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1. The Wild Robot - an audiobook review

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Read by Kate Atwater
Hachette Audio, 2016

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award Winner

I recently reviewed The Wild Robot for AudioFile Magazine.  You can read my full review and hear an audio excerpt here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/110681/the-wild-robot-by-peter-brown/]

The Wild Robot, a novel for ages 8 and up, is a departure from Peter Brown's usual offering of picture books (Creepy Carrots, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, My Teacher is a Monster - and more), but his customary excellence is just as apparent.

The link to my review is above, however, I'd like to highlight a few things.  The Wild Robot premise is unique and thought-provoking - a robot designed with AI and programmed for self-preservation and nonviolence, is marooned on an island with animals, but no humans from which to learn.  The narrator, Kate Atwater, does a stellar job (see review) and sounds a bit like Susan Sarandon. The audio book is unique in that the beginning and the closing chapters have sound effects including music and sounds of nature.

Overall, it's very well done!  If you'd prefer to check out the print version, Little Brown Books for Young Readers offers an excerpt of the print version of The Wild Robot here. [http://openbook.hbgusa.com/openbook/9780316382014]

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2. Happy Monday! It's Children's Book Week

Just a reminder that it's Children's Book Week. #cbw16

There are plenty of resources available from the Children's Book Week Digital Toolkit.  I like to order the actual posters, but sadly, I forgot this year.  The good news is that there are plenty of last-minute event kits and activity sheets available for download [http://www.bookweekonline.com/activities].

Also, be sure to download this year's official CBW bookmark with art by Cece Bell. [http://www.bookweekonline.com/bookmark]
[http://bookweekonline.com//system/files/189/original/CeceBell2016BookmarkFINAL.compressed.pdf]


You can also add a Twibbon to your Twitter profile pic. (If you don't want it to completely obscure your profile pic, you will have an opportunity to shrink it.) [http://twibbon.com/Support/Children39s-Book-Week]

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3. Picture Book Roundup - Darkly Funny Picture Books

A selection of darkly funny, mostly cautionary picture books.

 Share these funny gems with slightly older listeners who have a sense of humor; but spare your very timid or gentle-hearted ones - happily-ever-after is not guaranteed in these tales of comeuppance, justice served, just desserts, and cautionary advice.

If you're unable to view the slide show, visit it on Riffle Books [ https://www.rifflebooks.com/list/206136] where I occasionally create themed slide shows.

Books included in the list:

  • A Hungry Lion, Or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins 
  • How to be Famous by Michal Shaley 
  • Everyone Love Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio 
  • Jim: Who Ran Away from his Nurse and Was Eaten by a Lion by HIlaire Belloc 
  • This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen 
  • The Book that Eats People by John Perry

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4. Sticks and Stones - a review

Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper

Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2016
(Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley)

 "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

This adage has been told to innumerable children, but in Elyse's case, words do hurt. Elyse has a rare condition called cognadjvisiblitis, or CAV. When she hears nouns or adjectives describing her, they appear as black words on her arms and legs.

In elementary school, Elyse could count on her best friend Jeg, the kindness of young children, and the assistance of teachers and school administrators to ensure that only positive words would appear on her skin, HAPPY, CUTE, SMART. These words were not only complimentary, they were non-irritating. Unkind words surfaced dark, large, and bold - causing extreme itching and discomfort.

Middle school behaviors cannot be controlled so easily. First, she is dumped by her boyfriend, and then she loses Jeg to the cool girls clique. No one can ensure that only positive adjectives find their way to Elyse's ears. It's no wonder that she takes to wearing long sleeves and pants, regardless of the season.

Things begin getting both better and worse as Elyse follows the advice she finds written on mysterious, but mostly encouraging, blue notes. The notes exhort her to compete for the school's coveted position of class trip Explorer Leader, but the contest exposes her to social situations that aggravate her CAV. Her nervous mother takes her, yet again, to the doctor renowned for, but mostly ineffective in treating CAV,

     "People go to meetings, I said. "And take walks. It's not that crazy."

     Dr. Patel scooted closer to get a better look at my words. DUMB was still there. So were IDIOT, LOSER, STUPID, UNLOVABLE, WORTHLESS, and FREAK, the whole crew. They were going in all different directions, and some were bigger than others, but they were all thick, dark, mean, and itchy, and felt like ridiculously scratchy clothes-the ones that also have ridiculously scratchy tags-I couldn't ever take off. 

