May 20, 2019

Audio Review: All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn





Title: All the Lovely Bad Ones
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Narrator: Jeff Cummings

Travis and his sister, Corey, can t resist a good trick. When they learn that their grandmother s quiet Vermont inn, where they re spending the summer, has a history of ghost sightings, they decide to do a little haunting of their own. Before long, their supernatural pranks have tourists flocking to the inn, and business booms. But Travis and Corey soon find out that they aren't the only ghosts at Fox Hill Inn. Their thoughtless games have awakened something dangerous, something that should have stayed asleep. Restless, spiteful spirits swarm the inn, while a dark and terrifying presence stalks the halls and the old oak grove on the inn s grounds. Only Travis and Corey can lay to rest the ghosts they've stirred. This means discovering the secret of Fox Hill and the horrors visited on its inhabitants years before.

One sentence review: A nicely spooky story that would make my young middle school students sufficiently scared, but also get a good story as well. 

Longer thoughts: Mary Downing Hahn is my go-to writer when a younger middle school comes in and says they want something scary. She's scary for them, but not so much so that they stop sleeping! In this book, the ghosts start out scary because they almost swarm Travis and Corey poking and pinching them and making all kinds of things fly around. The thought of something like that really happening would be super scary! As the story continues the ghosts - well in particular - continue to be a source of fear but the history of the inn becomes a more important source of both fear and sadness. I really liked how almost a history lesson about poor houses was included in the story. I don't think most kids know what a poor house is, so this book was fantastic in explaining it. 

I liked what needed to be done to get the ghosts to leave the inn.  I thought it was perfect (I won't say to avoid spoilers). The first thing was easier, but the second thing I think would be the scariest for the reader. The second thing involved exorcising the meanest ghost. She was scary, so going up against her would be scary! And what she was capable of made of some great tension. Sorry to be so vague - but again: spoilers! And the ending to all that - wow! Very well done! 

Best stick-with-you image: The part where the meanest ghost is trying to get them. She was scary! 

Thoughts on the audiobook: I really wasn't fond of this narrator. He tended to differentiate characters by giving them a lisp of some sort, so it was kind of annoying to have so many characters talk that way. If they were said to have a lisp in the story that would've been one thing, but none of them were described that way. Otherwise, he did a fine job. 


May 15, 2019

Nonfiction Review: Taking Cover - One Girl's Story of Growing up During the Iranian Revolution

Title: Taking Cover: One Girl's Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution
Author: Nioucha Homayoonfar
Copy Obtained: From publisher in exchange for an honest review


About the Book from Goodreads
This coming-of-age memoir, set during the Iranian Revolution, tells the story of a young girl who moves to Tehran from the U.S. and has to adjust to living in a new country, learning a new language, and starting a new school during one of the most turbulent periods in Iran's history.

This true story of Nioucha Homayoonfar offers a window into an at-once familiar yet foreign culture. Religion classes are mandatory at her new school. Nioucha has to cover her head and wear robes. Her cousin is captured and tortured after he is caught trying to leave the country. And yet, in midst of so much change and challenge, Nioucha is still just a girl who listens to music and idolizes pop stars. But she has to be careful when Western music is banned and she cannot be seen in public together with her new boyfriend. Will she ever get used to this new way of life?


One sentence review: Good memoir of a part of history I didn't know much about, but now I feel I understand better. 
Best for readers who: Like nonfiction especially a more narrative nonfiction
Best Stick-with-You Image: Just the everyday things - seeing how a different culture lives
Library Thoughts: I'm trying to increase the amount of narrative nonfiction so this would be one I would add to that section. 

I'm not a huge reader of nonfiction, but I'm trying to increase the amount of it I read. This one fit my interests, and it was one that I thought would be a window into a culture and time I didn't know much about. I felt it did both! This really wasn't a part of history I knew much about, and hearing about Nioucha's first-hand experience was a great way to learn about it. I liked that it read more like a story because it made it easier for me to understand and take in. I think that would be true for my students as well. As much as I liked the historical context of the story, I also really liked the daily living in the book. I love learning about how other people live, and this book gave me a nice picture of her life and the life of her family. That's important to me. It wasn't just about the history, but it was about showing the lives of the people who experienced it. 

Can I add that I also like that it has a center section of photographs from Nioucha's life? When I was younger I was a sucker for books that included real pictures, so that part was perfect for me. But I also think it would be great for some of my middle school students. They like to see the real people in the story as well.

