Monday, October 24, 2016

MMGM- Cinnamon Moon/Epic Big Nate

Peirce, Lincoln. Epic Big Nate
October 25th 2016 by Andrews McMeel 
ARC provided by the publisher

Big Nate's 25th anniversary is brilliantly celebrated with this enormous compendium of strips. Not every strip is included, but the overview is complete enough that we can see Nate's evolution over time. The best part is the commentary on selected strips, as well as the introduction to both Peirce and Nate. I had no idea that the strip had been around so long, since I was first introduced to the character in Big Nate: In a Class By Himself (2010). 

This is a must-have collection for Big Nate fans, no matter how long they have followed the strip. Adult fans especially will enjoy the annotations which deliver some insight into Nate's motivation, as well as explanations of some of the side characters. 

Be forewarned, however, that the slip-cased, 472 page book weighs in at almost 6 pounds and has a list price of $50! I'm not sure, both because of the cost and the size, if I will purchase this for my library. When a 6th grader leaves the book in his math class and someone else picks it up and never returns it, I don't want to have to try to get $50 from the student to replace it!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Let me make one thing VERY clear: I adore historical fiction. Growing up, I read Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Childhood of Famous Americans (which, really, were pretty much fictionalized biographies) and had a serious addiction to Louisa May Alcott. Even now, I get ridiculously excited by historical fiction that covers a period of time I don't know a lot about. I love historical fiction.

My students do NOT.

There are a few. And oddly, most of the readers of historical fiction in my library are my more academically inclined students. Last year, I even had a girl who willingly read Anne! Most of my students, however, engage in serious nose wrinkling when offered such books. And offer them I do. I make displays, recommend them, and try to sneak them in. My students still aren't fans. I'm beginning to think that the problem is the TYPE of historical fiction that is published. Things like Wolf Hollow or Moon Over Manifest are slower, more introspective, and on the longer side. If there were more historical fiction like Cinnamon Moon, I think it would have more readers. 

Cinnamon MoonHilmo, Tess. Cinnamon Moon
October 18th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline.

Ailis and her brother Quinn have moved to Chicago from the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin after a fire killed their parents and young sister. They are being raised in a boarding house by a negative, controlled woman, Miss Franny. Since Chicago is also recuperating from the Great Fire of 1871, Ailis is glad that she and her brother, along with another orphan, Nettie, have food to eat and a place to sleep, but hopes for more. She takes a job with a German woman, Ida, in a millinery shop, and Quinn starts busking with his violin, making a lot more money that he thought possible. When Nettie goes missing, the two try to investigate, and uncover a plot to use very young children to help keep down the rat population. They find Nettie, who is too afraid to go back with them. Eventually, the two manage to tell an investigative reported about the scheme, and are able to find Nettie.
Strengths: Modern readers will be drawn to the difficult circumstances under which Ailis and Quinn live, but will also secretly long for their freedom from parents. They may be a bit surprised at the prejudice against the Irish. This was just a very fun, very readable book, and happier than you would think. Ailis is very "plucky".
Weaknesses: Should have started with the fire. A bit slow at the beginning, and that would have helped. The cover and title are not fantastic.
What I really think: Great story, great length, and worth hand selling to students, who will enjoy the story once they get into it. This might also be a great gateway to historical fiction!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Patron Saint of Junior Bridesmaids

27414425Tougas, Shelley. Patron Saint of Junior Bridesmaids
Patron Saint of Junior Bridesmaids
E ARC from Edelweiss above the Treeline

Mary Margaret Miller is trying to deflect attention from herself by getting her mom excited about cousin Eden's wedding, mainly because Mary punched Brett. The two had been having problems all year, and even though Mary is usually a good kid, she couldn't take their bickering any more. Her mother forgives her soon enough, because her father is already working in North Dakota after the family's Minnesota hardware store had to close. Mary's mother is going to spend the summer trying to find a job, and Mary and her younger brother are going to stay with Eden and her family to help plan the wedding. Mary's grandmother is VERY excited and is planning something huge and festive. Eden is less thrilled with the idea, since she suffers from social anxiety. Mary tries to keep her grandmother happy while looking out for Eden's best interests, all while worrying about her own family situation and feeling bad about what happened with Brett.
Strengths: This was a fairly happy book despite the various problems. I loved the VERY supportive family and the depiction of Eden and her interactions. Mary is a singular character, but very well meaning, typically middle school, and quite realistic. I also like the budding romance with the neighbor boy, as well as the twist involved in the story with Brett. Since I have 37 cousins (mostly older) on my mother's side of the family, I could definitely identify with the family wedding plans!
Weaknesses: Mary's family is VERY Catholic. I grew up in a largely Catholic community and never met anyone quite so devout or interested in saints, so that part seemed somewhat unrealistic. I think more readers will see this as a window into Mary's world instead of a mirror of their own, which is fine. Pair this with Every Single Second for the future nuns among your patrons.
What I really think: I think the wedding planning and family angle will appeal to readers, so I will buy a copy. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kyle Finds Her Way

25488352Salom, Susie. Kyle Finds Her Way
October 11th 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Kyle has a rocky start to her 7th grade year when she punches a kid in the stomach in gym during tai chi. Ino was taking the hearing aid from a new girl, so he gets two weeks of garbage duty as punishment, and Kyle is remanded to the teacher in charge of the NAVS team, which competes to solve a problem. Kyle is okay with this, especially since cute new English boy, Reed, is part of the group. However, she has a lot of trouble telling the truth to her parents about things. They ground her, but she wants to go to a NAVS planning session, so she lies to her. They catch her. She gets on the wrong bus on purpose, insults her mother's cooking, and generally acts in an untrustworthy manner. She is also having trouble with her two best friends for various reasons. She continues to take part in the NAVS team even though her parents have told her she can't. Eventually, they find out, and Kyle has to decide what her values are, and how she can win back her parents' trust. 

Strengths: There were a lot of good, realistic moments in this. Kyle's family is strong-- her family eats (salt free-- how I understand that!) dinner together most nights and she is close to her twin brother who is in a lower grade because of a possible developmental delay. Kyle's impulse control and poor choices are very typical. The cover is attractive, and the story is generally upbeat. I liked that Kyle was involved in activities.
Weaknesses: I didn't like Kyle. She was one of those annoying students who will eventually turn out fine but drive one crazy. I found it hard to believe that she would have been allowed to wear her beloved blue fedora to school, or that the principal would have "punished" her for assaulting another student by making her do an activity.
What I really think: Despite my own personal objections, I think this is a book that will circulate well with my readers who like stories that involve middle school drama. It will be especially useful during Guys Read Pink month, since it has a nice ensemble cast and is not overly "girly". Will purchase.

28218904Berenstain, Mike. The Berenstain Bears Around the World
September 6th 2016 by HarperCollins
Public library copy

I have a huge soft spot for the bears since the first book I ever read independently was The Berenstain Bears' Picnic, but I've never liked the rest of the books very much. My girls, however, adored them, so I got to read a vast number of these preachy tomes. 

This was a nice change, with the bears whisking around the world in Dr. Bear's Anywhere Anytime Machine. There is very brief information about different countries, and I can see this being a starting place for young readers to begin exploring different parts of the world. There's not really a plot, and the reading level seems higher than beginning (words like Switzerland, chocolate and onion aren't exactly easy), but this would definitely have been one I would have bought for my children, and would be a good addition to an elementary library, especially since it's available in a dust jacketed hard cover.

Friday, October 21, 2016

This is not my dog!

And yet the world really needs 
to see this picture!

The fantastic Library Jim (@library_jim) has a dog, Bella, who looks so much like Sylvie that I am always taken aback. Interestingly, Bella is all poodle, while Sylvie is 1/4 Yorkshire Terrier mixed with poodle! Even their marking are similar, although Bella might be more apricot. 

We'll see if we can get Sylvie to rock the same costume. 

Visit Library Jim's occasional blog at!

Friday Blather

We have successfully made it through the first nine weeks, and we have a work day today! I may finally be a teeny bit caught up. Whew.

This year started out with problems in my "bionic foot", and I always forget how tiring wearing a boot is. My parents, who are 83, have been struggling. My younger daughter (fourth from right in the picture-- she's taller now, although needs size 2 petite business suits!) went off to college and I don't hear from her much. My older daughter got a job after I spent the summer worrying because she didn't have any interviews. Of course, she got the first job she interviewed for, and thought that all of my worrying was silly. 

Life is always stressful; the hard part is learning to deal with the new forms of stress!

There are no study halls in the library, so that means many more research classes. About 500 students a day come into the library. Last year, we checked out 10,298 books, and this year we've checked out 11,517. A 12% increase is pretty good, especially since half the battle is getting students to put down their smart phones long enough to read!

Photos taken by Kenneth Richards, team parent

Cross Country season was fabulous but exhausting. Imagine walking 65 children a mile from school to the park. There aren't any pictures of me coaching because I don't necessarily stand at the mile marker giving them times-- I'm back at the tent cleaning off a kid who threw up and bandaging a wound. My specialty is tying timing tags on shoes. Still, it's good for me to do.  

28964081Stein, Lori. Sharks!
October 18th 2016 by Animal Planet

Stein, Lori. Dinosaurs!
October 18th 2016 by Animal Planet

Copies provided by the publisher

Not surprisingly, I had a brief review of these two books, and it wouldn't publish. That kind of week. 

These were filled with information, and would make great gifts for elementary students with an interest in the topics. For school, I'd prefer a slightly larger format, and a hard cover. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Guy Friday- Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck

28692075Anderson, Jeff. Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck
October 4th 2016 by Sterling Children's Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zack's luck doesn't hold for long after he saves the day in Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth. There is an attractive new girl at school, but Zack manages to get his khakis caught on a cafeteria bench... on a day where his too small Thomas the Tank Engine Underoos were the only clean underwear he had. This opens him up to a lot of ridicule, and it doesn't make matters any better when he accidentally hits Abhi really hard in a game of dodgeball in gym class. His friend Janie suggests that they visit the botanica, where she knows (thanks to an aunt) just what magical remedies he needs to win the heart of the new student. Unfortunately, the cologne he wears is a bit too much, leading to the other students calling him SMELLacruz. Zack's bad luck continues all the way up to the school Fiesta-val, when everything goes awry. Luckily, he's able to finally get a quiet moment alone with Abhi, apologize to her, and find out a little bit more about her. 

Strengths: Janie gets much better treatment in this book, and I really liked the way that Zack's parents were portrayed; supportive, but dealing with some issues of shared custody and a fairly recent divorce. While this has some over-the-top slapstick moments, it's an amusing romp, and I enjoyed it. I think my students who like Charlie Joe Jackson and other humorous novels will, too. 
Weaknesses: While I really liked the San Antonio setting, I could have used a little more information about some things, because they were not familiar. I had to look up "cascarones" for example, and still don't quite understand the appeal. I suppose if I were to write a book set in Ohio, I might fail to explain some things that make sense here but don't other places (Skyline Chili, anyone? The butter sculptures at the fair?)
What I really think: Looking forward to reading more books by this author. 

22024494Harrington, Karen. Mayday
May 24th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Wayne has a lot of problems. His parents are divorced and his dad is remarried... and also a doofus. Coming back from his uncle's funeral after his uncle dies fighting in Iraq, Wayne and his mother are in a plane crash. They survive, but are badly injured. Wayne can't talk because his vocal cords are too swollen. His grandfather, an ex-military man, moves in to help. Wayne ends up in therapy, and goes to a private school, but still hangs out a bit with former schoolmates, including a girl he has a crush on, but getting back to his old life is difficult. He dad continues to be a giant doofus, his grandfather is supportive, and his mother does her best. Things improve, but then the grandfather is diagnosed with cancer. And dies.
Strengths: Once I picked this up a second time and forced myself to read this, it wasn't too bad. Wayne is quirky, but likeable, and his grandfather is great. I appreciated the fact that the mother was dating a really nice guy whom Wayne liked. Wayne's middle school romance was also nicely done, as was his recovery. 
Weaknesses: So much sad everywhere.
What I really think: If the grandfather hadn't gotten ill, I probably would have bought this for my library. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Row, The Dead Boyfriend

27414418Johansson, J.R. The Row
October 11th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Riley and her mother have struggled ever since her lawyer father was imprisoned for a series of killings. He has always claimed he was innocent, and Riley has continued to visit him. As the date for his execution approaches, and the appeals all fail, she wants to try to prove his innocence. With the help of Jordan, a fun guy who's super great with his younger brother, she starts the process... but then she realizes that Jordan is the son of the cop who put her father away. As the two investigate all of the circumstances behind her father's conviction, they come across a lot of conflicting information. Her family's circumstances weren't as rosy as she was lead to believe before her father was arrested, and when a new murder is committed, Riley is torn between the belief that it means her father is innocent, and the fear that he may be orchestrating something evil from behind bars. When her father's paralegal shoots his partner just as Riley and Jordan are supposed to meet with him in a local park, things become even more fraught with danger. 
Strengths: This was a great book on a lot of levels. The romance with Jordan was particularly nice in a star-crossed lovers kind of way, and the stripping away of Riley's perfect family facade was done in a masterful, intriguing way. This would make a fantastic movie! Psychological thriller, definitely, and great for those middle school students who want a murder mystery. 
Weaknesses: While this skews Young Adult because of some alcohol consumption (which Riley learns is a BAD idea) and the fact that there were murders and there is mention of an affair, there's nothing that would shock the average 11 year old who is allowed to watch CSI. No particularly horrific details. 
What I really think: Again, like Black Roses, White Lies, this is perfect for 8th grade reluctant readers who would rather read fan fic on WattPad on their phones. 

28220872Stine, R.L. The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relaunch #5)
September 27th 2016 by A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

**SPOILER ALERT** Can't write this without giving away key plot points.

Caitlynn's friends are a bit concerned that she is spending so much time with Blade. Deena Fear has warned Caitlynn that "she saw him first" but tries to befriend Caitlynn, who is not very interested in the creepy, Goth-wannabes friendship. When Caitlynn sees Blade out with another girl, and Blade tells her that their relationship was not that serious, she waits for him outside him house and stabs him to death in a brutal fashion. Oddly, even though the police come to her house later because the front door is open and see her with blood stains, she isn't arrested, although she thinks she will be. Deena Fear confides that she made Caitlynn kill him, and wishes she hadn't, which is why Deena tried (and failed) to reanimate him at his own funeral. Deena (who has her deceased parents taxidermied and in glass cases at home) wants Blade back, but Caitlynn is tired of being followed around by a dead guy who tries to kiss her. In the end, we find out that everything was not as it seemed, in a sort of Bobby-in-Dallas moment...OR WAS IT???
Strengths: Definitely will fit the bill for students who want books about murder. There's a fair amount of blood involved with a reanimated corpse. 
Weaknesses: Returns to the format of the original series, which had a lot more high school girl drama than I would have expected. 
What I really think: I'll buy it, but I don't have to like it. The other books in this series have been good, but I didn't enjoy this one. Too high an "ick" factor.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

#WNDB- Ashes and Everyday Hero

8131809Anderson, Laurie Halse. Ashes (Seeds of America #3)
October 4th 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Isabel and Curzon have left South Carolina during the Revolutionary War in order to find Isabel's sister Ruth and to try to not be captured by slavers or be involved in too much of the war. Eventually, they locate Ruth, who has had seizures and is somewhat developmentally delayed. This led to her being sold, but she has ended up in the care of an elderly couple who have lost their own children. The couple tell Ruth she must go with Isabel and do what she says, because Ruth doesn't want to leave, even though at 12 she is the object of inappropriate interest from an overseer. Along with Aberdeen, the group takes off and makes their way to Virginia. Isabel is able to work along the way, taking in laundry or working in taverns. In Williamsburg, the group spends some time ferrying laundry back and forth while waiting to see how the war will progress. Eventually, Curzon goes off to fight, Isabel realizes she loves him, and along with Ruth (and Aberdeen, who loves her) they must all decide what to do as the war is coming to a close. 
Strengths: This is very well researched, and offers interesting information on the plight of people brought over to America as slaves around the time of the Revolutionary War. There are lots of good notes at the back, and the details of every day survival are very vivid. This reminded me strongly of Forbes' Johnny Tremain (1943), which I know is a favorite of many American History teachers. 
Weaknesses: This is very long for middle grade (272 pages), and moves very slowly. There are a lot more descriptions of doing laundry and taking care of the wounded than of any adventures or action. 
What I really think: Chains (2008) has circulated only to members of the Battle of the Books team,  and Forge (2010) has not been checked out in three years. For now, I will pass on purchasing for my library. 

26586441Cherry, Kathleen. Everyday Hero.
March 15th 2016 by Orca Book Publishers
Copy from Cuyahoga County Public Library
Nominated for the Cybils by SMorris 

Alice and her father have moved to Kitimat while her mother is staying in Vancouver to help her grandparents. While Alice deals with Asperger's Syndrome, her father has decided not to tell her new school about her diagnosis, so she gets frequent detentions for skipping gym class, hitting people, and not following the unspoken rules of the school. Also in detention is Megan, who is a tough, Goth dressing girl. When Alice melts down over the wrong bus coming to pick her up, Megan comes to her aid and gets her home. The two form an uneasy friendship, and Megan protects Alice from people at school who don't understand the way she acts. Megan has problems at home, and Alice's father is reluctant for the two to hang out. When Megan decides to run away to Vancouver, Alice follows her despite the difficulties she has with new situations, saving her new friend from making a very bad decision.
Strengths: This does a good job of channeling Alice's voice, and is a good addition to books with characters on the autism spectrum. Her voice is distinct, but not overdone, and very typical of many of the students I have seen in our autism unit over the years. The addition of Megan's abusive situation will draw in readers who like this flavor of sad, but I definitely appreciated that this was generally upbeat, and Alice was really trying to understand the world around her and make her way in it. 
Weaknesses: The formatting is not great- this is available only in paperback or prebind, although Orca has given this one more generous margins than many of their titles. Oddly, my students definitely prefer larger, dust jacketed hardcovers.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase. The ending was a bit too deus ex machina for me, and the friendship didn't make a whole lot of sense, but I enjoyed Alice's voice, and the plot drew me in. I think it will find a steady readership in my library. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

StarChaser (TodHunter Moon #3)

16069953Sage, Angie. StarChaser (TodHunter Moon #3)
October 11th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

When Septimus' brother Simon's lapis lazuli eye starts to crumble to dust, it bodes ill for many things in the kingdom that depend on it. In order to get things back to the way they were, an ormlet being raised by Spit Fyre must be returned to the Orme Pit and hopefully an Ormlet egg can be found to bury under the castle and restore the magic. Tod and her friends embark on a variety of adventures to accomplish this, and have run ins with the Red Queen, who is greatly desirous of a castle of her own.

Sage creates a very rich, medieval fantasy world with its own spells, creatures and terminology. Readers who like to memorize the details of fantasy series will definitely enjoy seeing Tod solve problems using magic charms potions. Seeing Septimus as her teacher is great fun for those who know his adventures for the Magyk series. 

There are also lots of cozy houses with good food, deliciously evil villains with malevolent plans that Tod manages to thwart, and adventures in a vividly detailed fantasy world. There is a map at the beginning of the book showing Tod's world. 

The various characters are lots of fun as well-- Oskar, wtih his devotion to the Orme, Marissa with her evil machinations, Driffa, who is trying to restore her own kingdom, and Jo-Jo who risks everything to save the kingdom for Kraan. Hand this to readers who know the rules of Quidditch backwards and forwards, who are studying Elvish via Tolkien, or who can outline all the characters and their abilities from Prineas' The Magic Thief. 

This was one of those fantasy books that don't go over well with me personally. The fact that many of the words were bold faced in a different type(UnRaveling, Magykal, Sprites, KeyStone-- on one page!) just irritated me. I found this hard to follow because there were so many characters, although that probably means that it was a good wrap-up to a lengthy series. Plus, I got the dog trimmed, laundry folded, and the dining room table cleaned off while I read this because all of those things seemed like a better idea than finding out if the Ormlet gets sent to the Orme Pit. Will it sit in an Orme Chair? Say it out loud. Sigh. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

MMGM- Series We love

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Vernon, Ursula. Ratpunzel: Hamster Princess #3
October 18th 2016 by Dial Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Harriet stops by her house, but after her mother tries to wash her face, and her father wants to go to tea, she decides that adventuring is a far better plan. Hopping on her battle quail, she takes off, running into her friend Prince Wilbur. His pet, Heady the hydra has had her egg stolen, and she is distraught. The two strongly suspect that a friend of Wilbur's mother, Gothel,  has stolen the egg, and the head off into a scary forest (in The Kingdom of Sunshine) to find her. When there, they see trees carved like people and a giant tower with Ratpunzel in it. Sure enough, she is being held captive by Gothel, who has also stolen the egg. It's difficult to get both the egg and the princess out of the tower and scary forest, but Harriet is up to the task. 
Strengths: If you haven't read these, go grab Harriet the Invincible and Of Mice and Magic right now. They are just hysterically funny on SO many levels. Are they appropriate for middle school students? Well, I'm sure the ATOS level is low, and parents would complain that kids are reading comics that are below their level, but yes. Yes, these are great books to have in a middle school library for all of the children who are tired of dealing with middle school and need some light reading. So is the Princess in Black series. 
Weaknesses: Paper over board bindings don't hold up to the heavy use these books get. 
What I really think: If parents complain, have students check out this author's Castle Hangnail, too. A bit longer and more substance. Then ask what the book the parent read last. War and Peace? Or some Danielle Steele? I don't get why we have to push students to read tough, depressing books all the time when we don't read that sort of thing as adults. 

Editors of Sports Illustrated for Kids. My First Book of Hockey: A Rookie Book: Mostly Everything Explained About the Game
September 20th 2016 by Sports Illustrated
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Like My First Book of Baseball, this is a good overview of the sport for the youngest readers. Terms, plays and equipment are explained in simple language with a mix of photographs of actual players and cartoon-style font and characters. Not only is this a good format for younger students who are learning about the sport for the first time, it is a great way for English Language Learners to be introduced to a sport. 

The explanations of how the game is played are accompanied by diagrams that show the field and a variety of tactics. For parents or older readers, the jokes in the asides will enliven things as well. I was glad to finally find out exactly what a "hat trick" is, although I'm still in the dark as to WHY people throw their hats on the rink after a player's third goal! 

These are a must for elementary school libraries and a great way to hook reluctant or struggling readers in the middle school. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery

27414407Diamond, Jill. Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery
October 18th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 
E ARC from

Lou Lou and Pea live in an urban neighborhood called El Corazon, and they are able to go places on their own, especially after school is out and before their parents get home. They frequent the cupcake store, and also a candle store where the proprietor, Elmira, always seem to know just which candle will help with their problems. Lots of problems are popping up-- Pea's cousin has her quinceanera dress ruined by grape juice and ink, Lou Lou's prize plant is killed, a prized necklace goes missing, and even the adults are affected. The girls blame a new boy, Jeremy, and try to spy on him, especially after Elmira's store is robbed and she isn't able to go on a candle cruise. In the end, the culprit is found in an unusual place. 
Strengths: I loved the walkable, interesting, multicultural neighborhood and the fact that the girls were able to go out in it alone. It was nice that they both had their own interests. Combine this with supportive families and a mystery that is more serious than it appears, and this is a great purchase for elementary schools. A second book is in the works. 
Weaknesses: I was surprised at the culprit and the fairly evil intentions that person had. It was somehow shocking, given the light tone of the book.
What I really think
This seemed somehow too young for my students. Debating. 

28814841Haynes, Richard. Slingshot and Burp
August 2nd 2016 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Slingshot and Burp live next door to each other in a rural, Southwestern area. Not only are they friends, but double cousins. They are given a lot of freedom to roam about the country side on their bicycles (which they pretend are horses, Thunder and Lightning), shoot things with their slingshots, and sleep out under the stars. The smallest occurrence can change into a big adventure with their active imaginations. When their sisters take over their "bunk house" and decorate it in pink, they must mount a counter attack. When a "ghost cat", and later, a "wild coyote" wanders into their path, they have fun hunting down the creatures. The lack of visible parents, along with cowboy dialect, gives Slingshot and Burp's adventures a ring of authenticity, even though the reader knows that the coyote is really a neighbor's dog that the sisters are grooming.

This is an excellent choice for beginning readers. At just over 100 pages, it is well illustrated and not terribly long. The fact that the main characters have such imaginative skills is impressive, and their freedom is something that many young readers will not have experienced. The Southwestern setting seems exotic to someone who doesn't live there, and the description of the landscape and the variety of deadly creatures (scorpions!) that live there will deliver a mild thrill. 

Readers who enjoy books like McDonald's Stink, Yee's Bobby the Brave, and Park's Junie B. Jones should take a look at this new title, which is almost sure to become a series featuring a variety of rough 'n tumble adventures. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Young Adult Books

Some young adult books work in a middle school setting; some do not. Often, it isn't until halfway through a perfectly fine title that I think "No, not going to work." By that time, I want to know how the story ends! These were both interesting reads, but not quite what I need to purchase for my middle school library. 

Oppel, Kenneth. Every Hidden Thing
September 20th 2016 by HarperCollins Canada
E ARC from Edelweiss

Samuel Bolt and Rachel Cartland meet after the Civil War at a museum presentation where Sam's father is talking about a dinosaur find he has made. Rachel's father points out that he has put the skeleton together backwards, and fisticuffs ensue. The two break up the fight, and go back to their daily lives. These involve helping out their paleontologists fathers, and soon they are thrown back together as the two groups head out to Nebraska to investigate the same bones. More fossils are found, the two men spar, and the teens fall in love and get married. Who will take credit for the finds, and how will this impact the life of the young couple?
Strengths: Dinosaurs are a great subject for middle school readers, which is one of the reasons that I liked How Not to Become Extinct. The post Civil War setting and the trouble with Native Americans, as well as the lackadaisical but exuberant archaeological methods make this a fun read.
Weaknesses: The romance between Sam and Rachel was a bit much. The descriptions of kissing I could have handled, but once they get married and Rachel doesn't wish to become pregnant and they discuss how this might be accomplished, they lost me. This is a lengthy book (368 pages), which would limit its appeal anyway.

What I really think: I will pass, but this would be an interesting addition to a high school collection, especially where this author's works are popular. 

28588460Thompson, Mary G. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee
October 11th 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

**Warning** This is NOT a creepy haunted doll book. 

After having been kidnapped six years earlier and held captive by the disturbed Kyle, Amy returns home without any explanation. Her family reacts in many different ways, but is glad to have her home. Her brother has felt guilty, her parents have divorced, and her aunt really wants to know what happened to Amy's cousin Dee. Amy is unable to tell the police what happened, but as the story unfolds we learn that Dee was the one raped and impregnated by Kyle, and Amy was the one who raised the two babies, Lola and Barbie. As Amy returns to her regular life, with the help of a lot of therapy, we learn more and more about what she went through, and about what happened to Dee. The title refers to the fact that Kyle called Amy "Chelsea" and Stacie "Dee".
Strengths: My students crave books about kidnapping and murder, so they would definitely like this part of the book. The tone is oddly disjointed, which addresses Amy's state of mind, and the details of her life are revealed in a nonlinear way. 
Weaknesses: Definitely a young adult book. In addition to the talk about rape and the description of pregnancies, there is some teen drinking. 
What I really think: I can think of several girls who have gone on to high school who would like to read this book, but it's too much information for middle school. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Guy Friday- Spy Ski School and Blather

It's probably a bad thing to go into the faculty washroom and not come out until school is over, right? Are you sure? Because it seems like a good option today. Since I can't leave the library for two seconds without someone trying to hunt me down, it probably wouldn't work, anyway. 

Should have gone to Kidlitcon! I'm missing Lisa Harkrader. Drat. I adore Airball

Just didn't work out this year. I did finally register for ALA Midwinter for the first time.

On Monday, we will be jumping right into the Cybils awards! If you haven't nominated, PLEASE go do that. Middle grade fiction only has about 70 titles, and I've read most of them. That's no challenge. Still a lot of good books out there to nominate. 

It's very Friday here. Need more sleep. And decongestants. And my robot maid! Why do we have video phones (Skype, FaceTime), but no jet packs, food pills or robot maids?

Gibbs, Stuart. Spy Ski School
October 11th 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ben has survived SPYDER, Murray Hill, and his crush on Erica Hale in the first three books in this series, and is now assigned a new mission: Leo Chang, a rich Chinese businessman, seems to be up to no good, and it is feared that bad things will happen when he is vacationing in Colorado on a ostensible ski vacation. Since he dotes on his daughter, Jessica, Ben's mission is to befriend her and try to get information about her father's evil doings. Erica is irritated that she is assigned to be Ben's handler, but since a large group of students is going skiing, it's like a big vacation. Cyrus and Alexander go along to supervise, and soon Ben is taking off on the slopes and having hot cocoa before the fire with Jessica. There's also a lot of bugging of hotel rooms, dangerous skiing, and even an adventure in a helicopter. An appearance for Mike is a surprise, and there is a concern that he might be working for SPYDER. The appearance by Murray Hill shouldn't be a surprise, and Ben is able to get the mystery of Leo Chang solved... and might even get the girl. 

Strengths: These are great spy fantasy books. A little goofier than Alex Rider, perhaps, but my students can easily imagine that they are living Ben's life. The romance with Erica is fabulous-- I adore that one of the things that makes her attractive to Ben is that she is such an accomplished spy. The skiing details are brilliant, and I'm glad that Mr. Gibbs, an avid skier himself, chose to set this book on the slopes.

Weaknesses: The character of Jessica seemed a bit uneven to me, especially when it came to her use of English idioms. Small quibble; my students won't notice. 

What I really think: Mr. Gibbs has just been added to my list of authors who should have meals delivered to their families every day so that they never have to stop writing. Always a good time when I get to read one of his books, and such a relief knowing that he's not going to suddenly throw super sadness into his stories. Love.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Wolf Keepers

My blog roll has disappeared! I don't know when that happened! Clearly, the wheels have completely fallen off the cart around here. If you were on it, don't feel personally slighted. Oh, well. Not a bad idea to rebuild those from time to time. People do stop blogging, and I hate when a list has lots of dead links. 

27414417Broach, Elise. The Wolf Keepers
October 11th 2016 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Lizzie Durango lives at a zoo not too far from Yosemite National Park because her father is the head zookeeper. Her mother died when she was a baby. When she sees a boy steal a family's lunch, she tries to track him down to find out what he was doing. She eventually catches up with Tyler and finds out that he has run away from his foster home and is spending his summer hanging out at the zoo. Lizzie invites him to stay at the small apartment over her garage where her grandmother stays when she comes to visit, and the two start to investigate the unusual sickness that the zoo wolves have, and the possible involvement of the zoo vet, Karen, in their sickness. The two are interested in visiting Yosemite to try to find John Muir's "lost cabin", so when they hitch a ride with Karen, trying to figure out what she's doing with the wolves, and end up at Yosemite, they try to find the cabin before heading home to deal with the consequences of their actions. 
Strengths: Like Gibbs' FunJungle series and Keating's How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied, this is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at life in a zoo. It may sound silly, but I FREQUENTLY have students ask for books about wolves-- it's really the only animal they request, but it's turned up regularly over the last 15 years! This had some intrigue, adventure, and some fun moments as well. Did like the fact that Tyler is briefly described as having a white mother and black father, and the cover does show that a tiny bit. 
Weaknesses: I wasn't pleased about Lizzie's mother being dead; there was no reason other than to have Lizzie not be supervised. It also seemed unlikely that she would ask a random stranger to live in the apartment, and the vet's actions with the wolves didn't receive the punishment I expected. These are all weaknesses that I felt but my students might not.
What I really think: Given the demand for wolf books and mysteries, I will purchase this. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cybils Poetry Ideas

I have a really complicated relationship with poetry, although I did nominate the new Judith Viorst book, What are you glad about? What are you mad about? I truly believe Viorst to be the most underrated poet of our time, but that's a conversation for another day. I am bowing to the greater wisdom of Check it Out for Jone's poetry recommendations. Hop over to her blog to get all the scoop on poetry, including the recommendations listed below!

Would you like some suggestions for Poetry? if so, see below:
  1. Burg, Ann. 2016. Unbound. Scholastic.
  2. Caswell, Deanna. 2016. Boo Haiku. Ill. by Bob Shea. Abrams Appleseed.
  3. Caswell, Deanna. 2016. Guess Who Haiku. Ill. by Bob Shea. Abrams Appleseed.
  4. Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Annie. 2016. Somewhere Among
  5. Dooley, Sarah. 2016. Free Verse
  6. Lewis, J. Patrick. 2016. Kooky Crumbs: Poems in Praise of Dizzy Days
  7. Lin, Grace and McKneally, Ranida T. 2016. Our Food
  8. Powell, Patricia Hruby. 2016. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case.
  9. Withrow, Steven and Stevens, Roger. 2016 It’s Not My Fault
  10. Yolen, Jane and Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2016. Grumbles from the Town: Mother Goose Voices with a Twist
  11. Yolen, Jane. 2016. The Alligator’s Smile and Other Poems
  12. VanDerwater, Amy. 2016. Every Day Birds
  13. Trillin, Calvin. 2016. No Fair! No Fair! And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood
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