Sunday, December 31, 2017

New non fiction

I'm moving back into my post-CYBILs life.  For the last two months, I've been reading virtually nothing but middle grade fantasy (speculative) fiction.  It's been a lot of fun but I'm ready to move onto something else.

So imagine my immense joy this morning to look in Netgalley and find something completely different from what I've been reading, NON FICTION.  So I dove in and what a reward!  Here's some of what I found.

The first one is called "Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army" by Enigma Alberti.  It's the story of a group of soldiers during World War II that were artists, weathermen, sound engineers and writers that helped to mislead the Germans into thinking that there were a lot more American soldiers in different places than there actually were.  The story is written in a very easy to read conversational prose that moves the story along quickly.  It recounts several different times during the war when the Ghost Army was able to successfully trick the Germans and the local townspeople.  It also has graphic novel type illustrations that are clues to different things in the story. It tells you how to interpret them in the back (in case, like me, you weren't paying close enough attention to the pictures), which I think kids will find very amusing.  I know I enjoyed going back to see what the pictures really meant.  I think a book like this will engage a lot of kids who like puzzles as well as kids who like history.  The only reason I might not put it in my library is that in the front of the book it says that there will be a physical envelope that will contain tools that help you solve the mystery of the book.  In my library, it would take perhaps two checkouts before all the tools would disappear, so this might not be the right fit for my library, but I could highly recommend it for a home read.

The second one is a picture book about sustainability and problem solving.  It's called "Iqbal and his Ingenious Idea" by Elizabeth Suneby.  It's about a boy named Iqbal who lives in a small village in India or possibly Pakistan.  His teacher is organizing a science fair with cash prizes.  The project must showcase sustainability.  Iqbal is inspired by his mother, who is coughing from the smoke of their cooking fire, to create a new cleaner way to cook.  The story is simply written so it will go quickly but with enough details that you can really understand Iqbal's motivation. It's a nice lesson on how people's lives are different around the globe as well as creative problem solving and inventing.  This would be a really great one paired with "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" by William Kamkwaba.  I think this will be an excellent addition to our library.  

This last one came the day before winter break and I was able to sneak it home before any of my students checked it out!  It's a picture book biography called "The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young civil rights activist" by Cynthia Levinson.  The story starts with Audrey and her mother making a delicious dinner for their friend Mike who is coming from out of town.  It turns out Mike is Martin Luther King Jr. and he's in town with some other ministers to help to organize protests in Birmingham, Alabama.  Audrey really wants to participate too and so she does.   The pictures in this one are lovely and highly animated-you almost feel like you're right there with Audrey every step of the way.    This is a lovely story that kids will enjoy and hopefully it will help them understand that it's never too late to stand up for what is right. 

Here's a book trailer about the book. 

Happy New Year everyone!  May the new year be full of wonderful surprises and terrific new books!

Friday, December 8, 2017

More middle grade fantasy fiction!

So I'm knee deep in the CYBILs list.  In case you didn't know, CYBILs stands for Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Award.  I've been lucky enough to serve as a panelist this year on the middle grade speculative (fantasy) fiction and it's SO MUCH FUN.  It is a bit daunting to see the list-there are over 120 books (chapter books!) and we have two months to read them.  I was WAY behind the power curve this year, because I've mostly been reading picture books for another book award I read for so I've been scurrying to catch up.  I'm getting there, but I'm a little relieve that weather here in South Florida is supposed to be terrible tomorrow, in hopes that I'll actually think it's a good idea to sit down and read during the day time, instead of waiting until I go to bed, when invariably, I'm tired enough, I get to "The ..." and fall asleep.

Anyway, this week, I've had a chance to read some great ones that I'd never heard of so it was very exciting!  The first one is a new series called the Uncommoners and the first one is called "The Crooked Sixpence.  It's by a new author named Jennifer Bell.  It's set in London in current times and it's about a girl named Ivy and her older brother Sebastian (they call him Seb).  They have parents who love them but are very busy, so they spend a lot of time with their grandmother.  Unfortunately, at the opening of the book, Ivy and Seb are in the hospital, with their grandmother who fell and is badly injured.  Their grandmother had a strange accident some time ago (in 1969, in fact) and since then, she's had acute amnesia.  She remembers everything since then, but nothing before.  But the accident seems to have brought back some memories.  The kids are sent back home and are waiting the arrival of their parents, but when they get home, they find their home has been ransacked and there's an ominous message on the wall.  The kids realize this must have something to do with their grandmother's amnesia so they set out to try to unravel the mystery.  This is a super fun book that is exciting and mysterious and magical.  And I'm so happy to see that there is already a sequel, YAY!  Because Ivy and Seb and the other characters are so terrific, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Here's a link to Jennifer Bell's lovely website.  And here's the book trailer.

The second one is called "The Unicorn in the Barn" by Jacqueline Ogburn.  It's about a boy named Eric who's hit a bit of a rough patch.  His family has lived in Western NC for several generations, but his grandmother, who is the matriarch of the family (Eric's mom died when he was small), has gotten very sick.  In fact, she's so sick, they've had to sell off part of the family property to pay the bills.  The new family that moved in is a mom and daughter and Eric's first introduction to the daughter is not a happy one.  But the mom is a veterinarian, which is pretty handy, because right after his first introduction to the daughter, he spots an animal that he thinks might be the white deer people have been talking about.  The animal is limping and it limps right over to the barn that his grandmother used to own but has been taken over by the veterinarian.  It turns out that it's not actually a deer, but a unicorn.  This is a lovely story about taking care of each other and family traditions and following your own path.  I liked it a lot.  

Here's one of the inviting black and white drawings from the book. 

And here's the lovely cover.

The last one is called "Dragon's Green" by Scarlett Thomas.  It's about a girl named Euphemia (Effie) who lives with her dad and his new wife (her mom disappeared awhile back during a world wide earthquake that caused the world to lose internet access) and her new half sister.  Her grandfather has an extensive library that she loves to spend time in but her grandfather is forbidden to teach her magic or talk about magic.  But Effie seems drawn to the magic (her dad thinks it's nonsense and probably what caused her mom to disappear).  One terrible day, her grandfather is attacked and badly injured and suddenly Effie is flung into a world she doesn't know and is ill prepared for-the magical one.  But she also finds she has friends who are willing and able to help her with the magical perils.  I thought it was a very fun read and was very well written.  I'm very happy to hear that it's the first one in a series, because I love the idea that I'm going to get to read more about Effie and her friends.  Here's a link to Scarlett Thomas's beautiful  website.   And here's the cover.