Monday, January 27, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 1-27-14

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?

Happy ALA Youth Media Awards Day! I can't wait to find out who wins! I will definitely be glued to my computer watching the webcast that's for sure.

I was an extremely productive blogger last week. I posted six out of the seven days. That hasn't happened in a long time.

Here's what I posted:
Review of Uptown by Bryan Collier
Review of Michel Symon's 5 in 5

Recap of Ruta Sepetys's visit to Ann Arbor
Thinking about the Newbery, Caldecott, et al.
Author guest post: Rebecca Behrens

Last week I finished listening to:

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood

Some picture books I enjoyed last week:

Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton 
I was worried that arms on a chicken would freak me out, but Henny was surprisingly endearing. 

The Monstore by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks
Cute story of a big brother trying to scare his little sister, only to discover that the monsters he buys would rather hang with her. Loved the illustrations.

Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit by Kadir Nelson
I wish Nelson had created this book in his signature style of painting, but I understand why he did it in sketches instead: coming off the high of the historic 2008 election, Simon & Schuster wanted to take advantage of that excitement and put out a book quickly. The book is still a powerful testament to that historic moment in our country's history, but I think it would have been even more powerful if Nelson had created paintings for these images instead. 

Find Momo by Andrew Knapp 
More a photography book than a traditional picture book, Find Momo appeals to kids and adults alike. It's like Where's Waldo but better - because it's real photographs and the subject is a dog. What's not to love? If you love Find Momo, then follow Andrew Knapp on Instagram, which is where Find Momo actually originated as a hashtag.

Currently (still) reading:

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer 

Currently listening:

Dark Life by Kat Falls 
 Wow! Kat Falls is sure a master of world-building! So far I'm loving this one. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Uptown by Bryan Collier

Uptown is jazz. My grandfather says, "Jazz and Harlem are a perfect match - just like chicken and waffles."

What a beautiful love song to Harlem. Collier shows his young audiences that Harlem isn't just a cultural treasure for New York City and for our country, but it's also a happening place to live.

I had the privilege of hearing Collier read this book aloud recently when he visited the Ann Arbor District Library for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and immediately knew I needed to own it. I was sad that Literati Bookstore, who was selling some of Collier's books at the event, didn't have this one for sale because Collier's spirited, rhythmical telling of all the things he loves about his neighborhood perfectly evokes the spirit of Harlem. I would have loved to get this one signed. Uptown a great book to pair with Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean and Christopher Myers, as well as the poetry of Langston Hughes.

I am fascinated with Harlem - the history, the great art, literature, and music. And this book is a great entry point to start discussing with kids what is so special about it. And of course, the reason I picked the quote from the book at the beginning of this review is because, well, Harlem is the first place I ever had chicken and waffles last summer and it has been a beautiful friendship ever since. 

Uptown by Bryan Collier
Published: June 1, 2000
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade
Disclosure: Purchased Copy 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Michael Symon's 5 in 5

It is no secret here on the blog that I adore Michael Symon. I've reviewed his restaurants and his cookbooks. His food philosophy just meshes so well with mine

As one of the cohosts of The Chew, Symon does a regular segment called 5 in 5 where he takes 5 ingredients and is challenged to make a delicious meal in just 5 minutes. Thus the concept of this new cookbook was born.

I've made a couple meals from this cookbook and while they always take longer than 5 minutes (I mean, who is lucky enough to have prep cooks to get all your mise en place ready for you?), Symon even cops to that in the book saying, "The key is to relax, have fun, and cook more. If it takes you 6, 7, or even - gasp! - 8 minutes, so be it. In the end, you will still end up with a delicious, made-from-scratch meal that costs less than fast food, tastes a million times better, and is healthier for you and your family."

You'll also notice in the cookbook that sometimes recipes go beyond 5 ingredients. Again, 5 in 5 is more of a guideline than a rigid rule. 

The recipes in this cookbook are all mouth-watering and full of flavor. Probably my favorite dish I've made so far is the breaded pork loin with apple salad because, as with almost all of Symon's recipes, the key is to create a balance of flavors and textures. Instead of pairing the meat with a heavy, starchy root veg as most Americans tend to do, Symon always prepares his sides with something bright, acidic, and/or crunchy.

The draw of 5 in 5 is certainly the idea of making dinner with little time and few ingredients, but Symon has gone beyond making dinner work, he also makes it delicious.

Breaded Pork Loin with Apple and Parsley Salad
(Adapted from Michael Symon's 5 in 5)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
4 (6-oz) pieces pork loin, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 granny smith apples, cut into matchsticks (I used honeycrisp)
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

1) Put the flour in a shallow bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Put the eggs in another shallow bowl and beat them lightly. Put the panko in a third shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.

2) Put large skillet over medium-high heat.

3) Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper. Working with one piece of meat at a time, dredge the pork in the flour, coating both sides. Shake off excess then dip the pork into the beaten eggs and then the panko.

4) Add olive oil to preheated olive oil to pan and cook pork, about 2 minutes per side.

5) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, vinegar, EVOO, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the apples, parsley, and scallions then toss to combine. (I recommend making the dressing in a separate bowl because I found that the proportions made too much dressing for the amount of apples, parsley, and scallions).

6) Put pork on plates and top with apple salad. I also served mine with a little Italian farro for some nuttiness.

Michael Symon's 5 in 5 
Published: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Pages: 224
Genre: Cookery
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Purchased Copy

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads welcomes Ruta Sepetys

Every year the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti district libraries choose one book for a program they call Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads. The purpose of choosing one book is "to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book."

This year the committee chose Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray, which if you know me at all, you know how much I adored this book. And not only did I love it, but despite the fact that historical fiction is a hard sell to students, this book got passed around like a hot potato last year in my classroom (and I'm sure it would this year too if I had a classroom). Kids couldn't read it fast enough to pass it off to the next reader. It was never on my shelf.

I heard Ruta speak in 2012 when Between Shades of Gray won the Amelia Elizabeth Walden honor at the ALAN conference at NCTE in Las Vegas. Her speech moved me to tears then as it did on Tuesday night when she addressed a full auditorium at Washtenaw Community College for almost two hours, talking about how the book came to be, and what it has meant to readers all over the world.

Ruta talked about some of the difficulties she had researching the book and all the emotions that
came along with it, how the voice of one woman she interviewed, Irena, came back to haunt her as her agent was looking for a publisher. One publisher passed on the book because they said, "Well surely if this really happened someone else would have already written about it." Irena's words suddenly rang in her ears: "Ruta, this book will never be published. History has forgotten us."

As Ruta talked about the difficulty of the process of interviewing survivors, eventually she realized she needed to stop asking questions and just ask, "What would you like to share with me?" One man said to her, "I have seen hell and it is white." That's when she discovered she would never get   responses that telling by asking specific questions and just had to let them tell their stories.

Other important takeaways from Ruta's talk:
  • "I wrote the book, but it's not my story." Meaning, this story belongs to history and to the people of Lithuania.
  • " Together, we're adding a chapter to history books."
  • "History divided us, but we're united through reading." Referring to the fact that this book has helped bring conversations among cultures that might not have ever happened before.
  • Good fiction has us ask questions but doesn't force answers.

The people in attendance asked such wonderful, thought-provoking questions, such as the man who wanted to know if the book, which is published in 30 languages and 46 countries, is published in Russian. It is not. Rather telling, don't you think?

I know I tend to say this at the end of every author event recap, but I always mean it: if you ever have a chance to hear Ruta speak, please do it. She is a passionate, dynamic speaker who will get you thinking about reading and history in new ways. Despite the fact the Between Shades of Gray is a work of fiction, it has helped bring an era of history out of the dark and into our consciousness.

Read my review of Between Shades of Gray.

Watch Ruta's heartfelt interview:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thinking about the Newbery, Caldecott, et al.

Monday January 27th the ALA Youth Media Award winners will be announced. I don't know about you, but I certainly plan to watch the webcast.

I wanted to write a post about my predictions before the event on the off chance some of my predictions might come true. I guess I should call them more wishes than predictions since I am far from an expert in what award committees might choose.

Caldecott prediction:

Journey by Aaron Becker
Out of all my predictions, I think this book has the greatest chance of winning. It certainly has the most buzz, and I think the unusual yet familiar premise has allowed readers to embrace it so willingly.

Here is a list of other books I think have a chance:

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline 
Locomotive by Brian Floca

Moonday by Adam Rex
The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

I actually have quite a lengthy list of other possibilities but I'm just going to leave it at these five.

Newbery Prediction:

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
This is the book I would most love to see win for the simple fact that I think Anne Ursu is a beautiful representative of all that is good and kind in a children's book author, and I just really want it for her.

A couple other predictions/wishes:

 Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Every Day After by Laura Golden

I could also see The Real Boy or Counting By 7s winning a Schneider Family Book Award as well.

Printz Wish/Prediction:

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
This is my emotional favorite to win for the simple fact that I love Ruta Sepetys's writing. I was worried after her emotional powerhouse Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy would disappoint, but it certainly did not.

Other books I hope might win:

Reality Boy by A.S. King
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Coretta Scott King Predictions:

Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
Both of these books are beautiful enough to be Caldecott material, but I will be shocked if one or both doesn't walk away with a Coretta Scott King nod.

