Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Review: Fade to Blue

Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin. (Grades 9+)
Full disclosure: review copy provided by publisher.

Sophie Blue. Goth chick who dreams about a cute guy she could never get and has to sit in therapy sessions talking about her father who disappeared.

Kenny Fade. High school basketball star and popular guy with a girlfriend who can't keep her hands off him.

Sophie and Kenny. Two high schoolers who couldn't be more different... except for the fact that they're both pretty sure they're going insane.

Weird things keep happening, like insane ice cream trucks arriving out of nowhere and little voices telling them to "go to the lab" and the weird aching wounds on the inside of both their elbows. Something's going on... or is it all inside their heads?

Dude. This book was a trip. I was glad I took notes while I was reading because by the time I got to the end, everything had twisted around so many times that I couldn't even remember where it started. I opened it, intending just to start it, and found myself reading until I was done. My mind is still kind of blown. It was totally weird and confusing, but not in the bad way. In the good way that made me want to keep reading to figure it all out.

Nothing is as it appears. And by the end of the book, you may be questioning everything in your world, too.

Fade to Blue has a seriously creepy vibe and a lot of dark comedy. It really reminded me of The Matrix and maybe a little Stepford Wives. Short chapters, nonstop action and plot twists, and the inclusion of some different media (comic book, letters, newspaper articles) all up the teen appeal.

Wanna win a signed copy? You know you do. Donna's giving one away over at Bites (ends August 18). She's got a review, too.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The big bad library denies children books

PA Library Tells 7-Year-Old: You Can't Borrow Books reads the headline in SLJ. With a big picture of a wide-eyed child.

Okay, the situation stinks. A library in Pennsylvania erroneously issued a free library card to a family that lives outside its district. When the child's picture appeared in the paper, library staff realized that the family lives in a district that doesn't pay for the library. When the child's library card expires in January, they won't be able to renew it. Instead they'll have to go to a different library where their burrough does pay for library use.

Now, I don't know how all this was dealt with. The article mentions that the family is embarrassed, so I'm guessing that it could have been dealt with better. If library staff recognized the child in a photo, they must be heavy library users. I'm hopeful that the Memorial Library of Nazareth will examine the incident and figure out what they could have done differently to spare the feelings of this family.

But you know what? Libraries need money. You pay for your local public library through your property taxes. Maybe your county or city or state funds the library, also. If you live in an area that doesn't pay a tax for the library, you may have to pay to get a library card.

It would be wonderful if everything could be free and everyone could have a library card and get free books and magazines without paying a single cent. That is the dream, folks.

But someone's got to pay for the books, the salaries, the internet access, the databases, the newspapers, the electricity, the tiny pencils with no erasers (I hate those things)... et cetera.

Libraries need money. I'm not trying to make the argument that people who don't pay taxes don't deserve library use. I'm just saying that money doesn't grow on trees.

The situation stinks, but I don't know that the Memorial Library of Nazareth deserves to be made out as the Big Bad Evil Library Denying Children Access to Books Mwa Ha Ha!!!

ETA (12:58): Or, we could just lighten up and laugh about it. Colbert style. Thanks, Jill. I needed that. ;)

Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:30am - Arrive at library, turn on lights and computers, put my stuff away. (At my new library we have a fridge in our office, which is Really Nice.)

8:40a - Feed fish and frog. (We have an African water frog named Rocky and we have a fish tank with about 20 small fish.)

8:45a - Run a pull list (books that people have requested we hold for them) and find the holds. Take them over to Circ. As I search, I notice that the Parents' Shelf is seriously out of order.

8:55a - I'm technically on desk, but while we don't have any people I start shelf-reading the Parents' Shelf. The books on these shelves are books about childcare, homeschooling, etc.

9:00a-12:00p - On desk. In between checking in kids for the Summer Reading Club, I shelf-read for awhile. When it gets too busy I switch to sitting at the desk looking at the core collection of autism books I requested from the Center for Disability Information & Referral. Do you take advantage of your state's University Center for Excellence?

Here's a sampling of questions I'm asked at the desk:

When does the Summer Reading Club end?
July 31

Do you have Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?
Yes, but it's checked out. I put it on hold for the patron.

Are my kids signed up for the 1:00 or 2:30 session of this afternoon's program?

I'm calling from a company that wants to sell you something. Can you talk?

9:20a - Get a call from another librarian I work with and we chat for a little bit about some upcoming meetings.

10:15a - YMCA summer day camp arrives for their scheduled visit and A goes to do their storytime. They bring around 75 kids.

10:35a - It's slow on desk, so I set up the small meeting room for my afternoon program. I set up tables and chairs for the craft we'll be doing and I set out display books.

10:57a - I poke my head into A's storytime to make sure she's doing okay with all those people. She's fine, of course.

11:30a - Check email.

11:55a - Track down some dry erase markers for afternoon program. (It's been unusually slow this morning, which is lucky because I'm by myself since A is in the storytime!)

12:00p - Lunch time!

12:30p - After a quick lunch, I'm back to finish setting up the small meeting room for the poetry program. I finish prepping all the materials for the craft and set them up so they're ready to pass out when it's time. At my previous library, our craft room and story room were separated by a folding wall, but at my new library the room's not divided. I have a suspicion that if craft materials are set out beforehand they might be somewhat distracting during the reading portion.

1:00p - 2:00p - First session of my poetry program! It goes well, which is always a good feeling.

2:00p-2:30p - I reset the room for the second session and help out briefly during a small rush on the reference desk.

2:30p-3:15p - Second session of the poetry program.

3:15p-4:00p - Clean up the room, check in all the books I used, record stats, make notes about the program for future use.

4:00p-4:30p - Help out on reference desk.

Can you recommend some fantasy books for a 4th-grader?
Sure, I can!

4:30p - Clean up the books that have somehow amassed on my desk (that always happens... I think they breed with each other or something).

4:35p - Upload the photos I took at the program and start the battery on the camera charging.

4:45p - Time to go home!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Things that made me glad I got up this morning

Travis's gallery of debut YA covers we made up.

And John Green answers questions about love and romance.

"The Venn diagram of guys who don't like smart girls and guys you don't want to date... is a circle."

It's raining and it was really hard to get out of bed this morning, so thanks, boys. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Debut YA Cover

Travis over at 100 Scope Notes invites us to create our own debut YA book cover. Check out his post to find out how.

And here's mine:

Blurb: After Anita's best friend Rayleigh suddenly grows boobs, starts getting attention from cute boys, and ditches Anita to hang out with the cool kids, Anita's parents send her to summer cooking school. Anita knows her parents are only sending her away because they're getting a divorce and she's determined not to enjoy a minute of it, especially when she finds out her roommate is Joanie, the school nerd. But when the smoldering Dexter becomes her cooking partner and Anita learns to look beyond first appearances, this summer might turn out to be her best yet! Bon appetit!

Tagline: This summer romance will WHISK you away!

What do you think? Should I write this story for my novel in November? ;)

Book Review: Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. (Grades 9+)

It all starts when Auden's brother sends her a picture frame from Europe. The picture frame has the words "The Best of Times" on it and it starts Auden thinking. She's been so wrapped up in Achievement - good grades, hard work, making her super intellectual, divorced parents proud - that she never bothered to create any memories worthy of being called "the best of times". So she decides to fix that and spend the summer with her dad and his new wife and newborn daughter.

Life on the beach isn't quite as idyllic as Auden had hoped it would be, but when she meets Eli her summer takes a turn for the better. As Eli helps Auden recapture the childhood she missed out on, Auden starts to figure out how to deal with her self-centered parents, her friends, and her life.

What I loved about Along for the Ride is how quickly all the characters felt real to me. Sarah Dessen has such a talent for creating characters that you care about, that you feel like you know. Within a few chapters, I felt I had a complete picture of Auden's parents and it only got deeper and more detailed as the story went on.

I was really rooting for Auden. She's got a lot to deal with. Her parents are both jerks and she's been so wrapped up in trying to please them that she never really realized that. Now that she's got some space and some new friends, she can finally begin to look at them clearly. And as the summer goes on, Auden starts to look at herself and the people around her more clearly, too. People are more than they appear in the beachside town of Colby, as Auden will discover.

And yes, there's romance, but the romance is secondary to Auden's inner journey. But the romance is still nice. :)

I've liked some of Sarah Dessen's books better than others and Along for the Ride has to be one of my favorites. I got wrapped up in the story and I kept reading bits of dialogue out loud to hear how it sounded. (It sounds great.) Sarah Dessen fans will be pleased with this one. There's still a bit of summer left and I'd hand this to any girl looking for well-written, thoughtful beach reading.

If you act fast, you could win an ARC of Along for the Ride from Pop Culture Junkie (contest ends July 30) OR from YABookNerd (contest also ends July 30) OR from Em's Bookshelf (contest ends July 31). Ohh there are so many more reviews of this book. Here's a sampling: Tempting Persephone, Bookworm 4 Life, The Story Siren, and The Reading Zone. And if you just can't get enough of Sarah, check out Sarah-land and you might consider joining the Sarah Dessen Challenge.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Catching Fire Winners!

Congratulations to Monica S., Shawna L., and menchaka! The random number gods have smiled on them and they have each won a highly-coveted ARC of Catching Fire.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I truly wish I had enough ARCs to send one to everyone, but at least September 1 is only 36 days away!

Book Review: Down, Down, Down

Down Down Down by Steve Jenkins. (Grades 2-4.)

Steve Jenkins.

Did your heart just skip a beat?

Steve Jenkins is one of those authors who fills librarians' hearts with joy. Why? Because he's a sure bet. A new Steve Jenkins? Yes, please! I don't even have to think about it; I'll take three.

Down Down Down is no exception.

Jenkins starts with the surface. What kinds of sea creatures leap out of the water to be on our level? Dolphins... flying fish... sharks... Okay, we've seen plenty of books on these animals before.

Then Jenkins goes a little deeper. At 10 feet below the surface, we have mackerel and krill. At 33 feet below the surface, the sunlight starts to fade and we have green sea turtles and sailfish. And the deeper we get, the more fantastic, little-known creatures we find. At 1,640 feet below the surface, we have vampire squid and hatchet fish. At 5,000 feet below the surface, we have such terrifying creatures as the deep-sea lizardfish and the hairy angler. And it doesn't stop there! Jenkins is taking us down, down, down... All the way down to the ocean floor.

At each ocean level, Jenkins provides information about what animals live there and how they survive. What do fish eat when they live so far below the water's surface that no sunlight ever reaches them? What is the bottom of the ocean like? Each spread features Jenkins's fantastic cut-paper illustrations of the creatures found there. Some are absolutely terrifying*!

Kids will pore over Jenkins's detailed illustrations of various creepy creatures. Then they'll turn to the back of the book to find more information about each animal, including scale illustrations. If your patrons are anything like mine, they'll eat up anything about ocean creatures, the creepier the better. Down Down Down won't disappoint.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Wrapped in Foil has the round-up.

*Until you turn to the back and realize that the animal in question is smaller than your hand. My one criticism is that I wish the scale had been provided on the actual spreads rather than only in the back of the book.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Read Brown

Upset by Justine Larbalestier's Liar's whitewashed cover?

Color Online challenges you to read and review books by writers of color in August. Not sure what to read? She's got a list of her favorites that'll get you started.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What made my day yesterday...

A going-into-fourth-grade boy's mom asked if we could recommend some books for them. He's into fantasy (specifically magic), but not into Harry Potter. I pulled a few books, including Which Witch? and The Secrets of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson.

Mom: Hmm... Which Witch?... We've read that one, right?

Boy: Yes, but I want to read it again!

And they promptly snatched up all the books I'd brought over to them (which also included Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher and So You Want to Be a Wizard?).

Made. My. Day.

I know it's been awhile, but I'll have a couple Days in the Life of a Children's Librarian for you next week. Stay tuned.

Poetry was Definitely Aloud

Our library, like many others, is Being Creative this summer. We've had programs on painting, woodworking, sewing, knitting... and now poetry! Starting a new job in the middle of May means that I adopted a poetry workshop in July. I'm glad it worked out this way because it's a program that I probably wouldn't have planned on my own, but it ended up being quite fun! I think I'm even going to incorporate some of the ideas into our after school programming in the fall.

I got many ideas from the wonderful book Poetry Aloud Here!: Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library by Sylvia M. Vardell. Although it speaks more to school media folk than public librarians doing a one-time program, the book has a lot of great lists of poems and poetry volumes to share with kids. I also pulled ideas from the National Endowment for the Humanities's EDSITEment website All Together Now: Collaborations in Poetry Writing.

This program was for ages 6-12, which is a wide variety. I needed activities that wouldn't necessarily require reading and writing (for the youngest), but would still hold the attention of the tweens. I decided that the program would last between 45 minutes and an hour and I divided it into three parts. I started off by sitting them down and sharing some poetry with them. Funny poems were the biggest hit and really helped to warm up the crowd. I shared:

"I Love Love Love My Brand-New Baby Sister" by Judith Viorst (from the book Sad Underwear and Other Complications)

"The Clocktopus" and "The Tearful Zipperpotamuses" by Jack Prelutsky (both from Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant)

"Winter Eyes" by Douglas Florian (from the book Winter Eyes), which I compared to

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost (from the book Poetry Speaks to Children) - I asked the kids to close their eyes and try to "see" the wintry images in the poems.

And I ended with a few Shel Silverstein poems. Pick out your favorites (there are many to choose from). I read "Sick", "Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich", "Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out", and "I Must Remember" from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

I did two sessions of this program and I didn't read all of these in both sessions. I shared poems for about 15 minutes.

For the next 15 minutes or so, we wrote a poem as a group. I read Shel Silverstein's poem "Whatif" from A Light in the Attic and invited the kids to come up with lines for our own Whatif poem. I copied down the first few and last two lines of the original poem on our whiteboard and had the kids come up with the rhyming couplets to complete the middle. This was super fun and the kids came up with really creative lines. When we had finished our poem, I asked for a volunteer to read it out loud. Here's the poem from my first session:

Whatif the trees don't grow?
Whatif there's no baseball to throw?
Whatif there's no row of chairs?
Whatif there are lice on our hairs?
Whatif there's no peanut butter?
Whatif there was no gutter?
Whatif I don't have a pair of shoes?
Whatif my best friend moves?
Whatif there is no ooze?
Whatif children boos?

We could have gone on all day coming up with more lines and if you have easy access to a copier, you could copy the poem down and give a copy to the kids. Have them illustrate it or simply have them take it home and call it a day.

I had one more activity planned. I cut out (well, to be honest my colleague T cut out) hundreds of typed words and had the kids glue them on blank paper as a kind of "magnetic poetry" craft. The kids who were able to read picked out specific words for their poems. The kids who couldn't read either drew pictures or just picked out random words (those were some of the best - very silly!). It was fairly labor-intensive to cut out all those words and as any "magnetic poet" can tell you, it's sometimes frustrating to sift through all the words looking for the word you want.

If I did the magnetic poetry craft again, I'd make the words a larger size. Truthfully, I think the program didn't really need that last craft and just the activity of creating poems together would have been fun for the kids, especially if they could take a copy of the poems home with them.

Both sessions went well and I think it was a fun introductory poetry program. I think the kids were relieved that there was no pressure to write and/or share a poem (although, of course, if kids wanted to share their poems they were welcome to!). In the first session several of them asked if they could read one of Silverstein's poems out loud to the group and while everyone was working on their craft, they passed the book around and around, reading poems. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!

It's Poetry Friday and Mary Lee has the round up over at A Year of Reading.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Young Hoosier Book Award

At my previous library in Illinois, I was passionate about the Rebecca Caudill Book Award. I've said time and time again that state book award nominees are a great resource for teachers and parents looking for quality books that have kid appeal. Well, now that I'm working in Indiana, I think it's high time that I post about the Young Hoosier Book Award.

The YHBA is divided into three categories - Picture Books, Intermediate, and Middle Grades. Each list has 20 nominees and kids who read at least 12 of the picture books or five of the intermediate or middle grade books may vote on their favorites.

Since my department serves kids through 5th grade, I'm primarily concerned with the picture book and intermediate lists. (Also of note is the Eliot Rosewater High School Book Award!) I don't typically review picture books on this blog, so today I'm going to post the list of intermediate YHBA nominees.

Young Hoosier Book Award Intermediate Nominees

Archer's Quest by Linda Sue Park.

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles.

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian*.

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban*.

A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin.

Gabriel's Horses by Alison Hart.

Hey There, Stink Bug! by Leslie Bulion

Julia's Kitchen by Brenda Ferber.

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies.

Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt by Judith St. George.

The Many Rides of Paul Revere by James Cross Giblin.

Night Boat to Freedom by Margot Theis Raven.

On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck.

Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Punished! by David Lubar.

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery.

The Society of Secret Superheroes: The Great Cape Rescue by Phyllis Shalant.

Starred titles are ones that I've read (pathetic!). Ah, well. The kids don't vote until April, I believe, so I have plenty of time to get caught up. ;)

Any Indiana librarians out there? Do you read the YHBA nominees? Do any special programs for YHBA?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Stitches by David Small. (Grades 9+)
Full disclosure: ARC provided by WW Norton & Co.

I honestly don't know that I have enough to say about this book to warrant a full review, but I want you to know about this book, so I'm calling this book buzz.

Here's the blurb I wrote for my LibraryThing:

This is an intense and disturbing graphic novel memoir of David Small's childhood in a household so stifling that he literally lost his voice for years. When David was a teenager, he underwent surgery to purportedly remove a cyst from his throat. The horrible truth about his surgery wouldn't come out until years later. Creepy and gripping and brilliant and utterly brave, this is a story that shouldn't be missed.

I first heard about this title when the book trailer was featured on A Fuse #8 Production. Have a look (be aware that it contains spoilers):

And I'm going to point you over to Travis's Toon Review.

Consider yourself in the know. Put Stitches on your TBR list. It'll be on shelves September 8.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

That's right, she's giving away Catching Fire!

ETA (July 27) - The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! Winners were announced here.

Conundrum: You have the book everybody wants. How do you choose which lovely person gets it?

Answer: You let the gods of random numbers decide*.

I read it. I loved it. I laughed, I cried, etc. (And, of course, it made me want the third book, like, yesterday. But we all knew that was going to happen.) So, I'm giving you a chance to win a copy.

THERE IS ONE CONDITION! I would like your promise that if you win this ARC, you will read it and pass it on to someone else. Give it to your sister/brother/best friend/cousin/teen advisory group/local YA librarian or give it away on your own blog, whatever. (Do not put it in your library's collection - that is a big no no.)

ETA (9:09pm): Due to the wonderful generosity of a fellow ALA-going librarian, we will be giving away THREE COPIES!! Woohoo!!!

If you want to win my ARC, leave a comment on this post. Link to the contest on your blog, Twitter, etc. and leave an additional comment for each link. The more you link, the more entries you have. In your comment, include your email address and your assurance that you will pass along the ARC when you're done (seriously, or I will disqualify you!).

Note: leaving additional begging comments will NOT help your chances.

I will accept entries through Sunday, July 26 (mainly because I have next Tuesday morning off and I think that will be the first time I can get to the post office).

Good luck and may the random number gods be with you!!

*If you're anything like me, you're sick of having to jump through hoops for the chance to win this most coveted of fall reads, but I honestly couldn't think of a fairer way to do it. Leaving a comment is not too much hoop-jumping anyway...

Book Review: Days of Little Texas

Days of Little Texas by R.A. Nelson. (Grades 8+)
Full disclosure: review copy provided by Random House.

Summary from publisher:

Welcome, all ye faithful—and otherwise—to a ghost story, a romance, and a reckoning unlike anything you’ve read before. Acclaimed YA author R. A. Nelson delivers a tantalizing tale set in the environs of the evangelical revival circuit and centered around Ronald Earl, who at ten became the electrifying “boy wonder” preacher known as Little Texas. Now sixteen, though the faithful still come and roar with praise and devotion, Ronald Earl is beginning to have doubts that he is worthy of and can continue his calling. Doubts that only intensify when his faith and life are tested by a mysterious girl who he was supposed to have healed, but who is now showing up at the fringe of every stop on the circuit. Is she merely devoted, or is she haunting him?

I have a confession. I didn't really know what this book was about before I picked it up. Honestly, I heard "sixteen-year-old evangelical minister" and knew I had to read it, so I was not at all prepared for the delicious creepiness of the tale. I am not a huge fan of ghost stories. Not because I mind scary things, but because I have trouble suspending my disbelief enough to really get into them. Days of Little Texas had me at the beginning, though, with an interesting mix of characters and a slow, atmospheric building of suspense.

I'm a sucker for beautifully descriptive and poetic lines. And there's no shortage here. Whether describing Ronald Earl's mother as having "skin the color of cracker crumbs and hair that blows in the breeze like feathers" (pg 14) or a woman passing out as "soft as tallow dripping down a candle" (pg 32), there's no question that there's great imagery going on here.

Where it lost me a little bit is in character development. I felt removed from Ronald Earl, like I was looking at him from the outside when I would have rather been inside his head, understanding his motivations. And his bevvy of interesting companions in the Church of the Hand were intriguing at first, but I never felt like I got to know any of them either.

And maybe it was because I didn't go into the book expecting a ghost story, but the ending just wasn't my thing. That said, this'll please fans of ghost stories. I'd try it on teens who liked Lauren Myracle's Bliss. Sarah Miller recommends it to older fans of Lesley M.M. Blume's Tennyson (and I'd have to agree). Check out more reviews at The Compulsive Reader and Readingjunky's Reading Roost.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review: Remember Little Rock

Remember Little Rock: The Time, the People, the Stories by Paul Robert Walker. (Grades 5-8.)

September 1957. Little Rock, Arkansas.

All the "Little Rock Nine" wanted was the same high-quality education provided for white students at Little Rock Central High School. But when Carlotta, Minnijean, Melba, Terrence, Jefferson, Elizabeth, Gloria, Ernest, and Thelma tried to enter Central High School, something the Supreme Court had ruled they could do, they were met with angry mobs. People yelled insults at them, spit on them, and threw rocks at them. They were not able to enter the school that day.

Remember Little Rock is the story of these nine students, their struggle for equality, and their incredible bravery in the face of stunningly violent protests.

The book starts off with a bang, describing Elizabeth Eckford's first attempt at entering Central High School and the incredible scene that met her. Can you imagine facing so many people protesting against you? Can you imagine being at home and watching TV coverage of the riots surrounding your son or daughter?

And it wasn't over after the first day. It took three weeks for the students to actually start their school year, and their battle wasn't over once they entered the doors. The Little Rock Nine still faced insults, prejudice, and abuse from students and teachers every day.

Incredible archival photos accompany a readable text and illustrate this riveting event. The book includes a timeline of the Civil Rights movement, notes about each of the Little Rock Nine, a list of sources, and an extensive index. I'd highly recommend this book for units on civil rights. Pair it with Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! You'll find the roundup at Write About Now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Around the interwebs: We Appreciate You!

Didja know that Sept. 14-18, 2009 is the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week? I didn't. Until Sarah told me, that is. Go on over there to register and nominate someone for an award. Sounds like it'll be a fun week and I'll certainly be putting it on my calendar.

Tasha at Kids Lit had an epic fail moment with a publisher rep at ALA. Liz adds her two cents.

Liz also gives us the scoop on the YALSA Readers' Choice Award and what went down at the BBYA Board Meeting.

Tricia's back with Part 4 of Programming for Children with Special Needs over at the ALSC blog.

And all you Hoosiers, are you going to the CYPD Conference (link opens PDF) at the end of August? I will be there. So will John Green (be still my heart). It looks to be a good program and I'm really looking forward to hobnobbing with scores of Indiana librarians.

That's all I've got for you today. It's not that things didn't happen in the Kidlitosphere this week, it's just that I'm two weeks away from the end of summer reading and my brain is too fried to think of anything intelligent to say about any of it. :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Le loot

I promise I'm not trying to be braggy about my ARCs, but since people are living vicariously, here's my loot from ALA:

(That's minus Catching Fire, which I already read and lent to my best friend. It's fabulous!)

Click on the photo to get a much bigger photo than you probably ever wanted to look at.

Plus, I snagged a few e-galleys, too:

The card has a PIN to access the e-galley. I won't lie - I definitely find reading an actual book to be more comfortable. But e-galleys are way, WAY more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. And I can get on board with that.

Front and Center

Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. (Grades 7+)

Ohhhhh DJ Schwenk, how I love thee.

So, in case you weren't aware, the third DJ Schwenk book comes out in October. MARK YOUR CALENDAR. Because if you love DJ like I do, you won't want to miss it.

Front and Center takes up right where The Off Season leaves off. (And, just to warn you, since this is the third book in the trilogy there might be some spoilers for earlier books.)

DJ's returning to school just in time for basketball season and the pressure is ON. She's got college coaches coming to her game, the farm's losing money, and her brother Win is getting extremely involved in her college search. Like, extremely involved. Like, paralyzing-DJ-with-the-thought-of-disappointing-him involved.

And, well, you know how DJ does with pressure.
She tends to freeze up.
Everyone's telling her she's good enough to play Division I college basketball. But can she handle it? Can she even get into college at all?

And don't even mention the boy troubles. DJ's friend Beaner starts to show some interest, but Brian keeps popping back into DJ's head. What's a girl to do?

I'm really glad I went back and reread Dairy Queen and The Off Season, not only to refresh myself on what had happened to DJ and her pals, but because they're fantastic and it reminded me how much I love them. As I previously posted, I listened to the audiobook of Dairy Queen, which is completely fabulous.

DJ Schwenk is one of the most unique and interesting protagonists in YA literature. I love that she's a real girl. She freezes up under pressure. She's not always witty with a quick, sarcastic comeback. She's a little more like the rest of us, thinking of smart responses three days after the argument is over.

I'm not saying that I didn't want to shake her* periodically throughout Front and Center. But that's actually one of the things I love about these books - DJ is so real to me that I actually felt like I could reach into the pages and give her a (much needed) hug.

What can I say? If you haven't read Dairy Queen, I must demand that you do so at once. And if you have read Dairy Queen and The Off Season, I'm sorry to say that you'll have to wait 'til October for this third installment, but mark it down because you won't want to miss it.

Head over to Jen Robinson's Book Page because she shares my DJ love (and because her review is actually, like, a review instead of just a big love letter to DJ Schwenk).

Full disclosure: review copy provided by publisher, Houghton Mifflin.

*Or maybe prescribe her some Xanax

Monday, July 13, 2009

Around the Interwebs: ALA, YA, and more

Didn't get a chance to go to ALA this year? Check out Betsy's posts about the conference!

In case you hadn't heard, there's been some discussion about doing away with BBYA. I'm not sure when the committee is meeting to decide (maybe today?), but that'll definitely be interesting. Link via Liz.

There's a new YA lit award in town, the Elizabeth Walden Award for Young Adult Fiction, given by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Thanks to Jen Robinson for the link.

Speaking of YA lit, if you read it or know someone who does, take the survey for a chance to win one of 27 great titles (including Catching Fire)!

Susan Beth Pfeffer posted the cover of her newest novel, This World We Live In, due out in April. I didn't even know it was coming out (bad librarian!), so thanks to Sarah for the link.

If your patrons love sports books like mine do, you'll be interested to know that Capstone Publishers is teaming up (haha) with Sports Illustrated Kids to offer leveled chapter books. From the press release:

The new books will feature high-interest nonfiction and fiction sports
stories in three separate formats: high-low informational, graphic novels, and
illustrated chapter books. They will be created for the elementary and middle
school grades, especially struggling and reluctant readers...

Published under Capstone Publishers’ well-known imprints Capstone Press and
Stone Arch Books, the Sports Illustrated KIDS’ books will debut with three
series in January 2010: Greatest Sports Stars, The Science of Sports, and
Graphic Sports. Both nonfiction and fiction developers will have access to
Sports Illustrated KIDS’ extensive collection of photographs, resulting in
compelling books packed with exciting sports action photos.

Definitely something to look for.

Fans of Alyson Noel's The Immortals series, will want to head over to for downloads, videos, and more.
Tee hee, check out Hank Green's song, "I'm Not Edward Cullen".

If you've been following posts on the ALSC blog concerning programming for kids with special needs, you'll be glad to know that Part 3 has been posted. Definitely check out the series if you serve kids with special needs in your community.

If you're not reading 100 Scope Notes, this cool, creative review will get you hooked. Guaranteed.

Reading if Fundemental (RIF) and Macy's are pairing up to bring us Book a Brighter Future, a partnership to support children's literacy. From the press release:

From July 1 through August 31, 2009, Macy's customers can give $3 and receive a
coupon for $10 off a $50 in-store purchase at any Macy's nationwide. Macy's will
donate 100 percent of every $3 to RIF.

So, if you shop at Macy's, check this out!

Adrienne posts about quality vs. popularity and how she came to buy her collection's first book by Madonna.

Sarah Miller's got some audiobook recommendations for us as we hit the road for our summer vacations. And by "us", I mean any of you who are lucky enough to actually get a vacation this summer. :)

Whew. And I'm spent. Happy surfing!

Book Review: After

After by Amy Efaw. (Grades 9+)

Summary from ARC:

"Who would leave her own baby in the trash to die? Certainly not someone like Devon - straight-A student, soccer player with Olympic dreams, more mature than her own mother. But desperation and panic drove her to do what most people can't even imagine..."

You guys, I could not put this book down. And that is saying something because I was reading it while I was packing up my entire life and preparing for a out-of-state move.

The premise is ripped from the headlines: teenager Devon gives birth and leaves her baby in the dumpster behind her apartment building. When she's arrested, she claims that she never knew she was pregnant. Is she lying to protect herself? Or has she had some kind of breakdown? Is she guilty of murder?

The book starts right after Devon's given birth and follows her through her subsequent arrest and time in a juvenile detention center while she awaits her trial. It's up to the reader to decide how reliable a narrator Devon is, just as Devon's lawyer and mom are trying to figure out how this could have happened.

One thing I loved about this book is the inside look you get into the jail and Amy Efaw is such a skilled writer that I felt like I was right there beside her. I found the whole process fascinating and the book's unlike anything I'd read before. Did I mention how I couldn't put it down??

Is it an Issue book? I would say it's an Issue book like Speak or Wintergirls is an Issue book. Yes, the premise is ripped from the headlines, but it's more about getting inside Devon's head and examining her motives and her reality. I would highly recommend this title to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's edgier books and to fans of Jodi Picoult.

(One word of warning: there is placenta within the first twenty pages. This may not be a book for the squeamish.)

After is due out August 11 and I predict that it's gonna be big. Put it on your TBR list right this minute!

Full disclosure: review copy provided by publisher, Viking Juvenile.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thoughts on my Brief Time at ALA

Oh my gosh, y'all.

The Exhibits at ALA were so awesome... and so exhausting. I don't know how people have the energy for the entire conference (but someday I will find out!). Alas, I forgot my camera, but I'll have some pictures when J gets home and gets hers uploaded.

It was definitely a whirlwind trip and I didn't get to meet up with nearly as many people as I wanted to. I had the pleasure of staying at a good friend's house and the pleasure of attending the exhibits with four lovely ladies. I want to give a shout-out to Wendy of Six Boxes of Books and Sarah of Green Bean Teen Queen, both of whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I spied Susan of Wizards Wireless and Booklights getting her picture taken with some storm troopers, but before I could flag her down, she was off and I was getting my own picture taken. ;) I saw Anastasia Suen at the Sourcebooks booth (she was very excited about Horrid Henry's Christmas) and spotted Roger Sutton a couple of times (both times in conversation with other, important-looking people). I also spotted John Green not once but three separate times. And how many times could I think of anything to say to him? Zero. Yeah. Gonna work on that one, as he'll be at the CYPD conference at the end of August.

Ahem. /name dropping

What can I say about the exhibits? I knew it would be huge, but I guess I didn't expect to be quite so crowded. I also didn't expect publicists to be so very friendly!

My friends and I were at McCormick place by 8:30 or so and we checked in and gathered to wait until they opened the exhibits. We made a beeline for the Scholastic booth first thing to find out if they had ARCs of Catching Fire (they did!) and J ended up being first in line. We waited about half an hour and they started giving out ARCs at 9:30 or so. I don't know how many they gave out, but I was told that they'd be giving out more as the conference went on.

After that, our day was pretty much made already, and everything else was gravy. (If gravy was made of AWESOME, that is!)

I was prepared with a list of the ARCs I wanted to look for, complete with pub info and booth numbers. Yes, laugh at me for I am a huge geek, but that list came in handy and I ended up getting almost everything on my list. Publicists were all extremely friendly and happy to hand over whatever ARCs they had available. I won't title-drop too much (and most of my books are in the process of being mailed to me anyway), but highlights include Stitches by David Small, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (who was there signing, so I got copies of her other books as well!), and As You Wish by Jackson Pearce.

Before leaving for Chicago, I revisited Susan's tips for BEA, which came in handy. I can't emphasize enough how useful my ARC list was. After awhile, all the booths blend together a little bit and it's really handy to have your reference right there. Plus, they might not be displaying the book that you want and it's easy to forget if it's not right there in front of you.

I also can't emphasize enough how friendly everyone was. I was a little nervous about knowing which books were okay to take and which they were selling. It's generally very clearly marked, and if you're not sure, just ask. If you see a display copy of a book you want, ask if they have one you could have. 90% of the time yesterday, the answer was yes and I walked away with a book.

Next time I go (and there will be a next time, yes there will), I'll hopefully remember to hand out the pretty business cards I had made. It was all too overwhelming for me to think about it yesterday, but now I really wish I had. Also, I'll remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. You don't have to pick up every single book in the first hour you're there. And sometimes the publishers will put out different books at different times. Or they might have a certain number of ARCs for the first day and then give out more on the following days.

I was really hoping to get down to Anderson's for Laurie Halse Anderson's & Sarah Dessen's book signing, but by the time we got back from the exhibits we were all about ready to drop. After flying in the night before, I left the house at 6:30am and then carried around a freakin' heavy bag of stuff all day. Seriously, we would have driven off the road in our exhaustion, which would not have been a good end to the day. So, apologies for missing that!

I so wish I could have stayed longer. It would have been wonderful to be able to go to some of the programs and to meet up with more library friends and bloggity people. Hopefully next year I will be able to go for longer. But it was wonderful to get to go, even just for one day!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. (Grades 7-10.)

Every summer since before she was born, Belly's spent at the beach with her family and her mom's best friend's family. And she's always tagged along behind her older brother and Suzanne's boys, Jeremiah and Conrad. This summer will be different, Belly can feel it. She's turning sixteen, she's blossomed into a beautiful young lady, and she's determined to prove that she's not a kid anymore. But Belly's caught between wanting to grow up and wanting to cling to the past, and this will be a summer that transforms her more than she would ever predict.

Okay, let's get one thing straight: this is not a fluffy beach read. I know, the title and the pretty little font on the cover and the half-smiling models might have you thinking that this is going to be a light little romance for the beach. But it's not.

That's not to say The Summer I Turned Pretty doesn't have its light moments. And its romance. It has those things. But this is not a Yay-It's-summer-and-I'm-tanning-poolside kind of book. It's more of an End-of-summer-getting-back-to-reality kind of book. In my opinion, anyway.

One thing I liked about this book is that Belly felt so very real to me. She's fifteen, turning sixteen, and you get the story of her summer interspersed with flashbacks to previous summers at the same beach house. You get the stories of how she fell in love, how she's been in love with the same guy since she was 10 years old. You also get the sense that Belly's always been on the outside looking in.

During the summer, she's at the beach house with her older brother and two older boys. When she was younger, she wanted to join in their fun and they sometimes excluded her. Now that she's older, she just wants to be noticed. And she is noticed, but not always in the way she wants. The boys still seem to see her as the kid that bugged them every summer, tattling when they wouldn't let her play. What she comes to realize is that growing up means dealing with grown-up things. Though she thinks she's so ready to grow up, to drive, to date, to make her own decisions, Belly wavers on the brink of young-adulthood.

Before I read the book, I really disliked the cover. I heard so many compliments about it, but I just didn't get it. After I read the book, the cover makes a lot more sense. I love the position of the sun, like it's late afternoon and you're starting to think about the end of the day. I love that Belly's looking straight ahead, a kind of thoughtful expression on her face, while the boys' faces are both partially cut off or blocked.

It's a quiet kind of book, the kind I needed to sit with for a little bit to figure out exactly how I felt about it. If you're looking for something a little more serious than your usual summer fare, I can highly recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Check out posts at MotherReader, Reading Rants!, The Compulsive Reader, and The Reading Zone (among others). Looking for some more summer reads to add to your pile? Jenny Han shares her top five YA must-reads (and I agree with all of them; I have Along for the Ride on my bookshelf waiting for me!).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Catch me if you can!

So, I'm taking off Friday for Chicago to attend the exhibits at ALA! Are you going to be there? I'll be at the exhibits Saturday and I won't have access to email or blogs, BUT I will hopefully be Twittering, so follow me* and if you track me down, do stop and say hi. I would love you meet you! And I promise that I am very friendly.

I also intend to be at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville to see Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson Saturday evening. (I think the jury is still out as to whether we will actually be able to swing it, but I am hopeful!) So. Track me down there, too.

I'm so excited that I've been finding it hard to go to sleep this week! And yes, I am a total geek and had bloggity business cards made. If you want one, come find me. I will give you one. And they are very cute (if I do say so myself).

PS: If you can't think of anything to say to me (I am horrible at thinking of things to say to people I don't know), you can always say, "Happy birthday! I read your blog!" because 1. Saturday is my birthday and 2. that will be the best birthday present ever!!

PPS: If you're not sure what I look like, look at this picture. I am the one who is not John Green. And there is a fair chance that I will be wearing that same shirt. (It's my favorite shirt.)

*I can't get @replies on my phone, so please don't be offended if I'm not replying.

Book Review: Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman. (Grades 4-6.)
Reviewed from ARC provided by Little, Brown.

(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)

When Allie gets the news that her family will be moving, she's not pleased at all. She doesn't want to leave her school and her best friend Ruthie whose family owns the duplex Allie lives in. But when Allie finds out that the name of her new street is Strawberry Hill, she throws her hesitations out the window. Strawberry Hill! What a magical place! She can just picture the cozy houses on a quaint little street that ends with a big hill covered in strawberries.

When Allie arrives at Strawberry Hill, it doesn't quite meet her expectations, but the adventures she has during her first year on Strawberry Hill will change her in unexpected ways. Strawberry Hill is about making friends, losing friends, and figuring out just who you are. It's a coming-of-age story will a classic, timeless feel.

As I was reading Strawberry Hill, I was trying to make up my mind about whether I liked it. It starts slowly and there were times when I felt like I was reading an excruciatingly detailed diary of a nine-year-old girl. But then Allie had to deal with some racial prejudice and I perked my ears up. And the conclusion I came to is that I did like it. Allie's voice was very real to me (excruciating detail and all) and I felt like the book read like what I would expect from a fourth-grader's diary.

Allie's life isn't simple in Connecticut during the Depression. True, she has food on her table and a stable family. But she has to deal with the same things that many girls have to deal with - starting a new school, figuring out a new teacher, and, most emphatically, friends. Allie gets caught up in a friendship triangle between her Catholic neighbor Martha, a put-together girl whom Allie likes immediately, and Mimi, the outcast Jewish girl who lives across the street. Of course Martha has some questionable qualities and Mimi is more fun to play with (once Allie gives her a chance), but choosing friends is never going to be black and white. Allie has to sift through the gray areas before she'll get everything sorted away.

I haven't seen this explicitly stated anywhere, but I'm assuming that the book (or events in the book) are based on Ms. Hoberman's actual experiences. An author's note would have done wonders for me, but then you know how I feel about author's notes. (And please note that I'm reviewing from an ARC, so it's possible an author's note will be included in the final book.)

The book reminded me a little of The Penderwicks in that it has that quiet, classic feel. It also reminded me of a personal favorite, Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, because Allie has to deal with some of the same issues Sally does - moving to a new place and figuring out who her friends are. At the Little, Brown preview (as reported by Fuse #8), Strawberry Hill was also compared with The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom, which I am not personally familiar with.

This would be a good choice for girls looking for a gentle read, although there is a brief, but notable, incident where Allie is the subject of prejudice because she is Jewish. It's dealt with by Allie and her mother and would make a good moment for discussion. Now that I think about it, this would be an excellent choice for a mother-daughter book club.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Audiobook Roundup: Books for the Commute

Yeah, the new job comes with a little bit of a commute; just long enough to make listening to audiobooks actually feasible. I've listened to a few that have really made the traffic bearable and I'd like to share them with you today.

Nation by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs. With a shiny Printz honor AND a shiny Odyssey honor to its name, Nation definitely deserves a listen. After the wave hits, everything about Mau's life changes. He was in the middle of the task that all boys have to complete to become men, he was heading home when the wave hit. And his entire family was wiped away. The wave changed Daphne's life, too. The ship she was on crash-landed on Mau's island and she was the only survivor. Can Mau and Daphne survive on their own when they don't even speak the same language? Terry Pratchett examines religion, faith, power, family and more in this amusing and touching story. Expert narration by Stephen Briggs really drew me in to the story. Highly recommended. If you haven't yet read this Printz honoree, the audio version is a great way to go.

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, narrated by Natalie Moore. Ohhh, Dairy Queen. It's truly one of my favorite books. I wanted to listen to it to refresh my memory because the third DJ Schwenk book, Front and Center, comes out in October (yaaay!). DJ Schwenk lives on a dairy farm in Red Bend, Wisconsin. She's working on the farm this summer because her dad had hip surgery and can't handle the farm work. Her older brothers are off at college and currently not speaking to the family because of The Fight. Her younger brother has Little League championships. And that leaves DJ to do the work. Now, to add insult to injury, Jimmy Ott, coach of Red Bend's rival football team, has sent his quarterback Brian to the Schwenk farm to help out and get a lesson in hard work. It's such a sweet, unusual story with a really honest and refreshing main character. Natalie Moore's narration with a cute Wisconsin accent really brings DJ Schwenk to life. (I'm now rereading The Off Season and I keep reading parts of it out loud to see if I can imitate Ms. Moore's Wisconsin accent!)

The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian, read by Jesse Eisenberg. Josh and his best friend (and secret love interest) Beth are obsessed with a mysterious online prophet who calls himself Larry. Little does Beth know that Josh is the mastermind behind the website. When "Larry" explodes in popularity, Josh will find that making a difference in the world isn't as easy as he'd thought. Ohhh, Nerdfighters, take note! This book is right up your alley! Jesse Eisenberg actually sounds a little like John & Hank Green. Josh would totally be a Nerdfighter if he weren't, y'know, fictional. The audiobook isn't perfect - I found it to be a little over-produced - and the prologue and epilogue are narrated by the author. Ms. Tashjian is a wonderful author, but not a gifted reader. I almost gave up right at the very beginning, but I'm so glad I pushed through to the first chapter. Once Jesse Eisenberg started reading, I fell in love!

Book Review: Eyes Like Stars

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. (Grades 7+)

Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata.

Here is where the Players live - every character from every play, just waiting until show time. Yes, all the Players live here... and also Bertie. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, brought to the Theatre when she was a young girl by a woman she barely remembers. She's been raised among the costumes and scenery and the small dramas that pop up among the larger dramas, but the Theater Manager has decided that it's time for her to move on. Unless she can prove herself invaluable to the Theatre, Bertie must leave.

But what Bertie doesn't know is that sinister forces threaten to destroy the Theatre, the only home she's ever known...


Raise your hand if you're a theater geek.

I am actually not, so much. I mean, I enjoy theater as much as the next person, and I'm a huge fan of musicals. But when it comes to Shakespeare, well, I only ever read the Cliff's notes of Macbeth in high school (sorry, Dr. Weick, but it's true). And we never even made it to Hamlet.

Maybe if I'd made it through that beautiful bargain copy of the Complete Works, I'd have caught more of the nuances and understood more of the references (um, I definitely had to Google Ariel...). That said, I still loved Eyes Like Stars.

The first scene starts the book with our inimitable heroine Bertie dying her hair cobalt blue. Right away, we get the sense that she's a feisty young lady who is used to having the run of the theater. Okay, maybe she doesn't know where she came from or who her parents are or why she ended up at this magical place, but it's her home and she's determined to fight for it. And fight for it she will, even more than she bargained for. But not without a little help.

One of my favorite things about the book is Bertie's lively entourage of fairies. Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed are by Bertie's side throughout her adventures, providing support and comic relief. I laughed out loud more than once at these pint-sized companions.

There was a lot going on at all times in this novel (much like backstage?), but it might have been more manageable if my theater background was stronger. And don't expect a neatly wrapped up ending... this is the first book of a series (a trilogy?) and while I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger ending, there's definitely conflict left unresolved. Teens will be clamoring for the next book.

If you're a theater buff, pick up this book. If not, pick it up anyway. Who knows? You might be inspired to go back and give Macbeth another shot... ;)

Take a gander at Lisa Mantchev's blog and her prolific Twitter. Please check out the rest of the blogs on the Kidz Book Buzz Eyes Like Stars blog tour:

The 160 Acre Woods
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
A Patchwork of Books
All About Children's Books
And Another Book Read
Becky's Book Reviews
Dolce Bellezza
Fireside Musings
The Friendly Book Nook
Homeschool Book Buzz
Homespun Light
Never Jam Today
Reading is My Superpower
Through a Child's Eyes

Monday, July 6, 2009

Because the cover is so very pretty...

Because you've always secretly (or not-so-secretly) wanted to dye your hair cobalt blue...

Because you could use a hilarious entourage like the fairies...

Because you never made the school play...

Because you always made the school play...

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Review coming tomorrow....

(Oooh, anticipation!)

Book Review: The Day-Glo Brothers

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani. (Grades 1-5.)

When they were growing up, Bob and Joe Switzer wanted different things. Bob wanted to make his fortune by becoming a doctor, and Joe wanted to make his mark on the world through magic. At first it may seem that neither brother ended up where he wanted to be. But in that darkened basement, the Switzer brothers began to look at the world in a different light.

One brother wanted to save lives.
The other brother wanted to dazzle crowds.
With Day-Glo, they did both

Bob and Joe Switzer grew up in Montana and California in the 1920s and '30s, sons of a pharmacist. Bob wanted to become a doctor, while his brother Joe lived to delight audiences with his magic acts. After a head injury ended his dreams of becoming a doctor, Bob had to spend a summer recovering in a darkened basement and it was then that he helped Joe experiment with blacklights as a way to improve his magic act. Under the blacklights, the brothers saw a chemical-soaked label glowing and they set about creating flourescent paints that glowed in the dark.

Many businesses used their paints to decorate ads and displays, but the paints faded in daylight. After many different experiments, the brothers discovered a way to make their paints glow under regular white light. Voila Day-Glo!

Besides brightening up products and ads, Day-Glo colors found many uses during World War II. They were used on buoys and on signaling devices. Today, flourescent colors are used for traffic cones, highlighters, and many other items. (Check out these animations that explain how daylight flourescence works and how it's different from normal colors.)

It's books like The Day-Glo Brothers that remind me why I love nonfiction picture books and particularly picture book biographies. The book is the perfect amount of information on a subject that I never would have thought to wonder about. Add brilliant illustrations that pair perfectly with the text and you've got a delightful reading experience.

The cartoonish illustrations start out black and white. When Joe and Bob discover the glowing label, Tony Persiani adds flourescent colors. And on the spread where Joe and Bob see their first Day-Glo billboard, the illustrations burst into full Day-Glo colors.

I think this is a perfect story to capture the imaginations of kids. I mean, inventing a new color? What a cool thing to do with your life!

At the end of the book, Chris Barton includes information about how regular flourescence works and how daylight flourescence works and an author's note that details his research. Since there were few books available about Day-Glo, much of his research came from interviewing and speaking with Switzer family members and people who knew the Switzer brothers. Very cool.

Check out more reviews at BoingBoing and A Fuse #8 Production, and here's a Cynsations interview with Chris Barton. (Um, and especially check out the interview because she's giving out five signed copies of The Day-Glo Brothers, deadline to enter is July 31!) Chris Barton and Tony Persiani were also featured on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, so check that out, too.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Scrub-a-Dub Tub's got the roundup.

Friday, July 3, 2009

So very apt

While organizing our series books, I came across this series and the title was so amusing to me that I had to post it here:Yes, that's right. The PONY-CRAZED PRINCESS. Series. I don't know what I like the most about it. The use of the word "crazed" in a children's book series title? Or the cartoon pony with a photo of a real horse hanging up in its stable?

Grace Lin!

I'm sure y'all remember how much I enjoyed Grace Lin's newest book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Well, I'm lucky enough to be the last stop on Ms. Lin's blog tour. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon came out this week, so be sure and stop by your favorite independent bookstore and pick up your copy! (And if you read it from an ARC like I did, you'll definitely want to check out the beautiful full-color artwork!)

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is so different from your other novels. How was the writing process different for this book?

In some ways, this book felt like a natural progression from my other novels. "The Year of the Dog" and "The Year of the Rat" helped build my confidence as a writer and it was with this book I felt self-assured enough to write something without the support of a true-life personal narrative.

Before, research consisted of talking to my parents and relatives, comparably easy considering what I did for this book. This book needed much more research and consideration (which I talk about below).

It was also really important for me for all the stories to tie together, because of the red thread theme-- was how everything is connected. So, this book was a very consuming process. I was constantly thinking of how to link stories-- writing notes on scrap pieces of paper at the gym, post it notes all over my house, notebook scrawls at lunch. This was the first book that I've written where it was impossible to work on anything else at the same time.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

Researching for this book was quite enjoyable! I traveled to China and Taiwan and relived my trip to Hong Kong as a way for me to soak up the landscape and help create the imagery in my mind.

I also read and reread many Asian folktales and myths. Many times, I would read a myth that was little more than a line and would be unable to find more - which lead me to create the story in my head. For example, at Chinese New Year, it is common to find pictures of two plump children dressed in red decorating doorways. These children are called Da-A-Fu. Why? I researched and only found a very short summary of them: they were two spirits transformed as children sent to destroy a green monster that was terrorizing a village. There were no details of how or why or what village, but it was enough to spark my imagination. So with that, I created the twin characters of A-Fu and Da-Fu in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon who destroy the Green Tiger.

Even with the research, however, this book had its challenges. I am most definitely Asian-American, and probably more American than Asian. So capturing Chinese authenticity was something I struggled with as well as debated internally. The book is very much tinged with my Asian-American sensibilities. For example, I knew and learned more about foot-binding for young girls in China; but I made the conscious decision to leave that tradition out of my book. I try to make a point in my author's note that the book is an Asian-inspired fantasy, not full of historical truths or even traditional Chinese values. I hope people still enjoy it as such.

(**Pictures show a photo from China, the sketch inspired by the photo, and the final art that appears in the book. How cool is that?!)

How did you incorporate your own personal experiences into Where the Mountain Meets the Moon?

Well, when I first began writing this book, I had visited Hong Kong and Taiwan which were wonderful trips. Being Asian-American (and more American than Asian) it was a fascinating experience to be surrounded by a culture that was so foreign and familiar at the same time. Whenever I viewed the landscape, saw a temple or a sampan in the water, I suddenly would remember the Chinese folktales I had read as a child. I could see them happening in the setting around me and I knew in there was a book waiting to be written.

I was almost 3/4th finished with the writing the book when I went to visit China. This was the perfect time to go, as I had an idea of what kinds of things I wanted to see and research there but the book was still open enough to be changed. And it was wonderful! Actually seeing China with my own eyes and experiencing it added such a rich layer to the story. For example, one of the excursions we took especially for the book was a visit to a tiny mountain village. I wanted to see a mountain village because I knew Minli (the main character in “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” ) would be visiting one. The whole time we were there, we were freezing cold but the villagers were so friendly and red-cheeked (which I was to find out later was wind-burn, not good circulation). So, those element of mountain cold and a warm, friendly shelter became the back drop of the village Minli visits.

What are some of your favorite middle-grade novels?

Too many! The ones I loved as a child and still love are the “Shoes” books by Noel Streatfeild (I think my favorite is “Family Shoes”), anything by Rumer Godden (I love “Miss Happiness and Miss Flower”), anything by Beverly Cleary (“Ramona and Her Father” still makes me feel warm and fuzzy), the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, anything by Ruth Chew (“The Witch’s Buttons!”). I also LOVED “A Sundae With Judy” by Frieda Friedman (which was the absolute first MG book I read that had an Asian character in it), “A Search For Delicious” by Natalie Babbit, and, of course the Narnia Book and the Oz books.

I am ashamed to say I am not as well read on recently published books (I’m the kind of person that can read the same book over and over again, and I tend to read my classic favorites!). But some of the more recent books that I love are “Masterpiece” by Elise Broach, “Alvin Ho” by Lenore Look, “Blow Out the Moon,” by Libby Koponen and “Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia” by Barbara O’Connor.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Grace. I hope you had a great blog tour. It was a pleasure having you!

Want to know more? Check out Grace's Facebook page and the Where the Mountain Meets the Moon book launch page. And, of course, visit your local bookstore or library and pick up Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!

And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

Wednesday, June 24th: Bildungsroman
Thursday, June 25th: Shelf Elf
Friday, June 26th: Paper Tigers
Saturday, June 27th: MotherReader
Sunday, June 28th: Charlotte's Library
Monday, June 29th: Write for a Reader
Tuesday, June 30th: The Mommy Files
Wednesday, July 1st: Thrifty Minnesota Mama
Thursday, July 2nd: Creative Madness
Friday, July 3rd: Right here!