Monday, August 31, 2009

A Week in the Life of a Children's Librarian

So, you wanna know what I'm doing this week?

Sunday & Monday - Children's and Young People's Division Conference in Indianapolis. Had a great time, saw some great speakers (including my husband John Green). Just got back. *collapse*

Tuesday - Success by Six meeting at the New Albany Schools Administrative Center, back to the library for a meeting to divide up the chunk of book money we're getting (hooray!!!), working evening shift on desk.

Wednesday - North Vernon for ILF committee meeting.

Thursday - Giving a presentation at the Board meeting in the morning, frantically trying to check things off my to-do list in the afternoon. ;)

And Friday I have off due to my hours spent at the conference. I will stay in my PJs all day long.

So, yes. That's my week. Catch me if you can!

Sneak Peak: Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

I'll be posting a review closer to the pub date, but I couldn't put Tangled down, so I just had to mention it. I'm a huge fan of Carolyn Mackler's other books and I was really excited to see that she has a new book coming out. It did not disappoint!!

Jena, Dakota, Sky, and Owen are all at Paradise - a resort in the Caribbean, that is - for different reasons, but in Paradise their lives become tangles together in ways none of them can predict. The week might take Jena one kiss closer to having a life; set Dakota on a new path; push Skye to stop playing a role, or face the consequences; or inspire Owen to take a leap from his online life to a real one, all because of a girl he met in Paradise. Whatever happens here, it will change them all.

Put it on your TBR lists, kids, and look for it in December.

Nonfiction Monday

Peculiar Pets is a new series by Bearport Publishing. The four-title series currently covers iguanas, pot-bellied pigs, miniature horses, and ferrets. I got my hands on Green Iguanas and Potbellied Pigs, both by Natalie Lunis.

Full of color photos and interesting facts, these books will appeal to kids who have or want these unusual pets. The books give some tips about the care of these animals, though potential pet owners will want a more in-depth manual before deciding to obtain one of these pets. These books would make great companions for kids who are not confident enough at reading to make it through a pet-care manual.

Here's hoping that they add a title on sugar gliders to the series! (I seem to get asked for books on sugar gliders on a fairly regular basis and there isn't a lot out there for kids...)

Another new series by Bearport is X-Moves, books about extreme sports. Included in this series are books on BMX, surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, MotoXers, and rally cars. I read Super Surfers and Daring BMXers, both by Michael Sandler.

Again, I love the layout of these books. They're full of cool color pictures showing people doing tricks in their sports. The text is simple and with a pleasing layout that includes small fact boxes and captions for the photos. I think this series will appeal most to kids who are already interested in extreme sports and it's likely to attract sports fans who don't read much.

(Full disclosure: review copies provided by Bearport Publishing.)

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Simply Science has the roundup, so go check it out.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In My Mailbox #3

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by The Story Siren. Do head on over there and check out the roundup. I find it really interesting to see what books are floating around the blogosphere.

This was a very exciting mailbox week! Here's what showed up (all blurbs are from publisher content):

Living on Impulse by Cara Haycak. (Dutton Juvenile, August 2009.)

Mia Morrow loves that feeling. The electrical charge, the dizziness, the throbbing in her temples - they're all part of the impulse high. That's why instead of caring about grades and colleges like her friends, Mia lives for chasing boys, cliff-diving, and occasionally snatching things off department store shelves. But when Mia gets caught shoplifting a pair of designer sandals, she'll have to face the consequences of her impulses for the first time. From losing her friends to taking a job in a college lab breeding flies, Mia must abandon the girl she thought she was, in order to seek out the person she truly wants to be.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton. (Philomel, June 2009.)

Jimmy lives in Rowlesburg, West Virginia, during the 1940s. He does all the things boys do in the small mountain town: plays a mean game of football, pulls the unforgettable Halloween prank with his friends in “the Platoon,” and promises to head off into the woods on the first day of hunting season— no matter what. He also knows his father belongs to a secret society, and is determined to uncover the mysteries behind it! But it is a midnight encounter with a train that shows Jimmy the man his father really is.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. (HarperTeen, March 2010.)

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during her junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable , and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton. Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler. (HarperTeen, December 2009.)

Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all at Paradise - a resort in the Caribbean, that is - for different reasons, but in Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. The week might take Jena one kiss closer to have a life; set Dakota on a new path; push Skye to stop playing a role, or face the consequences; or inspire Owen to take a leap from his online life to a real one, all because of a girl he met in Paradise. Whatever happens here, it will change them all.

[I'm a huge fan of Carolyn Mackler, so I'm super excited to read this one!]

Like I said, a very exciting mailbox week for me. What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Do I have Indiana readers yet?
I'll be at the CYPD Conference in Indianapolis on Sunday and Monday. Looks like some very interesting programs. I'll have a full report, oh, some time next week (this next week is seriously crazy cakes).

ANYhoo. If you find me at CYPD, say hi!

Book Review: Shiver

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. (Grades 9+)
Scholastic, August 2009
Full disclosure: reviewed from ARC I snagged at ALA

Ever since she was a little girl, Grace has been visited by a wolf in the woods behind her house. This particular wolf seems to appear every winter and has the most amazing yellow eyes. After wolves attack one of her classmates, Grace's wolf appears to her one night... as a human. Sam. And Grace knows that she loves him. But she also knows that she's going to lose him. For as the temperature drops, Sam's days as a human are drawing to a close. And to be together, Grace and Sam have to be willing to risk everything.

Shiver was everything I wanted Twilight to be. There, I said it.

It's beautifully written. I didn't find any of the characters annoying. Both Grace and Sam narrate the story with chapters switching back and forth between their points of view. Even as Grace's obsession with Sam grows, she's still her own person.

I had one niggling complaint about the werewolf folklore, but it was answered towards the middle of the book. (I kept thinking, if you change when you get cold... move to Florida! But there's a reason they can't do that. It gets explained.)

I kept flagging passages of beautiful writing, like this one at the very beginning:

The day I nearly talked to Grace was the hottest day of my life. Even in the bookstore, which was air-conditioned, the hear crept in around the door and came in through the big picture windows in waves. Behind the counter, I slouched on my stool in the sun and sucked in the summer as if I could hold every drop of it inside me. As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.

This was what I loved, when I was human

I knew at that point that I was in for a treat. It took me a little bit to get hooked into the story, but once I did, I didn't want to put the book down. I'm not sure what else I have to say about it. I'd promptly hand it over to Twilight fans (hi, Melody!) or fans of paranormal romance.

Check out this gorgeous book trailer created by the author:

Oh, and there's a companion novel coming out in Fall 2010, Linger.

And read more reviews at The Compulsive Reader, Presenting Lenore, The Well-Read Child, GreenBeanTeenQueen, and Shooting Stars Mag.

Plus, read a Cynsations interview with Maggie Stiefvater and Ms. Stiefvater's thoughts about the worst review she's received over at The Worst Review Ever (OMG what a cool idea for a blog!).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review: Solace of the Road

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd. (Grades 8+)
Originally published in the UK. Released in America by David Fickling Books (Random House), October 2009.
ARC provided by publisher.

Holly's a foster kid in London, but when a couple wants to foster her everything begins to change. Holly has to leave her friends and her favorite social worker. She has to get used to her potential foster parents and start at a new school. And Holly's not really sure it's for her. When she finds a fabulous blond wig, Holly puts it on and feels transformed. With the wig, she feels like Solace, a fabulous lady who's fearless and ready for anything. So she plunks that wig on her head and sets off to hitchhike to Ireland and find her mom. But Holly's physical journey across the country will also require a mental and emotional journey as she deals with her feelings about being a foster kid.

Siobhan Dowd has created an incredibly real sense of place in Solace of the Road. I've never been to England, but I felt like I was traveling beside Holly every step of the way. Part of what made the story feel so real was the British slang used heavily throughout. Some readers might find it a bit tough to wade through, but I'm glad they kept it because it made Holly feel authentic to me.

