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26. 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

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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27. 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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28. “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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29. “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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30. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 587 pp, RL 4


I missed Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan when it came out in February of 2015. Scholastic is one of the few publishers I don't get review copies from and, working in a library instead of a bookstore now, I an not as up on what's new in the world of kid's books as I once was. I even missed the March, 2015 review of Echo in the New York Times Book Reivew, which I usually scour. Echo crossed my radar in January of this year when it won a Newbery Honor, along with two other superb books, The War that Saved My Life and Roller Girl. While I hate the fact that I didn't read Echo right when it came out, I am so, so glad that I knew absolutely NOTHING about it (save that it won an award) before I began listening/reading it. Having worked with and been an avid reader of children's literature for more than 20 years, I've kind of read it all. There aren't too many plots or characters that surprise me or feel really new and original. Echo surprised me - it's as if A. S. Byatt, an author of novels for adults that are magnificently crafted and often centered around a work of art - wrote a kid's book. If you want to be surprised by a story and you trust me and the librarians who hand out the Newbery awards, stop reading my review after the next sentence and go out and get your hands on a copy of Echo. Actually, I very, very strongly suggest LISTENING to the audio of this book (as well as buying it - you WILL want to own it) because - tiny spoiler alert - music is an integral part of Echo, and you get to hear it in the audio.

Stop reading HERE if you want to be surprised
****************************************







I was definitely surprised when I started listening to Echo and there were music credits before the story began. I was especially surprised when harmonica music kicked in. Like several minor characters in the book, I, too, did not take the harmonica seriously - nor did I notice the drawing (wonderful artwork by Dinara Mirtalipova) of one on the cover and spine of Echo! Echo is a work of historical fiction wrapped in the cloak of a fairy tale that is ultimately a story about the power of music to, "pass along . . . strength and vision and knowledge," and even overcome fear, intolerance and hatred. The story visits three very different children at three different times, starting in 1933 and ending in 1942. The common thread that connects these three children is their passion for music, embodied, at that time, in the harmonicas that they own. Surrounding these stories is the tale of a boy that begins just before the start of the 20th century. From a Gypsy, who presses a mouth harp on him for free, he buys a book titled, The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger. The book tells the story of three abandoned princesses with beautiful singing voices. Trapped in the woods under the spell of a witch, they need a messenger to take something out into the world for them, something that will break the spell. Becoming lost in the woods, Otto meets the three princesses from the book. Desperate to know the end of their story, they enchant the harmonica that the Gypsy gave him and he agrees to send it into the world where, if it can "save a soul from Death's dark door," the spell will break and the princesses can return home.

The stories of the three central children in Echo would have been a satisfying book on their own, but linking them with the fairy tale of the three sisters imbues Ryan's novel with a quality of hopefulness and beauty, much like the sound of a well played harmonica. Part one begins in 1933, in Tossingen, Germany, with young Friedrich, a gifted musician. Part two begins in Pennsylvania, 1935. The third and final part begins in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, in California, a harmonica at the heart of each story. Friedrich has a port wine birthmark on his face and suffers from seizures. Hitler's persecution of physically disabled forces Friedrich and his family to make difficult choices and his story ends without closure, his life in danger. Part two, features orphan brothers, the eldest of whom is a gifted musician, with his only hope for survival hinging on his ability to make it into a renowned harmonica band. Mike and Frankie are adopted by a painfully grieving heiress who needs to produce an heir to keep her fortune, their story also ending in a moment of danger and uncertainty. Finally, Ryan turns to Ivy Maria Lopez, shining a light on xenophobia and racism. 

It is Fresno, 1942, and Ivy is the child of migrant farm workers. Her brother, Fernando, has just enlisted and her father has just accepted a job running a farm in Orange County. When they arrive at the farm, the Lopez's discover that it belongs to a Japanese-American family that has been sent to an interment camp. Their oldest child, a son in the Marines, is coming home on leave to sign the running of the property over to Mr. Lopez, if he approves of him. Ivy, and her parents, struggle to understand how the Yamamoto family, with a father who fought in WWI and a son fighting in WWII could be treated this way, while at the same time Ivy experiences racism and segregation when she learns that she is not allowed to attend her neighborhood school, but must go to one that will "Americanize" children like her. Living in California and working with the children of immigrants, many of whom are also the children of migrant workers, this part of the story resonated most with me.

The last two parts of the novel tie together all three stories in a marvelous, deeply satisfying way that had me weeping. Ryan returns to the fairy tale, bookending Echo with the conclusion to the story of the three princesses as well as the story of Otto, now the messenger, and the enchanted harmonica that he must send out into the world and how it gets there. Echo is a big book, but as many reviewers have said, and as was my experience, you will soar through it, drawn along by the beauty if Ryan's writing, the craft of her story and the humanity of her characters.

Source: Purchased Book & Audio Book




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31. Project (Un)Popular by Kristen Tracy

Yearbooks are designed to capture a year in a life of a school as a whole - not an individual student. So some students might assess their yearbook as a good summary of the past year, covering a lot of activities they attended and people they know, filled with fond memories and good times, while others might not see themselves reflected in those pages, and/or they might not be too keen to remember some of the events of the year.

In Kristen Tracy's new book Project (Un)Popular, Perry and her best friend, Venice, are super excited to be photographers for their middle school yearbook. They soon find themselves under the command of Anya, an eighth grader who tells them they're supposed to take pictures of the popular kids. She even gives them a list of specific students to photograph. Perry is upset - not only by Anya's directions, but also by the fact that her buddy Venice is buddying up to a boy in yearbook that Perry doesn't really like.

Can Perry stay on Anya's good side while defying her orders, regain Venice's attention, AND get the yearbook to accurately capture the experience of all different kinds of kids? Plus there's homework and history projects and quizzes and tests and lunchroom horrors and fashion fiascos on top of all that. That's a lot of stuff for her to handle. No one said middle school was easy, but no one told her it would be this hard. If only life was as happy and easy as it looked in those photographs...

I recommend Project (Un)Popular to tweens, especially to sixth and seventh graders who will really get all that Perry's going through as she tries to navigate the social hierarchy of middle school. As with Kristen Tracy's other novels, there's a levity to the narrative and the dialogue while still being very true to what goes on in school hallways and homes.

This book is the first in a series. The release date and title for the second book hasn't been announced yet. Stay tuned.

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32. Just. One. Book.

Margaret at the blog Throwing Chanclas recently shared the plight of a school in her neighborhood:

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the "check outs" for old books are in the 1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It's an uninviting place. There hasn't been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren't allowed. The last eight years students couldn't even check out books.

But all that is changing now.


Margaret is now collecting books for the library. Let's help out! You can donate books via their Amazon wishlist or by sending books directly to the address below. For more informaion, please email Margaret and visit her blog.

Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy
Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia
117 Grand Street
Greenville, CA 95947

If sending during the month of July, when school is closed, please send to:

Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947

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33. Poetry Friday: I Dream'd in a Dream by Walt Whitman

I dream'd in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth;
I dream’d that was the new City of Friends;
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love - it led the rest;
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
And in all their looks and words.

- 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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34. Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke



Ben Hatke is a gifted graphic novelist who creates stories perfectly balance themes of family, bravery, and belonging with wonderfully detailed illustrations and characters you won't forget. For his second picture book, Nobody Likes a Goblin, Hatke visits a medieval world where even a goblin needs a friend.


Goblin has a daily routine, and his best friend, Skeleton, is part of it. Skeleton lives in the Treasure Room and one day while  he and Goblin are goofing around with the treasures, the room is raided! Goblin decides to abandon the safety of his routine and head out into the world to find his friend. He stops to as a hill troll if he has seen anything and in the process agrees to find the troll's "Honk-Honk," which was also plundered. The troll's parting words warn Goblin to be careful because, "Nobody like a Goblin." Across the fields and through the village, with an angry horde (that includes a few warrior women) on his little green tail, Goblin searches and rescues. The two hide out in a cave where Goblin finds his tribe. Together, with a ghost and one of the warrior women, the new tribe delivers Honk-Honk to his owner and settles down in the dungeon for a fine feast.


This adventurous and rollicking story might sound simple, but Hatke's magnificent watercolor and ink illustrations add an an almost cinematic layer to the text. There are many little details to be pored over and humans and creatures alike to be examined. The palette is gently pastoral, making the creatures and the action less than scary, despite the caves, bats, rats and skeletons. Nobody Likes a Goblin is enchanting, entertaining and timeless.



Source: Review Copy

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35. Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, illustrated by Sara Watts, 350 pp, RL 4



I love books about books and I love mysteries. However, especially in the world of children's literature, it's very challenging to find a well written book of either genre, let alone both together. A solid, believable mystery often means character development is sacrificed. Or, as in two of my all-time favorites, The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, superb character development overshadows the mystery that sets the plot in motion. As an eleven-year-old reader, Ellen Raskin's characters, from Turtle to Theo Theodorakis to Sydelle Pulaski, stuck in my memory well into adulthood. But, as a kid, I was also a little disappointed that the actual clue-gathering game in the book wasn't entirely solvable for readers. With Book ScavengerJennifer Chambliss Bertman has written a miraculous middle grade novel that almost perfectly balances character development with a solid, believable, puzzle filled mystery that readers can unravel themselves. Even better, the mystery revolves around books and book lovers! Add to this Sarah Watts's charming illustrations and you have an unforgettable book with character you will want to spend time with again.

