Monday, June 30, 2008
Albino animals are animals that have no pigment in their bodies. Their fur and skin appear white (or pink) and their eyes are bright red because without pigment you can see the blood vessels. This book by Kelly Milner Halls gives an interesting introduction to all kinds of albino animals.
Did you know that plants can be albino? (They don't survive past seedlings because they lack chlorophyll and can't make food.) Did you know that there have been albino penguins, buffaloes, bats, cats, dogs, and locusts? Find all of these animals and more in this photo-rich book.
Halls begins with a description of albinism and how it occurs genetically. It's very rare and albino animals often can't survive in the wild. Small animals are obvious to predators and even large animals are susceptible to the sun's rays. Without pigment their skin and eyes are sensitive to UV rays.
Photos accompany information about each of the albino animals presented in this book. Since they are so rare, most of the information is presented as case studies. Side boxes provide additional facts and answers about the animals. Halls has obviously done her research and she provides an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. It's no wonder that this book won a Benjamin Franklin Award in 2005.
This is a topic that will surely be of interest to kids and with the great photos and interesting facts, it practically booktalks itself.
Stiletto Storytime and Bibliotheque Air have more reviews and The Reading Zone listed Albino Animals as a hot book in her classroom this year.
Happy Nonfiction Monday, everybody! Anastasia's got the roundup.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
(Thanks for Fuse #8 for the link.)
Speaking of Betsy, she reminds us that we're halfway through the year and has posted her list of Newbery and Caldecott likelies (so far). Got any you want to add? Head on over to her blog and add to the comments.
Walter over at The Monkey Speaks points us to two articles at Reading Rockets that give tips to get dads involved with their children's developing literacy skills.
You'll definitely want to head over to the Class of 2k8 and check out their Book Reviewer Hot Seat. They're interviewing the big names in kidlit blogging reviewers. They're all interesting and contain great tips whether you're a blogging reviewer yourself or an author interested in submitting a book for review. I know it's short notice, but head on over there and comment on the interviews by June 29 and you can be entered to win some great books by 2k8 members!
Upon reading the book Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little, I realized that I had not actually read Stuart Little. Of course, I set out to rectify that situation.
When Mr. and Mrs. Little's second child turned out to be a mouse, they were certainly surprised, but they set about providing for him just as they would have if he were human. Mr. Little made him a tiny bed out of a cigarette box and four clothespins. Mrs. Little made him some smart mouse-sized clothes. And life went on. Stuart turned out to be a smart, kind, hard-working mouse who liked to sail boats and fell in love with a bird named Margalo.
Coming to it as an adult, I found the whole story to be a bit weird and definitely bittersweet.
First of all, there's the fact that no one is upset or perturbed that Stuart is a mouse. Everyone - the Littles, the doctor, shopkeepers, strangers in Central Park - just accepts that there is this talking mouse wearing clothes and going about his business. Of course, the family also talks with their cat Snowbell, so there's that.
Secondly, Stuart falls in love with a bird. When Margalo is scared off by threats from local cats, Stuart sets out to find her and along the way he is introduced to a tiny human who might be a perfect match for him. No one seems perturbed that there is a two-inch human in this little town. The girl doesn't seem to mind going on a date with a mouse. The whole thing is very weird.
Thirdly, there is an invisible car. I guess the thing is that this book feels so real, so down-to-earth, that when these little fantasy things come up it feels strange to me. Obviously, the whole book is fantasy. Mice don't talk or wear little suits or sail boats. But since Stuart is just accepted into a human world, it doesn't feel like the fantasy I'm used to reading.
The whole time I was reading, I couldn't stop thinking of Stuart as a symbol... Maybe for children who are sometimes too small for the world they are living in. Maybe for any number of under-resourced populations who go up against huge obstacles just to live their lives. Ultimately Stuart gets where he is going. But while he has lots of physical obstacles, he doesn't really meet anyone who tries to stop him. No one looks up and says "Hey, you're a mouse! You can't ride the bus!"
So, I dunno... Probably I am way overthinking it and I'm sure I wouldn't have thought about it that way if I was reading it as a nine-year-old.
Overall, I'm glad I read it. I found it to be a sweet story. I wanted it to go on and on and I was disappointed when it ended because I wanted to know more about Stuart's journey. And I haven't seen the movie of Stuart Little, but I can already tell you that the white CGI mouse was NOT AT ALL how I imagined Stuart Little.
By the way, E.B. White and I share the same birthday! (Not the year, obviously.)
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Book trailers work. At least, for me they work. Awhile back, Betsy posted the book trailer for Greetings from Nowhere over on A Fuse #8 Production. I didn't know anything about the book and I was immediately sucked in by the trailer. The music, the images... I wanted to read it.
Well. I read it. And I loved it.
Greetings from Nowhere is the story of four people. Aggie, Willow, Kirby, and Loretta are each missing something. Aggie is missing her husband Harold who has recently died and left the Sleepy Time Motel in her care. Without Harold, Aggie's not sure how she can take care of the place, even though she loves it so.
Enter Willow. Willow's mother has left the family and her parents are divorced. When Willow's dad Clyde sees a for-sale ad for the Sleepy Time Motel, he thinks he's found a way to start a completely new life. So he uproots Willow and takes her with him to buy a motel in the Smoky Mountains.
Enter Kirby and Loretta. Kirby and Loretta each come to stay at the Sleepy Time Motel for very different reasons. Kirby is on his way to a strict boarding school, a last-chance school since he caused so much trouble in his previous schools. He has anger bottled up inside of him because of a no-show father and an emotionally abusive mother and it makes him mean. Because no one's ever liked him, he sees no reason to be pleasant or to try and open up to people. They'll only disappoint him.
Loretta is pretty much the polar opposite of Kirby. She's upbeat, friendly, and talkative. She can see the silver lining to everything. She's at the Sleepy Time Motel because of a bracelet. Loretta was adopted as a baby and her birth mother has died. Loretta received a package with all her "other" mother's belongings, including a charm bracelet with charms from different places. Deciding to visit one of the places from the charm bracelet, Loretta's family ended up at the Smoky Mountains and Loretta begins searching for that nameless something she didn't know was missing in the first place.
All four of them come together at the Sleepy Time Motel and they'll all change each others' lives.
I found this book to be unspeakably sad, but also terrifically hopeful. Certain passages made me teary right from the beginning, like this one where Aggie has realized that she'll have to sell the motel:
"For Sale, she wrote, and felt a jab in her heart.
Sleepy Time Motel. Shawnee Gap, North Carolina.
Ten lovely rooms with mountain view. Swimming pool. Tomato garden.
For sale by owners, Harold and Agnes Duncan.
Then she felt a jab that nearly knocked her over. Her hand trembled so much she could hardly keep the pen on the paper as she scratched out Harold's name." (pg 8)
The book is totally focused on the characters and I loved each one of them. I only wish we could know more about the secondary characters, particularly Willow's dad and Kirby's mom who are both portrayed as kind of awful. I'd love to see the story from their points of view, too. I thought Ms. O'Connor did a great job of keeping each of their voices separate. Each chapter has an illustration of the mountains or motel with the character's name. I noticed that as the story moves along, Willow, Kirby, and Loretta all have the same picture throughout, but Aggie's changes. It's like she's such a part of this place, of the motel, of the mountains, that she embodies all of it. Every part of the setting is in her.
And the setting is another thing I loved about this book. I could see the mountains, the dried-up swimming pool, the weedy parking lot, the musty rooms, the tomato garden... it all really came alive for me.
I thought this book was excellent.
I poked around a bit and haven't come across much Newbery buzz, but I'd be happy to throw it out there for consideration. Becky gave it four stars, Karen read it out loud to her class (and posted about their reactions), Franki loved it, Megan loved it, and it's on the short list for the Anokaberry (so that's some Newbery buzz, at least!).
Monday, June 23, 2008
When John Henry was a little bitty baby
Sitting on his daddy's knee
Well, he picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel
He said this hammer's going to be the death of me
John Henry is an American hero. Legend has it that he raced a steam-powered drill tunneling through a mountain to carve out a path for train tracks. Legend has it that he beat the drill and then he laid down and died.
Research tells us that John Henry was a real person. But who was he? Where did he come from? How did he come to work laying down railroad track? Did he really beat a steam-powered drill? And did he really die right after?
Scott Reynolds Nelson didn't initially set out to find the answers to these questions. He was first interested in the African American men who laid railroad track in the South. Some 40,000 men whose names were lost though their contribution to the railroad system was great. And Nelson's story isn't just a historical report about Reconstruction South and the building of the railroad. His story is a scavenger hunt, a detective story about how he tracked down the real John Henry.
This book is chock full of photos, maps, and paintings depicting the railroad workers and John Henry. That was one of the first things I found really appealing. This book is a visual treat.
I found the subject matter pretty appealing. The true story of an American legend. I didn't know anything about John Henry and I had no idea that he was a real person. But even more than the facts about John Henry, I enjoyed reading about Nelson's tricky path to research. He met dead ends more than once and it took some creative thinking to keep moving forward. Of course, the more you find out about history, the more questions come to mind. This is a must-read for young historians. I'd also recommend it to anyone interested in trains, American tall tales, or African-American history.
Appendices give further information on John Henry's origins, tips for budding historians, suggestions for further research, and an author's note about his sources.
Happy Nonfiction Monday! Be sure and check out the roundup over at Picture Book of the Day!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
It's the day before the first day of fourth grade for Moxy Maxwell and Moxy has a problem. She's had all summer to read Stuart Little, but she somehow never found time to read it. It's not that she doesn't like to read. She does. She just doesn't like reading what other people tell her she has to read.
Here are some of the things Moxy finds more appealing than reading Stuart Little:
- Cleaning her room
- Planting a peach orchard
- Training her dog Mudd
- Inventing a word for "more extreme than extremely extreme"
But Moxy must read Stuart Little or there will be consequences. Will she read it? Or can she find another way to wiggle out of doing it?
I think one of the neatest things about this book are the illustrations. The book is illustrated with photographs, purportedly taken by Moxy's twin brother Mark to document her procrastination. I can't think of another fiction chapter book I've read with photo illustrations, so that certainly makes this book stand out.
Another thing I liked about the book is that it has extremely short chapters. There are 42 chapters in this 92-page book. The interesting illustrations and short chapters make it a perfect choice for reluctant readers, although I think this book will appeal to voracious readers as well. Fans of Clementine, Junie B., and Ramona are sure to giggle along as Moxy thinks up her next scheme to get out of reading Stuart Little. And kids will identify with not wanting to read a book just because someone says they have to.
I have to admit that I found myself getting stressed out as I read because I just wanted to march Moxy up to her room and force her to READ THE BOOK! I can identify much more with Moxy's brother Mark who read the book on the first day of summer and got it out of the way. So, as you can see, I was totally caught up in this book. It's a great choice for summer reading or for back to school.
Incidentally, there is a sequel coming out in August: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes. I am thoroughly looking forward to that one. You can find more reviews at Book Nut, Miss Erin, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and Deliciously Clean Reads. Also, don't forget that it was nominated for a 2007 Cybil Award.
Incidentally, after reading this book I realized that I had somehow missed reading Stuart Little as a child. Of course, I immediately rectified that situation. Look for my thoughts on the mouse later this week.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Also, I almost hate to tell you think since it lessens MY chances of winning, but A Patchwork of Books and Jen Robinson's Book Page are BOTH giving away copies of The Adoration of Jenna Fox. To be entered in their drawings, just head over to their blogs and leave a comment on the giveaway posts.
What are you doing on June 28th? If you've got nothing planned, think about taking part in the 24-Hour Read-a-thon hosted by The Hidden Side of a Leaf. This year readers have the option of reading to benefit Reading is Fundamental by collecting pledges. It sounds like a great time! Alas, I will be out of town and I think I'm still worn out from MotherReader's 48-Hour Book Challenge.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Scarlett Martin is pretty sure it's going to be a totally boring summer. All her best friends have left New York to do fun things because their families have lots of money. Scarlett is stuck in NYC working at her family's run-down hotel. But things start looking a little more interesting when a wealthy, eccentric actress moves into the hotel for the summer. And then Scarlett meets Eric, a hunky actor who's friends with her brother. Maybe this summer won't be so boring after all...
I first fell in love with Scarlett and her family. Spencer, Lola, Scarlett, and Marlene. They each have a really separate personality and they each seemed so real to me. I'm not a huge fan of the wacky family in books, but the Martins are quirky without being TOO quirky. The parents are around in the background, adding just enough supervision to make things seem real. I would love to step into this book and be a part of the Martin family. Likewise, I cared about each of the characters and I wish I could spend more time with them and get to know them more. (And I will get to do just that, apparently, because it appears that there is a sequel in the works... hooray!)
Secondly, I fell in love with the NYC setting of this novel. Maureen Johnson's descriptions are great and I felt like I was there, baking in the heat of a New York summer.
Great characters, a great setting, and a summer caper to rival all other summer capers. What else could you ask for to kick off your summer reading?
More reviews at bookshelves of doom, Miss Erin, and Little Willow (and Lisa's got some thoughts on the cover). And, of course, you'll want to check out Maureen Johnson's blog.
Monday, June 16, 2008
What to do, what to do...! A group of school children just came in, all clamoring for the Guinness Book of World Records, any Guinness Book will do, but they're all checked out! Stop. Take a deep breath. And hand them Do Not Open.
Purported to be "an encyclopedia of the world's best kept secrets", this book is that and more. It covers everything from Airforce One to how to "decode" a bar code, to the Kremlin, to theories comparing Abraham Lincoln's assassination with JKF's assassination.
It is visually appealing? Boy howdy, it is! Each topic is generally covered on a two-page spread (for some of which you have to turn the book around and look at it vertically). These spreads are chock-full of photos, cartoons, maps, and more. There are lift-the-flaps, pages that fold out to create giant spreads, even Magic Eye pictures.
Do Not Open also employs a sort of website-y, choose-your-own-adventure-y linking style. At the beginning of the book it tells you that you can either just read straight through or check the bottom right of the pages and it'll give you some other pages to turn to that present similar info. For example, on the spread that presents Cheyenne Mountain, it says "Want to check out some more amazing complexes? Look at Kremlin on pp. 66-67, Vatican on pp. 88-89, and Forbidden City on pp. 204-205." It's an interesting way to link entries in the book, although it didn't really work for me. My problem was I'd read an interesting section, but instead of wanting more info on spies or presidents, I'd want more info about aliens and those pages weren't "linked". Maybe kids will find it more useful. As for myself, I browsed straight through and that was fine for me.
Although there's a pretty lengthy "Acknowledgments" page, exact sources aren't noted. It's understandable. With so many entries about so many different things, the source list might be as long as the book itself. The format and conversational tone make this book a great choice for browsing and recreational reading.
However, be warned that you might come across some information you could have lived without, such as this passage in the entry on dirt: "Human skin flakes make up 80 percent of the dust in beds and carpets. House dust mites feed on these skin flakes. Up to 10 million dust mites share your bed each night. The average house dust mite poops 20 times a day. About 10 percent of the weight of a two-year-old mattress is dead dust mites and their feces. Sleep tight!"
Read more reviews over at The Well-Read Child, The Imperfect Parent, Breeni Books, BoingBoing, and Bookgasm.
It's Nonfiction Monday! Check out the roundup at Picture Book of the Day!
Friday, June 13, 2008
Jamie is a goal-oriented high school senior. She writes for the school paper. She's in the school play. She has a couple of caring, passionate best friends. She has a loving boyfriend. She wants to go to Northwestern. Oh, yeah. And Jamie's fat.
Determined to win a journalism scholarship, Jamie starts writing a new column for the school paper: Fat Girl. She wants to educate the community about what it's like living in a world that doesn't fit you, in a country that is so sensitive about racial discrimination but constantly discriminates based on size. And Jamie's column gets more attention than she ever thought it would. Part of that is Jamie's in-your-face attitude. She's talking about things that no one talks about. She's not apologizing for anything. And she's forcing the school and the town to listen to the Fat Girl talk.
When Jamie's boyfriend Burke decides to have bariatric surgery, Jamie's life is turned upside down. She thought he was happy with the way he was and can't believe he'd undergo such a risky procedure, but as the girlfriend she has no choice but to stand by him. She worries about the risks of the surgery. She worries about the side-effects. And yes, she worries that when he's a different size she may no longer fit into his life.
I found Jamie's voice to be utterly compelling and I thought her dealing with her boyfriend's new body was a really interesting conflict. Jamie's raw and in-your-face and sometimes she doesn't always think things through, but that felt so real to me. Jamie really came to life. I think the highest compliment I can pay is that I wish I could read more of her story. I want to know what happens next. I am not a sequel/series person. Me asking for a sequel says a lot.
