Monday, November 30, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: My Favorite Nonfiction for the Younger Set

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

Today's Nonfiction Monday and I'd like to highlight some of my very favorite nonfiction books for your holiday giving. Nonfiction is a great choice for giving because kids love to learn interesting facts. Is there a topic that fascinates them? Maybe dinosaurs, trains, pets, or pirates? Try a nonfiction book on that topic. Boys, especially, tend to like nonfiction, but don't discount it for girls, too!

This Monday I'm featuring nonfiction books for younger readers. Next Monday I'll feature nonfiction books for older readers, so be sure to tune in.

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani. (Grades 1-5.) Pair this excellent picture book with a set of fluorescent markers or paints and hand it to the young inventor on your list. This true story about the inventors of Day-Glo colors is sure to inspire. Read my full review of The Day-Glo Brothers.

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock, illustrated by Carolyn Conohan. (Grades 2-5.) Young animal lovers and aspiring marine biologists will be fascinated when they find out how many different ways animals use bubbles! From a place to hide to a communication tool, animals use bubbles for many different things. Read my full review of Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.

Come to the Castle: A Visit to a Castle in Thirteenth-Century England by Linda Ashman, illustrated by S.D. Schindler. (Grades 2-5.) When the earl gets bored and orders that a party be thrown, we are introduced to the host of people who live and work inside the castle. This is a great choice for kids who are fascinated by history or love fairy tales. Read my full review of Come to the Castle.

Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. (Grades 2-5.) The truly vivid illustrations in Mermaid Queen bring Annette Kellerman, Australian swimmer and inventor of water ballet, to life. This is a great choice for girls who spend a lot of time in the pool. Read a little bit more about Mermaid Queen.

A Den is a Bed for a Bear by Becky Baines (and others in the Zigzag Nonfiction series). (Grades Pre-K-2.) I love the Zigzag Nonfiction series for its nice color photos and simple text. They're great for sharing with preschoolers and beginning readers. Read more about the Zigzag Nonfiction series.

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

And if you're interested in reading more great reviews of nonfiction books, check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at The BookNosher.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In My Mailbox #13

In My Mailbox is one of my favorites memes and it's hosted by the lovely Kristi at The Story Siren.

I got one non-Cybils book in my mailbox this week and I'm very excited about it!

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott. Simon Pulse, April 2010.

Publisher copy from ARC:

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like your best friend's boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two tiny details: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels
so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants to do is hurt her best friend. But when she is thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens between them. It's wonderful... and awful. Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more...

Sounds like another awesome read from Elizabeth Scott! I've enjoyed her Perfect You, Something Maybe, Living Dead Girl, and Love You, Hate You, Miss You.

So happy to find this one in my mailbox... What was in YOUR mailbox this week?

Twelve Days of Giving: Books for Your Precocious Kindergartner

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

So you've got a spunky girl traipsing around, eh? Check out some of my favorites for spirited and precocious kindergartners!

Picture Books:

If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks. In rhythmic, rhyming text, a little girl tells her tale of woe - she was put in time-out because she was acting wild. While sitting there, she starts to imagine how things would be if she were really wild. This is a perfect choice to young ones with active imaginations.

If you've got a Fancy Nancy fan on your hands, consider Fancy Nancy Tea Parties by Jane O'Connor. We've thrown Fancy Nancy tea parties at my library and this book features ideas for your own tea party! It includes fun recipes, etiquette tips, and more. And, of course, there are tons of other Fancy Nancy titles if that's your thing.

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. The giant squid proudly proclaims that he's the biggest thing in the ocean. He's bigger than those shrimp! He's bigger than that turtle! He's bigger than that shark (shhh)! But when he runs into a whale, his worldview might have to change a little... or does it? The funny twist at the ending will have everyone chuckling. This is one of my favorite readalouds.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. When a dragon captures her betrothed Prince Ronald, Princess Elizabeth must set out to rescue him. She's a feisty and resourceful girl, but will she get what she really wants? This is the perfect story for feisty girls who would rather do the rescuing than wait around for someone to rescue them!

Easy Readers:

Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. I am a firm believer that Mo Willems can do no wrong and the Elephant and Piggie books are some of my favorites. The text is very simple and the true strength is in the illustrations. Facial expressions and little details make the books so funny and enjoyable to read again and again. You'll probably want to get all of them eventually, but I'd start with I Am Invited to a Party, There Is a Bird On Your Head, and I Will Surprise My Friend (those are my personal favorites).

Squirrel's World by Lisa Moser. Squirrel's so excited to help his friends that sometimes he goes a little overboard. Can his friends put up with him, knowing that he's got their best interests at heart?

Chapter Books:

These books would make great choice for reading together or for young ones who are already starting to read chapter books. (Also check out last year's 5th day of giving: Cha-Cha-Chapter Books.)

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. When spunky Clementine isn't helping her friend chop off all her hair, she might be avoiding pointy things or scaring pigeons away from her apartment building. Clementine's a creative girl with too much energy and it gets her into trouble sometimes, but her heart's always in the right place. Also consider the sequels: The Talented Clementine and Clementine's Letter.

Babymouse by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm is one of my very favorite series and you won't want to miss these graphic novels*. Babymouse is a young mouse with a very active imagination. She loves pink and cupcakes and fancies herself a star. And though almost nothing she does turns out like she expects, that won't stop her from trying! You don't need to read them in order, but you might want to start with #1: Babymouse: Queen of the World!

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

*Graphic novels = comic books!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Done! DOOONE!!!

And with 50,275 words, I am officially DONE. Hooray!

I don't actually hate my entire novel (though I do hate most of it) and there remains a small possibility that I might actually make a go of revising this one. I know a few changes I want to make right off the bat.

Let's get through the Cybils first, though, shall we?

To all my NaNoWriMo buddies out there: congrats if you've finished. If you haven't finished yet, YOU CAN DO IT! KEEP GOING! WOOOOO!

I am going to go collapse in a heap far away from this keyboard right now. ;)


Twelve Days of Giving: Books for Your Two-Year-Old

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

Today's our second day of giving and I'd like to present you with the books I picked out for my baby cousin Nicholas who's two years old this year. And if they're good enough for Nicky, you know they're some of my absolute favorites!

Can You Make a Scary Face? and What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas. Jan Thomas has quickly become one of my favorite picture book authors with her bright pictures and simple, humorous text. Both books encourage child participation and are delightful to read in groups or one-on-one.

Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. I recommended this one for Nicky because he was such a fan of Sheep in a Jeep (by Nancy Shaw). Rhyming text describes all kinds of different sheep. Red sheep, blue sheep, high sheep, low sheep, near sheep, far sheep... but where is the green sheep??

Ten L
ittle Fish by Audrey Wood. This is a storytime favorite of mine. It's a simple, rhyming story that counts down fish from 10 to 1. The brightly colored, computer-generated illustrations capture the attention of our storytime kids. Your little one is sure to pore over them too.

Who is Driving? by Leo Timmers. Kids who love things that go will love this book. On each spread is a different car and a selection of animals wearing different outfits. Can your little one guess which animal will be the driver?

! Stars! Stars! by Bob Barner. I love this book because it's a very simple, rhyming introduction to the stars and the planets. If you've got a little one who's noticing the night sky, this fits the bill perfectly!

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert is another great book to jump start science concepts. With simple text and fun, colorful illustration Ehlert describes the life cycle of a butterfly. You could pair this one with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah Weeks. Oh, Mrs. McNosh. She starts by hanging up her wash but soon progresses to hanging up wacky things like the newspaper and Grandpa McNosh's removeable teeth! This is a silly story that's sure to have your little one laughing along.

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. This wordplay and rhymes in this book make it great for developing early literacy and the sweet illustrations make it perfect for bedtime sharing. Little Llama does Not want to go to bed and he tries everything he can think of to stay up just a little bit later. I'm sure that never happens at your house, right? ;)

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. This is one of those new classic picture books that you'll want to add to your home library. It's perfect for the season. Bear's hibernating and he snores on even as mouse, rabbit, and others take refuge from a snowstorm in his cave. Your kids will love to join you on the chorus as "Bear snores on!"

Any of these books would make a great choice for the toddler on your holiday gift-giving list this year!

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Twelve Days of Giving: Making the World a Better Place

Welcome to Twelve Days of Giving, where I post for twelve days and recommend books for your holiday giving!

This year in particular I think everyone's been more conscious of need in our communities and how we can help make the world a better place, so I wanted to start off this year's series with some suggestions for giving back. What better way to do this than by giving a charitable contribution (paired with a book, of course) in someone's name this holiday season?

Got an animal lover? Donate to the World Wildlife Fund, the ASPCA, the Humane Society, or a local shelter of your choice. Pair your donation with one of these fine animal books:

Balarama: A Royal Elephant Elephant by Ted and Betsy Lewin. Husband and wife picture book team Lewin is back with a gorgeous story about ceremonial elephants in India. Picture book. Ages 5-9.

Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again by Juliana Lee Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig M. Hatkoff. This is the touching story of a dolphin who lost his tail and the creative efforts of marine biologists to design an artificial tail for him. Picture book. Ages 5-9.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. From the publisher: [A] harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love - and its opposite, hate - the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises. Chapter book. Ages 9-13. (Warning: this book is sad!)

Give the absolutely wonderful novel, Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal and pair it with a donation to a local homeless shelter.

Harper loves words and she's sure she can win her school's poetry reading, though getting to school has been hard since she and her mom and brother have been evicted from their house. Harper's determined to get to school for the poetry reading, just as she's determined to rid herself of any memory of her whiskey-soaked daddy who told her that her words weren't worth anything. Read my full review of Also Known As Harper. Chapter book. Ages 9-12. Perfect for kids who all those books about foster kids and the like.

Got a teen who loves those sad Lurlene McDaniel books about kids dying? Pair Brendan Halpin's Forever Changes with a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Pair Before I Die by Jenny Downham or Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick with a donation to the American Cancer Society.

If you've got a fan of Jodi Picoult on your list, don't miss After by Amy Efaw. What would drive a straight-A student Devon to give birth to a baby and leave it in a dumpster? (Read my full review of After.) Pair this book with a donation to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Of course, any of your favorite books pair perfectly with a donation to a literacy-related non-profit of your choice!! Might I suggest Reading is Fundamental or Donors Choose? By making charitable giving part of your holiday gifts this year, you'll make the world a better place.

Even better might be the promise to make a volunteer date. Give one of the above books with a promise that the two of you (or the whole family) will spend a couple of hours doing something to better your community. (This ties in perfectly with New Years' resolutions, too!)

Be sure and check out the rest of the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving and the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving for more ideas!

Twelve Days of Giving 2009

Welcome to the 2009 series of Twelve Days of Giving! These posts were inspired by Colleen's 2008 Holiday Season Book Recommendation Event and they were such fun last year that I had to do them again this year! I'll be linking each day's list here as I post them, so be sure to check back! The first list will be posted on Friday, but if you're antsy you can check out last year's Twelve Days of Giving posts.

November 27 - Making the World a Better Place
Show a kid in your life that it's better to give than to receive by pairing a charitable donation or volunteer time with a book (so y'all can give and receive!).

November 28 - Books for Your Two-Year-Old
Got a toddler on your gift-buying list this year? Here are some of my favorite books for 2's.

November 29 -Books for Your Precocious Kindergartner
So you've got a spunky girl traipsing around, eh? These are my picks for spirited and precocious four-to-seven-year-olds.

November 30 - My Favorite Nonfiction for Younger Readers
Picture book nonfiction for curious minds.

December 1 - Books into Movies II
Last year, I posted about books that have been turned into movies. This year I'm pairing some tween and teen books with related DVDs.

December 2 - More Books for Twilighters
I posted last year with suggestions for the Twilight fans on your list. Here are some more!

December 3 - Books for Those Boys
You know what to get the young ladies on your list, but what about those boys? Here are my best suggestions for elementary and tween guys.

December 4 - Falalalala!
Novels for the musically inclined tweens and teens on your list.

December 5 - Let It Snow
Only the best stocking stuffer EVAR for any Nerdfighter you know.

December 6 - Drama Queens
Buying for a teen theatre buff? This list is for you!

December 7 - My Favorite Nonfiction for Older Readers
Check out some of my favorite middle-grade and teen fiction.

December 8 - A Few of My Favorite Things
In which I fill in the holes by posting about my favorite books of 2009 that haven't been listed in 12 Days of Giving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You!

If you're in the States, you're probably celebrating Thanksgiving today. You might be getting together with family and friends, sharing a meal and saying what you're thankful for.

Well, since I can't get together with all of YOU and share a meal (mmm... mashed potatoes...), I just wanted to say right now that I'm thankful for you.

I'm thankful for the wonderful kidlit bloggers that make up the KidLitosphere. Seriously, a girl couldn't ask for a more supportive and kind and interesting group of people to blog with. I so enjoy reading everyone's blogs. Besides being entertaining, they help me with my job and they inspired me to start my own blog, which has really helped me improve my writing and reviewing.

I'm thankful for all the wonderful people who actually read my blog and who take the time to comment. I really appreciate that you take time out of your busy day to read what I have to say. I'm honestly still a little astonished that anyone cares about my opinion, so thank you. Without readers, no one would blog. We'd all just have spiral-bound notebooks of book reviews piled up in our homes.

I'm thankful for publishers and publicists and authors for the free books and ARCs you send me. Yes, I'd still blog without the free books (I get plenty of free books from my library!), but I must confess that it still makes me feel really special to get an ARC and read a book months before it's available to the public. There's much discussion around the KidLitosphere about the relationship between publishers and blogs, but my hope is that it's mutually beneficial. So, thank you for all the books.

Speaking of authors, I'm thankful for authors who write awesome books! Without you, we'd have nothing to blog about!

I'm thankful for librarians who share ideas so that I don't have to come up with programs all on my own. ;)

And with that, I think it's time for me to go grab some turkey and stuffing. Thanks to everyone who's made blogging a blast. I really appreciate all of you!

Photo by CarbonNYC, accessed from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday

It's been awhile since I've posted for Waiting On Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine), but I figured with the holidays coming up, I'd share a
little bit of my wish list with y'all.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. Atheneum, August 2010.

Publisher summary (accessed from Amazon): In NEVERMORE, cheerleader Isobel falls for Poe-fan Varen--but will she be able to save him from the madness taking hold of his mind?

I'll be straight with you - I've known Kelly since the 6th grade and we went to middle school and high school together. This is her first book and I'm so excited for her! (Plus, doesn't it sound awesome?)

Numbers by Rachel Ward. Chicken House, February 2010. (That's the US release date; the book was published in 2009 in the UK.)

Publisher summary (accessed from Amazon): Ever since she was child, Jem has kept a secret: Whenever she meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die. Burdened with such awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. The two plan a trip to the city. But while waiting to ride the Eye ferris wheel, Jem is terrified to see that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today's number. Today's date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem's world is about to explode!

This book sounds really suspenseful and I looove the US cover. Thanks to Yan at Books By Their Cover for posting this one on In My Mailbox. I'll definitely be seeking it out!

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. Dial, March 2010.

Publisher summary (accessed from Amazon): Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

Recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen = sign me up!

And those are a few of the books I'm waiting on this Wednesday. How about you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


2010-2011 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominees

Well, I got a mailing from Bound to Stay Bound with the 2010-2011 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominees. They don't appear to be up on ILF's website, so here's the list BTSB sent me (with holes filled in by Baker & Taylor's State Book Award selection lists):

ETA (12/29/09): The list is up on ILF's website (link opens a PDF) - The 2010-2011 YBHA Nominees

Primary/Picture Books:

There's a Wolf at the Door by Zoe Alley
The Giant of Seville by Dan Andreasen
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
One is a Feast for a Mouse by Judy Cox
Ten-Gallon Bart by Susan Stevens Crummel
Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus
Turtle's Penguin Day by Valerie Gorbachev
Casey Back at Bat by Dan Gutman
Dirty Joe the Pirate by Bill Harley
The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest
Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman
Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson
How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Robin Page (illustrated by Steve Jenkins)
Badger's Fancy Meal by Keiko Kasza
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk
The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell
Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg? by Mia Posada
Too Many Toys by David Shannon
Ella, Of Course! by Sarah Weeks

Intermediate Grades

Seer of Shadows by Avi
The 100-Year Old Secret (Sherlock Files) by Tracy Barrett
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Sequoyah: Inventor of Written Cherokee by Roberta Basel
George Washington Carver by Tanya Bolden*
Masterpiece by Elise Broach*
All Stations! Distress! by Don Brown
Dog Diaries by Betsy Byars
The Middle of Somewhere by J.B. Cheaney
The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming
Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look*
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry by Jack Prelutsky
Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer by Deborah Kogan Ray
Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman
When is a Planet Not a Planet? by Elaine Scott*
My Cousin, The Alien by Pamela Service
Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas
Oggie Cooder by Sarah Weeks*

Middle Grades:

Standard Hero Behavior
by John David Anderson
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti*
Battling in the Pacific by Susan Provost Beller
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins*
Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney
Finding Stinko by Michael de Guzman
Bodies from the Ice by James M. Deem*
Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl by John Feinstein
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
Who Was First? by Russell Freedman*
The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein
Football Hero by Tim Green
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale*
Savvy by Ingrid Lawson*
Summer Ball by Mike Lupica
A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack
All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall
Adam Canfield Watch Your Back! by Michael Winerip
Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer*

I've starred the titled I'd read prior to the list being released. It's possible I might attempt to read the rest of them, but let's finish the Cybils first and see how we feel. ;)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: The Grand Mosque of Paris

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix. Grades 3+. Holiday House, August 2009. Copy provided by my lovely library.

Jacket flap:

From 1940 to 1944 during the Nazi occupation of Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation to a concentration camp. Few Parisians were willing to risk their own lives to help them. Yet during this perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place: the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Not just a place of worship but a community center with gardens, apartments, a clinic, a library, and even a restaurant, this hive of activity was in ideal temporary hiding place for escaped prisoners of war and Jews of all ages, including children.

Talk about armchair traveling. This beautiful picture book tells a little-known story shrouded in mystery. There is little documentation that proves that the Grand Mosque of Paris opened its doors to shelter Jews during World War II, but authors Ruelle and DeSaix have ferreted out what evidence they could and turned it into a compelling book.

This is a touching story: Muslims reaching out to their Jewish "brothers" and protecting them even though it put them at great risk. It's a story that should be an inspiration to all of us and one that adds an interesting element to any Holocaust study.

I have a few complaints about format - the text is, for the most part, presented in large blocks which didn't lead to the easiest reading. I wish it had been broken up a bit more. And I wish the authors had included actual photos of the Mosque or a diagram of its layout (even as part of the author's note). That said, it's a compelling story and the artwork is beautiful - pale blues, purples, and grays. The book is rounded out with a glossary, a resource list, and a lovely bibliography. In the afterward, the authors explain how they researched such a clandestine operation.

This is an interesting book that will definitely lend itself to units on the Holocaust and multiculturalism.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out this week's round-up at Practically Paradise.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In My Mailbox #12

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren!

With all the reading I'm doing for my Cybils panel, I haven't been requesting very many review copies lately, but I'm super psyched for this one:

The Line by Teri Hall. Dial Books for Young Readers, March 2010.

Here's the summary from the ARC:

Rachel lives quietly with her mother on The Property far from the city where the restrictive government is most active. She loves working with the orchids in the greenhouse there, but it is close to the Line - an uncrossable section of the National Border Defense System, an invisible barrier that encloses the entire country. Rachel is forbidden to go near it, never quite knowing what the danger is. Across the Line is Away. To Rachel, Away seems the same as anywhere else. Until the day she hears a recording that could only have come from across the Line.

It's a voice asking for help

Oooooh. My dystopia-loving heart is skipping a beat here. Can't wait to dig in..!

What was in YOUR mailbox this week?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Around the interwebs

It's been a busybusy week in Abbyland, but I've managed to do a little surfing... let's see...

While I've been running around like a crazy person, the 2009 Winter Blog Blast Tour has been going on! Don't miss it! Check out interviews with some of your favorites authors including (but not limited to) Mary E. Pearson, Megan Whalen Turner, Patrick Carman, and Laini Taylor.

And OMG November is almost over and I still haven't posted a link to Liz's roundup of web resources to celebrate American Indian Heritage Month. Sorry, I fail. That great roundup does not fail.

I nominate Travis as Blogger Laureate. For serious. Internet round-ups? YER DOIN IT RIGHT. Head over to 100 Scope Notes and check out his new feature, Morning Notes. It puts Around the Interwebs to SHAME. (S'ok.)

If you've got a hankerin' for a good book discussion, consider joining Michelle of GalleySmith for her Literary League Book Club. They've got some great books lined up for the next few months .

Jennie's blog is turning FIVE and she is throwing a big party over at Biblio File! Who doesn't love a big party, right?

In case anyone's started thinking about holiday shopping already, MotherReader's got a collection of Amazon bargains. Chicken Spaghetti's got an incredible list of Best-of-2009 lists and Shelftalker has a comprehensive list of starred titles (thanks to Travis for both links). For that extra-special gift, consider supporting independent bookstores by purchasing a signed and personalized book through Books with Flair (link via Blue Rose Girls). Books with Flair pairs authors with indie bookstores to provide signed books for gifts this holiday season.

(And don't forget to stay tuned RIGHT HERE for 12 Days of Giving, which is coming up here after Thanksgiving. If you want to suggest someone you have to buy for this season, leave it in the comments!)

/shameless plug. Where was I?

If you've ever wondered why series books sometimes tend to expand in length exponentially as the series goes on, well, Editorial Anonymous can shed some light.

If you're one of the mad hoards who headed out at midnight to see New Moon, you might be interested in John Green's defense of liking Twilight. Amen, brotha. And speaking of Twilight, Anna shares her plans for an after-hours New Moon party over at Y Shush?

And on that note, I'M OUT. Next week should be much less crazy. SHOULD BE. We'll see...

Image credits: top image = In Lights by Alyson Hurt, 2004, accessed from, image of gift by Flickr user mysza831 used under Creative Commons license.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review: The Kind of Friends We Used to Be

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O'Roark Dowell. Grades 5-7. Atheneum, January 2009. Copy from my local library.

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

Kate and Marylin had been best friends since preschool until they had a falling out last year in sixth grade. Now Marylin's a middle school cheerleader and Kate is writing songs to play on her guitar. The two of them are in a strange place, not enemies but not all-the-time friends either. As they navigate the strange waters of seventh grade, both girls will start the arduous process of figuring out her place in the world.

I haven't read The Secret Language of Girls, to which this book is the sequel, but I don't think it mattered. I loved it anyway. In fact, it made me want to go back and read the first book, which is a mark of a really good sequel.

This is a quiet sort of book. It's a story about girls beginning to become the people they want to become. Kate decides to become a guitar-playing girl. Marylin starts to look at her cheerleading "friends" and weighs whether popularity is worth putting up with them. Both girls find new interests and new friends. Both girls start to see beyond the surface of people they thought they knew.

The writing is quietly beautiful and I love Ms. Dowell's descriptions. Here's one example from when Kate goes into a neighbor girl's room for the first time:

It had been a long time since Kate had been here, and it looked a lot different from how she'd remembered. Last year around this time Flannery's room had had lots of stuffed animals and pink stuff. Now the walls were still pink, but they were covered with posters of bands who looked very, very mean, like they hoped you would fall down and die that very second. (pp 12-13)

I love that in those few sentences you get not only a sense of the physical space, but a sense of the changes that have taken place over the past year.

Appearance is a major theme in the book. Marylin is into fashion and she wishes Kate would let her make her over. But as the seventh grade progresses, Marylin starts to realize that beauty on the outside doesn't make you a good person. And perceived ugliness on the outside doesn't make you a bad person.

Both Kate and Marylin experience a lot of personal growth over the course of the book. It reminded me of nothing so much as Judy Blume's Just as Long as We're Together, which was a favorite of mine in sixth grade.

Sneak Peak: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

I'll be posting a full review closer to the pub date (HarperTeen, March 2010), but put The Body Finder on your radars if you like Lisa McMann's Wake series.

