Friday, September 30, 2011

Around the Interwebs

It's Cybils time! They've been announcing panels all week over at the Cybils Blog and nominations open TOMORROW (Saturday, October 1). The Cybils are the Children's & YA Bloggers' Literary Awards, awards that strive to combine literary merit with kid appeal in a variety of categories.

The ALSC Blog has been on fire lately with awesome guest posts! If you're a library student or a potential library student, check out Library School for Kid-People for some great advice on deciding whether youth services is your forte.

If you have boundless energy and a dedication to your young library patrons, you might want to replicate what the Bettendorf (IA) Public Library has done with their Kids' Experience. (I will be honest with you - just the thought of a program like that currently makes me want to go lay down in a corner somewhere... but I applaud them for bringing an awesome experience to their patrons!)

If you're a storytime librarian, you should not be missing the weekly Flannel Friday roundups! Started by Melissa of Mel's Desk, Flannel Friday is a meme in which bloggers share their favorite flannel stories, patterns, rhymes, and more. Check out last week's roundup at Miss Mary Liberry. I rarely get my act together to participate, but I always appreciate all the inspiration!

Anne at so tomorrow has a great post up about her Collection Development procedures (complete with pictures of SPREADSHEETS, PEOPLE. She is not messing around here!). It's always interesting to see how another library does something and I'll be looking forward to more posts in this series! (I am much less organized with my own collection development methods...)

Over at The Hub, Maria Kramer is posting about five manga creators you should know. This is definitely helpful for me as I am a manga novice!

I love Katie's Banned Books Week display, which she posted about at Book Blather. I think putting the status of the challenge is a great conversation starter!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hound Dog True

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban. Grades 3-6. Harcourt Children's Books, September 2011. 149 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Mattie's getting ready to start the fifth grade at a new school. Another new school, another year of trying unsuccessfully to make new friends, another year of being too shy to talk to anyone (especially after what happened last year)... Unless she can convince her custodian uncle to take her on as an apprentice. Then she can spend recess and lunch (all those "lawless times") helping him instead of floating around trying to find a place where she fits in. But things don't turn out exactly as Mattie had planned...

Here's what I loved about this book:

1. Mattie is a character that many kids will be able to identify with. She's not the funny kid. She's not the kid who's getting in trouble all the time. She's the shy kid. She's the quiet kid, the worrier, the kid who doesn't even know how to name what's worrying her. We needed Mattie.

2. A bullying incident that might not even count as a bullying incident, but that shows that bullying can come in many different forms and affect kids greatly. In the fourth grade, Star violated Mattie's privacy by peeking in her story notebook, and what could have blossomed into a kindred friendship, instead turned into incessant mocking. After that, Mattie stopped writing stories.

3. Uncle Potluck! Mattie's eloquent, compassionate uncle is the Director of Custodial Arts at her new school and Mattie's one hope for salvation. I love this character because he's so much more than just "Mattie's janitor uncle". He's smart and feisty and takes an interest in Mattie.

4. The poetic writing. Ms. Urban definitely knows her way around showing instead of telling and she's quick with a poetric turn of phrase (especially from Uncle Potluck). I wrote down one from the beginning of the book where Mattie is describing her new home at night:

It was dark out here without streetlights and golden arches and headlights graying up the sky. (first page)

I love how this simple sentence evokes such a picture of where Mattie is (and where she isn't).

As much as anything else, this is a book about scratching the surface, about knowing that there is so much more to people than just what you can see. It's a quiet sort of story, different in tone from Linda Urban's first book A Crooked Kind of Perfect, but for the right audience it's going to be the perfect book. This is a book that will speak to those kids who are shy about letting their hound dog truths show.

Read more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Hound Dog True is on shelves now!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Your Radar: October

October's a big month for new releases! Here are a few of the October books that you'll want to make sure are on your radar! I've culled these from PW's October On-Sale Calendar and from my Baker & Taylor carts (which can be sorted by popularity, making them MUCH easier to use - THANK YOU CARIN).



