Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guy Friday- Guy Adventures

Crocker, Carter. Last of the Gullivers.
Published 19 January 2012 by Philomel. ARC recieved from publisher.
Michael Pine has a difficult life, and doesn't help himself out of his bad circumstances. After a run in with the police following gang-related activities, he ends up working in a grocery shop as part of his community service punishment. This helps him a lot-- he is able to help the owner a great deal and establish himself as reliable. The gang activity still beckons, but he has enough support to stay strong. He has also discovered, in the gardens of an elderly man, an entire village of Lilliputians. Initially, he comes upon them when their city is in crisis, and once he comes to their aid, the inhabitants ask him for more and more help. Not only is the society a threat to itself, with brewing civil wars, but outside forces like ferrets and gang members are encroaching. Michael learns to rely on his own inner strength to help not only the Lilliputians, but himself as well.
Strengths: Students always like to read about children having troubles with gangs (maybe because all of our 7th graders still read The Outsiders), and the twist on the classic Swift tale is well done.
Weaknesses: I felt that I was missing a lot not having Gulliver's Travels fresh in my mind, especially when there are flashbacks to the 1700s delivered via letters. This was also a distinctly British book that my students might have trouble with.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Buried Thunder

Bowler, Tim. Buried Thunder
Maya and her brother are out investigating owls near their new home when Maya runs off into the dark and finds three dead bodies. She makes it home and the police and ambulance swarm the family's Rowan Tree Inn, but no bodies are found. Maya is confused, but creepy things keep happening; local thug but ladies' man Zep threatens her, homeless Bonny and her ward Mo are somehow involved in investigating the ritual murder of local foxes, and a former owner of the Rowan Tree is found murdered. When events start to lead
Strengths: Bowler, author of Blade: Playing Dead and Blade: Out of the Shadows has a wonderful, creepy way of writing. My students are always wanting murder mysteries, and this one is sort of Agatha Christie meets CSI. The British do horror and mystery so well. up to a recreation of the night Maya thought she found bodies, she is able to get help for her family and the people who are poisoned. Something is going on, but what? And how can Maya stop the killer from taking out more people?
Weaknesses: There are a few slightly questionable scenes with Zep, and certainly the murder of the foxes is fairly gruesome. Like Tunnel Vision, I wasn't completely sold on the solution to the mystery, either, but I will definitely be buying a copy of this for my library!

Maia, Love. DJ Rising.
From the Publisher (Little, Brown, who kindly sent a review copy):
"Sixteen-year-old Marley Diego-Dylan's career as "DJ Ice" is skyrocketing, but his mother's heroin addiction keeps dragging him back to earth."
This was a really compelling story, and I liked Marley and was very interested in how he would handle all of the challenges thrown his way, but this is not a book for my middle school readers. There is casual beer drinking and subsequent driving, a lot of crude sexual references and f-bombs. So why did I even pick it up? My students are constantly asking for books about drug abuse, and it's very hard (not surprisingly!) to find books about drug abuse that don't include a lot of other things that would cause problems with parents. For high school or a public library, this would be a great story that also includes a lot of information about the music industry.

Tunnel Vision

Shaw, Susan. Tunnel Vision.
Liza is coming home through a crowded overpass near her home, stumbles into her yard, and is shot at. The shot hits her mother, killing her by the time Liza and her father make it to the hospital. In shock, the two accept casseroles and try to figure out what happened, but bigger problems intervene-- someone tries to kill Liza. There was another murder under the overpass, and Liza was an unwitting witness. The two are shuttled to a seaside town nearby, but they see familiar faces there and are in jeopardy. Even in a remote farm in Kansas, people recognize Liza's unusual red hair, and they are followed. After taking off on their own for a while, Liza and her father are brought back into protective custody in order to find the murderer and put him away for good.
Strengths: Shaw does problem novels beautifully (Black-eyed Suzie, The Boy From the Basement), and has a real talent for writing from a baffled and disjointed perspective. Liza's pain at losing her mother is palpable, and the saga of the two on the run is good adventure, if sad.
Weaknesses: The mysterious identity of the murderer is handled a bit abruptly at the end, and I didn't quite buy it, but this is more of an on-the-run book than a murder mystery.

Uncommon Criminals

Carter, Ally. Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2)
Kat is back, and bound and determined to do a heist that her uncles all say can' t be done- steal the Cleopatra emerald for a woman who claims that the overseer of her parents' archaeological dig stole everything and sold it without cataloging it all. The woman just wants to din ate the emerald back to Egypt, so Kat gets it back for her. The only problem? Turns out that the woman isn't who or what she says she isso Kat has to steal the emerald back again. With the help of her cousin Gabrielle and TWO boys that are interested in her, Kat embarks on a journey involving international travel, jet setting parties, and adventures on yachts and in castles and museums to get the emerald back. Very glamorous, but Kat is a thief with integrity, although the woman she is up against is not.
Strengths: Reading this was like watching a 1960s movie with Cary Grant. Just pure fun. I love Carters Gallagher series, and the Heist society series is every bit as good. Just wish that they came out more frequently, but don't want to rush good writing!
Weaknesses:
This got slightly convoluted, and I'm a little unsure about how things ended. I should have read more carefully, but it was Christmas. I was just enjoying it!

McVoy, Terra Elan. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts.
From the Publisher: "When teenaged sisters Daisy, Violet and Calla spend their last summer together at Camp Callawolde, the decisions they make-- both good and bad-- bring challenges to their relationship as well as opportunities to demonstrate devotion to one another."
I mention this one because it looks deceptively like a middle grade book, with the ice cream on the cover, and while a great read, it involves beer drinking, marijuana smoking, and a fairly descriptive first sexual experience. This made me sad, because Daisy was a runner, and the description of the running training is absolutely brilliant. Still, I'll be sending this one on to the high school. (Got at a "book look".)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Haunting Violet

Harvey, Alyxandra. Haunting Violet.
Violet's mother is a fradulent medium who uses Violet, as well as Colin, a young man she took in, to help her in the ruse. When the group goes to a country manner for a protracted stay, Violet gets to hang out with her good friend, whose parents frequent spiritualist circles, as well as Trethewey, a young man from a fine family who has a romantic interest in Violet. The only problem? Violet keeps having visions of Rowena, a girl who violently drowned under suspicious circumstances, and begins to realize that she really does have the kind of gifts that her mother only pretends to have. When her mother falls from favor after a seance gone wrong, how will Violet work to solve the mystery and get her own life back on track?
Strengths: This author's Hearts At Stake series is popular, so readers who would nit normally be interested in this time period might pick this up. There is a lot of mystery and romance, so those are selling points as well. Readers who liked A Drowned Maiden's Hair will find this an interesting addition to this type of book.
Weaknesses: The cover is the sort of generic, historical, paranormal thing that graces so many books. Just makes me tired, and doesn't do justice to a good story.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Carols

Karen at Kidsmomo rules!
http://www.kidsmomo.com/2011/christmas-caroling-kidlit-style/

If you desperately want to hear me sing, you can listen to The Overdue Blues.

I've been singing on the announcements because the 6th graders love it and the 8th graders HATE it. They moan. It's great. In case anyone else might like to torture amuse students, here are some of my lyrics this year.

To the Tune of Jingle BellsEvery day I hope that people love to read
And they find a book that they really need.
But the one they want is underneath your bed
Gathering some dust and not being read.

So clean out your bag, and your locker too.
If you’re still not done with it, you can just renew !

Cause…..

Overdues, overdues are driving me insane !
When you want The Hunger Games, how can I explain
It’s
Overdue, overdue, you forgot to look.
Let’s get in those overdues
And check out new books!

To the Tune of Winter WonderlandSchool is out, bells are ringing. All is quiet, no more singing.
There’re no overdues. They’ve all been renewed.
In Ms. Yingling’s library wonderland

All the children are reading. Got all the books they are needing.
I get to sit down And smile not frown.
In Ms. Yingling’s library wonderland.

In the meadow I will build a snowman
And make sure that he has books to read
I’ll say “How ‘bout history?”
He’ll say “Go, man”
Ms. Yingling, you sure know what’s great to read.”

Later on, I’ll be resting because I’m not jesting
It really is true two thousand books are due
The day we’re back from library wonderland.

To the tune of Santa Claus Is Coming to TownYou'd better return ,you'd better renew
and have a great book that's working for you.
Overdues are dragging me down.

I want you to be happy and meet your AR goal
and read so much in SSR that you get no lump of coal.
Soooooo
You'd better return, you'd better renew
and have a great book that's working for you.
Overdues are dragging me down.

Some YA Titles

Lewis, Stewart. You Have Seven Messages.
Luna lives with her film producer father and younger brother Tile in New York City, where they are struggling with the death of Luna's mother a year earlier. Luna has lots going on in her life-- a crush on a neighbor, Oliver, snooty girls at school, and her own budding career as an art photographer-- but when she finds her mother's cell phone and goes through the messages, she find out that her mother's glamorous life held many secrets. With Oliver's help, she tracks down the people on the messages and comes to terms with what really happened with her mother's death.
Strengths: Good writing, lots of quotable lines, and an original story.
Weaknesses: Spoiler: Luna's mother was having an affair, and Luna deals with this much better than most young teens would. A lot of this was unbelievable to me-- Luna's show of photographs, her jet setting relatives, the fact that her mother named her brother Tile. Almost more of an adult book-- if Luna had been in her early twenties I could see this more.

Hoffman, Mary. David.
The "milk brother" of Michaelangelo, Gabriele, moves to Florence to work with his famous sculptor brother. Upon his arrival, he is taken in by a young widow who finds his perfect physical form appealing. When Angelo returns, Gabriele starts to work with him preparing stone for sculptures, but soon is a much sought out artist's model. Angelo uses him for his famous statue of David. There is a lot of political intrigue, and the widow is pregnant and marries a wealthy man whom Gabriele finds annoying. Told from the point of view of Gabriele when he is in his 80s, this is a very rich picture of life during this time period.
Strengths: Interesting, well-written, and well-researched.
Weaknesses: Again, more of an adult book. While nothing is graphic, the attraction that the Florentine women and men have for Gabriele is definitley discussed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deep, dark midnight of the soul

There are always reasons why I feel like a bad librarian, but here's one I would really like to hear input on:
Do students really care about literary merit of books?

When my children were young, I had a friend who fervently disliked Little Golden Books, claiming they had no "literary merit". Our favorite books? The Color Kittens, and just about any other Little Golden Book. So I'm a bad mother, too!

This came up in the Cybils discussion, and while it's always a pleasure to see students enjoying books that are well written, it's something that they never seem to ask for, nor do they care when that is offered as a selling point. (I use this particularly to pitch The Phantom Tollbooth, which is brilliantly written.)

I think I can tell if a book has literary merit or not, and certainly I try to find the best written books that will interest my students. But in the end, I will choose to have two copies of Vampire Rising at the expense of having a copy of Moon Over Manifest. Those two copies have had to be glued back together; Heart of a Samurai has been checked out three times despite my frequent pleas to read it.

How do others balance the guilt? And the library collection? (Other than getting more sleep?)

The Cybils middle grade fiction committee did a great job navigating the difficult terrain of this decision. Remember that the shortlists come out on New Year's Day!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yeah. Not gonna happen.

I'd like to say that blog posts would occur this week, but that would be disingenuous.

Some reasons for this ARE library related. We have a Cybils chat at 11:00 p.m. With my normal schedule, this means that I should have just stayed at school and not bothered to go to bed. Then, I have double booked classes tomorrow and Wednesday because we have a short week.

Our school board is meeting tonight to discuss options for cutting the budget. The job/possible lack of job stress is really getting to me.

