Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Revolution of Evelyn Manzano by Sonia Manzano

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano
by Sonia Manzano. 224 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc. (Own)

Happy Thursday! We've had such a run of glorious weather! I hope you're all getting outside to enjoy it. 

#tbt features The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. This historical fiction is set in Spanish Harlem in 1969 and is narrated by fourteen-year-old Rosa María Evelyn del Carmen Serrano, who is tired of working in her parents' bodega and upset that she has to give up her bedroom when her abuela comes to stay. As Evelyn's grandmother shares stories and secrets from her parents' native Puerto Rico, Evelyn gradually understands and comes to appreciate her mother.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano was published in 2013. It was Ms. Serrano's debut novel and was named a Pura Belpré Honor Book.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. 320 p. Scholastic Inc., October 19, 2021.

Instead of "Waiting on Wednesday," I'm late on Wednesday! Happy Wednesday and what a beautiful day it is here in northern NJ! Waiting on Wednesday features Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. Here's the publisher synopsis:
Ivette. Joanna. And now: Katrina

Whatever her name is, it won’t last long. Katrina doesn’t know any of the details about her past, but she does know that she and her parents are part of the Witness Protection Program. Whenever her parents say they have to move on and start over, she takes on a new identity. A new name, a new hair color, a new story.

Until their location leaks and her parents disappear. Forced to embark on a dangerous rescue mission, Katrina and her new friend Parker set out to save her parents — and find out the truth about her secret past and the people that want her family dead.

But every new discovery reveals that Katrina’s entire life has been built around secrets covered up with lies and that her parents were actually the ones keeping the biggest secret of all. Katrina must now decide if learning the whole truth is worth the price of losing everything she has ever believed about herself and her family.

Sounds exciting! It's due out on October 19.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Teen Tuesday: We are Not from Here by Jennie Torres Sanchez

We Are Not From Here 
by Jennie Torres Sanchez. 368 p. Philomel/ Penguin Young Readers Group, March 2020.

Happy Tuesday! I hope you got out and about in the delightfully breezy weather after school yesterday. Latinx Heritage Month continues and Teen Tuesday features We Are Not From Here by Jennie Torres Sanchez. This searing novel is a gut punch. It grips the reader from page one and often tightens its grip so unbearably, you will need to put the book down and remind yourself to breathe. Not gonna lie - this is a tough read for a mature teen reader. But it's relevant and important.

Three teens, Pulga, Chico and Pequeña are cousins, best friends and found family. Chico's mother died tragically, so Pulga' and Pequeña's step in to raise and protect him. They are dirt poor and live in a terrible neighborhood run by Rey and his gang. Pequeña has caught Rey's eye and has no choice in the matter. Pulga and Chico witnessed Rey murder a beloved shopkeeper and now have to join the gang or risk death.

There's no way out. Or is there? Pulga has been studying maps and the route of La Bestia, a perilous train, difficult to board and hang on, but which promises transportation nearer to the U.S. border. Worst of all is the terror of knowing if they get caught and returned home, death awaits them.

This is an unflinching read that shines a light on tough issues facing thousands of people who risk their lives in search of a new start and relative safety in the U.S.

We are Not from Here
 published last year and earned at least four starred reviews, made quite a number of "Best" lists, including New York Public Library's and was named a Pura Belpré Honor. Highly recommended! Pulga, Chico and Pequeña won't soon leave your heart-space. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Image: LBYR

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres. 176 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January, 2017. 9780316306867. (Own)

Happy Monday! We were gifted yet another crisp fall weekend to get out and enjoy. I hope you had a great one. Middle Grade Monday features Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres. This charming novel was published in 2017 and was Ms. Torres' debut. I reviewed it for School Library Journal back then and so, it hasn't appeared in any Daily Book Talk here.

Estefania "Stef" Soto is a seventh grader who wants what any seventh grader wants, to fit in and have friends, and also to ride the bus to school. However, her over-protective, immigrant parents say no and thus, her papi picks her up each day in Tia Perla, his beat-up taco truck. She spends weekday afternoons with him doing homework at his truck while Mami works evenings as a cashier. She tries not to feel jealous when things come so easily to her friends, especially her former friend, Julia. But then a city ordinance changes regarding food trucks and the Soto's financial situation may not be certain.

Readers who enjoy family and school drama and relatable characters will cheer for Stef Soto.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

#tbt: Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. 304 p. Scholastic Inc., March, 2000. 

Happy Thursday! #tbt features Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This work of historical fiction was inspired by the author's grandmother's immigration experience during the Great Depression. 

Esperanza lives with her parents and grandmother on a ranch in Mexico. She's about to turn thirteen and wants for nothing. All that changes when her father is murdered and her uncle claims that Esperanza's mother cannot inherit and run the ranch. When Esperanza's mother refuses his proposal of marriage, he threatens her and shortly afterward, the ranch burns to the ground, injuring Esperanza's grandmother. The only option is for the family to flee Mexico to California along with other Mexicans seeking a better life in the U.S. 

Esperanza does not adapt well to the changes in her circumstances and is quick to judge those she deems are beneath her. Life is hard in California and Esperanza desperately wishes her grandmother could join them. But how can that happen with her uncle discovering their whereabouts?

Esperanza Rising won the Jane Addams Award as well as the Pura Belpré Award.

Waiting on Wednesday: Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess

Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess. 336 p. HarperTeen/ HarperCollins Publishers, October 5, 2021. 9780062976901.

Happy Wednesday and happy Autumnal Equinox! Waiting on Wednesday features Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess. Here's the publisher synopsis:

For Ri Fernández’s entire life, she’s been told, “We live in America and we speak English.” Raised by her strict Mexican grandma, Ri has never been allowed to learn Spanish.

What’s more, her grandma has pulled Ri away from the community where they once belonged. In its place, Ri has grown up trying to fit in among her best friend’s world of mansions and country clubs in an attempt try to live out her grandmother’s version of the “American Dream.”

In her heart, Ri has always believed that her mother, who disappeared when Ri was young, would accept her exactly how she is and not try to turn her into someone she’s never wanted to be. So when Ri finds a long-hidden letter from her mom begging for a visit, she decides to reclaim what Grandma kept from her: her heritage and her mom.

But nothing goes as planned. Her mom isn’t who Ri imagined she would be and finding her doesn’t make Ri’s struggle to navigate the interweaving threads of her mixed heritage any less complicated. Nobody has any idea of who Ri really is—not even Ri herself.

Everything Within and In Between releases on October 5.

Teen Tuesday: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Happy Tuesday! I hope you got a glimpse of that beautiful Harvest Moon last night along with Jupiter shining brightly! If not, it sure was beautiful setting at 5AM. The constellation Orion can be seen in the early mornings now.

Teen Tuesday continues celebrating Latinx Heritage Month featuring Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. Shadowshaper is book one of the Shadowshaper Cypher series. It is an urban fantasy set in a quickly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sierra Santiago is an artist whose summer vacation plans include parties at night and painting a protest mural high up on a wall of a neighborhood building by day. While painting, she notices another mural of a neighborhood artist was changing and that the artist in the painting appeared to be in pain and crying. Then, aging shadowshapers begin to die.

The pace is fast and compelling, but not at the expense of world building and character development. Sierra and her friends and family are fully realized as is her Brooklyn neighborhood.

Shadowshaper was Mr. Older's debut and landed with a splash. It was named a Kirkus Finalist, a New York Times Notable Children's book, an NPR Best Book of the Year and a Publisher's Weekly Best Book.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina. 368 p. Candlewick Press, September, 2018. 9780763690496. (Own)

Happy Monday TMS! I hope you experienced the absolutely lovely weather we had in northern NJ this weekend! I got to go on mega-long walks with Boo and did a fair amount of yard work.

Celebration of Latinx Heritage Month continues with Middle Grade Monday. Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina features sixth grader Merci, who knows that her strong will isn't the only thing that sets her apart from her classmates at her private school. The Suarez family doesn't own a big house and boats. Merci and her brother are scholarship students who have to perform community service to maintain their scholarships.

Trouble begins in school when mean girl, Edna Santos gets jealous that Merci has been assigned to be the new boy's "Sunshine Buddy," Trouble is brewing at home as well. Her beloved grandfather, Lolo, has been acting strange lately and none of the grown-ups will talk to her about why.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears was published in 2018 and won the 2019 Newbery Medal. It's a touching coming-of-age novel and a sequel, Merci Suárez Can't Dance was published this past April. It's on my list of books to read. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, so I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review: Nothing!

Purchased: I finally spent down some of those AZ gift cards!

Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs. 384 p. Spy School #8. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August, 2021. 9781534443792.

Publisher synopsis: In the eighth book in the New York Times bestselling Spy School series, Ben Ripley faces the Croatoan—a new evil organization that’s so mysterious, the only proof it exists is from the American Revolution.

With SPYDER defeated, Ben Ripley is looking forward to his life getting back to normal, or as normal as possible when you’re a superspy in training. Until someone bombs the CIA conference room next door. To Ben’s astonishment, the attacker is none other than Erica Hale, the spy-in-training he respects more than any other.

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

But this time, Ben finds himself up against opponents he has never encountered before: his own friends. How can he succeed when he doesn’t even know who he can trust?

This and the one below are going straight to school. I've only read the first Spy School book. It really is a series I do not need to keep up with because it sells itself. 

Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs. 352 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August, 2021. 9781534479432.

Publisher synopsis: In the ninth and latest addition to the New York Times bestselling Spy School series, Ben Ripley faces his nemesis, Murray Hill, on the high seas.

Thanks to the evidence Ben uncovered in his investigation of the Croatoan, the CIA has tracked his nemesis, Murray Hill, to Central America, where they believe he is boarding the world’s biggest cruise ship, The Emperor of the Seas, on its maiden voyage around the world.

His mission: Pose as part of a family, with Alexander and Catherine Hale as his parents, Erica as his sister, and his best friend Mike as his brother, to find out what Murray is plotting.

At first, it sounds exciting to have a mission on the most glamorous ocean liner on earth, but as usual, nothing goes according to plan. There is action, danger, and plenty of surprises as Ben and his team quickly find themselves in hot water.

Paradise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Illustrated by Serena Malyon. 256 p. September 14, 2021. 9780316493833.

Publisher synopsis: From award-winning and bestselling author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age survival tale exploring issues of race, class, and climate change. 

Addy is haunted by the tragic fire that killed her parents, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. Now, years later, Addy’s grandmother has enrolled her in a summer wilderness program. There, Addy joins five other Black city kids—each with their own troubles—to spend a summer out west.

Deep in the forest the kids learn new (and to them) strange skills: camping, hiking, rock climbing, and how to start and safely put out campfires. Most important, they learn to depend upon each other for companionship and survival. 

But then comes a devastating forest fire…

Addy is face-to-face with her destiny and haunting past. Developing her courage and resiliency against the raging fire, it’s up to Addy to lead her friends to safety. Not all are saved. But remembering her origins and grandmother’s teachings, she’s able to use street smarts, wilderness skills, and her spiritual intuition to survive.

Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake. 352 p. May, 2021. 9780316535458.

Publisher synopsis: Hazel Bly used to live in the perfect house with the perfect family in sunny California. But when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong, Mum is suddenly gone forever and Hazel is left with crippling anxiety and a jagged scar on her face. After Mum's death, Hazel, her other mother, Mama, and her little sister, Peach, needed a fresh start. So for the last two years, the Bly girls have lived all over the country, never settling anywhere for more than a few months.

When the family arrives in Rose Harbor, Maine, there's a wildness to the small town that feels like magic. But when Mama runs into an old childhood friend—Claire—suddenly Hazel's tight-knit world is infiltrated. To make it worse, she has a daughter Hazel's age, Lemon, who can't stop rambling on and on about the Rose Maid, a local 150-year-old mermaid myth.

Soon, Hazel finds herself just as obsessed with the Rose Maid as Lemon is—because what if magic were real? What if grief really could change you so much, you weren't even yourself anymore? And what if instead you emerged from the darkness stronger than before?

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Fact Friday: The Poet Slave of Cuba: a Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle

The Poet Slave of Cuba: a Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sean Qualls. 

Happy Friday! Fact Friday features The Poet Slave of Cuba: a Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sean Qualls. This blank verse biography is a compelling and difficult read. It tells the story of Juan Francisco Manzano, who was born enslaved in Cuba in the late 1700s. He was bright and had a way with words. He also had a photographic memory, which made him a bit of a pet or show pony for his mistress. When she died though, his new mistress beat him mercilessly. The spare, honest verse sheds light on the brutality of chattel slavery and also illuminates the resilience of those enslaved.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

#tbt: Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña. 256 p. Delacorte Press/ Random House Children's Books, August, 2008. 9780385733106. (Own)

Happy Thursday. #tbt features Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña. Biracial and sixteen, Danny feels like he doesn't fit in. His dad is gone and he's too dark for his white relatives and the kids at his prep school and too white for his Mexican relatives who live in National City. Add to that, the fact that he doesn't speak Spanish and while he's an ace pitcher, he's losing control of his game. Something's got to give. So his mother sends Danny to spend the summer between his junior and senior years with his father's extended family in National City.

