Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh, Sandy!

Bracing for Hurricane Sandy here at the Jersey shore, and expecting power outages and flooding.
 Be back soon, I hope!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Great Unexpected - a review

Creech, Sharon. 2012. The Great Unexpected.  New York: Harper Collins.

Many things are unexpected in The Great Unexpected, but none more so than the dead boy's body that drops from a tree, nearly landing on Naomi Deane, who notes,

Leaves have fallen on me, and twigs, and a branch during a storm.  Bird slop, of course, everyone gets that.  But a body?  That is not your usual thing dropping out of a tree.

(after some time, the body talked)

And as the body opened his eyes and slowly looked up and looked all around - at the meadow, at the cows in the distance, at the tree out of which he had fallen, and at me, and then he yelled, "Oh no!" and fell back on the ground and his eyes closed and he was dead again.
(Hear it read by Sharon Creech)

Unexpected, indeed! The boy, in fact, is Finn, a mysterious, young, flirtatious boy about 12-years-old, with whom Naomi and her best friend, Lizzie, are smitten. 

Half of the story takes place in the small indeterminate town of Blackbird Tree, where many "unfortunate souls," reside - including Naomi and Lizzie - both orphans, "Witch Wiggins," "Crazy Cora," Mr. Canner, and the huge and unruly clan of Dimmenses.  Naomi narrates the story with a generous helping of Sharon Creech's delightfully descriptive prose, as in this description of the newcomer, "the Dingle-Dangle Man,"

His head jerked slightly to the left and then to the right, like a bird on a worm prowl.
Or in this depiction of Witch Wiggins' house,

If you had to guess which house a witch lived in, this would be it.  The house tilted to one side, as if eavesdropping on its neighbor.
The other half of the story takes places in Rook's Orchard, Ireland.  The connection between the two towns is also unexpected, and early in the book, unexplained.  The Rook's Orchard chapter names are prefaced with "Across the Ocean," and contain a third person narrative of the activities of a certain Sybil Kavanaugh, her constant companion, Miss Pilpenny, and Mr. Dingle (known stateside as "the Dingle-Dangle Man").

The Great Unexpected is a story of possibility, of friendship, of first loves, and the nature of true love.  Many things are unexpected, and if we greet them with open arms, and there is a hint of magic in the air, who knows what may happen.

Delightful and quirky and highly recommended.
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's Black and White and Stinks All Over? a review

One of the best things about reviewing books for School Library Journal, is that I never know what book they will send me.  As a reviewer, I am obligated to read (or in my case, to listen to) books that I might not otherwise choose for myself, and that's a positive for me.  I try to read across all genres so that I may be more helpful to local kids, but I admit that easy readers and beginning chapter books are not usually my first choice when perusing a bag of new books.  Thanks to SLJ, here then, is a review of the chapter book, What's Black and White and Stinks All Over? Book 4 in the George Brown, Class Clown series, as it appeared in the October 2012 edition of SLJ. (typos corrected)

What’s Black and White and Stinks all Over?: George Brown, Class clown, Book 4. By Nancy Krulik. 1 cassette or 1 CD. 1 hr. Recorded Books. 2012. cassette: ISBN 978-1-4618-1855-7, CD:ISBN 978-1-4618-1856-4. $15.75.

Gr 2-4 - Falling somewhere between Megan McDonald’s Stink series and David Lubar’s Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie for both silliness and reading difficulty, George Brown, Class Clown is a beginning reader with an unusual twist - a magical “super burp” that erupts in wild behavior. With a father in the Army, George moves often; he’s determined to fit in at his new school without earning his usual reputation as the class clown. However, when George feels the burp coming on, there’s no telling what he might do - dance on the table, jump in the lake, even act like a dog! In What’s Black and Red and Stinks all Over, the burp causes havoc at Edith B. Sugarman School’s fourth grade Field Day events. George has high hopes of becoming the sportscaster for the school’s new WEBS TV, but Louie, the class bully, and George’s burp-inspired antics nearly spoil his chances. A stretch of the imagination is required to envision a 4th grade girl from Jonathan Todd Ross’s vocal rendition of George’s classmate, Sage, but his portrayal of George, his friends, and Louie is engaging and believable. Frequent “bookmarks” make it easy for readers following along with a print version. Kids already invested in the series will appreciate this fourth installment. New listeners will be up to speed in no time.

Copyright © 2012 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

You can hear an audio clip of What's Black and White and Stinks All Over? at Amazon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You are Stardust - a review

Did you ever make a diorama for a school project?  Here is a book created from the likes of one (7 actually) which you've never seen before! 

Kelsey, Elin. 2012. You are Stardust. Ontario: Owlkids.

With paint and paper, cloth, flowers and fishing line, artist Soyeon Kim adds life and breath to Elin Kelsey's beautiful narrative on the connectedness, the totality, of nature.

Be still.

Like you, the
Earth breathes.

Your breath is alive with the
promise of flowers.

Each time you blow a kiss to the
world, you spread pollen that
might grow to be a new plant.

Inside your brain, electricity
stronger than lightning
powers your every thought.

You sneeze with the force of a tornado.
Wind rockets from your nose quicker
than a cheetah sprints.
What child will not be awed by the miracle that is she, she who is both infinitesimal and indispensable, she who contains the stardust of the ages?
Read it; share it.

Related resources for teachers and homeschoolers are available on the publisher's website.

And in case you're wondering - Dewey Decimal Classification 304.2 Human Ecology

Interestingly, the copyright page notes that this book received financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Ontario - money well spent, I say.

Other reviews @

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Capstone Connect.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Drama - a review

Telgemeier, Raina. 2012. Drama. New York: Scholastic.

Drama is Raina Telgemeier’s newest graphic novel, following her bestseller, Smile (GRAPHIX 2010). Drama, written in “acts” rather than chapters, follows Callie, a seventh grader deep into preparations for the Eucalyptus Middle School play. The play is a musical; Drama’s “drama” stems from typical middle school relationships. Callie likes Greg, Greg likes Bonnie, Bonnie and Greg are fighting, Matt is upset, and there’s a pair of new kids at school - twins, who may or may not fit into the school’s adolescent romantic mix. Add Callie’s desire to create the best exploding cannon prop ever and a limited amount of time to complete the show, and the drama is complete.

Telgemeier’s full-color illustrations have clean lines and the panels are straightforward,easy to follow. Emotion is capably demonstrated in the many variations of the character’s eyes and the dialogue will ring true with middle-schoolers, particularly those in band or drama clubs.

This is a solid addition to middle-grade graphic novels like Jimmy Gownley’s Amelia Rules! series (Atheneum), and is particularly noteworthy for its prominent depiction of gay students. Telgemeier breaks new ground in introducing gay characters to a novel for younger readers (ages 10 and up). What makes it noteworthy is the fact that it is not. The new students are folded into the story without fanfare or drama, just as gay students all around the country are woven into the fabric of their school communities without fanfare or drama. As it should be.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Day with Librarians - a review

It's been a while since I've seen a new book about my profession.  When I learned that Scholastic was putting out a new book, I asked to see a copy, and they obliged.

Shepherd. Jodie. 2013. A Day with Librarians. New York: Scholastic.

Part of the Rookie Read-About Community series, this small (roughly 7"x7") "easy reader" contains basic facts about librarians, their varied duties, and their workplaces. Information is conveyed in simple black font on a white background with a photograph on the facing page.

The "front desk librarian," the one described as using a scanner to check out books and noting when they need to be returned, isn't too common in the public library system in which I work, but I imagine she may be more common in school media centers or smaller libraries.

