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1. Giveaway: Dead Boy by Laurel Gale (US Only)

Dead Boy

by Laurel Gale

Release Date: September 29, 2015



About the Book

“Crow Darlingson may be dead, but he still loves air hockey, bowling, and drawing. Like other kids, his mother makes sure he finishes his homework, and he always looks forward to Halloween.
But Crow Darlingson isn’t like other kids. He stinks. He’s got maggots. His body parts fall off at inopportune moments. And he hasn’t been able to sleep in years. Not since waking up from death.
Despite the maggots, Crow is lonely. When Melody Plympton moves in next door, Crow finally has a chance at friendship and a shot at getting his life back from the mysterious wish-granting creature living in the park. But first there are tests to pass. And it means risking the only friend he’s had in years.
Debut author Laurel Gale’s story about friendship fulfilled may be the most moving—and most macabre—yet.”

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

About the Author

Debut author LAUREL GALE is an academic director at an ESL school. She grew up in California and Colorado and later graduated from Tulane University with a degree in anthropology. Laurel currently lives with her husband in Henderson, Nevada. Visit her website at www.laurelgale.com, and follow her Twitter at @laurel_gale.

Learn more Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Giveaway Details

One winner will receive a copy of the book.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What are some strategies you use when confronting your fears?

*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

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2. 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.

The post New Semester of ALSC Online Courses! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. these beauties....

50% off for just TWO MORE DAYS while the BIG HOLIDAY WEEKEND SALE is still up and running! ORIGINAL DRAWINGS and more...click on over to my etsy shop and have a peek.

*sale ends monday 11/30 at 11:59pm (est)

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4. 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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5. A Fine Dessert....What Does This Mean for Teachers?

Last month, there was an online conversation around the picture book, A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall that expanded my thinking about the idea of teacher-as-reader/teacher-as-decision-maker.

A Fine Dessert was published earlier this year and has received several starred reviews by major reviewers such as School Library Journal and Booklist. It is a book that is loved by children and teachers everywhere. It has been talked about as a possible Caldecott contender on the blog Calling Caldecott (here and here).

Then issues were brought up about the book and its depiction of slavery (A Fine Dessert: Sweet Intentions, Sour Aftertaste).  Sophie Blackall responded, explaining her process and the thoughtful choices she made as illustrator.  Honestly, it was something I completely missed and overlooked and like the author of Reading While White, I am a bit disappointed with myself for missing it.

(To catch up on the entire conversation, you can find many of the posts and a timeline of many events on Debbie Reese's blog.)

The conversation last month was a long, intense conversation that happened mainly through blogs and Twitter.  I listened in to the conversation daily and tried to keep up with all that everyone was saying about this book and the issues surrounding it. Social media is a tricky way to have conversations like this because lots of people jump in and out of conversations and sometimes 140 characters isn't enough to dig into a topic this big.

So, what does this mean for teachers?  As teachers we need to be readers. But we also need to be readers of discussions like this one so that we understand as much as we can about the books we put in our classrooms and in the hands of children.  Here are the big take-aways I had after thinking about this for a few weeks.  These are the things I've learned from the conversation:

1. This is one reason many of us are on social media--to hear different perspectives, to learn from people we did not always have the opportunities to learn from, to grow in our thinking.  I've always believed strongly that teachers need to be readers, but this online controversy reminded me of the reasons I spend so much time reading book reviews, blogs, etc. Not only do I need to be a reader of books, but I need to be a reader of all that surrounds a book if I am going to make good decisions about the books to share with my students.  Whether you agree with the opinions of others or not, being aware of perspectives of others is important in our work.

2. This is not about one book--it is much bigger than that.  Even though the conversation felt focused on a book and individual people, this is really a bigger issue than that.  And it has been an issue for a very long time.  If you aren't aware of the campaign, We Need Diverse Books or the NCTE Resolution on The Need for Diverse Children's and Young Adult Books, they are important to know about. I also think Roger Sutton's piece, We're Not Rainbow Sprinkles, in last month's Horn Book is worth a read on this issue.

3. There was very little teacher voice in the conversation. And I believe that our voice needs to be part of this conversation.  We need to respect the teacher-as-decision-maker in these and all conversations and I didn't see that happening in this conversation. Ultimately, we are the ones who make decisions about which books are in our classroom libraries.  I remember years ago, reading the issue surrounding an Alvin Ho book. I realized then how many things we need to think about as teachers when we choose books for our classrooms.

4. Change happens because of the conversations. It doesn't  happen overnight but it does happen. Betsy Bird recently shared a post about the new edition of Ladybug Girl and Debbie Reese shared many books whose stereotypic depictions have been changed in recent years. This is all good news for children.

5. Social media is a tricky place to have hard conversations. Conversations without judging is key--we can have heated conversations that help us all grow and understand our own biases. It seemed that early on, as people were making sense of the issue, some people were unintentionally shut down a bit when they didn't agree immediately. And this was a conversation between a group of people who ultimately spend their lives working to get diverse, quality books into the hands of children.  This was a group of people working toward the same goals. I learned that there will be missteps in language as we each make sense of our own biases and make sense of some of these issues.  It seems we have to be a bit more careful when we are having conversations on social media--careful so that we broaden the conversation--so that we invite more people in instead of unintentionally shutting people out.

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6. 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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7. Sketchbook Ravens

I've been trying to work out of that box, to leap from my safe comfort zone. Not an easy thing let me tell you, despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of change and of learning new things in life and of fearlessly (ahem) exploring the unknown.

I've also been known to dip my toe in the water, scream "argh it's freezing!!" (slightly colder than tepid) and dash wimpily off across the sand as fast as I can manage. So. Not as easy as it seems. Still, here are my (artistic) attempts at leaping into that crazily unsafe unfamiliar space ... first, in painting as loosely as possible, and second, at carving rather than drawing ...





I'll admit that they aren't what I'd call works of art (or vastly different from my norm) but that's not what I was trying to achieve. I'm just experimenting, enjoying something new. I'll get there, bit by bit.

These were done as part of my college course, and will be reblogged over at my children's illustration blog, so to take a peek at that, just click HERE.

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8. My tweets

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9. 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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10. What would Mark Twain make of Donald Trump?

The proudly coifed and teased hair, the desire to make a splash, the lust after wealth, the racist remarks: Donald Trump? Or Mark Twain? Today is Mark Twain’s birthday; he was born on 30 November 1835, and died on 21 April 1910.

The post What would Mark Twain make of Donald Trump? appeared first on OUPblog.

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11. What’s Hidden in the Woods?

whathiddenfrontcoverWhat’s Hidden in the Woods by Aina Bestard (@ainab) is a playful, curiosity-creating picture book with a difference.

At first glance, it’s a simple walk through the woods, but as you slow down and look closely, using a set of special lenses which come packaged with the book, all sorts of hidden stories are revealed. Animals and plants magically appear where there were none before. Gentle prompts on each page draw in readers / listeners / viewers to look again and let themselves be surprised and enchanted by the magic.

Bestard’s illustrative technique makes use of the fact that different coloured lenses filter out different colours printed on the page, disguising some, allowing others to suddenly appear clearly. This approach makes for stylish images also when viewed without any lenses; her limited palette, her highly decorative use of patterns and the clarity of her line all add up to fresh and eye-catching illustrations.


Spread 2

The experience of reading the book is also very interesting. It becomes something slower and more deliberate, not a race to the end, but rather an invitation to look, and look and look again. Such close observation is sometimes hard to encourage, but here it comes naturally and is hugely enjoyable. My kids both kept checking that they’d not missed any small detail and were truly fascinated by how something so simple as the lenses changed everything.


We just had to explore the technique used by Bestard ourselves and so we set up a creation station, with lots of different shades of red, yellow, blue and green markers, plus homemade acetate visors in each of the colours. The visors (made from acetate sheets rather than cellophane because acetate is a bit thicker and sturdier) meant that the kids could put them on and draw hands-free (so to say) i.e. without having to hold the magic lenses from the book in one hand.



