Thursday, December 31, 2009

Around the Interwebs: Finishing Up 2009 Edition

As we plunge ever onward into 2010 (omg...), I have a few links I want to share. Welcome to the last Around the Interwebs of 2009!

(First of all, can I just say that I know I am WAY LATE to the game, but I have set up a Delicious account and the Firefox add-ons and I am loving it!)

Speaking of being way late to the game, back in October SLJ reported on the finalists for the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prizes for Excellence in Science Books for children and young adults (say that ten times fast, I dare you). Winners will be announced in January (which is, y'know, like next week).

And you know what I'm going to be doing next week (along with a bunch of my fellow bloggers)? Blogging about Jon Scieszka, our soon-departing National Ambassador of Children's Literature. While we all wait with bated breath to see who the next Ambassador will be, let's say goodbye and thanks to Jon by doing what we do best - blogging. Franki and Mary Lee have posted the call over at A Year of Reading: blog about Scieszka on Monday, January 4 and then head over there for the round-up.

You know what I'm not going to do next week (apparently)? Weed the Baby-Sitters Club Books*. Scholastic is publishing a BSC prequel in the hopes of attracting a new generation of readers. I can tell you right now that I will be one of those "older fans" checking out the prequel, most def. As to whether the move will rekindle interest in the series... that remains to be seen. (Also, didn't they kind of already try this with the BSC graphic novels? Not that I'm complaining... Claudia's my favorite, how 'bout you?) Link via @LizB.

Since we're wrapping up the year, 2009 Wrap-Up Posts abound, but I particularly liked Becky's collection of the Best First Lines of 2009. I also particularly liked Travis's 2009: The Year in Miscellanea. The line that made me laugh out loud:
Nothing says “this book contains vampires and/or zombies” more than a black cover with a mysterious image. And the trend is spreading. Seriously, take a look at the YA section of your local bookstore – it’s like they turned the lights off.
Starting a blog? Thinking about starting a blog? Even if you've been blogging for years, you might pick up some good tips over at The Story Siren where Kristi has compiled all her blog advice posts. Definitely worth a look, even for seasoned bloggers.

And yes, Christmas is over, but you can keep this activity going all year 'round: over at Booklights, Terry suggests writing letters (to Santa) as an early literacy activity. (And yes, writing is part of early literacy!)

And Jacket Whys pointed me to a fascinating blog by book cover designer David Dummond. If you've ever wondered what goes into creating book covers, do check it out.

And on that note, I'm out. Everyone, have a safe and happy New Year's Eve! It's been a wonderful year blogging with all of you and I have high hopes for 2010 being the best year yet.

*Not that I was necessarily going to weed the BSC books next week, though we have given some thought to whether they would really be missed from our paperback series section...

Photo: Christmas World Ball.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: NERDS

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley. Grades 4-6. Amulet, 2009. Reviewed from ARC picked up at ALA.

Jackson Jones is the It kid at his elementary school... until he's forced to have some major dental work including massive headgear. He instantly plummets from the pinnacle of popularity to the depths of nerddom. But being invisible has its advantages. Jackson begins to observe his classmates and learn some of their secrets. When he follows a suspicious group of nerds out of class one day, he stumbles upon the secret lair of the NERDS - a classified government espionage operation using biologically enhanced kids to thwart the Big Bads of the world. But can Jackson cut it as a NERD? Time will tell... but time's running out!

NERDS is so not my type of book, but I have to confess that I kind of loved it. Reading NERDS is like watching Saturday morning cartoons. I'm serious. It's wacky and funny and I could practically see the scenes unfolding in front of my eyes. To me, that's a mark of a book that kids will really enjoy.

I wouldn't hesitate to hand this to your reluctant readers, especially kids who like wacky-funny and/or books about spies. This'll be a hit.

And yeah, it's a tad gimmicky. The premise is that you've picked up a top-secret document and periodically the book asks for your "clearance" by scanning your retinas, analyzing your hair, etc. Some may find that distracting, but I found that it broke up the text in what is otherwise a pretty thick book. Chapters are short for the most part, which helps to keep the pages turning.

It's an interesting concept well done and sure to garner many elementary school fans.

Read another review at The HappyNappy Bookseller.

This is a Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my own opinion, not necessarily that of the panel.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review: The Frog Scientist

The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Andy Comins. (Grades 5-8.) Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, July 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

This is another excellent entry in the Scientists in the Field series. Pamela S. Turner follows biologist Tyrone Hayes as he does experiments to see how certain pesticides affect frogs. Check out this book trailer:

The information is a great blend of personal information about Tyrone and scientific information about his work and the plight of different frogs worldwide. Many frogs are disappearing due to habitat destruction, diseases, and possibly because of pesticides. Tyrone hypothesizes that a popular pesticide called atrazine is causing deformities in frogs and his experiments try to prove it.

Not only is the narrative accessible and interesting, but the gorgeous color photographs add a lot to the book. Comins includes photos of many kinds of frogs of all sizes and colors as well as photos of Tyrone, his family, and his lab assistants. The symbiosis between the text and the photos is really well done, drawing the reader in from the first page. It's the first thing I noticed when I opened the book and I knew I was in for a treat.

PLUS, it's great to see a person of color featured in this series. Here's hoping there's more of that to come!

