Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Review: Revolution

Title: Revolution
Author: Deborah Wiles
Genre: Historical Fiction
Similar books: If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
                     One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
                     Are You Experienced by Jordan Sonnenblick
Enjoyable and thought-provoking. I wish they taught this stuff better in schools

Summary: Sunny's whole world is changing. Her dad remarried a year ago and his new wife and her two kids are still finding their place in Sunny's family. Its the summer of 1964 in Mississippi and the world seems to be exploding around her. 
My opinion: Two things really impressed me about this book. 1) The prevailing emotion in Greenwood Mississippi was fear. Generally books about integration and race relations are about hate. Wiles puts much more emphasis on fear, which can be just as destructive. 2) Very little changes by the end of the summer. Again, these books tend to end with sweeping changes and new attitudes. The reality is, social changes happen in small steps. Add in Sunny's story of family and social awareness and the great historical documents and ephemera and this one is a definite winner.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Books on Screen


Here's another movie that most people don't realize was originally a book. So, what do these two stories have in common?
1. The ogre's name is Shrek
2. He is green and has those weird suction cup looking things for ears
3. He meets a talking donkey (though in the book this is the result of a spell that Shrek recites)
4. Shrek falls in love
The book has no cursed princess, corrupt Lord, or recognizable fairy tale characters. And this is a rare case where I think I prefer the movie over the book. Mostly because the movie has a much more cohesive plot line.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Hungry by H. A. Swain
In Thalia's world, liquid nutrition and inoculations have replaced food. No one is hungry. At least, that's what One World says. Lately, though, Thalia has been experiencing unusual symptoms. She's light headed. And her stomach makes odd noises. Could it be possible? Is Thalia....hungry? And what will One World do when they find out?
It's a little slow going so far but I'm about halfway through it and things seem to be picking up.

What did you recently finish reading?
How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating
Ana's best friend has moved away. To New Zealand! There's a group of girls at school determined to make her life miserable. To make matters worse, her family is moving into a house in the zoo and her tv star grandfather is in town to make a documentary. Right when Ana would like nothing better than to disappear, the world seems to be conspiring to force her into the spotlight.
This is a pretty decent story about not letting other people's opinions color your view of yourself.

What do you think you will read next?
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
This one has been getting a lot of buzz and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Music and Mayhem

9 months of hard work have finally paid off. We had our puppet variety show on Saturday. Nine kids participated in the show (illness prevented it from being ten). They were very proud of their hard work. I hope to have a link to the YouTube video of the show for you in a week or two. In the mean time, here are some photos from the event.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: The Great Greene Heist

Title: The Great Greene Heist
Author: Varian Johnson
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Similar books: Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
                     Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
Scheming fun

Summary: Jackson has a reputation for scheming and running cons in his middle school. After getting in trouble, he swears he's gone straight. Then his "nemesis", Keith, runs for student council against Jackson's former friend Gaby. Jackson's certain Keith is up to no good. He assembles a team for one final job: to make sure the election is fair. Can Jackson trick the bully without catching the attention of the principal who has it out for him?
My Opinion: A fun read for the summer (or anytime really). It's a book for anyone who's ever wanted to put a bully in his place. Jackson and his crew deftly trap Keith without resorting to bullying themselves. In fact, at various points Jackson holds members of the crew back from taking the plan too far. A great cast of characters flesh out a fantastic plot, so long as you are willing not to take it too seriously. The book includes a brief glossary of the terms the crew uses in their planning, like White Rabbit and Denver Boot.
More Information: The Great Greene Heist releases May 27th.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Graphic Novel Spotlight: Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

Take your average fairy tale, turn it on it's ear, empower the girls, and set it in the old west. That's the joy that is Rapunzel's Revenge. The characters make mistakes, sometimes things they can't fix, and face the consequences of their actions. Rapunzel is a tough girl who makes her own way in the world and, most importantly, chooses. This book is all about choice. There is also a second book called Calamity Jack. Great for the 10-15 year old set but also has some appeal for older readers.

Rapunzel harnesses the power of her hair
and she doesn't put up with Jack goofing off

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Oblivion by Sasha Dawn
A year ago, Callie's father vanished. At the same time, a local girl also disappeared. A girl who was part of Callie's father's parish. Callie wonders if the secrets to these disappearance may be locked inside her head and in the words she frequently feels compelled to write on the nearest surface. 
I've only just started this one but it seems pretty compelling.


Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Sunny's whole world is changing. Her dad remarried a year ago and his new wife and her two kids are still finding their place in Sunny's family. Its the summer of 1964 in Mississippi and the world seems to be exploding around her. 
I'm a sucker for good historical fiction (especially set in the 60's onward) and I absolutely loved the first book in this trilogy, Countdown. These books integrate song lyrics, ads, images, and more from the era.
What did you recently finish reading?
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Jackson has a reputation for scheming and running cons in his middle school. After getting in trouble, he swears he's gone straight. Then his "nemesis", Keith, runs for student council against Jackson's former friend Gaby. Jackson's certain Keith is up to no good. He assembles a team for one final job: to make sure the election is fair. Can Jackson trick the bully without catching the attention of the principal who has it out for him?
Anyone who's ever enjoyed a heist movie will enjoy this book.
What do you think you will read next?
The Swift Boys & Me  by Kody Keplinger
The story of a girl trying to hold onto her friends when their whole world has changed. Sounds like a solid middle grade novel. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pick 6: Early Chapter Series

This is a list I find particularly useful. This is the list for the parent who asks for a book for their child who is just beginning to read chapter books. There are some great early chapter series currently being published.

6 New Early Chapter Series

1. Three Ring Rascals by Kate Klise   (the circus and lessons in kindness)

2. The Berenson Schemes by Lisa Doan   (wild adventures)

3. Monkey Me by Timothy Roland   (a kid turns into a monkey - includes comic strip sequences)

4. Kung Pow Chicken by Cyndi Marko   (super hero chickens)

5. Good Crooks by Mary Amato   (kids raised to be crooks who want to do good)

6. Sasquatch and Aliens by Charise Maricle Harper   (cryptids)

Also, just as an FYI, if you look into some of these books you'll see an emblem in the corner that says "Branches." Branches is a new(ish) imprint of Scholastic specifically for these early chapter books.

Monday, May 19, 2014


During the school year, one of our Friday programs is a puppet group. We make a different kind of puppet every month and have been working on putting together a puppet show which we will perform on Saturday (more on that next week). After our puppet show, we'll have a reception with a puppet sale to fund next year's puppets. These puppets are all things I have made as examples for each month's puppet session. Here are some of my favorites.

The Spoon Chef - we think he looks like Jamie Oliver

The Swamp Thing

The Fish

The robot shadow puppet

The baby dragon marionette

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: Steering Toward Normal

Title: Steering Toward Normal
Author: Rebecca Petruck
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Similar books: Worth by A. LaFaye
                     Horse Camp by Nicole Helget and Nate Leboutillier
Surprisingly pleased

Summary: Diggy Lawson's life follows a familiar routine: he goes to school, takes care of his 4H steer, and trades practical jokes with his Pop. Then his classmate, Wayne Graf, gets dropped off at their house and they discover that Wayne is also Pop's son. Diggy finds it impossible to adjust to having Wayne around, especially when Wayne also decides to raise a 4H steer. Suddenly they are competing for everything: the championship at the fair, Pop's attention, and the notice of July, an older girl on whom they both have a crush.
My Opinion: Reading this book reminded me somewhat of my childhood. While I never did 4H myself many of my friends did and my family raised some farm animals. The book explains a lot about show animal procedures for those unfamiliar. These descriptions can get a little dry at times, but only briefly. Those moments are definitely overshadowed by the brilliance of the rest of the book. I was especially fond of the moments where we see the steers echoing their owners' emotional states and the prank scenes (hilarious!). Anyone who's ever had a sibling will relate to the relationship between Diggy and Wayne. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to future books from Petruck.  

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, May 15, 2014

John Green

I'm a great admirer of the works of John Green, both his books and his YouTube channel. The man is nothing short of a genius. With the general popularity of his books and the movie of The Fault in Our Stars nearly here we thought we'd do an evening program centered on John Green.

We planned a pretty low key program. The plan was to show some Vlogbrothers clips, do some fan art, and just generally discuss the books. 

We took a vote and by a narrow margin An Abundance of Katherines was the favorite title of attendees.

We had a lot of fun with Nerdfighter Mad Libs. (Find them here)

We drew our own versions of The Giant Squid of Anger.

And one brave teen was willing to have his photo taken with me doing the Nerdfighter sign. 
Thanks, Nick!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
I am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff.
Boy Nobody is, as the title implies, a weapon. A weapon that no one even notices. He infiltrates a community, gets close to some key kid, assassinates his target in a way that looks like natural causes, and disappears. This is his world and he doesn't question it. Until he meets Sam. Sam is the daughter of his current target, the mayor of New York City. For the first time, Boy Nobody finds himself questioning his role. I'm really enjoying this book so far and look forward to seeing how it resolves.
What did you recently finish reading?
Nantucket Red by Leila Howland
Cricket just got accepted at Brown University. She has just one summer to make $8000 to support herself during the school year. What better place to make this money than Nantucket? Of course, this means there's a chance she'll run into her former best friend and her ex-boyfriend who are vacationing there. With a hot new guy in her world and a mistake that may change the course of her life, summer won't be dull.
What do you think you will read next?
Dream Boy by Madelyn Rosenberg
This sound sounds equal parts magical and creepy. Could be awesome.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pick 6

Hi there! I'm playing with some new features for the blog here. Today's attempt I'm calling Pick 6. The idea is that I'll pick a genre and list 6 books from that genre published withing the last 6 months. Ideally these will be books that I've read and think you all should read as well. Let me know what you think.

6 Teen Mysteries

1.  Don't look Back by Jennifer Armentrout
2.  Buzzkill by Beth Fantaskey
3.  Far From You by Tess Sharpe
4.  Below the Surface by Tim Shoemaker  (This might technically be a tween novel [and can I say I'm not a fan of the word tween] but I'm making an exception because it was pretty cool)
5.  High and Dry by Sarah Skilton
6.  Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell (Confession: I haven't read this one but it sounds cooler than some of the mysteries I did read so I'm including it)
So there's my list. If you've read any truly awesome teen mysteries in the past 6 months I'd love to hear about them. 

Monday, May 12, 2014


This past week I got a special request for some small polymer clay charms. While I was at it I figured I'd try making a few for myself for use in our upcoming Doctor Who program at work (details coming next month!).

The custom charms:
Happy Muffin!

Doctor Who charms:


Weeping Angel
The charms are a little simplistic but I hope a second round of charm making later will result in a slightly better product. Also, I made a Dalek but it absolutely refused to photograph properly.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bonus Book Review: Undone

That's right. A second book review this week. I couldn't decide between these two.

Title: Undone
Author: Cat Clarke
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Similar books: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
                     Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
Thought provoking , concerning
Summary: Jem has always loved Kai the best of anyone. She can't imagine her life without her best friend. She is devastated, then, when Kai commits suicide after he is outed in a cruel video on the internet. When Kai's sister delivers a series of letters from Kai, where he tries to help Jem move on, Jem vows revenge on those she thinks posted the video.
My opinion: Jem's quest is somewhat reminiscent of The Count of Monte Cristo (good companion read!). She ignores what good sense tells her, that no good will come from her quest. And there are consequences, things she did not expect when she set out to ruin lives. So on the one hand, it has real, good lessons to teach us about bullying and the consequences to our actions. On the other hand, I found certain aspects of the story troubling. The end in particular was somewhat concerning.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Book Review: A Bird on Water Street

Title: A Bird on Water Street
Author: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Genre: Historical Fiction
Similar books: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D Schmidt
                     Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
Dreamy setting, satisfying story
Summary: All Jack has ever known is Coppertown, a town where nothing grows. No trees, no plants, no bugs, no birds. All the men in his family work in the mine. His grandfather, and now his uncle, both died in mine collapses. His father expects Jack to be a miner some day. But Jack can't help but dream of something more.
My Opinion: This book deftly blends ecological education with the weight of other people's expectations. I found Jack's perspective on life light and refreshing. He understands the way people are tied to a place as well as the desire for something more. It has more emotional complexity than you sometimes see in a middle grade novel. The setting is fantastically described. 

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Books on Screen

The Reluctant Dragon

In the 40's, Disney created a number of short films including this one based on a short story by Kenneth Grahame. While the movie lacks the elegance of the original story it remains true to the spirit of the tale and adds a bit more humor. The dragon's head-tuft things are quite expressive and a joy to watch. There were a few changes made that I didn't quite understand (like replacing Saint George with the generic Sir Giles) but that doesn't really detract from the movie on the whole. The cartoon is only about 20 minutes but is preceded by an inside look at Disney animation studios at the time and includes the Goofy short "How to ride a horse."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
A Bird on Water Street by Elizabeth Dulemba
In Coppertown, everyone is connected to the mine. Jack's whole family has worked there and it's expected that eventually Jack will too. The thing is, he's not sure that's what he wants. He finds himself wishing for more, for a place where things grow, where there are trees and birds.
This coming of age tale combines parental expectations with societal and ecological issues. It reminds me somewhat of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, one of my favorite books when I was in middle school.
What did you recently finish reading?
Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey
After finding the high school football coach dead, Millie teams up with mysterious football player Chase to track down the murderer. In the process a number of other secrets come to light.
This was a pretty solid mystery, though I found the construction of the chapter ends got a little old after a while.
What do you think you will read next?
Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel
I'm a big fan of retellings, so this new version of Peter Pan is likely to be right up my alley.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guest review - Uglies

When I first started blogging, I knew I wanted to include others on here. So today I bring you the first of what will hopefully be many posts by friends and coworkers. This particular coworker prefers to remain anonymous online and has selected the pen name Elizabeth Murphy. Elizabeth said she really enjoyed the review process and intends to write several other reviews for me.

Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: science fiction
Similar books: The Program by Suzanne Young
                     The Circle by Dave Eggers

Summary: A new society and way of looking at life. If everyone is made "pretty" it makes all people equal. But does it really work that way? The problem arises when some of the characters question the society (like all teenagers should).
Your opinion: A great page turning book, even if it is a little far fetched. The society seems very real as does the great new technology. Things change very quickly towards the end and the last scenario leaves the reader waiting for the next book. Maybe too much up in the air.

Thanks Elizabeth for the review! Stay tuned. In a few weeks I hope to have a side by side review with my coworker Abby.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Baby shower gifts

I enjoy getting invited to baby showers, mostly because I enjoy making gifts for babies. As I just went to a shower yesterday, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the gifts I've made with all of you.

This onesie was an idea developed by my sister and myself. The bow tie is fabric sewed down just under the collar. The suspenders are drawn on with fabric marker.

This owl is made out of t-shirts. I'm quite fond of the combination of purple stripes and the green belly.

In between those two I had made another onesie and a t-shirt elephant but I don't seem to have any photos of either of those.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Effie Trinket face

When we decided to do a Catching Fire program, there was no question as to whether or not we would do any costuming. After a lot of debate I decided to model my costume after a resident of the Capitol. Green pants, green shirt over a yellow shirt, and gold suspenders with yellow sprayed hair and lots of gold make-up. I certainly got a lot of weird looks.

Not sure what this face was about

This hair took a prodigious amount of colored hair spray. It was quite hard to the touch.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review: Riot

Title: Riot
Author: Sarah Mussi
Genre: dystopian thriller
Similar books: Little Brother by Cory Doctorw
                     Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy
Mostly thrilling, but a bit of a let-down

Summary: Life in Great Britain is at a boiling point. Unemployment and crime are at a record high. Businesses are failing. Cities are overcrowded. In an effort to fix things, politicians suggest a radical move: cut funding to support systems for the poor and force sterilization on drop-outs, criminals, and other "problem populations." Outraged, Tia and her hacker friends organize protests. They find themselves caught up in something much larger.
My Opinion: Probably 98% of this book was thrilling, nail-biting action. Tia and Cobain are thrown from one dangerous situation right into the next. There isn't a lot of lingering in one place to think over their decisions or lament how badly their lives are going. So, it's not particularly introspective but the sheer amount of action makes up for it. The 2% that let me down was the end. Without giving too much away, just know that I'm not a fan of Hollywood endings and this one definitely dips into that territory. In spite of that, still well worth reading.
More Information: Riot is published by Hachette Children's Books of Great Britain.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Graphic Novel Spotlight: Friends With Boys

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

It's a ghost story. It's a coming of age story. It's a tale of the ways we change in high school. The visuals are amazing. Faith Erin Hicks has this fantastic ability to express emotions on cartoon faces with simple lines. Lucy's enthusiasm for pretty much everything is present in every panel in which she appears. This is another graphic novel that really benefits from black and white art. I feel like color would have made it too cluttered. Also, this is a great one to watch the details in the background. Hicks sneaks a lot of little, cool stuff in there that adds to the larger story.