Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

According to a Chicago Tribune article, the University of Wisconsin - Rock County is celebrating Banned Books Week by holding a reading of Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic.

From the article:

The university says the book had been challenged at a Beloit elementary school because it "encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them."

Monday, September 29, 2008

In which I am famous (not really)

I mentioned that I met the lovely Paula Yoo this weekend at the Anderson's YA Lit Conference. What I did not mention is that she "recognized" me from this blog and made me feel all kinds of famous. :D

Check out her post about the conference and see a photo of us together on her blog! She is so nice and funny and she played the violin for us! It was an absolute pleasure meeting her this weekend.

*waves* Hi, Paula!

Book Review: Horse Song

Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Betsy Lewin. (Grades 3-6.)

Fantastic art brings Naadam and the people of Mongolia to life in Horse Song. The story is told in a memoir-esque voice and illustrated with a combination of photograph-like paintings and cartoon-y illustrations. The paintings are stunning, giving the reader an inside glimpse of their trip as Ted and Betsy Lewin take readers along for the ride. The cartoon illustrations lighten the mood with a little humor.

About two-thirds of the population of Mongolia are nomads. There are twice as many horses as people in Mongolia. And every year there are sports festivals called Naadam. Naadam gives the isolated nomads of Mongolia a chance to congregate and celebrate their heritage with friendly competition.

Ted and Betsy Lewin traveled to Mongolia to witness Naadam and, in particular, a horse race. During Naadam, child jockeys speed across the desert on half-wild horses, each hoping to win the shiny gold medal for finishing first. Naadam dates back almost 1000 years and is the second-longest-running sports competition in the world (second to the Olympics).

You'll know Ted Lewin from his Caldecott-honor-winning illustrations of Peppe the Lamplighter. You'll know Betsy Lewin from her Caldecott-honor-winning illustrations of Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type. But if you're like me, you had no idea that Ted and Betsy Lewin have collaborated on a number of books about their travels. I sincerely look forward to perusing Gorilla Walk, Elephant Quest, and Top to Bottom Down Under.

Do check out Ted's website and Betsy's website. And, as always, check out Picture Book of the Day for your Non-Fiction Monday roundup.

Banned Books Week

Celebrate your intellectual freedom by reading a banned or challenged book this week! Need some suggestions? Check out the LibraryThing Banned Books Library. This project is a collection of books that have been banned or challenged... At the time of this posting they're up to almost 700 books.


Almost 700 books that someone somewhere has wanted pulled off of library shelves or out of schools.

It boggles the mind, really.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books Week* and I'd like to point you to a post written by Carlie Webber of Librarilly Blonde. Popular Paperbacks, Books About Sex, and Banned Books Week discusses ALA's Popular Paperbacks committee's decision to create a list of books about sex despite the certaintly that it would be controversial. Read about why they think it is an important list to create and what work went into creating it.

And then check out their list!

*Yay! I get to wear my bracelet this week! Er... not that I couldn't wear it any other time of the year.

Anderson's YA Lit Conference

On Saturday I had the good fortune to be able to attend the fifth annual Anderson's Bookshop YA Literature Conference.

Oh, my.

It was a BLAST!

A great, friendly group of people who love YA literature (including teachers, librarians, booksellers, and authors) gathered in Naperville. I attended sessions about writing fantasy, new voices in YA lit, and researching for novels. They were all fantastic, as were all the talks given by authors.

We had the privilege of hearing Suzanne Collins, Ellen Klages, Nancy Werlin, Holly Black, John Stokes, and Caroline B. Cooney speak. At the new voices panel I also heard Ingrid Law, Paula Yoo, and Cameron Tuttle. I bought tons of books and had them signed (woo!). All the authors were super nice, hilarious, and basically awesome. Paula Yoo played the violin for us. Suzanne Collins has a mockingbird necklace that a Naperville school had specially made for her (how sweet!). Nancy Werlin gave a quite touching talk about why her new book Impossible is close to her heart.

I even won a door prize!

It was an awesome, fun day and if you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. It was well worth the conference fee. Anderson's has a children's lit event in February and I'm already planning on attending!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Color me excited!

I got the news today that I'm on the YA Fiction panel for the Cybils this year! Wooohooo! Not only am I so excited about participating, I'm also super excited about working with such an awesome crew of bloggers:

Organizer Jackie Parker from Interactive Reader


Leila Roy from bookshelves of doom
Becky Laney from Becky's Book Reviews
Amanda Snow from A Patchwork of Books
Trisha Murakami from The YA YA YAs
Kate Fall from Author2Author
Jocelyn Pearce from Teen Book Review

And judges:

Jackie Parker from Interactive Reader
Sarah Stevenson from Finding Wonderland & Readers' Rants
Little Willow from Bildungsroman
Lili Wilkinson from Inside a Dog
Casey Titschinger from Avid Teen Reader

I'm so looking forward to working with everyone!

Remember, nominations for the Cybils open on October 1! Read an awesome book published between Jan. 1, 2008 and Oct. 15, 2008? Anyone can nominate a book (authors, publishers, teachers, development assistants, bloggers, non-bloggers, librarians, law students, construction workers, kids, marketing gurus at sign-making companies... anyone!). So get on over there sometime between October 1 and October 15 and make your voice heard!

And (completely unrelated) as if the Cybils news wasn't enough to make me positively giddy, I got a box of books from Houghton Mifflin today!

Today = best day ever!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

9:00am - Leave apartment to drive to the NSLS office for meeting.

9:20a - Arrive at NSLS. NSLS is the North Suburban Library System, of which my library is a part. They offer professional development, meetings to share ideas and information, and a van service that allows patrons to return books at any NSLS library (along with a whole lot more).

9:30a - Preschool Partnerships meeting begins. The Preschool Partnerships group meets several times a year to share ideas about programming, early literacy, and other things relating to services for preschoolers and their teachers/parents/caregivers. At this particular session we share information and program ideas from our Summer Reading Clubs. It's a great way to get new ideas, share innovative services, and connect with fellow librarians.

12:00p - Meeting is over, I grab lunch on the way back home.

12:40p - Leave home and head to work.

1:00p - Arrive at work, check email.

1:10p - Go downstairs to Adult Services to meet with my grant co-writer about our final grant report. We've been working on it, so it's a quick meeting as we get everything ready to submit.

1:30p - Back in our office, I call local preschool to set up visits. We generally visit this group once a month and I set up visits for the fall.

1:45p - Fill out visit info forms for the librarians going on the visits, draft confirmation letter to send to the school.

2:00-5:00p - On desk. In between questions, I read Adam Rex's new book Frankenstein Takes the Cake (hilarious!) and read through PUBYAC emails. Here's a sampling of questions I was asked:

- Where are your CD-ROMS?
- Where are books by this author?
- Can you help me find books on this particular reading level?
- Can you help me with the copier?
- What is the first book in this series?
- Can I request a preschool loan bag?
- I have a new baby! Can I get a new baby bag?

(We have a Baby Book Bag program that was originally started with a grant. Any library card-holder who has a new baby gets a bag filled with library information, tips on reading to babies, a list of suggested books to share, a library card application, and they get to pick out a board book to keep.)

5:00p - Off desk, time to head home!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Libs! They are Mad!

I did a storytime for grades 1-3 today and one of the stretchers I like to do for school age storytimes is Mad Libs. It's a neat way to play with stories, reinforce grammar, and create something silly and fun to share. And it's not hard to create a short Mad Libs activity for any book! Here's how:

Step 1: I like to read a story first and then bring out the Mad Libs version. I think the Mad Libs story is funnier if you've heard the original book. So pick out a book and then take a passage from it (this can be as long as you like, I usually do 4-7 sentences, whatever will fit on one sheet of paper). Type up the passage and select words to omit. In my experience, the more guidance you can give them the better (especially with younger kids), so ask for "a body part" or "a musical instrument" instead of "a noun". Verbs seem to be the hardest words for them to come up with, although you might make it easier by saying "something you might do in the park" or "something you might do at school".

**If you're doing Mad Libs on a large piece of paper for a whole group to see, you'll want to make a cover for your story so kids can't see the story while they're giving you answers. I also created covers for the smaller papers I bring on outreach storytimes. The following steps will show you how I create them, but there's no reason you couldn't just write the words on a separate sheet of paper and skip the cover if you prefer!

Step 2: Print out the passage you created and place a blank piece of paper on top of it. Trace the lines with a marker or pen.

Step 3: Paperclip your paper with the lines on it to a piece of construction paper. Make sure you get the papers lined up in the corner.

Step 4: Use an Exacto knife to cut through each line. Then take the top paper off and cut out boxes where each line is.

Step 5: Put the construction paper on top of your print-out of your Mad Libs story. The boxes should be cut out right where your omitted words are. Underneath each box, write down what kind of word you need for that box (verb, adjective, noun, etc.).

Voila! (Okay, I have no idea why this image is coming up sideways, but I can't seem to fix it no matter what I try. You get the idea anywa, right?)

Now, I use this for outreach storytimes, but you can also make a giant one to share with a group by writing the story on a giant piece of paper or using one of those giant pads of paper where you can flip the paper over. I also laminate the story sheet so you can use a dry erase marker and reuse the same sheet over and over.

I've done Mad Libs with several different school-age groups and it's always been a fun activity to include between books!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book Review: Graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. (Grades 7+)

Try as I might, I cannot write a better (or even equal) summary of Graceling than Leila already did. So I'm gonna send you over there to read her review.

I mean, when Leila "Super-duper-ultra-mega-uber recommend[s]" a book, um, how can you pass it up?

Here's what I loved about Graceling:

1. Super-intriguing premise. The whole concept of Graces really fascinated me. Skills that could be supremely useful or totally un-useful. The fact that even though they are "Graced", they are shunned by people in most of the kingdoms. I mean, the term "Graced" implies something good, no? But Gracelings make many people uncomfortable.

2. An intricately built world that was fleshed out more and more as the story continued. I wanted to spend more time in that world, to know its history and its people. Boy howdy has Kristin Cashore built a world.

3. A kick-butt herione who's still working on her personal demons. Katsa is by no means perfect. She sees herself as King Randa sees her and as others in the kingdoms see her: something to be feared (and yes, something and not someone). Throughout the book she challenges herself and really works on accepting who she is and getting to know herself and her Grace.

4. A bit of romance, but romance that's not necessarily easy or meant to be.

5. The twists and turns, oh my!

And I think that's about as much as I can go into without getting all spoiler-y. I agree with Leila that this is highly recommended for fans of fantasy like Tamora Pierce, or Cynthia Voigt's Kingdom series. It also reminded me of Northlander.

Graceling's on the ACPL Mock Printz list (and the Mock Newbery list, although I personally feel that it's more appropriate on the Printz). And you'll certainly want to check out Kristin Cashore's blog (where we learn that she's working on two more books set in this world! Hooray!).

Now, I am certainly not meaning to discount any of the other fine fantasy/sci-fi books published this year, but it would be interesting to see a Cybils showdown: Graceling vs. The Hunger Games. What do you think?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Book Review: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth. (Grades 5-7.)

Violet plans to spend the summer with her best friend Lottie, hanging out in their small town of Mitchell Hammock, FL. Violet and Lottie have been best friends forever and as far as Violet's concerned, nothing should ever change between them. And when new girl Melissa arrives from Detroit, Violet dislikes her immediately. Melissa wears makeup, watches soap operas, and hates getting dirty. When Lottie starts to hang out with Melissa, Violet is jealous and tries to stop it. Why can't things be the way they've always been?

The first line of this book really hooked me:

When Eddie B. dared me to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River where we'd seen an alligator and another kid got bit by a coral snake, I wasn't scared - I just didn't feel like doing it right then.

I wanted to know this sassy girl who may or may not be afraid to walk the net bridge over the Elijah Hatchett River. Violet is a girl clinging to childhood. Why not? Her childhood has been good to her. Eating dinner at her best friend Lottie's house. Hiking in the woods with Eddie. Reading books from the library's bookmobile. Watching the storms roll in and judging how far away the lightning strikes are.

But at some point, you have to grow up. And growing up is all about changing. When our story takes place it's the summer before junior high starts. The end of elementary school, the beginning of something new. Violet is only going to cross that bridge kicking and screaming, but she'll have to cross it eventually. And when she does, she might just find that she has a little help.

Besides Violet's spunky character, I really liked the setting of this novel. It's set in small town Florida, muggy and hot. Haworth's descriptions of the town and the neighborhoods and the wilderness really brought everything to life. I could taste the electricity in the air as a storm rolled in. I could feel the mud squishing under my shoes as the kids explored the creek and looked out for alligators.

As I was reading, Violet kept reminded me of Shug by Jenny Han. I suppose it's because it deals with that same time in a girl's life: entering junior high, that moment when a boy friend might possibly become a boyfriend, when everything seems to change over the course of a summer and you can't ever go back. I'd also hand Violet to fans of Heartbeat and Just as Long as We're Together (do girls still read that book? It was a favorite of mine when I was 11...).

Read more reviews at Literate Lives, Welcome to my Tweendom, The Reading Zone. And of course you want to know that Danette Haworth has her own blog and website (woohoo!).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Review: Love and Lies

Love & Lies: Marisol's Story by Ellen Wittlinger. (Grades 9+)

Did you love Ellen Wittlinger's book Hard Love? Me, too. And I also loved this companion novel which delves into Marisol's point of view.

You remember Marisol? Gio met her as he started getting more involved with creating zines and he fell for her even though she was gay. Well, it's the year after high school and Marisol has deferred her admittance to Stanford. She is spending the year living on her own (well, not completely on her own), working at a greasy spoon (possibly soon to be shut down), and writing a novel (trying to). Marisol also has another goall: to fall in love.

Marisol signs up for an adult education class on novel-writing expecting to get some tips and inspiration. What she's not expecting is her teacher Olivia. Glamorous, intelligent, beautiful Olivia... an older woman who miraculously shows an interest in her. Marisol quickly falls head over heels into an intense courtship. But first love isn't as easy as Marisol had imagined it would be...

I loved getting another visit to Marisol's and Gio's world. Although readers can tell that Marisol's relationship with Olivia is doomed from the start, I thought it was a spot-on portrayal of first love. Marisol feels that all-consuming passion, the pleasant surprise of discovery, even though this is a love that is not particularly healthy. What makes it even more interesting and realistic is Marisol's character. She's frank and self-confident to the point of arrogance sometimes. But somehow things are different with Olivia. And although I knew from the beginning who Marisol should end up with, Olivia was a character that I loved to hate.

Wittlinger absolutely made me feel like I was in Boston right there with all the characters. I howled with outrage at each new offense by Olivia (offenses that were, of course, overlooked by the smitten Marisol) and I was really rooting for Marisol to get things together at the end.

Read more reviews by Lisa, Kelly, and Lee, and do check out the Class of 2k8 interview with Ellen Wittlinger.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

RIP Coleen Salley

Via Read Roger and Fuse #8 I learned that Coleen Salley (author of my beloved Epossumondas) has died.

This makes for a very sad Abby.

If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and track down Salley's audio recording of Epossumondas Saves the Day.

Incidentally, I just read Epossumondas to a group of K-4th graders at an after school program last week. They loved it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to Make a Felt (Flannel Board) Story

So you want to make a felt story but you're not sure how to get started? I didn't know how either until I recently got a tutorial from J, the felt story expert in my department. There are probably different techniques (and you can even buy them), but I wanted to share how we make our felt stories.

Step 1: Pick a story. Think about what images you will need to tell the story. Is it a story that you can learn and tell without the book? Two books we have turned into felt stories are Bark, George (mother dog, George, cat, duck, pig, cow) and Dog's Colorful Day (dog and a bunch of colored dots).

Step 2: Photocopy pictures for your pattern. The best pictures have a clear enough shape that you can mostly tell what it is from the outline. You might have to find pictures from other books or draw something freehand if you don't find a clear picture in your book. There are also books of felt patterns. Check your local library.

Step 3: Cut out your pattern pieces and select your felt. Remember that the pictures and colors do not have to be exactly like the book. Also remember to think about what color your felt board is. You want to pick colors that will stand out against your background. As an example I've cut out a kitten-shaped pattern and I chose orange felt.

Step 4: Tape your pattern pieces to the felt you want to use. You can also trace around the pieces with a marker, but the tape will hold the piece in place, stiffen the felt for cutting, and it comes off the felt clean without leaving a mark. Cut around the pattern piece.

Step 5: If there are any pieces that need more than one color felt, you can cut out the smaller piece from your pattern, repeat step 4, and glue the smaller piece to the larger piece. (I know the cat looks a little weird, but I just wanted to demonstrate the technique. You might use it to make a yellow bill for a duck or wheels for a truck.)

Step 6: Add details to pieces. You can use a permanent marker or fabric paint. You can add google eyes, feathers, bits of cloth, yarn, sequins... keep it simple or make it elaborate.

Step 7 (optional): Write a script for your felt. It's possible that your book might not always be around. And some stories might not need all the details that are in the book. Think about what someone unfamiliar with the story would need to know to tell the story. Are there particular phrases that are important or repeated? Include instructions for how to place felt pieces so that anyone could pick up your script and tell the story.

So now you know how to make a felt story! Or maybe you already knew... so who's got some felt-story-making tips for me?? Do you make yours a different way?

ETA (9/17): Ooh, you'll also want to check out Lisa's post about making magnetic board stories!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anderson's Mock Newbery!

Anderson's Bookshop's 2009 Mock Newbery List is up! (Thanks to coworker M and his lovely wife who sent him the link!)

And it brings to mind a question... what do we think of The Hunger Games for the Newbery? Of course, I loved the book. Loved it, loved it, loved it. And I will be very sad if it doesn't win something... but the Newbery?

Yes, I know the Newbery Committee considers books for up-to-14-year-olds... but I just think about all those elementary school kids who need to read a Newbery book for school... and I hope THG wins the Printz or the National Book Award. (And maybe a Newbery honor...)

Book Review: My Heart Glow

My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet, and the Birth of American Sign Language by Emily Arnold McCully. (Grades 2-5.)

Here's your Abby Fun Fact of the day: in college, I minored in speech & hearing science. Which means that in addition to classes on audiology and speech disorders, I took American Sign Language for my language credits. As a result, I've always been interested in books about sign language, so when I saw this book on our new book cart I had to pick it up.

My Heart Glow is the story of Alice Cogswell and her teacher, Thomas Gallaudet, a man who saw that even though she was deaf Alice longed to learn and express herself. Gallaudet started to teach Alice to read, but he knew what she really needed was a language. So he set off to Europe to find one for her. In Paris, he met a man named Laurent Clerc, a deaf teacher. Gallaudet convinced Clerc to come back to America with him and help him set up a school for the deaf (which is now the American School for the Deaf).

This is a great basic history of American Sign Language and includes an author's note and list of sources. The illustrations are delightful, too. One particular page struck me. Alice sits in the classroom and the yearning to understand, to communicate, is written plain as day on her face. Gorgeous!

Excerpts from letters that Alice wrote to Gallaudet while he was in Europe are interspersed throughout the latter half of the book. I thought that was a neat addition to the text and leant authenticity to the story. Alice uses a syntax different than English that is briefly explained in the author's note.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Head over to Picture Book of the Day for the roundup!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Giveaway at Amanda's!

Do not delay, click on over to A Patchwork of Books where Amanda is giving away 5 SIGNED copies of Elise Broach's new book Masterpiece! You can read her review of the title here. Broach's Shakespeare's Secret was on the Rebecca Caudill list last year and I really enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to reading her new one!

Preschool Educator Night: Make and Take Felt Stories

Last week I hosted a Preschool Educator Night at my library and we made felt stories that the teachers could take home with them. It was a big hit and I'd love to do another one sometime! I'm going to share with you what we did.

First of all, I have to give mad props to my colleague J because she had all the felt-making know-how and her organization was really super helpful. I was all ready to jump into this on my own, but it wouldn't have turned out half so well if she hadn't been doing it with me. I also can't take credit for the idea. I swiped it from another librarian who presented the program at one of our Preschool Partnerships meetings.

I started the program by demonstrating four felt stories - Dog's Colorful Day, Street Sounds, Five Little Pumpkins, and Bark, George! Each teacher could then pick two stories that they would like to make and take home with them. Teachers selected two patterns and the scripts that went with each. Then, while they cut out their patterns, J gave a brief tutorial on how she makes felts and different ways you can add details to make them pop. We provided all supplies (patterns, felt, tape, scissors, glue) and let the teachers select their felt and work on their stories.

