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1. Twelve Days of Tech-mas 2015 Edition

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2. My Thoughts: A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

4 yummy chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:  Oh my yes!!  I love this cover so very much.  It is what definitely attracted me to the book.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The cover drew me in, the synopsis kept me interested.  Here it is from GoodReads:
In a small river village where the water is cursed, a girl’s bravery—and the existence of magic—could mean the difference between life and death in this elegant, luminous tale from the author of Parched and Audacity.

Along a lively river, in a village raised on stilts, lives a girl named Luna. All her life she has heard tales of the time before the dam appeared, when sprites danced in the currents and no one got the mysterious wasting illness from a mouthful of river water. These are just stories, though—no sensible person would believe in such things.

Beneath the waves is someone who might disagree. Perdita is a young water sprite, delighting in the wet splash and sparkle, and sad about the day her people will finally finish building their door to another world, in search of a place that humans have not yet discovered.

But when Luna’s little sister falls ill with the river sickness, everyone knows she has only three weeks to live. Luna is determined to find a cure for her beloved sister, no matter what it takes. Even if that means believing in magic…
Romance?: No

My Thoughts:
This book was written from two points of view, Luna and Perdita.  The chapters for each were short and wonderfully written.  Each of the stories, at their core, were about sisters.  Luna's sister gets sick and she has to find a way to save her.  Perdita loses her sister and needs to find her.  I loved the writing in each chapter.  It flowed so beautifully, it reminded me a bit of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt.  I knew the stories would come together, and was pretty sure how, but the journey to that intersection was wonderful.

I was rooting for both sets of sisters the whole time.  I wanted Luna to find a cure for her sister and I wanted Perdita to find hers.  I felt touched by both Luna and Perdita.  The story moved along so easily, it was impossible not to be caught up in their stories.

I think this has the opportunity to be very popular for it's intended audience.  There are a lot of elements that are attractive to middle school readers--the length of the story, the writing, two main characters you root for, magical elements, and an interesting setting.  I know several readers that will enjoy this story and will passit along to their friends.

To Sum Up:  Magical, lovely short story that will be attractive to middle grade readers.  The copies I bought for my library have already been circulated a few times.  And an amazing cover to boot!

Book sent from Simon & Schuster for review.  

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3. Writing Tweet Round-up

Check out Stacey's end-of-the-month curated collection of writing Tweets!

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4. Tallulah's Tap Shoes

Tallulah's Tap Shoes. Mairlyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Tallulah was excited about going to dance camp. She would get to take ballet every day. There was just one problem--she would also have to take tap and she was NOT looking forward to THAT.

Premise/plot: Tallulah is a little too used to being 'the best' at ballet to feel comfortable trying a new type of dance. She wants to either be the best at tap right away, or, not take it at all. To her way of thinking, if she can't be the best and be recognized as being 'the best' then it's not worth her time or effort. But is being the best what summer dance camp is all about?

My thoughts: I liked this one. I liked seeing Tallulah make a new friend. It was a very pleasing story. Even if Beckett was only in the last few pages.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Drowned City - a review

 The National Council of Teachers of English recently named Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) the winner of its prestigious Orbis Pictus Award.

The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award  was established in 1989 for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children. The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children. (from the NCTE website)

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans is a spare, but powerful graphic novel account of the tragedy that befell the City of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.  Don Brown researches and illustrates Drowned City in his usual fashion.  It has extensive Source Notes and a corresponding Bibliography.  Every direct quote is sourced.  The illustrations are serious and in muted colors to accurately convey the gravity of the events; but they are sufficiently vague to spare the individual horror experienced by victims, survivors, and rescuers.  As he has done with other topics, Don Brown creates a focused, accurate, and powerful story - suitable for visual learners and for readers in a wide age range.

Other Hurricane Katrina books reviewed on this site:
Also by Don Brown and reviewed by Shelf-employed:

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6. Basketball books for young fans: Stephen Curry and beyond (ages 6-12)

It's an exciting start to the basketball season for Warriors fans here in the Bay Area, and I love helping students find great books to fuel their love of the game. Below are some new basketball books geared for 2nd through 5th grade reading. But really, I've found that they all appeal to a wide range of ages.

Full disclosure--I am not a huge sports fan. While I can look at these books in terms of their readability and design, only a real fan will be able to tell you if they are accurate and interesting.

All About Basketball
by Matt Doeden
Capstone, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 6-9
Doeden is one of my favorite sports writers for young readers. Here he introduces the sport of basketball using short sentences, dynamic photographs and clear diagrams. "Defenders try to stop the other team from scoring. They knock the ball away. They steal passes." Throughout, Doeden uses nonfiction features like headings, captions and vocabulary to direct kids' reading. I especially noticed how diverse the photographs are, with plenty of examples of women players as well as kid and amateur players too. A terrific book for new readers who are interested in learning more about the game.
Stephen Curry
Amazing Athletes series
by Jon M. Fishman
Lerner, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 7-10
The Amazing Athletes series is one of our favorite new series for sports biographies. Geared for third grade readers, this series balances straightforward, simple writing with interesting details. As any of our basketball fans can tell you, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has racked up impressive stats, winning 2014-15 Most Valuable Player for the NBA. With this biography, readers will learn about his family life, high school and college years, and then look at his first few years playing for the Warriors. While there is not any mention of winning the 2015 NBA championship, most of my students will know all about that already.
Basketball Legends in the Making
by Matt Doeden
Sports Illustrated Kids / Capstone, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 8-12
Instead of focusing on the classic players you may remember, this book looks at the new stars--wondering who will be the superstars of tomorrow. Young fans will like the trading card like layout which features one large action photo, a short description of the player's playing history and achievements, and a quick "Did You Know?" fact in bold print. Pair this with Side by Side Basketball Stars, also from Sports Illustrated Kids but with more challenging text, and encourage students to debate which stars are the greatest players--backing up their arguments with facts and reasons. On the easier side, I've just ordered Basketball's Greatest Stars, by S.A. Kramer, which is a new book in the Step Into Reading series.

The review copies came from our school and public libraries. 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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7. Happy Birthday Jan Brett!


Happy Birthday to Jan Brett who was born on December 1, 1949.
She's a best selling children's author who writes and illustrates her books.

Here are a few of her books:

 You can check out her website for more information about the Author and other fun activities:

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8. Jingle Bells

Board Book: Jingle Bells. James Lord Pierpont. Illustrated by Pauline Siewert. 2015. Candlewick. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jingle bells! Jingle bells! Jingle all the way! Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

Premise/plot: A board book adaptation of the familiar holiday song "Jingle Bells." The illustrations feature a family of bears going on a sleigh ride. Little ones can press the button and hear the song.

My thoughts: I enjoyed it. This family of bears is going on a sleigh ride. But on their sleigh ride they are joined by other animals: some squirrels, some badgers, some bunnies, a fox, an owl, etc. (The owl isn't the only bird making its way through the woods.) I loved the last illustration of all the animals gathered around a Christmas tree singing together as Santa in his sleigh passes by overhead. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. November Reflections

In November I read 58 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Jingle Bells. James Lord Pierpont. Illustrated by Pauline Siewert. 2015. Candlewick. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Book: Jingle! Jingle! Sebastien Braun. 2015. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Two Mice. Sergio Ruzzier. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie the Pooh. Sally M. Walker. Illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. 2015. Henry Holt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Only Child. Guojing. 2015. Random House. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Cathy Gendron. 2015. Millbrook Press. 36 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5.  All I Want For Christmas Is You. Mariah Carey. Illustrated by Colleen Madden. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Nutcracker. Retold by Stephanie Spinner. Illustrated by Peter Malone. 2008. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Tallulah's Tutu. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Tallulah's Solo. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Tallulah's Nutcracker. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages.
  10. Tallulah's Toe Shoes. Marilyn Singer. Alexandra Boiger. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Tallulah's Tap Shoes. Mairlyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to School. Bill Martin Jr., and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2013. 13 pages? [Source: Library]
  13. Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Waking Up. Bill Martin Jr., and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2008. 24 pages. [Source: Library] 
  14. Old MacDonald Had A Woodshop. 2002. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  15. Katie's London Christmas. James Mayhew. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. Harold and the Purple Crayon. Crockett Johnson. 1955. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]  
  17. Harold at the North Pole. Crockett Johnson. 1958. HarperCollins. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  18. Waddle! Waddle! James Proimos. 2015. [November] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  19. The Night Before Christmas. Clement Clarke Moore. Illustrated by David Ercolini. 2015. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  20. Hunches in Bunches. Dr. Seuss. 1982. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  21. The Butter Battle Book. Dr. Seuss. 1984. Random House. 42 pages. [Source: Library]
  22. You're Only Old Once! Dr. Seuss. 1986. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
  23. I Am Not Going To Get Up Today. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by James Stevenson. 1987. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  24. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter. 1902. [Source: Bought]
  25. The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. Beatrix Potter. 1904. [Source: Bought] 
  26. Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box. David McPhail. 2015. Henry Holt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  27. Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues. James and Kimberly Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  28. Too Many Toys! Heidi Deedman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Early readers and chapter books:
  1. I Really Like Slop! Mo Willems. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Middle grade:
  1. The Great Turkey Walk. Kathleen Karr. 1998. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. Kelly Jones. 2015. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root. Christopher Pennell. Illustrated by Rebecca Bond. 2011/2013. HMH. 215 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Breakthrough: How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever. Jim Murphy. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  5. Eight Cousins. Louisa May Alcott. 1874. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Eat Your U.S. History Homework. Ann McCallum. 2015. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young Adult: 
  1. The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. The Wise Girl's Guide to Life. Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 109 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. MARTians. Blythe Woolston. 2015. Candlewick. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Adult books:
  1. All Things Murder. Jeanne Quigley. 2014. 411 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Let the Hurricane Roar. Rose Wilder Lane. 1932. 118 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  3. Goblin Market and Other Poems. Christina Rossetti. 1862. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See. Megan Dowd Lambert. 2015. Charlesbridge. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian Fiction:
  1. Verses, 1847. Christina Rossetti. [Source: Bought] 
  2. The Christmas Joy Ride. Melody Carlson. 2015. Revell. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Huckleberry Hearts. Jennifer Beckstrand. 2015. Kensington. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Keeping Christmas. Dan Walsh. 2015. Revell. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian Nonfiction:  
  1. Family Worship. Donald S. Whitney. 2016. Crossway. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. B&H. 336 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season. Heidi Haverkamp. 2015. Westminster John Knox Press. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The 30 Day Praise Challenge For Parents. Becky Harling. 2014. David Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Like Jesus: Shattering Our False Images of the Real Christ. Jamie Snyder. 2016. [February 2016] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century. Christopher Catherwood. 2015. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Delighting in God. A.W. Tozer. 2015. Bethany House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Jesus On Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament. David. P. Murray. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 246 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Owen on the Christian Life. Matthew Barrett and Michael A.G. Haykin. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  10. Silent Night. Joseph Mohr. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers. 1984/2003. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by David Roberts. 1907/1983. Simon & Schuster. 244 pages. [Source: Library]
I loved, loved, loved rereading The Wind in the Willows. I wasn't exactly planning on rereading it this year. I wasn't. But. I was looking for a good audio book to check out from the library. I saw Wind in the Willows on the shelf; I checked it out. I listened to it. That could have been the end of it. But, of course, it wasn't. I had to read it too. I just had to. I could no more resist rereading the book than Toad could resist driving an automobile.

What do I love about the book? Well, many things. I love the characters. I love, love, love the relationships between the characters. And the adventures!!! Plenty happens in this one! Does Toad deserve all that he gets? Maybe, maybe not. But Toad is, without a doubt, unforgettable!!!

The edition I read had illustrations from Ernest H. Shepard. The illustrations were great: some were in color, others were in black and white. They made a great book seem even greater.

