Wednesday, February 1, 2012

SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books

For the past several years, School Library Journal has hosted the Battle of the Kids' Books, and this year's contenders were announced today. I follow along each year, but usually have only read about half the titles. This year, I've decided I'm going to have all the books read by the time the competition starts in March, and make my picks. The best thing about this battle is reading what authors think of these books - their insightful, eloquent, sometimes humorous reviews. Check out the website and follow along!

I'm currently reading an adult mystery - Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson. So far, I'm loving it and will tell you more about it when I've finished. I'm also listening to Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, which was just announced as an Odyssey Award Honor audiobook. I read the book back in April, and after following all the discussions on the Heavy Medal blog, I kept meaning to re-read it, and listening to the audiobook seemed to be the perfect idea. The narrator, Lincoln Hoppe, is amazing, and even though I know what's coming, I'm so completely drawn into Doug's story all over again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quick Thoughts on the ALA Youth Media Awards

You can find all the winners on the ALA website, but here are some of my first impressions. I was able to attend the announcements this morning, and it was exciting!

The Newbery went to Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, which I mentioned briefly in a recap.

I LOVED this! The characters and the setting are so wonderfully created, and it's oh-so funny. What I loved, definitely outweighed the problems...that being said, I thought it was a surprise win.

The Robert F. Sibert Medal, for the most distinguished informational book for children, went to Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet.

Truly, I loved everything about this book!

One more book I really want to mention: See Me Run by Paul Meisel is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book, a distinguished beginning reader.

I actually first read this in the Holiday House (the publisher of this title) booth yesterday. Honestly, I picked it up because, cute dogs on the cover! I made a note of it, to find a copy and review it later because I thought it was so good. It's bigger in size than the typical beginning reader, and it has full-page color illustrations, yet the text is very much that of an easy reader. And while it has some repetition in it, it's not overkill. It's funny, and it has a cute ending, and I am so glad it was recognized. It's part of a new series from Holiday House, I Like To Read. This is the only book in the series that I've read, but I'm eager to look for more.

I have had Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley sitting in my TBR pile since reading this review by Patti at Oops...Wrong Cookie. Which she wrote back in August! I keep renewing the book and not reading it, and I'm not sure why. But, now that it has won both the Printz Award, for excellence in literature written for young adults, and the William C. Morris Award, for a debut book published by a first time author writing for teens, and I got to hear Whaley accept the Morris Award this morning, it's what I'm reading tonight. Tonight!

What didn't win...I really expected Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt to get a Newbery Honor, and I'm surprised Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming didn't get any awards, but you never really know what goes on in the deliberation process.

What were you excited to see win this year?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paisley's Pick: Waiting for the Magic

Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan
illustrated by Amy June Bates
Atheneum, 2011

It's been awhile since I've had a Paisley's pick...and this book was an unexpected delight. It seems rare these days for me to pick up a book I haven't heard anything about, and this one was totally off my radar until it happened across my desk.

It's the summer before fifth grade when William's father goes away.
"He is a teacher of literature at the college, so he could have said words when he left. He didn't. And this time he didn't slam the door. He shut it with a small, soft sound that made me jump." (p.1)
After he leaves, William's mother takes him and his four-year-old sister, Elinor,  to the pound to adopt a dog. They leave with four dogs and a cat. Elinor is the first to realize the animals can talk. Now, that could easily take the story in a hokey direction, but it works. And one of the reasons is because the dogs' voices are spot on - they're short and to the point, and sound exactly like a dog would sound.

On page 76, when William's father is back, he is reading about dogs and says one of the things he learned is that chocolate is bad for dogs. One of the dogs, Neo, says, "I had a tiny taste of chocolate once. I took it off a table. And I didn't get sick." And another dog, Bryn, says, "I used to find M&M's in the cushions of the couch when I was fast enough." This is real! These are things my dog would say if she could talk!

The other things I really appreciate about this book is that when the father comes back, and it's not an easy adjustment. We see him work to fit back into the family, and we see William struggle his return. Kids know that sorry isn't always enough, and that it doesn't always automatically make things better, and we see the gradual changes and acceptance. It does end happily, and with everyone in the family able to hear the animals talk.

Amy June Bates has created delightful illustrations to accompany the story, and they're sprinkled throughout the book.

For grades 3-5, probably the younger end
Reviewed from library copy

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Good Resource for Picture Books

The 2012 2x2 Reading List has been announced. It's a selection of titles for kids age 2 through 2nd grade. It's always got a wide variety of titles, and I think it's always interesting to see because there's a pretty big difference between a 2 year old and a second grader.

Some of these, such as Blackout by John Rocco and Red Sled by Lita Judge, are books I'm still anxiously waiting for at my library. (Honestly, Red Sled is not even listed in the catalog as being on order...I can't figure that out...Obviously, I don't do any ordering.)

I am incredibly excited to see these two titles about dogs on the list:

RRRalph by Lois Ehlert - a funny tale that reads like a joke. Also, I don't think you can go wrong with Lois Ehlert.

Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley, illustrated by Roberta Angaramo - a cute little dog tries to find the perfect pair of shoes. So fun!

If you're looking for good picture books, be sure to check out the rest of the list.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on the Comment Challenge

Yesterday was the first check in for the comment challenge. The goal is to leave five comments a day on blogs; I've averaged that. Some days I leave fewer, some days a few more. I'm impressed with the people that are leaving many more than that!

I've found some great new blogs to read, and I've loved getting comments on my blog! My additional challenge is trying to keep up with them and respond, but that's a good problem to have.

I read quite a few blogs before I started this challenge, and even before I started blogging. And while I knew there were tons of book blogs out there, this challenge has been a reminder of all the people that love reading and talking about books. Even though I spend my days in a library, it's sometimes easy to forget this...some days I have lots of people asking for books, and telling me about what they are reading, and other days it seems like all people want are dvds and help on the computer. (For the record - I totally don't have a problem with libraries circulating popular dvds, and I think - no, I know - there are so many people needing computers to use for homework and job searches and the library is their only option, and I'm glad that's a service we can provide. Just saying my job isn't always about books and reading.)

So whether you're blogging about picture books or young adult titles, or writing books, whether you're blogging about your personal reading or about getting books in the hands of kids, it's both wonderful and refreshing to see so many people passionate about reading and sharing that passion with others. It's been an additional benefit of this challenge to see and be reminded of all that enthusiasm for reading.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster, 2010

This is one of the books on the 2012 Lone Star Reading List, a list of 20 suggested titles for 6th, 7th and 8th graders, and before the list came out, it wasn't a book familiar to me. Always up for a good mystery, I quickly put it on hold at the library.

Twelve-year-old Teddy Fitzroy has a murder to solve. Henry the Hippo, the mascot of FunJungle, the huge. new impressive zoo where both of Teddy's parents work, has been found belly up in his pool. And, there is no shortage of people who are not exactly fans of Henry.

Teddy sneaks into the hippo's autopsy, which is how he discovers the hippo was murdered, something FunJungle is trying to cover up. He has attempts on his life, and finds himself working with the beautiful daughter of FunJungle's owner, although he's not always sure he can trust her. 

Gibbs used to work at the Philadelphia Zoo, and his knowledge of animals is evident. An engaging, strong mystery, I think the sprinkling of facts throughout this book may also help it appeal to readers who typically lean toward nonfiction. And, for the boys, there are several references to animal poop.

Reviewed from library copy

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Comment Challenge & A Few Goals

Lee Wind and MotherReader are hosting the 2012 Comment Challenge, and I'm excited to be participating. I read a lot of blogs, but am not very good at commenting. Hopefully, by the end of these three weeks, I'll have a new habit! I know I'll have new blogs to read - I've already found some great ones.

I've been blogging for about a year now, although sometimes sporadically. I have a bare bones blog. I'm thinking it might be nice to finally add an About Me page...maybe a blogroll of bookish places I go...we'll see what happens.

I've never really set reading goals before (with the exception of the summer in elementary school when I read 100 books and got a James Avery dangle ring), but I have three very different books I'm determined to get read this year.

  1. If you've been reading my blog, you may remember this post, when I re-read the first six Harry Potter books in about three weeks, and got pottered out. The whole reason I re-read them was so I'd be ready for the last one, which I still haven't read. I am going to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this year. Soon.
  2. I've always liked biographies, and I was a journalism major in college. I've been wanting to read Personal History by Katharine Graham, so much so that the not-small book has moved five times with me. I've finally decided this is the year.
  3. I've never read The Outsiders. Haven't seen the movie, either. Every year, when students come in looking for it, I decide I'm finally going to read it, but never do. And really, what finally made me decide to commit to reading it, was listening to Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell My Friends. (I'm not sure I would have stuck with the book, or maybe I'd just have skimmed, but I very much enjoyed listening to it on car trip. It is like Lowe is just right there, telling you these amazing stories.) Anyway, he talked a lot about the movie. This year, I'm going to read the book.
What about you? Do you set reading goals, or have any specific books you want to tackle this year?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Beautiful Picture

One of my little library friends (she's five or six) came in the other day. I was at the reference desk, and she asked me for some scratch paper so she could draw pictures of her friends, and then she drew this picture of me. (After she finished, she told me it looked like the Magic School Bus teacher.) I was a little worried when she told me I was playing cards on the computer, but then she said it was okay because it was a free day which meant I didn't have to do any work.

I told her I was going to put it on my desk in the back, and she told me I should take it home and put it on my wall. Then, she said, when everyone sees it, they will say (read this next part in your most dramatic voice), "Oh! What a beautiful picture!"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday, 2011

Have you read this yet? So, so good - my thoughts are still too jumbled to write a review that I think will give the book justice. It's incredibly imaginative...magical...completely engrossing. Bump it to the top of your TBR list if you haven't read it yet - you don't want to miss it!