It was a great program and I think everyone got something out of it, but there are a few things I would change if we did it again. I had scheduled it from 7:00-8:00, but that wasn't enough time. I'd allow at least an hour and a half (and we actually ended up continuing the program until 8:30 anyway). We provided plastic baggies for them to take their stories home with them and if they weren't done working, they took the felt and patterns home to finish.

Also, I think the program would have worked just as well (and been easier to plan) if we had just done one felt story instead of letting them pick two out of four. We could have prepped the felt more, which would have made for a more streamlined program. As it was, we didn't know which stories everyone would pick and we hesitated to cut the felt beforehand, not knowing how much would be used. We did have a bit of a crunch cutting out appropriately sized pieces when everyone came up to get their felt. Also, we probably could have fit the program into one hour if we had just done one felt story.

Something to think about with this program is the labor and cost... J spent several weeks before the program creating patterns and figuring out how much felt we would need. We also ordered more scissors because we didn't have a huge supply of adult-sized scissors (although we have plenty of kid-sized scissors!). So that's something to think about. I think it was worth the cost, but using just one felt story would have cut way down on the labor (and somewhat on the cost... we still would have needed scissors, but we would have had a better idea about what felt we would need).

Also, check with your State Department of Education to see if you can provide CPDU's for the program. We offered CPDU's for the Every Child Ready to Read program last winter, but I didn't think this would count. I still had a bunch of teachers asking, so it would have been worth it to try and register the program.

(Don't know how to make a felt story? Tune in on Tuesday when I'll be posting my tutorial!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

John Green in Naperville!

According to his tour map, John Green will be at Anderson's Bookshop on Friday, October 24!!! I am so going! Just try and stop me!! (No, don't actually try and stop me... that wouldn't be very nice...)


(Thanks to Leila for linking to the map... for a John Green fan, I am incredibly lax on following his whereabouts...)

Audiobook Roundup: Folktales

Based on oral traditions, folktale story books can translate really well to audio recordings and I want to talk about a couple that I think are particularly well done.

Epossumondas Saves the Day by Coleen Salley, illustrated by Janet Stevens, read by Coleen Salley. Recorded Books. (Ages 4-8.)

In this retelling of Sody Saleratus, it's Epossumondas's birthday. While preparing for his party, Mama discovers she's out of sody saleratus (baking soda) and sends Baby Gator to go get some more. Well, on the way back from the store, Baby Gator meets the great, huge, ugly Louisiana snapping turtle who swallows him up in one big gulp. When both Auntie and Mama also fail to return from the store, Epossumondas decides to take matters into his own hands.

Salley's story and narration are laugh-out-loud funny and I actually listened to it twice in a row because it was so good. This one is a great choice for family listening because I think it'll amuse kids and adults both.

Lon Po Po by Ed Young, read by B.D. Wong. Weston Woods. (Ages 6-10.)

On the other end of the spectrum, Ed Young's Lon Po Po, a Chinese Little Red Riding Hood, has a much darker tone. When mother leaves to visit grandmother, she warns her three children not to let anyone in. But when a wolf claims to be their grandmother (their Po Po), they let the wolf in and then have to outsmart him to save their lives. Music and sound effects give the story an extra sparkle and the wolf's echoey voice is especially creepy. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less from Weston Woods!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Review: Nothing

Nothing by Amy Friedman. (Grades 9+)

Parker Rabinowitz has been holding it together for a long time, but as our story begins, things are starting to unravel. Parker struggles to balance 6 AP classes, track, youth group at his synagogue, and other extracurricular activities, all with the goal of getting into HYP (Harvard/Yale/Princeton). If he keeps his nose to the grindstone and gives 200%, he'll be accepted to the college of his choice... or at least that's what his college consultant tells him. Parker's determined to get into Princeton's pre-med program. It's been his dream for years. Or is it his dad's dream? Parker's not sure anymore.

Meanwhile, little sister Danielle is completely overshadowed. She looks up to her big brother but it bothers her that sometimes she doesn't seem to exist in her parents' eyes. And she wonders if people are friends with her because it's the easiest way to get to know Parker. Sometimes she wants to be him, just to see what it's like getting all the attention and basically having everything one could ever want.

But Parker's got a secret.

His only relief from the tremendous pressure is binging and purging, a cycle that gives him some measure of control over his life. Although Parker knows it's a problem, he doesn't know how to find help. He doesn't know who he can trust with his secret. And things are getting worse and worse...

The hook for me, the thing that made me want to read this book, is its unique perspective. Although I know that guys suffer from eating disorders, I haven't seen many books about eating disorders told from a guy's perspective. Friedman includes an extensive author's note about eating disorders and a Q&A with the man who inspired the character of Parker Rabinowitz.

This story is a gripping portrayal of a life spiraling out of control. Parker's frank tone is coupled with free-verse poems from Danielle's point of view, giving us a complete picture of a family falling apart. Parker doesn't know how to ask for help and Danielle, who would help him, has no idea what's going on. Mom and Dad are clueless, especially when Mr. Rabinowitz becomes ill.

A Looking-for-Alaska-esque countdown starts on the first page with "88 days before" and helps move the action forward. As the countdown crept down to zero, I found myself racing through the pages to find out what was going to happen. Robin Friedman has created characters that I really cared about and I liked that we get two different perspectives. Parker's voice is urgent and raw while Danielle watches from the sidelines, resenting her brother at times, though she doesn't know what he's hiding.

