Sunday, January 29, 2012

ALA Midwinter 2012 Recap

ALA Midwinter, hosted this year in Dallas, Texas, is always a quieter, tamer conference than ALA Annual, held in the summer. I had a great time - I did my graduate work at UT Austin, so returning to Texas was a great opportunity for me to reconnect with a lot of my friends and former colleagues in Texas. I've already talked about my reactions to the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz wins.

I took fairly detailed notes on the whole trip - but rather than giving a blow-by-blow account, I decided to try to boil things down to the bare essence. 

I had a Texas breakfast!

Saw a bluegrass band, playing for the opening of the Exhibit Hall.

Here's a quick overview of books that caught my attention last weekend. Unless otherwise noted, they are available now.

I liked the looks of these.

Charles Dickens: Scenes from an Extraordinary Life - Mick Manning, Brita Granstrom
Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea - Tony Johnston, Stacy Innerst
Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert - Gary D. Schmidt, David Diaz (due out in June 2012)
First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low - Ginger Wadsworth  (due out in February 2012)


Beetle Book - Steve Jenkins (due out in April 2012)
Gifts from the Gods - Lise Lunge-Larsen, Gareth Hinds
Don't Sit On the Baby!: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and Safe Babysitting - Hally Bondy (due out in June 2012)
Knitted Dinosaurs: Tina Barrett


Over and Under the Snow - Kate Messner
Extra Yarn - Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen
The Woods - Paul Hoppe
And Then It's Spring - Julie Fogliano, Erin Stead (due out in February 2012)
Otter and Odder - James Howe, Chris Raschka (due out in October 2012)
Virginia Wolf - Kyo Maclear, Isabelle Arsenault (due out in March 2012)

It looks to be at a beginning reader level. It's due out in February. The first one is called Penny and Her Song.

It's a chapter book!

Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth - Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (due out in April 2012)


This was to promote a summer reading program tie-in for the Ranger's Apprentice series.

The best part of this conference was, of course, all the wonderful people I met. As always, I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and recharged after the conference - ready to tackle whatever comes next.

Next week, I'll post pics of all the swag I picked up!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ed Emberley video

Discovered this great video of Ed Emberley the other day.
I love this guy!

Getting to know Ed

View this entire course and more in the Online Training Library®.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012 Comment Challenge Round-up

Hurrah! It's MotherReader and Lee Wind's annual Comment Challenge! I've participated in years past and it's always fun... I feel like I'm a commenting champ these days, and it's hard to remember that I used to be so shy. I've always been impressed in year's past with folks who keep track of every comment during the challenge -- I decided to try and do the same this year. So, here's to enjoying book blogs old and new.

I started listing these, and the list just seemed unmanageable. So, to try to avoid a tragic case of tl;dr, I've divided this up (roughly) by categories.

