Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Half Brother

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel. Grades 6-9. Scholastic Press, September 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

When Ben moves across Canada with his family for his father's new job, everything is new - new house, new school, new friends, new car... But strangest of all is the new addition to the family - a chimpanzee named Zan. The chimp is part of his father's latest academic experiment. Ben's father aims to prove that chimps are capable of learning language and his mother is studying cross-fostering - one species being raised by a d different species - which means Zan has become a part of their family. A half brother, if you will. At first, Ben's not sure how he feels about the experiment, but as he gets to know Zan he comes to care about him and soon feels like he's one of the family. But what will happen to Zan when the experiment is over?

Rife with details that bring the 1973 setting to life, this book will definitely give middle-school animal lovers something to think about. The cover and subject of the book will have kids picking it up and they'll find an engaging story with no easy answers. The story is about Ben's relationship with Zan, but beyond that it's about Ben's relationship with his entire family, especially his father. As Ben struggles to find his way in a new school, he patterns his behavior with the theory that acting like an alpha male will make him an alpha male. He has some success with this among his peers, but when it comes to his father, it's a whole different ball game.

Ben is longing for acceptance, but his father seems to care more about his own career than about his son. I really like the way Mr. Oppel deals with Ben's relationships because he delves into Ben's emotions in a guy-friendly way. I think this is a story that a lot of middle-school guys will relate to. I loved Kenneth Oppel's previous works of fantasy and this is something very different, but I loved this story, too.

Kids who were fascinated by Joey's friendship with Sukari the chimp in Ginny Rorby's Hurt Go Happy will want to check out Half Brother for its subject matter. Kids who relate to the guy characters in Jordan Sonnenblick's titles will want to check out Half Brother for its realistic portrayal of a guy dealing with feelings (though Half Brother has a more serious tone than Sonnenblick's works).

Half Brother will be on shelves September 1.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

AudioSynced: My Life in France by Julia Child

Now, I do not review adult books on this blog.
HOWEVER I am making an exception because it's been forever since I have reviewed an audiobook and that is ridiculous because June is National Audiobook Month and because I co-host a freakin' audiobook meme.

Plus, I really enjoyed this audiobook. :)

Did you see that movie Julie & Julia? Do you remember how the Julia parts were, like, way, way, way better and more interesting than the Julie parts*? Well, the Julia bits were based on the book My Life in France by Julia Child and her friend Alex Prud'homme. And if you're at all interested in cooking or living abroad or Julia Child or just fascinating memoirs read by excellent narrators, you're going to want to pick up this audiobook.

My Life in France is Julia Child's memoir of, well, her life in France. The book starts right as Julia and Paul Child arrive in France where Paul has a job with the US government. Julia chronicles her adventures in Paris, learning French, studying at Le Cordon Bleu, and absolutely tackling the art of French cooking. While in Paris, she meets two women who propose creating a French cookbook designed for an American audience and this labor of love "cookery bookery" is eventually published as Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Although Julia was an accomplished cookbook author, she wrote My Life in France with the help of professional writer Alex Prud'homme, which gives the book a perfect blend of authenticity and readability.

I listened to the audiobook of this title and I wouldn't have it any other way. As you know, Julia Child had a pretty distinct voice, but as Kimberly Farr narrated the book, she became Julia to me. I gave myself over to it and it was like Julia was sitting down with me and telling me all about her adventures abroad. PLUS, Farr was able to pronounce all the French words in the book, which I certainly would not have gotten if I had been reading the text. What more can you ask from an audiobook experience?

So, yes. Not kidlit. But a very good audiobook. And also helps me fulfill my personal summer reading challenge...

Hey, don't forget to submit your audiobook reviews and links to Stacked for the June AudioSynced Roundup while will be posted on July 1.

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme. Narrated by Kimberly Farr. Knopf, April 2006. Audio published by Random House Audio. Reviewed from audiobook provided by my local library.

*That's just, like, my opinion, man.

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

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lincoln Tells a Joke

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country) by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst. Grades 2-4. Harcourt Children's Books, April 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.

This title has been nominated for the Cybils Award in Nonfiction Picture Books.  This review reflects my opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the nominating panel. 

My funny connection (small as it may be) to Abraham Lincoln is that I have lived in all three states that claim credit for him. I currently live in Kentucky and when I drive across the river to Indiana for work, I'm greeted by a sign saying "Welcome to Indiana, Childhood Home of Abraham Lincoln!" Then, when I drive home in the evening, I'm greeted by a sign saying "Welcome to Kentucky, Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln!" And of course I spent a few years in Illinois where Lincoln is, y'know, the man.

And there are pleeeenty of books about Lincoln, but Lincoln Tells a Joke is a biography with a unique focus: Lincoln's love of humor, jokes, and wit.

Most people are aware of Lincoln's love of and belief in the power of words. He's one of the most powerful speakers that America's ever had, but did you know that he was funny?

According to the book, Lincoln wrote his first nonsense poem at age eleven:

Abraham Lincoln
His hand and pen
He will be good but
God knows when

And though some tragic things happened in Lincoln's life (and there was a WAR ON), Lincoln never lost his sense of humor, keeping his friends laughing throughout his presidency.

This is a somewhat slight book that'll spice up studies on Lincoln. Despite the subtitle, I'm not convinced that laughter did save the president (or the country), but kids will delight in some of the funny sayings accredited to Lincoln. While it wouldn't be a first purchase and will be more useful for entertainment than reports, it's a good choice for those looking for Abraham Lincoln out of the box.

I'm slightly bothered that there are no original sources cited and that there wasn't a more detailed author's note included*. Without original sources, can you really know the quotes are accurate? This would bother me more, though, if it was the type of book likely to be used for school assignments. For entertainment purposes, maybe we can be a little more lenient.

Check out more reviews at Muddy Puddle Musings and Review Machine.

Lincoln Tells a Joke is on shelves now.

And hey, it's Nonfiction Monday! The roundup is over at Bookish Blather, so go take a look at the nonfiction being read by the Kidlitosphere this week!

*You know me and my author's notes...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Jamestown Flood by Jame Richards. Grades 7 and up. Knopf, April 2010. Review copy provided by my local library.

It's summer 1888 and Celestia never thought she'd find herself in this situation - in love with one of the working boys at the resort where her family is spending the summer. Her family's position is every bit as precarious as the man-made Lake Conemaugh high in the Pennsylvania mountains, and secrets have a way of spilling over...

Peter has one last summer before he'll have to resign himself to working in the mines, and he gets a job at the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. He never thought he'd meet a girl above his station, a special girl who loves him back. And as rumors that the dam is breaking spread (as they do every year, though the dam never breaks), Peter and Celestia begin to make plans...

But all will change in 1889.

People make their plans. But nature will conquer all.

I love historical fiction about events that I didn't know anything about and this book absolutely fits the bill. Lake Conemaugh was a man-made reservoir, stocked with fish for the pleasure of rich tourists. Though the dam showed signs of wear, the owners neglected to make the necessary repairs, even though tons of water threatened thousands of people living in the valleys below the resort. In 1889, the dam broke, flooding the valley and killing thousands.

Three Rivers Rising explores this tragic event through the eyes of several different characters. Celestia, daughter of a nouveau riche family. Peter, son of a Pennsylvania miner. Kate, broken-hearted nurse traveling east to New York. And Maura, loving mother and wife to a railroad engineer. Though the meat of the story concentrates on Celestia and Peter, the other stories intertwine with theirs and they all come together in the end. I thought this was a really effective way of showing the event and how it affected different kinds of people.

I have mixed feelings about novels in verse and this book was no exception. In my opinion, very few novels in verse are actually poetic enough to merit being told in that format. But maybe I feel that way because I don't know very much about poetry... this is very possible. Anyway, the format was fine, but I wonder if the story would have been richer had it been told in straight prose rather than prose poems.

Ms. Richards does include a nice author's note and a list of sources for those interested in learning more about the Johnstown Flood. 

I enjoyed Three Rivers Rising and I'd like to thank Kelly of Stacked for her review that made me want to read the book. I'd hand this book to teens who liked the setting of Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light or the format of Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial by Jen Bryant.

Three Rivers Rising is on shelves now!

In My Mailbox #38

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren! Head on over there to see what books showed up in bloggers' mailboxes this week.

This week I received the following books:

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells (Sourcebooks, June 2010).

From GoodReads:

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Mia is looking forward to spending a relaxing summer in the Hamptons with her glamorous cousins. But when she arrives she find her cousins distant, moody, and caught up with a fast crowd. Mia finds herself lonelier than ever, until she meets her next-door-neighbor, Simon Ross. And from the very first time he encourages her to go skinny dipping, she's caught in a current impossible to resist. 

The Magnificent 12: The Call by Michael Grant (Katherine Tegen Books, September 2010).

From GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Mack MacAvoy suffers from a serious case of mediumness. Medium looks. Medium grades. Medium parents who barely notice him. With a list of phobias that could make anyone crazy, Mack never would have guessed that he is destined for a more-than-medium life.
And then, one day, something incredibly strange happens to Mack. A three-thousand-year-old man named Grimluk appears in the boys’ bathroom to deliver some startling news: Mack is one of the Magnificent Twelve, called the Magnifica in ancient times, whatever that means. An evil force is on its way, and it’s up to Mack to track down eleven other twelve-year-olds in order to stop it. He must travel across the world to battle the wicked Pale Queen’s dangerous daughter, Ereskigal—also known as Risky. But Risky sounds a little scary, and Mack doesn’t want to be a hero. Will he answer the call? 

 Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid by H.P Newquist (Houghton Mifflin, August 2010).

From GoodReads:

HP Newquist's fast-paced account reveals how long-ago myths about the kraken transformed into the modern study of Architeuthis dux, the giant squid.Weaving scientific discovery with historical accounts—along with the giant squid’s appearance in film and literature—Here There Be Monsters explores the mystery of this creature in fascinating detail. Readers will find that the monster remains hidden no longer, because scientists have finally seen the kraken with their own eyes . . . alive and rising up out of the sea.

I'm very excited about these books! So, did you get anything exciting in your mailbox? 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Halfway through. That is all.

I'll just take a moment here to celebrate the fact that we're halfway through our Summer Reading Club. Five weeks down, five weeks to go!

Attendance at our programs has been crazy... I mean, crazy in a good way. We decided to open up a second weekly session of Toddler Time after we had one week with 25 two-and-three-year-olds. Depending on the numbers this week, I may open up a second weekly session of Mother Goose on the Loose (last week I had 20 babies).

We're light on programming next week with just our drop-in storytimes going on. We'll start registration for July programs on Monday and steel ourselves for another round. Next month we have a Percy Jackson party, we're showing the Percy Jackson movie, we have a mad scientist coming, I'm doing a Snowing in July program, and lots more! It's exhausting, but fun. :)

How's your summer going?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Around the Interwebs - Summer Edition

I have really slacked off about Around the Interwebs lately - my apologies. I blame summer. But I've got a good collection of links to share with you this week...

Betsy of A Fuse #8 Production, that wily minx, has her mid-year Newbery and Caldecott predictions up! Go on over there and see what you think. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see One Crazy Summer and Keeper recognized, come January. And I'm going to throw in my vote for Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord, as well. As for the Caldecott, I have no idea. But I just might have a Printz contender... ;)  

Ms. Bird also has a great post on teacher resources you might not know about. Let your homeschooling families know about these! And speaking of teaching resources, I stumbled across the SMAA Technology page (I believe it's part of St. Mary's School in California) and found it to be chock full of great links. I've tried out Dance Pad Typing and recently recommended it to one of our regular patrons (her daughter enjoyed it very much). If you're looking for links to add to your library website or to recommend to patrons, check it out!

Take a look inside the creation of a book cover with Covers That Go Bump in the Night over on the MacKids blog. And yes, that creepalicious cover on Brain Camp makes me want to pick it up right now! 

Speaking of books I want to pick up right now, Read Roger links to a Jezebel article that makes me want to pick up Sharon Dogar's Annexed this very instant. Criticizing a book you haven't read? For content that, according to Roger, is actually not in the book? Classy, Sadie.

I'd not checked out the blog Fat Girl Reading until Kelly of Stacked shared a post with me: An Open Letter to the 2011 Quick Picks Committee. While I can see Angie's point, not wanting the book on the Quick Pick's list because one objects to its content strays a mite too close to censorship for my taste. The Committee should evaluate each book based on the list criteria and "Encourages positive body images" is not one of the criteria. Having not read the book, I'm not in a position to weigh in on whether it's deserving of Quick Pick status or not...

Sarah at GreenBean TeenQueen alerted me that they're making a movie of Wake! Yay! But, um, Miley Cyrus in the lead? Hmmm. I'm not sure what I think of that. Head on over to Sarah's blog for more YA movie news.

Do publishers even read your review policies? If you're a blogger interested in working with publishers (think review copies, etc.), check out this post on the Peachtree Publishers Blog. (Yes, they do read your review policies!) Thanks to Amanda of A Patchwork of Books for the link.

Apparently there was a contest for library advocacy videos and here are the winners! My personal favorite is this one:

Questions of the Heart from Rachael Harrington on Vimeo.

And on that poignant note, I'm out. Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aboard the Titanic

When we were brainstorming for summer programs to go along with the Make a Splash theme, I thought to myself "What made a bigger splash than the Titanic?"

Irreverent, I know, but kids are fascinated by that great ship and I wanted to come up with a program to bring in some of those older kids. So, what did I do?

First, I set up the room. I put chairs in a big circle and printed out a bunch of historic newspaper articles from when the event happened (I took advantage of our Indiana room for these and I found many images online that I printed out). On the wall, I put up a time line detailing some important dates and times of the events (when the ship set out, when she struck the iceberg, when the Carpathia arrived to pick up survivors, etc.). And I made some paper flags to look like the White Star Line flags. I also used some blank labels to make name tags with the White Star Line logo on them.

When the kids arrived, I let them in the room and gave them some time to look over the newspaper articles while we waited for everyone to show up. While they were checking out the articles, I had music playing from Titanic: Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage.

Once most of the kids had shown up, I started with a brief overview of the Titanic. I invited the kids to share what they knew about the event and they were so into that. It was hard to get them to stop talking! But eventually we moved on and I asked them some trivia questions I had put together.

The trivia was my favorite part of the program. I used the book 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic and the Magic Tree House Research Guide: Titanic to find many of the questions I asked and fun facts I told the kids. Another great resource for Titanic information is the website Encyclopedia Titanica.

After that, I brought out the mini iceberg I had made. I froze baggies of water and then froze them together to form a huge chunk of ice. I floated this in a clear container (with some blue food coloring in the water) to show them how you can only see a tiny bit of the ice when there's much more under the surface. Since they were being very well-behaved, I also invited them to feel how cold the water was and imagine being submerged in water that cold while they waited for rescue.

If you do something like this, have plenty of towels around to clean up spills and for kids to dry their hands! Also, get some gloves for when you're handling the ice. It's cold. And also sharp. Safety first!

Then I read a passage written by a Titanic survivor. 

After the iceberg, I talked to them a little about Morse code and demonstrated it with a flashlight. I chose a volunteer to spell out his name with the flashlight. This went okay, but not great. I wanted to do something with Morse code, but I couldn't come up with something better.

And then since they had been sitting for sooo long, we played musical chairs with the 1912 music from the CD I had. This was a big hit, but took longer than I thought since we had a good crowd of kids.

After we had gotten through musical chairs, we ended and I handed out packets with some activities (a Titanic word search, a Morse code activity, and a book list of Titanic books and survival/adventure books). The website History on the Net has a lot of Titanic worksheets that are free for educational use. Of course, I had put up a Titanic book display and the kids ravaged it, taking almost every book I put out.

The program was a lot of fun and we had great attendance. We limited the program to kids going into 3rd-5th grade and it attracted a lot of boys, which was exactly the audience I had hoped it would attract!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Review: Rose Sees Red

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci. Grades 7-10. Scholastic Press, August 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

It's 1982 and the Cold War is raging. Rose, a freshman at a performing arts high school, has been in a bad mood for weeks. Burned by her best "frenemy" in grade school, she's shy to make friends and now it's the middle of October and everyone is all cliqued up but her. She feels frozen and shy until a Russian girl, Yrena. who lives next door sneaks into Rose's room one evening and the two girls decide to head out for a night on the town. The story takes place over that one crazy night when everything changes and Rose finally begins to come into her own. 

This is a one-fateful-night story. You know. The one fateful night when the teens stayed out until morning and everyone realized their true feelings and people stopped being afraid and started saying what they felt. And everything changed and they'll never forget it. It's life changing, that first political issue that stirs you. And it's interesting to think that American teens today are thinking about war (or realizing about war), just as teens in 1982, just as teens in 1968, just as teens in 1942, just as teens in 1862, etc. etc. 

The story started a bit slowly for me because I was trying to piece together the setting, but once I got into it, it wouldn't let me go. I still find myself thinking about it weeks later. I'm totally intrigued by the idea of compounds of Russians living within the United States during the Cold War. I had no idea about that - that during such a time of tension, there were Russians living in the United States, followed around by CIA agents and KGB agents. Can you imagine what it would feel like to grow up like that? 

I do have to say that there was an element of "after-school special" that I didn't care for (and the title, to me, sounds just like an after-school special). The kids getting together and putting their differences aside and finding out that, golly gee, we're all people and war is stupid! But the main thing is that it's a story that's stuck with me. It's kind of an odd little story and an homage to New York City. I liked it. 

Rose Sees Red will be on shelves August 1. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poop Happened!

Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Robert Leighton. Grades 4-8. Walker Publishing Company (Bloomsbury), May 2010. Copy provided by my local library.

Poop. It's not really something we're supposed to talk about (in polite society, anyway). But waste disposal and sanitation had huge effects on the progress of world civilizations. Think about it - contagious diseases, especially waterborne diseases, kill a huge number of people every year. Cholera, polio, bubonic plague, typhoid... These diseases have shaped human history and their spread is linked to human waste disposal.

Ms. Albee takes a look at human history through the lens of waste disposal and hygiene. She examines advances in sewer technology and how they affected different cultures and she explains how improper waste disposal is linked to the spread of disease.

Kids are going to want to pick up this book. I mean, c'mon. The title alone will have them giggling and perusing. Add in the humorous illustrations and the flippant style and kids will be hooked. It might be a little much for kids to read straight through, but it's definitely something they'll dip in and out of.

And while they think they're only being entertained by gross facts and cartoony illustrations, they'll be learning a load (haha) of really interesting things.

Like the fact that improved sanitation actually lead to an increase in polio cases because people were no longer exposed to the disease as infants (thereby developing immunity). They started getting much more serious cases later in childhood.

And paleoscatologists are scientists who study ancient poop. There's actually a lot you can learn from fossilized dung - like what people ate and what diseases they might have had.

And the fact that early flush toilets had adverse effects on health, too, because they overwhelmed the fledgling sewer systems and polluted the major rivers - out of which everyone got their water for drinking and washing.

The book's not without its faults... It's a little long (although I can appreciate wanting to cram in as much info as possible). And for a book that professes to be about "a history of the world", it spends the vast majority of its time on Europe (specifically England and France) with only a few passing glances at Asia and the Middle East (and Africa if you count Ancient Egypt). I can understand that it might be easier for an English-speaking author to get her hands on European sources, but I wish the scope of countries covered had been broader.

However, kids are probably not going to care about that. They're going to scoop up a book that has "poop" in the title and they will be suitably entertained and enlightened.

Here, take a look at the trailer:

Check out more reviews at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Charlotte's Library, and Welcome to My Tweendom

And hey, happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out this week's roundup at Simply Science.

Poop Happened! is on shelves now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In My Mailbox #37

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

This week, I only got one book in my mailbox, but it's one I am very excited to read...

Grace by Elizabeth Scott (Dutton, September 2010).

From GoodReads:

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate. 

I was so excited to see this on my doorstep this week! I knew it was coming, but I knew other bloggers who had gotten it before BEA even, so I was concerned that it had been lost along the way (I have had some trouble with that as of late...). Huzzah! I have heard some good things about this book and I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Scott, so I'm excited to pick it up. The cover is just gorgeous, too - so eye-catching.

How about you? Did you get anything exciting in your mailbox this week?

PS: If you're in the States, today's Father's Day! Don't forget to do something nice for your dad!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BEA: Tips for Your First Time

Okay, I know that BEA was awhile ago, but it's been so crazy that I'm just now getting around to posting this! 

This was my first time attending Book Expo America and I got some great advice beforehand from many different bloggers. As I went through the conference, I kept thinking of little nuggets that I'd like to share with any BEA newbies. So, while it's fresh on my mind (and to be linked to in later years), here are my BEA tips for first-timers:

1. Bloggers can register as press for FREE. This gets you into the exhibits! Also, new this year was Book Blogger Con and registration for BBC granted you access to the exhibits, as well. Definitely check into this, especially if you're funding your own way (as so many of us are!). I discovered this through Book Bites (and I wish I had discovered it before I paid my nonrefundable $95.00 to register for BEA...).

2. Bring business cards!! I really can't emphasize this enough. Bloggers, especially, should consider having business cards made. What better place to promote your site than at a book industry event like this? If a publisher agrees to send you an ARC they don't have with them, they'll expect you to have a card to give them. While you're waiting in line or going to a dinner or breakfast, have cards to hand out as you introduce yourself. I got mine at Vistraprint. They are very affordable, shipped very quickly, and have lots of cute designs to choose from.You can tuck them in your name badge holder to have at the ready.

3. Wear flip-flops if you want to. The main thing to understand is that you'll be on your feet for several hours at a time. Wear whatever is going to make you comfortable. I'll have you know that I was in thick-soled flip-flops both days and my feet were fine.

4. I heard several places that attendees would not be allowed to bring bags with them into the exhibits. This is not true (at least, it was not true this year). Yes, many booths have canvas bags to hand out, so you might just want to pick up one of those. But if you want to bring your own bags, you may. You may not bring rolling things (suitcases, carts, etc.). But you can bring a rolling suitcase and check it at the baggage check for $3.00 and then come back to visit it and drop off books. This is convenient if you're local and don't want to ship stuff or if you just want to fill up your carry-on bag for the plane!

5. Visit booths at several points during the day because they may be putting out different ARCs at different times. Every publisher is different - some bring only the galleys that will be signed by authors during the show, some bring a wider selection. It seemed like this year most publishers only brought ARCs from their fall catalogs (not from summer/spring). If you want to know if/when they'll be giving out a particular title, ASK! Publishers are happy to answer those questions and it gives you a good "in" to strike up a conversation if you want to.

6. If you're looking for a galley that you don't see sitting out anywhere, ask (politely!). For me, that conversation went something like this:

Me: Excuse me, will y'all have copies of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June?
Pub: No, we don't have that with us today. I'm sorry.
Me: Oh, that's fine! Is there any chance you could send me one?
Pub: Sure!
Me: Thank you so much! [Hands business card.] I blog at Abby the and my mailing info is on this card. I really appreciate it!

I made a huge list of a hundred books I wanted to look for, but if I did it again, I'd trim that list down to maybe one or two galleys per publisher that I really, REALLY wanted. I felt shady asking a publisher for a whole huge list of books, so I'd ask for the one I was most looking forward to and I'd take copies of what they had to hand out (i.e. the books they intended to promote at the show!). I'm so looking forward to going through my boxes to look at the books that I hadn't heard about prior to the convention.

7. Talk to publishers! In the morning of the first day, there was a huge, mad crush of people and it seemed like it was going to be impossible to talk to anyone. That calmed down after awhile and then it was so nice to be able to talk to publishers, introduce myself, and share my blog with them. If you need a conversation starter, ask them what their favorite books in the fall line are. Ask if there are any books they think deserve more buzz than they're getting. Comment on a favorite cover that you see in the publisher's booth. And, bloggers, be prepared to answer the question, "What do you blog about?" Come up with one line that describes your blog. "I review YA and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction, and I post about library programs and other library things." Y'know, for example.

8. Yes, everyone is excited to visit the big booths with their stacks of ARCs, but don't forget the smaller booths! And don't be afraid to take books from and talk to publishers you haven't heard of! While the big houses might be busy fending questions from a hundred people and setting out stacks of galleys for the next giveaway, smaller houses might be a little more laid-back and have time to talk to you, answer questions, and promote their upcoming books.

9. Make friends in line! The 30-60 minutes you're standing in line for a signing or a breakfast or to enter the exhibits will go much more quickly if you have someone to talk to while you wait. Everyone's got a name badge that has their location and their affiliation (be it librarian, bookseller, blogger, etc.), so that gives you an immediate conversation starter. And who knows who you might meet? For bloggers, this is a great time to gently promote your blog to people who will be interested in your subject matter - after all, you're hunting the same book, right? So you have at least some similar tastes.

10. Make use of the shipping area. To be honest, this was my favorite place in the whole exhibit hall. :) They have a huge room with lots of tables. Get a box or two or three (for free), put your name on it, and find a place on the tables. As you go through the exhibits and your bag gets heavy with books, visit the shipping area to unload them into your box. When the box is full, there are kind people who will take your box over to the weighing area. You'll fill out a shipping form and pay for the shipping and you won't have to lug home a million pounds of books! This is especially helpful for out-of-towners (like myself). The shipping is not cheap, but it didn't seem exorbitant either. This year, there was a $35.00 flat fee per box, plus shipping costs based on the weight. A full box cost $55-$65 (depending on the weight). For me, the shipping room was a little oasis when I needed a break from the madness of the hall. I found that as my bag got heavier, I'd get crankier. I'd get to a point where I needed to stop snapping at my friends and go unload my bags. Then I'd feel like a whole new person (and ready to go grab some more galleys)!

I had a great time overall at BEA and I'm already thinking about what I would do differently the next time I go. Anyone else have BEA tips to share? Leave 'em in the comments!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Treading Water

Adrienne's been posting about her wonderful sabbatical week and I have to say that I'm completely jealous. Instead of having a sabbatical, I'm treading water until August, just trying to keep my head above the waves.

Don't get me wrong - we love that it's busy at our library! We're so happy that families are coming in to sign up for Summer Reading Club and attending our programs and using their library. But the other work doesn't go away just because you have 200 kids in your department on a rainy day. You still have committee meetings and time sheets to sign and book orders to place... on top of signing up kids for Summer Reading Club, doing programs, constantly straightening shelves and refilling displays, and helping kids find books (and placing holds on oh so many books that are all checked out).

During 9 months of the year, our paperback shelves are so full that we have to put half the books in storage. During June and July? Those paperback racks are empty. We had so many little ones at our Toddler Time this week that we're adding another weekly session. We are offering double the number of programs that we offered last summer and they're all full.

Our new-book shelves are nearly empty. On the (very) rare occasion that we get a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book in, we'll put it on a new-book shelf and time how long it takes for someone to snatch it up. It's been under 10 minutes every time*.

So, this is just to say... if you have a public librarian in your life, say something encouraging to her or him. We're treading water trying to help all the patrons, shelve all the books, and keep our departments in some semblance of order. And, even though we love it, we're counting down the days 'til August. When we'll be back to just the normal amounts of work. :) 

*Yeah, all two times that we've actually had a DOAWK book in our department this summer...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Iron King

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. Grades 7 and up. Harlequin Teen, 2010. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Meghan Chase is just a normal, somewhat forgettable girl living in the Louisiana countryside until she comes home one day to discover that her four-year-old brother has been replaced by a Changeling and her best (and only) friend Robbie is actually an ancient faery from the land of Nevernever. With Robbie's help, Meghan journeys into the Nevernever in search of her brother, but what she'll discover there is the secret to her true heritage.

Julie Kagawa's imaginative faery creatures, lush descriptions of Nevernever, and solid characters made The Iron King very hard to put down, indeed. She builds the tension perfectly at the beginning of the book and I was immediately engrossed by the strange things that were happening to Meghan. It was creepy and definitely made me want to know more.

The book's a perfect blend of descriptive fantasy setting and romance and Ms. Kagawa certainly knows how to create characters to pine for. There's adventure, humor, and a bad boy love interest that'll get your blood pumping. While Meghan seems to need a lot of rescuing at the beginning, as she continues her quest to rescue her brother she starts to come into some power of her own.

This'll certainly please fans of supernatural romance and I'd try it on fans of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely. And I have to say that I looove the cover. It's eye-catching and beautiful and you can't tell this from the picture, but on the actual book the thorny vines and title are raised up, which is a really nice effect.

And I just have to add that I booktalked this title at our staff book chat and our Reference manager, who wanted no part of paranormal romance, not only picked it up, but couldn't put it down.

The Iron King is on shelves now!

The sequel, The Iron Daughter, is slated for release in August, so I'll definitely be looking for that one!

Monday, June 14, 2010

If Stones Could Speak

If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge by Marc Aronson. Grades 4-6. National Geographic, March 2010. Review copy provided by my local library. 64 pages.

Stonehenge is a mystery. There have been many theories about what this circle of stones could have meant to the people that built it. If Stones Could Speak is about the continuing quest for an explanation. All his life, Mike Parker Pearson wanted to be an archaeologist and study Stonehenge, but he'd thought all the research had been done. So Mark moved on and studied other parts of the world... until the BBC contacted him about bringing someone from Madagascar (where Mike was working at the time) to Stonehenge for a fresh opinion. When Ramilisonina, a retired archaeologist from Madagascar, looked at the stones, he saw them in a new way, differently than all the archaeologists that had come before him.

So Mike assembled a crew and they began to excavate some areas around Stonehenge. Lo and behold, they found a bunch of fascinating things that indicate that Stonehenge might have been part of a larger community living space.

Mr. Aronson gave an in-depth look into the process of studying history with his book Ain't Nothing But a Man and here he does it again. Not only does he follow archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson and his crew and document their work studying Stonehenge, but he encourages kids to think outside the box, to look at things with fresh eyes. New technology is being developed all the time and these new technologies can help us study the past in ways we'd never imagined.

The book includes a wonderful resource list (including recommended reading for kids and for adults), a glossary/encyclopedia of Stonehenge terms, and many time lines about the study of Stonehenge and the current theories and date information. It's a great work of nonfiction for kids and will appeal to budding historians. Stonehenge is an appealing topic and that'll get kids picking it up off the shelf. I'd also hand it to kids interested in archaeology and particularly fans of Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker and Lucy Long Ago by Catherine Thimmesh.

Read more reviews at Lori Calabrese's Blog, Shelf-Employed, and Bookends.

If Stones Could Speak is on shelves now!

And Happy Nonfiction Monday! Go check out this week's roundup at Books Together.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In which I am challenged

So Michelle over at GalleySmith posted a response to my post about the Summer Reading Club and it got me thinking. See, when I lived in the Chicago area, my home library had a Summer Reading Club for adults. It wasn't a big deal - I think you read 5 or 10 books and you got a t-shirt and your name entered in a prize drawing. But I participated because I know that libraries like it when patrons participate. And it was nice for me, too, because it gave me that little push to read adult books. A lot of the time, adult books get shoved to the bottom of the pile because I don't review 'em on this blog.

My home library here does not have a Summer Reading Club for adults*, but that doesn't mean I can't challenge myself! 

Michelle's challenging herself to read 20 books or 1000 pages between June 15 and September 15.

I'm going to challenge myself to read (or listen to) at least six adult books by the end of August.

How about you? Any reading challenges you want to tackle this summer?

PS: I promise this isn't a ploy to get people to leave comments, but I just installed Intense Debate, a new commenting system that allows for reply-to-comments, so if you check it out, tell me how you like it. (It's free! And super easy to install!) Many thanks to Sarah of YA Librarian Tales for alerting me to its existence!

*Actually the library in which I work does have a SRC for adults, but I don't believe staff are eligible.

Question for School Media Folk

School Librarians, I have a question for you!

What kinds of technology do you teach your students about? Of course, you teach them information literacy, how to do research, etc., but are there specific programs, websites, computer skills that you do lessons on? What's been really useful for the kids? What have the kids enjoyed the most?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In My Mailbox #36

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

I skipped last week because I was up to my ears in the 48-Hour Book Challenge, but I have received a few books in the mail over the past two weeks...

Stork by Wendy Delsol. Candlewick, October 2010. Debut author alert!

The first (and only, thus far) of my requested-at-BEA books to come in the mail!

Here's the summary from GoodReads:

After her parents' divorce, Katla and her mother move from Los Angeles to Norse Falls, Minnesota, where Kat immediately alienates two boys at her high school and, improbably, discovers a kinship with a mysterious group of elderly women--the Icelandic Stork Society - who "deliver souls." 

Sounds very interesting and different and I love the bright cover - very eye-catching.

 The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas. HarperCollins, May 2009.
And I got the third book in the series, too: The Magic Thief: Found by Sarah Prineas. HarperCollins, May 2010. 

Summary from GoodReads (for Lost):

Conn may only be a wizard's apprentice, but even he knows it's dangerous to play with fire . . . especially around magic. His master, Nevery, warns him that it could all blow up in his face. Besides, they have bigger problems to deal with. There is evil afoot in the city of Wellmet, an evil that isn't human. 

But Conn is drawn to the murmurs he hears every time he sets off an explosion—something is trying to talk to him, to warn him. When none of the wizards listen, Conn takes matters into his own hands. His quest to protect everything he loves brings him face-to-face with a powerful sorcerer-king and a treachery beyond even his vivid imagination. 

 And I got another great nonfiction book, Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner. Houghton Mifflin, August 2010. I love the Scientists in the Field series, so I'm very excited about this one!

Summary from Goodreads:

In Project Seahorse, Pamela S. Turner explores how committed conservationists, community organizers, and caring neighbors are working together to restore the luster of a damaged coral reef. Scott Tuason's brilliant photography will give you a fish's-eye view of Amanda and Heather's seahorse research and allow you to swim along on a midnight fishing trip with Digoy. Most important of all, you'll learn what's being done--and what you can do--to help the seahorse. 

And there you have my mailbox this week! Did anything good come in your mailbox?

Summer Reading Ahoy!

Okay, I know I'm way overdue for this post but, well, we're in the middle of Summer Reading Club. We are, like many of y'all, Making a Splash at our library this summer - our program's all water themed.

Check out our underwater decorations over at the ALSC Blog!

For our Summer Reading Club, kids have to read either 20 books or 1000 pages to complete the program and get their prizes. Each child can choose which way she wants to count and she can read any books she wants as long as they're at her reading level. (This is honor system.) When kids complete the club, they get:

  • a packet of coupons donated by local businesses
  • a prize from the treasure chest (we ordered a variety of rubber duckies from Oriental Trading and the kids are really liking them [even most of the older kids - score!])
  • and entry slips for our weekly prize drawings and our grand prize drawings
Each week, we draw names for the weekly prize and the winners get to pick out a book to keep from a selection of books we have. At the end of the summer, we'll draw winners for our grand prizes. We have about 12 grand prizes including gift cards to the local movie theatre and bookstore, a Slip 'n Slide, pool toys, a complete set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (bought in December from the Scholastic warehouse sale), a set of plush sea creatures, Star Wars legos, bath toys, and more...

If kids finish the SRC, they can keep reading and for every 20 books or 1000 pages they read, they get more coupons (we have three "levels" of coupon packets and after they get all those, they can choose one extra coupon from the ones we have that are unlimited) and more chances to win the drawings. I like this because it keeps them reading all summer.

Some of our programs tie into the Make a Splash theme and some don't. Big (read: paid) programs include a clown juggling show, puppet shows, the Louisville Zoo bringing animals, and a mad scientist show. For the older kids we're also doing a Titanic program (actually, we already did this - program post is coming!), a fantasy book club, a Percy Jackson party, and showing The Lightning Thief movie. For the younger kids, we're doing several storytime-and-craft programs on watery themes (Who Lives in the Sea?, Gone Fishin', Snowing in July).

We run our Summer Reading Club for 10 weeks, from May 24-July 31. This year because we had so many snow days, our SRC started about a week and a half before school ended. I think this actually worked out fine because it allowed us a week of sign-ups trickling in before the big rush when school let out. Our kids will go back to school mid-August, so that gives them some time to do other things before school starts up again. Of course, if kids bring logs in after the deadline, we'll still give them coupons and prizes as long as we have supplies left.

And there, in a nutshell, we have the Summer Reading Club. Anyone else doing Make a Splash? Anyone doing any other themes? What cool stuff are you doing (that I can borrow for next year)?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:45a - I arrive at work, start setting up our program room for this morning's storytime.

9:00a - I go upstairs to mail some things. Chat with my staff on the way back.

9:25a - I finish setting up the room (although, as I discovered when doing the program, I forgot several things, so I didn't do a very good job...)

9:40a - Check and answer emails.

10:00a - Time for Mother Goose on the Loose! This is our weekly storytime for the under-2 crowd.

10:45a - MGOL is over, and I go out to the reference desk to help out because it is CRAZY!!!

11:00a - We have Connor the Clown at the library today, plus it's raining, which is why the library is so very busy. I stay out to help on the reference desk and help patrons find nursery rhyme books, materials on teaching babies sign language, and Star Wars books.

11:15a - I sit in briefly on the Connor the Clown program to make sure everything's going okay (it is) and then I'm back in the department to cover staff breaks and find the books on the holds request list.

11:50a - Lunch time!

12:30p - I'm back from lunch and I clean up the program room from the morning's storytime.

12:45p - We have another session of Connor the Clown starting at one (and it's still raining), so the department is still crazy busy! I go around the department to see if anyone needs help.

1:05p - Circulation manager lets me know that some of the paperback books are coming up as not being in the system. My staff and I start scanning all of the paperback readers to pull out the ones that are messed up.


I'm still in the department, helping people. We have some rambunctious kids running around and I police them in between signing up kids for the Summer Reading Club.

2:00p - I take a short break back in the office to recover my sanity. Anyone who thinks that libraries are always quiet? I invite you to my department on a rainy day during the time before or after a program. Boy howdy.

2:15p - I go back on the desk to give my staff breaks.

2:45p - Things have calmed down quite a bit, so I head back to the office to work on stuff for tomorrow's Titanic program. I'm compiling trivia questions and making name tags.

3:45p - I chat with two of my staff members about the end-of-summer party that'll be happening at the end of July. They're coming up with plans and wanted my input since I was at the summer kickoff party. We're always taking notes on programs to see what worked and what didn't.

4:15p - Back to work on the Titanic program. I put together a book list of Titanic-related fiction and other adventure books that might appeal to kids who are interested in the Titanic. I find some activity sheets on the web that I make into take-home packets for them.

5:30p - I go out into the department to make copies and end up answering some reference questions. I help kids find mystery books, books on Greek mythology, and books on creating gadgets. I also sign some more kids up for the Summer Reading Club.

5:45p - I staple packets together for tomorrow's program and chat with our computer guy about some changes happening to the website.

6:10p - I finish up the packets and tell T that I'm going home.

6:15p - I get a cart and organize everything for the program on it. I have decorations for the room, activity packets, books for a Titanic book display, and all the materials I need to do the program. I also test out the music I'm going to use to make sure the CD is working properly.

6:35p - I finally head home!

Days in the life of a children's librarian are mighty hectic during the summer!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Easy Series Searching in Baker & Taylor

If you use Baker & Taylor for your ordering, I have a tip for you. Our local B&T rep came out and did a training with me and she taught me this. I've become aware that some people don't know about it, so I'm sharing it with all of you!

Say you want to order all the books in a particular series and you want them all in paperback. Or say you're wanting an easy way to bring up all the books in a series so you can fill in the gaps. Search using the B&T Continuations ID.

Step 1) Search for a book in the series and bring up the record in the format you want (i.e. paperback, reinforced, etc.).

Step 2) Click on the "Detail" tab. In the left-hand column, under "Detailed Product Description", about halfway down there is a line that says "B&T Continuation" and has a 10-digit number. Highlight and copy this number. That's the Continuations ID number.

Step 3) Start a new search. In one of the search boxes, select to search for "B&T Continuations ID" and paste in that number you just copied.

This will bring up all the books in the series, in the same format as the first book you searched.

It has changed my life! I use it to tell if a book's in a series (if it's not in a series, it won't have a Continuations ID listed or the number will be all zeros). I use it when I'm purchasing a series we don't have or if I'm filling in gaps in a series we do have. It's an easy way to bring up an entire series so you can add some or all of them to a cart.

And speaking of series, I've mentioned this site before, but I'll put in another plug for the Mid-Continent Public Library's Juvenile Series and Sequels lists. I use these all the time and I have found that they are pretty darn accurate. They list hundreds and hundreds of series. You can search by title (series title or book title), author, or subject. And they list the books in the series in order. This is a great resource to know for answering questions about series or filling in the gaps in your series collections.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oooo, Shiny!

If you're viewing this in a reader, you're gonna want to click on through because Abby (the) Librarian has a spiffy new look!

Many thanks to Anna at Book Nerds for my lovely new layout! Wanna hire her? She has very reasonable packages for bloggers and authors at Eat Sleep Design. Check it out!

What do you think??

882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic

882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic by Hugh Brewster and Laurie Coulter. Grades 3 and up. Scholastic, 1998. Copy provided by my local library. 96 pages.

Maybe I'm a little irreverent, but when I heard that the collaborative theme for this year's Summer Reading Club was "Make a Splash", one of my first thoughts was "Would it be wrong to do a program on the Titanic?" And that's what I'll be doing this Thursday*.

So, I needed to do a little research and I've been digging through our books on the subject. 882 1/2 Answers is one of the most helpful and interesting books I've found, so I knew I wanted to review it for Nonfiction Monday.

Why 882 1/2 answers? Because the Titanic was 882 1/2 feet long!

The book's organized into simple questions and answers, starting with questions about the development and building of the ship, moving to questions about what was on board the ship and what the voyage would have been like, to questions about the sinking, and ending with questions about what happened afterward. The format is spectacular for gleaning trivia questions (which is one of the reasons I was reading it) and the book also has an index so you can find answers to particular questions.

Photos and color illustrations are included and they help bring the text to life. If you don't have this one in your library (public, school, or home), you'll definitely want to pick it up. This is a book I can see kids poring over for hours and sharing with their friends.

I flagged a ton of interesting questions that the book answers. Here are a couple of them:

How much did the Titanic cost to build?
Answer 18: The approximate total construction cost for building the Titanic was $7.5 million, about $123 million in today's money. (pg 9)

What was the most exotic object in the Titanic's cargo?Answer 83: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a book of ancient sayings. The illustrated copy in the Titanic's hold was adorned with 1,050 precious stones, each set in gold. It had recently been sold for $2,025 (about $33,000 in today's dollars) at a London auction and was being sent to its new owner, Gabriel Wells, a New York book dealer  (pg15)

How many bathtubs were in third class?
Answer 165: Only two for more than 700 passengers! (pg 21)

Don't wait to go and pick up this gem! And also, don't forget that today's Nonfiction Monday and you should check out the roundup over at Charlotte's Library. Bon voyage!

*You can expect a post about it afterward. I'll let ya know what we did and how it went.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

48HBC - Finish Line!

Whew! I just crossed the finish line for MotherReader's 5th Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. What fun!

Here are my official totals for this year's challenge:

Time spent reading: 23 hours
Time spent blogging and social networking: 5.75 hours
Total time spent on the challenge: 28.75 hours

Number of pages read: 2182

Books read: 10.5

882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic by Hugh Brewer and Laurie Coulter
The Bat Scientists by  Mary Kay Carson (I wrote a review that will be posted on an upcoming Monday)
The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers
If Stones Could Speak by Marc Aronson
Low Read Moon by Ivy Devlin
Matched by Ally Condie
Poop Happened! by Sarah Albee
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Scumble by Ingrid Law
Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

And I'm halfway through The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante.

I had such a good time this year and I really made an effort to check out other people's blogs and leave encouraging comments and tweets. The social networking aspect of the challenge was really helpful whenever I needed a little break from reading or needed some encouragement!

The easiest time during the challenge was probably Saturday morning when I woke up raring to get back to reading! The hardest time for me was this afternoon around 2:00 after I'd taken a break for lunch and I started to get really sleepy. I rallied, though, and ended up finishing two more books.

I read from many different genres including realistic fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, and non-fiction and that helped mix things up a little bit and keep me interested in my books. Having some nonfiction really helped as those were shorter books and they gave me a sense of accomplishment for getting more books read. For the novels, I had a mix of short books and long books. I tried to read books that I was really excited about and, while I loved some of them more than others, I didn't really hit on any duds this time around. I was hoping to read 10 books and I made that goal!

I nearly made my "secret" goal of 30 challenge hours, but 28.75 is really close, so I'm not complaining. Maybe I'll get to 30 hours next year. :)

I have to send a HUGE THANK YOU to Pam of MotherReader for organizing this fantastic event. It's truly an event I look forward to each year. I love the sense of community it brings as well as the excuse to do nothing but clear a whole bunch of books off my to-be-read pile! Plus, I don't mean to be that girl thinking about her page stats, but yesterday I had over twice as many visitors as I've ever had on one day before. So thank you to anyone who visited my blog and especially thank you to those who left encouraging comments, tweets, etc. Those kind words made it so much easier to complete the challenge!!

If you're still going, keep up the good work! Read, read, read! Blog, blog, blog!

As for me, I think I might go watch a movie. :)

48HBC: Low Red Moon

Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin. Grades 7 and up. Bloomsbury USA, September 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 196 pages.

The night Avery witnessed her parents' double-murder is a blur. All she remembers is blood. Lots of blood. And something silver moving swiftly... And then the sheriff was there, taking her away. And now her parents are gone. Try as she might, Avery can't remember any more, even though she knows it's the only chance to catch her parents' killers. And then there's Ben, the strangely alluring new kid with the arresting silver eyes. Avery feels drawn to him, though she doesn't know why. As Avery and Ben get closer, Avery will try to piece together the clues about her parents' death. She'll have to... because whatever did it is still out there...

We have here a paranormal romance that'll please the many fans of that genre, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. It just wasn't different enough from the scores of other YA paranormals that are being published right now. So, for teens clamoring for more Twilight or Sisters Red or Shiver, this'll fit the bill. But it wasn't my cup of tea.

I think maybe I was trying to read it too quickly, though. It's a slim book, just under 200 pages, and I really appreciate that when I think about the hefty fantasy volumes appearing on shelves. But it's not exactly a quick read. Ms. Devlin's writing is beautiful - spare but powerful.

Look for Low Red Moon on shelves September 14.

48-Hour Book Challenge Update? Don't mind if I do... I'm coming up on my deadline (it's now just about 5:30pm and my finishing time is 7:15pm)

Time spent reading: 21.5 hours
Time spent blogging/networking: 5.5 hours
Books completed: 9 (and part of another one)
Pages read: 1903 + 99 pages of The Sweetness of Salt = 2002 pages

Next up is one last nonfiction, I think, and then if I have any time left, I'll keep reading on The Sweetness of Salt, though I don't think I will have time to finish it by 7:15.

This is the home stretch!!!!

48 HBC: 882 1/2 Answers

I'll be posting a full review of this one on Monday for Nonfiction Monday, but I also finished 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic by Hugh Brewer and Laurie Coulter. It's a very interesting book that kids will pore over for hours. Highly recommended. (If you haven't already seen it - it's a 1998 book.) Check back tomorrow for my full review.

And I'll give you a little 48 Hour Book Challenge Update

Time spent reading: 18.75 hours
Time spent blogging/social networking: 5 hours
Books completed: 8
Pages read: 1707

Hours to go: just about 6... and I'm determined to spend all of them on this challenge!

48 HBC: Matched

Matched by Ally Condie. Grades 7 and up. Dutton, November 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 366 pages.

Cassia couldn't be more excited. Not only is it her 17th birthday, but her birthday is falling right on the day of her Matching ceremony. The Society Matches every eligible and willing person with another person, usually from a different city or province. The Matches are chosen based on a number of factors and the best probability for a happy, healthy family. When Cassia finds out that her Match is her good friend Xander, she's overjoyed. They already know so much about each other and she's happy that they'll get to start a family together. But when a glitch in the system shows her another boy who might be a Match for her, Cassia's world starts to spin off its axis. As she gets to know Ky better, she starts to have feelings for him. And the more she finds out about the Society, the more questions she has.

Matched reminded me of The Giver by Lois Lowry* but aimed at older girls. I was drawn in immediately by the fascinating dystopia that Ally Condie has created. I had to know more. The Society controls everything about everyone's life. They assign jobs, Match partners, deliver food with the proper nutritional content, and they've even picked out 100 Poems, 100 Songs, and 100 Artworks that people may read, hear, or view. They control everything so they can offer all inhabitants an optimal life. Disease has been all but eradicated. Wars are being fought, but they are far away where most people don't have to think about them.

As the book progresses, Cassia begins to question more and more, finding the cracks in this perfect life that the Society has created.

I think Ms. Condie has created an intriguing world and she builds the tension up nicely to keep the reader interested. I started this book before I went to bed last night and ended up staying awake for an extra hour because I wanted to see what happened next. There are some nice plot turns, some I suspected and some that surprised me. This will definitely please fans of dystopian lit and it has a nice element of romance, so I'd recommend it to fans of paranormal romance, too. Hand it to fans of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies and Lowry's The Giver for sure.

And sorry, kids, but this one's not due out 'til November.

*This is a high compliment as that is maybe my favorite book of all time.

48HBC: If Stones Could Speak

Checking in again... I just finished If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge by Marc Aronson and I'll be posting a full review for an upcoming Nonfiction Monday. It was just what I would expect from Mr. Aronson - meticulously researched and documented and written in a way that encourages kids to question, to seek their own answers, and to keep looking at history with fresh eyes. Because if you do that, who knows what you'll find??

This'll be my last 48-Hour Book Challenge Update for the evening - I am going to crawl into bed and hope to get a few chapters read before my eyes close on me...

Time spent reading: 14 hours
Time spent blogging/networking: 3.5 hours
Books completed: 6
Pages read: 1245

Saturday, June 5, 2010

48 HBC: The Cruisers

The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers. Grades 6-8. Scholastic Press, August 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 122 pages.

The Cruisers are four friends at the Da Vinci School, a school for gifted students in Harlem. None of them are living up to their potential and their principal gives them one last chance to prove themselves. The school is participating in a Civil War reenactment, dividing up the students between the Union and Confederate factions. The Cruisers are charged with negotiating peace between the two groups. But when words start to fly, things get way more complicated than any of them could have imagined and the entire school will get a lesson on what it means to be racist.

What I liked: Smart characters of color dealing with tough issues in a nonviolent way. The book's aimed at a middle-grade audience, unlike Mr. Myers's previous books that have been edgy YA. It's the first in a series and I think kids will dig it.

What I didn't like so much: I'm a character girl and I just never felt like I got to know the Cruisers that much and I didn't connect with the characters. We do get some personal background on some of them, particularly Zander who narrates the book. But it's the kind of book that just plunges you into the thick of things. Some people dig it. For me, it's not my thing - I like a little more background.

48 Hour Book Challenge Update

Time spent reading: 13.5 hours
Time spent blogging/networking: 3 hours
Books completed: 5
Pages read: 1181

I'm gonna tackle another nonfiction (a shortie) and maybe start another novel and see how far I get before I have to hit the sack. My eyes are gettin' kinda droopy. :) I haven't read ANY debuts yet during the challenge, so I'll try to hit a couple of those tonight and tomorrow.

48HBC: Revolution

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Grades 9-12. Delacorte Press, October 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 472 pages.

Andi isn't just floundering, she's drowning. Two years ago, her 10-year-old brother was killed and Andi blames herself. She wasn't there to take care of him. And now he's gone. Her father's left and her mother's sinking deeper and deeper into her own madness. It's all Andi can do to make it through each day and the only thing that gives her any pleasure is her music. When her father finds out that she's failing her classes, he takes her with him to Paris so she can work on her senior thesis. And when Andi discovers a hidden diary written by a girl during the French Revolution, her life will change forever.

You know... I'm finding it hard to review this book because it wasn't what I wanted it to be, which isn't fair. But here goes...

Jennifer Donnelly is a very talented writer. I connected with the character of Andi right away, even though she's not necessarily someone I would identify with. Her grief seeps off the page, but it's done in such a way that I immediately sympathized with her. Her pain hurt me, too. I was very intrigued by the beginning and I didn't want to put the book down.

And then there was the whole diary thing. Andi finds a diary written by Alexandrine, a 17-year-old girl who was intimately involved with the royal family during the French Revolution. And because Alexandrine was a caretaker for the dauphin, the French prince who was the same age as Andi's brother when he died, Andi identifies with her and comes to care about her as she's reading the diary entries. The problem? I just never cared very much about Alex. I didn't care for how her story unfolded in the diary entries - I felt distanced from her and I would have preferred for the Alex parts to be told in straight first-person like the Andi parts.

And then the last bit went to kind of a strange place and I wasn't really on board with it. I guess my problem is that it felt like three different books that were kind of mashed together. And it went on for so long (almost 500 pages), that I started to lose my patience with Andi.

Now. All that said, I did love Andi. I cared about her. I loved her passion for music and I loved all the information about music that came through in the story. I was rooting for her as a romantic element was introduced. The novel's also fantastically researched and I can only imagine how much work that was. Ms. Donnelly includes an author's note as well as a comprehensive bibliography. And while it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it's a very well-written and well-thought out book. It'll have fans. Many of 'em.

48 Hour Book Challenge Update

Time spent reading: 12.5 hours
Time spent blogging/networking: 2.5 hours
Books read: 4
Pages read: 1059

And I drank two Cokes, so I should be good to go for awhile tonight. ;) Next up will be something short, though...

The 24-Hour Mark

Just checking in at my 24-Hour Mark. Lesse...

Since starting the challenge 24 hours ago, I have...

Read for 10.25 hours
Blogged/Social Networked for 2 hours
(For a total of 12.25 Challenge hours logged)
Finished 3 books (and I'm just about halfway through Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly)
Read 964 pages

To reach my goal of 24 hours, I'll have to read and blog for 11.75 of the next 24 hours. To reach my secret goal of 30 hours, I'll have to read and blog for 17.75 of the next 24 hours. I don't know if I can make it to 30 hours, but I will give it my best shot!

... After I take a shower, that is. ;)

48HBC: Poop Happened

Checking in here... I just finished Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee, which was gross and informative and too European-centered (but kids are going to love it). I wrote a full review, but I'll be posting it on Monday for Nonfiction Monday.

So, my 48-Hour Book Challenge Update...

Time spent reading: 7.5 hours
Time spent blogging/networking: 1.75 hours
Books completed: 3
Pages read: 757

I'm going to have to take a little break here in a bit and go to work for a few hours for our Summer Reading Club Kickoff Party, but I'll try to read a bit more before I go (maybe something YA...) and I'll be back by 5 to continue reading! We're on hour 17 of the challenge and I've read/blogged for 9.25 hours so far.

To everyone who's still going - you can do it! Keep going!

48HBC: Scumble

Scumble by Ingrid Law. Grades 4-8. Dial Books for Young Readers, August 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 401 pages.

Things start to come apart for Ledger Kale on his thirteenth birthday. Literally. In Ledger's family, kids get a savvy, a special power, on their thirteenth birthday. Ledger had been hoping for super speed, but savvies don't work that way. They're unpredictable. And Ledger's savvy seems to be the power to destroy man-made objects. After he demolishes his uncle's barn at his cousin's wedding, Ledger's parents decide it'll be best for him to spend the summer at his uncle's ranch in Wyoming learning to scumble his savvy. But Ledger's afraid he'll never be able to control his new power. To make matters worse, Sarah Jane, a girl from the nearby town of Sundance, keeps following him everywhere, determined to uncover the secret of his strange family. What will happen if the world finds out about their savvies?

I really enjoyed the Newbery-honor-winning Savvy, but I think I liked Scumble even more! It's got the same rich tapestry of description and language that Ms. Law employed in writing Savvy. While Savvy is about a girl anticipating her power and wishing and hoping for it, Scumble is about what happens afterward - the struggle to grow into this newfound ability. It's about learning to take the world into account, moving from your self-centered childhood into a more worldly young-adulthood.

Scumble's got that same wonderful tall-tale feel to it, complete with tall-tale words, stories, and characters that are larger than life. There are family feuds, broken hearts, first loves, and fresh starts contained within the 400 fast-moving pages of this novel. It's a thick book that didn't feel like I thick book because the characters, even with their fantastic abilities, feel like real people. I read this line:

...Mom and Dad swung into action doing the things parents always do - making calls, feeling foreheads, furrowing brows, and shooing the dog off the bed. (pg 382)

And I literally stopped and thought "That's so clever of a thirteen-year-old kid to say that! It's exactly what grown-ups are like!" And then I had to stop again and say to myself "No, Ledger Kale did not write this book. He's fictional. Ingrid Law made up that line and she's a grown-up!" Which, to me, says that Ledger became much more than a character to me. He became a literary friend.

Here's hoping that Scumble's not the last we see of these magnificent families. If it was up to me, I'd want to know Gypsy's story next. Just sayin'.

Scumble will be on shelves August 24! And I already know a couple of kids that'll be itching to get their hands on it.

48-Hour Book Challenge Update

Time spent reading: 6 hours
Time spent blogging/networking: 1.25 hours
Books completed: 2
Pages read: 587