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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.

This is What Happened When I Took the Tween to ALA Annual (a Thank You to Scholastic!)

The Tween: “I LOVE A Snicker of Magic!”

As you may know, this year I decided to take The Tween (basically 12 at this point) to the exhibit halls at ALA Annual 2014. Although I hemmed and hawed and hesitated about this decision, it turned out to be one of the greatest decisions ever.

On the whole, it really was a non-issue to be honest. She was amazed – as all book lovers surely are – to walk into the exhibit hall and just see the amazing glory of all the books. She was like a kid in a candy store, except – you know – here candy was books. I was so glad to be able to share this experience with her and will treasure it always.

As a librarian who believes in the 40 Developmental Assets, I recognize that simply showing up and giving kids the gift of attention can make all the difference in their lives. All they want is to know that they matter to adults, that we care. Which is why I was moved deeply by what happened in the Scholastic booth.

But let me back up for a moment. You see, because of the economy, we are one of the many families that have had to make dramatic life changes and these changes have dramatically impacted this child that I love so dearly. She had to leave her home, leave her friends, and start a new life in a new place. And the change has not been easy. Plus, like many in our situation, we struggle financially to make ends meet month to month. And to make matters worse, she has been on the hurtful end of some mean girl issues. The last two years have been challenging for this child that I love, and getting to witness her having this moment was a gift to me as her mother as much as it was to her. This is one of those moments that can make or break a kid, and the people at Scholastic really did everything right.

When we walked into the Scholastic booth at ALA, it was like a bright light shone on her and she became the star. One of the booth attendants, and I do wish I had thought to get her name, walked up to us both and looked directly at my Tween and started talking to her. For those of us that work with youth, this is a very important thing. Since I was the librarian and the adult present, this individual could have chosen to deal only with me, but she didn’t. She enthusiastically greeted my daughter and let her know that she mattered. This is what I always try to do with kids and teens in my library, even when their parents are present. I can not emphasize with you enough the importance of this. This moment was so validating for her.

The two of them then went on to have a conversation. The book A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd was on display and the Tween said it was her favorite book, and the attendant excitedly proclaimed that it was her favorite as well. The two of them then went on to have a very excited conversation about the book and why they loved it. She got to share her thoughts with an adult, and they mattered. She was heard.

Then this attendant just looked at my daughter and says, “We need to get you some books!” They then went through a very awesome Reader’s Advisory interview and my daughter walked out of the Scholastic booth with 3 ARCS. : The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (which I assured her was like like having gold), Dash by Kirby Lawson (she really loves dogs), and Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers. But really, she walked out with more than that, because she walked out with a positive experience in which an adult had taken the time to tell her that she mattered. And it all took less than 15 minutes.

During the course of that day The Tween also had the opportunity to meet one of her favorite authors, Raina Telgemeier. She was shy and awkward about the whole thing – The Tween, not Raina – but she also spent a lot of time the next 2 days talking about it. In fact, we went back the next day so she could buy and get a book signed for her best friend back in Ohio. I believe she is re-doing her room in Raina Telgemeier posters and book covers.

Another interesting thing happened in the Scholastic booth. I’m not going to lie, since I work with tweens and teens I am constantly paying attention to my daughter and her friends to find out what what they like and are interested in doing. It just makes me better at doing my job. So while we walked around the exhibit halls I paid close attention to what she liked and what she didn’t. In the Scholastic booth, she became obsessed with a book on display called Revenge of the Flower Girls. In fact, all day Saturday she asked me to go back and get a copy of that book for her, which led to a really interesting discussion about ARCs and published books. Since RotFG is already published, I promised her that when we returned home I would buy it for her. But still she longed for this title.

On Sunday, she wanted to go back in. And the first thing she said was that we needed to go back and get that book for her. We did walk by, but Scholastic was in the midst of a Maggie Steifvater signing which meant the booth was busy. But The Tween did not care, she really wanted me to go ask them about this book. It was interesting to see her just blink at the mention of Maggie Steifvater, a hugely popular author, and want to interrupt everyone for this book. I am a huge Maggie fan (I love The Raven Boys series), but she was moved by very different things. This too is an important reminder to us all that we all have different tastes and we need to work to reach all readers. But rest assured, next month after we recover from this trip I am going to order this book for her. She really, really, really wants it.

Before we went back into the Exhibit Hall on Sunday, the two of us attended the Scholastic Literary Brunch. Here, several authors – including the Tween’s beloved Raina Telgemeier – performed reader’s theater of 6 upcoming books: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Sisters by Raina Telgemeir, If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy, Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis and Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson . This was her first experience with Reader’s Theater and she loved it. And the book she chose to read first out of this bunch was Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, which she says is “REALLY very good so far.”

A few other highlights from The Tween’s experience at ALA:

1. I want to make sure and point out the people at the Bloomsbury booth were equally awesome to The Tween on Sunday. They gave her a copy of a The Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale and repeated this same validating experience. Thank you!

2. She ran into author Edith Cohn just walking around and Cohn told her to go to the booth and ask for her upcoming book, Spirit’s Key. She is really looking forward to reading this one. I can not tell you enough how much I have found that meeting authors and having that personal connection to them can impact readers.

3. At the Penguin/Dial booth she reluctantly took an ARC of the book Life of Zarf: The Trouble of Weasels by Rob Harrell. However, she started reading it that day and LOVED it. She laughed out loud a lot while reading it and we had to take it away from her for a while to get her to spend time with the family. The takeaway for her: you really can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes what you like will surprise you so try new and different things.

 4. When I ask her what her favorite parts of ALA were she said, “Listening to them act out their books, meeting Raina Telgemeier and getting all kinds of books!” She liked the Reader’s Theater so much I think I am going to try and do more if at author panels. It really made her want to read the books.

5. She also met and got books signed by A. S. King (whom I adore and consider one of my personal inspirations) and Bethany Crandell (Summer on the Short Bus). She is asking if she can read the A. S. King books now and Librarian Me (Read everything! Read what you want!) is wrestling with Mom Me, who thinks she should probably wait a couple of years. But one day she is going to treasure those signed books because she will read them and know how awesome they are! I did read Summer on the Short Bus yesterday to see if she could read it and decided that 1) It is okay for her to read at this age (it’s very PG, a little kissing and 1 mention of a condom) and 2) I really liked how the main character grew in the way she saw differently abled people and I thought it was very entertaining and important at the same time.

2 New GNs Coming Your Way, and a look at Scholastic’s GRAPHIX imprint

This is how things go at my house . . .

Me: Whacha doing?
The Tween: Reading
Me: Oh, you’re reading SMILE again.
The Tween: Yep

So when news came out that there might be ARCs of SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier at TLA, I tweeted Christie: “Our one mission is to get ARCs of SISTERS at TLA and be heroes.” We did not get ARCs of said book. We are not heroes. The tween just keeps her copy of SMILE on the floor by her bed, and occasionally she will say to me, with those puppy dog eyes, I really can’t wait to read the next one.

There’s not a lot out there yet about SISTERS. Goodreads doesn’t even list a release date or ISBN at this point. Another source, however, says 8/26/14 with the ISBN: 9780545540599. So just in case you need to be someone’s hero, I want to make sure this is on your radar. And if you haven’t read SMILE yet, the Tween really recommends you pick it up. It is, after all, a Will Eisner Award winner.

Graphic novels have long been popular in my YA area. And more and more I am getting requests from Middle Grader readers for GNs. Scholastic has the GRAPHIX imprint to help fulfill this need. There is even a fun Create Your Own Comic activity there you can share with your tweens and teens. BONE by Jeff Smith is perhaps the most popular; I have readers come in almost weekly and ask for this series by name. Some other popular titles include Amulet, Cardboard, Chickenhare and Pandemonium.

And here’s a new one coming your way . . .

Cleopatra in Space: Book One, Target Practice
by Mike Maihack

Actually, this title came out in April, so it is brand spanking new.  Here’s the publisher’s description:

“When a young Cleopatra (yes, THAT Cleopatra) finds a mysterious tablet that zaps her to the far, REALLY far future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. She enrolls in Yasiro Academy, a high-tech school with classes like algebra, biology, and alien languages (which Cleo could do without), and combat training (which is more Cleo’s style). With help from her teacher Khensu, Cleo learns what it takes to be a great leader, while trying to figure out how she’s going to get her homework done, make friends, and avoid detention!

It was a pretty fun read. I mean, of course Cleopatra belongs in space. If you ask me, everything is better in space. We are big Doctor Who fans, and it was kind of fun to read this after watching the episode Dinosaurs on a Space Ship which guest stars – you guessed it – Cleopatra. This is book 1 and we are looking forward to reading more in the series.

And I want to end by talking for a moment about reading and re-reading books. As I mentioned above, the Tween reads SMILE a lot. And last summer she kept reading The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books a lot. This drove The Mr. crazy. At one point he started to storm into her room and tell her she needed to read something different, anything, just something different. So we talked about it and I said things like this:

1. It’s okay to read books over and over again, don’t worry. Each time she’ll pick up something new.
2. She’ll read something different when she is ready.
3. Don’t turn reading into a war between you and her. Don’t fight about it. Don’t put your rules and expectations on it; if she enjoys reading books multiple times then let her do that, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Don’t take the joy of it away from her. If you make reading become a battleground, you will lose this war and she will lose because she will lose her love of reading.

I personally am not a huge re-reader. Except that I have read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin probably once a year every year since the 5th grade. I really love that book. But every time she reads Smile it makes her happy, I just can’t find anything bad about that.

Sunday Reflections: I’m Holding Out for a (Female) Superhero!

The Tween read each & every comic book yesterday

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day and I celebrated – with my Tween daughter – by handing out free comic books at my library. The night before I took her little sister to see the new Spider-Man movie. We’re pretty big superhero fans in this house. In fact, we watch The Avengers movie a couple of times a month. Which is why I can’t help but wish that someone would remember that girls can be a superhero too.

Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Superman, Spider-man . . . they all get their own superhero movies. But female superheroes, they get to be part of a team. Yes, there are female superheroes (ish) in The Avengers movie (my husband argues though that Black Widow is not an Avenger but an agent of Shield). And yes, there are superheroes in the X-men movies. But there are no female led superhero movies. Where is Wonder Woman? Well, it was previously in development but it is now dead, dead, dead and they say it is never going to happen. There is talk that there may be a Black Widow movie, but there is nothing in development right now.

For a brief moment I, the superhero fan, was excited when my friend and fellow librarian Maria Selke tweeted me a picture of an ALA reading incentive campaign with a variety of posters.  And then Robin tweeted me, “Psssst, where is Black Widow?”  Where IS Black Widow? Or any female superhero.  ALA is an organization that prides itself on diversity; it is one of the library’s fundamental rallying cries. And yet here is an entire read campaign that utilized nothing except for white men to promote reading. I mean, I guess there is diversity if you consider the fact that the Hulk does turn green and Thor is quite literally from another planet. That part was sarcasm, for the record.  But they could have included Black Widow and The Falcon. And with the new X-men movie coming out, there are a variety of women to choose from there as well.

ALA Catalog Image Tweeted by Maria Selke @mselke01

At the same time, Maria brought a Scholastic reading campaign to my attention. Yep, same problem. In fact, basically the same superheroes.

I will say in their defense that after we started Tweeting at Scholastic about our concern about this campaign, they did inform us that they were only given a select few superheroes to choose from and that they would take our concerns to the marketing team.  Imagine though what a statement it would have made when given those choices from either Marvel or Disney, who holds the copyright to the Marvel universe, if they had said I’m sorry we can’t work with you under these terms because it is direct contradiction with our core value and commitment to diversity. If more and more of us start making those kinds of statements, perhaps then we can see greater change in the ways women, people of color and other marginalized people groups are represented in the media.

And make no mistake about it, representation does matter. I watched Wonder Woman on TV as a young girl (not that young!) and it is empowering to see a female superhero. It is empowering for little girls to see themselves represented in these positive ways. And yes, I’m totally going to ignore the incredibly sexualized and impractical costume for the moment. Just as it is empowering for children of color to see Falcon in the new Captain America movie.

The 5-year-old dressed up as Spider-Man

More importantly, seeing a broader scope of people in the media encourages empathy to those that are different than us. When we continually focus on men as superheroes, white men, it communicates that all others have less worth. This becomes the standard, the ideal. Anything that doesn’t fit into this standard is seen as less than worthy. That’s the message that is communicated to our young, impressionable generation when they continually see such a strong emphasis on one type of person. Representation is one of the most significant tools we can use to help promote kindness, equality, and mutual respect.

I want in my lifetime to take my girls to see a movie that features a female superhero. I want them to walk out of that theater inspired, empowered, and hopeful. And I want fathers to take their sons to a female superhero movie so that their sons will grow up respecting and valuing woman as equal members of the human race. And I want people who are in the position to put together these reading incentive campaigns to remember ALL little kids, every single one of them, and to demand better representation.

It’s easy to look at the success of the Marvel universe and think, we need to tap into that. But true change comes when we take the harder road sometimes and demand more from those who are still failing to understand what the world we live in today looks like. If we care about our future, we need to work on the messages we are sending today. And this is why diversity matters.

The title for this post was inspired by the Bonnie Tyler song Holding Out for a Hero.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll keep watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although I can’t help but think we’ve gone backwards since that revolutionary show reminded us all that girls could kick butt too.

For more on these topics, see these posts:
“If she can’t see it, she can’t be it”
Beth Revis: I See You, Representation Matters (great post, read it)
Ramp Your Voice: Why Representation Matters in Children’s Books and Media
Actually, just Google “representation matters” for lots of great posts

More Diversity at TLT:
Racial Stereotyping in YA Literature
Race Reflections, Take II
Building Bridges to Literacy for African American Male Youth Summit recap, part 1
Friday Reflections: Talking with Hispanic/Latino Teens about YA Lit
See also the Diversity in YA Tumblr by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo

More on Gender and Sexuality at TLT:
I’m Just a Girl? Gender issues in YA Lit
Girls Against Girls
Teach Me How to Live: talking with guys about ya lit with Eric Devine
Let’s Hear It for the Boys: Boys and body image
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in the Lives of Teens
The Curious Case of the Gender Based Assignment 

You want to put WHAT in my YA?
Taking a Stand for What You Believe In
Annie on My Mind and Banned Books Week on My Calendar
Queer (a book review)
Top 10: For Annie and Liza (Annie on My Mind)

Beware the Return of Point Horror

Scholastic has heard your pleas for more horror and is in the midst of releasing some cool, easy and very accessible horror with the Point Horror line. This relaunched line combines technology with horror to create some fun, fast reads. I was able to read these titles quickly and, being a horror fan, I found them entertaining. So if you are looking for some fun horror titles to catch even your reluctant readers, give these a try (each title clocks out around 250 pages). It definitely reminds me of the golden age not long ago when R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike lined the shelves and readers couldn’t get enough of those scary reads.

Don’t open the door. Don’t answer your phone. And whatever you do, DON’T turn on your computer. . . .

Followers by Anna Davies

To tweet or not to tweet . . . what a deadly question.

When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school’s production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department’s “social media director” and starts tweeting half-hearted updates. She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account, Briana can’t muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark . . . and a body’s rotting in the theater” are obviously a joke.

But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana’s rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone’s horror, the grisly tweets continue . . . and the body count starts to rise.

There’s no other explanation; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.

With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it’s up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions . . . or she becomes the next victim.

Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Hayley is going to have the best year ever. After years of careful planning, she’s ready to serve as student council president AND editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Ivy League, here she comes!

However, just before student council elections, someone creates a fake facebook profile for Hayley and starts posting inappropriate photos and incriminating updates. It must be the work of a highly skilled Photoshopper, but the attention to detail is scary. The embarrassing photos of “Hayley” in her bathing suit reveal a birthmark on her back–a birth mark Hayley has never shown in public. . . .

The situation escalates until Hayley’s mother reveals some shocking information. Hayley isn’t an only child: She has a twin sister who was adopted by a different family. And that’s not all. Soon, Hayley discovers that her long-lost sister isn’t just playing a prank–she’s plotting to take over Hayley’s life . . . by any means necessary.

Wickedpedia by Chris Van Etten

Edit at your own risk.

Cole and Greg love playing practical jokes through Wikipedia. They edit key articles and watch their classmates crash and burn giving oral reports on historical figures like Genghis Khan, the first female astronaut on Jupiter. So after the star soccer player steals Cole’s girlfriend, the boys take their revenge by creating a Wikipedia page for him, an entry full of outlandish information including details about his bizarre death on the soccer field.

It’s all in good fun, until the soccer player is killed in a freak accident . . . just as Cole and Greg predicted. The uneasy boys vow to leave Wikipedia alone but someone continues to edit articles about classmates dying in gruesome ways . . . and those entries start to come true as well.

To his horror, Cole soon discovers that someone has created a Wikipedia page for him, and included a date of death. He has one week to figure out who’s behind the murders, or else he’s set to meet a pretty grisly end.

All book descriptions are the back cover copy. These are great reads for R. L. Stine and mild horror fans.

Take 5: New from Scholastic – Switched at Birthday, Invasion, Manor of Secrets, Better Off Friends and The Shadow Throne

Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford

In the tradition of Freaky Friday, meet Lavender and Scarlet, two people who are nothing alike. Scarlet is pretty, popular, star of the soccer team. Lavender is not. But they both share a birthday and when they both make a wish, they wake up in each other’s bodies.  This is a fun read that still manages to have those little nuggets in there about self-acceptance and friendship. It’s tone is fun, is pace is quick, and the situations involved are amusing. Standiford is able to make some important points without preaching and delivering on the entertainment. For middle grade readers. My Tween is reading it and she loves it, highly recommended.

February 2014. ISBN: 9780545346504

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
This is a prequel to Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Falluljah. 

Publisher’s Annotation: Dead or alive? Flip a coin. With World War II sending fear through the homes of countless civilians, Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry head toward a future filled with war and tough questions. One young man is black; the other is white. Friendship, race, and brotherhood is about to change everything on the front line.

Booklist and Horn Book gave this starred reviews.  Told in first person narration, Woody shares the horrors of war not that he “will never be the same again.” Profound, effective, and moving.

September 2013. ISBN: 9780545384285

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore
A great read for fans of Downton Abbey.  The tagline says: Upstairs. Downstairs. Drama.

Publisher’s Annotation: Broken rules and spilled secrets make the stairs between worlds irrelevant as gorgeous, sheltered Lady Charlotte Edmonds longs for adventure and clever kitchen maid Janie Seward seeks a way to follow the passion burning within. When two girls desperate for change meet in The Manor’s halls and corridors, there is no telling how a handful of secrets will redefine their futures.

Told in alternating perspectives, Manor of Secrets examines the difference in classes in this historical tale.  I am not a big historical fiction (or history) reader, so I can’t really evaluate the historical accuracy of the tale, but it does do a good job of reminding readers of important – and timeless – issues like station and economic position in life and how it can affect one’s life. The drama and characters are entertaining. Definitely recommended.

January 2014. ISBN: 9780545567589

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Macallan and Levi are friends. The very best of. People around them say that guys and girls can’t be friends, there has to be more – but are they right? Told in a kind of When Harry Met Sally way with voice overs and flashbacks, this is a fun, flirty story of two friends who happen maybe fall in love. This is a fun and appealing read. It’s a very realistic look at the very bumpy road to finding happiness and the characters are completely relatable. Highly recommended.

February 2014. ISBN: 9780545551458

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer a. Neilsen

One war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

This is book three in the Ascendance Trilogy.  Book 1 is The False Prince and book 2 is The Runaway King. In book 1, to help protect the king, an impersonator is installed on the throne. Now, war is at the doorstep and one last adventure awaits. This is a good series and if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend that you do.

February 2014. ISBN: 9780545284172

Scholastic Book Fair: September

Now that school is back in session, it’s time to resume our Scholastic Book Fair here on TLT.  Here are five new titles from Scholastic.

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

“So everyone just sits there and says nothing? How’s anything ever going to get better?” 

