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Showing posts from 2017

Picturebooks Roundup (Part 1)

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Picturebook Favorites [Part I] ALA (2017)
Claymates  Dev Petty (Author) and Lauren Eldridge (Illustrator)
Metafiction at it's finest, this hilarious picturebook features two clay creations playing around with an artist's tools, turning themselves into increasingly bizarre and silly shapes. What a bunch of trouble-makers! What will the artist think when she gets back to her studio?!
(Little, Brown - 06/20/2017)
Little Penguin and the Lollipop Tadgh Bentley
When Little Penguin eats his friend's lollipop, he feels bad and tries to make things better, but he just can't seem to figure out what to do (even a hug doesn't work!) Funny faces and silly escapades abound as Little Penguin tries everything he can think of to make up for his bad behavior. He's certainly learned his lesson: Never take a lollipop from a seagull!
(Balzer + Bray - 10/03/2017)
That is My Dream Langston Hughes (Author) and Daniel Miyares (Illustrator)
Langston Hughes' incredible poetry (Dream Variation) i…

Ashes to Asheville - Sarah Dooley

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After Mama Lacy's death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn't used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison's house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family. Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison's house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy's dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy's ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

This short but deep story of t…

Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig

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Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

This was certainly an intriguing tale that went in directions I did not expect. It was pretty brutal at times, but Roehrig did manage to examine some intense themes throughout the narrative, including rape culture, murder, intimidation, and dirty politics.
Flynn in particular was a deeply flawed but interesting character, trying to hide is sexuality even when he knew deep down how he felt about other guys. I kind of expected a relationship to develop eventually, but not quite how it actually happened in the book. Kaz…

Radio Silence - Alice Oseman

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Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down.

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets. It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.


"Hello. I hope somebody is listening...."
This is how each episode of Universe City begins, and it is also the opening line of Radio Silence, and intriguing, character-driven explor…

Wild Beauty - Anna-Marie McLemore

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For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.



Lyrical, rich in detail, and full of magic, Wild Beauty is a feast for the senses. McLemore is a talented writer, and one who understands how to quietly and slowly develop characters and connections. Her previous work, When the Moon Was Ours and The Weight of Feathers, is similarly …

York: The Shadow Cipher - Laura Ruby

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It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old Yo…

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe - Heather Smith

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Set in 1980s Newfoundland, The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is the story of a 14-year-old girl who runs away to the city and is taken in by a street musician who lives with an eclectic cast of characters: a pot smoking dishwasher with culinary dreams; a drag queen with a tragic past; a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost.
This is a short book, but a book with a lot of heart and a lot of depth. Bun O'Keefe is fourteen, but her social education has been terribly stunted due to living along with her mother. Her mother is a hoarder who is hiding Bun from everyone and who is slowly eating herself to death. Eventually, in a heated moment, Bun's mother tells her to leave, and so she does, heading into the city to find a way of living on her own. After she meets the kind and helpful Busker Boy, who takes her to his place and lets her live with him and his roommates. Each of them help Bun develop socially and allow her the …

It's Not Like It's a Secret - Misa Sugiura

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Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it…

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzie Lee

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Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Who knew that an 18th century road trip…

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal - Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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Why the title T​extbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal?​

• Because the book is organized into chapters with classic subject headings such as Social Studies, Music, Language Arts, Math, etc.
• Because textbook ​is an expression meaning “quintessential,” as in, Oh, that wordplay and unconventional format is so typical of her, so textbook Amy.
• Because for the first time ever, readers can further engage with a book via text messaging.
• Because if an author’s previous book has Encyclopedia i​n the title, following it up with a ​Textbook would be rather nice.
Not exactly a memoir, not just a collection of observations, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an exploration into the many ways we are connected on this planet and speaks to the awe, bewilderment, and poignancy of being alive.


This book is spare.

There is a lot of white space, emphasizing the importance of the text and images that do appear on various pages and spreads.

The truths are profound; the insights are simple but often missed in daily life…

The Fashion Committee - Susan Juby

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Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion. John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn't care less about clothes. But they share one thing in common: both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship. Told in the alternating voices of Charlie's and John's fashion journals which they're required to keep for the contest, this hilarious and poignant tale perfectly captures what it's like to have an artistic passion so fierce that nothing--not your dad's girlfriend's drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a soul-crushing job at Salad Stop, or being charged with a teensy bit of kidnapping--can stand in your way.

This is a great book! I read it in one afternoon and couldn't put it down. Both of the narrators are distinct, which can be difficult to do in multiple POV situations.…

Pondering Bookish Things; Or, Wearing Many Hats

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So, I've been reading a lot of books over the last few years, and I've been writing reviews, researching for my PhD, and working on various award committees. I just wanted to take a few moments to talk through some of the difficulties of wearing these hats. When I write a review, I am reviewing a single book. I am looking at the characters, setting, writing, and possible socio-political implications of events and representation within that particular text. I'm not necessarily looking at the publisher's track record or the author's previous works, or even the larger body of work within a given genre or age-range.
In my scholarly work, however, I am suddenly looking not only at representation in a single book, but also in terms of a larger context. In my particular field for instance, I read a lot of books featuring trans characters. I look not only at representation within a particular text, but also explore the implications of these representations in the larger con…

When I Am Through With You - Stephanie Kuehn

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“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”

Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.



I couldn't put this one down. I rarely can with Kuehn's work. I first became enthralled with her work when I read Charm & Strange and later, Complicit. Kuehn knows how to build tension and make readers guess, and she certainly doesn't shy away from ma…

Little & Lion - Brandy Colbert

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When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

Though the novel starts off from a seemingly simple premise, the characters and relationships are anything but. Colbert is a masterful writer. I was first introduced to her through Pointe, a fabulous novel by the way, and was so excited to see Little & Lion show up in the mail!
I love the quietness of Colbert's work, the fact that she knows how to write strong and compelling charact…

Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland

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Nobody's ever really explained the Spill. Was it an angelic visitation? A nanotech accident? A porthole opening from another world? Whatever it was, no one's allowed in the Spill Zone these days except government scientists and hazmat teams. But a few intrepid explorers know how to sneak through the patrols and steer clear of the dangers inside the Zone. Addison Merrick is one such explorer, dedicated to finding out what happened that night, and to unraveling the events that took her parents and left her little sister mute and disconnected from the world.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I was sent a copy of this graphic novel. I was thinking maybe something to do with a nuclear meltdown and some kind of crime-fighting (judging from the cover alone) and then I started reading through and was blown away. This book is creepy, twisted, beautifully illustrated, and super compelling. I should warn people that it's not a one-off; the ending is not complete and th…

Orphan Island - Laurel Snyder

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On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

Similar (in a way) to Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli, Orphan Island takes an abstract look at what it…

Blood on the Beach - Sarah N. Harvey and Robin Stevenson

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Eight teens are dropped off on a remote west-coast island for a week-long treatment program called INTRO (Into Nature to Renew Ourselves). The story is told by two of them: Alice, whose police-officer mother believes Alice might have a substance-abuse problem, and Caleb, who assaulted his abusive stepfather. They are joined by six other miscreants and three staff: a psychologist, a social worker and an ex-cop. On the first night, one of the girls disappears from her cabin. There is a panicked search of the island, but she is nowhere to be found. The adults seem oddly ineffectual in dealing with the crisis—and then the ex-cop gets sick and dies. The radio has been sabotaged, and there is no way to call for help. When the social worker also becomes ill, the kids decide to take matters into their own hands and track down the killer.
I'm a bit biased since I know both Harvey and Stevenson, however I still think I'm able to judge the book with a bit of an objective lens. So fun! I t…

Queens of Geek - Jen Wilde

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When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever. Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought. While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

This book was super fun and really cute, but with depth and complexity to round out the talk of romance and crushes. Told in alternating POV style between Charlie and …

Lemons - Melissa Savage

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How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods. That’s right, Bigfoot.

A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests. How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

Everything is different and Lem just wants to go back home. And then she meets Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. and sole investigator for the town. He invites her to be his Assistant for the summer and she reluctantly agrees. At least until she can figure out her escape plan.

Aft…

Ramona Blue - Julie Murphy

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Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder…

Just a Normal Tuesday - Kim Turrisi

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It's just a normal Tuesday for sixteen-year-old Kai, until suddenly it's anything but. She's received a letter from her beloved older sister, Jen, a letter that begins, My very bestest sister, Kai, if you are reading this, I am already gone. From that moment on, Kai's life will never be the same, as she is forced to deal with the shock and horror of losing Jen to suicide.

Consumed with grief, Kai looks for answers, lashes out at people who love her and eventually turns to excessive drinking and drugs, all with disastrous results and no relief from her suffering. Struggling with their own sorrow, Kai's parents realize she needs more help than they can give, and they enroll her in the Tree House, a "grief camp" for children. Though reluctant to go, once she's there, Kai finally finds others who truly understand her loss. No longer alone, she's able to begin dealing with her pain. And to see light at the end of the dark tunnel.


Turrisi's very per…

Star-Crossed - Barbara Dee

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Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama!

This book is super charming, full of humour and wit, and an absolutely adorable middle-school romance. Mattie is having a tough time in school; she's been ostracized by a group of girls (Willow, Isabel, and Charlottle) and hasn't been invited to …

Amina's Voice - Hena Khan

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A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

This is a book that needs to exist in the child lit world right now! A young girl finding her voice in the midst of cultural intolerance, a coming-together of those from differing religious b…