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1. Blog Tour: Ares, Bringer of War, by George O'Connor (ages 9-14)

Today I'm celebrating the release of Ares: Bringer of War, the latest graphic novel by George O'Connor in his outstanding Olympians series. This entire series is terrific and very popular with my students. They're going to be thrilled to see this newest installment.
Ares: Bringer of War
Olympians, book 7
by George O'Connor
First Second, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-14
The mighty Ares is the Greek god of war, consumed by rage, hate and vengeance. His war is destructive, frenzied and maniacal. And as O'Connor clearly shows, you can only really understand Ares in contrast to his half-sister Athena, goddess of the strategic, logical side of war.

O'Connor brings readers right into the middle of the Trojan War, using the Iliad to frame his portrait of Ares. We enter the scene ten years into the war, as the Greeks and Trojans are mired down in the conflict. As Zeus proclaims,
"The cost has been high for both sides. But much that is fated to occur has not happened yet. We may need to take a more active hand."
But the gods incessantly argue and take sides, playing the mortals against one another like a chess game. As O'Connor shows, Ares is blood-thirsty, but he is also loyal and determined, and he truly mourns the loss of his son in the end. Readers will be amazed by the artwork, but also by the complicated interactions between all the gods.

Ares: Bringer of War feels even more complex than previous Olympians books because there is one whole story arc, involving gods and mortals. Previous books seemed more episodic to me, so easier to digest in smaller chunks.

Complicated? Yes, but I've been drawn back to this graphic novel again and again, reading it perhaps four times this week. With each reading, my understanding grows--and I've watched the same thing happen with my students. They read the same graphic novel over and over, noticing more details each time, understanding the characters more fully with repeated readings.

For other stops on the Blog Tour, check out MacTeenBooks. Definitely suggest The Olympians website as a resource for fans -- it's full of information on the gods and O'Connor's research, as well as links and activities.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, First Second Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. Meet Art

Library Dance,January 10, 2015 (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery )

Library Dance,January 10, 2015 (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

January at the Deschutes Public Library features Know Art!  In the past, I’ve created and presented a Meet Art series for children on famous artists such as Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Georgia O’Keeffe.  As a community librarian, I do programs for all ages.   I was so excited to hear that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has a traveling exhibit titled Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.   I decided to re-create the exhibit through two art library programs for adults.  We had so much fun!  I also created a new list of resources for a children’s Matisse program.

Meet Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs:

Using the art medium gouache, paper and scissors, you’ll discover ways to explore Matisse’s cut-outs and interact with art using books, dance and apps all while creating your own masterpiece. This is a creative hands-on program.

IMG_3634 copyPaint:

While everyone is arriving, have them settle in by playing with gouache (an opaque watercolor paint). Paint one color on a piece of white card stock paper, covering the whole piece of paper, and set aside to dry. Have paint available in bold Matisse-like colors. (blue, orange, yellow, green…)

Dance:

Dance like Matisse with Matisse Dance for Joy by Susan Goldman Rubin. Everyone up! Read the board book and encourage people to act out the dance moves together. Shake, wiggle, and bounce! “Rumble, tumble with a friend” is my favorite page! Optional: Display images from the board book on a big screen.

Read:

Imagine you are Matisse! Read aloud Matisse’s Garden, Henri’s Scissors or Snail Trail. One of my favorite children’s Matisse books is Oooh! Matisse by Mil Niepold. Have everyone guess the shapes and together say, “oooooh! Matisse.”

 Matisse Cut-out  (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Matisse Cut-out (Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery)

Cut-Outs:

Create a BIG group cut-out. Spread out a HUGE piece of butcher paper on the floor (for smaller groups use a big piece of poster paper). Everyone cuts one shape, using a full 8” by 11’ piece of colored paper. Then place or drop the shapes onto the butcher paper. By now, the gouache papers will have dried so artists can create cut-outs from that paper too. Matisse used pins to secure and compose his shapes – but you can glue all the shapes onto the butcher paper. Decide as a group the title of your masterpiece and add the date at the bottom right corner. For example: Library Dance, January 10, 2015.

Most of all dance, create and have fun!

Extra Materials:

I love sharing postcards from different museums. If you know someone who’s visiting a museum, have them mail you a postcard! I ordered 40 Matisse postcards online at the MoMA store so participants could take home a postcard.

Books:

Children’s Matisse book recommendations:
https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/155760

My new favorite Matisse book this year is Matisse’s Garden by Samantha Friedman ; illustrations by Cristina Amodeo ; with reproductions of artworks by Henri Matisse.

Art and other supplies:

Gouache in a variety of colors, card stock paper, scissors, colorful butcher paper, a few pieces of poster size paper (or use butcher paper), glue sticks, paint brushes, newspapers, paper towels, small paper plates and small paper cups for water. (Extra: postcards, projector, iPad/Tablet…)

Matisse Websites:

For the full Matisse program descriptions, please email me at paigeb@dpls.us.

***************************************************************

Our guest blogger today is Paige Bentley-Flannery. Paige is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

The post Meet Art appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. Diversity in Jewish Kidlit


Top: Joni Sussman
Bottom, L-R: Ann Stampler, Mira Reisberg, Sylvia Rouss

Sylvia Rouss, Mira Reisberg, Joni Sussman and Ann Stampler spoke at the 2014 Association of Jewish Libraries conference on a panel responding to the Pew study "A Portrait of Jewish Americans" - and it all boils down to diversity.


Today, January 27, 2015, is Multicultural Children's Book Day. It seems like good timing to share some thoughts on diversity within Jewish children's literature.

AUDIO:

Press the play button to listen to the podcast now:

Or click MP3 File 

SUBMIT MANUSCRIPTS!

Submit to Kar-Ben Publishing

Submit to Apple & Honey Press

Submit to Hummingbird Literary
    (Use subject line: Jewish submission via Heidi's Podcast)

BONUS ARTICLE: MIRRORS & WINDOWS:

Here is the first in a 2-part series of articles I wrote about diversity in children's literature for EBSCO's NoveList. This article focuses on race, while the second article will focus on other forms of diversity (including religion). While these articles are not specifically Jewish, I thought you might find them of interest.


CREDITS:

Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries 
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band 
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast 
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 

Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.


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4. 2015 Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson, part 6: The Swap, The Witch's Boy + The Zoo at the Edge of the World

“Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said..."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it." -- Cornelia Funke, Inkspell
When our students look back on our Mock Newbery discussions from this year, they will see parts of themselves in the books they loved and championed. Each book appealed to different readers -- and that's something the Newbery committee wrestles with as well. How do you clearly evaluate the art while acknowledging the personal response? Our discussions just started to dig into this topic, but they helped students listen to each other and consider all that goes into selecting the ultimate award-winning books.
The Swap
by Megan Shull
Katherine Tegan / HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-13
Ellie and Jack might look like they each have everything going for them, but they're each struggling on the inside. When they bump into each other on the first day of school and magically switch bodies, they're forced to see life from a different perspective. While the premise might seem familiar to adults, my students found it compelling and well-written.
"Megan Shull described the setting really well because I felt like I was in the story. I could totally imagine where they would be. Once, when the two characters were switched and the boy was at soccer practice with the girls' team, I could imagine being on the field practicing."
"Oh, and I remember how they were at the swimming pool in the very beginning and Ellie's friend was so mean to her."
Shull creates characters and social situations that my students understood because they were so familiar. From sleepover party dramas to friendship issues, our readers saw elements from their own lives. Emily said,
"The Swap was awesome! The characters were super strong. I could feel that they were actually real people.... The girl was being bullied but when she switches bodies with a boy, he helps her with it."
It was interesting how none of the kids found it difficult to keep track of which character was talking -- they could really feel and understand the nuances in the characterization. I saw the ending as a bit too predictable, but my students focused on the emotional journey and resolution for the two main characters.
The Witch's Boy
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Students were drawn into Barnhill's the fantasy world in The Witch's Boy by Ned's journey to stop the coming war and make sure that magic is used wisely and justly. As Alessandra said, it has something for all types of readers. Those who want adventure will like the danger and obstacles Ned and Aine face. Readers who want fantasy will like the magic, the talking stones, the moving forest. But, as Alessandra notes,
"The author did a good job making sure there was friendship and some sadness, weaving in different kinds of stories so different kinds of readers would like it."
As I think back on The Witch's Boy, I think that this is certainly a book that would benefit from another rereading. I could tell that students responded to the themes of courage, justice and inner-strength, but we didn't have enough time to really talk fully about these.
The Zoo at the Edge of the World
by Eric Kahn Gale
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
Our 4th graders were especially excited to recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World to one another. "If you like animals, you'll love this book," said Claire in her nomination. I was happy to include an action-packed adventure in our selection. However, students did not end up citing it during our final discussions.

Students like the development of Marlin's character, as he discovered his ability to speak directly with the animals even though he stuttered so badly that he couldn't speak to other people. I was concerned by the characterizations of the zoo employees who were native to British Guiana. They were never fully developed, but rather used as a contrast to Marlin and his father. I think students really responded to Gale's exploration of treatment of animals in captivity.

The review copies came from our school library and my personal collection. Review copies were also kindly sent by HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up

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6. YALSA Board @ Midwinter: Advocates Advisory Panel Update

During the Annual 2014 Conference, the YALSA Board approved an agenda item that proposed a new framework to formally include the voices of professionals in related fields with similar goals and objectives. The Advocates Advisory Panel will be charged with tackling a specific area of focus related to the Strategic Plan, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, or other topics as identified by the Board each year. The hope is that through this process, YALSA will gain valuable outside perspective on topics that are important for teens, expand its reach through new and/or strengthened relationships, and model the kind of collaborative, collective work that is called out in the Future report.

Because the Board approved the proposal in concept, as the author, I’ve been tasked with working with the Board Standing Committee on Capacity Building to create an inaugural focus and to hammer out some of the logistics. Although there’s obviously any number of topics that might be interesting to pursue with this, we decided that one viable option would be for the panel to consider strategies that YALSA might pursue in order to connect key principles and guidelines (such as the those presented in the Future report) to LIS education. We determined that this might be a sensible place to start because:

  •  A deeper dive into the state of and needs of LIS educators in light of the report may help inform the work of the Board as well as priority content areas for subsequent Panels
  • Without connecting directly with the ways in which students in LIS programs are recruited and educated, YALSA can’t guarantee that the work recommended in the Futures report can move forward
  • An academic perspective is lacking in YALSA’s current leadership. By actively recruiting experienced LIS educators to serve on the panel, YALSA may build capacity in this area
  • Engaging the perspective of educators in other fields on this issue has the potential to create the opportunity for increased cross-pollination or future collective impact efforts

You can view the full proposal and other Board docs here. If you have questions or ideas related to this proposal, I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to connect with me at shannon.peterson@gmail.com

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7. Science Fair Season

Do you remember Science Fair time? Was it a fun time or a stressful time for you? When I was a student, we had the option of doing a science fair project or a social studies project. While I remember some parts were fun (my social studies fair project on Helen Keller was an educational highlight for me), finding ideas for science fair projects was always rather daunting. I didn’t really enjoy science experiments or activities until I learned more about the importance of STEM education and put together science experiment programs at my library.  Thankfully, there is an amazing amount of fabulous science experiment books that should help both students and adults discover the fun aspects of science:

481868_cover.indd

(image from Wiley)

If I ever get to San Francisco, visiting The Exploratorium is tops on my “must do” list. Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with their awesome books and website.  The Exploratorium Science Snackbook features modified versions (“snacks”) of their exhibits. If you’ve ever opened up a science experiments book and groaned at the very specific materials needed for experiments, fear not. All experiments feature easily obtained materials. Best of all, scientific principles behind the experiments are carefully explained. Each lesson plan includes  advice, tips and time estimates.

vancleave

(image from Wiley)

Anyone in need of easy science experiments definitely needs to be familiar with Janice VanCleave’s vast library of science experiments. Janice VanCleave’s Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects  not only includes detailed instructions for engaging experiments (everything from astronomy to zoology!), but offers points on the scientific method and the ins and outs of research. If you need experiments for very young students (kindergarten and such), check out her Play-and-Learn series.

 

wedareyou

 

(image from Skyhorse)

For fun and creative science experiments that anyone can do with easily obtained materials, Vicki Cobb’s books will provide a vast amount of inspiration and knowledge. We Dare You!  explores geometry, physics, and many other fields of science with fun (and sometimes funny!) science activities. “Insider Information” explains the scientific activity in each experiment.

Do you have any favorite authors or titles of science experiment books? Talk about it in the comments.

The post Science Fair Season appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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8. The Infinite Sea (2014)

The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I first finished The Fifth Wave! But I felt prepared to fully appreciate the sequel.

First, you shouldn't read The Infinite Sea until you've read the first book in this alien-invasion series. It does NOT stand alone.

Second, if you've read the first book, and at the very least enjoyed-it-in-the-moment, you should pick up this next book.

Third, if you're looking for a quick, compelling read--perhaps for a read-a-thon--then consider this one. What makes it quick is the fact that, like the first book, it is hard to put this one down!!!

Some time has passed--perhaps a few days, perhaps a week or two--since the ending of The Fifth Wave.

The prologue, "The Wheat," is something. I think it does a great job as prologue--reminding readers of the intensity of the series, of the world as they know it.

Book one, The Problem of Rats, "The world is a clock winding down." This first section is narrated by Ringer. I believe this was the first chance for readers to get her perspective. I was expecting the book to begin with Cassie, I almost saw The Fifth Wave, as being Cassie's book predominantly, and opening with Ringer's thoughts, well, it was a good reminder that the book, the series, is so much more than that.

Book one, The Ripping, "From the time I could barely walk, my father would ask me, Cassie, do you want to fly?" This second section is narrated by Cassie. You'll probably notice--beginning with this section--that the chronology of the narrators is interesting and overlaps and goes back and forth a bit. I didn't mind this actually.

Book one, The Last Star, "As a child, he dreamed of owls." Evan Walker gets his chance to narrate. Readers learn much in this section!!!

Book one, Millions, "The boy stopped talking the summer of the plague." I found this section--short as it was--to be so emotional. I loved gaining more insight on Poundcake.

Book one, The Price. This fifth section is narrated by Cassie. I wouldn't say it's the most action-packed section, but that's because it would be too tough to choose. Has there really been a slow section?! But much does happen, and we see it through her point of view.

Book one, The Trigger. Again. So very short. But oh-so-intense. Another Poundcake section. And I thought "Millions" was emotional!

Book two, The Sum of All Things. Ringer's section. Plenty of this novel is told through her perspective, and, I came to appreciate that in a way. Much is learned in this section certainly, or, perhaps I should say much is explained through dialogue?

Book two, Dubuque. Essentially the conclusion of the book. Cassie's perspective, I believe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Review: Ida M. tarbell

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Library copy.

It's About: Ida M. Tarbell, born in 1857, who became one of the first American journalist and also helped found investigative journalism. Her noteworthy articles included a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and an expose of John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil Trust.

The Good: I really enjoyed learning about Ida M. Tarbell, whose name seemed vaguely familiar from history class.

I was impressed with Ida's many accomplishments and the things she did -- starting with her love of the sciences, attending a co-educational college, her start in journalism, traveling to Paris, freelancing, and then joining the staff of McClure's Magazine, where she wrote her most memorable articles.

One of the things that struck me is how matter of fact it was, how "of course this is what Ida is going to do" it was. While Ida was a pioneer, her story is also a reminder that her life, while not typical of the time, was also just that -- her life. She, with other women, did go to college. She, as others did, created a career, lived away from her family, traveled to Paris, working, having her own home.

I confess: that part of Ida's life, the pre-McClure part, fascinated me the most. I wanted to know more about those things, and those people in her life.

Of course, then, there is Ida's actual journalism, a career she came to sort of sideways. She began loving science, thought she'd be a teacher, and found herself working as an editor at a magazine. It wasn't until her early thirties and her trip to Paris that her work as a journalist really began. So, you can see all the reasons I kept turning the pages -- here, a women in the nineteenth century, having multiple careers. Pursuing her dreams. Living her life on her terms.

One cannot make generalizations about people: for all of Ida's accomplishments, which resulted from drive and determination, she had what seems to be mixed feelings about women's suffrage and equality. McCully explores this area in detail, noting that Ida's being against women getting the vote is probably one of the reasons she is a bit forgotten. What struck me was how modern, actually, Ida's beliefs were: I could easily imagine her in the present, being someone explaining how she didn't need feminism and wasn't a feminist because look at what she accomplished, on her own, and if she did it anyone can so stop with the feminism already.

I would like to learn more about Ida, and her life -- always a good sign in a biography, being left wanting more! I wonder if the things I want to know more about are things that McCully didn't cover because of length (this is a long, detailed biography) or if it's because there aren't the source documentation to answer the questions. For example, I wanted to know more about Ida's unnamed roommates during her 20 but imagine that was left out because of space. I also was curious as to Ida's relationships with her family and those family dynamics. Ida loved her father dearly, and ended up being the main provider to her mother, sister, brother, and brother's family. And yet certain things here left me asking for more and wondering things like whether her father was as wonderful as she painted him, for example. Is that not explored more because of space? Or because there is very little surviving from that time that would fill in the gaps about Ida's family?

Being left with questions, wanting more -- excellent. Learning more about Ida M. Tarbell, and also about what it was like for a woman pursuing a career over a hundred years ago? Even better. I'm so happy that this is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award! I read it because it was a finalist, and I'll be chatting it up because it's a finalist.




Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Grantchester on PBS

Have you been watching this yet?  It is so good!  The first thing that caught my eye was Robson Green, I have adored him for years.  Then, I watched Happy Valley over Christmas break and James Norton was so good and scary as Tommy Lee Royce.  I wanted to see how he would do as a good guy because he was so perfect as a psycho.  (If you haven't watched that on Netflix, do so now!)  Plus, it is British and a mystery series set in the 50's.  My excitement level for the first episode was through the roof.  And it is good!  So good!  I really wish I had waited until all 6 episodes were out so I could binge watch, however, I like having something to look forward to every Sunday night.  But, here lies my problem.  These mysteries are based on a books series by James Runcie.  I guess the format is a little unusual because the whole first season--6 mini mysteries--is based on the first book.  And since I am loving the world of Grantchester so much I really want to read the first book.  But, I don't want to know all the answers.    I did put books 1 & 2 on hold at my library and there is no guarantee that I would get them before the show is done airing.  I might never read book 1 if I don't get it until after the show is over, but I will read book 2!

It's just hard to think of anything else right now...


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11. WINTER 2015 NEW VOICES SNEAK PEEK

Happy 2015 to you! To start the year off right, we’d like to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2015. These debut novels entertained us, enriched us, intrigued us, and made us so excited to witness the beginnings of these authors’ sure-to-be-stellar writing careers.

Click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and make sure to keep an eye on these fantastic authors. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Blackbird Fly

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, follows twelve-year-old Apple Yengko as she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams. Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to America from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” But it becomes unbearable in eighth grade, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Read the first chapter here!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly

THE KEEPERS: THE BOX AND THE DRAGONFLY, by Ted Sanders, is the first in a four-book middle-grade fantasy series about Horace F. Andrews, a quiet boy who discovers he possesses a power that can change worlds. When a sign leads Horace underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects, he unfortunately finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it? From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his new-found abilities to his encounters with Chloe—a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own—Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Read the first chapter here!

No Parking at the End Times

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, by Bryan Bliss, is a thoughtful and moving story about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love. Abigail’s parents never should have made that first donation to that end-of-times preacher. Or the next, or the next. They shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there for the “end of the world.” Because now they’re living in their van. And Aaron is full of anger, disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But is that too big a task for one teenage girl? Read the first chapter here!

Red Queen

RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard, is a sweeping fantasy about seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose latent magical powers draw her into the dangerous world of the elite ruling class. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with Red blood serve the Silver elite, whose silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the King, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the King forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to use her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal. Read the first chapter here!

Little Peach

LITTLE PEACH, by Peggy Kern, is the gritty and riveting story of a runaway who comes to New York City and is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp. When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: She is alone and out of options. Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution. It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive. Read the first chapter here.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli, is an incredibly funny and poignant twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming-out story—wrapped in a geek romance. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. Read the first chapter here!

Check back here for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

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12. Case of the Velvet Claws (1933)

The Case of the Velvet Claws. (Perry Mason #1) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1933. Random House. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]

AUTUMN SUN BEAT AGAINST THE WINDOW. Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.

The Case of the Velvet Claws is the first book in the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner. Though it is unlikely that contemporary readers will be unfamiliar with Perry Mason, Paul Drake, and Della Street, this would have been their introduction to the world. There are plenty of establishing details and descriptions about these characters. Especially Perry Mason.

The book opens with a mystery woman seeking Perry Mason's help. She's married, and she was out on the town with another guy. This 'other guy,' whom she claims is just a friend, is a politician, a Congressman, I believe. They were together--at a club, at a restaurant?--when a crime was committed. Neither wants to be known as being there, being a witness, both are seeking to avoid all attention. But she fears that blackmail is certain, almost inevitable. She wants Perry Mason to handle it for her, for them both. The blackmail will come/does come from a tabloid-ish publication with a mystery-secret-owner. It is only after Perry Mason involves himself thus far, that he realizes that this owner is the husband of his client. Murder is inevitable. It is a Perry Mason book, after all. Who will be the victim? Who will be accused? How messy will it get?

I loved this one. I really loved it. It has a very different feel to it in a way. Most of the Perry Mason novels I've read were published a decade or two later. And, of course, I'm most familiar with the television show.

Quotes:
Perry Mason continued to speak, slowly and forcefully, yet without raising his voice. “All right,” he said, “I’m different. I get my business because I fight for it, and because I fight for my clients. People that come to me don’t come to me because they like the looks of my eyes, or the way my office is furnished, or because they’ve known me at a club. They come to me because they need me. They come to me because they want to hire me for what I can do.”
Perry Mason made a gesture with his shoulders. “Why should I care if she makes it easy for me?” he asked. “She’s the one that’s paying for my time. Time is all I’m investing.” Della Street said, slowly: “Are you sure that time is all you’re investing?” “Why not?” “I don’t know,” she said, “the woman’s dangerous. She is just the kind of a little minx who would get you into some sort of a jam and leave you to take it, right on the button.” His face didn’t change expression, but his eyes glinted. “That’s one of the chances I have to take,” he told her. “I can’t expect my clients to be loyal to me. They pay me money. That’s all.” She stared at him with a speculative look that held something of a wistful tenderness. “But you insist on being loyal to your clients, no matter how rotten they are.” “Of course,” he told her. “That’s my duty.”
“To your profession?” “No,” he said slowly, “to myself. I’m a paid gladiator. I fight for my clients. Most clients aren’t square shooters. That’s why they’re clients. They’ve got themselves into trouble. It’s up to me to get them out. I have to shoot square with them. I can’t always expect them to shoot square with me.” “It isn’t fair!” she blazed. “Of course not,” he smiled. “It’s business.”
“When you’re representing clients, Della,” he said, “you can’t pick and choose them. You’ve got to take them as they come. There’s only one rule in this game, and that is that when you do take them, you’ve got to give them all you’ve got.”

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Teens and the Networked World: Aspen Institute Task Force Report Recap

In September 2014, YALSA blogger Jaina Lewis began a series on the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet 2014 report entitled Learner at the Center of a Networked World. Lewis’ post focused on 24/7 learning and how libraries and librarians can help keep the learning going outside the walls of school.

As Lewis says, the report is comprehensive, clocking in at 116 pages. This report is full of excellent resources and websites to explore. The Aspen Institute feels that our youth today need to be fully connected. In order to do that, we need to rethink our current models of education and technology infrastructure so that we create an environment of connected learning.

I particularly liked the definition of connected learning the report gave saying that “connected learning...is socially embedded, interest driven and oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity” (34). In this definition, not only are we making sure the learner is at the center, but we are also taking into account the various things that surround our learners. In order to prepare youth for being smart, savvy, and critical citizens in our digital age, we have to remember the influences, histories, and cultural values that shape our youth.

As I read through the report, I was most drawn to the section on cultivating literacy skills. While the infrastructure is important, I believe in using technology as a tool and that people come before the tech. Not only do we want our youth to be both consumers and producers of media, but we also want to make sure they are critical thinkers and that these skills stay with them throughout their entire life. Of course, then the question becomes, how do we as libraries help to cultivate these attitudes? And do we as libraries have those critical thinking skills to make sure good consumers and producers of media and users of technology? Because while the report is about the learner, the youth, they look to us for guidance and support. We also have to feel empowered and confident about using technology to help us do “projects that matter” (connected learning that is interest driven). When we invest in using technology as a tool, we share a purpose with the youth we work with even though they are not our peers.

The report talks about youth being in a “whitewater learning” environment (27). This means that they acquire skills and learn new knowledge in the middle of practicing these skills as the technology environment changes around them. This is a type of learning we as librarians can also take. We can dive in, helping to create new knowledge to share with other librarians and expand our learning network. I believe by doing this, we give ourselves the agency we need to help the youth to our best ability.

This is a report that I will continue to mull over. My first read got me thinking about my role as a librarian in helping ensure our learners are at the center of their network. I hope in a future reading, my focus shifts and I can expand on this initial blog post. If you have a chance to skim the report, I recommend it; just seeing the various ways in which institutions across the United States in helping create exciting environments that use technology as a tool was exciting. The report gives you a lot to think about and I think this will continue to be a report we look at in 2015!

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14. Storytelling

Skip over to the Storytelling Page for news of our Winter events!!!

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15. My Thoughts: Biggest Flirts & Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

4 soft snickerdoodles (for both books)

Cover Love:
Yes, I love the flirty style of both of these covers.

Why I Wanted to Read These:
I love Jennifer Echols and contemporary romances.  How could these be wrong?  Here are the synopsis for each book


Tia and Will’s lives get flipped upside down when they’re voted Yearbook’s Biggest Flirts in this sassy novel from the author of Endless Summer and The One That I Want.

Tia just wants to have fun. She’s worked hard to earn her reputation as the life of the party, and she’s ready for a carefree senior year of hanging out with friends and hooking up with cute boys. And her first order of business? New guy Will. She can’t get enough of his Midwestern accent and laid back swagger.

As the sparks start to fly, Will wants to get serious. Tia’s seen how caring too much has left her sisters heartbroken, and she isn’t interested in commitment. But pushing Will away drives him into the arms of another girl. Tia tells herself it’s no big deal…until the yearbook elections are announced. Getting voted Biggest Flirts with Will is, well, awkward. They may just be friends, but their chemistry is beginning to jeopardize Will’s new relationship—and causing Tia to reconsider her true feelings. What started as a lighthearted fling is about to get very complicated.



As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for capturing those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents' bitter divorce has left her wondering what a loving relationship would look like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody the “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been on her case to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn’t lack in female admirers, but Harper can't see herself with him. He seems confused about why they were matched together, too. They’re total opposites—the last people in the world who would ever be compatible, let alone the “perfect couple.” Yet ever since the class paired the two of them, they've found themselves drawn together--first by curiosity, then by an undeniable bond.

The trouble is, though they're very attracted to each other and both of them admit this, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating clearly. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But after they walk away, both of them feel so changed from making the effort that they can’t forget each other. What if that means this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?
Romance?: Of Course!

My Thoughts:
First off, I don't like either of these summaries because it gives so much away.  These have all the same earmarks of contemporary romances--misunderstandings, listening to rumors over your own instincts and heart, flirting and experimenting.   But they have one more thing that helps so much, Jennifer Echols is great at writing chemistry.  You can't help but root for both of these couples to get together!

I took a longer time getting into Biggest Flirts because I didn't like Tia in the beginning at all.  It was hard for me to root for her to get with Will because she shirked from everything. I understand her reasoning for not wanting to get close to boys, but for someone who so desperately didn't want to follow in her sisters' footsteps, she was really irresponsible.  I would've expected her to be way more straight edged, kind of like Harper.

I really liked Will and did root for Tia to calm herself down enough to see the good in front of her.  And I adored Harper and Brody, all the way through.

Kind of off topic: When I was in high school we didn't do superlatives, however, I am not sure I would've won anything.  They do them now and next year my son will be a senior and I gotta say, I kind of want him and his girlfriend (if they are still a thing next fall) to win cutest couple.  They are so darling together!

Anyway, these are two sweet books, romantic but typical.  Getting close, misunderstandings, not listening enough to your own heart and listening too much to other people, but with good endings.  Not anything too out of the ordinary, except the chemistry.  And that is enough to keep me going!

To Sum Up:  Just a bit mature for my middle school library, however, I could see many 8th grade girls getting into them.  Love these kind of romances!

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16. My ALA 2015 Awards Predictions

So I'm going to try my best to share my predictions and we'll see how close I can get (probably not close at all!) Here are my predictions (and hopes!) for Monday morning:

Caldecott Prediction:
Winner:



I wish I had come across this one when I was making my Mock Caldecott list because it would have made our final list for sure. If I was on the committee, this is one I would be championing for-the texture, the use of words in the art, the collage style-it's all fantastic.

Honor Books:

I think this may be a strong year for honor books and we may end up with quite a few depending on how the committee discussion and voting shakes down. 


I think this wordless book will be getting some love.


The detail! It's gotta count for something!

Caldecott Dark Horse:

I have two possible dark horses this year:


I've only recently been seeing Flashlight crop on other Mock lists. When this one came across my desk, myself and all of my staff immediately said Caldecott! I hope we're right!


Photography never does well in award discussions, but if any book can do it, I think Viva Frida can!

Newbery Prediction
Winner:


No surprise there-I think Brown Girl Dreaming is a shoe-in for the top title.

Honor Books:


Maybe it's just because I adored this book and am attached to it personally, but I really would love to see Snicker get honored!


It would be great to see a book featuring an average kid and the writing here is above average!


Fantasy for the win please! I think Glass Sentence has fantastic world building that could help this one in the final push for an honor.

Newbery Dark Horse:


Please, please, please can a graphic novel win this year???


Last year showed us that beginning chapter books have a chance and if any early chapter book has a shot, I think Dory Fantasmagory can lend itself to some fantastic discussion. I would love to hear critical discussion about this one!

Printz Prediction
Winner:

This one is tough because I think it's a close call between two books, but I think in the end it will be Grasshopper Jungle.


Honor Books: 


I think Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is the other book that could end up winning and it's a close call, but I think one will be the winner and one will be an honor book. I would love to see both with shiny stickers on them!


Andrew Smith is a powerhouse writer and I think he can pull of an epic Printz Win and Honor this year!



If we see any non-fiction honored this year by the Printz committee, I think it will the Romanovs. 

Printz Dark Horse:

I had a hard time thinking of a Printz Dark Horse just because I think the contenders are so strong this year. But if I had to pick one, I think would go with:



What are your predictions this year? Anything I left out?

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17. 2015 Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson, part 5: Nuts to You, The Red Pencil + Snicker of Magic

Listening and sharing ideas in our Mock Newbery discussions
In our Mock Newbery book club, students were able to choose which books they wanted to read. In order to vote, they had to read five or more of the nominated titles. I wanted to give them freedom to choose what to read, but I also really enjoyed listening to them recommend titles to one another. We had informal book club meetings once a week for lunch in the library, and then we met in January for our final discussions. Many students chose to read today's three books--I hope I can capture some of their comments.
Nuts to You
by Lynne Rae Perkins
Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-11
Right from the beginning, students started talking about how Nuts to You was both funny and full of adventure. After a hawk captures the unsuspecting squirrel Jed, his friends TsTs and Chai are sure that he's still alive. They set off following a trail of "buzzpaths" and "frozen spiderwebs" (electrical lines and utility towers) to rescue him. I love that the kids responded to the satirical footnotes and twists in language. Just take this example from near the beginning:
“To squirrels, ‘Are you nuts?’ is a combination of ‘Have you lost your mind?’ and ‘You remind me of the most wonderful thing I can think of.’”
Some students had trouble getting into this story and found the tone or perspective confusing. Maisy said at one meeting that she was half-way through the story and didn't quite see what's funny about it yet. McKenna told her that it starts getting funnier and funnier as you start getting more into the book--in fact, she wondered if it would be funnier the second time you read it. Talia and Gwen definitely agreed with McKenna.
The Red Pencil
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Little Brown, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Students consistently mentioned The Red Pencil not only as a powerful, touching book, but also one that they could really understand what the characters were going through even though it was so different from their lives. When the Sudanese rebels attack her village, young Amira's home is destroyed and her whole life is upended. She escapes to a refugee camp, but what about her dreams of going to school?

When we were discussing plot and pacing, Corina expanded on why she thought The Red Pencil was so effective:
"I felt like I always knew what was going on even though it wasn't familiar to me. Each small moment, the author would break it down so you knew how everyone was feeling about it. You didn't know what was going to happen next -- you felt like you were in the present of the story and were right there with the characters."--Corina
I just went back and checked -- it's fascinating that Pinkney writes this in the present tense. Amira's emotional journey was important to students. She had to escape her war-torn home, and she also had to discover how to navigate following her own dream of learning to read and write despite her mother's traditional views.
Snicker of Magic
by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
Just look at all those post-it notes--so many kids read Snicker of Magic. We all agreed that kids liked it, but during our Mock Newbery discussions we tried to explore why the story and writing were especially good. When Felicity Pickle moves to Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, our readers could tell right away that she was lonely--but Nia's comment to book club back in October was: "She think the word lonely is really really strong to say." Time and again, students mentioned how Felicity sees words, but they also noticed how the author really shows readers how Felicity feels. This magical element helped them see deeper into Felicity's feelings and Lloyd's themes.

This mix of magical fantasy elements in a real-life setting appealed to many readers. They loved the details like blueberry ice cream that helps you remember lost memories, and they could relate to many of the characters. A few mentioned that the pacing seemed a bit uneven ("sometimes it speeded up and then other times it was really slow or went off into something that didn't go with the plot") but others strongly disagreed and liked the way different plot elements wove together.

In our discussions we didn't have enough time to explore the themes of the stories, but I firmly believe that those underlying themes are a major reason why these different stories all appealed to readers. Whether it's TsTs' loyal friendship in Nuts to You, Amira's resiliency in The Red Pencil or the Beedle's generosity in Snicker of Magic, each of these deeper themes resonated with readers in lasting ways.

The review copies came from my home collection and our library collection. Early review copies were also kindly sent by the publishers, HarperCollins, Little Brown and Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. App of the Week: Adventure Time Game Wizard

Name: Adventure Time Game Wizard
Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $4.99    atgw3

Fans of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time series can choose any number of games from just about any app store in order to continue their adventures in the Land of Ooo, but the show's latest app, Game Wizard, gives players the power to design levels of game play as well.

At it's core, Game Wizard is a typical 2D sidescroller game that follows favorite characters from the show as they collect coins, battle villains with their awesome swordplay, and jump from level to level.

atgw1

 

However, the magic truly happens when players exhaust the pre-installed levels and turn to the Create mode.  The app walks creators through downloading and printing a tutorial kit and basic grid paper to get started, at which time they use the provided design vocabulary (plus signs for coins, wavy lines for moving blocks, etc.) and a ruler (or steady hand) to draw their game levels.

adgw2

These pages can then be scanned into the app using the device's camera where they can be easily edited and multiple pages can be stitched together.  The new levels can then be shared with the public for others to play.

While Game Wizard is technically aimed at kids and tweens, the game design aspect and continued popularity of the show with teens makes it a fun addition to any library's STEAM programming.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog's App of the Week Archive.

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19. Call for Slices

Write, Share, Give

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20. You! Yes, YOU could run for YALSA office.

Do you have a passion for the future of teens services in libraries? Are you looking for ways to give back to the profession and to YALSA? Do you want to effect change, build new skills, and develop a killer resume in the process? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to seriously consider running for an elected position!
Over the course of the next seven months, the 2016 Governance Nominating Committee and I will be working towards developing a diverse slate of members to run for several Board positions including Director at-large, Secretary, and President. Successful candidates will run for election in the Spring of 2016 and begin their terms during YALSA’s Board III meeting at the Annual 2016 conference in Orlando.
For more information on the role of responsibilities of YALSA’s Board, please visit the Governance page which includes some handy FAQs to help get you started. There’s also a series of interviews and podcasts from past Board members in a series on this blog called “Life on the YALSA Board.”

As you ponder and check out these resources, please feel free to also connect with me anytime at shannon.peterson@gmail.com. I’ll also be at the Midwinter and Annual ALA Meetings if you’d like to schedule time for an in-person chat.

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21. Aim Higher: Why Goal-Setting Matters and Making Goals Visible

Why Goal-Setting Matters Much has been written about the current environment in education. We can choose to focus on the ways in which fear is driving the work that we do, the ways in which… Continue reading

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22. BoB

I went away.  Internet was expensive and spotty.   I am back.

So, it seems, is Battle of the Kids Books.   Here are this year's contenders.  I have only read FOUR of them.  Oh MY!  I must get some eye drops and those clips that keep your eyes open and hire a house minder so that I can read, read, read.

What I Read While I Was Away:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - best book of the batch!
Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones - so good, sigh!
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud - can NOT wait for the next book in this outstandingly fun and creepy series

Three adult mysteries - one set in Singapore (Aunty Lee's Delights), another featuring crossword puzzles (The Crossworder's Delight) and a short story starring Hercule Poirot.  All a lot of fun.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel - surprisingly good and suspenseful

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - galloping adventure

I started The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.  Not quite done with it yet.  Considering that the first version was written - and published - when Sir Terry was 17, it's pretty darn good.  I am, I confess, a Pratchett fan.

Still in pjs - retirement is awesome! - now I must get moving or the day will be done before I know it.


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23. Mocking the Night Away: Mock Awards Results

This year my library hosted our first ever Mock Newbery! We hosted it just for staff, but I think it would be great to host one with our patrons someday as well. 

We had a shortlist of six titles that we read and discussed. After much discussion and voting, we came up with our winner and two honor books:



Winner: 
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Our group was impressed by the lyrical writing of Brown Girl Dreaming and how each poem stood alone but also contributed to the larger story. There were also comments on the characterization, which is very well drawn out. Even when we are introduced to a character with very little detail and background, we still felt that we knew them.

Honor Books: 
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
West of the Moon by Margi Preus 

The group again loved the well developed characters in A Snicker of Magic. There was lots of discussion about the wonderful wordplay and excellent world building and setting. Our readers also loved that Jonah was a character with a disability without it being part of his character or defining him-he was just Jonah. There were many passionate readers who had a lot of support for this novel. 

I have to say I was a bit surprised at the overwhelming love and support for West of the Moon from our group! I thought it would be one people didn't enjoy as much, but we had several members in our group who were very passionate about this one. They pointed out the world building and unique folklore style as high points of the novel. The author's note and factual information listed in the back were also a plus for our readers. 

On Saturday we hosted our third annual Mock Caldecott program. This discussion is open to patrons and we had a group of 15 eager readers ready to discuss! The age range of our group was from age 5-adult and the kid's comments were some of the best! We started with ten on our shortlist and came up with a winner and three honor books:

It was a tough choice and we had a great discussion, but our ultimate winner was:



Winner: 
Have You Seen My Dragon by Steve Light

The group pointed out the unique style and how the book had a lot of great detail without feeling too overwhelmed by the pictures. The full page spreads worked well. One of our younger readers pointed out how only the items that were being counted were in color, which made the book unique and stand out. The group also mentioned how the artwork in this book worked far away and close up which was a plus. They were impressed by the artistic style in ink.


Honor Books: 
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Park
Firefly July by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet 

The group loved the interplay between light and dark in Flashlight and appreciated the cutouts on each page. One of my favorite comments was from our five-year-old member who did point out that animals can't hold flashlights and that part wasn't real. 

In Have You Heard the Nesting Bird, the group mentioned the nature feel of each page and that while the artistic style had been done before, it appeared fresh and new with this book. There were full page spreads that you could get lost in and would love to have prints of. One of our teen members mentioned how some of the pages had too much white space which made it a bit distracting, which was something I hadn't thought about before when I looked at this book!

And our final honor book, Firefly July was chosen for the unique style and the way the art evoked the various seasons.

One of my favorite comments of the day was when one of our younger members, age 8, mentioned that her favorite from the shortlist was Grandfather Gandhi because of the use of fabric. I think she's a future committee member in the making!

I love our Mock Award programs and they are something I look forward to every year! I love hearing all of the great comments and thinking and discussing books in a new way. 

We can't wait to  find out what wins!

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24. Aim Higher: Know Students as Writers

Four ways to help you discover what makes your students tick as writers.

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25. The Art of the English Murder (2014)

The Art of the English Murder. Lucy Worsley. 2014. Pegusus Books. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

I really liked Lucy Worsley's The Art of The English Murder. There were some chapters that I loved, loved, loved. There were some chapters I 'merely' liked. But overall, I found the book to be worth reading and informative. Plenty of "I didn't know that?!?!" facts were included. I always enjoying learning as I read. I believe this is the book companion to a BBC documentary A VERY BRITISH MURDER. I'm curious how the two compare. If it's better to read or watch.

So the premise of this one is simple: how did the British become so interested, so entertained, so fascinated by murder: murder in real life and murder in fiction. It even looks at how real life crimes influences/inspires fictional crimes. (Think Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to name just two.) So on the one hand, it looks at real cases that got plenty of press, and stayed in the news, cases that became, in a way, part of the culture (think Jack the Ripper), and, on the other hand, it looks at fictional cases. (Think Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) The last few chapters focus on the "Golden Age" of mystery writers. And the very final chapter, I believe, focuses on Alfred Hitchcock.

As I said, this book has plenty of details. For example, it talks of how puppet shows--for the most part traveling puppet shows--were for adults. Puppet shows often depicted famous murders. So there would be puppets depicting murderers and their victims. And the audience would watch the crime unfold in front of them. The book notes that at times, the murder would be (could be) encored several times. So it does go into 'melodrama' and the theatre. I found the chapter on the stage version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fascinating!

This book is oh-so-easy to recommend!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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