Saturday, July 31, 2010

End-of-Summer Giveaway!

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

Today is the LAST DAY of our Summer Reading Club! It's been super fun, but also busy and stressful at times. And now it's over!!! (Until next year...)

I know y'all love book giveaways and I've recently gotten a few copies of books that I picked up at BEA, so what better way to celebrate than to give away some ARCs?!

I have one copy of each of the following ARCs available:

Annexed by Sharon Dogar (Houghton Mifflin, October 2010).

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (McElderry, August 2010).

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales (Simon Pulse, October 2010).

Fill out the form below to enter. Each person will be eligible for one drawing, so pick which book you'd like to be considered for. You have through midnight on August 3 to enter. On August 4, I will use the random number generator to pick one lucky winner for each book!

Good luck!

The giveaway is now closed! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Around the interwebs

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 5 cover and title revealed!! The book is slated to be released November 9. Thanks to Travis of 100 Scope Notes for the link.

And speaking of massive book releases, have you seen the Mockingjay book trailer?

And you won't want to miss the Hunger Games Facebook page! See beautiful international covers, test your trivia knowledge, and send gifts to your friends. Oh, August 24, where are you?!

Ohhhh, it's funny because it's true: check out Jen's Ballad of a Children's Librarian. (I would like to state for the record that tomorrow is the last day of our Summer Reading Club and so far, I'm still alive...)

So you want to be a teen librarian? Check out this post where Sarah of Green Bean Teen Queen tells you what it takes.

This has been all over the (librarian) interwebs, so maybe you've seen it: a New Jersey library pulled a GLBTQ anthology from its shelves without a formal complaint (there was an informal request to pull the book), citing "child pornography". Censorship is the pits. LIBRARIANS censoring books just breaks my heart. If anyone's fighting for the right of every person to read what he or she wants, it should be librarians.

Earlier this week, I reviewed a book that tells the story of Anne Frank from a different point of view. Now, thanks to Super Librarian, I found out that Anne Frank's diary is going to be made into a graphic novel. There is a graphic version of Anne Frank's diary already published, but this will be the first one authorized by the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography will be released Sept. 14.

This is just hilarious:

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for pointing me to that bit of awesome.

And that's all she wrote. Today, anyway. Have a great weekend!
OH. And tune in tomorrow for a fabulous end-of-summer-reading giveaway!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson. Grades 5-8. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, October 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher at BEA.

Taking place after the events in ChainsForge continues the story of Curzon, an African-American boy during the Revolutionary War. After being fired from his work with a crooked businessman, Curzon finds himself in the middle of a battle between British and Revolutionary troops. He saves the life of a young American soldier by throwing one stone and he's chosen his side. Curzon gets swept up into the army life, joining a troop bound for Valley Forge. It'll be a hard winter and just when he thinks his luck has turned, surprising twists of fate will send Curzon back to where he started. So many Americans are fighting for freedom, but will they ever fight for the freedom of all?

I loved, loved, loved Chains and I've been eagerly anticipating this sequel since I finished that book in 2008. The good news is that it absolutely doesn't disappoint. The bad news is that it's only made me want the third book just as badly as I've wanted this book!

Just like Chains, this book explores a part of the Revolutionary War that we might not always think about - the roles of slaves in the fight for American freedom. And like Chains, the book is compulsively readable with characters that feel like real people. It's less like reading a historical novel and more like your good friend Curzon is sitting there and telling you about his adventures.

Not only is it compulsively readable, but the book is rife with historical details that bring the Revolutionary War to life. Ms. Anderson starts each chapter with a quote from primary source materials. This is something that kids might skip over in their hurry to continue the story, but it adds so much when you take the time to read them. I'm reviewing from an early bound galley, so I didn't see the author's note, but I would bet a million dollars that it'll be fantastic (the author's note for Chains made my heart skip a beat).

Can you read Forge without having read Chains? Yes, I think you can. Curzon occasionally gives the reader glimpses into some of the events of Chains with brief flashbacks and you don't need much back story for the events in Forge to make sense. But why in the world would you deny yourself the pleasure of reading Chains?

Teachers, if you do a Revolutionary War unit for middle-schoolers, DON'T MISS THESE BOOKS. I can't think of a more accessible way to introduce the time period and get your students thinking.

Go ahead and pick up Chains today, but Forge won't be on shelves until October 19.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:45a - Arrive at work. Turn on computer and put stuff away. Start setting up the room for this morning's program. I print out the words to the rhymes so that I can post them for the parents to read, I collect books for display, and I make sure I've got all my props ready.

9:30a - Check email. 

9:40a - Talk to coworker about tomorrow's daycare storytime. We figure out which books we're going to read, who's going to read what, and we pull together stuff for the craft. 

10:00a - Time for Mother Goose on the Loose, our weekly program for kids under 2 and their caregivers. We share rhymes, songs, books, and activities and then bring out some toys for a short playtime.

10:45a - The program's over and I chat with a coworker about how it went. We had quite a large crowd and I'm thinking about opening another session. We talk about when we would offer it. 

10:55a - I draw up a quick survey for my patrons to fill out, so I can figure out when to open a new session of the program. I'll give it to my patrons next week to get their input. 

11:10a - It's time for my break and on my way to the lounge I stop at the desk and check in a kid for the Summer Reading Club. Then it's lunch time! 

11:45a - Back from lunch, I clean up the small meeting room from this morning's program. 

12:00p - This morning's meeting in the auditorium is over, so I start putting that room together for... our Percy Jackson party! We move tables and chairs around and decorate the room. We set out snacks and get the craft supplies ready, sharpen pencils, set out trivia sheets, get the attendance sheet ready. H planned the program, so I go over the plan with her and make sure I know how she wants me to help. 

2:00p - Percy Jackson time! We have almost 30 very enthusiastic kids. We do a trivia contest, serve blue snacks, and do a camp necklace craft.

3:00p - The program's over and we take down the room. Lots more moving of tables and chairs, taking down decorations, and putting away supplies. 

3:30p - Back in my department, I talk with a couple of my staff members at the desk and we look at the cart of new books brought over by Technical Services. 

4:00p - Check email and call the group that's scheduled to come tomorrow to confirm the time with them. 

4:10p - Straighten up the department. I pick up toys and blocks and fill the displays. 

4:30p - Check email and read and respond to some PUBYAC messages. 

4:50p - Make my to-do list for tomorrow. 

4:55p - I go sit at the reference desk with A, helping out with checking in kids for the Summer Reading Club and answering questions. 

5:30p - Time to head home! 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Annexed by Sharon Dogar. Grades 8 and up. Houghton Mifflin, October 2010. Reviewed from ARC snagged at BEA. 320 pages.

It's 1942 and Europe is at war. For the Jewish van Pels family, this war means almost-certain death and they have no choice but to go into hiding with another family, the Franks. For sixteen-year-old Peter van Pels, sharing a tiny space with seven other people, this means no privacy. It means that he has to sit around instead of going to fight like a man. And it means he has to put up with Anne, a thirteen-year-old chatterbox who's constantly writing about him in her diary. As the years wear on, Peter and Anne become friends... and then maybe something more. What was life like for Peter in the Annex?

Sharon Dogar's come under some fire for writing this novel, a fictionalized speculation about what Peter may have gone through in the secret annex during World War II. We know many of Anne Frank's thoughts - they're meticulously documented in her diary - but what of Peter? How did he feel, trapped in the annex, as life Outside continued without him, as more of his friends disappeared, as people starved in the street?

Okay, let me start by saying that Peter and Anne do not have sex. Yes, they start to care for each other. Yes, they steal moments together, some of which are intimate. And yes, Peter has sexual desires. But Peter and Anne don't go farther than a kiss. Read Sharon Dogar's response to the articles about her novel.

Now, that's out of the way. I thought Ms. Dogar did a fantastic job with this novel.

No doubt that this is a massive undertaking. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is a book that people cherish. It's beloved by so many, you can bet that Ms. Dogar didn't enter into this project lightly. And it's obvious she's done her research.

The tone of the book was spot-on. Peter ruminates on his feelings of helplessness as he hides while others outside fight. He's frustrated and depressed, obsessed with thoughts about the girl he left behind - a girl who was taken away. As I read it, I felt compelled to grab my copy of Anne's diary and follow along to see what Anne was thinking at different points in the story.

I think this book will appeal to the many teens who are fascinated by Anne's diary. I don't know if it would work as well for someone who hadn't read Anne's book. (But that's hard for me to judge since I have read Anne's diary. I'd be interested to know if the book would make sense to someone who didn't know Anne's part.)

I mean, it's just fascinating. Obviously, we can't know exactly what Peter van Pels was thinking during his time in the attic. But Ms. Dogar's done her research and carefully crafted this book that explores what might have been going through his head. I think it's an excellent work and adds much to the selection of YA literature available today.

Read more reviews at Good Books & Good Wine, Insert Book Title Here, and Yay! Reads.

Annexed will be on shelves October 4.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese, illustrated by John O'Brien. Ages 7-10. Henry Holt & Company, March 2010. 40 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

"You can call me Blockhead. Everyone else does."

So begins this imagined tale of the life of Leonardo Fibonacci (a.k.a. Leonardo of Pisa), medieval mathematician. Fibonacci. He spread the use of Hindu/Arabic numerals in Europe (to replace the more cumbersome Roman numeral system) and he observed and wrote* about the numbers that make up a spiral pattern seen in nature. The pattern was named after him, though it had been written about before by Indian mathematicians.

Very little is known about Fibonacci, who lived circa 1170-1240, so Mr. D'Agnese fills in the gaps to bring the tale to life. The story is written in the first person as if Leonardo is telling us about his life. It's a very effective way to make the story accessible and interesting.

My favorite thing about this book is the fabulous pairing of text and illustrations. I have to admit that I am not generally a fan of John O'Brien's work (I find the beady eyes to be creepy), but from the first spread, I knew I was in for a treat with this book. In the spread, Leonardo sits alone on a bluff overlooking a farm, sketching a spiral that's laid out before him in the pattern of the fields. Throughout the book, we see spirals everywhere - in people's curls and clothing, the objects that surround Leonardo on the pages (flowers, shells, etc.).

A bit of additional biographical information is included at the end of the book and kids are encouraged to look through the pages and spot particular objects that sport a Fibonacci sequence.

Check out the book trailer:

Read the story of the book's journey to print.

Check out interviews with Joseph D'Agnese at GottaBook (don't miss Greg's Fibonacci poems) and Sarah Campbell's Blog.

Check out an interview with illustrator John O'Brien at My Cat Eats Bananas and Flies and the Saturday Sketch interview at the MacKids Blog.

Read more reviews at Greg LS's Blog and NC Teacher Stuff.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is on shelves now!

Today's Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to Shelf-Employed for this week's roundup!

*According to Wikipedia, Indian mathematicians had already described the pattern, but Fibonacci introduced it to Western Europe. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In my Mailbox #42

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren in which bloggers post about the books they received in the mail (or bought or checked out from the library) during the week.

Here's what I got!

Annexed by Sharon Dogar (Houghton Mifflin, October 2010).

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante (Putnam, January 2011). *2011 debut!*

Forged by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum, October 2010).

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (McElderry, August 2010).

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi (Simon & Schuster, September 2010).

The Limit by Kristen Landon (Aladdin, September 2010). *debut!*

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman (Simon & Schuster, November 2010).

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg (Aladdin, September 2010).

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales (Simon Pulse, October 2010). *debut!*

Now, a few of these are titles that I picked up at BEA, so I just might have to have a giveaway... Stay tuned...

How was your week? Anything good in your mailbox?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reminder: AudioSynced is coming up!

Have you reviewed or posted about audiobooks in July? Remember to submit a link for our July AudioSynced Roundup! The Roundup will be posted right here at Abby (the) Librarian on Sunday, August 1. If you have links to submit, leave them in the comments on this post or email them to me (abbylibrarian @!

Haven't reviewed or posted about an audiobook this month? There's still time! Or you can always catch us next month when the roundup will be hosted by Kelly at Stacked.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Around the Interwebs

I just don't even wanna talk about how this week has been or how I feel like I won't ever actually finish reading a book or how much I'm counting down the days 'til August*. So, instead, links!

I will start with what may be the most exciting of all. Adele's started her Top 100 YA Novels Countdown!!!!!** In April, Adele of Pernickety Snark asked folks to send her their top 10 YA books, a la A Fuse #8 Production's Top 100 Children's Novels poll. And she's started posting the results! I am very excited to see what will be on the list and if my top ten made the cut.

Check out a Wordle of 2010 YA titles over at Jacket Whys. I find it very interesting the difference between the Wordles of book titles and book descriptions. Very cool.

From YA titles to YA book covers. I love this cool collage of YA book covers that an Indiana teen librarian put up in her YA section (scroll to the end of the post to see the pics). Very eye-catching.

On NPR's Monkey See blog, Linda Holmes speculates that libraries may be the "next big thing". There's been some discussion of this in my librarian circles, with not all librarians seeing this as a good thing. I, for one, like anything that gets more people coming through our doors and using our services. Our jobs are to serve the public, whether they be johnny-come-latelies or lifelong library users. But, we absolutely should be planning and thinking of ways to turn these new customers into lifelong library users, as Kathy of The "M" Word points out. Thanks to Kelly of Stacked for bringing both links to my attention.

Fat Girl Reading pointed me to this list of 13 Great Books for Gay Teens from the Huffington Post. She's also got a list of 10 Great Books for LGBTQ Teens (published in the last five years).

How well do you know your Beverly Cleary? I got 10 out of 11, but there was at least one that I guessed on. Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

And ZOMG, Weird Al Yankovich wrote a picture book. And it's not even a parody! Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.

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

* Public librarians, take heart! There is light at the end of the tunnel! The school year approaches!

** See how excited I am? Notice all the exclamation points. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Grace by Elizabeth Scott. Grades 9 and up. Dutton, September 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 208 pages.

Grace was supposed to die, but she couldn't.

Grace is an Angel, a suicide bomber working for freedom for the People. While Keran Berj terrorizes everything, keeping strict control over the country, the People fight for freedom, for the land. They use whatever means necessary.

Grace was supposed to kill the Minister of Culture by detonating her bomb as she stood in the front of a crowd, listening to him speak. She was supposed to go in a blaze of fire and drift up into the arms of the Saints. But as she looked up at the blue sky that day, she realized that she couldn't die.

So, instead, she runs.

Um, WOW.
I had an inkling that Elizabeth Scott's newest book was going to be un-put-down-able, and man, did that turn to be true. I read the book in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down (and I was tired, so this is saying something!).

It's set in a speculative world, but Ms. Scott brings the reader so far into that world that it could be any world. It could very well be places in our world. The story concentrates on Grace's decision to abandon her People, on her flight to the border, to safety. It's a whirlwind trip and the novel twists back and forth, giving the reader snapshots of Grace's childhood, her Angel training, her mission, and the extreme violence that is commonplace to Grace.

This book is just absolutely compelling. It'll definitely spark interesting discussions and give teens a unique perspective.

Oh, and I need to take a moment and appreciate that stunning cover. It's so very eye-catching and absolutely true to the book. I love that it uses a photo of a face (so popular these days) in a totally new way. Also, the eyes are really haunting. This is a cover that's going to catch someone's eye from across the bookstore. Well done, Abby Kuperstock!

I'd recommend this for fans of Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl and other edgy YA (maybe Ellen Hopkins?).

Check out more reviews at The Compulsive Reader, Persnickety Snark, Not Enough Bookshelves, A Blog About Nothing, and The Truth About Books.

Grace will be on shelves September 16.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Week in the Life of a Children's Librarian

I've given you a glimpse into many of my days as a children's librarian, but to be fair, I tend to pick days in which I'm doing a program or something's going on. I thought it might be useful to give you a look into a week of what goes on in our department, so today I'm posting about last week.

I work in a department of six people, total, and we all do programs, work on the desk, etc. Last week was particularly busy for me, personally, because several of the programs I had planned happened to fall on the same week. But the program load is pretty typical for a summer week for us. In the summer, our department gets very busy whenever we have a program because families come in to collect prizes for the summer reading club, check out books, etc.

I was working day shifts every day this week (generally each full-time person in my department works one evening a week, but this week I had a program Thursday morning, so I worked the day shift instead). The day shift is 8:45-5:15, but I generally arrive between 8:30 and 8:40. And since I'm the boss (and therefore salaried), I often stay late, especially in the summer. I didn't leave before 5:30 any day this week and a couple of days I stayed until 6 or 6:30. (I'm not complaining - just letting you know! This is how it is during the summer!)

