October Library Storytimes and Booktalks

Okay, and some September too, I guess – I got behind sharing these here! I do share them weekly on my new(ish) Instagram for picture books, though. Here are all of the books I have shared with classes in my elementary library for the past weeks! But two notes first…….

One of the things making my kindergarten storytimes SO much more successful this year is pairing books with the accompanying Emily Arrow videos and songs – I can’t say enough wonderful things about her work. I also use her songs as class openers and closers for multiple grade levels and things have been SO much calmer. The session I attended with her and Carter Higgins at NerdCampMI was transformative. AND, I just booked a Skype sing along with her in February for all of my kinders!

Also, if you haven’t watched this 7 minute video about booktalks yet, you need to. I actually shared it with my entire district staff because it’s excellent and shows that booktalks are NOT hard, but ARE essential. Colby Sharp and Donalyn Miller are two of my favorites in the kid lit world right now!

 

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Elementary Library Sure Bets

Let’s be real here……I am a K-12 librarian with 2 schools to purchase for and manage. I have one assistant in one building and NO assistant in my elementary. And I teach 30 library classes a week. And I do ALL of the purchasing. For everyone. Including professional development titles.

That means I need a LOT of time to pore over catalogs, read reviews and “best of” lists, and analyze books. And I don’t actually usually GET that time, which is an endless source of professional anxiety. What am I missing? Did I buy the absolute BEST dinosaur series? Did I spend my district’s Common School Fund allocation in the best way possible? What did I miss?

One thing that REALLY helps me is having my go-to series, publishers and imprints that I can count on to be top quality in both content and production. Of course I am always open to finding new series and publishers, but when I’m short on time and a teacher tells me he would really love a new sports/animal/plant/biography title, it is SO helpful to know right away which publisher to look at first based on my past experiences.

So, here are some examples of, and a list of, just some of my favorites! There are many more, but remember – NO TIME! Also, no time to write long descriptions!

Note: I do not buy directly from any of these companies – I typically purchase through Follett Titlewave, Amazon, my local Barnes and Noble or Scholastic Reading Clubs. And, as usual, no affiliate links.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and Media Masters for sending me review copies of several of these titles from SI Kids, Animal Planet, and National Geo Kids. I would have purchased them anyway, though, and already own numerous other titles from these companies/series!

Capstone (especially the PebbleGo imprint)

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Animal Planet 

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National Geographic Kids

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BlastOff Readers from Bellweather

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Sports Illustrated Kids (fiction AND nonfiction)

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Fiction

American Girl

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Scholastic Branches

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Bloomsbury Read & Bloom

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If you are a librarian or kid lit aficionado, I would LOVE to hear your favorite series/imprints as well!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
(Atheneum ~ October 24, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I can hardly review, but just have to say……BUY IT. READ IT. SHARE IT.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Review

Amazingly powerful YA story in verse, including elements of magical realism. Reynolds pounds home messages about family, gun violence and life choices using terse lyrical language in this brief and timely volume that definitely requires acceptance by the reader of the impact of voices from beyond the grave to teach harsh life lessons.

Required purchase for high school libraries.

View all of my Goodreads reviews

Goodreads is My Reading Crutch


All I can say is……….thank goodness for Goodreads. Why? Well, I have officially reached the point in my reading life where I can no longer accurately remember if I have read a book based on title and cover alone much past a year. Especially if I read it on my Kindle.

That’s why, when BookSparks sent me a book recently for a pop-up blog tour, I got SO excited about it. I was like, WOW, I love this kind of book! Contemporary women’s fiction about a successful mom trying to find balance ~ that’s perfect for me! And after reading the description again, I’m like, HUH, this sounds like another one I read and liked – great!

And then I just went on Goodreads to mark it as Reading and saw I. had. already. read. it. In November of 2015. And I liked it then! It all started coming back to me……..it was a fun, light read and I remember recommending it to someone.

But how embarrassing is that? And that’s the SECOND time I have done this recently. Essentially, if a book isn’t logged on Goodreads, it’s a hole in my memory. Yikes. I do find, however, that now that I am actually writing reviews of books I end up remembering them a lot more clearly, especially since I take photos and such.

Moral of the story: If you ask me if I have read a book, please forgive me when I pull out my phone to check. Goodreads is my crutch. And I’m going to have to be okay with that.

Prince of Pot by Tanya Lloyd Kyi


Prince of Pot by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
(Groundwood Books ~ September 5, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Completely and utterly original, this YA captivated me from page one.

Thanks to House of Anansi Press for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

Isaac loves art class, drives an old pickup, argues with his father and hangs out with his best buddy, Hazel. But his life is anything but normal. His parents operate an illegal marijuana grow-op, Hazel is a bear that guards the property, and his family’s livelihood is a deep secret.

It’s no time to fall in love with the daughter of a cop.

Isaac’s girlfriend Sam is unpredictable, ambitious and needy. And as his final year of high school comes to an end, she makes him consider a new kind of life pursuing his interest in art, even if that means leaving behind his beloved home in the Rockies and severing all ties with his family.

For a while he hopes he can have it all, until a disastrous graduation night, when Sam’s desperate grab for her father’s attention suddenly puts his entire family at risk. 

Review

I have said again and again recently that I’m starting to rate more and more on originality and this book NAILED the quintessential feel of quality YA wrapped in a completely new storyline. I was fascinated with the premise of this book and couldn’t stop reading. It is a story with a TON of heart about secrets, family and growing up in a very, very unique setting. Anyone who has ever had to keep a secret or take care of an elderly relative will relate to this story so closely. Personally, growing up and living in rural wilderness areas make me able to relate to this one on many other levels as well.

I cried and I ached for Isaac as he tried to find his place in the world, but wasn’t left with a feeling of despair. And the BEARS. Oh, those bears.

Highly recommended for mature YA collections.

View all of my Goodreads reviews

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee


American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
by Nate Blakeslee
(Crown Publishing ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunningly addictive, this nonfiction account of wolves, Yellowstone and humanity reads like a fictional account of dueling mob families in a turf war. A must-read for nature lovers and hunters alike.

Thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a free advance copy of this book for review purposes.

Nate Blakeslee has done what very few writers can. He has taken a group of wild animals and created an epic drama surrounding their lives ~ a drama that reads entirely like fiction or the best type of biography. I honestly didn’t think it was possible for an almost-300-page tome about wolves to be a page turner, but it truly, truly is. Blakeslee includes just the right balance between the people and politics surrounding the wolves with the actions of the actual wolves to ensure that readers understand just how perilous this animal’s survival chances are. And really, the survival chances of any wild animals in the United States. The stories in this book about Yellowstone and the federal and state agencies regulating the park and wildlife honestly make me despair about the way our nation is run on an entirely new level. Bureaucracy trumps nature at every single turn, but the hearts of those dedicated to protecting wolves give me hope.

Required reading for nature lovers, hunters, and anyone who loves quality nonfiction. This is one of the best out there.

Now, a little bit about my background coming into this book so you can understand my unbridled love for it. First of all, I read National Geographic cover to cover every single month. Nature writing is my THING. Next, we live in rural Wisconsin and the hunting/preservation topic is always close by. In addition, my family has a major wolf obsession due to my son’s extreme interest in them ~ he currently has 8 stuffed wolves that he has with him at all times, a wolf mask, posters, calendars, blankets, and countless books on this topic. The arrival of this book in my household as an advance copy was a cause for great celebration, and I can not wait for my husband and son to get to share it next. My husband also has family in Wyoming and is an avid hunter ~ we have always had spirited conversations about wildlife management, and this book just adds to our discussion fodder.

One of my favorite reads of 2017.

For an update on this topic, see Blakeslee’s October 6, 2017 WSJ article “The Plight of the West’s Wolves”

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Spooky October Kid Lit Books

Just a quick post today to bring you some of my favorite kid lit books that are spooky and perfect for October, but are NOT Halloween-specific. My school still allows little Halloween celebrations, but we do not do costumes or anything major and we have some families who request that their children not participate. My library does have a large Halloween collection, but I’m very sensitive of the community needs. Due to the fact that many families do not celebrate the holiday, it’s great to have a book selection that meets the needs of all kiddos!

Here are some new and old favorites, along with recommendations to the Twitter crowd! I’m linking to the Twitter conversation so you can follow all of the lovely people who made suggestions as well! I’ll be working on tracking down copies of the recommended titles that I don’t already have.

** The copy of Don’t Read This Book Before Bed was provided to me by a publisher for review and it is being donated to my library. All other titles were purchased for my library.



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The Floating World by C Morgan Babst


The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst
(Algonquin Books ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As dark and disturbing as Katrina herself, THE FLOATING WORLD takes readers into the most damaged neighborhoods of New Orleans, both during and after the epic storm, in this story of family, race and a city in crisis.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans. Though the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora, the family’s fragile elder daughter, refuses to leave the city, forcing her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave who became one of the city’s preeminent furniture makers, and his white “Uptown” wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic–the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.

This mystery is at the center of C. Morgan Babst’s haunting, lyrical novel. Cora’s sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the life she has tried to build in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city, and the trauma of destruction that was not, in fact, some random act of God, but an avoidable tragedy visited upon New Orleans’s most helpless and forgotten citizens.

The Floating World is the Katrina story that needed to be told–one with a piercing, unforgettable loveliness and a nuanced understanding of this particular place and its tangled past, written by a New Orleans native who herself says that after Katrina, “if you were blind, suddenly you saw.”

Review

This book is not an easy read. It’s not a page turner or a nail biter. It’s not a story of a strong New Orleans rising after a devastating storm and it’s not a story of a family coming together in a time of need. It’s a fiercely honest account of a family going through tortured times, both emotional and environmental. It’s a story of hearts breaking and a city sinking and the absolute worst that people can do. As you read, you are trapped in the brains of humans who are suffering, both in typical ways and in ways brought about by mental illness and dementia.

But. But. You also experience the depths of the human condition and the brutal racial divide in the city. You learn about the horrors of a storm most of us haven’t experienced firsthand, and to understand is to empathize.

Is this happy? No. Is it important? Yes.

If you like dark, ruminative stories about complex social issues, this one’s for you. If you’re looking for a light, fast-paced adventure story about surviving a hurricane, this will definitely surprise you with its slow and meandering nature and psychological focus.

View all of my Goodreads reviews

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
(Crown BFYR ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raw, powerful and REAL, DEAR MARTIN is a required purchase for HS libraries and a required read for all American teens and adults.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

Review

DEAR MARTIN is raw and it’s powerful and it does not hold back. This is a book for mature readers not because of the violence and sexual content, but because of the maturity of the discussions and debate held throughout the book. This, in my opinion, makes this just as valuable in the YA market as in the adult market. I love the format of the book ~ standard narration broken up by letters from the teen narrator written to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr ~ and I absolutely had my heart broken with the overall story. Justyce’s struggle is heartbreaking and authentic and so gorgeously written.

Add this to the canon of YA books about race relations in present-day United States, but put it right near the TOP of that list. It can be right alongside THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas and ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

And until adult fiction writers start hitting this topic like YA has, this is THE must-read book on the topic for adult readers as well. My eyes are open like they never have been before.

As mentioned earlier, this is a required purchase for HS libraries. I have pre-ordered it for mine.

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
(Knopf BFYR ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More than deserving of its National Book Award Finalist status, this novel is a stunning story of heritage, family and growing up.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. 

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Review

Sanchez has taken a teenage girl and created one of the most relatable characters I have read yet in young adult literature. Julia and her family and the Chicago setting are absolute perfection, and readers will get swept up into both Julia’s grief over the loss of her sister, but also her agony about being trapped into a life that she doesn’t want. The mystery of her sister Olga’s death and Julia’s attempts to escape her family create subplots that make this title a incredibly compelling page-turner as well.

What seals the 5th star for this title for me, however, is the complete and utter ease that Sanchez weaves English and Spanish throughout the narrative, sometimes translating the Spanish and sometimes just leaving it out there because maybe the reader SHOULD be expected to speak and read a language other than English for once. Julia’s accounts of her family’s undocumented status and their harrowing journeys from Mexico are heartbreaking and 100% necessary and relevant, both for readers who are themselves living this life, but also for readers who struggle to understand the reality of living it.

Required purchase for high school libraries. Get this book into the hands of teens NOW.

View all of my Goodreads reviews