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 baby...click 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. 

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday: Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee


Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee. 288 p. Scholastic Inc., February, 2009. 9780439838443.

Continuing the road trip theme with Absolutely Maybe, Lisa Yee's YA debut. Maybe is short for Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut. She's seventeen and done with putting up with her beauty pageant mother and her latest fiancé. When her mother chooses to believe him over her, she decides to accompany her best friends on a road trip from Florida to Hollywood, California to find her biological dad. The only problem is, he doesn't know a thing about her and she knows very little about him. Alternately hysterically funny and heartbreaking, Maybe is a memorable character, who, with her besties, Ted and Hollywood, will find a place in your heart. 




Monday, July 17, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: So B. It by Sarah Weeks


So B. It by Sarah Weeks. 256 p. HarperCollins Publishers, April, 2004. 9780066236223.

I thought of a few other "road trip" books and thought I'd continue featuring that theme through this week. I can't believe I didn't think of So B. It by Sarah Weeks sooner! Twelve-year-old Heidi doesn't know when her birthday day is or even who her father is. She lives in a small apartment with her mentally disabled mother. They are assisted by an agoraphobic neighbor, who also homeschools Heidi. Her mother has only 23 words in her vocabulary, "soof" being one of them. Neither Bernadette nor Heidi can figure out what it means. When Heidi finds an undeveloped roll of film, she decides to set out by herself on a cross-country bus trip to discover the mystery behind her birth.

The movie is releasing in October, shortly after Ms. Weeks spends the day at my school. My students love her books and are quite excited about both the visit and the movie. It seems the movie stayed faithful to the story. Here's a link to the trailer.

Non-Fiction Monday: As Strong as Sandow by Don Tate


As Strong as Sandow: how Eugen Sandow became the strongest man on Earth by Don Tate. 40 p. Charlesbridge, August 22, 2017. 9781580896283. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher ALAAC17)

Eugen Sandow was born Friedrich Muller in 1867. He was frail and skinny growing up in Prussia in the 1800s. But he transformed himself into a healthy, hulky, hunky specimen as an adult. It was after a trip to Italy, where he viewed sculptures of ancient athletes that he was inspired to become strong like them and began to exercise. He exercised through his teens and left for university, where he studied anatomy. He ran away from college to join a circus, where he worked as an acrobat. When the circus ran out of money, he supported himself by posing for artists. Eventually, he came under the tutelage of Professor Attila, a professional strongman. By the time he was twenty, he changed his name to Eugen Sandow and went on the road billed as the Strongest Man on Earth. 

Author/illustrator Don Tate brings the father of modern bodybuilding to vivid life with simple flowing text born of extensive research and mixed media illustrations that depict the period and Sandow's life with a muted palette and much humor. Additional information as well as a photo is supplied in an Afterword. A page is also devoted to encouraging young readers to exercise and stay active. Four exercise suggestions are provided. In an author's note, readers discover that Mr. Tate's own interest in bodybuilding and competing helped inspire the book. Backmatter continues with a list of 18 books and websites for further reading, quotation sources and photo credits. 

Strong as Sandow is a fine addition to any collection. I plan on adding it to a unit on picture book biographies for my sixth graders come fall. 







Friday, July 14, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday: Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to Interstellar Space


Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to Interstellar Space by Alexandra Siy. 40 p. Charlesbridge, June, 2017. 9781580897280.

It's time for Fact Friday! 40 years ago this summer, NASA began what might be considered the ultimate road trip with the launches of the Voyager rockets. The two were launched separately with Voyager 2 bringing up the rear, enabling scientists to make adjustments based on the data Voyager 1 sent back. Science writer, Alexandra Siy writes about the Voyager's journey from inception (by a grad student working part time in the Jet Propulsion Lab) through its planning (lots and lots of math) and design, its launch and some of the many discoveries the data they send back have helped NASA to make about space. Even though the cameras and computers in our smart phones are more powerful and efficient than those on the Voyager rockets, they soldiered on through space and are now in Interstellar space. On board each Voyager is a Golden Record, of music and language and a sampling of what life on Earth was like up to 1977 - just in case there is intelligent life out there. It makes for a great non-fiction/ fiction pairing with Monday's entry, See You in the Cosmos, as the hero, Alex wishes to launch his own rocket containing a Golden iPod to update the intelligent beings out there.

Friday Memes: The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine

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



The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine. 247 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 10, 2017. 9781338148527.

Publisher synopsis: Some might say Julian is sheltered. But he lives large, and his eternal optimism allows him to see infinite possibilities wherever he looks.

Despite his optimism, he is anxious about his stressed family falling apart. Even his ability to "uni-sense" what's happening with his sister is gone. If he can make his family focus on the magic in the universe, surely they'll appreciate life again. Now that they are moving from Washington, DC, to rural Maine, Julian can use his beloved telescope without any light pollution. He can discover a comet, name it for himself, and show his family how they're all truly connected.

As Julian searches the night sky, he encounters a force that may drive his plan apart. His neighbor, Mr. X, could bring an end to his parents' dream of opening their B&B. Could one negative force unravel everything? An avid student of science, Julian understands that there is much about the universe that we don't yet know. Who is to say what's possible and what's not?

First Line(s): 1 - Black Holes and Messier Objects

   Magic is all around us, but most people never see it.
   Sometimes even I can't.
   Like right now.
   I'm in the back seat holding my breat, leaning away from the black hole and trying not to get sucked in.
   The black hole is my sister.

Page 56: 
   Mr. X doesn't seem to understand how incredible Mr. Julian was.
   "Don't you see? In spite of everything he left the world a much better place. I want to be like that, too. People say, His legacy lives on. That means we still use the discoveries he made. Even though people don't know his name, they're grateful for all the stuff he did-lots of stuff. Percy Lavon Julian saved people he didn't even know and weren't evn born until after he died! That's magic!"
 i realize I'm standing up now because Mr. X is leaning back in his seat to get away from me.

I became a fan of Ms. Erskine's when I read Mockingbird. The Absolute Value of Mike and Seeing Red are also favorites of mine. I am already smitten by Julian.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: #tbt: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech


Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. 288 p. HarperCollins Publishers, June, 1994. 

This book won the 1995 Newbery Medal. It is the story of thirteen-year-old Salamanca (Sal) Tree Hiddle. She's furious with her father for abruptly moving the family from her beloved farm to a suburb where all the houses look alike. Sal wants to get to Idaho before her mother's birthday and her grandparents' agree to take her on a road trip retracing the path her mother took across the country. It is a story with a fairly complicated plot and many twists and turns as well as gorgeous writing. It is filled with humor but also great sadness. Students who love sad books adore Walk Two Moons.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman


Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman. unpgd. Millbrook Press/ Lerner Publishing Group, October 17, 2017. 978151215711.

Publisher synopsis: Go behind the scenes and discover how scientists at three U.S. Zoos are helping wild and captive orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinoceroses. 

I have been a fan of Patricia Newman every since reading her book, Plastic Ahoy. She writes accessibly and her books are always beautifully designed. I will be using her book, Sea Otter Heroes as a mentor text in a seventh grade research class this coming school year and hope to skype with Ms. Newman. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday - We Were Here by Matt de la Peña


We Were Here by Matt de la Peña. 368 p. Random House Children's Books, October, 2009. 9780385736671.

Continuing the road trip theme on The Daily Booktalks this week with one of my favorite YA books ever. We Were Here is the court-ordered journal of Miguel. He was sentenced to one year in a juvenile home for a crime Miguel can't bring himself to write about. He's intending on keeping his head down, serving his time and getting out but all that changes when Mong decides he's breaking out to escape to Mexico. Miguel's roommate Rondell is in so Miguel figures a new start in Mexico might not be so bad. This book is peopled with memorable characters and while at times laugh-out-loud funny, prepare to have your heart broken. Miguel, Rondell and Mong found a place in my heart and We Were Here is a book I reread every few years and cry and love as much as the first time.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng


See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng.

This might be familiar to those who regularly read my blog, but I featured it in my daily booktalk on my web page, which I replicate here.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng 


Eleven-year-old Alex Petrosky is obsessed with outer space in general and the interstellar journey of the two Voyager spacecrafts and their payload - the Golden Records. He decided to launch his own rocket and place a golden iPod on board to update any intelligent beings out there about life on Earth. The book is the transcript of Alex's iPod recordings. I read the book with my ears, so I guess I was listening to the "actual" iPod recordings. The story is essentially Alex's road trip - first from Colorado to New Mexico, where he intended to launch his rocket at a rocketry festival called SHARF. While there, he receives a message from Ancestry.com (another interest of his) that provides an address for a man with his father's name and birth date. His father is dead, but Alex decides to head to Las Vegas to investigate this mystery.

Non-Fiction Monday: Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to interstellar space by Alexandra Siy


Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to interstellar space by Alexandra Siy. 74 p. Charlesbridge, June, 2017. 9781580897280. (Review from gifted finished copy.)

I finished a unique debut novel the other day called See You in the Cosmos. In it, the main character, an eleven-year-old boy named Alex is obsessed with space in general, but with the journey of the Voyagers and their payload, the Golden Record, in particular. Carl Sagan is his hero. He has even named his dog, Carl Sagan. I was reminded that I had this book sitting on my tbr pile and pushed it to the top. The two books make for a great fiction/ non-fiction pairing.

Voyager's Greatest Hits is a beautiful book from the covers, which open up to reveal a Voyager rocket seemingly headed to the center of swirling stars (It is not captioned, so I don't know if it's real or photoshopped but it sure is pretty.) to the endpages. The front endpages show a close-up of the label on the Golden Record - "The Sounds of Earth." Side 1. NASA. United States of America. PLANET EARTH! Etched in the black section surrounding the label are the words, "To the makers of music. All worlds. All times. The back endpages feature the directions for playing the record. In between are chapters called Tracks. Clever subheadings break up the chapters, excuse me, tracks. Some of them are song titles, such as Rocket Man or On the Road Again, or just plain fun, like, Slingshot in Space, or The Junk on the Bus. 

Each chapter is well-organized and chock-full of information from the historic discoveries through the ages that paved the way for Gary Flandro to consider the problem of gravity-assist rocket trajectories in 1965 (p.5) to the conception needing a whole lot of math to the collaboration of scientists all over the world to its construction and launch. There are plenty of well-captioned, full-color photos that intrigue and boggle the mind. The tone is light and conversational. Backmatter includes an author's note, glossary, websites and books for further reading, source notes and an index. 

This book is a great addition to any school, public or STEM classroom library!





Sunday, July 9, 2017

Audiobook Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng


See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. Unabridged audiobook on 5 compact discs; 6 hours, 10 minutes. Performed by Kivlighan de Montebello and a full cast. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, February, 2017. 978152470008. (Review from purchased copy.)

See You in the Cosmos is the "transcript" of the golden iPod recordings of eleven-year-old (older in responsibility age) Alex Petrosky. Alex lives with his mother in Colorado and supported long-distance by a much older brother who lives in LA. His father died when Alex was very young. He is obsessed with space and Carl Sagan. He even named the dog he convinced his uninvolved, apparently mentally ill mother (she has "quiet days") to keep, Carl Sagan. He has built a rocket, which he hopes to launch in New Mexico at SHARF, Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival. Alex plans on loading these iPod recordings onto his rocket and send it into space the way the Voyager II rockets did in 1977. 

He has planned the trip with precision - purchased a train ticket, cooked and labeled all the meals his mom would need and packed for the weekend. What he hadn't planned on was the need to be sixteen to travel alone on the train. The ticket agent doesn't buy his responsibility years but a free-spirited young man, wearing a backpack, offers to pose as his big brother in order to get Alex and Carl Sagan on the train. 

Alex is bright, open, innocent and filled with curiosity. He is also preternaturally competent as the reader infers this from his offhand comments about his unusual home life. He really is suffering from neglect and social services should've been called a long time ago.

The best thing about this audiobook is that Alex is voiced by a kid! Finally! Even though there are a handful of adult narrators who can pull off a kid narrator, it sure was refreshing to hear a real live kid do the job. I hope there are more audiobook narrations in Kivlighan de Montebello's future. He is a terrific actor/ narrator. He really brings Alex to vivid life.

Belief needs to be suspended big-time here for as much as Alex planned, lots and lots of things go wrong for him. He is far too trusting, and lucky. Or not, poor Carl Sagan. And the adults he runs into have a few screws loose, harmless, thankfully; they possess no real sense of responsibility or common sense. But, it makes for quite the road trip and, somehow, works.

I am glad I chose to read it with my ears because I think the audio format, with its multiple narrators and sound effects, is perfect. The structure was unique and Alex is a winning character. 

Give this quirky book to kids who like sad books with a spunky main character and to kids who, like Alex, are interested in astronomy in general, or the Voyager rockets in particular. It's the 40th anniversary of the launch of the two Voyager rockets. This book reminded me that I had another book to read on the old tbr pile. I thought the two would make for a terrific fiction/ non-fiction pairing - Voyager's Greatest Hits: the epic trek to interstellar space by Alexandra Siy. Look for the review tomorrow.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Arc Review: All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson


All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. 248 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Readers Group, September 5, 2017. 9780525429999. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Twelve-year-old Imogene (Impy) grew up with the actors at a weekend Renaissance Fair as her extended family. She has been homeschooled all her life, but has decided to try middle school. Her family does not have a lot of money; they live in a rundown apartment complex but they are close-knit. She isn't aware of all the latest trends and fashion. She frankly doesn't care. She's very psyched to be promoted to role-playing a squire at the fair. She's realistically anxious about starting middle school. 

While she is befriended rather quickly by a trio of girls, led by mean-girl Mika, she notes the hierarchy. She is relieved to be asked by Mika to sit with her at lunch but she's a bit cowed by everything and unwilling to share her Ren-fair life with the kids at school.

As she did in her debut, Newbery Honor-winning graphic novel, Roller Girl, Jamieson nails tween life in all its gloriously weird permutations. Impy is EveryGirl but wholly unique in that she's immersed in the world of the Renaissance and role-playing. Her family is loving and supportive even though her little brother drives her crazy. 

She loses herself a bit in her efforts to navigate the shifting landscape and things come crashing down on her in a realistic way. The problems are also resolved slowly and realistically.

Not all the art was finished in the arc, but what was there is energetic and colorful, with a variety of panel sizes. Each chapter is decorated as an illuminated manuscript reminding readers how immersed in all things Renaissance Impy is, how important it is in her life and how it helps her navigate the "real" world. Even though this was the arc, the page stock was nice and heavy. 

I cannot wait to see the finished book come September and have ordered multiple copies for Jamieson's many fans. My three copies of Roller Girl do not spend much time on the shelf and I anticipate that All's Faire in Middle School won't either. I am so thrilled to have another graphic novel with a female main character. What I really loved about checking out Roller Girl since it pubbed is that it is equally loved by boys as well as girls. I anticipate the same with All's Faire in Middle School. I also anticipate a spiked interest in Renaissance Fairs. I think I might check out our local one that runs in the fall and found myself feeling a bit nostalgic about Medieval Times. I might check that out again.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Fact Friday - Orangutan Orphanage by Suzi Eszterhas


Orangutan Orphanage by Suzi Eszterhas. 44 p. Wildlife Rescue Series. Owlkids Books, March, 2016. 9781711471411.
About a month ago, I became smitten by the cover of Eszterhaus' latest photoessay, Moto and Me and decided to read her other books. Eszterhaus traveled to Borneo to visit the Orangutan International Foundation's Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine to document the vital work they do there to rescue orphaned orangutans and care for them until they are old enough to return to the wild. Women from a nearby village are trained to care for orphans one-on-one. They follow a strict protocol for diet and activity. Crisp, clear full-color photographs induce "Aw!" frequently. More information about orangutan rescue is provided at the end. This book is part of a series called Wildlife Rescue.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner


The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Unabridged audiobook on 8 compact discs; 9 hours. Performed by Michael Crouch, Ariadne Meyers, and Ethan Sawyer. Random House/ Books on Tape/ Listening Library, March, 2016. 9780147521316. (Review from copy borrowed from public library)

Dill (Dillard Early Junior) is about to start his senior year of high school and is dreading it for all the usual reasons plus one. He knows his best friend Lydia is blowing their small town of Forestville, Tennessee for college - probably in New York City. So each ritual they have is either a last, or counting down to life without Lydia. He also has a best friend in Travis and Travis isn't going anywhere; but he loves Lydia with all his heart and knows his life will be dimmer without her. 

The three are an unlikely trio bound together because none of them fit in to the small town mindset. Lydia is a free spirit and independent thinker who questions and challenges the status quo constantly. She is lovingly raised by two doting parents. Travis is a gentle giant. He could easily be mistaken for a football player (like his older brother, Matt) due to his size but he'd much rather hunker down to reread his favorite fantasy series than throw a football. He lives in fear of his abusive father, who grieves the loss of his older son and favorite. Matt was killed by an I.E.D. while deployed overseas. And Dill lives with his mother in a rundown house, works many hours to help his mother pay the bills and rarely makes eye contact with people so as not to witness the spark of recognition in their eyes when they connect his name to that of his father's. Dillard Early Sr. is currently serving time in the State Penitentiary for possessing child pornography.

Each chapter switches third-person point-of-view and narrator. The three narrators were spectacular! This is the second audio in a row for me where Michael Crouch was the narrator. I am becoming a real fan and am planning a blog post about him in an effort to prevent birdwalking off this post. I have enjoyed performances by Ariadne Meyers as well. I do believe she and Kirby Heynborne made All the Bright Places a better book than it actually is. Ethan Sawyer is a new-to-me narrator but I sure will look for more.

I am sorry that it took so long to get to read this luminous debut. The age was pegged at high school and I'm way behind with my YA reading. And, truth-be-told, I don't gravitate toward books featuring religion, let alone evangelical religion. But I do read as many award winners as I can and this one won plenty. Deservedly so. The writing is gorgeous. And those three characters! Each one is portrayed so vividly, they leap from the pages. I feared for each one for different reasons. Each one was capable of being the "tragedy" alluded to in the summary.

When it finally happened, on disc 6 of 8, I happened to be gardening and I kneeled in my garden and wept and wept. It was gut-wrenching. I continued on to the next disc with trepidation. I was ironing by then and had to stop, not breathing through the next crisis. Give this to your students/ patrons who adore literary novels that also make you weep. It's not all sadness and gloom though. There is some humor and realistic hope.

This book gave me a book hangover. I did not want to move right on to the next book as is my usual habit (especially during summer). I actually wished I had a print copy to revisit passages. Were I reading with my eyes, multiple sections would be highlighted, Post-It Noted and quoted here. The Serpent King is not to be missed. The hype is real. I can't wait to read the author's sophomore effort, The Good-bye Days. It's available at my library in print version. Michael Crouch narrates the audiobook and I'm debating splurging for it as my library cooperative doesn't own it.


The Daily Booktalk: #tbt - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


It's time for #tbt, Summer Readers! You've heard about books that have been made into movies, right? Our very own So B. It by Sarah Weeks is releasing into theaters in October. Have you ever heard of a book that was first a radio show? In 1978, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) aired a six-part show called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In 1989, its creator, Douglas Adams, published the story of Arthur Dent, rescued from Earth's destruction by alien, Ford Prefect. Indeed, the two hitchhike off of Earth on a Vogon spaceship. The very aliens who destroyed Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Ironically, this happened just as hapless Arthur Dent was standing down a construction crew about to demolish his own house. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is book one of a five-book "trilogy" and it's absolutely hilarious. A movie version from 2005 is floating around and not bad. Sadly, Douglas Adams died of a heart attack at age 49 in 2001.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Waiting on Wednesday: Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness by George Hagen


Gabriel Finley and the Lord of Air and Darkness by George Hagen. 288 p. Random House Children's Books, September 5, 2017. 9780399553479.

Publisher synopsis: This exciting, emotionally rich middle grade fantasy continues the adventures of  Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle—which has been compared to Harry Potter, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

Gabriel Finley is longing to find his mother, who vanished without a trace when he was just a baby. Along with Gabriel's raven, Paladin—with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature and FLY!—and his three friends, he ventures back to the ruined underground city of Aviopolis to free her from the rune in which she has been imprisoned. But Aviopolis is home to Corax, the Lord of Air and Darkness, who is also Gabriel's uncle. And before Tabitha Finley is released, Gabriel must answer a riddle...or else be imprisoned for eternity within a rune himself.

George Hagen came to visit our school while on tour for Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle. I really enjoyed it as did the fantasy lovers at my school. I noticed that the cover of #2 didn't quite match the first cover and see that there was a redesign with the paperback edition.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Teen Tuesday - When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds


When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds. 256 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, August, 2015. 9781442459489.

This compelling first-person narrative was Reynolds' debut and won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. Ali lives with his mom and little sister in the Bedford-Stuyvesent section of Brooklyn. His best friends, Noodles and Needles live in the run-down brownstone next door with their drug-addicted mother. Ali feels protective of his friends and when the three of them end up in a place where they shouldn't be, Ali steps up and lives up to his namesake. But not without potentially dire consequences. Peopled with memorable characters and a vivid sense of place, this novel is un-put-downable.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Daily Booktalk: Middle Grade Monday: Babymouse: Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School!


Babymouse: Tales from the Locker: Lights, Camera, Middle School! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm. 198 p. Random House Books for Young Readers, July 4, 2017. 9780399554391.

Babymouse is growing up! She's headed to middle school and though the format has changed from graphic novel to illustrated novel, it's still typical Babymouse. She's worried about middle school and the changes it will bring. She finds some things are the same - her friend, Wilson; her frenemy, Felicia; her locker. But there are clubs! When she signs up for Film Club, the possibilities are endless! 


Due out in stores tomorrow! 



Saturday, July 1, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves - ALAAC/Audiobook Edition


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 spent five days in Chicago at ALA Annual Conference and it was A-Mazing! I got a few books. Five or six boxes worth of books. I decided to focus first on the audiobooks I bought or received at the conference. 

As I mentioned in an earlier ALAAC17 post, I always stop by the BOT booth and buy 5 audiobooks. They usually give one away at the booth and there's usually a giveaway at the Odyssey Award reception. This year, I had trouble choosing five and considered buying ten. I decided to think on that decision and ended up buying six. Add the two freebies and I think I have my summer listening cued up.

BOT Booth Freebie: 

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs; 7 hours, 3 minutes. Read by Karissa Vacker. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House Audio Group, August, 2015. 9781101916353.

Publisher synopsis: Newbery Honor–winning author Gennifer Choldenko deftly combines humor, tragedy, fascinating historical detail, and a medical mystery in this exuberant new novel.
   San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.
   The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love. 

I read this one as an arc and loved it. I cannot wait to reread it with my ears. 

Odyssey Award Freebie: I had already read  and own Anna and the Swallow Man (excellent, btw) and Ghost. I own Nimona but haven't yet read it; so that left Dream On Amber. I have the print book in my library. 



Dream on Amber by Emma Shevah. Unabridged audiobook on 4 compact discs; 4.25 hours. Recorded Books, October, 2015. 

Publisher synospsis: My name is Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names, but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job. As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber's not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school. But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little, and he isn't coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister's birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own....

Purchased:

Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly McGhee. Unabridged audiobook on 4 compact discs; 4 hours, 37 minutes. Read by Jenna Lamia. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, May, 2017. 9781524781866.

Publisher synopsis: In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.

Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.

I had the privilege of hearing Holly speak about this book earlier this year at Words.



See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. Unabridged audiobook performed by Kivlighan de Montebello and a full cast. Listening Library/ Penguin/Random House Audio Publishing Group, February, 2017. 978152475008.

Publisher synopsis: A space-obsessed boy and his dog, Carl Sagan, take a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe in this funny and moving novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Walk Two Moons.

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.



Lemons by Melissa Savage. Unabridged audiobook read by Tara Sands. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, May, 2017. 9781524776459.

Publisher synopsis: Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mama always told her: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But Lem can’t possibly make lemonade out of her new life in Willow Creek, California—the Bigfoot Capital of the World—where she’s forced to live with a grandfather she’s never met after her mother passes away.

Then she meets eleven-year-old Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc., who is the sole Bigfoot investigator for their small town. After he invites Lem to be his assistant for the summer, they set out on an epic adventure to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film. But along the way, Lem and Tobin end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined. And Lem realizes that maybe she can make lemonade out of her new life after all.



Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. Unabridged audiobook read by Jorjean Marie. Listening Library/ Penguin/ Random House Audio Publishing Group, May, 2017. 9781524775025.

Publisher synopsis: Set adrift on the ocean in a small skiff as a newborn, twelve-year-old Crow embarks on a quest to find the missing pieces of her history.



The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Unabridged audiobook read by the author. Listening Library/ Penguin/ Random House Audio Publishing Group, May, 2017. 9781524775179.

Publisher synopsis: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL? 

For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.

Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy's quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.

I've already read this debut with my eyes and am looking forward to rereading it with my ears.



Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Péna. Unabridged audiobook read by Dion Graham. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, April, 2017. 9781524778651.

Publisher synopsis:  Sticky is a beat-around-the-head foster kid with nowhere to call home but the street, and an outer shell so tough that no one will take him in. He started out life so far behind the pack that the finish line seems nearly unreachable. He’s a white boy living and playing in a world where he doesn’t seem to belong.
   
But Sticky can ball. And basketball might just be his ticket out . . . if he can only realize that he doesn’t have to be the person everyone else expects him to be.
    
Matt de la Peña's breakout urban masterpiece, Ball Don’t Lie takes place where the street and the court meet and where a boy can be anything if he puts his mind to it.

I adore Matt's books and somehow have never gotten to read this, his first. I also have a voice crush on Dion Graham so I can't wait to read this!

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