Monday, October 31, 2016

MMGM- Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival

Collard, Sneed B. III, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival.
1 November 2016, Bucking Horse Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Addressing the issue of climate change from the perspective of one species, the Snowshoe Hare, veteran nonfiction science writer Collard gives us fascinating insights into what's going on with this (extremely adorable) animal. Snowshoe Hares molt with the seasons so that they can blend in with the snow during the winter and the forest floor the rest of the year, but rising temperatures have interfered with this process, putting them at risk. Collard follows biologist Scott Mills and others as they track the hare's movements, color changes, and all too frequent demises at the jaws of predators. Like this author's Fire Birds, this is a perfect length for a midle grade nonfiction title. It's beautifully illustrated with photographs and has some great graphs and charts. This would be a great book to use in a classroom setting when learning about climate, and it has a good message about stewardship and responsibility toward the planet. 

Younger students might be alarmed at the low survival rate of "nature's cheeseburger", but students in 4th grade and up can handle the realities of life in the wild. 

When reading this, I was immediately transported back in time to my childhood. My mother taught elementary school, so we had an odd assortment of books. I was able to come up with the title of The Three Coats of Benny Bunny (Asheron, Sara. Grosset and Dunlap, 1968), which was one of my favorites. In the book, Benny learns that he is well-equipped to go on adventures away from his mother. 

Reading Hopping Ahead of Climate Change, I think that Benny was right to want to stay at home!

In one of those random events, I just found out about my interview with Mr. Collard being up at School Library Journal when I picked up the next book. Who gets special thanks on the dedication page? Mr. Collard! 

25785734Wallace, Brandon. Wilder Boys: The Journey Home
January 5th 2016 by Aladdin 
Library Copy

After their mother was supposedly killed by her boyfriend , Bull, in The Wilder Boys, Jake and Taylor traveled from Pittsburgh to the Tetons to find their father. They've been living with him, and enjoying the beauty of the scenery and the lower stress living of being in the wilderness, but they miss some things about home, especially their mother. When they find out their father has been hiding a cell phone for work, they call up their old number, hoping to hear their mother's voice on the answering machine... and get their mother. She survived (unlike Bull), but Bull's gang is after her for the money Bull had. With winter settling in, Jake and Taylor decide to return home. Along the way they get a lot of unexpected help, especially from Kim, who wants to reconnect with her own father in Denver, and have one disaster after another. They are caught in an avalanche, Bull's gang's henchmen kidnap them in Chicago, and the boys must use all of their survival skills to get back home. 
Strengths: The pacing of this was fantastic, the characters well developed and engaging, and the adventure top rate. I loved how instructive survival techniques got worked into the plot. I also enjoyed the balance that the boys showed-- unlike their father, they could see some good things about the city. 
Weaknesses:I had trouble buying all of the coincidences.
What I really think: This is a strong middle grade "fantasy" that should be getting a LOT more attention, but I think adult readers probably look at it and think "Someone should call Children's Services! Those boys shouldn't be out their on their own!" No, they shouldn't. But it's a wish fulfillment-- when I wanted to run away from home in the 6th grade, I was certainly going to live in the woods. (By my aunt's house. She had a fridge in her garage and I knew she never locked the door!)

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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Finding Perfect

27414408Swartz, Elly. Finding Perfect
October 18th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Molly is having a hard time. Her mother's job moved her to Canada, and since her parents were having marital trouble anyway, she's afraid that her mother won't move back. Her younger brother Ian is constantly in her stuff, but she is afraid that he will die. Older sister Kate is trying to keep up a calloused front, and their father is just too distracted by work to really notice what is going on. Molly's Friends Bridgett and Hannah are having their own problems, so there is nowhere that Molly feels she can go for help. The more problems life throws her way, the more Molly feels a need to tries to control her environment, and her fairly mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder starts taking over more and more of her life. Finally, when she is a finalist at a school poetry slam, she is able to articulate her problems enough to get some help. 
Strengths: This certainly captures the panic and uncertainty in Molly's life in a palpable way. Her family relationships and friends are seem very realistic.
Weaknesses: Starting with a poetry slam made this seem rather slow, and after she blew a test, I was surprised that her teacher didn't have her sent to a counselor to get to the bottom of her visible anxiety. 
What I really think: Debating. I have the wonderful Tashjian Multiple Choice (1999) and Hesser's Kissing Doorknobs (1998) that don't circulate much. If LeGrand's Some Kind of Happiness resonates with your readers, definitely purchase this. Mental illness of all kinds seems to be an emerging trend in middle grade fiction.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cartoon Saturday and The Friendship Experiment

Savage, Doug. Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy
September 6th 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy received from the publisher

Rabbit Boy and Moose are hanging out in a meadow when space aliens land. While they don't hurt the two friends, they manage to imbue Moose with laser vision before taking off. It's a good thing we have comics, because the aliens only speak in their own tongue. In the second chapter, a factory emits toxic waste into a river, turning an unsuspecting bear into the terror spewing Aquabear, whom Laser Moose must subdue. The final threat is MechaSquirrel who is under the thrall of a cyborg porcupine and tries unsuccessfully to destroy Moose and Rabbit Boy. A few scientific facts enliven the end of the book. 

687325Strengths: This was not quite as goofy as The Glorkian Warrrior Eats Adventure Pie, but a bit goofier than Stinky Cecil. I can see a 6-8 year old giggling tremendously over this one, and even middle school students who love comics will enjoy this. It's not the sort of thing that I understand, but the appeal to the target demographic is clear. I can also see lots of Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy role playing in the back yard! Interested to see the sequel. 

Weaknesses: I was rather disturbed when Moose accidentally severs a deer's leg, and the deer lops back off into the forest with his leg in his mouth. 

What I really think:  I now have an overwhelming urge to reread Bernard Wiseman's Morris and Boris books. 

The Friendship Experiment
Teagan, Erin. The Friendship Experiment
November 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC from

Maddie's sixth grade year is not off to a good start. Her grandfather, a famous scientist who researched Von Willebrand Disease with her father, has passed away after struggling with Alzheimers, and the family is selling his house. Her best friend, Elizabeth, is going to a fancy private school and has too much homework to hang out with her. She doesn't have anyone to hang out with at lunch except for Riley, whom she has taken an immediate dislike to, and several other quirky students. Her sister is suffering from more frequent nosebleeds due to her Von Willebrand's, and Maddie starts to have nosebleeds, too. Maddie talks her father into working in his lab so she can chronicle her experiences for a class project, but even that ends up ending poorly. The only thing to look forward to is a sleepover at the local science museum and the school pumpkin festival, but without a best friend, even those activities seem pointless. Can Maddie manage to figure out how to go on without her grandfather, and to make some new friends?
Strengths: There should be more books about girls who have an interest in science, so readers will enjoy learning about Maddie's hobby of swabbing different objects around school and growing cultures. It was interesting to read how both Maddie and her sister struggle with a very serious but not fatal disorder. I liked that her family, although quirky, was ultimately very supportive, from ecoconscious mom to irritating older sister to visiting grandma who will make her "real" food and watch her when she's home sick. The struggles with friends are very typical of middle school. 

Weaknesses: While this didn't have any super, super sadness going on, it had an unrelenting amount of medium-level sadness that really brought me down. I also found it hard to believe that Maddie would carry around her science log/journal-- every middle schooler who keeps one of these (and who has read Harriet the Spy!) knows that you have to lock those journals up tight! They always get read by the wrong people and cause problems.
What I really thinkMaybe the fact that I read it on the last day of summer vacation when it rained the entire day added to the general feeling of gloom and doom. The cover makes this look so much happier than it is. Perhaps I should take a nap and eat some chocolate before debating purchase of this. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Guy Friday- Ryan Quinn and the Rebel's Escape

