Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban

Ruby Pepperdine lives in Bunning, New Hampshire, the supposed home of the donut.  Each year, there is a Bunning Day parade to celebrate, and this year, Ruby is the one who will read her Bunning Day essay aloud.  Ruby knows, just knows, that if she can make everything happen just right, she will get her wish.  She will be able to fix what happened, and everything will go back to the way it's suppose to be.

I loved the framing device and narrative style of this story.  We start in the present, with Ruby standing in the circle where she'll soon be reading her winning essay, doing everything she can to make her wish come true, looking for signs that it will.  It's mixed with flashbacks that build the story and explain how Ruby got where she is and why she feels this wish is so important.  But we also get inside the heads of characters that aren't really important to the story, but their actions are important in some way.  These sections would often take place in second person, which isn't something you often see and I liked a lot.  For instance, a chapter might begin, "If you were so and so, you might be thinking...." and then we'd get some character's perspective on something.  The connection was something that character would do, which had nothing to do with Ruby or her wish, would inadvertently effect Ruby.  So  many things were connected, in some small way.

Ruby is the kind of kid that often gets passed over.  She's quiet.  She does exactly what she's told to do, but no more.  She does fine in school.  She's reliable.  When her beloved grandmother dies, Ruby doesn't exactly know how to handle her feelings of sadness and regret, and everyone else around her, her parents, her aunts and uncles, all seem to have gone back to the way they always were.  Why is she the only one who feels like this?  So Ruby shoves down the feeling and tries to be her reliable, helpful self.  But it's getting harder.  When she wins the essay contest, Ruby knows this is a sing that everything is going to come together and she will have a chance to do things over.  Somehow.

Ruby's best friend Lucy frustrated me.  Lucy came off as pretty self focused.  She, just like everyone else, was use to Ruby being good-old-reliable-Ruby who always does what she's told and is always there for everyone else.  When Ruby isn't there to sit through every one of Lucy's play practices, Lucy gets angry.  And she gets angry that Ruby hasn't been telling her things, but seriously, Ruby couldn't get a word in edgewise!  It was great that Ruby was starting to be able to voice what she wanted and needed.  She clearly cares about Lucy very much.  Perhaps going forward their relationship won't be so one-sided.

Ruby also makes a new friend, Nero, who she wouldn't have gotten to know if she wasn't trying so hard to figure out how her wish could work.  Ruby doesn't really have any friends besides Lucy though, so she's not totally sure what to do with this possible new friendship.  Especially since Lucy and Nero don't seem to like each other.

I think this is only going to appeal to a certain kind of kid.  Lots of deep thoughts and philosophizing might be a hard sell.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint, illusrated by Charles Vess

Sarah Jane Dillard has six sisters, older, younger, all with their own passions and interests and minds of their own.  Sarah Jane loves nothing more than helping old Aunt Lillian on her isolated farm.  Aunt Lillian tells wonderful stories of fairies and magic, which she insists are true, but Sarah Jane doesn't really believe her.  Then one day Sarah Jane finds a real fairy, and before she knows it she and all her sisters are drawn into a long-standing war between two fairy clans.  Sarah Jane must get them out before they are trapped forever.
Seven Wild Sisters was originally published 2002 and is the 12th book in the Newford series.  It's a bit confusing, but it seems like some of the books in the series are being re-released or recycled?  In 2013 The Cats of Tanglewood Forest was published (for the first time it looks like) and Seven Wild Sisters is being billed as a companion novel to it.  I have not read The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, or any of the other books in the Newford series for that matter, and still liked Seven Wild Sisters a lot.  And it made me want to read The Cats of Tanglewood forest so I could know Lillian's story.

While Sarah Jane was the main focus of the story and we learned most about her, I liked that the other sisters weren't just props. They had their own personalities and quirks.  Adie is the oldest, and bit of a rebel without a cause.  Elsie is fascinated with nature and draws plants and animals.  The older twins, Laurel and Bess love music, and the younger twins, Ruth and Grace are mischief makers and practical jokers.  They didn't all have big roles to play, but they were all part of the story.

Sarah Jane feels a bit apart from her sisters.  She doesn't feel like she has a talent.  She's quiet and thoughtful like Elsie, but doesn't have something to focus on.  She likes stories, and Aunt Lillian, who isn't actually her aunt, has plenty.  She also finds she likes working with her hands.  While Sarah Jane is trying to save her sisters from angry fairies, she's finding out the kind of person she is and who she wants to be.

We really only get hints of the world in Seven Wild Sisters.  I got a feeling that a lot more about the fairy world was learning in The Cats of Tanglewood Forest.  Fairies aren't beautiful and sweet in this world.  There are many different kinds of fairies some at war with each other.  They all seem to fear and respect the King of Cats, who we hear about but never actually see.

Seven Wild Sisters comes out February 4, 2014.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

Rachel is already having trouble with the popular kids at school when her mother starts a house cleaning business to help them get by after Rachel's father leaves.  Now Rachel is spending her weekends cleaning the houses of the same kids who already make fun of her!  But Rachel starts to pick up a lot of interesting information cleaning the houses of the popular.  Maybe she can use it to her advantage...

So I was just saying how I can't think of any books with biracial characters, and the very next book I read involves a biracial character.  The book itself has nothing to do with Rachel being biracial, but it does mention how Rachel looks more like her Asian father, and some people hadn't realized she and her mother were related.

Rachel's father leaving hit her hard.  She was much closer with her father than her mother.  Even though her dad's the one who left them, Rachel still feels like he understands her better.  She's sure that if she can just get out to Florida (she and her mom live in New England) where her dad is living, she can convince him to come back.  But Rachel's mother won't let her go.  Rachel took money out of her college fund to buy a ticket, and now she has two weeks to get the money back before her mother finds outs.  That's why she's stuck helping clean houses.  And that's why she takes the offer to spy on a mean, popular girl whose house she cleans.

Rachel thinks of herself as a loser.  She's incredibly quiet and shy.  She can't speak up or defend herself when others tease her.  She has a hopeless crush on a popular boy she's never spoken to.  The mean girls, lead by queen bee Briana makes Rachel's life terrible, playing mean pranks on her.  Rachel takes out her anger and frustration by baking.  She loves to bake.  It's what she wants to do with her life, but her mother doesn't think it's a practical career.  Rachel is determined to win this year's bake sale, not just because of the cash prize, but to prove she's good enough.

Rachel struggles with fights with friends, spying on people, which she knows is wrong, crushes on boys, and most of all, the absence of her father.  Rachel does eventually come to see that it's her mother that's there for her, even if she doesn't understand Rachel as well as her father did.  Her mom is the one who stayed, who always tried to fix things.  They are on the same side a team.

Good middle school read, dealing with all the important issues of finding yourself and learning who your true friends are.

The Dirt Diary comes out January 7, 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013


John Green gets personal on bullying.  From The Huffington Post.

Gail Carriger on her newest book.  From Parade.

Reviews of celebrity children's books.  From Vanity Fair.

In case you were unaware that Kurt Vonnegut was awesome, read this.  From Letters of Note.

Early reviews of C. S. Lewis' Narnia stories.  From The Guardian.

How not to kill a child's love of reading.  From The Huffington Post.

Harry Potter gets lost at Penn Station.  From The gothamist.

Five things Time Magazine would like to see in The Hunger Games theme park.

Mainstream media YA bingo!  It's fun for everyone!  From the blog of foz meadows.

11 life lessons from Anne of Green Gables.  From The Huffington Post.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

Arcopolis is overrun with monsters of all kinds.  Only Haggard West can stand against them.  Too bad Haggard West has just been killed.  Meanwhile, in another galaxy, a 12 year-old boy on the eve of his 13th birthday is being sent out on his Ramble.  His father, a great hero and monster fighter, sends him to Arcopolis to save it.  Battling Boy has his work cut out for him.  And he might not be able to do it alone.

This was a good start to a series.  Several main characters are introduced, including Battling Boy himself, and Haggard West's daughter, Aurora, who was quite surprised to see another superhero show up on her turf.  We get a general idea of the world, but no specifics.  We don't know where the monsters are coming from, and we don't really understand where Battling Boy comes from, or who his people are.  Why do they send their 13 year-olds on life-threatening quests?  Do they all have superpowers?  Do they all get sent out to try and save other planets?

I am confused about Battling Boy's powers.  I hope it will become clearer with time.  His father seems to be a very power being called a Warlord.  He can shoot lighting from his fingers and has a number of other powers as well.  Battling Boy seems to mainly get his power through the 12 t-shirts he's been given.  Each has a different animal totem, and when he puts them on he gets some of that animal's strength.  What I'm not sure about is if Battling Boy has any powers just on his own.  It seems like he should.  But it's not clear.  Perhaps he's supposed to have powers, but doesn't.

Battling Boy gets himself into trouble pretty much as soon as he gets there.  He struggles against the first monster he goes up against, and calls his father for help.  His father, in the middle of fighting his own monster, doesn't have time to talk Battling Boy through the whole thing, and zaps the monster with his lightning powers.  Of course, the people of the city think it was Battling Boy who has lightning power, and he doesn't correct them.

The end of the first book leaves us with Battling Boy admitting that he doesn't have lightning powers, and is going to need Aurora's help.  The monsters of the city are teaming up to kill Battling Boy, and probably Aurora as well.

Art is in a traditional superhero style, with lots of action and fight scenes.  I found that other than the main characters, everyone else kind of looked alike, especially the members of the military.  Perhaps that was intentional?  Or maybe not.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

Violet Diamond's mother is white and her father, who died before she was born, was Black.  Violet loves her mother and sister, but sometimes she gets tired of people not realizing they belong together.  Violet has never met her father's side of the family, and begins to feel more and more that something is missing from her life.  Violet is a determined person, and she's determined to meet her father's side of the family!

After I was done reading this, I tried to think of another book that explores the difficulties a kid might have being biracial.  I couldn't think of any.  Surely there must be others...right?  Please let me know if you can think of any, because I really can't.

I thought this did a great job showing Violet's confusion and feeling she's missing something important.  I am not biracial, so I cannot speak from personal experience, but to me it seemed like it illustrated the kind of issues a kid might go through.

Violet's mother was previously married and had a daughter, so Violet has a big sister.  She loves her sister and her mother, but sometimes, she feels like she's missing something.  She lives in a town where almost everyone is white.  She's the only biracial kid at her school.  She has one Black friend who she skates with, but one Black friend doesn't fill the void Violet is feeling.  She wants to learn about the other side of her family.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy.

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you? 

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most? 

Side Effects May Vary comes out March 18, 2014.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the richest man in the galaxy.  Tarver Merendsen is a decorated war hero, but even his medals can't change the fact he's not from a rich family.  When the unthinkable happens, Lilac and Tarver are thrown together and have no one to rely on but each other.  And it's a matter of life and death.

I hate the cover.  And the title is silly.  And it's too bad because I actually quite enjoyed the book.  But if I hadn't gotten it as an ARC I probably would have never bothered to pick it up because, well, it looks like completely fluff, right?  Publishers keep hyping this as "Titanic in space," which doesn't make any sense after reading this.  OK, yes, big fancy thing (in this case, a spaceship) crashes and no one ever thought such a thing could happen.  Lots of people die.  And I guess there's the class issue.  But otherwise?  Not Titanic in space.

But anyway.  To the book itself.  I'm not sure if I can talk about this without there being spoilers.  So this is your spoiler warning.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Altered by Jennifer Rush

Anna has worked with her father for the Branch, and with her responsibilities of typing up reports and filing, she has developed relationships with their four subjects: Nick, intense and quiet; Cas, fun and flirtatious; Trev, smart and her closer friend; and Sam, who Anna loves. They have been genetically altered and their memories wiped, their abilities are exceptional and their pasts unknown. But when the Branch starts taking a greater interest in Anna herself, Anna finds herself allied to the boys that she used to monitor.

Anna and the boys find themselves on the run and they must decide who they can trust and where they can go for information. It doesn't help that one of their own is betraying them. In the end Anna must decide where her loyalties lie and how her hidden past ties in to the four boys'.

I was so excited about this book. I'll own it. Obviously I didn't expect it to be Shakespeare but I thought that it would be gripping in an emotional-sense. There were so many elements that I usually enjoy: emotionally distant love interest, enhanced boys, girls that learn that they are capable of more than they though... I loved the idea that Anna had this double-blind secret that unveils throughout the book. Her love for Sam seemed like icing on the cake!

Alas and alack. The actual follow through was not so good. There were elements that were good. Some of the mystery was well done, interesting twists and great action.

But then there's Anna. Not so great. Anna is pretty Mary Sue-ish and her love for Sam was one-dimensional. There just wasn't really any basis for her devotion nor for his feeling grow for her. Especially as the truth comes out that Sam used to be in a very serious relationship with Anna's older sister. Did I forget to mention that Sam is almost ten years older than Anna? Ick.

You know who I did like? Nick, Cas, and Trev. Much more interesting and dynamic. Who got the short end of the stick when it came to character development and plot time? Nick, Cas, and Trey. Lame.

I've read Erased as well, I hope to have that review up soon-ish, which was better but not at the same time... Ahh well.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Earth to Hollywood: people will pay to see a female superhero.  From The Atlantic.

Susan after Narnia.  From Hark, the empty highways calling.

The five books that inspire the most tattoos.  From PW.

Mo Willems on writing for reluctant readers.  From The Washington Post.

Why do young readers prefer print to digital?  From The Guardian.

Roger Hargreaves and his enduring legacy of Mr. Men books.  From The Telegraph.

The wonderful and terrible habit of buying too many books.  From PW.

YALSA names five Morris Award finalists.  From SLJ.

Celebrity "Read" posters of the 80s and 90s!  I remember so  many of these!  From Book Riot.

Q & A with Laurie Halse Anderson. From PW.

Who says children's books can't be great literature?  University of Kent, apparently.  From The Guardian. 

YA authors share the "book they're most thankful for."  From Parade.

SLJ's Top Ten Apps of 2013.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Flora is a cynic with a romance writer mother who has no time for her.  But after rescuing a squirrel from death by vacuum cleaner and the squirrel (who Fiona names Ulysses) develops superpowers and a love of poetry, Fiona knows nothing will ever be the same.

What an odd little book!  I kind of loved it.  But what an odd little book!  When I first started reading it I thought it was just weird, but then began to really like it.  I think kids will think it's fun too, superhero squirrel and all, but it's one of those books that adults will connect with on a deeper level, because it's about Life.

Flora's parents are divorced and she lives with her mother, who spends most of her time writing her romance novels on her annoyingly loud typewriter.  Flora tells herself she doesn't care that her parents are divorced or that her mother seems to like her shepherdess lamp more than her.  She's a cynic after all!  Despite her cynic status, Flora loves to read superhero comics, in particular one called The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto!  After Ulysses is vacuumed up by Flora's neighbor, Mrs. Tickham, and Flora rescues him, she sees he has developed super strength when he lifts up the vacuum cleaner and shakes it for cracker crumbs.  Even though she's a cynic, Flora recognizes Ulysses' potential superheroness.

Ulysses himself has an awakening after being vacuumed.  He understands people, and realizes he can read and write (as well as other things) and after being read a poem by Mrs. Tickham wants to write poems himself.  Mostly, he wants to learn new things, be near Flora, write poems and eat.  He is also curious about this whole superhero business.

Flora's mother is concerned about Flora's devotion to the squirrel and tries to get Flora's father to "take care of him."  Flora meets a strange boy, William Spiver, who is staying with his aunt Mrs. Tickham.  William Spiver wears dark glasses and claims to be blind due to a traumatic experience he doesn't want to talk about.  Despite the fact Flora finds him annoying, she starts to kind of like him.

As Ulysses develops more superpowers, Flora begins to realize that she really does need (and want) people in her life who love and care about her.  When her mother kidnaps Ulysses, all these strange characters are brought together.

The story was primary told through prose, but it was interspersed with comic strip sections that moved the story along, as well as illustrations accompanying the words.  It was an interesting mix that worked well and played into the whole superhero theme.

The story doesn't have a neatly tied up ending, even though some things are made right.  Not everything is though, which seemed a proper ending for this kind of story.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

In the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Cassandra Clare comes this brilliant, unputdownable, star-crossed romance about the curse of winning.

Seventeen-year-old Kestrel is an aristocratic citizen of Valoria, a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers. Here, a girl like Kestrel has two choices: join the military or get married. Despite her skills in military strategy, Kestrel’s real passion is music.Which is why she feels compelled to buy Arin, a slave with a talent for singing, at auction. It’s not long before she finds herself falling in love with Arin, and he seems to feel the same for her. But Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for Arin is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

The Winner's Curse comes out March 4, 2014.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Property by Rutu Modan

After the death of her father, Mica and her paternal grandmother Regina Segal travel to Warsaw in an attempt to claim property lost during WWII.  Regina has not been back to Poland since she was sent away to Israel before WWII.  But Regina is carrying a secret.  She has other reasons for coming to Warsaw.

Rutu Modan is the author of Exit Wounds, which is on my "to read" list and had a lot of positive buzz when it came out.  There's been lots of buzz about The Property too, and it's started showing up on "best of 2013" lists.

We have two parallel stories happening, Mica's and Regina's.  Mica doesn't know what her grandmother's actual purpose in Warsaw is.  All she knows is that her grandmother initially wanted to come to Warsaw to claim this property, but upon arrival she wants nothing to do with it.  Mica sets out to find the property herself.  She has to deal with a snoopy and interfering friend of her aunt's (who has plans of his own) and meets a young Polish man.  All while trying to figure out what on earth is going on with her grandmother.


Thursday, December 5, 2013


10 classic books you read in high school and should reread.  From PW.

School Library Journal's "Best Books of 2013" lists are out.  Check out fiction, nonfiction, and adult books 4 teens.

25 young adult novels turned into movies, from I Know What You Did Last Summer to The Maze Runner.  From Los Angeles Times.

Speaking of which, why have so many recent YA movie adaptations flopped?  From Vulture.

School Library Journal's movie review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

What the Common Core means for fiction in schools.  From BookRiot.

What children's authors make of the Common Core and educational policies.  From wusf news.

Has The Hunger Game advertising completely missed the mark?  From The Guardian.

Eleanor & Park to stay on the shelves at Anoka High.  From StarTribune.

Library Journal's best databases 2013 list.

Young readers prefer print to ebooks.  From The Guardian.

The greatest monsters in literature.  From Flavorwire.

How Hans Christian Anderson revitalized storytelling.  From Brain Pickings.

How to create a "culture of reading."  From SLJ.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Cress by Marissa Meyer

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Cress by Marissa Meyer.

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Cress comes out February 4, 2014.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley's most vivid memories are of how things tasted.  She grew up with a foodie father and caterer mother in the middle of New York's blossoming food scene.  Her memoir tells the love story of her relationship to food, and provides many tasty recipes along the way.

Lucy tells vignettes of her life which all revolve around food in some way.  She recalls her quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookies; her trip to Mexico with her mother and her friend Drew's family (their moms got the flu and the two of them ran all over San Miguel eating cheap food); working in a cheese shop like her mother; relating to her father through food.

As well as giving us a picture of her life, Lucy gives us some of her recipes.  Of course, they are told through image and words, it's a comic, after all!  Her recipes include huevos rancheros, veggie sushi (I feel like I could actually make sushi now!), and shepard pie, among others.

At first I thought the art looked much different than it did in French Milk.  Then I realized, no, it's not the art that looks so different, it's the colors.  The style is the same, but French Milk was in black and white, so the lines were much more clear and detailed.  Relish is done in bold, almost muddy colors (I didn't love the color palette), causing the illustrations to appear less detailed.  I still like the style, which is very cute.

Relish is great, because it not only tells the story of the love of food, but also the story of an awkward kid growing up and making mistakes.  Great for young adults and adults alike.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Mina Holmes, niece of the great Sherlock Homes and Evaline Stoker, sister to Bram Stoke, have been contacted by Irene Adler herself under orders of the Princess of Wales.  Girls are disappearing and turning up dead, each with a mysterious metal scarab beside them.  Mina and Evaline will need to work together to figure out who is behind the terrible crimes - no easy task for a vampire hunter and a careful and knee observer!

This was a fun start to the series.  It establishes an arch-nemesis, leaves things hanging, introduces various characters and potential love interests and leaves you wondering how Mina and Evaline's relationship will continue to evolve, if it does at all.

We are in a Steampunk version of London in 1889.  I liked that it was actually explained why London had gone with steam rather than electricity (it was political) which is now outlawed.  Mina is much like her uncle - meticulous, logical, and with a knee sense of observation.  Mina misses nothing and always has a plan.  Evaline is her opposite.  Evaline, carrying on the destiny of her family, is a vampire hunter with supernatural strength.  Evaline doesn't like to wait to figure things out, she'd rather act.

I find Evaline incredibly tiresome.  She was constantly getting them into trouble because she couldn't just wait and listen before she felt the need to do something dramatic or punch someone.  I found Mina much more likable, even though she feels the need to cover emotion with her cool, Holmes logic.

The book was told from both Mina's and Evaline's perspective.  This worked well, as it allowed the reader to get a different perspective on the characters.  Mina thinks herself plain and awkward, but that doesn't seem to come across to other people.  Mina sees Evaline as beautiful and easily gets along with people, but Evaline sees herself as trapped in a world she doesn't belong.

There was a weird time travel aspect that didn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the book, and I'm not sure where it's going to go.  While in the British Museum, Mina discovers Dylan, who seems to have been transported back in time by the power of the statue of Sekhmet.  He helps Mina in the end, but mostly he just mopes about and their were sparks between them.  But it was a bit odd. 

Of course, both girls have potential love interests, although nothing is really for sure by the end of the book.  Evaline was helped multiple times by a mysterious man called Prix, and Mina has a bit of a rivalry going to a young detective named Grayling.  I predict some kind of love triangle between Mina, Grayling and Dylan. 

By the end of the first book, Mina and Evaline have a grudging respect for each other.  They have come to care for each other, but are they friends?  It's unclear.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Connecticut's School Librarians seek stakeholder support.  From SLJ.

Beyond blood: what The Hunger Games can teach tweens.  From Time.

Inside stories of memorable books.  From PW.

The Common Core's absurd new reading guidelines.  From New Republic.

When it comes to writing, Matt de la Pena puts teenagers first.  From The Spokesman-Review.

Coming soon: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Don't recognize that red-haired female elf on the movie poster?  That would be because she's not in the book.  From PW.

75-year-old kid's book by Gertrude Stein.  From NPR.

More Harry Potter stamps revealed! From

I disagree with this a lot.  If your child is too young for a book, don't read it to them until they're old enough.  Rather than editing the book to make it conform to your personal beliefs, have a conversation with your child about sections of the book you find troubling, or that don't coincide with your family values.  Child-Proofing Harry Potter.  From The New York Times.

13 young adult movie adaptations to look for.  From GotachaMovies.

After dystopia, what's next?  From The Christian Science Monitor.

SLJ reviews The Book Thief film.

NCAC honors YA author Sherman Alexie as defender of free speech.  From SLJ.

S.E. Hinton in the Twitter age.  From The New Yorker.

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere back in New Mexico's Alamogordo High School.  From SLJ.

Judy Blume's books are getting some trendy new book covers.  From Entertainment Weekly.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

AASL: Sessions Day One

Friday began the break-out sessions.  I had a very mixed experience with the sessions.  Some of them were awesome, some of them were interested but applied to specifically to the library the presenter was from, and some of them were not great.

Because I was going to be going to so many sessions on research and inquiry and making yourself essential, I started out the day with a fun one.  I went to a session called Celebrating Diversity: The Brown Bookshelf Salutes Great Books for Kids.  The speakers were authors Gwendolyn Hooks and Kelly Starling-Lyons who also write for The Brown Bookshelf, a blog dedicated to "push[ing] awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers."  Both Hooks and Starling-Lyons spoke about how they had come to writing.  Starling-Lyons talked about the first time she saw a face that looked like hers on a book.  It was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  It had an incredible impact on her.  Her "mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery."  Hooks and Starling-Lyons went through a list of recommended titles from picture books to YA that they feel well represents African American authors.  They had some of the books and had a little contest at the end to give some of them away.

The next session I attended was The Vision of Outstanding School Library Programs, being presented by Nancy Everhart.  The room it was being held in wasn't all that big, and it was completely packed, which people sitting on every spare piece of floor and huddled around the door.  You'd think they'd expect something called "The Vision of Outstanding School Library Programs" to be popular!  Everhart, who in 2010-2011 was AASL president conducted a tour of 38 school libraries across the country to find out what made an outstanding school library program.  It was interesting to hear the story of her travels, and the experiences she had, but I wanted something more concrete.  Even after reading her full article (in the most recent issue of Teacher Librarian), I still don't feel like I really know what makes and outstanding school library program.  Everhart used the AASL school library program rubric to asses each library, and the top libraries did have many things in common, like leadership, flexible learning spaces, support inquiry, a comprehensive emission.  But I wanted even MORE than that!  How do the libraries with little funding support reading when they don't have money to buy new materials?  How did they go about making connections with other teachers and administrators?  I wanted the nitty gritty, but it wasn't there.

AASL Opening Session

At the end of last week and part of last weekend I attended the 2013 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference.  This was the first time I'd ever been to AASL.  Like ALA, it moves location each year, and since this time it was conveniently located in Hartford, Connecticut, and since my library would pay for my registration, there was no reason not to go!  I enjoyed being at a conference where all the sessions focused specifically on school libraries, and to be able to meet and talk to so many other school librarians.

The open was Thursday evening, and after lots of announcements we were greeted by the mayor of Hartford, who told us all how much he valued school librarians and how important we were.  It was kind of hard to take him seriously, however, considering how few schools in Connecticut have school librarians at all.

The opening speaker was Tony Wagner.  Tony Wagner had spoken at my school last year, and I was unimpressed.  He has lots of large ideas and few concrete ways on how to execute those ideas, so I wasn't super excited.  Tony Wagner proceeded to give the exact same speech he'd given at my school.  The exact.  Same.  Speech.  No changes.  Nothing specifically that applied to librarians, you know, the people he was talking to.  He gave his same canned speech, all about the importance of critical thinking and how curriculum is all about test prep and shouldn't be.  And I don't disagree with those things.  Not at all.  Lots of cheering and clapping for what Wagner was saying.  But we're not administrators.  We don't get to decided if the schools we work on take tests or not.  We don't get too say what classroom teachers focus on.  There were lots of places where he could have made specific library connections, but he didn't.  That would have involved rewriting his speech.  So yeah.  That was a disappointment.