One red flag I should mention is graphic descriptions of the bariatric surgery and its least desirable side effects. I found it pretty fascinating, but I'm into all that medical blood and guts stuff. I can't say with authority, but it seems like Susan Vaught has really done her research.
Read more reviews at Curled Up With a Good Kid's Book, Oops...Wrong Cookie, and Estella's Revenge.
Susan Vaught also wrote Trigger, a book that's been on my TBR list for much too long (and is now definitely getting bumped up).
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Now, I'll admit that when we've been explaining the prizes to the kids and we mention the bookplate, it's been mostly parents who have ooohed and aaaahed. I wasn't sure what to expect when the kids started finishing and collecting their prizes. Well, we've had a couple of finishers already (and only 8 days in!) and it seems to be a big hit.
The kids have taken great care to pick out one of their favorite books. We have a template for the book plates and we print them out at the reference desk. We put the book plates in the books and the kids have all been eager to check out "their" book.
Now, it's possible that there may be some obstacles in the future. We all know that library books do not last forever, especially when they're the more popular books. I have no idea if the kids will remember and treasure these books or if they'll move on with their lives and forget they even did it. I don't know what we're going to tell them if one day their book gets weeded and they come in looking for it. Maybe something along the lines of "The book you picked was so fantastic that tons of people read it and wore it out! Maybe next summer you can pick another book!"
But for now, it's been a really positive experience for them and for us. It's been inexpensive for us (the only cost has been labels and printing costs) and it's an immaterial way to reward the kids for reading. Plus, it emphasizes the fact that the library books don't belong to the librarians... they belong to everyone!
Oh, and hitting the gong has been a bit hit, too. I've yet to hear anyone hit it super hard, and all the librarians look up when they hear it but I don't think many of the other patrons have noticed. But the kids are definitely all smiles when they get to take a whack at the gong!
Monday, June 9, 2008
The first is the Meme of Five, for which I was tagged by the lovely Sarah Miller (like, forever ago... I didn't forget! I've been saving it for the perfect time!).
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read the player's blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.
What were you doing five years ago?
Five years ago was the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I was working at Barnes & Noble, staying up until the wee hours of the night, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the Rest of My Life. (I didn't figure it out then and being a librarian hadn't ever even occurred to me...)
What are five things on your to-do list for today?
Since today's almost over, I'll give you tomorrow's to-do list:
1. Give my cat his medicine
2. Read one of the non-fiction books I checked out today
3. Work on a couple of school loan bags
4. Check on some graphics stuff with our graphic artist
5. Sign lots of kids up for the Summer Reading Club
What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. Carrots & hummus (er... hummus and pretty much anything)
4. Any kind of cookie from Trader Joe's
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Pay off my student loans and the loans/mortgages/bills of all my family and friends.
2. Travel. A lot. With friends.
3. Buy a house. Maybe several houses in different cities.
4. Give money to Alzheimer's research.
5. Give money to some literacy-related charity.
What are five of your bad habits?
1. Letting the dishes pile up (and I have a dishwasher, so no excuse!)
2. Over-thinking things
3. Forgetting to be positive and open-minded
4. Buying books and not reading them
5. Going too long without getting my oil changed
What are five places you've lived?
1. Louisville, KY (born and raised!)
2. Bloomington, IN (college and grad school)
3. Palatine, IL
4. And that's all.
5. (So far!)
What are five jobs you've had?
1. Bookseller at Barnes & Noble
2. Student intern at a psychology lab
3. Library assistant at a disability library
4. Library assistant in library adult services department
5. Children's librarian
Thanks for tagging me, Sarah! I know it's dorky, but it still makes me feel special. :)
And Mindy just tagged me for the Favorite Authors Meme:
Link to the person that tagged you, post the rules somewhere in your blog, answer the questions, and tag people in your post. Don’t forget to let the tagees know they were tagged, so leave a comment on their blog! And remember to let your tagger know that your entry is posted.
1. Who’s your favorite all-time author, and why?
I swear I'm not copying Mindy, but I have to say John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath was the first adult book that really resonated with me. Whenever I think about his books, it feels like coming home to a friend.
2.Who was your first favorite author, and why?
I suppose my first favorite author was Beverly Cleary. I loved all the Ramona books as well as Otis Spofford, Ellen Tebbits, Mitch & Amy, and Emily's Runaway Imagination.
3. Who’s the most recent edition to your list of favorite authors, and why?
Sarah Addison Allen because I loved Garden Spells so very much and I can't wait to dig into her newest...!
4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, what would pop out of your mouth?
Sarah Dessen, Andrew Clements, Michael Crichton, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, John Green, Michelle Paver, Shannon Hale
Sunday, June 8, 2008
But first, the stats:
My total reading and blogging time was 26 hours and 15 minutes.
I finished the following books:
Model Spy by Shannon Greenland (206 pages)
Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic (200 pages)
Rumors by Anna Godbersen (423 pages)
Heart and Salsa by Suzanne Nelson (214 pages)
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (279 pages)
Schooled by Gordon Korman (208 pages)
The Fold by An Na (280 pages)
Now and Zen by Linda Gerber (214 pages)
I also read parts of a couple of books:
Prey by Michael Crichton - I had read about half the book before the challenge started and during the challenge I read 278 pages (I'm counting it as .5 books).
I read a little bit of Pure Dead Magic by Deb Gliori, but decided that it wasn't really my cup of tea. And I read a little of Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp, but I wasn't going to be able to finish it in the time allotted, so I switched books. Since I didn't review either of these, I won't count them in my final book/page count.
Total books read: 8.5
Final page count: 2302 pages
What I learned:
I had a strategy originally. I had checked out a bunch of short books (200 pages or less) theorizing that it would be easier to read a bunch of short books than to get mired up in longer books. For me, that strategy didn't work so well. It was way easier for me to read books I had really been looking forward to and was really interested in, even if they were longer books. When I was getting through the shorter books, I kept checking to see what page I was on and they were dragging on and on... When I picked up the books I was really interested in (like Prey, The Sea of Monsters, and The Fold), they flew by because the stories were so interesting that I would forget to check the page numbers.
So, if I do this challenge again (and I would like to!), I'll remember to pick books I really want to read.
Also, I had originally set a goal of 10 books and/or 2500 pages. I didn't meet either of those goals (though I was close!), but once I threw that goal out the window, my new goal was to read for at least 20 hours. I think that was a much better goal because it took the pressure off. As long as I read for that amount of time, it didn't matter how many pages I read. (And c'mon... with last year's winner reading 20 books, there was no freakin' way I was going to win!)
Which brings me to the next thing... Checking other people's blogs during the challenge can be a fun way to get some inspiration, but it can also backfire. Like when you see that someone read Rumors in 2.5 hours and it's taking you way longer and then you start thinking that you need to be reading faster and you're never going to keep up with everyone else and... etc. etc. So... while I think it's great to check up on everyone's progress and especially to leave encouraging comments (which I will do more of next time, promise!), don't let yourself get discouraged because that's not the point!
So. Yes. My 48 hours has now officially come to a close. I had a blast (especially once I decided to make it FUN and not STRESSFUL) and I hope to get to do it again next year. (I think I will need a year to recover, probably...)
Hats off to Mother Reader who thought the whole thing up and organized everything and is generally awesome!
And now I am off to not-read for awhile. Congrats to everyone who's made it through and a big YOU CAN DO IT! to anyone who's still going!
Nori Tanaka is getting away from her feuding parents and going to Japan on an exchange program. She didn't particularly want to go to Japan, she just wanted to go SOMEWHERE to get away from her parents. Now that she's in Japan, she wants nothing more than to forget about their impending divorce. And once she spies the uber hottie Erik from Germany, she thinks she's got the perfect distraction.
There's just one problem with being in Japan. Because she's Japanese-American, the foreigners all assume she's local. And the locals all know she's foreign. When Erik mistakes her for a Japanese girl, she doesn't correct him right away because she wants him to like her. And the longer the deception goes on, the harder it is to 'fess up. The worst part is that Nori is taking advantage of her new Japanese friend Atsushi. How did Nori ever get into this mess? And can she come clean with everyone and fix her mistakes before it's time to head home?
I found this book in the Students Across the Seven Seas series to be a bit harder to get into than Heart and Salsa, mainly because Nori wasn't a very likable character at the beginning of the book. True, she was dealing with a lot of confusion and anger about her parents, but she was rude to everyone and got caught up in a bunch of lies. By the end of the trip, though, Nori had figured some things out and was more prepared to deal with her parents and life in general. Like Heart and Salsa, I found the descriptions of the surroundings to be one of the most appealing elements of the book. A light read for those who love travel.
And this was my last book for the 48 Hour Book Challenge! In mere moments, I'll post a wrap-up with final tallies.
The Fold by An Na. (Grades 7+)
Joyce Park has always been overshadowed by her beautiful, smart older sister Helen, but this is the summer that's going to change. Joyce has a plan. First, she's going to get her crush John Ford Kang to sign her yearbook. She'll be effortlessly gorgeous and witty and sign something intriguing in his. Then she'll spend the whole summer improving herself. She'll wash her face every day and figure out some way to slim down her fat knees. When they come back for their senior year, John will remember her and fall instantly in love.
But things don't go the way Joyce plans. In fact, her plan fails miserably. And then something extraordinary happens. Joyce's aunt wins the lottery and buys gifts for all her family members. Joyce's gift is that her aunt will pay for her to get plastic surgery on her eyes to create the double folded eyelids, the "good eyes". Joyce had never considered the surgery before, but she finds herself drawn to it. Could it make her beautiful? Could it help her get John Ford Kang's attention? Could she finally feel confident about herself?
I liked this story, although I think I liked some of the secondary characters more than the main character Joyce. Joyce really seemed to only care about how she looked and whether she could get John to notice her. She didn't really seem to have much else going on. I found Joyce's sister Helen, so distant and depressed since her best friend moved away, and Joyce's friend Gina, determined to get into an ivy league school even though her family has no way to pay for it, much more intriguing. That said, it was still an interesting book and kept me turning the pages. And it made me keep looking in the mirror at my own eyelids.
Time Reading/Blogging: 23 hours
And I think I have time for one more book before my 48 hours is up at 7pm, so I'm back to reading...! See you in a couple of hours!
Capricorn Anderson is in for the biggest change of his life. When his grandmother Rain breaks her hip, Cap is sent to live with a social worker and attend public school for the first time in his 13 years. Cap was born and raised on a commune that used to house many families. One by one those families drifted away until it was just him and Rain. Cap's been indoctrinated to believe that money is the root of all evil, he's never witnessed any violence, he's never seen a TV or a cell phone or a CD.
Zach Powers is reveling in the fact that he's finally achieved his goal - he's become the most popular kid in the eighth grade. And as the eight-grade ringmaster, it's his duty to select the next student body president. It's a long-standing tradition to pick the geekiest, most loser-ish student at Claverage Middle School and get them elected president so they can make fun of them all year. The front runner had been the dorky Hugh Winkleman, but when Capricorn Anderson shows up, Zach knows he's got his man.
This is the first Gordon Korman title that I've read and I thought it was very Andrew Clements-ish with some Stargirl thrown in. The story is told from multiple points of view, so we can see Cap's reaction to the outside world, Hugh's thoughts on suddenly not being the biggest loser in school, etc. Short chapters and an interesting premise will appeal to reluctant readers, both boys and girls.
Reading/Blogging Time: About 21 hours
In this sequel to The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson is back and facing new problems. Something's wrong at Camp Half-Blood. The tree that protects the camp from monsters is ill, poisoned by someone or something. Chiron is suspected and he's been fired from his job at the camp. Monsters are attacking the camp more and more frequently as the tree sickens further. Percy's got to find a way to heal the tree or Camp Half-Blood will cease to exist. Add to that the frightening dreams he's been having about Grover. He knows Grover is in trouble, but the new camp leader refuses to let him go on a quest.
This second, action-packed installment in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series was just as good as the first. Riordan combines humor and adventure to make a page-turned that I couldn't put down. I'm not a big series person, but I will definitely be checking out the rest of these books! Highly recommended for fantasy fans, Greek mythology buffs, and anyone who wants a rip-roaring good story.
Time Reading/Blogging: 19.25 hours
Books Read: 5.5
Prey by Michael Crichton.
The work on nanotechnology started innocently enough. But something's gone terribly wrong. A group of scientists have unwittingly created a monster. Microscopic robots that are programmed to hunt and can somehow evolve. When Jack gets a call from his wife's company, he has no idea what's going on. They need him to come and fix some bugs with the code he developed. The code that was used to create these robots. What Jack finds in the desert is more terrifying than he could have ever imagined. And there may be no way to stop it.
Michael Crichton certainly knows how to build suspense. Right from the very beginning this book was compelling and the twists and turns kept it really interesting. Also, it was pretty darn scary. If you're looking for a well-researched thriller, pick this one up. I really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down.
I read half of it before the 48HBC started, so I'm only counting the half that I read tonight.
Time Reading/Blogging: 15.5 hours
Books read: 4.5
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I'm taking a break for dinner and going to see the Sex and the City movie with a friend (and probably get ice cream!). I got part of the way through Pure Dead Magic and I'm not sure it's my cup of tea. Maybe I'll continue it when I get home or maybe I won't...
ANYhoo. So far I've spent 13 hours reading & blogging. I've finished 4 books and read 1117 pages. I've been checking some other 48HBC-ers' blogs and it looks like everyone is doing an awesome job! I thought I was a pretty fast reader, but I am in awe of some of you! Keep up the great work!!
Cat just moved to Boston and she hates it. Due to her mom's recent remarriage to the geekiest history professor in the world, Cat's had to pick up and leave all her friends in Arizona. She is not happy about it and, in fact, she's determined not to give Boston a chance. She'll get through her junior and senior years and then head right back to Arizona for college. And luckily, Cat's come up with a plan to escape Boston for the summer, too! Her best friend Sabrina told her about the Students Across the Seven Seas study abroad program. So Cat's going down to Mexico to spend her summer with Sabrina, catching up on girl bonding, perfecting her Spanish, and helping with a community service project.
What Cat did NOT expect was that Sabrina would have a boyfriend who also came to Mexico. Sabrina's blowing her off to hang out with her boy toy. Cat's new roommate Izzie (daughter of her host family) has taken an immediate dislike to her and calls her an American princess. Mexico's not what Cat thought it would be at all...
I've been wanting to try one of the SASS books and I really enjoyed it! It's a little formulaic, but there are a lot of details about the places they go in Mexico. There's a host of likeable characters (none of which are particularly deep except for maybe Cat), some comic relief, and a predictable romance thrown in. I'll definitely be reading more in this series. It's perfect escapism reading.
Time reading: 11.25 hours
The Hollands, Hayeses, and Schoonmakers are back in this sequel to The Luxe. Again, the story is told through the eyes of many characters, allowing us a complete picture of socialite life in 1899 New York City. Rumors begins with the wedding of Mr. Henry Schoonmaker... but the identity of his bride is not revealed until much later in the book. Rumors start to fly as people suspect that Miss Elizabeth Holland might still be alive and the appearance of a new young face, Miss Carolina Broad, is intriguing to some.
If you liked The Luxe, you'll like this sequel. It ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and I know from the jacket flap that Anna Godbersen is working on a third Luxe book.
Reading/Blogging Time (so far): 9 hours
Books Read: 3
In 1991 Zlata was living a normal life. She went to school, she had friends over for a birthday party, she watched MTV and sitcoms.
When war broke out in Sarajevo, Zlata's life changed forever. Suddenly she was thrust into a world where bombs pummeled her city every day. Innocent people were shot by snipers, so it was unsafe to leave the house. Schools were closed. Electricity, gas, and water only came on intermittently. Zlata and her family had done nothing wrong. They were like thousands of other Bosnians, caught in the crossfires of a war, trying their hardest just to survive.
One thing that really hit home for me is that Zlata is just about my age. On the very day that I was throwing my 10th birthday party, Zlata was carrying water from wells because they had no running water. She was receiving packages from the UN with "luxuries" like soap and cheese.
Zlata's descriptions are amazing. She writes about when springtime comes, but you can't tell because they've cut down all the trees. There are no trees to blossom, no birds to burst into song. This is a sobering book and an inspiring one.
Not appropriate for kids, but adult readers might also be interested in the graphic novel Fax from Sarajevo by Joe Kubert, which gives another perspective of the war.
Time reading/blogging: About 6 hours
Books: 2 (and part of a third)
Pages: 406 (and about 120 from another book which hopefully will be the next one finished/reviewed)
Friday, June 6, 2008
Kelly is a certified computer genius. At age 16 she's about to graduate from college. And that's when she's contacted by The Specialists. The Specialists is a group of teenages with extraordinary abilities. They want Kelly to join their ranks. At first Kelly has her doubts, but as she gets to know the other kids she realizes that they really are the family she's never had. So Kelly becomes GiGi (short for Genius Girl) and before she knows it, she's off on her first mission. But how will klutzy, nervous Kelly ever pull off posing as the fabulous model Jade January?
This is a great summer vacation book, light and fluffy with enough action to keep your interest. I have to say that while I liked the character of GiGi/Kelly, she wasn't nearly fleshed out enough for me. I found all the characters to be pretty two-dimensional, but the premise was enough to hold my attention, especially after they start the mission. It read like an episode of Alias.
Hand this one to fans of I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You who need a book for a plane ride this summer.
Time Reading: 2.5 hours
Books Finished: 1
Alrighty. This is my official kicking-off-the-48HBC post! I've been looking forward to this for weeks and I'm ready to give it all I have! I have nothing else planned for the weekend except an outing to see the Sex and the City movie with a friend on Saturday evening.
I don't have a booklist, but I've been checking tons of books out of various libraries, so I've got plenty to choose from:
There are a few that I definitely want to finish this weekend. Model Spy by Shannon Greenland, Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori, one of the Students Across the Seven Seas books (I've always wanted to try that series... here's my chance!). My goal for the weekend is at least 10 books and at least 2500 pages. So... we'll see what happens!
Be sure and check back here periodically over the next 48 hours. I'm not planning on writing full reviews of all the titles, but there will be short reviews of each title I finish.
Good luck to all the challenge partakers! And without further ado, I will get started...!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The evening started off with 15 minutes of silent reading in the school's gym. Families were asked to bring books, and books were provided for those who forgot. I think this is a simple activity that says a lot. It's important for kids to view reading as a pleasurable activity. Kids look up to their parents and caregivers and if they see grownups who love to read, they'll want to join in the fun.
After this introductory activity, families were broken down into three groups - preschoolers & kindergarteners, 1st/2nd graders, and 3rd-6th graders. There were two craft activities run by school staff members and my coworker and I were set up in a classroom to do our thing. Each group rotated through the stations, spending approximately 20 minutes at each station.
For the preschool/kindergarten crowd we did a storytime. We read some of our very favorite books:
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman
Who is Driving? by Leo Timmers (a very interactive book that encourages lots of guessing)
One thing I love about doing outreach like this is that we can pick stories that we love and want to read over and over again. Leonardo is a particular favorite of mine. I've yet to meet a crowd of kids who don't love this book and I think it's a really fun one to read. Plus, it's a bit oversized which makes it great for sharing with a group.
For the 1st/2nd graders we read a few picture books and briefly booktalked a few books. We read Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks, How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz (one of my favorites), and Sausages by Jessica Souhami. Then we had a few minutes left before we switched, so I booktalked Medusa Jones by Ross Collins and J booktalked Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop.
Again, How Much is a Million? is a particular favorite of mine. We have it in a big book format and I think kids and parents alike were dazzled by it. I love any opportunity to share some nonfiction in a storytime and this book definitely fits the bill.
For the 3rd-6th graders we just did booktalks. J did How Big is It? by Ben Hillman and No Talking by Andrew Clements. I did Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver and Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns. We would have been happy to go on all night and we had brought tons of books to talk about, but we ran out of time. The kids had a few minutes to look through the books we'd brought and then they were off to their last activity of the night.
The last activity brought all the families together in the gym for the principal to end the night with some readalouds. Families brought blankets and cuddled up in the darkened gym and the pictures were projected onto a big screen as the principal read. She may have read more before we got there, but we caught the end of The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It was a great way to end a great night!
I'm thrilled that this school is showing everyone how much they value literacy. The school really put a lot of effort into making this a great night and I think everyone had a great time. Our library had a table near the entrance where people could sign up for the summer reading club and many did so. It was great seeing all those smiling faces and sharing our love of books. I hope to see much more of those smiling faces at the library this summer!
In fact, I did see one of those smiling faces later that evening at the library... He stopped in to get Medusa Jones after hearing my booktalk. If there's a better feeling than that for a librarian, I'm sure I don't know what it is. :)
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
8:30a - Help with Summer Reading Club prep. Organize folders and materials for the SRC table, go over the SRC procedures, etc.
9:00a - Off desk. Check email. Pull books for Family Reading Night (books for storytime and booktalking to groups ranging from preschool to 6th grade).
9:40a - Run downstairs to circulation to get a brief tutorial on how to sign people up for library cards. Bring library card sign-up materials up to the Young People's office.
9:50a - Back upstairs. Continue pulling materials. Check in with the people on desk - they've signed up 11 kids for the SRC!
10:30a - Print a huge stack of weeding slips and settle down with a stack of book-and-tape kits to do some weeding.
12:00p - Check in with desk people - we've signed up 23 kids!
12:05p - Clean toys for tomorrow's Nursery Rhyme Time program. Go over the NRT materials. Sit backup on desk as coworker signs up some kids at the SRC table. Check PUBYAC emails.
1:00p - We're up to 30 kids and now it's lunch time! I eat outside while reading Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson. It's kind of too hot to eat outside.
2:00-5:00p - On desk. I work on planning stuff for the Family Reading Night and I work on a preschool loan. In between signing up kids for the SRC, I help a lady find The Three Little Javelinas and I recommend books to a different lady who has a going-into-kindergartener and is looking for some new books for him. By the time I leave at 5 we have 53 kids signed up!
5:00p - Coworker who's going to Family Reading Night arrives and we go over the plans a little bit.
5:20p - Leave work and head home. Whew!
(I checked Tuesday morning and we had 103 kids sign up on the first day of the SRC... and the public school kids aren't even out of school yet!)
And so the Summer Reading Club starts! It's a crazy time, but a great time!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Instead of putting up a shape, anyone who signs up for our Summer Reading Club may choose a shape and decorate it however they like. Many have written their names in their frame, some have drawn pictures, some have colored in the entire frame. The kids are having a great time being creative and it looks great. It's so colorful and it's going to keep looking better and better as more kids sign up!
We're also trying out a couple of non-prize incentives, one of which is our gong. Yes, that's right. We have a gong. Actually, we have two gongs, both brought in by staff members. Whenever a kid completes the Summer Reading Club, they get the chance to hit the gong. We brought it with us on our visits to the schools and preschools and the kids seemed pretty wowed by it. They can hit it one time, as loud or as soft as they would like, and that way the whole library (and possibly the whole town depending on how hard they hit it...) will know what an awesome job they did finishing the Summer Reading Club. Nobody's finished quite yet, so I can't tell you for sure that it's awesome, but I'm betting it will be. I'll report back later in the summer when, hopefully, the library will be ringing with GONNNGGG after GONNNGGG.
Little things can make a big splash and hopefully that will be the case this summer!
Torak has a secret. It's a terrible secret. A secret that he's kept even from his best friend Renn of the Raven Clan. It's a secret that could get him banned from the clan. And the worst part is that it's not Torak's fault. In fact, he'd do anything to get rid of it.
Torak's been branded with the mark of the Soul Eaters. It happened to him against his will, done by the evil Viper Mage Seshru. When the leader of the Raven Clan finds out, he is obligated to follow clan law and Torak is cast out. Now Torak is dead to the clan members. He has one day to get as far away as possible because any person who spots him must try to kill him.
And still the Viper Mage runs free.
Torak's wanderings take him to the lake where the Otter Clan resides and he can tell there is some serious evil going on. The lake is sick, the people protecting themselves any way possible. And Torak is soul-sick, feverish and confused. He knows he has to find and defeat Seshru. But how can he do it alone? And how can he accept help knowing it's against clan law, that his best friends might become outcasts for helping him?
This is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series and, like the others, it is packed with non-stop action. You'll definitely want to read the first three because this book picks up right where the third leaves off. I actually wish I had gone back and reread the first three before I picked this one up because I was a tiny bit hazy on the details from the previous books.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not a series person. However, I find the world of Torak and Wolf and Renn to be so absorbing and detailed that it's hard to put it down. One of the first things I noticed is that Michelle Paver continues with her very detailed, lush descriptions of the forest and all the wildlife. Her descriptions really make this ancient forest come to life. I felt like I was running right alongside Torak the whole time whether he was hunting, running with Wolf, or getting a shelter together. This book is obviously meticulously researched just as her others have been.
We get several different perspectives throughout the book - Torak, Renn, and Wolf. I've always loved Wolf's sections because I find them absolutely believable. Though he's a wolf, he's a real character in this series. He feels emotions and reasons things out, but he doesn't do it like a human would. His voice has always felt very real to me. We're also getting some pretty heavy emotional content from Torak and Renn. They're starting to grow up and there are hints of the strengthening bond between them. Throughout the course of the book each one feels betrayed by the other, complicating their feelings for one another.
I thought Outcast was a great addition to the series and I'm already looking forward to whatever Michelle Paver will add next! Y'all know that the first book in the series is Wolf Brother, which is nominated for a Caudill this year. I've met some kids this year who are very into these books and I'm hoping that the book being nominated will encourage other kids to pick it up and discover this awesome series.
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Series:
1. Wolf Brother
2. Spirit Walker
3. Soul Eater
Monday, June 2, 2008
**Happy Nonfiction Monday! Be sure and check out the roundup over at Picture Book of the Day!**
When you head the word "mummy", what do you think of? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is Ancient Egypt. But did you know that the oldest mummies found were in South America, not Egypt? In Kelly Milner Halls's informative (and kind of creepy) book, I learned about mummies from all over the globe.
Some people were mummified "accidentally" on cold mountains or arid deserts that dried out the bodies. Some people were mummified on purpose and different cultures had different processes for mummifying bodies. Halls concentrates on child mummies and these children died in many different ways. Some ancient Incan children were sacrificed to the gods. Some children may have been killed because of their physical disabilities and some children died of diseases.
The book is divided by location and describes mummies found in South America, Egypt, Europe, Asia, and North America. Each mummy has its own story and Halls describes how it was discovered, the scientific process of preserving and studying it, and what scientists have learned from the mummies. Each mummy found gives us a glimpse into ancient life (or, as in at least once case, American life in the Civil War...). Color photos accompany each mummy.
Halls includes an extensive bibliography of books, articles, websites, interviews, and more. She also includes a glossary, list for further reading, and a list of US museums that house mummies. This would be a great book for kids doing projects on mummies (especially non-Egyptian mummies) and it's high-interest enough to be recreational reading for those that favor books that are a little gross.
Although it creeped me out more than a little, I enjoyed this title (and I suspect kids will enjoy it, too). I'll definitely be checking out more of Kelly Milner Halls's work.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
My library's Summer Reading Club starts tomorrow. It's a day we've been planning for since shortly after the end of last summer. We've been to eight elementary schools in our district, seven preschools, and one middle school talking to students about the club and about our programs this summer. We've designed clubs and folders for kids of all ages. Our adult services department has been busy developing the high school and adult clubs. We've all been planning, scheduling, and ordering supplies for our programs.
I think we're ready.
We'd better be ready. Because ready or not, June 2nd is coming...!
Look for updates on our programs and reading clubs as the summer progresses. There are several things I'm particularly looking forward to, including a High School Musical 2 singalong, a redesign-a-book-cover art contest, and a giant Lego train set that will be filling our entire meeting room for a weekend in July.
Happy Summer Reading, everyone!