Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Patti's best of 2011

Here are my favorites of 2011 in no particular order. All were published in 2011 unless otherwise noted. I only read about 85-90 books this year. I did however, watch a crap-load of TV and if anyone is interested, I recommend Luther and Monday Monday.

Young Adult:

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Blood Red Road by Moira Young


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Robopocolypse by Daniel H Wilson
(I can't help it, it was so much fun. Plus I just like to say Robopocolypse)

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
(not published in 2011, but I really liked it. I liked it so much I've read the entire series now and can't wait until the DVD comes out so I can watch it)

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
(also not 2011, but I read it because it was a 2011 Alex Award book)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

William C. Morris Finalists Announced

Image and text copied from ALA website (Note two of them are on our Mock Printz!):

The 2012 finalists are:

  • "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" written by Rae Carson
  • "Paper Covers Rock" written by Jenny Hubbard
  • "Under the Mesquite" written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
  • "Between Shades of Gray" written by Ruta Sepetys
  • "Where Things Come Back" by John Corey Whaley

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin

Please note that this is posted for our Mock Printz discussion.

I find it incredibly hard to discuss non-fiction. Maybe because I don't read it often? Regardless, here are my thoughts, disjointed though they may be, on Flesh & Blood So Cheap.

Very good narrative non-fiction. The author manages to write not only an incredibly interesting and historically accurate story, but infuses it with an appropriate level of drama. You want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next.

I was very impressed with how he started with the setting of the day of the fire as well as a major player and then backed up to give the fantastically interesting historical background to the Triangle Fire. Never during this portion does the reader loose sight of the goal, which is the understanding of how something like the Triangle Fire happened.

The photos were really well done. They related to the text and the blurbs underthem helped to tie them back to specific paragraphs. The photos were clear and helped to underscore important facts, people, and events.

I enjoyed how the author went some extra steps to include the origins of sayings that were pertinent to the story. Such as "beyond the pale" (p.15). He did this quite a bit with colloquialisms too, which was very enjoyable.

The writing after the scene of the Triangle Fire was perhaps a bit anti-climatic. How could it not be? It was about laws that came into place. I think the author's writing fell apart a bit during this portion. Or maybe it is just a drier subject.

My biggest complaint? Sweatshops were catagorically wrong and bad for people in the first part of the book. When explaining that sweatshops still exist in America the author was sort of factual, and when he got to sweatshops in other parts of the world he turned downright apologetic. They were no longer categorically wrong - they were written about as not totally awesome, but still pretty good. Better to work in a sweatshop than in the hot, hot sun in a rice paddy! Really? Are you serious?

It was a bit sickening. I think instead the author should have spoken about how western consumerism and weak international laws create situations where sweatshops not only still exist, but are allowed to flourish. This, to me, is why the book probably won't win any major prizes.

My other major complaint is the use of "for" to start waaaay too many sentences. For when authors use for, the reader can get annoyed.

Mock Printz Titles:

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
(Patti's 1st review)
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
(Patti's review)
Berlin Boxing Club - Robert Sharenow
(Patti's 1st review)
Blood Red Road - Moira Young
(Patti's 1st review)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
(Joanna's review)
Divergent - Veronica Roth
(Patti's 1st review, 2nd review)
Everybody Loves the Ants - A.S. King
(Patti's 1st review)
Flesh and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Legacy - Albert Marrin
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
(Patti's review)
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley
(Patti's 1st Review, 2nd review)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Please note that this is posted for our Mock Printz discussion and will have spoilers and pertinent plot points discussed.

First review here.

So this one is popping up a lot. Someday My Printz will Come just reviewed it and had some fairly substantial problems with the book.

I will freely admit that I loved this book. It really struck an emotional chord with me, which only deepened on my second read. I think it is extraordinary in every way. Maybe not flawless, but extraordinary nevertheless.

Cullen was such a strong character and I found him to be a compelling narrator. What I noticed my second time through was that his tendency to switch into third person was a way to disassociate himself from his painful emotions. His drifting into daydreams was a survival mechanism he employed during the most horrible summer of his life. On the second read, the switch from 1st to 3rd person narration wasn’t as jarring, in fact I could see it coming. It had a sort of pacing to it that I found I really enjoyed.

Plot wise, not a lot happens and so this is, by no means, a fast novel. It meanders a bit with asides that sometimes tie into the main story and sometimes do not. Characters appear only to disappear only to reappear later. We definitely don’t get resolutions for each character, but that is as it should be – this is truly Cullen’s story, his relationship to Ada (or Alma) is inconsequential once Gabriel returns. To me, these were people he was distracting himself with. That sounds cold and makes Cullen sound calculating, which is not what I mean at all. Just that the real story is with his brother Gabriel, with Lucas, with his parents. The fact that we don’t know what happened to Ada and Russell isn’t terribly important.

Someday My Printz Will Come also mentioned the similarities between Cullen and Holden and yes, many many similarities stand out, not least being his use of “ass-hat” which mirrors Holden’s “phonies.” These are both boys on the brink of a breakdown, both boys who are desperately searching for themselves. Cullen I think, is more than just a re-written Holden though (not that she suggested that at all). Now, I may be wrong (loooong time since I’ve read Catcher in the Rye) but it seemed like Cullen was more grounded in community than Holden. Part of what I loved about this book was how loving and supportive Cullen’s friends and family were. Frankly, it was refreshing. They were loving despite the difficulties they were having themselves. Everyone was breaking down in their own way and yet the love and support was evident and relied upon by everyone. Part of this could be because Cullen was telling this as a memoir of sorts (we certainly never meet Dr. Webb in these pages despite the fact that he is mentioned quite a bit and that his healing influence on Cullen is evident from the beginning).

I also loved how Cullen initially struggled with the pity and the gestures of his fellow townspeople. He didn’t want a free burger from the burger joint, but understood the humanity behind it and why someone might offer up a burger instead of a hug. People want to help, they’re just not sure how to do it. I thought that was beautiful and a wonderful perspective on life. I think one of the things I enjoyed about this book so much was that it was so full of tenderness without being schmaltzy or saccharine.

The weakest part of this book? Maybe Cabot Searcy. Why did he become so obsessed? Why did he start such an odd religious quest? To me it seemed obviously he was deeply affected by his friend’s suicide. However, I did see changes in him that began before Benton’s death (his refocus on school and studying mainly, but also his desire to change the world). After Benton’s death, I can see how he changed his focus to attempt to discover basically the meaning of life and the potential of humankind. I can see how after another setback (the death of his unborn child and the impending divorce from Alma) how Cabot suffered a psychotic break. He was devastated. That is a lot of things to happen to a person and Cabot was in a fragile state. Did I think the author reached in his motivations? Maybe? I mean, it was a bit much. In the end though I bought Cabot’s motivations, or at least they didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of the story.

It is the way in which the separate storylines come together which really pushes this book into the forefront for me. Not only are the stories full of small interconnected gems, but the author also pushes the story by making the time-lines disparate so that the interconnectedness is hidden from the reader. I thought it was fantastic.

I loved how the very last title that Cullen wrote is the title for the book and so although throughout his teens he only wrote titles we have the satisfaction of knowing that he completed a goal set in his teens. So touching and I loved that it tied the ending of the story back to its beginning.

Mock Printz Titles:

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
(Patti's review)
Berlin Boxing Club - Robert Sharenow
(Patti's 1st review)
Blood Red Road - Moira Young
(Patti's 1st review)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
(Joanna's review)
Divergent - Veronica Roth
(Patti's 1st review, 2nd review)
Everybody Loves the Ants - A.S. King
(Patti's 1st review)
Flesh and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Legacy - Albert Marrin
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

US Cover
Okay, so it isn't out here yet, but I am thrilled to see it get a starred review in the Jan/Feb Horn Book!

I can't wait to read it.  Meg Rosoff always makes reading her books a fascinating journey. I know she's not everyone's cup o tea, but dang, I adore her books. And it is still listed as coming out on my birthday. All signs point to a great new year!

UK Cover (and it looks better, too, unless the dog is really a poodle)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Please note that this is posted for our Mock Printz discussion and will have spoilers and pertinent plot points discussed.

First review here.

On my second read the first thing I noticed is how well the author sets up all the major plot points in the book within the first few chapters. It is subtle and well integrated that I didn’t even realize that it was happening the first time I read, I was too busy being swept away by the story. We learn about the origins of Four, even though we don’t know enough to know what we’re learning. We learn about the factions and the stresses that are growing between them. We learn about the danger being a Divergent will bring, although not why or how or where.

I enjoyed the first person present tense. I enjoyed Tris’ perspective and her insecurities and feelings of inadequacies. Perhaps she picked up on things rather quickly and was rather tough for such a small person (but I’ve known some wicked mean-scary skinny people so…). I thought the characters were for the most part distinct and well developed, with there being enough building of the villains to keep them from being card-board cackling maniacs (except possibly Jeanine). And there was just the right amount of tension throughout the novel to keep you turning the pages.

Themes of friendship, morality, family (blood vs. faction were particularly strong), pride vs. bravery, forgiveness, and revenge ran through the novel.

Possible faults:

Tris’ romance with Four relied on some well-worn romantic tropes. He is distant, kindamaybe too perfect at everything he does, and has a mysterious past, is oh-so-strong and manages to come to the rescue at exactly the right time (ack!). And I would say that he has a secret soft side that only she sees (and then go barf), but I really think that we’re getting only Tris’ perspective and she only interacted with him as a trainer. However, when she saw him partying in public with his friends he was substantially different than in his role as trainer. Soooo, I bought that he was different in private. He was obviously different in public with his friends. I don’t know. I liked the romance regardless. I can’t help it.

