Summah!

It’s summahtime and the reading is easy, sort of. Not really, but it sounds good. I had plans to set aside time every day in the summer to read. I have articles due that require reading, I have pleasure reading to accomplish, I have review journals to scour, I have oodles of books and articles that need reading, and yet I find myself … struggling. Perhaps I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it, so then I do none of it. Does that happen to you? I’ve made myself a schedule to read. I never used to have to do that, it just happened naturally. Mostly, though, I think it’s because I’m on summer vacation, have lost my regular schedule entirely and thus think I have endless amounts of time to get it done. Weird, but true.

But, since it’s been two whole months since I last posted I do actually have books to talk about today. Over at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts the meme It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is happening and Shannon Messenger at Ramblings of A Wannabe Scribe is hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, and so here I sit on a Sunday afternoon/evening, typing up a blog post and drinking a pink beer. (For anyone out there who might be a craft beer enthusiast, it’s PYNK from Yards). Here’s a pretty picture.

IMG_4067

Phew, that’s a lot of linkage in one paragraph.

Let’s talk books, that’s the fun part.

redqueenThe Red Queen
by Victoria Aveyard
HarperTeen
2015

I know that I’m waaaayyy behind on this one, I believe the third installment is about to come out, or has just recently published. It was highly recommended by a colleague, and I needed to lose myself in another world. It was a fast-paced, tightly plotted novel that really kept me engaged.

Sixteen-year-old Mare has red blood, which denotes her commoner status in this world divided by the haves, who have silver blood, and the have-nots, with their oh-so-prosaic red blood. Given a job as a servant to the royal family, Mare is thrust into a dangerous political game when it is discovered, quite by accident, that while she may have red blood, she has a power that should only belong to a silver. Her role navigating between the two worlds is perilous and loyalties are tested and broken numerous times. It was a fun, engrossing fantasy. Fairly tame, content-wise, but still some romance and complex relationships. I’ll be recommending this one to my 7th and 8th graders.

losersLosers Take All
by David Klass
FSG
2015

Another older title, but we put this one on our recommended summer list, so it seemed appropriate for this post. Strong realistic fiction for junior high crowd. This one actually made me laugh out loud a few times, which makes it a keeper in my book.
Jack Logan is a senior in high school and has been raised in a family of superb athletes, in a town that reveres high school sports. He couldn’t feel more like an alien if he tried. But then, he does try. Sort of. His hopes of flying under the radar for his senior year are dashed when the news breaks that all seniors must participate in a team sport. Jack, and his many non-athletic friends decide that making a co-ed, 3rd string soccer team is for them, and their one goal for the year is to not win a single game. Easy enough to accomplish, but when their sports-crazed principal is recorded during an insult-laden rant against the team, their efforts go viral and they discover a whole world of people out there supporting them.

topprospectTop Prospect
by Paul Volponi
Carolrhoda
Sept. 1, 2016
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher

I think this is Volponi’s first real foray into middle grade fiction, as his other contemporary sports novels have featured high school and college-age athletes.
Travis is just starting high school, when the dream of a lifetime for any student athlete comes along. His older brother Carter is a freshman on the Florida Gators football team, and the head coach takes a special interest in Travis, who is an outstanding quarterback. He is “offered” a scholarship to the university when he comes of age, and Travis is elated at the opportunity, and loving the status that kind of notoriety gains him. Eventually, Travis feels the pressure to perform, to maintain his skills at any cost, which may cost him is future.
This novel features authentic relationships, both between family members and friends. Travis and Carter are both navigating new and difficult terrain, and they are both forced to make grown-up decisions before they are ready, and both carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. The lengthy football game descriptions got a little tiresome for me, so I skimmed those, but I don’t think I’m the intended audience here anyway. Kids who read/love Mike Lupica and Tim Green books are going to eat this one up, I’ll definitely be nudging them to try it.

applesauceApplesauce Weather
by Helen Frost
Candlewick
August 9, 2016
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher

A poignant, beautiful book of verse about family, grieving, traditions and storytelling. Frost’s poetic form is strong, her imagery is lovely and this one has rhythm that left me wanting more.
Uncle Arthur is grieving the loss of his wife, but the family is hoping he’ll appear on the farm on the day the first apple falls off the tree, just as he and Lucy did every year. When he does finally come, Faith and Peter, the two children anxiously awaiting his arrival, try to find ways to engage with him, to help him remember, to keep traditions alive and well and basically connect with a favorite uncle. It’s an ode to fall and to families that is not to be missed.

That’s it for now, but I’m looking forward to reading your posts tomorrow, and reconnecting with the blogging world. Hope to see you out there somewhere.

 

 

 

Some Reading and a new social media to explore…

Ah, Mondays.  I have a love/hate thing with Mondays. I really look forward to reading other people’s blog posts about what they’ve been reading, I’ve learned about so many amazing books through these connections. But, it also means getting up at 5:00 am, which can be hard on any given Monday, though now that we are in the middle of May, a new Monday means a new week closer to the end of the school year. Is it okay to be really psyched about that? I think so. I’m not going to feel too guilty about that.

Anyway, if you are here reading this you probably found me through the weekly meme, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. It’s pretty much the only reason I blog anymore. I need to change that. Maybe in the summer.

Take note, the books I’m talking about this week all publish in the summer. I got my advanced copies through NetGalley, which has been awesome about sharing books with me. I highly recommend them!

26240679Inspector Flytrap
By Tom Angleberger
Illus. By Cece Bell
Amulet Books
Publish Date August 2, 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

Wackiness abounds in this easy-to-read mystery chapter book. Our sleuth is a Venus Flytrap stuck in his pot who loves solving BIG DEAL mysteries. His sidekick/assistant is Nina the Goat; she eats everything in sight, pushes Inspector Flytrap around on a skateboard and responds to most things with a shrug and a “big deal”. The mysteries come into the office in a fast and furious pace, from missing pickle paperweights to unidentifiable yellow blobs on expensive paintings. The writing is pretty straightforward and the general quirkiness of everyone and everything will appeal to most young readers. Angleberger’s fast-paced dialogue paired with Bell’s familiar illustrations make for a winning combination here. The 2nd graders at my school will appreciate the humor and find it all right at their level.

29002386Saved by the Boats
By Julie Gassman
Illus. By Steve Moors
Capstone Young Readers
Publish Date July 1, 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

Inspired by her own experience of trying to leave Manhattan on 9/11 and get back to her home in New Jersey, Gassman writes a beautiful and moving tribute to the many boats of all shapes and sizes that responded to a call to action to help evacuate the city on that fateful day. She describes how boat captains of all sorts mobilized their crews and sailed into a city under attack in order to help those trying to escape the destruction that was unfolding. Just as powerful, the artwork beautifully complements the spare story, with nearly monochromatic digital illustrations that often feature one bright color as a counterpoint. Often, that color is the bright blue of the sky, harkening back to the crystal clear day, but sometimes it is the red of a life ring or the black smoke oozing from the towers. Truly, a gorgeous and creative work with an intriguing focus about a terrible day.

27206512Gemini
By Sonya Mukherjee
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date July 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

The voices of conjoined twins Clara and Hailey alternate in this new teen novel filled with all the angst, joy, and frustration that goes with being teenagers. The girls are soon to graduate high school, forcing them to think about their future and the possibility of leaving their insulated small town in California that has protected them from some of the harsher realities of being conjoined. Outgoing, artistic Hailey wants to go to art school and see the world, or at least some of it, but Clara, who’s passion is astronomy, wants only to stay safely anonymous, keeping close to home where everyone knows them and there are no prying eyes. But, as is often the case, a new boy in town opens Clara’s eyes to what could be, and for the first time allows herself to dream about being a normal teen and some of the things that entails, such as falling in love or traveling to San Francisco. For the first time, they really think about what life could be if they separated, an idea that both horrifies and intrigues them. This is an authentic story, and their emotions and responses are spot on. The girls have to find compromises in order to both get what they want, which feels about right for any teenager.  The writing was very compelling here and I couldn’t put the story down until I had finished, which I haven’t done in quite some time. I’ll be recommending this one to my older students who love a good realistic fiction with a side of romance thrown in. The ones who love Sarah Dessen and John Green will not be disappointed.

On to the social media…

I’m on Litsy. Anyone heard of it? I think it’s pretty damn new. I heard about it through a blog post from BookRiot and I’ve linked it here, she does a much better job of explaining it than I ever could. Her nutshell is that it is a combination of Instagram and GoodReads, or if they had a baby, or something like that. The premise intrigued me, so I joined. It’s only on Apple devices so far, I can’t even log in through the website, so purely mobile right now. But, if you, too, are intrigued and end up signing up, find me. My username is Runawaylibrarian. If it entices you more, my litfluence score is a whopping 42. It was 24 just for signing up. I need more friends. If you have already joined, comment here with your username and I will find you.

Have a happy Reading Week!

Never too late?

Its always fun to participate in the “It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?” meme. Thank you to Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting us all.

 

5612052The Rock and the River
By Kekla Magoon
Aladdin, 2009
Gr. 7 and up
I picked this one up because I had heard such good things about it, and because I am searching for a book to recommend to our 6th grade team as a new class read. I know, I know. My rating above states Gr. 7 and up, and as an independent read I think that’s still pretty accurate, but as a classroom read, with teacher-led discussions and context to the time period, I think 6th graders, in the latter half of the school year, could handle this one pretty well. There’s a lot going on here and the book is pretty intense. It is 1968 Chicago, the civil rights movement is in full-swing and young Sam Childs is right in the thick of everything. His father is a noted civil rights activist who works closely with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his older brother, Stick, is being drawn to the work of the Black Panther party. Sam is in the middle, torn between the love and respect that he has for his father and the absolute worship of his brother who can do no wrong. As events bubble up and sometimes boil over, Sam doesn’t always know which way to turn, isn’t sure who is right in every situation and doesn’t always see the big picture. What I love about this book is that Sam is a flawed protagonist; he’s young and inexperienced, but has a good heart and wants to do the right thing. I also love that the Black Panther party is shown here as a very nuanced organization, that did a lot of good things in their communities, including building free health clinics, providing breakfast for children and offering up education classes. Magoon does not shy away from showing the violence and injustices of the time, and I found myself time and again, reflecting on how the incidents she describes from 1968 are eerily, and sadly unsurprisingly, occurring now, nearly 50 years later. It is a great read; thought-provoking and full of insight about family dynamics and relationships as well as illuminating a very difficult period of history. I’m definitely recommending that the 6th grade teachers at my school read it, and in the meantime, I’ll be adding it to some summer reading lists.

 

26073068

The Seventh Wish
By Kate Messner
Gr. 4 and up
Bloomsbury
Publish Date June 7, 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

Thinking of wishes is easy for Charlie, it’s the consequences of those wishes that sometimes aren’t so easy. While ice fishing out on Lake Champlain Charlie accidentally uncovers a wish-granting source; an undersized fish with glowing green eyes that promises granted wishes if she releases him back into the lake. And this small piece of magic allows her to make wishes for family and friends alike. She wishes a new job for her mom, excellent basketball tryouts for her ice fishing buddy, Drew, a passing grade on a test for Irish dancing companion Dasha, and so on. All come true, all have unanticipated ripples that helps Charlie understand that not all troubles need wishing. One big problem that doesn’t seem to have a wishable fix is her big sister Abby, who’s first year in college has left her with a drug problem that lands her in a residential rehab facility. Charlie is  angry, embarrassed and worried for her formerly athletic, bouncy sister who could do no wrong. Messner weaves an endearing tale as Charlie navigates problems big and small, at home and at school and manages to find a way to deal with all that is going on without relying on a fish in a lake. This new book reminds me quite a bit of All the Answers, which had a similar tone and small dose of magic that will resonate with plenty of young middle graders. I’ll be putting this on our summer reading list!

 

25937866Raymie Nightingale
By Kate DiCamillo
Gr. 4-7
Candlewick Press, April 2016
This one is my new favorite DiCamillo book since Because of Winn-Dixie, and its no wonder since this one has a similar feel. The not-so-glamorous side of  Florida locale, quirky characters both large and small, and an absent parent that leaves the young protagonist confused and sad. Raymie Clarke is bound and determined to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant, convinced that her father, who has run with a young dental hygienist, will see her in the newspaper and come back home. In order to win the competition, she needs a talent, and in 1975 Florida the only talent worth having is baton-twirling, and do a few good deeds. Baton-twirling classes leads to an unlikely alliance with two of her competitors, one faints fairly frequently and the other is tough-as-nails and determined to sabotage the entire pageant. At turns funny, poignant, and occasionally outlandish, the young trio manages to form a bond, do some good deeds and do their best in the pageant. And Raymie never does learn how to twirl a baton.
Highly recommended.

Hmmm…..I guess monthly isn’t sooo bad

 

IMWAYR 2015

Ok, so a monthly post is better than no post, but honestly I had high hopes of accomplishing something a little more substantial and certainly something more than book reviews. It feels a little one-dimensional.  However, I love participating in IMWAYR! It’s a great way to connect. I’m sure anyone here has found me through that, but on the off chance someone not connected to it is here, go check out either Jen at Teach Mentor Texts or Kellee at Unleashing Readers, they cohost this very fun, weekly event.

doorstaircaseThe Door by the Staircase
by Katherine Marsh
Gr. 5-8
E-ARC available via the publisher and NetGalley

I love Baba Yaga stories. The chicken legged house, the fence made of the skeletons of eaten children, the MORTAR and PESTLE! It’s all just so different from the fairy tales I grew up with and it all just feels so weird and twisted. What’s not to love?
I think I had forgotten the summary of this one when I started reading, and didn’t realize until about halfway through that it was a Baba Yaga story, but my investment immediately quadrupled as soon as that realization sunk home. Of course, I was already pretty invested because I absolutely loved Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, the only other Katherine Marsh that I’ve read. She does not disappoint here. The writing is lovely and dense and a wee bit dark; the characters are both real and absolutely fantastic, and mostly I just loved the slow build of the story. People and elements are introduced intentionally and then filled out carefully that the whole thing just feels so substantial and deep.
Twelve-year-old Mary attempts to escape the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies by crawling up the chimney and then dropping to the ground below but is caught up in a magical whirlwind that pins her against the wall, preventing her escape and forcing her back inside. Orphaned years ago by a fire that took her mother and brother, Mary has never really known a loving household and longs for more than the orphanage can offer. When Madame Z offers both comfort and companionship, Mary jumps at the chance and can’t quite believe her good fortune. But, as is true in most stories, if things seem too good to be true, they probably are. Madame Z has secrets and is surrounded by what seems like magic and Mary, ever curious and oh-so-slightly mischievous, is determined to figure it all out before she allows herself to trust completely. And, thus begins her quest. She befriends a boy in town who becomes her partner in detective work, and they work to uncover all they can about Madame Z, find a way to protect themselves from being eaten, and master the magic that is all around them.
It’s an engrossing and sophisticated read. I’ll hand it off to kids who love the more complex fantasies, who love the fairy tale novelizations and who can appreciate the slow build of a good story. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my students.
hangnailCastle Hangnail
by Ursula Vernon
Gr. 4 and up
Copy from my library

Castle Hangnail is in desperate need of a new master, otherwise it will be decommissioned by the authorities and the minions who work there will be thrown out and forced to fend for themselves. Enter Molly: 5 feet tall and 12 years old, announcing that she is the new mistress of the castle. Most of the minions are overjoyed at the news, but the butler is skeptical, she doesn’t really look or act like a proper mistress; she’s far too nice. But, Molly really wants the job, despite the fact that she’s not entirely qualified and lying about it, and the minions really don’t want to leave the castle, so everyone perseveres. This title by the author of the Dragonbreath series is really quite wonderful and fun. Molly is so completely lovable and the various minions include a couple of minotaurs, a steamy genie living in a teakettle and a clattering suit of armor, all unique and fully realized in their own way. It’s a fun, quirky tale that will have a wide appeal.
montysoleSaving Montgomery Sole
by Mariko Tamaki
Gr. 9 and up
E-ARC made available via publisher and NetGalley

Montgomery (Monty) Sole feels like an outsider in her own home town. She’s not a jock or a cheerleader, she’s got two moms and she’s the leader of the Mystery Club at her high school which is most definitely not about reading Agatha Christie novels. She, and her two best friends, outsiders in their own right, make up the full membership of the Mystery Club where they get together to talk about all sorts of supernatural phenomena such as telepathy, crystals, and whatever else strikes their fancy. There’s really not much of a plot going on here, it’s more of a slice of life kind of thing. Monty’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder, sure that people around her are judging or making fun of her, and she’s certain that the new boy in school who’s father is an evangelical minister is really out to get her. I found Monty to be so extreme in her reactions, so quick to judge others, that I really couldn’t sympathize or like her. Her friends and family were much more reasonable and compassionate, but I mostly thought of her as a whining little brat. Without any real plot and lack of a likable protagonist this book was a bit of a slog for me. The language and some of the situations make this too old for my up to 8th grade library, but following on the heels of This One Summer, I can see where it might have a place in some high school and public library YA collections.

IMWAYR!

Welcome to 2016! My first post of the year and sadly in about two months. Ah, distractions, they come in so many forms. Those distractions have also affected my reading habits. I’m off my game and I don’t like it. I’ve had two weeks off from school and I’ve only read in the last few days, not quite sure what I was doing at the beginning of the vacation, but not the things I planned on doing, and certainly not anything I should be doing.

Anyway, I hope to see/read/connect with many of you over the next year. A resolution! I will attempt to post more, maybe not reviews, but things that might encourage dialogue, and going along with that, I will try to comment/dialogue more on other people’s blogs. I want to reach out and connect. I can also be found on Twitter (@runawayreads) find me there!

IMWAYR 2015 This really fun meme is hosted by Kellee @ Unleashing Readers and Jen @ Teach Mentor Texts. I have found so many wonderful kidlit folks and so many amazing books through this weekly adventure.

 

 

And, so, on to some of my recent reading. Much good, some mediocre.

26452754Build, Beaver Build!
by Sandra Markle
Illus. by Deborah Hocking
Gr. 1-4 (younger if reading aloud)
E-galley available via NetGalley
Publish date: March 2016

Markle hits out of the park (again!) with this stunningly beautiful and informative picture book about beavers. The narrative follows a young beaver kit, just 3 months old, as he explores and learns about his environment; mimicking his parents behaviors as they forage for food and repair their dam. The young kit grows, learning to identify and escape from danger, play with his siblings and become a more productive member of his family. Markle’s writing is lively and engaging, creating drama and suspense amidst the details of life at a beaver dam. Hocking’s illustrations are lush and detailed, vibrant with color, and worth lingering over. The paintings that depict scenes above and below water at once are of particular distinction. I’ll definitely be getting this for our school library and sharing it with my elementary students and teachers.

25810642The Girl in the Well is Me
by Karen Rivers
Gr. 4-7
E-ARC available via NetGalley
Publish date March 2016

Breathless and gasping! The first chapters of The Girl in the Well is Me leave the reader suspended in the well with Kammie. Our young protagonist is stuck in a well, arms pinned to her sides, feet dangling, dark all around her with only a circle of light overhead. How she got there is only part of the story, and how she endures her time becomes the bulk of the narrative. Eleven-year-old Kammie is new to “Nowheresville” Texas, having moved there with her mother and brother, after her father is sent to prison for embezzlement. Her initiation into the popular clique has been interrupted by her abrupt fall into the well, and the question of whether or not the other girls will come back with help is at the forefront of Kammie’s mind. What follows is Kammie’s internal dialogue as she deals with fright, thirst, hunger, loneliness and decreasing amounts of oxygen that render her incoherent and hallucinating. Zombie goats and a French-speaking coyote are interspersed with memories of life with Dad before prison and her thoughts about friendship and fitting in. This is a tense read, the first-person narration brings an immediacy to the story that any other perspective wouldn’t, and readers will picture themselves in the well with Kammie regretting every decision that lead up to this moment right along with her.

25332026Terror at Bottle Creek
by Watt Key
Gr. 5 and up
E-ARC available via NetGalley
Publish Date: January  2016

Watt Key (Alabama Moon, Four Mile) is a master of suspense-filled survival fiction, and this newest one is no exception. 13-year-old Cort lives with his dad on a houseboat on the Gulf coast of Florida helping out with their fishing guide business, while trying to maintain some semblance of normal after his mom moved out. A hurricane is bearing down on them, and preparations begin which include boarding up windows, gassing up generators and the like. When the storm finally hits, Cort is holing up in a neighbor’s house with their two daughters while his dad and their mother check on Cort’s mother who lives some distance away. As the storm begins to rage, the youngest daughter, Francie, gets swept away on the water with the family dog and Cort and Liza, the other sister, go after her. What follows is a harrowing adventure as the three of them search for high ground, fight off snakes and wild boars, and simply try to stay alive in the face of ever-increasing danger. Key builds the tension very slowly, but with methodical detail, and thus the reader feels as if they are right there in Florida wilderness, living and breathing the storm. Cort’s a very capable and ingenious teenager, and his anger at his father for leaving them alone is palpable and realistic, but he’s been taught well and his common sense manages to keep everyone alive. Give this one to fans of Gary Paulsen or Will Hobbs, there’s plenty to chew on.

 

21525995In Real Life
by Jessica Love
Gr. 9 and up
E-ARC available via NetGalley
Publish date: March 2016

Hannah and Nick have been best friends for years despite never having met in real life. Introduced in 8th grade by their siblings who flirted for a nanosecond, Hannah and Nick have maintained a purely virtual relationship via texting, emailing, phone calls, etc…When Hannah decides that maybe her feelings for Nick are more than just friendly she uses the opportunity of her parents’ weekend away to go on a road trip with her older sister and best friend to go finally meet Nick in person and see where things lead. What follows is a pretty predictable set of misadventures, what with Nick having a real life girlfriend, and maybe not being fully truthful about a number of other things. As they miscommunicate, misunderstand and generally act like lovesick teenagers the two eventually find a way to make their relationship more than just virtual. The story relies so heavily on pop culture references, current gadgets and social media, that it is hard to see how it will not feel dated in 5-10 years. The characters mostly feel one-dimensional or fairly stereotypical, and none of them were ones I could relate to or sympathize with. There’s a tad too much sex and drinking for my 7th and 8th grade students, but older kids looking for a light, fluffy read will find it fun and easy.

Looking forward to getting to know you all more in the coming months.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR 2015It’s always fun to link up and share what I’m reading. You can join the fun by bopping over to Teach Mentor Texts written by Jen or Unleashing Readers by Kellee and see what so many others are reading. Go ahead.

 

Been a slow reading few weeks; I’ve started and stopped a few different books, but I have two to share. Small victories.

courtfivesThe Court of Fives
by Kate Elliott
Gr. 8 and up

Jessamy’s family lives between two worlds; not fully accepted into the elite Patron caste that her father was born into, and yet not part of her mother’s Commoner caste either. And so they tread lightly every where they go, keeping their heads down and trying not be noticed, too much. Jessamy wants to be a dutiful daughter, but longs to openly participate in the Court of Fives, a physically dangerous game akin to parkour that would bring shame and a probable punishment to her family, which it eventually does when her secret is discovered. This high fantasy has a setting reminiscent of Ancient Egypt, and a culture that feels more in tune with Ancient Greece. Descriptions of the game itself are interesting and face-paced, and the story is convoluted enough to keep the reader interested. I enjoyed it very much, and have been able to share it with students who love adventure fantasy.
25741571The Wolf Wilder
by Katherine Rundell
Gr. 4 and up

Gorgeous writing. Unusual setting. Quirky characters. I loved this one from the author of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms and Rooftoppers. Young Feo (short for Feodora) lives with her mother in the woods of Russia in the time of the Tsars, where they work to re-wild wolves that had been pets to the wealthy Russian aristocracy and then discarded when they became inconvenient. Feo is far more comfortable with wolves than with people, but when her mother is imprisoned by a crazy, power-hungry officer in the Tsar’s army, Feo must rely on and work with others in order to escape capture and free her mother. There are lush descriptions of the Russian winter, heart-stopping action sequences and some funny, awkward moments for Feo, who is never quite sure what response is best and has to adjust her smile to suit the situation. Every kid who reads this is going to want to live with their own half-wild wolves, I know I did!

23617200Full Cicada Moon
by Marilyn Hilton
Gr. 4 and up

In this novel in verse, young Mimi narrates the ups and downs of having just moved to rural Vermont from Berkley, California where her black father has taken a job as a professor at a local college.  Mimi struggles with a lot of “what are you?” sorts of questions, as well as fighting the stereotypes that girls can’t take shop or want to be astronauts. Her Japanese mother also tries to find a place in this new and unfamiliar environment, and together the family is constantly moving forward and onward. Mimi gets a lot of support from her parents, and their family is a very loving one that can withstand the prejudices that swirl around them. She also manages to make friends and find ways to pursue her interests despite the many obstacles. I really loved the story and Mimi’s voice. What I didn’t love was the poetry. This felt like one of those novels in verse that just had short sentences broken up randomly, nearly to the point of distraction. I repeatedly found myself thinking about how I would have written the poem differently. Sigh. It would have made a beautiful prose novel.

 

It’s Monday! Been a busy few weeks!

IMWAYR 2015It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s always fun to link up and share what I’m reading. You can join the fun by bopping over to Teach Mentor Texts written by Jen or Unleashing Readers by Kellee and see what so many others are reading. Go ahead.

It’s been a busy few weeks around these parts. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival  and hear a number of authors/illustrators talk about their work. Sharon Creech, Matt Phelan, Tad Hills, Bruce Degen and Peter Brown all presented. For me, Matt and Tad were the most memorable and engaging. I love Matt’s artwork and his process, and listening to him talk about how he goes about putting a graphic novel together was fascinating. He also has an article about this in the current issue of The Horn Book if you want to see what I’m talking about. Tad Hills was just pure entertainment; funny, smart and totally humble. People were especially taken with the Halloween costumes that he has made for his kids over the years, check out his website to take a look at them. They are very impressive!

The day before that conference I attended Candlewick’s Librarian Preview for Spring 2016. Some really great things to look forward to coming from them next year.

A few that are worth putting on your radar:

crossingniagaraCrossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin
by Matt Tavares
Coming in April 2016

I’m a sucker for great picture book biographies, and this one has all the hallmarks. Lovely artwork, a little-known subject and a bit of suspense. Bring it on. I’m thinking if you liked The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, this one is going to be a winner for you.

raymienightingaleRaymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Coming in April 2016

New middle-grade fiction from Kate? Bring it on! Hard to go wrong on this front. Because Of Winn-Dixie will always be one of my favorites.

hourofthebeesHour of the Bees
by Lindsay Eagar
Coming March 2016

This is the unknown of the bunch, the one that the people at Candlewick were really excited to present. It’s getting a lot of love from early readers. Middle-grade fiction, magical realism.

Here’s the description from Goodreads:

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

Look for an ARC if you can. Maybe at ALA midwinter?

Ok, on to things I have actually read in the past few weeks.

babayagasassistantBaba Yaga’s Assistant
by Marika McCoola
Candlewick 2015
Gr. 4-8

This graphic novels is getting lots of attention for lots of reasons. I picked it up because I love Baba Yaga stories, they are so quirky and so different from many of the folktales we share with kids. This one is fairly creepy, hews pretty close to some of the traditional elements of a Baba Yaga story, and yet offers up a fairly original tale. The artwork is really well-done, and kids are going to be drawn to this one, whether they are familiar with the original stories or not. Works on many levels.

crenshawCrenshaw
by Katherine Applegate
Feiwel & Friends, 2015
Gr. 4 and up

Another story that is getting lots of love from many quarters. It is the story of young Jackson, whose family is on the brink of homelessness (again!) and they are selling their possessions in order to make rent money, but Jackson can see that this strategy might not be a long-term solution, and now that he’s older and wiser, he’s worrying more about what that all means for his future. Enter Crenshaw, a very large talking cat who was Jackson’s imaginary friend many years ago, coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) when the family was living out of their minivan for 14 weeks when he was about 5 years old. Crenshaw helps Jackson navigate his anxiety and his family. This is an incredibly moving story, really poignant and multi-layered. I can see it being a great book for a class or reading group, so much to talk about. I immediately shared it with our 4th and 5th grade teachers to float that possibility. I highly recommend this one for most elementary libraries. If you liked Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, I think you’ll find a lot to love about this one.

audacityAudacity
by Melanie Crowder
Philomel, 2015
Gr. 7 and up

LOVED IT!  It’s a fictionalized biography, written  in verse about Clara Lemlich, who was very active in the early labor rights movement in NYC in the early 1900’s, especially for women. She worked in several sweatshops after fleeing Russia and the pogroms that were happening there, and quickly realized how poorly treated the women who worked in the sweatshops were and how they had no real voice to make changes. She loudly advocated unionizing, and was often beaten and ignored for her efforts. This book was just so affecting, and I really haven’t stopped thinking about it. Beautifully written, this one doesn’t feel like some of the novels in verse, which are really more just lines of prose broken up to look like poems. Each page reads like an individual poem, and many can be read out of the context of the story and stand alone wonderfully. I feel like I’m doing this one justice. Go read it! Give this author some love.

drownedcityDrowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
by Don Brown
HMH Books, 2015
Gr. 4 and up

Beautiful. Haunting. Thoughtful. Don Brown really hit it out of the park with this graphic novel. The narrative begins with the building of the storm as it raged across the Gulf of Mexico, and then tells the tale of the city as it tried to cope during and after the storm. Brown incorporates some science into the tale, explaining how the storm grew, and why the aftermath was so bad with the broken levees, etc… There’s so much here in this slim novel, and so worth sharing right alongside the novels that describe the storm. I will say there are some really difficult images in parts of the book; floating bodies, people drowning, etc… so I would tend to recommend it for older elementary and middle school students. Very powerful.

Phew. It’s been a busy few weeks, and that feels good. All very book oriented. I like that.

Off to read what others have reading, have a great week!

Pieces of Why by K.L. Going

piecesofwhyPieces of Why
by K. L. Going
Penguin September 8, 2015
Ages: 10 and up

E-ARC provided by NetGalley

I do love me some K.L. Going; been a fan of her writing since I first The Liberation of Gabriel King and this new title does not disappoint.

The Sum: Tia is a little girl with a big voice! She sings in a local childrens gospel choir with her best friend Keisha, lives with her mother in a less-than-stellar neighborhood of New Orleans, and has a lot of questions about her father who is in prison and she hasn’t seen since she was four years old. Everyone around Tia seems to know more about her father’s history than she does, but when a shooting breaks the calm outside choir practice one evening, killing a baby in the crossfire, Tia decides it’s time to find out what her mother is keeping from her and the whole truth about her father’s violent past. The shooting has shattered Tia’s faith in humanity, leaving her unable to sing and unable to voice her emotions about everything that is going on around her.

The Good: Well-written, compelling characterizations, timely issues all come together to make for a wonderful middle grade read. Tia is full of life, full of questions, full of thoughts that are hard to put into words, and for a long time singing was her only outlet. Vivid, sensual descriptions of a post-Katrina New Orleans are rich with detail, and I love that the storm is only a sidenote to this story, but the imagery of the neighborhoods is real and visceral. The relationship between Tia, who is white, and Keisha, who is black, transcends race, and yet it is everywhere, woven throughout the story, rippling the surface of many of the interactions between characters.

The Less-Good: Not much to say here on my one and only reading of the story, but I did feel like the eventual meeting of the father in the prison visiting room felt a little too pat, and a little too happy endingish, but really it was a minor moment in a story about Tia’s growth and the development of her relationship with her mother.

