Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Give boys screen time and they’ll start to read.  From The Guardian.

In Germany, New Doubts About Digital Learning For Kids.  From Worldcrunch.

Harlin Quist: The coolest publisher of children’s books you never heard of.  From seattlepi.

Are You an Adult Who Reads YA Novels? Congratulations, You Saved Publishing in 2014.  From Flavorwire.

Madeleine L’Engle on Creativity, Hope, Getting Unstuck, and How Studying Science Enriches Art.  From Brain Pickings.

What, no turkey? Strange Christmases in classic children’s books.  From The Irish Times.

Why is Draco so bad? J.K. Rowling explains.  From USA Today.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Plague of Bogles by Catherine Jinks

There have been an unusually high number of child disappearances in particular corner of London, and bogles are to blame.  But bogles don't usually like to live next to each other.  Something strange is happening, and it's up to Birdie, Jem, and Alfred to find out what.

This is the sequel to How to Catch a Bogle, which I really liked.  The sequel wasn't quite as exciting as the first, but still thoroughly enjoyable.  Like the first, it's lightly disturbing and creepy without becoming full-blown horror.  Yes, children get eaten by monstrous creatures that lurk in the dark, but we never actually see that happening.  There are a few close calls, but our heroes never succumb to the bogles.

At the end of the first book, Birdie was taken in to be fostered by Miss Eames and take real music lessons.  Birdie is having a hard time adjusting, and misses her exciting life when she felt like she was doing something useful and important.

Jem wants revenge on Sarah Pickles for betraying him and attempting to feed him to a bogle, but Sarah Pickles is nowhere to be found no matter how hard Jem searches.  Jem becomes Alfred's apprentice as more and more people turn to Alfred for help as children disappear.  Alfred had sworn to not go bogling anymore, since it is so dangerous for the child who is used as bait, but Alfred keeps getting pulled back in by the thought of even more children dying.  Jem wants to be bogler's boy, even though he finds it pretty scary.

As more and more bogles are found in one area of London, Alfred realizes something strange is going on.  Bogles don't like to live too close together.  Something is forcing them all into one spot.  A good follow-up and great for fans of not-to-horrible horror.

A Plague of Bogles comes out January 27, 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Norman Bridwell, author of Clifford the Big Red Dog dies at 86.  From PW.
The great British library betrayal.  From The Independent.

The Future of Privacy.  From PewResearch. 

My top 10 tech trends.  From SLJ.

John Green Celebrates 10 Years of 'Looking for Alaska.'  From PW.

The 15 Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2014.  From Time Magazine.

7 Quotes That Explain Why 'The Giver' Was Such An Important Book To Us When We Were Kids.  From Bustle.

EasyBib Compares Two Years of Information Literacy Data.  From Library Journal.
Another E-book Dip.  From PW.
Four Things My Family Learned From The Boxcar Children Books.  From The Huffington Post.

The New Trailer For “The Little Prince” Is Absolutely Wonderful.  From BuzzFeed.

The Accidental Bestseller.  From PW.

Listen to an exclusive extract from Philip Pullman's new Northern Lights story.  From The Guardian.

The 17 Best YA Book Cover Designs Of 2014.  From BuzzFeed.

O Frabjous Day! Neil Gaiman Recites Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” from Memory.  From Open Culture.

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Review.  From SLJ.

How fairytales grew up.  From The Guardian.

What kids want to read: an infographic.  From PW.

'El Deafo': How A Girl Turned Her Disability Into A Superpower.  From NPR.

13 of the Most Anticipated YA Novels of 2015, aka What You Need to Be Reading From January Through March.  From Bustle.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

Magdalie was living with her aunt and sister-cousin Nadine in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck.  Magdalie's aunt is killed when the house she worked in collapsed.  Magdalie and Nadine are like sisters.  They forget that in actuality they are cousins and that Manman wasn't Magdalie's mother by blood.  This makes all the difference now, because this means that Nadine, who's father is in the United States, can get a visa to go live with him, and Magdalie can't.  Nadine promises to do everything she can to bring Magdalie to the U.S., but years pass, and Magdalie has difficulty letting go of her anger at being left behind.

Nadine leaves to live with her father early on in the book.  She swears she will bring Magdalie to America.  She'll convince her father, who she hardly knows, to get another visa.  At first, Magdalie and Nadine talk often.  Nadine says she's doing her best.  But as time goes on, Nadine calls and texts less and less often.  And when she does, she does not mention bringing Magdalie to live with them.

As long as Magdalie has the hope that Nadine will find a way to bring her to America, she has no reason to try and make things better for herself in Haiti.  What's the point of going back to school?  Or finding a better place to live?  Or making connections with anyone?  She'll be leaving soon.  She tries some desperate schemes to make money to buy a plane ticket, even though she doesn't have a visa and couldn't have gone anyway.  Magdalie falls into an angry depression.