There was a real frisson of excitement in the air as we saw how our drawings appeared to reveal hidden secrets as we viewed them through different coloured filters. I’ve tried to show how it looked to us by making this short animation:

Whilst making our own magic images we listened to:

  • These Are My Glasses by Laurie Berkner – this is a very short song with actions that you could use in class or storytime.
  • The Red and Yellow Blues by Greg Percy. This one is for tapping your toes to (or air-guitaring along to….).
  • Little Magic Glasses by Johnny Cash. Long-time blog readers will know I have a serious weakness for anything sung by Johnny Cash.

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading What’s Hidden in the Woods include:

  • Making actual goggles instead of visors. We liked the look of these toilet roll glasses from Krokotak, and these egg carton spy glasses from Crafts by Amanda.
  • Going for a walk in some nearby woods and seeing what you can spot (with or without magic glasses). For folk in the the UK, The Woodland Trust has a great site with lots of resources and tips for getting out into a forest near you and having a great time. Perhaps you could join in with their ancient tree hunt? Did you know that you can use the HUG method to identify ancient trees?
  • Exploring patterns. Bestard’s illustrations are highly patterned, full of repeating motifs. If you’re unsure where to start, this tutorial gives one way in to exploring repeating patterns made up from several individually very simple motifs. I think kids might enjoy creating such patterns on scratchboard.
  • Once you’ve enjoyed What’s Hidden in the Woods I’d recommend you look out for The Great Journey by Agathe Demois (which makes use of the same technique), and also for the books published by PatrickGeorge. The latter make very clever use of coloured acetate but in a completely different way to Bestard.

    If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • A review of Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson along with our self-adhesive sandwich boards for outdoor collectors!
  • A review of Tree by Britta Teckentrup plus how we made our own seasonally spectacular tree collage.
  • Exploring outdoors and becoming a museum curator.
  • woodsextra

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

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    12. The first blood transfusion in Africa

    Does it matter when the first blood transfusion occurred in Africa? If we are to believe the Serial Passage Theory of HIV emergence, then sometime in the early twentieth century.

    The post The first blood transfusion in Africa appeared first on OUPblog.

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    13. Mistakes on the Road to Publication

    Learn from a debut author what mistakes to avoid on your way to being published.


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    14. Rainy Grocery

    I did this quick sketch from the car yesterday while Jeanette was in the market. It's 3 x 3 inches in gouache. The colors are: titanium whitecadmium yellow lightburnt sienna, and Prussian blue in a watercolor sketchbook

    I wrote a five-word story to go with it. There's still a month left if you want to enter the Six-Word Story Challenge. It's free to enter. You can browse the fabulous entries that have come in already on the special Facebook event page we've set up for the Six-Word Story Challenge.

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    15. Kishaz Reading Corner: Blood Assassin by Alexandra Ivy

    About the Book

    They are the outcasts of humanity. Blessed with power. Cursed by fate. Driven by passion. The Sentinels have returned. . .

    Out Of The Shadows

    At six-foot-three and two-hundred-fifty pounds, Fane is a natural born guardian. A flawless mix of muscled perfection and steely precision, he has devoted years of his life to protecting a beautiful necromancer. But after she found love in the arms of another, Fane has been a warrior adrift. He swears allegiance only to the Sentinels. And no woman will ever rule his heart again. . .

    Into The Fire

    Not only a powerful psychic, Serra is that rare telepath who can connect to minds through objects. When the daughter of a high-blood businessman is kidnapped, Serra agrees to help. But when she stumbles onto a conspiracy involving secrets sects and ancient relics, her life is in mortal danger--and Fane is her only hope. Is the warrior willing to risk his body, his soul, and his heart, for Serra? Or will one last betrayal destroy them both?

    Buy the Book

    Here's what I'm giving it:

    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Here's why:

    Disclaimer: I got this book from the public library and have received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

    It's getting hot in here and yes clothes definitely were coming off. But I regress.

    First I want to say that I like the main characters' names - Serra and Fane.

    The fact that they both knew how to take care of business and handle themselves in a fight was great. The romance and heat between the pair has been building for a while now and when we get to read their story in this book, let's just say fireworks have nothing on the sparks and inferno of this pairing.

    The strengths of both complement and help fill the weaknesses in each other. I read this book in one sitting and would do so again, any time.

    Would I recommend this? Yes! Tall, dark, smoldering and a warrior....checklist complete.

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    16. Woke up with Vikings on the brain. :)

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    17. Momentarily

    The train is stopped and they announce
    That we will be delayed
    And momentarily we'll move;
    We're stuck here, I'm afraid.

    But "momentarily" is vague.
    Exactly, what's it mean?
    A minute, half an hour
    Or some number in between?

    The passengers start tapping feet
    But no one says a word.
    Compared to rants or raves, I guess,
    The silence is preferred.

    Then suddenly, ten minutes in,
    The train begins to move
    And builds up speed quite quickly,
    Like there's something it must prove.

    We're prisoners when we commute
    And we must serve our time, 
    A perfect opportunity
    To write a little rhyme.

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    18. New Photographic Non-Fiction: Doyli to the Rescue by Cathleen Burnham

    Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon, by Cathleen Burnham (Crickhollow Books, 2015)Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon
    by Cathleen Burnham.
    (Crickhollow Books, 2015)


    Ten-year-old Doyli raises an orphaned monkey in this photo-documentary book … Continue reading ...

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    19. That's the way the cookie crumbles

    Well it's a day late and a dollar short - but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

    But not to worry - there's lots more seasons coming up after this one.  I myself have just about reached my limit on pumpkin and pecan pies - lol!

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    20. Happy Birthday, Bill Weasley!

    Today marks William Arthur “Bill” Weasley’s 45th birthday. Bill is the eldest of Molly and Arthur Weasley’s children, husband to Fleur Delacour, and father to Victoire, Dominique, and Louis Weasley.

    Described by Harry as “cool,” Bill is a known for being brave and having a penchant for adventure. After graduating from Hogwarts, Bill went to Egypt to work as a curse-breaker for Gringotts; however, after a few years, he returned to England to join the Order of the Phoenix since the threat of Lord Voldemort’s return was imminent. It was during his time with the Order that he met his future wife, Fleur.

    During the battle of the Astronomy Tower, Bill was gravely injured by werewolf Fenrir Greyback whilst trying to fend off the attacking Death Eaters. While he was spared Greyback’s fate, he did acquire distinctive scars on his face from Greyback’s claws, and he developed wolf-like tendencies, such as a liking for rare meat.

    A year after they met, Bill and Fleur married, but some very unwelcome wedding crashers came in the form of Death Eaters after the fall of the Ministry of Magic. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Shell Cottage, which served as a safe haven for Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Dobby, Mr. Ollivander, and Griphook after their great escape from Malfoy Manor.

    Bill fought in the Battle of Hogwarts with the rest of his family, and survived. He went on to have three children with Fleur.

    May he have a peaceful birthday with his family, and perhaps some rare steaks.


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    21. THREE New Release Giveaways plus Author Interviews for 11/30 - 12/6

    As November draws to a close it's hard to believe the final month of 2015 begins tomorrow! There are a lot of fantastic books releasing this month, including NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST, ALL WE LEFT BEHIND, and VIRTUALLY IN LOVE, of which we are giving away a copy each.

    Happy Reading!
    Lindsey, Martina, Sam, Jocelyn, Erin, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Elizabeth, Kristin, Sandra and Anisaa

    Read more »

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    22. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in November

    New Loot:
    • Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby
    • The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
    • Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren
    • How To Get Married, by Me, the Bride by Sally Lloyd-Jones
    • The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas by Sally Lloyd-Jones
    • Junie B. Jones, First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten by Barbara Park
    • Steadfast Heart by Tracie Peterson
    • Connect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
    • The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage
    • To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949 by Ian Kershaw
    • Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss
    • Daisy-Head Mayzie by Dr. Seuss
    • Tallulah's Tap Shoes by Marilyn Singer
    • Tallulah's Toe Shoes by Marilyn Singer
    • Tallulah's Nutcracker by Marilyn Singer
    • The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
    • The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
    • What Pet Should I Get by Dr. Seuss
    • Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
    • A Spider On the Stairs by Cassandra Chan
    • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    • The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein
    • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
    • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
    Leftover Loot:
    • This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
    • How Many Sleeps 'Til Christmas by Mark Sperring
    • Santa's Sleigh is On Its Way to Texas by Eric James
    • Waiting for Santa by Steve Metzger
    • The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas by Ellis Paul
    • The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
    • Finding Fortune by Delia Ray
    • The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
    • Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas
    • When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey
    • The Year of Fear by Joe Urschel
    • Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
    • The Tale of Hawthorn House by Susan Wittig Albert
    • Oh, the places you'll go! by Dr. Seuss
    • The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry
    • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
    • Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand
    • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
            Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    23. Tomorrow is the last day to enter the Original Art give away...

    More information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1163150117046082/

    0 Comments on Tomorrow is the last day to enter the Original Art give away... as of 11/29/2015 4:57:00 PM
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    24. Weekend Links: The Highlights of November

    What a whirlwind November has been! From national events like Native American Heritage Month, The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition Book Review & Giveaway and my week+ adventure doing author appearances at the Frances Hodgson Burnett Sesquicentennial Event, November has been an exciting and “book-filled” month! Here’s a quick recap of the highlights of November.

    Native American Heritage Month links and booklists:

    November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

    The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

    As always, the amazing authors and bloggers have gone above-and-beyond in sharing the best-of-the best in quality Native American booklists, activities and reviews.Go HERE to view some of my top picks along with some great posts from the JIAB archives.

    The Hunters Promise by Joseph Bruchac

    The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition Book Review & Giveaway

    Has it really been 30 years since that magical Christmas tale of a train pulling up into a young boys front yard and hurling him over hill and dale until he reaches the North Pole? To my astonishment, it’s true. Thirty years later, The Polar Express has become a holiday Caldecott Medal-winning classic leaving children all over the world laying quietly in their beds on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a ride on that magical train. For 30 years author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg has inspired us to “believe.”

    Polar Express

    In honor of this event, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has released a 30th anniversary edition complete with a new jacket design, expanded interior layout meaning we get to see and experience more goodness, a letter from Chris Van Allsburg, a downloadable recording of the story read by none other than renowned actor Liam Neeson and a gorgeous golden keepsake ornament. AND….I get to give one copy away to one lucky winner thanks to this The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition Book Review & Giveaway!! Go HERE for details and to enter-to-win.

    Author Appearances at Frances HodgsonBurnett Sesquicentennial Event:

    You may remember my mention of the upcoming Frances Hodgson Burnett Sesquicentennial Event Celebration. If you read that post you know how excited I was to celebrate an author who has touched my life in so many ways, and also one who is from my home state of Tennessee.

    Frances Hodgson Burnett Sesquicentennial Event Celebration

    This year the New Market/Knoxville areas are celebrating 150 years since Frances Hodgson Burnett’s moved to the United States in 1865. On hand will be her great grand-daughter Penny Deupree, as well as her great great grandchildren. Penny Deupree, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s great-grand daughter, is coming from her home in Texas to give three free public presentations and display some of Burnett’s personal belongings. You can see all the places I made author appearances here.

    As you can imagine, this event was absolutely spectacular and it was such an honor to be invited by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s family! Here are some pictures and highlights from this memorable event:

    Frances Hodgson Burnett

    I was fortunate enough to meet, and spend time with, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s great granddaughter, Penny.


    The young readers at the New Market School were some of the many groups that enjoy book extension activities from my book A Year in the Secret Garden.

    The young readers at the New Market School were some of the many groups that enjoy book extension activities from my book A Year in the Secret Garden.

    What were some of your November highlights?

    Attention K-8th Teachers! Get a FREE Diversity Book for Your Class!

    MCCBD Classroom Reading Challenge
    2016 Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge begins November 1, 2015!

    Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge is a special project connected to Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/16) that gives classrooms the opportunity to earn a FREE Diversity Book for their class!
    Teachers: We want to help you build your classroom library with diverse, inclusive and multicultural books! Here’s how to get a free book through Multicultural Children’s Book Day during the month of January. Teachers and classrooms can also win a Skype author visit with a children’s book author and the drawing will be made from the pool of teachers who signed up before 1/27/16. {author to be announced} This special project is free of charge to all teachers and schools and helps MCCBD achieve their mission of getting multicultural books into the hands of young readers and teachers.

    What is it:

    The Classroom Reading Challenge is a new project for us but it is a way for teachers to sign up, read up to four multicultural books in their classroom and earn a free multicultural book from us.

    All Books are pre-screened and approved by the Junior Library Guild: Having Junior Library Guild on board assures that the free book that classrooms earn from MCCBD is a pre-screened, library-quality book that maps to Common Core. This is a HUGE and exciting benefit for this project.

    Junior Library Guild

    The MCCBD team would like to take a moment to say a huge “Thank You!” to Junior Library Guild, for allowing us to tap into their collection of library-quality books for kids. Their development and book review service relied upon by thousands of schools and public libraries and we are grateful they are sponsoring Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge by donating the books for the classrooms!
    The Junior Library Guild editorial team reviews more than 3,000 new titles each year, in manuscript or prepublication stage. They have a keen sense for finding the best of the best. Over 95 percent of their selections go on to receive awards and/or favorable reviews.

    Go HERE to view some of the books that teachers can earn and win as part of our Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge and sign your classroom up to earn a few book!!!!

    The post Weekend Links: The Highlights of November appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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    25. Goa

    We left Bombay on one of those trains you see on tv. Guys hanging off the sides, people sitting on the roof. We were travelling third class, the cheapest form of rail transit in India. Everyone in our class was packed into passenger cars with wooden bench seats which were quickly occupied by mothers with their children and a young Sikh military officer, off duty, to whom a crowd of young men passed a strong looking metal trunk through the open window. He had been smart, boarded the train, ruthlessly knocking old women out of his way, without his luggage, secured a window seat. The rest of us defended what little space there was near us and stood our ground through the swaying departure. Joyce found a piece of floor near our backpacks where she could sit. There was no point in talking. We were in for twenty straight hours, travelling third class from Bombay to Goa. I stood leaning against a window, bending over to watch the endless slums roll by as we left the city. A pair of Australian women began complaining as we entered the countryside. The difference stood out between the pampered Aussies and the stoic Indian mothers who sat on the floor for hours without uttering a bad tempered peep. The whining grated on my nerves. Chai wallahs appeared at the windows on the platforms of every stop along the way. You passed the money out, they passed the chai or sweets or Fantas, in. The Aussies loved the distraction, but their greed showed. They bought more of everything than they needed, shared it only with each other. They could not sit still and nothing was good enough. We somehow slumbered a little that night. I found myself standing at the window again as the morning appeared. Water buffalo looked up from wet paddies as the train sped by. “Hello, how are you? Where you from? I am a salesman from Bombay” I looked up to see a chubby, sweating Indian in a wrinkled suit and tie. He was smiling at me. When I told him I was from Canada, he laughed loudly. Leaning close, he waggled his forefinger in front of my nose. “Never trust an Indian”He winked, proceeded to outline the steps the Indian government had taken to obtain a nuclear reactor from Canada, all the while swearing it was for peaceful reasons, then produced a nuclear weapon from it. It was vague to me, I had heard of it, it had happened, but it was vague. I didn’t think it as hilarious as my Indian friend did. I felt embarrassed when he called Indians untrustworthy and thought, to myself, that I had about as much to do with the government of Canada as he did with the government of India. He talked with his hands, demonstrating telling signs of the naivete of Canadians and Westerners in general. He used comical facial expressions to emphasize slyness and brilliance. We chatted till he got bored and moved on. The vegetation grew lusher as we travelled toward the equator. The Aussies had been reduced to tears, then exhaustion. I was just glad they shut up. Joyce imitated the longsuffering Indian women. We didn’t find out till we were installed in a farm house, with a family, near the beach, that Goa was a European vacation spot. Famous celebrities from the West, rock stars, film stars, those in the know in Europe, with the means to travel to India for a one or two week stay, populated the seaside town during the European winter. I soon became addicted to the bean baji they made at the little restaurant in the main square where the buses stopped. The square was a leisurely stroll down the beach and dirt road from the farm. The Aussie couple who arrived in one of the local buses had “gone native”. They introduced themselves to us in the restaurant. She was the chai wallah and he was the chapati wallah. They explained that they had left home two years before and as far as they could tell, from the letters they kept receiving, their families were on the verge of hysteria. They were supposed to like India and travelling, but enough was enough. They weren’t expected to like it this much. They wondered if a family member would come over from Australia to try to find them in the teeming masses of India and take them back. At the moment, they were perfectly happy in India. They dressed like Indians and spoke to Indians in their own language. They liked the pace of life, the people, the country, the craziness. The guy pronounced “Boom shanka” in an experienced manner when someone shared a pipe of Manali hash. Goa had been a Portuguese colony until the 60s so they didn’t approve of dope smoking. There were less beggars there than in the rest of India and the locals still retained some Christian traditions like church and drinking scotch. Goan cops didn’t allow nude sunbathing. They took their time, walked slowly down the beach, looked carefully before telling German and Scandinavian girls to put their clothes back on. The “Boom shanka” was part of a religion which included sharing pipes of hash. We had seen, in the train station in Bombay, an Indian all dressed in red, red robe, red in his long hair, red paint on his face, sharing a pipe with a blond Westerner with thick dreadlocks down to his waist. They went through the boom shanka chants and held the smoking pipe up in front of them, as if offering it, before they smoked. The barefoot Indian looked fearsome, wild eyes, many necklaces of nuts and baubles, carrying a red trident. They said he was a worshipper of Kali, the goddess of destruction. The family matriarch, the grandmother of the family, questioned us one day. She gave Joyce a pitiful glance when she found out that we had no children. I had to admit that no, neither my grandmother nor my mother owned her own sambas. The grandmother was proud of her palm sambas. We lived among them. They were large plots of land like farmers’ fields full of tall palms bordering the beach. They produced enough wealth to keep the family independent. Women bent double in adjacent rice sambas for twelve hours, two dollars per day. Other women, those working for the grandmother, carried huge piles of palm branches to the walled in yard at the farmhouse. The branches were trimmed for firewood. The women, barefoot, casually killed the large rats which scurried from beneath the branches where they had their nests.. They were in a concrete trap and every one was killed. Those that weren’t crushed by the ends of branches wielded by the laughing women, were slapped sharply on the ground by the tail. When bullfrogs are hunted for frog’s legs, the same killing slap is used on the water. We wandered over mud paths atop the dikes which bordered the sambas by the white beach of the Arabian Sea. The wind rattled the palms and bent each stalk of rice. Spots of bright colour in the distance pinpointed women’s blouses. Luminescent blue and green birds darted through the dappled sunlight. For people used to traditional North American fare at Christmas, the shark steak dinner at the seaside restaurant was different. The cruel realities of the sea were displayed along the beach where we walked every day. Piles of sunfish lay rotting in the sun beside dead sea serpents, many poisonous. One of the indelicate but necessary realities of travelling in Asia is checking your shit. Yes, it’s unpleasant, but a tendency toward diarrhea, called “loose movement” by the grandmother, is a good indicator of illness. Travelling with a woman was much better than travelling with another guy or alone. The advantages were innumerable. Women related to women in the kitchen, food preparation was a common part of their lives. There were a lot of things which an Asian woman could never say to a Western man but which she could share with a Western woman. Joyce was learning to bake something from the women of the house just as we were leaving. It tasted good when we ate it for supper, but they left it out all night and I got the runs from eating more of it in the morning. We had to be very careful about cooking utensils in Goa because, as the women demonstrated, anything left out in the kitchen is an object to be examined and crawled over by the same giant cockroaches which hung around the toilet. The toilet was even scarier than the kitchen. When you crouched to defecate into the darkness below the little room beside the kitchen, the giant barnyard sow in the back yard could be heard grunting and trying to climb the concrete chute below you, to meet your turds halfway. When I started squirting brown juice, I couldn’t stand the sounds emanating from the depths of the toilet. I visualized a fat septic tank with teats waiting for my diarrhea. I found a place in the bush where I squatted, wishing for the cool Himalayas. The monsoon season was approaching, it was time to head north before the world was submerged.

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