Archive for January, 2013

Sonderbooks Stand-out Author: Mo Willems

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

After posting my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, I couldn’t help but notice that some names have come up again and again. So I’m doing a series of blog posts about those authors who have appeared on my Stand-outs lists before. And next up is Mo Willems, with a total of 8 Sonderbooks Stand-outs since 2003.

I discovered Mo with that wonderful classic, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus It of course was a 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-out, my top choice for Picture Books.

Unfortunately, my kids were too old to appreciate the full power of the pigeon books, but I remember in 2006 when I stayed for a month and a half with my friend, I got to pull them out and read them to her kids. They especially liked it when I read the temper tantrum page. Another Pigeon book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, made the 2006 Sonderbooks Stand-outs list, once again #1 for Picture Books.

In 2008, I met Elephant and Piggie, and fell in love. This time, Mo had not one but three 2008 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. Are You Ready to Play Outside? was #5 in Picture Books, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! was #6, and I Will Surprise My Friend! was #7. And I still like the essay I wrote about Are You Ready to Play Outside? and contentment (and, well, my ex-husband).

My 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs featured another Elephant and Piggie book at #3 in Picture Books, Pigs Make Me Sneeze! How I wish I’d had it back in the day when I taught Intro to Statistics! A picture book lesson that Correlation does not imply Causation! Yes!

My 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs had something new, a book written, but not illustrated, by Mo Willems, City Dog, Country Frog, which was #4 in Picture Books.

And finally, this year the Pigeon was back! In my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? delightfully played with the themes from all the previous Pigeon books and hit #2 in my Picture Books list.

Now, I may not have permanent MO graffiti on my blog like Mother Reader, but I’m definitely a huge fan. I think the man’s a genius, and I’ve found that if I want kids to enjoy a storytime, all I have to do is include a Mo Willems book. May he continue to be prolific! I have a feeling he’s going to feature on many lists to come.

Review of Green, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Green

by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2012. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Caldecott Honor Book

When I first read Green, I thought it was good, but didn’t give it a lot of attention. It grew on me. The exquisite craftsmanship with so many details in exactly the right place deserved another look.

The text is only two words per page, and the second word is always “green.”

We’ve got forest green, sea green, lime green, pea green, jungle green, khaki green, fern green, wacky green, and more. But there are imaginative, beautiful, and detailed paintings on each page, not the way you’d necessarily think those adverbs would go. And each page also has a die cut hole. The hole works in very different ways on both sides of the page, enhancing the picture both times.

This isn’t as much a book for sharing with a large group (though it would work that way) as it is for exploring one-on-one with a child. They will want to look at the pictures and at the way the die cuts work again and again. This book is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and a beautiful work of art. I’m so glad it won Caldecott Honor.

This is one that’s hard to describe with words. You need to check it out and look at it yourself. Then take another look. Better yet, let a child show you how fascinating it is.

mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/green.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Jasper Fforde Ffeature

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

I’ve been posting features about authors with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who had Stand-outs in previous years. I’ve already covered Shannon Hale and Sherwood Smith, so next up is Jasper Fforde, with a total of 9 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

I discovered Jasper Fforde in 2004, thanks to the recommendation of my friend Shannon. The first two books in the Thursday Next series were both 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Science Fiction and Fantasy, The Eyre Affair at #2, and Lost in a Good Book at #5.

I kept reading, and the next two Thursday Next books were 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. The third book, The Well of Lost Plots, was #4 in Science Fiction. The fourth book, Something Rotten, was #1 in Science Fiction.

And then he started writing the Nursery Crime series. The Big Over Easy, solving the mystery of who pushed Humpty Dumpty, was also a 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #7 in Mystery.

His next Nursery Crime book, The Fourth Bear was a 2006 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #5 in Mystery Fiction. Have I used the words “quirky” or “bizarre” yet in talking about Jasper Fforde? In this one, it appears there are not merely three bears.

It was back to the Thursday Next series in 2007, in fact with the book Thursday Next a 2007 Sonderbooks Stand-out. But that was the year I didn’t get all the Stand-outs reviewed, since I was dealing with little things like finding a job after my marriage fell apart and moving to the other side of the world and getting my Master’s in Library Science. But, yes, it was another wonderful addition to the series and was #5 in Fantasy Fiction.

In 2010, Jasper Fforde started another quirky and bizarre new series, which was a 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-out. The whole society is based on what colors people can see. (How does he come up with these ideas, anyway?) Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron was #7 in Fiction for adults.

And finally in 2012, he wrote a fantasy novel for teens, The Last Dragonslayer, which was a 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #10 in Teen Fiction.

There you have it, 9 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and I’ve only been reading his books since 2004. I highly recommend his books for any time you’re in the mood for clever, quirky, and bizarre. More bizarre than pretty much any other author you’d ever care to read. In a good way.

Review of Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Three Times Lucky

by Sheila Turnage

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. 312 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Newbery Honor Book

I didn’t read Three Times Lucky until 2013 had started, so it didn’t have a chance to be on my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I did read it in time for our library’s first Mock Newbery voting, and Three Times Lucky was our winner. It hadn’t gotten a lot of attention on the Heavy Medal blog, so I was thinking of it as kind of a longshot and was very happy when it achieved Newbery Honor.

Three Times Lucky has so much to like about it: Quirky characters in a Southern small town. A girl without parents who doesn’t know who they are (she was found in a hurricane). Good friends who get into scrapes and adventures. A hurricane and deadly peril. And, oh yes, a murder mystery. With meddlesome kids.

The first paragraph gives you the flavor of the book:

Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt. Almost before the dust had settled, Mr. Jesse turned up dead and life in Tupelo Landing turned upside down.

Mo LoBeau was named Moses because she was “taken out of the water.” She and her best friend Dale are opening the town cafe while Miss Lana is gone, but they aren’t allowed to use the stove, “which the Colonel says could be dangerous for someone of my height and temperament.” I like the paragraph where she lists off the day’s specials:

I stood up straight, the way Miss Lana taught me and draped a paper napkin over my arm. “This morning we’re offering a full line of peanut butter entrees,” I said. “We got peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and raisins, and a delicate peanut butter/peanut butter combination. These come crunchy or smooth, on Wonder Bread, hand-squished flat on the plate or not, as you prefer. The special today is our famous peanut butter and banana sandwich. It comes on Wonder Bread, cut diagonal on the plate, with crust or without. What can I start you with?”

Yes, there are some coincidences. A few details of the plot are maybe a tiny bit of a stretch. But most of all, the book is fun reading. The townsfolk of Tupelo Landing, with all their quirks, come to life and seem real. And besides having a mystery to solve, there are budding romances, Dale’s brother in a big race, and Mo’s sending bottles upriver hoping to find her mother.

This book is a heap of fun, and I’m so glad it’s joining the Newbery canon.

sheilaturnage.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/3_times_lucky.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of the Story of English in 100 Words, by David Crystal

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The Story of English in 100 Words

by David Crystal

St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2012. First published in Great Britain in 2011. 260 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Other Nonfiction

I confess; I took a little less than 100 days to read this book. But what fun it was! David Crystal takes 100 words, in chronological order based on when they became part of our language, and talks about how they became part of English, and what type of words they represent.

At the beginning, he gives “A Short History of English Words,” and you get a glimpse of why the book is so fascinating.

English is a vacuum-cleaner of a language, whose users suck in words from other languages whenever they encounter them. And because of the way English has travelled the world, courtesy of its soldiers, sailors, traders and civil servants, several hundred languages have contributed to its lexical character. Some 80 per cent of English vocabulary is not Germanic at all.

English is also a playful and innovative language, whose speakers love to use their imaginations in creating new vocabulary, and who are prepared to depart from tradition when coining words. Not all languages are like this. Some are characterised by speakers who try to stick rigidly to a single cultural tradition, resisting loanwords and trying to preserve a perceived notion of purity in their vocabulary (as with French and Icelandic). English speakers, for the most part, are quite the opposite. They delight in bending and breaking the rules when it comes to word creation. Shakespeare was one of the finest word-benders, showing everyone how to be daring in the use of words.

Here are some examples of the words whose origins and history he explores:

6. Street a Latin loan (9th century)
10. What an early exclamation (10th century)
14. Bridegroom a popular etymology (11th century)
40. Debt a spelling reform (16th century)
49. Fopdoodle a lost word (17th century)
56. Dilly-dally a reduplicating word (17th century)
67. Brunch a portmanteau word (19th century)
72. Ology suffix into word (19th century)
81. Doublespeak weasel words (20th century)

He even includes:
96. Sudoku a modern loan (21st century)
97. Muggle a fiction word (21st century)
99. Unfriend a new age (21st century)
100. Twittersphere future directions? (21st century)

I simply found this book fascinating, and packaged in nice small daily doses — a bit of interesting linguistic trivia to start my day. It would make a good calendar, except you’d have to shorten his essays about each word far too much. Hmmm. A blog would be better. He does give a few pages about each chosen word, and discusses many words of the same type.

I think those who will enjoy this book will know who they are from this description. (I’m thinking of you, little sister!)

stmartins.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/story_of_english_in_100_words.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Each Day a New Beginning, by Karen Casey

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Each Day a New Beginning

Daily Thoughts for Women

by Karen Casey

Hazelden, 1991 (2nd edition. 1st edition, 1982).
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Other Nonfiction

Karen Casey has so much wisdom. I first was introduced to her writings by her book Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow. I found this book of daily meditations I think in May 2011. I picked up the book in the middle, on the day I was on, and when 2012 came around, I started at January first and kept reading from it all year.

The thoughts in this book seem to be mainly geared toward people in 12-step programs, but even if you aren’t in one (as I am not), the wise words are a great way to start your day. The daily pages are short. Each day’s meditation begins with a quotation from a woman and ends with a summing up thought for the day.

I found an example to quote that happens to show where the title came from. Here is the meditation for April 7:

It is only when people begin to shake loose from their preconceptions, from the ideas that have dominated them, that we begin to receive a sense of opening, a sense of vision.

— Barbara Ward

A sense of vision, seeing who we can dare to be and what we can dare to accomplish, is possible if we focus intently on the present and always the present. We are all we need to be, right now. We can trust that. And we will be shown the way to become who we need to become, step by step, from one present moment to the next present moment. We can trust that, too.

The past that we hang onto stands in our way. Many of us needlessly spend much of our lives fighting a poor self-image. But we can overcome that. We can choose to believe we are capable and competent. We can be spontaneous, and our vision of all that life can offer will change — will excite us, will cultivate our confidence.

We can respond to life wholly. We can trust our instincts. And we will become all that we dare to become.

Each day is a new beginning. Each moment is a new opportunity to let go of all that has trapped me in the past. I am free. In the present, I am free.

That gives you the idea of the format and content. Encouragements and wise thoughts to get you going on your day. I found another Karen Casey book to start in 2013, but I will keep this one around for some time in the future.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/each_day_a_new_beginning.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own personal copy.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

The Brain That Changes Itself

Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

by Norman Doidge, M.D.

Viking, 2007. 427 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Other Nonfiction

Big thanks to my friend and co-worker Ivelisse Figueroa-Gonzalez for recommending this book to me after I had my stroke.

This is a book about neuroplasticity. We have learned, fairly recently, that the brain can heal from injury; the brain can change its wiring. How we use our brains is important.

Some words from the Preface explain what you’ll find in this book:

This book is about the revolutionary discovery that the human brain can change itself, as told through the stories of the scientists, doctors, and patients who have together brought about these astonishing transformations. Without operations or medications, they have made use of the brain’s hitherto unknown ability to change. Some were patients who had what were thought to be incurable brain problems; others were people without specific problems who simply wanted to improve the functioning of their brains or preserve them as they aged. For four hundred years this venture would have been inconceivable because mainstream medicine and science believed that brain anatomy was fixed. The common wisdom was that after childhood the brain changed only when it began the long process of decline; that when brain cells failed to develop properly, or were injured, or died, they could not be replaced. Nor could the brain ever alter its structure and find a new way to function if part of it was damaged. The theory of the unchanging brain decreed that people who were born with brain or mental limitations, or who sustained brain damage, would be limited or damaged for life. Scientists who wondered if the healthy brain might be improved or preserved through activity or mental exercise were told not to waste their time. . . .

I began a series of travels, and in the process I met a band of brilliant scientists, at the frontiers of brain science, who had, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, made a series of unexpected discoveries. They showed that the brain changed its very structure with each different activity it performed, perfecting its circuits so it was better suited to the task at hand. If certain “parts” failed, then other parts could sometimes take over. The machine metaphor, of the brain as an organ with specialized parts, could not fully account for changes the scientists were seeing. They began to call this fundamental brain property “neuroplasticity.”

Neuro is for “neuron,” the nerve cells in our brains and nervous systems. Plastic is for “changeable, malleable, modifiable.” At first many of the scientists didn’t dare use the word “neuroplasticity” in their publications, and their peers belittled them for promoting a fanciful notion. Yet they persisted, slowly overturning the doctrine of the unchanging brain. They showed that children are not always stuck with the mental abilities they are born with; that the damaged brain can often reorganize itself so that when one part fails, another can often substitute; that if brain cells die, they can at times be replaced; that many “circuits” and even basic reflexes that we think are hardwired are not. One of these scientists even showed that thinking, learning, and acting can turn our genes on or off, thus shaping our brain anatomy and our behavior — surely one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century.

In the course of my travels I met a scientist who enabled people who had been blind since birth to begin to see, another who enabled the deaf to hear; I spoke with people who had had strokes decades before and had been declared incurable, who were helped to recover with neuroplastic treatments; I met people whose learning disorders were cured and whose IQs were raised; I saw evidence that it is possible for eighty-year-olds to sharpen their memories to function the way they did when they were fifty-five. I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and traumas. I spoke with Nobel laureates who were hotly debating how we must rethink our model of the brain now that we know it is ever changing.

The chapters of the book look at different aspects of neuroplasticity. He covers many different things, including stroke recovery; sharpening perception and memory; healing learning problems; stopping worries, obsessions, and bad habits; counteracting aging; psychoanalysis; and even sexual attraction and love.

I can’t emphasize enough how fascinating this book is. I’m not sure if it has direct application to my own stroke, since it hit my balance center, not my higher thinking. (Though I did purchase a balance board after reading this book.) I’ve already recommended the book to parents of children with OCD, and I’ve decided that my guilty pleasure of doing Killer Sudoku at bedtime is actually therapy so I won’t lose my ability to think logically as I age.

And so much of the book, whether practical or not, is simply interesting. Here’s an example:

When it came to allocating brain-processing power, brain maps were governed by competition for precious resources and the principle of use it or lose it.

The competitive nature of plasticity affects us all. There is an endless war of nerves going on inside each of our brains. If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead. If you ever ask yourself, “How often must I practice French, or guitar, or math to keep on top of it?” you are asking a question about competitive plasticity. You are asking how frequently you must practice an activity to make sure its brain map space is not lost to another.

Competitive plasticity in adults even explains some of our limitations. Think of the difficulty most adults have in learning a second language. The conventional view now is that the difficulty arises because the critical period for language learning has ended, leaving us with a brain too rigid to change its structure on a large scale. But the discovery of competitive plasticity suggests there is more to it. As we age, the more we use our native language, the more it comes to dominate our linguistic map space. Thus it is because our brain is plastic — and because plasticity is competitive — that it is so hard to learn a new language and end the tyranny of the mother tongue.

But why, if this is true, is it easier to learn a second language when we are young? Is there not competition then too? Not really. If two languages are learned at the same time, during the critical period, both get a foothold. Brain scans, says Merzenich, show that in a bilingual child all the sounds of its two languages share a single large map, a library of sounds from both languages.

Another fascinating section speculating about cognitive problems as we age:

Mezenich says, . . . “We have an intense period of learning in childhood. Every day is a day of new stuff. And then, in our early employment, we are intensely engaged in learning and acquiring new skills and abilities. And more and more as we progress in life we are operating as users of mastered skills and abilities.”

Psychologically, middle age is often an appealing time because, all else being equal, it can be a relatively placid period compared with what has come before. Our bodies aren’t changing as they did in adolescence; we’re more likely to have a solid sense of who we are and be skilled at a career. We still regard ourselves as active, but we have a tendency to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are learning as we were before. We rarely engage in tasks in which we must focus our attention as closely as we did when we were younger, trying to learn a new vocabulary or master new skills. Such activities as reading the newspaper, practicing a profession of many years, and speaking our own language are mostly the replay of mastered skills, not learning. By the time we hit our seventies, we may not have systematically engaged the systems in the brain that regulate plasticity for fifty years.

That’s why learning a new language in old age is so good for improving and maintaining the memory generally. Because it requires intense focus, studying a language turns on the control system for plasticity and keeps it in good shape for laying down sharp memories of all kinds. . . . Anything that requires highly focused attention will help that system — learning new physical activities that require concentration, solving challenging puzzles, or making a career change that requires that you master new skills and material. Merzenich himself is an advocate of learning a new language in old age. “You will gradually sharpen everything up again, and that will be very highly beneficial to you.”

The same applies to mobility. Just doing the dances you learned years ago won’t help your brain’s motor cortex to stay in shape. To keep the mind alive requires learning something truly new with intense focus. That is what will allow you to both lay down new memories and have a system that can easily access and preserve the older ones.

Another whole chapter deals with progress in healing stroke patients. I’m not yet sure how it applies to me, because the effects of my stroke were not immediately obvious. Now they are manifesting as vestibular migraines. Is it possible that working with the balance centers of my brain would begin to rewire my brain? This book raises intriguing questions in my mind as well as revealing lots of answers to questions I had never before asked.

Fascinating reading for anyone at all interested in the brain and how it works.

penguin.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/brain_that_changes_itself.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

ALA’s Youth Media Awards

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Today I watched the complete webcast of ALA’s Youth Media Awards, and I was very happy. For the first time since the 2010 awards, both the Caldecott winner and the Newbery winner were Sonderbooks Stand-outs. And the winner of our library’s fledgling Mock Newbery Book Club vote got a Newbery Honor!

Although there were a lot of books I loved that didn’t appear, I am completely happy with the ones that did. Let me go through the lists, giving my reaction.

First, let me also say that I’m way behind in posting reviews. Tonight I blitzed through a stack and wrote 7 reviews, but now I have 69 reviews I’ve written that I still need to post. That’s down from 99 such reviews in December, but it’s still a daunting task, and I confess I’m letting a lot more books I read go unreviewed.

So my plan is to finish posting all the reviews of Sonderbooks Stand-outs tomorrow or the next day. Then I’ll tackle some of these award winners that I’ve already reviewed but not posted.

Let me go through the major awards, in the order they were announced. You can find all the award winners listed at ala.org. Please, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your own reactions. Which of the books have you read? Any big disappointments? Special thrills?

I haven’t read any of the Alex Awards, so I won’t go through those. Some I’d meant to read, so they make my To Be Read list longer.

I haven’t read any of the Schneider Family winners, though A Dog Called Homeless, by Sarah Lean, was chosen to be a Summer Reading Program selection for our library system.

Some people expressed surprise and disappointment that Wonder didn’t receive a Schneider Family Award. But I don’t think it was actually eligible. The Schneider Family Award is given “for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience,” and Auggie in Wonder mentions many times that he actually doesn’t have any disability — just a deformed face.

I’ve read one of the Stonewall Honor books, Drama, by Raina Telgemeier. I’ll post my review soon.

I’m kicking myself about the Stonewall Award Winner, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Because at an ALA conference I’d accidentally picked up not one, but two Advance Review Copies. But I didn’t get around to reading it before it was published, and I’ve given both copies away. Oh well!

For the Coretta Scott King Awards, I was happy about the Illustrator Honor for I Have a Dream, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. I’ll post my review of that soon. I’ve also read the Illustrator Winner, I, Too, Am America, illustrated by Brian Collier, which is a Capitol Choices selection, and I think it’s a wonderful choice.

I’ve read the CSK Author Honor books, but not the winner. I’ll post the review soon of No Crystal Stair, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. I wasn’t a fan of its Newbery chances, but I do think it’s an outstanding book, and am happy it got some honor today.

The Margaret Edwards Award winner for her body of work is Tamora Pierce. I read the Song of the Lioness quartet before I started reviewing books, and I’m happy about this choice. I will definitely plan to attend the Margaret Edwards Luncheon again this year.

For the Morris Award, the only one of the Finalists I’ve read, Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, was the winner, and I’m very happy about that.

I’m currently in the middle of reading Bomb, which was first mentioned today as the winner of the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. I wasn’t surprised, because it’s gotten great buzz on the Heavy Medal blog. I’ve read all the other Finalists, and in fact they are all Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Children’s Nonfiction except for Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different. Those Finalists were Moonbird, by Phillip Hoose; Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson; and We’ve Got a Job, by Cynthia Levinson

I got a kick out of the Odyssey Honor for the audiobookGhost Knight, by Cornelia Funke. This was a book under consideration for the Cybils shortlist by my committee, and I was the only one who listened to it instead of reading it. I was a much bigger fan of the book than anyone else, and I think I was probably swayed by the wonderful audio recording.

I was also happy about the Odyssey Award Winner, The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. Though I haven’t listened to the audio version, I loved the book, and the audiobook is a Capitol Choices selection this year.

Then came the Printz. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was an Honor book, so I again kicked myself for not having read it.

My favorite book of the year, Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, did get a Printz Honor. And though I can’t fathom another book being better than it, I haven’t actually read the Printz winner or any of the other Printz Honors, so I have to reserve my righteous indignation and be happy that it did receive Honor.

I haven’t read any of the Pura Belpre honor books, but again Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was the big winner, so I received more kicks from myself.

The Arbuthnot lecture will be given by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Wouldn’t that be fun to attend!

I haven’t read any of the Batchelder winners.

The Sibert Medal almost completely overlapped with the ENYA Award. The Honor books were Electric Ben, by Robert Byrd (which I haven’t read completely but is a Summer Reading Program selection for our library system); Moonbird, by Phillip Hoose; and Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson. The winner was (again) Bomb, by Steve Sheinkin.

The Wilder Medal for lifetime achievement was given to Katherine Paterson. Wonderful choice!

The Geisel Awards had my biggest disappointment. I wanted to see Penny and Her Song or Penny and Her Doll, by Kevin Henkes represented, and was sad that they weren’t. However, I was particularly happy with two of the Honor books, Let’s Go For a Drive! by Mo Willems (I always love his books), and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin, which was a 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out.

And then came the biggies, the longest-established awards. For the Caldecott, I’ve read and appreciated Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (despite the upside-down knitting needles), Creepy Carrots, illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds; One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo, and Sleep Like a Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue. I count myself a fan of Green, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and that review will be forthcoming. But the winner, This Is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen, was a Sonderbooks Stand-out and one of my favorite picture books of the year. Almost everyone at my library has read it already, because I pushed it on them.

And finally, my happiness overflowed with the Newbery announcements. I thought Splendors & Glooms had some flaws, but had to admit that the writing was outstanding, so I think it’s Honor was well-deserved. Bomb made its third appearance of the day, so I’m glad I’m currently reading it. But I was especially happy about the third Honor book, Three Times Lucky, because that was the selection of our library’s Mock Newbery Book Club. I had thought we’d picked a longshot, so I was so happy to see it up there. I wrote its review today, and will post it soon.

And the Newbery Medal winner? The wonderful The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. When I first read The One and Only Ivan, I hoped it would win the Newbery. Since reading it, it got edged out in my hopes by Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Palace of Stone, but discussion on Heavy Medal and in Capitol Choices convinced me that those books probably weren’t serious contenders, so my hopes were riding on The One and Only Ivan again. So happy that those hopes were realized!

How about you? Which choices made you happiest? Which omissions made you saddest? Which books are hitting the top of your TBR piles? I’d love to keep discussing….

Review of Moonbird, by Phillip Hoose

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Moonbird

A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012. 160 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Standout: #9 Children’s Nonfiction
2013 Sibert Honor
2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

Moonbird tells the story of a rufa red knot banded with the number B95 in the year 1995 who has been spotted many times since. These birds are some of the greatest distance travelers on earth, and B95 is the oldest known such bird.

This book goes into detail about what physiological changes and athletic feats go into B95’s journey. The author makes the life of a little shorebird into an epic tale. He interviewed many scientists all interested in helping the red knots and other shorebirds continue to survive. Spinning their stories into the overall narrative keeps the book fascinating.

This book covers science, nature, the environment, and what you can do to help. An outstanding science book that will interest everyone from elementary school readers to adults. I doubt anyone can read this book without learning something, but probably a lot of somethings. And even harder would be to read this book without becoming interested in the plight of a little bird and its flock.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/moonbird.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Review Copy I got at an ALA conference.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, by Christi Paul

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt

A Memoir

by Christi Paul

Tyndale House Publishers, 2012. 280 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

This powerful story had me transfixed until I finished it. Christi Paul tells about her four years of marriage to a man who abused her emotionally and the repercussions of that in her life. She deeply wanted to stay. She’d made a vow. She tried hard to be able to take it. But ultimately, her faith in God helped her see that she needed to leave and helped her recover.

This book is good on many levels. In the first place, it’s a mesmerizing story. Christi Paul tells about how she fell in love with Justin and decided to marry him. Looking back, she can see she made a bad decision, but reading the book, it’s easy to understand how it happened, and why it was hard for her to leave.

Second, this book provides a window into emotional abuse. It can help people understand how women get into a hurtful situation, and why it’s so hard to get out. It can help you see one form emotional abuse takes and give you compassion for women in that situation. Christi Paul doesn’t write to make you feel sorry for her, but she does help you understand her. She also tells the hard questions she asked herself that helped her to heal.

Third, this book is all the more compelling for women who’ve been in some kind of abusive relationship. I appreciated that she took her vows before God seriously, and was in no hurry to divorce. I think the parts that most resonated probably say a lot about the reader. (Perhaps I still need to work through feeling guilty about my own divorce?) It’s so easy to see in someone else’s life that it does not glorify God to live in such a hurtful relationship.

Now, Christi’s ex-husband was more overtly abusive than many. And she also was able to see that she’d made a mistake marrying him in the first place. It’s perhaps harder when the emotional abuse is more covert than name-calling, taking forms like blaming or defining your reality. In those cases, it’s all the harder to see clearly that this is emotional abuse and this is wrong. So I still strongly recommend Dr. Patricia Evans’ books on verbal abuse, because they are so crucial to understanding the many different forms abuse can take.

It’s also perhaps harder when the abuse starts in a mid-life crisis situation, rather than at the start of the marriage. You can’t tell yourself that you simply shouldn’t have married him. But that still doesn’t mean it glorifies God to stay in that situation.

Still, as she said:

People often think holding on is what makes you strong, but sometimes it’s letting go. I was committed to releasing all that haunted me from this relationship. I wanted to learn from it, yes, but I was no longer willing to be chained to the memories that made me feel inadequate, insecure, and fearful.

Or in another place:

Each of us has a different story. Not everyone needs to leave her partner. We don’t want to abandon people who need help. Your answer might not be to get out — only you know what’s right in your situation. And my purpose isn’t to demonize people who are abusive. They’re wounded and hurting in their own way. But please hear this: until someone is healthy enough to treat you with civility, dignity, and respect, that person isn’t healthy enough to be in your life.

The part on healing during and after abuse is especially powerful. I strongly believe that one part of healing is coming to a place of forgiveness, and that is much much easier when you can begin to see the many ways good has come into your life through the abuse. Not that abuse is good, but that as you come through it, you grow. Christi Paul shows much of her process of thinking this through, and it’s helpful and healing and thought-provoking.

I loved the way she showed that living through the abuse helped her become a stronger person in many, many different ways. I feel the same way. I like the person I am after coming through the end of my marriage, and it resonated to see Christi Paul write the same thing.

This book is strongly rooted in the author’s Christian beliefs, as you can see in this paragraph:

Hear this loud and clear, my friends: you weren’t put here to be abused. God’s will isn’t for us to wake up each day mired in fear, self-doubt, and condemnation. He wants us to see ourselves the way he sees us — wounded but worthy. To view ourselves and each other with forgiveness and grace. To trust and believe in Him despite where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or what someone told us we are.

This book is a beautiful story of hope and God’s grace, and it gives the reader plenty to think about. I know I’ll be thinking about Christi Paul’s words for a long time to come.

tyndale.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/love_isnt_supposed_to_hurt.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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