Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday Guest Post: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Woman Chainani

Today's post is guest-written by an eighth grade student who is a voracious and enthusiastic reader.

Waiting On Wednesday features Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani, bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil (SGE) series. The School for Good and Evil was amazing, and it's expected that Beasts and Beauty is going to be even better. Let's check out the synopsis:

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong.

You don’t know them at all.

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that capture hearts long kept tame and set them free, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.

When I saw that Beasts and Beauty was releasing September 28, I was already set to buy my own copy. If you're as excited as I am, you can preorder the book and get more information at somanchainani.com. Get ready for Soman's new era of amazing novels!

Thank you Lia! This sounds like a series I need to get to!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Teen Tuesday: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz. Unabridged e-audiobook ~7hours, 26 minutes. Narrated by Bernado DePaula and Ariana Delaware. Scholastic Audio, February, 2021. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from Hoopla.)

Teen Tuesday features another heart-pounding work of historical fiction by a TMS favorite. In Ground Zero by Alan Gratz, the POV switches between New York on September 11, 2001 and Afghanistan in 2019. 

On 9/11, nine-year-old Brandon has to accompany his father to work because he has been suspended from school for fighting and it has been just the two of them ever since his mother died. Brandon's dad works at Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. Brandon feels he was justified to fight as he was defending a classmate who was being bullied. He leaves the restaurant to run to the underground mall and is in the elevator as a plane slams into the North Tower.

In present-day Afghanistan, eleven-year-old Reshmina dreams of continuing her education and worries that her twin brother might run away to join the Taliban. All she has known her entire life is war. She resents the presence of American troops in her country and blames the US for the death of her sister. Nevertheless, she opts to rescue a wounded American soldier when he asks for aide as Islam dictates. This act places her entire family in danger.

Though the pace is whiplash fast, Mr. Gratz paints a detailed and vivid picture of the terror and confusion in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Some sections are painful to read and there will be tears. Further information about both the terrorist attacks and U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan are provided in an author's note at the end.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Switched by Bruce Hale

Switched by Bruce Hale. 248 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April 6, 2021. 9781338645910. (Review of arc courtesy of author giveaway.)

Middle Grade Monday features Switched by Bruce Hale. Twelve-year-old Parker Pitts can control very little in his life especially since his grandmother, Mimi died, so he cleans. Some might say, obsessively. He also goes to great lengths to avoid Deke, the school bully and won't even speak to Gabriella, his crush. 

Now his half-sister, Billie is heading overseas to attend art school and leaving behind her golden doodle, Boof. Boof is an ill-mannered boor who leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. It's bad enough that he ruined Billie's going away party, but then he gets his paws on the last gift Mimi had given Parker- a statue of the trickster, Eshu from Yoruba mythology. Parker refuses to let Boof get away with his precious gift from Mimi, gets into a tug-of-war with Boof and the two collide head first. No damage appears to be done. Until...

Parker awakens the next morning to find his sense of smell overwhelming and is panicked to find he can no longer see color! Boof awakens dismayed to find his sniffer doesn't work that great but thrilled to find he has hands and is able to get into that big box of food (the refrigerator).

This delightful switched-identity story switches point-of-view between Boof and Parker as each tries to adjust to his new reality. The hijinks that ensue are hilarious, but there's depth here as well. Boof as Parker approaches the mystery of middle school with doggie determination and openness and Parker as Boof learns to appreciate digging in the dirt and a good butt-sniff. 

I know I will need multiple copies of Switched! Just like Boof, it definitely won't sit! Readers who adore books like Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford and The Swap by Erin Shull, will clamor for Switched as will readers who love a good dog book.

Switched releases next week!

Picture Book Review: The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe by Sandra Nickel

Image: Abrams

The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe by Sandra Nickel. Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro. 48 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers/ Abrams, March 2, 2021. 9782419736261. (Review of finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Who's to say what might spark (or extinguish) a dream? A chance comment might, or perhaps the physical limitations of a room. Vera Cooper always liked looking at the night sky. When she was eleven, her family moved and her bedroom was so small that all she could do was look up. And, look up she did. She lay in bed and watched the stars travel across the window pane and disappear. Soon she was studying star maps. She even made her own telescope out of cardboard and a lens. When her parents thought she was asleep, she was observing and memorizing the night sky so that she could map their paths in the morning.

Image: Courtesy of Blue Slip Media

From an early age, she resisted naysayers, especially when they tried to dissuade her from pursuing astronomy, a so-called, "man's world." She graduated from Vassar as the only astronomy major in her class. (Vassar was all-women back then.) She married a mathematician named Robert Rubin and, as her family grew, she continued to study, earning first a master's degree and eventually a PhD. 

All along the way, she had to confront sexism, from a lack of bathrooms to hearing outright ridicule of her ideas. Nevertheless, she persisted and eventually, others listened to her theory that stars only consisted of a fraction of the universe and that dark matter was what made the stars move. 

The text focuses on Dr. Rubin's curiosity and resilience and presents complicated ideas in an accessible manner. The bold watercolor, ink and charcoal pencil illustrations complement the writing beautifully. Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, notes and selected bibliography making this a terrific addition to my picture book biography unit. 

A good picture book biography will motivate curious readers to learn more and this one certainly does. Shortly after I read this book, I happened to listen to Dr. Emily Lavesque being interviewed about her book on telescopes on NPR. She happened to mention a telescope that was named for Vera Rubin. Further reading revealed that Dr. Rubin was a role model for Dr. Levesque as well as other prominent female astronomers. I also learned that Dr. Rubin was inspired by a professor at Vassar, Maria Mitchell! Last year, I read, but didn't get a chance to review What Miss Mitchell Saw.

The Stuff Between the Stars is a fantastic STEM title that belongs in all school and classroom libraries, not only for budding astronomers and dreamers but as a fine model of persistence and resilience. 


Author Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter: @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Aimée Sicuro is an illustrator, picture book maker, and surface pattern designer who received a BFA in Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young sons. Visit her website to learn more.

Twitter: @aimeesicuro

Instagram: @aimeesicuro

Watch the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC1KGw4aNuk

Saturday, March 27, 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.

I didn't think I'd have a Stacking post today, then these two landed on my doorstep and I decided not to wait until next Saturday to post. 

For Review:

Fungarium curated by Katie Scott and Ester Gaya. Welcome to the Museum series. 66 p. Big Picture Press/ Candlewick Press, April 6, 2021. 9781536217094.

Publisher synopsis: Illustrator Katie Scott returns to the Welcome to the Museum series with exquisite, detailed images of some of the most fascinating living organisms on this planet—fungi. Exploring every sort of fungi, from the kinds we see on supermarket shelves to those like penicillium that have shaped human history, this collection is the definitive introduction to what fungi are and just how vital they are to the world's ecosystem.

Welcome to the Fungarium! Step into the world of fungi and learn all about these strange and fascinating life-forms.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs. 274 p. Sourcebooks Young Readers, September 14, 2021. 9781728234656.

Publisher synopsis: It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left—her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito—until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none. 

Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: “They’re like us barefoot peasants and indios – they’re not meant to go far.” But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border – a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.


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

Friday, March 26, 2021

Fact Friday: This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kay

Happy Friday! It has been a bit of a week. 

This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kya and illustrated by Drew Shannon. 88 p. Kids Can Press, September, 2020. 9781525300165. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Fact Friday features This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kya and illustrated by Drew Shannon. Uncomfortable thought for the day: We all have implicit/ unconscious bias. The author explains how the human brain sorts and labels information. In general, this is a good thing-necessary for survival, but sorting and labeling can cause harm. 

This short, easily digested book breaks down the scientific research that has been done and presents it in a relatable, thought-provoking manner. It covers the history of stereotypes, secret stereotypes in our brain and how we can work to identify them if we are motivated. Brightly colored illustrations, diagrams and charts add interest and further understanding. 

This book is an excellent introduction for young (and older) readers hoping to become better allies and better people. I'm looking forward to adding it to my school library's collection and sharing it with my students. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Friday Memes: A Curse of Ash & Embers by Jo Spurrier

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

A Curse of Ash & Embers by Jo Spurrier. 368 p.Voyager/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2021. 9781460756331. 

Publisher synopsis: 
A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it's Elodie's job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she'd find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha's final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie's help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it's still better than going back home.

First Line(s): I sat on the rough stone wall, gazing downtime dusty road and grinding my heel against the rocks. The hobnails in my boot squealed against the stone, making me wince, but in truth the sound was a fine match for my mood.

Page 56: It looked as though there'd been a brawl - or worse. Scorch-mars streaked the flagstones, as well as the plaster between the roof beams. The only thing not broken was the window, and that was doubly strange - the window was huge, set with panes of real glass that looked out into the darkness, with one side propped open a foot or so. I don't think our whole farm at home had as much glass as that one window, and I couldn't imagine how it had survived the destruction that had been wreaked on the rest of the room. I tried not to stare but she must have noticed my wide eyes. 

The voice in this grabbed me from the beginning. It's also quite atmospheric. Looking forward to finishing it this weekend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

#tbt: Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway

Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway. 320 p. Penguin Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, April, 2009. (Own)

Happy Thursday! #tbt features Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. When sixteen-year-old Audrey Cuttler dumps her garage band boyfriend Evan, well in his garage and turns to leave, he shouts, "Audrey, Wait!" She doesn't and he writes a song about the break-up, which soars to the top of the charts and Evan and his band to fame and stardom. Suddenly, everyone wants to know who Audrey is and the paparazzi descend. Audrey becomes famous by association. It's a fame she does not want and definitely gets in the way everything - from hanging out at a concert with friends to pursuing her new crush, a co-worker at her job at Scooper Dooper. What will it take to get her life back? Read this quick-paced, fluffly, humorous book to find out.

Audrey, Wait!
published in 2009 and was Ms. Benway's debut novel. It was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Her sixth novel, Far From the Tree won the National Book Award for Literature for Young People in 2017.

Many thanks to my librarian friend, Keri, who posted a book talk she gave to her teens at her public library that included this fun book and reminded me how much I loved it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy. 336 p. Dumpin; #3. Blazer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, May 25, 2021. 9780062880451.

Waiting on Wednesday features Pumpkin by Julie Murphy. Teen fans of her previous novels, Dumplin' and Puddin' will be thrilled with this companion. 

From the publisher: Return to the beloved world of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin in this fabulously joyful, final companion novel about drag, prom, and embracing your inner Queen.

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape getting accidentally shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . .

Friday, March 19, 2021

Fact Friday: Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration by George Butler

Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration written and illustrated by George Butler. 56 p. Candlewick Studio/ Candlewick Press, March 16, 2021. 9781536217759. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Friday! We made it through another week and this weekend marks the beginning of spring! The vernal equinox will take place tomorrow, March 20 at 5:37 EDT. Our daylight/ night hours will be roughly equal and each day after, we will have just a bit more daylight on our march to the summer solstice on June 20. As someone who is definitely affected by dwindling daylight, my spirits are lifting. 

Fact Friday features Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration written and illustrated by George Butler. Mr. Butler is a journalist and artist who, from 2011 to 2018, traveled to twelve locations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East to sketch and interview people who were forced by a variety of circumstance to leave their home. 

One man migrated to Russia in order to work and send money home to his family, others were forced to leave because their homes were destroyed by bombs or no longer safe to live in. Unlike photojournalists, who can snap a photograph from a distance without ever interacting with a subject, Mr. Butler spent time with his, interviewing each subject while he sketched. The result is this hefty, beautifully designed portfolio/ journal. 

Arranged chronologically beginning in 2011, readers take an international journey and learn about why there are refugees and the plight they face finding new homes, often enduring discrimination and racial or ethnic hatred.

The text is spare, compelling and emotionally resonant, as are the pen, ink and watercolor illustrations. Each invites lingering.  Drawn Across Borders is a work of art that needs to be shared widely. This book erases the monolithic "them" and places human faces front and center. The past few years has seen the publication of a variety of books depicting the refugee experience for young readers such as, When Stars are Scattered or The Unwanted. among others. Drawn Across Borders is a superb addition to that collection.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

#tbt: Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur. 276 p. Yearling/ Random House Children's Books, 2009. (Own.)

#tbt features the perfect book for readers who love sad, sad, sad. Love, Aubrey was author Suzanne LaFleur's debut and was published in 2009. Eleven-year-old Aubrey has had a lot of grief in her life. Her first-person narrative lacks details initially, leaving readers hooked and needing to fill in the blanks. She had been abandoned and was living on cereal and Spaghetti-Os until her grandmother arrived to take her in. This involved moving to Vermont, where she meets a caring counselor, makes a new friend and writes letters she never mails.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Anti-racism and You by Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds and adapated by Sonja Cherry-Paul.

Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Anti-racism and You by Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds and adapated by Sonja Cherry-Paul. Illustrated by Rachel Baker. 176 p. LBYR/ Hachette Book Group, May 11, 2021/ 9780316167581.

Waiting on Wednesday features Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Anti-racism and You by Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds and adapated by Sonja Cherry-Paul. Illustrated by Rachel Baker. In 2016, Dr. Kendi published Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, an intellectual history of racism in America. It was written for an adult audience and won the 2016 National Book Award. In spring of 2020, Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You: A Remix of Stamped from the Beginning was published. In this NYT bestselling book, Jason Reynolds made Dr. Kendi's ideas accessible to teens. Ms. Sonja Cherry-Paul has adapted the ideas for an even younger audience, so that kids can understand where racist ideas come from and can learn to fight racism by being anti-racist. This illustrated chapter book publishes on May 11.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook, ~11 hours. Read by Rosie Jones. Scholastic Audio, October, 2020. 9781338637496. (Review of e-audiobook downloaded from public library. HC purchased.)

Teen Tuesday features Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly. Buckle up everyone! This is no Disney version of Snow White! This feminist fairy tale hews a bit closer to the Brothers Grimm. It is dark and twisty and oh so intriguing.

"Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen's huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman took out his knife… and took Sophie's heart."

Wait, what? Yes, dear Reader, Princess Charlotta-Sidonia Wilhelmina Sophia of the Greenlands - Sophie, was left for dead by the Queen's huntsman in this re-imagined fairy tale by Ms. Donnelly, who, you may remember, re-imagined Cinderella from the stepsister's POV in Stepsister.

Sophie was rescued by seven brothers, who were able to capture her soul before it was too late. One brother fashioned a clockwork heart to replace hers and Sophie recovered in their home in a hollow. Alas, clockwork, no matter how finely crafted does tend to wind down eventually, though Sophie does not know this initially. She pines for her prince, whom she betrothed the night before her "murder." She continues to think he will come searching for her. Poor kind and naive Sophie!

This tale is familiar, yet new and filled with an intriguing cast of characters. It is richly atmospheric, menacing and really satisfying. I read this one with my ears and was always sorry to have to turn it off. If you love magic and fairy tale retellings, you will love Poisoned. Isn't that cover incredible?

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd. Illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. 240 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., March, 2021. 9781338568905. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Daylight Saving Time! I'm sure you're all raring to go on this fine and blustery Monday! Middle Grade Monday features Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. All Maggie Wilson has ever wanted is a dog. There's a lot of change in her life right now. She's starting a new school, thanks to redistricting and her mother is having a baby. She's not sure how she feels about that. She's the oldest of three and often feels like the odd girl out because her twin brothers have each other. She gets the best news ever on her birthday! Everyone is taking a trip to the animal shelter! Maggie will get to adopt a dog! Best present Ever!

Once she has picked the perfect puppy, Maggie begins to sneeze and itch. The longer she stays around it, the worse it gets! A trip to an allergy doctor confirms that Maggie is allergic to fur, so cats and dogs, even rabbits are out. She tries a variety of furless pets with little success. She wonders how to outsmart her allergies.

Maggie's troubles and worries are relatable in this terrific graphic novel. The family is busy and supportive. There's even a bit of friendship drama. Ms. Nutter makes her illustrating debut here with her art, which 
(what pages were colored) is dynamic and appealing. 

Allergic is going to be passed around for sure. If you're a fan of graphic novels, you won't want to miss this one.

Saturday, March 13, 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:

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray. 388 p. G.P. Putman's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers, September 28, 2021. 9780593405680.

Publisher synopsis: There’s no such thing as magic in the broken city of Lkossa, especially for sixteen-year-old Koffi, who holds a power within her that could only be described as magic—a power that if discovered could cost her life. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, Koffi knows the fearsome creatures in her care and paying off her family's debts to secure their eventual freedom can be her only focus. But the night those she loves are gravely threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi finally unleashes the power she doesn’t fully understand, upending her life completely.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six—an elite warrior—and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, Ekon encounters not only the Shetani—a vicious monster that has plagued the city for nearly a century and stalks his nightmares, but Koffi who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani could also be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon form a tentative alliance and together enter the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild, frightening magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

I am so excited for this debut! I attended a virtual "Just One Book" Penguin event a few weeks ago and learned about it. The cover is gorgeous and I'm really in the mood for some gripping fantasy.

Let Liberty Rise! How America's Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel. Illustrated by Chuck Groenink. 40 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., March, 2021. 9781338225884.

Publisher synopsis: How did 121,000 Americans save their most beloved icon? Here is an inspiring story about the power we have when we all work together!

On America's 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen — and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America's millionaires were willing to foot the bill.

Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer's campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!

Chana Stiefel's charming and immediate writing style is perfectly paired with Chuck Groenink's beautiful, slyly humorous illustrations. Back matter with photographs included.

Purchased: I still have that full cart, but chose not to purchase this week in support of the workers trying to unionize at AZ. I actually try not to purchase there at all, but I often receive gift cards and since the money is already spent, I supplement my budget by purchasing more books for my school library. 

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

Friday, March 12, 2021

Fact Friday and Picture Book Review: Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Jeff Gottesfeld

Twenty-one Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Jeff Gottesfeld. Illustrated by Matt Tavares. 32 p. Candlewick Press, March, 2021. 9781536201482. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Friday! It was a balmy 57 degrees when I had my dogs out for their early morning walk a couple of hours ago and heading up to a high of mid-sixties. I hope you all have been taking advantage of the balmy weather and spring teaser. Buckle-up because March is mercurial and temperatures are expected to drop next week! There's even the possibility of snow.

Fact Friday features Twenty-one Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by Matt Tavares. Surely one of the great tragedies of war is the failure to return the remains of a fallen soldier to their family for mourning and burial. Mr. Gottesfeld poetically chooses one soldier to speak for the many Unknowns who fell on battlefields. "In life, we were our mothers' sons. In death, we are faded photos on the mantel, empty chairs at Thanksgiving...We are known but to God."

While most of the fallen came home for burial after the War to End All Wars, which World War I was naively named, many were not. In 1921, one unknown soldier's body was chosen to lie in state in the Capitol as the nation mourned. He was buried on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour in Arlington National Cemetery. There were speeches, taps and twenty-one gun salute before the crowds dispersed. Eventually, the tomb, standing on the top of a hill, became a destination for picnicers who, "came for the view and not the meaning."

On July 2, 1937, at midnight, the first shift by the Tomb Guard began. The tomb has been guarded twenty-four hours a day since. Three more bodies were added to the tomb after World War II, the Korean War and from Vietnam. Thanks to advances in science and DNA testing, the Vietnam Unknown was later identified, disinterred and returned to his family.

Tomb Guards have to memorize not just the precise timing and steps of the duty, but hundreds of facts about Arlington National Cemetery as well as maintaining an impeccably turned out uniform. Each movement, position and step has to be precisely carried out. The Tomb Guards perform it around the clock through all kinds of weather whether or not they have an audience. The ceremony is somber and sobering. If you ever have the opportunity to witness one, you won't be the same.

Matt Tavares' illustrations are just luminous and emotionally resonant. They were drawn in pencil and digitally rendered. One can almost hear the click of the guards' heels and the sound of those twenty-one steps back and forth in front of the tomb. Each spread begs the reader to stop and linger. 

A short afterword by the author provides additional information. If you can, remove the dust jacket to view the cover of the book. Book covers in library collections are covered with mylar and taped down to prolong the life of the book. I'm not sure what I'm doing with this book in my library. I am not inclined to tape it down. I took a couple of stinky pictures with my phone, but they don't do the cover justice. Matt Tavares posted a tweet with a way cooler clip of the covers. Check it out then, go and check the book out for yourself. Click here to read Mr. Schu's interview of the author. 

Twenty-one Steps was just published and isn't yet available in our library system, but it belongs in every library - schools, classrooms and home! Trust me, this is a first-purchase. It's a book you will return to again and again. I usually donate books I'm sent to review, but I'll be keeping this copy and purchasing copies for my library and select colleagues and friends. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

#tbt: Peak by Roland Smith

Peak by Roland Smith. 256 p. Peak #1. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007. 9780152024178. (Own)

Happy Thursday! #tbt features Peak by Roland Smith. Fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello lives up to his name even though he has moved to New York City. There are skyscrapers to conquer and tag. His is a blue peak. After he is caught and arrested, he's facing a trial and time in juvie, but his father swoops back into his life with a deal. Peak can come to live with him in Katmandu. Peak's dad owns a mountain climbing business shepherding rich climbers to the top of the world - Mount Everest. Could Peak's dad have ulterior motives? Peak has already achieved fame/ notoriety as "Spider Boy" in the media. How about youngest climber to summit Everest?

This novel is a real page turner. Readers who strive for adventure need look no further - adrenaline rushes abound. Peak was published in 2007 and has been popular among TMS students. It was named a YALSA "Quick Pick for Reluctant Reader" as well as a "Best Book for Young Adults" and quite a few State Awards. I'm not entirely certain that this book was intended as a series, but a sequel, The Edge, was written and published in 2015. This was followed by another, Ascent, in 2018 and Descent, in 2020.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. 304 p. Delacorte/ Random House Children's Books, June 1, 2021. 9781524718961.

Publisher synopsis: Evie Thomas doesn't believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began…and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.
As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything—including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he's only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it's that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

My students and I adored Ms. Yoon's first two books. We can't wait for this one.

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Happy Tuesday! Spring is definitely in the air! I walked my hounds at 5:15 AM and the sky was lightening. I didn't need a hat and gloves. The sun is setting later and later. I saw a robin yesterday and a scrawny ground hog at 7AM this morning. 

Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan. 248 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April 6, 202.978133858087. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan. Seventeen-year-old Zara Hossain moved to the U.S.with her family from Pakistan when she was two so that her physician father could finish his medical training. The hospital where he works in Texas has sponsored his green card, which the family anxiously await. 

Zara is the only Muslim at her conservative Catholic school, where she deals with microaggressions daily as well as overt racism from alpha male, Tyler Benson. She tries to fly under the radar and hasn't confronted Tyler due to her immigrant status, but one day, she spots him cornering a new classmate from Colombia and she can no longer stay silent. This selfless act sets in motion a series of events that cascade into near tragedy, prompting Zara to question whether the U.S. can really be her home.

Zara is a fierce, intelligent, articulate main character. Her parents are involved and supportive of her. This first-person narrative is hard to read at times, but equally hard to put down. Ms. Khan explores many timely issues from immigration policy through Islamophobia and homophobia. Thoughtful teen readers will have much to ponder.

The book is due to publish on April 6.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

The Only Black Girls in Town
by Brandy Colbert. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~5 hours and 36 minutes. Read by Jeanette Illidge. LBYR/ Hachette Book Group, March, 2020. 9781549157387. (Review of downloadable audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend filled with books and walks outside. The weather was cold but the sunshine was glorious. Boo and I took lots of long walks. He even got to run loose in the woods for a bit.

Middle Grade Monday features The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert. Ms. Colbert, an award-winning YA author, made her middle grade debut in this winning story of Alberta, who lives with her two dads in a California beach town. They are the only Black people in town and Alberta has gotten used to that thanks to her best friend, Laramie and surfing. Al lives to surf and she's good enough to compete, but her dads say she can't until she's thirteen. Life is pretty good except for her nemesis, Natalie, who lives next door, and whom Laramie seems to be taking a shine to. Just as seventh grade begins, Al learns that the B & B across the street has finally been sold. A Black family will be moving in and there's a girl just Al's age!

Edie and her mom have moved all the way to California from Brooklyn and Edie is not thrilled. She misses her friends, Brooklyn and most of all, her record producer dad. Her goth style, wearing all black, including lipstick, certainly draws attention at school. Can Al and Edie forge a friendship?

This was a fun read about friendship and middle school drama with a side of mystery. While cleaning up the attic, which will be Edie's space, the girls discover a box of diaries from the 1950s and set about reading them.

New-to-me narrator, Jeanette Illidge, sounded appropriately youthful as Alberta and had a distinct range of voices for the varied characters.

Friday, March 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:

Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration by George Butler. 48 p. Candlewick Studio/ Candlewick Press, March 16, 2021. 9781536217759.

Publisher synopsis: It is an unusual feeling to walk into a place that everyone is leaving . . .

Resisting his own urge to walk away, award-winning artist George Butler took his sketchbook and made, over the course of a decade, a series of remarkable pen-and-ink and watercolor portraits in war zones, refugee camps, and on the move. While he worked, his subjects—migrants and refugees in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia—shared their stories. Theirs are the human stories behind the headlines that tell of fleeing poverty, disaster, and war, and of venturing into the unknown in search of jobs, education, and security. Whether sketching by the hospital bed of a ten-year-old Syrian boy who survived an airstrike, drawing the doll of a little Palestinian girl with big questions, or talking with a Masai herdsman forced to abandon his rural Kenyan home for the Kibera slums, George Butler turns reflective art and sensitive reportage into an eloquent cry for understanding and empathy. Taken together and elegantly packaged, his beautiful portraits form a moving testament to our shared humanity—and the universal urge for safety and a better life.

From a celebrated documentary artist, twelve portraits from the front lines of migration form an intimate record of why people leave behind the places they call home.

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See by Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Linda Olafsdottir. Candlewick Press

Publisher synopsis: Once there was a girl called Mindi who was afraid of something that no one else could see. This thing that she was afraid of, this thing that no one else could see, was a big goose. It came into her room as quietly as a thought comes into your head. . . .

When a little girl named Mindi says she is being visited by a big goose—a scary creature that is visible only to her—her devoted dad and mom try everything they can think of to drive it away. But maybe some outside assistance is warranted from their wise friend Austen, a farmer who knows what is needed to help Mindi turn her mind to something new. In a sensitive exploration of childhood fears, Sam McBratney, the author of Guess How Much I Love You, narrates with charm, wit, and a touch of whimsy, while Linda Ólafsdóttir’s delicate illustrations enhance the modern fairy-tale feel in a story that is sure to become a bedtime favorite.
A charming new story from the author of Guess How Much I Love You offers an original—and heartening—take on childhood anxiety.

The Princess Rules: It's a Prince Thing by Philippa Gregory. Illustrated by Chris Chatterton. 258 p. HarperCollins Children's Books, March, 2021. 9780008403256. 

Publisher synopsis: The sequel to THE PRINCESS RULES sees rebel princess, Princess Florizella, going on even more adventures, but this time, she also has a little brother in tow…

Once upon a time, there was a princess who broke all the rules, and dared to be different…

So when that same princess – Florizella – finds a baby boy delivered by stork to her parents’ palace, she is shocked to discover that he will one day be king and inherit her kingdom! For every prince is given a permit which allow them to do whatever they like in the same way that every princess is given a set of rules that they have to live by.

As soon as Princess Florizella’s brother is big enough to have adventures, she takes him all over the land, fighting pirates, wrestling with a sea serpent and rehoming a woolly mammoth.

Can Florizella prove that girls having rules and boys having permits isn’t right? And that princes and princesses, and girls and boys, should be anything that they want to be…

Purchased: Still have a shopping cart full, but need to push that finish button!

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

Fact Friday: Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark

Image: Abrams

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark. Illustrated by Brooke Smart. 32 p. Amulet Books for Young Readers/ Abrams, March 2, 2021. 9781419739637. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publicist, Blue Slip Media.)

Happy Friday! You made it! Another week down. I cannot believe it's March! (I also can't believe we are approach one year of online school!) The sun is rising earlier and earlier and setting later and later. That alone is enough to lift my mood. There was a bright half-moon in the sky when I took the hounds for a trot a little after five this morning. I am thankful that their needs get me out and moving many times a day.

Fact Friday features Code Breaker, Spy hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark. This picture book biography had it's book birthday on Tuesday and is a perfect kick-off to Women's History Month. 

Elizebeth Smith was born in 1892. As a child, she loved to read, especially the works of William Shakespeare. She also had a talent for learning languages, so when she went to college, she studied English literature as well as Latin, Greek and German. She worked for a time as a school principal, but what she really wanted was a job in research or literature. 

A side visit to the Newberry Library to see a famous collection of Shakespeare's play, led to a conversation with the librarian, which led to her meeting an eccentric millionaire named Georg Fabyan, who was convinced that Shakespeare had not written the plays. He thought that Francis Bacon had and that the plays contained secret codes. He hired Elizebeth to crack the codes. She worked for him for four years. 

She did not find evidence of secret codes, but met and fell in love with a scientist named William Friedman. They shared their love of codes together. By this time, America had entered World War I and the government needed code breakers. Elizebeth and Richard developed code-breaking techniques and eventually moved to Washington D.C. to work for the Army. Their work is considered the beginning of modern cryptography. She broke codes in two World Wars. Her work led to the capture of Nazi spies, but she never received credit. Her work was classified as "Top Secret Ultra" and was declassified in 2015. 

The striking art, which was hand-painted in watercolor, then digitally assembled, features a varied palette, individuals with very large eyes and ribbons of code threading throughout the spreads. Quotes by Ms. Friedman are also sprinkled throughout the text. 

Back matter consists of more information about codes and ciphers, instructions for cracking codes, information about modern cryptography and a timeline. Bibliography and source notes are placed on the rear end-page. The story actually begins on the front end-page and there's a secret message hidden under the front flap. (The placement of these are unfortunate for copies that will become part of library collections.)

Reading picture book biographies are great ways of exploring a variety of subjects before committing to reading a full-length biography. Code Breaker, Spy Hunter would interest anyone, but if you enjoy the challenge of solving puzzles, check it out!

Bonus features:
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com.

On Twitter: @lauriewallmark

Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor

Instagram: @lauriewallmark

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.

Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page, where you'll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

Also, here's a link to a PBS documentary.

ETA: I post these to my Library Links page in our school's learning platform. I received a text from an LA teacher telling me that one of her students got so excited about reading the post, he exclaimed out loud, thereby revealing the fact that he wasn't doing the work he needed to do in class;-). She found it amusing. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

#tbt: The Meadowlands: a Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezersky

Meadowlands: a Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezersky. 32 p. Farrar Straus Giroux/ Macmillan Publishers, March,2021. 9781580893466. (Own)

Happy Thursday Readers! #tbt features Meadowlands: a Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezersky. Four hundred years of history is packed into this thirty-two page picture book, which starts the reader with an overhead view of the NJ Meadowlands from the top of the Empire State Building. The ecology of meadowlands and its value were not understood until fairly recently and so, my view from the family car on the NJ Turnpike was of mountains of garbage because the Meadowlands were landfills. In fact, there is an illustration in the book that perfectly matches my memory. 

Thankfully, the area has been reclaimed and rehabilitated. Miles of trails allow birders and budding environmentalists access to the ecological wonder that is the Meadowlands. The information in the book is fascinating, but the watercolor illustrations are utterly stunning! This is a great book for budding environmentalists.

The Meadowlands
was published in March of 2011. It was named a New York Times Notable Book and made the Bank Street Best Books list as well as winning the Cook Prize. I heard the author speak at a local Audubon Society meeting in May of 2011 and purchased a copy of book, which he autographed for our school library. Here's a link to that review. It is also available to borrow through ILL (Inter-Library Loan). 
Unfortunately, it appears this important book has gone out of print, so treat the book with care if you do borrow it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Pax, Journey Home by Sara Pennypacker

Pax, Journey Home by Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 256 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, September 7, 2021. 9780062930347.

Waiting on Wednesday features Pax, Journey Home by Sara Pennypacker.
Fans of Pax will be thrilled to learn of this sequel due to publish on September 7, 2021. Here's the publisher synopsis: It’s been a year since Peter and his pet fox, Pax, have seen each other. Once inseparable, they now lead very different lives. Pax and his mate, Bristle, have welcomed a litter of kits they must protect in a dangerous world. Meanwhile Peter—newly orphaned after the war, wracked with guilt and loneliness—leaves his adopted home with Vola to join the Water Warriors, a group of people determined to heal the land from the scars of the war.

When one of Pax's kits falls desperately ill, he turns to the one human he knows he can trust. And no matter how hard Peter tries to harden his broken heart, love keeps finding a way in. Now both boy and fox find themselves on journeys toward home, healing—and each other, once again.

Teen Tuesday: Three Things I Know are True by Betty Culley

Three Things I Know are True by Betty Culley. 470 p. HarperTeen/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2020. 9780062908025. (Review of copy borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features a debut from 2020 that teens who crave sad are going to love. Three Things I Know are True by Betty Culley is a novel in verse narrated by fifteen-year-old Liv, whose seventeen-year-old brother, Jonah is in a vegetative state after a gun accident. Jonah was always brash and impulsive. When he found a gun in his best friend Clay's attic, he started waving it around wildly, asking Clay if he thought the gun was loaded. Despite Clay's pleas to put the gun down, Jonah put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Now Jonah is home with round-the-clock nurses to care for him and the many machines that keep him alive. Liv's mother is suing Clay's parents and Liv has lost her two best friends. She and Clay meet secretly by the river that runs past their houses and play a favorite game of theirs called "Tell Me Three Things That are True" as they try and come to terms with their grief and worry over the upcoming trial that has split the town.

This spare verse novel pares a myriad of emotions down into a series of imagery that sucks the reader in from page one. I read this in one sitting. I needed to know what happened. I was so happy that Alex at Randomly Reading read and reviewed this book or I would've missed it.* I was also impressed by the medical stuff and how accurate it was, then learned in the author bio that Ms. Culley is a nurse. Kudos.

I can't wait to hear what my teen readers think of Three Things I Know are True and I'm looking forward to reading the author's sophomore effort. 

*I was going to write a short aside here, but it sort of morphed into a post and drew attention away from my review. Check it out here

An Aside

This post started as an aside in this review. It grew too long and potentially distracted from the review, thus this post.

I had an online conversation with an author who blogs yesterday about an interview he had posted. I shared that I enjoyed the exchange very much. He thanked me and said something along the lines of, "No one reads blogs anymore, but I like doing it."

That statement kind of stopped me in my tracks. No one reads blogs anymore? Well, I do. His blog is in my feed along with quite a few others. Granted, ten or so years ago, when blogging went through a crazy kind of competitive "follow me and I'll follow you back" thing, I had nearly three hundred in my feed, which I eventually pared down to fifty or so that I actually read. But I still read blogs and judging from my stats, a steady number of people read mine. He is right about one thing though, I do it because I enjoy it. It has become a habit. 

I'd like to think that blogs are still relevant and that those still doing it are doing it out of love of literature and sharing that love, not pursuing free books. I buy or borrow as many books as I get for "free" and those books are either placed in my school library's collections or donated (Never Counted Out is my fave place to send books).

What say you?