Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kids' Internet Tuesday

Yesterday (approximately 53 minutes ago) was Kids' Books Website Tuesday - the day I share a blog or website (or two) devoted to children's books.  Enjoy.

 A Fuse #8 Production is written by book blogger and librarian, Elizabeth Bird.  The blog is hosted/sponsored/part of School Library Journal's amazing Internet resources for people who like schools, and libraries, the materials found in those institutions and the people who frequent both.  Book reviews - lots of book reviews - commentary on what's happening in the publishing world for children and teens - interesting stuff about authors and illustrators - it's all on this blog.  I check with Betsy's blog to keep on top of what's new and different in writing for young people.

For those of us who sometimes need picture books on a theme, check out 5 Great Books, a blog written by author and literacy consultant, Anastasia Suen.  Suen lists five recommended books on different topics.  Her choices are designed to appeal to beginning readers.

Suen writes for this age group, too, and she features one of her books every week on another blog, Anastasia Suen's Book of the Week.  If you read the sidebars of these blogs, you will find links to Suen's other online presences including a daily blog on Picture Books and another one on Chapter Books and an e-newsletter.  Fun, helpful and informative!  Thanks, Anastasia.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Sometimes I start a book happily, but midway something crops up - a character that jars, or an event that feels off-kilter, or a change of mood - that disappoints me.  This year I decided to just put those books down.  I don't have time to read books that bother me.  There are too many books, so the t-shirt says, and increasingly, too little time.

Well, I am VERY happy that I did NOT put down Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  Honestly, when the angel showed up I almost chucked it in.  This book has shown up on several "Best of 2011" lists and I felt duty-bound to as least skim through to the end.  So happy I did because OMG!!!

Taylor creates such an appealing teen character in Karou, and her family of misshapen beings is so loving that when that angel shows up, all angry and forbidding, the reader just knows he's wrong!!! Beautiful, yes!  Stunning, of course!  Sexy and irresistible?  That goes without saying - but very very wrong.

The book's setting is Prague, the IT city for 2011, I think.  The plot revolves around a centuries-old battle between magical peoples.  The protagonist, a teen art student, is so much more than just a teen.  Her "family" appears to be made up of genetic experiments or demons.  Her guardian's business is collecting teeth, animal and human.  When the sexy tortured angel shows up, all the questions about her past and her strange life are answered.  OR are they??  The story is to be continued.  And, sigh, as much as I hate to admit it, I have been drawn into this maelstrom of paranormal adventure and romance and I WILL want to find out what happens next.  Thanks, Laini Taylor, for adding yet another series to my ever growing list of  Books-I-Want-To-Read!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vampyres of Vegas??

I'm getting ready for next week's book review session at the Allentown Public Library (a big shout out to Renee Haines, hard working director!), and I found a reference to Billy the Kid and the Vampyres of Vegas by Michael Scott on my Books I Want to Read list.  (This link is to the unedited version of this list - which is way too long - and in no danger of getting shorter.)  Billy the Kid and the Vampyres of Vegas is an e-book exclusive, which means I could purchase it for my Nook.  Hmmm. 
How are vampyres different from vampires?  Hmmm?

The list of books I want to read is sort of depressing.  I  don't spend enough time in libraries and bookstores, I guess.  I should take advantage of the immediacy of my e-reader but I STILL haven't figured out how to download borrowed books and e-galleys from my iMac to my Nook.  Note to self:  Clear calendar and DO this!

Well enough about ME!  Check out the latest installment in the Alchemist series (also known as The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) on your e-reader of choice!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving stories

Do you have a favorite story about Thanksgiving?  Something that happened at the table?  Something that happened on that day?  Or, do you have a folktale that reminds you of the joy of a grateful heart? One story that I love to tell during this season is the Japanese story, "Roly-Poly Rice Ball".  I found this story in Margaret Read McDonald's Twenty Tellable Tales.

The story has a common theme. One woodcutter is rewarded simply because he shared his lunch willingly with someone and was grateful for the gift he received.  His neighbor is punished for demanding a similar reward and showing bad grace when he received it.

The greedy are often ungrateful and the ungrateful are likely to be greedy.  The grateful, on the other hand, understand how to accept a gift and how to share it. 
My apple pie looked every bit as good as this!
We spent this Thanksgiving Day with friends, not family.  I was fighting a head cold and I avoided my immune-compromised father (chemotherapy) and my tiny newborn granddaughter for that reason.  (I did break down and take the last of the apple pie to my son and his wife but I sat as far away as I could stand it from the baby so I wouldn't breathe on her.)  Thanksgiving Day was a lovely day, warm and sunny, and spending it with my husband, my good friend and her husband and their two wonderful and goofy dogs was a blessing.

That said, I so missed the hustle and bustle of the holiday - which we have shared with our son, his wife and her family for several years now.  So I invited that crew and a few other people for Drop By for Pie.  It was last minute inspiration and Thanksgiving weekend is NOT a good weekend for last minute invitations.  But the people who appreciate my pie the most showed up. I got my baking urges out without adding significantly to my girth or that of my husband and our pie-loving friends got their pie!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and spent it with someone you love!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Give Thanks

Page 19 from Dallas Clayton's Awesome Book of Thanks
It's Kids' Book Website Tuesday and it's two days before Thanksgiving so... Take a look at Dallas Clayton's The Awesome Book of Thanks.  It is pretty awesome.  To learn more about Clayton and his Awesome books, check this interview on Reading Rockets, one of my favorite reading sites.

Talking about awesomeness and books and Thanksgiving, my favorite new Thanksgiving book is Balloons over Broadway : the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet (who also drew the pictures).  Tony Sarg, a puppeteer and toy designer, made mechanical displays for Macy's windows.  He was the genius behind the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  This book describes how the parade evolved into one of America's favorite Thanksgiving traditions.  I love watching the parades - with the mute button on.  (That's how we watch football games in our house, too.  Don't those people ever stop talking to breathe??).  But I digress...

I hope to post before Thursday but if life intervenes - as it often does - have an AWESOME Thanksgiving!  Remember turkey has a soporific effect on humans so do NOT operate heavy machinery after eating Thanksgiving dinner. 

About Time

Orson Scott Card's sci-fi classic Ender's Game  is being turned into a movie starring Asa Butterfield (Hugo)!  It is about time!  The movie will come out in March of 2013.  Click here for more info.
Anything that far out is still tentative.  Keep your fingers crossed that this movie actually gets made.  (Remember the Artemis Fowl movie, anyone?)

Monday, November 21, 2011


I am reading The Ogre of Oglefort by the late and very great Eva Ibbotson.  It is delightfully Ibbotson, with an orphan and a misfit princess and a whiny, sulky ogre, a hag a troll and talking animals.  Not one of these characters acts the way they would in a traditional fantasy - except for the orphan, of course.  Orphans have to be kind and clever and very brave in an Ibbotson novel.  As much fun as reading this novel is, it is sad as well because there will be no more crackpot fantasies from Ibbotson, or luminous hopeful adventures either.  Sigh. 

About my Dad.  They sent him home yesterday, not only because his fever had broken, but because his white blood cell count is very low.  I guess they think he won't see as many people at home as at the hospital.  The family has been warned off and we will keep our distance until his white blood cells rally.  Still, I heave another deep deep sigh.  Welcome me, world of people who have struggled with ill and aging parents.  I have joined your ranks. 

I am so grateful for the whiny ogre and his lumpy, misshapen friends.  A good book is as wonderful as a vacation.

Dad Update:  Well, well, well, it appears as if the discharging nurse was a little pessimistic.  My Brother the Doctor checked this morning and Dad's white blood cell count is fine for a man who is undergoing chemotherapy.  YAY!  Thanksgiving can go forth!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dad - How to Save a Life

So Dad's in the hospital since Wednesday when he wwent into radiation treatment with a crazy high fever.  They took the antibiotic drip and the saline/fluid drip out of his arms yesterday and he's much better.  However, he might have been contagious - not - so we all had to wear masks around him.

My Dad never seems to stay down for very long.  He told me on Friday that he had a nice talk with a lady, while waiting in the radiology department, about his work as a Deacon in the Catholic Church.  "No matter what," he said, "There is always reason for joy and gratitude."

Now before you start thinking my Dad is a Saint, he can be irascible, outspoken and argumentative.  But, I'm thinking, if I was battling cancer and forced to lie in bed with needles in my arm, I don't know that the words "Joy" and "Gratitude" would enter into conversation often.  But maybe they would.  I am his daughter after all.

The book has received five starred reviews!

Joy and gratitude don't seem to enter into Sara Zarr's book How To Save a Life, at least not at the start.  Mandy arrives on the scene first in an email to someone about an arrangement she and that someone have made.  The email is purposely vague but the reader guesses that Mandy is promising her unborn child to someone, provided that the whole thing is done the way Mandy wants it done.  In that email Mandy sounds clever, demanding, even wily.

Then we meet Jill, 17, and grieving for the death of her father about a year before.  She is angry and has spent a lot of time pushing people away.  She is neither joyful NOR grateful that her mother, Robin, is opening their home to a pregnant teen and adopting that teen's child. 

This is the story of three women, what they want, how they mesh and how they clash.  Jill's suspicions about Mandy's intentions fuel a lot of the plot.  Mandy's first person accounts soon turn her into a sympathetic character.  Robin soldiers on.

This is the story of three good women.  And the ending - well, maybe joy and gratitude find a place in there somehow.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Lots of reading going on as I prepare for a book review session laughingly titled "The Best Books for Children and Teens for 2011".  AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!  How am I going to do this?
So I have read 7 or 8 books (a couple of those were picture books) in the past five days.  My favorite book of the week?....

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Harper, 2011, 978-0-06-1962783)  Ha (there is a diacritical mark over the a that I can't easily reproduce, alas), her mother and her three older brothers escape Saigon as it is being seized by the North Vietnamese and move to Alabama.  10-year-old Ha suffers at the hands of her classmates.  Her whole family endures the hatred of their neighbors.  Worse than all of this is the worry that Father, who disappeared nine years before, will never find them.

Written in prose verse, this book opens the reader's eyes to how America looks to immigrants from very different cultures.  The book has touches of humor but the main story is of Ha and how she finds the strength to make friends and go on.

My second favorite book of the week....How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr.  Review to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Storytelling Thursday

Tellabration is coming!  Saturday is the International Day of Storytelling!  All across the world people will gather to listen to stories.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild will present four FREE performances at two separate venues.

At Barnes & Noble Booksellers in the Lehigh Valley Mall, Tellabration will start off with a performance by Kathy Long at 10:30 am.  Kathy is a teller from the Slate Belt, well loved for her humor and her original spin on traditional stories.  This program is open to children and families.  The program is co-sponsored by the Parkland Community Library.

Across the Valley at the Nazareth Center for the Arts at 30 Belvidere Street in Nazareth PA, stories begin at 3 pm
Tina Fowler , a local teller with wit and wisdom, will tell stories for children of all ages at 3 pm.  Please bring a canned food donation for the Nazareth Food Bank.

Both venues will host evening performances.
Robin Berry , an inspirational teller and young teller, Kelly Fitzpatrick, will tell stories for adults and teens at Barnes and Noble in the Lehigh Valley Mall, starting at 7 pm.  This program is  also co-sponsored by the Parkland Community Library.

Eva Grayzel, has touched audiences across the country.  She will be the featured teller at a 7:30 pm performance at the Nazareth Center of the Arts.  This performance is designed for adults and teens.

Join the worldwide movement to share stories at one of these fine, free to all, performances this Saturday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wimpy Kid and Publishers' Sites

Some publisher's websites are designed just to describe and sell their books.   Most offer teacher's and parent's guides as well and links to the websites of their most popular authors. Others offer activities, reading guides and games based on the characters and plots of their books.  Here are some of my favorite interactive publishers' sites.

Scholastic offers The Stacks for Kids, a site that offers movie trailers, games, links to author sites and more.  Parents and educators can scroll down to the bottom of the page to find pages just for them.

Kids@Random is Random House's collection of websites for children and teens.  Here readers can sign up for newsletters, enter contests for e-galleys and books, visit individual websites for favorite series.  Links for different age levels, including teens, kids, teachers and librarians are ranged across the top.

Teens can go directly to Teens@Random for links to authors, games based on series and fan newsletters.

Litlle Brown - or Hachette Book Group - offers LB-Kids, an interactive site for kids and teens with mini-sites for popular series, games, videos, contests and featured authors.

Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney, the new Wimpy Kid book, is finally on the shelves.   Greg Heffley has been framed!  Sort of! For vandalism!  But worse than that, he is snowbound with the entire family.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Storyteller Thursdays

The organization of this blog continues.  Today is Story (or Storyteller) Thursday.  And on Thursdays, I will features a story, a storytelling activity or a storyteller.

Today's storyteller is Kristin Pedemonti, an energetic, lively, big-hearted woman who is the founder of Literacy Outreach Belize.  Since 2006, she has donated programs to 33,000 children in Belize and has spearheaded donations of funds and books to the more rural schools in this small Central American country.

Pedemonti's storytelling usually includes audience participation, with costumes, funny voices and even funnier faces.  She is a joy to watch.  She has a wonderful manner, handles outbursts from the sudience with humor and aplomb and ofter makes them part of her stories.

She's a globetrotter as well, performing all across Europe, the US and South America.  In 2011 she won the coveted National Storytelling Network International StoryBridge Oracle Award.

Check out Kristin's website and visit her fund-raising site to enable her to return to Belize and train more teachers and teens in storytelling and story creation skills.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Amelia Lost

Amelia Earhart! This tousled aviatrix is one of America's most fascinating historical figures.  In Amelia Lost: the Life and Disapperance of Amelia Earhart, Candace Fleming uncovers amazing stories about the week that followed Earhart's disappearance over the Pacific Ocean.  People as far east as Florida claimed to hear snatches of radio transmissions from Earhart's plane.  The technology that existed back then may not have been up to the task of finding her but one wonders if the authorities paid closer attention to these "hearings', could she have been found? 

Fleming's book sandwiches the story of Earhart's fascination with flight, and her development as a media darling and a daring pilot, between the stories of individuals who claimed that they heard her voice on their radio sets.   Along with these reports, Fleming mixes in media coverage of Earhart's exploits and journalists' criticism or praise for her.  The book is not only a comprehensive biography for middle grade readers, but a commentary on how media coverage has contributed to historical events.  Earhart was a canny promoter, not only of herself but of feminist ideals and of aviation.

Fleming reveals little known facts about Earhart and dishes the truth about some of the legends that have grown up around this American icon.   The book is liberally illustrated with period photos and snatches of Earhart's and her husband's journals and letters.  There is a bibliography and a source list for serious Earhart enthusiasts.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


This blog needs a little organization so I am declaring Tuesday to be Book Blog Day! (Fanfare, please.) And to celebrate the very first Book Blog day, I will introduce you to a Children's Book Blog that I truly enjoy!
Delightful Children's Books!!

I like this website so much, I list it in my links so you can always visit this clever and informative site when you visit my blog.  The owner of Delightful Children's Books is a mother and educator and she produces annotated book lists of her family's favorite titles on a variety of subjects.  Visit her "About" page to learn about this writer and reviewer.  I have used her site in my storytelling business, searching for ideas for activity books and story inspiration.  Librarians, caregivers and teachers will like this site a lot.

Good job, Delightful Children's Books

BTW, I recently presented to a local Kiwanis and gave them a list of 10 Great Children's Book Websites and Blogs.  I posted the list on Scribd so click and enjoy.  Um, I added this blog, too.  So, please don't forget about ME!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting held a movie night on Saturday, the 5th.  We watched Invictus.  It's a sports/political film about the South African rugby team and Nelson Mandela.  It was riveting. 

Only a man with the imagination of Mandela could see how important a sports team is to a nation, especially a nation who has been banned from international competition because of the country's policy of apartheid.

In the audience last night was a young woman who grew up in South Africa.  Mandela became president three days before her 16th birthday.  She said that the country pulls together to support their sports teams, dancing in the streets, cheering and mingling as if race and color did not matter.  Then, everything returns to normal.  Sigh.  But even that weeks long camaraderie is a huge step in the right direction.
So, friends and Friends, hold South Africa in the Light, that the way to reconciliation continues, one sports event at a time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Last night, as my daughter-in-law lay counting her contractions, I thought I'd share the storyline of Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby.  After all, in Icefall, the narrator, Princess Solveig, finds meaning in learning the role of storyteller, or skald.  She uses her stories to calm angry warriors and soothe the sick.  At one point, she tries to frighten her family's enemy with a story.  How could I, a storyteller, not love this book?

My DIL asked me, "Are you still reading kids books?"  I think, she meant, "Now that you are retired..."  But kids' books are my passion.  With books as well-written, exciting and, yes, even thoughtful, as Icefall, how could I not "still read kids' books"?

(BTW, my DIL, after 26 hours of labor, gave birth to the most perfect baby girl in the history of time - which is what I guess all grandmothers have said throughout the history of time. THEY were all wrong.)

I forgot to take my camera to the hospital today so I cannot prove to you how perfect my new granddaughter is.  So here is the cover of Icefall, as a poor substitute. 

Here is a little more about the book.  Solveig has been sent with her older sister, Princess Asa, and her younger brother, Crown Prince Harald, along with a handful of retainers and warriors to an isolated holding at the end of a fjord to wait out their father's most recent war.  Winter freezes them in.  A company of berserkers and their father's skald or court storyteller, soon joins them.  And then treachery strikes.  Who among them is the traitor?  Will they survive the winter?  Sprinkled with Norse mythology throughout, this is an exciting, well-written novel for middle school age and up.