Monday, May 27, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 5-27-13

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

Last week I wasn't very successful in the finishing of books department. I finished:

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I really enjoyed Eleanor and Park but I think what's preventing me from loving it is that the last third of the book was not what I was expecting and that kind of skewed my feelings a bit. Still, I loved both Eleanor and Park as characters and I loved them together as a couple. I just wasn't expecting it to be so sad. At the same time, it's also "real life." People who complain that books and movies end too perfectly can't say that about this book, so in a way, I kind of like that about it too.

Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Gerard DuBois
Interesting bio on the most famous mime, Marcel Marceau. I had heard his name before and knew that he was a mime, but I didn't know much else. I found his background about his life during World War II quite fascinating.

Currently reading:

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It Or Not" Ripley by Neal Thompson 
Most of the biographies I read are picture books so this is a rather slow change of pace for me. I'm only on page 44 at the moment but so far it's an interesting book.  

Currently listening:

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers 
I don't know. This is a little too high fantasy for me. The only reason I'm still listening is because I find the narrator's voice pleasant to listen to. I might end up abandoning it.

Posted on the blog last week:
Blog Tour and Character Introduction: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle
Final day for my No Strings Attached, Fall of Night giveaway

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blog Tour and Character Introduction: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy

I am so excited to be the final stop on The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle blog tour! The first book in the series, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, is on my list of top 5 favorite audiobooks of all time. Plus, Christopher Healy was gracious enough to Skype with my class this year. So to say I have an affection for this series would be an understatement. The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle is just as funny as the first book, with the added bonus of getting to know more about the princesses who rejected the princes charming in the first book.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don't you? They're the Princes Charming who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses - Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose - to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.

But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening - even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination - it's all in a day's work for the League of Princes.

Today, the character I am pleased (?) to present to you is:

Stanislav Flimsham
Occupation: Circus Owner, Ringmaster, and Consummate Showman

Affiliation: The Flimsham Brothers Circus

Kingdom of Origin: Svendlandia

Current Residence: Wherever the show takes him (a.k.a. a cushy luxury wagon in the circus caravan)

Other Flimsham Brothers: Jaques, Dmitri, Rufus, Armando

Longtime Foes: Wattler and Staldorf (two unreasonably hard-to-please audience members with a penchant for loud heckling)

Likes: Glitz! Glamour! Spectacle!

Dislikes: Humid days (they flatten his pompadour), “crying on the inside” clowns, anything monochromatic

Signature Move: The Make-‘em-Gape Rolling Cannonball Entrance

Oh, and just in case you're not convinced that you want to read The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle, then watch the hilarious book trailer. I think that will change your mind:

Storming the Castle Giveaway: The first THREE entrants today will receive signed copies of THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE and EVERYONE who enters is eligible to win a $200 gift card to the bookstore of his or her choice. (U.S. entrants only please!) You will need this SECRET CODE to enter the giveaway: Prince Charming. Enter here.

Twitter Chat: Join New York Times Bestselling author Marissa Meyer and Christopher Healy for a Twitter Chat on fractured fairy tales on Monday, June 3rd at 9pm ET. Hashtag #talesretold. There will be giveaways!

Also check out all the previous stops on the blog tour:
Monday, May 6th - Cari Blogs hosts Prince Liam
Tuesday, May 7th - Ms Yingling Reads hosts The Gray Phantom
Wednesday, May 8th -Bookalicious hosts Rapunzel
Thursday, May 9th - Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia hosts Deeb Rauber
Friday, May 10th - Kid Lit Frenzy hosts Prince Frederic
Saturday, May 11th - The Write Path hosts Cap'n Gabberman
Sunday, May 12th - Flashlight Reader hosts Mister Troll
Monday, May 13th - Mundie Kids hosts Snow White
Tuesday, May 14th - Candace's Book Blog hosts Ella
Wednesday, May 15th - Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers hosts Little Taylor
Thursday, May 16th - Novel Novice hosts Ruffian the Blue
Friday, May 17th - The Hiding Spot hosts Lord Rundark
Saturday, May 18th - Mod Podge Books hosts Lila
Sunday, May 19th - Poisoned Rationality hosts Wrathgar
Monday, May 20th - Buried in Books hosts Vero
Tuesday, May 21st - Small Review hosts Frank
Wednesday, May 22nd - Book Rat hosts Briar Rose
Thursday, May 23rd - Alison's Book Marks hosts Prince Gustav
Friday, May 24th - There's a Book hosts Prince Duncan
Saturday May 25th - Bunbury in the Stacks hosts Madu

Monday, May 20, 2013

No Strings Attached Giveaway Hop: win Fall of Night by Rachel Caine

For this blog hop I am giving away a hardcover copy of:

Fall of Night by Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #14
Published: May 7, 2013
Publisher: New American Library
Pages: 341
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Book provided by publisher

Goodreads summary:
Claire never thought she’d leave Morganville, but when she gets accepted into the graduate program at MIT, she can’t pass up the opportunity. Saying good-bye to her friends is bittersweet, especially since things are still raw and unsettled between Claire and her boyfriend, Shane.

Her new life at MIT is scary and exciting, but Morganville is never really far from Claire’s mind. Enrolled in a special advanced study program with Professor Irene Anderson, a former Morganville native, Claire is able to work on her machine, which is designed to cancel the mental abilities of vampires.

But when she begins testing her machine on live subjects, things quickly spiral out of control, and Claire starts to wonder whether leaving Morganville was the last mistake she’ll ever make...

Giveaway terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address.
One winner will be chosen
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to visit all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:

It's Monday! What are you reading? 5-20-13

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

I feel very accomplished because last week I finished two novel-length books:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
I really liked this story, I just wanted to know the characters more. I felt like the novel ended just as I was getting to know them.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
I adored everything about this foodie graphic memoir. I will be writing a longer review of this one very soon!

Picture books I read and enjoyed last week:
Because You Are My Teacher by Sherry North, illustrated by Marcellus Hall
A beautiful extended metaphor for what all classrooms should be: a vessel for inquiry and exploration. 

Gandhi: The March to the Sea by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by  Thomas Gonzalez
A great supplemental text to use when studying about the Salt March. This book is way more interesting than a dry, voiceless social studies textbook. 

Last week I reviewed:

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

The Chew: Food. Life. Fun

Currently reading:

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Currently (still) listening:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell   
Until I Die by Amy Plum   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

What's a boy to do when you have to "show and tell" a member of your family at school and the only person available is your cantankerous old Grandpa Frank?

In The Frank Show, our young, unnamed narrator has a dilemma. He hears about all the cool, interesting family members his classmates are bringing in for show-and-tell, but all he can think about when having to talk about his grandpa is his mile-long list of complaints about the younger generation. This show-and-tell is bound to be a disaster... or is it?

The Frank Show is a wonderful book for kids and teens alike that is full of humor while also tugging on your heartstrings. Everyone has members of their family whom they often say, "It's just grandpa" or "It's just mom" and fail to appreciate all of the wonderful pieces of them that have been overlooked by their singular view of that person. What David Mackintosh has set out to accomplish in this story is to help kids see past their myopic view of their family members and dig deeper into who they are as people, not just as mom, dad, or grandpa.

This could be a fantastic mentor text to use when discussing perspective. There are also some really great snatches of text to discuss in finding ways to effectively inject humor into a piece of writing. I particularly love the rhythm and flow of this passage, which, in turn, results in a great comedic turn of phrase:
Kristian's dad is a comedian on TV who makes everyone laugh. Paolo's mom is Italian and knows all about Italian and can speak Italian. Fay's cousin tells you if your bag's too heavy at the airport. Donny's dad works in a potato chip factory. Saul's aunt swam the English channel. Hugo's stepbrother has a sports car with an eight-ball gearshift knob.

My grandpa's arm hurts when it's about to rain.

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh
Published: August 1, 2012
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade
Disclosure: Library Copy

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cookbook Review: The Chew: Food. Life. Fun.

When The Chew premiered on ABC a year and a half ago, it quickly became my favorite food-centric show. I loved the chemistry of the five hosts and have always adored the idea of a talk show revolving solely around food. Before The Chew premiered, Rachael Ray was my favorite food-related talk show, and though I still love Rachael (yes, I know this is a blasphemous statement for foodies, but I don't care), I am slowly tiring of her.

This cookbook features some of the best recipes from the first season of The Chew, but it also includes interviews with all the hosts: Michael Symon, Daphne Oz, Clinton Kelly, Carla Hall, and Mario Batali.  While I wouldn't buy this book solely for the recipes since they are after all online, I would buy it for the interviews, and even then, I'd be more likely just to check it out from the library (which is what I did).

My favorite section of the cookbook was Clinton Kelly's entertaining tips, not because of their creativity and practicality, but the sheer humor of his suggestion that party hosts put marbles in their medicine cabinet to hear who's the first person to go snooping around your bathroom when they all crash to their floor as the cabinet door is opened.

The recipes in this book are organized seasonally, and while I haven't tried any of them yet, I am particularly excited to try Michael Symon's spaghetti squash fritters in the fall.

If you're a fan of The Chew, not much new is revealed in this book, though the interviews are enjoyable to read. If you've never watched The Chew before, the book is put together in quite an attractive, easy-to-read format and thus the recipes might motivate you to give the show a go.

The Chew: Food. Life. Fun, edited by Peter Kaminsky and Ashley Archer
Published: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 231
Genre: Cooking/Lifestyle
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Library Copy

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

In the rock-paper-scissors of life, love is rock.

As if Jill MacSweeney's life isn't complicated enough dealing with her grief from the unexpected death of her father, now her fifty-something mother wants to adopt a baby to fill the void left in her heart by her deceased husband. Jill's mom Robin decides to take the open adoption route and soon 18-year-old Mandy Kalinowski from Omaha, Nebraska is staying with them, ready to give up her baby to Robin in just a few weeks. Jill is less than thrilled, and she does very little to hide her disdain from her mother or from Mandy.

Told in alternating points-of-view between Jill and Mandy, readers find out very quickly that there is a great deal to dislike about both girls: Jill's iciness and tactlessness, and Mandy's frequent and numerous lies.

As the story progresses however, and the girls' stories begin to intertwine, both become more empathetic to the reader.

This is one of those books you end up liking more than you think you will. When I first started listening to the audio, I wasn't sure what to expect, but by the end, I found myself shedding some tears. Sara Zarr subtly and seamlessly finds a way to make you eke out a place in your heart for these characters you were certain you would continue to dislike throughout the entire novel.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Published: October 18, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 347
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Library Copy

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 5-13-13

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

I only read one picture book last week and it was:

Tyler Makes Pancakes by Tyler Florence, illustrated by Craig Frazier

Last week I finished listening: 

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr 
Review to come tomorrow.

Last week I reviewed:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz 

Currently reading: 

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Currently listening:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 

Other posts from last week:
Recap of A.S. King event in Ann Arbor
I have been quoted!
On my other blog, Use Your Outside Voice: A Beautiful Noise 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I have been quoted!

On Friday Lenore Appelhans, author of Level 2 now renamed The Memory of After, sent me an email with this picture in it:
What's that you ask? Well, that is the inside of the book jacket for the Taiwanese version of Level 2, and in it, I have been quoted! I'm the third from the bottom.
I have no idea what that says because I don't read Taiwanese, but the fact that I have been quoted in an actual book - a book that I absolutely love and adore, just blows me away. Is that something I can put on my resume? "Blurbed in the Taiwanese version of Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans." I like it. It has a nice ring to it. :)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Both Aristotle and Dante never knew what friendship was until they found each other. As both self-proclaimed loners, their relationship begins the day Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim at the local pool. From that moment on, the two boys share a bond that is almost palpable, and even distance, family complications, and near tragedy cannot break it.

Sparse, gentle, beautiful.  Those are the best words I can use to describe Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

 Ari, Dante, and the entire cast of characters in this novel are some of the most loveable and memorable in all of literature. There is no forced conflict here. This is a novel where the plot doesn't move the story, the characters do, and that's just how I like my novels. 

I could draw this out and make this a longer review, but I feel like I'd be doing the book's sparse, straightforward style a disservice by droning on about it. It's something you just need to experience for yourself. Its multiple 2013 ALA awards, including a coveted Printz honor, are testament enough to its timelessness. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 359
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Library Copy

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A.S. King visits Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor

Last night I had the privilege of attending the A.S. King event at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor with a group of teacher and writer friends. It was by far one of the best author events I've ever attended. Amy is not only thought-provoking and entertaining, but she is downright hilarious too. She had our group of seven in the front row laughing so hard we were crying and snorting at the same time.

A.S. King snippets of awesome:
  • Amy chose her author name because it spells out "asking" and also because she wants her books to be viewed as gender-neutral.
  • She wrote her first four novels on a Swedish typewriter that had four a's on it.
  • Every book she writes has a prologue out of sheer stubbornness. To mess with the people she's encountered who insist on never reading a book's prologue, Amy decided that every book she writes WILL have a prologue and unless you read it, you will be totally confused.
  • Every book she has written has pieces of her life in them. Most recently, with Ask the Passengers, she does send love to the people up in planes.
  • If you ever get a chance to meet Amy in person, ask her to tell the story of when she received the phone call telling her she had won a Printz honor. It's by far the best award phone call story I've heard from an author, like something out of a movie. 
  • Based on the prologue that she read to us last night, Amy's newest book, Reality Boy, set to come out in October, is a "Go directly to the top of the TBR pile" kind of book. It's about the aftermath of being a child of reality TV and the implications that has on the main character's life as he grows up. Talk about thought-provoking and a commentary on our fame-obsessed society!
Amy reads from Ask the Passengers and Reality Boy

 Brian Wyzlic, Beth Neal, Stephanie Feldstein, A.S. King, Lindsay Grady, Sarah Andersen, Katelynn Grady, and me

It was such an awesome event that we stayed until the staff at Nicola's had to practically kick us out so they could close.

In between meeting Amy and practically getting kicked out of Nicola's, we did have another moment of awesome: an impromptu story time with Brian Wyzlic reading Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. We were pretty much rolling on the ground from laughing so hard. Brian is quite an expressive reader. I wish I had recorded it instead of taken pictures.

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 5-6-13

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

Books I read and reviewed last week:

Because I'm Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa, illustrated by Dan Santat
Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Currently Reading:

 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Currently Listening:
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Until I Die by Amy Plum  

Also posted last week:
This is Just to Say - 6th graders write false apology poems
Frita Batidos - a favorite food destination in Ann Arbor

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Two Picture Book Reviews: Ellington Was Not a Street and Because I'm Your Dad

I read two picture books this week that I absolutely adored.

Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Based on Shange's poem "Mood Indigo", Ellington Was Not a Street is a gorgeous picture book full of moments from Shange's childhood when the influential African American minds such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and W.E.B. DuBois, gathered at her house.

 There are many opportunities for students to make inferences and build background knowledge in this book. Scaffolding could be built with older students by sharing just the poem first, then showing them the poem with Kadir Nelson's stunning illustrations, and finally, reading the author's note at the end which lists and explains all of the men mentioned in the poem.

The meaning of "Mood Indigo" and even the picture book itself won't completely make sense for kids without background into who the men were that are mentioned in the poem.

Because I'm Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa, illustrated by Dan Santat

I'm already thinking of the two ways I can use this book as a mentor text:

1) Mother's Day is coming up next weekend. Have students write "Because you're my mom" pieces.

2) This is an example of an entire book using one of Jeff Anderson's infamous AAAWWUBBIS (As, Although, After, When, While, Unless, Before, Because, If, Since) introductory elements and therefore can be used to show students how they can correctly use because at the beginning of a sentence so that it's not a fragment.

But let's also look at how downright adorable this book is. After reading it, I have come to the conclusion that Ahmet Zappa is the dad every kid deserves to have. He clearly adores his daughter Halo and it shows through in this tearfully sentimental and also chuckle-inducing story. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Frita Batidos - a favorite food destination in Ann Arbor

When beloved chef Eve Aronoff closed the doors of her eponymous restaurant eve in 2011, foodies all over Ann Arbor and the metro Detroit area grieved. But while Aronoff did not replace eve with another fine dining establishment, she did begin a new project in late 2010, opening a casual dining establishment called Frita Batidos.

The food at Frita Batidos is Cuban-inspired, but Aronoff will be the first to tell you that it is not traditional Cuban food. The name Frita Batidos comes from two staples of Cuban street food: A frita, which is a burger traditionally made from chorizo and topped with shoestring french fries and a brioche-type bun, and a batido, which is a tropical milkshake made with fresh fruit and sweetened milk.

My husband and I have eaten at Frita Batidos three times now since its opening in 2010 and each time has been a new, delightful adventure. When you walk in, you a greeted by a sleek, white space. You place your order at a counter and then seat yourself at one of the communal picnic tables or a bar stool against the wall.

While you wait for your order, customers can entertain themselves by playing dominoes left on the picnic tables.

I am highly entertained that my ginger lime juice came in a bag

Once your meal does come, however, it will be a no-brainer to push the dominoes aside in favor of some  mouth-watering Cuban-style street eats.
A beef frita topped with a sunny side up egg and a side of coconut ginger rice

garlic cilantro fries with a snack of black beans, ginger coconut rice, melted muenster, and cilantro lime salsa

If you are a fan of Cuban food like I am and you're in the area, I highly recommend a stop inside for fun, casual meal.