The Overall: I really liked this one, it’ll find a wide audience at my school. It’s the second book this month that I’ve read about a youngster with a parent in prison, the other being Nora Baskin’s Ruby On the Outside, and that one took only one booktalk to make it a hot commodity around these parts. I can’t wait to share this one with students and teachers.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Here we are, nearly at Monday, again. My first full week of real work begins tomorrow, though I’ve been going in to the library for half days for a bit now. Meetings all this week and then kids start back right after Labor Day. Mourning the short summer, but looking forward to school, the routine, and sharing some great new stuff with a whole school full of enthusiastic readers.

IMWAYRAs always, a shoutout to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for offering the opportunity to share and connect with other book lovers.

 

 

My week has been consumed with finishing a longish nonfiction work that will eventually be reviewed in SLJ, but I can’t share that one now. Suffice it to say, I liked it.

But, I did get the chance to read two E-ARC picture books from NetGalley, both of which I really enjoyed, so all in all its been a good reading week.

bookitchcoverThe Book Itch: Freedom, Truth and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Audience: 8-12 yr olds
Lerner Publications
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015
E-ARC via NetGalley

This beautiful picture book in the form of a fictionalized biography chronicles the work of Lewis Micheaux and the famous bookstore he created in Harlem which he called “The House of Common Sense and the Home of Proper Propaganda”, and was otherwise known as the African National Memorial Bookstore. It was founded in 1932, and was dedicated to bringing intellectual thought and information to the African American community. It became a hub during the civil rights movement and a meeting place for individuals like Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and others.  The story here is told from the viewpoint of Micheaux’s son, who was a child during the peak of the bookstore’s popularity. This book will pair nicely with Nelson’s other book on the same topic, No Crystal Stair, for an older audience. The artwork is full of color and movement, reflecting the tone of the narrative as it winds through the years. In sum, I can’t wait to share this one with the teachers at my school, especially those who use No Crystal Stair in their classroom. It’s a great addition to any collection.

A couple of screenshots of my favorite pages…

bookitch2 bookitch1

 

 

 

 

The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins
by Sandra Markle
Audience: 8-12 year olds
Millbrook
Pub. Date October 1, 2015
E-ARC via NetGalley

I’ll pretty much read anything by Sandra Markle, her animal books are top-notch and always popular at my library. This title does not disappoint. It reads like a suspense story; Golden Lion Tamarins are disappearing due to habitat loss in the eastern Amazon rainforest, and scientists and citizens from all over work together to try and boost their reproductive rates, introduce zoo-bred tamarins to the wild, and work against deforestation. This title chronicles a number of strides and disappointments throughout the process, but ultimately ends on a hopeful note. The photographs of these small creatures are gorgeous, the writing is informative and accessible, and I can see myself sharing this one with a number of different groups and individuals. For me, a definite purchase.

An example of the photography…

monkey1

 

 

 

Happy reading to you all, and those of you heading back to school, Good Luck, Have a great year!

Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

11516221The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: September 22, 2015
E-ARC made available via NetGalley

The Sum: A future unlike any I’ve seen in a long while. 400 hundred years in the future war is contained, and peace preserved, by the holding of hostages. Young hostages. Children of royal families, or ruling dynasties, must submit a child to be held until the age of 18. If at anytime during that tenure a nation goes to war, that hostage, that child, is put to death. It is meant to be a deterrent, and sometimes it is, but there are times when it is not. Her Royal Highness Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy has been a Child of Peace since she was five years old, always living with the knowledge that her world could end any time, if her country, her family, goes to war. These Children of Peace are held by a tyrannical artificial intelligence known as Talis, and it is he that keeps the world’s wars to a minimum; that was the mission given to him 400 years previously when humankind was on the brink of complete annihilation from nuclear war and environmental degradation.  Greta and her agemates have spent years together, building bonds that are all threatened when a new Child of Peace arrives in the form of Elian, a teenager not schooled in the ways of Children of Peace, reluctant participant and general rabble rouser, upsetting the status quo and forcing others to think about their own membership in this dubious club.

The Ins: The characters run deep here, there is much to explore in terms of motivation, intent and relationships. It is a complex and rich world that Bow has created, allowing the details to come naturally through the storytelling, giving just enough to tantalize and maintain interest, without dumping too much information. It was one of those books that I had so many questions as I read, that eventually got answered or explained. It’s a different kind of dystopia that I’ll be sharing with my older readers for sure.

The Outs: Not much, actually. I’m still in the phase of loving it so much, that I have a hard time pinpointing things that may not have worked, or that left me wondering. Even a few weeks after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, and talking about it to my reader friends.

The Overall: Great read. Thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. Though my library only goes up to 8th grade, and this is probably for the YA audience I’ll still be getting it despite some of the language and sexual references, which are oblique enough to not offend.