25671410McGee, Ron. Ryan Quinn and the Rebel's Escape
October 25th 2016 by HarperCollins Children's Books
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Ryan's family has moved around all over the world, so he's glad to be settled in New York City, even if it means attending school for diplomat's children. He has a good friend, Danny, and a crush on a girl named Kasey whose brother is less than friendly towards him. All of those problems seem insignificant when a strange man follows him and later shows up at his mother's rare instrument store and kidnaps her. The man wants information about Ryan's father, who is on a "business trip" and hasn't been heard from in a while. Shaken, Ryan investigates his father's office and finds out that his father has been working all over the globe, and when a coworker, Tasha, shows up to help, Ryan is determined to somehow get to Andakar to rescue his father. Tasha tells Ryan that his parents are both agents in an organization that works to help people in danger, but this organization doesn't exactly have the blessings of the CIA. Once in Andakar, Ryan manages to break into the ASI headquarters, find prisoners, and get information about where his father might be. His father was helping a rebel named Myat Kaw, and soon Ryan meets up with this person-- who turns out to be the niece of an ASI leader, and about Ryan's age. Ryan's father is badly wounded, so he and the niece, Lan, develop a plan to get themselves out of the country and somehow rescue Ryan's mother. This plan eventually leads them back to New York City, where Danny, Kasey, and Kasey's brother are all instrumental in taking down the bad guys. At the end of the book, however, Ryan's father is still missing, which makes waiting for the next two books in the trilogy very hard!
Strengths: This was a fantastic spy adventure book, filled with death defying plunges into rivers and off buildings, evil villains in exotic foreign countries, and a great group of friends who help each other out. There's even a nice romance. I love that it's going to be a trilogy-- I wanted more story, but not ten more books. Can't wait to have this one to hand to students. 
Weaknesses: There's a fairly high body count for middle grade literature, but it's not too gruesome. While most of the technical aspects of traveling alone were explained adequately, I couldn't quite believe that Ryan's cell phone worked in Andakar! (Isn't that silly of me?)
What I really think: This is a really worthy entry into the world of middle grade spy adventures. I will definitely be looking forward to the next one!

Guy Friday-- The Football Girl!!!

31123143Heldring, Thatcher. The Football Girl.
April 4th 2017 by Delacorte Press

I love this author, and this sounds so wonderful! From

"The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running cross-country. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level? This summer Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.

One reason I love this book so much is my daughter' senior picture:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Warriors Read Alikes

I'm starting my slide presentation for Fall of 2017, and thought I would add a "talking animals" section. 

This got out of hand. 



Projekt 1065

29241321Gratz, Alan. Projekt 1065
October 11th 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Michael O'Shaughnessy's father is the Irish ambassador to Germany during World War II. Even after Kristallnacht, the family doesn't leave, and Michael soon finds out it's because his parents are spies. This doesn't stop him from being involved in the Hitler Youth, even though he is not a fan of the Nazis and their reign of terror. Along with his friend Fritz, he goes through the training and tries to be a good example of an Aryan youth, especially when it gives him an opportunity to spy on the airplane plans that Fritz's father has. Things are complicated by a Scottish airman, Simon Cohen, whom Michael rescues after he has crashed over Germany. When Michael realizes that his youth group is going to be in charge of assassinating scientists who are working on the bomb, he knows that he must find a way to stop them, even if it means that people he knows must die.
Strengths: Like this author's Prisoner B-3087, Projekt 1065 is packed full of danger and adventure. It's not as dark and gruesome, but there are some sad moments. This would be a great companion to some of the new WWII nonfiction books about groups of students who were involved in the Resistance, and is just an exciting WWII book. Goodness knows, I seem to need an endless supply of historical fiction on this particular topic. 
Weaknesses: It seemed slightly far-fetched that an Irish students would be allowed to participate in the Hitler Youth, but since the book is well-researched, I'll have to believe it!
What I really think: I wanted to know more information about the Irish Troubles, even though there wasn't really room for it in this book. That would be a great historical fiction book, though-- are you on that, Mr. Gratz?

25027372Nesbet, Anne. Cloud and Wallfish
September 2nd 2016 by Candlewick
ARC from Baker and Taylor

First of all, I would just like to say that there apparently WAS a Batman backpack available in 1989. Now you can read the book.

Noah is suddenly spirited away from the U.S. to East Germany by his parents, who claim his mother is going to research children with speech impediments like Noah's, and his father is going to write a novel. They are insistent on changing their names and details of their lives just because... Jonah goes along with it, because what else do you do when you are ten? East Germany is a rough place to be in 1989, and Jonah is happy to meet Claudia in his apartment building. She's living with her grandmother because her parents have been killed on vacation in Hungary, and the two become fast friends. School is horrible for Jonah even though his German is pretty decent; his stutter makes the teachers not take him seriously, and they don't want him to talk to the other students about the U.S. Eventually, it comes out that Jonah's parents aren't what they seem.
Strengths: The details of life in East Germany at this time are exquisite, and Nesbet's experience and research add a lot to the book. Even the format is intriguing-- after each chapter, there is a little bit of information on one of the facets of life. 
Weaknesses: I found this slow, and was never really convinced that the parents were spies. Betsy Bird and many other disagree with me. 
What I really think: This is an interesting time period, but I have yet to find a book that does everything I want it to. The title and cover don't do this one any favors. Am debating purchasing this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#WNDB Wednesday-- Riding Chance

29241310Kendall, Christine. Riding Chance. 
October 11th 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Troy and his father are suffering after the death of Troy's mother, and Troy makes some bad choices that get him remanded to a program where he will work with horses in inner city Philadelphia. He must start at the bottom, mucking out stalls and grooming horses, and if does well and stays out of trouble, he will get a chance to ride the ponies. It's a difficult job, but riding makes him feel closer to his mother, and seems to help him in many respects. Troy is stopped by the police in his neighborhood, and when the police feel threatened by the polo mallet he is carrying, they take him down. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to see this happen, and everything ends much better than many current events, but the event colors his perception of the world for a long time. Troy does get to play some polo, has a romantic interest with a girl in the program, and has his life impacted in a positive way by both the horses and the people involved. 
StrengthsThe author was inspired by the Work to Ride program, and there is lots of good information about taking care of and riding horses. The scene with the police is certainly a current concern in the news. 
Weaknesses: I have never lived in inner city Philadelphia. Paula Wiley lives in Baltimore. She commented on Goodreads that the dialogue was inauthentic and the characters rather stock. Christine Kendall does in fact live in Philadelphia. I can only assume that if the dialogue is inauthentic, there was an editorial process involved. The other reviews I read seemed to be rather positive.
What I really think: Authentic or not, I'm going to have a hard time selling this one based on the fact that it is, in large part, about polo. I already have Ghetto Cowboy, about a similar inner city program with horses, and it has only circulated to Battle of the Books members. I do like the cover, but don't think this one will get read in my library. I am curious to see what anyone who lives in inner city Philadelphia thinks of this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bionic and other speculative fiction titles

29563574Weyn, Suzanne. Bionic.
October 25th 2016 by Scholastic Press
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

High school senior Mira is a fantastic lacrosse player hoping for a scholarship, and is also in a rock band. When she is critically injured in a car accident coming home with the band, she loses a leg and an arm. Fearing that her days of "normality" are behind her, she is okay with experimental technology that is being used to reconstruct her limbs. She even has a copper chip implanted in her brain to help with the integration. Soon, Mira is better than she ever was. She is offered a place on the school swim team, but is soon kicked off because other teams feel threatened by her augmented technology. Her hair and skin start to glow, and she feels great. She's recruited as a spokes model for Snap cosmetics. There is even a nice romance with one of her band mates. She does occasionally have flashbacks to the accident, and requires repeated surgeries to upgrade her arm and leg, but life has never been better. Eventually, though, her bionic parts catch up with her and she must have a downgrade in order not to overwhelm her system.
Strengths: I loved that the bionics were essentially good, even though the levels needed to be tweaked a bit. Maybe I'm old enough to equate science with advances in civilization instead of dystopia, but this was so much more enjoyable than viruses infecting the world or some other scenario where EVERYTHING goes bad. 
Weaknesses: Even though Mira is a high school senior, this is still completely appropriate for middle school. I was on edge for a lot of the book, however, just waiting for something inappropriate. Also, I really wanted Niles to have some bionic parts installed!
What I really think: This is a great sci fi title for readers who don't think they like sci fi. I can see people who liked Uglies really enjoying this. And it involved BIONICS. What's not to like? A great, quick read. 

26848831White, Wade Albert. The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes
Little, Brown (first published September 13th 2016)
Public library copy

Pretty standard Lemony Snicket-esque adventure. Mixes the Victorian orphan in horrible circumstances with medieval-ish quest. Embraces unusual names and general quirkiness. If I had a lot of readers who still liked Snicket, I might buy it. Perhaps is would be more successful in an elementary school. My fantasy/adventure readers want more serious books. 

"A thrilling debut novel where fantasy and science fiction meet, dragons aren't as innocent as they look, and nothing is quite what it seems. 

Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest. Anne, Penelope, and new questing partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes--or face the horrible consequences."

28954233Liss, David. Rebels (Randoms #2)
September 20th 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Public library copy

I knew that Randoms would be a hit with my hard core sci fi/ fantasy readers, and when my library reserve came in yesterday, my helper got really excited because he thought it was for him. Had to disappoint him and rush through it last night so that he could have it before the long weekend. (Conferences tomorrow and Thursday, Friday off!) My fantasy amnesia kicked in, but this had even more shades of The Hitchhiker's Guide and other slightly wacky British fantasy books. I have a copy on order. It won't get checked out a lot, but it will last for a long time. Win.

"It’s difficult to return to Earth and live a simple, unadventurous life after having seen the wonders of the universe—especially when you find yourself with Smelly, a self-important artificial intelligence living in your head, reminding you how much of a primitive meat bag you are. But with Smelly’s help, Zeke is on his way back to space on a new, super-secret mission. Zeke may earn Earth a second chance at intergalactic membership—and better yet, he’ll be reunited with Tamret, the alien girl of his dreams.

However, things never go as planned for Zeke. Conspiracy abounds as he’s once again blamed for destroying a spaceship, and sent deep into the dangerous Forbidden Zone to find the military tech tree that the enemy Phands are already using. Will his knowledge of pop culture and science fiction that saved him in Randoms help again?

Monday, October 24, 2016

MMGM- Cinnamon Moon/Epic Big Nate

Peirce, Lincoln. Epic Big Nate
October 25th 2016 by Andrews McMeel 
ARC provided by the publisher

Big Nate's 25th anniversary is brilliantly celebrated with this enormous compendium of strips. Not every strip is included, but the overview is complete enough that we can see Nate's evolution over time. The best part is the commentary on selected strips, as well as the introduction to both Peirce and Nate. I had no idea that the strip had been around so long, since I was first introduced to the character in Big Nate: In a Class By Himself (2010). 

This is a must-have collection for Big Nate fans, no matter how long they have followed the strip. Adult fans especially will enjoy the annotations which deliver some insight into Nate's motivation, as well as explanations of some of the side characters. 

Be forewarned, however, that the slip-cased, 472 page book weighs in at almost 6 pounds and has a list price of $50! I'm not sure, both because of the cost and the size, if I will purchase this for my library. When a 6th grader leaves the book in his math class and someone else picks it up and never returns it, I don't want to have to try to get $50 from the student to replace 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.

Let me make one thing VERY clear: I adore historical fiction. Growing up, I read Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Childhood of Famous Americans (which, really, were pretty much fictionalized biographies) and had a serious addiction to Louisa May Alcott. Even now, I get ridiculously excited by historical fiction that covers a period of time I don't know a lot about. I love historical fiction.

My students do NOT.

There are a few. And oddly, most of the readers of historical fiction in my library are my more academically inclined students. Last year, I even had a girl who willingly read Anne! Most of my students, however, engage in serious nose wrinkling when offered such books. And offer them I do. I make displays, recommend them, and try to sneak them in. My students still aren't fans. I'm beginning to think that the problem is the TYPE of historical fiction that is published. Things like Wolf Hollow or Moon Over Manifest are slower, more introspective, and on the longer side. If there were more historical fiction like Cinnamon Moon, I think it would have more readers. 

Cinnamon MoonHilmo, Tess. Cinnamon Moon
October 18th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline.

Ailis and her brother Quinn have moved to Chicago from the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin after a fire killed their parents and young sister. They are being raised in a boarding house by a negative, controlled woman, Miss Franny. Since Chicago is also recuperating from the Great Fire of 1871, Ailis is glad that she and her brother, along with another orphan, Nettie, have food to eat and a place to sleep, but hopes for more. She takes a job with a German woman, Ida, in a millinery shop, and Quinn starts busking with his violin, making a lot more money that he thought possible. When Nettie goes missing, the two try to investigate, and uncover a plot to use very young children to help keep down the rat population. They find Nettie, who is too afraid to go back with them. Eventually, the two manage to tell an investigative reported about the scheme, and are able to find Nettie.
Strengths: Modern readers will be drawn to the difficult circumstances under which Ailis and Quinn live, but will also secretly long for their freedom from parents. They may be a bit surprised at the prejudice against the Irish. This was just a very fun, very readable book, and happier than you would think. Ailis is very "plucky".
Weaknesses: Should have started with the fire. A bit slow at the beginning, and that would have helped. The cover and title are not fantastic.
What I really think: Great story, great length, and worth hand selling to students, who will enjoy the story once they get into it. This might also be a great gateway to historical fiction!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Patron Saint of Junior Bridesmaids

27414425Tougas, Shelley. Patron Saint of Junior Bridesmaids
Patron Saint of Junior Bridesmaids
E ARC from Edelweiss above the Treeline

Mary Margaret Miller is trying to deflect attention from herself by getting her mom excited about cousin Eden's wedding, mainly because Mary punched Brett. The two had been having problems all year, and even though Mary is usually a good kid, she couldn't take their bickering any more. Her mother forgives her soon enough, because her father is already working in North Dakota after the family's Minnesota hardware store had to close. Mary's mother is going to spend the summer trying to find a job, and Mary and her younger brother are going to stay with Eden and her family to help plan the wedding. Mary's grandmother is VERY excited and is planning something huge and festive. Eden is less thrilled with the idea, since she suffers from social anxiety. Mary tries to keep her grandmother happy while looking out for Eden's best interests, all while worrying about her own family situation and feeling bad about what happened with Brett.
Strengths: This was a fairly happy book despite the various problems. I loved the VERY supportive family and the depiction of Eden and her interactions. Mary is a singular character, but very well meaning, typically middle school, and quite realistic. I also like the budding romance with the neighbor boy, as well as the twist involved in the story with Brett. Since I have 37 cousins (mostly older) on my mother's side of the family, I could definitely identify with the family wedding plans!
Weaknesses: Mary's family is VERY Catholic. I grew up in a largely Catholic community and never met anyone quite so devout or interested in saints, so that part seemed somewhat unrealistic. I think more readers will see this as a window into Mary's world instead of a mirror of their own, which is fine. Pair this with Every Single Second for the future nuns among your patrons.
What I really think: I think the wedding planning and family angle will appeal to readers, so I will buy a copy. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kyle Finds Her Way

25488352Salom, Susie. Kyle Finds Her Way
October 11th 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books
ARC from Young Adult Books Central

Kyle has a rocky start to her 7th grade year when she punches a kid in the stomach in gym during tai chi. Ino was taking the hearing aid from a new girl, so he gets two weeks of garbage duty as punishment, and Kyle is remanded to the teacher in charge of the NAVS team, which competes to solve a problem. Kyle is okay with this, especially since cute new English boy, Reed, is part of the group. However, she has a lot of trouble telling the truth to her parents about things. They ground her, but she wants to go to a NAVS planning session, so she lies to her. They catch her. She gets on the wrong bus on purpose, insults her mother's cooking, and generally acts in an untrustworthy manner. She is also having trouble with her two best friends for various reasons. She continues to take part in the NAVS team even though her parents have told her she can't. Eventually, they find out, and Kyle has to decide what her values are, and how she can win back her parents' trust. 

Strengths: There were a lot of good, realistic moments in this. Kyle's family is strong-- her family eats (salt free-- how I understand that!) dinner together most nights and she is close to her twin brother who is in a lower grade because of a possible developmental delay. Kyle's impulse control and poor choices are very typical. The cover is attractive, and the story is generally upbeat. I liked that Kyle was involved in activities.
Weaknesses: I didn't like Kyle. She was one of those annoying students who will eventually turn out fine but drive one crazy. I found it hard to believe that she would have been allowed to wear her beloved blue fedora to school, or that the principal would have "punished" her for assaulting another student by making her do an activity.
What I really think: Despite my own personal objections, I think this is a book that will circulate well with my readers who like stories that involve middle school drama. It will be especially useful during Guys Read Pink month, since it has a nice ensemble cast and is not overly "girly". Will purchase.

28218904Berenstain, Mike. The Berenstain Bears Around the World
September 6th 2016 by HarperCollins
Public library copy

I have a huge soft spot for the bears since the first book I ever read independently was The Berenstain Bears' Picnic, but I've never liked the rest of the books very much. My girls, however, adored them, so I got to read a vast number of these preachy tomes. 

This was a nice change, with the bears whisking around the world in Dr. Bear's Anywhere Anytime Machine. There is very brief information about different countries, and I can see this being a starting place for young readers to begin exploring different parts of the world. There's not really a plot, and the reading level seems higher than beginning (words like Switzerland, chocolate and onion aren't exactly easy), but this would definitely have been one I would have bought for my children, and would be a good addition to an elementary library, especially since it's available in a dust jacketed hard cover.

Friday, October 21, 2016

This is not my dog!

And yet the world really needs 
to see this picture!

The fantastic Library Jim (@library_jim) has a dog, Bella Willow, who looks so much like Sylvie that I am always taken aback. Interestingly, Willow is all poodle, while Sylvie is 1/4 Yorkshire Terrier mixed with poodle! Even their marking are similar, although Bella might be more apricot. 

We'll see if we can get Sylvie to rock the same costume. 

Visit Library Jim's occasional blog at!

Friday Blather

We have successfully made it through the first nine weeks, and we have a work day today! I may finally be a teeny bit caught up. Whew.

This year started out with problems in my "bionic foot", and I always forget how tiring wearing a boot is. My parents, who are 83, have been struggling. My younger daughter (fourth from right in the picture-- she's taller now, although needs size 2 petite business suits!) went off to college and I don't hear from her much. My older daughter got a job after I spent the summer worrying because she didn't have any interviews. Of course, she got the first job she interviewed for, and thought that all of my worrying was silly. 

Life is always stressful; the hard part is learning to deal with the new forms of stress!

There are no study halls in the library, so that means many more research classes. About 500 students a day come into the library. Last year, we checked out 10,298 books, and this year we've checked out 11,517. A 12% increase is pretty good, especially since half the battle is getting students to put down their smart phones long enough to read!

Photos taken by Kenneth Richards, team parent

Cross Country season was fabulous but exhausting. Imagine walking 65 children a mile from school to the park. There aren't any pictures of me coaching because I don't necessarily stand at the mile marker giving them times-- I'm back at the tent cleaning off a kid who threw up and bandaging a wound. My specialty is tying timing tags on shoes. Still, it's good for me to do.  

28964081Stein, Lori. Sharks!
October 18th 2016 by Animal Planet

Stein, Lori. Dinosaurs!
October 18th 2016 by Animal Planet

Copies provided by the publisher

Not surprisingly, I had a brief review of these two books, and it wouldn't publish. That kind of week. 

These were filled with information, and would make great gifts for elementary students with an interest in the topics. For school, I'd prefer a slightly larger format, and a hard cover. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Guy Friday- Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck

28692075Anderson, Jeff. Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck
October 4th 2016 by Sterling Children's Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Zack's luck doesn't hold for long after he saves the day in Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth. There is an attractive new girl at school, but Zack manages to get his khakis caught on a cafeteria bench... on a day where his too small Thomas the Tank Engine Underoos were the only clean underwear he had. This opens him up to a lot of ridicule, and it doesn't make matters any better when he accidentally hits Abhi really hard in a game of dodgeball in gym class. His friend Janie suggests that they visit the botanica, where she knows (thanks to an aunt) just what magical remedies he needs to win the heart of the new student. Unfortunately, the cologne he wears is a bit too much, leading to the other students calling him SMELLacruz. Zack's bad luck continues all the way up to the school Fiesta-val, when everything goes awry. Luckily, he's able to finally get a quiet moment alone with Abhi, apologize to her, and find out a little bit more about her. 

Strengths: Janie gets much better treatment in this book, and I really liked the way that Zack's parents were portrayed; supportive, but dealing with some issues of shared custody and a fairly recent divorce. While this has some over-the-top slapstick moments, it's an amusing romp, and I enjoyed it. I think my students who like Charlie Joe Jackson and other humorous novels will, too. 
Weaknesses: While I really liked the San Antonio setting, I could have used a little more information about some things, because they were not familiar. I had to look up "cascarones" for example, and still don't quite understand the appeal. I suppose if I were to write a book set in Ohio, I might fail to explain some things that make sense here but don't other places (Skyline Chili, anyone? The butter sculptures at the fair?)
What I really think: Looking forward to reading more books by this author. 

22024494Harrington, Karen. Mayday
May 24th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Wayne has a lot of problems. His parents are divorced and his dad is remarried... and also a doofus. Coming back from his uncle's funeral after his uncle dies fighting in Iraq, Wayne and his mother are in a plane crash. They survive, but are badly injured. Wayne can't talk because his vocal cords are too swollen. His grandfather, an ex-military man, moves in to help. Wayne ends up in therapy, and goes to a private school, but still hangs out a bit with former schoolmates, including a girl he has a crush on, but getting back to his old life is difficult. He dad continues to be a giant doofus, his grandfather is supportive, and his mother does her best. Things improve, but then the grandfather is diagnosed with cancer. And dies.
Strengths: Once I picked this up a second time and forced myself to read this, it wasn't too bad. Wayne is quirky, but likeable, and his grandfather is great. I appreciated the fact that the mother was dating a really nice guy whom Wayne liked. Wayne's middle school romance was also nicely done, as was his recovery. 
Weaknesses: So much sad everywhere.
What I really think: If the grandfather hadn't gotten ill, I probably would have bought this for my library. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Row, The Dead Boyfriend

27414418Johansson, J.R. The Row
October 11th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Riley and her mother have struggled ever since her lawyer father was imprisoned for a series of killings. He has always claimed he was innocent, and Riley has continued to visit him. As the date for his execution approaches, and the appeals all fail, she wants to try to prove his innocence. With the help of Jordan, a fun guy who's super great with his younger brother, she starts the process... but then she realizes that Jordan is the son of the cop who put her father away. As the two investigate all of the circumstances behind her father's conviction, they come across a lot of conflicting information. Her family's circumstances weren't as rosy as she was lead to believe before her father was arrested, and when a new murder is committed, Riley is torn between the belief that it means her father is innocent, and the fear that he may be orchestrating something evil from behind bars. When her father's paralegal shoots his partner just as Riley and Jordan are supposed to meet with him in a local park, things become even more fraught with danger. 
Strengths: This was a great book on a lot of levels. The romance with Jordan was particularly nice in a star-crossed lovers kind of way, and the stripping away of Riley's perfect family facade was done in a masterful, intriguing way. This would make a fantastic movie! Psychological thriller, definitely, and great for those middle school students who want a murder mystery. 
Weaknesses: While this skews Young Adult because of some alcohol consumption (which Riley learns is a BAD idea) and the fact that there were murders and there is mention of an affair, there's nothing that would shock the average 11 year old who is allowed to watch CSI. No particularly horrific details. 
What I really think: Again, like Black Roses, White Lies, this is perfect for 8th grade reluctant readers who would rather read fan fic on WattPad on their phones. 

28220872Stine, R.L. The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relaunch #5)
September 27th 2016 by A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

**SPOILER ALERT** Can't write this without giving away key plot points.

Caitlynn's friends are a bit concerned that she is spending so much time with Blade. Deena Fear has warned Caitlynn that "she saw him first" but tries to befriend Caitlynn, who is not very interested in the creepy, Goth-wannabes friendship. When Caitlynn sees Blade out with another girl, and Blade tells her that their relationship was not that serious, she waits for him outside him house and stabs him to death in a brutal fashion. Oddly, even though the police come to her house later because the front door is open and see her with blood stains, she isn't arrested, although she thinks she will be. Deena Fear confides that she made Caitlynn kill him, and wishes she hadn't, which is why Deena tried (and failed) to reanimate him at his own funeral. Deena (who has her deceased parents taxidermied and in glass cases at home) wants Blade back, but Caitlynn is tired of being followed around by a dead guy who tries to kiss her. In the end, we find out that everything was not as it seemed, in a sort of Bobby-in-Dallas moment...OR WAS IT???
Strengths: Definitely will fit the bill for students who want books about murder. There's a fair amount of blood involved with a reanimated corpse. 
Weaknesses: Returns to the format of the original series, which had a lot more high school girl drama than I would have expected. 
What I really think: I'll buy it, but I don't have to like it. The other books in this series have been good, but I didn't enjoy this one. Too high an "ick" factor.