Friday, May 26, 2017

Rescued by Social Media

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos  By the time that Oregon state legislator, Jared Stone, discovers he has an inoperable brain tumor, the nasty thing has already done some damage.  That's probably why he thought that putting his life up on eBay was a good idea.  The auction ends - (it's illegal to sell a human life on eBay, FYI) - but not before it's been noticed.

A TV producer offers Jared a lot of money, if he will allow the entire family to be televised until Jared's dying breath.  YIKES!  Jared's wife and older daughter hate the idea.  Jared just wants them to be taken care of when he dies.

The older daughter, Jackie, gets in touch with her best FB friend and an online role playing "fan" of the show and using social media - AND World of Warcraft - they fight back.  They pit their collective wits against the frightfully clever and unscrupulous brain of the TV producer.

The book is shocking, clever, scary, embarrassing, and sad.

See You In the Cosmos by Jack Cheng.  11-year-old Alex has a dog, Carl Sagan, named after Alex's hero.  Though his dad died when he was only 3, Alex has an older brother in LA, and he still has his Mom.  As long as he makes sure there is food in the fridge and the laundry gets done, he can do whatever he wants.  What he wants to do is make a recording of earth sounds on his golden iPad and launch it into space with the rocket he built himself.

So, he buys tickets to an amazing convention of rocket enthusiasts - he learned all about it online at Rocketforum - and he and Carl Sagan head to Arizona from Rockview Colorado, by themselves.

A random email from, about a man with Alex's father's name and birthdate, and a couple of college students on a summer mission, sends Alex to Las Vegas where Alex finds questions - lots and lots of questions. 

SO... somewhere along the way, Alex ends up in the hospital in serious condition. (Read the book!)  AND Rocketforum comes to the rescue.  Cue the William Tell Overture - lots of brass!!!  Ta DAH!!! 

Alex does more thinking than most people, no matter their age.  As he tries to grasp the complexity of what he is learning about his family, he makes some poetic connections between emotions, humans and the cosmos.

Life is complicated.  Sometimes, social media can help.
(I just noticed something.  BLUE must be the hot new color for book covers!!!!)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cricket Media Giveaway

iPad!  Free magazines from my all-time favorite children's magazine company!  Or, sample their magazines for $5.

Here's the link:

Cricket Media produces advertisement free magazines for toddlers through high school on a variety of subjects.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Who knew?? 5 Things I Learned from Books

Image result for Cream with Hot Coffee

Who knew??? 

Over the years, I have picked up tidbits that had little or nothing to do with the plot of the book I was reading.  I have carried these things with me, years after I forgot where I read them.

1.  Who knew that if you put the cream in FIRST, you don't have to stir your coffee?  No idea what book that came from - just that it was YA and starred a Renaissance Fair following Mom.

2.  Who knew that a wet paper towel is an excellent way to pick up those little glass shards that you can't see?  Just wipe the area of the floor where the glass broke with the wet paper towel and you will be amazed at what it picks up. Use a disposable wet mopping cloth as a substitute. (They weren't invented when I read that book.) This middle grade book featured the son of his school's headmaster.  That's all I remember.

3. Who knew that tuatara have third eyes on top of their heads?  This came from a Nocturnals book.  It's a fun series for young readers (third grade and up) that features a team of problem solving nocturnal animals.

4. Who knew that a messy bedroom can signal a lack of self-respect?  OK.  That one is an opinion but I think it holds water.  A messy bedroom can also signal a lack of discipline, a sense of entitlement (as in, someone else should clean this up), an over scheduled life, a sense of rebellion... but the lack of self-respect made me stop and look at myself. It's from one of the Anna Pigeon National Park Ranger mysteries by Nevada Barr.

5.  Who knew that halfway down the stairs was "somewhere else instead"?  Sit there.  You'll see. Oh, A. A. Milne, I love you!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2 Chances To Learn Storytelling

I TELL stories.   Powerpoint, YouTube, videos, TV, - you CAN use all of these to share a story.  Painting, music, dance, animation - without a story at the basis, these things can be mere exercises.

I can teach your children and teens what makes a good story and how to be a better storyteller and I don't need this computer - or the Internet to do it.   Want to find out more?

The Allentown Public Library will offer Build a Better Story Workshops (led by me) on Wednesday nights at 6 pm, beginning June 28th.  This series runs for six weeks. The workshops are open to young people (and their adults), preferably 7 years old and older.

Teens and tweens can come to Storytelling Workshops at the Emmaus Public Library on Tuesday afternoons from 2 to 3:30 beginning June 20th.  The dates are not consecutive so please check with the Emmaus Public Library for registration information and all dates and times.

Both workshops will end with a performance.  Workshop participants get to show off what they learned.  Don't worry.  You will love it!  I am good at telling stories.  And I am good at playing.  Come tell and play a story with me this summer.

Contact the library is question to find out when registration opens and how to sign up. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bike to Work Day

Happy Bike to Work Day - even though you biked home by now!

I have a bike in the garage.  Its tires are flat and no one has ridden it for years.  The thought of setting out on our increasingly congested streets both exhilarates me and scares the bleep out of me.  I have fond, fond memories of taking my son and his friends on bike hikes long ago.  What an awesome feeling of freedom!  Is it too late for me to start biking again?

If more people rode bikes on short journeys, we'd be healthier; we'd use less fossil fuels; our streets would be friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.  So much GOOD on just two wheels.

Bikes feature in a lot of books.  Kids on bikes?  Must be an adventure in the offing.  So here are great books about kids (and grown-ups) on bikes.

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli.    The world of Hokey Pokey is childhood.  Bicycles are the best friends of this odd and mesmerizing book about childhood.  In Hokey Pokey, adults do not exist.  It is a land of games, riding, popsicles, dreaming.  When a boy's bike is stolen - by a girl! - his attempt to get it back begins his journey out of Hokey Pokey.  I think this book is for adults - like me - who never really wanted to grow up.

The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella.   Follow Big Red as the bike journeys from its original owner in the USA to a girl in West Africa who uses it to help in the sorghum fields.  Then Big Red moves on to a young woman who needs to carry medications to sick people and even bring those peopl to the hospital.  Perhaps, that bike in the garage should find a more useful home.

Wheels of Change : How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom by Sue Macy. Macy gives an overview of women's quest for equal rights by showing how two wheels added mobility to women and impetus to their struggle.

Messenger, Messenger by Robert Burleigh.  This picture book, illustrated by Barry Moser, celebrates the bicycle messengers who weave in and out of city streets.

Off we go: a Bear and Mole story by Will Hillenbrand. Today is the day!  Mole is ready.  Bear takes off the training wheels and hovers as Mole careens off the road and through the fields!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.   This is the first of several mysteries starring pre-teen sleuth, Flavia DeLuce.  On her trusty bicycle, Gladys, Flavia tools around her small British village in the early '50s.  Every book features multiple scenes of Flavia flying along the roads, her braids flapping in the wind.  If any series champions bicycles, it's this one.  BTW, the series is intended for adults but hardy young readers can handle the slight goriness and disguised adult behavior.

Around the World by Matt Phelan.  This graphic novel chronicles three around-the-world adventures from the late 1800s.  One of those adventures is on bicycle - undertaken by Thomas Stevens, a former miner.  His feat is even more impressive since it was done on a high-wheeler, a bike with an enormous front wheel and a high seat.

Summerlost  by Allie Conde.  New to a small town, a girl looks out the window to see a boy in medieval dress fly by on a bicycle.  There you go, an adventure on wheels.

Genevieve's War by Patricia Reilly Giff.  How Genevieve ends up at her Grandmother's farm in Alsace as the Germans march into France is only part of this World War II story.  After the Germans steal MeMe's horse and cart, it is her father's bicycle that allows Genevieve to run errands and even, to help the Resistance.  Vivie le velo!

Personal note! My nephew is a coach for Pennsylvania Interscholastic Mountain Biking.  Mountain bikes can go almost anywhere - to work, to school and over the hills!   Check out the PAMB's Facebook page here.

Monday, May 8, 2017

8 odd memes

Memes travel like sound waves, but without any discernible trace of their movements.  Since most books are in development for a year or more, these odd details occurred to two or more authors, miles apart, at almost the same time.  It is a mystery.

1.  Ships that sail the skies salvaging junk. This shows up in two novels this year and one from two or three years ago. Carve the Mark, Jed and the Junkyard War, The Fog Diver. (I really enjoyed The Fog Diver - the others, too, but that one sticks in my mind.)

2. Travel by suitcase.  No, really.  Two books this year.  The Crooked Sixpence, The Glass Town Game.  The suitcase is your vehicle.

3.  Kids who end up being something else - and I don't mean special or talented or immortal or magical.  I mean something else entirely.  Three books last year, one this year. Rebel Genius, The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn, The Kidnap Plot, Jed and the Junkyard War

4.  Strokes.  Yep.  I've read two books in the last year.  Falling Over Sideways, Cyclone

5. Heretics of the 13th century - only two books that I am aware of, both last year, but really? The Inquisitor's Tale, The Passion of Dolssa

6. Co-habiting with the dead.  Ghostly Echoes, The Crooked Sixpence, Ghosts.  This is not a new meme. Usually, only one character can see or hear the ghosts. In the Crooked Sixpence and in Ghosts, the dead are regular residents of a community.

7. Literary works, characters or authors as main plot devices.  Tash Hearts Tolstoy.  The Glass Town Game.  Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen also figure prominently in new fiction.

8. Kids who live in prisons. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. The Warden's Daughter. The Executioner's Daughter.

Here are two things that crop up a lot. One concept is fun but I could see less of it.  The other is just depressing - even for a survivor. 

1. Renaissance fairs.  Why not sports camps?  Just asking, here.  (I actually did read a book about sports camp.) A Properly Unhaunted Place, - I loved this book, BTW.  Setting Free the Kites,

2.  Cancer.  It doesn't matter who has it.  I am tired of it.  Of course, every time I say this someone writes a really good book for kids and teens about the subject. Still. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Winnah!

The Giveaway ended last night at midnight.  The winner is Suz!  Yep!  Her initials are SC and her identifier is Suzy.  Send your snail mail address to me at and I will send the books your way.  You have until Tuesday, May 9th, to send me your snail mail. 

Thanks to everyone who entered. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Glass Town Game

The nice Riveted rep that sent me a box of ARCs (for the KUCLC event about a month ago) referred to Catherynne M. Valente's The Glass Town Game as a brick.  It is that - over 500 pages.  But, oh, what a brick it is!

When Emily and Charlotte Bronte are sent back to Cowan Bridge school, the boarding school where their older sisters died, their brother, Branwell, and youngest sister, Anne, walk them to the train station.  It is the Beastliest of Days and they play one of their favorite games on the way, the Game of And.  Not as complicated as the Glass Town Game which employed all of Branwell's wooden soldiers, the Game of And was played by imagining the most delightful or nonsensical things and challenging the other players to match or top them.

When they get to the station, the things they imagined on the way, and things they imagined in the past, have become real!  All four children board the train, using buttons as tickets, and ride to Glass Town with the wooden soldiers, come alive.  Glass Town is at war.  The forces of Wellie (the Duke of Wellington) and Boney (Napoleon Bonaparte) fight and die and come to life again. 

When Anne and Branwell are stolen away by one of Boney's spies - made of magazines and newspapers - Emily and Charlotte must find them.  Meanwhile, Anne and Branwell find the kidnapped Princess Victoria, the cause of this awful war.

At first, everything they see comes from one of their play adventures. As the story progresses, the adventures spin out of control.  The four wonder if they will ever be reunited and if they will ever see their father and home again.

As I read, I was reminded of Alice in Wonderland, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,  and The Wizard of Oz.  Each town in Glass Town has peculiarities and a specific type of resident.  The publishers and book sellers in Ochropolis deliver some of the funniest dialogue in the book.  Valente uses fanciful descriptions and eccentric language that adds a sense of time and place.  I can't wait to see the book when it comes out in September.  I hope for illustration - just a few - that are as whimsical as the story is.

I am giving this book away (with others).    Click here to learn more about this giveaway.   And to enter.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New YA imprint

 Kids Can Press, the Canadian publisher that is home to Scaredy Squirrel and Franklin the Turtle, has just launched a YA imprint, KCP Loft.

Expect thought-provoking, socially conscious books.  From the trailer below, you can also look for books that empower young people, especially young women.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


I promised a giveaway by the end of the week.  And this is the end of the week.

Click here to enter.  Read below for MORE ways to earn entries.

The titles you see above will go to ONE lucky reader. They are;

  1. an ARC of The Glass Town Game  by Catherynne M. Valenti.  The four Brontes climb aboard a train and find themselves in their own imaginary play land. This is a great adventure book and a fascinating look at the four Brontes as children.  (Remember to put the little diacritical mark over the "e".  I can't figure out how to do it.)  Due out in September.
  2. a signed copy of A Bandit's Tale by Deborah Hopkinson (hard bound).  An historical fiction about life for immigrants (this lad is Italian) in 1880s NYC.
  3. a hardbound copy of Speed of Life by Carol Weston. Sofia misses her mother who died suddenly and finds comfort in writing to "Dear Kate", an advice columnist.  Guess who her father decides to date?  This got 4 starred reviews.
  4. an ARC of Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War by Paul B. Janeczko.  Treachery, deception, covert opps from the Civil War forward.  This came out this month.
  5. One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman.  Anais writes letters to her Oma in Kenya describing life as an immigrant in America.
  6. Lug: Blast from the North by David Zeltser.  Lug and his friends rescue a strange boy named Blast, who lives on a huge moving glacier.  Blast seems nice but Lug is not so sure.  This is the second entry into a series about Ice Age pre-teen Lug and his friends.

Here's how to earn extra entries.  Comment on this blog post.  I don't need your name or address BUT I do need a nickname or identifier of some kind.  If you have a Blogger account, your user name is good enough. Blogger likes people to join in order to comment but you can comment as Anonymous - which is why I need an identifier.

AND follow me and comment "I followed".

AND share this post on Facebook and comment "I shared." 

On Friday, May 5th, I will post the winner's identity here and email the winner so said winner can send me a name and snail mail address.

It's been awhile since my last giveaway so I hope this works.  Thanks, all.  

Happy Earth Day!

I got married in 1974, the year that Big Blue Marble debuted on PBS.  Our son was born in 1976.  He was a PBS baby, toddler, child.

Big Blue Marble was one of our favorite shows.  It was dedicated to introducing children from all around the world to children here in the USA.  My husband and I argue over which theme song was best.  Big Blue Marble or the one shown here, Floating in Space.  I like them both.

We have only one home - a big blue marble.  We are only one race - one family.  Please remember that.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More gifts from the USPS

The Speed of Life by Carol Weston showed up between my front doors yesterday.   This book has received FOUR starred reviews.  I anticipate a quick read.  BTW, this will be part of the giveaway due by the end of the week.

Speed of Life

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter morning

Oh, Holiday House! You made my Easter so fine. This is what my husband found on our porch on Easter morning.

Thank you, Easter Bunny! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Books Out Loud

Storyline Online does it again.  This time Viola Davis reads Rent Party Jazz by William Miller.  If you miss watching Reading Rainbow on PBS - and I do! - Storyline Online, brought to us by the SAG-AFTRA foundation, helps fill the gap.  BTW, the Reading Rainbow site has a lot to offer, too.

Brightly also offers read-alouds for Growing Readers.  During their read-alouds, each word is highlighted as the reader says it, allowing young readers to follow along.  The reading is expressive but rather slow.  Here's Miss Maple Seeds by Eliza Wheeler, read by one of Brightly's online readers, Miss Linda.

Check out Eliza Wheeler's website for some printables and other activities, based on this book.

Check back later to find out what we found on the front porch on Easter morning!!  Is The Easter Bunny real?  And, I have the details of my first ARC/signed book giveaway of 2017.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Addendum and other stuff

Before last weekend's orgy of Kids' Book Wonder and Wow, I read as many of the ARCs - that I received to hand out - as I could.  I read;

Cyclone by Doreen Cronin.  Named for the roller coaster on Coney Island, this is the story of two cousins - one who ends up in the hospital after a fateful ride and the other who blames herself for her cousin's illness.  At times scary, at times funny, this book is an exciting read.  (Notice that I did not use an amusement park reference.  You are welcome.)

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson.  A young artist is commissioned to paint the Autumn Prince, since the fair folk cannot create any art of their own.  And, her painting unleashes a world of hurt, hunt and hunger!

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander.  Rosa’s mother is Librarian ghost appeasement specialist.  They have just moved to a town that has no ghosts.  Well, we all know what THAT means.  A local Ren Faire is the site of some serious paranormal activity.

I am reading The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente.  Emily and Charlotte Bronte are sentenced to return to the horrible boarding school where their sisters died.  And Branwell and Anne walk them to the train station to see them off.  But the train that arrives is one created by the Brontes' wild imagination.  Valente's whimsical language suits this story perfectly.

I have also finished Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth.  It's the beginning of a new Sci-Fi battle series and although I like the characters, I doubt that I will read the sequels. Roth fans will LOVE it, I am sure.

If you want to see my addendum, here it is.  I posted it on Scribd.  If you have trouble reading it, or if Scribd asks for info you prefer not to give, please comment below.

HEADS UP! I have leftover ARCs and, at least, one signed book that I plan to give away in a future post.  So check back - or sign up for email notifications over there in the right hand sidebar.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Beam Me Up!

Oh, where is a transporter when you need one?  Or one of those nifty hourglass time thingies that Hermione sported in The Prisoner of Azkaban?.

This Saturday, in NYC (which is why I'd need a transporter) at 11 am (time thingie), Adam Gidwitz and Benjamin Bagby will present "Dragons, Troubadours and Fools: Discovering the Middle Ages with Adam Gidwitz and Benjamin Bagby", a reading of Gidwitz's recent book The Inquisitor's Tale with music of the time period played by Bagby at Symphony Space.  Read more about this event here. 

And I am busy elsewhere.   Sometimes, life is not fair.  Someone go, please, and then blab on and on about how wonderful it was.  Thank you.

Monday, March 27, 2017

More KU Children's Lit Conference

So, Kevin McCloskey, the author illustrator of We Dig Worms, The Real Poop on Pigeons and Something's Fishy just put up a colorful post on his blog, Illustration Concentration.   

Seriously, you can't miss this.  It's the best Children's Literature event in Eastern Pennsylvania.

KU Children's Lit Conference - the list

I posted my 2017 KUCLC list on Scribd for your enlightenment.  Here you go!


Since the books on my list tend to be award winners that I especially liked, I also added half a dozen Best of 2016 Book Lists for you to pore over.  I hope it helps you find good books for your middle grade readers.  Thanks.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Armstrong & Charlie

Looks like I have a new favorite book.

Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank is set in L.A. in 1975 when a boy from the projects - Armstrong - is bussed to a school in Hollywood Hills.  Charlie and Armstrong do NOT like each other.  Both are smart.  Both are stubborn.  Both have things to prove.

They butt heads.  They snarl at each other.  Charlie is afraid of Armstrong.  Armstrong is mad about having to get up at 5:30 am to go to school.  Charlie lives a life of privilege.  Armstrong has to work for every penny.  They have good families.  They are good people.  They become friends.

Things to think about:
1.  If bussing went the other way, would inner city schools have improved more quickly?  But, of course, more affluent people would simply have taken their kids out of public schools.  A lot of Charlie's classmates left Wonderland Elementary School.

2.  If this book was written by a black author, would the ending have been so hopeful?  Would the reality of Black Lives Matter intrude on the sentiment that bussing could change things?  We all thought that bussing really would change things.  It did, a bit, but not enough.

In my white-privileged haze, I think of these things and then I say,"I want fiction that gives me hope.  This book gives me hope.  Ergo, I like this book."  Done. And Done.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Sun Is Also a Star

One day in the life of Natasha, an illegal immigrant whose deportation to Jamaica is imminent, and Daniel, a first generation Korean American, leads to all kinds of FEELS!
COINCIDENCE (Ko-Inky-dinks) plays a HUGE part in this story.  The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon.

 I loved it.
Look!  The cover illustration is made with thread and pins!

Natasha is trying, one more time, to find a way to keep her family in America.  She's got a LOT of anger going on, and a lot of desperation.

Daniel has to go to an interview with a Yale alum as he starts on the journey to do exactly what his parents want - go to Second Best College, be doctor.  It's NOT what he wants.

They meet.  Daniel pulls Natasha back from a near collision.  They have coffee.  Daniel suggests a scientific experiment into romance.  Natasha keeps secrets.  Daniel introduces Natasha to his ridiculous jerk of a big brother and his stiff-necked father.  Bit players have their moment in the spotlight.

Hope SPRINGS!!  Love (?) - possibly.  Will all be well?  Will kindness and happiness prevail? 

That would be telling.  So, just know this;  in a world of books that swing readers through life and death explosions of violent soaked action, a book like this is a gift.  It is no less exciting and no less suspenseful - just quieter and so much more possible.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Amy Krouse Rosenthal - 1965-2017

I have been in awe of Amy Krouse Rosenthal for years.  This is not the first time I've posted this video of one of her creative, community-building, kindness-engendering projects.  She left us long before we needed her to go.  But she left us all so much richer.  Rest in Lovely, Amy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Catching up BOB and KUCLC

Catch up #1:
The 2017 Battle of the Kids' Books is under way.  Today's post is the THIRD round.  (Big snowstorm - major distraction, here).  Check out the recent post here.   The first two posts are along the right hand side so you can catch up.  I have not been super surprised with the judges decisions - so far.

Tomorrow Louise Erdrich's Makoons goes up against John Lewis'  March: Book Three.   I am leaning heavily in support of March.  Makoons has some masterful moments, as well, but the story of  a woodland tribe making the prairies their new home is written with the smudged brush of long ago nostalgia.

It appears that SLJ's bloggers just pair their chosen titles against each other in alphabetical order.  What continues to amaze me, year after year, is how apt these pairings are.  In tomorrow's round,  we have a pictorial memoir of a real life struggle for equality that still goes on today stacked up against a nostalgic fictional look at a real life struggle for survival that still goes on today - although both might be in other forms.

The FIRST match, Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan, and Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford are picture books that describe the lives of African slaves in the United States.
SEE WHAT I MEAN?  Alphabetical or subject matter??  How are  the BoB books paired?

AND, here's another reminder that the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference is barreling down on me like a ton of unread books!  April 1st - and NO, it's not a joke - I will review what the other bloggers are shouting about and the books that I have loved and liked and meh-ed about in the past year - and even in the next few months.  The free books are not as plentiful as you might like but there will be some delicious titles, there for the picking. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Sometimes, I read a book because the reviews say I have to.  Those books sit a little longer on the end table.  I pick them up with a sigh.

Such was Scythe, Neal Shusterman's latest effort, and the beginning of a series?, trilogy?.  We'll see.

The subject matter is state sanctioned killing to deal with the problem of immortality.  Two young people are chosen by a sober and morally upright "scythe" to be his apprentices.  One will become a scythe - immortal, untouchable, feared and revered.  The other can return to his or her life.

Then, at a meeting of all the scythes in MidMerica, their apprenticeship is challenged because no one has ever taken two apprentices at the same time.  The challenger offers a solution.  The apprentice chosen to become a scythe must glean (kill) the one not chosen.

Yeah. You see my dilemma.  I am not all that fond of violence and murder even when "necessary".

I read it.

It is MASTERFUL.  If you want suspense, this is the book for you.  I warn you that the first third moves a little slowly.  Then - POW! -.  Nuff said.

International Women's Day

Celebrate!  Celebrate!  I hung wash out for International Women's Day.  I know, I know. We are all supposed to strike to teach all the non-women out there how important we are.  But, the wind is fresh.  The sun is full.  The air is warm.  The wash is clean.  Ergo!

Over at Storyline, Keira Shipka, reads The House that Jane BuiltSit back and enjoy.

Friday, March 3, 2017



I just closed Jordan Sonnenblick's book, Falling Over Sideways, and all the feels!!!! When I read a contemporary book that showcases a particular problem, I always wonder if that problem happened to the author or to someone he or she loved or knew. So, yeah, for the first third of the book that thought intruded.

And, then, it didn't matter anyway - because Sonnenblick's inner middle schooler is never far away.  His descriptions are laugh-out loud funny. His characters are likeable - or hate-able - and always human.

Lately, the books I have read, The Passion of Dolssa, With Malice, even Ghostly Echoes, have been just a teensy weensy dark. These books are pretty awesome and discussion worthy. I am just in the mood for less complicated endings.

AND Sonnenblick's books have their own darkness. Falling Over Sideways deals with what happens when a middle school girl's parent has a major medical emergency.  Most parents are thoughtful enough not to have medical emergencies while their kids are growing up. So, reading about zits, braces, friendship issues, music, dance, annoying big brothers AND ICUs?   Wow! 

Sonnenblick finds hope and victory in his darkness.  I need that.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How does that song go?

I know how the songs in picture books go.  I make the tunes up and - POW! - a classic is born.  BUT, this is what happens when I read the same story with another picture book loving adult in the room.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

2017 Fierce Reads 2017 Tour

Fierce Reads is sending 4 awesome authors out on tour in May.  Watch the video to find all about it!
SCOTT WESTERFELD!!  Need I say more?  Also, Erin Beaty, Kristin Orlando, and Taran Matharu - superior writers - EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Giving Day - Giveaways!

It's International Book Giving Day!💕💕💕💕 (Also Valentine's Day - hence the hearts.)

Here are some chances to WIN books and comics - Just for You.

Are you a teacher or librarian?  Well, Brightly has a chance to win a bunch of books for your class or book group!

There's a huge DC Comics giveaway being hosted by Shelf Awareness. Check it out.

Do you a Goodreads account?  Goodreads has giveaways All. The. Time. 

How about YA Books Central?  Whoa!  This site is new to me but I am signing up!  They are giving away Carve the Mark right NOW!

Give away a book today.  Check out the Book Giving Day Blog for a list of charities that will pass your book on to someone who needs it.

  Print out an International Book Giving Day bookplate.  (Check the blog for other bookplates.)  Put it in your book and hand it over to a friend.  OR, place it where someone will find it.  OR donate it to a library (they might put it in their book sale, though) or day care, school, senior center, etc. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

International Book Giving Day - 2/14/17

Check out the International Book Giving Day Website.  Treat all your Valentines with the gift of a book.  I can't think of anything I would want more.

No laughs Part 2

I lied.  There are laughs in Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson.  They are concentrated in the first several chapters as Anderson lets his narrators describe middle grade hijinks - including a report on cooties, complete with diagnostic tests - and a breakdown on the types of teachers in elementary school.

Ms Bixby is one of the Good Ones, the rarest form of teacher.  The book follows three boys through their sixth grade year with Ms. Bixby - a year that ends a month too soon when Ms. Bixby leaves for health reasons.  Then, she leaves a week before she said she would and Topher, Steve and Brand have a mission - to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves, no matter the cost in money or rule-breaking.

It is a comedy of errors during which we learn more about each boy and their individual trials and hopes.  These are nice kids with good parents.  Good parents can still pose problems to the kids they love - and vice versa.

To say I love this book is an odd choice of words.  I don't love books that make me sad.  To say that I think this is a good book, a worthwhile book, a book that deserves to be read?  Yeah.  I can say that.  Thanks, John David Anderson for writing a compassionate book for favorite teachers and their students.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

STEM haunts me

Heart Pump

I can't stop thinking about STEM/STEAM projects.  I suspect the fact that I get TinkerLab and Kiwi Crate emails might help.  Both sites sell kits, printables, etc., but their activity pages are crammed full of stuff you can do without spending money.

Check out this do-at-home activity from Kiwi crate.  The age range is 7 and up but doing it with littles - where YOU do most of the work and they watch - seems like a great idea.  Look around at the Kiwi Crate page for other cool ideas.  Zipline butterfly, anyone? (BTW, this on my Let's Make Stuff page for awhile.)

Do you want to set up a home laboratory for your young scientist/makers?  TinkerLab has an article and a printable with tips to help you.  

(In the case of bloggers like TinkerLab, I suggest clicking on an ad once in a while.  Rachelle at TinkerLab offers so much great stuff - for FREE! Thanks.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

2 books - No laughs

I read two books today.

 We Will Not Be Silent: the White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler by Russell Freedman (a god among history writers for young people).

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson. 

Neither of these books were comedies.

Freedman outlines the story of the students who spread anonymous pamphlets all through Germany decrying Hitler's regime and telling the truth about atrocities committed by the German army.  He starts with the story of the Scholl family, - of how the family hosted discussion groups that allowed criticism of the Third Reich, of how the parents encouraged their children to think for themselves, of how the boys, Hans and Werner, gladly joined Hitler Youth but soon chafed at the restrictions in what they were allowed to read or say or even sing!  And he explains how Inge and Sophie grew disillusioned with the German Girls Movement for the same reason.

At University, Hans, and then Sophie, gravitated to like-minded rebels.  And spontaneously, out of their late night debates, the White Rose Movement began.  They spread leaflets countering Nazi propaganda with truths and exhorting German citizens to resist.   They dared to criticize the Nazi regime.

This book is a history of the movement.  Hans and Sophie are the focus. They were part of the movement from the very start.  Their arrest and executions - on the same day - became the stuff of legends.  But they were not the only heroes of this movement.  More than one hundred suspects were "swept up" in the following days.  Many of them were executed.  Their families and friends were also arrested and interrogated.  The entire Scholl family, with the exception of Werner, who was fighting on the Russian front, was arrested.  Herr Scholl was imprisoned.  The women were eventually freed.  Werner died in battle.

Not a happy read, this book was engrossing from the first page.  Freedman moves back and forth in time to give a full and captivating story. 

If only it wasn't true!  If only we could close the book and smile at the old lady who might be Sophie, or watch Christoph Probst arguing with his grandchildren - the ones who never met him.   How much better the world would be.  But, this is a book of NON-fiction, of one of the most frightening periods in modern history, and of the young people who could not be silent.

A cautionary tale.

I think I will save Ms. Bixby's Last Day for another post.  It falls into a category of books I had promised never to read again.  I am so glad I broke THAT promise.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

You say STEM. I say STEAM

This just landed in my inbox from PW - The Not-So- Secret Society, a series of science related graphic novels due out this summer.

Subscribe to the newsletter for a weekly comic and activity sheet.  Science Clubs, take note.  This looks like fun!

Note to all you library/school science programmers.  Many librarians are not only very busy doing STEM/STEAM programming, they blog about their activities.  Here are two sites that provide book partners, age levels and suggestions for stuff to do.

The Show Me Librarian, Amy Koester, at Skokie Public Library in Skokie, ILL has some impressive skills!  Check out her STEAM post for good ideas.

Stem in Libraries  provides FIFTY PLUS weeks of programming and the information they share is HUGE!!  You will find everything you need to provide stimulating fun to your young engineers, scientists, artists, math and I-don't-have-anything-else-to-do people.  Click on ABOUT US in the side bar for suggestions on how to use the site.  There are so many projects on this blog, the ABOUT US article will help you navigate. 

Friday, February 3, 2017


TOON just announced their new books with a sneak preview featuring Kevin McCloskey's book, Something's Fishy.

I love TOON and Kevin is an awesome artist and professor. 

The other books in this innovative press release are all for starting readers.  They each encourage their young readers to examine the world in a different way - through science, words and imagination. 

Yay!  TOON

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What's happening!!!???

RANT:  If you only want book reviews, scroll down.  I suspect that I will be ranting more often for the next four years.  The Executive order signed yesterday by the president of this large and powerful country was cruel, ill-informed, un-American, pig-headed, and illegal.  A family who had applied to immigrate several years ago was sent home within 3 hours of landing in Philadelphia.  The adults had jobs, an apartment, sponsors and family here.  They had been thoroughly vetted.  Before their sponsors could reach the airport, the family was GONE!!  This happened at every major airport in the US.  Cruel, unfeeling and absolutely maddening!  He did not check with the DOJ or the Department of Homeland Security.  He just signed the paper.  If he was MY apprentice, I would relish telling him he was FIRED.

We disembarked from our cruise yesterday morning - before this horrible paper was enforced.  Had we disembarked later in the day some of the passengers may have found their vacation tragically shortened.

I try hard NOT to post about politics here but this can not pass unnoticed.  I cannot keep silent about this.  He is our president, an elected representative of the people of the United States - NOT the Emperor of the USA - NOT a tyrant.  Okay, he might be a tyrant but he should NOT be.  The United States is not his personal company, owned by his cadre of rich acolytes.  Up until January 20th, this country belonged to us, WE, THE PEOPLE!  It still belongs to the people.  Someone should tell the president that.

Books:  I read a lot on vacation.  

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.  Joe and Ravi are in the same class.  Ravi has just moved to the United States (Look!  An IMMIGRANT!)  Joe has struggled through this school for five years.  Ravi was a popular, high achieving student in India but here, he is the kid with the weird accent.  Joe has trouble concentrating.  His new teacher doesn't seem to understand this even though he must go to the Resource Room for help in staying focused. After early misunderstandings, Joe and Ravi find themselves targets of the same trouble maker (who is CRUEL, ARROGANT and a BULLY). (Middle school)

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson.  Andie's father has been in Congress for years.  Suddenly, he is accused of misappropriating funds that should go to his charitable foundation.  (Familiar?  Thankfully, the comparisons end here.)   Protecting her father's image has been a full time job for most of Andie's life. Andie has a pre-pre-med summer internship.  And then, her internship is terminated, just like that.  Her father is home for the first time in years.  She takes a job walking dogs.  Her close knit group of friends begin to unravel and she meets The Guy!  Also, she finds out she likes dogs.  So, it's good.  (YA)

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser.  (Put two dots over the "a".)  After personal disasters, Amy Lennox and her mother pack their bags and leave Germany for Scotland, Amy's mother's childhood home.  On a sparsely populated island, Amy learns that she is a book jumper, from one of only two families of book jumpers who are pledged to keep books safe and untainted.  Soon after she arrives, important elements of books start disappearing.  When a book character washes ashore - dead - Amy has some detecting to do - all over the world of literature.  There is a villain - a selfish, vain, capricious, immature, cruel.... Oh well, never mind.  Once things start disappearing, the book gets pretty good. (YA)

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.  The new emperor sweeps up the mountainside and drags away Pinmei's grandmother.   Pinmei's neighbor, the boy Yishan, drags her to safety and together they set out to find the Luminous Stone that Lights the Night, the price for ransoming Pinmei's grandmother.  Everywhere they go, Pinmei, usually as shy as a mouse,  tells one of her grandmother's stories.  In prison, her grandmother tells stories.  SHE is the Storyteller.  These stories often feature cruel, selfish, arrogant, vain people.  Just as often, they showcase the power of kindness and truth.  As in Lin's earlier books, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky, the tales are modeled on Chinese folklore and they move the plot to a very satisfying conclusion.  And the illustrations are AMAZING.  (Middle school reading level.  Younger if read aloud.  Older because the stories are awesome.)

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur.  An imagined country has been attacked by a vicious and voracious army.  Children 12 and up are asked to take a test and volunteer to help win the war.  Megs is sure to pass.  Mathilde, her best friend, also takes the test though she expects to fail.  It is a chance to help her family and it might save her life.  Mathilde passes (Megs does not) and finds herself in a large estate, far from the fighting, surrounded by very bright and very talented children.  Mathilde's talent is unexpected.  How this talent helps the war effort, and how Mathilde stays true to herself, is a enthralling story.  The book will stay with you.  (Middle school and up.  Great for discussion about talents, responsibility, relationships and war.)

I also read Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley.   I pray that Flavia de Luce grows up very, very slowly.  I LOVE these books.  I had to go back and re-read two of the earlier books in the series (and a short story) after reading this.  That's how I spent my vacation.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

See What Happens?

I go on a little vacation and...
The ALA Youth Media Awards are announced.  Click here for all of them.  What an exciting batch of titles and awards!!

And the Battle of the Books Contenders are chosen.  Here they are!

FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie
FREEDOM OVER ME by Ashley Bryan
GHOST by Jason Reynolds
THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge
MAKOONS by Louise Erdrich
MARCH BOOK THREE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
SAMURAI RISING by Pamela Turner and Gareth Hinds
SOME WRITER! by Melissa Sweet
THUNDERBOY JR. by Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales
WET CEMENT by Bob Raczka
WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

You will notice some overlap.  This year, I have read six of the BOB contenders.  Got to get to work NOW!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Children - and the sequel

Once a girl walked out of her public library with a book about five children.  The children dug up a prehistoric sand fairy who could grant them wishes.  It was rather impolite, snobby and self-important.  And It's magic had some bugs that never quite got worked out.  When the girl became a Mom, she read that book and its two sequels to her child.  Wonderful!  E. Nesbit was a favorite author for them both.
This is the copy I own.  It is certainly an odd looking fairy.

Half a century late, someone else wrote a book about those five children and that strange fairy.  Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front brings us up to date with the Pemberton children.  Cyril is no longer a child.  At the start of the book, he is an officer awaiting his marching orders in the Great War.  Robert is at Cambridge, studying writing, of course.  Anthea is studying art.  Jane is at the Girl's high school.  The Lamb, (nee Hilary, much to his disgruntlement) is at Poplar school.  And Edie, an addition to the family, is at the local village school.  It is the very beginning of WWI.

The Lamb and Edie dig up the Psammyead and It is not happy at all.  Not at all.  The Pembertons refer to the Psammyead as "he" and so shall I.

When someone takes it upon themselves to write sequels to well-loved novels, I worry.  With relief, I'm glad to say that Saunders does "a bit of all right" with this book.  The Psammyead's magic is unstable in this story.  The world is unstable, too.  Somewhere close to the half way mark, we learn that the Psammyead has to make amends for his past.  And he does by helping people who are in similar circumstances to the "slaves" that he punished thousands of years before.

Oh my, I have to stop writing about this book now.  Expect hi-jinks.  Expect romance.  Expect social commentary and Briticisms.  Expect battle scenes and hospitals. And, if you loved the other books about the Pembertons, expect melancholy.  NOTE: Don't read the acknowledgements until AFTER you read the book.  'Nuff said.  (Where are my tissues?)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Princess and Caveman - Heroes!

I have a new favorite princess, Harriet the Invincible.  She is sturdy.  She is stalwart.  She is strong!  She is small and slow-ish.  She is a HAMSTER!! And she rides a battle quail.  I'm in awe.
I just read Ratpunzel, which is the third book in the series. Now I have to get the first two and find out why Harriet was working at a slight disadvantage in Book 3. 

The reading level is about grade 4 but the interest level is higher, through grade 7.  Harriet will appeal to kids who like a lot of action of the more-fun-than-fierce kind.  The dialogue is clever and punny and sometimes appears in speech bubbles.  That's important.  Those little illustrations move the action forward so don't just skip them.

In Ratpunzel,  Harriet's friend Wilbur, needs help in rescuing his pet hydra's kidnapped egg.  The plot gets a bit scrambled but, not to worry.  Harriet's excellent sword wielding skills and warrior instincts keep things moving along.  There's a tower, a princess-to-be-rescued, a witch, hidden passages and spells and slapstick swordplay until the satisfying conclusion.  

Then there's Lug.  He is a prehistoric hero, saving his clan from imprisonment and destruction, one ice age worry at a time.  In the second book in the series, Lug: Blast from the North by David Zeltser, Lug and his friends rescue a stranger who lives on a quickly moving glacier.  He seems soooo friendly.  Lug doesn't warm up to Blast as quickly as his friends do.  (See what I did there?) And Lug is right!  BTW, Lug has a sword, too, but his is made of ice! 

This series will appeal to the same set of readers.  The abundance of black and white illustrations, silly dialogue, middle school age insecurities and jealousies, and treachery cleverly deflected should keep young adventure seekers happy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Secrets - Different and yet the same

Here are three books published in 2016 that have different settings, (although the plots are slightly similar).  However, each main character has a secret.  And all those secrets are the same.  In a later post, I will tell you what the secret is.  Let's see if any of my readers already know.

The Kidnap Plot by Dave Butler.  When Charlie's inventor father is kidnapped by the Anti-Human League, it is up to Charlie and a ragtag band of characters, including a troll and two aviator/thieves to save the day.  This is a stem-punk romp.

The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton and Poly Bernatrene (illustrations).  Before her mother disappeared, she told Lettie to never go outside.  Then a stranger offers to sell Lettie his wonderful new invention - snow.   The stranger also knows where Lettie's mother has gone.
So, armed with this marvelous snow, Lettie heads off to put her family back together.

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino  Giacomo is a street urchin with a need to draw, and draw and draw.  But in his country - a land similar to Italy in the Renaissance - art is forbidden.  The Geniuses that aid artists - birds with rare powers - are hunted down and caged.  When Giacomo is attacked by two Lost Souls, a strange explosion of light and energy results in the arrival of a Genius of Giacomo's own - and his induction into a secret group of talented children.  Their benefactor has dangerous plans.  Soon, the children are put in life threatening peril.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cheap E-Books - sometimes FREE

I subscribe to 3 cheap e-book newsletters that arrive, unbidden, in my inbox every morning.  Most of the books are older and for adults. Newer books show up, as well as books for younger readers.  Every week, you can also download classics for very little money and often for free.  I load up my reader before going on vacation and I have good stuff to read while lounging by the pool. 
I recently downloaded a book by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland, The Drum, the Doll and the Zombie.  

I don't usually read horror, but when I do, I read John Bellairs (or Brad Strickland).

  ANYWAY, here are the three newsletters I mentioned above.

Early Bird Books - gives you the option to purchase the books (usually $2.99 or less - sometimes FREE) from several vendors. 

Bookbub - sells through Barnes & Noble and Google.  Prices hover around $1.

Riffle - several vendors - although sometimes books are only available through Amazon -, low prices and a community as well.   I find more YA books posted on Riffle than on the other sites.

NOTE:  You must buy the featured books on that day.  The books revert to their regular price the following day - usually around $10.