Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pause for picture books

THE THREE ARMADILLIES TUFF by Jackie Mims Hopkins with illustrations by S. G. Brooks (Peachtree 2011) is, of course, a variant of the Three Billygoats Tough. Three armadillos, sisters, use a culvert to cross a busy highway and reach the dance hall. Along the way, each of them runs into a mangy coyote who wishes to eat them. There is a nice twist in this humorous reenvisioning of the classic tale. <438>

Myron Uhlberg's A STORM CALLED KATRINA (Peachtree 2011) is the story of a young boy who, along with his parents, flees from his house as the flood waters of Katrina threaten. They head to the Superdome where the situation is grim. Ten year old Louis' prized possession, his brass cornet, helps him find his father amidst all of the evacuees. <439>

Father Ghost tells his children some scary stories in THE HAUNTED HAMBURGER AND OTHER GHOSTLY STORIES by David LaRochelle with illustrations by Paul Meisel (Dutton 2011). The cover should provide readers with a clue that the contents may be more funny than spooky. <440>

DREAM SOMETHING BIG by Dianna Hutts Aston with collage illustrations by Susan L. Roth (Dial 2011) is the story of folk artist Simon Rodia known in his neighborhood as Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam collected bits and pieces of what others discarded to create towering sculptures in Watts, California. <441>

Electron-scanning microscope pictures of bugs provide readers with a close up look at all sorts of bugs in BUG SHOT: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BUGLY by Alexandra Say and Dennis Kunkel (Holiday House 2011). Be prepared for kids to want to sit and simply stare at the photos over and over again. <442>

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adventure? No thanks!

Oliver and Celia Navel should love a good adventure. Their parents are famed explorers. They live with their Dad at the Exclusive Explorer's Club. Their mother disappeared while searching for the lost library of Alexandria. These two should be primed for action, right? Not so. In WE ARE NOT EATEN BY YAKS by C. Alexander London (Philomel 2011), readers will meet the 11 year old twins who would rather sit and stare at the TV and enjoy reality TV than set foot outside of their residence. But events conspire to send them into the mountains of Tibet in search of their mother. Of course, they manage somehow to survive and even partly solve a mystery about the lost library and other artifacts explorers desire to find. <437>

The adventure, reluctant as it is in the eyes of our protagonists, has elements of Snicket and Dahl which makes for some funny moments, some tall tale telling, and some snide villains to say the least. Short chapters make this appealing to reluctant readers and also make it excellent for short read aloud bursts daily. An open ending promises more adventures to come for Celia and Oliver.

Monday, August 29, 2011


DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK by Tom Angleberger (Amulet 2011) continues the saga of Dwight and Origami Yoda. As the novel opens, Harold, one of Dwight's classmates, is using his own origami Darth Vader to mock Dwight and Origami Yoda. A misunderstanding lands Dwight in trouble once again with the principal who is more than a little weary with Origami Yoda and Dwight. She proposes sending Dwight to a different school, one for behavior problems. Dwight asks Tommy to put together a case file to share with the school board at his hearing. Once again, Tommy and his friends come to the aid of their friend Dwight and the wise Origami Yoda. <435>

Angleberger has a good ear for dialog, especially the way middle school kids can mock one another and treat someone with compassion or with concern. The voices that are included in Tommy's case file will be familiar to those who read THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA. However, new readers will be able to jump right into this second story as well. Of course, instructions for folding a simple Yoda and then a Darth Vader are included. Here is mine (with help from Kellee Moyee) at the ALAN workshop last November.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I brought a bag full of picture books homne from the office Monday to read with fewer distractions. Here are the 8 that made the commute (they are well traveled books now).

