Thursday, May 30, 2013

SYNC - free audiobooks return for summer 2013!

Great news for audiobook lovers from SYNC!
There are no gimmicks here, just two free audiobooks each week, beginning today and ending on August 21.  Books with a similar theme are paired - one is a young adult title, the other is a classic.  If you want free audiobooks, read on.

SYNC Summer 2013 Opens with a Splash!

Mermaids, monsters, and mistaken identities start the summer of free audiobook downloads from SYNC YA Literature Into Your Earphones off with a splash.

Teens and other readers of Young Adult Literature will have the opportunity to listen to bestselling titles and required reading classics this summer.   Each week  from now until August 15, 2013, SYNC will offer two free audiobook downloads.

Download the 1st free YA Novel & Summer Reading Classic pair from SYNC here. []

This Week's Audiobooks:
Available to download free May 30 – June 5, 2013

Of Poseidon []
By Anna Banks
Read by Rebecca Gibel
Published by AudioGO

Galen, prince of the Syrena, is sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish and after several encounters with her Galen becomes convinced Emma holds the key to his kingdom.

Gibel’s flirty banter will make a big splash with listeners.--AudioFile Magazine

The Tempest []
By William Shakespeare
Performed by a Full Cast
Published by AudioGO/ BBC Radio

A storm rages. Prospero and his daughter watch from their desert island as a ship carrying the royal family is wrecked. Miraculously, all on board survive. Plotting, mistaken identities, and bewitching love follow as the travelers explore the strange place of spirits and monsters.

Thank you to AudioGO  [] for generously providing this week's titles.

Available for a Limited Time:
Remember--grab these titles before they are replaced by a new pairing on June 6!  While the title availability is time-limited, your listening time is not.  Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, the audiobook is yours to listen to at your leisure.

Downloading Tips:
The OverDrive Media Console will deliver SYNC summer audiobooks to you via Overdrive Media Software installed on your computer (compatible with Windows and Mac) or through an Overdrive App on your mobile device (compatible with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7). 
Visit [] the OverDrive website to download the App or Software.

Don't miss the remaining summer season of SYNC audiobook downloads:

June 6 - June 12, 2013
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, read by Katherine Kellgren (HarperAudio)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, read by Wanda McCaddon (Tantor Audio)

June 13 - June 19, 2013
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton (Scholastic Audiobooks)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, read by Robert Ramirez (Recorded Books)

June 20 - June 26, 2013
Once by Morris Gleitzman, read by Morris Gleitzman (Bolinda Audio)
Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., read by Dion Graham (christianaudio)

June 27 - July 3, 2013
Rotters by Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne (Listening Library)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read by Jim Weiss (Listening Library)

July 4 - July 10, 2013
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, read by Nick Podehl (Brilliance Audio)
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

July 11 - July 17, 2013
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, read by Peter Altschuler (HarperAudio)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, read by Simon Vance (Tantor Audio)

July 18 - July 24, 2013
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, read by Erin Moon (Recorded Books)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

July 25 - July 31, 2013
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, read by Charlie McWade (Scholastic Audiobooks)
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, read by Steve West (Blackstone Audio)

Aug 1 - Aug 7, 2013
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, read by Dan Weyman (Macmillan Audio)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Ralph Cosham (Blackstone Audio)

Aug 8 - Aug 14, 2013
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, read by Katherine Kellgren (Brilliance Audio)
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, read by Miriam Margolyes (Bolinda Audio)

Aug 15 - Aug 21, 2013
Sold by Patricia McCormick, read by Justine Eyre (Tantor Audio)

Let Me Stand Alone by Rachel Corrie, read by Tavia Gilbert (Blackstone Audio)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Year of Shadows - a review

Let me begin by saying that it's very hard to review a book that has already been so spectacularly reviewed by none other than its own author and main character!  Check out Claire Legrand's review of The Year of Shadows here.

Below is my more feeble attempt.

Legrand, Claire. 2013. The Year of Shadows. New York: Simon & Schuster.

(Advance Reader Copy)

Twelve-year-old Olivia Stellatella is a loner.  Black is her color of choice, and she prefers the company of her ever-present sketchbook to that of her peers at school.  It's been a difficult year, what with "The Economy" and all.  Olivia doesn't know exactly what "The Economy" means, only that in her case, it means that she now shops at the "charity store" and the orchestra that her father conducts may go out of business, taking his job with it. And her mom has left, an occurrence she blames solely on the Maestro. If that sounds bad, just wait; it gets worse.  Having spent all the family funds on the Philharmonic, the family's new "home" is the backstage area of the crumbling Emerson Hall, home of the Philharmonic orchestra.

Initially, her only "friend" is the peculiarly intuitive and communicative cat, Igor.

The cat rolled over at looked at me upside down. "Who's the Maestro?" I rolled over on my back too. Staring at him like this made my head hurt, but it was kind of fun. "Well, technically, he's half my DNA. But I don't like to think about that."
The cat blinked slowly, like he was already half asleep.
"I mean, I guess, yeah, he's my father." I made quotation marks with my fingers. "On paper, maybe. But not to me. I've disowned him, I guess you could say. " I paused, tapping my feet together. "Everyone at school thinks I'm crazy these days, you know.  Because of my clothes and because I draw all the time instead of talking to people.  I guess by talking to a cat I'm proving them right." 
Until she makes an unlikely friend in Henry, the "perfect" kid from school.

"Hey, cool," a voice said from above.  "You found a cat."
I scrambled up into a sitting position and faced the voice: red hair, tons of freckles, stupid ears that stuck out.
Henry Page.
Together, Olivia and Henry meet the other inhabitants of Emerson Hall - ghosts, or more specifically, the affable Frederick, the mysterious Mr. Worthington, and the close yet strangely disconnected pair, Tillie and Jax. Frederick and friends may be friendly, but they are desperate as well.  Desperate to move on to the world of Death. And there are other more dangerous things than these ghosts haunting Emerson Hall.

If the orchestra cannot make enough money, the hall will be demolished.  If the hall is demolished, Olivia and her ghostly friends will become homeless.   Olivia believes that perhaps by helping set the ghosts on their way, she can begin to find her own way.  In the process, she learns that sometimes, it is only by looking outward to the plights and concerns of others,  that we can begin to understand our own.

The Year of Shadows is a dark and gripping tale that is not without humor, supplied primarily by the wryly comedic cat, and the antics of  Joan, Olivia's classmate and resident intermediate school protest performer. Olivia has just the right amount of sass and sarcasm for a troubled, but ultimately good, young girl. Goth-lite for middle school readers.

The publisher's site suggests The Year of Shadows for Grades 3-7.  I would suggest Grades 4-8, depending on the reader.

Look closely at the cover art for The Year of Shadows and in addition to Olivia and Igor, you will see Frederick, Mr. Worthington, Tillie and Jax.

Coming to a shelf near you, August 27, 2013.

If you're a librarian or book blogger, you may request an Advance Reader Copy of The Year of Shadows on the author's website.  I did!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Primates - a review

I borrowed this one from a colleague - hated to give it back.

Ottaviani, Jim. 2013. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. New York: First Second. (Illustrated by Maris Wicks)
(Advance Reader Copy)

The stories of pioneering primate researchers Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas are woven together in this nonfiction graphic novel by award-winning Jim Ottaviani.  Most know Jane Goodall because of her  long and storied career with chimpanzees. Many know Dian Fossey and her work with gorillas and from the film, Gorillas in the Mist (Universal Pictures, 1988). Lesser known is Biruté Galdikas, a pioneer in the study of orangutans.

Besides the obvious primate connection, another connection unites these three women and the threads of Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas.  Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas were all hired by famed archaeologist, Louis Leakey.  Amazingly, when hired, none were experienced researchers.  Goodall had no college experience; Fossey's profession was occupational therapist. Only Galdikas was a college student with an intent to study primates. Leakey believed that women were more insightful and better suited to understand primate behavior.  The book hints that he may also have been attracted to the three women, noting his wife's skepticism.

The chronology works well in Primates, which is less biographical and more an intense look at a fascinating period of scientific research in the field of primate studies. Hired by Leakey over a period of several years, Goodall left for Tanzania to study chimpanzees in 1960, Dian Fossey to Congo (later Rwanda) in 1967, to study gorillas, and Galdikas to research orangutans in Borneo in 1971. Ottiavani tells the three stories chronologically in first person commentary, with each story spilling over into the next.  Wicks employs different color dialogue boxes to differentiate the researchers when their lives intersect in London at various points in time. During the course of their careers, the women met, knew, and understood each other.

Equal time is given to the behavior and locale of the primates, and the monumental discoveries and personal sacrifices of each woman.  Goodall discovered that chimpanzees use tools. Little was know about orangutans before Galdikas' research. Fossey made many behavioral discoveries about gorillas and worked tirelessly against poaching.  All three changed long-standing methods of animal observation. In the case of Fossey, Primates alludes to her tragic and untimely death, but does not mention her murder, instead showing an image of the the side-by-side headstones of Fossey and her favorite silverback gorilla, Digit. Wicks' illustrations are simple, but invoke the intense colorful beauty of the primates' habitats, the uniqueness of each primate species, the vastness of the forests and jungles and the incredible difficulties of three humans living within their midst.

An author's note explains where narrative license was used within the story.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas will surely evoke an urge to learn more about these three fascinating women and the primates to whom they devoted their lives. An engaging and thought-provoking book for ages 12 and up.

Due on shelves in June, 2013.

Learn more at
Jane Goodall Institute
Orangutan Foundation International
There are also many nonprofits dedicated to the protection and conservation of gorillas.

It's Nonfiction Monday.  Check out the always interesting Perogies & Gyoza,
for links to all of today's nonfiction book reviews and postings.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Remember Dippy - a review

Just recently, I was thinking that despite its prevalence in the US, it's been quite some time since I've seen a children's novel that featured a character with autism (I am not counting Wild Boy, since his autism is speculative and not the focus of that most wonderful book).  Not since The London Eye Mystery have I encountered a great character with autism, so I was pleased to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Remember Dippy from author Shirley Reva Vernick.

Vernick, Shirley Reva. 2013. Remember Dippy. El Paso: Cinco Puntos.

It is difficult to believe how much Shirley Reva Vernick has packed into a slim, 156-page novel.  Ostensibly a story about how Johnny, a teenaged boy, adapts when he is forced to watch his autistic cousin, Remember (Mem, for short), during much of his summer vacation, Vernick has also added budding romances, a local mystery, a neighborhood bully, a "new girl," and several small-scale disastrous events.  The many subplots tie nicely together to create a fast-paced book with humor, drama, and a keen understanding of the challenges and benefits of autism. If you don't believe there are benefits to autism, I direct you immediately to Sy Montgomery's Temple Grandin.

While Aunt Collette toils at 7-11, Johnny soon learns that unkept promises or changes to Mem's routine are likely to spark a tantrum, but he also learns, with some amount of envy, that Remember is supremely happy in his life. He speaks without a social filter, saying whatever he thinks; he has a gift for excellence at video games; and generally, he truly enjoys his life and the people and animals within it.

Unlike Siobhan Dowd's The London Eye Mystery (Random 2008), which is narrated by its autistic protagonist, Remember Dippy's narrator is Johnny. Mem, however, plays a major part in Remember Dippy and has a well-developed character that eventually assists Johnny in developing one of his own,

The guys and I ate ourselves silly on shortcake - well, Mem only ate the whipped cream part, the same way he eats Twinkies. In between mouthfuls, he sang along with the band at the top of his lungs, even though he didn't know the lyrics, even though he couldn't carry a tune.  ... 
At first, I pretended I didn't know him, but that was pretty impossible since he was either right next to me or calling me every other minute.  So I decided to ignore the people who were looking at us funny and just have fun tossing around the Frisbee Mo had brought. It's a free country, after all - Mem could sing if he wanted.  And he did want. Finally, when it got too buggy for comfort, we called it a night. 

The cover is rather unfortunate, though it's difficult to say what image might have made a better choice.  Don't choose a book by its cover. Short, sweet, fast-moving, and informative, give Remember Dippy a try for its positive look at autism.

Look for Remember Dippy in June, 2013.

Fortunately for Vernick, though not so for union members, Hostess Twinkies, a focal point of the story, are on their way back to grocery shelves soon.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pluto's Secret - a review

Weitekamp, Margaret and DeVorkin, David. 2013. Pluto's Secret. New York: Abrams.

Written by experts from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and humorously illustrated in watercolors, colored pencils and pen and ink by Diane Kidd, Pluto's Secret gives Pluto a chance to speak for itself about its discovery, its addition as the 9th planet in the solar system, and its eventual reclassification as an icy world in the Kuiper belt.

The astronomers soon learned that Pluto did not always stay in its place.  Sometimes it even switched places with Neptune, coming closer to the sun that Neptune did.
"Hey!" yelled the astronomers.  "Planets cannot do that!"

"Well, I can and I do!" Pluto giggled.

Remember, the icy world Pluto had a secret - a clue about what exists at the outer edges of the solar system and across the universe.

"You still have not figured me out!" sang Pluto.  "Keep trying!"

Balancing information and entertainment, kids will enjoy learning that Pluto was named by 11-year-old, Venetia Burney of England, and that its orbit is tilted, tipped "up like a slide in the playground." The text is similar to Comic Sans Serif and is presented on white background punctuated with occasional illustrated or colored text, and surrounded by anthropomorphic illustrations of the celestial bodies.

As one would expect from the Smithsonian, the book contains photographs of Pluto's discovery, discoverers and young Venetia Burns, a Who's Who of planets, Glossary, Notes, Suggested Reading, Bibliography and Index.

A final note that shouldn't need to be mentioned, but I will mention it anyway:
Pluto was deemed to be something other than a planet in 2006.  Whether you are a teacher, a librarian, a mother, or anyone who is connected with the education of young people, if you still have books that declare Pluto to be a planet, you need to throw those books away - now.

 Today's collection of Nonfiction Monday posts may be found at Instantly Interruptible.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Just Being Audrey - a review

Cardillo, Margaret. 2011. Just Being Audrey. New York: Harper Collins. Illustrated by Julia Denos.

I usually review newer books, but Just Being Audrey just arrived in my branch last week. I'm so glad it did!   Don't take my word that it's wonderful, watch the trailer and visit illustrator Julia Denos' site, to view five pages from Just Being Audrey.

Julia Denos' illustrations superbly capture the delightful bubbly essence of Audrey Hepburn.  Cardillo's text does the same,

Audrey had become more than an actress; she was an inspiration.  While most Hollywood starlets were curvy and wore glamorous outfits, Audrey would only be herself.  She was always slender, she wore her hair short, and her clothes were simple and elegant.  It was such a different style that it got its own name: the Audrey look.
This is a book that will appeal to adults as well as older children.  It would be a great choice for an elementary school-age biography assignment, or for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.  I loved it!

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Anastasia Suen's, Booktalking.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Picture Book Roundup: Books about books edition

Emily Gravett and Suzy Lee - You can't go wrong with these two illustrators' books about books! Both are "novelty books." One features a "burned" hole in the back cover. (Is that the smell of dragon breath?). The other features books within books.

  • Gravett, Emily. 2013. Again! New York: Simon and Schuster.

Cedric, a baby dragon, pesters his mother to read his favorite bedtime story again, and again, and again! Cedric's favorite book (about Cedric the Dragon) is included in the fun, and the words change every time his mother reads it.  When mom finally falls asleep, exhausted, baby dragon gets a little too hot-tempered!   Emily Gravett has a unique sense of humor. Expect funny with a surprise ending!

  • Klausmeier, Jesse. 2013. Open this Little Book. San Francisco: Chronicle. (Illustrated by Suzy Lee)

Here's a book about a little red book about a little green book about a little orange book, well ... you get the idea. Kids will love this one!

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 ...