Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Memes: The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg

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

Image: Scholastic
The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg. 394 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc. September1, 2020. 9781338324058.

Publisher synopsis:

Aaron and Tillie don't know each other, but they are both feeling suicidal, and arrive at the George Washington Bridge at the same time, intending to jump. Aaron is a gay misfit struggling with depression and loneliness. Tillie isn't sure what her problem is -- only that she will never be good enough.

On the bridge, there are four things that could happen:

Aaron jumps and Tillie doesn't.

Tillie jumps and Aaron doesn't.

They both jump.

Neither of them jumps.

First Line(s): 
Can't I have this one moment to myself, please?
     This thought sears in Aaron Boroff's mind as the sobbing girl passes behind him. She's interrupted his solitude as he stares down at the undulating Hudson River from the south side of the George Washington Bridge. 

Page 56:
     "I'm sorry," he says when he can't keep quiet any longer.
     "Whatever for?"
     "You shouldn't have to have a son who has a broken brain. You didn't sign up for this."
     His dad kisses him on the top of the head and grasps his hands.
     "I most definitely did sign up for this," he says.
     Aaron knows it's the truth.
     The hand squeeze tells him it's true. But he can just barely feel the truth of it. 

Wow. I took this book with me yesterday when I had a morning filled with tests and a physician's appointment. I was riveted and, almost didn't mind when my doctor was running over an hour behind schedule. Almost. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday and e-Arc Review: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda

Image: Disney
City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda. 400 p. Rick Riordan Presents/ Disney, January 12, 2021. 9781368051507. (Review of e-arc courtesy of publisher.)

Waiting on Wednesday features City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda. I had this on the schedule for a "Waiting" post for awhile. I am a huge fan of the author's Ash Mistry trilogy as well the author's Shadow Magic trilogy (I can't believe I didn't blog about them!) written under the name, Joshua Khan, so when I saw the cover reveal for City of the Plague God some months back, I scheduled the post. Then, I won an e-arc from Disney! This means I got to read it electronically instead of receiving a physical arc, which I could then give away to a student. #pandemic.

Thirteen-year-old Sikander Aziz is cleaning up the family's Manhattan deli after a busy day. He's wishing his "cousin" Daoud would help more and missing his brother, Mo, who was killed in an accident in Iran while doing relief work. Sik hears a noise in the alley behind the store and when he goes to investigate, comes face to face with two of the vilest creatures he has ever encountered and a huge one-eyed cat. It seems "Ratty" and "Toady" are the god, Nergal's minions. Nergal wants something that Mo sent home. They tear the deli apart looking for whatever that was. He's saved from being torn limb from limb by a scimatar-wielding girl dressed in black who dispatches the invaders but not before they inform Sik that they aren't finished with him and his family. Soon, his parents are in comas and quarantined with a mysterious disease and Manhattan is being overrun with pests of epic proportions.

Wow! Fasten your seatbelts and grab a barf bag! This adventure, based on Mespotamian mythology is fast-paced and gloriously gross! Our narrator, Sik, is appealing and snarky but also earnest and devoted to his family. While the emphasis is on the adventure, Sik does deal with micro-aggressions and Islamophobia on a regular basis. The bond Sik shares with his deceased brother Mo is complicated and surprisingly touching. While this had the feel of a series beginner, the adventure had a conclusion and is a stand-alone. That said, I absolutely would not mind visiting Sik and his family and friends again. Maybe with a little less pus and pestilence;-)

City of the Plague God will release in January of 2021. Mark your calendars! I hope there's an audio because I would love to reread this with my ears! Last thing, isn't that a fantastic cover?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Dan Unmasked by Chris Negron

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Dan Unmasked by Chris Negron. 368 p. HarperCollins Publishers, July 28, 2020. 9780062943057. (Review of arc courtesy of publicist.)

Middle Grade Monday features an impressive debut, Dan Unmasked by Chris Negron. Dan and Nate are best friends, baseball teammates and comics aficionados. Like most baseball players, Dan and Nate have their tics and rituals on and off the field. One includes the entire team when a new issue of the reclusive George Sanderson's Captain Nexus releases. The whole team meets in Nate's basement with their new issue and follow strict RULES for the ritual reading. The only non-team member invited to this club is Ollie, Nate's geeky little brother. Dan is begrudging about this and outright floored when Ollie brings a friend! Not only is his friend a girl, but Courtney flouts the rules of the reading. All this takes a back burner when, a few days later at baseball practice, Nate is beaned by a hard throw and falls into a coma. Nate is the team's pitching ace and they are heading into a tournament Dan feels they have no hope of winning without him. He feels terrible guilt because Dan thinks it's his fault that Nate is in a coma. 

Nate's an all-around nice guy - accepting, approachable and athletic. Dan's a bit intense and possessive of Nate, even begrudging Ollie's need for Nate's attention. This may be because Dan's dad has been unavailable for awhile due to increased work demands. Dan is crushed by the guilt he feels over Nate's injury. Readers will find a lot to relate to as Dan navigates the guilt, hurt, feelings of helplessness and grief. The book's leisurely pace and page count allow for these explorations.

