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1. Tru & Nelle: A Behind-the-Scenes Mini Documentary

TruNelleGreg Neri.  Now there’s a guy with range.  If he isn’t writing a picture book bio of Johnny Cash he’s doing a middle grade novel on inner city cowboys or a graphic novel on Chicago’s South Side.  Some authors fall into predictable patterns.  Not Greg.  I honestly never know what the man’s going to come up with next.  So when I heard that his next novel was a middle grade about the real-life friendship between Truman Capote and Harper Lee, it just kinda made crazy sense.

Greg actually visited me here in Evanston a couple months ago with a small group of fellow authors.  Not long after, he touched base and told me that he’d gotten an invitation to speak at the Monroeville courthouse from To Kill a Mockingbird.  When that happened, his friend and filmmaker e.E Charlton-Trujillo (who wrote the amazing Prizefighter En Mi Casa) said the two of them should make a little documentary about his journey there in search of the real places and people behind the book.

Now the video is done and it’s a lot of fun to watch.  And just because you guys are so handsome and clever, I’ll let you have TWO mini-docs for the price of one.  Video #1 is the long version (9.5 minutes).  Video #2 is shorter (5 minutes).

Enjoy!

Interested in chatting with Greg about his books?  Well, if you’re headed to Orlando this week for the Annual Library Conference, he’ll be signing at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth this Saturday at 10am.

Here’s a link where anyone can read more about the book: http://www.gregneri.com/home/#/tru-and-nelle/

Thanks to Greg for the scoop!

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2. Cover! New Book! YAY! (The Homework Strike, Coming Soon)


Not that I'm excited or anything, but MY NEW BOOK IS COMING OUT SOOOOOOOON! The Homework Strike will be coming your way January 3, 2017, once again from Arthur A. Levine Books (and once again with a stellar cover by Linzie Hunter).

So many of you have been here from the time this was just a glimmer (yeah, I'm talking 2006, folks), and I'm thrilled to be able to share the cover here with you all. I'll be talking more about the content and story behind the book later. Today, though, I just want to scream happily a little if you don't mind. (Yay!!!!!! Thanks. Hope that wasn't too loud....)

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3. 30 Days of Books #26

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: A book that changed your opinion about something

Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann.  If I could send this book to myself twenty-two to twenty-five years ago, I wonder what I would have made of it?!?! How much grief I could have saved myself. Now, I am not advocating eating unhealthy and being as large as possible. Far from it. Just celebrating the fact that you can eat healthy, exercise, and still not be thin....and that is okay.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Welcome to SOL Tuesday!

Writing isn't magic, yet your writing can only exist with you.

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5. By the Great Horn Spoon

By the Great Horn Spoon! Sid Fleischman. 1963. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A sailing ship with two great sidewheels went splashing out of Boston harbor on a voyage around the Horn to San Francisco.

Premise/plot: Jack Flagg, our young hero, runs away from home--with his butler, Praiseworthy--to seek his fortune (literally) in the 1849 California Gold Rush. While the two set out with enough money to pay for their passage aboard a ship, the two are robbed while buying their tickets. They decide to stowaway though not for the entire voyage. They turn themselves into the ship's captain. They tell their story and prove willing to work. While working, one of them comes up with a genius way to catch the thief whom they are sure is on board. This is just the first sign that this team is unstoppable and that together they are in for a lot of adventure, danger, and FUN. The book chronicles their journey on the ship, and, in California. There's more comedy than drama. Which I think is overall a good thing. It's good to be kept smiling. And while this one may lack intensity and edge-of-your-seat suspense, it has a lot of feel-good adventure.

My thoughts: I may have a soft spot for this one because I spent so many hours playing Goldrush. I liked the comedy. I liked the friendship. I loved the resolution. How the two were working so hard so they could head back East to save the family home. And well, I won't spoil it. But it's lovely!

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Press Release Fun: Touring with Richard Peck

RichardPeck

Photo credit Sonya Sones (who, coincidentally, did my author photo as well)

As I mentioned in my 2016 Day of Dialog round-up, Richard Peck was the kickoff speaker this year, just before Book Expo.  I was moderating the middle grade fiction panel that morning, so I got to hang out with Richard in the green room a little before the event.  Now I’ve met him in the past, but very briefly indeed (I think I moderated a table for him at a different Book Expo event years ago).  A little more recently I posted on this blog about the fact that actress Lena Dunham has a Fair Weather tattoo.  I was assured by Richard’s editor later that she sent Lena a signed copy of Fair Weather after reading my post.

In any case, long story short, Richard by all rights shouldn’t have remembered me.  The man meets hundreds of librarians monthly, and yet if he’d forgotten my face he faked it with aplomb.  “You reviewed my pocket square!” he declared, and indeed that does sound like me.  Story checks out.

When you listen to Richard speak, it’s not talking.  It’s not speechifying.  It’s pure oratory, in crisp, clean perfection.  It makes you long for a time when students were taught public speaking as an artform.  And now, you lucky ducks, you have a chance to hear him firsthand.  You see, Richard has a new book out.  The details, should you be interested, are:

THE BEST MAN by Richard Peck (on sale September 20th; Ages 9-12; $16.99)

BestMan

When Archer is in sixth grade, his beloved uncle Paul marries another man–Archer’s favorite student teacher. But that’s getting ahead of the story, and a wonderful story it is. In Archer’s sweetly naïve but observant voice, his life through elementary school is recounted: the outspoken, ever-loyal friends he makes, the teachers who blunder or inspire, and the family members who serve as his role models. From one exhilarating, unexpected episode to another, Archer’s story rolls along as he puzzles over the people in his life and the kind of person he wants to become . . . and manages to help his uncle become his best self as well.

And since Richard’s on tour for this book, you can see him yourself.  I don’t often post tour dates here, but I do make the occasional exception.  And Richard is worth seeing.

The dates:

Monday, September 19th – DENVER, CO

6 PM

Tattered Cover

2526 E Colfax Ave

Denver, CO 80206

 

Thursday, September 29th – BELLINGHAM, WA

4 PM

Village Books

1200 11th St

Bellingham, WA 98225

 

Friday, September 30th – SEATTLE, WA

Time to Be Announced

Secret Garden Bookshop

2214 NW Market St, Seattle

WA 98107

 

Sunday, October 2nd – DANVILLE, CA

11 AM

Rakestraw Books

3 Railroad Ave

Danville, CA 94526

 

Tuesday, October 4th – PLEASANTON, CA

Time to be Announced

Towne Center Books

555 Main St

Pleasanton, CA 94566

 

Wednesday, October 5th – SAN JOSE, CA

3 PM

Hicklebees

1378 Lincoln Ave

San Jose, CA 95125

 

Tuesday, October 18th – NAPERVILLE, IL

7 pm

Andersons

123 W Jefferson Ave

Naperville, IL 60540

 

Wednesday, October 19th –NORTHBROOK, IL

Time to be Announced

Book Bin

1151 Church St

Northbrook, IL 60062

 

Thursday, October 20th – CHICAGO, IL

7 PM

The Book Stall

811 Elm St

Winnetka, IL 60093

 

Friday, November 4th – Raleigh, NC

7 PM

Quail Ridge Books

4381-105 Lassiter at North Hills Avenue

Raleigh, NC 27609

Author Bio:

Richard Peck has won almost every children’s fiction award, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Newbery Medal, the Scott O’Dell Award, and the Edgar, and he has twice been nominated for a National Book Award. He was the first children’s author ever to have been awarded a National Humanities Medal. He lives in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7. SUMMER LEARNING PLANS

As I looked ahead and began to attempt to set goals for the upcoming school year I realized I needed a plan. What is your summer learning plan?

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8. A Lion To Guard Us

A Lion To Guard Us. Clyde Robert Bulla. 1981. 117 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed reading Clyde Robert Bulla's A Lion To Guard Us. I saw this one on the library shelf, and, it said TAKE ME HOME. It is historical fiction and follows three siblings as they travel to America in 1609 to the first (and only) British settlement of Jamestown. The novel opens with Amanda hearing news of her father from a stranger--a sailor. Amanda is serving--in her mother's place--in a household. (Her mistress (Mistress Trippett) isn't the nicest or best.) Soon after the book begins, the mother dies leaving Amanda the sole guardian of her younger siblings: Jemmy and Meg. She wants to go to America and find their father. The problem? The family's money was taken by Mistress Trippett when the mother got sick and took to her bed. She's now claiming that the money isn't theirs but hers. And she's so insulted by their asking for the money, that she keeps all three out. Fortunately, they find a sympathetic soul in the doctor that treated the mother. This doctor, Dr. Crider, has dreams of his own. And those dreams include traveling to America. He takes the children in and promises a bright future for one and all. Their new lives will start aboard the ship The Sea Adventure. But readers learn that life is full of uncertainty...

I loved this one. It is historical fiction at its finest. I enjoyed the chacterization and the action. It's a very simple yet emotional story. Definitely recommended!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 587 pp, RL 4


I missed Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan when it came out in February of 2015. Scholastic is one of the few publishers I don't get review copies from and, working in a library instead of a bookstore now, I an not as up on what's new in the world of kid's books as I once was. I even missed the March, 2015 review of Echo in the New York Times Book Reivew, which I usually scour. Echo crossed my radar in January of this year when it won a Newbery Honor, along with two other superb books, The War that Saved My Life and Roller Girl. While I hate the fact that I didn't read Echo right when it came out, I am so, so glad that I knew absolutely NOTHING about it (save that it won an award) before I began listening/reading it. Having worked with and been an avid reader of children's literature for more than 20 years, I've kind of read it all. There aren't too many plots or characters that surprise me or feel really new and original. Echo surprised me - it's as if A. S. Byatt, an author of novels for adults that are magnificently crafted and often centered around a work of art - wrote a kid's book. If you want to be surprised by a story and you trust me and the librarians who hand out the Newbery awards, stop reading my review after the next sentence and go out and get your hands on a copy of Echo. Actually, I very, very strongly suggest LISTENING to the audio of this book (as well as buying it - you WILL want to own it) because - tiny spoiler alert - music is an integral part of Echo, and you get to hear it in the audio.

Stop reading HERE if you want to be surprised
****************************************







I was definitely surprised when I started listening to Echo and there were music credits before the story began. I was especially surprised when harmonica music kicked in. Like several minor characters in the book, I, too, did not take the harmonica seriously - nor did I notice the drawing (wonderful artwork by Dinara Mirtalipova) of one on the cover and spine of Echo! Echo is a work of historical fiction wrapped in the cloak of a fairy tale that is ultimately a story about the power of music to, "pass along . . . strength and vision and knowledge," and even overcome fear, intolerance and hatred. The story visits three very different children at three different times, starting in 1933 and ending in 1942. The common thread that connects these three children is their passion for music, embodied, at that time, in the harmonicas that they own. Surrounding these stories is the tale of a boy that begins just before the start of the 20th century. From a Gypsy, who presses a mouth harp on him for free, he buys a book titled, The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger. The book tells the story of three abandoned princesses with beautiful singing voices. Trapped in the woods under the spell of a witch, they need a messenger to take something out into the world for them, something that will break the spell. Becoming lost in the woods, Otto meets the three princesses from the book. Desperate to know the end of their story, they enchant the harmonica that the Gypsy gave him and he agrees to send it into the world where, if it can "save a soul from Death's dark door," the spell will break and the princesses can return home.

The stories of the three central children in Echo would have been a satisfying book on their own, but linking them with the fairy tale of the three sisters imbues Ryan's novel with a quality of hopefulness and beauty, much like the sound of a well played harmonica. Part one begins in 1933, in Tossingen, Germany, with young Friedrich, a gifted musician. Part two begins in Pennsylvania, 1935. The third and final part begins in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, in California, a harmonica at the heart of each story. Friedrich has a port wine birthmark on his face and suffers from seizures. Hitler's persecution of physically disabled forces Friedrich and his family to make difficult choices and his story ends without closure, his life in danger. Part two, features orphan brothers, the eldest of whom is a gifted musician, with his only hope for survival hinging on his ability to make it into a renowned harmonica band. Mike and Frankie are adopted by a painfully grieving heiress who needs to produce an heir to keep her fortune, their story also ending in a moment of danger and uncertainty. Finally, Ryan turns to Ivy Maria Lopez, shining a light on xenophobia and racism. 

It is Fresno, 1942, and Ivy is the child of migrant farm workers. Her brother, Fernando, has just enlisted and her father has just accepted a job running a farm in Orange County. When they arrive at the farm, the Lopez's discover that it belongs to a Japanese-American family that has been sent to an interment camp. Their oldest child, a son in the Marines, is coming home on leave to sign the running of the property over to Mr. Lopez, if he approves of him. Ivy, and her parents, struggle to understand how the Yamamoto family, with a father who fought in WWI and a son fighting in WWII could be treated this way, while at the same time Ivy experiences racism and segregation when she learns that she is not allowed to attend her neighborhood school, but must go to one that will "Americanize" children like her. Living in California and working with the children of immigrants, many of whom are also the children of migrant workers, this part of the story resonated most with me.

The last two parts of the novel tie together all three stories in a marvelous, deeply satisfying way that had me weeping. Ryan returns to the fairy tale, bookending Echo with the conclusion to the story of the three princesses as well as the story of Otto, now the messenger, and the enchanted harmonica that he must send out into the world and how it gets there. Echo is a big book, but as many reviewers have said, and as was my experience, you will soar through it, drawn along by the beauty if Ryan's writing, the craft of her story and the humanity of her characters.

Source: Purchased Book & Audio Book




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10. 30 Days of Books #27

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt:  The most surprising plot twist or ending

Cain His Brother by Anne Perry

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen  by Carole Boston Weatherford illustrated by Jeffrey Boston Weatherford Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016 Grades 5-12 Carole Boston Weatherford is one of my favorite poets and authors of books for children. Her picture book, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement won many awards and praises last year including a 2016 Sibert

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12. 30 Days of Books #25

Illustration by E.H. Shepard
 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: A character who you can relate to the most

Probably Toad from Wind in the Willows
"What are we to do with him?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
"Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him from old. He is now possessed. He has got a new craze, and it always takes him that way, in its first stage. He'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him.
OR
"What are we to do with her?"
"Nothing at all because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know her from old. She is now possessed. She has got a new craze--this time it's Hamilton--and it always takes her that way in its first stage. She'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind her.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. 30 Days of Books: Day #28

I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.


Today's prompt:  Your favorite title(s)

Louise Loves Art. Kelly Light. 2014. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

I am choosing this one because it has a super-clever title. Louise, the heroine, loves, loves, loves art. She is always making masterpieces. But. She also has a little brother named Art. And this story is about what happens when Art destroys--with scissors--her latest masterpiece. 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Show Up and Do the Work

A lesson from Kate DiCamillo

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15. Reflecting & Raising Clarity: Parent Communication

I began to see what my parent communication was missing. The families have various opportunities to see what we do in first grade, but I have not provided consistent access to the thinking and rationale behind my teaching practices.

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16. Socks

Socks. Beverly Cleary. 1973. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

I haven't reread Socks by Beverly Cleary since I was a child. I remembered very little about it except that it was about a cat, which, I must admit is the most obvious thing to remember! The first chapter introduces readers to Socks, her litter mates, and the boy and girl who originally "owned" her and were trying to sell all the kittens. Bill and Marilyn Bricker adopt Socks and take him home. Several chapters focus on these early, happy, good years. (Actually, I'm not sure how much time passes, Socks isn't particularly great at noting months, seasons, or possible years.) A few chapters into the book, Socks is upset by a shrinking lap. Mrs. Bricker is having a baby, and, Socks doesn't particularly care one way or the other about it...until the new baby changes everything. Less attention, less food, no lap-time, a lot of noise, visitors who warn of the dangers of having a cat around the baby, etc. Will Socks make peace with Charles William?

I enjoyed this one. I didn't love, love, love it. Not like I love, love, love the Ramona books. But it was an enjoyable read. I liked the ending, it felt right to me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Picture Books Bios I’d Like to See (Based Entirely on Hark, A Vagrant Comics)

Okay. So now we’re finally getting some interesting picture book biographies on a regular basis.  When I was a kid you had your Helen Keller and your Abraham Lincoln and you were GRATEFUL!  These days, people are interested in celebrating more than just the same ten people over and over again.  Why this year alone I’ve seen some incredibly interesting picture book biographies of comparatively obscure figures.  These include . . .

  • Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, ill. Jessie Hartland
  • Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson (Ada’s really hot this year)
  • Anything But Ordinary: The True Story of Adelaide Herman, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, ill. Iacopo Bruno
  • Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, ill. Hadley Hooper
  • Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, ill. Isabelle Arsenault
  • Esquivel! Space‐Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood, ill. Duncan Tonatiuh
  • Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, ill. Laura Freeman
  • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. Elizabeth Baddeley
  • The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, ill. Steven Salerno
  • Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave‐Explorer by Heather Henson, ill. Bryan Collier
  • Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean‐Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
  • Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh, ill. Raul Colon
  • To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella Van Vleet & Dr. Kathy Sullivan, ill. Nicole Wong
  • Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super‐Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, ill. Don Tate
  • The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin, ill. Jez Tuya

And those are just the ones I’ve seen!

It’s encouraging.  And then I wonder – do people need suggestions for more fun biographies?  Because if they do have I got the woman for you!

First off, meet Kate Beaton.  You may only know her from her two Scholastic books, last year’s The Princess and the Pony and this year’s King Baby.  But Kate has been running an online comic site called Hark, A Vagrant! for years.  There are many lovely things about the site, but I’m particularly fond of her brief biographical comics on obscure historical figures.  She’s been doing them for years and once in a while I really do see one turned into a picture book (paging Ada Lovelace . . .).  So in today’s goofy post I’m going to pull out some of Kate’s work in the hopes that maybe there’s an author or illustrator there who’d like to write a picture book biography about someone awesome and relatively unknown.

By the way, you can follow these links to read these comics in a clearer format, if you like.  And I think you can even buy prints of them, if you want.

First up:

Katherine Sui Fun Cheung

KatherineSuiFunCheung

I legitimately had never heard of her.  A badass Asian-American aviatrix heroine?  Um… how is she NOT in a picture book bio?  Because quite frankly we could use a huge uptick in our Asian-American women bios in general.  Particularly if they involve air stunts.

Matthew Henson

hensonsm

Is it weird that there isn’t a really well-known Henson picture book biography out there?  I guess his life wasn’t completely perfect (second family at the North Pole and all) but as African-American explorers go, he’s fantastic.  As it happens, this was the first Hark, A Vagrant! comic I ever read.  I was a fan for life afterwards.

Rosalind Franklin

rosalindsm

She helps to discover DNA!  She doesn’t get credit for it!  This story has everything!

Dr. Sara Josephine Baker

Baker1Baker2

She’s so often just linked to Typhoid Mary, but Ms. Baker did wonders for infant mortality rates and just generally sounds like an amazing woman. And I like how Beaton draws her hair.

Ida B. Wells

IdaBWells

I’m pretty sure we’ve had picture book bios on her before, but the only one I can remember was for older kids.

Mary Seacole

seacolesmall

Again, never heard of her. And as Kate put it regarding Nightingale, “She is no longer my favorite Crimean War nurse.”  This is timely too since as of three days ago there was a report in The Guardian over the huge furor over a statue honoring Seacole’s achievements.  Read it, when you get a chance.  Then write a bio of Seacole.

Harvey Milk

HarveyMilk

Maybe not so obscure thanks to his biopic, but sure as shooting lacking in some significant pic bios.

Of course when all is said and done, Kate should really just make her own picture book biographies.  Or, do a book for older readers of Biographies You Should REALLY Know and Don’t.

Oh, it would work.

Happy writing!

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18. Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl

Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]

If you enjoy folk or fairy tales, you might be a potential reader of John Gardner's story collection. The book contains four stories: "Gudgekin the Thistle Girl," "The Griffin and the Wise Old Philosopher," "The Shape-Shifters of Shorm," and "The Sea Gulls."

I think my favorite story is Gudgekin the Thistle Girl. The heroine is a poor girl named Gudgekin. Every day she gathers thistles for her stepmother. The stepmother is never, never satisfied. But Gudgekin keeps going out to do her best. One day a fairy intervenes and her luck is seemingly changed forever. With the fairies help, she's able to appease her stepmother and please herself. The fairies do the work, while she's spirited away to have fun. One day--again with the fairies help--she meets a Prince who falls in love with her. You might think you know where this one is headed, and, in a way you'd be right. But it is how long it takes for these two to get to happily ever after that may surprise you.

The second story confused me greatly. After the fifth or sixth time through the first two or three pages, it finally clicked that maybe just maybe it was intentional. The griffin visits the poor villagers to distract, confuse, and frustration. No one can remember how to do anything when he is nearby. Eventually I found the rhythm of this story. I still don't like it.

The Shape Shifters of Shorm, the third story, was entertaining. I liked it. But I didn't really love it. Essentially, a kingdom is being bothered by shape-shifters, the king offers an award for anyone who rids the kingdom of all the shape-shifters. A few step forward and volunteer for the task. But none are ever heard of again. Why?!

The Sea Gulls is an odd story. It contains plenty of magic, some spells, etc. I think it is an appealing enough story for readers. Essentially in that story, a king is met one day by an ogre who wants to eat him. The king says let's play a game of chance. If you win, you eat me. If I win, you wait seven years and eat me and my children then. The king won. (He cheated.) Most of the story is set seven years later....

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Origami Yoda Doubleheader

Since I read these two books close enough to each other that they were both still hanging out in my blogging document, and because the first ended on something of a cliffhanger, I figured I might as well do a doubleheader.

Title: The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett
Author: Tom Angleberger
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Summary: The origami kids find themselves facing a great evil - the looming specter of standardized testing, and the cramming sessions that go along with them, which have taken the place of all their favorite elective classes. Can their rebellion defeat the Evil Empire?

First Impressions: Entertaining anti-test story. I also loved how many different kinds of kids wound up working together, and how the principal wasn't the ultimate evil. But - uhoh! Cliffhanger.

Later On: This remains a realistic and entertaining middle-school series. The multitude of characters started to lose me, especially when introducing new ones that weren't around or weren't important in the first few books, but the central characters (Dwight, Harvey, and Kellan) are all there and all distinct. This is also taking on a more series-oriented arc with the rebellion against mandated testing.
This isn't the one to start with (all those characters!) but for fans of the rest of the series, it's a worthy entry.

More: Kirkus

Title: Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue
Author: Tom Angleberger
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Summary: Picking up where the previous book left off, the McQuarrie Middle School gang's attempts to defeat the deadly dull test-prep program, FunTime, seem doomed to failure. But Princess Labelmaker's got a secret plan - to turn the records of the Rebellion over to Principal Rabbski, in a last desperate hope to get her on their side against the evil test company that's sucking the life out of their school.

First Impressions: Most of these tend to be episodic, but this one was very much so. Still enjoyable, but I can't quite tell whether it's the end or not.

Later On: I really started to lost track of who was who in this book, especially since they each seemed to get one or two mini-stories in this, relating how the Origami Rebellion has changed them and helped them see the world differently. Kids who have been devoted readers probably won't encounter that problem, though.

Apparently there's one more book in the series, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, which will follow the kids on the Washington, DC trip that they fought to get back during this book.

More: Ms. Yingling Reads

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20. Newbery/Caldecott 2017: The Summer Prediction Edition

Fickle little me. Titles appear. Titles disappear. Many of the books I placed on my Spring 2017 predictions list are gone by June, and what has changed?  Aren’t the books as wonderful now as they were when I originally propped them up?  Of course they are, but I’ve done enough book discussions in the intervening months that I feel as if I’ve a better grasp on what’s a contender.  Not that my track record is by any means perfect.  These are, as ever, just my professional opinion.  And I may have gone a little crazy with the Caldecott predictions this time around . . .

Be sure to check out the 100 Scope Notes post on books that Goodreads readers think have a real shot too.

2017 Caldecott Predictions

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, ill. Yuyi Morales

ThunderBoy

I read this one a long time ago and liked it just fine.  Personally, it wasn’t hitting me in the same way as Yuyi’s previous two books had, but I certainly enjoyed the spirit and energy and sheer love coming off the pages.  Then I talked about it with a bunch of other librarians and when we sat down and looked at those images, one after another, and discussed how one leads to another and how well Yuyi is able to convey familial affection with just the simplest of movements . . . well, I’m sold.  In fact, I may have just been convinced that this is her best book yet.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

DuIzTak

Unlike many of my honored colleagues, I’m pretty darn neutral on Ellis. As a person she’s sweet as peaches on the vine but her art has never left me feeling warm and snuggly.  Now those of you who know me know that I’ve a weakness for weirdness.  Dark horse medal contenders are my favorites.  All the more reason that I should incline towards this strange, silly, downright odd little tale of bugs speaking their own (very comprehensible) language and the flower that inspires them.  I’ve read this book many times to my own kids and I can honestly say that it’s a perfect combination of luscious, lovely, occasionally terrifying art and kid-friendly storylines.

This House Once by Deborah Freedman

ThisHouseOnce

Dude, I was into Freedman when Scribble came out.  When I saw that book I remember thinking to myself, “This lady’s got something to her.  By gum, she’s going places!”  And yes.  I do actually use phrases like “by gum” in my head.  I’ve also been known to substitute it for “golly”, “gee willikers”, and “well slap my face and call me Bertha.”  But I digress.  I’m still parsing my thoughts on this book, which is both like every Freedman book you’ve ever seen and is vastly different from them all.  Worth thinking about.

Miracle Man by John Hendrix

MiracleMan

I mean, I put it to you. Can a Jesus book win a Caldecott in the 21st century?  Considering that the 1938 Medal Winner, which is to say the very first Caldecott ever given out, went to Animals of the Bible, A Picture Book, I’d say there was a precedent.  This is another wild card, and I don’t envy the Caldecott committee this discussion.  It’s hard to not to be in awe of Hendrix’s typography alone.

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, ill. Beth Krommes

BeforeMorning

Do you do that thing I do where if a person has won a Newbery or Caldecott Medal (not Honor) before then you sort of give them second billing when thinking about future award winners?  I do that all the time, but when you see a book as gorgeous as this one you put all that aside.  In this hot June month, something as lovely, cool, and refreshing as this snowbound wonder book is of infinite relief.  Krommes outdoes herself here, and the emotional beats of the book thump strong.  Is that a phrase?  I’m keeping it in.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, ill. Erin E. Stead

Uncorker

Mmm. Deceptively simple, this one.  Like Krommes, Stead already has a nice and shiny Caldecott Medal under her belt.  I had the pleasure of hearing Cuevas and Stead discussing this book during Day of Dialog at Book Expo this year.  Here’s a fun game: Read the text without looking at the pictures.  You might get an entirely different view of the proceedings.  Stead’s mark is so strong and her images so beautiful that it may contribute heavily to the book’s potential win.  We shall see.

Ideas Are All Around by Philip Stead

IdeasAllAround

Mind you, he has another book out this year (Samson in the Snow) and it wouldn’t surprise me even a hundredth of a jot if he won the Caldecott for that instead.  This is Mr. Stead’s hoity-er toity-er offering.  Beautiful, no question.  But a touch on the esoteric side.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child

I have been waiting for this book for approximately five years.  Little, Brown & Co. is sick to death of me asking, “This year?  How ’bout this year?  Is it coming out this year?”  To see the art in person floors you.  Steptoe painted entirely on found wood and the storytelling of Basquiat himself is sublime.  This is one of my top picks, no question at all.  You are in for such a treat when you read it!!!

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

Storyteller1

GAH!!  So good!  So very very very very good.  I’m not going to railroad you with reasons.  Just read my review if you’re curious.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo

jazzday1

Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Picture Books, as awarded by a clearly BRILLIANT committee *cough cough*.  Vallejo is a first timer here, but you’d never know it from the art.  As I’ve mentioned before, the book doesn’t slot into any categories very easily.  Hopefully the committee will recognize the art for what it is – extraordinary and distinguished.

 They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

TheyAllSawCat

And, the winner.  Done.  Nothing more to see here, folks.

I’m sorry . . . you’ve not seen this one?  Oh.  Well, it’s quite simple.  Wenzel has created the Caldecott winner for 2017.  Don’t know what’s confusing about that.  You’ll understand when you see it for yourself.  I don’t want to call it self-explanatory.  Let’s just say, it’s a bit of a given.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carol Boston Weatherford, ill. R. Gregory Christie

 FreedomCongo

Like Yuyi’s book, it took me a little while to come around to this one.  Christie’s art changes subtly from book to book.  Here, he appears to be channeling the ghost of Jacob Lawrence.  That’s a good thing.  An amazing solution to rendering slavery and its horrors accurately but still in a way that’s friendly to kids on the younger end of the education scale.  After you read this one, you just gotta dance.

2017 Newbery Predictions

My Newbery reads continue to lag vs. my Caldecott reads (picture books are just easier to read quickly!).  Fortunately, I’ve been lucky in what’s crossed my plate.  If the jury would be so good as to consider . . .

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

WildRobot1

A long shot, no question.  Its potential relies entirely on the kinds of readers you’ll find on the Newbery committee this year.  This book requires one to stretch their incredulity from time to time.  If you can do so, the rewards are vast.  Such a good bedtime book.  It would be a joy to see this make the list.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

FreedomOverMe

I call this one Simon & Schuster’s Secret Weapon.  But don’t take my word for it.  Read this brief plot description for yourself: “Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.”  Only it’s even better than that.  Bryan is doing something completely new here and the writing is perfect.  Don’t count this one out.  I think it has some real legs.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

RaymieNightingale

It’s good.  Deeply sad (a theme in 2016) but an honest-to-goodness page turner.  I reviewed it here but I’m still parsing it in my mind.  There is a LOT to chew on in these scant little pages.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

WhenGreen1

Poor poetry.  I’ll be your friend.  This is a book where the poems start off sounding pretty rote (this is hardly the first poetry-for-every-season-of-the-year book in the world) but then you get sucked into Fogliano’s writing.  I like the art just fine, but the text is the true star of the show.  You may read my review here if you’re curious.

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

FullofBeans

Here’s a fun quiz question for you: Has a prequel to a Newbery Honor ever won a Newbery itself?  If this book continues Holm’s winning streak we may get our answer.  Mind you, Holm has never won herself a Newbery Award proper.  This wouldn’t be a bad book to do so.  Just saying.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax

We had our Pax push and even a Pax backlash, so at this point I think we’re ahead of the game.  Clearly this book has legs and a LOT of people discussing it.  I think it continues to be one of the strongest contenders.  A book that could only be tossed out on a technicality.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela Turner, ill. Gareth Hinds

SamuraiRising

YES!  What’s that line from The Princess Bride?  “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”  Not so many giants and monsters in this and the true love . . . well, you could make a case for it.  Otherwise, I think we’re pretty close.  Bloody but upbeat, that’s for sure.  You can read my review of it here.

Wolf’s Hollow by Lauren Wolk

WolfHollow

Originally written as an adult novel, this book was turned into one for kids with very little touches and tweaks.  It’s not an easy read, but it’s a very strong one.  I could see it going head to head with all the other major contenders.  Better go out and read it when you get a chance.  My review is here.

And that’s all she copiously wrote!  What have I missed?  Spill it.  I know there’s a gap in there somewhere a mile wide.

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21. Writing Our Way to Goodbye

Today is my last day of school! My third grade students and I have been writing our way towards goodbye over the last few weeks.

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22. Happy First Day of Summer!



Today is the first day of summer which means that it is time for summer reading, ice cream, relaxing on the beach, and summer camp. How many books do you think you can read this summer? 

Don't forget to sign up for summer reading! There is a summer reading program available for Newborn-3 1/2 years old, 3 1/2 to K, as well as a program for children in grades 1-5. 

Here are some book suggestions to get you started reading.



Summer days and nights by Wong Herbert Yee.
Ages 3-6




A little girl enjoys the activities of a warm summer day and night.


Commotion in the ocean / Giles Andreae ; illustrated by David Wojtowycz.
Preschool-Grade 2

A collection of poems about the many creatures living beneath the sea, including the crab, dolphin, and angel fish.

Cam Jansen and the mystery of the Babe Ruth baseball / David A. Adler ; illustrated by Susanna Natti.


Cam uses her photographic memory to identify the person who stole a valuable autographed baseball.

Stuart Little By E.B. White
Grade 3+



The adventures of the debonair mouse, Stuart Little, as he sets out in the world to seek out his dearest friend, a little bird who stayed a few days in his family's garden.
Strider by Beverely Cleary
Grade 4+



In a series of diary entries, Leigh tells how he comes to terms with his parents' divorce, acquires joint custody of an abandoned dog, and joins the track team at school.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer 

by Rick Riordan
Grade 5+

Living on the streets of Boston after the death of his mother, Magnus is told by a mysterious stranger that he is the son of a Norse god and must track down a lost ancient sword to stop a war being waged by mythical monsters, in the first book of a new series by the internationally best-selling author of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus series. 


posted by Miss Meghan





















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23. TILT – today in librarian tabs v. 3

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 21.19.39

Before I forget, I’ve actually started a Tiny Letter, also called TILT though it’s a bit more essay-ish than these posts. Subscribe if you like this sort of thing in your inbox. Infrequent messages, well-designed and lovingly delivered.

Been thinking about the workplace a little this week. Here’s my top five.

  1. This isn’t about libraries but it’s a thing many librarians should read. Why it’s better for a workplace to avoid a toxic employee over hiring a superstar. The Harvard Business Review lays it out. We in libraries all know it, but this is science to support our many feels.
  2. I really wish the DPLA would mix up their front page a little but I did learn about their new Source Sets from our local Vermont contact when I was at VLA. Curated primary source documents with teaching guides and links to more information. Here’s one on the food stamp program in the US.
  3. Stanford University Libraries puts out a useful annual Copyright Reminder document for faculty and staff. Their new one is out and outlines key copyright issues for 2016.
  4. Being dedicated to accessibility should also include knowing how to find useful things for our patrons that our libraries may not have. With this in mind, it’s worth making you aware of PornHub’s launch of described audio of their most popular videos. You can find it by searching for the “narrated” tag. An earlier web project called PornfortheBlind.org is still online as well.
  5. Very exited to see the results of the IMLS funding to help the Indigenous Digital Archive get up and running. You can follow their Twitter account to stay abreast of developments.
  6. I pay no more than top legal price food stamp image.

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    24. Crossing Niagara

    Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares Candlewick, 2016 Grades K-5 In stunning watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations, Tavares conveys the incredible story of the Great Blondin, a tightrope walker who set his sights on crossing Niagara Falls in 1859. Crowds packed the area to see The Great Blondin walk across the falls. Gamblers

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    25. 2016 Completed Challenges: Once Upon A Time X

    Name: Once Upon a Time X
    Host: Stainless Steel Droppings (sign up here)
    Dates: March 21-June 21 2016
    # of Books: Signing up for Quest the First; five books from any of these categories (fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, mythology)
    All reviews should be linked to the review site.

    1) The Silver Chair. (Chronicles of Narnia #4) C.S. Lewis. 1953. HarperCollins. 243 pages. [Source: Bought] [fantasy, children's classic]
    2) The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 423 pages. [Source: Bought] [YA/Adult fantasy]
    3) The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1954/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 352 pages. [Source: Bought] [YA/Adult fantasy]
    4) Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955. 590 pages. [Source: Bought]
    5) The Girl in the Tower. Lisa Schroeder. 2016. Henry Holt. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [Middle grade fantasy]
    6) The Toymaker's Apprentice. Sherri L. Smith. 2015. 400 pages. [Source: Library] [MG/YA Fantasy]
    7) The Children's Homer. Padraic Colum. 1918/1982. 256 pages. [Source: Bought] [MG Fantasy, Children's Classic]
    8) Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Review Copy] [J/MG Children's Fantasy; Children's Classic]
    9) The World of Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne. Illustrated by Ernest Shepard. 1926. 353 pages. [Source: Library]
    10) A Midsummer Night's Dream. William Shakespeare. 1596. 181 pages. [Source: Library]
    11) James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1961. 146 pages. [Source: Library]
    12) Fantastic Mr. Fox. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1970. 96 pages. [Source: Library]
    13)  The BFG. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1982. 199 pages. [Source: Library]
    14) Gudgekin, The Thistle Girl. John Gardner. 1976. 55 pages. [Source: Bought]
    15)  Socks. Beverly Cleary. 1973. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

    © 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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