Statistically, the photos depict a greater diversity in our profession than actually exists, but reflect the change that librarians (and other forward-thinking professions) are striving to create - a more diverse membership. Hopefully, young readers will see themselves in these pages and think about librarianship as a career (no, we're not becoming obsolete).

In addition to five small "chapters," A Day with Librarians includes tips on being a community helper, an index, additional facts, and an "about the author" section.

From the "Meet a Librarian" chapter,
Librarians have important jobs.  They can help you find a good book to read or some information about almost anything.

That about sums it up.  I'm good with that.

Other professions featured in the series are doctors, firefighters, mail carriers, paramedics and police officers.
Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Wendie's Wanderings.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Picture Book Roundup - old favorites

Today's Picture Book Roundup features older winners of the Caldecott Medal. 

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
I recently completed a class, "The Caldecott Medal: Understanding Distinguished Art in Picture Books," offered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and taught by K.T. Horning.

In addition to learning much that I didn't know about art, I had the opportunity to encounter or revisit some Caldecott Medal winners that predate my career as a librarian. I have been working in a library since 2005, and received my masters degree and first professional librarian position in 2007. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.

Though I did not read them all, I did read many older winners. Here are some of my favorites from the years prior to 1990:

(In order by publication date - award dates are the January following the publication year)

  • Langstaff, John. 1955. Frog Went A-Courtin'. New York: Harcourt Brace. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.

Richly detailed and expressive animals illustrate this favorite old folk song.  (If you don't know the song, Frog Went A-Courtin', Burl Ives' rendition was a classic)  This is my favorite of all the older Caldecotts.

  • Mosel, Arlene. 1972. The Funny Little Woman. New York: Dutton. Illustrated by Blair Lent.

Humorous, with inventive illustrations, the funny little woman travels to a world beneath her simple home in Japan.

  • Yorinks, Arthur. 1986. Hey. Al. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Illustrated by Richard Egielski.

Generally disliked by most of my classmates, this quirky, surreal story about a man and his dog really grows on you.

  • Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. New York: Philomel. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.

I have been fortunate enough to hear owls in the night many times, though the only ones I have been able to spot are the low-flying burrowing owls.  In Owl Moon, the thrill of a night-time owling expedition is captured brilliantly in both illustration and prose.

  • Young, Ed. 1989. Lon Po Po:A Red-Riding Hood Story from China.  New York: Philomel.

A masterpiece of danger, suspense and courage - a classic folktale. The only one of my picks written and illustrated by the same person, it's no surprise that it's a pitch-perfect pairing of text and art.

A complete list of Caldecott Medal winners 1938-present, may be found here.

I've left off many other wonderful old medal winners, I know.  Feel free to chime in with your favorite Caldecott winners from the 1930s-1980s.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday, the weekly meme highlighting nonfiction books for young readers!  I'm happy to be hosting today.  Please leave your link below using Inlinkz; and comment if you have the time.  I'll be visiting each site later in the day.  Thanks for participating.

 Today's big news for bloggers?  Nominations are open for the Cybils, the only book (and now apps, too!) awards given by the blogging community. 
Book bloggers, pick your favorite book published between October 16, 2011 and October 17, 2012, and submit it online at the Cybils site.

For those of you who are not book bloggers, keep an eye out for the winners, which are announced on February 14th.  The Cybils fill an important niche.  Unlike their better-known counterparts, the Cybils seeks to award books that meet high standards and have a high "kid appeal."

Since we're all about nonfiction on Mondays,  here are the nonfiction categories:
Nonfiction Picture Books and Nonfiction: Middle Grade & YA
  For more details, read the Contest FAQs.
Check out the other categories as well and start nominating!

And now, on to Nonfiction Monday - add your link below, then click the "thumbnails" to visit each Nonfiction Monday review.  Thanks for stopping by.
Note: I attended my first KidLitCon Saturday.  Thanks to NYPL, Betsy Bird and everyone involved in planning a great (and free!) conference. Kudos!

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 ...