Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top Books of 2014


It's the end of the year! My favorite part of year end festivities is all the best of lists. And of course, as a librarian and a reader, I have to make my own!

I couldn't pick just a top ten, so I decided to include different categories and include a long list of what my top picks area.

This are my personal favorites, books I've enjoyed for various reasons throughout the year, and what I felt were my personal top books of 2014. Also, it's hard to put them in a list order of what is number one, so I just did them alphabetically-I am a librarian after all!

I'd love to hear more suggestions if you have favorites too. My TBR pile is never too long! Ha!

Top 2014 Picture Books:












  • Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales-I'm a sucker for unique illustrations and I love photographs and this book has a stunning use of both. 


Chapter Books (Beginning Reader, Middle Grade & Young Adult)

  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith-OK, yeah Smith's other book, Grasshopper Jungle, is on many year end best of lists, but for me 100 Sideways Miles was perfection. Great characters, lots of heart (in an honest and real way and not sappy), and great exploration of relationships. I also like examples of fantastic writing in parent/child relationships and this book has that.
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander-Another fantastic example of a novel in verse, I especially love the use of various forms of poetry to express everything-from the characters feelings to a game of basketball.

  • El Deafo by CeCe Bell-This book had me laughing so much. It was like talking to a childhood best friend at a sleepover. So honest and funny and a great graphic novel.
  • Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid- This book just came at the right time and pulled me out of a slump. I loved the interconnecting stories and the characters and it had the right combination of humor, heart, and just a bit of sap and romance.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu-Drama, secret organizations, powers, and politics. This was a fast paced adventure and I got lost in the story.






And One Adult Title:


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Zodiac by Romina Russell

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About the Book: The houses of the Zodiac each have their own planets and strengths. Sixteen-year-old Rho Grace is a student from House Cancer. Her ability to read the stars has resulted in a unique vision, but her teachers dismiss her readers as false. When a blast strikes the moons of Cancer killing millions of people, Rho has a feeling that her mysterious vision was a prediction.

With the leader of Cancer killed in the blast, Rho is shocked when she is chosen to be the House's new guardian and leader. She's still having upsetting readers in the stars, but no one believes her. When a reading shows that two other signs are the next ones targeted for disaster, Rho believes that the ancient and exiled thirteenth sign, Ophiuchus, is back and seeking revenge. It's up to Rho to save the Zodiac and protect everyone. Along with her adviser and Royal Guard member Mathias and Hysan, a delegate from Libra, Rho must travel the galaxy and spread her warnings-before it's too late.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: When I was a teen, I was obsessed with astrology. I am a poster child for Gemini and I loved reading about the various signs of the Zodiac and what they meant. And I know it's not just me! So many of my teens love reading about astrology and Zodiac hits that fascination perfectly.

 Zodiac is a fast paced space adventure. It's a mix of science fiction, fantasy, adventure and romance. The science is a bit goofy and not always explained and there's a love triangle that I don't think really needed to be there (sigh...why are there always love triangles?). But I can overlook those things for the fun that I had reading.

I hate when books take a long time to get the action going so I was thrilled that Zodiac kicks off and high speed and doesn't slow down. In the first twenty pages Rho has had an ominous vision and Cancer is sent into turmoil. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger so you have to keep  reading and this book is easy to fly through. 

While it might not be the perfect read for avid science fiction readers since some of the how's and what's and why's aren't always explained, for someone who  likes science fiction light, this is a fun read. I wish there would have been a bit more background on how the Zodiac was formed. While it's not dystopian, the relationship between Rho and Mathias reminded me a bit of Tris and Four in Divergent. 


Zodiac is a fun, fast paced adventure that I had a lot of fun reading. This is the start of a series and I'm excited to see where Rho heads next as she's trying to save the Zodiac.

On a side note, my library has been part of YALSA's Teens Top Ten Galley Groups and our teens get to review books. When we got copies of Zodiac in, they flew off the review shelf and the teens have been clamoring for them since! This is a a great recommendation for teens who enjoy reading about astrology, enjoy some lighter science fiction and adventure and romance. 

Book Pairings: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Divergent by Veronica Roth

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from finished copy sent by the publisher

Monday, December 22, 2014

Catch That Cookie! by Hallie Durand, illustrated by David Small

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About the Book: Marshall is a skeptic when it comes to gingerbread men. He doesn't believe that they will run away. So when the cookies the class decorated disappear, Marshall uses his detective skills to solve the clues and find where the gingerbread men have run off to-and possibly believe in some magic along the way.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I am always looking for fun holiday books and Catch That Cookie! is one that can easily be added into that category. Marshall is hilarious as he tries to reason why the cookies couldn't have possibly run away with the clues that are left around the school. The clues rhyme and invite kids to shout out the answers as they join Marshall in his gingerbread hunt.

David Small's illustrations capture Marshall's curiosity and excitement perfectly. My favorite illustration is the tiny gingerbread men footprints that were left all over the gym. Marshall is determined to solve this mystery!

Catch That Cookie! could kick off your own gingerbread man hunt and become a holiday classic.



Where would my gingerbread man go? 

Baby GreenBean has a special gingerbread man this year (since he can't eat cookies, but he can catch them!) Our gingerbread man is made from felt covered with sock monkeys and he's pretty sneaky as he runs all over the tree!

Review Disclosure: Reviewed from finished copy sent by publisher

Thursday, December 18, 2014

ALSC Blog: Providing Activities and Programs During Storytime Breaks

Today I'm over at the ALSC blog talking about some of the activities and programs we provide for our patrons during our storytime breaks.

Come check it out!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tune In Tuesday

It's the first Tuesday of the month, which means it's time for Tune In Tuesday. Tune In Tuesday where I share (and invite others to share) some of their favorite music to use in storytime and library programs-or just for fun!


No More Monkeys by Asheba

I discover so much music thanks to Spotify, Pandora, and Songza, especially now that I listen to kid playlists with my son. When I was home on maternity leave earlier this year I listened to lots of various playlists and I discovered what I think is the best version of No More Monkeys ever!

You can find Asheba's Carribbean jam on either his No More Monkeys CD or on Animal Playground by Putumayo Kids. I was lucky enough to have Animal Playground in my library, so I immediately added it to my storytime repertoire. 

I used this song last week in storytime to go along with our monkey themed storytime. I love it because it's catchy, bouncy, and you can't help but jump and sing along. The kids know the basic song of Five Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed, so they catch on to the lyrics easily and love to jump around like the monkeys and sing along. It's so much fun (and it's great exercise-you jump around with the kids in storytime and that's your cardio for the day, right?) 

Take a listen-but be warned-you might just want to  jump out of your seat and dance!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Picture Book Month: The Great Thanksgiving Escape

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

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About the Book: What's a kid to do when it's another Thanksgiving at Grandma's full of relatives? Try to escape to the back yard and the swing set! Can they do it?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Escaping Thanksgiving family drama can be hard for anyone, especially if you're a kid. There are guard dogs, overly affectionate aunts, zombies, and the great hall of butts! Giving a kids-eye view of family gatherings, Gavin and his cousin Rhonda try to make a break for it through a family filled obstacle course.

These two kids who aren't babies anymore but are too old for the teenager table weave their way through family to find their place at Thanksgiving. It's a humorous take on surviving family gettogethers when you're that pesky in between age and can't seem to fit anywhere. Some of the humor I think will be understood more by adults than the kids but it's a silly book to enjoy together and a funny take on your usual Thanksgiving read.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from library copy

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Picture Book Month: Kids Sheriff and the Terrible Toads

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith

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About the Book: The Terrible Toads are causing havoc all over Drywater Gulch. They are in need of a hero to solve their toad problem. Enter Sheriff Ryan, riding into town on his turtle. He might not know a lot about robbery and roping, but he sure knows a lot about dinosaurs. And that has to come in handy when catching criminals.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This is a perfect picture book pairing bringing together a hilarious duo. Lane Smith captures the Western-style wonderfully with brown and beige hues makes the reader feel as though they've landed in Drywater Gulch. Bob Shea's text is written to be read aloud. This book just begs to be read aloud with various accents and voices.

The reader will laugh along as the oblivious (or is he really?) Sheriff Ryan makes many observations about dinosaurs along the way. The humor comes from the Toads wanting the credit for their crimes and Sheriff Ryan and the Toads each outdoing each other with what really caused each incident.

