Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Astronaut, Aquanaut: how space science and sea science interact by Jennifer Swanson

Astronaut, Aquanaut: how space science and sea science interact by Jennifer Swanson. National Geographic, January 9, 2017.

Publisher synopsis: Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don't think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics—such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas—readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

Jennifer Swanson's books are always interesting, timely and accessible.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel. 304 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August, 2011. 9781442403154.

You may be aware of Mary Shelley's gothic horror novel, Frankenstein, published in 1820. Canadian author Kenneth Oppel wondered what Victor Frankenstein was like as a teen. He wondered what happened in his youth that shaped his desire to create life out of "non-living matter" as an adult. Victor lives in a castle on the shore of Lake Geneva with his twin brother Kondrad and Elizabeth, their beautiful cousin. The three stumble upon a secret room in the castle and when Victor's father discovers this, he makes them promise never to go to it again. But Konrad falls ill and Victor is convinced that the secret to making him well lies in that room. This story is atmospheric and compelling. Readers with familiarity of Shelley's masterpiece will be tickled by the allusions and foreshadowing but knowledge of the story is not required. This Dark Endeavor is book one of a duology that concludes with Such Wicked Intent.

Kenneth Oppel visited our school in the fall of 2011 to talk about the writing of the novel. Note the original cover on the screen. We've got many of his novels in the library. Come on in and check them out. Here's a link to his website and here's a link to the book trailer that S&S created. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Daily Booktalk/ Review/ Guest Post for Middle Grade Monday! Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

I am changing things up a bit on today's Middle Grade Monday to post a kind of three-in-one blog post. My Daily Booktalks are sort of mini-reviews of books I've either recently read or some older favorites. Here, I am sharing a longer review of Things That Surprise You, a fun middle grade book I received from Blue Slip Media. It releases tomorrow so, happy book birthday!

When I received an email from Barbara from Blue Slip asking if I'd be interested in hosting a guest post by the author, Jennifer Maschari, I thought it would be fun. Jennifer is also hosting a giveaway. Look for the link after the essay!

Jennifer's Guest Post: 
Finding a Friend in Middle Grade Books

We first met in Sunday School in kindergarten. We rode on the same bus. Even better, we lived just five minutes away from each other, though a busy road in between us meant we couldn’t ride our bikes to each other’s houses. 

We formed a sticker club (I still have my prized sticker book) in third grade. When we got a little older, we spent summer Saturdays riding the coasters and eating LaRosa’s pizza at Kings Island. We were partners in our middle school science lab and together, dissected an owl pellet. 

Teresa was my very best grade school friend. 

Teresa, my best grade school friend, and me, on our 8th grade trip to Washington, DC.

Whether it’s one true friend or several, having someone you can count on through the ups and downs, the big and small changes of middle school is special and important. I write a lot about friendship: great friendships, evolving friendships, new friendships. In my most recent middle grade novel, Things That Surprise You, the main character, Emily Murphy, and her best friend Hazel start to grow apart. This is so confusing for Emily. Can’t they go on as they always have – ordering their favorite pizza from the Slice and dressing up as the characters from a book series they both love? 

Emily’s language arts teacher, Ms. Arnold, has a fantastic classroom library. I bet she’d recommend some grade middle grade books featuring the joys and challenges of friendship to Emily. Here are three of my favorite: 

1. Nest by Esther Ehrlich – Set in Cape Cod in the 1970s, Chirp and Joey are neighbors who form an unlikely friendship, founded in their own family hardships and their love of the natural world. 

Because Emily’s going through her own hardships at home with her parents’ divorce and the challenges of her sister’s eating disorder, Emily would benefit from seeing how true friends, who really understand you, can help you get through tough times. 

2. The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito – Ella and Skyler are looking forward to going to high school together but find their friendship is growing apart. Ella comes up with a bucket list full of fun items they can do together - like committing random acts of kindness or hosting a dinner party - that will hopefully bring them closer. 

This is a perfect book to show Emily that old friendships change and evolve and new friendships can form and grow. It will give Emily some much needed hope!

3. The Someday Suitcase by Corey Ann Haydu – Clover and Danny are the very best of friends. In fact, science-loving Clover believes they are symbiotic, meaning that they need each other to survive. When Danny gets sick, Clover needs to figure out how to balance being both a good friend to Danny and a good friend to herself. In The Someday Suitcase, Clover opens herself up to new friendships with fellow classmates. 

This would be good for Emily to see as a model as she forges her own new friendships. 

The waters of middle school can be tough to navigate, but some great real life friends (and a few fictional ones!) can bring joy, understanding, and comfort to the journey. 


Thank you Jennifer! I've read Nest, but will have to check out the other two titles. Here's a link to Jennifer's colorful website, a handy curriculum guide and a giveaway entry! Students, please check with your parents first before entering!


Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari. 278 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, August 22, 2017. 978006243928. (Review from arc courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Summer is ending and middle school looms. Emily Murphy can/ cannot wait. She's definitely anxious about it. What she can't wait for is the release of the next Unicorn Chronicles book. She and best bud, Hazel are mega-fans. They love to dress up in costume and get in line on release day. But when Hazel shows up at Emily's house, she not only doesn't have a costume but she's sporting blond streaks in her light brown hair and Very Berry lip gloss on her lips. What's more, Hazel gets impatient when Emily talks to a boy in a terrific costume at the bookstore. Turns out, the boy is known as Soap Boy and Hazel informs Emily that she shouldn't be seen associating with the likes of him. Then, when they head to the pizza joint, Hazel suddenly doesn't want to share their usual pizza and opts instead for a veggie pizza and water. When Hazel's field hockey friends stop by the pizza place, she invites them without asking Emily. Emily feels and is made to feel out of place and is left unsure about her friendship with Hazel.

Emily's dealing with stuff at home. She and her mother are still processing her mom's divorce. Her father and stepmother moved to a new house where Emily does not feel at home despite her stepmother's invitations to make her room her own. Additionally, her beloved older sister Mina has been in an in-patient treatment facility for an eating disorder. Emily has no idea how to feel about that because while she loves Mina, the drama of her disease takes center stage and Emily is expected to deal with her own problems. She's furious and then feels guilty for her fury. 

Childhood friendships come and go, wax and wane but the effects of this seem intensified in middle school. These years are filled with such flux, emotionally and physically. Some kids hit puberty early, bewildering shifts in social hierarchies leave some behind. Emily clearly doesn't get the new code and finds herself constantly saying and doing the wrong things much to Hazel's chagrin and to the mean delight of Hazel's new friends.

Maschari depicts middle school and tween interactions realistically with dialogue that sounds authentic. Emily's first-person narrative is honest and endearing. The adults in Emily's life are imperfect but loving. Her relationship with Mina has changed and Mina's relationship with food will be an ongoing concern. After a few mis-steps, Emily finds friendship with Hector and his sister. Readers will root for and relate to Emily. An author's note at the end informs readers about her choice to depict eating disorders from Emily's perspective. She cautions about how serious they are and recommends four web sites for further information about them.

Growing up is hard. A middle school library can't have too many books about friendship and change on its shelves. Things That Surprise You is a fine addition. Hand this to fans of Frances O'Roark Dowell's The Kind of Friends We Used to Be or Lauren Myracle's Winnie Years series. 

Saturday, August 19, 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.

For review:

Streetcar to Justice: how Elizabeth Jennings won the right to ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth. 138 p. Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, January 2, 2018. 9780062673602.

Publisher synopsis from back jacket of arc: One hundred years before Ros Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Elizabeth Jennings's refusal to leave a segregated streetcar in the Five Points neighborhood of manhattan set into motion a major court case in New York City. On her way to church one morning in July 1854, Elizabeth Jennings was refused a seat on a streetcar. When she took her seat anyway, she was bodily removed by the conductor and a nearby police officer and returned home bruised and injured. With the support of her family, the African American abolitionist community of New York, and Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Jennings took her case to court. Represented by a young lawyer named Chester A. Arthur (a future president of the United States) she was victorious, marking a major victory in the fight to desegregate New York City's public transportation.

I had the privilege of attending a preview at Quarto Publishing in Manhattan on Thursday. Director of Library Marketing, Michelle Bayuk and her colleague Daniel Tushaj presented a selection of upcoming titles from ten Quarto Children's imprints. There's lots to look forward to in the coming months and there will be a blog post on that soon.

These were in our bag:

50 Cities of the U.S.A. by Gabrielle Balkin. Illustrated by Sol Linero. Wide Eyed Editions, September 7, 2017. 9781847808707.

How Could We Harness a Hurricane? by Vicki Cobb. 48 p. Seagrass Press, August, 2017. 9781633222465.

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer. 20 p. words & pictures, March, 2017. 9781682971369.

Deep in the Woods: a folk tale by Christopher Corr. 32 p. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, April, 2017.

The Great Race: story of the Chinese zodiac by Christopher Corr. 32 p. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, January, 2018. 9781786030658.

And a grown-up title: Cooking with Nonna by Rosella Rago. 248 p. Race Point Publishing, March, 2017. 9781631062940

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: Beauty and the Beak by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. unpgd. Persnickety Press/ Cornell Lab Publishing Group, August 27, 2017. 9781943978281. (Review from finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy Fact Friday Summer Readers! Today, I'm featuring Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. This beautiful volume is really two books in one. First, a gorgeous photoessay about the birth of a female eaglet. The authors depict the life of an eaglet from the struggle to crack her egg through fledging and first migration. Really, so much can endanger the life of an eagle, including other eagles that might swoop in to capture hard-earned prey. With their sharp vision, strong talons, and vicious beaks, eagles are apex predators. Humans and their actions are the threat to eagles from habitat destruction to power lines to automobile accidents to poaching. It was a gunshot that tore most of this eagle's beak off. The eagle was starving when a police office discovered her and brought her to a wildlife center. It had no room for her but co-author and raptor biologist Jane Veltkamp did. She brought Beauty to her raptor center in Idaho and set about trying to figure out how to make a prosthetic beak for Beauty.

The second half of this book provides an update on Beauty, Bald Eagle symbolism, a note from Veltkamp,an additional five pages of information about eagles, information about it's status as no longer endangered, caution that eagles are still at risk, advice about how the reader can help, and resources, some of which include QR codes. 

This really is a must-read! High-interest topic, engagingly told, accompanied by stunning full-color photos and a beautifully designed book from covers through endpages.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine by Libba Bray. 496 p. Random House Children's Books, September, 2009. 9780385733977.

Since I've been all about Libba Bray these past two days, I picked her Printz Award winner for #tbt. Going Bovine was published in 2009. It is the story of Cameron Smith, sixteen-year-old slacker son of two Texas college professors and brother to a sister who is "perfect." Turns out Cameron has contracted Mad Cow Disease and will probably die. When a winged being named Dulcie appears in his hospital room and tells him that she can help him, he figures, "Why not?" and goes along for the road trip joining a video-gaming dwarf and a garden gnome who may be a Norse god. This madcap mother of all road trips loosely parallels Don Quixote with a nod to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy mixed in. Weighing in at close to 500 pages, it's long and rambling but so hilarious you don't notice. Teens looking for a satisfyingly challenge need look no further.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. The Diviners #3. 560 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, October 3, 2017. 9780316126069.

Publisher synopsis: 
New York City.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming...

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the four-book Diviners series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

I am a huge fan of Bray. Really, read everything she writes including her blog. The Diviners series is a bit of a weighty commitment for most of my students but I've had a few advanced, sophisticated readers devour them.