As I work to make sure my media center's collection is more diverse, I think this will be a great addition. It will be a great window into a culture and way of living that most of my students don't have experience with. But it will also broaden their knowledge of historical events. 

May 6, 2019

Book Review: The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

Title: The Pumpkins War
Author: Cathleen Young
Copy Obtained: From the publisher in exchange for an honest review


About the Book from Goodreads
At the end of every summer, Madeline Island hosts its famous pumpkin race. All summer, adults and kids across the island grow giant, thousand-pound pumpkins, then hollow one out and paddle in it across the lake to the cheers of the entire town. 

Twelve-year-old Billie loves to win; she has a bulletin board overflowing with first-prize ribbons. Her best friend Sam doesn't care much about winning, or at least Billie didn't think so until last summer's race, when his pumpkin crashed into hers as she was about to cross the finish line and he won. This summer, Billie is determined to get revenge by growing the best and biggest pumpkin and beating Sam in the race. It's a tricky science to grow pumpkins, since weather, bugs, and critters can wipe out a crop. Then a surprise visit from a long-lost relative shakes things up, and Billie begins to see her family, and her bond with Sam, in a new way.


One sentence review:  A great book for anyone who has fought with their best friend or has had their family change in unexpected ways. 
Best for readers who:  Like realistic fiction or like to garden
Best Stick-with-You Image: Seriously anything about the pumpkin growing or the size of the pumpkins. That always impresses me!
Library Thoughts: This book is perfect for younger middle school students. It has a great message, and I like the uniqueness of the story with the pumpkins. 

This book had some very unique aspects. I haven't read a book where kids grow giant pumpkins, hollow them out and use them as a boat to race. That was pretty cool to read about. I think kids would find that interesting as well. The book begins with Billie planting her seedlings for that year's pumpkin, so it was fun to hear about what she all had to do. Very detailed. BUT that's not all she does. She also has a bee farm and harvests and sells honey. I loved how she did all this stuff. It makes her a great role model for any kid to show them what they are capable of if they just try! Love that. 

I will say Billie was a struggle for me at times. She could be very stubborn and blind to her own faults. That was tough for me to see beyond at points. She was so mad at her former best friend for something she thought he did, and would not even fathom to believe she could be wrong. Her actions surrounding that whole part of the story would help kids this age maybe learn better or how to act if something like that happened with a friend of theirs. That's a great learning experience for them! 

I did like the story involving the person who enters her life and her family. I won't go into to much. I don't think it would be too much of a spoiler to say who joins their lives, but I won't give that way. I thought it was something that some kids could relate to because it has happened in their family. Again - a great opportunity for them to learn how to deal with something they might be experiencing. 

Over-all great little book! Well done. 

May 3, 2019

In the Library May 3rd


I am a middle school media specialist - grades 5-8.  

Here are some things happening in our media center! 


We just finished up testing. Well ok, we have one day of science test next week, but that's an easier one! So now we can finish the year strong and work at getting all our books back!

Last week I was lucky enough to have our American Indian Parent Advisory Committee gift us a selection of 26 books all with American Indians as positive characters or about the culture. I was very excited because that part of our collection is severely lacking! We either have nothing or what we have is old. What's even more perfect is that all the books were bought from Birchbark Books, so I know they are all well done and accurate. I cannot wait to get them cataloged and into the hands of the students!



A few other things in the library



I put out six speed cubes, and the kids loved them! Can't wait to do more with cubing next year.


I also put out one Snap Circuit set, and the kids really liked that. 
Kids I had never seen stop and try something out were putting all the pieces together. It was great to see.  That's what I want in the library - a reason for ALL kids to come visit. 


I'm so looking forward to next year when I'll be full time and I can do even more! I'm wanting to have a theme each month. And I want to get into to classroom and do more books talks as well as help with tech integration. We'll see!! 


May 2, 2019

Book Review: Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Title: Calvin
Author: Martine Leavitt
Copy Obtained: Purchased


About the Book from Goodreads
As a child, Calvin felt an affinity with the comic book character from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes.

He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib, and he even had a best friend named Susie. Then Calvin’s mom washed Hobbes to death, Susie grew up beautiful and stopped talking to him, and Calvin pretty much forgot about the strip—until now. Now he is seventeen years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes is back, as a delusion, and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that Watterson is the key to everything—if he would just make one more comic strip, but without Hobbes, Calvin would be cured. Calvin and Susie (is she real?) and Hobbes (he can’t be real, can he?) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson.


One sentence review: An important look at mental illness - a window into understanding schizophrenia.
Best for readers who:  Want to learn more about mental illness or know someone with mental illness. 
Best Stick-with-You Image: The cars in the middle of that lake. That was amazing. 
Library Thoughts: Although it is clearly young adult, I will add it to my collection at the middle school.  There is nothing in that I think would concern parents. And I think it's an important topic to have for students who need it. 

This was a very quick read for me. I read it in one day. But an important read. I know very little about schizophrenia, so this book gave me some understanding that I was lacking before. I would like to know from someone with more experience how accurate a portrayal it is. My feeling is that it's pretty accurate, but I don't know for sure. 

I really liked Calvin. I felt for him, understood him and wanted him to be ok. His character really made schizophrenia real because he was a real kid in my mind. And because of that, I feel like I gained so much from his story. Sometimes I wanted to shake him, but I grew to understand that his actions were what he thought he should do in the state he was in. That was important for me to learn. What I really liked was that he was still a teenager. That made him so much more real to me. His feelings for Susie, his feelings about school - all of it typical teenage stuff. That was perfect. 

After this book, I hope to read more about mental illness.  If you have suggestions feel free to leave them!

I do need to add that I'm a HUGE Calvin and Hobbes fan, so that part of the book was so perfect for me. I understood it all! 


April 29, 2019

Book Review: Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Title: Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Author: Jonathan Auxier
Copy Obtained: Purchased


About the Book from Goodreads
For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on "climbing boys"--orphans owned by chimney sweeps--to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived--and a girl. With her wits and will, she's managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. 

But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature--a golem--made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire. 
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life together--saving one another in the process. 


One sentence review: A sweet story about a girl finding her way and finding a place to belong. 
Best for readers who: Like stories with a bit of magic.
Best Stick-with-You Image: Her climbing through the chimneys.  So claustrophobic!!! 
Library Thoughts: For sure. Perfect for middle school and upper elementary students.

I enjoyed this book, but I will say I didn't love it fully. The story was great. I loved the whole chimney sweeps - very interesting especially when you read the author notes at the end. I learned a lot about chimney sweeps. I loved how it was about a girl who was very independent but also clearly wanting a family of some sort. And I loved her monster or golem or whatever you want to call him. Loved him! He made me laugh, made me cry - he was wonderful. By far my favorite part of the book! So overall I loved all that. 

I think my issue was with her - Nan. She just rubbed me the wrong way some. I was supposed to feel for her and understand her. I understood she was the way she was because of how she grew up. I got that. But so many times she made such rash, non-thinking decisions that it frustrated me. I wanted to care about her so much more than I could because her actions and treatment of people got in the way of that. Not enough to dislike the book, because as you can see above I did like it. Her character just kept me from liking it 100%. 

Now I'll still fully and enthusiastically sell this book to my students because I know many won't feel the way I did. I think my being an adult affected much of how I felt! And that cover! That alone will help me sell it to kids! 

April 15, 2019

Maud Hart Lovelace Award Winners and New Nominees

On Saturday I attended the MN Youth Reading Awards event to announce the winners of the Maud Hart Lovelace Award.  I've gone now for three years in a row, and this year I really tried to encourage kids to read the Maud Hart Lovelace nominees so they could vote. I plan on doing even more this year.


So on to the winners!




I was actually surprised by the winner in Division 1. Not because I didn't like it! But I just didn't have as many kids read it. But when I thought about the fact that this division is for grades 3-5, and voted on by the kids, then it made perfect sense! 


I was not at all surprised by the winner for this category.  So many kids read, and loved, A Night Divided.  I was super happy to see Ghost as an honor title! 


Now the nominees for next year.


Division 1 Grades 3-5
I'm excited about Framed! and Towers Falling! Oh and Amina's Voice! (I won a drawing at the event and got to pick a book - that's the one I picked!)

Division 2 Grades 6-8
I've had so many kids read Refugee and love it. Plus many have read Terror at Bottle Creek! I'm excited for Piecing Me Together. 

Have you read any of these?  Any you're interested in?






April 10, 2019

Nonfiction Review: Owling by Mark Wilson

Title: Owling: Enter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night
Author: Mark Wilson
Copy Obtained: From publisher for an honest review


About the Book from Goodreads
From Hedwig, the Snowy Owl of Harry Potter fame, to Winnie-the-Pooh’s beloved friend Owl, this wide-eyed bird of the night has found its way into young hearts and imaginations everywhere. Owling invites young readers into the world of real-life owls, to learn about their fascinating behaviors and abilities.  

Wildlife photojournalist and nature educator Mark Wilson presents a one-of-a-kind look into the mysterious lives of these distinctive birds. Dramatic images of the 19 owl species of North America nesting, flying, hunting, and catching prey are accompanied by information about the birds’ silent flight, remarkable eyes and ears, haunting calls, and fascinating night life. Kids will learn how to spot owls; identify their calls, plumage, and pellets; and even carry on a hooting conversation with a nearby owl.



One sentence review: Um owls, pictures and facts about real owls - need I say more? Ok - beautifully done! 
Best for readers who: Like nonfiction and books about animals
Best Stick-with-You Image: I love snow owls so all the pictures of snow owls were the best. 
Library Thoughts: YES! I know I have several middle school students who still love the animal books, so they'll love this one especially since it's full color photographs. 

So I absolutely loved this book.  Of course since this is The OWL I was taken in right away, but the quality of the book really solidified the deal.  The book looks at several different species of owls including ones well known like the horned owl, to lesser knows ones like the short-eared owl. Plus there is a whole chapter on how to find owls! Serious need to read and follow that chapter because I can never find owls.  And it ends with a chapter on working with owls.  That was super fun because if you have a student who is interested in animals/wildlife this can give them some ideas for what they might explore or do in the future.

So glad I was introduced to this book! Love it! 

April 5, 2019

In the Library: Poetry for April


I am a middle school media specialist - grades 5-8.  

Here are some things happening in our media center! 


April is National Poetry month, so we are doing some things to celebrate and encourage the reading/writing of poetry.




Here are some that students made:

And book spine poetry. 



Several kids have make poetry from the magazine words. Still working on getting some to create spine poems. 


Plus we have a display of books in verse, biographies on poets and poetry books. Thank you Kwami Alexander for making boys read books in verse!!! 




March 28, 2019

Audio Book Review: People Like Us by Dana Mele - Read by Erin Spencer





Title: People Like Us
Author: Dana Mele
Narrator: Erin Spencer

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened.
 


One sentence review: I'm still up in the air about whether I liked it or not. Lots of twists and lots of bird-walks. 

Longer thoughts: So seriously I don't know how I feel about this one. It was one of those books that I didn't know who to trust and who to believe (if anyone!). But also I had things figured out several chapters before the reveal. Ok, I had the big thing figured out not another detail that was yet to come out. I didn't like the main character, Kay. She was not a nice person and how she treated people was horrible. But I also didn't like any of the secondary characters. They were all rude and mean and self-centered. I found this so even for Nola the one girl that kinda befriends Kay as all this stuff is happening. So why did I keep reading then - I did want to find out what happened and who caused it. That part was interesting. And actually really interesting because I found myself wanting to get back to the story. But not at all because of the characters!  I just don't know in the end if finding all that out was enough to make me like the book a ton. And the reveal at the very end (yes like last two pages) didn't help that. I'll guess I'll go with - It had parts that kept me interested when the characters could've driven me away. 

Best stick-with-you image: Kay talking about her brother when he lost his life. 

Thoughts on the audiobook: Very well done.  Lots of voices to differentiate, and she did a great job! 


March 15, 2019

In the Library


I am a middle school media specialist - grades 5-8.  

Here are some things happening in our media center! 


Our local Friends of the Library were very kind to us in honor of Read Across America Day. They bought us 10 books of our choice (and gave us a bonus book!) as well as provided the prize for a Create a Bookmark contest we had. We were very thankful for their kindness and generosity! 

Yes this is me being a goof!


I also have to share this picture. When our students come into the library they have to have a pass, and they set that pass on our counter, so we know they are there. 
This was during homeroom one day (it's 25 minute period). Let's just say it was a tad busy, but I LOVE it!



March 14, 2019

Unpopular Opinion Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Copy Obtained: Purchased


About the Book from Goodreads
Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

One sentence review: Clearly not a book for me. I was confused and didn't care about the characters. 
Best for readers who: Like books that blur reality and fantasy
Best Stick-with-You Image: Not sure....
Library Thoughts: I probably won't put it in my middle school library, but if I was in high school I would

Super unpopular opinion, but this book just wasn't for me. I probably got about half way through and just gave up. I kept hoping it would get better, but it just didn't. My main issue - I didn't care about Scarlett at all. She annoyed me, I didn't find her realistic and I didn't care about anything that happened to her. It made me very frustrated that she knew Caraval isn't real but kept "forgetting" that. Also - I felt it meandered around too much and that made it hard for me to follow what was happening. So in the end, I just couldn't finish it. Sorry, all you that love it! I really really wanted to because I heard such great things about it! 

March 11, 2019

Book Review: What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott

Title: What Waits in the Woods
Author: Kieran Scott
Copy Obtained: Purchases


About the Book from Goodreads
It's a beautiful, sunny day. Callie Velasquez holds hands with her boyfriend Jeremy as they follow Callie's new BFFs Penelope and Lissa up the trail. The four friends are embarking on a camping trip -- a trip that immediately goes awry. They lose their way on the trail, and encounter a charismatic stranger with questionable motives. And when Callie stumbles upon a dead body, it becomes clear that the danger that lies in the woods is deadlier than she could have ever imagined. Tensions mount and friendships are tested as these teenagers try to survive the most sinister of circumstances. 
One sentence review: Perfect mix of tension, mystery and a dash of "who do I trust?". 
Best for readers who: Like a book that keeps you guessing and trying to figure things out. 
Best Stick-with-You Image: When Callie wakes up in the middle of the night and hears something. So scary! 
Library Thoughts: We have this in the media center. I think it's perfect for fans of spooky books and books that keep you on the edge. I like that it's more YA but a younger middle school student could still ready it.

I really enjoyed this book. It was just a fun tension-filled read. I spent the entire book trying to find clues, put them together and figure out what was going on. I did figure out a few things before the characters (proud of myself for that!), but I didn't know it all. That I liked. Callie was a great character. She definitely showed growth and that was awesome. I like characters that grow and change. I will say that it did nothing for my thoughts about camping! I'm not a fan, and this didn't help that at all! Callie would wake up in the night and hear things - that's the part that always scares me! 

Well done.  Will be reading What Waits in the Water! 

March 9, 2019

Book Review: Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Once and for AllTitle: Once and for All 
Author: Sarah Dessen

This is only the 2nd Sarah Dessen book I've read (well listened to in this case). I really enjoyed this one. It had lots of heart. I really felt for Louna. She had been through such a difficult situation that my heart went out to her. But I really admired how strong she was. That was great to see. I think something else I really liked was her relationship with her mom. It was a great example of how teenagers and parents can be close, and how parents can be included in the story. Very well done. So many times the story defaults to absent or never talked about parents, so this was a positive to see.

I also liked that Louna didn't need Ambrose to come in and make everything better. She was working on that on her own. He just happened to be part of that process.

I'm glad I read this one. Encourages me to read even more of her books.

Note: This definitely falls in the upper young adult category. Luona is graduating from high school so keep that in mind. I work with middle schoolers, so I wanted to make sure that was noted.


January 16, 2019

Book Tour: Riverdale: The Day Before by Micol Ostow +GIVEAWAY


Today I'm happy to feature Riverdale: The Day Before by Micol Ostow!

I've loved watching the series, so super excited to share the book with you!!!

Synopsis:

Original fiction based off the hit television series Riverdale!
Based on the massively successful CW show, Riverdale, this prequel novel explores what the gang was doing before Season One. Why did Jughead and Archie have a falling out? What did Veronica's life look like in the Big Apple? And how long has Betty really been in love with Archie? Told from multiple POVs, your favorite characters tell their story their way.



Links to the Books



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Micol Ostow has written over 50 works for readers of all ages, including projects based on properties like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, and most recently, Mean Girls: A Novel. As a child she drew her own Archie comics panels, and in her former life as an editor she published the Betty & Veronica Mad Libs game. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters who are also way too pop culture-obsessed. Visit her online at www.micol.ostow.com





GIVEAWAY

Prize: 3 copies of Riverdale: The Day Before & The Riverdale Student Handbook
US Only
Starts: 1/14
Ends: 1/30