Book Scavenger is Bertman's debut novel and it is masterfully written, especially when considering the multitude of details she weaves into the plot and her characters, making it almost feel like three or four books in one. When she was a baby, Emily Crane's parents decided they wanted to live in all fifty states. Emily's mom even started a blog about their experiences called 50 Homes in 50 States. As Book Scavenger begins, the Cranes are moving from New Mexico to San Francisco. Emily is growing tired of not being able to set down roots, and Bertman writes poignantly of her growing frustration with this. However, as a dedicated Book Scavenger, she is thrilled to be moving to the home base of publisher, puzzle master, book lover and eccentric, Garrison Griswold. Like Chris Gabenstein's  game creator, Mr. Lemoncello, Griswold is a bit of a Willy Wonka-type. However, Griswold's puzzles revolve around books, and his Book Scavenger website allows participants to hide books (you can even purchase clever book disguises from the website) and leave clues for other Book Scavengers to find it. Bertman's rules for book scavenging open Book Scavenger and are very well thought out and doable. So doable, in fact, that she created a low-key version of Griswold's game that you can play here!

Emily has the good luck to meet James, upstairs neighbor and grandson of the owner of the building her family moves into. James is a puzzler, although not a Book Scavenger, and he helps Emily decode an especially difficult clue to a book. Emily, James and Matthew head down to the Ferry Building to look for the book and, on their way home discover an even better hidden book. Just the day before, as he was on his way to announce his newest literary-puzzle-scavenge-game, Griswold was attacked and left unconscious. Emily finds the book that was to start the games, an edition of Edgar Allan Poe's, "The Gold-Bug." In the short story, the protagonist cracks a cryptogram that he hopes will lead him to a buried treasure and Griswold has a similar mystery planned for his followers. Emily quickly realizes that the book she found is part of Griswold's new game and that she is being followed, possibly by Griswold's attackers. With James's help, along with Hollister, a dreadlocked bookstore owner who was best friends and partners with Griswold decades ago, they rush to uncover the mystery and find the treasure - if there is one.

Bertman does a magnificent job weaving literary references and puzzles of all kinds into Book Scavenger. Set in San Francisco, the Beat writers, from Kerouac to Ginsberg to Ferlinghetti and his landmark City Lights Bookstore are part of the plot. In addition to the challenge of Griswold's new game, Emily struggles to be a good friend to James, mend her relationship with Matthew and ultimately tell her parents that she does not want to be part of their adventure anymore. Matthew is also a well developed character and his devotion to a band called Flush along with his homemade videos using their music, dovetail seamlessly with the mystery and adventure of Book Scavenger. As with all children's books, the bad guys can't be that bad. The villain in Book Scavenger is a sour sort with a sense of entitlement that drives him to drastic measures, but it is really the goons he hires to do his dirty work who commit the crime of shooting Griswold in the subway at the start of the novel. 


Finally, Bertman works in references to Masquerade, the picture book written and illustrated by Kit Williams that was published in 1979 and promised clues to a buried treasure. I remember seeing Masquerade in a bookstore shortly after it was published and begin intrigued by the beautiful illustrations, not realizing that there was a treasure - and controversy - connected to this book. Masquerade, along with a family connection to Edgar Allan Poe, all of which are explained in Bertman's notes at the end of the book, inspire Griswold in his literary game creations.




Coming January, 2017!!!



Source: Purchased Book and Audio Book


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for more reviews of books that are mysteries with puzzles, like these:












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36. Poetry Friday: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

As I laid down my pen, a moment since, to think of it, the air from the sea came blowing in again, mixed with the perfume of the flowers; and I saw the old-fashioned furniture brightly rubbed and polished, my aunt's inviolable chair and table by the round green fan in the bow-window, the drugget-covered carpet, the cat, the kettle-holder, the two canaries, the old china, the punchbowl full of dried rose-leaves, the tall press guarding all sorts of bottles and pots, and, wonderfully out of keeping with the rest, my dusty self upon the sofa, taking note of everything.

- from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

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37. Red's Planet by Eddie Pittman, 192 pp, RL 4


Red's Planet is the first in a comic book series from Eddie Pittman. Pittman, who says he taught himself to draw in the back of math class, has been a professional cartoonist, working in animation, comics and illustration for over 25 years. He has worked on films like Mulan, Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, Lilo & Stitch and The Emperor's New Groove and most recently the show Phineas & Ferb and the influence this work has on his graphic novel is delightfully evident, in both the bright color palette and cinematic sweep of his panels. And, Red's Planet is overflowing with visually fantastic, fascinating characters that I want to get to know better. At first glance, I feel like I can almost begin to guess their back stories. And, while Red's Planet is the first book in the series and almost entirely set up for the rest of the series, every panel of every page is engrossing and exciting. There will be many, many readers waiting for the second book, due out Spring 2017!


Red's Planet begins with a spooky UFO abduction in the dark of night on a country road. An old guy and his dog are zapped up into a triangular ship and never seen again. This story, "The Mysterious Zeke Hainey Incident," is being read out loud to a roomful of kids by another kid. We quickly learn that Red (we never learn her real name) is one of many foster children, headed down to breakfast and out the door to the bus. Red has intentionally worn non-regulation shoes and tells the kids she is headed home to change. Instead, she plays hooky and ends up in the backseat of a police car in big trouble. Instead of juvie, Red finds herself gone the route of Zeke Hainey. 

Like all good interplanetary stories, readers find themselves in a bustling marketplace. Here, the Aquilari, "ancients of Chelonia, collectors of time, the last sages of the wandering," and they are on a mission to collect rare items - and creatures. The police car with Red in it, as well as a few other things, make it onto the ship, but things are quickly going pear shaped again for Red as the Uskog pirates demand their treasure, which they believe is on the ship. As battle ensues, the ship veers off course and lands on a dusty planet that Red thinks looks like Texas. A multitude of aliens emerge and begin making sense of things, shunning Red left and right. 

Red manages to befriend Tahee, a cute, big-eyed fuzzy guy who, when the ship took off, grabbed a strange glowing egg that he now carries everywhere with him. Red makes some dangerous foes but also a new friend in the crotchety Goose, a feline in a Hawaiian shirt who is sort of a forest ranger for the planet. With his grudging help, she and Tahee manage to get the rest of the aliens to safety, but first they get a glimpse at the amazing cargo that the Aquilari - and their robot boss who, after taking a rock to the head is a bit loopy - are collecting...

Source: Review Copy

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38. Forever and always: Newbery and Caldecott confidentiality

Currently, members of the Newbery and Caldecott committees serve with the understanding that they may never tell what happened during the deliberations.

However, there has been a recent conversation about whether there should be a statute of limitations on confidentiality. Should committee members be allowed to tell part or all of what happened in the discussions? Should there be a period of years after which the records can open?  This month’s edition of School Library Journal has three wonderful articles about the issue.

I am fascinated by this conversation. Riveted. And here’s the crazy thing. I agree with all three points of view.

I agree with K.T. Horning that there is an amazing potential for researchers. I don’t want to know who said what, but I would love to know the larger issues. How did those brave committees who bucked trends do it? How did they come to consensus? What was the thought process in the room when The Invention of Hugo Cabret or A Visit to William Blake’s Innwon? And once and for all, wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out why Secret of the Andes beat Charlotte’s Web?

Forever is a long time not to know.

I agree with Ed Spicer that it would be freeing to tell everything. It would be marvelous to tell a creator that just because their book wasn’t honored doesn’t mean it wasn’t under consideration, that no one loved it or fought for it. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a great work of art.  Former committee members can’t answer questions of why a particular book did or didn’t make the final cut for the rest of their lives.  And when questions arise about unusual choices committees make, it is a long time not to be able to defend yourself.

Forever is a long time to keep a secret.

I agree with Dan Santat that it can be better not to know. The magic is preserved.  Do we really want to know that a classic book barely squeaked by? Do we want to know all the reasons those fifteen people in that room rejected one book and anointed another? Do we want to know which book lost by a small margin? Do we want the creators to be concerned about all their decisions and choices when they create their next book?

Forever is a long time to doubt yourself.

There’s an additional issue for me. If we lifted the veil, what would we reveal, especially for the recent committees? The process is so secret that ballots are destroyed and official notes aren’t kept. If we opened the files for recent pivotal years, would we find the answers we’re looking for?

Ideally, I would love an oral history interview project or written accounts from each of the fifteen people in the room- in case the veil does lift sometime in the future. If there is a commitment to revealing information at some point, the sooner we start recording it, the better, before everyone who was in the room forgets the finer details. 

The year I was on the Caldecott committee, one of our committee members gave us all lovely blue scarves, which we wore during the deliberations and announcement. I felt that every time I saw a blue-scarfed person that weekend, I was seeing a true friend. Each blue scarf represented one of the fourteen other people in the room. They were the fourteen safe places in tag, the fourteen people I could talk to about really happened- not what everyone on the outside thought happened.  They still are- those fourteen special people who are forever keeping the same secrets I am.

I am on another award committee where part of the process shortly before the awards ceremony at the annual conference includes committee members telling why certain books lost. After the secrecy of an ALA committee- this openness feels strange to me. I find it really challenging to tell a room full of people what I think. I always feel paranoid that someone is audio recording the session and I’ll be thrown off the committee for revealing secrets.

Having being on several award committees, I can tell you that after a while what you say in the room, in the e-mail chat or on the conference call stops mattering. The committee voted and the committee as a group made a choice- and it is now your job to promote that book and that award.

I was one of the fifteen people in the room the year The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat won the Caldecott Medal.  It’s my book. It doesn’t matter what was said in the room. It doesn’t matter what the vote tallies were. Seeing the Caldecott Medal on the cover will always make me smile. Reading it to a child who hasn’t heard it yet will always make me choke up. I will always get goose bumps when on the last line. It will always be my book.

Forever.

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39. Superhero Instruction Manual by Kristy Dempsy, illustrated by Mark Fearing


Kristy Dempsey and Mark Fearing join forces to deliver the Superhero Instruction Manual! Despite the comic book feel and solid set of instructions, the Superhero Instruction Manual remains wonderfully free of conflict and violence, instead delivering a wonderful story of familial love.



As a boy pores over the Superhero Instruction Manual, ready to take the "seven easy steps" that will turn him into a superhero, his sister watches in the wings, hoping to join forces with him. He picks a name, a partner and a disguise. He secures a secret hideout and chooses his superpower with quite a few amusing missteps. Fearing's colorfully funny illustrations alternate action packed comic book panels with full page illustrations that include instructions from the manual - and disclaimers.


Superhero Instruction Manual culminates with a true emergency when Fluffy the sidekick takes off after a squirrel in the park. Happily, Super Sister is not too far away and she saves the day. Dempsey and Fearing wrap up their story with a sweet ending, telling readers that a "true superhero is always there when it counts," as the Super Siblings share a cookie in their super hideout.

Source: Review Copy


Don't miss Mark Fearing's AWESOME graphic novel:



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40. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, 377pp, RL 5



If you love literature and you have read quite a bit of it, then you know that there are many varieties of good writing. There are writers who are gifted at story telling and craft a work that draws you in and pulls you along at a fast clip. There are writers who are gifted at creating memorable, complex characters that they allow you to get to know intimately. There are writers who put words on a page that read like lines from great poetry, their sentences like a handcrafted delight you savor on your tongue. Then there are writers who turn the world on its side, making you see and think about it in a whole new way. There are a few writers who embody all of these qualities, Philip Pullman and Frances Hardinge coming readily to mind. Interestingly, Pullman and Hardinge are also the only authors of literature for children to win the prestigious Costa Award, which is comparable to the Pulitzer, and is traditionally given to works written for adults.


Fly By Night was the first book by Hardinge that I read and I knew immediately that I was reading something truly special. Hardinge created a complex world ruled by religion and literacy in the absence of an effective monarch, all set in an alternate history universe. Everything about Fly By Night amazed and continues to amaze me, from the setting to the characters and their intricately Dickensian names to the mysterious political and religious intrigue driving the plot. Hardinge's newest book, and Costa Winner, The Lie Tree, is every bit as magnificently written as Fly By Night but it is also a much more personal, poignant story that is more pointedly philosophical and political. And, as I slowly came to realize over the course of the book, The Lie Tree is also a book about women and especially the challenge of being a woman in the 19th century and the various ways that women met with these challenges. As the main character observes near the end of the novel, "Faith had always told herself that she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies."

As the novel begins, Faith Sunderly, teenaged daughter of the gentleman scientist and clergyman, Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, finds herself tucked between two crates on the deck of a ship that is taking her family and many of their belongings from Kent to the remote island of Vane where her father has been invited to observe an archaeological dig. Hidden from sight, Faith overhears her father and her Uncle Miles discussing the real reason for their retreat to the island. As Miles points out to Erasmus, one of the most "widely read and respected newspapers in the nation has decried you a fraud and a cheat."

Faith respects and reveres her father, constantly hoping that her interest and intellect in the sciences will win her his attention, but seed of knowledge takes root in her and begins to grow. When her father is found dead and her seemingly frivolous, beautiful mother Myrtle schemes with Miles to make his death look like an accident and not a suicide, which would leave his family destitute, Faith decides to take matters into her own hands. She steals her father's papers - his scientific notebooks, his letters, his financial records, and begins reading through them. She discovers that, years ago while traveling through China Erasmus encountered rumors of a very rare plant specimen. In an attempt to help a fellow Englishman accused of murder, he found the secret hiding place of the plant but was unable to save his countryman. Faith quickly uncovers the hiding place of this specimen, which Erasmus brought to Vane and hid before his death, as well as the true nature of this strange plant, the Lie Tree.

Through his experiments, Erasmus came to learn that the Lie Tree thrives and bears fruit when a lie is whispered to to. The more people who believe the lie, the larger the fruit. In turn, consuming the fruit reveals a truth to the person who eats it. A religious and scientific man, Erasmus perpetrated a lie that he hoped was big enough to reveal, in the interest of truth, if man was, "crafted in God's image and given the world, or was he the self-deluding grandson of some grimacing ape?" He would, "borrow from the Bank of Truth, but in the end would pay back in full and with interest." As Faith reads through her father's notebook she decides to use the Lie Tree to discover her father's murderer.

The idea of lies and the variety of lies consumed me as I read The Lie Tree, so much so that I missed an important theme in the book until almost the end. As Faith's investigation begins, there are necessary lies she must, as a young girl, tell, in order to be able to move about the island. As the lies pile up, she finds herself easily using the the fears of her six-year-old brother against the ill-treated, vengeful housemaid who robs the Reverend Sunderly of his grave, prompting an inquest. The more lies Faith tells, the more she is able to insert herself into situations that give her a glimpse into the machinations of the adult world and life on the island. She also stands back and watches her mother manipulate both the Reverend Clay and Doctor Jacklers with lies of omission as Myrtle maneuvers to keep the family solvent. When Faith finally manages unveil the murderer, it is someone who has also told lies and hidden truths in the passionate pursuit of scientific discovery and she finds herself thinking, "We could have been friends." She also finds herself spluttering in disagreement, along with the murderer, when her captor declares, upon seeing the Lie Tree, that there are things, "science cannot explain." The complexities are rich and varied in this stunning book.

As I read The Lie Tree, I marked sentences and passages that exemplified Hardinge's gorgeous prose and had to stop midway because there were too many slips of paper falling out of my book. But I do want to share a few with you here:

She had tumbled off the safe, hallowed shore of childhood, and now she was in no-man's water, neither one thing nor another, like a mermaid. Until she dragged herself up on the rock of marriage, she was difficult.

As usual, the adulation slid off the Reverend's stony reticence and was soaked up by the handkerchief of Myrtle's busy charm.

Faith thought that it must be very relaxing being Dr. Jacklers, deaf to the crunch of other people's feelings beneath his well intentioned boots.

There was a dangerous joy in talking, even with this enemy. It made Faith realize how she had been trapped in her own head. Trapped in the house. Trapped in the Sunderly family.

And, finally, when Faith confronts her mother and begins to understand her reasons for inviting the attentions of other men after the Reverend's death, Myrtle explains the laws regarding a suicide, telling Faith, 

This is a battlefield, Faith! Women find themselves on the battlefields, just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.



If you have read this far, I am sure you will get a copy of The Lie Tree and experience for yourself the, "distinctive voice and vividly crafted prose of France Hardinge," as a favorite writer of mine, Linda Buckley-Archer, author of the excellent Time Quake Trilogy , says in her review.


Frances Hardinge's other new book, review coming soon!




Books by Frances Hardinge 
US covers on the left, UK covers on the right











Source: Review Copy

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41. Poetry Friday: The Mystic Trumpeter by Walt Whitman

Hark! some wild trumpeter - some strange musician,
Hovering unseen in air, vibrates capricious tunes to-night.

I hear thee, trumpeter-listening, alert, I catch thy notes,
Now pouring, whirling like a tempest round me,
Now low, subdued - now in the distance lost.

- the opening lines of The Mystic Trumpeter by Walt Whitman

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42. It Was So Quiet I Could Hear a Pin Drop by Andy Goodman


At the school where I am the librarian, my students rarely experience the kind of silence that allows them to listen to the world around them. When I can, I sit them down to practice focusing. We choose one thing to focus on (counting our breath, the ringing of Tibetan singing bowls) and we notice when our minds wander. Then we bring ourselves back to focusing. I feel pretty certain that these are the only minutes of the day, possibly even the week, when they are still, quiet and awake, and I am grateful to be able to give them this experience, this chance to sit with themselves. I tell you all this because reading Andy Goodman's picture book, It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop reminds me vividly of these rare, quiet times. As she sits in a swing, the narrator says, "As I listened to the breeze. . . I could hear kites flutter, a busy bee buzz, a leaky tap drip and my wristwatch tick."



She goes on to list all the things she hears, and slowly these sounds get louder. As they do, the text gets louder and the illustrations more vibrant. The narrator hears the dog bark, the baby wake, Jill singing in the bath, Peter whistling. Things continue to escalate and the narrator begins to question herself. Is that elephants stampeding? A steam train accelerating? A loose cannon firing?

Goodman's illustrations are perfectly paired with the text. The expansive, marvelously thick white pages have images that feel a bit like antique clip-art, allowing the reader to use her or his own imagination as the story unfolds. The gentle colors of the initial quietude give way to a more vibrant palette as the story arcs. Being quiet, the mind wanders and listening leads to imagination. I love the stream of consciousness progression of It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop and everything that it inspires. It's also the perfect book to read leading into a moment of focusing/meditation/quiet with kids, which is something we all need now and then. 




Source: Review Copy

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43. Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Shahar Kober



Chicken in Space is a marvelously illustrated picture book about imagination, creativity, perseverance and adventure written by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Shahar KoberChicken in Space begins, "Zoey wasn't like the other chickens." The aviator caps and goggles should be the first indicator. Then there are the blueprints. Zoey is going into space and she is not taking "no" for an answer, despite the very reasonable concerns and protests from her pal Sam, the pig. 


There are no problems, just opportunities, and Zoey takes them where she finds them. No ship? No problem. A basket and a bunch of balloons (which have been bobbing in and out of the illustrations from the start) get these friends airborne in no time.



As with any adventure, there are challenges, and this is where Zoey's magnificent imagination comes in! A baseball? No! It's an asteroid! Kites are comets and birds are alien attack ships that bring on a crash landing amidst sacks of corn. Zoey is thrilled with the success of their mission, but Sam is not so sure. However, back in the farmyard, he has a different story to tell!

And Zoey has the perfect gift for this pie loving pig - a moon pie! As Chicken in Space comes to and end and Sam is wanting to share his moon pie with Zoey, she already has her head buried in her next adventure!

Source: Review Copy





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44. You’ll see us…coast to coast…

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

About a month away before Lux Mentis ventures to Coral Gables, FL for Rare Books and Manuscripts Section/ACRL Conference 2016! Lux Mentis is sponsoring a seminar:

“Common Sense, Charm, and a Glass of Wine: Successfully Navigating Donor Relations in Special Collections”

Stay tuned for exciting catalogs furthering our manifesto of vice and debauchery and if you are lucky, a print version (while supplies last!).

Follow the marauders on Instagram: instagram.com/luxmentis/

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45. More-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas



More-igami is the debut picture book from Dori Kleber, illustrated by longtime favorite G. Brian Karas. More-igami is a fantastic picture book for so many reasons. The main character shows perseverance or, grit, to use the hot new word in the world of education, as he struggles to master a skill. More-igami is a marvel of diversity in a picture book, featuring African American, Asian and Hispanic characters. But, best of all, More-igami is just a really great story with marvelous illustrations that is a joy to read our loud.


Joey loves all things folded, from maps to accordions to tacos to, of course, foldaway beds. When Joey's classmate, Sarah, brings her mother to school to teach the class how to make origami cranes, Joey's mind is blown. Mrs. Takimoto tells Joey that she can teach him the folds, but if he wants to be an origami master, he'll "need patience and practice." No problem! Joey practices everywhere with everything, including folding the $38.00 he found in his mother's purse. Frustrated and out things to fold, Joey heads to the restaurant next door because "fajitas always made him feel better." There, he finds a place to practice folding and help out Mr. Lopez. Even better, he finds a new friend to share his talent with - as long as she has patience and is willing to practice!

Karas's illustrations are perfectly matched to Kleber's text, which wonderfully, simply shows the frustration and determination that Joey possesses. The hand drawn texture of Karas's illustrations add to the creative feel of More-igami, which will undoubtedly inspire readers to do some folding of their own, especially since there is a two page spread at the end of the book that shows you how to fold an origami ladybug!

Source: Review Copy

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46. Poetry Friday: Just lost when I was saved by Emily Dickinson

Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!

Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!

Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.

Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,-
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.

- Emily Dickinson

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47. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems




I didn't intend to review Mo Willem's The Thank You Book, the 25th and final book in the Elephant & Piggie series that began in 2007. I first encountered these books as a bookseller and story-time-reader while working at Barnes & Noble. I wasn't a big fan of Willems's Pigeon books, mostly because I found them challenging to read out loud. I quickly discovered that Elephant & Piggie books were a joy to read out loud and had mass appeal, from little kids to parents to even teens! Then my youngest son started learning to read and my appreciation of what Willems was doing deepened immensely. You can read all about that experience HERE. I want to take this time to tell you what a deeply satisfying end to a series The Thank You Book is and share my experiences with Elephant & Piggie as an elementary school librarian and, of course, say THANK YOU to Mo Willems!



Willems's The Thank You Book is both a wrap-up and a genuine thank you to readers. While spending time with Gerald and Piggie is always a treat, I remember how exciting it was to pick up a new Elephant & Piggie book over the last nine years and find a new character in the story. Snake from Can I Play, Too? is probably my favorite. All these characters are back in The Thank You Book and on the endpapers! And, in a really awesome wink, Pigeon appears in the pages (and not just the endpapers) of The Thank You Book! Piggie apologizes for not including him in their books, to which Pigeon (in his own font) responds, "That is what you think!" The Thank You Book reads like the best ending to a long running television series possible. Readers get to revisit old friends and familiar story lines while also seeing their favorite characters do what they do best one last time.



