Children’s and Young Adult

Getting Ready for the Youth Media Awards

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About a month ago, I decided I needed to catch up on my reading for the Youth Media Awards. I checked a bunch of Mock Newbery lists, went to my library and came home with a pile of books. The awards are on Monday, and I’m happy to say that I made it through most of the books in my stack. Here are the books that I brought home.

Of course, the Newbery committee may choose something I’ve never even heard of, but I’m hoping it will be one of the books that I read. I didn’t get to read Circus Mirandus and my son is reading Book Scavenger so I didn’t get a chance at that one either. I really loved Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, but I felt that this might too close to YA for the Newbery.  While I was reading Fish in a Tree, I thought that it would definitely be the Newbery pick. It was so compelling and I tore through it. I changed my mind when I started reading Echo. I still haven’t finished it, but it is such a magical story I’m hoping it will win. Fingers crossed. I’ll be posting reviews of each of these soon.



The Doldrums ~ Nicholas Gannon

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doldrumsRelease Date: 9/29/15
Author Info: Website
Series: The Doldrums #1
genre: adventure, travel, historical fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780062320940
Age Range: 9-12

Have you ever wanted to be an explorer? Or wondered what it would be like to tour the world and bring back treasures from far away lands? Archer Helmsley thinks about this everyday. His house is like the Natural History Museum full of stuffed animals and artifacts all from his adventurer grandparents. Archer longs to follow in their footsteps. He, too, has that yearning to travel and explore. Unfortunately for him, his mother tries to squash that desire every chance she can get. Ever since his grandparents have gone missing on a glacier in Antarctica, Archer has been confined to his house when not at school. But Archer is determined to rescue his grandparents. He enlists the help of his new found friends and neighbors, Oliver and Adelaide. The friends meet up on the roofs of their houses to hatch a plot to save the elder Helmsleys.

This book was such fun. It was clever and fantastical. If you love quirky, oddball characters this book is definitely for you. If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller maybe this wouldn’t be your cup of tea. In fact, this reminds me of all the time I spent daydreaming when I was a kid. This is a book for big-hearted, gentle souls who wish they were Ernest Shackleton. Unplug your technology and get lost in this world.

Gannon’s lovely artwork gives the book a historical feel and I couldn’t wait to reach an illustrated page.  He has an enchanting website that mirrors the newspaper featured his book.

Five Favorite Things About The Doldrums:

  1. Oliver runs with his eyes shut when he is in a hurry.
  2. The friends communicate via paper airplane.
  3. Archer has a few spectacular falls.
  4. There are fireflies.
  5. The belief in impossible plans.

Magyk ~ Angie Sage

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magykRelease Date: 3/14/2006
Author Info: Website Facebook | Twitter
Series: Septimus Heap Series , #1
genre: fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780060577339
Age Range: 9-12
Source: Library

As a fairly new school librarian, I feel that I need to do some catch up when it comes to middle grade fiction. There is so much out there. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the Septimus Heap series, so I thought I’d pick up the first book Magyk.

Silas Heap is on his way home from the healer with some herbs for his wife who has just given birth to their seventh son, Septimus. Along the way,  he finds a baby girl abandoned in the snow. He picks her up and carries her home only to find that his own son has died. Silas is asked by a fellow wizard to care for the little girl as his own. He finds out later that the Queen has been assassinated and a Supreme Custodian has taken over the castle.The Heaps take in the little girl, Jenna, and she grows up in their run down but cozy home filled with books and brothers.  On her tenth birthday, the Supreme Custodian sends an assassin to kidnap Jenna so he can deliver her to the evil necromancer DomDaniel. The Heap family is on the run with the help of the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand, to protect their youngest daughter.

Angie Page creates a wonderful, fantastical world. She develops a great atmosphere both in the castle and at a witches cottage hidden in the marshes. You can almost feel the damp and fog. At 565 pages, the book is substantial, but moves along at a brisk pace. The characters are well developed and while there are a fair amount of them, they all have unique personalities. She makes even some of the evil characters appear sympathetic. Sometimes. The Heaps are a wonderful family as lovable as the Weasleys. Aunt Zelda is a wonderfully eccentric character. Of course, my favorite was Boy 214 who while not having a real name and barely talking at all throughout the book somehow managed to burrow his way into my heart. I look forward to following their further adventures.

Five Favorite Things About Magyk:

  1. I love that Silas’s father has turned into a tree and that Silas wanders the woods trying to find him.
  2. The quote describing where the Heaps live, “If you were foolish enough to cast your eye around the Heaps’ room hoping to find a space in which to sit, the chances were a book would have found it first.”
  3. Ghosts can move around only in places where they had visited when they were alive.
  4. Shield bugs.
  5. Marcia Overstrand’s purple python-skin boots.

Blog Overhaul

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I think it’s time for a blog overhaul. I’m hoping to get new content up soon! I will be focusing more on children’s and YA lit with a few adult books thrown in. I know work with children and teens in grades pre-K through 8. I feel like I’m constantly trying to catch up with each age group, but having a lot fun doing it.

In the meantime here are a few books I’m looking forward to reading:


 pigeon_needs_bath_lg  Riverman  UTNS-cover1
The Pigeon Needs a Bath ~ Mo Willems The Riverman ~Aaron Starmer Under the Never Sky ~ Veronica Rossi

The kids at my school whether they are three year olds or third graders LOVE Mo Willems!

Anna and the French Kiss ~ Stephanie Perkins

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Chelle gave this book to me not long after she read it, with a casual – whenever you get the chance – no pressure.” So, I should have taken note. But, I was busy applying for a new job and then preparing for an interview. After I got said job, I was too busy with that and then reading some required Westerns. Several stomach bugs and colds later I decided a nice romance in Paris might be nice.  This was so much more than that. What on earth was I waiting for!

Anna Oliphant has been sent away to boarding school in Paris. She misses her mother, younger brother, best friend and potential love interest all back in Atlanta. Her writer father who sent her to Paris – not so much. Anna is a budding film critic with a website where she posts her reviews. Her life takes a turn when she walks straight in to Etienne St. Clair an American with a French father and a British accent. Swoon worthy, too. It sounds like a recipe for one inflated ego, but St. Clair is nice. He’s annoyed by the fawning girls and friendly to the unpopular. St. Clair helps Anna overcome some of her insecurities about Paris and enables her to be more independent. But, Mr. Perfect does have a few faults like a girlfriend named Ellie.

I was smitten with Anna from the first paragraph. She’s a strong character, smart and funny but with enough flaws to make her easy to identify with. Plus, it’s Paris! If I had read this book as a teenager, my brain would have exploded! I would have been begging my parents to send me to SOAP. It’s hard to write much more without spoiling and gushing, so I’m just going to give you a list instead of reasons why I felt such a connection to the book. I’m sorry it’s so “all about me,” but I’m hoping it will be a little teaser without ruining the experience of reading Anna.

8 Connections to Anna and the French Kiss

1) I was obsessed with all things French as a teenager. Every report in my European History class was about France.

2) I had a poster of Napoleon on the front of my bedroom door (see #1). I’m not kidding. I actually think that I took down a door-sized poster of James Dean to put it up much to my mother’s chagrin.

3) Instead of insuring my parent’s Jeep so that I would have a car to get around, I spent my savings on a second school trip to Paris. I went almost 20 years without driving as a result.

4) I love the books that Anna reads in her English class. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is one of my favorite books and one of the few I’ve read more than once.

5) I love books where they talk about food a lot. Kitchen is the book that really opened my eyes to that.

6) What librarian wouldn’t get excited about a book with a girl who loves the OED. I have always dreamed of finding one at a yard sale for cheap. Hasn’t happened.

7) Neruda is one of my favorite poets (and a lot of other people’s, too!). My husband and I each read one of his love sonnets at our wedding, including the one quoted in this book! It’s a good one.

Finally,  Etienne was my favorite boy name in French class.

Ninth Ward ~ Jewell Parker Rhodes

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Truth be told, I was drawn to this book by the cover. It’s so lovely. The beautiful pastels and the young girl in the boat holding a lily as if it can keep her afloat or guide her to safety. It also alludes to a hint of magic with the houses floating over the flood waters. I was interested to read about the experiences of a young girl during Hurricane Katrina. I was lucky enough to see this cover at ALA Midwinter and thanks to the library marketing folks at Little, Brown I was able to snag a copy.

Ninth Ward tells the story of Lanesha during the week that led up to Katrina. Her mother died in childbirth and Lanesha has been raised by Mama Ya Ya the midwife, because her Uptown relatives don’t want to have anything to do with her. Like Mama Ya Ya, Lanesha can see the many ghosts that hang around New Orleans including, much to her dismay, the ghost of her mother. As the storm approaches, Mama Ya Ya begins to get very nervous. She knows that the Hurricane will pass and they will all be safe, but that there is something else that is a greater danger. Yet her sight will not tell her what it is. In the meantime, Lanesha an outcast among the children in her neighborhood, befriends a boy named TaShon, who is also the subject of ridicule, because he is small and was born with 12 fingers. Lanesha helps TaShon rescue a stray dog from the local bullies and takes in the stray for TaShon who can’t keep it at his house. This budding friendship feels so sudden to Lanesha, but will be indispensable in the days to come.

Rhodes does a wonderful job presenting this story and the harrowing events of Hurricane Katrina in a way that is appropriate to the age group. As many tragedies force young people to pass on to adulthood whether or not they are ready, Hurricane Katrina is a compelling event for this coming of age story. Although it does have a satisfying ending thanks in part to the magical realism that fits flawlessly into the narrative, Rhodes doesn’t gloss over the tragedy. She may leave some details to the reader’s imagination, but the reader gets to experience first hand the terror and the courage that young people like Lanesha must have felt.

Because the book covers such a short period of time, it moves quickly and I was immediately drawn in by the characters: Lanesha, Tashon and Mama Ya Ya and by the neighborhood itself. I am a fan of magical realism, so I loved how that worked, it didn’t feel forced and though I’ve never been to New Orleans, ghosts hanging around the neighborhood seemed like a small step away from reality. It gave the story a sense of hope and a way to illustrate the love that is so much a part of Lanesha’s world and what ultimately saves her.

Lane Smith

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I saw a lot of people walking around at ALA with bags for Lane Smith’s new book, It’s A Book. Needless to say I was very jealous. I saw this interview with him the other day and I have to say that I’m quite taken with his website. Are you straining to see the books on the shelf?  I love his review of Andy Warhol’s book illustrating how Mr. Warhol breaks several of the rules for children’s literature. First, isn’t it cool that Andy Warhol had a children’s book? But I love the idea of rules for children’s books. I’ve been meaning to post a list of Top 10 things children’s authors do that totally annoy me. Of course, that is coming from me as a parent and would be much more like complaining than this review which is more from the child’s perspective.

Check out this trailer for It’s A Book.

And as a total aside, if you haven’t seen the books Andy Warhol’s nephew has wrote about him, they are certainly worth a look.

Uncle Andy’s and Uncle Andy’s Cats by James Warhola