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1. Review: How We Fall

How We Fall by Kate Brauning. Merit Press. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot:  Jackie's feelings for Marcus are intense, but she tries to hide it. Oh, they flirt, and yes, there are stolen kisses. So why can't they just both admit that it's more than flirtation, why not go on a real date?

Jackie's afraid, afraid of what people will think. Marcus is her cousin. And, to make matters more sensitive, or at least Jackie more sensitive to what people will think, their families share one home. They live under the same roof.

Jackie has few people she can trust or turn to. Her older sister is at college; her parents wouldn't understand, or worse, would over react. Her best friend, Ellie, has disappeared and it's beginning to look like Ellie didn't run away but was kidnapped, or worse.

Breaking up with Marcus, or, rather, stopping things, doesn't help. Her feelings don't just go away, and seeing him with a new girl,, Sylvia, makes things worse. So Jackie tries seeing someone new, Will.

Jackie begins to pore over all emails and messages from Ellie, hoping to figure out what happened to Ellie. And she's surprised when a name turns up in an old email: Sylvia. Could Marcus's new friend have a connection to Ellie and her disappearance?

The Good: How We Fall looks at love and lust and desire. Jackie knows full well what other people are going to think about her and Marcus being together, and I'm sure there are readers who won't be able to get over the first cousin romance. As Jackie points out, though, it's not illegal; and at most, it means that in some states they wouldn't be able to marry. There was something so sweet, and heart-breaking, to have Jackie both trying to deny her feelings and love for Marcus, while doing searches to find colleges in states where marriage is possible. Add to it that Jackie is keeping her emotions and thoughts so close, from fear, that she hasn't shared this with Marcus.

Jackie's attraction to and love for Marcus is clear, and while the story is told from Jackie's point of view, it also becomes clear that what he feels for Jackie is true. On one level, How We Fall is, simply, about star-crossed lovers.

The star-crossed is made more complicated by the unique housing situation. About two or three years earlier (Jackie is now 16, Marcus a year older), the two families decided, for several reasons, to combine households and move in together. For Jackie and her older sister, that meant moving from California to rural Missouri. Her father, a lawyer, now does legal consulting from home; her mother works at the library. Her uncle works in a lawn and garden shop and her aunt takes care of the home, which also involves a working farm.

To use Jackie's words to describe her aunt and uncle: "Uncle Ward's opinions were a junk drawer combination of conservative family values, generous interpretations of self-restraint and normalcy, and questionable ideas Aunt Shelly found on the internet." Ward and Shelly have six children, ranging from twin toddlers to Marcus, the eldest.

The families share a home -- this isn't sharing land, or a building. It's using the same kitchen, the same living spaces, and trying to balance their values. It's not always easy; you can tell that sometimes Jackie's mother (Ward's sister) is biting her tongue about Shelley's judgments and rules. (Let's just say that Shelley isn't a fan of TV or movies while Jackie is looking to major in film in college.) Jackie has also gone from youngest child of two to an eldest child helping not only with chores, and selling their farm produce, and helping in the gardens and with the animals, but also babysitting her younger cousins.

Still, the families make it work. They are happy and functional; but it's also a financial decision. They are living a lifestyle, and in a home, that requires four adults working. But, to be honest, working "less", with a better quality of life, if that makes sense. Look at the father: he can return to law, but he's happier being a consultant. Jackie's mother is happy working at the library, but if the families split, she'd need to get a better paying job. I really loved that this book included this non-typical living argument, and that the arrangement works. And, I also think that more and more readers are going to identify with teens in home situations that are non-traditional.

As you can tell, the love story and the setting is what really captured my attention. There is also a mystery going on, the mystery of Ellie's disappearance, and I liked how this was handled. Jackie is not Veronica Mars; her friend lurks in the background, something that Ellie thinks about but, especially at first, doesn't obsess over. It's as time goes by, and it turns into a murder investigation, and Marcus's new girlfriend is revealed to have a link, that Jackie finds herself actively trying to learn more about Ellie's life to figure out what happened.

There is also Jackie's own new boyfriend, Will. One of the reasons I like Will is he ends up being such a good, understanding guy. Seriously, whether in real life or a book, when a person is confronted with a situation when they can be cruel or they can be kind -- when they can be judgmental or understanding -- when they be angry and lash out,or listen and be a friend? And they choose kind? It just makes my day; it reaffirms that people are good. And that was Will. Someone who is good.

Also, Will is cute. I said that How We Fall is also about desire, and that's true of Jackie and Marcus and Jackie and Will. Jackie is trying to figure out what she wants, and what she feels, and what is love, and what is love -- and it's a bit messy, made messier but the awkwardness of the situation and her thinking she is protecting everyone by not admitting to her feelings for Marcus. And then here is Will and yes he's fun to kiss cause he's older and hot and even with all this he is just such a good guy. And I love that this book shows the complexity of feeling, emotion, and desire that a teen girl feels.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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2. Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review

millie tricks and treats menu Millies Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app reviewIntrepid adventurer dog Millie is back in Halloween-themed offering Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 (Millie Was Here series; Megapops, 2012).

Knock on each of ten front doors in Millie’s neighborhood to spin a game show–style wheel and receive either a video “trick” (e.g., “Millie Performs an Amazing Yo-Yo Trick,” “Millie Teleports All Over the Place”) or “treat” (spooky-fied bacon treats such as “Frankenbacon”). Judging from the not-too-scary decorations, it seems Millie’s neighborhood includes friendly families of werewolves, mad scientists, aliens, and vampires. A theremin-and-harpsichord waltz continues the Halloween-y mood. Every screen also offers a scratch-off picture of Millie modeling a different costume and a hidden sticker of a creepy-cute creature. Collect badges by finding all of the stickers and reading through the entire app. Each read-through offers slightly different content as the app cycles through a wide range of trick and treat videos and costumed Millie snapshots.

millie tricks and treats mad scientist door Millies Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review

Trick-or-treat!

millie tricks and treats open door Millies Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review

a trick: “Millie Knits You a Nice, Warm Sweater”

As in previous Millie Was Here apps, the humor lies in the juxtaposition of the off-screen narrator’s bombastic voice-over and the equally over-the-top title cards with Millie’s mundane doggy activities and interests. In the trick “Millie Turns into a Vicious Werewolf,” for instance, the small, snuggly dog looks up at a projected moon while a horror-movie-worthy wolf howl plays. Many of the videos show hands of human assistants offering treats and helping Millie perform her various tricks; the intentionally low-tech effects are part of the series’ considerable charm.

The navigation is straightforward — just forward and back buttons — and the app requires no reading. Music, narration, text highlighting, touch hints, and sticker hints may be turned on or off and volume may be adjusted (some of these settings are accessible from the navigation bar at the bottom of each screen, others in a parent-locked info section). A “bedtime mode” dims the screen slightly and disables the sticker hunt for a more soothing experience. Tips for keeping pets happy and safe on “Howl-o-ween” are appended.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 6.0 or later); $0.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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The post Millie’s Book of Tricks and Treats Vol. 2 app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. Protected: Rio de Janeiro: ATREVIDA – Revisão crítica da exposição artevida

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

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4. H2O by Virginia Bergin




From the Jacket Blurb:

.27 is a number Ruby hates.
It's a number that marks the percentage of the population that has survived. It's a number that means she's one of the "lucky" few still standing. And it's a number that says her father is probably dead.
Against all odds, Ruby has survived the catastrophic onset of the killer rain. Two weeks after the radio started broadcasting the warning, "It's in the rain. It's fatal and there's no cure," the drinkable water is running out. Ruby's left with two options: persevere on her own, or embark on a treacherous journey across the country to find her father-if he's even still alive.

"It's in the rain...and just one drop will kill you."

15 year-old Ruby Morris is obnoxious. In fact, she's possibly if not definitely the most annoying narrator of any YA book I've ever encountered. And just about all reader reviews of the book agree with this assessment.  She's an image and status obsessed snobby teenage brat, at times more concerned with putting on a sparkly top and makeup than smartly surviving the apocalyptic killer rain that has wiped out all but .27% of the world's population. You often find yourself thinking "UGH, what is wrong with you, Ruby? How can you still be THIS annoying? How could YOU of all people have survived when so many more likeable, clever, responsible people were dead within the first few days?" These questions are surprisingly, fascinatingly, the very reason why I enjoyed this book.

Let's face it: the world is full of annoying, frustrating people. People with different priorities and values and personalities than yourself. Ultimately harmless people that you just don't, well...like. And in the event of an apocalypse, these people don't just magically go away. Killer rain doesn't kill with discrimination. Many of the survivors of this story just got lucky. Ruby is a fault-filled person just like you or I (albeit far more immature), and catastrophe doesn't automatically change people into deeper people. At least not immediately, and not always in obvious ways...

Even if Ruby is as shallow as a puddle of the alien killer rain from which she's running...she's still human. And like it or not, being human means that we are (as a species) a mix of good and bad, complex and simple, deep thinkers and painfully, mind-numbingly shallow idiots. We don't get to pick from only our best qualities to define what being human means. We can't control the behaviors and decisions of others. We can't force them to abandon who they are, who they've been, to suddenly become our version of a "better", more-likeable person.

Accepting that others are others, that they think and act differently and that this is OK---is a worthwhile (although sometimes very challenging) exercise in becoming better people ourselves. Ruby doesn't deserve to die just because I don't like her. And she doesn't deserve NOT to be the main character of a book just because I wouldn't want to be her friend in real life. Because in real life, there are countless Rubys in the world. Imperfect, immature, infuriating kids naively stumbling through the world---just trying to live to see another day. We may want Ruby to grow up (fast!) and prove her worth to us as a narrator we can be proud of, but really, she doesn't owe us a darn thing. She is who she is. Peoples is peoples.

In the end, it's not the differences that matter but the ways in which even VERY different people are the same.

"Please don't leave me."

Throughout the story, Ruby finds herself thinking these words. Silently imploring whoever happens to be around her to hang around a little longer. These tiny glimmers of desperation, of fear and desire not to be alone, let us see through to her deeper humanity. This is the Ruby that I understand and that I pity. No one wants to be alone. Ruby has lost just about everyone she knows and cares for. She's completely on her own. She's going through hell and yet she keeps going. Who am I to deny her the things that make her happy? The little things that add a bit of sparkle to an otherwise gray, dead (and deadly) world---even if her happiness does come in the form of an impractical, shimmering sequined top?

I hope to see more of Ruby. I hope that her story doesn't end here. I hope there is a sequel and I hope to get the chance to see her evolve into better version of herself.

I have to hope, because even in the face of unlikely odds, to hope is to be human.
Well, it's part of it, anyway.




A Note on the Book's Design:

I quite like what Sourcebooks Fire has done with the book jacket and cover. Yellowish green acid-rain like droplets seem to have burned holes into the cover, revealing two key words in the raindrop shaped text block on the hard cover: "drop" and "scream" are very clearly highlighted by the cutouts which ominously sets the stage for the events that unfold. An effective cover, I love that it doesn't resort to the hideous trend in YA covers of overly Photoshopped imagery. I like that it's purely graphic. Simple, clean, and intriguing. No people. Only drops of killer rain, daring you to touch it with your bare hands.

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5. Review of Because They Marched

freeman because they marched Review of Because They MarchedBecause They Marched:
The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America

by Russell Freedman
Middle School    Holiday    83 pp.
8/14    978-0-8234-2921-9    $20.00
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-3263-9    $20.00

With characteristically clear prose sprinkled liberally with primary source quotes and carefully selected photographs, Freedman documents the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march that featured the horrific Bloody Sunday confrontation between the marchers and the Alabama state troopers. Captured on television footage by all the major networks, these events convinced the nation — and Congress — that something finally had to be done. That something turned out to be the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement.” Freedman’s introduction is particularly effective because it focuses on the teachers’ march to the courthouse to register as a major trigger for the movement: “For the first time, a recognized professional group from Selma’s black community had carried out an organized protest.” If the book is not quite as visually striking as its notable predecessor, Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching for Freedom (rev. 11/09), nor as invested in the youth participation, its later publication date allows the book to touch on the controversial 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. A timeline, source notes, selected bibliography, and an index are appended.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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6. Trolls & the NYT Bestsellers

What do trolls and the New York Times bestseller list have in common?



More than you might think.

It is often stated that bullies act out of a lack of self-esteem. But it is postulated that the opposite is also true: early humans that were good at convincing others of their superiority were perched at the top of the social hierarchy and demeaned others to keep their lofty position. Their followers aped their behavior and adopted their opinions.

Malicious internet trolls tend to be narcissistic, perhaps sociopathic. They need to lash out at other people to make themselves feel better. They usually rely on the cloak of anonymity, but not always. Superstars can be just as guilty.

They know that participants tend to conform to the rules and mindset of the bullies. 
A highly dysfunctional troll can start an attack with stealth with no fear of real reprisal, unless they accidentally target a master hacker who is capable of coming after them with a return cyber-attack. They do this certain that they will gain followers.


If you know such a hacker, I'd like his/her number.

The problem is, people who would never consider themselves bullies, who would never intentionally hurt others, can be drawn into the fray. They may agree with the troll's position, not necessarily the way it was expressed. The troll could be a friend (virtual or real), a relative, or a coworker, but acquaintance is not necessary to gain support. People jump in for myriad reasons.

The opposite of the troll is the cooing elf. Positive posters are motivated by the same phenomena. When the top “elf” loves something, others rush in with praise in their desire to be part of the “in” group. Elves also adopt the opinions and behaviors of their leader.

That is how books that are inherently flawed and barely readable can rise to the top of the NYT bestseller list.

When an elf is attacked by a troll, the battle becomes a free-for-all, dragging in totally innocent bystanders. You end up with a gallows mentality. A faction of the population enjoys a good show, particularly a gruesome one. It is why crowds gather to cheer on combatants when a fight breaks out.


                            But the positive review elves don’t cause any harm, right?

On the contrary, rewarding bad behavior or false praise can be just as toxic as trolling. If friends, family, or total strangers who have never read the book jump in with five-star ratings, it skews public opinion. 

Is there a solution to this problem? 

Not entirely, but there are steps we can take.

It would be nearly impossible to eliminate the cloak of anonymity offered by a virtual world, but attempts are being made to discourage trolls. An administrator can take down any post they consider inappropriate, but how do they decide which posts are “appropriate?” It’s a thin line between abuse and freedom of opinion. You can report abusive messages or direct threats from a troll. The administrators can block the accounts, but that doesn’t keep the troll from assuming a new identity.

If the situation gets stressful, quickest and easiest way to cope is to unplug and refuse to engage. Bullies get bored when they no longer get a rise out of you. You may be tempted to delete your social media accounts. However, authors are encouraged to have a social media presence to market their work, so removing your online presence isn't the best option. Either way, you'll have a hard time getting the troll war erased on review sites. You may need to take a break for a while, until you no longer feel the need to throttle someone.

As for society as a whole, we could aim for higher standards of online behavior:

We can teach our kids (or students) to think for themselves and to consider very carefully before they post anything online.
Stop laughing.

We can teach them to never post a review until they can display a sufficient grasp of the language.
Please, for the love of literacy.

We can encourage civil discourse in all public arenas: the internet, television, radio, the printed press, congress.
I see your smirk.

We can encourage journalistic and reviewer integrity.

I can hear you howling.

We can stop "trading" or writing reviews for books we've never read or refuse to pay for fake reviews and social media "likes." You may mean well, but you are enabling and harming the integrity of the process.

Don't bother sending hate mail.

Short of rewiring human nature, there is no simple solution. We can only change one person's character at a time: our own.

0 Comments on Trolls & the NYT Bestsellers as of 10/30/2014 3:13:00 PM
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7. Author Spotlight: Austin Kleon

If you are an artist of any kind - a writer, a poet, a singer, a painter, a filmmaker, anything creative - and Austin Kleon is not already on your radar, please tune in:

In his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, Kleon encourages people to be confident when approaching their projects, even when that voice in the back of your head is telling you, "But someone's already done something like this. Someone's already written a story about this, or make a similar sculpture, or created a collage like this..." Because guess what? Even if that is true, even if there is something similar out there, your creation won't be the same as what came before, because it's coming from you, and your viewpoint and abilities will make it unique. So don't be scared to tackle something that you think has "already been done" - because it hasn't, if you haven't done it yet.

At the same time, remember to give credit when credit is due. That's mentioned in all of his books: if you're doing something directly based on someone else's work, give that person credit. If you choreographed a dance largely influenced by the life of Martha Graham or inspired by the paintings of Degas, say that. If your research was heavily based on someone or something, cite it. Be grateful for those who paved the way, acknowledge those who helped you, respect others and you'll be respected.

Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, Kleon's latest book, offers ideas and ways to share your work with the world. As with Steal Like an Artist, each chapter is motivational, brief, and to-the-point. There are those who feel the need to "network" and those who absolutely hate networking, and any number of folks in-between; Show Your Work focuses talks about using the network to help other people find your work, to share what you've done without feeling like you are self-promoting or self-involved.

Kleon's Newspaper Blackout is a collection of poetry he made by taking a permanent marker to newspaper articles and turning them into something new. My favorite piece in his collection is Underdog, as seen here; I am also fond of Enigma, created by Erica Westcott.

I'm cross-posting this at GuysLitWire. Why share this at a blog targeted to teen readers? It's simple: creativity exists in everyone, in people of all ages. Some creative people are very outgoing and outspoken (hello, that's me!) but others aren't as confident in their abilities, especially when they are younger and/or are trying an artistic pursuit for the first time. Some people need a little nudge to write down the story that's been in the back of their mind for years, just as others need a little nudge to try out for the sports team or the school play.

So what are you waiting for? If you've always wanted to play the tuba, go to the local music store and get a recommendation for a good music teacher in your area. Or, to be more specific to the aforementioned books and methods, if you want to be a poet or a songwriter or a hand-lettering artist or a greeting card designer and don't know where to start, look at the things YOU like, and create something inspired by your favorite poems and songs and illustrations. Start with what moves you, and go from there. In time, you'll find your voice, and make something wholly original that will, in turn, inspire someone else. Creativity is a cycle. Pay it forward!

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8. Teach Us To Sit Still

I must give a hearty “thank you” to Ian Darling for telling me about Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Parks after I read The Miracle of Mindfulness. When you read a book like Thich Nhat Hahn’s on meditation and he is telling you how good it is and how it will change your life it is easy to dismiss it because of course this Buddhist monk is going to say that. To then read a book like Parks’s, a personal story that leads him kicking and screaming to meditation where he discovers that it really does work, it makes you pause and think.

Parks’s story begins when he was 51 and tired of suffering from severe pains and trips to the bathroom 5-6 times a night, something that he has been experiencing for years and keeps getting worse. Parks live and teaches in Verona, Italy and happened to have a good friend who is a top urologist in the country. His friend diagnosed him with prostatitis and referred him for tests and consults with top doctors. Through test after test and scan after scan, all the doctors said that if he weren’t having such pain they would say there was nothing wrong with him. The suggested treatment was an invasive and painful surgery that may or may not work, though all the doctors assured him it would. Parks rightly hesitated.

On a trip to India for a conference he decided to visit an Ayurvedic doctor on the spur of the moment. The doctor told him he could give him all kinds of herbs and recommend all sorts of expensive supplements but none of them would work and he would never be cured until he confronted the “profound contradiction” in his character. “There is a tussle in your mind,” the doctor told him. Parks left kicking himself for wasting his time. But he could not get over this idea of there being a tussle in his mind.

On the internet he discovered a place in California that treated men with problems like his. They had a book. Parks ordered the book. Basically, their theory was that his condition was muscle-related, that his body was so full of tension that the muscles around his prostate could not relax. Treatment was an hour of “paradoxical relaxation” and regular prostate massage. Parks decided even though he didn’t feel tense, he’d give the relaxation a go since he had nothing to lose.

“Paradoxical relaxation” is pretty much meditation done laying down. The paradox is that once you are comfortable, you are supposed to focus on an area of your body that feels tense but not try to relax it. Only by not relaxing the tension will the tension go away. And there was to be no verbalization, no talking to yourself in your head, just an empty mind and focus.

Parks was surprised when he quickly learned that the body he thought was not tense at all was nothing but tense. His first few efforts ended up giving him moments of increased pain. But he kept at it and after a few more tries had a moment when something let go and he felt a warm wave wash through him. He was so excited by this that he immediately ruined the moment. But he had made progress. Eventually he had pain-free hours during his day but he still had to get up frequently during the night.

He visited a Shiatsu massage specialist. The massages caused pain but also relieved pain. His masseuse eventually recommended Parks try Vipassana meditation. Parks was reluctant but realized that he had gone as far as he could with his paradoxical relaxation so he signed up for a weekend retreat.

In Vipassana meditation you begin by focusing your attention on feeling your breath move across the top of your lip, in and out. You aren’t supposed to think. You are supposed to sit completely still. Parks quickly discovers how very hard this is. Even with his paradoxical relaxation he had supreme difficulty not thinking, not verbalizing, now it was even harder. But there were exquisite moments when it would all come together and he would feel so calm, relaxed and completely free of pain. After two years and regular meditation, he found himself cured. He still had to get up during the night but only twice a night instead of 5-6 times.

Throughout the book he keeps going back and mulling over what the tussle in his mind could be, and he discovers there are a number of unresolved issues with his parents, especially his father, with his writing and his ambition. At one point he even decides he needed to give up writing entirely but when he told the leader of the retreat he was on when he came to this conclusion, the man just laughed at him and said he had it all wrong.

Eventually he figures it out. He realizes that holding on so tight to language, to words, the “I” that language asks us to create is the problem. Meditating helped him let that go, helped him get out of his head and into his body, gave him a sense of wholeness and calm and taught him that there is pleasure in letting the self disappear.

Of course everyone will have different reasons for meditating and derive different benefits, but Parks’s experience is encouraging and uplifting. He makes you believe that if he could do it, everyone reading his book certainly can do it too.


Filed under: Books, Memoir/Biography, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: Tim Parks

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9. Domestic animals

goldish science dogs Domestic animalsGoldish, Meish Science Dogs
Gr. 4–6    
32 pp.     Bearport

Goldish, Meish Shelter Dogs
Gr. 4–6    
32 pp.      Bearport

Dog Heroes series. These series entries introduce two types of “dog heroes”: in Science, dogs are studied to aid beneficial scientific discoveries and innovations; Shelter discusses how unwanted dogs can go on to do remarkable things for humans after they’re adopted. The volumes are accessible, with numerous photographs and interesting personal anecdotes rounding out the texts. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Domestic Animals; Pets; Animals—Dogs; Animal shelters; Scientists; Science

green inheritance of traits Domestic animalsGreen, Jen Inheritance of Traits: Why Is My Dog Bigger Than Your Dog?
Gr. 4–6    
32 pp.     Raintree

Show Me Sciences series. In a successful series entry, Green walks us through the “Ultimate Pet Show,” describing how dogs, cats, and horses evolved from the wild and are bred to encourage the emergence of certain traits in each species’ breeds. Explanations are clear, specific, and supported by simple diagrams and engaging photos of our animal companions. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Domestic Animals; Genetics; Animals—Horses; Animals—Cats; Animals—Dogs; Pets

johnson guinea pig Domestic animalsJohnson, Jinny Guinea Pig
Gr. K–3
     24 pp.     Smart Apple

Johnson, Jinny Hamster and Gerbil
Gr. K–3
     24 pp.     Smart Apple

Johnson, Jinny Kitten
Gr. K–3
     24 pp.     Smart Apple

Johnson, Jinny Puppy
Gr. K–3
     24 pp.     Smart Apple

Johnson, Jinny Rabbit
Gr. K–3
     24 pp.     Smart Apple

My New Pet series. Young children learn what it takes to care for a new pet. Large print and a combination of photos and drawings of familiar critters present the responsibilities — providing food, water, a place for sleeping and play, gentle handling, regular attention, and veterinary care. The books are narrated simply in the first-person voice of a child; a few notes for parents wrap things up. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Domestic Animals; Animals—Dogs; Animals—Rabbits; Animals—Cats; Animals—Guinea pigs; Animals—Hamsters; Animals—Gerbils; Pets

spiotta dimare draft horses Domestic animalsSpiotta-DiMare, Loren Draft Horses: Horses That Work
Gr. 4–6    
48 pp.     Enslow/Elementary

Spiotta-DiMare, Loren Performing Horses: Horses That Entertain
Gr. 4–6    
48 pp.     Enslow/Elementary

Spiotta-DiMare, Loren Police Horses: Horses That Protect
Gr. 4–6    
48 pp.     Enslow/Elementary

Spiotta-DiMare, Loren Therapy Horses: Horses That Heal
Gr. 4–6    
48 pp.     Enslow/Elementary

Horses That Help with the American Humane Association series. Examining horses that work as performers, with police, pulling plows and wagons, and in therapeutic environments, these volumes address the history of horses doing such work, breeds, training, the work itself, and horse retirement. The conversational writing, plentiful examples, and occasional references to the author’s own horse keep things engaging. Photos and “Fast Fact” sidebars enliven the design. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Domestic Animals; Animals—Horses; Police officers

stiefel chickens on the family farm Domestic animalsStiefel, Chana Chickens on the Family Farm
Gr. K–3     24 pp.     Enslow