Did I mention that after Christmas my household will include TWO 18 year old girls, a 16 year old boy, and a 13 year old girl? And I'll need to feed them all? Every day? And my own personal 18 year old has decided she wants to be a vegan? Sigh. On the upside, when it is just Picky Reader and an exchange student next year, life will be a piece of cake!

So for the next couple of days, I think that watching reruns of Nanny and the Professor on hulu.com instead of reading may be a winning strategy.

And when did people stop referring to repeats of shows as reruns?

I will do my best, but make no promises.


Do want to thank Capstone Publishing and Kate McMullan! I was one of the winners of a complete set of the republished Myth-o-Mania books! The old paperback versions have been very popular in my library but are falling to bits, so this will be great. Nice to see that Capstone is making them available again. Students love mythology!

Middle Grade Monday

Haston, Meg. How to Rock Braces and Glasses.
Kacey is not only popular, she is mean. She is a presenter on the school television broadcast every morning, giving advice, which is almost always snarky. She cares a lot about what she wears, and just got a new pair of violet colored contact lenses. When she forgets to use eyedrops with them, they cause an eye infection. She is fitted with a pair of heavy, tortoiseshell eyeglasses. A little while later, she gets heavy duty braces which result in a lisp. The understudy for her starring role in the school play is brought in, and she finds her friends drifting away from her. She gets involved with a boy who has a rock band because he wants her to sing with them, but she thinks he is beneath her because of his bad fashion choices. Of course, she manages to be triumphant in the end, and becomes a nicer person as well.
Strengths: This is cover blurbed by Lisi Harrison, author of The Clique series, and this book will appeal to that crowd. It is also going to be a television series coming out in February, so there will be demand for the book.
Weaknesses: As a Geek American, I always find this sort of book insulting. I also have trouble believing that there are that many middle school students who care about fashion. And the eye doctor would have let Kacey pick out prettier frames-- he wouldn't have had a pair all ready to go right there. Interesting that the television series has Kacey portrayed by an African-American actress; the violet contacts, along with descriptions of her putting her hair in a "loose chignon" and her mother having "auburn curls" made me think she was white, but there is no reason she had to be other than those brief descriptions. This is one that I will buy but not necessarily like.

Cabot, Meg. Abandon.
Pierce died in an icy pool after hitting her head and falling in, but because of the cold temperatures, she was brought back from the dead. Her mother blamed her father, so the two of them have left the east coast, where Pierce was involved in a scandal at her school after the accident, and now live on a small island where her mother grew up. Pierce still feels weird, and it doesn't help that she is enrolled in the "New Pathways" program for troubled students at the school. SPOILER ALERT: It turns out that when she died, she went to Hades and met John, who is now running the underworld. He took a fancy to her when she was young, and now wants her to stay with him. There is also some complicated family history that will no doubt be resolved in book two and three of the trilogy.
Strengths: I nice mythological twist on paranormal romance, and middle school appropriate. Meg Cabot seems unable to write anything bad.
Weaknesses: Totally random title. Means nothing. I am never thrilled with quirky Southern settings, but this one wasn't bad.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Toot! Toot!

I'm mentioning my inclusion in this because lists of school library blogs are always useful.

This site encourages people to become teachers and school librarians. This is worthy in theory, but insanely cruel in practice. My district is currently looking at cutting over a hundred teachers, including a disproportionate number of librarians. My Latin degree is useless; luckily I didn't actually double major in the now defunct field of home ec.

Sorry. It's hard to feel very "Hooray, me!" lately. Feel free to comment and make me feel better!

http://www.teachercertificationdegrees.com/top-blogs/school-library/

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky

Lansdale, Joe R. All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky.

You think the present economy is making your life tough? Jack's mother has died of dirty pneumonia, and his father hung himself hours after his death. Jack has to bury them both after an enormous dust storm. About this time, Jane and Tony come to his farm; their mother ran off with a Bible salesman, and their father has been killed by his tractor overturning on him. Jane has a plan to drive away from their doomed Oklahoma community by taking Old Man Turpin's car, since he died in the storm sitting on his front porch. Once the trio take off, they run into one trouble after another-- they get caught up with some thieves, get shanghaied into picking peas, have to ride the rails, and generally live from one meal to the next until they accept some help from kind people.
Strengths: Reminiscent of Hunt's No Promises in the Wind, it is a good reminder of how absolutely dire the Great Depression was. When people complain today's situation to that time, I want to slap them. I don't think that things have gotten bad enough now that parents are sending their children away from home because they have no food for them. This was an excellent depiction of this point in history, packed with action and adventure. Definitely buying for my students who want more books on this era after reading A Long Way From Chicago.
Weaknesses: I wished this had a period photo on the cover. Good try, but the boy's jeans and shirt look brand new.

Fix Me

Michaels, Rune. Fix Me.
Brian and Leia's parents died in a car crash, and they are being raised by their Aunt Phoebe, who thinks they are both difficult. Brian certainly is-- he beats up on Leia regularly and cuts himself, something which Leia does as well. When Leia is spooked by a man at her place of work, she runs off to the zoo, where she meets Kyle, the son of the owner. He wants help with the work; Leia needs a place to stay. Leia starts to live at the zoo, eating the animals' fruit, washing in the restrooms, and sleeping in an old tiger cage. Brian eventually finds her but lets her stay. Leia becomes fond of Tina, a monkey who has been badly abused. This situation works... for a while. Eventually, Leia starts to remember horrific events from her past, and must find someone who will take the time to listen and fix her.
Strengths: Michaels does great books for readers who want to be depressed in February. Have two copies of this author's Genesis Alpha, which are in tatters. Never did buy The Reminder because it creeped me out so much; these all tend toward YA. Picky Reader still talks about Noble Genes!
Weaknesses: Spoiler: Leia and Brian's problems are caused because they were abused by their father, who took inappropriate pictures of them. This is so delicately handled that many readers are not even going to get what happened, but I can see parents of 6th graders getting upset.

Random note: Ms. Michaels lives in Iceland, and the day after Christmas an exchange student from Iceland will be moving in with my family! Apparently, Icelandic Reader is very fond of books and movies, so maybe she will agree to guest post. And be part of our holiday Gene Kelly Fest!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Guy Friday-- Playing With the Boys

No joke. Yesterday I had a group of boys who all checked out "pink" books because Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading suggested they should read about girls! The Greenwald title has been getting heavy circulation here!

Tigelaar, Liz. Playing with the Boys. (Pretty Tough #2)
Lucy, still recovering from the death of her mother, moves from Ohio to California with her father. Desperate to fit in and make friends, she tries out for the soccer team, but when she doesn't make it, the coach suggests that she try out for the football team as placekicker. She beats out everyone, including her new friend Benji, and is cautiously excited about it. She thinks the quarterback, Ryan, is cute, and is glad to be asked to parties by the cheerleaders. The down sides include having to lie to her father that she is a cheerleader, and putting up with the hazing from the boys, who are not at all happy to have a girl on the team. This is the sequel to Pretty Tough, which features Charlie, who befriends Lucy.
Strengths: Very much enjoyed these portraits of strong girls interested in sports. I thought the treatment was realistic and balanced. Sad that over 20 years after Dygard's Forward Pass, girls are still having trouble being on football teams. If we have great young women like Brianna Amat kicking winning goals AND being Homecoming queen, I think it's time that boys realize that girls can play football, too.
Weaknesses: The author is now apparently writing for the television show Once Upon a Time, so we might not see more by this author; Pretty Tough #3 and #4 are written by Keri Mikulski.

I've not been finding many good books for boys lately. *Sigh*. Warning about James Proimos' 12 things to do before you crash and burn : gratuitous f-bombs in many places. This is especially annoying, as Proimos' previous work is for much younger ages, and the book itself is a tiny little volume. It is not clever enough to sustain the obscenities.

Also checked out Patricia Miles' The Gods in Winter, hoping that there would be enough mythology in it for my readers in Riordan withdrawl, but the 1978 title has that odd, English style where I wondered if anything would ever happen. Just not going to work.

I had great fun with Frank Decaro's The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, but it would have been better if the descriptions of the actors included pictures of them, as well as the source of the recipes, which I imagine appeared in other cookbooks. Not appropriate or of interest for middle school students, but fun for me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Because we all need something to make us smile...

Found this link... somewhere.
http://librarianheygirl.tumblr.com/
Since I don't know who Ryan Gosling is, he doesn't do much for me.
THIS gentleman, however...



Photo from http://www.palzoo.net/Gene-Kelly

Paranormal Murders

Harrington, Kim. Clarity.
Clarity "Clare" Fern is able to hold an object and can sometimes retrieve memory of emotions or activity from it. Her brother can communicate with the dead, and her mother can read people's minds. They have a small business doing readings in their small tourist town on the East Coast, but when a girl is murdered after spending time with her brother, Clare agrees to help the police investigate. With the help of her former boyfriend, a budding news reporter, and Gabriel, the hot son of the new police detective, she tries to uncover the path of the killer, especially after two more people are killed. Things are complicated by a new psychic undermining the family business, as well as Clare's attraction to Gabriel, who may or may not be dangerous. Strengths: Really good murder mystery, which is what my students want! Lots of twists and turns. Really enjoyed the setting, and the psychic gifts were explained in a way that made sense. The sequel, Perception, comes out on March 12, 2012. Ms. Harrington also has a younger series, Sleuth or Dare, coming out in the spring.
Weaknesses: Borderline young adult. There is a lot of talk of the brother hooking up with tourist girls, as well as the former boyfriend having an affair. No details are given, no bad language used, so I will buy the series. (If there's any money!) Cover not very good, especially since Clare's hair is clearly defined as curly/frizzy. ( I see that there is now an alternate cover!)

Sampson, Jeff. Vesper (Deviants #1)
Emily Webb doesn't care what she wears-- or rather, she cares very much that she wears figure concealing clothing, unlike her older stepsister Dawn. When a classmate, Emily C., is found murdered miles from home in her pajamas, Emily W. starts to notice changes in her behavior. She starts to go to parties in skimpy clothes and drink, flirting with boys in ways that have never made her comfortable, and following them around because they smell good. What is causing her change? Can it have something to do with genetic experimentation at the company BioZenith? Since other kids at her school whose parents worked for the company are having similar problems, it's a good guess. The sequel, Havoc, comes out on January 24, 2012.
Strengths: Obviously paranormal from the cover, it was a little more original than most of the stories.
Weaknesses: Other reviewers seemed to like the girl power in this one, but I'm not quite seeing it. The whole "Wow, we didn't know you were hot until you took off your hoodie and glasses!" thing bothered me a bit. That's okay, with the amount of drinking and licking boys that goes on, this is more YA than middle school.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not What I Wanted Wednesday

I read a lot more books than I review or buy. Some that aren't quite right for my library might be perfect for somebody else's!

Freitas, Donna. The Survival Kit.
From the Publisher: "After her mother dies, sixteen-year-old Rose works through her grief by finding meaning in a survival kit that her mother left behind."
What I Wanted: Something like Sarah Dessen, which this was. I enjoyed it.
Why it didn't work for me: Too lingeringly sad and philosophical. A bit too old, too, with some mentions of inappropriate behavior.
People who liked it more than I did: Book Chic Club, Letters Inside Out, Readergirl, Hippies, Beauty and Books, Oh My!, Bookittyblog.


Ackley, Amy. Sign Language.
From the Publisher: "Twelve-year-old Abbey North deals with her feelings about her father's cancer and its aftermath while also navigating the problems of growing up."
What I wanted: I thought the cover was great. Loved the chipped nail polish. And I did read the entire book.
Why it didn't work for me: Again, the very lingering sadness and air of detachment. Found it hard to believe that a family would not tell an 8th grader her father was dying, but I suppose it happens. This covered a longer period of time than most middle school students have patience for.
People who liked it more than I did: Wicked Awesome Books, YA Librarian Tales, Great Imaginations, Final Distraction, Me, My Shelf and I.



Clark, Jay. The Edumacation of Jay Baker.
From the Publisher: " In small-town Ohio, fifteen-year-old Jay Baker's popular new blog helps him navigate high school as he faces off against his mortal enemy, meets the girl of his dreams, and watches his parents' relationship implode. "
What I wanted: A funny book for middle school boys. This was very funny and nicely fast-paced, but too old. Drat.
Why it didn't work for me: Way too many sexual references; major plot of the book is that Jay's parents are getting a divorce because his mother is having an affair with his best (girl) friend's father.
People who liked it more than I did: This doesn't come out until late January, so it is hard to find reviews. I will be curious to see what older guy readers think of this one.



Rorby, Ginny. Lost in the River of Grass.
From the Publisher: "When two Florida teenagers become stranded on a tiny island in the Everglades, they attempt to walk ten miles through swampland to reach civilization."
What I wanted: Anything by the author of the fabulous The Outside of a Horse; a survival story. There is a LOT of great detail about the Everglades.
Why it didn't work for me: Most of my survival fiction is read by boys, and while they do read about girls, this started out a bit... whiny.
People who liked it more than I did: All Things Girl, Bookish Delights, Library Mom, The Reading Fever, Sandra Stiles.

Time Slip Tuesday

Kessler, Liz. A Year Without Autumn.
Jenni and Autumn's families have traveled to the same condos every year at the same time. Things are a little more difficult because Jenni's mother is prgenant, but both families are happy. When Autumn takes an unused elevator up to Autumn's condo one day, she finds a strange woman there and realizes that she has traveled a year into the future, and Autumn's brother Mike has been injured in an accident on a horse. This has a disastrous effect on both families, and everyone feels guilty. Using the elevator, Jenni tries to fix her mistake, but it's not easy. When she travels forward in time, people think she is nuts, and it's hard to effect any changes.
Strengths: Good use of time travel, and believably done. Nice sub plot with older woman's romance..
Weaknesses: Sad. Not as many time travel books go tothe future, and this may be why. The cover doesn't indicate how sad this one will be!


Archer, Jennifer. Through Her Eyes.
Tansy is used to being the new kid since her horro novel writing mother moves them all over whenever she is beginning new books, but moving to a small town like her grandfather's hometown of Cedar Canyon is something new. It doesn't help that her grandfather is sinking into dementia. The house that the family moves into was where one of her grandfather's friends lived... until he committed suicide by jumping off a local bridge. Tansy finds a watch and necklace, along with poetry Henry wrote, and starts to have dreams from the point of view of Isabel, the girl who dated Henry. She settles in to life in a small town and meets Tate, who helps her investigate the events surrounding Isabel, Henry, and her grandfather when Tansy is worried that she will somehow dream as Isabel and never be able to return to the modern day.
Strengths: Nicely creepy and atmospheric, the descriptions of past events are nicely balanced with Tansy's struggles in the modern world and her romance with Tate.
Weaknesses: Henry wasn't very likeable, and I was somehow disappointed in how the mystery was resolved. Still, this was one of the better paranormal mysteries I've read lately.

Middle Grade Monday

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. The Always War.
As long as Tessa can remember, Westam has been at war with Eastam. Life is grim as people slog to factories to make weapons and slink home to their tiny apartments. One bright spot in Tessa's life is Gideon, a childhood friend who was accepted into the elite military program and is now a war hero. However, Gideon is traumatized by his latest action-- bombing and killing over a thousand people. He buys a plane to try to make amends, and Tessa (as well as Dek, who is trying to steal back the plane) fly into enemy territory, only to find out that nothing is what it is supposed to be. Has the government been lying to people? And why?
Strengths: This nice, short, dystopian novel will be popular with Haddix's many fans because it is well-written, engaging and original.
Weaknesses: In the end, I couldn't quite buy the premise, and was overly annoyed by things like "Shargo", "Lake Mish", and "Terry-o". If we know the names of ancient cities, I don't believe that 75 years of war will wipe out the names of the Great Lakes.

Patrick, Cat. Forgotten.
Every morning at 4:33, the time that London died in a car accident before being saved, her memory is wiped clean. She remembers a few things, but not much. She relies on detailed notes to get her through the day, especially once Luke becomes her boyfriend. To make matters more difficult, London "remembers" the future, so she knows that her friend Jaimie is making bad choices that won't end well. Since she doesn't "remember" Luke in her future, she is confused as to what this means. The one thing that comes into her dreams time and again is a funeral, and finding out whose funeral this is becomes important to finding out many things about her past.
Strengths: This was a very intriguing book, and it was easy to suspend disbelief as London goes through her days. The mystery plays out well, and the romance with Luke is really sweet.
Weaknesses: I did wonder how London would be able to make it through her days at school and take tests, and also thought that she would have to get up much earlier in the morning to review that many notes!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Dark Eden

Carman, Patrick. Dark Eden.
Will has been in therapy for too long, his parents feel, and when his doctor thinks that going away to a facility with six other incurable patients will benefit him, off he goes. He "knows" the other patients because he hacked into his doctor's computer and stole the audio files of their sessions, and has been listening to them. Each has a crippling fear, and Rainsford can help cure this. They are sent to a fortress like house in a remote area, and Will decides to hide in the woods rather than enter the house, eventually hiding in a bomb shelter/basement area because of the cold, where he has some limited contact with the others and is also able to use security cameras to see how they are "cured". When the first boy, who is deathly afraid of bugs, goes into a room to be cured, Will thinks he is dead after the room fills with images of the event which started the boy's fear, but when Ben appears healthy and free of his fear, Will is confused. One by one, the others confront their fears. Eventually, Will is forced out of hiding and has to decide if he wants to be cured or not. To say more would spoil the book.
Strengths: Fairly good suspense, and students like to read about horrible boot camp-like experiences. There is a Dark Eden app with a trailer, and it's possible to buy the book in 99 cent sections through the app.
Weaknesses: While I think Carman's Atherton series is solid sci fi, his Skeleton Creek and Trackers are good for an easy, cheaply bound Scholastic mysteries, and his 13 Days To Midnight was awesome and award-worthy, this one left me cold. Will's fear and cure felt very anticlimatic, and the explanation of how the cure worked made me shake my head. Since I have felt negative about much of what I have read this week, I'll offer the following sites, since they seemed more positive about the book in general.