Red Porter’s daddy has died.  While Red and his mom try to figure out how to deal with their grief, they are also wrestling with truths happening in their community and the injustice they see around them.  Set in Virginia in the 70s, Seeing Red tackles issues of racism and segregation through the eyes of a hurting young man.  This is a powerful statement about speaking up in the face of injustice, even in the most difficult of times. Erskine is the National Book Award Winner of Mockinbird and Seeing Red does not disappoint.  It has a starred review in Booklist which declares “This is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”

The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

A “mesmerizing” adventure.

This one we read as our family read aloud and we all liked it.  We includes 2 parents, a tween, and a 4-year-old. It begins with an awesome, perilous bus ride through New York.  Jackson Opus doesn’t know it yet, but he doesn’t just have a strong power of persuasion, he has the power to hypnotize others.  He is soon invited to participate into a special program, who may or may not have good intentions.  It’s hard to tell when know one will tell him what, exactly, is going on.  You can always count on Korman for fun and he does not fail to deliver here.  First book in a new series, definitely recommended.  A great read for young Percy Jackson fans.

Whatever After: Dream On by Sarah Mlyowski

Good night, sleep tight
Don’t let the magic mirror bite . . .

Okay, let me start by saying I thought that this series was 3 books and done, so I was surprised to find this title at the Tween’s bookfair this past weekend.  When she saw it she immediately said we had to buy it.  We read it that same day.  This time Abby and Jonah are having a friend sleepover, a sleepwalking friend named Robin who accidentally walks through the magic mirror.  This series continues to be a fun, playful and empowering twist on fairy tales.

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K by Greg Pincus

“For every kid who equates math with torture but wants his own way to shine, here’s a novel that is way more than the sum of its parts.

Gregory K is a writer living in a family of mathematicians.  He wants to go to author’s camp, but first he has to pass math class.  What’s someone in his position supposed to do? Tell a lie or two, of course.  Gregory figures the probability of being caught is zero, proving how bad he actually is at math.  This book was fun, and we loved how they used mathease (that’s what we call math speak, right?) to bring humor to this story about a boy who often feels like he doesn’t really fit in with his family.  In some ways this is kind of a Math Curse for older readers, trying to make math fun and in reach while still being an enjoyable read.

The Pet War by Allan Woodrow

“It’s on!”

We have a dog in my house. The Tween is in love with dogs.  She asks me pretty much every day if we can get another one.  The answer is no.  Otto and Lexi can not agree: Otto wants a dog, Lexi wants a cat.  I’m on the mom’s side, she wants to know who is going to pay for everything.  Soon the challenge is on: whoever can raise the money first gets to choose the family pet.  I didn’t read this title, but the Tween wants you to know that it is “funny” and “cute”.  She totally recommends it.

Scholastic Book Fair: April

 It’s April, which means it is time for another edition of our Scholastic Book Fair here at TLT.  Since I have a tween in school, we have been buying a lot of Scholastic books from the book fair.  Here are a look at some new Scholastic titles you may want to look into.   This month we have a lot of fantasy for you with a little action/adventure thrown in.  And a few titles that are taking their cues from big blockbuster movies.  Also, a recurring theme this year seems to be Tweens/Teens with mutant superpowers of some sort.  Definitely seeing a lot of comic book inspiration in titles lately.  That’s not a bad thing.  Drumrolll please . . .

The Runaway King by Jennifer A Nielsen
The Sequel to The False Prince
I have one of my library teens reading this series for you, and he was a fan of The False Prince. A staff member also read it and enjoyed it. I haven’t read this title yet, I just know that the first book if pretty popular at my library.  This is some pure, fun fantasy about Kingdoms that need saving, Princes, and destiny. If you haven’t read book one, start there, it is worth reading. Grades 5 and up

Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews
It has a dragon on the cover.  You had me at dragons.  In this world, the 5 mortals races are said to have been created by dragons, who now rule as evil overlords over the land. On testing day, Al hopes he will find himself in a position of power, instead he is shunned, given the rating of “0”.  What he doesn’t know is that this rating means he is dangerous. Fleeing for his life, it’s one boy against the world – and some terrifying beasts. Tagline: Can a zero become a hero? A fun fantasy adventure; not a lot of new here, but the action is fun and, well – IT HAS DRAGONS. 3 stars. (For more dragon fun, BE SURE to check out The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde) Grades 3-7

Freaks by Kieran Larwood
I love the Tagline: Weirdest. Crime fighters. Ever.
The Freaks are a band of misfits  in a travelling sideshow. Wolf-girl Sheba has a heightened sense of smell, Moon Girl can travel at the speed of light, and Monkey Boy is a superb climber.  By day, they put these talents to use solving those crimes no one pays attention to.  Kids with X-men types powers are really popular right now in MG and Teen lit, I can name about a half a dozen books coming out this year (see the list You Could Have Been an X-Men).  This is a solid and enjoyable entry, and a good reminder to take care of the least of these. 3.5 stars. (More Steampunk!) Grades 5 and up

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.  Unfortunately for June Costa, she is falling deeply in love with him.  Like June, Enki is a fellow artist.  In this futuristic Brazil, the two set out to create art to help start a rebellion against the government’s restrictions on new tech.  Romantic, compelling, and an interesting look at government regulation of technology.  Bonus points for using art as a means to communicate and spark protest. 4 stars. Grades 9 and up

Money Run by Jack Heath
Goodreads Synopsis: Take two child geniuses (thieves in their spare time), one obsessed assassin, and the richest man in the world to create a compelling, completely unpredictable young adult thriller. Fifteen-year-olds Ashley and Benjamin have concocted a daring master plan: to steal billionaire Hammond Buckland’s most precious belonging, hidden in the depths of his conspicuous corporate building. But Hammond Buckland has a most elaborate plan of his own – and none of them have counted on Peachey, the hit man with a determination to finish the job – at any cost!The beginning of a dazzling new series from Jack Heath, author of The Lab and Remote Control.  Very action oriented, Heath doesn’t spend a lot of time developing characters.  I prefer the Heist Society books by Ally Carter (really, everyone should be reading them) because of the character development, but those looking for a book equivalent of the summer blockbuster won’t be disappointed. 3 stars

Scholastic Book Fair: March 2013

When I became a parent, one of the greatest moments of my life was realizing that they still had Scholastic book fairs in the schools.  I have a 10 and a 4 year old and several times a year they bring home those glorious little sheets and we pour over them, marking our selections.  The Mr. groans because he knows that we are going to spend more money and have to find more space for books.  But we love it.  So I am starting a new regular feature here, my online Scholastic Book Fair where I highlight five titles coming out this month from Scholastic for Tweens and Teens that you’ll want to know about.

March 2013

Hide and Seek by Kate Messner
If you have not read it yet, I recommend that you read Capture the Flag, the first mystery in this series by Kate Messner (reviewed earlier).  Messner presents a diverse cast of tweens whose family members are part of a secret treasure protecting organization, think a little bit Indiana Jones and a little bit National Treasure.  These are fun, action packed mysteries that highlight friendship, problem solving and doing what is right.  The tween and I have read them both aloud as bedtime reads and they are a good time. 3.5 out of 5 stars, recommended. (Ages 10 and up)

Rotten by Michael Northrop
Northrop is the author of Trapped, which I also recommend.  Everyone loves a good dog story, and this one has a little bit to it – literally.  When Jimmer “JD” Dobbs returns from “upstate”, he finds there is a new resident in his home – a rescued Rottweiler.  The two become fast friends, but that friendship is threatened when Johnny Rotten – why yes, he did name the dog after the lead singer of the Sex Pistols – stands up for his friend.  One snap of the jaws can change everything.  3.5 out of 5 stars, a good read about troubled teens and the power of friendship, all kinds. (Ages 12 and up)

When the Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little
On the outside, it seems like Tara’s life is perfect.  But her beloved grandmother has just died, her mother is so depressed she can barely get out of bed and her and her sister can’t seem to get a long.  When the butterflies come at her grandmother’s funeral, Tara knows there is one final mystery she must solve.  When the Butterflies Came is an amazing mystery, full of clues and cyphers and a building sense of danger.  But it is also a touching tale of family and self discovery.  4 out of 5 stars, highly recommended. (Ages 10 and up)

The Look by Sophia Bennett
Ted doesn’t have what it takes to be a supermodel, but her sister Ava does.  Ava also is incredibly sick, so Ted tries her hand at modeling while the family tries to hold it together.  The cover would make you think that this is a superficial look at the life of a model, but it is not.  At its heart, it is the tale of sisters and a family trying to make it through difficult times: “Oh, right. I can find out if I’m a supermodel yet, and Ava can find out if she’s still alive. Brilliant.”  This is an interesting read with some thoughtful discussions. 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Ages 12 and up)

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
With the recent discovery that the Holocaust was more horrific than historians thought, this is a good time to remind young readers about this terrible time in our world’s history.

Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It’s something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.

He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.

Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?

Based on an astonishing true story. (from goodreads.com)

Gut wrenching, real and relevant.  Highly recommended. 4.5 out of 5 stars. (Ages 10-14)

Book Review: Andrew Jenks, My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker

“I want to tell the stories of my generation. I want to be a filmmaker that is able to capture what my generation thinks, how they act, and they ultimately stand for.” – Andrew Jenks

“Everyone has a story and telling those stories is what I do.” – Jenks, page 169

At 16, Andrew Jenks started the Hendrick Hudson Film Festival
At 19, he made his first film
At 21, he created the ESPN documentary “The Zen of Bobby V.”
At 24, he had his own show on MTV
At 26, he is sharing his life in a book (feeling like a slacker yet?)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9IncBUEiIM]

Andrew Jenks is a young, aspiring filmmaker who began his journey with the movie Andrew Jenks, Room 335.  In this first documentary, Jenks checked himself in to a retirement home to see what it would be like for a young person to live amongst his elders.  The film was purchased by HBO and received some good critical reviews: “It’s almost impossible to believe that a kid could produce a documentary like this . . . Bravo Andrew Jenks. Brilliant.” – New York Daily News.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z68QRzBRqH0]

“Witnessing the daily actions of Bill, Tammy and the rest gave me confidence in being alive that I definitely didn’t have before.” – Jenks, page 76

Jenks then shot a documentary starring Bobby Valentine highlighting his success in Japan.  The Zen of Bobby V was financed by ESPN films.

“I’m glad I didn’t listen to that guy and burn all my copies of the movie . . .” – Jenks, page 88

You are, however, most likely to recognize the name Andrew Jenks from his MTV show World of Jenks.  On each episode of the show Jenks moved in with a different stranger and learned a little bit about what their life was like.  It is the ultimate experiment in walking in another person’s shoes.

“I wasn’t sure exactly where I would fit in among programs like Jersey Shores and 16 and Pregnant.  I’m not really that proud of my abs and don’t punch people all that often.  I certainly wasn’t pregnant.” – Jenks, page 169

Andrew Jenks has put together an artistic look at his journey as a young filmmaker in the biography Andrew Jenks, My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker, set to be released March 1 from Scholastic.  The Jenks biography is a visually appealing book that will be a great draw for readers of all types, bursting with full-color pictures, varying sizes and colors of fonts, and an engaging voice that inspires.  Jenks is a reminder to teens that they can pursue a passion and turn it into something positive. 

Andrew Jenks does not sugarcoat the process, however.  Readers see quite clearly the lengths that Jenks had to go through to make some deals, the time he showed his film at Cannes and realized that it wasn’t properly synced, and the times he was relying on a wing and a prayer to get to the next step.  There are moments of abject rejection, including one festival calling and telling Jenks to stop submitting his film because he was wasting everyone’s time.  It is important for teen readers to see the hard work and dedication that Andrew Jenks had to put in to get to the point that he did.  This is not a Cinderella story, but a motivational look that reminds us all that a little elbow grease and perseverance can lead us on fantastic journeys.  Highly recommended for all library collections.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl6tF4Z5Hts]
Check out Scholastic’s This is Teen Youtube channel for lots of great promo videos

This review refers to an advanced reader’s copy and some of the quotes may change.  There were also several pages that didn’t have pictures on them yet.  Andrew Jenks, My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker.  March 2013 from Scholastic Books.  ISBN: 978-0-545-417273.

See also: Lights, Camera, Action: 5 YA Titles about teen filmmakers
              TPiB: Reel Teens, hosting a teen film festival