Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In 1900....

Jacqueline Kelly very kindly wrote another book about Calpurnis Tate. In The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Callie Vee, as her six brothers and parents call her, is disappointed to find that life in the year 1900 goes on pretty much like always.  She goes on rambles with her scientist grandfather.  She makes meticulous notes in her notebook.  She is by turns bedeviled and beguiled by her brothers.  And she disappoints her mother and baffles her father almost weekly.

Almost every other chapter tells of her struggles with Travers, her wild animal loving younger brother, and his latest "find".  The armadillo is a bust.  The raccoon is fated for failure, but the coy-dog??  Really???

Then there is the hurricane of 1900 that wiped Galveston, TX, off the map.  The barometer and Callie's chance sighting of a strange bird sends Callie's grandfather to the telegraph office to send wires to the coast.  Callie has to give up her bed to a cousin she barely knows - a greedy, penny-pinching cousin who has no appreciation of nature.  That and the disappearance of Callie's gold piece add up to a recipe for high drama.

In between, Callie runs errands for the new veterinarian, learns how to type, gets even with a conniving brother and deals as well as she can with her parents' expectations for her future.

This feels like a bridge book.  I am eager to see if Callie prevails.

MEANWHILE, in San Francisco, Lizzie Kennedy hates her school, Miss Barstow's.  She'd much prefer going out on doctor's calls with her father.  She loves science but, just like Callie Vee, her obsession is considered unseemly for a young woman. 

In Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko, there are rumors that plague has broken out in Chinatown.  Lizzie's uncle, the owner of one of the biggest newspapers in town, refuses to believe the rumors without proof.  But Chinatown is quarantined and trapped inside is Lizzie's cook and friend, Jing.  Jing leaves behind a secret - a real LIVE secret.  And that secret teaches Lizzie to look at her world in a whole new way.

There are a lot of secrets in this book; secrets that endanger a whole city; secrets that hide the way people really feel; secrets about how to fit in.  Lizzie has to find Jing, learn how to be friends with people her own age, survive her first ball, and prove her worth as a nurse. 

It all happened in 1900!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Liars! 3 books

CrenshawThe books I have read in the past few days all revolve around lying - lying to survive, lying to hide hard facts from oneself, lying to avoid confrontation - lots of untruth telling going on.

In The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen,  Sage's survival depends on how well he can lie.   In an attempt to save the kingdom of Carthya, (or so they are told), Sage, Tobias and Roden are being groomed to impersonate the lost prince, Jaron.  Their training is a fight to the death.  The boys not chosen as Prince will meet an awful fate.  Trickery, dishonesty, secret passages, dungeons are followed by a jaw-dropping master stroke.  This is the first in a trilogy.

In Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate,  Jackson has been homeless before and he knows that his parents are struggling, again.  The return of his imaginary friend, Crenshaw, a six foot tall cat, does nothing to calm his fears.  The lying in this book is the "everything is all right" kind, harmless on the surface but nasty and dangerous, nonetheless.

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberley Willis Holt, is a novel in letters.  Tate P. Ellerbee decides that the rising star, Hank Williams, will be her penpal for her class penpal project.  She is more than faithful in writing to Mr. Williams, and in return she receives three signed photographs.  And the reader learns just how Tate spins tales to make herself feel better about her absent parents and other difficulties.  All is revealed in the end, in this clever and emotionally satisfying book.  Set between 1948 and 1949, this is also a well-researched look at rural America in the aftermath of WWII.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Orbiting Jupiter

I read Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt the other night.  I could NOT put it down.  The pages turned themselves.  Then I got to the end.  And threw the book across the room.

I can't tell you much about the book, really.  The advance press tells you all you need to know about the story. 

 There is this.  Married to a caseworker who spent most of his working life in Children and Youth,  I hate books with social workers in them, because most social workers are portrayed as uncaring.  The social worker in THIS book is freaking awesome.  Really, she's wonderful.  Thank you for that, Gary D. Schmidt.

Foster parents also get a bad rap.  These foster parents are so wonderful.  Thanks again, Mr. Schmidt.

Indeed, there is so much about this book that I loved.  I still threw it across the room.  Read it please and tell me if you agree I had the right to do that.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Boo!

Get a load of these wonderful book-themed costumes over at Seeker of Happiness:  SOOOO CUTE!!

Photo property of Karen Maurer Copyright 2012
Keep in mind that the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild is holding TWO Scary Stories for Halloween events.  Click here for details.

AND I am doing a Halloween Family Storytime at the Allentown Public Library on Wednesday at 6:30 pm (my regular Family Storytime time slot).  I am reading three of my absolute favorite scary-ish Halloween stories.  Room on the Broom,  The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything and  Ghosts in the House.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Gon. Backson

I was gone.  Now I am back.  And while I was gone I read OLD books; two by G. K. Chesterton and two by L. M. Montgomery - because I visited Prince Edward Island on my travels.

Chesterton's books were full of the politics of the Empire and, since they were pre-WWII, some of the reasoning seemed very Old Boy network.  Still, they were intriguing looks into a mindset that is probably better done away with.

Montgomery's books were full of light and cheerfulness - as is her wont.  The first, Pat of Sugar Bush, ended as if there would be more to the story.  And I hope there is, somewhere.  The other, A Tangled Web, was written for adults and read like a daytime soap opera.  Six or more couples, friends and lovers, struggle to find out what went wrong - or how to connect - or whatever.  The last line in the book is a glaringly racist remark and soured things for me.  But I recognize the time period and context and just wish people were more thoughtful.  I enjoyed the book except for that.

Obviously, I enjoyed L. M. Montgomery's books more than Chesterton's.  I don't even remember the names of Chesterton's books, oh wait, The Man Who Knew Too Much, was one title.  That book was upsetting because the hero of the short stories finds himself letting felons go unpunished for the good of the Empire - in every single instance.  Also, some anti-semitic rhetoric in one story made me cringe.

Oh well, I came home to Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt.  I will read it and let you know what I think.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Not-just-anybody

The Not-Just Anybody FamilyThe first time I read The Not-Just-Anybody Family, I knew I was reading genius. Betsy Byars uses exactly the right number of words to show her readers what is going on.   There was Junior on the barn roof; Maggie, his sister, was doing her toenails; Vern, his brother, was on the ground watching.  I have not picked up the book in twenty years but Maggie's lack of interest and Vern's almost ghoulish anticipation of a fall mixed with the hope that Junior really could fly are permanently imprinted in my brain.



Byars has won awards for several of her other books.  But for me, The Blossom Family will always be my favorite Betsy Cromer Byars titles.

So what is so great about Betsy Byars' books?  They are so accessible - which is a thing these days - accessibility.  They run the whole range from funny to heart-wrenching.  She writes for all ages but most impressively for that age group that can determine if a person becomes a life-long reader or not - middle grades.  Her characters are believable.  They get in trouble of all sorts.  They all learn something from their adventures - although not always what adults might want them to learn.

Herculeah Jones, Bingo Brown, Junior, Maggie and Vern Blossom, Cracker Jackson, Ant and his Brother, - these are just a few of the likable, quirky and totally normal kid characters that Byars created.

Pick up a Byars book next time you are in the library.  You won't be sorry.




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Unexceptional?

The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari is a welcome change.  No magical, undiscovered world-changing super-talented children here!  No half human, half immortal orphans!
Nope, this book revolves around two children so bland, so mediocre, so unremarkable as to be almost invisible to the world around them.

And that makes them PERFECT for the secret work that The League of Unexceptional Children does.

When the Vice-President is kidnapped in the middle of the night, Jonathan and Shelly are recruited to go undercover to find him before the VP can disclose the nation's most valuable nuclear codes.   Jonathan and Shelly don't actually need to go undercover.  They are so unremarkable that Jonathan's teacher thinks he's a new student almost every day.  No one even hears Shelly when she talks.

After a slow start involving an incompetent security guard and a short villain, the book turns into a spy thriller heavy on spycraft-ish talk and trappings and with more comic escapades than thrills.

To say much more will tell you almost all.  This is a quick fun read in which two ordinary kids fumble through saving the country.  They even compete with two superspy kids from Europe.

The best thing about this book - for me, anyway - is the way the characters of our heroes develop.  They may look and act boring to the world at large but, given a task that challenges them, they show some spunk, if not much talent.  Hmmmm, could there actually be a redeeming message in this silly book?  ....... Nope, probably not.

Key words:  Quick, Funny, Slapstick, Spies! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jellyfish in the Sun

It's happening again!  Books with similar themes end up on my list right next to each other.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is narrated by Suzy who can't believe that her oldest friend could just drown.  "These things happen" is NOT an acceptable explanation.  Suzy becomes convinced that a rare jellyfish is responsible for Franny's death. 

Suzy is a fact person who inundates the reader with math and facts about jellyfish and the people who study them.  But this book also chronicles the all too frequent trauma that occurs when one person outgrows another - as Franny outgrows Suzy by the end of 6th grade.  This relationship break makes Franny's death so much harder for Suzy to accept. 

Her search for someone who can understand the horror of jellyfish - as she sees it - leads Suzy to start out on a dangerous and possibly illegal journey.

Her parents, her older brother and an unexpected friend help Suzy to move into a life without Franny.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff    Ok.   In fifth grade, Trent killed someone during an ice hockey game.  Total accident.   Trent's parents and older and younger brother seem to think Trent should move on.  Trent's Dad, especially, has little patience for Trent's surly attitude.  Dad's new wife is expecting their first child any time now.  So, it was an accident. Get over it already.  (Not actual words from the book.)

Trent reacts to the guilt and the anxiety he feels by making sure he gets into trouble at school, and with his Dad.  He even refuses to enter into prank wars with his little brother.

Luckily, Fallon, a girl at school with a noticeable facial scar befriends Trent after she peeks into his Book of Thoughts and sees the pictures he draws there - pictures of what the boy he killed might be doing at that very moment.  Fallon wants Trent to draw a picture for her.

How Trent manages to make things worse and then how he manages to make them better - with the help of sympathetic outsiders - makes an engrossing and emotional read.

These books have totally different styles, despite their similarities - see below.  Jellyfish is awash with facts and musings on facts - the type of book that will lend itself to STEM curricula.  But there is an immediacy to Suzy's pain, even as she carefully plans her science report and her journey,  and her need to find explanations for her friend's death.

Sun, on the other hand, concentrates on Trent's emotional struggles.  Trent speaks in a matter-of-fact voice, referring to the accident almost casually.  And all the time he is seething and unable to see that he is till a worthwhile human being.  

Here is a list of other similarities:
New friends:  Both of the new frends have problems of their own that they seem to have overcome. 
Older brothers: Aaron - yeah, both of them.
Nice teachers:  Suzy likes her science teacher right away.  Trent hates everyone but his homeroom teacher really is pretty old.

Read 'em both, except you might want to read other books in between.  OK?


Friday, September 4, 2015

Undertow By Michael Buckley

Undertow by Michael Buckley.

For three years, Lyric Walker has behaved like a model citizen - in school, at home, everywhere.  The wild thing she used to be cannot come out.  Her home town of Coney Island has become a refugee camp for a strange race of sentient sea creatures.  The hatred and mistrust between humans and these aliens - the Alpha - grows to a fever pitch when the president demands that Alpha children enter New York's public schools.

Lyric's school is first.

But Lyric and her parents have a secret that may kill them.  When Lyric is forced to befriend the Alpha prince, Fathom, things become confusing all too quickly.  He is untamed - as are all the Alpha - with a sense of honor that demands quick and violent retribution for the smallest of slights.  Lyric only agrees to help Fathom adjust to humans when escape from the area is offered to her for parents as well as herself.

The government, itself, is split between the locals who hate and want to exterminate these interlopers and the federal government that views them as possible allies.

A subplot about Lyric's best friend's abusive step-father, and that best friend's boy friend add pathos to an otherwise action adventure sci-fi novel.

Things start out uncomfortably in this book and quickly become ugly and then uglier.  Hate and what it motivates people to do is never a pretty sight.

Things I liked best about this book:
1.  Cool battle scenes.
2.  Lyric and Bex, her best friend.
3.  Lyric's migraines turn into something significant.
4.  The trial scene - wow, that was so awesome!
5.  Governmental wrangling.  Don't totally trust them!!  Conspiracy theorists, unite!

Possible Spoiler Alert!!
I expected an underlying theme to be the warming of the oceans.  I thought that was the reason these people were forced onto land.  That may crop up in subsequent titles in this series - because Fathom, Lyric, Bex and all the others will return.  But the reason the Alpha left the sea is pretty freaky and scary.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Silver in the blood, in the hand and everywhere

Media of Silver in the BloodDacia, and her cousin LouLou, are traveling to Romania to meet their mothers' family for the first time.  While Lou visits Paris and shops the fashion houses there, Dacia travels by ship with her Aunt Kate.  Dacia, ever the rebel, is in disgrace since she had an escapade with a certain nobleman in England.

Dacia catches sight of her prim aunt passionately kissing a stranger when the train they have boarded is stopped by snow in the mountains.

Meanwhile, Lou is stalked by That Awful Man, a stranger who accosts her on the ship asking if she is The Wing or the Claw.  Another time, he announces that she is the Smoke and an houri, which upsets her terribly.

In Romania, Dacia meets Prince Mihai, charming to the nth degree.  Then she meets her maternal grandmother, the dread Lady Ioana.  "Dread" does not come close to describing this woman.

Dacia and Lou are trapped by their genetic make-up in a destiny that neither wants nor can control.

But things are worse.  Their family believes that these two girls are the answer to a prophecy.  And the family is at odds about what the prophecy means.

And the English Lord, That Awful Man and Prince Mihai are, none of them, what they seem to be.

Ahh, a proper paranormal romance, set in the home of paranormal activity, the mountains of Eastern Europe!   Terror, entrapment, kidnapping, poison, armed guards, swoon worthy men, Victorian fashions and manners... It's all in here.   Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher

Here's the link.
 The Improbable Theory of Ana & Zak by Brian Katcher

The first chapter is Zak's.  We meet his stepfather, Roger, and we find out that Zak is NOT into sports.  He's not into school so much.  He's into games, and comics, and stuff like that.  And he misses his Dad.

Then, in the next chapter we meet Ana.  Here's what we learn about Ana.  She does a lot of stuff and she does it all well and she does it ALL because it will look good on her college applications.  And she doesn't have time for fun.  Her sister was the fun one.  "I don't have a sister anymore."

If these two characters were a Venn diagram, their edges would barely touch.  That touch would be the fact that they go to the same school.  That is ALL they have in common. Oh, and they are both smart.

So, Zak lifts his health essay straight from Wikipedia.  And his flustered-seeming health teacher catches it.  And his punishment is to serve as the alternate at the Quiz Team - of which Ana is captain - tournament.  This is a HUGE punishment because the tournament is on the very same weekend as the Annual Washingcon - the comic con event that Zak has not missed in 5 years.

Then Ana's younger brother - also on the Quiz team - goes AWOL from the hotel.  And Ana - whose parents are kind of scary - has to find him.  And Zak helps because he knows that Younger Brother, Clayton, has run off to Washingcon.  So, Zak gets to go after all.  And there are a lot of people in costumes and some mayhem, and a wedding and a battle and an altercation with an underworld figure of the criminal persuasion - not of the supernatural sort.  And Clayton is Super at eluding capture.  And Zak is a Washingcon celebrity of sorts and Ana learns a LOT.  And, oh wookies! Are they in a bunch of trouble!

Also, some parental drama occurs in which things get dealt with.  'Nuff said.

The parent in me wants to add:  Do NOT try this at home.  But if you do and you find a lost valuable item, leave it where it is, ok?  Just report it to the front desk and go your merry way.

Cons look like fun.  For younger people.  I'll just don my Chrestomanci bathrobe and pour another mug of coffee, right here, at home.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I am Princess X




No, seriously, I am.  Except I wear purple sneakers, not read ones.  So maybe I am Princess Y?  Or Princess...

Libby and Mai met in 5th grade, sidelined from gym.  Strangers at first - then Mai grabbed a chunk of chalk.  And Libby started drawing.   And Mai started telling stories.  Three years - and boxes and notebooks of Princess X comics later - Libby's mother drove her car, with Libby in it, off a bridge over the Puget Sound.

Now, Mai is sixteen and back in Seattle visiting her Dad.  The first Princess X sticker takes her by surprise.  And then, she sees another.  But, here's the thing.  All the notebooks, the boxes of comics?  They were all thrown away after Libby's body floated to shore.  So, who is drawing these comics?

Mai has never been sure that that body was Libby.  As she reads the webcomics about Princess X, Mai is thrilled to think that her best and truest friend might still be alive.  But, why has she kept her survival a secret - especially from Mai?

Princess Y - that's who I am.  I ask the questions.  Why?  Why is the computer nerd, Patrick, not going to UW in the Fall?  Why didn't Libby's father find Libby?  Why is that skinny pale skater watching Mai?  Lots of whys, here.

The graphics inserted among the text give the reader and Mai clues to what might have happened. This book is a bit creepy, suspenseful, and off the wall.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

No Parking at the End Times


http://645e533e2058e72657e9-f9758a43fb7c33cc8adda0fd36101899.r45.cf2.rackcdn.com/harpercollins_us_frontbookcovers_648H/9780062275417.jpgAbby and Aaron are living in a van in San Francisco.  The Rapture that their parents dragged them across the country to join was a bust.  Although they are twins, their reactions to this "disappointment" diverge.  Abby wants to keep the family together.  Aaron wants to go home.


Abby and Aaron aren't the only homeless teens in the Bay area.  And Brother John, the charismatic preacher that the twins' dad follows slavishly, is not the only cruel parasite in San Francisco.

Bryan Bliss tells a story of dashed hopes as Abby must deal with her growing awareness that her parents can't take care of themselves, let alone the family, anymore.  Aaron's desire to make money to fund his trip home leads him to disastrous choices. 

I don't enjoy making decisions but I don't understand the desire to abdicate all control over one's life.  Maybe temporarily, I'd like someone else to "take over" for awhile.  To follow blindly seems to have always been a lifestyle choice.  This book poses a question that I struggle with.  Why would Faith in anything ask people to seek the end of life on earth?

That's about as deep as I can go today.  No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss was a thought provoking read.  Don't do it!!! was a constant mental refrain as I turned the pages.  Don't do it, Dad!  Don't do it, Aaron!!  Abby, don't do it!  And Mom, how could you??

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finding Serendipity


Finding Serendipity (Tuesday McGillycuddy #1)Tuesday McGillycuddy hopes that her mother has finally finished the very last Vivienne Small book.  But when Tuesday gets home, her mother is gone.  The attic window is open and a small box with silver words "The End" sits on the table next to her mother's typewriter.


Denis, Tuesday's father, doesn't seem concerned.  But Tuesday is afraid her mother is lost somewhere out there in the night air.  She sits at the typewriter and types out the beginning of a story about a girl who lost her mother.  The next thing she knows, Tuesday is in a magical library which leads to the land of Vivienne Small, the Peppermint Forest and the evil pirate Mothwood.  Tuesday is sure she will find her mother here.

Davis' setting reminds me of Never Never Land.  There is a sweet quality to the forest, the treehouse and even to Vivienne and Tuesday - to say nothing of shaggy dog, Baxterr.  Do NOT be fooled.  The adventure is not saccharine at all.  As soon as we meet Vivienne, she is shooting arrows and throwing knives and felling pirates left and right.  The sweetness helps as the action switches back and forth from Vivienne's land of imagination and Tuesday's home where her mother - now returned - must find a way to bring Tuesday back.

The book pays homage to the imagination required to create a new world and a story from start to finish.  Other authors gather in the magical library to find food for thought and inspiration.  The librarian forces Tuesday to finish what she has begun.

Although this is an action-packed fantasy-light with a super hero and a noxious villain, anyone who has written or tried to write a story will love Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks.  And Baxterr - who is an awesome dog of hidden talents.

Friday, August 14, 2015

PA Youth Storytelling Showcase

If you are a young storyteller, between the ages of 7 and 17,  you can register to tell at the Pennsylvania Youth Storytelling Showcase.  Well, you CAN, if you live in Pennsylvania.  If you are a not so young storyteller and you know of a younger tller who might qualify, let them know about this!

Here's what you do;
1. Pick a story you really like.  Fairy tales or folk tales or original stories are best.
2. Learn how to tell it - WELL, without the book or any paper.
3.  Make sure that your performance of the story is between 5 and 7 minutes long.
4.  Get your parent's permission to perform in the PaYSS.
5.  WITH YOUR PARENT'S HELP AND PERMISSION, fill out the registration form.

BIG HINT:  If you want to tell a published story, for instance, Wimpy Kid or Diary of a Worm, you absolutely MUST get written permission from the publisher and/or author.  Most publishers have a link on their websites for this kind of thing.
If you want to tell the story of the day your next door neighbor burned down the shed, you absolutely MUST get your neighbor's written permission to share the story.  You must get written permission to tell any true story about another person from that person or, if that is not possible, from a family member of that person.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends


The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelly.

Best friends, Val and Lanora, meet in Central Park to plan their entrance into M.S. 10.  Lanora has plans that don't include Val.   Lanora decides to use middle school as a chance to re-invent herself.  (My hopes were on the high side.)  She intends to fill Val in on what is going on, eventually.  There is a road paved with good intentions.


Val, in the meantime, has plenty to do while she misses Lanora.  She follows the park's feral cat to a dusty antiques store, owned by an old coot and staffed by an odd young boy.  She plays soccer - constantly and well.  She joins a group of word obsessed self proclaimed outsiders.

When Lanora's plan leads her off the straight and narrow, Val tries to find a way to save her old friend.  With the Book of Dares for Lost Friends, that strange boy, a pair of feathered wings and a midnight excursion, Val tries to bring the old Lanora back.

A great cast of characters, a hint of magic, superstition and the setting of a vibrant city add up to a suspenseful middle grade read.  Readers will moan in disappointment and lean forward in hope as these kids muddle through adjusting to a new school and family drama.  Questions remain about some of the characters.  So maybe??

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wild Ideas - thanks Brain Pickings

Whoa!  Look at these illustrations.  The book is about solving problems but the dioramas are want-inducing.  Oh, if I could give a space to one of these pieces of art!  Hmmm, but then, I'd have to dust it and worry about it and keep it out of the bright sunlight and make sure it has enough light and...  No, this book will do.

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking
See what I mean???

http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/13/wild-ideas-kelsey-kim/

Monday, August 10, 2015

A School for Brides

 Patrice Kindl's A School for Brides was the inspiration for my 5 Things That Make Me Happy post.

 Eight young women have been sent by their families to a school in Yorkshire, far from anywhere, to prepare for their eventual role as wives and mothers of gentility.  The oldest is 19, almost an old maid.  The youngest is 12.  And they despair of ever meeting dashing, well-bred, financially secure young men of the appropriate social class.

Then a young man falls off his horse and must be rescued by these young ladies.  (The old-young- gentleman-falls-off-horse-trick is well played here.) Luckily, he is well-mannered, titled and has lots of eligible friends.

Meanwhile, one of the girls is receiving ardent notes from an unknown admirer.  The Baron's daughter is threatened by the return of her feared and truly despicable governess.  And a necklace disappears!!

 That's a lot of action conveyed to the reader in a most genteel and Austen-esque manner. 

I had hoped that Robert, the extremely decorative footman, would be revealed to be the lost son of someone quite high in society.  He is a foundling, after all.  He seems happy where he is so perhaps we should just let him be.

Read the book. 'Nuff said.



Saturday, August 8, 2015

5 things that make me happy

1.  Having a good book in the offing.
2.  Reading that good book.
3.  Knowing I have a pile of other good books waiting when this one is done.
4.  Libraries - because all those good books won't last forever.
5.  Bookstores.  Sometimes a book is so good I want to OWN it.

Because it's all about the books, about the books.  Start reading.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ponds

My brother built a pond on his property because he LOVES stone walls and running water - (but  especially stone walls).  So when I saw this evocative trailer I thought of him.  Here's to you, second youngest brother - and to your water feature. 



It is so much fun to imagine that any pond can go deeper under the earth.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

New from Stephen Biesty!

Who loves Stephen Biesty's wonderful cross section books?  I do, for sure.  Look what goes on sale this month.  Check your bookstore and library for his other illuminating books,  Visit his website for a slideshow of his illustrations.
Emergency Vehicles

Sunday, July 26, 2015

You Can Be a Hero

This year's Summer Reading Club theme is "Every Hero Has a Story".  And most libraries are using Superheroes to bring in kids.  It's such a kid friendly theme!

Not all heroes are super heroes.  Every one of us can be a hero - at least, sometime.  Doing the small things like smiling at someone who smiles at you - even when you feel grumpy - can feel heroic sometimes.

On Wednesday, I will tell stories about Every Day Heroes at a local library.  The audiences there are usually fairly young, so telling historic stories of heroes of the past may not work.  I want the children to see that simple things - telling the truth, picking up trash, being kind - can make the world a better place.

I decided to search for "simple ways to change the world" online and I got a lot of things like:
1. Be present.
2. Be grateful.
3. Be kind to yourself.

Hmmm, explaining gratitude to a 4-year-old is hard.  And these kids are as present as anyone can be.

But one simple action, Plant something, caught my attention.

So here are my 5 Simple Ways to Change the World:
1.  Keep your own space clean and neat.  (I don't follow this advice very well myself.)
    The world space belongs to us all so this includes your house and your neighborhood.
2.  Speak the truth.  Hmmm, this is never as easy as it seems.  People use their words so cleverly.  Use YOUR words for good.
3.  Smile.  Yep.  That.
4.  Plant something.  Grow something.  In a can on the windowsill - caring for a living thing is good   
for you and the plant will clean the air around it.
5.  Keep the peace.  It is so tempting to be hurtful when we feel down or when someone is hurtful to us.  If we can't find a way to bring peace to our attacker, we should just walk away from them.  I am talking about every day attacks, not life threatening events.

There you go.  Johnny Appleseed, Wangari Maathai, Elzeard Bouffier are all heroes who planted trees.   I think at least one of them should make it into my program.  I'll let you know how it goes.




Friday, July 24, 2015

TOON at last

 Picture

Windmill Dragons :A Leah and Alan Adventure by David Nytra is a celebration of the imagination in detailed black and white.  Leah tells Alan a story that starts with windmills that turn into dragons.  Suddenly, Leah and Alan are fighting these monsters.   A giant chicken, St. George, a trick with a bit of string and a man-eating boat lead Alan and Leah on a wild adventure.  Just wait until you see what caused all the ruckus.
    Nytra adds an illustrated bibliography of sorts to help his readers understand some of the literary references in this wild and crazy comic book.

The Suspended Castle : a Philemon Adventure  by FRED.  OK. Philemon and his adventures make me itchy.  But if you enjoy the surreal, you will love Philemon.  Back in the 1960s, Philemon fell down a well and into a land that was shaped like an "A".  With the help of Mr. Bartholomew, Philemon got back to France.
     Now, Mr. Bartholomew is so bored, he wants to return to his life on a letter in the middle of the ocean (on a globe - you know one those spinning things?  I told you - surreal! Or maybe it was on a map.)  Thank goodness, Phil's Uncle Felix knows what to do.  You see, he just gets Phil to inflate this seashell....
     Well, Bartholomew and Phil both end up on the dot on the letter "i" and from there it just gets wilder and crazier - with owls that turn into lighthouses and whales with oars and mutinies and buccaneers who sail the skies in wooden pelican bills - or something - and of course, the suspended castle from the title.
   The artwork is colorful and suitably cartoonish.  The last two pages gives a bio of Fred (Frederic Othon Aristides) and background on his inspirations for this story. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Just the titles, ma'am.

I will just list the titles of books I've read this week.

Flunked by Jen Calonita.  Fairy Tale Reform School?

Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood, a Miss Phryne Fisher mystery - for adults.  I love the PBS series and the books are, well, almost as good - and occasionally better.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones.  With a title like that, how could I resist?

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall.  Well, finally, here's a family that I can love as much as Hilary McKay's Casson family and without as much worry.  The Penderwick parents are a bit less scattered than the Casson parents. 

More on these and on the last two TOON books in my stack.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Busy like a beaver!

I have been telling stories and having so much fun in the last two weeks that I have not had time to post here. I promised you TOON reviews and with the Eisner Awards recently announced, I must comply.
  
TOON will NOT be left behind. They have produced  Little Nemo's Big New Dreams, edited by Josh O'Neil, Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens.   Poor Little Nemo! He's been having incredibly active dreams since 1905 when his comic strip was first designed by Windsor McCay.

Little Nemo's Big New Dreams: A TOON GraphicEach double page spread of Big New Dreams offers a Little Nemo Slumberland adventure as envisioned by a different graphic artist.  Most are paneled but some are simply large illustrations that still manage to tell a story.  Little Nemo is clearly identified in each story but the artists' styles vary widely.

I can imagine so many different ways to use this colorful book - besides just reading the stories. 

Well, I have another telling event this evening and need to prepare so stay TOON for my next TOON review and a possible GIVEAWAY!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Life is a roller coaster! Personal post

NOTE: This post is political and personal.  It is not about books, or storytelling, or crafts.   It IS about change and my thoughts on all the change that is going on right now in the Untied States.

A week and a half ago, a young man sat with a Bible study group for an hour and then killed nine of the members.  He chose this group on purpose.  He had a plan.  Suddenly, the hatred, obstinacy, and irrational craziness that many Americans subscribed to since an African American became president was exposed for what it was.  Racism.  Bigotry.  Cruelty.  Evil.  Fear.

Since then:
1. The Confederate flag has been demonized - rightly so.  It should never have been flown on public land after the Civil War. (Private rights are another thing.)  It's just a piece of cloth, but it's significance in the war against equality is now clear.

2.  The Supreme Court has outlawed housing discrimination - again - upholding broad discrimination claims.

3.  The Supreme Court made marriage among all people - same sex, two sexes - a law in 50 states.  This means people everywhere in the United States have the right to not be lonely anymore regardless of whom they love.

4. The Affordable Health Care Act survived and was approved, I guess, by the Supreme Court.  Health Care for everyone!

5. Our president delivered the speech of his lifetime when he delivered the eulogy for Clementa Pinckney - a speech that showed his intelligence, his confidence, his empathy, and his faith.

People were shocked into their senses again.  Politicians had to admit that their party loyalty just might be counterproductive, if not downright anti-American.

The battle to be a better country is not over.  Hate crimes are still being committed. Guns are too readily available.  The Equal Rights Act needs to come to fruition.  But, my dwindling hope has rebounded.  There are good people here - on both sides of the aisle.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Toon! Toon! TOON!

Bless you, TOON Books, for the lovely box of new graphic novels!  You publish some of the best highly illustrated kids' lit out there.

Written and Drawn by Henrietta, a TOON Book by LINIERS, is my favorite of this bunch.  "A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow", Henrietta tells her cat, Fellini.  Henrietta sits down to write and draw the amazing story of "The Monster with Three Heads and Two Hats."  We see Henrietta's drawings and we see her reactions to her own imagination and the whole thing is fun and funny and delightful. 

Flop to the Top!, a TOON book by Eleanor Davis & Drew Weing.  Wanda is a Superstar and she knows it.  When she goes online and posts a picture with her floppy dog, Wilbur, the Internet goes crazy.  Wilbur is a HUGE hit.  Wanda is not happy for his fame.  Young readers will get a kick out of attention hog Wanda's disappointment and of Wilbur's response to fame and fortune.  The ending is super cool, too.

Check back soon for reviews of my other TOON swag.


Friday, June 19, 2015

GoFundMe

This graphic is the property of the Lehigh Valley Storytelling guild and was designed by Kutztown University students.
The Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild does a lot with kids.  We have a Children's Series of performances.  This past year one of our members planned a Teen Story Jam.  And we host the Pennsylvania Youth Storytelling Showcase.  What we don't have yet is a group of young members.

So, some other storytellers and I are starting the Young Tellers Guild of the Lehigh Valley.  It's not as easy as it sounds.  We need meeting places.  And resources.  And time and travel.  And coaching supplies.  And most of all, we need kids.

I have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to provide resources, to find meeting spaces, to encourage libraries and schools to hosts meetings and to pay travel expenses for storytellers who work with these groups.

Please support these efforts to share the oldest form of entertainment, education and enrichment with the newest tellers.

www.gofundme.com/ytglv

Thanks.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Glass bird


The Girl with the Glass Bird: A Knight's Haddon Boarding School MysteryIn The Girl with the Glass Bird, we meet Edie Wilson just as her awful cousins have caught the pet goldfish Edie brought with her to Folly Farm.  What they do to the goldfish and to Edie is gross and cruel.  But like many stereotypical upper class British parents, Edie's aunt writes it all off as "Boys will be boys".


Meanwhile, Edie's older cousin, Charles has been handed an assignment by one of his biggest clients and oldest friends.  Charles has to plant a girl in the client's daughter's boarding school to find out if the client's daughter IS being tormented as she claims she is.  Well, well, well, how convenient!  When he decides to drop in on Folly Farm, who should he find but an 11-year-old  girl whose aunt could care less what happens to her - as long as Edie is "safe", that is.

And Edie enters the world of Knight's Haddon.  No cell phones, no TV, very little computer usage -  the school is exactly as it was when Edie's mother went there.  From the start, Edie knows that Anastasia, her charge, is being manipulated.  But are the students behind the pranks or are the adults to blame?

Princesses and bullies, spies and secrets, The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme Kerr mixes all these things together to produce a page turner.  Is Anastasia crazy or is someone just trying to make her seem that way?  Who can Edie trust when her grandmother warns her away from everyone?  Little events build to a grand crisis.  And Edie may not be able to move fast enough. 


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I am Incorrigible!


The Unmapped Sea (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #5) 

Dear Maryrose Wood,
    I finished The Unmapped Sea, early Monday morning and I have just one or two little questions for you.

1.  WHAT!!!!????

2.  Are you kidding me?  Please, say you are kidding me!

Oh and this one.

3.  How could you do this to your loyal readers?

Sorry.  I do have another question.  It's actually the most important question.

4.  When is the next book coming out?  I hope it will arrive next week, because I can handle this sense of fraughtitude for maybe a week.  But not much longer than that.  Then I explode and start telling people what happened.  Or not.

The Incorrigible children and Miss Lumley accompany Sir Frederick and Lady Constance and the Ashton household to the beach at Brighton - in January.  The doctor ordered it.  But this works to Miss Lumley's advantage because the only person who has any clue as to the nature of the Ashton family curse lives in Brighton.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Time is running out.  Lady Constance will bring forth generation #5 of cursed Ashton's in May.  The curse must be dispelled before the baby arrives or..... (falls into a Lady Constance-ish swoon!!!)

Alexander, Beowulf and Casseiopeia meet the Babushnikov children.  Isn't that sweet?  (Simper and smile.)  They go skating and share dinners together and visit a most unusual Museum and it's like a walk in the sunshine... A very cold, argument-wracked walk in the winter blustery sunshine - with clouds.

And that is really all I can tell you.  Don't ask.  If you need to know more you can read the book yourself.  I am returning my copy to the Bethlehem Area Public Library this weekend.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mollie Whuppie, Unexpected Hero!

When I was a youngster, I remember reading Mollie Whuppie in one of the many fairytale collections at the public library.  I am a fairytale kind of person.  Mollie Whuppie is a little short on sparkles and ball gowns and a little long on violence and greed.

I don't know why I like the story so much.  It may be the archaic dialog between Mollie and the giant she torments.  It might be that Mollie is an unexpected hero - the runt of the family, and a girl to boot.
When I figure it out, I'll let you know.  I have to admit, I did not tell the original ending.  That ending is a bit too gruesome for my tastes.

Today, I decided to share Mollie Whuppie with the sixth graders at Nazareth Intermediate School.  My version has some (ahem) blood in it and there's lots of action.  I guessed, correctly, that the guys would like it.  What I didn't expect was all the questions the kids had during and after the story.  One question that cropped up in three of the four classes was this.  "How did the King know what the Giant had and where he kept it?"

Yeah!  How did he know that?  And why did he keep sending this tiny girl out to steal from the Giant?  And why did the parents abandon the three youngest children and not the three oldest children - who might have a better chance of surviving?

And why did Mollie carry the treasures back to the King?  Why not keep them for herself?

And why didn't those old time storytellers ask these questions themselves and answer them in the story? (My question.)

Perhaps Kings were such powerful people that listeners at the time thought Kings knew what everyone had and where they kept it.  I bet that they felt that way at tax time.

And powerless people always like stories about small powerless people who prevail.

Now, about keeping the loot for herself, Mollie had to protect her sisters who might suffer at the hands of the King if Mollie "cheated" him.

As to abandoning the youngest rather than the oldest, I invite you to offer reasons for that.

In the meantime, these questions make great writing prompts and I imagine a comic book series about The Adventures of Mollie Whuppie.  Although there are picture books out there starring Ms. Whuppie, she could be a superhero.

Mollie Whuppie, Unexpected Hero!!!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Text haiku

Tough times when a person's favorite people move away. Sending texts to simply say "We miss you," gets old...to say nothing of annoying. So today, I took another tactic.

"This screen is empty/ no when, no where, no questions/ an expanse of gone."

The reply came line by line. "Memorial day.". " going to the pool soon". "Hope all is well, Mom.". " That's a haiku."

And so it continued.  At one point I got this message. "I could do this all day.".

So could I.

Some more haiku texts: " I don't want to walk.". "But D-c- wants to walk there." " So walking it is."

"Not really walking." "Your dad is carrying you." "And he is tired."

My text haiku deteriorated after my first attempt.

I am finished now. My screen is dressed in letters. My heart is at rest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stick and Stone

I love Picture Book trailers.  Here's a cute one for you.


I Read YA!!

I read YA week is HERE!!



Check out all the great book recommendations, prizes, photos and stuff on Scholastic's This Is Teen page.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Winnah!

Becky Ginther!  You have won the copy of Fog Diver!!  Send me your snail mail address please at bookkm@gmail.com.

Thanks.!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

FLAVIA!!! and Giveaway deadline







Tomorrow is the last day for the Fog Diver giveaway.  Comment here or on the original post and your name goes in the Oracular Yogurt Cup from which a winner will emerge.   It's a fun Sci-Fi novel for middle grades with a steampunk edge.  I will announce the winner here by noon Eastern time tomorrow and it's up to you to email me at bookkm@gmail.com with your snail mail address.

And what have I been doing this past week?  Visiting with relatives and reading the latest adventures of pre-teen sleuth and chemist, Flavia De Luce.  When last seen, Flavia found out that she was to be sent off to boarding school in Toronto, CA of all places - far, far from the field of the ancestral De Luce home in merry old England.  Since then, she has starred in a short story - The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse - in which Flavia is called to the local boarding school to figure out what happened to the teacher found dead in a dorm bathtub and plated with copper.  

After that, she is banished to Toronto.  The very first night there, she is assaulted by a classmate and a dessicated corpse rolls out of the dorm room chimney. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust is Flavia's most recent foray into detection.  Far from home, dealing with unfamiliar routines and unwritten rules, given contradictory directions at every turn, it is no wonder that Flavia is often close to tears.  WHAT!!!!???  Not redoubtable Flavia De Luce!  Scourge of older sisters!  Dissembler extraordinaire!  Yes, Flavia ends up sobbing in this novel and, personally, I would have been wailing before the 3rd page, if I was she.  (If there are tears can hormones be far behind?  Perish the thought!)


Luckily, for readers everywhere, I am NOT Flavia.  Flavia fans may have trouble following this book because no one is entirely trustworthy at Bodycote Academy - especially the staff.  There is a lot of cloak and dagger-y spyish stuff.  Flavia gets a little bit closer to what her mother might have been involved in before her disappearance and death.  Don't expect anything but hints and rumors though.

The mystery at Bodycote involves disappearing students, suspicious Board members, a chemistry teacher suspected of murdering her husband - with poison to Flavia's delight.  That Academy is a hot mess, all the way around. 

The ending made me happy and that is all I will say here. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

  Twig is an only child as far as the townspeople know.  They don't realize that her older brother James lives in the attic, out at Fowler Farm.  Twig's mother returned to the family farm late at night when Twig was small.  The rules were set right then and there.  The Fowlers kept to themselves; made no friends; excepted no visitors.  200 years before, Agnes Early, who lived in abandoned Mourning Dove Cottage, put a curse on all the men in the Fowler family.

The town of Sidwell accepts their own, no matter how strange they behave.  Besides, with a series of small thefts, reports of strange things flying at night and weird graffiti, the townsfolk can't worry about the Fowler women.

Then, one day, Mourning Dove Cottage is no longer abandoned.  Twig finds a friend.  James finds a reason to come out of hiding.  And the Fowler family finds themselves in the spotlight.

The story is compelling.  The characters well-drawn and sympathetic.  The dilemma faced by all the young people in this book is troublesome.  How do they protect James from people who might misunderstand his differences?  How can they break the curse?

I never felt that the book was written for young people.  There was a measured pace - not that things didn't happen quickly enough.  They did.  But the pace seemed better suited to more seasoned readers.  As things became complicated, though, I felt the author explained feelings too much.  I wasn't sure she trusted her audience.  These two things made a stellar book a little less starry.

The story is the kind we fall asleep dreaming of - possibilities, hopes and moonlight.  Enjoy.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fog Diver Giveaway

This has been the Week of ARCs.  I received TWO copies of Fog Diver by Joel Ross and I'd love to gift one to somebody.

Chess is a tether diver.  He dives from an airborne salvage raft into the Fog that covers the earth. The Fog eventually poisons humans exposed to it, forcing people to live on the sides and tops of mountains.  The remains of human civilization lie beneath the Fog, just waiting to be retrieved by tether divers like Chess.  But Chess is different.  One of his eyes has Fog swirling inside it.  He hides this disfigurement the best he can with the help of the salvage raft's crew - Hazel, bossy, clever and brave; Swedish, the best pilot a raft could have but a wee bit paranoid; and Bea, the sweetest little gearhead around.  Chess's eye makes him the prey of the evil Lord Kodoc of the Roof-toppers and puts his crew mates and their foster mother, Mrs. E, in danger of capture, slavery or worse.

Set far in the future - the origin of the Fog is technical and strained this reader's credulity - the crew's conversation is peppered with pop culture references from the 20th and 21st centuries.  Ross mixes facts and fiction in these references in a humorous diversion from the fast paced action of the plot.

The crew flies, crashes and tumbles from one dangerous situation to another for the ENTIRE book.  And there are enough questions left at the end of the book to make a sequel, maybe more than, one a probability.  I say, a sequel is a necessity.

Ross designs a clever future world, laid waste by technology run amok.  Chess and his crew are a likeable close-knit family and Ross gives each character specific talents and personalities. 

Young readers won't care how the Fog began.  They WILL LOVE all the action and last-second escapes in this book.

If you'd like a copy of Fog Diver, which, alas, does not have any art or cover design on it, please comment below.   The book is due out on May 26th.  I will do my best to get it to you before then.

This giveaway offer ends on May 18th.  Remember, I choose the winner by putting your comments in the Oracular Yogurt Container and picking one.  So comment away!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Listen!




   I rarely - if ever - email authors.  Today, I emailed Thanha Lai with a suggestion for a spin-off from her book  Listen, Slowly.  Before we go any further, I must apologize for not using diacritical marks in this review.  Diacritical marks are VERY important in Viet Namese, as Lai's book shows.

First, the review.  All the reviews tell you that 12-year-old Mai is a California girl through and through.  When she is chosen to go with her grandmother, or Ba (there should be an accent on that "a", slanting down from left to right, I think.) to Viet Nam to learn what happened to Mai's grandfather in THE WAR, Mai is furious.  She has a life, right there in Laguna, with a BFF and possible boyfriend.  Middle school rants ensue.

But Ba, quiet, peaceful, fragile Ba, how can Mai say no to Ba?  She can't.  The two of them travel to the village where Ong and Ba grew up; where Ong and Ba were betrothed, he only 7, she just 5; where they married and started a family; where Mai finds strangers who think of her as family.  It is all so odd.

The description of village life in North Viet Nam is delightfully confusing, full of details of what people eat, how they socialize, their dress, their formal and consistent good manners, even their fulsome speech.  The village seems to operate with one mind. Everyone is very careful of each other and of the things they use.  And they are curious about the larger world and about strangers and customs. 

This description led to my suggestion.  Lai describes a facial treatment that one of the Aunts forces Mai through and how it restores Mai's skin to beauty.  Then there is the lice treatment; and a potion to thwart intestinal microbes that Mai accidentally swallows.   Although Lai describes what Mai sees as these concoctions are made, wouldn't it be awesome if there was a book about these remedies?  I'd buy it.

Back to the book.  Ba's search takes so much longer than Mai hoped.  Her infrequent forays on the Internet make Mai more homesick than ever. (Is BFF Montana really making a move on the boy that Mai likes????)  One of Mai's big lessons is to learn not to worry about things she can't change.

I want to tell someone the whole plot - the trip to Ha Noi, with her new friend, Ut.; the HUGE frog that Ut totes with her; Anh Minh, the serious, hard-working, teen translator - and the two girls who compete for Anh Minh's attention.  The wordy detective, the reluctant guard, and Ba, strong Ba, who can not be at peace until she knows.  And then... and then...the ending, heart-breaking, calming and true.

Yep.  This book goes on my Best of the Best list for 2015.  Cheers for Mai, who grows so much in this book.  Cheers for Ba, who never wavers in her search for acceptance.  Cheers for the guard and the detective, who did their very best.  Cheers for Mom and Dad.  Cheers for Anh Minh and Ut and the whole village.  And cheers for Thanha Lai for such a wonderful book.









Monday, April 27, 2015

Pulling a scam & learning to be Popular

Jackson Greene has spent four looooong months behaving like a model citizen since he was caught lip-locking Kelsey in front of the Principal's door. (He was trying to pick the lock.  The kiss was a cover-up.) BUT when he hears that Keith Sinclair is running for Student Council President against his ex-bet friend, Gaby de la Cruz, he assembles a team and gets to work.

Varian Johnson has written a guidebook to pulling scams in his book The Great Greene Heist.  Jackson's team of middle school nerds, techies, cheerleaders and chess champs manages to uncover a plot to fix the election so that Keith will win.  There are references to Jackson's older brother, Samuel, and a criminally inclined grandfather that makes ME hope for more about the Greene family of rapscallions.



Maya Van Wagenen was an 8th grade Social Outcast at her middle school.  Even the sixth graders insulted her.  When she found a copy of Betty Cornell's Teenager Popularity Guide circa 1951, her mom suggested that Maya follow the guide as an experiment and journal about it.  The result is Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, a clever, funny and moving adventure into the social jungle that is Middle School.  Maya followed advice that is timeless AND dated in her attempt to be popular.  And what Maya learned is a lesson we can all use.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Knitting, Pinkerton's, Finishing School, & a Princess

I finished three books since this weekend.  No, make that four. The Detective's Assistant




 And here they are:

The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan.   Just plain fun!  Cornelia Warne is dumped with her uncle's widow, Aunt Kitty Warne, after everyone else in her family has died.  Aunt Kitty blames Cornelia's father for the death of his brother Matthew, her husband and does not want a 12-year-old hanging around.  Kate - as Aunt Kitty prefers to be called - is Pinkerton's first woman agent.  Based on the real Kate Warne, this book is a romp!  Traveling around the eastern US in the days right before Abe Lincoln's inauguration,  Nell, as Aunt Kitty decides to call Cornelia, ends up helping the Pinkerton's in several cases.  Nell's letters to and from her best friend, Jemma, who fled to Canada to escape slavers, add background painlessly.  American history delivered up with a lot of fun and some suspense and sadness, too.

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger.  Sophronia Temminick has a new weapon, the steel bladed fan - so fashionable!.  She also has a dilemma of the heart.  Should she choose Shoe, the sootie of entirely the wrong social class and race?  Or go with Lord Felix Mersey - he of the influential Papa and Pickleman leanings?  When Sidheag, one of Sophronia's closest friends at Madame Geraldine's, runs off to Scotland because of a huge family crisis (involving the death of a Beta werewolf and a renegade pack), Sophronia, Dimity, Soap AND Felix steal a steam train to help Sidheag's journey.  Things get drastic and deadly serious toward the end. 

Boys Don't Knit by T. S. Easton.  Through no fault of his own - well, hardly - Ben Fletcher is on probation.  He has to "keep a journal" - which he already does! - learn a craft or trade, and do community service.  The craft class offerings at community college are a bit slim.  He chooses knitting since the teacher is the hottest single female teacher at the high school.  And he finds that he is a natural at knitting.  It's so calming.  What Ben needs is calming.
Ben's parents, extremely messy home and daft friends, stress Ben out in a major way.  Add to that his tendency to take AS courses in math and science and his OCD leanings and you have one anxious teen.  And then there is Megan!  Does she like him or not??  He likes HER!  He has to keep his growing knitting mania a secret from his dad and everyone else.  But he's just sooooo good at it.
After you get past the corny behavior of Ben's dad and mom, this book is laugh out loud funny.

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot.  Olivia Grace Clarice Mignonette Harrison is about as normal as a 12 year old girl can be - except for the dead mom and invisible Dad and incredibly long name.  Dad writes every month but Olivia has never met him.  Ever.  When the sixth grade queen bee, Annabelle, challenges Olivia to a fight after school and accuses Olivia of being a princess, Olivia is stunned.  But, yeah, she is a princess and half-sister to Princess Mia of Genovia.  And, there are some allegations of serious wrongdoing on the part of Olivia's aunt and guardian.
       The premise of this series is every bit as awkward and unbelievable as the premise of the Princess Diaries but, you know what?  The audience for these books will not care. In. The. Least.  Cabot's writing is effortless; the pages turn themselves.  If you want to escape from middle school worries, girls, here's the book for you.
 From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Brain Pickings - KU2015


Someday blogging is SO easy.  My inbox delivered this post from Brain Pickings about 15 picture book biographies.  The illustrations for the Pablo Neruda biography are so vibrant.  Check the post here.


AND - tada - you can look at my KU2015 book list here.  The Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference was wonderful yesterday.  I love talking about books with other readers and authors.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Inclusive libraries? Odds and ends

*In an attempt to be inclusive in our public libraries, do we make an effort to speak to everyone??  Here's an article about serving our "conservative" young people, thanks to School Library Journal.
_http://www.slj.com/2015/03/collection-development/serving-conservative-teens/#_

*Want a free audio book?  Want a free audio book about one of the most charismatic and enigmatic Civil Rights leaders ever?  Read below for directions on a chance to download a FREE MP3 of the novel X: A Novel .

"The teen literacy program SYNC will feature X in its program from May 14 through May 21, in commemoration of Malcolm X’s ninetieth birthday. During that week, the audiobook version will be available as a free MP3 download through the SYNC website.

Starting now, you can text “xnovel” to the number 25827. The reply text will read:
“Meet Malcolm X before he was X. Free spoken word MP3 coming 2U 5/14. Get app for listening @ http://app.overdrive.com/”
 
On May 14, an additional text will arrive with a link to the download page and pointers on how to load the MP3 onto your player.
X: A Novel
Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
HC: 978-0-7636-6967-6
Also available as an e-book and in audio"



  

Thanks,


 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

KU Booklist

It's done.  (Check Lists page for the link or click here.)  So now I find a bunch of tiles I did not include.  This a quandary.  Do I type up an addendum?  Do I just read off those titles?  Should I gather those books and take them along?  Sigh.
What I REALLY want to do is read Tom Angleberger's The Rat with the Human Face.  Who wouldn't?  Right?
The Rat with the Human Face: The Qwikpick Papers

Here are some new and/or still hot topics in young people's literature:

How kids with various learning differences think and experience the world.
Prime numbers - ok, I only read TWO books with prime numbers in them but I have rarely seen prime numbers given so much attention before.
Art thefts.
Ghost infestations.  Ghosts are always popular, but infestations - good or bad - seem to be a theme these days.
The 1910s - especially in Russia and WWI
World War II evacuees
The Red Menace and Joe McCarthy.
The EVER popular finding a hidden treasure somewhere in order to save a house/town/family/school/forest!  Man, I want a hidden treasure RIGHT NOW!

I have kept away from books about kids being abducted or imprisoned but that also seems to be popular as a theme - especially in Young Adult. I'm retired.  I can read what I want.

I have a book waiting.  Gotta go.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Reading update

I finished these books in the last few days:

Operation Bunny by Sally Gardner.  This book is very "Matilda"-ish.  Emily, a baby found in a hat box, is adopted by a quite fashionable couple. When the couple have their own triplets, Emily becomes the housekeeper, nanny and laundress - all at the tender age of 6 (?).  Luckily, Emily's neighbors, a pleasant old woman and a large tortoiseshell cat, help Emily get her work done and teach her to read and write - in four languages - including Middle English.  An accident, a daring escape and lots and lots of brightly colored bunnies add up to truly magical adventures. 

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire -  An imprisoned monk tells a tale of swapped identities, witches, firebirds, ice dragons and Tsars.  Historical fiction meshes with Russian folklore in this cautionary tale.  It's hard to do this book justice in a few sentences.
Egg & Spoon
I LOVE this cover.

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi.  Baseball, hard boiled detectives and Joe McCarthy tangle with each other in this page turner.  I loved it.  Avi draws the period so well in this book, the mistrust, the bullying, the radio shows, the family drama.  I think I will buy this book. 

Where Things Come Back  By John Corey Whaley.  Just exactly what the large reputedly extinct woodpecker, the Lazarus bird, has to do with the other events in this book is a mystery to me.  No matter.  In the space of one summer, 17-year-old Cullen has to identify the body of his druggie cousin, figure out what to do with very attentive girls, and search for his suddenly missing younger brother.  It is Gabe's disappearance that absorbs the reader's attention against the backdrop of Lazarus Bird mania.  The way Whaley plays with timelines of different people's stories kept me turning pages.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy.  Although this appears to be fourth-grader, Eli's, story, his three brothers get a lot of attention as well.  This family of four adopted boys and two loving fathers deals with new schools, fractured friendships, secrets and grouchy neighbors in this fun family novel.

And I think there was another book!.  More later.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Read a Vacation!

I took a book vacation over the last few days.  I traveled to Enchantment Lake in the Minnesota North Woods. 

As Francie was waiting for her turn to audition for a play, her Great Aunt Astrid called and told Francesca to "Come quickly." 
  17-year-old Francie is on her own - sort of - since her father died in an accident 7 years before.  Her grandfather keeps watch on Francie.  So, of course, Francie calls her grandfather about this mysterious phone call and he just laughs.

Huh!  Francie races home to Enchantment Lake, where her great-aunts live without electricity or a road and the story these two women tell Francie is both unsurprisingly confusing and unexpectedly frightening.  People along the undeveloped side of Enchantment Lake (where the great-aunts live) are meeting with strange accidents - FATAL accidents.  Dum dum DUMMMMMM!!

Reading this book was like taking a vacation.  I loved the setting - and anyone who has spent time on a wooded lake as a child will love this setting, too.  And I loved the set-up; including Francie's estranged-in-a-friendly-negligent-sort-of-way family AND where Francie is when she gets the garbled phone call.  I truly enjoyed the characters, people Francie has known all her life, changed and grown older; the batty great-aunts, the handsome lawyer-to-be, her old friend Ginger and the little brother, T.J., the sheriff, the resort owner, the fat real estate developer - yep, all of them.

BUT, best of all, is this.  Margie Preus asks a lot of questions about Francie's family and doesn't answer a single one of them!! You know what that means, right?  She's planning a series about Francie and this little community.  I am so excited!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Books, et al



So this week I read:


I never read the other books in this series.  Reviews say that THIS book, which is supposed to be the last, is darker than the others in the series.  Joey just about makes himself unfixable in his attempts to put his family back together.  Gantos draws a picture of hope springing eternal and the ending has the reader crossing her fingers that everything hangs together.


 Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt
 Books about children who cannot read make me wonder who the audience is supposed to be.  This book is available as an audiobook and I am grateful for that.  How a child could get to 6th grade without anyone knowing that they cannot read is a puzzle to me, even though it happened to at least one of my siblings.
But Hunt's heroine hides her disability so well that everyone thinks she just has a bad attitude.  Enter thoughtful teacher!!!  And he understands that when a child "refuses" to learn there is something else going on.  Good book to share with a class, a teacher and a struggling reader - on audio, probably.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper 
Stella's brother wakes her up one night to show her the white hooded figures burning a cross on the other side of the river.  The year is 1932.   Times are hard everywhere.  And now, the black community is threatened.  On Sunday, the Pastor exhorts his flock to register to vote.  Stella's Dad is one of the three black man who choose to register.  He takes Stella along to be his "standing stone".  Based on family stories shared with the author, this book paints a credible picture of a black community in the south and the trials and joys they experience.  So good!

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
I could not help draw parallels between the 1.5% of the Russion population who controlled 90% of the wealth in the beginning of the 20th century to our own rich and privileged few.  They were clueless about the sufferings of most Russians, choosing to believe that the poor were clean, happy and well-fed.  Nicholas andAlexandra would have made great suburbanites, raising their brood and tending their graden and gossiping with the neighbors.  But as leaders, they were ostriches - downright cruel in their insistent ignorance.  Awesome book!  Eye-opening and astounding.

ALSO The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett, and Jory John and illustrated by Kevin Cornell.
Niles is a prankster extraordinaire but at his new school an unknown nemesis outpranks him at every turn.  When he meets this mastermind face to face, Niles declares a prank war.  Oh, Niles, you FOOL!!  Please, if you do try these ideas at home, do NOT mention where you read this review.

Now, I will go to bed.




Friday, March 20, 2015

Moonpenny Island

Moonpenny IslandI hated growing up.  And that time - just before the world turned upside down - when I was still a child but I felt it all leaking away - I fought that time with every sobbing breath.  It took me a while to realize that you don't just - poof! - grow up.  It happens bit by bit.  I didn't like learning about adulthood's inevitability.  (There are those who think I fight it still.)



In Tricia Springstubb's Moonpenny Island, Flor and Sylvie are perfect friends.  This is a good thing.  They are the only 11-year-olds on Moonpenny Island.  But the end of summer brings enormous changes.  Sylvie leaves to go to school on the mainland and Flor is alone.  Flor's older sister, perfect Cecelia, has started acting strangely.  And her parents, well, they should not be acting that way at all.

On a small island, it can be easy to put people in slots. Flor must open her eyes.  She needs to see people as more than just labels.  Ceclia is not "perfect".  Perry is more than just the "bad boy".  Joe Hawkes is not "trash".  And her best, best BEST friend, does not have to stay the same always.

A young visitor to the island - a paleontologist's daughter - a family crisis, and her own impetus nature force Flor to truly see her island, and her family, for the first time. 

Good book.  Read it. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Irish Day




So, in the 1890's one Garrett Nolan left his green, green isle and traveled west to this land of ours.  He was my great-grandfather.  I think that makes me 1/4 Irish.  But, isn't that silly?  I've never been to Ireland and I have barely been out of this valley of Lehigh.

New PolicemanBe that as it may, today we celebrate all the Irish immigrants who made this land their home AND we celebrate the British Roman citizen who loved Ireland, St. Patrick.  He was wise enough to describe Christianity in the terms of Celtic mythology making the two belief systems compatible.  Or so I have been led to believe.

When I think of Ireland and books about the same, I think immediately of Kate Thompson's The New Policeman.  Fantasy and lots of mythology and the theft of time and the loss of magic.  I only read the first book and no I find that there are 2 more.  I am so happy to add those to my list of books to read.

Before Maryrose Wood wrote her famous series about the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, she also wrote a series about the daughter of The Queen of the fairies.  The stories take place in Ireland where the teen has gone for a summer bike trip and falls head over heels for the tour guide.  She also discovers her legacy and a brother, who may or may not be a pooka.  The first book in the trilogy is Why I Let my Hair Grow OutThese books are a fun romp through the Celtic pantheon.

And, of course,  Hibernian Nights, by Seamus MacManus, belongs on any list of books about Ireland.  This collection of Irish tales is stupendous and fun. 

May your day be fun of green, sunshine and peace.
May your blessings flow over and troubles decrease!