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The Tween and Friends Top 14 Reads in 2014

Many Friday nights I have anywhere from 2 to 5 preteen girls hanging out at my house. Not all of them are readers, but two of them are very fervent readers. In fact, I was surprised recently to learn that The Tween’s BF had almost 5 times the AR points as her, which is astounding when I think about how very much The Tween reads. Though to be fair, The Tween still reads largely in the MG category, which means her books are often worth fewer points, while the BF reads a ton of YA books which can tend to be worth more points. Also to be fair, The Tween reads a lot of the ARCs we get for TLT to give me her point of view and they are, of course, worth no points. Anyhow, it’s always interesting to talk to the kids that come to my house about books. Last Friday I had The Tween and Friends put together a list of their Top 14 Reads of 2014. For the purposes of this list I didn’t not limit it to new books, but just wanted to see of all the books they read between them what they liked best in 2014.

1. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

This should be surprising to no regular TLT reader. The Tween was crazy about this book and we even took the BF to Tween Reads to meet the author, where they both got their own signed copies. I also listened to this on audio because my daughter was such a huge fan and to be honest I really liked it a lot. When I ask The Tween why she likes it her #3wordbooktalk is “magic, hopeful, happy”.

2. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

The Tween actually just read this book this past week. I sent her off to the Scholastic Book Fair and she came home wanting 3 books: The Neptune Project, The Spider Ring and the 3rd book in the Land of Stories series. She bought both The Neptune Project and The Spider Ring, both of which she read immediately. She commented frequently that it was “sad” and that she “wants to speak to dolphins” while reading. In the end she said, The Neptune Project is “one of those books that just really gets to you and make you realize that you have a good life.” Note: The Spider Ring technically has a January 2015 publication date but it was sold early at her school’s Scholastic Book Fair.

3. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

The Tween’s BF LOVES this series and since I do too, we talk about it a lot. She thinks she is weird because she “likes bloody books”, but I keep assuring her that lots of people do which is why mystery and horror are so popular. We even talked a little bit about why people are drawn to these types of stories and how they help us process the darkness of life in a safe environment. Not that she cares about any of that, she just thinks the books are incredibly cool.

4. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

One of the best things about this new group of Tweens is that they are just now finding both the Harry Potter and Twilight series. So while I was there to experience it the first time, it is fun watching them experience it for their first time. The BF is a HUGE fan of the Twilight series. Although I will be the first to point out some of its flaws (I can’t stand the scene, for example, where Edward disables Bella’s vehicle to stop her from doing something she wants to do under the pretense that he is protecting her, it genuinely enrages me), I can’t help but remember the appeal for young teens who are just starting to think about romance.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This year I took The Tween to a Dallas meet and greet for the movie. Then I took her and her friends to see the movie. AND THEN she read the book. That’s right, she did it totally backwards. But her and her friends were compelled to read the book after watching the movie (which is also true for If I Stay), which is why I am a big champion of book based movies. The Tween didn’t cry at the movie (I sobbed like a big baby) but she did cry reading the book. All of the tweens said they liked the positive relationship in the book and that was why they were drawn to it.

6. Savvy by Ingrid Law

It was the BF who insisted this book be put on the list, neither The Tween or I have read this one yet. But that same girl who likes bloody books, she said she liked this book because “it’s one of those feel good books”. A reminder that readers aren’t drawn to just one type of book and we can take what we know about our readers and introduce them to new types of books as long as we keep them connected to the appeal factors of our audience.

7. The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer and Brandon Dorman

This is one of The Tween’s favorite series at the moment. She won’t stop talking about it and – shhhhh don’t tell – I went ahead and bought her book 3 for Christmas. Land of Stories fits nicely into the twisted fairy tales genre that is really popular at the moment, but The Tween also says she really likes the good brother/sister relationship.

8. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I was really impressed when they brought up this book because I know that 1) it’s not something they had to read for school and 2) neither one of them saw the movie (The Mr. and I went but did not take The Tween). That means that they discovered this book on their own, and yes probably sparked in part by the movie advertising, but they chose to read it and connected with it. The appeal factor for them was that it is “different than most stories.”

9. Leisl and Po by Lauren Oliver

The Tween is a huge fan of Lauren Oliver, who happens to be the first author she met in person on what our family refers to as Lauren Oliver day. She got a signed copy of Leisl and Po probably two years ago, but read it for the first time this year where she really became a fan of fantasy. In fact if you ask her, she’ll tell she is a “fantasy girl.” The appeal factor here is once again the relationships. The Tween states that Leisl and Po “taught the meaning of having a good friend.” I mean if you’re cool with your good friend being a ghost and all.

10. Dark Life by Kat Falls [Read more…]

Tweens Read: That time I took The Tween and a friend to a book festival to meet Natalie Lloyd and Jennifer Ziegler

It is only incredible motherly love that could make me wake up at 4:30 A.M. on a Saturday and drive almost 5 hours. I mean, do you know how early 4:30 A.M. is? And on a Saturday. A SATURDAY!

The Tween, Natalie Lloyd and Tween 2

As you may know, earlier this year The Tween, who is now 12, had some amazing life moments in part thanks to the authors Natalie Lloyd (A Snicker of Magic) and Jennifer Ziegler (Revenge of the Flower Girls). So when I learned that both authors would be at this year’s Tweens Read book festival, I really wanted to try and take her so she could meet them if at all possible. And meet them she did. This is an account of our day, the day in which I woke up at 4:30 A.M. and drove two pre-teen girls almost 5 hours on a Saturday. And yes, I really do want a cookie.

Jacqueline Woodson was the keynote speaker. I didn’t hear a lot of what she said because the event far surpassed capacity and was standing room only, but you can find awesome quotes as people tweeted the day at #TweensRead14. There are also lots of great pics there. It is my understanding that there were over 1,600 people pre-registered, most of them kids ages 10 to 14. The halls were flooded with young, enthusiastic readers – at times almost impassable. It was a glorious sight to behold. [Read more…]

This is what happened when I asked Twitter to recommend MG & YA lit titles for those asking about Ferguson

Inspired in part by Robin’s post yesterday on talking with her middle grade students about Ferguson and the book Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, I wondered what kind of list we could put together quickly to recommend to students who were wondering about the events happening in Ferguson. So I went to Twitter and asked for everyone’s suggestions. Here’s what they recommended:

If you have titles to recommend and add to this list, please share in the comments. We believe that literature can help us understand current events and sharing these titles can help our communities process events happening at Ferguson.

Book Review: Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler

As many of you know, I took The Tween to ALA Annual recently and we had an amazing experience, in large part thanks to Scholastic. While there, she became passionate about wanting to read a book called REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS by Jennifer Ziegler. This past week, Jennifer Ziegler contacted me and she sent The Tween a copy of the book and wrote her a little letter. The Tween, of course was delighted and sat down immediately to read it. Today she is going to share with you her thoughts about the book. Then, at the end of this post, we have a little something we would like to do and we need your help.

Publisher’s Book Description:

In this middle-grade Bridesmaids, hilarity ensues as triplets have to stop a wedding!

One bride. Two boys. Three flower girls who won’t forever hold their peace. What could go wrong with this wedding? Everything!

The Brewster triplets, Dawn, Darby, and Delaney, would usually spend their summer eating ice cream, playing with their dog, and reading about the US Presidents. But this year they’re stuck planning their big sister Lily’s wedding. Lily used to date Alex, who was fun and nice and played trivia games with the triplets, and no one’s quite sure why they broke up. Burton, Lily’s groom-to-be, is not nice or fun, and he looks like an armadillo.

The triplets can’t stand to see Lily marry someone who’s completely wrong for her, so it’s up to them to stop the wedding before anyone says “I do!” The flower girls will stop at nothing to delay Lily’s big day, but will sprinklers, a photo slideshow, a muddy dog, and some unexpected allies be enough to prevent their big sister – and the whole Brewster family – from living unhappily ever after?

The Tween’s Thoughts: 

I really liked this book because it was very funny. I also liked how the girls were trying to stand up for their sister because they thought someone else was better for their sister, that the guy she was going to marry was wrong for her. I really liked the characters. I liked Lily who was supposed to get married to Burton; she was friendly and tried to think positive, and she was good to her little sisters. And I really liked Darby because she was quiet but knew how to help; she kind of reminded me of myself. Dawn, who is one of the triplets, had a really bad temper. I really liked Alex; he was nice and spent time with the triplets in a way that showed he cared about them. Burton’s mom was really controlling and kept calling the triplets “barbarians”. Burton was allergic to a lot of things and my little sister is allergic to 13 foods so I felt kind of bad for him because having allergies can really change the way you have to live your life. Plus his mother was pressuring him so much and he didn’t really have control over himself.

The story takes place in Texas! But Lily cried because she was going to have to move away after marrying Burton, which she really didn’t want. I thought it was really wrong that she had to change so much just to try and fit his needs. It was really sad because she was letting this man control her and she wasn’t really happy with it.

I really recommend book. I think it has some great life lessons about being true to yourself and not letting other people control you. Some parts were really sad and made me want to cry because I could relate to them. And in some parts, it was really very funny. This is now my second favorite book.

And Now a Word from the Librarian Mom:

This past week The Tween received letters from both Natalie Lloyd and Jennifer Ziegler. And for a variety of reasons, we ended up with two copies each of both A SNICKER OF MAGIC and REVENGE OF THE FLOWER GIRLS. These books were given to us from the kindness of others who reached out to my daughter and it truly touched us both. So we want to pay it forward as they say and send a set of the books on to some other pre-teen girl (or boy). My daughter is a huge fan of these books, she talks about them to me all the time and she really recommends them. We would appreciate your helping us send this set to another girl(or boy): Please leave us a little comment letting us know the first initial/name (please no last names) of someone you think would love these books and a way to get in contact with you. On this upcoming Saturday, The Tween will put all the names in a hat and draw one out. We’ll then contact that person for the mailing information and send the books on so that she can share her love of these books with one of her peers. Sadly, postage is super expensive, so U.S. residents only please (and I’m so sorry!). I know that many of you work with kids who maybe don’t own any books of their own, or maybe a kid who is struggling with moving, or making friends, or whatever. Maybe getting a package in the mail (or hand delivered by you) is just what they need. It certainly made my Tween’s day.

And again, thank you so much to Natalie Lloyd, Jennifer Ziegler, and everyone at Scholastic (especially Tracy!). Seriously, this mom just really thanks you.

Take 5: MG Lit Titles from Scholastic Reviewed by My Tween

The other day I got a box of books in the mail from Scholastic (Thanks Scholastic!) and I had set them on the table which has become my office. Later that evening, I heard a shriek of delight from the Tween: “You didn’t tell me you got the new Jedi Academy” she screamed with joy. It turns out, there were a lot of books in that box she coveted. So she spent her first few free days of summer reading. This is not surprising, because this is how she spends a lot of her free time. In fact, we’re getting ready to drive to Las Vegas at the end of the month for ALA Annual and she talked me into buying her an Exhibit Hall pass so she could go in one day with me and see what it was like. I think she is hoping she’ll get to meet a few of her favorite authors and I know she is hoping to just touch tons of books. So since she spent the weekend reading, I thought I would have her share her thoughts with you. I added my thoughts as a note underneath hers.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic is a book about this little girl who collects words and moves to a little town called Midnight Gulch. But Midnight Gulch was no ordinary town you see there used to be magic in this town. But it was lost when the brothers Stone and Berry duel for love; the magic is lost so Felicity must use her power to help her mom stay in Midnight Gulch and help the town regain the magic. So to figure out the end of the story read my favorite book A Snicker of Magic. I totally loved this book; it was awesome in every way. The characters were funny and kind. It had a lot of details. I really hope one day I can try some blackberry sunrise ice cream.

Karen’s Thoughts: I have heard her talk about this book for a while now. She has had friends come over and she tells them to read it. And I have had several people her age in my library and when they ask me about book recommendations I say, “my daughter who is your age loves this book and thinks everyone should read it.” Every time they have read the book description and walked out with the book. (ISBN: 9780545552707)


Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
This new book is about two sisters who go on a road trip to visit their cousins. Along the way they go through ups and downs so they have to help each other and figure out ways to get along. But when their car breaks down they have to stay behind in a car with a snake in it. On the way home they figure out the meaning of sisterhood. Read this amazing book, it was very funny and I like that the author was putting parts of her own childhood into it. I am a big fan of Smile and this did not disappoint.

Karen’s Thoughts: Smile by Telgemeier is one of the most re-read books in our house. The Tween has read it numerous times. She recently had a friend spend the night who quickly borrowed it. It is also very popular in my library. Interestingly enough, the Tween was recently sitting on the couch, looking up information on her phone and writing it down on a piece of paper. She soon read to me a report she had written on Telgemeier. She didn’t have an assignment, she just wanted to learn more about the author. I have been very impressed with how much Telgemeier has inspired in my daughter. (Publishes in August)

Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 by Dave Pilkey


This funny book is about two boys George and Harold who make their principal think he’s a superhero. But when the turbo toilet 2000 comes back and there is a duplicate George and Harold the boys must help Captain Underpants battle the turbo toilet 2000. I definitely recommend this funny book.

Karen’s Thoughts: This series is still very popular with Middle Grade readers and all my copies are always checked out. (Publishes in August)


Jedi Academy Return of the Padawan (Star Wars Jedi Academy book 2) by Jeffrey Brown


It’s a new year for Roan at the Jedi Academy and it’s going to be even harder than last year. When Roan loses his friends and goes to the dark side he must figure out what to do with himself. Find out what side he ends up on in the end. I like this series because it is funny and makes me think about life.

Karen’s Thoughts: I had immediately given the Tween Sisters because I knew how much she loved that author. As I mentioned above, I was surprised, however, when she later when through the titles herself and said very excitedly, “You didn’t tell me you got the new Star Wars Jedi Academy book.” So this is obviously another series that she highly recommends. (July 2014. ISBN: 978-0545621250)

Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack


As a young girl Cleopatra does not like work so when she has a chance to go to space and fight battles she isn’t going to pass down the offer. With help from friends she becomes a great fighter. Find out what happens. This book was very funny and I really liked the talking cats.

Karen’s Thoughts: Graphic novels are very popular right now with my Tweens at my library. Our copy that I ordered for the library came in last week and it is a lot of fun. (April, ISBN: 9780545528436)


Bad Hair Day (Whatever After #5) by Sarah Mlynowski)


Another day in a fairytale but this time in Rapunzel . But when Jonah ruins Rapunzel’s  hair and Abby cuts all of it off the kids have to find out how to get Rapunzel her  happily ever after and defeat Frau Gothel . How will Abby and Jonah get out of this mess? This is book 5 and I have read the other four. I like this series because the brother and sister try to make life happier for other people.

Karen’s Thoughts: With the popularity of Frozen and other twisted Fairy Tales that feature female empowerment, I highly recommend this series. I read the first couple of titles and really enjoyed them. I particularly like the brother/sister relationship, the positive spin, and the humor. It’s really interesting because the Tween is inching closer to teendom and so now she is straddling the MG and YA lit categories. She has read (and likes) Divergent and she recently read The Fault in Our Stars (which she did not love and did not cry), but she still likes some of these younger titles. (April, ISBN: 9780545627283)

Take 5: Villains

Muwhahahah . . . Twirling my mustache here for this post.

Earlier today Christie shared some of her favorite villains in comics and graphic novels, so let’s take a look at villains in MG and YA lit. In the immortal words of Loki, “I am burdened with glorious purpose.” And my purpose today is to share these books with you. . .



Vordak

“Slip on your acid-free gloves, make sure you have a duplicate copy of How to Grow Up and Rule the World (just in case something should happen to this one) and try to follow along as the incomparable, superior-in-all-ways Vordak the Incomprehensible teaches you a thing or two about villainy. Now you, too, can try (and fail) to attain Vordak’s level of infamy.”
Publisher’s Description (EgmontUSA 2011, 9781606840139) 


H.I.V.E.
Otto Malpense may only be thirteen years old, but so far he has managed to run the orphanage where he lives, and he has come up with a plan clever enough to trick the most powerful man in the country. He is the perfect candidate to become the world’s next supervillain.”
Publisher’s Description (Simon & Schuster 2007, 9781416935711) 
Blaze (love in the time of supervillains)
Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her “sext” photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now” – Publisher’s Description (Sourcebooks Fire 2013, 9781402273438)

Evil Genius
“Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?”
Publisher’s Description (HMH Books for Young Readers 2005, 9780152059880) 

 
Cloak Society

The first in a thrilling, action-packed middle grade trilogy, which School Library Journal declared “will likely find the same wide appeal as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books.

“The Cloak Society: An elite organization of supervillains graced with extraordinary powers. Ten years ago the Cloak Society was defeated by Sterling City’s superheroes, the Rangers of Justice, and vanished without a trace. But the villains have been waiting for the perfect moment to resurface. . . .”

Publisher’s Description (HarperCollins 2012, 9780062095473)

Take 5: Upcoming Middle Grade Titles with Diverse Protagonists

In the spirit of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, here are 5 upcoming middle grade titles that fit the bill: 

 
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin


An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this searing novel from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can’t deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country. Warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates disappear from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.

The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” To protect their daughter, they send her to America.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful. 


An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this searing novel from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can’t deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country. Warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates disappear from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.
The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” To protect their daughter, they send her to America.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful. – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/I-Lived-on-Butterfly-Hill/Marjorie-Agosin/9781416953449#sthash.HUiKxlYs.dpuf

An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this searing novel from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can’t deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country. Warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates disappear from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.
The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” To protect their daughter, they send her to America.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful. – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/I-Lived-on-Butterfly-Hill/Marjorie-Agosin/9781416953449#sthash.HUiKxlYs.dpuf

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj

What’s the one thing you want most in your life? Abby Spencer wants a life of excitement!

Well, sort of. Actually, that’s a lie. All Abby really wants is to meet her father. It’s not that she’s ungrateful for what she has – nice mom, adorable grandparents, great friends – but she feels like something’s missing. And she’d never tell anyone that.

Abby knows her dad lives in India, but she’s never met him and doesn’t know much else about him. But Abby’s mom realizes it’s time to have the big talk. It’s time for Abby to finally meet her father.

But does he want to meet her? Is Abby ready for the truth? Abby’s about to find out that her dad lives a very different life in a very different country and she’s going to experience it all, for better or worse. This is what happens when all your wishes come true…

Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai



Imagine your country is at war. Now imagine everyone around you thinks you’re the enemy. 

Mina Tagawa is just like any other American girl in middle school, sharing secrets with her best friend. But all that changes in December 1941 when Pearl Harbor is attacked. Suddenly her classmates are calling her a Jap, her father is arrested by the FBI, and newspaper headlines in Seattle and throughout the West Coast warn people not to trust Japanese Americans. Within weeks, Mina’s family is forced to leave their home and sent hundreds of miles away to an internment camp. For the next three years they live under armed guard – Americans treated as enemies. This powerful novel in verse visits a little-known moment in our country’s history with honesty that is both thought provoking and inspirational. 

Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Saving the school–one con at a time.

Jackson Greene has reformed. No, really he has. He became famous for the Shakedown at Shimmering Hills, and everyone still talks about the Blitz at the Fitz…. But after the disaster of the Mid-Day PDA, he swore off scheming and conning for good.

Then Keith Sinclair–loser of the Blitz–announces he’s running for school president, against Jackson’s former best friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby hasn’t talked to Jackson since the PDA, and he knows she won’t welcome his involvement. But he also knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the election whatever the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team to ensure the election is done right: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess and cheerleader. Charlie de la Cruz, point man. Together they devise a plan that will bring Keith down once and for all. Yet as Jackson draws closer to Gaby again, he realizes the election isn’t the only thing he wants to win.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


One of today’s finest writers tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse
In vivid poems, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. Raised in South Carolina and later New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place, and describes the reality of living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.

Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories—something she’s always loved to do, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Readers will delight in witnessing this gifted author discover her love of stories and storytelling and seeing the first sparks of the writer she was to become.

All book descriptions are provided by the publisher

The School for Good and Evil: A World without Princes Booktrailer

As you may recall, our Tween reviewer Ceci LOVED The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. When I got a copy of the next book, which comes out in April of 2014, I knew I had to get her to read it for us. There was squealing. She is reading it now and will get back to us with her review. Until then, check out the very amazing looking trailer that debuted over at Entertainment Weekly.

But in case you don’t know the beginning of the story, here’s the trailer for book 1:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqnU3ZqvL1k?rel=0]

And here’s the trailer for book 2, A World without Princes:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDHTWDnwBbU?rel=0]
The School for Good and Evil: A World without Princes by Soman Chainani debuts April 15, 2014 from Harper Teen. ISBN: 978-0-06-210492-2.

Book Review: Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Many families have their own unique quirky traditions. In my grandparents house, it was a glass chicken candy dish. Every time we visited we would throw down our bags and run to get a piece of candy from the chicken. When my grandparents passed away, my aunt went on a quest and made sure that each of us had a glass chicken candy jar. And when mine broke, my husband went once again in search of a replacement. Many houses have one, that bizarre family heirloom or custom that makes no sense to an outsider.  For Theodora, that item is a painting of an egg where each morning they place one egg of honor in a dish below. It is their family tradition.

When her grandfather dies, the last thing he said to Theodora was “under the egg”. But she isn’t really sure what he means. Then she accidentally spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the painting and learns that another painting is underneath. Soon her quest begins: what is this painting, who painted it, and – most importantly – is it worth any money? Because since her grandfather died, money is a huge issue.

Soon Theodora is traipsing all around New York City in an effort to solve the mystery, and along the way she makes some new friends and learns some family secrets.

Under the Egg is a testament to art, family, traditions and friendship. It also pulls in a lot of very cool art and history. In fact, the story of the Monuments Men (soon to be a major motion picture) plays an important part and it was so fascinating to learn about this historical element that was new to me.

I really liked Theodora, she was smart, resourceful, and allowed herself to be open to new situations and information during difficult times. She is struggling with grief, with a mother who suffers from some type of mental illness, and with extreme poverty. She has not had many friends in life and it is so nice to see her making one and the way these two girls enrich each other’s lives.

Although there is a lot of sad in Theodora’s life, this was a hopeful book. The wrap up relied on a couple of huge coincidences (one that I had a hard time with), but it didn’t change my enjoyment of Theodora’s story. The art and history elements were weaved in a very organic way that didn’t bog down the story or halt the narrative; it flowed quite easily.

Although the need for it broke my heart, I loved seeing Theodora’s resiliency in the way she managed to find creative solutions to her families growing and very desperate need. Each time Theo takes a cab or makes a purchase in her quest, we get an update of her slowly dwindling monetary supply (which I believe begins around $350.00). We see her desperation, her pride, and her fear in such very real and tangible ways. And yet we also see how people around her offer to help out in little ways.

I particularly loved a scene where a librarian waives her fines so that she is no longer blocked because of a book she lost on the day that her grandfather died. It is a stark reminder to us all that a little compassion can go a long way in changing a child’s life.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this book for the mystery and the characters. And as you know, I have a heart for the very real world lives that many of our kids and teens are living in poverty and feel that this peak into that life is so essential to build compassion and so that these kids, too, can see themselves in stories that they can relate to because not all of our kids are going to rich boarding schools and not all of our poorer inner city kids are headed for a life of crime; mostly, they are just trying to find creative ways to survive and even thrive. Theodora is an important reminder to us all that kids find themselves in difficult situations every day because of things like loss and family mental illness. But don’t let this paragraph fool you, this really is a fun, inspiring and hopeful book.

The blurb reads “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets Chasing Vermeer in this clever middle grade debut” and it definitely brings both of these books to mind. It also brings to mind the mystery fun of Kate Messner which also draws in history elements ala the National Treasure movies (the first book is Capture the Flag). Highly recommended.

Published March 18th from Dial. ISBN: 9780803740013

The publisher sent me a finished copy of the book in exchange for an honest review so I’m going to give it away. Simply leave a comment and either an email address or a Twitter handle (so I can contact you if you win) by Friday, March 28th at Midnight. I’ll do an old fashion name in a hat giveaway and send the book out to the winner. Add it to your collections or give it to a Middle Grade reader that you love because it is a good book.

Middle Grade Mondays: 5 Things I Love Right Now, from a Tween

Robin broke her arm, in two places!, so we are punting for this week’s Middle Grade Monday.  So I gave my Tween homework: write a post about the things that you love right now.  I added some notes because she apparently is a minimalist.  But it is always good to know what your patrons are interested in and get their point of view.  So here you go . . .
Flappy Bird

A game where you have to get a bird through pipes without hitting them. It is hard, but fun.  All of my friends are playing it.
Karen’s note: It is hard, I have only gotten a 2 on it. This game is really popular right now among the Tween set.  It is simple in concept, but actually kind of difficult in execution.  And like Minecraft, mentioned below, it has kind of that old school video game feel to it.
Minecraft
You probably have heard of this but it’s a game where you build things and in survival mode try not to get killed.  I like the create mode because you make your own world.
Karen’s note: Minecraft has been around for a while and is of course very popular.  But the tweens around me have just discovered it.  They all come over and sit around playing on their iPads after school.  Here is a cool Pinterest board for Minecraft in the Library.
Wonder Struck
This book is about a boy whose mother is dead and so he goes to the city where his father lived.  It was brilliant and amazing.  I can’t stop talking about it.
Karen’s note: I had a copy of this laying around and she picked it up and started reading it.  She did a marathon read – couldn’t put it down – and read it all in one day.  It is a huge, daunting looking volume but a lot of it is pictures so it’s not as overwhelming as you would think.  She then spent days talking about how much she loved this book and has gotten all of her friends to read it.
The Land of Stories
Okay if you have not heard of this book stop reading this and get it, this book is amazing. So two kids get a story book and get stuck in it and have to stop an evil queen.  It includes a lot of fairy tale characters and twists.
Karen’s note:  For Christmas this year we drove from Texas to Ohio and she read The Land of Stories on the way.  She picked it out and purchased it as a Christmas gift from Christie, who of course got her a bookstore gift card for a gift because she is the best auntie ever.  She seriously loved this book.  And I know she has another friend who read and loved this book.
Dork Diaries
This book is about a girl who is not so popular in school and has a rival who is super mean.  It’s funny, and a quick read.
Karen’s note: These books are still really popular in my library.  I can’t keep them in on the shelves.
These books and games are super amazing so try them now.