So, well played Tony Wagner.  You're traveling the country making tons of money and using the same speech over and over and everyone things you're the voice of the future.  Well play indeed.

That evening I went to an independent school library mixer.  There are so many people at these conferences it's sometimes hard to make connections.  At a mixer such as this it's much smaller and easier to talk to people.  All the librarians in their 20s and 30s managed to find each other, and then we talked about things like how much we loved The Baby-Sitter's Club books.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Uninvited by Sophie Jordan.

The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan's chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she's destined to become a murderer.

When Davy Hamilton's tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn't feel any different, but genes don't lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he's not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

The first in a two-book series, Uninvited tackles intriguing questions about free will, identity, and human nature. Steeped in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan's trademark mix of gripping action and breathless romance, this suspenseful tale is perfect for fans of James Patterson, Michelle Hodkin, and Lisa McMann.

Uninvited comes out January 28, 2013.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


The song "The Fox" (you know, "What does the fox say?") is going to be a book.  I can't image it's going to be a good one for read-alouds.  From Los Angeles Times.

SLJ reviews How I Live Now and Ender's Game.

Terry Pratchett revisits The Carpet People.  From NPR.

Did you know the story of 12 Years a Slave had already been told as a picture book?  From National Geographic.

Alexander for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day has been found.  From Deadline.

First look at Harry Potter stamps!  From

Take a look at the Divergent movie poster.  Our female character, the main character in the book, gets to face away from us so we can see both her boob and her ass.  The male supporting character faces us.  Nice choice, Red Wagon Entertainment.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson.

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson.

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

The Impossible Knife of Memory comes out January 7, 2014.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Living by Matt de la Pena

Shy is spending the summer working on a cruise ship.  It seems like a pretty great job, until, on his second trip out, he witnesses a man jump to his death.  Now he's being followed and questioned, even though Shy knows nothing about the man.  Then an enormous earthquake hits California, followed by a tsunami, destroying the ship.

This is the first book in a series.  I hadn't read anything by Matt de la Pena before, even though Mexican Whiteboy has been on my "to read" list forever.

The Living mixes two dystopia/science fiction elements together: natural disaster and virus outbreak.  Before the massive earthquake, we learn that Shy's grandmother and Carmen's (another cruise worker who Shy has a thing for) father both died of Romero disease, a new illness that's spreading over the Mexican border into California.  It kills very quickly, if you aren't diagnosed right away.  After the earthquake, which is huge, off the Richter scale, levels much of the West Coast, the disease runs rampant.  And there's a TERRIBLE SECRET behind the disease, and it's linked to that man Shy saw jump from the ship.

Aside from the dystopian aspects of the book, which yeah, is the main focus, there's a lot in there about class differences.  Shy is all too aware of the difference between him and the people who pay to be on the cruise.  Are their lives worth more than his?  It doesn't seem so, especially after the ship is gone, and Shy is on a lifeboat with a rich girl, Addie who wasn't all that friendly to him before and clearly looked down on him.  But through their shared experience of suffering, they grow closer.

Shy and Addie end up on one of the Hidden Island that are contacted with the company the man who committed suicide worked for.  Shy is reunited with the other ship survivors, only to discover the horrifying truth about Romero disease.  Addie disappears, supposedly with her father, who works with this company, but I'm sure they'll be reunited in a later book.  Shy feels like she betrayed him, even though he's sure Addie couldn't have known what was really going on.

It was a gripping story and I enjoyed it.  A good pick for science fiction fans and fans of dystopia alike.

The Living comes out November 12, 2013.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


A teen snags a $300,000 book deal by writing about her own experience using a 1950s etiquette guide.  From New York Post.

Why adults might turn to children's books.  From McLean's.

Literary classics for the teething set.  From The New York Times.

Five series your probably missed as a kid but should read as an adult.  From The Millions.

20 of the most beautiful children's books in the world.  From apartment therapy.

State Librarian advocates for Michigan school librarians.  From SLJ.

Super cool, feminist bookstore Women and Children First is looking to sell.  From NPR.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The F- It List by Julie Halpern

Best friends Alex and Becca haven't spoken all summer after Becca did something terrible on the day of Alex's father's funeral.  On the first day of school when Alex is all ready to forgive her, she learns that Becca has been diagnosed with cancer.  Now Becca wants Alex to complete her bucket list (renamed the f- it list), just in case she isn't able to do it herself.

So now I've read two books in a row about death and overcoming guilt.  This one had a much lighter touch then Ketchup Clouds.  I'd read Julie Halpern's Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, which I loved, and this had the same light wit.

Alex was already dealing with a lot, what with the death of her father, and it feels, to her, that the bad things just keep on piling up.  And that she seems to be the common denominator.  She knows she didn't cause her father to die (he was killed in a taxi accident) or cause Becca to have cancer, but that doesn't stop the guilt she keeps feeling that she alive and healthy.  Becca deals with this by not allowing herself to really feel.

She quickly runs into a problem, however, when she starts spending more time with Leo, a guy from school Alex has always kind of had a crush on but never really talked to before.  Alex wants it to just be physically relationship.  Just something that can let her feel good for a little while, but won't get in the way of all the things she has going on.  But Leo is more than just that, and when Leo has a family death of his own, Alex can't stand it, and she bails.

I thought The F-It List did a great job showing how Alex felt she had to be strong and tough all the time, and how that and her feelings of guilt (and she really didn't have anything to be guilty for) lead her to shut herself off from everyone - her brothers, her mother, the boy who actually really liked her, all in the name of having to focus on Becca or take care of her mom.  Becca is the one who finally tells Alex to stop using other people as an excuse not to deal with her feelings, which is exactly what Alex was doing.

The book also had a pretty thoughtful portrayal of sex.  Alex and Leo have sex not long into their relationship, and while it's physically very satisfying, Alex is trying to keep feelings out of it, which is hard for both of them.  After being apart for a while, they start their relationship up again, but they hold off having sex for a while, allowing themselves to truly get to know each other beyond a physical relationship.

The F- It List comes out November 12, 2013.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Entertainment Weekly is having a contest to decide the best YA novel of all time!  Unfortunately, they don't quite seem to understand what YA is.

There's going to be a teenage Muslim girl superhero!  Go Marvel!  From The New York Times.

Publishers respond to Common Core.  From PW.

10 of the creepiest children's books kids love.  From babble.

Ender's Game and Orson Scott Card: a teachable moment.  From SLJ.

So you want to right a gay young adult novel.  From The Backlot

R.L. Stine on reviving Fear Street.  From Vulture.

A conversation with Tomie dePaola.  From PW.

Book to movie updates:  The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo will be coming from New Line, and Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey will be coming from DreamWorks Animation.

Rebecca Stead is the first US author to win Guardian Kid Lit prize.  From SLJ.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine.

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine.

 Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

The Promise of Amazing comes out December 31, 2013.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

After a traumatic event in Zoe's life, she begins writing to Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate convicted of murdering his wife.  Zoe writes to Mr. Harris, telling him her story, knowing he'll understand, because they both were responsible for the death of someone they loved.

It was an interesting book, and I enjoyed it.  The framing devices worked well.  Zoe can't tell anyone the truth about what happened to her, and she feels safe writing to Mr. Harris.  First of all, she feels he'll understand.  Second, she doesn't use her real name or address, so no one can ever find her.  And finally, Mr. Harris is going to be executed.  Zoe is telling someone her secret, but soon there will once again be no one in the world who knows.

Zoe begins telling her story three months after the event happened, and writes throughout that year until the first anniversary on May 1, also the date that Mr. Harris is to get his lethal injection.  Zoe tells, in great detail, meeting two brothers, Aaron and Max at a party (although she doesn't know they're brothers at the time).  Zoe feels drawn to Aaron, but Max goes to her high school, is very popular and seems interested in Zoe.  Zoe and Max start hooking up, although Zoe keeps an eye out for Aaron (who is older and in college).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Happy Halloween!  Here are some oh so scary links for you!  The top 10 horror stories11 most evil characters in books.  Why Frankenstein is the greatest horror novel ever.  From PW.

Too much testing is killing kids' love of reading.  From Los Angeles Times.

An in-depth look at the challenges to Eleanor & Park.  From StarTribune.

Are school librarians part of your project-based learning team?  They should be!  From edutopia.

How Amazon and Goodreads could lose their most passionate readers.  From Salon.

"I'm so surprised Allegiant is selling well!" said no one ever.  From PW.

Should more YA fiction be read in school?  From The Guardian.

Ahahha!  Luna would totally read Francesca Lia Block!  What books would Harry Potter characters read?  From Mashable.

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