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.