Maybe it's because I just listened to the audiobook of The Great Gilly Hopkins, but I kept thinking of Holly as an older, British Gilly. You know, if she hadn't stayed with Trotter and known such kindness. That put me on Holly's side right away and I was rooting for her throughout. I like, too, that Holly has doubts as she's going through her journey. She feels tired and hungry and worn down and she considers calling foster mom Fiona and going back to London, but the thought of her mom waiting for her in Ireland keeps her going. Holly's doubts were another thing that made her feel real to me.

I feel the plot lagged in spots and I occasionally wondered where the story was going, but the ending quieted my doubts and wrapped things up in a satisfying way. I'd recommend Solace of the Road to older fans of The Great Gilly Hopkins (and other foster kid tales) as well as fans of Siobhan Dowd's other works (particularly Bog Child because it evokes the same immersion in place).

Read more reviews at Crossover, Bookwitch, and Melody's Reading Corner.

Around the interwebs

In case you missed it, the call for Cybils judges went out this week! I was a nominating panelist in the YA Fiction category last year and it was lots of fun, but a big time commitment. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into and then click over to this post to see how to apply.

(The Cybils are the Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards and even if you don't want to be a judge or don't have a blog, you can still nominate a book in each category starting October 1! So be thinking about the best books you've read this year!)

If you do blog, head over to A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy to take Liz's blogging survey. How much time do you spend on your blog each week?

Do you love Twitter? (I do.) Well, that's great, but making time to comment thoughtfully on people's posts may better show off your writing skills and attract people to your blog, so says Mother Reader. So, go forth and tweet, but make sure you remember to leave time for commenting, too.

Are you facing rejection after rejection for your manuscript? Take heart and read Lisa Joy Singleton's guest post over at The Story Siren. She got the idea for her recently published DEAD GIRL series way back in 1988 and it published in 2008. I love reading the stories behind the stories!

And speaking of stories behind stories, check out Alvina Ling's post A Day in the Life of an Editor. (I have to say that I'm somewhat intense about having a tidy email inbox and having 200-300 emails at any one time would drive me nuts! Lucky I'm not an editor!)

Have you ever wanted to name a character in a book? Well, Peachtree Publishers is giving you a chance to do just that. Enter the contest and you could win not only the chance to name a character but an entire set of sports stories from Peachtree Publishers. And who couldn't use more sports stories on your shelves?

Schools are starting all over the country and Adrienne shares her My First Day of School program that she does for kindergartners every year. It's a little too late for my library (our kids started school on August 13!), but I'm definitely filing this idea away for next year. ;)

And I haven't forgotten about you lovely people who showed me where you blog! I was hoping to get a few more posts from the Kidlitosphere before I post the round-up. So, if you were thinking about showing me your blogging space, do it and send me a link to your post! And in the meantime, check out Cathy's Scene of the Blog feature (oh, I love the name!).

And last, but certainly not least: have you registered for the Kidlitosphere Conference?? I will be there! I am all registered and everything! If you've never been before and you're thinking about it, go ahead and register. I'll be a newbie, too, and we can be newbies together. ;) Oh, and authors, you should all come, too. I want to meet you!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Networking with Homeschoolers

Last week I got a great opportunity to network with one of my local homeschooling groups. I wish I could take credit for being proactive, but to be completely honest the organizer of the group called me up and asked if I would like to attend their August meeting. They had asked a dozen or so different community organizations to set up tables at their meeting and provide information to the families attending. Organizations included the library, the Louisville Science Center, 4H, local museums, Kindermusik, and others.

Of course, I jumped at the chance. At our August staff meeting, we were just talking about how to network with our large population of homeschooling families. I was thrilled to be invited.

But what to bring?? We would have half of an eight-foot table and our teen librarian was attending with me. I brought way too much stuff. Here's what I brought:

Program schedules - these were invaluable because many families lived outside our library district. At the current time they are not allowed to check out materials from our library unless they purchase a PLAC card, which is good at any library in Indiana. However, many of our programs this fall are drop-in and anyone is welcome to come to these.

Registration forms for the Imagination Library program - we just brought this program to my county, so I was excited to hand these out.

Volunteer applications

TSI applications - this is our teen group for grades 6-12. Our teen librarian advertised this program to many families and handed out a lot of applications.

Some new books from our collection - we didn't really have the space to display them properly and, though we got a few comments on the books I'd selected, no one really perused them. I'd leave them home next time.

Business cards - I don't think any homeschooling families took any, but it was nice to have them in order to network with the other organizations that were there (4H, Louisville Science Center, etc.)

Book lists - I brought a selection of book lists to hand out, but we didn't really have room at the table and with so many people from outside the library district, I didn't end up putting them out.

A survey - I put together a survey for homeschooling families that just asked what kinds of programming they might be interested in. If I did this event over, I'd ditch the survey. With all the paper on our table, the survey kind of got lost. I did mention it to most everyone who stopped by, but a bunch of them took it with them and I'm sure I'll never see them again. With an email signup list, it's quick and easy and everyone can immediately identify it. People might be more willing to scribble down their email address than to stand there and answer several questions thoughtfully. I could email information about upcoming programs, direct them to new features on our website, and send out online surveys if I wanted.

The day after the event, I emailed the organizer of the event thanking her for inviting us and letting her know what kind of programming we could provide if she ever wanted the library to come to another meeting of the group. We could do an early literacy workshop for parents of young ones, family storytime, booktalks, or a demonstration of our databases.

It was a great night overall and I'm so happy that we got the chance to meet some of our homeschooling families. (Of course, many of the faces were familiar because they visit the library often.) If you get the chance to attend a meeting of local homeschoolers, take it! If they don't call you, find out who your local groups are and contact them. Check out Local HS or's Homeschool Support Groups by State for listings of some homeschooling support groups.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mother Goose on the Loose

Last week, two of my staff members and I went to a training on the Mother Goose on the Loose program by Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen. The training was brought to several libraries around Indiana by the Indiana Library Federation, so we were able to attend for free. You guys, it was awesome.

Mother Goose on the Loose is a program that Betsy developed for kids under 2 with a parent or caregiver. I'll admit it: baby programming intimidates me. Maybe it's because I don't have any kids and have never really been around babies all that much. But I'm all like I don't know what to do with babies at a program! What can they even DO?

MGOL calls for a safe, welcoming, joyful environment. Lots of rhymes and songs. Lots of repetition. And lots of different activities to move things along. And Betsy presented it in such a way that my staff and I feel comfortable doing it and excited about doing it at our library! We wanted to run back and try it right away.

Betsy started the training by talking about how she developed the program in Israel and how she brought it back to the States. She talked about brain research and the importance of developing social and emotional skills in the very young.

Then she sat us down in a big circle and went through an extended MGOL program, showing us exactly what she would do, what she would say, what the order of activities would be. For every rhyme and song she does it twice - once for participants to hear it and the second time for them to say/sing it along with her. The program calls for lots of repetition from week to week, so it helps parents learn new songs and rhymes and games for their kids.

After that, we talked about school readiness and how the skills practiced in MGOL programs (like taking turns, being patient, clapping for each other, following instructions) help kids get ready to start kindergarten. It was actually really inspiring to directly see the connection between activities done at the program and the skills they're developing.

THIS is the training I wish I'd had in library school. I'm so glad to have had it now. If you're a librarian and you get a chance to go to a Mother Goose on the Loose training, I highly recommend it. Suggest it to your library system or your director. Bring Betsy in for your staff on a development day.

And if you're a parent of a very young one, check if your local library offers MGOL. If they don't offer any sort of baby programming, let them know they should! Point them to the website (and even this blog post if you wish).

I don't mean to gush (I promise she's not paying me!), but it was a wonderful training and it's gotten us so excited to offer this program at our library. If you're not able to attend a training, Betsy has also written a huge MGOL manual that you can purchase. You can also get a 2-CD set that includes an entire MGOL program and additional songs and rhymes you can use.

But I can't recommend the training enough. Betsy is an inspiring, knowledgeable, friendly person, and I don't see how anyone could see her enthusiasm for this program and not become enthusiastic herself.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Review and Giveaway: Geektastic

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. (Grades 7+)
Little, Brown, August 2009. Review copy provided by publisher.

Attention quiz bowl contestants, MMORPG'ers, Scoobies, and Trekkers: this book is for you! Which is not to say that you have to speak Klingon to enjoy Geektastic. There are as many kinds of geeks as there are books in the library, so Geektastic has a little something for everyone.

I didn't enjoy every single story, but there were many that I really enjoyed. I particularly enjoyed David Leviathan's story "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" about a high school boy who only joined the quiz bowl team because he has an unarticulated crush on one of the guys on the team. When the team goes to a huge competition, Alec doesn't take it as seriously as some on the team, but he'll find out that things aren't always what they seem.

I also really liked "The Stars at the Finish Line" by Wendy Mass about Tabitha and Peter, academic competitors since they were nine years old and both said they wanted to be astronauts. When Peter tells Tabitha about a stargazing event, she immediately wants to put the Messier Marathon on her CV, but Peter has ulterior motives for getting Tabitha out under the stars.

I mean, with such hit authors as M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, John Green, Lisa Yee and more, this is a must-have for any teen collection. And since there's something for everyone, this is a collection you shouldn't miss.

Read more reviews at Boing Boing, Pink Me, and A Chair, A Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy. And you won't want to miss Alvina Ling's Beyond the Book: Geektastic post if you want to get the scoop on how she acquired Geektastic and what went into its editing and packaging. Also check out the PW Cover of the Week article.

And good news! Little, Brown is providing two copies for me to give away! You know you want to win one, so leave a comment on this post to enter. Become a follower (and post a separate comment telling me you did so) to get an extra entry (or if you're already a follower [thank you!], post a separate comment letting me know and you'll get an extra entry). Link to this post (and post a separate comment telling me you did so) to get an extra entry for every link. You have until September 1 to enter.

Best of luck!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Dog Heroes

This week I want to tell you about a couple of new books in the Dog Heroes series from Bearport Publishing. (Full disclosure: review copies provided by the publisher!)

Combat-Wounded Dogs by Sunita Apte is about dogs who have served in the US military.

The US military officially began using dogs in combat during World War II. Dogs may have saved as many as 10,000 soldiers during the Vietnam War by detecting explosives and weapons in the jungles of Vietnam. Military dogs perform many different jobs overseas. They might guard military bases, search buildings, or detect explosives. Today military dogs are considered 4-legged soldiers and usually have a higher rank than their handlers!

At my library we have a noticeable population of grade-school boys who are interested in all things military. This will be right up their alley. You might even pair this title with Letters from Wolfie, a novel about a boy who offers up his dog for military service during the Vietnam War.

Seizure-Alert Dogs by Margaret Fetty is about service dogs that detect seizures for their owners.

These dogs can sense tiny changes in their owner that alert them that a seizure is coming. Some dogs can detect seizures up to 12 hours before they occur and they are trained to let their owner know by barking or pawing at them. When their owner has a seizure, dogs protect them. Some even call for help using special buttons, switches, or even the telephone. These are truly amazing stories of dogs that have saved the life of their owners.

Both titles are very well laid out with lots of full-color photographs and simple text that will attract reluctant readers. Even voracious readers will love learning about these talented dogs. Each book includes a glossary, bibliography, and list of books and websites for further reading.

If you're in a public library, make sure you have these books on the shelves. I guarantee they won't stay on the shelves for long.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Anastasia's got the roundup over at Picture Book of the Day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature started by The Story Siren. Here's what I got in my mailbox this week:

First of all, I got a box from Bearport, which is fun. They publish high-interest nonfiction for kids in K-8th grade. Here's what they sent me:

Combat-Wounded Dogs by Sunita Apte and Seizure-Alert Dogs by Margaret Fetty from the Dog Heroes series.

Daring BMXers and Super Surfers, both by Michael Sandler from the X-Moves series.

Green Iguanas and Potbellied Pigs, both by Natalie Lunis from the Peculiar Pets series.

I also received Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman, the second book in the Skeleton Creek trilogy. The first one was really creepy. And Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan. I love the sweet cover of this book!

Ghost in the Machine. Scholastic, October 2009.
Fortune's Folly. Henry Holt, April 2009.

And now, since I had a huge event at my library yesterday I am taking the rest of the day to lounge around in my PJs. Have a great Sunday!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. (Grades 5-8.)

It's 1978. Twelve-year-old Miranda lives in New York City, walking to school each day with her best friend Sal and reading A Wrinkle in Time more times than she can count. But then everything changes. Sal refuses to walk to school with Miranda. And Miranda starts finding notes left for her in strange places. Notes that caution her not to tell anyone about them. Notes that seem to predict the future. And if Miranda can figure out who's leaving the notes and what they're telling her to do, she might be able to prevent a tragic death.

When You Reach Me has gotten a lot of hype. I'm always a little skeptical about things that get a lot of hype because I tend to be contrary and not like the stuff that everyone else likes. Um, yeah, this book stood up to the hype. I looooved it.

The first thing that appealed to me is the setting. Set in late-70s New York, When You Reach Me brought me back to those books that I read over and over again as a child*. I'm thinking of Harriet the Spy, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Us and Uncle Fraud... Books that were written in the late 70s and early 80s. None of those books necessarily have anything in common with When You Reach Me as far as plot, but I kept thinking of them as I was reading. Rebecca Stead's got the feel of that time period down.

Then there was the narrative that kept skipping back and forth between present tense and past tense, but not in a confusing way. In a way that made beautiful sense as more of the plot is revealed. Tiny short chapters and a twisty, interesting plot kept me turning the pages and I didn't put the book down until I'd finished the whole thing. Oh, and I totally did not figure out the twist. But I love the twist.

This is a book you won't want to miss. Everyone's talking about it and I wouldn't be surprised to see some shiny stickers on it come award season. Check out the hype:

100 Scope Notes
A Fuse #8 Production
Becky's Book Reviews
Book Nut
Educating Alice
Librarian Pirate
Sarah Miller
The Reading Zone
Welcome to My Tweendom

Oh, I'm so, so glad that I don't have to be the voice of dissent. I can just buzz away like everyone else. Yeah, you're gonna want to read this one.

*Not A Wrinkle in Time. I hated A Wrinkle in Time. And I read it again several years ago and I still hate A Wrinkle in Time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Good Librarian Day

Sometimes you have those days where you are just so excited to be doing what you're doing. Today was one of those days - a good librarian day. Today I went with two of my staff members to a Mother Goose on the Loose training workshop by Dr. Betsy Diamant Cohen. It was absolutely fabulous and got us really fired up to offer programs to the under-2 crowd. If you have the opportunity to go to a MGOL training, I highly recommend it. Parents of babies, if your library offers a Mother Goose on the Loose program, you should really check it out.

Then this evening I went to a meeting of a local homeschooling group. They had invited many community organizations to set up tables and it was a great opportunity to speak with homeschooling families and get some feedback from them.

I'll have more in-depth posts about both of these things later. I just had to check in and tell you how lucky I am to have a fabulous job that I love!

For now, I'm off to pick out which posts to highlight for my Book Blogger Appreciation Week award nominations. Yes, that is plural... I've been nominated for Most Eclectic Taste and for Best Kidlit Blog. Even to be nominated is a huge honor, so THANK YOU!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

After winners

Congratulations to Jen and Becky who were the winners of my After giveaway! I've emailed you and just need you to send me your mailing info.

Thanks to all who entered... and keep your eyes peeled because I'll have another giveaway early next week!

Going Bovine

Going Bovine by Libba Bray. (Grades 9+)
Full disclosure: ARC provided by Random House.

Publisher description:

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

So. Full confession. I made it to page 156 and gave up. Okay, to be completely honest I made it to page 98 and put it down for almost a week and then decided to go back and try to finish it because it's gotten great reviews.

There will be teens and adults who will Love It. I think Liz is right that it'll get starred reviews and be on best-of lists, but it just Wasn't My Thing.

I loved Cameron's voice instantly and the book's written with a lot of dark humor, which is something I can really get behind. I mean, here's the first line of the book:

The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.

Aren't you intrigued? Cameron goes on:

I know what you're thinking: WTF? Who dies at Disney World? It's full of spinning teacups and magical princesses and big-assed chipmunks walking around waving like it's absolutely normal for jumbo-sized stuffed animals to come to life and pose for photo ops. Like, seriously.


I don't know if you've experienced the Small World ride. If so, you can skip this next part. Honestly, you won't hurt my feelings, and I won't tell the other people reading this what an asshole you are the minute you go into the other room.

So, it started off good. I was loving Cameron's snark and attitude. But then it just took forever to get where it was going. I kept waiting for Cameron to get sick so the story could start. And it just took a really long time. I ran out of patience. So by the time he actually gets sick and goes off on this mystical journey, Cameron's voice didn't feel so fresh and I just wasn't that interested in his story. I was not nearly interested enough to read 480 pages of it.

I mean, I am not really into magical realism. And the whole "was the journey real or was it all in Cameron's mind?" aspect doesn't do anything for me either.

Now, go and read the reviews on Reading Rants! and Tea Cozy and Em's Bookshelf because they liked the book a lot. And I know a lot of people have been looking forward to it.

Going Bovine comes out on September 22, so go and read it and make up your own mind about it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blog Central

I am always curious to see authors' and illustrators' work spaces, so today I thought I'd give you a tour of the room I've jokingly named "Blog Central". This is my home office where I create the posts for Abby (the) Librarian. Enjoy!

We head into the room. Don't step on Howie. (His eyes look crazy because of the flash... what if they really glowed like that? That would be weird.)

And (depending on what time of day it is) we turn on the light.

Here's the whole room: (Heh, my other cat Ava is sitting in the bottom of that little shelvy stand in the middle there. Also note the printer that hasn't been hooked up yet and the stack of mailers for sending books to awesome people like you!)

Turn directly to your left and you'll find my TBR bookshelf. The top two shelves are books I own but haven't (yet!) read. The bottom shelf houses my binders, notebooks, and textbooks from grad school as well as various professional development resources. Laying on top of the bookshelves are a few library books.

Here is my desk, a hand-me-down from my parents. And my lovely new office chair, a birthday gift from my grandma. Yep, this is where the magic happens..! Note the lamp I've had since college, the computer mouse my ex-boyfriend gave me four years ago, and a very small stack of books waiting for me to write reviews (Shiver and Going Bovine, since I know you're curious).

Next up, we have the rest of my bookshelves. I have read almost all of these books. I also have boxes and boxes of books at my parents' house still... I'm bringing them over gradually. I really try not to hold on to any books that I don't really like. I use them as prizes at my library or give them to our YA librarian to use as prizes for the teens.

Here's a closeup of the cool bookshelves my mom painted for me. Aren't they fabulous? (Thanks, Mom!)

Next to these bookshelves, on the right-hand side of the room, I have another desk. I hated the blank walls and don't have money (yet!) for real art, so I've decorated with various free posters and book covers. I have a stack of book covers to put up, but I need to get more push pins. There are a few library books on that desk. Those are ones I've read and need to return.

And lastly I have my view from the window. This is what I see right this very moment as I'm typing up this blog post:

There you have it! This is my little corner of the world and I probably spend way too much time here. Now I want to see yours! Grab a camera and write a post about where you blog. Send me a link (in the comments or email me) and I'll post a compilation. A virtual walking tour of the Kidlitosphere!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Strong Man

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas by Meghan McCarthy. (Grades K-3)
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007.

