Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Every Bone Tells a Story

Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw's book about archaeologists (and palaeontologists) and all of the other forensic scientists needed to correctly identify and make the scientific discoveries involved with the long dead has a fairly complex name, albeit one that more fully identifies the narrative included: Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates.
The titular "bones" belong to the 1.6M year old Turkana Boy, the Palaeolithic Lapedo Child, the 9,000 year-old bones of the Kennewick Man and the Iceman. While some of the stories have been included in other books or been the subject of books (particularly the Iceman), what makes this book stand out and will appeal to either teens interested in archaeology or science is the information gleaned from the discoveries. Notable examples of this include development of human language from the Turkana chapter and the information scientists gather from sites involving painstaking efforts which then gives them a picture of the existing vegetation, animal life, and evidence of human occupation.
Detailed examinations of each recovery includes reports on illnesses, potential causes of deaths and frequent debates among scientists when these reports did not jibe with the accepted science. Readers are given all sides of the arguments and will be left to make up their own minds. Each section includes photographs, concludes with websites and further readings and will find a home in school and public libraries. This title has been named a finalist for the 2011 YALSA Award of Excellence.
Review copy from publishers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone

Tanya Lee Stone's The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: a Doll's History and her impact on Us combines several things: a history of one of the most ubiquitous toys in North America; consideration of the sociological implications of this polarizing wasp-wasted vixen; and a biography of the forward-thinking, ahead-of-her-times and incredibly astute business woman who not only came up with the original idea but also created and helmed Mattel with her husband.
I was never big on mutilating my own Barbies, perhaps because I didn't have brothers (although I was bribed at the age of 3 to serve as a flower girl by the promise of a Skipper) and the chapter on mutilation is highly amusing. A thorough history of the development of the company provides readers with a lot of information about Ruth Handler, whose accomplishments in the business world are impressive. Whether you believe that Barbie is evil or merely a toy, this book provides a wealth of remembrances to go along with the history. Readers who had their own barbies will enjoy the pictures: those new(er) to the doll will find her development interesting, and may be amazed to learn how popular she remains today. How big is Barbie? An ad for Toys R Us the other day mentioned that the hottest toys this year included a new Barbie dream house...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing

Ann Angel's Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing was announced this week as one of the five shortlisted titles for the 2011 YALSA Award of Excellence for Nonfiction.
It is a testament to this book that the descriptions of Joplin's singing are particularly well done: Anyone who is not familiar with her voice can see clips of  her singing live on youtube. Angel's biography does not treat Joplin with kid gloves; instead, she presents an honest portrayal of a talented and insecure woman who died by an unfortunate and accidental overdose at the age of 27.
The book should be a strong contender for this year's award: the writing is great, the design is outstanding, the supplementary materials (including a timeline, notes, bibliography, and image credits for the plentiful photographs) are complete and the subject should be appealing to a very wide audience.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guys Read: Funny Business. Edited and with an Introduction by Jon Scieszka.

I owe a debt of thanks to the authors who contributed stories Funny Business, the first anthology in the Guys Read series. Having nothing less depressing than an issue of TIME from which to find reading material for a sedated relative in the Intensive Care Unit, it was an absolute blessing to find my copy of this in my bag. Given a choice between a story about the economic stimulus or the charming, likeable and yet intrinsically relishing-his-own-evil "biggest genius wot you shall ever meet" older brother in Eoin Colfer's Artemis Begins? No choice. A story about how one's medical future is predetermined during the 9 months of pregnancy, or the funny, charming, and yet affirming and touching letters written by Jon Scieszka and Kate DiCamillo which made us laugh and cry in Your Question for Author Here? Again, an easy choice.
Humor can be a tricky thing, and it is a given that different people will find different things funny. Even so, it is more than likely that the wide range of stories in this book will offer something for any reader, whether it is the build-up to a scene that begs to be filmed in David Lubar's Kid Appeal, the narrator's fear of the family's new pet in David Loo's A Fistful of Feathers, or Jeff Kinney's simple relish in remembering the outright sibling rivalry he and his brother perfected in Unaccompanied Minors.
This is a book that will be enjoyed by any middle school reader and I eagerly await the next volume.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Game of My Life by Jason McElwain with Daniel Paisner