THE UMBRELLA by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert (Lemniscat 2011) is a textless story of a dog who discovers a red umbrella. The wind carries him away on an adventure of a lifetime as he soars in the skies and also dives into the sea. As his adventure comes to an end, he abandons the umbrella. The closing endpaper shows the cat curiously sniffing the umbrella. <427>

SIX MEN by David McKee (NorthSouth 2011) tells of a group of six men who hire soldiers to protect their wealth. However, the six are not content simply to have soldiers simply standing guard. Events spiral out of control with predictable consequences. Tie this one to Mem Fox's FEATHERS AND FOOLS. <428>

The board book, SANTA'S NEW IDEA, by Nina Chen (NorthSouth) is a charming story about how one Christmas Santa allowed the toys to select the children to whom they would be gifted. So, when you spy a toy under the tree, know that it has been selected especially for you. I love this message in a time of over-commercialization. <429>

A wolf glares from the cover of I AM SO STRONG by Mario Ramos (Gecko Press 2011). As the wolf strides through the forest he encounters other creatures including three pigs seven dwarfs, and finally a tiny toad. All of the creatures save the strange looking toad agree that the wolf is the strongest and most fierce creature of all. When the last little creature dares to disagree, there is a surprise in store for the wolf and for readers. <430>

The subject of death is a tough one for books for children. International children's books, however, do not shy away as evidenced in DUCK, DEATH, AND THE TULIP by Wolf Erlbruch (Gecko Press 2011), a Hans Christian Anderson winner. Duck meets Death and the two become friends over the course of a summer. When Duck dies, we see Death mourn for his lost friend. The illustrations, simple in line, exude incredible pathos. <431>

Why do dogs wag tails, bark, sniff other dog's butts? Those questions and more are answered in DOGGY WHYS? by Lila Prap (NorthSouth 2011). The author is another Andersen winner for her illustrations. This book should serve as a splendid example of why she has been so honored. <432>

The simple board book COLORS by Charley Harper (Ammo Books 2011) is not that simple after all. Different colors appear on pages with illustrations that contain many other objects than the ones mentioned in the text. <433>

Having a father who is a shouter so upsets Helena, a talented musician, that she runs away from home and goes to live with another family. In BRAVO! by Moni Port and Philip Waechter (Gecko Press 2011), Helena's father learns the value of speaking without shouting (except of course when he is shouting BRAVO at Helena's concert). <434>

Saturday, August 27, 2011

working through the stacks of picture books

WHAT PUPPIES DO BEST by Laura Numeroff with illustrations by Lynn Munsinger (Chronicle 2011) is a simple pattern book about the fun and pleasure puppies bring into our lives. This could easily be used as a model for writing about other topics (what kittens do best, what sisters do best, etc). <422>

A basic concept book is made tasty in CANDY 1 TO 20 by Laurie Wolf and Pam Abrams with photos by Bruce Wolf. Count licorice laces, swedish fish, and other yummy treats that form the numbers from 1 to 20. <423>

EYE POPPING 3 D BUGS by Barry and Betsy Rothstein (Chronicle 2011) comes with two pair of 3 D glasses (*thanks for the spare pair, right educators?). The glasses make centipedes, praying mantises, and other bugs seem to rise off the page. Lots of photos and text filled with interesting information in this nonfiction book that is sure to please bug lovers. <424>

Bob Marley's song "One Love" is the basis for this children's book by Cedella Marley with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Chronicle 2011). All of the things to love are here in bright images which will make them accessible to all children. <425>

TILLIE THE TERRIBLE SWEDE by Sue Stauffacher with illustrations by Sarah McMenemy (Knopf 2011) fits so nicely in with the Matt Phelan ARC I read this weekend, AROUND THE WORLD (Candlewick, October 2011). Tillie lived riding her bike despite criticism that it was not proper or lady-like. She made herself a biking outfit that was scandalous, but she could race more comfortably in it. One woman bicyclist could and did make changes in what was deemed proper for women and the new-fangled transportation. <426>

Friday, August 26, 2011

A few good books

JACKIE'S GIFT by Sharon Robinson with beautiful illustrations by E. B. Lewis (Viking 2011) is the true story of the Robinson's move to a new home. There they met Steve Satlow, a huge fan of Jackie's. Steve's family was Jewish and when he told Jackie that the family did not have a Christmas tree, Jackie made it his priority to get one for the Satlow family. This story is funny and poignant at turns. <416>

Amelia Bedelia is back and still taking things entirely too literally in GO WEST, AMELIA BEDELIA by Herman Parish with illustrations by Lynn Sweat (Greenwillow 2011). Tenderfoot Amelia learns about punching cows and ten gallon hats in a story that will make young readers chuckle. <417>

GIANT STEPS TO CHANGE THE WORLD (Simon & Schuster 2011) by Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee with illustrations by Sean Qualls tells readers to get striving against the odds. References are made to famous people who had to struggle to achieve and succeed including Barak Obama, Mother Teresa, and Albert Einstein. <418>

CHRISTMAS IN THE TIME OF BILLY LEE by Jerdine Nolen with illustrations by Barry Moser (Disney 2011) is the story of one girl's determination to bring snow back to her town with the help of her invisible friend Billy Lee. Moser's illustrations bring to life this story of wonder and belief and abiding love. Ellie makes three wishes that come true this magical Christmas. <419>

Thursday, August 25, 2011

setting records

Matt Phelan carries readers along on several historic voyages in AROUND THE WORLD (Candlewick, October 2011). In graphic novel form with little text, Phelan relates the travels and travails of Thomas Stevens who, in 1884 traveled around the world on a bicycle. Nellie Bly, woman journalist, challenged the record of Jules Verne's characters by travelling around the world in 1889. Finally, mariner Joshua Slocum sailed around the world in 1895. Phelan's art tells much of the three stories. He relies on color, facial expressions, and the reactions of others along the route to let readers know what is happening. <415>

There is no doubt that Phelan has mastered the craft of telling stories through spare words and deceptively simple illustrations. Reading about these three adventures may well spur readers to track down longer works about each of these journeys including the books written by each of these travelers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


MY MISADVENTURES AS A TEENAGE ROCK STAR by Joyce Raskin with illustrations by Carol Chu (Houghton Mifflin 2011) takes readers on a journey with Alex, a 14 year old searching for a different identity than her real-life situation as a fairly invisible teen. When her brother volunteers Alex as a bass player in a band, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined. The band becomes famous; Alex falls in love and out of love and back in love with someone else. She moves from invisible to high profile, maybe too high profile when it comes to a couple of bullies, too. <414>

Raskin was a rocker herself and so writes about a subject near and dear to her. Teen girls who aspire to fame in this field may take some lessons away from this slim easy read.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

stuck in traffic with a good companion

Last Friday was a LONG day. I had breakfast with our newest faculty member at 8. The day progressed with meetings with the dean and the COE and then our own department meeting. After the meetings, I took newly minted College Girl to dinner and then on to buy some decent shoes for marching practice. I left campous about 10 hours after I arrived and headed home, a trip that should have taken 30-40 minutes. Nope, not Friday.

I hit thunderstorms about halfway home. Traffic crawled as water collected on the roads all of which are under construction. However, I did not curse the rain. We need it. It also dropped the temperature outside from 106 degrees (yes, at 7 pm) to a positively balmy 84 degrees. Finally, I was off the freeway and down the homestretch when traffic came to a complete halt. I could see emergency vehicles blocking both sides of the road home. And as I tried to figure out if there was a lane getting though, Life Flight helicopter ambulance landed in the middle of the road. No worries.

Anyone who knows me is probably thinking, why is she not ranting and raving? Simple: I was listening to the impeccable FULL CAST AUDIO's production of Bruce Coville's ODDLY ENOUGH.