I do have a few quibbles, which are major for me as an adult, but young readers absolutely will not notice. My twelve-year-old self would've loved this book. First, one pitcher does not a baseball team make even in the major leagues. It bugged me that Nate seemed to pitch every game and once he was injured, his back-up pitcher pitched them all. No way that happens - Little League, Major League, any league.

Second, regular readers of this blog know what's coming. The coma. Lots of drawn out drama with little coinciding with real life, such as allowing anyone but family members at the bedside and unspecified crises, presumably having to do with cranial pressure, which should be relieved with surgery, but didn't happen here. As I mentioned, kids won't notice. Indeed many adults probably won't either, as this (and amnesia) is the stuff of soap operas and they're not going away. My soapbox. I'm stepping off now. 

Chris Negron combines great baseball action with graphic novel fandom in this story of friendship and male bonding. Fans of both will love the combo. Happy book birthday tomorrow. 

Chris Negron grew up outside Buffalo, NY, where he spent a huge chunk of his childhood collecting comic books and loving sports. But it was the hours of playing Dungeons and Dragons in friends’ basements that first gave him the dream of one day writing his own stories. That dream kept him company through college at Yale University and years of programming computers for big companies. Dan Unmasked is his debut novel, and he now lives outside Atlanta with his wife, Mary. Visit him at

Find Chris on Instagram or on Twitter

Friday, July 24, 2020

Fact Friday and Arc Review: All Thirteen: the incredible cave rescue of the Thai boys's soccer team by Christina Soontornvat

Image: Candlewick Press
All Thirteen: the incredible cave rescue of the Thai boys' soccer team by Chritina Soontornvat. 280 p. Candlewick Press, October 13, 2020. 9781536209457. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features All Thirteen: the incredible cave rescue of the Thai boys' soccer team by Chritina Soontornvat. Two years ago this past June, the Wild Boars soccer team finished practicing. Twelve team members set on bikes out with their coach to explore the Tham Luang cave system in a nearby mountain. They left their bikes and soccer cleats at the mouth of the cave and descended into the caverns. Then it started to rain and the passage out flooded. They were trapped. Worse still, none of the parents knew where the boys and their coach were. And it was still raining. The rainy season arrived early that year. They had flashlights but remained in the pitch dark to conserve battery power. They found a chamber to huddle in and tried to keep warm while they awaited rescue. It would take seventeen days for the Thai government and rescue teams that included Navy Seals and cave divers to figure out a way of evacuating the boys and their coach. Even then, the rescuers were not sure if everyone would survive the swim out.

Ms. Soontornvort was visiting family in northern Thailand at the time and, like the rest of the world, was riveted. She holds an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and a masters in science education. Between those degrees and her chops as a writer, she brings the reader up close and personal, breaking the tension of the rescue narrative with important cultural and environmental context. She clearly explains the science and engineering and provides the reader with portraits of individuals involved. 

Whoa! This was one intense, compelling read! I had to read it in one day but often needed to take a break to breathe and walk around a bit - all this already knowing the outcome! The immediacy of the writing and the attention to detail made for an immensely satisfying read. (And yes, there were tears.) Profusely illustrated with photos, maps and diagrams, and containing over fifty pages of back matter, this work is a must-read. 

It's not due out until October, so put it on pre-order. It has been blurbed by Steve Sheinkin as "the real deal." I anticipate many starred reviews. There aren't enough superlatives to convey how impressed I am by this stunning work of informational literature. Highly, highly recommended! 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Board Book Review: Our World: a first book of geography by Sue Lowell Gallion

Image: Phaidon

Our World: a first book of geography by Sue Lowell Gallion. Pictures by Lisk Feng. 26 p. Phaidon, July, 2020. 9781838660819. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publicist.)

Children learn best through manipulation. They are tactile, curious creatures. As infants, everything goes in the mouth. Beyond infancy, things need to be touched and turned in order to be learned. Each new experience is cause for rapt attention. The more interactive an experience is, the better. As a child matures, his or her outlook expands beyond the self and the family to the larger community and, eventually beyond. 

Our World invites exploration on many levels. It's unique shape sets it apart from any other book. The pleasing palette and inviting illustrations encourage pausing to pore over each spread. Finally, the text can be read two ways - as an impressionistic poem that inspires awe and curiosity about the planet or as more scientific descriptions of the variety of biomes and landforms that connect it. The sturdy board book will stand up to repeated readings and display options. 


Screenshots: Phaidon

Our World is an appealing and intriguing addition to any home, school, classroom or public library!

I had the privilege of virtually interviewing Sue Lowell Gallion about her unique new book. Numbers = me in black. A = Sue in purple.

1. As you know, I'm a huge fan of your "Pug and Pig" books (Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treatand I know you've written an easy reader series. Am I correct in saying that Our World is your first nonfiction book? Would you talk a bit about what inspires your writing. Are there plans for more nonfiction?

A: Yes, Our World is my first nonfiction book. I majored in journalism and history in college so I’m returning to my roots with this book. I loved the research work for Our World, and I definitely want to do more nonfiction. It’s a creativity boost for me to work with different formats and genres. They’re like different kinds of puzzles.

I get ideas in many places – driving on highways, in conversations, when I’m playing with my grandsons. Some ideas develop into a story, others stay in the file for later. And, of course, some completed manuscripts find a home with a publisher and many don’t. There’s a lot of rejection in this business.

Thanks for your kind words about the Pug and Pig series. My Beach Lane Books editor just sent me revised sketches from Joyce Wan for Pug & Pig and Friends, which comes out spring 2021. Just wait!

2. Our World
might just be the perfect introduction to well, our world for preschoolers and elementary students. It's simple, impressionistic and tactile. Was the book written with that design in mind? It just begs to be touched.

A: I so hope this book finds a home in lots of school libraries and classrooms! I came up with the concept for a globe-shaped board book at a writer and illustrators’ workshop. There’s nothing like time with other creatives to get my brain firing. Then I started playing with words and content to fit that format.

The globe stand makes a great handle to hold onto the book, doesn’t it? I can’t walk by a real globe without touching or spinning it, so I hoped this book would have the same effect. The visual world Lisk Feng created is stunning. And I can’t say enough about the Phaidon team and their design and production expertise.

3. This is more than a story-in-rhyme; it's a poem, isn't it? A poem that incorporates the basics of geography - biomes, landforms, and can be read as such. I like the dual-nature of the book, simple & impressionistic on the left with facts and more difficult vocabulary on the right side. Left-brain and right brain learning, just now occurred to me! Coincidence?

A: Wow! I love that. Wish I could say it was my idea! I first envisioned the book only with simple, lyrical text for the younger child. I wrote it as a poem, and that’s how the original manuscript was submitted. My editor at Phaidon came up with the idea of adding the secondary text layer that expanded the reach of the book, both in depth of information and audience. We wanted to make the reading experience conversational, so we were very deliberate about that in the secondary nonfiction text. My goal was for the text to convey a sense of wonder and also spark curiosity about the natural world.

The combination of rhyme and nonfiction was challenging, especially during all the revisions. I may not try that again anytime soon! But that’s how this manuscript unfolded. You have to honor that as a writer and then be ready to revise as part of a team. We all want to make the best book possible. I do love the way the dual narrative works with the design. 

4. Sadly, the study of geography has become compressed over the years, folded into a unit of social studies to make room for tested area subjects. I loved geography as a kid. Were you a geo-geek? Do you believe there is a correlation between learning to appreciate how interconnected the planet is and things like empathy and environmental awareness?

A: I’ve always loved geography. I came from one of those families where everyone’s basement had stacks of old National Geographic magazines. I definitely share your concern about teachers having time to teach subjects like this because of the emphasis on testing. And as adults, isn’t an appreciation and understanding of the natural world and the people and cultures around the globe more important? There are so many creative teachers, and great tools and books available to teach geography now, but I know educators are limited by time and curriculum constraints.

And absolutely, as people of any age learn more about the processes of nature on our planet, I think and hope that environmental awareness increases. We’re at such a critical time with climate change. I hope that this book can help kids and adults appreciate this amazing planet and support what’s necessary to take care of it.

What do you think?

I think you've got a winner here, Sue Lowell Gallion! I look forward to not only more Pug and Pig, but more one-of-a-kind informational literature! No pressure! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. And thank you for the guides, Our World Guide and Inflatable Globe Guide which interested teachers and parents will find useful! I am totally blanking on how to link the documents to this blog post so visit Sue's beautiful website to learn more about her books in general and Our World in particular. There is a link to resources on the book's page. 

#tbt: Babe, the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith

Image: Wikipedia*

#tbt features Babe, the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. This adorable story was originally published in the U.K. 1983 under the title, The Sheep Pig and was illustrated by Mary Rayner. It won the 1984 Guardian Children's Fiction Award and was published in the U.S. in 1985 retaining the cover and illustrations but changing the name. Babe was the prize at a fair for the person who could guess his weight. Farmer Hogget did so and won him; but he was a sheep farmer and had no use for pigs, so he took Babe home with the intention of raising him for Christmas dinner. Babe missed his mother and litter-mates terribly and is scared in his new environment. Fly, Farmer Hogget's sheep herding dog takes pity on Babe and cares for him along with her puppies. Babe eagerly learns all about farm life and sheep herding; but soon realizes that the sheep can be herded in a more kindly manner.

Dick King-Smith was the pen name for a beloved British children's literature author who wrote over 130 books between 1978 and 2007. He was a farmer for twenty years and many of his books are set on English farms, including his six Sophie books, which are some of my favorites. They chronicle the life of a little girl from age four to eight, who wants to become a Lady Farmer, has no use for her silly older twin brothers and intends to marry Andrew, who lives on the farm down the road. Hilarious!

Babe, the Gallant Pig was adapted for film in 1995.

*Ordinarily, I try to find cover images on the publisher website to link to, but PRH only showed a cover redo, one which I honestly can't stand. I couldn't find my copy to take a pic of and the only place I could find an image of the original was on Wikipedia - of The Sheep Pig - which, I think is a better title, BTW. Why do American publishers feel the need to change titles? Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a better title, IMHO. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs

Image: Simon & Schuster
Waiting on Wednesday features Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs. Spy School series #8. 352 p. Simon & Schuster, October 6, 2020. 9781534443785.

Publisher synopsis:
Superspy middle schooler Ben Ripley faces the Croatoan—a new evil organization that’s so mysterious, the only proof it exists is from the American Revolution—in this latest addition to the New York Times bestselling Spy School series.

With SPYDER defeated, Ben Ripley is looking forward to his life getting back to normal, or as normal as possible when you’re a superspy in training. For once, everything seems to be right in Ben’s world...until someone bombs the CIA conference room next door.

To Ben’s astonishment, the attacker is none other than Erica Hale, the spy-in-training he respects more than any other. Ben refuses to believe Erica is working for the enemy...even if the rest of the CIA does.

His mission: prove Erica is not a double agent working against the US, locate the fabled colonial-era insurgent group that’s blackmailing her, figure out what their devious plot is, and thwart it.

But this time, Ben finds himself up against opponents he has never encountered before: his own friends. They’re not as ready to trust in Erica as he is, and Ben is forced to rely on his own wits and skills more than ever before. How can he succeed when he doesn’t even know who he can trust?

This series is wildly popular at my school! So popular that I wasn't able to get my hands on the first book book to read the series myself for a long time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Teen Tuesday Honors the Memory of Congressman John Lewis

Image: Top Shelf Productions

March Book One; March Book Two; March Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf Productions, 2013; 2015 and 2016 respectively. Slipcase set, June, 2016. 9781603093958. (Review of individually purchase copies.)

To commemorate the passing of Congressman John Lewis over the weekend, Teen Tuesday features his graphic novel memoir trilogy - March Book One; March Book Two and March Book Three. March Book One begins as Congressman Lewis awakens from a dream reliving the march in Selma. He awakes to prepare to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama, then flashes back to his childhood as he relates his story to a pair of young brothers who come to visit. One of them notices that his office shelves were filled with chickens. 

Former sixth grade students may remember a certain picture book biography that was popular in the picture book biography unit, Preaching to the Chickens. The congressman, who grew up on a farm his parents sharecropped, wanted to become a preacher and practiced preaching to the family's chickens as he cared for them. 

He grew up in the segregated south and became inspired by the preaching of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Eventually, he became part of MLK's inner circle and at age 23, was one of the youngest speakers at the 1963 March on Washington. All his life, he remained dedicated to raising "good trouble," by using non-violent confrontation as a means to end injustice.

Like the Congressman himself, this trilogy made history. March Book One was the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award It was also named a Coretta Scott King Author Honor. In the fall of 2016 March Book Three was the first graphic novel to win a National Book Award. His acceptance speech is one of my favorites. Here's a link. In January of 2017, March Book Three garnered a Coretta Scott King Author award; the Robert F. Sibert Informational Literature Book Award, the Michael Printz Award and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. It then went on to win the Eisner Award as well as the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children's literature. There's no room for all the medals on the cover!

The congressman happened to be in the room when the Youth Media Awards were announced because the conference was in Atlanta that year. He had led the Atlanta Women's March on January 21 and spent a great deal of time in the convention center with tens of thousands adoring librarians. He was open and interested in everyone who stopped by to say hello and posed for pictures with grace.

I can't think of a better way to learn about the Civil Rights Movement than through these books. I woke up early on Saturday morning feeling a bit low. The first thing I saw when I picked up my phone was news of his death. My mood sank even lower. What a crushing loss. Rest easy, sir.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

Image: Penguin Random House

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley. 216 p. RHGRaphic/ Random House Children/ Penguin Random House, May, 2020. 9781984896841. (Review of finished purchased paperback.)

Middle Grade Monday features Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley. This graphic novel is told from the point-of-view of Jen, who has had a lot of change in her life lately. She has recently moved from the city, where she saw her dad regularly to a farm her mother and new boyfriend just bought. So there are lots of chores to do, some of which she enjoys. But then there's the boyfriend, Walter, who is not great with kids and doesn't respect Jen's request to call her Jen. Oh, and he has two daughters, one of whom is snooty and perfect and not very nice herself. She embarrasses Jen at every mistake, especially when she learns that Jen is not great and math and giving change when they work family stall at the Farmer's Market. 

This is graphic novelist, Ms. Knisley's Children's debut and is autobiographical fiction. Her art is earthy and vibrant. The dialogue is snappy and occasionally humorous. The themes of moving house and fitting in are relatable. There's a delightful author's note and photos at the end. Stepping Stones is book one of the "Peapod Farm" series. Fans of Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, Svetlana Chmakova will find lots to like here. I can't wait to visit again. Highly recommended!
Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 18, 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: Phaidon Press Ltd.
Our World: a first geography book by Sue Lowell Gallion. 26 p. board book. Phaidon Press Ltd. July, 2020. 9781838660819. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publicist.)

Publisher synopsis: A read-aloud introduction to geography for young children that, when opened and folded back, creates a freestanding globe.

Children are invited to identify and experience the Earth's amazing geography through rhyming verse and lush illustrations: from rivers, lakes, and oceans deep, to valleys, hills, and mountains steep. Secondary text offers more detailed, curriculum-focused facts and encourages readers to consider their own living environments, making the reading experience personal yet set within a global backdrop. This informative homage to Earth is sure to inspire readers to learn more about their planet – and to engage with the world around them.

Purchased: Nothing!

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

Friday, July 17, 2020

Fact Friday and E-Arc Review: The Cat I Never Named: a true story of love, war and survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess.

Image: Bloomsbury

The Cat I Never Named: a true story of love, war and survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess. 352 p. BloomsburyYA/ Bloomsbury, September 8, 2020. 9781547604555. (Review of e-arc courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features an astounding memoir, The Cat I Never Named: a true story of love, war and survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess. The author was sixteen-years-old when war broke out in Bosnia in 1992. She lived in the multicultural city of Bihac but tension between the various ethnic groups was always high. She and her family were non-practicing Muslims and faced racial abuse every day. One night, all the Serbs in the city left and the Muslims that remained learned the city was surrounded by the Serbian Army. The author was a top student at a math and science high school with dreams of attending university. Her education was derailed and survival became her goal. 

The immediacy of Dr. Sabic-El-Rayess' writing make this memoir a gripping read. I read this arc electronically (something I detest doing.) and could not tear my eyes away. I needed to read through tears more than once and often needed to remind myself to breathe. Even though this war occurred nearly thirty years ago, the root cause - ethnic hatred - is still the cause of unrest and conflict globally. The vivid descriptions of war, the constant threat of rape and abduction and the struggle for survival make this title more suitable to a YA audience. 

The Cat I Never Named will publish on September 8 and is not to be missed.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

#tbt: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. 320 p. HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2012. 9780061992254. (Own)

#tbt features The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I'm breaking my ten-year or older rule again to pair this beloved title with its companion, The One and Only Bob, which was featured on Middle Grade Monday. The One and Only Ivan was published in 2012 and won the 2013 Newbery Medal. The novel is based on a true story and is told from Ivan's point of view in short chapters and gorgeous figurative language. 

As I mentioned on Monday, the book was adapted for film and will stream on Disney+ in August. The book remains popular as more than half of the copies owned by BCCLS libraries are currently checked out. Our local public library owns two copies that are both checked out. Our electronic collection has a waiting list for both the e-book and e-audio. I've read the book both with my eyes and ears. In this instance, my preference is for print due to the darling illustrations and interesting use of white space.

Waiting on Wednesday features Long Way Down: the graphic novel by Jason Reynolds. A fair number of seventh and eighth graders have gobbled up Long Way Down since the verse novel published in October of 2017. This story takes place in a one minute elevator ride from the seventh floor to the lobby as Will prepares to take revenge for the killing of his brother, Shawn. It won a slew of awards including a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and a Printz Honor. It was also long-listed for the National Book Award and won the Walter Dean Myers Award, his second Walter Award! Additionally, Long Way Down has been optioned for film. The graphic novel is illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff and will release on October 13. I've reread Long Way Down at least four or five times and I cannot wait to read the graphic novel treatment!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. Unabridged audiobook on three compact discs. 3 3/4 hours. Read by Danny DiVito. HarperAudio, May, 2020. 9780063012646. Review of purchased audiobook.

Happy Monday TMS Readers! I hope your summer is going well and you are reading! Middle Grade Monday features The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. You may recall that I sported a giant "Ask me about Bob" pin on my lanyard before our shift to virtual learning. 

Bob was a character in Ms. Applegate's Newbery Medal-winning, The One and Only Ivan. This companion novel picks up where Ivan left off. You need not have read The One and Only Ivan. The One and Only Bob stands alone nicely. Like Ivan, Bob is told in short chapters and paragraphs with plenty of white space. It is illustrated by Patricia Casteleo.

Bob is happy in his new life having been adopted by Julia and her family. He's loved and fed regularly; but best of all, he still gets to see Ivan and Ruby in their new home. He's a dog with few regrets except he often thinks about his sister, his littermate who was dumped with him next to a highway. When a tornado damages the zoo, Bob is ready to rise to the challenge.

This first-person, er, first-dog narration charms and excites as readers learn to love Bob as much as they do Ivan. Here is a link to Ms. Applegate reading the beginning of The One and Only Bob. Here is also a link to the movie trailer for The One and Only Ivan, which will stream on Disney+ starting August 18. 

I think I would've enjoyed The One and Only Bob more had I read it with my eyes. I learned of the audiobook and film while listening to a webcast a month or so ago. I thought it would be charming and delightful. Instead, I found Danny DiVito's narration a tad over-the-top and the pace choppy. 

Danny DiVito was the voice of Bob in the movie and so seemed to be a natural choice as narrator of the audio version. I didn't really love the audio version of The One and Only Ivan either. I read that with my eyes first and loved it. I had a voice in my head and the narrator didn't match it. I also talked about the powerful use of white space in my review that the audio cannot convey. 

In the movie trailer, DiVito's voice seemed perfect for Bob. Over the long haul of the book, it just sort of grated for me. Stick with reading this one with your eyes. 

Saturday, July 11, 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: Penguin Random House
Otto P. Nudd by Emily Butler. 224 p. Crown Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, October 13, 2020. 9781524717759.

Publisher synopsis: Fans of The Tales of Despereaux, Pax, and Crenshaw will delight over this friendship story about a brash raven, a dutiful squirrel, and the human girl that brings them together. The perfect read for animal lovers.

Otto P. Nudd: The BEST bird in Ida Valley (at least according to him). While his buddies waste their days at the dump cracking jokes, Otto invents things with his human neighbor Old Man Bartleby in their workshop.

Marla: The Competition. This protective mama-squirrel will swipe Otto’s snacks from under his beak if it means another meal for her babies!

Pippa: The girl who loves the birds in Ida Valley, and Otto most of all. But when Bartleby”s latest contraption lands him in danger, the whole neighborhood–kids and critters alike–will have to join forces to save their oldest friend!

Emily Butler is the author of Freya & Zoose, which received a starred review from School Library Journal. In her newest novel, Emily delivers a timeless friendship tale about a brash raven, a crafty squirrel, and the neighborhood that brings them together.

Purchased: Nothing, but I have some books in a shopping cart. I just haven't clicked purchase yet. 

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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Fact Friday and Arc Review: Women Win the Vote! 19 for the 19th Amendment by Nancy B. Kennedy

Image: W.W. Norton & Company
Women Win the Vote! 19 for the 19th Amendment by Nancy B. Kennedy. 120 p. Norton Young Readers/ W.W. Norton & Company. 9781324004141. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features Women Win the Vote! 19 for the 19th Amendment by Nancy B. Kennedy. This is a timely book to read as we approach the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 20th. This collective biography devotes four pages each to nineteen well- and lesser-known figures in women's history plus eleven thumbnail bios of additional suffragists that includes three men. One of those four pages is devoted to illustration (unfinished in my arc) that features a quote from the subject, an archival photo and drawn art. 

Readers learn in the Epilogue that though women achieved the right to vote, many were still denied access to polling places along with African Americans, Native Americans and Asian with illegal fees, literacy tests or other "requirements." The back matter includes a Timeline, where readers learn that eight states took their sweet time to formally ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, with Mississippi being the latest at 1984! The plentiful back matter also includes two pages of black and white photos featuring banners; two pages of places to visit; seven pages of notes; four and a half pages of sources and an index. 

This attractively designed collective biography is a nice introduction to a complicated story. Just like our founding fathers, the white leaders of the movement had biases, a fact that the author discusses. Pair this with Evette Dionne's Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box for a well-rounded introduction to the subject. 
Women Win the Vote! 19 for the 19th Amendment is an important addition to any library in these times when voter suppression is alive and well. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

#tbt: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner

Image: Bloomsbury
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner. 224 p. Bloomsbury USA, September, 2009. 9780802721730. (Own.)

#tbt features The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner. Gianna Zales is an excellent cross country runner. She lives for it. Unfortunately, she's also an excellent procrastinator. She has to collect twenty different leaves for a science project in less than two weeks or she's off the team. Of course, her best friend, Zig, did his early and has been gently reminding Gee. to start her project. Gee. has other worries too. Her beloved grandmother is becoming more and more forgetful, sometimes dangerously so. And, what could be worse that your dad driving you to school in his hearse?

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z was Ms. Messner's debut novel. It won the 2010 E.B. White Read Aloud Award for older readers; was a Bank Street Best Book for 2009 and was named to quite a few State Award Lists. She was a seventh grade language arts teacher at the time. I reviewed it on my less-than-a-year-old blog, here. Her second book, Sugar and Ice was released a year later and that book was my first review assignment for School Library Journal!

Ms. Messner has written over 50 books since 2009 - from picture books to novels to works of nonfiction. You might recall a Fact Friday post for a book called Tracking Pythons. That was a fascinating informational book written by her.

