Friday, January 31, 2014

Guy Friday-- From Norvelt to Nowhere

17261134Gantos, Jack. From Norvelt to Nowhere.
September 24th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This sequel to Dead End in Norvelt is just as quirky as the original:  Jack and Miss Volker are at it again. When Spizz, who killed all the old ladies in town so he could marry Miss Volker, apparently kills Mrs. Custard (who has just moved to town) as well, Jack knows he has to act. However, Miss Volker's sister dies in Florida, so the two take off on the train to attend the funeral, the thought being that Miss Volker can't travel on her own. They end up getting involved in a variety of schemes, and eventually figure out who the real murderer is.
Strengths: This has some really quirky moments, such as when Jack falls into a septic tank, when Miss Volker attempts to restore her hands in boiling hot split pea soup and then the "fountain of youth", and the plot moved quickly enough. If the first book is popular in your library, I would definitely buy.
Weaknesses: Not a personal favorite. I couldn't suspend disbelief long enough even to be convinced that Mrs. Custard would have been killed by a poisoned Thin Mint cookie.

Starting Sunday, It's Boys Read Pink Month! Author Alexander Vance will be our celebrity sponsor.  My students have already started to check out books for this event!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Manor of Secrets

Finally back at school, and let me tell you, it's a WHOLE lot easier to spend 20 minutes outside when it is 10 degrees than it is when it is -15! I got a ton of reading done over our two day "cold emergency" break, but I am glad to be able to be at school today!

18114554Longshore, Katherine. Manor of Secrets
January 28th 2014 by Point 
E ARC from

Lady Mary of Downton Abbey Lady Charlotte is unhappy with the constraints of her upper class life, especially the attentions of the handsome by snooty Lord Andrew Broadhurst, and wishes that she could be more adventuresome, like Janie, the kitchen maid at The Manor. Janie, of course, doesn't see things this way, because she is too busy scrubbing things and being yelled at by her mother, the cook. Charlotte wishes to flee, but Janie fears being made to leave. Charlotte needs a friend, and starts to confide in Janie, who gets in trouble for hiding writing that Charlotte has done. Both young ladies run into trouble with Lawrence, who doesn't seem to confine his adventures with women to below stairs. As it turns out, he is not the only one to have assignations on both sides of the social register, as Charlotte and Janie soon find out.
Strengths: Middle school girls who have been watching Downton with their mothers (and surely there are a few), will adore this period drama about changing times and changing roles. I wanted to slap Charlotte at first, but she does grow up a bit and starts to understand things a bit more. While relationships are hinted at, there is nothing graphic or instructional, so I will be ordering this for my library.
Weaknesses: Nothing earth shakingly new here, but then I've read and seen a lot of stuff from this period. My very favorite is the BBC's House of Eliot.

17787759 Rasheed, Leila. Diamonds and Deceit (At Somerton #2)
January 7th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

And, look, a younger Lady Mary getting dressed! There was nothing I wanted to do more on the snow day on Tuesday than curl up and read this, but after finding Cinders and Sapphires (At Somerton #1) to be a bit more young adult because of a few themes, I will keep this one a bit until I get all of my "work" reading done. But it looks soooooo good!

From Goodreads:
"London is a whirl of balls and teas, alliances and rivalries. Rose has never felt more out of place. With the Season in full swing, she can't help but still feel a servant dressed up in diamonds and silk. Then Rose meets Alexander Ross, a young Scottish duke. Rose has heard the rumors about Ross's sordid past just like everyone else has. Yet he alone treats her as a friend. Rose knows better than to give her heart to an aristocrat with such a reputation, but it may be too late.

Ada should be happy. She is engaged to a handsome man who shares her political passions and has promised to support her education. So why does she feel hollow inside? Even if she hated Lord Fintan, she would have no choice but to go through with the marriage. Every day a new credit collector knocks on the door of their London flat, demanding payment for her cousin William's expenditures. Her father's heir seems determined to bring her family to ruin, and only a brilliant marriage can save Somerton Court and the Averleys' reputation.

Meanwhile, at Somerton, Sebastian is out of his mind with worry for his former valet Oliver, who refuses to plead innocent to the murder charges against him--for a death caused by Sebastian himself. Sebastian will do whatever he can to help the boy he loves, but his indiscretion is dangerous fodder for a reporter with sharp eyes and dishonorable intentions.

The colorful cast of the At Somerton series returns in this enthralling sequel about class and fortune, trust and betrayal, love and revenge."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day of the Blizzard

Admittedly, I have not been very organized in my reviews this year. Been a bit hectic, so I've found it hard to focus. Plus, I've been doing some comfort reading, which tends to be things like Elizabeth Peters, Maud Hart Lovelace (thanks again, Charlotte!) and the occasional treat, like Day of the Blizzard. One of the few books I actually remember reading in middle school was I Am Rosemarie, which was a fictionalized account of Ms. Moskin's experiences during World War II. I went to great lengths to obtain two copies for my school library, but I had never seen anything else by this author until I happened upon this book. Many thanks to ILL and the Delaware County District Library for the opportunity to read this little gem.

And yes, more organization is forthcoming.

847209Moskin, Marietta. Day of the Blizzard
November 16th 1978 by Putnam Publishing Group 

In 1888, Katie is taking care of her ill mother and twin younger brothers when her father doesn't come home from his job as a train conductor. Mr Reilly, who also works for the railroad, says the weather is bad, and he must have been delayed. This would not be a problem, except that Katie's mother's prize broach has been pawned to pay for medicine for the twins, and the ticket comes due. The weather has taken a bad turn, but Katie heads out to the pawn shop. Along the way she gets stuck on the train but makes it to the pawn shop, where the kindly owner and his wife encourage her to stay out the storm, but she bravely heads home, almost falling asleep in a snow bank, and receiving help from several people before making it home safely.
Strengths: This is a great book for avid elementary school readers of history. I was always enthralled with snow tales, stories set in the city, and Girls Against the Odds. I can just see myself reading this as I waited for the school bus to come in the 4th grade. I would have adored it.
Weaknesses: Out of Print. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Rollers!

