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1. August Reflections

In August I read 55 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Carry and Learn Shapes. Scholastic. 2015. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Book: I Love My Puppy. Caroline Jayne Church. 2015. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Board Book: Oh No, George! Chris Haughton. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Board Book: Ten Playful Penguins. Emily Ford. Illustrated by Russell Julian. 2015. [October] Scholastic. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became The Beatles. Susanna Reich. 2015. Henry Holt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Friendshape. Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Queen's Hat. Steve Antony. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. When Sophie's Feelings are Really, Really Hurt. Molly Bang. 2015. [September] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Your Hand in My Hand. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. 2015. [November] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. A Lucky Author Has A Dog. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Steven Henry. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Elephant in the Dark. Mina Javaherbin. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Where Did My Clothes Come From? Chris Butterworth. Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  9. Frog on a Log? Kes Gray. Illustrated by Jim Field. 2015. [September] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Where's Walrus? and Penguin? Stephen Savage. 2015. [August] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. Clifford Goes to Kindergarten. Norman Bridwell. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Railroad Hank. Lisa Moser. Illustrated by Benji Davies. 2012. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  13. Peppa's Windy Fall Day. Adapted by Barbara Winthrop. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. (Peppa Pig) Best Friends. 2015. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  15. Double Play: Monkeying Around With Addition. Betsy Franco. Illustrated by Doug Cushman. 2011. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  16. Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. In A People House. Dr. Seuss. (Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1972. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  18. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Dr. Seuss. 1973. Random House. 47 pages. [Source: Library] 
  19. The Shape of Me And Other Stuff. Dr. Seuss. 1973. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]
  20. There's a Wocket in my Pocket! Dr. Seuss. 1974. Random House. 30 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and chapter books:
  1. Big Dog and Little Dog. Dav Pilkey. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Eva Sees A Ghost (Owl Diaries #2) Rebecca Elliott. 2015. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Middle grade:
  1. Milo Speck, Accidental Agent. Linda Urban. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Walk Two Moons. Sharon Creech. 1994. HarperCollins. 280 pages. [Source: Bought]
  3. The Whipping Boy. Sid Fleischman. Illustrated by Peter Sis. 1986. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Finding Serendipity. Angelica Banks. 2015. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. The View From Saturday. E.L. Konigsburg. 1996. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  6. A Girl Named Disaster. Nancy Farmer. 1996. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. Suzanne Fisher Staples. 1989. 240 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  8. Missing in Action. Dean Hughes. 2010/2015. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Young adult:
  1.  Terezin: Voices From the Holocaust. Ruth Thomson. 2011. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. A Little In Love. Susan Fletcher. 2015. Scholastic. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa Tahir. 2015. Penguin. 446 pages. [Source: Library]
Adult:
  1. The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1857/1975. Penguin Classics. 623 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II. Molly Guptill Manning. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. Gut: The Inside Story of Our Most Underrated Organ. Giulia Enders. Illustrated by Jill Enders. 2014/2015. Greystone Books. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. A Bitter Truth. Charles Todd. 2011. HarperCollins. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Go Set A Watchman. Harper Lee. 2015.  HarperCollins. 278 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Wish You Well. David Baldacci. 2000/2007. Grand Central Publishing. 432 pages. [Source: Library]
  7. Murder at Longbourn. (Elizabeth Parker #1) Tracy Kiely. 2009. St. Martin's Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian nonfiction:
  1. John: That You Might Believe (Preaching the Word) R. Kent Hughes. 1999/2014. Crossway Books. 528 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. The Original Jesus: Trading The Myths We Create For The Savior Who Is. Daniel Darling. 2015. Baker Books. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  3. Compassion: Seeing with Jesus' Eyes. Joshua Mack. 2015. P&R Publishing. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Ladylike: Living Biblically. Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle. 2015. Concordia. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  5.  Our Only Comfort. Neal Presa. 2015. Westminster John Knox Press. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Modesty. Martha Peace and Kent Keller. 2015. P&R Publishing. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Five Minute Bedtime Bible Stories. Retold by Amy Parker. Illustrated by Walter Carzon. 2015. Scholastic. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8.  Respectable Sins. Jerry Bridges. 2007. NavPress. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. Jonathan Dodson. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Christian fiction:
  1. Through Waters Deep. (Waves of Freedom #1) Sarah Sundin. Revell. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Lady Maybe. Julie Klassen. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Monday Poetry Stretch - Lai

The Lai is a French syllabic verse form consisting of one or more stanza of nine lines with two rhymes, though the rhyme can vary from stanza to stanza. Here are features of the form.
  • 9 lines.
  • Rhyme scheme is a-a-b-a-a-b-a-a-b.
  • Lines ending with rhyme a are five syllables in length.
  • Lines ending with rhyme b are two syllables in length.
You can read more about this form and its variants at Poetry Form - The Lai. You can read an example at The Poet's Garret.

So, the challenge for the week is to write a lai. Won't you join us? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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3. Der Rote Blitz und die Cops aus Batmans Stadt – Comics zu den TV-Hits FLASH und GOTHAM

Flash_Gotham1

„Arrow“, die TV-Adaption der Geschichte des Bogenschützen Green Arrow aus dem Universum von Batman, Superman und Co., lief auf VOX zur Prime Time so gut, dass Pro7 sich die Rechte an den neuen DC-Serien „Gotham“ und „Flash“ sicherte, obwohl letztere im selben Universum wie „Arrow“ spielt und es auch immer wieder kleine Crossover zwischen den beiden Serien gibt.

„Flash“ folgt den Erlebnissen des Polizei-Forensikers Barry Allen, der nach einem Unfall zum schnellsten Mann der Welt wird und als kostümierter Flash andere Meta-Wesen jagt, die auf der Seite des Verbrechens stehen. Außerdem sucht er den Mörder seiner Mutter, wegen dem sein Vater unschuldig im Gefängnis sitzt. Eine spannende, packende,  äußerst sympathische Serien-Umsetzung.

„Gotham“ indes spielt clever mit den Anfängen des Batman-Mythos und verarbeitet diese in einer starken, düsteren Krimi-Serie, die „The Mentalist“-Macher Bruno Heller mitverantwortet. Im Mittelpunkt stehen der aufrechte, verbissene Cop Jim Gordon, der sich mit brutalen Irren, der Mafia und korrupten Kollegen herumschlagen muss, sowie Batman Bruce Wayne, Catwoman Selina Kyle und Pinguin Oswald Copplepot in jüngeren Jahren.

mehr lesen auf Comics.de -http://www.comic.de/2015/08/der-rote-blitz-und-die-cops-aus-batmans-stadt-comics-zu-den-tv-hits-flash-und-gotham/

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4. Interview – Lauren DeStefano and A Curious Tale of the In-Between

First things first. Look at that book jacket.

CuriousTaleInBetween

Gaze upon it. Feast thine peeper upon its delightful creepy factor. That’s a cover, my friends. And it takes a good book to live up to it. Fortunately, A Curious Tale of the In-Between hasn’t exactly been lacking for the stellar reviews. As Kirkus put it, “DeStefano artfully concocts a moving and multilayered tale that is an effective mix of genres and tones, at times contemplative and philosophical yet also macabre and psychologically sophisticated. Love, loss, and hope are at the heart of this exciting read.”

You’ll understand then why I was intrigued when Bloomsbury offered unto me Ms. Lauren DeStafano herself for an interview. And actually, I saw her speak in person years ago. Remember the YA Chemical Garden trilogy? That was her! So saying, she agreed to my probing queries:

Betsy Bird: Hello!  Thank you so much for acquiescing to a rousing series of questions.  First things first, though.  What we have here appears to be a book by the name of A CURIOUS TALE OF THE IN-BETWEEN.  Can you give us a run down of what it’s about?

Lauren DeStefano: I like to describe it as a love story between a living girl, a living boy, and a ghost.

BB: Well, how did you come to write it?  Which is to say, why did you make it a middle grade book (for ages 9-12) and not YA.  You are, after all, the author of two New York Times bestselling YA series.  Why the switch into younger territory?

LD: When I wrote this story, I wasn’t conscious of the idea that it would get published, so things like MG and YA weren’t in my head. I had an idea about a girl who had a peculiar condition that caused her to conspire with ghosts, and I began to write it. After dinner one night, my cousin, who I think was 8 or so at the time, asked me to tell her a story. I told her about this one, though it was only half finished at the time. Her interest and questions really surprised me, and I began to wonder if Pram did have something to offer to younger readers.

BB: I know that writing books on the younger end requires an entirely different set of muscles than writing for the YA crowd.  How was writing this book for you?  Did anything surprise you along the way?

LD: Writing for younger readers was nothing but a joyous experience from start to finish. I had little of the fears and insecurities I have when tackling some of my other endeavors. All I had to do was believe in magic and let that carry me to the end.

BB: Great.  Now when an author gets a particularly good cover on their newest title I like to say they’ve made small animal sacrifices to the book jacket gods.  You fall into that category perfectly.  How do you like it?

LD: I LOVE it. I wish I could claim credit, but that all goes to my designers.

BB: This book has already been compared to Coraline, which is sort of the de facto thing reviewers say when dealing with gothic middle grade literature.  What are some of the books for kids you’d equate it with?  Related (or maybe not) what did you like to read when you were a kid?

LD: That is an incredibly flattering and humbling comparison, and I’m honored to hear that. I don’t know if, plot-wise or voice-wise, I could compare it to any particular work off the top of my head. When I was a young reader, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was my most treasured book and I obsessed over it for months. It reached me on some cosmic level that made me feel understood. I would just hope this story could do that for someone else.

BB: And finally, what are you working on next?

LD: A tangled web of secrets and intrigue.

Many thanks to Ms. DeStefano for submitting herself to questions that, I am sure, she has answered many times before and will answer many times again.  And thanks too to Bloomsbury for offering her up to me in the first place.

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5. Instagram of the Week - August 31

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

As libraries continue to evaluate the needs of their communities, the physical space of libraries may evolve in an effort to meet those needs. Space may be repurposed for a teen area, new tables and chairs might arrive so patrons can create their own collaborative spaces, and group study rooms may be constructed. For patrons that rely on digital devices, additional outlets or charging stations could be in demand, desktop stations may move to make room for laptop bars, and mounted televisions for gaming, video conferencing, and collaborative projects may be needed. Below are some examples of libraries that underwent renovations, purchased new furniture, or reorganized bookshelves to make room for more open spaces and meet the changing technology needs of their patrons. Has your library undergone a similar change? We want to hear from you! Share with us in the comments section below.

For more information about teen spaces and the envisioned future of library spaces, please see The Need for Teen Spaces in Public Libraries and The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report.

 

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6. Cut outs from the exhibition in Taiwan

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7. Diagnostic criteria

Me, answering a question distractedly: That’s just, um—

Rilla, shocked: That’s just dumb?

Me: No, just ‘UM’—I was thinking.

Rilla: That makes more sense. If you had really said ‘that’s just dumb,’ I would have thought you had a bad sickness.

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8. Harry Potter Name Generator

Harry Potter StampThe Hogwarts Express Leaves Today!

If you received your Hogwarts letter this year, you are probably just now getting ready to board the Hogwarts Express to start your wizarding education. Congratulations! To help you get ready for your new life at Hogwarts, I created this Harry Potter name generator so you can invent yourself as a character in the wizarding world.

I tried not to include any actual character name combos. So you can be Ginny Wizangamot, but you can’t be Ginny Weasley. (But oh my goodness, how awesome would it be to actually BE Ginny Weasley???) For first name, you have the option to choose either a boy’s name or a girl’s name that starts with the first letter of your Muggle name. There’s nothing that says you have to choose the boy’s name of you’re a boy or the girl’s name if you’re a girl, but you have the choice. I tried not to choose any evil character names, but for some letters, it was impossible. (Sorry Yaxley Umbridge! I’m sure you’re very nice in real life.)

First name choices: 

  • Albus or Arabella
  • Buckbeak or Bellatrix
  • Cedric or Cho
  • Dobby or Demelza
  • Errol or Enid
  • Firenze or Fleur
  • Grawp or Ginny
  • Harry or Hermione
  • Igor or Irma
  • James or Jewelweed
  • Kreacher or Kendra
  • Ludo or Luna
  • Mundungus or Minerva
  • Neville or Nymphadora
  • Orion or Olympe
  • Patronus or Parvati
  • Quibbler or Quietus
  • Rubeus or Rosmerta
  • Severus or Sibyll
  • Trevor or Thistle
  • Urg or Unicorn
  • Viktor or Veela
  • Wulfric or Walberga
  • Xenophilius
  • Yaxley or Yew
  • Zacharias

Last name

  • Aragog
  • Beauxbatons
  • Crookshanks
  • Durmstrang
  • Evans
  • Flamel
  • Gryffindor
  • Hufflepuff
  • Imago
  • Jordan
  • Knockturn
  • Lumos
  • Mandragora
  • Nimbus
  • Ollivander
  • Padfoot
  • Quidditch
  • Ravenclaw
  • Slytherin
  • Thestral
  • Umbridge
  • Veela
  • Wizengamot
  • Xenophilius
  • Yeti
  • Zonko

Tell us your Harry Potter name in the Comments!

image from kids.scholastic.com— Sonja, STACKS Staffer

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9. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8-31-15

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

The new classroom space is feeling a lot more like home now that the books are settled. There are still some adjustments to be made, but I am feeling ready for school to start. My new school community has been wonderfully welcoming, helping in any and all ways possible. And everyone is so ambitious, I am loving it! I would like to share some classroom pictures-soon!

Books I've Recently Read:

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Bloomsbury, 2015
Fantasy
224 pages
Recommended for grades 5-7

This book opens with force. The recommended age range in the ARC is 3-6. I find myself often wondering if I am too conservative, am I censoring??!! my classroom library, or are some books simply being pushed too soon on readers too young? What do you think: The book opens with a scene in which our main character's mother hangs herself outside the hospital from the branch of a dogwood tree. Pram's mother is pregnant, and as a result Pram also dies, and is then revived. This dying and reviving is part of the backstory to where Pram's ability to communicate with the dead, and to move between the space of the living and the dead, comes from.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, 2015
Historical Fiction
368 pages
Recommended for grades 7+

Set in the 1920s-1940s, first in America and then in Ethiopia, we are taken on a journey with Emilia and Teo, the children of pilots Rhoda (White Raven) and Delia (Black Dove).  This book offers a different perspective on what was taking place as WWII gained momentum in Ethiopia, not our typical American and European views. Of course the war is only one piece of this story. It is so much more, a story of family and courage, of being true to yourself and also finding who that self is.

I'm Currently Reading:


Thanks for stopping by! Happy back to school time :)


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10. Ms. Marvel, No Normal

cover artMs. Marvel Volume 1, No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (story) and Adrian Alphona (artist) made me giddy happy it was so much fun. I completely understand why it won a Hugo Award last week and I am very much looking forward to reading more of the story.

And about that story.

Kamala is sixteen and wishes she were someone else. Her family is Muslim and from Pakistan. She is not allowed to go to parties or go out on dates with boys. Her parents are liberal as far as they can be but even that is too strict for Kamala who wants to fit in and be like everyone else. She loves the Avengers and dreams of being Captain Marvel.

One of the popular girls at school invites her to a beach party and Kamala sneaks out of the house to go only to discover when she arrives that the point of her being there is to serve as the butt of jokes. She runs off and the city is overtaken by a mysterious mist. In the mist Kamala is visited by Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. She is granted her wish to be Captain Marvel who tells her that things will not turn out the way she thinks they will.

And it’s true. As Kamala tries to figure out her new super powers and how to use them to help people she often misreads situations and causes more harm than good. But with the help of her best friends, Nakia and Bruno, Kamala learns a few important lessons about friendship, helping others, and being herself. The latter is of course the most important lesson of all because it isn’t until Kamala understands that she can’t be Captain Marvel but only ever herself, everything else comes together. And thus she becomes not Captain Marvel but Ms. Marvel.

By the end of the story she has made a daring rescue and gained a nemesis as well as been grounded by her parents. It’s hard to fight evil when you’re grounded, but I expect Kamala will figure it out.

I’ve never thought of myself as a comic kind of reader and while I enjoy The Avengers films and Agent Carter and Agents of Shield, I have not been especially interested in reading the comics. But Ms. Marvel while on the fringe of the superhero comic world, is her own story that is also outside of all the already known superhero stories. That to me makes it fresh and interesting especially because she is not your average kind of superhero. More fun and adventures ahead!


Filed under: Graphic Novels, Reviews

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11. Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

I am a huge fan of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series so when I saw he had a new book coming out I had to read it. On the surface this appears to be a cyber-thriller about hacking. But in the hands of Chuck Wendig it goes somewhere quite different. The book opens and we are […]

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12. Haruki Murakami Essay Collection Lands at No. 5 on the Amazon Bestseller List

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13. Vacationing in Maine

I'm vacationing in Maine
And surrounded by the sea.
As the season's winding down,
It's a lovely place to be.

There is sea food, there is beer,
Lots of ice cream, small-batch made;
Restaurants with outdoor decks,
Some where music's being played.

There are trails and boats and bikes,
Lots of stores with souvenirs,
Plus museums and historic homes
With old-time atmospheres.

It's a change of pace for me,
Some relaxing by the shore,
But of course that is exactly
What vacationing is for.

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14. ‘The SpongeBob Musical’ Will Open on Broadway in 2016

'The SpongeBob Musical' will debut in Chicago next year before heading to Broadway.

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15. Variations on a theme...

I decided, quite by accident one day, that this ought to be a style I should try to stick with.  It's funny, since I'd deleted the original file already, but just stumbled upon an older jpeg version.

One of the things I struggle with forever is how to define figures - either with line or with just shape.  And if it's line, then what kind of line.  In a complicated way this piece answers a lot of those questions for me.

Here are some of the variations on the theme that I tried before deciding on this:


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16. The Survivor by Tom Doyle. Sydney: Macmillan, 2015

                                                     


George rescues a baby in a burning building and, as a reward, wins a trip to Australia on an adventure trip run by a company called Ultimate Bushcraft. They send two young group leaders to collect the group of boys from the airport and, right from the time the plane leaves, nasty things begin to happen, starting with an anaphylactic attack suffered by a boy who has an allergy to nuts - an attack that is no accident. One by one the boys die in the wilderness. As the story is told in statements by various people - and the rants of the killer - the reader knows that it is over and that George has been accused of the murders.  

The author, a school principal(my guess is that it's a boys' school) who is writing under a pen name, knows how to keep boys turning pages. As a thriller it works well and I have no doubt that they will enjoy it; there are two other thrillers by this author that are doing very well. 

 The reader is fed quite a few red herring clues along the way as to who the killer might be, then they are all killed. That's fairly standard in a murder mystery, but it is usually possible to go back and realise the clues were there all along. I didn't feel that way this time. 

I also had my doubts as to the plausibility of a number of things that happened, not so much the killings as the group leader's response to them. I can't discuss many of them without spoilers, but one example is that when the first boy falls seriously ill(poison), he is left behind with a carer but not immediately sent off to hospital - flown off if necessary. I would have thought that the group leader would have a lot of first aid and possibly paramedic skills that would make him ask questions, check the symptoms and call for help, then wait until help arrived. But this doesn't happen; the rest of the group continue with their activities and leave without him. He goes to hospital too late. I realise that the whole point of the novel is for everyone to die except the hero(hence the title), but it just didn't make sense to me. 

In all fairness, I also thought a lot of things made no sense in The Da Vinci Code - it must be a thriller thing! They simply fall apart if the reader tries to make sense of them. 

Will work well for boys from about thirteen up. I already have one waiting for this when I finish reviewing it.

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17. SPONSORED POST: Money Confident Kids Contest

T-Rowe-Price_130x130_Stacks.v2This blog post is sponsored by T. Rowe Price.

Are you a money confident kid? Here’s a chance to win one of six different prizes including $1,500 and a library of books for your classroom! All you need to do is interview your parent or guardian and write a short essay about the experience. Go to scholastic.com/mck/entryform.pdf for all the details and to download the entry form. 

Questions? Post below!