I have to confess that I stayed up until 2am because I couldn't put the book down. I really enjoyed it. I'd hand it to fans of those Issues books like Inexcuseable or Open Ice. Be sure and check out Robin's website and more reviews at Confessions of a Bibliovore, Librarilly Blonde, Bildungsroman*. Also, you don't have to take our word for it... read the first chapter online.

Many thanks to Flux for sending a review copy! I've read a couple of Flux titles recently and I will definitely be checking out more as I've really enjoyed them.

*All these blogs have such awesome names. I am in awe of their name-finding abilities. I obviously do not have that gift.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Audiobook Roundup: Biographies

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznik, read by Gail Nelson. Live Oak Media. (Grades 2-5.)

Marian Anderson was an African-American singer. Born in Philadelphia, her family and church members recognized Marian's talent at a young age and raised money to pay for singing lessons and to send her to school. Although she faced obstacles in the segregated United States, Anderson earned acclaim abroad and eventually was able to achieve her dreams in the States.

The recording is great, complete with bits of songs sung by the narrator. They are a really nice touch, giving examples of what Marian might have sounded like. I could see this recording being really useful in a classroom setting. However, you won't want to miss Selznick's excellent illustrations, so make sure you peruse the book as well as listening to the recording. For more information about Marian Anderson, make sure you check out Russell Freedman's great biography The Voice That Challenged a Nation (also available on audio).

Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin, illustrated by Wendell Minor, read by Buzz Aldrin. Live Oak Media. (Grades 2-5.)

Buzz Aldrin reads his own story in Reaching for the Moon. He tells about his determination to become an astronaut and all the hard work that got him to the moon. Even as a boy, Aldrin was tenacious and his clear message with this book is "never give up!" Although the narration isn't as dramatic as a professional's would be, it's still really neat to hear Aldrin's own voice telling his story. We get plenty of requests for autobiographies and this one fits the bill nicely. It's interesting and inspiring with beautiful painted illustrations.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out the roundup at Picture Book of the Day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

10k Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of my 10k Giveaway: Kaitlyn and John!

And to everyone: thanks for reading my blog and entering my giveaway!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Around the interwebs

I'm excited to see more of MotherReader's new feature: ABC Storytimes. I'm a big fan of sharing successful programs and these storytimes fit the bill. She kicked off last week with a really cute and creative storytime featuring the letter A and I'm eagerly anticipating the rest of the alphabet.

Don't forget to stop over at Biblio File where Jennie's giving away a copy of Vibes. It's on my TBR list for sure after reading Jennie's and Leila's reviews. You have until Wednesday to enter the contest, but don't delay!

And Lisa points us to Shannon Hale's blog for a couple of really interesting posts about how to be a reader (first post, and part 2). Whose fault is it when you don't like a book? The author or the reader? Have you ever reread a book and found that you didn't have the same reaction to it? What's changed? Certainly not the text... I have a couple of examples... I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school and really enjoyed it. Read it again for a college class and haaaated it. Conversely, when I read The Wind in the Willows in elementary school I couldn't stand it, but when I read it for a college class I absolutely loved it.

And on that note, I'm off to attack the ever-growing TBR pile. :) Happy Saturday, everyone!

Comic Books Rule

While I was on vacation last weekend, we went to a German beer garden, and this was written on one of the tables. It says "Comic Books Rule!!"

Yeah, they do! Nice to find some comic book love in random places. :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Book Review: Band Geek Love

Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss. (Grades 7+)

This is what Ellie Snow has been waiting for. She's finally a senior. She's the trumpet section leader in marching band. Her best friend is drum major. And she's got a kick-butt solo. This is going to be awesome.

But things don't exactly turn out as Ellie has planned (which is annoying since Ellie really likes to plan things out and be in control). A distractingly cute boy shows up and joins her section. Then her friend starts trying to set the two of them up. And to complicate matters, Ellie's old crush reappears, still nonchalant about the fact that he broke her heart and ruined her life three years prior. What's a girl to do?

I really enjoyed this funny novel. True, Ellie is not always a likeable character. She's bossy and controlling and totally unable to let some things go. Even though she proclaims not to care that she's not popular, she's wrapped up in what everyone thinks about her (which is understandable, considering the complete and total humiliation she was put through her freshman year). But all of that just made her feel more real to me. I knew girls just like her in high school. And she's funny and interesting enough that I cared about her and wanted to read her story. Plus, she mellows out some by the end. ;)

Funny! There were bits that made me laugh out loud. Witty little one-liners that are just the kind of sarcastic humor I can really get on board with.


To her drum major friend Jake after he's made a comment about her solo (which sucked):

"Stop it, Jake, you don't give yourself enough credit," I said through clenched teeth. "We would have been lost without you waving your arms around up on that ladder. We probably would have accidentally marched into the lake and drowned." (pg. 13)

In conversation with her parents who are trying to figure out why she's upset:

"Are you depressed?" asked Mom, fearfully.
"Are you doing okay in your classes?" Dad asked.
"Oh, God, you aren't addicted to crystal meth, are you?" Mom practically shrieked. "Did you know they make that with
poison?" (pg. 221)

And I love her turn of phrase, too. Great descriptions like:

Upon seeing the new kid for the first time:

He stood there with his hands on his hips, showing off broad shoulders, looking as calm and confident as if someone had just put him in charge of the world and he was pretty damn sure he was going to do a fine job, thanks. (pg. 15)

And rather than saying someone's voice was cold, she says:

...his voice approximately eighty-five degrees below zero. (pg. 226)

All in all, I really liked it. I didn't want to stop reading it (even when I was on vacation). And I was never even in marching band!*

I'm already looking forward to the sequel, Band Geeked Out, which is due out in April. You will definitely want to check out Josie Bloss's website and also these other reviews: Little Willow (and her interview with Josie Bloss), The YA YA YAs, and Confessions of a Bibliovore.