Is Sheriff Ryan a smart sheriff who knew who to catch the criminals all along? Or does he just love dinosaurs? The book has such a hilarious twist that readers will be laughing and talking about it long after the book is finished. This is the perfect read aloud for school visits!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from advanced copy sent by publisher for review

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Picture Book Month: Picture Book Biographies

This year we've seen lots of picture book biographies! Here are a few of my favorites:


A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chein

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About the Book: A shy boy who stutters find comfort in talking to animals.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Oh how I have my fingers crossed for a Schneider Award win for this book! (If you don't know about the Schneider Award, it is given to a book that "embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience." I believe that A Boy and A Jaguar does that perfectly. It's a powerful story told in a simple way. Alan Rabinowitz describes how he always had trouble speaking, that no one knew what to do about his stuttering and how he felt most at home when he was with animals. He talked to animals at the zoo and he practiced speaking to his pets at home. His love of animals combines with his desire to give animals a voice. As he studies jaguars and remembers the jaguar he saw and spoke to at the zoo, he becomes a powerful advocate for saving the jaguar. What I love most about this book is that it isn't a story about growing up and getting over a disability. It's a story of living with a disability and not letting it stop you from your dreams. 


Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson


About the Book: The fascinating story of entertainer Josephine Baker.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was vaguely aware of Josephine Baker before reading this book, but only as someone who was a performer. I learned so much from this book and I was dazzled by the text and the art. It is the perfect tribute to such an eccentric and fabulous star. The text is told in a verse, poetic format that makes you feel the jazz and rhythm of Josephine. The illustrations match this perfectly adding the perfect amount of spark and energy. The illustrations jump off the page and dance before the readers eyes. It's a dazzling picture book biography that is absolutely stunning. I would have put this on my library's Mock Caldecott list if I didn't think the length would deter some of the younger readers (it's a longer picture book biography, coming in at just over 100 pages). But maybe Josephine will surprise us all with an award win this Winter!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

About the Book: The story of Peter Roget, who created Roget's Thesaurus, the most widely used and continuously published thesaurus. 

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I feel like the theme of picture book biographies is sometimes "here's a quirky person and some facts that make them stand out and show that quirky is special." That's not a bad thing at all, but it sometimes gives picture book biographies a feel of simplicity and sameness (which I am sure Roget could have thought of better words!) And while that might be part of the message of The Right Word (Roget prefers to be alone, is shy, and loves to make lists of words), it feels different. The combination of text and illustrations blend together perfectly. Melissa Sweet uses letters, book pages, and a scrapbook style to create a visually stunning biography. Jen Bryant's text give insight into Roget's life without sounding too easy or simplistic. It's the perfect balance of fact and heart and brings readers into Roget's life. The Right Word was a book I finished and immediatly wanted to give to someone else to pour over, read, and enjoy all the illustrations. It's a beautiful package.

Full Disclosure: All titles reviewed from library copies

Monday, November 24, 2014

Picture Book Month: Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is having a very good 2014! He has three picture book releases this year, all of which are delightful! Be sure to check them out!


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

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About the Book: Sam and Dave are digging a hole and they won't give up until they find something spectacular.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Mac Barnett teams up with Jon Klassen for another winner. Klassen's illustrations match the text perfectly and gives the feel of an outdoor adventure. Readers will spot the spectacular treasure that is hiding just out of Sam and Dave's reach and are sure to laugh when the get so close but then change directions. They'll also be sure to notice the dog is the only one who seems to have a nose for treasure hunting. A fun tale that is sure to inspire some digging of your own.

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath

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About the Book: President Taft is stuck in the bath! How will he get out?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Mac Barnett takes on a presidential tall tale with humorous results. The president is stuck in the bath and everyone has an idea of how to help. The ideas get more and more ridiculous, from butter to explosions. There are also plenty of textual humor from the secretary of the treasury who responds with "throw money at the problem" to "the answer is inside you" from the secretary of the interior.  Chris Van Dusen's illustrations are cartoonish and add to the humor of the tale. The end of the book provides some historical facts about President Taft and his bathtub. This would pair with King Bidgood's in the Bathtub for a silly bathtime storytime.

Telephone

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About the Book: It's time for Peter to fly home, but his message about dinner gets scrambled along the telephone line.

GreenBeanTeenQueen: Remember the game telephone? Where what you start out saying ends up completely different? Mac Barnett and Jen Corace re-imagine the telephone game with a flock of birds on a telephone wire with hilarious results. Each new message gets more and more mixed up which is sure to leave young readers howling with delight. Each bird hears something new that makes sense to them and matches their own interests and hobbies. The illustrations reflect the each birds interests and helps the reader find clues as to why each bird heard what they did. A hilarious take on a the game of telephone perfect for reading aloud.

Full Disclosure: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and President Taft is Stuck in the Bath reviewed from finished copies sent by the publishers. Telephone reviewed from library copy.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Guest Post: Sarah Fine, author of Of Metal and Wishes

Please welcome Sarah Fine, author of Of Metal and Wishes, to GreenBeanTeenQueen! Sarah Fine is the author of Of Metal and Wishes.

About the Book: Sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic, housed in a slaughterhouse staffed by the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor. Wen often hears the whisper of a ghost in the slaughterhouse, a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. And after one of the Noor humiliates Wen, the ghost grants an impulsive wish of hers—brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including the outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the ghost. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen is torn between her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. Will she determine whom to trust before the factory explodes, taking her down with it?


The sequel, Of Dreams and Rust will be available in August 2015. You can find Sarah online at http://sarahfinebooks.com/


The Stomach and the Heart

“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” Those are the words of Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, the book that influenced Of Metal and Wishes. Wait, you might be thinking. Isn’t Of Metal and Wishes a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera? What the heck is this nonsense about The Jungle?
Well. My book is a loose retelling of Phantom. But everything about this book—including the Ghost of the factory himself—was heavily influenced by another novel, which has haunted me from the time I first read it as a teenager.
Upton Sinclair began writing The Jungle at the end of 1904 after spending nearly two months in Chicago, studying the lives and travails of immigrant workers toiling away in the heavily industrialized meat-packing industry. There, he had witnessed how the dream of having one’s hard work repaid with some financial security for one’s family was being completely turned upside-down. Instead of work = fair pay, fair treatment, and a path to success, work = danger, risk, and the inescapable trap of debt and defeat. The system was devouring these people—big business controlled everything, profit was king, and worker’s rights? Virtually nonexistent.
It might be tempting to assume that we don’t have these problems in the United States anymore. In so many ways, we’ve come so far, what with unions to protect workers’ rights, and news media that can report on injustice and distribute it quickly and widely. That assumption would be wrong, however. Meatpacking is one of the more dangerous professions one can have in this country—despite improvements made in the first half of the 20th century, partly due to the response to Upton Sinclair’s work. In the last few decades, the meatpacking industry has consolidated into a few powerful entities. And they have a habit of hiring undocumented workers, who carry all the risks on their back in the hope of earning decent money for their families. These people have little legal or economic leverage, so how can they defend themselves when they’re victimized?
Here’s a clip from Food, Inc., which I was watching the night I decided I needed to write Of Metal and Wishes. It’s less than five minutes long, but it will probably make you shake with rage. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it:
The Jungle is unflinching in its description of the meatpacking plants, and I did my best to give OMAW the same visceral feel. I didn’t want to shy away from hitting the reader “in the stomach.” I did research into how animals are slaughtered in these places, and it is gut-wrenching and horrific. I won’t link to any videos here, but if you go to Youtube and search for video of slaughterhouse machinery, you’ll find plenty of nightmare fuel.
But like Upton Sinclair, my goal wasn’t to make readers focus only on animal cruelty or the unsanitary way meat is sometimes handled before it enters the food supply. My greatest desire was to get readers thinking about those workers, the ones who come from desperate places, willing to offer their muscles and sweat in exchange for a fair wage and a chance to live and provide for the ones they love. The ones who so often get trampled and ignored. I purposely set the story outside of time and history because these issues existed over a hundred years ago, and they still exist now all over the world, including the US.
Of Metal and Wishes is a love story, yes. A sweet, poignant one, I think. But it’s also a story about people without power who struggle to survive and thrive in a system designed to crush them. I hope it hits readers in the heart.

*There are many organizations involved in the fight for justice for undocumented workers, and one of my favorites is the Southern Poverty Law Center, because they also focus on a number of other important social justice issues. If you go to their site you can get more information, and if you are so inclined, contribute to their efforts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Picture Book Month: Hooray for Hat by Brian Won

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

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About the Book: Elephant wakes up feeling grumpy. Until a delivery arrives at his door and a new hat cheers him up. Elephant wants to share his hat and along the way cheers up his friends.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I'm a sucker for retro-style illustrations. There's just something about them that make me feel happy. Hooray for Hat! features what could be called some retro-style illustrations and it fits the book perfectly.

Elephant is grumpy but his hat cheers him up. He visits his friends throughout the day and cheering them up with a hat of their own. The text is simple and the illustrations are bright and simple and not distracting making this a great storytime book. There's also a nice repetitive refrain of "Hooray for Hat" that kids can cheer along as the animals become happy.

This is a great story of how a simple act of kindness can make someone's day. This would be a great book to talk to kids about being kind, helping others, and paying it forward.

I've used this one in storytime a few times this year and each time I've read it it's been a bit hit. The kids catch on quickly to saying "hooray for hat" excitedly with each animal. And the joy the animals experience in sharing their gifts expands to the kids. The illustrations catch the expressions of the animals perfectly and the kids can see that and they get just as happy as each animal gets a new hat.

A fun picture book debut that is a great storytime addition.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from final copy borrowed from library

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ALSC Blog: Dinovember

Today I'm over at the ALSC Blog sharing about my library's Dinovember display. Here's a sneak peek:

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Picture Book Month: Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

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About the Book: Little Elliot is a little elephant who lives in a big city that is so much larger than he is. Elliot would love a cupcake but he's too small to reach. Will he get his treat?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Every year a book is released that is so adorable and sweet I just sigh with happiness each time I read it. Little Elliot, Big City is that book for me in 2014.

Elliot is adorable-there's just no better way to describe him. I would love a little polka-dotted elephant friend and I would love to share a cupcake with Elliot.

Not only is the story of Elliot finding a friend in the big city sweet, but the illustrations add to the tenderness. Mike Curato captures emotion on Elliot's face as he has to be careful in crowds or when Elliot is too small to reach what we wants. But Elliot doesn't let his size get him down and he takes notice of the small things. The two page spread of Elliot looking sad after he can't get his cupcake is heartbreaking. I also think it's appropriate that the only person that notices Elliot in a crowd is a small child. Of course a child would have the innocence and wonder to notice Elliot. It's a picture that is so simple and also speaks volumes. When Elliot meets mouse and learns he can help someone else, the spread of Elliot feeling big and proud captures Elliot's monumental achievement.

Little Elliot, Big City is Mike Curato's debut picture book and I can't wait to see more from him. I think Elliot would make a nice storytime book and would pair wonderfully with A Sick Day for Amos McGee about a storytime on sweet and tender friendship.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from galley sent by publisher for review

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Picture Book Month: Cheers for a Dozen Ears by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan

Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan

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About the Book: A family visits the local farmer's market to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I always think it's fun to read books that introduce fruits and veggies to kids. It's a nice way to read about food and help them understand that fruits and vegetables are good to eat. (I don't know that reading about them makes them eat them at home, but I can try and help the parents out at least!)

Cheers for a Dozen Ears is the perfect book to add to my food themed storytime. It pairs wonderfully with Rah, Rah, Radishes. You can even add in the board book We're Going to Farmers Market for a full storytime about fresh foods.

With rhythmic, rhyming text, the kids make sure to get all the items on their list. From eggplant to squash, peaches and green beans, the family counts as they add items to their cart. The bright colored illustrations capture the feel of a hot summer day.

A fun book that incorporates counting and food that makes a nice addition to storytime.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from finished copy sent by publisher for review

Monday, November 10, 2014

Picture Book Month: The Orchestra Pita by Johanna Wright


About the Book: A snake finds himself in the wrong pit. Instead of a snake pit, he winds up in an orchestra pit and learns about the various instruments that make up an orchestra.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I have a music teacher mother so I was raised on music and books about music. I love finding books that I can use in storytime to introduce instruments and music to kids. Sometimes books that talk about the orchestra are a bit too long or detailed to use with a young audience. Johanna Wright fills that void with The Orchestra Pit.

As our snake finds his way through the orchestra pit, he discovers the various instruments and sections of the orchestra. He even discovers what the instruments sound like comparing the percussion to a gorilla and the horns to a elephant. 

Younger readers might need a bit of help understanding that where an orchestra plays is called an orchestra pit and that each instrument has a unique sound. But The Orchestra Pit is the perfect starting point for that introduction. Read this one before you visit the symphony (or have the symphony visit the library for an instrument petting zoo and concert!) for an extra special treat.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from galley sent from publisher

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Guest Post: Shelby Bach



I'm excited to welcome middle grade author Shelby Bach to GreenBeanTeenQueen! If the middle grade readers at my library are anything like yours, fairy tales are huge! 




