Mattie's mother falls ill. She insists that Mattie leave the city with her grandfather for their own safety, but the disease has swept the countryside too and there's nowhere to turn as well as dangers worse than the disease out there.  

Fever, 1793 published twenty years ago and, over the years, has been the book that made non-readers readers. It's immediate and intense. Mattie's story will suck you right in.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda

Image: Rick Riordan Presents/ Disney

City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda. Rick Riordan Presents/ Disney, January, 2021!

I am a huge fan of Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry trilogy. I also loved his Shadow Magic Trilogy, written under the name, Joshua Khan. When I spied an announcement by the author on social media awhile back, I threw the title on my spreadsheet and waited for more information. Since we are home for at least two weeks doing virtual schooling, I figured now was a good time to highlight this title, even though we have to wait awhile for it!

Publisher synopsis: Inspired by Mesopotamian mythology, the story follows Sikander Aziz, a Muslim boy born and raised in New York City, as he teams up with legendary hero Gilgamesh to defeat the ancient god of plagues before the entire population of Manhattan is wiped out.

While you're waiting for what promises to be a rip-roaring adventure, why don't you check out The Savage Fortress or Shadow Magic. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Teen Tuesday: Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Image: Scholastic Inc.
Kent State by Deborah Wiles. 144 p. Scholastic Inc., April 21, 2020. 9781338356281. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features Kent State by Deborah Wiles. This novel in verse relates the events leading up to what is now known as the May 4th Massacre or the Kent State Shooting. Students on college campuses were protesting the Vietnam War from the late sixties. At Kent State, in Ohio, there is a grassy knoll perfect for assembly and protest. Students gathered to protest the war on May 1 and planned another march for May 4. On that day, the National Guard was called in and when the students refused to disperse, the Guard fired on the crowd, killing four students and wounding nine others. Two of the four students killed were protesters, the other two were uninvolved, one of whom was actually an ROTC student, meaning he was committed to joining the armed services after graduation. 

The multiple and disparate view points can feel a tad overwhelming at times, which I think is the point. I enjoyed the book and found it emotionally intense; but then, I have a memory of the event. I am not certain what young readers will do with this without some background knowledge. I'm eager to book talk this and find out. Do not skip the very long but thorough and touching author's note at the back. The May 4 Massacre was a pivotal event in the Vietnam War Era and the book comes out just in time to mark its 50th anniversary. Don't miss it.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts

Image: LBYR
Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts. 336 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March, 2019. 9780316521833. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Middle Grade Monday features Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts. When you're a big fish in a small pond, it can be a rude awakening when you move to a bigger pond. Thirteen-year-old Nikki is a basketball star in her rec program and has high hopes to play basketball in high school and college. That means playing elite ball, which is a financial stretch for her single-parent mom. She makes a deal with her mother. She will babysit her younger brother every day so that her mom can save on after-school care costs. 

Then she goes to tryouts, where she finds that all the girls are taller, faster and better than she. But as a lefty, she has skills to offer and she has hustle. She makes the team along with her BFF. Soon though, the stress of ultra-competitive play, caring for her brother, keeping up her grades and trying not to be jealous of her bff's freedom, take its toll. Where she used to find joy, she now finds pressure and doubt. 

Nikki's first-person narrative is authentic, engaging and winning. Her family is rather unique in that she and her brother were conceived via sperm donation and neither knows a thing about their donor dads. Her mother is a tad clueless about sports in general and basketball in particular but supportive and realistic.

The details about games, practices and bball strategy will be welcome to fans of the sport; but not off-putting to non-fans. There's a really positive family/ friend story going on as well. 

Nikki on the Line was the author's debut. I am really looking forward to what's next and wouldn't mind if it was another sports book for sporty readers, especially sporty girl readers. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Fact Friday: When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamad

Image: Penguin Random House
When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy. 264 p. Dial Books/ Penguin Random House, April 14, 2020. 9780525553915. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Omar Mohamed fled his village in Somalia after his father was murdered by soldiers and his mother went missing. He and his younger brother, Hassan, who is non-verbal, walked to a refugee camp in Kenya. Omar did his best to protect his vulnerable brother but life in the camp was filled with boring days, empty stomachs and waiting for permission to immigrate. Omar and Hassan spent most of their childhood in this camp. Omar's voice is humorous and hopeful despite the dire circumstances. He is the embodiment of resilience. But, so is Hassan, as Omar slowly comes to realize that he has underestimated his brother.

Readers will be immediately drawn the the plight of the brothers. I read it in one intense sitting.  His experiences fleeing from the violence in his village/ country, then spending years in a refugee camp are unimaginable. Yet Omar brings us there; as does Victoria Jamieson's art. The art vividly depicts the boys difficult life and devotion to each other. It was mostly black and white in the arc but those that were full-color are beautiful, with a predominantly purple palette. 

When Stars are Scattered releases on April 14 and is an absolute first-purchase.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

#tbt: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Image: Scholastic
Smile by Raina Telgemeier. 224 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc. February, 2010. 9780545132053. (Own)

#tbt features Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Smile was published in 2010 and is Ms. Telgemeier's graphic novel memoir. The story starts in her sixth grade year, when she fell and smashed her mouth, requiring years of dental reconstruction that included braces and embarrassing headgear. Smile is enormously popular at TMS, as are all her books. It won the Eisner Award, which is given to graphic novels, and a Boston Globe/ Horn Book Honor for nonfiction. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Millionaires for a Month by Stacy McAnulty

Image: Penguin Random House

Millionaires for a Month by Stacy McAnulty. 304 p. Random House Children's Books/ Penguin Random House, September 1, 2020. 9780593175255.

Waiting on Wednesday features Millionaires for a Month by Stacy McAnulty. Fans of the author's The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl and The World Ends in April will cheer the arrival of Millionaires for a Month. The publisher asks: How would you spend five million dollars in 30 days? A billionaire’s wallet, a bizarre challenge, and an unlikely friendship send two kids on a wild adventure. 

Felix Rannells and Benji Porter were never supposed to be field-trip partners. Felix is a rule follower. Benji is a rule bender. They’re not friends. And they don’t have anything to talk about. Until . . .

They find a wallet. A wallet that belongs to tech billionaire Laura Friendly. They’re totally going to return it-but not before Benji “borrows” twenty dollars to buy hot dogs. Because twenty dollars is like a penny to a billionaire, right?

But a penny has value. A penny doubled every day for thirty days is $5,368,709.12! So that’s exactly how much money Laura Friendly challenges Felix and Benji to spend. They have thirty days. They can’t tell anyone. And there are LOTS of other rules. But if they succeed, they each get ten million dollars to spend however they want.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Teen Tuesday: Maybe by Morris Gleitzman

Image: Penguin Australia
Maybe by Morris Gleitzman. Felix and Zelda #6. Viking/ Penguin Australia., August, 2017. 9780670079377. 

Teen Tuesday features Maybe by Morris Gleitzman, the sixth book in the Felix and Zelda series which started with Once. The war is over and Felix continues his story as he, Anya and Gabriek attempt to rebuild their lives in Poland. They find out very quickly that they are not welcome in Gabriek's village when they try to return to his farm. Antisemitism still runs high and the trio are lucky to escape with their lives. Felix struggles to maintain hope and is determined to stay with his friends. Only, he receives an opportunity to immigrate to Australia - alone. While the author maintains that all his Felix and Zelda novels can stand alone, you should read them all in order to best appreciate the wonder and goodness of Felix and those he loves. The series will end in September with the publication of Always. 

