Saturday, July 22, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

I attended a Scholastic Reading Summit in the Washington D.C. area on Tuesday. I went to one two years ago in the Boston area and really enjoyed it so I thought I'd make a little trip to DC not realizing that Herndon, VA is not all that close and convenient to DC. Doable, but I got a late start on Monday and didn't get to see anything once I got there. But l took the long way home and hit three Civil War battle fields.

I highly recommend attending one of these Summits if they are in your area. As conferences go, it is not expensive and you get so much. Plus, there's a Scholastic Book Fair too!

Each attendee got a cool messenger bag filled with some conference material and these books:

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey.

Riding Chance by Christine Kendall.

Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating. 

The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell & Anne Atwell Merkel.

I already have the first three books in my library and have read two of the three. I may just give these books away to some new teachers in my building. I have not read The Reading Zone and am behind in my professional reading.

I also received Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Erc Litwin for signing up for.., hm, you know? I can't remember. 

Then, of course, I bought from the fair. I showed great restraint and resisted buying tons. Here's what I couldn't resist:

Every Child a Super Reader by Pam Allyne & Ernest Morrell.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt. Illustrated by Adam Rex.

Shark Lady: the true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean's most fearless scientist by Jess Keating.

Abraham by Frank Keating.

Olinguito, from A to Z!/ ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest by Lulu Delacre.

Good Dog by Nicola Jane Swinney

That's what's new with me. What's new with you?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Audiobook Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs, 6.75 hours. Read by Michael Crouch. Harperaudio, April, 2015. 9780062415097. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library)

So this title has been languishing on my tbr list probably since it was announced as a Morris Award finalist. I am so-o behind in my YA reading! Anyway, I've grown to become quite the Michael Crouch fan and when I looked him up and saw that he had narrated this went the submit button on my ILL (Inter-Library Loan). I picked it up Monday, just before heading to the D.C. area for a Scholastic Reading Summit. I read (with my ears) most of a mg book on the way down; finished it whilst driving to the Manassas and Antietam Battlegrounds and read about 2/3s of Simon vs. ... on my drive from Gettysburg home. I was so wrapped up by this gem of a story that I popped it out of my car cd player and finished the last two discs in one sitting in my house because I did not want to wait for errands requiring use of my car. 

Chapters with Simon's first-person narration alternate with strings of email between Simon and Blue, the anonymous boy he "met" by commenting on his post on their high school's Tumblr. Neither one is out, but they have an instant online rapport and Simon begins to look forward to Blue's next email. And it's that that gets him in trouble. He couldn't wait to read Blue's email, so he logs onto a computer in the library to read it. He forgets to log out, leaving the email for the next user to read. Turns out, it's Martin Addison and Martin wants something from Simon.

There's something about Simon that makes him instantaneously likable. I believe that were I reading with my eyes, I would've swallowed this book whole. Michael Crouch's performance tripled Simon's likability. Simon is laid back, bright and funny. He asks interesting questions like why do heterosexuals not need to "come out." He finds his parents affectionately annoying, misses his older sister, Alice, who is away at college and worries a bit about his self-possessed younger sister, Nora. He's got two best friends in Lia and Nick and the three have enfolded new-girl, Abbey into their midst. It's Abbey that Martin has set his sights on and he blackmails Simon into helping him get close to her.

I've mentioned before that Crouch is my new favorite voice. When I looked up his work, I was so surprised to find that he is, in fact, not new to me! I thought that I first came to his work in Salt to the Sea, where he voiced the POV of the despicable German Navy Seaman, Alfred. Turns out, he also narrated Richard Peck's The Best Man and Loot by Jude Watson and Lily and Duncan by Donna Gephart. He also narrated The Haters by Jesse Andrews. I enjoyed each and every one of these and look forward to hearing more of his work. Crouch has great female voices as well. I find that female voices show weaknesses in most male narrators who tend to create either annoyingly breathy voices or caricatures.

There is so much to love in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in addition to Simon. The writing is fluid. The dialogue is smart. The characters are unique and memorable. While the title is a tad mature for middle school - there's some refreshingly frank talk about sex and sexuality - keep the title in mind for that savvy, mature eighth grader. I get one or two each year who would be able to handle it.

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: Migration Nation (National Wildlife Federation): Animals on the Go from Coast to Coast by Joanne O'Sullivan

Migration Nation (National Wildlife Federation): Animals on the Go from Coast to Coast by Joanne O'Sullivan. 96 p. Charlesbridge, May, 2015. 978163254055.

Here's a fascinating look at another kind of road trip - the kind that many species of animals instinctually do each year - migration. This beautifully designed book is chockfull of photos, maps and text boxes. It tells the stories of animals that travel - from a few short miles to hundreds if not thousands of miles for hunting or breeding purposes. The book is divided into the sections, land, sea and sky. It's great for browsing or research and contains backmatter for those wishing to do further reading.

Friday Memes: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick. 193 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc. August 29. 2017. 9780545863223. 

Publisher synopsis: In sixth grade, bad things can happen to good kids. Bullies will find your weakness and jump on it. Teachers will say you did something wrong when really didn't mean to do anything wrong. The kids who joke the loudest can drown out the quieter, nicer kids.

Maverick wants to change all that. One of the last things his father left him was a toy sheriff's badge, back when Maverick was little. Now he likes to carry it around to remind him of his dad - and also to remind him to make school a better place for everyone... even if that's a hard thing to do, especially when his own home life is falling apart.

THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE is a story about standing up for yourself - and being a hero at home and in the halls of your school.