While the postulate of a school choosing a class trip leader in reality-TV-style, seems a bit far-fetched, the underlying middle school drama rings true, and the book's unique premise of CAV will give readers pause for thought.

Sticks and Stones offers more than just middle-school angst and coming-of-age experiences. Similar to the lives of real children who deal with name-calling everyday, Elyse's story is not one of overcoming this adversity, but of living with it. Elyse's story is a reminder that not all things can be made "right," but we should all take care that we do not contribute to making things "wrong."

(An added bonus: it's a mystery - who is writing those blue notes?)

This is a debut novel for former teacher and school librarian, Abby Cooper.  She's off to a great start.  Look for this one in July, or pre-order a copy.

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5. The Forest Feast for Kids - a review

 My daughter has been encouraging me to adopt a vegetarian diet. I do make an effort to eat meatless often, but a completely vegan or vegetarian diet takes a certain amount of commitment that I've never been willing to expend.  Recently, this same daughter (she is both environmentally conscious and persuasive) talked me into watching the documentary, Cowspiracy. (I challenge you to watch this and not be affected.)  In any case, The Forest Feast for Kids landed on my shelf in time to take advantage of my renewed interest in vegetarianism.  Good timing, Forest Feast!


The Forest Feast for Kids: Colorful Vegetarian Recipes That Are Simple to Make
By Erin Gleeson
Abrams, 2016

From the whimsically painted watercolor endpapers and chapter title pages to the lusciously photographed finished recipes, The Forest Feast for Kids is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.  These are recipes that are as beautiful to present as they are healthy to eat.

Contents in this generously sized book contain cookbook standards - table of contents, index, introduction, and pages of helpful hints and cooking techniques.  The chapters run the gamut of gastronomic needs: Snacks, Drinks, Salads, Meals, Sweets, and Parties.   Each chapter contains about six recipes, each one displayed on across two pages.  The left page has a painted recipe title, simple instructions in a large typewriter font,  handwritten notes offering serving hints, "cut into wedges and enjoy hot!" , and hand-drawn arrows pointing to the appropriate ingredient photo (not every child may recognize a cilantro leaf or bay leaf).  Photos are not insets or bordered, they are part of a lovely integrated palette of ingredients and text.  Beautiful photos of the finished dishes appear on the facing page.

Simplicity of ingredients (most recipes have only four) combined with attractive presentation make these recipes irresistible not only to young chefs, but also to harried caregivers who would love to put a healthy, attractive meal on the table, but have trouble finding the time.  I know that I'll be making Strawberry-Cucumber Ribbon Salad soon!

Enjoy!



I've never seen the adult version of the same book.  I'm willing to bet that it's equally wonderful!

http://nonfictionmonday.wordpress.com


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6. Picture Book Roundup - kind, find, and confined

It's been a while since I've done a picture book roundup.  Here are three that struck my fancy:

Kind. This boy is the best!

Have you seen Elephant? 

Written and illustrated by David Barrow.
Gecko Press, 2016

A kind young boy plays hide-and-seek with his elephant friend and takes care to keep the game going, despite the fact that his friend is a very poor hider! Have you seen Elephant? is bright and cheerful and funny, and above all - kind. This is the first book I've seen from Gecko Press and the first by David Barrow. I love it!





Confined? Can the colortamer catch them all?

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

Written and illustrated by Julia Denos
Balzer Bray, 2016

Bright, bold, and expressive, Swatch is a color tamer - trapping and using colors in the most fantastic of ways. A bold and fearless artist, no color had escaped her artistic eye ... no color but one,
"Morning came, and there it was, fast fading and fierce, the King of All Yellows, blooming in the sidewalk crack in spite of the shadows. Swatch was ready .... At last, Yellowest Yellow would be hers."
Or would it?

This is the first book that Julia Denos has written as well as illustrated. I would love this book even if my favorite color were not the hero of the story!


Find. Where is that cat?

Spot, the Cat 

Illustrated by Henry Cole
Little Simon, 2016

A beautifully detailed, wordless book - more than just a seek-and-find, it follows the path of an adventurous cat in the city and the boy who wants to find him. Join the young boy and search the city for Spot, the cat.


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7. National Library Week contest

National Library Week begins today!


