Saturday, May 30, 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: Candlewick Press
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Michele Wood.  Unpgd. Candlewick Press, April, 2020. 9780763691561.

Publisher synopsis: 
What have I to fear?
My master broke every promise to me.
I lost my beloved wife and our dear children.
All, sold South. Neither my time nor my body is mine.
The breath of life is all I have to lose.
And bondage is suffocating me.

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!

In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom. Strikingly illustrated in rich hues and patterns by artist Michele Wood, Box is augmented with historical records and an introductory excerpt from Henry’s own writing as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.
In a moving, lyrical tale about the cost and fragility of freedom, a New York Times best-selling author and an acclaimed artist follow the life of a man who courageously shipped himself out of slavery.

Image: Candlewick Press
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity by Amy Alznauer. Illustrated by Daniel Myares. unpgd. Candlewick Press, April, 2020. 9780763690489.

Publisher synopsis: A mango . . . is just one thing. But if I chop it in two, then chop the half in two, and keep on chopping, I get more and more bits, on and on, endlessly, to an infinity I could never ever reach.

In 1887 in India, a boy named Ramanujan is born with a passion for numbers. He sees numbers in the squares of light pricking his thatched roof and in the beasts dancing on the temple tower. He writes mathematics with his finger in the sand, across the pages of his notebooks, and with chalk on the temple floor. “What is small?” he wonders. “What is big?” Head in the clouds, Ramanujan struggles in school — but his mother knows that her son and his ideas have a purpose. As he grows up, Ramanujan reinvents much of modern mathematics, but where in the world could he find someone to understand what he has conceived?

Author Amy Alznauer gently introduces young readers to math concepts while Daniel Miyares’s illustrations bring the wonder of Ramanujan’s world to life in the inspiring real-life story of a boy who changed mathematics and science forever. Back matter includes a bibliography and an author’s note recounting more of Ramanujan’s life and accomplishments, as well as the author’s father’s remarkable discovery of Ramanujan’s Lost Notebook.
A young mathematical genius from India searches for the secrets hidden inside numbers — and for someone who understands him — in this gorgeous picture-book biography.

I am really looking forward to reading these in the hopes of adding them to my Sixth Grade Picture Book Biography unit.

Purchased: My signed finished copy of Every Missing Piece arrived! I would've loved to have attended the launch for this one at Words in Maplewood, but alas. I reviewed an arc of this lovely book here.

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

Friday, May 29, 2020

Fact Friday: You're Invited to a Moth Ball: a nighttime insect celebration by Loree Griffin Burns

Image: Charlesbridge
You're Invited to a Moth Ball: a nighttime insect celebration by Loree Griffin Burns. Photographed by Ellen Harasimowicz.  unpgd. Charlesbridge, April, 2020. 9781580896863. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features You're Invited to a Moth Ball: a nighttime insect celebration by Loree Griffin Burns. Who doesn't love receiving an invitation? This STEM title, while perfect anytime, is particularly apt during this time of quarantine. Most of the ingredients should be available in suburban and rural homes. 

Conversational text and spectacular photos walk the reader through all the preparations necessary for hosting a successful moth ball. It isn't only light that attracts moths. Some are less attracted to light but prefer nectar. Who knew? The photos portray six children working together to read and research, mixing bait, setting up their nighttime lab and enjoying the many moths their efforts attracted. 

Informative back matter includes more facts about moths, supplies, an author's note and most fascinating, a photographer's note, where readers learn how Ms. Harasimowicz took the amazing photos at night. A glossary and books and websites for further reading conclude the volume. 

This attractive volume belongs in all kinds of libraries and will inspire young citizen scientists. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Arc Review: What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

Image: Penguin Random House
What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado. 138 p. Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Random House, May 5, 2020. 9780525518433. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Sixth grader Stephen's friendship with his best bud, Dan is changing. Ever since Dan's cousin, Chad, moved to the neighborhood, Chad has done nothing but challenge and contradict Stephen. He has even gone so far to say that "They shoulda kept Spider-Man white." Stephen is biracial and Dan is white. Now Chad's casual racism and constant micro-aggressions are getting under Stephen's skin. He and his dad are close and have lots of heart-to-heart conversations about race, racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement. As Chad escalates his dares to do things such as trespassing or riding the top of a subway car, Stephen realizes that he will not be treated the same as his white friends if they are caught. 

Mr. Maldonado, a teacher born and raised in Brooklyn, vividly portrays the uncertainty of a young, bright boy navigating race in an unfair society. I love everything about this book from its cover through its short, tightly written chapters. I love the tween boy dynamics and that Stephen's parents were so in tuned-in and involved. The author lays out the issues, including white ally-ship in a thoughtful accessible way for tween readers and some clueless adults who may need to understand their white privilege. 

What Lane? belongs in all library collections.

#tbt: To Dance by Siena Gershon Siegal

Image: Simon & Schuster
To Dance: a ballerina's graphic memoir by Siena Cherson Siegal. Illustrated by Mark Siegal. 88 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, October, 2006. 9781416926870 (Own)

#tbt features To Dance: a ballerina's graphic memoir by Siena Cherson Siegal. Illustrated by Mark Siegal. To Dance is the author's memoir of her journey from six-year-old girl dancing on the beach in Puerto Rico through her acceptance to the School of American Ballet to her debut with the New York City Ballet. It was published in October of 2006 and was named to many "Best" lists, such as ALA Notables. It also won a Sibert Honor. You don't need to love or study ballet to enjoy this memoir. It is the story of dedication to an art and is beautifully illustrated by the author's husband.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

Photo: Disney
The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan. 448 p. The Trials of Apollo # 5. Disney Books, October 6, 2020.

Publisher synopsis: At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: The Patron Saint of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Image: Penguin Random House
The Patron Saint of Nothing by Randy Ribay. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~ 8 hours. Read by Ramón de Ocampo. Listening Library, 2019. (Review of e-audiobook downloaded from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. Jay Reguero is a bit at sea. He is a high school senior in Michigan and has been accepted to University of Michigan, but none of his preferred schools. He's not sure what he wants to study. Then he receives news that his cousin, Jun, died in the Philippines. HIs Filipino father is his usual terse self when Jay asked what happened. His white mother explains later that Jun was using drugs and was murdered because President Duterte's answer to the drug problem in the Philippines is to kill users and dealers without remorse. This wasn't the Jun that Jay came to admire when the family visited some years earlier. They felt like brothers and communicated via letters for years until Jay abruptly stopped writing. Now Jay wants to extend his spring break to travel to Manila to find out the truth. 

Part mystery, part coming-of-age story and totally intriguing, mature teen readers will explore what it means to belong to a culture, and learn about the brutal policies of a President with zero tolerance for drug use and citizens who speak out against his policies. Patron Saints of Nothing was a National Book Award Finalist. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Lesley Connor

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Lesley Connor. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~8 hours. Read by Patricia Santomasso. HarperAudio, February, 2020/ 9780062971449. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor. Thirteen-year-old Lydia and her mother were very close. So close that her mother homeschooled Lydia in order to maximize the time they spent together before she died of a progressive heart condition. Arrangements had been made for Lydia to live with her Aunt Brat and her wife Eileen. The two live on a farm in rural Connecticut with Elleroy, their landlord. Lydia is grateful that this aunt, her "last of kin," is willing to take her in and resolves to be helpful and accommodating. When Aunt Brat and Eileen adopt a difficult dog a week after Lydia's arrival, Lydia can't help but wonder whether the two have a habit of rescuing lost things. Lydia's not a dog person and Guffer is a difficult dog to love. He runs off into the woods and has accidents in the house. She also needs to attend school for the first time in ages and make friends.

As with all of Ms. Connor's books, the pace is leisurely and the focus is on the characters. Each character is interesting and fully realized. Lydia is wise beyond her years, introspective and so kind and open. While animal abuse is a painful topic, I appreciated the detailed description of recovery and healing and how complicated it is. Lydia's road to recovery and healing was not without complications either. New-to-me narrator, Patricia Santomasso's performance was engaging and her pacing reflected the pace of the narrative. Readers looking for a sad book with a resilient narrator will love A Home for Goddesses and Dogs.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Picture Book Review: Balletball by Erin Dionne

Image: Charlesbridge
Balletball by Erin Dionne. Illustrated by Gillian Flint. unpgd. Charlesbridge, February, 2020. 9781580899390. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Nini is a ballerina. She lives for ballet and is dismayed to learn that her mother has signed her up for baseball. Nini likes nothing about baseball. The glove is ugly. The ground is uneven. The uniforms are uninspiring. Worst of all, she can't leap or plié because her coach says that there are no ballet moves in baseball. When she blows a bunch of plays and her teammates are starting to get mad at her, Coach does tell her that ball players do ballet to increase speed and agility on the field. He even finds a way to sparkle up her uniform. And maybe, Nini becomes a bit more interested in being a team member. 

Fluid watercolor and line drawings depict a variety of scenes and emotions. The palette of muted hues is pleasing. This sweet story about adapting to change should have broad appeal. 

Saturday, May 23, 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: HarperCollins Publishers
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Patricia Casteleo. 340 p. Harper/ HarperCollins Publishers, May, 2020. 9780062991317.


Image: HarperCollins Publishers
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate.  Unabridged audiobook on 3 compact discs. 3.75 hours. Narrated by Danny DiVito. HarperAudio, May, 2020. 9780063012646.

Publisher synopsis: Return to the unforgettable world of the Newbery Medal-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling novel The One and Only Ivan (soon to be a major motion picture!) in this incredible sequel, starring Ivan’s friend Bob!

Bob sets out on a dangerous journey in search of his long-lost sister with the help of his two best friends, Ivan and Ruby. As a hurricane approaches and time is running out, Bob finds courage he never knew he had and learns the true meaning of friendship and family.

Bob, Ivan, and Ruby have touched the hearts of millions of readers, and their story isn’t over yet. Catch up with these beloved friends before the star-studded film adaptation of The One and Only Ivan hits theaters in August 2020!

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

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday Focus: Christian Robinson

Happy Friday! This week, Friday Focus highlights Christian Robinson! 
Image: Penguin Random House
Everyone who knows me, knows my motto is, "One is never too old for picture books." I love them. I still buy them for myself and for my school's library. So, when I saw an article in PW about Robinson's videos about making art, I knew he was the next Friday Focus. Who doesn't love making art? And his sunny disposition and generosity are difficult to resist. 

Christian Robinson was raised by his grandmother in Los Angeles. He always had an interest in art and creating. This interest was supported by his grandmother and some of his teachers in school. He attended California Institute of the Arts and worked as an animator for Sesame Street and Pixar before turning to picture book illustration. He has illustrated sixteen picture books and was the author as well as illustrator for two of them. 

His collaboration with Matt de la Peña, Last Stop on Market Street, won de la Peña a Newbery Medal and Robinson a Caldecott Honor.

Image: Penguin Random House

Start by visiting his website, The Art of Fun. You can follow him on Instagram @theartoffun. Get ready to gather some art materials and watch the videos on his YouTube channel, Making Space with Christian Robinson.

Fact Friday: Monstrous by Carlyn Beccia

Image: Lerner Publishing Group
Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia. Carolrhoda Books/ Lerner Publishing Group, September, 2019. 9781512449167. (Review of free e-book courtesy of Junior Library Guild.)

