Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2013

Wow!  2013 was quite a year for books.  I kept getting nervous while choosing the next book since I kept reading good books.  I was ready to be let down, but thankfully there were very few let downs for me.  Please enjoy the following top 5s from my reading year.  Let it be noted that these lists haven't been balanced in any way...they are my from the heart favs!

Top 5 Picture Books

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms and Blessings, by Joyce Sidman
The Mighty Lalouche, by Matthew Olshan
Ball, by Mary Sullivan
The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant

Top 5 Tween Books

P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Willaims-Garcia
Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo
Seeing Red, by Kathryn Erskine
The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu
From Norvelt to Nowhere, by Jack Gantos

Top 5 YA Books

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black
Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang
Proxy, by Alex London
Winger, by Andrew Smith
Paper Valentine, by Brenna Yovanoff

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the Horizon

One of the best things about living in NYC is the proximity to so many publishing houses.  We are often able to attend a variety of publisher previews where editors and library marketing folks let us in on what is coming up.

Last week I was able to attend a preview at Penguin (since the 3rd graders I usually teach at that time were at the Natural History Museum).  Here are some of the upcoming titles that I am excited to get my hands on!

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage
I adored the first one, and we were lucky enough to host Sheila at school last fall.  Her characters are unforgettable, and I can't wait to dive back into one of my favorite towns. (Publishing February 2014)

The Last Wild, by Piers Torday
I'm intrigued by the premise of a world where animals no longer exists.  It is being touted as a "quest, a tearjerker and an environmental fable".   It sounds like it will be a perfect fit for so many of my readers! (Publishing in March 2014)

The Sittin' Up, by Shelia T. Moses
Bean and Pole of the Low Meadows are very upset that Mr. Bro. Wiley has passed, but they are also excited to be attending their first sittin' up.  Countrified and quirky, just like I like them!  (Publishes January 2014)

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods
Biracial Violet's mom is white and her dad (who died before she was born) was black.  Violet is tired of being the only brown person in her world and starts to reach out to her late father's family.  I'm hoping this will be as good as I want it to be!

The Nethergrim, by Matthew Jobin
I starred this as soon as the editor said, "smart literary fantasy with enough air and land to satisfy dreamers and realists alike."  It was also promoted as a read next for Ranger's Apprentice fans. (Publishes April 2014)

Nightingale's Nest, by Nikki Loftin
Winner for the best cover, this book is "inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story" and seems like it has just the right amount of magical realism. Blurbed by Anne Ursu as well!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Maker Monday - aka Passive Programming in the School Library

Today I attempted my first Maker Monday, and I have to say, it was a modest success.  It does help that I have my own daughter with me who is willing to jump in to any and all things crafty.  I started easy, with a craft that many children already know.

Paper snowflakes.

But I took it up a notch by asking the kids to write a hope or dream for the New Year on their snowflake.

I simply printed out step-by-step directions, along with diagrams of the necessary folds.  I found it necessary to individually ask some kids to come over to the table, but most were willing and they were all willing to help one another.  I had a mix of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders complete the craft.

I told a couple of the parents that this would be a Monday thing, and there was only positive feedback.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tween Book List

For those of you who are not members of ALSC, you should know that they have just published a booklist for tweens.  I took a look at it, and as someone who has read 17 of the titles, it is a solid list.  In fact, my most favorite tween read of the year is on that list.  Why not head over and check it out!

Monday, December 02, 2013

What book did *you* write?

I love sharing a desk with two other librarians.  It's wonderful to have folks that I respect to bounce ideas off of.  We get to discuss books and movies and kids.  Both of these librarians have written books and our students know this, so eventually almost every kid asks me, "Stacy...what book did *you* write?"
They are often shocked to find out that I have not written a book, and that I am not writing a book, and even more so that I have no desire to write a book. The thought of writing fiction terrifies me.  I am a happy consumer of story, and while I do produce story in my daily life, I have neither the chops nor the talent to dive into something as arduous and time consuming as writing for others.
I have dabbled in group creation like writing camp, and I am noticing all of the folks committing to writing during #nanomo and #nerdlution . What I have learned is that it is not for me.  I have also learned that figuring this out has set me free.
I have often thought about writing.  I do enjoy writing my own poetry, and if I ever were to do all the necessary work to create a book, it would likely be the wonky non-fiction that I love.
My hat is off to those who are passionate about writing and story. Know that there are equally passionate readers out there, and we salute you!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Things have been quiet around here.  I have been thinking.

I started Tweendom at a time when parents were asking and asking for books for their middle graders.  That market has clearly exploded, and while I still adore reading for this age group, I feel a bit like I am in an echo chamber.  So many folks are reviewing so often, and by the time I get around to blurbing a book, I feel like all that I would have said has been said already.

But I'm not quite ready to give it all up yet.  So now, I am thinking of changing scope. (Curse naming my blog after a specific age-group!) I will be blogging some cool stuff I am doing in my role as a school librarian.  I will also be blogging some of the bigger issues going on in the education and library worlds.  There will still be recommendations as well, but they will definitely be interspersed with the other stuff.

Thanks for hanging in!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On the Clipboard

Here are some of the books that I found checked out on the clipboard this week!

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

Kiki Strike and the Empress's Tomb, by Kirsten Miller

Sugar and Ice, by Kate Messner

Home is East, by Many Ly

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

What have your tweens been reading lately?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Jack Strong Takes a Stand, by Tommy Greenwald

Jack Strong is a typical middle school kid who goes to a typical middle school. He does well in school, he doesn't make trouble, and he pretty much blends in the middle of the pack with regard to popularity. Jack even goes as far as saying that he *likes* school...especially Cathy Billows (who is pretty enough to make Jack's eyebrows hurt), his favorite teacher Mrs. Bender, and his relaxing bus ride home.

Jack's troubles start when he reaches home.

This is when his schedule kicks in.  Jack has after school and weekend activities.  Many after school and weekend activities.  Jack's dad thinks that these activities are going to look great on Jack's college applications.  So whether it's soccer, cello, tennis, test prep, Chinese, swimming, math tutor, karate, little league or youth orchestra Jack is expected to give it his all.

The thing is, Jack doesn't like all of these activities.  Some of them are great, but others just make him tired.  More and more often Jack finds himself missing out on all of the social activities that his peers are engaging in.  After winning his little league game, Cathy (of the eyebrows) invites Jack to go with her and some friends to grab some hotdogs, but Jack's dad has scheduled a tennis clinic and he isn't allowed to go.

Jack has had enough.  The next Monday, when he gets home from school he hits the couch.  Soon it's time for him to go to soccer, and he decides he's not going to go.  When his dad gets on the phone to tell him why he should get going, Jack has this to say - "Dad, do you really want to know what the other kids are doing?  I'll tell you.  They're at the party you didn't let me go to because I had to get better at cello.  And they're getting the free ice cream sundaes that I missed because I had to get better at Chinese.  And they're celebrating winning the World Series, but they're celebrating without me, because I had to get better at tennis." (p. 69)  So Jack decides to go on strike.  He is staying on the couch until his folks let him drop some of his after school activities.

What follows is an interesting and insightful look into the life of an over scheduled kid.  Sure Jack's dad wants what is best for him, but can he even hear Jack when he says he'd like to drop some activities? Tommy Greenwald has a knack for the kid voice.  Jack (just like Charlie Joe) is authentic and likable. His strike, which in other hands could have seemed like a bratty move, doesn't come across that way at all.  Jack's agency and his heart come across loud and clear, and readers won't be able to help but root for his success.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the Clipboard 2013/2014 School Year

Well it's that time again.  The books are circing and the librarians are on our toes trying to provide stellar readers' advisory.  At the end of the day, some kids still find things on their own or from recommendations from friends.  Here are some titles that have appeared on the clipboard lately.

Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made, by Stephan Pastis

Thorn Ogres of Hagwood, by Robin Jarvis

Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel

Dear Pen Pal, by Heather Vogel Frederick

What have your tweens been reading lately?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Anna Was Here, by Jane Kurtz

Anna is a worrier.  But she is also a planner, which helps to alleviate some of those worries.  Her weekly Safety Club meetings also help.  She doesn't let the fact that the only other member left is Jericho - Anna's Sunday school teacher and part of her minister father's college group.  But it is in one of these very meetings, that Jericho lets some news slip.  News that Anna hadn't heard.

Anna's family is moving to Kansas.

This unleashes a whole new set of worries for Anna.  She's prepared for weather emergencies in Colorado, not Kansas.  She is going to have to sleep in a house that belongs to a church!  She is going to have to deal with cousins.

Little does Anna know that there will be emergencies that will change her family and make her look at the big picture instead of focusing on her own private worries.

Anna Was Here is a charming book that explores family and faith in equal measure.  Anna's family is Christian and their faith truly does drive their actions and their interactions.  Even if readers are not religious they will be able to identify with the themes of moving, getting past oneself and shifting allegiances.  Anna's relationships with her cousins and her conflict with her dad are perfectly age appropriate and it's refreshing to see her grow out of behaviors and into herself.  A perfect read for those kids who are fighting the change of growing up, and for those families who are looking for Christian books for kids.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wednesdays in the Tower, by Jessica Day George

I was scrolling through my blogposts on this here blog because I was SURE that I had blogged Tuesdays at the Castle back when I read it.  No dice.  I really enjoyed that one, and you can get Jen Robinson's take on it over here.

Wednesdays in the Tower starts with an egg.  Celie is surprised because Castle Glower doesn't change on Wednesdays, but all of a sudden the school room isn't at the top of the spiral staircase.  Celie follows all the way up to a new outdoor room that slopes toward the center where there is a nest with a huge orange egg.  Celie cannot believe her eyes, and quickly heads over and lays her hands on the egg. She is surprised to find it hot to the touch.  When Celie runs down the stairs to spread the news of the egg, she finds she can't.  Nobody is listening to her, and what's more, only she can find that extra staircase!

The nest room isn't the only change that is coming over Castle Glower.  There is that mysterious armor gallery that appeared along with its magical tendencies.  The fabric room is another new one.  Before this, Celie and her family just accepted the castle's changes without really thinking about them, but some of these new changes have them thinking more deeply.  Where do the rooms go when they disappear?  Why is the castle suddenly becoming more fortress like?

In this installment, readers are treated to the real history of Castle Glower and Sleyne.  We learn in real time just as Celie and her family are learning.  Maybe some of the tapestries in the castle are more than just decorative.  Perhaps they are telling the stories of the castle.

Wednesdays in the Tower really should be read after reading Tuesdays at the Castle.  Jessica Day George doesn't  fill in the blanks with backstory, and if you haven't read the first book, you will be slightly off kilter.  That said, I really enjoyed the character and world building - Prince Lulath is a favorite of mine.  The cliff hanger ending will have readers clamoring for more.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rump: The True Story Of Rumplestiltskin, by Liesel Shurtliff

Imagine being named Rump.  Imagine it.  Imagine what other kids could do with your name.  Especially when you live in a place that believes that your name is the key to your destiny.

Rump lives on the Mountain with his Gran.  His mother died when he was born, and Rump just knows there is more to his name, but his Gran does not know what it is.  Life in the Mountain is rather bleak.  The residents almost all work in the mines looking for the ever elusive gold to trade in to the miller for food.  One day Rump notices an old spinning wheel in with the firewood.  He asks his Gran about it and it turns out this was his mother's spinning wheel.  Even though it is beaten up, Rump polishes it up, thrilled to have something that belonged to her.

On rations day, Rump and his friend Red are on their way home when they see Kessler the peddler.  Aside from the regular wares, Kessler also deals in magic.  Against Red's advice, Rump trades some grain for a bit of magic.  The trick does go a bit wrong, and Red states that there are consequences for *all* magic, no matter how small, but Rump finds himself hungry for more.

Soon enough Rump discovers why the gold loving pixies of the kingdom have always favored him.  He finds he is able to spin hay into fine gold thread.  He promises himself he will only spin enough to get more food for him and Gran, but promises to oneself often go unfulfilled.  Before Rump knows it, he is bargaining away his own magic for a fraction of what it's worth.

This new twist on the Rumplestiltskin story will have readers looking at Rump with fresh eyes.  This magical world with its gold hungry pixies, message delivering gnomes, magic hoarding trolls, magical aunties and fierce best-friends pretty much begs for a film treatment.  There are pearls of wisdom dropped throughout the text, and readers will likely have many moments of taking pause to ponder over some of the ideas.  Happily, I read on twitter that there will be more titles coming from Shurtliff - one featuring Jack and another featuring Red.  I for one can't wait!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Hypnotists: Hypnotize Me, by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman isn't exactly a newbie in the realm of children's literature.  As Canadian kids, we all read This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall and as a librarian I know that he's been publishing solidly all along.  But here comes my confession...I hadn't read his books for a long, long time.  I am very happy that I picked up the first book in The Hypnotists series.  Not only is this book a page turner, but it has humor, big ideas and suspense all rolled into a great story.

Jackson (Jax) Opus is a seemingly regular NYC kid.  He's just trying to get to basketball with his best friend Tommy Cicerelli, but the bus just passes them by.  In a fit of desperation, Jax jumps out into the bus lane in front of the next uptown bus and stares the driver down until he stops.  Jax apologizes upon boarding the bus and implores the driver to get them to 96th Street as soon as possible.  The bus takes off and is soon speeding through red lights, passing stops, and terrifying everyone.  Once at 96th Street, the driver stops, lets the boys off, and resumes his regular route.


Then comes the basketball game.  Jax is not evenly matched against Rodney, but somehow he is managing to hold him off.  And when Jax wants him to miss, he does.

What is going on?

After a series of seemingly unrelated events, Jax ends up being recruited Dr. Elias Mako, founder and director of The Sentia Institute as a part of their New Horizons program.  Dr. Mako seems to come with his own tagline - "Dr. Elias Mako has devoted his life to New York City education and is an inspiration to every single one of us."  Anyone who comes into contact with Sentia seems to repeat these same words.


But Jax's parents are all for it.  Jax learns that he comes from some very powerful bloodlines.  Both of his parents families had the gift of hypnotism, and Jax seems to have inherited a rare command of his gift.  After spending every extra hour at Sentia, Jax is getting uneasy with the whole thing.  He has questions and nobody seems to want to answer them.  Being able to hypnotize people seemed like no big deal when it involved extra gravy and hopping up and down, but add some political intrigue and scandal and throw in computers and blackmail, and Jax's abilities could take a very different and dangerous turn.

Korman has written a thriller that will get kids thinking big.  How are our opinions formed?  How are we influenced?  Where would you draw the line when it comes to sticking by your values?   The relationship between Jax and Tommy is perfect and laugh out loud funny.  Their dialogue is authentic and readers will definitely want more from these two!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation, by Tommy Greenwald

I figured this was fitting to post today as I am sending my own 10 year old off to sleep away camp today!

Resident non-reader Charlie Joe may just have gotten himself in over his head this time.  In a moment of temporary craziness and trying to please his parents, Charlie Joe agreed to 3 weeks at a camp for smarty pants kids.  Camp Ritubukkee.  Pronounced Read-a-Bookie.  For real.  Now that the time has come, he is pretty much in shock about the whole thing.  At least his bud Katie Friedman will be there, and Nareem from school will be there too.

The camp schedule is filled with "workshops", which Charlie Joe knows is just code for classwork.  He cannot believe that kids actually acquiesce to go to what is essentially summer school.  Charlie Joe is also a bit bummed because he had just started hanging around with Zoe, and if he had the summer off like a normal kid, that might just have gone somewhere.

Charlie Joe doesn't exactly get off the a stellar start at camp.  At school kids know him and know that he wields his sense of humor like a finely sharpened sword.  Here, his anti-reading stance and his sarcasm aren't appreciated.  Charlie Joe decides that it's going to be in everybody's best interests for him to try to de-dorkify these kids...get them to relax a little bit and enjoy the summer.

What Charlie Joe doesn't expect is to get sucked into the world of reading (just a bit), to use his devious brain for the greater good, and to genuinely like some of these campers.

Tommy Greenwald has created a reluctant reader character who is incredibly authentic.  Charlie Joe doesn't have trouble reading, he just can't be bothered.  I know several kids like this.  By putting Charlie Joe in a camp with kids who pretty much adore learning, there is super wide appeal to this title.  The writing is tight, the voice is authentic and I love the fact that unlike other series that aim for this audience, Charlie Joe isn't mean.  I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy at ALA in Chicago this summer, and was super pleased to relate the story of my own real life reluctant reader really taking to this series.  When kids want a step up from the Wimpy Kid titles, send them over to Charlie Joe!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Crush: The Love Plan, by Angela Darling

Lauren is a girl who plans things.  She checks and double checks.  She loves having everything in its place.  So it really comes as no surprise that when it comes to love, she has a plan.  Lauren has come up with her love plan.  This is the summer that she will get Charlie not only to notice her, but fall for her just like she has fallen for him.  She knows from taking lots of multiple choice tests in teen magazines that she and Charlie are indeed soul mates.  She will get him to notice her through her flowcharted Operation Cell Phone, where she has planned each detail of their "chance" encounter.

The problem is Lauren hasn't even left for the beach and there is a wrench thrown into her plans.  Lauren's mom thought it would be fun to invite Chrissy along on vacation to keep only child Lauren company.  Lauren likes Chrissy alright, but she certainly isn't part of her plan.  And the worst part of it is that Lauren sort of told everyone at school that she and Charlie are already an item.What will Chrissy think when she sees the truth?

Lauren need not worry about Chrissy.  It turns out she is super understanding and supportive of Lauren's love plan.

Things start off great.  The girls get along famously, and Charlie is indeed at the beach with his friend Frank.  Lauren thinks this is just perfect because she can hang out with Charlie and Chrissy can hang with Frank.  But Lauren soon learns not only that the best laid plans don't always work out, but that crushing on someone from afar, is indeed different from knowing a person face to face.

This is an easy breezy beach read that gets the desperate tone of first crushes just right.  What I like is that Darling gives Chrissy and Lauren agency, and put it right out there that sometimes the boy with all the looks can be lacking in other areas.  This is a squeaky clean romance that will have tweensters flipping the pages to find out who Lauren will choose.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

StarWars: Jedi Academy, by Jeffrey Brown

I am a child of the 1970s, so of course I saw Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the movie theatres right when they came out.  What kid didn't?  I did not, however, keep up with the series and see the other movies.  As my neighbor Nick (14yo) always points out, "Stacy, why do you keep saying you saw the first three?  You really didn't, you know.  You saw Episodes 4, 5, and 6!".  Yes, I know.  I put this out there to let you know that even though I am not particularly well versed in the new/old Star Wars movies, I got a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of this graphic novel/ illustrated novel hybrid.

Roan Novachez has always known that he is "destined to attend Pilot Academy Middle School and become the GREATEST star pilot in the GALAXY." (p. 1)  But destiny seems to take a wrong turn for most of us in middle school, doesn't it?  Roan's friends all start receiving their acceptances to the academy, but his letter seems to be taking longer than everyone else's.  Instead of following his brother Dav's footsteps into the pilot life, Roan receives his rejection letter from the school.  He is devastated.

Soon, however, he receives a letter from the Jedi Academy.  Complete with a hand written note by Yoda himself, Roan is invited to attend the school even though most kids are accepted when they are toddlers and Roan himself didn't even apply.  It seems rather curious.

When Roan gets to the academy, he really feels like a fish out of water.  The other kids been there for a while, and they all seem to be able to use the force in controlled ways.  Roan is working on figuring out not only the force, but how to navigate the typical middle school things that all kids deal with no matter what planet they are from.  Things like dealing with bullies, figuring out where to sit in the cafeteria, opening his combination lock, and navigating a dance!  There are some things unique to Roan's situation as well - trying to understand what the heck Yoda is talking about, wielding a light saber, surviving a camping trip involving Wookies!

This is a fun and laugh-out-loud look into middle school that happens to be situated in a Star Wars culture.  Readers needn't be super well versed in Star Wars to enjoy Roan's adventures.  The cover will definitely attract younger readers, but I do think that the audience that will get the most enjoyment out of the story are 4th-6th graders who are wading into similar waters.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Listening for Lucca, by Suzanne LaFleur

"I'm obsessed with abandoned things." So begins LaFleur's quiet and enchanting book about friendship, family, choice, ghosts and history.

Siena's family is about to abandon Brooklyn for the beaches of Maine.  Siena doesn't really mind.  There's not much tying her to Brooklyn anymore.  Her once deep friendship with Kelsey has fizzled since Kelsey no longer seems interested in Siena's dreams or imaginings.  And honestly, Siena is a little frightening about what has been happening to her lately.

She has always had vivid dreams, but now these dreams are creeping into her waking hours.  Scenery seems to shift and she finds herself viewing history, when she should be seeing what everyone else is seeing.  Maybe Maine will help?

The move is not for Siena, however, but for her little brother Lucca.  Lucca used to be a run of the mill little kid...sticky and loud.  But now Lucca is silent.  Siena's mom is desperate for anything that will give her son a voice again.

Once Siena is in the new house, she just knows that there are ghosts.  What's more, is that Lucca seems to sense them too.  She has no sooner unpacked her collection of abandoned things, when her vivid dreaming and visions start again.  Only now Lucca is scared, and Siena promises him that she will get to the bottom of things.

When Siena finds an old lost pen high up in her closet, pieces of the past come forward and help her to understand not only her dreams and her visions, but her family as well.

This is a lovely slow reveal of a book that will delight detail oriented readers.  LaFleur weaves the story together with invisible strings that form a delicate pattern that becomes clear in due time.  Each character is fully developed and the past and the present storylines never compete with each other; rather they complete each other.

Simply captivating.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein

A bit ironic as I was trying to escape from Chicago's O'Hare airport when I started reading this one!  Honestly, I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I opened the cover.  I was delayed, then canceled.  Many hours and gate-changes later, I was delightfully immersed in this book written so clearly for book lovers!

Kyle Keeley comes from a family of gamers.  Not just video games, either...board games too.  And in Kyle's opinion, the king of the game makers is none other than Mr. Luigi Lemoncello of Lemoncello's Imagination Factory.  Too bad Kyle isn't as interested in school as he is in games!  His friend Akimi has to remind him on the school bus that he was supposed to write an essay on why he is excited about the new public library.  The old public library had been torn down 12 years ago, and now there is a contest asking the 12 year olds of the town to write about the new library.  The winners of the contest will be able to participate in a library lock in before the space is opened to the public.  Kyle furiously scribbles his half hearted essay on an extra piece of paper on the bus ride to school.

Kyle is soon kicking himself about his lack of effort on the essay as he soon finds out that Mr. Lemoncello himself is going to judge the essay contest since he is one of the new library's biggest benefactors.  But here's the thing about Kyle -- he's not a kid who gives up and he finds a way to write a better essay and he tries to get it to Mr. Lemoncello himself.

Imagine everyone's surprise when Kyle is one of the 12 chosen for the library lock-in.  

What follows is a wonderful ode to all things library.  Cool state of the art gadgets, crazy technology, and all kinds of clues will keep book lovers glued to the pages once the 12 12 year olds realize that this isn't any old library lock in.  Lemoncello is Wonka personified, and the title dropping is a hoot.  All of the ideas wouldn't work without Grabenstein's tightly written prose and vivid descriptions.  This is a great book that I cannot wait to get into the hands of my book lovers come the start of school.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Otis Dooda: Strange But True

I told myself that while I was at ALA, I wouldn't pick up arcs.  Then a school marketing person handed me two arcs, and publishers gave some to me, and you know how it goes!  The result is that I've been reading a bunch, and now that it's summer and my commute is simply from my bed to the lake, I actually have some time to blog.

The first up, is Ellen Potter's new book Otis Dooda: Strange But True.  Potter has stepped out of her wheelhouse with this illustrated novel for the younger set, but since Potter is writing it, you know the writing is tight.

Otis and the rest of the Dooda family are making a move to NYC.  They are moving into the 35 story Tidwell Towers, which impresses Otis since it looks like it's made up of LEGO blocks!  Otis notices the automatic door and thinks that moving is "kind of cool, like we were moving into a Price Chopper Supermarket!" (p8)  The automatic doors aren't the only thing that is different from Otis' old place...there seems  to be a kid skulking in a potted plant in the lobby.  It turns out that he gives everyone the shakedown for candy and other goods when they come into the building, and if you don't pay up he curses you!

Otis finds this out the hard way, refusing to sacrifice his homemade LEGO lie detector.  Otis gets the details when he befriends Perry, a kid on his floor with the strangest looking and smelliest dog you've ever seen.  One of the great things about Tidwell Towers is that there are lots of kids, and before long Otis is hanging out with Perry, Cat and Boris and they are hatching plans to put the kibosh on the plant guy.

What follows is an often hilarious tale of the often dysfunctional apartment slash big city life.  As I said, this isn't what I would necessarily expect from Potter, however, I know at my library I have daily requests for "something with lots of pictures, like Wimpy Kid", and this fits the bill.  Strange parents, a creepy older brother, rats and poodles,  friends with parents with odd jobs, and trying to dodge the inevitable summer enrollment in classes all come into play.  The humor is sly and horse rear end oriented at the same time, and readers will likely laugh out loud along the way.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are on their way back to Brooklyn from Oakland where they have spent the last little while getting to know their mother, Cecile.  Delivered unceremoniously back into the arms and admonishments of Big Ma, and back to Herkimer Street and Pa, Delphine knows that she has changed, but she surely didn't expect things in Brooklyn to have changed as well.

First off, Pa has lost his long face.  He's whistling Tempations songs, instead of Old Man River.  Right off, he wants to have a conversation with the girls, but Big Ma beats him to it. "Your Pa is keeping company with a woman in Brownsville." (p. 36)  Marva Hendrix is her name, and while Vonetta and Fern think this is fine and silly, Delphine is not so sure.

Next, Uncle Darnell is back from Vietnam.  But he isn't the same either.  The old Uncle D would be smiling and singing and laughing, but now, he seems distant and sick.  He wakes up shouting and isn't so interested in his nieces. 

Readers follow Delphine's journey into sixth grade as she navigates a changing family, grows her friendships, and figures out how to have a relationship with her distant mother.  P.S. Be Eleven is simply a joy to read.  Each character is here for a reason and adds to the story.  Delphine's voice is so perfect as are the voices of those around her.  Williams-Garcia paints a picture of Bed-Stuy in the 1960s, and she weaves the historical details in seamlessly.  This book seems timeless and should be on everyone's must read list!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Last Clipboard of the Year!

12 days left of school for the kiddos.  Here is the last On the Clipboard post for the 2012/2013 school year!

Bird, by Rita Murphy

13th Story Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths

Sisters Grimm 7 - The Everafter War , by Michael Buckley

Top of the Order, by John Coy

Giants Beware, by Jorge Aguirre

What are your tweens reading right now?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Quick Fix, by Jack D. Ferraiolo

This is a book I have been meaning to read for quite some time now.  The Big Splash is a book that has a constant and steady flow of readers at our school.  I enjoyed it very much, but somehow I had not gotten around to reading the sequel.  Boy, I'm glad I finally did!

It's only 2 weeks after the end of The Big Splash.  Matt is experiencing a bit of a moment of celebrity himself, and more and more kids are interested in his services.  He is a bit surprised when beautiful cheerleader Melissa Scott, girlfriend of basketball star Will Atkins, want to hire him to follow her famously sporty boyfriend around.  Matt isn't exactly used to dealing with the beautiful cheerleader type, and little does he know that Melissa is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, Vinny is still ruling The Frank, and he isn't about to leave Matt's talents untouched.  He too, wants Matt's services and doesn't give him much of a choice about the matter.  Liz, who is pulling away from Matt at this point, accuses him of having a lack of moral compass.  Matt is left wondering if he is any better than Vinny and his thugs.

Throw in some twists and turns of the family mystery, a super twisty path toward a romance, and wrap it all in a noir package and you have The Quick Fix.  And somehow it works.  Readers totally buy into Ferraiolo's world with it's rules and slang.  Kids have pixy stix addictions, water guns seal their fates, basketball games are fixed, and it all makes sense.  There is a sensibility to Ferraiolo's writing that oozes commitment and authenticity.  Kids get this and they enjoy every moment of it.  If you haven't made time to read this one yet, you should.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Jack Gantos

While I don't often put press releases on this blog, every now and again I make exceptions.  The incomparable Jack Gantos will be speaking at the 92nd Street Y on Saturday, May 11th.  I suggest you run, not walk to get yourself to this event.  I was lucky enough to witness Jack's Newbery speech for Dead End In Norvelt, and I have to say, he is unparalleled in the public speaking arena.  Follow the link for tickets!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Real Life Tween Reader

Jax is a kid I have known since he was a mere 4 year old.  He has grown into a quintessential middle school boy.  He's usually in the mix of everything and has grown into quite the reader.  He's usually up for a recommendation or two and was very helpful to me during my Newbery year!  I've been chasing him down to fill out this survey for me for a while.  When he's not surfing, playing video games or hanging out with his friends, he does like talking books!

Do you consider yourself a reader?
Yes, I do consider myself a reader.

What are your favorite genres to read?
I like reading books with a lot of action in them, but also being funny.

How do you select the books you want to read?
I usually read the next book in the series or I ask the librarian if there is a book that has been a hit.

What is your favorite book so far?
I really liked The One and Only Ivan, but I also like the Daniel X series.

What is your favorite thing about reading?
I really like being attached to a book, and to feel like I am there.

Do you read on an ereader/iPad/phone?
I only do my reading from a book.

What kind of books do you think are the most popular with kids your age?  Why?
I think that kids my age like books that have a little bit of comedy, but are action and mystery.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading the third book of the Daniel X series by James Patterson.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Zebra Forest, by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

"So as that summer began, while America counted hostage days and Beth learned to swim, I thought up good lies to tell and climbed trees and lay a lot in the shade." (egalley pg 11-12)

11 year old Annie and little brother Rew live at the edge of the Zebra forest with their Gran.  They keep mostly to themselves, on account of the house and on account of Gran, but Annie and Rew have each other, a battered copy of Treasure Island, the joy of making up bad jokes, and the many trees of the Zebra forest to keep them company on the hot, steamy summer days. 

They are getting along in typical fashion when one summer night, a man rattles the back door and steps into the kitchen.  Before Annie can process what is even happening, the man takes the key they always keep in the knob, drops it in his pocket and tells Annie to stay quiet.  As Annie stands dumbfounded, Rew heads for the phone and then the door, but the man is quick and powerful.  He is also covered in mud, and his clothes are torn.  He has come through the forest.  On the other side of the Zebra forest is the prison.

Now they must wait.  Gran completely shuts down, and Annie and Rew must figure out how to be in the house with the doors shut and the windows closed, with the precarious piles and dirty dishes, with the man always there, always watching.  There will be no more going into the trees to read Treasure Island, no more trips out into the shade.

Adina Rishe Gewirtz has crafted a novel that gives an inside look into mental illness and family.  There is an incredible resilience to both Annie and Rew that shines through even though the two deal with their situation in vastly different ways.  The importance of story (both family and books) is felt throughout. Even though some major points like the Iran Hostage Crisis and the plot of Treasure Island may be unfamiliar to today's readers, Gewirtz does a fine job of weaving them into the greater plot -- using them to give a sense of ticking time as well as examination into real life characters.  This is a book that may not be for everyone, but will definitely find fierce love with the readers who love imperfect characters, finding connections, and those who don't mind feeling a bit off kilter.

Publishing April 9, 2013.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kat Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis

The sisters Stephenson live in their humble vicarage with their father, brother and Stepmama.  Eldest Elissa is soon to be foisted off to old Sir Neville in the name of bringing some much needed money to the family.  Elissa is long suffering and realizes that this is to be her duty and her fate. 
Middle sister Angeline and youngest Kat don't understand why Elissa has to be so good about everything...always doing her duty, never getting into trouble.  Kat constantly finds herself in trouble, as manners and ladylike things are not her forte.  Angeline herself has gotten into a bit of trouble as she has been using her Mama's magic book (strictly forbidden) and has managed to cast a love spell on the unsuspecting Frederick Carlyle.
Mama had been a witch, and it was clearly her downfall.  One of the first things that their stepmama did when she joined the family was to lock away all of the girls' mother's things in a cabinet.  Kat, being the youngest, is insatiably curious about her Mama as she was so young when she passed.  One evening Kat dares to steal the key to unlock the cabinet so that she can know something of her Mama as her sisters do.  If she ever had any questions about her mother's magical abilities they are answered in the darkness.
Before Kat can fully address her realizations and questions about her own magical abilities, she is rounded up with her sisters by her Stepmama to attend a week long house party at Grantham Abbey where Elissa is to meet Sir Neville.  Upon meeting the older gentleman, Kat is overcome with a feeling of darkness.  There is simply no way she can allow her sister to marry this man.  Especially when it is so clear to anyone around her that she actually has feelings for Sir Neville's brother, Mr. Collingwood.
What follows is a wonderful adventure filled with magical orders, intrigue, murder, highwaymen and family loyalty and betrayal.  Kat herself is a fierce and feminist character who relies on herself and takes all kinds of risks rather than succumbing to helplessness.  The pacing is perfect and the cast of characters compliment each other completely.  There is non-stop action and just the right amount of romance.  Kat is someone readers will want to get to know further as they cheer her on.  Readers of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and The Mysterious Benedict Society will likely adore this one as well.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Song for Bijou, by Josh Farrar

I first read about this book over at Ms. Yingling's blog.  Romance is always a bit of a tricky thing in that I tend to find them super girly or super sexy.  Farrar has hit the mark with A Song for Bijou in that it offers a boy's point of view without going into the realm of YA.

Alex knows the moment he lays eyes on Bijou that she is something special.  Time seems to slow down so that he notices every detail about her: from the way that she unwraps her straw at Peas 'n Pickles, to her stiff new uniform and the butterfly purple beads that end her braids.  The girl is with motor mouth Mary Agnes and Alex can she that she's not able to get a word in edgewise.  Alex asks his friend Nomura who the girl is, but he doesn't know either.

It doesn't take Alex too long to find out. Bijou goes to St. Catherine's along with Mary Agnes and Ira's sister Maricel, and the boys attend St. Christopher's which is the brother school.  Alex cannot wait to get to know Bijou, which shouldn't be too hard as they have a school dance coming up.

There are, however, a couple of obstacles that Alex has to get around before he can see what the possibilities are with Bijou.  First of, she is living with her Aunt and Uncle who are super strict about her hanging out with non-Haitians let alone with boys.  Then there are Rocky and Trevor - two tough guys who seem to have some interest in Bijou as well.  Lastly, there is the fact that Alex doesn't exactly know what to do in order to get Bijou to notice him!  He's been stuck at an all boys school forever, and hasn't had practice talking to girls aside from his mom and his sister Dolly.

Mary Agnes starts to hatch some plans that will allow not only Alex and Bijou to get to know one another, but herself and Nomura as well.  What follows is a story filled with age appropriate angst, first love, cultural clashes and misunderstandings.  Farrar gifts readers with the bitter sweet dance of first crushes from both Alex and Bijou's points of view.  Cultural and racial differences are not shied away from and Alex and Bijou must both face prejudice in their quest to get to know each other.  A breath of fresh air!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Real Life Tween Reader

 "G" is a reader who likes to try books on.  She's a bit of a genre surfer, so it's a bit of tricky business to figure out what she might like next.  Here are her answers to the Tweendom survey.

Do you consider yourself a reader?
Yes.  I am a reader.

What are your favorite genres to read?
My favorite genre to read is adventure.  I also sometimes like mysteries, realistic fiction and biographies.

How do you select the books you want to read?
I browse through the shelves.  When I see a title that hits me, I look at it.

What is your favorite book so far?
My favorite book so far?  That's hard.  Probably An Accidental Adventure: We Are Not Eaten by Yaks.

What is your favorite thing about reading?
My favorite thing about reading is cliff hangers!  They make you want to read more!

Do you read on an e-reader/phone/computer?
Sometimes I read on my mom's Kindle.
What kinds of books do you think are the most popular with kids your age?  Why?
The most popular books for kids my age are A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly.  I think they like them because they like scary books.

What are you currently reading?
I just started P.S. Longer Letter Later.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff

"Haven't you ever had anything you loved doing, Mom?...Something that was worth getting in real big trouble for?" ( Will Asher - arc p. 200)

This is a world where people either have a Talent or are simply Fair.  Talents can range from the ability to knit anything at a quick pace (Mrs. Asher) to the ability to spit with choreographic grace and accuracy (Zane).

Cady lives in an orphanage in Poughkeepsie New York with Miss Mallory.  Each of them has a talent that drives their lives.  Cady has a talent for baking.  She can size up a person and know exactly what kind of cake to bake that will bring them the most possible happiness.  Miss Mallory has a talent for making matches, which has led to her matching countless parentless children with the right families.  Even though Miss Mallory has attempted to match Cady in the past, it has never been the perfect match.  The tug in her chest hasn't been enough to place Cady with the right family.

Meanwhile, in town, the Owner of the Lost Luggage Emporium has been on a lifelong quest.  He believes that a piece of lost luggage holds the secret to his success.  He has been trying to track down the powder blue St. Anthony suitcase that he lost 53 years prior.  The loss has turned him bitter, and Toby who works with the Owner, is subject to his random temper and tirades.

Also in town are the Asher family.  The aforementioned Zane hasn't always yielded his talent for good, and the words of his school Principal haunt him, as his misguided attempts to help his family bring him nothing but trouble.  Zane's sister Marigold is desperately searching for her own talent, as she tries to keep not only Zane, but little brother Will (who has a talent for disappearing) out of trouble.

Add a bake-off, recipes, attempted adoption, archeological crime, a mysterious wordless stranger, a wayward ferret and an in-and-out narrator dressed in a gray suit, and you have A Tangle of Knots.  I know I haven't done the best with plot summary, but that is because Graff's story defies description.  Story-lines dance and weave, short chapters keep the forward motion, and the reader finds him/herself trying to predict what will come next.  That said, I can't help but throw in the idea of the mash-up/remix with titles like Savvy, The Westing Game and Pie coming to mind.  Not bad company to be in.  While A Tangle of Knots most definitely pays homage, I do think Graff has made this all her own.  The moment I finished reading, I wanted to go back and re-read to fit the pieces together.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On the Clipboard


Fantabulous announcements at the YMAs yesterday.  While I couldn't be there this time, there was much whooping, squeaking and chair dancing happening at the reference desk.

What have the kiddos around here been checking out lately?

 Dumpling Days, by Grace Lin
(review from Kirkus)
 No Other Story, by Dr. Cuthbert Soup
(review from
 Rules, by Cynthia Lord
(review from Kirkus)
The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter, by Kristen Tracy
(review from Kirkus)
Vordak: Double Trouble, by Scott Seegert
(review from YA Central)

What are your tweens checking out these days?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Zut Alors!

Holy moly, friends.  If it weren't for the eagle eyes of Reading Rants, I would have left my Top Ten list at a scrawny 9!  This is what happens when I try to do things like blog during a break at work.

What did I leave out?  None other than -

The Secret Tree, by Natalie Standiford
This small town mystery slash friendship story has tween written all over it.  Moody and compelling, The Secret Tree has something for everyone.