Funny, scary, and poignant stories were brought to life by the skilled age-appropriate readers. I listened fondly to "Old Glory" a story I recalled reading in an anthology edited by Jane Yolen. Written 20 years ago and set in 2041, it is eerily too close to reality now. Music set the stage and mood for each story. I particularly liked the Hendrix-like riff that opens "Old Glory." An extra on this audio is Coville talking about coming to write short stories; there were some background facts about the genesis for some of the stories as well. By the time the traffic began moving, the audio was coming to an end. While I was anxious to get home, I did not mind the extra time spent with Bruce and the FCA crew. <413>

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day Books

Here in Texas, school started today. It seems a good idea to offer some great picks for that first day back read aloud.

For older students, how about an alphabet book of collective nouns? Here is A ZEAL OF ZEBRAS (Chroncile Books 2011) with a pandemonium of parrots and an ostentation of peacocks to name but a few of the collective nouns used for groups of animals. Add in a troubling of goldfish and a bale of turtles and let the discussion on how these collective nouns came to be used for these species roll on. <420>

Kate Messner's SEA MONSTER'S FIRST DAY with illustrations by Andy Rash (Chronicle 2011) is another perfect choice for those first days, especially in younger grades where there is the palpable fear of fitting in. Starting school is tough when you are a seam monster who does not fit into the other "schools." However, sea monster strikes just the right chord as he learns how to be part of the school. Humor, as always, helps to dispel some of the fear, and Messner provides plenty of humor in this back to school story. <421>

books for the young

ESTIE THE MENSCH by Jane Kohuth with illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger (Random House 2011) is the story of a girl who would rather pretend to be an animal. Her parents and her grandmother are always telling her to be a mensch (person), but Estie prefers animals to humans until a trip to the zoo makes her see things differently. <408>

PUPPIES, KITTENS, AND OTHER POP-UP PETS introduces younger readers to the pop up work of Matthew Reinhart. Flaps, pop-ups and other movable tabs are sure to encourage interaction with the book. <409>

How much trouble can ONE LITTLE CHICKEN cause? Elka Weber retells a story from the Talmud for young readers as a girl takes care of a chicken that wanders into the house. before long, there are chicks. At market, the chicks are traded for goats and later the eggs and cheese are traded for more. This tale combines elements of cumulative stories with lessons from the Talmud about ownership and doing the right thing. <410>

THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF BALTO by Meghan McCarthy (Knopf 2011) is a story that is familiar to some given other books and a movie based on the heroic actions of this sled dog who delivered much needed medicine to Nome, Alaska. Here the story is related in picture book format, making it accessible to younger readers. An author's note entitled "Detective Work" gives lots more info in a behind-the-scenes look at the story of Balto. <411>

ARTSY BABIES WEAR PAINT by Michelle Sinclair Colman with illustrations by Nathalie Dion is a board book with gentle good humor about the artistic abilities of babies. <412>

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stickman and his Quest

As soon as I saw the cover for STICKMAN ODYSSEY, BOOK ONE, AN EPIC DOODLE by Christopher Ford (Philomel 2011), I knew it was going into my TBR stack and pretty near the top at that. Having suffered through (erm, enjoyed) The Odyssey and watched as the three granddaughters did the same, I was curious to see how this book might play out. One word: HILARIOUSLY! Of course, it did help to have some background knowledge to get all of the inside jokes and references, but I can see this book perhaps serving as a gateway in the opposite direction: as a prelude to further study of Gerek myths and epics. Zozimos battles golems and other creatures that intend him harm as he struggles to find his way back home again. He is aided by a hermit who believes he is hideous and two women he meets in his journeys. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful ladder that includes George O'Connor's HERA (in which Heracles figures prominently) and, at the other end, Garth Hinds' graphic novel version of The Odyssey (Candlewick 2010). <407>