The lovely sponsors of the 2012 Comment Challenge:
  1. MotherReader
  2. Lee Wind
Some of my favorites. These are my "go to" blogs. Love you guys!
  1. Oops, Wrong Cookie
  2. Small Review
  3. Abby the Librarian
  4. Stacked
  5. Forever Young Adult
  6. Charlotte's Library 
My new favorites! I've found some new people to follow.
  1. Teacher Ninja
  2. Storytime Secrets
  3. Beneath the Jacket
  4. Lisa is Busy Nerding 
The creators: writers, authors, poets, artists, illustrators, etc.
  1. Carol A. Bender
  2. Julie True Kingsley
  3. The Write Stuff
  4. Smiling Otis Studio
  5. Helena Juhasz Illustration
  6. Jessica Lawlor
  7. The Patient Dreamer
  8. Jen Klein
  9. Annie Cardi
  10. Think, Kid, Think
  11. Stacy Gray Illustration
  12. Reading on the F Train
  13. Lindsay Writes
  14. Sylvia Liu Land
  15. Redheaded Stepchild
  16. Book Aunt
  17. Swagger Writers
  18. Teaching Authors
  19. Heather Newman Illustrations
  20. John Rocco
  21. Rena J. Traxel
  22. A Journey Illustrated 
Teachers, educators, school media specialists and parents
  1. The Castle Library
  2. Polliwog on Safari
  3. A Teaching Life
  4. Teacher Dance
  5. Leaning Tower of Books
  6. Children's Lit Crossroads
  7. Chronicles of a Mountain Librarian
  8. Happy Birthday, Author!
  9. Writing on the Wall
  10. Ms. O Reads Books 
Miscellaneous awesomeness
  1. Geekery Converged
  2. Ari's Garden
  3. Jeff Directs
  4. Doggy Montessori 
Librarians and booksellers, a.k.a. "my people"
  1. The Happy Nappy Bookseller
  2. Books YA Love
  3. The Rogue Librarian
  4. Crazy Quilt Edi 
  5. A Random Hodgepodge of Bookishness 
Known and loved around the book blogosphere
  1. Breaking the Spine
  2. Parajunkee
  3. Greg Pincus at The Happy Accident
  4. Green Bean Teen Queen
  5. The Story Siren 
Amazing reviewers
  1. Book Sake
  2. i swim for oceans
  3. Not Another Book Blog
  4. Winged Reviews
  5. Reading Extensively
  6. My Words Ate Me
  7. Booking in Heels
  8. The Book Nut
  9. Library Chicken
  10. The Children's War
  11. Books Together
Booky bloggers
  1. Books, Biscuits & Tea
  2. Teresa's Reading Corner
  3. Mimi Valentine
  4. L'Amour Books
  5. Melanie's Musing
  6. Mug of Moxie
  7. Opening Lines
  8. Makeshift Bookmark
  9. A Beautiful Madness
  10. Reading With Style
  11. She Is Too Fond of Books
  12. Even in Australia
  13. The Screaming Nitpicker
  14. Bibliophile by the Sea
  15. Books are Vital
  16. Y.A. Love
  17. Turn the Page
  18. Five Alarm Book Reviews
  19. Dazzling Reads
  20. A Cupcake and a Latte
  21. Some Like it Paranormal
  22. We Need Reads
  23. Shabby Reading
  24. Lady Book Stuff
  25. Reading for a Living
  26. YA Bookie Monster
  27. Fictional Distraction
  28. Coma Calm
  29. Bibliosaurus Text
  30. Muggle Born
  31. See It or Read It 
Itty Bitty Baby Bloggers (aka, Brand Spankin' New!)
  1. Unpacking the Power of Picture Books
Altogether, that's 101 blogs commented on! It's actually a lot more than 101 comments... because for many of these blogs, I left more than one comment. It's been great, starting some interesting conversations with a lot of these bloggers. I say it all the time: sometimes I wish the Comment Challenge was year-round. It's definitely more effort, but like most things, you get out of it what you put into it, and I've taken the chance to "meet" some really cool people this go around. And hopefully, we'll continue keeping tabs on each other. So, don't be a stranger, and keep the comments (and conversations) flowing, throughout the rest of the year!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting on Fever

Right from the get-go there are a few things about this book that don't make sense. But that doesn't matter, because I am still super excited about this series and I can't wait 'til the new one comes out!

by Lauren deStefano
Simon & Schuster
February 2012

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ALA Youth Media Awards 2012

ALA Midwinter in Dallas was a wonderful long weekend celebrating the core of what being a librarian is all about - books, books, books and more books!

Here are my thoughts and reflections on this year's big award winners.

The Newbery Award went to Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, with Newbery Honors going to Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai and Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin.

Once again, I failed to call it - I'd heard so much buzz about Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, I assumed that it would win. And I must shamefacedly admit, that I haven't read Dead End in Norvelt, either! I did read Inside Out & Back Again, and felt in my heart that it was a Newbery contender. Hurrah! I'm so happy to see it honored. I've never even heard of Breaking Stalin's Nose.

Even though I haven't read Dead End in Norvelt, I can tell it's the "right sort" of book. Heartrending stories about kids in tough situations are to the Newbery Committee what heroic, drawn-out movie death scenes are to the Oscar Committee, right? I feel like there's a balance between winning books with a girl protagonist vs. a boy protagonist and we were "about due" for a "boy book" so I wasn't surprised to hear it had won.

This quote concerns me: "Who knew obituaries and old lady death could be this funny and this tender?” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Viki Ash." Wow - that sentence does not have me rushing out to read this book. That sounds like a downer, quite frankly. But, I have read Hole in My Life, Gantos' autobiography for kids, which I found riveting. It's a cautionary tale about how he got caught up in drug trafficking, got caught and how serving time in prison gave him a big wake-up call and a second-chance just when he needed it. He wisely left out a lot of details about the political scene in the '60's, making it a much more accessible book for teens today. Knowing that Dead End in Norvelt is also a highly autobiographical work leaves me more interested. Shockingly, my library's reserve lists have not filled up on this title. Are people just slow to hear about the Newbery this year? Or is this book failing to draw them in?

The Printz award went to Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. I hadn't even heard of this one. I hadn't heard of two of the Honor books in this category either: The Returning by Christine Hinwood and the somewhat critically reviewed Australian import, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. I had heard good things about the other two Printz Honor books: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman and Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka is the Caldecott winner this year. I vaguely remember seeing it around, but I hadn't expected it to win big. Honors were given to Blackout by John Rocco, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith and Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell. I've been a fan of John Rocco for years. I met him at a book talk he gave right after he wrote his first book, Wolf, Wolf! and have been rooting for him to win since then. Hoorah! I'm so happy he got the honor for this one. I think any book that celebrates less computer time and more face-to-face interactions is sure to hit a sentimental note for a lot of older readers who don't see their digital and their "real" lives as seamlessly interwoven as the younger generation does. Grandpa Green and Me... Jane are two picture books that I've been dying to get at my library, but as our budgets have dwindled, sadly, picture books are some of the "easiest" to cut, since not having them doesn't provoke as much outcry as not having ample copies of adult New York Times bestsellers titles, for example. Now that they've both won Honors, hopefully, I'll find it easier to lobby for their purchase!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mysterious Howling review