Would I be hosting the Edwardian Reading Challenge if it wasn't for me "having" to read The Wind in the Willows right NOW? I'm not sure. But I'm so glad I followed my heart!!!

My favorite quote:
"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."

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Walking and Talking With . . . Dav Pilkey

Such a treat! So I’m finally reading Steve Sheikin’s latest nonfiction work, Most Dangerous, and then out of the blue he sends me the latest in his “Walking and Talking” series. Dav Pilkey, Mr. Captain Underpants himself, is today’s subject. Fun Pilkey Fact You Never Knew: He has exquisite taste in cakes. True fact!


Thanks once again to Steve for allowing me to showcase his work.  For previous entries in the “Walking and Talking” series, please be sure to check out the following:


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12. Enough with the Holocaust Books for Children!

It all started with Marjorie Ingall’s Tablet article, Enough with the Holocaust Books for Children. As she says in the article, "if you dropped an alien into the children’s section of a library, it would think Jews disappeared after World War II.” Then Arthur A. Levine shared Marjorie’s article on Facebook, commenting that “this smart article says many things that I’ve been saying for a while.” Twenty comments later, Elissa Gershowitz and Yael Levy had thoroughly discussed the difficulties and triumphs of getting NON-Holocaust books for kids published, and Barbara Bietz and I (blogger and podcaster, respectively) had started wondering aloud how we could bring more attention to these issues. Thus, this podcast episode was born.


Or click Mp3 File (63:19)

BOOK LIST of mostly non-Holocaust great Jewish kidlit
(titles mentioned during the podcast or submitted later by panelists)

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin
An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin
My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth
Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Francis Brambles
Samir and Yonaton by Daniella Carmi
Hush by Eishes Chayil
Deadly by Julie Chibarro
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier and Greg Salsedo
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, How Mirka Met a Meteorite, How Mirka Caught a Fish by Barry Deutsch
The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle
The Importance of Wings by Robin Friedman 
Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser
The Path of Names by Ari Goelman
The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz
The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
The Rabbi and the 29 Witches by Marilyn Hirsh
Feivel’s Flying Horses by Heidi Smith Hyde
Never Say a Mean Word Again by Jacqueline Jules
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel
Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too) by Leslie Kimmelman
About the B’nai Bagels by E.L. Konigsburg
Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull
all books by Anna Levine
The Very Beary Tooth Fairy by Arthur A. Levine
Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy
Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman
Proxy by Alex London
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough
The Doll Shop Upstairs by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons by Alice B. McGinty
As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson
Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
Wonder by RJ Palacio
When Life Gives You OJ by Erica Perl
Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov
Beautiful Yetta, the Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater
Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins
Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff
Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin
Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen
Looking for Me by Betsy Rosenthal
The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner
Gathering Sparks by Howard Schwartz
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin
Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind and Haveli by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Kindred by Tammar Stein (series)
All of a Kind Family (series) by Sydney Taylor
New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland
I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz
Company’s Coming by Arthur Yorinks
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti


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 
Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.

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13. Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space by Tam O’Shaughnessy

Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space Tam O’Shaughnessy Roaring Brook Press. 2015 ISBN: 9781596439948 Grades 6-12 I received a copy of this book from the publisher This review reflects my own opinion and not that of the 2015 Cybils Committee. The story of Sally Ride is lovingly shared by her friend and life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy. The two met when

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14. Review: The Boy in the Black Suit

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Everything has been different since Matt's mom died. It's his senior year of high school, but her loss makes him feel like a stranger. His father isn't coping.

Matt's done well in school, so he has half-days. He was supposed to do a work-study program, but, well, with his mom dying he wasn't in school so he lost his place. Still, he needs a job to fill up his time and to earn money to help his dad out.

At first when his neighbor Mr. Ray offers a job in his funeral home, Matt thinks "no way." He finds a strange sort of comfort in seeing the sorrow of others. Then he meets Lovey, who has lost her mother and now her grandmother, and it makes him rethink how he's been living, and how he's been grieving.

The Good: What is so frustrating about The Boy in the Black Suit is it sounds like a dead parent book. And, I guess, it is. Matt's mom has just died, and he that loss, her loss, is shattering, and part of this book is how he lives through that. But it's so much more than that, including funny and romantic.

Matt is an only child, and his parents were very much still in love, and his father takes his wife's loss badly. He starts drinking and ends up in the hospital, leaving Matt alone. Matt isn't really alone: there is his best friend, Chris, who proves to be a good friend by not treating Matt any different. And there is Mr. Ray, who Matt thought of as the old guy neighbor and who now becomes a mentor. And then there is Lovey....

I don't want to say Matt is happy when he sees others cry and break at a loved one's funeral. Instead, it makes him feel less alone in his own loss. It's cathartic. And Mr. Ray understands; he's had his own losses. Matt's dad and Mr. Ray show Matt ways of grieving, and then Lovey shows him another -- a way that mourns while celebrating. Matt falls for Lovey, but also sees another way forward.

Also good: The Boy in the Black Suit is set in Brooklyn, and there's a mix of people, from Matt's family and their brownstone to Chris's family in an apartment building. Matt describes his family as "I went from a not-so-fancy version of the Cosbys to a one-man family." Chris is being raised by a single mother; Lovey, by her grandmother. It's a variety of people and backgrounds, all in one same neighborhood.

Chris's mother is dead before the book begins, but her spirit and love is on every page. One thing his mom had done (even before she knew she had cancer) was to create a notebook of recipes, which she called "The Secret of Getting Girls, for Matty." It's partly a family joke, that girls like guys who cook. And it's partly her love for her son. And it's partly her saying Matty, yes, you need to know how to cook, for you. This notebook is lurking around, and part of the sweetness of this book is how Matt moves from living off fast food and take out, even though he knows how to cook and his this book, to being able to open the notebook without his heart breaking.

 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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15. #784 – Santa Clauses by Bob Raczka & Chuck Groenink

Last year, I was hospitalized from September until March and was unable to bring you this wonderful Christmas book from Bob Raczka and Chuck Groenink (Carolrhoda). I love this picture book and its illustrations of life at the North Pole–the simplified, down-to-earth version–and Santa’s poems, one haiku for each day, from December 1st to 24th. I am …

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16. Alive by Scott Sigler

Random House, 2015

Em woke up panicking in the dark.  She doesn't know where she was, doesn't know who she is, doesn't know why she is here.  Frantic, she broke out of the coffin she was in to find even more coffins in the same room. 
Some survived, others didn’t.  Those who did survive have five things in common:   

The last thing thing remember is their age: 12 years old
They are all wearing the same uniform, now too short on their grown bodies
Today is their birthday
They only know their last name (because of a label on the caskets)
They are all branded with a unique circle on their foreheads.

Savage.  Spingate. Bello. O’Malley. Yong.  Aramovsky.

The survivors find their way out of the enclosed room they came from only to find themselves in another terrifying mystery.  Outside, there is death and complete destruction.  Nothing is alive as they look at their escape route – a long hallway to nowhere containing other halls and rooms filled with the same details as the one they escaped.  Only no one in those rooms survived.  Then begins their walk to find their way out. 

Questions and memories begin to start conversations.  They remember vague things like their parents, a particular food, or a talent they possess but have no idea how.  The biggest question looming is who could possibly want to bury them alive for years and try to keep them alive?  They have so many things in common, but commonality doesn’t always weave a perfect pattern.

Long hallways and five strangers begin to strain their tenuous hold with each other.  Who can they trust?  Who should they follow?  Which one is dangerous?  But more importantly, where can they find food and water? 

Scott Sigler knows how to grab readers’ attention and hang it by a thread.  The readers follow these survivors on their harrowing journey knowing only what they know.  There is no omniscient perspective allowing the reader to know more, which makes this book such a suspenseful thrill ride.  We are more like the tail end of the line, watching what happens next, and what the reader does see are the personalities of each survivor coming more into focus.  One is the leader, the other is the lieutenant; the others are followers, willing or not.  It’s not until the reveal that the reader finally understands what is happening and why survival is so important.  The first chapter will grab you, the next ones will keep you in the story.  And then BOOM….realization finally happens and you’ll race to the end to find out the final ending.  First in a trilogy. 
Recommended upper JH/HS

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17. Kitty Café

Youth service librarians live and breathe the ALA marketing campaign of Libraries Transform. Childhood is the most epically transformative time for human beings. However, none of these thoughts were in my mind when the Nebraska Humane Society agreed to be part of a Cat Café event at our library. Instead, I was focused on how incredibly fun this community partnership would be.

It wasn’t until during the event, when I went into the room to get some video footage, that I fully comprehended that lives were going to change that day. This realization was triggered by seeing a woman sitting on the floor playing with one of the kittens while inquiring about the adoption process. I became emotional because families were going to be created or enlarged at this event.

Later, while looking through social media I came across an update to the Nebraska Humane Society’s Facebook post about the program. Christina Kadlec, the woman whom I had observed earlier, shared that she had adopted two of the kittens from that morning’s Kitty Café event; what she wrote had me in tears. I reached out to Christina and asked her to more fully tell her story, and she graciously agreed.

Over the past two years I lost both of my best friends: Bearcat who was with me for 17 years, and then 18 year-old Marbles. To say I was heartbroken would be a gross understatement. My cats had been comforting me through almost all of life’s challenges. Coming home to an empty apartment was a very hollow feeling.

The morning of the Kitty Café, I had been battling with myself as to whether or not I would visit the Humane Society that day. I saw the post for the event on Facebook and I was captivated by the fuzzy dilute tortie in the pictures. I decided I would head out to Gretna, if for no other reason, to play with the kittens and enjoy their antics.

Upon arriving at the Kitty Café, I hung back and let the kids enjoy the kittens for the most part. However, it so happened that the fuzzy gray tortie and I ended up playing together quite a bit. Her sister, a gray tabby, also made me smile with her outgoing, fearless sense of adventure. I talked to NHS staff at the event about adoptions and arranged to come see “the girls” after the event.

Needless to say, when I visited them later that day, it was love. We completed the adoption process late that afternoon.

I’m so happy to come home to my playful, lively kittens! They cannot replace my previous cat friends, but they provide a needed salve for the cracks of my broken heart. Every day we learn a little more about each other and everyday they become more a part of my home. I am so grateful to Nebraska Humane Society & Gretna Public Library for giving me the opportunity to find my girls, Abigail & Zoe.

Click to view slideshow.

Photos courtesy of Christina Kadlec

After reading about the impact that this event has had on the lives of one woman and two kittens, please seriously consider creating your own Cat Café at your library. It’s a magical event that can transform the lives of both people and animals in your community.


Photo credit: Jennifer Lockwood

Photo credit: Jennifer Lockwood

Today’s guest blogger is Rebecca McCorkindale. Rebecca is Gretna Public Library’s Assistant Director/Creative Director, oversees the daily operations of the Children’s Library, and serves as the 2016 Chair of the School, Children’s, and Young People’s section of the Nebraska Library Association. For more information about Rebecca and her work, visit her blog hafuboti.com or email her at hafuboti@gmail.com.

Please note 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.

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18. Rochester Reading Champions: Literacy Tutoring for Every Community

RRC logoIn 2013, Rochester Public Library (MN) met with local organizations and community groups to figure out a way to work together to increase literacy rates. From these meetings a unique and sustainable program, called Rochester Reading Champions (RRC), was created.

This tutoring program reduces financial, transportation, and other barriers by training volunteers to offer free and targeted one-on-one Orton Gillingham tutoring to underserved individuals who are struggling to read. Orton Gillingham is a proven tutoring method requiring intensive training.

Through a partnership with The Reading Center/Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota, we currently  have 13 volunteers actively working with students. Through September 2015, these highly trained volunteers provided 450 free tutoring sessions. To date, 18 youth and adult students have participated in RRC.  Interim assessment results from 2015 show that students in RRC, who attended between 10-50 sessions made average gains of 20% in vowel sounds, 17% in consonant comprehension, and 32% in phonogram comprehension. This early RRC progress is very exciting!

Four innovative elements contribute to the success of RRC. First, Rochester Public Library worked with key partners to identify gaps, barriers, and local resources. Partnerships were created with local organizations committing staff time and other in-kind support. Second,  RRC relies on volunteers willing to commit to the intensive training and two years of tutoring. By investing in training for 8-10 new volunteers each year, RRC increases the number of tutors to meet the needs of our expanding community. Third, to reduce financial, transportation, and other access barriers for the students, RRC provides unduplicated and free tutoring to underserved struggling readers at the sites they already visit. Fourth, RRC students receive individualized lesson plans, twice per week for 45 minute sessions. With a standard intervention plan of 80-100 tutoring sessions, this intensive strategy produces at least a 20% improvement of skills.

Partners developed RRC to be sustainable within five years. Any community with strong civic involvement can provide a similar system by adapting RRC’s methodology (i.e. volunteer recruitment form, student in-take criteria, parent questionnaire, partnership agreement, assessment process, and evaluation plan). RRC is designed to be scalable and replicable for any community!

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19. 2016 Reading Challenges: Hard Core Re-Reading

Title: Hard Core ReReading
Host: You, Me, and A Cup of Tea (sign up)
Duration: January - December 2016
# of Books: I'm signing up for Level 2, 16-25 books

Some books I want to reread:
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
  • Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery
  • Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
  • Les Miserables (The Wretched) by Victor Hugo 
  • Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
  • Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. In 1900....

Jacqueline Kelly very kindly wrote another book about Calpurnis Tate. In The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Callie Vee, as her six brothers and parents call her, is disappointed to find that life in the year 1900 goes on pretty much like always.  She goes on rambles with her scientist grandfather.  She makes meticulous notes in her notebook.  She is by turns bedeviled and beguiled by her brothers.  And she disappoints her mother and baffles her father almost weekly.

Almost every other chapter tells of her struggles with Travers, her wild animal loving younger brother, and his latest "find".  The armadillo is a bust.  The raccoon is fated for failure, but the coy-dog??  Really???

Then there is the hurricane of 1900 that wiped Galveston, TX, off the map.  The barometer and Callie's chance sighting of a strange bird sends Callie's grandfather to the telegraph office to send wires to the coast.  Callie has to give up her bed to a cousin she barely knows - a greedy, penny-pinching cousin who has no appreciation of nature.  That and the disappearance of Callie's gold piece add up to a recipe for high drama.

In between, Callie runs errands for the new veterinarian, learns how to type, gets even with a conniving brother and deals as well as she can with her parents' expectations for her future.

This feels like a bridge book.  I am eager to see if Callie prevails.

MEANWHILE, in San Francisco, Lizzie Kennedy hates her school, Miss Barstow's.  She'd much prefer going out on doctor's calls with her father.  She loves science but, just like Callie Vee, her obsession is considered unseemly for a young woman. 

In Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko, there are rumors that plague has broken out in Chinatown.  Lizzie's uncle, the owner of one of the biggest newspapers in town, refuses to believe the rumors without proof.  But Chinatown is quarantined and trapped inside is Lizzie's cook and friend, Jing.  Jing leaves behind a secret - a real LIVE secret.  And that secret teaches Lizzie to look at her world in a whole new way.

There are a lot of secrets in this book; secrets that endanger a whole city; secrets that hide the way people really feel; secrets about how to fit in.  Lizzie has to find Jing, learn how to be friends with people her own age, survive her first ball, and prove her worth as a nurse. 

It all happened in 1900!

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21. My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors by Andrew Rae & Lisa Regan, 128 pp, RL: 4

My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors by Andrew Rae and Lisa Regan is GENIUS! Rae has worked for many clients worldwide in advertising, print, publishing and animation and Regan is an accomplished author of children's non-fiction with over 300 titles to her name. The beauty of My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook is that it is more than a doodle book that will appeal to kids who may have never even considered inventing or designing something. This book is so engaging and inviting that readers will step outside the box or be inspired to step even further out, if they are already creatively inclined. Regan and Rae detail and bring to life a wide array of inventions from hundreds of years ago, like Leonardo daVinci's 1485 design for wings for humans to 21st century craziness like the man in Brazil who built a machine that changes from a van to a robot and back again in about two minutes. 

My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook is a great gift for a kid who is a tinkerer, doodler or both, but it is also a gentle guide for kids who might really feel a passion for invention. The "Getting Started" page takes this seriously and tells junior inventors to keep a notebook, always make sure you are not inventing something that already exists and to "learn to let go" when you are the only one who thinks your inventions is a winner.

My Crazy Invention Sketchbook introduces kids to actual inventions, from the useful to the life changing to the ridiculous then invites them to think up their own inventions along the same lines or principals or adapt and improve something that already exists. Inventors can invent something to help them practice their favorite sport, a faster method of long distance travel or ways to make a boat fly. They are invited to invent a toilet, a toy, a brand new candy and a better bed. They are also asked to customize a bike and accessorize a car. Leaning into the less than possible (but hey, who am I to say?) kids are also asked to design a shrinking machine and a device that would help you do your homework.

The final pages of My Crazy Invention Sketchbook introduces readers to the concept of patents and has a two page "Application for Patent of My Crazy Invention" that, while far from the real thing, is a great place for young inventors to organize their thoughts and get them on the page. Finally, a very cool certificate of patent makes up the last page of the book. My Crazy Invention Sketchbook is guaranteed to spark ideas and inspire creativity in any one, of any age, who opens the covers and starts turning pages!

Source: Review Copy

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22. Chewing a Bone with Tom Watson’s Stick Dog

Today, Kid Lit Reviews went venturing to a star’s home. Not sure where to go, or who would oblige, I found myself outside a large pipe under Highway 16, trying to make good use of a Map to the Homes of Kidlit Stars. It cost me 5 bucks and I was beginning to think I’d been scammed. …

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23. Tallulah's Toe Shoes

Tallulah's Toe Shoes. Marilyn Singer. Alexandra Boiger. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:  Tallulah could stand like a ballerina. Tallulah could move like a ballerina, too. But Tallulah knew she'd never be a ballerina until she got a pair of pink satin toe shoes.

Premise/plot: Little Tallulah is wanting to grow up a little too fast in this one. She really, really wants to be a 'grown up' ballerina now. She wants toe shoes of her own. Is she ready for toe shoes? Not really. This is a lesson she learns best on her own. And she'll get that chance when she finds a pair of discarded toe shoes in the trash!

My thoughts: Still enjoying the series very much.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. It’s Tuesday! Write. Share. Give

Come join the slicing community and share your story today.

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25. New Semester of ALSC Online Courses!

Winter 2016 ALSC Online CoursesStart 2016 fresh with new skills and program ideas!

Registration for Winter 2016 ALSC online courses is now open. Classes begin Monday, January 4, 2016.

One of the courses being offered this semester are eligible for continuing education units (CEUs). The American Library Association (ALA) has been certified to provide CEUs by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). ALSC online courses are designed to fit the needs of working professionals. Courses are taught by experienced librarians and academics. As participants frequently noted in post-course surveys, ALSC stresses quality and caring in its online education options.

It’s Mutual: School and Public Library Collaboration
6 weeks, January 4 – February 12, 2016
Instructor: Rachel Reinwald, School Liaison and Youth Services Librarian, Lake Villa District Library

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, January 4 – 29, 2016, CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs
Instructor: Angela Young, Head of Children’s Department, Reed Memorial Library

The Sibert Medal: Evaluating Books of Information
6 weeks, January 4 – February 12, 2016
Instructor: Kathleen T. Horning, Director, Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin- Madison

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC website at www.ala.org/alsced. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Continuing Education, Kristen Figliulo, 1 (800) 545-2433 ext 4026.

Image courtesy of ALSC.

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