So, here was my week:


We had a member of the education staff at the Louisville Orchestra come and offer two Story and Music Workshops for the kids. I was not in charge of this program, but I did pop in a couple of times because we had never had them at our library and I wanted to see how it was going. With all our paid performers, we have a staff person in the room with them, taking attendance, doing crowd control (in some cases), and just there in case she's needed.

This Monday's also time sheet day, so I have to collect everyone's time sheet, make sure they're accurate, sign them, and record each employee's days worked in her record sheet.


We had Toddler Time for 2's and 3's at 10:00 and then Preschool Storytime for 3-5's at 11:00. I didn't do either of these programs, but I did sit in on the Toddler Time since T will be on vacation next week and I'll have to do the program. There is always this perfect storm on Tuesday mornings, right in between the two programs when we have everyone from the Toddler Time still hanging out in the department and then the older kids gathering for the next storytime. It's all hands on deck!


I had Mother Goose on the Loose in the morning. This is our baby program and this week we had 19 babies and toddlers (under 2). This is a little too crowded for comfort, so I may open an additional session in the fall (though at that time the crowds may have died down...)

In the afternoon, I helped H with her Percy Jackson Party. We had just about 30 kids in grades 3 and up. We did a trivia contest, ate blue foods, and made a camp necklace craft. Fun! But it took a lot of prep work to set up and decorate the room. Whew.


We had Toddler Time at 10:00 - I sat in again. Then at 11:00 I offered a program called Float or Sink. This was for K-2nd graders and I read a few stories and then we experimented by placing objects in small tubs of water to see which would float and which would sink.

Thursday afternoon we had a group come from a local day care. A and I read stories about summer and then we did a craft, decorating foam visors left over from a craft from last year.

After the program, I had a collection development meeting with my boss and some of the other department heads.


I had a craft program in the afternoon. We've been doing drop-in crafts almost every Friday in the summer. We wanted to have at least one all-ages, drop-in (as in people don't have to register) program every week and the crafts have been going well. We've had 30-40 kids come each week.


Keep in mind that for each of these programs we have to set up and take down the room. This includes moving tables and chairs, putting out tablecloths, craft supplies, etc. It might include decorating the room. And, of course, taking everything down after we're done. This generally adds 30-60 minutes to the time it takes for each program.

In between all these programs, I'm working the desk and doing other things. I actually have a lighter desk load than the other people in my department, but typically each person is scheduled 10-15 hours per week on the desk. In my department we generally only schedule one person on desk at a time, though there are almost always other people around to help cover if we get busy. In the summer, people often sit extra hours on the desk to help cover busy spells. During the summer, working on the desk entails signing kids up and awarding prizes for the Summer Reading Club, as well as answering reference and directional questions, helping people with computers, finding books for patrons, signing people up for programs, etc.

I'm also following up on everyone's programs, making sure my staff members have all the materials they need, making sure that things are going okay. I'm working on a book order. I get help from my staff in putting together the orders, but I go through each order before we submit it, making sure we're not duplicating something and dividing the carts up so that it's easier for budgeting. This week I registered for the CYPD Conference, so I was also picking out sessions and booking a hotel for us.

It's always a constant struggle to keep the Stuff from piling up on my desk. Each week I go through donated books to select what we'd like for our collection or prizes (the rest go to the Friends of the Library Book Sale). And if I ever have a spare moment, I try to catch up on the professional journals piling up. Or I grab a cart and do a little weeding. (Weeding is hard because I love to do it, but it tends to be on the bottom of my priority list because there's no real deadline...)

And I could go on and on about all the other little things I do during the week, but this post is monstrous and you get the idea anyway. This is a week in the life of a children's librarian! Is it any wonder I'm counting down the days 'til August? :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Project Seahorse

Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner, photographs by Scott Tuason. Grades 4-7. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, August 2010. Review copy provided by publisher. 64 pages.

Seahorses are cute little fish and so interesting! They're unique in that the male seahorses carry the developing babies and give birth to them. Seahorses mate for life! And yes, seahorses are threatened by human activity. Overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices (blast fishing that destroys coral reefs, for example) have caused the numbers of seahorses around the world to diminish. Project Seahorse is a team of scientists trying to figure out how to save coral reefs and seahorses without negatively affecting the people whose livelihoods depend on fishing the reefs.

Amanda Vincent is a pioneer among marine biologists - the first person to study seahorses in the wild. When she discovered that numbers of seahorses were diminishing, she helped create Marine Protected Areas on islands in the Philippines in the hopes that they would allow fish populations to regenerate. Project Seahorse highlights the efforts of scientists and of local residents to protect coral reefs and create sustainable fishing practices.

With stunning, clean ocean photographs, this is a nice entry to the Scientists in the Field series, but it's not one of my favorites. Young marine biologists will snap it up, but I would have liked a bit more focus. The text meanders from seahorses to coral reefs to fishing practices and the photographs included meander along as well. Yes, all these things are connected, but maybe a subtitle or an introduction would have cleared up my expectations for the book. I just wanted more information and pictures of seahorses!

Check out Amanda's review at A Patchwork of Books!

Project Seahorse will be on shelves August 23.

And it's Nonfiction Monday! Check out this week's roundup at In Need of Chocolate.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In My Mailbox #41

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren in which bloggers spread the word about new releases and the books they plan to read by posting about the books they receive in their mailboxes (or at the bookstore, from the library, etc.) each week.

I didn't think any books were coming this week, but then I got a nice box from Charlesbridge with the following titles:

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell. (Charlesbridge, July 2010.) From jacket flap:

This is a true story of chocolate, bubble gum, and hope. World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen wanted to bring some happiness to the children of the city - but what could one man in one plane do?

The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C.M. Millen, illustrated by Andrea Wisnewski. (Charlesbridge, July 2010).

Theophane worked at his simple brown desk, writing simple brown writing like all of the rest. But Brother Theophane isn't like the other monks. Sometimes he can't help but stare out the window and daydream. He knows there's more to life than brown ink, brown words, and brown books. If only he could open his brothers' eyes to the color and beauty of the world...

Kindergarten Day USA and China: A Flip-Me-Over Book by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi. (Charlesbridge, July 2010).

With bright color photos, this book looks at a day in an American kindergarten. Flip the book over and you see a day in a Chinese kindergarten!

And that was my mailbox this week! What did you get in your mailbox?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Around the interwebs

It's... hot out there. Does that put you (or your kids) in the mood for some books about summer? Good thing Pam's on top of it. At Booklights she's featuring 13 picture books and 13 chapter books about summer!

Newbery... Printz... yes, but how many of the Lambda Award Winners have you read? Previously, the awards could go to any book with GLTBQ content, but I learned from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read? that the criteria have recently been changed to recognize only authors that self-identify as GLTBQ. Ellen Wittlinger, author of the Lambda Award-winning Hard Love (fabulous book!), has some thoughts on the change. Arthur Levin's got thoughts, too. Thanks to Fuse and Roger for the links.

Cheryl Klein suggests a way to stand up against whitewashing in publishing. What do you think? Would it work? Would you take part? (I would.) Thanks to Fuse for the link.

Does your library serve homeschoolers or want to get started? Do you know any homeschoolers? You might want to check out The Bitter Homeschoolers' Wish List. You'll get a chuckle, but she makes some good points, too.

I would totally go see this documentary if it came somewhere near me:

Thanks to Fuse for the link*.

No matter what feelings you have about The Giving Tree, you have to admit that it would be quite a different story if the tree had had a sassy gay friend. (Video is somewhat not safe for work...) Thanks to @thereadingzone for the link.

Are your teens and tweens as crazy for wrestling as my library's teens and tweens? You might want to register for YALSA's WrestleMania Reading Challenge. It's free to register and kids in grades 5 and up who participate and read books for the challenge will be eligible to win fabulous prizes!

If I had an unlimited travel budget, I would so be heading to YALSA's Young Adult Literature Symposium November 5-7. If anyone reading this goes to the conference, report back, please. I'd like to live vicariously through you. :)

Um, who doesn't love free ebooks? Nobody, that's who! Apparently Wowio offers a different free ebook every month, so go check that action out. July's offering is a YA fantasy, The Choir Boats by Daniel Rabuzzi.

And you know you want to help Teen Fire pick out a cover for the upcoming book, The Water Wars by Cameron Stratcher. Bonus - you might win a copy of the book! I'm partial to #3 and #1, myself.

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

*I should call this post the What Would I Link To Without Betsy? Edition. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Snowing in July

Hey, if you've got a minute, head on over to the ALSC Blog and check out my post on the Snowing in July program I did at my library!

Here's a little teaser...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Audiobook Review: Strider by Beverly Cleary

Strider by Beverly Cleary, narrated by George Guidall. Grades 4-8. Morrow Junior Books, 1991. Audiobook produced by Recorded Books, 1992. 179 pages. 2 hours, 30 minutes. Reviewed from library copy.

Okay, someone apparently needs to come and take away my librarian card* because I had no idea that Strider was a sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw. And I wish I had known because I loved Dear Mr. Henshaw when I was a kid and I would have loved to read this book.

It's been several years since Leigh Botts wrote in the journal that Mr. Henshaw encouraged him to start. Now he's about to start high school and life is pretty good. Leigh's got a best friend, Barry, and the two of them adopt an abandoned dog they found on the beach. Leigh and Barry plan to share custody of Strider, but things soon get complicated. Can Leigh and Barry figure it out without hurting their friendship? As Leigh's dealing with all of this, he's also starting high school, making new friends, meeting girls, and figuring out who he's turning out to be.

Again, I just have to give Beverly Cleary props for writing a book about a tween boy dealing with all the emotions that come with growing up. Even though the book was written in 1991, Leigh's voice feels authentic.  Leigh's story is a quiet, reflective one. It's not like a lot of what's being published at the moment - funny, wacky, adventurous, etc. And Strider (and Dear Mr. Henshaw, too) may not appeal to the masses, but it's a book that's going to fit a need in some boys. Boys who are dealing with some of these same problems and who need to know that it's okay to have feelings about things.

I really enjoyed George Guidall's narration of the book, too. He gives a simple, solid performance. The audio recording doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but I think that makes it perfectly suited to the tone of the book. Since the novel is made up of Leigh's journal entries, it makes sense not to have a voiced performance. Sometimes I feel like older recordings sound dated and dry, but in this case I think Mr. Guidall's narration stands up to the passing of time.

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. Grades 9 and up. Little Brown, November 2010. Reviewed from ARC snagged at BEA. 352 pages.

Alex is a piano student at the elite boarding school Themis Academy. Themis is a little different from your average high school. There are the rigorous academics, for one, and the fact that the faculty trust Themis students to behave in an honorable way, so much so that the faculty turn their heads whenever students break the rules. When Alex is date-raped by a member of the water polo team, she feels helpless. And she knows that the only way to get justice is to enlist the help of The Mockingbirds - a clandestine student justice system. But does Alex have the strength to go through with the trial? Can she find her voice and speak up against the boy who hurt her?

I was taken in by Alex right away. The first few pages depicting her waking up after the incident had me hooked and then I hardly wanted to put it down. The first-person present-tense narrative puts you right there with Alex as she figures out what happened to her and what she can't remember - her virginity being taken while she was unconscious.

From there, it's a roller coaster of emotions as Alex contacts The Mockingbirds and learns all about how they work and why they are needed. Along the way, she gets to know Martin, a biology student, and she grapples with her mixed feelings about starting a relationship.

I loved all the details about how The Mockingbirds work - all the checks and balances built into the system, the elaborate ways they had of alerting the students to the trial's progress. I find it a little hard to believe that this elaborate system was worked out and accepted by students in the short time since Alex's sister was at the school (a matter of a few years), but I had no problem suspending my disbelief for that part of the book. 

A bit harder to believe was the fact that absolutely no adult authority figure would help Alex. While I was told over and over again that the school administration would do nothing if Alex reported the rape, but I was never shown that. After finishing the book and reading Ms. Whitney's author's note (the author was date-raped in college and successfully pressed charges even though her school's administration had a history of looking the other way), I'm more on board with the premise.

Even with my frustration at having to suspend my disbelief every time Alex decided not to go to the police, her parents, the principal, or any teachers for help, I found The Mockingbirds to be a compelling read and an important one. Every time I put it down, I'd be looking forward to picking it back up. I'd hand it to fans of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart.

Check out more reviews at Reclusive Bibliophile and Chick Loves Lit.  And mark your calendars because The Mockingbirds will be on shelves November 2.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nonfiction Monday Roundup (and The Bat Scientists!)

The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson, photographs by Tom Uhlman. Grades 4-7. Houghton Mifflin, September 2010. Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher. 81 pages.

I don't know if you know this about me, but I love bats. They are so cool! They eat insects. They're the only mammals that truly fly. They hang upside down. I just think bats are really cool. In fact, I can't even count the number of times I said, "Oh, cool!" as I was reading this book.

Not only is The Bat Scientists an entry in the Scientists in the Field series (which I love), it's about my favorite animal. Of course it's going to be a winner with me.

Many people think of bats as creepy or diseased, but actually the 1,100 species of bats in the world do a lot of good. Some eat tons of pest insects. Some pollinate flowers. And, okay, some bats drink blood, but bats are much more likely to avoid humans than to mess with them.

And bats, like so many animals, are in trouble. Some species are really endangered because of loss of habitat and a new disease starting to spread in North America. The bat scientists are working to save bats by studying their habits, saving their homes, and educating people about these fantastic creatures.

The beautiful photos, ranging from stunning wide shots of millions of bats to unique close-ups of individuals, will win you over to my side. And the book's got all the elements you'd expect from this series - an index, glossary, and sources. This book will be great for young bat fanatics and it may inspire others to learn more about these awesome animals!

The Bat Scientists will be on shelves September 6!

And it's Nonfiction Monday! Today you're not going to have to go far for your Nonfiction Monday roundup because it's right here! Leave your link in the comments and I'll update it throughout the day.

Travis at 100 Scope Notes gives us a review of How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steven Jenkins & Robin Page. He says, "Appropriate for fact-finding or for pleasure reading, How to Clean a Hippopotamus is a must-add for your nonfiction collection." 

Check out The Black Book of Colors at Red Ted Art. Meggy says "This is a great book to talk about what life without sight might be like. To help build compassion, but also to stimulate the imagination. " 

Lisa over at Shelf-Employed is talking about Bug Zoo: How to Capture, Keep, and Care for Creepy Crawlies by Nick Baker. She calls the book "in-depth guide to observing, and/or capturing and cultivating some of our most common insects".

Angela of Bookish Blather gives us a review of Sex: A Book for Teens by Nikol Hasler. She calls the book "chatty, funny, informative and non-judgmental". 

Head on over to A View from a Window Seat where Jeannine is discussing the picture book biography Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle, with pictures by Julie Paschkis. She says, "Artist Julie Paschkis... uses bright and light colors to emphasize the joys of discovery and nature." 

Cindy and Lynn at Bookends needed a laugh today, so they're taking a look at Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schultz by Beverly Gherman. Lynn says, "Biographies for the younger set aren’t all that common and here’s one that does so much right."

Lori of Lori Calabrese Writes posts a review of Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson. She says, "This beautiful story focuses on the strength and struggles of the first African woman and environmentalist to win a Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai."

Tammy at Apples With Many Seeds shares a post about One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway. She says the book, "[makes] accessible the idea of individuals helping each other and specifically, how this is accomplished through micro-financing." 

The Jean Little Library is taking a quick dip as Jennifer talks about swimming books - perfect for the hot summer weather today! If you're looking for books about swimming to share with a little one, these are some great selections. 

The gals at Wild About Nature examine animals small and large with Mites to Mastadons by Maxine Kumin, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Heidi says, "The combination of Zagarenski's eye-catching paint, paper, and photo collages compliment the text beautifully, making this must-have book for the science classroom or for any young animal lover!"

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil continues her salute to trees with Douglas Florian's Poetrees.  She says, "I love that Florian chose trees from around the world like the banyan, not just common North American ones... As usual there is an element of gentle humor, both visual details and the word play of the poems."

Margo at The Fourth Musketeer shares with us a review of Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War by Steve Sheinkin. She says, "Despite the comical look of the series, Sheinkin includes a serious historical overview of the war, which highlights all the key events leading up to the war... as well as the key events of the war itself."

Mary Elizabeth at A Novel Idea reviews Insect Detective by Steve Voake. She says, "This gem of a book will encourage your child to observe the intricacies of the natural world right in their own backyard!"

Anastasia of Picture Book of the Day chimes in with a booktalk for her own book Man on the Moon.

Ms. Mac at Check It Out shares two books about Frankie, the Walk 'n Roll Dog by Barbara Gail Techel. She says, "This is an inspirational story that I believe will touch the hearts of many, especially animal lovers."

Jeff over at NC Teacher Stuff gives us a review of Nest, Nook, & Cranny by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Jamie Hogan. He says, "The reader gets a combination of poetry, figurative language, and science that is entertaining and informative".

Brenda of Prose and Kahn was bowled over by Russell Freedman's The War to End All Wars: World War I.  She says, "Once again, Russell Freedman's masterful storytelling skills bring history to life. If a book about war can be called beautiful, this one can - somberly beautiful."

Erin from Little Kid Lit discusses Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman. She says, "The author's obvious love for the subject matter is infectious and sure to engage young readers." 

Shirley at Simply Science gives us a review of 31 Ways to Change the World. She says, "This book is fun and can set the tone for educating children about their place and responsibility in their world."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In My Mailbox #40

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. Each week bloggers post about the books they received in the mail (or books they purchased, checked out from the library, etc.) in order to spread awareness about upcoming books! 

Here's what I got in my mailbox this week: 

Legacies: A Shadow Grail Novel by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edhill. Tor, July 2010. 

From GoodReads: 

Spirit White has survived from a deadly car crash that has killed her mother and father and her sister. She has been discovered by a school with special talents, called magic. A couple of months after staying, people begin to disappear, some vanish to be never seen again, so Spirit and her new friends begin the investigation. But will they find out the truth of what is going on? Or will Spirit and her friends suffer a terrible fate from which they don't know about yet?

What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb. Balzer + Bray, August 2010. 
(I couldn't get a picture of this cover, but you can see it on the author's website. I believe this is a 2010 debut!)

From ARC:

Mo lives on Fox Street with her dad and little sister, the Wild Child. Their house in in the middle of the block - right where a heart would be, if the street were a person. Fox Street has everything: a piano player, a fix-it man, the city's best burrito makers, a woman who cuts Mo's hair just right, not to mention a certain boy who wants to teach her how to skateboard. There's even a mean, spooky old lady, if ringing doorbells and running away, or leaving dead mice in mailboxes, is your idea of fun. Summers are her favorite time because Mo's best friend, Mercedes, comes to stay. 

Most importantly, though, Fox Street is where all Mo's memories of her mother live. The idea of ever leaving Fox Street is unimaginable - until it isn't. This is the story of one unforgettable summer - a summer of alarming letters, mysterious errands, and surprising revelations - and how a tuft of bright red fur gives Mo the courage she needs.  

So, that was my mailbox this week... And now I am off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday... which happens to be my birthday! Happy birthday to me! :) 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nice and Mean

Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader. Grades 4-7. Simon & Schuster Children's, June 2010. Review copy provided by author. 261 pages.

Marina is your quintessential mean girl. When her best friends all get into the school play without her and her friend Rachel begins flirting with the boy Marina sorta likes, Marina knows just how to get back at Rachel. She'll film a parody of the hot fashion show Victim / Victorious for her Video class and cast Rachel in the role of Fashion Victim. Her plan is perfect except for one thing...

Sachi, voted Nicest Girl in last year's school poll. She's risked everything to be in the Video class this year and she can't believe her bad luck in being paired up with Marina. Marina only wants to do things her way and Sachi can see her dream of a provocative documentary about students' attitudes toward different nationalities disappearing into thin air.

Can the Nice Girl and the Mean Girl work together to get their project done? Or will it be a total disaster, ending in tragedy for them both?

The first thing I noticed when reading this middle-grade debut was the authentic tween voices. Both Marina and Sachi narrate in first-person, alternating chapters in each voice. The characters are totally believable and I definitely bought that they were seventh-graders. While I do wish that Marina's and Sachi's voices had been a little more distinct from each other, that tween voice can be tricky to nail down, and Jessica Leader has done an excellent job.

Ms. Leader gets props for including a cast of diverse characters, something you'd expect to see in a New York City middle school. Of our main characters, Marina is white and Sachi is Indian, emigrating with her family when she was five years old. Of their friends and teachers, Asian and African-American characters are included. I really appreciated the thought that went into that.

I also appreciated all the details that made the story pop. Marina's thing is fashion and the story's peppered with details about outfits and fashion. I love that it's so NOT done in a designer-name-dropping kind of way, but it's definitely an interest of Marina's. Sachi's interested in fashion too - namely trying to figure out how kids know what's cool and who decides what's "in" and what's "out". Also included are details of the video-making process. Sachi's chapters are preceded by an imagined film scene, while Marina's chapters are preceded by entries in her Little Black Book. Sachi has an interest in making documentary films and we're not only told that, we're shown it throughout the book.

Another nice thing about the book is that it's a squeaky clean book about mean girls, popularity, and culture. It's firmly in the middle-grade category. I'd hand it to fans of Peace, Love, & Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle  and Shug by Jenny Han.

Check out more reviews at Green Bean Teen Queen, The Book Scout, and Reading in Color, and check out all the posts from Jessica Leader's blog tour!

Nice and Mean is on shelves now!

Around the interwebs

Let's see... what links do I have for you this week? 

Parents of kids ages 3-12, this is for you! Researchers at the University of Connecticut are studying "parental motivations when purchasing illustrated children's books". All you have to do to take part is to fill out a brief survey (and as a bonus, you can elect to enter a drawing for a $25.00 iTunes gift card).

Ever wondered what exactly goes into setting up a publisher booth at the ALA Exhibits? Even if you've never wondered, check out this post from the Mac Kids Blog: Behind the Scenes at ALA. I had no idea how much work went into setting up those beautiful booths at the exhibits!

Speaking of ALA, what do we think about graphic novels and the Newbery? Is it time for an ALA graphic novel (or illustrated novel) award? Or should the Newbery criteria be tweaked to give books like Countdown a better shot at being recognized? 

Those of you taking part in Kristi's 2010 Debut Author Challenge will be interested in the post from On Our Minds @ Scholastic introducing you to their newest debuts

School media folk, do you know about the Elementary Library Routines Wiki? Check out this site for school library curricula from all over the country. Public librarians will want to check out this site, too. What ideas might translate into programs for your homeschoolers or for kids whose schools might not have a librarian on staff? 

Are you reading the blog Forever Young Adult? If not, oh you should start. I loves it so. Start with How to Judge a YA Book by Its Cover and Find Your "Hunger Games" Name. By the way, my Hunger Games name is Rusmet N. Sleepapple. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. Grades 9 and up. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, May 2010. Review copy provided by my local library.

Amy Curry has not had an easy time of it. Her dad died. Amy blames herself. Her mom's avoiding her. Her brother's in rehab in North Carolina. And now Amy has to drive across the country because her mom's moving them from California to Connecticut. Only, after the accident Amy doesn't drive. So her mom's asked Roger, the son of family friends, to drive with Amy. The route's all planned, hotels reserved in such glamorous locations as Tulsa and Akron. But when Amy and Roger start off on their road trip, Amy makes an executive decision. She throws away her mother's carefully planned route and they decide to make a little detour. A little detour that will lead to the greatest adventure of her life, an adventure that will change everything and might just help her start to heal.


Okay, now that that's out of my system, I can give you a clear and balanced Who am I kidding? This is going to be one of those gushing reviews that's actually just more of a rave. And I'm okay with that.

What did I love? Well, first, I love the cover. And the title. Both really capture the feel and themes of the book.

I felt like both Amy and Roger were completely believable characters, both searching for a way to deal with loss. Ms. Matson builds the tension really nicely, including occasional flashbacks to show readers a picture of Amy's father and the events leading up to the accident. It's natural that Amy would blame herself and she's working out her feelings of guilt as well as her devastation at the loss of her father.

Amy keeps a road journal with notes about the places she and Roger go, updating it as they enter each new state. These sections with photos, receipts, road trip play lists, and journal entries, add to the text really nicely and make for a little something different.

And they go to Louisville! I was so excited when I saw that Roger's ex-girlfriend lived in Louisville and they'd be stopping there on the trip. Ms. Matson gets Louisville right, too, with a trip to the Brown Hotel for hot browns and Derby pie (Amy and Roger are taken there by a rich person - only a rich person would take you to the Brown Hotel for your one meal in Louisville).

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour was a book I didn't want to put down. It made me want to take a road trip myself and I've got my Pandora Radio playing the artists on Roger's road trip mixes as I type this. :)

I'm not the only one who loves this book! Check out more reviews at A Patchwork of Books, Stacked, in which a girl reads, and Write Meg! (among others). 

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is on shelves now and I must insist you get yourself a copy of this perfect summer book.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Librarians Are Easy

I was at an outreach event a couple of months ago. It was a great event - a baby fair put on by a local hospital - and I spent the morning talking up our programs and services and handing out early literacy information. At the beginning of the year, my library entered into a reciprocal borrowing agreement with our neighboring counties and it felt so good to be able to say "Yes! You can check out materials from my library!" to everyone that stopped by my table.

It got me thinking about how much I love to say "Yes!" to patrons. Nothing makes me happier than exceeding their expectations and I think it's situations like that - situations where you can go above and beyond - that will preserve the future of the library.

Librarians know all the reasons that people should use the library. Free books! Free internet! Access to databases! Great programs! Librarians know, but the rest of the world has to be convinced. How do we convince them to use the library? By providing something they can't get anywhere else - an exceptional experience.

And one way to provide an exceptional experience is to say "Yes!" whenever possible. Join a reciprocal borrowing consortium, be flexible about policies whenever possible, and go the extra mile in every customer interaction.

Okay, I know there have to be rules. If there were no due dates, we'd never have books on the shelf. If you allow first graders to come to a program meant for fifth graders, you may find that no fifth graders are going to want to come. If we didn't limit internet time, the same handful of people might use the computers all day without letting anyone else on. I get that we need some restrictions.

What I'm not on board with are rules that are unnecessarily limiting or that exist "because we've always done it that way". Think about your policies. Is there sound reasoning behind all of them? When you have to say "No", can you justify it to a layman (not just to another librarian)? If you're having to enforce a policy very often, it makes me wonder if that policy is serving your patrons. Might you be able to say "Yes" more often if you tweaked the rules a little bit? Would that be worth it to create exceptional customer service?

When you go to a restaurant or a retail establishment and you run up against a restrictive policy ("No, you can't return that." "No, I can't make that substitution."), does it make you want to return? What if it happens a second time? The same can be said for negative transactions. I'll remember a negative experience with a store for just as long (maybe longer!) as I'll remember a really positive experience.

Think about the businesses you frequent. Why do you go back? I love my vet because she not only gives my cats good care while I'm there, but she follows up with me. I got a letter welcoming me to the practice after the first appointment we had and I was made to feel valued and respected. I will go back there. Can people say the same about your library?

How many times do you have to run up against an unnecessary policy before you give up and don't return?

I guarantee you that if your customers get exceptional service every time they're in the library, not only will they come back but they will tell their friends. Know what's even better? Exceptional customer service - going the extra mile, welcoming patrons with a smile - doesn't cost anything!

And in this economic climate, with budget cuts circling around us like sharks, we need all the help we can get.

Librarians, be easy. Learn to love to say "Yes" and you'll have learned how to keep your customers coming back for more.