Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (10)





As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

Though I believe we should celebrate Women's History all year long, March has been designated Women's History Month.  As March comes to a close, I am celebrating Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday with a review & giveaway of Women Explorers by Julie Cummins. 


Women Explorers
Author: Julie Cummins
Illustrator: Cheryl Harness
Publisher: Dial/Penguin Group (February 16, 2012)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience:  Grades 4th to 8th
Women's History * Biography * Nonfiction

Description from GoodReads:
Though most people have heard of explorers like Henry Hudson and Christopher Columbus, few have heard names like Nellie Cashman and Annie Smith Peck. With engaging text and bold illustrations, "Women Explorers" introduces 10 of these adventurous women to the world. Full color.

My thoughts on the book:

I am really loving the wonderful variety of nonfiction picture books and biographical picture books that are currently available.  The format and design are reader friendly and very accessible for kids.  Julie Cummins' Women Explorers is one of those books.  Cummins looks at the lives of 10 women explorers who lived during the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century.

With colorful illustrations and 3 pages of text per woman, Cummins shares just enough information to provide readers with a sense of each of these unique individuals and to pique interest in discovering more about them.  These very special women went everywhere and did amazing things considering that in the late 1800's and early 1900's women did not typically have the same opportunities as men.  Additionally, traveling all around the world was not an easy endeavor.  Each of these women demonstrated great strength, courage, curiosity, and dedication as they explored places like the Artic, the South Seas, the wilderness of Mexico, or Africa.

For many of them, their upper-class families' resources and wealth, afforded them opportunities that would normally be closed to women.  It was also fascinating to read about the types of clothes that they wore and sometimes the amounts of luggage or equipment that was needed in order to embark on these journeys. Though some of these women lived well into their 80's or even 90's, some died young due to illness or unfortunate situations encountered on their travels.

I was inspired and amazed by the lives of these incredible women.  I am not certain that I could endure some of the conditions that they had to face in order to pursue their dreams.  When I was younger, I moved from the east coast to the west coast.  With the support of a friend, I traveled in a Uhaul and camped out each night.  I remember distinctly thinking about the men and women who had made similar journeys during the 1800's in horse drawn wagons.  The mountains of the west were impressive to this East Coaster, but I couldn't imagine crossing them on horse.

Everyone of these special women were to be admired, but I was especially in awe of Lucy Evelyn Cheesman.  This diminutive woman, dressed in "a bush suit with shoes and stockings", used a nail file to cut through the threads of a particularly challenging spider's web and dined with cannibals in the South Pacific.

This is a book that I would certainly recommend for school and classroom libraries.  Each story can be read as an individual read aloud or used as a tie-in with other text.  If you are interested in a copy, why not enter the giveaway below courtesy of Penguin Books.

Also, don't forget to add any recent nonfiction picture book reviews to the Mr. Linky widget below. Thanks to those who are participating in the Nonfiction Picture Book challenge. 

Giveaway Rules:

1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.

2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3.  The Contest runs from  March 28, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on April 4, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  International participants are welcome to enter the contest.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (17)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.  Jen & Kellee from 

Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.
 
Each week I'll recap what I've read/reviewed the week before 
and then look ahead to what I am planning on reading/reviewing in the upcoming week.
 
Last week's book adventures:
This is going to be a strange variation on What are you reading? With the return of Vroman's Hot Off the Press! wall, I did a post yesterday with some of my favorite picture books.  Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of time last week to read. (I only got to a stack of picture books.)  Don't you just hate those kind of weeks?!  I know I do.  Click here to check out the Hot Off the Press! post.  So, I went through the list to see what other ones I wanted to share. 
 
Here are some additional books to add to yesterday's list
 
 
Little Bird by Germano Zullo, Illustrated by Albertine (Enchanted Lion Books,March 27, 2012)
I love this line from the book: "Because little things are not made to be noticed. They are there to be discovered."  This is one of those simple but beautifully done books that might not get a lot of attention.
 

Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy (Holiday House, March 1, 2012)
I was very eager to find this book.  The book is chock full of pictures, words, information.  Even, a statement on how it meets Common Core Standards.  When I actually looked at it, I was concerned that maybe there was just a bit too much information.  Pulling things out of the book may be more helpful as a resource.  
 
So, what are you reading this week? 

This week I am finishing up two books that I started yesterday.
 
 
The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011)
 
 
Lucky for Good by Susan Patron, Illustrated by Erin McGuire (Atheneum, 2011)
 
 
Please share! And remember to check in at Sheila's or Jen & Kellee's blog to see what they and others are reading!    

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hot Off the Press! Is Back!

I walked into Vroman's Bookstore this morning for my weekly visit and was so excited to see the Hot Off The Press wall was back!  Yay!  I nearly did a happy dance right there.  I did collect a stack of books.
Bookstack #1

I then went over and told Kayce that I was thrilled to have the wall back, and promptly started grazing through all of the wonderful new titles.  When Morgan arrived, I repeated my appreciation for their bringing back my favorite wall.  I am glad Morgan and Kayce know me and don't think I am some crazy customer.
Bookstack #2
I even had time for a second bookstack.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time for a third bookstack so I will definitely need to visit again...soon.

Here are some of my favorites from today.  Now go read them.

Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio; Illustrated by Heather Ross (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)


C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir; Illustrated by Julian Hector (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)


Kali's Song by Jeanette Winter (Random House Children's Books)


Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda (Abrams)


Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand (Holiday House)

I am hoping that Hot Off The Press will return as a Sunday feature.  And for readers who live near enough to visit Vroman's in person - don't forget to stop in and see all of the great new books available and maybe even buy one of the above titles.    

 

Friday, March 23, 2012

As Agatha Swanbourne Once Said...The Unseen Guest Blog Tour & Guest Post from Maryrose Wood





About the Incorrigible Blog Tour: Each stop features an exclusive excerpt and guest post from Maryrose Wood, offering a special look at the wise words of her heroine’s mentor, Agatha Swanburne.


"Whatever will do in a pinch will do." - The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, 
Book 3: The Unseen Guest


More than a decade ago I was invited to spend two weeks at a prestigious writers’ conference. My two kids were very young then, and I was a newly single parent, so the logistics were daunting. Still, I thought, it was summer, and the conference was walking distance from a beach, so why not just bring the little moppets with me? I ran the idea by the conference people, who were cautious at first, but in the end they said yes.

I’d be working fulltime for the duration, so I hired a babysitter to come with us. Her salary would be more than double my honorarium for attending (oh, the glamour of the writer’s life!), but the conference was kind enough to throw in housing and meals for her and my kids as part of the package, so I counted myself lucky and got out the suitcases.

Now, if you’ve ever dragged two small children along for a two-week stay in a place not particularly oriented towards kids, you know how easy it is to go overboard with the packing. What if they want to play Uno? Uno deck packed, plus a few board games just in case. What if they need goldfish crackers and there’s no place to buy them? Two weeks’ supply of goldfish, packed. What if they get bored (will twenty picture books and a case of art supplies be enough?) or homesick (should I bring their pillows from home?) or outgrow their shoes halfway through, or it rains the whole time…. what if what if what if?

What I really needed to pack was a cure for my neurotic worrying, but I’d need a moving van to carry that much baggage. So I stopped trying. It was summer, and there was a beach. Bathing suits, a few changes of shorts and t-shirts would suffice. A couple of books, a box of crayons and some paper for rainy days. We’d have to trust the sun and the waves and the sand and the fun of being in new place to provide the bulk of the entertainment. And I remember thinking, as I zipped up our one medium sized suitcase, slung my laptop case over my shoulder, strapped the toddler in the stroller and took my kindergartner by the hand: if the house disappears while we’re gone, we’ll be okay. I have my kids, a change of clothes, and all my work on the computer. We could go anywhere now and start over, and we’d be just fine.

I think about that moment from time to time. For most of us, what we actually need to survive is only a tiny fraction of the stuff we’ve accumulated in our lives. “Whatever will do in a pinch, will do,” said Agatha Swanburne. In a pinch, we can make do with very little. And that very little is a good reminder of how much we actually need.

What stuff do you think you really need in a pinch? What could you do without?

Thanks so much to Maryrose Wood for being our guest blogger today!

Maryrose Wood is the author of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series for middle-grade readers.  You can find her on-line at http://www.maryrosewood.com/ and on Twitter: @maryrose_wood

Don't forget to check out the next stop on the Incorrigible Blog Tour:
Hooked on Swanburnisms? On March 26th, visit www.bookyurt.com for more pithy wisdom.

About the book:
Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.

Since returning from London, the three Incorrigible children and their plucky governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, have been exceedingly busy. When Lord Fredrick's long-absent mother arrives with the noted explorer Admiral Faucet, gruesome secrets tumble out of the Ashton family tree. And when the admiral's prized racing ostrich gets loose in the forest, it will take all the Incorrigibles' skills to find her. But once back in the wild, will the children forget about books and poetry and go back to their howling, wolfish ways?

Learn more about the series at http://booksandgames.com/incorrigible



Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop


Kathy from I am a Reader, Not a Writer is hosting a Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop.  The concept is really cool.  I get to clean out some of my bookshelves and you get to win some books.  And don't forget to check all of the links for other great giveaways.

If you haven't discovered Priority flat-rate boxes from the Post Office, you really should.  They are the best for anyone needing to ship books.  I can often get about 15 books in a large flat-rate box and can mail it to anywhere in the U.S. for $14.95.  And it arrives within 2 days.  Cool huh?!


Two lucky participants will have a chance to win 1 box of books each.  One box will be filled with YA books and the other box will be filled with MG books. You can sign up to win a mixed box.

When I select the winners, I will send you a list of titles that I have available for giveaway and you may select as many of those titles as will fit in the box.

Rules for the Giveaway:
1.  Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, your comment will not be posted.
2.  You must complete the entry form to official enter the giveaway.
3.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time on March 20, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. on March 25, 2012.  
4.  You must be 13 years or older to participate.
5.  If you are selected as the winner, you will be notified by email.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
6. US residents only for this contest.

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (16)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.  Jen & Kellee from 
Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.
 
Each week I'll recap what I've read/reviewed the week before 
and then look ahead to what I am planning on reading/reviewing in the upcoming week.
 
Last week's book adventures:
Two weeks ago, I read a lot but didn't enjoy that many of the books I read.  This week, I read a lot less but really liked the books that I read. 
 
Here are my favorites from the past week:
 
 
Beep and Bah by James Burks - Take one goat and a robot with a desire for adventure and a missing sock and see what happens.  This picture book with a graphic novel feel was a big hit with my first and second graders.
 
 
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos - I listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it very much.  Not sure what kid audience I can share it with yet, except maybe as a read aloud.  However, I would recommend the audio.
 
 
Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill - If anyone is a fan of shows like Firefly, Farscape, or Andromeda, you will enjoy Gill's sci-fi dystopian novel.  Snark, action, a hot fictional guy, and a kick-butt girl.  Yep, I enjoyed this one and glad I only have to wait another week for book 2 to come out.

Nonfiction Picture Books:
Remember - Nonfiction Picture Book reviews will be posted on Wednesday (and possibly on some other days as well).


So, what are you reading this week? 

Please share! And remember to check in at Sheila's or Jen & Kellee's blog to see what they and others are reading!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nerdy Book Club Guest Post

Today I have a special guest post on the Nerdy Book Club Blog where I share a list my top 10 Early Readers.  However, have you ever tried to limit yourself to just 10 titles for 1st to 3rd graders?  It wasn't easy.  As a result, I am posting 10 more titles here.   For those of you working with 1st to 3rd Graders, here are 10 more book choices that are sure to be hits with your kiddos.



Marty McGuire by Kate Messner - Move over Clementine, Judy, and Ramona - there is a new 3rd grader in town and her name is Marty.  I love Messner's early Middle Grade series.  Marty McGuire Digs Worms comes out on April 1st. 


Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee - I love Bink & Gollie and book two will be here in time for the summer.  Yay!


Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm - I have 1st graders all the way up to 5th graders reading this series.  Who doesn't love Babymouse?  She rocks!


Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst; Illustrated by Lane Smith - There is only one book with Lulu but it sure is a good one.  I love all of the alternate ending choices.



Araminta Spookie by Angie Sage - Araminta lives in a big house, a castle of sorts along with her aunt and uncle, and a ghost, and quite a few more unusual things.  Just the right spookie fun for an early chapter book series.


Dinkin’ Dings by Guy Bass; Illustrated by Pete Williamson - Dinkin' is afraid of...well pretty much everything.  But it doesn't stop Dinkin' and the Frightening Things from having to save their neighborhood on a regular basis.  Lots of laughs with some scary things too.


Roscoe Riley by Katherine Applegate; Illustrated by Brian Biggs - Roscoe is one of my favorite first graders. 


Zac Power by H.I. Larry - For kids who enjoy things like Spy Kids, Zac Power is the perfect read.  Lots of adventure and cool gadgets can be found in these stories.


Down Girl and Sit by Lucy Nolan; Illustrated by Mike Reed - The world from the perspective of dogs.  Pretty humorous.


Gabby and Gator by James Burks - This would be cool as a series but I am happy for at least one story of Gabby and Gator.  This is another one that appeals from 1st to 5th grade.

Happy Reading...and be sure to stop by the Nerdy Book Club.



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review - Dead End in Norvelt

Author: Jack Gantos
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR)
Released:  September 13, 2011
Format:  Audiobook
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Middle Grade (10 to 14 years)
Fiction * Historical Fiction

Description from GoodReads:
Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.


My reflections on the book:
I will admit that based on the title and cover I would have completely passed over this book.  Then a friend shared that she liked it so I added it to my list to read.  I was still passing it over for other books and when the announcement came that it had won a Newbery.  At this point, I questioned the decision of the committee's choice.  And still I hadn't read it.  *sigh*  I know I shouldn't judge a book or a committee's judgement by the cover.  However, I still wasn't moving the book any higher in my TBR pile. 

After listening to the interview with Jack Gantos on NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, and learning that Gantos, himself, narrates the audiobook, I decided to try a different approach.  Maybe listening to the book would be a more successful endeavor.  It didn't take more than about one chapter to realize that the audiobook was an excellent choice.  I hadn't stopped laughing as I listened to Gantos read those first chapters of his fictionalized autobiographical story.

The challenge with an audiobook is that is typically takes longer to get through the book.  I listen in the car (though I don't have a long commute) and a little bit in the morning and again at night.  However, I found that as I listened I kept wanting to listen and wanting to find out more about Jack, and the other members of the Norvelt community.  At one point, since I can read faster than the audiobook, I even tried switching over to the book, but by that point I preferred Gantos' voice to my own and just switched back to the audio.

Dead End in Norvelt is a unique book.  As I listened, I couldn't help thinking that it was a book more for adults who want or need to reminisce about a different place and time that no longer exists.  Gantos captures the special nuances and eccentricities of growing up in a small working class community.  It is 1962.  Norvelt which was founded in the 1930's is dying out - figuratively and literally.  Twelve year old Jack is sentenced to a summer of confinement in his room when he gets caught in his parents' feud.  His only reprieve from being in his room or doing chores is when an elderly neighbor with serious arthritis needs his help to write/type up the obituaries.  For Jack, this isn't as bad as it may sound.  Jack likes history and with each death of an original Norvelt community member,  he learns from Miss Volker the history of the individual along with historical facts that she weaves into the write up.  

I liked Jack.  He's a good kid with very frequent nose bleeds, an interest in history, and a penchant for finding himself in unusual situations; some that get him into trouble particularly with his mother.  His friendship with Miss Volker is especially entertaining.  Every time the phone would ring, and Jack would be called to come down to Miss Volker, I would wonder what odd scenario he would find himself in this time.  And the situations are even stranger because parents and adults today would never allow children to do most of these things.  A child driving a car, or purchasing rat poison, or traipsing around checking on dead people is close to nil.  It finally occurred to me that the reason I loved listening to this rather than reading it was that it reminded me of the times when my dad and uncles would sit around the table and talk about the things they would do as children.  

Yes, I loved this one, but I especially loved listening to it.  I also appreciated the extra section in the audiobook where Gantos tells a little bit about what in the book was factual/autobiographical.  

I am afraid though that this one is going to be hard to sell.  The audience for this book is supposedly 10 to 14 year olds.  I am fascinated when I hear a teacher mention that some of her "boy" readers are really enjoying this one.  I always want to know where they are from.  I wonder if this one wouldn't do better with boys in small towns in the Northeast.  Or better yet, I think it would have more success with Baby Boomers who lived through this time period.  

I still am not a big fan of the cover.  And I still wonder about the decision of the Newbery Committee.  However, when I say that now, I can at least back that up with having read the book.  And I, at least, can now identify how I will present this book to children in a way that they hopefully will experience it as a slice of history (even if it is fictionalized). 

Check out the book trailer for Dead End in Norvelt:   


Friday, March 16, 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop March 17th to 22nd
Hosted By I am a Reader, Not a WriterBooks Complete Me & Author Cindy Thomas. Don't forget to check out the Mr. Linky to visit all of the blogs participating in this Giveaway Hop. 

I have thought about it and thought about it and finally decided that since it is St. Patrick's Day my giveaway hop is going to be a "winner's choice".  Do you have a book on your TBR list that you would like to get?  Or does the book you want to read at the library have an incredibly long waitlist?  Have you been wanting to try out an audiobook?  On lucky reader can select a *book in the format (ebook, audiobook, or traditional format) of his/her choice. 




* Please note: Ebooks & Traditional Books must be available on iTunes or Amazon for $15 or less.  Audiobooks must be either $15 or less if on iTunes or worth one credit on Audible.com.

Rules for the Giveaway:
1.  Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, your comment will not be posted.
2.  You must complete the entry form to official enter the giveaway.
3.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time on March 17, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. on March 22, 2012.  
4.  You must be 13 years or older to participate.
5.  If you are selected as the winner, you will be notified by email.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
6. US residents only for this contest.
 

Book Review - Ripper

Cross-posted from Now That's Filmworthy (Visit Kate's blog for a chance to win Ripper!)
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Publisher: Philomel Books / Penguin Young Readers
Release date: March 1, 2012
Source: Advance Readers Copy
Audience: Young Adult

Good Reads Description:
Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies.
Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets, and featuring a then New York City Police Commisioner Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything you thought you knew about the world’s most famous serial killer.

Kate's thoughts on this book:
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha was a fun read for me.  Being a history groupie, you always find that there are certain places, people, myths, and mysteries that pique your interest.  The case of Jack the Ripper is one of those interests of mine, so I was especially excited to read this book.  As I read, I began to see past the history and appreciate the writing style of the novel as well as the characters introduced.  To be honest, it reminded me of another one of my favorite adult mysteries, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.  

The book’s setting of the turn of the 20th Century allows the author to explore the advances in forensics and early investigative techniques. Petrucha takes full advantage of the opportunity. I thank him for it! The novel’s pacing and adventure makes it a great read for those guys who like a good mystery. (There is romance, but it isn’t overwhelming. It is more of an opportunity to give Carver, our hero, someone who is unconditionally in his corner.)  The story of the Ripper does include some disturbing murder and mayhem, but it doesn’t get too  explicit or overpowering.

The characters were intriguing. I loved seeing Mr. Petrucha’s take on Teddy Roosevelt. He really gave us an opportunity to relate to such a life-sized personality in US history. The themes also jumped out at me: the idea that your fate is our own no matter who your parents are, where you grew up, but what actions you take. No person should be pigeoned-holed especially as they are just discovering themselves.

Check out the book trailer in my Trailer Park!
For more information about author: Stefan Petrucha
On Twitter: @SPetrucha

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: How Many Jelly Beans?

Author: Andrea Menotti
Illustrator: Yancy Labatt
Publisher: Chronicle Books (February 29, 2012)
Source: Book for Review
Audience: Elementary
Nonfiction * Math * Picture Book

Description from Chronicle Books:
How many jelly beans are enough? How many are too many? Aiden and Emma can’t decide. Is 10 enough? How about 1,000? That’s a lot of jelly beans. But eaten over a whole year, it’s only two or three a day. This giant picture book offers kids a fun and easy way to understand large numbers. Starting with 10, each page shows more and more colorful candies, leading up to a giant fold-out surprise—ONE MILLION JELLY BEANS! With bright illustrations and an irresistible extra-large format, How Many Jelly Beans? makes learning about big numbers absolutely scrumptious! 

When this book arrived from the publisher, it was in a huge box.  I assumed it contained several books until I opened it up and realized that this book was larger than the typical picture book and required a larger than normal box.  The brightly colored jelly beans and black & white illustrations drew me in immediately.  I had to read this one.  Since receiving it, I have read it several times and enjoyed it every single time.  I even read this one aloud to a group of teacher/librarians recently who also loved it.  We couldn't stop plotting about ways to use this book with children.


The story kicks off with Emma being asked "how many jelly beans would you like?" She starts off with a conservative 10.  The corresponding illustration shows 10 realistically sized jelly beans in all colors.  Emma's younger brother, Aiden, though isn't as hesitant and asks for 20 jelly beans.  Quickly the number goes up 25, 50, 75, 500, 1000.  The two children eventually try to figure out how many jelly beans per day you would need to eat to consume 1000 in a year.  Even Murphy the dog finds a way to get into the action.  As the number of jelly beans goes up, the size of the jelly beans goes down.  The book ends with a surprise pull-out to represent 1,000,000 jelly beans.

This is a fabulous book.  It has it all - great concept, engaging illustrations, and well executed.  The size of the book may be a challenge on a shelf and the pull out at the end may be a bit difficult for younger children to re-fold (think how hard it is to refold a map properly).  However, this book needs to be used with children.  I can see a child reading it and calling others over to "check this out".  I can also see teachers using it with groups of children to discuss number sense.

Andrea Menotti and Chronicle Books have a winner on their hands.  I am so excited about this book that I am giving away the copy I received (it is in perfect condition - I was careful in looking at it).  And I plan on picking up several copies for the school library and for a personal copy at my local indie bookstore.

Rules for the Giveaway:
1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.


2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3.  The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 15, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on March 22, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  US residents ONLY for this contest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

Here are some of the books from this past week:

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
Author:  Alicia Potter
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Random House (March 13, 2012)
Audience: Grades 2-5

Ruth Harkness in 1936 did something that most women would not have done. She left her home and went to China to find a baby panda bear. Her husband died during an earlier exploration (due to cancer) and Harkness wanted to finish that search despite being a woman.

Now though we don't advocate going to another country to capture an animal, in 1936 attitudes were different. Harkness's actions provided many people with information about pandas that had not been available before.

I did find it humorous that she took 22 pieces of luggage with her but again due to the times they had to pack everything they would need for a long trip.
Definitely an interesting story which was released just in time for Women's History Month.

Melissa Sweet who created Balloons over Broadway uses similar techinques to create the illustrations for this book.  They are wonderful and I do hope they get some recognition.



Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased
Author:  Amy Novesky
Illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 20, 2012, but I have seen it in the wild)
Audience: Grades 2-5

Another book out in time for Women's History Book focuses on the famous female artist Georgia O'Keeffe.  Amy Novesky is paired up with Yuyi Morales covering the illustrations.  Morales brings her considerable skill in painting rich, vibrant pictures that just jump out at you.  The choice to use such vibrant colors paired with creating illustrations based off of O'Keeffe's actual work brings depth to the story.

Novesky's story captures Georgia's trip and experience in Hawaii.  O'Keeffe was determined to explore Hawaii and paint the beautiful scenes which she was witnessing.   This put her in direct conflict with the wishes of the Pineapple Company which just wanted O'Keeffe to paint a pineapple. 
 


Though the book ends a bit abruptly, I loved many of the illustrations and the sense of who Georgia O'Keeffe was as a woman and painter.


It's that time of the week...add your nonfiction reviews to the Mr. Linky below. 




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Sue Macy



March is National Women's History Month.  To celebrate, author, Sue Macy stopped by to answer a few questions.  For those of you who don't know, Sue is the author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) which was recognized with a nomination for a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.  Way to go Sue!


For some background information for my readers - When did you decide to become a writer? And how did you come upon being a writer of nonfiction books for children?

When I was a junior in high school, I won a competition sponsored by my local New Jersey newspaper that enabled me to attend the National High School Institute in Journalism at Northwestern University. That five-week summer experience was the foundation for my career as a nonfiction author.  I had always liked to write and was the editor in chief of my junior high and high school newspapers, but the Northwestern program gave me the practical and ethical tools that have used throughout my career. I see myself primarily as a reporter, but one who usually reports on events and developments that happened in the past.

Basketball Belles came out about a year ago.  When I read it, I immediately had to tell others about it.  What was the inspiration for writing the story of about Agnes Morley and her team mates?

I first learned about the 1896 game portrayed in Basketball Belles more than 15 years ago, when I was writing Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports. At that time, I read some of the reporting about the game in the San Francisco newspapers. Since no men were allowed to watch the game, all of the reporters were women, and it was really interesting to read their perspectives on this sports event. As it happens, my college thesis advisor at Princeton had become a tenured professor at Stanford, and that made the idea of researching this game, which was between Stanford and Cal Berkeley, even more enticing. I didn’t decide to focus on Agnes Morley till much later in the process, when I realized I needed a central character and decided it had to be a player. I researched the backgrounds of a lot of players, but I felt I got to know Agnes best because I read some of the short stories she wrote, and her memoir. The circumstances of her childhood made her the perfect protagonist.

How many hours of research goes into writing a nonfiction picture book like Basketball Belles and how do you work to ensure that the facts are as accurate as possible?

Since my writing background is as a journalist, I’m a stickler for facts and the “truth.” I struggled with that when I was working on Basketball Belles. It was my first picture book, and I knew I had to make the story compelling and exciting, but I also wanted it to be true. One of the drafts centered on a fictional girl who was attending the game so she could write a school report, but it felt wrong injecting a fictional character into the mix. I’m glad I jettisoned her and highlighted Agnes Morley instead.

As for how much research I did, the answer is: LOTS! I went to Stanford and Cal to use their libraries and even spoke to the current women’s basketball coaches there. That wasn’t at all necessary, but I’m a basketball fan and it was such a treat. It also helped me put that first game in perspective. I think I read every article written about that game, before and after it was played, in all the San Francisco papers, as well as those from Berkeley and Stanford. I tried to follow up on the stories of as many players as I could. I think there’s another book in that, or at least an article. The group of players went on to be teachers, doctors, and scientists, as well as wives and mothers. It was quite a crew.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines? 

I’m big on organization. When I start a project, I label a series of file folders so I can file my research articles according to the chapters they belong in. I also have folders for photographs, memos and correspondence, back matter, and other topics. That helps tremendously because I gather lots of material and it does me no good if it just sits in a pile on my desk. If I file it away, I can usually find it when I need it.

While I can read my research anywhere, most of my work is done at my desk, in front of my computer. A few years ago I got a Mac with a 27-inch screen because I like to have a lot of windows open at once. When I’m writing, I’ll often refer to Internet sites to check facts or confirm spellings. When I’m doing online photo research, I’ll compare a number of photographs head to head to decide which ones work best for me.

My other ritual is to let things gel by taking occasional breaks to play an online game. When I was working on a PC, I would play Spider Solitaire. Now I’m somewhat obsessed with the Jigsaw Puzzle Generator on the National Geographic Web site (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/your-shot/jigsaw-puzzles). That makes jigsaw puzzles out of photographs, and you use your mouse to put the pieces together. It’s a great way to step back from the intensity of writing, and it usually ends up helping me move the story forward when I go back to it.

Recently, I heard some historical fiction writers talk about their research and how some of the techniques could be used by children as part of the writing process.  Are there certain things that you can suggest to teachers that they can use to assist young writers?

Whenever I write about a period in history, I try to read the newspapers of that time. Often, I use the Library of Congress’s Historic Newspapers collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov). It covers newspapers from 1836 to 1922 and is easily searchable. If you want to find out what the papers were saying about basketball in 1896, for example, you can use search parameters to find the articles in the newspapers in the collection, which includes papers from 30 states and the District of Columbia. You can even target specific states or newspapers in your search.

I’m also big on timelines. I’m currently trying to lock down an idea for a new YA nonfiction book, and I actually downloaded a timelines app that automatically plugs information I input onto a graphic timeline. It really helps me look at the big picture. For example, I input the lifespans of about 20 people I’m considering covering in the book, and with the timeline I can see at a glance who was born first, who lived the longest, and when their lives overlapped. It’s a very useful tool, whether your research covers a century or only a year.

One of the challenges many of my librarian friends run into is with the number of pages in a nonfiction book for 4th to 8th graders.  Many children will come in asking for a biography or nonfiction work on a particular topic and say that it needs to be 150 pages  I have noticed that many nonfiction books for this age group fall between 96 to 130 pages. Many of these books are fantastic.  Any thoughts on how to help teachers recognize the quality of a nonfiction book despite this randomly set number of page criteria not being met?   

When I started writing nonfiction for that age range in 1993, many books were straight narratives. The trim sizes of the pages were similar to those of fiction books  and they usually had rivers of text, broken up by some captioned pictures. Today, trim sizes are bigger to make room for sidebars and features and primary source reprints. While there is still a narrative thread in most books, there’s also supplemental material that helps readers gain additional perspective on the story (and fulfills the mandate of the Common Core to teach kids to use primary sources). If kids read all of these sidebars and analyze the images, they may very well spend as much time with a 96-page book as their predecessors did with a 150-page straight narrative. I’d urge teachers to reevaluate the strict mandate on page length to allow for the realities of the new nonfiction.

Anything that you can share about future books that you are working on?

My next project is a picture book about Roller Derby in 1948. It’s another subject I first wrote about in Winning Ways. There was a point in time when Roller Derby was first televised, and it both exploded in popularity and led people to embrace television as a medium that could show live action events. The book will focus on that moment in time, and on the skater with one of my favorite sports nicknames ever, Midge “Toughie” Brasuhn.

I’m also working on an idea about women in early television, but it’s too early to tell you much about that yet.

Thanks Sue for stopping by and celebrating National Women's History Month with us.  I am so going to check out the Library of Congress's Historic Newspaper link and the app for timelines sounds interesting.  

Don't forget to follow Sue on twitter:  @suemacy1

Monday, March 12, 2012

What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (15)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.  Jen & Kellee from 
Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.
 
Each week I'll recap what I've read/reviewed the week before 
and then look ahead to what I am planning on reading/reviewing in the upcoming week.
 
Last week's book adventures:
Have you ever had a week where you read a lot but very few of the books stand out?  This is how I would characterize my reading week.  However, there were a few that really stood out for me. 
 
Here are my favorites from the past week:

Lester Fizz, Bubble Gum Artist by Ruth Spiro
I had been looking for this book for awhile and excited when I actually found it.  The story was a bit different than I expected but I really enjoyed the book and all the great references to artists and classic art.  


Mega Mash Up: Robots Vs. Gorillas in the Desert by Nikalas Catlow
This is not necessarily a book you would put in your library, but as a gift to a child - excellent choice.  Children are encouraged to write directly into the book; add text and illustrations.  


Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner; Illustrated by Brian Floca
I love Marty and this time she is out to Save the Planet - by composting.  I'll be working on a review.  This is a definite favorite for the week.


City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
I started this on audiobook back in April and wasn't enjoying it.  I also think I had mixed feelings about the series moving beyond what I thought was a well wrapped up trilogy that now was turning into a six book series.  So I gave it some space.  I needed to get back into the right mindset to read it.  I think after finishing Clockwork Prince last week I was sufficiently back into the Shadowhunter world.  I will be looking forward to City of Lost Souls when it comes out in May.    

Caldecott Challenge Update:

I am going to be so excited when I have moved beyond the 1940's.  These have not been my favorite books, but I am plugging away slowly. 


Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling


The Christmas Anna Angel by Ruth Sawyer; Illustrated by Kate Serdy

Nonfiction Picture Books:
Remember - Nonfiction Picture Book reviews will be posted on Wednesday (and maybe some other days as well since I am starting to have too many books to post on just one day). 

So, what are you reading this week? 

Please share! And remember to check in at Sheila's or Jen & Kellee's blog to see what they and others are reading!