Wednesday, September 29, 2010

School of Fear: Class is Not Dismissed by Gitty Daneshavari

Dear Gitty Daneshvari,


Madeleine (fear of spiders), Theo (afraid something terrible is going to happen to his family), Lulu (fear of confined spaces), and Garrison (fear of water) are returning for a second summer at the School of Fear, quite against their wills. The children are convinced they've already been cured of their phobias, although that turns out not to be the case. They are joined by new student, Hyacinth (fear of being alone), as they...ummm, waste time for about 200 pages before trying to save their school from closing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

For your viewing pleasure:

I know many of you have seen this, but it makes me giggle each time I see it. I think it is a goofy fantastic example of censorship.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Monster High by Lisi Harrison

I went into this book with my mind already made up. For two reasons. 1.) It's by Lisi Harrison, author of the Clique and Alpha series. She kind of only does one thing. 2.) I was aware there was a line of dolls from Mattel called Monsters High so this was clearly a tie-in, and I'm judgey like that.

Frankie Stein is soooo excited to be going to high school! She's only 15 days old, but she is all set with spending the days in her father's lab. She wants to get out into the world! The only problem is, she must hide her true identify, because people get freaked out by monsters and all. Luckily for her, her high school is where all the other teenage monsters go (in disguise, of course). Melody and her family have just moved to town. Melody yearns for someone to accept her for who she is, not for her surgically created beautiful exterior (she got a nose job at her family's promoting). Although she might be beautiful outside, on the inside she's still that bumpy-nosed girl. Both Frankie and Melody struggle for acceptance, with a good old dose of Lisi Harrison style makeup and brand dropping and stealing other people's boyfriends. With monsters.

Banned Books Week!

Happy Banned Books Week everyone (though it actually started yesterday)! In celebration of freedom of speech, intellectual freedom, and not letting the man keep you down; I'm going to try and find a little something for you each day that banned books week is going on. Support challenged books, they're the ones that once they get labeled you want to go and read anyways, and support allowing children the resources they need to understand the world around them.

"10 Banned Books you didn't expect" Who knew Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do You See? was supporting Marxism?

Here's a fun little video talking about banned books.

And in case you haven't seen it in a while, the top ten banned books of this year and of the decade.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson

Tillie Harris goes into labor six weeks early, in her new apartment in a new city where she doesn't know anyone. And her husband is away on business. The only person Tillie can think of to call is her father, who she hasn't spoken to in years. As Tillie is in the emergency room, she thinks back to when she was 8, and how that single year formed her relationship with her father.

The year she was 8 the family moved to Washington, D.C. and her mother completely fell apart. Tillie recalls the helplessness and frustration she felt, as she struggled to understand what was happening around her.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Diary of Piper Davis: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson

I was all sorts of excited when I saw that Dear America was going to be publishing more fictional diaries of girls from different time periods in America. I loved the Dear America series. I had practically all of them. And a couple of the boy equivalents, My America, which I don't think was as popular.

Piper Davis is the daughter of a minister in Seattle, Washington during 1941. Her father's congregation is all from Japantown, and while Piper spends Sundays with those of Japanese descent, her close friends are her school friends, who are all white, as she is.

Piper's beloved brother, Hank, has just joined the navy and has been stationed in Hawaii. You can probably see where this is going. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and although Piper's brother is unharmed, America is now involved in WWII, and everything changes.

People begin to turn on the Japanese citizens, even those who were born in America. Piper is conflicted, she's worried about her brother and would do anything to protect him, but it doesn't seem right to mistreat the Japanese-American people. When all people of Japanese descent are deported to camps, Piper's father decides to follow his congregation, taking Piper with him.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Interesting article on the life of Roald Dahl. From The New York Times Magazine.

It's nice to see that Lane Smith's It's a Book is already doing well. From

Nikole Hasler, of the Mid-West Teen Sex Show podcast, now has a book, Sex: A Guide for Teens. Here's an interview with her. Nikole, it breaks my heart you don't do the podcast anymore. From Authors Unleashed.

What do people know about Diaspora? I've been following this since end of school last year, and I am intrigued, although not completely convinced it is the answer to all our Facebook woes. From School Library Journal.