Since then, Ms. Messner has written fifty books from picture books to easy readers to early chapter books to nonfiction to professional titles. You can follow her on Twitter, @KateMessner, and check out her website, where she also blogs regularly.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Arc Review: Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

Image: Chronicle Books

Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt. 422 p. Chronicle Books, October, 2019. 9781452172880. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Tam is a tall, popular volley ball player. Kate is a poised, ponytailed cheerleader angling for captain of the squad. The two meet during seventh grade registration and hit it off.

Redwood and Ponytail is a sweet and gentle verse novel about an unlikely friendship that turns into something deeper. It captures all the joy and pain of first crushes and even features a Greek chorus. It's a perfect romance for middle grade readers.

Waiting on Wednesday: Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

Image: Penguin Random House
Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram. 352 p. Penguin Young Readers Group/ Penguin Random House, August 25, 2020. 

Publisher synopsis: In this companion to the award-winning Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Darius suddenly has it all: a boyfriend, an internship, a spot on the soccer team. It’s everything he’s ever wanted–but what if he deserves better?

Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran, a lot has changed. He’s getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, varsity soccer practices, and an internship at his favorite tea shop, things are falling into place.

Then, of course, everything changes. Darius’s grandmothers are in town for a long visit, and Darius can’t tell whether they even like him. The internship is not going according to plan, Sohrab isn’t answering Darius’s calls, and Dad is far away on business. And Darius is sure he really likes Landon . . . but he’s also been hanging out with Chip Cusumano, former bully and current soccer teammate–and well, maybe he’s not so sure about anything after all.

Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn’t good enough. Maybe Darius deserves better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audio Book Review: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Image: Penguin Random House
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Unabridged e-audiobook ~7.5 hours. Read by Michael Levi Harris. 9780525638667. (Review of e-audio downloaded/ borrowed from public library.)

Excepting for Waiting on Wednesday posts, which are all about book that are coming and #tbt posts, which are all about books ten years or older that should not be forgotten, the remaining posts are mainly inspired by what I have recently read. Teen Tuesday usually features books for seventh and eighth grade readers that have slightly more mature content. The majority of my reading is of books that anyone can read. The last two YA books I read this summer, while quite entertaining, are a bit too mature for middle school and more appropriate for high school readers. So I reached back to 2018 in my reading archives to find one I loved, but curiously did not feature on Teen Tuesday.

Teen Tuesday features Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Darius Kellner is a very depressed high school student who is obsessed with artisanal tea, all things Star Trek and Tolkien. He's overweight, not athletic and bullied at school. He also feels like he doesn't fit in at home. He calls himself a "fractional Persian" from his mom's side and thinks his "ubermensch" white father hates him. The family travels to Iran to visit his grandparents. Babou is terminally ill. Darius worries about his grandfather's judgment of him. He's worried because he doesn't speak enough Farsi. He's worried that Babou will think him weak because he takes medication for his depression. But Iran is a wonder to Darius. He finds himself accepted. He loves the culture and the food. He even makes a friend in Sohrab, who calls him Darioush, the Persian variation of his name. 

I often use the phrase, "heartbreaking and hilarious" in my posts. Though depression is a disease with serious consequences, there is an unfair stigma associated with it. In this heartbreaking and hilarious first-person narrative, Darius paints an intimate portrait of pain, of needing to belong and of learning to love oneself. Darius became a character of my heart. I may find characters endearing and memorable; but very few take up residence in my heart. 

I was so happy to have read this with my ears. When words and phrases in foreign languages are part of the narrative, I either skip over them completely or stop the flow to mangle them phonetically. New-to-me narrator Michael Levi Harris did a lovely job of portraying Darius in all his uncertainty, but also brought the melodic Farsi to life, adding to my enjoyment. 

Darius the Great is Not Okay was Mr. Khorram's debut novel. It won the William C. Morris Debut Award; the Asian/ Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature; was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist and was named one of TIME magazine's 10 Best Young Adult and Children's Books of the Year. Tune in tomorrow for some news about Darius!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Chirp by Kate Messner

Image: Bloomsbury
Chirp by Kate Messner. 232 p. Bloomsbury, February, 2020. 9781547602810. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Chirp by Kate Messner. Most children might experience anxiety or even anger at moving house, especially during the summer between seventh and eighth grades. Mia doesn't mind moving from Boston to Vermont. She'll be able to see her grandmother whenever she wants now and she's ready for a fresh start. She packed a big secret along with her gymnastics uniforms and trophies into the moving boxes. She's eager to learn all about her grandmother's cricket farm, especially when she learns that someone has been sabotaging the business. A mystery to solve is just the ticket to keep her mind from going where she doesn't want it to go. But keeping her secret affects Mia in big and small ways. As she recovers from an injury that allowed her to quit gymnastics without needing to explain why, Mia tries new activities, meets new friends and eventually finds her voice. 

