Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: The Healing Spell

The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little. (Grades 4-7.) Scholastic Press, July 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

The summer is off to a horrible start for eleven-year-old Livie Mouton. Her mother is in a coma after an accident on the bayou near their home. Only Livie knows what really happened - it was all her fault and she can't tell anyone or they'll hate her more than they do already. When the hospitals and medicine and doctors don't seem to be working, Livie goes down to the traiteur, a Cajun healer, to get a healing spell for her mother. But only after Livie has forgiven herself will the spell begin to work. 

Kimberley Griffiths Little brings the bayou to life in this moving portrait of one family's grief and hope. Livie is a young girl conflicted - feeling guilt over what happened to her mother and unable to confide in anyone. Livie's in that most tender of places, the place between childhood and adulthood, and she'll take the first steps toward growing up over this fateful summer.

What I loved most about this book was how I felt like I was right beside Livie, poling through the bayou with the sun-dappled water all around me and a breeze rustling the leaves on the trees. The bayou is a great setting for a book - intriguing and beautiful with an air of mystery and danger. Who knows what could be lurking there? I've never been to the bayou, but from the midnight frogging expeditions to the sudden, brief summer storms, I'm inclined to believe that Kimberley Griffiths Little got it right. 

Livie herself is a great character - so strong in some ways and so vulnerable in other ways. She's a tomboy and likes nothing better than hunting or exploring with her father. Her relationship with her mother has always been somewhat murky. Livie's older and younger sisters had a much closer bond with their mother. So, while Livie is perfectly comfortable handling her pirogue on the water or catching frogs for supper, she's perfectly uncomfortable taking care of her mother. In fact, she's so consumed by her guilt that she can't even bring herself to touch her mother while she's in this comatose state. 

Add to this that Livie is eleven years old, right at that age where she's about to start growing up. The changes are already happening - she's starting to notice boys, she's starting to realize that she has to take some responsibility around the house. And the dramatic events of this summer will only push her forward in her journey toward young adulthood. 

I'd try this one on tween girls, perhaps fans of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth or Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal. 

The Healing Spell is due on shelves July 1, so mark your TBR lists!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rules of Attraction Winner!

The winner of my giveaway for an ARC of Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles is Megan E.! She's been emailed and the book will be going out this week.

Thanks to all who entered!

Don't forget AudioSynced..!

If you've reviewed or discussed audiobooks on your blog this month, don't forget to give me a link to your post so I can include it in the roundup on April 1 (no foolin')! Feel free to leave a comment to this post or send me an email at abbylibrarian @ Also, feel free to leave your post in the comments of Thursday's roundup. Get the link to me by any means and I'll include it!

If you don't have an audiobook post this month, never fear! Kelly of Stacked will be back with another roundup on May 1.

Book Review: An Unspeakable Crime

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin. (Grades 8+) Carolrhoda Books, March 2010.

In 1913, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan went by the pencil factory where she worked to pick up her paycheck. She didn't make it out alive. Police searched for clues as to who had beaten and raped her, at first suspecting the African-American watchman. Eventually they arrested and prosecuted Leo Frank, the factory's Jewish superintendent. Leo Frank was lynched... for a crime he may not have committed.

The lynching of Leo Frank brings to light the anti-Semitism of the time. I think there's a lot written about racism concerning blacks in America, but less written about racism against other groups, so it's great that something like this is being published.

It's a fascinating case, certainly, and the book is painstakingly researched. It includes photos and newspaper headlines from the time. It's obvious that Ms. Alphin put in a lot of work on this book. To be honest, it was almost too detailed for me and I have to admit that I skimmed a lot of it.

The book contains a heck of a lot of information - a timeline, a list of major players in the case, a glossary of legal terms, an index, an author's note, and suggestions for further reading are all included. I'd try it on teens who love true crime stories.

Read more reviews at A Patchwork of Books, The Boy Reader, and Great K to 8th Books. And check out this interview with Elaine Marie Alphin in SLJ.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect for this week's roundup.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In My Mailbox #26

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren. Head on over there to see what bloggers got in their mailboxes this week!

And here's what was in mine:

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller (Razorbill, August 2010). Summary from Good Reads:

Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves¸ before all is lost and the cycle begins again. 

Paisley Hanover Kisses and Tells by Cameron Tuttle (Dial, July 2010). Summary from Good Reads:

The election results are in—and totally UnExpected. Now the UnPops are picketing, the Pops are preening, and Paisley’s sophomore year is a bust—again. But when best frienemy Jen’s reputation takes a beating by viral text, Paisley’s pity party is over. She rolls out a new undercover plan to save Jen’s rep, and in the process, follows her heart into a crazy complicated love triangle. Then as if things weren’t confusing enough, Paisley’s archrival—super cute, super nice, super popular Candy Esposito—steals Paisley’s UnPop popularity! First Paisley gets mad; then she gets smart. Can she use Candy’s newfound UnPopularity to save Jen’s reputation—and pull off the biggest coup since Miss UnPleasant turned the Pleasant Hill High social hierarchy on its big fat head? Hello double-crossers, good-bye double standards! Paisley Hanover is back—pucker up! 

Possessions by Nancy Holder (Razorbill, September 2009). Summary from Good Reads:

Lindsay is hoping for a fresh start, to get out of San Diego, where everyone remembers when she had her breakdown, and get away to boarding school, even if it is a boarding school as creepy as Marlwood Academy. But Lindsay is happier, and even manages to make a great new friend, Julie. Then, the school's most popular girl, Mandy starts acting super creepy. Rumors abound, but it's becoming more and more clear to Lindsay that something else is at work...something darker and more dangerous than just a houseful of mean girls. 

The Evil Within: A Possessions Novel by Nancy Holder (Razorbill, June 2010). Summary from Good Reads:

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder’s Possessions, Lindsay finds out that she, too, is possessed, and must return to creepy Marlwood Academy in order to rid herself of the spirit. Lindsay’s afraid of what the spirit is telling her to do—kill Mandy! But the secrets of Marlwood go much deeper than Lindsay thought. Sometimes the girls who seem like enemies are actually on your side. And the voices you trust the most—the voices that come from within—are the ones that want you dead. 

So, did you get anything good in your mailbox this week?  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Around the interwebs

Boy howdy, I am a tired librarian this weekend. This past week was our school district's Spring Break, which means that the library was uber busy. We had some fantastic programs, including a Life-Sized Candy Land program which you'll be hearing more about in a week or so on the ALSC Blog. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out the following:

Remember all that wonderful buzzing about the best YA books you never heard of? Well, Kelly's hosting The Great Unsung YA 2010 Giveaway, so go on over there and enter by April 12.

Travis of 100 Scope Notes takes a look at book bullying via the star rating system on Amazon. Personally, it irks me when books are given one- and two-star reviews based on things like Amazon's shipping or the fact that it's a children's book and not an adult book. What do you think of Amazon's star ratings? How seriously do you take them?

Jen Robinson pointed me to a New York Times article about a father and daughter who read together for 3,218 nights in a row. This is a fantastic testimony to the bonding power of sharing books with your kids.

This kinda slipped under my radar, but Newbery-winning author Sid Fleischman died last week at age 90. According to the article, he wrote over 60 children's books, including The Whipping Boy, which won the Newbery medal in 1986. Thanks to Confessions of a Bibliovore for the heads up.

Don't forget to post about an audiobook in March and submit your link to our April AudioSynced Roundup! (I admit, I have not yet done an audiobook post this month. It's coming! I promise!) On April 1, I'll be posting a roundup of audiobook reviews and posts around the KidLitosphere. If you don't have a post for March, that's okay - Kelly will be hosting the roundup at Stacked in May.

And that's all I've got for you today (have I mentioned that I am TIRED?). Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Ocean Soup

Ocean Soup: Tide-Pool Poems by Stephen R. Swinburne, illustrated by Mary Peterson. (Grades 2-5.) Charlesbridge, February 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.

If a starfish interviewed an octopus, what questions would it ask? Do mussels ever get sick of living so close together? And what the heck is a "gastropod", anyway? In Ocean Soup: Tide-Pool Poems we'll hear from all these creatures and many more. Bright illustrations of tide-pool creatures, complete with anthropomorphic expressions, accompany the lively poems in this seaside collection.

Some of the poems worked better than others for me, but overall this is a good collection. And it fits in perfectly with this summer's collaborative Summer Reading theme.

My favorite of the poems is probably Hairy Doris. Here's a snippet:

Hello, my name is Doris.
I'm a shell-less gastropod, 
but you can call me "sea slug,"
if gastropod sounds odd. 

Don't you think I'm gorgeous? 
With my raspy tongue I scrape
for bits of healthy food to eat. 
A slug must watch her shape.

This is an example, too, of how Steve Swinburne incorporates facts into each poem. Also, a short blurb accompanies each poem giving a few more facts about the animal in question.

Steve talks about the inspiration behind Ocean Soup over at Unabridged, the Charlesbridge blog.

And it's Poetry Friday. Head on over to The Drift Record for the roundup.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A little book buzz

In an effort to catch up on the stack of to-be-reviewed books on the corner of my desk, I've got a couple of mini-reviews today.

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1) by Maryrose Wood. (Grades 4-7.) Balzer + Bray, March 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.

Miss Penelope Lumley, new graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, has found herself a job as governess to the children at Ashton Place. The job seems too good to be true - it's offered to Penelope after only the briefest of interviews and the salary is more than generous... But it turns out that there's a reason for that. The three children Penelope will look after... have been raised by wolves. 

Ohh, I really liked this book. It's tongue-in-cheek and Snicket-esque and great fun all around. I was chuckling along and really appreciating the rich writing the entire time. I'm happy to know that this is the first of what I hope will be many books about The Incorrigibles! Hand it to fans of Lemony Snicket or Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys

And, for something completely different...

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles. (Grades 10+) Bloomsbury Teen, April 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher. 

When Latino bad boy Carlos Fuentes is sent to Colorado from Mexico, he expects to continue getting into trouble and taking care of himself the way he's used to. What he doesn't expect is Kiara and how he can't stop thinking about her.

Kiara is straight A's, hiking, and babysitting her younger brother on Saturday nights. When she volunteers to show the new kid Carlos around school, she doesn't expect him to be so smoldering. Even though she knows better, she can't help falling for him. 

Basically, if you read Perfect Chemistry, you know what you're getting into here. Which is half the fun. :) As I was reading it, I bemoaned the shallow characters, the predictable plot... but when I wasn't reading it... I wished I was reading it. And books like that don't come along every day. So let yourself sink into this one. Hand it to teens looking for a steamy un-put-downable romance or fans of the first book. 

AND. I ended up with two copies of Rules of Attraction, so I am going to give one away to one lucky reader! All you have to do is fill out the form below. I want to get this out to the winner ASAP, so this giveaway will last through this weekend only! Enter by 7:00am Monday morning (March 29) to be considered! Contest is open to everyone worldwide.

ETA (March 29): The contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Of ravens and writing desks...

Okay, I FINALLY got a post up about our Alice in Wonderland tea party (which happened, what, like almost 3 weeks ago). Head on over to the ALSC blog to check it out: Wonderland Tea Party!

I'll give you a teaser:

Book Review: The Unwritten Rule

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott. (Grades 7+) Simon Pulse, March 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Sarah has been best friends with Brianna since they met in kindergarten and Brianna saved Sarah from the clutches of a five-year-old Mean Girl. Sarah has been Brianna's loyal sidekick ever since. But there's one thing Sarah's never told Brianna - how she feels about Brianna's boyfriend Ryan. Sarah has liked Ryan since the eighth grade, but now Ryan and Brianna are together and Sarah knows that she can never tell Brianna her true feelings. 

Except that... Ryan and Sarah kissed. 

And now Sarah's falling harder than ever. There's an unwritten rule: you don't fall for your best friend's boyfriend. And Sarah's broken it. 

Sometimes you're in the mood for werewolves. 
Sometimes you're in the mood for girl football players. 
And sometimes you're in the mood for a romance story with teen characters so real they're practically jumping off the page - and for that last one, you'll pick up The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott. 

One of Elizabeth's Scott's great strengths are her characters. It was one of the first things I loved about her books. Sometimes I want to shake her characters, sometimes I want to hug them, and that's because they feel so real to me. Sarah, Brianna, Ryan, and the rest of the characters in The Unwritten Rule are no exception. 

Of course, I was rooting for our protagonist here - Sarah's a sweet girl in a tight spot and there's no win-win solution for her. But the character that really fascinated me was Brianna. It'd be easy to write Brianna off as a kind of frenemy, an obstacle to Sarah's destiny. But, like real people, Brianna's complex. And, okay, maybe she does mean things sometimes, but you can absolutely see why she is the way she is, and why Sarah has to keep quiet about her feelings for Ryan. It's a tribute to Ms. Scott's writing that she can make the reader feel empathy for Brianna, even as we're rooting for Sarah to get the guy. 

This is a sweet romance story and I'd definitely recommend picking it up if you enjoy Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han. (Can I also just say that I love the cover? It's so pretty and purple!)

Read more reviews at GreenBean TeenQueen, Not Enough Bookshelves, Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf, and The Book Owl (among others). And check out this videoblog of Elizabeth Scott talking about The Unwritten Rule for Readergirlz (thanks to bildungsroman for the link!):

The Unwritten Rule is on shelves now! Go pick it up for your spring break (or anytime) reading!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: FDR's Alphabet Soup

FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America, 1932-1939 by Tonya Bolden. (Grades 5+) Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010. Review copy provided by my local library.

Herbert Hoover took the oath of office in 1929. Seven months later, the stock market crashed, plunging America into the Great Depression. Hoover was criticized for not providing relief. People even nicknamed shantytowns for the homeless, calling them Hoovervilles.

In 1933, America was ready for a New Deal. Enter Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He not only had plans for rebuilding America, he took action and got it done.

In FDR's Alphabet Soup, Tonya Bolden takes readers back in time to the 1930s to explore the many programs that FDR and his colleagues developed to combat the Depression. Called "alphabet soup" because of the many acronyms, FDR's programs included the WPA (Works Progress Administration), SBP (School Breakfast Program), and the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), among many, many more. Thousands of people benefited from these programs. Thousands of people were enraged by things FDR did while president.

As I was reading it, I couldn't help but think of the parallels between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent economic recession. Tonya Bolden writes in her author's note:

Back in 2007 when I started this book, I told friends that I was seeing way too many parallels. Some thought me nuts, but I stuck with my gut, convinced that I was witnessing a paradigm shift. While so much history was repeating (or rhyming), I was even more committed to hooking young people up on history, so that they might have more understanding of their twenty-first century lives.

Amen, sister.

I can't even tell you how timely this book is. Written in a conversational tone and including tons of photos and sidebars, it's far from a textbook. While the book certainly includes more than enough well-documented information to be a valuable resource for reports, Ms. Bolden wrote it with the aim of satisfying young history buffs and it succeeds on that front. This book will answer questions teens and tweens have about life in the 1930s and it may inspire them to do some more research on the decade.

The book includes a glossary, list of sources,  photo captions, and an index. You'll want this for library shelves. Pair it with Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt for an in-depth look at one of FDR's programs.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's round up is over at Books Together - go check it out!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In My Mailbox #25

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren! Here's what was in my mailbox this week...

Egads, the books just kept coming this week! (Which is awesome.) Since the post got kind of long, I'm just going to link to GoodReads (as per usual), where you can read a summary of each book.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles (Bloomsbury, April 2010). And yes, I won this in a contest over at Stacked, so I'll be giving this away... stay tuned!

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 2010). Very excited about this one - not only is this a 2010 debut author, but I've already started reading it and it's very good!

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood (Blazer & Bray [HarperCollins], March 2010). I read the first few pages and it seems very Lemony Snicket-ish (in a good way), so I'm excited to read it.

The Suburb Beyond the Stars by MT Anderson (Scholastic Press, June 2010). This is a sequel to The Game of Sunken Places.

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic Press, May 2010).

Wolven by Di Toft (Chicken House, June 2010). This is a debut author, published in 2010 in the US!

Wish I Might: From the Life of Willa Havisham (Scholastic Press, May 2010). 

The Keepers' Tattoo by Gill Arbuthnott (Chicken House, May 2010). This is a 2010 debut!

Runaway by Meg Cabot (Point, May 2010).

Great mailbox week! Did you get anything awesome in your mailbox?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Around the interwebs

Oh, happy Saturday. I'm at work (we're having an Egg Decorating Workshop today!), but you should enjoy these links:

If you are (like me) trying to put a book order together when you have eleventy billion other things to do (planning Summer Reading Club, for one...), you will find this helpful: Starred Reviews (So Far), 2010. Thank you, THANK YOU to the lovely Elizabeth Bluemie for putting this post together and also thank you to Elizabeth Bird at Fuse #8 for linking to it.

And speaking of the lovely Fuse, have you been keeping up with her Top 100 Children's Novels Poll? If not, you still have time to get caught up and submit your predictions for the Top 10 by March 25. I would totally submit my predictions except that I have no idea. Also, the aforementioned eleventy billion things to do...

As I mentioned, planning the Summer Reading Club is one of my eleventy billion things. If you're also planning a Summer Reading Club, you may find these links for cool activities from The Imaginary Librarian helpful.

John Grisham's writing a kids' book: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. Oy. Thanks (I think) to Leila at bookshelves of doom for the link.

Um, and okay. I was all set to be indignant about this summer's Ramona and Beezus movie, but... John Corbett? I love John Corbett! And in this preview is one of my favorite things in the series (when Ramona and her dad draw the huge picture on long paper... I love it so much I just did it with my After School Adventures kids last week!) Head over to GreenBean TeenQueen to watch the trailer. I've got to be honest, I think it looks super cute (Selena Gomez notwithstanding... she is way too pretty to be Beezus...)

I didn't know about this book until I saw it at my local independent bookstore yesterday, but MotherReader (and Teen Reader) has a review of The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary. Of course I'll add it to the order, though it'll be just another Wimpy Kid book we can't keep on the shelves... If you have Wimpy Kid fans, you'll want to get this one!

In related collection development news, Dav Pilkey is finally coming back with another Captain Underpants book!!!! I know many a grade-schooler who will be happy about this news. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future is due out in August.

And on that note, I'm out. Enjoy the beautiful weekend, everyone! (It will be beautiful here... maybe not so much in other parts of the world...)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Curious George Exhibit at The Jewish Museum in NYC

Some of you are lucky enough to live in (or close to) New York City, where they have fabulous events all the time. Here's one such fabulous exhibit you might attend if you're going to be in NYC between now and August 1!

Press release:



New York, NY – The Jewish Museum will present a new exhibition, Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, from March 14 through August 1, 2010.  Curious George, the impish monkey protagonist of many adventures, may never have seen the light of day were it not for the determination and courage of his creators: illustrator H. A. Rey (1898 – 1977) and his wife, author and artist Margret Rey (1906 – 1996).  They were both born in Hamburg, Germany, to Jewish families and lived together in Paris from 1936 to 1940.  Hours before the Nazis marched into the city in June 1940, the Reys fled on bicycles carrying drawings for their children’s stories including one about a mischievous monkey, then named Fifi.  Not only did they save their animal characters, but the Reys themselves were saved by their illustrations when authorities found them in their belongings.  This may explain why saving the day after a narrow escape became the premise of most of their Curious George stories.  

The exhibition at The Jewish Museum will offer visitors a rare opportunity to view nearly eighty original drawings and vibrant watercolors of Curious George and other characters. Many of these works have never been on display before.  Preparatory dummy books, vintage photographs, and documentation related to the Reys’ escape from Nazi Europe, such as H. A. Rey’s journals detailing the couple’s perilous journey to freedom, are also included.  One of the exhibition galleries will be transformed into a reading room for visitors of all ages inspired by the beloved monkey’s escapades in Curious George Flies a Kite. 

In addition, the exhibition features an interactive timeline, accessed via a touch-screen computer, about the Reys’ life in France from the late 1930s through their fateful escape in the summer of 1940.  Visitors will be able to view additional pages of H. A. Rey’s journal detailing the couple’s journey to safety, images of illustrations by H. A. Rey and photographs taken by Margret Rey in France, documentary photography related to early World War II in France, and historic video, as well as listen to an interview with the couple. This program will be also available at

About The Jewish Museum

Widely admired for its exhibitions and educational programs that inspire people of all backgrounds, The Jewish Museum is the preeminent United States institution exploring the intersection of 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture. The Jewish Museum was established in 1904, when Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 ceremonial art objects to The Jewish Theological Seminary of America as the core of a museum collection. Today, the Museum maintains an important collection of 26,000 objects—paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, archaeological artifacts, ceremonial objects, and broadcast media. 

General Information

Museum hours are Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, 11am to 5:45pm; Thursday, 11am to 8pm; and Friday, 11am to 4pm.  Museum admission is $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for senior citizens, $7.50 for students, free for children under 12 and Jewish Museum members.  Admission is free on Saturdays.  For general information on The Jewish Museum, the public may visit the Museum’s website at or call 212.423.3200.  The Jewish Museum is located at 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, Manhattan.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review: Mockingbird

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. (Grades 4-7.) Philomel Books, April 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Caitlin has a hard time relating to people. She sometimes can't tell how they're feeling from their facial expressions. She's almost completely literal. Caitlin has Asperger's Syndrome.

In a confusing world where her classmates' faces don't always look like those on her Facial Expressions Chart and a teacher saying that she wants you to do something turns out to mean do it, Caitlin could always count on her older brother Devon to help her figure out what was going on.

But now Devon is gone, a victim of a tragic school shooting that's rocked their small town. And Caitlin has to deal with not only her own grief, but the grief of her father and of their entire community.

This is a moving story seen from a unique perspective. Caitlin and the other characters (notably Caitlin's dad, a single father trying to deal with his own grief as well as take care of his daughter) had me choked up in many different spots. But Kathryn Erskine has mastered that blend of humor with poignancy and I found myself laughing out loud in several spots, too.
Take, for example, this passage:

...Her hands are on her hips and her head is moving up and down and she keeps leaning forward and back again. I think this means she's mad. Sometimes it means The Chicken Dance but I don't think that's what she's doing right now.

See what I mean? 

Caitlin's story is one that will definitely stick with me. I'm thinking kids will dig it, especially kids who dig books like Lauren Tarshis's Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree or Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie. You'll also want to make sure you have a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird (and the movie) around because they're mentioned in the book and would make a great pairing.

Read more reviews at bibliochic, Successful Teaching, and Glitter Glue Library. And do check out this interview with Kathryn Erskine on Holly Schindler's blog and another interview over at The Furnace.

Mockingbird will be on shelves April 15 (happy birthday, S!).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Can't get enough of those chickens...

Okay. I apparently have a thing about chickens. I have posted chicken storytimes NOT ONCE, but twice before. And here I am again. I won't go on about more chicken books (although I will say that this time it was "Chickens and Eggs" and one of the books I added was First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, which is a fabulous book for spring time).

No, today I want to post about two of the "stretchers" that we included in this Chicken and Eggs storytime.

First, the activity that had us singing all week long and caused a couple of kids to exclaim "That was awesome!"

Egg shakers. It fit in perfectly with our theme. They were super easy and cheap to make (you can buy them, too, like these egg shakers from Lakeshore). And they were so much fun. We'll definitely use them again. To make them, I just used some plastic Easter eggs we already had (if you're shopping in the right season, you can also find them quite easily at your local Dollar Tree, grocery store, etc.). I filled each one with a small handful of beans, and put tape around the middle of the eggs. None of them broke open. They're not works of are, but they are colorful and they make noise.

We used the shakers with the song "I Know a Chicken" by Laurie Berkner, on her CD Whaddaya Think of That? It's a great song to use with shakers because in addition to just shaking on the beat, it gives explicit instructions (i.e. "Shake 'em fast!" "Shake 'em slow.", etc.). (Boy howdy, the kids loved shaking them fast. So did I.)

Along with all the great chicken books and the egg shaking, we also made this craft, which I completely stole from my good friend J at the Solon Public Library (and I also stole her photo):

Each child gets a paper plate which they color yellow (or whatever color they want - we had at least one green chicken) and then cut in half. Staple the two halves together so that they form a little basket, leaving the top open. Affix the google eyes, beak (you can staple it on, between the two plate halves, or tape it or glue it), draw a wing, and tape (or staple) two bent pipe cleaners to the inside of the plates for handles.

The kids quite enjoyed making it, and to my mind it was a good mix of things they could do on their own (coloring, gluing), things they could do with help (stapling), and things the parents had to do (taping the pipe cleaners to the inside was the trickiest part).

And now maybe I have posted about chicken storytimes enough. Once more and I'm going to have to start calling my blog The Chicken Librarian.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: The Grimm Legacy

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. (Grades 7+) G.P Putnam's Sons, July? 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Do you believe in magic? 

Elizabeth does not have your average after-school job. She works at the New York Circulating Material Repository, a library containing all sorts of objects, some commonplace and some very rare. The rarest of all are housed in the special collections, including the Grimm Collection, a collection of magical objects from Grimm fairy tales. Seven league boots, magic mirrors, enchanted cooking pots... Elizabeth, already a fan of the Grimm fairy tales, finds it almost too good to be true! But when Elizabeth discovers that objects from the collection are disappearing and losing their magic, she's got to try to find them before it's too late and these precious items are lost forever! 

This is a delightful book! In fact, I picked it up right after I got it, intending to just read the first few pages, and I found myself not putting it down until I was done. I got caught up in this magical world and didn't want to let it go. 

Polly Shulman builds a fascinating world inside the Repository and she makes it seem so realistic that I actually Googled it when I finished the book to see if such a thing really existed. (It doesn't - at least as far as my brief Google search could tell me.) Ms. Shulman also builds a believable and relatable set of characters. I appreciate the fact that Elizabeth's new friends come from different cultures (Anjali is East Indian-American, Marc is African-American, Aaron is Jewish...), especially since they're in New York City where it's logical that Elizabeth would meet people from different backgrounds. I also appreciated that the cultures played a role in the story (but not the central role in the story). It's not just mentioned once that Anjali is of Indian descent - Elizabeth visits her house and eats an Indian meal with her family, etc. 

Definitely hand The Grimm Legacy to fans of Sarah Beth Durst's Into the Wild, and it's sure to please any fan of fairy tale retellings. The ending leaves the way open for sequels and I'm hoping that we'll see more of Elizabeth's adventures in the Repository! 

Good Reads has the pub date listed as July 8, but I've also seen a May pub date. So, fairy tale fans, put it on your TBR list and look for it this spring/summer!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: Older Than the Stars

Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox, illustrated by Nancy Davis. Grades 2-5. Charlesbridge, February 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.

You are older than the dinosaurs. Older than the earth. Older than the sun and all the planets. You are older than the stars. You are as old as the universe itself.

So begins Older Than the Stars, a picture book that sets out to explain the Big Bang Theory and how the universe was formed. The text follows the same structure as This is the House That Jack Built, only we start with "This is the BANG when the world began." From there, Karen Fox shows us how the tiny particles from the Big Bang formed atoms, which formed gases, which formed stars, etc. etc.

On each page, in addition to the rhythmic, rhyming text, there is also more information to explain each step as the universe builds itself before our very eyes. Atoms form and reform, dust clumps together and makes planets, stars are born (including our sun). Besides all the information on how the universe formed, the takeaway idea here is that the stuff that our bodies are comprised of is the same stuff that's always been here.

The iron in your blood may have once been part of molten lava from a volcano. The carbon in your fingernails may have been part of a tree leaf. And the oxygen in your lungs was probably once breathed by dinosaurs.

The author includes a timeline of the universe and a glossary in the back of the book. The illustrations are very bright and colorful, interacting whimsically with the text. The Big Bang and the formation of the universe is a pretty complex subject, but Older Than the Stars does a great job of simplifying it for young readers.  I'd pair it with something like When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm by Hannah Bonner for more information on the earth a long, long time ago.

 Read more reviews at Kids Lit and My World - Mi Mundo, and check out the book's website.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out the roundup over at In Need of Chocolate.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In My Mailbox #24

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren! Head on over there to see what delightful and much-appreciated books bloggers received in their mailboxes (or bought at bookstores or checked out from the library) this week! (Did everyone remember to set your clocks ahead?)

 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, illustrated by Robert Ingpen. Sterling Books, March 2010.

This is a lovely new edition of the classic book. It's a nice, large size and has beautiful, full-color illustrations.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press, July 2010.

Oh, I *squeed* when I got this one in the mail. I was a big fan of Shiver, so I'm looking forward to checking out this sequel!

Countdown by Deborah Wiles. Scholastic Press, May 2010.

Summary from ARC:

Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that's hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall. 

It's 1962 and it seems that the whole country is living in fear. When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse. Franny doesn't know how to deal with what's going on with her family and friends. But somehow she's got to make it through.

The book calls itself a "documentary novel" and interspersed with the story are photos, ads, and other footage from 1962. I am in the middle of it right now and finding it completely intriguing. 

Trackers by Patrick Carman. Scholastic Press, May 2010.

Looks like Scholastic and Patrick Carman are going the way of the books + online videos route like in Skeleton Creek. This is the first in a series and here's some info from the publicity:

In today's landscape of bits and bytes, everyone leaves a digital footprint - even the most advanced cyber criminals. And that's where the Trackers come in - four tech-savvy kids armed with high-tech video cameras and esoteric coding skills. Told through an interlinked web of text, videos, and websites, this series follows Adam, Finn, Lewis, and Emily as they become entangled in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with Shantorian, the world's most dangerous hacker.

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce. Harper (an imprint of HarperCollins), March 2010.

Jacket copy:

Big Nate is in a class by himself! Nate knows he's meant for REALLY big things. But life doesn't always go your way just because you're awesome. Trouble always seems to find him, but Nate keeps his cool no matter what. He knows he's great. A fortune cookie told him so.

Big Nate is a syndicated comic strip and now it's being turned into a tween series. It looks (and is being publicized as) distinctly Wimpy Kid-ish. A ploy? Perhaps, but if it'll satisfy the Wimpy Kid fanatics at my library, more power to 'em. I shall report back.

Another fabulous mailbox week (everyone at my apartment complex office knows me and whenever I go in there, they're always like "Another package?"). How about you?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Whatcha listening to?

Y'all, don't forget that on April 1, I'll be posting our monthly AudioSynced Roundup, collecting audiobook reviews and news from the month of March. There's still plenty of time to post! You can drop me a link to your post any time (comment, email) or head over here to Abby (the) Librarian on April 1 to add your link to the roundup.

Check out last month's AudioSynced Roundup over at Stacked

Feel free to grab this graphic for your post if you so desire and please spread the word!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Around the interwebs

I'm having a brief interlude with World of Warcraft, but I've wakened myself from the gaming stupor long enough to put a few links together...

Obviously, it is never too early for Betsy of A Fuse #8 Production to put together a Newbery/Caldecott prediction list.

What are you doing on April 14 and 15? Mark your calendars for the YALitChat, a Twitter chat featuring such YA superstars as Lisa McMann, Ellen Hopkins, Holly Black, and more! Thanks to @galleysmith for the link.

Travis of 100 Scope Notes has compiled a gallery of book spine poems and it is marvelous. I was too lame to remember to make one, but do check out all the awesome poems there in celebration of Poetry Friday.

Check out the opening ceremony of The Battle of the (Kids) Books! The matches start Monday, so get your brackets filled out! (No, I haven't done mine either...)

Melissa of Book Nut has a great post about helping your kids to develop a love of reading (whether they're precocious or not).

And we all love process. Take a look at this video about book cover design. Who knew they used so many photos to make one cover?!

Thanks to Jacket Whys for the link.

And on that note, I'm going back to my video game. :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Review: Raised by Wolves

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Grades 7+. Egmont USA, June 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Bryn has been raised by wolves. Werewolves, that is.

When Bryn was four years old, her parents were killed by a rogue rabid werewolf and Bryn was adopted by Callum, the leader of her local werewolf pack. The Weres have a strict code and they deal swiftly and harshly with any Were who attacks humans. Bryn has felt safe under their protection, though she has worked hard to close off the bond that comes with being a member of the pack. Bryn is fiercely independent and can't stomach the thought that, through the bond, members of the pack can know what she's feeling.

But when a new werewolf arrives, Bryn feels compelled to see him and what she learns from him will change everything.

Oh, Jennifer Lynn Barnes. You did good.

Werewolves may be the in thing right now, but not all supernatural teen novels are created equal. This is one of the good ones. (I made a terrible pun in my Good Reads review and I'm not going to repeat it here.)

I just really dig Jennifer Lynn Barnes's writing style. It's snappy and pithy. Bryn is so scrappy and snarky, I couldn't help but like her from the very beginning. It's the same dry wit that made me love The Squad: Perfect Cover so much.

Add to that, a different take on the werewolf lore. I know that some people get all indignant when authors reimagine mythical creatures, but I'm not one of those people. Here, the werewolves are divided into different territories with one Alpha per pack. Animal instincts dictate that the Weres obey their Alpha and the different packs have slipped into a rather uneasy democracy. I'm digging it.

There's a bit of a sizzling romance and, though I could have done with more of that aspect, it'll please members of Team Jacob. Hand this one to Twilighters and fans of supernatural stories like Shiver and Hush, Hush. They won't be disappointed.

Read more reviews at Persnickety Snark and Bookworming in the 21st Century.

Raised by Wolves hits shelves June 8!
And I found out through Jennifer's blog that there's gonna be a sequel! Yayayay!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review: Leaving Gee's Bend

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham. Grades 4-7. G.P. Putnam's Sons, January 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

It's 1932 and life isn't easy in the small town of Gee's Bend, Alabama, but Ludelphia gets by, stitching her quilts and helping her mother with the chores. Then Ludelphia's mama gets sick. Very sick. And since there's no doctor in Gee's Bend, Ludelphia only has one choice - to leave Gee's Bend and travel the 40 miles to Camden in search of help. It's no easy feat and what happens to Ludelphia on her journey will change her - and the town of Gee's Bend - forever. 

 Inspired by actual events, this is a story that will bring the Depression era South to life for young readers. Ludelphia is a character who is easy to like, she's high-spirited and imperfect. When she figures out that her Mama needs a doctor, she doesn't let anything stop her getting to Camden to fetch him. But it's not as easy to get to Camden as Ludelphia predicted. She's been sheltered in her African-American community of Gee's Bend and now she'll find out what the world beyond the river bend can be like. 

Throughout the book, as Ludelphia makes her way to Camden, she's stitching on a quilt. Quilting comes naturally to her and stitching helps calm her nerves. Ludelphia is always on the lookout for a bright scrap of fabric that will find a place in her quilt. This tribute to the quilting heritage of Gee's Bend (located in what is now Boykin, Alabama) weaves its way through the plot, adding nice cultural detail. Check out the Quilts of Gee's Bend for more information on that. 

I thought there were some problems with the pacing - the story takes awhile to get going and I felt the action dragged in some places. Also, Ari at Reading in Color points out that there's not any discussion about sharecropping and how the way the sharecropping system was set up kept people in debt. A little more historical detail and information would have gone a long way. Still, I think Irene Latham is definitely a debut author to watch and you may want to grab Leaving Gee's Bend to pair with Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry for your units on African-American history or The Depression.

Read more reviews at Maw Books Blog, Crazy Quilts (warning: spoilers), A Patchwork of Books, and Reading in Color.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Doyle and Fossey, Science Detectives

The Case of the Gasping Garbage (July, 2009)
The Case of the Mossy Lake Monster (July 2009)
The Case of the Graveyard Ghost (October 2009)
The Case of the Barfy Birthday (October 2009)... by Michele Torrey, illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman. Grades 2-5. Sterling Children's Books. I received copies of the first two books in the series from the publisher for review.

Meet Drake Doyle and Nell Fossey, two of Mossy Lake's best science detectives. Have a problem? Got a mystery? Doyle and Fossey can help solve it with science!

Okay, okay, these books aren't strictly nonfiction, but I'm posting about them on Nonfiction Monday because these stories are a great way to interest kids in science and they include activities and experiments that kids can try. In each story, Doyle and Fossey solve a mystery or a problem by using the scientific method, research, and experiments. Each book contains four stories and then a section with science activities to go along with the problems Doyle and Fossey solved in the book.

For exmaple, in A Teeny-Tiny Case (in The Case of the Gasping Garbage), Doyle and Fossey test ink from different pens  to determine who in their fifth grade class wrote a love note. At the back of the book is the information needed to do the same experiment, using chromatography to match the ink from a note to the pen that was used to write it.

I mean, the stories are written for the purpose of including this scientific information, so take that as you will. I don't know that the stories on their own would be something that kids would necessarily enjoy. The strength of the series is in the information and experiments that are included along with the stories. These books are a great choice for budding scientists and fans of Encyclopedia Brown. They'd be great for classroom or homeschool use and are sure to spark interest from kid readers who will be itching to try out the experiments.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! You can find this week's roundup at Lost Between the Pages, so head on over there and see what the KidLitosphere has been learning about this week.

Around the interwebs: teeny weeny version

I tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour, even skipping the Oscars (who am I kidding? I really dislike award shows. It was not a sacrifice to skip the Oscars)... Alas, I am still awake, so I figured I'd share a couple of links:

This week is the Share a Story, Shape a Future Blog Tour! Sarah's got the schedule all laid out for you at The Reading Zone, so be sure and stop by.

And also make sure you stop by Jen Robinson's Book Page because Jen shared some big news over the weekend and you're not going to want to miss it. Congratulations, Jen! :D

Okay, seriously, that's it. Now I'm going to bed. Yes I am. Goodnight!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In My Mailbox #23

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren! Head on over there to see what goodies bloggers received in their mailboxes this week.

This week I got a copy of Rules of Attraction (Bloomsbury Teen, April 2010) by Simone Elkeles that I won in a contest at Stacked. Thanks, Kelly! Rules of Attraction is a sequel to Perfect Chemistry, which I really liked, so I've been looking forward to this one! Here's the summary from Good Reads:

When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado. Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.

And I got a copy of The Wonder Book by Amy Rosenthal (HarperCollins, March 2010). After a quick glance through it, it looks like it'll please Shel Silverstein fans (of which there are many at my library).

And that was my mailbox this week! Did you get anything interesting in your mailbox this week?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Around the interwebs

Let's see... what's been going on around the interwebs this week?

SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books launched its new site this week and you can find the brackets there. If you're interested in keeping score, What We Read and What We Think is running a contest. The winner with the most correct predictions will, of course, get major bragging rights.

Did you check out our first AudioSynced Roundup????? Go check out the audiobook reviews and news Kelly collected for our first edition of AudioSynced. And never fear, I'll be hosting another roundup on April 1, so make sure you post about audiobooks this month! :)

Travis at 100 Scope Notes is compiling a gallery of book spine poems. Check out the one he made and then make your own to join in the fun!

Sarah, a YA author and blogger at Sarah's Scribbles, ran into a troubling policy when visiting the Orlando Public Library recently. She writes:

...imagine my surprise when I went to the main branch of the OCLS Library today ... and was told that I had to have a librarian escort to so much as *look* at the YA books there.
 She wrote and email and blogged about the response she received. While I can accept that this policy was developed with the safety of teens and children in mind, my professional librarian opinion is that restricting access to part of your collection is never a great idea. (And yes, I do think this policy restricts access - Sarah cared enough to continue on and find her books with someone staring over her shoulder. Imagine how many people don't bother. I probably wouldn't bother.) Furthermore, if teen safety is such a concern, I think there are better ways to ensure it (starting with hiring a YA librarian to staff the area). Thanks to @catagator for the link.

On a lighter note, check out My Favorite Book is Facebook: Kids' Classics Updated for the MySpace Generation. I have to say that my favorite is Wikipedia Brown. Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Laurie Halse Anderson starts her foray into vlogging! (I agree with her - I'm not crazy about the term "vlog".) She is hilarious. And awesome. I hope she keeps it up.

Anna, a teen librarian and blogger at Y Shush?, shares a day in the life of a teen librarian. I love reading about people's days!

The new Alice in Wonderland movie is in theaters today! My library's hosting a Wonderland Tea Party tomorrow and if you're thinking of doing an Alice program, you'll want to check out The Imaginary Librarian's Mad Hatter hat craft.

Sophie Blackall, cover illustrator of the fabulous When You Reach Me, shared some of the alternative ideas for the cover. Yeah, that was awhile ago, but Fuse #8 pointed me to the link in the latest installment of her fabulous Top 100 Children's Novels poll (you are following that, right?). 

And one more video will round out this week's links. I love learning about process and Behind the Mic: Graceling is right up my alley.

Thanks to Reading with My Ears for the link.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Review: The Body Finder

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. Grades 9+. HarperTeen, March 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Violet was eight when she found the first body, buried in the woods behind her house. That's when she discovered the power that she has - a sixth sense that alerts her to the presence of people (and animals) who have been murdered. Now Violet's in high school and the only imprints she senses are the occasional small animal. She's got other things to deal with. Namely, a gigantic crush on her best friend Jay. He's grown up recently and become sexy and Violet's not at all sure what to do about her new feelings for him.

But when bodies start popping up in her small town, Violet will rely on Jay as she tries to find the killer... before it's too late.

Here's what I love about The Body Finder:

1. It starts off so strongly with the tension! I didn't want to put it down at first. You get snippets of the serial killer's perspective, just enough to be really super creepy.

2. The sexual tension between Violet and Jay pretty much sizzles off the page. Remember that crush you had where every moment you spent with the other person was pure torture, but you couldn't get enough? Yeah. Kimberly Derting gets it right. Plus, it's hot without being graphic at all.

3. The whole concept is cool and I really like the way that Derting has developed Violet's sixth sense. She gets an "imprint" from a body and it can come in the form of a sound or a color or a taste or a feeling... something only she can sense. Each body's is different and the killer has a bit of the same imprint. The supernatural elements fit very organically into the story.

Now, there were some things I didn't like quite so much. The tension that starts off so strongly kind of evaporated after the first two-thirds or so of the book. No spoilers, but there is a twist that happens a little too early (with obviously too many pages to go, so you know something else is coming). And I thought that the writing could have been a little tighter in places.

That said, the book gets a big heart from me because I really enjoyed it, despite its shortcomings. I will definitely be looking for more from Kimberly Derting. I would try this on fans of Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann (of which I am a huge fan) because it's got a similar tone and a similar mix of crime investigation and romance.

Read more at That Teen Can Blog! and Simply Nerdy Book Reviews.

And check out this book trailer:

The Body Finder is due on shelves March 16!

PS: I read this one in 2009, so it doesn't count for me, but this is a debut if you're reading for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge!