Sunday, February 28, 2010

In My Mailbox #22

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren! Head on over there to see what books bloggers received in the mail this week.

I've been a lucky little blogger this week - many great books in the mail! Here's what I received:

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Philomel Books, April 2010.

Summary from publisher:

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. G.P. Putnam's Sons, May 2010. 

Summary from ARC: What if fairy tale magic really existed? 

Elizabeth's after-school job is far from ordinary. In her workplace, the New York Circulating Material Repository, some things are modern, others are ancient, and a guarded few are secret - for in the basement lies a room of magical items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Just as Elizabeth starts to accept that things like seven-league boots and a sinister mirror that talks in riddles could actually be real, she discovers that the treasures have been disappearing. Not everyone can be trusted with magic, after all, and soon she's caught up in an exciting - and dangerous - adventure.  

The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West. Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2010. 

Summary from ARC: 

Old Ms.  McMartin is definitely dead, and her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, Olive's right to think there's something odd about the place - not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when she finds a pair of old glasses in a dusty drawer, Olive discovers the most peculiar thing yet. She can travel inside these paintings to Elsewhere, a place that's strangely quiet... and eerily familiar. Olive soon finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It's up to her to save the house from the shadows, before the lights go out for good.

The Horrors of Andersonville: Life and Death Inside a Civil War Prison by Catherine Gourley. Lerner, April 2010.

Summary from publisher:

The Confederate prison known as Andersonville existed for only the last fourteen months of the Civil War - but its well-documented legacy of horror has lived on in the diaries of its prisoners and the transcripts of the trial of its commandant. The diaries describe appalling conditions in which vermin-infested men were crowded into an open stockade with a single befouled stream as their water source. Food was scarce and medical supplies virtually nonexistent. Designed to house 10,000 Yankee prisoners, Andersonville held 32,000 during August 1864. Nearly a third of the 45,000 prisoners who passed through the camp perished. At the end of the war, outraged Northerners demanded retribution for such travesties, and they received it in the form of the trial and subsequent hanging of Captain Henry Wirz, the prison’s commandant. Relying heavily on first-person reports and legal documents, author Catherine Gourley gives us a fascinating look into one of the most painful incidents of U.S. history.

And I got a box of books from Bearport, too!


Leveled by an Earthquake by Adam Reingold and Erased by a Tornado by Jessica Rudolph from the Disaster Survivors series,  Tricky Tree Frogs by Natalie Lunis from the Amphibiana series, Capybara: The World's Largest Rodent by Natalie Lunis from the More Super Sized! series, and Katydids: Leaf Look-alikes by Natalie Lunis from the Disappearing Acts series.

Yes, a very exciting mailbox week for me. How about you?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

100k Winner!

Thanks to all who entered my 100k Giveaway, celebrating 100,000 visitors to my blog! The random number generator has spoken and

Kathy is the winner of the 100k prize package!

Congratulations! And again, thanks to all who entered!

Audiobook Roundup: Thirty Nine Clues

I've discovered a new joy: the audio recordings of Scholastic's 39 Clues series. I've only listened to the first two so far, but I am finding them extremely enjoyable.

The 39 Clues are super popular at my library. We can hardly keep them on the shelves! And, though I don't generally care for series or mysteries (heh), I felt I should give them a shot. I'm so glad I picked up the audiobooks because I really enjoyed them!

Each book is written by a different, big-name children's author and the first book in the series is The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan. When orphaned Dan and Amy Cahill's beloved grandmother dies, they've lost the last blood relative who really cared about them. And they're also thrown into a deadly scavenger hunt, The 39 Clues. Members of the enormous Cahill family can choose to receive a million-dollar inheritance or the chance to solve the 39 Clues and inherit the power and fortune that the Cahills have built up over hundreds of years. Dan and Amy choose the clue and thus begins their whirlwind journey. 

The Maze of Bones takes Dan and Amy to Paris and their journey continues in One False Note by Gordon Korman. One False Note sees Dan and Amy off to Vienna to continue the hunt for clues. The deck is stacked against them with a dozen or so wily and unscrupulous relatives trying to beat them to the next clue.

Now, when I tell you that these books include information about such famous figures as Ben Franklin and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I don't want you to think that they are boring. In fact, the action is pretty much nonstop. Yet, as I listened to Dan and Amy's antics, I found myself intrigued by what I was learning. I'd venture to say that some kids will really dig that and may be inspired to check out some nonfiction books to learn more. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to pair The Maze of Bones with a travel guide to Paris and a biography of Ben Franklin. 