The Well-Read Wife
The Book Bind
I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read
Sci Fi Fan Letter
Between the Pages

Guy Friday- Guy Moments

Here's the thing: some days, I am not with students every second. Yesterday, there were whole 5 minute periods when I wasn't talking to a student, and I felt horribly guilty. I had things to do-- checking library standards for the lesson next week, researching new titles students requested, and working for way longer than I wanted to trying to figure out Glogster because a teacher wanted to know if it would be good for students to use. (Not sold.)

Now, I work an extra three hours at school and three hours at home every day, so I put in the time. Could I work harder? Obviously. Yesterday we only checked out 180 books. Monday I checked out 334.

But yesterday, when kids weren't swarming every second, I had some great Guy Moments. Making personal connections with kids and taking time to listen to their concerns is a luxury. I get this. But you tell me-- was it worth it for me to be here for the following kids?

The boy who failed the reading section of the OAA who worked with me to put together a pile of nonfiction books that he was interested in and that he could read easily. Now, until Christmas, he can just grab one off the pile. He's been reading at least one a day, and told me yesterday "I want to pass the reading test. I think I'm reading a lot better now."

The self-avowed nonreader who snuck in during lunch to get a Bluford High book. "These are really good, " he said as I helped him pick out the next one in the series, "and they are small enough to fit behind my math book so my friends don't know I'm reading during study hall."

The boy who loves soccer who trusts me enough to check out The Boyfriend Game, which is very pink. He flinched when I handed it to him, but when I said "No, really, there's lots of soccer along with the romance," he shrugged and said "Maybe this will help me with soccer AND with girls!"

The wrestler who came in and told me that he was able to pin one of his opponents with a move he picked up from Better Wrestling For Boys (1986). "I didn't think the book would be any good because the cover was stupid, but if you hadn't shown me that there was lots of good information in it, I wouldn't have won my match."

The 8th grader who has an in-depth discussion with me about how British authors differ from US ones in their treatment of horror books. He was thrilled to get his hands on Barry Hutchison's Mr. Mumbles, especially since it is available mainly only in the UK.

And finally, the wrestler who ran into the library in a panic and said "Ms. Yingling, can you tie my tie?" I got the knot done on my neck, slipped it over his head, and help him fasten his collar buttons and get it all arranged. He ran out to his next class. After school, when I was talking to his mother, he came up and gave me a big hug and said "You saved my life! Coach would've killed me if I didn't have my tie on!"

There are going to be cuts in my district. I don't have any idea what they will be, but I am sure that library services will be affected. This has made me unbearably sad this week. Was I doing my job yesterday? Was I worth the taxpayers' money? Maybe not. But those six boys (and remember, this is just part of one day) are boys that trust me, who come to me for books, and who read a WHOLE lot more because I am here.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hmmm...

Not that this will change anyone's minds. In these hard economic times, getting the right book to the right child at the right time seems to be a luxury many people feel we can't afford.

But what is the cost of printing and sending the glossy pamphlets with my childrens' Ohio Acchievement Assessment scores? Or the cost of administering the tests? Which contributes more to students' academic growth-- having a professional to make sure they have a book that keeps them reading, or taking a test.

Just a thought.

Breadcrumbs

Ursu, Anne. Breadcrumbs.
Hazel and Jack have been friends for a long time, but once they enter middle school, it is more difficult. Hazel is dreamy and unfocused, so other students make fun of her, especially the boys with whom Jack is now spending time. Things are not good at home, either. Hazel's father has moved out, her mother is overworked, and Hazel feels that she doesn't "match" her mother, since she was adopted from India and her mother is more typical to Minnesota. When Jack is hit by a snowball, and shard of ice "enters" him, and he is whisked off by the evil snow queen. Hazel seems to be the only one who misses him-- his parents tell everyone he has been sent to stay with an elderly aunt. Hazel enters the fairy tale world into which Jack has been sucked to try to rescue him and encounters a number of fairy tale entities.
Strengths: Lyrical language, interesting twist on fairy tales, nice multicultural touch, and good description of the breaking down of middle school relationships.
Weaknesses: I didn't like Hazel at all, and somehow it was difficult to suspend disbelief and enter the fantasy world. This wasn't a problem in The Chronus Chronicles, so I was surprised. Also, the ending was a bit too neat for my taste.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Jump Into the Sky

Pearsall, Shelley. Jump Into the Sky.
Expected publication: August 14th 2012 by Alfred a Knopf
Levi has been living with an aunt in Chicago since his mother left him and his father is in the army during in WWII. When his aunt tires of having him, she sends him off to where his father is stationed in the south. This is quite a culture shock for the smart, well-behaved boy who is subject to the Jim Crow behavior in this part of the US for the first time. To make matters worse, his father's unit has just been shipped to Oregon. Luckily, one of his father's men, Cal, takes him in to help out with his wife, Peaches, who is expecting and soon has a baby girl. Eventually, Cal is sent to join the 555th, and Levi is reunited with his father. WWII is winding down, but the Japanese are sending bombs into the US on balloons, and the 555th, while fighting against racial prejudice, is also trying to keep those at bay.

Strengths: I have two reading speeds, Review Speed With Laser Focus and Enjoying Myself. Pearsall is a great writer who frequently lulled me into leisurely enjoying her prose. This is also an under represented area of WWII history, and the research is well done.
Weaknesses: As with most books set in the home front, this lacks action. There is some at the end, with the balloons, but there isn't even as much racial tension in the south as I thought there would be. Aside from one big incident, most of the book is very quiet. That's not a weakness until you try to give this book to one of the war mongering preteen boys who want things to blow up in every chapter. They will be attracted to the great cover.

Do apologize-- thought this was coming out in February.

I have spent an hour this morning on audiovisual problems, and last night was struggling with getting Kindle content for a student who has a Kindle Fire but only one book on it. E Books can be very frustrating if you are not buying the books! I didn't even have any luck trying to get NetGalley titles on the Kindle. Argh!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Things I read half of...

Because it's been that kind of week/month/year. Life.

Frost, Helen. Hidden.
From the Publisher: "Years after Darra Monson's father stole a minivan with Wren Abbott hiding in the back, the girls come face to face at summer camp and together they try to work through what happened to them and the impact it had on their lives. "
Usually adores Frost's work even though I generally dislike novels in verse. Frost is a master of form and poetic device. Keesha's House and Spinning Through the Universe should be read by everyone attempting a novel in verse so they can see how it's done. However, the poetry in this one didn't blow me away. While the plot line is stronger than the other previously mentioned works, it was also creepy. Usually, I give creepy things to Picky Reader and she loves them, but there was just something about the story that didn't work for her, either.


Napoli, Donna Jo. Lights on the Nile.
From the Publisher: "Kepi, a young girl who was content staying at home helping her father who was wounded while building a pyramid for the pharaoh Khufu, is kidnapped along with her baboon, Babu, and taken to the capital city, where she is separated from Babu, sets out to find him and appeal to the pharaoh, and discovers she has powers she never knew about."

Again, an author I adore. Spinners, Zel, Stones in Water, The King of Mulberry Street-- all awesome. The 6th grade does a unit on Ancient Egypt, and this did have great descriptions of every day life (Napoli always does very thorough research). I also have more students who are interested in books about animals, but the pet baboon didn't do anything for me, and the veering into the fairy kingdom was a bit confusing. I already bought this-- we'll see how it circulates.


Jolley, Dan and O.T. Nelson. The Girl Who Owned the City.
Coming out in spring 2012 from Graphic Universe.
The reason I read half of this was because I had it on the Nook and the words were all in 8 point font! This 1975 post-apocalyptic novel still does very well in my library, and I was surprised to see this graphic treatment. Jolley did the Warriors manga adaptations, which are quite nice, and this seemed like a good reworking. I prefer to buy graphic novels that have regular novel tie ins as a sneaky way to entice children to read, so I'll buy this one if I can.

Cooper, Rose. Gossip From the Girls' Room, Rumors From the Boys' Room.

*Sigh*. Wimpy Kid. Dork Diaries. Big Nate. My Life as a Book. I get that the students like to... page through them. I just don't fully credit that they are reading them. This is another hand lettered look novel with pictures. I had trouble believing the premise from the first (From Booklist review) "Sophia becomes determined to use her anonymous school blog to post gossip about the popular kids in hopes that at least her blog will find popularity." Really? What school hosts anonymous blogs for their students? And the whole gossip and rumor spreading... sigh. These would circulate well. Just have to see.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Multicultual Week

In looking for topics for library lessons, I found that one of the state standards in Ohio involves sharing multicultural literature. Since I have been working to add to my collection books that portray people from lots of different backgrounds, I will be showcasing those titles in book talks this week.

Hiranandani, Veera. The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Comes out January 2012.)
Sonia's father loses his job, and she is forced to leave her small, private school where no grades are assigned and go to a public school. She doesn't have too much trouble finding friends, and is taken under the wing of Kate, a popular girl who encourages her to try out for the cheer leading squad. Sonia makes it as an alternate, and enjoys hanging out with Kate and her very different family. Still, Sonia has a hard time at school when people ask her "what she is". Her mother is of Russian and Polish Jewish extraction, and her father is from India, so Sonia keeps being asked if she is black or white. When her father spirals into clinical depression as his job situation doesn't get better, Sonia has even more trouble keeping up with friends and school work, but her supportive family works together to get her father assistance.
Strengths: This was well-done in that it addressed the issue of racial identity in a fuller context. I liked that this wasn't the only or even main conflict in the book... it was just another issue with which Sonia was struggling. There aren't a lot of books about cheer leading, so this is a welcome addition.
Weaknesses: There was a lot going on, so some of the issues weren't covered as much as they could have been. Sonia's almost-friendship with African-American and economically disadvantaged Alisha is rather ignored, and that would have been an interesting development.

Frazier, Sundee. Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment.(Comes out January 2012.)
Brendan Buckley is back, and he is still interested in science. Not only is he busy collecting rock samples with his newly found white grandfather, but he is working with a new GIRL classmate on a biomass fuel project for the science fair. Add to the general mayhem the fact that his parents are trying to adopt a baby, and Brendan's involvement in Tae Kwan Do, and this is one busy middle grade story. The addition of the equally science obsessed Michelle, and Brendan's reluctance to hang out with her because his friends don't hang out with girls, is a very nice touch.
Strengths: For some reason, people often ask for books involving science fairs, and there are very few of these, Everybody Bugs Out being the newest to come to mind.
Weaknesses: For some reason, it makes me cringe when Brendan's black grandmother calls him her "milk chocolate baby", but that's probably me being overly sensitive.


Khan, Michelle. The Hijab Boutique
Nominated for the Cybils by Jessica Sattell.
For International Women's Day, Farah is assigned a report for her private school. She is supposed to bring in an object that symbolizes her mother, and tell about her mother's life. Since her father's death, Farah's mother has become increasingly quiet and modest, adopting the hijab and having few interests outside the home. Farah's friends' mothers are all actresses or high-powered business women, so Farah is embarrassed to report on her mother until her mother tells her about her new plan-- she is opening a store where Islamic clothing and accessories will be sold. Farah takes a selection of hijabs to school and reports to her classmates about her mother's life style and new business.
Strengths: There is a very small number of books about Islamic culture, the most prominent being by Randa Abdel-Fattah and set in Australia, so this, while very short, will be interesting to my students, some of whom do wear the hijab.
Weaknesses: This is supposedly set in California but uses a lot of British terms. Also, while it was nice that Farah eventually saw her mother's choices as valid and valuable, the other mothers portrayed seemed really superficial. There were also a lot of awkward phrasings.

Kill You Last

Strasser, Todd. Kill You Last.
In the same style used in Wish You Were Dead and Blood on My Hands, Strasser delivers another murder mystery. Shelby's father is a fashion photographer who has fallen on hard times. When three girls who all had pictures taken by him are missing and later found murdered, many suspect practices of her father and his business are uncovered. While fraud and inappropriate contact are certainly something he's guilty of, Shelby is still hesitant to think that her father would have gone so far as to murder girls. When she meets a student reported from a nearby college, Shelby sets out to uncover the facts of what happened and try to exonerate her father. When one of her father's employees goes missing, and another (who seems to be wooing Shelby) is also murdered, Shelby knows that she has to find out what really happened before more things go wrong.
Strengths: Creepy covers and gruesome murders make these books exactly what many of my students are looking for. While I wouldn't hand these to a 4th or 5th grader, they are appropriate enough for middle school.
Weaknesses: There is a little bit of beer drinking, mention of sexual molestation occurring but no details at all, and a rather disturbing ending, but this is pretty tame compared to some of the television shows. It has been hard to get a copy of Blood on My Hands for some reason.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Underdogs

Lupica, Mike. The Underdogs.
Will is a small but fast football player whose father was a high school football star until a tragic and career-ending knee injury. They live in Forbes, a small Pennsylvania town that has seen better days. The big employer in the area, a show company, closed years ago, and the town has never recovered. Now, they can't even afford the $10,000 to fund the local Pop Warner type football team on which Will was planning on playing. Luckily, Will won't give up and writes to New Balance shoes to see if they will sponsor the team... and they agree to. The only problem is that so many people are leaving the town that it's hard to get people to play. Many people move to Castle Rock to work in the bottled water plant there, and some kids even go there to play on the soccer team. Will manages to round up other kids to play... including Hannah Grayson, a girl who is an awesome kicker and bigger than Will. While she is allowed on the team, the other players take time to warm up to her. Obstacle after obstacle in thrown in the team's way, but they dig deep to make their town proud.
Strengths: Wow. I knew that Lupica was a great sports writer, but this... this should be the Newbery next year. The characters are all realistic and well-developed, with many surprising characteristics. Hannah was AWESOME, and her relationship with Will was exactly the sort of one I would want to write. Real equals, despite their differences. The plot, while slightly predictable, has enough twists and turns to keep me madly flipping the pages. The best part of this is the overwhelming sense of sadness that as to be overcome, and the inclusion of the town of Forbes as a character. I cried. Really. And I have to post this quote at my desk (page 22): "The ball's not round," he said. "It'll take some funny bounces on you. You still gotta pick it up and keep running."
Weaknesses: I didn't understand why the town was playing for the football team, so it seemed slightly unrealistic. And, not to spoil the book for anyone, but I didn't think for one minute that Will's team would not win the championship.

Okay, admittedly this hit me at a time where an underdog story went down really well. But still, every middle school library HAS to buy at least one copy of this one.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Food, in one way or another

McClain, Lee. Sizzle.
Linda has a good life with her Aunt Elba, who runs a small diner in Arizona, but her aunt's health is bad enough to send Linda off to live with her Aunt Pat in Pittsburgh. Pat also cooking, but instead of the flavorful, fresh Mexican food that Linda likes to cook, Pat favors carb-heavy casseroles from cans, recipes for which she shares on her local cooking show, Cooking From Cans. This is in part because there are a lot of children in the family, including foster child Angel, who is having a hard time but takes to Linda because of their shared cultural heritage. Linda misses Arizona and cooking, and tries to "help" Pat out by teaching her that Linda's way of cooking is better, which imperils the show, which is a much needed source of income. She also needs to learn to get along with the other girls in the family, even though she has a crush on the same boy that one of her new sisters does.
Strengths: Very nice treatment of fitting in at school and with a new family, good cooking details, and a sweet budding romance. This is definitely one to add to the list of middle grade cooking novels!
Weaknesses: What happened to Linda's parents is never addressed and I kept waiting for it. Also, there is a web site listed for Pat's show, but it doesn't really exist. For some reason, this irks me, because some books do have real web sites.


Kent, Trilby. Stones for My Father
Nominated for the Cybils by Ivette deBruyn

Corlie's life on a South African farm in the early 1900s is difficult not only because her father has passed away, but because of the fighting between the Khakis (the British) and the Boers. The British frequently find small farm communities and burn them to the ground if they suspect that they are aiding the other side. This happens to Corlie's family, so they set off with a family of friends who are African to find a larger community of people banding together trying to survive. Food is especially scarce. This group is unwilling to take in the African family, fearing that they are on the side of the British, but Corlie's family is able to survive until the British come and force them all into a refugee camp. Things go from bad to worse, with Corlie's brother becoming ill and her mother refusing to care for her any longer. Luckily, a Canadian soldier who knows her helps Corlie get medical treatment and arrange for her care.
Strengths: This is a period of time about which I knew little, and was a harrowing tale of survival under military turmoil.
Weaknesses: This would have been easier to understand if it had started with a preface that included a brief overview of the historical situation, and a list of foreign phrases. Also, this is a small book with a young girl on the cover, but is really more suited for older readers due to violence and situations such as Corlie almost being molested by an old man and the fact that her father was really a British soldier and that's why her mother disliked her.
 
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