Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-15-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.

I just started an amazing graduate class last week called Prizing Children's Literature, so you will probably notice that a lot of my reading in the coming weeks will revolve around award winners.


Last week I reviewed:

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
Definitely one to keep an eye on during award season next year.


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

Quest by Aaron Becker
While the story of Quest was harder to follow than that of Journey, the gorgeous art warrants several read-throughs for appreciation-sake alone. And reading it over and over again to admire the art will only make for greater understanding of the actual story. A brilliant move on Becker's part. 

 
Monster Party! by Annie Bach
Such a fun book! Loved the rhythm and the rhyme and despite the lack of subject-verb agreement throughout the entire book, (e.g., Monster prepare, Monster brush hair) it is absolutely delightful -- a book you'll no doubt want to read aloud to a classroom full of kids. 

 
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
No doubt we need to get MerryMakers on board with creating a Little Elliot plush doll. What a darling story and endearing illustrations! I'm not sure if this one is in contention for a Caldecott (though I think it should be) but I'm thinking it has a chance for a Geisel for sure. 



Still reading:

El Deafo by CeCe Bell 
Because I'm taking two graduate classes this semester, my personal reading has kind of fallen by the wayside. But it's not for lack of desire. I am absolutely LOVING this graphic memoir


Currently reading with my ears:

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
I abandoned this book once before but alas, it's required reading for my Prizing Children's Literature class. If I'm being brutally honest here, I can find nothing to like about this book. It is painful to listen to. It will surely make for a lively discussion in class tonight, that's for sure! 


On my teaching blog last week:
Celebrating authors as mentors and changes of heart

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers

the space between you and me
is longer than forever

you are the sky and clouds and air
your feet are swift as sunlight

stretching across the skyline
like the daylong sun over the horizon




And with those first few lines of Firebird by Misty Copeland, the tears were already streaming down my face. I know I'm a crier by nature so perhaps the fact that I was tearing up by page one doesn't hold much weight, but I generally don't cry at the beginning of a book. That was an unexpected turn of events, I must say.

So what is it that affected me so deeply? It wasn't just the words, but seeing them paired with Christopher Myers' emotional, sweeping illustrations, in addition to seeing the symbolism of the sparse text that truly moved me. 
Firebird
 
Firebird is the story of a young girl of color who aspires to be a ballerina someday, but sees only the obstacles before her. 

me? I am gray as rain
heavy as naptime, low as a storm pressing on rooftops

You get the sense that Copeland is writing this story not only to all the African American girls who dream of being dancers, but also looking back at herself when she first started out. It is a book that is sure to win awards -- most likely a Coretta Scott King. But will the Caldecott committee give it some love as well? I think it certainly deserves it. Especially given how emotionally stirring the artwork is when paired with the text.

This would be a wonderful gift for any aspiring dancer.


Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
Published: September 4, 2014
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary, Middle Grade
Disclosure: Book requested for review from 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 8, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-8-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.


Last week I finished reading:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 
Keep the post-it flags nearby as you read. Especially at the beginning and end. Simply beautiful. 


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols
Loved this follow-up to Maple. I have a longer review scheduled closer to its November 4th release date.


Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I've Ever Been by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp
I adore Marcel the Shell and was elated to discover he had a new picture book. I just wish he had a new video too because I love hearing his diminutive voice. In the meantime, this was a much better, friendlier layout than the first book. Look for this one to hit bookstores on October 21st. 


Abandoned audiobooks:

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
It seems every time I try to read a book that revolves around gaming, I have the best intentions of thinking I'll like it, or at the very least finish it, but gaming just doesn't do it for me and I need to be OK with that.  Attempting to listen to this though gave me at least somewhat of an idea of the students it might be a good fit for. 


Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater  
Strange that Cole St. Clair was the reason I eventually enjoyed this series in the first place, and now an entire book about him has left me cold. I just wasn't feeling as agog about him as I did in Linger. I made it to disc 3 of the audiobook by the time I realized I don't really care about him the way I did in books 2 and 3.  


Currently reading:

El Deafo by CeCe Bell 
Even though I don't totally get why the characters are rabbits, I also don't question it because it's adorable. And even more adorable that 4-year-old CeCe never takes off her bathing suit. What an igneous way for CeCe Bell to get us to fall in love with our superhero protagonist. I almost put this book close to the bottom of my TBR pile until I saw the book trailer. At that moment I knew I needed to read it. I'm not that far into the book yet, but I already know that this is the kind of book that makes me upset that ALA hasn't gotten with the times and instituted a graphic novel award yet because if they did, I am certain El Deafo would win.



Currently reading with my ears: 

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-1-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.

Happy Labor Day everyone! It's funny, at first when I was hired to teach at my new school I was kind of bummed that we started school before Labor Day, but now that we've got a couple weeks under our belts, I realized that I kind of like starting before Labor Day because back when I worked at a school that started the day after Labor Day, I was always working getting my classroom ready during this holiday weekend. This year, I can actually sit back and enjoy it because my classroom has been ready for a while now.

Despite how busy I've been with school, I managed to have a pretty good reading week.

I reviewed:

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix


Picture books:

I'm My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein
What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom


Graphic novels:
 
Kids Are Weird: And Other Observations from Parenthood by Jeffrey Brown
Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier



I finished reading with my ears:

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman 


Currently reading:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 


Currently reading with my ears:

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff


Last week I also interviewed author Lenore Appelhans on the release date of her new book, Chasing Before.




On my teaching blog, I wrote: 
Celebrate the unexpected
Looking on the bright side of life

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Publisher Summary:
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjërring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking. 

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer for a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of night, they'll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.


A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting,
Horrorstör is designed to retain its luster and natural appearance for a lifetime of use. Pleasingly proportioned with generous French flaps and a softcover binding, Horrorstör delivers the psychological terror you need in the elegant package you deserve. 



I am not generally a fan of the horror genre, but I'll tell you what I am a fan of: subverting and satirizing genres I don't like. Horrorstör does just that. It is a traditional horror novel in plot, but the setting of a contemporary IKEA-esque furniture store along with the entire exposition that takes jabs at its corporate culture is anything but traditional. Another aspect of the story that subverts that traditional horror genre is, spoiler alert (highlight the white space if you want to read the spoiler): the black guy in the story doesn't die!

What people will most likely notice in terms of Horrorstör's uniqueness and subverting of the horror genre is its packaging. Designed to look like a furniture store catalog, right down to the chapter titles named for pieces of Orsk furniture that sound very similar to the names of items you would find in an IKEA catalog, you can't help but notice Horrorstör on a bookstore or library bookshelf.

Once the story got to the action of the horror tale, however, I wasn't so interested because as I said, I'm generally not a fan of the horror genre. But all that led up to the scary stuff was really fun and original and I applaud Grady Hendrix for his ingenuity. It takes something completely new and "never before seen" for me to sit up and take notice of a book from a genre I normally care nothing about. Horrorstör did that in spades.



Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Expected Publication: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Horror
Audience: Adult/Young Adult
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.   

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Author Interview: Lenore Appelhans

Lenore Appelhans's second book, CHASING BEFORE, is out in stores today. It is the sequel to her amazing debut novel, THE MEMORY OF AFTER.

I interviewed Lenore prior to her first book coming out (originally titled Level 2) so I thought it was only appropriate to catch up with her now that book two is out in stores.

About Chasing Before:
“I’m a ticking time bomb. And one day soon everything is going to explode.”

Felicia and Neil have arrived in Level 3 and are supposed to prepare for their divine vocations.

But during Felicia and Neil's training period, a series of explosions rips through Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories from the Morati. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can't stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life – even if it means putting at risk everything she’s worked for in her death.



Foodie Bibliophile: For readers who might not know the story, can you explain the reason for the title change of your first novel?

Lenore Appelhans: My understanding is that the “2” in LEVEL 2 made people think that it was a
sequel and that the first book must be called LEVEL 1. S&S decided a new title, without a number, would work better for the paperback. THE MEMORY OF AFTER was a title that both the publisher and I came up independently, so great minds!


FB: How did THE MEMORY OF AFTER morph and change once you knew you would be writing a sequel?

LA: I knew very early that there would be two books. In my original outline of LEVEL 2, there were a bunch of twists at the end, and my editor suggested moving some of those revelations to book 2. One of the big twists sets up the plot of CHASING BEFORE, so it was really pretty perfect!


FB: You share your playlists and favorite artists with readers. How does music influence your writing?

LA: Pieces of music, much like specific scents, have the power to jumpstart your memory and take you back to special moments in your life. When I’m working on a book, I’ll often put my iTunes on shuffle or listen to random stuff on Spotify. Sometimes a lyric or a certain atmosphere will catch my ear that I think works for a scene or a character and I’ll put it on the playlist. Then, before I work on that scene or a scene with that character, I’ll listen to the song or songs to get me in the right frame of mind for that writing session. 

Untitled 
FB: Around the time edits were due for CHASING BEFORE, you became life-threateningly ill and spent weeks in the hospital. How did the fact that you have written two books set in an imagined afterlife put that experience in perspective for you?

LA: I didn’t know until after I was already out of danger just how close to death I had been (minutes to hours apparently). It certainly struck me as freaky that I have afterlife books. And this is morbid, but I actually said to my husband, “well, if I had died, then my publicist could have spun that into a good story to sell the books.”

Having a near death experience certainly put so much in perspective for me. I don’t worry as much anymore. I’ve been through the fire, and emerged fearless in a way. I think Felicia goes through a similar transformation in the series.


FB: What's next for you?

LA: I just started my first semester of the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It has been a transformative experience so far and I am looking forward to digging deeper than I ever thought I could go. I am working on a contemporary YA with a possible magical realism element and am in the process of really getting to know the main character.


Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today Lenore! I wish you much success with your second book!

Read my review of CHASING BEFORE

Buy the books in The Memory Chronicles series:

If you buy these books 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 25, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-25-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.


Well we're off and running! Last week was the first week of the new school year and so far  everything is great. I wrote about my week over on my teaching blog.


On this blog, I also wrote about two awesome events that happened at Nicola's Books last week:
90 Second Reads with Gae Polisner, Bethany Neal, Lara Zielin, and Carrie Harris
Kathleen Flinn talks about her new book, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good


Last week I reviewed:

After the End by Amy Plum


Since I've been so busy with the start of the school year, the only thing I finished reading last week was:

Flight School by Lita Judge
What a delightful story about a little penguin who feels in his soul that he's meant to fly. The illustrations in this book are something special. I'm putting this on my Caldecott short list. 


Currently reading:

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown 


Still reading with my ears:

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman