Archive for July, 2013

Review of Imperial Purple, by Gillian Bradshaw

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Imperial Purple

by Gillian Bradshaw

Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1988. 324 pages.
Starred Review

Imperial Purple is the first Gillian Bradshaw book I ever read, a gift from my sister Becky many, many years ago. The book is wonderful, and is the one that started me on one of my favorite authors.

Gillian Bradshaw is fabulous at Historical Fiction. She studied classics at Cambridge and must have done vast amounts of research. Imperial Purple is set in the fifth century A.D. Demetrias is a skilled weaver in Tyre, and her husband Symeon is a purple-fisher. There in Tyre they make purple cloth that only royalty can wear.

And then Demetrias is called to the procurator and given an assignment for a purple cloak with two tapestry panels. But it is specified to be the wrong length for the emperor. And she is told to do it in complete secrecy. She knows someone is plotting treason. But what can she do about it? She is a slave of the state, and so is her husband. The prefect is clearly in on the plot. If anyone in power finds out, they won’t hesitate to torture Demetrias to find out what she knows.

Demetrias plans to finish as quickly as possible and get rid of the thing. Her husband Symeon wants to find someone powerful to entrust with the secret. But when their fears are realized, they end up thrust on their own resources.

Woven into the political intrigue and the fascinating historical details is a beautiful love story between a husband and a wife. They both face a long journey and great danger, and you will delight in the twists and turns of the tale. I love the way Gillian Bradshaw’s Author’s Note at the end explains that these events actually could have taken place. Not much is known about the time, but the main historical figures mentioned all existed and went in and out of power as in the story.

I think this is about the third time I’ve read Imperial Purple, and I fondly hope it won’t be the last.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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, a gift from my sister Becky.

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!

ALA 2013 – Printz Awards Reception

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Every year I go to ALA Annual Conference, I can think of no better way to finish it off than attending the Printz Awards Reception. Unlike the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet, all the honorees give a speech. They’re good authors, so you’re in for some eloquent speeches. The Printz Award is open to any English-language book, so you usually get to listen to some wonderful accents!

Before I cover the Printz Reception, here’s a wrap-up of all my ALA 2013 posts:

Caldecott Preconference Reception
A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal
Friday Night Exhibits (Books, Books, Books!)
Saturday Sessions
Sunday Excitement
Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet (with costumes!)
Monday Meetings

One thing I enjoy about the Printz Reception: I get to see my YALSA friends, who weren’t necessarily at the earlier ALSC events I attended. (YALSA is for service to young adults, and ALSC for service to children. As a public librarian in Fairfax County, we have them grouped together in “Youth Services.”) I got to sit next to Liz Burns and got to talk to others at the reception.

But the speeches!

It was quite unfair that Benjamin Alire Saenz, author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe went first, since he had much of the audience in tears with his heartfelt speech.

I haven’t (yet) read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, but I gather it’s about a boy discovering friendship and romance with another boy.

Benjamin Alire Saenz said that this book was written out of his own journey, which was conflicted and difficult.
He “came out” at 54.
“What are a few wounds to a writer?”
His character, Ari, is on the brink of manhood, but also on the brink of self-hatred.
His characters’ fears and apprehensions too closely mirrored his own.
“There should be road maps out there for boys who were born to play by different rules.”

To those who say homosexuality is a choice, he asks:
“What madman would make such a choice in a world such as this?”

“It is no accident that many gay men have to struggle to love another man — and themselves.”

“Men and boys like me are neither demons, nor are we deviants. We are just men.”

He went on to thank the committee for choosing to honor this book. It was published on the day his mother died. So he wasn’t able to celebrate the book’s publication. Honoring Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe gave him back his book and gave him a chance to celebrate it.

Elizabeth Wein, Honor for Code Name Verity:

“Friends make exceptional teams, but help from angels is always appreciated.”

“Julie is born to be a novelist, but this is her only chance.”
“Julie also writes because there is power in it. Words are her weapon of choice.”
“Inventing the code sequences is what keeps Julie going.”
“In times of stress, or fear, or boredom, we invent stories.”
“Julie writes in the present tense. She is eternally writing.”

This book makes people cry, but it also makes them laugh.
“The paradox of the power of words: They can be wielded, like all dangerous tools, for good or for evil.”

Terry Pratchett, Honor for Dodger, via his editor, Anne Hoppe:

The book was undertaken as a tribute to Henry Mayhew, who wrote London and the London Poor.
The poor had freedom — to starve.
“Authors tend to have pack rat minds, and my mind has more rats than Hamelin.”
“Everything in the book is real except the plot.”
“You don’t have to make much up if you read a lot of social history.”

Beverley Brenna, Honor for The White Bicycle:

These conferences are a great opportunity to share stories.
Stories can change people.
Diversity can create walls or take down walls.
People with disabilities don’t often travel in YA novels.
Librarians make connections between people and reading.
“Librarians are partners with authors in a deliberate quest to achieve social justice.”

Nick Lake, Printz Award for In Darkness:
(Just when I thought we weren’t getting cute accents this year, Nick Lake had a marvelous one.)

His theme involves Circles, which protect against the evil eye.
“The ordinary world really is magical and wonderful.”
“Infinity is not necessarily big.”
“Toussaint and Shorty are inside each other.”
“From the perspective of genes: Nothing is ever lost.”
“Even in darkness, there’s the possibility of light.”
To him, it’s about goodness.
“Loss isn’t real and can be overcome.”
The magical power of the book is about the possibility of wonder in the everyday.

“Almost all YA novels are about a spirit journey.”
The characters enter a liminal world and an adventure that changes them, followed by a return.
It’s Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
The concept of the eternal return – time when direct communication with God was possible – We long for that time.
We re-enact the eternal return by rituals and rites of passage.
Rites of passage are about moving into the adult world.
Which is not easy.

“We live in a world where boundaries between the young and adult are constantly eroded.”
“Reading fiction is an example of the eternal return.” – Vicarious initiation rituals.
“Books help young adults navigate the path to the adult world. They help them to grow up well.”

And so, deeply inspired, we moved on to dessert — cupcakes and popcorn.

I schmoozed a little bit, talked to friends, and got one more picture with Elizabeth Wein:

It was a nice end to a fabulous conference!

Review of Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas, by Cheryl Bardoe and Jos. A. Smith

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Gregor Mendel

The Friar Who Grew Peas

by Cheryl Bardoe
illustrated by Jos. A. Smith

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Published in association with the Field Museum, 2006. 36 pages.

I heard about this book during a recent Nonfiction Monday. I always love picture book biographies. Unfortunately, they tend to get lost on our library’s shelves. We have adult and children’s nonfiction filed together, by subject. But kids don’t tend to browse the Biographies. They go there if they want to find out about a specific person. Picture Book Biographies, however, are not for doing reports. They are for hearing a story about an interesting or inspiring person. All the more reason to review this book!

Gregor Mendel was the one who discovered the laws of genetics. This book simply tells about his life in poverty, his thirst for knowledge, and his painstaking procedure to discover what would happen when he cross-bred different varieties of pea plants with specific characteristics. It explains the laws of genetics he discovered in surprisingly simple ways, with clear diagrams.

This book has enough information that you could use it for a report. But I hope that some children get turned on to the topic or simply enjoy the story of this dedicated scientist’s life.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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.

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Biblio Links.

Review of Lulu and the Duck in the Park, by Hilary McKay

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Lulu and the Duck in the Park

By Hilary McKay
Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, Illinois, 2012. First published in the United Kingdom in 2011. 104 pages.

Good beginning chapter books aren’t easy to find. There’s an art to writing an interesting story while keeping the language simple. The situations need to be recognizable in a child’s life, yet the characters need to be unusual enough to feel true-to-life.

Lulu and the Duck in the Park walks that balance, which is no surprise coming from Hilary McKay, the author of the brilliant books about the quirky Casson family.

Lulu was famous for animals. Her famousness for animals was known throughout the whole neighborhood.

Animals mattered more to Lulu than anything else in the world. All animals, from the sponsored polar bear family that had been her best Christmas present, to the hairiest unwanted spider in the school coat room.

Lulu’s teacher is not as big an animal lover as she is, so when Lulu lets her dog follow her to school, Mrs. Holiday is not pleased. When Lulu prompts the class to think of all the animals their class guinea pig might like to have visit, Mrs. Holiday makes it very clear that if any more animals visit, the guinea pig is likely to be traded for the stick insects in the next classroom.

So – when the class goes to the park and sees two dogs disturb all the duck nests, the reader is not surprised when Lulu rescues an egg about to roll onto the sidewalk. We also aren’t surprised that Lulu doesn’t want to tell her teacher about it. But Lulu and that egg do have some surprises in store for us!

This excellent transitional chapter book manages to reflect a child’s world, while achieving a story that is anything but trite.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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!

ALA 2013 – Monday Meetings

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

I’ve posted about almost all of ALA 2013 Annual Conference now. Still to report: One last day of meetings, and the Printz Awards Reception in the evening.

There was one thing from the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, however, that I didn’t notice until I was packing up to go home.

I don’t know about your libraries, but at our library, we put out those golf pencils and have to replenish them every single day. They disappear because people take them without thinking about it.

At the Caldecott Banquet, honoring the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal and this year’s winner, Jon Klassen, author of This Is Not My Hat, they handed out a Bingo contest with Caldecott trivia. They handed me a golf pencil, and I didn’t get the chance to refuse because I’d rather use a pen. When I was packing up to go home, I found the pencil in my purse and was going to throw it away. But then I looked at it:

I laughed and laughed! Here’s the full view:

For the record, I did not throw it away!

Monday morning, the first meeting I’d planned to attend was too packed to enter. So I headed for the ALSC Awards, which were scheduled a little later, so I was on time for a change! They award the Sibert Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Batchelder Award, and the Geisel Award at this event.

Some notable quotes:

Steve Sheinkin (Sibert Medal winner):
His story started with the story of a diamond mine scam. He couldn’t find sources, so switched to an obscure spy, “and so it began.”
“If Shakespeare could write one historic play about an American, I think it would be Oppenheimer.”
When he found out about the Norwegian spies, he thought of them as “Indiana Jones on skis.”

Katje Torneman (Carnegie Medal winner):
She began making films to spread awareness about the environment.
“We can make a difference in the world.

Dial Books representative (Batchelder Award winner):
When the book was being translated, she only got to read a chapter at a time.
It’s a story of duality, a girl who has nothing, but has everything.
(Note to self: Must read My Family for the War)

Ethan Long (Geisel Award winner):
The big banner in his mind: “You beat Mo!”

After the celebration of the award winners, it was back to the exhibits for a bit. I saw these two Odyssey Award narrators being interviewed by Booklist:

On the left is the narrator of the latest Artemis Fowl, and next to him is Elliot Hill, the narrator of Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Night. I could listen to both of their wonderful voices for hours, and, come to think of it, I have listened to Elliot Hill for hours. (It’s maybe just as well that I didn’t know while I was listening that he’s cute, too!)

After a little time in the exhibits, I went to the ALSC membership meeting. That’s the children’s services division of ALA. Among other things, they talked about the Common Core and the importance of play.

I’m a member of two other divisions — YALSA, for young adult librarians, and PLA, the public library association. But my heart is with ALSC, and that’s where I’m trying to get involved. I just finished two years on ALSC’s Children and Technology committee, and have begun serving on the Grant Administration committee. And I’m hoping that some day, somehow, I’ll get to serve on the Newbery committee.

Then it was back to the exhibits. I went straight to the Booklist booth to hear Elizabeth Wein speak, but she wasn’t there yet. I heard that she was still signing — and I immediately went to find her, since I figured they might be giving out ARCs of her new book! Sure enough, I didn’t get it signed, but I did snag a copy of Rose Under Fire!

And then I got to hear Elizabeth Wein speak, so it was a Win-Win morning!

At the Booklist interview, she talked about writing Rose Under Fire. Her introduction to Holocaust literature was the same as mine: reading The Hiding Place. She became obsessed with it. Both Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire are based on a story she wrote when she was 12. The story was not written, but she made pictures. It started with spies and went on to a concentration camp, so Rose Under Fire is the second part of that.

There’s a part of her that says, “I have no business telling this story.” But she didn’t deprive herself, because she knows her characters, and the real people they’re based on, wouldn’t wish that kind of hardship on anyone.

“Both books are about the Power of Words.”

Julie’s process of writing was very self-indulgent for Elizabeth Wein. She had to rein herself in for Maddie.

The importance of poetry in Rose Under Fire comes from a survivor account.

Each of her books is about something specific.
Rose Under Fire is about hope.”
Code Name Verity is about friendship.”
“My first book [The Winter Prince] is about jealousy.”

“Fly the plane” comes from flight instructors. When you’re up there, you can’t think about anything else.

There’s more of her in Rose than any other character she’s written.

After that, I had lunch and then tried to get out of the exhibits. But I was pulled inexorably into the free books line at the Simon & Schuster booth. I got four free books (the EXACT number so that my brother Robert correctly guessed that I’d come home with 92 books), but then managed to NOT get back in line.

The final program I attended was “Think with Your Eyes” about Visual Thinking.

The man leading it was modeling Visual Thinking Strategies. He had a work of art up on the screen and asked three questions:
“What’s going on here?”
“What do you see that makes you say that?”
“Thank you. What more can we find?”

“Something about VTS encourages scaffolding — building off each other.”

“Don’t start by asking ‘What do you see?’ Start with ‘What’s going on here?'”

Image selection is a critical part of the process.

“Provide a space where you have a multiplicity of right answers.
This matches real life.”

You can also use this method with poetry.
Kids get used to no wrong answers.

Evidentiary reasoning: “What do you see that makes you say that?”

“‘There’s one answer to everything.’ is the opposite of creativity.”

Paraphrasing responses clarifies and validates.

The facilitator also points out linking — “You’re building on what Joe was saying.”

The hard part: Teaching educators to remain neutral.

Participants learn that other people think differently than you.

It’s very similar to the Scientific Method, only less directed.
Meta-cognition — becoming aware of how you think.
Collaborative, not competitive.
There’s not consensus, but everyone listens and hears the multiple perspectives.

Find out more at the VTS website!

The VTS images become more complex with time.
Teaches silent looking — a valuable skill.
“Gives students a format for civilized discourse.”

Next speaker, a teacher, uses VTS with Caldecott books.

I want to try those questions the next time I use a wordless book in a storytime. It’s a great model!

That was my last session of the day. I needed to get back to my hotel early, so I could ship my books before going to the Printz Awards Reception. Here are some of my piles:

Those were the books I got on Monday. So much restraint compared with the other days!

I used my wheeled bag plus a tote bag to get the books to the post office. Here’s the tote bag stuffed full:

And the remaining books that I need to put in the wheeled bag:

The good news was that I got ALL the books except one into four Flat-Rate boxes and shipped them successfully. I was all ready to go to the last event, the Printz Awards Reception!

Review of Son, by Lois Lowry

Saturday, July 13th, 2013


by Lois Lowry
read by Bernadette Dunne

Listening Library, 2012. 8 hours on 7 compact discs.

Son is “the conclusion to the Giver quartet.” I read The Giver and Gathering Blue many years ago, and read and reviewed Messenger in 2004. It’s possible I would have enjoyed this book more if I remembered what was in the predecessors.

The book starts out in the same community as The Giver. Claire is a birth mother, a Vessel. But something goes wrong when she is delivering the “Product.” The “discomfort” gets extreme (That detail made me laugh — doctors in our society also have the gall to call labor pains “discomfort”.), and Claire ends up with a scar and is given a new role to play at the Fish Hatchery.

But Claire found out her child’s number. A subsequent trip to the Nursery means she can innocently find out her son’s identity. She can get to know him, in the guise of helping the Caregivers. But when Jonas flees from the community and takes her son with him, that means Claire must leave, too.

I didn’t really remember details from The Giver or Gathering Blue. What I’ve described so far was Part One, and it had tiny little details I could quibble with, but mostly I was enjoying the story. Then, suddenly, at the end of Part Three, the book turns from a plausible Science Fiction title into pure Fantasy. I didn’t buy the story from there on out — the big obstacle felt completely artificial. It’s possible I wouldn’t have been so taken aback if I had read Gossamer, because it sounds like some of the roots of Claire’s encounter were laid in that book.

However, despite having many arguments with the story, the fact is, I was mesmerized. There was nothing flashy about the reader’s voice (no cute accents, just plain reading), but I couldn’t stop listening and eagerly looked forward to my morning and evening commute as long as I was listening to this book.

I may not buy the story, and it may not be the hard-hitting dystopian commentary on our society I expected from a sequel to The Giver — but Lois Lowry’s command of language had me mesmerized, all the same.

If you’ve never read The Giver, you should. It’s a modern classic. And then if you want more, I think the best approach would probably be to read all three of Lois Lowry’s books that follow. Some day, I plan to read all four, in order. I’m sure I will enjoy them. Lois Lowry knows how to spin a tale.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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!

ALA 2013 – Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet!

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Sunday night – Time for the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet!

This year, ALSC was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, so they had encouraged people to come in costume. I simply added a bell around my neck. If you could hear it, you still had the magic.

The backdrop for the above photo is from the illustration created by Randolph Caldecott on which the front of the medal is based.

I tried to take pictures of many people I saw in costume, but I didn’t write down all the names. If you know someone in a picture, let me know who it is in the comments!

First, Monica Edinger with a newspaper hat from Black and White. (And you can also let me know if I get the book references wrong!)

Then I got a picture of Monica with Roxanne Feldman, who was in a full newspaper costume.

I know I’ve met this nice person and gotten her name. She had badges with covers from ALL the Caldecott Medal winners! (And do you recognize the red balloon from A Sick Day for Amos McGee?)

They go all the way around!

Here’s Mary Ann Scheuer as an exquisite Olivia. I believe she’s with Kelly Celia (from Walden Pond Press)’s husband. I think his name is Eric. He’s a teacher, and was a nice addition to the children’s book crowd.

(Again, please correct me in all my photo identifications in the comments!)

Here’s Chelsea Couillard-Smith with cutouts from Lois Ehlert’s Color Zoo!

And here’s a fabulous Jumanji costume! (Anyone know this clever person’s name?)

Paul Zelinsky is again wearing his so-appropriate Rapunzel tie. He’s being interviewed by Betsy Bird, who explained her complete Caldecott medal-and-honors honoring costume on her own blog.

And my friend with the 75 badges got the red carpet treatment, being interviewed by Jim Averbeck:

Then I simply had to get a picture of the Queen of the Wild Things. Her badge says she’s Carol Phillips:

And once I saw that fine backdrop, I had to have my own new Facebook profile picture taken:

Then it was time for the meal. I got to sit with Cara Frank, whom I just met — but knew from Twitter. Here’s the important part of the meal:

In the break after the meal and before the speeches, I had to get a picture of the person sitting next to me, Leslie, an editor from Vizmedia. She was wearing a lovely tribute to Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. (I like the way the colors went with the room, too!)

Finally, the speeches! Here’s Jon Klassen giving his acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat.

I loved this quote from Jon Klassen:
“Storytelling in any form is a hopeful thing to do.”

I found most of the pictures I took of Honor winners were blurry or a little bit boring. But isn’t this picture cute of Laura Amy Schlitz accepting her Honor award from the Newbery Chair? I love the twinkle in her eyes!

Then came Katherine Applegate with her Newbery Acceptance Speech.

I’m pretty sure I caught her reading from one of her early efforts — a steamy Harlequin Temptation Romance. I loved her sense of humor about her career and these quotes:

“Writing is excruciating and writing is exhilarating.”

And especially:
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Finally, Katherine Paterson accepted the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lifetime achievement. She moves a lot when she talks, and I was not able to get an unblurry picture of her.

She talked about how this award has come to her “by virtue of your most honorable shadows.”

At the end of all the inspiring speeches, we get to join the receiving line and congratulate the winners in person. I saw more people I knew in that line. I was kicking myself for not getting a picture of John Schumacher, Travis Jonker, Eric Carpenter, and Colby Sharp all together in line. Yay for the Kidlit men! 🙂

It was a marvelous evening, and the committee who put together the 75th anniversary activities can congratulate themselves for a job well-done!

This is my sixth ALA2013 post. Still to come are Monday’s programs and then the Printz Awards Reception. So much good stuff spinning in my mind!

Review of Wednesdays in the Tower, by Jessica Day George

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Wednesdays in the Tower

by Jessica Day George

Bloomsbury, New York, 2013. 229 pages.

I’m a huge fan of Tuesdays at the Castle, so when I saw a sequel was coming out, I didn’t wait for the library to get a copy, but ordered my own copy. And I used that purchase as an excuse to enjoy rereading Tuesdays at the Castle first. In a way, I’m sorry I did. Although I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Tuesdays again, there were some logical inconsistencies between the books that I might not have noticed if the first book weren’t fresh in my mind.

Let me say right from the beginning that the second book is not a complete story in itself. Not at all. The book ends with half the story not told. Tuesdays at the Castle was a complete and satisfying story that didn’t cry out for a sequel. Wednesdays in the Tower doesn’t need a sequel — it needs the other half of the story. So in a way, I feel like it’s not quite fair to review it when the story isn’t complete. But the book came out without the story complete, so I am going to go ahead.

Now, there are still wonderful things about this book. I love the family that lives in Glower Castle. Princess Celie’s a delight, and she still knows the castle better than anyone. In Wednesdays in the Tower, Celie discovers a tower that she’s never seen before (yes, it happens on a Wednesday), and in the tower is a large, orange, burning hot egg. When the egg hatches, Celie witnesses the birth of a griffin.

The castle doesn’t let anyone but Celie find out about the griffin, and makes it very clear she’s not to tell anyone, by slamming doors if she even thinks about telling her parents. So she has to try to raise a griffin on her own.

This is never explained at all. The castle does let two other people find out about it. Why those two? And later, further into the book, suddenly the castle lets everyone find out. Why then? It’s not made clear. Maybe later in the story it will be?

But a bigger inconsistency is in Castle Glower itself. In the first book, we had a portrait of a castle that changes shape, adding or taking away rooms, if it gets bored, usually on Tuesdays. These changes included making the rooms of the ambassador it didn’t like much smaller and more uncomfortable, and the rooms of the ambassador it did like much larger and nicer. That doesn’t seem to fit well with what we’re told about the castle in this book. Now we learn that the castle exists in two places and is bringing rooms from its other location. So how would it then change their shape? To me, it doesn’t quite fit.

And why is Lulath still here? I love Lulath. He’s a fun character. But didn’t he come for the king and queen’s funeral? Why is he still there? And why isn’t he getting any better at using the language if he’s been hanging around for months?

And what’s with the wizard? I can’t figure out — even by the end of the book — if he’s good or bad. And his motivation for suddenly telling everything but keeping back one thing (I’m trying to be vague here to not give anything away.) — well, it left me pretty confused.

However, a baby griffin? Totally fun. Celie and her family back? Delightful. Castle Glower showing Celie a griffin egg? That I can believe.

And will I want to read the next book? Absolutely. I have to find out how the story ends. And I admit I want to spend more time with Celie and her family and the griffin.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 through

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!

ALA 2013 – Sunday Excitement

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

This is Part 5 of my ALA 2013 Annual Conference Coverage. I’m up to Sunday morning. Darn those long shuttle rides! I did arrive in time to hear most of Temple Grandin’s talk, but as you can see above, I wasn’t in time to get a good seat. But what I heard was outstanding, and I’m looking forward to reading the book,The Autistic Brain, which I purchased and got signed by Temple Grandin.

She was talking about what’s in the book: How autistic brains are different from neurotypical brains, and some things you can do to help all kids adjust to life better.

When I walked in, she was talking about innate ability. If you’re in the middle in some area, you can become good at it, but it’s the extremes that are tricky. She tends to be very good at some things and terrible at other things. Our school system finds it harder to accommodate such people.

She talked about different kinds of thinkers. She said there are two kinds of visual thinkers. She’s a photo-realistic thinker, but some are more about vision in space. People in the middle tend to be more of a mix than those on the extremes.

(One thing she threw out that I have to enthusiastically and whole-heartedly support: Kids who are skilled in math should be allowed to go ahead. Hear! Hear!)

“We need different kinds of minds working on problems.”
“When different kinds of minds work together, they can do great things.”

When helping kids who are different to succeed, you need to stretch them. Start teaching them work skills.
“Kids need to work in groups and invent their own rules.”
“Develop the area of strength, especially with the kids who are different.”
“Get kids into special interests.”
“Kids need hands-on classes. Those also teach problem-solving and resourcefulness.”
What saved her: Horses, carpentry…
“We need more people doing real stuff.”
“Talented, quirky kids get too many labels.”
Get rid of 60-cycle fluorescent lights and experiment with different colored paper.

“It takes a village to raise a child — The library is an important part of the village.”

After Temple Grandin’s talk and signing, I spent a little time at the exhibits, and then went to a program about Poetry Friday led by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

They were mostly going over ideas from their book called Poetry Friday, but the ideas were wonderful, so I don’t begrudge them that. The basic concept: Take a moment on Fridays to share poetry with your students. In a public library, I was challenged to start adding poetry to programs, not just relying on picture books alone.

They talked about how poetry fits with the Common Core, and all the poems and activities in their book fit with the standards by grade level. (They’ve got them divided into poems and activities to do with each grade level.)

They have “Take 5” Poetry Sharing Strategies:
1) Adult reads aloud.
2) Children participate. (Read again, with instructions for their participation.)
3) Open discussion
4) Skill connection
5) Poem extension (Compare with another poem)

What I took away from this, besides wanting their book, was being encouraged to think about ways to add poetry to what we offer at the public library. And to think about joining Poetry Friday on my blog.

Then I had been invited to a lunch put on by Boyds Mills Press. Even though it kept me from a couple things on the other side of Chicago, I thought it was worth it to get to talk to some authors and librarians face to face and make a more personal connection.

It turned out the lunch was just wonderful. Two authors, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Nikki Grimes, were there, along with an editor, Rebecca Davis, and a marketing person, Kerry McManus, from Boyds Mills Press. And then they’d invited six children’s librarians. So it was a lovely personal time when we actually got to talk with the authors and each other and enjoy the company of other children’s book people.

Both authors were lovely people to have lunch with!

Here I am with Rebecca Kai Dotlich:

And here is Nikki Grimes with librarian Kiera Parrot:

So much fun!

The final program I attended on Sunday (besides the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, which gets its own post) was Archives Alive! Various people from libraries with children’s book archives showed slides of the material they have related to past Caldecott winners (still celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott medal).

This one, you had to be there to enjoy. It was amazing to look at some of the items the libraries had. Some picture book dummies. Some original art (which is rare for Caldecotts). Some letters from illustrators written in longhand. Caldecott woodblocks from Marcia Brown. Linoleum blocks from Dick Whittington. Comparative editions of some Caldecott books. It was all very fascinating

And then — back to the hotel to get ready for the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet, a highlight of the entire weekend! With the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, many people came in costume, so my next post will have lots of pictures!

Review of The Crown of Embers, by Rae Carson

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The Crown of Embers

by Rae Carson

Greenwillow Books, 2012. 410 pages.

The Crown of Embers is the sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and yes, you should read the earlier book first.

This is definitely a continuation and not a completion of the story. The second volume ends with much more of a cliffhanger than the first.

Elisa, still the bearer of the Godstone, is now queen of her dead husband’s people, as well as being a war hero. But she harnessed her Godstone’s power in a one-time event, and is dismayed when Inviernos come after her again. This volume involves a quest to the source of power as well as trying to become a good queen and establishing herself among the political powers.

Now, I think I’m still in judging mode from the Cybils panel, because this time it was harder for me not to notice little things I didn’t like. I have a horrible bias against novels written in present tense (I know it’s not fair, but I can’t seem to stop disliking it), and the present tense of this novel did consistently annoy me. I thought that Elisa as narrator tends to tell us way too much about her emotions and feelings, and there were some definite internal logic problems with the world-building that I would have gone into in detail about if this book had been in my group.

But that’s enough! I did keep reading, and I did enjoy this book. The fact is, I do want to know what happens to Elisa. And the romance? Exquisite. I’ve always loved slow-burning romance and books that show friendship blossoming into love, and this book achieves that. As a bonus, we already saw Elisa in love in the last book, with a tragic ending. It’s rather refreshing to have the author of a romance not claiming that Elisa has “one true love,” and must be miserable without it.

So I wouldn’t give this to readers who love intricate world-building, but I will happily recommend it as wonderful slow-simmering romance. And I am going to be first in line to read the third volume.

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

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