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Monday, February 28, 2011

Chime In

I've been busy reading since my last post, so I have much to share with you.

First, it's been more than a decade since her novel Folkkeeper received raves, and I knew it wouldn't be long before buzz began about Franny Billingsley's newest novel, Chime. It has. And let me say, it's much deserved. Chime is exquisitely written. Bilingsly has such a mastery of words and imagery that readers can, in fact, get lost in her phrasings and forget that there's a story that goes along with the words. This one is more YA than her previous novel, but not so much that 12-14 year olds can't read it. It is a paranormal story set in a rural town that has many backwards ways, including hanging witches. And that's just what the main character knows she is.

And for the guys, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen.  This is one powerful novel about steroid use gone bad. Fair warning, this is a true YA book with lots of locker room language, many homophobic and racial slurs, and a tragic sexual assault. Told in two voices, one of football player new to the team and the other of a male gymnast who has been the target of the football stars' wrath. Make no mistake, this is a harsh and real look at the competitive world of high school sports. This one will haunt long after you've read it.

And one of my favorites of the season came out today, Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt. This humorous novel about a girl who journals about the boy who has sat in front of her since fourth grade -- more specifically about his head. She does this to resolve her newly discovered family problems, but soon discovers that Sean is more than she originally thought. This is definitely a winner in my book.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I've Been Busy Lately

I've gotten back to reading kids' books again -- finally.

I just finished a terrific book titled SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS (THEY HATE TO BE CALLED FAIRIES) by Ellen Booream [Dial Books]. I don't read many fairy books. Honestly, between the vampires, werewolves and fairies, I'm pretty burned out on them. But when something unique comes along, I'll give it a shot. This book is more of mystery with wonderfully flawed fairies and non-traditional human characters. The plot moves quickly, and the writing is excellent. This is one to watch this year.

In addition, I was given a terrific first novel to read by a colleague. She wanted to see what I thought. The book is called CHARLIE JOE JACKSON'S GUIDE TO NOT READING by Tom Greenwald [Roaring Brook, July release]. This one is a perfect pick for reluctant readers. The narrator even tells the reader he is going to make the chapters short, so it seems like they are flying through the book. While some teachers may not appreciate the "secrets" given away (i.e. reading the first and last chapters and getting someone else to tell you the rest), I found it wonderful. And, fortunately in the end, Charlie Joe has to change his ways -- almost. I see a sequel coming.

Keep reading.

Monday, February 7, 2011

All Kinds of News

As I'm sure most of you have heard, author Brian Jacques passed away this past weekend. No need to say that the children's literature world has lost a giant. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say he paved the way for series writers to be "box office hits." 

I, like my many of my former students and now bookstore customers, anxiously awaited the next installment of his famed Redwall series. But I was also a big fan of Flying Dutchmen series too. He had a way of telling a broad, epic journey and make it fun.

Additionally, the store was fortunate to host him a few years back. What struck me about him was his natural talent to tell a story. He spoke with such eloquence and emotion and had everyone, kids and adults, sitting on the edge of their seats.

RIP Brian Jacques.

On another note, the deadline for the Highlights Foundation's Chautauqua conference scholarships is February 12. As a former attendee (and scholarship recipient), I strongly suggest writers attend this week long event. Not only is it one of the best vacations you'll ever take, it's such a phenomenal writing conference that you won't regret attending.

It took me years to make up my mind to attend (being cajoled by a good friend of mine who had attended earlier). I finally applied and was pleasantly surprised when I got the scholarship. What did I get from it? I did get my Reading Today job through a contact I made there. I met National Book Award Winner Kathryn Erskine before she was published, as well as several other good friends and colleagues.

More information can be found at

My advice is "Give it a shot. If they say no, you are not out anything. But if they say yes...."

Keep reading.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Short Break

I took a break today from reading The Land of the Painted Caves to read an F&G (Folded and Gathered - the advance reading version of a picture book) of an upcoming gem. It's called Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Gordon Sattler (due out May 2011).

I have to say I don't know if I was laughing more at the text or the illustrations, but I do know I fell in love with it. Now, I do have to tell you, the book has a surfboard named Dave, so I could be a little biased. But I'm guessing the two other characters, Fergus and Dink, could become household names. Not only are they hilarious, but their inquisitive and creative nature keeps the reader guessing what's next.

My first thought after reading this story of scavenging/treasure-hunting pigs was "We need to order lots of these for the store, because I'm going to be talking about this book quite a bit." Then I secretly hoped one of my nieces or nephews ask me to be a special reader for their class next year. I love it when I have a great book to introduce to the kids (and I can bring some great props to share too).

Well, back to The Land of the Painted Caves. I'll try to check in soon with at least another picture book to talk about.

Keep reading.