Treasury of Greek Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli (October 1)

Pie by Sarah Weeks (October 1) 


Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jerry Pinkney (October 3)

The House Baba Built by Ed Young (October 3)

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle (October 4)

Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems (October 4) 


Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (October 4) - Popular for her teen dystopian books, Lauren Oliver turns to middle grade here. 

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (October 4) - Okay, you all knew this was coming out, but I had to mention it just in case. :) 



Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (October 3)

Past Perfect by Leila Sales (October 4) - I loved, loved, loved this book!! Don't miss it!!


Ranger's Apprentice: The Lost Stories by John Flanagan (October 4)

The Death Cure by James Dashner (October 11)


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (October 18)

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (October 18) 

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa (October 25) - Gotta give a shout out to my hometown girl!

Make sure you have these books on your radar! What October books are you looking forward to that I missed?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert by Marc Aronson. Grades 4-10. 134 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

When a cave-in trapped 33 miners 2,300 feet below the Chilean desert, it took a team of experts from around the world to bring them home. This is their inspiring story.

Marc Aronson weaves the story of the miners, carefully keeping it taut with tension. I knew the basic information about the mine rescue, but this play-by-play gave me a lot of information that I didn't know. Mr. Aronson includes additional information about mines, geology, and a host of other things. While this was certainly educational, it is all included in the beginning and I admit skimming this part to get to "the good stuff". It may be useful for kids researching the mine disaster, but it may lose kids who are just interested in the disaster and rescue.

After I read this book, I tweeted, asking "Can Marc Aronson write all kids' nonfiction?" Of course, I don't really mean that. There are many very talented authors of nonfiction for young people. But it's true that Marc Aronson's back matter makes my heart skip a beat. He includes everything I was looking for: a timeline, a list of the miners, a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, web sources. The book contains many photos, including a section of color photos in the center. Best of all, he includes a note about his research for the book, different than research for some of his other books since the topic is so recent. While he was working on the book, no other books had been written on the subject. Mr. Aronson talks about using the internet for research and how to dig deeper and develop the right questions to find the information you're looking for.

This book will have a great deal of appeal for kids who followed the event as it was happening. It's also a great book about cooperation and a world community coming together to do good. It'd be great in a social studies unit about researching current event.

Check out another review at A Fuse #8 Production.

Trapped is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out this week's roundup at True Tales & A Cherry On Top!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reminder: AudioSynced is Coming Up!

Remember, your next AudioSynced Roundup will be right here on October 1! If you've reviewed or posted about audiobooks in September, get a link to me so I can include it! You can leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Around the Interwebs

Photo: gusdrinks
If you, like me (sadface), were unable to attend the inimitable KidLitCon in Seattle last weekend, maaaybe you can console yourself with excellent wrap-up posts from around the KidLitosphere.

Hey, it's National Hispanic Heritage Month and Kim Baccellia's posted a great list of books that portray Latinos in a positive way over at Diversity in YA. These would be great to display this month (or ANY month!).

Banned Books Week starts tomorrow!! Which means that, once again, it's time for me to bust out my awesome BBW bracelet.

What do you do when you're stuck in a rut at work? Marge Loch-Waters at Tiny Tips for Library Fun shares some ideas.

Malinda Lo has crunched the numbers on GLBT representation in YA Lit and she's got some interesting stats to share, including the number of titles broken down by publishing houses. Although the numbers of GLBT books published have continued to increase, she's found that less than 1% of YA books published in a year have GLBT characters. (According to a study by The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, 4% of adult Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. So we have some catching up to do.) Thanks to Megan for the link.

Which awesome illustrators have been overlooked for the Caldecott? Elizabeth Bluemle at PW's Shelftalker has a nice post featuring some very popular illustrators that have never won the medal proper. Thanks for Fuse for the link.

And this has nothing to do with anything, but it's fabulous, so:

Thanks to Sarah and Drea for the link!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Audiobook Roundup: Two Stories About Truth

When I took my vacation trip to Iowa, one of the audiobooks I brought with me was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (narrated by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone - full details below). The teens at my library were going crazy for it over the summer, so I decided I needed to pick it up.