Jason "J-Mac" McElwain, for anyone who was living under the same rock where ESPN wasn't playing as I was, is the stuff of a Disney producer's dreams. Better than that, actually, for on the silver screen it would likely make grown men and small girls teary and everyone else snigger at a screenwriter's presumption. For the rest of us, it really did happen.
Jason was diagnosed as a young boy with severe autism. In high school he had come farther than his mother ever dreamed, serving as the team manager for the JV basketball team. The coach had even let him dress for the last game of the season and, with two minutes left to go in the game, put him in to play. Part of the crowd, called "The 6th Man", cheered for him, calling "J-Mac!" They had a lot to cheer about when he was called for a foul and managed to sink three free throws in a row.
This isn't the game mentioned in the title, The Game of My Life: a true story of Challenge, Autism and Growing Up Autistic. The 4 minutes that changed Jason's life happened when he was put into the game as the manager of the Varsity basketball team, and managed to score 20 points in under 4 minutes at the end of the game. The video of the subsequent news coverage is available on youtube, if you haven't seen it.
This is a remarkable book, as well as a great example of a young man devoted to his game and the friends and family who can and do speak about what basketball and Jason's achievement have meant to him in a completely realistic way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oh No She Didn't by Clinton Kelly

I'll admit I may be the last person to become aware of the TLC show What Not to Wear, but after picking up Clinton Kelly's bitingly funny Oh No She Didn't: The Top 100 Style Mistakes and How to Avoid Them I will freely admit to wandering over to youtube to amuse myself with clips from the series.
I'm fairly certain that Clinton (and Stacy) would have a field day in my closet: come on, I worked as a children's librarian for years, aren't I allowed to have a christmas sweater? Or three? I live in Calgary, we're pretty much required by law to wear jeans on top and bottom during the Stampede (what he says is called a Canadian Tuxedo in the Pacific Northwest.) For the record, I suppose I should mention that during the Stampede is the only time at work I'm actually allowed to wear jeans. Given that I live in a cold climate, I'll admit that I also own polar fleece. LOTS of sweaters, too. Those will probably be in his next book.
Advice on how to rectify style errors (how long hems should be/ where waistlines should be, etc.) accompany many of the articles. The humor here is sharp, and often contains references that may be directed at the over-30 crowd, but given that he pokes fun indiscriminately and more often than not at the over-30 crowd, most of the style-conscious teenagers I know would love this book.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Deadliest Sea by Kalee Thompson

On page 161 of a book that I can only compare to 2003's Left for Dead in terms of 'Disaster/Survival' books, rescue swimmer O'Brien Starr-Hollow informs the reader that "The grass is always greener over the septic tank." This is not a book to begin close to bedtime, if you have any intention of actually going to bed.
Thompson does a wonderful job of recounting the stories of the men (and woman) who found themselves on the Alaska Ranger on Easter morning in 2008 when it began to take on water in the frigid waters of the Bering Sea. She also puts this disaster in its place in the very dangerous history of Alaskan fishing. 
The training needed for Coast Guard rescue (whether swimming or flying) is rigorous: the actual practice described here, that saved more than twenty of the 47 crew members, is almost overwhelming to contemplate. No part of the 'rescue' was easy: from the difficulties the crew had abandoning the ship, to finding the life rafts, boarding the helicopter or being offloaded on one of the rescue trawlers, Thompson imparts several breathless moments. Kaley Thompson's  The Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History will appeal to high school readers that enjoy fast-paced books of adventure, survival, sports, and combinations of all three.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Horrors of Andersonville by Catherine Gourley

