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I am a youth services librarian, which means I work with children, tweens and teens. I love being asked about great books to read! The opinions and content of this blog are my own and are not that of my library system. My blog content is my own and not that of any committee or organization I'm involved in. A Note to Authors/Publishers: I would be happy to review your book, share guest posts, author interviews or other book promotions on my blog. Please contact me at greenbeanteenqueen (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

So You Want To Read Middle Grade: Nonfiction for Middle Grade by Sarah Albee


Sarah Albee writes nonfiction for middle grade readers. She is the author of Poop Happened and Bugged. You can find her online at:  http://www.sarahalbeebooks.com/

 

I write nonfiction for middle graders, and my mission is to get kids who’ve been traumatized by deadly-dull social studies textbooks to unthink that they hate history. One tactic I use is to select a subject kids will be interested in—be it sanitation, insects, clothing, disease, poison—and trace it chronologically through history. I feel an obligation to entertain them, to astonish them, to make them laugh. After all, they could be reading fiction. I want them to see that history is full of conflict, tension, controversy, emotion, drama. 

Humorous writing does not equal unserious writing. Some of my favorite adult writers – Mary Roach, May Berenbaum, Stephen Jay Gould--are serious scholars and hilarious writers. Most of my favorite middle school history writers are that, too. They understand that to snag the interest of a middle school kid, to expect her to pick up a nonfiction book that hasn’t been assigned to her, it’s our job to make it irresistible. How? Through the use of humor, offbeat topics, engrossing stories, and lots of fascinating—or disgusting, or lurid--details.
           
Here are some of my favorites, new and backlist, that may help change kids’ minds about history.

 

How They Choked by Georgia Bragg (Walker, May, 2014)

A delightful follow-up to her wickedly-wonderful How They Croaked (Walker, 2011), both of which are enhanced by Kevin O’Malley’s evilly-funny illustrations. Bragg combines humor with impressive research, as she recounts stories of famous flawed figures and their fabulous fiascoes. As she points out in her intro, “sometimes historians lose sight of the fact that their subjects were human beings. Real people make mistakes (even historians).”

 



The Raucous Royals Test your Royal Wits: Crack Codes, Solve Mysteries, and Deduce Which Royal Rumors are True written and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia (HMH 2008)

Beccia’s biographies of twelve European rulers are funny, fascinating, and thoroughly-researched. She’s a hilarious writer (check out her blog here). http://www.raucousroyals.com/ Her breezy, conversational style engages readers and invites them to be active participants, to recognize that contemporary sources can be unreliable, to learn to interpret biases and sort out facts from rumors. It’s an excellent mentor text for helping kids “identify author’s point of view and purpose.”

 

 
Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures that May or May Not Exist by Kelly Milner Halls, Rick Spears, and Roxyanne Young (Millbrook Press, 2006)

For kids fascinated by cryptozoology (and I know many), this book gives evidence for and against mythical monsters like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Champ, as well as examining confirmed real-life monsters like giant squids and the coelacanth. The authors present eyewitness accounts, blurry photos, and speculative reconstructed models. They include interviews with experts on both sides of the argument, and discuss famous hoaxes. “For Further Investigation” provides websites and sources for curious kids interested in following up.
 

 
Women of the Frontier: 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller (Chicago Review Press, 2013)
Miller profiles 16 women of the western US, and every story sucks you in with electrifying details and masterful storytelling. Kids will love the gritty, gripping accounts of life on the frontier, liberally interspersed with fascinating excerpts from letters and diaries and other primary sources. Miller’s unflinching accounts of the horrors of privation, insects, disease, and, yes, laundry—make every story a page-turner.


And on my to-read list:

 
 
Lives of the Explorers by Kathleen Krull (HMH, August 2014)

I am a big fan of all of Krull’s Lives of… books and can’t wait for this one!

 

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple (Charlesbridge, 2013)

 I love the sound of this book for its approach to the lives of some of the baddest (or possibly just misunderstood or misguided) women in history. As Booklist’s reviewer put it, “ . . . both an introduction and afterword focus on how history changes its opinion on people’s actions, the way history’s winners get the glory, and whether circumstances shape events more than personalities do.” Plus it’s got an awesome cover.






Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shattered Cover Reveal

I'm excited to reveal the cover of Shattered by Mari Mancusi, the sequel to Scorched.