The story starts with our protagonist Clay receiving a set of cassette tapes in the mail. Upon listening to them, he discovers that the tapes were recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate he had a crush on. She committed suicide a couple of weeks earlier and the tapes are targeted for certain students, explaining exactly what role they had in her decision.

Hannah Baker was bullied. People made a lot of assumptions about her and few knew who she really was, how she really felt about things. The tapes explain everything as Hannah saw it, detailing her slide further into depression.

I can see why teens like this book. It's dramatic. It's gripping. It explores a situation to which many teens can relate - rumors starting and snowballing and getting out of control. I was definitely hooked by Hannah's story and by Clay's reaction to her story. But somewhere in the middle it all got to be a little too much. It was a little too melodramatic and it stretched my suspension of disbelief. I also thought that it was pretty cruel of Hannah to send out these tapes like she did. Frankly, it made me lose some of my sympathy for Hannah and then the rest of the book was kind of hard to swallow.

The audio production was well done and I think that both Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone were well-chosen. In fact, listening to this book on audio might make the story even more effective since you're listening to Hannah narrate her story, just as Clay is listening to her. Both read clearly and with the requisite emotion for these intense roles. I probably wouldn't have read the whole book if I had been reading instead of listening.

When I got back from Iowa, I was talking about this book with a couple of fabulous librarians on Twitter and my good friend Angie said something to the effect of "If you want a great book about truth, read Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr." I take recommendations from Angie very seriously, so I immediately sought out the audiobook Story of a Girl, written and narrated by Sara Zarr.

In Story of a Girl, we again have a teen girl who is haunted by rumors and they affect everything she does. Deanna Lambert was 13 when her dad caught her with her 17-year-old boyfriend and everything changed. Deanna used to be close to her father, but now she's 16 and her father can hardly look at her. He completely judges her based on that one mistake. Deanna's not seeing that guy anymore. She's not doing anything wrong, but she's still treated by her father and the kids at school like she's bad news.

Story of a Girl is not over the top. In fact, it's pitch-perfect. Deanna's a believable and likeable character who's just trying to get past her past. She knows she made a mistake, but it's been blown all out of proportion. She even has trouble getting a summer job because people in her small town have heard rumors about her. But Deanna perseveres, determined to turn things around. I especially like that Sara Zarr sets the story in a lower-class family. Many teens are going to see themselves or someone they know or someone they've heard rumors about in this story.

Sara Zarr does a nice job of narrating her own work. Authors narrating audiobooks... well... sometimes it's just not good at all. Sara Zarr doesn't voice characters, the reading's not flashy, but Sara Zarr, narrator, gets out of the way and lets Deanna's words speak for themselves. The first-person point of view lends itself nicely to the audio format anyway and the listener knows she can trust Sara Zarr to get the inflections and tone right because, well, she wrote it.

Either of these books would make great discussion books for teens. Both of them are about kids who are seen a certain way by their peers and how rumors and hearsay can be terribly destructive. They're about looking for the truth of things and not settling for rumors because you never know what you might be missing. And they both make great listens.

Mentioned in this post:

Story of a Girl, written and narrated by Sara Zarr. Grades 9+ Listening Library, 2008. 4 hours and 47 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, narrated by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone. Grades 9+ Listening Library, 2007. 6 hours and 24 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library.

Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you purchase things after clicking on the links here, I may get a small commission!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why It's Critical to Review (and Read) Critically

Photo: quacktaculous
Do you want to be part of the publicity machine or do you want to add meaningful insights to conversations on books? 

This past weekend, Kelly, Julia, Janssen and I spoke on a KidLitCon* panel about the importance of reviewing critically. This doesn't necessarily mean writing negative reviews for books you don't like, but it means writing thoughtful reviews that discuss books in ways that are useful for readers. It means paying attention to things like character development, authenticity, voice, pacing, and dialogue. It means saying more than "This book was awesome!" or "This book was terrible!"

First of all, "reviews" that only spout about how great (or terrible) a book was are not very useful. If I'm reading a review, I want to know what it was that made a book great (or terrible). If it's a book you didn't enjoy, what didn't you like about it? Everyone has different tastes, so telling your readers why a book worked (or didn't work) is essential so that readers can tell if a book will work for them.

Gatekeepers are also reading reviews. I presented a session a couple of weeks ago at a state conference about using blogs for collection development and readers' advisory. Parents, teachers, librarians... they're looking to blog reviews to find books for their kids, their students, their collections. Explaining why you liked (or didn't like) a book is essential for gatekeepers who are looking to match books to readers.

Reviewing books critically creates actual content for your blog in a way that book buzz and giveaways do not. Writing critical reviews (and, yes, negative reviews) builds trust between a blogger and a reader. If readers know they can count on your honest opinion, they're more likely to take your opinions into account.

And yes, writing negative reviews is important, too. Be honest: do you actually LOVE everything that you read? Some books work for you better than others. Think about why that is. Let your readers know. Do it in a respectful way, point readers towards an appropriate audience for a book (ex. "I didn't like it, BUT I think super-fans of Twilight would totally dig it", etc.) and nobody's feelings have to be hurt.

Your blog is your blog. Nobody can tell you what to write or how to review. But you have a platform and, like it or not, that platform comes with responsibility. If you're writing down your thoughts on books just for yourself, why put it online? Obviously, you want people to read what you're writing and if they're not finding useful content, they might just stop reading.

So that's one part of what I wanted to talk about.

The other thing is reading blogs critically. 

I'm not writing this to knock anyone's blog or to say that every blog has to be a certain way**. It's your blog. You do what you want. You choose your choices.

Blog readers must also make choices. Just because a blogger has thousands of followers does not necessarily guarantee that she is creating valuable content. Think about why you read certain blogs. How are they useful to you? Do they put new books on your radar? Do they write thoughtful, useful reviews? Do they review books in creative ways? Do they provide information on books that are outside your chosen genres? Do they introduce you to backlist titles that you missed?***

It's fine to read blogs that are just part of the publicity machine. I do it. I follow some blogs not because they provide literary analysis but because they're good sources for keeping new and upcoming books on my radar.

I just think it's important to be aware of the difference.

There are so many excellent bloggers in our vibrant KitLitosphere Community... bloggers writing thoughtful, meaningful content... It would be a shame to fill up your blog reader with blogs that aren't actually that useful after all.

* I was there virtually! We're so tech-savvy!
** I'm also not writing this to say that my reviews are completely awesome and that I have the right to judge everyone else's reviews. I strive to review critically and I hope my reviews are useful, but I certainly don't have the right to judge anyone else!
*** And now that you're asking yourself these questions, I hope you will continue to read my blog. If not, I understand. ;) 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Incredible Life of Balto

The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan McCarthy. Grades K-5. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

I have been fascinated by the story of Balto and the 1925 race to get medicine to the children of Nome, Alaska, since I saw that Disney movie. I have also long been a fan of Meghan McCarthy's picture books (see my reviews of Pop! and Strong Man). So, for me this book was a perfect match!

The first half of The Incredible Life of Balto tells the story we already know: sick people in Nome, lots of snow in Alaksa, dogs save the day! The second half goes on to tell the rest of Balto's story. At first, Balto was super famous, starring in a movie and having dog food named after him. But all too quickly, Balto's fame seemed to dissipate as the dog team was sold and sold again. When a kind businessman, George Kimble, saw Balto in a sideshow and wanted to save him, the owners charged more money than he could afford. He turned to the Cleveland community and many people donated money to help save the dogs.

The Incredible Life of Balto has classroom applications on many levels. This would be a great book to start discussions on community and teamwork. Not only do the dogs (and mushers) work together to get the medicine to Nome, but the entire community of Cleveland works together to purchase Balto and give him a nice home.

In an extensive author's note, Ms. McCarthy writes about being a history detective and tracking down the details of Balto's story when various historical accounts had conflicting details. It took an incredible amount of research just to figure out what color she should paint Balto in the pictures (brown or black?). Included with the back matter are some activities and tips related to researching nonfiction and reporting on events. Pair this book with Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson for a discussion about historical research.

Yes, this book has many classroom applications, but it's also just a fun story. Not only is it about a DOG but Meghan McCarthy's trademark bright colors and cartoon-style illustrations are sure to catch the eye of kids. Balto goes through some tough times, but he has a happy ending and Ms. McCarthy features the fact that kids contributed their pennies and school classes collected money to help save Balto.

Check out more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and The Nonfiction Detectives.

The Incredible Life of Balto is on shelves now!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Around the Interwebs

(Now that summer's over, I'm trying to get back into my posting routine and regularly posting link roundups on Fridays. Can you tell?)

What did Mrs. ReaderPants do to her school library to increase circulation by nearly 100%? She (with the help of many others) arranged her library by genre! Regrettably, I don't think this would work with my fairly large public library collection, but I think it's a great idea for a school library and I can see why the kids like it! In fact, I'm inspired to create some genre displays... if I can find some wall or end-shelf space around here somewhere... hmmm...

Speaking of displays, Anne at so tomorrow gives us a Year's Worth of Library Display Ideas and Display Ideas for Any Time. Also, don't forget about Kelly's Display This feature at Stacked for lots of great teen display ideas (and book lists!). And Katie at Book Blather often posts about her fabulously creative and artistic teen book displays (most recently a book-to-movie display). If you don't have tons of shelf space (like I don't) for book displays, check out what Mr. Schu's done with posters, book covers, and his library's walls. Here is a man who knows his way around a laminator.

Ahh, reading levels... If you work with elementary school kids, no doubt you've had requests from frustrated parents wishing you would just label the darn books with the reading levels already! If you're fighting the good fight against that, AASL has your back with their Position Statement on Labeling Books with Reading Levels. I'd add to this statement that for public libraries, it's impossible to include level stickers for every possible leveling system. Your books would be nothing but stickers! Thanks to Travis at 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as a board book? What do you think of that?

And KidLitCon is going on RIGHT NOW!!! If you, like me, are not in fabulous Seattle kickin' it with all the amazing KidLit bloggers, be sure to follow the #kidlitcon hashtag and the @kidlitcon official feed. I AM SURE PEOPLE WILL BE TWEETING THE CON, RIGHT?

That's all for me this week... If you're at KidLitCon, I hope you're having an amazing time! I wish I was there with you! Hopefully I will be next year!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Okay for Now

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Grades 5-8. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2011. 368 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

It's 1968 and fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck has just moved to a new town with his family. Life's not easy for Doug there. No one expects much of him or his family and Doug never knows what to expect from his father, who flies violently off the handle at the smallest thing. Two things help him get by: the book of Audubon prints at the town library (and the librarian who's helping Doug learn to draw them) and Lil Spicer, a feisty girl in his class who becomes Doug's unlikely ally. As Doug tries to navigate his eighth grade year and the sides of his personality that would have him act just like his violent father and brothers, he's just hoping that things will turn out okay... for now.

CONFESSION TIME. I put off reading thing book. I felt kinda "meh" toward The Wednesday Wars, which won a Newbery Honor. So, even though I kept reading very enthusiastic reviews and it was getting tons of Newbery buzz, it took the insistence of my good friend Kate to push me over the edge and get me to pick up Okay for Now. Y'all, once I picked it up, I could not put it down and I didn't want it to end.

I instantly felt fiercely protective of Doug Swieteck. You can tell from the first that some unsavory stuff is going on in his family, but you can also tell that Doug is a good kid who's gotten a bad rap. Doug's father is a mean man who's bred mean boys, but that's an impulse that Doug is constantly struggling to recognize and curb in himself. And despite the fact that Doug's world feels very gray a lot of the time, he's constantly looking for beauty.

Gary Schmidt is adept at showing us that beauty and Doug's pursuit of it. Seriously, this is a man who knows how to show and not tell. Here's Doug describing his mom:

I'm not lying when I saw that Hollywood actresses would kill for my mother's smile. You think Elizabeth Taylor can smile? If you saw my mother's smile, you wouldn't even let Elizabeth Taylor in the same room. 
If Joe Pepitone saw my mother's smile, he would give up baseball for her. That's how beautiful her smile is. (Page 23.) 
Right away, you get Doug's voice, you understand what's important to him, and you see how he sees his mother.

The arts play a very important role in this book. To put it simply, art saves Doug, and it appears again and again. Doug's artistic pursuits with the Audubon prints give him a sense of accomplishment when not much else is going right. His librarian friend/art teacher gives him a supportive male role model when no other can be found. And Doug communicates his feelings through his interpretation of the Audubon art prints he views and copies. There's no question that art saves Doug. It's not simply an extracurricular, it's the thing that's getting him through.

This is a book that can be experienced on many different levels. Kids are going to dig the mixture of humor and seriousness. Doug is a character that many of them will be able to identify with. He's real: he has trouble reading and adults don't always trust him and he's got a lot on his plate that he's not sure how to deal with.

I'm apparently in a very serious mood as I write this review, but I shouldn't downplay the humor. Doug's got many lines that will make kids laugh out loud. Adults reading will get a kid out of Doug's childlike frankness, the way that he's saying things as only a kid would say them. Gary Schmidt's got that 14-year-old voice down.

For me, this book really raised the question of how expectations shape actions and how adults can make up for the mistakes they make with kids. Once trust has been breached, how do we build it back up? Adults have the responsibility to set good examples, to keep an open mind, to give the benefit of the doubt to kids whenever possible. Children and teens can put a remarkable amount of trust in adults. And sometimes adults betray that trust, even if they don't mean to.

Doug's seen quite differently by adults when he's carrying Jane Eyre around with him than when his brother's been accused of committing a crime. In the book, different perceptions definitely affect how adults interact with Doug.

This is a book that every teacher, parent, administrator, anyone who works with teens should read.

TONS of Newbery buzz around this one. And enjoying this one as much as I did may have me going back to reread The Wednesday Wars and see what I was missing there...

Check out more reviews at: 100 Scope NotesConfessions of a Bibliovore, Book NutEva's Book Addiction, Everyday ReadingForever Young Adult, The Fourth Musketeer, A Fuse #8 ProductionGreenBean TeenQueen, Jen Robinson's Book Page, and The Reading Zone (among others... I am, apparently, late to the party).

Okay for Now is on shelves now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Last week, I posted at the ALSC Blog about our afterschool storytimes...

Yesterday, I visited one of the Afterschool sites and did my normal thing. This evening, one of the kids from yesterday's school came in, slapped his brand new library card down on the desk, and said "I haven't been here since I was six! I'm nine now and I just got a new library card!"

Those are words to warm a librarian's heart, let me tell you. :)

How Big Is It? by Ben Hillman has been a HUGE FREAKING HIT with all the kids. We don't read it verbatim, but just show a few of the pictures (5-10 of the spreads, depending on how into it they are) and read them a few of the facts. They love it. And I was able to hand my friend with the new library card How Fast Is It? and How Weird Is It?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Grades 4-7. Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), September 2011. 313 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Hazel has always felt... different. She looks different than most of the kids in her classes and even different from her parents, but that didn't feel so bad until her dad left and she had to switch schools. Her new public school is a lot different from her Montessori school and Hazel's having some trouble following the rules. Luckily, she always has her very best friend Jack beside her. She and Jack have been best friends since they were six, playing fantastic games and fitting with each other in a way that neither of them fits in with the outside world.

When something terrible happens and Jack no longer seems to want to be Hazel's friend, Hazel is crushed. And when Jack disappears, Hazel knows she has to be the one to find him. Hazel will go to the ends of the earth to protect her friend... and she's going to have to.

This is a story that will stick with you. It's a quiet sort of book, a fairy tale based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, and just like the snow, the story sneaks in through cracks and blows in under doors until you can't get it out of your head. Such is the charm of Hazel. She's going along, doing her thing, and then I realized that I was thinking about her when I wasn't reading the book. Thinking about her and wondering how she was doing and worrying about her when things were not going particularly well.

Anne Ursu's beautiful story builds on itself, quietly and steadily, like snow drifts building. In fact, it kinda broke my heart a little bit. This is a story that looks at some heavy stuff through a child-friendly lens. Hazel's dealing with being different. She's dealing with changes to her family and her school. And in the middle of all of this, she's lost her rock. And when she goes to save the day, to save her rock, she's met with a fantastic, enchanted forest, not knowing whom to trust or where to go or what to do.

It's sad and beautiful and will appeal to kids (and adults) who still want to believe in magic. Try it on fans of other reimagined fairy tales, like East by Edith Pattou or A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.

Check out more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and The Brain Lair.

I'm hearing quite a bit of Newbery buzz around this title, so make sure you look for it! Breadcrumbs will be on shelves September 27!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Around the Interwebs

Photo: existentist
Y'all, it's been way too long since I posted some links for you... Let's see what I have here... (Um. Some of these links are kind of old, but they're still awesome posts!)

I completely missed Laurie Halse Anderson's Write 15 Minutes a Day challenge in August this year, but that doesn't mean you can't go back and catch up on her posts. If you're looking for writing advice or inspiration, this is a series of posts you won't want to miss! I will definitely be digging into her posts for writing prompt ideas for my teen literary lounge programs this fall.

If you've ever had trouble convincing colleagues that Twitter is worth the effort (I know I have), just show 'em this awesome If you were on Twitter list by Scott McLeod. Link via the fabulous Buffy Hamilton.

Wanna know how to do an author visit right at your school? Just ask Mr. Schu. Seriously, his kids are so lucky to have him! (Authors and us librarians are lucky to have him, too.)

'Tis the season for schools that have field trip budgets to bring classes of kids to the library for tours. Marge at Tiny Tips for Library Fun has some ideas about how to jazz up library tours!

Speaking of the season, it's hard to believe, but really October is right around the corner and Halloween's coming right up. It's time to make sure your library's well-stocked on scary books and here's a fabulous list of YA/MG horror novels from Mrs. ReaderPants.

Maria Kramer over at The Hub shared "four commandments for making religion in teen books work". Religion is definitely an issue that teens are exploring. Awhile back, Kelly at Stacked posted a stellar list of teen books dealing with religion and spirituality.
Hey, did I mention that I'm Skyping into a panel at KidLitCon? I'm sad that I'm not able to actually attend the conference, but Skyping in is the next best thing, right? If you've attending, please come see our panel - Going Deep: The Hows and Whys of Blogging Critically. My fellow panelists are Kelly from Stacked, Julia from Spine Label, and Janssen from Everyday Reading. If you're not attending, we'll have links up to the handout/material, um, sometime. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Afterschool at the ALSC Blog!

I'm over at the ALSC Blog today, posting about my library's programs at the YMCA Afterschool sites! It's been a wonderful partnership for us and a lot of fun for both kids and librarians alike. Want to know what crafts and books have worked with the afterschool crowd? Click on through and make sure you comment with any suggestions for readalouds or simple, creative activities!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, read by MacLeod Andrews. Grades 9+ Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008. Brilliance Audio 2009. 8 hours and 13 minutes.

Sutter Keely's got a big heart and big cup of 7-Up and whiskey. He prides himself on having a spectacular time always and he's not so much about planning for the future or concentrating on negative things like his beautiful fat girlfriend Cassidy breaking up with him or the fact  that his dad's not really around too much. On the night he drives his car into a front lawn, he meets Aimee, a hopelessly nerdy girl whom Sutter knows he can help. But is it possible that Sutter might need Aimee's help, too?

I picked up this audiobook after hearing MacLeod Andrews* at the ALA Odyssey Awards reception this summer and I was immediately sucked in by the humor and Andrews's believable Oklahoma drawl. This is a story that lends itself very well to the audio format and with Andrews at the helm, it's just like Sutter Keely himself is sitting across from you and telling you the story.

