Weekly Bookish News: Week of 3/27/17


As always, this is a duplicate of the newsletter I send my K-12 school district staff every Friday morning ~ a short and sweet round-up of literacy news and happenings that caught my eye, along with a few books to highlight and my elementary read alouds for the week. If you want to know about ALL the middle grade, YA and adult books I read, please hit me up on Goodreads! That’s where you’ll find the good, the bad and the ugly. All picture books are on my Instagram

Favorites from around the web

You Have a Gift, Not a Label – Great post by Peter Reynolds on ADHD and his new book Happy Dreamer

Favorite Free Verse Books for Adolescents – Pernille Ripp

New Kids and YA Books – Week of March 27, 2017 – Publisher’s Weekly

Free Audiobooks for Teens (and librarians and educators!) April – August 2017 – an AMAZING program!

If Fiction Changes the World, It’s Going to be YA – LitHub

Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report ~ Summer Reading

A few books to highlight

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli  – NEW in 2016 Middle Grade

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner – NEW Non-Fiction picture book

The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka Dot Pants by Eric Litwin – new to my school

American Street by Ibi Zoboi – NEW YA fiction

Elementary Read Alouds for the Week

Grade Book 1 Book 2
4K And then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano
K The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nuthouse by Eric Litwin The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka Dot Pants by Eric Litwin
1 Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
2 Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe Otis and the Puppy by Loren Long
3 Dear Dragon by Josh Funk Booktalk: Ellie Ultra by Gina Bellasario
4 Booktalk: Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood
5 Booktalk: The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating

Adult Reads and Reviews for March 2017

I may be a school librarian, but I read a LOT of adult fiction too! Here is a recap of just some of my adult reading in March 2017 – see below for my thoughts on each book:

File_000 (2)

IF NOT FOR YOUDebbie Macomber (digital advance reader copy)

I have been in love with the worlds of Debbie Macomber for decades now (have read every single title), and her newest novel If Not for You does not disappoint. This is the third book in the “New Beginnings” series and I always like when there are continuing characters but with a completely new storyline. These stories are my book equivalent to savoring a chai latte while curled up on the couch under a quilt with my dog’s head in my lap ~ sweet and safe and warm and happy. This book may be third in a series,  but if you don’t want to start with book one, it will stand alone just fine! And yes, there is a happy ending ~ that’s what I rely on and need with a Macomber book ~ love and happiness.

BEHIND HER EYES Sarah Pinborough (public library book)

I honestly can’t even review this book. Seriously. All I can say is that you need to read it to understand how mind-bending it is. Pinborough has thrown out all the “you can’t do that!” instructions with how to plot a novel and just runs with it. And with our BRAINS. I hated all the characters but couldn’t put it down!

THE CIRCLE Dave Eggers (Audible audiobook)

This book was originally published four years ago, but the technology and Big Brother themes are still scarily relevant in 2017. I’m so glad I experienced the book before watching the forthcoming movie.

THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANELisa See (digital advance reader copy)

I was enthralled by this story, as I have been by all of See’s books. Kirkus calls this a “riveting exercise in fictional anthropology” which is an excellent way of describing the nature of the writing. If you are looking for a fun, frothy read, this isn’t it. If you are looking for an incredibly well-researched history of tea + the history of a cultural minority in China + a lesson in foreign adoption, you’ve found the perfect book. The only reason I gave this 4 instead of 5 stars on Goodreads is that the ending was just a bit too abrupt for me, but other than that, I absolutely loved it. There is an lengthy and compelling author’s note at the end of the book with a long list of further reading. Goodreads has a new interview with See which also gave good background on the story and her motivation for writing it. For even more insight on See’s research, check out this video from Simon and Schuster.

THE EDUCATION OF WILLPatricia McConnell (Audible audiobook)

As a border collie lover and a fellow Wisconsinite, I was ecstatic to find this newest book from Patricia McConnell. I had listened to her for years on the Wisconsin Public Radio show “Calling All Pets” so was already familiar with her work in animal behavior. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this book, as it was titled a “mutual memoir” and the blurb referenced the author’s personal traumas. I was shocked and saddened to read of the events of the author’s life that led to her emotional struggles, but heartened to hear how her relationships with her dogs, in particular her border collies Luke and Will helped her work through her healing process, along with very extensive therapy. I loved hearing about all of the work she does with her border collies and sheep herding as well as the information about border collies and dogs in general. As a dog owner, a lot of the behavioral translations were very helpful, and I could relate so closely to her accounts of living in the countryside of Wisconsin with her dogs. TRIGGER WARNINGS: I need to add trigger warnings for sexual abuse of a child and also acquaintance rape because I was a bit jarred to be listening to the audiobook and have these topics brought up fairly abruptly – if a reader with a history of these began this book not knowing these topics would be discussed in fairly graphic detail it might be emotionally difficult. These topics are a HUGE part of the book, as the theme of the book is working through her traumas while helping her border collie Will through his own traumas. I just want to make sure no reader goes into this book thinking it’s just about dogs.

OUR SHORT HISTORYLauren Grodstein (digital advance reader copy)

Oh, the tears. I spent the last 10% of this book trying to read through the tears dropping onto my Kindle, but I just couldn’t stop reading. I inhaled this book in just 2 sittings and it tore at my heart. It gets to the very core of motherhood and womanhood and the very essence of life and just needs to be read. The letter-style makes it incredibly fast reading and impossible to put down. Highly highly recommend.

THE IDEA OF YOUAmanda Prowse (digital advance reader copy)

A compelling story of the agony of miscarriage and complexity of being a stepparent. I was sucked into the book, constantly hoping for a happy ending and completely surprised by the twist toward the end. The characters were well-developed and the pace was fast.

DAUGHTERS OF THE BRIDESusan Mallery (public library book)

I can always count on Susan Mallery for a happy ending! I loved the new characters in this book and the hotel setting was so much fun. A perfect frothy read to cuddle up with.

THE HOUSE FOR HAPPY MOTHERSAmulya Maladi (Audible audiobook)

I listened to the Audible audio version of this book – it had excellent narration and the account of surrogate motherhood in India told through 2 different perspectives (surrogate and biological mother) was absolutely fascinating to me. I loved learning more about surrogacy and Indian culture. There is a note on the author’s website about the background on the topic and why she chose to write this book – I found it very interesting.  I will definitely be looking for more books by this author!

UPDATE: And a last minute finish for March after I first published this!


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Book of the Month Club pick for February)

Three words: quiet, powerful, dignified – this story will stay with me for a long, long time. I am now spurred to do more reading on the treatment of Koreans in Japan and will also be reading Free Food for Millionaires by the same author.

Things I Should Have Known: Review

ThingsIShouldHaveKnownpic.jpgWhat a wonderful addition to the young adult lit world! Things I Should Have Known  by Claire LaZebnik does a remarkable job of combining a teen love story with a unique sister relationship. It is a rare book that can convey autism in such a natural way without resorting to stereotyping or turning the family members into unrealistic heroes, and LaZebnik is able to do this easily as a mother of a child with autism. I love that Chloe often does get annoyed with Ivy, as any older sister does with a younger. Chloe’s sense of duty to Ivy is intertwined with the feeling almost every teen has of just wanting to escape, and her relationship with her stepfather just exacerbates both of these. Ivy’s journey is unique in that she has autism, but incredibly similar to that of every young adult experimenting with relationships and discovering that they are truly not one-size-fits-all. I highly recommend this book and will be purchasing it for my middle/high school library.  

Official book description:

From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy.

Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal–especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.

Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and lovable circle that will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

I received a digital advance reader copy of this book ~ all opinions are my own. 

Braced: Book Review

braced-picBraced by Alyson Gerber is out today, and I am so excited for the world to read this story! This well-written middle grade and young adult story about a middle school girl with scoliosis blends a very heartfelt account (based on the author’s experiences as a child) of being in a back brace and the accompanying blow to her self-confidence, with a realistic and warm story of friendship and middle school and soccer and boys. This is the first book I have encountered on the topic of scoliosis since I read Deenie by Judy Blume when I was in middle school in the 90s. There is an author’s note at the end of Braced about Gerber’s own experiences with scoliosis,  as well as resources for kids experiencing the same struggles she did.  While the issue in this book is a specific one, Rachel’s efforts to deal with being different will be relatable to pretty much every teen and tween in our world today.

Here is the official book description:

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis. Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her–even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

(I received an e-ARC of this book from Edelweiss- all opinions are my own)

Weekly Bookish News: Week of 3/20/17


Favorites from around the web:

A few books to highlight:

Asking for It by Louise O’Neill – VERY important but mature YA – Michael Printz Honor Book this year

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart – NEW in 2016 Middle Grade

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks – NEW in 2016 Middle Grade

We are (Not) Scared by Anna Kang – NEW picture book

Elementary Read Alouds for the Week

All Grades K-5 – Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol (Caldecott Honor this year)

Grade BOOK
4K Peanut Butter’s Yummy Numbers
K Let’s Find Out ~ A Little Chick Hatches
1 Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro
2 Antoinette by Kelly DiPuccio
3 Little Red Writing by Joan Holub
4 The Talking Pot by Virginia Haviland (related to The Runaway Wok)
5 (Booktalk) Are You an Echo – poetry by Misuzu Kaneko

Religious Books in School Libraries: Guest Post


I was honored to be asked to write a post about religious books in school libraries by Charlotte Riggle, the author of the children’s book Catherine’s Pascha.

Head on over to her blog to read the post and join in the discussion!

I will be hosting a piece by Charlotte on multicultural Easter books here in the near future ~ watch for it!

Weekly Bookish News: Week of 3/13/17


File_000 (1)

Favorites from around the web


Disciplinary Literacy: The Basics – Tim Shanahan

It’s Not About Us – Donalyn Miller

Resources for Teaching about Religion and Diversity – Teaching Tolerance

18 YA Books You Need to Add to Your Must-Read List – Buzzfeed Books

Fact-Checking Tips and Tools for Teachers and Students – Lesson Resources from Common Sense Media

A few favorite books I found/remembered/bought 

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – NEW Middle Grade about a Muslim Pakistani-American Girl in Milwaukee, WI

Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating – NEW Non-Fiction picture book

Moo by Sharon Creech – new this school year, wonderful middle grade novel in verse

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds – a must-read YA title from 2015

Elementary Read Alouds for the Week

Grade Book 1 Book 2
4K You DON’T Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman  no class
K Elmer and Butterfly by David McKee (Briggs only) Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro
1 Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima You DON’T Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman
2 Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson (Peyton only) You DON’T Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman
3 Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie Anything but Ordinary Addie by Mara Rockliff (Paisley only)
4 Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh  no class
5 Book talk “Just My Luck” by Cammie McGovern Book talk “Making Bombs for Hitler” by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Amina’s Voice

aminapicAmina’s Voice presents a very enjoyable story of an 11-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim girl in Milwaukee, and is a welcome addition to any middle grade collection. While my opinion of the book isn’t based on it being set in my home state of Wisconsin, it doesn’t hurt either, as it makes the topic even more relatable to my students from a very small rural Wisconsin community who have little exposure to Muslim culture.  Khan does an excellent job of weaving Amina’s friendship and family struggles within the story about faith and heritage, and treats the potentially-disturbing events involving a hate crime with middle-grade-appropriate sensitivity. While the story wraps up a bit more neatly than real life similar events do, it is a reassuring note for students that one act of hate does not necessitate a loss of hope. I will be buying copies of this book for both of my school libraries. 

Here is the official description of the book:

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.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

Hena Khan‘s new-to-me picture book, “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors” is one I just recently introduced to all K-5 students in my library, followed by great discussions spurred by students.

(I received a digital advance review copy of this book, all opinions are my own)

A Single Stone: Book Review

singlestonepicA Single Stone by Meg McKinlay is utterly enthralling. It defies genre, being neither dystopian, science fiction or realistic fiction, although I did keep trying to pin it down throughout my reading. The time period is undefined, as is the location – these factors ensure that this book will be appealing to a wide audience for many years. The aspect of the storyline that most fascinated me was the matriarchal society that prized the smallest girls. While this completely frightens me as a parent and woman, the book dealt with it in a very sensitive way, shedding light on the danger of under-eating and not being true to body size. I was struck by the focus on childbirth and maternal issues since these are rarely dealt with in middle grade books, but these were a very welcome addition. All around, this is a great story that will immediately hook a wide variety of readers. I am purchasing for both of my school libraries and will be book-talking it heavily!

Here is the official description of the book, which originally was published in Australia and is just now coming to the US:

In an isolated society, one girl makes a discovery that will change everything — and learns that a single stone, once set in motion, can bring down a mountain.

Jena — strong, respected, reliable — is the leader of the line, a job every girl in the village dreams of. Watched over by the Mothers as one of the chosen seven, Jena’s years spent denying herself food and wrapping her limbs have paid off. She is small enough to squeeze through the tunnels of the mountain and gather the harvest, risking her life with each mission. No work is more important. This has always been the way of things, even if it isn’t easy. But as her suspicions mount and Jena begins to question the life she’s always known, the cracks in her world become impossible to ignore. Thought-provoking and quietly complex, Meg McKinlay’s novel unfolds into a harshly beautiful tale of belief, survival, and resilience stronger than stone.

Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC of this title, all opinions are my own

Democracy in Black: Book Review

DemocracyinBlackPICAs a school librarian, I am tasked with being knowledgeable on such a wide array of topics that I can hardly begin to even name them. However, as a white school librarian in a very small, rural and predominantly white town and school district, an area that I take incredibly seriously (especially given my role as a reviewer for the School Library Journal) is that of understanding how race impacts our view of the world. I am in no way an expert, and am not sure I can expect to ever be one, but I do pride myself on being on a constant quest to better myself in this area. I do that by reading extensively on the topic. I immerse myself in blogs, articles and books on the topics of race, diversity, advocacy and most of all, resources for checking my white privilege as a reviewer.

Here is the official blurb for Democracy in Black by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr:

Books such as this one help me do just that. Spark wide discussion. They open my eyes to the ways that America has in no way overcome its racial past and the intricacies of even using phrases such as “Black America”. Glaude is the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies and Chair, Center for African American Studies at Princeton University.  I can’t say that I agree with Glaude on all the points in his book, but I also can’t say that I am fully knowledgeable enough on the majority of them to be able to intelligently disagree…..yet. As with all idealogical reading I do, it opens my mind up to new ideas and new topics to research. It sparks a question that encourages me to seek out other opinions on the same issues by the author’s peers. It makes me look into his political views more thoroughly and wrestle with his views versus mine. Do I agree with the article he wrote in Time stating back in 2016 that he wouldn’t vote for Clinton? Nope. But this book opens me up to his research and to understanding the views of people who are on all accounts different than I am. Man versus woman. Black versus white. University versus public school district. Religion versus non-religion. That’s what good books do. They make you think. And read more. Because to truly understand how to change American, we need to just flat out know more.

The other two books I read on the topic of race in 2017 were Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson and Evicted by Matthew Desmond. Both of these are books that I preached about from the rooftops, and mostly because I agreed with every single word in them. However, I know I can’t only read in my bubble, and that’s why I was so grateful to have the opportunity to read and review Democracy in Black. It wasn’t in my comfort zone and I didn’t nod my head in agreement with every word. I’m better for it, though. My eyes are open a bit wider and I can begin to challenge the way I have always taught Black History Month and Dr. Martin Luther King, along with many other topics involving race. I can demand more of myself and my peers in public schools and read more on the issues Glaud posed in this book. That’s the assignment I am taking away.

NOTE: An excellent resource for librarians and reviewers seeking discussion on the topic of race in children’s literature is the blog Reading While White.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.