I am finishing up my second full year as an elementary school librarian. More than 80% of the students at my school are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 65% of them are reading at grade level and 55% of them are English language learners. When I took over my library it had languished through more than a year of substitute librarians cycling in and out of the space and several years of a diminished or non-existent book buying budget. There were just a few Elephant & Piggie books on the shelves and they were not circulating. Taking advantage of my employee discount at Barnes & Noble one last time, and taking advantage of the generosity of my amazing principal, I bought a copy of every book in the series and began reading them out loud to my students - all grades. Gerald and Piggie became instant celebrities in the library. Today, we have at least three copies of each book in the series on the shelves (in their own special section) and they are always almost all checked out. They are a staple for my first graders, but I especially love checking them out to the kindergarteners. Technically, I'm not supposed to check books out to the kinders, but it's hard to say "no" to those adorable little faces. And I absolutely love telling them to look for Pigeon at the end of the book -and in all of Willems's books! Sometimes I have to nudge the second and third graders away from Elephant & Piggie, or encourage them to get one book at their reading level and one E&P. And, happily, I occasionally get older students checking these books out to read to younger siblings. 

Willems's books have become a common thread for all of my students. As I read The Thank You Book over and over, about 25 times in all to all grades, I choked back more than a few tears. I explained to the students that this would be the last Elephant & Piggie book and their disappointment and shock was always audible. They didn't always understand why I was sad that this was the last book, but when I told them it was like saying, "Goodbye," to two good friends who were moving away, the lightbulbs went on - just like Piggie's often did. Having had two years now to inspire my students to read by hooking them with Willems's humor, I am looking forward to seeing our reading scores rise. And, while I am sad to think that there will be no more new books from Gerald and Piggie, I look forward to whatever it is Mo Willems does next, and I especially look forward to getting to share it with my students! THANK YOU, MO WILLEMS! Your books have made a difference in my life and the lives of my students.

Source: Purchased

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48.



I don't usually have the time to review follow up books in a series, but Emma Virján's Pig In a Wig series of beginning to read books is such a find that I want to call it to your attention as often as possible. The illustrations are bright and colorful with fantastic picture clues and the gently rhyming stories are always entertaining and just silly enough to keep kids reading over  and over.


In What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, the Pig in a Wig plans a picnic for all her friends. As before, the phrase, "What this story needs," appears often in the text, which is never more than a sentence per page. In fact, the book has only five sentences total! Emerging readers will find this book engaging and feel success at the end, which comes quickly. The story arc follow the picnicking animals as they eat and play and then, as the skies grow dark, find a new place to picnic. These books are a staple in my school library and I can't wait to see what the Pig in a Wig does next!












Source: Review Copy

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49. The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien


How can I not like The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien? Having three kids of my own and working with kids, I have been getting asked what my favorite animal is for over 20 years now. And not only do I get asked what my favorite animal is, I get asked specifically what are my favorite mammal, sea animal and reptile - red panda, narwhal and Komodo dragon, respectively. Two years ago, I discovered the blobfish and the axolotl while reading Unusual Creatures:  A Mostly Accurate Account of Earth's Strangest Animals and became a little obsessed. In fact, a student of mine even made me a Pokemon blobfish card...


With The Blobfish Book, Olien has a story within a story, meta kind of thing going on. Blobfish, seen initially as a quasi-cute cartoony character, is about to read The Deep Sea Book, which he takes a red crayon to, making it his own.

Readers will actually learn a bit about deep sea creatures and how they live in The Blobfish Book, despite Blobfish's defacement. However, if this book sparks curiosity in your young readers, be sure to check out Glow: Animals with Their Own Nightlights by W.H. Beck, which I reviewed last year.




The twist comes when the enthusiastic, slightly goofy Blobfish finally gets to the page displaying his species and is deeply saddened to learn that the blobfish was once voted the world's ugliest animal. He burst into tears, but his fellow deep sea creatures come to his side and draw up a final page for the book, showing the world that blobfish are in fact cute, friendly and fascinating. The Blobfish Book ends with a two page spread that gives readers more facts about the cast of characters and the environment that they live in.

The Blobfish Book is a good way to introduce readers to this curious creature. But, as a fan of the fish itself, I have no doubt that there are lots more creative possibilities for blobfish in picture books and am sure they are already being written and illustrated...

Source: Review Copy


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50. Best Books of May 2016

April was busy; May was busier. I managed to read 8 books and scripts this month. I'd like to turn your attention to Savage by Thomas E. Sniegoski, a thriller which brings new meaning to the expression "it's raining cats and dogs" - Prepare yourself for the coming storm. It's awesome.

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