Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick. Grades 6-9. Scholastic, March 2012. 304 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Freshman year is turning out to be a wild ride for Peter Friedman. After an injury takes him off the field permanently, he's not exactly sure who he is now that he's not a baseball star, and he doesn't know how to tell his best friend that he'll never play again. His photography class is awesome - in no small part because he's partnered with the cute, smart Angelika. But he's worried about his grandfather who's forgetting things more and more often. Life keeps throwing him curveballs and Pete's got to figure out a way to keep on swinging.

Once again, Jordan Sonnenblick approaches serious subject matter with his trademark humor and authentic characters. This is a must-read for fans of Sonnenblick's previous work.

I literally squealed when I saw this in a box of ARCs Scholastic sent me and I immediately went to Twitter to get the buzz started. I am a huge fan of Jordan Sonnenblick's previous middle-grade novels and Curveball stood up to my high expectations.

Curveball is all about the sudden, unexpected changes that happen in life. Starting high school is a big change for anyone, but Pete expected to be a big-time athlete and suddenly he's having to find a new identity. Grampa's sudden descent into Alzheimer's is another unexpected change in Pete's life, made even more stressful by the fact that he feels like he has to protect his grandfather and keep it a secret. The family unit that Pete should be able to steady himself against is suddenly full of pitfalls and uncertainties.

Jordan Sonnenblick writes with authenticity and Pete's voice rang true to me. The humor in the book keeps it light, even as Pete's dealing with serious situations. The pacing is steady and kept me turning the pages, wondering how everything would work out. There's some romance as Pete delves into his first relationship with Angelika, his photography partner, but it's not overdone and the relationship develops organically throughout the book. It's always nice to see some romance from a guy's perspective because that's something guys are dealing with, too.

This book will definitely appeal to Sonnenblick's already established audience and it's sure to garner him new fans, as well. Be sure to hand it to fans of Notes from the Midnight Driver. The story's got many of the same elements as L.K. Madigan's wonderful Flash Burnout, so I'd recommend it to fans of that book, as well. Curveball might also serve as a gateway drug of sorts for kids who will only touch sports stories. There's enough of a sports element to satisfy them, although I don't know that I'd call it a Sports Book.

Curveball will be on shelves March 1.

Monday, January 30, 2012

ALA Midwinter Recap

Dallas at night!
The day I got home from ALA Midwinter 2012, I slept for 15 hours.

Maybe some people make sure they get decent amounts of sleep during Conference, but I (apparently) am not one of them. And that kinda shows you what kind of a magical land the ALA Conference is: a place where networking, discovering new books, comparing library programs, meeting authors, finding solutions to your library problems... all of those are more important than sleep.

I know joining ALA is expensive and attending conference is expensive and not everyone can afford it on our librarian salaries and not everyone's library can or will pay for them. My dues are coming up at the end of January and I've been putting it off. But after that fabulous conference, I suddenly find that I don't mind writing that check. What I'm saying is that it is so worth it.

If you're not going to get involved, if you're not going to take advantage of the opportunities that ALA can offer (networking, committee work, conferences, etc.), then you're right - ALA membership might not be worth the dues you're paying. But a lot of the youth librarians I know are the only librarians in their department. Joining and being active in a professional organization offers you the opportunity to find people to share ideas, ask for solutions to problems, and possibly become lifelong friends. Of course you can do those things online, but there's something about meeting face to face, about talking books over a couple of margaritas (or Diet Cokes)...

We saw the van! 
Even though conference totally exhausted me, it also completely refreshed me. I returned, ready to dive back in to my work.

In other news, there's been a bunch of blogger drama surrounding this conference and I don't really want to get into all of it, except to say that I second what Kelly said and what Jennie said and I'm so heartened to hear a friendly publisher rep weighing in and saying just what I'd like to say, but in a much kinder way.

Instead, I'd like to tell you how fabulous it was to sit in a ballroom and hear many, many teens repeatedly coming up to the mic to talk about their favorite (and least favorite) books on the Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees. Check out the #BFYA Twitter stream for more details about what teens said.

Theater for the YMA announcements
It was amazing it was to sit in a theater with hundreds of librarians, holding our breath as the Youth Media Awards were announced. The screams of joy and occasional hushed silences as favorite books were recognized or other favorite books were seemingly overlooked. (The selection committees put their heart and soul into their choices, so even if some of my favorites didn't get stickers, I appreciate the difficult decisions the committees had to make!)

It was wonderful to connect with publishers on the exhibit floor and find out what books they're excited about. They were just as interested to hear what the kids at my library are excited about. I attended several of the publishers' preview events and it's always nice to hear pub reps talk about the books they've got coming up. I can read a jacket flap, but hearing someone close to the book talking about it is a completely different experience.

It was four days of talking books with awesome people nonstop. It was four days of meeting new friends, putting faces to names I'd only seen online. It was four days with My People. And I'm already looking forward to the time that I might get to be back with My People again.

Thanks, ALA, for a great conference!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Grades 8 and up. Dutton, January 2012. 318 pages. Reviewed from purchased copy.

** There are no spoilers in this post, unless you count knowing that the book is amazingly awesome as a spoiler. If you do... um.... sorry.  **

Um. Actually. This isn't really going to be a review. Sorry. 

I have loved John Green since grad school. I read Looking for Alaska back before it won the Printz, back when I let the YALSA-BK listserv tell me what teen books to read (certain friends of mine are chortling at that). I stuck by him with An Abundance of Katherines. I was fairly diligent about watching the Brotherhood 2.0 videos and I was even IN one in 2007: 

(Side note: Can you believe that I was at a John Green reading/signing with less than 30 people? It kinda seems unimaginable now...)

Anyway, this is all to say that I have been a fan of John Green for a long time. And my true confession is that I have always thought I liked him more than I liked his books.

And that all changed with The Fault in Our Stars. This book was freaking amazing. It's smart and witty, but it doesn't feel pretentious. In fact, it pokes fun at pretentiousness. The characters felt so real to me that I truly believe that this was John's homage to his Nerdfighters and the kids he's worked with an spoken with other the years. I honestly feel that this book is a gift from John to his readers.

And part of that gift has been the whole The Fault in Our Stars experience. As you probably know, John decided to autograph all 150,000 copies of the first printing. Preorders for the book piled up so quickly that the publication date was moved up (it was originally slated to publish in the spring - May, I believe). Even though my blog has a label called "my undying love for John Green", I wasn't certain I wanted to buy his book because, as I've said before, I've had mixed feelings about his previous books. But everyone was so excited about it and I wanted to be part of the excitement, so I preordered it.

From getting excited about preordering the book, the cover reveal (which I like more in person... it's so shiny...), the Twitter hashtag, wondering what color signature I would get (green), eagerly tracking my book as it shipped, sympathizing with those unlucky souls who didn't get theirs on the release date... Reading this book has definitely been an experience.

This was the right book for which to create a hoopla. It's my favorite of John Green's books so far and it's plain (to me) that he's poured his soul into writing this book and making it the best book it can be.

I can already tell you that this will be one of the best YA books of 2012.

Thank you, John Green. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow. Grades 7 and up. HarperTeen, 2011. 405 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA. 

Summary from publisher via GoodReads:

Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But to the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin, it doesn't matter that Karl has never set foot in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by relentless attacks on a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth to everyone around him.

So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons, Karl sees it as the perfect chance to reinvent himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but as Max becomes the mentor Karl never had, Karl soon finds both his boxing skills and his art flourishing.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. Karl longs to ask his new mentor for help, but with Max's fame growing, he is forced to associate with Hitler and other Nazi elites, leaving Karl to wonder where his hero's sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way?

World War II is a hot topic among teens and The Berlin Boxing Club is a welcome addition to library shelves. As Germany barrels along towards World War II, propaganda against the Jews increases and new laws make life harder and harder for them. Robert Sharenow brings these injustices to life through his story. Karl has to switch schools when his school expels all Jews and he has to sneak around with the girl he's courting because she's Catholic. By creating a Jewish family that's not religious, Mr. Sharenow emphasizes that the crimes of the Nazis were aimed at people of the Jewish ethnicity, not necessarily an attack on religion. Since Karl does not look Jewish, he's able to "pass" some of the time, unlike his father and sister. Karl's a character that teens will identify with and this makes these injustices all the more sour. 

Besides being a fascinating historical story, this is also a strong sports story. As Karl starts his training and gets better at boxing, he discovers a deep love and talent for the sport. The juxtaposition of the "civilized" violence of boxing in the ring against the senseless street violence against the Jews is a powerful one. More than once, Karl wishes that he could face his oppressors in the ring where there are rules and honor. Karl's boxing instructor Max Schmeling was held up as a symbol of Aryan superiority, especially when he bested African-American fighter Joe Louis in 1936. This is a source of conflict for Karl who is never sure where his mentor's allegiances lie concerning the Nazis. Pair this book with the 2011 picture book A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Kadir Nelson for another perspective of Schemling and Louis's second fight in 1938. 

The book does have some pacing issues. The plot stops and starts a little instead of being a steady build. But for teens who have an interest in the time period, this won't be an issue. Karl's story will be enough to keep them turning the page. It's all the more heartbreaking since the reader knows what the characters don't: that the world is heading towards a terrible war. 

I'd hand this book to any teen who loves The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Annexed by Sharon Dogar, or Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Check out more reviews at StackedGalleysmith and The Fourth Musketeer. You'll also want to catch Michelle's interview with Robert Sharenow and his guest post at Galleysmith

The Berlin Boxing Club is on shelves now!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

And I'm off...!

From Friday, January 20 through Tuesday, January 24 I will be in Dallas for the 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting! I am totally psyched to see the awesome librarians I've connected with over the past year at ALA conferences, scope out what awesome books are coming out this spring, and meet new awesome people to share ideas! (Yes, I just used the word "awesome" three times. Conference is awesome!)

Not going to Midwinter? Follow along at home as I tweet the conference. Follow me (abbylibrarian) or check out the official Twitter hashtag, #alamw12.

I will also be blogging with short posts at the ALSC Blog, along with several other awesome children's librarians, so be sure to tune in there, as well.

Of course, you probably know that the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards (including Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Schneider Family, Stonewall, Printz, and more) will be announced Monday morning, starting at 7:45am Central Standard Time. There will be a live Webcast and you can follow ALAyma on Twitter for up-to-the-minute winner announcements.

If you're going to Midwinter, I'd love to meet up - feel free to Tweet me! If you're not able to go, hopefully living vicariously through tweets and blog posts will bring you some measure of joy.

So. Here I go. My ereader's loaded up for the plane (thanks, NetGalley!) and I'm eagerly anticipating a break from this cold (um... suddenly it is winter here!). See y'all next week!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Probability of Miracles

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, read by Emma Galvin. Grades 8 and up. Penguin Audiobooks, December 2011. 8 hours and 7 minutes. Review copy provided by publisher.

Sixteen-year-old Campbell is dying. Yup, she's got cancer. Treatments aren't working. Cam's kinda resigned herself to it, which is why she's created the Flamingo List, a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Y'know, normal teenager things like "Sleep through Saturday" and "Have my heart broken by an asshole". When her mom decides they're moving from Orlando to a tiny town called Promise, Maine, where it's said that miracles are known to occur, Cam's skeptical. But what she discovers in Promise (besides a dreamy boy named Asher who seems to care about her) is how to get busy living instead of dying.

Miracles. They come in many shapes and sizes. Cam's mom is hoping that this mystical town with purple dandelions and synchronized whales leaping out of the ocean will be able to heal her daughter. But maybe a smaller miracle would do... like a dying girl making the most of of the weeks and months she has left.

Cam has a great voice and this is where it was really nice to listen to this book because I think Emma Galvin does a really nice job of bringing Cam's voice to life. The performance is not voiced, but it's a nice, solid read with a timbre that fit well with Cam's personality. Ms. Galvin's reading voice is a little bit husky and it reminded me of no one more than Emma Stone, which worked for me because Cam's not your typical girly girl. She's frank and adventurous. She's cynical and she puts up a brave front, while on the inside she's very unsure.

Cam's sarcasm and dry humor keeps the book from being depressing. Yes, it's a book about a girl dying, but really it's about a girl living. The town of Promise has a mystical quality about it, almost verging into magical realism (depending on whether you believe in miracles or you don't).

I'd hand this book to teens who have enjoyed books like Before I Die by Jenny Downham or Forever Changes by Brendan Halpin. I'd recommend the audiobook to those who have enjoyed solid, character-based recordings like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Mandy Siegfried or Story of a Girl, written and read by Sara Zarr.

The Probability of Miracles is a very strong debut and I'll certainly be looking for more from Wendy Wunder. Read more reviews of the book at GreenBean TeenQueen and YA Librarian Tales.

The Probability of Miracles is on shelves now!

Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you click on the links here and make a purchase, I get a small commission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Titanic at Your Library

As you're probably aware, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is coming up this April. Kids are fascinated with the Titanic, so you'll want to make sure you've stocked your shelves well with titles like Unsinkable (and sequels) by Gordon Korman, Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg, and The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf. (Of course, don't forget Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker, which is not about the Titanic, but makes a great readalike for interested tweens!)

And if you're wanting to do a library program about the Titanic, look no further! Here's a rerun from the Abby the Librarian archives with a Titanic program I did a couple of summers ago. This post originally ran on June 24, 2010.


When we were brainstorming for summer programs to go along with the Make a Splash theme, I thought to myself "What made a bigger splash than the Titanic?"

Irreverent, I know, but kids are fascinated by that great ship and I wanted to come up with a program to bring in some of those older kids. So, what did I do?

First, I set up the room. I put chairs in a big circle and printed out a bunch of historic newspaper articles from when the event happened (I took advantage of our Indiana room for these and I found many images online that I printed out). On the wall, I put up a time line detailing some important dates and times of the events (when the ship set out, when she struck the iceberg, when the Carpathiaarrived to pick up survivors, etc.). And I made some paper flags to look like the White Star Line flags. I also used some blank labels to make name tags with the White Star Line logo on them.

When the kids arrived, I let them in the room and gave them some time to look over the newspaper articles while we waited for everyone to show up. While they were checking out the articles, I had music playing from Titanic: Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage.

Once most of the kids had shown up, I started with a brief overview of the Titanic.I invited the kids to share what they knew about the event and they were so into that. It was hard to get them to stop talking! But eventually we moved on and I asked them some trivia questions I had put together.

The trivia was my favorite part of the program. I used the book 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic and the Magic Tree House Research Guide: Titanic to find many of the questions I asked and fun facts I told the kids. Another great resource for Titanic information is the website Encyclopedia Titanica.

After that, I brought out the mini iceberg I had made. I froze baggies of water and then froze them together to form a huge chunk of ice. I floated this in a clear container (with some blue food coloring in the water) to show them how you can only see a tiny bit of the ice when there's much more under the surface. Since they were being very well-behaved, I also invited them to feel how cold the water was and imagine being submerged in water that cold while they waited for rescue.

If you do something like this, have plenty of towels around to clean up spills and for kids to dry their hands! Also, get some gloves for when you're handling the ice. It's cold. And also sharp. Safety first!

Then I read a passage written by a Titanic survivor.

After the iceberg, I talked to them a little about Morse code and demonstrated it with a flashlight. I chose a volunteer to spell out his name with the flashlight. This went okay, but not great. I wanted to do something with Morse code, but I couldn't come up with something better.

And then since they had been sitting for sooo long, we played musical chairs with the 1912 music from the CD I had. This was a big hit, but took longer than I thought since we had a good crowd of kids.

After we had gotten through musical chairs, we ended and I handed out packets with some activities (a Titanic word search, a Morse code activity, and a book list of Titanic books and survival/adventure books). The website History on the Net has a lot of Titanic worksheets that are free for educational use. Of course, I had put up a Titanic book display and the kids ravaged it, taking almost every book I put out.

The program was a lot of fun and we had great attendance. We limited the program to kids going into 3rd-5th grade and it attracted a lot of boys, which was exactly the audience I had hoped it would attract!


So there you have our Titanic program. Anyone else have ideas for a Titanic program?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Year (Almost) of Programming for Homeschoolers

I have posted before about our homeschool program, Fantastic Friday. We've just finished up our second year of offering this program, so I wanted to share a little bit about what we've been doing all year. This continues to be a great program for us. We've had great attendance from the start and we're seeing a lot of the same people coming every month.

Here's what we did in 2011:

  • January - Let It Snow! A storytime about snow and a snowman craft. 
  • February - Chinese New Year. We did a stir-fry cooking demonstration and let them all taste. A local Chinese restaurant donated chopsticks!
  • March - Seeds & Growing Things. We shared some books about seeds and growing things and then each child got to plant their own seed.
  • April - Poetry. For the younger kids, we did a poetry storytime. For the older kids, we made book spine poems.
  • May - We did a storytime and craft for the younger kids. For the older kids, we did a book chat and I booktalked a bunch of awesome books that they might like for Summer Reading.
  • June, July, and August - We took a break from Fantastic Friday because we were offering so many awesome programs at all times of the day. 
  • September - Back to Homeschool Party! This was a great way to kick off our homeschool year and bring our audience back in. 
  • October - Costume party and Trick-or-Treat around the library. 
  • November - Pretzel-making. (I am lucky to have an excellent and willing chef amongst my staff!)
  • December - Holidays Around the World. Three different craft stations with information about holidays from three different countries. 
Due to an incredibly overwhelming fall and the large number of programs we planned for winter break, we're taking a break from in-house programming in January. The weather is very iffy and people in our area get very skittish about driving conditions. We'll start back up in February with a Black History Month program at the Carnegie Center for Art and History. I know I want to do a database workshop for the older kids at some point. And I'd like to continue my tradition of doing booktalks for the older kids in May to get them excited about Summer Reading. I think we'll probably again take a summer break and then repeat our Back to Homeschool Party in September. Other than that, we'll see where the year takes us!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King. Grades 7 and up. Little, Brown, October 2011. 282 pages. Reviewed from ARC snagged at ALA.

Every night, Lucky Linderman travels to the jungles of Vietnam where he tries, once again, to rescue his grandfather. Lucky's grandfather has been MIA since way before Lucky was born. But at least in his dreams, Lucky feels like he's doing something. Not like when he can't get his dad to talk to him or even stay home from his restaurant for one night to be with the family. Not like when Nader's beating him up and all the adults are too meek or too clueless to help. But after a particularly horrible incident, Lucky's mom takes him to visit her brother in Arizona and there Lucky will begin to take charge of his life and start to set things to rights.

There's this moment... I guess not everyone necessarily has A MOMENT, but I know for me there was a time in my life when I realized that life doesn't have to be something that happens TO you. When you're growing up, ever since you were a baby, people were doing things for you. They carried you around. They fed you. When you got older, they made you brush your teeth, they carted you off on family vacations. When you're a kid, a lot of stuff happens TO you. But when you start to grow up, you realize that you can take charge of your life. You can make things turn out the way you want them to (well, you can do your best, anyway).

This is one thing Lucky learns.

There's also some time in your life when you realize that everybody's got problems, no matter how perfect their hair or how much money they make. Not only that, but sometimes problems are a lot more complicated than you could ever imagine. And sometimes the problems you see are caused by underlying problems you don't see. But everybody's got 'em.

This is another thing Lucky learns.

Everybody Sees the Ants is a story for anyone who has ever felt helpless.

This is a story that I could just sink into. Lucky felt incredibly real to me and I truly enjoyed seeing him figure things out. He's faced with a lot of frustrations in his life... Of course, there's the bully making his life miserable, but there's also the fact that his dad is never around and that Lucky isn't able to get it across that he needs help dealing with it. He's screaming at the top of his lungs without making a sound.

Lucky isn't the only great character in this book. A fleshed-out cast of supporting characters add to the authenticity of the story. I particularly liked the story of Lucky's aunt and uncle. As Lucky gets to know them, his perception of both of them changes almost completely, reinforcing the idea that you may never know someone's full story.

Lucky's ants add humor to the story, keeping it from getting too heavy. This is a book about some serious issues, but the tone is not always serious.

Check out more reviews at Stacked, GreenBean TeenQueenPresenting Lenore, The Book Smugglers, and YA Love.  

Everybody Sees the Ants is on shelves now!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Born Wicked

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. Grades 7 and up. G.P. Putnam's Sons, February 2012. 327 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

The Cahill sisters have a secret: just like their late mother, they have magic. If the Brothers knew, they would arrest them all and send them away. Cate's determined to protect her sisters, just as she promised her mother. But with her intention day looming, Cate's got some big decisions to make. Should she marry, even though it means she would move to the city and leave her sisters to fend for themselves? Can she face joining the Sisterhood instead? Does she even love the one man who has proposed to her? And are the Cahill sisters the subject of a dire prophecy that foretells one of them changing the world forever?

I found Born Wicked to be an unexpected delight and now (of course), I'm clamoring for the next book (and the first one hasn't even been released yet... woe is me ;).

It started off a little slow, or maybe I was just concentrating too hard on piecing together the setting and the society. Born Wicked is set in Maine in the late 19th century, after most of the witches who immigrated to America for religious freedom had been killed off or gone into hiding. Once I got a grip on the world, I was quickly caught up in Cate's romantic intrigues and the mystery surrounding the prophecy. The romance was definitely swoon-worthy, even though it's not graphic. As Cate wavers between two potential suitors, the tension mounts and Jessica Spotswood builds it perfectly. The twists and turns in the story kept me on my toes and kept me turning the pages and I'll definitely be seeking out the next book in the series.

I'd definitely hand this debut to teens who dig stories about witches and magic. It'll satisfy those who can't get enough of the paranormal romance books and I might also try it on fans of The Luxe by Anna Godbersen and Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan.

A note on the cover: Okay, it's pretty. But a photo of a girl laying in the grass in her skivvies under the title BORN WICKED... I guess my mind goes to bad places. (Although that might be the very thing that entices teens to pick it up...)

Born Wicked will be on shelves February 7!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Flesh & Blood So Cheap

Flesh & Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin. Grades 7 and up. Random House Children's Books, February 2011. 182 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

On Saturday, March 25, 1911, just at the end of the workday, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City caught fire. The doors were locked to discourage factory workers from leaving early. The fire hoses were not connected. Flames soon exploded out of control as the highly flammable cloth scraps and paper patterns caught fire. The factory occupied the top three floors of a 10-story building. Many women had no choice but jump or be burned to death.

146 people, mostly women, died in the Triangle Fire, and this well-researched book is more than a chronicle of the worst workplace disaster New York has ever seen (with the exception of the 9/11 terrorist attacks). It's a snapshot of the time and a portrait of a changing nation. The first half of the book examines immigration in America in the second half of the 19th century and how it shaped the way American industry developed. It paints just the right mood for acknowledging how terribly tragic the Triangle Fire was. The last part of the book shows what changes were made in industry and labor laws as a result of the fire and shows that sweatshops still exist in many parts of the world.

Archival photos are well-selected and well-used to bring the time period to life. Back matter includes a bibliography, source notes, and an index. The writing is accessible and interesting, giving teens a glimpse into the lives of teens and children of this era. Not only would this make a great addition to history lessons, but it could easily spark conversations about immigration and how it has changed in this country over the past hundred years.

This book would make a perfect pairing with Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix or Katherine Paterson's Bread and Roses, Too or Lyddie. For older teens interested in a more recent look at immigration and sweatshop work, you could also pair this book with Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. And, of course, don't forget Russell Freedman's Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor.

You can find more reviews of Flesh & Blood So Cheap at Biblio File and The Fourth Musketeer.

Flesh & Blood So Cheap, finalist for the 2011 National Book Award, is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Check out this week's roundup at Great Kid Books.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Around the Interwebs

Who's going to Dallas for the ALA Midwinter Meeting?! I'll be there and you can bet your boots (heh) I won't be missing the Great ALA Midwinter YA Blogger Meetup. Sunday, January 22 @ 6pm at The Iron Cactus (1520 Main Street). Hope to see you there! Thanks to Kelly of Stacked for organizing!

Marge of Tiny Tips for Library Fun turned me on to a fabulous storytime blog: Story Time Secrets. New and seasoned librarians alike won't want to miss Katie's Lessons Learned in a Year of Story Time.

And of course, don't miss Marge's own post about some of her favorite storytime stretchers. And Mel of Mel's Desk has posted a compilation of advice for new storytime providers.

Pam (MotherReader) and Lee are bringing back the Comment Challenge for 2012! Yay! Signups started Thursday, so get yourself over there (and start commenting!).

The end of the year is always filled with Best Of lists, but be sure not to miss Betsy's 100 Magnificent Children's Books of 2011 at A Fuse #8 Production.

And speaking of book lists, ALSC has updated their list of Great Early Elementary Reads, a great resource for those looking for books for kids who are starting to read chapter books on their own.

I love Donalyn's post Mooning Over Book Lists at the Nerdy Book Club. It is so true. So very true. :)

And if you haven't checked out Nerdy Book Club, you are missing some great posts about reading and books. Make sure you catch the 2011 Nerdies Book Awards, as well.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's Getting Pink Over at the ALSC Blog

All, today I'm posting about our wildly successful Pinkalicious Party over at the ALSC Blog. Please do click through and take a look at what we did! Here's a little preview:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Try, Try Again: A Tale of Two Programs

Photo: Ben Hoyt
I don't know if you have this problem, but we have this problem: every time we survey patrons they ask for more evening programs for working parents. However, when we do offer evening programs they are very poorly attended. I needed to come up with something that would draw in a nice crowd in the evenings, so instead of offering a plain old evening storytime over Winter Break, I borrowed the idea of a "Milk & Cookies Storytime". I put it on our calendar, requiring registration so I would have an idea of the supplies needed.

And, as best laid plans sometimes do, things went a little bit awry. Registration was going like gangbusters and I was so excited that people were actually planning on coming to something in the evening! And then a week before the program, I discovered that a typo on the library-wide program calendar listed the program as 2:00pm instead of 7:00pm.

I thought on it a little bit and then decided that I would go ahead and offer the program at 2:00 if people showed up for it. Then I'd repeat it at 7:00. If a bunch of people showed up, I had plenty of time to run to the store for more supplies. And I'd much rather put in a little extra work and offer the program twice than turn away anyone who made a trip to the library for our program.

The program was advertised for ages 3-7 and I had an idea about how it would go: I'd share some of my favorite books and then put out milk & cookies for everyone to enjoy. At the last minute before the 2:00 program, I changed my mind. I figured I'd have a smaller crowd for that program, so I wanted to try putting out the refreshments at the beginning and inviting kids to enjoy their snack while they listened to stories.

The program was a disaster.

The first milk spill happened before we even started the stories. Luckily, I was prepared with many (MANY) napkins and towels. I had figured that milk would be spilled at some point. What I didn't count on was what a constant distraction the snacks would be. From various kids spilling milk (requiring various levels of my attention, depending on how attentive parents were) to other kids finishing their cookies and whining for more... no one was paying any attention to my stories. I tried switching it up and throwing in felt stories. I knew it would only invite more disaster to have the kids stand up and dance to the songs I had planned.

I cut it short and made copious notes for the next session. True, part of the disaster came from the kids that showed up (I believe a home day care group came, all kids who were new to the library and very squirrelly the whole time). But part of the disaster came from how I had planned the program.

I started with a book that was too long and didn't hold the kids' attention. Once I had lost them, I never really got them back. Serving the snacks at the beginning was a terrible idea and limited what I could do with the group. Normally with squirrelly kids, I'd ask them to stand up and do some stretching or dancing to get some wiggles out, but with cups of milk everywhere, I couldn't do that.

It's a bummer when a program flops, BUT I couldn't concentrate on that. I knew I had to concentrate on making the program better for the next session!

Before the next session, I pulled all new books. Even though the recommended program age went up to 7, I pulled books that were shorter and more geared toward the preschool age. I pulled a bunch of extra books so I could switch things up easily if the kids weren't into something I had picked. I set up small tables where kids could enjoy their snack AFTER the storytime. I put the cookies out on a tray, but left it in our office until after the program. The milk stayed in the fridge until we were ready for our snack.

This session was 100% better than the first one. (Granted, there were several families that I knew who attended the 7:00 session, so it probably would have been smoother anyway.) I started by welcoming the kids and letting them know that we'd read some stories and then have a snack afterwards. Here's what we did:

Book: Bark George by Jules Feiffer. I wanted to start with one of my favorites, a book that I felt very confident about reading since my program had gone so poorly the first time.

Book: Actual Size by Steve Jenkins. Since I did have some older kids in attendance, I brought out this book. It went over the preschoolers' heads a little bit and I didn't read the entire thing, but this is a book that's easy to stop at any point so I didn't end up reading the entire thing.

Song: My Bonnie by Jim Gill. Since the kids were getting a little antsy during Actual Size, we stood up to do this song. I asked them to think of words that started with "B" and they gave me many! Then we did the motions to this song. It was a great choice for emerging readers!

Book: Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas. This silly book calls for rhyming words and definitely had the kids giggling along! I always start this book by making sure kids know what dust bunnies are.

Felt: Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton. This was a nice transition because one of the dust bunnies is named Bob, as are fourteen of the animals in this book.

Book: The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson. I used this book last to transition into our snack time. It was maybe a tiny bit long for my crowd, but they definitely found it funny.

After our storytime, I brought out the tray of cookies and the milk and invited them to find a spot at the tables and then come up to get their snack. I had 17 kids and they went through about half a gallon of milk. I had bought 2 gallons, but in the future I'll buy half-gallons because they'll be easier to pour from. They will eat as many cookies as are available. I put out two whole packages and they ate almost all of them, some kids taking four, five, six cookies at one go. In the future, I'll ask kids to start by choosing two cookies and then going back for more after everyone's had some.

Once I fixed my problems, the program actually turned out to be really nice and I'm excited about offering it weekly over the summer. This just goes to show you that sometimes everything goes wrong and a program just flops, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was a bad idea. You can note what didn't go well and fix it for next time!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blizzard of Glass

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M. Walker. Grades 5-10. Henry Holt, November 2011. 145 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

It was 1917, smack in the middle of World War I, and many ships carrying war supplies went in and out of the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia. But the Mont-Blanc wasn't just any ship. Packed to the brim with explosives and combustibles, every sailor knew to take extreme precautions on board that ship. But accidents happen and when another ship collided with the Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbor, it created the largest man-made explosion until the 1945 detonation of the atomic bomb. Halifax would never be the same.

With riveting prose, Sally M. Walker presents a detailed account of the devastating Halifax Explosion and how it affected the people of Halifax. She starts by introducing the reader to a handful of families living in Halifax and how they started the morning of December 6, 1917, unsuspecting. The first few chapters give background information about Halifax and the ships and the war, each chapter ending with foreshadowing of the tragedy to come.

When tragedy does strike, Ms. Walker's gripping account is hard to put down. Archival photos grace nearly every page, putting the reader right into the middle of the action. Buildings for 12 miles around were damaged and most of the buildings near the harbor were absolutely leveled. Luckily, a brave telegraph operator had been able to send out a final message alerting other towns to the disaster, so help was soon on its way.

Confession: I am a huge fan of Sally Walker's books and I picked this one up on the strength of her name alone. It did not disappoint. I knew nothing about the Halifax Explosion before picking up this book, but now I find myself wanting to press Blizzard of Glass into the hands of every young Titanic fanatic I know. This is surely just as exciting and tragic account as any about the Titanic. This is narrative nonfiction at its finest.

And just as we've come to expect from Sally Walker, her excellent writing is paired with extensive research, making a truly fantastic nonfiction experience for young readers. The book includes extensive source notes, an author's note, a bibliography, and an index. I fully expect to see a shiny Sibert sticker on this one in a couple of weeks and I'll be devastated if it's overlooked for the ENYA shortlist next year.

Promote this one to your Titanic fans as the anniversary approaches and hand it to anyone who likes thrilling disaster stories.

Blizzard of Glass is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is over at The Nonfiction Detectives, so head over there and check it out!