July 20, 2018

The ultimate reading resource

Every now and again when I receive new books to shelve, I come across one (or quite a few) that I pull aside to read for myself. That's how I stumbled upon today's book. The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Edition) by Jim Trelease immediately caught my eye for no other reason than I'm a giant nerd for my profession. :-D The first half of the book is a discussion about the importance of reading and more specifically reading aloud to children from birth to...forever. This is not just Trelease's personal opinion but is backed up by extensive research and a plethora of data on the topic. However, it's not all technical jargon replete with charts and numbers. He uses examples from his own childhood which he describes as 'print rich' with a father who modeled reading habits as well as read to him on a regular basis. He was also fortunate to have a teacher that read aloud to the class each day. (This is a rarity in schools because of the rigorous standardized testing schedules and something I strongly contest.) He also received encouragement from a teacher who sent a note home to his parents praising his behavior and writing capability. (That really can make all the difference, folks!) Trelease also talks about the rearing of his children and their nightly routine of book reading.  Perhaps the most compelling parts of this book are the firsthand narratives of the significance of reading aloud throughout childhood and the benefits gained from it. It is chock full of anecdotes from principals, teachers, parents, and librarians and how they did their part to guide the children in their lives to become lifelong learners and readers. I've used quite a few of the 'tips and tricks' that he discusses like using ebooks and audiobooks for visually impaired and illiterate parents in the workshops and one-on-one discussions I've had with parents in my community. (P.S. Wordless picture books are another great resource.) Whether you're a professional in the field of library sciences or education or simply trying to create a love of reading in your own children this is a must have. I bought a copy for myself before I'd even finished reading it! 10/10

Oh and did I mention that the second half contains a Treasury of books subdivided by reading comprehension, age group, genre, and best books for reading aloud? WHY AREN'T YOU READING THIS YET?

Source: rainbowresource.com

What's Up Next: The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

What I'm Currently Reading: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 17, 2018

So much hidden meaning

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead is included in the list of 100 titles chosen by American citizens for The Great American Read hosted by PBS. (More info on the books on the list and how you can vote for America's favorite novel can be found here.) In an effort to read more diversely (and to have the ability to recommend books for the adults in my branch) I started with this book as I had never heard of it despite it being listed as a 'classic'. The story follows Lila Mae Watson who is the first female person of color to be an Elevator Inspector. In the world created by Whitehead elevators are the height (ha!) of technology and the majority of the population see them as somewhat mystical and beyond the realm of ordinary comprehension. (There are even guilds which seek to elevate the status of Elevator Inspectors in society to those in political office.) Even more confusing to discern are the two distinct sects of theory as to the maintenance and future of these machines. One school of thought is firmly rooted in the reality of the technology while the other views them as metaphysical creations that can be 'sensed'. Lila Mae belongs to the second school of thought which further compounds the problems that she faces among her coworkers and the public that she encounters on her daily rotations. This sci-fi novel is rooted in the reality of race. What drives the story are the veiled discussions of race but it is told through the lens of technology innovations. It is ultimately a story of hope for a better world where we are 'elevated' from the weaknesses and barbarisms of our current reality. Whitehead challenges our perceptions of our accepted reality as he argues that established views are not solely based on what we see with our eyes. This is a book with a seemingly simple premise about elevator manufacture and maintenance in a world so very similar (and familiar) to our own but instead what we get is a complex discussion of race and how we can (hopefully) rise above. 9/10

Source: Amazon


What's Up Next: The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Edition) by Jim Trelease

What I'm Currently Reading: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 13, 2018

When bad guys go good...mostly

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey originally had me quite frustrated because I felt that the labeling (the library's call number) misrepresented the content of the book. [Essentially The Bad Guys was labeled as a Young Reader meaning that the intended audience was anywhere from 2nd-4th grade depending on the reading level of the child. I feel that it was more accurately categorized as an Easy Reader (1st-2nd grade) which is quite different and generally means there are less words and more illustrations per page. I'm mentioning all of this because while it might not matter to some (like if you're not picking up books for your kid(s)) it may have an impact on others.] This is the first book in a series (6 so far) which follows a crew of 'bad' animals: a wolf, snake, shark, and piranha (who is the funniest and fartiest). The wolf decides to round up fellow bad guys to change their image and reform their behavior. He is initially met with skepticism but throughout the book the other members of the club start to come around to his side and become quite enthusiastic about the enterprise. Their first mission is to break 200 dogs out of an animal shelter but from the outset there are large obstacles in their path...mainly how 4 dangerous animals are going to get in the front door of an animal shelter. Cue the shark coming up with a rather camp solution... The appeal of this book rests mainly in its silly humor and quick pacing. Young audiences will surely gobble this up and ask for the next in the series immediately. 7/10 because it didn't totally blow me away but I could see myself reading more for a quick palate cleanser (I may or may not have read the #6 already).

Blabey's website with the total list of books in this series (as well as his Pig the Pug series which is great fun): Aaron Blabey books.

Source: Aaron Blabey


What's Up Next: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

What I'm Currently Reading: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett & When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 10, 2018

Contemporary fiction meets supernatural thriller

Continuing the trend of reading books selected for the Summer Reading program, I read Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. The reader follows two very different storylines that at the outset have no correlation to one another. The first revolves around two sisters who have newly arrived at a boarding school and are struggling to come to terms with their change of environment. The second focuses on a little ghost and his friend Modie (I don't know either) who as best as I can tell is a reanimated corpse. So on the one hand we are rooted in reality with a situation that seems very familiar: wanting to fit in yet also wanting to be recognized as the individual that you are. On the other hand, the supernatural elements of ghosts and zombies are compacted with horror because the only way that Modie can stay 'alive' is to absorb the soul of a dead (i.e. murdered) child. Yes, this is a middle grade graphic novel. (It is at this point that I have essentially 'sold' this book to the reluctant child reader standing in front of me while the parent stares at me open mouthed.) The good parts: The illustrative style was excellent and I really enjoyed the character journey of Victoria, the older sister. The not so good: It was way more disturbing and graphic than I expected plus the ending was entirely too predictable after all of the narrative build-up. While I did thoroughly enjoy the illustrations, I don't know that I'll be rushing out to read Terry's next work (unless the cover draws me in again). I didn't overwhelmingly dislike this book but I also didn't love it with all of my heart and soul (get outta here, Modie!). The little guys and ghouls in your life that love a good ghost story will probably fall head-over-heels for this one. 5/10

Source: Amazon.com
An example from the inside. [Source: A Kids Book A Day]

What's Up Next: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 6, 2018

On a roll but not the good kind

Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel is another summer reading selection for middle grade readers. This is the first in a series of graphic novels which follow the adventures of Herc, a Nnewt, who is on both a literal and figurative journey of self-discovery. From the beginning, the reader is launched into this fictional world of creatures called Nnewts and their enemies the Lizzarks. There was a sense that one should already be familiar with characters and backstory. The narrative seemed to be all over the place which compounded the issue. I feel like the author was trying to put a spin on the classic 'underdog who surprises everyone to come out on top' but it was all a bit rushed in my opinion. Also, if this is a series I see no reason why the pacing had to be so hurried.  I went into this one with fairly high hopes as the first couple of pages seemed quite interesting but this is one of those books that just didn't work for me. However, I'm betting it will appeal to a younger audience. (It is after all not marketed for me so this makes perfect sense.) It will probably come as no surprise to any of you that I have no plans to continue this series but I have recommended it to some of my younger readers who like a lot of blood, guts, and gore. No complaints thus far. :-) The best thing I can say about this particular book is that the color illustrations were very imaginative but the rest of it left quite a bit to desire. 2/10

Spoiler alert: Straight out of the gate most of the characters are killed off and I feel like this was a lazy way to move the hero's journey ahead. Also, because it happened so early on there was really no emotional attachment or buildup so it served very little purpose (at least from a reader's perspective).

Source: Amazon.com
An example from the first couple of pages. [Source: Scholastic Canada]


What's Up Next: Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

July 3, 2018

I'm here for the illustrations

If you've come here hoping for your next read of the summer then I'm afraid I have to disappoint you (unless this sounds up your street for some reason). The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa Montefiore & Simon Sebag Montefiore caught my eye because of the fantastic cover illustration of rabbits in various outfits. This is the story of Shylo, an extremely small bunny that is ridiculed and bullied by his peers (and siblings). He gets roped into a bit of intrigue and derring-do which takes him away from all that he has ever known and into the very heart of the Royal Rabbits of London. Much shenanigans ensue especially when they are confronted by Ratzis. I feel like this book was given very little thought or care (except for the illustrations which were really great and liberally padded the story) so it shocked me to learn that this is the first in a series. (Spoiler alert: I won't be reading the others.) It wasn't particularly well-written but would probably appeal to 2nd or 3rd graders who really like rabbits. For me, it was disappointing to say the least. 1/10 only because of those excellent drawings.

The front. [Source: Bulk Bookstore]

The back. [Source: Amazon.com]

I mean this is really great stuff. [Source: katehindley.com]

What's Up Next: Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

June 29, 2018

All the world's a stage but thank goodness I'm not a Winged Monkey

One of the things I regretted last summer was that I wasn't more in touch with the books selected for the Summer Reading program. So I decided as soon as the list was given to us that I would read as many books as I could so that I'd be better prepared for recommending them to our patrons. This is why I picked up Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, an 11-year old girl, who is super sensitive about her height...until she is chosen to be a Munchkin and Winged Monkey in her town's production of The Wizard of Oz where it suddenly becomes an advantage. She discovers that her height is just a small (no pun intended) part of her. She makes friends with a fellow cast member named Olive who is herself a dwarf as well as an older neighbor named Mrs. Chang who turns out to have many years of experience with the theater and costume making. My favorite part about this book was the main character, Lydia, who was absolutely hysterical.

An example from page 26-7 as she describes the director of the play she's performing in:
He is for sure older than my parents, who are old, because they are forty-two and forty-four. He might be super-super-super-old. Is he fifty-five? I have no idea.
Sloan totally gets the 'voice' of a child. They have zero concept of age (I've been told I'm 84 so I know from experience) and they also have zero reason to lie to you. Lydia is a well-rounded character who not only makes hilarious asides but also conveys depth of feeling.

When confronted with an awkward conversation about death:
My voice is small. I whisper, "Life is a cabaret." I don't even know what this means, but I heard Shawn Barr say it to Mrs. Chang a few days ago and they both laughed. It works, because she smiles. I'm guessing a cabaret is a kind of wine. I hope she'll have a tall glass. - pg 240
Overall, this was a delightful little read and I've been more than happy to recommend it to the children and parents at my library. If you're a fan of the theater or looking for a book full of heart (or both) well I think you've found your book match. ;-)

A/N: If you're triggered by repeated mentions of pet death then don't come near this book. It's not a spoiler to tell you this is a running theme throughout the book beginning in the first couple of pages. Grief is a large theme explored in this book but I didn't find it as compelling as the self-discovery/acceptance experienced by Lydia.

There are 2 different covers for this one and honestly I like them both quite a bit.

Source: Barnes & Noble

Source: Amazon.com

What's Up Next: The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa & Simon Sebag Montefiore

What I'm Currently Reading: Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **