Friday, August 30, 2013

YA Movie News has some casting news for Mockingjay!  Natalie Dormer has been cast as Cressida, Evan Ross cast as her assistant Messalla, and Stef Dawson will play Annie. There are also rumors about Julianne Moore playing Coin!

-Mike Birbiglia will play Patrick in The Fault in our Stars movie. John Green has been tweeting from the set, so be sure to follow along for all the latest news! 

And in case you missed it (or just need to watch it again!) the first trailer for Divergent was released: 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Black Spring by Allison Croggon Plus Giveaway

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Genre: Gothic Horror/Suspense

Release Date: 8/27/2013

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About the Book: (From Goodreads) In a savage land sustained by wizardry and ruled by vendetta, Lina is the enchanting but willful daughter of a village lord. She and her childhood companion, Damek, have grown up privileged and spoiled, and they’re devoted to each other to the point of obsession. But Lina’s violet eyes betray her for a witch, and witches are not tolerated in a brutally patriarchal society. Her rank protects her from persecution, but it cannot protect her from tragedy and heartbreak. An innocent visitor stands witness to the devastation that ensues as destructive longing unleashes Lina’s wrath, and with it her forbidden power. Whether drawn by the romantic, the magical, or the gothic, readers will be irresistibly compelled by the passion of this tragic tale.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: First off, let me confess something. I have never read Wuthering Heights. So I can't tell you exactly how this book compares to the novel that inspired it. But what little I know of Ms. Bronte's writing, I would have to guess pretty well. 

So let's go over a few things you should know before you go into this novel: 

1) It's Gothic-which means it's wonderfully atmospheric and it's beautiful, but also in a way that is wonderfully creepy. I love Gothic themed novels and Ms. Croggon really excels at this writing style, pulling you right into the story and making you feel and believe the sense of place and the nuanced going-ons of the town.

2) It can be creepy-but in a good way. Early on, one the characters describes his nightmares and they are chilling. Again, this is another point on which Ms. Croggon's writing is fantastic. Maybe I'm a just a wimp though.

3) This is not a happy tale. It's tragic and sad, but so beautifully written and packaged and the storytelling is delicately unwrapped it's well worth reading. The story starts out a bit unexpectedly and I was confused at first, but just go with it-once the narrator switches and you understand what is happening, you will be pulled in. 

Similar Authors: Margo Lanagan, Maggie Stiefvater 

Want to win a Copy? Thanks to Candlewick, one lucky reader will win a copy of Black Spring

All you need to do to enter is fill out the form below.
-US Address Only Please
-One Entry Per Person Please
-Ages 13 +
-Giveaway ends September 4

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

So You Want to Read Middle Grade: Christopher Healy

Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and it's sequel, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle. You can find more about his books at

First off, let me applaud you for even wanting to read middle-grade literature—because it does not sound appealing. It needs a new name. To the uninitiated, it can too easily sound like “mediocre literature.”
Person: “So, what do you do for a living?”
Me: “I’m a middle-grade author.”
Person: “Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m sure you’re not so bad.” Pats on the back and overly sympathetic smiles follow.
“Middle-grade” brings to mind gasoline that won’t make your car run at optimum quality, or maple syrup that’s thinner and less flavorful than the good stuff. So thank you for looking beyond the label.
            And congratulations. Because you will be very happy with your decision to give MG a shot. Middle-grade fiction is exciting. And fun. And full of surprises. When I first wrote The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, I had no idea it was middle-grade. I’d seen “middle-grade” defined somewhere as literature in which the protagonist is between the ages of eight and thirteen—but all my central characters are adults. Some are even married. And I’ve come to realize that that’s part of makes MG so wonderful—it can’t really be defined.

            • Middle-grade can be suspenseful. Matthew Cody’s cape-free superhero books Powerless and Super have enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the final pages (and great payoffs on those final pages, in case you were wondering). Same thing goes for one of my favorite books (and one of the greatest mysteries) of all time, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game.

            • Middle-grade can have a wicked sense of humor. Geoff Rodkey’s Chronicles of Egg books excel in dark wit, even as they dole out the thrills. Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan is just as funny as it is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. And let’s face it: There’s a reason why those Wimpy Kid books are so popular.

            • Middle-grade can be lyric and beautiful. Like Caroline Starr Rose’s nail-biter of a pioneer tale, May B. Or Sonya Hartnett’s haunting WWII refugee allegory, The Midnight Zoo. Or even Neil Gaiman’s shiver-inducing classic, Coraline.


• Middle-grade can be edge-of-your-seat thrilling. Try going to bed at night before you’ve finished Jeramey Kraatz’s The Cloak Society. Try finishing Emma Clayton’s The Roar without immediately picking up its sequel, The Whisper.

• Middle-grade can be dramatic. It’s not the presence of magic in Laurel Snyder’s “be careful what you wish for” fable, Bigger Than a Breadbox, or Meg Wolitzer’s Scrabble tournament tale, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, that make those books such great reads—it’s seeing how the otherworldly elements affect the characters.

            • Middle-grade can be uplifting. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me want to stand up and cheer more than R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.

            • And any of the books I’ve just mentioned can fit into more than one of the categories I’ve listed. And this is only a random sampling of the truly amazing reads you’ll find in the MG world. Look, they’ll probably never change the name to “awesome-grade fiction” (and admittedly shouldn’t), but that may be a better term to describe how you come to feel about it after you’ve explored and enjoyed everything MG has to offer. So explore and enjoy. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Genre: Mystery/Horror

Release Date: 5/7/2013

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About the Book: Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends for a long time, bonding over a game they play with various action figures and toys and telling stories about pirates, mermaids, and queens in their magical world. One of their characters is The Queen, a mysterious china doll they are told not to touch. One evening, Poppy appears and tells Zach and Alice that she is being haunted by The Queen and that the doll is made from human bone and holding the ash of a murdered girl. It is their quest to return The Queen to where she lived and bury her, or they will be cursed.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says:  It never fails that I have middle grade readers coming into my library on a regular basis looking for scary stories. Doll Bones is going to the top of my list of books I will hand over to those readers. Holly Black manages to create a spooky story about ghosts and dolls while also weaving in the hardships of friendship and growing up.

The main focus of the novel is The Queen-what is her true story, is she really haunting our main characters or is it all just an elaborate game? One of the things Ms. Black exceeds at is leaving the reader wondering as many aspects about The Queen are left open to interpretation. It's up to the reader to decide what was real and what was made up and this adds to the spookiness of the story. I also think this allows readers to choose how scary they want to make the novel-how frightened they are by the plot depends on how much they believe the story. I personally, went into the book thinking it would be scarier than it was, so I think middle graders could easily handle the story. I do wonder though how much of my personal scare factor was because I was listening it to on audiobook instead of reading it. The narrator did a fantastic job, and it was still plenty creepy-I mean we're talking a doll made of human bones here! But because I was familiar with the narrator, I think that might have made it less of a scary story for me.

What I did love was how the plot also weaved in aspects of life that middle graders will relate to. There's the pain of growing up and trying to balance your old interests with your new ones. There's the fear of loosing your friends as you grow apart. And there's that oh-so-awkward moment when you realize that your friend might like you as more than a friend. This part of the plot is never done with sappy moments, but realistic, tough emotions that are talked about and not completely resolved because life is hard and so is growing up. I think readers will appreciate that Zach, Poppy, Alice don't end up with perfect answers to anything-it feels real.

Doll Bones is a delightfully creepy story that is sure to please readers looking for something with a haunting and chilling plotline. Give this one to readers who are looking for a good scary story. Just be warned you may be second guessing any dolls you come across after finishing this book.

Book Pairings: Coraline by Neil Gaiman (for a similar tone)

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my public library

Friday, August 23, 2013

YA Movie News

-Matthew Quick's YA novel, Sorta Like a Rockstar is getting a film adaptation.

-Shailene Woodley is getting ready for The Fault in Our Stars by cutting and donating her hair.

-The Book Thief trailer was released this week! So many great YA novels coming to the big screen!

And big shout out to Connie for finding the Divergent teaser trailer!!  Thanks Connie!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

So You Want to Read Middle Grade: Anne Ursu

Anne Ursu is the author of several middle grade books including Breadcrumbs, and the upcoming, The Real Boy. You can find more about Anne and her books at her website:

Earlier this summer, Katherine Applegate accepted the Newbery Medal for her stunning book THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. She deserved it—IVAN is one of those very special books, the kind that advances the field and changes the conversation about what books for middle grade readers can do. It is lovely, ambitious, inventive, elegant, heart-wrenching—and narrated entirely by a silverback gorilla.

In her speech, Applegate said that she’s had scores of people tell her that even though they’ve always hated talking animal books, they loved IVAN. But, she went on to say, all these people have been adults; a child never said anything like that to her.

I’m not surprised. Kids don’t have any preconceived notions about what stories are supposed to do; they aren't fazed by the idea of non-linear structure, or bends in reality, or narrating gorillas. All they want is to get lost in the pages.

This isn’t to say the readers aren’t demanding—middle grade books live and die on compelling characters and engrossing story, and their readers will not tolerate sloppiness or self-indulgence. Therefore, you can count on these books to give you great characters, you can count on them to give you great storytelling. But you can oftentimes count on them to present work that is truly innovative in form and content as well.

In her speech, Applegate went on to quote Madeline L’Engle, who's written some very special books of her own: “You have to write the book that wants to be written,” L’Engle said. “And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

Louis Sachar’s HOLES must be one of the most entertaining reads of the last two decades, for any age group. Its narrative is also incredibly complex, with a triple-helix-like structure in which the story of Stanley Yelnats, a boy cursed to bad fortune by the actions of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, is interspersed with entertaining but seemingly random vignettes about said no-good-great-great grandfather as well as the legend of local outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.

Of course, there’s nothing random about these episodes at all, and in the last thirty pages of the book the strands prove to be inextricably connected in a startling feat of literary slight of hand. The book seems at first to be structured haphazardly in a way that mirrors the main character’s experience with terrible luck, but it proves in the end to be impeccable, just as Stanley’s life is revealed to have been guided by the exacting hand of fate.

Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME also weaves together multiple storylines through the series of episodes that make up the book—this time all focused on Manhattan sixth grader Miranda, who receives letters from a mysterious sender who seems to know a great deal about her life. At the same time, she’s dealing with the sudden loss of her best friend, shifting alliances at school, the strange homeless guy who sleeps under the mailbox, and her single mother’s upcoming appearance on the $20,000 Pyramid.

It isn’t until the end that the connective thread is clear—but before that the book has been busy teaching us how to read it. To solve the mysteries (both of the mysterious letters and, more importantly, of the sudden change in her best friend) Miranda needs to learn to see beyond her own prejudices, perceptions, and assumptions, both small and large, to understand that the world is much bigger than she can know. And so does the reader. Over the course of the book, we have several instances of Miranda realizing that she’s been wrong about something, that her perception hid the truth. Stead lets us live in Miranda's truth enough that we experience the revelations with her, as if they were happening to us—and only through this journey are we, like she, ready to apprehend the greater truths in the book.

WHEN YOU REACH ME is often tagged as science fiction due to one element of the plot. But I think it’s really realistic fiction; it’s just that we need to accept the truth the book is telling us—that reality is much bigger and more changeable than we know.

These books ask big questions—when you’re not limited in content or form you have the freedom to ask about perception versus reality, fate versus luck, or, as in the case with Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, determinism versus free will. Middle grade books ask what it means to be human in the world—because its audience is just starting to ask that question, too.

And they are also asking how to live in the world. By bending reality, middle grade fiction can express these very real questions in metaphor and then give the metaphor wings. Patrice Kindl’s OWL IN LOVE is about a fourteen-year-old girl who rejects a world that doesn’t understand her. Because she’s not like anyone else, she isolates herself at school, keeps secrets from the world, has to navigate awkward social situations—all the while suffering from a massive case of unrequited love. And she is a were-owl.

It begins:

“I am in love with Mr. Lindstrom, my science teacher. I found out where he lives and every night I perch on a tree branch outside his bedroom window and watch him sleep. He sleeps in his underwear: Fruit of the Loom, size 34.”

This is magical realism, yes, but Owl’s story of figuring out how to accept the world as it is, as well as herself, is deeply resonant with any reader.

In adult books there’s a perceived divide between literary fiction and genre books—but in middle grade genre and literary are not exclusive. And just because a book is humorous does not mean it is unserious. In THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM, Christopher Healy psychoanalyzes fairy tale princes and princesses with the mischief, alacrity, and pure wit of someone who grew up on a constant diet of The Muppet Show. You could call Adam Rex’s COLD CEREAL a withering indictment of the appropriation and commodification of many cultures' sacred mythology but you would also call it a deliciously funny fantasy adventure about rogue cereal mascots.

Stories can be many things at once, and do many things at once—the young reader does not expect differently. They are happy to read books in first person gorilla, fly around with a were-owl, revere fairy tales by unabashedly fracturing them. They’ll follow you where you take them, even if it seems at first like the road is a detour. There’s a richness and imagination to these books, in form, language, structure, content; they require an embrace of ambiguity and an understanding that what is real and what is true are entirely different things. They are smart, innovative, and they give the reader credit for an open and eager mind and heart. Because that’s the gift and the challenge of writing middle grade fiction—the young reader doesn’t bring prejudices, perceptions, and assumptions to the books—they just want to read something they’ll love. So it’s the writers’ solemn obligation to do whatever they can to give it to them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 8/13/2013

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About the Book: Dini is back from India and excited to spend time with her best friend Maddie. Their favorite Bollywood star, and Dini's new friend, Dolly Singh, is hosting a movie premier at the Smithsonian and Dini and Maddie are going to do a special dance for the opening. But when things start to go wrong, important items go missing, and Dolly wants a parade and an elephant, the girls have their work cut out for them to ensure everything goes right.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic is a sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, and while it's nice to have some backstory, the book for the most part stands pretty well on its own. There's an eccentric cast of characters and the madcap adventures are like one of Dolly's Bollywood films come to life.

There is a lot happening in the story and the plot jumps from character to character which can be a bit distracting at times. I also thought there were some things I would have liked fleshed out a bit more, but as this is a sequel, I felt that a lot of the character development happened in the first book and readers had to jump right in and figure things out about the characters as the story went on. It's especially nice to see a novel that embraces diversity and has a range of diverse characters.

It's a wild romp and while it's contemporary, it's also a bit of a magical fantasy as the adventures and events of the book are madcap. It's still fun to read and would be an enjoyable book for readers who are fans of the first novel or who want something funny and a story that's a bit over the top.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from ARC sent by publisher

Get To Know Dini:

by Dini Kumaran

First of all, you need to know one thing about me: I like to make lists. The things in my room that I like—I make a list of them. If I have a problem, I make lists out of it. If there’s something I want to remember, I make a list. And if I do something amazing—you got it. List. I just love looking at how those words run down a page, or a computer screen, or anything. I made a list of everyone in my family before I could even write. I drew all our pictures in a row, running down the wall from as high up as I could reach. Okay, so Mom was not pleased. Dad kept coughing as if he really wanted to laugh but he had to be grownup about it. 

If I had to make a list of all the things that happened in The Grand Plan to Fix Everything it would look like this: 

Hours and hours in planes and planes
Jet lag
Funny looking house
Girl in a tree

And more, a lot more. I figured it was because we had moved to the kind of place that made things happen: Swapnagiri. 

List of things about Swapnagiri:
Tea gardens 
No m in the name. 
It’s on a hill and not in a swamp. 
Swapna means dream 
Giri means mountain. Just go with the flow of the letters when you say it.

I figured it was a dreamy place so people came there with dreams and stuff happened. But wait! Dolly came to DC and look what happened! A lot of people end up asking me questions about all these movie moments that seem to happen to me—it’s like I catch the overflow of questions for Dolly or something. I don’t mind.

-What is your favorite book?

I think it might be Charlotte’s Web because it made me laugh in some places and cry in others. I read it a long time ago, and I sometimes still go back and look at the ending. Maddie reads more than me. She’s read a lot of the Newbery books, which is impressive because that list has been around about 7 times as long as Maddie and I have been alive! 

-What first got you interested in Bollywood movies?

The release date of Dolly’s first movie—it came out the day I was born. I found this out on my 10th birthday. Those are two amazing facts. They made me a fan forever. I’m not a fan of all Bollywood movies—just Dolly’s.

-You’re already quite the traveler, but is there any other place you would like to visit?
Oh yes, I’d like to go to all the places that Maddie and I have flags for in our flag collection—and maybe Albania and Bangladesh as well, because now I know people from there.

-What is your favorite animal? 
Oh, I think the elephant. And one elephant specially. Mini. Here’s my list about her:

She loves Dolly.
She can dance.
She has great rhythm.
She gives you big squelchy kisses with the end of her trunk.
She’s very smart. 
She’s a friend. Truly. She just happens to be grey and wrinkled with flappy ears and extra-large toenails.  

Would you like a win a copy of The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic? Just fill out the form below!
-US Address please
-Age 13+
-One entry per person
-Contest ends August 27

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Genre: Non-Fiction/Animals

Release Date: 3/5/2013

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About the Book: Get to know some of the rescued residents of the Aviarios del Caribe  sloth sanctuary with up close photos that are too adorable to resist.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Ok, let's be honest here. You're going to pick this book up for one reason and one reason only: the pictures of baby sloths are just too cute. I don't think anyone could look through the pages of this book without going "awwww" over the cuteness of the baby sloths. They're just so adorable! And looking at their photos is lots of fun. This book will easily sell itself without much booktalking. All you need to do is hold up the cover and readers will start squealing.

What you're not going to pick this book up for is for high literary quality. There are some facts about sloths interspersed in the text. But I felt that the author was trying too hard to be cute and funny in the writing that it fell flat. I would have preferred just some interesting facts about the sloths instead of the text trying to personify each sloth with try to hard humor. (And I'm a person who totally personifies every animal I meet!) But in this book, it just felt a bit forced. I also was a bit disappointed to note that the website the author directs to doesn't actually work, and instead is a tumblr that I only found via Google. Not the best for students wanting to do additional research on sloths.

I do think the text does make it accessible for young readers. But the main selling point is the fact that sloths are cute, they're becoming incredibly popular, and it's just fun to look at pictures of them. You can't deny that baby sloths are adorable!

Full Disclosure: reviewed from finished copy I checked out from my local library

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Rating 4/5 Stars

Genre: Graphic Novel

Release Date: 8/27/2013

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About the Book: Roan can't wait to attend pilot academy, just like his dad and his older brother. But when Roan isn't accepted to the school, he thinks maybe boring plants are in his future. Until he unexpectedly receives an acceptance letter to Jedi Academy, a school that typically recruits kids when they are very young. Sure, they use the force there and they have these cool things called lightsabers, but is Roan really meant to be a Jedi?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: If the readers you work with are anything like the readers I see at my library, they ask for two things on a regular basis: Star Wars and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Enter Jeffrey Brown to give kids exactly what they've been asking for and didn't know it-a graphic novel Wimpy Kid-esque Star Wars story.

The book is told through Roan's journal entries, comic panels, homework, observations about teachers, school signs and the school newspaper. It's not so overwhelming heavy on the comic format that I think even readers who shy away from comics will pick this one up as it's about half journal entries, half comic panels. The humor is fantastic-Roan's observations about Yoda, his wookiee gym teacher (who they have trouble understanding) and his thoughts about Jedi Academy have just the right amount of nods to the original movies for Star Wars fans to appreciate. But even you're not an avid fan and just know the average amount about the Star Wars universe (like myself) there's still plenty of great story here to make you laugh.

It may be set at a Jedi Academy, but this is still middle school after all. There's gym class, mean kids, new friendships, student elections, school dances, and first crushes. There's that class that's hard to master the subject, only in this case, it's the Force. There's a big all school competition, it just happens to include lightsabers. It's still the middle school we can relate to with some otherworldly tweaking.

What I loved most about the book, aside from Roan just being an all around relateable and likable guy, was the fact that this book is perfect for those middle readers wanting Star Wars books. One thing we struggle with a lot at my library is that group of fans who want books but are too old for the early readers and a bit too young or just not interested in the series chapter books. This is the perfect inbetween book for those readers and I can't wait to give it to them! When this book first came across my desk, I knew right away this book would be the next big hit at my library. If you have young Star Wars fans, be sure to hand this one over to them-they'll love you for it. While the story wraps up and finishes Roan's first year at Jedi Academy, we can hope for more adventures to come. I know I'm willing to go back to school with Roan!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from ARC received from publisher

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So You Want to Read Middle Grade: Karen Yingling

Karen Yingling is a middle school librarian who loves to post about middle grade books, especially books for boys, on her blog, Ms. Yingling Reads.

On my blog, I try very hard to review brand new books. Students prefer them, and I don't want to get into a rut and keep recommending Paula Danziger or other books of my youth when there are so many fresh and innovative tomes available. When I thought about my "top ten" list for this post, I kept coming back to the books that I love to share. Since I have read all of the hardcover fiction in my library, I have deep emotional attachments to each and every book, but the following is a list of the books that would reduce me to tears if a student lost the last copy and I couldn't replace it. Not being able to share these books would be too sad. 

Horowitz, Anthony. Stormbreaker (Alex Rider #1) 2000
Stormbreaker (Alex Rider, #1)
I have probably purchased twenty copies of this, and have at least ten in the collection at all times. Most books in my library have circulated 20-50 times in the last ten years; Stormbreaker has racked up 650 circulations, and that doesn't include the copies that have been lost or deaccessioned because they have worn out. If I had to have a library with only one book, this would be it, because just about every type of student enjoys this, but especially reluctant boy readers. Who doesn't want to be a spy?

Robinson, Barbara. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1972)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The only book in the library that makes me snort out of my nose with laughter. The quick and dirty answer to everyone's need for a two point Accelerated Reader book OVER a fifth grade reading level. I have about 8 copies, and I think at least half of my students leave my school having read this, if not more!

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief (2005)
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)
As a former Latin teacher, I was THRILLED to find this cleverly written book incorporating mythology. Even the chapter headings cracked me up. Middle school students adore mythology, even if they don't know it yet, and when this book became popular and led to others, I was ecstatic. I wish Mr. Riordan all the best in the world. 

McCloskey, Robert. Homer Price. (1943)
Homer Price
Some stories are truly timeless. Yes, Homer goes to town in a wagon, and the pictures clearly date this book, but the stories are still a funny as they were when father would have read this when it first came out... at the age of nine. My own personal children own a copy and loved to have it read aloud, and when I purchased a new copy for the library, it was checked out constantly... mostly because of students recommending it to each other. 

Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three. (1964)
The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain, #1)
Fantasy fans can be rabid readers, finishing books in a day and wanting more EXACTLY like The Hobbit. But maybe not as long because, while they loved the LOTR movies, they've never gotten further than 20 pages in any of the actual books. My ten page fantasy series list starts with this book, and we have a first edition that has been rebound. It's been read so many times that the cover bends, and the corners of the pages are rounded. Medieval setting, good versus evil, lots of adventure... it's LOTR Lite. Just power past the first three chapters, sweetie. I thought they were a little dull, too. 

Johnson, Maureen. 13 Little Blue Envelopes (2005)
13 Little Blue
 Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1)
Not that I wanted any of my aunts to DIE, but couldn't they have left ME money when I was 18 so that I could have gone to England and visited Harrods and then traveled all over having adventures just like Ginny? Of course, I wouldn't have left my back pack on a beach in Greece, which would have been a shame, because The Last Little Blue Envelope (2011) was good, too, even though I worried it wouldn't be. Elicits happy sighs from anyone in the vicinity who's read it every single time I recommend it to someone new. 

Edwards, Julie. Mandy. (1971)
I actually owned very few books when I was a child, most bought at school. This might explain why I still have the copy of this book that I received for Christmas when I was in third grade. It was an unusual gift. All three of my children read it, even my son, and my two daughters still reread it. I can't for the life of me explain why I love this so much, even though I reread it occasionally in attempt to figure it out. This is not a book for everyone, but for the right student, the idea of a small cottage in the woods, with trips to the shops for gardening supplies and tea, is utter magic.

Cleary, Beverly. Fifteen. (1956)
This is almost 60 years old, and yet still in print. Even available in an e Book version! Why? It's the best teen romance EVER. Reading this book captures perfectly the awkward thrill of falling in love for the first time. I reread this one sometimes, too, when being an adult is particularly unpleasant. This book is so vivid a portrayal of this time period that I firmly believe that if I could put my hair in a pony tail, wear bobby socks and saddle shoes with a sweater set and poodle skirt, and talk on the rotary phone while lying on my back with the feet on the wall, I would actually TRAVEL BACK IN TIME. Probably still be dateless, but I'd be in 1956.

Carter, Ally . I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. (2006)
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)
I would be an awesome spy. No one would suspect me, in my pleated skirts and cardigans, of international espionage. I love Cammie because she is a little reluctant, but still a kick-butt heroine. This is my number one "girl" book for guys to read, because not only do they get the adventure they crave, but they get to see strong, capable girls in action. Sad that the last book is coming out soon. 

Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth.(1961)
The Phantom Tollbooth

This is the first book I ever recommended to a middle schooler after I became an adult. Again, it's not for every kid, but it's funny and brilliant and means something new every time I read it. It's the only book I will read aloud to students in the stacks. ("There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.") I convinced a new teacher to do this as a class novel so I could justify buying the annotated edition and the DVD of the Chuck Jones' cartoon. After thinking for thirty years about what book I would memorize if all the books in the world were being destroyed (ala' Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) , this is the book I chose. 

The danger of working in a school library is that some books DO get damaged, and I DO cry. Leon McClintock's Cross Country Runner (1974) came to grief (somewhat poetically) in the rain at a track meet, and I burst into tears. There are some books I check out with a warning-- do NOT lose or damage this book! I do feel somewhat better now that the Internet has made it possible to get just about any book, but even if I can replace my first editions of Sonia Levitin's The Mark of Conte (1976) or Lois Lowry's Summer to Die (1977), the poor student who loses such a book should hand me a tissue and ask me to sit down before they tell me. New books might capture my interest, but older books often have a firm grasp on my heart.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do It Yourself Spa Day for Tweens

I'm over at the ALSC blog talking about our Do It Yourself Spa Day for tweens. It was a great program and the girls loved it! Be sure to check it out!

Blog Tour: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt and Author Interview

 I am so delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Kathi Appelt's latest novel, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. This book is perfect for animal fans. I was also lucky enough to interview Ms. Appelt-check out the interview below!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary/Animal Stories/Family Stories/Folklore

Release Date: 7/23/2013

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About the Book: Something is brewing in the Sugar Man Swamp. Two new scouts, Bingo and J'miah are on the lookout and they're curious about the mysterious rumbling that is happening. They think they should wake the Sugar Man-the legendary creature who rules the swamp and loves sugarcane-but no one has seen the Sugar Man in years.

Chap Brayburn is looking for a way to save his mother's fried pie shop. It's on the beaten path, so customers are scarce. They need to give Sonny Boy a boat load of money or else world champion alligator wrestler Jaeger Stitch will get to turn the swamp into a alligator wrestling theme park. But if Sonny and Jaeger get their way, that means there's no hope of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker ever being seen.

And there's also terrible, horrible, wild hogs making their way to the swamp.

All they have to do is wake up the Sugar Man....if they can figure out how.

GreenBeanTeenQueen: If you've read anything by Kathi Appelt before, you know she has a wonderful gift with words and storytelling. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is no exception. In this novel, she weaves together many multiple storylines, some about humans and many about animals. You might not expect how the stories weave together, but in her magical way, Ms.Appelt makes all the stories work and become one.

The entire book is told over the course of just a few days, but there are many flashbacks to explain back story about our characters and give readers a rich, detailed roadmap of how all the stories combine. Because of the tales of the Sugar Man, the novel has an almost magical folklore feel to it, as if the writer is weaving an old tale that has been told and passed down for many generations.

One thing I loved about the book, and this might sound a bit silly, was the fact that the book had short chapters. I felt like this moved the novel along and would make it perfect for reading aloud, because readers had many places to stop and start. And this novel begs to be read aloud-especially if the reader can make different character voices! The writing is so well done that I could feel the stickiness of the swamp and create character voices in my head, but it would be wonderful as a read aloud, especially for a classroom.

The characters are all well developed, even the ones we don't see very much. From the animals to the humans, I felt like I knew them all. There are good guys to cheer for and bad guys to boo. I wanted to be a scout with Bingo and J'Maih, I wanted to eat fried pies with Chap, I wanted to tell Gertrude the snake I admired her new snake skin, I was afraid of the terrible, horrible Farrow Hog Gang. The cast of characters is rich and the setting is wonderfully detailed that readers are sure to feel like they belong in the Sugar Man Swamp.

-What do you love about writing for middle grade readers?

Middle graders are the reading animals. They seem to gobble up books like teenagers gobble up potato chips. For those reasons, it’s a pleasure to write for them. They’re also at an age in which they’ve become discerning. They’re still willing to give a story a chance, but they’re also willing to put it down if they’re not engaged or ready for it. Is there a better reader than that?  

I also love their willingness to buy into the magic of a story. Of course, they know the difference between fantasy and fact, but they’re still open to the magical “what if.” I love that.
-You often include animals in your stories? Why is that?

Mostly, I include animals because I’m an animal lover. But I also believe that it’s important to at least try to see the world from a point of view that is literally impossible for us. I think it makes us more empathetic, more able to consider the entire web of life rather than just our small human-centric place in that web.

-If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

It would be the little brown bat in Randall Jarrell’s The Bat-Poet, because I love the way he sees the world, and because poetry is so good for our souls.
-What was your favorite book as a child?

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. When I was a girl, beyond everything else in the entire universe, I loved horses. I read every horse book I could find, but I always came back to this one. I’ve read it over and over, and I still love it.  

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