If you want to show your support of libraries this week, enter the American Library Association's contest, and help spread the word about all the great ways that your library helps people in your community.  Contest details and other ways to show your love of libraries can be found at: [http://www.ilovelibraries.org/national-library-week]


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8. China's Forbidden City

The China Institute contacted me to see if I would be interested in seeing books from their We All Live in the Forbidden City program. (The Forbidden City refers to the Imperial Palace in Beijing that housed the seat of Chinese government for about 500 years.  It is now home to the Palace Museum.)  I reviewed their book for very young listeners or readers.

Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse.  Illustrated by Alice Mak.  Translated by Ben Wang.
China Institute, 2016

A mother creates a bowl and decides to paint it with a pig to represent her young daughter, nicknamed Piggy.

Mommy is good at making pottery.  She has made a bowl, and on the bowl she painted a piggy.

Holding the bowl, Mommy smiles and says "At the sight of Piggy, my hearts leaps with joy!" Oh, silly Mommy.
To make Piggy happy, the mother paints a cloud.  White Cloud, too, needs happiness, so she adds birds, and Flower, and Butterfly, and Tiny Goldfish.  Fruits join the tableau as well, to "represent the joyful meeting of all living things."  When finished, the bowl is lovely; and it is Piggy's; and it is a gift of happiness,

There are so many lovely things joined together on it, all gifts of happiness from Mommy to Piggy, which is me.  Mommy smiles and says, "Oh, silly Piggy!"

The story is short and simple, yet steeped in Chinese culture and meaning. The illustrations are of mixed medium and feature simple ink drawings colored in cheery pastel colors with watercolor highlights.  As each item is added to the painted bowl, the facing page features a facsimile of a  pattern on one of the porcelain bowls in the Palace Museum collection.

A small (3 small-print pages) section titled "What Happiness!" follows the story and briefly explains Chinese customs pertaining to auspicious name selection and the creation of symbolic happiness that brings concrete blessings.

A final section contains beautiful photographs of the antique bowls represented in the story.  The photos are presented on white space without text, so that young children can enjoy them.  Descriptions are on accompanying pages.

Bowls of Happiness will provide a very small introduction to Chinese art and culture to the very young.  Art teachers may find it useful for discussing painted pottery.  The book is perfect for small hands and sharing one-on-one or with a very small group.  The overall presentation is lovely.

Other books in the We All Live in the Forbidden City series are:


My copy of Bowls of Happiness was provided by the China Institute.
 

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9. Will's Words - a review

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk by Jane Sutcliffe.  Illustrated by John Shelly.  2016, Charlesbridge

According to author Jane Sutcliffe's note, she intended to write a book about the Globe Theater and its famous playwright, but found she was more interested in the way that William Shakespeare's words (even the invented ones!) have become so ingrained in our everyday speech. 

The end result is somewhat of a hybrid.  Two types of text boxes are placed upon each double-spread, full-bleed illustration.  One contains an account of life in the time and milieu of William Shakespeare,

Good plays need good playwrights.  And the most brilliant playwright in London was Mr. William Shakespeare. From butchers and bakers, to lords and ladies, everyone looked forward to the excitement of a Will Shakespeare play.

While the other explains one or more of Shakespeare's words,

WILL'S WORD: Excitement
WHAT IT MEANS: A feeling of "Bring it on!"  This was a fairly new word in Will's time.  He helped people get excited about "excitement."
WHERE IT COMES FROM: HAMLET, ACT 4, SCENE 4.  There's a lot of excitement in Hamlet's family.  And not the good kind.
The "Will's Word" text boxes are displayed on a facsimile of parchment paper - a nice touch.  If John Shelley's illustrations don't necessarily capture the squalor of the time, they certainly capture the essence of living in a seething mass of humanity.  The pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations are positively teeming with activity - providing opportunity for exploring hundreds of small details in each scene.

I chose to highlight one of the shorter passages.  However, there are more than fifteen scenes packed with information presented in a lively, conversational tone that will keep readers' attention.  Teachers should love this one.

The book goes on sale today.  Look for it on a library shelf soon.  If you choose to purchase it, you will receive the gift of more words from Shakespeare, your "money's worth."


Author's Notes, Timeline, and Bibliography are included.

Note:
My copy of Will's Words was provided by the publisher at my request. 

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10. A book with a plug - whaaat?

A book with a plug! Whaaat?

For car trips, young readers, struggling readers, and sheer entertainment, you can't beat a picture book/audio book combo for younger kids. 

Though schools and libraries may still keep book/CD kits in their collections, the truth is, CD players are not that common anymore. Newer computers don't come with a standard CD/DVD drive, cars don't always have them, and the only people I know who still have "boom boxes" are children's librarians.

That's why I was happy to receive a copy of  a new VOX (TM) "audio-enabled" book.  In my photo, the book is plugged into the wall for charging, but I did that just for show because a book with a plug cracked me up!  In truth, it arrived fully charged and ready to go - no plug required. (I didn't test it for battery performance.)  The audio recording and speaker are built right into the book and operated by a simple control panel - power, play, pause, volume, forward, and back. There is also a standard headphone jack. The audio is of comparable quality to any conventional children's book.  The book itself also seemed as sturdy as any, and was not overly heavy or burdensome.

Perhaps other companies have similar offerings, but this is the first book of its type that I've seen.  I think it has possibilities, and that the days of the book/CD kit are numbered.  I passed my copy along to a school superintendent who agreed that it might be a useful addition to his school's collection.  I did not inquire as to the price.  I was interested solely in the format.

If  you can get your hands on one, it's worth checking out.

(I'm not going to review the book, Don't Push the Button!, but will merely note that it is in a vein very similar to the wonderful Press Here by Herve Tullet. Kids will likely enjoy it.)

My review copy was provided by VOX Books.

Note:
As always on my blog, I review books and materials for educational purposes only, and receive nothing of value other than the review copy, its associated marketing materials, and the occasional thanks or consternation of its author or publisher.

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11. Child of Spring - a review

We receive news of current events from many sources: news outlets, Facebook, BuzzFeed, friends, family, etc. Some of it is accurate, some of it is false, much of it is biased.  At best, each source reveals a glimpse of a larger picture.

I am in not suggesting that children's literature or cooking shows* can replace knowledge of current events, but it's easier to understand what's happening in a location if you understand what it's like to live there, play there, work there, learn there, and eat there.

I feel like learned more about the Iranian people from reading Persepolis or watching *Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: "Iran" than I gleaned from "news."  Similarly, I never truly grasped the standing of females in Saudi Arabia until I read The Green Bicycle, based on the award-winning documentary, Wadjda. In The Green Bicycle, Wadja opens readers' hearts to the everyday struggles of girls in Iran. 

In Child of Spring, Basanta will open a door to the lives of children in a small Indian community.  You will be glad you passed through.

Child of Spring by Farhana Zia.
March, 2016, Peachtree Publishers.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Basanta lives in a small hut in India. Though only 12-years-old, she, and most of her friends, work.  Her best friend, Lali, takes care of siblings while her mother works.  The handsome Bala is a jack-of-all-trades - begging, gambling, stealing, or performing.  Beautiful and wily, Rukmani makes clay pots.  Basanta works at the Big House with her mother - cooking, cleaning, and serving the whims of a wealthy family, 

     The station tower clock struck seven times.  One by one, the residents of my busti ducked out of their huts.  Bangles jangled on the women's wrists..  The men puffed on their cheroots and coiled head cloths around their heads.
     The line at the water tap was already getting long and Rukmani was at the front of it, filling her pretty clay pots.  I ducked my head and walked by quietly  I didn't want to be peppered with questions about life at the Big House: "How many fluffy pillows on Little Bibi's bead, hanh?  How many ribbons for Little Bibi's hair?  How many eggs on Little Bibi's breakfast plate? Come, tell me, na?"
The life is hard, but the bonds of friendship and family within the impoverished busti make life bearable, even enjoyable.  Basanta is a good and generally obedient girl, but prone to clever scheming.  When she becomes the unlikely possessor of an expensive ring, a plan forms in her mind.  In practice, however, it turns out much differently than she expected! Spanning only a few weeks, the story ends on a hopeful note during Divali, The Festival of Lights.

Child of Spring is a sometimes predictable story, but its strength lies in the rich cultural detail of life in Basanta's community, and in the joy the residents find in life's small pleasures.

A Glossary of Indian terms and expressions is included.

From the publisher:
  • F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
  • F&P Level: U
  • F&P Grade: 5

Read an excerpt of Child of Spring here.

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12. I'm back!

Hello, Florida!

Well, I've packed up a home of 15 years, and a job of a decade, and moved them both almost 1,000 miles away - while simultaneously working (with little more than a week's break), hosting two of my kids for back-to-back spring breaks (one helped load the moving van in the North, and the other one helped unload it in the South), and flying back and forth for new-hire screenings and orientation.  (Have I mentioned that my husband and family are wonderful?)

Anyway, as of tomorrow, I will be "shelf-employed" in my new adopted state. 

If you've been waiting for me to review a book you've sent me, I've got a backlog, but I'm getting through them.

Back in business!  More soon ...




Images:
http://openclipart.org

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13. Heading South

Today is my last day as a Jersey Shore librarian. 

It's been a great time, but I'm headed South for a warmer clime.



When I post next, I will be a Florida librarian.

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14. Most Dangerous - a review

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015) Roaring Brook Press

As he did with the spy, Harry Gold, in Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steven Sheinkin uses one man to tell a much larger story in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War.  That man is the infamous leaker of the so-called Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg.   A veteran himself, and a former Pentagon employee, Ellsberg initially believed that the war in Vietnam was a noble cause.  However, the more he learned, the less he believed so.  Eventually, based on the information to which he was privy and the US populace was not, he changed his mind completely.

Whether you believe Edward Snowden to be a patriotic whistleblower or a traitorous leaker, and whether you believe that Apple's refusal to hack into the phone of the San Bernardino murderers is reprehensible or ethical, it cannot be denied that these are weighty matters worthy of national discussion.  In the time of Daniel Ellsberg, people read newspapers and watched a generally unbiased nightly newscast.  In contrast, many people today derive their news from "sound bites," political analysts, and partisan news stations. These issues deserve more thoughtful consideration.

While Most Dangerous is an excellently researched biographical and historical account, and can be  appreciated for that aspect alone, Steve Sheinkin's book also will also promote reflection on the nature of national security, personal privacy, democracy, freedom of the press, and foreign intervention.  We have been on very similar ground before. 

Selected quotes:

page 149
"They all drove to the Capitol for the traditional outdoor inauguration ceremony.  Johnson watched Nixon take the oath of office, wondering what lay ahead.  "I reflected on how inadequate any man is for the office of the American Presidency," he later recalled.  "The magnitude of the job dwarfs every man who aspires to it.""

page 160
"He had often heard antiwar protesters shouting that Americans were fighting on the wrong side of the Vietnam War. They were missing the point. "It wasn't that we were on the wrong side," Ellsberg concluded, "We were the wrong side.""

FBI agents began questioning the Ellsbergs friends and relatives.  They even attempted to obtain Patricia Ellsberg's dental records, but her dentist refused to cooperate.  Nixon's operatives broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's doctor in a failed attempt to steal his medical records.  They were searching for anything to use in a campaign to discredit Ellsberg. 

page 263
 "Psychologically, it's not so bothersome, because we believe in what we're doing," Patricia Ellsberg said about the feeling of being watched by one's own government.  "But I think it's troublesome for the country that there is surveillance of citizens, and that the right of privacy is being threatened."

Read an excerpt from Most Dangerous here.
Awards and accolades:
Other Steve Sheinkin books reviewed on Shelf-employed

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15. How May I Help You? #librarylife

Bonbon Break
 I can't count the number of times that people have made comments to me similar to these:
  • "It must be nice to be able to read all day."
  • "Are you a volunteer?"
  • "You need a master's degree for your job?"
  • "I could read to kids for a living."
  • "A librarian? Oh, you must know the Dewey Decimal System."

No one ever makes these comments to be rude, they just don't know what it is to be a librarian.  In fact, I am consistently amazed that, considering the training we have, how little people expect of us. It occurred to me that we (as a profession) don't do a good enough job of explaining the many ways that we can, we will, and we do help people every day.  To that end, I wrote an article for the online magazine, BonBon Break, titled, "5 Things You Didn't Know about Librarians."  It's been on social media for about a month now, but if you haven't seen it, I hope you'll give it a look.  Here's the link:


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16. Infinity and Me - an audiobook review

Although I reviewed a print version of Infinity and Me book several years ago (my original review is linked here), I recently had the opportunity to review the audio version for School Library Journal.  My review as it appeared in the February, 2016, edition of SLJ is below.


HOSFORD, Kate. Infinity and Me. 1 CD w/tr book. 44 min. Live Oak Media. 2015. $29.95. ISBN 9781430120049.

