Sunday, February 28, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Into the Wind by William Loizeaux

Middle Grade Monday features Into the Wind by William Loizeaux. 186 p. Red Chair Press, March 2, 2021. 9781947159426. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday wishes an early book birthday (tomorrow) to Into the Wind by William Loiseaux. I broke my no-star policy on Goodreads to give this gentle, heartwarming story of intergenerational friendship five. It was just lovely. Rusty is relatable as a tween with a couple of outsized problems - the possibility of repeating fifth grade thanks to failing math and the absence of his mother due to depression. She is in a residential hospital on the mainland trying to recover. It doesn't help that his bossy older sister is particularly obnoxious at home. 

He takes refuge in restoring a sailboat that a neighbor gave him and also in reading about sailing. He's startled one day by the request of an elderly, wheelchair-bound art garage owner. She asks him to take her sailing and then persists when he turns her down. She apologizes for making him uncomfortable and several days later, offers him a job helping her around her cramped and cluttered cottage. He can use the money for outfitting his sailboat and takes the job. 

It's mostly menial labor, but she insists that Rusty do his math homework and have lunch before tackling his chores. The two develop and easy routine and Rusty gets to know this feisty neighbor.

This is slow-paced, introspective and perfect for your readers who like sad but gentle books. Clocking in at 186 pages and containing warm, pencil illustrations, it will also appeal to readers who are still developing stamina. As a land-lubber, I found the sailing descriptions accessible and interesting. 

Between posting a version of this review to Goodreads on February 7 and publishing this post, I came across a thread on Twitter bemoaning the fate of quiet books as unmarketable. I didn't delve deeply into it, but hope that isn't true. Each year, I have a new crop of readers to get to know and in each grade. I have a fair number of thoughtful readers who definitely want quiet books and sometimes I have a challenge finding enough for them, for they tend to be students who love to read. 

I hope that Into the Wind finds its readers. It's a sweet little book with a great big heart and publishes tomorrow. I'm looking forward to book talking this with my students.

Friday, February 26, 2021

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:

Twenty-One Steps by Jeff Gottsfeld. Illustrated by Matt Tavares. 32 p. Candlewick Press, February, 2021. 9781536201482.

Publisher synopsis: Keeping vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Arlington National Cemetery, are the sentinel guards, whose every step, every turn, honors and remembers America’s fallen. They protect fellow soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, making sure they are never alone. To stand there—with absolute precision, in every type of weather, at every moment of the day, one in a line uninterrupted since midnight July 2, 1937—is the ultimate privilege and the most difficult post to earn in the army. Everything these men and women do is in service to the Unknowns. Their standard is perfection.

Exactly how the unnamed men came to be entombed at Arlington, and exactly how their fellow soldiers have come to keep vigil over them, is a sobering and powerful tale, told by Jeff Gottesfeld and luminously illustrated by Matt Tavares—a tale that honors the soldiers who honor the fallen.

With every step, the Tomb Guards pay homage to America’s fallen. Discover their story, and that of the unknown soldiers they honor, through resonant words and illustrations.

Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber. 282 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., May 18, 2021. 9781338186000.

Publisher synopsis: Sarah loves basketball more than anything. Crushing it on the court makes her feel like she matters. And it's the only thing that helps her ignore how much it hurts when her mom forgets to feed her.

But lately Sarah can't even play basketball right. She's slower now and missing shots she should be able to make. Her body doesn't feel like it's her own anymore. She's worried that changing herself back to how she used to be is the only way she can take control over what's happening.

When Sarah's crush asks her to be partners in a cooking competition, she feels pulled in a million directions. She'll have to dig deep to stand up for what she needs at home, be honest with her best friends, and accept that she doesn't need to change to feel good about herself.

The Life I'm In by Sharon Flake. 336 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., January, 2021. 9781338573176.

Publisher synopsis: My feet are heavy as stones when I walk up the block wondering why I can't find my old self.

In The Skin I'm In, readers saw into the life of Maleeka Madison, a teen who suffered from the ridicule she received because of her dark skin color. For decades fans have wanted to know the fate of the bully who made Maleeka's life miserable, Char.

Now in Sharon Flake's latest and unflinching novel, The Life I'm In, we follow Charlese Jones, who, with her raw, blistering voice speaks the truths many girls face, offering insight to some of the causes and conditions that make a bully. Turned out of the only home she has known, Char boards a bus to nowhere where she is lured into the dangerous web of human trafficking. Much is revealed behind the complex system of men who take advantage of vulnerable teens in the underbelly of society. While Char might be frightened, she remains strong and determined to bring herself and her fellow victims out of the dark and back into the light, reminding us why compassion is a powerful cure to the ills of the world.

Sharon Flake's bestselling, Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel The Skin I'm In was a game changer when it was first published more than twenty years ago. It redefined young adult literature by presenting characters, voices, and real-world experiences that had not been fully seen. Now Flake offers readers another timely and radical story of a girl on the brink and how her choices will lead her to either fall, or fly.

Muted by Tami Charles. 400 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., February, 2021. 9781338673524.

Publisher synopsis: Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.

For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.

So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean "Mercury" Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights -- plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.

Until they're not.

Denver begins to realize that she's trapped in Merc's world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.

Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl's dreams can be used against her -- and what it takes to fight back.

Force of Fire by Sayantani Das Gupta. 368 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., May 18, 2021. 9781338636642.

Publisher synopsis: Pinki hails from a long line of rakkhosh resisters, demons who have spent years building interspecies relationships, working together to achieve their goal of overthrowing the snakey oppressors and taking back their rights. But she has more important things to worry about, like maintaining her status as fiercest rakkhosh in her class and looking after her little cousins. There is also the teeny tiny detail of not yet being able to control her fire breathing and accidentally burning up school property.

Then Sesha, the charming son of the Serpentine Governor, calls on Pinki for help in defeating the resistance, promising to give her what she most desires in return — the ability to control her fire. First she'll have to protect the Moon Maiden, pretend to be a human (ick), and survive a family reunion. But it's all worth it for the control of her powers . . . right?

Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen. 304 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., May 4, 2021. 9781338665857. 

Publisher synopsis: Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime -- a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family... and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb's Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared's uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis -- a game rival turned reluctant ally -- Yared must search for his uncle... and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.

Allergic by Mean Wagner Lloyd. Illustrated Michelle Mee Nutter. 240 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc. March 2, 2021. 9781338568905.

Publisher synopsis: At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with the new baby they're expecting, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie thinks a new puppy is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She's severely allergic to anything with fur!

Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd draws on her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.

Image: Abrams

The Stuff Between Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe by Sandra Nickel. Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro. Abrams Books for Young Readers/ Abrams, March 2, 2021. 9781419736261.

Publisher synopsis: Vera Rubin was one of the astronomers who discovered and named dark matter, the thing that keeps the universe hanging together. Throughout her career she was never taken seriously as a scientist because she was one of the only female astronomers at that time, but she didn’t let that stop her. She made groundbreaking and incredibly significant discoveries that scientists have only recently been able to really appreciate—and she changed the way that we look at the universe. A stunning portrait of a little-known trailblazer, The Stuff Between the Stars tells Vera’s story and inspires the youngest readers who are just starting to look up at the stars.

Purchased: nothing, but I am filling a cart on AZ thanks to gift cards from my students. So hard to choose!

Leave a link to your stack in the comment section. I'd love to visit.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Friday Memes: Switched by Bruce Hale

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

Switched by Bruce Hale. 250 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc. April 6, 2021. 9781338702552.

Publisher synopsis:
Who's a good boy?

Twelve-year-old Parker Pitts hates a mess. Ever since his grandmother died, he's much more comfortable when things are organized: He scrubs the kitchen counters at home, avoids the school bully at all costs, and never even speaks to Gabriella Cortez, the most interesting girl in the sixth grade. No muss, no fuss, no complicated feelings to worry about.

But now Parker's older sister is traveling abroad for the semester, leaving behind her obnoxious and extremely disorderly goldendoodle, Boof, for Parker to manage. Man's best friend? More like boy's worst nightmare!

When an intense round of tug-of-war leaves both dog and boy with bumped heads, Parker and Boof wake up to the biggest disaster yet: they've switched bodies! Suddenly Boof has to find his way through a school day and Parker has dog food?!

It's a mess of truly epic proportions. Can Parker and Boof clean it up -- together?

First Line: It had taken all afternoon to set up, but it only took five minutes for the dog to destroy everything.

Page 56: "Do you even know how to use the toilet?" Parker scrambled to catch up.
     As they entered, his nose wrinkled in disgust. Whew. The bathroom reeked. Wh'd have ever guessed it was this filthy? H fought the urge to break out the cleanser and a sponge.
     "What's to know? said Book. "You point and shoot." 

I won this by responding a tweet by the author! When I worked in a K-8 library, his Chet Gecko books were very popular. In my 5-8 grade library, his School for S.P.I.E.S. series is. I am sure this one will be appealing as well. Many of my students love these switched bodies books. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#tbt: Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. 288 p. Candlewick Press, March, 2011. 9780763641559. (Own.)

#tbt features Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. This book is a favorite among my students who love sad stories. It was published ten years ago and made quite a few state reading lists as well as YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults list. 

Jack had been thrilled with his mom's suggestion of a weekend camping trip in Maine before starting sixth grade. When he leaves his tent in the morning, something is terribly wrong. His mother's tent and her car are gone. She has left him alone in the woods. Unfortunately for Jack, this is not the first time she has done this. She has terrible mood swings and sometimes she "spins." The last time she left him alone, they were in their apartment in Boston and he ended up in the care of his estranged grandmother. Now, he's stranded in the woods with very little money and no food. How will he get back to Boston? Can he do it without being caught? 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Singled Out: the True Story of Glenn Burke by Andrew Maraniss

Singled Out: the True Story of Glenn Burke by Andrew Maraniss. 320 p. Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, March 2, 2021. 9780593116722.

Waiting on Wednesday features Singled Out: the True Story of Glenn Burke by Andrew Maraniss. Here's the publisher's synopsis:
"On October 2nd, 1977, Glenn Burke, outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, made history without even swinging a bat. When his teammate Dusty Baker hit a historic home run, Glenn enthusiastically congratulated him with the first ever high five. But Glenn also made history in another way—he was the first openly gay MLB player. While he did not come out publicly until after his playing days were over, Glenn's sexuality was known to his teammates, family, and friends. His MLB career would be cut short after only three years, but his legacy and impact on the athletic and LGBTQIA+ community would resonate for years to come. 

New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss tells the story of Glenn Burke: from his childhood growing up in Oakland, his journey to the MLB and the World Series, the joy in discovering who he really was, to more difficult times: facing injury, addiction, and the AIDS epidemic.

Packed with black-and-white photographs and thoroughly researched, never-before-seen details about Glenn's life, Singled Out is the fascinating story of a trailblazer in sports—and the history and culture that shaped the world around him."

Until I read High Five for Glenn Burke, I had never heard of Glenn Burke. Now, I have a biography to look forward to reading! I always learn so much from children's literature! Singled Out releases on March 2.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~ 8 hours, 17 minutes. Read by Dion Graham. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2021. 9780063043817. (Review of e-audiobook downloaded from the public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. This is Ms. Thomas' third novel and is a prequel to her New York Times bestselling debut, The Hate U Give. Fans of THUG, will be thrilled to meet seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter. 

When Maverick is told he's a father as a result of a one-night stand, he cannot believe it. No sooner did the paternity test results come back identifying Mav as the father of Iesha's son, then Mav found himself the sole care taker of him. He has been dealing drugs in order to help his mother make ends meet, but stops at the behest of his cousin, Dre. This adds tension to his already fraught relationship with King. Iesha is King's on-again-off-again girlfriend and presumed he was Iesha's son's father. 

He takes his responsibility seriously and has the support of his mother. He's offered an after-school job working at Mr. Wyatt's grocery story, but the pay is peanuts compared to what he was earning slinging and babies are expensive! Keeping up with schoolwork is really hard as well, what with the baby keeping him up at night. And, he has to come clean with Lisa. They were broken up at the time of the one-night stand, but she dumps him anyway and he'd do anything to get her back.

Like Ms. Thomas' previous novels, her characters brim with personality and her Garden City setting is vivid. Families struggle and are often beset with tragedy, but they offer support and unconditional love. Mav's father has been in prison for most of his childhood, but he still calls regularly to check in and is there to listen. Mav's voice is compelling. He may not be book smart, but he is intelligent, wryly observant, fiercely loyal and wants to do right.

Concrete Rose was narrated by Dion Graham, one of my favorite narrators. He utterly embodies Maverick and his performance is well-paced and nuanced. Read it with your eyes. Read it with your ears. Maverick's story is gripping.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner. 288 p. Farrar Straus Giroux (BYR)/ Macmillan Publishers, February, 2020. 9780374312732. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Sixth grader Silas Wade lives for baseball. He's devoted to his Little League team and hustles in both practice and games. He loves to crack jokes and make his teammates laugh. He's also a devoted student of the sport-the psychology, the strategy and the history. When researching Glenn Burke for an oral report, Silas learns more than the fact that Burke was the inventor of the high five. He learns that Burke was gay. This is earth-moving for Silas, who is coming to realize his own identity. He's thrilled to be sharing his enthusiasm for Burke and his invention, but also terrified that his teammates and classmates will connect the dots. 

He comes out to his best friend, Zoey, and swears her to secrecy. This puts a bit of a strain on their friendship, but then he betrays her, rightfully earning her wrath. His lie explodes in his face and, as the pressure builds, his baseball suffers. 

Phil Bildner nailed it with this engaging novel. In High Five for Glenn Burke, we have a narrator who is endearing as well as irritating. His energy just crackles off the page and that can be a bit exhausting. We all know kids like this.

We also have superb baseball - history, as well as the mechanics of practice and games. We have a stressed out family that is doing their best. We have a best friendship that has hit the skids. Most of all, we have an author who skillfully combined these ingredients to realistically portray an adolescent's coming out in all its messy glory. Highly recommended!

Picture Book Review: Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino

Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino. Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga. unpgd. Charlesbridge, January, 2021. 
9781580899321. (Review of e-arc courtesy of publisher.)

A little girl dresses appropriately for the weather and heads to the beach for a winter walk with her mother and her rag doll, also appropriately dressed. This gorgeously illustrated book is a lovely meditation on winter, nature and mommy and me time. It's  a slice of life poem told entirely with s words. Many are sensory and all are evocative.

Seaside Stroll is a book that is perfect for one-on-one story time snuggles as well as library story time. Don't rush through these pages though. Linger to appreciate the details in the mixed media (digital and watercolor) illustrations. Language arts teachers looking to introduce alliteration need look no further. Use it as a mentor text to challenge students to create their own alliterative story or short poem!

An afterword by the author explains the inspiration as well as some of the mechanics of the poem, such as repetition. This is mirrored a bit in the illustrations.

I can't wait to share Seaside Stroll with my LA colleagues. I'm sending a copy to my granddaughter as well.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fact Friday: The Eagle Huntress: The True Story of the Girl Who Soared Beyond Expectation by Aisholpan Nurgaiv

Image: LBYR

The Eagle Huntress: The True Story of the Girl Who Soared Beyond Expectation by Aisholpan Nurgaiv with Liz Welch. 208 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, May, 2020. 9780316522619. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Fact Friday features The Eagle Huntress: The True Story of the Girl Who Soared Beyond Expectation by Aisholpan Nurgaiv with Liz Welch. 

In 2014, Aisholpan Nurgaiv became the first girl to win a competition of eagle hunters in Mongolia. Eagle hunting is traditionally done by men, but Aisholpan's father thought she was a natural and encouraged her interest. Her quest to compete was the subject of a documentary, released in 2016, also called The Eagle Huntress. 

Her memoir is conversational. She speaks of stories of her birth and the dream her grandmother had just prior to it. She talks of how her father trained her to handle his eagle and how she set about trapping and capturing her own eaglet. She also shares how it felt to travel to the US for the premier of the award-winning documentary featuring her. Plentiful photographs give readers a visual sense of the Steppe where her nomadic family have lived for generations. 

The Eagle Huntress is engaging and accessible to young readers - a great addition to your library's memoir collection.

#tbt: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Happy Thursday! I hope you are enjoying watching the snow fall. My bird feeders are stocked and the birds are feasting. I hope to get a lot of reading done both with my eyes and ears.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham. 230 p. David Fickling Books/ Random House Children's Books, 2007. 9780385751551. (Own).

#tbt features Before I Die by Jenny Downham. This was Ms. Downham's debut and was published in 2007. It was a book I read with my ears while shoveling snow in a blizzard and I recall being so immersed in Tessa's story that I cleared my driveway without stopping.

Tessa is a very unlikable character at first. She has a right to be. Shes just sixteen and has been battling leukemia for four years. She has just learned that her disease is terminal, so she has made a list of things she wants to do before she dies. That list contains some very risky behaviors. She's very hard on her single-father, who just wants to spend time with her.

This one's a tear-jerker for sure. I still have vivid memories of sobbing at the end. It's definitely a story for mature teen readers who like extremely sad books.

Before I Die was first published in the UK, where it was shortlisted for several prestigious awards, including the Carnegie Medal. It made a big splash here in the US, making several "Best" lists, including the YALSA Top Ten Books for Young Adults list. It was adapted for film in 2012 that was released with the title, Now is Good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Prepped by Bethany Mangle

Prepped by Bethany Mangle. 320 p. Margaret K. McElderry Books/ Simon & Schuster, February 23, 2021. 9781534477506.

Publisher synopsis: For fans of Jeff Zentner and Katie Henry comes a thrilling and funny debut about a teen raised in a doomsday community who plots her escape with the boy from the bunker next door.

Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.

When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything—including her heart—for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy. Once and Future series #1. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook, ~10 hours, 55 minutes. Read by Lauren Fortang. LBYR/ Hachette Audio, March, 2019. 9781549178863. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy. Regular readers of this blog might know that I'm a fan of King Arthur retellings. The legend gets a gender-bending, sci-fi twist here and it's utterly delightful! Ari Helix is on the run from the Mercer Corporation, which literally controls the galaxy. Planet Earth has been abandoned, Ari's planet has been destroyed and her parents murdered. She has been raised by two adoptive mothers and adored Kay, her adoptive older brother. 

The two are eluding capture when they crash-land on Earth. Ari finds a sword embedded in a stone, yanks it out and discovers that she is the forty-second incarnation of King Arthur. This awakens Merlin, Arthur's mentor and wizard. He has been aging backward and is now a teen-age boy.

The pace is whiplash fast, the humor is high and surprises abound. I had no idea what to expect going into this. I hadn't read a review. I just knew it was a King Arthur retelling. This book sizzles and that cliffhanger ending left me needing the next installment ASAP! The good thing about coming to a series later is not having to wait for the sequel. Sword in the Stars is in my Libby queue. I cannot wait.

Once and Future is not quite middle school fare. Mature teens who are into King Arthur, science fiction and/ or lgbtq literature where the sexuality of characters is not the issue will go gaga over this adventure. Once and Future was my final book of 2020. What a way to end a reading year. Highly recommended!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

Happy Presidents' Day! I hope you are enjoying your break and finding time to read! 

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook. ~3 hours, 52 minute. Read by Simon Vance. Hachette Audio, September, 2020. 9781549106743. (Review of downloadable e-audiobook borrowed from the public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. This is Mr. Grossman's middle grade debut. He usually writes for a YA audience.

Kate is about to turn eleven. She's facing a ho-hum birthday thanks to her busy parents. She writes a letter to her Uncle Herbert, whom she's never met because he's very, very rich and very irresponsible. He shows up on her birthday with a locomotive called, The Silver Arrow. This is not a toy, but a real locomotive that Kate and her brother, Tom, later learn is sentient. It communicates with them through printed messages and soon whisks them off to the railyard where the two need to choose train cars for their journey. Kate, a book lover, chooses a library car and Tom chooses a candy car. At each stop on their journey, animals bearing tickets board the train. Kate and Tom learn of the plight of each and try their hardest to get the animals to their destinations, but it might be too late for the polar bear.

Simon Vance is a favorite narrator of mine. He has a variety of voices for each animal. The voices he chose fit their personalities and adds a level of enjoyment. There's a definite message, but an important one. If you enjoy magic and adventure, this eco-fable is for you.

Friday, February 12, 2021

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:

Switched by Bruce Hale. 248 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April 6, 2021. 9781338702552.

Publisher synopsis: Who’s a good boy?

Twelve-year-old Parker Pitts hates a mess. Ever since his grandmother died, he’s much more comfortable when things are organized: He scrubs the kitchen counters at home, avoids the school bully at all costs, and never even speaks to Gabriella Cortez, the most interesting girl in the sixth grade. No muss, no fuss, no complicated feelings to worry about.

But now Parker’s older sister is traveling abroad for the semester, leaving behind her obnoxious and extremely disorderly goldendoodle, Boof for Parker to manage. Man’s best friend? More like boy’s worst nightmare!

When an intense round of tug-of-war leaves both dog and boy with bumped heads, Parker and Boof wake up to the biggest disaster yet: they’ve switched bodies! Suddenly Boof has to find his way through a school day and Parker has to … eat dog food?!

It’s a mess of truly epic proportions. Can Parker and Boof clean it up — together?

I won this from author, Bruce Hale! I loved his Chet Gecko series when I worked in a K-8 library! Now that I'm in a middle school, his School for S.P.I.E.S. series is very popular. This one looks fantastic! 

Purchased: Those AZ gift cards are staring at me. Soon. 

Leave a link to your stack in the comment section. I'd love to visit.

Fact Friday: Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery by Sandra Markle

Happy Friday! Happy Lunar New Year as well! We made it to Friday and our February break! I hope you have big reading plans for break! I have daily book talks scheduled to post, so be sure to check here next week for some ideas of what to read next.

Image: Lerner Publishing Group

Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery by Sandra Markle. 40 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, April, 2020. 9781541538375. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Fact Friday features Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery by Sandra Markle. Many animals migrate for a variety of reasons. What causes animals, in this case a herd of plains zebras in Namibia and Botswana 
near the Chobe River, to leave their home and just vanish? Scientist Robin Naidoo and a team of scientists fitted some of the zebras with GPS trackers to find out. They were shocked to discover that the herd travels a record 155 mile to Botswana's Nxai Pan National Park. This distance is record breaking. But why?

Read this fascinating book to find out. The narrative is well-organized and engaging. Each page features one or more full-color pictures of the herd, individual zebras and the scientists at work as well as maps and helpful sidebars. The book is beautifully designed. Useful back matter provides a glossary and points budding conservationists to other sources for further reading. Follow Those Zebras is a sturdy addition to Ms. Markle's Science Discovery series. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

#tbt: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos. 154 p. Farrar Straus & Giroux/ Macmillan Publishers, October 1998. 9780374336646. (Own)

#tbt features Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos. Joey Pigza is a little boy with a big problem. He can't seem to sit still and he's very impulsive. He wondered what would happen if he stuck his finger into the pencil sharpener and found out. He takes medicine for this, but it's definitely not working and Joey feels very stupid. This first-person narrative is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Joey is as endearing as he is aggravating. Readers will definitely root for Joey.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is the first book in the Joey Pigza series. It was published in the fall of 1998 and won numerous awards, including being named a National Book Finalist and an ALA Notable Book.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Karen M. McManus's mystery/ thrillers are favorites among my seventh and eighth graders. I featured The Cousins yesterday and can't wait to hear what her fans think about her latest. While gathering info about that book, I learned that she has a new one coming in the fall! There's not even a cover yet, but I'm psyched!
Waiting on Wednesday features You'll Be the Death of Me. The publisher says the book was pitched as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off meets a murder mystery" and features the alternating perspectives of "three friends" who skip school and witness a crime they can only solve by facing what they've been hiding from one another-and themselves. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~ 9 hours. Read by Sarah Skaer, Kate Reinders, David Garelik and Julia Whelan. Listening Library, November, 2020. 9781984842152. (Review of downloadable e-audio borrowed from the public library.)

Teen Tuesday features The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. Milly, Aubrey and Jonah are the Story cousins and hardly know each other. Their parents are not close and they have never met their grandmother, though Milly is named for her. Twenty-five years earlier, their parents were disinherited abruptly, receiving notes saying, "You know what you did." They didn't, but they went on with their lives always wondering.

Now Mildred Story has had an apparent change of heart. Each cousin receives a type-written note, signed by their grandmother, inviting them to spend the summer working at her resort on an island she basically owns. None of the cousins want to go, but their parents make clear that they are going.

Once they finally meet the famed Mildred Story, the cousins get the distinct impression that she has no interest in a reconciliation. So why are they there? 

My students who love the mystery/ thriller genre love Karen M. McManus' books, One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret are rarely on the shelf. (One of Us is Next came out last spring while we were in quarantine.) The Cousins is paced differently. The menace isn't quite as immediate, but mystery and secrets abound. The cousins have their secrets, as do their parents, but their grandmother might have the biggest one yet. 

The POV switches between the cousins. There are also flashbacks to the summer before their parents were disinherited, which shows they were rather spoiled super-rich kids. We learn through their rather damaged children that none matured much. All the narrators bring the unique personalities alive making this an entertaining mystery to read with my ears. I'm eager to share this with my students and learn what they think!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

Happy Monday! Sunday's snow was manageable removal-wise and all my trees look like they're iced with frosting. It sure was pretty! I kept the bird feeders stocked and watched some happy birds feast all day.

Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi. 288 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 16, 2021. 9780525516866. (Review of arc courtesy of publicist.)

Middle Grade Monday features Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi. Twelve-year-old Kingston James and his Ma are returning to Echo City in Brooklyn. They are still grieving the disappearance of Kingston's magician dad four years earlier, but the family brownstone has gone into foreclosure and family is family. Kingston's Ma wants to turn the brownstone into a coffee shop and scrub all evidence of magic out. The neighborhood is declining since magic left. The Majestic Theater is boarded up. Kingston's uncles are at sea. It's almost too much to bear, but Kingston's cousin, Veronica is cool and he reconnects with his best friend, Too Tall. The two agree to help King investigate some mysterious clues that he can't ignore. His uncles say, King's dad can't be retrieved from the Realm, which is the universe he ended up in after he jumped through a portal in a mirror. King can't help but feel that he can.

This fast-paced mystery is twisty and atmospheric. The fictional Brooklyn setting is so vividly drawn that readers might try to look for it on a map. King is smart and gutsy and his longing for his dad is palpable. His banter with his cousin and best friend is endearing. The suspense is high as the menaces mount. These include a gang of gray-skinned kids who are after the same thing King is, only for differet reasons. And there's magic! There's talk of a variety of tricks and performance, as well as references made to prominent Black magicians of the past.

Kingston and the Magicians Lost and Found releases next week and might just be the perfect book to read on your winter break.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Picture Book Review: What Ollie Saw by Joukje Akveld

What Ollie Saw by Joukje Akveld. Illustrated by Sieb Posthuma. Translated by Bill Nagelkerke. 56 p. Levine Querido, April 6, 2021. 9781646140398. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Ollie is a little pig of indeterminate age, but probably around six, who wears a blue beanie and can do without his know-it-all, grouchy sister. She grizzles everywhere, but most of all on family outings, which she finds very boring. Not Ollie though. The dull cows are water buffalo, which Ollie gleefully imagines stomping his sister. Dumb cars caught in a traffic jam are a parade in Ollie's view and a slow and boring sailboat ride is really a pirate ship. Ollie is happy with the way he sees things until he goes to school where his teacher is not happy with the way he sees letters and his classmates laugh at him.

Ollie needs glasses.

Unfortunately, glasses turn the extraordinary into the ordinary, which does not please him in the least.

This book is quite adorable, humorous, and engaging. The whimsical cartoonish art, we learn on a page entitled, "Some Notes on this Book's Production," was created with watercolor, pencil, and ink. We also learn that there are nearly 500 pairs of glasses decorating the endpapers. I just love it when publishers take the time to describe the media used. This page is terrific. 

What Ollie Saw is a first-purchase for any library. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

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: 

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Hallmark. Illustrated by Brooke Smart. 48 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 2, 2021. 9781419739637. 

Publisher synopsis: In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892–1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA's first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to “counter-spying into the minds and activities of” Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth’s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

Purchased: Nothing! Yet;-)

Please leave a link to you stack in the comments! Happy reading!

Fact Friday: Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman

Happy Friday! We made it! Another week of hybrid and virtual learning in the books! And what a week it was with all the snow!

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman, with photographs by Annie Crawley. 64 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing, March 2, 2021. (Review of e-book. Accessed courtesy of author.)

Fact Friday features Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman, with photographs by Annie Crawley. Ms. Newman's and Ms. Crawley's names should be familiar to my eighth graders. Plastic Ahoy! was the mentor text in the grade seven Digital Media Literacy cycle last year. 

Both women are dedicated conservationists. Ms. Newman's accesible, engaging writing paired with Ms. Crawley's stunning photography are a powerful combo. The photos are beyond spectacular and there are QR codes throughout the book that are linked to phenomenal videos that add depth to the reading experience. Readers will "travel" to three oceans with Ms. Crawley, a diving instructor as well as accomplished photographer/ film maker. She's inspiring a new generation of stewards of the ocean.

Visit the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean to learn about how climate change, ocean acidification and plastic pollution affects everyone, not just marine wildlife and those living near the coasts.

Back matter includes notes from the author and photographer, a glossary, source notes and suggestions for further reading. It's sure to please budding environmentalist and inspire a new generation of activists. Planet Ocean will be released on March 2. It is definitely becoming part of TMS library's collection whenever the library reopens. 

Consider this a first-purchase! Your conservation collection wouldn't be complete with out Planet Ocean. I can't wait to reread the physical book. Lerner's books are always pleasingly designed. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

#tbt: Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Deadline by Chris Crutcher. 316 p.Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, September, 2007. 9780060850890. (Own)

#tbt features Deadline by Chris Crutcher. In the thirteen-plus years since publication, I still need to catch myself from turning this book upside down! This might be my favorite Crutcher novel  and, you will need a box of tissues for this one. 

Ben Wolf is about to enter his senior year of high school. He's a gifted cross-country runner and, during his routine high school athletic physical, his doctor discovers that Ben has a terminal blood disease. Since Ben is eighteen, and legally, an adult, he forbids his doctor from sharing this news with his parents, as the family situation is fragile. He also refuses treatment, instead opting to live out his time fulfilling wishes and dreams - these include trying out for the football team, getting on his racist social studies teacher's last nerve and getting to know Dallas, his crush.

This is a provocative read for mature teen readers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Switch by A.S. King

Switch by A. S. King. 240 p. Dutton Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May 11, 2021. 9780525555513.

Waiting on Wednesday features Switch by A. S. King. Ms. King won the Printz Award last year for her novel, Dig. She is one of only two authors who have won both a Printz Award and a Printz Honor. The publisher promises a "surreal and timely novel about isolation and human connection."

"Time has stopped. It’s been June 23, 2020 for nearly a year as far as anyone can tell. Frantic adults demand teenagers focus on finding practical solutions to the worldwide crisis. Not everyone is on board though. Javelin-throwing prodigy Truda Becker is pretty sure her “Solution Time” class won’t solve the world’s problems, but she does have a few ideas what might. Truda lives in a house with a switch that no one ever touches, a switch her father protects every day by nailing it into hundreds of progressively larger boxes. But Truda’s got a crow bar, and one way or another, she’s going to see what happens when she flips the switch.

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

Happy Tuesday! I hope you are safe and warm and enjoying the snow if you're in the northeast. We had virtual school yesterday. By the time I got out to remove the snow, there was nine inches! I'd rather remove nine inches of snow in three inch increments, but couldn't, since, you know, teaching. Oh well. Has the snow day been made obsolete in this age of technology? I feel sorry about that.

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook. ~14 hours. Read by Rebecca Soler. Macmillan Audio, November, 2020. 9781250758934. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer. Sophomore Prudence Barnett is an over-achieving, judgmental perfectionist and she's furious with her do-nothing lab partner, Quint Erikson. She has just received the first C in her entire life and she just won't stand for that going on her permanent record! She convinces her biology teacher to let her re-do the project. He reluctantly agrees on the condition that Quint also work on the project. Quint's not interested. He's happy with his B, which is another sticking point with Pru - how did he get a better grade than she?

After receiving a blow to her head at karaoke night, Pru discovers that she can bestow instant karma on those around her if she wishes it hard enough. She's pretty hyped about this and can't wait to use it on Quint. Only her wishes bestow good karma, such as finding a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk, on Quint! How can such a slacker have so much luck? Read this fluffy romance to find out.

There's a strong sense of place here and I enjoyed the environmental message that was seamlessly woven into the book.

Truthfully, this one was a bit of a miss for me. I so loved the author's Lunar Chronicles and Heartless, also read by Ms. Soler. Pru was such an unsympathetic character, who didn't really grow much. I found it really difficult to care. The magical realism of the instant karma was entertaining but that premise and some other plot points were barely believable. Also, the resolution after the slightly soap opera-ish climax had me scratching my head. 

Even Ms. Soler's impeccable narration couldn't make me care. That said, my students will love this and none will learn of my lack of enthusiasm for it (unless they read my blog). 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: The Boy Who Failed Show & Tell by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Boy Who Failed Show & Tell by Jordan Sonnenblick. 224 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., February 2, 2021. 9781338647235. (Review of e-arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday wishes a happy book birthday tomorrow to Jordan Sonnenblick and his newest book, The Boy Who Failed Show & Tell. Poor fourth grade Jordan. He's an earnest, anxious, asthmatic kid who is worried about fourth grade. His tendency towards hyperactivity is exacerbated by his asthma medication. 

His teacher is Mrs. Fisher, who sets standards impossibly high standards. Not only does she think fourth graders should sit still and be mature at all times, she also thinks comic books are not real books and forbids Jordan to read them. On top of that, Brit Stone, the resident mean girl is bullying him and perfect William Feranik is always showing Jordan up. 

Jordan is convinced Mrs. Fisher hates him. Now, over the years I have heard many a student lament, "Mr. or Mrs. So and So hates me!" and I can be reasonably certain that Mr. or Mrs. So and So does not. Mrs. Fisher, however, is a different story. Her actions sure are appalling! She really made me cringe!

Fans of the author's work (Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and After Ever After, among others) know that he leavens saddness with humor. Man, did he have it rough in fourth grade! What a nightmare! Did his sense of humor help him endure the awful teacher or did this awful teacher help to hone his sense of humor? I certainly think this experience informed his teaching, and quite possibly, his writing. I loved this. It's totally relatable and appealing. Put this on your lists and shelves.