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling
by Maryrose Wood
Harper Collins
March 2010

This humorous take on orphans and their patient governess invites comparisons to Lemony Snicket, especially for its tongue-in-cheek style. 15 year-old Penelope Lumley, a graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, is pleased and surprised when she quickly and easily lands a job caring for three children raised by wolves, now the wards of Lord Frederick and Lady Constance Ashton. Lord Frederick hardly seems the fatherly type, neglecting even to name the children until pressed to do so. Barely more than a child herself, Penelope longs to prove herself a competent governess to "three clever pupils who both fear and adore me."

Maryrose Wood is an American author, but the feel of this book is decidedly British. Miss Lumley certainly owes a heavy debt to that other unflappable English nanny, Mary Poppins. My favorite scenes in the book are when Miss Lumley attempts to rally the children, Cassiopeia, Alexander and Beowulf, with proper lessons on Latin, History, and other fine subjects, and despite their unnerving animal-like behavior and obsession with chasing squirrels, she manages to carry on with determination and aplomb. The children have a habit of making wooo-ish howling noises which Miss Lumley comes to find rather endearing. The omniscient narrator presents the tale in equal measures of silliness and perfect propriety -- despite the cliffhanger ending, this is sure to be a welcome addition to any collection.

Compare to:
A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket
Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
Enola Holmes Mysteries - Nancy Springer
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan Aiken

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inside Out review

Inside Out
by Maria V. Snyder
April 2010

In a dystopian future, Trella is a "scrub" responsible for cleaning and maintaining the pipes that service the "uppers" or higher castes. Everyone lives in a building only known as "Inside" - there are rumors of an "Outside" but no one's seen it in their lifetime. As a reader, you know that there are one of two possibilities: either they are underground, or in a spaceship. My money was on spaceship, pretty quickly on. Time is referenced to only in weeks, which gives everything a pleasantly alien feel - the characters refer to themselves as "x" weeks old, and seem to use the phrase "a hundred weeks" the way we'd refer to something as "a year or two." They speak about "one million weeks" the way we might say, "an eternity" and it's a commonly held belief that they'll find the way Outside when the clock reaches one million weeks. Children are raised in creches by their Care Mothers until they graduate to a job assignment. Overcrowding is a real problem on the lower levels, yet the "Pop Cops" still inexplicably test everyone to ensure that no one is making use of birth control. Failure to obey results in being fed to "Chomper" a.k.a. the ship's recycling system.

Cover thoughts: My copy had the original cover, a girl peeling through what looks like paper, which I wasn't terribly fond of. I'm not sure if the new cover is for the paperback, but I think it's a big improvement.

The story was a slow build-up to what for me was the super-obvious "reveal" of the novel. But I did like the character of Tris. She's petite, and not at all girly. She's a bit aloof from the other scrubs, hence her nickname, "Queen of the Pipes." Cogon, another one of the scrub workers, seems almost like a father figure to her. He arranges for her and her childhood friend Logan to meet with Domotor, a wheelchair-bound prophet looking for the Gateway which he believes will take them Outside. There is the mildest hint of romantic interest, when she meets Riley, one of the uppers who secretly agrees to help her search for plans to Gateway, which they hope will take them Outside. If this book was skewed for just a little older, I'd say we have the beginnings of a Trella/Logan/Riley love triangle, but that situation doesn't appear to rear its ugly head here. I'll recommend this for middle-grade readers and young teens.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heading out to ALA

I'm heading out to Dallas today for the American Library Association MidWinter Conference. Hurrah! It's always great to convene with the diaspora of librarians -- I'm looking forward to reconnecting with plenty of former classmates and colleagues, and to checking out all the great publisher and author events promoting new books, of course!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Born Wicked

Early reviews have been mixed on this one. I think I'll like it though: love triangle, dystopian, historical fantasy, that's not a bad combo.

Born Wicked
by Jessica Spotswood
Putnam Juvenile
February 2012

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Avalon High review

Avalon High
Meg Cabot
December 2005

Avalon High is a light and breezy re-telling of the King Arthur legend, set in a modern day high school. Ellie Harrison is annoyed when her professor parents uproot her for a sabbatical to Washington, D.C., where she'll spend her junior year at a new school. Her only consolation is that the house they're renting has a pool. Gradually, she starts to wonder if her new classmates are all reincarnated from the court of Camelot.

Ellie, of course, is The Lady of the Lake, something which took me a while to figure out, despite the super-obvious hints, particularly her obsession with keeping the family's backyard pool pristine. She develops a crush on Will, who is dating Jennifer. Jennifer, in turn, secretly has a crush on Lance, Will's best friend. Will is coping with a lot of family drama involving his step-brother Marco. For those of you keeping score, Will = Arthur, Jennifer = Guinevere, Lance = Lance, Marco = Mordred. Other than the names and relationships between the characters, this doesn't feel medieval or fantasy-inspired at all. In tone and feel, Avalon High is very much a contemporary YA. It's a fun, fast read. I might compare it to Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance for the way that it sneaks classic literature themes into a modern setting. The book has a spin-off manga series put out by Tokyo Pop, as well as a made-for-TV movie for the Disney Channel. This is the perfect book to recommend in those situations where you have to talk out of both sides of your mouth, trying to simultaneously please a teen reader who just wants some brain candy and a parent or adult who is pushing for something "more serious."

I borrowed this book from the library.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Around the internets

The internet! So full of goodness... here's a few things that caught my attention this past week.

It's time for the 2012 Comment Challenge, hosted by Mother Reader and Lee Wind. It's been up and going since Jan. 5, but it's never too late to get started! Hop on over, and let the comments flow!

Cassandra Clare's City of Fallen Angels cover reveal. I'm not super into this series, but it's all over the internets, and you just can't miss it.

One of my favorite blogs, The Book Lantern, always a great source for thoughtful critical analysis of overall trends and issues in Young Adult literature, weighed in with thoughts on The Heroine Tournament.

A fantastic post about swoony girls in beautiful dresses on Read In a Single Sitting.

And while we're thinking about book covers, here's a tutorial on how to design a YA book cover, all in one beautiful graphic.

An unusually high number of snowy owls spotted all over the Americas -- good breeding year? Or proof that something's going on in the wizarding world??

Postage stamp fairytale jewelry. Want!

Check out these incredible celebrity libraries. Wow, if I was loaded, you know there's several ideas I'd steal from these beautiful spaces.

Oh no, it's another author with a hastily removed rant about negative reviews.

And finally I leave you with my new favorite steampunk video:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sister Wife review

Sister Wife
by Shelley Hrdlitschka
Orca Book Publishers
October 2008

This is a story of a modern-day polygamous fundamentalist Mormon compound. In alternating chapters, readers get the perspective of 15 year-old Celeste, who is struggling with the idea that she'll be given in marriage to a much older man soon, her 13 year-old sister Nanette, who can't wait to get married and start a family of her own, and Taviana, a 17 year-old runaway and former prostitute who has sought asylum in the community.

Celeste confesses that she's been having "impure thoughts" about a boy her own age, Jon. My heart broke for her when she revealed that her thoughts were of things like, splashing their feet in a creek, or holding hands in a meadow. That's so sweet and innocent! She's been heavily brainwashed, but is actively looking for a way out. Nanette is straight-up creepy. Readers who enjoyed Wither by Lauren deStefano will be reminded of Cecily. It sent a shiver down my spine, reading the pages where Nanette flirts with their neighbor, Martin Nielson, who I believe is old enough to be her father. She even begs her father permission to get married early, as if 16 wasn't young enough! Nanette is enraged when Celeste is promised to Martin - which also struck me as odd, as I was under the impression that it was common for husbands to marry sisters in polygamous households.

Ordinarily, I love a book with alternating chapters, but the three girls didn't feel distinct enough for me, particularly Taviana. With the rough life that she's led, I expected her to sound much less girlish than the other two. It seemed like Taviana was just looking for a place to lay low from the law until she turned 18. I thought she'd sound much more cynical. I had trouble picturing a teen with that kind of backstory so easily and sweetly helping with chores and so on. Primarily, Taviana exists to present information about the outside world to Celeste. They are so isolated on the compound, even the most common pop-culture references or technology is a mystery to them. I got frustrated with Celeste's delays to make good her escape, but the novel does a great job of showing what a difficult decision this is for her - it's her whole life, her family, everything she knows, and she's thinking of cutting herself off forever to go into the great unknown modern (possibly sinful) world.  Despite a few flaws, I really enjoyed this book. There's a whole genre out there of "escape from arranged marriages" so I'll put this in the hands of readers who enjoy dystopian YA with that theme.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Joy of Books video

Incredible! My favorite part is the "peeking" books at 0.18. And the music! Sounds vaguely Harry Potter-ish to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting on Wings of the Wicked

This description doesn't actually sound that exciting to me... it's kind of overly long, sounds melodramatic and a bit too religious. Based on this blurb alone, I don't think I would pick this book up. But, I read the first book, and I loved it. So, I've been looking forward to the sequel pretty much since I set down Angelfire.

Wings of the Wicked
by Courtney Allison Moulton
Harper Collins
January 2012

Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.
Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned.
Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed.
Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Betsy Bird Project

Early in 2011, I embarked on a seekrit project. I thought it might be good to see if I could blog everything that legendary blogger Elizabeth Bird did. I got off to a spectacular start, but as the year picked up, it became harder and harder for me to acquire a lot of these books. The library budget being what it is, and non-availability of ARCs on some of these titles made it a real challenge. Normally, I don't have much overlap because obviously, she doesn't review YA (usually) and I do (it's the majority of what I review.) I'm glad I tried it, even though things kind of fell apart during the middle of the year. It inspired me to blog some great picture books. And I got out of my comfort zone and read some interesting, well-written middle-grade fiction. There are a number of books on the list that I read, but didn't review. I marked those with italics and an asterisk. 
  1. Perfect Square - Michael Hall
  2. Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary - Jerdine Nolen
  3. Queen of the Falls - Chris Van Allsburg
  4. Manners Mash-Up: A Goofy Guide to Good Behavior - Tedd Arnold, et. al.
  5. Words in the Dust - Trend Reedy
  6. Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku - Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
  7. Fortune Cookies - A. Bitterman
  8. Season of Secrets - Sally Nicholls
  9. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart - Candace Fleming
  10. Hot, Hot Rot for Dada-ji - F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min
  11. Okay for Now - Gary D. Schmidt
  12. Zita the Spacegirl - Ben Hatke
  13. A Pet for Petunia - Paul Schmid
  14. Small Persons with Wings - Ellen Booraem
  15. Me... Jane - Patrick McDonnell*
  16. I Must Have Bobo! - Eileen Rosenthal
  17. Inside Out and Back Again - Thanhha Lai
  18. Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems - Tracie Vaughn Zimmer*
  19. Press Here - Herve Tullet
  20. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette - Jeanne Birdsall
  21. The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon - Carla Killough McClafferty
  22. Ice - Arthur Geisert
  23. Fly Trap - Frances Hardinge
  24. Vincent van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind - Chiara Lossani
  25. Blue Chicken - Deborah Freedman*
  26. Kat, Incorrigible - Stephanie Burgis
  27. Sidekicks - Dan Santat*
  28. My Side of the Car - Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer*
  29. Dead End in Norvelt - Jack Gantos
  30. Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom - Sue Macy
  31. The Greedy Sparrow - Lucine Kasbarian, illustrated by Maria Zaikina*
  32. EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! - Sally Warner
  33. Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word - Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
  34. Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends - Aaron Zenz*
  35. The Boy at the End of the World - Greg van Eekhout
  36. Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero - Marissa Moss, illustrated by John Hendrix
  37. I Want My Hat Back - Jon Klassen
  38. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - Catherynne M. Valente
  39. Bad Island - Doug TenNapel
  40. Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? - Susan A. Shea, illustrated by Tom Slaughter
  41. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales - Chris Van Allsburg, et. al.
  42. Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds - Ann McCallum, illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
  43. Lola’s Fandango - Anna Witte, illustrated by Micha Archer
  44. Breadcrumbs - Anne Ursu
  45. Hidden - Helen Frost
  46. My Name Is Elizabeth - Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe*
  47. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes - Jonathan Auxier
  48. The Incredible Life of Balto - Meghan McCarthy
  49. Orani: My Father’s Village - Claire A. Nivola
  50. Marty McGuire - Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca
  51. Around the World - Matt Phelan
  52. The Book That Zack Wrote - Ethan Long
  53. Hound Dog True - Linda Urban
  54. Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert - Marc Aronson
  55. The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred - Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
  56. The Chesire Cheese Cat - Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
  57. A Little Bitty Man - Halfdan Rasmussen
  58. When Life Gives You O.J. - Erica S. Perl
  59. Hera - George O'Connor
  60. The No. 1 Car Spotter - Atinuke
  61. Lily Renee, Escape Artist - Trina Robbins
  62. The Unforgotten Coat - Frank Cottrell Boyce
  63. Never Forgotten - Patricia McKissack
  64. Jefferson's Sons - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  65. Witches - Rosalyn Schanzer
  66. What Do You See? - Martine Perrin
  67. Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick
  68. Peaceful Pieces - Anna Grossnickle Hines
  69. Hopper and Wilson - Maria van Lieshout*
  70. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading - Tommy Greenwald
  71. The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont - Victoria Griffith
  72. A Dog is a Dog - Stephen Shaskan
  73. Ghetto Cowboy - G. Neri
  74. The Meaning of Life and other Stuff - Jimmy Gownley
  75. Icefall - Matthew Kirby
  76. Nursery Rhyme Comics - Chris Duffy
  77. Little Chicken's Big Day - Katie Davis
  78. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
  79. Heart and Soul - Kadir Nelson
  80. What Animals Really Like - Fiona Robinson
  81. Dragon Castle - Joseph Bruchac
  82. Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina - Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
  83. Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend - Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud*
  84. The Romeo and Juliet Code - Phoebe Stone
  85. From Then to Now - Christopher Moore
  86. Everything Goes on Land - Brian Biggs
  87. The Trouble With May Amelia - Jennifer L. Holm
  88. Coral Reefs - Jason Chin
  89. Come to Bed, Red! - Jonathan Allen
  90. The Luck of the Buttons - Anne Ylvisaker
  91. Big City Otto: Elephants Never Forget - Bill Slavin
  92. The Princess and the Pig - Jonathan Emmett*
  93. Toys Come Home - Emily Jenkins
  94. Drawing from Memory - Allen Say
  95. A House in the Woods - Inga Moore

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Busting the Blogger Blues

Small Review is hosting an awesome event, a follow-up to the Busting the Newbie Blues event she hosted last year. This time, it comes in two editions: Newbies and Oldies.

When did you start your blog?
I started this blog in 2009. It feels like so much longer though (I mean that in a good way.) I had an idea to do a blog featuring different libraries around the world. I love to travel, and always pop by a library whenever I can... I have tons of photos I'd taken of libraries all over the U.S. and Europe, meaning to post them on a blog, but never got around to. I had a livejournal since 2003, which I used mainly to communicate with RL friends who'd scattered around the country. When I realized more and more of my posts were bookish, and that I was less and less happy with LJ's layouts, I finally made the leap and started fresh over here. I quickly determined that posting about library buildings would be hard to keep up with, and decided to try posting book reviews and thoughts about libraries instead.

Do you ever still feel like a newbie?
Yes, absolutely. I compare myself to some of the old-school bloggers on, and I feel like I'll never "catch up" to how awesome they are.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?
Yeah, my biggest challenge was getting started! I was intimidated to start fresh with a new blog, especially such a public one, and I put it off for way too long!

What did you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this?
Probably the most discouraging thing was posting for weeks on end with no comments or feedback whatsoever. When I first started, I'd be over the moon if I got one comment per week. I just kept at it. Soon enough, the comments started increasing.

What do you find most encouraging?
The community is so awesome and supportive.

If you could go back in time and speak with your newbie self, what five bits of wisdom would you tell yourself?
  • If I could go back in time, I think I would try to take advantage of being a newbie more! I wanted so much to NOT be a newbie, I didn't realize how much potential help I was squandering. Seriously!
  • I wish I'd gotten involved in memes sooner. It's a great way to check out new folks and make yourself known. Right now, I'd say the best ones are: Top Ten Tuesday, Waiting on Wednesday, In My Mailbox, Follow Friday. But don't overdo it!
  • When I first started, I tried to think of clever titles for all my posts. It turns out that makes for poor SEO (Search Engine Optimization.) Now I just use simple, descriptive titles. For example, one of my favorite early reviews was for Henry Cole's delightful picture book Trudy, about a spirited girl and her pet goat. I named it, "That's Some Goat" in a subtle homage to Charlotte's Web (which I'm not sure anyone, except for me, even got). Nowadays, I'd just call it, "Trudy Review." It takes less effort AND it's easier for blog traffic to find me. Win-win.
  • I would definitely not worry about "numbers" as much. Just enjoy blogging for the sake of blogging!
What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?
I love snarky reviews written by smart, witty, internet savvy people. I don't try to replicate this in my blog, because I just don't feel like I have the knack for truly high-level snark! Forever Young Adult, The Book Lantern and Supernatural Snark are masters at this. I'm not worthy!
The other thing is consistency. I had some blogs I really loved a few years ago, (now defunct) which would have new posts everyday for a week and then disappear for a month or so. I hated that! Conversely, the people that I thought were really "going somewhere" with their blogs created new posts religiously, usually 3-7 times a week. I knew when I started that I wanted to be seen as posting like clockwork. I started by posting 1-3 times a week, and built my way up to blogging every day, or nearly every day.

What do you dislike about blogs you’ve seen? Do you try to avoid this?
Funny, I just posted about this. My biggest, maybe irrational pet peeve is white font on black background. I definitely avoid this.

How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?
I don't feel like I have the attention of that many, really! I still feel like one of the smaller bloggers. It's so hard to know how one stacks up against others, especially since there are so many different measures of "success." Numbers of followers? Numbers of comments? Unique daily visitors? I can tell you that some of my most "popular" blog posts, bar none, are those where I've inadvertently mentioned celebrities. And not author celebrities either -  actual Hollywood types. I suppose, if I just wanted to stretch for more numbers, I could make a point of working that into the conversation somehow, but that feels too much like black-hat SEO to me. Not really an honest reflection of what's going on in my blog.

When and how did you get your first ARC (or first few ARCs)?
I must confess to being positively spoiled rotten for ARCs. Before I was a blogger, and before I was a librarian, I got my start at an independent book store in the mid-1990's. My first day, my new boss led me to the staff room where there were two loooong shelves that went around the perimeter of the room. They were stuffed to bursting with ARCs! She told me I could take as many as I liked, and that she recommended I try to read a smattering of everything, at least two books a week. I was free to read during lunch breaks, but should expect to take some reading home, since reading on the desk or while shelving was frowned upon. My eyes nearly popped out of my head! My heart raced with joy! This was, indeed, the best job ever! I felt like such an important insider! I was going get to read SO MANY BOOKS, and NONE of them had even been published yet! It was like peeking into the FUTURE! I worked there for 6 years and amassed an embarrassing number of ARCs. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by my To Be Read list, or the piles of ARC's currently teetering by my nightstand, I remind myself to try to stay as humble and grateful I was when I got my first stack of advanced reader's copies.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sisters Red review

Sisters Red
by Jackson Pearce
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
June 2010

Teen sisters Scarlett and Rosie March are incredibly close, because they share a secret: they are both werewolf hunters. Evil Fenris live to seduce and kill young women and Scarlett and Rosie are a few of the only people in the world aware of and fighting this menace. The comparison to Buffy: the Vampire Slayer is pretty obvious: young girls who secretly fight monsters in hand-to-hand combat, even though though the world probably never appreciates it.

First line: Strangers never walk down this road, the sisters thought in unison as the man trudged toward them.

I liked that the story begins with a prologue, giving readers a sense of history between the sisters, and explaining right away why Rosie feels so indebted to her sister. Scarlett sustained scars to her face, disfiguring her eye while she was protecting Rosie from a Fenris attack when they were children. Aside from the fact that the Little Red Riding Hood character is essentially split in two, this story borrows heavily from the original fairy tale. The woodsman, the grandmother, the red capes, it's all there. The girls live in rural Georgia, but after hearing about a string of suspicious sounding murders, they relocate to Atlanta. I liked the way the wolf packs were organized, each with a distinctive tattoo, it was a great detail.

I had trouble picturing Scarlett as being truly ugly. I wondered if it was the kind of thing that she was really self-concious about, but other people noticed much less than she thought. Despite her missing eye and scars, she's able to entice the Fenris into chasing her, simply by wearing a red cloak with a hood that hangs over one eye. Granted, it's nighttime, and maybe the Fenris aren't looking too closely. But, still, it's hard to believe that Scarlett is as hideous looking as she thinks she is. There are obvious comparisons to Hester Shaw from Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series, as she's scarred, bitter, intense, good at heart, but hard to be around.

I liked that in contrast to so many of the vampire/werewolf paranormal romances being published these days, this story clearly sets up humans as the good guys, werewolves as the villains. And I liked the twist on the love triangle. Both of the girls have an interest in Silas, the woodsman and close family friend. Rosie's interest is more overt (at least, to him,) and Scarlett has a kind of unrequited thing going on, because she doesn't feel worthy. As the chapters alternated, I found myself really torn - I was half-way rooting for both of the sisters! I was ready to be surprised at the ending, but instead, Silas makes a fairly predictable choice on who he'll end up with.

The part that bothered me most was how the sisters referred to the Fenris victims as "dragonflies" - they see them as flitty, pretty and not-too-witty. I was annoyed by the idea that just because they were young, pretty and dressed to go clubbing, the sisters seemed to think it was all their own fault. Fail.

The other part that I quibbled with was what makes a "potential" werewolf. It's a purely magical process, kind of a seventh son of a seventh son kind of thing, and I was hoping for a more scientific reason, like a virus or something.

I love, love, love books with alternating chapters, and really enjoyed that aspect of this story. I'll recommend this to fantasy YA readers, especially those who enjoy Alex Flinn's fairy tale retellings. Although, with this fantastic cover, this book pretty much sells itself!

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Busting the Big Blogger Blues

Ruby at Ruby's Reads is co-hosting Small Review's Busting the Blogger Blues event. Ruby asked a few questions  on her blog for experienced bloggers, and I started to comment... and comment... and comment. Finally, I realized this really needs a whole post of it's own! Do check out the comments on her blog though... lots of good discussion there.

1. How in the heck do people find time to comment? Commenting is a constant struggle for me. Does anyone have any techniques to share?

Here are my commenting tips:

I open up a window with my blog, and then open up new tabs with everyone who left ME a comment the past week. I check out their blogs and see if I have anything to say. If I didn't get many comments that week, I'll take a look at my followers.

The other thing I'll do is when I'm looking at a meme with a listy, rather than going from the top down, (the first participants always get more comments) I'll open new tabs for the blogs at the end of the list - I usually aim for about 5, sometimes I'll go for 10.

The final thing that I do is go to the blog of someone I admire - and look at who commented there... then I check out their blogs and comment, because I assume that they've already proven they're the sort of blogger who leaves comments - so maybe they'll visit me and say something next time!

When I'm reading new blogs, I just kind of let my mind drift and see if their post reminds me of anything, or makes me think. Then I post it! I hate the copy and paste poste - it just shows you that someone didn't even read your blog.

Basically what I'm doing here is commenting on: 
people I already know and appreciate, commenting on blogs where I already know we'll have something in common (aka, the meme we both just did) and then going out and discovering completely new, but already proven to be friendly people.

2. What are the best ways of networking with other bloggers, authors and publishers? Twitter? Facebook? Please don't tell me it's Facebook.

Twittering and commenting on blogs. I limit myself to friending ONLY people that I have met in Real Life for Facebook, so I don't use it for blog networking.

3. How do you snap out of "reading feels like work" ennui?

I read an adult book. Or I watch TV or play a video game to give my brain a break. I hate it when my inner "reviewer voice" starts to kick in for EVERYTHING that I read no matter what. I think of it as just one of the ways that working with books has changed me as a reader.

4. Tell me more about this thing you call "scheduling."

Last year I did post everyday, and it was awesome, but I began to feel a bit weary towards the end, so I'm going back to the system I used to use.

Basically it involves using the 1st through the 15th of the month to get caught up, and the 16th through the 31st of the month to look ahead. Here's what I do - You can really picture this like an "if... then" diagram.

If it's the 1st through the 15th of the month, and I do not have posts ready to go, I work on getting 3 posts a week written for Sunday, Wednesday and Friday of the current month.

If it's the 1st through the 15th of the month, and all my minimum number of posts are ready to go, I start infilling and creating posts for Tuesdays and Thursdays. I may shuffle dates around, so I get a good balance of reviews vs. other stuff, or so that more time-sensitive news items get posted first.

If it's the 1st through the 15th of the month, and all my posts are DONE for the month, I start working on next month. (This doesn't happen that often.)

If it's the 16th through the 31st of the month, and I don't have 3 posts a week scheduled, I work on those (because that means I'm behind!)

If it's the 1st through the 15th of the month, and I DO have my 3 posts a week for the current month covered, I start working on the NEXT month's posts. No more infilling on the current month! And then if those are done, the next month, and so on.

It sounds a little OCD, I know, but I've gotten as much as two and a half months ahead using this system.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolutions

Every year I like to take a look back and see how I did on my New Year's resolutions. Last year, I pledged to blog "every day or nearly every day ." I'm not sure how in my mind that turned into "absolutely every day without fail, no exceptions," but it did. I blogged everyday last year! It was an awesome experience and I'm really glad I did it. At this point, I feel like there's nothing else I can do but slow down. I mean, I'm certainly not going to be blogging more than once a day, right? For 2012, I'm planning on blogging 3-6 times a week. Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for sure (as I've always done) and more if I have more to say. Mondays will be dark, so no blog entries then.

Last year
I hoped to read 150 books - and I almost, but not quite managed it. I'm ashamed to say, I picked up some books that looked short and easy to try and plump up the final number. I also stuck with it, and finished reading books that I hated so that they would "count." Ugh. So how many to shoot for in 2012? I've thrown around some different numbers in my head - 100, like I used to do? Less than that? Finally, I decided that I'm not going to set a specific number of books to read this year. How about that? I'll just do some reading, and not worry about the number of books read! How freeing. I am going to do the 2012 Debut Authors' Challenge this year, I really enjoyed doing it last year. So, I guess there is a number of books to be read: 12. Darn. 12 books in 2012, think I can manage it?

 year I reviewed 45 picture books, 36 middle-grade fiction novels, and 64 YA novels. I'm pretty sure that's the most reviews I've ever done. I kind of like that balance, but this year, I think I'm going to try to read more middle-grade fiction. I do a lot of reader's advisory at work, and it's good to stay on top of what's out there. I've kind of gone back and forth on picture book reviewing this year. Do I want to keep doing it? Part of me says, "No. Drop the picture books. Narrow your focus." But then, I'll run across some really great picture book, and I can't resist. What do you think, blog readers? Too many picture book reviews here? Too few? Just right?

The blogosphere...
I've made an effort in the past few months to comment more on other people's book blogs. I'm enjoying it! I've discovered a lot of awesome new bloggers. I guess I'm commenting on 5 or so blogs a day. I definitely want to continue doing that, but in keeping with my "no numbers, no pressure" theme for 2012, I can't promise that I'll make "x" number of comments per day or anything like that. All I can tell you is that I'm going to continue to make an effort to visit others blogs, and respond with quality comments.

So, that's it! What are your bookish New Year's resolutions this year?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Waiting on New Girl

I hadn't realized this book was such a literal re-telling of Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca, at least it sounds like it will be. Can't wait to get my hands on it!

New Girl
by Paige Harbison
Harlequin Teen
January 2012

They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.


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