Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb at Storytime

This week our storytime was all about lions and lambs!  Here's what we did:

Opening Song:  "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi.

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a blue lizard from Roar: A Noisy Counting Book.

I explained our theme, telling the kids that they say March "comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb" because the weather is usually cold and fierce like a lion at the beginning of March, but by the end of March it's warm and gentle as a lamb.

Book:  Roar!: A Noisy Counting Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards. Not only does this book have great vocabulary (lots of African animals), but it gives kids an opportunity to be noisy and show off their roars!  Since I have a pretty rowdy crowd, I only asked them to roar for me at the very end of the book.

Activity: Felt lions.  We put photos of lions on different colored felt backings and passed them out to the kids.  As I read this rhyme, kids with the appropriate colors were encouraged to bring up their pieces and put them in "our jungle" (on the felt board):

Walking through the jungle and what do I see? 
I see a red lion smiling at me!  [and repeat with different colors]

After everyone put their lions on, we counted them all.

Book:  The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkey.  This Caldecott-winner is a gorgeous book and though I had never "read" a wordless book at storytime before, I knew I had to try it out.  It went over pretty well and probably would have gone over better if I had practiced the story a bit more before I shared it.  Then again, my group is pretty rowdy so it might have gone a bit smoother with a smaller or quieter crowd.

Rhyme:  Baa Baa Black Sheep with flannelboard sheep.  I used Mel's idea about repeating the rhyme with different colored sheep and we did black, blue, red, and green.  Ending with the green sheep segued perfectly into my next story...

Book:  Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox.  This is one of my favorites for its sweet illustrations and gentle rhyming text.  I had one kid in my group who said his favorite color was green and he was suitably delighted when we finally found the green sheep at the end of the book.

And with that, I was out of time, so we moved on to:

Goodbye Song:  Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take-Home Craft: Handprint lions.

We have a hand die for our die-cut machine, so we provided hand cutouts in yellow and orange but we let them know that if they wanted to trace their child's hand and use that for the mane instead, they could certainly do it!  I overheard one grownup telling her child that if she wanted a different color they could trace her hand at home.

Alternate Books:  If you don't have or don't like any of the above books, here are some alternate suggestions:

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb by Marion Dane Bauer.
Mary Had a Little Lamb by Mary Ann Hoberman.
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw.
That's Not My Lion by Fiona Watt.

You could also throw in a book about springtime, but all the best ones are checked out at my library right now. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Dreamer

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sis.  Grades 4-8.  Scholastic Press, 2010.  372 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Neftali is a boy who sees beauty and intrigue in ordinary things.
Raindrops become music, plinking on the zinc roof.
A beetle on a tree is a jewel of the forest.
An abandoned boot carries with it infinite stories of where it might have walked.

But although Neftali has a gift of putting words down on paper, his father will not tolerate this "foolishness".  Can he, who is sometimes too weak and sickly to get out of bed, stand up to his father?  Stand up for his dreams?

The Dreamer is a story about a boy who couldn't give up his way of seeing the world.  A boy who became one of the most well-known and influential writers of his generation.  A boy who became the poet Pablo Neruda.

Everything in this book comes together to create something that's much bigger than the sum of its parts.  Pam Munoz Ryan's prose is fittingly poetic.  She describes Neftali's Chilean home so that not only did I feel like I was there, but I felt like I was seeing everything through Neftali's eyes.  I could see the beauty that he saw all around him.  Ms. Ryan has obviously done her research and this book was crafted with care, right down to the green ink in which it was printed (Pablo Neruda wrote in green ink, which he felt was the color of esperanza - hope).

Pair that expressive writing with Peter Sis's evocative illustrations and you've really got something special.  Whether illustrating Neftali's flights of imagination or the overwhelming emotions he's feeling throughout the book, Mr. Sis's illustrations add greatly to the overall feel of the book.

This is a fictionalized account of Neruda's childhood and Ms. Ryan includes an author's note with biographical information about the poet.  She also includes several pages of Neruda's poetry to give readers a taste of the man's writing.

This is an excellent choice for units on poetry.  Not only does it lend itself to a study of Pablo Neruda, the vibrant imagery will inspire young writers to pen their own verses.  I also think this would make an excellent classroom readaloud (but be sure not to miss the illustrations!).  Some kids will need scaffolding with this one, but bright young writers prone to flights of fancy will devour this and be inspired.

Oh, Newbery Committee, I'm so disappointed that this one didn't make the cut (although it The Dreamer did win the Pura Belpre Medal and was named an ALA Notable Children's Book).

Read more reviews at Biblio File, Literate Lives, and Reading in Color.

The Dreamer is on shelves now!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia by D. Anne Love, illustrated by Pam Paparone.  Grades 2-5.  Holiday House, 2006.  Unpaged.  Reviewed from library copy.

In the fourth century, not many women were educated, even in the progressive city of Alexandria in Egypt.  But Hypatia was not like other girls.  Her father, a professor, valued education and he decided to teach Hypatia just as if she'd been a boy.  While other girls watched from their windows, Hypatia learned to swim, fish, ride a horse, read, and write.  When Hypatia discovered arithmetic, her interest was piqued and her father taught her geometry and astronomy as well.  Hypatia became known as a respected scholar and a symbol of educated women for centuries to come!

Funny story.  I was pulling books for our Women's History Month display and this title was listed on one of the Amelia Bloomer Project lists.  I had never heard of it, but as soon as I pulled it off the shelf and took a gander at the cover, I knew I wanted to sit down and read it.  As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to review it here so that other people would know about it.  As I was sitting at the reference desk, jotting down my thoughts, a patron saw the book laying in front of me on the desk and said, "Oooh, what's that one?"  I did a quick booktalk and urged her to take it home with her (which she did).  Put this one face-out and I guarantee you it'll check out!

Beautiful art perfectly compliments the carefully chosen words in this informational picture book, making it a surefire bet for Women's History Month. The gorgeous art spreads evoke a sense of the time and place, pulling the reader right into 4th century Egypt.  The soft blues, greens, and earthy browns made me feel like I was sitting by the water with a cool breeze washing over me.  Ms. Paparone also incorporates depictions of the subjects Hypatia's learning about into her spreads.

Biographies (especially of little-known, but very cool people) are my favorite kind of informational picture book and this one was right up my alley.  It obviously takes a great deal of research to write a book on someone from the 4th century and D. Anne Love includes a lovely author's note and bibliography, as well as some additional notes about mathematics.

This book will make a great choice for Women's History Month and I'd try it on kids who are fascinated by scientific biographies like Starry Messenger by Peter Sis or The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky.

Of Numbers and Stars is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  This week's roundup is over at Practically Paradise, so check it out!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Mailbox

It's time for In My Mailbox, a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren!  Here's what's shown up in my mailbox over the past couple of weeks:

Abandon by Meg Cabot (Scholastic, April 2011).  Um, hello, new Meg Cabot!  PLUS, it's a mythology retelling. 

Ask Elizabeth by Elizabeth Berkley (Putnam Juvenile, March 2011).  I had no idea that Elizabeth Berkley had an advice website: Ask  Well, now she's got an advice book, too!  Perhaps you know her better as Saved By the Bell's Jessi Spano?

Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Schecter (Arthur A. Levine, August 2011).  This debut is being described as "The Luxe meets the ancient world."  Um, yes please!

Dear America: Cannons at Dawn, the Second Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart by Kristiana Gregory.  (Scholastic, May 2011).

Rip Tide by Kat Falls (Scholastic, May 2011).  The sequel to Dark Life!!!!  And one of my librarians read it already and says it's awesome!!

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson (Arthur A. Levine, July 2011).

Sidekicks by Dan Santat (Arthur A. Levine, July 2011).  I love Dan Santat's illustrations, so I'm super excited for this graphic novel!

And that's the past couple of weeks in books... Did you get anything exciting in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reminder: AudioSynced!!

Reminder: your March AudioSynced Roundup will be posted here on April 1!  If you've reviewed or posted about audiobooks in March, be sure to get your link(s) to me so I can include your post(s)!  Didn't get a chance to listen to something this month?  Well, you still have a week or so, but also AudioSynced will be over at STACKED next month, so never fear. :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Around the Interwebs

Here's what I've been reading around the interwebs lately: 

I was pulling books for our Women's History Month book display last week and trying to find books about women of color.  It was not the easiest catalog search, actually, so I'm really grateful to Doret of The HappyNappy Bookseller for creating this guest post on the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month Blog: Women of Color Make Their Presence Known.  

Sarah Bean Thompson of The GreenBean TeenQueen posts about her library's teen Skype Book Club.  I mentioned this to one of my teens and she got so very excited - I think we'll try this out next year!  By the way, Sarah's running for the 2013 Printz Committee, so if you're a YALSA member (or if you're not), check out this post about Sarah's Top 5 Printz Books and vote for her in the ALA elections!!

Fellow Emerging Leader Alicia of The LibrariYAn is conducting a survey of school librarians for her group's EL project!  School media folk, please give her a moment of your time to help her out!!

Did ya catch Betsy's Penguin Young Readers' Group Spring Preview?  Those of you who know of my great love for bats will understand why I am jumping up and down about this title: 

If you're like me and you love a good storytime blog, don't miss Jennie Rothschild's new blog Library Noise.  Jennie also blogs book reviews at Biblio File and is running for the 2013 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award committee.  Jennie will do an awesome job, so vote for her!!  (That award name is way too long.  Anyone mind if I start calling it the ENYA?)

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention another good friend of mine running for the 2013 ENYA Award Committee (see what I did there?  It's gonna be a thing!): Angie Manifredi!  Angie blogs at Fat Girl Reading and she developed the Body Positivity & Fat Acceptance pre-conference at the 2010 YA Lit Symposium. 

IF YOU'RE GOING TO ALA THIS SUMMER, COME DANCE WITH US!!!  (Seriously, #ALA11 is going to be awesomesauce.  Are you going to be there?  Let me know in comments!  I want to see you!)

And that's what I've got for you this week.  Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Heart Kelly

Y'all, today I want to tell you a little bit about a good librarian friend of mine:  Kelly from STACKED.  She's a super awesome youth services librarian in Wisconsin and the budget cuts and new state legislature have not been kind to her, so to cheer her up, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about how awesome she is. 

Kelly absolutely inspires me with her creative ideas for teen programming and her passion for teen advocacy and teen literature.  Since BEA 2010, Kelly and I have been conference roomies and we always have a blast geeking out about books, blogging, and teen programs.  She's the mustard to my ketchup!  And our glasses make us look like sisters (apparently). :) 

Kelly, you are awesome and you inspire me to be a better advocate for my teens!  You promote a love of books not just in your library patrons but in your blog readers all over the world!  If I had billions of dollars, I would put you up in a swanky library with all the technology and staff you could ever want.  But since I can't, just know that I know what a great job you're doing (especially with so few resources)!  

PLUS, without you I never would have hung out with the ILOAs and my life would be a lot less awesome. 

I heart you, Kelly!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ninth Ward

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  Grades 4-7.  Little, Brown, 2010.  217 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Twelve-year-old Lanesha has lived her whole life in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans with her grandmother, Mama Ya-Ya.  Though they don't have much money and the kids at school shun Lanesha for her strange eyes, calling her a witch, Lanesha knows everything will be just fine with Mama Ya-Ya to take care of her.  When Mama Ya-Ya, who "sees without seeing" predicts that a storm is coming, Lanesha's not worried.  New Orleans has weathered storms before.  But this storm, Hurricane Katrina, will be unlike any other, and it will put Lanesha to the test.

Ninth Ward is a book that you experience with all your senses.  Over and over again, the writing evokes not just the sights of New Orleans but the sounds, smells, and tastes.  Jewell Parker Rhodes paints pictures with her words.


Lanesha describes her grandmother's perfume.  "Evening in Paris is in a midnight blue bottle and smells like warm trees mixed with magnolias."  (page 10)

Later... "Mama Ya-Ya is outside using her senses: sniffing for sea salt, feeling hot wind, listening for the roar of water.  I don't know if she can taste a hurricane.  What would it taste like?  Like cold, fishy, salty cotton candy?"

So Ms. Rhodes sets the tone with beautiful imagery using all of the senses and then the tension starts to build. Going into this book, you know it's about Hurricane Katrina.  You know what's going to happen with the storm, the flood.  But the tension is built just perfectly from the first whisperings of a storm coming to the pops and bangs of the gale itself to the dreadful realization that trouble's not done even after the hurricane is gone.

Birth and death are intertwining themes in the book.  The novel starts with a birth and a death.  Lanesha tells us that she was born with a caul and that her mother died shortly after she was born.  Mama Ya-Ya was a midwife, the city of New Orleans (as Lanesha and her friends know it) will die and then it will be reborn.  Mama Ya-Ya predicts that Lanesha will be reborn, which Lanesha doesn't understand and it happens when she's least expecting it.  These themes are woven into the book with a light hand.

Ninth Ward would make an excellent addition to a unit on Hurricane Katrina.  I'd hand it to kids interested in learning more about Hurricane Katrina or kids who enjoyed Keeper by Kathi Appelt for its lyrical prose and imagery.

And Ninth Ward is a Coretta Scott King honor book and 2010 Cybils Finalist. Check out Jewell Parker Rhodes's interview at The Brown Bookshelf as part of 28 Days Later, a celebration of authors of color, and an interview at The HappyNappy Bookseller.

Read more reviews at Reading in Color, Literate Lives, A Patchwork of Books, and Welcome to My Tweendom.

Ninth Ward is on shelves now!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Post: Sarah Bean Thompson

It is my immense pleasure today to welcome Sarah Bean Thompson, the Green Bean Teen Queen herself!!  Sarah is an extraordinary teen librarian with a great love and knowledge of teen literature.  She is an advocate not only for her teens but for teen services throughout her library, creating seasonal lists of hot and new teen books that her reference staff should know about.  And on top of all of this, she's blogged at GreenBean TeenQueen since 2008.

Sarah is running for the 2013 Printz committee and I would love it if you'd vote for her! 

Here's Sarah!

Hi I’m Sarah, aka GreenBeanTeenQueen, and I’m running for the 2013 Printz Committee.  I asked my fabulous friend Abby to help post about my candidacy and, since she’s awesome like that, she agreed.  Then she turned around and stumped me because she wanted me to post my top five favorite Printz Award books! That’s so hard since there have been so many good ones!  So I made lists, then made more lists, and once again even more lists until I came up with a list of five that I loved.  So here’s my Top Five Favorite Printz Award Books:

5. Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison [2001 Honor book]

Why?:  Well one because it’s hilarious! And sadly, funny books rarely get awards. But Georgia’s random adventures aren’t just about the humor, there's also heart. Georgia grows up throughout the book, but it’s never overdone. Louise Rennison slyly sneaks in Georgia’s growth so we don’t know that she’s doing it all while making us laugh so hard we snort. Love it!

4. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King [2011 Honor book]

Why?: This book was an addicting read. I was amazed at the way A.S. King was able to weave between the past and present and creating a tension between our characters, even though one is no longer living. There’s mystery, but it doesn’t feel like your typical mystery. Throw in the perspectives of Charlie, Vera’s dad, and the town pagoda - this book kept me intrigued. Again, there’s character growth that is fantastically subtle and not in your face and the relationship between Vera and her dad is one of the best parent/child relationships I’ve read in YA. 

3. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang [2007 Medal book]

Why?: OK, I might be a bit biased, but this one was awarded the Printz award when I first started working in libraries, so I have a special connection to it.  But I love it for many reasons. First, it’s a very smart graphic novel and a book I would give to naysayers of graphic novels who say they’re all easy kids books.  I also loved that while there are three storylines that at first appear to be individual stories, they tie together seamlessly.  Brilliant storytelling and artwork!

2. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff [2005 Medal book]

Why?: WOW - this book blew me away! It was so much more than what I expected.  I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect to be as sucked in as I was.  Yes, this is a story of growing up, romance, and family, but it’s so much more. It’s a story of survival, and being forced to grow up even when you don’t want to or aren’t really ready. And it’s a story of moving on after tragedy.  I could read this one again and again and it would continually amaze me. 

1. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly [2004 Honor book]

Why?: Abby once told me she had a Mattie Gokey scale for historical characters and I have to agree. Mattie Gokey is a fantastic character and her journey is one you can’t soon forget.  She’s faced with various options in life and is at a crossroads. Even though it’s a historical novel, the decisions Mattie has to face about growing up are something that teens of any time period can relate to.  There’s also a bit of mystery that goes along with Mattie’s story. The author takes a real life story and creates a fictional story around it and brings the entire thing to life.  I’ve recommended this book to so many people and it’s one of my favorite YA reads as well as Printz reads!  

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!  (I promise, I didn't pay Sarah to make A Northern Light her number one favorite Printz book!)

YALSA members, remember that voting's now open for the 2013 Printz Committee.  Sarah Bean Thompson has my vote and I hope she'll have yours, too!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reminder: Fabulous Author Event!

If you're in the Louisville or Southern Indiana area (or willing to drive!), I'd love to see you at our fabulous teen author event today at 2pm (EDT)!  We'll be hosting Susan Coventry, Kelly Creagh, and Julie Kagawa at the New Albany-Floyd County Library!

More details here.

Library address:

180 W. Spring Street
New Albany, IN 47150

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This Storytime's a Zoo

This week's storytime was all about the zoo!  This is a theme I love because there are many great zoo books and you can always supplement with books about different wild animals if you need more ideas.  I had all these songs planned for this week and then I had a cold over the weekend and on Monday my voice was totally shot.  Advice: have a back-up plan!  I was able to substitute rhymes for the songs and we called it good.  Here's what I did:

Opening Song:  "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi

Memory Box:  This week's Memory Box item was a teacup from A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Book:  The Birthday Zoo by Deborah Lee Rose.  Rhyming couplets show zoo animals putting together a birthday party for a little boy.  Not only is the rhyming text great for phonological awareness, but the vocabulary is awesome in this book!  It shows not only bears and monkeys, but tapirs, okapis, emus, and more! 

Prop:  Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin.  There are many ways to share this wonderful book.  For my storytime, I used laminated animal faces that we already had in our props cabinet.  This would also make a great felt story or you can just use the book!  Whenever I read one of these books, I sing it to the tune of "Baa, Baa Black Sheep".

Book:  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead.  We just got our copies of this year's Caldecott winner and as soon as I looked at it, I knew I wanted it for my zoo storytime!  This is a sweet, silly story and the funny little details in the illustrations make it great for one on one reading. 

Rhyme:  Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree.  I put up the felt monkeys and had our alligator puppet snap each one out of the tree!

Five little monkeys, swinging in a tree
Teasing Mr. Alligator, "Can't catch me!" 
Along comes Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be and
SNAPS that monkey out of the tree!

Repeat with four, three, etc.

Book:  From Head to Toe by Eric Carle.  This is a nice book to use because it's interactive.  As each animal makes a different movement, ask the kids to make it, too.   We needed to stand up for a bit, so I had all the kids stand up and they did all the motions as I read the book.  It's great for reinforcing body language vocabulary, too!

Activity:  Felt zoo pieces.  We also have a zoo box like last week's woodland creatures box, but my kids love to put things on the felt board, so I elected for the felt pieces.  I made up a little rhyme:

Walking through the zoo and what did I see?
I saw a lion looking at me!

And as I said each animal, I invited the kids to come up to the board and put up their animal.  When we had all the animals up there, we counted them all together.

Song:  "I Went to Visit the Zoo One Day".  **I had planned to do this song, but we were out of time and also my voice was nearly gone by the end of storytime, so I skipped it!**

This is adapted from one of the songs we use with Mother Goose on the Loose.

I went to visit the zoo one day
Saw an elephant along the way!
And what do you think I heard him say?
[elephant noise]  

And repeat with different animals.  I printed out animal photos to hold up for each animal, but you could also use puppets or felt pieces.  I sat and thought about what zoo animals make noises the kids might know and I came up with: elephant, chimpanzee, owl, seal, and lion.  (You could also use tiger, bear, etc. but since they all ROAR, I just stuck with lion.)

If you don't know this song and aren't comfortable with it, you can also do "Old MacDonald Had a Zoo" or "Over at the Zoo" from Mel's Desk to similar effect. :)

Book:  Heads by Matthew Van Fleet.  This cutey cute cute book has moveable pieces and examines different animal heads, from necks to noses to ears.  Have the kids show you their eyes, ears, necks, etc. as you read it.  Ohh, the kids loved this one.  It has some moving parts and a nice big pop-up spread at the end.

Closing Song:  Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take-Home Craft:  This week we didn't have a craft for our take-home craft!  Two summers ago, we ordered a ton of animal masks from Oriental Trading to be used as Summer Reading Club prizes and we have had a huge box of leftovers ever since.  So I took off the elastic bits (they were useless and pulled right through the fun foam masks) and put them in baggies along with a storytime handout and a handout on the 40 developmental assets.

Masks are great for encouraging dramatic play.  PLUS I really just wanted to get rid of them.  :)

Alternates:  If you don't like or don't have any of the books I mentioned here, you are in luck because there are eleventy bajillion great readalouds on zoos. I suggest the following (and I'm sure you good people will have some more favorites to add in comments):

(I also highly recommend checking out Mel's zoo storytime for additional ideas.)

Animal Strike at the Zoo, It's True! by Karma Wilson
Class Two at the Zoo by Julia Jarman
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Gladys Goes Out to Lunch by Derek Anderson
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Move! by Steve Jenkins
Tails by Matthew Van Fleet

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'm Bloggin' About Women's History Books

Um, it totally slipped my mind that yesterday my guest post on Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month went up!

So go over there and check out my post on great women's history titles to booktalk!

Where She Went

Where She Went by Gayle Forman.  Grades 8+ Dutton Juvenile, April 2011.  262 pages.  Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA.

It's been three years since Mia's accident.  Three years since everything changed for Adam.  He got Mia to stay... and then she walked out on him forever without even telling him why.  A lot's happened in those three years.  Adam channeled his pain into a new sound for his band Shooting Stars and that album catapulted them into superstardom.  But somehow getting what he's always dreamed of isn't as great as Adam thought it would be.  He's on the outs with his bandmates, popping pills to control his anxiety, and still nursing bruises from Mia's betrayal.  And on one fateful night in New York City, as Adam faces yet another grueling tour, Adam will see Mia again.  And maybe start getting some answers to questions he's held for far too long.

Yesterday, I talked about the audio recording of If I Stay, which I listened to in order to refresh myself on Mia's story before diving into the sequel.  While I think that Where She Went could stand alone, the emotional punch it packs is definitely amplified if you're familiar with Mia's story.

From the first chapter, Adam's anguish is plain to see.  He's a famous rock star, he has a movie star girlfriend, and he's living his dream!  But Adam is dying inside, racked with anxiety and hopelessness.  He feels trapped everywhere he turns.  He feels all alone in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.

Just as in If I Stay, chapters alternate between Adam's present and his recollections of the past, his memories of Mia and the events that brought him to this desperate point.  The present chapters all start off with Adam's song lyrics from the album that he wrote after Mia left him.  These small snippets demonstrate Adam's intense feelings of betrayal that after he fought by Mia's side, after he pulled her back from the brink of death, she would abandon him.  It's something he can't let go, something that still affects his every move, even three years later.

That raw grief and anger and confusion is what struck me most about this book and continues to stick with me.  We definitely get Adam's grief, anger and confusion.  As the night wears on and Adam and Mia begin to have real conversations, we get Mia's, too.  As much as this is Adam's story, it's still very much Mia's story.  Their stories are inextricably woven.  One would not exist without the other.

The more I think about Where She Went, the more I love it.   It's about what happens after.  It's about no happy endings.  It's about feeling grief that you don't even understand and can't let go.

Highly recommended.  Read If I Stay first (you'll thank me).

Where She Went will be on shelves April 5.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Audiobook Review: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman, read by Kirsten Potter.  Grades 8+.  Penguin Audiobooks, 2009.  5 hours and 2 minutes.  Reviewed from library copy.

There was ice.
The car skidded.
And crashed.
And Mia's parents are dead.
And Mia's somehow still there, but not exactly there.  She can see herself laying in the hospital bed and she has a decision to make: will she stay?

How can she bear life without her family?  But how can she leave her friends and her music and her boyfriend who is begging her to stay?

I read this book almost two years ago for the 48-Hour Book Challenge and that was a mistake.  Oh, I liked it well enough, but reading it for the challenge could not do this story justice.  And now that I've listened to it, I think that the audiobook might be the perfect way to experience this book. 

I chuckled when I read that I "teared up" more than a handful of times on my first reading of this book.  Listening to this book, I found myself with tears streaming down my face at many different points (um, not the best when you're headed in to work and have to look presentable!).  Part of that was that I was revisiting the story and knowing what was going to happen allowed me to concentrate on the details I may have missed the first time around.  Another part of that was definitely the narration.

Kirsten Potter's simple and nuanced narration forces the listener to slow down, to absorb the full impact of every word.  She varies her voice to bring out the full emotion captured in the pages.  And that made for an intensely moving audiobook experience.  The book's told in first person with Mia alternating between her present experience in the hospital and her memories, giving the reader glimpses into her life before the accident.  The first-person narration lends itself to the audiobook format, giving the reading an intimacy as if Mia was actually speaking to you.

I listened to this book in preparation for the upcoming sequel, Where She Went (April 2011), which is set three years after the accident and narrated by Mia's boyfriend Adam.  Stay tuned - my review of Where She Went is coming tomorrow!

If I Stay is on shelves now.

Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you purchase items after clicking the links on my site, I get a small commission! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Manatee Scientists

The Manatee Scientists by Peter Lourie.  Grades 4-7.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2011.  80 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

This latest entry in the Scientists in the Field series examines manatees and the scientists who study them in the hopes of saving them from endangerment and extinction.  You know about manatees in Florida, but did you know that there are two additional manatee species, one in the Amazon and one in West Africa?  While the Florida manatees are relatively easy to spot and study, the other species, living in murky waters, are much harder to find.  But it's important to study all of the manatee species to see what we can do to keep them from becoming extinct.

Bright, colorful photos add appeal to this well-researched book.  Most photographs depict the Florida manatees, ostensibly because it's much easier to get good shots of these clear-water mammals.  Back matter includes manatee facts (on all three species), a glossary, an index, and an author's note.

I mean, you know what you're getting with the Scientists in the Field series and I'd go so far as to say that this is a must-have series for your library shelves.  They're well-researched books on interesting topics and give kids a glimpse inside the jobs of many different scientists.  That said, this isn't one of my favorite entries in the series.  It's fine and the subject will definitely be popular, but I don't know that it stands out when compared to some of the other books in the series.  The format is standard, the writing's okay, the photos are bright and appealing.

Hand this to your aspiring marine biologists or skip it and hand them Shark Life by Peter Benchley instead.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Audiobook Review: Princess Diaries

The Princess Diaries
Princess in the Spotlight
Princess in Love
written by Meg Cabot, read by Anne Hathaway.  Listening Library, 2003.  The first two reviewed from library copies, the third purchased on

February 25

I just finished listening to one of the great audiobooks of our time.

Are you...

1.  In the mood to laugh out loud?
2.  Looking for a truly great audiobook experience?
3.  A tween girl (or about to be in the car with a tween girl for any amount of time)?

If any of the above apply, I urge you to procure the first three Princess Diaries audiobooks, narrated by Anne Hathaway, and listen to them right this moment.  You can thank me later.

Mia Thermopolis is your average New York high school freshman, or that's what she'd want you to think, anyway.  Truly Mia's smart (though you wouldn't know it from her algebra grade) and caring and stands up for her principles.  She's got a crushes on boys, she has sleepovers with her best friend, she takes care of her cat, Fat Louie.  Oh, and, as she finds out in the first book, she is the heir to the throne of a small (fictional) European principality called Genovia.

Suddenly, in addition to all the normal freshman girl stuff, Mia's dealing with princess lessons with her strict Genovian grandmother, press conferences, and paparazzi.  Not to mention the knowledge that someday she might actually have to RULE GENOVIA.

The books are funny and sweet and hit just the right notes with tween girls.  Anne Hathaway's expert narration takes them to another level.

Anne Hathaway, star of the Princess Diaries movies, narrates the first three audiobooks in the series and she is FANTASTIC!!!  She's already known as Mia's voice (due to the aforementioned movies) and she absolutely brings the character to life.  I could practically see the events in the book unfolding before my eyes.

And she's so funny!  Hathaway varies her voice in pitch from whispers to impassioned wails as she navigates Mia's drama-filled diary entries.  She also uses different voices for different characters, tackling the French-Genovian accent with ease (as well as other accents and voices for many different characters).

I seriously can't recommend these enough.  If you're looking for some titles to get you hooked on audiobooks, these three recordings will do it.

Anne Hathaway, sadly, does not read the rest of the audiobooks in the series, but that won't stop me from giving them a try.

All three titles are available now!

Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, which means that if you buy products after clicking on links here, I get a small commission

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Into the Woods at Storytime

For this week's storytime we went into the woods with stories about all kinds of woodland creatures!  Here's what I did:

Opening Song:  "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi

Memory Box Item:  This week's Memory Box item is a spider from Raccoons and Ripe Corn by Jim Arnosky. 

Book:  Raccoons and Ripe Corn by Jim Arnosky.  This is a quiet sort of book with muted, realistic pictures.  I think it would be great for one-on-one sharing or for certain groups, but it did not quite do it for my group this week.  Then again, I tend to prefer more dramatic, rambunctious stories, so maybe I was not the best reader for this book.

Book:  The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big, Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood.  This one's more my style, and I had a mom ask me to tell her the title again after storytime so they could check it out.  :)

Rhyme:  Five Red Apples.  I explained that the bear in the last story liked eating strawberries, but I had a bear friend who loooved eating apples!  I put up the five red apples and as we took away one in the rhyme, I had my bear puppet snatch it off the felt board and gobble it up. 

Five red apples, sweet to the core.
Bear came and ate one and then there were four.

Four red apples, sitting in a tree. 
Bear came and ate one and then there were three. 

Three red apples, one for you and you and you.
Bear came and ate one and then there were two. 

Two red apples, shining in the sun.
Bear came and ate one and then there was one. 

One red apple, left all alone. 
Bear came and ate one and then there was none.

After he eats all the apples, I have my bear puppet fall asleep and snore until the kids wake him up.  

Book:  I'm Not Cute by Jonathan Allen

Activity:  Woodland creatures.  Miss T in our department always puts together a color activity for her Toddler Time and I borrowed her woodland creatures.  She decorated a box to look like "the woods" and I passed out a woodland creature to each of the kids.  I told them we were going on a hike and when we spotted each animal, I would ask them to come up and put it in the box.  We had owls, deer, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, bears... and lots more!  I like this activity because it helps them learn about taking turns and it gets them up and moving around a little bit.

Song:  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.  It doesn't have anything to do with our theme, but it's my favorite and I needed something to get some of their wiggles out.  Note:  this is okay!  It's okay to include things that aren't on your theme!  In my mind it's more important to have a fun storytime than to religiously stick to a theme.

Book:  Acorns Everywhere! by Kevin Sherry.  I thought I would give this one a try because sometimes stories can surprise you by being great readalouds, but this one flopped.  I thought the kids would either be really into it and love it or they would not get it at all, and, unfortunately, this week it was the latter.  I think this might work for older kids, but it went over the heads of my preschoolers.  A different book would have been a better choice.  Ah, well.  You live and learn!

Felt:  Animals in the Woods.  As I said the rhyme, I placed each animal on the felt board.  At the end when the bear comes and the animals hid, I slapped on a forest scene felt piece over all the animals except the bear.  Here's the rhyme:

In the woods, there is a lot to see.
A small, gray squirrel lives in an old oak tree. 
The spotted deer come out to play
Where furry fox likes to stay. 
The soft little rabbits lounge and laze
While the sleepy owl flies through the haze. 
The masked raccoon loves to eat.
The tiny chipmunks are so sweet. 
Black and white skunks walk in a line.
The beavers are working together so fine.
A big black bear walks out of his cave
And all of the animals were not brave, 

Ending Song:  Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take- Home Craft:  Raccoon masks.  We have dies for the mask shapes and we included all the pieces, so the kids just have to glue the pieces together and draw on a nose and whiskers.  Bonus:  masks are great for encouraging dramatic play!

Alternate Books:  If you don't like or don't have some of the stories I used, here are some others you might consider:

Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson (or a different Bear book if you're in a different season!)
Raccoon Tune by Nancy E. Shaw (I should have used this one instead of Raccoons and Ripe Corn, probably)
Nuts to You by Lois Ehlert
Scoot! by Cathryn Falwell
A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk by Deborah Ruddell - I wouldn't read this collection of poems straight through, but a few poems sprinkled here and there would be grand!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Author Extravaganza at the New Albany Library!

And now for a shameless plug...

On Saturday, March 19 at 2:00pm, the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library will be hosting three fabulous YA authors!!

We will have: 

Susan Coventry, author of The Queen's Daughter (Henry Holt, 2010)

  Kelly Creagh, author of Nevermore (Atheneum, 2010)

 and Julie Kagawa, author of the Iron Fey series (Harlequin Teen, 2010-2011): 

Susan, Kelly, and Julie will be talking about their books and answering questions from the audience.  Books will be available for purchase and autographing at the event.

This event is free and open to the public!  To register, please call the library Reference Desk at 812-949-3523 or shoot me an email ( with your name and phone number. 

The library is located at
180 W. Spring Street
New Albany, IN 47150

Please join us!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Queen of the Falls

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg.  Grades 2-5.  Houghton Mifflin, April 2011.  Unpaged.  Review copy provided by publisher.

What was Annie Edson Taylor to do?  It was 1901, her charm school had just closed, saying goodbye to its last pupil, and Annie didn't have much saved up.  At 62 years old, Annie couldn't scrub floors for a living and she was too proud to take a shopkeeper's job, selling candy to the children whom she had once instructed.  Instead, she would find fame and fortune... by being the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel!

And who ever would have thought that the first person to go over Niagara Falls and survive would be a 62-year-old woman?

Chris Van Allsburg brings to life an unusual slice of American history, evoking the turn of the century with his expressive pencil drawings.  Sadly, things did not pan out for "The Queen of the Falls" and Annie Edson Taylor's post-falls publicity tour flopped when spectators were not interested in seeing a little old lady instead of the "lady daredevil" they expected.

This is an interesting and engaging nonfiction picture book and Chris Van Allsburg expertly pairs the art with the text to build suspense.  The expressions used in the art contribute to the rising tension and are particularly well-done.  In fact, Mr. Van Allsburg mentions his work on the expressions in the following video, talking about the making of the book:

One page of back matter includes a photo of Annie Edson Taylor, Mr. Van Allsburg's notes about his inspiration for the book, a list of successful "Barrel Riders", and a short bibliography.  Sadly there are no source notes for the quotes used in the book, nor does Mr. Van Allsburg address whether he fabricated them for the sake of the story.

All in all, this is a very well-done picture book that shines a light on an overlooked lady in American history.

Betsy's got another review over at A Fuse #8 Production, so make sure you check that out.

Queen of the Falls is due out on April 4!

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Anastasia's got the roundup at Picture Book of the Day!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In My Mailbox

This was kind of an epic mailbox week, so I'm just gonna get straight to it (check out The Story Siren for the roundup!).

Lost and Found by OSCAR WINNER Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2011). 

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin, April 2011).  Nonfiction picture book about a lady who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Um, how awesome is that?

Across the Great Barrier (Frontier Magic #2) by Patricia C. Wrede (Scholastic Press, August 2011).  I read the first book in this series (Thirteenth Child) and it was not my favorite, but I'm still intrigued by the idea of Wild West magical fantasy, so I think I will give this one a shot. 

Behind the Gates (Tomorrow Girls #1) by Eva Gray (Scholastic, May 2011). 

Brother/Sister by Sean Olin (Razorbill, June 2011).  The tagline is "Just give them a chance to explain", which is very intriguing. 

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando (Dutton, May 2011).  I snagged a copy of this one at ALA, so watch for a giveaway coming soon. 

The Empire of Gut and Bone by MT Anderson (Scholastic Press, June 2011). 

Flood and Fire by Emily Diamand (Chicken House, June 2011).  Sequel to Raider's Ransom

From Willa, With Love by Coleen Murtagh Paratore (Scholastic Press, July 2011). 

Her Evil Twin by Mimi McCoy (Scholastic, May 2011). 

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca (Scholastic, May 2011). 

So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti (Viking, May 2011). 

Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram (Scholastic Press, August 2011).  Debut author of color! 

The Storm: Dogs of the Drowned City by Dayna Lorentz (Scholastic Press, June 2011). 

Unfriended:  A Top 8 Novel by Katie Finn (Point, July 2011).

And I purchased a few books this week, too!  On Saturday, I attended an author signing in Carmel, IN and picked up Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson and The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell.  

And for my Emerging Leaders work, I purchased What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee. 

So, it was an awesome bookish week for me!  How about you?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Around the Interwebs

Here's what I've been surfing this week:

A clip of the new Wimpy Kid movie!!  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules will be in theaters Friday, March 25!

March is Women's History Month and the KidLitosphere is celebrating!  Check out Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month for a month-long extravaganza of guest posts about important women and kidlit. Margo of The Fourth Musketeer and Lisa of Shelf-Employed are the brilliant bloggers organizing this project. Cheers to both of them!

Are you a blogger drowning in ARCs and review copies?  Put those copies to good use (and clean out your bookshelves) by joining #ARCsFloatOn, a project run by Sarah of The Reading Zone.  #ARCsFloatOn pairs up bloggers with classroom teachers to find places for ARCs in classroom libraries.  Most classroom libraries are 100% funded out of the teachers' own pockets and while ARCs cannot be cataloged and put on library shelves, they can be used for classroom libraries.  Check out Sarah's post for more info on how you can help.

And speaking of Sarah, she's got the schedule for next week's Share a Story, Shape a Future Blog Tour!  Make sure you tune in to that next week.

Craig of posts about the future of libraries.  In a world where a computer can beat human Jeopardy contestants, how long 'til we're all replaced by Google?

Amanda of Not Just Cute discusses the balance between encouraging early literacy and developmentally appropriate practice.

And Jen of nerdgirlblogging shares her future wedding dress (she wishes!): a dress made entirely of Little Golden Books.  Voila:

The dress was designed and created by Ryan Novelline of Boston.  Click through to his site for more fantastic pictures. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roarke Dowell.  (Grades 7-10.)  Atheneum, March 2011.  211 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Goat poop.  This is the only reason people know who Janie is at her high school:  she's the girl who stepped in goat poop and stank up the whole school bus.  And it's entirely her own fault because she's the one who suggested that the family move to a farm in the first place (she was only nine!  Who takes a nine-year-old seriously?!).  Janie didn't think that's how high school would be.  She pictured herself surrounded by a group of close friends, laughing and flirting with cute boys, running for student council.  Instead, she's eating lunch by herself in the library and trying to remain anonymous (it's that or be called Skunk Girl... urgh).  As things slowly begin to change for Janie, will it mean hooking up with her major crush Jeremy Fitch?  Will it mean losing her best friend Sarah?  Will it mean having to sing at a hootenanny thrown by her farm-embracing blogger mom?

Ten Miles Past Normal is a story about a girl embracing her originality, allowing herself to be weird, and navigating the tricky landscape of freshman year.  Everything's so different from middle school and suddenly she's reevaluating everything.  Sure it's pretty out on the farm, but why can't she live in a suburb like everyone else?  Her best friend Sarah is her lifeline at school, but lately Sarah's been annoyingly controlling and fake... is it maybe time for Janie to branch out?  And how does she do that, exactly?

What captured me first about Ten Miles Past Normal is the humor.  From one mortifying incident to another, Janie's self-deprecating humor carries throughout the book.  And while I loved the character of Janie, I also really dug the supporting characters, particularly Sarah's older sister Emma.  Emma is someone the girls have looked up to for years and she's always been something of a wild card.  She's brilliant, but skips school, gets in trouble, and dates a motorcycle-riding punk.  But as the story moves forward, Janie discovers that there's much more to Emma than meets the eye.  (Which is exactly the same thing she's discovering about herself, if only she'd have the confidence to accept it!)

I loved the layers of the story. There's the farm thing, dealing with her best friend, making new friends, learning how to play the bass, a boy named Monster, an embarrassing blogger mom, and a research project on two octogenarian civil rights activists.  Where it could have easily spun off into Too-Much-To-Handle Land, instead each layer enriched the story and made it a more complete and satisfying read.

Teen girls venturing off into the unknowns of high school will identify with Janie's struggles.  This is a story with many laughs, a good dose of quirkiness, and a whole lotta heart.

I'd recommend Ten Miles Past Normal to fans of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock for teens who liked DJ Schwenk's determination to do something different with her life (even though she did not feel particularly special).  I also think fans of Dowell's previous books The Secret Language of Girls and The Kind of Friends We Used To Be will dig this newest novel for its realistic depictions of high school life.

Ten Miles Past Normal will be on shelves March 22.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Seuss-Tastic Storytime

Today, March 2, is Dr. Seuss's birthday!  So this week's storytime was all about Dr. Seuss.

Now if you've tried to do a preschool Seuss storytime, you know it's not as easy as it sounds.  Many of Seuss's books are way too long for preschoolers, so this calls for a little creativity.  Luckily, I have the fabulous Miss T who put together this storytime and she had the fabulous Mel of Mel's Desk who posted about her Dr. Seuss baby storytime!

So here's what we did:

Opening Song: "Shake Your Sillies Out" by Raffi

Memory Box:  This week's Memory Box item is a toothbrush from the book In a People House.

BookGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  Following Mel's advice, we only read the beginning part and the ending part.

BookIn a People House by Theo LeSieg

Fingerplay:  One Little Cat with little finger hats

One little cat on a sunny day
Put on his hat and went out to play
Two little cats when the sky turned dark
Put on their hats and went to the park
Three little cats when the sky turned blue
Put on their hats and went to the zoo
Four little cats by the kitchen door
Put on their hats and went to the store
Five little cats on a sunny day
Put on their hats and they all ran away.

Flannelboard StoryOne Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.  We just did the very beginning part of the story:

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish
Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish
This one has a little star
This one has a little car
Say! What a lot of fish there are!

Song:  We sang "Happy Birthday" to Dr. Seuss, of course!!

BookMarvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss

Flannelboard StoryTen Apples Up On Top by Theo LeSieg.  Again, we just did the very beginning part of the story:

One apple on top.
Two apples on top.
Look! See! I can do three.
I’m not going to stop; I’ll put four apples on top.
I’m not through; I can get five apples on top. Can you?
I am so good, I will not stop, six, seven eight apples on top.
Not one will I drop, I have nine apples on top.
Nine is very good. But then… Come on and we will make it ten!
Ten apples up on top!

Felt Activity:  Color hats.  I passed out one felt hat to each child and invited them up to put their hat on the board when I called their color. An activity like this is a simple way to get kids involved with your storytime and to reinforce concepts like colors.  

Take-Home Craft:  A Cat in the Hat picture.  Google eyes, pipe cleaners, and pom poms.  What more could kids possibly want?  (Okay, glitter, but I am NOT putting glitter into take-home craft bags.)

This week for the book list handout, I featured nonfiction titles from the series The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That because I figured they would be titles families are less familiar with.  (And also, we're more likely to, y'know, actually have them on the shelves this week...)

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!!