Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pick 6: New Kids

Moving to a new town or a new school is a classic set-up for a youth novel, and with good reason. Finding yourself in a new situation, adjusting to new schedules and a new peer group; these are a solid framework for addressing personal and family issues. Here are six books published in the last six months that feature kids who recently moved to new towns as a primary character.

6 New books with kids new to town:

1. Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

2. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

3. Lemons by Melissa Savage

4. Bang by Barry Lyga

5. All Things New by Lauren Miller

6. Sidetracked by Diana Asher

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Non fiction book review - Torpedoed!

Torpedoed! by Cheryl Mullenbach

This book is the perfect combination of narrative and historical fact. Mullenbach explores the full historical context of the sinking of this ship. The portrayal of the sinking itself is almost clinical, allowing the reader to absorb all of the facts with very little emotional manipulation. This means that what we feel reading about these tragic events is genuine. While Mullenbach's book presents a fairly in depth exploration, it's scope is fairly narrow. Hopefully that will mean that readers finish this book hungry for more, leading them to read more about naval warfare and World War II.

More information: Torpedoed! releases September 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book review - Ban This Book

Title: Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: I Kill the Mocking Bird by Paul Acampora
                      Lunch Money by Andrew Clements (or really any Clements book)
loads of fun

Summary (provided by publisher): An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library—by starting her own illegal locker library!
It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read.
Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.

My opinion: The plot of this novel may reach some ridiculous extremes. But it's ridiculous in the same way as the beloved Frindle. It is altogether compelling and charming. We see Amy Anne learning about censorship and freedom of expression. We see an exploration of the way we judge others without knowing their stories. Gratz subtly explores value judgments. And most importantly, the message of the novel is clear without becoming exceedingly repetitive. Gratz leads us to the desired conclusion without beating us over the head with it. I would easily recommend this book to any 3rd-6th grader.

More information: Ban This Book releases August 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book review - Hit the Ground Running

Title: Hit the Ground Running
Author: Alison Hughes
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: #16thingsithoughtweretrue by Janet Gurtler
                      The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman
nothing to write home about

Summary (provided by publisher): Sixteen-year-old Dee and her seven-year-old brother, Eddie, have been on their own for six weeks. Their father has seemingly vanished into the baking Arizona desert. Their money is drying up and the rent is coming due, but it's a visit from a social worker and the prospect of being separated from Eddie that scares Dee enough to flee. She dupes her brother into packing up and embarking on the long road trip to Canada, their birthplace and former home. Lacking a driver's license and facing a looming interrogation at the border, Dee rations their money and food as they burn down the interstate in their ancient, decrepit car.

My opinion: This book delivers exactly what it promises: a teenage girl hits the road for Canada with her brother and precious little money when their father disappears and social services is knocking at their door. And that's exactly what happens. They go to Canada. Along the way, they see some stuff and have a close call or two. But that's it. It's a quick read but not a particularly compelling one. There's no real underlying tension. We have no clear idea of what Dee thinks she's running towards. While the voices and characters are fairly strong, that's not enough to combat the slow drag of the plot.

More Information: Hit the Ground Running releases August 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Books on screen

Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card's book is a slow moving, contemplative exploration of the nature of war and loss of childhood. The movie version is a majestic exploration of the morals of war and space exploration. Both of these stories, viewed separately, are successful. The movie isn't a particularly accurate representation of the novel, though. While many of the plot elements are present in the movie, there is an issue of scope. At the start of the novel, Ender is 6 years old. The book follows him through several years of training and the way each step of that training steals a little more of his innocence and humanity. The time frame of the movie isn't 100% clear, though it seems to be a matter of months. While Asa Butterfield portrays the 12 year old Ender well, his age by nature means that a great deal of that innocence and childhood is lacking. Butterfield's Ender has less distance to fall. And therein lies the problem. Card's novel hinges on the idea that those in charge have determined that the only way to defend the planet is to utilize the innocent creativity of a child. In the process of getting their solution, they essentially destroy Ender. It's a process that takes years of progressively chipping away at his soul. The movie version, while it has beautiful graphics and a fantastic cast ( Harrison Ford and Viola Davis and Graff and Anderson blew me away), it lacks the impact and depth of the novel. All of that to say, in and of itself Ender's Game is a decent movie. But, if you're familiar with the book, it may be a bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book review - Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw

Title: Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw
Author: Todd Calgi Gallicano
Genre: fantasy adventure
Similar books: The Eye of the North by Sinead O'Hart
                      The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
A fun adventure

Summary (provided by publisher): A new action adventure series set in our famous national parks! Enter the world of the Department of Mythical Wildlife, where our protagonist, Sam London, is tasked with protecting legendary animals that secretly live amongst our treasured wildlife.
    Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden.
   But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind—and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw.

My opinion: On the one hand, this book has all the necessary adventure plot elements, especially for a mythology basked book: a sympathetic and unassuming protagonist, who finds himself enmeshed in a wild adventure, plenty of mythological beings both familiar and obscure, quirky characters, betrayal, and interesting settings. So its a fun read. Its also fairly expected. It doesn't push a lot of plot boundaries. Also, because there's a great dal of world building, the characters aren't particularly complex. Some of the plot points are sort of vague, floating between events without clear cause and effect. So to sum up: entertaining but will feel familiar.

More information: Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw releases August 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Leggings aren't pants (at least, not for me)

I'm not big on leggings. I won't wear them as pants and I don't wear many dresses. But when I found Sonic the Hedgehog leggings for $4, well that's a different story. The problem I discovered after my fantastic leggings arrived? I didn't have anything to wear with them. My hunt for a reasonably priced tunic was fruitless. I lucked out this weekend when I found a Man's 3xl t-shirt on clearance. A little simple modification turned it into a t-shirt dress.

I might yet add some patch pockets

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book review - Sidetracked

Title: Sidetracked
Author: Diana Harmon Asher
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
                      The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
a delight

Summary (provided by publisher): To Joseph Friedman, middle school might as well be the Running of the Bulls. He’s friendless and puny, with ADD to boot, so he spends most of his time avoiding class bully Charlie Kastner and hiding out in the Resource Room, a safe place for misfit kids like him. But then, on the first day of seventh grade, two important things happen. First, his Resource Room teacher Mrs. T encourages (i.e., practically forces) him to join the school track team, and second, he meets Heather, a tough, athletic new girl who isn’t going to be pushed around by Charlie Kastner—or anybody else.
At first, track is as much of a disaster as everything else in Joseph’s life. But slowly Joseph hits his stride, and instead of running from the bulls . . . he’s just running.

My opinion: There's plenty to love about this book. Sports have a presence but don't bog down the personal development. While many of the characters are characterized as "Resource Room" but it isn't the bulk of their character. They aren't labeled with diagnoses. We see them as more than their labels. The surface plot is simple: an outsider finds acceptance on the track team as he learns about effort and integrity. It's much more than that, though. Joseph and his friends learn about compassion, persistence, overcoming fears, the complexity of adult relationships, good sportsmanship and more, all flowing organically with the plot.

More information: Sidetracked releases August 22.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Graphic novel spotlight - The Wendy Project

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne

 This is the perfect argument to present to people who claim that comics are superheroes, fart jokes, violence, and lazy reading. Osborne has done some fantastic work here. Framing her plot around a familiar story allows her to both draw stark contrasts and to use that familiarity to give herself a little space to further develop her characters. The plot is, essentially, quite simple. But beautiful in that simplicity. The real strength here is the art. Its largely soft lines, a loose flowing style that reflects Wendy's relationship with the world around her. Illustrated primarily in grey-scale, the whole thing has a softened tone that is contrasted by the occasional use of color to draw our eye to an object and mark it as "other". It doesn't' take long to read and can easily be reread without loosing any of its charm.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, July 24, 2017

"The Sharticorn Origin" or "Why I'm Weird"

In the years that I've been blogging here, I've shared some crafts that can only be described as weird. I'm comfortable with that. As today's craft will prove, I'm a pretty weird person. And I come by it naturally.

In a casual conversation with my family, we somehow (naturally) came up with the concept of a sharticorn - that is, a combination shark unicorn. And when I said "I feel like we need to draw it" nobody called me crazy. My mom just said "there's big paper in the cupboard". And now the sharkticorn is gracing my parent's refrigerator.

And because I'm me, I couldn't let it go at that. Since I had a plastic unicorn and a plastic shark, it was only natural that I make a sharkticorn.

The point of my story is that I have really awesome parents who have always given me space to be myself, who told me that there was nothing wrong with being a little weird.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pick 6: Mysteries

There's nothing like a good mystery. Whether you're six or sixty, we all enjoy going over clues and trying to guess the solution before the book's characters do. Here are six new mystery stories published in the last six months. The first half of the list is geared at a younger audience while the latter half is more teen oriented.

6 new mysteries

1. Splinter by Sasha Dawn

2. The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

3. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World by Bill Nye and Gregory Mone

4. Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

5. Artie Conan Doyle and the Grave Diggers Club by Robert J Harris

6. Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Man Who Loved Libraries

The Man Who Loved Libraries by Andrew Larsen

Carnegie is a fascinating figure. A prime example of the American spirit: rising from nothing to great wealth through hard work and self improvement. I liked the emphasis on education and the value of reading, of course. But I also liked that it doesn't whitewash. Larsen sates that some of Carnegie's business practices were questionable, his treatment of employees not alway fair. Many children's biographies, especially picture book length, talk only about best moments. I appreciated this level of honesty.

More information: The Man Who Loved Libraries releases August 15.
 Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book review - Love is Both Wave and Particle

Title: Love is Both Wave and Particle
Author: Paul Cody
Genre: Realistic fiction
Similar books: Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin
                      A List of Cages by Robin Roe
a lovely story, but not for everyone

Summary (provided by publisher): This achingly beautiful novel considers how to measure love when it has the power to both save and destroy.
Levon Grady and Samantha Vash are both students at an alternative high school for high-achieving but troubled teens. They have been chosen for a year-long project where they write their life stories and collect interviews from people who know them. The only rule is 100% confidentiality—they will share their work only with each other. What happens will transform their lives.
Told from the perspectives of Levon, Sam, and all the people who know them best, this is a love story infused with science and the exploration of identity. Love Is Both Wave and Particle looks at how love behaves in different situations, and how it can shed light on even the darkest heart.

My opinion: Non-linear. That's what stands out most to me about this book. While the heart of the narrative is fairly straight forward, the narration doesn't follow a linear path. It will for a while, but then we get another character who's perspective is years (or more disconcerting for me, weeks) in the past. We rehash known events from a secondary or tertiary perspective. Its a lovely exploration of relationships and families and the damage we inflict on one another, knowingly or otherwise. But it falls firmly in the odd category, so it's not a book for the easily discouraged. The thoughtful, though, could read it over and over and keep discovering something new.

More information: Love is Both Wave and Particle releases August 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I have a couple of bigger craft projects in the works. In the meantime, here's a little craft kit for your entertainment. I have a growing fondness for these little kits. They usually only cost a dollar or two and are pretty cute. Their decoration is limited if you use the provided markers (in this case, a trio of obnoxious neons) but acrylic paint opens up a world of options.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Picture books for everyone

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

The premise of this book is simple: a boy's kite gets stuck in a tree and he tries to get it out. It's his methods of retrieving the kite that make the book genius. First he throws a shoe at it. Then the other shoe. And a list of increasingly absurd items, all in an effort to knock the kite free. Each item he throws, as the title suggests, get stuck along side the kite. Even very young kids can see the absurdity and humor of a little boy tossing a cat (much less a whale, a firetruck, and the family car) into a tree. Older kids will giggle just as much as their younger counter parts, and in their case this book can be a starting point for a discussion of effective problem solving.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Get Coding

Get Coding by Young Rewired State

This is an excellent selection for kids interested in getting started with developing web projects. The directions are clear and concepts are reinforced without flatout repetition. It doesn't insult the reader's intelligence. The book is framed as a specific set of projects but encourages experimentation, so the lessons are easily extendable. And while the scope of the lessons is narrow there are plenty of resources included so an ambitions reader could easily use these resources to implement a more complex project. It was also nice to see a book that explained how three coding languages work together to create these projects rather than focusing on just one.

More information: Get Coding! releases August 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book review - Last in a Long Line of Rebels

Title: Last in a Long Line of Rebels
Author: Lisa Lewis Tyre
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: How to Stage a Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly
                      Finding Fortune by Delia Ray
What a delight!

Summary (provided by publisher): Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots.

My opinion: This novel has the perfect level of complexity for young readers. Tyre yses an exciting plot (the hunt for treasure) to address more serious topics (such as past and present prejudice). While the plot was a bit obvious at times and made a few logical leaps, it was ultimately compelling reading. There is a scene in which Lou discovers her ancestors were slave owners. The shame of our family history can be very real and shake our image of ourselves. This book is worth reading for that scene alone, and the rest of it is just as good.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sock puppet surfer dude

A local thrift store got the inventory from a yarn shop that shut down. With serious bargains on yarn I couldn't help myself. I bought several hanks of tapestry yarn with no clear idea of what I would do with them. Turns out, tapestry yarn makes pretty good puppet hair. Another trip to the thrift store may be in order...


Friday, July 7, 2017

Book review - Fires of Invention

Title: Fires of Invention
Author: J. Scott Savage
Genre: fantasy/sci-fi
Similar books: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
                      The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayres
had my doubts for a while there

Summary (provided by publisher): Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word.
Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.
Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.

My opinion: Steampunk and closed societies are unusual subjects for middle grade readers but it works pretty well in this instance. I had lots of ideas about the secrets behind the city of Cove early on, their reasoning behind seclusion and the technology ban. The reality was far from my suppositions. That revelation put this book on shaky ground for me. I couldn't see the connection behind their history and the rejection of technology, not for an entire culture. Once I was able to accept this tenuous plot point, the rest was pretty compelling reading. I loved the exploration of creativity, innovation, and character all mixed together.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Books on screen

The Incredible Journey/Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound was a notable movie in my childhood, one I can recall watching on multiple occasions and I was surprised to find I still enjoy now. It wasn't until I became a librarian that I realized that it was based on a book. There are a number of similarities between the two and a few notable differences. Many of the major plot points from Burnford's novel are played out on screen (or if not the exact plot elements, something similar enough to recognized it's origin). One could say that the heart of these two stories remains the same. The book, though, is largely a drama, a survival tale. It chronicles the drive of a group of animals to find home, the ways that they take care of each other and the lengths that they will go to in order to survive. The movie, on the other hand, is a family comedy. The adventure/survival elements are still present, they're just tempered by humor. The movie gives the animals voices and alters their personalities, creating interpersonal conflict to amp up the drama. To my mind, though, both of these stories are worth experiencing.
In my research, I discovered that this is the second version of The Incredible Journey that Disney has made. I wasn't able to get a copy of the 1967 version. If anyone has seen it, I'd love to hear what you thought of it and how it compares to the original book.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Energy Lab for Kids

Energy Lab for Kids by Emily Howbaker

I've evaluated a lot of kids' science experiment books and this is one of the better ones. It succeeds on a number of fronts.
1) It has a clear theme. From the title onward, you know exxactly what sort of experiments you are getting.
2) The steps for each experiment are clearly explained and supported by photos.
3) Each experiment is accompanied by the scientific explanation for what participants will observe. 
I could see using this book to supplement homeschooling curriculum or as a part of a summer education program, not to mention just being fun for science minded kids.

Monday, July 3, 2017


In my continuing effort to celebrate female superheroes in peg doll form, I had to celebrate my favorite X-man. It bothers me sometimes that most female heroes are given passive powers, abilities that are most useful when used away from the major action. Not so with Storm. Aurora Munro is a force to be reckoned with. And she makes a pretty cool peg, too.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Great Owl Repaint Project part 5

This is another owl that wasnt' particularly bad in it's original form. Since I decided to repaint owls, though, I thought I'd give this one a shot as well. Especially since that one eye is a little wonky.
It's new look is inspired by the Eastern Screech Owl.
I call this one Rowan. Meet the rest of the family: Evangeline, Leif, Clara, and Beatrice.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book review - Finding Fortune

Title: Finding Fortune
Author: Delia Ray
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question by Martha Freeman
                      Jelly Bean Summer by Joyce Magnin
It will grow on you

Summary (provided by publisher): When Ren sees her mom heading out to dinner with that creep Rick Littleton, she's furious. How could her mom do that to her dad, a soldier stuck over in Afghanistan? Ren decides to run away to the school-turned-boardinghouse in the next town over. Once there, she makes friends with a boy named Hugh, who tells her that the boardinghouse is the site of a mystery. Every night, the owner, Ms. Baxter, searches for a treasure left in the building years ago. If Ms. Baxter can't find it, then the boarding house might shut down for good, and her dream of preserving the town's history by opening a pearl button museum will never come true. By the time Ren, Hugh, and other visitors help find the treasure-a bag of pearls-Ren and her mom also have found a way to forgive each other.

My opinion: At face value, this is a pretty strange concept. It shouldn't work, and at first it didn't. I found the characters initially hard to believe. They grew on me, though. As Ren learned more about the inhabitants of the boardinghouse they, and she, became more believable to me. And along with them so did the hunt for a treasure. We begin to see why opening a button museum might matter to these characters. The conclusion is emotionally and entertainingly satisfying. I wouldn't recommend it to just any kid but might be a good choice for a thinker, an observer.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pick 6: superheroes

Most kids have a fascination with superheroes. The promise of powers beyond our peers, unsurprisingly, captures the imagination. Here are six books published in the last six months that explore what it means to have super powers.

6 new superhero novels

1. Dreadnought by April Daniels

2. The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice by Joshua Williamson

3. Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton

4. Bug Girl by Ben Harper

5. Miraculous: Tales of Lady Bug and Cat Noir by ZAG Entertainment

6. DC Superhero Girls: Summer Olympus by Shea Fontana

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book review - What Goes Up

Title: What Goes Up
Author: Katie Kennedy
Genre: sci-fi
Similar books: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
                      No True Echo by Gareth P. Jones
It just begs to be shared

Summary (provided by publisher): Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA's mysterious Interworlds Agency. They're not exactly sure what the top-secret program entails, but they know they want in. Rosa has her brilliant parents' legacies to live up to, and Eddie has nowhere else to go--he's certainly not going to stick around and wait for his violent father to get out of jail. Even if they are selected, they have no idea what lies in store. But first they have to make it through round after round of crazy-competitive testing.
And then something happens that even NASA's scientists couldn't predict . . .
From the author of the acclaimed Learning to Swear in America comes another high-stakes adventure that's absolutely out of this world.

My opinion: I both loved and was disappointed by this book (though the love far outweighs the disappointment). The alternating point of view is strong. While the individual characters fall a little bit into cliche that familiarity of type works in the novel's favor. It helps that the ultimate aim of the novel is to explore identity and fate. Its really smart to have cliched characters questioning their roles, pushing the boundaries of what is expected of their personality types. And the actual line to line writing was tight and nearly blew me away. Some of those passages just begged to be shared, highlighted, contemplated. My disappointment was with some plot elements and a few of the characters. Those disappointments are easily overcome. A great book to read, reread, and share.

More information: What Goes Up releases July 18.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, June 19, 2017

King of the t-shirt jungle

When I wasn't able to find a gift I liked for my cousin's son, I figured it was just as easy to make something for him. He's a fan of lions, so I drew this t-shirt for him.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Book review - The Dissappearances

Title: The Disappearances
Author: Emily Bain Murphy
Genre: historical fiction/magical realism
Similar books: The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
                      These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Rating:
slow to start
Summary (provided by publisher):  What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?
Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home--and the place where Juliet grew up.
Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together--scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream--vanish every seven years.
No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible--and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

My opinion: I wasn't particularly into this book at first. My attention wasn't really captured until nearly halfway through. I got rather caught up in theories and secrets. I really wanted to know what was causing the sensory losses. While the characters were a little light, the plot kept me going. I was a little disappointed by the final reveals. I don't know that we got enough explanation about the stone and the curse. Between that failing at the end and the slow start, it could be a hard sell for young readers.

More information: The Disappearances releases July 4.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Picture books for everyone

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka

This book may be a bit of a stretch for some young people. There is no real story. It is, as the title suggests, based on be bop in its very format with lines like "overshoes overshoes overshoes o" and my favorite "never leave your cat alone". It's all about exploring rhythm and taking artistic risks. The illustrations are highly stylized, which works well with jazz text. I highly recommend reading this book with children of all ages, though I do recommend reading through it several times yourself, practicing your delivery. 

As a side note, the PBS program Between the Lions devoted a rather excellent episode to Charlie Parker Played Be Bop if you're looking for some inspiration.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book review - What to Say Next

Title: What to Say Next
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw
                      Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer Smith
mostly delightful with a few disappointments

Summary (provided by publisher): Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.
KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they?  I don’t even understand.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.
When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

My opinion: I liked the characters in this novel better than the plot. I loved the interplay between Kit and David. They both reject the label "normal", largely by necessity. David is aware that his personality quirks will forever separate him from his peers. Kit's grief is a tangible barrier from her old life. These characters have glimpsed beyond the societal facade. That part I loved. I even loved their doomed infatuation, even with it's obvious conclusion.
What I didn't love was the mystery. For the first two thirds of the book, the mystery of the car accident is seldom addressed, merely mentioned. For it to become the major plot catalyst felt a little clumsy. The revelations about the accident didn't have enough evidence supporting them.
It was still an engaging and emotionally complex novel. It just could have been much stronger.

More information: What to Say Next releases July 11.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A wild purse

I have this thing about sloths. They're kind of ugly/creepy but also completely adorable. When I spotted this bag on Amazon, I loved it. But I didn't love the price tag, especially since I knew it wouldn't be hard to replicate it. I bought a plain brown hobo bag instead.

A few customized felt appliques made it a close enough approximation of the original. It's loads of fun to carry.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book review - The Song From Somewhere Else

Title: The Song from Somewhere Else
Author: A. F. Harrold
Genre: magical realism
Similar books: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
                      Skellig by David Almond
intriguing, though not really my thing

Summary (provided by publisher): Frank thought her summer couldn't get any worse--until big, weird, smelly Nick Underbridge rescues her from a bully, and she winds up at his house.
Frank quickly realizes there's more to Nick than meets the eye. When she's at his house, she hears the strangest, most beautiful music, music which leads her to a mysterious, hidden door. Beyond the door are amazing creatures that she never even dreamed could be real. For the first time in forever, Frank feels happy . . . and she and Nick start to become friends.
But Nick's incredible secrets are also accompanied by great danger. Frank must figure out how to help her new friend, the same way that he has helped her.
Paired with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations from Levi Pinfold, acclaimed author A. F. Harrold weaves a powerful story about unlikely friendship, strange magic, and keeping the shadows at bay.

My Opinion: An interesting blend of multiple dimensions, magical realism, and mild horror. The first word I would use to describe it is, honestly, weird. The whole atmosphere is a half step away from normal, like a David Almond novel. Harrold takes a number of normal kid experiences (bullying, the missing cat, the weird kid at school) and makes them very "other", vaguely menacing. Shadows, mystery music, government, random ladies with carriages. All of these things are given mild menace. This would be a decent choice for a kid who enjoys reading outside of the mainstream.

More information: The Song From Somewhere Else releases July 4.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.