Monday, September 26, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-26-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

*Sigh* I still feel like I'm playing catch up. I'm behind on grading, behind on lesson plans, I am getting over being sick this weekend. As much as I enjoy being librarian at my school, I just haven't hit my stride yet. I know it will take some time but I am impatient I guess.

Anyway, enough of the pity party.


Last week I posted:

Interview with Rob Rufus, author of Die Young with Me


I finished reading with my ears:

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
I reread this (listened to the audio) for a teacher book club this week.  


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

Shy by Deborah Freedman 
Books don't need to shout. Sometimes quietly and timidly tapping you on the shoulder is enough to make a big impact.


Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
As a dog person, this book was a definite heartprint book for me. All I have to say is if dogs don't go to heaven, I don't think that can really be heaven now, can it? 


Still reading:

American Street by Ibi Zobo


Still reading with my ears:

Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football by John U. Bacon

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Author Interview: Rob Rufus

Today on the blog I have Rob Rufus, author of the memoir Die Young with Me:


Goodreads Summary:
In the tradition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes the incredibly moving true story of a teenager diagnosed with cancer and how music was the one thing that helped him get through his darkest days.

Punk’s not dead in rural West Virginia. In fact, it blares constantly from the basement of Rob and Nat Rufus—identical twin brothers with spiked hair, black leather jackets, and the most kick-ass record collection in Appalachia. To them, school (and pretty much everything else) sucks. But what can you expect when you’re the only punks in town?

When the brothers start their own band, their lives begin to change: they meet friends, they attract girls, and they finally get invited to join a national tour and get out of their rat box little town.

But their plans are cut short when Rob is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has already progressed to Stage Four. Not only are his dreams of punk rock stardom completely shredded, there is a very real threat that this is one battle that can’t be won.

While Rob suffers through nightmarish treatments and debilitating surgery, Nat continues on their band’s road to success alone. But as Rob’s life diverges from his brother’s, he learns to find strength within himself and through his music.
Die Young With Me is a raw, honest account of a brave teen’s fight with cancer and the many ways music helped him cope through his recovery.



Thanks for visiting the blog today Rob! Your book has been described as "perfect for fans of The Fault in Our Stars, but with a grittier edge." Besides the fact that your book is a memoir, how else does Die Young with Me differ from the typical "sick lit" books that pervade YA lit today?

Oh man, that phrase makes me cringe, ha-ha. The thing that irks me about the massive amount of cancer-themed movies and books in pop culture is that they only focus on the melodrama. Maybe that’s because their authors haven’t experienced cancer treatments for themselves…or maybe it’s because they just aren’t brave enough to be real about how devastating the disease is, especially for a teenager.

Of course it’s dramatic, so I get it. Cancer is the perfect plot twist for a heavy, romantic storyline. But that’s as far as they take it, you know? They don’t talk about the horror of treatments, the stress on the families, the strain it puts on your mind and body – they only go as far as saying Billy likes Susie, Susie gets cancer, everyone cries, the end.

 So – hopefully – this book breaks that rose-tinted lense. I tried my best to be as candid as possible. The romance is there, sure, and the humor, and everything else you’d expect from a coming-of-age story. But I tried to write about my treatments, surgeries, and pain in a way to make the reader feel what it was really like – basically, if it doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable, I haven’t done my job.


Die Young with Me has a raw, confessional tone to it. Was writing it anything like the way you write music? 

Writing music and writing lit are similar in the sense that they are both very isolating. Both are done alone, in my bedroom with the door locked and my fat dogs asleep on the floor. I have to be by myself to create, and to really vibe out what I want to say. Otherwise, it’s one big jumble of. Of course, with music, collaboration comes later, but in it’s essence they are both very lonely tasks for me. But I’d rather be alone writing than with coworkers digging ditches, so I can’t bitch too much.


Most people don't consider Appalachia a hotbed of punk rockers. Is that a fair assumption or a misconception? How can/does punk rock speak to the youth in Appalachia? 

Oh it’s a fair assumption, all right. The sad truth is, Appalachia isn’t much of a hotbed of anything, besides having the most drug overdoses in the country. But I think, given the chance, punk rock can speak to young people anywhere! Punk rock is fast, pissed-off sounding music; and no one is more pissed off than teenagers. And there are lots of cusswords in punk rock songs – all teenagers love cusswords! Right? It is like a soundtrack to teenage angst, and I think it’s really therapeutic for kids in that way – at least, it was to me.


What song/album would readers be surprised is on your music player right now? 

I have a huge record collection, so it’s always a gamble. Right now, on the turntable in my bedroom, I’m spinning Teatro, by Willie Nelson. There is a song on the album that I keep seeing on this car commercial about a dog that looks exactly like my dog, Bootsie. So I’ve been singing it to her a lot lately when I get bored. Talk about a captive audience.


Since my blog is about food, books and travel, I always end author interviews with this question: what is your favorite food, book, and place you've ever traveled? 

Oh man! This is the hard! I’d have to say my favorite food is sushi. I eat it a disturbing amount. When my band is on tour, I’m always on the lookout, whether we’re in Albuquerque or Switzerland. It’s just simply the best invention ever. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different cities, states, and countries. Berlin might be the coolest place I’ve been so far. The history is amazing, the girls are beautiful, and there is an endless amount of trouble to get into. What else can you ask for? Unfortunately, favorite book is an impossible question to answer – it’s like asking what my favorite record is. So I’ll say the first thing that comes into my head – Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. It validated a lot of the fucked up thoughts I have about existence, when I was in great need of philosophical corroboration.

YES! I love that you think Berlin is the coolest place you've ever been. That is by far my favorite city on earth. Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed today. Everyone check out Rob's new memoir, in stores today. 


Die Young with Me by Rob Rufus
Published: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Touchstone
Pages: 400
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adults/Young Adults
Disclosure: ARC provided by publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-19-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

It's been a couple weeks since I've posted anything. Still tired. Still trying to navigate my new role as librarian and my old role as 8th grade English teacher. I'm hoping things will slow down... soon. Maybe?

Anyway, I just found out the fantastic news on Friday that I was selected to serve on ALAN's Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee! I am so excited I can't even. :)


Anyway, in the past couple weeks I reviewed:

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by JoAnne Lew-Vriethoff


I read:

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds always writes such wonderful, lovable characters. Ghost is no different.  

From Ghost to...

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Not that I need to convince you to read it because Raina Telgemeier is a national treasure, but oh my, this is Raina's best work yet. It's moody and quiet but also festive and joyful. It's also wildly page-turning. I loved the setting, the characters, and the emphasis on celebrating rather than mourning the dead, as the idea for Ghosts revolves around El Dia de los Muertos. But, I'm also beginning to recognize that this book has been flagged as problematic by cultural insiders and I am still processing that. To learn more about that discussion check out the post at Reading While White and also Laura Jimenez's blog post. I still love Raina and support her work -- and this book. But I also want to validate and give credence to those who want to discuss why they take issue with it.


I listened to:

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by RJ Palacio  
Three short stories written after the wildly popular book Wonder was published, share the perspectives of characters that were previously unheard from in the original story: Julian, Christopher, and Charlotte. An enjoyable listening experience.   


And I loved these picture books:

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
Mac Barnett's picture books are the perfect combination of funny and complex while still maintaining its childlike innocence and wonder. I read this book to first graders last week and they loved it. 



They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Travis Jonker said this book was created in the Caldecott lab. As much as I enjoyed the illustrations, I actually found the text more compelling. Especially the repetition. A good text to use when discussing perspective.


The Sword and the Stove by  Frank W. Dorner
A book that's humor is silly, sophisticated, and dark all rolled into one. Loved it!

 
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, illustrated by Chris K. Soenpiet
When a young girl tries to find something beautiful in her neighborhood, she decides to go out and make her own beauty. This would be a great book to pair with Last Stop on Market Street.  


Currently reading:

American Street by Ibi Zobo


Currently reading with my ears:

Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football by John U. Bacon
Because I live in Ann Arbor and my husband loves Michigan football -- and so I do by default. ;)  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Blog Tour: Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Beautiful is a picture book that reimagines what our society thinks beauty is. With magazines and internet images constantly being photoshopped and airbrushed, it is virtually impossible to live up to the standard of beauty our culture has upheld for women. 

In this book, beauty is not an outward appearance but an inner projection of your spirit and joy. It is about what you contribute to the world, not just your mere physical presence. Though the text might sound like an attempt at upholding the status quo on gender conformity, when paired with the illustrations, the text immediately takes on a whole new meaning.  If you know any friends or family members with little girls, this would be a great book to add to their shelves. I know I'm looking forward to sharing this book with my students. 

Follow the Beautiful blog tour stops here:
 

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Expected Publication: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
Audience: All ages
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher 

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-29-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Y'all. I am so tired. The first week of school was wonderful but draining. I feel like I will never catch up. I love being the librarian and teaching English too but I certainly haven't hit my stride yet and I feel like I'm  buried under the weight of a lot of minutia because I haven't figured out how to navigate this new role along with my old one. It's rewarding work but tiring.

I didn't finish any novel-length books last week, but I did read a lot of great picture books:

Grandfather Buffalo by Jim Arnosky
A beautiful, quiet book that reminds us to cherish those who are older and wiser. 

 
No One Saw: Ordinary Things Through the Eyes of an Artist by Bob Raczka
A great book to talk about perspective and how we see the world. I'm looking forward to sharing this one with my school's art teacher.


88 Instruments by Chris Barton, illustrated by Louis Thomas
A little boy goes into a music store with 88 different instruments and is told by his parents that he can only choose one. How on earth will he choose from so many? He'll just have to try each one ...and based on the one he chooses might explain my affection for this book. :) I also loved the rhythm and the word play of the text. It would certainly be a fun read aloud. 


The Wolves are Back by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor
This book tells the story of how the wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. It isn't flashy or exciting and yet it is still breathtaking.  


The Gentleman Bug by Julian Hector 
A lovely little story about a gentleman bug who fancies a lady bug who doesn't seem to notice he's alive.  

 
I Am the Mountain Mouse by Gianna Marino
Entertaining story about a little mouse who might be too brave for his own good. 


Toby by Hazel Mitchell  
Sweet story about a father and son who get a rescue dog that has trouble adjusting to his new home 


The Water Princess by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds  
Absolutely stunning. Even the text is beautifully illustrated. I could see this being a Caldecott contender.  


Currently reading: 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds



Currently reading with my ears:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness  
Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by RJ Palacio  

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-22-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Today is my first day back to school with students. I'm both excited and terrified. As many of you might already know, I will be the K-8 librarian at my school and also still teach my three 8th grade English classes that I've been teaching the past two years. I'm not terrified to share my love of books with the entire school. What I am terrified about is how I can possibly learn all 400+ students' names in a timely manner (I have a hard enough time with 50) and also that I'm not organized enough to work with such a wide age range of kids. I've been so stressed that I made myself sick last night. I'm sure everything will fall into place, but right now I just kind of want to have a few more weeks of summer. I'm not ready for the school year to begin.

Okay, enough of the pity party. I did have a great reading week, so I can at least celebrate that.


I reviewed:
 
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker


I finished reading:

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell   
This is such a powerful series of graphic memoirs. I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy.  


I finished reading with my ears:

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow  

I FINALLY FINISHED THE HAMILTON BIOGRAPHY! Boy does one ever need stamina to read this behemoth! I enjoyed the parts that I could clearly tell had inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton, but I had a hard time focusing on the rest of it. I still can't believe 1) Miranda considered this book vacation reading 2) That he immediately thought, "Oh, what a great hip hop album/musical this would make!" when he was reading it. 


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
This books is EVERYTHING. I'm so happy Candlewick sent me a copy before the first week of school because I WILL be sharing it with all of my students, K-8. Full review to come -- after I share it with my students, of course. 


If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Well, since the title describes exactly what this book is about, I will say that if you liked Tea Rex by Molly Idle and Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton, give this book a try. 


A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young
When Lucy orders a unicorn from an ad that declares "Unicorn, 25 Cents" she dreams of how beautiful and regal her new unicorn will be. What she expects and what she gets are two totally different things.


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead \
This book is the very definition of quiet beauty. It's not a book that will make you shout in glee at its cleverness or snap your fingers at the discovery of an aha! moment. Instead, it will be a book that lingers, like that of a fine wine. For that reason, this is one of those picture books that will perhaps appeal to adults more than kids, but I'll have to see if that prediction rings true after I read it to a group of students. 


Dear Dragon by Josh Funk, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo 
A human boy and a dragon become unexpected pen pals, but they don't realize how different they are when they're writing each other. I especially loved the illustrations that showed what each character was thinking as they were reading the other's letter. Could be a good discussion with kids about expectations and perceptions.


Currently reading:

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
I will read anything Jason Reynolds writes. I am only a few pages into this one and am already enjoying it.  


Currently reading with my ears:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
I am intrigued by the premise of this book but I don't know yet what to make of it. I am really enjoying the audiobook narrator though so he is keeping me focused whenever my mind keeps asking, 'What the heck is going on here?" :)
  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

Every Saturday, Goldie Simcha in apartment 5A makes her famous cholent. The tantalizing smell reaches the noses of all her neighbors and they join her for the Shabbat. One Saturday, however, the building residents notice there are no smells emanating from Goldie's apartment. When they realize that she has fallen ill and can't make her famous cholent, they organize an impromptu Shabbat dinner for their ailing neighbor.

When I picked up Chik Chak Shabbat, I'm ashamed to admit that I was fully expecting it to be one of those didactic picture books that teach kids about another faith. Boy was I wrong. What I love so much about Chik Chak Shabbat is that despite the Shabbat being a Jewish religious observance, this story emphasizes more about the importance of community and breaking bread with your neighbors rather than that of a specific religious observation. Goldie's neighbors are all diverse and clearly of other faiths and backgrounds, but they still join her for dinner every Saturday out of respect for her faith and traditions. If only more of the world operated this way: sharing, learning, and celebrating differences rather than fearing and condemning them. This is a beautiful book to share with kids and adults alike.


Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
Published: September 3, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
Audience: Primary
Disclosure: Paperback copy provided by publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound