Monday, December 18, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. 256 p. Feiwel & Friends, September, 2015. 9781250043238. (Own.)

The Middle Grade Monday feature is a recommendation from a sixth grade student. He chose Crenshaw as one of his favorite books to use for his booktalk podcast.

Crenshaw is the name of a giant cat who used to be Jackson's imaginary friend. But Jackson is eleven now; surely too old for an imaginary friend! The last time Crenshaw appeared was three years ago when Jackson and his family were living in their van. Things got better but now, Jackson is seeing piles of unpaid bills, empty cabinets, and whisper-arguing parents. He wishes they would be honest with him.

Most of my students want for nothing. This superb story of an intact family struggling with poverty is an eye-opener. Readers will relate to Jackson, admire his resilience, perhaps develop some empathy and, maybe even wish for a Crenshaw of their own. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This and That: Husbandly Projects

This post has nothing to do with children's literature. I just want to share. Much to the surprise of many, my husband retired from his surgery practice three years ago. Our friends and acquaintances often ask how he's keeping busy. My response is always, "Projects! Projects! Projects! He's always in the middle of or planning a project."

Here is a gallery of some of his creations from the last year - all original designs and many made with repurposed wood and stone. Additionally, he designed and supervised three renovations in our home - the family room, the kitchen and two bedrooms. 

Shed 1 was built near the garage to store snow tires and MK's collection of wood. Notice how it's custom-built into the hill and has a variety of doors with custom latches.

Shed 2 is on the south side of the property: this was a kit that Mark decided to modify and make twice its size. He decided to install skylights in the roof and a solar light. The only problem with the solar light is it's on the side that faces north, so it sort of peters out early.

New Bed!

Our bed: once the bedroom renovation was done, he got right to work on the new bed. It is so heavy that it had to be brought up in pieces and assembled in the room. Then the end-tables were designed and added. I hope we never have to move!

The bed in progress:

Of course, his design consultants are never too far away and always hoping for a snack.

When #4 son, Kerrey mentioned that his apartment gets cold in the winter and the door from the kitchen to the deck seemed to be part of the problem, MK designed and built a storm door.

He made two benches with some big chunks of tree trunk.

Under the watchful eyes of the security detail:

Not content with Sheds 1 & 2, he had to build Shed 3:

Our bedroom renovations involved knocking out the ceilings to make cathedral ceilings in our bedroom and MK's study.

His Jeep gets quite the workout:

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 16, 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:

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. 352 p. Scholastic Inc., March 27, 2017. 9780545946179.

Publisher synopsis: When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.

So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. 600 p. Henry Holt & Company, March 6, 2018. 9781250170972.

Publisher synopsis: Zékue Adebika remembers when the soil of Orisha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames. Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie's reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night that magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is helming-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orisha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for the enemy.


Far from the Tree by Robin Benway. Unabridged recording on 1 MP3 CD. Read by Julia Whelan. 9 hours. HarperAudio, December 5, 2017. 9781538518762.

Publisher synopsis: Perfect for fans of NBC's "This Is Us," Robin Benway's beautiful interweaving story of three very different teenagers connected by blood explores the meaning of family in all its forms-how to find it, how to keep it, and how to love it.Being the middle child has its ups and downs.But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including-Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she's quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family's long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can't help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he's learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can't hurt anyone but him.Don't miss this moving novel that addresses such important topics as adoption, teen pregnancy, and foster care.

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

Fact Friday: Poop Detectives: working dogs in the field by Ginger Wadsworth

Poop Detectives: working dogs in the field by Ginger Wadsworth. 80 p. Charlesbridge Publishering Inc., October, 2016. 9781580786504. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher)

This short version was on the morning announcements: If our Fact Friday features doesn't grab your attention, you are not listening to the morning announcements. Poop Detectives: working dogs in the field by Ginger Wadsworth features an up-close and personal photo of a dog's nose on the cover and seven information-packed chapters about how the idea came about, how dogs are trained for the jobs and how they help scientists. Plenty of full-color photographs, of the dogs, not the scat, illustrate how much these dogs love their jobs and their handlers.

Review: Oh man, why did it take so long to get to this book? Sadly, it migrated to the bottom of the pile and sat there until yesterday. 

As a dog owner, I know all too well a dog's devotion to scent, especially excrement. If I am not careful, my shepherd will stick his nose up my lab's butt while he's trying to poop! The lab is prone to not only yanking me from one smell to another, but also to pee over where his shepherd brother tinkles. 

The title may be playful, but the narrative is all business. (Ha! Pun unintended.) Fun is definitely had in the sub-titles, like, "The Guru of Doo-Doo." The introduction tells the story of Freddie the border collie who was turned into an animal shelter because of his energy demands. His need for engagement and exercise make him almost un-adoptable; that is until a dog trainer who specializes in working with wildlife biologists arrives bouncing a tennis ball. Freddie's laser-sharp concentration on the ball earns him freedom as the qualities that make him a difficult family pet, namely an over-abundance of energy, make for an excellent sniffer dog. 

We are quite familiar with working dogs who sniff out bomb materials and drugs. Most will not know how a dog's ability to sniff animal excrement can be useful. It seems scientists can learn a lot about the animal's health by examining scat. But finding scat in the wild often proves elusive. Enter air scenting dogs and scientists are able to find their brown gold.

The book is beautifully designed with plenty of white space and at least one full-color photo on each page. The stock is sturdy and will hold up well to repeated readings as this high-interest topic will demand. The text is engaging and well-organized with seven chapters covering the whys and hows of training these working dogs. 

The backmatter is impressive. It includes an author's note, acknowledgements, a photograph depicting what a handler carries in his or her pack; photo credits; a glossary; resources that include books and websites; quotation sources; a selected bibliography and an index. 

Poop Detective is perfect for your fact hounds, dog lovers and budding scientists. Display it prominently and it'll circulate widely.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

#tbt: Hershel & the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel

Hershel & the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. unpgd. Holiday House, January, 1989. 9780823407699.

#tbt features Hershel & the Hanukkah Goblins, written by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. This original story feels like a traditional folktale. Hershel of Ostropol hopes to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah in the next village. When he arrives, he learns that the villagers are haunted by goblins and are not allowed to celebrate Hanukkah. Hershel asks how to break the goblins' spell and learns he must spend eight nights in the old synagogue, light a candle each night and on the eighth night, the King of the Goblins must light the candles himself. It was published in January of 1989 and won a Caldecott Honor.

This book became an instant favorite with my boys and we broke it out to read frequently. When I became a school librarian, my first job was in a K-8 school where I saw all the students once a week as a "special." I read Hershel each year and no student ever minded one bit.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Bad Guys in Intergalactic Gas by Aaron Blabey

Bad Guys in Intergalactic Gas by Aaron Blabey. The Bad Guys #5. 114 p. Scholastic Inc., December 26, 2017. 978133189575.

Publisher synopsis: The bad news? The world is ending. The good news? The Bad Guys are back to save it! Sure, they might have to "borrow" a rocket. And there might be something nasty in one of the spacesuits. And Mr. Piranha miiiight have eaten too many bean burritos. Surviving this mission may only be one small step for man, but it's one giant leap for the Bad Guys.

This series is so much fun and fairly popular at my school.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Teen Tuesday: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. 336 p. Penguin Young Readers, January, 2012. 9780525478812.

Our Teen Tuesday recommendation comes courtesy of a student. She loved The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. John Green writes for a mostly high school audience. His books are engaging, feature smart characters and mature themes and occasionally language. In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel Grace is forced by her well-meaning parents to attend a cancer support group. She meets Augustus there and the two fall in love. His cancer is in remission after his leg was amputated, Hazel is considered terminal, but a new, experimental drug is keeping her alive. You will need tissues for this one but you will also laugh through those tears.