Fact Friday features Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia. Now, you might not immediately consider that a book about various mythological creatures would be informational. Nay, there is science behind the myths! Ms. Beccia highlights creature such as the Kraken, Big Foot, Frankenstein, werewolves and Godzilla in this informative encyclopedia of the macabre. This is quite a dark, yet humorous examination of the mythological creatures that scare us most. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

#tbt: Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

Image: Simon & Schuster
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs. FunJungle #1. 304 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May, 2010. 9781416987314. (Own)

#tbt features Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs.The other day, I learned on FB that Stuart Gibbs was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the publication of his DEBUT novel, Belly Up! I wasn't aware that Belly Up was Gibbs' debut nor was I aware that in the ten years since, he has published twenty books! Now, I should've been because TMS library owns all of them and they are mostly all checked out for most of the school year. Think about this though. Two books a year for ten years! If you think that your mind is blown, wait. HE HAS FOUR MORE coming out over the next year and a half! Talk about productive! Wow. 

Belly Up is the first book in the FunJungle series. TMS' copy is in tatters from all the checkouts. Teddy Fitzroy lives his best life at an amusement park called FunJungle. When the park's mascot turns up dead, all signs point to murder, but the head honcho insists the hippo died of natural causes. The police investigation is inept, so Teddy is on the case. Hilarity ensues. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Mirror on the Left by Lamar Giles

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Last Mirror on the Left by Lamar Giles. Illustrated by Dapo Adeola. A Legendary Alston Boys Adventure. 272 p. Versify/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 20, 2020. 9780358129417.

Publisher synopsis: In this new Legendary Alston Boys adventure from Edgar-nominated author Lamar Giles, Otto and Sheed must embark on their most dangerous journey yet, bringing a fugitive to justice in a world that mirrors their own but has its own rules to play by.

Unlike the majority of Logan County's residents, Missus Nedraw of the Rorrim Mirror Emporium remembers the time freeze from The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, and how Otto and Sheed took her mirrors without permission in order to fix their mess. Usually that’s an unforgivable offense, punishable by a million-year sentence. However, she’s willing to overlook the cousins’ misdeeds if they help her with a problem of her own. One of her worst prisoners has escaped, and only the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County can help bring the fugitive to justice.

I was totally smitten by the boys' first adventure, The Last Last Day of Summer. The many fans of the book will be thrilled to learn the Alston boys are coming back. Isn't that cover terrific?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audio Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Image: LBYR
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. Folk of the Air series #3. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~ 10 hours. Read by Caitlin Kelley. Hachette Audio, November, 2019. 9781549150173. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. This is the conclusion of the Folk of the Air trilogy and it does not disappoint. I cannot say much without spoiling the earlier books; but if you love fairy fantasy, this is the series for you. Holly Black worked with Tony DiTerlizzi on the Spiderwick Chronicles. She doesn't whitewash the violence and caprice of the fey. She didn't in Spiderwick, which is middle grade-friendly nor did she in this trilogy, which is definitely for mature teen readers. The world-building is rich and suspense is high as everything Jude worked for is at stake.

I read The Cruel Prince as an arc and utterly loved it. I read the next two books with my ears. Caitlin Kelley's narration was pitch-perfect and perfectly paced. Teens who love all things fairy will love all things Holly Black.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Image: Penguin Random House
Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz. 224 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, July 14, 2020. 9780525552864. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz. It's the beginning of summer and Jamila and her family are new to town. Jamila definitely does not want to attend the science camp her older brothers went to. She wants to ball down at the basketball courts five blocks away. Her mother is having none of that. Shirley, who favors wearing trench coats and reading, is not happy to learn her mom signed her up for ballet camp. When the two meet at a garage sale both moms dragged them to, they click. Not because they were destined to become friends, but because they have a common problem. 

Shirley has an idea. They get their moms to agree that the two will spend time together instead of going to camp! Jamila dreams of basketball, but while Shirley has set up an "office" at the bball court, she always steers the pair somewhere else, especially after Oliver shows up with a case for her to solve. His gecko is missing. Shirley may not have any friends; but she is the neighborhood detective. The problem? Jamila is not going to play Watson to Shirley's Sherlock.

The art was uncolored in this arc, but had energy as did the panel layout, which sometimes challenged the eye (at least my old ones). I can't wait to see the finished art. The Toronto setting was appealing. The tween interactions were spot on and the mystery was intriguing. There is so much to love here. 

Just before the school building was shut down due to the pandemic, a student came into the library looking for a mystery. He had to read a new genre. As I book talked some TMS favorites, I could see he wasn't impressed. He suddenly asked, "Do you have any graphic novel mysteries?" Clever, clever lad to combine his preferred genre with one foisted upon him. Unfortunately, as we perused the section, there wasn't a gn mystery to be found! I realized that the collection really skews to fantasy and humor. I cannot wait to add Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer! 

Saturday, May 16, 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: Peachtree Publishing
The Candy Mafia by Lavie Tidhar. Illustrated by Daniel Duncan. 300 p. Peachtree Publishing Company, September 1, 2020. 9781682631973.

Publisher synopsis: In a city where candy is a crime and sugar is scandalous, Nelle Faulker is a 12-year-old private detective looking for her next client.

When notorious candy gangster Eddie de Menthe asks for her help to find a missing teddy bear, Nelle Faulkner is on the case. But as soon as the teddy turns up, Eddie himself goes missing! As a seemingly innocent investigation unravels into something more sinister, Nelle and her friends quickly find themselves swept up in a shady underworld of sweets smugglers, back alley deals, and storefront firebombs.

If Nelle has any hope of tracking down her missing client, first she’ll have to unmask the true faces behind the smuggling ring. Can Nelle and her friends find a way to take the cake? Or will they come to a sticky end…?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Bugsy Malone in this page-turning mystery from World Fantasy Award-winning author Lavie Tidhar. With moody spot illustrations by Daniel Duncan, readers will be sucked into the action-packed narrative as Nelle pulls the curtain back on the black market candy rings.

Image: Candlewick Press
Kids Fight Plastic: how to be a #2minutesuperhero by Martin Dorey. Illustrated by Tim Wesson. 128 p. Candlewick Press, September 8, 2020. 9781536212778.

Publisher synopsis: Every kid can be a superhero, fighting plastic waste at home, at school, and in their community. This engaging guide is chockfull of facts, vibrant art, graphics, and #2minutesuperhero missions—practical ways to take action now. Some ideas may spring to mind right away, such as picking up trash. Others are surprising, such as learning to cook with fresh ingredients or mending clothes. Readers will learn not only how to combat plastic waste head-on, but how to advocate for a cleaner world, beginning at home. Anti-plastic campaigner Martin Dorey brings both extensive experience and boundless enthusiasm to this essential book for young people who want to create a better world.

Kids can become ocean-saving superheroes with these plastic-fighting missions from best-selling author and environmental champion Martin Dorey.

Image: Candlewick Press
Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka. 318 p Candlewick Press, October 13, 2020. 9781536207767.

Publisher synopsis: A teenage girl wonders if she’s inherited more than just a heart from her donor in this compulsively readable debut.

Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste. Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.) And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize. Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing? As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.

Image: Candlewick Press
Beauty Mark: a verse novel of Marilyn Monroe by Carole Boston Weatherford.186 p. Candlewick Press, September 8, 2020. 9781536206296.

Publisher synopsis: In a powerful novel in verse, an award-winning author offers an eye-opening look at the life of Marilyn Monroe.

From the day she was born into a troubled home to her reigning days as a Hollywood icon, Marilyn Monroe (née Norma Jeane Mortenson) lived a life that was often defined by others. Here, in a luminous poetic narrative, acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford tells Marilyn’s story in a way that restores her voice to its rightful place: center stage. Revisiting Marilyn’s often traumatic early life—foster homes, loneliness, sexual abuse, teen marriage—through a hard-won, meteoric rise to stardom that brought with it exploitation, pill dependency, and depression, the lyrical narrative continues through Marilyn’s famous performance at JFK’s birthday party, three months before her death. In a story at once riveting, moving, and unflinching, Carole Boston Weatherford tells a tale of extraordinary pain and moments of unexpected grace, gumption, and perseverance, as well as the inexorable power of pursuing one’s dreams. A beautifully designed volume.

Image: Candlewick Press
All Thirteen: the incredible cave rescue of the Thai boys' soccer team by Christina Soontornvat. 280 p. Candlewick Press, October 13, 2020. 9781536209457

Publisher synopsis: A unique account of the amazing Thai cave rescue told in a heart-racing, you-are-there style that blends suspense, science, and cultural insight.

On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary "ordinary" group. Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region's culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat—who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing—masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated with photographs, this page-turner includes an author’s note describing her experience meeting the team, detailed source notes, and a bibliography to fully immerse readers in the most ambitious cave rescue in history.

Image: Cornell Publishing Group
Plastic Sea: a bird's-eye view by Kirsti Blom and Geir Wing Gabrielsen. 62 p. The Cornell Publishing Group/ WunderMill Inc., April, 2020. 9781943645503.

Publisher synopsis: Plastic garbage knows no borders. In the sea, it floats on ocean currents and makes its way around the globe, threatening seabirds and animals that eat it by mistake and are sometimes caught in plastic waste. Told from the perspective of a Northern Fulmar, a seabird that lives across the oceans of the northern hemisphere, Plastic Sea: A Bird’s-eye View uses the most up-to-date science to offer insight into a growing environmental crisis with global implications. If we continue to waste as much plastic as we do today, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Fortunately, there are actions we can take as individuals and as a global community to reduce plastic waste in our oceans. Plastic Sea is an invitation to give seabirds, animals, and the Earth itself a chance to thrive again.

I learned about this book at a terrific webinar presented by the U of T Trash Team!

Image: DC Comics
Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang. Art by Gurihiru. 240 p. DC, May 12, 2020. 9781779504210.

Publisher synopsis: The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis' Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman!

Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross” and drawn by Gurihiru, Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!

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

Friday, May 15, 2020

Fact Friday: Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang. 448 p. First: Second/ Macmillan Publishers, March, 2020. 9781626720794. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang. Again, astute observers will recall that I featured Mr. Yang in a Friday Focus post and book talked the book there along with some of his other books. Dragon Hoops is part-autobiography and part-history of basketball and totally fantastic. Mr. Yang taught for seventeen years at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Northern California. Gene Luen Yang, a self-professed nerd had no interest in basketball, rarely set foot in the athletics building on campus and rarely crossed paths with Lou Richie, the storied coach of Dragon basketball. He himself is an O'Dowd alum and went to state with his much beloved coach and mentor. But as much as the Dragons dominated California basketball, the team never clinched a title. Gene Yang was looking for a story idea for his next graphic novel when he heard a rumor that the 2014 team had a great chance at going all the way. He began shadowing Richie and his team and grew to appreciate the game, its history and the players. 

Dragon Hoops is hefty, weighing in at over 400 pages. They do fly by thanks to great storytelling and superb art. If you are a fan of basketball, check this book out. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Arc Review: Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard

Image: HarperCollins
Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard. 266 p. Harper/ HarperCollins Publishers, June 2, 2020. 9780062878113. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Eleven-year-old Cyrus Olson grapples with courage in this gentle, first-person narrative. Eleven years earlier, he was left at the door of the fire house as an infant. The fire chief found him, brought his to the hospital and decided to adopt him. Cyrus has grown up at the fire house and loves all the firemen, but worries because he knows he isn't brave enough to run into a fire. His dad was a star football player as a kid. Cyrus loved peewee football but now that it's tackle, he no longer does. He is afraid to disappoint his dad. On the day of his eleventh birthday, a stray dog is left at the firehouse, but Cyrus' dad says no to the dog - only Cyrus has already fallen in love. 

If you are a fan of Ms. Stoddard's Just Like Jackie, you know that you're in for a treat. She excels at creating vivid, relatable characters. And, as in Just Like Jackie, there is an wonderful grandparent/ grandchild relationship. Cyrus' grandmother has recently had a stroke and lives in an assisted care facility. She took on much of Cyrus' care while his dad was at work. Now, though she can't speak due to the stroke, Cyrus tries to understand what she's saying in other ways. 

Tween dynamics and dialogue are spot-on as well. She absolutely nailed the portrait of the emerging alpha athlete. Something happens between fifth and sixth grades that causes seismic friendship shifts. With boys, it's usually sports and with girls it's harder to define. Yet, it's classic fodder for middle grade novels because it's real and primal and hurts so much! You can't have too many of these books on the shelves because they are balm to injured souls, to those left behind.

While Brave Like That is a gentle coming-of-age story, there's some real suspense surrounding the web of Cyrus' lies as well as a dangerous fire and, of course, what's going to happen to the dog. Brave Like That hits all the right notes.

#tbt: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Image: LBYR
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. 288 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July, 2009. 97800316114271. (Own)

#tbt features Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Astute observers will recall that I featured Grace Lin is a Friday Focus post a few weeks ago. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an illustrated story-within-a-story that was published in 2009 and won a 2010 Newbery Honor. 

It is the story of Minli, who lives in a hut with her parents on Fruitless Mountain. They are very poor, but rich in stories. Each night, her father tells her stories about Jade Dragon and Old Man Moon, who is very wise. Minli decides to set off in search of Old Man Moon to help her family and village. This story-within-a-story weaves traditional Chinese folk tales with Minli's adventure. Each chapter opens with a stunning full-color illustration. LIn's art style is intricate and elegant.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Audiobook Review: Birdie and Me by J.M.M. Nuancez

Image: Penguin Random House
Birdie and Me by J.M.M. Nuancez. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~6 hours. Read by Jorjeana Marie. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, February, 2020. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library. Arc courtesy of publisher.)

This is an incredibly moving first-person narrative told by Jack, who, along with her much younger brother, Birdie, are still grieving the death of their mother in an accident. The book opens with them moving household. Again. They have been removed from freewheeling Uncle Carl, who never minded if the two skipped school to live with Uncle Patrick, who seems rather buttoned up and straight-laced. Indeed, Uncle Patrick insists not only that the two attend school daily, but also that Birdie change his wardrobe from a colorful, more gender-fluid style to totally boring boy-style. Uncle Patrick thinks the bullies will stop if Birdie looks normal. He doesn't see that he's telling Birdie not to be Birdie. But Jack does. Introspective and wise beyond her years, Jack is fiercely protective of Birdie. She resents Patrick's insistence that Birdie conform and the two run away. Or attempt to anyway. 

Jack's first-person voice captivates from page one. There's plenty of sadness here, but also tenderness and humor. The adults in Jack and Birdie's world are as at sea as they are, but they are trying to do the right thing. Though the two siblings miss their free-spirited mom terribly, readers slowly learn that life with her had their challenges.

Jorgeana Marie's narration captures Jack's determination and Birdie's free spirit in a well-paced, engaging performance. The press release says this title is great for readers who loved Counting by 7s. I absolutely agree. Hand Birdie and Me to readers who like sad books and/ or quirky characters who endear. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Tune it Out by Jamie Sumner

Image: Simon & Schuster
Tune it Out by Jamie Sumner. 288 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, September 1, 2020. 9781534457003.

Publisher synopsis: From the author of the acclaimed Roll with It comes a moving novel about a girl with a sensory processing disorder who has to find her own voice after her whole world turns upside down.

Lou Montgomery has the voice of an angel, or so her mother tells her and anyone else who will listen. But Lou can only hear the fear in her own voice. She’s never liked crowds or loud noises or even high fives; in fact, she’s terrified of them, which makes her pretty sure there’s something wrong with her.

When Lou crashes their pickup on a dark and snowy road, child services separate the mother-daughter duo. Now she has to start all over again at a fancy private school far away from anything she’s ever known. With help from an outgoing new friend, her aunt and uncle, and the school counselor, she begins to see things differently. A sensory processing disorder isn’t something to be ashamed of, and music might just be the thing that saves Lou—and maybe her mom, too.

I absolutely adored Roll with It and so did the students in Ms. F's fifth grade class when she read it aloud. I cannot wait for this!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

Image: Penguin Random House

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman. unabridged e-audiobook. ~9 hours. Narrated by Kathleen Gate and Natalie Soudek. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House, March, 2020. 9780593155653. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman. This impressive debut is a historical fiction set in Ukraine and Russia in 1986. The narrative also flashes back to Ukraine during WWII. Contemporary students may or may not be aware of the Chernobyl nuclear accident that gripped the world in 1986. This story focuses on two girls, Valentina and Oksana, who are classmates and whose fathers both work at the power plant. Oksana is physically and emotionally abused by her virulently anti-Semitic father. She in turn bullies Valentina, who is Jewish. Both fathers were working at the plant when the cores melted, killing many and causing acute radiation poisoning to the rest as well as many residents of the town. Blankman vividly portrays the panic of the girls and their mothers as they try to find out the condition of their fathers/ husbands. 

The Russian government tried to cover up/ downplay the disaster. The girls and Valentina's mother attempt to travel by train to Leningrad, Russia but government imposed travel restrictions allow only two tickets. So the girls end up traveling by themselves to the city of Leningrad, where the grandmother Valentina never met will care for them until they can be reunited with their mothers. 

This character-driven story is intricate and layered as well as heartbreaking and infuriating. The flashbacks to WWII were interesting though a bit puzzling until the end. Descriptions of the meltdown aftereffects were incredibly vivid. Actually, many scenes were intensely vivid and evocative. My dislike for Oksana turned to pity as her story unfolded. There is just so much to love about this novel. The new-to-me narrators' performances were perfectly paced. 

I placed this in a "Teen Tuesday" post due to the sophisticated structure and intense themes, though any reader from fifth through eighth grade might appreciate the story. The Blackbird Girls is a wonderful addition to any collection. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: War Stories by Gordon Korman

Image: Scholastic
War Stories by Gordon Korman. 234 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., July 21, 2020. 9781338290219. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features War Stories by Gordon Korman. Twelve-year-old Trevor is a bit of a history buff - well, World War II history. This might be because he's an avid video gamer and he's an ace at his WWII game. More likely, it's because his beloved great-grandfather, Jacob, is a WWII war hero. Trevor is his best fan and never tires of G.G.'s war stories. Trevor's dad, on the other hand, worries about Trevor's obsession with war and war games. Daniel was raised by his grandfather and, while he loves and respects his grandfather, he is anti-war. 

G.G. receives a invitation from the town that he helped liberate. They want to honor him, the only surviving soldier, with a parade for the 75th anniversary. Trevor's dad doesn't think travel is a great idea for a man his age. G.G. not only wants to go, but he wants to retrace his steps from 1943 by first traveling to Georgia, where he did his basic training before heading to Omaha Beach, where he landed and then take a road trip through the French countryside, where he fought. And, he wants to bring Trevor with him!

The chapters shift in time between Trevor's trip with his dad and G.G. 
in the spring of 2020 and 1943, when Jacob dropped out of high school, lied about his age and enlisted. 

War Stories is a bit more serious than Korman's usual fare. He has a lesson to teach, but he does so with a deft hand. The scenes from WWII are gripping and vivid. The tension of G.G.'s secret gradually builds as he revisits each site. Trevor's love and admiration for G.G. is palpable. I felt that the revenge subplot was a tad weak and distracting until the end, where it made for quite the climactic scene. Young readers won't notice. 

One other quibble for me was the math. My husband's uncle served in WWII. He's four years older than G.G. He never married but his great-nieces and nephews range in age from 50 to 28. For me, it's more likely that Trevor would be a great-great-grandson. Again, the kids won't notice.

If you have readers who chew through your collection of war stories and ask for more, War Stories is just the ticket.