*Confession: I was a music major in high school, but I went to a performing arts school and wasn't in marching band. I did have friends in marching band, though, including one good friend who was drum major!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

10K Giveaway!

... Wha WHAT?!

My blog has had over 10,000 hits?! Is you crazy?

Wow. That is totally awesome. And it makes me feel like celebrating! So here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give YOU a chance to win a free book. All you have to do is comment on this post during the next three days (that is, before midnight on Saturday) and you will have a chance to win one of my favorite books from 2008. On Sunday I will draw two names at random, each of which may choose which book they would like. This is my way of giving back to the awesome people who read my blog AND to the awesome authors who write books that I enjoy.

Apologies, but the drawing's only open to those in the US and Canada (shipping costs, don'tcha know).

AND THERE'S MORE! You don't need to have a blog to enter this giveaway, but if you do have a blog and you post about this giveaway, I'll enter your name twice. Just put a link to your post in your comment.

Here's the list of books you may choose from (these are books published in 2008 that have gotten 5 stars from me):

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
George Washington Carver by Tanya Bolden
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor
Nate the Great Collected Stories (audio!) by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, read by John Lavelle.
Good Enough by Paula Yoo

So, thank you, thank you for reading my blog. It's turned out to be way more fun than I ever imagined it would be and I hope to continue for a long, long time.

Now, commence with the comments! Remember, you must comment before midnight (Central Daylight Time) on Saturday to be eligible for the drawing!

ETA (Sept. 7) - The contest is now closed. Thanks for entering, everyone!!

Audiobook Review: Bloody Jack

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer, read by Katherine Kellgren. Listen and Live Audio. (Grades 7+)

Young Mary Faber is just eight years old when both her parents die of "the pestilence" and she's left to fend for herself. She finds a place with a gang of urchins, begging and stealing to get their daily bread. But Mary wants more than this life and when her gang's leader is killed, she disguises herself as a boy and sets off to make her own way.

Her own way leads her to the British warship The Dolphin where Mary is taken on as a ship's boy. Calling herself "Jacky", she learns all about sailing and fighting, befriending the other ship's boys and trying to avoid attention. As time goes on, she knows that her secret will come out eventually, but not before she's had the chance to fight in a few battles, join a secret brotherhood, get a tattoo, and visit a brothel...

One reason I love vacations is that long car trips give me an excuse to listen to audiobooks (yeah... Abby = geek, what else is new?). Traditionally I have picked out shorter recordings (my long drives are never all that long), but I was anxious to check out Bloody Jack since it won an honor in the first ever Odyssey Awards this year. I wasn't at all disappointed!

Katherine Kellgren's narration makes this recording a joy to listen to. Her expressive reading gives Jacky a real voice and brings all the characters to life. Each character has a distinct voice, different from the narrative voice, and Kellgren's accents are a delight.

I'd hand this to fans of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and maybe Tamora Pierce's Lioness quartet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Celebration of YA

Woohoo! Fall is here!! Well, I suppose it's not officially fall, but SRC is over, fall storytime schedule is starting, and Labor Day is behind us. And that's good enough for me.

I am celebrating YA lit this fall because I feel like, even though I love it so, I don't make it a priority. Why is this? Well, my department serves birth through 8th grade, so when I read middle grade books or picture books or chapter books or easy readers, it's beneficial to my job. When I read adult books, I can recommend them to my mom and my aunts and I fulfill that part of me that says I'm a grown-up and I should be reading grown-up books.

And YA falls through the cracks. Or becomes a "guilty pleasure". Even though I love it so.

So this fall, I am taking back YA! I've already unofficially started, but this post marks the official kick-off of my Celebration of YA Lit, so keep your eye on this space for more reviews of great YA books this fall!!

Around the interwebs yet again

Upstart is holding an election for your favorite books and the first round of voting just opened. They have some really interesting pairings, like Where the Wild Things Are vs. The Polar Express and Twilight vs. The Lightning Thief. Go! Vote! Have your voice heard! The top four books in each category will go on to a second round (which starts September 22) and then the top two will face off starting October 13. The winners will be announced on November 5.

Did you know that the first new Madeline book in 50 years comes out this week? Madeline and the Cats of Rome is written by John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of the original author, who apparently spent several years in Italy researching and creating illustrations for the book. I reserve judgment on resurrecting a beloved children's book character, but it will certainly be one to check out. Also interesting for those in the Chicago area is that Marciano will be at Anderson's Bookshop on Wednesday, September 24.

Speaking of Anderson's Bookshop, their fifth annual Young Adult Literature Conference will be held on Saturday, September 27 and there looks to be a great selection of authors attending. I'll be heading down there for the conference and I'm especially looking forward to seeing Suzanne Collins, Ellen Klages, and Paula Yoo. Now, if only I can get the courage to actually think of words (beyond "I LOVE YOUR BOOK!", that is) and speak to them, I'll be doing good.

(By the by, I met John Green last year and I could think of absolutely nothing to say. But I was in a Brotherhood 2.0 video!)

Last, but not least, I've been following some of the Allen County Public Library's mock awards blogs and I think it's a great way to stay on top of those award contenders. Of particular interest to me are the Mock Sibert and the Mock Geisel, but they also have a Mock Newbery and a Mock Caldecott. The official discussions for the mock awards will happen in January, but anyone can take part in the virtual discussion on the blogs.

ETA (Sept. 5, 2008): Ohhh yes, and don't forget ACPL's Mock Printz! Thanks for reminding me, Heather!

In completely unrelated news, I am back from my vacation (it was awesome, but I have a lot of bug bites [which are not awesome]). Look for some audiobook reviews, the Official start of my Celebration of YA, and a special surprise when this blog reaches 10,000 hits (some time this week!).

Book Review: The Declaration

The Declaration by Gemma Malley. (Grades 7+)

It's the year 2140 and scientists have discovered the secret to everlasting life. Yes, you can now get Longevity drugs, a fabulous concoction that prevents disease and renews the body so that you can live forever! There's one catch. Of course the earth's resources are not unlimited. So in order to get Longevity drugs, you must sign the Declaration. And the Declaration says that you may not have children.

But some people do have children.

Anna is one of these children. They are considered Surplus, a drain on the limited resources of the planet. They are contained in dormitories where they are trained to be servants and menial laborers. To be absolutely obedient and to follow the orders of Legals. To hate their parents, the selfish people who created them.

Anna is nearly fifteen, the age at which she will go out into the world as a housekeeper for a Legal. She's a fast learner, a good cook, obedient, observant, and quite ready to start making up for her parents' sins by being a Valuable Asset. But then a new Surplus arrives. It's strange because he's Anna's age and usually Surplus children are caught much earlier. And he says strange things... that he knows Anna's parents, that they love her and want her back...

And suddenly Anna has a choice where she never had one before... Can she trust Peter? Could there really be a life for her on the outside?

Why did I like this book? Let me count the ways...

1. The premise is really interesting and the more you read, the more Gemma Malley fleshes everything out. Questions are answered along the way and everything fits together really tightly. And c'mon... who doesn't like dystopian worlds where children are illegal??

2. The characters... Near the beginning of the book, the Main Bad Lady hints that she is evil for a Reason. And it stayed with me as I read the book. And then everything was explained near the end. (And BOY HOWDY was it explained!)

3. The cover. Well... no, not the American cover which I actually don't like at all (hey, is that the same girl who's on the cover of Boy Proof? What do you think?). But the British cover is awesome and it actually incorporates information from the book. First is the hardcover and second is the paperback. Waaay better than the American cover, in my opinion.

4. Recommendability. Okay, so I made that word up. But still. I can think of a lot of popular books that would make great readalikes. Particularly Among the Hidden because it deals with very similar subject matter, but also Uglies (teens figuring out that their supposedly perfect world is, well, not quite) or The Adoration of Jenna Fox (just how far would you go to save a life [your own life?]).

5. The ending. This book has quite a powerful ending. I totally didn't expect what happened, even though it made perfect sense. And when I was finished, I was so keyed up that I stayed up way past my bedtime and was really tired at work the next day. (So worth it.)

So. Yes. I liked it quite a bit. In fact, I am quite anxious to read the sequel (The Resistance... due out next week).

Read more reviews at Semicolon, Curled Up With a Good Kids' Book, Jen Robinson's Book Page, and Becky's Book Reviews.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Book Review: The Mysterious Universe

The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes by Ellen Jackson, photos & illustrations by Nic Bishop. (Grades 5-8.)

A supernova is a star that's ending its life in a fantastic explosion. They are so far away that light from a supernova can take billions of years to reach human eyes. Looking at a supernova is like looking back in time, seeing it how it was many, many years ago. Alex Filippenko studies supernovae. He also studies black holes.

Why study supernovae and black holes? Scientists have determined that most of the universe is made up of things called dark matter and dark energy... and no one is sure exactly what those are. The more we study them, the closer we come to knowing what makes up our universe and possibly how it started and what will happen to it in the future.

I found this book really fascinating and the more I think about it, the more fascinating it seems. It's such a hard topic to wrap your head around... The origins of the universe, stars that are billions of light years away, dark matter that no one really knows about... I closed the book and was kind of overwhelmed by things I didn't know. But it's a book that really made me think and it made me curious. And I think those are the best kind of nonfiction books.

With brilliant* photographs and informative sidebars, this is a great entry in the Scientists in the Field series. A bibliography, list of resources for students and teachers, and an index round out the book. Hand this one to budding astronomers. Also of interest are Team Moon and When is a Planet Not a Planet?

I hope everyone (everyone in the States, at least) is enjoying your Labor Day Weekend! It's Non-Fiction Monday and if there's a roundup to be had, it'll be at Anastasia's blog.

*I'm serious when I say brilliant. The first thing I did when I finished reading this book was go on a hunt for supernova desktop wallpaper for my computer. And I still say "Wow!" every time I turn my computer on. No joke. (I found my favorites on National Geographic.)