Of course the book includes resources for further reading, an index, and a glossary. It also includes a photographic guide to all the frog species mentioned in the book.

I'd be surprised not to see a shiny Sibert sticker on this one, come January. Extremely well done.

Read more reviews at The LibrariYAn, The Hungry Readers, Lit for Kids, and A Patchwork of Books, and don't miss this interview with author Pamela Turner at Of Books and Boys.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Go check out the round-up at Practically Paradise.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

To all who celebrate Christmas, I'd like to wish you a very Merry Christmas Eve from Abby (the) Librarian and share one of my Christmas traditions with you. Every year I bake red and green chocolate chip cookies, gather friends together, and watch A Muppet Christmas Carol.

So, Merry Christmas Eve, friends. My best wishes to you and yours.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review: Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis. Grades 4-7. Dial, 2009. Review copy provided by my local library.

We first met Emma Jean when she fell out of a tree. Now, the inimitable Emma Jean is back in a sequel that I actually maybe liked even more than the first book.

Emma Jean is quite fascinated by her classmates who all seem to have caught "Spring Fever". The Spring Fling is coming up and all Emma Jean's new friends seem to be obsessed with who they should ask to the dance. When an anonymous note appears in Colleen's locker, Emma Jean is tasked with figuring out who wrote it. With her powers of observation and her logical mind, it should be no problem, but everything gets a little more complicated when Emma Jean discovers she's got spring fever, too!

What I like so much about the Emma Jean books is the unique voice of the narrator. Emma Jean is certainly unlike any other main character I've read. She's unflinchingly logical and the behavior of her classmates sometimes mystifies her. And, when she starts feeling fluttery every time Will Keeler gets near, Emma Jean's mystified by herself as well.

The reader gets Emma Jean's perspective as well as Emma Jean's friend Colleen's, which rounds out the story nicely.

Colleen thinks no boy would ever like her, which is why she's so happy to get a note in her locker telling her it's not true. She asks Emma Jean to find out who wrote it, but she also immediately begins feeling better about herself. She describes it as feeling "Colleen-er". Now that she knows there's at least one boy out there who's noticed her, she feels better about herself and is able to relax around people and let her wonderful personality and humor show through.

Not only has Lauren Tarshis created an unforgettable, unique character in Emma Jean, her portrayal of the self-conscious, shy Colleen is spot on. Girls who may find themselves in a similar situation will be rooting for Colleen as she begins to come out of her shell.

Read more reviews at Welcome to my Tweendom, Book Nut, A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy, and Shelf Elf.

This is a Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let it Snow for Storytime

One morning last week I had a visit from a local Montessori school. They brought kids in grades 1-3 and they asked for a winter storytime. Here's what I put together for them. (Also see 'Tis the Season: Winter for a preschool winter storytime.)

I started out with Snow by Uri Shulevitz. This is a perfect, quiet book to express the anticipation you feel when you're wishing and hoping for snow. One snowflake falls and the little boy cries out, "It's snowing!" Though all the adults, radio, and television say it's not going to snow, the snowflakes have a way of piling up until the entire city is covered in a blanket of white.

So, we had our snow on the ground and next I read a poem from Jane Yolen's book Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children. I read the poem "Snow on the Trees" and talked to the kids about how I think this poem makes me feel that hushed, quiet feeling like when the whole world is covered with snow and everything is silent and white.

Since we had snow covering everything, I decided we'd better make snowmen and I read Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. The fun, rhyming text and exhuberant illustrations make this one of my favorite winter stories.

After sharing that book, I asked the kids to help me make a snowman and as they acted out the gathering of snow, rolling of snowballs, etc. I "built" a snowman from our story prop. It was constructed with styrofoam balls and some odds and ends. Very easy and cheap to make and the kids absolutely loved it! If you have a small enough crowd (or enough pieces - you could add arms and front buttons to what we have here), you can have the kids place the objects to make the snowman.

I shared a big book version of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This is a classic and one of my favorites for kids of all ages.

And I read parts of Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart. This non-fiction picture book talks about different animals in the forests, fields, and ponds and what they do when the weather gets cold. Frogs and turtles hide under the mud and barely breathe. Ladybugs bunch together in crevices. Voles burrow under the snow and eat the bark off trees. To read the entire book might be a little much for storytime, so I paper-clipped some of the pages together.

I had a great bunch of kids for my storytime and a good time was had by all! Here's hoping this helps you with your winter story requests this year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review: The Story of Snow

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson, Ph.D. (Grades 1-5.) Chronicle Books, October 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

For the past several winters, I lived in northern Illinois. Where we, y'know, actually got snow. Now I'm back in Kentucky where we occasionally get snow, but not very often. I'm jonesing.

So, I turned to The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder and I found it to be beautiful and interesting. You'll want to pick this up for your units and programs on winter and snow, most definitely.

Snow falls from the sky and it covers the ground. And it's cold and it's made up of snowflakes, which are made up of snow crystals. But how exactly does it happen? And what does a snow crystal actually look like?

The Story of Snow answers both these questions. There is information about how snow crystals are formed and why they make the shapes they do. The real strength of the book, though, is the gorgeous snowtography (er... the pretty, pretty photos of snow crystals). Mark Cassino is a nature photographer by trade and he displays beautiful images in the pages of this book. Kids and adults alike will be fascinated by the up-close photographs and inspired to take a closer look at the snow falling this winter. The authors even include step-by-step instructions for how to get a good look at snow crystals yourself.

Pair The Story of Snow with Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and make a date to study the crystals the next time it snows.

Check out more of Mark's fascinating photography on the book's blog:, look at a preview of The Story of Snow on Scribd, and read Amanda's review at A Patchwork of Books.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to Simply Science for the roundup!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Here's a librarian question...

Last night I watched The Day After Tomorrow (since Louisville didn't get any snow, I figured I'd watch a movie that had LOTS of snow). And here's what I'm wondering:

If you were trapped in the New York Public Library and had to burn books to stay alive, what sections would you start with?

Myself, I'd probably start with phone directories (since they'll be all out of date when everyone dies and/or moves south anyway), followed by the 551s (weather) since that would obviously need updating.

What do you think?

In My Mailbox #15

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren!

This was a small mailbox week, but an exciting one. I got two books:

Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury, January 2010.

This is the sequel to Rapunzel's Revenge, which I loooved. I'll be reviewing this title for a Kidz Book Buzz Tour in January, so watch out for that!

Conspiracy 365: January by Gabrielle Lord. Kane/Miller, January 2010.

On New Year's Eve, Cal is confronted by a strange man who tells him to go into hiding. They will come after him, he says, because of the Ormund Singularity. These people killed his father and now they'll come after him. Cal finds it unsettling, but decides it's probably just the ravings of a mad man... until he's almost killed that night. Now Cal's on a wild hunt to decipher the clues his father left behind before he died. What is the Ormund Singularity? Who are these people who are after him? And can Cal get things figured out before his family and friends get hurt?

This is the start of a new teen/tween series, so I'll be interested to see what the kids think of it.

And that was my mailbox this week... What was in yours?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book Review: Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials

Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman. GP Putnam's Sons, January 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Charlie couldn't wait to be done with eighth grade. After discovering that her best friends were actually frenemies, mean girls of the highest order, and after what they did... well, Charlie's ready for the fresh start that Harmony Falls High School offers. Starting her freshman year is exciting and nerve-wracking, but Charlie's soon plunged into the thick of it. She meets cute boys, joins the newspaper staff, and makes some real girl friends. But when the athletic boys she's crushing on start to behave badly, Charlie will find that it's not only girls who can be mean.

I mean, this book was okay. I finished it. My main complaint is that I don't see that it offers anything new to the YA shelves and it wasn't compelling or enjoyable enough to get away with it.

I did like the interesting supporting cast of characters - namely Charlie's best friends Sydney and Nidhi. But the dangerous thing about that is that Charlie seemed boring in comparison. I think either Sydney's or Nidhi's story would have been more interesting. I wanted to know more about them!

I also liked the angle of having Charlie and Nidhi on the newspaper staff and I think if that had been a bigger focus, the story might have been a little more unusual.

So, for me, this one was a miss. I'd skip it and recommend Elizabeth Scott's Something Maybe (if you're looking for boy-meets-girl) or Alyson Noel's Cruel Summer (if you're looking for queen bees).

But what do I know? Kelly over at Stacked loved it. And check out another review at Pirate Penguin's Reads.

(And for the record, the picture at top is the ARC cover and the picture at bottom is the cover being published on the actual book. I prefer the ARC cover [which is why I included it]. Which one do you like??)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Around the interwebs

What blog post could tempt me to log into B&T Title Source to add titles to our order carts when I'm not at work? Well, honestly, several blog posts have done that, but today I'm talking about Betsy's librarian preview posts. If you haven't read them, keep an eye out for them! Lucky Betsy, being one of New York's finest librarians, gets to actually attend such shindigs. But lucky us, she writes them up so we can experience vicariously. Check out the spring 2010 previews from Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, Harper Collins, Lerner Publishing Group, Penguin Young Readers' Group, Little, Brown & Co, National Geographic, Albert Whitman and Co, Chronicle Books, and Chicken House. They are great posts to help you keep up on when books are coming out. Seriously, when does Betsy have time to sleep???

Publisher's Weekly had a cover. It sparked a controversy. PW senior news editor Calvin Reid had this to say.

I'm always up for a list of recommended nonfiction. Check out Colleen Mundor's column at Bookslut: Nonfiction Books for Curious Readers. And, of course, check out the Allen County Public Library's Mock Sibert lists.

Speaking of the Allen County Public Library, there is still time to register for their mock discussions. Indiana librarians can earn an LEU for participating in the Mock Newbery or Mock Caldecott. You can be sure I'd be there if Allen County wasn't, like, four hours away. They've also got a Mock Printz, a Mock Geisel, and a Mock Coretta Scott King. These are great collection development lists even if you can't attend the discussions!

And on that note, I'm out. It's been an exhausting week, but the end draws near! After Saturday, my department is done with programming for the year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review: All the Broken Pieces

All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg. Grades 6-8. Scholastic, April 2009. Copy provided by my local library. This is a Cybils nominee and my review reflects only my own opinion, not necessarily that of the panel.

Matt was airlifted out of his home country of Vietnam as the war went on around him. He left his mother and his brother behind. He never told anyone the whole truth about his life in Vietnam, not even his adoptive parents. The secrets he keeps haunt him still.

When Matt discovers a love for music and for baseball, both hobbies help him deal with his new life. But Matt will have to open up about what happened in Vietnam before he can ever truly be healed.

This verse novel is one that sticks with me. I just can't seem to get it out of my mind. And that's the mark of a good story.

It's a credit to her writing that Ann Burg is able to create such a sense of place and time and characters while writing in verse. She knows all the right words to put the reader right where she needs to be.

Right from the beginning, you know that Matt's got a lot to deal with. When he wakes from a nightmare, his adoptive mother is there to comfort him:

"You are safe, my precious child.
You are safe now, you are home.
We have found you and we love you.
You will never be alone.

There are no mines here,
no flames, no screams,
no sounds of helicopters
or shouting guns.

I am safe.

How can I
be home?

For, even though Vietnam is war-torn and dangerous, Matt still misses it. His home. And people in America have mixed feelings about him being there. Scenes where Matt visits a veteran support group show the tension and misconceptions among Americans about the war.

It's a haunting story and starkly beautiful. I'd pair it with Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate to start a discussion on war and refugees.

Read more reviews at The Reading Zone, Stacked, Oops...Wrong Cookie, and Literate Lives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review: Dani Noir

Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma. Grades 4-8. Aladdin, September 2009. Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils consideration. (This book is a Cybils nominee and my review reflects only my opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)

If there's anything I've learned from noir movies it's that everyone lies about something. And if you lie about one thing, what's to say you didn't lie about it all?

Thirteen-year-old Dani is not looking forward to the summer ahead of her.

Not only is she dealing with her parents' awful divorce (her dad was cheating and now lives with another woman and Dani doesn't think she can ever trust him again), but her best friend moved away and isn't calling (even though she said she would). It seems like everywhere Dani turns, someone is betraying her trust.

Which might be why she identifies so much with the film noir being shown at the local art house movie theater this summer. You never know who's going to be the bad guy. You can't trust anyone. And the femme fatale can handle whatever is thrown her way.

When Dani senses a mystery brewing (is yet ANOTHER person turning out to be untrustworthy?), she can help but investigate. And along the way, she'll discover a few surprises and start dealing with some issues.

I really, really liked Dani Noir.

First of all, Dani's a likeable character with a dry wit that keeps the tone from veering into depressing. It would be easy for a book about film noir and divorce and abandonment and betrayal to be dark, but Dani Noir isn't. It's not dark and it's not depressing. (Thank goodness.)

Which leads me to the second reason I really liked Dani Noir. Although Dani's dealing with situations that have been done (divorce, changes in friendship, etc.), it all feels fresh because Dani's seeing it through this film noir lens and comparing her own life to the movies she loves. It puts a fresh spin on things and adds a lot to the story. It made me want to watch all of Dani's favorite movies, too.

I'd highly recommend this book for tweens that are looking for a little something different.

Read more reviews at Semicolon, Shelf Elf, Welcome to My Tweendom, Reading Rants!, and educating alice.

Also, don't miss the Winter Blog Blast Tour interview with author Nova Ren Suma.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:45a - Arrive at library. Check email, go upstairs to the business office to pick up a check for the performer coming this weekend.

8:55a - Clean up around the department (pick up toys, fill in displays, etc.) and chat with A about how busy it was the night before.

9:10a - Work on the spring program schedule, booking our program room for storytimes and penciling in programs on the calendar.

10:10a - Set up program room for storytime and get materials together.

10:30a - Work on Thursday's report to the Board and a funding request for the Friends of the Library.

10:55a - Final room check for storytime.

11:00a - Storytime! We're reading stories about sheep today. Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox is a big hit.

11:30a - Storytime's over. I say goodbye to the kids and clean up the room.

11:45a - Lunchtime!

12:15p - Head out to the Success by Six action team meeting. Success by Six is a committee organized by Metro United Way with the goal of ensuring that every child in our community is ready to succeed in school by age six. This means that they'll be healthy, have supportive homes, and have all the assets to be ready to learn. I've enjoyed being part of the group and it's a great way to network with many people that share the same goals I have for kids in our community.

12:30p-2:00p - Success by Six meeting.

2:25p - Arrive back at library.

2:30p - Chat briefly with my boss.

2:35p - Chat briefly with our HR director.

2:50p - Back in the Children's Department. Check email.

3:00p - Chat with T and H about upcoming programs.

3:40p - Take care of booking the room for some programs. File information from Success by Six meeting.

4:15p - Send out emails soliciting donations of Legos for a possible Lego program at the library. I'm considering starting a Lego club (if we get enough Legos!).

4:30p - Talk to director about computers and the funding requests for the Friends.

4:45p - Take my Friends requests upstairs to my boss. I'll go to the Friends meeting to present the requests.

5:00p - Research a book I'm wanting for the library - Count Down to Kindergarten.

5:15p - Time to go home!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: I and I: Bob Marley

I and I: Bob Marley by Tony Medina, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson. Grades 4-8. Lee & Low Books, April 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

When I stare
Into that dark
Expanse beyond
The stars
I see Africa
With her back
Full of scars
I come from all
Of this
And there's much
More I need
To know

I want to make songs
As pure and clear
As water
To help my people

(from Pitch-Black Sky)

Okay, I have to tell you that I didn't know one single thing about Bob Marley before picking up this book. Other than random songs heard occasionally in various places, I haven't even listened to his music (though you can be sure I'm going to now...)

In striking verses and vibrant paintings, Tony Medina and Jesse Joshua Watson have brought the man to life for a new generation.

Bob Marley was born in Jamaica in 1945, son of an African Jamaican mother and a white European father. From the time he was a little boy, people knew Bob was special and they even though he might have prophetic powers. Truly, Bob was a kid who grew to be a teen who loved music and who saw wrongness in the world that he wanted to put right. He wanted to empower people to use peace and love to fix the ills of the world.

This is an extraordinary book - beautiful in many different ways. Medina's poetry sounds like song itself. In the back of the book there is an explanation for each poem, giving some more information about Bob Marley or what was going on in the world at that point in time. Each poem is accompanied by Watson's gorgeous artwork. The paintings and the poems really work together to evoke emotions in the reader.

I and I: Bob Marley is creative nonfiction at its best. I hope to see this one sprinkled liberally with awards, come January.

Check out the book trailer:

Read more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production (Betsy points out that the book includes mentions of the less-kid-friendly aspects of Marley's life [i.e. drug use and his many illegitimate children] in the notes), Biblio File, A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, and The Happy Nappy Bookseller.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out the round-up over at In Need of Chocolate.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In My Mailbox #14

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren!

Boy howdy, this was an amazing mailbox week (although technically I received most of these last week - but I didn't have a chance to pick up the package from the office until Monday morning, so there ya go).

I want to reiterate that I'm not trying to be all Look at me! I got ARCs! Consider this an early heads up about some books that are coming out over the next several months.

I got a delightful box from Scholastic containing the following books:

Girls in Love by Hailey Abbot (Point, May 2010).
This Totally Bites! by Ruth Ames (Poison Apple Books, May 2010).
The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks: Freezer Burned by Jake Bell (Scholastic, May 2010).
Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci (Scholastic Press, August 2010).
Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan (Scholastic Press, August 2010).
Movie for Dogs by Lois Duncan (Scholastic, June 2010).
The Healing Spell by Kimberly Griffiths Little (Scholastic Press, July 2010).
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan (Arthur A. Levine Books, June 2010).
The Dead End by Mimi McCoy (Poison Apple Books, May 2010).
How to Make a Bird by Martine Murray (Arthur A. Levine Books, June 2010).
And Then I Found Out the Truth by Jennifer Sturman (Point, July 2010).
I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis (Scholastic, June 2010).
Ghostopolis by Doug Tennapel (Graphix, July 2010).

WHEW. And as if that weren't enough, I also received a couple from Egmont:

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Egmont, August 2010). Summary from the ARC: At the age of four, Bryn watched a rogue werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by Callum, the alpha of his pack. Now fifteen, Bryn's been raised as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule (mostly). Little fazes her.

But the pack's been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum's orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage. Terrifying memories of the attach on her mom and dad come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It's Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences

I have enjoyed several of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's previous books, so I'm really looking forward to this one! (Plus, dude, werewolves are hot right now, for serious!)

Epitaph Road by David Patneaude (Egmont, March 2010). Summary from ARC: In 2067, an airborne virus wiped out 97 percent of the male population. Thirty years later, women rule the world and have ushered in a new golden age on Earth. Poverty, crime, war, and hunger have all disappeared. Growing up in this utopia, fourteen-year-old Kellen Dent feels isolated as one of the few males alive.

When a rumored outbreak of the virus threatens Kellen's outcast father, he knows that he must warn him of the coming danger. During his desperate race to find his dad, Kellen uncovers a secret so frightening that his life and the future of the world will never be the same

Um. Post-apocalyptic dystopian teen novel? SIGN ME UP.

So, yes. This was a wonderful mailbox week for me! How about you? What was in your mailbox?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Around the Interwebs

Is it just me or has this been the busiest week ever? Here are some links to check out in your free time (HA!).

In case you missed it (like I did), here's the clip of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon author Grace Lin on the Today Show:

Definitely worth a gander.

Need book recommendations for holiday giving? First, check out my 12 Days of Giving posts, but if that's not enough, check out Jon Scieszka's Holiday Reads for Your Kids. I mean, he is our ambassador after all... Thanks to A Fuse #8 Production for the link.

Speaking of gift guides, if you're shopping for tweens, don't miss Sarah's Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays. She's got lots of great suggestions! And while you're buying books for those on your gift-giving list, you might consider throwing in a few for the Book Angel Charity Contest. You can benefit kids of all ages and you just might win a fabulous prize for yourself!

And speaking of giving, I know you've got books on your shelf that you don't need (or maybe that's just me...). Consider giving them in honor of blogger Dewey who passed away just over a year ago. Participate in The Dewey Tree. Again, you could win fabulous prizes in addition to helping out an organization in need.

Kelly over at Stacked is wondering "Where have all the fat girls gone?" She looks at the covers of books that feature overweight protagonists and finds a disturbing, though not entirely surprising, trend.

Meghan McCarthy reflects on writing nonfiction. From the post:

...what I must conclude is that there is no one truth for anything. It's all a matter of perspective. Nonfiction writing is a job of taking what people say and then making your best educated guess as to what the truth really is.
Do read the rest of the post. Food for thought.

Whether you're a New Moon fan or not, this LOLCats parody is freakin' hilarious. Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

If you have as many Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans as we do at my library, you might think about doing a program for them. But what will you do? Jennie answers that question in her post about the Wimpy Kid party she did at her library.

This is not the Rainbow Brite I remember! Thanks (I think) to Sarah at GreenBeanTeenQueen for the link.

And that's all I've got for you today. Now, back to your busy week!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book Review: Captain Nobody

Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. Grades 3-5. Putnam Juvenile, July 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

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

Newt Newman is practically invisible. His older brother Chris is a high school football superstar, but even their parents don't seem to notice Newt most of the time. When Chris is injured in a game, Newt feels more invisible than ever until he creates a Captain Nobody costume. In his Captain Nobody costume, Newt discovers that he not only has what it takes to be noticed, he has what it takes to be a hero.

I loved the tone of Captain Nobody. In my opinion, the book is pitch perfect - funny without being silly and serious without being depressing. Newt is really in a bad way at the beginning of the book, something that's obvious to the reader even though Newt doesn't seem to acknowledge it. Always outshone by his big brother, Newt has assumed the role of invisible helper boy. He makes breakfast for his family (and sometimes they eat it, unless they're distracted by more important things). He can always remember where his mom left her keys. But when they go to Chris's big football game, his parents are so distracted that Newt gets squeezed out of his seat and kicked out of the stadium.

Newt has really internalized his feeling of being invisible. That's the way things have always been and Newt doesn't feel like he has any power over it. All that changes when his two friends insist that he come up with a Halloween costume. From the moment that Newt pulls the mask over his face, he starts to feel different. He gives himself permission to become someone new.

And change he does. Newt starts facing his fears and gets into a few accidental heroic situations and before you know it, he's started believing in himself.

I know, I know. That sounds like it's kind of hokey, right? Well, Pitchford does a great job at keeping it from being hokey. Although the bits where Captain Nobody becomes an accidental hero might stretch your suspension of disbelief, Newt's transformation felt really organic to me. This isn't a book written to teach kids that you should believe in yourself, but rather a book about Newt's journey and the wacky adventures along the way that happen to lead to him believing in himself.

A recurring theme in the book is that things may be different than they appear. Although Captain Nobody is a ten-year-old in a homemade costume, he's a hero to many people in the community. This would make a great choice for book discussions or for reading together with your child and talking about it.

This is a book for wimpy kids and overlooked siblings. This is also a book for kids who maybe need to see that there are different ways of looking at problems and situations. And I love that it's about a boy dealing with emotions, but not in a particularly touchy-feely way.

Did I mention that it's not depressing*?

Read more thoughts about Captain Nobody at 5 Minutes for Books, Books for Boys, and The Boy Reader.

*That is, I didn't find it depressing. Kyle at The Boy Reader, having been through a situation similar to Newt's, might disagree.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Tangled

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler. Grades 7+. HarperTeen, December 2009. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Carolyn Mackler does it again in this compulsively readable novel about four teens whose lives become connected after a spring vacation at a Caribbean resort. Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen each have their own issues and when their lives briefly touch at Paradise resort, they have no idea how it'll effect them.

I love Carolyn Mackler and I was so excited to see that she has a new book coming out! Once I started it, I absolutely couldn't put it down.

The story is more like four connected novellas, each from a different perspective. First we get Jena's point of view. She's a somewhat frumpy girl who's mortified when her mom tells her they'll be spending spring break at a resort with her mom's best friend and her daughter Skye. Skye is perfect. She's thin and beautiful, attends a prestigious private school, has a gorgeous boyfriend, and acts on TV and in movies. Their moms can't seem to understand that the two girls hate being pushed together, expected to be friends because their moms are friends. Don't they get that Jena and Skye have nothing in common?

I fell in love with Jena and would have been quite happy reading an entire book about her, but then we move on to Dakota's story. And then Skye's story. And then Owen's. With each transition I felt a little jarred, but quickly fell into each of the different stories. And with each perspective change, we find out how the trip to Paradise and the events that happened there have changed everything.

Would you call this an issue book? Hmm. There are a lot of issues involved. Each character has his or her own Problem. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that. You might call this an issue book. But I think the story was more about each character's journey - dealing with the issues that they have and taking a hard look at their own lives. About each character coming to realize that she can change her life. What happened in the past doesn't have to dictate who you are in the future.

Tangled is out on December 29, so when your Cybils shortlist is in, take a short reading break, but not too long because you won't want to wait to pick this one up!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: A Few of My Favorite Things

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

Well, here we are on the last day of giving. Thanks for tuning in, everybody! I'd like to wrap up by featuring my favorite books of 2009 that haven't yet been mentioned. Happy reading!

The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse by J. Patrick Lewis. (Grades K-5.) This book includes funny, funny poems about all sorts of weird and wacky jobs from underwear salesmen to the Queen of England and more. They're sure to have you laughing along. Recommended for fans of silly poetry (like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky).

Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian. (Grades K-5.) Dinothesaurus is a collection of poems about (what else?) dinosaurs. With his signature word play and detailed paintings, Florian's latest collection is sure to please young dino-fanatics. Read my full review of Dinothesaurus.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton. (Grades 6-10.) Told in a series of vignettes, all set on All Hallow's Eve from 1943 to 1949, When the Whistle Blow is the story of a child turning into a man. Of a small town boy coming to grips with the fact that the world is changing, that things can't stay the same. Read my full review of When the Whistle Blows.

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. Read my full review of When You Reach Me.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. (Grades 6+) Besides having a super-interesting premise, I was drawn into stories about two characters that I immediately liked. Short chapters that switch between Alek's and Deryn's points of view kept the action moving. The world-building is done effortlessly. The fictional world was being built around me as I read and it felt very organic, which is just how it should feel. I wanted to know more, wanted to stay in this world and learn more about it. Excellent. Read my full review of Leviathan.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. (Grades 9+) 17-year old Marcelo has his future planned out. He'll work training horses this summer at his school, a special school for kids with disabilities. In the fall, he'll return to Paterson for his senior year and then go to college to study nursing. But Marcelo's dad has other plans for him. Arturo would like Marcelo to join "the real world" by working at his law firm for the summer and attending a typical high school in the fall. They make a deal. If Marcelo gets through the summer working at the law firm, adapting to new situations and following the rules of the real world, then Marcelo can choose what school he attends in the fall. But the real world is more complicated, beautiful, and frightening than Marcelo could ever have imagined. Read my full review of Marcelo in the Real World.

Need more gift ideas? Liz is a dear and she's collected a round-up of gift-giving posts around the Kidlitosphere. Do check them out. And of course, be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: My Favorite Nonfiction for the Older Set

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

It's Nonfiction Monday again and today I'll be featuring my favorite nonfiction books for older readers. (Check out last week's post with my favorite nonfiction for younger readers.) Nonfiction can be a great gift choice because many kids and teens love to learn about subjects that interest them. Find out if they have a hobby or a particular interest and pick up a book on that subject! Or take a look at one of these...

Middle Grades:

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka* by Jon Scieszka. Jon Scieszka was the second-oldest of six boys in his family and oh the scrapes they got themselves into. Whether they're peeing on space heaters or selling each other clean clothes, the hilarity never stops. Short chapters, gross-out factor, and the hijinx will appeal to reluctant readers. Read my full review of Knucklehead.

Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals Are Big and Little Animals Are Little by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton. How come whales are so big and mice are so little? Why is it impossible for giants to exist? What I love about this book is that it presents seemingly complicated information in a really accessible format. Hand this one to curious kids who don't (yet!) know they're interested in physics. Read my full review of Just the Right Size.

Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From by Catherine Thimmesh. This is a great choice for your budding archaeologist or any kid interested in scientific procedure. When Lucy, an early hominid, was discovered in 1974, scientists immediately had questions. In Lucy Long Ago we follow scientists as they set about answering their questions. Read my full review of Lucy Long Ago.

Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Union by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Jef Czekaj. If you're buying for an American history buff this holiday season, consider this book about the Constitutional Convention. After the American Revolution, the thirteen states needed some kind of central government to unite them. With concise and accessible prose, Jules explains how this happened and why it was important. Read my full review of Unite or Die.

Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions by Don Wulffson, illustrated by Laurie Keller. Ever wondered where your favorite toys came from? Toys! has interesting facts and the stories behind many toys from Slinkies to GI Joe to Raggedy Anne. This is a great choice for kids interested in trivia and odd facts. Pair the book with one of the toys mentioned within!

The Raucous Royals by Carlyn Beccia. This irreverent history book explores rumors about various members of European royalty. Was Prince Dracula really a vampire? Was Henry VIII so fat that servants had to carry him around? Did Marie Antoinette really say "Let them eat cake!"? These rumors and more are explored in the book. Great for kids interested in European history, kings, and queens.


Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman. (Grades 7-12.) Incorporating excerpts from many of the letters that Charles Darwin and his wife Emma wrote to each other, this is a biography told through the lens of Charles' and Emma's relationship. The letters help evoke a real sense of place and time and bring Charles Darwin to life in a way that's pretty unique. I'd consider this one for fans of Jane Austen. Read my full review of Charles and Emma.

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby. (Grades 9-12.) When John Busby, a police officer, was shot in the line of duty, everything changed for the Busby family. Here, John and his daughter Cylin share their story of the aftermath of that shooting and the painful road to recovery. If you've got a fan of crime and mystery novels, take a look at this one. Read my full review of The Year We Disappeared.

Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers by Nancy Amanda Redd. (Grades 7+) Now, I have to give a caveat that, while this is an excellent book, it's probably not the book that your daughter/niece/goddaughter wants to unwrap in front of the entire family. Providing tons of great information about girls' bodies and photos of real girls (not models), Body Drama should be required reading for teen girls! Find a quiet time to slip this book to the young lady who might have some questions about her body. Read my full review of Body Drama.

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

And for more reviews of nonfiction books, check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Rasco from RIF!

*YES! I already featured this one, but what can I say? That's how much I enjoyed it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: Drama Queens

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

If you've got a drama queen to buy for this winter, this list is for you. And by "drama queen", I mean someone who's totally into acting and theatre, of course!

Dramarama by E. Lockhart is a story about a girl from a razzle-dazzle-deprived small town who dreams of making it big. When she and her best friend Demi go to summer theatre camp, Sarah's sure that she's going to steal the show and find true love. Well, things don't turn out exactly as she had planned... If you're buying for a teen who loves musicals, take a gander at this one.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson. Scarlett Martin is pretty sure it's going to be a totally boring summer. All her best friends have left New York to do fun things because their families have lots of money. Scarlett is stuck in NYC working at her family's run-down hotel. But things start looking a little more interesting when a wealthy, eccentric actress moves into the hotel for the summer. And then Scarlett meets Eric, a hunky actor who's friends with her brother. Maybe this summer won't be so boring after all... (Read my full review of Suite Scarlett.)

And if you've got a Shakespeare fan in your midst, consider Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. Bertie has been raised in the Theatre Illuminata, a magical theatre where the Players (characters of every play in existence) live, just waiting until show time. When evil forces threaten to destroy the theatre, Bertie must find it in herself to save the only home she's ever known. (Read my full review of Eyes Like Stars.) Pair it with a volume or set of complete Shakespeare works.

I can't resist a plug for Babymouse: The Musical by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. The school's putting on a musical and when dreamy British newcomer Henry encourages Babymouse to try out she can't help but show up at auditions. When she's given the part of Felicia's understudy, Babymouse is sure she'll never get on stage. With tons of musical references (from Phantom to West Side Story to Evita to Fiddler and more!), this is a surefire hit with any fan of musicals. What can I say? I love me some Babymouse.

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: Let It Snow

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

Today, I'm just featuring one book for you. I posted a review of Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle last year AFTER Christmas. Which is kind of too late for the stocking-stuffery goodness that is this book. Hence, I re-post.


Okay, with three YA powerhouses joining forces to write delightful, funny, sweet Christmas stories, how can you go wrong?

Um... you can't. At least not in my opinion.

I really wanted to get this review up before the holiday because I think it makes a fantastic stocking stuffer. But, uh, that didn't happen. You should still read this book.

Here's a bit of a summary from Amazon: "A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks."

I loved these stories because they're funny. They're sweet, but not over-the-top romantic mush. They're smart. They're about smart, imperfect characters. And they fit really well together. Characters from the first story show up in the other two (and vice versa). Perhaps my favorite scene is at the very end where all the major characters end up together in a Starbucks.

Let it Snow is a feel-good read for the discerning teen reader. Highly recommended for fans of any of the three authors. Read more (better) reviews at, Fyrefly's Book Blog, and Pop Culture Junkie.

Review of Let It Snow was originally posted December 30, 2008. Copy was lent to me by my awesome friend J.

Let it Snow is perfect Christmas Day reading, snug by the fireplace. If you have Nerdfighters on your shopping list, don't miss this one! It'll be a favorite that your teen will bring out every winter.

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: Falalalala

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

Know a band geek? A first-chair violinist? Or any musically-inclined teens or tweens? Today you're in luck because today's list features books about young musicians.

The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Lesley M.M. Blume. Living in the tiny town of Rusty Nail, Minnesota during the Cold War, Franny is certain that her talents as a pianist will forever go unnoticed. Then Franny gets a stroke of good luck. One of the young bachelors in town gets married to a Russian woman and brings her back to Rusty Nail. When Franny discovers that Olga is an accomplished pianist, she will stop at nothing until Olga agrees to give her lessons. But can she convince her? And is Olga a Russian spy? And will the rumor-mongering townspeople drive Olga away before Franny becomes rich and famous?

The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff was a favorite of mine when I was a tween musician. I read it again and again. When Allegra Shapiro decides to enter a prestigious violin competition, she spends the summer preparing for it. This meant a lot to me since I was a young musician, too.

And, of course, you'll also want to pick up Good Enough by Paula Yoo for that young musician. Patti Yoon is a gifted musician and a perpetual parent-pleaser with her straight A's and Ivy League aspirations. When Patti sets eyes on the dreamy Ben at All-State Orchestra auditions, everything begins to change. And Patti begins to realize that "her" dream of attending an ivy league school was actually her parents' dream. She starts figuring out that "successful" is not necessarily the same as "happy" and that she'd better think about what she wants for her future. (Read my full review of Good Enough.)

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban. Zoe Elias dreams of playing the piano at Carnegie Hall. She's certain that just given the chance, she might turn out to be a prodigy. She's picturing playing recitals on a grand piano while elegant people dressed in their finest sit in the audience. Imagine her surprise when, instead of the piano she was so hoping for, her parents get her an organ. An organ that comes with lessons from Maybeline Person and her book of organ songs... Hits from the 70s.

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson. JJ and his family have been noticing that lately there's not enough time in the day to get everything done. When JJ discovers a time leak between his world and the world of faerie, he'll have to figure out how to fix it. Irish music plays a huge part in the story, so I highly recommend the audiobook (which includes snippets of music between each chapter) or pairing this one with a CD of Celtic music!

Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss. Senior Ellie Snow knows that this year will be the best ever. She's trumpet section leader with her very own solo. Her best friend is drum major. Nothing will stop her!! Until an uber cute guy distracts her, causing her to flub her solo on the last day of band camp. And then she finds out that this kid is joining her section without having gone through band camp. Control-freak Ellie is pissed... until she takes a better look at him and discovers that she just might have a tiny crush on him... and he just might like her back. Don't forget to pair this one with its sequel, Band Geeked Out. Perfect for the drum majors in your life.

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!