Sunday, December 24, 2017

See you next year!

I'll be talking a holiday hiatus to vacation with family.

Best wishes for a a joyful and peaceful end to your year. May the new year be filed with hope, promise, and good books! 
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I'll be traveling with Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire (Harper Collins, 2017).

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground - a review

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
by Rita Williams-Garcia
Harper Collins, 2017

Cool Papa Byrd was Clayton's grandfather, his best friend, his musical muse, and the coolest electric blues guitar player in Washington Square Park.  Without him, Clayton was a discordant jumble of sorrow and loneliness.

"Everyone saw Clayton leave the school with his mother.  Some had even laughed at him and teased him about the whipping he had coming.

Clayton wasn't worried about a whipping.  His mother wasn't the whipping kind.  She'd take away his treasures first, the things he loved, and the things he loved to do.  But she didn't believe in whipping.  She did, however, believe in scolding.

Clayton's mother scolded from the time they left the school to the time she drove home to the time they got in the house.  Even when she wasn't out-and-out scolding, she spoke in scolding tones, In you-know-betters, what's-gotten-into-yous.  She said over and over, 'Your grandfather's passing is no excuse for this behavior.'

Clayton remained silent through the scolding. He couldn't tell her what was wrong even if he wanted to. He didn't understand it all himself. Even if he could tell her, she would only blame Cool Papa, and Clayton was tired of her being angry at the person he loved the most. He said nothing.'
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground is Clayton's journey through the blues.  Rita Williams-Garcia infuses this story of family grief, anger, and reconciliation with the bluesy notes of Clayton's harmonica, the smooth sounds of Cool Papa Byrd and his group, the Bluesmen, and a ragtag band of hip-hop street performers who ply their trade in New York's subway system.  No slow-starter here—Clayton Byrd Goes Underground grabs the reader from the pickup note.

I read this in one sitting.  Because of its brevity and musical connection, this would be a perfect middle-grade book for an in-school project collaboration between music and language arts teachers.  Queue some blues on your favorite music streaming service and get yourself in the mood for this award-winning book.

Awards for Clayton Byrd Goes Underground include:
National Book Award Finalist * Kirkus Best Books of 2017 * Horn Book Best Books of 2017 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017 * School Library Journal Best Books of 2017 * NAACP Image Awards Nominee * Chicago Public Library Best Books * A Boston Globe Best Book of 2017

Note: If you want to hear some awesome blues harp, listen to the Led Zeppelin version of "When the Levee Breaks." (originally recorded in 1929 by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bet you didn't know! - a review

A few days ago I suggested a possible holiday gift for the youth services librarian on your list.  Today I have a suggestion for a child - especially if you know a curious child who is a reluctant reader. Of course, this book would be a great purchase for any school or public library, too. *

Bet you didn't know!: Fascinating, Far-out, Fun-tastic Facts
National Geographic Kids, 2017

A teacher used to seek my advice whenever her class was prepping for the annual "academic bowl," which pitted schools against each other, and was difficult to prep for because of the random, Jeopardy-like questions.  I always supplied books similar to Bet you didn't know!: Fascinating, Far-out, Fun-tastic Facts.  They are entertaining as well as educational.

Although many books in this genre are similar, I like this one for the following reasons:

  • It's big—192 pages and more than 12" in size.
  • It has an index.  It's fun to browse randomly, but sometimes you just need to quickly find the page number for a particular fact.
  • You can always count on National Geographic books to have excellent photographs.
  • The categories within the book (there are more than 80) were chosen specifically for their kid-appeal factor, e.g., "Dolphin Facts to Flip Over," "Fiery Facts about Dragons".
  • It's very current.  The "What's the Difference" category even discusses the difference between macaroons and macarons. 
 My favorite section is "Page-Turning Facts About Books."  Among the ten bookish facts is this little-known gem,

"J.K. Rowling considered calling the final Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Elder Wand."

 The publisher's suggested age range for this book is 8-12.  If you decide to purchase a copy, consider your local independent book store.

 From the publisher:

"BIG, packed with gorgeous photos and illustrations and guaranteed to keep kids occupied for hours and hours, Bet You Didn’t Know is the perfect holiday gift for the fact-lover or for your kid’s favorite teacher’s classroom. Did you know that the first stop signs were black and white? Or that a litter of kittens is called a kindle? Or that butterflies can see more colors than humans can?  Based on a favorite department in Nat Geo Kids magazine, this book is overflowing with fascinating facts, silly stats, and catchy little knowledge nuggets in all kinds of cool categories, from astronomy and sea creatures to revolutions and breakfast. Special features include Extreme Weirdness, Strange Places, Wacky World, and more."

Note: My copy of Bet you didn't know! was supplied by the book's publicist.

*As always, I make no promises that I will review books that I receive, and I receive no remuneration for books that I review for my blog.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Lit - a review

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult
Written and read by Bruce Handy
HighBridge Audio, 2017

Some unsolicited gift advice for you today. 🎁

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Wild Things for AudioFile Magazine

Usually, I'm a proponent of using your local library, however, if your holiday gift list includes a youth services librarian, you might want to buy this one!

Click any of the links to read my review of this Earphones Award winner in AudioFile Magazine

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 ...