Friday, October 29, 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: A few books came from Abrams this week that are happy-making:

Big Shot Diary of a Wimpy Kid #16. 218 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams Books, October, 2021. 9781419749155.

Publisher synopsis: After a disastrous field day competition at school, Greg decides that when it comes to his athletic career, he’s officially retired. But after his mom urges him to give sports one more chance, he reluctantly agrees to sign up for basketball.

Tryouts are a mess, and Greg is sure he won’t make the cut. But he unexpectedly lands a spot on the worst team.

As Greg and his new teammates start the season, their chances of winning even a single game look slim. But in sports, anything can happen. When everything is on the line and the ball is in Greg’s hands, will he rise to the occasion? Or will he blow his big shot?

Run by John Lewis. 160 p. Abrams Books, August, 2021. 9781419730696.

Publisher synopsis: The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series March—the continuation of the life story of John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Selma voting rights campaign.

To John Lewis, the civil rights movement came to an end with the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. But that was after more than five years as one of the preeminent figures of the movement, leading sit–in protests and fighting segregation on interstate busways as an original Freedom Rider. It was after becoming chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and being the youngest speaker at the March on Washington. It was after helping organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the ensuing delegate challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. And after coleading the march from Selma to Montgomery on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” All too often, the depiction of history ends with a great victory. But John Lewis knew that victories are just the beginning. In Run: Book One, John Lewis and longtime collaborator Andrew Aydin reteam with Nate Powell—the award–winning illustrator of the March trilogy—and are joined by L. Fury—making an astonishing graphic novel debut—to tell this often overlooked chapter of civil rights history.

Pigskins to Paintbrushes: the Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Bonds by Don Tate. 48 p. Abrams Books, August, 2021. 9781419749438.

Publisher synopsis: Young Ernie Barnes wasn’t like other boys his age. Bullied for being shy, overweight, and uninterested in sports like boys were “supposed” to be, he instead took refuge in his sketchbook, in vibrant colors, bold brushstrokes, and flowing lines. But growing up in a poor, Black neighborhood during the 1930s, opportunities to learn about art were rare, and art museums were off-limits because of segregation laws. Discouraged and tired of being teased, Ernie joined the school football team. Although reluctant at first, he would soon become a star.

But art remained in Ernie’s heart and followed him through high school, college, and into the NFL. Ernie saw art all around him: in the dynamic energy of the game, the precision of plays, and the nimble movement of his teammates. He poured his passion into his game and his craft, and became famous as both a professional athlete and as an artist whose paintings reflected his love of the sport and celebrated Black bodies as graceful and beautiful.

He played for the Baltimore Colts (1959–60), Titans of New York (1960), San Diego Chargers (1960–62), and the Denver Broncos (1963–64). In 1965, Barnes signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Canada, but fractured his right foot, which ended his professional football career. Soon after, he met New York Jets owner Sonny Werblin, who was impressed by Barnes and his art. In 1966, Barnes had a debut solo exhibition in New York City, sponsored by Werblin at the Grand Central Art Galleries; all the paintings were sold. Barnes became so well-known as an artist that one of his paintings was featured in the opening credits of the TV show Good Times, and he was commissioned to create official posters for the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Fact Friday: My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzi Eszterhas

Image: Owlkids Books

My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzi Eszterhas. 32 p. Owlkids Books, October, 2020. 9781771474078. (Review of finished purchased copy.)

It's finally Friday! This felt like a very long week to me, considering I thought that Wednesday was Thursday. Fact Friday features My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzy Eszterhas. Ms. Eszterhas is one of a few women working as a wildlife photographer. It is something she has wanted to do ever since she received a camera from her mother and she began taking pictures of her cat in her backyard. She has traveled all over the world to photograph wildlife. Doing so requires a lot of waiting and patience, but it so worth it once she gets the shots.

Her picture book autobiography is conversational and informative, giving young readers a glimpse into her work. Her love for her job is evident in each chapter. There are photos of the photographer at work as well as plenty of Ms. Eszterhas' gorgeous photos. Back matter includes FAQs.

Give this to budding photographers, animal lovers and fans of the photographer's books. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

#tbt: Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick


Happy Thursday! The title for today's #tbt was recommended by a sixth grader, and it's a genius suggestion. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick is the compelling and touching story of two eighth grade misfits who form a fast friendship. Max Kane is miserable at school due to his learning disability. He's also huge, making him the target for bullies. Kevin is very short, wears leg braces and needs crutches to walk, but is brilliant. When Kevin rides on Max's shoulders, the two set out on adventures around their town. Unfortunately, Max's father, "Killer Kane" is being released from prison and Max is frightened, with good reason.

Freak the Mighty was published in 1993, won several state awards and was adapted for film in 1998 retitled, The Mighty. I may have to reread this one. Thanks Ryan! Happy reading everyone!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Oh my goodness gracious, did I ever mess up today! I post the daily book talks to my school's learning platform in my "Library Links" group first. Then I copy and paste the post here. At 6:15, I posted a #tbt post there, then came here to copy and paste and noted that I missed my "Waiting on Wednesday" post! Only, I didn't because today is Wednesday. It wasn't until midway through the first period of my day, when I noticed comments on the post in the group, that I realized my error. They were very gentle, but clearly told me that I was mistaken. Oh, did I laugh!

Image: Macmillan Publishers

Gilded by Marissa Meyer. 512 p. Feiwel & Friends/ Macmillan Publishers, November 2, 2021. 

Waiting on Wednesday features Gilded by Marissa Meyer. Ms. Meyer mashed up a variety of fairy tales in her inventive Cinder series and in Heartless, she envisioned what motivated the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland to become such an evil queen. In Gilded, she reimagines the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. Here's the publisher synopsis:
Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller's daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.

Or so everyone believes.

When one of Serilda's outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn't meant to be part of the bargain.

Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audio Review: Kneel by Candace Buford

Kneel by Candace Buford. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~8.3 hours. Read by Preston Butler III. HarperAudio/ Inkyard/ HarperCollins Publishers, September, 2021. 9781488211805. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy rainy Tuesday! There has been a flash flood warning in my area since last night and it has been raining steadily. Hopefully, the winds will stay calm and my hundred year old American Beech tree will remain standing.

Teen Tuesday features Kneel by Candace Buford. Rus Boudreaux and his best friend, Marion LaSalle are co-captains of their football team entering their senior year with high hopes for a winning season, another chance at the state championship and a football scholarship to a D-1 college. A scholarship is their only way out of their racially segregated parish in Louisiana. At the start of their second game of the season, against the team's rival, one of the white co-captains hurls a racial slur after the coin toss and the other sucker punches Marion. The refs turn a blind eye to the slur and don't defend Marion as he is hauled off the field in handcuffs and eventually beaten by police for "resisting arrest." Rus knows that Marion's chances for a scholarship are nonexistent if he can't play football, so he takes a knee during the national anthem at the next game, earning himself the ire of his coach, his teammates, his parents and the press as the media choose to portray him and Marion as thugs.

Rus' first-person narrative is compelling from the start as this thoughtful athlete tries to play by rules that seem to change at the whim of the privileged. Kneel is the author's debut and it's an impressive one peopled with complex characters dealing with real issues of poverty, racism and broken dreams.

New-to-me narrator Preston Butler III turned in a well-paced, emotionally resonant performance as Rus. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Unplugged by Gordon Korman

Unplugged by Gordon Korman. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~6.5 hours. Read by a cast of six. HarperAudio/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2021. 9780063058095. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Monday! I hope your weekend was fantastic. Mine was quite nice. The week promises to be rainy, so I'm glad I had a lot of outdoors time. Middle Grade Monday features Unplugged by Gordon Korman. Jett Baranov is an unabashed bad boy. His dad is founder and CEO of a huge tech company and has the money to bail Jett out of whatever trouble he gets into, so Jett kept upping the ante until his dad put his foot down. The family's private jet dumps Jett and his bodyguard/ babysitter in rural Arkansas to spend the summer at a place called the Oasis. It's in the middle of nowhere, the menu is totally vegetarian, the activities include meditation and, worst of all, Jett has to turn over all electronics. Jett sets about doing what Jett does best.

Mr. Korman has lots of fans at my school and deservedly so. His books are often quite funny and fast-paced. This one's pretty outlandish, but tons of fun.

The multiple narrators set a brisk pace and each was well-suited to their character. 

Friday, October 22, 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:

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein. unpgd. Candlewick Press, November 9, 2021. 9781536207781.

Publisher synopsis: It’s bright and early on a Saturday morning, and the little red chicken wants cookies for breakfast. What better way to persuade Papa than by jarring him awake and gleefully interjecting cookies—and herself!—into every nursery rhyme they read together? Though the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe heartily endorses the little red chicken’s plan, Papa has his own idea for a sweet breakfast for his determined daughter. Featuring the same riotous charm and bright, bold art as Interrupting Chicken and Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, David Ezra Stein’s third installment will have any fan with a sweet tooth and a love of meta rhyme clamoring to find out: will the early bird get the cookie?

Wake up! The little red chicken is hungry—and sillier than ever—in her latest star turn since debuting in the Caldecott Honor Book Interrupting Chicken.


What was in your mailbox this week? 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

#tbt: Rest in Peace Jerry Pinkney

Image: LBYR

Yesterday (10/20/21) brought news that Jerry Pinkney died of a heart attack at age 81. There are any number of his many books to choose from for a #tbt post, but I chose his wordless retelling of Aesop's fable The Lion & the Mouse. This was the work that won him Caldecott gold after winning five honors! John Henry, retold by Julius Lester, is another of my favorites. I still cannot read that and Mr. Pinkney's retelling of The Little Matchgirl without crying.

Mr. Pinkney illustrated over a 100 books and picture books. He primarily worked with watercolor and often added a dash of red somewhere in his paintings. He was a gentle and generous man and I never missed an opportunity to listen to him speak a conferences. Mrs. Churchill and I not only got to hear him speak and watch him paint at a conference, but he listened to us present a talk about how we used Lion & Mouse as a mentor text in a wordless book unit!

Take a moment to search your local library catalog for his name. Choose any title and you won't be sorry. 

Waiting on Wednesday (a day late):

Happy Wednesday! Waiting on Wednesday features This is Not a Drill by K.A. Holt. Ms. Holt's verse novels are quite popular at TMS, especially, House Arrest. This novel is told in texts and explores an unfortunate reality. From the publisher: Told through text messages, this timely story explores the real dangers kids face with humor, insight, and a ton of heart.

Ava is having a really bad day. Her parents are getting divorced. She just had a big argument with her two best friends. And she forgot to charge her phone… again.

To top it all off, while she is hiding out in the bathroom over lunch, the alarm goes off for a lockdown drill. Ava knows the rules. She has to get herself into a classroom, turn the ringer off on her phone, lock the door, and cover the windows. But all of the rooms have already been locked from the inside and there is no one in the halls.

Pretty soon she realizes there is an intruder in the building. This isn’t a drill.

This is Not a Drill releases in March of 2022.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Teen Tuesday Audiobook Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Happy Tuesday! Well, the Hunter's Moon sure put on a show last night as it waxes toward full tomorrow. I hope the weather cooperates and we can continue to bask in its light. And, I could see Orion nearly halfway up at 5 AM. I've been watching him make his way across the pre-sunrise sky since September. I will never forgot the morning I looked out from my deck at the beach at 3AM one August. I saw Orion appear to rise from the ocean.

Well, TMS Readers, I did it. An eighth grader has been telling me that I needed to read The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani for years! She might be a little obsessed with this series and its author. The hype is real!

Teen Tuesday features The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. This fantasy fairy tale series starter was published in 2013 and was the author's debut. Its 14+ hours fly by as listeners are transported into Agatha and Sophie's adventures. Every four years in their village, two children, age 12 or older are kidnapped, never to be seen again, presumably transported to the School for Good and Evil. While most of the villager dread this arrival, Sophie believes herself to be a princess and hopes for it. She goes about her day doing good, especially seeking out homely Agatha, who lives in a cemetery. Agatha just wants to be left alone. A surprise happens on the day of the kidnapping and both girls end up in unexpected circumstances.
The world-building is quite vivid and the many characters add charm, humor or menace as Sophie and Agatha try to find where they truly belong. Not surprisingly, this cinematic epic has been adapted for film and is be released on Netflix soon.

Thanks to my student for the recommendation! I'm hooked.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler

AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler. 272 p. Carolrhoda Books/ Lerner Publishing Group, September, 2021. 9781541599116. (Review of arc courtesy of Wunderkind PR.)

Happy Monday! I hope you all had an amazing weekend. Mine was very productive, but also emotionally draining as I am continuing to declutter my house. My husband saved EVERYTHING! I also caught up on grading and sent progress reports. Yay! Boo didn't get his usual very long walks, but they were long enough. 

Now it's Monday.  Ah, don't you just love the smell of a crisp autumn morning? That's what is was here in northern NJ earlier. Did you notice the rising waxing gibbous moon last night? Don't you love it when math features prominently in a novel? I do even though I'm math phobic. Middle Grade Monday features AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler. 

It's hard enough moving to a new school at any age, but moving during middle and high school can be particularly brutal. Moving because your parents want a "fresh start" after the death of your younger brother doesn't exactly help the grief process, especially when your dad has become distant and your mom obsessively decorates. Add to that the fact that the town you moved to, the seventh grade you are about to join, are survivors of a school shooting as third graders. In fact, your new room is the former room of one of the dead students.

Twelve-year-old Lucy Rothman navigates life without Theo while she observes and listens to her classmates shared trauma. She's not sure how to respond and turns to her beloved math as comfort. This is one thing she understands and does well, but then her friendly math teacher adds an extra-credit question to her first test and now, Lucy's not so sure math is predictable and comforting.

While the grief Lucy and her classmates feel is palpable, life does go on, sometimes in surprising ways. This is Ms. Isler's debut novel and she authentically portrays middle school dynamics (friendship drama and crushes) as well as life after the unthinkable (PTSD and coping). Sadly, school violence is a timely topic. This book is an important, age-appropriate exploration of all the feelings tweens might encounter and work through.

Lucy is thoughtful and relatable. I just loved her careful observations of her new circumstances. Give this book to students who enjoy intense exploration of emotion. It's a difficult book to read, but also a difficult book to put down. 

Sunday, October 17, 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:

Daughter of Lies & Ruin by Jo Spurrier. Tales of the Backbone Witches #2. 345 p. HarperVoyager/ HarperCollins, October, 2021. 9781460756348.

Publisher synopsis: 'If they didn't want to get turned into beasts and used to fuel a ritual, they shouldn't have attacked a witch. That's all there is to it.'

There's something strange brewing in this tinder-dry forest - a girl with a sword and a secret, a troupe of vicious bandits vanished without a trace, beasts that don't belong and a witch with a macabre plan.

Elodie hasn't been learning witchcraft for long, but she knows enough to be worried, and the fact that her mentor Aleida wants to pack up and leave in short order isn't helping to settle her nerves.

Elodie just hopes to get everyone out of this mess unharmed, but it's looking more unlikely with every passing hour. And when the strange witch's ire falls on her, Aleida's wrath sparks a fire that threatens to scorch the earth itself ...

I so enjoyed the first entry, A Curse of Ash and Ember and can't wait to find out what will happen next. 

Purchased: nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Fact Friday: Strike: the Farm Workers Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner

Happy Friday! Boy, this week felt long. As Latinx Heritage Month draws to a close, I hope my students have found some new titles to read to diversify their reading. But don't just diversify one month a year, please. Try to read widely and with an open mind all year long.

Fact Friday features Strike: the Farm Workers Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner. This book takes us back to the 1960s when migrant farm workers earned very little pay and lived in terrible housing as they made their way up and down California to harvest ripening crops. Latino civil rights activist, César Chavez teamed up with Filipino-American labor organizer Larry Itliong and when the workers walked off the vineyards in California in 1965, the Great Delano Grape Strike began and was to last five years.

The book is attractively designed and filled with photos and quotes from the workers. Strike is available to borrow from TMS Library or through ILL (Inter-LIbrary Loan) through BCCLS. It is not available in eBCCLS. Happy reading and have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

#tbt: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

#tbt honors the passing of a children's literature great. Gary Paulsen died Wednesday at the age of 82. He was a three-time Newbery Honor winner and author of over 180 books. Perhaps his best known work was Hatchet, which was published in 1987 and won him his second Newbery Honor in 1988.

Hatchet tells the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, who is traveling by plane to the Canadian wilderness to visit his father for the first time since his parents' divorce. He is angry about the divorce, but mostly angry at his mother, whom he feels is to blame. Brian's mother gifts him with a hatchet before he boards the private plane that is ready to take off. Having no place to put the hatchet, he shoves it through his belt for the ride. Unfortunately, his pilot has a heart attack and the plane crashes into a lake leaving Brian alone in the wilderness with just the clothes on his back and the hatchet.

Mr. Paulsen tells a gripping tale of survival. He was a great outdoorsman who also raced sled dogs. He also wrote humorous stories about growing up as well. How Angel Peterson Got His Name is a slim, hilarious collection of connected short stories.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith. 336 p. Inkyard Press/ Harlequin Trade Publishing, November 2, 2021. 9781335405685.

Happy Wednesday! Yesterday was picture day and it sure was nice to see a lot of students dressed to impress! Waiting on Wednesday features You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith. I learned about this contemporary YA romance from the blog, Latinosinkidlit. Here's the publisher synopsis: No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

You Can Go Your Own Way releases on November 2.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Arc Review: Fat Angie Homecoming by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat Angie Homecoming by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. 416 p. Candlewick Press, November 2, 2021. 9781536211771. (Review of arc courtesy of Candlewick Press.)

Happy Tuesday! Teen Tuesday features Fat Angie Homecoming by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. Regular readers of The Daily Booktalk might recall that I featured this trilogy concluder in a "Waiting on Wednesday" post. Over my twenty-plus years as a school librarian and many more as reader, there is just a handful of characters that continue to reside in my heart long after I finish their story. Angie is one of them.

Angie has the misfortune of living with an awful emotionally abusive mother who never fails to fat-shame Angie or to remind her of her inadequacies. Her older sister always protected and supported her, but she is gone now-first by enlisting in the military, next by being deployed overseas and then by dying a war hero. In Fat Angie Homecoming, Angie is back at high school after the road trip she took in Fat Angie Rebel Girl Revolution. She's anxious about heading back to school and also planning to ask Jamboree to Homecoming. She has written out what she wants to say on index cards. All this is derailed by two things-the return of KC Romance and the revelation that a video of her singing in Columbus has gone viral.

Yes, you do need to read the books in order to appreciate Angie's growth and courage. Honestly, the book can stand alone, but why would you want to miss the first two? e.E. Charlton-Trujillo has assembled a memorable cast of characters around Angie, one where I felt like I was comfortably-not comfortably at a reunion. Angie faces some serious issues of grief, identity and bullying and many of the scenes are difficult to read, so the audience for the stories is best for readers grade eight and up. Mature teen readers looking for an intense, emotional read should meet Angie. This concluding volume was the perfect-not perfect ending to Angie's story. 

It was such an honor to visit with Angie again. I loved, loved, loved this conclusion to Angie's story and didn't want it to end, so I read the story slowly, savoring Angie's sweet awkwardness, her hopeful optimism and her journey to acceptance that she is an awesome person worthy of love. Highly recommended!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: The International Day of the Girl: Celebrating Girls around the World by Jessica Dee Humphreys and the Hon. Rona Ambrose

The International Day of the Girl: Celebrating Girls around the World by Jessica Dee Humphreys and the Hon. Rona Ambrose. Illustrated by Simone Shin. CitizenKid series. 32 p. Kids Can Press, Sept., 2020. 9781525300585. (Review of finished copy purchased for my school library.)

Happy Monday! I hope you made the most of your weekend. I spent all of Saturday out of doors since the forecast was for rain on Sunday. Middle Grade Monday features The International Day of the Girl: Celebrating Girls around the World by Jessica Dee Humphreys and the Hon. Rona Ambrose. Illustrated by Simone Shin. Did you know that October 11 is International Day of the Girl day? Ever since 1954, the United Nations has focused on the rights of the child globally, but in 2009, the Canadian, "Because I'm a Girl" campaign launched an online petition to ask the UN to establish a special day to focus on issues particular to girls. These include, gender-based violence, illiteracy and lack of access to education, nutrition, child marriage and others. In 2011, girl delegates were chosen to attend the meeing of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to discuss instituting a Day of the Girl. Canadian Minister Rona Ambrose had the privilege of meeting with the girls and helped to establish the day.

This oversize picture book features the stories of nine girls from Afghanistan to Brazil to Canada. Based on interviews of real girls in nine different countries, each spread describes each girl's accomplishments and briefly explains particular challenges for girls in that country. Back matter includes a timeline and web addresses to learn more about facts and statistics particular to girls internationally. This is a wonderful introduction to a global issue for middle grade readers.

Saturday, October 9, 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.

So I usually post a "What's New?" post on Saturday and I did so yesterday. But I received a book in the mail on Saturday afternoon and don't want to wait until next Saturday to post about it. 

For Review:

Sonny Plays the Bridge by Gary Golio and illustrated by James Ransome. unpaged. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers, October 19, 2021. 9781984813664.

Publisher synopsis: James Ransome’s glorious art celebrates jazz icon Sonny Rollins and how he found an inspired spot to practice his saxophone when his neighbors complained.

Sonny Rollins loved his saxophone. As a teenager, he was already playing with jazz stars and making a name for himself. But in 1959, at age twenty-nine, he took a break from performing—to work on being a better, not just famous, musician. Practicing in a city apartment didn’t please the neighbors, so Sonny found a surprising alternative—the Williamsburg Bridge. There, with his head in the clouds and foghorns for company, Sonny could play to his heart’s content and perfect his craft. It was a bold choice, for a bold young man and musician.

Sonny’s passion for music comes alive in jazzy text and vivid, evocative paintings of New York City. His story celebrates striving to be your very best self, an inspiration to music lovers young and old.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week? 

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:

The Lost Language by Claudia Mills. 292 p. Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House, October 19, 2021. 9780823450381.

Publisher synopsis: The quest to save the words of a dying language - and to find the words to save what may be a dying friendship - lies at the heart of this exquisite verse novel.

Sixth grader Betsy is the one who informs her best friend, Lizard, that thousands of the world's languages are currently threatened by extinction; Betsy's mother is a linguistics professor working frantically to study dying languages before they are lost forever. But it is Lizard who, gripped by the magnitude of this loss, challenges Betsy, "What if, instead of WRITING about dying languages, like your mom, you and I SAVED one instead?"

As the girls embark on their quest to learn as much as possible of the near-extinct language of Guernésiais (spoken on the Isle of Guernsey, off the coast of France), their friendship faces unexpected strains. With Lizard increasingly obsessed with the language project, Betsy begins to seek greater independence from her controlling and charismatic friend, as well as from her controlling and charismatic mother. Then tragedy threatens Betsy's life beyond what any words can express, and Lizard does something unthinkable.

Maybe lost friendships, like lost languages, can never be completely saved.

Purchased: nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Fact Friday: The Distance Between Us (Young Readers Edition) by Reyna Grande

The Distance Between Us (Young Readers Edition) by Reyna Grande. 336 p. Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster, September, 2017. 978
1481463706. (Own.)

Happy Friday! What are your plans for the weekend? Hopefully, books are in the mix. Fact Friday features The Distance Between Us (Young Readers Edition) by Reyna Grande. The author's memoir, originally written for adults was adapted for young people, but is still a tough, intense read, though there are moments of levity. Ms. Grande's parents left her and her siblings with a stern grandmother in southern Mexico in order to cross the border for a chance at a better life. Her parents' marriage collapsed, plans fell through and Ms. Grande was preparing for her own dangerous border crossing to live with a father she barely remembered.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

#tbt: Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Happy Thursday! #tbt features Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez. This first-person historical fiction is set in the Dominican Republic in 1961. Twelve-year-old Anita lives a protected life within a compound with her large extended family. The country is ruled by a dictator, but Anita naively looks up to him. Then, whispers among the adults start and family members start disappearing-some for the U.S. and others mysteriously. Then Anita's tio and father are arrested and Anita and her mother have to hide in a closet at a friend's house before being spirited out of the country.

Before We Were Free was published in 2004 and won the Pura Belpré Award. The cover was updated in 2018. I have posted it below. which one do you prefer?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Teen Tuesday a Day Late: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. 384 p. Quill Tree Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, March, 2018.

Happy Tuesday (on a Wednesday)! I posted this to my school's platform yesterday, but forgot the blog. Teen Tuesday features The 
Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Ms. Acevedo was teaching eighth grade language arts in Maryland and was trying to get her students to love reading. The school was almost 80% Latinx and 20% black, but she was the first Latinx teacher of a core subject. She asked her students why they didn't like to read and was told it was because there were no black and brown characters in the books they were given. She wrote The Poet X for her students.

It is the first-person story of Xiomara Batista, a sophomore at a Harlem High School. She's angry and pours her anger into her poetry journal. She's angry about the double-standard that is applied to her and her twin brother. He gets freedom, but her mother has her practically on lockdown, sure that X is going to get into trouble. She's large and curvy and she's angry about the unwanted comments thrown at her about her body.

This coming-of-age story is intense and beautifully written in verse. Ms. Acevedo's YA debut was published in 2018 and made quite a splash! It won the National Book Award, the Printz Award and the Pura Belpré Award. The audiobook, which was performed by the author, won an Odyssey Award and is well worth a listen.

Waiting on Wednesday: Here's to Us by Becky Albertali and Adam Silvera

Happy Wednesday? I just opened Blogger to copy and paste this post from my school's platform where I crosspost the Daily Book Talks and saw that I failed to post Teen Tuesday here! That does not surprise me. Yesterday was hard. For the last ten years, this whole week has been hard for me and my family, but this year has two additional reasons for sadness.

October 3 marked four months from when my husband had his massive stroke, one that left him paralyzed on the right side and unable to speak. October 5 marked two months from the day he died, exactly nine weeks later. It was also my mother's birthday. She would've been 87. October 9 marks the eighth anniversary of my sister, Liza's death. She died at age 55 awaiting a lung transplant while I was undergoing breast cancer treatment. I got to live and I miss her nearly every day. 

I am trying to be patient with myself and my grief, but it's still quite raw and made more raw but the old grief of missing my mom and closest sibling. Being back at school helps distract me and get me moving, but I'm definitely not the teacher I was a year ago. I'm fine interacting with the kids, but grading? or posting lesson plans? or attending to meeting topics? It's all very hard. My ability to concentrate is shot. Often, I get stuck - just sitting with absolutely no idea how to move forward. Nothing for it but to push through and try not to whine too much. I miss him so much, but now I'm starting to miss me.

Here's to Us by Becky Albertali and Adam Silvera. 480 p. Quill Tree Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, December 28, 2021. 9780063071636.

Waiting on Wednesday features Here's to Us by Becky Albertali and Adam Silvera. This is a sequel to the pair's 2018 parallel narrative, What If It's Us? Here's the publisher's synopsis: 

Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera reunite to continue the story of Arthur and Ben, the boys readers first fell for in the New York Times bestselling rom-com What If It’s Us.

Ben survived freshman year of college, but he’s feeling more stuck than ever. His classes are a slog, his part-time job working with his father is even worse, and his best friend Dylan’s been acting weird for weeks. Ben’s only real bright spot is his writing partner Mario, who’s been giving him a lot of Spanish lessons and even more kisses. Mario’s big Hollywood dreams make Ben start to dream bigger—and the choices he makes now could be the key to reshaping his future. So why can’t he stop thinking about a certain boy from his past?

Arthur is back in New York City for the first time in two years, ready to take the theater world by a storm as the world’s best . . . intern to the assistant of an off-off-Broadway director. Of course, it sucks to be spending the summer apart from his sweet, reliable boyfriend, Mikey, but he knows their relationship is strong enough to weather the distance. Which is why it’s no big deal when his ex-boyfriend Ben stumbles back into the picture. And it’s definitely fine that Ben’s blissfully happy with some mystery boy. First loves are special, but it’s way too late for what-ifs. Right?
Even as the boys try to shake off the past, they keep running into each other in the present. Is this the universe trying to tell them there’s a do-over in their future?

Here's to Us releases on December 28. That leaves plenty of time to borrow the first book and get to know Ben and Arthur.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. 400 p. Rick Riordan Presents/ Disney Books, March, 2019. 

Happy Monday! I'm sorry my students' Monday is a rainy one. They have off so that we teachers can have a professional day. Hopefully, they have some great books to curl up with. 

Middle Grade Monday features Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. This sci-fi adventure was Mr. Hernandez's debut and published in 2019. It won the 2020 Pura Belpré Award as well.

Thirteen-year-old Sal Vidón has diabetes and is an aspiring magician who also has the ability to reach into the space-time continuum and bring back objects and people, most notably, his dead mother, who is not dead in other universes. He also likes to play pranks, which is not endearing him to the teachers at his new school, nor Gabi Réal, student council president and reporter for the school newspaper. She aims to prove it was Sal who put the bloody chicken in her friend's locker.

This fast-paced adventure is laugh-out-loud funny, but there are moments of touching poignancy that deepen the connection to these two characters.

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe is book one of a planned series. Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe was published in 2020. 

Friday, October 1, 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 or purchase new books. 

For Review: 

Susie B. Won't Back Down by Margaret Finnegan. 264 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, October 5, 2021. 9781534498631.

Publisher synopsis: Roll with It meets Absolutely Normal Chaos in this funny, big-hearted novel about a young girl’s campaign for student council president, told through letters to her hero Susan B. Anthony.

Susie B. has a lot to say. Like how it’s not fair that she has to be called Susie B. instead of plain Susie. Or about how polar bears are endangered. Or how the Usual Geniuses are always getting picked for cool stuff over the kids like her with butterflies in their brain. And it’s because Susie B. has a lot to say about these very important things that she’s running for student council president!

If she’s president, she can advocate for the underdogs just like her hero and fellow Susie B., Susan B. Anthony. (And, okay, maybe the chance to give big speeches to the whole school with a microphone is another perk.) But when the most usual of Usual Geniuses also enters the student council race, Susie realizes this may be a harder won fight than she thought. Even worse, Susie discovers that Susan B. Anthony wasn’t as great as history makes it seem, and she did some pretty terrible things to try to help her own cause. Soon, Susie has her own tough decisions to make. But one thing is for sure—no matter what, Susie B. won’t back down.


Clues to the Universe by Christina Li. Unabridged audiobook on 6 CDs. ~6.5 hours. Read by Mimi Chang and Josh Hurley. HarperAudio, January, 2021. 9780063008912.

Publisher synopsis: This stellar debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends, and Ro even figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Fact Friday: Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano. 272 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., 2015. 9780545621847. (Own)

Happy Friday! The temperature plummeted last night to the high 40s. Brr!

Fact Friday features Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano. After making a splash with her middle grade debut in 2013, Ms. Manzano, aka Maria from Sesame Street, wrote a memoir of her life growing up in the South Bronx, which published in 2015 for young adults. 

She grew up with immigrant parents who worked hard, but the family lived in poverty and her father was an abusive alcoholic. Her resilience paid off when she was accepted to the High School of Performing Arts and later won admission and scholarships to Carnegie-Mellon University.

This vivid memoir brims with intensity, energy and a strong sense of self and place.