Monday, November 23, 2009

"Going straight to the source and learning something new is like finding buried treasure."

Many of the blogs I like to read have been participating in Facts First! Nonfiction Monday posts. I have enjoyed reading about new nonfiction books and decided to share one that I purchased at the AASL conference in Charlotte this month. Go Straight to the Source by Kristin Fontichiaro is part of the forthcoming 8-title series "Super Smart Information Strategies." Fontichiaro, a school library media specialist and Michigan colleague and friend, writes about using inquiry strategies to discover more about primary sources.

What I like about Go Straight to the Source is that it covers several types of primary sources (pictures, objects, and print), helps students learn what a primary source is, and provides hands-on activities and examples to guide readers through the process of using these resources in research. Each activity reminds students to ask questions and write about what they see, think, and wonder. This page, for example, demonstrates how a reader might ask questions about a primary source image.

Fontichiaro also explains how regular people are creating primary sources that tell stories about them each day. In one activity she challenges students to look at the objects an adult has in his or her pocket and/or purse in order to learn more about the person. She then continues the activity and explains how a student might learn about another through the objects in his/her backpack.

Unfamiliar words are highlighted throughout the text and there is a glossary to help with both pronounciation and definitions of these words. There is also an index which is helpful in locating information about specific types of primary sources throughout the book. Go Straight to the Source is written for an upper elementary audience, but I will probably use many of the activities in middle school as well, especially because many of my students have never investigated primary sources or worked closely with a librarian in the past.

Go Straight to the Source will be published in January 2010. Other titles in the series include Find Your Way Online, Team Up Online, Find the Right Site, Hit the Books, Write it Down, Put it All Together, and Make the Grade.

This week Facts First! Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Diane Chen at Practically Paradise.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"I begin to think that maybe there are more things in life that seem simple, or even stupid, on the surface but turn out to have so much more . . .."

Lucius and Aurora are the new kids at school. However, they have arrived under vastly different circumstances. Lucius' family has moved after he did the unthinkable: created an explosion that left him without his arms. Aurora's father has decided to move after they lose her mother to sickness. Both are alone in a new place and have to figure out how to cope. Unlike Lucius, Aurora is instantly popular. She is the kind of girl everyone wants to be friends with. For Lucius, it's more difficult. People notice right away that he has prosthetic arms, complete with hooks, which intimidates many and keeps them at a distance. Told in alternating chapters, we hear Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead from both Lucius' and Aurora's voices.

I read this book quickly, probably within a couple of hours. However, I've gone back to it four or five times in the last few weeks--reading parts out loud to students, colleagues, and generally whoever would listen because there were so many parts that I wanted to share. I loved Lucius' relationship with Nick Greek, the former football star turned security guard at his new school. There's something transformational about being able to help someone else when you are in bad circumstances and their friendship defined that for me. I also tend to believe that one positive relationship with an adult can change a kid forever, even though the impact may not be seen for years.

Although this is a quick read, there is a lot to think about. I'm always advocating for kids to be allowed to read whatever they want, regardless of format or length--this book is an example of a slim volume that really delivers.

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead was published in September, 2009.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Among the hardships, disappointments, and losses, it's the adventure of it all that has gotten me up each morning."

It's summer and Lyza has no idea the adventure that lies ahead of her. It's 1968, the Vietnam War has captured the attention of the nation, and Lyza's mother has left the family. Instead of being free to wander and enjoy the summer, Lyza's father decides that she must wash dishes at the local diner while her father teaches courses at the local university. Lyza's unique friendships with her neighbors Malcolm and Carolann make them perfect partners for sneaking off while her father is working. Her friends also provide a window to look at race relations in the late '60s, as Malcolm is African American and his brother is drafted, sending letters home throughout the summer explaining the differences between current society and the military attitude about race, as well as sharing what it's like to be at war.

Lyza and her grandfather have always shared a love of adventure. From the time she was little, he would show her maps and tell her about his travels. When he passes away, she discovers an envelope that says, "FOR LYZA ONLY." She has to decide if she should share the contents of the envelope and, if so, who will understand? Will she be able to figure out the clues her grandfather left behind? Even if she can discover the secret, will she have enough time to complete the adventure?

Told in verse, this is a story of a family figuring out how to change when circumstances demand new ways. I especially loved the relationship between Lyza and her grandfather. I lived with my grandparents twice (once as a teenager and once as an adult), so I got to enjoy a great relationship with my grandfather. Reading about Lyza's adventures reminded me of how much I miss him--and what a wonderful influence he was in my life.

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant was published in 2009.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Lucky me. I found the right kind of love. With the wrong person."

The statistic that brought Ellen Hopkins to write Tricks is that the average age of a prostitute in the United States is twelve. TWELVE. When Ellen Hopkins visited B&N to read and sign her latest book, Tricks, during Banned Books Week, she told the audience that she wants teens to know that there are other ways. That they can make better choices.

Tricks is the story of five teens: Eden, Seth, Ginger, Whitney, and Cody, and the choices each of them makes when faced with difficult family situations. Hopkins based most of her characters in Tricks on teens she has met and pieces of their lives that they have shared with her. Written in verse, each of the teens tells they story of how he or she ended up as a prostitute in Las Vegas.

It took me almost two weeks to read Tricks because it was so hard to continue. I have three children of my own and I work in a middle school, so I have lots to worry about. Reading these stories made me scared, then sad, but ultimately the end also gave me hope. Hopkins researched Tricks through the stories of teen prostitutes, as well as the people who work to help change their lives.

It was amazing to hear Ellen Hopkins read a bit about each of the teens. She answered audience questions, many from teens, and then graciously signed her books. Following the signing, it was fun to meet Tirzah from The Compulsive Reader and Sara from The Hiding Spot and chat with Ed Spicer from Spicy Reads. I'm looking forward to more community events that allow readers to connect with authors and one another.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"My biggest fear was that I'd wake up every day alone, that I'd never find someone to love."

Johanna has always been the kind of girl who others count on. She's a good student and a great friend. She even volunteers her time at a nursing home. Underneath the surface, however, Johanna has problems like anyone else. Her parents have both passed away, forcing her sister Tessa and brother-in-law Martin to move home to take care of her. Her relationship with Tessa is complicated by the fact that she believes that her sister does not approve of her being a lesbian. Johanna has always taken care of her best friend Novak, but their friendship is troublesome due to Novak's on-again, off-again boyfriend and rocky relationship with her parents. She depends on Johanna to be there, but is not really a reliable friend herself.

What Johanna really wants is Reeve Hartt. Reeve is also a lesbian and seems comfortable in her own skin. She doesn't know Johanna is alive until Johanna starts tutoring Reeve's twin brother Robbie. While working with Robbie, Johanna begins to spend time with Reeve and a tenuous relationship develops. What Johanna could not have realized is that Reeve and Robbie lead a messy home life, one which ultimately leads to tragedy.

This is one of those books where I constantly yelled at the main character. I wanted her to understand the destructive nature of her relationship and to realize her own value. In the end, both Johanna and Reeve have to figure out what is best for each of them individually, which will resonate with teens who face decisions about their own relationships.

Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters was released September 8, 2009.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"I had the strangest sensation there was more to the story."


Have you ever wished for something to happen and then when it did, you had that creepy feeling, the one where part of you thinks that you willed it to happen? Now imagine that your wish is that the popular kids at school who are constantly picking on you would die. And then, Lucy, who is #1 on your list, goes missing. This is the set up for Todd Strasser's newest book, Wish You Were Dead.
Our protagonist is Madison, a well-off girl who is part of the popular crowd but also is involved with other kids. She is not one to make fun of other students. But she is one of the 2 drivers who dropped Lucy off at her house the night she disappeared. Madison tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Lucy (and then other students in their clique).
Madison is getting clues from lots of people but will she be able to put them together in time to save her friends?

This book is due to be published on September 22, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Something had been born here and it lived here still"


I love a good ghost story and the creep factor that goes along with it. When I was in Chicago for ALA, I snagged an ARC of The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom and looked forward to starting it.

Conrad Harrison is lost in many ways before the book even begins. But as he moves his wife, Joanna and their dogs from LA to Black Earth, his life starts to unravel in ways he could not predict or prevent. The former owners of this "birthing house," the Laskis, are strange and their unknown number of children are just not right. Laski brings Conrad a photo of the women of the house from years ago . . . and Conrad recognizes one of them. She startingly resembles his wife. After Joanna leaves for a work trip and Conrad gets sucked deeper and deeper into the house and those that still inhabit it, he loses track of what is real and what is dream. But is it really a dream at all?

You can watch the video trailer for the book, where the author explains what has inspired him to write it. He and his wife actually moved into a birthing house and after he had a nightmare, he decided to write the novel. Can we say creepy? If I had nightmares like this book, I might hesitate to go to sleep!

The Birthing House was just released on August 4, 2009.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ypulse Author Spotlight: Julie Kraut

Julie Kraut, author of Slept Away, is the focus of today's Ypulse Author Spotlight. Julie discusses her book and how camp has changed (and how it is oh-so-the-same) since she was a camper. It's a great interview--check it out!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Everyone's afraid of something."






I caught Gitty Daneshvari at the Little, Brown booth between sessions at ALA 2009 and she signed a copy of School of Fear for me. She was very friendly!

Imagine your worst fear. Madeleine, Theodore, Lulu, and Garrison's fears go deeper: they each have a phobia. Maddie is afraid of bugs. She lives covered in nets and bug spray. She insists that rooms be fumigated before she will enter. Theo is afraid of dying. So afraid, in fact, that he has created an elaborate system for his family to check in and prove that they're not dead. Lulu is claustrophobic. She won't even use an elevator. Garrison is afraid of deep water. He is an athlete, but will not swim. Their fears are so deep that they have affected the way the children live their lives. In order to help relieve them of their phobias, the children are sent to the School of Fear for the summer. This uber-secretive institution is run by the eccentric Mrs. Wellington from an exceptionally secluded location. What exactly happens at the school is anyone's guess. However, it is understood that the children will be sequestered for the summer and will be helped to overcome their fears.

Upon arrival, it becomes clear to the children that School of Fear is not an ordinary institution. It is held in Mrs. Wellington's home which is decorated in a 50's motif (original, not retro) and includes the "Fearnasium," a place for the children to work out their fears. Mrs. Wellington, a former beauty queen, imagines the children as contestants and puts them through a hilarious and ridiculous form of pageant training. The children wonder, however, just how this will help cure them of their phobias. Mrs. Wellington has an elaborate plan to help the children. Can she carry it out? As they story unfolds, along with the groundskeeper and cook Schmidty, the lawyer Munchauser, and Mrs. Wellington's bulldog Macaroni, the children realize that they will never forget their summer at the School of Fear.

When I first received this book from Little, Brown as a "Galley of the Week," I was taken by the cover. I'll be the first to admit that I am attracted to book covers. There has been a lot of buzz about this lately (Justine Larbalestier's post, John Green's post, a challenge found via A Chair, a Fire Place, and a Tea Cozy at Color Online) and I admit that I have a habit of snapping pictures of book covers (wherever I see them) so I can go to my trusty computer and find out what the book is "really about." The cover, as well as the art throughout the book, really does depict the feel of the book itself, which I like.

I also loved the language. There are several places throughout the book where I wanted to write notes because I wanted to remember how things were described or stated. My friend Kristin felt the same way, writing about it in an e-mail to me, " . . . there would be a line that was so pitch-perfect! There was one about how Mrs W. was never so alert and so insane as when she talked about pageantry that was priceless."

Finally, I learned about Casu Frazigu (a.k.a. maggot cheese) which I had never heard of before. Thank you, enlightening children's books, you may help me win a trivia game one day!


School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari will be published September 1, 2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Geektastic Cover!


I loved Geektastic and was thrilled to meet Holly Black when she was signing at ALA last weekend. My friend Kristin just sent me this great link to an article about the cover from Publishers Weekly. All of the authors who wrote a story in the book have an icon on the cover. The art in this book is wonderful also--I encourage you to check it out!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ALA 2009 Wrap-Up (Warning: It's LONG!)



I returned from ALA 2009 on Tuesday and have been thinking about what I would like to say about my experiences. The best way for me to divide it, I think, is into sections based on the types of activities I participated in during the weekend.

Part I: Professional Activities

I joined ALA in order to participate in more professional activities. I felt that I was not getting enough contact with people who thought the way I did and had similar goals. A colleague suggested I apply for the Emerging Leaders program and the rest is history (!) Therefore, the sessions and committee meetings I attend during the conference help me to learn more about my profession and how I can do my job better. This is an overview of a few of the sessions I attended.

On Saturday, I enjoyed attending the AASL President's program. Laurie Halse Anderson, Alan Lawrence Sitomer, and Jacqueline Woodson spoke, mostly about reading and the importance of books in the lives of children. All three lamented the loss of school librarians and how that effects the access kids have to books, as well as access to libraries in general. I work with a population very similar to the one Sitomer described (disadvantaged, urban, lots of attendance problems, transient) and I always worry that they are not reading in the summer due to lack of access. I have partnered with the public librarians in my town to help bridge school library use to public library use, and my colleagues and I also sent home nearly 50 backpacks filled with books for our students this summer. I hope people understand that lack of access truly effects urban children (and rural children too!) Anderson also told it like it is about the potential loss of BBYA--thanks, Laurie!

Another session I attended was called "Walk the Line" and provided information regarding censorship vs selection. This has been a hot topic among librarians recently (even making the cover of SLJ). I don't think this session provided the "aha" moment, but rather cemented the things I know about selection. While we all have more limited budgets each day, it is exceptionally important that we choose wisely based upon our patrons' needs and the constraints of our selection policy. The presenters made strong points about the awesome responsibility of providing patrons with resources that they are looking for without prejudice because they count on their libraries. My students frequently come to me asking for certain types of books. I am always open to listening to their ideas and trying as hard as I can to get what they want and will enjoy. I also make a point of reading the books kids recommend to me. I have discovered a lot of great reads through student recommendations.

This was the first ALA event at which I had the privilege of presenting to my colleagues. I am a member of AASL's Best Websites for Teaching and Learning task force which presented our inaugural awards this year at the conference. We had tables for 150 participants and decided that we would add some chairs in the back in case people did not want to sit at the tables. We ended up with a packed house--I couldn't resist taking a few pictures from the stage! The presentation was interactive, including polling the audience using their cell phones and Polleverywhere (a persuasive argument for cell phone use in schools) and a Skype call with James Byers, one of the co-founders of Wikispaces. We were initially concerned about possible technical difficulties, but were fortunate that everything went well and we were able to show some of the capabilities of our winners. The full list, as well as some example tie-ins to the Standards for the 21st Century Learner, a PDF of the bookmark listing the winners, and a Voicethread telling more about the winners, is on our website. Please feel free to visit--and nominate a favorite website for inclusion on the 2010 list! (Special thanks to Pam Berger for leading our task force--Skype calls will never be the same!)

If you have never been to an all-committee meeting, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity at ALA Midwinter or Annual. It's a great way to get involved with the work of the association. I attended AASL's all-committee session this year to meet with the LMS Role in Reading task force. I have participated on this task force for the past year and have gained knowledge from some of my most respected LMS colleagues, including Judi Morellion, our chair. While the position statement is complete, there have been few opportunities to share this important work with our colleagues. There is a toolkit that we are hoping will be added to the website to help support SLMSs all over the country and we will present some of the work at a very short session during AASL 2009 in Charlotte, NC.

Some of the most interesting sessions I attended at ALA this year were the BBYA sessions. I was unable to make it to hear the teens speak due to a conflict, but I loved sitting in and listening to my colleagues respectfully and thoughtfully discuss YA literature. I have heard various people talk about their experiences on the BBYA committee and I was grateful to have the opportunity to watch the process in action. I loved the green and red "YES" and "NO" paddles that each participant used to agree and disagree with one another. It was fascinating and I hope to attend more of these sessions in the future.

Part II: The Exhibits

The first time I ever saw an ALA exhibit floor I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn't believe the corporate products and services that were brought together in one place for librarians. I was only slightly more prepared for ALA in Chicago because I had seen a list of the authors who would be appearing and signing and I know the companies I like to see when I am at ALA. However, I was constrained by my meeting schedule, so I knew I would have only a few time periods when I could cruise through and see what was new and hot. It was probably good, however, that I was limited because the exhibits were a madhouse! There were so many people on Saturday that I decided to leave. I couldn't take the crowd. It was hard to talk to the reps in the booths, which is usually my favorite part of the exhibits. On Sunday and Monday I had better luck talking to the reps and even getting some books signed by authors. The highlights for me included meeting Sarah Dessen, Sherman Alexie, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Ockler, e lockhart, Holly Black, Matthew L. Holm and Jennifer Holm, and Justina Chen Headley. My surprise meet up with Gitty Daneshvari, author of School of Fear, was also a high point. She was so friendly and I loved her book, so it was a cool moment. I also had Judy Blume and Neil Gaiman sightings, but could not wait in their loooooong lines!

I enjoyed getting a chance to thank the reps from Bound to Stay Bound who have provided an award which will facilitate my attendance at AASL in Charlotte. I wanted them to know just how fortunate I feel to receive their funding in tight times. I heard grumbling from many sources who felt that there were less "free" books and other types of swag at this conference than they have seen in the past. I, for one, understand the commitment that the vendors who attend ALA make to be a part of this conference. When thousands of people attend, the vendors cannot be expected to provide each person with a giant pile of free books. That just isn't good business. However, it is good business to be friendly and informative, as well as provide materials which will create buzz about their newest products and resources. Sometimes that means ARCs, but often brochures/reader's guides and other promotional materials. I am glad that so many vendors choose to travel and be a part of ALA, even in tight economic times--it's great to speak directly with reps you may only know electronically and see demos of new and innovative products. I hope that they will continue to be able to support and sponsor ALA even if it means that the way they participate evolves in future years.

Part III: The Awards

This year my sister attended ALA with me (our first ever "sister" trip). I wanted her to have the full experience, so we attended both the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder and Printz (she also attended the YA Coffee Klatch/Morris presentation--it conflicted with my presentation). I have attended the Printz in the past, but this was my first Newbery. I am so grateful that I attended the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet. It was interesting to end up sitting with a woman who was on a previous Newbery committee and get some insight on her experiences. The part I enjoyed the most, though, was the speeches. Beth Krommes, winner of the Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in The House in the Night, was so down-to-earth. I could feel the excitement that she must have felt when she found out she was being honored. I was able to congratulate her briefly the following morning and she mentioned how difficult it was to write her speech because she is an artist, not an author. No matter, I think, because I was just so happy to witness her joy.

The next speaker was Neil Gaiman, winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book. The high point of the speech for me was when Neil said he stands, " . . . on the side of books you love . . .," in the conversation of books you like vs books that are good for you. I, too, stand for well-loved books and stories, sometimes reading favorites over and over. In addition, it was fun to hear him tell the story of being a "feral child" among the library stacks. The stories Gaiman shared were inspiring and interesting--I'm sure I'll go back to the audio provided at the dinner when I need a pick-me-up in the future.

The third speaker of the evening, Ashley Bryan, was honored with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. Bryan's speech was an amazing combination of his life experiences and having audience speak chorally the beautiful words of Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. I had goosebumps throughout and made so many connections to the kids in my community through his words. My sister and I ran into him the next morning and had a brief moment to thank him for inspiring us. We were overwhelmed when he hugged us both. What a genuine and beautiful man.

The following evening we attended the Printz award ceremony. I like the Printz event because all of the authors get to give a speech. Terry Pratchett was unable to attend the ceremony, but he sent a video and his editor accepted the award on his behalf. In the background of the video he was making a sword (of course) and he told us that, "It's wonderful for an author when you're writing fast because you want to know what happens next." I read Nation before it became a Printz Honor and wondered if it might even win the award itself, so it was great to be able to hear Pratchett speak about the process of writing it.

M.T. Anderson, author of Printz Honor book The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II, spoke next and, let's be honest, it was awesome. He made the point that we must not underestimate the intelligence of our students--especially if we want to avoid raising children who can't think for themselves. There were cheers all over the audience throughout the speech. It's exhausting to hear people say that kids won't read certain books or that they aren't accessible, so I loved hearing an author so eloquently debunk all that nonsense based on personal experience. Not every book may be to my personal taste, but that does not mean that it won't be THE book that hooks a kid.

E Lockhart followed Anderson's speech and she laughed at the prospect of doing so. I love, love, love The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (as well as having reading all of her other published books and short stories), but this was the first time I had heard her speak. She made the comment that, "Books are not billboards," pointing out that adults often think that YA must have a message and be good for kids or they shouldn't be reading it. I'm so glad that she had that opportunity to say that--and I hope it was heard!

Margo Lanagan, author of Tender Morsels, had to be the winner for cutest speech. It's funny to think that an author might be insecure about her work or ability--especially one who has now twice been a Printz Honor winner. She mentioned that she really didn't think she could write a book and kept telling herself that she wasn't so that she could get through it. I didn't finish this book before the award ceremony (fell short of my goal!), but I do have it on the table next to my bed in my (ever increasing TBR pile) and am hoping to do so quickly!

The Printz Medal winner, Melina Marchetta, made me laugh when she quoted the post-announcement bloggers who wrote, "Melina who? Jellicoe what?" and other such things when Jellicoe Road was announced as the Printz winner. I will admit that this book was not on my radar, but I'm so glad it won because I ended up reading a well-written and interesting story that I may not have found otherwise. Marchetta made the excellent point that the "30 page rule" frequently does not hold up and that so many great surprises are found on page 31. Keep reading, folks! (It's worth it!) She also said (brilliantly), "I'd like to think the first line of a novel doesn't make sense unless you've read the last." I hope readers give Jellicoe Road a chance--it's a wonderful journey. I know that I will be re-reading it in the near future because I will get so much more the second time around.

Part IV: The Social Aspect

Let's be honest: a big part of ALA is the excitement of being able to socialize with other librarian-types. Through the Internet, I "know" a lot of librarians, but rarely have time to sit down and just talk and laugh with them. ALA offers just this opportunity. While standing in line to have books signed, I always meet interesting new people who have library jobs I hadn't thought of. At this conference I met an Army librarian who provides a variety of services to our soldiers. She not only provides reading materials, but also supports them as they work through distance education college classes. How cool is that?

I also got to hang out with Sara and Necia, librarians in Alaska and Boston, who I met through Emerging Leaders last year. I don't think I ever laugh more than when I'm with Sara and I also learn a lot about what it means to be a librarian situated in a very secluded area of the US. Both Sara and Necia are serving on audiobook committees of ALSC this year, so it was interesting to pick their brains about how audiobooks fit into the library puzzle.

I have heard rumors about the Bookcart Drillteam Championships (sponsored by Demco), but had never seen it in action--until Chicago. Kristin and Karen insisted that it was an activity that we could not miss. They were correct. Mo Willems and John Szieszka were the most hilarious commentators. I spent most of the hour that I was there either laughing, cheering, or just plain old picking my jaw up off the floor. The librarians who had created routines, costumes, and then trained in order to put on the Bookcart Drillteam show were a true spectacle of library awesomeness. I don't have a staff of librarians to do this with, but am considering the creation of a virtual team. Look out, DC 2010!

Karen and I had a mission during the Chicago conference: to take new blog photos. After all, the Denver photos are so wintery--it's time for an update! The only logical place for us to complete this task was the adventure of the glass balconies at the Skydeck. At 103 stories up, we were suspended over the city of Chicago. It was both unnerving and awesome! I realized, more than anything, that I didn't see enough of Kar this trip as we are involved in different parts of ALA and stayed at different hotels. The blog connects us and our books, but most of the books we will write about between now and ALA Midwinter in Boston will be a complete surprise to each other since we missed out on our Bedtime Booktalks, Chicago style.

Part V: The Summary

I was so exhausted when I heaved my book-filled suitcase onto the train Tuesday afternoon. All I wanted to do was get home and sleep. Since that time, I have talked my to husband and kids, rested a little, and received my box of books. I also took the time to clear out my Google Reader (holy cow!) which was pretty full due to lack of Internet access during the conference (ironic, I know!) and catch up on the BBYA news which I really wanted to follow, but had a hard time due to scheduling during the conference. I am appreciative to all of the amazing people at ALA who plan and carry out an amazing conference. Being able to recharge my librarian batteries each summer makes it possible to make it through the tough days of job cuts, budget cuts, and other tedious moments of daily life. I would also like to thank all of the vendors who make the ALA event possible. Without you, I suspect I could not afford to attend a conference of such magnitude. Your generosity is appreciated. Finally, to all the amazing librarians who I briefly spoke with over the 5 days I was in Chicago: thank you for your collective wisdom. You are an amazing group of people who, I know, are changing the world in small and large ways each day!

Part VI: Random Sidenotes

Best book tour shoes: Sarah Dessen (shiny and hot pink!) tied with Laurie Halse Anderson (in honor of her Margaret A. Edwards Award: orange high top Converse!)

Best comfortable shoes: Lorie Ann Grover (pink Puma ballet flats with ribbons!)

Best business cards: Karen (pictures she has taken, including China!) tied with Justina Chen Headley (camoflauge Teen Book Drop cards for Readergirlz!)

Best Swag: Mo Willems/Disney Hyperion (Elephant and Piggy chubby pencils!) tied with AASL's 21st Century Learner buttons (Think, Create, Share, Grow!)

Coolest iPhone App in action: Kristin showed me how she can take a picture of a book cover and have it transfer to her purchasing list (ahhhhh, now if I just had an iPhone!)
Best Guacamole: Angels and Mariachis (all gauc, no lettuce!)
Most interesting hotel: Hotel Monaco (they give you a goldfish to enjoy during your stay AND they provide bath bombs! Sadly, I did not stay there)

Most surprising revelation: still hearing librarians say they don't read (I won't ever stop being surprised at that)

Best laughs: listening to Sara describe her one-eyed cat during our giddy post-Printz dessert at the Palmer House Hilton (sadly, there was no dessert at the event, but we more than made up for that!! Thanks again, Sara!!)

Favorite moment: getting into a cab where the driver had to move a giant stack of well-read books so I could sit down!

Saddest moment: realizing that I would not be able to connect with my other Emerging Leader pal, Jenny, due to schedule conflicts and transportation issues (next time, Jen!)


Thank you Chicago, ALA, and all the many vendors and librarians who made ALA 2009 a wonderful experience. I can't wait for the next one! :-)

"Darkness, real darkness, was something more than just a lack of light."


When I picked up Beautiful Creatures at BEA, I was looking forward to it. It seemed that Little, Brown was very excited about it; maybe hoping for their next Twilight.
It's daunting at first glance: over 600 pages, a lot for most teen readers I know.
Ethan has always wanted to get out of Gatlin but then he starts dreaming about a girl. And the dreams are more like nightmares. When a new girl shows up in school, Ethan knows it's the girl from his dreams. But Lena Duchannes, niece of the county shut-in and rumored creep, is about to complicate Ethan's life in ways he cannot imagine.
Much like the love story of Twilight and other teen books, supernatural and otherwise, there are plenty of things and people trying to keep Lena and Ethan apart.
Slow to get started, it's worth sticking around to the end.
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is due to be published on December 1, 2009.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Online Preview!


HarperTeen is giving us an inside look at Chris Crutcher's newest novel, Angry Management. I heart Chris Crutcher and can't wait to read this book!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"I have a parking fairy. I'm fourteen years old. I can't drive. I don't like cars and I have a parking fairy."


A parking fairy? How undoos can you get? Charlie loves to play sports, especially basketball. She attends a sports-focused high school, and, oh yeah, she has a fairy. Most of the people in New Avalon have fairies. Some, like her friend Rochelle's personal shopping fairy are doos, while others, such as her own parking fairy are decidedly doxy. In Justine Larbalestier's How to Ditch Your Fairy, Charlie is doing everything she possibly can to lose her fairy and gain a new one. She has denied it the joy of parking for months in the hope that it would leave and she could move on with a fairy more suited to her needs and interests.

It sounds simple--don't get into a car, deny the fairy it's usefulness, and it will soon go away. However, everyone wants to use Charlie's fairy to find parking, so it's tricky to avoid being in a vehicle. Plus, she has to contend with earning demerits for all the missteps which she believes trying to rid herself of the parking fairy are causing. In order to erase the demerits, she must do hours of public service at the New Avalon Cemetery. During her service, she begins to spend time with Fiorenze, who happens to have an all boys like her fairy. While Charlie thinks she would like to have Fio's fairy, Fio is trying as hard as she can to avoid all boys and get her poxy fairy to leave her alone as well. Her plan seems to be working until Steffi enters the picture. The boy fairy works especially well on Steffi and Fio can't avoid him.

Since Fio's parents are fairy experts, the girls come up with a plan to rid themselves of their fairies once and for all. However, does it pay to ditch your fairy? Is one really better than another? Some crazy things happen throughout this book as Charile and Fio try to lose their fairies and Charlie tries to land Steffi, the pulchy boy of her dreams. I loved the fun vocabulary used in New Avalon--a glossary is included. As for me, I'm afraid I'm hoping for a pretty boring, but useful fairy who will pair and fold all the socks when I do the laundry!

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier was published in 2008.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"I don't just want to be the girl you hooked up with. I want to be the girl you go out with."




Kate is going to have the perfect summer. She plans to take a summer writing class at the U, play tennis with her best friend Laura, and have fun just hanging out. That is, she was going to do those things . . . until her mother decided to take her across the country to stay with her college roommate's family for the summer. Kate's parents have decided to spend the summer apart to evaluate their relationship and she will be with her mother.

Kate is not thrilled to have her summer plans changed. It doesn't get much better when they arrive in Cape Cod and she finds that Sarah, the daughter of their hosts, is not exactly overjoyed to have her as a guest. At first it seems like Kate might have a hard time fitting in, but then she meets Adam. Although Kate has never had a boyfriend, she thinks Adam just might be interested in her. While she continues to write and her parents try to figure out their marriage, Kate attempts to answer one question: is she Girlfriend Material?

I remember that, "Does he like me? Is this going to happen?" feeling of being a teenager. All nervous and crazy! This book tries to capture those moments of wondering that happen when you're young.

Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantor was published in May 2009.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bloggiesta! Wrap-Up


On Thursday afternoon, I decided to join Bloggiesta in order to work on some posts I have been putting off for a while. My (ambitious) goal was to complete ten posts in 48 hours. Sadly, I was only able to finish four of the ten and begin a draft of number five. I didn't realize how much would pop up over the 48 hour period, making sitting down to write a challenge in itself.


A special thanks to Natasha at Maw Books Blog for hosting this event, as well as all the other bloggers who hosted mini-challenges:



Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog - Getting out from underneath the feed reader.
Beth from Beth Fish Reads - On lists and opinions.
Jill at Fizzy Thoughts - Just when you thought the feed reader was halfway managed.
Emily from Emily’s Reading Room - Are you talking about me?
Deborah from Books, Movies, and Chinese Food - You have a blog? So tell me about it.
Lynn from Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile - Get listed.
Jen from Devourer of Books - Wow. I wrote that when? Let’s update.
Amy from My Friend Amy - I need a friend.
Trish from Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’? - On favicons and gravatars. Huh?
Michelle from GalleySmith - Anchor text. You mean there’s a way this *should* be done?
Andrea from Book Blather - Authorities? What authorities?
Ruth from Bookish Ruth - You’re going to analyze what?


I was able to work on a few of these also. I spent some time with Google Reader, as suggested by Rebecca. I also listed Bedtime Booktalks with a few directories, as suggested by Lynn. Most importantly, though, I ended up spending a lot of time learning about blogging and reading the helpful information provided in the links of each challenge. Karen and I have a lot to discuss in Chicago!


Thanks again to all those who put in TONS of hard work to make Bloggiesta happen. I had a great time and learned a lot. Plus, as a bonus, my work will carry through this week as I finish my six waiting posts.

"Don't ever forget it. Petra will need you to be just as good a friend someday, okay?"

I first learned about The Weight of Silence at Book Expo America in the Harlequin booth. I saw the poster but I did not see any ARCs. I didn't know anything about the book, but the cover really drew me in (Have I ever mentioned that I sometimes DO judge books by their covers? Well, at least, I select them that way). The photo of the dirty hands of an obviously young girl holding a music note necklace -- its a great cover! Then I saw an ad in my Shelf Awareness email about the book. And there was a preview! As soon as I read the 20 page excerpt, I knew that I needed to read this book.

Calli Clark is 7 years old and she is mute. She hasn't spoken since she was 4. But her older brother Ben and her best friend, Petra Gregory, protect her and speak for her. But one morning Calli is dragged into the woods by her father, Griff, unbeknownst to anyone. When Petra's parents discover her missing as well, the stories of the Clark and Gregory families become even more intertwined. As we learn more of the story through the eyes of numerous characters, the tension and mystery builds. What has happened in the woods? And who is responsible? Those looking for the girls (especially Ben and Calli's mom Antonia and Petra's parents, Fielda and Martin) question whether they have let Calli and Petra down, if there was something else they could have done to prevent these young girls from going missing.

Some books stay with you long after you stop reading them. And this is one of those books. I keep going back to the story in my mind and thinking about all the characters and how the choices we make impact not only ourselves, but sometimes also those around us, in ways that cannot be predicted. A story about friendship and family, Heather Gudenkauf, in her debut novel, has written a story that is at once moving and suspenseful. I was not disappointed and can't wait to share this book!

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf will be published on July 28, 2009.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"I don't actually know that much about food."



I love watching cooking shows. I'm not really a great cook, nor do I really aspire to be one, but seeing amazing (often unknown) ingredients come together just makes me happy. I think that's at least part of what I loved about Lara M. Zeises's new book, The Sweet Life of Stella Madison: many of the chapters begin with a gourmet menu--yum!
Stella is the daughter of a restaurant owner mother and a world famous chef father. She is surrounded by gourmet food all the time, which is pretty funny because she prefers Doritos, Rice Krispie treats, and other decidedly non-gourmet delicacies. As summer begins, Stella knows she will spend time hanging out with her friends and working at her mother's restaurant, The Open Kitchen, a showcase restaurant where chefs come to demonstrate their cooking to the customers. She hopes to earn enough money to purchase a car. It's going to be a long summer, but it will be worth it. Then, due to a last-minute change at the local paper, she is offered an internship. Ironically, they want her to write restaurant reviews. She's not sure this is exactly what she wants to do, but the money is too good to pass up.
Mixed in with all the food talk is Stella's relationship with her boyfriend. She is not the commitment type, so when he starts getting serious, it's time to run. What better arms to run to than Jeremy's, the hot new intern chef at her mother's restaurant? Will Stella end up with Jeremy? Is the pressure to write a restaurant review too much for this non-gourmet girl?
The Sweet Life of Stella Madison will be released July 14, 2009.

"What do you want, Maybe? What do I want, I wonder."


Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut, also known as "Maybe," lives an unconventional life. Her mother, Chessy, is a former beauty pageant queen who makes a living training teen beauty queens. Maybe is not one of those teen queens. In fact, Maybe makes a point of being exactly the opposite of the girls her mother coaches. Chessy is getting married for the seventh time and Maybe has had enough. Following an awful incident with Jake (husband-to-be #7), Maybe decides to leave for California with her friends Hollywood (who is going to start college) and Ted on an adventure to find her father.
Upon arriving in California, Hollywood and Ted quickly assimilate into their new lives. Maybe, however, struggles. She can't find a place to stay, her belongings are stolen, and she doesn't really know how to go about finding her father. Hollywood quickly tires of having Ted and Maybe live in his dorm room, so they must find other accommodations. While Ted has found a job working for an aging starlet, he also finds Sammy (husband #2 and #4) who moved to California to pursue his career as a photographer. Maybe moves in with Sammy and finds a job. While living with Sammy, Maybe is forced to confront some difficult truths about her mother and herself, which, in the end just may make her stronger and repair her relationship with Chessy.
Lisa Yee's novel, Absolutely Maybe is now available from Scholastic.

"EMILY PLEASE FORGIVE ME"



Emily has it all: a loving family, a great best friend, and she's involved in school activities. While her parents are on a trip, Emily has a party. In the middle of the party, her Aunt Jolie shows up. Emily thinks she's going to get in trouble, but the news Jolie brings is much worse: she tells Emily to turn on the TV and Emily finds that her parents have been killed in a plane crash. A reporter at the scene holds up a tray table on which her mother has written in lipstick, "EMILY PLEASE FORGIVE ME." Everyone wants to know: who is Emily? Emily wants to know: why does my mother need to be forgiven?

Now Emily is forced to leave her home in Pennsylvania and move in with her Aunt Jolie, AKA Jolie Jane, make-up artist to the stars. She enters an exclusive private school and begins to make friends with the other students, gets invited to exclusive parties, and tries to deal with her grief. However, can she truly move forward with her mother's cryptic apology hanging over her head?

Through bits and pieces of information she gathers from photographs and her mother's journals, Emily discovers her mother's secret. In Jennifer Jabaley's debut novel, Lipstick Apology, Emily comes face-to-face with the fact that we never really know our parents. Emily's mom was an artist. She painted and even worked in a New York City gallery before Emily was born. These things Emily knew, but she didn't know her mother's biggest secret. Now Emily has to decide: should she leave her mother's secret alone, or confront the truth?

Jennifer Jabaley's debut novel, Lipstick Apology, will be published on August 6, 2009.

PS The funny thing about this book: the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking about how my husband and I traveled on different flights to California last summer because I couldn't stand the idea of being on a plane at the same time when we have small children. Funny enough, Jabaley tells on her website how a trip her sister took without her children inspired this story.

"I do want what I have, but if you don't reach for something more--I don't mean things, I mean more for yourself--how can you grow?"



When I began my career as a librarian, I had taken one Young Adult Literature class and one Children's Literature class. They were both great, but certainly not enough to "cover" what I was going to need. One of the ways I became acquainted with what my students were really reading was paying attention to what they were checking out. As soon as I noticed a trend, I began reading the authors and titles. The first author on my radar was Pyhllis Reynolds Naylor. The middle school girls could not get enough of Alice, while the boys gravitated to Shiloh. I fell in love with Alice and have kept up with her "life in books," as well as the censorship and challenges that have plagued her growing pains. I was thrilled to find out that Naylor had a new title forthcoming and picked up an ARC of Faith, Hope, and Ivy June at ALA Midwinter in Denver.

Ivy June and her family live in Thunder Creek, Kentucky. The people there live simple lives, with many families relying on dangerous mining jobs as a source of income. Catherine and her family live in Lexington, Kentucky. They have a fancy house and Catherine attends private school. Both girls have been chosen to participate in an exchange program. They will stay in each other's homes, attend school together, and document their experiences to share with their respective classmates.

Both Ivy June and Catherine start the exchange with preconceived notions of what the other's life will be like. Although they both try to keep and open mind, they have both grown up with stereotypes about life in Thunder Creek vs life in Lexington. As the exchange begins, Ivy June settles into Catherine's home and school. She realizes that she can keep up with the work at school and enjoys the activities Catherine has planned for her, including seeing a musical and going horseback riding. However, she does notice that Catherine's family lives a life more secluded from one another and more hectic than her own. It's also interesting to get to know Catherine's friends. However, when Ivy June reveals one of Catherine's secrets to her friends, will their relationship survive?

During the second half of the exchange, Catherine comes to live with Ivy June and her Mammaw and Papaw Mosley. Because her parents' home is too crowded, Ivy June lives with her grandparents. They do not have an indoor bathroom or the luxuries that Catherine enjoys in her home. It is evident, though, that they are hard-working and happy people. Catherine adjusts to not being able to take a shower each day, as well as walking a long distance to catch the school bus, but is less accepted by Ivy June's best friend Shirl.

Just as Catherine becomes more comfortable, tragedy strikes both girls' families. They must work together to cope with their fears and have hope and faith that everything will turn out for the best. This is story of love in families, friendship, as well as one of learning to understand the similarities and differences among people. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June is now available from Random House.

PS My Phyllis Reynolds Naylor books now take up an entire shelf and I can't wait to see what she writes next!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm in!


I've been doing more reading than writing lately, so I'm officially "in" on Bloggiesta! in order to get the posts I have been putting off done. I don't know if I can do 20+ hours in 48 as I have three young children and a working husband, but I'm going to log as many hours as I can--ya never know!



Here's a sneak peak at what I will be writing about:



Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley

Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises

Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantor

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Feathers (audio) by Jacqueline Woodson

Whew! How did this happen to me? My stack of done, not written about, has grown while I finished school, baseball, softball, and Brownies. This should be an interesting weekend.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"I never liked history. And now I knew why. It's all about dead people."


In Joanne Dahme's new novel, Tombstone Tea, Jessie has just moved to a new school in Philadelphia, near the Schuylkill River. Laurel Hill Charter School is named after and affiliated with the cemetery that has become a sculpture garden and park over the years. When Jessie accepts a dare to spend the night in the cemetery to become friends with girls in her new school, she meets Paul, a worker in the graveyard. He becomes her tour guide that first night and protects her from the "actors" that he claims are recreating the Tombstone Tea of years ago. When the actors turn out to not be what Jessie expects, she is confronted with new knowledge of her own abilities and a history lesson that is more alive than dead.

For the majority of the book, Jessie is our narrator. And while it is an interesting story, we learn more about the cemetery and its inhabitants then we ever really do about Jessie. We learn the most about Paul, and the most angry of the cemetery dwellers, Amy and her mother, Jenny.

This book is due to be released in September 2009.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"This time I truly mean it."


I just finished Justine Larbalestier's new book, Liar.

Meet Micah. She's a liar. And she makes no bones about telling you that, right from the start. But she also promises that she is going to tell YOU the truth. But even that truth keeps shifting. The reader never really gets a sense of what is the truth and what is a lie and what is made up. Even after Micah telling us that she really IS telling the truth this time, we wonder. I mean, really. She IS a liar. What is to stop her from lying about lying?

The reader questions her family life, her friends, her relationship with her after hours boyfriend Zach. I can't say much more, because to talk about her lies too much will give away part of her truths too!

This book is due to be a available in October 2009.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hungry for Catching Fire


I, like many others, picked up a copy of Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series, at BEA. I couldn't wait to start it. And I was not disappointed! I can't really booktalk it, because the more I think about it, the less I can say that won't give away some major plot point or event. When a co-worker asked what it was about, I stuttered starts to maybe 3 different sentences before explaining that I really couldn't: I don't want to spoil it. It really is THAT good!

I only recently read the Hunger Games, in anticipation of the sequel, even though I have been hearing about it and reading about it since it came out. It was a short wait of only a few weeks then before I was able to read this second installment. About halfway through Catching Fire, I realized that it will likely be over a year before I even get my hands on the next book! So I started to slow down my reading, really savoring each page and each moment.

Catching Fire is certainly worth the wait, even for those who have been waiting longer than I have (at least that is my guess). I LOVED it. And I love Katniss more, if that is even possible. I just want to know what is going to happen next!

This book is due to be published on September 1, 2009.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Books in the Wild: Twenty Boy Summer


Sarah Ockler, author of Twenty Boy Summer, is offering a contest for those who spot her new book "in the wild." I spotted it today at Barnes and Noble in Portage. I'll be checking my local indie tomorrow. Hope to see lots of pictures on Sarah's map!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Camp is still torture. Take pity on me. Peace, Love, and Desperation, Laney."



There is nothing I love more than a book about camp. Seriously. As soon as I found out about Slept Away by Julie Kraut, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. Laney Parker is a true New Yorker who loves the city. She is trying to figure out how to spend her summer and is sure she can come up with a great plan. However, her mother and her mother's boyfriend have a different idea. They decide that Laney should experience a summer at camp, away from the city. They can't be serious, can they?

Yes, they can. Laney is in denial and believes that her mother will change her mind, but she ends up on a bus to camp with a duffel bag full of strange neon outfits (including culottes!) Laney finds herself spending the summer in a bunk with an endlessly cheerful counselor, Mandi, who is enthusiastic about "the rules," and three bunkmates (Hayden, Aiden, and Aidan) who decide immediately that they do not like her. She is thrust into activities that are far out of her comfort zone and cut off from her ever-present forms of electronic communication. Her only hope is Sylvie, the final camper in her bunk. Although Sylvie appears awkward at first, this may be a chance for Laney to get past appearances and see what lies underneath the exterior. Laney also finds that Ryan, one of the outsiders from home, is popular and sought-after at camp, another revelation which may just change how Laney views the world.

I found myself laughing out loud at several points throughout this book. Kraut's snarky sense of humor is very similar to mine and I frequently said to myself, "Oh, yeah, that's so the camp experience." Slept Away, which will be released on May 26, 2009, is a must-read for campers, former campers, and wannabes alike.

ps I owe Julie Kraut a s'more--how do you mail one? Also, her blog is very interesting--she has recently spent time working at an orphanage in Africa and has written about the experience. Enjoy!

"There are days when everything changes, and this was one of those days."


I was intrigued when I read the back cover blurb of Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me and I quickly got into the story of twelve year old Miranda. Then a former co-worker saw it in my car and said "OH I heard about this book, how is it?" I told her honestly that I wasn't very far into it, but I was enjoying it.

It's set in late 1970s New York City and Miranda's mom is preparing as a contestant for the $20,000 Pyramid, a show that my entire family watched when I was a kid. So immediately, I felt connected to this young girl.

But there is much more to Miranda's story. Her favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time and she carries a worn out copy with her. Her best friend Sal suddenly needs a break from their friendship after getting punched by a new boy, who we later learn is Marcus. Miranda makes other friends and learns that maybe Marcus isn't as awful as she thought he must be. Marcus and Miranda end up talking about A Wrinkle in Time and the possibilities of time travel.

Miranda gets 4 mysterious letters that tell her she will save someone's life. But the writer of the letters knows things that no one else knows, in detail. And Miranda doesn't know who she is supposed to save. A lot for a 12 year old to unravel on her own. As she works through her friendships and the mystery of the notes, Miranda starts to grow up and realize what is truly important.

A pleasure to read and to think about . . . this book will be released on July 14, 2009.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"This was my family's story, and there was only one person who could tell me the truth."


I love debut fiction. Sometimes its the best work of that author but I think that it is often an indicator of authors who will be really great. It's almost like a promise. That's how I am feeling about Megan Frazer's debut, Secrets of Truth & Beauty, due out July 7, 2009: a promise of more great stories to come.

Dara Cohen is a junior in high school. It starts with one English assignment: create a multimedia presentation of your autobiography. When Dara uses footage from the pageant she was in (and won) when she was 7 and uses the audio of her mom and other stage parents as the voiceover, her world starts to fall apart. She is kicked out of school; she is fighting with her parents; and she decides to call her long-lost sister Rachel. When Dara leaves Maine to spend the summer with her sister in Vermont, she learns who she really is and what is truly important.

Dara is believable and likable. Ms. Frazer crafts a story that is not only about Dara but about society's perception and treatment of overweight people and the concept of body image. A quick read that makes you want to know about Dara, her sister and their family, both biological and the one of their own creation.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you. Does that make sense?"


Mia is talented. In fact, she has auditioned to play the cello at Julliard--and she will probably get in. But one day changes everything. Mia and her family go for a drive on a snowy morning to visit some friends. There is an accident. Now Mia is faced with a horrible choice: stay and feel the suffering and pain of deep loss or go and never again experience the wonders of her life.

Told in Mia's voice, If I Stay alternates from the present to flashes of the past where she describes various events such as how she and Kim became best friends, how Adam became her boyfriend, what caused her father to finally grow up, how she came to play the cello, and details about the relationship she has with her little brother. These alternating scenes make this book even more powerful--it's hard to let someone go when you know all the amazing details that make up her life.

When I started to read If I Stay by Gayle Forman, I was immediately sucked into Mia's life. I made the "oh my gosh I can't believe it" noise out loud (and got caught by a kid . . . ) at about page 11 or 12 and then I had to decide what to do: put it down or read until I reached the end. Yes, it's one of those books. I had to put it down because I didn't have enough time to sit still and finish it all at once, but I quickly devoured it later. I even began wondering about Mia's later life in my head. No, I don't imagine that there will be a sequal (or that I could even stand to read it?), but Mia's voice will stick with me and I think people will continue talking about this book.

**ps Gayle Forman's If I Stay has hit the NYT Bestseller List--what a great honor for a fantastic book!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"But things were starting to look up. Funny how, at the time, I really did believe that. As it turned out, however, I couldn't have been more wrong."


As soon as I finished Airhead by Meg Cabot, I started wanting the next book, Being Nikki, to be available. I was going through a series phase and I wanted the next book--which, of course, wasn't due to be published for more than a year! Finally, as of May 5, 2009, Em Watts is officially back (in Nikki Howard's body) to continue the story. (** if you haven't read Airhead, there may be a few spoilers here--you've been warned!**)
At the end of Airhead, Em Watts is just beginning to realize that she is going to have to keep her secret and live Nikki Howard's life or risk the chance that her family will lose everything they have to Stark Enterprises. Being Nikki begins with poor Em at a photo shoot for yet another Stark product. She is cold, wet, and unhappy, but knows she must go along to protect her family. She is also working hard to avoid Brandon Stark, Nikki's ex boyfriend with whom she does not want to have a relationship. While she is at the photo shoot, a mysterious stranger visits her apartment building. Nikki's roommate gives her a physical description and she's sure it's Christopher, her long-time friend. However, upon returning home, she finds out that it's someone else. Someone Nikki would have known, but Em doesn't have a clue who he is.
His appearance drags Em into a mystery which causes her to begin a search for answers to questions that she had not considered. Why is someone getting text messages that she did not send, yet appear to be signed by her? Where is Nikki Howard's family? Why is Stark listening in on all her conversations and watching her every move? What really happened on the day Nikki died and Em was injured? Did Nikki Howard have secrets that may have led to her demise? Em has to try to find answers while continuing Nikki's career, going to high school, spending time with her family, and keeping the biggest secret of her life.
Just when I thought I might find out the answer to Em's questions, one BIG Stark secret was revealed and then the book ended--with a cliffhanger. I felt the same way at the end of Being Nikki as I did at the end of Airhead. I can't wait for the next (final?) installment, Runaway, to be published!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kalamazoo Public Library Millage Renewal Vote Today!





There are lots of issues that are important to people; the library is my cause. The Kalamazoo Public Library is asking for a renewal of its current millage for 20 years. I rely heavily on the public library in both my personal and work lives, but I'm not sure if everyone knows just how amazing KPL is and the services public libraries offer to their communities.

My children (yes, that's them!) love going to the various branches of the library to enjoy not only the special programming, but the unique facilities (their favorite activities include creating puppet shows and completing puzzles!) and kind, caring librarians and staff members who always offer amazing book suggestions and wonderful service. Public libraries often offer author and illustrator visits to their communities. In the picture above, my son is wearing a t-shirt he got during the Nerdfighter Gift Exchange while visiting a stop on John Green and Hank Green's Nerdfighting Tour, an event also sponsored by a public library (Ann Arbor District Library). Thanks to funding and support from KPL, my children met Paul O. Zelinsky and they count Awful Ogre's Awful Day and The Wheels on the Bus amongst their favorite books to read aloud. Each summer, my children participate in KPL's Summer Reading Program and they love getting the opportunity to choose new books and tell the librarians all about what they have been reading.

In my professional life, I know I can count on the KPL librarians to work collaboratively on author visits, programming, and book selection. Sharon Flake and Sharon Draper have visited my students thanks to KPL. Draper's fall visit in 2008, in conjunction with an all-school read, spurred a frenzy of reading which has continued throughout the school year. Students clamour for books both written by Draper and like those she writes. The KPL librarians also spend time promoting the Summer Reading Games to all my students which is so important in order to avoid summer slide. There are frequently books that I am unable to purchase for my students. I know that I can send them to KPL for additional resources that extend beyond my budget. I also check out books from the public library in order to read them before purchasing them for my collection in order to stretch my budget dollars and purchase the most appropriate materials.

Public libraries level the playing field in communities. There are computers with Internet access, allowing job-seekers to find resources they need to empower themselves. Families can enjoy resources and programming selected and planned for their enjoyment. I calculated the cost of the books our family has read in the past year. Without our public library, the cost would have been over $4,000. That is books alone. No programs, concerts, puppets, or professional service. The millage will cost our family about $200 per year, all of which we are already paying since this is a renewal. There is no question that we're getting a bargain. I urge you to support your local public library--and VOTE YES if you live in the Kalamazoo Public Library District. It's amazing what you will find there!