K-Gr 3—A small girl, Uma, ponders infinity while gazing at stars, “How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity.” Uma proceeds to ask friends and family how they conceive of infinity. They define it in quantities of numbers, time, music, ancestors—even spaghetti! Finally, she settles on her own measure of infinity, quantified in something that is personal and boundless. Narrator Nancy Wu is accompanied by a full cast of characters, music, and sound effects that complement the text and the book’s full-bleed, painted illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. Background sound effects include a bicycle bell, the “tinkling” of stars, chattering voices, and churning gears. A sense of wonder is embodied in Wu’s narration, the illustrations, and the overall production. The audiobook contains two tracks, one with page turn signals and one without. VERDICT This is an intriguing introduction to a mathematical concept, perfect for those seeking to inspire very young people to wonder about math and science. [“This quiet jewel is sure to spark contemplation and conversation": SLJ 10/12 review of the Carolrhoda book.]

 ##

Copyright © 2016 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.


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17. Great Websites for Kids

I'm back from vacation and blogging for ALSC today.
 
Click on over to the ALSC Blog and check out the list of eight new sites added to ALA's Great Websites for Kids, the online resource featuring hundreds of links to exceptional websites for children. [http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2016/02/eight-new-sites-added-to-great-websites-for-kids/]

Have a great weekend!

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18. Vacation


I'm on vacation this week - escaping the cold.

Until I get back, perhaps you'll enjoy my recent reviews for AudioFile Magazine:


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19. My favorite books of 2015

It's the end of the year and I had great plans of writing about all my favorite books of the year - there were so many!  But there was also ALSC committee work, my fledgling freelance writing career, that five days a week thing they call work, and my family.  As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of my children to arrive home for the holidays (one's flight was canceled, the other one's delayed).

So, for now, the best that I can do is this:

In middle grade fiction, I loved Echo: A Novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Here's a link to my review: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/02/echo-novel-review.html  




In picture books, If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson is simply perfect. My review is here: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/03/picture-book-roundup-new-or-coming-soon.html



I listened to lots of great audiobooks, but I think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was tops. I reviewed it for AudioFile Magazine.  Here's the link: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101740/  (Diary of a Mad Brownie is a very close second!)



For the best in dealing with sad news, I was taken by Anastasia Higginbotham's, Divorce is the Worst (for school-aged kids), and Todd Parr's, The Goodbye Book for little ones dealing with loss.


In adult books, it was Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellIt's no surprise.  I love everything she writes. I love my well-researched history with a humorous dose of irony and sarcasm.

Whether I review a book or not, if I've read it, I log it and star it in LibraryThing.  Yes, I know that Goodreads is more popular, but LibraryThing's aesthetic matches mine.  I'm comfortable there.  You can see my virtual library of over 1600  searchable books and 800 reviews on LibraryThing.

I may take the next week off, perhaps not, but just in case - best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.

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20. The last word goes to Mo and Dale of Tupelo Landing

I can't let the year end without a shout out to Sheila Turnage's Mo and Dale.  Her latest Mo and Dale Mystery is The Odds of Getting Even (Penguin, 2015).  The Mo and Dale Mystery series is my favorite middle grade series. Each new book is as good as the last.  Each is filled with insightful humor, Southern-style hospitality, and all the eccentricities of small town living. The characters in Sheila Turnage's fictional town of Tupelo Landing, NC, will leave you begging for another chance to visit.

In The Odds of Getting Even, Mo and Dale, a.k.a. The Desperado Detectives, have another case on their hands.  Dale's no-good dad is on the lam and the whole town is on edge.

As usual, the café run by Mo and her "family of choice," the Colonel and Miss Lana, takes current events in stride,

I turned back to the Azalea Women. "Welcome and thank you in advance for your generous tips."  Generous tips equals a flat-out lie, but like Miss Lana says, you don't stop pitching just because nobody's swinging.  I draped a paper napkin over my arm. "Today, our Get Out of Jail Free Delight feature Free-Range Eggs, Potatoes at Large, and Bacon a la Parole.  We also got the Colonel's famous Tofu Incognito--a vegan delight featuring tofu scrambled up to look like somebody else.  A Special runs six dollars and includes a basket of All Rise Biscuits.  May I take your order?"

"Get Out of Jail and coffee," they chorused.  "How's Dale holding up?"

Once again, Sheila Turnage has written a book that deals with a serious topic (a father who is frequently on the wrong side of the law) in a humorous way. As narrator, Mo LoBeau offers up witty, often hilarious dialogue and commentary. There is much homespun wisdom in the the little town of Tupelo Landing.  Here are just a few examples from The Odds of Getting Even:

Mo (on the perceived indignity of wearing hand-me-down clothes):
"Dale's a musician.  He enjoys vintage outfits," ... "Besides, Miss Lana says most everything in life worth having is handed down."