I read this one with my ears. When I accidentally discovered that this had pubbed in Australia, I ordered both the book, which was only available in paperback, and which will not last long in my library because this series is well-loved, as well as the audio, which is narrated by the author. His soft-spoken, measured delivery was perfectly suited to Felix's first-person, ever-optimistic voice. I highly recommend each book in this series, though I must add that the latter books skew a bit more YA. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Feathers by Jorge Corona

Image: Simon & Schuster
Feathers written and illustrated by Jorge Corona. Colors by Jen Hickman. Letters by Deron Bennett. Feathers series #1. 176 p. Archaia/ Simon & Schuster, February, 2019. 9781684153077. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Middle Grade Monday features Feathers written and illustrated by Jorge Corona. Eleven-year-old Poe is a shadowy figure in the slums of the Maze. His over-protective foster father, Gabriel forbids him to leave their dwelling for fear he will be kidnapped, or worse. He found Poe as an infant, abandoned and covered in black feathers. But the children of the slums are disappearing and Poe feels it's his duty to try and protect them. 

On the other side of the wall that surrounds the slums, the rich live in splendor. One little, rich girl named Bianca is bored though, and seeks adventure. She convinces her father to take her with him on a trip into the Maze and disappears in search of adventure at the first opportunity.

This debut graphic novel is the beginning of a series that rewards readers with rich art and plenty of action and suspense. It was originally published as a series of magazine installments. I cannot wait for book two.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

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

Green on Green by Dianne White. Illustrated by Felicita Sala. unpgd. Beach Lane Books/ Simon & Schuster, March 17, 2020. 9781481462785.

Publisher synopsis: Discover the joys of nature, seasons, family—and the vibrant colors of them all—in this lyrical picture book from the author of the acclaimed Blue on Blue.

A child is on a colorful journey through the seasons, filled with yellow flowers and blue coral in spring and summer and orange pumpkins and green pine forests in fall and winter. All the while, there is another colorful change on the horizon—the birth of a new sibling.

With gentle, rhyming text and vivid artwork, this book is a heartfelt celebration of family, nature, seasons, colors, and the wonder and magic of them all.

Image: Candlewick Press
Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made (Movie Tie-in) by Stephan Pastis. 312 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2020. 9781536209075.

Publisher synopsis: Take Timmy Failure—the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total, and what you have is Total Failure, Inc. From the offbeat creator of Pearls Before Swine comes an endearingly bumbling hero in a hilarious caper accompanied by a whodunit twist. With perfectly paced visual humor, Stephan Pastis gets readers snorting with laughter, then slyly carries the joke a beat further—or sweetens it with an unexpected poignant moment—making this a comics-inspired and New York Times best-selling story that truly stands apart from the pack.

I am looking forward to rereading this and hosting a rare Giveaway. Stay tuned!

Purchased: Nothing!

If you leave a comment, leave the link to your stack. I will pop by and to check out your stack!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Fact Friday: Torpedoed: the true story of the World War II sinking of "The Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman

Image: Macmillan Publishers
Torpedoed: the true story of the World War II sinking of "The Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman. 292 p. Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan Publishers, October, 2019. 9781627795548. 

Fact Friday features Torpedoed: the true story of the World War II sinking of "The Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman. This is the meticulously researched account of the sinking of a civilian ship by a German submarine during World War II. Heiligman successfully creates a "you are there" vibe in this gripping narrative. 

Starting on that fateful night of September 17, 1940, the author backtracks eight days to describe the bombing of London by the Nazis. Many children were evacuated to the countryside for their safety; but one hundred children were boarded onto the passenger liner SS Benaris to be relocated to Canada for the duration of the war via an organization called CORB. 

There are plenty of photos, artifacts and primary source documents to illustrate the text. Nearly thirty pages of back matter provide the reader with additional information and sources. 

There is a verse novel called Lifeboat 12, by Susan Hood that a number of my students have read and recommended that I read. Pair Torpedoed with Lifeboat 12 for a brilliant fiction/ non-fiction combo.

My one quibble: I read this with my ears and found it gut-wrenching and riveting. I typically peruse the actual book when I read non-fiction with my eyes so as not to miss the photos and other visual matter. I discovered that the book was also illustrated. The muddy black and white illustrations did nothing to enhance the narrative. I found them distracting.