in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: J, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 211
I'm on vacation this week - escaping the cold.
Until I get back, perhaps you'll enjoy my recent reviews for AudioFile Magazine:
In 2008, librarians surprised everyone by choosing the 533-page, The Invention of Hugo Cabret as the winner of the Caldecott Medal honoring the "most distinguished American picture book for children." This year, the award committees surprised us again with the choice of a picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, as the winner of the Newbery Medal, given to "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
The short video below featuring author, Matt de la PeĂ±a, reading from his book will convince you that this is a wonderful book.
My concern as a public librarian, however, is how best to share this book with kids. The book is a little lengthy for my usual storytime crowd, and school-aged kids can seldom be convinced to check out a picture book. It's in instances like these, that I envy school teachers and media specialists, who have such a wonderful opportunity to share great books with large numbers of kids. This is perfect book for reading aloud in school.
But, how to share it in a public library setting?
Last week, I had a last-minute inspiration and it was a rewarding experience. I have a small book club that meets every month. This month, I asked each of the kids to read Last Stop on Market Street - right then. In addition to positive comments about the book, I loved two of the observations that they reported:
- I never would have chosen this book if you didn't hand it to me.
- The people at the soup kitchen look like regular people.
We then discussed public transportation (none of the kids had ever been on a bus) and soup kitchens (none had ever been to one). Working in a suburban library with poor public transportation, I can understand this. However, as a suburban parent, I can tell you that I made sure that my own children volunteered at the local food pantry and experienced public transportation (I made all of them ride the public bus with me to the mall even though it was more expensive than driving my minivan and took twice as long). As a suburban librarian, I can't take kids on the public bus or to the soup kitchen, but at minimum, I've ensured that a few more children are now aware of the lives that others lead.This is one of the many things that makes my job worthwhile.
One of the missions of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks
(TM) campaign is to make sure that "all children can see themselves in the pages of a book." This is important, but also important is recognizing that all people are just "regular people." We always have more in common than we think.Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la PeĂ±a
, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Read it. Share it.
**Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
**A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
**A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Bestseller
Four Starred Reviews
Finalist for the 2014 E.B. White Read-aloud Book Award
A Junior Library Guild Selection
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, digital audiobook
, Add a tag
Below is my review of the audio book version of Dead Boy
by Lauren Gale and read by Robbie Daymond. Great plot with some unexpected turns.
GALE, Laurel. Dead Boy. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $35. ISBN 9781101916827. digital download.
Gr 5-7â€“Crow was once a regular boy who played baseball and had friends and loving parents. But now, heâ€™s dead. At first, being dead wasnâ€™t so bad, but then his rotting flesh began attracting maggots. He couldnâ€™t eat or sleep. His parents divorced. His mother will tell him only that his parents â€śwished him back to life,â€ť but what kind of life? Heâ€™s trapped in a house kept purposefully cold to slow the putrefaction of his flesh. When Melody and her father move in next door, she and Crow become secret friends against the wishes of their parents. Together, they begin to unravel the terrible secret of his parentsâ€™ wish. Their forbidden friendship will be tested as they face a series of deadly challenges in their quest for the truth. Though the bookâ€™s description promises humor, narrator Robbie Daymondâ€™s presentation of Crow is morose and forlorn. His cheerful portrayal of Melody offers the only break from the macabre atmosphere. VERDICT - Not for the squeamish, this one will be best for middle school fans of ghoulish favorites like The Night Gardener (Abrams, 2014) or The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (S. & S., 2012). [â€śA great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humorâ€ť: SLJ 7/15 review of the Crown book.]
Copyright Â© 2016 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.
Because I've shown an interest in coding in the past, No Starch Press
was kind enough to offer me a review copy of The Official ScratchJr Book
by Marina Umaschi Bers and Mitchel Resnick. (2015)
Sadly, I don't have an iPad or Android-based tablet, so I was unable to download the ScratchJr app
to test it, but judging by the book and my experience with Scratch
, I'm sure it's a wonderful tool for inspiring creativity and logical thinking.
Here's what I like about The Official ScratchJr. Book
- It targets a very young audience - ages 5 and up
- It can be useful for parents and teachers and librarians - especially those who might find coding to be intimidating
- Unlike the Hour of Code (which I love and have used as a resource for library programming), The Official ScratchJr Book focuses more on inspiring creativity than learning the nuts and bolts of logical thinking
- The above statement notwithstanding, it still can be used to learn the nuts and bolts of simple coding and logical thinking
If at first there was a great rush to teach kids to code, there is now a push in the opposite direction. Just Google "Should kids learn to code?
" and you will find a wealth of opinion on either side. Personally, I liken the "argument" to car repair. In days gone by, many people knew how to do most repairs on their automobiles. Now, cars' systems are so intricate, that most people have trouble doing anything other than the simplest of repairs. Most people have cars. Should we know how to repair them? No, I don't think so. There will also be a need for an auto mechanic. But, knowing how to change a flat tire sure comes in handy! If working on cars appeals to you, become a mechanic. The same is true of coding. Give it a try. If your kids are looking for a follow up to the Frozen
Hour of Code project, "Code with Anna and Elsa
," The Official ScratchJr Book
is probably a good place to start (if you have a tablet that can run the ScratchJr app
I'm going to pass my copy along to my school district's media specialist. The kids have Chromebooks and should be able to make good use of it.
Visit the STEM Friday blog
for reviews of more great STEM books for kids and teens.
The Other Side of the Wall by Simon Schwartz
Translated from German by Laura Watkinson
Published by Graphic Universe, 2015
112 pages, best for grades 6 and up
Simon Schwartz was born in East Berlin in the 1980s.The Other Side of the Wall
is his graphic memoir of growing up in the divided city, of his parent's three-year struggle to obtain an exit permit to leave East Berlin, and of his later forays between the two Berlins.
His parents met in college. His father came from a family of staunch Communist Party members. His mother's family was secretly more liberal, though any deviation from expected Party behavior was cause for examination and surveillance by the Stasi, or secret German police. It was dangerous to stray from party orthodoxy, particularly if you were a teacher, as Simon's father was. His parents became disillusioned with life in the restrictive East German city.
The Soviet Union had recently invaded Afghanistan. My dad worked on his speech, night after night.
"God, how can you describe a war as just? They want me to use fancy words to justify this invasion."
"Just write something you can square with your own conscience -- at least in part."
"I don't know if I can do that."
When his parents requested exit permits, their lives became fraught with poverty,ostracism, and physical danger.
The book's layout is as structured as Communist life - with few exceptions, four blocks per page - each bordered in black. The artwork is monochromatic, fitting for the stark reality of life behind the Wall. The story is told in speech bubbles, text blocks that set the scene or relay back story, and the occasional footnote explaining terms that may not be familiar to readers (well-known politicians or artists of the time, and uniquely German or Communist terms). Several panels are wordless - vague remembrances of the young Schwarz.
Back matter includes a glossary, a timeline of the Berlin Wall, and maps of Germany and Berlin 1961-1989.
I recently reviewed the historical fiction novel, A Night Divided
, that describes life in East Berlin in the immediate aftermath of the Berlin Wall's construction.The Other Side of the Wall
is a perfect companion book - a nonfiction, graphic novel account of the Wall's waning days. For younger readers not familiar with day-to-day life in the Cold War Era, this is a chilling introduction.
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Civil War
, digital audiobook
, Non-Fiction Monday
, Add a tag
The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015)
Eleven-year-old Wadjda lives with her parents in Saudi Arabia. Lately, however, she's seen very little of her father. Rumor has it that he is seeking a second wife. Because money is scarce and women are not permitted to drive, Wadjda's mother takes an hours-long cab ride each day to a remote village to teach school. Covered in black from head to toe, she shares the ride (without air-conditioning) with other teachers - crammed in a dilapidated cab in the sweltering desert heat. Wadjda, due to her young age and family's financial circumstances, has a special note that allows her to walk alone to school each dayâ€”but she longs to ride a bike like Abdullah. She and Abdullah were once friends, but now that she is older, she is not permitted to fraternize with boys.
Wadjda, however, does not easily take "no" for an answer. She rebels against the tedious rules of her girls-only school. Why shouldn't she be able to sell mix-tapes of Western musicians? She rebels against her mother and father. Why can't she play video games in her living room designated for men only. She rebels against the constraints of her culture. Why can't she talk to Abdullah if she wants to? And why can't a girl have a bicycle? Despite the obstacles and consequences, Wadjda is determined to have her way.
A lecture she'd heard in science class tickled her memory. Again and again, her teacher had told them that dark colors absorb heat, while lighter colors reflect it back. She ended the lesson my stating that this phenomenon was one of the miracles of the universe. It proved there was one almighty God, Allah, and that he had created everything for a purpose.
Beneath her hot black veil, Wadjda twisted her lips. She wondered if people knew this scientific secret when the tribal code assigned black to women and white to men. Maybe the real miracle of the universe was that she was able to walk home in Riyadh's sweltering afternoon sun without passing out!
The boys were gone now. Their bicycles moved like a flash around the corner. Wadjda squinted into the dusty afternoon and continued slowly on her way. As she walked, she pitched the stone Father had given her at various targetstâ€” a can, a stick, a funny-colored brick on the side of a buildingtâ€”thinking all the while about the different miracles of the universe. It had taken so much to get her to this exact spot, at this exact moment. So what was her purpose, now that she was here?
Wadjda is an endearing protagonist because, despite a setting that is foreign to the American reader, Wadjda is familiar to us. She is just a girl like most girlsâ€”sometimes obedient, sometimes rebellious, sometimes remorseful, sometimes not. To women and girls of the West, life as a female in Saudi Arabia seems oppressive, cruel, unfathomable. To a girl like Wadjda, it is just lifeâ€”a life in which she must eke out moments of hope, happiness, and laughter. Along with heartache, Haifaa Al Mansour has showed us those moments.
I've heard that the movie is phenomenal. Whether by book or by movie, I urge you to know Wadjda's story, The Green Bicycle
. I think you will love this spirited young girl.
Below is the trailer for the movie Wadjda, on which The Green Bicycle is based.
What makes this even more inspiring is that this movie, made in Saudi Arabia was written and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al Mansour, in a country without movie theaters and where women are not even supposed to be outside without a male relative. You can read highlights of an interview with Haifaa Al Mansour here: [http://www.npr.org/2013/09/22/224437165/wadjda-director-haifaa-al-mansour-it-is-time-to-open-up
My copy of The Green Bicycle
was provided by the publisher at my request.
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, book review
, digital audiobook
, Add a tag
The Blackthorn Key
by Kevin Sands
Read by Ray Panthacki
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015
Christopher Rowe, is a lucky lad. Plucked from the orphanage for his intellectual potential, Christopher is apprenticed to the kindly apothecary, Master Benedict Blackthorn. Despite his lowly upbringing, relayed by narrator Ray Panthacki's hint of a Cockney accent, Christopher receives training in Latin, astronomy, ciphers, potions, and other tools of the apothecary's trade. In the midst of a suspicious atmosphere following great political upheaval, a mysterious cult of murderers arises. Christopher will need all his skills and more to decode a series of clues to a dangerous plot that threatens to upset the balance of world power. Panthacki clearly defines each of The Blackthorn Key
's large cast of characters, creating distinctive voices that reflect their standing in British society. Christopher's best friend is Tom, an apprentice baker. Like Harry Potter and Ron, they are a memorable pair, and their dialogue sounds honest and warm. Whether in terror, danger, or mere horseplay, the listener feels the emotion in and between the characters. The only thing that slows the pace of adventure in this gripping mystery is the occasional reading of lengthy ciphers. Print readers may well try their hand at decoding them, but for listeners, they're primarily a drag on the action. The setting is as rich as the plot in this mid-17th century adventure brought to life by veteran actor Ray Panthacki.
My review copy was provided by AudioFile Magazine
. My review of The Blackthorn Key for AudioFile Magazine (along with an audio excerpt) appears here
Bunjitsu Bunny's Best Move
by John Himmelman
(Henry Holt, 2015)
When Bunjitsu Bunny's Best Move
came across my desk, my nose wrinkled and I thought, "Oh, this is going to be goofy." But yet, I loved the cover art, and dove in anyway - taking it on my lunch break. I'm so glad I did.
In fourteen, short, illustrated chapters, Isabel, John Himmelman's "bunjitsu" expert, learns important lessons of wisdom that are the perfect complement to her martial arts prowess. In the second chapter, "Bunjitsu Bunny Fails," the usually perfect Isabel fails to master the "bunchucks." She is profoundly disappointed,
"You should not be unhappy," said Teacher.
"But everyone passed the test except me," said Isabel.
"Do you know what you did wrong?" asked Teacher.
"Yes," said Isabel.
"Can you do better?" asked Teacher.
"Yes," said Isabel.
"Lucky you," said Teacher. "They passed the test, but you learned the most."
Bunjitsu Bunny learns wisdom through action and observation. Her lessons are similar to those imparted in John Muth's award-winning Zen Shorts
picture books. However, the Bunjitsu Bunny
books are simple chapter books for a suggested age range of 6-8 years. The words are large, and the red, black and white illustrations are bold and full of expression. The final chapter includes instructions for making an origami bunny face. Bunjitsu Bunny is a winner.
This is the second book in the series. The first was Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny
. (Images and excerpts here: [http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250068064
]) Bunjitsu Bunny
is similar in reading level with one of my other favorites, Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson
books. I reviewed Mercy Watson to the Rescue in 2012
The National Council of Teachers of English recently named Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) the winner of its prestigious Orbis Pictus Award.
The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award was established in 1989 for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children. The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictusâ€”The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children. (from the NCTE website)Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans
is a spare, but powerful graphic novel account of the tragedy that befell the City of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Don Brown researches and illustrates Drowned City
in his usual fashion. It has extensive Source Notes and a corresponding Bibliography. Every direct quote is sourced. The illustrations are serious and in muted colors to accurately convey the gravity of the events; but they are sufficiently vague to spare the individual horror experienced by victims, survivors, and rescuers. As he has done with other topics, Don Brown creates a focused, accurate, and powerful story - suitable for visual learners and for readers in a wide age range.
Other Hurricane Katrina books reviewed on this site:
Also by Don Brown and reviewed by Shelf-employed:
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Add a tag
It's the end of the year and I had great plans of writing about all my favorite books of the year - there were so many! But there was also ALSC committee work, my fledgling freelance writing career, that five days a week thing they call work, and my family. As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of my children to arrive home for the holidays (one's flight was canceled, the other one's delayed).
So, for now, the best that I can do is this:
In middle grade fiction, I loved Echo: A Novel by Pam MuĂ±oz Ryan
. Here's a link to my review: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/02/echo-novel-review.html
In picture books, If You Plant a Seed
by Kadir Nelson is simply perfect. My review is here: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/03/picture-book-roundup-new-or-coming-soon.html
I listened to lots of great audiobooks, but I think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
was tops. I reviewed it for AudioFile Magazine
. Here's the link: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101740/
(Diary of a Mad Brownie
is a very close second!)
For the best in dealing with sad news, I was taken by Anastasia Higginbotham's, Divorce is the Worst
(for school-aged kids), and Todd Parr's, The Goodbye Book
for little ones dealing with loss.
In adult books, it was Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
by Sarah Vowell.
It's no surprise. I love everything she writes. I love my well-researched history with a humorous dose of irony and sarcasm.
Whether I review a book or not, if I've read it, I log it and star it in LibraryThing
. Yes, I know that Goodreads is more popular, but LibraryThing's aesthetic matches mine. I'm comfortable there. You can see my virtual library of over 1600 searchable books and 800 reviews on LibraryThing
I may take the next week off, perhaps not, but just in case - best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.
I can't let the year end without a shout out to Sheila Turnage's Mo and Dale. Her latest Mo and Dale Mystery is The Odds of Getting Even (Penguin, 2015). The Mo and Dale Mystery series is my favorite middle grade series. Each new book is as good as the last. Each is filled with insightful humor, Southern-style hospitality, and all the eccentricities of small town living. The characters in Sheila Turnage's fictional town of Tupelo Landing, NC, will leave you begging for another chance to visit.
In The Odds of Getting Even, Mo and Dale, a.k.a. The Desperado Detectives, have another case on their hands. Dale's no-good dad is on the lam and the whole town is on edge.
As usual, the cafĂ© run by Mo and her "family of choice," the Colonel and Miss Lana, takes current events in stride,
I turned back to the Azalea Women. "Welcome and thank you in advance for your generous tips." Generous tips equals a flat-out lie, but like Miss Lana says, you don't stop pitching just because nobody's swinging. I draped a paper napkin over my arm. "Today, our Get Out of Jail Free Delight feature Free-Range Eggs, Potatoes at Large, and Bacon a la Parole. We also got the Colonel's famous Tofu Incognito--a vegan delight featuring tofu scrambled up to look like somebody else. A Special runs six dollars and includes a basket of All Rise Biscuits. May I take your order?"
"Get Out of Jail and coffee," they chorused. "How's Dale holding up?"
Once again, Sheila Turnage has written a book that deals with a serious topic (a father who is frequently on the wrong side of the law) in a humorous way. As narrator, Mo LoBeau offers up witty, often hilarious dialogue and commentary. There is much homespun wisdom in the the little town of Tupelo Landing. Here are just a few examples from The Odds of Getting Even
Mo (on the perceived indignity of wearing hand-me-down clothes):
"Dale's a musician. He enjoys vintage outfits," ... "Besides, Miss Lana says most everything in life worth having is handed down."
Dale (voicing his opinion to a news reporter):
Your articles make it seem that way. But a lot of people thinking flat don't change round.
Mo (her take on beauty):
Attila's face would be pretty if she didn't live behind it.
Dale (on "getting even"):
The only even you ever get is inside yourself--when you don't need to get even anymore.
If you haven't read them yet, don't miss the first two Mo and Dale Mystery novels.