Dale (voicing his opinion to a news reporter):
Your articles make it seem that way.  But a lot of people thinking flat don't change round.
Mo (her take on beauty):
Attila's face would be pretty if she didn't live behind it.
Dale (on "getting even"):
The only even you ever get is inside yourself--when you don't need to get even anymore.


If you haven't read them yet, don't miss the first two Mo and Dale Mystery novels.

Book 1

Three Times Lucky - a link to my review of the audiobook read by Michal Friedman
[http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2013/08/three-times-lucky-audiobook-review.html]

Book 2
The Ghost of Tupelo Landing - a link to my review for AudioFile Magazine
[http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/88494/]


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21. ALA Youth Media Awards announced today!

Watch the Golden Globes last night?  Well, it's award season for books, too!

The big news today for librarians, parents, teachers, and fans of #kidlit, is the announcement of the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards. I'll be driving to work as the live webcast begins, but I'll be checking in as soon as I get to work!

Most people know the Newbery and Caldecott Medal awards, but there are many others.  You can check them out the complete press release here: http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/presskits/youthmediaawards/alayouthmediaawards

You can watch a live stream of the event beginning at 8:00AM EST today, January 11, 2016.  Here's the link: http://ala.unikron.com/2016/ .

You can also follow the Twitter hashtag #ALAyma for live updates.

I hope to see a few of my favorites!



Image source: openclipart.org

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22. The Official Scratch Jr. Book - a review

Because I've shown an interest in coding in the past, No Starch Press was kind enough to offer me a review copy of The Official ScratchJr Book by Marina Umaschi Bers and Mitchel Resnick. (2015)



Sadly, I don't have an iPad or Android-based tablet, so I was unable to download the ScratchJr app to test it, but judging by the book and my experience with Scratch, I'm sure it's a wonderful tool for inspiring creativity and logical thinking.

Here's what I like about The Official ScratchJr. Book:
  • It targets a very young audience - ages 5 and up
  • It can be useful for parents and teachers and librarians - especially those who might find coding to be intimidating
  • Unlike the Hour of Code (which I love and have used as a resource for library programming), The Official ScratchJr Book focuses more on inspiring creativity than learning the nuts and bolts of logical thinking
  • The above statement notwithstanding, it still can be used to learn the nuts and bolts of simple coding and logical thinking
If at first there was a great rush to teach kids to code, there is now a push in the opposite direction. Just Google "Should kids learn to code?" and you will find a wealth of opinion on either side. Personally, I liken the "argument" to car repair.  In days gone by, many people knew how to do most repairs on their automobiles.  Now, cars' systems are so intricate, that most people have trouble doing anything other than the simplest of repairs.  Most people have cars.  Should we know how to repair them?  No, I don't think so.  There will also be a need for an auto mechanic. But, knowing how to change a flat tire sure comes in handy!  If working on cars appeals to you, become a mechanic.  The same is true of coding.  Give it a try.  If your kids are looking for a follow up to the Frozen Hour of Code project, "Code with Anna and Elsa," The Official ScratchJr Book is probably a good place to start (if you have a tablet that can run the ScratchJr app).



I'm going to pass my copy along to my school district's media specialist.  The kids have Chromebooks and should be able to make good use of it.

Visit the STEM Friday blog for reviews of more great STEM books for kids and teens.

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23. Dead Boy - an audiobook review



Below is my review of the audio book version of Dead Boy by Lauren Gale and read by Robbie Daymond.  Great plot with some unexpected turns.
GALE, Laurel. Dead Boy. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $35. ISBN 9781101916827. digital download.

Gr 5-7–Crow was once a regular boy who played baseball and had friends and loving parents. But now, he’s dead. At first, being dead wasn’t so bad, but then his rotting flesh began attracting maggots. He couldn’t eat or sleep. His parents divorced. His mother will tell him only that his parents “wished him back to life,” but what kind of life? He’s trapped in a house kept purposefully cold to slow the putrefaction of his flesh. When Melody and her father move in next door, she and Crow become secret friends against the wishes of their parents. Together, they begin to unravel the terrible secret of his parents’ wish. Their forbidden friendship will be tested as they face a series of deadly challenges in their quest for the truth. Though the book’s description promises humor, narrator Robbie Daymond’s presentation of Crow is morose and forlorn. His cheerful portrayal of Melody offers the only break from the macabre atmosphere. VERDICT - Not for the squeamish, this one will be best for middle school fans of ghoulish favorites like The Night Gardener (Abrams, 2014) or The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (S. & S., 2012). [“A great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humor”: SLJ 7/15 review of the Crown book.]