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18. Graywolf Press profile

       At Vulture Boris Kachka explains How the Tiny Graywolf Press Became a Big Player in Book Publishing in a profile of independent non-profit publisher Graywolf Press.
       As he notes:

Publishing just over 30 books a year, Graywolf has had authors win four NBCC awards, a National Book Award, two Pulitzers, and a Nobel Prize -- all in the last six years. This year, it will exceed $2 million in sales for the first time. No other independent press, never mind a 41-year-old nonprofit, has come so far so fast.
       A nice success story.

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19. National Book Awards Longlist to Run on NewYorker.com

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20. busy week ahead....

painting petals and tresses...







putting the finishing touches on a couple of  things as well as starting a new triptych of cute little woodland animals for a new mommy to be.

floral flourishes....
 {a very productive August, i might say....}
heads-up, little guy...

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21. Book Review: The Library at Mount Char

From Goodreads:
Carolyn's not so different from the other human beings around her. She's sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for. 

After all, she was a normal American herself, once. 

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible. 

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn't gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient Pelapi customs. They've studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power. 

Sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God. 

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation. 

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her. 

But Carolyn can win. She's sure of it. What she doesn't realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she's forgotten a great deal about being human.
Writing
I seriously can't believe this is a debut.  It is SO imaginative, so original, and so unique.  The characters are original and the story line is just insane.  It's one of the first books I've read in a long time where I just had absolutely no idea where it could be leading.  In terms of fantasy, I usually gravitate towards the more medieval settings of high fantasy, but this one is set in our world.  I would compare Carolyn and her siblings to the Weasleys - a magical family that is thrust into the world of regular Americans and has no idea how to fit in.  But a twisted, psychotic, totally unhinged version of the Weasleys.  I don't want to say too much and reveal anything, but if you like having no idea what will happen next, this is a book you need.  And the fact that this is Hawkins' first novel is amazing, because the writing is spot on.  The perfect blend of funny and horrific.  I think the Neil Gaiman comparisons I've read are spot on, but this is more brutal than any of the Gaiman I've read.

Entertainment Value
Well, I stayed up till 2AM finishing this one, so you can certainly say I was entertained.  I couldn't stop listening.  Because the book is so dark, there were times when I felt like my brain maybe needed a break, but I just couldn't stop.  It's funny and has its moments of lightheartedness, but it's also a very dark book with its fair share of violence.  I can't wait to see what else this author writes - he's definitely on my must-read authors list now.

Overall
Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes.  This is maybe the best book I've read this year.  It's everything I didn't know I loved.  My words of caution are that it is violent and gruesome (if you can't handle Game of Thrones, maybe skip this one) and has its fair share of bad language.  It's not family listening.  Don't put it on in the car while you drive your kids to school or share it with your grandma.  But if you can handle some violence (including a scene or two of violence with animals) you absolutely must read this.  And when you're done, message me and let's discuss!

Thanks to NetGalley and to Hoopla for providing me with a copy to review.

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22. Liu Cixin Q & A

       Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem won the 'Best Novel'-category this year at the just-announced Hugo Awards (all the more impressively for being a replacement-finalist that wasn't even in the running originally), and at Caixin Shi Rui has a Q & A with the author.
       Asked about the differences between Chinese and Western science fiction he suggests:

One aspect is that Western sci-fi stories are often embedded with elements of Judeo-Christian thought and tend to focus on belief systems, concerning itself with moral issues such as cloning or artificial intelligence. Chinese sci-fi has emerged from its own cultural background and this accounts for many differences in how the genre has been uniquely interpreted.

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23. Have I Actually Been Eaten By A Bear?

posted by Neil Gaiman
Amanda is now 8 and a bit months' pregnant, and she wanted to have our baby off the grid, in the middle of the woods with nothing and nobody around but midwives, a doula, and me.

Which seemed like an odd idea when she first floated it by me, but has come to strike me as more and more sensible in the last few months, especially when I would look at my deadlines. It's been a mad year anyway, and more and more things have crept onto my schedule: the idea of going off to a cabin in the woods and writing, away from phones or emails or any distractions seemed increasingly attractive. So I get the best of all worlds: undistracted time with Amanda, undistracted time with Amanda and the baby (when he appears), and relatively undistracted time to write.

Photo by Kyle Cassidy,  last Friday.

Except, the birth-month is September. And September is the month when everything is happening.



It's still ridiculously cheap on Amazon, for three books you could not previously get in these editions in the US.




The last issue of Sandman Overture will come out in September (although not the hardback collected edition of the whole thing. That comes out on November 10th -- my birthday, oddly enough: details at http://bit.ly/OvertureDeluxe )



And, more personal for me even than these, it's the month that the Humble Bundle happens.

You know what a Humble Bundle is, don't you…? It's a bundle of Digital Stuff (usually games, sometimes eBooks or Graphic Novels) that goes out to the world on a Pay What You Like basis. Sometimes you can get hundreds of dollars of stuff cheaply.

But I think it's fair to say there will never have been a Humble Bundle like this before. Why ever is that? you wonder. Ah,  you will have to be patient. It's going to be remarkable.

But...

I'm going to be away. So I'm planning to learn how to use the various timed posting things on Twitter and Facebook and here on the Blog. People will think I am back from the woods, but no, I won't be. Magical timed postings will be going up to let people know what's happening.

(This may also result in a few tone deaf postings in September, as I apparently plug the Humble Bundle or Sleeper and the Spindle immediately after I hike into town to find internet to tell you that the baby has turned up. Forgive me if they happen.)  




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24. I Left My Heart at ALA Annual

Around 8:00 a.m. PST on June 26th, 2015, I sat at a Starbucks, downing as much coffee as possible before my first day at ALA Annual began. As I anxiously flipped through Facebook, a theme spread like wildfire through every post: Marriage equality is the law of the land! Love wins! SCOTUS FTW! I could hardly believe my good fortune to be in what felt like the center of the universe for this landmark decision. Awestruck, I gathered up my things and headed to a 3.5-hour preconference: Rolling Out the Rainbow Carpet: Serving LGBTQ Communities. Later that same day, I heard Roberta Kaplan give the opening keynote speech. Two days later, I donned my rainbow regalia and watched the San Francisco Pride Parade.

In addition to all of that amazingness, my conference experience was made special in the following ways:

  • Attending a preconference. I gained so much in the way of programming ideas that the preconference practically paid for itself. Also, David Levithan magically appeared as part of a panel discussion and then signed books (squee!).
  • Fun, yet practical sessions. I learned the best strategies for approaching my manager with creative (read: far-fetched) ideas. I learned how to fearlessly weed print and digital materials. I learned how to fail gracefully and embrace “relentless optimism” (my new favorite phrase). I learned about the art in Caldecott winners and got a chance to apply that knowledge to upcoming contenders. All this, and more, were immediately applicable to my work.
  • The Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet. Putting on a fancy dress and eating dinner with lovely individuals is great. What’s even better? Hearing Dan Santat and Kwame Alexander’s emotionally charged speeches, and then telling them that they made me cry a little bit. I also got to tell Dan Santat how, upon reading The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, I ran around my library showing everyone Beekle’s backside, saying “Look at his little butt! Look at it!!”
  • Meeting authors. Cece Bell referenced the movie Heathers while being unbelievably sweet. After I gushed effusively over I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson told me she wanted to take me with her everywhere—especially while writing. Tim Federle told me that my necklace was “funsies.” Authors are rock stars, and I will unapologetically geek out over these interactions for the rest of my life.
  • Exhibit hall happenstance. While booking it around the exhibit hall, I screeched to a halt in front of the world’s coolest and most versatile LEGO-Train-Light-Tinker Toy Table. Not only were we in the market, but it even fit my library’s color scheme. Serendipitous! I sped down an uncrowded aisle only to see Raina Telgemeier sitting in a booth all by her lonesome. Magical! I came across my grad school’s booth and there was my advisor! And there were cookies!!  Exhibit hall happenstance: it’s a thing.

Before attending ALA Annual, I spent a lot of time researching it and getting advice from veteran conference-goers. The best piece of advice I got was to talk to everyone. Though extroverted, I am not always outgoing with strangers. But these are librarian-strangers—the best kind of stranger! By chatting with those around me, I managed to befriend people in libraries near my own (what are the odds?), learn major takeaways from sessions I’d missed, exchange business cards, programming advice, book recommendations, laughs, and hugs. Putting yourself out there is the best thing you can do.