The Horrors of Andersonville: Life and Death inside a Civil War Prison describes what it was like for Union soldiers in the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. While Camp Sumter was only operational for the last 14 months of the war and intended to hold 10,000 soldiers, over 3 times that men were crowded into the facility at one time and more than 13,000 men died there.  The inhumane conditions and demoralizing effects of war are described by the prisoners themselves: Gourley, through letters, diaries and war records is able to provide stories from survivors that lets readers know exactly what the soldiers went through. Indeed, Gourley follows several soldiers' stories in enough detail for readers to want to know what happens to them, including prisoner John Ransom, who kept a diary about his time at Belle Isle and Andersonville, and James Madison Page, who wrote a book about Henry Wirz. Another side to the story will make this a particularly useful book for social studies classes or debates, presenting a very balanced looking at both the soldiers and Captain Henry Wirz, commander of the inner prison at Andersonville, who was tried and executed for charges of conspiracy and murder although no conspirators were charged and no one could ever name anyone he himself killed. Admittedly, he was in charge of a horrible place -- the photograph of the Andersonville cemetery as set up by Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater is heartbreaking -- but hindsight says it is more than likely he was a very convenient scapegoat. He was in fact he only Confederate officer hanged for war crimes.
Readers will find a surprising number of photographs for a book about the 19th century, as well as a very complete index, bibliography and list of source notes. This is a worthy addition to any junior or senior high school and public library.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleopatra Rules by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Readers will find a unique portrait in Vicky Alvear Shecter's portrayal of Cleopatra, aptly subtitled "the Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen." Shecter's use of language is quick, pithy and punny. When describing the Queen in Rome with Caesar's rather predatory 'followers', she notes that "Cleopatra probably felt like a bull’s-eye target in a room full of twitchy archers." Cleopatra did accomplish a stunning amount for a woman of her time -- much more than her relationships with Caesar and Antony. Shecter uses modern comparisons and lets students know that most of what has been accepted (or at least presented in plays, books and films) about the last queen of Egypt has either been highly subjective or presented in from a terribly one-sided point of view. Readers will find sidebars on the various ways she has been portrayed (as opposed to what we actually know about her), as well as egyptian makeup and jewelry, among other things.
Presenting a fun and balanced accounting of an interesting subject, in a book that gives readers primary and secondary sources (along with endnotes, a glossary, and lots of illustrations) is one sure way to interest readers in history.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Groundwork Guides

Librarians in public and school libraries not familiar with Groundwood Books Groundwood Guides series are in for a treat. The series introduces readers to subjects in a diverse range of subjects. A trailer for it can be found here.
The books are well researched, written and encourage debate by presenting topics, from "Being Muslim" to "Pornography" that are usually seen as highly polarizing. Banned Books Week/Freedom to Read Week, anyone?
Groundwood is also developing teacher's guides for the series, which are available as free downloads from their website.
Guides have been already been developed for the following titles:
-Being Muslim by Haroon Siddiqui
-The Betrayal of Africa by Gerald Caplan
-Cities by John Lorinc
-Climate Change by Shelley Tanaka
-Genocide by Jane Springer
-Hip Hop World by Dalton Higgins
-Oil by James Laxer
-Slavery Today by Kevin Bales

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time to Speak

I found out this morning that Laurie Halse Anderson's Printz-honor award winning novel Speak, which has touched over 10 years of readers in many countries, been challenged a week before Banned Book Week begins in the United States. On her blog readers will find a video of Laurie reading the poem, "Listen", written in response to "tens of thousands of letters" from readers and partially composed from those readers. This is a very powerful video, one that evokes a very emotional response. This is not surprising, certainly, given the depth of feeling expressed in the letters from the book's fans, but it shouldn't be overlooked at the present time. There is also a link to the original in which a man considers the two rape scenes in this amazing book as "soft core pornography".
Speak has been taught in Alberta high schools, may be found at
Calgary Public Library (most of the copies are checked out right now) and remains one of the most relevant and realistic portrayals of teenage abuse, trauma and empowerment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reel Culture by Mimi O'Connor

The subtitle of this book, 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends), gives the reader a precise, if wordy, explanation for exactly what it contains.
They are, however, fun. Pithy sidebars entitled "Why All the Fuss? and "The Stuff People Still Talk About" offer viewpoints that help to convince people far under middle age why I needed to be in a lighted room after seeing Silence of the Lambs the day it came out, although they would probably laugh if they knew a friend was carded 3 times on the way into the film. Films range from classics (Casablanca) to tearjerkers (It's a Wonderful Life) to outright silly (Airplane!)  and are sure to offer something for everyone. If a few endings are blown, well, then, you can impress your friends and pretend to have seen the movie, too. It's always fun to see what other people think are the movies that you need to see. This list of great films from Zestbooks is a great light book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Project Seahorse by Pamela Turner

This is the newest book in a line of award-winning and relevant titles that makes scientific enquiry approachable and fascinating while making environmentalism understandable and relatable, without being at all didactic. Turner's last book, The Frog Scientist made it all the way to the final in SLJ's Battle of the Books, and both of her books in 2009 were nominated for the 2010 Award of Excellence for Nonfiction for Young Adults.
I would not be surprised at all if Project Seahorse is nominated for the 2011 list: it shows the dangers faced by the various species of seahorses living in tropical waters due to factors including overfishing and then shows how scientists, working with local fishermen, were able to create an MPA (Marine Protected Area) and study its effectiveness in helping to revive the seahorse population. Noting that there are now 33 MPAs in Danajong Bank serves as an indication that there has continued to be a commitment among the local population in the Philippines to protect and nurture these creatures.
Readers will find a list of further resources: there isn't a list of picture credits, all of the photographs were taken by noted photographer Scott Tuason, whose own credits include several books about the coral reefs of the Philippines.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed by Sally M. Walker

Sally Walker's Frozen Secrets is an absolutely beautiful book. I mean that literally. It combines stunning photographs of Antarctica with a page design that incorporates the icy background to which she is introducing readers in her text. Carolrhoda does this particularly well.

Frozen Secrets introduces readers to Antarctica, a continent that has long fascinated explorers (sorry,
Titus!) and one which took years, technological advances and a phenomenal amount of international cooperation in order to complete. The detailing of the hardships endured, as well as the technology necessary, the scientific efforts and advances and the environmental aspects of this book make this one which will be well worth adding to both public and school libraries. Not to mention that it is well-written, researched, illustrated, designed, indexed, has a great list of source notes, resources, and a suggested list for further reading.

Monday, August 9, 2010

They Called Themselves the KKK

Susan Campbell Bartoletti's They Called Themselves the KKK: the birth of an American terrorist group is a remarkable book. It gives readers a clear, compelling history of the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan. This is not an easy thing to do: a chapter on the ending of the war and Reconstruction and its immediate aftermath helps to set the stage for an initial meeting of the six men from Pulaski. For many readers, this will be their first introduction to both the Klan and the men who created it.
The subsequent introduction to the spreading out of the Klan, its development of a set of "principles" and its members' acts are threaded throughout a text that also includes the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is a book that can be difficult to read: any time it seems that there is a step forward, as with an increase in public education, there are examples of vicious crimes, such as with William Luke, who was hanged for the crime of teaching (and likely over rumors.) There is an added poignancy in the text from a note he was allowed to leave for his wife and children before he was killed. Bartoletti makes several great points about the amount of violence fostered by fear, whether of change in the social order, retribution, or potential uprisings. An epilogue discusses hate crimes and notes current activities, reflecting that while there are a considerable number of hate groups in the United States today, they have neither "the power or the prestige" that the KKK did.
The copious illustrations and use of period speech add to the authenticity. The source notes indicate where Ms. Bartoletti found her information and add to this story. Indeed, learning that Ms Bartoletti attended a Klan congress will likely keep me up at nights.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Life-Size Aquarium

The third volume in the Seven Footer Press Life Size series arrived this week! After sharing it with my co-workers, I present to you: Life-Size Aquarium: Dolphin, orca, clownfish, sea otter, and more—an all-new actual-size animal encyclopedia !
Readers will be given the same crystal clear, up-close images from the earlier books, in oversize, occasionally fold-out (humphead wrasse, orca, walrus) pages. The information that is added to the pages is relevant, interesting and not something that is going to be found in a number of other books, given the uniqueness of some of the fish and animals that have been included.
The 'Leafy Sea Dragon' is shown across a large, double-page spread, on which readers are told that she is related to the seahorse. The sidebars include 3 sections. The first tells the reader that this fish is a female, as well as her approximate age if known, her scientific name, and her home. The second is called "Time for a Close Up" and gives the reader several things to look for, as well as explanations for them, followed by a third section with Facts about each animal. Breaking down information in this way and presenting these amazing pictures not only makes these books wonderful for outreach but makes them great books for ESL learners.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sports from Hell: My Search for the World's Dumbest Competition by Rick Reilly

The premise of veteran sportswriter Rick Reilly's narrative nonfiction title Sports from Hell is a simple one: after 31 years in which a sportswriter has covered every major sport event and is starting to get a been-there, done-that sort of feeling, what is he to do? Ah-HA! He can find something "mind-warpingly...dumb." Hence, readers are treated here to chapters including everything from the World Sauna Championships to Chess Boxing to Jarts. Reilly sets out his rules for covering these events, all of which are treated with utter seriousness by the competitors. He also participates in all of them.

Readers are taken around the world, as he starts off in the World Sauna Championships in Finland, tries Zorbing in Australia and ends up at the Homeless Soccer championships in Copenhagen. His comments on the social outcomes of this last championships, which does exist and which had profound outcomes not only on the participants during their participation but afterwards. This is a very funny book with a few hidden depths -- it would make a great quick pick. While this is not a great literary work it is a highly enjoyable book that will be popular with high schoolers, whether or not they are fans of sports, as the "sports" under discussion are debatable and the book does include a chapter that discusses why baseball is a 'sport from hell.'

Strictly as an aside, perhaps if Mr. Reilly is looking for more sports for another edition, he and his assistant, TLC (The Lovely Cynthia), might consider visiting The Masters of Library Science Croquet Tournament?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sir Charlie Chaplin: the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman

How to best understand the comic genius of Charlie Chaplin? Well, it helps if you have the writing of Sid Fleischman. The author’s last work, published posthumously in June, 2010, manages to convey Chaplin’s talent and drive while giving reader’s a full picture of the comic’s troubled upbringing and marriages.

This is a book that had me marking pages: I don’t do that very frequently. To describe the Little Tramp’s appeal for the public, readers are told that he “was forever David in a world of Goliaths.” It can be hard to understand Chaplin’s popularity in a world where movies make the kind of money they do today – the information and comparisons help to make that clear, both providing background for and giving readers justification for Chaplin’s outrage over his deportation in 1952.

Charlie’s family life and marriages, from his first shotgun marriage with actress Mildred Harris to his final love match with Oona O’Neill, as well as his complicated relationship with his mother are included. Charlie plumbed his own history as well as current events for his movies. This well-sourced, indexed, illustrated beautifully written book about a comic genius by a master will lead readers to Chaplin’s movies.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tom Thumb: the remarkable life of a man in miniature by George Sullivan

George Sullivan's biography of Charles S. Stratton, better known as Tom Thumb, is a portrait of one of America's first celebrities. It is a complementary title to Candace Fleming's award-winning The Great and Only Barnum: the Tremendous, Stupendous, Life of Showman P.T. Barnum, which not only included Tom Thumb, but also pointed out that Barnum can be credited with creating the concept of celebrity as we know it today.
Indeed, Barnum is a central figure in Sullivan's book, as Stratton/Thumb was always inclined to be the center of attention and figured in a number of Barnum's enterprises, from the American Museum to tours to the circus. Barnum also introduced Tom to Lavinia Warren Bump, who became his wife.
It is worth noting that the global tours undertaken by Tom and Lavinia would be arduous today: it is almost inconceivable to think of the difficulties they must have endured in the 1800s. The reader will at least be able to picture some of the amazing moments of their lives, from multiple meeting with the Queen of England to their constant tours due to the copious photographs reproduced in the text. This is a slice of life that will be completely foreign and utterly entrancing to readers.
This title was made available courtesy of Netgalley and will be released in February, 2011.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Cat's Pajamas by Wallace Edwards

The Cat's Pajamas illustrates 26 idioms, in Wallace Edwards' inimitable style. That is to say, readers are treated to intricate, beautiful pictures of animals that portray the meaning of the idiom while allowing the reader at least one further in-joke. Accompanying a picture with the caption "Ahab didn't mind if one got away; he knew that there plenty more fish in the sea" is a picture of a dog watching a small fish jumping out of his net while a much larger fish approaches him from the bottom, mouth starting to open, a la the cover of Jaws, thus providing at least two different references in the picture.
If these aren't enough to keep readers busy, there is a hidden picture of a cat in each illustration that readers will be encouraged to find once they get to the very last picture, surely enough to keep them going back again and again. An explanation for the idioms has been added to the back of the book.
This will make a wonderful gift book. The illustrations are intricate and beautifully done; the idioms cleverly matched and rather punny. One of my colleagues has already asked me to add this to her Christmas list!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics

Freddie Williams is an illustrator with DC Comics. He is unusual in that he illustrates solely with Adobe Photoshop. He mentions in the introduction to his book, The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, that he had been faced with a bit of unease by both other illustrators and some editors when he used to mention that, as he then wouldn't be considered a "real artist." Until the San Diego Comic Con, in 2005, when he met the creative director from DC, who responded that he couldn't tell the difference. He presents a number of compelling reasons why working digitally (and readers are given all of the specifics of the kind of software and hardware he uses) works better for him than by hand.
Indeed, readers interested in creating their own comics will be hard pressed to find a more specific guide to follow. The instructions include clear graphics that cover almost all of the tools in Adobe Photoshop, with additional suggestions for marketing the artist him/herself in the form of printing off one's best works that will make this a book that includes (or could perhaps convert?) established illustrators. It does assume some knowledge of comics, but will likely entice those readers who are interested in the form into branching out into creating their own. Not a bad thing at all.

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Life Size Zoo: Give Me More!

There is something about a life-size picture that will grab a child. Teruyuki Komiya's Life Size Zoo did just that, with it's amazing photographs of more than 20 animals ranging from a fold-out page showing a rhino's horn to favourites including a lion and mother and baby elephants and animals that kids may not know quite as well such as a capybara, an anteater or a sloth.
What makes the book absolutely extraordinary, and work particularly well not only for outreach but also for an ESL audience, is that each page incorporates some really interesting facts, placed along either the side or the bottom of these truly amazing photographs. Children will be captivated by the photographs and will learn from the information. I'd never known that a rhino's horn is actually hair. This was the most popular book in the outreach (K-6) I did this spring, in an area with a very high population of ESL children.
I was absolutely delighted to see a second book in the series, More Life-Size Zoo. The quality of the photographs hasn't changed, nor has the information in the sidebars: on the page with a picture of an adorable seal, there are several leading questions, facts and tidbits in addition to the information added to the photograph. A standout is a foldout of a lion: because of the lion's size, the page needs to be folded out twice! These are books that are guaranteed to leave readers wanting more. Luckily, they will be able to look forward to Life-Size Aquarium, which will bring them up close to beluga whales among other underwater denizens.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nat Geo Amazing! is just that.

Nat Geo Amazing! was one of the goodies I returned with from ALA Annual this year. This is a book that took me completely by surprise. The book's subtitle says it all: 100 people, places and things that will surprise you. It is a large trade paperback and each of the 'things' are presented either in a double-page spread or introduced with a double-page spread and then delved into with a further essay. They can be accessed by subjects -- the table of contents breaks them down into 14, including: adventure, people, amazing worlds, ancient worlds, animal kingdom, behind the image, extreme athletes, from the vaults, global cultures, the incredible story of..., natural world, planet in peril, science and technology, and survival stories.
The quality of the photographs, as expected, given their sources, are exceptional. So is the writing. The variety of material is appealing and varied but provides multiple points of access. It can be read through or browsed. This would make a great quick pick as well as a valuable book for public or high school libraries.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kakapo Rescue