Saturday, August 20, 2011

reading with my ears

A new division of Full Cast Audio, ONE VOICE, presents the audio version of Charles Benoit's YOU (Full Cast Audio/One Voice 2011). Narrator David Baker gives a breathtaking performance. I had read the novel early on in ARC, so I knew the story. However, as soon as the deep bass tones of the narrator rumbled through the speakers, I found myself once more transported to the world of "hoodie" Kyle Chase as he begins to relate his story in second person. This partially voiced performance hits all the right notes as Kyle meets the young man who will be his downfall, the clever and sardonic Zack. Pacing, intonation, inflections: all combine in this audiobook that perfectly conveys the menacing and inevitable events that lead to the tragic conclusion (and there is where the book opens: with the ending). Terse, tight, riveting: play just a few minutes of the audio to whet listeners' appetites and then get out of the way. <406>

Friday, August 19, 2011

singing along with Arnold Adoff

ROOTS AND BLUES by Arnold Adoff with paintings by R. Gregory Christie (Clarion 2011) celebrates music, specifically The Blues, an American art form. Speaking of art forms, one glimpse into this treasure of a book should convince readers of the artistic talent of Adoff and Christie. Adoff's poems sing off the page. I find it difficult to read them without reading them aloud and somehow the rhythm just flows naturally. His unique presentation of text on the page is the score for the musical poems about past greats (Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and so many more) as well as new incarnations, nightclubs, cotton fields where slaves labored, church. Adoff's words sing. Christie's paintings, stylistic and filled with dark hues, are a perfect accompaniment. Pair this with JAZZ by Walter Dean Myers. <405>

Buy this book NOW and thank me LATER

The latest picture book from Lane Smith, GRANDPA GREEN (Roaring Brook, 2011) is exquisite, simply exquisite. As the story opens, a simple narrative thread tells readers of a man born a long time ago who studied to become a horticulturist but ended having to go to fight in a war instead. Later, he married and had kids and grandkids and even a great-grandkid (our narrator). Now that the boy is old he forgets some things but the green things he has nurtured help him to remember. Touching, poignant text is accompanied by illustrations that are populated with growing shrubs, trees, and bushes most of which take the shape of the important events and points in the boy's life. Shades of green from the palest to the deepest exude emotion and meaning. Thank you Lucy for sending me a copy of this remarkable book. It has special meaning to me and will have that special meaning, I suspect, for countless others. <413>

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Short Takes

OH HOW SYLVESTER CAN PESTER by Robert Kinerk with illustrations by Drazen Kozjan (Simon & Schuster 2011) is subtitled AND OTHER POEMS MORE OR LESS ABOUT MANNERS. Table manners, manners when in the supermarket (so can relate to the need for this lesson), shaking hands, dressing appropriately, and much more are presented in quick, lively rhymes for young (and maybe even older) readers. Pair this one with RUDE GIANTS. <401>

Chris Van Allsburg presents readers with the true life story of the QUEEN OF THE FALLS (Houghton Mifflin 2011). Annie Edson Taylor was in her 60s when she decided to have a barrel custom built for a trip over Niagra Falls. Van Allsburg's quiet illustrations lend much to this story of a woman who sought a way to earn a living late in life. Master of perspective and point of view, the illustrations demand attention even after the story ends. <402>

The Scientists in the Field series is one of the best (if not the best) available for elementary and middle grade readers. THE ELEPHANT SCIENTIST by Caitlin O'Connell and Donna M. Jackson (Houghton Mifflin 2011) is just one example of this powerful series that tracks scientists who are tops in their field. O'Connell has spent years observing elephants and has demonstrated that they can communicate in complex ways. They can also sense vibrations through their feet which are designed to conduct even the slightest of vibrations. Informational, conversational text and incredible you-are-there photos combine for a fascinating look at these immense creatures. <403>

TEN LITTLE PUPPIES or DIEZ PERRITOS by Alma Flor Ada (Spanish text) and Rosalma Zubizarreta (English text) with illustrations by F. Isabel Carmody (for the Spanish text) and Ulises Wensell (English text) gives readers a fun rhyme about 10 puppies and their adventures out into the world. A terrific touch is the appendix which tells a little about each of the species pictured in the illustrations. Text is in Spanish with English translation on the facing page. <404>

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Be Nimble and Be Quick to Read this Book...

PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier (Amulet 2011) takes readers on a journey with a thieving young blind boy and his sidekick, an enchanted knight who now resembles a horse-cat or a cat-horse. Peter begins this journey with a box that contains three pairs of eyes, one golden, one onyx, and one jade green. These eyes will assist him as he sets off on a quest. The voyage will end with Peter and Sir Tode on a desert island where Peter must fulfill a prophecy. <400>

This book begs to be read aloud a chapter at a time over the course of a few weeks. The chapters are wonderfully complete scenes in and of themselves. Ultimately, though, together they will transport the reader alongside Peter and Sir Tode as they battle all manner of danger. Action, adventure, and humor make this a terrific choice for sharing with middle grades.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Picture Book Monday, short version

Since College Girl came over to see me for lunch and then a trip to Target for some necessities (a stepstool to climb into her bed!), I only had time for a handful of picture books today.

HONEYBEE MAN by Lela Nargi and Kyrsten Brooker (Schwartz and Wade 2011) is the story of a man who keeps bees on the rooftop of his apartment building in Brooklyn. He harvests the honey, a honey that carries with it the tastes of his neighborhood. Great book about bees and honey and how it is all done. <391>

Greta's father is a photographer. Greta finds a way to dress up as the current subjects of his shoots in A PHOTO FOR GRETA by Anna Alter (Knopf 2011). Perhaps one day she, too, will become a photographer. <392>

J. R. R. TOLKIEN by Alexandra Wallner with illustrations by John Wallner (Holiday House 2011) is a wonderful biography of the incredible author behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It begins with his childhood and ends with the publication of his trilogy. The illustrations are done with a board game running through them (move ahead two spaces, etc.) adding dimension to the straightforward text. <393>

After the end of the Civil War, a young boy walks home in search of his motehr, sold off by the master. He walks in and out of months searching for his Rosie Lee, a mother he longs to see again in WALKING HOME TO ROSIE LEE by A. LaFaye with illustrations by Keith D. Shepherd (Cinco Puntos Press 2011). <394>

Monday, August 15, 2011

$$$$$ available from ALAN

ALAN Foundation Research Grants
Members of ALAN may apply to the ALAN Foundation for funding (up to $1,500) for research in young adult literature. Proposals are reviewed by the five most recent presidents of ALAN. Awards are made annually in the Fall and are announced at the ALAN breakfast during the NCTE convention in November. The application deadline each year is September 15th.

Applications for the grant are on the ALAN web site:

Gallo Grants

The Gallo Grants were established in 2003 by former ALAN Award and Hipple Award recipient Don Gallo to encourage educators in their early years of teaching to attend the ALAN Workshop for the first time. The grants provide funding—up to $750 each—for two classroom teachers in middle school or high school each year to attend the ALAN Workshop. (The amount of a grant may be less than $750 if the applicant lives within commuting distance of the convention location where airfare and housing would not be necessary or has access to other funding). In addition to the $750 grant, the registration fee for the workshop will also be covered. Recipients will receive half of the grant ($375) before the workshop. The remaining half of the grant will be disbursed at the end of the ALAN Workshop. The ALAN Workshop is held at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving Day. Applicants must be teaching full-time; must have been classroom teachers for less than five years prior to the year in which they are applying; and must not have attended an ALAN Workshop previously. Membership in ALAN is not required for consideration, though applicants are expected to become ALAN members if they receive this grant.

Applicants must fill out the grant application form and submit an essay of no more than 750 words explaining their interest in Young Adult Literature, what they hope to gain by attending this year’s ALAN Workshop, and how they hope to use the experience in their classrooms in the future. A letter of support must also come from the applicant’s school system. The deadline for submission is September 1st. Applicants will be judged on their ability to articulate their understanding of the value of Young Adult literature as well as their explanation of how they intend to use YA books and the information they gather at the Workshop in their own classrooms.

Recipients of Gallo Grants are required to submit, within 30 days after the workshop, brief (two-page) anecdotal reports of their ALAN workshop experiences—noting highlights and commenting on the value of the experience personally and professionally, particularly its impact on teaching.

The Grant application in on the ALAN web site:

Voting opens for Teens Top Ten

From Stevie Kuenn:


The big day is here! Your teens have been reading the 2011 Teens' Top Ten nominations since April, and now they can tell us which books are their favorites. Voting for the 2011 Teens' Top Ten opened today and is available through Sept. 15 — and this year, we've made it even easier for your teens to vote by embedding the TTT survey right on the Teens' Top Ten homepage at! (If you still want to use a separate link, that's available at

We'll announce the winners at during Teen Read Week, Oct. 16-22.

The Teens' Top Ten is a reading list chosen entirely by and for teens. The twenty-five official nominations were chosen by sixteen teen book groups from across the U.S. that participate in YALSA's YA Galley project, in which publishers provide book groups with galleys and the teens provide feedback. Last year, more than 8,000 teens voted for the Teens' Top Ten, choosing Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins as their favorite title.

The 25 nominees are:

Bachorz, Pam. Drought. Egmont USA. 2011. (978606840160).

Beam, Cris. I Am J. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2011. (9780316053617).

Beaudoin, Sean. You Killed Wesley Payne. 2011. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. (9780316077422).

Black, Holly and Justine Larbalestier. Zombies vs. Unicorns. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books. 2010. (9781416989530).

Card, Orson Scott. The Lost Gate. Tor Books. 2011. (9780765326577).

Clare, Cassandra. The Clockwork Angel. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry. 2010. (9781416975861).

Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. Scholastic. 2010. (9780439023511).

Collins, Yvonne. Love, Inc. Disney/Hyperion. 2011. (9781423131151).

Condie, Ally. Matched. 2010. Penguin/Dutton. (9780525423645).

Cremer, Andrea. Nightshade. Penguin/Philomel. 2010. (9780399254826).

Fitzpatrick, Becca. Crescendo. Simon & Schuster Children’s. 2010. (9781416989431).

Grant, Michael. Lies. 2010. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books. (9780061449093).

Hawkins, Rachel. Demonglass. Disney/Hyperion. 2011. (9781423121312).

Hawkins, Rachel. Hex Hall. Disney/Hyperion. 2010. (9781423121305).

Kagawa, Julie. The Iron King. 2010. Harlequin. (9780373210084).

Lore, Pittacus. I Am Number Four. HarperCollins. 2010. (9780061969553).

Moore, Peter. Red Moon Rising. Disney/Hyperion. 2011. (9781423116653).

Nelson, Jandy. The Sky is Everywhere. 2010. Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers. (9780142417805).

Oliver, Lauren. Before I Fall. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2010. (9780061726804).

O’Neal, Ellis. The False Princess. Egmont USA. 2011. (9781606840795).

Patterson, James. Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel. Little, Brown & Company. 2011. (9780316036207).

Pearce, Jackson. Sisters Red. Little, Brown and Company. 2010. (9780316068680).

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Blessed. Candlewick Press. 2011. (9780763643263).

Westerfeld, Scott. Behemoth. Simon Pulse. 2010. (9781416971757).

White, Kiersten. Paranormalcy. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2010. (9780061985843).

Walden Committee seeks new members

Call for 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Selection Committee Members

Those interested in serving on the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee may self-nominate by completing a self-nomination form. Members of the selection committee must be: 1) ALAN members and 2) classroom teachers, university professors, or librarians. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, authors and publishers are not eligible to apply.

To participate in the selection of the 2012 winner, please send completed self-nomination forms to Ricki Ginsberg (, the 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee Chair, by September 15, 2011. For more information about the award and to download the self-nomination form, please visit ALAN Online (

Service on the committee requires a commitment to reading a wide range of YA fiction and consulting with other committee members. All of the committee work is done in an online forum. Access to the internet is essential. Ability to read critically is also important. It is expected that deadlines be met and that all committee members are active discussants during the process.

The Committee Chair, striving for wide representation of members in terms of professional position, grade level of population served, and geographic diversity, will extend an invitation to potential committee members who show an interest in serving. Those selected will serve for one year with the possibility of reappointment.

Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Selection Committee
Self-Nomination Form


Professional Role (please select one): Teacher University Professor Librarian

If you are a teacher, please indicate grade level(s) taught:

If you are a librarian, please indicate if you are public or school:

ALAN Member? Yes No If yes, please indicate number of years: _________

Institutional Affiliation:

E-mail Address:

Mailing Address:

Phone Number(s):

Statement describing why you wish to serve on the committee (please include previous experience on juried committees, experiences as a book reviewer, etc.):

Names and contact information for two references able to speak to your potential to work in this capacity:

Reference Name E-mail Address and Phone Number


Please send this application electronically to:

Ricki Ginsberg, Chair
2011-12 Walden Committee

Sunday, August 14, 2011

weaving through storyland

Though the temperature was near 90 this morning, I think I was suffereing from frostbite and hypothermia as I wandered with Hazel through the frozen woods of BREADCRUMBS (Walden Pond Press, October 2011) in search of her lost friend Jack. Hazel and Jack have been friends for years. They have dived into a wading pool filled with ice to beat summer heat; they have jousted with plastic swords. In short, they always are together. They help one another through the dark times. But now, something has changed. Jack gets something in his eye one day on the playground, and before long he wants nothing to do with Hazel. As she is trying to cope with this heart-shattering event, Jack simply disappears. Hazel heads off into the woods off the sledding hill, the last place Jack was seen. It will be a journey that will test her in many ways. <390>

Here is a book that is firmly set in the real world but that wanders into the land of fairy tales easily without skipping a beat. This retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's THE SNOW QUEEN also includes references to texts as far ranging as WHEN YOU REACH ME, and CORALINE with mention of Narnia and Dictionopolis. Other fairy tales leave traces (THE RED SHOES is memorable) as well. What sets this apart, though, is the lyricism of the language. Here is a small example from Chapter Nine: "Trees stretched up into the darkening sky like yearning giants, their thick branches contorted and mean from reaching out for something they could never grasp" (p. 109). The possible ladder rungs for this might include:


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Never judge a book by its cover (or title)?

As I was heading out the door yesterday to take the resident of the back bedroom for her final haircut before her college career begins (on Sunday!), I grabbed a book knowing that I had more than an hour of wait time at the salon. Here is the book I grabbed. The cover was puzzling and I thought the title might prove that there was a bit of a mystery as well.

The old adage of not judging a book by its cover came to mind as I began to fall into this story of Rene, a freshman with OCD, who is the narrator (not quite unreliable but definitely unusual). In A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE by Matt Blackstone (FSG 2011), it was Rene's voice drew me in, though and I did not care one whit that this book was not what I had surmised from title and cover.

Rene is trying hard to cope with changes in his life, something that is never easy. A new student, however, named Gio, might just be what Rene needs to deal with a missing father who returns, a mother who seems too absorbed in her job to deal with Rene's fears and compulsions, an English teacher who slams his OWN head into a wall in frustration, and the usual cast of bullies who would take advantage of Rene's unique perspective on things. <389>

Interior monologue, as my friend Paul Hankins points out, is strong here. Readers know Rene from his thoughts however scatted and nonsequitur and strange they may appear on the surface. As we come to understand how Rene thinks, we better understand how he feels as well. Matt Blackstone has crafted a memorable narrator in Rene, imbuing him with humanity in the face of all his OCD behaviors. Gio and Mr. Head are also wonderfully complex people. This is a novel that will challenge readers to see others differently.