Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Favorite books of 2009

There were many great books for children and young adults in 2009, and the various ALA awards committees are busily making their final decisions.

In the meantime, here are my favorite books of the year, linked to their reviews: 

Young Adult Fiction
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Juvenile Fiction
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Picture Book (for older readers)
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy

Picture Book (for young readers), Easy Fiction
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Non-Fiction (for older readers)
Truce by Jim Murphy

Other favorites (in no particular order):
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino, Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly by Sue Macy, Always by Allison McGhee and Pascal Lemaitre, All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems, Faith by the Global Fund for Children, My Sister, Alicia May by Nancy Tupper Ling, Spoon by Amy Krause Rosenthal, Anne Frank: Her life in words and pictures from the archives of The Anne Frank House by Menno Metselaar, The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming, The Problem with the Puddles by Kate Feiffer, Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman, Sophie Peterman Tells the Truth by Sarah Weeks, Scat by Carl Hiaasen, and If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States by David J. Smith.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the new Warner Brothers interpretation of Sherlock Holmes.

An older friend of mine warned me that the movie does not measure up to the original. Although he did refer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I think perhaps, that he was recalling the original screen version of Sherlock Holmes, played by Basil Rathbone in the 1930s and 40s - a tamer portrayal than the current incarnation, to be sure.

In my opinion, however, the current film version does justice to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock, who first appeared in print in the 1890s. Robert Downey, Jr. is alternatingly brilliant, seedy, humorous, indulgent, depraved, and eccentric. The setting, too, is authentic, featuring a squalid, industrial London, dotted with the enclaves of the “haves,” the Grand Hotel, Parliament, upscale restaurants. (My daughter did point out that the exterior views of the Houses of Parliament appeared to be modern images with an overlay of horses and buggies and other period accoutrements. I didn’t notice.) Watson, played by Jude Law is perhaps a bit more dashing and vigorous than Conan Doyle’s original (it is Jude Law after all), but the chemistry and humor between the two is pulsating and energetic.

Also in keeping with the original stories, are two recurring characters, the wily and beautiful Irene Adler, played by Rachel McAdams, and the unseen and mysterious arch-villain, Professor Moriarity.

The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material. (more humorous than suggestive)

If you prefer your Sherlock Holmes off–screen, I suggest The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (2005 by Leslie S. Klinger), a hefty volume with extensive notes, historical background, photos, drawings, and a chronological timetable.

Or if you prefer audio, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes I, read brilliantly by David Timson, and produced by Naxos Audiobooks.

Sherlock Holmes in any format is suitable for teens and adults. I'm heartened that the movie has increased the circulation of Sherlock Holmes books at the library. If you've never read one, do. They're short and brilliantly written in the old style of detective novels - fantastical crimes solved through deductive reasoning. Begin with "A Scandal in Bohemia" to acquaint yourself with the mysterious Irene Adler.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

A look at Nook?

A look at Nook?
Not yet...

I was given a Nook for Christmas, but, due to the overwhelming demand for Barnes & Noble's competitor to Amazon's Kindle, I'll have to wait until next month to receive it.  Still, I'm excited!

So, by embracing the e-reader, am I contributing to the death of my own profession or embracing the technology of the future? I hope it's the latter.

As famous American inventor, Charles Kettering said, "We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there." Seed for Thought [1949]

And here's food for thought
Interested in the Kindle vs Nook match-up? Check out NPR's story here
Want the librarian view of Kindle vs Nook ? Check out this post from the ALA TechSource blog

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

StoryTubes Contest

Kids from grades K-12 can enter the STORYTUBES contest from January 20 - February 28, 2010.
Put your creativity and love of books to work for you, and you could win a prize!
Create a short video promoting a favorite book.  Enter alone or with a group. Prizes will range in value from $25 to $500. 
For complete details, check out the storytubes site.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I'm not much of a snow person, but I have to admit that there's something special about it.  This morning I appreciated the way that it blankets the world in quiet.  Even the dog sleeps late on a snowy morning!  But more importantly, as a big snowstorm rages outside, I enjoy the fact that snow can remind us that we're not quite as important as we think we are, that we are not always the ones who define our role in this great big wonderful world.

If you're lucky enough to be tucked up at home with children on snowy day, here are a few of my snowy favorites - two older classics and a great new non-fiction title:

My favorite snowy day book!
Snow by Uri Shulevitz, a Caldecott Honor book from 1999

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, a Caldecott Medal winner from 1963

 If you don't want to go out and play after reading this one, you don't know how to have fun!


and The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino
a new non-fiction title

Cassino, Mark. 2009. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder.

In thirteen simple sentences,

"This is the story of snow.
Snow begins with a speck. ... ,"

The Story of Snow explains the science behind the snowflake. But there is more to this book - smaller print on each page offers a more detailed explanation of the simpler text,

"Clouds are mostly made of air and water, but there are also bits of other things, like tiny particles of dirt, ash and salt...A snow crystal needs one of these "specks" to start growing."

Accompanying this short (32-page) "story," are diagrams, watercolor backdrops, and striking photographs of snowflakes. Directions for catching snow crystals wrap up the book.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder follows a trend that I've seen a lot lately in children's non-fiction. The book is almost as multi-faceted as the snowflakes it describes - picture book, science book, story book, activity book. The simpler text may be read as a story to young listeners. Older children will benefit from the more detailed explanation. Everyone will enjoy the stunning photography. Teachers should like this one!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Rotten Life

Lubar, David. 2009. My Rotten Life. (Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie, Book 1) Read by Matt Brown and Kathleen McInerny. Macmillan Audio.

About 3.5 hours.
An audio excerpt is available on the Macmillan website.

My Rotten Life is the first book in the Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie series.  When Abigail's uncle's science experiment goes awry, Nathan begins to lose the ability to do things he has always taken for granted - feeling, breathing, and eating to name a few!  But the possibility of life without these abilities offers some interesting possibilities too!  While Abigail rushes to concoct a cure, Nathan and his goofy pal, Mookie, try to come to terms with his new "zombie" lifestyle.

Have a reader who is too old for Captain Underpants? (are we ever too old?) Looking for a new series to tickle the funny bone?  Nathan Abercrombie may be what you're looking for. For ages 8-12.

Fans of this quick-reading chapter book may also enjoy David Lubar's, Punished , Herbert's Wormhole by Peter Nelson, or Cyberia by Chris Lynch.  There is a book for every reader - if only we can find it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sophie Peterman Tells the Truth

Weeks, Sarah. 2009. Sophie Peterman Tells the Truth! New York: Beach Lane Books.

Kids deserve to know the truth about having a sibling, and Sarah Weeks tells it in Sophie Peterman Tells the Truth!

"Babies are not sweet. Babies are not precious. Babies are not cute. Babies are... YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE! Here are some true things about babies:

1. If you try to sell one, nobody will buy it.
2. If you try to pick one up, BEWARE, they leak."

(imagine the baby in a cardboard box in the yard with the FOR SALE sign, or Sophie carrying the leaking baby with a diaper hanging down to his knees!)

As if these problems arent' bad enough, WATCH OUT if

"he starts calling you something really cute because he can't say your name right..." "SOAPY!" "...and he always cries when you go off to school...You might actually start to LIKE him."

Robert Neubecker's illustrations are priceless - comically and colorfully depicting the alien newborn, complete with huge eyes and head, the fumes emanating from his car seat, and of course Sophie's alternating expressions of anger, disgust, horror, and eventually - love. Even the font is clever - changing in size and orientation, often appearing as childish scribble.

A humorous and engaging look at the age old problem of the new sibling. Loved it!

The Whipping Boy

Fleischman, Sid. 1986. The Whipping Boy. New York: Greenwillow.

Once I while, I take time out to catch up on older classics. To that end, I recently read Sid Fleischman’s Newbery Medal winning book from 1986, The Whipping Boy. I’m not sure if it would win a Newbery Medal if it were published today, because later stories (like Kate DiCamillo’s, The Tale of Despereaux and The Magician’s Elephant), perhaps inspired by this comical, yet moving adventure story, have set a new standard for this style of writing. Nevertheless, The Whipping Boy is an amusing tale with plot twists and turns, as the kindly whipping boy is forced to accompany the hated, Prince Brat as he flees from King and castle. Lies and deceptions, murderous thieves, and compassionate peasants will keep the reader guessing about fates of Prince Brat and his whipping boy. Unlike DiCamillo’s stories, The Whipping Boy is a tale of historical fiction, revealing the lifestyles of both medieval royalty and peasantry. And yes, if you’re wondering, according to the author’s end note, “some royal households of past centuries did keep whipping boys to suffer the punishments due a misbehaving prince. History is alive with lunacies and injustices.”

A quick read with black and white illustrations by the renowned Peter Sis, The Whipping Boy is still relevant today, more than 20 years after its debut.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vampires, etc.

Still reading Vampire Island ...

So, once again, I've found that it pays to read books that aren't classics, award-winners, or even ones that I really like.  I have been in the midst of reading the short book, Vampire Island by Adele Griffin for a long time.  It's about a family of fruit-bat/vampire hybrids that have relocated to New York City from the Old World.  The three children, Maddy, Hudson, and Lexie, are having a difficult time transitioning to human life.  Maddy is a bit too bloodthirsty for her new vegetarian lifestyle, Hudson has retained the ability to transform into a bat, and the oldest, Lexie, spouts the words of doomed poets and has little in common with school friends who lack her bat-like abilities.

It's a cute little book (only 120 pages) with a sense of humor, but really not my preference.  Tonight, however, a very young girl came up to me looking for Stephenie Meyer books.  It's certainly not my job to dissuade her from her book of choice; but I can tell you that when all of our Twilight books were checked out (no surprise!), she was very pleased when I offered to let her check out my very own Vampire Island book.

So, I still haven't finished it, but I was reading the right book at the right time, and made someone happy. Now I'll have to place a hold to see how it turns out. Vampire Island is the first book in the Vampire Island series, and fills the vampire craving for those too young for the Twilight series.

In other vampire-related news, I went to see New Moon with my daughter over the weekend. So depressing!  Neither boy can make Bella happy.  Even when she has what she wants, she is the picture of misery and angst. Another peeve about the movie? The dizzying scenes with the spinning camera angle - nauseating, really!  Finally, as for the Edward /Jacob debate, put me in the Jacob camp - I'd rather have a dog than a bat any day! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Audiobook roundup: puddles, love, tea and independence

I’ve listened to several audiobooks lately, and haven’t had time to post anything about them. A quick rundown:

The Problem with the Puddles
By Kate Feiffer, read by Halley Feiffer, published by Listening Library
About 3 hours.

The problem with the Puddles?  Well, the Puddles actually have a host of problems.  To begin with, Mr. and Mrs. Puddle disagree - a lot!  For that reason, Baby, which is the name the exasperated hospital nurse finally wrote on the birth certificate when the Puddle parents failed to agree on any other, is called Ferdinanda by her father and Emily by her mother. Her brother, Tom, was somehow more fortunate. The Puddles' dogs, a miniature Chihuahua and a Great Dane are, (due to another disagreement) each named Sally - the Sallys or Sally squared, for short. 

The Puddle parents, however, "agree to disagree" (the title, BTW, of Mrs. Puddle's bestselling book!), and disagreements are not their current problem. Sally squared is the problem. In leaving their country house for a trip to their city house, they have accidentally left the Sallys behind!  While debating whether to go on or go back, the family car breaks down; in attempting to flag down a passing motorist, they are mistaken for a modern dance troupe, the Dancing Puddles.  Meanwhile, the Sallys have struck out on their own for the city. A hilarious set of circumstances ensues.

The story alternates in perspective, with chapters switching between the escapades of the devoted Sallys and the dithering Puddles.  The writing is funny and unique.  The Puddles are unforgettable. Great in audio format, but likely even funnier in print due to the illustrations! 
This book is a quirky winner for chapter book readers!

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love
By Lauren Tarshis, read by Mamie Gummer, published by Random House Audio.
Two hours and 43 minutes.

This review refers to the audio book read by Mamie Gummer. Not having read the first Emma-Jean Lazarus book, I didn't quite understand Emma-Jean's precise, peculiar, stilted, and clipped manner of speaking. (truthfully, I still don't) Early in the book, I assumed that the protagonist's precise mannerisms would annoy me; however, as the story progressed - a story of first loves, friendship, misunderstandings, and a loving home, I became connected to, and charmed by the characters. Although the foreshadowing was a bit obvious for a book aimed at grades 5-7, the sum of all its parts was much greater than I anticipated. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love is a positive and heartwarming story with a touch of humor.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World...One Child at a Time
By Greg Mortenson, read by Atossa Leoni, foreword by Vanessa Redgrave, published by Penguin Audio.
(nonfiction) About 4 hours.

This is the children’s version of the inspiring adult book by the same name, and recounts Greg Mortenson’s quest to provide schools for poor children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Atossa Leoni’s accented voice is perfect for this story, adding a subtle reminder that the story takes place far from the comforts of the United States. An inspirational, original song follows the reading of the book. Greg Mortenson’s story is inspiring and uplifting, but I doubt it is one that most children will read willingly. However, I would certainly not hesitate to recommend it.

and finally,

The Three Documents That Made America: The Declaration of Independence (1776), The Constitution of the United States of America (1787), The Bill of Rights and Other Amendments (1791)
By Terry Bregy, read by Sam Fink, published by Audio Bookshelf, LLC

About 1.5 hours

I don't know what possessed me to listen to this one, (other than my history geekiness!), but I have to admit that I didn't get through it to the end.  The audiobook contains interesting background information on each document and a reading of each.  The Declaration of Independence was captivating enough, but even the best reader can't liven up the Constitution.  I almost nodded off in the car while listening to it. Still, it's a useful title for teachers or taken in small doses.  Every child should know more of the documents that make our country unique.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

At My Library Creative Essay Contest | At Your Library

Love your library? Want to win $350.00?
Enter the @ My Library Creative Essay Contest by December 7, 2009.

(@ Your Library is The Campaign for America's Libraries and is a project of the American Library Association)

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Macy, Sue. 2009. Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly. Washington,DC: National Geographic.

The fascinating story of the pioneering, Nellie Bly. A woman in a man's world, she was a globetrotting reporter, breaking new ground in travel (she rounded the globe in 72 days!), reporting (she went undercover in an insane asylum for 10 harrowing days!), and social mores (she worked in a man's profession, supported herself handsomely, married a man many years her senior, and ran her own company!) She was a world-wide phenomenon, the likes of which we don't see anymore.

Well-researched with numerous photos, maps, and photographed artifacts, Bylines contains a Forward by Linda Ellerbee, Afterword, Author's Note, Chronology, Resources, Sources of Quotes, Illustration Credits, and Index.

Suggested for ages 10 and up, even adults will enjoy this one! A captivating story about a remarkable woman.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Murphy, Jim. 2009. Truce. New York: Scholastic.
"[I]f I had my way, some person in authority would proclaim that Christmas will not be celebrated this year....Enemy, Death, and a Christmas tree - they cannot live so close together." German Captain Rudolf Binding (from Truce)

Jim Murphy's Truce, tells the remarkable true story of the spontaneous truces that broke out all along the entrenched battle lines of Europe in December, 1914. It is estimated that tens of thousands of British, German and Belgian soldiers took part in the cease-fires that lasted, in some instances, for several weeks. More than a cessation of hostilities, the hiatus was almost joyful as soldiers fraternized with each other - singing, exchanging gifts, and taking photos.

In six chapters, Murphy provides ample background information to give meaning and context to the remarkable occurrence of the many spontaneous truces and celebrations. One chapter recounts enemy soldiers praying together, translating the sermon from English to German, and burying their dead in solemn ceremonies. In another instance, German and British soldiers sing Christmas carols, alternating verses, one in English, one in German, and then joining in Latin to sing Adeste Fideles.

The truces ended, not because the men desired to resume fighting, but rather, because they could no longer hold out against the will of their commanders.

The German High Command ... issued a terse order: "Commander Second Army directs that informal understandings with enemy are to cease. Officers ...allowing them are to be brought before a court-martial." In some areas, these orders had immediate results. British private Bernard Brookes was standing guard at midnight on December 25 when "our artillery sent over ... four shells of small caliber to let them know that the truce, at which the whole world would wonder, was ended, and it its place, Death and Bloodshed would once again reign supreme." The Germans countered with an artillery barrage of their own.

The award-winning, Murphy, has meticulously researched his topic, and includes a Timeline, Notes and Sources, More about World War I, an Index, and a wealth of photographs, maps, period art and newspapers. The Epilogue, while factual, is more editorial than informational in nature.

The text is large and sepia-toned, to match the many accompanying photographs. Photographs of the desolate and razor-wired No Man's Land and the hideous trench conditions offer a stark contrast to those of smiling enemy soldiers posing for posterity.

To read this story in the men's' own words, is both compelling and thought-provoking. Readers will not come away unaffected.

Best for ages 10 and up. Truce should be a Sibert Medal contender.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Magician's Elephant

...and here's a video booktalk for the same title, The Magician's Elephant.

The Magician's Elephant

DiCamillo, Kate. 2009. The Magician's Elephant. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

A podcast booktalk for one of my new favorites!

Friday, November 13, 2009

R. Gregory Christie

Today my library was fortunate to host award-winning illustrator, R. Gregory Christie. He is a three-time Coretta Scott King Honor Award recipient, the winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, and a Theodore Geisel Honor Award recipient. He has also received several awards from the New York Times. (complete information is available on his website)

He spoke to a group of 5th grade students about art, history, technique, research, publishing, and inspiration. He politely (and sometimes humorously) accepted all questions, even divulging the source of the initial in his name, R. Gregory Christie. (I won't tell!) The kids adored his easy-going manner and good nature. They were entertained, engaged, and inspired. He is a talented, warm, friendly, and positive role model for children.

If you have a chance to see him, don't miss it. If you haven't checked out his art, do.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Sister, Alicia May

Tupper Ling, Nancy. 2009. My sister, Alicia May. Ill. by Shennen Bersani. Raynham Center, MA: Pleasant St. Press.

My Sister, Alicia May is a beautifully realistic story of a young girl whose sister has Down Syndrome. Sharing both the good,

"She watches ladybugs warm themselves on our red door. Then she counts their dots: 'One lady dot, two lady dot, three lady dot,...' I think God is glad someone notices these things,"

and the bad,

"I slouched down in my seat... 'Katie,' I whispered, 'pretend we don't know her.' So we did,"

Alicia May's sister recounts life with her sister with touching honesty.
The illustrations by Shennen Bersani have an almost photographic quality, realistically portraying the familiar features of a Down Syndrome child, as well as the typical gap-toothed smile of a young schoolgirl, still waiting for all of her permanent teeth. The touching illustrations are a perfect match for the text. Bersani dedicates the book to her own sister, who has Down Syndrome.

In the end, Alicia May's sister, Rae-Rae, is just as special as Alicia May. A simply beautiful book that will do more to instill a compassion for those with disabilities than any lesson ever will.

The Busy Tree

Ward, Jennifer. 2009. The Busy Tree. Ill. by Lisa Falkenstern. Tarrytown,NY: Marshall Cavendish.

With oil paintings that are both realistic and beautiful, Busy Tree informs readers of the many uses for a tree. In first -person rhyme, the "tree" tells of its many denizens,
"This is the spider that lives in my bark, spinning a web from dawn until dark." A simple and powerful introduction to trees.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Last Olympian

Riordan, Rick. 2009. The Last Olympian. New York: Hyperion.

The Last Olympian? Not who you think.
The last book in the series? Not exactly.

Fans of Percy Jackson will likely enjoy this last chapter in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and be glad to read that a continuing series is in the works, a series following the young heroes after Camp Half-Blood.

The Last Olympian is full of non-stop action (and of course, a few jokes), as the fate of the Olympians and indeed, that of the entire mortal world hangs in the balance. Percy’s 16th birthday approaches, along with its mysterious prophecy. The Titans are on the move, and the Olympian gods are divided in their defense. Even the demigods are fractured, with a spy in their midst.

A few surprising twists and the relationship between Percy, Rachel and Annabeth will keep readers guessing until the end. A satisfying conclusion to a great series.

Can't wait to see the movie for Book 1, The Lightning Thief!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Count Down to Fall

Hawk, Fran. 2009. Count Down to Fall. Illustrated by Sherry Neidigh. Mt. Pleasant, SC: Sylvan Dell.

There is much to like about Countdown to Fall. Ostensibly a counting book, its true value is in its leafy pages. Seasonal leaf identification is as easy as falling off a log with simple rhymes and realistic, double-spread illustrations.

Not all of the rhymes flow perfectly, but each offers a fun way to memorize each leaf type. Beech tree leaves are described "like yellow cat's eyes," and my favorite,

"Six linden leaves
in Valentine shapes
reflect golden sun
in autumn's landscape."

Linking the Linden tree's leaves to a Valentine shape is original and memorable.

The real beauty of this book, however, is in its illustrations. Four corner insets on each spread offer depictions of a leaf in spring, a leafy tree in autumn, a seed pod, and an autumn leaf. The illustrations are bordered by a lifelike depiction of the tree's bark. The featured artwork shows the tree sharing its habitat with the creatures of nature - bears, birds, bugs, and more.

For Creative Minds is an educational section that follows the story and contains simple quizzes (match the spring leaf to the autumn leaf) and questions. Click to see.

This book is a teacher's dream - engaging, entertaining, and educational.
(If you're a librarian, check the publisher's site for crafts to do in conjunction with each of Sylvan Dell's titles- cool!)

Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs

Draper, Sharon. 2006. Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs: The Buried Bones Mystery. New York: Aladdin.

Similar to the A-Z Mystery series, but featuring a diverse group of young African American boys, Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs is a chapter book, mystery series. The boys are representative of many types of families. Ziggy's large, extended family is from Jamaica. Rico lives with his overprotective mother and police officer dad. Jerome lives with his grandmother and often watches his younger sisters. Rashawan's family is Muslim and helps to raise awareness of black culture and worthy causes.

Written by Sharon Draper, this series is a welcome addition to a genre in which people of color are often missing, or serving as token characters. Check the author’s website for activities and study guides.

(This is not a new series, but it's new to my branch. There are six titles in the Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series.)

One Book NJ

This year, for the first time, the One Book NJ committee is offering the public a chance to vote for the 2010 One Book NJ titles. Each year, four different books are chosen - one each for pre-readers, independent readers, teens, and adults.

According to their website, One Book NJ's "goal is to bring people together through literature by encouraging them to read the same book and participate in discussions and other events centered on that book. One Book New Jersey celebrates reading, literacy, and all that New Jersey's libraries do."

If you want to see great programming based on books that you enjoy, vote today!
My picks? The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (for teens), The Tale of Despereaux (for older kids), and Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type (for pre-readers).
If you're not in NJ, check out your own state or local One Book program.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All of Me! A book of thanks.

Bang, Molly. 2009. All of me! A book of thanks. New York: Blue Sky Press.

All of Me! A book of thanks, is a joyful book that fits many needs. It is foremost, a child's book of thankfulness for his body,

"What grand hands! Thank you, hands, for gripping and throwing and patting and holding. And for hugging,"

his world,

"I listen with my ... ears. Outside I hear cars rumbling. I hear music playing. I hear honking, singing, barking, and laughing,"

and his place in the world,

"All this is my home. I am ALIVE."

The illustrations are a large and colorful mix of collage art, paint and crayons. The endpapers include directions for children to create their own books. In "Books are Fun to Make," author-illustrator Molly Bang, tells children how she made the book using paper bags, cloth and paper, crayons (!!), paints, paintbrushes and water. She includes simple directions and illustrations. Perfect for a budding artist!

Finally, All of Me! A Book of Thanks is perfect choice for Thanksgiving storytime (reminding us that we have more to be thankful for than a full plate) and for showcasing multiculturalism. The child is has biracial parents and lives in a vibrant and diverse neighborhood.

A simple book with a positive message.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Easy Readers for people of color?

During the summer when the branch was full of young children and parents looking for summer reading titles, I noticed something. There were very few "easy-reader" type books on my shelves that featured children of color. Late in August, when I took a course in Reading Instruction and Children's Books, I discovered from that my colleagues from around the country had noticed the same thing; while there are great children's authors in every culture, many cultures and ethnicities are underrepresented in the "easy reader" market.

I mentioned this to our collections department. Our children's selector got on the job immediately - and found that the choices are not great; however, she was able to quickly provide me with several titles from Picture Window Books, a division of Capstone Press. The books are part of a Read-It! Readers series, The Life of Max, beginning readers featuring a young African American boy, Max. The books don't have the stellar story lines of other series, like Cork and Fuzz or Elephant and Piggie, but they're an alternative. I particularly liked Max Goes to the Library because it also busts a gender myth - the librarian is a man. :)

I'm going to check out the offerings of Lee and Low's, Bebop Books. They might be just what I'm looking for. In the meantime, children in my diverse community can now find Max on my easy reader shelves.

Of course, any book can be enjoyed by any person of any race or ethnicity, but I believe that it's probably nice to see a familiar face on the shelves of your local library.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

I have not had a chance to see the new movie Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak's Caldecott Medal winning book of the same name, however, I thought I'd pass this information along.

My niece, who has two preschoolers, went to see the movie and posted this message on Facebook, "Just saw Where The Wild Things Are. It is NOT a children's movie. I repeat, NOT a children's movie."

Of course, this is only one person's opinion, but I pass it along because I've noticed that many movie trailers are crafted to appeal to very young children, when the movie itself is intended for an older audience.

When in doubt about the appropriateness of a children's movie, you can check the website of, which contains reviews and commentary on all new movies. The site rates them on gore, violence, profanity, etc. Movies are reviewed in excruciating detail and reviews usually contain spoilers, however, you'll never be unpleasantly surprised at the theater, and the site is a cheaper option than previewing the movie yourself before bringing the kids.

Common Sense Media is another great site for movie reviews. They suggest this movie for ages 9 and up.

Where the Wild Things Are is rated PG for "mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language."

I'd love to hear comments from anyone who has seen the movie with young kids! If I get to the movie this weekend, I'll be sure to post again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dog Days

Kinney, Jeff. 2009. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. New York: Amulet.

It's Dog Days as in the dog days of summer (the timing of this book's release could have been better) and Greg Heffley is looking forward to some quality indoor time, but unfortunately, his Mom's idea of the perfect summer vacation does not include horror movies, video games and TV. In Dog Days, Greg woefully recounts his misadventures at Rowley's country club, the public pool, his summer job, and the cabin at the beach. Rodrick, Manny, Gramma, Mom, Dad, the Jeffersons, and Fregley, all make appearances in this latest installment of the Wimpy Kid series. However, the true stars of Dog Days are Greg and his Dad, who learn that father-son bonding may not be the same in every family. Sometimes hating the same comic strip is all that you need.

Dog Days may not have as many "laugh out loud" moments as earlier installments, (Rodrick Rules is still my favorite) but it remains comic genius, hilarious sketches seamlessly integrated into the story, often acting as the "punchline" in place of words.
Usually, I can relate to Mrs. Heffley. In Dog Days, I completely empathize with Greg. As a child, I also dreaded the trip to the "public pool," although my experiences (thankfully) were not the same as Greg's,
"I didn't want Manny to have to walk through the shower area and see the things I've seen. So I got a towel out of my bag and was gonna put it over Manny's eyes when we walked past the shower guys. But in the two seconds it took me to get my towel, Manny was gone. And you'll never believe where he went."
You'll have to imagine the sketch of the diminutive Manny, whistling and washing in the men's shower, surrounded by hairy knees and ankles!

"I knew I had to rescue Manny, so I closed my eyes as tight as I could and went in to save him... When we got to the other side, Manny seemed fine, but I don't think I'll ever totally recover from that experience."

And although I never watched a movie with "the muddy hand," I do remember one with a charred, black hand, and can completely relate with Greg's feelings in this passage,
"My new fear is that the hand is gonna crawl up on my bed and get me in my sleep. So lately I've been covering my whole body with the blanket and leaving a hole so I can breathe. But that strategy his its OWN risks. Rodrick got into my room today, and I had to spend the morning trying to wash the taste of a dirty sock out of my mouth."
And finally, I have to agree with Greg on this one,
"There's this comic about a dog called "Precious Poochie," and it's been running for about fifty years. The guy who wrote it died a long time ago, but they're still recycling his old comics. I don't know if they're funny or not because, to be honest with you, most of them don't even make sense to a person my age."

Well, Jeff Kinney does make sense to a person of Greg Heffley's age! In fact, based on the phenomenal interest in his books, he makes sense to kids of all ages - from 9 to 99.
Check out The Diary of a Wimpy Kid website for the Dog Days Event Kit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures

Metsalaar, Menno. 2009. Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures from the Archives of the Anne Frank House. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

With a wealth of photographs, selected diary entries, and historical background information, Anne Frank: Her life in words and pictures is perfectly suited as a wonderful companion to Anne Frank: The diary of a young girl, or an alternative for more visual learners. To see photographs of her actual diary pages and her family's hiding place (in addition to hundreds of other photographs)is a compelling addition to Anne Frank's story. The book is arranged chronologically, and contains a glossary, but no index.

Coincidentally, I attended an excellent presentation yesterday by Kathe Pinchuck, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. The purpose of the award is "to encourage the publication of outstanding books of Jewish content for children and teens, books that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience." The site and Ms. Pinchuck are great sources of information.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Murder at Midnight

2009. Avi. Murder at Midnight. Scholastic: New York.

Set in Italy at the end of the Middle Ages, Murder at Midnight, finds Fabrizio, a young servant boy, negotiating the deadly intricacies of the royal court in order to save his master, Magnus the Magician. This is not my favorite of Avi's mystery books. It is lacking in the rich language and total period immersion of The Traitor's Gate, Seer of Shadows or Newbery Award winner, Crispin: Cross of Lead. However, it succeeds as a gripping, suspenseful, and fast-paced (perhaps too fast?) murder mystery with strong protagonists in Fabrizio, and his friend, Maria. It's hard to go wrong with Avi.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

14 Cows for America

Deedy, Carmen Agra. 2009. 14 Cows for America. Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Atlanta: Peachtree. (In collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah)

On September 11, 2001, Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, a college student from the Massai tribe in Kenya, was in New York City, studying to become a doctor. The following spring, he returned to his small village,

“He has brought with him one story. It has burned a hole in his heart,”

This is his story. It is not a story of the terroristic attacks upon the United States, but rather, a story of the compassion of the Massai people for the victims. The Massai, former warriors, now proud and peaceful cattle herders, believe that “the cow is life.” “Without the herd, the tribe might starve.”

After the tribal members and elders contemplate fires that can melt iron, buildings that can touch the sky, and three thousand lost souls, they respond with a gift for the U.S. Ambassador - the gift of life, fourteen cows for America.

The endpapers list Thomas Gonzalez’s medium as “pastel, colored pencil, and airbrush on 100% rag archival paper.” Its effect is stunning. The majesty of Kenya and the pride of the Massai people are evident in the rich, colorful illustrations.

A “Note from Kimeli Nayiyomah” follows, offering the story in greater detail for older readers. He notes that, in the gift of the Massai to America, “a connection between the two cultures had been made. We felt we had taken some of America’s pain into our Massai hearts.”

14 Cows for America is a touching story of compassion. The combination of Carmen Agra Deedy’s simple yet powerful words, the vibrant illustrations of Thomas Gonzalez, and the moving story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, is a book that defies superlatives.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New picture books

Our computers were down at work today…a great time to explore the contents of my new arrivals bag!

From the picture book collection:

Pinkney, Jerry. 2009. The Lion and the Mouse. New York: Little Brown.

Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse is a (nearly) wordless re-telling of Aesop’s fable of the same name. The story unfolds clearly and simply. The only “words” are the sounds of the Serengeti plain – the screech of an owl, the squeak of the mouse, the putt-putt of the hunter’s truck, the roar of the trapped lion. The pencil, watercolor, and colored pencil illustrations on paper, are simply stunning, conveying both the vastness and majesty of the African Serengeti and the myriad emotions of the lion and the mouse as they encounter each other by chance and again by purpose. The soft butter-yellow pages blend artfully with the earthy hues of Africa’s birds, plants, insects and wildlife. A beautiful book!

Redmond, E.S. 2009. Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Felicity Floo has a cold and she’s off to visit the zoo – without a tissue. Trouble ensues as little Felicity spreads her germs,

“All of the animals down at the zoo
Are snuffling and snorting and sneezing ACHOO.
The lions won’t roar, and the tigers just mew.”

The double-spread illustrations are delightfully dreary. The disheveled Felicity sports a red nose, baggy eyes and a slimy, shiny, green hand print which she plasters throughout the zoo. Emus, elephants, flamingos and more, eye her with wide-eyed dismay.

Of course, one could argue that the idea of a zoo visitor touching the animals and spreading germs is a poor and erroneous example for little listeners; however, this is an engaging, rhyming story that spreads, not just germs, but a timely reminder to use a tissue and keep one’s slimy, green germs to oneself! A fun introduction to hand-washing and flu prevention.

And now our computers are working and it's time to get my nose out of books ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (the movie)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett, first published in 1978, is a classic children's book of the small town of Chewandswallow and its unique edible weather. It's been one of my favorites since my kids were small.

When I first saw the trailer for the new movie of the same name, I was worried. There appeared to be little correlation between the book and the movie.

I was right to be worried. After seeing the movie, I was extremely disappointed. Aside from the fact that the entire premise of the book (freakish weather phenomena) is missing from the movie (in the movie, the precipitating food is an experiment gone awry), the movie is lacking the charm and innocence of the original story. In fact, as my daughter put it,

"It's just another movie about someone who needs to save the world to get his dad to love him."


If you're a fan of the book, skip this one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Time traveling ...

In the last two weeks, I've read (or listened to) three time-traveling books, and they could not be more different from one another - a Newbery medal contender, a gripping historical fiction adventure series, and a funny bit of futurama for chapter book readers.

First, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009), published by Wendy Lamb Books. This book is hands-down, the best book that I have read this year! It deserves a more thorough review, but for now, take my word for it - read this book! (and don't read any reviews with spoilers - the book's unpredictability is one of its most dynamic features) I hope this one's on the Newbery Medal short list.

Next, Day of the Assassins by Johnny O'Brien - just released and reviewed here.

and finally, Herbert's Wormhole by Peter Nelson, illustrated by Rohitash Rao, and narrated by Jonathan Davis.

This is a silly bit of slapstick, alien slaying, time traveling adventure (complete with zero-gravity T-ball!) that, based on the audiobook, I thought would be a good choice for young chapter book readers. However, when searching for cover art to add to this post, I realized that Herbert's Wormhole is actually a "novel in cartoons," a la Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A better choice for reading than listening, I'm sure! Unfortunately, my library doesn't own a print copy yet, but the Amazon preview looks cute.

Bottom line? All three books are suitable for varying audiences and ages, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is dynamite! Read it today.
And now, my time traveling adventures are done for while.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm a Turkey

Arnosky, Jim. 2009. I'm a Turkey! New York: Scholastic.

This book has a free mp3 download of Jim Arnosky, pickin' and strummin' and singin' along to his latest, I'm a Turkey! Fun, colorful and full of turkey facts, I'm a Turkey is entertaining as well as educational,
But we must be careful, can't be hasty, 'cuz lots of critters find us...TASTY!
The acrylic, double-spread illustrations are a perfect mix of natural, yet fanciful. Jim Arnosky is a true nature-lover, and he's a pretty fine musician, too! Perfect fun for a Thanksgiving storytime!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day of the Assassins

O’Brien, Johnny. 2009. Day of the Assassins. Somerville, MA: Templar.
Advance Reading Copy made available by LibraryThing

A dynamic mix of historical fiction, sci-fi, and adventure, Day of the Assassins is the first in a planned series of Jack Christie Novels, time-traveling adventures featuring teenager, Jack Christie, and his best friend, Angus.

Preparing for transfer . . .
14 . . . 13 . . . 12 . . .
Transfer initiating . . .

Suddenly the glass blast screen started to lower. Belstaff, no longer pinned to the ceiling, tumbled to the floor. He didn’t move. Jack stared numbly at the body of his teacher and felt bile rise in his throat again as a terrifying thought suddenly occurred to him – Belstaff might be dead.
Jack saw Johnstone look down at his injured colleague and then up at him inside the Taurus. When he saw his eyes, he knew that boarding the Taurus had been the right decision. All of those men had one thing on their mind as they rushed forward toward him.

3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

With a story line that crosses time and space, Day of the Assassins thrusts Jack into a crucible of European history, Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary, on the eve of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s visit. If Jack can thwart the assassination of the Archduke, can he save the lives of millions destined to die in World War I? Or will meddling in history create greater problems unforeseen? Tangled in the midst of a deadly philosophical imperative, Jack and Angus must decide.

Johnny O’Brien adds a unique spin to historical fiction, moving seamlessly between the present and past, and successfully marrying video game action sequences with thrilling episodes in history. The modern British setting and European historical venues add spice to this action-packed series debut, and the cover art is a perfect complement

An author’s note, photo, and historical background completed this ARC. A timeline and map are planned for the final bound version. The website notes that this book is suitable for age 8 and up. I think 10 and up would be a better recommendation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muggie Maggie

Cleary, Beverly. 2009 (1990) Muggie Maggie. Read by Kathleen McInerny. Harper Audio.

As regularly as the seasons, Beverly Cleary's name appears each year on children's summer reading lists. So, to help with reader's advisory, I downloaded Muggie Maggie to my mp3 player. First published in 1990, it was released by Harper Audio in 2009.

Bad move. I should have picked another title.

Aside from the fact that I found Kathleen McInerny's voice to be too saccharine for even the youngest of listeners, I chose the one book that extols the virtues of cursive writing. Call me new-fashioned, but I am just not a fan. Today's children receive the most minimal training in cursive writing before they are swept up in our age of modern technology and QWERTY keyboarding. Kids don't do cursive writing well because they don't need to, don't have time to, and shouldn't have to. Other than its usefulness for legal signatures, is it really necessary?

Yes, it's a useful skill, and as a lover of history and historical documents, I would be lost without a knowledge of cursive, but truly, I think the age of cursive is over. (We're not still using shorthand are we?)

I'm with Maggie on this one - who needs it?

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

2009. Philbrick, Rodman. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. New York: Blue Sky Press.

One blog I read (sorry that I can’t remember which!) said that it’s tough to get past the cover art on this one. I enjoy David Shannon's artwork and don't mean to offend; but honestly, I think that the cover art might scare away readers who would otherwise enjoy the book, but are too concerned with looking "cool." (Alas, there are such kids.)

The book, however, is an absolute winner! Set in the 1860s, Homer P. Figg and his brother Harold have a miserable existence in the care of the “meanest man in Maine,” Squinton Leach,

“A man so mean he squeezed the good out of the Holy Bible and beat us with it, and swore that God Himself had inflicted me and Harold on him, like he was Job and we was Boils and Pestilence.”

When Squinton Leach illegally sells Harold into service in the Union Army as a replacement, Homer P. Figg sets off to find him. This sounds like the set-up for a sorrow-filled tale of the Civil War. But, add in the fact that Homer P. Figg is as keen a liar and observer of human nature as was ever created by the likes of Mark Twain, and you’ve got yourself a tale that, although full of lies, lies more likely near the truth. Homer Figg shows us comedy in times of tragedy and dogged perseverance against adversity.

On his quest to free his brother from his illegal conscription, Homer meets an array of colorful characters and shares his wry observations,

as in this passage when he is travelling with an aspiring pastor,

“Dear Kate has been waiting for me all her life. She knew it the moment she looked into my eyes.” Homer wryly notes, “That does it. It can’t be true love. Mr. Willow has eyes like a sick kitten. You might love a sick kitten buy you don’t marry it, you keep it as a pet.”

Later, Homer is directed to bathe by Professor Fleabottom, his new employer and proprietor of Professor Fleabottom’s Caravan of Miracles,

“The pungent perfume of the pig is still upon you. The suffocating scent of the swine exudes from your person. In a word sir, you stink.” To which Homer declares, “Far as I’m concerned, taking a bath is sort of like drowning, with soap. Never could abide it…”

Homer’s spunk, his determination, and his ability to find joy in life during the direst of circumstances, makes him a winning hero. Yes, there is war and death and dishonesty; but there is also hope.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Have I got a book for you!

Reader's advisory got you down? Can decide what to read next? Have I got a book for you!

This is a hysterical spoof on infomercials. In this case, Mr. Al Foxword is selling, (you guessed it!) a book! (this one, to be precise)

Act now! Don't delay! Put a laugh in your day today!

Watt, Melanie. 2009. Have I got a book for you! Kids Can Press

Friday, September 4, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Lin, Grace. 2009. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. New York: Little Brown.

Grace Lin, as talented an artist as she is an author, illustrates her own novels; and it shows in the way that her cover art and drawings so expertly convey the mystical, magical feeling of her book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The jacket art draws the reader in; and, thumbing through pages numbered in gold and sprinkled with Chinese symbols and colorful illustrations, the reader is entranced before the story even begins.

…and when the story does begin on the bleak and barren Fruitless Mountain home of Minli and her parents, the reader is enchanted by the storytelling of Minli’s gentle father and the endless possibilities presented in his stories and in those of the Goldfish Man, an itinerant vendor. Unlike her mother, disheartened and dispirited by poverty, Minli is rich in spirit and belief. She believes that she can change her family’s poor fortune by following the clues of the ancient stories, stories that will lead her to seek the Old Man of the Moon.

…and so,
On a blanket, she put:

a needle
a pair of chopsticks
her white rabbit rice bowl
a small piece of bamboo
a hollow gourd full of water
a small knife
a fishnet
some uncooked rice
a large pot
and the one remaining copper coin

Then she wrapped her blanket into a bag, tied it on her back, and took a last look at the shabby house. Through the window, Fruitless Mountain stood like a shadow, but Minli closed her eyes and imagined the house shimmering with gold and the mountain jade green with trees, and smiled. Then, she opened the door and left.

Along the way, she will travel through the Dragon Gate, the City of Bright Moonlight and the Village of Moon Rain. She will encounter a dragon, the buffalo boy, and the Green Tiger. And she will change her family’s fortune, and that of others as well; but not in the way she thinks.

A unique and delightful book that craftily reminds Minli’s mother (and the reader) of lessons learned many years ago by a young girl from Kansas who traveled in a tornado – faith, hope, charity, perseverance, and family.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If you're not a New Jerseyan, pardon my indulgence in this region-specific book. :-)

Noble, Trinka Hakes. 2009. The New Jersey Reader. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.

The New Jersey Reader is an attractively illustrated and inviting little book, created in the style of early American schoolhouse primers. As such, it is certainly true to form. Its small size, and engaging format of illustrations, poems, stories, history, (and even a play) is a delightful introduction to New Jersey standard 4th grade curriculum. We have, however, come a long way from colonial primers. In this day and age, the lack of a bibliography, source materials, or author's notes is a surprising and noteworthy omission. It mars an otherwise charming book.

The publisher's Teacher's Guide should be useful to 4th grade teachers.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Potato Chip Puzzles

Berlin, Eric. 2009. The Potato Chip Puzzles. New York: Putnam.

Just a quick review -

The Potato Chip Puzzles is the second book about Winston Breen, a junior high school student with a penchant for puzzles. I did not read the first book, The Puzzling World of Winston Breen, but it had no bearing on this current mystery.
In The Potato Chip Puzzles, an eccentric potato chip tycoon has designed a contest for local schools. Each participating school enters a team to solve a series of ingenious puzzles spread across town. Winston Breen, along with his teacher and two friends, Jake and Mal, race through town solving intricate word, numeric and logic puzzles in their quest to be the first team to finish and claim the $50,000.00 prize. The puzzles are difficult, and a saboteur threatens to make them dangerous as well.

This a great choice for reluctant readers, boys (all of the main characters are male), and fans of puzzles and mysteries. Readers are easily drawn into this story with the opportunity to solve all of the puzzles and the mystery as well. A chapter of additional puzzles and an answer key conclude this fast-paced mystery.

Visit The Puzzling World of Winston Breen website for games, puzzles and more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Garden State Book Award Nominees

As usual, the categories are Fiction, Non-fiction, and Easy Reader (the subject of my earlier rant)

There are a lot of great books this year! One that I did not review, but it is a favorite of mine is Mo Willem's, There is a Bird on Your Head, part of the Elephant and Piggie series. I love them!
A few of the nominees that I've reviewed


Great books - all of them!


Funke, Cornelia. 2008. Inkdeath (The Inkword Trilogy Book 3). Read by Allan Corduner. Listening Library. 19hours, 45 minutes.

After spending almost 44 hours in my car with Mo, Meggie, Dustfinger, and all the other wonderful characters in the Inkworld Trilogy, I find that they've left a big hole to fill. It's been a long time since a series or trilogy has captured my interest in the same way. The story is rich and compelling with a constantly twisting and shifting plot.

Inkdeath is a much bleaker and darker book than its predecessors, and Orpheus (who plays a large role) may be the greatest villain of the trilogy. My daughter and I agree that he's the villain that you love to hate!

My only disappointment in the final book was the narration by Allan Corduner. The first book's narrator Lynne Redgrave was fine. Inkspell's Brendan Fraser was fantastic - just the right amount of quiet mystery to his voice. Unfortunately, I found Allan Corduner's voice to be too nasal and cynical. Even Farid, who had been one of my favorite characters, comes off as a whining complainer in Corduner's rendition. If I hadn't already become attached to the characters, his reading style may have been enough to put me off. Skip the audio version for this book.
Still, the Inkworld Trilogy is a unique story with a gripping plot. Love, envy, uncertainty, hatred - Funke leaves no aspect of human nature untouched as the characters come to terms with themselves and the very nature of the Inkworld. Whether predordained or self-determined, all will find their destiny in Inkdeath.

There are plenty of rumors that Inkspell will become a movie, but I haven't been able to confirm it. New Line Cinema apparently owns the filming rights, but there's no news yet on a second installment, and of course, there's the awkward question of how Orpheus can be added since Inkheart, the movie, ended with Dustfinger safely back in the Inkworld.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An open rap to the publishers of "easy readers"

I just finished taking a great ALSC online class, Reading Instruction and Children's Books, taught by Kate Todd.

While I learned a lot about reading and "leveling" methods, I also learned that librarians across the country are frustrated with the publishers of "easy reader" books. Not only do they use widely different methods of classifying the "level" of each book, they neglect to tell us which method they use (Lexile, Flesch-Kincaid, whim?)!

Why is one publisher's Level 1 book so different from another's? I vented my frustration in this open rap to the the publishers of easy readers...

An open rap to easy reader publishers

Librarians –
we’re a scientific bunch.
We need more to go on
than just a hunch.

We help children find books.
Some use the 5-finger rule.
We help teachers and parents
and we work with school.

“This Level 2 is too easy?
Well, this one’s just right!
Here’s another Level 2 -
Too hard! Not quite.”

Is it Lexile? Is it ATOS?
Is it Flesch-Kincaid?
Please don’t keep us guessing,
‘cause we need your aid!

Tell us how the books are leveled
all across these lands,
and we’ll make sure they end up
in just the right hands!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The True Meaning of Smekday

Rex, Adam. 2007. The True Meaning of Smekday. New York: Disney Hyperion.

Gratuity (her mother didn't realize that it meant "tip") had a homework assignment,
Write an essay titled

What is the Smekday holiday? How has it changed in the year since the aliens left?
The winning essay will "be buried with the National Time Capsule, which will be uncovered one hundred years from now."

Fast forward to 2114 and read Gratuity (Tip) Tucci's essay (both the official and extended versions) and find out what happened when the Boov invaded the Earth, or Smekland, as they prefer to call it.
Tip falls in with a renegade Boov, who goes by the name of J.Lo. Together (with her cat, Pig) they go in search of her mother, who has been relocated with the other humans to Florida (No, scratch that, Arizona), in a floating car called Slushious.

Despite the language barrier,

I awoke in the afternoon to find a note from J.Lo saying he'd gone ahead to Vicki's to eat soap. Actually, it just said "JLO(BiKi5OP," but I thought that was pretty good.
J.Lo's interesting method of explanations,

Let us say , after televisions are invented, that there is only then a few channels. Three or four. We will call them, A, G, Semicolon, and Pointy.
and the great technological differences between the two,

I scattered J.Lo's tools around the car, searching for some kind of rope, or something that could be used like a rope. I should have paid more attention to anything that looked like a pencil sharpener made of lemon Jell-O that, when cranked, would spit out superstrong yarn that smelled like ginger ale. I only mention this because J.Lo really did have such a thing. He told me so later,
Tip and J.Lo are a formidable duo. But can they save the Earth? And who are they saving it from?

The True Meaning of Smekday is laugh-out-loud funny, but more than just humor - it offers a fresh look at war, politics, race and of course, alien relations. Irresistibly funny!
Don't take my word for it - Here's 10 reasons to read The True Meaning of Smekday!
Just released in paperback.

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...