Thursday, May 24, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Ghost Boys

You guys. This book. My heart. I just... This is one not to miss if you've got kids asking questions about social justice or things they've heard (or seen or experiences) about police violence. It's incredibly tough and beautiful, and it would make an excellent conversation starter.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is narrated by Jerome. Jerome wasn't doing anything.

He was playing.
In his neighborhood.
With a toy guy his friend had given him.

Until he wasn't.
Until he was shot.
Until he died.

Now Jerome's stuck as a ghost. He desperately wants to move on; he doesn't want to see his family in pain. He doesn't want to see them moving on and living their lives without him. But Jerome, and all the ghosts of boys killed due to racial injustice, can't move on.

The first ghost that Jerome gets to know a bit is the ghost of Emmett Till who was killed in 1955. That's a lot of years for ghost boys to be waiting for change, for the world to get better so that there stop being more ghost boys.

This book absolutely broke my heart. It's a hard read. And it says such important things. It starts a conversation essential to have with middle schoolers.

The only character in the book who can see Jerome as a ghost is Sarah, the 12-year-old daughter of the police officer who killed Jerome. Not only does this show essential similarities between the two children - they're the same age, they're the same height even though Officer Moore describes Jerome as being massive and threatening - but it humanizes Officer Moore. He's a person. He made a terrible decision. He has a family. His daughter cares what happens to him. As Sarah learns more about the trial and hears corrections from Jerome about what went down that day, she has to figure out how she feels about her father and what she's going to do with those feelings.

Middle school kids who aren't ready for books like The Hate U Give or How It Went Down need this book. This is an essential purchase for library shelves. It deserves to be read widely and taught and discussed.


Readers looking for more moving stories of atrocities against people might try How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle, narrated by a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Parker Inheritance

A great middle grade mystery story puts child heroes into the position where they are the only ones who can solve the mystery. Sometimes it's because they don't trust the adults in their lives enough to involve them. Sometimes it's because adults aren't present. And sometimes it's because the adults around think the mystery is a joke. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson is one of the latter kind.

Candice is spending the summer in her late grandmother's house due to some complications with her separated parents and their house in Atlanta. When she meets Brandon, the boy across the street, and discovers that he loves reading almost as much as she does, she thinks she might have found a friend. And when she discovers a long-forgotten letter in her grandmother's attic, a letter that speaks of a fortune hidden in town awaiting the person who can solve the puzzle, she knows she and Brandon have to try to find it. Her grandmother tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.

Everyone thought Candice's grandmother was crazy for pursuing the Parker Inheritance, and when she didn't find it, they forced her to resign from her position as City Manager. So of course everyone thinks that the fortune is a myth. And it's going to take two kids with the power to believe and the perseverance to solve the clues to figure it out.

Candice and Brandon begin to decipher the clues in the letter, a challenge that will lead them to research the town's history, racial injustice, forgotten heroes and a true love story. But can two kids do what no adults have been able to do in decades? Can they solve the mystery before time runs out and the answers fade back into the past?

Kids who like puzzle mysteries and solving riddles are going to eat this up. And it's a story with meat on its bones. As Candice and Brandon are researching, they discover a lot of unsavory stuff that happened to the African Americans who started the whole thing in the 1950s. They learn a lot about their families and their town and themselves as they try to piece together where the fortune came from and where it might be hidden.


Hand this one to kids who like puzzle mysteries. Then also hand them any or all of the following:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Puffin, 1978). The original? fortune-hunting children's mystery story, this is still a classic beloved by many. Candice reads it in the book, a fitting homage.

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, 2017). Take an armchair travel trip to China as Mia tries to find her aunt and maybe a fortune beyond imagination.

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (Dial, 2014). This art history mystery will especially appeal to kids who like the historical and research themes in The Parker Inheritance.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, 2018. 352 pages. ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 4: 2018 Debuts

This fourth week of #MiddleGradeMay is all about those debut authors and there have already been some FANTASTIC debut books coming out this year! I'm really excited to tell you about four of my favorites that have come out so far this year in the video below. (Do you like the videos I'm making? I am a totally newbie at YouTube, but I have been enjoying it.)

Books mentioned in this video:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, May 2018) - comes out next week on May 29!

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (Feiwel and Friends, March 2018)

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown, March 2018)
Whoops - this is not actually a debut novel, but it is Blake's first middle grade novel and also I want you to know about it, so I'm leaving it in there!)

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge, March 2018)

These debuts are awesome! You should definitely check them out and I hope that we'll

Thursday, May 17, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Be Prepared

I do not actually buy a lot of books. When you're a librarian, you don't always need to. We are surrounded by free books. But when I started updating our grade level book lists to get ready for Summer Reading, I was hearing a lot of buzz for this title and I wasn't going to be able to get a library copy in before I needed to have the updates done. So I bought it.

No regrets!!!!

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol gave me the feels. Like, so much that I actually had to put it down at one point and come back to it the next day. And I dreamed about summer camp.

Almost-10-year-old Vera is on the outside a lot. Although she gets invited to slumber parties with the other girls, she's never really part of the in-crowd. And when she tries to throw her own birthday slumber party, things go horribly awry. Vera always feels different than the other kids and part of that is because, as Russian immigrants, her family is different. Which is why, when Vera hears about a Russian culture summer camp sponsored by her church, she is desperate to go. All the kids in her neighborhood disappear to go to various camps in the summer and Vera's sure she's finally found a place where she will really fit in.

But camp is not at all what Vera expected. She's put into a tent with two girls who are best friends and who are much older than her. There's no running water, which means using a disgusting outhouse for two weeks, and Vera can't seem to do anything right. Having no friends at camp is even worse than having no friends at home because at home at least a bear's not going to eat you. And you have toilets.

This story is based on author Vera Brosgol's actual experiences and she definitely captures that feeling of being on the outside. What strikes me about this book is that it's so raw and real; Vera makes some bad decisions and some cruel decisions sometimes. Even though she knows how it feels to be the odd one out, she still is sometimes mean to some of the other kids. When you're growing up and you're figuring things out, you don't always make the right decisions and Brosgol doesn't shy away from that.

Camp is made out to be this idyllic experience that everyone looks back on with nostalgia and longing. And it's not that way for everyone! I was one of those kids who went to camp and did not have an amazing time. I had a fine time, it wasn't torture every minutes, but given the choice I did not elect to go back. So I definitely identified with Vera.

So, yes. Go get this book. Add it to your Summer Reading lists. I think it'll be a hit with kids.


This is another great entry into the Children's Graphic Novel Memoir category, so kids who enjoy books like Raina Telgemeier's Smile, Jennifer Holm's Sunny Side Up or Cece Bell's El Deafo will also enjoy this one.

Don't miss Vera Brosgol's fiction graphic novel Anya's Ghost, which is also great.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. Grades 4-7. First Second, April 2018. 256 pages. Review copy purchased (!!).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Blackbird Fly

Here's a backlist title for #MiddleGradeMay and I'm kicking myself because it took me so long to pick it up. I've recently read Erin Entrada Kelly's latest book and it made me want to go back and pick up the one that I missed. Blackbird Fly (Greenwillow, 2015) is a favorite booktalk title of one of my school booktalk partners and I can definitely see why! This is a raw and realistic portrayal of middle school bullying.

The Dog Log.

Apple is on the Dog Log, a list of the ugliest girls in school that the boys come up with each year. Apple knew she didn't have many friends and the popular kids sometimes said mean stuff to her, like calling her a dog-eater because she is Filipino. But to be on the Dog Log? There's no coming back from that. Apple's plan is to get a guitar, learn how to play all her favorite Beatles songs, and then run away to become a street musician and ditch this middle school life forever.

Unless... When a new kid shows up at school, a kid who knows nothing about the Dog Log, maybe he'll go with Apple to the Halloween dance. And then maybe she won't seem like such a hopeless loser. As Apple gets to know Evan, she realizes he's very different from the kids she thought were her friends. He doesn't seem to care what people think. He's interested in her Filipino culture. And he might be able to help her turn everything around.

As I was reading this, I kept thinking about Blubber by Judy Blume, which I know is a dated reference from my own childhood. But that's the level of meanness going on here, more heartbreaking because I know it happens in schools every day. Apple feels trapped, stuck with "friends" who are mean to her because it's better to be with someone who makes fun of you than to be alone.

Music is a savior and a healing agent here. Apple listens to her Beatles albums over and over again. The Beatles are a connection to her dad who died in the Philippines and they are a bridge to her future. Apple envisions a future writing and performing songs, even as her mom refuses to support her, saying that she won't make any money or get a good job by studying music. As we go through the story, music starts bringing people together.

This is a powerful story that will speak to victims of bullying and it's one that you should definitely have in your RA repertoire for when that question comes up.


Hand this to kids who like Wonder by R.J. Palaccio but don't mind a rather more bleak outlook. Kelly's latest novel You Go First would also make a good readalike with a similar tone and outlook on middle school life and how kids who are different are treated.

Readers interested in the musical aspects of the book should definitely check out Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2017), which has a similar theme of a talented musical kid whose parent doesn't approve of his plans to be a musician. Other musical novels that might be of interest include A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (Scholastic, Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

Readers interested in more books about kids figuring out their identities might also like Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins, 2015) or The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods (Nancy Paulsen, 2014).

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly. Grades 5-8. Greenwillow, 2015. 296 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 3: Underrated Middle Grade

It's the third week of #MiddleGradeMay and we're almost halfway through the month. I hope you've found some awesome middle grade lit to read this month! The theme set by our Booktuber host Akoss for this week is Underrated Middle Grade, meaning books that have less than 1000 ratings on GoodReads. I have three of my favorite underrated books for you today in this week's video:

Books mentioned in this video:

The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, 2017).

The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtald (Feiwel & Friends, 2015).

(Second Buckle & Squash book is The Gigantic Giant Goof-Up)

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung (Scholastic, 2016).

I was a little surprised at some of my favorite titles that have less than 1000 ratings on GoodReads once I started looking at it. You might be surprised, too! What are some of YOUR favorites that you wish more people would read?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Crushes. Remember how confusing it was to figure out crushes? Maybe you had them and didn't know how to talk about it. Maybe your friends had them and suddenly could talk about nothing else. Maybe you had a crush that seemed like it was "wrong". Maybe you never had any crushes and wondered why everyone else seemed to. Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown, 2018) is a great book about first crushes and that unique ache that middle school love can bring.

There's been a lot changing recently in Ivy's life: Ivy's mom had twin boys, Ivy's suddenly feeling a rift between her and her older sister, Ivy's feeling like she doesn't matter very much to her family. And there's this big thing that she can't tell anyone, not her mom, not her sister, not her best friend. Ivy's never had a crush, but when she imagines herself having a crush, she imagines it with a girl. She doesn't know any other girls or women who have relationships with other girls or women. She knows that girls her age are supposed to like boys. And... she doesn't. So she keeps it to herself, letting her art journal be her only outlet for her feelings.

At the beginning of the book, a tornado descends upon her rural Georgia town and destroys Ivy's house. Her family escapes with their lives, but not much else. And suddenly Ivy's life is truly thrown into tumult. In the aftermath of the storm, June, a girl from Ivy's class, shows up with her doctor mom to help victims of the storm. And suddenly Ivy's imagined crush has a name.

But what do you do about a crush that's such a big secret you can't tell ANYONE? And what do you do if you're not sure and if making a decision about who you like might change your life forever?

Can I tell you that I am so glad that middle grade LGBTQ lit is blossoming? There have been a handful of great titles published over the past couple of years and I'm so excited to purchase it and put it on my library's shelves to reflect our diverse community. These books are so needed. As mentioned by this book's editor in a forward note in the galley, middle grade is when many kids start identifying their preferences with regards to relationships. As gatekeepers, we need to be certain that we're providing mirrors to all kinds of different experiences. And when it's a great, moving story with unforgettable characters, that's just all the more reason to put Ivy Aberdeen on our library shelves.

Ivy's a great tween character, dealing with being stuck in the middle of her family and being stuck in that "tween" place - no longer a child, not yet an adult. She's thoughtful and sensitive and wants to help more than anything, but she's afraid that her family sees her as a bother, a burden when they have so much else going on. I love the use of the physical storm as a catalyst to the story that represents the emotional storm going on within Ivy's mind. And Ivy's pain and confusion is palpable as she tries to navigate after the storm, feeling unsure not only about her place in her family (the unwanted middle child), but about her place in society.

Readers who look for stories about the tween experience or stories about first crushes will find much to love in Ivy.


There have been some great LGBTQ middle grade novels that have come out in the past couple of years. Readers looking for more lesbian or questioning characters should pick up P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy and Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee.

Readers who want additional realistic books that really GET how it feels to be a tween might enjoy P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia.

And readers looking for more middle grade books about exploring first crushes might like Shug by Jenny Han.

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to  the World by Ashley Herring Blake. Grades 5-8. Little, Brown, 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA Midwinter.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: You Go First

Well. Erin Entrada Kelly's done it again. She is a master of that particular ache that comes from middle school. In You Go First (Greenwillow, 2018), we meet two characters separated by 1200 miles. Charlotte and Ben are friends who've never met in real life. They play online Scrabble against each other and battle it out for first place on the leaderboard. Online, each of them can present the persona they want to. They could be kids who have nicknames, kids who are about to be elected student council president, kids who have friends...

But real life is different. Both Charlotte (Philadelphia) and Ben (Louisiana)  find themselves alone. Charlotte's discovering that her best friend is moving on to a different group of girls. Ben has always been a loner. And both of them are dealing with big life changes. Charlotte's dad is in the hospital after having a heart attack and Charlotte's ridden with guilt over how they've been growing apart. Ben's parents just told him they're getting a divorce, his home life will never be the same.

Over the course of a week and many narrative turns back and forth (mimicking the turns taken at Scrabble), Charlotte and Ben will come to depend on each other much more than they ever had before. With no one else to turn to, they turn to each other as they start to navigate the muddled, confusing waters of middle school.

Oh, this one got me in the feels. It's not overtly heartbreaking, but it's heartbreaking in its way of describing exactly how it feels to be in middle school and be totally flummoxed by how others are acting. The small (and big) actions of the other kids are so cruel, but so commonplace. As I was reading, my heart ached for these small, confused kids just beginning to grow up.

Erin Entrada Kelly is a master of showing her characters rather than telling you all about them. Sometimes the things she leaves out are even more important than the things she leaves in, letting readers discover Ben and Charlotte as they read the novel. This book reminded me so much of the Judy Blume books I read as a kid - books I read when I wanted to meet characters like me dealing with middle school life.


This is a great followup to Kelly's Newbery-winning Hello, Universe (Greenwillow, 2017). Readers who loved her character development in that book will find much to love in You Go First.

The tone of the book reminded me a lot of Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb, 2015), which is another character-driven book that explores middle school through the eyes of several characters.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly. Grades 4-7. Greenwillow, 2018. 304 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA Midwinter. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 2: Heartbreaking Reads

How is your #MiddleGradeMay going? I have been reading some really great books and today I have some suggestions for you if you're looking for something great to read. Our Booktuber host Akoss has set themes for each week of #MiddleGradeMay this year. This week's theme is Heartbreaking Books and I've got booktalks of three of my favorites in this video:

Books mentioned in this video:

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry (Laurel Leaf, 1977) - the first book that ever made me cry. I read it for the first time in fifth grade.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart (Scholastic, 2015).

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, 2016).

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2004). (There is also a sequel, which I forgot to mention but which is also awesome: After Ever After.)

I hope you'll join us in reading and celebrating middle grade books this month! What are YOUR favorite heartbreaking middle grade reads?

Friday, May 4, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: The Serpent's Secret

Oh, you Percy Jackson fans are so lucky. 2018 is your year. Because 2018 is the year that The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta came out, opening a brilliant new mythology series.

When Kiranmala's parents disappear on the morning of the 12th birthday (which also happens to be Halloween), the New Jersey tween doesn't think too much of it. Until a giant rakkhosh demon shows up at her house, thirsty for blood, and two handsome Indian princes arrive, announcing that they're here to save her. Kiran doesn't need saving - she handles the demon pretty well on her own, though it's not pretty - but she does need answers. What has happened to her parents? And how can she save them?

Kiran discovers that there is truth behind the magical stories her parents used to tell her. She is an Indian princess, she's been living under a magical spell that broke on her 12th birthday, and she'll have to journey through other dimensions, meeting all kinds of fabulous and horrifying creatures to try to get her parents back.

This series opener is a great readalike for Percy Jackson because it mixes action-packed adventure with a strong dose of humor. Although there are lots of fantasy-adventure-mythology series that have come out since Percy Jackson became so popular, this one stands out because I think the tone is very similar. Kiran is a smart, strong heroine who is up to the task of saving the world and young readers who enjoy fantasy adventure will clamor for the next books in the series.

I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author. She reads with a ton of energy and singsong voices for the monsters that make the most out of the punny and slapstick humor. If sometimes her voice is a bit unpolished, it's made up for by the fact that I know she's pronouncing everything write and that she's an #ownvoices narrator telling her story. And for an author narrating, it's really very decent.


Of course, hand this book to fans of Rick Riordan's many mythology series (Percy Jackson, Magnus Chase, etc.).

And you'll also want to hand it to fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Disney-Hyperion, 2018), which also came out this year. (See? I told you Percy Jackson fans are hitting the jackpot this year!)

Readers interested in Indian mythology will also want to check out The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda (Scholastic, 2013), although be warned that the only books one and two of the Ash Mistry series were published in the US.

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta. Grades 4-8. Scholastic, 2018. 368 pages. Audiobook from Scholastic Audio. 8 hrs. 14 minutes. Read by Sayantani DasGupta. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay: Front Desk

Immigrant experiences. They're being talked about a lot nowadays with everything in the news and our current political climate. It's important to give kids books that will show them different ways of life and how life can be for immigrants to this country. It's also important to give kids engaging stories with plenty of humor about characters they will care about and root for. Luckily, young readers will find both in Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, May 2018).

Mia's a girl with a lot of secrets. When she starts fifth grade at a new school, there's a lot that she doesn't want her classmates to know. She lives in a motel instead of a house. She works at the motel, along with her parents. And she dreams of being a writer, even though she doesn't completely have English grammar mastered yet. (And even though her mom keeps telling her to concentrate on math because she'll never be as good at English as the white kids.)

Mia's family lives and works at the Calivista Motel, one of the best jobs her parents have had. A room is included, so they don't have to pay rent. And they're lead to believe that they will make a good salary on top of that. But the stingy motel owner Mr. Yao will do anything to gouge his employees. They're not allowed to swim in the pool (because then everyone will want to swim in the pool and do you know how much it costs to launder that many towels?!). They have to answer the door even in the middle of the night. And they can never leave the front desk unattended. Which means that while her parents clean the rooms, Mia helps out by checking in guests and taking care of their every need.

And she helps her parents sneak in fellow immigrants who need a place to crash. If Mr. Yao found out about that, you can bet they would lose their jobs in a split second. But these folks have nowhere else to turn and Mia's parents can't turn them away. 

Based on experiences from the author's own childhood, this is an amazing debut and a novel that everyone should check out. It has so much to say about immigration and racial issues in this country, and it approaches these issues in a really kid-friendly way. As Mia and her family are running the motel, they run into many immigrants who need a place to crash and they share their stories. Stories like employers taking their passports and IDs "for safekeeping" but really to hold immigrant workers hostage and immigrant children avoiding playing sports at school because their families don't have health insurance and the risk of injury is too great.

Above all, Mia is a big believer in dreams. She and her classmate Lupe talk about two roller coasters - one crappy roller coaster that poor people are stuck on, a self-perpetuating ride they can never get off because they can never get ahead. Just when all the bills are paid, someone needs to go to the hospital and there's no insurance and here you go around the track again. Then, there's the other roller coaster - the rich people roller coaster - much nicer with your ride paid for the people who came before you - your family who can send you to the best schools so you get the best jobs and the best salaries. Mia and Lupe have many conversations about how to get off the low roller coaster and join the higher roller coaster. It seems impossible, but they can dream about it. Maybe all it takes is one lucky break.

Hand this to kids who like realistic fiction with plucky heroines who are learning never to give up on their dreams.


For kids who love Mia's indomitable spirit and can-do attitude, hand them Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage or All Four Stars by Tara Dairman.

For more stories about kids living in unusual places, try All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor or Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

For kids who are interested in reading more about kids living in poverty, hand them How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor or Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.

For kids interested in immigrant experiences, hand them A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord or Return to Sender by Julia Alzarez.

Front Desk by Wendy Yang. Grades 5-8. Scholastic, May 2018. 286 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 1: Memorable Characters

Welcome to MIDDLE GRADE MAY!!!

Yes, it's that time of year when we drop* all other reading and devote ourselves to middle grade books! Read middle grade during the month of May and post about it on any social media you like with the hashtag #MiddleGradeMay so we can all see what awesome books everyone is reading!

*Okay, I'm not entirely dropping all other reading, but I'm definitely making space for middle grade this month!

This year our lovely Booktuber Akoss has set some weekly themes to give you ideas on what to post about or just to highlight some great books that you might want to check out this month. And the theme for this first week is Memorable Characters in Middle Grade Lit.

And I made a video!! I am not normally a vlogger, but Akoss has inspired me to give it a try. Below you'll see three of my most memorable characters in middle grade lit.


If you don't feel like watching it or if you want more information, here are the books mentioned in this video:

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters series) by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2010). Other books in the series: P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial, 2015). Sequel is The War I Finally Won (also awesome).

Ghost (Track series) by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, 2016). Other books in the series: Patina and Sunny.

Stay tuned this month for tons of posts about middle grade lit. And I hope you'll join us in reading middle grade this month!

Who are YOUR favorite characters in middle grade lit??

Sunday, April 29, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay TBR

It's nearly May and that means I'll be catching up on all the wonderful middle grade lit that I have in my TBR pile and using the hashtag #MiddleGradeMay to spread the word. I have an amazing to-read pile lined up:

Here are the books at the top of my TBR pile for this month. I may or may not read all of them. I may read other stuff, too! But here's my starting pile: 

Who's joining me for #MiddleGradeMay this year? What are YOU most looking forward to reading??

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Day in the Life

I've done many Day in the Life posts before for my previous Life as a Youth Services Librarian... it's high time that I type up a Day in the Life for my current position as Collection Development Leader! This day turned out to be a day that I had lots of little tasks instead of working steadily on a couple of big projects. Although my days are definitely more similar to each other now, I do have lots of different things that I work on. I've worked up a loose schedule of weekly tasks that I like to complete and then there are always long-term projects and a million little things to work on in-between.

So what does a day in the life of a collection development librarian look like? It could look like this:

7:40am - Arrive at work, put things away, check bullet journal for today’s tasks. It's a casual dress day, so I am wearing my new shirt from Book Riot and nerdily excited about it.

7:45am - We’re considering our options for digital content, so I read through a current contract, highlighting relevant information and jotting down some talking points and questions to go over with my Director later.

8:05am - Done with contract, skip down to lounge in search of something for breakfast. Check emails, greet colleagues as they come in.

8:15am - Since I am very new to the world of selection and acquisition, my director and I thought it would be a good idea for me to take a cataloging class. Now, I check in to my cataloging class and add to the discussion boards. I work on and submit my assignment for the week.

9:15am - I want to submit my weekly book order today, so I log in and start working on carts. I have been building them all week, but I check on how close I am to my weekly spending goal and add/subtract titles as necessary. I also double-check that I have my grids set on everything (grids tell our processing and cataloging team which area of the collection they’re for and which branch, if we had a branch) and that there are no books put in without a quantity.

10:00am - Short break for a conference call with our main book vendor. We’re outsourcing our processing to them and still in the process of getting it all set up. We chatted about how things are going and switching to electronic invoicing.

10:10am - Back to finishing up these orders. I’ve submitted them and now make sure that I enter the amounts I’ve spent into my budget spreadsheet.

10:30am - Short break to answer a question about changing call numbers and to look into the process of making global changes in our catalog. Then back to updating budget spreadsheets.

10:45am - We get an email about with the program schedule for an upcoming conference and I shoot out a recommendation to my staff on a session that I would like them to go to.

11:00am - Fun with POs! I put in POs for some previous orders and get a few in order to take up to our Business Office for processing.

11:30am - Early lunch today so I can make sure to be back on time for a call this afternoon. I am lucky to live close enough to work that I can go home for lunch.

12:30pm - Back from lunch and I spent some time poking around Edelweiss. This is a great resource for finding pre-publication books and I am not super familiar with it. I'm on the hunt for finding out about diverse books enough ahead of time that I might be able to read them and potentially nominate them for Library Reads.

1:00pm - My cataloger and I have a conference call with someone from our ILS who is training us on using their online selection and acquisitions module. We learn about updating vendors, importing MARC records, and placing orders through their system so that they get into our catalog as "on order".

2:15pm - I continue the discussion with our cataloger about the new module and what our next steps will be. We got a response to our help ticket about making global changes to the catalog, so we try out the instructions and discover that it is something we can do quite easily.

3:15pm - Read and respond to emails about Hoopla's new Book Club site, resources for finding diverse adult books, etc. I clean up my desk since it's possible we may have some visitors to the office tomorrow.

3:50pm - Work on letter of recommendation for one of my colleagues who is applying to library school.

4:30pm - Help our cataloger finish cataloging some video games and game controllers that were brought in by our Public Services Dept. for us to put in the circulating collection.

- Run a report to find the new Large Print titles that have been added so I can update our new LP binder… then think better of it and email our most recent large print selector and homebound outreach coordinator to make sure the binder is still useful now that we’ve implemented some other strategies to make patrons aware of new books. She felt like we don’t need it, which saves me quite a bit of work. I write up a little reminder for her about running a list of the new titles in case she needs it and we’ll leave it at that!

5:00pm - Type up this Day in the Life and schedule it to post...

5:20pm - Done! Time to head for home!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Mary's Monster

I've got Frankenstein on the brain.

2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of the classic science fiction novel Frankenstein and Indiana Humanities is celebrating with a One State / One Story program, encouraging communities all over the state to read and talk about this book. My library was one of the lucky ones to receive a grant to provide programming, so we definitely have all things Frankenstein on our radar.

Enter: Mary's Monster.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge is a biography in verse that tells the story of Mary Shelley. AND HER LIFE WAS DRAMATIC AS HELL!!!

Seriously. Drama. Her mom died when she was a baby, something Mary always blamed herself for a little bit. She got sent away to Scotland by a stepmother who didn't like her. She fell in love with a married man (who wasn't that much older than her - Mary was 16 and Percy was 21), left her family to be with him and then he started fooling around with her sister. She had a baby with the married man and the baby died. And that's just like the first part of the book.

In Mary's Monster, this is all told in carefully crafted prose poems that are paired with dark, brooding artwork that really brings the time period and the intensity to life. The text and artwork in this book are equally impressive to me. The texture of the art really conveys a lot of emotion - dark and smokey backgrounds lend a sense of mystery and foreboding. At times it looks like ink has spilled across the pages, appropriate for a biography of a writer.

And author Lita Judge gets teen love. Look at this poem about the first time Mary meets Percy Shelley:

The day Percy Bysshe Shelley
walks into my life
is as if a bolt of lightning
shoots through my soul

My heart
had been like the Holborn sky,
thick and cold
and the color of coal.

Then, in an instant,
a crack of thunder
and the entire landscape
of my existence changes. 

(Pg. 74)

This is a powerhouse of a book that will give teen readers a new perspective on Mary Shelley's life. You don't have to have read Frankenstein to get swept up in the drama, but this would make a super supplementary title for students who are reading it. You really see where the creature's longing to be loved and to have a place where he belongs comes from: Mary was searching for the same thing.

The back matter is a joy. Lita Judge includes end notes that flesh out the story of Mary's life and finish the stories of characters we meet in the book. She explains events she left out and why, and there are extensive source notes.

Hand this to teens with dark and gothic souls who will be swept up by the tragic romantic story of Mary Shelley's teen years, teens who are writers, and teens who love to read about All the Drama.


Fans of dark graphic novels like the newly illustrated Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll will dig this verse/graphic hybrid.

Readers who enjoy biographies in verse like Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill (Random House, 2007) or Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins (Henry Holt, 2010) may also like this one.

And readers who like intense, dramatic books about historical figures like The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller (Schwartz & Wade, 2016) or Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin, 2015) may also be fans.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge. Grades 8 and up, adult crossover. Roaring Brook, February 2018. 312 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade May!

Yes, it's once again time for #MiddleGradeMay!!!

There's nothing fancy to it - just read middle grade books during the month of May and share them on social media with our hashtag. You can blog about middle grade books, tweet about them, post photos on Instagram, post about them on Litsy, share them with your Facebook friends... wherever you are on the web, share about what middle grade lit you're reading in May.

This year, I am so excited to be collaborating on #MiddleGradeMay with the wonderful Akoss and her YouTube channel. We actually met and bonded over #MiddleGradeMay last year. Check out her intro post here:

She's got it all planned out with themed weeks, so feel free to share your favorites for the themes each week OR just read whatever middle grade you want and tell us all about it.

Here are the themes for each week in May:

  • Week 1 - Favorite memorable middle grade literature characters 
  • Week 2 - Favorite heartbreaking middle grade novels 
  • Week 3 - Favorite under-rated middle grade books (less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads) 
  • Week 4 - 2018 Middle grade debuts you want everyone to request from their Libraries 
  • Week 5 - Middle grade books that feature diversity in a positive and uplifting way
Annnnnd don't forget to check out our cohosts who will be posting videos in May: 
I am so not a YouTuber, BUT I have promised Akoss that I might give it a go, so you MAY see some of that, too. ;) 

Which middle grade books are YOU looking forward to reading in May??

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On Ordering Ebooks

Boy howdy. Ordering ebooks.

As you may know, I recently stepped into a new role at my library as the Collection Development Librarian. One of my duties is, of course, maintaining our electronic collections. This means ordering and managing our ebook collections.

There's a lot I'm still figuring out about this job and ebooks is one of them. Part of the problem is that we're all still figuring out ebooks, including the vendors and publishers. Yes, ebooks have been available to libraries for years now, but the pricing schemes are still sometimes ridiculous and I just have to hope that someday they may become more reasonable.

At my library, we currently use Overdrive for ebooks and e-audiobooks and we just recently subscribed to Hoopla for downloadable movies, music, ebooks, and audiobooks. Since Hoopla is really new to us, I'm closely monitoring how it's doing. Hoopla operates on a cost-per-circ model. That means we pay nothing to make the entire catalog of Hoopla's offerings available to our patrons; we only pay when our patrons actually download the material. And everything Hoopla offers can have simultaneous users, meaning there is never a holds list, all Hoopla materials are always available. We offer 8 downloads a month to our patrons.

Overdrive has recently offered a selection of books that can be offered on a cost-per-circ model, but I haven't explored it in depth yet. I'm waiting to see what our spending on Hoopla will be once it evens out a bit.

I want to offer our patrons what they want to read. I want to purchase the newest releases and the best-selling titles. But it becomes a balancing act because these titles are almost always incredibly expensive. Depending on the publisher, an adult ebook could be upwards of $60-70 per copy (and that one copy can only be checked out by one user at a time). Popular downloadable audiobooks often run $80-90 per copy. I want to provide the most in-demand stuff, but my budget only stretches so far. When I might not think twice about buying 5 or 6 copies of popular print books, doing that with ebooks might break the bank. So that means lots of decision-making.

It's also fascinating to me to see titles that circ like crazy as downloadable when the print copies sit collecting dust on our shelves. Lots of teen titles, in particular, are like this. I'm astonished at the high number of ebook circulations for some whose print counterparts collect dust on the shelves.

The children's ebooks are the opposite of that (for the most part). We tried to build up a good selection of children's materials, thinking that the way to convince families to use them is to have them there so we can promote them. But a lot of the children's material has very low circulation, particularly when compared to adult titles. It's another conundrum: I have a special passion to provide high-quality children's material in all formats. But if it doesn't check out, how can I justify spending my limited budget on it when I know I could buy adult titles that would check out?

I mostly have questions and no answers here, but one technique I have had some success with is placing small orders each week. I try to place an Overdrive order once a week so that there's something new on a regular basis. This helps to keep our circulation up as it keeps people coming back to check for new stuff. Even if the new stuff has a wait list, they may discover something else they want if they're in the mood to download a book. It's frustrating to look at my weekly budget and know that I will only be able to afford 10-15 titles a week (and a lot of times those get eaten up by additional copies to satisfy holds or by copies that have reached the end of their metered access and I need to replace them). But I just take each victory as it comes. Whenever I buy something and then see that it's checked out, I do a little happy dance.

What are your techniques for ordering ebooks? Any special tricks I should know?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

All the Names They Used for Gods

Y'all know that I dig short stories. I've been making a point of seeking out short story collections and adding them to my TBR pile this year, and I just finished an amazing one.

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva is a masterpiece collection. Each story in this delightful collection completely transported me to a new world. It grabbed me from the first story about an albino woman in the pioneer west who discovers a network of caves near her house and explores them while her husband has been gone for months on a trip. Then there's a steel worker injured in a factory accident watching his daughter grow into his supporter and caregiver. There's a fisherman who meets and becomes obsessed with a mermaid and teens abducted by zealot soldiers who will do anything to get away.

Each story is its own world and completely immersive. The characters and settings are so strong that I would have read any one of them as a full-length novel, but they're the perfect length for what they are. They left me feeling like I wanted more, but also like I was satisfied. They're sticking around in my head, is what I'm saying.

There's a mix of genres here, although each story has at least a touch of the fantastic. There's historical fiction and science fiction here, too, making this a true genre-bender of a collection. There's something for everyone here, tied together by striking imagery and unforgettable characters.

I loved this collection. Like, I think I might buy a copy for my personal library, which is a strong statement from a practicing librarian.

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva. Adult. Spiegel & Grau (Penguin Random House), 2018. 256 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999; 198 pages). This is another great short story collection that has stuck with me throughout the years.

The Power  Naomi Alderman (2017; 386 pages). This novel has similar science fiction elements and strong female protagonists as several of Sachdeva's stories.

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (2018; 240 pages). I haven't read this one yet and it looks scarier than Sachdeva's stories, but it might make a good choice for fantasy or horror readers dipping their toes into short stories.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Love, Simon

Have you seen Love, Simon yet??

My husband and I went to see it this weekend and I L-O-V-E loved it.

And, confession: I have not (yet!) read the book. If you aren't aware, the movie Love, Simon is based on the YA book Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 2015).

I'm sure you're all aware of this movie and this book; librarians can't stop talking about it. When I told my husband we were seeing it this weekend and that everyone I knew said it was great, he said, "Are they all librarians?" Umm...... yes.

But afterwards, he agreed with all my librarian friends that this was an excellent weekend viewing choice. More than just entertainment, it's so important that this movie was made, that this movie exists for today's teens and future teens. That more teens than before can see themselves in the media and know that others have experienced first love many different ways. But it's also just a great movie.

I laughed and I cried. I cried so much. I had all the feels. For Simon, for Simon's parents, for Simon's friends. This movie got how people (teens, yes, but all people) can manipulate their friends, that feeling when your back is against the wall and you do something that you know isn't right, but you do it anyway because it feels like your only choice.

I feel like a cheater-pants for posting about this movie without having read the book (yet!), but I couldn't keep it inside. I laughed, I sobbed, I just want to see it again AND read the book. And probably all of Becky Albertalli's books.

If you haven't seen it, I urge you to go! And then pick up the book (which I will be doing, too) to experience more of Simon's world.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A One-Sitting Read

One of the categories for Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge is "a one-sitting book". That's really hard for me. I tend to be a distracted reader. I need to take breaks. I need to put it down for awhile and do something else. I very rarely finish a book all in one go unless I'm doing a weekend reading challenge. Even when I was serving on the Newbery Committee, I was much more likely to read half of a book and put it down and start another and then finish up the first book the next day.

So, when I tell you that this book was nearly a one-sitting read for me, I want you to know what that means. My husband and I are currently working our way through Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix (which I have never seen and am hugely enjoying) and I even turned down watching episodes to read this book.

Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir from a woman with an unusual upbringing. Brought up by off-the-grid end-of-days-preppers on a remote mountain in Idaho, Tara was never vaccinated, never saw a doctor or dentist, and didn't even have a birth certificate until she was 9 years old. And she never went to school. Her mother attempted homeschool from time to time, but there was always too much work to be done at her father's scrap metal business for a real education to take place.

When abuse from family members escalated, Tara knew that she needed a way out. Some of her older siblings had found ways out: marriage, jobs... and her older brother Tyler had gone to college. Tara began to dream of going to college, too. But that dream seemed impossible. She had never taken an exam in her life, but now would have to ace the ACT to be considered by colleges. She had never studied or written an essay. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement.

It's not really a spoiler to tell you that she makes it out. In fact, Tara Westover went on to not only complete her Bachelor's degree but to study overseas and eventually earn a PhD. It only makes her unusual upbringing that much more fascinating to know how she ultimately went on to live a very different life.

I mean, what Tara and her family members endured... I couldn't look away from this book, even as it completely disturbed me. I completely take for granted that if a horrifying accident happened to me or someone around me, we'd go to the hospital. That wasn't an option for the Westovers. And they just kept surviving medical trauma that I thought for sure would kill them.

Like, I knew Tara would eventually be at least relatively okay because I knew she had gone on to write this book. But I had to read it to believe it and to see how she would possibly escape.


Hand this book to folks who enjoyed memoirs about others with unusual or traumatic childhoods like The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls or A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. Although this book is published for adults, I think there's a great deal of crossover appeal for teens, particularly teens who enjoyed either of these readalike memoirs.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Random House, February 2018. 352 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrity Book Clubs

Okay, I love me a celebrity book club... as long as their taste is similar to mine. When I was young and stubborn and first working in a bookstore, I eschewed Oprah's Book Club as a herd mentality way of choosing books. Of course, what Oprah's Book Club really did was spotlight literature and get generations of viewers interested in books, which I now recognize is totally awesome.

Lately, Oprah is joined by more and more celebrities using their power to spotlight their favorite reads. Of course, librarians know about Sarah Jessica Parker's ALA Book Club: SLJ Picks. Reese Witherspoon also shares her picks on Instagram in her Hello Sunshine book club.  Emma Watson has a feminist book club on Good Reads. And I'm sure there are more and more to come.

I'm particularly excited that a lot of the recent choices have been diverse titles by #ownvoices authors! I know they don't need any more publicity, but here are a few I have been digging recently:

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2017). William Morrow. 304 pages. Audiobook narrated by Meera Syal. Review copy provided by my local library.

Reese Witherspoon's latest book club choice is a story about a British-Punjabi new adult who, floundering about her career choices, starts teaching a writing class at a local Sikh temple. From the publisher copy: "Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind."

I just started the audiobook of this title because I needed an audiobook that would REALLY COMPEL me to keep listening (otherwise I do no cleaning and get no exercise, so...). I think this one is going to fit the bill. I'm one chapter in and loving it so far. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018). Algonquin Books. 320 pages. Review copy purchased with my Book of the Month subscription - want to try it? Use my referral link here to get a free book!

I am in the middle of this one right now and pretty much all I want to do is stay home and read it. Oprah's latest Book Club choice is about an African American couple and what happens to their relationship when, after a year and a half of marriage, husband Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's totally character-based, which is my jam, and I'm just fascinated with where the story's going. It may have extra appeal for me as a wife coming up on our second wedding anniversary: what would I do if this happened? How would we handle it? 

Funny story: this book was available to preorder as "Oprah's Book Club Choice" before the title of Oprah's choice was announced. Of course I ordered multiple copies, knowing that a new Oprah pick would be super popular. I came in to the office one day to find four copies of this book on the processing cart and I said, "Oh, no, what did I do now? Why did I order four copies of this book?" only to find out that - of course - it was Oprah's pick. I was so happy because it had already been looking forward to this book. And I am enjoying it so, so much. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017). Penguin. Review copy purchased from Book of the Month

This one was a Reese Witherspoon pick from back in the fall and it's recently been announced that it'll be made into a series on Hulu. My family book club read this one last fall and had some great discussions around it; you can bet one of the book club ladies sent me the news of the new TV series as soon as she heard. 

Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families, intertwined by happenstance, who change each other's lives in dramatic ways. It also tells the story of a young Chinese mother who abandoned her baby, only to change her mind and fight against a white adoptive couple for custody of the child and how the fight divides their community. 

What do you think about celebrity book clubs? Any favorites you've discovered through celeb recommendations?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Honest Truth

So I just got a survey from my alma mater, Indiana University, which is up for re-accreditation next year. And one of the questions was "Why did you choose to attend Indiana University Bloomington for your degree?"

And I gave the honest answer.

Which is this:

My boyfriend lived in Bloomington and I wanted an excuse to move back there. We broke up two months after I moved back, BUT I got a  great education and have yet to break up with libraries. 

So, y'know. We all have different paths and at least the ex was good for something.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Folks. FOLKS. Are you paying attention? Because if you serve any Percy Jackson fans, YOU NEED THIS.

As you may be aware, Rick Riordan has a new imprint with Disney-Hyperion called Rick Riordan Presents. This new imprint is for middle grade series based on world mythology written by own voices authors. YES. GET EXCITED.

And I want to let you know that this very first book in the very first series of the new imprint is AWESOME. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi.

Aru Shah is somewhat of a loner. She lives with her mom in Atlanta in a house connected to the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, but her mom is gone most of the time on business trips. She tries to make friends with the kids at school, but somehow Aru's active imagination always seems to get in the way. So when three of her classmates show up at the Museum one day, Aru is desperate to impress them... so she tells them about the cursed lamp, the lamp her mother has warned her never to touch.

Aru lights the lamp.
And time stops.
Lighting the lamp awakens an ancient, evil spirit called the Sleeper. And now Aru, a descendent of the legendary Pandava brothers, has nine days to save the world.

If you have fans of Percy Jackson in your library or in your life, you're going to want to get this series opener. Fittingly, it is the best readalike for Percy Jackson that I have yet read. The story is full of action and adventure and interpretations of Hindu mythology, but it also has a lot of humor, giving it a tone that feels very much like Percy Jackson.

I love that Rick Riordan is using his superstar author status to publish own voices stories and I think these are going to be hits. Aru Shah comes out March 27, so go ahead and get your orders in. You'll want this book on your shelves and you'll want to add it to your booktalks.

It's been announced that the next series from Riordan's imprint will be focused on Mayan mythology (The Storm Runner by Jennifer Cervantes is out in September) and Korean mythology (Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee is out next January). I, for one, can't wait!

Featured book: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Grades 4-8.) Disney-Hyperion, March 2017. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Building a Collection Development Toolkit

Image of a light bulb inside a chalk thought bubble. Like, an idea.

When I took on a new position as Collection Development Leader at my library, I knew I would need to reach out to find resources to help me in my job. I have been pretty good at staying on top of what's being published as far as youth materials since that's been part of my job for many years. But I am brand new at collecting materials for adults, so I've been building up my resources in that area. Not only did I need resources, but I needed to figure out how to manage them in a convenient way.

One system that's worked for me is signing up for collection development and reader's advisory emails and then setting up filters so that they go to their own folders and I can peruse them when I have time. Emails go straight to their own folders and then I reserve some time each day or every couple of days to look through them.

What are the resources I have found so far? 

Book Pulse from Library Journal. Becky Spratford of RA for All pointed me to this resource and I am so grateful. Updated each weekday, this blog points out popular titles for the week, books new to the NYT Best Seller List, and books that have been reviewed in big publications or mentioned in the media. It also shares general book news like award announcements, author deaths, etc. The posts can be emailed to you, so I get them in my Book Pulse folder each day.

Baker & Taylor's Fast Facts. This weekly email includes not only hot titles for the upcoming week and titles about to be featured on radio and TV but it includes a spreadsheet of all titles being published the following week. Sometimes that's too overwhelming, but it's broken down into Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, New Paperback, etc. so unless it's a super busy week it's helpful to me to double-check and see if there's anything I've missed that I want to make sure I order. My library is a Baker & Taylor customer, but it looks to me like you can access their Fast Facts even if you're not (I could be wrong!)

Shelf Awareness Pro. This is another weekday email blast that sends out book-related news. A lot of it pertains more to bookstores, but it helps me keep my eye on the publishing world. Even the ads can be helpful, pointing me to books that are being heavily marketed that I might want to put on my radar.

Check Your Shelf. This is a new bi-weekly email sent out by Book Riot for a librarian audience. Even though I haven't actually gotten my first email yet, I trust it will be a useful resource since I already rely on Book Riot's blog posts to help make me aware of new and upcoming adult books. Bonus: if you sign up now you can enter to win a free library cart!

LibraryReads. Each month, LibraryReads announces librarians' top ten picks for the upcoming month so you can put them on your radar. I get these emailed to me so I can forward the list out to my public services staff and make them aware of hot books that will be coming out.

RA for All. Becky Spratford has an amazing blog with tons of resources for reader's advisory, which goes hand in hand with collection development. I've found out about many great resources through her blog.

Book Riot. Here's another great blog for staying on top of what's new and upcoming in books. What I love about this site is that it's geared towards all readers; there's something for everyone here. Not every post is relevant to my work, but there are tons of book lists and they make an effort to feature diverse books, which is important.

Rich in Color: Diverse Books Release Calendar. Here's another great resource for keeping on top of diverse children's books coming out. It's something I have bookmarked to check each month so I can be sure to be collecting diverse titles for my library.

These are some of the resources I have found most useful and use regularly. I use other resources from my vendors (e.g. Baker & Taylor's Automatically Yours plan and their First Look carts). What should I add to my toolkit?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Another Great #24in48

This weekend was the 24in48 Readathon, one of my favorite events of the year! My husband and I cleared our calendars (partially) and stocked up on books and snacks and we read, read, read all weekend long. One of the things I like about this readathon is that it allows some flexibility since it takes place over two days. We hosted an event for our friends and I took numerous naps and I still made it to 24 hours this weekend!

And I read some GREAT books this weekend! You can expect longer posts about some of these, but this was my list: 

  • Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (Soho Teen, January 2018). I got halfway through this one last night. A Muslim Indian teen is caught between two boys she likes while she tries to figure out how to tell her parents she's going to NYU instead of the university they like. 
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2017). So cute and funny, this was un-put-down-able to me. Korean-American senior Desi has always succeeded when she has a plan, but can a plan to find love based on Korean drama shows work when she falls for brooding artist Luca? 
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hinandani (Dial, March 2018). It's 1947 and Nisha and her family are forced to leave their home after India's partition divides the country into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu/Sikh India. The book is written in diary entries and reminded me of Anne Frank and The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. 
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017). After prep school boy Justyce McAllister is arrested for trying to help an intoxicated friend (NOT carjacking her like the police assume), he starts to really notice the injustices happening around him and to write letters to Martin Luther King to sort out his thoughts about what's happening. Teens looking for a primer on privilege and the Black Lives Matter movement need look no further. 
  • Hurricane Child by Khreyn Callendar (Scholastic, March 2018). Born during a hurricane, Caroline has always been able to see things no one else can. When a new girl comes to school and agrees to help her find her mother, Caroline finds herself swept up in new feelings. 
  • American Panda by Gloria Chao (Simon Pulse, February 2018). Mei has always been the good Taiwanese American girl, doing just what her parents want. But as she starts pre-med at MIT she'll have to face the fact that she's a total germaphobe and that she's falling for a boy her parents would never approve of. 
  • Chasing King's Killer by James L. Swanton (Scholastic, January 2018). In the tradition of his other books for young readers, Swanton has written a gripping true crime thriller about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • Superb Vol. 1: Life After the Fallout by David F. Walker, Sheena Howard, and Ray-Anthony Height (Lion Forge, December 2017). A comic with a superhero with Down's Syndrome. Yes, please.
  • And I listened to about 3 hours of my current audiobook, LaRose by Louise Erdrich.
My standout favorites of the Readathon were Chasing Martin's Killer and I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Both of those were un-put-down-able and the pages flew by as I was reading them.  But I really got to read a lot of fantastic books this weekend. 

I want to send a big huge

thank you!!!

to our Readathon hosts. This is such a fun weekend for me and I really appreciate the work that goes into making it happen! 

Mark your calendars for the next 24in48 Readathon, which will be happening July 21-22, 2018!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#24in48 Readathon

Friends, the 24in48 Readathon is coming up again this weekend and I have been getting ready!

With my recent change in position at my library, I have been reading so many adult books, which is great and I've read some awesome books. But I'm dedicating this weekend to getting caught up on the teen and middle grade titles I've had my eye on. I'm pretty excited about having a weekend of stellar reads to pick up, and a bonus of reading youth lit is that they're quicker reads. I love finishing multiple books and really getting a sense of accomplishment out of my readathons.

I always like to have a wide variety of books at my disposal for these events, and I choose way more books than I will actually be able to finish. I've been working on getting my To Be Read stacks ready, and here are some of the books I may pick up this weekend:

It's not too late to sign up and dedicate your weekend to reading, reading, reading!

Are you participating in the 24in48 Readathon this weekend? What's on your stack?