What's interesting is that Sutter's a little bit of an unreliable narrator. Sure, everything's fine and dandy, spectacular, even. But we know that a high school senior who steals alcohol from the grocery store, keeps a steady buzz going throughout the day, and gets blackout drunk every weekend is not fine and dandy. Sutter needs help and he doesn't even realize it. Enter Aimee. Because as much as Sutter wants to help Aimee (even if things sometimes go awry), he needs Aimee's help, too. And it's going to take a girl like Aimee, a girl who's not like other girls, to get Sutter to start to see things the way they are.

Don't get me wrong. Aimee's NOT a manic pixie dreamgirl. She's kind of the opposite, in fact. She's socially awkward. She's bossed around by her best friend. She loves science fiction novels (and I mean truly nerdy science fiction novels), wears t-shirts with horses painted on them, and dreams about working for NASA.

Just the same, I think this is a story that'll appeal to the Nerdfighting crowd and I'd recommend it to fans of John Green's Paper TownsThe Spectacular Now, 2008 National Book Award Honoree, is funny and serious at the same time. Sutter's heavy alcohol use is a great starting point for discussion.

I think audio's the way to go for this one, folks. MacLeod Andrews does a fantastic job narrating. He's got a nice Oklahoma drawl for Sutter and he voices the characters just enough that they're distinguishable without going over the top. Andrews simply becomes Sutter Keely and that lets the listener really sink into the audiobook and become immersed in the story. This audiobook had me looking forward to my commute and road trips so I could continue the story.

The Spectacular Now is available, well, now.

* Who, I have recently learned, hails from my own hometown of Louisville, KY! Also, whose name is pronounced "McLoud". 

Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you purchase stuff after clicking on the links here I may receive a small commission.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011


It's September 1! That means it's time for another AudioSynced Roundup! Head on over to STACKED for this month's reviews and if you've got an audiobook review or post that we missed, leave us a link and we'll be sure to include it! (You can comment here or on Kelly's post!)

Happenstance Found

Happenstance Found (The Books of Umber #1) by P.W. Catanese. Grades 4-8. Aladdin (S&S), 2009. 342 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Happenstance has no memory of his life when he's found by Lord Umber in an underground chamber. He has mysterious powers and he knows he's to play some part in a series of important events, but he doesn't know his own real name or where his mother is or why he's deathly afraid of water. All he knows is that an evil man is after him. And if Hap can escape, it might mean saving the world.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I was all ready to write it off as Not My Thing, but then I opened it and started reading and... found myself devouring 100 pages in a single sitting. The action starts off right away with a giant killer worm attacking Hap and his new friends and it pretty much doesn't let up until the end. At first, it's a little disconcerting to be plunged into a story with no background (since Hap can't even remember what his real name is). But the reader's going through what Hap's going through - discovering new things about Hap as he himself is discovering them and Lord Umber is explaining the world to him.

I found Hap to be an intriguing character. I wanted to know more about him and his special powers and where he came from and what role he was to play. And then, as I got to know Lord Umber, I wanted to know more about Lord Umber and where he came from, as well. Because Lord Umber knows things... In this magical world, Lord Umber knows Beatles songs and pizza. What's that all about? It's intriguing, is what I'm saying.*

Also, it's obviously the first in a trilogy, but the story is resolved nicely while still nudging kids to look for the next book.


Action that starts right away and ebbs & flows naturally throughout the book +
Intriguing characters that I loved getting to know =
A fantastic read in a genre that I didn't really think I liked (shows what I know)

I would hand this in a heartbeat to kids who loved fantasy-adventure series like Fablehaven or Pendragon. And I'm putting the entire series on my next order because I can already think of a handful of boys (and one staff member) who are going to eat these books up. It's a good, solid tween read. I'm ordering it for my Children's Department, but the Lord Umber character (who's older - an adult, but a young one) extends the appeal into the YA range, as well.

Happenstance Found is on shelves now, as are Dragon Games (Books of Umber #2) and The End of Time (Books of Umber #3/conclusion of the trilogy).

*Also, in my head, Lord Umber's a total hottie...