Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Infinity Son

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. unabridged e-audiobook. ~9 hours. Read by Robbie Daymond, Kirby Heyborne, Maria Liatis & Elliot Knight. Quill Tree Books/ HarperAudio, January, 2020. 9780062457844. (Review of downloadable e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. Latinx twins Emil and Brighton live in Bronx, New York, but it's not a Bronx we'd recognize. They are about to turn eighteen and neither one has manifested any magical power. Emil doesn't want them, Brighton yearns for them so he can join his heroes, the Spell Walkers. Brighton is a vlogger with a growing following. He films encounters between Spell Walkers and Blood Casters, who prey on Spell Walkers for their magical blood. When the boys are attacked by Blood Casters in the subway, it is Emil whose powers come in - big time. He possesses rare phoenix fire - exactly what the Blood Casters are looking for. This series starter features a large and diverse cast of characters and is told from multiple points of view. A cliffhanger ending will leave fans panting for the next installment.

Kirby Heyborne is usually a favorite narrator, but he seemed miscast here as Brighton. Why not cast a Latino? I think I will be reading book 2 with my eyes.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Bad Best Friend by Rachel Vail

Image: Penguin Random House
Bad Best Friend by Rachel Vail. 308p. Viking/ Penguin Random House, March, 2020. 9780451479457. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Bad Best Friend by Rachel Vail. Ava and Niki have been bffs since third grade when Ava moved to Maine from Los Angeles. Niki sort of dumped Holly for Ava back in third grade and now, it seems Ava is dumping Niki to belong to the popular group headed by Britney. The reader follows Niki, through her first-person narration as she navigates life without Ava and deals with life at home, where her fourth grade brother is having issues of his own. 

Ms. Vail's strengths as an author shine here. She has created a community of interesting characters with relatable problems. She mixed in humor and affection, resulting in a fun, fast read. If you love stories about family, school and/ or friendship, you will love Bad Best Friend! So endearing!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Fact Friday: The Pocket Change Collective from Penguin Workshop

Images: Penguin Random House
Fact Friday features a new series from Penguin Workshop called Pocket Change Collective. Since the four I was given to review are all around 64 -65 pages, I will talk about them together. These are mini-memoirs/essays written by young, passionate activists covering a wide variety of timely topics.

In Imaginary Borders, Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced shoe-tex-caht) Martinez talks about his climate change activism. He started when he was six-years-old and he's not yet twenty! 

In This is What I Know about Art, Kimberly Drew relates her journey from student at Smith College where, she was not only one of few Black people on campus but one of few art history majors. She went on to curate and write about making art accessible for ALL people, not just rich, white people. 

In Beyond the Gender Binary, gender non-conforming performance artist, Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the concept of the gender binary as being a Western construct that is not only narrow and limiting but needlessly punitive to those who do not conform. 

In The New Queer Conscience, community organizer and LGBTQ+ activist Adam Eli argues for kindness and compassion not only from those outside the LGBTQ+ community but also those within it. 

I found each of these tiny books absolutely fascinating and often found myself wanting more, wishing the book were longer. But that defeats the purpose of the collection. I did Google each activist and spent some time online reading more and watching videos. And that's the point. Read with an open, curious mind and set out for more information.

Two additional titles are releasing this fall: Concrete Kids by Amira León and Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa. All the books are illustrated Ashley Lukashevsky. 
Leading by example, these young activists and their messages are sure to resonate with teen readers. What a terrific way to inspire. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Picture Book Review: Wombat Goes to School by Jackie French

Image: HarperCollins
Wombat Goes to School by Jackie French. Illustrated by Bruce Whatley. unpgd. Angus & Robertson/ HarperCollins Publishers, June, 2020. 9780732299033. (Review of finished paperback courtesy of publisher.)

