Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres. Grades 4-7. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January 2017. 166 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.


Tia Perla huffs and wheezes and always looks a little bit grubby, no matter how clean she actually is.

Tia Perla leaves anyone who comes near her smelling like jalapenos and cooking-oil.

Papa had pretty much promised to stop bringing Tia Perla to pick up Stef at Saint Scholastica School.

But there always she is. Tia Perla. The family's TACO TRUCK.

All Stef wants is to be a normal seventh grade girl. She doesn't want to be the weirdo riding home in the taco truck after school every day, especially when she overhears her former friend calling her the Taco Queen. All she wants is for her father to have a normal job so she can stop being the Taco Queen once and for all.

But when the city wants to make new rules about food trucks, strict rules that could put her father out of business and end his chef dreams forever, Stef will have to figure out a way to make peace with Tia Perla and just maybe save the day.

My thoughts:

This is such a cute story, perfect for fans of contemporary fiction and foodies. Stef's story read like a Disney Channel movie, and I mean that in a good way! It's a sweet tween read about dealing with friends and pressure at school and, yes, some unexpected adventures that take some creative thinking.

I love food trucks and I really liked the descriptions of Mr. Soto's culinary creations, too.

Put this on your watch list now!


Readers looking for more stories of Latinx families may enjoy Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel or Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez.

Foodies should definitely pick up Tara Dairman's All Four Stars series for adventures with another "culinary queen".

Saturday, November 26, 2016

#ReadHarder Challenge 2016

After discovering the amazing site Book Riot last year, I jumped in to participate in the Read Harder Challenge this year and it was so, so fun. It stretched me to pick up some books I had been meaning to get to, books I wouldn't have otherwise picked up, and to be thoughtful about some of my reading without giving up control of ALL of my reading this year. I took advantage of the ability to find books that matched more than one category, although at the end of the challenge I realized that for some categories I had read several books that would fit. 

Here's what I read for the 2016 Read Harder Challenge. I am already looking forward to next year's challenge!!!

Read a horror book: Pressure by Brian Keene (also: Bird Box by Josh Malerman, which I enjoyed more)

Read a collection of essays: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker        

Read a book out loud to someone else: Olivia by Ian Falconer (read to my husband, though I read books out loud at work pretty much every week at least)

Read a middle grade novel: It Ain't So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas (also so, so many others this year)

Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography): Jim Thorpe: Original All-American by Joseph Bruchac (also Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet and Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes and maybe more?)     

Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama (also The Handmaid's Tale would fit here)  

Read a book originally published in the decade you were born: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1980s)      

Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes (won the 2013 Audie for the Fiction category)     

Read a book over 500 pages long: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (also Roots by Alex Haley and Well of Witches by J.A. White)

Read a book under 100 pages: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender: Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Love, Identity and So Much More by Janet Mock (also If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo and Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings) 

Read a book that is set in the Middle East: When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi 

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar (Philippines) 

Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe (also Roots by Alex Haley and The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich and maybe more?)

Read the first book in a series by a person of color: Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen (also The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich and Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes and maybe more?)

Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (I liked both, but I think I liked the book better)

Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes:  The Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction): Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann

Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction): Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Read a food memoir: Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

Read a play: Fences by August Wilson

Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness: When We Collided by Emery Lord (also History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera and Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Abby All Around the Interwebs

I know I haven't been here on this blog super frequently lately, but I have been working on some stuff around the internet, which I'd love for you to check out!

I'm in American Libraries, reminding librarians to think critically about providing holiday programming in your libraries. This is a conversation that has happened before and needs to keep happening! Never stop evaluating what you're offering and how it's really affecting your community.


In September, I had the honor of being a panelist for the SLJ/Permabound Webcast Better Together: Boosting Engagement by Pairing Fiction Series and Nonfiction. Click that link to view the webinar for free (you may have to still register for it).


If you subscribe to the free School Library Journal e-newsletter Be*Tween, you may have seen my Chapter Book Chat columns popping up on there over the past several months. It's been really fun to write and seek out amazing younger middle grade titles to share. If you're not subscribed, you're missing out, especially if you work with middle-graders. Here are the columns I've written for them:

In the spring, I wrote up a Field Notes column for Library Journal on running STEM programs for preschoolers: Preschool STEM Lab.

Catch me if you can! I've been all around the interwebs lately and I hope you find these pieces valuable!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Diversity Within ALSC Survey

Friends, the Diversity Within ALSC Task Force needs your help. In order to figure out what steps need to be taken to increase the diversity within our organization, they need to get a sense of what the current organization looks like.

I'm posting their message below. The survey literally takes only a few minutes. If you're a member of ASLC, have ever been a member of ALSC, or have thought about joining ALSC, please fill it out! 


The Diversity within ALSC Task Force is conducting a survey to gain a better understanding of the current ALSC membership as well as other youth services providers outside the membership.

The purpose of this survey is to discern where we stand with diversity within the children’s library services profession, and to determine barriers to joining ALSC. It is our hope that by discovering barriers we can work to break them down to create a more inclusive, diverse membership, and eventually, profession.

This survey is voluntary, confidential, and anonymous. No personally identifiable information is captured and all responses will be aggregated and summarized into a report.

We would like to compile as much information as possible, and we hope that you will consider participating in the survey.

Please feel free to share with colleagues in order to help us reach the greatest possible audience. The survey will be live until Tuesday, December 20th.

Link to survey:

Thank you,
Kendra Jones and Zareen Jaffery, on behalf of the Diversity within ALSC Task Force

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Reading Wildly: Gentle Reads

This month for Reading Wildly, my staff and I read gentle reads. What do I mean by gentle reads? We classified this month in three ways:

  • Teen books that do not contain mature language and situations
  • Books for young readers who are reading way above their grade level
  • Christian fiction 
I believe the genre originally suggested for this month was Christian fiction and I expanded it a little bit to include some more options. We ended up sharing books from all three areas that we considered gentle fiction. Of course, you can never guarantee to anyone that a book is going to be absolutely free of anything that might offend - it's impossible to know every thing that could potentially offend someone. 

One thing I was proud of this month is that when we went to make our suggestion list for each other last month, we had a lot of ideas for children's books and very few ideas for teen books. Most of the books we all ended up sharing at this meeting were teen books. Without my asking them, staff gravitated towards the area where we had less experience. That's exactly the idea behind this program!

I'm going to post two separate lists here: one for teens and one for children reading above grade level. These lists contain not only the books we read, but also books that were suggested by my staff last month. I included all of these titles in our Evernote lists and I've encouraged staff to add to the lists as they read gentle fiction throughout the year. 

Here's what we read and suggested: 

Gentle Teen Reads (includes Christian fiction): 

Books for Younger Kids Reading Above Grade Level
What would you add to our lists of gentle reads? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Inquisitor's Tale

The Inquisitor's Tale, Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly. Grades 5-9. Dutton Books for Young Readers, September 2016. 384 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.

Summary (from publisher):

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints. 

My thoughts: 

I loved this book so hard that I didn't want it to end, which is super high praise from me because finishing books and starting new ones is one of my very favorite things. 

The format reads like The Canterbury Tales with different narrators at a medieval inn trading off and telling the story of three children who are on a mission and who may or may not be saints (complete with miracles). It's a diverse group of children - Jeanne, a peasant girl who has visions of the future; William, a half-African student with super strength; and Jacob, a Jewish boy with healing powers. And each diverse role is specifically chosen to explore their role during the Middle Ages. This book says a lot about modern times while being exclusively set in the 1200s.

So, in addition to being a rollicking adventure story with good doses of humor and occasional bloody violence, this is really a philosophy book. There's the question of morality - when you know something is right or wrong, where does that knowledge come from? There's the issue of hating people that are different than you are, even people you have never really met, and what that means and what can be done about it. 

But even though this book is totally thought-provoking and asks some hard questions that may get young readers to think about things that had never occurred to them before, it's still a rollicking adventure story.

Tons of thought and research have obviously gone into this book. Man, I love it!


For readers wanting more about the Middle Ages, try Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz or Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi. 

For readers wanting more of Gidwitz's blend of humor, adventure, and bloody violence, try his Grimm trilogy, starting with A Tale Dark and Grimm

For readers wanting a thought-provoking philosophy book wrapped up in an adventure story, try ????? I have no idea, as this is pretty unique in my experience. Suggestions?!?