So, all that's about the text. Let's talk about the narration. Um, it's awesome. David Pittu gives a full-voiced performance and the number of accents he includes is impressive. These would make great family listens for road trips with the lively narration and the fast-paced plots keeping the interest of everyone in the car. 

I really can't recommend them enough if you're in search of something that'll keep you in your driveway just to listen to a few more minutes. ;) 

Full disclosure: copies provided by my local library.

Hey!  I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you make a purchase after clicking on affiliate links on my site, I will receive a referral fee. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reminder: AudioSynced!

Here's your reminder that the AudioSynced Roundup is coming up on Monday, March 1 over at Stacked! If you've written a post about audiobooks over the past month, you can head over to this post and put a link in the comments or tune in on Monday to add your link to the roundup Kelly will be hosting.

If you're looking for audiobook reviews and recommendations, Monday's AudioSynced Roundup will be the place to go! I'm looking forward to seeing what great audiobooks everyone's been listening to this month!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:30a - Arrive at library, put stuff away.

8:35a - Go through the stack of catalogs in my mailbox. Most of them get recycled, but a few are placed on the bookshelves in our office. We keep the most recent publisher and supplies catalogs.

8:37a - Open the department (turn on the lights, turn on computers, feed fish & frog, etc.).

8:45a - Set up the program room for my morning program (set up chairs, get my books and felt pieces ready, pick out some books for the book display, etc.)

9:10a - Chat with one of our Technical Services staff members about cataloging some new books.

9:20a - Check my email. I've been off for a few days, so I have a lot to wade through.

9:58a - Open the doors to the program room for Mother Goose on the Loose. MGOL is a weekly program for under-2s. If you get a chance to attend a Mother Goose on the Loose training, I highly recommend it!

10:00-10:45a - I do Mother Goose on the Loose. It's a 30-minute program of rhymes, books, and activities and then I bring out some toys and we have a 15-minute playtime. Our patrons love it and we've had great attendance since we started it last month.

10:45a - I clean up the room a little bit and then go sit on the desk while my staff person takes a break. While on desk I answer a call from a local preschool wanting to schedule a librarian to do storytime there and I help a patron find a book she's looking for.

11:30a - I finish cleaning up the program room and chat with my evening staffer who's just coming in for her shift.

11:40a - I call the preschool back because I accidentally scheduled the visit at the same time as another visit. We reschedule the visit.

11:50a - I start to plan for next week's Mother Goose on the Loose. A lot of the program is repeated from week to week, but I change about 5 or 6 things each week.

12:10p - I walk a few books over to Technical Services so they can be changed from Bookmobile status to Main Library. Sadly, our Bookmobile has been parked for several years due to budget cuts. At some point I'll get the books off there and either withdrawn or into our collection (many of the Bookmobile books were donations).

12:15p - I clean up around the department, refilling displays and putting away blocks and puzzles.

12:30p - Lunch time!

1:15p - I'm back from lunch. I start planning for our After School Adventures program that's starting next week.

1:45p - I decide the planning will go better if I create a planning sheet to work from, so I do this and share it with my coworker who will be doing the program with me. The program will run for six weeks, so I'm planning three and she'll plan three.

2:35p - I go up to the business office to drop off copies of our March staff schedule.

2:45p - Back in my office, I work on publicity for the After School Adventures program. It starts next week and we only have a few kids signed up. I create a flyer to fax or email to the schools in hopes that they'll post it or distribute it and help us spread the word!

3:20p - Cookie break!

3:30p - I read PUBYAC emails.

4:00p - Back to planning for After School Adventures and Mother Goose on the Loose, but it's getting pretty busy, I go out to help on the desk. While I'm sitting on the desk, I finish up planning my last After School Adventure program. H and I will meet together next week to put everything together.

4:40p - It's died down a little bit, so I go back into the office and finish up my plans for next week's MGOL. I pick out fingerplays and songs. Then I (attempt to) clean up my desk.

5:15p - Time to go home!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Around the interwebs

At, author Cheryl Willis Hudson gives parents some tips on how to celebrate Black History year-round. Definitely worth a look. Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link. 

Ohhhh, it's that time again! Time for SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books!! Fuse has the scoop and be sure you're following @SLJsBoB for the latest news. It all starts March 1 (next week!!!). Color me excited.

So, next week the Battle of the Kids Books starts. The week after that is the Share a Story - Shape a Future Blog Tour. This fabulous event encourages all of us to think about and post about the role that literacy plays in the lives of children. If you're interested in participating, head on over there and drop them a line. Thanks to Sarah at The Reading Zone for the head's up.

There's a new Magic Under Glass cover! What do you think? Thanks to Reading in Color for the info. 

Like Barbara O'Connor? Check out her post at the MacKids Blog about her very first book (written when she was 12), Just a Little Willpower

If you need a giggle to get you through the last of February's dreary, snow-covered days, head over to College Humor where "I think RL Stine is phoning it in..." Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Janssen at Everyday Reading posts about a mock-Caldecott activity she did with her fourth and fifth graders. It sounds like a great program and a great way to get those older kids poring over picture books. Save it up for next January or do it any time (who says you can only talk about the Caldecott during Awards Season??)

Interested in becoming a children's book editor? Alvina Ling posts some tips over at The Blue Rose Girls. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

I took a mini-vacation

I don't post every day, but I always end up feeling a little strange when I go several days in a row without posting. And I just did and that's because I was on a little vacation to Atlanta to visit my brother who is a grad student at Georgia Tech (a detail you probably don't care about, but I'm so proud of him that I mention it whenever I get the chance...). We had a fabulous time and did lots of very fun things including book shopping at The Little Shop of Stories*, seeing fish at the Georgia Aquarium, and eating at The Brick Store Pub, Cypress Street Pint & Plate, and Paolo's Gelato.

ANYhoo, this is all to say that I had a fabulous, non-bloggity weekend and I will be back to post about books 'n stuff after I get my ducks in a row.

So, what were you up to this weekend?

*OMG, cutest bookstore ever. If I lived in Atlanta, I would be there all the freakin' time. Seriously.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: Sisters Red

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Grades 8 and up. Little Brown, June 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

The Big Bad Wolf is real and it's up to Scarlett and Rosie March to stop him. Or, well, them. Ever since an attack by the Fenris (read: werewolves) cost Scarlett her grandmother and her right eye, she's been hunting them. She feels compelled to protect the innocent girls, including her sister. Rosie owes Scarlett her life, so she trains and hunts with her. But as the number of Fenris in their small Georgia town begins to grow, Scarlett becomes more determined to wipe them out and Rosie starts to wish for another life.

I love the premise, a smart retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, complete with red capes and a huntsman. There are references to the original story everywhere you turn. And the fight scenes and plot twists are great. Oh, and no one can deny that woodsman Silas is swoon-worthy.

For me, the overall execution left something to be desired. The motion of the book stalls between fight scenes and it was a little frustrating. There are apparently Fenris everywhere, but the girls seemed to spend a lot of time sitting in their apartment. I guess it just felt like too big a job for two girls to be the only Fenris hunters out there and it made me frustrated while I was reading it. Apparently Pearce is working on two companion books (Sweetly and Fathomless), so perhaps all is yet to be revealed.

What the book really reminded me of is Buffy the Vampire Slayer what with Scarlett feeling this massive responsibility to defeat the Big Bad all on her own and trying to balance that responsibility with the possibility of having a life, of falling in love. Anyway, that's my reference for it, but I don't know that today's teens have Buffy as a cultural reference (do they?).

(Or maybe I'm just identifying with the oldest sibling a little too much here... I am definitely on Team Scarlett.) 

HOWEVER, the bottom line is that even with its shortcomings, this will please fans of paranormal romance and fairy tale retellings. And Jackson Pearce is an author to watch for sure.

Read more reviews at Fire and Ice and Mundie Moms.

Sisters Red will be on shelves June 7.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine and I wanted to share with you a couple of the books I am most looking forward to reading over the next couple of months.

The first one is an adult book - The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Allen wrote Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, both of which I loved. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is due out from Bantam on March 16 and here's a synopsis from the publisher:

"Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life."

Next up is Keeper, the newest novel by Newbery-honor-winning Kathi Appelt. If you'll remember, I loved Ms. Appelt's beautiful writing in The Underneath so much that I couldn't even review it. Keeper is due out from Atheneum Books for Young Readers on May 18. And here's a synopsis from the publisher:

"To ten-year-old Keeper, this moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong...and so much has gone wrong. But she knows who can make things right again: Meggie Marie, her mermaid mother who swam away when Keeper was just three. A blue moon calls the mermaids to gather at the sandbar, and that's exactly where she is headed -- in a small boat, in the middle of the night, with only her dog, BD (Best Dog), and a seagull named Captain.

"When the riptide pulls at the boat, tugging her away from the shore and deep into the rough waters of the Gulf of Mexico, panic sets in, and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Maybe the blue moon isn't magic and maybe the sandbar won't sparkle with mermaids and maybe -- Oh, no..."Maybe" is just too difficult to bear. Kathi Appelt follows up to her New York Times bestseller, The Underneath, with a tale that will pull right at your very core -- stronger than moon currents -- capturing the crash and echo of the waves and the dark magic of the ocean."

And last, but certainly not least, I wanted to mention the new series by Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles. The Red Pyramid is coming out from Disney Hyperion Books on May 4!  Publisher synopsis: 

"Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs

So, those are the books I'm waiting on this week... how about you? 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Review: The Line

The Line by Teri Hall. Grades 4-7. Dial, March 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Since she can remember, Rachel has lived near The Line, a force field erected to protect the United States from attackers - and to keep The Others out. She's always been fascinated by Away and often wonders what could be out there. But when she receives a message from Away, Rachel begins to uncover the terrible truths that her mother has been hiding from her.

Teri Hall has created an utterly terrifying future world rife with paranoia and a controlling government capable of atrocities beyond belief. Media is strictly controlled by the government. Only people with the money to pay exorbitant application fees can go to college to find a career. The less fortunate are forced to become laborers or sent to the army to fight in battles that continue to rage on the country's borders.

Everyone fears The Others that live across The Line. Rumors fly about what horrors exist outside The Line, but Rachel wonders if any of them are true.

I really enjoyed The Line and I think what I enjoyed most were the characters. Rachel is a smart girl with an indomitable spirit. She's curious about the world and about The Others and she cares about the people around her. She misses her father who was sent into battle and died when she was a little girl.

The reader also get snippets from different points of view - Rachel's mother, Ms. Moore (the woman who owns The Property). Each of them has secrets she is hiding from the others and over the course of the book, these secrets are revealed.

I will say that I found some of the details about the future world a bit confusing because they are so different from today's America (I am assuming here that the future world is supposed to be future America). The details are mostly presented by Rachel reciting history lessons for her mom as they homeschool, which didn't feel like the most organic presentation, but worked okay. But this is a minor flaw that didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the story.

I would hand this to fans of The Giver by Lois Lowry or Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It will please fans of dystopian lit and kids will be clamoring for the sequel (Away, which will be released in 2011).

Monday, February 15, 2010

100k Giveaway!

Thanks to all who entered! The giveaway is now closed. 

A year and a half ago, I was so excited because my site meter showed me that I had had 10,000 visitors. Well, you can imagine my excitement when I hit 100,000 visitors today! And I know of no better way to express that excitement than to have a giveaway!

But first things first:

Thanks for visiting my blog. Thanks for reading. Thanks (I guess) for using it for your homework. Thanks for commenting. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for creating this wonderful community of book-lovers. I've so enjoyed being here over the past 2.5 years. And here's to many more years to come. :)

Okay. Giveaway. One lucky winner will receive a prize package including the following:


ARCs of Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci (Scholastic, August 2010),  Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman (Little Brown, July 2009), Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed (Philomel, September 2009), and Epitaph Road by David Patneaude (Egmont USA, March 2010). And a paperback copy of Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick (one of my favorites - I realized that I had bought two copies!). And it's possible I might sneak a little something else in there, too. 

All you have to do to enter is fill out this form. I'll accept entries until February 26 and then choose one winner by using the random number generator. This giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide! Good luck and, again, thanks for reading!!

The contest is now closed. Thanks for helping me celebrate this milestone!

Book Review: Child of the Civil Rights Movement

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colon. Grades 2-5. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010. Copy provided by my local library.

Paula Young was a preschooler when her family moved from New York to Georgia so her father, Andrew Young, could help Martin Luther King, Jr. with the fight for civil rights. This picture book provides a first-hand look at what it was like to be a child at this time. Not just a child, but a child who couldn't eat at certain restaurants even though she was hungry. A child whose father was repeatedly arrested for breaking ridiculously unfair laws or even just for peacefully protesting.

Paula hid under the kitchen table while smart people discussed methods of protesting unfair laws. She swam at the local YMCA (one of the only pools in Atlanta that allowed people of color in) with her "Uncle Martin". And her story, told in the first person, gives kids a unique viewpoint into the fight for civil rights.

Paula ends her story by saying this:

And one day, when Mama and Daddy were too tired to march, too weary to carry us on their shoulder, too exhausted to fight another battle, the baton would pass to us and we would march on - children of the civil rights movement.

The book goes on to include brief biographical information about some of the people mentioned - Andrew Young, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Randolph Blackwell, Dorothy Cotton, James Orange, and Hosea Williams. The author also includes a bibliography.

While the book doesn't give a whole lot of historical information about civil rights, what I love about it is that it gives a sense of the time and the struggle as perceived by a young child. Ms. Stenton obviously writes about the incidents she remembers - a traumatic event at a restaurant, swimming with a family friend, participating in a march with her family. These are activities that any child might remember had she experienced it and that's what makes it accessible to kids. Reading the book and looking at the beautiful illustrations, you get a sense of the time.

It's not the first book I'd hand a child looking to write a report on the Civil Rights Movement, but it is a book I'd hand to a child looking to understand what it felt like to be there. Pair it with Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and add it to your units on American History, Civil Rights, and/or Black History.

 It's Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to The Art of Irreverence for the roundup!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In My Mailbox #21

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren! Here's what was in my mailbox this week:

For review:

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott. AmazonEncore, February 2010.

Publisher summary:

Genna is a fifteen-year-old girl who wants out of her tough Brooklyn neighborhood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a wish gone awry transports her back in time. Facing the perilous realities of Civil War-era Brooklyn, Genna must use all her wits to survive. In the tradition of Octavia Butler's Kindred and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, A Wish After Midnight is the affecting and inspiring tale of a fearless young woman's fight to hold on to her individuality and her humanity in two different worlds.

I don't generally accept self-published books for review, but Ari loved it and I figured I'd give it a shot.

In addition to A Wish After Midnight, I received a prize package from MotherReader's Comment Challenge AND a couple of books I had ordered from Amazon. They both came on the same day (and any day that you receive two packages full of books is an awesome day).


The books I purchased are Gone by Lisa McMann [Simon Pulse, 2010] (because neither of the libraries I have access to have ordered this book yet and I just couldn't wait) and The Stand by Stephen King. 

The books in the awesome prize package are: 

Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek (Tilbury House, 2008)
Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2009)
The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus: The Resurrection Fields by Brian Keaney (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009)
The Timekeeper's Moon by Joni Sensel (Bloomsbury USA, March 2010)
Raven Summer by David Almond (Delacorte Press, 2009)

Thanks, Pam! :D

So, yes. Great mailbox week for me. How about you?

Happy Cybils Award Announcement Day!

Yes, the winners of the 2009 Cybils Award were announced today and it is a fantastic list. Congratulations to all the winners!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, February 2010. Review copy purchased.

How much did I love Raina Telgemeier's comic adaptions of the Baby-Sitters Club books? Um, A LOT.

How excited was I when I heard that she had written a graphic novel memoir*? Um, A LOT. So much so, in fact, that I pre-ordered it. Which I hardly ever do.

It came in the mail. I did a happy dance. And then I sat down and read it in one sitting, cringing in the appropriate places, laughing out loud in the appropriate places, and absolutely reminiscing (I so remember going to see The Little Mermaid with my friends in the theater and being completely enchanted).

Raina was in the sixth grade when she tripped and fell on her face, damaging her front teeth, gums, and jaw in such a way that over four years of painful dental work was required to make it right. So, yeah, the book's about Raina's dental drama, but it's also about all the normal drama that middle school girls go through - trying to fit in while straddling that line between childhood and young adulthood. In addition to her dental saga, Raina's dealing with friends (and frenemies), crushes on boys, fitting in at school, grades, dances... all that typical middle school stuff. And the fact that she makes it through will be an inspiration to all dealing with that particular torture that middle school can be.

This book will certainly have a special place in the hearts of all those who have regular appointments with an orthodontist, but what is great is that the book's about so much more than that. It's a coming-of-age story that will resonate with most middle school girls, braces or not.

The story's told in a frank, fresh style that kids will appreciate. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be "genuine". It'll please avid comic readers and win new fans to the genre.

Um, okay. I confess that this isn't a review so much as unabashed gushing. I'd apologize, but I'm in that happy place where I just finished a book I really loved. :)

Take a peek inside with this book trailer:

And read more actual reviews at The Daily Cross Hatch, ComicMix, and Good Comics for Kids.

*Graphic memoir? Comic memoir? Illustrated memoir? Did we ever decide what we're calling this genre?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Around the interwebs

Scholastic has released the cover and title of the third Hunger Games book, Mockingjay! The bright color and position of the bird makes me think that the ending to the trilogy will be a hopeful one. What do you think?

Mockingjay will be on shelves August 24, 2010.

Speaking of things that make me very, very excited, Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production has begun posting her countdown of the Top 100 Children's Novels, as decided by people (bloggers, teachers, librarians, kids, etc.) who responded to her poll. She's doing a lovely job of discussing each title, providing commentary, links, and multiple cover images. It's a tremendous amount of work she's putting into this project and I'm grateful because her posts are brightening these dreary February days.

Sarah of The Reading Zone shares 100 Books for 100 Days, the list of their top 100 books that her sixth grade classes came up with.  Definitely a great list of books, worth checking out.

If you, like me, are a librarian starting to plan your Summer Reading Club using the collaborative theme of Make a Splash, you'll find Elisabeth's post at YS Princess's Ideas, Resources, and Reviews useful. She's posting about the programming ideas shared at the Florida Library Youth Program Workshop. Many of these ideas may be available in the Make a Splash manual, but it's a handy post if you didn't get the manual or, ahem, may have misplaced it. If nothing else, these great ideas may inspire you (and me) to get a move on with planning!

Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature pointed me to this NY Times Op-Ed piece, Sucking the Quileute Dry, about how the Twilight franchise is ridiculously unfair to the Quileute tribe. Whether you love Twilight or love to hate it, this is definitely a piece worth reading.

Don't forget that the 2009 Cybils Award Winners will be announced this Sunday, February 14! I know all the nominating panelists (including myself!) worked hard on the shortlists and I'm so excited to see which titles will take home the awards!

And don't forget to listen to and post about audiobooks this month! Our first AudioSynced round-up will be March 1, just 2.5 weeks away, at Stacked.

Oh, and allow me to toot my own horn a little bit more and point you to my post on Celebrating Black History Month at the ALSC Blog. This was my first post over there, but I'll be posting monthly from now on.

And that's all I've got from Around the Interwebs this week. What have you been surfing this week?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: Dark Life

Dark Life by Kat Falls. (Grades 4-7.) Scholastic Press, May 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

In a future America where rising seas have claimed much of the land, leaving Topsiders to pack themselves in tiny stacked apartments, some people have taken to the ocean. These pioneers live on the ocean floor, farming the sea and sending crops to the government in exchange for their homesteads. This is where Ty Townsend has lived all his life. He was the first child to be born in the undersea community of Benthic Territory and he loves it there. But when outlaws threaten the safety of the settlers, Ty must do what he can to save the only home he's ever known. And when a Topsider girl appears, searching for her prospector brother, she'll join him on his quest and together they'll find that there are secrets being kept about the Dark Life. 

How much did I love this book? A whole lot. 

First, any book with a really well-developed speculative world gets points in my book. I was instantly intrigued by the premise (which, frankly, seems all too plausible... yikes!). Kat Falls creates a believable world in which space is at a premium. With most people living in cramped apartments stacked high on top of one another, the government has instigated an updated Homestead Act in which people who move to undersea colonies can earn their tract of land by farming it for a certain number of years. The pioneers raise fish for food and send their crops back to the States, providing a vital food source for the Topsiders. 

The undersea pioneers' lives have many parallels to the American pioneers in the Old West. They must work their land to earn the deeds to their homesteads. The government taxes them by demanding a large percentage of their crops and then refuses to provide protection from the roving outlaws that attack government supply ships. The pioneers are seen as eccentric and uncouth by the Topsiders. 

So, I loved the development of this intriguing world. 

And then there was the action in the plot, which was pretty much nonstop. From the first page you have sharks, abandoned submarines, roving outlaws... It's a plot that sucks you in and won't let you go. 

Fans of City of Ember are sure to love this one. I'd also try it on fans of Gregor the Overlander because it's got a similarly well-developed alternate world and lots of action. It's aimed at a slightly younger audience, but I'd try it on fans of The Hunger Games, too. 

Dark Life will be on shelves May 1, 2010. I know that's far away, but mark your calendars because you won't want to miss this one!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Don't mind me, I'm just blogging

Check out what my department's doing for Black History Month and tell me what your library's doing over at the ALSC blog: How are you celebrating Black History Month?

And hey, it's my very first post on the ALSC blog, so help make me look good by commenting on the post, okay? ;)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review: Bad News for Outlaws

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Grades 2-5. Carolrhoda Books, November 2008.

Bass Reeves was born into slavery in the years before the Civil War and lived with Indian Tribes in Indian Territory until after the Civil War. When Judge Isaac C. Parker arrived in 1875 to bring order to the Indian Territory, Bass Reeves was hired as a deputy marshal to track down bandits, murderers, and other outlaws. Reeves served as a deputy marshal until 1907 when Oklahoma became a state and local lawmen took over. During his career, Reeves arrested over 3000 men and women. With his strong sense of right and wrong and his devotion to duty, Reeves did much to make the Wild West a safer place.

Vaunda Michaeux Nelson won the 2010 Coretta Scott King Author Award for this title and now that I've read it I have to say that it was much deserved. I really enjoyed this book. I had never heard of Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves before and now I'm so glad that I know his story!

The format of the book serves its subject well. On some pages the text is incorporated into the full-page illustrations, but on other pages, it's printed on paper styled to look like Old West newspaper. It's a very effective way to give the reader an immediate sense of the time and place. Nelson starts the book with a bang, describing Reeves's showdown with outlaw Jim Webb. From there, she moves into biographical information and then she gives several examples of how Reeves brought in various outlaws.

I have to confess that I am not the biggest fan of R. Gregory Christie's illustrations, but I will say that the colors he uses for this book definitely evoke the setting. Wide blue skies, green forests, brown fields... they all help to create the atmosphere of the West.

This is a book that combines kid appeal with literary merit and you won't want to miss it. Add it to your Black History Month displays and units as well as your studies on the Old West.

Check out The Brown Bookshelf's interview with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast's interview with R. Gregory Christie. Read more reviews at Through the Looking Glass Children's Books Reviews and Eva's Book Addiction.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Great Kid Books has the round-up this week, so go forth and learn!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In My Mailbox #20

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren! Here's what was in my mailbox this week (it was apparently a very eclectic week!):

Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic, February 2010.

I pre-ordered this one (purchased because I had so enjoyed the author's work on the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels) and I did a happy dance when it arrived! (And also, I read it on Tuesday when it came in the mail - review coming soon!)

Publisher description (accessed from Good Reads):

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.

Prowling the Seas: Exploring the Hidden World of Ocean Predators by Pamela S. Turner. Walker Books for Young Readers, October 2009.

Publisher summary from Good Reads:

From the surface of the ocean, it’s hard to see any visible signs of life below. But this remarkable ecosystem is teeming with life—life that is increasingly under environmental stress. And it is often the predators that sound the earliest warning signs.  By tracking a wide variety of ocean predators, the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project provides essential cutting-edge information about the state of the ocean’s health and the challenges facing all its inhabitants. Acclaimed science writer Pamela S. Turner takes readers along with four predators—a leatherback sea turtle, a bluefin tuna, a great white shark, and a Sooty Shearwater—on their remarkable journeys. This full-access look will change the way readers view our blue planet.

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson. Delacorte Press, March 2010.

Summary from ARC:

Joshua Wynn is definitely what you would call a good guy. He's a preacher's son who chooses abstinence and religious retreats over crazy nights and wild parties. Instead of joining his high school basketball team, Joshua spends his time leading the church's youth group. 

One Sunday, Joshua's mind drifts from his father's sermon to a beautiful girl in the fifth row. She's gorgeous, wearing a dress cut down to there, and she looks like the little girl he crushed on as a kid. It turns out that Maddie Smith is back in town, but instead of throwing her a welcome-back picnic, the community condemns her for her provocative clothes and the rumors about her past. According to Joshua's parents, she's on the need-to-save list, though his mother isn't sure he's the one to do it. Still, Joshua can't stop thinking about Maddie's purple-painted lips, and he wants to help her find who she really is. 

But can Joshua save Maddie without losing himself?

Looks like great books in my mailbox this week! How about you? Did you get anything exciting in your mailbox or from the bookstore or library this week?   

Friday, February 5, 2010

AudioSynced: Whatcha listening to?

(This is the very exciting announcement I mentioned yesterday!)

The book blogosphere has many memes. Every Friday we celebrate poetry with Poetry Friday. On Mondays we post about nonfiction for Nonfiction Monday. People may participate in In My Mailbox or the Sunday Salon. There's also Waiting on Wednesday, Booking Through Thursday, Library Loot, and, I'm sure, a whole host of others.

Well, Kelly of Stacked and I are adding one more to the mix: AudioSynced. On the first day of every month, Kelly or I will host a roundup of blogosphere posts about audiobooks. We want to encourage people to listen to audiobooks and to post about them. We want to provide a place for people to find out about great audiobooks. So plug in those headphones, check out an awesome audiobook, write up a post about it, and on March 1 head over to Stacked and leave your link in the comments.

Not sure where to start? Here are some resources for picking out great audiobooks:

I love to listen to audiobooks in the car, but if you've got a short commute, listen to audiobooks while you're cooking or cleaning your house or when you go on a road trip. Or see if your local library has picture book readalong kits which will offer you some shorter choices perfect for when you don't spend much time in the car. As an audiobook convert, I can tell you that the more you listen to audiobooks, the more you'll want to listen to audiobooks.

And check out Kelly's post on evaluating audiobooks to see what you might be listening for when you review them. 

While you're at it, you may want to join the 100+ bloggers participating in the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews.

So, go forth and listen. Blog about audiobooks. And on March 1, head over to Stacked where you can grab the image and add your link to the roundup. On April 1, AudioSynced will be here at Abby (the) Librarian, on May 1 it will be at Stacked, and so on and so forth. Questions? Leave 'em in the comments!

And hey, spread the word, please. This monthly blogger event has the potential to be a really valuable resource, but only if we can get the word out and convince y'all to participate!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Around the interwebs

Y'all have probably heard about the Massive, Ridiculous Amazon Fail that started last weekend. EarlyWord sums it up quite nicely in Amazon v. Publishers. And linked in that post is John Scalzi's All the Many Ways Amazon So Very Failed the Weekend, also worth a read. Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link. 

A school in Arkansas is declaring February 12, one month after the tragic hurricane hit Haiti, the day to show your continued empathy and support for Haitians by wearing red and blue. Link via American Libraries Direct.

And on a lighter note, author Jackson Pearce writes about where she gets her character names. I love posts that give us a glimpse of process.

Very exciting that School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books is coming back at some point in the near future. Follow the Battle of the Kids' Books Blog or @SLJsBoB for any and all developments.

I no longer live in Illinois, so I will leave it to Becky at Libri Delectio to tell you about the 2011 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award Nominees. It is a stellar list. (My local schools don't seem to do much with the Young Hoosier Book Award... maybe after I tackle the eleventy bajillion projects on my plate, I'll see what I can do about that...)

J.D. Salinger passed away last week and I confessed that I am not a big fan of The Catcher in the Rye. If you somehow missed reading this modern classic (or are thinking about rereading it), join Melissa and a bunch of others in the Catcher in the Rye Read-Along, starting February 14.

The People of Color (POC) Challenge: it's a good thing, right? Well, yes, but Debbie Reese, American Indian Studies professor, has some thoughts about it and they're well worth a read. Check out her thoughts about the POC Challenge Part 1 and Part 2.

Who's going to BEA? (I am! Woohoo!) If you're a BEA newbie like myself, check out this blog tour full of BEA tips by bloggers who have been there.

The January Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Jenny's Wonderland of Books! Do check it out for some great reading.

And on that note, I'm out. COMING TOMORROW is a VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT about a project that I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT! (Note all the caps and the boldness. I am very excited about this thing I will be telling you about tomorrow. You better come back and read my very exciting announcement.)

Available now: A Match Made in High School

Kristin Walker's debut novel A Match Made in High School is out on shelves today! I really enjoyed this funny, smart teen novel. Read my review of A Match Made in High School and look for it at your favorite bookstore.

Happy Debut Day, Kristin!

Check out Kristin Walker's website.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Book Review: The Champ

The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Grades 2-5. Dragonfly Books, 2004. Review copy provided by my local library.

All around the world - 
in tall, gleaming cities,
in small, quiet towns - 
the mere mention of the name
"Muhammad Ali"
will spark big smiles. 

But Muhammad Ali was not always his name.

So begins this picture book biography of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., better known as Muhammad Ali. The book describes Clay's childhood in Louisville, KY and his path to boxing. As a child, Clay loved to dodge rocks thrown at him by his brother, no doubt a precursor to "floating like a butterfly".  After an incident in which his bike was stolen, Clay started training and he went on to win three heavyweight championships and an Olympic gold medal.

Tonya Bolden's writing perfectly fits its subject. It's not quite straight prose, not quite straight poetry, but it bobs and weaves like Muhammad Ali in the ring. I love the poetic descriptions Bolden offers:

What a wonder he was to watch: with his fine physique, with his cheetah eyes, with his moonbeam smile...

So quick with his hands, so swift on his feet - Cassius Clay hardly ever got hit. And he had a super-fast - whiz-zip! - left jab. His STING! And a thunderbolt right - it stuned. And a rapid-fire left-right-left-right-left-right-rat-a-tat-tat - fierce flurry of punches. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!" became his motto, echoed around the world.

I didn't particularly care for the illustrations. Christie uses a lot of bright colors, which was very fitting for the biography of such a dynamic person, but his style just doesn't agree with me.

A short section of notes at the end of the book provides quote sources and a selected bibliography.

I love Tonya Bolden's work and I'll definitely be seeking out more of her books! Happy Nonfiction Monday - Wild About Nature's got the round-up this week, so go check it out!