A book I have no idea what award it might win, but I still hope it will win one:
Bluffton by Matt Phelan
Graphic novels are tricky. I could certainly see how it could win a Caldecott award (though with such a strong field of picture books this year, I have a feeling the committee won't consider a graphic novel) but could it also be Newbery material too? I have no idea. Which is why I'm putting it down here by itself and just hoping it will win something.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Author guest post: Rebecca Behrens

I am thrilled to have debut author Rebecca Behrens here on the blog for a guest post about her new middle grade book, When Audrey Met Alice.

First Daughter Audrey Rhodes is convinced that living in the White House is like being permanently grounded. Except with better security. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?

After the Secret Service cancels the party she'd spent forever planning, Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless--until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. Alice was a White House wild child, and her diary tells all about her outrageous turn-of-the-century exploits, like shocking State visitors with her pet snake and racking up speeding tickets in her runabout. Audrey starts asking herself: What Would Alice Do? The former First Daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun . . . and get her into more trouble than she can handle!

Rebecca is here today to talk about the audacious Alice Roosevelt, the inspiration for When Audrey Met Alice. I asked Rebecca, since this is a food and travel blog as well as a book blog, if Alice were First Daughter today, what would be some of her favorite Washington, D.C. haunts? 

Take it away Rebecca!


Alice Roosevelt—both the real person and the character in my book, When Audrey Met Alice—was “simply mad for travel,” as the fictional Alice wrote in a diary entry on setting sail for Cuba. Adventurous Alice had a great time on that trip: going to parties and teas, visiting schools, betting on jai alai games, and stuffing herself with Cuban delicacies. Later in the book, she gets excited about a chance to visit New Orleans and stay Avery Island, the famous home of Tabasco sauce. However, Alice found plenty of ways to have adventures at home in turn-of-the-century Washington, DC, too. She’d have even more fun today in DC—and these would be some of her favorite places and activities:

Driving: Alice loved to zip around in her red runabout, racking up speeding tickets galore. Today she could cruise along the Rock Creek Parkway for a spin in town (I imagine she’d toot her horn as she passed under the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge), but rush-hour traffic might make it hard for Alice to drive as fast as she liked. Perhaps she’d avoid Beltway traffic altogether by taking a daytrip to the Skyline Drive, a National Scenic Byway that runs through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. It would be a great escape during election season, when the drive shows off stunning fall foliage. Of course, the speed limit is 35 miles per hour. We can only hope that Alice would heed that.

Restaurants: Alice was an early foodie, so she’d love the dining DC offers today. From chili and fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl to Ethiopian injera and honey wine at Lalibela, there would be something for her every craving. Alice would have no trouble finding the food of her travels back at home, too. For more Cuban food, she could head to Mi Cuba Café in Columbia Heights for ropa vieja and a guava shake. In 1905, Alice Roosevelt accompanied Taft’s diplomatic trip to Asia, visiting Hawaii, the Philippines, China, Japan, and Korea. (She had a great time and did not disappoint with her own antics, which included watching a Sumo match, wearing a kimono—and jumping into a ship’s swimming pool fully clothed.) I think she’d be very happy with her options for Asian cuisine in DC today; in particular, she’d love the show at a "hibachi-style" Teppanyaki restaurant. Alice probably would try to get the chef to teach her the impressive knife skills on display; after all, she did cut her own wedding cake with a sword.

Dancing: Alice loved to dance, particularly the hootchy-kootchy, which was an early Western-coined name for belly dance. She’d enjoy checking out dance performances at the Kennedy Center today, and I also think she’d love to participate in some of the public dance programs available in DC, like Dance in the Circle, a dance festival sometimes held right in the middle of Dupont Circle. I can imagine Alice sneaking out of the White House to attend incognito—and stealing the show with her moves.

The Smithsonian: Alice wasn’t just hungry for experiences but for information, too. The Smithsonian Institute existed well before her time (the famous Castle building was constructed in the mid-1800s), but Alice would still love exploring all that the Institute’s museums have to offer today. In particular, I think she’d be fascinated by the National Air and Space Museum. After all, it was while Alice was living in the White House (in 1903) that the Wright Brothers achieved the first flight. And of course Alice would visit the National Zoo, considering the menagerie that lived with her in the Roosevelt White House. She’d be a huge fan of Bao Bao the baby panda (and probably would scheme about ways to get a panda cub back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).


When Audrey Met Alice hits bookstores on February 4th from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
Pre-order your copy today.
Read my review of When Audrey Met Alice.

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 1-20-14

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?

I'm the guest poster on Nerdy Book Club today.  Go check out my post:
Top 10 Things Picture Books Taught Me

Last week I reviewed:
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

I finished reading:

Going Over by Beth Kephart
It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure from SMITH Magazine

Picture books I enjoyed last week:

The House That Crack Built by Clark Taylor, illustrated by Jan Thompson Dicks
Definitely not a typical picture book. Much more appropriate for middle school or high school students.

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
 Beautiful history and tribute to the song that is most well-known for the fight for Civil Rights.  

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline 
So much good mentor text material with this story, not to mention the stunning illustrations.  I put this one on my Caldecott contenders list.

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
What a fun look at Mexican lucha libre through the eyes of a little niño. 

Currently reading:

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Currently (still) listening:

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood

Last week I also posted:
Laurie Halse Anderson visits Michigan

Current giveaway:
Disney tote bag and Despicable Me 2 minion bookmark

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

We rowed out through the harbor, past bobbing boats weeping rust from their seams, past juries of silent seabirds roosting atop the barnacled remains of sunken docks, past fishermen who lowered their nets to stare frozenly as we slipped by, uncertain whether we were real or imagined; a procession of waterborne ghosts, or ghosts soon to be. We were ten children and one bird in three small and unsteady boats, rowing with quiet intensity straight out to sea, the only safe harbor for miles receding quickly behind us, craggy and magical in the blue-gold light of dawn. Our goal, the rutted coast of mainland Wales, was somewhere before us but only dimly visible, an inky smudge squatting along the far horizon.

And with that first paragraph, Ransom Riggs proves yet again why he is a master of creating atmospheric novels. I would say even more than the story itself, his ability to set the mood is his niche. Hollow City is the second book in his Miss Peregrine series, but as you find out on the last page, it will not be the last. In this installment the Peculiars flee to London but are met with even more danger as they encounter Miss Peregrine's dangerous brother Caul who is able to steal Peculiar abilities.

Just like in book one, the reader is met with a series of photographs to enhance the narrative and while the photographs in the first book live up to the word Peculiar in the title, I found that the pictures in this book weren't as compelling. The composition of the photographs in this volume don't beg the reader to stare curiously for lengthy spans of time the way the photos in the first book do. However, what theses photos do accomplish for the reader is giving us a glimpse of how writers can use visual inspiration to tell a story. Many authors do this behind the scenes when researching their novels, but Riggs put this process right into his stories. This could be an interesting writing exercise or full-blown project to do with students: give them a series of photographs they've never seen before and ask them to incorporate them into a story.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Riggs extends this process in book three.

Read my review of Book One

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine #2
Published: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult/Young Adult
Disclosure: Book received from publisher

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Laurie Halse Anderson visits Michigan

Last night I had the privilege of attending a Laurie Halse Anderson signing at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor. If you didn't already know this about me, I am a huge Laurie Halse Anderson fan. Her books transcend age, gender, and genre preferences. Her middle grade novel Fever 1793 is the reason I was able to get so many of my students to find enjoyment in historical fiction, which most kids find mind-numbingly boring.

Last night she was here to talk about her newest book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, which I have reviewed here on the blog. As always, her words were heartfelt and judging from the standing room only crowd as well as the variety of ages in attendance, worthy of her rockstar author status.
Standing room only for Laurie Halse Anderson
Some of my favorite moments from last night
  • When, after Laurie had mentioned that people have criticized Wintergirls as being a trigger for girls with eating disorders, a young girl raised her hand and said, "I just want you to know that my sister had an eating disorder and she read Wintergirls and it helped her." 
  • Listening to young people tell Anderson how much they hated historical fiction until they read her books. 
  • Hearing Anderson's story of why she hated English class and why she was never supposed to be an author is the perfect case for why choice reading in the classroom matters.
  • When I went up to the desk to get my books signed, Laurie said without any hesitation, "Hey Beth, how are you?" Ummm... Laurie Halse Anderson knows who I am. When did this become my life?
Favorite quotes of the night
  • "I tell English teachers to ease up on the dead rich white guys."
  • "Teenagers don't like to read books that suck."
  • "I want to be known as the queen of the elephant in the room."

If you ever have a chance to listen to Laurie Halse Anderson speak, do yourself a favor and make sure that happens. You absolutely will not regret it. And if you haven't read any of her books, make sure that happens too.

No Strings Attached giveaway hop

For my portion of this blog hop, I am giving away a Disney tote bag and a Despicable Me 2 minion book mark:
Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
One winner will be selected
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What are your reading? 1-13-14

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?

Last week I reviewed:

Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens

I finished reading:

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Alright. I've staked my claim. This one is already my favorite to win the 2015 Newbery. You heard it here first folks. 

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
I've always been fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance and while Lewis Michaux's Harlem bookstore opened after this golden age in African American literary history, the spirit of it lived on in his book store. 

I finished listening to:

From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos 
Jack Gantos narrating the audiobook certainly makes this one, along with the first book, worth a listen.

Picture books I enjoyed last week:

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska
Renata Liwska has such a distinct, gentle illustration style that I can always pinpoint her books before I even read the name of the illustrator on the cover. She is one of my favorites. 

Water Can Be... by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija
Simply beautiful. I loved this one even more than A Leaf Can Be...

Currently reading:

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs 

Currently listening to:

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood