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1. Book Review: The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

The Evening Spider
Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.

1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.

During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.

Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.

Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.
Writing
It's always hard for me to figure out a way to review a book where the writing was fine and pleasant and easy to read, but not extra-spectacular without sounding like I'm damning it with faint praise.  In this case, there is nothing about the writing to turn a reader off, no glaring plot holes, issues with characterization or dialogue, or slow points.  It reads perfectly fine, but there wasn't anything about it to set it above other books in a similar category.  It was perfectly fine and enjoyable, but not something I'd gush over.

Entertainment Value
This, rather than the writing, is where the novel shines.  I loved the combination of historical fiction, ghost story, and modern mystery.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the characters and loved the way that Abby interacts with Frances through her journal.  I also enjoyed getting the inside perspective on Frances and what was going on in her mind as well as what she recorded in her journal.  It has a very New England gothic feel, which was perfect snowy day reading.  There were a few threads I honestly could have done without, but none that were so distracting that it took anything away from the novel. I completely enjoyed my read and found it hard to put down - and it even gave me a couple moments of the good kind of fear, which is hard for me to find.  I also loved the format of the book - the super short chapters and alternative viewpoints really kept things moving.

Overall
This is a great choice for fans of suspense/paranormal/thriller-lite.  Nothing hugely disturbing happens, no gore, nothing very dark, but there is a hint of the supernatural and a bit of creepiness that comes with any haunted house story.  It's not boundary pushing and I think most general readers would find it engrossing, but not upsetting in any way.  If women's fiction and gothic ghost stories had a baby, it would be this book.

Thank you to TLC for providing me with a copy to review.  Click here to see the other stops on the tour.


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2. Happy Valentine’s Day from Cat and Liz’s Book Snuggery!

Here Comes Valentine Cat

By Deborah Underwood; pictures by Claudia Rueda

 

Can a cranky cat have a change of heart towards an assumed canine enemy on Valentine’s Day?

You bet this Cat can.

If you’ve enjoyed Deborah Underwood’s New York Times Bestseller listing of cat conversations with a seemingly not to be moved feline, as in Here Comes Easter Cat, Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat, and Here Comes Santa Cat, then you are in for a sweet treat on this day for love.

Or, at the very least, in Cat’s case, a day of like!

Who of us does not appreciate a valentine sent from the one we’ve loved, liked or befriended?

But, what if the inference is made by young Cat that a valentine sent to a less than friend, following a volley of a tossed bone and ball, headed over Cat’s fence, is well deserved?

Cat’s crossed arms, picket signs with a dog in full growl mode, plus virulent valentines sent in response to the canine, are all signs of no relent mode on Cat’s part or heart.

Why things have even taken the shocking turn of rocket draft designs and a subtle crafting by Cat, that speaks of sending the canine skyward!

BUT, what if the soft-voiced and subtle offstage querier asks pointed questions of Cat, allowing the thrown bone and ball to be seen and felt in a whole new light? Might the missiles instead be proffers of friendship?

I love the dialectic that occurs between a soft spoken off stage friend and Cat. It’s always permeated not with judgment of Cat’s feelings, but rather, a sort of “Do you think you’ve looked at all the possible responses here?”

And the author sometimes even agrees with Cat’s frustration with the yowling of the neighboring dog, as in:

 

 

       Wow. He is kind of loud, isn’t he?

 

 

Parents and young readers are in for a gentle primer here on the phrase “Never Assume” in the handling of what kids may take as the supposed motivation for actions they interpret as, well, less than friendly.

But then, on a bit of further reflection, bingo, it turns out to be quite another. And that goes for cat, canine or human behavior!

I love the listening ear of Cat’s confidante that serves alternately, and gently, as commiserator, sympathizer, yet also redirector of behaviors, as in:

 

                Gee, Cat. Do you think

                Dog was howling because

                he’s…lonely?

 

                 Aw, Cat!

 

                It’s not too late to be his friend!

 

 

Cat tries yet another neighborly Valentine, prompted by a sweet entreaty from dogdom. Cat’s valentine too, this time out, has less sass, and it reads:

 

 

               Roses are red

               Violets are blue

               Dogs are annoying

 

               What?!

 

 

               except for you

 

 

Behavioral change is possible…in kids and cats. And with the ever cranky, but cute Cat to lead the way, Deborah Underwood and the spot on expressions for Cat, provided by Claudia Rueda, make the learning and laughing curve fun for young readers and parents.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Cat and Liz’s Book Snuggery!

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3. Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City by Will Mabbit, illustrated by Ross Collins, 304pp, RL 4



Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City is the second book in Will Mabbitt and by Ross Collins's superb new series and, if possible, it's even better than the first, The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones. In the first book, Mabbitt introduced our hero who is conscripted into the life of a pirate because she was caught doing THE DEED (picking her nose and eating it) and allowed to stay (despite being a girl) because she can read. The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones is a panoramic sweeping story packed with richly detailed and very imaginative characters and places. With Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City, the story becomes more personal and urgent for Mabel.

When we see Mabel again, she is in her room, scratching her armpit and staring at a "funny-looking thing, all fat and helpless. Like a beetle grub. Kind of slimy, but kind of cute, too." It's Mabel's baby sister Maggie, and mere minutes after this sweet scene of sibling love, Maggie is taken out of her room by a nasty tasting, powerful creeping vine. Mabel grabs on to the last bit of the disappearing vine and finds herself in a wardrobe in another time and place - the Noo World, specifically, the City of Dreams, a sort of post-apocalyptic, dangerous civilization built upon the remains of New York City.


 Mabel in in America - and once again having an adventure in her pajamas, and this time bunny slippers as well. Once she gets her bearings, she heads off to the dwelling of Mr. Habib, a beak-collecting fortune teller who might be able to tell her where to find Maggie. Mable almost gets her nose snipped off to add to the collection, but she does get a lead and soon she in afloat again. This time, she has secured a position on a little paddle steamer, the Brown Trout, upon which she will be cruising down the Great Murky River to the Forbidden City, rumored to be under the thrall of a wicked sorceress. This expedition is being headed (and funded) by Professor Carruthers Badger-Badger, Phd and Timothy Speke, an otter who enjoys sketching and loves his damson jam. They are journeying to the Forbidden City to find a diamond the size of a gorilla's fist, seen in a faded advertisement from a magazine.

Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City finds the return of old friends, some of whom are now enemies, a flock of zombified egrets under the sway of the Witch Queen, a sunken high school full of skeleton students and the Scuttling Death, rival adventurer Sir Gideon Scapegrace and an epic climactic scene that will have you on the very edge of your seat as Mable prepares to make a huge sacrifice.

Not to fear, there will be another book in the Mabel Jones series! Without giving too much away, Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City ends with her staring out over the vast wasteland that was once New York City, picking her nose and wondering what happened to all the "hoomans."




The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones

A few of the many books by Ross Collins!






Source: Review Copy






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4. New look and new update

Welcome everyone I just want to let you know that my blog will be getting a new look. It will continue on it's mission to share the best reviewed books both self published and traditional published. Right now I am not working with any publishing company. My first new post will be about the SCBWI winter conference which starts Tommorrow. Look for the blog to be more interactive with videos, author interviews and much more. I will try to keep it updated more regularly. Please continue to give me your support. We are back. Thanks everyone   

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5. When Revision Doesn’t Work

I used to think professional workshops were where you would go to get answers, but now I know that the best ones are where you find more questions.

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6. Super Quick-Fire Review of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi (With Longer Video Review Option)

Review by Elisa   RIDERS by Veronica RossiPublisher: Tor Teen (February 16, 2016)Publication Date: February 16, 2016 Sold by: Macmillan  Goodreads  | Amazon For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself

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7. Puddle Jumpers - a bookwrap










Let's go......our rain dance awaits!  What fun to skip and splash  together as the rain covers our face with tiny droplets of encouragement.  Put on your galoshes, grab your umbrella and slicker and play with me.  Lets let our imaginations dictate our play and let's boogie in the rain.....wanna? 





Unwrapping...









Authored by Anne Margaret Lewis

Illustrated by Nancy Cote

Ages 3-6



Unwrapping some very sweet illustrations...


















































Unwrapping my review...



Written in rhyme this celebration of a rainy day will have you looking for your rain gear ready to get wet and party!  

A little boy and his mother head out on a showery day and he receives specific instructions from mom: "No! No jumping puddles! / You must keep clean today!" Unable to control himself his imagination kicks in and propels him into a joyous romp that entails a huge puddle strategically positioned ... right under his nose.   The puddle whispers:  "Jump, Puddle Jumper, Jump."  Now who could resist that right?  Would you jump? Here I go.............

With a huge grin of ecstasy the little guy disregards his mother's advice and takes off on a wet n' wild adventure frolicking with a frog, a crocodile, a penguin, a toucan and more.  Action words pour forth : leap, dance, swing, scurry and jump, just to name a few that lend a perfect opportunity for the engaged little reader to get up and do the same.  The author has included a variety of creatures that swim, fly and waddle along.  The best part?  I loved the twist at the end when the little boy looks up and who does he do a rain dance with?  Surprise!!!  Mom can I have this dance?  

The illustrations are big, colourful and playful.  The expressions of the little boy are so endearing and friendly.  The whole vibe of the book is pure bliss and it gives the reader permission to go out on a rainy day and experience that "Singing-in-the-Rain", floating on cloud nine good feeling.   I highly recommend it. 





About the author...







Anne Margaret Lewis is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than ten children’s books. She enjoys working with fun fictional characters and carefully weaving important lessons into her stories. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she lives with her husband and four children in Traverse City, Michigan.






About the illustrator...

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8. The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, illustrated by Ross Collins, 290pp, RL 4



I have had The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt with illustrations by Ross Collins on my To Be Read shelf for a year now. The impending publication of the second book in this series, Mabel Jones and the Forbidden City, combined with the possible chance to have author Will Mabbitt visit here lit a fire under me and got me reading. Once I started, I couldn't stop! The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones is every bit as absurd and adventurous as the title, illustrations, blurbs and reviews promise. As one reviewer touted, Mabbitt's book is a bit like Monty Python meets Jack Sparrow. While this is definitely accurate, for me Mabel Jones and her crew call to mind the brilliant, equally creative but darker work of two of my favorites, Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart and their series, The Edge Chronicles. Mabbitt's story and Collins's illustrations are perfectly paired and the design of the book is fantastic. There is a great mix of fonts and font sizes and one fantastic spread where, in the midst of a massive storm at sea, the text slips and slides off the page! Mabel Jones's richly illustrated, patently hilarious adventures are an absolute MUST READ for everyone.

When an  omniscient (and very talkative) third person narrator first introduces us to Mabel Jones, she is about to be bagged by the kidnapper Omynus Hussh. Hussh, a slow loris who was kidnapped by Captain Idryss Ebenezer Split at birth, is a "dastardly breed: quiet as a peanut and sneaky as a woodlouse in a jar of raisins." Even if you have no idea what a woodlouse in a jar full of raisins is, it SOUNDS funny! And the names of the all animal crew! Mabbitt is a master of names. Besides Hussh and Split, there is Split's boat, the Feroshus Maggot, a pipe smoking goat pirate named Pelf, a mole who is the "best shortsighted lookout ever to have mistaken a pirate ship for an optician's shop," McMasters, and Mr. Clunes, an orangutan who is the strong and silent type. Finally, there is Old Sawbones, a crocodile who has a certificate in Advanced Nautical Surgery from the Butcher's Guild.

And how does Omynus Hussh know that Mabel is good for bagging? She was observed doing THE DEED - the deed that shows she is a pirate in the making. And what is this deed? Well, Mabel was observed picking her nose and eating her booger. And thus she was bagged. But not without some distress. Mabel got a good chomp on Hussh's paw, causing it to go septic, necessitating an amputation by Old Sawbones. Being fresh out of hooks, Sawbones attaches a doorknob to Hussh's stump in what has to be one of the funniest and saddest moments ever in a kid's book. And boy was Hussh sad - so sad he kept is paw with him, cradling it and talking to it like a friend (and a bit like Gollum with his Precious) while also harboring an increasing grudge against Mabel.





Of course the crew is outraged by the presence of a girl on board and they promptly prepare for her to walk the "greasy pole of certain death." But, this wouldn't be a story without Mabel and she manages to become part of the crew once they learn that she can read! Mabel becomes the key to helping the crew find a buried treasure by reuniting the pieces of the X that marks the spot which just happen to be in the hands of a handful of pirates who were once marooned with Captain Split's father.

The mystery of the missing X is actually pretty mysterious with an edge of creepy, reminding me of Stewart and Riddell's books all the more. There is a Haunted Sea, a sunken city and an army of the dead to contend with before the very dramatic and a tiny bit sad ending that also includes time travel. Happily, I get to dive right in to the next book in the series . . . 


Source: Review Copy

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9. #823 – Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood & Claudia Rueda

Here Comes Valentine Cat Series: Here Comes Cat Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Claudia Rueda Dial Books for Young Readers    12/22/2015 978-0-525-42915-9 88 pages     Ages 3—5 Junior Library Guild Selection “Cat is no fan of VALENTINE’S DAY, especially when it brings a new dog to the neighborhood. “Ouch. I’m sorry, Cat. …

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10. Giveaway: Nothando's Journey by Jill Manly (US Only)

Nothando's Journey by Jill Manly Release Date: February 2016   About the Book Nothando’s Journey is a journey in self-discovery told through the eyes of a young girl named Nothando. The book tells of the Reed Festival, an important celebration in Nothando’s country of Swaziland in Southern Africa. Nothando and her brother...

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11. #STBAblogtour16 DAY THREE

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016




The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At The Prosen People
Author interview

We're not sure what happened to the the interview on Shanghai Sukkah that was supposed to appear at Kristi's Book Nook today - we hope Kristi is okay and we'll bring you the interview ASAP. In the meantime, here is the Jewish Book Council's interview on The Hired Girl!

Be sure to check out yesterday's interviews on Adam and Thomas and Hereville, and get the rest of the blog tour schedule here.


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12. #STBAblogtour16 DAY FOUR

A little catch-up today with the Shanghai Sukkah interviews, and two new Blog Tour stops: Everybody Says Shalom and Stones on a Grave.

Be sure to check out yesterday's interview on The Hired Girl, and get the rest of the blog tour schedule here.

Catching up from WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016
 
Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Kristi's Book Nook
Author & Illustrator Interviews  


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016
 
 
Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Talitha Shipman
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Book Q&A's with Deborah Kalb
Author Interview

   
Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At Randomly Reading
Author Interview and Book review


 

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13. Author Guest Post--Katherine Fleet

  Five Secrets You Didn’t Know About Katherine Fleet   Hi, everyone! I’m Katherine Fleet, and I’m so excited to be here on YA Books Central. I’m the debut author of The Secret to Letting Go from Entangled Teen. It’s a YA contemporary set in a fictional town on the Gulf...

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14. Press Release--Kelly Clarkson Book Deal

    GLOBAL SUPERSTAR AND GRAMMYAWARD WINNER KELLY CLARKSON SIGNS BOOK DEAL WITH HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS —RIVER ROSE AND THE MAGICAL LULLABY publishes in the US on October 4, 2016— New York, NY (February 9, 2016)—HarperCollins Publishers announced today the acquisition of Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson’s first picture book, RIVER ROSE AND THE MAGICAL LULLABY, featuring an...

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15. What I Read in January


I'm kind of sad to report that my January reading got off to a rocky start.  I read very few books and even fewer pages last month.  It was a sad reading month, but we had a lot of other things going on - my brother and his family were in town, we threw a surprise 60th birthday party for my dad, I threw a baby shower for a dear friend, and, of course, hung out with my book club friends.

Between the crazy amount of driving places, playing with my niece and nephews, and loving my favorite people, I did manage to fit in a few books:

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
Winter at the Door by Sarah Graves
Slade House by David Mitchell
Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
Sex, Lies, and Online Dating by Rachel Gibson
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
The Little Men by Megan Abott
The Girls She Left Behind by Sarah Graves
The Substitute by Denise Grover Swank
Giant Days, Volume One by John Allison
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Total books read: 11
Of those books, four were audiobooks - because of all the driving I was doing I had plenty of time to listen in the car!

What did you read in January? 

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16. School Visits

From planning your presentation to selling books, here are some essential tidbits for successful school visits.

http://www.crookedbook.blogspot.com/2016/01/wheres-my-school-visit-fairy.html

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17. A Moment with Rachel Isadora’s Art

I’ve got some art today from Rachel Isadora’s I Hear a Pickle: (And Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!), published last month by Nancy Paulsen Books, as a follow-up to the Q&A I did with her last week at Kirkus. Enjoy!     * * * * * * * I HEAR A PICKLE: […]

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18. Big Whopper

Big Whopper. Patricia Reilly Giff. 2010. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Big Whopper is the second book in Patricia Reilly Giff's Zigzag Kids series. The books are loosely connected, I believe, by the fact that all the main characters attend the same school, Zelda A. Zigzag elementary school. But the books do not share main characters. The book is narrated by Destiny Washington.

The theme this week for the after-school program at the school is discovery. Students are being encouraged to share what they've discovered with others on an art-project in the hall. Destiny Washington, the heroine, is discouraged and frustrated. She doesn't think she'll have even one discovery to share with others. In general, she's having a hard time of it. A few poor choices have her really down. Can she find a way to turn things around? A secondary story focuses on a cat...

While I enjoyed this one slightly more than the first book in the series, I still can't say that I am enjoying the series overall.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Parent Teacher Collection Re-Organization

Earlier this year, I took over the responsibility of the Parent Teacher Collection at my library. It was a natural fit since I had to keep bringing picture books to my boss and spending time together to figure out what collection a picture book like Todd Parr’s The Goodbye Book really belonged in.

I was also asked to re-organize the collection by de-Deweying and creating browseable subjects.

Instead of writing through every step, I made a quick infographic detailing my process:

[An infographic about developing a Parent Teacher Collection created by the author using Piktochart.]

[An infographic created by the author.]

Up-close photo of the spine labels of our Parent Teacher collection. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Up-close photo of our spine labels. [Photo courtesy of the author.]


Collection Facts:

  • Collection has ten shelves; roughly 650 books.
  • Books are a mixture of adult books and children’s materials.
  • We decided on seven main subjects: Development, Health, Relationships, Safety, School, Special Needs, and Travel.
  • There are sub-subjects under every main subject except Travel.
  • While the collection is mostly comprised of books, it does have some DVDs and software.
  • At the bottom (in the red polka dot totes) are our Parenting Packs, which are kits geared towards parents/caregivers to use during milestone events.
  • Books show up in the catalog with the full call number: PARENTS DEVELOPMENT POTTY WILLEMS.

Our Parent Teacher Collection new materials shelf -- shows the range of what we're buying. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Our New shelf — shows the range of what we’re buying. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Purchasing:

  • Books are purchased by the Kids & Teens staff members from the children’s non-fiction budget line.
  • Generally, books that are used WITH children are shelved in the Parent Teacher Collection. Books about child psychology, parenting memoirs, and academic materials are shelved downstairs in the Adult Services collection.
  • I consult with the Adult Services librarian who selects for the 600s. We have determined that we are okay with purchasing doubles of materials.

Reception:

Up-close picture of a Parenting Pack from the Parent Teacher Collection. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

Up-close picture of a Parenting Pack. [Photo courtesy of the author.]

  • Every time I walk past the section, the shelves need to be straightened. This means that they’re being used!
  • I’m seeing 40% more of the collection moving based on recently returned books.
  • I see more browsers which is GREAT and the reason why we decided to de-Dewey the collection. Caregivers are often dealing with a difficult problem when they are looking in the Parent Teacher Collection. They might not be comfortable asking for help and may also want to get their information quickly. This project makes that possible.
  • A parent thanked me for integrating the picture books and parent books. It made finding the right resources a one-stop shop for her.
  • Another parent expressed gratitude that the subject she was looking for was all shelved together and easy to find.
  • Half of the Parenting Packs are currently checked out.

It’s only been a few months, but I think this is one of the best things I’ve done at the library. My co-workers are probably getting tired of hearing me squee every time I see the return cart packed with Parent Teacher Collection books. (I kid — they are all incredibly supportive!)

I’m still not 100% done and I never will be. I need to continually evaluate this collection and actively seek out new materials since they aren’t always readily available in traditional review journals. We’re also preparing a new marketing campaign to help show the organization of the shelves, as well as a brochure to help parents/caregivers navigate the section.

Do you have a Parent Teacher Collection? Any tips or tricks to share? Any questions for me? Let’s talk the comments!

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library
http://storytimekatie.com

The post Parent Teacher Collection Re-Organization appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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20. Author Interview: Martine Leavitt on Calvin

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

From Macmillan: "Martine Leavitt has written several award-winning novels for young adults, including My Book of Life by Angel (FSG, 2012), which garnered five starred reviews and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist; Keturah and Lord Death (Boyds Mills, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Award; and Heck Superhero (Boyds Mills, 2014), a finalist for the Governor General's Award. She lives in Alberta, Canada."

Congratulations on the release of Calvin (FSG, 2015)! Could you tell us about the book?

Thank you, Cynthia! It is the story of a seventeen-year-old boy who has a schizophrenic episode in school. He can hear the voice of a tiger named Hobbes.

He decides that Bill Watterson could cure him of his mental illness if he would draw one more comic strip, Calvin healthy and without Hobbes. He gets it into his head that he can make Watterson draw this comic if he goes on a pilgrimage to show his true intent and devotion.

He decides to walk across Lake Erie in winter – a deadly thing to attempt.

Why did you write Calvin?

A single neuron in the back of my brain pulsed with sadness for many years, perhaps all my conscious life, because there is such a thing as mental illness. Then one day it touched me, a form of mental unwellness, and it touched my family. Now I was sorry for myself as well as those who suffered with worse than I. Self-pity, sadly, has always been a motivating factor in my life.

Anyway, that single neuron pulsed away even more persistently, hoping for something, the way we send radio waves into space hoping to contact life on other planets.

One day as I was rereading my Calvin and Hobbes collection, it occurred to a single neuron in the front of my brain that Calvin, in the wrong hands, could be thought of as a maladaptive daydreamer, or as schizophrenic. That neuron in the front of my brain made instant contact with the lonely neuron in the back of my brain, and it was like Adam touching the finger of God in the Sistine Chapel.



Okay, it wasn’t that grand, but you get the idea. A sort of electronic storm was fired up between the two neurons, and they went on like that in their little electronic way for a while. Not enough to make a book quite yet, but something was happening.

And then I read online about a man named Dave Voelker who walked across frozen Lake Erie (to a place near Cleveland, where Watterson was once reported to live – coincidence? I think not), and I suddenly had a story wishing to be told. And that is why I wrote Calvin.

This is your tenth book. Does it get easier?

You would think, wouldn’t you. But in fact, no. Every book is a new adventure is insecurity and inadequacy. Every book asks something of you that no other book has asked.



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21. Good agents

Things to think about when you're search for your perfect agent."

http://mcintoshandotis.com/2014/12/how-many-agents-can-fit-in-a-room-finding-your-perfect-agent/

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22. Will Genre Wars Ever End?

Even with the success of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones and so many other genre books over the last years the genre wars are apparently still raging. The latest salvo has come from Kazuo Ishiguro. With the release of his book The Buried Giant (one of my favorite books last year), the criticism the book received for its fantasy elements came up in a recent interview.

Unfortunately, it seems this interview is behind a subscription firewall so I can only go by what the articles, mainly The Independent, report about the interview.

It seems what is getting folks up in arms is Ishiguro’s comments that educational systems have been for a long time focused on conformity and turning people into productive citizens to grow the economy:

Education’s task was to get pupils to abandon the fantasy that comes naturally to children and prepare them for the demands of the workforce.

Ishiguro suggests there is a reason why geeks, who as a group tend to read science fiction and fantasy, are in demand by big companies. The big companies are looking for creative thinkers and the geeks, not beholden to mimesis, are sought after people.

And perhaps that is true but I don’t think it is the whole story. I am inclined to agree with Charlie Ander’s thinking that Ishiguro has oversimplified just a bit because there is also the matter of math and coding skills to consider. I read SFF and have no problem thinking up all sorts of imaginative worlds and creatures, but Google is not going to hire me based on that and my mediocre html skills.

Still, the author of the Independent article gets a bit grouchy by declaring that while fantasy may be good to read, “life is more like bullshitty literary fiction” and he’ll put his trust in people who “think inside the box” to make decisions about how we live our lives.

Sigh.

Ishiguro doesn’t just talk about fantasy but all genre fiction and how it is not taken seriously, how it is just as valid a means of exploring human lives, feelings and relationships as “literary fiction” is. With that I am completely on board. That we even still argue over genre seems ridiculous to me. Good literature is good literature whether it is realist or fantastic, involves a murder mystery or a romance. It is convenient to use genre as a means to discuss books that partake of certain tropes and plot elements, but as a way to categorize readers or assess literary value? We really need to get over it.


Filed under: Books, Mystery/Crime, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: genre wars, Kazuo Ishiguro

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23. My Writing and Reading Life: Carole Estby Dagg, Author of Sweet Home Alaska

Sweet Home Alaska, by Carole Estby Dagg, is an exciting pioneering story, based on actual events, and introduces readers to a fascinating chapter in American history, when FDR set up a New Deal colony in Alaska to give loans and land to families struggling during the Great Depression.

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24. It's Live!! Cover Reveal and Teaser Trailer: Flashfall by Jenny Moyer + Giveaway (US Only)


Hi, YABCers! Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for FLASHFALL by Jenny Moyer, releasing November 15, 2016 from Henry Holt. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Jenny:   Hi YABC! Welcome to the exclusive cover reveal for FLASHFALL! I’m so excited to give everyone...

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25. Out-of-Print Diversity

There is a perception that we’re all very sophisticated and educated these days, as opposed to the past.  That older books for children have a tendency to be racist or contain outdated ideas.

Not so.

In my *does the math* thirteen years as a children’s librarian I’ve discovered that you can find some real gems if you just dig deeply enough into a library’s backlist.  And just because a title came out twenty or thirty years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s any less forward thinking than our books today (in some cases, more so).

The other day someone asked me a very specific question:  If you could bring back in print any diverse out-of-print children’s book titles, what would they be?

Now the crazy thing is that the first two books I thought of are actually still in-print, albeit in ebook form.  I’ll put them here anyway since they deserve a wider readership.  The first is the delightful Lavender Green Magic by Andre Norton.  Considering the fact that even today I can count the number of middle grade fantasy novels starring African-American characters on one hand, Norton’s book deserves to be better known.

LavenderGreen

The other novel is Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton.  A slightly more difficult sell as a YA (a genre that I believe dates more quickly than its younger counterparts) it’s still a compelling read.

SweetWhispers

Both of those are available through Open Road Media as ebooks, of course.  You know one book that isn’t?  A book that’s about a black, female, space explorer with art from the Dillons?  I’ve mentioned it once before but it bears repeating:

blastoff

An interior image:

Blastoff

Get more information on the book at Stephanie Whelan’s blog Waiting to Tesseract.

And just to make myself feel old, I’m including here a book that was in-print when I first reviewed it back in 2006 but has since fall out.  The delightful early chapter book Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh.

Younguncle_cover_1

I know that there are many other out-of-print diverse books out there.  Can you think of any favorites of your own?

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