Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs

Frank Einstein is a scientist and an inventor.  He's also a kid.  Frank is determined to win this year's Midville Science Prize.  With the winnings, he'll be able to save his grandfather's Fix It! repair shop.  With Frank's invention of two SmartBots, Klink and Klank, he tackles his biggest project of all: an antimatter motor.  But Frank, his friend Watson, and the two robots realizes they have bigger problems to worry about than the science fair: Frank's rival kid-scientist Edison has some evil ideas of his own.

I love the idea of these books.  A series that teaches scientific concepts!  So cool!  This first book looked at the concept of matter, the next book will look at energy, and so on it will go through six planned books.  Really great idea.  And I totally learned things.  For example, on the second page, I learned the correct way to calculate distance between seeing lightening and hearing thunder.  I always thought the number of seconds between them was the number of miles a way the storm was.  Wrong! You have to divide it by five, because there's five seconds between light and sound for every mile.  I've been doing it wrong my whole life.

As for the story itself, I wasn't blown away.  It was a fine lower-middle grade read.  It wasn't quite what I expect from Jon Scieszka, which is really sharp and funny.  I mean, it's quite the undertaking, explaining the entire concept of matter while also making a fun story!  Future books will probably be smoother.  I thought it was perhaps a little clunky, melding the adventure story with the science concepts.  

I liked that along with the story there are diagrams of the scientific concepts.  You can ignore them if you want, but they definitely helped a visual person like me better understand the concepts Frank was using in his inventions.  And aside from the diagrams there were very cute illustrations by Brain Biggs.

I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series goes.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor comes out August 19, 2014.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

News

March Book Two coming in 2015.  From PW.

Remembering Mary Rodgers, author of Freaky Friday.  From The New York Times.

A Florida school pulls Paper Towns from its summer reading list.  From Los Angeles Times.

The Amazon vs. Hathett battle goes on.  From SLJ.

College graduates have trouble doing deep online searches.  From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

12 great graphic novel adaptations.  From PW.

Roger Sutton says the Children’s Choice Book Awards are nonsense.  From The Horn Book.

FCC approves e-rate plan to inject $2 billion into wifi for schools and libraries.  From SLJ.

The bench in Amsterdam where Hazel and August kiss in The Fault in Our Stars movie is missing.  From The Huffington Post.

Go Boston!  Boston leads in young adult and children's books.  From The Boston Globe.

Comic Con 2014.  From PW.

Book drive for unaccompanied immigrant children now underway.  From Los Angeles Times.

Gayle Forman's If I Stay coming to theaters this August.  From SLJ.

Should children's books have happy endings?  From The Guardian.

The Brontes made tiny books as children.  From BuzzFeed.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has released its first Banned Books Week Handbook.  And it's free!  From PW.

Soviet children’s literature: The struggle between ideology and creativity.  From Russia Beyond the Headlines.

On adapting The Graveyard Book to a graphic novel.  From PW.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached

Zeina Abirached, who wrote the beautiful and poignant A Game for Swallows writes another graphic novel of wartime memories.

In A Game of Swallows, Abirached tells the story of  her time growing up during the civil war in Lebanon.  It was more of a tradition telling of her life during that time.  In I Remember Beirut, Abirached simply tells things she remembers.

"I remember when there was no electricity or gas, we used kerosene for heating."  "I remember traffic jams."  "I remember how to fold a paper boat."  Each of these memories relates to a larger event or experience Abirached recalls from the time of the war.

It paints a detailed picture of everyday life for a child during this time.  It also allows us to see the things that Abirached remembers and considers important as an adult, and in some cases, how they impacted her.

What I've loved about Abirached's graphic novels is that the simple and straightforward way they are told allows them to be appropriate for a middle grade audience.  Her graphic novels are an excellent way to help a younger child understand war the effects it has on the children, or to explore how another child's life can be so different from their own.

The illustrations are impactful.  Done in black and white, and fitting with the story, simple in detail, the panels and full page illustrations further show the impact these events had on Abirached's life.

I Remember Beirut comes out October 1, 2014.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson

Hilary Westfield, now a pirate and Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates member is hard at work bringing magic back to the land.  However, there are those that question whether she is piratical enough and Hilary must take on an adventure to live up to her name of The Terror of the Southlands.  Before she can engage in a duel or kill a sea monster, the Enchantress goes missing and Hilary knows that her friends must come first.  She sets off on a quest, which might prove she's the Terror after all.

I absolutely loved Magic Marks the Spot, which was Caroline Carlson's first book.  There were many laugh-out-loud moments and I thought the whole things was fresh and witty and just generally delightful.  That of course meant I had very high expectations for the second book in the series.  No pressure or anything.  While I didn't find myself laughing out loud this time around, it was still delightful and a great second book the series.

Hilary has fulfilled her dream of becoming a member of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, but since her dramatic finding of the Enchantress' treasure and the arrest of her father, Hilary has mostly been helping Captain Jasper bring magic pieces to all the people of the land.  This gets her a letter from the League president telling her that she isn't acting piratical enough and needs to step it up.  Hilary is quiet distressed, because honestly, she isn't sure if she can defeat another pirate in a duel or kill a sea monster.  Before she can try, the Enchantress disappears.

With the disappearance of the Enchantress, who was keeping everyone in line with their newly found use of magic, things start to fall apart.  People are NOT acting very responsibly!  Hilary knows she must try to help the Enchantress, even if the VNHLP president seems suspiciously against it.  And then Captain Jasper is kidnapped!

With her usual crew of first mate Charlie, Claire, her finishing school friend, the gargoyle and her governess Miss Geryson they set off to find them both and soon discover a group called The Mutineers, who write very polite letters, is behind it.

There's great action and adventure.  There's dramatic betrayals and friendships proven.  There's lots of tongue-in-cheek humor.  As with the first, it's all about being true to your friends and to who you really are.  And the girl who will become the new Enchantress is discovered!  As ever, delightful all around.

The Terror of the Southlands comes out September 9, 2014.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier returns in this companion to Smile.  Raina always wanted a sister, but Amara isn't the fun friend to play with Raina had in mind!  Amara is grouchy and likes to keep to herself.  Their relationship only becomes more strained as they get older.  It all comes to a head when they're trapped on a family car trip from San Francisco to Colorado.

As with all of Raina Telgemeier's books, this was cute and sweet and thoughtful.  I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Smile or Drama, perhaps I had unrealistically high expectations.  I just didn't feel like there was a much to this one as there was to the others.  And the ending felt unfinished and sudden.  I still loved reading it, and fans of Raina's will be delighted with this.

Raina's siblings don't come into Smile very much.  Smile is mostly focused on Raina's relationships with her friends.  In Sisters, we get to see the family dynamics.  The book goes back and forth between the present day with Raina, Amara, their little brother and their mother setting off on the road trip, and when Raina and Amara were little.  We get to see Raina as a toddler wishing for a sister, and her disappointment that Amara didn't turn out to be the sister she was hoping for.  We see Amara's personality beginning to develop, which is a demanding, independent, and rather grouchy one.  Both sisters have a love for drawing, but it doesn't seem to be something they can share and do together.

The family is going to visit Raina's mother's sister, who they haven't seen in years, and Raina will get to spend time with her cousins.  She's very anxious about fitting in and making sure they like her.  Amara doesn't care.  Raina has learned to tune out problems at home, which include her parent's constant fighting, Amara's tantrums, and her little brother's general noise, by listening to music.  Music is clearly an important part of her life, but she comes to realize that she's missing out on a lot by plugging herself in.

As the family returns home, Raina's mother tells the siblings that she and their father need some time apart.  Raina is surprised, but Amara isn't.  The book ends with the hope that the sisters will begin to support each other more.

The ARC I had wasn't in full color yet, but the pages that were in color had a slightly darker color pallet.  More greens and browns and yellows than her others, I think.  As with her other graphic novels, the story is told through standard panels with Raina's adorable and friendly looking characters.

Sisters comes out August 26, 2014.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

News

Remembering Walter Dean Myers.  From American Libraries.

Walter Dean Myers passes at 76.  From SLJ.

#WeNeedMoreWalterDeanMyers.  From SLJ.

Obituary: Walter Dean Myers.  From PW.

Freaky Friday author Mary Rodgers Dies at 83.  From SLJ.

Distinguished children’s author Allan Ahlberg has declined the inaugural Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award, because it is sponsored by Amazon.  From The Bookseller.

The best illustrations from 150 years of Alice in Wonderland.  From Brain Pickings.

In The Little Engine That Could some see an early feminist hero.  From NPR.

Reading from birth can help close the learning gap.  From SLJ.

Children's literature takes us on a tour of New York.  From nycgo.com.

James Patterson's Maximum Ride heads to YouTube as a miniseries.  From Page to Pramier.

Daniel Radcliffe won't return as Harry Potter.  From The Guardian.

Reading is Fundamental survey says summer reading is not a priority.  From SLJ.

YA from the UK on the rise.  From The Guardian.

Cape Henlopen School District's decision to take a book off a summer reading list for incoming high school freshmen has drawn protests from librarians, some parents and teachers.  From Delaware Online.

Amazon makes offer to Hachette authors.  From The Washington Post.

When librarians are told to censor kids' books.  From boingboing.

Eisner Foundation Builds Graphic Novel Collections and Programming.  From SLJ.

Get ready for The Giver movie.  From PW.

Reading Rainbow: the most popular Kickstarter ever.  From LA Times.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet

Sunday evening was the lovely Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet.  Before we get into the awards, I just want to commend whoever is doing the organizing of the banquet that I really appreciate the effort they have been putting in to accommodating people with dietary restrictions.  I have a lot of dietary restrictions, and it's really nice to be able to go the banquet and actually be able to eat a full meal.  It's gotten better every year, and this year they had it pretty much down.  

The banquet started with a cocktail hour.  Then around 6:30, people began gathering at the doors so everyone can have a mad dash inside and try to claim tables so you can all sit with all your friends.  Seriously, it can be a little dangerous.  You either need to step back and let the crazy people dash in, or be prepared to stick your elbows out.

 The Caldecott this year is going to Locomotive, by Brian Floca, so the program had this very cool pop out of a train.  Things started out by acknowledging the members of both the Newbery and the Caldecott committees.  We were asked to hold our applause until all names had been said.  Unlike a high school, where such an announcement would immediately have been followed by applause and hooting after every name, we were actually able to follow directions and applauded at the end.  Nice job adults, nice job.  We are an example to all.
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