Three Times Lucky - a link to my review of the audiobook read by Michal Friedman
Book 2The Ghost of Tupelo Landing - a link to my review for AudioFile Magazine
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, book review
, picture books for older readers
, STEM Friday
, Add a tag
You've heard the term mesmerized before, and you've likely heard of a blind study in medical research (in which study participants are unaware of whether they have been given a treatment or a placebo). But do you know what these two terms have in common? Benjamin Franklin!
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France
Written by Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. Candlewick, 2015
When Benjamin Franklin arrived in France seeking support for the American cause, Paris was all abuzz about recent advances in science, but one man in particular was drawing much attention - Dr. Franz Mesmer. Like the invisible gas that was recently proven to buoy giant passenger-carrying balloons when burned, Dr. Mesmer claimed that he, too, had discovered a powerful new invisible force.
Dr. Mesmer said this forced streamed from the stars and flowed into his wand. When he stared into his patients' eyes and waved the wand, things happened.
Children fell down in fits.
Mesmer and his practitioners claimed to cure illnesses in this manner, but was is true? Or was it quackery? King Louis XVI wanted to know, and Benjamin Franklin was sent to find out.
Mesmerized is one of those wonderful books that combines history with science and humor. Using the scientific method, Benjamin Franklin was able to deduce that Dr. Mesmer had indeed discovered something, but not the something he had claimed!
Delightfully humorous and informative illustrations, a section on the scientific method (Oh La La ... La Science!
). and a list of source books and articles make Mesmerized a triple-play - science, humor, and history. Go ahead, be mesmerized!*This post also appears on the STEM Friday blog today.
Itâ€™s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
I cannot recommend this one enough. I hope you have time to read at least one version of this inspiring true story of a teenager who created electricity for his impoverished, starving village in Malawi with nothing more than garbage, an elementary education, an old borrowed Physics book (in a language that he did not speak or read!), and a will to make things better!
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, 2009)
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Dial, 2012)
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Penguin, 2015)
Here are William Kamkwamba's two TED Talks. They're short and well worth a listen.
I don't review many early chapter books, but I requested this one from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. because it's published by Candlewick Press (always a plus), and Eliza Wheeler's cover illustration sealed the deal.Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
by Tricia Springstubb. Candlewick Press, 2015. Illustrations by Eliza Wheeler.
Here's why I like Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
- Cody's an average kid - Mom works in a shoe store, Dad's a truck driver, she argues with her older brother Wyatt, though it's clear that they love each other.
- Cody is positive and decisive.
- Her new found friend, Spencer, is an African-American boy with a super hip grandma. (The percentage of African American characters in early chapter books is rather slim, so this is a plus.)
- Cody's mom and dad are positive role models.
- Eliza Wheeler's illustrations are simple, soft, and expressive.
- Spoiler alert! Mom gets a promotion at the shoe store.
Here's an excerpt. Cody is waking her brother on their first day of summer vacation and refuses to be daunted by his grumpy mood.
"Want to go to the dog park and pick what dog we'd get if only we were allowed to get a dog?"
Wyatt put his hands over his eyes.
"No?" said Cody. "How about we look for rocks and have a rock stand and use the money to buy a skateboard?"
Wyatt slowly got to his feet. He was very tall and skinny. If he were a building, he'd be a skyscraper, but a droopy one.
"Silencio," he said. He toppled back into bed and pulled the covers over his head. "You are causing me pain. A big fat pain in my cerebral cortex."
"Do you want some tea?"
"No, Brain Pain. I want you to disappear. Preferably forever."
"I can't," said Cody. "I promised Mom to take care of you. I never break a promise."
Give Cody a try. Though you may wonder about her peculiar fondness for ants, I think you'll like her, her family, and her friends!
My Advance Reader Copy is 151 illustrated pages.
The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War by by David Almond, John Boyne, Tracy Chevalier, Ursula Dubosarsky, Timothee de Fombelle, Adele Geras, et al. | Read by Nico Evers-Swindell, JD Jackson, Gerard Doyle, Richard Halverson, Sarah Coomes, Nick Podehl
(2015, Brilliance Audio) is a powerful collection of short stories that view World Ward I and its repercussions from many different points of view.
The link to my short review for AudioFile Magazine is below. An audio sample is available at the link as well. Publisher recommended for grades 5 and up.
I'm still working on a follow-up post to my trip to the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco. It was a great experience.
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, digital audiobook
, Non-Fiction Monday
, Add a tag
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. Narrated by Phillip Hoose and Michael Braun. (2015, Recorded Books)
This is the heretofore little-known story of schoolboys who challenged the Nazi army even as their country's leaders collaborated with the Germans. Alternating first-person accounts of young saboteur, Knud Pedersen, with carefully researched narrative, Phillip Hoose tells the compelling story of these daring young boys who were willing to risk their lives to free Denmark from German occupation. Without their parents' knowledge, the boys raided, stole, and destroyed German property with nothing more than bicycles for transportation! Their heroic actions sparked the Danish resistance.
Michael Braun narrates the chapters containing Knud Pedersen's first-hand recollections of the events. While his delivery is weighty, it lacks personality. It is through the actions of Knud that the listener learns to like and admire him, rather than through his speech. Because the book is targeted at a young audience (ages 12-18) and Knud himself was only a teen at the time, a younger narrator may have been more appropriate. Author Phillip Hoose does an excellent job with the alternating chapters. He reads precisely and takes great care in the pronunciation of Danish names and places.
This is a well-researched, captivating story that proves the ability of individuals to effect change against overwhelming odds.
Review copy supplied by LibraryThing.
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Advance Reader Copy
, historical fiction
, indigenous peoples
, Add a tag
When I was a small child, I read and sang folksongs like other children read books. One of my favorite songs to sing was "The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies, O." I was enthralled with my idea of gypsy culture. The images in my family's book of folksongs were of music and dancing and cards and horses. It all looked so wonderful. And so it was that I was thrilled to receive the story of The Lightning Queen from Scholastic. It was as enchanting as I'd hoped it might be. Middle grade readers will enjoy this finely crafted story of two outsider cultures - Mexico's indigenous people and the Roma, or gypsies. Look for it on shelves in October.
The Lightning Queen
by Laura Resau
. (2015, Scholastic)
Advance Reader Copy supplied by the publisher. Final version subject to changes.
Mateo travels with his mother every summer to visit his relatives on the Hill of Dust in Oaxaca, Mexico. This year, his grandfather Teo says that he needs young Mateo's help; he begins to tell Mateo a fascinating story of his youth,
As he speaks, his words somehow beam light onto an imagined screen, flooding the room with people and places from long, long ago. "Mijo, you are about to embark on a journey of marvels. Of impossible fortunes. Of a lost duck, three-legged skunk, and a blind goa - all bravely loyal. Of a girl who gathered power from storms and sang back the dead. Of an enchanted friendship that lifted souls above brutality.
He pauses, tilts his head, "Perhaps there will even be an itermission or two. But as of yet, there is no end. That, mijo, will be up to you." He winks, clears his throat, and begins.
"There once was a girl called the Queen of Lightning ..."
The story then retreats to the Oaxaca of the mid-1900s, a time when Mexico's indigenous Mixteco people crossed paths with the mysterious Roma in the hills outside Oaxaca.
Grandfather put his hand on my shoulder and said, "They are like us, outsiders in Mexico. Both our people have little voice in the government. City folk consider us backward. We live on the fringes, the wilds of our country. So it is with the Rom."
I looked at Esma and her grandparents, who were admiring the sawdust mosaic of the flowered caravan. And I wondered if the key to her people surviving had been separating themselves from outsiders - gadjĂ©s. Maybe that's what bonded them together as they danced around their bonfires, night after night for hundreds of years.
As was foretold by the fortune teller and against impossible odds, young Teo becomes "friends for life" with Esma, the young Romani singer. It is as if they are bound to each other by magic and music and the power of lightning - their destinies tied inexplicably to one another.
Teo reminisces to his grandson Mateo,
She could work magic. One moment, I'd felt hurt and angry. The next honored that she'd confided in me. And now, inspired, as though anything were possible, if I believed it enough.
She climbed onto the rock, raised her arms. "If you believe you're weak, you'll be weak. You're cursing yourself. Yet if you believe you're strong, you'll be strong. Give yourself a fortune and make it come true."
There is definitely magic between Teo and Esma, the indio
boy and the Roma girl, and there is magic in the pages of The Lightning Queen
Higginbotham, Anastasia. 2015. Divorce Is the Worst (Ordinary Terrible Things). New York:The Feminist Press at CUNY.
I didn't think I'd like this book, and I didn't; I loved it. It is honest; it is practical; it is a beautifully artistic rendering of a sorrowful event. If you know a child in need of a divorce book, look no further; this is it.
Please, do watch the trailer.
Today I'm happy to share in the celebration for the publication of Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles
, written by Susanna Reich
, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
, and published by Macmillan.
Author Susanna Reich has written an inspiring book chronicling the early years of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Each is highlighted in turn with a focus on the events and people that shaped his future and his interest in music.
The final pages feature the band's early successes. Readers will be impressed by the boys' dedication to their musicianship and their ability to overcome family tragedy, illness, and in John Lennon's case - a lack of musical training and a guitar that his mother taught him to tune like a banjo.
John attacked the guitar, strumming as fast he could. He didn't give a fig about wrong notes.
Eventually Paul traded in his trumpet for a guitar. From then on, his brother said, "he didn't have time to eat or think about anything else."
At school, George sat in the back and drew pictures of guitars. But when it came to practicing, no one was more serious.
Back home, Richy [Ringo] couldn't stop his hands from tapping. Listening to all kinds of musicâ€”country and western, jazz, blues, skiffleâ€”he'd rap on the back of a chair, bang on a box, or pound an old bass drum with a piece of firewood.
The text is small and in simple font on a plain background, leaving ample room for Adam Gustavson's stellar illustrations in "oil paint on prepared paper." It is a difficult task to render likenesses of these four men who are known and revered the world over. Gustavson has done a remarkable job in capturing their youth, signature expressions, and intensity of mood. In quiet acknowledgement of the post-war era that engendered the rise of rock and roll, the book opens with double-spread illustration of "a dark October night in 1940," the night when John Lennon was born in the midst of war with Germany. The final double-spread is the one that appears on the book's jacket. More illustrations from Fab Four Friends are on the publisher's site.
Rounding out Fab Four Friends
are an Author's Note, Glossary (I'm sad that phonograph needs to be in the glossary!)
, Notes, and Sources.
I asked only one interview question of author Susanna Reich. With so many songs to choose from and her obvious love of her topic, I knew it would be a tricky question:Q: "What's your favorite Beatles tune?"
It sent her to her headphones for an hour of listening. Her final answer:A: "Let it Be."
It's certainly hard to argue with that.
The publisher's site lists a suggested age range of 6-10. I think older kids, particularly those with musical inclinations will be interested in this one as well.
A book's case and jacket are often (usually) the same. Library books are typically processed with protective coating on the jacket that secures it to the cover. So, if you're a librarian, or a library user, you may never see the books' case. If possible, however, take a peek under the jacket of Fab Four Friends
. The front cover features individual portrait style paintings of Paul, John, George, and Ringo. They appear youthful and suited and are presented in square frames reminiscent of yearbook photos or 1970s era Beatles posters. They are joyful and boyish - four fab friends.
My copy of Fab Four Friends
was provided by the publisher. You can find yours on a library or bookstore shelf, beginning today, August 18, 2015.
Follow the blog tour for Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles.
Tomorrow, the tour will stop at UnleashingReaders.com .
Happy book birthday to Fab Four Friends!
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, digital audiobook
, family life
, Add a tag
I can't republish certain reviews that have already appeared in print or elsewhere online, but I can point you to where you might find them.Diary of a Mad Brownie
The Enchanted Files: Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville. (Listening Library, 2015)
Suggested for ages 8-12. 298 minutes.
is the first book in Bruce Coville's new series, The Enchanted Files
. I listened to the audio book, and I can tell you that it was the most fun I've had listening in a long time. And it's read by a full cast!
As a child, I remember the Olympics mainly as an opportunity to root against the Eastern Bloc countries. That may seem petty, but my family has/had relatives in the former Czechoslovakia, and that's what we did. In our family, a loss by an Eastern Bloc country was a win for democracy - as if beating East Germany in pole vaulting could somehow make things better. In reality, for the people of the Eastern Bloc, losing likely made their miserable lives worse - if they even knew about it at all.
There are many historical fiction books about wartime Germany. A Night Divided
deposits the reader in post
-WWII Germany â€” in Berlin, on the wrong
side of the wall.A Night Divided
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
(Scholastic, 2015)In A Night Divided
, 12-year-old Gerta, narrates the dangerously oppressive lifestyle into which she was unwilling thrust,
It was Sunday, August 13, 1961, a day I would remember for the rest of my life. When a prison had been built around us as we slept.
Erected without warning, the fence (and later, the wall) that separated East Germany from West Germany sprang up overnight - a night when Gerta's father and brother had been visiting the West. Gerta is trapped in the East with her resigned mother, and her rebellious older brother, Fritz. Rebellion in East Germany is costly, and the price can be your life.
"We will never be able to leave," Mama said. "The sooner you both accept that, the happier you will be."
I nodded back at her. But I new I could never again be happy here. And I refused to accept my life inside a prison."
This is a deeply affecting novel that does not gloss over the reality of living under the constant watchful eyes of the police, the Grentztruppen
or border police, and the brutal secret police, the Stasi
. In 1960s, East Germany, even a casual comment to a neighbor can be life-threatening.
Each chapter is introduced with a quote or German proverb that sets up the rationale for Gerta's continued, secretive resistance. "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. â€” Albert Camus, French novelist"
Gerta Lowe is a character that the reader will cheer and remember. A Night Divided
is a chilling and riveting book, balanced by the hope of one family's love and courage.
Below is my review of Completely Clementine, as it appeared in the October 1, 2015, edition of School Library Journal.
PENNYPACKER, Sara. Completely Clementine. 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Recorded Books. 2015. $25.75. ISBN 9781490625225. digital download.
Gr 2â€“4â€”Clementine faces a host of rising fourth-grader issues as the school year ends. Sheâ€™s feuding with her father over his refusal to become a vegetarian like the rest of the family, she canâ€™t bring herself to say goodbye to her third-grade teacher, and the familyâ€™s new baby is due soon and they havenâ€™t even chosen a name yet. Picking the babyâ€™s name should be easy, but her other problems are more serious. Sheâ€™s avoided her teacher and given her dad the silent treatment for so long that she begins to regret itâ€”but itâ€™s so hard to stop! Clementine and her friends sometimes exhibit the concerns of adults (school friends worry about future wedding plans), but Clementineâ€™s steadfast good nature and silliness are endearing and relatable. Jessica Almasy narrates, bringing infectious enthusiasm to Clementineâ€™s usually upbeat and slightly sassy personality. Other character voices are clearly defined, with Clementineâ€™s parents sounding especially authentic. VERDICT Fans of the series and kids ready to move up from Junie B. Jones will enjoy. [â€śThis last title in the popular and laugh-out-loud chapter book series is a must-have for library collections": SLJ 2/1/15 review of the Disney-Hyperion book.]
Copyright Â© 2015 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.
The review was edited slightly and did not include the following:
Jessica Almasy narrates all of the Clementine books. A New Yorker herself, she sounds more Southern Californian than befits Clementineâ€™s Boston environs, but she brings infectious enthusiasm to Clementineâ€™s usually upbeat and slightly sassy personality.
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar, winner of the Newbery Medal and National Book Award for Holes. Narrated by Kathleen McInerny with a full cast and an author's note read by Sachar himself. (Listening Library, 2015)
Target audience: Grades 5 and up
I reviewed Fuzzy Mud for AudioFile Magazine, and loved it. As I should have expected from Louis Sachar, there is much more to it than I first expected. It's a sci-fi, adventure thriller,that focuses on the very broad concept of ecology as well as the more intimate problem of bullying. A link to my review for AudioFile Magazine is here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/104469/]
I highly recommend it.
View Next 25 Posts
New Jersey knows that it's the butt of jokes throughout the nation, but we also know that we've got a great state with unique features that no other state can match. From the mountains to the shore, from the cities to the Pines, we've got a wealth of natural beauty, history, and culture. It's like a well-kept secret. But now, The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps, written by Gabrielle Balkin and illustrated by Sol Linero (Quarto, 2015) is bringing some of our secrets to light.
Take a peek at the New Jersey page, and then I'll share a few of my favorite NJ gems.
Three of my NJ favorites which are featured in The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps:
BRIGHT IDEA In West Orange you can visit inventor Thomas Edisonâ€™s lab and house.Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a fascinating place to visit. In my opinion it beats visiting Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park, NJ and his winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida. He didn't just invent the light bulb, he invented everything you need to use a light bulb - from the lamp to the power grid. And of course, he invented much more than the light bulb. Not a perfect man, by any means, but a perfectly brilliant inventor!
|"Edison labs Main St Lakeside Av jeh" by Jim.henderson - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg#/media/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg|
LUCY THE ELEPHANT In 1881 the U.S. Patent Office granted inventor James Lafferty the right to make animal-shaped buildings for 17 years. His first creation, Lucy, still stands in Margate, Atlantic City.She's a whopping 6-stories high and 134 years old, and she sits right next to the beach. And what a view from inside! I'm not positive but I do remember that her interior paint color is "stomach," or something similarly intestinal.
|By Harriet Duncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
FEBRUARY 1913: Silk workers in Paterson begin a six-month-long strike for better working conditions.
Paterson, NJ, may not be your first thought when seeking tourist sites, but it's well worth a visit. Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
is one of the nation's newest National Parks. The falls (one of the largest in the nation) and park sit in the midst of an urban city of more than 145,000 people. The falls and the people of Paterson were powerhouses of the U.S. Industrial Revolution.
|Photo by L Taylor (c)|
If you want to know more great sites in NJ, you'll have to come see for yourself. (BTW, Come See For Yourself
, was once our state slogan. I think they should have gone with the more popular, "New Jersey - You got a problem with that?")
Book images and quotes were provided by the publisher. I have no publisher or bookseller affiliations and received no compensation. I am participating for love of state.