  Copyright © 2016 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

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24. Sydney Taylor Awards and more

 As the motion picture industry has multiple awards including the Academy, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe, so too, does the publishing industry. In books for young people, the best known are the Caldecott and Newbery Medals, which were awarded this month, and I wrote about earlier. ( See the complete list of winners here: [http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2016/01/american-library-association-announces-2016-youth-media-award-winners])


There are however, numerous other awards including (but not limited to) the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the Cybils Awards (chosen by bloggers and for which I have twice been a judge), The Schneider Family Book Award (which recognizes excellence in portraying the disability experience), the Coretta Scott King Awards (recognizing books by African Americans that reflect the African American experience), and the Pura Belpré Awards (honoring books that celebrate the Latino cultural experience). 

Also recently awarded were the Sydney Taylor Book Awards for children and teens.  These awards are given to books that "authentically portray the Jewish experience."  You can read the official press release here: [http://jewishlibraries.org/blog.php?id=315]   

Many schoolchildren are introduced to the Jewish experience only through Holocaust education.  The Sydney Taylor Awards recognize all aspects of Jewish culture.


The Association of Jewish Libraries asked for my assistance in promoting this year's winners, and I am happy to do so.  A complete list of winners and honor books is below. 

 If you haven't read any of the winners of these or other awards celebrating the many facets of our diverse world, consider adding several to your TBR pile.


The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers:
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Older Readers: 
  •  Adam & Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey M. Green with illustrations by Philippe Dumas (Seven Stories Press)
 The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen Readers:
Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Younger Readers:
  • Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman with illustrations by Talitha Shipman (Random House) Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde with illustrations by Jing Jing Tsong (Kar-Ben Publishing)
 Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Older Readers:
 Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Teen Readers:
  • Serendipity’s Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House) Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer (Orca Book Publishers) 

Note:
Keep watch for the 2015 Cybils Awards winners.  They will be announced on Valentine's Day, February 14th. 


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25. Thoughts on Last Stop on Market Street

In 2008, librarians surprised everyone by choosing the 533-page, The Invention of Hugo Cabret as the winner of the Caldecott Medal honoring the "most distinguished American picture book for children."  This year, the award committees surprised us again with the choice of a picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, as the winner of the Newbery Medal, given to "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." 

The short video below featuring author, Matt de la Peña, reading from his book will convince you that this is a wonderful book. 
My concern as a public librarian, however, is how best to share this book with kids.  The book is a little lengthy for my usual storytime crowd, and school-aged kids can seldom be convinced to check out a picture book.  It's in instances like these, that I envy school teachers and media specialists, who have such a wonderful opportunity to share great books with large numbers of kids.  This is perfect book for reading aloud in school.

But, how to share it in a public library setting?

Last week, I had a last-minute inspiration and it was a rewarding experience.  I have a small book club that meets every month. This month, I asked each of the kids to read Last Stop on Market Street - right then. In addition to positive comments about the book, I loved two of the observations that they reported:

  1. I never would have chosen this book if you didn't hand it to me.
  2. The people at the soup kitchen look like regular people.
We then discussed public transportation (none of the kids had ever been on a bus) and soup kitchens (none had ever been to one).  Working in a suburban library with poor public transportation, I can understand this. However, as a suburban parent, I can tell you that I made sure that my own children volunteered at the local food pantry and experienced public transportation (I made all of them ride the public bus with me to the mall even though it was more expensive than driving my minivan and took twice as long).  As a suburban librarian, I can't take kids on the public bus or to the soup kitchen, but at minimum, I've ensured that a few more children are now aware of the lives that others lead.This is one of the many things that makes my job worthwhile.

One of the missions of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks (TM) campaign is to make sure that "all children can see themselves in the pages of a book."  This is important, but also important is recognizing that all people are just "regular people."  We always have more in common than we think.


Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Read it. Share it.

**Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
**A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
**A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Bestseller
Four Starred Reviews
Finalist for the 2014 E.B. White Read-aloud Book Award
A Junior Library Guild Selection

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