When Angelo Siciliano arrived in America in 1905, he was a weakling. Tired of being picked on by bullies, Angelo decided to change his body and grow stronger. He started exercising to build his muscles and eventually became one of the first bodybuilders, changing his name to Charles Atlas. He was crowned "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man" and his measurements are on file as "the perfect specimen of the human body". The exercise program he developed is still being marketed today.

Besides exercising to build muscles, Atlas promoted a healthy lifestyle including proper nutrition, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, and keeping oneself neat and clean. He was an inspiration for millions, keeping his perfect form even as he aged into his 70s.

As Americans continue to struggle with issues of obesity and health, this is an important story that should be shared with kids. The bright colors, cartoonish illustrations, and simple prose make the story very accessible to young readers. Stories of Atlas's strong-man stunts (like tearing telephone books in half and pulling a train with his bare hands) will pique readers' interest. McCarthy includes information about some of Atlas's recommended exercises and an author's note to fill in the details of Atlas's life.

I love picture book biographies like this one because I learn about people that I never would have known about. This is definitely worth checking out and I'll be looking for more of Meghan McCarthy's stuff! Definitely check out Meghan's website where she has a lot of cool stuff including coloring pages and a tour of her artist's studio.

Check out more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and The Kiddosphere @ Fauquier and read Meghan's thoughts about researching for nonfiction picture books.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Sally's got the roundup at All About Children's Books.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In My Mailbox #1

So there's this weekly blogger meme called "In My Mailbox", started by The Story Siren, and I've been thinking that I'm going to start participating. I mean, not every week because I don't get books in the mail every week, but I figure it's a good way to point out new books more quickly than I can actually read and review them. I'm not trying to brag about free books. I like seeing what other people are receiving and reading so that I can keep up on what new books are coming out. So without further adieu, here's what I received in my mailbox this week:

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little Brown, August 2009)

Hate List by Jennifer Brown (Little Brown, September 2009 - requested at ALA)

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr (Little Brown, October 2009 - requested at ALA)

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink (Little Brown, August 2009)

Solving Zoe by Babara Dee (Margaret K. McElderry, April 2009) (I think this was actually from the week before, but oh well.)

And I bought the following (nothing like a big box from Amazon, eh?):

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements (Atheneum, June 2009) - I was tired of waiting for my library to purchase this one and THEN there was a flooding disaster, so I figured that it'll be awhile before they have the funds for new books... oy... (And I'm hoping that the library I work at will have some money for books soon, but right now, well, we don't.)

The Homeschool Liberation League
by Lucy Frank (Dial, July 2009)

Mission Control, This is Apollo
by Andrew Chaikin (Viking Juvenile, May 2009)

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises (Delacorte, July 2009) - Totally sold by Liz's review.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, July 2009) - I've heard so many good things about this one, I just couldn't wait for it! And for some reason Amazon sent me a library bound copy... Hmm. Oh, well!

It was a great week for books in the mail. Go on over to The Story Siren and see what everybody else found in their mailboxes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Around the Interwebs

I know you love The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Who doesn't? But can you name all 15 foods he eats in 5 minutes? I have to admit that I could only name 12.

Banned Books Week is right around the corner (September 26-October 3, 2009), so check out this Google map of 2008 book challenges (I think they're from 2008...) Link via bookshelves of doom.

Have you done an awesome outreach program to an underserved community? Good for you! You might want to apply for the "Light the Way: Library Outreach to the Underserved" grant. Link via ALSC blog.

There's talk all over the Kidlitosphere about advertising on blogs, getting paid for product promotion. MotherReader has a great roundup. All bloggers should read it and familiarize yourself with the discussions going on.

Speaking of Pam, she's also got a great post at Booklights on early literacy games. Fun, easy activities parents can do at home to develop those early literacy skills!

ETA (11:54pm - why am I still awake?): OH. And I know everyone's excited about KidLitCon (I've registered, have you???), but I am also excited about Anderson's Bookshop's YA Lit Conference! I booked our hotel room tonight, so you know I'll be there.