Stiefel, Chana Cows on the Family Farm
Gr. K–3      24 pp.     Enslow

Stiefel, Chana Goats on the Family Farm
Gr. K–3     24 pp.     Enslow

Stiefel, Chana Pigs on the Family Farm
Gr. K–3     24 pp.     Enslow

Stiefel, Chana Sheep on the Family Farm
Gr. K–3     24 pp.     Enslow

Stiefel, Chana Turkeys on the Family Farm
Gr. K–3      24 pp.      Enslow

Animals on the Family Farm series. One family’s farm is the setting for these six simple books about domestic animals. In each volume, a conversational text and colorful photos briefly cover basics: what the animal eats, where it lives (coop, pen, etc.), differences between males and females (size, coloring), care of young, and what it’s raised for (eggs, cheese, meat). Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Domestic Animals; Farms and farm life; Animals–Chickens; Animals—Cows; Animals—Goats; Animals—Pigs; Animals—Sheep; Animals—Turkeys

From the October 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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10. Cookery

barlow noodlemania CookeryBarlow, Melissa Noodlemania!: 50 Playful Pasta Recipes
Gr. 46     112 pp.     Quirk Books

Illustrated by Alison Oliver. Sections named for pasta shapes (“Twisted & Twirly,” “Wheels & Whatever”) contain recipes that use common ingredients and simple techniques with the usual caveat about grown-up help. Appetizing full-color photos show final products. Pasta trivia, creative cooking tips, and “fun facts” are scattered throughout. A chart suggesting substitutions, such as ravioli instead of tortellini, is a clever addition. Ind.
Subjects: Cookery and Nutrition; Food

elton starting from scratch CookeryElton, Sarah Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know About Food and Cooking
Middle school, high school      96 pp.     Owlkids

Illustrated by Jeff Kulak. Although this book includes some recipes, it’s not a cookbook. Elton explores why we cook, how our senses contribute to food preferences, how culture and history affect food choices, and more. The lively prose is accompanied by stylized illustrations, charts, activities, and other graphics. A “guide to flavor pairing” and a measurement conversion chart are appended. Ind.
Subjects: Cookery and Nutrition; Food

lapenta fall shakes to harvest bakes CookeryLaPenta, Marilyn Fall Shakes to Harvest Bakes
Gr. K3     24 pp.     Bearport

LaPenta, Marilyn Spring Spreads to “Nutty” Breads
Gr. K3     24 pp.     Bearport

LaPenta, Marilyn Summer Sips to “Chill” Dips
Gr. K3     24 pp.     Bearport

LaPenta, Marilyn Winter Punches to Nut Crunches
Gr. K3     24 pp.     Bearport

Yummy Tummy Recipes: Seasons series. Corny titles and static illustrations aside, these cookbooks are something fresh for kids. With seasonal ingredients — pumpkin and cranberry for fall, peach and melon for summer, etc. — they offer enticing and healthy dishes that are perfect for holiday celebrations and generally enjoying each season. Sidebars present health tips, and directions are simple to follow and relatively concise. Reading list. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Cookery and Nutrition; Seasons—Autumn; Seasons—Summer; Seasons—Spring; Seasons—Winter; Food; Bakers and baking

wagner cool backyard grilling CookeryWagner, Lisa Cool Backyard Grilling: Beyond the Basics for Kids Who Cook
Gr. 46     32 pp.     ABDO

Wagner, Lisa Cool Best-Ever Brunches: Beyond the Basics for Kids Who Cook
Gr. 46     32 pp.     ABDO

Wagner, Lisa Cool Cooking Up Chili: Beyond the Basics for Kids Who Cook
Gr. 46     32 pp.     ABDO

Wagner, Lisa Cool Game Day Parties: Beyond the Basics for Kids Who Cook
Gr. 46     32 pp.     ABDO

Checkerboard How-To Library: Cool Young Chefs series. Each volume emphasizes characteristics of being a good cook (efficiency, creativity, organization, etc.); introduces a cooking technique and safety guidelines; and includes nine not-too-difficult, kid-appealing recipes—caramelized onion dip, black bean chili, breakfast bakes, kebabs, and more—with variations. Clear step-by-step directions include helpful color photos. There is some boilerplate repetition across the useful, accessible series. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Cookery and Nutrition; Food

walton lets bake a cake CookeryWalton, Ruth Let’s Bake a Cake
Gr. K3     32 pp.     Sea to Sea

Let’s Find Out series. Beginning with a birthday cake baked at Grandma’s (recipe appended), this book explores the origin and processing of the ingredients: sugar, butter, eggs, wheat, and chocolate. Walton generally makes sound choices about coverage for these broad topics, along with occasional advocacy for organic, fair-trade products. Collage-style illustrations and captioned photos help clarify the wide-ranging (and haphazardly organized) subjects. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Cookery and Nutrition; Bakers and baking

From the October 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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11. Big ideas

adler things that float and things that dont Big ideasAdler, David A. Things That Float and Things That Don’t
Gr. K3        32 pp.      Holiday

Illustrated by Anna Raff. Adler expertly teaches the concept of density, moving beyond classic floating and sinking experiments to a carefully constructed lesson that helps young thinkers appreciate both scientific explanations and practices. The concepts are kept simple and age appropriate, without shying away from the more abstract dimensions of science. Cartoonlike illustrations portray two children and their curious dog happily doing science.
Subjects: Physics and Chemistry; Water; Vehicles—Boats and boating

andregg seven billion and counting Big ideasAndregg, Michael M. Seven Billion and Counting: The Crisis in Global Population Growth
Middle school, high school   
88 pp.    Twenty-First Century

This book is chock-full of sobering statistics on human population growth. Andregg explains demographic basics, then how numbers are affected by the interplay of politics, religion, depletion of natural resources, poverty, education, and access to health care such as birth control. Photos and graphs extend the rich, thought-provoking text. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Social Issues; Population

ross shapes in math science and nature Big ideasRoss, Catherine Sheldrick Shapes in Math, Science and Nature: Squares, Triangles and Circles
Gr. 46     192 pp.     Kids Can

Illustrated by Bill Slavin. Upper-elementary math fans (and teachers) will enjoy the many hands-on activities in this compilation of Ross and Slavin’s three earlier books about squares, triangles, and circles—and their related solid shapes. Numerous details (historical, architectural, geographical, etc.) are woven in among the projects and games—some of which are quite challenging (e.g., making a sundial). Chapters include diagrams and cartoonlike illustrations. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Mathematics; Mathematics—Geometry

schaefer lifetime Big ideasSchaefer, Lola M. Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Chronicle

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. The concept of quantity is cleverly examined in the context of animal lives. Schaefer presents the number of times an animal “performs one behavior” in its lifetime, starting with the single egg sac spun by a spider, up to the thousand babies carried by a male seahorse. Bold and beautifully composed, Neal’s retro illustrations contain the actual number of items mentioned. Supplemental information is appended.
Subjects: Natural History; Animals; Biology

zoehfeld secrets of the seasons Big ideasZoehfeld, Kathleen Weidner Secrets of the Seasons: Orbiting the Sun in Our Backyard
Gr. K—3        40 pp.      Knopf

Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. Alice and friends from Secrets of the Garden return to enjoy her nature-filled backyard. This time, she learns to notice and welcome differences in weather, plants, and animal life in each of the four seasons of the temperate northern hemisphere. Throughout, airy pen and watercolor illustrations make the appeal of nature accessible to even the youngest readers.
Subjects: Earth Science; Astronomy—Sun; Seasons; Nature

From the October 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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12. Review of The Cabinet of Curiosities

bachmann cabinet of curiosities Review of The Cabinet of CuriositiesThe Cabinet of Curiosities:
36 Tales Brief & Sinister

by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, 
and Emma Trevayne;
illus. by Alexander Jansson
Middle School    Greenwillow    488 pp.
6/14    978-0-06-233105-2    $16.99

Four “curators” — Bachmann, Catmull, Legrand, and Trevayne — travel to lands peregrine and outré to fill their Cabinet of Curiosities museum, sending back grotesqueries and objects of wonder as well as the tales behind them — tales that often bend to the tenebrous and unearthly. The table of contents lists the Cabinet’s “rooms” and “drawers,” each with a theme (cake, luck, tricks, flowers) and four or five tales to explore. In “The Cake Made Out of Teeth” (“collected by” Legrand) a spoiled-rotten boy must finish an entire cake made in his image, despite the sensation of teeth chewing him up with every bite. “Lucky, Lucky Girl” (Catmull) stars a young woman whose good luck seems to depend on the very bad luck of the people around her. In “Plum Boy and the Dead Man” (Bachmann), a rich and opinionated lad has a conversation with a corpse hanging from a tree…and ends up unwillingly changing places with the victim. “The Book of Bones” (Trevayne) features Eleanor Entwhistle, a plucky girl whose courage halts the work of a grave-robbing sorcerer. The stories are remarkable both for their uniformly high quality and for their distinctness from one another; the abundant atmospherics, including occasional stark black-and-white illustrations, provide a unifying sense of dread. The framing device — the curators send letters from the field introducing their latest discoveries — adds depths of mystery, danger, and idiosyncrasy to a book already swimming in each.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. Fusenews: Bemoaning, Lamenting, and Generally Carrying On

  • A stumper to begin the day. I got this message from my aunt and I simply do not know the answer. Librarians of the world, do you know? Just to clarify beforehand, the answer is unfortunately not Are Your My Mother? by P.D. Eastman:

“… seeking info on a children’s book that was [a] favorite at least 30 years ago about a baby bird (with goggles) who is having trouble learning to fly.”

  • CatherineCertitude 210x300 Fusenews: Bemoaning, Lamenting, and Generally Carrying OnHere’s a new one.  Apparently the 2014 Nobel Prize winner for literature is a French author with a children’s book to his name.  And the book?  According to Karen MacPherson it’s Catherine Certitude.  Now THAT is a title, people!
  • Me Stuff: Pop Goes the Page was very very kind and did a little behind-the-scenes interview with me about good old Giant Dance Party.  Ain’t Dana swell?  Meanwhile my favorite transgender children’s librarian Kyle Lukoff just posted a review of Wild Things on his blog.  I’ve been very impressed by his reviews, by the way.  The critique of A is for Activist is dead on.
  • On the one hand, this may well be the most interesting board book I’ve seen in a long time.  On the other, why can’t I buy it through Ingram or Baker & Taylor?  Gah!
  • Movie news! Specifically Number the Stars movie news. Read on:

Young readers and their families enjoyed an afternoon celebrating the 25th anniversary of Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars  at Symphony Space in New York on October 19th.  Actor Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) was on hand to read from Lowry’s work,. He and his wife Christine have secured the rights to adapt the book for film.

The event was one of the Thalia Kids’ Book Club series at Symphony Space. The next event is a celebrity-studded tribute to the work of E. B. White on Wednesday, November 19th, with proceeds benefiting First Book Manhattan. (Link: http://www.symphonyspace.org/event/8497/Family-Literature/thalia-kids-book-club-terrific-tails-a-celebration-of-eb-white

Lowry event PHOTOS just posted via Getty Images: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/lois-lowry-and-sean-astin-attends-number-the-stars-25th-news-photo/457520190

  • Aw heck.  Since I’m just reprinting small press releases at this point, I’d be amiss in missing this:

ASK ME ANOTHER WITH MO WILLEMS

  • Date: Wednesday, November 5
  • Time: 6:30 doors, 7:30 show
  • Price: $20 advance, $25 door
  • Location: The Bell House, 149 7th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Aves), Brooklyn, NY 11215
  • Ticket Link: http://www.thebellhouseny.com/event/699477-ask-me-another-brooklyn/
  • Blurb: Join NPR’s Ask Me Another, along with host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton, for a rousing night of brainteasers, comedy, and music. This week’s V.I.P. (that’s puzzle speak for Very Important Puzzler), is acclaimed children’s book author Mo Willems. Willems is known for titles like Knuffle Bunny, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, and the Elephant and Piggie series. See how he fares in a trivia game written just for him. For more information and tickets visit www.amatickets.org.

DuckDeathTulip 300x180 Fusenews: Bemoaning, Lamenting, and Generally Carrying OnAs a children’s materials specialist I have a little file where I keep track of my 80+ library branches and the types of books they want.  One of the topics you’ll find on my list?  Death.  We’re always asked to provide books about the bereavement process.  Now The Guardian has done a nice little round-up of some of the more recent ones.  Note, though, that death books all have on thing in common: They’re all about white families.  Finding a multicultural book about death isn’t impossible but it is harder than it should be, particularly when we’re discussing picture books.  Thanks to Kate for the link.

  • There is a tendency online when a story breaks to write a post that comments on one aspect or another of the situation without saying what the problem was in the first place.  That’s why we’re so grateful to Leila Roy.  If you found yourself hearing vague references to one Kathleen Hale and her article of questionable taste in The Guardian but didn’t know the whole story, Leila makes all clear here.
  • Hm. I like Harry Potter as much as the next guy but the Washington Post article Why the Harry Potter Books Are So Influential All Around the World didn’t quite do it for me.  Much of it hinges on believing that HP is multicultural.  I don’t suppose I’m the only person out there who remembers that in the original printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dean Thomas was not mentioned as black.  That was added for subsequent editions.  Ah well.  Does it matter?
  • Daily Show Head Writer and fellow-who-is-married-to-a-children’s-librarian Elliott Kalan recently wrote a piece for Slate that seeks to explain how his vision of New York as a child was formed by Muppets Take Manhattan and Ghostbusters.  But only the boring parts.  Yup.
  • Fountas and Pinnell have a message for you: They’re sorry.  Thanks to Colby Sharp for the link.
  • Daily Image:

They’ve finally announced the winner of the whopping great huge Kirkus Prize.  And the final finalist on the children’s side turns out to be . . . Aviary Wonders, Inc.  And here’s an image of the committee that selected the prize with the winner herself.

Left to right: E.K. Johnston (author finalist), Vicky Smith (Kirkus Children’s Editor), Claudette McLinn, Kate Samworth, John Peters, and Linda Sue Park.

Screen Shot 2014 10 27 at 11.25.19 PM 500x389 Fusenews: Bemoaning, Lamenting, and Generally Carrying On

They mentioned the prize money but they never mentioned that the winner also gets a TROPHY!!  That’s big.  We don’t get many trophies in our business.  Well played.  And thanks to Claudette McLinn for the photo.

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14. GraphicAudio Releases Their First Graphic Novel Adaptation - Cemetery Girl, Book One


If you cannot see the media player embedded above, click here to listen to the sample track at SoundCloud.

GraphicAudio has released their first graphic novel adaptation - and it's CEMETERY GIRL Book One: The Pretenders by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden. Double cool! I loved the original book, and the audio sample released by the publisher (see above) immediately sets the stage for the story's location and feel. Kudos to Emlyn McFarland, who plays the main character, Calexa, and to the sound designers and producers.

Read my review of the original graphic novel.

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15. Medea

What an amazing play is Medea by Euripides. I read an edition from 2006 translated by the poet Michael Collier and the Greek scholar Georgia Machemer. Machemer also wrote a fantastic introduction. Of all the introductions to all the Greek plays I’ve read over the last several years, this one is hands down the best. What was so good about it? It provided context for the play without trotting out all the usual tired historical droning that usually makes its way into these kinds of introductions. The context provided was specific to this play itself and what was going on in Athens during the time it was produced, what the audience would have known and expected, how they would have probably reacted when their expectations were challenged, and what they would have known and how they would have felt about Euripides himself.

For instance, even though the songs Euripides wrote for his choruses were popular and sung all over town, the playwright and plays themselves often unsettled audiences. Euripides was schooled by the Sophists who were foreigners to Athens, had unnerving theories about the nature of things and could deftly argue either side of an issue. They stirred things up. Euripides didn’t let them down.

Medea opens with Medea’s nurse coming on stage. Today we would think nothing of this, but then, this was shocking. Not only was it a woman giving the opening monologue of the play but a servant who was an old slave of a “barbarian” princess. When you expect a highborn man or a god to walk out for the opening monologue, this move is quite astonishing and right off sets you reeling.

And then the play itself. A woman carries it and not just any woman. Medea is a priestess of Hecate, she has immense knowledge of the healing arts as well as potions that kill. She is from a foreign country. And she speaks throughout with the rhetorical skill of a man, scheming, tricking, deceiving to save her own honor instead of submitting to the will of her husband like a good and proper wife should. After seeing this play the men in the audience, and the audience would have been almost all men, would have been shaking in their sandals for fear of the power that a woman might wield. I could also hope that some of them left the theatre with a bit more respect for their wives but that might be hoping too much.

This play would have resonated with Athenians on a different level too. Athens had recently passed a law that said foreign-born wives could not be citizens nor could any of their offspring. This law effectively disinherited any children born from such a marriage. As a result, many men divorced their wives and married Greek ones instead. So when Jason leaves Medea for the daughter of King Creon, the men of Athens watching this play got an extra dose of discomfort.

There is an interesting note in the text of my edition of the play that says a good many scholars believe Euripides invented Medea killing her children, that prior to this play, the story did not include their deaths. So why did she have to kill them? Medea needed to destroy Jason for his betrayal and the best way to destroy him is to destroy his whole family. Thus Medea kills Jason’s new wife with poisoned gifts and Creon in rushing to her aid is also poisoned by he deadly robes. The children could not be left alive as heirs nor after killing the king and his daughter could Medea leave the children alive to likely be killed my an angry mob. So she does the deed. She almost couldn’t. Can you blame her? The gods do not punish her for killing her children because her act was honorable vengeance against a man who betrayed both her and the gods who had given him Medea to help him escape with the Golden Fleece.

Medea gets to exit in a golden sun chariot with the corpses of her children after she curses Jason. And we all known Jason dies a sad and ruined man, killed when his famous ship, the Argo, falls on his head while he is beneath it repairing its keel.

Medea, of course, has some marvelous speeches in this play. One of my favorite passages happens when she is talking to the chorus who are all women:

But I’ve been talking as if our lives
are the same. They’re not. You are Corinthians
with ancestral homes, childhood friends,
while I, stripped of that already,
am now even more exposed by Jason’s cruelties.
Remember how I came here, a war bride,
plundered from my country, an orphan?
Now who’s obligated to shelter me? Not you,
I know. As you watch my plans for justice unfold,
keep them secret, that’s all I ask. I’ve never felt
this threatened nor fearless: men win their battles
on the field but women are ruthless when the bed
becomes the battleground. We’ve lain
in our own blood before…and have survived.

In the face of Medea, Jason comes off sounding like a greedy, petulant boy whining about how Medea isn’t being reasonable in accepting the crumbs he is reluctantly offering so he looks like a good man and doesn’t feel guilty. Why he is so surprised that this powerful woman throws it all back in his face and calls him on his betrayal is the real surprise.

The sad thing though in the end, in spite of Medea triumphing over Jason and being carried away to Athens in a chariot of the sun (he’s a relative), she has lost everything too. She will have protection in Athens, but she has no home, no friends, no children. She wins by losing and that is the biggest tragedy of all.


Filed under: Ancient Greece, Books, Plays, Reviews Tagged: Euripides

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16. Memoir

earl this star wont go out MemoirEarl, Esther This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life & Words of Esther Grace Earl
Middle school, high school     240 pp.     Dutton

With Lori Earl and Wayne Earl. John Green dedicated The Fault in Our Stars to Esther Earl, who, in her own words, “went through a life changing experience known as Thyroid Cancer.” This posthumous collection (with a moving introduction by Green) gathers her musings and drawings, which span her illness. Reflections by family and friends both before and after Esther’s death at sixteen are also included. An ultimately hopeful offering.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Women—Biographies; Diseases—Cancer; Autobiographies; Women—Autobiographies; Children’s writings; Illness; Death

ehlert scraps book MemoirEhlert, Lois The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
K–3     72 pp.     Simon/Beach Lane

In a generously illustrated picture-book memoir, Ehlert speaks directly to her audience, particularly readers who like collecting objects and making things. The book is jam-packed with Ehlert’s art and photos from her life: her parents, the house she grew up in, and the small table where she was encouraged to pursue her art; along the way, we see how autobiographical her books have been.
Subjects: Visual Arts; Artists; Illustrators; Autobiographies; Women—Autobiographies; Women—Artists; Biographies; Women—Biographies

kehret animals welcome MemoirKehret, Peg Animals Welcome: A Life of Reading, Writing, and Rescue
Gr. 46     175 pp.     Dutton

Animals typically play important roles in Kehret’s fiction. In this memoir, readers see what a major role they play in her life. Living on a protected preserve, Kehret quietly rescues many feral, abandoned, and lost animals. Without undue drama, episodic chapters describe many such events, introducing the real-life models of many of her fictional animal characters.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Animals; Women—Autobiographies; Autobiographies; Authors; Women—Authors; Women—Biographies

knaan when i get older MemoirK’naan  When I Get Older: The Story Behind Wavin’ Flag 
Gr. K3     32 pp.     Tundra

With Sol Guy. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. K’naan is an acclaimed Somali-Canadian rap artist, poet, and songwriter, and his “Wavin’ Flag” was the anthem of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This distilled autobiography chronicles his childhood: first in civil war–ravaged Somalia, then in Toronto as a refugee, and how “music made [him] safe” through it all. Gutierrez’s art has an intense, graffiti-like energy. Music, lyrics, and a note on Somalia are appended.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Poets; Music—Rap music; Somalia; Canada; Songs; Autobiographies; Refugees; Black Canadians; Musicians

leyson BoyonWoodenBox 225x300 MemoirLeyson, Leon, Harran, Marilyn J. and Leyson, Elisabeth B. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List
Gr. 46     232 pp.     Atheneum

Leon Leyson (born Leib Lejzon in 1929) acknowledges that he was “an unlikely survivor of the Holocaust,” saved from extermination by his father’s lucky place in Oskar Schindler’s Kraków factory. Leyson’s account of his childhood in pre-war Poland and under the Nazi occupation stands out for its brisk and unsentimental style and for its human scale. The tone is forthright and almost grandfatherly. Websites.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Nazism; Schindler, Oskar; History, Modern—Holocaust; Autobiographies; Poland; Jews

From the October 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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17. Unexplained phenomena

allman are extraterrestrials a threat to humankind Unexplained phenomenaAllman, Toney Are Extraterrestrials a Threat to Humankind?
Middle school, high school     80 pp.     ReferencePoint

Kallen, Stuart A. The Search for Extraterrestrial Life
Middle school, high school     80 pp.     ReferencePoint

Marcovitz, Hal Aliens in Pop Culture
Middle school, high school     80 pp.     ReferencePoint

Netzley, Patricia D. Alien Encounters
Middle school, high school     80 pp.     ReferencePoint

Whiting, Jim UFOs
Middle school, high school     80 pp.     ReferencePoint

Extraterrestrial Life series. The notions of aliens as fact and fiction and the basis for their existence (or lack thereof) are recounted in painstaking detail in this series. The books are generally accessible; for some (especially Search), strong interest and aptitude in astronomy and physics would help comprehension. Occasional drawings and photographs, along with sidebars, help liven up these textbooklike volumes. Reading list, websites. Ind.
Subjects: Parapsychology; Extraterrestrial beings; Unidentified flying objects

arnosky monster hunt Unexplained phenomenaArnosky, Jim Monster Hunt: Exploring Mysterious Creatures with Jim Arnosky
Gr. 4–6     32 pp.     Hyperion

Inviting readers to join him on a “monster hunt,” Arnosky ponders the existence of “mysterious creatures” and compares real animals once thought to be folkloric (or extinct) with legendary creatures Bigfoot, Nessie, and Champ from Lake Champlain. Characteristic Arnosky illustrations support a conversational narrative that questions what’s real or possible, making this a friendly outing intended to inspire further research. Resources not included.
Subjects: Parapsychology; Monsters

everett haunted histories Unexplained phenomenaEverett, J. H. and Scott-Waters, Marilyn Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces
Gr. 4–6     146 pp.     Holt/Ottaviano

This book is a collection of stories, trivia, maps, and drawings of various haunted locations—castles, dungeons and jails, palaces, and graveyards—throughout history. Reluctant readers will appreciate the short entries, snarky narrator, and varied format, while those with a taste for horror will find fascinating, rarely covered material here (e.g., “Top Ten Torture Devices”). Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind.
Subjects: Parapsychology; Supernatural—Ghosts; Haunted houses; History, World; Supernatural—Horror stories

halls alien investigation Unexplained phenomenaHalls, Kelly Milner Alien Investigation: Searching for the Truth About UFOs and Aliens
Gr. 4–6     64 pp.     Millbrook

With a surprisingly evenhanded tone, this book uses an interest in aliens to inspire scientific inquiry. It discusses the history of UFO sightings, crashes, and hoaxes, providing thoroughly researched, factual information while remaining nonjudgmental about unexplained phenomena. A fictionalized thread of an alien mission is interspersed with the nonfiction. The author’s interviews with experts and witnesses are particularly insightful. Websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Parapsychology; Extraterrestrial beings; Unidentified flying objects; Space

pelleschi crop circles Unexplained phenomenaPelleschi, Andrea Crop Circles
Middle school, high school     112 pp.     ABDO

Zuchora-Walske, Christine The Bermuda Triangle
Middle school, high school     112 pp.     ABDO

Unsolved Mysteries series. Archival photographs, sidebars, and maps combine with a straightforward text to present thought-provoking examinations of these “unsolved” phenomena. Theories and possible explanations along with myths and current debates provide a comprehensive discussion. The concluding “Tools and Clues” feature includes a list of equipment used to investigate crop circles and a summary of popular explanations for the Bermuda Triangle. Reading list, timeline. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: Parapsychology; Extraterrestrial beings; Bermuda Triangle

From the October 2014 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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18. Review of Bow-Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors

newgarden bow wows nightmare neighbors Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighborsstar2 Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors
by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash; illus. by the authors
Preschool    Porter/Roaring Brook    64 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-640-4    $17.99    g

Bow-Wow is back in this fanciful wordless follow-up to Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug (rev. 7/07). This time, the stalwart canine sets out to retrieve his stolen doggy bed from the ornery ghost cats and kittens who live across the street in a haunted mansion — complete with loose floorboards, secret passageways, and moving-eye portraits. Around every corner, it seems as though the pup may have found his purloined cushion at last, but each time, he’s mistaken. With beady-eyed specters peering out from various nooks and crannies ready to nip the tip of his tail, Bow-Wow finally makes his way through the house — only to come face-to-face with the mother of all ghost cats in an absurdly funny (and cuddly) denouement. In a strange house with the lights out, the predominantly grayscale palette captures the eerie confusion of eyes playing tricks with the shadows, while carefully placed flourishes of color amp up the humor at just the right moments. Through expert use of comic-book panels, Newgarden and Cash play with perspective and timing, giving a sense of immediacy and light suspense to each increasingly silly scene. A fresh look at things that go bump in the night.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Neighbors

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Neighbors appeared first on The Horn Book.

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Neighbors as of 1/1/1900
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19. What Make This Book So Great

In the long ago time of February when I came down sick with a really bad cold that caused me to miss several days of work, Bookman brought me home some “chicken soup.” No, not fake vegan “chicken” soup. It was a book. And not one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. If Bookman had been silly enough to do that I think I probably would have barfed on him. A chicken soup book doesn’t have to be a specific book, just a book to help a person feel better. The book Bookman brought me was What Makes this Book So Great by Jo Walton. I didn’t finish it when I was sick and have only picked away at it from time to time since then. But when I caught a mild cold two weeks ago I picked it up again and managed to finish it just as I got better. Was finishing the book and my return to health a coincidence? Don’t be too quick to discredit chicken soup!

What Makes this Book so Great is a collection of essays that originally appeared at Tor and I think you can still read them there. The essays in the book are generally short, about three pages or so, perfect for cold weary brains. Walton takes a light and breezy tone, she only talks about books she likes, and it is like listening to a friend who is really excited about this book she just read and wants to tell you all about it and why you might want to read it too. Fun stuff!

There are also a few essays not about books but about book related things like wondering whether people skimmed while reading, mulling over why some people have a hard time with fantasy and science fiction, or outlining the difference between literary criticism and simply talking about books.

But most of the book is about books, specifically fantasy and science fiction books. As someone who has been reading SFF since she was a pre-teen, I’ve read my share, but there is so much I haven’t read and so much I haven’t even heard about before. Even my husband who is also a reader of SFF was stumped on occasion when I’d ask him, have you ever read … ? Which means this is a really good book for discovering “new” books. I have a tidy little list because of it.

You don’t have to be a fan of fantasy or science fiction to read this book but it helps. However, if you’re new to the genre and looking for some ideas about books to read, this would definitely be a good book to browse through.

Now that my chicken soup book is finished, I hope that means I will manage to avoid getting sick again for a long time.


Filed under: Books, Essays, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: Jo Walton

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20. Kathleen Hale continued...

So yesterday I wrote a post about Kathleen Hale and I got hit pretty hard. Most of the focus seemed to be on the fact that I said Kathleen Hale was brave for writing the article. It also seems a number of people think I was defending Kathleen Hale for stalking her reviewer. Let me make one thing clear. I would never, ever, ever encourage or defend anyone who hurts another person and by hurt I mean physically, psychologically, or use any sort of scare tactics.

I also strongly encourage all writers not to react to reviews or reviewers. I often think the best thing we can do is walk away and stay silent. I do think I said that a number of times in my post.

Like many other agents I have experienced threats. I've never been physically attacked, thank goodness, but I've been frightened enough to not open the office door and frightened enough to advise reporting an email or letter to the police and frightened enough to leave a conference early.

My article yesterday was based entirely on her piece in The Guardian, an article that stated that names had been changed. For obvious reasons I assumed that meant the reviewer she was talking about. I've since learned that's not the case which does make me doubt her reasons for writing the piece. That being said, I stated very clearly in the beginning of my post that I was basing it on The Guardian exclusively. What I said was not meant as a defense of Kathleen Hale. It was an explanation of how I understand how a review can get inside an author's head. I wasn't standing behind her, but I was relating to the many authors out there who found themselves obsessed with the negativity of a review or reviews. Thankfully most never go so far as to track down their reviewer.

Someone who commented on my post had a cover photo promoting free speech. Thank goodness we live in a place where we are allowed to put ourselves out there and express our opinions and thank goodness we live in a place where people can give their opinions on our opinions. Part of that freedom should include safety. We should be allowed to safely say what we mean.

The thing about free speech, and writing, is that no matter how much we love what we do, putting ourselves out there, through our writing, as authors, as bloggers, as reviewers, is terrifying. It is terrifying to wait and see what people say. It should never be terrifying enough that we fear for ourselves or those around us.

The part of my post that seemed to get the most criticism was the part where I said Kathleen Hale was brave. Before you stop reading to comment please hear me out. She was not brave for stalking someone. My reasoning for saying that was my own interpretation that she was confessing to her misdeeds and maybe admitting her mistake. That's the problem with writing we all interpret things differently, no matter how hard the author tries to make it clear to everyone. I did not intend for people to think I was defending her actions and for that I'm definitely sorry.  I'm mostly sorry that anyone thinks that I would encourage stalking or scare tactics.

--jhf


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21. Review of Strike!

brimner strike Review of Strike!Strike!:
The Farm Workers’
Fight for Their Rights
by Larry Dane Brimner
Intermediate, Middle School    Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills    172 pp.
10/14    978-1-59078-997-1    $16.95

Brimner turns his attention from one part of the 1960s — the civil rights movement in the South (Black & White) — to another, a parallel movement among migrant farm workers in the Southwest for better wages and working conditions. This comprehensive history traces California’s burgeoning need for farm workers in the twentieth century, and the often-
forgotten early contribution of Filipino Americans to this particular labor movement, before transitioning to the more familiar story of César Chávez, the United Farm Workers of America, and the Delano grape workers strike. Finally, Brimner ponders Chávez’s last years, death, and legacy — and the diminished role of the UFW today. It can be challenging to track all of the players in this drama, let alone the acronyms for various unions and such, but Brimner’s compelling narrative, complete with both textual and visual primary sources, is up to the task. The layout is inviting with swatches of green and purple to complement the dominant black-and-white color scheme and well-placed maps and photos, while brief Spanish translations of selected quotes, titles, and epigraphs are incorporated. An author’s note, a timeline, bibliography, source notes, and an index are appended.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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22. Review: Gracefully Grayson

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Grayson Sender is twelve years old.

Grayson is lonely, even surrounded by classmates, even at home, living with cousins, an aunt and uncle.

Grayson is lonely in part because of Grayson's parents death years ago, leading to Grayson being the odd child out at home.

Grayson is lonely because Grayson cannot connect with others because Grayson is hiding the most important part of who Grayson is.

In Gracefully Grayson, Grayson gradually gains trust and friends until Grayson can reveal the truth: that Grayson is a girl inside. Grayson is a transgender girl.

The Good: I'll be honest Grayson broke my heart, because of how lonely she is. Of how unable to connect with those around her.

At school, Grayson tries out for the play and takes her first step towards her true self by asking to play the part of a girl. One of the happy-tear moments I had was -- spoilers -- when the cast welcomed Grayson, became her friend, treated her like they'd treat anyone else.

Then there were the sad-tears of those who bullied Grayson, and of Grayson's aunt who believes that Grayson is in part causing the problems by not continuing to hide her truth.

And I cried at all the things Grayson did, in hiding. Doodling pictures of girls, but doing it in such a way that people wouldn't know. "If you draw a a triangle with a circle resting on the top point, nobody will be able to tell that it's a girl in a dress. To add hair, draw kind of a semicircle on top. If you do this, you'll be safe, because it looks like you're just doodling shapes."

Loving glitter pens and being prepared with lies to explain why she has the purple and pink ones.

Wearing a sweatband to pretend it's a hairband.

Pretending basketball pants and a t-shirt are somehow a gown, with the wide pants a full skirt.

And how important it is to Grayson, to anyone, to have their own truth by the truth others see. That it's harmful, the years and the lies of pretending to be something other than who she is.

At the end of Gracefully Grayson, someone tells Grayson that "I know it may feel like there are people who are against you, but I want you to remember that most people in the world are good. Look for the people who extend a hand to you. And when they do take it." This, in a nutshell, sums up the book. There are people against Grayson, for various reasons. But there are just as many good people in Grayson's world.

And the question left to the reader is this: is the reader one of the good ones? Does the reader extend a hand to those around them?

I'm making this one of my Favorite Books of 2014, because it is such a beautiful book and Grayson is such an endearing twelve year old.

Links: author interview at Diversity in YA; Bookfabulous Review; Robert Bittner Review at Gay YA;



Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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23. Famous Modern Ghost Stories

When I first began reading Famous Modern Ghost Stories I mentioned how much fun Dorothy Scarborough’s introduction was. Turns out, the stories themselves are fun too.

There are fifteen stories in this collection. Some of them, like Poe’s “Ligeia,” I have read before. Some it really felt like I had read before but I couldn’t recall when or where, like “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood (I just love the name Algernon, it’s so, I’m not sure what, but it tickles my fancy so it is probably good I don’t have kids because I’d be tempted to call a boy Algernon and then you know he’d go by “Algie” for short and all the kids at school would make fun of him). Others were plain silly like “At the Gate” by Myla Jo Closser in which a recently deceased dog takes up his vigil outside the gates of Heaven with the other dogs waiting for their owners to arrive.

My favorite story in the collection was “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev. It is the story of Lazarus after he was raised from the dead. Did you ever see the Buffy the Vampire Slayer show where they bring Buffy back from the dead? She kind of wasn’t the same afterwards, or at least for a while. Well, Lazarus wasn’t the same either and while everyone was really glad to have him back, the haunting look in his eyes kind of freaked people out so no one wanted to be around him. Maybe if Lazarus had had a Scooby gang he would have eventually recovered.

Coming in second as my favorite story based only on the complete absurdity of it all, was “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W.F. Harvey. Bachelor uncle is ill and Eustace, while visiting, notices that uncle is unconsciously doing automatic writing. Eustace goofs around with this a bit until uncle dies. And then, in spite of uncle’s wishes to be cremated, he is not. Last minute instructions turn up and Eustace is bequeathed uncle’s well-preserved hand, the hand with which he did the automatic writing! The hand, of course, is alive but it isn’t uncle inhabiting it. At one point Eustace locks the hand in a desk drawer and the hand writes a note and slips it out through a crack in the desk. A servant finds a note bidding him to open the desk drawer and when the servant does so, the hand escapes! It is never clear why Eustace is being haunted by this hand or what the hand’s intent is, but the story comes very close to being a farce, right up to and including the hand eventually strangling Eustace and then the two of them ultimately perishing in a fire.

After reading so many ghost stories together it seems there is almost a requirement that at least one person experiencing the ghost or other phenomena has to be utterly and completely unbelieving. He, because it is usually a he in these stories, is then required to make up all sorts of logical explanations for what is happening. These explanations often approach the ridiculous. In the end, however, the unbeliever is convinced by the haunting and is either just in time to save himself or too late and dies. A few do believe right away and these have two responses. The smart ones figure out what the ghost wants. The not so smart ones go into battle. The smart ones generally come through unscathed and even satisfied about having helped a spirit move on. The not smart ones usually end up dead or psychologically traumatized for the rest of their lives.

These stories, even the bad ones, are all amusing in their own way. Of course I’m not supposed to be amused, I am supposed to get chills. But it seems that much of what haunts us is related to the times in which we live. Not that we can’t still feel a tingle down the spine when reading Poe, but it isn’t going to keep us up at night. Which makes me wonder whether in 100 years readers will think Stephen King is scary or will readers of the distant future read him and giggle and wonder why the twin girls in The Shining scare us so badly and make their way into other places like this IKEA commercial:

As a RIP Challenge read, Famous Modern Ghost Stories was quite fun. If you are looking for some older stories that don’t tend to show up in the anthologies, this would be a good choice.


Filed under: Books, Challenges, Gothic/Horror/Thriller, Reviews, Short Stories

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24. Thursday Review: COMPLICIT by Stephanie Kuehn

This cover is really awesome.Summary: Protagonists whose past is hidden--even, sometimes, from themselves. It's something author Stephanie Kuehn does well, if you've read her first book, Charm & Strange. Complicit is another suspenseful read, in... Read the rest of this post

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25. Review: ‘Action Philosophers’ is required reading

by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

The duo of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have done it again in the 10th anniversary edition of their comic book series Action Philosophers. It’s available in late October from Dark Horse in a beautiful hardcover one volume edition with new cover art. This smart and witty non-fiction graphic book is the introduction to philosophy that should be required reading. I wish it had been around when I struggled through some of these works!

The series originally published by Van Lente and Dunlavey under their company Evil Twin Comics began life as a single issue comic book about Frederick Niestche, he of  the “God is Dead” philosophy. The comic book proved to be so popular that the guys developed a series that was eventually distributed by Diamond. For those of you unfamiliar with the industry that’s pretty impressive for an indie company. With support and appreciation from the industry the series won a Xeric Grant in 2004, was nominated twice for an Ignatz award and lauded by the American Library Association. For Evil Twin Comics they’ve also created Action Presidents and The Comic Book History of Comics.

25905 202x300 Review: Action Philosophers is required reading

Action Philosophers 10th Edition by Dark Horse.

Beginning with Plato and Socrates the comics in both dialogue and art reveal complex intellectual thought in an easy to understand and cheeky manner. The dialogue juxtaposed by the drawings ranges from amusing to laugh out loud funny. This is comics at it’s best. The work is appealing and available. Ryan noted that they consider the audience for the comics as 11 and up and that the comics are for comic book fans and philosophy fans. Now that’s comics for a general audience!

actionphilp5 200x300 Review: Action Philosophers is required reading

From Plato, Action Philosophers.

Van Lente and Dunlavey have impressive resumes. Fred is noted for his work at Marvel Comics for Iron Man, Spider Man, X-Men and Hercules. He also wrote Cowboys and Aliens with co-author Andrew Foley that was the basis for the film. Van Lente began his studies in film and then majored in English. It’s an excellent combination for working in comics with a strong sense of writing and the ability to frame the story. That clarity of story line comes across so well in Action Philosophers.

Ryan’s background is in illustration, writing and drawing and he has worked for Disney, Marvel, Warner Brothers and Comedy Central creating cartoons and designs. Both attended Syracuse University and as with colleagues whose experiences go back for a long time their work appears complimentary and seamless in its collaboration. Ryan’s illustrations are bold, clear and have classic comic book references in his artwork. In other words it’s recognizable and fun.

actionphilp8 200x300 Review: Action Philosophers is required reading

From Plato, Action Philosophers

I love the fact that this is called Action Philosophers and for something that could be difficult and dry this is a book of Action. The pages burst with activity and energy in the drawings themselves as well as the smart dialogue and storyline.

This is a book that should be on your list for yourself and as a gift. It’s out of the ordinary and that’s a good thing. It’s also completely accessible and a fascinating read. Go Action Philosophers!

[Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is writing a biography of her grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, military intelligence officer, prolific pulp writer, inventor and founder of DC Comics, with Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow) entitled Lost Hero. Her most recent publication is co-editing and writing an Introduction to a reprint of some of the Major’s adventure tales from the pulps entitled The Texas-Siberia Trail published by Off-Trail Publications. Nicky is a writer, editor and audio publisher and holds a Master’s in Classical Greek Mythology. She was featured in Women’s Enews with an article on Wonder Woman and San Diego Comic Con and appears frequently at Comics Conventions throughout the US speaking about early comic book history.]

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