It's creepy and the sexual tension will knock your socks off (without making you blush too much, I think).

Summary from ARC:

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during her junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him

Put it on your TBR lists!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coming Soon: 12 Days of Giving

So, I'm starting to work on another round of Twelve Days of Giving posts, featuring posts that tell you what books to buy for the readers on your holiday giving lists. I've got some ideas, but I could use your help.

Who are you buying books for this holiday season? Who would you like me to recommend some books for? What age kids are you buying for? What are they interested in?

ETA: Example - when I asked this question of a friend of mine she said she's buying for a precocious 2.5-year-old and a dramatic 6-year-old. Those are the kind of details I can work with!

Check out the 2008 Twelve Days of Giving to see what I've already done and then let me know who you're buying for this holiday season.

Look for the 2009 Twelve Days of Giving starting the day after Thanksgiving (if I get my act together) or December 1 (if I don't get my act together).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Review: Bull Rider

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. Grades 5-8. Margaret K. McElderry, February 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

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

Cam O'Mara is more interested in skateboarding than bull riding, a fact that makes him somewhat unusual in his small Nevada ranching town. When his older brother is wounded while serving in the Marines overseas, Cam's world is rocked. His brother is coming home, but nothing will be the same. Ben can't walk, he's missing an arm, and he has to relearn how to talk and do all the things he used to do.

Ben was a skilled bull rider, one of the best in their county, and when Cam and his grandfather take Ben back to the bull ring, Cam gets on a bull for the first time. He's immediately hooked on the adrenaline and he's determined to become what Ben will never become - the first cowboy to ride the fabled bull named Ugly.

The action is pretty much nonstop between the skateboarding, ranching, and bull riding. Suzanne Morgan Williams certainly knows how to write an exciting book.

Besides the action, Bull Rider is also a compelling portrait of a changing family. This year we've seen an upsurge in books about kids dealing with the war in the Middle East and Bull Rider is a great addition to the subject. Cam and Ben have a realistic relationship. They love each other and support each other, but they get on each others' nerves sometimes, too. When Ben comes home injured, that entire dynamic changes. Instead of Ben looking out for his little brother, Cam has to step up and take care of Ben. It's a hard thing for both of them.

This was a great read and I wouldn't hesitate to hand it to boys and girls alike who like exciting stories or are dealing with a loved one serving overseas.

You could pair it with Rosanne Parry's Heart of a Shepherd for a very different type of story about a ranching boy dealing with family members in the military.

Check out more reviews at Readingjunky's Reading Roost and A Patchwork of Books. Read Suzanne Morgan Williams's guest post at Boys Read and author interviews at Cynsations and Shelf Elf.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: Faith

Faith by Maya Ajmera, Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon. Charlesbridge, February 2009. Copy from my library.

In our world, there are many faiths.

I am always on the lookout for books that celebrate different cultures. The subject of religion can be a tricky one, especially for younger readers, but Faith completely fits the bill. Simple text accompanies stunning photographs showing children practicing different religions from around the world. The book celebrates our differences and reminds us that we're more alike than we are different. Pictures show children praying, visiting holy places, celebrating holidays and celebrating their faith in other ways.

Religions depicted include Buddhism, Rastafarianism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Native Americans (among others). Countries depicted include Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, the United States, India, Mongolia, Kenya, Guatemala, Turkey, Israel, and the United Kingdom (among many others). All the photos are captioned to tell you where they were taken and a map in the back of the book shows all the countries included in the book.

The simple text is perfect for sharing with young children and there is more information at the back of the book about each section (ex. Holidays and Festivals, Food and Drink, Dress, etc.). I think this is a book that can span many ages. It would be great for starting a conversation with young children about religion and it would be an excellent springboard for older students beginning a unit on world religions or world cultures.

Read more reviews at The Well-Read Child and A Patchwork of Books. And you don't have to take our word for it. You can access a preview of the book on Google Books.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Tales from the Rushmore Kid has the roundup this week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On the cusp of 30k...

After today's writing session, I had to put in one more Dear Character, I'm Sorry:

Dear Rafe, Embery, and Dinara,

I'M SORRY. This trip you're about to go on will be HORRIBLY AWKWARD for AWHILE. But you have to do it! THE FATE OF THE WORLD RESTS ON THE SHOULDERS OF THREE 16-YEAR OLDS!!

If you make it through without killing each other, I just might let at least two of you have a tasteful love scene (if you know what I mean). So keep that in the backs of your heads.

And behave.

Your author

Dear Character, I'm Sorry

As promised, here's my favorite NaNoWriMo game of them all: Dear Character, I'm Sorry. In which you write letters to your characters apologizing to them for what you've done to them/what you will do to them/how terrible your book is.

Dear Rafe,

I'm sorry that I had to make you kind of a jerk. You are not a jerk. You're just in love with two different women. And everyone's real mad at you right now. Sorry. I promise it'll get better and, more importantly, you'll end up with the one you want to end up with. And you just might save the world.

Dear Dinara,

I'm sorry I broke your heart. You didn't do anything wrong (except maybe you're a little superficial, but that's okay!). I'm also sorry that I wrecked your Midsummer Festival. I know you worked hard on it. To make it up to you, I'm going to write in a guy for you. An awesome guy. Way better for you than Rafe. Just wait. He's coming.

(Oh, and I'm also sorry that Rafe and Embery are about to use you for your family's money. Just go with it. It'll all work out.)

Dear Embery,

I'm sorry I broke your heart. Rafe's coming around, just wait. If you can forgive him (and you can forgive him), he'll make it up to you. He needs you to save the world! I'm also sorry that I had to have your little sister kidnapped by the evil Snow White. I know how important she is to you. ALSO, I'm sorry you haven't been more kick-butt. I meant for you to be, but except for that knife-throwing thing, you just haven't been. I promise you'll do better in the second half.

Dear Sam,
CC: Nathan

I'm sorry that you haven't hardly been in this book at all. I was so excited to write you, but then my story kind of went a different way and now I realize that maybe I don't need you at all. You'll pop back in before the end, I'm sure.

Dear Snow White,

I'm not sorry that you're evil because that's kind of what this whole story is about. I am sorry that you've gotten hardly any screen time and that you're kind of a mindless evil monster. Maybe if I revise this book I'll give you a larger role. Thanks for being deliciously creepy.

Your Author

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Review: The Year of the Bomb

The Year of the Bomb by Ronald Kidd. Grades 6-8. Simon & Schuster, June 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

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

The year is 1956 and it's a crazy time. Everyone fears The Bomb that could drop at any moment and destroy everything. For Paul and his friends, living in a small town near LA, the threat is very real. If the Russians bombed the United States, it would make sense that they would target a major city.

The bomb's not the only threat. Everyone knows that Communists are creeping in, spying on Americans and taking secrets back to the Russians. They could be everywhere. They could be anyone.

Paul and his friends love to be scared - that is, they love horror movies. Aliens? Gargantuan apes? Monsters? Sign. Them. Up. So when they discover that a new horror film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is being filmed in their hometown, they start hanging around the film set and befriend one of the young actresses. But the threat of Communism is here as well and when Paul gets involved in investigating a certain suspect individual, he quickly finds that he's gotten more than he bargained for.

This is one of my favorite historical periods to read about and Ronald Kidd really brought it to life. Gone was the cohesion and can-do attitude of early 1940s America. Suddenly there was this bomb, this terrible weapon unleashed on the world, and no one was sure what was going to happen. The paranoia of the time is evident throughout the book.

So the historical setting is great, but Kidd creates a compelling storyline as well. What kid wouldn't be fascinated by a movie being filmed in his back yard? In the 1950s Paul and his friends have the freedom to follow the production team around as they shoot in different places, which is something that today's kids might love to do. Underlying that story is Paul's struggle with his father, a secretive man who refuses to talk about his job. Paul feels completely cut off from his father, but he comes to understand that there's a reason for the secrecy.

I found the book fascinating and I think my seventh-grade self would have found it fascinating, too. The writing and the details really inspired my curiosity about the events and people in the book, not in a I-wish-there-had-been-more-detail way, but in a this-is-totally fascinating way. And OH YES there is an author's note.

Pair this book with The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages. And then go out and find Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or you could just watch this trailer: