Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tweendom's Top Ten of Twenty-Twelve

How's that for alliteration!

This has been a phenomenal year for books.  For picture books, middle grade and YA.  I don't envy those folks on award committees because those discussions are going to be *fierce*!  This year, I simply couldn't pare things down to 5, so here are my favorite reads of the year.  If they haven't appeared on Welcome to my Tweendom before now, they will shortly!

Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz 
        This creepy Victorian story had me reading under the covers deep into the night!

Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead
        A NYC mystery slash family story that is incredibly authentic and thoughtful.

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
        Pitch perfect graphic novel about crushes, theater kids and family life.

Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin
        Lush and magical storytelling matched with extraordinary pacing.

See You At Harry's, by Jo Knowles
        A family story that packs an emotional punch.

Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage
        A countrified mystery filled with characters to love.

The Great Unexpected, by Sharon Creech
       A genre busting layers story that is simply beautiful.

One Year at Coal Harbor, by Polly Horvath
       Horvath is back with signature quirk and memorable characters.

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
        A first novel that speaks to kids and adults will leave you thinking.

The Secret Tree, by Natalie Standiford
      A small town mystery slash friendship story complete with roller derby, mystery boys and changing relationships.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I had planned on getting a blog post up here last week.  Some of you know that my home is on Staten Island, and this borough got hit hard by the storm.  Thankfully, my family is safe and my home is in tact.  I am hoping to get back on track with Tweendom soon.  I appreciate your patience.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead

After downsizing and moving to an apartment with his family, Georges (yes with an "s") and his dad are in the basement throwing out garbage when they see a sign posted on a door.  "Spy Club Meeting -- TODAY!".  Much to Georges' chagrin, his dad writes "What time?" on the sign, setting off a series of events that will occupy Georges' days for the next while.

Georges himself, is a big of an awkward kid.  He puts up with the daily microbullying that his mom says is not a part of the big picture.  The big picture of life is kind of like the Seurat print they have in their living room.  If you look at it close up, it's just a bunch of dots, but back away to see the big picture and everything comes into focus.  Thinking about the big picture doesn't make school any easier, however.  The sarcastic clapping at his volleyball moves, the renaming him Gorgeous, the fact that his friend Jason came back from camp completely different -- these things all pepper Georges days.  Add onto this the fact that his nurse mom is always at the hospital, and his dad works plenty as well, and you get a sense of what Georges is going through.

So when somebody answers on the Spy Club sign that there is a meeting at 1:30 and Georges' dad encourages him to go, nobody is more surprised than Georges to find a kid waiting in the basement room.  He first meets Candy, then Safer and their family from the 6th floor.  Safer says that he's a spy and that he's got his eye on one of the building's tenants.  He's creepy -- always wears black and is constantly hauling big suitcases in and out of the building.  Safer teaches Georges some of the art of being a spy, and before he knows it, he is in over his head.

Rebecca Stead has written what could be called the perfect tween/middle grade novel.  She gets kids, and the situations the characters get into as well as their voices are spot on.  Each setting rings true, and the slow simmer and reveal are plotted precisely and perfectly.  Stead manages to pay close attention to detail without slowing the pace of the story.  There is a message in Liar & Spy about empathy and bullying and being an ally, but it doesn't feel the least bit didactic.  This thoughtful book has quickly risen into my top five for the year.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

On the Clipboard - October 3, 2012

What have our tweens been reading?  The question should be what haven't they been reading!  Here are 5 titles from our clipboard this week!

Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Pennypacker

Clover Twig and the Perilous Path, by Umansky


Return of the Dapper Men, by McCann

Liar and Spy, by Stead

Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, by Cotler

Monday, September 24, 2012

Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood

It's summertime, and there's not much that Gloriana June Hemphill (Glory) looks forward to more than having her 4th of July birthday party at the community pool.  This is the year she'll be turning 12 so she won't have to be supervised by big sister Jesslyn every time that she and Frankie want to go swimming.

But it's the summer of 1964, and Glory's age isn't the only thing that's changing.  First off Jesslyn, who used to play junk poker and talk with Glory in their shared room, isn't really talking anymore.  She's busy dressing up, putting on lipstick and sneaking visits with new boy Robbie at the library.  And then there's Glory's best friend Franklin Cletus Smith (Frankie for short).  Sure he's always been pushed around by his big brother J.T., but now Frankie is seeming to spew the same kind of stupidity as J.T. and his Daddy.  After all, it's Frankie who tells Glory that the pool is closing.  He says he overheard his Daddy talking about it.  He said it has cracks and needs to be fixed.  Glory doesn't see any cracks...

Hanging Moss, Mississippi has to face the fact that just because things have always been one way, doesn't make that way right.  Maybe there shouldn't be a white fountain and a colored fountain.  Maybe the community pool shouldn't only be for white people.  Maybe the library should be open to all.

Augusta Scattergood tells one girl's story about a summer of change in the South.  Glory's world view is pitch perfect as she slowly starts to understand the bigger reasons for the pool closing, and her fellow townspeople's treatment of the Yankees who have come to town.  Glory is a white girl who has grown-up in the white part of town with a black maid employed by her preacher father.  She has all of the spunk and indignation of an 11 year old who can see right and wrong, but has a hard time seeing where she fits into the picture.  This is a great tween read that will get readers thinking about the big issues of social justice as well as the universal changes that come with growing up.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post - Summer Throwdown

I participated in the League of Librarians during the summer throwdown.  What did this mean?  That I read and recorded lots of pages while I was reading during the beginning of the summer.  It was a great motivator to keep reading, and to see what other folks were reading as well.

I have a guest post over at The Brain Lair outlining 10 memorable books that I read during that time.  It's a mix of tween, YA and adult, and I'm interested to see what you all think about these books.  Not all of them have been or will be reviewed on Tweendom, so head on over to check them out!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Prairie Evers, by Ellen Airgood

Prairie is unhappy when her grandmother up and announces that it's time she moves home.  After all, Grammy is much more than simply a grandmother to Prairie; she is her friend and her teacher as well.  Especially since they moved up to New Paltz, NY from North Carolina.

Prairie's family inherited the farm from her mama's side of the family.  New Paltz is where she grew up, and now the Evers family are trying to make a go of life by living off this small portion of land.  Folks in town seem to have lots to say about this whole situation.

When Prairie and her mama are in town to pick up Prairie's new chicks, her mama leaves her in the malt shop while she runs some errands.  While Prairie is sitting at the counter top, she overhears some women mention her mama's name.  The women go on to talk all kinds of foolishness about her family-- how Prairie probably can't even read and isn't in school -- how her family probably doesn't have two pennies to rub together -- and it is everything Prairie can do to sit put and not give those women a piece of her mind. 

One of those insults, however, is soon unfounded.  Prairie's folks tell her that she has to enroll in school.  Grammy has always taught Prairie before.  They were explorers, learning about things that are interesting.  How can she ever go to a school where she is trapped inside all day?  How can she ever learn to raise her hand when she has something to say?  Or not to blurt out an answer?

School is only made bearable by the one friend that Prairie sets on making.  Her name is Ivy Blake.  She's clearly a loner and a pretty quiet one at that, but Prairie seeks her out and soon they are spending lots of time together, and Prairie actually starts to feel happy.  But as she slowly peels back the layers of Ivy's existence, Prairie realizes that things are not always as they seem.

Ellen Airgood has written a story of family, friendship and loss that while sad in measure is buoyed by an overarching feeling of hope.  Even though Prairie and Ivy are misfits on their own, together they are strong and they even each other out.  Ivy's family story is an intense one and is buffered by the Evers' family's cohesiveness.  There is a Southern feeling to this story despite the setting, and while the idea of the importance of making family is loud and clear, the story never gets eclipsed by it.  Prairie is a strong protagonist and readers are likely to admire her even as they cringe at her adjustments to school life.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Anyone who works with tweens and middle schoolers can tell you that life is often fraught with drama.  Capital "D" drama.  And while I was never a theater kid,  Raina Telgemeier's latest graphic novel lets us in on some middle school theater kids who get an extra dose!

Callie loves theater.  She is not the leading lady type, however.  She prefers things back stage in the set department, which is where she will be working on her school's latest production; Moon Over Mississippi.  She is busy putting up casting posters when she runs into twins Justin and Jesse.  Justin is all about musical theater, while Jesse is a bit more on the shy side.

Even though Callie has been crushing on her friend Matt's big brother Greg, Jesse sets off a spark in Callie.  Before long she is hanging out with Justin and Jesse and she discovers that Jesse is just as talented as his brother.  She also discovers that Justin is gay.  He's not super out, but it's not too hard to figure out if you pay attention.

Callie has set her sights on Jesse, but between the business of the musical, Greg's dipping into the picture, and Justin always being around, it feels like Jesse will never get the hint to invite her to the 8th grade formal.  Once he finally gets to it, in true middle school dance fashion, it all hits the fan and many truths are revealed.

The beauty of Telgemeier's storytelling is that it's incredibly spot on.  Each and every character is fully developed and believable.  Readers will be rooting for and groaning at Callie in turn, and even if theater is the farthest thing from their reality, readers will know these kids.  Relationships are everything in middle school, and Telgemeier gets that.

The art is signature, and since my copy is an arc, I cannot wait to see the finished product in full color.  From the movement created by simple wonky eyes to the flop as Callie pours over a theater book she loves complete with air heart, the line is never crossed into caricatures. It is worth noting too, that the cast of characters is multicultural as well.

Drama should be in every school and public library, and preferably in multiple copies.  This is a graphic novel that is sure to be every bit as well loved as the author's previous title Smile.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage

I made a discovery during my committee tenure last year about books I love.  There are books with chops where I delight in the use of language, setting, characterization et cetera, and then there are heartsong books.  You know, those books that you wax poetic about...the ones that speak to you? And every so often, these two things collide into a book that you know will remain a favourite for all of your days.

This is what Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is to me.

"Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt." (p. 1)  Tupelo landing is where Moses (Mo) LoBeau ended up after her mother strapped her to a make shift raft during a hurricane.  She came to stay with Miss Lana and the Colonel and helped them run their cafe.  When local oldie Mr. Jesse turns up dead, Tupelo Landing turns upside down, with Mo and bestfriend Dale  smack in the middle of everything, due to a little bit of borrowing of Jesse's rowboat.

Turnage has managed to pack an awful lot of goodness into this one including a twisty turny mystery, unforgetable characters, family heart-ache, strong girl-boy friendship and memorable turns of phrase.  It is a book that will have readers laughing, wondering and feeling sad in turn.

I was lucky enough to meet Sheila Turnage at ALA in Anaheim and she said that Mo just kept talking to her.  She wanted her story told.  I'm awfully glad Turnage listened to her!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest

As you know, I am a sucker for the boarding school book.  And although these books do not take place at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, I can't help but think on such a place as it has clearly coloured our young heroine Penelope Lumley.

In the latest installment, the Widow Ashton and her companion Admiral Faucet (pronounces Fah-say, if you please) have returned to the homestead.  The Widow to see her son Frederick, and the Admiral to woo the Widow and to launch his money making scheme of ostrich racing.  But when the pair arrive, Faucet's ostrich Bertha has escaped into the woods around the estate.  In fact, Penelope and the children come across the ostrich while on a nature hike in the woods, but no sooner do they see her than Bertha is off and running again.

Upon meeting the children, the Widow Ashton is quite taken with them, and Lady Constance who has never shown the children any affection to speak of, starts to fuss over them.  In fact, the first night of the visit, Penelope and the children are invited to dine with the family and they are regailed with the tale of Master Ashton's untimely death in a medicinal tar pit.  After dinner Frederick and the Admiral take the boys back to the study and hatch a plan to get Bertha back.  Faucet wants to catch her and Frederick wants to hunt her.  And they want to take the children due to their unique tracking abilities.

Penelope won't let the go without her and Cassiopeia, and since she is worried about Frederick's abissmal eyesight, she conspires with Faucet to have the expedition take place on the full moon when she knows full well that Frederick will be suffering from his "moon sickness".

What follows is an adventure that only Penelope could get into with the Incorrigibles.  Honestly, not as much happens in this installment as I was expecting.  There are of course the elements of the Swanburne education with the exploration of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, synonyms, and prognostics.  There are also dappled mysteries like the sandwiches in the cave, and the identity of "Judge Quinzy".  But it seems that the biggest thing that is happening in The Unseen Guest is Penelope's own growth.  Why, for example, is she not finding the comfort she used to in the pony books of her childhood, and why does she yearn for adventure instead of comfort?

Overall, fans of the series will eat this one up.  I do hope, however, that the next adventure brings us closer to the reveal of not only the moon sickness, but of the identity of Quinzy as well!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer, by Jennifer Gennari

June has been content living with her mother on the shores of Lake Champlain, spending her time baking and selling sweets at the Stillwater Marina, and swimming with her friend Luke. This summer she is dreaming of what pie she is going to enter in the Champlain Valley Fair.  It seems pretty ideal, yes? 

It is pretty ideal except for Eva.  Eva has just moved in with June and her mom.  It's not like June didn't know that her mom was gay, but having Eva living with them is making June uncomfortable.  After all, June and MJ have always had a rhythm, and Eva just doesn't fit.  Now that Vermont's civil union law has  passed, Eva and MJ are even talking about getting married!

But not everyone in their town is happy with the idea of civil unions.  In fact, someone even had the nerve to put a "Take Back Vermont" sign on their front lawn.  June isn't even sure what that means, but she doesn't stick around to find out.  After Eva tears up the sign, June takes off with Luke to see the secret blueberry bushes that he found up by the jumping cliff. June can't wait to come back the next week to pick some for her pies.  Before she and Luke leave, however, June's friend Tina's brother Sam and some of his friends show up.  Sam calls June a "lezzie" for being too scared to jump off the cliff, and June starts to wonder if Sam put up the sign on her lawn.  And does Tina feel the same way her brother does?

Soon the "Take Back Vermont" campaign starts to take off in town.  Folks stop coming into the marina, and June starts to worry about her mom.  But there are others who are willing to stick up for June, Eva and MJ, and June starts to realize that she needs to stick up for her family as well.

Overall this is a coming of age story that easily could have turned into a didactic piece about marriage equity.  Gennari has managed to balance the discussion with June's struggles with friendships, her blossoming crush on Luke as well as the everyday growing pains that families go through.  I am always on the look out for LGBT books to put in our collection, and honestly ones that fit the tween audience are hard to come by.  My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer fits nicely into not only the LGBT collection, but into tween summer reads as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Great Unexpected, by Sharon Creech

Naomi lives in the small town of Blackbird Tree.  It is not named because of the shape of its trees, however, but for the many blackbirds that live in those trees.  Blackbird Tree is a bit of a tragic place, where most of the children have experienced some sort of loss.  Naomi is unsurprisingly a bit of a pessimist.  After losing her mother as an infant, and her father in a tragic accident, she has been in the care of Joe and Nula.  But she has always felt a little off kilter about the whole thing.  What if someone comes to take her away?  What if bad things instead of good things start coming out of the donkey's ear from the story that Joe tells?

One fateful day, a boy falls out of a tree right in front of Naomi.  She's not sure if he's real or not-real, so she is happy when her friend Lizzie comes by and lets her know that she can indeed see this boy laying unconscious on the ground.  Where Naomi dwells in the quiet places, Lizzie fills the air with her words, which can be both comforting and bothersome at once.  She fusses over the boy when he comes to, and worries after "Finn boy" who says that he is staying up on the hill with the dim Dimmenses.

Finn has awoken something in Naomi, and she finds that she cannot stop thinking about him.  Each time she runs into him she asks Finn about his life, but he would much prefer to talk to Naomi about hers.  He seems odd, however, visiting the folks in town that others normally steer clear of - folks like Crazy Cora, or Witch Wiggins.  When Finn asks Naomi where he can find Elizabeth Scatterding, who just happens to be Naomi's Lizzie, she finds herself consumed with jealousy.

Meanwhile over in Ireland, Sybil and her caretaker Miss Pilpenny are plotting revenge.  Living at Rook's Orchard, Sybil has enlisted the help of a solicitor to help her with the perfect plan.  There is a Finn boy who used to live there, as well.

Creech has woven together a magical story about family and friendship and the ties that bind.  Each character, no matter how seemingly small is tied to another, and readers will find themselves spell bound from considering the ways in which this is possible in their own lives.   Naomi herself often wonders about the connections between people and places - 

"But I thought about all the things that had to have spun into place in order for us to be alive and for us to be right there, right then.  I thought about the few things we thought we knew and the billions of things we couldn't know, all spinning, whirling out there somehow."  (p 223 arc)

The Great Unexpected is a story that defies categorization in terms of story and of audience.  Found within its pages are mystery and magic, old and young, boys and girls, rich and poor.  I just finished it an hour ago, and I already want to read it again!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

Creative Commons Search: johnny_automatic
Whew!  The end of school is firmly behind me, as is ALA Annual 2012.  Now I can get down to some serious summer reading!

I have read several great books in a row including Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (who I was lucky enough to have lunch with at ALA), A Year in Coal Harbor, by Polly Horvath, and Drama, by Raina Telgemeier.  All three books are fantastic, and I will get to blogging them soon!

I will also say that if you haven't read our Newbery 2012 books, you should get on that yourselves.  Honors Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanha Lai, Breaking Stalin's Nose, by Eugene Yelchin, and medal winner Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos are all spectacular tween reads exploring journeys, families, summers and beliefs.

Happy Summer Reading!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

See You At Harry's

Many people have been telling me to read this one for quite some time now, but it just never came across my desk.  I put matters into my own hands, downloaded a copy, and read it in virtually one gulp.

Fern feels a bit invisible in her busy family. They own Harry's, a casual restaurant and ice cream joint that takes up most of her parents' energy.  All of the kids are expected to pitch in, and Fern's after-school time is usually spent in a booth doing homework and trying to keep an eye on her sticky ball of energy little brother Charlie.  But things in Fern's world are beginning to shift.

First off, she is starting middle school.  Now she is going to school with big brother Holden since the high school and middle school share a building.  After a somewhat cryptic warning about bus etiquette from Holden, Fern is distressed to realize just what goes on during the bus ride.  She has always been closest to Holden, and now he wants her to pretend she doesn't know him...all for her own good.  Her big sister Sara has been teasing Holden about his J-Crew sense of style and has been egging him to address who he really is, but Fern had never considered how this might translate on the bus and at school.

Then there are her father's crazy schemes to get more business into their restaurant.  Just before school started, he had the family shoot a basic cable style commercial, and now everywhere she goes she hears little brother Charlie's tagline - "See you at Hawwy's!".  She tries to channel her best-friend Ran's zen nature and starts thinking of his mantra - all will be well.

But suddenly, all is decidedly not well.  After a tragic turn of events, Fern's busy family is broken.  At this time when she needs her parents and brother and sister more than ever, Fern finds herself feeling incredibly misunderstood and guilty. 

Jo Knowles has written a powerful story about family and self that packs a punch.  Readers will be able to see themselves in each character turn by turn for better and for worse.  The idea that families really are sets of individuals who fulfill different roles at different times is explored gracefully.  Knowles also gets the voice of the kids and the adults down perfectly.  From Holden's excitement and distance in his first relationship, to Fern's concern for Charlie to her mother's need to get away rather than argue, each character feels authentic and whole. See You At Harry's is a definite must-read for the tween set.

Just a word of warning...make sure to have some tissues handy!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Real Life T(w)een Reluctant Reader

Lately, I've been thinking about kids who choose not to read.  As librarians we know that there are many reasons why certain kids are not readers.  I have a few of them in my life, and I am probably quite annoying to them, as I tend to foist books on kids at every turn.

Nick is one of those kids.  I know him from my real life, not my school life.  I am not his teacher or librarian...simply a neighbor in the summertime.  I've pushed a few books his way over the years...books that I thought he might enjoy, based on what I know about him.  No dice.  Nick is a kid who doesn't like to read.  He was nice enough to answer some of my questions about his reading habits.

Do you consider yourself a reader?
I don't consider myself a reader.

When was the last time you read a book for fun (not for school)?
The last time I read a book for fun, was the fifth grade. 

What was that book?
It was the Harry Potter series.

What do you like to do besides reading?
I like to practice my instrument or watch TV.

If you have to read something for school, how do you get through it?  Do you read the whole thing?
If I have to read something for school, I read the whole thing only because I have to and I don't want to fail the essay on the book.

Do other people in your family like to read?
The only person in my family who likes to read is my mom.

Why do you think reading is not your thing?
I think reading is not my thing because  I have a hard time getting into the book, and I think it's easier to just watch the movie.

Maybe someday I will find something for Nick to read.  Maybe someday he will find the perfect book without my help.  Maybe he will never turn into a reader of books.  The question that I have to ask myself as an adult and a reader and a librarian, is how far to go with the suggestions.  Not all kids like to read, and maybe that's just going to have to be okay.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On The Clipboard

The kids around school have been reading up a storm lately!  I don't know what it is, the the amount of fiction that I have been shelving lately, is epic!  Here are some of the titles that I have been shelving over, and over, and over again!

Throne of Fire, by Rick Riordan

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

A Month of Sundays, by Ruth White

Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool

We'll Always Have Summer, by Jenny Han

Every now and again I have to pinch myself.  I work in a school where there is an amazing reading culture.  Readers advisory is seen as a skill, and our kids pick up on it and book talk back to us all of the time.  I can't wait to hear about what they read over the summer!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker

Stella is spending the summer living with her Great Aunt Louise on the Cape.  She is going to help Louise tend to the summer cottages adjacent to her little house.  Louise isn't a big one on emotion, and Stella is surprised when after talking to Louise about her mother and blueberries, Louise wraps her in a hug.  This pleases Stella, because she loves the idea of ties between people.  Since her own mother isn't exactly dependable, Stella likes the even nature of Louise and her clean house and tidy garden.  She even is trying to find a way to get along with foster kid Angel, who Louise took in thinking could keep Stella company. The two girls couldn't be more different, and Stella can't imagine why Louise thought having two girls was a good idea.

The thing is, Louise is older and she's not well.  Angel and Stella make a gruesome discovery when they come home from school one day, and they have some heavy choices to make.  Can they make a go of the summer on their own?  Should Angel run?  What will happen if folks find out they are living without any adult supervision?  And what are they going to tell George - the local who is supposed to help Louise take care of the rentals?  Most importantly, what are they going to do with Louise?

The girls decide to make a go of it, and have to figure out a way to get along.  Their differences turn out to be a good thing as Stella could use some fire and Angel could use some forethought.  Readers see the girls deal with bills, finding food, lying about Louise's whereabouts, and dealing with their own guilt.  All of this is wrapped up in Sara Pennypacker's rich prose, describing the Cape, the cottages, the beach, as well as the interconnected nature of life.  "I like to imagine the ties between us as strands of spider silk: practically invisible, maybe, but strong as steel.  I figure the trick is to spin out enough of them to weave ourselves into a net." (p.1)

Readers will be left wondering what they would do if they were ever in Stella and Angel's  predicament.   Honestly at first, I was wondering who I would give this book to.  It's clearly not for the same audience as Clementine.  There are heady issues in Summer of the Gypsy Moths, and at times the bigger ideas are a little scary.  Ultimately, however, this is a story of friendship, survival and hope, and thoughtful tweens will be ready for the serious nature of Stella and Angel's situation.

Monday, April 30, 2012

On the Clipboard

Here are some of the titles that our tweens have been checking out lately.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Selznick

The False Princess, by O'Neal

Science Fair, by Barry and Pearson

The Prophet of Yonwood, by DuPrau

The Adventures of Tintin, by Herge

What are your tweens reading these days?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Press Release - Jacqueline Woodson

Here at Tweendom, we don't often take part in press releases, however, this is Jackie Woodson.  She is appearing at the 92nd Street Y, and if you are in the area this weekend, you should check this out.

-Our friends at 92Y’s Children’s Reading Series are offering free tickets to Jacqueline Woodson’s appearance this Saturday afternoon. To claim yours, write to them at by Friday, April 20.

Jacqueline Woodson’s award-winning books include Miracle’s Boys, Locomotion, If You Come Softly and After Tupac and D Foster. She “writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story of nearly adolescent children, but a mature exploration of grown-up issues,” said The New York Times. Visit her website:

Targeted toward 8-12 year-olds (and kids of all ages!), 92Y’s Children’s Reading Series meets on Saturday afternoons and features classic and contemporary literature read by authors and actors. In the last few years, the series has hosted Judy Blume, Brian Selznick, Jim Dale, Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, Natalie Babbitt and Jon Scieszka—and special events on the stories of E.B. White and Oscar Wilde, as well as a 50th anniversary event on The Phantom Tollbooth (with Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer), a 45th anniversary event on A Wrinkle In Time (with Madeleine L’Engle’s grand-daughters) and an 80th-birthday celebration of Maurice Sendak.

Monday, April 09, 2012

On the Clipboard

The check outs have remained fast and furious these last few weeks.  Here are some titles that our tweens have been checking out!

Newsgirl, by Liza Ketchum

Dumpling Days, by Grace Lin

Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages

Pie, by Sarah Weeks

What have your tweens been reading lately?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Secret Tree, by Natalie Standiford

The town of Cantonsville has it's fair share of weirdness going on.  Not only are there rumors of the Man-Bat, but there's the witch lady on the other side of the woods, the legend of Crazy Ike, and one day when Minty and Paz are hanging out, Minty sees a creature in the woods followed by a flash!  Minty crashes through the woods trying to find it.  She loses the creature but finds a strange tree.  It seems to be murmuring and when Minty reaches in the big hole in its trunk she finds a note that she quickly stuffs in her pocket to examine later.

Minty and Paz are best friends with some pretty big roller derby dreams.  Minty, aka Minty Fresh, and Paz, aka Pax A. Punch, have been practicing their moves since they were 8 years old and saw the local team The Catonsville Nine in action.  Paz, however, seems to be distancing herself from Minty in favor of things that are decidedly not roller derby:  things like hanging out at the pool with Isabelle, and wearing glittery nail polish and barrettes.  Minty's summer is definitely not going how she planned.

When Minty is walking down her street she sees that mysterious flash again and takes chase.  This time she ends up at a model home next to the witch's house on the other side of the woods where she finds a boy.   His name is Raymond and he apparently lives there.  Like Minty, he knows about the secret filled tree, and like Minty he is in need of a friend.  Soon the two are skulking around town, finding secrets by good old spying.  But some secrets cannot be stuffed in a tree and forgotten.  Some secrets bubble up and create a big mess before they can be made better.

Standiford has written an ideal summer read for the middle grade set.  Perfectly paced and tightly written, The Secret Tree is filled with mystery, family, friendship, and long summer hours.  Readers are bound to start looking at people and trees through new eyes. 

Highly recommended.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Remarkable, by Lizze K. Foley

Remarkable is a town that is filled with remarkable people and remarkable things.  Everyone is pretty much the best at what they do, and special talents abound.  As the front cover reads, "Welcome to the town of Remarkable where every day in this remarkable place filled with remarkable people is positively remarkable for absolutely everyone except Jane".

Poor Jane.  Born to remarkable parents and wedged in between a remarkable older brother (Anderson Brigby Bright Doe III - excellent painter in the style of photo-realism) and a remarkable younger sister (Penelope Hope Adelaide Catalina -- a remarkable mathematician) Jane is an average kid.  She is used to being overlooked and underestimated, and she takes this in stride.  Only her Grandfather Jonathan is less remarkable than she.

Jane is spending her lonely days as the only student at the public school (the rest of the children go to the Gifted school) when a couple of events start some big changes in motion.  First off, there are the Grimlet twins.  They are a nefarious brother/sister duo who are always up to no good.  They adore loud noises and chaos, and always have a plan in the works.  They have been trying their darnedest to land themselves in public school, and their latest prank proved just the thing.

Next is the arrival of the pirates.  First came Captain Archibald Rojo Herring, who seems rather obsessed with the new bell tower that is being constructed as a part of the post office to keep it from being so ordinary.  Following the Captain,  stinky Jeb, Ebb and Flotsom land in Remarkable making the pirate population quite unacceptable.

What follows is an adventure exploring the idea that things aren't always what they seem.  With a missing composer, unrequited love, a lake serpent, a public school teacher with a secret identity, and plenty of shenanigans, readers will have a rip roaring time figuring out what makes Remarkable tick.  Over-the-top characters will have you laughing out loud, and readers are sure to cheer for Jane and those Grimlets in equal measure.  Fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society as well as Lemony Snicket should approve.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Humming Room, by Ellen Potter

Roo is a crafty kind of girl.  When she doesn't want to be found, she heads beneath her father's trailer where she can look at her treasures and put her ear to the ground and listen to the earth.  It is here where readers are introduced to Roo, as her neighbor Mrs. Quick is talking to the police about what happened above her.  The officer tells Mrs. Quick that Roo has an uncle (a rich one) who is willing to take her in. This is news to Roo, as she has never been told about any's always been Roo, her father and a various string of girlfriends.

After a short stint in foster care, Roo is gathered up by her Uncle's assistant Ms. Valentine.  They travel to the island of Cough Rock on the St. Lawrence where her uncle lives in the old St. Theresa's Children's Hospital.  Roo is not so happy with the boat ride as she has never learned to swim.  Once she arrives, she realizes that the water is the least of her worries.  Her uncle wants nothing to do with her, she is forbidden from entering the East Wing of the building, there are the unexplainable sounds, and before long she is under the eagle eye of her tutor Mrs. Wixton who loves to gossip about Roo's family.

But Roo is a wily one, and rules have never really applied to her, and she soon learns to evade Mrs. Wixton and uncover some of the secrets of Cough Rock.

Inspired by The Secret Garden, The Humming Room is a ghost story of sorts coupled with Roo's coming of age.  Ellen Potter has written a creepy story that ultimately has hope at its heart.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Popularity Papers: Words of (Questionable) Wisdom

Oh Lydia and Julie, I just can't quit you!

Lydia is back home, and ready to get back of the swing of things in 6th grade in the States.  Lydia comes with a plan of course, laid out in list fashion, but after her first day back, she and Julie decide to try to implement a new plan.  Lydia shares the things that worked for her while she was in London...which includes trying to befriend some kids who don't have lots of other friends and forgetting about the popular crowd.

To help them focus their efforts on more important things, the girls put together a "trunk" (re bucket) list.  Letting popularity go, what could be on the list?   Things like starring in the school play, staying up all night, and being friends with Chuck again.  As usual, while Lydia and Julie have their hearts in the right place, their plans go awry.

What I love about this series is that the girls are growing.  Amy Ignatow doesn't simply employ a formula time and time again, the characters grow and learn from the experiences they have had in the past.  It's actually heartwarming to witness!

Fans who have enjoyed the first and second installments will eat this one up, but I can see new fans jumping on-board as Julie and Lydia grow-up bit by bit.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

Middle school is difficult enough for most kids, but for August Pullman, it's especially hard.  August has never been to regular school before, and now for some reason, his mother thinks 5th grade is the perfect time for him to start.  "The universe has not been kind to August", you see.  At 10 years of age he has had twenty seven surgeries to correct a cleft palate and other facial abnormalities.

August starts school early, by meeting a few kids and getting a tour of the school.  The kids are nice enough, but August has been around enough to notice the kinds of things that most adults do not; fake smiles, a shifting gaze, a quick look when others think he's not looking.  Jack, Charlotte, and Julian seem nice enough but August can tell they were hand picked and told not to talk about his face.

Surprisingly, things start off pretty least as good as can be expected.  A girl named Summer sits with him at lunch, his teachers seem nice enough, and August does well in school.  Kids are not flocking to him to be his friend, but he has a small group he can talk to.  As Halloween approaches, August is super excited.  It's his favorite day of the year, because everyone wears a mask, and no one has to look away when they see him.  But a last minute costume switch leads him to overhear a conversation that cuts him to the quick.  How will August get through the rest of the year without friends?

But August is not the only one with a story to tell.  August's sister Olivia, her friend Miranda, her boyfriend Justin,  and middle schoolers Jack, Summer, and Julian all have sections in the book told from their points of view; and in my opinion that is what makes Wonder such a success.  August's situation is extraordinary and is bound to affect everyone around him.  Knowing the motivations of these superbly written secondary characters not only makes August's character more well rounded, but enriches the story immensely. 

As with most books with buzz, I went into Wonder cautiously.  I was fearful it might be too precious.  I am happy to say my fears were unfounded.  The voices of the tweens and teens in this book are spot on.  I could easily picture the hallways of Beecher Prep and the students and teachers within.  This is a book that is likely to open some eyes to the idea of compassion, empathy and trying to walk a mile in shoes that aren't one's own.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Real Life T(w)een Reader

G is a kid who reads more than anyone I know.  More than folks on Newbery or Printz, more than any reviewer I have ever met.  He reads constantly.  No joke.  More than a book a day, and often.  Today he asked me for a recommendation, and I had nothing for him (notice his last answer).  Everything I have read, G has read...and more!  He is another who has rolled over into the teen zone, but he has been reading this way ever since I met him.  I've said it once, and I'll say it again...not all boys are reluctant.

Do you consider yourself a reader?
I guess so...

What are your favorite genres to read?
Anything that catches my attention.

How do you select the books you want to read?
I take a look at the spines of books and then I read the blurbs of any titles that catch my eye.  Then if I like the blurb, I read the book.

What is your favorite book so far?
Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan
Drizz Do'urden books, by RA Salvatore
and various other books that I can't remember.

What is your favorite thing about reading?
You can imagine that you actually are there, and it serves as a welcome distraction from life.

Do you read on an e-reader/phone/computer?
I prefer the paper version.

What kinds of books do you think are the most popular with kids your age?  Why?
Fantasy and romance because they are between adults and kids so they like both.  They like to read what they dream about.

What are you reading?
Currently nothing, but I am trying to find something.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

On the Clipboard

Hey there.  I have been shelving and shelving!  Here are some things that our tweens have been checking out on the clipboard!

 We Are Not Eaten by Yaks, by C. Alexander London

 Dragon in the Volcano, by Kate Klimo

A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck

Hades, by George O'Connor

13 Gifts, by Wendy Mass

What have your tweens been reading lately?