Along with Sherman Alexi's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak is being challenged. In the same general area too. From Southeast Missourian and Laurie Halse Anderson's web site.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Kate is alone; her father has just passed away from the unknown disease that is tearing through the country and her known friends are slowly leaving her side as the allow fear to color their judgment. Kate has a gift with wood that seems magical to some, and makes other whisper witch. All Kate wants now is to survive, and to do so she makes a deal with the unknown. In exchange for her shadow, Kate receives her secret desire and the tools to survive. It is only later that she understands the repercussions of her actions and how it will impact those she is coming to care about.

So there's not a ton of stuff I want to say about this. It was good. It reminded me a lot of a Russian fairytale. Kind of dark and pleasing all at the same time. I wouldn't say that blew me away though. It was acceptable, or rather above average. Not super stupendous, but neither boring nor falling into stereotypical tropes. I don't know why I didn't love it. Possibly because I didn't really find the main character all that empathetic until the very end. Anyways, I liked it, didn't love it. Read it, but maybe borrow it from the library instead of buying it.

The Danger Box by Blue Balliett

Zoomy has never met his father or mother and has lived with his grandparents all his life. That's fine with Zoomy, he loves his grandparents and doesn't want anything to change. Zoomy hates change, sudden change can make him get stuck, unable to move until things are in order again. It helps to keeps lists of things, so Zoomy has all sorts of notebooks for his lists.

Then suddenly, Zoomy's father, Buckeye, turns up, in a stolen truck with a mysterious box in the back. Buckeye and Zoomy's grandfather have a fight, and Buckeye takes off, leaving the box. All that's in the box is a blanket and an old notebook. Zoomy studies the notebook, trying to figure out what would make it so special. With the help of his friend Lorrol, Zoomy embarks on some serious library research to figure out the secret of the notebook. But they don't have much time. A stranger is in town, and Zoomy is pretty sure he's looking for the notebook too.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

It's good to read a nonfiction book aimed at adults every now and then. It breaks up all the supernatural romances, which I think I need to take a break from for a while.

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath take a look at how to change when you really don't have a lot to work with. How can you change things when you aren't in a position of power, don't have a lot of people, and no money? While this book is really more aimed for business, the techniques looked at can work for anyone, and since reading it I've been trying to apply these strategies to my teaching.

For Dan

Curriculum Frameworks did not sound like a very exciting class, no, not exciting at all. But it turned out to be great for a couple of reasons. First, it was where I really became friends with people, and second, because Dan Fleming was teaching it. Dan was amazing. He was one of those incredibly genuine people you should only be so lucky to meet in your life. He thought every single one of us was special and fabulous and would do great things. And it made us want be be great, because we would never want to disappoint him. You can't fake that kind of enthusiasm. I wish that I could be that kind of person for my students.

Whenever I was feeling frustrated from jumping through hoops with my practicum requirements or trying to figure out what I still needed to do for my certification, Dan had a way of making everything seem simple. It sometimes felt like everyone was trying to be as confusing as possible, and then Dan would cut through everything with straightforward advice and direction. It was comforting being with Dan.

I would like for Dan to be proud of me, and it inspires me to be a better librarian. But it's also comforting to know that even if I have a day where I was not being the best librarian I can be, Dan would never be disappointed in me. Because I'm fabulous and special and I will do great things. I won't forget to feed the rabbits.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In memoriam

Three years ago I was a brand new library science student. I spent the first semester muddling my way through, trying to figure out if the school library track was what I really wanted to do and if I could handle being a student again. My second semester is when I think my real experience began. I finally remembered what it was to write a five page paper, read a text book, and sit through three hour lectures; more importantly I was making friends and fine tuning the classes I was taking. One class sticks out in my mind, not only because it is where I met my fellow wandering librarians but this is when I met Prof. Dan Fleming. I wish I could fully encompass my first impression of Dan. I wish I could in detail tell you how knowledgeable, supportive, kind, and nurturing he was. With his little sayings like: "feed the rabbits," "You want fresh? I can be very fresh," and "do NOT gossip with the teachers, they talk and you just listen;" he became not just a professor to us but a mentor, counselor, cheerleader, and generally someone we would always turn to to share our achievements and failures. Dan was the first person who really showed me what it would be like to work in a school library. It was his influence that shapes my vision of what my library is and can be. I do not think I can fully express how much he still is a part of my outlook on life even though we hadn't spoke to one another in over a year.

Today, looking down at his casket, all I could think was, "It's so small." Dan's personality emanated from his body, his enthusiasm and kindness preceded him wherever he went. He's truly gone, and an entire community has lost someone very special. Dan passed away from cancer on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. He is survived by his wife, three children, and all the librarians and students that he made excited about going out into the world and changing it for the better.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Scumble by Ingrid Law

To say that Ledge's family is different would be an understatement. Once every child hits their thirteenth birthday, they don't just join the ranks of the pubescent adolescence they also develop their savvy. A savvy is a secret magical ability, it can range from controlling minds to being invisible, and Ledge has just gotten his. This isn't a seemingly cool ability like his mom's ability to control people's actions with a smile and comment or the much hoped for ability like running at incredible speeds, no this savvy seems to be literally destructive. As Ledge scrambles to scumble his savvy, try and break out from under his mother's controlling thumb, readjust his father's hopes and dreams for Ledge's running future, he breaks the family's cardinal rule and reveals the family's abilities to nosy thirteen year old Sarah Jane aka SJ Cabot; the same SJ whose father is trying to take over the family's safe haven. Now Ledge is trying to not only control his destructive powers but also try and figure out SJ and have her help him stop her dad. Turning thirteen just got a little more complicated.

The Poisons of Caux: The Tasters Guild by Susannah Appelbaum

I apologize for taking so long to write my reviews, and to be honest a couple of them have since been published, but in my defense I wasn't super stoked about a couple of them and had to work up the enthusiasm to start. On with the reviews!

This is a sequel which started with The Hollow Beetle, when I went to the stall at the ALA conference, I was told that this could be read as a standalone. HA! Let me give you the fast summary of the first book that was at the beginning of The Taster's Guild: Caux is a land that used to be known for its healing knowledge, now a tyrant is ruling and poisons dictate your position in the new regime of which Ivy our protagonist is a prodigy. Ivy is a noble and is given two food tasters to keep her safe, both whom have hidden agendas. Ivy is not satisfied with the status quo and secretly starts learning healing potions, which get her into trouble with the Taster's Guild (the power behind the throne), and lead her to discover that she is the Noble Child that is destined to save the rightful king and restore the kingdom to its healing glory.

Now onto the plot of the sequel. A very talented forger has taken mystical texts from the Tasters Guild, and his knowledge of creating the books has caught the attention of the deadly Tasters Guild. It seems by creating such perfect copies of the original texts, that he has stumbled upon a deadly plant that could end up destroying the entire land. It eats away at the land and drives people crazy as it kills them. In the mean time Ivy has been learning greater healing knowledge of healing through regimented apothecary lessons. She becomes impatient to begin her quest to find the king and heal him so that the kingdom can be restored to greatness. With the help of her friends she is able to escape her home and head towards the magical gateway that is supposed to lead her to the alternate reality where the king is being hidden. Unfortunately the only known gate is in the Tasters Guild underground labyrinth, where the director is concocting a plan to destroy the land's hope and kill Ivy so she cannot restore the king. Taking many risks, making a few mistakes, and losing some friends along the way, Ivy and Rowan make it to the king only to discover that their quest is not nearly as easy as they first assumed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Nina Revskaya, once a famous ballet dancer, is auctioning off her equally famous jewelry collection. Supposedly it is to raise money for the arts, but Nina has more personal reasons for wanting to get rid of all her jewelry, although they are among the few things she still has left from Russia, since she defected in 1952. Drew Brooks is handling the jewelry's auction, and finds herself in the middle of a very strange story. Grigori Solodin, a 50 year old Russian professor, has a piece of amber jewelry that he thinks matches those that belong to Nina. He has tried to speak to Nina about this before, believing the piece of jewelry holds the key to his unknown parentage, but Nina has never allowed him to speak to her. Drew is trying to piece it all together, as she attempts to prove if Grigori's jewelry is indeed a missing piece to Nina's.

As the stories in the present are told, it is interspersed with the story of Nina's past in Russia, becoming a dancer, meeting her husband, and the danger of living in Russia. As more of the past is told, the present begins to make more sense. Nina may have made a horrible mistake.
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