And check out Mari Mancusi's blog for a very special giveaway of a dragon egg pendant:


http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YWE1MTIzYTQ0NjBjNWU3OTkzOTliMzU0NWU0MTU1OjEx/.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Into the Dark (The Shadow Prince) by Bree Despain

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary/Greek Mythology

Release Date: 3/11/2014

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About the Book: Haden Lord is a prince of the Underrealm-but he's a disgrace to his father and the court. It comes as a surprise when Haden is chosen by the oracle as the new Champion-the one to cross through Persephone's gate in order to bring back the latest boon. Only Haden's quest is different. His chosen girl, Daphne Raines, isn't an ordinary boon-she's the cypher and could be the key to restore immortality to the Underrealm. Haden goes undercover at Olympus Hills High School and has six months to return with Daphne. But fate has other plans as Daphne and Haden uncover more secrets about the Underrealm and their destiny.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I really love stories based on Greek Mythology, so when I first heard about Into the Dark I was excited but wary. The Persephone myth seems like a popular trend right now in YA and I wasn't sure how yet another offering of the story would measure up. I was not disappointed as Into the Dark has a fresh, unique take. It may be inspired by the myth of Persephone, but the story is original take on the myth of Persephone as a launching point for a new tale about the Underrealm.

At first glance, it might seem like another girl meets boy with supernatural powers romance. But don't let first impressions deceive you. Yes there's romance between Haden and Daphne, but it's not insta-love. It's a relationship that's brewing all throughout the novel as the two spend time together and get to know each other. Haden isn't a brooding, mysterious lead. Instead he's somewhat awkward as he's trying to navigate a human world he doesn't understand. He's from the Underrealm and his lessons about humans are dated at times so his language and manners are a bit stiff as he tries to figure out how to communicate with Daphne. I found this aspect of Haden actually charming and funny at times. Sometimes his mannerisms reminded me of a cross between Sheldon Cooper and Data from Star Trek which is kind of an odd statement about a romantic lead I know but I found it endearing. 

Daphne is a strong character who is independent-and not about to be swept off her feet by a mysterious stranger. Daphne and Haden don't have a "meet cute" moment. In fact Haden messes up their first meeting pretty badly and ends up getting punched in the face-not your typical love at first sight moment which I appreciated. Daphne wants to make her own choices about her future and Haden wants her to as well instead of trying to control her or decide her future for her. And there's no love triangle-yay!!!

The cast of supporting characters is well rounded and not just stock sidekicks and best friends. They are all involved in the future of the Underrealm-even if they don't realize it. Both Daphne and Haden have characters around them but they are all woven into the story together. The story is mainly about Daphne and Haden but there are rich subplots with Daphne's new friend Tobin determined to find his missing sister and Daphne's estranged father wanting to make up for lost time. I really enjoyed the layered plot and how all the stories and characters tied together. I felt it made the novel have more of a mystery feel than just romance. There are lots of twists and while some things were a bit predictable, I was still pleasantly surprised by others. 

This is the first in a series and while there are still many unanswered questions at the end, I didn't feel as though I was led hanging. The book had a good conclusion that left me satisfied while still eager for more. A great start to a new series perfect for fans of mythology.

Full Disclosure: reviewed from egalley from publisher


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Into the Dark Blog Tour: Bree Despain Guest Post Plus Giveaway


I am so excited to be part of the tour of Bree Despain's new book, The Shadow Prince. This is the start to a great new series, Into rhe Dark, which is inspired by the Persephone myth.

As a librarian, I always love to hear from authors about their library experiences. After reading about Bree's, I'm sure we're kindred spirits. I love her story of a remolded library and how far she'd go for the book she wanted! 

And be sure to check out the other spots on the tour! 

Thursday: Book Briefs




Some of my fondest memories are of making new discoveries in libraries. One of my earliest childhood recollections is of the story-time room in my little local library. I remember getting to pick out my own carpet square and look at the rainbow colors on the walls while one of the librarians read from books like Chicken Soup With Rice and Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak was always my favorite) and then begging my mom to let me search the aisles of books to discover something new to borrow. I remember when my library got a computerized cataloging system for the first time (wow, that makes me feel old) and I’d sit in front of the kiosks, entering the names of famous people, subjects, and authors, and being amazed by the lists of books that would pop up in front of my eyes. (Can you tell I was the kind of kid who would read the dictionary for fun?)  


At the time, I had no idea how publishing worked. The way books were made was a mystery to me, and authors didn’t seem like real people at all. They were magical as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know that I wanted to be an author yet, but I still daydreamed about being able to type my own name into the computer catalog and find a list of books either by me or about me. How cool would it be to know that I had left a piece of myself behind for someone else to discover?


When I was in middle school, I found YA books for the first time in the shelves of the library’s used book sale. YA wasn’t very much of thing when I was a teen (remember, I’m old) and I was intrigued to find a book that seemed like it was written just for me. I bought it for fifty cents and took it home—and became obsessed. I spent the next few years searching the shelves of my little library to find more books like that, and then sharing them with my younger sister.


Then I went off to college and walked into my university’s massive library for the first time and discovered that there was more than the hundreds of books I’d had at my disposals as a kid—there were now hundreds of thousands of them. I remember walking up and down the aisles and aisles of books and wondering if I ever wrote a book how anyone in the world would ever find it among all the others?


Discovering books in that seemingly endless library became quite the unexpected adventure. At the time I was obsessed with the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters—a series of books about a family of archeologists who solve mysteries in Victorian/Edwardian Egypt. I remember asking a librarian for help to find the next book in the series, and her replying, “How badly do you want it?” I blinked at her and said “desperately.” That’s when she said, “You’ll need these,” and handed me a flashlight and a hardhat. As it turned out, the library was under going renovations (to become even bigger!) and the floor with the book I wanted was under construction. With no electricity, I had to use the little flashlight and crawl under what felt like miles of plastic sheeting in the dark, between looming shelves, to find the book. I felt like an archeologist myself, searching for hidden treasure. I have to admit, it was kind of scary experience, but undaunted, I returned week after week to go crawling through the dust and the dark for the next books in that series. I always wondered if someone out there would be willing to do the same to find a book that I had written.


Years later, when I was a new mother and young writer, I would take my toddler son to the new Salt Lake City library for story time. I’d help him pick out his own carpet square and listen to the librarian read books like Chicken Soup With Rice and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak was always his favorite) and then we’d brave the glass elevators (I’m afraid of heights) to go up to the YA section where I would check out books for myself by Meg Cabot and Laurie Halse Anderson—throwing in a few “how to get published” guides—and daydream about entering my own name in the computer catalog system and showing my son my list of books.


A few years later, I sold my first book, and a year after that it hit the bookshelves. Now I had two sons, and took them to our local library with the hopes of finding my name in the computer catalog. Maybe we would even see it on a shelf. I held my breath, not knowing what I would discover when I entered my name. And then it happened, the thing I had been daydreaming about since I was kid: a book by me appeared on the screen. But the library didn’t have my book—because all the copies had been checked out. And not only that, it had more than sixty holds on it. People—lots of people—had discovered my book among all the others. I burst into tears in the middle of the library and my kids thought I was total nut-ball, but they let me cry and point at my name on the screen until they pulled me away, begging to search through the aisles of books to discover something new for themselves.


With the publication of The Shadow Prince last month, my list of books in the library catalog has grown to four—and looking up my own name to see if others have discovered them never ever gets old.


Want to win a copy of The Shadow Prince? Leave a comment below with your own library memory.

-ages 13+
-US or Canada address only
-one entry per person
-ends April 8
-giveaway thanks to Egmont USA



Monday, March 31, 2014

Adult Lit: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 4/1/2014

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About the Book: A. J. Fikry is the curmudgeonly owner of a small bookstore on Alice Island. Since his wife died, A. J. has been isolating himself from everyone on the island, his bookstore isn't making much money, and now his prized book of rare Poe poems has been stolen. But things take an unexpected turn when a special package arrives at the bookstore. It's a mysterious package that gives A. J. a new outlook and second chances.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says:  Every once in awhile a book comes along that is so special and delightful and wonderful that you just want to hold it close and sigh with happiness as you read it. And The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is one of those books for me-and I think it will be that type of special book for book lovers, avid readers, librarians, and storytellers. At the center of the novel is books-how they can change our lives, how they connect people who might not otherwise come together, and how sharing them can give us insight to those around us.

I read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry during middle of the night feedings with my newborn son. You know you've found a very special and wonderful book when you find yourself wanting to stay up a little bit more just so you can read a few more pages-even when you're very sleep deprived! I was already a fan of Gabrielle Zevin before this novel, but this book solidified my fandom even more. She's not just a writer, but a reader and that comes across in her understanding of the book world and how she writes about A. J. and those around him. This book made me wish I could own an island bookstore someday-and made me glad that I work with books and that part of my job as a librarian is helping people discover books to read.

It's hard to talk about this book without saying too much about the plot because it's best to leave the plot as a surprise. I think it makes the story more of a treat for the reader if you don't know much about the story other than it's an utter delight. If you are a book lover, this book is for you. The inner workings of a bookstore will resonate with those who work in the book world on a daily basis and the commentary of how much loving books and reading can impact your life will be sure to have readers nodding their heads in agreement.

The way the characters talk about reading, books, and life is spot on. This book gave me one of my new favorite questions to ponder-"if you had to eat at a restaurant themed after a work of fiction, what would you choose?"

A delightful book that you should pick up immediately-but make sure you've cleared your day first because you want to stop reading.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from egalley sent by publisher on Netgalley


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