Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gabi A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi starts keeping a diary the summer before her senior year of high school.  She writes about her life.  Her best friend Cindy, who finds out she's pregnant, her father and his meth habit, her mother who worries that Gabi's too fat, her friend Sebastian who's just come out, the boys Gabi has crushes on, and the poetry class she is coming to love.

It sounds like every single Issue Storyline is in this book.  And I guess it is.  But it worked, so, so well.  It did not feel like an after school special.  It felt heartbreakingly realistic.  This was Gabi's daily life.  This is what she is surrounded by in her community.

Gabi is hysterical.  She's sassy and vulgar and completely open.  She does not mince words.  She's full of self-doubt like any teenage girl, but also has a wonderful spirit.  She is empowered.  And she only becomes more so. 

Her mother is constantly telling her she's too fat and to lose weight.  No one will ever love her when she's fat.  Gabi thinks about this sometime.  She'd like to lose weight and be skinny and, in her mind (and her mother's), prettier.  But it's also clearly not the most important thing to her.  Gabi thinks on it, certainly, but she does not let it define her, despite her mother.  The other physical aspect Gabi thinks about is her skin color.  She's light skinned, and people sometimes don't know she's Mexican.  Some people think she doesn't look Mexican enough.  It frustrates her and makes her angry.

Gabi has two great friends who are also going through some tough issues.  Cindy is pregnant and is going to keep the baby.  Sebastian has been kicked out of his house after coming out to his parents.  Gabi tries to be a good, supportive friend, even though she doesn't always agree with their actions.

The saddest part of the story, I thought, was Gabi's father.  He's a meth addict, and is constantly disappearing for weeks or months on end.  Gabi is afraid he'll die while he's out on one of his binges and they'll never see him again.  She's so angry with him for doing this to their family, but loves him anyway.  She loves her mother, even though sometimes her mother says some really cruel things to her.  She tries to help her little brother, who acts like he's OK, but is feeling so much it's exploding out of him in destructive ways.

All this serious stuff is going on, but they're all still just teenagers, and Gabi wants to find herself a boyfriend.  She's excited to go out on dates and kiss boys.  She makes lots of mistakes, messes things up, tries to fix things.

A definite bonus to this book was that the diary entries were done in a realistic way.  There was no, "I'm writing this while I'm supposedly in the middle of a big dramatic fight with someone."  All the entries are Gabi writing after the fact, telling what happened and reflecting on how she dealt with things and how she feels now.

Gabi is such a wonderful, relatable, joyful character.  Teens will connect with her and care about her and see aspects of their own lives in her stories.  This is definitely a book for older teens, because language and some graphic content.

Really wonderful.  A must read.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Celebrated Author and Illustrator Bonnie Christensen Dies at 63.  From SLJ.

The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing.  From NPR.

Doubleday Revives Peter Spier Classics.  From PW.

Where are all the interracial children’s books?  From The Washington Post.

Authors and teenagers share the books that saved their life.  From The Guardian. 

Peanuts and the Quiet Pain of Childhood: How Charles Schulz Made an Art of Difficult Emotions.  From Brain Pickings.

The Color of Children's Literature.  From American Book Review.

Ranking 2014 Children’s Bestsellers.  From PW.

An Everlasting Story: Natalie Babbitt and Tuck Everlasting’s 40th Anniversary.  From Bookish.

The renaissance of Beatrix Potter's great rival.  From The Telegraph.

OH Department of Education Will Vote to Purge School Librarian Requirement.  From SLJ.

How to get kids to read — let them pick their own damn books.  From Vox.

Hermione Granger and the Goddamn Patriarchy.  From BuzzFeed.

Appoquinimink School District Board Battles Over Permission Slips for YA Reading.  From SLJ.

Image Comics Is Now the #2 Graphic Novel Publisher.  From PW.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Netflix Adapting Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’ As Series. From Deadline.

Finding New Voices in Children’s Books in Spanish: Spanish-Language Publishing 2014. From PW.

11 Questions for 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' Author Jeff Kinney. From mental_floss.

Focus to Develop YA Adaptation 'Scorpio Races.' From The Hollywood Reporter.

“The Giving Tree” at Fifty: Sadder Than I Remembered. From The New Yorker.

I love this book!  A Haunting Anniversary: 'Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins' Turns 25. From PW.

Dynamic Librarian Gets Apple ConnectED Grant for West Harlem Middle School. From SLJ.

Sally Gardner explains how her dyslexia didn’t (in the end) get in the way of becoming an award-winning children’s writer. From The Guardian.

Ask the author: Marcus Sedgwick. From The Independent.

Container of Hope: International Book Bank Ships 86,000 Books to Liberia. From SLJ.

The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales. From The Huffington Post.

Tasty and bite-sized, short stories thrive in young adult literature. From Allvoices.

‘Freaky Friday’ author Mary Rodgers remembered at memorial service. From NY Daily News.

Monday, January 19, 2015


For Books, Print Is Back. From PW.

Five things you didn't know about Laura Ingalls Wilder. From MPRnews.

Meg Wolitzer: My Debt to Sylvia Plath. From Time Magazine.

Paddington’s Forebear: A Talk With Michael Bond. From The New York Times.

Books on Film: The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss. From SLJ.

First Look: New Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter. From PW.

Alice in Wonderland at 150: innocent fantasy or dark and druggy? From The Telegraph.

Holly Black on Her New Book, Fairies & Working With Cassandra Clare. From The Huffington Post.

'Tuck' Springs Eternal: Natalie Babbitt's Novel at 40. From PW.

John Green Is the John Hughes of Relatable YA Literature. From Flavorwire.

SLJ’s Seventh Annual Battle of the Kids’ Books 2015 Contenders Announced.

John Green Takes Fans Inside His Creative Process. From Time Magazine.

How many Black-authored middle grade and young adult novels were published in the US in 2014? From Zetta Elliott.

'TIME's "100 Best Young Adult Books Of All Time" Is Very White... And Not Very YA. From Bustle.

Philip Pullman Delivers Audible Exclusive. From PW.
Scholastic’s New Report Examines Kids’ Attitudes on Reading. From SLJ.

Books to breed tolerance: what children can read after the terrorist attacks in Paris. From The Guardian.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio by Lloyd Alexander

After years of working (and supported by) for his uncle, Carlo is on his own.  In his possession is a treasure map to the hidden treasure on the Road of Golden Dreams.  Carlo doesn't know if the map is even real, but he is willing to take the chance.  Carlo sets off on his journey picking up along the way a rag-tag group of wanders who together try and find their heart's desires.

I am a Lloyd Alexander fan.  I loved The Chronicles of Prydain series.  I read those over and over again growing up.  This is the last book of his that was published.  I had high expectations that were not met.

I just wasn't very interested in either the story or the characters.  Neither seemed to have much of a point.  The plot wandered along, seeming unsure if it wanted to be a philosophical tale or an adventure story. 

The characters lacked depth, which was very disappointing.  We don't even really get to know Carlo that well.  He seems a bit of a bumbling fool.  Is there more to him?  It's hard to say.  We learn absolutely nothing about Shira, the Kirkassi girl who is traveling with him.  He falls in love with her.  She falls in love with him.  Why do they like each other?  She's really beautiful.  He's kind of an idiot.  I have no idea what she saw in him.  We'll never know since her character is completely undeveloped.

The two others in their party are Baksheesh, the world's worst camel-puller and Salamon, a philosopher who loves animals.  Off all the characters, I thought Baksheesh was the most developed.  We learn a lot about him through his dialogue.  He's a lazy sneak who will do anything to avoid work.  He's a fast talker who can talk his way out of almost anything and is also fiercely loyal.  Salamon was another character that I wasn't quite sure why he was there.  We didn't learn much about him.  He's wise and wants to see the sea.  He's good with animals.  That's about it.

The adventure story was mixed with philosophical musings about life and dreams.  It didn't work well together.  I think this last work was meant to be a look at the meaning of life, but it doesn't really come through.

Not Lloyd Alexander's best.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Smek for President! by Adam Rex

Tip is frustrated.  She and J.Lo saved the world but no one knows it.  Her mom has finally decided to start acting like a mom when Tip has been taking care of herself her whole life.  So when J.Lo suggests visiting the Boov's new home planet, New Boovworld, Tip agrees, even though her mom told her no.  The two pack up Slushious (their flying car) and head to New Boovworld to clear up the whole misunderstanding about J.Lo letting the Gorg know where the Boov were and all.  Things do not go as planned.

I loved The True Meaning of Smekday and was very excited for a sequel I didn't even know was coming.  It did not disappoint.  Maybe it wasn't quite as delightful as the first one, but it was still pretty delightful.

We are reunited with all our old friends, Tip, her mom, J.Lo, Dan Landry, who's taken all the credit for conquering the Gorg, and meet lots of fabulous new characters.  We are finally introduced to the legendary Captain Smek, who's having some trouble on New Boovworld.  It seems that some of the Boov are calling for the first presidential election the Boov have ever had!  Captain Smek is in trouble.  But capturing Public Enemy Number One (who happens to be J.Lo) might make him look a bit better.  When J.Lo is arrested and put in prison on New Boovworld, Tip teams up with a friendly flying billboard she names Bill to try and set things right.

Like the first book, beneath all the hilarity and silly antics of the Boov, it's a story about family and friendship.  Tip is struggling with some growing pains and the relationship with her mom, who she knows loves her but won't get off her back.  And as much as Tip says she doesn't care if no one knows she saved the world, she does, in fact, really care that no one knows she saved the world!  I mean, SHE SAVED THE WORLD! 

The story was funny, sweet and had some great twists and surprises.  And lots of hilarious Boovian accents.

Smek for President! comes out February 10, 2015.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Pippi Longstocking Ignites a Debate on Race. From The New York Times.

A call for more teen and YA books to be set in the Middle East to help young people understand the complexities of conflict. From The Guardian.

PW and the Obamas: Meeting Up at Politics & Prose to Buy Books.
In Wayzata, Minnesota, a school spies on its students. From boingboing.

School Library Renaissance in MA School District. From SLJ.
9 Adorable Kids Talk About Why Books Are The Best. From BuzzFeed.

Why Louisa May Alcott's Morality Still Resonates With Readers. From The Huffington Post.

My inspiration: Satoshi Kitamura on why he loves Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy and manga. From The Guardian. 

School libraries are essential for learning. Duh.  From

Unbroken: The Movie, the Book, and Standout World War II Readalikes. From SLJ.

Mockingjay and feminism: The new Hunger Games movie envisions a future where women run the world. From Slate.

Publisher changes titles after seven-year-old girl’s complaint. From The Guardian.

The reality behind Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House' books. From LA Times.

Q&A with Nick Lake. From PW.

Books the pass the Bechdel test.  From SLJ.

14 Facts About 'Anne of Green Gables' Author L.M. Montgomery. From Mental_Floss.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


‘This One Summer’ Tops PW Comics World’s 2014 Critics Poll.
A a study unsurprisingly finds that reading to children of all ages grooms them to read more on their own.  From The New York Times.

Nonprofit Fights Illiteracy By Getting Books To Kids Who Need Them. From NPR.

Times Magazine's list of 100 best children's book of all time.

YA Novel ‘This Song Will Save Your Life’ Heads to Stage, Screen. From Variety.

How Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places gets mental illness right. From BuzzFeed.

Josh Sundquist On 'We Should Hang Out Sometime,' Dating Disasters, and Awkward Pauses. From Bustle.

The Comics Industry Person of the Year 2014: Raina Telgemeier. From The Beat.
‘One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature’ at Grolier. From The New York Times.

The Dark Origins of 11 Classic Nursery Rhymes. From mental_floss.

The Measure of Program Success? Probably not book circulation. From SLJ.

Publishers Weekly's Top Comics Stories of 2014.

Ohio libraries fear more state cuts. From The Marion Star.
The unlikely story behind Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  From CBS News.

The Rosenbach Museum contests the value of Maurice Sendak's rare books. From

Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play: How Libraries Reach Kids Before They Can Read. From NPR.

2014 Cybils Award finalists announced.  From SLJ.

The lives they lived: Walter Dean Myers. From The New York Times.

In defence of young adult fiction. From BBC News.

Minnesota School Board Won't Ban Book About Girl with Two Mothers. From ABC News.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold

Iris just moved to Oregon with her family and she hates it.  She hates their new house.  She hates the constant rain.  Nothing feels right.  But then nothing has felt right since her best friend, Sarah, died.  Iris is not interested in making friends at her new school, but then she meets Boris and learns he's a medical miracle.  And if Boris got a miracle, then why couldn't there be other miracles?  Like maybe being able to talk to Sarah again.

This was a beautifully explored story of grief.  Iris thinks Sarah's ghost is haunting her.  She wants Sarah's ghost to be haunting her.  Iris wants to talk to Sarah again so badly.  She wonders why some people get miracles and others don't.  It isn't fair.

At first, Iris doesn't especially like Boris.  He's kind of annoying.  He has terrible table manners.  He's a know-it-all and his main interest is playing Magic.  Iris sits with Boris at lunch because it's better than sitting alone.  She gets really interested when she learns that Boris should have died as a baby, but didn't. 

Boris and Iris begin doing research on miracles.  It seems like so many people have experienced something they call a miracle, why didn't Sarah?  Iris explores differently ways of trying to talk to Sarah (non of them work) and seeks out differently people to talk to to try and get some answers.

Iris' family is fully formed and present.  Her mother and father are both fully realized characters who are actively involved in Iris' life.  Her mother works, her father stays at home.  He's the one who cooks and gardens.  The book doesn't make a big deal out of this, it's just how things are, but it was great to see.

This is a quiet kind of book.  Iris is able to move more toward acceptance by the end, but it doesn't mean her questions are all answered and everything is better.  I think it's an excellent look at the grieving process without being heavy handed.  I think kids who like books like Wonder and Out of My Mind will enjoy this.  Highly recommended.

The Question of Miracles comes out February 3, 2015.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stealing the Game by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

Chris is a quiet kid. He keeps his head down and doesn't stir the pot.  Chris' parents have high expectations for him.  They expect him to go to law school like his older brother Jax, who Chris looks up to.  But then Jax turns up, apparently having dropped out of law school and gotten involved in some pretty questionable things.  Chris is confused.  Something doesn't seem right.  This isn't the brother he knows.  Has Jax gotten himself into something bad?  Or is something else going on?  Chris has never thought of himself as the smart kid who could figure things out.  But this is something he's willing to take on.

What we have here is mystery story with a good dose of sports action.  Chris and his friends all play basketball, and one of the shady things Jax does is set up Chris and his friends to play a game against another team, a team who turns out to be way older and bigger than they are.

The story has plenty of action and excitement.  Aside from the basketball games, there are blow-ups with family and friends, elaborately staged break-ins, amateur sleuthing, and more sports action.  Chris gains confidence throughout the book, realizing he's not just the dumb younger brother who will never live up to his parent's expectations.  He's got a lot going for himself, and he finds the courage to speak up and show what he's good at.

What's actually going on with Jax seemed a little far-fetched and out of the realm of likelihood for me, but I think it will work just fine for middle school boys, who will find the story exciting and probably won't focus on plausibility so much.

I will definitely get this book for my library, along with the first one in the series, Sasquatch in the Paint.

Stealing the Game comes out February 1, 2015.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Children’s Literature 2014: The Year in Miscellanea. From SLJ.

Fifty libraries have closed in the UK this year.  From The Bookseller.

The 15 Best Works of Fiction by Black Authors in 2014. From The Root.

Jacqueline Woodson On Growing Up, Coming Out And Saying Hi To Strangers. From NPR.

Teaching “Black Lives Matter." From SLJ.

Winnie the Pooh illustration by EH Shepard sells for over £300,000 at auction. From The Independent. 

Gender representation in 2014 LGBT YA novels. It's on the rise! From Diversity in YA.

Rainbow Rowell announces ‘Fangirl’ spinoff ‘Carry On.' From Hypable.

7 Reasons Why 'Harry Potter' and 'Lord of the Rings' Should Be Required Reading in School. From The Huffington Post.

‘Highland Park Kids Read’ Takes on Censorship Battle in TX School District. From SLJ.

Where Are All the LGBTQ-Inclusive Sex Ed Books? From Reality Check.

Gene Luen Yang discusses a mistake he made in his latest novel, The Shadow Hero. From Diversity in YA.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story by Wilborn Hampton

In Meltdown, Wilbornn Hampton, a United Press International reporter, details his experience covering the story of the potential nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island.

The book begins with an overview of Hiroshima.  In particular, the terrible aftereffects the nuclear bomb had.  It not only killed 100,000 people instantly.  Thousands of people developed cancer and radiation sickness.  Years after mothers gave birth to deformed babies.  The water was polluted and no food could be grown because of radiation in the soil.  The effects of nuclear fallout exist for generations to come.

Hampton tells of the call he received on March 30, 1979.  The initial incident had actually occurred on March 28, but things had been kept pretty quiet.  As the situation worsened, news got out and reporters like Hampton started arriving on the scene.

Hampton details the chain of events that lead to the potential disaster.  The book includes diagrams to help illustrate the layout of the nuclear reactors and how the system of pressurized water worked to keep the reactors cool and functioning.  The book also contains many primary documents, including images of Three Mile Island and the surrounding area, and newspaper clippings.

I don't think I completely understood the science of the nuclear reactors despite the diagrams and illustrations, but Hampton tells a good story that I was fully engaged in. Honestly, not a whole lot happened!  There was a lot of waiting around, a lot of conflicting reports about how dangerous the situation really was and how long they had before a potential meltdown.  Hampton was able to tell an exciting story regardless.

The book ends with a brief look at Chernobyl, which was not as lucky.  There, a meltdown occurred with terrible short and long-term consequences.

At no point does Hampton give his opinion on whether nuclear power is a good or bad thing.  After a book full of all the terrible things that could happen, he finishes with mentioning that nuclear power still has many supporters and how it's today's youth who will need to figure out the best form on new electricity.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...