Her life is grim.  She's living in a refugee camp with an uncle she was never close to, but they are each other's only family in the city.  There's little food, Magdalie doesn't have the money to return to school, and there's violence and despair everywhere.  Is there any reason to try and move forward?

Magdalie struggles with that question.  She isn't able to move forward for years after the earthquake and Nadine leaving.  Magdalie grows up a lot during those years, and finds her inner strength, and the strength to let go, move forward, and move on.

The book ends with a hopefully look at the future.  The author envisions Haiti in 2020, clean, safe, rebuilt and beautiful.  Magdalie and Nadine are reunited, and Magdalie is able to understand why Nadine drifted away after leaving.  It is a beautiful picture on Haiti, let's hope it comes to pass.

Hold Right, Don't Let Go comes out on January 6, 2015.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Seven Deadly Sins by Nakaba Suzuki

In Britannia, The Seven Deadly Sins, feared worries, have been exiled.  But when the king's guards, the Holy Knights, imprisoned the king and stage a coup, princess Elizabeth goes off to search for The Seven Deadly Sins, the only ones who could fight the Holy Knights.

Dammit, The Seven Deadly Sins.  I am so disappointed in you.  It all started off so promising.  "This is great," thought I.  A middle grade manga with action and adventure and a cool story.  But no.  No.  It is not to be.

Because of the groping and the breast grabbing and ass touching and obnoxious innuendo turns what would have otherwise been a delightful middle grade read into something I can't justify putting in my library.  And I am highly annoyed.

The first of the Sins Elizabeth comes across is Meliodas, who's apparently Wrath despite the fact he's perpetually cheery.  Elizabeth faints pretty much as soon as she gets in the door of Meliodas' tavern.  She was dressed in armor, so he's surprised to see she's a girl.  He proceeds to confirm the fact she's a girl by sniffing her (the drawing is him sniffing her crotch) and squeezing her breasts.

The first chapter has Meliodas rescuing Elizabeth from various near death experiences.  She keeps getting flung into the air.  Meliodas catches her, and every time he does, we get another breast grabbing picture.

Elizabeth is portrayed as naive and dense.  At no point does she tell him to knock off groping her.  She is just so grateful for his help.  At one point, they're searching for another one of the Sins in a forest.  Elizabeth says, "Something's touching my butt."  "Don't worry.  It's just me" (illustration of him with her hand under her skirt touching her ass)  "Oh, that's a relief.  I was scared for a second there" is her response.  Ew.  Gross.  Making me uncomfortable.  Meliodas has a talking pig, Hawk, who tells Meliodas to "stop," and "this is not the time," and "That shouldn't be a relief!"  I think having a character say those things is suppose to make the fact that those things are happening OK.  But it doesn't.  It doesn't stop it from being icky or from Elizabeth submissively taking it.

And it doesn't make it any better for a middle school librarian looking for manga.  I cannot put this in my library, and that's frustrating, because there's nothing wrong with the story.  Why'd the smarmy groping have to be put in?  It doesn't add anything.  Meliodas isn't even the Sin of lust.  At least then he'd have a reason (although not an excuse) for his actions..  All it accomplishes is limiting who can read this book.

The Seven Deadly Sins is rated T, which is 13+ but I don't think that's appropriate.  I mean, the story is definitely T, but the fondling puts it out of the T range.  Again, it's a shame.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


The Ferguson library gives a lesson in community.  From Salon.
Four Questions for...Jacqueline Woodson.  From PW.

Jacqueline Woodson: 'I don't want anyone to feel invisible.'  From The Guardian.

Meanwhile In America, Brown Girls Are Still Dreaming.  From BuzzFeed.

Winnie the Pooh banned from Polish playground for being 'inappropriate hermaphrodite.'  From The Independent. 

If everyone loved reading as much as this 8-year-old does, the world would be better.  From Vox.

How The Hunger Games Team Brought Mockingjay – Part 1 From The Page To The Screen.  From BuzzFeed.
The 5 biggest differences between the Mockingjay book and movie.  From USA Today.

How The Hunger Games Challenges Old Hollywood Expectations About Gender Roles.  From BuzzFeed.

I Sacrifice, Therefore I Am Good: Young Adult Fiction Heroines and Self-Destruction.  From PopMatters.

Neil Gaiman: Why Disney's Sleeping Beauty doesn't work.  From The Telegraph.

Best Books 2014.  From SLJ.

Tennessee School District’s Tech Policy Blocks Students’ Constitutional Rights, ACLU Says.  From The Digital Shift.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


St. Louis School librarian offers LibGuide on Ferguson.  From SLJ.

Why Tamora Pierce should be Hollywood's favorite author right now.  From io9.

What young adult novels have taught me about how America will be destroyed.  From

Do authors of YA novels glamorise crime, or help readers to avoid it?  From The Guardian.

Amazon, Hachette end ebook pricing dispute.  From Library Journal.

Highland Park ISD says six books will require parental permission.  From

How to read: step by step instructions to pleasure reading.  From YALSA The Hub.

Time-management tips for book-group discussion leaders.  From The Booklist Reader.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Fin has a strange ability: he's instantly forgettable.  It's part of what makes him a master thief.  And also incredibly lonely.  Fin lives in a world filled with magic and monsters, all connected by the Pirate Steam, which is made of magic itself.  Marrill is use to going on adventures with her parents, but now her mother is sick again, and Marrill is afraid.  When the Pirate Stream accidentally bumps into Marrill's world in a search of the Map to Everywhere, Marrill jumps at the chance of magic that might cure her mother.  Fin hopes the Map to Everywhere will help him to find his mother, but they'll have to stop the end of all words first.

This was a great start to a new fantasy series.  Marrill and Fin were both fully realized characters, and there's some excellent world building going on.  This is a series I will definitely get for my library, and would be interested in reading more as they come out.

All the different worlds are touched by the Pirate Stream, and the more magical worlds have more of a connection to it.  That's why Marrill's regular world (our world) hardly ever sees the Stream.  Fin's world, filled with magic, has a harbor that connects to the Stream.  If something should happen to the Pirate Stream though, all words are effected.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Barbie book implies girls can't be coders; Mattel apologizes.  You can read parts of the original here.  And you can read an awesome remix here.

CO Students Protest Proposed Changes to ‘Censor’ AP History.  From SLJ.

A good night for children's books at the 2014 National Book Awards.  From PW.

Miami, Florida: With No Internet at Home, Kids Crowd Libraries for Online Homework.  From Library Journal.

Ladybird drops branding books ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’.  From The Guardian.

Daniel Handler makes some highly inappropriate remarks at the National Book Awards.  He has since apologized.

The Trouble With Teen Programming.  From SLJ.

SLJ's review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - part 1.

5 YA Books to Read During Learning Disabilities Awareness Month.   YALSA The Hub.

California: 100,000 Los Angeles Elementary Students Still Without Libraries.  From Library Journal.

Comic Books Are Still Made By Men, For Men And About Men.  From FiveThirtyEightLife.

13-year-old girl wins Minecraft Hunger Games Tournament on International Games Day.  From SLJ.

Latinas For Latino Lit: 'Remarkable' Children's Books of 2014.  From NBC News.

Comics in Schools and Libraries.  From SLJ.

24 things YA fans are tired of hearing.  From BuzzFeed.

The Freedom Libraries of Mississippi.  From SLJ.

10 facts about Beverly Cleary's Ramona.  From mental_floss.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine

It's 1953, and Tommy just wants to hang out with friends, be a cowboy and pretend to fight communists.  But then Tommy's older sister Mary Lou is terribly burned in an accident, and things begin to fall apart.  Tommy's mother, who was always moody, has violent outbursts and beats Tommy.  Tommy starts bullying other kids at school, and frames a shopkeeper for being a communist.  Rumors of communism spread out of control, and Tommy doesn't know what to do to set things right.

This was very well done.  The story is about Tommy and his family, but it's all the more powerful for being set against a backdrop of McCarthyism.  Tommy doesn't realize the consequences of his actions when he puts a communist newspaper in Mr. McKenzie's store.  He's angry and wants to do something mean.  It's shocking to him how quickly people turn away from Mr. McKenzie and boycott his store, even when it's made clear it was a prank.  Everyone is so afraid of being labeled a communist.  Tommy decides to find out who the communist newspaper actually belonged to, thereby finding the real communist and clearing Mr. McKenzie's name.  Every time he's ready to accuse someone else, he realizes things were not what they seem to be.  It takes a while for Tommy to learn not to make quick accusations, and also, that having different beliefs don't make a person bad.

The story of Tommy's family is a sad one.  Today, Tommy's mother would probably be diagnosed with a manic depressive disorder.  There are scenes of her staying up all night cleaning or cooking, and then spending days refusing to get up.  She could go from sweet to violent in a second, and seemed paranoid about people making fun of her.  After Mary Lou is burned and hospitalized, Tommy's mother because more physically violent.  His father doesn't know how to deal with it, and rather than protecting his children he stays away from home as much as possible.  It falls on Tommy to take care of his two little sisters, and take up Mary Lou's paper route.

Tommy, who has no one to vent his feelings to, turns into a bully at school.  In particular he picks on the new boy, Sam, who is Mr. McKenzie's son.  Tommy and his friend Eddie are cruel to Sam, making fun of him, tricking him, and getting him into trouble.  It was an interesting perspective to see where a bully might come from.  It doesn't excuse Tommy's actions, but it was understandable that he might lash out in this way.

Things finally reach a breaking point and Tommy has to make some hard choices.  He learns to ask for help and that accepting charity is not a bad thing.  There are people around him who can support him.

It sounds like there's a lot going on in this book, and there is, but it all worked together perfectly.  Great historical fiction read.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


No Shortage of Kids' Comics at New York Comic Con.  From PW. 

29 Moments Any Librarian Knows Too Well.  But it feels so good when you figure out the book from, "I think it was blue..."!  From BuzzFeed.

After Some Victories, the Time Has Come to Legally Define ‘Fair Use’.  From The Open Standard.

Highland Park, Texas censoring books based on ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged List.  From OIF Blog.

Sita Brahmachari: the importance of diverse names in children's books.  The Guardian.
Finalists for 2014 NBA in Young People's Literature Announced.  From PW.

CNN predicts what teens will be reading next.

And then the queen kissed the princess: fairytales get a modern makeover.  From The Guardian.
S. E. Hinton and the Y.A. Debate.  From The New Yorker.

Warner Bros. is making more 'Harry Potter' movies — possibly a lot more.  From The Verge.

Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?  From The New York Times.

Madeline, the Everygirl who never grows old.  CBS News.

On the Books: John Green celebrates 10 years since debut 'Looking for Alaska'.  From Entertainment Weekly.

Where are all the disabled characters in children's books?  From The Guardian.

'SNL' Parodies Every Young Adult Novel Ever Made With 'The Group Hopper,' And We'd Totally See It.  From Bustle.

A World of Beloved Books (According to Facebook).  Harry Potter wins everything.  From The Atlantic.

How Videogames Like Minecraft Actually Help Kids Learn to Read.  From Wired.

Diverse voices: the 50 best culturally diverse children's books.  From The Guardian.

How Canadian Jon Klassen became one of the most sought-after children's book illustrators in the world.  From The Globe and Mail.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow

It's 1942 in Berlin, Germany.  Wendy has just arrived in Berlin with her newly found mother, Adrie.  Wendy's grown up her whole life in America and speaks no German.  As happy as she is to be with Adrie, it is hard for Wendy to transition to being a German girl.  The war, which seemed so remote in America, is the focus of everything in Berlin, and many things Wendy doesn't understand.  It seems she has two choices.  She can close her eyes to what's happening, or she can do something about it.

The Watcher is a companion novel to Shadows on the Sea, which I hadn't read.  Wendy was a supporting character in that book, and I guess at the end she disappears with her newly discovered mother to Germany.  I went a lot of the book thinking that it was going to turn out that Adrie wasn't actually Wendy's real mother, that it was a trick to get Wendy to Germany because they needed an American girl for some secret task.  Adrie works for the German military intelligence unit as a spy.  I guess if I'd read the other book I would have know that it was true that Adrie was Wendy's real mother.  Although honestly, I think it would have made more sense if my idea had ended up being true.

This book didn't work for me very well.  I thought it was confusing and choppy.  I didn't think it made sense for Adrie to decided that 1942 was the time to let Wendy know she was her real mother and bring her to Germany.  Even if she was completely convinced Germany was going to win the war.  Why wouldn't she have waited until after?  The story of Wendy's father didn't really make sense.  Wendy's father was Jewish and they were married briefly but then her father was jailed and Adrie got a divorce and someone was able to make it look like their marriage had never happened and then Adrie got remarried and his name is the name on Wendy's birth certificate, but then Adrie decided to send her daughter to America to be safe, and also to pretend that she was her aunt and that her sister and her husband were Wendy's parents.  Yeah.  Confusing.  And also, it's Germany.  You think a member of the Germany military intelligence unit wouldn't have been carefully investigated and it wouldn't have been found out she was married to a Jew?  I don't think so.

So the whole premise I found a bit shaky.  I liked that the book focused on a couples aspects of WWII that many people would not have heard about.  Wendy ends up volunteering at a Lebensborn Nursery.  These were places were children who had been kidnapped from other countries because they had the correct Aryan look were taken to be raised to be good German citizens.  Lebensborn also housed the children of unwed German women and German soldiers who had been approved as having German ancestors.  The children born were taken from their mothers and were considered to belong to the state.  At the nursery, Wendy meets Johanna, a girl who has been assigned to Lebensborn for "reeducation."  She is a Jehovah's Witness (Bibelforscher), one of the many groups considered undesirable by the Nazis.  All Johanna would have to do would be to sign a piece of paper swearing her loyalty to Hitler and Germany and renouncing her religion, but she refuses to do so.

As Wendy befriends Johanna and realizes that Johanna could be sent off to a concentration camp, or killed, for refusing to renounce her religion, Wendy begins to question whether her plan of ignoring the bad things happening around her is going to be possible.  Wendy also becomes friends with a blind young man she meets in the park, whose grandfather knows all about Wendy's real father.  Wendy also adopts a German Shepard puppy that couldn't make it as an SS dog.

Wendy decides she must escape from Germany and get back to the United States, and the rest of the book is planning and executing the escape.  I didn't find it especially gripping or interesting.

So, thumbs up on looking at aspects of WWII that we don't often see in middle grade books.  But the books itself I would pass on.

The Watcher comes out November 4, 2014.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy

She's never had a name, and she's never known a friend.  She takes care of her father's house and is treated brutally.  Everything changes when Zenobia, a runaway slave, stumbles into her home.  Zenobia names the girl Lark, and the two set out together, determined to find their freedom.

Such an interesting story.  Very different from other middle grade of YA stories I've read about slaves running during the 1800s.  First there is the aspect that Lark is white, but no less a slave than Zenobia is.  She realizes though, that while she was cruelly treated, it was still nothing like what Zenobia and other Black slaves suffered.

Unusually, story begins and ends in Virginia.  Zenobia and Lark run, but they never actually get very far away from Lark's home, despite all their traveling and hardships.  This book really showed the ruthless determination that slave catchers had, especially when a big reward was involved.  And Lark's father is not about to let her go so easily.  We never actually see any of the characters safe to freedom.  We never see them get out of Virginia.

Zenobia knows about the Underground Railroad, but despite that, it's not so easy to jump on.  And even when they do find a safe house, they're not safe.  That was definitely a theme of the book, looking for safety and freedom, never quite finding it, never stopping hoping it's out there somewhere.

Zenobia and Lark are taken in by a Quaker woman, Auntie, who shelters them and arranges for Zenobia's escape to Canada.  Canada, at this point in history, is pretty much the only safe place to run to, because even if a slave made it to the North, they could still be captured and returned.  The Quakers believe in nonviolence and are against slavery.  Many in the Quaker community are becoming reluctant to help runaways, because the runaways' harsh treatment is coming down on them too.  Indeed, when Zenobia is discovered and taken, Auntie is taken too.  She never stops believing that nonviolence is the only answer though.

Lark undergoes some changes throughout the book.  At first, she's too afraid to have anything to do with Zenobia.  She doesn't want any more trouble then she already has.  But she can't help but see Zenobia's fear is similar to her own.  And Lark starts to think about why she's never left the people who hurt her.  She realizes she's been a slave too, and that she doesn't have to anymore.  She can care and help other people, too.

The book ends with hope.  And we are left so wanting these characters to find their Promised Land, after everything they've been through.  Great historical fiction read.

Running Out of Night comes out November 1, 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


The Right to Read: The How and Why of Supporting Intellectual Freedom for Teens.  From In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

School library make the difference.  From

How bookstores survive in the age of Amazon.  From PW.

More nonfiction writers adapting their books for children.  From The New York Times.

John Krokidas will direct Lionsgate's YA adaptation Wonder.  From The Hollywood Reporter.

Best practices for teaching in the cloud.  From SLJ.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who received three Newbery Honors for her middle-grade novels, including The Egypt Game, has died at 87.  I actually just finished reading The Egypt Game this month.  From PW.

Interview with Jacqueline Wilson.  From The Guardian.

Scott Westerfeld on his novel-within-a-YA-novel.  From Los Angeles Times.

Philadelphia Museum and a library lose Maurice Sendak collection.  From SLJ.

Writing Native lives in YA.  From PW.

Why adults are buzzing about YA literature.  From

Picture book adaptations that sort of need to happen.  From Book Riot.

Q & A with Bob Shea and Lane Smith.  From PW.

The Guardian's children's fiction award shortlist 2014.  

97% of school librarians have spent their own money on their libraries.  From SLJ.

Oh Jon Klassen.  You are so adorable.  Even when you're filling a window full of dirt.  From The Guardian.

Perseplolis challenge fails in Illinois.  From SLJ.

I'm Back!

Hello world.  I return to you.  I'm sorry I haven't posted a single thing in over a month.  I started my new job as a public middle school librarian, where I am the only librarian, and spent the month of September being totally overwhelmed and trying to keep my head above water.  I know it's old news for lots of people, being the only librarian in your library, but it was quite the transition, moving from an all girls' independent school where there were three librarians to public middle school!  I feel like I'm getting in the swing of things now, and I'm really happy I made the switch.  Things I've learned about middle school students:  They kind of smell; 8th grade boys are (still) super annoying. 

Anyways, I shall do my best to return to the book reviews.  I've still been reading stuff, just haven't had the time for posting.  You'll notice that my book choices are now much more middle grade than YA, for the obvious reason, but the 8th graders are all about the YA, so it won't go away entirely. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

Joy is fifteen and until three months ago she lived a terrifying existence with her mother.  Now her mother is in jail, and Joy is safe, living with her aunt, uncle and two cousins.  But Joy doesn't feel safe, even though she knows she is.  She can't stop the panic attacks when she has to talk to someone, especially men.  She feels completely crazy and out of control and isn't convinced that things will ever get better.

For most of the book, it isn't stated explicitly what happened to Joy.  Depending on the maturity of the reader, you might make different assumptions.  Joy has a very hard time speaking to men.  Being alone with a man, even her uncle or cousin, can cause a panic attack.  She's afraid of the smell of beer.  She can't stand people looking at her.  I assumed she's been emotionally and physically abused by her mother, and raped by her mother's boyfriend, which we find out at the end of the book, at the trail of her mother, that's what happened.  The word "rape" is not mentioned the entire time until one sentence at the very end.

Because of this, this book might be a good choice for upper middle grade looking for a serious issues book.  It's not graphic or explicit.  It deals mainly with the aftermath and Joy trying to work her way through what happened to her and try and learn that she's safe now.

It does not happen all at once.  When the book starts, Joy has been with her aunt and uncle for three months and hadn't made very much progress.  She's not convinced she'll ever make progress.  But she slowly begins to.  She's able to be in the same room as her uncle, and then she's able to talk to him.  They eventually become close and he becomes her biggest advocate.  Joy starts making friends.  She is able to speak up a little more, and discovers new things about her personality.

It isn't all smooth sailing.  Joy has lots of stops and starts, and sometimes she falls backwards.   She worries what an imposition it must be to her aunt and her family to have to take her in.  She is surprised to learn her aunt feels horrible guilty for not getting Joy away from her mother earlier.  Joy has to deal with one of her cousins who is tired of everyone tiptoeing around her and doesn't understand why she can't just be normal already.

I thought Stronger Than You Know did an great job showing the aftermath of trauma and how it is truly a process to overcome it.  The book ends with hope, and we know, that even as Joy continues to struggle, she'll come out on top.

Stronger Than You Know came out September 1, 2014.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge

Penelope Tredwell is 13, but that doesn't stop her from owning the Penny Dreadful, a magazine filled with horror stories of her own writing.  No one knows the stories are written by Penny, as she writes under the name of Montgomery Flinch and has hired an actor to play the part of the now famous writer.  Talking movie pictures are beginning to capture the population of Victorian Britain's imagination, and a filmmaker has approached the Penny Dreadful for permission to turn one of Montgomery Flinch's stories into a movie.  But as filming begins, strange things begin to happen, and actors seem to be becoming their characters.  Penny must find out what's behind the horror before her own creation is the end of them all.

Shadows of the Silver Screen is the second in a series.  The first was Twelve Minutes to Midnight.  I don't think Shadows of the Silver Screen stands up well on its own.  It felt like all the character development must have been done in the first book, so it wasn't bothered with in this one.  It seems like Penny is suppose to be a plucky heroine,  but in action, she really wasn't that interesting and didn't really do very much.  She was under the spell of the magical movie camera as much as anyone else.  She didn't really do anything on her own.  She planned to, but then couldn't because of one thing or the other and had to be rescued in the end. 

Having not read Twelve Minutes to Midnight I don't know if that holds true in the first book as well, or if Penny is more interesting and more of a character.

The plot of Shadows of the Silver Screen was confusing and contrived.  The filmmaker has a camera that brings ghost into the world by taking the souls of others.  I didn't understand why he went to all the trouble of getting the rights to Penny's story, especially since he changed it dramatically to make it fit his own lost love story.  That was the foundation for the whole thing, and I didn't think that made a whole lot of sense so the story itself was a bit shaky.

I think there are much better, much more exciting middle grade mystery stories.  I would skip this one.

Shadows of the Silver Screen comes out September 1, 2014.

Monday, August 25, 2014


School Library Journal's movie review of The Giver.

Hoping to rejuvenate the love for The Boxcar Children, a full-length animated feature film is released.  From PW.

Ferguson public library offers lessons for students in limbo.  From SLJ.

Waukesha school committee denies parent's request to ban The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs. From Waukesha Now.

A Pennsylvania school board restores Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to a summer reading list.  From TribLive.

Chaos Walking trilogy gets new paperback cover release.  I like the original covers, but all for anything that gets the series more attention!  From PW.

National library lock-in event features authors, games, and Minecraft.  From SLJ.

J.K. Rowling writes a story featuring minor Harry Potter character, the “Singing Sorceress."  From Salon.

Jarrett Krosoczka tells us why lunch ladies are heroes.  From TED.

E. Lockhart on We Were Liars.  From The Guardian.

New children's bookstore opens in Boston: Make Way for Ducklings Store.  From PW.

Young adult fiction and its rabid discontents.  From Pop Matters.

Literary fiction writers tackling YA.  From Ploughshares Literary Magazine.

Why death is so important in YA fiction.  From The Guardian.

Searching for Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island.  From The New York Times.

All the things I didn't get when I read The Giver as a kid.  From Slate.

A tale of two polls: support for the Common Core.  From NPR.

Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist.  From Book Patrol.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her early life in beautiful verse.  Woodson had the unique experience of growing up in both the South and the North in the 60s and 70s.  She never felt completely at home in either place, always missing somewhere.  Although very young, she was aware of the dramatic cultural shifts happening around her, even if she didn't really understand them.

Another beautiful book from Jacqueline Woodson.  Woodson started off her life in Ohio.  Her father did not like where her mother came from, South Carolina, where Black people had to sit in the back of the bus and say "yes sir" and "no sir" to white people.  He never wanted any of his children to have that experience.  But when Woodson's mother and father separated, they returned to her mother's home.

South Carolina was very different from Ohio.  Woodson and her siblings had lots of new rules to learn.  Despite her mother telling them they "were as good as anyone else" that was not how it seemed.  Despite the things she observes, Woodson and her siblings love living with their grandparents.  Their mother is often away in New York though, and after a time, they all move to New York.

Another move, another completely different cultural experience.  It's the 70s now, and with it comes the Black Pride movement and the Black Panthers.  Woodson is still to young to really understand what's going on.  But she can see that there are places where only Black people live, and places where only white people live.

Over the course of the story, Woodson also expresses her growing love of writing and telling stories.
 Sometimes she spins fantastical stories about things she's done.  They're things she wishes she had done, or places she wishes she had gone too.  Doesn't that make them kind of true?  Her stories get her into trouble sometimes, but she never stops.

It's Woodson's life, but it reads like historical fiction.  Simple and engaging, yet so much going on behind it.

I wonder about shelving this.  It should go in nonfiction, right?  It's the story of her life, told in verse.  But a kid would be much more likely to stumble on this in the fiction section, with the rest of her books.  But it wouldn't be right to put it in fiction.  Thoughts?

brown girl dreaming comes out August 28, 2014.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Turtles of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

Aref Al-Amri has lived his whole life in Muscat, Oman.  Now his family is moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan so his parents can get Ph.D.s.  The last thing Aref wants to do is leave his home, friends, grandfather, and everything familiar.  In the last days before the move, Aref spends time with his grandfather, Sidi, enjoying his country.

This was a lovely, quiet book.  It was not what I was expecting.  When the book started and it was about a boy nervous about moving, I assumed the story would be about his nervousness, the move, being new, and then making new friends and realizing everything was fine.  That was not the story at all.  In fact, Aref does not even leave Oman for Michigan in the book.  It was entirely about Aref and Sidi enjoying the time they have together, doing things that Aref loves, and gradually learning to accept the move.

Aref struggles with the idea of leaving his home.  His father has gone on ahead to get their apartment ready, and Aref and his mother and packing up their home and getting ready to leave.  At least, that's what Aref is suppose to be doing.  He can't quite start packing his suitcase.  What can he possibly bring from his home?  None of the important things, like his friends or his cat or his entire rock collection.  Aref tries to express to his mother how he is feeling, but his mother, who clearly loves him very much, is busy and assures Aref that this is an adventure and he'll make friends and everything will be fine.

Aref finds solace and empathy in his grandfather Sidi.  Sidi lets Aref talk.  The two take a camping trip together, and go see sea turtles lying on the beach.  Turtles are Aref's favorite.  Sidi allows Aref to come around in his own time and his own way.  He is the one who finally helps Aref to pack his suitcase, and helps him to feel better about his cousins living in his house while he is away.

Over the course of the story, I was aware of how old Sidi was.  He gets tired sometimes, and is stiff.  Sidi mentions not being quite as spry as he once was.  I kept thinking how it was possible that Sidi might die before Aref and his family returns.  They will be in the U.S. for three years.  I think this was intentional.  I wonder if middle grade kids will pick up on it?

This is one of those books that might be a hard sell.  It's beautiful, but not a whole lot happens.  It's thoughtful and lovely and paints a beautiful picture of the country and family and life.  Maybe a good book to be read in a book group or in class where a discussion can be invovled.

The Turtles of Oman comes out August 26, 2014.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Books so good, they make you miss your subway stop.  From PW.

Penguin is getting a lot of flack for their new UK Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover.  Penguin is standing by it.  I think it makes no sense for the book and will deter boys from picking it up.  From Bustle and BBC News.

Essay contest launched in response to controversy over The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  From American Booksellers Association.

There's no end in sight.  The latest YA novel-turned-movie, The Maze Runner, is soon to be released.  From PW.

Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, writes about the dear friends who were inspiration for the book, and how it helped with her grief.  From The New York Times.

Lois Lowry says The Giver’s movie cast elevated her original novel.  Viewers seem to disagree.  From The Washington Post.

An interview with Rainbow Rowell.  From The Guardian.

20 YA book covers that are actually gorgeous.  From Flavorwire.

This is what modern versions of The Baby-Sitters Club would look like.  From BuzzFeed.

Why The Hunger Games' killer Katniss is a great female role model.  From The Guardian.

A is for apocalypse: children’s books for the modern age.  From Electric Lite.

Hmm.  Weeding is a good thing, but I really hope the "hasn't been checked out in three years" isn't the only thing they're going on!  Boston Public Library push to reduce books stirs community complaints.  From The Boston Globe.

Great first lines from children's and YA books.  From The Guardian.

Middle grade vs. YA.  From Writer's Digest.

35 Harry Potter covers.  From BookRiot.

Tweeting Rainbow

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Amulet: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi

The sixth book in Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series finds Navin and Alyson stranded in Lucien, a supposedly abandoned city, in a search for a beacon that must be activated.  Meanwhile, Emily, Vigo and Trellis head back into the Void with Max, where they confront the Voice itself.

Such an exciting volume!  Some really crucial and dramatic stuff happens!  I can't tell you what because it would totally ruin it! 

You definitely need to start from the beginning with this series.  I skipped a couple and I know I'm missing things.  I need to go back and read them all straight through.  It's definitely a series worth reading.

The development of the characters continues to build in each book.  We learn more and more about them, what motivates them, how far they are willing to go for their desires or their friends.

We meet some new characters that clearly are going to become a bigger part of the upcoming story, and some old characters we haven't seen in a bit are brought back in.

The art is beautiful as always.  Since I had an ARC, most of the book was black and white, but the first section was in the full color.  There are beautiful double paged spreads, close ups on characters to show emotion and the images always enhance, not just support the story.

I wish I could say more, but I'm hesitant because I want everyone to go and read this series and enjoy it!  Highly recommended.

Escape from Lucien comes out August 26, 2014.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen

 Gabriel Finley's father, Adam, has disappeared.  Not long after this happens, Gabriel rescues a baby raven named Paladin and learns his family's secret - the Finely's are capable of bonding with a raven.  They can communicate without talking and even merge into one another so then can fly or walk together.  Gabriel learns that his father is being held captive by Corax, a half man half raven who use to be Adam's brother, in the underground city of Avioplois.  Corax is convinced that Adam knows where the torc is, a necklace that grants wishes.  Gabriel and his three friends set out to rescue Gabriel's father.

I really enjoyed reading this.  Great characters, exciting adventures, and it leaves you wondering what will happen next.  I felt like I hadn't really read anything like it, which is saying something since most fantasy books follow a well-worn trope.  There was some really good world building going in the book.  We're given an ancient history lesson so we understand where Avioplois came from and the origins of the torc.  We learn that ravens and humans used to be best friends, until a terrible thing happened that made humans fear all ravens and lead to the creation of the evil valravens, who now serve Corax.

Riddles play an important part in the story.  Gabriel loves riddles, and so do ravens.  We learn that ravens always greet each other with a riddle because only true ravens laugh at riddles.  Valravens, the evil, undead ravens, never laugh.  There's lots of riddles in the books, and I would find myself trying to solve them before I read ahead.  I felt very clever, indeed, when I could.

Some spoilers

Friday, August 15, 2014


Something new an exciting today!  Brad Wirz over at GoneReading, "brilliant products for the reading lifestyle," very kindly offered us some of their products for review!  GoneReading has all sorts of book-themed things, from t-shirts to book shaped plates to trivia games.  I picked out three different products to try.

The first was this completely adorable reading log for kids called "Book Worm Journal."  This would be an awesome present for a middle school or younger kid.  There are pages where the owner can fill in their personal details, and then there are pages that ask what kinds of things they like to read about, and where they like to read.  There are sections to record new vocabulary they come across, tell what the book was about and rate it (there's a place for the kid to rate it and the parent to rate it, in case you're reading together).  The journal also encourages thinking beyond the story itself, asking kids to write what they think happens after the story is done. 
There's even space for kids to write a story of their own.  There are also little games like acrostics and mazes.  The journal is spiral bound, so it's easy to write in, and the printing is big and bold with wide spaced lines so younger kids will feel comfortable.  Over all super cute.  I'm just waiting for my friends' children to get a little bit older so I can give this to them.

Next up was this funny looking device called the Gimble Traveler.  It holds your book open when you're out on the beach or at the gym.  Or any other time you might need your book held open.  I think when it's holding a book it looks like an evil squid attacking your book.  But that's probably just me.  The Gimble can adjust to three different sizes and can hold a book up to 1 1/2 inches thick.  One of the loops that holds the pages down is larger than the other, so you want to put that one of the thicker side of the book.  I tried it at the gym while I was on the elliptical.  It was easy to use, and held the pages well.  I didn't have any problems pulling a page out from the right and slipping it under the left.

Last was a children's literature quiz card deck called Once Upon a Time.  On one side of the card is a question, such as "In 1949, an Irish-born scholar of literature and theology at Oxford began work on a series of adventure novels tracking the history of a magical fantasy world.  Name the author and his popular series, in which a lion plays a prominent part."  On the back is the answer plus additional information about the writer and his or her works.  Some of the questions I thought were pretty obscure, but I guess you have to have some hard ones in there!  I caught two mistakes, however.  The first was Madeline being describe as a Parisian orphan.  She's not an orphan.  She's just goes to boarding school.  We know she isn't an orphan because when she gets her appendix out she gets candy from Papa.  The second was a question about Where the Wild Things where the story was described as "dealt with a misbehaving boy's nighttime fears" which I think is totally off the mark.  Despite that, it would lots of fun to play with your fellow librarians or literary friends.  Especially if there were drinks.

Thank you so much to Brad for letting us try out some of their cool stuff.  And remember, it's never too early to start being a librarian.
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