Monday, January 31, 2011

Mythbusters Science Fair Book

Mythbusters Science Fair Book by Samantha Margles.  Grades 4-8.  Scholastic, January 2011.  128 pages.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Does cola work as a grease stain remover?  Can you power an mp3 player with an onion and a sports drink?  Does the five-second rule really work?  The team from The Discovery Channel's Mythbusters is here to help kids design experiments to test these myths and many more in Mythbusters Science Fair Book.

Ahhhh, science fair season.  It starts with an innocent request at the reference desk, "Where are your science project books?"  And then another later that afternoon.  The next day, three more requests.  And before you know it, the 500s are completely depleted and you have kid after kid coming in needing resources on bread mold, photosynthesis, bacteria, and the physics of sports.

So, how does the Mythbusters Science Fair Book hold up?

Its greatest strength is kid appeal.  Many a kid drags his or her feet about completing a science project, but perhaps the allure of an interesting TV show is enough to get a kid excited about science.  Many of the experiments contained within the book are the same experiments you'll find in dozens of science project books: "Can cola dissolve a human tooth?"  "Does talking to your plants really help them grow?"  "Make a volcano with baking soda and water."

And other "experiments" are just plain weird.  "Make a wallet with duct tape"?  In what world is that a science fair project?  "Can magnets erase the information on your credit cards?"  The steps for this "experiment" simply lead to creating your own magnet, not to answering the question in any way.  The question is then answered in the small "What happened?" section at the side.

But kids might glean some unique ideas here ("Are some items we touch regularly dirtier than a toilet?") and the full-color format and many photographs (including copious appearances of show hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage and the others) may give fresh appeal to these tired ideas.

In my experience (and this is just based on what patrons request of me during science fair season - anyone who's helped a kid with a science fair project recently, feel free to chime in!), a successful science fair project needs to have enough researchable science involved for a kid to write a decent report.  Designing an experiment and testing a hypothesis is one part, but another part is doing research and explaining why you got the results you did.  Frankly, this book isn't going to help them with that part.  Small "What happened?" sections appear in some of the experiments, but they don't give kids enough information to get a good start on the research they're going to need to do.

Where science fairs are concerned, I'd skip this book except where the TV show is popular and might draw in kids who have no interest in science projects.

However, though the experiments and activities contained within might not be perfect for school assignments, I would certainly say they will bring hours of entertainment to kids looking for something to do.  Hand kids this book and a few 2-liters of cola and they'll be occupied for the rest of the afternoon.  This would make a great gift for a kid (or parent) who can't get enough Mythbusters and working together on some of the myths inside would be a great family activity.

Happy Nonfiction Monday!  Check out this week's roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


Trapped by Michael Northrop.  Grades 7-10.  Scholastic Press, February 2011.  231 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

When the snow started coming down, Scotty had no idea that the biggest storm of his life had begun.  He and six other students are the last ones at school, waiting for rides that will never come.  As the snow keeps coming down, piling up feet on top of feet, the seven of them are trapped.  And when the power goes out, then the heat... they'll have to figure out what to do to survive.

This book completely pulled me in and I was riveted until the very last page.  I was reading this book  at night (and I read the bulk of it in one night because I just couldn't put it down) and no, it wasn't snowing outside.  But when I got up to put my laundry in the dryer, I found myself startling at every little movement and I stopped to figure out why I was so freaked out.  It was because while reading this book, I had convinced myself that there was fifteen feet of snow piled up outside my apartment and I was going to have to survive alone until it all cleared up.

I had to have a little talk with myself and convince myself that I was NOT stuck in the middle of a catastrophic nor'easter.

Yeah, this book freaked me out to the extent that Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer freaked me out (and that book had me foraging in the cupboards and eating handfuls of chocolate chips...).  I started thinking about how much canned food I had, how I might cook some of the frozen stuff (I do have a fireplace, so that would be a help if I could keep it unblocked).  I don't really know my neighbors in my building, but I would guess that we'd all pool together if we had no access to other people.

That's how real this book felt:  I was MAKING PLANS for the fifteen feet of snow.

I thought the pacing was perfect and it's all narrated in a realistic guy voice.  The story concentrates on plot without a lot of character development, but that's just fine because that totally works for this book.

I'd definitely try this on reluctant readers.  You could call it a "guy book" but girls will dig it, too.  It's short and fast-paced, with a realistic narrator.  I'd hand it to fans of Susan Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It, maybe Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, or anyone looking for an engrossing survival story.

Check out more reviews at Stacked, Y.A. Love, Just Your Typical Book Blog, and The Compulsive Reader.  Michael Northrop is also on a blog tour, so check out those posts.  And read his thoughts on the excellent cover for Trapped over at that cover girl.

Trapped is on shelves now!  (Go pick it up before the snow hits [again] and you won't be able to leave your house for a week...!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reminder: AudioSynced is Coming Up!

Did you review or post about audiobooks in January?  Drop me a link to your post(s) and I will add it (them) to the AudioSynced Roundup, which will be posted here on February 1!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings

Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings by Sophia Bennett.  Grades 6-9.  Chicken House/Scholastic, January 2011.  Originally published as Threads in the UK in 2009.  281 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

When 14-year-old Londoner Nonie and her best friends discover a genius fashion designer, it's up to them to help her out.  Crow's a 12-year-old Ugandan refugee and her family's still in Uganda, danger threatening at all times.  Her father sent her to England to study and thinks she should be concentrating on "serious things", but Nonie and her besties think they can figure out a way for fashion to come to the rescue!

Calling all fans of Project Runway and Top Model: this book's for you!!

This is a very sweet story with a lot of heart and it’s perfect for tweens who like chick lit with a little meat on its bones.  True, a lot of the book is about fashion, designers, outfits, runways, and red carpets.  But it’s very nicely juxtaposed with Nonie and her friends’ concern about what’s going on in Uganda and how they can help.  Sophia Bennett gets her ratio of fluffy, girly stuff to serious stuff just exactly right, which is one of the reasons I loved this book.

Nonie’s growth as a character was another thing I loved.  Nonie narrates our story and she’s got two best friends – Edie is studious and hopes to attend Harvard, and Jenny is a teen actress who just wrapped up her first major film.  They’ve each got big things going on in their lives and sometimes Nonie feels a little bit… adrift.  Sure, she has a passion for fashion, but she’s not really sure where that’s going to take her (except maybe serving tea to Vivienne Westwood).  In Nonie, readers have a character to root for as she takes stock of her situation and tries to help.  Nonie’s not perfect, but she believably grows throughout the novel and that was a very nice thing to see.

I also loved what Ms. Bennett did with Crow.  At first I thought it was going to be impossible to feel like I knew Crow at all.  She’s mostly silent.  She’s been through things that she’d rather not talk about.  But by the end of the book, I felt like I knew Crow just as well as the rest of the girls, and that’s not an easy feat when a character has very little dialogue. 

Now, I’m not sure I completely buy that these characters were 12 and 14 years old (they seemed older), but I am sure that I loved the book enough to suspend my disbelief. 

I’d hand this in a heartbeat to all the fashionistas in your teen section and I’d also try it on kids who like chick lit with a more serious side (think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).

Check out another review at Forever Young Adult

Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings is on shelves now!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Audiobook Review: Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenbllick, read by Joel Johnstone.  (Grades 4-8.)  Scholastic 2004, Scholastic Audiobooks 2006.  4 hours, 30 minutes.  Review copy provided by my local library.

I love books that make me laugh and make me cry.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie certainly fits the bill.
It also gets a prize for being a book about cancer that is not depressing.
It ALSO gets a prize for being the book that kept me entertained during my hours-long wait at the DMV when I got my Illinois license plates in 2007.


Steven is your average eighth-grade boy.  He has a crush on the beautiful cheerleader Renee Albert, he plays drums in the jazz band, he doesn't particularly care for math, he avoids his annoying five-year-old brother Jeffrey whenever possible... But everything changes for Steven when Jeffrey gets a nosebleed that won't stop.  And it turns out that Jeffrey has leukemia.

Suddenly, Steven's parents are constantly fussing over Jeffrey, taking him to Philadelphia for treatment, and Steven's even banished from his own home when he gets the stomach flu.  It's enough to bum anyone out, but on top of it all is the possibility that Jeffrey could die.

Jordan Sonnenblick approaches the subject with care and grace, ending up with a funny, uplifting book about family, music, middle school, crushes, and brotherly love.  (Oh, and cancer.)

If you haven't read any of Jordan Sonnenblick's books, I implore you to start.  Start with this one.  This is a great funny book about a serious subject.  Believable characters bring middle school to life.  Reading this book (and "rereading" it by listening to the audiobook) instantly brought me back to the middle school band room.

Hand this one to tween boys looking for something funny and realistic.  Hand this one to tween girls looking for more of those tearjerker books.  (Or boys looking for tearjerkers or girls looking for something funny.)  Not only is this an awesome book, but it's a crowd-pleaser, as evidenced by its Rebecca Caudill (kids' choice) Award (2008).

Joel Johnstone does a nice job with the narration, giving characters voices that fit them and delivering the humor nicely.  I especially like his raspy five-year-old voice for Jeffrey (I find many actors' "little kid voices" annoying, but not this one).  Music introduces the book and plays at the end, which sets a nice tone for a book about a kid in All-City Jazz Band.  I was laughing along and tearing up at all the right places.

If you like Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, be sure to check out the sequel, After Ever After, a story told from Jeffrey's point of view.  Both books are on shelves now!

Hey, I'm an Audible Affiliate, which means that if you purchase items after clicking links on my blog, I may get a commission! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

So You Want to Go to Library School?

So, you're thinking about going to library school for children's services.  Or maybe you've decided to go, but you're wondering what you can do to make yourself marketable after you finish.  Speaking as a librarian who had a job lined up before she graduated, I have some advice for you!

But hey, please keep in mind that I'm just one person and this is based on my experience.  I invite other librarians to add to this post in comments!  What advice do you have for people just starting their MLS program?

1.  If you have some flexibility as to what school you can attend, look at their youth-oriented course offerings.  Although any accredited school should have pretty solid basics (reference, collection development, etc.), different schools have different offerings when it comes to youth services.  That said, I attended a school that didn't offer an astounding variety of youth classes and I think I came out okay.  :)

2.  Think about whether you might want to be a school librarian or a public librarian.  If there's any chance you might want to work in schools, I'd recommend going the school media route.  I'm sure some of my school media readers can weigh in on this more, but generally school library positions require that you have done student teaching and have a teaching certificate.  A straight-up MLS program doesn't include that stuff.  So while you can be a public librarian with a school media MLS, you may not be able to work in schools with just your MLS.  This is a great question for your advisor or admissions counselor since I do not have a lot of knowledge about school media programs.

3.  My best advice for making yourself marketable with your MLS degree is doing an internship while you're in school.  Not only does this give you library experience to put on your resume (and it should be in a department or program relevant to what you want to do when you graduate), it helps you make contacts who will be references for you, and it'll give you an idea as to whether you like doing it!  I interned in the children's department of my local public library while I was in school and I'm 100% certain that that's what helped me line up a job.

4.  If you don't have the opportunity to do an internship, volunteer!  If you want to go into youth services, I'd recommend volunteering with children.  Volunteer at your local library, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, homework help, tutoring, your religious Sunday School or childcare, Headstart...  One thing that library supervisors absolutely look for in applicants for youth services jobs is some kind of experience with youth.  We need to make sure you're comfortable working with kids (and if you don't have experience with kids, you should probably make sure you're comfortable working with them, too!).

5.  The job market's a lot different now than it was when I graduated at the tail end of 2006.  But what I think was most helpful about my job search is that I didn't limit it geographically for my first job.  For my first job, I was willing to go anywhere and then hopefully I could move closer to my hometown once I had some experience under my belt.  I applied for jobs in Arizona, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and maybe more...  I ended up moving to a suburb of Chicago and then a few years later when a job opened up near my hometown, I was able to move back!

6.  If you're not geographically flexible, I'd advise you to be flexible about the type of job you'll accept.  Maybe your ideal job would be in a children's department but your local library's got a job open in circulation.  A lot of times it's easier to move around within the library once you've got your foot in the door.  And it's always easier to find a job when you HAVE a job.

And that's my advice.  Librarians, please weigh in with your advice in comments.  Potential librarians, let me know what questions you have about library school.  And please feel free to contact me any time at

Edited 3/21/12: Links to other advice posts have been moved to my So You Want to Be a Librarian page in order to make them more accessible. If you accessed this page from elsewhere, you might want to check that out!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crossover: A Pearl in the Storm

A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean by Tori Murden McClure.  Grades 9+ [adult, with high crossover appeal]. Collins [an imprint of HarperCollins], 2009.  286 pages.  Review copy provided by my local library.

Hey.  I might start reviewing some adult books that have high YA crossover appeal.  Or this might be the only one.  Time will tell.  :)

So, Tori Murden McClure was the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic.
Yeah.  She rowed.  Solo.  Across the Atlantic Ocean.  As in, a rowboat.  3,333 miles.  By herself.  Through storms.  With sharks and whales and jellyfish.  She is pretty awesome.

In her memoir, A Pearl in the Storm, Tori intersperses the play-by-play of her heroic journey with snippets of the life that led her to the oars.  For Tori, the journey was about defeating helplessness.  Or, at least it started out that way.  But here's the thing about helplessness:  you can't defeat it.  We're human.  We're all going to be helpless sometimes.  And so Tori's journey became about accepting helplessness, about living with it and not letting it control her.

The riveting adventure is only one part of the book's teen appeal.  Tori writes in such a way that she puts the reader right into the story.  When I was reading this book, I was no longer sitting in my armchair with my cat purring contentedly on my lap.  I was curled up in a tiny boat cabin as a FREAKING HURRICANE tossed me head over heels.  I was laying with my ear pressed to the side of the boat, listening to the clicks and moans of whales far below.  I was staring up at billions of stars as I drifted on the water with no land in sight*.

So, yes, riveting adventure and the kind of writing that lets the reader feel it.  But I think a bigger part of its teen appeal is the entire concept of Tori's journey.  I ask you:  what teen hasn't felt like she was adrift in the ocean during a storm?

And this next part is a little bit of a **spoiler**, although you may already know Tori's story, in which case it's not a spoiler, but read the next paragraph at your own risk...

Here's the other thing:  Tori didn't make it on her first attempt.  After battling through Hurricane Danielle in the North Atlantic and facing yet another oncoming storm, her battered body had had enough and she called for a rescue.  But with help from some devoted friends, Tori realized that falling down doesn't mean you've failed.  You've only failed when you don't get back up.  She got back up and on her second attempt, she made it.  And that's something that everyone needs to hear now and again.

**end spoiler**

It's an inspirational story that doesn't read like an inspirational story.  It's not hokey, it's not didactic.  Instead, it's witty and thoughtful.  I laughed out loud and was moved to tears.  I have to admit that the first 30 pages or so didn't capture me, BUT push through that and you'll get to the good stuff.  After the very beginning part, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

I think it'll appeal to teens who've enjoyed books like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, or Jerri Nielsen's Ice Bound.

A Pearl in the Storm is on shelves now!

Sidenote:  Tori Murden McClure is speaking at my library in April!  She's the keynote speaker for our ILF District 6 Conference and after reading her book, I seriously can't wait to meet her.

Hey, it's Nonfiction Monday!  Head over to Great Kids Books for the roundup!

* During the time I was reading this book, I actually had a dream about laying down and seeing all those stars above my head.  Probably the real thing would surpass my wildest imagination. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox #63

Welcome to In My Mailbox, a Sunday roundup of all the wonderful books that appeared in my mailbox this week!  Kristi at The Story Siren has the roundup!

These books are review copies I've gotten over the past few weeks...

100 Most Awesome Things on the Planet by Anna Claybourne (Scholastic, January 2011).  Okay, 100 Most Dangerous Things on the Planet is the best book to booktalk EVER.  Whenever I talk it, kids are scrambling all over themselves to get their hands on it.  I am so excited that there's a new book in this vein! 

The Civil War: Six Degrees Biographies by Aaron Rosenberg (Scholastic, January 2011).  This book combines six short biographies of people central to the Civil War.  While biography compilations don't seem to circ as well as individual biographies, this would be a good starting point for kids studying the Civil War.  The six people featured are Clara Barton, Mathew Brady, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and George McClellan. 

Daughters of the Sea: May by Kathryn Lasky (Scholastic, March 2011).  Mermaid book... The second in a series... 

The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor (Feiwel & Friends, January 2011).  I love the Beatles!!!!  So of course when this one was pitched to me, I had to accept. :) 

Invasion: A CHAOS Novel by Jon S. Lewis (Thomas Nelson, December 2010).  Aliens... Could be cool...

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan (Scholastic, April 2011).  I actually purposefully didn't pick this one up at ALA because it's a weird size and I thought it might mess up my mailing boxes, so I was happy to get this one in the mail last week!

Mythbusters Science Fair Book by Samantha Margles (Scholastic, January 2011).  This book looks so cool.  I haven't looked at it in detail yet, but if the experiments are feasible, this might be the perfect thing to motivate those reluctant science fair participants.  

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer (HarperTeen, February 2011).  This is a 2011 debut about dueling high school singers.  I won this on a GoodReads giveaway!  Hooray! 

Storm Runners by Roland Smith (Scholastic, October 2010).  This one sounds action-packed and I have a feeling that my kids are going to scoop up this series!

And that was my mailbox this week!  I hope you had a great week! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Around the Interwebs

Are you following Diversity in YA Fiction?  I love their monthly posts featuring the month's new releases of books that include diversity.  If you're interested in maintaining a culturally diverse collection, this is a great tool to help stay on top of new releases!

This post on Playdough Play Time has got me thinking about doing a playdough program at the library.  Hi, Miss Julie's shared several posts from this blog Not Just Cute, which is written by an early childhood educator and contains lots of great information about early literacy and child development.  If you work with young children, check it out!

Travis at 100 Scope Notes pointed out the new paperback cover for Robert Paul Weston's Zorgamazoo, which incorporates award seals into the cover design.  Very snazzy.

Mel of Mel's Desk shares a really awesome Caldecott program that she's run with inmates at the county jail.  This is a unique way to inspire excitement about books!

Waaaaay back last year, the ALSC posted their updated list of Great Websites for Kids.  Check out those links and see what you might want to add to your library's website.

Check out this Guide to Reviewing GLBT Books over at Bounjour, Cass!  This is a great introduction to terms you might come across and since that post says "Part 1", I hope that means she'll continue the series!  Thanks to Librarian Pirate for the link.

Boys need male reading role models!  So check out Fathers Read, a blog featuring reading dads of all types.  Thanks to A Fuse #8 Production for the link.

And for funsies, check out prom pictures of authors, editors, and more at Aimee Ferris's site to promote her upcoming book Will Work for Prom Dress (Egmont USA, February 2011).  What a cute way to create excitement about her book!  Thanks again to A Fuse #8 Production for the link!

And that's all I've got for you today!  If you're facing snow, ice, and incredibly cold wind chills, stay safe and warm!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Drought by Pam Bachorz.  Grades 7+.  Egmont USA, January 2011.  392 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

For the past 200 years, Ruby has been part of the Congregation, an enslaved religious group that's forced to spend their days harvesting dew from the leaves in the forest to make Water.  Water is the key to everything - healing and the Congregants' long lives - but very few know the secret: it's Ruby's blood that gives the Water its special properties.  Ruby's father Otto founded the Congregation and he left 200 years ago, promising to return. The Congregants wait for him, trusting that he's coming back to save them.  But when a new, kind Overseer named Ford arrives and sparks new feelings for Ruby, she starts to question everything.  What if Otto's not coming back?  What if Otto meant for them to save themselves?  When flighting or fleeing might mean the death of all the Congregants, Ruby has to decide how much she's willing to risk.

The utterly compelling and twisted world of the Congregation was what drew me into this novel.  I just had to know more about them and the more I read, the more fascinated I was.  I kept looking for holes, certain that I'd come across a simple way for Ruby to extricate herself from this warped community, but I found everything to be believable.  Although there's a modern world out there, beyond the forests, the Congregants are a people enslaved.  Physically they've been enslaved by Darwin West and his band of Overseers since 1812, but the Congregants are also enslaved by their own doctrine, believing that Otto, giver of life, wants them to wait for him, to sustain, to endure.

I found Ruby to be a believable protagonist, caught between her desire to fight for freedom and her obligations to her fellow Congregants.  Without her, they'll die.  If she fights or runs away, she's doesn't only risk her own life, she risks their lives as well.  Once Ford arrives and presents her with some new options, Ruby starts to realize that the people she's trusted her entire life might not be what they seem.

Drought is a tightly woven dystopian novel that'll keep teens on the edge of their seats, rooting for Ruby to the last.  It's a great follow-up to Pam Bachorz's first novel, Candor (Egmont USA, 2009), and I'd hand either of them to fans of dystopian lit like Ally Condie's Matched (Dutton, 2010) or Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008).

Check out more reviews at A Patchwork of Books, The Neverending Shelf, and Mindful Musings.

Drought will be on shelves January 25!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let It Snow!

Last week, we did a fun snow program with homeschoolers at my library!  This was part of our Fantastic Friday monthly program for homeschoolers.  The bulk of the kids that attend are 5-8 years old, so we aimed the program at this age group.  And here's what we did:

We started off with a few stories.  We shared The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner.  Since the craft we had planned was pretty involved, we only ended up sharing those two stories.  Others you might share include Winter Woes by Marty Kelley, Snow by Uri Shulevitz, All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle, The Biggest Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler, and poems from Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children by Jan Yolen or Winter Eyes by Douglas Florian.

We also showed the kids photographs of actual snowflakes from the books The Story of Snow by Mac Cassino and The Secret Life of a Snowflake by Kenneth Libbrecht.  These books are great to have on hand because they show large photographs of beautiful snowflakes.  It's so neat to see them close up!

After the stories, we led the kids in making their own styrofoam snowman.  Each child got a 3"x4" styrofoam square (cut down from one big slab), 2 balls (one 3" and one 2" I believe), wiggle eyes, an orange "carrot" pipe cleaner, and 3 toothpicks.  We had all of that waiting for them in an individual baggie set out on the tables. 

Then on tables at the side of the room, we set out all kinds of STUFF.  Pipe cleaners in different colors, buttons, cloth pieces (cut up from flannel shirts donated by Goodwill for a project long ago), felt, cotton balls, paper scraps, string, and glue.  And we let the kids go to town.  They could design and decorate their snowman however they wanted.  I am a bit fan of setting out STUFF and letting kids be creative!  They used the toothpicks to put their snowman balls together and attach it to the base and then used pipe cleaners or glue to stick on clothes, appendages, etc.

This was a fun, creative craft that cost approximately 20 dollars for our crowd of 16 kids.  All we purchased were the styrofoam pieces and we used Junk From Our Craft Room to fill in the rest.  (I am also a big fan of using up Junk From Our Craft Room whenever possible.)

We've taken to putting together take-home packets for our homeschooler programs and this program was no exception.  In the packet, we included a recipe for snow ice cream, an internet article about the world's tallest snowman, and facts about snow from the National Snow & Ice Data Center.  I love giving them a take-home packet because if they want to expand on anything that we talked about in our program, they have some resources to get started!

And that was our snowy homeschooler program!  Anyone else done anything fun with snow this winter?  Have a favorite snow book that I missed?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming.  (Grades 3-5.)  Schwartz & Wade, 2007.  186 pages.  Review copy provided by my local library.

The fourth graders at Aesop Elementary School are... precocious?  Robust?  High-energy?  Well, let's face it: they're trouble-makers and their reputation has preceded them.  In fact, the principal doesn't know what to do because she can't find a teacher who will take them on for the fourth grade!  Enter Mr. Jupiter.  He claims he's conducted the Timbuktu Philharmonic Orchestra, discovered the lost city of Atlantis, and taught hula dancing at the Balderdash Academy for Boys in London.  He also claims he can handle the fourth graders at Aesop Elementary School.  But can he?

At first, I didn't know what I was getting into with these wacky, silly stories of wacky, silly fourth graders.  And then I realized that each story is a modern retelling of an Aesop fable (complete with moral at the end).  This is a really clever way to introduce Aesop's fables and I can definitely see classroom applications for this book!  Pair this book with a collection of Aesop's fables and ask students to compare fables with the same moral and then write their own.

The wacky humor definitely has high kid-appeal and I'd hand this to fans of Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. That's what I kept thinking of as I was reading it.  Similarly to Wayside School, each chapter features a different student and they're filled with silly humor.

Read another review at Becky's Book Reviews.

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School is on shelves now!
Also available: The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Suitcase

It's Sunday and you are expecting In My Mailbox (hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren), but today I'm going to do something a little different.  As part of my ALA Midwinter recaps, I wanted to share with you the books I brought home in my suitcase.  I grabbed a ton of books at Midwinter, the majority of which are for my library kids and teens and our adult services department.  I've got several big boxes being mailed, but these are the books that I stuck in my suitcase because I couldn't bear the thought of them getting lost or damaged in transit!

(Links go to GoodReads for a plot summary!  My comments are in purple!)

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith (Disney/Hyperion, May 2011).  Scrub isn't happy about leaving Florida and his friends to summer with his grandmother in "Middle of Nowhere", Washington.  When he arrives at her Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, he isn't surprised by its 60s-meets-Star-Wars decor, but he is surprised by the weird-looking guests.  It turns out that each room in the inn is a portal, and his grandma is the gate-keeper, allowing aliens to vacation on Earth. I honestly had passed by this one at the booth, but at the Disney/Hyperion preview, one of the editors read aloud from it and I was laughing out loud and HOOKED on the voice.  This one sounds like an awesome, funny boy book.  Also, this is a 2011 middle grade debut! 

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown (Little, Brown, May 2011).  After I read Hate List last month, I HAD TO get my hands on Jennifer Brown's newest.  I have it on good authority that it is fabulous! 

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton (Random House, April 2011). This is a 2011 debut that everyone was buzzing about.  Witches and magic! 

Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Margaret K. McElderry, June 2011).  Okay, I went to the Simon & Schuster booth and they were saying "This is our Hunger Games!" and I thought "Hmm.... not sure I believe that..."  When I found out at the preview lunch that they had only received the manuscript a month ago and they are already planning on releasing it in June because they couldn't wait, I was sold.  I started it on the plane and I'm about halfway through and WOW.  I am here to put this one on your radar.  LOOK FOR IT. 

Bumped by Megan McCafferty (Balzer + Bray, May 2011).  I loved McCafferty's Jessica Darling books and I'm super intrigued to read her newest, a dystopian novel. 

Eona by Alison Goodman (Viking, April 2011).  This is a sequel to Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and I have been waiting for it for YEARS!!!!  I am suitably excited. 

Family by Micol Ostow (Egmont, April 2011).  This novel in verse is loosely based on the Manson Family murders.  Color me intrigued. 

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston (Carolrhoda Lab, August 2010).  The 2011 Morris Award winner!  I will be completely honest and say that I was not sure I had any interest in reading it until I heard Blythe's fantastic and eloquent acceptance speech at the Morris reception.  After I heard that, I had to pick up her book.  And look!  Mine has the shiny new sticker and it's signed!  Woooo!

Huntress by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown, April 2011).  I loved Ash and I'm excited to read the prequel!  Hooray for kick-ass girls and GLBT fantasy! 

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma (Dutton, June 2011).  I loved Dani Noir, which was nominated for a Cybils Award during my year on the middle-grade nominating panel and when I heard that Nova Ren Suma had a new book coming out, I had to find it! Nancy Werlin blurbs it, saying "It's the book everyone will be dying to talk about." 

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel (Amulet Books, October 2010).  After the Morris reception, the honored authors were signing copies of their books for attendees.  I only picked up two of them and Janis Joplin was one I had to have (even though my suitcase was overflowing at that point...).  I've already read and reviewed this one and I loved it.  My ARC is in black and white, so I love having a color copy (makes a big difference!).  

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, January 2011).  Y'all know that David Levithan is my gay husband, so of course I had to pick up his adult debut.  I am so, so excited about this one.  I've loved David's YA books.  And get this, he signed to "To Abby - With love..." which I'm sure is how he's signing all of them, but a little part of me believes that it's just for me. :) *swoon*

Ruby Lu, Star of the Show by Lenore Look (Atheneum, February 2011).  I love the Ruby Lu books - great easy chapter books featuring an Asian-American protagonist.  I am not sure how I feel about the repackaging and new illustrations, but I'll report back on that. 

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (Knopf, January 2011).  The plot reminds me a little bit of Izzy Willy-Nilly by Cynthia Voigt, which I read as a teen and loved.  It might be really interesting to reread that book and see how they compare. 

Shine by Lauren Myracle (Amulet, May 2011).  Okay, funny story.  Kelly got Lauren Myracle to sign my fingernails.  They are both the bestest.  

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker (Bloomsbury, July 2011).  Just... look at that cover.  Gorgeous.  Kelly's love for Melissa Walker has gotten me really excited about this one!

Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.  (Random House, May 2011).  BABYMOUSE FOR BOYS!!!!!  Need I say more?  I've read this one already and it's super awesome.  Can't wait to share it with the kids at my library!!!!!

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Viking, May 2011).  I am a huge fan of Sarah Dessen.  She's one of the first YA authors I read when I was first starting to get into YA.  And I know at least one teen in our teen advisory group who is going to *flip* when I give her this! 

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (Dutton, April 2011).  Not only did I read and love If I Stay, but our teens read it as one of their book club books and I think they're going to be really excited to read the companion book. 

Whew!  (Can you believe I got all that onto my carry-on luggage?!  Along with all my clothes?!)  I have definitely got some reading ahead of me...! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

ALA Recap: BFYA, YMA, and Morris - Oh My!

In between Emerging Leaders duties and hearing about all the great books coming out this spring, I did manage to attend a few "session-y" events and these may actually have been my favorite parts of the conference.

Teens coming in
On Sunday, I attended a Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Input Session.  The BFYA (formerly Best Books for Young Adults or BBYA) Committee pared down the titles published this year to a list of 191 nominated titles.  One nice thing about BFYA is that they solicit teen input and consider the teens' comments when creating their list and top ten.  And let me tell you, hearing those teens' comments was one of the highlights of my conference.

The teens came from local libraries and schools and in order to participate, each teen had to read at least 5 books off the list and agree to stand up and talk about at least 2 of them.  Their comments, for the most part, were really smart and insightful.  And I also love that the teens did NOT hold back about books they didn't like. I live-Tweeted the session, so check out the Twitter hashtag #bfya to see what the teens were saying (scroll down for my live-tweets).

This session epitomized why I do what I do and why I love working with kids and teens.  Some of them are so passionate about books and the rest of them have the potential to be passionate about books if they're matched with the right ones.  Teens have something to say and they want someone to listen to them!

On Monday, bright and early, I got up with some of my librarian besties and we headed to the Youth Media Awards (YMAs).  We got there around 7 to ensure our pick of seats and we ended up sitting towards the front on the left side of the room.  Although I'd watched the YMAs on the live webcast before, it was a totally different experience actually being there when they were announced.  Librarians cheered when their favorites won awards (especially unexpected awards) and everyone got quiet when the clear Newbery favorite (One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia) was awarded an honor.  (I tried my darndest to purchase the Newbery winner before it was announced, but I FAILED.  I will rectify that ASAP!)

Besides the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz, there are a lot of awards that people tend to forget about.  I was giddy with glee when Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John and After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick were honored with Schneider Family Awards.  And I was giddy again when Love Drugged by James Klise earned a Stonewall Honor (I'm so glad they're presenting the Stonewalls with the YMAs now!).

And Monday evening, I was back at the convention center for the presentation of the Morris Award and the Excellence in Nonfiction Award.  All the honorees and winners who were able to be there gave acceptance speeches and they were marvelous.  And although it was nice to be part of a fairly intimate crowd listening to the speeches, those speeches were so moving and heartfelt that it is really a shame that they're done at Midwinter (and on Monday night, to boot!) instead of having a reception at ALA Annual like other awards.  They deserve a larger audience and I hope that someday that will happen!!

Emerging Leaders, sessions, and more books than you can shake a stick at... the ALA Midwinter meeting, my first ALA Conference, was simply an amazing experience.  And a big part of that was the wonderful people I met and hung out with at the conference.  When I was thinking back over my conference experience, I tweeted this:

Best thing about #alamw11? Just moved a bunch of blogs in my reader from the "librarian" folder to the "friends" folder. Awwwww. :)
And it is totally true.  Practically everywhere I turned at the conference, there were people who are just as passionate about books and kids and libraries as I am.  I spent a lot of time last weekend with some really excellent teen librarians and they've got me fired up about teen programs and services.  It's really a punch in the arm that I needed, since my department is in the process of taking over teen programming at our library.   These same awesome librarians got me thinking about reading YA more deeply and critically.  I look up to each and every one of them and they challenge me to be a better librarian in the best ways possible.  (Thank you, ILOAs!)

And that wraps up my ALA Midwinter recaps.  I have to tell you that being at the conference was like a breath of fresh air.  I was surrounded by MY PEOPLE and I came home exhausted, but exhilarated and raring to go.  THIS is why we attend conference.  THIS is why we volunteer for committees.  THIS is why our organization is worth the $200+ membership fees.

And that's all I have to say about that.
(Oh, it's not *quite* all!  Tune in on Sunday for a very special "In My Mailbox" to see my favorite favorite books I scored at the conference!)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

ALA Recap: Books, Books, and More Books

After my Thursday and Friday Emerging Leader events, my committee obligations for the weekend were over and I was free to do as I pleased for the rest of the Midwinter meeting.  You know what that means?  Multiple trips to the exhibit halls and publisher previews (in addition to some very fun session-y type stuff, which will be in my next post...).

Waiting for exhibits to open Friday night
Friday night, I hit up the exhibits with several other wonderful bloggers and we became whirling dervish-type book collecting machines.  Truly, the exhibits were a little crazy Friday night.  It's awesome to be there with so many people passionate about books. 

And for the first time at a conference, I felt comfortable talking to publishers, asking what their favorites are, sharing my blog, etc.  I have to credit Michelle of Galleysmith for that!  I witnessed her talking to publishers at BEA and I definitely channeled her this weekend. :) 

Lesson learned: publicists and editors are people, too!  They like to talk to you, gush about books, and get the word out.  Everyone was super nice and I got a ton of books (my favorite-favorites will be featured on Sunday!).  I was grabbing stuff for myself, for our kids and teens, and for our adult services department.  

This is what a booth looks like!
We visited the exhibits several times over the course of the weekend, which is nice to be able to do because they put out different books at different times. 

In addition to the exhibits, I also attended several publisher previews!  Saturday morning, I went to the HarperCollins Book Buzz (which was actually in a meeting room, not in their exhibits booth).  A panel of Harper people talked about some of the books on their adult list for the spring.  Even though I don't review adult books on my blog, I knew my librarians back home would appreciate knowing about the books coming out!  All the Harper people were extremely friendly and personable and I highly recommend attending the book buzz if you can make it.  They wanted everyone's input on their titles and even gave out their email addresses so we could contact them with our thoughts. 

S&S Preview Lunch
From there, I went straight to Simon & Schuster's preview lunch, which I was lucky enough to be invited to.  Not only was it a great spread of food, but it was a great opportunity to hear editors share some of their favorite titles AND Lisa McMann was there!!  Kelly's already done a great recap post about the lunch, so I'll point you to STACKED for that.  I'll just say that two of the books that they got me super pumped about were Blood Red Road by Moira Young and This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel.  Keep your eyes peeled for those, folks!

Delicious treats at the Disney/Hyperion preview!
Saturday afternoon, I attended a preview from Disney/Hyperion.  Not only did they have some seriously delicious food, but they took a slightly different take on the typical preview.  Instead of booktalking each book to us, they let the titles speak for themselves and read to us from each book.  It was a great way to get a sense of the voice and style of the book.  Honestly, one book that they showcased - Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith - I had skipped over in the booth, but I was laughing out loud as they read from it, so I had to track it down.  I also spotted Betsy Diamant-Cohen at this session, so I had to go over and gush about how much we love Mother Goose on the Loose at my library.  Thanks, Betsy!!

On Sunday, I attended the Random House Children's Books preview and I am so glad I did because they had goody bags with COPIES OF SQUISH: SUPER AMOEBA, the newest graphic novel venture from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.  I read it in the hotel room and a review's coming.  It's very cute, just like Babymouse for boys (and it's a little bit gross, too, which is nice). They talked about many great books and I'm going to point you to Kelly's recap at The Cazzy Files for more on the preview. 

A book-filled weekend is a wonderful thing for a librarian and this was a great one!  Tune in on Sunday for a special "In My Mailbox" (called "In My Suitcase") for a look at the books I picked up that were too precious even to mail, so I jammed them into my carryon luggage.  And I have one more ALA recap coming.  Tune in tomorrow for a post about the BFYA teen input session, YMAs, and Morris/Nonfiction Award reception! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ALA Recap: Emerging Leaders

Photo by David Paul Ohmer
We will emerge and lead you!

The whole reason I got to go to ALA Midwinter was because I was accepted into the 2011 Class of Emerging Leaders, a program designed to give young and new librarians a leg up into committee work and getting involved with ALA.  I was more than a little intimidated to join this group of talented, passionate people, but to my huge relief everyone was incredibly nice and genuine.

The fantastic Dre organized a massive dinner Thursday night, which was a really great chance to meet people in the group and talk.  We went to Rama, a Thai restaurant located near the convention center.  Not only was the food fabulous, but the restaurant employees were very friendly and super accommodating!  For future Emerging Leaders, if you can con someone into organizing a pre-conference get-together, I highly recommend it.  It definitely took the edge off meeting so many new people at once!

Friday, we were up early for a day of leadership training and networking. We heard from Peter Bromberg, the Assistant Director of the program, about what we'd be doing and then Leslie Burger, chair of the ALA's Public Awareness Committee, talked about the organization of ALA, its mission, etc.

One thing Leslie talked about was that ALA is an organization in which you get out of it what you put into it.  It's up to each person to create the ALA experience that he or she wants to have.  She also emphasized that ALA is a democratic, member-driven organization.  They want to listen to what their members want, but it's up to us to make sure our voices are heard!

Divisions exist to narrow the focus of "big ALA" and make the organization more relevant to your work (but it would be impossible for those divisions to exist without the umbrella of "big ALA" supporting them).  Leslie said that part of the work of ALA is to "continually reinvent itself", so it's up to us to change it and make it support the work we do.

This is part of why the Emerging Leaders program exists - to get new voices in the organization!

We also heard from Maureen Sullivan on leadership, Molly Raphael (ALA's president-elect), and Jenny Levine on ALA Connect (which seems like it might become a wonderful way to make your voice heard in the organization.  They are open to feedback and constantly trying to improve it!).

In addition to hearing from great speakers, I got a chance to meet and work with my project group.  I am working on Project G and we're working on a model collection development policy for video games.  I will definitely be soliciting some information from any readers who have video game collections at your library, but that'll come in a separate post...

My group is awesome!  There are five of us working on the project and we have wonderful mentors: JP and Justin of 8bit Library and Buffy of The Unquiet Librarian.  Before going to the meeting, I was a little concerned about working on a group project, thinking back to group projects in undergrad and graduate school where quite often I was the one stuck putting everything together because no one else would do any work.  And then it occurred to me that Emerging Leaders is made up of all those people who always put together their group projects.  I think this is going to be a great project to work on and a great group of people to work with.

So, here I am: excited and eager, standing on the threshold of this project.  So far, Emerging Leaders has been an awesome experience.

Now, ask me again in a couple of months and we'll see where we are. ;)

Coming soon: more recaps of ALA!  Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oh, Hello Blog

I realized while I was in San Diego that I hadn't scheduled anything to post while I was gone.  No free internet at the hotel (and also being booked pretty much every minute of every day) = no blog posts from sunny CA.

I'm just checking in to say that I'm alive (and home safe - no flight delays for me!), I had a wonderful time at ALA Midwinter, and you can expect several posts over the next week or so telling you all about it.  This was my first ALA and I came away from it absolutely inspired and brimming with enthusiasm and excitement for what I do.

I also came home exhausted, but as soon as I get some rest, I promise my fingers will be clickety-clacking on the keys and I'll be writing it all up for ya.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang.  Grades 4-6.  January 2010.  312 pages.  Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Eleven-year-old Lucy Wu knows that sixth grade is going to be her best year ever.  Not only will she be at the top of the pecking order in her school and going out for captain of the sixth-grade basketball team, but her older sister is going to college, leaving Lucy to enjoy a bedroom all to herself for the first time.  But when Lucy finds out her great-aunt Yi Po is coming from China and will be sharing her room, everything is ruined.  To make matters worse, a Chinese school is started up in their neighborhood and Lucy is expected to give up basketball to study Chinese.  Isn't anything going to go right this year?

This is a fresh, funny debut from an author I'm definitely going to watch!

Lucy's a relatable, realistic sixth-grader figuring out where she fits in within her family.  Her older sister calls her a banana - yellow (Asian) on the outside, white on the inside - because Lucy doesn't speak Chinese well and thinks some Chinese delicacies are gross.  But as we see Lucy grow throughout the course of the novel, she figures out where her place is and begins to embrace parts of her Chinese heritage.

Don't think that this book is all about Lucy's culture, though.  It's also about sports and crushes, dealing with bullies, being embarrassed by your family...  I love that it's a story about an Asian-American girl that's not solely about racial or cultural issues.

The style and realistic protagonist reminded me of the Judy Blume books I so loved when I was a kid (think Blubber or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, not Forever...).  I think it would make a great readalike to Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, both by Lisa Yee and I'd also try it on fans of Andrew Clements' realistic fiction.

Of note: Wendy Shang blogs at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is on shelves now!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nominate Debuts for the Morris Award!

Do you know about the William C. Morris YA Debut Author Award?  This is a relatively new award (started 2009) given by the American Library Association each year to a debut author writing for young adults.

I know many of my bloggity friends are participating in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  As you're reading those debuts, consider nominating the best of the best for the Morris Award.   Field nominations are accepted through December 1 each year.

A few things to keep in mind before nominating:

2.  Books must be published between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011 to be eligible for this year's award (which will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Conference in January 2012).

3.  To be eligible for the award, the book must be the author's first published book for any audience.

4.  Only books written/published for a YA audience (defined as ages 12-18) will be considered.

Since publishers/authors/editors may not nominate their own titles, field nominations are important to ensure that the best books are being brought to the attention of the committee!  So, check out the criteria and, as you're reading these fabulous 2011 debuts, don't forget to nominate the best for the Morris Award!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In which I am quoted

Does this make me a rebel?  Or The Man? 

Hey, all I'm saying is that since I joined a conference planning committee for the Indiana Library Federation, I have come to realize that conferences don't plan themselves.  That may sound ridiculous, but truly, when was the last time you thought about who chose the food [the most expensive part of the conference we plan*!], who booked the rooms, who painstakingly made the schedule?  It wasn't Santa Claus.  Planning a conference takes actual work.

And so does running a professional organization.  And that work is not done by perfect, all-knowing geniuses [ahem - unless you're an ALA employee or committee member reading this. *sweet smile*].  It's done by people like you.  And me.  We make up ALA.

So if you want, say, free training opportunities for librarians in your state**, someone's going to have to figure out a way to pay for it, to arrange it, to plan it all.  Why not you?

And if you're not willing to get involved and do some work to better the organization, then fine, don't belong to it, but I don't want to hear you complain about it either.

That's all I'm saying.

*YES!  THAT IS WHERE MUCH OF YOUR REGISTRATION FEE GOES!  If you want nicer food, guess who's going to pay for it?  YES, YOU.  Still feel like complaining about it??

**Or whatever it is that you actually do want from ALA.  What is it that you want from ALA, anyway?  That might be the first step towards making it an organization that is worth your membership fee.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Come See the Earth Turn

Come See the Earth Turn by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Raul Allen.  Grades 2-5.  Tricycle Press, 2010.  Unpaged.  Review copy provided by publisher.  This book was nominated for a 2010 Cybils award and this review reflects only my own opinion!

In 1819, a baby boy was born.  He wouldn't be good at school, often falling behind his classmates.  He would never go to college and earn a fancy degree.  But he would change the scientific community forever when he proved for the first time that the world turns.

Leon Foucault was a French scientist who developed the Foucault pendulum, a giant pendulum that shows plainly the motion of the earth.  The pendulum swings independently from the rotation of the earth, so when it moves away from its straight line, you know it's not the pendulum that has shifted, but the earth!

Have you seen a Foucault pendulum?  I have, but I never really realized what it was until I read this book!  Many museums around the country have one, including the Louisville Science Center:

What I like best about this book is that it features a kid who wasn't good at school. Young Leon "was a tortoise among jackrabbits", often turning in homework late because it took him much longer than it took the other children.  You know there are kids who will identify with this, and Leon's eventual triumph shows them that they, too, can succeed.  Leon figured out that he was good at building things and that started him on his path.  And then this man without a degree, who had so much trouble with school, did something no one else in the scientific community could do!

The illustrations pair nicely with the text, dark and rich.  Some spreads have inlaid panels reminiscent of graphic novels, which will grab a kid's attention.

Lori Mortensen completes the book with a nice bit of back matter, including an author's note giving more information about Foucault's later life, a glossary, and a nice bibliography citing print and web resources.

Come See the Earth Turn is a book that will appeal to young scientists.  Share this book with your kids before your trip to the museum so they can really know what they're looking at when they see that giant pendulum!  It's on shelves now.

It's Nonfiction Monday!!!  The roundup is over at Charlotte's Library, so go check it out!