Monday, August 29, 2016

Previews of coming attractions!

I've had time to dig around in my Netgalley folder and there are some great books you should be on the look out for!

The first one is a sequel to one I really liked last year.  It's a combination of dystopian future and a Robin Hood story.  The first one, by Kekla Magoon was called "The Shadows of Sherwood".  The second one is called "The Rebellion of Thieves" and it was just as terrific as the first one.  In the first one, Robyn is kind of a loner, she likes to build things out of recycled junk she steals from junk yards.  One night when she's out looking for new parts, her parents disappear.  Not like aliens took them, but this looks like there was a big struggle and Robyn fears for their safety.  Robyn runs away and finds a group of friends who help take care of each other.  It turns out there has been a change in leadership in her community and not really for the better.  In this second book, Robyn has established herself and a leader and a rallying point-when she goes out and steals things, she leaves notes to let everyone know who is doing the stealing.  Most often, she's stealing food and supplies, which she gives to the less fortunate people of her community, so she's quite a hero to them and less so to the powers that be.  There is a contest and Robyn thinks she might be able to use entering the contest as a way to rescue her mom.  This book is really exciting and it's a lot of fun to make the connections to the traditional Robin Hood story.  Robyn is a terrific character-strong and resilient.  I like her a lot.

The second one is a super fun combination of graphic novel and regular text.  It's called "Isabella for Real" and it's by Margie Palatini.  It's about Isabella, who has a big, loud, multigenerational Italian family that lives close by her and are very involved in her life.  Isabella has an aunt, Kiki, who was an actress in a successful soap opera, but has been cancelled.  However, the character was so beloved, that she still has thousands of fans who know her as her character, The Contessa.   Isabella gets accepted to a prestigious local private school and the students somehow believe that the Contessa is Isabella's mother.  She tries to correct them, but they are so excited, eventually she just starts agreeing with them.  About the same time, her cousin Vincent, starts taking video of the family and posting them on Youtube, where they become an internet sensation.  Isabella realizes that eventually her friends are going to figure out that she's been lying to them and goes to great lengths to try to stop her friends from figuring it out.  What's great about this are the panels of graphic illustrations.  It adds a really fun element to the story.  The characters are also terrific-so funny and it's easy to hear their strong New Jersey Italian accents.  The only thing that might slow kids down on this one is the way it bounces around in time.  I thought it was terrific and I think the kids are going to like it a lot too.  

The last one is a picture book biography of Malala Yousafazi called "Malala: Activist for Girls' Education" by Raphaele Frier.  In case you don't know the story of Malala, she grew up in Pakistan, where her parents encouraged her to get a good education, in spite of the Taliban and their desire to keep women ignorant.  Malala spoke out often and loudly until a Taliban member shot her three times and she was taken to England for medical treatment.  She was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and continues to speak out about the need for education of girls and women.  It's a great story and this one has some amazing art work.  I also really liked the notes in the back of the book that had information about people that Malala admired and modeled her own work after as well as some of the projects that Malala continues to work on.  This one would be great paired up with another picture book biography that came out last year called "The Right to Learn" by Rebecca Langston-George and it will make a great addition to any library.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Books about September 11

We've all been figuring out how to talk to our smallest students about September 11.  For the past 15, as adults, we've all been trying to process what this event meant to our country and although there have been a few things to talk with little kids about what happened, most of it is so big and so scary, that it didn't seem like a good idea.  Thankfully, some amazing authors and illustrators have been able to create some stories that introduce a conversation about what happened in way that is emotional without being overwhelming.

The first one is called "Seven and a Half Tons of Steel" by Janet Nolan.  It's about a piece of the Twin Towers that was removed from the crash site and used as part of a new Navy ship.  This one JUST came out last week (August 1st!) and one really great thing about it is how hopeful it feels.  A terrible, scary thing happened, but people could take that wreckage and turn it into something strong and powerful.  The other thing that's really great about this one is the art work.  I read this one as an electronic advanced readers copy and usually that means the art work is a bit jumbled or small, but this one.  Holy Cow.  The art work GLOWED, the pictures practically leapt off  my kindle.  I think this one is going to be a great one for elementary schools because of the simple text but bigger kids will really appreciate the amazing art work. 

Another new one, that is also a picture book is called "Saved By the Boats" by Julie Gassman.  I wrote about it in a blog post here.  It also had amazing art work, but in a really different way.  The art work in "Saved By the Boats" is really muted with a limited palette but wow, what an amazing emotional impact.  I loved this one too. 

Of course it's not enough to just have picture books, there are bigger kids who don't have first hand knowledge the events of September 11.  Luckily, there are some good new chapter books about September 11 too.  I already reviewed one that I liked a lot on this blog, called "Towers Falling" by Jewel Parker Rhodes.  (Here's a link to that one if you want to read it).  There's a even newer one that's getting a lot of buzz called "Nine, Ten" by Nora Raleigh Baskin.  It's told from the perspective of four different kids from really different backgrounds in different parts of the US on September 10, 2001.  Each one of them are dealing with different kinds of social issues-moving, divorce, death of a parent, bullying.  Each of them also has part of their story that takes them very close to the events of September 11.  It's not an easy book to read.  It gets a bit confusing switching between all the characters, but it's worth a bit of persistence to have the opportunity to talk about all these different points of view on an event like September 11.  This one would be a good read aloud for middle grade and middle school kids.  


Monday, August 8, 2016

More new stuff

I've been having a good time branching out from all the picture books I've been reading and Netgalley has been very obliging to have a terrific array of books to choose from!  Here are some of the latest and greatest....

The first one is a YA book called "Rivers of Shadow" by Leo Hunt.  It's the second in a series about a boy named Luke Manchett who is a necromancer.  I didn't read the first one, but the author left enough of a trail through this one to be sure that newbies like me could totally figure it out.  The story starts with Luke trying to wallow his way through high school.  It becomes apparent from the get-go, that things are different for Luke this year.  Last year he was a jock with lots of friends and this year, he has a freaky girlfriend, a dead father, and everyone seems to think he's toxic.  It turns out (in the book before) that Luke found out that his dad was a necromancer and passed on this great skill to his son.  Luke wasn't particularly interested and isn't terribly fond of the man it turns out his dad was, but he gets dragged into the fray.  In this story, a new girl shows up at school and turns things upside down.  Luke ends up on an epic quest.  It was super exciting and really scary.  There's a lot of funny dialogue and Luke is very likable.  I found myself comparing it to Lish McBride's series that started with "Hold Me Closer Necromancer", which I also really liked.  If you like scary books, this is a great one to read.

Also in Netgalley this time around was a non-fiction book for cooks called "Eight Flavors" by Sarah Lohman.  It's all about the history of some of the big flavors we use all the time in cooking today but really weren't that common until the last 100 years, like pepper and vanilla.  Each chapter spotlights one flavor, telling about the history of this flavor, how it's produced, how people used it in the past and how people use it today.  Each chapter also includes some recipes (all of which looked great).  I thought this book was terrific.  It was well researched and well written.  I think lots of grown ups will find this one great too.  

The last one is a scary book.  In fact, it's called "The Most Frightening Story Ever Told" by Philip Kerr.  I don't usually like scary books but this one is very funny and has so many nods to classic scary literature that it was really hard to put down.  It starts off with an introduction to the main character, Billy Shivers.  Billy is recuperating from a terrible car accident so he is pale and thin and small and doesn't like to be outside much, his parents are poor and he doesn't have any friends.  It feels a lot like a Roald Dahl book.  He ends up at the weirdest scary book store-the owner has lots of notes around the store explaining how things go (also reminiscent of Dahl) and Billy ends up spending a lot of time there.  The book store isn't doing very well and plan is hatched to try to get back at some kids who were mean to the store owner as well as make some money for the store.  There are lots of references to scary literature from some of the greats like Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley and lovely scary short stories.  I thought it was great and it will make a great addition to my library.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More new non fiction

The summer is winding down!  The teachers at my school return on August 9.  This is always a time of year that feels so full of potential.  So many new ideas to try and so many new books to read!  I found some non fiction books that are going to be great for my library!

The first one is the third one in a series about famous people as kids.  This one is called "Kid Artists" by David Stadler.  (the first two were "Kid Presidents" and "Kid Athletes").  The artist one is just as great as the first two were.  It follows the same format-short chapters about different famous artists as they were growing up.  The stories usually tell an interesting but kind of unusual story about the subject that gives you an idea of what kind of artist they would become without telling the entire life story.  There are funny little cartoony illustrations along the way that break up the text.  There is an interesting variety of artists too, from far back in history (Leonard da Vinci) to more modern (Andy Warhol). The first about Presidents and Athletes are rarely in my library, because they get checked out almost the minute they come back.  I can see this happening with "Kid Artists" too!

The second one is also an historical book.  It's called "Awesome America" by Time for Kids.  The title should give you an indication of what it's going to be like-lots of gorgeous photographs and text features like text boxes, captions, and graphical elements and it's going to be simply written without too much depth on any one topic, but broad overview.  This one is meant to spark the reader's imagination and hopefully have them do more research to find out more, not a definitive tome on any one topic.  It does that beautifully and it will certainly have a place in my elementary school library.  

This last one is science rather than history based.  It's called "Monster Science" by Helaine Becker.  It looks like it will be scary, and it is, a little bit, but this book uses monsters as a hook to teach kids about science.  Each chapter focuses on one monster (some are specific monsters, like Frankenstein and some are categories, like zombies).  It starts off with an introduction of the monster from both a historical and sometimes a literary perspective, which sounds like it might be boring, but the pieces of text are short and fairly compelling to read (they ARE about monsters, after all).  After the introduction is complete, there is information about the different kinds of science that might be involved in this monster.  For example, in the chapter about Frankenstein, there is information about electricity (and the scientists Volta and Galvani) as well as a discussion about electricity in the body, how neurons work, and organ transplants.  Each of the topics is short with fun little cartoonish pictures and I think they are very engaging.  I think kids are going to like this one a lot.