Thank you so much to Penguin Young Readers Group and the award committee for allowing me the incredible opportunity to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco.

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Photo courtesy of the guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Heather Thompson. Heather is a Children’s Librarian / eMedia Coordinator and science programming enthusiast at the Cook Memorial Public Library District. Heather was a recipient of the Penguin Young Readers Group Award.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

The post I Left My Heart at ALA Annual appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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25. reader-powered publishing


Monks and Scribes Guild Seeks Injunction
Against New Self-Publisher, Gutenberg
Recently we've discussed some of the attractions that no-cost self-publishing providers offer to book writers.  Amazon's KDP for e-books, and CreateSpace for printed books, were the focus of our earlier discussions, though there are also other providers.  I published a Young Adult novel, Leaving Major Tela, in both formats with these providers, and found it a generally interesting and encouraging experience.  Now, another new development has arrived: reader-powered publishing.

It reminds one of how the music industry's decades-long, rigid control of who gets to have their music made available to the public, and how much it should cost, crumbled with the arrival of internet alternatives.  Some, like pirating, were not valid alternatives, but others like You Tube gave artists a chance to gain an audience, and revenues, from a large, potential fan base without going through the major labels.  Here's how things have evolved in a related way for book publishing.

Legacy publishers are the long-serving, traditional publishers for the book industry.  Over time, many of these publishers and their imprints have been acquired and merged into a fewer number of mega-corporations.  The modern business practices and required profit margins imposed by the mega-corporations on their new publishing divisions have led to smaller editorial staff to acquire new manuscripts, guide them through the publication process, and conduct the marketing program.  Since they have trimmed their work force to far fewer skilled editorial staff to do this work, the initial acquisition process has largely been farmed out to private, literary agents, who now act as the industry's first-line gatekeepers--at no cost to the mega-corporation.

Gatekeepers--there appear to be many literary agents available to do this job, but they all must compete to sell to the same mega-corporations.  The marketability of any manuscript may depend on genres and themes that are currently in vogue, as researched by the mega-corporations, and a new writer working with a theme in any other area has difficulties getting past the gatekeepers.  Agents, without a sufficient number of well-known writers contributing material to them, may choose to resort to passing along part of their overhead and operating costs to their hopeful, new writers--an increased price of admission for the writer.

The mega-corporations also depend to a much greater extent now on enlisting the free services of authors in their marketing campaigns, such as making book-signing tours.  Some authors may relish this, others may not.

The early business models of the new, self-publishing providers seem designed to give authors greater access to getting their book produced in e-book or printed versions, with minimal gatekeeping hurdles, and at essentially no cost to the author.  However, there has been little marketing followup by the self-publishing provider, aside from displaying an attractive webpage wherein the book description and its contents may be sampled online by the prospective reader, and which provides the reader an opportunity to click on the ordering button.  But how to coax the reader to find that page?  Providing links on your own blogging pages, or getting the book reviewed by other bloggers, are typical author strategies.  An author can also make his book more attractive to the casual web surfer by publicizing favorable reviews from prominent readers' websites, like ReadersFavorites.com, or GoodReads.com.    Such marketing is hard, and requires a degree of luck to get a following, but it can be done in a writer's available time, and from his own office.

The newest business model of "reader-powered" publishing" is the (Amazon) Kindle Scout venture.  In this model:


Authors who want to get their books published submit to Kindle Scout and accept the Submission & Publishing Agreement. The first pages (about 5,000 words) from each book are posted on the Kindle Scout website for a 30-day scouting period where readers can nominate up to three books at a time. The more nominations a book receives, the more likely it gets discovered by the Kindle Scout team. If selected, the book will be published by Kindle Press and all the readers who nominated the book will receive an early, free copy and be invited to leave reviews. 

When an author's book is selected by this process,  Kindle Press offers a $1,500 advance and 50% e-book royalties.   Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.  The advance and e-book royalties seem acceptable, but the proposed Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited compensation is not specifically given.  In the past my opinion of those programs in the earlier (and ongoing) business model has been they provide library content to serve as free perks to attract subscription-based customer programs, but provide little or no compensation to the writers.

I think I might like to submit a manuscript to Kindle Scout, and if so, would report more on the experience later.

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