This middle grade novel helps tweens understand consent in an age-appropriate way. Chirp joins a growing list of excellent mg fiction dealing with child sexual assault. This topic should not be relegated to the YA shelves because sexual assault, grooming and abuse occurs to children at any age and those victims need to know that they will be believed and that they are not alone. 

Ms. Messner excels at creating vivid communities peopled with interesting characters and supportive adults. She spins a good mystery too! And, I might be convinced to try eating crickets. Chirp belongs in all school, classroom and public libraries. 

Saturday, July 4, 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: Scholastic Inc.

The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg. 396 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., September 1, 2020. 9781338325058.

Publisher synopsis: 
Aaron and Tillie don't know each other, but they are both feeling suicidal, and arrive at the George Washington Bridge at the same time, intending to jump. Aaron is a gay misfit struggling with depression and loneliness. Tillie isn't sure what her problem is — only that she will never be good enough.
On the bridge, there are four things that could happen:

Aaron jumps and Tillie doesn't.

Tillie jumps and Aaron doesn't.

They both jump.

Neither of them jumps.

Or maybe all four things happen, in this astonishing and insightful novel from Bill Konigsberg.

My crazy shepherd goes nuts barking at anything - the dogs across the way, the mail person (we had to move our mailbox to the curb), anyone strolling in my cul de sac and most especially any delivery person - UPS, FedEx, AZ, you name it. Packages are usually for my shopaholic hubby; but last Saturday afternoon it was for me! Made my day! Coincidentally, I had just finished reading The Music of What Happens with my ears. I am a huge fan. I cannot wait to dive into this one. 

Purchased: Spending the last of my AZ gift cards.

Image: RHGraphic
Stepping Stones (Peapod Farms #1) by Lucy Knisley. Colored by Whitney Coger. 218 p. RH Graphic/ Random House Childrens Books/ Penguin Random House, May, 2020. 9781984896841.

Publisher synopsis: This contemporary middle-grade graphic novel about family and belonging from New York Times bestselling author Lucy Knisley is a perfect read for fans of Awkward and Be Prepared.

Jen is used to not getting what she wants. So suddenly moving the country and getting new stepsisters shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

Jen did not want to leave the city. She did not want to move to a farm with her mom and her mom's new boyfriend, Walter. She did not want to leave her friends and her dad.

Most of all, Jen did not want to get new "sisters," Andy and Reese.

As if learning new chores on Peapod Farm wasn't hard enough, having to deal with perfect-at-everything Andy might be the last straw for Jen. Besides cleaning the chicken coop, trying to keep up with the customers at the local farmers' market, and missing her old life, Jen has to deal with her own insecurities about this new family . . . and where she fits in.

Image: Firefly Books
The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt. 80 p. Firefly Books Ltd. September, 2020. 9780228102311.

Publisher synopsis: The shocking truth of plastic's impact on our planet — and what we can do about it.

The data is in and it's bad. We create and throw away too much plastic, and it is killing our planet. However, too many people have very little idea about just how far this problem reaches, and those who do know feel helpless with the enormity of the task at hand.

To fill this void and provide some hope is Rachel Salt's simple and transformative book, The Plastic Problem.

As a producer for the award-winning and wildly popular YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, Salt is accustomed to taking big, complicated concepts and translating them into entertaining and easy-to-understand segments. She applies the same methodology to The Plastic Problem. The result is a critically important book that will change the lives of those who read it. Never before has the problem been presented in such an impactful way. Readers of any age will emerge from this book with a thorough understanding of the problem, its individual and global impacts, and — most importantly — hope for the future.

I have read and reviewed this already.

Image: Penguin Random House
Layoverland by Gabby Noone. 302 p. Razorbill/ Penguin Young Readers Group/ Penguin Random House, January, 2020. 9781984836120.

Publisher synopsis: Beatrice Fox deserves to go straight to hell.

At least, that's what she believes. Her last day on Earth, she ruined the life of the person she loves most—her little sister, Emmy. So when Bea awakens from a fatal car accident to find herself on an airplane headed who knows where, she's confused, to say the least.

Once on the ground, Bea receives some truly harrowing news: she's in purgatory. If she ever wants to catch a flight to heaven, she'll have to help five thousand souls figure out what's keeping them from moving on.

But one of Bea's first assignments is Caleb, the boy who caused her accident, and the last person Bea would ever want to send to the pearly gates. And as much as Bea would love to see Caleb suffer for dooming her to a seemingly endless future of eating bad airport food and listening to other people's problems, she can't help but notice that he's kind of cute, and sort of sweet, and that maybe, despite her best efforts, she's totally falling for him.

From debut author Gabby Noone comes a darkly hilarious and heartfelt twist on the afterlife about finding second chances, first loves, and new friendships in the most unlikely places.

Image: HarperCollins Publishers
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles. 392 p. HarperTeen/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2020. 9780062349194.

Publisher synopsis: In his first contemporary teen novel, critically acclaimed author and two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.”

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

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