Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In the Doghouse

Dog storytime!

Quick and dirty, here's what we did:

Books read:
Desmond the Dog by Nick Denchfield. Short and simple with fun moveable parts to keep things interesting.
Ten Dogs in the Window by Claire Masurel.

Felt stories:
Dog's Colorful Day (book by Emma Dodd). For more fun, hand out the colored spots and have kids place them on the dog when you get to the color they have.
Bark, George! (book by Jules Feiffer). A kid- and parent-pleaser for sure.

BINGO with felt glove. The kids don't always understand the concept of leaving out a letter in each verse, but that's okay. Having removable letters on a glove or flannel board promotes letter knowledge, one of the six early literacy skills!

Activity: Give a dog a bone. If you have awesome, creative staff members to create props for you, that's awesome. If you don't, you can make it yourself.

Take a large cardboard box and cover it in brown paper. Cut out a hole for the mouth and add doggie decorations (ears, eyes, etc.). Cut out bone shapes from different colors of construction paper and laminate.

Hand out a bone to each child and have them take turns "feeding" their bone to the dog. Call for each color and have the child with that color come to the front to feed the dog. This activity is infinitely adjustable to strengthen different skills. Mark each bone with a different letter to practice letter knowledge. For older kids, write short words on each bone and ask for rhyming words (ex. "Who's bone has a word that rhymes with hat?")

Lastly, don't forget your display of dog books for families to check out after storytime:

Want more ideas? Check out my Cats and Dogs storytime and The Almost Librarian's Dog Days of Summer book list.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: Almost Perfect

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. (Grades 9-12.) Delacorte Press (Random House), October 2009. Review copy provided by publisher.

High school senior Logan was crushed when his girlfriend Brenda dumped him. He was having a really hard time getting over it. Enter Sage. Sage is a new girl in his school, in itself a rarity in a small Missouri town where Logan has known all his classmates since Kindergarten. And Sage is kind of stunning. She's tall with wild curls and she seems to like him. Logan starts to think he can forget about Brenda.

But then Sage tells him a secret: she's actually a transgendered boy. And Logan will have to decide what to do. He knows Sage needs a friend. But is he strong enough to stand beside her, knowing what people would say and do if they found out?

The first thing I really liked about this book was Logan's realistic voice. I felt like he really came to life and I could really believe that he was telling me this story of something that happened to him. Here's how he describes Sage on the first day they met:

Maybe it was the way she obviously worked so hard to give the impression she didn't care how she dressed. Or the tiny lines radiating from her green eyes, lines that a teenager would get only from constantly smiling. And what a smile! When she grinned at us, I got the strangest feeling, like she was smirking at something foolish I'd just done but it was okay because she thought it was cute. (pg 18 - quote is from ARC and may appear differently in final copy)

The next thing I really liked about this book was the unique perspective. There are a couple of YA novels about transgendered teens (Luna and Parrotfish come to mind), but this was the first tale I'd seen told from the perspective of the heterosexual partner. Logan's in a hard spot in this book. He knows that his conservative community would never accept Sage if they knew the truth about her. But he's also a good guy. As much as he'd like to, he can't leave Sage to fend for herself.

And then there are his own confused feelings. If he's still attracted to Sage, does that make him gay?

Almost Perfect is a great addition to the cannon of GLBT YA literature. I'd recommend it to any teen with an interest in the subject.

Read more at Reading Rants!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. (Grades 4-7?) Candlewick, September 2009.
Copy checked out from the library. Because libraries are awesome and where would we be without them?

Peter is a 10-year-old boy, an orphan training for a life as a soldier. When his master sends him to the market with a coin to buy bread, Peter makes an impulsive decision and spends the coin at a fortune teller's booth instead. He asks about his sister - is she living and how can he find her? - but the fortune teller's advice is preposterous. She tells him to follow the elephant. But no one Peter knows has ever even seen an elephant.

When the magician "accidentally" brings an elephant crashing through the roof, crushing the legs of one of the fine ladies in the audience, Peter sees a glimmer of hope. And things will come together in a truly magical way.

Ohhhhh where to even start?

The Magician's Elephant is a magical tale. It's one of those quiet, powerful books, each word chosen carefully. It's unspeakably sad, but also happy and hopeful. I think this will be a book that you either love or you don't.

I'll be interested to see what kids think of it. It reminds me of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. And it also kind of reminded me of Lois Lowry's Gossamer. All three of those books combine that ethereal, magical feeling with some heavy subject matter.

I'm sorry - I know this isn't much of a review, but I think The Magician's Elephant is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself and decide what you think about it. Sarah Miller described it as an "out-of-body experience", which is exactly how I feel only I'm not nearly as eloquent as she is.

Oh, and it's going to be a movie.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In My Mailbox #7

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren! Here's what came in the mail this week (well, through Thursday, anyway, as I left on Friday to head up to Naperville for the Anderson's YA Literature Conference!):

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick. Scholastic, February 2010.

Okay, I cheated a tiny bit because this actually arrived LAST Saturday, but I had a blue theme going on last week and... yeah. ANYhoo. A sequel/companion book to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (I guess technically it's a sequel, but I don't think you have to have read DGADP to understand it) = *squee!!*

And, um, I already read it and it is awesome! I'll have a full review for you soon. I laughed, I cried... exactly what I expected from the ever awesome Jordan Sonnenblick.

Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect the Planet by Harriet Rohmer. Chronicle Books, August 2009.

I requested this one after Mary Ann recommended it to me on Good Reads. I'm always looking for great nonfiction books to feature for Nonfiction Monday and this sounds right up my alley.

I thought I might have a week of green books, but then this arrived:

Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman. Putnam Juvenile, January 2010.

It's written by the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (upon which much of the movie Mean Girls was based). Summary from ARC:

All Charlie Healey wants is a drama-free freshman year of high school. Middle school was tough - mean girls all around her. But she's about to find out guys can be just as deadly as a mean girl.

And that's it for my mailbox this week. What was in YOUR mailbox?

Friday, September 25, 2009

On My Way

I'll be away from my blog this weekend because I'm headed (possibly right this very moment) up to Naperville for Anderson's YA Literature Conference! I am super excited to meet some awesome YA authors, spend some money on books at Anderson's, and hang out with my awesome Chicagoland friends.

If you're a Chicagoland YA lit enthusiast, I hope to see you there!

Expect a full post about the event when I return. To keep you occupied until then, check out my post about the 2008 YA lit conference. Good times, good times.

Audiobook Roundup

What's been spinning in my CD player lately? Hmm. If you're asking that, I suppose it's time for another Audiobook Roundup.

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going. (Grades 4-6.) Listening Library, 2005.

Fourth grader Gabriel King has decided that he's not going to the fifth grade. It's too scar
y. So his best friend Frita comes up with the idea of writing down everything they're afraid of and using the summer of 1976 to face every single fear on their list so that they'll be braver. Gabe's list is quite long. But when he finds something that Frita truly fears in their town, he knows he'll have to be brave so he can stand beside her and help her fight it.

I'm not sure what inspired me to pick this up at my local library, but it was an unexpected joy. I love any children's book that can deal with a serious subject (like race relations in the 197
6 American South) in a child-friendly way. I loved the narration and this audiobook is only about 3 hours long, making it perfect for those with a shorter commute (or taking a short road trip).

26 Fairmount Avenue, Books 1-4 by Tomie DePaola. (Preschool - Grade 3.) Listening Library, 2002.

In these short autobiographical chapter books, Tomie DePaola tells of his childhood growing up at 26 Fairmount Avenue. His adventures include moving into a new house, welcoming a new baby sister, taking tap dancing lessons, and starting kindergarten. Read by the author himself, the audiobook made me feel like Tomie was sitting down and telling me the story of his life. Very cool. The entire collection of books 1-4 only run for about 4 hours, making this another great choice for short commutes (or short attention spans). Great for families with younger kids.

The School Story by Andrew Clements. (Grades 4-7.) Listening Library, 2002. The School Story is one of my favorite Andrew Clements books. Natalie's mom is a children's book editor and when she vents to Natalie about how hard it is to find good books to be published, Natalie has a solution. Unbeknownst to her mom, Natalie's been writing a book, a school story - just the type of book the publisher is looking for. And it's good. But Natalie's only in sixth grade, so how can she get her book published?

This is another short one, just over 3 hours, and narrator Spencer Kayden really brings the story to life with her different voices for each character.

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. (Grades 4-7.) Recorded Books, 1996. Gilly Hopkins has been shuttled around to several different foster homes since her mother left, and Gilly's perfected the art of not caring about anyone. When she arrives at the house of a new foster mother Mrs. Trotter, Gilly's certain she can drive Trotter crazy and break free to join her mother in California. But things don't turn out the way she planned.

I remember enjoying this book when I was in grade school and I was curious to see if it would hold up to a reread. When I saw that the audiobook is narrated by one of my favorite narrators (Alyssa Bresnahan), I picked it up immediately. Of course, I loved the narration, but I do wonder if The Great Gilly Hopkins is relevant to today's kids. Certainly we still have foster kids, but race relations in 1978 were different than they are today (I would hope so, anyway). Gilly harbors some prejudice towards African Americans that might mystify some of today's kids, although that might also lead to some interesting discussions. Also good to note is that the language might be objectionable to some.

So, that's what's been spinning in my CD player. How about yours?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

After School Adventures: Flip Books

Last week we started our After School Adventures program which will run on Wednesday afternoons for a six-week session. The program is geared towards Kindergartners through 2nd graders and we generally do about 25 minutes of stories and 20 minutes of a craft, activity, or game.

I don't have a catchy theme title for this week, but we read books where characters wore different clothing or costumes. Here are the books we read:

I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems
Ribbit: Flip and See Who Froggy Can Be by Bender & Bender

For our activity, we made flip books. This is a really easy and really fun craft!

There are many ways you can do this, but I found a template outline of a person (such as this one from the Lewis and Clark Library) and ran copies off on card stock. You can do this on normal paper if need be, but regular copier paper is kind of flimsy and I've found that card stock works much better.

I ran off three templates for each child and provided them with crayons so they could design different outfits for each picture. Then we stapled the pictures together, adding a piece of construction paper in the front and back for "covers". Lastly, cut the card stock papers horizontally (but completely) at the neck and the waist so that kids can flip the pages and mix and match different combinations.

The kids enjoyed it. It's easy and cheap. And it's a good craft for a range of ages. We'll be doing something similar for preschool storytime next week. PLUS, by creating their own books, kids are increasing their print awareness, which is one of the six early literacy skills.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Memory Box

Allow me to introduce our Memory Box:

The Memory Box is a special thing we do at storytime. Each week we find a small object that appears somewhere in one of our storytime books. At the beginning of the storytime we ask kids to guess what's in the box and give them hints until someone guesses it. We ask them to be good listeners and good watchers and let us know when they see the object in one of our stories.

We use the Memory Box in our registered storytimes, which we do in sessions of six or more weeks. The first week there will only be one object in the box, but then we add a new object each week. Each week we ask the kids to remember objects from previous weeks and then we add one new thing. By the end of the six-week session, there are six objects in the box. You also might ask them if they remember which story the item was in.

Here are a few examples of Memory Box items we've used:

A small plastic pig to go with the book Bark, George!
An envelope to go with I Am Invited to a Party!
A pie (made out of felt) to go with All for Pie, Pie for All
A kite to go with AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First

Really, any item that will fit in a shoebox will do. It doesn't have to be a huge picture in the book (but if it's so small you think the kids won't notice it, you can point it out when you get to that page and ask them if they see anything that was in the Memory Box).

We do this with our registered storytimes, but you could also do it with drop-in storytimes. What I've done in the past for drop-in storytimes is to pull three objects that are found in our stories. Have kids guess what the objects are, tell them to look for the objects in the stories, and ask them to remember the objects at the end of the storytime.

And making a memory box is not hard! Of course, you can decorate it however you like. I decoupaged ours (which sounds fancy and hard, but is actually really easy). Here's what I did. I took a shoebox and covered it with white paper. (You might not even have to do this step, I just wanted to make sure that none of logos showed through.)

Get colored tissue paper and rip it up into pieces. Larger pieces will be faster, but if you like the way smaller pieces look, go for it. Dilute glue with some water (I used normal Elmer's glue and it worked fine). Use a paintbrush to paint a layer of the glue mixture over the box and place tissue paper pieces on the box. You can use any kind of paintbrush, but I used a large foam brush, which worked really well because it allows you to quickly paint on a layer of the glue. Use a craft stick or other utensil to smooth out any wrinkles. (DO THIS! I didn't do it because I didn't think it would matter, but now I wish I had. I think it'll look much better if you smooth it out.)

Let the glue dry, then paint on another layer of glue mixture and add more tissue paper. Keep layering until you have the look you want.

OH and there's a rhyme! When we bring out the Memory Box, we do this fingerplay with the kids:

Here is my box [hold up left hand as if you're holding a glass]
Here is the lid [place flat right hand on top of left hand]
Let's look inside [tilt right hand up and look inside your 'box']
And see what we hid!

Anyone else have something special they use to spice up storytime?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Out Now: Going Bovine

Just a friendly reminder that Going Bovine hits shelves today! Read my review here. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I'm interested to know what you think.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: Mission Control, This is Apollo

Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon by Andrew Chaikin and Victoria Kohl, with paintings by astronaut Alan Bean. (Grades 4-8.)

In 1961, the Space Race between the United States and the USSR was in full swing and President Kennedy vowed the the US would have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Mission Control, This is Apollo takes a look at the 12 Gemini and 17 Apollo space missions in the 1960s and '70s. Author Andrew Chaikin provides a detailed look at each manner mission complete with photos and paintings by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean.

In addition to detailed descriptions of the missions and astronauts, Chaikin includes sections describing life in space. From going to the bathroom to designing space suits to creating meals on the moon, these sections give readers a glimpse into the life of an astronaut in space.

This will be a valuable addition to library shelves as kids look for research material about America's missions to the moon. This book will also make great browsing material for any kid with aspirations to leave the Earth's orbit someday.

A detailed list of further resources is a great addition to the book. It also includes an index an author's note, and a note from Alan Bean on creating the paintings that were included in the book. Pair this one with Team Moon, Almost Astronauts, Reaching For the Moon, and Moonshot for an astronaut endcap.

Check out other reviews at Literate Lives, The National Space Society, and Bookends.

And hey, Happy Nonfiction Monday! You can find the roundup over at Bookends this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In My Mailbox #6

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature started by The Story Siren. Head on over there to see the roundup.

Apparently, this was the week of blue books for me:

Creepy Crawly Crime (Joey Fly, Private Eye) by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Neil Numberman. Henry Holt, April 2009. I got this one for the blog tour they're doing in November.

From publisher: Have you ever had one of those moments? You know - when you're trying to find a stolen diamond pencil box for your beautiful butterfly customer, your mosquito witness won't give you any information, and your clumsy scorpion assistant has just tampered with your only bit of evidence?

Joey Fly has those moments a lot. In fact, he's probably having one right now. But never fear. When Joey Fly, Private Eye, is on the case, nothing can stop him from getting his bug!

Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed. Philomel Books (Penguin), September 2009.

From publisher: Keep it quiet, but the world's most famous dog show is about to be attacked. Who are the daring but atrociously bred commandos led by a suspiciously beautiful daschund? Not at all what they seem, that's for certain.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko. Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), September 2009.

Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz with a few hundred no-name hit men, con men, mad dog murderers, and a handful of bank robbers, too. And one of those cons has just done him a big favor.

Moose has never even met Al Capone, but that didn't stop him from asking Capone to use his influence to get his sister, Natalie, into a school she desperately needs in San Francisco. Al must have come through for him, because Moose got a note in his freshly laundered shirts that said,

As this book begins, Moose discovers a new note. This one has two words.

"Your turn."

This one was a surprise and I have to say that I was not a huge fan of Al Capone Does My Shirts, but it sounds intriguing. I might have to pick up ACDMS again because I think maybe the reason I didn't like it so much was because it wasn't what I expected it to be. Which isn't really fair.

So that was my (very blue) mailbox this week. What was in YOUR mailbox?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Around the interwebs

Think your TBR (To Be Read) pile is overwhelming? Check out Greg's roundup of TBR piles from around the kidlitosphere. It even includes a TBR closet!

If you haven't been over to LibraryThing today, so hurry and visit. They're celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day in style. (I, as you can see, am not. At least not on this blog.)

YA Connection is back! This weekly feature was started by Kristi (The Story Siren) and Steph (Reviewer X), but it went AWOL when Steph's schedule got crazy. It's a great roundup of all things YA (book reviews, giveaways, author features, etc.), so do check it out.

Jackson Pearce didn't even know it was Book Blogger Appreciation Week when she wrote this post professing her love for book bloggers. That is why Jackson Pearce is made of awesome. (Go find As You Wish and read it, please. You will not be disappointed. I mean, unless you want to read it on a Kindle.)

Tomie DePaola's 75th birthday was September 15 and to celebrate Jarret Krosoczka launched Three Kisses for Tomie, a collection of artistic tributes to the legendary author/illustrator. See tribute pieces from Mo Willems, Matthew Holm, and others! (Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link!)

I found out through the Blue Rose Girls that Shen's Books, a publisher of multicultural children's books, is doing a feature called Multicultural Minute. Each week Renee is posting a short video about a topic relating to multicultural books, authors, and publishing. Take a look:

It's a neat idea and who doesn't have time to watch a 1-minute video? I love it and I hope she keeps it up!

And that's all I've got for you today. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


At last month's CYPD (Children's & Young People's Division (of the Indiana Library Federation)) Conference, we had the pleasure of being yelled at by Michael Sullivan. Michael Sullivan is a librarian extraordinaire. He's a huge advocate for boys and books and he's also a huge advocate for children's services in general. Having been both a children's librarian and a library director, he's got some unique insights.

I've often thought to myself and complained to my fellow children's librarians, "Children's services aren't taken seriously!"

Think about this. Mike pointed out that in most libraries, circulation of children's materials accounts for 35-50% of the library's total circulation. But when it comes time to divide up the materials budget, what percentage goes to children's services. Any of you get 50% of your library's collection budget? I didn't think so.

And why is this so? Because we let it be.

If we want children's services to be taken seriously, we need to advocate for us.

And how do we do that? By getting the numbers. Find out how many people are coming to your programs. Find out what percentage of your library's circulation is made up of children's books. Collect anecdotal evidence of how much the kids at your library love you. Know how many reference questions your department answers each week. (If you don't have a separate desk for the children's department, create a reference survey that will enable you to find out how many reference questions are from children or about children's materials.)

As Mike said, if you can't prove it, it didn't happen. Get parents to write down their comments about how much they love the library, how excited they are that you got Little Johnny to enjoy a book for the first time.

Educate yourself. Attend conferences, workshops, and classes. Read a professional article a day. Join a professional organization and volunteer on a committee. Engage in the wonderful community of librarians (reading this blog is a good start, thanks!).

This same principal is applicable to library services in general. In light of recent library budget cuts, it's especially important to advocate for your libraries. Think about the people who are in charge of how state/county/city money is spent. Are they the same people who really need the services libraries provide? Are they the ones using library computers to file for unemployment? Are they Spanish-speaking parents who are learning about developing early literacy skills in their children? Are they kids who have nowhere to go after school? Odds are they're not.

The first step is to collect the data. Then we have something on which to build our case.

Library service to children is invaluable. I know it. You know it. But we need to be able to prove it. And then everybody will know it.

PS: If you ever get a chance to hear Michael Sullivan speak, DO IT. He is awesome.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BBAW Interview with Diary of an Eccentric

Today, as part of Book Bloggers' Appreciation Week, I've got an interview with fellow book blogger Anna of Diary of an Eccentric. It was totally awesome to "meet" a new (to me) book blogger and get to know her! Anna's blog started off as a knitting blog, but in the past 2 years she's posted more and more reviews of a wide variety of books. Her nine-year-old daughter even gets in on the act, writing about such books as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Frindle, and Coraline. I hope you enjoy getting to know her, too!

(Also, head on over to her blog to see her interview with me!)

AtL: How long have you been blogging, and what prompted you to start?

Anna: I launched Diary of an Eccentric in June 2007. Though I’ve always been a bookworm, I was doing more knitting than reading at the time, so I figured I would post knitting projects and some talk about books and writing. I’ve long been working on a novel and some short stories, so I thought blogging would help me get the creative juices flowing. I though writing about something every day would prevent writer’s block. However, it wasn’t until my one-year blogiversary that I started posting on a more regular basis. At that time, I had set aside the knitting needles and was reading more often, so I shifted emphasis to writing mostly book reviews. I was so na├»ve about blogging. I had no idea that there were other people online talking about books just like I was!

How has your blog changed since you started? What tips would you give to a beginning blogger?

Well, the biggest change was starting to regularly post book reviews about a year ago. I’d originally planned a knitting blog, but I think you could count the number of knitting projects I’ve posted in two years on one hand. Actually, this year, I’ve posted only one completed project but more than 70 book reviews. I think I made the right choice.

I’d tell beginning bloggers to write about what interests them most, to remember that it’s their blog so if they want to post book reviews alongside crafts, movie reviews, family stuff, etc., go right ahead. Whether they do or not really depends on their vision for the blog, but no matter what, it’s important that they are true to themselves. They should pay close attention to design (no black backgrounds with dark lettering or white backgrounds with yellow lettering, for instance) and spelling and grammar. Don’t stress about reviews—write what you honestly think (while still being polite) and keep in mind that you’re talking to a bunch of friends who enjoy books just as much as you do. It’s also important to visit other blogs and comment (that’s how you make friends, after all) and not to be afraid to ask questions.

That's a great point about talking with a bunch of friends who enjoy books! This great community of bloggers is definitely one reason I love to blog. Do your real-life friends and family read your blog? What do they think of it?

My husband reads it occasionally, as does my sister, a cousin, and a close friend from church. They all say they like it, but would they really tell me otherwise? Ha ha!

Do you have a specific place in your home where you generally blog (i.e. office, comfy chair, kitchen, etc.)? What’s it like?

To be honest, after sitting at a computer for 8 hours at work and a couple of hours on public transit every day, I don’t really want to go on the computer in the evenings. Right now, we have a desktop computer at a desk in my cluttered kitchen. The desk never stays tidy no matter how many times I fix the bazillion papers my husband scatters. Needless to say, I can’t wait to get a laptop (hey, Hon, don’t forget that my birthday and Christmas are coming soon!!). If I’m not in the mood to sit at the computer in the uncomfortable office chair, I’ll lounge on the recliner (which will be my blogging space when I eventually get that laptop) and jot book reviews down into one of my zillion notebooks to be typed up at work on my lunch break. I generally don’t write out the entire review long hand, just a few sentences to remind myself of what I want to say.

What non-book blogs/websites do you love to read?

My guilty pleasure is Celebrity Baby Blog. I figure if I’m going to be sucked into reading celebrity gossip, it should involve cute babies.

(And okay, I totally stole this part from Anna's questions for me.)

Name one book…

You loved as a child:

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume (AtL: Me, too!)

Your child loves:

My daughter adores the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. She’ll stay up late reading and chuckling to herself. It’s so cute.

You didn’t think you were going to like, but then you did:

Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith and Jere Smith (My husband chose this as our book club pick for last month, and I never would have read it otherwise. It wasn’t a great book, but it was enjoyable enough and I’m not sorry I read it.)

You love that was a gift from someone:

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Actually, I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon. It’s my favorite book gift of late because my husband bought it for me for Christmas knowing how much I wanted to read it for the WWII reading challenge I’m co-hosting this year. I though that was really sweet of him.)

You always meant to read but haven’t yet:

Persuasion by Jane Austen (hopefully I’ll remedy this soon)

Well, that's all the questions I have for you, Anna, so thanks for stopping by!

Check out the roundup of interviews today over at the BBAW Blog! Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

BBAW: I love you guys!

Confession time.

It was blogs like A Fuse #8 Production and bookshelves of doom that made me want to start a blog.

It was community events like MotherReader's 48-Hour Book Challenge and The Cybils that made me want to start a blog. (Seriously, you think I'm kidding but is it any coincidence that I started my blog just after nominations for the second Cybils award ended? It is not.)

And it's YOU that makes me want to keep it up. I know I'm supposed to be posting about the blogs that I love, but I love so many that I'm sure I'd end up leaving someone out. And I'd tell you to check out my blogroll in the sidebar, but I'm afraid I can't guarantee it's up to date.

So, thanks for blogging (if you blog) and thanks for reading regardless. True, I started this blog for the community and to develop my writing skills and to keep a record of my wild, crazy librarian life (hah).

But where would it be without readers?

So, while this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I'd also like to declare it Blog Reader Appreciation Week.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Book Review: Saving the Ghost of the Mountain

Saving the Ghost of Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. (Grades 4-8.)
Houghton Mifflin, August 2009. Borrowed from the library.

People call it "the ghost of the mountain." A pale, spotted, almost cloudlike coat makes the snow leopard uncannily invisible in its rocky mountain habitat. People live their entire life among snow leopards and never see one.

Snow leopards are as tough as they are beautiful, They survive in some of the harshest, most remote, most extreme habitats in the world. They can live at altitudes too high for trees - sometimes in places with only half the oxygen people need to breathe easily. They thrive in temperatures cold enough to freeze human tears

Snow leopards are rare. How rare, you ask? Well, that's hard to tell. Scientists estimate that there might be between 3500 and 7000 in the entire world, but snow leopards are so hard to spot that this estimate might be completely wrong. Enter Tom McCarthy, a scientist who has dedicated his life to studying and protecting the snow leopard. His work takes him to remote places all over the world in search of this elusive cat.

In Saving the Ghost of the Mountain, author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop accompany Tom and his team on one such expedition to the harsh Mongolian desert. With her engaging and informative text, Montgomery invites the reader to join them on the journey. First we meet the team, we see how they prepare for the journey, and we stay with them as they climb mountains and hike through the rocky desert, attempting to track the "ghosts of the mountain."

Although the main focus of this book is about the science of animal conservation and the study of an endangered animal, Sy Montgomery also provides lots of information about the people and culture of Mongolia. I came away from this book feeling like I had actually been to Mongolia with the team, which is, I'd imagine, exactly what the author was going for. While the narrative follows the expedition, sidebars and spreads examine different aspects of Mongolian culture. Montgomery also includes information about conservation efforts put in place to help protect the rare snow leopard, most notably The Snow Leopard Trust. The book includes an index and notes from both the author and the photographer.

I love the Scientists in the Field series for their unique insights into the work of many different scientists all over the globe. Kids who love adventure and animals will not be disappointed.

Pair this with Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Betsy Lewin for a further glimpse into Mongolian life.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Go check out the roundup at Wild About Nature.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Approaches!

September 14-18, 2009 is Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Bloggers will be posting on different themes each day, so check those out and participate if you're into it. I think this week can also be a time when we really show our support for one another. It's the community that makes book blogging so much fun, so have you told a blogger you love him/her this week? If not, this just might be the week to do it. ;)

In My Mailbox #5

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted at The Story Siren. Here's what I received in the mail this week:

The Case of the Gasping Garbage and The Case of the Mossy Lake Monster by Michele Torrey. Sterling Children's Books, reissued June 2009. These are the first two books in the Doyle and Fossey, Science Detectives series. According the publisher, the series is "Encyclopedia Brown meets CSI for the elementary school set" and if that turns out to be true, I think we've got a winner on our hands!

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. Delacorte Press (Random House), October 2009. I read about this one on Reading Rants! and it sounded right up my alley. Here's a description from the publisher:

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

I really have a lot of catching up to do because I haven't read hardly anything in September. I was sick and then out of town and work has been nuts (our fall storytime sessions start this week!). And... yeah. But I'm looking forward to reading these!

What was in YOUR mailbox this week?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Around the interwebs

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is, like, NEXT WEEK! And the shortlists for the BBAW awards are up, so you should go vote! Just remember that it's all in good fun. (And nope, I wasn't shortlisted, but many cool kidlit blogs were, so go support them!)

Are you as excited about the Cybils as I am? If so, you might want to head over to the Cybils Cafe Press shop and pick up some Cybils bling. They have t-shirts, a tote bag, a mouse pad, and more, all with the super awesome 2009 Cybils logo on them. All proceeds go towards the awards for the winners.

So, Saturday, September 26. If you're in Chicagoland I know where you'll be. But if you're in the DC area, maybe you're heading down to the National Book Festival. And if you're in neither place, you'll be interested to know that there are many ways to follow the National Book Festival from afar. You can follow LOC on Twitter to get up-to-the-minute info (the hashtag is #nbf) and be sure to become a fan of their Facebook page.

Wanna Get the Scoop on Series Nonfiction? Booklist is offering a free webinar, so check it out.

Check out a preview of Mo Willem's upcoming pop-OUT book, Big Frog Can't Fit In. But my questions is this: If Big Frog can't fit in, how are we going to fit it on our shelves?

You have until September 16 to decide you're cool and join us for the 2009 KidLitosphere Conference. (And by "cool", I mean incredibly geeky, of course.)

And that's all I've got for you for now. What have you been surfing this week?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Review: Donut Days

Donut Days by Lara Zielin. (Grades 7+)
Putnam Juvenile, August 2009.
ARC provided by publisher.

Who doesn't love donuts? Judging by how many people are camped out for the opening of the newest Crispy Dream donut store in the small town of Birch Lake, Minnesota, there aren't many who can resist the pastries. For Emma, the camp out should be a nice diversion from the problems in her life - her evangelical minister parents are being attacked by a member of the congregation, she's in a major fight with her best friend (who seems to have replaced her awfully quickly...), and she hasn't spoken to another good friend all summer after he unexpectedly declared his love for her... But Emma's got a mission at the donut camp: she's out to win a college scholarship by writing an article about the camp out. It's the only way she'll be able to go to a secular college. As Emma tries to find a story, her problems will come to find her and she'll have to figure out exactly where she stands with her family and her friends.

The first thing I loved about this novel is Emma's voice. It really reminds me of DJ Schwenk, which is awesome because I love the Dairy Queen books. Emma's a small-town girl, a little self-deprecating, and dealing with the same problems that so many teens are dealing with. She's facing the future and coming to grips with her parents' expectations of her. She's having issues with her best girlfriend and dealing with a guy friend who wants to be more.

The other thing I love about Donut Days is that Lara Zielin addresses all these common problems within a unique context - the close-knit community of an evangelical church. Emma feels like something's wrong with her when she's baptized and still doesn't speak in tongues or have visions of Jesus. Her parents have a college fund for her but they'll only let her use it for a Christian college.

The story lost me a little bit while Emma was at the camp and hanging out with Bear and his motorcycle gang. I found it a little creepy that she went off for lunch with a 40-year-old man, although I understand Bear's part in the story. But the story gets itself back on track and the ending wraps everything up nicely.

I'd recommend this to fans of DJ Schwenk and also Robin Brande's Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature. Or, y'know, anyone who enjoys sweet, funny teen fiction. Read more reviews at The Story Siren, Carrie's YA Bookshelf, Pop Culture Junkie*, and Sharon Loves Books and Cats.

This is Lara Zielin's first novel and I'll definitely be on the lookout for her future books! Ooh, and I see via Lara's blog that she's got a second novel coming out from Putnam in 2011. Here's what she says about Promgate:

"The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It’s loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a sophomore."

Um. I wants it now. But I guess we'll just have to be satisfied with the fact that Donut Days is on shelves.

*Hmm... would you call this Christian fiction? Maybe. I didn't think of it as Christian fiction as I was reading it. I thought of it as a story about a teen girl dealing with teen girl problems and who just happened to be raised in an evangelical Christian family. But in the sense that the main character is Christian and pretty much all the characters are Christian and they deal with issues of faith... I suppose it could be considered Christian fiction.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine. Here's what I'm (patiently?) waiting for this week...

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, February 2010).

ZOMG, a sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie?!?!?! Must.. have.. now.. (Thanks to The Story Siren for posting about this one and tipping me off!)

From the publisher:

Jeffrey isn't a little boy with cancer anymore. He's a teen who's in remission, but life still feels fragile. The aftereffects of treatment have left Jeffrey with an inability to be a great student or to walk without limping. His parents still worry about him. His older brother, Steven, lost it and took off to Africa to be in a drumming circle and "find himself." Jeffrey has a little soul searching to do, too, which begins with his escalating anger at Steven, an old friend who is keeping something secret, and a girl who is way out of his league but who thinks he's cute.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U are completely off-topic

So, this weekend we were driving back from Cincinnati and I heard a cover of the song "You Really Gotta Hold On Me". And I cannot hear that song without thinking of the following Sesame Street sketch:

I have no idea why this sketch has stuck with me through the years, but I just thought I'd share it with you today. Of course, as a kid I had no idea that it's actually Smokey Robinson in the video.

Out Now: Roland Wright, Future Knight

Roland Wright Future Knight comes out today! You can read my review and then go buy it for the kids who have to read historical fiction and would rather eat slugs. Roland Wright is MUCH better than slugs. ;)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter

Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter by David Sheldon. (Grades 1-4.)
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2006.

One thing I love about biographies and memoirs is that they can make you feel like you actually know the person you're reading about.

When Barnum Brown was growing up, he loved to explore his Kansas hometown and find fossils. It was the end of the 19th century and the Great Dinosaur Rush was going on - many dinosaur fossils were being discovered all the time. Barnum knew that when he grew up he wanted to study dinosaurs.

And study dinosaurs Barnum did! He became a paleontologist and worked for the American Museum of Natural History, searching out and digging up dinosaur fossils. Barnum discovered the first Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils as well as the first fossils of many other dinosaurs.

Reading this book made me think about how exciting it must have felt to be among the first scientists to discover the dinosaurs. I mean, how cool would that have been? The vibrant illustrations in a palette of greens and browns take you back to the turn of the century. The beautiful background landscapes of the badlands evoke the harsh, beautiful surroundings in which Barnum Brown and his colleagues worked.

The book includes an author's note that fills in more details about Barnum Brown's life and discoveries. It also includes a short resource guide and a listing of the museums that house the fossils described in the book. This would be an excellent addition to a unit on dinosaurs or a book to read before a field trip to one of the museums. Kids (and adults) will be fascinated by Barnum's story.

Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter is on the 2009-2010 YHBA nominees list in the picture book category.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! The Miss Rumphius Effect has the round-up.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In My Mailbox #4

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature created by The Story Siren. Here's what appeared in the mail this week:

Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe. Henry Holt, September 2009.

Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts over “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody…and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad—and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance...

I love the totally creepy cover of this book!

Tyrannosaurus Math by Michelle Markel. Tricycle Press, August 2009.

Who can add an entire herd of triceratops, multiply the legs of a group of ankylosaurs, and estimate the distanceto the next tasty meal? TYRANNOSAURUS MATH!

I'm always looking for books for Nonfiction Monday, so I'm excited to peruse this one.

Inside the Magic and The Wrong Side of Magic by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones. Tor Starscape, November 2009.

These are the third and fourth books in the Keyholders series, which I've not read. But they're from the authors of the super popular Bailey School Kids series!

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines. Bloomsbury, October 2009.

Lyn is a neo-gladiator's daughter through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family: Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules - and the GSA - can work against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn's seventh father, he also captures Lyn's dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him. To win her freedom, Lyn will enter the arena to face her father's murderer in mortal combat. And she'll do it even though she may be falling for him.

Whoa. This sounds intense. The copy on the ARC compares it to The Hunger Games, so you can be sure I'll be diving into this one and reporting back.

So that's what I got in the mail this week... what did you get?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Around the interwebs

October 8 is Jumpstart's fourth annual Read for the Record event. Their book this year is The Very Hungry Caterpillar and you can enter to win a signed copy by pledging to read it aloud with preschoolers on October 8. Head on over to their website for more details.

Read Roger's talking about the length of YA novels compared to the page numbers 30 years ago. Average number of pages in 1979? 151. Average number of pages in 2009? 337. (There's more to it than that, click over there to read. Also, interesting comments.)

THE INTERN's posting some Craigslist queries. Is it just me or does that post really make you want to make up some fake queries and post them on Craigslist?

The Almost Librarian (a former library patron of mine! Er... a patron at my former library) points us to the second edition of Literacy Lava, a free ezine with literacy tips for parents and caregivers.

If you're in the Chicagoland area, you will not want to miss Anderson's Bookshop's 6th Annual YA Literature Conference. J and I went last year and it was fabbity fab - big enough to attract some substantial authors but small enough that it felt intimate. Totally worth the price and I'm driving up for it from Kentucky this year, so you can tell it's got my endorsement. The event will be on Saturday, September 26 and costs $95.00. Registration forms are now posted on their website or you can call to register.

Speaking of conferences, I again urge you to attend the KidLitosphere Conference on Saturday, October 17 in Washington DC. I am ridiculously excited about it. Check out Pam's list of some of the bloggers and authors that will be attending and get ridiculously excited with me!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Geektastic Winners

Thanks to all of you who entered my GEEKTASTIC giveaway!! Winners (Sue M. and Wanda B.) have been contacted and should be expecting their books soon (I've passed the info on to Little, Brown).

Two great middle grade titles

My Rotten Life by David Lubar. (Grades 3-5.)
Tor Starscape, August 2009.
Review copy provided by publisher.

Nathan Abercrombie is worse than the school's biggest loser - he's one of the Second Besters, the kids who are only ever second best (or second worse) at anything (and completely invisible to everyone but each other). When he is doused by a serum that slowly turns his body into a walking dead zombie, Nathan will have to figure out the antidote before it's too late.

There are good things and bad things about being a zombie. Good thing = setting a record in pull-ups on field day because your muscles never get tired. Bad thing = your body no longer digests the food you eat. While Nathan enjoys some of his special zombie abilities, he doesn't want to stay dead forever. It'll take teamwork between Nathan and two of his friends to get all the ingredients for an antidote. Along the way, Nathan finds out that people aren't always what they seem.

If you've got kids who are fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Bruce Coville, you'll want to hand them this book. It's more than a little wacky and more than a little gross, but the story also has a lot of heart. Short, action-packed chapters will keep kids turning the pages and the ending, while wrapping up the story, leaves room for the next book in the series. Kids will be clamoring for it.

Read more reviews at Good Books for Kids and Kidliterate, and check out this fantastic book trailer:

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements. (Grades 4-6.)
Atheneum, June 2009.

(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)

When Abby Carson learns she's in danger of failing the sixth grade, her teacher assigns her an extra credit assignment to help with her social studies grade. Abby will write to a pen pal in Afghanistan and then present a report to the class. When Sadeed writes back to her, Abby learns that although they are different, they are also the same, and she begins to see her life in America through new eyes.

Andrew Clements is a master of middle grade fiction. In Extra Credit
he brings Abby and Sadeed to life and paints a very believable picture of their friendship. I also love the fact that Abby is into rock climbing and the outdoors while Sadeed is into reading and school. I honestly didn't want to stop reading about these characters. With the middle east in the news so often, this would make a great classroom title and it might inspire elementary students to pick up a pen and make their own connections across the globe. Consider pairing it with Afghan Dreams for more stories of children in Afghanistan.

Read more reviews at Literate Lives and A Patchwork of Books.