Danny isn't always the most appealing character. He does make some questionable choices and there is one especially breathtakingly violent scene, but mature teen readers will be hooked, especially fans of baseball. The art and psychology of pitching are wonderfully conveyed here.

Mexican Whiteboy was published in 2008. It was Mr. de la Peña's second book, after his debut, Ball Don't Lie. In 2016, he won the Newbery Medal for his picture book, Last Stop on Market Street.

A note about covers. I usually try to find the original covers on the publisher website and link back to the page. In this case, only the newest cover iteration was available on PRH website. Though I see the appeal, I'm not a fan. There was another cover in between the original and #3. They are below.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas

Happy Wednesday! Latinx Heritage Month is celebrated from 
Image: Macmillan

Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas.288 p. Macmillan Publishers, Sept. 21. 2021.

September 15 to October 15 each year. I try is keep the Daily Book Talks and books I choose for our collection fairly diverse all year long, but for the next thirty days, I will try to highlight more titles by Latinx authors.

Waiting on Wednesday features Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas. Here's the publisher's synopsis:
By the author of 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, a sweeping, emotional middle grade historical novel about a twelve-year-old boy who leaves his family in Cuba to immigrate to the U.S. by himself, based on the author's family history.

“I don’t remember. Tell me everything, Pepito. Tell me about Cuba.”

When the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 solidifies Castro’s power in Cuba, twelve-year-old Cumba’s family makes the difficult decision to send him to Florida alone. Faced with the prospect of living in another country by himself, Cumba tries to remember the sound of his father’s clarinet, the smell of his mother’s lavender perfume.

Life in the United States presents a whole new set of challenges. Lost in a sea of English speakers, Cumba has to navigate a new city, a new school, and new freedom all on his own. With each day, Cumba feels more confident in his new surroundings, but he continues to wonder: Will his family ever be whole again? Or will they remain just out of reach, ninety miles across the sea?

Cuba in My Pocket releases on September 21. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Come on In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home edited by Adi Alsaid

Come on In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home edited by Adi Alsaid. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~6 hours, 57 minutes. Read by multiple narrators. Recorded Books, November, 2020. 9781705011140. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday! Teen Tuesday features Come on In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home edited by Adi Alsaid. Mr. Alsaid and other YA #ownvoices authors explore the hot button topic of immigration, belonging and home in this thoughtful and thought-provoking collection of short stories. In one story, two best friends out for a joy ride find themselves stopped at a random ICE checkpoint and their friendship is tested. In another, a high school student on her way to Geneva with her teacher and classmates, is pulled from the security line and interrogated by TSA. Many reflect on having to deal with the question, "Where are you really from?" even when they were born in the U.S. The authors and settings are diverse and reflect a variety of experiences and emotions. Teen readers will be enriched by reading this collection.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson

Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson. 320 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 5, 2021. 9781338348538. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Monday! I hope you enjoyed the beautiful weather we had this weekend. I took Boo on some long walks down by the reservoir. I also did some garden clean-up and laundry. 

Middle Grade Monday features Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson. Ten-year-old Anthony Arnold Joplin, Ant for short, but please don't call him short, even though he is, is super-excited about the upcoming Spades tournament. He needs to live down his poor showing last year and live up to the Joplin name, as his brother won two years in a row and he wants to make his father and grandfather proud. His best friend and Spades partner, Jamal has been a bit on edge, quick with the trash talk and distant. When Jamal viciously teases Ant about his height in front of Shirley, the new girl at school, Ant starts to question their friendship. Then, it turns out, Shirley is an ace Spades player! And, she's cute too! Ant's friendship troubles aren't the only thing bugging him. His dad has been acting a bit weird lately.

This story features a winning main character, terrific secondary characters and lots of humor and depth. I should've finished this terrific novel a lot sooner, but school started and ate up my energy. I just loved this one. I am terrible at cards and still have no idea how to play Spades, but I adored Ant's devotion to the game through the family dynamics and the middle school dialogue were all spot-on. Ant is such an appealing main character. Growing up is hard and Varian Johnson depicts this with so much respect and authenticity. 

