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1. The Yeti Files: Attack of the Kraken by Kevin Sherry, 128 pp, RL 2



It's here! Book 3 in Kevin Sherry's superbly silly series of books featuring all your favorite cryptids is here! Following in the footsteps of Monsters on the Run and Meet the BigfeetBlizz Richards and the gang go under the sea The Yeti Files: Attack of the Kraken



But, before heading to Atlantis, Alex the Elf and Gunthar the goblin are getting up to no good, out of eyesight from Blizz. Blizz thinks the two are getting along nicely in their igloo, but really, the devious duo are off tending to Gunthar's new pet whose name begins with "pt."


As Blizz gets the cryptosub ready to head out, he explains to Alex, Gunthar and Frank, the arctic fox who always seems to know what's really going on, all about the hidden city of Atlantis and the merfolk who live there. He also reminds the gang and readers how they received an urgent alert from the merfolk at the end of The Yeti Files #2of Monsters on the Run. In Atlantis, they crew are greeted by the Mayor, Julius Blacksand, who has been making big additions to the city with the help of some powerful, precious, rare crystals mined nearby. But, a determined megafan of Blizz's named Coral tells him that the mayor isn't all he seems to be and that his continued mining of crystals is threatening the health of the ocean they live in - and the mysterious Kraken. Can Blizz and the gang prove that this is true and stop Julius Blacksand? And just who is Emily Airwalker and where is she? While I always adore the humor in Sherry's books, he weaves some very pertinent themes of conservation and environmental awareness into Attack of the Kraken that I appreciated.


 The Yeti Files Books 1 & 2:

      Meet the Bigfeet          Monsters on the Run


Source: Purchased

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2. Poetry Friday: Song of the Redwood-Tree by Walt Whitman

Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs - out of its foot-thick bark,
That chant of the seasons and time - chant, not of the past only, but the future.

- selected lines from Song of the Redwood-Tree by Walt Whitman

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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3. Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raúl the Third, 128 pp, RL 3



In 2014 I reviewed the stand out graphic novel Lowriders in Space written by author, artist and librarian Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third. I didn't think it was possible, but I love the follow up, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, even more than the first book! While the ingenuity of the characters, the cars, and of course, space travel were big draws in the first book, the second book manages to pack in even more fantastic features that I know the students in my school will love. Camper ups the usage of Spanish vocabulary in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, including a coyote who puns in Spanish, and weaves characters and themes from Atzec mythology and Mexican folklore into this fast paced, action packed graphic novel with even more of the intensely detailed, superb illustrations by Raúl the Third.


Lowriders to the Center of the Earth starts with Lupe, a master mechanic and "an impala extraordinaire," Flappy, an octopus  who wears a deer stalker and often travels in a jumbo popcorn bucket, and Elirio, painter of cars who has a "beak that was as steady as a surgeon's hand, his skill in detailing cars unparalleled, heading out to find Genie, their beloved missing cat. Footprints lead them out of town and into a giant cornfield where their odyssey beings.



It seems that Mictlantecuhtli, which I know is pronounced mick-lan-te-COOT-lee, thanks to the "What Does it Mean / ¿Que Significa?" back matter which also includes definitions of the geological terms used in the text, (but do know that these translations also appear in the story itself, at the bottom of the page) has taken Genie to his raucous underworld lair, which can be reached by way of a volcano. Straightaway, they hear a crying, wailing sound and discover a beautiful, blue weeping cat woman looking for her babies. La Lllorona takes a liking to Flappy and, while her crying can be a bit much, she does prove good to have along for the ride. 


The gang have to face Mic's skeleton crew, the Wind of Knives, the challenge of transporting a bucket of water to the center of the earth and back and a wrestling match with lots of wrestling terms and a surprise from little Genie (spoiler!! their pet is really Tepeyollotl, the Aztec jaguar god who is Lord of the Animals) before they can reclaim their pet and return to the surface of the earth. There are so many more details in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth that I haven't even mentioned. I'll leave you with my favorite cameo appearance in the underworld comes when the gang pulls up to a torta shop where they see a familiar face. Perched behind the wheel of a monster truck with massive wheels, looking like a roadie for Mötley Crüe, his arm around a doe-eyed goat and a bottle of sangre de cabra in his hand is . . . the Chupacabra!

Source: Review Copy

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4. One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree byDaniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel



In 2014 I enthusiastically reviewed Some Bugs, a wonderfully rhyming book written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by newcomer Brendan Wenzel. Wenzel's  playful, colorful style reminded me of Eric Carle and it is a treat to see him at play again in Daniel Bernstrom's magnificently mellifluous One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree.




Bernstrom takes a traditional theme in children's stories - being trapped in the belly of a beast (and getting spit out) and crafts it into an onomatopoetic, adjective packed story that is especially fun to read out loud. The clever little boy (with the toy, a cool little pinwheel) figures out that if he can prod the snake to keep eating and eating he will eventually over eat...



Wenzel's illustrations frolic across the pages of One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, distracting the reader from the fact that cool kids and cute creatures are being eaten by a huge reptile. As the snake is wiggle-waggling and gobbling up a bird, a cat, a bee hive and even a adorable green "sloth covered in fuzzy-wuzzy moss," the art is as colorful as the words Bernstrom uses to tell his story.  When the clever boy eggs the snake on to eat one final small piece of "plummy-chummy fruit," the teeny-tiny fly perched on the fruit proves to be the tipping point. "Gurgle-gurgle came a blurble from that belly deep and full" and, well, you know how it ends one day in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree.


Coming soon! 
Wenzel's debut as author & illustrator 
and a follow up to Some Bugs!



Source: Review Copy


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5. Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story by Sachiko Umoto, 128 pp, RL 3


Years ago I bought Illustration School: Let's Draw Cute Animals by Sachiko Umoto and loved everything about it, from the simplicity and clarity of the instructions (this is definitely a book kids can use without an adult's help, even if they can't read) to the, well, the cuteness of the animals. My kids have outgrown this book, so I put it on the shelf in my library at school and it is very popular. I am SO excited to be reviewing Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story!

But, before I delve into the very cool format for this book, I want to share some a passage from the letter to readers at the start of the book. Umoto encourages readers to "put your heart and soul into it, and just draw," telling readers that even if they copy the drawings or trace the designs, "each version will be different - it will never be the same story twice!" I LOVE that advice. Kids (and even adults) hassle each other about tracing and copying drawings, but this is in fact one of the best ways to learn how to draw. Tracing and copying are like training wheels and eventually artists will take off on their own. Umoto ends with words I especially like, telling readers that by "drawing your own world, it becomes part of reality and connects it to the world that we all share. . . You can make connections with lots of people by sharing the joy of creating something with your own hands."

Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story begins by getting artists set up, even noting the best way to erase something from the page. Then she covers the basics, with tips like draw larger shapes first, apply different pressure to the tip of your pen and let the colors inspire you. The rest of the book is comprised of a story about a princess who escapes from her story to get help from twins Pen and Rayon and their dogs, Book and Marble. The princess, who is to be named by the artist, begs Pen and Rayon to return order to her world, where the Eraserheads have erased everyone on her island home.



There are 29 scenes in the book, and each one has a similar format. The story unfolds while at the same time artists/readers are invited to engage with the story by adding text and replacing lost illustrations. Artists can trace over existing illustrations, but there is also room for them to add their own artwork to the story. 



Umoto's illustrations are in color when she is in storytelling mode and grey and light grey when engaging with readers. Incorporated into the story are spreads where Umoto gives step-by-step instructions on how to draw everything from animals to food to weather to facial expression, all with the clarity and simplicity of her previous books. The story itself travels through many scenes, giving artists experience drawing an array of things, from a desert to a castle to a monster island and a robot island as well as inviting them to decorate a room, draw a meal and draw a costume contest. Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story is the perfect book for any creative kid in your life, but it is ideal for travel, snow days and sick days. 

Source: Review Copy


















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6. Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, by Polly Faber, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy, 135 pp, RL 3




Polly Faber makes her debut as a children's book author with the story of a girl and her tapir - or maybe the story of a tapir and her girl, Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig. Illustrated by the marvelous Clara Vulliamy, who, with her mother, the venerable British children's book author Shirley Hughes, created the Digby O'Day series, this new series has a similarly charming format that is perfect for emerging readers ready to move on to chapter books. Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane and Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery feature illustrations on every page, great characters with intriguing details, fantastic design and a great story. Vulliamy, who is a very creative person with a website worth checking out (Sunny Side Up) is also a fan of felted animals. She commissioned dolls of Digby, Charlie and Digby's beloved red convertible as well as a cute little tapir - Bambang - which I first saw on her website last year.


My kids grew up going to one of the best zoos in the world. I have known what a tapir is for decades and was so excited to see that someone chose this curious looking animal to be a character in a book! But first, Mango and the rest of the cast, as seen below.

Mango Allsorts (allsorts is a licorice candy that comes in all sorts of shapes and colors . . .) is good at all sort of things, but, as the narrator tells us, "that is not the same as being good." She lives in a big city at the top of a very tall building with her "papa who was also tall and very busy." When his job gets especially tough, she makes him buttered noodles. Mango is also good at karate, jumping off the highest diving board (without holding her nose) using the Sicilian Defense in chess and wiggling her ears while sucking on a lollipop. She is not good at playing the clarinet, but she is practicing. One day, heading home from karate and hoping to cross using the striped crosswalk, she spots a commotion. There, perfectly camouflaged by the black and white stripes is a quivering, crying tapir whispering about a tiger that chased him out of the jungles of Malaysia.

Mango tempts the skittish Bambang, who sees tigers everywhere (construction trucks, cats) with the promise of banana pancakes with whipped cream and syrup and the two become fast friends. They head to the public pool where Bambang has a bit of an embarrassment that ends up with finding another new friend. Next, they meet an enemy. Dr. Cynthia Prickle-Posset, a Collector of the Unusual tries to collect Bambang, but Mango puts an end to that. The fourth and final part of the book finds Mango and Bambang performing on stage, overcoming their nerves, side by side.

Faber's Mango is fiercely confident and the perfect match for Bambang, who is anxious and shy, understandably. Vulliamy brings these characters to life marvelously with her black and white illustrations, accented with lavender in this first book. There is just enough information about tapirs in Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig that readers will know that tapirs are real and hopefully will want to know more about this curious looking animal. I can't wait to know more about the adventures that Mango and Bambang get up to in the next two books in the series!





If you loved Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, or if you think you will, be sure to check out the Digby O'Day series that Vulliamy illustrates, written by her mother!

     


Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane      Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery





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7. Poetry Friday: A letter to Eliza from Alexander Hamilton

A letter from Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler, August 1780:

Impatiently My Dearest have I been expecting the return of your father to bring me a letter from my charmer with the answers you have been good enough to promise me to the little questions asked in mine by him. I long to see the workings of my Betsey's heart, and I promise my self I shall have ample gratification to my fondness in the sweet familiarity of her pen. She will there I hope paint me her feelings without reserve - even in those tender moments of pillowed retirement, when her soul abstracted from every other object, delivers itself up to Love and to me - yet with all that delicacy which suits the purity of her mind and which is so conspicuous in whatever she does.

Now that's poetry.

... and this next bit is hilarious:

It is now a week my Betsey since I have heard from you. In that time I have written you twice. I think it will be advisable in future to number our letters, for I have reason to suspect they do not all meet with fair play. This is number one.

Click here to read the full letter.

Here is Lin-Manuel Miranda reading the letter at Hamilton's #Ham4Ham show on July 6th:



If you cannot see the video player above, click here to watch it on YouTube. (Thank you, Howard Sherman.)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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8. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, 608 pp, RL 4


So, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick has been sitting on my bookshelf for almost 5 years now, looking super cool (as seen above) as it sits between The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was one of the first books I reviewed when I started this blog in 2008, and The Marvels, which I reviewed when it came out in September of last year. I have no idea why I never read it, but I finally got around to reading Wonderstruck for a handful of reasons. It's required summer reading for my son, who enters sixth grade in the fall. My brother read it out loud to his kids at dinner and, serendipitously, they encountered the film crew for the movie version of Wonderstruck, directed by Todd Haynes while on vacation in NYC this summer and one of the cast signed with my brother. Knowing that my son has to read this book, my brother and niece and nephew enjoyed it and that it is soon to be a movie directed by Todd Haynes (I wonder if the fact that Selznick has Hollywood heritage allows him to score prime directors for adaptations of his books?) was all the nudge that I needed to read it. And OF COURSE I loved it.  
Seeing as how this is a very well known, well reviewed book, I don't feel like a traditional review is merited here so I'm going to do something a little different. Museums are a major part of Wonderstruck, which is also the name of a book within this book - a fictional book published by the American Museum Natural History about museums and curation. The main character Ben has a wooden box with a engraving of a wolf on the lid, which he comes to think of as his museum box. Inside the box, Ben has crafted cardboard dividers to house the small treasures he collected over the course of his life, which he has arranged with great care. Ben's story begins in 1977 and is told in text only for the first half of the book. In tandem with Ben's plot is the story of Rose, which begins in 1927 and unfolds in illustrations only for the first half of the book. At first, the only thing Ben and Rose seem to have in common is their deafness. But, like I said, museums have a big role in this book and when their stories collide you feel, well, wonderstruck. With that in mind, I have"curated" these collages filled with images, illustrations and other items that make up the exhibit that is the novel and film (coming in 2017) Wonderstruck.


Ben remembered reading about curators in Wonderstruck, and thought about what it meant to curate your own life, as his dad had done here. What would it be like to pick and choose the objects and stories that would go into your own cabinet? How would Ben curate his own life? And then, thinking about his museum box, and his house and his books, and the secret room, he realized he'd already begun doing it. Maybe, thought Ben, we are all cabinets of wonders. 
(Wonderstruck, page 574)


As with all Brian Selznick books, the acknowledgements and author's notes are almost a story unto themselves. Selznick is a curator, a researcher, an autodidact and a scholar of whatever subject he pursues, and it is always amazing to me to read the many areas that he studied, places he visited and people he interviewed while writing a book. Near the end of his acknowledgements, after listing all the people, places and things that influenced, informed and educated him, I was very pleased to find this nod from Selznick, as this was a book I thought of often while reading Wonderstruck, "Of course, any story about kids who run away to a museum owes a debt of gratitude to E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. In order to pay back that debt, Wonderstruck is filled with references to Konigsburg and her book. How many can you spot?" I am going to have to go back and reread Wonderstruck, as I only found three nods. E. L. stands for Elaine Lobl, Konigsburg's maiden name. Selznick gives the main character's mother the name Elaine and his father the surname Lobel. A character in the book is named Jamie, which is also the name of one of the main characters in Konigsburg's Newbery winning book. If you find any, be sure to let me know!


Source: Purchased

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9. The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head by Daisy Hirst


I do not think it's at all easy to capture the way children think, their logic, the black and white way that they see the world, on the pages of a picture book. Yet with her debut, The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head, which is a mix of straightforward storytelling and, as Cory Doctorow said in his review, "pure pinkwaterian nonsense," Daisy Hirst has done exactly that, creating a picture book that is immediately embraceable and ultimately unforgettable.



Isabel is The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head and Simon, who is "very good with newts," is her friend. Until he moves away. Hirst's writing is both simple and powerful as she describes how Isabel copes with this change. 

For a while Isabel hated everything. The parrot went to sit on top of the wardrobe. Until Isabel felt quiet inside and decided to like being on her own.

Isabel did not need friends because she had a parrot on her head and a SYSTEM. 

Isabel's system involves sorting her things. One aspect of Hirst's visual story telling style that I love is her choice to color in some things and leave other things as line drawings. Mostly, the line drawings are used for Isabel's toys, but also for what are abstract, imaginary items, like THE DARK and that one, nagging thing that just might be "too big for the system." The wolf. 




Isabel heads out on her scooter, her parrot flying behind, to find a box big enough for this wolf. But when she does, she discovers that there is already something inside the perfect box. A boy. Chester, who was planning on using the box for a den ("Why not a castle?" "Why not an ostrich farm? Or a space station next to the moon?" Isabel asks) but listens as Isabel tells him about her wolf troubles. Chester takes a reasonable approach with the wolf and the results are marvelous.



Hirst ends The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head with a new beginning as Isabel and Chester, who "has a way with umbrellas and tape," get busy with their space station, which "really needed two astronauts and a parrot with a teacup on its head."

Daisy Hirst's second picture book comes out in the US in November of this year and I can't wait to get my hands on it. The title alone is fantastic! Alphonse, That is Not OK To Do! is the story of monster siblings. Natalie is a patient, mostly tolerant older sister until she finds Alphonse eating her favorite book.




Source: Review Copy

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10. Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson, 300pp, RL 4


When Ms. Bixby announces that she is very sick and won't be able to finish out the last weeks of the school year (or even finish the last 20 pages of the class read aloud, The Hobbit) Brand, Steve and Topher decide that they want to give her a proper last day. That's the nutshell summary of John David Anderson's newest novel, Ms. Bixby's Last Day. I knew that this wasn't going to be an easy read, but there was no way I was not going to read (and love) Ms. Bixby's Last Day, tissue box by my side. Anderson's book is a surprise, a delight and a reminder of why I work with kids, how a teacher (or other thoughtful adult) can make a powerful, even if seemingly small at the time, impact on a child's life and how valuable it is to be reminded of this by a work of art. But will kids want to read it?

That's what I wondered as I pored over every page - exactly who would I recommend this book to? One thing that I especially love (among many) about Ms. Bixby's Last Day is the fact that the story is told by three narrators, all sixth grade boys. In this age of (slouching toward) equality, it is a challenge to find a middle grade novel featuring all boy or all girl protagonists. The formula, for fantasy, anyway, is always boys and girls, with boys usually as the main character - think Harry, Ron and Hermione or Percy, Grover and Annabeth. It's a genuine treat to hear the voices of three different boys over the course of 300 pages. Anderson has created three characters, each of whom, to varying degrees, has things going on at home that make Ms. Bixby's unique attention so meaningful. Topher is a gifted artist who misses the way his family was before the birth of his little sister and his mom's return to the workforce. Steve, who once memorized every country (and capital, population and official language) for fun, feels inferior to his older sister, a perfectionist who meets their parents's high standards. Then there is Brand, the quiet, driving force of this trio and the feat they try to pull off while ditching school one Friday. Raised by his dad, Brand's life changed drastically when his father was paralyzed by an accident at work and his will to get back on his feet, metaphorically and literally, disappeared. 

Topher, who has classified teachers into six categories, puts Ms. Bixby into the "Good Ones" column - the kind of teachers who you "find yourself actually paying attention in class, even if it's not art class. They're the teachers you actually want to fo back an say hi to the next year. The ones you don't want to disappoint." Ms. Bixby has a talent for recognizing, valuing and nurturing what is special in her students and also for making them think. When the class is deprived of the chance to say goodbye to Ms. Bixby because the treatment for her pancreatic cancer has been pushed up, Brand, Steve and Topher decide to ditch school and take the bus to the hospital to see her. Armed with a special knowledge of how Ms. Bixby would spend her last day on earth (this was a writing prompt she gave her students, one of whom asked her what she would do) the boys carry backpacks, cash, a picnic blanket, a wine glass and more with them as they stop to try to buy the things they need for the special day and meet with obstacles they never saw coming. As Ms. Bixby's Last Day unfolds, each boy narrating part of their odyssey to make it from school to the hospital downtown, Anderson reveals things about their lives and their relationships with Ms. Bixby. He also throws in some tension between the friends along with more than a few hilarious scenes and suspenseful twists as well. Ms. Bixby's Last Day is, as Anderson says in his acknowledgements, a quiet book. There is more reflection than action, but Anderson's story telling style is masterful, with hints to meaningful moments that are revealed powerfully in later pages or chapters. Although a quiet book, Ms. Bixby's Last Day is always moving forward with Steve, Brand and Topher as they make their way to room 428 in St. Mary's Hospital.

So who will I recommend Ms. Bixby's Last Day book to when school starts up again in August? I'm still not sure. But, during the last week of June I was sorting discarded library books to give away and a coworker's daughter, who just finished 7th grade and is quiet and a bit shy, was helping me. I asked her what she likes to read and she responded adventure stories, real life, no fantasy. I pulled  a few books off the shelf for her and we sat and read, waiting for people to come to the book give away. A couple of middle school boys zipped by on their bikes and stopped to talk to me, getting a little goofy when they saw my helper. They circled around on their bikes showing off and my helper and I talked about how dumb middle school boys can be. Then I told her about the book I was reading, Ms. Bixby's Last Day, and how it started off with sixth grade boys talking about cooties and being goofy and how they wanted to visit their sick teacher. Later, as we were packing up the leftover books, she surprised me (mostly because of our discussion about dopey boys) by asking if she could borrow my copy of Ms. Bixby's Last Day. I gave her my Advance Readers Copy with the promise that she send a note to work with her mom in August telling me how she liked it. 

Source: Review Copy

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11. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

The musical Hamilton has taken Broadway - and the world - by storm. Led by the impressive Lin-Manuel Miranda, this show has inspired art, song, and activism, encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to learn from America's past and stand together to make a better tomorrow.

Hamilton: An American Musical was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show's book, music, and lyrics and also starred in the title role. The show, which is based on the real life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, blends hip-hop with traditional musical theatre storytelling. It was nominated for a record-setting 16 Tony Awards with 11 wins. It was inspired Ron Chernow's acclaimed biography of Alexander Hamilton.

Now there's another book to join the ranks: Hamilton: The Revolution. Lovingly referred to as the Hamiltome by fans and creators alike, the full title of this publication is as follows:


Hamilton
the Revolution
Being the complete libretto
of the
Broadway musical,
with a true account of
its creation,
and concise remarks on
hip-hop, the power of stories,
and the new America



Try saying that three times fast. (Daveed Diggs probably could.)

Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, the Hamiltome belongs in both the history section and the musical theatre section of the library. It contains a full libretto of the show, with lyrics for every single song in the production, accompanied by full-color photographs from the show. The musical is mostly sung-through, with very little dialogue that isn't accompanied by music, so this book truly contains the complete libretto.

But that isn't even half of it. The book is chock-full of interviews with the cast and creatives, describing the path the show took from inception to production, from Lin singing a draft of the first song at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009 to the workshop in 2013 to the move to Broadway in 2015 and everything in-between and beyond. Lin provides over 200 footnotes, noting the beats, lyrics, and lines that were inspired by other artists, rappers, composers, and characters in other musicals, films, and TV shows (what's up, Leslie Knope?)

You want behind-the-scenes pictures? Hamiltome has 'em. Dig the real stuff, quotes from historical documents and Hamilton's personal letters? That's there, too. One of my favorite things about this book is its thoughtful and candid insight into the creative process, with interviews and input from Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, music director Alex Lacamoire, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, producers, and more. I also love that it names and compliments every single member of the cast, shining the spotlight on individuals in pages surrounding their character's solos or standout moments, celebrating the talents and importance of the ensemble.

This show is impressive not only in what it accomplishes on stage, but also offstage: It has encouraged people to discuss America's past, present, and future. It also helped lots of high school students with their AP History tests. It has broken the traditional casting mold and given performers opportunities to play characters they might not otherwise. It has given new voice to an old story.

It's been said time and time again: Hamilton the musical is America then as told by America now.

As someone who has followed Lin's career for a decade and thus soaked up every bit of Hamilton since that fateful White House presentation, I am very happy that the show has had such an impact - and as a bookworm since birth, I am very happy that this show has such an awesome book to put in the hands of history buffs and musical theatre aficionados alike. Three cheers for the Hamiltome.

Read an excerpt.

Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda's performance at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009, accompanied by Alex Lacamoire.

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12. Rage against the dying of the light…

Many individual people in the book trade have expressed their thoughts and anger about the deaths of people of color (and others) over the last few hours, days, nights, years. Yes, how long? Decades long. While words will almost never substitute actions (which is critical NOW), as a unit, as Lux Mentis, we are expressing [...]

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13. Poetry Friday: Ulysses by Josh Garrels

I'm holding onto hope that one day this could be made right
'Cause I've been shipwrecked
and left for dead
and I have seen the darkest sights

Everyone I've loved seems like a stranger in the night
But, oh, my heart still burns
Tells me to return
and search the fading light

I'm sailing home to you
I won't be long
By the light of moon
I will press on
Until I find my love

Trouble has beset my ways and wicked winds have blown
Sirens call my name
They say they'll ease my pain
Then break me on the stones

But true love is the burden that will carry me back home
Carry me with the memories of the beauty I have known

I'm sailing home to you
I won't be long
By the light of moon
I will press on
Until I find my love

So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home
Before I lose the one I love
Before my chance is gone
I want to hold her in my arms

- Ulysses by Josh Garrels



If you can't see the video player above, click here to listen to the song.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

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14. The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane by Peter Pearson, illustrated by Mircea Catusanu



There were two things that made me sure that I wanted to read  Peter Pearson's debut picture book and they both appear in the title. I am certain that I would read any picture book with the words, "The Bad Idea Book Club" in the title, regardless of what comes next. And I feel certain that I would choose to read a book titled, "How to Eat and Airplane," even if it is not presented by the Bad Idea Book Club. Happily, these two intriguing, funny phrases appear in one place - The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat and Airplane, fantastically illustrated by Mircea Catusanu. Pearson has written a book that is weird and clever and funny and fascinating and informative, which is quite a feat. 



The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane is both a book of etiquette and party planing because, as you learn right from the start, "The truth is, most airplanes are too large to eat by yourself, so if you want to eat an airplane you should have a party. Invite guests." This makes perfect sense, and Pearson's tone of helpfulness throughout the book adds to the humor. Guests are greeted at the gate, where carry on bags are stowed somewhere far away from the meal so "they don't get eaten by mistake." Introductions are made, toasts are given, as are tips on how to handle a guest who arrives late. Naturally, you hand them a "glass of jet fuel as they recite the Tardiness Toast: To friends and clocks and paradox. I'm usually on time. Oops." I am tucking that one away for later use!



As the meal ends and the guests find themselves at "full capacity," the host should urge guests to pack a "suitcase full of leftovers to bring home." Even though everyone is surely stuffed, it is polite to offer desert and the final illustrations show an ince cream truck driving up the tarmac. Pearson ends The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane with an Author's Note that truly surprised me - this book was inspired by actual events. From 1978 to 1980 Michel Lotito ate an entire Cesna 150 airplane. The final four pages of the book are filled with interesting airplane facts, such as: "When you fly in an airplane, stars don't twinkle like they do from the ground. The twinkling is caused by the air above you."

The jacket flap for The Bad Idea Book Club Presents: How to Eat an Airplane promises that upcoming titles in the Bad Idea Book Club "might or might not include," How to Camp Underwater, How to Fold the Sun, How to Walk a Dump Truck, and How to Catch a Piano. Whatever comes next, I will be reading it!

Source: Review Copy

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15. Poor Little Guy by Elanna Allen



Elanna Allen has designed characters and directed animation for Disney Junior, Nick Jr and PBS and this experience shows in her second picture book, Poor Little Guy. With just a handful of characters and words, Allen tells a minimalist story that is genuinely entertaining and unforgettable.




The Poor Little Guy of the title is a bespectacled puffer fish just swimming along, trying to do his own thing, but an octopus has other ideas. Like a cat with a mouse, the marshmallowy, grinning octopus thinks up game after game to play with the poor little guy.



Allen's illustrations are magnificent, artistic and playful at once. Her hand lettered text weaves itself into the illustrations, adding to the story. A limited palette is used expertly, the shades of the ocean background shifting with the rise and fall of the plot. The expressions of the characters tell the story as much as the words do and it's hard to not feel a little sorry for the octopus when the inevitable happens and he pops the puffer fish in his mouth. As with all great picture books, Allen wraps up Poor Little Guy with another (dangerous) surprise that flows out, marvelously, onto the endpapers.




Source: Review Copy

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16. The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, 321 pp, RL 4


Laura Marx Fitzgerald says that her two favorite books (which also happen to be my two childhood favorites) are The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This love and appreciation shines through when you read either of her two books. Marx debuted in 2014 with Under the Egg, a mystery novel that combined a treasure hunt with a work of art, World War II and the dying words of a grandfather to his granddaughter. With The Gallery, Marx continues to weave art and mystery, this time setting her story in the past.

It's 1928 in New York City and Martha O'Doyle has been kicked out of Catholic school for faking "lady complaints" one time too many and asking Sister Ignatius why Eve was punished for wanting knowledge when, in fact, isn't that what we're all "sent here to do? Learn things?" Martha is a girl who notices the world around her and finds ways to move about in it and also a girl who isn't afraid to ask questions. This makes her perfectly suited to rescue the crazy woman who is being held in the attic of the 5th Avenue mansion of Mr. J. Archer Sewell, publisher of the Daily Standard.

Marx does a fantastic job of layering historical events and characters into her story, from Prohibition to the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti to Yellow Journalism and the race for president between Herbert Hoover and Al Smith. This definitely adds a richness to the novel, as well as sense of tarnish starting to show on the waning Gilded Age, but my favorite thread in The Gallery is the story that Marx tells using real works of art. Martha story begins with a discussion of knowledge and her being kicked out of school. Her mother, the head housekeeper at Mr. Sewell's 5th Avenue mansion, puts her to work as a scullery maid and Martha's real education begins. 

Martha is intrigued by the crazy woman, the former Rose Pritchard, now Mrs. J. Archer Sewell, with a guard sleeping outside her door, and her art collection, which she keeps locked in her room with her instead of the gallery inside the mansion where it once was hung. When Martha forgets to put the "special sugar" that Mr. Sewell acquires specially for Rose, on her evening porridge and (coincidentally?) Rose has an outburst, Martha is removed from her kitchen duties and sent to clean the house, where she has more time to talk to Alphonse, the footman of indeterminate European origin but rich with knowledge of languages, mythology and art history. As Martha learns more about the singular painting (which can change at any moment) that Rose decides to let leave her room and hang on the wall of the mansion, she realizes that Rose is sending a message with each painting, a message Martha is determined to decode.

The Gallery is a story that is populated with fascinating female characters. Martha's mother is struggling to support Martha and her twin sons while her errant, alcoholic husband is on the road performing his vaudeville act with two skeletons he won in a bet. She is also fiercely proud of the job she does keeping the mansion running and the "teamwork" that Mr. Sewell speaks of with his staff. She lets Martha know that, back in Ireland, she could never have risen to this position and had the opportunity be treated as an (almost) equal by the master of the house. And, just when you think that Ma will be too enchanted by Mr. Sewell and his false flattery to do the right thing, she suprises you. Then there is Rose, the wild Rose who rebelled against her father's wealth and sense of propriety, going undercover to work in one of his factories, traveling the world by cargo ship and joining union picket lines. Meanwhile, she also collected artwork by Picasso, Rosetti, Courbet, Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Gentileschi. Sometimes, Martha herself seems to pale in comparison, but her combination of naiveté and street smarts make her the perfect protagonist.

Source: Review Copy & Purchased Audio Book


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17. Best Books of June 2016

Summer has been busy so far! In June, I read 9 books and scripts, none of which are published yet, so I can't expand on them any further at this time.

But while I have your attention, if you want to share the love of reading, if you have gently used books you'd like to donate to a good cause, if you want to get books in the hands of eager readers, please check out Just. One. Book. Thank you!

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18. Poetry Friday: Youth and Age by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Flowers are lovely;
Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree

- from Youth and Age by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Read the full poem here.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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19. “Punk is Dead” at RBMS 2016

We are pleased to announce the second of two RBMS 2016 exclusive catalogs. We made an extremely small print edition to distribute at RBMS [inquire!!!] There will be a pdf. available on the Lux Mentis website, but are excited to debut it as a flip catalog [N.B. there is a FullScreen button in the navbar and a .pdf download option].

 

Contact us with questions or find us at RBMS at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. #rbms16

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20. “Sex, Death, and the Devil” at RBMS 2016

We are pleased to announce the first of two RBMS 2016 exclusive catalogs. We made an extremely small print edition to distribute at RBMS [inquire!!!] There will be a pdf. available on the Lux Mentis website, but are excited to debut it as a flip catalog [N.B. there is a FullScreen button in the navbar and a .pdf download option].

Contact us with questions or find us at RBMS at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. #rbms16

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21. Science Comics: Coral Reefs - Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks AND Dinosaurs - Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood, 120 pp, RL 3


The fantastic publisher FirstSecond, whose motto is precisely and perfectly, "Great graphic novels for every reader," started a new non-fiction series for kids this year. Science Comics: Get to Know Your Universe debuts with superb creators and subjects, Coral Reef: Cities in the Ocean by Maris Wicks and Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed  and Joe Flood

Wicks, author of the excellent non-fiction graphic novel for kids, Human Body Theater, worked as a part-time program educator at the New England Aquarium and just spent two months doing scientific outreach for  Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on board the R/V Atlantis! Her passion and knowledge shine through in Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean and her introduction is definitely worth reading, especially when she tells readers that we, "make choices that impact the environment with every dollar you spend, every action you take, and every vote that you cast," and encourages us to plant a milkweed, listing all the benefits of giving Monarch butterflies a food source and breeding habitat that can trickle down and benefit the dying coral reefs. With humor and an understanding for her audience, Wicks starts big with a first chapter titled, "What is Coral?" describing the classification system. Chapter Two, "How and Where Coral Reefs are Formed," where I learned that, despite the fact that coral reefs occupy about 1% of the earth's surface, cora reefs are home to more than 25% of all the animals found in the ocean! Chapter Three, "The Coral Reef Ecosystem Explored" takes a closer look at the 25% of the sea life living there and Chapter Four, "How are Coral Reefs Connected to the Rest of the Planet?" is the longest and possibly most important chapter in the book. From start to finish, Wicks makes Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean as vibrantly bright and compelling as a healthy coral reef with her popping palette and engaging writing style. A glossary, bibliography and additional resources included in the back matter.




I have to, with great embarrassment, confess that, despite learning a fair bit about dinosaurs as each of my three children went through that phase of fascination, I tend to think of them as static. Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, by MK Reed and Joe Flood, with an introduction by a dinosaur expert, changed my mind in a big way. In his introduction alone, Leonard Finkleman, Ph.D points out the many things that continue to be discovered about dinosaurs, as well as dinosaurs themselves, including the fact that once we didn't even know that dinosaurs lived on every continent. He goes on to write that Reed and Flood bring a "balance of science, philosophy, and history," to their book that is, "informative, funny, and, above all else, imaginative," noting that the lesson of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers is that scientific discovery is very different from normal discovery. Finkleman writes, "Rather than limiting our imaginations, scientific discovery lets us imagine more about the world around us." With that in mind, Wicks and Flood follow paleontologists through history as they try to solve the greatest mystery of all, what happened to the dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers begins with a little time traveling, showing readers how ancient humans discovering dinosaur fossils thought they were anything from cyclopes to elephants to griffins. In the year 1800, these ideas changed radically when Mary Anning made remarkable finds on the Dorset coast, spending the next 35 years fossil hunting. They also detail the backhanded, sometimes dishonest machinations of the men who made these discoveries and pronouncements and delivered papers about these dinosaurs.



Joe Flood's illustrations are perfectly matched to the subject matter of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. While the illustrations of the dinosaurs are full of action and expression. The panels with humans present more of a challenge, because of the mostly Victorian time period and somewhat static nature of their roles int he story, yet Flood makes these compelling, especially through the expressions of the characters. There are notes, a glossary and further reading as well as two superb representations of the periods of the dinosaurs. Despite all this amazing information and illustrations, my favorite part of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers comes at the end when the author and illustrator put themselves on the page an error in the text. There are 11 years between my oldest and youngest child. I learned that the big herbivore with the long neck was called the brontosaurus when my first child went through her dinosaur phase. By the time my youngest was going through his we learned that it was now reclassified as an Apatosaurus. On this page, Reed and Flood explain that, a few weeks before this book was due at the printer, researchers concluded that there was in fact enough difference between the two to make the Brontosaurus its own genus again, with a fact box noting that the Brontosaurus is now, "MK and Joe's least favorite dinosaur." With humor and knowledge, Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers proves that dinosaurs are anything but static.




Coming October, 2016 and February, 2017



Source: Review Copies

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22. You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour, 256 pp, RL: TEEN



David Levithan is one of my top five favorite writers of YA fiction. His a gifted writer when it comes to getting the intricacies and delicacies of relationships - be they platonic or romantic - on the page, and his work always reminds me that making and maintaining connections is possibly the most important work we can do. Besides being an editor at Scholastic, Levithan is the author/co-author of twenty books! His newest, You Know Me Well, written with Nina LaCour, is the dual narrative of Mark and Kate, junior and senior at the same high school who, before bumping into each other at a bar in the Castro district on the first night of Pride Week, had never spoken to each other.

Mark and Kate are at a crossroads with their longtime best friends and feeling pushed to change. Mark, varsity baseball playing, straight A student is good looking enough to get asked if he is a model and secretly in love with Ryan. Ryan, who is not out, takes a big step forward, just not with Mark. Kate, a painter headed to UCLA who is having a crisis of confidence, and Lehna have been best friends since second grade. They came out to their parents, together, when they were fourteen, but lately it seems like Lehna is a different person. Lehna's cousin, Violet, has been traveling the world with her photo journalist mother, and is the girl of Kate's dreams. When she finally gets the chance to meet Violet, Lehna almost sabotages the moment and Kate sabotages herself. That's when Kate and Mark, a little heartbroken, scared and confused, find a new friendship with each other - and find a way to keep the old friendships that seem to be falling apart.

Mark and Kate both go through emotionally painful confrontations with Ryan and Lehna, Mark's being especially raw. It is moving to watch these new friends as they support each other through challenges and encourage each other to say what they are feeling. Violet acts as both the glue and catalyst that keep Mark and Kate moving forward in You Know Me Well. But it's not all strum und drang for Mark and Kate. A David Levithan novel usually includes some kind of late night adventure and chasing a mysterious person (or band) and a Nina LaCour novel usually includes some sort of artistic, creative expression. You Know Me Well has all of this, from a party in a mansion on Russian Hill where a photographer and his friends turn the two into Instagram stars to a poetry slam to an art gallery opening and a charity auction, all with the festivities of Pride Week in San Francisco as a backdrop.

Reviews have called You Know Me Well a fairy tale story filled with "it gets better optimism," noting the impossibility of Mark and Kate really becoming friends and the high capacity of "emotional switchbacks" packed into one week. To me, You Know Me Well  is a work of art. It takes some of the hard truths and lessons of being alive, being human and becoming an adult, and presents them in a way that, while it may not be entirely realistic, lets me look into other people's lives, empathize and learn. As an adult, I find it more hopeful and uplifting to read YA fiction where the characters are just beginning to make and learn from their relationship mistakes.




Books by Nina LaCour</a>




 My reviews of a few of the many books by David Levithan

                       
                      Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist              Two Boys Kissing



And coming this October!



Source: Purchased Audio Book

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23. Ferocious Fluffity: A Mighty Bite-y Class Pet by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole


Ferocious Fluffity: A Mighty Bite-y Class Pet is a rhyming cautionary tale about getting to know a pet before you interact with it. Just hearing the title of this new book by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole and you know you are in for a good laugh. And, even though I knew what was coming, I still laughed out loud and had to put the book down for a minute when it happened. 



What knocks Ferocious Fluffity out of the park are Perl's perfectly paced rhymes and Cole's expressively hilarious illustrations. Even though Mr. Drake, the teacher cautions the class, "Look -don't touch. She's too little. It's too much," the one morning he is late to school and the class can't wait to get their hands on Fluffity. They find out very quickly that Fluffity can't wait to get her teeth in them...  Cole's illustrations of the ferocious hamster lunging, teeth bared, are fantastic. Once things settle down and Fluffity is back in her cage, the class figures out how to meet her needs (with more hilarious illustrations) and they even feel ready for a second class pet. I'll give you a clue - this pet's name (and species) rhymes with cake.

Source: Review Copy



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24. The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt




Michelle Robinson's elevator pitch for her newest picture book The Forgetful Knight, illustrated by Fred Blunt, goes like this, "A medieval, Monty Python-esque romp that you'll never forget - unless you get bashed on the head by a dragon." To this spot on description I would also add that playful rhyming tells this clever tale, which has illustrations that equally match the silliness of the story, calling to mind the fantastic Fractured Fairy Tales as seen on the Rocky & Bullwinkle show.

The Forgetful Knight begins, "Once upon an olden day / A knight in armor rode away. / Then again . . . / He had no horse. / Did I say 'rode'? / He strode, of course."  The knight strides across the land, a sandwich in his hand. No, not a sandwich, a sword. But what is he off to do? If he could just remember! Eventually, the knight gets there - both mentally and physically, remembering that he needs to slay a dragon, the dragon who ate his best friend and faithful steed, along with a lot of people's pets. Happily, Sir Clopalot has not been digested and one good headbutt causes a cough from the dragon big enough to send all his lunches back out onto dry land, so to speak.


The Forgetful Knight doesn't end there. The knight makes further demands of the dragon, some more head bashing between the two goes on and some feelings are hurt, then mended. Then comes the big reveal - the narrator just happens to be the Forgetful Knight himself! Robinson and Blunt have created a very fun book that is a joy to read out loud and sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Source: Review Copy 

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25. Poetry Friday: A Pinch of Salt by Robert Graves

When a dream is born in you
With a sudden clamorous pain,
When you know the dream is true
And lovely, with no flaw nor stain,
O then, be careful, or with sudden clutch
You'll hurt the delicate thing you prize so much.

Dreams are like a bird that mocks,
Flirting the feathers of his tail.
When you seize at the salt-box
Over the hedge you'll see him sail.
Old birds are neither caught with salt nor chaff:
They watch you from the apple bough and laugh.

Poet, never chase the dream.
Laugh yourself and turn away.
Mask your hunger, let it seem
Small matter if he come or stay;
But when he nestles in your hand at last,
Close up your fingers tight and hold him fast.

- A Pinch of Salt by Robert Graves

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