About Shelby: Shelby Bach was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, but while writing the ever afters, she moved almost as many times as her main character. She came up with the idea for the series right before she left New York City, and she finished the first book, of giants and ice, in Montana—the second, of witches and wind, back in Charlotte. Driving up the West Coast to research the settings for the third book, of sorcery and snow, Shelby fell in love with Portland, Oregon and settled there. She would love to set up a Door Trek system in her apartment to visit her family and friends around the country, but she makes due with much slower and less fictional transportation. These days, while finishing up the fourth and final book, she also works part time for a real-life afterschool program. It is strangely similar to the one where her stories are set—except the students study math instead of fairy tales.   






What Fairy Tales Taught Me About Plot
By Shelby Bach

I love adding new characters, and I especially love giving a side character a strong subplot of their own. Of course, this enthusiasm led to several unruly early drafts of my first novel, Of Giants and Ice, and as an inexperienced novelist, I spent weeks overwhelmed by the number of plot threads I was failing to keep straight and develop effectively. Somewhere around draft number five, I started to use the Rule of Threes to help me structure each of the story arcs. It was a good decision—both for my book and for my sanity.

The Rule of Threes is usually explained as a pattern that occurs three times, which happens a lot in fairy tales. In some, these repetitions occur in just one section: for instance, at the end of “Cinderella,” three people try on the glass slipper the prince is carrying: the two stepsisters and Cinderella. Sometimes, these repetitions make up most of the fairy tale: for example, Jack climbs the Beanstalk three times.

I took a fairy tale course in college that analyzed the Rule of Threes in more detail. (Believe it or not, this was one of the hardest classes I ever took at Vassar. Professor Darlington was a stickler for structure and precision in every paper. My grades suffered, but my writing improved.) First of all, plain repetition gets pretty boring, so our class examined what the three instances actually achieved within the fairy tale: the first one describes the process of actually climbing a beanstalk and sneaking around a giant’s house. The second instance establishes what part of that process is a pattern: Jack climbs the beanstalk again but steals a golden goose from the giant instead those gold coins. (It’s usually the shortest passage.) The third instance, however, breaks with what was established with the first two occurrences and leads to some sort of big change: the giant notices Jack stealing his harp and chases him down the beanstalk. Describing just one trip up the beanstalk would have made a fun story, because the first two instances establishes certain expectations, Jack’s third trip has a bigger impact.

Limiting myself to three occurrences helped me tame the plot threads in Of Giants and Ice. It also forced me to make sure every scene in a certain arc served a purpose. An almost spoiler-free example is the subplot around Rory’s dad. Her parents are divorced, so readers don’t actually see her father in person in Of Giants and Ice. Rory does, however, speak to him on the phone—exactly three times. During the initial call, Rory’s father, a Hollywood director, invites her to a shoot in England during the summer. Rory knows immediately that she doesn’t want to go (he barely pays any attention to her while he’s filming a movie), but afraid of disappointing him, Rory tells him she’ll think about it. Her father doesn’t listen well—he starts telling her all about the actress he wants her to meet when they’re in England. This leads to her mother stepping in and Rory’s parents fighting. The second call takes place a few weeks later. Rory tries to talk to her father about something completely different, but he asks her when her school lets out—he wants to book her flight. She reminds him that she hasn’t made up her mind up and quickly ends the call before her mom can step in again. That’s a tiny step forward—she avoids a fight between her parents, but she still isn’t honest. The third call takes place after Rory has come back from her quest. She discovers from the tabloids that her father has started dating the actress he wanted her to meet in England, and Rory calls him up and tells him that she won’t go on the trip with him. Then she explains exactly how much it upsets her that she had to find out about his new girlfriend from an outside source. Because readers have seen Rory struggle to be honest about her feelings in the previous scenes, her strong stance in the final call has more oomph.


This isn’t much different from most goals in fiction—to show how conflict has changed our characters—but the Rule of Threes was a helpful way to think about it, especially when working with an overwhelming amount of plot threads. As I mentioned earlier, the Rule of Threes was most helpful during the revision process—conscious repetition is easier to develop when you have a whole plot to work with. It’s also easier to recognize where plot threads intersect. In my second novel, Of Witches and Wind, I challenged myself to take several story arcs and see how many third instances I could pack into one scene. It tightened the book’s pacing and gave the ending a way more epic grand finale.

 Find Shelby online:

Blog Tour – Shelby Bach


November 3 – Middle Grade Mafioso
November 4 – From the Mixed-Up Files
November 5 – Log Cabin Library
November 6 – Amanda K. Thompson Blog
November 7 – Novels, News, and Notes
November 8 – Green Bean Teen Queen

Friday, November 7, 2014

Picture Book Month: Buddy and the Bunnies In: Don't Play With Your Food by Bob Shea

November is Picture Book Month! To celebrate, throughout the month I will be sharing about picture books!

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About the Book: Buddy is a monster who wants to eat some bunnies. But these are smart bunnies who know just how to escape being monster dinner.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Ok, so I will probably say that anything Bob Shea writes is wonderful and hilarious. But trust me, Don't Play With Your Food is wonderful and hilarious!

Bob Shea masters writing humor that is appealing to kids and adults and I think he hits the perfect balance with this book. The bunnies are clever and adults will catch on quickly to the bunnies tactics. Kids might be a bit slower to understand exactly what the bunnies have in mind, but they will soon figure it out and be laughing along with the bunnies as they district Buddy with their plans.

Bob Shea also includes lots of clever jokes in the illustrations. It took me a few times reading it to notice the bunnies multiplying throughout each day. It's a small joke that works masterfully in the story.

Don't Play With Your Food is an absolute treat to read aloud. I've used it in storytime multiple times and each time it's a big hit. I love that you can create different voices for the characters. It also works well as a partner reading. I used this with a co-worker on an outreach event and one person played Buddy and one person played the bunnies. It was lots of fun to pair up. I think it could also be a fun speech or reader's theater piece for older students.

Add this one to your storytime and personal collection now if you want to be laughing out loud! It never fails-I crack up every time I read it!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from library copy

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tune In Tuesday

Welcome to Tune In Tuesday! What is Tune In Tuesday? It's a monthly round up about music-favorite songs, favorite albums, and favorite ways to use it in the library! If you have a Tune In Tuesday post this month, be sure to share it in the comments so I can add it to the round up-and let me know if you want to host next month.

The Pop Ups: Appetite for Construction 

I recently discovered The Pop Ups-a fantastic kids music duo from New York and I've become the biggest fan. I've been telling everyone I know about them and trying to get everyone to listen to their music. This is fantastically fun music that kids and parents will love!

The Pop Ups have three albums out, with Appetite for Construction as the latest just released this year. I love all three and they are great for background music for programs at the library or play time at home. But I've also used several of their songs for programs.

Check out a preview for Appetite for Construction.

Robot Dance: I've used this one in my dance party and as part of my geeky storytime. What's more geeky than robots? It's a lot of fun and a great imaginative and pretending song.

Block House: A song about blocks? It's the perfect opening song to kick off my block parties.

Airband (from Outside Voices): I used this one in storytime and we jumped around like rock stars-tons of fun!

Be sure to check out The Pop Ups-I'm sure you'll become addicted to their music like I have!



Monday, November 3, 2014

Picture Book Month: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin

November is Picture Book Month! To celebrate, throughout the month I will be sharing about picture books!

Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin

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About the Book: It's time for bed but two little nuts, Hazel and Wally are having too much fun! Will they listen to Mama Nut?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I love Pete the Cat (let's be honest, I love the original four written by Eric Litwin). They are in my go-to storytime collection. I can recite I Love My White Shoes and Four Groovy Buttons from memory.  So I was excited about The Nuts because I couldn't wait to see what fun and groovy book Mr. Litwin would come up with next.

And I'll be honest, the first time I read this one, I wasn't sure what I thought. It was cute, but did it meet my high expectations and was another good storytime book? Then I read it aloud to my niece and I had my answer-yes!

The key to Bedtime at the Nut House is that it needs to be read aloud. The song needs to be sung and you need to have an audience to enjoy Wally and Hazel's antics.

When I read this one in storytime, the kids really enjoyed it. I had them practice Mama Nut's song "all little nuts need to go up to bed" and Hazel and Wally's refrain of "we're nuts, we're nuts, we're nuts!" and then we were ready to read. The kids had a lot of fun singing "we're nuts!" and the parents laughed at Hazel and Wally's refusal to go to bed and the various ways they try to put off sleeping. Be sure to sing Hazel's part of "fig-a-nut"-it always gets a big laugh. And listen to the nut lullaby on www.thenutfamily.com-it's very sweet and I even sing it to my son at bedtime!

When you have a one on one reading with a child or a small group, you can point out all the jokes in the illustrations. The "dipped nuts" in the ball pit, mama as a "roasted chestnut" when she's upset, and my favorite, the "Nutvana" poster in Hazel and Wally's room. There are so many funny things to find in the illustrations it's a book you'll want to read over and over.

I would add Bedtime at the Nut House to your storyhour collection and gift to every parent and child who have had the battle over bedtime. Another winner from Eric Litwin!

I can't wait for the next Nut adventure.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from galley sent from publisher and finished copy from library. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Forbidden by Kimberly Griffiths Little Preorder Giveaway


On November 4th, HarperCollins unveils Forbidden, a seductive YA debut from award-winning middle grade author Kimberley Griffiths Little. Forbidden transports readers back in time to the deadly deserts and sweltering heat of Ancient Mesopotamia for a tale of danger, duty, and forbidden love. Jayden is on the brink of womanhood and betrothed to her tribe’s prince, cold-hearted Horeb. But when tragedy strikes, Jayden meets Kadesh, a mysterious visitor from the south who makes Jayden doubt everything she knows. Torn between loyalty to her tribe and the chance to escape her fate, Jayden must make a choice that will change her life forever.



Kimberley is also offering a HUGE preorder giveaway from October 6th to November 4th (release day!) to celebrate. See below for full details on how to enter.


TO ENTER:

  • You must preorder Forbidden through an online retailer or your local bookstore, then email a photo of your receipt to forbiddengiveaway@gmail.com.
  • Fill out the rafflecopter below
  • US/Canada Only
  • Ends at midnight EST on November 3, 2014
  • Optional entries: share the trailer on your own site or social media, follow Kimberley on twitter, and tweet about the giveaway (can be repeated daily for extra entries!)
  • Winners will be announced and contacted November 4th (release day!)
  • If the winner does not respond with their mailing address within one week, a new winner will be chosen.


  • PRIZES:





    (1) GRAND PRIZE WINNER:



    1. NEWLY RELEASED Kindle Fire HD6 Tablet with 6" HD Display, Wi-Fi, Front and Rear Cameras, 8 GB -- choose your color! (Black, Magenta, White, Citron, or Cobalt)

    2. GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson

    3. CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White

    4. Satin Belly Dance Skirt

    5. Belly Dance 150-Coin Hip Scarf

    6. Red Silk Veil (not pictured)

    7. Red Middle Eastern Earrings

    8. Belly dance DVD: Sensual Belly Dance with Blanca, a professional dancer (technique, choreography, and performances)

    9. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)

    10. Set of 10 Book Club Cards

    11. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)





    (1) SECOND PLACE WINNER:



    1. GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson

    2. Red Middle Eastern Earrings

    3. Red Silk Veil (not pictured)

    4. Belly dance DVD: Sensual Belly Dance with Blanca, a professional dancer (technique, choreography, and performances)

    5. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)

    6. Set of 10 Book Club Cards

    7. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)









    (13) RUNNERS-UP WINNERS:




    1. Red Middle Eastern Earrings

    2. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)

    3. Set of 10 Book Club Cards

    4. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)










    Good luck!






    Preorder: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


    About Forbidden: In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart.




    Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying.




    With a forbidden romance blossoming in her heart and her family’s survival on the line, Jayden must embark on a deadly journey to save the ones she loves—and find a true love for herself.




    Set against the brilliant backdrop of the sprawling desert, the story of Jayden and Kadesh will leave readers absolutely breathless as they defy the odds and risk it all to be together.




    Follow Kimberley:



    About Kimberley: Award-winning author Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico on the banks of the Rio Grande with her husband and their three sons. Her middle-grade novels, When the Butterflies Came, The Last Snake Runner, The Healing Spell, and Circle of Secrets, have been praised as “fast-paced and dramatic,” with “beautifully realized settings.” Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell. She’s stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; sailed the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria. You can visit her online at www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com.






    Share your thoughts on the trailer in the comments!


     
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