The factions. Do they really make sense? I mean when you really think about them, does it make sense that people would organize themselves that way? I think the fact that they are crumbling doesn’t mean that their origins weren’t born out of noble aspirations. We know so little of what the cataclysmic event was that brought on this dystopian world (in my mind NOT a problem), that it is hard to know whether or not people would organize themselves this way. It seems to me we have a good idea of what their original purposes were and an even better idea of how far they have strayed from them. I don’t even mind that we don’t learn very much about 2 of the factions (Candor and Amity) since the sequel will have to be substantially different from this book and they could very well be explored there.

From the choosing ceremony on – the rate of healing was a little unbelievable. They cut their palms people and dribble blood – that hurts! And then you can't probably even pick up a pen. And I doubt it heals that fast. How deep did they cut it? Additionally, the beatings they took during Divergent initiation were brutal, yet they shuffled around and then sort of healed. And this is despite hospitalization... I dunno. It wasn't like it was over a period of months, it was at most two weeks.

The Simulations and the final test – the fear landscape. It seemed pretty clear that they weren’t directly connected. By that I mean, the simulations the initiates had when preparing for the final test, weren’t necessarily their fears. So why are Tris’ almost exactly the same as her practiced simulations? Four had four specific ones. They were directly related to his life. In real life he has a fear of heights. But birds pecking? The water tank? Peter burning her at the stake? In real life Tris does not have a fear of birds pecking her to death (etc.). At one point she wishes that she only had four fears to face, but she isn’t that brave. But. Um. Actually…no matter how you say it (powerless, weak, out of control) it is all basically the same thing. So if her one fear is powerlessness than how come she doesn’t just have one simulation? Why aren't more of hers related to her real life? Or is Tris just so damn bad-ass she really only has one fear?

And here is where my main problem comes. The very last simulation, where Tris sacrifices herself instead of shooting her family would have fairly screamed Divergent to the several leaders who were watching the whole freakin’ thing on a screen!

So, yeah, some potential issues. On the whole? I still loved it. I can't wait for the sequel.

Mock Printz Titles:

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
(Patti's review)
Berlin Boxing Club - Robert Sharenow
(Patti's 1st review)
Blood Red Road - Moira Young
(Patti's 1st review)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
(Joanna's review)
Divergent - Veronica Roth
(Patti's 1st review)
Everybody Loves the Ants - A.S. King
(Patti's 1st review)
Flesh and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Legacy - Albert Marrin
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley

Once Upon a Thread

Okay, this is another post for you crafters and kildit fans.

Patti turned me on to the website MADE (of course she's from Austin) which posted yesterday about Once Upon a Thread which I loveloveloved the last time they did it. OUT is sewing inspired by children's literature! 

It started Nov 14 with this cute skirt inspiration from the wonderful The Black Book of Colors. If you haven't read this book go check it out right now.

Nov 15 featured those adorable overalls from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Nov 16 was making your own Pigeon from the Mo Willems series.

Nov 17 created a transportation tote inspired by School Bus and I Love Planes!

Today, November 18, is inspired by Caps for Sale. How fantastic are these hats?!

The fun continues until November 24. Check out and contribute to the Flikr Group.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 NBA Winner Announced

Congratulations to the 2011 NBA winner for Young People's Literature!

I loved this story and I'm pleased to see it acknowledged. Let the award season get under way!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Please note that this is posted for our Mock Printz discussion and may have spoilers and pertinent plot points discussed.

The first time I read Imaginary Girls I was struck by how tense the atmosphere was. It was creepy and there was an ever-increasing feeling of dread. It felt a bit otherworldly maybe? Only because you know Ruby has some sort of power, but what that power is exactly is or where (or who?) it comes from is mysterious and murky.

On my second read I picked up more on the intense pressure that Chloe is under to stay on Ruby's good side. For all she tells us that she's the only one that Ruby really loves, she's awfully quick to make sure she doesn't have to find out the alternative. Chloe also regularly informs us that she doesn't always do everything Ruby says. She tells us this over and over and over until finally on page 217 when she finally admits that she does, in fact, do everything Ruby says. It is at this exact point where Ruby shifts in Chloe's perspective and starts to get downright menacing.

Because, let's not fool ourselves, Ruby is cruel. She uses people to her own ends. Picks them up and discards them at random. Seemingly forcing them to do her will. Some of it is just manipulation, no special powers needed (like getting the boy to drive to NYC to get her cheesecake), but then she does seem to have powers over London. She suggests something and London does it. People seem to worship her in a way that isn't quite natural, even for a mean-girl ruler of the town.

What was the real catalyst for the change in Chloe's perspective? Was it the two year separation where Chloe was free from Ruby's influence? Was it Owen, the boy she's always liked and been forbidden to have. Was it London's closeness with her sister? Or was it the memories that are fighting their way to the surface?

So what makes this book special? In my mind it is the ever-growing sense of dread the starts at the beginning and increases through the book. The scene where Chloe gets closer to the town line the talk becomes increasingly crass and mean about her sister and London starts to get vicious until they become physical and then London just completely disappears and no one notices but Chloe was one of the spookiest, creepiest scenes I have ever read. Truly there is a sphere of influence that Ruby is able to control and that sphere is shrinking.

This author can turn a phrase too. The writing was downright beautiful at times. And really fresh.

“I remembered a night two years ago, on the rocks at the edge of the reservoir, a night I’d stuffed up in a paper bag crumpled up inside a sock that I’d balled up and shoved far in the back drawer of my mind, where the worst things go.”

What could have been improved? Frankly, I would have liked a little more tie-in with the stories of Olive. They were totally freakin' creepy and I liked them, but every time we came up to an Olive story I couldn't help but feel there were parallels that were "supposed" to explain things...but didn't actually explain them. While the author had me convinced that Ruby had a sphere of influence, she did not convince me about the people of Olive. And that made me a little sad. I really liked thinking they were down there.

Overall, I think it is a good book. I am not sure it held up as well on the re-read as I would have liked.

Mock Printz Titles:

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
(Patti's review)
Berlin Boxing Club - Robert Sharenow
(Patti's 1st review)
Blood Red Road - Moira Young
(Patti's 1st review)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
(Joanna's review)
Divergent - Veronica Roth
(Patti's 1st review)
Everybody Loves the Ants - A.S. King
(Patti's 1st review)
Flesh and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Legacy - Albert Marrin
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley

Kids with Glasses in Books

Today I'm back with another post about a useful resource for librarians, teachers, parents, and caregivers. My littlest dude wears glasses. He started wearing them when he was 2 and I never really noticed before but there aren't many babies and toddlers in glasses. Case in point - people would stop and ask me why he wears glasses and how it was determined at such a young age that he needed them.*

With this new adventure, I set out to learn about kids in glasses and had the wonderful fortune of finding an excellent and informative community called Little Four Eyes. Bonus: it's founded and managed by a librarian. 

Little Four Eyes has a resource page of books depicting children in glasses and other vision needs. Please check it out for your own collection development.

If you're in a library, you probably have the winner of the 2011 Schneider Family Book Award, The Pirate of Kindergarten,  which tells the story of a girl with glasses and an eye patch. What else do you have? What are we missing on this page?

This recent picture book by one of my favorite illustrators caught my eye:
Big Little Brother by Kevin Kling and illustrated by Chris Monroe

Check out the group's active Facebook and Pintrest pages.

*In our case, he has congenital unilateral cataract. His lens was removed when he was 1 and he currently wears a contact lens with glasses to improve his vision. For more info: Aphakia and Aphakic Yahoo Group.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

SLJ Mock Newbery

Oh fun, the list is up!

I love this mismatch of titles - from picture book to YA and nonfiction.

I feel so accomplished that I've read so many. I need to check out The Trouble with May Amelia, I Broke My Trunk, and Heart and Soul. My library does not have The Money We'll Save ... yet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Please note that this is posted for our Mock Printz discussion and may have spoilers and pertinent plot points discussed.

It is 1941 and WWII is raging, but this is a very different story than what we’re used to hearing about. It is about the murder and forced removal of anyone (woman, man, child) who was labeled anti-soviet. Lina is 15 when her family is told they have 20 minutes to pack a bag and leave their house. Her family along with thousands of others are herded into boxcars. Those that survive the three week journey end up in Siberia.

The strength in this novel, besides telling a story that is largely unknown, is Lina's voice. It is strong and powerful and descriptive right from the first page. The sentences are short, almost staccato. Her story is very matter of fact, and the narrative flows regardless. This is some very impressive storytelling.

The language was very evocative and descriptive without being flowery. Many chapters, especially in the beginning end with extremely powerful declarative statements. “It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade.” or “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.” This peters out a bit after the first quarter of the book, but by then you've been drawn into the story and won't be able to put it down.

Chapters are fairly episodic and we move back and forth between the present and flashbacks of Lina’s life before. It is through these flashbacks that we are given hints into why the family was deported, what life was like before, etc. Each flashback is tied very well into the current narrative and I did not find them to be jarring or distracting to the story. In fact, they often shed light onto what is going on in the present as Lina processes her surroundings.

Themes of survival, holding onto one's humanity, compassion, and the importance of hope run deep in this novel. The author is unrepentant and honest in the horrors that these people suffer, but also is quick to show that even our enemies have a humanity that must be honored.

Things that struck me: Lina's mother putting on her lipstick when they finally emerge from the box car, holding onto normalcy in a most abnormal and savage environment and then realizing how her lipstick might draw the wrong attention and subtly trying to wipe it off before she's noticed. The compassion between prisoners as they help each other survive. The horrendous trip to Siberia in a boxcar.

The most interesting comparison with the other Mock Printz books is with Berlin Boxing Club. Both protagonists are artists, one author chose to show artwork, one did not. Which one was more powerful? In my opinion one does not need to show the actual artwork, for it to be believable that the protagonist is an artist. In fact, i think it worked against Berlin Boxing Club. I didn’t feel that the art and the text matched up. I didn’t feel an increase in artist talent even though the book spanned several years. By not showing the art in Between, we have to take the author’s word for it. And the author was very convincing using Munch, flashbacks, and current events to prove the artistic talent of Lena. I liked how the theme of art as survival was incorporated into the story line with coded letters and coded artwork being passed between prisoners and between camps sharing knowledge and information.

Mock Printz Titles:

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
Berlin Boxing Club - Robert Sharenow
(Patti's review)
Blood Red Road - Moira Young
(Patti's review)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
(Joanna's review)
Divergent - Veronica Roth
(Patti's review)
Everybody Loves the Ants - A.S. King
(Patti's review)
Flesh and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Legacy - Albert Marrin
Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
(Patti's review)
Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley

What We're Reading at Our House - 5

I'm going to cram this post with our list of reads over the past month. Thanks to encouragement from his friends at school, my son discovered that he isn't afraid of Goosebumps after all and has embarked on a steady diet of RL Stine for 2 months. He has taken a few breaks.

Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Harry Bliss
Thumbs up from 8 year old and there's more on the way.  Emily Jenkins (e. lockhart) is so reliable.  We ate a lot of ice cream while reading it. Hey, a mom has to do what a mom has to do to make it a complete reading experience.

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight
I picked this out for my son because it is part comic, part chapter book. He enthusiastically approved of my choice although the reading level falls a little below what he normally reads. Still, a fun book is a fun book! We'll get the next one at our next library visit.

Saxby Smart Private Detective in The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire and Pictures by RW Alley
My 3 year old picked this off of the JFic shelves at our library and said it was for his brother. He picked a good one! Mysteries are generally a sure-fire hit and this met with approval. There are 3 stories in this volume and the reader is given clues to figure out the mystery.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Yes, it is good. So far I've seen it on both Caldecott and Newbery lists. 8 year old had no interest in reading it.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I love a book that is a learning experience and offers another perspective on WW2, which are stories I generally avoid because the truth of the stories wrecks me. When her family is taken in the night and she is in her nightgown you know that it isn't going to be well and it's not a short trip. Take your boots! Your jackets! Omg there's a woman with a newborn?! Nooooo!!! I did find it very hard to believe that no one opened that suitcase earlier. Also, an epilogue. Another highly buzzed book by a first time author.

Junonia by Kevin Henkes
A sweet, simple story for the younger set. I loved Alice Rice, which rhymes with nice. Alice is a sensitive girl who feels change keenly and events leading up to her 10th birthday are not what she anticipated. The more I think about this one the more I like it. Younger books are overlooked by committees, but there is sophistication in this short story. (And it also takes place not far from where I grew up in Florida.)

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan

I have to say that this book let me down. Such a great title, too! British rule of India and the rise of Gandhi are certainly interesting and exciting topics. My disinterest came when Rosy went back to England and met up with her Aunt Louise. I would have preferred more India, Isha, the ophanage, and the Club.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Strange Dees, Indeed

Taking a break from books for a moment. I'd like to talk about music. Music for kids, specifically. Music that grown-ups will also rock out to.

I'll also add that the band, Brooklyn-based The Deedle Deedle Dees, are friends of mine so this is more than just a professional recommendation. 

That being said, Holy Cow Readers, check this album out! The cover alone should spark your interest.

If you are a teacher or librarian this CD, like their others, is an excellent addition to your classroom or library. The Dees often write about history, science, famous people, nature, and current events. Pair the songs with books or offer them as a supplement to your lesson plan. Or listen along with your kids and together take the time to learn more about a song's inspiration. Or just listen and enjoy. There's not another band like them writing or performing for kids.

The new album, Strange Dees, Indeed, is now available as a physical package and as a digital download at CDBaby, Amazon, iTunes, and many other outlets.  You can find the band on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Here's a very informative press release for Strange Dees, Indeed. The band tours often to schools, libraries, and museums close to NY, but also travel down here to Florida with stops along the way. Last year they played for my son's entire elementary school.

But back to books! Here's a brief list of books to read along with the new album.

Cool Papa Bell - We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson
Penny Farthing - Around the World by Matt Phelan (and video of The Dees singing about Nelly Bly, also in the book!)
Birds of American Don't Care-Oh - Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt*
Phineas Gage Has Something to Tell These People - Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman
Sojourner Truth - Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell and R. Gregory Christie

***Nov 17 Update: Just saw Betty Carter's review of SUBWAY STORY which is perfect for the song "Bluebird>Redbird, Redbird>Reef"!

*It's killing me. I feel like I came across another book for kids featuring Audubon's birds earlier this year. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November is Picture Book Month

Check out the great website for daily information about celebrating the picture book!

Stay tuned for posts about picture books here on Oops!

And also, Behold The Proclamation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mock Printz - Titles Released

Drumroll please:

  1. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
  2. Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
  3. Berlin Boxing Club - Robert Sharenow
  4. Blood Red Road - Moira Young
  5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
  6. Divergent - Veronica Roth
  7. Everybody Loves the Ants - A.S. King
  8. Flesh and Blood so Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Legacy - Albert Marrin
  9. Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
  10. Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley
We've reviewed quite a few of these on here already this year, but where it will get interesting (at least for me) is when we go back and re-read them and then re-review them and see how a closer reading changes what we feel about the book. Because it always does.

One other thing to note is that we removed OK for Now by Gary Schmidt. It was chosen for our system's Mock Newbery as well and so to keep the discussion fresh, we removed the title from our list.

Hope you'll read along with us!

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Lovely Surprise, Part 2

Happy Halloween!

Patti and I were tagged by our blog friend Dog Ear as one of her 5 selections for a Liebster Award which highlights blogs with less than 200 subscribers. We'd like to pass on the goodness by recognizing 5 more blogs. Thank you, Dog Ear!

Printz Picks : Mock Printz discussions. What's not to love here?

Pinot and Prose : This blog is by a former library marketer turned freelancer and food writer. Laura mostly writes about food, so take a break from all your book blogs and let your eyes feast on this one.

Awesome Storytime : This one is a storytime treasure! Librarian, teacher, parent - so many good ideas here.

BookMoot : A long-time kidlit blogger. Camille is a Texas school librarian.

Bookish : A newish blog on the book scene. Check them out.

The award requirements:
  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal your 5 picks on your blog with links.
  • Let the winners know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the reward on your blog.
(A Lovely Surprise, part 1)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I May Not Have Been Posting, but I Have Been Reading

A ton of books. A ton! And some were real stinkers. Let's recap (briefly and in reading order):

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
In my official reviewing capacity, I would classify this book as "OK." I really like curmudgeons and there was a great one in this book. The ending was far fetched and ridiculous, but the book overall was entertaining enough. The setting was great.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
If you're looking for a romance with no sexual tension between a bossy vampire with no personality and a witch who could be interesting, but isn't. Well, this is the book for you! There were some disturbing parallels to Twilight. He sneaks in her window and smells her (*shudder*) she falls in love with him, his incredible need to protect her makes him so angry (so angry!) that sometimes he just can't take it. And they never have sex. Never. And it is really, really long.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
This was really fun. I loved Rory, she was just a real appealing character. Loved the idea and setting. Wished there was more to it. I know it is the first in a series, but I didn't get a good enough sense of "why" to make me want to tune in for more. I reserve the right to change my mind though.

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
A Scandinavian police mystery where a cop has gotten shot and his bad attitude gets him hidden away in a newly created "Department Q" which will focus on cold cases. This was much lighter than Steig Larsson (thankfully - who could take more of his horrors?) and I had totally figured out what happened about half way through, but it was fun. I really liked Carl the cop and I would tune in again to find out more about his mysterious assistant Assad.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Hi, Liz, I'm Joanna and I read the end of books, too.

It's funny because I haven't done that in a long while.


I did it with 2 books back-to-back this month because I just couldn't take the suspense and had to just flip ahead a bit in the story and see if my characters were gonna make it.

This week: Blood Red Road (C'mon, Emmi, c'mon! - I'm still reading it.)
Last week: The Night Circus (Bailey! Poppet!)

Feels good to let that out.

I tend to read quickly as it is and when I'm anxious about the story I really read fast. Doing my flip check can slow me down and let me enjoy the story better. And I'm a total chicken. I don't like when bad things happen! Just tell me so I can prepare! Readers, haven't you noticed that Patti writes all the reviews for zombies and people back from the dead? No. Thanks.

Now, I'll have to think about when I've read a book that I've flipped and then quit because I didn't like what happened. That's the kicker.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris

A few years ago I was looking for an early chapter book for my son. I read a review of the first book for the series (Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great) in Horn Book and checked it out at the library. The adventures of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table was a new subject for my son and one I thought would greatly appeal to his Star Wars/pirate obsession. My husband read him the first book that year and last year he read the second book himself (The Adventures of Sir Givret the Short).

This week I read Heavy Medal's post by Jonathan Hunt regarding the newest adventure, Sir Gawain the True, as a fine example of a distinguished early reader and a series book that stands alone.  As it happens my son just finished reading Sir Gawain and it is in our library bag waiting to be returned. Perfect timing.

These books are funny, the narrator occasionally speaks directly to the reader, and there's head chopping and jousting. Okay, Morris also uses these stories to highlight elementary age character building themes like being a good friend, using manners (!!), and keeping your word. These are good things and the author easily brings them up within the context of the story.  I enthusiastically recommend these books. They also make a fun family read aloud if the reading level is above your child's, .

P.S. Aaron Renier illustrates this series. You may know him from his 2010 graphic novel The Unsinkable Walker Bean.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas Book Festival 2011

This weekend is the Texas Book Festival. While I won't be there I know many friends who will and I will just have to live vicariously through their updates.

There are so many wonderful events, but this one has my vote for most awesome. It's IN the STATE CEMETERY with YA AUTHORS. Our super friend/colleague Kathleen is hosting. Expect nothing short of amazing.

Happy Book Fest, Y'all!

A Convergence of Souls

a collaboration with Austin Bat Cave featuring the Festival's young adult writers

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 9:00 - 9:45
Location: Lit Crawl: Texas State Cemetery

What’s spookier than a slew of the nation’s finest young adult authors all gathered together in one place? Well, a lot actually – that sounds downright pleasant. But did we mention they’re gathering in the Texas State Cemetery, where the hallowed graves of countless former statesmen (and sometime ghosts) pass their grim vigil? OK, so it might be more than a little spooky, but terror aside, this collection of sheer talent should make for a rather fun evening. You’ll get to meet the writers (listed below), hear them talk about their newest books, and maybe even watch them compete for literary glory. And don’t worry, we promise to keep the prospect of your looming mortality to, you know, a minimum. Bring a blanket and flashlight!

Authors:Jennifer Ziegler
Margaret Stohl
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Joe Schreiber
Alex Sanchez
Louis Sachar
David Rice
Kathy Reichs
Shelia P. Moses
Barry Lyga
David Levithan
Joe R. Lansdale
Ellen Hopkins
Kami Garcia
Sarah Dessen
James Dashner
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Libba Bray
Chris Barton
Jay Asher
Jessica Lee Anderson
Jill S. Alexander
Emceed By: Kathleen Houlihan

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Könnecke

We celebrated my son's 3rd birthday this week and he received this book for his birthday. I put it on a wish list as soon as I read Jules of 7-Imp's review over at Kirkus and hoped someone would pick it out. (Thanks, Astrid!) I adored the previous book Anthony and the Girls when it came out in 2006 and I constantly put it on display at my library so it would get noticed.

The cover is fantastic. There's Anton twirling his magic wand at a slightly perplexed bird while he holds up his "real" magic hat. How can you resist?

Anton tries working his magic (wiggling his fingers thus causing his hat to fall over his eyes) to make things disappear - with some funny success that kids will enjoy. Did the bird disappear or did it just fly away? And does he have the power to make it reappear? What's a real magician to do?

The simple text relies on the images to tell the other part of the story. Check this one out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 National Book Awards - Young People's Literature

Oh, the first of the big lists! Once again it is another eclectic mix o stuff. And so my list of books to read grows and grows.

Franny Billingsley, Chime
(Dial, an imprint of Random House)

Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy
(Marshall Cavendish)

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again [my review]
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

Lauren Myracle, Shine
(Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS)

Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now [my review]*
(Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Young People’s Literature Judges: Marc Aronson (Panel Chair), Ann Brashares, Matt de la Peña, Nikki Grimes, Will Weaver

Also, note that John Corey Whaley's selection as a 5 under 35 honoree. Nice! See Patti's review here.

*I saw a tweet a couple months ago by Matt de la Peña where he said he wanted to buy Gary D Schmidt a beer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Wow. So it's October. Between family travel and a lightning zap to my computer, I missed posting on one of my favorite books of the year: Laini Taylor's  Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

It lives up to the hype.

Some of my sticky note thoughts.

1. Irresistible character names = immediate draw to the novel. Karou, Madrigal, Razgut, Akira, Thiago, BRIMSTONE, Issa, Twiga, Yasri, Chiro, Hazael, Liraz
2. The premise of an angel and a devil (chimaera) falling in love. Plus the promise of the intro page that states: "It did not end well."
3. Taylor's sense of place. All the travel to real places as well as her created ones. Prague really held no interest to me until I read this. Same with goulash, which yes still sounds like not my thing but then, dang, Karou and Zuzana ate it a lot...
4. at the genius place called Poison Kitchen and the Pestilence statue! Gray, cold, spooky, funky, and in Laini Taylor fashion - hilarious ... as further evidenced by...
5. Page 22 (of the ARC) brings the true wisdom: Brimstone's sex talk. I think "inessential penises" will be the foundation of my talk with my kids as well.

This is a dreamy, tense, violent, smouldering love story. Many of the same elements that made Lips Touch extraordinary.

Finally, If you aren't already following Laini's blog  you should. She posts about home design and decor as well as writing tips and strategies. Plus, lots of adorableness by way of her daughter. It's one of my favorites.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

I have such a hard time picking up stories set during WWII. I just do. I know BAD things are going to happen and I just don’t want to go there. I get so depressed reading them and having to re-experience all the horrible things human beings do to each other. And it doesn’t help that so many of them are really well written and so compelling that I can’t even put them down. This one was no exception (and if you're wondering why I picked it up despite all that, it is because this is a possible Mock Printz title).

Karl doesn’t consider himself Jewish. His family are atheists, he does not go to a religious school, he doesn’t even look “Jewish” which allows him a level of religious anonymity that he embraces. But when the Nazi party rises to power things begin to change. At first Karl embraces the changes, he even agrees with some of the things said about Jewish people.

This, of course, all comes to a stop when he is identified as a Jew at school. He is taunted and bullied and he is enraged and confused. After a particularly horrible incident, fate steps in the form of Max Schmeling, a boxing champion, who agrees to train Karl in exchange for a portrait that Karl’s father owns. Karl’s boxing training is used effectively as a metaphor throughout the book.

We get to experience the tightening up of German society through the eyes of Karl who is a very observant teen even if he doesn’t understand all the complexities at first glance. His experience is juxtaposed with his sister’s much harsher treatment as a kid who looked “Jewish.” This adds to his guilt and confusion. As do the various responses to Nazi propaganda from the people around him. What becomes of people you thought were friends? Who can you trust? Who is honorable? And what would you do when faced with these difficult choices?

In the book Karl is an artist with an interest in cartooning and his cartoons are interspersed throughout the book. I have to be honest, they were my least favorite part of the book. I think that his interest in cartooning would have been equally effective without the drawings. Or maybe I just have drawing fatigue. Either way, I wasn’t impressed.

The secondary characters were really good. I especially enjoyed the Countess and the men at the boxing gym. Friends come in unlikely places.

An excellent historical fiction.

Book Source = Tayshas Review Copy

A Lovely Surprise

Very big thanks to Caressa and Rae at Bookish who awarded us with a Versatile Blogger award. It sure is nice to be thought of!

Here are the Rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the award to you.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Give the award to 15 other bloggers.

Here are some fun facts about me. Joanna, I hope you edit this post and add some about yourself:

1. Until recently I had never heard of a Canadian Tuxedo, despite of (or maybe because?) having grown up in Canada.

2. I love black licorice.

3. My brother and I used to crank call each other and say, "hello, my name is Trina." And it cracked us up. Every. Single. Time. It still does. I have no idea why.

Joanna signing in for duty. Thanks, Bookish!

4. I think I can say that Patti and I both had zero interest in storytimes until we had our sons and discovered that yes, yes we really do want to shake our sillies out.

5. Growing up in Florida I used to hate Disney. Now I am such a sucker for it. See Hidden Mickeys.

6. I can't get past my childish prejudice towards blue cheese.

7. In high school my parents said, "You should be a librarian. You'd like it." I said, "Yeah, right." (insert exaggerated teenage eye roll)

Thanks Bookish!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Other Mock Printz Reading

We are still deciding on 5 more titles for the Mock Printz. Here, in short, is some of what is being discussed:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Um, well, Libba Bray I love. This book I did not. I thought it was a bit of a slog, which surprised me. I love feminist plots, I love the idea of a bunch of beauty queens washed up on a deserted tropical island having to use their smarts to fight for survival. But it was just too much for me. The girls blended into each other (I had to remember states and names? Oy!) Don't get me wrong, there were parts I liked, but subtle it was not. It does have the best cover of the year hands down though.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

This was a trippy little book. I remember telling someone when I was three quarters of the way through that I would either love it or develop a murderous rage when I got to the ending. It turns out that I sided more on the side of love even though I did not get the explanation I wanted. It was enough to satisfy me. This book was a tense read. The entire time I felt tense and I couldn't put it down. What exactly was Ruby really doing? She was such an interesting character and her influence did seem otherworldly. Or were we just getting Chloe's warped perspective? I feel like this one would make for interesting discussion.

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

I really enjoyed this. Set on Coney Island and full of Coney Island lore. At its base is a regular coming of age story of a girl who comes into her own and learns where she belongs. The setting is really what sets this apart. A more interesting cast of characters I don't believe you've ever found in a teen book. And what I liked most is that they were characters and didn't turn into caricatures. As much as I enjoyed it, I'm not sure it stands out enough for the Mock Printz.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard about this one. I really didn't feel up to a Frankenstein rehash. Luckily, this was something else entirely. It was more of a story of young Frankenstein's youth. And his youth, as you can imagine, was out of the ordinary. This is a story that is filled with adventure, jealousy, secret plotting, and best of all alchemy. Of all the potental titles I've been reading lately, I feel like this one is probably the strongest with plotting.

Book Source = Tayshas Committee Copies