Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

That's right, folks!  Tonight at 12:01am, it will be November 1 and the official start of National Novel Writing Month!  Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

So, now I want the scoop.  Who's staying up 'til midnight to start writing?  Who's taking the day off tomorrow to work on the novel?  

Do you have an outline or are you winging it? 

I'm happy to announce that I'll have some special guest posts from YA and Middle Grade authors during the month of November to celebrate NaNoWriMo.  Who'll be here?  Well, 

Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, author of the upcoming novel Selling Hope (Feiwel & Friends, 2010), as well as Autumn Winnifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte, 2008). 

Denise Jaden, author of the 2010 debut Losing Faith (Simon Pulse, 2010). 

Laurel Snyder, author of Penny Dreadful (Random House, 2010) and Any Which Wall (Random House, 2009) and a bunch of others!

And more...! 

So, Happy NaNoWriMo Eve, everyone!  Good luck! 

In My Mailbox #53

Happy Halloween!!
And welcome to In My Mailbox, a weekly meme (hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren) in which bloggers share the contents of the mailboxes!

Okay, so I got a wonderful box from Scholastic and I got a really visually stunning National Geographic Kids title and if you look closely, you'll see two things there that aren't books.  THEY ARE HOPE'S ANTI-COMET PILLS from Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, which I loooved!!!  And guess what??? Kristin's kicking off my NaNoWriMo author guest posts TOMORROW.  So stay tuned. :) 

And now for the books: 

Quest for the Spark by Tom Sniegoski and Jeff Smith (Scholastic, February 2011). - The Bone graphic novel series is super popular at my library.  I can't wait to share this one with the kids!

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (Scholastic, January 2011).  - Here's a 2011 debut!  

Clarity by Kim Harrington (Scholastic, March 2011). - This one's already getting some buzz on the YA blogs.  It's a 2011 debut about a teen psychic, looks good for fans of paranormal. 

Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings by Sophia Bennett (Scholastic, January 2011).  - I'm excited for this one because they highlighted it at the Scholastic Librarian Preview.  This British import (published as Threads over there) is a 2011 US debut! 

Cyborg by the McKissacks (Scholastic, February 2011).  -  POC science fiction!  This is the second book of the Clone Codes. 

Phantoms in the Snow by Kathleen Benner Duble (Scholastic, February 2011).  -  I reviewed Quest by Ms. Duble during my YA Cybils year.  Here's a new historical fiction set during WWII (perennially popular time period). 

Wishful Thinking by Alexandra Bullen (Scholastic, January 2011).  -  This is a sequel to last year's Wish, which I haven't read, but I might have to track it down! 

The Book of Tormod: A Templar's Gifts by Kat Black (Scholastic, April 2011).  -  This is the second book in a trilogy, apparently.  Looks like something that'll appeal to my many kids who love fantasy. 

Trapped by Michael Northrop (Scholastic, February 2011).  - GoodReads says "The Breakfast Club meets The Blizzard of the Century".  Dude, sign me up. 

Shantorian (Trackers #2) by Patrick Carman (Scholastic, January 2011).

Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer (Scholastic, April 2011).  - Sounds hilarious! 

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee (Scholastic, March 2011).  -  New Lisa Yee.  'Nuff said. (Yay!)

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow (Scholastic, January 2011).  -  This is a children's 2011 debut, historical fiction set just after WWII. 

Great Migrations by Elizabeth Carney (National Geographic Kids, October 2010).  -  The Great Migrations television event premiers on November 7 and this is a companion book to the mini-series.  (I wonder if I get the National Geographic Channel... hmm...)

And that's what was in my mailbox this week!  How about you?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What is Up with people this week?

First, we've got a blogger decrying Laurel Snyder's Penny Dreadful because it includes a character with two moms in a matter-of-fact way.  Says blogger Noël De Vries,

"The only problem is, being a lesbian is not normal. It's not something that "just happens" to people, like being poor or brave. In fact, when you look through Biblical glasses, homosexuality is, well, an abomination.
Characters like Willa and Jenny, however, with their happy little family, show elementary-age readers that Christian beliefs are hateful and silly."
Edited to add: This link to Laurel Snyder's response.  

 (Thanks to Read Roger for the link.)

And then over here, we've got a ridiculous article by Maura Kelly in Marie Claire: Should "Fatties" Get a Room (Even on TV)? (asking us if we're "cool with" fat people making out on TV) and the response from Jezebel and the response from our own Fat Girl, Reading.  By the way, Angie is facilitating a pre-conference at the YALSA YA Lit Con: Body Positivity and Fat Acceptance in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction.  Maybe Maura should attend?

I have to ask, blogosphere: WHERE'S THE LOVE?
And maybe that's the sign that it's time to turn off the computer and curl up in my armchair with one of the books from my seriously massive TBR pile.  (I transferred them to a bigger bookcase last night.  Oy!)

Ruminations on Leaf Rubbings

A couple of weeks ago, we started visits to our local schools' afterschool programs.  The programs are held at each public elementary school in our county and we visit for about 30 minutes, reading a few books and doing a craft with the kids.  For the first two visits we did a paper bag pumpkin craft, but that did not go over so well - it was way too complicated.  And then one of my brilliant staff members came up with an idea: leaf rubbings. 

The kids love them.  And we love them because they've made our visits so much easier.

If you have never done leaf rubbings, here's what you do:

Gather leaves from outside.  Put them in a sealed plastic bag for storage (otherwise they'll dry out and get crumbly).  Try to choose many different shapes and sizes.  Place a leaf underneath a sheet of plain, white paper (it's easier if the veins of the leaf are facing up) and draw with a crayon on top of the paper.  You'll see the pattern of the leaf come through as you color! 

Here are a few true facts about leaf rubbings:

1.  The kids will ask "Are these REAL LEAVES??"  (Yes, yes they are.)

2. Some kids will color too hard and their leaves will not show up as well.  Teach these kids the special trick of rubbing the crayon sideways on the paper.  This makes a lighter shade and really brings out the leaf pattern. 

3. Once you teach one or two kids this special trick, they will teach their friends.

4. Some of the kids will figure this out on their own and delight in trying out different ways to make leaf pictures.

5. Darker crayons work better than lighter crayons.

File this one under "So Simple, Why Didn't We Think of it Sooner?"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Around the Interwebs

Y'all know how much I love author's notes, so I was really interested in Kate Messner's post: When the Story is Personal, How Much Should Authors Share? and Betsy's response: How Much is an Author Obligated to Say?  I would say that whenever I read a story that features a character that's different from the author in some important way (race, culture, disability, historical period, etc.), I want reassurance that the character is authentic.  No, I don't think an author needs to spill his or her family stories, necessarily.  However, call me a cynic, but unless I'm told that an author has some kind of knowledge or experience or has done some research, I'm going to take their book with a grain of salt.

Interested in doing sensory programming for kids with autism and other disabilities?  Read Tricia Twarogowski's follow-up post about the programs she established in her North Carolina library.

Over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors, Shannon asks "Are middle-grade covers growing up?"  I have definitely noticed the trend of photo covers trickling down to middle-grade books and I think that a lot of kids do like to feel like they're reading more grown-up books.  I dunno... I feel like in my library, personal recommendations (from friends, family, teachers, and sometimes librarians) matter more than anything.  As long as the cover's not totally ucky, I don't see that it has a great effect on the kids that I see in the library.  But maybe I'll keep a better eye on it and report back if I notice anything.

And that's all I've got for you except to say that HURRAH, October is almost over.  I don't know about you, but October was ridiculously busy for me.  I'm looking forward to November when all I have is my regular job, blogging, Cybils judging, and writing a novel. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Selling Hope

Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb.  (Grades 4-8.)  Feiwel & Friends, November 2010.  215 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

It's 1910, the Earth is about to pass through the tail of Halley's Comet, and Everyone Is Freaking Out.  Newspaper headlines shout about how the world is going to end and all Hope wants is a different life.  She and her father perform a magic act with a small-time vaudeville show, constantly traveling, staying in run-down boarding houses, performing illusions.  She longs to settle down in a house, to make friends, to leave the vaudeville circuit forever.  But to have a different life, she's going to need money.  So Hope starts selling anti-comet pills to gullible customers outside the theater.  Can Hope make enough money to make her dreams come true?  And with the world ending in a matter of days, is she cheating people or is she offering them something more valuable than money - hope?

Ohhh, how I liked this book!

First of all, there's the superbly researched setting.  I love books set in the early 1900s/turn of the the century and all of the details really made the setting come to life.  Each chapter starts with an actual news headline from 1910, like this:

"To Escape the Comet, Hire Submarine Boat"
"Hey!  Look Out!  The Comet's Tail is Coming Fast!"
"Citizens Flocking into Chicago, Fear the End of the World"

From vaudeville to Sen-Sen "breath perfumes" to wisecrack jokes to nickelodeon movies, Kristin O'Donnell Tubb is extremely effective at setting the scene and mood.

Hope is an engaging character dealing with much more than the potential end of the world.  Her mother died because they didn't have money for a doctor, so she's fairly obsessed with lining her purse at every opportunity.  Her father is not much of a father figure, preferring to think of them as "equals" and blithely ignoring everyday practicalities like saving money.  He's perfectly content to perform his illusions and attempt to educate crowds by reciting Whitman at their shows, oblivious to the fact that Hope hates it.  As a result, Hope's raising herself and she's grown up fast.  She's only 13, but she's the one planning for their future.

This is a story about hope for the future when that hope might be all you have. And what people are willing to do to preserve that hope. And it's a story about fathers and daughters and growing up and being in-between childish impulses and grown-up decisions.

And of course, I can't fail to mention the author's note.  Ms. Tubb speaks about the historic appearance of Halley's Comet and how it affected the people of the time.  She also talks about vaudeville and the real people that appear in the story.  She includes a nice list of recommended reading, providing resources for anyone who's interest is piqued by the story (and believe me, there will be many of those!). 

Selling Hope will be on shelves November 9. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Will Emerge and Lead (I Guess)

Well, it's been announced, so I suppose I can announce it, too.

I've been selected for the ALA's 2011 Class of Emerging Leaders!

What is that?

Emerging Leaders is a program that gives young and/or new librarians a chance for leadership training and networking with the goal of getting them involved in their professional organization.  From ALA's website: "The program enables librarians and library staff from across the country to participate in project planning workgroups; network with peers; gain an inside look into ALA structure; and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity early in their careers."

What will I be doing?

Well, I'll be attending the Midwinter Conference and meeting 82 of my new best friends.  We'll network, learn about ALA, and then we'll be divided up into groups to work on some sort of project, which will be presented at the ALA Annual meeting in June.

I'm excited to see what it's going to be like.  I'm excited to meet all sorts of library people from all over the country.  And yeah, I'm excited to go to San Diego in January.  :)

I'm also excited because a few weeks ago, I told you that ALA is not your mom.  Being part of Emerging Leaders might just help me put my money where my mouth is.  Maybe it's the first step towards changing the world.  Who knows?

So, what I want to know is who will be at Midwinter?  And can I coerce you into hanging out with me?

And also, any past Emerging Leaders out there?  What did you think of the program?  Got any advice for me?

Author Interview: Antony John

Yesterday, I reviewed Antony John's fabulous book, Five Flavors of Dumb.  Today Antony's stopping by to answer a few questions for me!  So read the interview and then enter below to win a signed ARC of Five Flavors of Dumb, courtesy of Antony John!

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks for playing!

From Antony John was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA's Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family.

Abby:  I think I remember you saying that your wife challenged you to write a book about music from the perspective of a deaf person.  What ideas were in your head when you started writing Five Flavors of Dumb?  Did you have a certain scene or certain characters in mind when you started writing?

Antony:  I have to admit that the narrator, Piper, came to me almost fully formed. I knew her voice, her attitude, her background, her outlook on life, and her flaws. It made writing the novel a whole lot easier to have such a connection with who she is.

There were also two scenes that very quickly found their way into the outline: the scene in the TV studio where Dumb implodes, and Piper is standing on the sidelines, pretty much helpless to do anything about it; and the salon scene, where Piper basically resolves to take control. Both scenes practically wrote themselves.

Now, the title is a pretty provocative one when you read that the main character is deaf. How did you decide on that title and the name Dumb for the band? It definitely makes sense once you read the book, but I wonder if you've heard any reactions to that title?

Great question! I absolutely expected people to get annoyed or offended by the title, but no one did! In fact, everyone loved it, with the notable exception of my wife, who thought it sucked and told me that my editor would make me change it. (This is possibly the only time in our marriage that I have been right.) But yes, the connotations of "dumb" felt very powerful to me, and get played out in a conversation between two deaf characters in the novel. But like I say, no one has objected at all, including my deaf readers.

As for how I chose the title, it just popped into my head. Really, it was that simple. And I think it conveys the madness perfectly.

In the book, Piper and her band travel to the Seattle homes of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.  Have you been to the places that Piper and Dumb visited in the book? How did you feel being there?  Why was it important that Piper and the band visit those places?

Yes, I've visited all of them (and will provide photos on my blog as proof!). Actually, it's kind of a
funny story . . .

I planned the book during spring 2008, but my agent wasn't going to pitch it until fall 2008. However, my family moved from Seattle to St. Louis in summer 2008, and I suddenly realized I wouldn't have access to all these places anymore. So in between packing boxes, I kept whisking my kids off to various Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain sites around Seattle. They were both toddlers at the time, but they were troopers, and seemed to enjoy it all.

As for how it felt to visit Hendrix's house and Cobain's house . . . well, it felt vital, actually. And so much of what I saw in each place made its way into the novel. The flattened cardboard boxes at 2010 S Jackson Street were really there. The wilted daisies on the bench near Kurt Cobain's house were also there. Just to see how these places are used now was revelatory to me. In some ways, I'd say that those were the moments I literally allowed myself to become Piper, simply conveying my/her experience of being there.

The reason Piper and the band had to visit those places is partly because they are central to Seattle's
rock music history, and even more, because they are the physical reminders of Hendrix's and Cobain's humanity. I know that sounds kind of pretentious, but it's easy to get sucked into the celebrity-as-God mindset, and the truth is, neither of these men was Godlike. Not at all. They were terribly flawed, and all too human. Seeing their homes kind of reminds us that they're not so different from the rest of us. They just happened to have a gift for music that transcended their otherwise tragic lives.

Obviously, music is a big part of the book. What are some of your favorite bands?

Going old-school for a moment, I love The Beatles and The Rolling Stones: not just for the sheer quantity of awesome songs they wrote, but for the very clear evolution of their styles. It's a rare thing for a band to be so prolific and so consistently popular that they are given the opportunity to "grow." I also adore The Mamas and The Papas, even though -- or perhaps because -- their tuning is so wonderfully dubious.

Closer to the present, I have really eclectic tastes (which seems to be true of most people these days).
Just scrolling through my current playlist I see: Radiohead, Katy Perry, Joss Stone, Kate Nash, Mandy
Moore, Nirvana, Rihanna, Sting, Eminem, James Blunt, Dixie Chicks, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, Jimi
Hendrix, Mumford & Sons, and many more.

And in case you think that doesn't make me eclectic enough, let me say that Britney Spears' "... Baby One More Time" is one of my favorite songs of all time. It's practically perfect.

Yes, really.

I'm with you through the Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, and several of the others, but I think you lose me with Britney Spears.  ;) And just like bands have musical influences, I'm sure writers have literary influences. What are some of your favorite YA reads?

You bet I have literary influences. In fact, so many that I don't have room to list them here. I don't even have room to list all the great rock music-themed novels that have influenced me (Gordon Korman's BORN TO ROCK; Robin Benway's AUDREY, WAIT!, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, etc), so I'll pick two that everyone should read:

FAT KID RULES THE WORLD by K. L. Going: Go ahead, read the first chapter. You're hooked, right?  This book has that extraordinary balance of characterization and plot that makes it completely un-

BEIGE by Cecil Castellucci: Another beautiful example of the way that music allows people to express
their hidden selves. It's also exquisitely well-written, which is a bonus!

Awesome suggestions, Antony.  Thank you so much for stopping by today!

Thanks for the questions, Abby!

Now, readers, I know you all want to run out there and read Five Flavors of Dumb, and if you want a chance to win a signed ARC, please fill out the form below!  The giveaway is open to US residents only and entries will be accepted through November 3.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Five Flavors of Dumb

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  (Grades 9+)  Dial, November 2010.  338 pages.  Reviewed from purchased copy.

Piper feels invisible.  Her best friend moved away.  Her dad refused to learn to sign when she lost her hearing at the age of six, even though it's how she prefers to communicate.  And, worst of all, she finds out that her parents "borrowed" money from her college fund to pay for her baby sister's cochlear implants - surgical devices that will give hearing to Grace.  Piper feels like no one listens to what she has to say and now that her dream of going to Gallaudet University, a deaf college in DC, is on precarious ground, maybe no one ever will.

Maybe that's why she opens her big mouth after the newest winners of Seattle's Teen Battle of the Bands serenade everyone on the steps of the school one morning.  She doesn't have to hear to know that they're completely not together, "all style, no substance".  And somehow she ends up accepting a job as their manager.  It's everything she wanted - her ticket to fame and fortune - but she'll have to get them a paying gig before the first month is over or she's fired.  As Piper gets to know the five flavors of Dumb, she'll learn more about rock and roll and about herself than she ever would have guessed.

This is a story with a lot of heart and the tone's a really nice mix of humorous and serious.  I was drawn to Piper right away - she's a sympathetic character, strong and sassy and a little self-deprecating.  The book deals with her struggles with the band - five very different teens, each with strengths and weaknesses - as she's dealing with other stuff, too.  Her sister getting a cochlear implant is a big deal for her, and she has to sort out some complicated emotions that go along with it.

When I first found out that the book was about a girl with hearing impairment, I had concerns about the title.  It's briefly addressed in a conversation between Piper and her best friend (who is also deaf).  And, really, when you read about the band, you can believe that they would choose the name Dumb for their band.  :)

I also loved all the secondary characters.  They're nicely fleshed out and add to the story without overwhelming it.  There's a lot going on in the novel - rock shows and interviews and best friend issues and new romance and rejection and family stuff - but it doesn't feel like too much.  And, let's face it, many of our teens are actually dealing with a million different things, so in that way it's definitely realistic.

Tone-wise and topic-wise, the book reminded me of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, so I'd definitely recommend Five Flavors of Dumb to teens who enjoyed it.  With a strong female narrator and a tone that's light and serious at turns, I'd also recommend this to fans of Sarah Dessen and maybe John Green.  I love all of those books and authors just mentioned, so I'm sure you've deduced that I loved Five Flavors of Dumb, too.  :)

A note about the cover: I love it.  I love the colors and I know you can't tell this from looking at this post, but I love the texture of it as well. It's all matte except for the title, which is glossy.  And yeah, I pretty much want a giant blown-up poster of it like a rock band poster.  That Cover Girl did a whole series of posts about this cover, actually.  Check out her interview with Kristin Smith, the cover designer.

Five Flavors of Dumb will be on shelves November 11!

TUNE IN TOMORROW for an interview with the fabulous Antony John and your chance to WIN a signed ARC of Five Flavors of Dumb!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Shocking Truth About Energy

The Shocking Truth About Energy by Loreen Leedy.  (Grades 2-4.)  Holiday House, 2010.  32 pages.  Review copy provided by my local library!  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.

Energy.  It's a hot topic right now and I'd bet it's going to stay that way.  Open up The Shocking Truth About Energy and join Erg the lightning guy (okay, actually, Erg is "pure energy!") as he tells you about all the different methods for harnessing energy, how they work, and what their pros and cons are.

From fossil fuels ("Good News:  Fossil fuels contain a great deal of ENERGY.  Bad News:  Fossil fuels cause pollution.  They are not renewable, so they will run out." pg 11) to wind power ("Good news:  Wind power is clean and renewable.  It's free and available all over Earth.  Bad news:  When the wind isn't blowing, no power can be made.  Some people think wind turbines ruin the view." pg 19) and many in between, Erg examines how electricity is produced, including diagrams and facts.  Erg covers fossil fuels, nuclear power, solar power, wind power, water power, geothermal power, and plant power.

Erg also encourages readers to help save energy and gives many practical tips for how kids and families can cut back on energy use and WHY.  Sections in the back of the book include additional information about energy and saving energy.

With brightly-colored pictures and simple (but not too babyish) diagrams and explanations, The Shocking Truth About Energy provides an accessible guide to energy for elementary students.  This is a great resource for classroom units or reports on energy and the environment.  I have to admit that Erg creeps me out a bit, with his sparkly eyes and his blushing e cheeks.  However, it doesn't detract from the book, though I think the book would have been just as strong without him.

Check out another review at Simply Science Blog.

The Shocking Truth About Energy is on shelves now!

And it's Nonfiction Monday, so head on over to Write About Now for this week's roundup!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In My Mailbox #52

Yes, yes, it's time for In My Mailbox, a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren!

Of course, the most wonderful thing I got in the mail this week was my new computer!!  Yes, I am back online and blogging this from the comfort of my own couch once again.  I'm still in mourning for my old computer, which died so very suddenly, but I'm moving on one step at a time. ;)

And books!  I got two books in the mail this week.

First, I received an ARC of Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Conner (G.P. Putnam's Sons, May 2011).  Here's the summary from the ARC:

It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year-old Raine O'Rourke's mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road - a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists.  While Raine's mother works as the cook and housekeeper, Raine explores the sprawling estate, trying to solve its secrets in the hopes that she'll discover why she and her mother have really come to Sparrow Road, but it's an unexpected secret from Raine's own life that changes her forever.

This book has blurbs from - wait for it - Newbery-honor-winning Gary D. Schmidt, Ann M. Martin, and Karen Cushman.  And it sounds like just the type of book I would have loooved when I was nine or ten.

And I received an ARC of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys (Philomel Books, March 2011).  Here's the summary from GoodReads:

In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil.

This is a 2011 debut and has blurbs from - wait for it - Laurie Halse Anderson, Richard Peck, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti.  World War II stuff is so, so popular with our teens, and this looks like a story that will be unlike anything out there.  Hurrah!

And that's it for my mailbox this week.  What books are you excited about this week?

PS: Want more books in your mailbox?  Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a signed copy of Love Drugged by James Klise!  I'm accepting entries from US residents through October 27. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bright Young Things

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen.  (Grades 7+)  HarperCollins, October 2010.  400 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

It's 1929 in New York City and Prohibition's going strong, but the booze is flowing for those who know where to get it.  Cordelia and Letty are running away from their stagnating lives in rural Ohio.  Letty knows she's destined to be a star on the stage and Cordelia is convinced she can find her father, the bootlegging gangster Darius Grey.  Astrid is delighted to spend the sultry summer in the company of her boyfriend Charlie, sipping champagne and dancing the night away.  But nothing's certain in the summer of 1929 and each of the girls will meet challenges they never could have anticipated before the summer's out.

Fans of Ms. Godbersen's Luxe series will be rabid for this one.  This I know.  And, really, what's not to like? Runaways, clandestine romances, gangsters, spectacular outfits, and all the alcohol you can drink!  Plus, just look at it.  That cover, following in the tradition of the Luxe covers, is eye-catching for sure.

I have to admit that, for me, Bright Young Things didn't quite hold up to the Luxe series.  There are definitely some things I loved about it, but I think this book wasn't quite as layered where the characters are concerned.  In the Luxe books, I loved the relationships between all the characters.  They were all part of the same social scene and they all interacted and bred drama on a daily basis.  In Bright Young Things, the characters aren't as close to each other, so I missed those ever-changing alliances and betrayals. Also, there were a lot of secondary characters and they were a bit hard for me to keep straight, especially the guys.  But I guess it's not really fair to compare the series and I only do it because the reason I was so looking forward to Bright Young Things is that I loved the Luxe books so much.

Okay, there were some things I really liked about Bright Young Things.  First of all, the setting.  This is just what Ms. Godbersen's fans have come to expect - rich historical detail told in a very visual way.  Her prose paints a picture of 1929 and the reader feels transported from New York City landmarks to speakeasies to the sweeping estates of Long Island.

Secondly, gangsters.  It's taken for granted that the society girls of Long Island can drink every night, but I just kept thinking to myself, "This is totally illegal!  They are, like, real gangsters!"  I dunno.  For some reason, I found it delightful. 

And third, it's 1929.  It's summer 1929.  And while everyone's partying and necking and dancing, WE ALL KNOW WHAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN.  It gives the book a wonderful feeling of just-you-wait and I have to admit that I'm incredibly anxious to know how everything's going to change once the stock market crashes.

So, you know I'll be looking for the sequels.  As will thousands of other rabid fans.

Check out more reviews at The Story Siren, Lost in Stories, Words on Paper, and Literary Life (among others).    

Bright Young Things is on shelves now!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Immortal Beloved

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan.  (Grades 8+)  Little, Brown, September 2010.  416 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Nastasya is a 400-year-old immortal.  You'd think that nothing would faze her, but the truth is she's lost in a swirl of parties, drugs, and beautiful partners - anything to distract her from the overwhelming notion of living forever.  Nastasya gets a wake up call when she discovers that her best friends are dabbling in black magick and she heads to River's Edge, a home for wayward immortals who have nowhere else to turn.  There she discovers that she might be able to use her magick for good and she also meets Reyn, a beautiful immortal to which she feels an instant attraction.  There are secrets at River's End and as Nastasya starts uncovering repressed memories, she'll have to decide whether to stay or to go.  To stay might break her heart, to stay might break her soul.

Paranormal's hot right now, there's no debate about that, and Immortal Beloved will fit the bill for those insatiable paranormal fans.  All the elements are here, namely a brooding hunk of a love interest.  For me, the most appealing aspect of the book was the magick lore.  Not much was really explained about the immortal thing (I'm assuming that'll come in one of the later books), but Nastasya learns a lot about her magick during her time at River's Edge.  I really enjoyed the scenes where she's figuring out spells and stone magic and things like that.  Even though Nastasya's not technically a witch, I think the prevalence of magic will appeal to fans of books about witches and magic.

This is very much the first book in a series and a lot of it felt like set-up for the next book.  As such, it felt like a lot happened, but not much happened.  That said, I enjoyed reading the book, even as I was snorting over Nastasya's instant, unexplainable attraction to Reyn and the big twist that I figure out almost immediately.

I'd recommend Immortal Beloved to die-hard paranormal fans, especially fans of Twilight or Sophie Jordan's Firelight.

Read more reviews at A Good Addiction and Confessions of a Book Addict.

Immortal Beloved is on shelves now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Audiobook Review: The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street

The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon G. Flake, read by Bahni Turpin.  Listening Library, 2007.  2 hours and 30 minutes.  Reviewed from library copy.

Queen Marie Rousseau has pretty much always gotten what she wanted.  Her father treats her like a real queen.  He drives her to school each day.  She has a collection of crowns and she knows that she's one of the smartest in her class.  (So why doesn't her teacher seem to like her?  Or most of the other kids?  It's a mystery to Queen.  Not that it matters because she's better than them anyway.)

When a new kid shows up at her school, Queen can't help but speak the truth:  he stinks.  He's weird, too, and he claims that he's a prince from Africa.  So why do her classmates treat him like he's something special?  Queen knows he's lying and she sets out to prove it.  And along the way, she just might find out that there's more to him than meets the eye.

An unlikeable narrator.  Tricky stuff.   But Sharon Flake pulls it off, making Queen exasperating and eye-roll-worthy but still redeemable.  Even as I was groaning at Queen's conceit, I was rooting for her to figure things out, to make the changes she needed to make to find her place in the world.  Narrator Bahni Turpin is a great match for the text, making Queen self-absorbed but still relateable.

I think this would be a great choice for a book discussion because there's lots to talk about here.  I did have one small problem - Queen seemed younger than a fifth grader to me.  I had to keep reminding myself that she was in fifth grade and not second or third grade.  But that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Read another review at Semicolon and check out an interview with Sharon Flake at Cynsations.

The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street is on shelves now!

Hey!  I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you make a purchase from them after clicking on one of my affiliate links, I may receive a referral fee. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Inside Tornadoes

Inside Tornadoes by Mary Kay Carson.  (Grades 4-7.)  Sterling, October 2010.  48 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

The wind picks up.  The clouds darken.  The sky takes on a weird greenish hue...  A tornado is coming!  Do you know what to do?

Inside Tornadoes gives kids the inside scoop on these twisty little storms (or twisty BIG storms, rather...) with tons of interesting information and stunning photos that bring the facts to life.

Everything a kid would need for a school report is included in this book - information on how and why tornadoes form, the Fujita Scale (did you know that since 2007 they are using the Enhanced Fujita Scale, correcting for over-rated wind speeds in the most dangerous tornadoes?), maps of where tornadoes have most often occurred, diagrams of how the storms move, and lots more.

So, sure, this would be a great choice for a report.  But Carson also includes very readable accounts of four of the strongest tornado systems in history.  One thing I love is that she includes "I Was There!" sections for each of the four, giving a survivor's account of what it was like to go through the storm.

And the photos...  They really add to the text and give kids a good picture of what's going on.  Photos of many different types of tornadoes are included in the "Twister Gallery".  Can you tell a rope tornado from a stovepipe tornado?  Do you know what motions an elephant trunk tornado makes as it moves?  Many of the pages with photos and diagrams fold out or up to pack an even bigger punch.

One of my favorite spreads features aerial photos of city blocks in Greensburg, Kansas before and after a 2007 tornado, showing just how much destruction a tornado can bring about.

Inside Tornadoes is part of Sterling's Inside Series, which right now include Inside Hurricanes, Inside Dinosaurs, and Inside Human Body.  It looks like several additions to the series are slated for next summer, including Inside Stars and Inside Volcanoes.  This'll definitely be a series you'll want to add to your library shelves.

And hey hey, it's Nonfiction Monday!!  Head on over to MotherReader for this week's roundup!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In My Mailbox #51

Welcome to In My Mailbox, a weekly meme where bloggers share the books that arrived in the mailbox, from the library, etc. in order to spread the word about new and fabulous books! Head on over to The Story Siren where Kristi has the roundup.

This week, I got some awesome books!!!

On Monday, I got an awesome shiny envelope... What could be inside?

In the shiny envelope was Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Razorbill, January 2011).  I did my happy dance when this one showed up on my doorstep!  Why?  Well, read this summary from GoodReads: 

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship—tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Awwwesome!!  And the cover is goooorgeous!

This week (in regular envelopes), I also got Drought by Pam Bachorz (Egmont USA, January 2011).  I'm excited for this one because I loved Pam Bachorz's first novel, Candor (Egmont USA, 2009).  In fact, I had this one on my look-for-at-BEA list, but alas, the pub date had been pushed back!  I'm very excited to have it!  Here's the plot summary from GoodReads: 

Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved.

She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood.  So she stays.

But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen (HarperCollins, October 2010).  I've been excited about this one since I heard it was coming out because I loved Ms. Godbersen's Luxe series!  I was so excited that I won a copy from a GoodReads giveaway that I completely forgot that I had preordered the book on Amazon, so I actually got 2 copies this week.  Rest assured, my copy was quickly donated to the Teen section at my library.  :)  Here's a plot summary from GoodReads: 

The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star...

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for...and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

And I got another package from Simon & Schuster with Dessert First and Just Desserts by Hallie Durand.

 And that was my mailbox week!  Did you get anything exciting this week?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Around the interwebs

Okay, there's a New York Times article that claims that "picture books [are] no longer a staple for children."  But don't even read that article.  Read, instead, MotherReader's response to it because she's making all kinds of sense and the NYT is taking quotes out of context and generally not knowing what they're talking about (as per usual).  And also read Roger Sutton's response because he's making all kinds of sense, too.

This is really cool.  (Thanks, Eli!)

The National Book Award finalists were announced!!  The finalists in the Young People's Literature category are:

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Philomel)
Dark Water by Laura McNeal (Knopf)
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams (Amistad)

Congratulations to the finalists!!

In other awards-related news, Adele of Persnickety Snark shares with us the shortlists for the Inkys, an Australian book award whose winners are determined by Aussie teens.  They have a shortlist for Australian authors and a shortlist for international authors, both great picks!

ALSC members, there's a debate going on about whether the ALSC should change its scope from serving children through 14 years of age to serving children through 13 years of age.  Whatever your feelings on the matter, I urge you to head over to the discussion on ALA Connect, educate yourself about the issue, and weigh in.  We will be voting on this in the spring!  Make your voice heard!

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.  (Grades 7+)  HarperTeen, August 2010.  352 pages.  Reviewed from purchased copy.

Evie loves pink.  She never misses her favorite teen drama, Easton Heights.  She procrastinates on her homework.  Oh, and she can see through paranormals' glamours.  For Evie, this is her normal life: working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, chatting with her best friend (a mermaid), avoiding her ex (a faerie)... When a mysterious shape-shifter appears at IPCA, Evie can't help but be intrigued by the only guy around who's close to her own age.  But when Evie starts having disturbing dreams and paranormals starts dying, she discovers that her ability may mean more than she'd ever thought.

I loved the humorous tone of the book, something I wasn't expecting from the dark cover.  It's funny and a little flippant and it reminded me right away of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I loved.  I liked the character of Evie right away.  She's spunky and smart and she can do something that no one else can do, but she's still very much a teen girl.  She longs to attend high school like the characters in her favorite show.  She wants to have a boyfriend, learn to drive.  She loves her job, but at the same time she wants a life.

I was intrigued by the workings of the IPCA and Evie's ability. I also dug Kiersten White's imaginings of the various paranormal creatures that Evie meets.  Since Evie can see through their glamours, we get a glimpse of vampires that appear sexy to humans but are withered corpses underneath and faeries whose glamours temper their beauty for human eyes.  Very cool.

Paranormalcy is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Alias in a YA paranormal romance.  Nothin' wrong with that.

The book's the first in a series and if I have any complaint it's that by the end of the book, a lot of it felt like setup.  I mean, a lot of stuff happens, but not much happens (if that makes any sense).  I will definitely be checking out the sequels and waiting to find out what happens to Evie, Lend, and the rest of them.

Check out more reviews at Stacked, Stiletto Storytime, GreenBean TeenQueen, and DJ's Life in Fiction (among others).

Paranormalcy is on shelves now!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nightshade Winner!

Apologies for the delay - I'm having a possibly-dead-laptop crisis and it's really bumming me out!

The winner of the signed ARC of Andrea Cremer's Nightshade is Tammy of Idaho!

Thanks to all for playing.

Giveaway! Love Drugged

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

Hey, y'all know I was so excited to meet the delightful James Klise at Anderson's Bookshop's YA Literature Conference last month.  Well, I have a treat for you.  James has offered up a signed copy of his debut novel Love Drugged for one lucky winner!

About Love Drugged:

Someone at his high school knows Jamie's secret.
It's not his best friend. It's not his girlfriend. It's not his teacher.
Someone at his high school knows that Jamie's gay. And before the secret spreads all over school, changing everything, Jamie's determined to fix the problem. He's determined to be straight. He has the miracle pill that will help him. If it doesn't kill him first.

For more, check out my review of Love Drugged or another review at DJ's Life in Fiction (DJ also met James at the Anderson's Conference!). 

Check out James's guest post on The Story Siren.  Here's a tiny snippet: 

...[W]hen I decided to try a novel, I wrote the book I needed to read when I was a teenager. Love Drugged (Flux, 2010) is a novel about internalized homophobia, a sense of dread and denial experienced by many young LGBT people. The panicky fear and confusion I felt when I was a teen.

Love Drugged is a 2010 debut and won my coveted Cybils nomination in the Young Adult Fiction category. For a chance to win, please fill out the information below.  The giveaway is open to US residents only and entries will be accepted through October 27.  I will randomly choose one winner who will receive a signed copy of Love Drugged

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What to Read at Baby Storytime #2

A few months ago, I posted What to Read at Baby Storytime, a list of great books to share with babies and toddlers along with ways to make the books interactive to keep the attention of your youngest storytime patrons.  Well, I'm back with another list of books that have been a hit with the tykes at our Mother Goose on the Loose sessions!

Mommy, Carry Me Please by Jane Cabrera (Holiday House, 2006).  The bright pictures in this book depict various animal mommies carrying their babies in different ways.   We don't just have mommies at my baby storytimes, so I change the text, using "daddy", "grandma", "grandpa", "auntie", "uncle", etc.  And as we read each line, I ask parents to touch the body part that corresponds (back, teeth, tummy, etc.).  Learning body parts helps young ones learn vocabulary.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin, 1969).  When I read this at my baby storytime, I found that it was already well known to my audience.  I shortened it by not reading it word for word, but just telling the story as I flipped through the pages.  If you've got the Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet or plush toy, take it around the circle after you read this book and greet each child with a caterpillar hello!

Do Your Ears Hang Low? by Caroline Jayne Church (Chicken House, 2002).  Here's a book that you can sing.  Ask parents to do motions to go along with the words, for instance wobbling, tying a knot, throwing something over your shoulder. 

Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming (Henry Holt, 1997).  Teaching animal noises to young kids is a great way to promote phonological awareness - the knowledge that words are made up of smaller sounds.  Ask parents to join in on the animal noises in this book and you'll be surprised at how quickly the kids start chiming in, too! 

Tip Tip, Dig Dig by Emma Garcia (Boxer Books, 2007).  The kids at our baby storytimes love vehicles and Tip Tip, Dig Dig showcases lots of different construction equipment.  With bright, clear pictures and repetitive text, the book is a perfect readaloud.  Each of the vehicles is paired with a motion, so it's super easy to encourage participation from your audience.  Along with the machines, we tip, dig, roll, lift, push, and more.

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora (Putnam Juvenile, 2002).  Very simple text describes a child playing peekaboo and spotting things that many children see around their houses - mommy, daddy, grandma, grandpa, etc.  It lends itself perfectly to playing peekaboo with the little guys, a game that most of your audience will already know.  Read the whole thing or shorten it if your crowd is restless or you're short on time.

Row Your Boat by Anthony Lishak (DK Children's, 1999).  Books that can be sung are always a great bet, especially books that feature nursery rhymes.  I ask parents to sing along and do the motions to go with the text as we row our boats, drive our cars, fly our planes, etc.  This book also features pop-ups and tabs, which make the story a little more interactive.

Here a Chick, Where a Chick? by Suse MacDonald (Cartwheel, 2004).  Here's another book to incorporate animal noises into your baby storytime.  As you look for the chicks, lift the flaps to reveal many different farm animals.  Again, ask parents to join you in making the animal noises. 

Need more ideas for baby storytime?  Check out Mel's Desk - she has posted lots of her baby storytimes (and she makes really cute props and felts to go with them!).

Monday, October 11, 2010

YA Authors + NaNoWriMo

Hey, are you or someone you know a published YA or children's author (or have an upcoming pub) who started or worked on your novel as part of National Novel Writing Month?  Are you willing to write a short guest post for me (I have prompts!  You don't have to follow them if you don't want to!)?

If so, please contact me at (or leave a comment here or Tweet me at @abbylibrarian).

Thank you, thank you!

(As you can see, I'm cooking up something for the blog for next month... if I get any responses to my plea...!)

Nonfiction Monday: Here There Be Monsters

Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid by HP Newquist.  (Grades 4-8.)  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 2010.  74 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

There is silence for a moment.  Then it happens again.  The boat shudders.  But this time, the deck under your feet tips downward.  It feels like something is grabbing the ship and trying to pull it into the water.  You run to the side and look over the railing, but you can't see anything.  There is nothing to light the waves; the moon has slipped behind a cloud.

Then, through the inky blackness, you see something rise up from the rippling sea.  It is ghostly and round, and it gets brighter as it nears the water's surface. 

It is an eye... It does not blink. (pg 2)

For hundreds of years, people believed (or scoffed at) legends of a mysterious sea creature called a kraken.  Sailors told tales of this gigantic beast attacking their ship, nearly pulling them under with enormous tentacled arms.  People thought it was a myth, a legend, until some scientists thought, "What if it's not a myth?"

They started doing research, people like Erik Ludwig Pontoppidan who interviewed sailors for their descriptions of the beast and Pierre Denys de Montifort who included a drawing of a "gigantic octopus-like creature" in a book about mollusks.  As science and exploration became more popular in the mid-1800s, scientists began looking for evidence of the kraken.  And, eventually, they found it.

Here They Be Monsters examines the history of the search for the giant squid and the larger, more aggressive colossal squid.  It starts with the legends and myths told about the beasts and describes the predictions made and evidence found by scientists as they searched the deep seas.  In 2004, the first undersea pictures of a giant squid were taken by Japanese scientists.  And in 2007, a New Zealand fishing boat crew caught a colossal squid while reeling in their fishing lines.  This remains the only full-grown specimen to be caught.

This book would be a great choice for research and assignments.  It's very thorough, providing lots of information about a creature that we don't (yet) know a whole lot about.  The narrative is very readable, but the large blocks of text without photos or illustrations to break them up might deter recreational readers unless they have a particular interest in the topic. Considering how few photos exist of the giant and colossal squids, it's understandable.

HP Newquist includes a note about the availability of photos, saying "Fewer than a dozen giant and solossal squid have ever been photographed or filmed alive in the ocean.  Almost every picture ever taken of living specimens is included in this book."  Also included are a bibliography, resources for further research, photo credits, and an index.

I'm not exactly an expert on squids, but it's hard to imagine a better resource for anyone wanting to learn about giant squids.

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Check out this week's roundup at Picture Book of the Day!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In My Mailbox #50

That's right, it's time for In My Mailbox, a weekly post about the books I received in the mail.  Y'know, Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy posted this week about In My Mailbox and it was very interesting to read what people thought about it in the comments.  For me, IMM is a good way to spread the word about new and upcoming books.  Unfortunately, I can't review every title that I receive, so posting IMM might at least put these titles on your radar.  I check out Kristi's roundup at The Story Siren every week in order to get an idea of what books are coming out and being talked about, so I hope that's what y'all are getting from my posts as well. 

And now... the books!

Falling Under by Gewn Hayes (NAL Trade [Penguin], March 2011).  This is a 2011 debut, paranormal romance, so right up my alley!  Here's a summary from GoodReads: 

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, not allowed the same freedoms as the rest of the teenagers in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, she feels every urge she’s ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black. Theia knows she’s seen Haden before—not around town, but in her dreams.

Theia doesn’t understand how she dreamed of Haden before they ever met, but every night has them joined in a haunting world of eerie fantasy. And as the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her forward one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear. And as she slowly discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.

Violence 101 by Denis Wright (G.P Putnam's Sons, October 2010).  This is a New Zealand import, published here because it was getting so much buzz in NZ.  Here's a summary from GoodReads: 

My name is Hamish Graham and this is the journal I have to write. Doesn't worry me because I'm a good writer and I'd rather write than talk any day, although I like talking to Terry. The people who run this place don't know what to make of me. Just like the last place I was in . . .

. . . I think we should have these special schools for bad kids in hard core places like Waiouru and Central Otago where you do school subjects from 8am to 1pm and then in the afternoon you do things like compulsory mountain climbing and river crossings wearing huge packs. The kids who refuse to do it would get fed bread and water until they changed their minds. I would divide them into various teams and have mock wars. Military history would be a compulsory subject. I would also make the study of violence compulsory.

Hamish Graham is intelligent, disciplined, resourceful and fearless, and scorns all weakness. His heroes include Charles Upham, Alexander the Great and Te Rauparaha - all men of action. But he is also a fourteen-year-old with an anger problem and a disturbing past, and these have landed him in a series of boys' homes for violent and troubled young offenders.

The gripping series of events following his arrival at New Horizons culminates in a desperate rescue mission on a mountain that has already claimed the lives of two young soldiers.

And that's it for IMM this week!  I'm just happy to have a day off to start reading all the great books I've been getting! :) 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Around the Interwebs

Cybils nominations are still open through October 15!  Go check the categories.  Has your favorite book of the year in each category been nominated?  If not, fill out the nomination form!

Jacket Whys has compiled a post with the covers of 2010 YA books with African-American protagonists.  I love, love, love the cover of Maxine Banks is Getting Married by Lori Aurelia Williams (Roaring Brook, 2010).

It's not Banned Books Week any more, but that doesn't mean we should no longer be paying attention to book challenges across the nation.  Laurie Halse Anderson pointed me to Risha Mullins's account of the challenges that went on in her Kentucky school and eventually lead to her resignation from her job as an English teacher.  It seriously brought me to tears that an exemplary teacher, having such a positive effect on her students' love of reading and reading scores, could be treated this way.

While you're at it, check out, "a group of teachers, librarians, bloggers, and authors who have come together to speak out against the censorship of media materials for teens".

On a lighter note, the Twilight hand model wants a piece of the pie.  Thanks to Travis at 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Reviews of board books can be few and far between, so it's a good thing that Jill at The Well-Read Child has posted several of them.

Looking for some great science titles?  Finalists for the 2011 Science Books & Films Awards have been announced!  SB&F is an online review journal for children's and young adult science titles.  Thanks to @C_Spaghetti for the link!

As we try to figure out how to get boys to enjoy reading and people start saying that we need more male authors, Maureen Johnson begs us to think about how female authors are presented and marketed.  She says,

So, we’re thinking about boys and girls and what they read. The assumption, as I understand it, is that females are flexible and accepting creatures who can read absolutely anything. We’re like acrobats. We can tie our legs over our heads. Bring it on. There is nothing we cannot handle. Boys, on the other hand, are much more delicately balanced. To ask them to read “girl” stories (whatever those might be) will cause the whole venture to fall apart. They are finely tuned, like Formula One cars, which require preheated fluids and warmed tires in order to operate—as opposed to girls, who are like pickup trucks or big, family-style SUVs. We can go anywhere, through anything, on any old literary fuel you put in us.

Largely because we have little choice in the matter.
Thanks to my friend Margaret for the link. :)

And that's all she wrote.  Because she is tired.  And this is the Week That Will Not End.
Have a good one, folks!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Magnificent 12 Winner

Congratulations to Tanya in FL who was picked by the random number generator to win a signed copy of The Magnificent 12: The Call!

Thanks to all for playing!

Sign Up for NaNoWriMo (If You Are Crazy Like Me)

I was so excited about the Cybils nominations opening that I almost completely forgot that registration for National Novel Writing Month opened on October 1!

National Novel Writing Month is held in November each year and participants try their darndest to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.  The purpose is to encourage creative endeavors, to get words down on paper, to stop worrying about how good it is and just do it

Nothing counts except your word count.  No one will read your novel unless you want them to.  The novels aren't necessarily ever published (although in some cases, authors have gone on to revise and sell their NaNoWriMo novels!).

Write a novel because it's fun.  Because you love to write.  Because it can be great therapy at the end of a hard day.  Because there's a whole community of thousands of other people doing the same thing you are, and they will commiserate with you and root you on and challenge you more than you ever thought a community of relative strangers could.

I love NaNoWriMo and I've "won" it (to win, you must complete at least 50,000 words by the end of the day on November 30) the past six years.  This will be novel #7!

So, anybody with me?  Feel free to add me as a writing buddy!  I promise to cheer you on!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Audiobook Review: Leviathan

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, read by Alan Cumming.  (Grades 6+)  Simon & Schuster Audio, October 2009.   8 hours, 30 minutes.  Reviewed from library copy.

I reviewed Leviathan last year when I scored an ARC at ALA, so I'll copy the summary here but what I really want to tell you about today is the fabulous audio recording of this title!  If you're looking to refresh yourself before diving into the sequel Behemoth, I can highly recommend picking up the audiobook.

Are you a Clanker or a Darwinist?

In Scott Westerfeld's wildly imaginative alternate WWI novel, Clankers have developed advanced war machines. Giant walkers that trample everything in their path.

Darwinists have unlocked the secret to combining DNA and fabricating fantastic creatures that fill all kinds of uses, from messenger lizards to giant hydrogen-producing whales as airships.

Alek is on the run. His parents were Austro-Hungarian royalty and they have been killed, some say, to start the war. Alek's very existence could threaten the Empire, so he goes into hiding for his own safety.

Deryn's got something to hide, too. Disguised as a boy she enlisted in the British Air Service. She loves to fly and lives to serve her country, but how long will she be able to keep up the facade?

When Alek and Deryn meet they have no idea that it'll change both their lives, but before they know it they're starting a fantastic journey that will change their lives forever.


So, the audiobook.  Fantastic!

First of all, it starts with a little piece of music that's just enough to add a flare and set the tone.  The music only happens at the very beginning and the very end of the recording.  

And then there's Alan Cumming's narration.  I have to admit that I have had a little crush on Alan Cumming since I saw him doing Willkomen from Cabaret on the Rosie O'Donnell Show*.  Take a little gander (was I a weird teen?  Maybe.  But I still have a little crush on him!): 

I loved Alan Cumming's reading of this book.  He gets the accents down, which is awesome because our two narrators are Austrian and Scottish and the book takes place in Austria-Hungary, England, and Switzerland (maybe other places, too?  I forget...).  I also think he does a nice job of Deryn's voice, making it softer and more feminine without sounding fake.

What else can I say?  This audiobook was a delight from beginning to end.  Don't take my word for it.  You can listen to an excerpt here on Simon & Schuster's website. I'm happy to report that Cumming has narrated Behemoth as well.  Check out this video of Cumming talking with author Scott Westerfeld about the book:

(Small aside: Is Alan Cumming wearing Silly Bandz???)

Leviathan is on shelves now.

*Remember the Rosie O'Donnell Show?  I loved that show. Also, yes, in 1998 I was a teen. 

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