Karen Yingling's photo.I have never seen a snow roller before, but they were in the park on my way home and in my back yard! They are caused by chunks of snow being blown across the snow and look a bit like rolls of paper towels or white jelly rolls.

It was so weird. Since we had no school in Westerville because of extreme temperatures, I did venture out, but my thermometer reads -15!

My house is to the right of the fence. Got my shadow and everything!

Part of our cross country course, when the weather isn't quite so bad. Highlands Park Pool to the left.

I love the trails that they leave behind. And the whole Swiss roll look. 

More of our cross country course. I adore my back yard, but there is certainly no running around the path right now!

Spell Robbers (The Quantum League #1)

18114551Kirby, Matthew J. Spell Robbers (The Quantum League #1)
January 28th 2014 by Scholastic Press 

Ben's hardworking, graduate student single mother is glad to send him to an afternoon science camp at the university she is attending, but when Ben gets there, he realizes that it is really a super secret group run by Professor Hughes, who is working on a portable acuator. It turns out that Ben's new friend Peter can harness molecules with his mind and make rain, snow, or fire appear, and Ben has this ability, too. Things are going well until the lab is attacked and Professor Hughes is kidnapped by the Dread Cloaks, and Ben and Peter are taken away to join the Quantum League. Because of their abilities to make things manifest, they aren't given a choice, but are "detached" from their families and trained with the help of Sasha, who has a mysterious past. Peter is just as glad, because his father expects too much of him, but Ben is worried about his mother, who has some problems getting through life. When former Quantum League operative Ronin shows up as being in league with the Dread Cloaks, the League offers to reunite him with the daughter he has long thought dead if he acts as a double agent. He agrees-- if he can take Ben, too. The two try to fool the Dread Cloaks into thinking that they will help them, and hope to use them to retrieve Professor Hughes. Things work out fairly well, and Peter is glad to stay with the League, but nothing feels right to Ben. Will the shadowy Richter play a larger role in the second book?
Strengths: I really enjoyed the first part of the book. I was intrigued by Ben's family life, and thought the actuation at the campus lab was kind of fun. After the Dread Cloaks appeared, there was a lot more action, but what I really enjoyed was getting to know Ben. There's lots of intrigue, adventure, and magic/science fiction, so I can see this being popular with readers who like super hero novels, spy novels,  or books with magical realism.
Weaknesses: The whole detachment thing bothered me, since I was drawn into the story by Ben's family life. The double crossing got a bit wearying-- after a while, it was sort of like Artemis Fowl and I really couldn't tell who were the bad guys or the good guys. Still, I think I will buy this. There are so many fantasy books out there, and so few of them have anything fresh.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

MMGM-- Multicultural Kidlit Day

In addition to the normal Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and It's Monday, What Are You Reading memes, we have an exciting day!  Mia Wenjen at Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr at Jump Into a Book have put together Multicultural Book Day. Loyal readers know that even though almost 40% of young readers are people of color, only 10% of the books published for them include characters like themselves. I've tried to do a World Wednesday feature for the last year, highlighting books with cultural context, so it's great to see others interested in this topic as well. 

For more information about this event, please visit the official page.

Please take some time today to visit some old friends and meet new ones. All of these sites are participating and have some great books with cultural context reviewed.

And a couple of commenters have asked about age range on the following, and I would say ages 10 and up, but they'd have to be strong readers.

17379587Mlawski, Shana. Hammer of Witches
9 April 2013, Tu Books
Review copy provided by publisher (Lee and Low Books)

Baltasar is having a difficult time in Palos de la Fronterra, Spain in 1492. His parents were killed by the Inquisition, and he lives with his aunt and uncle, who make books. The local children bully him because of his Jewish heritage, but that's not as bad as it gets. One night, he is attacked by a hameh, and things get worse from there. He finds out secrets about his family, including the fact that his real father is the Moorish warrior Amir al-Katib. This fact brings the organization Maleus Malificarum down on Baltasar's case, because it turns out that he has magical powers, and is actually a Storyteller. When the organization attacks his home, his uncle gives him a necklace and lets him escape, telling him to go far from Spain. When Baltasar investigates the necklace, he releases the Ifrit Jinniyah, who is supposed to help him find his father, and consults the Baba Yaga for advice.  Baltasar ends up getting hired as an interpreter by Cristobal Colon aboard the Santa Maria, with Jinniyah masquerading as Juan. His plan is to find Amir al-Katib, but there is danger everywhere he turns. His true nature as a Storyteller is known by all too many people, and this leads to him summoning magic that ends up getting him and a cabin boy, Pedro Terreros, washed overboard. Pedro turns out to be Catalina, and the two do their best to survive, and wash ashore, where they meet Arabuko, shaman of Marien, and the Taino people. Afraid that the great evil that the Baba Yaga foresaw will attack his new friends, Baltasar keeps looking for his father, who seems to keep sending monsters to kill him. But like with all magic, in the end, everything is not as it appears, and Baltasar has difficult choices to make.
Strengths: Tu Press specializes in fantasies with cultural contexts that are NOT medieval Europe (aren't 90% of fantasies that?), so it's nice to see such a rich diversity of cultures in this book. The Spanish, Moors, Jews, and the Taino all contribute a variety of magical elements to the story. The notes at the end explain a lot of the history and tales, which is an added bonus, since many of them were unfamiliar to me. 
Weaknesses:  This has some elements that edge it into Young Adult territory, and the cover is a bit murky.

Many thanks to Lee and Low Books for sending me this review copy. They've been very kind in the past about sending things as well, which can be very helpful when trying to get the word out about books with cultural contexts.  

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.

The Mandatory Links Post for Multicultural Children's Book Day

Mission: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The full name of this event is Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children's Literature. The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia here and Valarie here.

Our sponsors for this event are Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of  My Grandfather’s Masbaha.  
@grandadmasbaha #MCKlitDay

The MCCBD site is found here--head there for more details. 

Check out these bloggers who are participating.
2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children's Book-a-Day Almanac · Children's Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son's Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s BooksKid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout's Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators' Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

Winter Sky

17797290Giff, Patricia Reilly. Winter Sky
January 7th 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books

Siria's mother died when she was very young, and her father is a firefighter. Siria is so concerned for his safety that whenever she hears the trucks in her urban neighborhood, she runs or bikes to the scene to make sure he stays safe. Her friend Douglas loves fires, and often comes with her, but her friend Laila is content to stay at the apartment building. In her roaming around, Siria finds a dog that is hungry and living in abandoned buildings, sometimes getting its chain caught. She tries to buy food and keep the dog safe, but she is alarmed at the amount of small fires that have been popping up and making it necessary for her father's unit to go on calls. When she finds a piece of Douglas' coat in a suspicious location, she thinks that he is setting the fires and fights with him about it. At one fire right before Christmas, Siria's father is injured and has to go to the hospital. Siria stays with Mimi, an older woman who lives in her building and babysits her. Izzy, who is on her father's crew, lets Siria know that she has been watching Siria show up at all of the fires. Izzy steps in to help take Siria Christmas shopping, and also encourages her to keep the dog, whom she has bathed and brought to her apartment. Siria solves the mystery of the fires, her father comes home, and she gets to keep the dog.
Strengths: The city setting is very vivid, and a nice change, since not as many books have children who live in apartments as main characters. Also interesting insights on what it would be like to have a parent who is a fire fighter.
Weaknesses: Mimi is not doing a good job of watching Siria! She's running after fires, hanging around in abandoned buildings AND fooling with a feral dog? The mystery of the fires being set was not solved in a satisfactory way for me, and some of the writing is not as well done as I would expect from Giff.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tales from My Closet

18114547Moses, Jennifer Anne. Tales from My Closet
January 28th 2014, Scholastic Press
E ARC from

Five girls in New Jersey all care a lot about fashion and have different dramas going on in their lives. Becka has a distant father but a psychologist mother who writes books about dealing with teenagers; Becka also has spent the summer in Paris and has a much older boyfriend there. Justin and her mother move to town from San Francisco, and Justine has a hard time adjusting, thinking that everyone is making fun of her. Ann is bright and has a supportive family that wants her to go to college, but she just wants to go into art. Her grandmother gives her a wealth of 1960s fashions, and she starts a fashion blog. Polly is an avid swimmer who believes she is fat, has an elderly grandfather who passes away, and learns secrets about her absent father. She also has a crush on her swim coach. Robin has an alcoholic father and a shopping addiction which she tries to pay off by babysitting and trying to get fashion related jobs. All five girls intersect in a variety of ways throughout the book.
Strengths: The author does a good job of painting each character as an individual-- it's usually hard to keep this many characters straight, especially when they appear in alternating chapters. There is a lot of interesting fashion, some drama, and it's not entirely inappropriate for middle school. (There is some talk about "doing it", but nothing occurs. One girl does attempt suicide, but it ends okay.)
Weaknesses:There isn't much of a plot, and I still have a hard time believing that even high school girls care this much about fashion. I'll probably pass, but this would be good for a public library.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Guy Friday-- Jungle of Bones

18114571Mikaelsen, Ben. Jungle of Bones. 
28 January 2014, Scholastic, Inc. 

Dylan is an idiot. He's mad that his reporter father was killed trying to make a difference in Darfur, so he's a jerk to his mother and everyone around him. After he steals a car and ruins a field joyriding in it, his mother packs him off to live with his Uncle Todd. Todd is planning a trip to Papua New Guinea to find the plane, Second Ace,  that his father was shot down in during World War II-- his father was the only survivor, and he has a journal to help his search. Dylan is still an idiot-- he doesn't take the pills for malaria his uncle gives him, and is rude about everything. He even lets his pants sag! Once the group gets to PNG, they meet up with their recon team, which includes the knowledgeable, nice and nerdy teen boy, Quentin. The group starts their journey, which is difficult and dangerous, so Dylan decides to be even more of an idiot and gets separated from the group. He ignores all of his training, runs in circles, rips off leeches, drinks out of coconuts, uses the wrong sort of leaves for toilet paper, and eventually passes out. He is saved by Kanzi, who is deep in the jungle but speaks English-- is she real? Eventually, he is rescued and taken to the hospital, where he almost loses his leg to gangrene. After his near death experience, he decides that he should be a better person, especially since so many soldiers give up so much for our country.
Strengths: Lots of good descriptions of survival in the jungle, and an interesting WWII connection that many of my boys will enjoy. Definitely ordering a copy. It will never be on the shelf.
Weaknesses: While my readers will like this, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Dylan is a completely unlikable character, and I was just waiting for some very large jungle animal to finish him off. I think I would have actually enjoyed that. About half way through, I realized that this was just Touching Spirit Bear in the jungle instead of Alaska. Add to this a rather intrusive and strident pro-military tone, and you have a book that made ME wrinkle my nose quite a bit.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Odd, Weird and Little

43448 Here is a story about Picky Reader that is too funny. At fifteen, it's almost impossible to get my daughter to read, but since she always has liked sad books like Don't Hurt Laurie, I have long thought she would like the V.C.Andrews Flowers in the Attic series. She ignored me for years, but now that there is a movie coming out, she downloaded a PDF of the first book... and finished it in two days. She thought it was absolutely awesome, "a haunting page turner" were her exact words. Of course, she was horrified by what occurred and may never again eat a powdered sugar covered doughnut, but she read it and immediately searched for the sequel.

Again, kids frequently like books that are sad or horrific because then their own lives don't seem so bad, and anything that gets them reading is all good. Mostly!

18209507Jennings, Patrick. Odd, Weird and Little
28 January 2014, Egmont USA
E ARC from

Woodrow is taken aback when a new student, Toulouse, arrives in his classroom. Toulouse has a LOT of weird habits, including dressing like a little old man and hanging out in trees a lot. Still, Woodrow sees other classmates being mean to Toulouse, and knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of such treatment, so the two become friends.Eventually, Woodrow realizes something about Toulouse that no one else has managed to understand, but it doesn't affect their friendship.
Strengths: For elementary students, this might be a good book about accepting people who are different and standing up for who you are. A lot of Jennings' work seems to hit right at about the third grade demographic.
Weaknesses: This was... weird. I don't want to give anything away, but if you look closely at the title, you will have a pretty big clue as to what Toulouse's secret is. Strange, strange book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

World Wednesday-- Poland

17415480Leyson, Leon. The Boy on the Wooden Box
August 27th 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers 

Leon (born Lieb) had a good life in Poland. Once his father became trained in a glass factory, the family moved from a small village to Krakow, where young Leon was amazed at the electricity and indoor plumbing, as well as by the hustle and bustle of a big city. Jews and Gentiles got along well until the Nazis invaded. Things got worse and worse for the family, with various members being arrested or returning to the village to escape conscription. The family had to move into progressively poorer housing, but relied on the understanding and cooperation of others in similar predicaments. (Imagine someone today arriving at an apartment to find another couple there, and just stringing up a blanket in the middle of the room, making do, and eventually becoming friends!) Leon's father works for Oskar Schindler, who is just starting to set up his enamelworks factory to save as many Jews as possible. Leon and one brother also work there, and even though they end up at the Gross-Rosen camp, they continue to be under Schindler's supervision; the man even saved a train of women who were supposed to go to Gross-Rosen but who were transported to Auschwitz. Based on Mr. Leyson's experiences, this also follows his life after liberation and has family pictures at the back.
Strengths: Obviously, the details and emotions of this book are brilliant. Mr. Leyson went on to become a teacher, and didn't speak of his experiences until the 1990s, so this book shows a very well honed narrative with just enough of the horrors of the Holocaust without being so overwhelming that middle school students couldn't read it. Sadly, Mr. Leyson passed away in January 2013. This book is a must for any language arts unit on the Holocaust. Definitely buying two copies.
Weaknesses: The beginning of the book, while interesting and vital to the understanding of Mr. Leyson's experiences, might strike students as being a bit slow paced. I will just encourage students to persevere.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Joshua Dread

13533687Bacon, Lee. Joshua Dread.
September 25th 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Captain Justice and the Dread Duo are always at odds, and this time the Dread Duo are manipulating the weather and threatening to destroy the whoel world-- that's what they do. For Joshua, though, this is embarassing, because the Dread Duo are his parents. If that weren't bad enough, he seems to have acquired the ability to spontaneously combust things, which is handy when dealing with unpleasant people at school. When Sophie, a new girl,  shows up at school,  Joshua and his friend Milton befriend her, even when her father turns out to be Captain Justice. Joshua keeps his own parentage a secret for a while, but nanorobot insects are bedeviling the evil villain community, and eventually kidnap his parents. Where are the "Z" nanorobots coming from? The trio tracks them down and is led to the evil Phineas Vex, who has quite an evil plan, which is continued in Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero.
Strengths: There is just some really funny writing going on here-- throwaway lines that just make me giggle. A nice, breezy read that makes sense and is fairly easy to follow. Having read horribly convoluted fantasies that have no humor about them at all, I can't tell you how nice it is to read something like this. I do think my students will enjoy this series tremendously.
Weaknesses: Bad, bad covers. Dark and muddy looking. I personally thought it was odd that Joshua didn't seem to be overly concerned about the safety of his parents, being more concerned about keeping his identity hidden, but I don't think students will pick up on that.

I'm currently reading book three-- just a little confused, since I read the other two out of order!

This is a much better cover. (The paperback?) At least the picture is clear and the colors are more appealing.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MMGM- THe Wavering Werewolf

17910071Lubar, David. The Wavering Werewolf: A Monsterific Tale
(Accidental Monsters #3)
January 14th 2014 by Starscape (first published December 1997)
Review copy sent by publisher.

When Norman is attacked in the woods by a wolf and bitten lightly on the nose, his life starts to get weird. His palms itch all the time, he has a craving for meat, and on more than one occasion, he has wanted to go running after small animals. His best friend Sebastian understands, but no one else seems to. His mother wants him to use silver eating utensils, wolfsbane at the science fair makes him sick, and a creepy guy by the name of Teridakian keeps hunting him down and issuing vague threats. Norman meets Lew, who is in a similar predicament and sheds some light on the situation, which leads Norman to have to make a choice: does he want to stay a werewolf, or return to his humdrum human life?
Strengths: Having read a lot of really poorly written horror for younger children, I definitely appreciated Lubar's facility with words. This is a nice, short length for reluctant readers;I was just contemplating why so many zombie books are really long, when most of the students requesting zombie books want something more manageable! This has plenty of action, humor and a good ensemble cast of characters. Since this is book three, I need to look into getting the others in the series. Actually surprised this was not in my library when I got here in 2002; it might have been published originally in paperback.
Weaknesses: The circus/carnival of oddities seemed anachronistic to me. I can't see anyone today have displays of the Human Pincushion or Monkey Boy, with the people in cages. I know that such settings show up in fiction from time to time (Cirque du Freak), but this time, it struck me as wrong. Will students notice? No. They just wish they could find a creepy circus like that!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Intriguing Books That Are Too Fond of the F-Bomb

You just never know when Young Adult books might work in the middle school. Only way is to read them, or find a good review from someone you trust. So, as much as these books intrigued me, they are not a good fit for my particular library. They were good, so take a look if you are looking for books for older readers.

18079858Baker, Ken. How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love
April 22nd 2014 by Running Press Kids
E ARC from

"Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her "momager" signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family's financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?"
What I Wanted: A book about weight issues, which are always popular with my students. I was also interested to see how a male writer would write about body image issues. Fairly convincingly, I thought. I liked the book and stayed up late reading it.
What Didn't Work for Me: Mainly the sex. Emery loses her virginity in an unfortunate way and is outspoken about the topic in general. Think there was language, too. Drat.

13601681Plum, Amy. After the End. 
May 6th 2014 by Harper Children's
E ARC from

"World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past."

What I Wanted: I adored this author's Revenants series, and the writing in this was very good. Post apocalyptic type setting, with a little supernatural stuff thrown in... sounded good.
What Didn't Work: A little bit of language, but just slightly odd. The issue with Juneau's community hiding out pretending that WWIII had destroyed the world was weird enough, but then there was Reading nature, connecting with the Yara, and communicating by crow, and Miles being able to find her after reading his father's e mails. Great for high school, but will pass.

18053047 Kantor, Melissa. Maybe One Day
February 18th 2014 by HarperTeen 
E ARC from

From Goodreads:
"In the tradition of The Fault in Our Stars, critically acclaimed author Melissa Kantor masterfully captures the joy of friendship, the agony of loss, and the unique experience of being a teenager in this poignant new novel about a girl grappling with her best friend's life-threatening illness.
A person's whole life, she's lucky to have one or two real friends. Friends who are like family . . . for Zoe that someone is Olivia. So when Olivia is diagnosed with leukemia Zoe is determined to put on a brave face and be positive for her best friend.
Even when she isn't sure what to say.
Even when Olivia misses months of school.
Even when Zoe starts falling for Calvin, Olivia's crush.
The one thing that keeps Zoe moving forward is knowing that Olivia will beat this, and everything will go back to the way it was before. It has to. Because the alternative is too terrifying for her to even imagine."
What I Wanted: I ADORE Kantor's books. Girlfriend Material is my number two favorite romance book ever, right after Cleary's Fifteen. This looked like a better version of Lurlene McDaniel (which tend to be somewhat formulaic), or like a non potty mouth version of John Green. The ballet was a nice touch.
What Didn't Work For Me: F-bombs EVERYWHERE! I was kind of shocked. Yes, Zoe is upset about Olivia's cancer, but the language was completely gratuitous. There was also a rather alarming scene where Zoe gets drunk and is highly inappropriate with Calvin. I very nearly ordered this without reading it, since the other books by Kantor have all been so good. Glad I didn't!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Half a Chance

18222557Lord, Cynthia. Half a Chance
February 25th 2014 by Scholastic Press 
E ARC from

Lucy's father is a photographer who suffers from Pa Ingalls Syndrome-- he doesn't like to stay in one place for very long, so he leaves Lucy and her mother in New Hampshire while he flies off to Arizona to shoot pictures of endangered bugs. Lucy manages missing her father by taking pictures of her own. When she meets Nate, she is glad to have a friend (the girls she meets are a little snotty), and is glad when his grandmother invites her to be on Loon Patrol and keep notes on the endangered loons indigenous to the area. The grandmother is having some memory issues that Nate's family is dealing with, the loons are not doing as well as hoped, and Lucy has decided to enter a photography contest her dad will be judging when he returns home. Lucy realizes that while this is not expressly against the rules, her father would be reluctant to choose her as the winner, so she sends the pictures off under Nate's name. Lucy and Nate want to win the contest because the prize is $500, and they want to take Nate's grandmother out on a pontoon boat for one last trip to see the loons. While she means well, some of Lucy's plans don't turn out as well as she would like, but others turn out fairly well.
Strengths: This had some good, bittersweet moments-- summer, friends, losing a grandparent slowly, missing a parent who is not at home. Also, a nice sense of place, and the issue with the loons was interesting. Even Lucy's obsession with photographing everything is done realistically, and in the end she does realize that she doesn't need to observe her entire life through a lens.
Weaknesses: This is very slow and very introspective, and seems like the sort of book that teachers and librarians will like way more than students will. The nice part about this is that if teachers read this book TO their classes enthusiastically, the students will catch the enthusiasm. This explains why books like Wonder and Hound Dog True occasionally get checked out even though they are not something students would actually ask for.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Guy Friday-- Michael Vey

16074409Evans, Richard Paul. Battle of the Ampere (Michael Vey #3)
September 17th 2013 by Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink 

Michael and his friends are on the run after the events in book two, which blew up an Elgen Starxource plant and left most of Peru without power. It looks like he could be tried for treason or terrorism, even though he was just trying to rescue his mother. He has been injured, and recovers with the help of a tribe, and meets Tessa, who also is electric. Ostin and the others are trying to find him. In the meantime, Schema is trying to fend off a takeover by Dr. Hatch, who is turning out to be the more evil of the two. Eventually, after much running about, the Electroclan reunites, Michael and Taylor get to kiss, much food is eaten, and Hatch... will he be overthrown? Of course. But there is another threat to the safety of the Electroclan, so I'm sure that there will be a Michael Vey #4.
Strengths: This is a series that my students adore, and I don't quite know why. Mr. Buxton recommended it frequently, but even now that he is retired, the students are wild about it. Kids with powers, saving the world, running around, a little romance-- all good. There has also either been a lot of research into Peruvian culture, or Evans is making things up convincingly.
Weaknesses: One problem I had with this was too many characters, but other than that I can't put my finger on why this didn't thrill me. Perfectly good stuff, just not my cup of tea.
A whole bunch of food is described in the book, and now I really want to make causa. Basically, this seems to be a layered dish consisting of mashed yellow potatoes, tuna salad with onion, and chopped tomato and avocado. Roll it up, refrigerate, slice and serve. Perhaps this summer, when the tomatoes come on, I will try to make this.

And now I want to hunt down the first Cricket magazine and reread the wonderful Lloyd Alexander essay on books and eating!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dog Diaries

13642534 Klimo, Kate. Buddy (Dog Diaries #2)
January 8th 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers

In the 1920s, a woman named Dorothy Eustis set up a school to train Seeing Eye dogs, and a man named Morris Frank came and learned to use such a dog, with the understanding that he would then set up a school in the United States. Told from the point of view of the dog that was trained with Morris, this short book tells how Buddy was trained to work with the blind, and has excellent details about how Seeing Eye dogs operate, as well as good historical details.
Strengths: I was absolutely charmed by this book, even though I didn't think I would be (I have friends who always write their Christmas newsletter from the point of view of their cat...). This is a perfect book for a reluctant reader-- not that long, interesting, has a few pictures, moves quickly. While it was clearly historical, it didn't come right out and say that, so students who HAVE to read historical fiction but don't want to will take this well. I would think this series would be a must for elementary school libraries, and a good addition to middle school libraries with a population of reluctant or picky readers.
Weaknesses: The reason that this was particularly engaging was the historical aspect, and I suppose that Buddy knew a little bit more than most dogs could reliably relay. There was some suspension of disbelief required to make this work.

13642532Klimo, Kate. Ginger (Dog Diaries #2)
January 8th 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers

This is the first book in the series, and it was very different from the second. Ginger in born in a puppy mill, where the runt of the litter dies, and is then taken to a pet store where she is bought by a family with a two year old, as a Christmas present. She spends a lot of time peeing on the carpet and chewing shoes until she takes a nip at the child and ends up at the shelter. There, a man who likes to run adopts her, and all goes well until the man's mother is sick, he leaves her in the care of an incompetent dog walker, and Ginger jumps through a window and spends some time as a wild dog. Eventually, animal control gets her, and the shelter sends her out to the country to a place where they rehabilitate repeat offenders. There, Ginger is matched with her "furever" family and then enjoys life with a nine year old boy.
Strengths: Interesting information about puppy mills, pet shops, and matching dogs to the right owners.
Weaknesses: Enjoyed the second book, with its historical information, a lot more!

The next two books cover historical dogs again-- St. Bernards in the Alps and sled dogs during an influenza epidemic in the 1920s. Dash, which comes out in July 2014, is about dogs who are on the Mayflower! I think I will buy the first book so as not to irritate students who HAVE to read things in order, but I do prefer the historical ones.

These have the added advantage of being a series which does not have to be read in order to make sense, since all the books are about different dogs. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

World Wednesday-- The Blossoming of Violet Diamond

18079754 Woods, Brenda. The Blossoming of Violet Diamond. 
January 9th 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Violet has a long summer ahead of her, and lots of thoughts in her head. Her friend Athena is heading off to Greece, she has a new cat named Hazel, and she still struggles with the fact that her mother and sister are white, while her father was black. She wants a family that all looks the same, and this longing is intensified because her father died right before she was born. Her father's mother is estranged from the family, and after doing some research, Violet confronts her mother and asks to go to an art exhibit that her grandmother is having in nearby Seattle. At first, her grandmother is a little standoffish, since she blames Violet's mother for the death of her son, but she eventually warms up and invites Violet to spend a week with her in Los Angeles. Violet is thrilled, and gets to meet her African American relatives and learn more about her "Bibi's" interest in the culture. A medical emergency brings Bibi to a reconciliation with Violet's mother, and Violet looks forward to spending more time with her "new" family.
Strengths: Great, appealing cover, and a fun story. Violet's trip to her grandmother's was enjoyable to read about, but then I am a sucker for a good grandparent story. Love that the girl on the cover looks like many of my students.
Weaknesses: I'm conflicted about Violet's preoccupation with her family "looking the same". I am not biracial (I couldn't be more Anglo-Germanic), but we have so many students who are that it seems to have become something of a non-issue. Granted, Violet is growing up in a predominately white community, where I am sure people think it is odd that she has a white mother, and the lack of her father is no doubt a factor.

I guess I still really want a book where the character is biracial but the story is not about that. The ethnicity is just one factor of the character. Books with white characters are not usually about them being white. If I were a child of color, I think I would want to see myself portrayed in literature, but I would get bored reading stories about cultural identity. I really don't mean to be offensive-- does this make sense?

Webb, Holly. Rose
September 3rd 2013 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Shortlisted for Cybils Middle Grade Speculative Fiction 

Rose is slaving away at St. Bridget's Home for Abandoned Girls, trying to work her hardest and keep her friend Maisie from being too sad when a mysterious woman arrives looking for a maid. Rose is chosen quickly and whisked away to Mr. Fountain's. Mr. Fountain is a magician, and he has an apprentice, Freddie, who is not too happy that Rose seems to have some magical skills. Rose can converse with the cat, for one, and can make pictures appear when she tells stories. Working at Mr. Fountain's is better than being at the orphanage, but Rose finds herself in the middle of a mystery when several girls from St. Bridget's go missing, and other street children disappear as well. Could the suspicious Miss Sparrow be behind this, and can Rose stop her in time?
Strengths: It's set in Dickensian-ish London, has orphans, and involves magic. Since Rose gets to save the day, it doesn't get much better than that. This is the first book in a series; Rose and the Lost Princess, Rose and the Magician's Mask, and Rose and the Silver Ghost continue the story.
Weaknesses: Gets a tad more gruesome than the cover would indicate, and is also only available in paperback, which makes it something I won't buy for my library.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


17406847Larson, Sara B. Defy
7 January 2014, Scholastic Press
E ARC from

Ever since the death of their parents at the hand of Blevonese sorcerers, Marcel and Alexa have been in the prince's guard. For three years, Alexa has been masquerading as Alex, since she is a fierce fighter, and the alternative to being in the guard is to be locked in a breeding facility. She is so well trusted and capable that she is soon chosen to stand guard outside Prince Damian's bedroom, because there is unrest in Antion. Damian's father has been at war with Blevon ever since a sorcerer there killed his wife, and things are heating up. Marcel is killed in an attack, and Tanoori, a girl that Alexa knew in her village, has broken into the palace and tried to kill Damian. Damian is kidnapped, and Alexa and Rylan are taken with him to Blevon, where the two guards find out about Damian's plot to overthrow his father, who is evil and in league with some black sorcerers. There is much fighting, intrigue, and a romantic tangle between Alexa and Damian, and Alexa and Rylan.
Strengths: This showed up as one of the most requested titles on Netgalley, and it sounded a bit like Pierce's Alanna books (or Cashore's Graceling), so I had to try it. It did have some nice touches, like a rainforest/jungle setting and main characters of color, and the plot was fairly easy to follow, which is not always the case with fantasy books with this much political intrigue.
Weaknesses: I had several issues with this that will put it firmly into the high school library realm. The breeding houses don't make a lot of sense, and aren't all that crucial to the plot, but the culture of rape is very violently described. Then, there is the issue with Alexa's inability to stop salivating over Damian and Rylan. Sure, Alanna had her difficult romantic choice as well, but I believed her as a fighter. We are told that Alexa is a good fighter, but I never quite believe it, since she spends most of the book recovering from one wound or another. This also felt like a standard medieval fantasy world, and the jungle setting was a surprise every time it was mentioned.

There are some people who liked it much more. I expect this to get a lot of love from the Young Adult crowd; I guess it's just not as good a fit for Middle Grade.

Literary Flaneur
Ms. Martin Teaches Media
Two Chicks on Books
Tynga's Reviews

Monday, January 13, 2014

MMGM-- The Winter of the Robots

17080052Scaletta, Kurtis. The Winter of the Robots
October 8th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers 

Jim and Oliver like to make robots for their school's science fair, and are debating what kind of robot and what the robot can destroy when Jim's neighbor, Rocky, asks him to help her with her project-- observing the otters near their homes, using security cameras "borrowed" from his father's business. Something odd keeps showing up on the security cameras, and when Dmitri, one of their classmates, goes missing and later shows up in the laundromat tased and frost bitten, they boys know that something is up. Making their plans at Pocket Burger, the group, along with Jim's sister, Penny, decide first to enter a robot demolition derby at the local mall-- with somewhat disastrous results. Then, they start to realize that things are VERY strange at the site of the destroyed Nomicon factory where Oliver's father worked... and was killed. Dinobots produced for military use are still working... and reprogramming themselves to build an even bigger and more deadly robot! Can the group stay out of trouble with parents and stop the Dinobots before they kill again?
Strengths: This was a very fun mystery, and I've had a lot of students ask for robot books. I love the Minnesota in winter setting, the older neighborhood near an industrial site, the Pocket Burger with its greasy warmth, the ensemble cast, and more robot details than I could possibly understand. Thoroughly enjoyed this and want to have a copy in my library right now. There is even a little bit of romance.
Weaknesses: Somehow, having the main character named Jim bothered me. Haven't had a Jim in school in ages, although currently have a Billy and a Bobby. Since I couldn't understand the robotics mentioned, I don't know if the programming, etc. is correct, but it did sound cool.

17740626 Kidd, Chip. Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design
Published October 8th 2013 by "Workman Publishing Company"

I am enthralled by the design of every day objects-- anything that makes today today and yesterday yesterday.  Clothing, packaging, furnishings, buildings, magazines-- I love thinking about what made things seem beautiful in 1978 but makes them so ugly now. Pantone colors of the year fascinate me. Graphic design is certainly something that children don't often think about, but they should, because they certainly react strongly to things like bad book covers. This book was a very fun overview of different elements of graphic design, and how design really changes the way we view things. I wish that everyone who ever had a hand in designing a book cover would read this! I don't know that this would get wide circulation in my library, but maybe the art teacher could use it, because I really want to buy it!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog. Instead of having to visit lots of different blogs, all of the nonfiction posts will be at Nonfiction Monday!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Going Rogue

17934520Benway, Robin. Going Rogue. 
January 14th 2014 by Walker Childrens 
E ARC from

In this sequel to Also Known As, Maggie is thrilled that her parents are not going to take another assignment with the Collective so that she can finish up high school in New York City and stay with boyfriend Jesse and best friend Roux. This doesn't last long-- Dominic, who went to school with her parents, is now trying to get them kicked out of the Collective by saying that they stole valuable gold coins. Angelo knows that this isn't true, so tries to get Maggie to get the coins back from Dominic's place without letting her parents know she is doing so. This results in her getting stuck in a crawl space at Dominic's house and missing a dinner date with Jesse and his mother, but she eventually gets the coins. In retribution, Dominic attacks her family and friends at her home, setting it on fire. Everyone escapes, and Angelo whisks Maggie, Roux and Jesse off to France, where they seek a safe house and have a few people around to help them. It turns out that the Collective has bigger problems than just accusing Maggie's parents, and Dominic must be taken down. Of course, there's plenty of time to hang out in Paris, and Roux even finds a boyfriend in Australian spy Ames. How will Maggie manage to clear her parents' names and convince them that she should go right from high school into full time spying?
Strengths: There's a lot of romance in this one, what with Jesse and Maggie always canoodling and professing their love for one another, Roux and Ames, another spy couple, and even the parents being a bit googly eyed. Good descriptions of Paris, and a convincing spy plot.
Weaknesses: Rather slow. Much more romance than spying, which will work for some girls. The cover clearly indicates that the emphasis on girly stuff rather than spy stuff. Too bad-- the scene where she is trapped in the apartment is rather good. I hope the next book, when an alternative to the Collective is probably going to be set up, has more spies and less pitching woo.

16207813 Christopher, Lucy. The Killing Woods
January 7th 2014, Chicken House
E ARC from

This is NOT a middle school book for a variety of reasons, mainly sex and language. Since I did not get this from the publisher's description, I thought I'd mention it. My students are always asking for murder mysteries, and this is why they have a very limited selection.

"Fatal attraction, primal fear, survival in the forest: From the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, the highly anticipated thriller about deadly games played in the dark.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent -- isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her -- the kinds of games that can kill?"

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Puppy Place

16043642Miles, Ellen. Oscar (The Puppy Place #30)
April 30th 2013 by Scholastic Paperbacks 

Lizzie's aunt asks her to foster Oscar, a schnauzer who is aggressive to other dogs. She works hard to train him, and Oscar does start to get along well with Ginger, the elderly dog that Lizzie walks for Anjali. While Lizzie is preoccupied with Oscar's problems, as well as the fact that Ginger won't last too much longer, her dog walking business that she has with Maria falters, and Maria is forced to seek helped from other girls, including the obnoxious Daphne Drake. Oscar eventually finds his forever home with Anjali, and Lizzie manages to make up with her friend.
Strengths: After reading depressing science fiction, I'd be totally happy to sit down with the entire series of these and do nothing but read them. Great literature? No. But for avid readers in about the 2nd or 3rd grade, these make a great choice, and offer good information about dogs.
Weaknesses: Any series of more than seven books makes me cringe, and I don't know how many school libraries are willing to invest in so many of these. Even my public library has them only in paperback. I imagine they plan for them to have a limited life.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Guy Friday- Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier

17290236Compestine, Ying Chang and Vinson. Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier.
7 January 2014, Amulet Books
E ARC from Netgalley. 

Ming's father is the local director of antiquities in Red Star for the Maoist government in the 1970s, but the department may soon be closed down. While his father is in the city dealing with this, Ming has villagers show up at his door with a "treasure", demanding payment. Used to their tactics, Ming issues a receipt but keeps the broken soldier figurine. To his surprise, the head starts to talk to him, telling him he is a soldier named Shi in Emperor Qin's army. Ming manages to restore the figurine, so Shi is able to walk around and help Ming when the local government demands the figure back, and the two discover a plot to take artifacts from the Emperor Qin's tomb and then blow it up, blaming Ming's father, who is looked down upon by the Communist villagers since he is an intellectual. Shi tells Min his story of fighting with the emperor's army and the events that led to both the building of the tomb and also Shi's death. Will Ming be able to hold off the villagers from pillaging the tomb until his father returns to assess the treasure?
Strengths: Chang Compestine brings her own experiences growing up in Communist China to make this a compelling tale of politics AND archaeology. Her Revolution is Not a Dinner Party was brilliant, but this has the added attractive of action and adventure. Ming's struggles are well-portrayed, and the accompanying illustrations of the terra cotta figurines, as well as of other facets of life in China at the time, add a lot to the story. I will definitely be purchasing a copy of this, especially since Shi's story has so much description of war in it.
Weaknesses: I was a bit leery of the fantasy element at first, since a straight historical novel about this time would be great, but Chang Compestine's writing is so good that this technique actually worked. We got to hear about the time of the Great Wall being built from Shi, an eye witness, and I was completely willing to suspend all disbelief. As is usual, the pictures loaded VERY slowly on the E ARC version, which is frustrating.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Lost Planet

17454743Searles, Rachel. The Lost Planet
January 28th 2014, Feiwel & Friends 

Chase wakes up with a wound on the back of his head and no memories, other than the phrase "guide the star". Luckily, he is found by Parker, who lives on the planet Trucon with his android nanny Mina, under the care of Dr. Sylvestri. The boys sneak off in a small space craft to have some fun, but Trucon blows up! Mina hunts them down, but is disabled, and the boys eventually land in the care of Maurus, whose life they have saved but who might have been responsible for blowing up Trucon under the direction of the evil Karsha Van. The boys feel their best bet in seeking help from the Fleet. They encounter a vast variety of aliens and see a good bit of the galaxy while trying to figure out who Chase is, especially after they meet his sister, who says that Chase is dead. This book is action packed, but some of the questions are answered near the end of the book.
Strengths: Lots and lots of action, running about, gadgetry and fighting. Most of the book, except for the last bit, is nonstop action. For readers who want "something to happen", this is great. I appreciated that this was a science fiction space adventure book and not yet another dystopia.
Weaknesses: I get very confused by sci fi and fantasy in general, and this had so much going on that I had a hard time following what was going on. Will students be confused? Hard to tell. I also thought the world building and character development were on the weak side. May have to test this out with my avid sci fi readers to see what they think.

Here is a very odd and random rant/blather about clothing. It occurred to me as I was making a desperate attempt to dress myself this morning (moss green skirt, medium blue sweater, giant dangly butterfly necklace-- why not?) that I needed light beige tights to wear to match my turtleneck. And then I had this horrible flashback to getting ready for school in the second grade.

See how short the skirt is on the girl at left? When I started kindergarten in 1970, I wore skirts that short every single day, even in January. Tights were necessary, and so hard to get into. I would sit at the edge of the bed, my mother would roll them onto my feet, and I'd have to jump up and down to get them on. I was pudgy.

 A mere five years later, we were allowed to wear PANTS in the winter.  Mind you, it was mainly pants suits(see the lovely mint green number in the catalog. I want it right now!) that my mother made from Stretch-n-Sew Patterns. I had one that was kelly green with hot pink, neon yellow and white Scotty dogs all over it. I could wear the jumper top separately, often with orange tights. The other was orange and black plaid. 1975. Not a pretty time. There is no photgraphic evidence of this, for which I am both grateful and saddened.

Point here? When I was in the 6th grade, in 1976, I was finally allowed to wear flesh colored tights with my white bow blouse with the puffy sleeved t shirt over it, a denim skirt, and denim colored lace up shoes. There is a picture of this somewhere, because I wore it for the class picture. Flesh colored tights meant I was GROWN UP.

This is why people born even five years later don't feel fondly about panty hose. They were not subjects to the horrible ritual of tights. I was never allowed to wear black tights (although I remember purple, acid green, several unfortunate pinks), so I can wear those now without flinching, but beige-- can't do.

 But at least I wasn't my brother. He had a plaid leisure suit what he wore white white patent leather shoes and matching belt. And for some reason, the boys I knew frequently wore plaid pants with striped t shirts, or plaid shirts with striped pants. Colors were completely random. Then there was the atrocity that was the shirt with the fake vest over it, sometimes belted in matching fabric. Snazzy.

Just wait, children. In 40 years, you will laugh at red skinny jeans. LAUGH, I tell you!