Playing the Cards You're Dealt is due out on October 5. You can sample some of Mr. Johnson's other books, including The Parker Inheritance, which won a Coretta Scott King Honor and his debut graphic novel,Twins while you wait.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Picture Book Review: Cat & Dog: a Tale of Opposites by Tullio Corda

Cat & Dog: a Tale of Opposites by Tullio Corda. unpgd. Red Comet Press, September, 2021. 9781636550022. (Review of finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

I just started my 13th year as a middle school librarian after spending 10 years as a K-8 librarian. Even though #nevertoooldforpicturebooks is my motto, I admit I haven't been keeping up with concept books. 

I cannot recall a book of opposites that actually tells a story with a beginning, middle and end. Red cat and blue dog romp on plenty of white space and the text color cues young readers who is doing what. And while there are the expected opposites, there are a couple of surprises - "Oops!" and "Phew!" Then, there's a pair on the cover of the book under the jacket, which parents may not think to look under and which will create a dilemma for librarians who tape those jackets down!

Fun, fun, fun! This one's sure to be a favorite.

My apologies for the tardiness of this review. I read this book back in late July, just as my husband's condition was taking a turn for the worse. He died within the week and I have been trying to adjust to my new reality. My ability to concentrate, focus and be organized has really taken a hit. I hope Cat & Dog gets the readers it deserves.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Fact Friday: World of Glass: the Art of Dale Chihuly by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

World of Glass: the Art of Dale Chihuly by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. 64 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers, May, 2020. 9781419736810. (Review of finished copy borrowed from the public library.)

Happy Friday! Fact Friday features World of Glass: the Art of Dale Chihuly by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. If you're an artist, art lover or student of art history, you should never miss a biography written by these two collaborators. 

Dale Chihuly is a world-renowned glassblower. His innovative style and use of shapes and color make his glass sculptures singularly unique. The authors trace the artist's life from his childhood in Tacoma, Washington through the loss of both his brother and father, through college to his professional life. The text is accompanied by many striking color photos of the artist in action and his pieces.

World of Glass is a handsome addition to any library.

Friday, September 10, 2021

What's new?

"Stacking the Shelves" was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, so I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:

Image: Candlewick Press

Maybe... by Chris Haughton. Unpgd. Candlewick Press, September 2021. 9781526320247.

Publisher synopsis: Three little monkeys and their big monkey are sitting high on a branch in the forest canopy. “OK, monkeys! I’m off," says the big monkey. “Remember . . . Whatever you do, do NOT go down to the mango tree. There are tigers down there.” Mmm . . . mangoes! think the little monkeys. They LOVE mangoes. Hmm . . . Maybe . . . maybe they could just look at the mangoes. That would be OK, right? With vivid colors, bold shapes, and his trademark visual humor, Chris Haughton is back with a deliciously suspenseful cautionary tale about pushing boundaries—and indulging your more impish side (when nobody is looking).

A trio of misbehaving, mango-loving monkeys have a close call as the creator of Don’t Worry, Little Crab gives readers a taste of vicarious mischief.

Ducks Overboard: a True Story of Plastic in Our Oceans by Markus Motum.

Publisher synopsis: If a shipping container filled with 28,000 plastic ducks spilled into the Pacific Ocean, where would all those ducks go? Inspired by a real incident, this captivating and innovative look at the pollution crisis in our oceans follows one of the ducks as it is washed away on ocean currents, encountering plastic-endangered whales and sea turtles and passing through the giant floating island of marine debris known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. From the author-illustrator of the acclaimed Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover comes a highly accessible and graphically stylish picture book with an ultimately hopeful message about environmental issues and the state of our oceans. An end map documents the widely scattered journey of the real-life plastic ducks, showing where they have been found, as well as facts about the ways plastic is affecting various parts of the world.

Eco facts come to light as a plastic duck narrates this beautifully illustrated true story of thousands of bath toys that were lost at sea and swept to the four corners of the Pacific.

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer by Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Daniel Duncan. unpaged. Candlewick Press, September 28, 2021. 9781536212525.

Publisher synopsis: Beatrice Shilling wasn’t quite like other children. She could make anything. She could fix anything. And when she took a thing apart, she put it back together better than before.

When Beatrice left home to study engineering, she knew that as a girl she wouldn’t be quite like the other engineers—and she wasn’t. She was better. Still, it took hard work and perseverance to persuade the Royal Aircraft Establishment to give her a chance. But when World War II broke out and British fighter pilots took to the skies in a desperate struggle for survival against Hitler’s bombers, it was clearly time for new ideas. Could Beatrice solve an engine puzzle and help Britain win the war? American author Mara Rockliff and British illustrator Daniel Duncan team up for a fresh look at a turning point in modern history—and the role of a remarkable woman whose ingenuity, persistence, and way with a wrench (or spanner) made her quite unlike anyone else. An author’s note and a list of selective sources provide additional information for curious readers.

This true story of a woman whose brilliance and mechanical expertise helped Britain win World War II is sure to inspire STEM readers and fans of amazing women in history.

Ada and the Galaxies by Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv. Illustrated by Susanna Chapman. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2021. 9781536215618.

Publisher synopsis: New York Times best-selling author Alan Lightman, in collaboration with Olga Pastuchiv, brings galaxies close in a stunning picture-book tribute to the interconnectedness of the natural world. Layering photographs taken from the Hubble telescope into charming and expressive art, illustrator Susanna Chapman zooms in on one child’s experiences: Ada knows that the best place for star-gazing is on the island in Maine where she vacations with her grandparents. By day, she tracks osprey in the trees, paddles a kayak, and hunts for shells. But she’s most in her element when the sun goes down and the stars blink to life. Will the fog this year foil her plans, or will her grandfather find a way to shine a spotlight on the vast puzzle of the universe . . . until the weather turns?

Stargazers rejoice! In his first book for children, renowned physicist Alan Lightman and collaborators, with help from the Hubble telescope, light up the night sky.

When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke. unpgd. Candlewick Press, September, 2021. 9781536222388.

Publishers synopsis: 

Little one, when we say Black Lives Matter,

we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.
That we deserve to be treated with basic respect,
and that history’s done us wrong. . . .

Darling, when we sing that Black Lives Matter,
and we’re dancing through the streets,
we’re saying: fear will not destroy our joy,
defiance in our feet.

In this joyful exploration of the Black Lives Matter motto, a loving narrator relays to a young Black child the strength and resonance behind the words. In family life, through school and beyond, the refrains echo and gain in power, among vignettes of protests and scenes of ancestors creating music on djembe drums. With deeply saturated illustrations rendered in jewel tones, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers a gorgeous, moving, and essential picture book.
In a powerful, poetic missive, award-winning author-illustrator Maxine Beneba Clarke celebrates the meaning behind the words Black Lives Matter.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

#tbt: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 368 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, February, 2012. (Own)

Happy Thursday! As hinted at yesterday, #tbt features the original Aristotle and Dante story. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz was published in February of 2012. In addition to making quite a few year-end "Best" lists, in January of 2013, it was named a Printz Honor, won the Stonewall Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the LAMBDA Literary Award and was a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Award. The audiobook was narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda and the book has been optioned for film.

Aristotle and Dante are two Mexican-American teens living in El Paso, Texas in 1987. Ari lives with his parents, who are a bit distant. His sisters are grown and have moved out and his brother is in prison, though Ari does not know why. He isn't talked about. Ari meets Dante at the neighborhood pool and the two bond pretty quickly. Dante lives with his parents, who are openly affectionate with each other and Dante.

This gentle story explores each boy's issues as their friendship unfolds. Mature teen readers will enjoy this richly layered story.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Arc Review: Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt

Image: Simon & Schuster

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. 326 p. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, September 7, 2021. 9781534406438. (Review of arc courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Zada is an elderly camel who lives in the desert in Texas with her found family headed by kestrels, Pardo and Perlita. She's awakened abruptly one morning by a hysterical Perlita babbling about an approaching mountain. Turns out, that mountain is a dust storm, a haboob (Yes, I had to look that up), and it's heading toward the cottonwood tree the family have made their home. What's more, Pardo and Perlita have two unfledged chicks in their nest that need protecting! 

The frantic kestrel parents entrust the care of Beulah and Wims to Zada before they are blown upwards into the windstorm. The two chicks nestle down into the hair on top of Zada's head and the trio sets off to the Mission. While Zada has made the trip to the mission many times, never has she done so in the middle of a windstorm and never on such achy legs and certainly not with two fidgety chicks balanced on her head! But she is an honorable camel and a fine auntie and will not Pardo and Perlita down. But what to do to keep Wims and Beulah occupied? She tells them stories.

This is when the narrative flashes back from 1910, West Texas to Smyrna, Turkey in 1850. Do the math, Zada is old! Together with Asiye, Zada was born into the Pasha's racing stables and are destined to race for him. Under the tutelage of gentle Teodor, the two camel best friends thrive and strive to be their very fastest in service of the Pasha. How then, does Zada end up in America? You'll need to read this luscious, atmospheric story-within-a-story to find out. 

And, did you notice in the publication information up top that the book was illustrated by Eric Rohmann? This was the whipped cream and cherry on top of your favorite sundae! Here's a photo of one particularly arresting bit of art among many:

I'm a huge fan of Ms. Appelt. Her books are basically automatic purchases for me. I love her unhurried storytelling. It's rich and lyrical and perfect for reading aloud. She must've done a tremendous amount of research. I spent a fair amount of time looking up unfamiliar words, including the pronunciation of Asiye's name. Young readers' vocabulary will be enriched as Ms. Appelt steeps the reader in two countries/ cultures. 

There are moments of danger and suspense. There will be tears but there are many moments of humor, much of it laugh-out-loud. I closed the book with a satisfied sigh and cannot wait to reread it with my ears. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 528 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October 12, 2021. 9781534496194

Waiting on Wednesday features a sequel that I am looking forward to reading called Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Since this is a sequel, I don't want to give too much away, but Aristotle and Dante are two characters I absolutely adore and I can't wait to visit with them again! Check out #tbt tomorrow for info about the first book! Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World is due to release on October 12.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Teen Tuesday: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Lost In the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~12 hours and 13 minutes. Read by Avi Roque. Macmillan Audio, March, 2021. 9781250779557. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday and L'Shana Tovah to all who are celebrating the Jewish New Year. May you have a sweet start to, 5782, the new year.

Teen Tuesday features Lost In the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas. Eighteen-year-old Wendy Darling is driving home from her volunteer job at the local hospital one night, when a shadowy figure lands on the hood of her truck. She pulls over to the side of the road to investigate and discovers a boy lying on there. He appears to be unconscious, but he opens the bluest eyes Wendy has ever seen and he calls her by her name! She has no idea who this boy is, but she has been obsessively drawing him and a picture of a gnarled tree for the past five years-ever since she and her brothers disappeared into the woods. 

Wendy was the only to return after a six month absence, clutching an acorn and with no memory of who took her or what happened to her brothers. Wendy's memory loss has been frustrating for her, her parents, the police and the town, all of whom want closure, especially since two children went missing recently. The boy is named Peter and his shadow has something to do with the disappearance of the children. Peter begs for Wendy's help finding his shadow before any more children disappear. Wendy agrees and as they investigate, more children disappear, most having some connection to Wendy Darling.

This modern-day Peter Pan story just thrums with suspense and atmosphere. While there are subtle references to the J.M. Barrie classic, this twisty, menacing tale is wholly original, scary, occasionally humorous and delightful.

Lost in the Never Woods is perfect for fans of fairy tale updates/ retellings or any reader who enjoys a twisty mystery. I wasn't a huge fan of the audiobook, though. The narrator chose to pause at odd times fairly consistently through the book, frequently taking me out of the story. They also lacked nuance between different voices, often leading to confusion about who was speaking.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling

The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~3 hours, 5 minutes. Read by Casey Holloway. Hachette Audio, September, 2020. 9781549134456. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Happy Labor Day! I hope you've been enjoying your holiday weekend! Middle Grade Monday features The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling. A number of my students are fans of the author's debut, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and its sequel, Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus. The Canyon's Edge is very different. It's written in verse with sections of prose. The mostly present tense stream of consciousness and use of flashbacks are very effective in setting the mood and instilling tension.

Nora and her father head out to the Sonoran Desert to celebrate her birthday with a hike and climb into a slot canyon. Nora's father chose this celebration to be far away from civilization and danger, because a year earlier, the family were celebrating at a restaurant when a man dressed in cammo entered and began shooting, killing Nora's mother and wounding her father. Both are grieving, suffering from PTSD and have withdrawn from the world. Nora has been homeschooled, but is ready to return.

Unfortunately, the desert also contains danger. They are hiking in the slot canyon when a flash flood roars through. Nora's father pushes her up to safety, but is swept away by the strong current. Nora is left alone with no supplies and many decisions to make. Does she attempt to climb out of the slot and find their car? If so, what then? They were parked in the middle of the desert. Does she climb back down into the slot and follow the trail hoping to find her father? Luckily for Nora, she's an experienced hiker/ climber. Even without equipment, she knows to look out for danger, such as snakes and scorpions and, worst of all, another flash flood.

The audiobook was effectively performed, but I think I should've read this one with my eyes to appreciate the various breaks and poetry forms. 

The Sonoran Desert setting is vivid and tension runs high throughout this intense, edge-of-your-seat survival adventure that you won't want to miss.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Fact Friday: Zion Unmatched by Zion Clark and James S. Hirsch (Again a day late!)

Zion Unmatched by Zion Clark and James S. Hirsch. 32 p. Candlewick Press, August, 2021. 9781536224184. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Saturday! I'm stumbling out of the gate here with my posts this first week of school. I have managed to post to the learning platform at school and our public library's FB page, but not here! Apologies. We had quite the first day back at school on Thursday thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Ida.  As usual, Closter students rose to the occasion with good humor and energy, making my Fact Friday choice quite fitting. 

Fact Friday features Zion Unmatched by Zion Clark and James S. Hirsch. Students in sixth through eighth grades may remember viewing a video about elite athlete, Zion Clark during advisory last spring. Mr. Clark was born without legs and was quickly abandoned by his birth mother. He grew up in the foster care system, where he experienced abuse and neglect. Nevertheless, he taught himself to walk by using his hands and strove to do his best in school. He discovered wrestling in high school and also became a champion wheelchair racer and hand-cycler. Today, he's a motivational speaker and entrepreneur as well. This photo-essay/memoir is the first of a planned trilogy.

The full-color, slightly over-sized photos of Mr. Clark are striking. His energy and determination are evident in each. There are inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout, but unnecessary because the man is the inspiration. The photo-essay is a nice introduction to Mr. Clark. I am hoping that future volumes contain more detail about his life and what he did to overcome his challenges and thrive. 

Zion Unmatched will have wide appeal and is a recommended addition to any school, classroom or public library. 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

#tbt: Flipped by Wendell Van Draanen

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanan. 212 p. Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children's Books, October, 2001. 9780375811746. (Own)

Happy first day of school with students to me! Getting to school this morning was a bit of a challenge what with flooded roads and downed trees. We had a delayed opening. I hope you all stayed dry last night! What a storm!

#tbt is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanan a month early. This comedy is told in the alternating points-of-view of Juli and Bryce. The first time Juli met Bryce back in second grade, she flipped for him. She's convinced that he is the bearer of her first kiss. Bryce's immediate reaction to Juli is just the opposite. Over the years between second and eighth grades, this remains the case until Bryce flips. For Juli. And she couldn't care less.

Flipped was named an SLJ Best Book and also made several State Award lists. It was adapted for film by Rob Reiner in 2010  and is one of my go-to "romances" for fifth and sixth graders!

A Late Waiting on Wednesday: Besties: Work It Out by Kayla Miller

Happy Thursday. I headed into school yesterday for my first day and forgot to post this here. I remembered to post it to our learning platform and the town public library FB page though. 

Waiting on Wednesday features Besties: Work it Out by Kayla Miller and Jeffrey Canino with illustrations by Christina Luu. There are lots of Click series fans at TMS and this book is a spin-off that's due out October 19. Here's the publisher synopsis:

Meet Beth and Chanda, two stylish best friends on their way to building their fashion empire! An unexpected business opportunity presents itself when the girls are asked to dogsit at Ms. Langford's luxurious house while she’s away, but it quickly turns into a disaster after an accident leaves one of Ms. Langford’s prized possessions in pieces! Now Beth and Chanda have to take on as many odd jobs as they can in order to afford a replacement. Car washing, book sales, interior decorating—you name it, Beth and Chanda are there! Will they be able to patch up their mistake in time?

New York Times best-selling author Kayla Miller and co-author Jeffrey Canino deliver a vibrant and honest story about middle school friendships and personal responsibility. Accompanied by Kristina Luu's fizzy, expressive art style, this graphic novel is the perfect companion to Olive's existing stories.