First Line: Chapter One: Why I am the World's Lamest Hero

Let me get a few things out of the way, right from the start.
     I can't fly. I'm not even a particularly good jumper. Truthfully, I twisted my ankle so badly during the three-legged race at my third-grade field day that I ended up in the emergency room, along with my partner, Jamie Thompson. Well, most of her. Her two front teeth stayed behind, buried somewhere in the field.

Page 56: Mom came home a few hours later, happily convinced that hard times were over. She was always doing this. Every time a guy dumped her, or we got kicked out of an apartment, or she lost a job, she would somehow find a shred of good news. Then she would cling to it and ignore every other bit of reality, in order to convince herself that this time our lives were just about to turn around.

Anyone who knows me or this blog, knows I'm a huge fan of Jordan Sonnenblick - ever since my colleague, Lisa M., eighth grade language arts teacher at my last school asked me if I read Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie. I had not, but remedied the situation asap as Lisa reads almost as much as I and never steered me wrong.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. 240 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, September, 2006. 

Our road trip theme continues with An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. This is Green's second novel and possibly my favorite. It was published in 2006 and won a Printz Honor. Colin Singleton is a genius who thinks he's losing his edge. He has also had nineteen girlfriends - all named Katherine and they all dumped him. Colin thinks there's a geometric theorem in this and sets about to prove it. He sets out on a road trip with his best friend, Hassan, with rather hysterically funny results. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Applewhites Coast to Coast by Stephanie Tolen

Applewhites Coast to Coast by Stephanie Tolen. 320 p. HarperCollins Publishers, October 17, 2017. 9780062133212.

Publisher synopsis: This third story about the madcap family introduced in Stephanie Tolan’s Newbery Honor Book Surviving the Applewhites features even more outlandish adventures and will appeal to fans of the Applewhites and those meeting them for the first time.

E.D. and Jake are doing their best to forget their bewildering kiss—after all, they’re practically family—and get back to “normal” life with the decidedly abnormal, highly creative Applewhites. When the family’s biggest fan, Jeremy Bernstein, pulls up to Wit’s End in an “Art Bus,” he brings with him a proposal for an Education Expedition: a cross-country road trip, educational quest, and video-documented competition for a big cash prize. Jeremy also drags along his troubled but beautiful niece, Melody. She’ll be joining the expedition with her own rebellious flair, much to Jake’s delight . . . and E.D.’s exasperation.

With characteristic Applewhite enthusiasm, the artists face disastrous performances, fainting goats, and some very bad ideas—but can they make it through the road trip in one piece?

I found this last week while scanning upcoming books looking for a road trip book to feature on Waiting on Wednesday. I just loved Surviving the Applewhites and have time to read the second installment before this releases.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Unabridged audiobook on 10 compact discs; 11.75 hours. Read by Bahni Turpin. Harper Audio, February, 2017. 9781470827137. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library. Print copy purchased.)

Sixteen-year-old Star Carter lives in Garden Heights but attends a private school about 45 minutes away. Her father is an ex-gangbanger and ex-con but owns a grocery store in the neighborhood. Her mother is a nurse who works in a neighborhood clinic. They are committed to the neighborhood, but after Star witnesses the murder of her best friend, Natasha in a drive-by shooting at age ten, her parents made the decision to remove their three children from the public school. Their family is not perfect, but is intact and striving. 

Star talks about straddling two worlds with her two personas; her private school persona and her neighborhood one. She also has a white boyfriend, which her daddy doesn't know about. Her private school friends and boyfriend have never been to Garden Heights. This delicate balance is disrupted when Star reluctantly attends a neighborhood party. She's catching up with Khalil, a childhood friend and former crush, when gunshots ring out. Khalil grabs her hand and the two flee in his car.  When they are pulled over, Star recalls the rules her daddy drilled into her. But Khalil questions the officer. Star focuses on the badge number - 115 and is terrified, especially when Khalil is dragged out of the car by an increasingly agitated 115. When Khalil ducks back into the car to check on Star, 115 shoots him in the back. Three times. 

This remarkable debut sucked me into Star's world immediately and I was sorry to leave it. The setting is so vividly evoked and while a specific city was never mentioned, it could be anywhere. All the characters are so memorable! Even minor characters are so fully fleshed out that I feel I could recognize them. While tragedy is never far away, there are hilarious moments that provide respite. I listened to 4/5 (8 of 10 discs) of it and finished the book reading with my eyes. If you have never experienced a performance by Bahni Turpin, this is a great place to start. She has a remarkable range of voices, which added depth to an already deep and important book. 

The Hate U Give has received a remarkable six starred reviews and has spent quite a number of weeks on the NYT best seller list. (Should "best seller list" be capitalized?) The book was on my tbr pile for quite awhile. I would get to it eventually, but what made me move it up on the pile was an eighth grader. One day toward the end of the school year, I got a inter-classroom phone call from the eighth grade science teacher who asked if I was busy/ had a class. I was not, so she told me that she had a student dying to talk to me about a book and could she come up? Absolutely! The library is on the second floor and the science classroom is on the first. She must've run from the classroom because she arrived in seconds, panting and attempting to tell me why I HAD to read this book once she learned that I had not yet read it. I take student recommendations very seriously and intended to crack the book open sooner rather than later, when I heard that Bahni Turpin was the narrator for the audio. I ordered it through Inter-Library Loan (ILL) and waited and waited. The audiobook was worth the wait and while the performance was incredible, I HAD to find out how it ended and couldn't sit through the last two discs to find out. I was so glad I had the book to finish reading it without needing to drive somewhere. 

The Hate U Give lives up to the hype. It is, if not the most, one of the most important books of 2017. It is intense and timely and wholly influential. I expect it will be life-changing to all teen readers who discover it and I expect to do my part to get it into as many hands as possible.