As a HUGE fan of Diary of a Wombat, I was more than thrilled when given the opportunity to revisit Jackie French's rascally wombat. I loved of the sequel of sorts, Christmas Wombat and her nonfiction book, How to Scratch a Wombat. I knew next to nothing about these brown, round, lazy creatures. Wombat Goes to School continues the dry, deadpan humor and spare text of its predecessors. She eats. She sleeps. She scratches. What's this? She finds a hole! She smells carrots! She follows her nose and ends up in school where she hilariously wreaks havoc and ends up in the principal's office.

Fans of the Wombat books will not be disappointed. New fans can start here and work back through the earlier books. It seems that How to Scratch a Wombat has gone out of print. Too bad, since it was the perfect fiction/ nonfiction pairing for curious minds. I also learned that there are two additional titles in the pipeline - Wombat Wins, releasing in September and Grandma Wombat, set to release in January.

Bruce Whatley's acrylic illustrations convey wombat adorable-ness with understated humor and luscious colors. Mothball is the perfect distraction at school in her single-minded quest for carrots! I now have a granddaughter and may just have to put together a Wombat collection for her home library! Wombat Goes to School is the perfect addition to the read aloud rotation. I just loved it.

#tbt: Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Image: Penguin Random House
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by Hudson Talbott. unpgd. G. P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Random House, September, 2005 9780399237492. (Own.)

#tbt features Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson. Ms. Woodson can trace the matrilineal side of her family back seven or so generations to a Virginia plantation where "Soonie's great grandma" was sold at the age of seven, ripped away from her family and sent to a plantation in South Carolina with a needle, some red thread and a bit of muslin. Big Mama took care of Soonie's great grandma, taught her how to sew, but also told stories about freedom. The story follows each daughter through the years to Ms. Woodson's own daughter, who learns about Soonie's great-great grandma. I've read this "picture book for everyone" aloud to classes many times over the last fifteen years and the response is always the same - the room becomes pin-drop silent as students fall under the spell of Ms. Woodson's spare storytelling and Hudson Talbott's evocative mixed media illustrations. This is a True family story and, since some names were lost to history, the book is classified as a work of fiction. That doesn't make it any less True. 

This book is one of my all-time favorites; one I do not mind returning to again and again. One in which I continue to lose myself in the gorgeous writing and absolutely stunning spreads. Back in 2005, when I first read it, I thought, "Caldecott for sure!" Imagine my surprise when it received nothing from that committee. It did, however, win a Newbery Honor. the first of four Newbery Honors for this much revered former National Ambassador for Children's Literature. It is also one of few picture books to receive a Newbery nod.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Choksi

Image: RickRiordan

Waiting on Wednesday features Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Choksi. This fourth book in the Pandava Quintet does not release until April of 2021; but that gives you all plenty of time to read the first three books! If you loved Rick Riordan's mythology-based adventures, you will love Aru Shah. She's more than just a middle school student from Parsippany, NJ, she's a Pandava sister and princess. 

There's not much out there in the way of a synopsis. Rick Riordan just revealed the cover on his website last week. While you're waiting, you can browse all the other great titles published under his imprint at Disney, Rick Riordan Presents, quite a few of which have been highlighted here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: My Eyes are Up Here by Laura Zimmerman

Image: Penguin Random House*
My Eyes are Up Here by Laura Zimmerman. 344 p. Dutton Books/ Penguin Random House, June 23, 2020. 9781984815248. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features and wishes a happy book birthday to, My Eyes are Up Here by Laura Zimmerman. Fifteen-year-old Greer Walsh narrates this charming debut, which is at turns poignant and hilarious. Greer feels betrayed by her body, more specifically, her breasts, which have grown so large that she has named them - Mavis and Maude. She has also taken to wearing the baggiest clothes possible to cover them up and has zero interest in dating because boys tend to focus on Mavis and Maud exclusively. So she focuses on her grades and trying to find the perfect bra. She's pushed to try out for the volley ball team when she shows natural ability during a gym unit. She'd love to, but those uniforms are so skimpy! Then there's transfer student Jackson Oakes. She was tasked with showing him around by her mom, who is a corporate relocation expert. The two fall into easy banter and Greer finds herself thinking about him - a lot. 

There's some depth here, making My Eyes are Up Here more than a breezy romance. There are strong female friendships and strong female athletes who help Greer accept her body. This was a fun book with a reassuring body positive message featuring an appealing, whip-smart narrator. My Eyes are Up Here belongs in every middle, high school and public library collection. 

*There is an audiobook sample on the book's web page. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~ 6 hours. Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo. HarperAudio, May, 2020.

Happy first Middle Grade Monday of summer 2020! I read two books over the weekend and am on track for my book-a-day goal so far! Middle Grade Monday features We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly. This story is set in the weeks leading up to the launch of the Challenger Space Shuttle in January of 1986 and centers on a family in crisis. Bird and her twin brother Fitch used to be close; but Fitch is struggling with anger that is becoming uncontrollable and Bird, who is smart and interested in science, especially space science, feels invisible. Their older brother, Cash, was left back and can no longer play basketball because of his grades. He's in seventh grade with them, struggling and worried he may have to repeat seventh grade yet again. Their parents' marriage is not happy and the two fight all the time leaving the children feeling unmoored and unsafe. Their science teacher, who envies Christa McCauliffe's luck in being chosen to be the first teacher to go to outer space, has her students learning all about the Challenger Mission. Bird's personal hero is Judith Resnik, the only other woman on the crew and one of few female astronauts. This book is quite sad, but beautifully written. Really, the portrayal of dysfunction was exquisitely painful. Readers will root for these three siblings as they try to find their way.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Picture Book Review: Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

Image: Candlewick Press
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Michele Wood. unpgd. Candlewick Press, April, 2020. 97800763691561. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Instead of the usual title page one would expect when opening this picture book biography in verse, one finds an enigmatic number six made out of the words, "How Many Sides to a Box?" with the title, "Geometry." Ah, a concrete poem! All of the poems save this one are six lines long, representative of the six sides of the box Henry Brown folded himself into in order to escape enslavement. Ms. Boston Weatherford used Henry Brown's own autobiography to mine material for her poems, which are told in Henry's voice and paint a devastating picture of the horror and injustice of slavery and the desperation which can propel a human to risk everything for freedom. 

Henry Brown was born into slavery in 1815. His family remained intact on the same plantation for the first fifteen years of his life, when his master died. Then, he and his family were "flung apart as if dandelion puffs." He lands in a tobacco factory in Richmond. He hears about Nat Turner's Rebellion. He understands the laws that keep Black people in bondage and he fears the overseers, who seem to be getting nastier and nastier. He falls in love with Nancy and the two receive permission to "jump broom" and a promise that Nancy would not be sold. Not only was this promise broken, but each master was crueler than the last. Once Nancy and his children were sold away, Henry, feeling there that there was nothing more to lose, plans his escape. An escape that would not be possible without aid from a sympathetic shoe maker with abolitionist friends in Philadelphia. 

The poems, spare and evocative provide historical context as well as information about Henry Brown's life. The textured mixed media paintings invite the eye to linger over the stylized art, quilt motifs and occasional symbolism. The palette is decidedly rich in color and utterly radiant. Back matter includes a time line, bibliography, and illustrator and author notes. The pages are thick and the book has heft. 

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom is a first-purchase! I look forward to rereading it and I am thrilled to be able to add this to my sixth grade picture book biography unit. Verse biographies are relatively rare and a bit on the difficult side. I have several on the cart, including Ms. Weatherford's Schomberg:The Man Who Built a Library. We also have Voice of Freedom; Gordon Parks: and The Legendary Miss Lena Horn. One is never too old for picture books in general, but picture book biographies give even older students a glimpse into the lives of people they may never have heard of. This year, I asked my seventh graders to write a Nonfiction reading reflection. Most students stated they preferred fiction to nonfiction reading, but a significant number fondly recalled a picture book biography from their sixth grade year. This made my librarian heart proud. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Fact Friday and Audiobook Review: Stamped, Racism, Anti-racism and You: a remix of Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi.

Image: LBYR

Happy last day of school, TMS Readers! Fact Friday features: Stamped, Racism, Anti-racism and You: a remix of Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi. Yes, you read that right. Jason Reynolds has forayed into nonfiction territory and adapted Dr. Kendi's National Book Award-winning, Stamped from the Beginning for a young audience. 

On the opening page, or in my case on the opening track, since I listened to Mr. Reynolds read his work, he assures the reader/ listener, "This is NOT a history book." It is, but it certainly does not feel like one in this capable storyteller's hands. Jason Reynolds is a fearless writer, always willing to experiment, as he does so with font changes and dramatic use of white space. He & Dr. Kendi bring the reader back to 1415, when a document was written to justify the enslavement of human beings on religious grounds. He connects the dots through history from the arrival of the first ships bearing enslaved men and women to the New World, through the Civil War, the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights Movement, the "war on drugs," the school-to-prison pipeline to the #BLM movement of today. He does so with a bit of humor to balance the horror and despicable injustices. He also takes the occasional break to remind the reader to stop and breathe. Because that's exactly what happens. You find yourself holding your breath. This inspiring work will compel you to sit with the material and do some reflection. You might even reread it, as I intend to do soon.

Jason Reynolds' writing here is conversational. I've read each of his novels and heard him speak on multiple occasions so his voice is firmly in my head. I started reading an arc with my eyes, then heard that he was narrating the audio and decided to wait and listen to the real voice. And what a voice. Even my dog was entranced. 

Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You belongs in all libraries. I would love to make this a One Book One School read or, at least an all-faculty read. I can't recommend this enough.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

#tbt: Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester

Image: HarperCollins
#tbt features a picture book for everyone, Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester. Mr. Lester is a masterful storyteller. If you haven't read any of his award-winning books like, John Henry or Uncle Remus: the complete tales, do yourself a favor and put them and Let's Talk about Race on your reading pile/ list. Talking about race can be hard and uncomfortable, but Mr. Lester's gentle, conversational tone eases the reader into the subject. The vibrant illustrations are striking and the author leaves the reader with the best possible challenge. Let's Talk about Race was published in 2005 and remains sadly relevant today.

I don't usually reread books for my #tbt posts, instead rely on memory; but I happily revisited this book to marvel at the magic that Julius Lester made here. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Picture Book Review: The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity by Amy Alznauer

Image: Candlewick Press
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: a tale of the genius Ramanujan by Amy Alznauer. Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. unpgd. Candlewick Press, April, 2020. 9780763690489. Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

People who know me, know I am math averse. It's a trauma that goes all the way back to my childhood cringing under the weight of my father's impatience when I couldn't understand any concept he tried to "teach" me. I am frequently pulled from the library to cover classes and my greatest dread is covering a math class. I once sorta kiddingly told my VP, "Sending me to cover math is child abuse." 

But I do love reading about mathematicians! The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity is a beautifully illustrated picture book biography of a self-taught mathematical genius told sparely and accessibly. Ramanujan was born in British-ruled India in the late 1800s. He took a while to talk and would quietly arrange copper pots instead of interacting. His grandfather taught him how to count and that seemed to make a connection for soon he was talking and asking such unanswerable questions as, "What is small?" or "What is big?" He went to school at age five but soon grew bored when his teachers would not/ could not answer his incessant questions. He tried school over and over rarely encountering a teacher who appreciated his genius. He flunked out of college, had trouble finding jobs, yet still he wrote equations in his notebooks and pondered what is big and small. He sent a letter to a distinguished professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, who invited him to sail to England to discuss number theory. 

The palette of the ink illustrations is cheery with splashes of red and yellow to draw the eye. Several illustrations sport equations. All evocatively depict Ramanujan immersed in another world. He seems to glow in each spread. In the Author's Note at the end of the book, readers learn that Ramanujan died young, at the age of 32. There's a bibliography but not one that young readers will find easily accessible. The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity seems to be the first and it's terrific. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five. 400 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, September 1, 2020. 9780062996480.

Waiting on Wednesday features Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five. Zoboi, who was a National Book Award Finalist for her debut novel, American Street teamed up with prison reform activist, Yusef Salaam. Here's the publisher synopsis:

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, the authors tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

This verse novel is due on September 1. I can't wait. That cover is amazing!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audio Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Image: Scholastic

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~14 hours. Narrated by Santino Fontana. Scholastic Audio, May, 2020. 9781338635218. (Review of e-audio downloaded from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This is a prequel to The Hunger Games, which was published in 2008. The reaping for the tenth Hunger Games is about to occur and Coriolanus Snow has nothing to wear. He and his family also have little to eat though they still retain their penthouse apartment and some standing in the Capitol. Coryo, as his cousin, Tigris likes to call him, is a senior at the academy. His prospects after graduation are grim since his family has no money to pay for college. The Gamemaker, sensing flagging interest in the Hunger Games, changed the rules. Tributes in the tenth Hunger Games are to be matched with a student mentor from the academy. Coryo hopes to be matched with a strong tribute, win the Hunger Games, and secure his future. His hopes are dashed when he is assigned to Lucy Gray Baird, a folk singer from District 12, the coal mining district, the poorest district. 

This prequel doesn't have the nonstop suspense of the original trilogy, though there are a number of grisly moments. It's much more philosophical; examining instead, what in Coriolanus' youth laid the foundation for the vicious tyrant he became. I found it mildly interesting at times; but mostly felt that the narrative meandered and was overly convoluted. The Hunger Games was released shortly before I began blogging but I couldn't find if I reviewed it. I do distinctly remember hesitating before putting it on the YA shelf due to the intense violence. I also recall being less and less enamored of the sequels.

New-to-me narrator Fontana ably read; but the book wasn't ably produced, as there were frequent distractions due to volume switches between tracks. At times it sounded like a different narrator stepped in. Fans of the trilogy will definitely be interested in reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Of course I will be buying it for my library and of course students will swarm. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Things Seen from Above by Shelley Pearsall

Happy Monday! Middle Grade Monday features Things Seen from Above by Shelley Pearsall. This dual narrative is told in the first-person by April, a sixth grader and occasional short third-person, illustrated intervals featuring Joey Byrd, a fourth grader. April has a fight with her one and only friend on the first day of her last year of elementary school. She volunteers to man the "Buddy Bench" during fourth grade recess to avoid the friend drama. She knows about Joey Byrd thanks to his penchant for doing odd things like lying down in the middle of the hall during a fire drill. On her first day as Buddy Bench monitor, Joey Byrd is lying on his back in the middle of the playground. He's lying so still, April thinks he might be dead. His other playground ritual is carving into the mulch with his shoe. April can't figure it out until she changes her perspective. 

This is a quiet, character-driven novel that was inspired by the author's nephew. Readers are encouraged to see past odd behavior in an encouraging way. 

Saturday, June 13, 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
Wombat Goes to School by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley. unpgd. Angus & Robertson/ HarperCollins Publishers, June 16, 2020. 9780732299033.

Publisher synopsis: She eats. She sleeps. She scratches. She goes to school...She sleeps. She eats. She scratches - and finds a hole. When Mothball discovers a new hole, it unexpectedly leads her to the local school. the children learn that wombats love carrots and grass, while Mothball learns that lunch boxes contain very few carrots, that sports sheds can be a good place to have a nap, and that when you're brown and round, it's not a good idea to get too close to a ball. 

I just adored Diary of a Wombat and Christmas Wombat. as well as Ms. French's informational, How to Scratch a Wombat, which I did not review and appears to have gone out of print. 

Believe by Julie Mathison. 156 p. Starr Creek Press, August, 2020.

GR Synopsis: Full of humor and wonder, BELIEVE explores the power and limits of the imagination – and how love both breaks and heals our hearts.

Eleven-year-old Melanie knows she's special. She's never been bored. She understands the secret language of old houses and makes jewels out of broken glass. Her imagination can do anything -- except make friends. It's 1980, and life as a fifth grader at Buckminster Experimental School is lonely at best, when she's not dodging Karen, the school bully. Then, Melanie meets Sabrina, who looks like a TV star and acts like a spy, and who doesn't care what anyone thinks. She teaches Melanie how to believe in herself, and soon Melanie starts living her dreams. She even lands the lead in Peter Pan!

If only she could share it all with Mom. Missing her mom is like trying to breathe with one lung. It's bad. Sabrina thinks they can track her down, and Melanie wants to believe, but sometimes it's easier to pretend. Her new life feels like a house of cards, until one day it all comes crashing down and she finds herself with no choice but to face the truth… and let go.

This quirky, heartfelt middle-grade novel about grief and the resilience of the human spirit will keep you guessing until the end.

Purchased: nothing!

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

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fact Friday and Arc Review: Kids Fight Plastic: how to be a #2minutesuperhero by Martin Dorey

Kids Fight Plastic: how to be a #2minutesuperhero by Martin Dorey. 128 p. Candlewick Press, September 8, 2020. 9781536215878. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Friday! It's the second to last Friday of the school year! Fact Friday features Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey. If reading Plastic Ahoy or The Plastic Sea didn't change your use of plastic, this eye-opening book will. Mr. Dorey is an anti-plastic activist who lives in England. He has written this short, accessible book to help children (and adults) survey their use of plastic through a series of sixteen challenges. Would-be super heroes collect points by completing tasks which vary in difficulty. Some require parental assistance.

The art was gray-toned in the arc, but promises the finished copy will be full-color. It's kid-friendly and energetic. The only thing I didn't love about design was the inclusion of baseball-type cards featuring fictional superheroes both human and animal. Not only did they not add anything, but they undermined the text. For example, a dolphin named Helford the Hero fights plastic by fighting the fishing line she was entangled in until she was rescued? I would've much preferred text boxes featuring real eco-warriors. I'm eager to get a student's opinion on this. 

I used to think I was pretty virtuous because I carry my own grocery bags, use a refillable water container and stopped using single-use plastic straws. But, what about my toothbrushes? How about my shampoo bottles? Plastic is everywhere and it's not good for the environment when it's chucked in landfills. Who doesn't love glitter and sparkly wrapping paper? Stop using it! I could go on, but I won't. Let me just say my world is rocked. I need to do better and this book will help me. 

Read Kids Fight Plastic and make your own plan for how you will lessen your negative impact on the environment and increase your positive impact. If everyone does a little, it might lead to a lot.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

#tbt: The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Image: Simon & Schuster
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. 434 p. Simon & Schuster BFYR/ Simon & Schuster, September, 2009. 9781416984481. (Own.)

#tbt features The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. This gothic horror novel is the diary of Will Henry, an orphan who was taken in by Dr. Pellinore Warthrup, pre-eminent monstrumologist. Will has to assist the fussy doctor in all manner and at all hours. When they are awakened late one night by a visitor bearing the body of a young girl with the monster that killed her still attached and still feeding one her, Will and Dr. Warthup's already dangerous occupation is about to get real. 

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart. It's grisly and suspenseful and better suited to a mature teen reader. If you are a fan of horror, The Monstumologist should fill the bill - sure to make you gasp and gag and possibly scream. It is the first of a four book series. The Monstrumologist was published in 2009 and named a 2010 Printz Honor book. The cover has changed over the years but my favorite happens to be the original, which I could only find on Wikipedia, so I took a picture of my first edition copy. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: The Deep End by Jeff Kinney

Image: Abrams
The Deep End by Jeff Kinney. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #15. 224 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, October 20, 2020. 9781419748684.

Waiting on Wednesday features The Deep End by Jeff Kinney. Yes, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is going strong at #15. The Hefley family is hitting the road in an RV for the cross-country trip of a lifetime. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Teen Tuesday: Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang

Image: DC Comics
Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang with art by Gurihiru240 p. DC, May, 2020. 9781779504210. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Teen Tuesday features Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang with art by Gurihiru. Mr. Yang brings a radio show from the 1940s to vivid life in this graphic novel. The Lee family has moved from Chinatown to Metropolis so that Dr. Lee can start a new job with the Health Department. The Lee children, Tommy and Roberta set about trying to make new friends. Tommy is outgoing and willing to let overt and covert ethnic slurs slip. Roberta, though shy and awkward, feels the need to call out these micro-aggressions. Tommy's an ace pitcher and is asked to join the local baseball team by Jimmy Olsen, who coaches the rec center team when he's not working as a cub reporter for The Daily Planet. The team's pitcher is not at all happy about this change. He and his mother live with his uncle, who is head of the local Klan of the Fiery Kross and they are not at all happy about the Lees move to Metropolis. And then there's Superman, who is fighting crime in Metropolis but also wondering about his own identity and where he fits in. 

The art, energetic and expressive, moves the story along briskly. Eleven pages of author notes and historical photos provide historical context in the back matter. Fans of the superhero and the graphic novel format will not want to miss this!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Image: Penguin Random House
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead. Unabridged -audiobook. ~ 297 minutes. Read by Rachel L. Jacobs. Listening Library, April, 2020. 9780593155370. (Review of e-audiobook downloaded from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead. This sweet, character-driven novel is told in the first person by twelve-year-old Bea. When her parents divorced, they presented her with a notebook filled with a list of things that will not change in Bea's life, then committed to remaining amicable as they co-parented Bea. Now Bea's dad is remarrying and she's thrilled because, not only does she love Jesse, she will finally have a sister! Jesse has a daughter who lives in California. 

Not all is smooth sailing though. Bea struggles with anxiety and has a bit of a temper. She's working through these issues with a supportive therapist. When she finally meets Jesse's daughter, she finds that Sonia is less-than-thrilled to share her father with Bea, especially since Bea gets to live with him. 

Conversational and engaging, this novel quietly entrances. Ms. Stead excels at creating thoughtful tween characters. New-to-me narrator Rachel L. Jacobs' performance was well-paced. She has a youthful voice and embodied Bea's quixotic personality beautifully. 

The List of Things That Will Not Change belongs in all library collections. Stead's many fans will clamor for it.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Fact Friday: Plastic Sea: a bird's eye view by Kirsti Blom and Geir Wing Gabrielsen

Fact Friday features Plastic Sea: a bird's-eye view by Kirsti Blom and Geir Wing Gabrielsen. unpgd. Wundermill Publishing Group/ The Cornell Labs Publishing Group, April, 2020. 9781943645503. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

Fact Friday features Plastic Sea: a bird's-eye view by Kirsti Blom and Geir Wing Gabrielsen. The problem of plastic is world-wide. This book was published in 2016 in Norway. It was translated and published here in the U.S. this spring. The narrative introduces the reader to a Northern Fulmer, a seabird who is adapted to spend days on the open ocean, returning to nest on cliffs and produce young. Unfortunately, plastic has become a part of their diet as it is often indistinguishable from its usual food. Plastic can't be digested and takes up space in the stomach leading the birds and all ocean life to slowly starve to death. 
According to the book, scientists know that 90% of Northern Fulmers have plastic in their stomachs. Humans use too much plastic and then throw it away instead of recycling it and it is killing ocean life. 

This oversized volume is filled with startling full-color photos and informative charts, such as one depicting, "How Long Until It's Gone?" Ingested plastic isn't the only danger to sea life. Plastic straws are inhaled and stuck in airways, ocean animals get stuck in abandoned fishing nets and drown or are strangled. The large font size and abundant white space make the message accessible and not too overwhelming. 

This book, along with others I have highlighted here and will highlight next week, is a call to action by all of us to rethink our reliance on the plastic - especially single-use plastic. While we must recycle what we do use, we need to stop using so much and demand that manufacturers find other ways of packaging products. Plastic Sea provides some suggestions for starting today!

We cannot have enough books on the shelf informing young readers that the time to change is now. Plastic Sea is a worthy addition to that shelf. I do have some quibbles. One is, though the facts conveyed by the authors are consistent with what I've read elsewhere, no attribution appeared either in the text or in the scanty back matter. Two, quite a number of photos were un-captioned or poorly captioned. Three, while there was a list of words to remember, they were not defined, which would've been instructive for young readers. Finally, four, there were no source notes, bibliography or suggestions for further reading, which would've made this a valuable resource for young researchers. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

#tbt: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
#tbt features Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Published in 2006, this science fiction story, told in journal entries by sixteen-year-old Miranda, is the first book of four in the Last Survivors series. The moon is hit by an enormous asteroid and shoved closer to the Earth, resulting in worldwide catastrophe. Miranda lives in rural Pennsylvania with her single mother and younger brother. Her older brother returns home from college to help when food and supplies grow short. Tension is so high in this plausible survivor scenario that you might take to stocking canned goods in your basement. The second book, The Dead and the Gone, tells the story about Alex Morales, a teen living in New York City, and what he needed to do in order to survive.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney

Image: Abrams
Waiting on Wednesday features Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney. You may recall that Greg Hefley's best friend Rowley got his own series and book two is due to drop on August 4. Here's the publisher synopsis: From the imagination of Rowley Jefferson comes an adventure of epic proportions. Join Roland and his best friend, Garg the Barbarian, as they leave the safety of their village and embark on a quest to save Roland’s mom from the White Warlock. Will our heroes survive? Find out in Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~11 hours. Read by Tiya Sircar and Michael Crouch. HarperAudio/ Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, February, 2020. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. Jamie Goldberg has a lot of things going for him. He's a great big brother and a good friend. He's conscientous and reliable, not to mention 24/7 tech support for his IG influencer grandmother. He's also working on the political campaign of a long-shot candidate. He'll work behind the scenes. Just don't ask him to talk to strangers. 

Maya Rehman is having a terrible Ramadan. Her best and only friend is too busy to see her and she needs to talk out some news that rocked her world - her parents' separation. The last thing she wants to do is volunteer for a political campaign; but her mother thinks it would be good experience. 

The two are paired to do some door-to-door canvassing. Jamie not only has to talk to strangers, but also this lovely girl. They not only encounter hostility for their candidate; Maya is subjected to Islamaphobic remarks. Stakes over the election grow higher when a bill is introduced that would discriminate against Muslims. If Jamie's candidate doesn't win, chances are the bill will pass. 

Political issues plus two smart, socially aware teens equals a thoughtful romance. Michael Crouch is one of my favorite narrators. He has a youthful sounding voice and conveys Jamie's awkwardness so endearingly that my heart just melted. New-to-me narrator Tia Sircar also sounded youthful and brought Maya's anxiety to life. Yes No Maybe So is a terrific addition to any YA romance collection. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Dugout: the zombie steals home by Scott Morse

Image: Scholastic Inc.
Dugout: the zombie steals home by Scott Morse. 254 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., June, 2019. 9781338188097. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Dugout: the zombie steals home by Scott Morse. Twins Gina and and Stacy share a love of baseball and their grandmother, who is raising them, but little else. Not only do they constantly fight at home, but they are both pitchers on rival baseball teams. Gina's an ace and Stacy's team can't catch a break. The two come from a long line of witches but aren't yet trained. That doesn't stop Gina from putting a spell on Stacy's mitt. Stacy and her team are practicing in a clearing in the woods, when a zombie bursts from the mound Stacy's pitching from. He's utterly terrifying; but changes when one of the kids bean him with their baseball. It seems there's a connection between the zombie and baseball. 

This delightfully inventive story is fast-paced, humorous and fun! The art was great too. I just loved the jewel-toned palette, panel layout and dialogue. My fifth grade graphic novel fans are going to go gaga over this.