Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: The Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta

Waiting on Wednesday features The Force of Fire by Sayantani Dasgupta. Dr. Dasgupta stopped by Mr. Schu Reads blog the other day to reveal the cover of a new book setin the Kingdoms Beyond. The Force of Fire is due to publish in May of 2021. This book shifts the focus to Pinki, and her origin story. The Force of Fire is based on Bengali folk tales and inspired by India's struggle for independence. Sign me up for my pre-order! Dr. Dasgupta's tales are vivid, hilarious and seat-of-your-pants reading! While you're waiting check out The Serpent's Secret, The Game of Stars and The Chaos Curse, Kiranmala's story.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Teen Tuesday: A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Image: Macmillan

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow. Tor Teen/ Macmillan, June, 2020. 

Teen Tuesday features A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow. BFFs and sisters by choice, Tavia and Effie are juniors in their Portland, Oregon high school. Not only are they dealing with the social perils that high school brings, but both are hiding secrets. Tavia is a siren in a world that is hostile to them. In fact, a siren was recently murdered and her killer will probably elude prosecution. Effie isn't sure which mythical creature she is, but plays a mermaid in a local Ren Faire and is crushing on her cosplay prince. Contemporary social justice issues are expertly woven into a compelling story about Black girl friendship and magic for mature teen readers. This dual narrative rachets up the tension right up to its startling conclusion. Innovative and intriguing!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick.304 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, May, 2020. 9781984815316. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick. Our thirteen-year-old narrator, Frankie, lives in Long Beach, a Washington State seaside town, with her twin sister in an inn that her mother runs with her boyfriend. Frankie is autistic and has ADHD. In order to avoid taking medication, she's working very hard to control her emotions. But it's difficult and she's not always successful. She recently lost her only friend, Colette, to her sister, Tess. Tess is the nice one, the easy one. Frankie can be prickly.

Ever since a tornado touched down near her school when she was five, Frankie has been obsessed with them and a show about tornado chasers. She relates to them as she feels her brain often twists around like a tornado. When Colette goes missing, Frankie learns that she may've been the last person Colette saw. Frankie is determined to follow the few clues Colette left behind even if it gets her in trouble with the police and her family.

It's sometimes hard to follow Frankie's logic and her roundabout way of speaking. Readers will grow to appreciate her tenacity as she persists in seeking answers even when the adults around her insist that she's wrong. 

Tornado Brain is available to borrow through Inter-Library Loan (ILL) and is available through ebccls in an e-book format. The e-audiobook is available to place on hold. I might reread this one with my ears because it's narrated by a favorite audiobook reader of mine. 

Friday, September 25, 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.

Things are starting to settle in my virtual teaching routine. 

For Review:
Image: Scholastic

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc., October 6, 2020. 9781338574852.

Publisher synopsis: Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.

Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughs, through the hardship of adolescent struggles, and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter. Accompanied by illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree, All Because You Matter empowers readers with pride, joy, and comfort, reminding them of their roots and strengthening them for the days to come.

Lyrical, personal, and full of love, All Because You Matter is for the picture book audience what The Hate U Give was for YA and Ghost Boys was for middle grade: a conversation starter, a community touchstone, and a deep affirmation of worth for the young readers who need it most.

Image: Macmillan

Ronan the Librarian by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie. Illustrated by Victoria Maderna. unpgd. Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan, April, 2020. 9781250189219.

Publisher synopsis: This humorous picture book from sister duo Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and illustrator Victoria Maderna follows Ronan the Barbarian as he he grows from being just a rough-and-tumble warrior to Ronan the Librarian—a rough-and-tumble warrior who loves books.

Ronan was a mighty barbarian.

He invaded. He raided. And back home, he traded.

He always found the greatest treasures.

Until one day, Ronan found something no barbarian wants:


At first, his fellow barbarians are skeptical of his newfound passion for reading, but in the end, even they aren't immune to the charms of a good book.

Two boxes arrived from Scholastic filled with swag and 100th anniversary goodies!

Purchased: I finally used those AZ gift cards!

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson. 266 p. Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Random House, September, 2020. 9780399545436.

Publisher synopsis: For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone's hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he's as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ's house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ's mom explains it's because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that—but it doesn't make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can't remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

Image: Macmillan

Flamer by Mike Curato. 366 p. Henry Holt and Company/ Macmillan, September, 2020. 9781627796415.

Publisher synopsis: I know I’m not gay. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both.
I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.

It's the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone's going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can
't stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.

Image: Macmillan

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai. 332 p. Henry Holt and Company/ Macmillan,September, 2020. 9781250314116.

Publisher synopsis: Henry Khoo's family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywherewithout his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!

But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he's on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.

Remy Lai takes readers on an adventure filled with humor, heart, and hijinks that’s a sure bet for fans of Jerry Craft, Terri Libenson, and Shannon Hale!

Act by Kayla Miller. 216 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July, 2020.  9780358206354.

Publisher synopsis: How do you know when the person who can make the difference . . . is you? 

Olive is excited to start sixth grade: new teachers, new experiences, and a field trip to the big city with her best buds!

But when Olive finds out that a school policy is keeping some kids from going on the trip, she decides to act. She's prepared to do whatever it takes to be heard—even if it means running against Trent and Sawyer, two of her closest friends, in the student council election! With intense campaign competition and emotions running high, can Olive make a big change and keep her friends?

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson. 374 p. Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, September, 2020. 9780062840355.

Publisher synopsis: Award-winning author Tiffany D. Jackson delivers another riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that exposes horrific secrets hiding behind the limelight and embraces the power of a young woman’s voice.

When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed Korey Fields?

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted’s dreams had turned into a nightmare. Because behind Korey’s charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he’s dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted.

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

Fact Friday: Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin

Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. 40 p. Neal Porter Books/ Holiday House, September, 2020. 9780823446230. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

In #nevertoooldforpicturebook news, Fact Friday features Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. Mr. Chin is an award-winning author illustrator who manages to present big-concept ideas in an understandable way to young (and older) readers paired with stunning illustrations that grab and hold. In Grand Canyon, he took us deep into the canyon and far back into history to help us appreciate this natural wonder. In Your Place in the Universe, he helps the us understand comparative measurement, starting small with inches, by showing how tall the average eight-year-old is, then moving onto feet, by comparing the eight year old to the average sized giraffe before ending at the theoretical end of the universe. Back matter includes an author note and sources for further reading. Surely anyone who loses themselves in this brilliant picture book will be eager to learn more.

This is one of my favorite picture books of the year. Honestly, I didn't think Mr. Chin could out-do himself after Grand Canyon. I found myself unwilling to turn the pages, wanting to remain on each spread for awhile. It's a book I will return to often.

I feel I need to apologize. Since school started and I am teaching language arts virtually to fifth and sixth grade hybrid students on their virtual days, my reading has plummeted and my reviewing has been a struggle. I don't write long reviews, but I don't write quickly. Each short review takes a really long time for me and I just don't have it because my focus necessarily has to be on preparing lessons for language arts instead of library. I am privileged to work with two seasoned, extraordinary teachers who are doing the heavy lifting by planning; but I feel like a first year teacher, at year twenty-two along with the exhaustion that accompanies it.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

#tbt: King Arthur Retellings Continued: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Image: Scholastic

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. 340 p. Scholastic Press, Scholastic Inc., 2008. 9780545093347. (Own.)

#tbt features one of my favorite King Arthur retellings, Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. This novel was published in the U.K. in 2007, where it received the Carnegie Medal given to the best children's book of the year. It was published in the U.S. the following year. Gwynna is a servant girl, who runs away when her village is attacked and burned to the ground. She is discovered in the woods by Myrddin, a bard who proposes a deal. He will protect her if she binds herself in service of him. Myrddin, himself is bound in service to Arthur, the young conquerer who would be king and unite Britain. The two set about king-making and myth-making, knowing that there would be dire consequences if they are discovered. This first-person narrative is so immersive, pages will fly!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Pity Party by Kathleen Lane

Image: LBYR

Pity Party by Kathleen Lane. 208 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, January 19, 2021. 9780316417358.

Waiting on Wednesday features Pity Party by Kathleen Lane. Here's the publisher synopsis: Welcome to Pity Party, where the social anxieties that plague us all are twisted into funny, deeply resonant, and ultimately reassuring psychological thrills.

There's a story about a mood ring that tells the absolute truth. One about social media followers who literally follow you around. And one about a kid whose wish for a new, improved self is answered when a mysterious box arrives in the mail. There's also a personality test, a fortune teller, a letter from the Department of Insecurity, and an interactive Choose Your Own Catastrophe.

Come to the party for a grab bag of delightfully dark stories that ultimately offers a life-affirming reminder that there is hope and humor to be found amid our misery.

Aren't we all entitled to a little pity party the way 2020 has been going?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Teen Tuesday: Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness. Unabridged audiobook. ~10 hours. Read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt.Quill Tree Books, June 2020. (Review of downloadable e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Burn by Patrick Ness. Mr. Ness, ever the experimenter, blends dragons from fantasy with parallel universes from sci-fi with Cold War history and a dash of noir in a 1957 rural Washinton State setting. Sarah Dewhurst has enough to deal with being bi-racial in a small town and keeping her budding romance with the only Japanese American boy in town a secret. Her father's farm is failing, especially since her mother's death. He has hired a dragon, a Russian dragon, named Kazimir to help. Dragons and humans exist under an uneasy truce, but a Russian dragon! Kazimir may be working for gold, but he's also there due to a prophecy. In a parallel story, Malcolm, a teen acolyte in a cult called the Believers, sets out to make his way across the country to a small farm in Washington State. He's being pursued by two shadowy FBI agents. Malcolm does not want to, but he will kill anyone who interferes with him reaching his target - Sarah Dewhurst.

The complex plot takes a bit of time to come together. Stick with it. Because when it does, your mind will be blown!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey to justice by Debbie Levy

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey to justice by Debbie Levy. Illustrated by Whitney Gardner. 209 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November, 2019. 9781534424555. (Review of book borrowed from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey to justice by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Whitney Gardner to mourn the passing and to celebrate the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Students in grades 7 & 8 and beyond are familiar with Ms. Levy's picture book about Justice Ginsburg, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes her mark. We read this picture book biography quite closely in our library unit studying picture book biographies. 

This graphic novel biography expands readers' knowledge of the legal giant as they follow Ruth, also known as "Kiki," pronounced, "Kick-ee," because she kicked so much as a baby, from her roots in Brooklyn, New York to Cornell and beyond. Art is minimalist and mostly done in blues and white, with occasional red to draw the eye. As usual, Ms. Levy's research is evident in the copious back matter where fans and researchers can find more to read.

I've seen plenty of memes floating around this past weekend honoring Justice Ginsburg. One which particularly resonates simply lists the rights that women enjoy thanks to her tireless work toward equity and equality.

Friday, September 18, 2020

#tbt: King Arthur Retellings Continued: Gerald Morris

The Squire's Tale
by Gerald Morris. 224 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008. 9780618737437. Own.

Oops! Didn't get a chance to post this week's #tbt! Last week, I mentioned that I would highlight some of my favorite King Arthur retellings. This week, I would like to tell you about Gerald Morris. He has two series of books that retell various aspects of the legend starting with The Squire's Tale, which was published in 1998. He added nine more titles in the series between 1998 and 2010. They are notable for their brevity and wit. In 2008, he started a second series called The Knights' tales starting with The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Rivals by Tommy Greenwald

Image: Abrams

Rivals by Tommy Greenwald. 320 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, March 23, 2021. 9781419748271.

Happy Wednesday TMS Readers! I hope that you're settling in nicely to your new method of instruction. For me, each day seems to be presenting fewer challenges. Waiting on Wednesday features a new book coming in 2021 by one of my favorite authors. Back in 2011, Tommy Greenwald made his MG debut with a hilarious book called, Charlie Joe Jackeson's Guide to Not Reading. it was the story of Charlie Joe and how he actually made it to sixth grade without ever finishing a book. But, in sixth grade, his strategies are failing him. This illustrated novel features a charming slacker, short chapters and a fast pace. It was followed by four or so more books in the series.

Rivals releases on March 23, 2021 and here's the publisher synopsis: "From the author of the award-winning Game Changer comes a new novel about two student-athletes searching for stardom, a young reporter searching for the truth, and a crosstown basketball rivalry that goes too far."

While you're waiting for Rivals to release, you can read the Charlie Joe Jackson series and Game Changer, a story told in texts, news articles and bedside conversations about a young football player who is in a coma.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Image: Scholastic

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~ 7hours, 39 minutes. Read by Alaska Jackson. Scholastic Audio, 2020. 9781338637625. (Review of finished audio borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. This delightful first-person narrative is Ms. Johnson's sparkling debut. Liz Lighty is our narrator and she charms from the start with her wry, occasionally snarky observations about her prom-obsessed town in the midwest. One example I had to jot down is, "Derek's grand finale, I kid you not, is the lift...looks less like Baby and more like Simba looking over the Pridelands, but, whatever." I read this one with my ears. Had I been reading with my eyes, the entire book would've been flagged with post-its!

Not only is she too poor to be concerned about all things prom, but as one of few Black students, she has never seen anyone who looks like her on the prom court. Besides, music is her thing and she has a plan to get out of her small town - obtaining a scholarship to her dream school, playing in their orchestra and studying like mad to become a doctor. When the scholarship falls through, Liz is crushed until she realizes that the prom queen winner gets a scholarship. Hm. Should she put herself out there? While the book is often laugh-out-loud funny, thoughtful readers will contemplate timely issues like privilege, anxiety and identity. 

I just loved this one! New-to-me narrator perfectly embodied Liz and she had a nice range of voices and superb timing and pacing. I will look out for more books narrated by her as well as Ms. Johnson's sophomore offering.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Pie in the Sky by Remy Lau

Pie in the Sky 
by Remy Lau. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~6 hours, 20 minutes. Read by Remy His. Listening Library, 2019. 9780593208434. (Review of e-audiobook downloaded from the public library. Own the hc.)

Middle Grade Monday features a book that a colleague and several students recommended to me. Pie in the Sky by Remy Lau is a hybrid novel, meaning that it's part graphic novel and part prose. Eleven-year-old Jingwen's father's dream was to move to Australia and open a bakery called Pie in the Sky. Jingwen is moving to Australia, but without his dad, because he died. He feels like he might as well be on Mars because everything is alien to him, especially English. He feels stupid and lonely and has to watch his irritating little brother, Yanghao, every day after school. Yanghao seems happy with the move and is picking up English quickly. Jingwen decides to bake every cake that his father planned on selling in Pie in the Sky. The problem? His mama has forbidden the boys from using the stove! Although this is a sad story about a boy who is grieving his father, there are moments of hilarity as the boys set about baking each cake.

The audiobook was very well-done, substituting garbled audio for the "Martian" speech bubbles that appear in the text.

Friday, September 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.

I am so exhausted! My reading plummeted since the school year started for teachers on the second of September. Students came back yesterday. I am teaching fifth and sixth grade language arts to students on their virtual days, meaning I need to work closely with the LA teachers who have them in-person. The library is closed. I received no money to buy books because so much money had to be spent on cleaning supplies and such in order to reopen safely. Once I'm settled in my new routine of teaching LA, I hope to find a way to open the library virtually, where students send me requests and I place the book in their teacher's mailboxes. I have to figure out something for the fully virtual students. The first two days were just days to acclimate to the new models - fully virtual or hybrid. 

For Review:
Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September 8, 2020. 9781536207163.

Publisher synopsis: Jabari is making a flying machine in his backyard! “It’ll be easy. I don’t need any help,” he declares. But it doesn’t work! Jabari is frustrated. Good thing Dad is there for a pep talk and his little sister, Nika, is there to assist, fairy wings and all. With the endearing father-child dynamic of Jabari Jumps and engaging mixed-media illustrations, Gaia Cornwall’s tale shows that through perseverance and flexibility, an inventive thought can become a brilliant reality.

Jabari is inventing a machine that will fly all the way across the yard! But making it go from CRASH to WHOOSH will take grit, patience, and maybe even a little help from his sister.

Flying Paintings: the Zhou Brothers: a story of revolution and art by Amy Alznauer. Illustrated by ShanZuo Zhou & DaHuang Zhou. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2020. 9781536204285.

Publisher synopsis: First there was one Zhou brother, and then there were two. They lived in a bookstore with their grandmother, Po Po, whose stories of paintings that flew through the air and landed on mountain cliffs inspired them to create their own art. Amid the turbulence of China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, the Zhou Brothers began painting together on the same canvas. Today, ShanZuo and DaHuang Zhou are icons in the art world, renowned for working side by side on all their paintings and sculptures.

In this extraordinary biography, author Amy Alznauer joins with the Zhou Brothers to tell the story of their unique and often difficult childhood and their pursuit of a wild, impossible dream. The lyrical writing blends elements of legend, while the brothers’ dramatic illustrations soar with vibrant colors and surreal imagery from ancient Chinese cliff paintings. An inspiration for young artists and dreamers of all kinds, this deeply felt collaboration explores how art can bring people together, as well as set them free.
The epic story of two Chinese brothers who became art-world legends, illustrated with stunning paintings by the artists themselves.

Purchased: Nothing! Those books are still sitting in my cart!

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

Fact Friday: The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

Image: Penguin Random House

The Red Bandanna (Young Readers Adaptation) by Tom Rinaldi. 176 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, September, 2017. (Own)

Fact Friday is featuring an older title to acknowledge the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Red Bandanna (Young Readers Adaptation) by Tom Rinaldi is the biography of Welles Crowther. On September 11, he was working on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center when the planes hit below his floor. He never came home. His parents grieved not knowing what happened. Then, his mom read an article where survivors spoke of a man in a red bandanna as their rescuer and Mrs. Crowther knew that was her son, Welles. He always carried a red bandanna in his pocket. It was his emblem ever since receiving one from his dad when he was 8 or 9. He was one of the many heroes of 9/11. 

Mr. Rinaldi produced a short film about Welles Crowther for ESPN, then wrote a biography for adults. This adaptation for young readers is an emotional read; but a beautiful tribute to a young man who made a choice to go back into a burning building to help.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Friday Memes: Layoverland by Gabby Noone

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

Layoverland by Gabby Noone. 302 p. Razorbill/ 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.

First Line: You know the kind of crying where you're crying over one thing and then you think about a slightly less upsetting but still definitely upsetting thing and it makes you cry even more?

Page 56: "Well, that's too bad. I was all ready to bribe you," he says, wiggling his eyebrows slightly.
     "All right, that's it!" I say, pushing my chair back. "Actually, I'll make sure you number never gets called. Have fun eating wet slop and waring socks with sandals for the rest of eternity."
     He looks under the table at his feet.
     "Hey, how'd you know I'm wearing-"
     His jaw goes slack.
     "So you did notice me on the plane," he says.
     "No, I just noticed your shoes. Not you."

Waiting on Wednesday - A Day Late: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Image: Scholastic Inc.

(I published this to our school's learning platform yesterday, then forgot to post to the blog because I got caught up in prepping for our first virtual teaching day.)

Welcome back to school everyone! If you think you don't enjoy historical fiction, you have not read one by Alan Gratz. His many books are quite popular at TMS, so his fans will be excited to learn that he has a new book coming in February, 2021. Waiting on Wednesday features Ground Zero by Alan Gratz. Next September will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He often uses multiple points of view and here, he has two. Here's the synopsis from his website: Two kids. One devastating day.

September 11, 2001. New York City. Nine year old Brandon goes to work with his dad on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Out of nowhere an airplane slams into the tower, creating a fiery nightmare of terror and confusion that threatens everyone in the building. Can Brandon survive–and escape?

September 11, 2020. Afghanistan. Eleven year old Reshmina has grown up in the shadow of war, but she dreams of peace and progress. When a battle erupts in her village, Reshmina stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help him–and put herself and her family in mortal danger?

Ground Zero releases on February 2, 2021.

#tbt: King Arthur

Image: Penguin Random House

Welcome back to the second day of school TMS Readers! The next few #tbt posts will have a theme, King Arthur legends. There are many and I will share a few of my favorites over the next few Thursday. Arthur really was King in the fifth century. He defended Britain against the Saxons. Over the years that followed historians decided stories about the king, which included a wizard and a magic sword, were not historically accurate. Primary source material is sparse. But they are fantastic stories!

The book that made me a King Arthur fan as a teen was, The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Originally published in the UK in 1958, this story contains four or five books, but some, such as the first part, The Sword in the Stone, are published as single volumes. White was inspired by a much earlier book, Le Morte d'Arthur, but added details from recent (at the time) history.

The Once and Future King is an ambitious read for most teens as it was published for an adult audience, but it's a good starting point to learn about the legend and all the colorful characters associated with Arthur.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Picture Book Review: Veg Patch Party by Clare Foges & Al Murphy

Image: Faber & Faber

Veg Patch Party by Clare Foges & Al Murphy. unpgd. Faber & Faber, October 20, 2020. 9780571352852. (Review courtesy of publisher.)

Heads up if you have a child who won't eat his or her veggies, or will eat them, or just wants to hear a rollicking read aloud. This jaunty story in rhyme invites the reader to a private party once the farmer and the animals hit the hay. That's when the veggies come out to play. 

The bright palette zings, the hand-lettering, cross-outs included, jump from the page and the puns and visual humor add to the enjoyment. A catchy, easy-to-learn refrain invites listeners to raucously join in the fun. Veg Patch Party is sure to be a hit among the pre-school group and one adults will have a load of fun reading out loud. 

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: I'll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Image: HarperCollins Publishers

I'll Be the One by Lyla Lee. Unabridged audiobook. ~8 hours. Read by Greta Jung. HarperAudio, June, 2020. 9780063019225. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features I'll Be the One by Lyla Lee. This breezy romance is Ms. Lee's debut. Sixteen-year-old Skye Shin has been singing and dancing all her life. It's her passion and she has stuck with it despite her mother's constant discouragement, well, abuse really. Skye has always been plus-size, a fact that her mother never lets her forget. But she's fit and healthy and a fantastic dancer.

When Skye decides to audition for a K-Pop singing and dancing competition, her mother doubles down on her insults, claiming she's only trying to protect Skye from public humiliation. She nails her audition securing a spot in both categories despite the lone female judge's attempt to fat-shame her. Skye is comfortable in her skin despite societal prejudice against fat people. Ms. Lee deftly weaves in issues over weight and appearance without bogging down the narrative. 

The audio performance by new-to-me narrator Greta Jung was perfectly paced. She brought Skye's spunk as well as vulnerability to life. 

I'll Be the One is the perfect read for romance fans grade 7 & up, especially if you are a fan of Julie Murphy's Dumplin' or of K-Pop. This was a perfect way to spend a lovely summer afternoon. I am looking forward to Lyla Lee's next book.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Get a Grip Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit

Image: Penguin Random House

Get a Grip Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, February, 2020. 9780525554189. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features a debut called Get a Grip Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit. This is an epistolery novel. That means it's told in letters. In this case, it's letters as well as emails that Vivy writes to her favorite MLB pitcher, VJ Capello. Not only do they share initials, but VJ is famous for his knuckleball pitch and Vivy has a good one. Her older brother taught her how to pitch but it's getting harder and harder to get him to toss the ball with her in the park. A Little League coach spots Vivy pitching one day and asks her to join his Little League team. Vivy is interested even though the coach's son, who is a classmate, does not look happy. Neither is Vivy's mother, who worries that Vivy won't fit in. Not only will she be the only girl, she will be the only autistic player. Vivy is prone to having meltdowns when she gets frustrated. Vivy promises she will work hard with her therapist on her social skills if she's allowed on the team.

Readers get to know this feisty knuckleballer through her letters and emails to her hero. There's some good baseball in this story, but readers do not need to love baseball to enjoy the book. Vivy is trying to live her best life in a world that is often unkind to those who are not neurotypical.

Get a Grip Vivy Cohen! is a great addition to any collection!

Saturday, September 5, 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: I received three books in the mail this week, only one of which I knew was coming! Yay, surprises!

Sometimes a Wall by Dianne White. Illustrated by Barroux. unpgd. Owlkid Books, October 15, 2020. 9781771473736.

Publisher synopsis: An afternoon in the playground introduces different kinds of walls: a brick wall to draw on with chalk, a water wall, and a climbing wall. What follows is a playful yet profound exploration of the many ways walls can divide us or bring us together. When one child is excluded from a game, another builds a castle to leave him out. When the builder declares the castle MINE, other kids feel alienated—but the builder becomes lonely, too, when the others have fun without him. The book ends with the optimism of a new start: friendship, forgiveness, and imagination give the wall new meaning.

Told with short, simple lines of playful, rhyming text and loose line illustrations by internationally known artist Barroux, this book sparks questions with empathy, insight, and charm. It’s a timely tool for inquiry-based and social-emotional learning, sharing the important message that walls can unite or divide, depending on the choices we make.

Veg Patch Party by Clare Foges & Al Murphy. unpgd. Faber & Faber, October 20,2020. 9780571352852.

Publisher synopsis: 
The vegetables start waking up
They stretch and rise and shine -
They set up lots of stages,
Cos it's VEGGIE PARTY time!

Mud, rain, vegetables. A winning combination from the team behind the bestselling Kitchen Disco!

Image: Cambridge University Press

The Body Image Book for Girls: love yourself and grow up fearless by Charlotte Markey. Illustrations by Tim Olivers. 218 p. Cambridge University Press, September 10, 2020. 9781108718776.

Publisher synopsis: It is worrying to think that most girls feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and that this can lead to serious problems including depression and eating disorders. Can some of those body image worries be eased? Body image expert and psychology professor Dr Charlotte Markey helps girls aged 9-15 to understand, accept, and appreciate their bodies. She provides all the facts on puberty, mental health, self-care, why diets are bad news, dealing with social media, and everything in-between. Girls will find answers to questions they always wanted to ask, the truth behind many body image myths, and real-life stories from girls who share their own experiences. Through this easy-to-read and beautifully illustrated guide, Dr Markey teaches girls how to nurture both mental and physical heath to improve their own body image, shows the positive impact they can have on others, and enables them to go out into the world feeling fearless!

Purchased: nothing. I still have a full shopping cart on AZ, but haven't pushed the button as I have plenty to read right now and plenty to prepare for with school opening next week.

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

Picture Book Review: Pearl Goes to Preschool by Julie Fortenberry

Image: Candlewick Press

Pearl Goes to Preschool by Julie Fortenberry. unpgd. Candlewick Press, July, 2020. 9781536207439. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.) 

On page one in this adorable first-person narrative, teeny, tiny Pearl announces, "I'm a dancer, just like my mom." She dances every day and is usually the littlest dancer in class. Well, except for Violet, her mouse stuffie. Her mom broaches the subject of preschool, but Pearl and Violet are not interested. They already go to school. When Mom tells her that preschool is different and that she will learn to count, Pearl assures her mother she already knows how to count - first position, second position and third position! As the two get ready to attend a ballet, Pearl begins to ask questions about preschool. Later, she relays the information to Violet in the same reassuring tone. 

The creamy digitally rendered illustrations convey Pearl's close relationship with her mother and her love of ballet beautifully. Ballet is her safe space where she feels comfortable with older children. She needs to expand her circle to include peers and non-ballet activities. Her mother gently encourages and her modeling works, as seen when Pearl reassures Violet (and herself). 

There are plenty of books that deal with school anxiety. Pearl Goes to Preschool is a worthy addition to the collection.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

#tbt: Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

Image: LBYR

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick. 384 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers. 

Happy Thursday TMS Readers! #tbt features Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick. I believe I have shared that I am an unabashed crier over books and boy did I cry over this one. But I also laughed a lot. I have also shared that there is a space in my heart where some favorite characters reside forever. A place where, just thinking about them or the book brings on a flood of feelings. Amber resides there.

Sorta Like a Rock Star was published in 2010 and was Matthew Quick's debut YA. He had previously published a novel for adults you may have heard of called, The Siliver Linings Playbook. Amber is the princess of hope even though she lives in "Mellow Yellow," the school bus her alcoholic mother drives part-time. She relies on her faith in Jesus Christ, who is "sorta like a rock star" to get her through the tough times. She loves her mom but can't rely on her so Amber has surrounded herself with a found family of a sort. This compelling novel of faith, family, friendship, forgiveness and grief landed on several "Best" lists, including Best Fiction for Young Adults and was a Bank Street Best Book. It was optioned for film, with the author hired as the screenwriter and was recently released to Netflix under the title All Together Now. If you're a teen who loves to cry over books, Sorta Like a Rock Star is for you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Image: TOR

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman.

Waiting on Wednesday features Game Changer by Neal Shusterman. Mr. Shusterman's books are quite popular at TMS and include titles for middle grade and YA. They are twisty, surprising and utterly believable. Here's the publisher synopsis of Game Changer: All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on falling into universes that are almost-but-not-really his own, each one stranger than the last.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…

Game Changer releases in February, 2021.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg

Image: Scholastic

The Bridge
by Bill Konigsberg. 400 p. Scholastic Inc. September 1, 2020. 9781338325034. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday wishes a happy book birthday to The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg. This uniquely structured book will not be everyone's cup of tea, but it addresses important issues that many teens face - bullying, isolation, depression and suicide. Two New York City teens in crisis go to the George Washington Bridge with the intention of jumping. Both are suffering from severe depression and both have recently suffered humiliation.

Aaron is lonely largely due to self-isolation. He has dreams of becoming an internet sensation with his singing and songwriting. He may or may not be much good. His parents are divorced. His mom is largely absent but his dad is attentive and worried about him. Tillie is bullied relentlessly at school about her weight. She was adopted from Korea when her parents learned they couldn't have biological children. She remembers a time when she felt her father loved her, but since her "miracle" sister was born, she feels isolated and unloved by him.

There are four possible scenarios on the GWB and the author explores them all in four parts. In part one, Tillie jumps and Aaron doesn't. In part two, Aaron jumps and Tillie doesn't. In part three, they both jump and in the final part, neither jumps and they form a tentative friendship. The psychic pain each teen is suffering is exquisitely portrayed as is the aftermath of each choice on the survivors.

Make no mistake, this is a very difficult read. But it's an important one. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among fifteen to twenty-four-year-olds. Back matter contains information about depression and mental health along with resources.

Mature teens who read The Bridge might find themselves more empathetic to others and learn to lean towards kindness and compassion instead of cruelty. Adults may be less apt to write off teens having difficulty coping as "teen angst."