Archive for March, 2014

The Battle of the Books Is About to Begin!

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

School Library Journal’s 2014 Battle of the Books begins tomorrow! And I’m only now getting the chance to post my first round picks.

I’ve read — or tried to read — all the books. So I’ll say a bit about all of them below.

Match One, March 10
All the Truth That’s in Me, by Julie Berry
vs.
The Animal Book, by Steve Jenkins
Judged by Vaunda Nelson

For this one, I’m rooting for All the Truth That’s in Me, which is also the book I voted for in the Undead Poll. It was under the radar for me, and I suspect for a lot of other people. I read it recently and was blown away. So I hope it gets every chance.

And The Animal Book? This is the one book in the tournament I didn’t read. I checked it out twice and skimmed it and saw some intriguing stuff. (I liked the page about different kinds of eyes, and I was fascinated by the pages at the back about Steve Jenkins’ process for making books.) There’s no question that I’m a huge Steve Jenkins fan — He’s even been a Stand-out Author. But what can I say? This book was too big for my personal taste. It was daunting. And I’d seen many of the pictures before, so that took away some of my wonder at the art. Most of his books are more bite-sized, focusing on one area. If I still had kids at home, this book would be a wonderful resource, though.

Match Two, March 11
Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang
vs.
A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty
Judged by Yuyi Morales

This match is tough. I gave both books Starred Reviews, but neither one was a 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out. I will be happy with whichever one wins, and am looking forward to the explanation. Going with my gut, though, I’ll root for the quirky and interesting A Corner of White.

Match Three, March 12
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
vs.
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Judged by Lauren Oliver

Oo, this one’s even tougher. Both of these books *were* 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, but in different categories, so I didn’t rank them directly against each other. Still, Eleanor & Park was #2 in its category (Teen Fiction), and Doll Bones was only #3 in its category (Children’s Fiction), and that does reflect my preference, but that it’s a narrow one.

But Eleanor & Park really captured my heart, so it gets my pick for this match. However, again I won’t be sad if Doll Bones makes the win, and I’m thinking there’s a good chance that Eleanor & Park would come back from the dead in that case, anyway.

Match Four, March 13
Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal
vs.
Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo
Judged by Sara Mlynowski

The only reason Far Far Away wasn’t a 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out was that I didn’t read it until January 2014. It’s nuanced with meaning and symbolism, and is scary and sinister but inspiring. It is my pick for this match. After all, Flora & Ulysses, fun and quirky, did get plenty of recognition by winning the Newbery Medal. I’m going to predict that the Newbery curse will strike again and the winner won’t go far in the Battle of the Books.

Match Five, March 17
Hokey Pokey, by Jerry Spinelli
vs.
March, Book One, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Judged by Tom Angleberger

I’m not a hater of Hokey Pokey. I did enjoy reading it. But neither am I a big fan. And just last week I finished reading March, Book One, and I think that more memoirs should be done in graphic novel form. It gives a real immediacy to the story being told. March, Book One is my pick for this match.

Match Six, March 18
Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick
vs.
P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia
Judged by Mac Barnett

No question here. Midwinterblood was a 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #4 in Teen Fiction. Although I enjoyed P. S. Be Eleven, I didn’t even give it a starred review. (I didn’t like it nearly as much as its predecessor, One Crazy Summer.) But it will take an *outstanding* book to knock out Midwinterblood. The craft in that book is exceptional, with eerie stories fitting together and going backward in time.

Match Seven, March 19
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein
vs.
The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata
Judged by Malindo Lo

I’m too big an Elizabeth Wein fan to let this one go by without giving her the nod. Though The Thing About Luck has some excellent things about it as well.

Match Eight, March 20
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt
vs.
What the Heart Knows, by Joyce Sidman
Judged by Sheila Turnage

I’m going with the poetry on this one, What the Heart Knows. True Blue Scouts was just a bit too much of a tall tale for me. Though again, I enjoyed them both.

There you have it! My picks for the first round of SLJsBoB!

I will wait until the First Round is done to talk about my second round hopes. I can safely say there’s nothing in this fine line-up of books that I would be sad to see go all the way.

I also had a lot of fun looking at Probabilities in the comments over at Reads for Keeps! Jen really got me going! In fact, then she went and did a post about my comments! Very fun!

Review of March, Book One, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

March
Book One

by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions, 2013. 123 pages.
Starred Review
2014 Coretta Scott King Honor Book

This is not a graphic novel, it’s a graphic memoir, and all the contents are true. Congressman John Lewis tells about what it was like for him as a young man involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The comic book format combined with the personal remembrances give this book an immediacy that will stick with the reader.

There’s a frame that’s in place on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. The congressman is telling two kids visiting his office what it was like when he was their age. And then he tells how he first heard about people speaking up for civil rights, and how he went to nonviolence training, participated in and organized sit-ins, and began the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

This is only Book One. There’s a sort of prologue scene crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the March on Washington. We don’t get that far in the story, though we do learn, right at the start, that of all the speakers that day, John Lewis is the only one who’s still around.

This graphic memoir makes history come alive in a dramatic way.

I’m reading it because it’s the last contender I hadn’t read for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books, which starts next week. I’m not surprised to find some powerful reading here. It fits in well with the other contenders.

topshelfcomix.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/march_book_1.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 Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs 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 Secret of Terror Castle, by Robert Arthur

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in

The Secret of Terror Castle

by Robert Arthur

Random House, New York, 1964. 179 pages.

This isn’t going to be a review so much as an appreciation.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a co-worker about series mysteries. We both had read the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew, but I never read the Hardy Boys. I said that the really good series was The Three Investigators, and he said he agreed — he hadn’t brought them up because most people haven’t heard of them. So then we got to talking about Jupiter Jones and all the cool things about the Three Investigators. I said that my brother had all of them, but he didn’t let anyone else read them, so I had to borrow them from my friend Georgette.

Well, the library has recently gotten a new system for ordering Interlibrary Loans, and administration had asked staff to try it out by making some requests. So my co-worker decided to request the first three Three Investigators mysteries. Naturally, I asked if I could read them after him. When he said there might not be enough time in the loan, I said it would be funny if he behaved exactly like my brother. Anyway, when the first book did come in, he finished it well ahead of the due date, and I got to read it, too.

We’re both trying to figure out what it is about The Three Investigators that made them so completely cool. The writing is not stellar, though there is a nice habit of closing chapters on a cliff-hanger (or rock slide). But you’ve got to love a group of kids independently traveling around in a gold-plated Rolls-Royce (which Jupiter won the use of) with an English chauffeur. Jupiter is super smart and outsmarts adults routinely. Their headquarters is fantastic — an old mobile home hidden in a junkyard, completely surrounded by trash. The entrances are all secret, and involve things like crawling through a tunnel.

Yes, the books are dated. I laughed when the boys discovered the “mobile telephone” in the Rolls-Royce. “One pushes the button and gives the desired number to the operator.” They also make their own business cards by fixing an old printing press that came into the junk yard. And the book isn’t at all politically correct. Various ethnic groups are represented stereotypically. And there are no girls in the book whatsoever. (But it’s true, I loved the books anyway.)

I hadn’t remembered that Bob Andrews — at 13 or 14 years old — worked in a library. This paragraph on the very first page made me laugh aloud:

“How was the library?” [his mother] asked.

“It was okay,” Bob told her. After all, there was never any excitement at the library.

Later on, “Bob had been swamped with work at the library, re-cataloguing all the books. One other helper was out sick, so Bob had been working days and evenings too.” My goodness, such responsibility to give a kid!

I like some of the exclamations Pete comes up with: Gleeps! Whiskers! Golly!

I’m not crazy about Skinny Norris, the obligatory bully of the books. Solving mysteries wasn’t enough — there has to be a rival gang, taunting them.

But overall, this book holds up. You’ve got a spooky setting and clever kids, acting on their own, who get into danger and solve the mystery. Rereading it made me feel like I was twelve years old again.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/terror_castle.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 borrowed via Interlibrary Loan.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs 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.

Stand-out Authors: Laini Taylor

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

I’m doing a series on Stand-out Authors — Authors whose books are 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, but are not making their first appearances on my lists.

Laini Taylor is another who has a Sonderbooks Stand-out for the fourth time this year.

I first read her books in 2009. The first one I read was Dreamdark: Blackbringer, which I thought was excellent, and gave a starred review. Then I read its sequel, Silksinger, and was completely blown away. Silksinger was #6 in Fantasy Teen Fiction on the 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

The same year, I read Lips Touch: Three Times, an innovative collection of three highly original stories. That book was #8 in Fantasy Teen Fiction the same year.

Laini Taylor began a new series in 2011, which is consistently excellent. The first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was #2 in Teen Fiction, Fantasy on my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, with an amazing story about a devil in love with an angel.

And I read the second book in the series this past year, and wasn’t a bit surprised when it was also a Stand-out. Days of Blood and Starlight was #7 in Teen Fiction on my 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, continuing the dramatic story.

What I noticed about Laini Taylor’s books right from the start is she has the resonance of folklore themes — but not your traditional western folklore. There are twists to these fairies, angels, and demons. She has a whole new perspective, and her imagination stands out. I have no doubt whatsoever that her books will continue to appear on my Stand-outs lists for many years to come.

Review of Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled, by Catherine Thimmesh

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled

How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?

by Catherine Thimmesh

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2013.

Here’s a science book on an ever-popular topic: Dinosaurs. I like science books that look at a field where not everything is known. They can explain how the theories have changed over the years, what scientists currently believe, and how scientists are pursuing further investigation. This book does all those things with the field of paleoart.

Whereas many illustrators depict dinosaurs for entertainment and draw from their imagination, paleoartists draw first from scientific evidence. Their goal is to create the most accurate representation possible, not the most dramatic….

Paleoartists use the fossil bones, and the plant studies, and the rock studies, and all of the other bits of evidence discovered by the various scientists. Then they attempt to bridge the divide between the “knowns” and the “unknowns.”

This book looks at the different scientific factors that a paleoartist considers and talks about changes in our views about dinosaurs, such as discoveries that they were probably warm-blooded, and that some had feathers.

The illustrations come from several different paleoartists, and they are compared with some of the earliest conceptions of dinosaurs, showing how much things have changed.

This book gives a fascinating new take on dinosaurs.

hmhbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/scaly_spotted_feathered_frilled.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 Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs 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 Walk Your Butt Off! by Sarah Lorge Butler with Leslie Bonci, and Michele Stanten

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Walk Your Butt Off!

Go from Sedentary to Slim in 12 Weeks with This Breakthrough Walking Plan

by Sarah Lorge Butler with Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, and Michele Stanten

Rodale, 2013. 298 pages.
Starred Review

This is the book I used in 2013 to lose ten pounds and increase my fitness level.

I checked out a copy from the library and liked it so much, I bought my own copy, which I could write in.

This year, I moved to a condo next to a small lake. I wanted to increase my fitness and lose some weight. The beautiful thing about walking is that my beautiful lake was wonderful motivation. (I did stop when the weather got cold and dark. But I plan to start up again in Springtime.)

It’s now been two years since my stroke. I did not have the stroke because of poor fitness, but after having the stroke, I was much less active, and I ended up with pretty poor fitness.

What I like about the program presented here is that they gradually increase the amount of work you do. The first week’s workout has you do 2 to 4 brisk walks for 20 to 30 minutes. You will also do 3 Speed Walks. The first week, the Speed Walks just involve a 2-minute warm-up at an easy pace, followed by 4 minutes at a brisk pace and 1 minute at a fast pace 4 times. You finish up with 3 minutes of easy walking.

As the weeks progress, the amount of time you spend walking at a “fast” pace increases. Since they use descriptions of “easy,” “brisk,” and “fast,” anyone can adapt this program to their own level. About halfway through the program, they add in Challenge Walks, just walking as fast as you can for 15 minutes. They also have you time your walking at the start and at the end of 12 weeks.

Now, I had some interruptions. When I had a month-long headache, I took some time off walking, and had to start back up a few weeks earlier than where I left off. They have some diet advice, which I didn’t pay a lot of attention to. (I was more interested in fitness than losing weight, though I was very happy to lose ten pounds.)

They have tips along the way to help your walking form, and inspirational stories from their test group.

I think this is a great program for people at any fitness level. You can adapt what it means to do “easy,” “brisk,” and “fast” walking to whatever you need it to be.

rodalebooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/walk_your_butt_off.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 copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs 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 14 Fibs of Gregory K., by Greg Pincus

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.

by Greg Pincus

Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2013. 226 pages.

Full disclosure: I met the author of this book, Greg Pincus, at KidLitCon09. He told about taking the social media world by storm by his Fibs — a form of poetry based on Fibonacci numbers — and how he got the contract for this book. I was delighted with the math/poetry connection, so I showed Greg the Prime Factorization Sweater I was wearing, and he was most appreciative. Definitely a nice guy, and I knew I’d want to read his book.

And Greg’s Fibs are in this book. Gregory K. is a kid who wants to be an author in a family of math lovers. Now, I wouldn’t have forgiven the author if he had suggested those two things are opposites. He didn’t do that.

Gregory wants to go to Author Camp this summer — for one last chance to have time with his best friend, Kelly, before she moves away. But his parents want him to go to Math Camp, and think he wants to go there, too. Why can’t Gregory tell his parents the truth? That he doesn’t actually like math, but loves writing poetry, and is actually quite good at it?

His dad loved Mr. Davis and math, and so did his brother, O. Gregory did not, though he found it wise to be enthusiastic whenever the subject came up, since his peppiness was interpreted as shared math excitement and usually prevented specific questions.

Gregory tells some fibs, first to his friend (that he’s already talked to his parents about Author Camp) and then to his parents, trying to soften them up to actually make the request. And one fib leads to another.

Mr. Davis is portrayed as a quirky and understanding math teacher. He comes up with a project that sets Gregory studying the Fibonacci numbers, and later he figures out how he can apply that to poetry. But getting there is not easy!

This is an excellent portrayal of regular middle school kids with regular middle school concerns. There’s an added touch of creativity with the Fibs. And I do love the message that comes through by the end that math and writing can coexist and enhance one another.

gregpincus.com
arthuralevinebooks.com
scholastic.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/14_fibs_of_gregory_k.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 Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs 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!