Friday, June 28, 2013

ALA 2013

Whoo hoo!  It's that time of year!  The time of year when we all pack an empty duffel bag in our carry-on luggage to fill with all the fabulous ARCs we'll be getting!  We are here in Chicago for the 2013 ALA Annual Conference.  We're looking forward to some great speakers, gushing over authors we love, and, of course, the exhibits.  Where we will show amazing self control.  It all starts tonight.  Keep checking back for full recaps and follow our Twitter feed (@ariannalechan and @jorgena) for live updates.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


ALA needs to step up for school libraries.  From SLJ.

Unfortunately, many schools lack a library or librarians.  From

John Green on self publishing.  From The Huffington Post.

Maybe we don't need to worry so much about boys and reading.  From PW.

What if George R.R. Martin wrote a book for children?  I sure hope there would be less death and incest.  From The Benington Vale Evening Transcript.

In case you hadn't heard, Tamora Pierce is as awesome as ever.  From SLJ.

Gendered covers are failing young adult readers.  From The Guardian.

Ten things a reader learned from Anne of Green Gables. From The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Two writers who are killing it on Twitter.  I actually stopped following Maureen Johnson because she posted so much!  From BookRiot.

5 heroines who are self starters.  From ThinkProgress.

This 5 year-old is awesome.  From WAFB.

Chicago to add new school it closes schools.  From SLJ.

OMG!  Librarians can help the transition from high school to college!  You could knock me over with a feather.  From SLJ.

Veronica Roth and Leigh Bardugo talk about each other's books.  From EW.

How to write a feminist YA novel.  From Jezebel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

"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 Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block.

 Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

Love in the Time of Global Warming comes out August 27, 2013.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

Flannery Culp is starting her senior year.  She has seven wonderful friend and one huge crush on Adam Slate.  But Adam doesn't seem interested, Flan's science teacher is harassing her, she's constantly cutting school, drinking absinthe...and Adam Slate is going to be killed on October 31st.  And one of the Basic Eight is going to do it.

It was certainly interesting to read.  It does not take the reader very long to figure out we're dealing with an unreliable narrator.  At the beginning, Flan explains that she's rewriting her journal for publication.  But the past and present get mixed together.  Flan is clearly adding things in after the fact, sometimes it seems like something is part of the "original" journal but there's no way she could have know it at the time.  She also admits to adding things in to "introduce" characters and the like.  So there's no way to tell what's from the past when she was actually experiencing these things, and what's been added in later.

Flan also seems to mix things up sometimes, but again, we don't know if she's mixing things up now or if she was mixing things up then. There's no way to tell.


Monday, June 24, 2013


Philip Pullman is campaigning for writers to be "paid fairly" on ebook library loans.  From The Guardian.

A first edition signed copy of The Cat in the Hat, missing for years, has been returned to the children's hospital in Saanich.  From Vicnews.

YA summer book guide.  From The Atlantic Wire.

I personally like this YA summer reading guide better.  From Mashable.

Q&A with Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon, author and illustrator of the graphic novel Odd Duck.  From PW.

The Philadelphia school system is a mess, and school librarians are suffering right along with everyone else.  From SLJ.

Why can't teen fiction have pictures?  From The Guardian. 

NSA surveillance, as told through children's books. From The Guardian.

What kids are reading, in school and out.  From NPR.

38 perfect books to read aloud with kids.  From BuzzFeed.

Amy Poehler loves Judy Blume.  As she should.  From EW.

20 songs that would great books for kids.  From

A state-by-state guide to bookstores in America.  From PW.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Lanie and Leah used to be friends.  Of sorts.  Lead was always the popular one.  The leader.  Lanie followed along, doing whatever Leah told her to do.  Their relationship was tumultuous and confusing.  Now Leah is dead, and Lanie, although have intense feelings of guilt, can't say she's sorry.  Leah made life hell for Lanie.  Now Lanie is going back and trying to figure out what happened.  To both of them.

Most middle grade and YA stories about abuse involves a child or young adult and someone who's older.  I've never read a book aimed at this age group where this kind of abusive is inflicted by another child.  At first, it seemed like Leah was just another bossy child.  The one who likes to be in charge and tell everyone else what to do, and Lanie was the follower.  But it didn't stop at that.  Leah would take Lanie into a closet and tell her they were "practicing" for when they were older.  She would kiss her and touch her.  Lanie was confused.  It doesn't feel right, but it doesn't always feel bad.  She knows something is wrong, but cannot tell Leah to stop.  Partly because Leah is always the boss, and partly because she doesn't want her to stop.

Years go by and the behavior continues, and Lanie becomes more and more of a submissive character.  She has no friends outside Leah.  If Leah goes away, she'll have no one.  Leah makes Lanie feel like she is the one who's done something wrong.  As the girls enter high school, Lanie finally severs their relationship, helped by Leah switching schools.  But Leah's hold over Lanie is not actually broken.

Leah had suffered sexual abuse as a young child.  No one helped her.  Lanie once saw her with her abuser, but didn't ask Lead about it.  Leah vented her powerlessness and frustration on Lanie.  You want Lanie to stand up for herself and not be afraid of Leah anymore, but you also want Leah to be helped.  What she did wasn't right, of course, but she needed help too.  Badly.

Leah dying actually seemed like ending the story too neatly.  It takes care of the messiness of Leah or Lanie having to tell someone about Leah's abuse.  Now Lanie can move on.  Her tormentor is gone.  So I didn't love the ending.  But Lessons From a Dead Girl showed how an abusive relationship can exist between children, and come with all the same feelings of guilt and shame, and how it's just as hard to speak up in a situation with a peer as it might be with an abuser that is older.

Use your judgment when recommending.  It deals with a hard topic.  Some kids would have a hard time with it, but certainly not all. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death by Terry Moore

Rachel wakes up and digs herself out of a shallow grave.  She isn't sure what's happened.  And why she looks so strange.  And why people are freaking out when they see her.  Rachel is dead.  And she's going to find out who killed her and why.

Rachel Rising is another graphic novel I've been hearing about for a while, due to how awesome it was, but hadn't gotten around to getting a copy.  I have finally read the first issue.  It was pretty awesome.

It's very dark.  People are dying in violent ways.  Rachel wakes up with strangulation marks around her neck.  A man gets --> decapitated in elevator doors.  Yeah, dark and violent.  But not gratuitously so, I didn't think.

The story is a mystery.  Rachel is trying to figure out who killed her and who is behind other people dying.  She sees a strange woman, who no one else, with the exception of a little girl, can see, who seems to show up, and then terrible things happen.  And Rachel isn't the only one coming back from the dead.

The first volume is doing a lot of set up.  It establishes some major characters and raises lots of questions and doesn't answer any of them.  I am looking forward to reading the next volume and seeing where it goes.

The art is black and white ink drawings.  For the most part it's in a traditional panel format.  The darkness of the panels fits well with the tone of the story.

Friday, June 21, 2013


The 10 worst dads in books.  From PW.

Teen sex should not be forbidden in books for young people.  From The Telegraph.

Carnegie winner Sally Gardner believes children are being "examined into failure." From The Bookseller.

This week's Entertainment Weekly focuses in on the upcoming Divergent movie.  From Popwatch.

What makes a good "bad" book?  From The Horn Book. 

Matilda: The Musical is a huge hit.  Will Charlie and the Chocolate Factory follow?  From The Guardian

The diversity gap in children's books.  From Lee & Low Books.

Tiger Eyes film staying true to Judy Blume's original.  From SLJ.

YA inspired manicures.  From BookRiot.

Great news readers!  Have a bookshelf?  And you, know, it's got books on it?  Your kids will do better in school.  From Gizmodo.

If I Stay set to become a movie staring Chloe Moretz.  From Variety.

An examination of wordless picture books.  From Eye Magazine.

ALA promises expanded school library advocacy in 2013-2014.  We can sure as hell use it.  From SLJ.

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Emma grew up in Japan.  It's her home.  There's nowhere else she'd rather be.  But Emma's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the family has moved to Lowell, Massachusetts to stay with her Emma's grandmother while her mother has treatment.  Emma has never felt so out of place and alone.  She begins volunteering at a long-term care center to help a patient who cannot move or speak write down her poems. 

Emma is a poet, and the book was written in free verse.  In general, I am not a fan of books written in verse.  Of the many I've read, I thought two worked.  Those two would be Love that Dog by Sharon Creech and Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff.  Both excellent books, and the fact they were written in verse actually made it better.  Oh!  And Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai.  That worked great with free verse. But most of the time I've found that writing a book in free verse adds nothing at best and makes it annoying at worse.

With The Language Inside I didn't find it annoying most of the time.  But since this particular free verse was essentially in sentence form anyway, just with random breaks, I wondered why it hadn't just been written as prose.  I guess it didn't take anything away, necessarily, but I don't think it added anything either.

Emma is white and has grown up in Japan.  She struggles with identity and people's assumptions that she's from the U.S. when she feels so out of place there.  The book also did a nice job of making the point, subtly, that not all Asian cultures are the same.  Or know about each other.  The boy Emma is interested in is Samnag, whose name at first she thought was Sam Nag, and he's Cambodian.  Emma knows nothing about Cambodia and makes a point to learn about the history and culture.

Since coming to Lowell, Emma has begun to suffer from migraines.  I am unclear what purpose the migraines served.  It was never resolved why she began having them.  The didn't seem to serve any particular purpose in moving the story forward.  Perhaps to give her some kind of physical aliment so she could better sympathize with the patients at the center she was working at?  Or her mother?  I wasn't sure.

I liked that it was more than a girl-meets boy story.  It was really more about culture than anything else.  Emma feeling Japanese but not looking like it.  Wanting to return to Japan, but feeling conflicted as she finds things to love in her new home.  Samnag and his own cultural conflictions.  Of course, Emma mainly changes her mind about return to Japan because of Samnag...but she doesn't give up return to Japan permanently.  So that was good.

A nice book, but didn't knock my socks off or anything.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

It's Bea's senior year and she's new in town.  Her mother is acting incredibly strange and her father makes sure he's home as little as possible.  Bea figures she'll just drift through senior year, but then she meets Jonah, know to others as Ghost Boy.  Jonah does not like people much, but for some reason Bea if drawn to him.  The two begin to create an unusual friendship, which involves both caring for, and hurting each other.

I really enjoyed reading this, but was so frustrated!  But I was frustrated because I really cared about Bea and was angry on her behalf how people were treating her.  In particular, her parents and Jonah.

I wanted to shake Bea and say, "You're in an abusive relationship and you don't even know it!  You are better than this!"  I did not like how Jonah treated Bea at all.  I understood why Bea was drawn to him.  She felt like an outsider, and Jonah was an outsider too.  Bea felt like Jonah understood her like none of her other friends.  As things got more and more difficult at home, she needed that.  But Jonah, quiet frankly, yanked her around and treated her like crap.  He didn't like her hanging out with other people.  He would punish her by not speaking to her.  They weren't dating, but seriously, it had all the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship. 

Bea and Jonah's non-romantic relationship was an interesting one.  Jonah was clearly not in love with Bea, but was Bea in love with Jonah?  I wasn't sure.  I don't think she was.  I think she thought she had finally found a kindred spirit.  A true friend.  Someone who understood her flat, emotionless outside.  Bea didn't want to lose him.  She dreamed about them going to school in New York together and sharing an apartment.  But I don't think it was romantic.

Jonah situation was beyond terrible.  The deception from his father was awful, and it's no wonder Jonah did what he did.  But it hurt Bea in the process.

I was dying to find out what was going on with Bea's mom.  She was clearly depressed.  She was acting strange, childlike, irrational.  I understood that, but it didn't change that I was angry with her for being so mean to Bea!  Bea's mother kept telling her she just didn't understand, she didn't feel anything, she was emotionless like a robot.  What a horrible thing for a child to be told by their mother.  Bea's mother was dealing with her own issues clearly, but Bea was suffering because of them.  And her father, while caring, did nothing to help Bea or her mother and did his best to be out of the house as much as possible so he wouldn't have to deal with it.

The way it ended was really best for Bea.  It would allow her to move on.  But her relationship with Jonah was a special one, and she will never stop looking for him.

I am being purposefully vague because I don't want to spoil anything.  Read it.  It was excellent.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Teaching students online research skills is valuable?!  This is brand new information!  From Education Week.

Parents still prefer print books over electronic for their kids.  From PewReaserchCenter.

Is YA too sexy?  From The Sydney Morning Herald.

The first completely paperless library?  From BBC New.

50 great books that will change your life.  From RealSimple.

First Welsh publisher dedicated to children's books founded to help tackle literacy standards and tell great stories.  From WalesOnline.

The truth about Snapchat: a digital literacy lesson for us all.  From TheDigitalShift.

Two books remain on library shelves after challenges in the Prosser school district in Yakima, WA.  From SLJ.

6 stupid superheroine designs that need redesign, STAT!  From She Has No Head.

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