The Kakapo (kar-ka-poe), the reader finds out in the latest volume of Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series, is an extremely unusual bird that not only faces constant threats from predators because it is a flightless parrot, but also that its enormous population losses are either directly or indirectly attributable to man. This beautiful bird faced dangers from predators and mankind alike because of its nature: it is very friendly, and a sad fact is that it was once so plentiful that it was a food source for polynesian settlers. Other settlers brought not only predators that thought these [flightless!] birds were a delicious, enticing food -- their feathers smell like honey -- but animals whose hooves destroyed the soil where their food grew. There are now less than 100 of the birds left. So what can be done?
Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop waited years for permission to travel to Codfish Island, the remote location where the remaining kakapo have been moved and are watched over by New Zealand's National Kakapo Recovery Team. Readers will see not only the extreme measures these dedicated scientists take to ensure that they are not passing any germs or foreign substances to the birds or chicks as well as a sense of the rewards they get from their work. This is a book that made me cry several times, and one that would be useful to encourage support for conservation. As with all of the other books in the series, there are suggestions for further reading and an index.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up

On the surface, Sarah Albee's Poop Happened is an entertaining and informative history of the development of indoor plumbing. It is chock-full of more than enough illustrations and sidebars to keep the most reluctant reader going (and not realizing how much they are learning.) A lot of us get information about early Britain (London) from books, more of us are presented with stories from movies, whether on film or television. According to the author, none of these would have (or could possibly) give an accurate picture what it actually would have looked -- or smelled like, at a time when there wasn't anywhere to relieve oneself except indoors, (such as the royal court of Versailles, with 20,000 people living there, and 275 closestools - p76.) Readers will learn about the effects this sewage had on disease, how people dealt with their bodily functions at different times (how did knights 'go' while wearing armour, or french ladies in those very wide dresses...) and Albee's source notes, index and timeline are a welcome addition. This book will provide as much cultural information as historical, all wrapped up in a fun topic that will make it an easy sell to div 2 and 3 students who think they don't like history.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Edge Books. Prepare to Survive.

I recently finished the 6 books in the Prepare to Survive series, a group of books that will appeal to upper-elementary and middle grade readers. It will be useful for teachers who have either reluctant or ESL students: the titles have information that is practical, informative and has tales of survivors applying their knowledge to make it out of extremely dangerous and life-threatening situations. Potential Survivor competitors will learn how to make fire, build shelters, avoid (or catch!) animals or fish and find water.
More importantly, all of the books include information on the kind of items to be included in a survival kit. Given that more people have died of tornadoes in the United States than anywhere else on the planet, this is valuable information to have. Being prepared for a natural disaster, be it a tornado, a flood, or an earthquake, is as important as knowing what to do when a disaster happens. These slim, fast reads will capture a reader's attention.
- Doeden, Matt. How to Survive a Flood. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, c2009. 32 p. ISBN 9781429622776 M
- Martin, Michael. How to Survive a Tornado. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, c2009. 32 p. ISBN 9781429622783 M
- Montgomery, Heather. How to Survive an Earthquake. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2009. 32p. ISBN 9781429622790 M
- O’Shei, Tim. How to Survive Being Lost at Sea Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, c2009. 32 p. ISBN 9781429622806
- O'Shei, Tim. How to Survive in the Wilderness. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2009. 32 p. ISBN 9781429622813
- O'Shei, Tim. How to Survive on a Deserted Island. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2009. 32 p. ISBN 9781429622820 M

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bro-Jitsu: the Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown

Daniel H. Wilson, Ph.D., has contributed some interesting books to the canon of Young Adult literature, starting with 2005's How to Survive a Robot Uprising to the 2007 technological update How to Build a Robot Army: tips on defending planet earth against alien invaders, ninjas and zombies. These are both in his subject area of expertise.
His new book will appeal to a much broader audience. Bro-Jibsu: the Martial Art of Sibling Smackdown aims to school siblings in how to survive the angst, troubles and fights (both physical and mental) that they will undergo during adolescence (heck, or as toddlers) and until the t[w]een years are a distant memory and those fights have forged bonds of iron between those people you -face it- aren't going to be rid of for the rest of your life.
Bearing that in mind, enjoy these moves (Bite! Kick! learn how to use those "throw" pillows! -- That's what they're for! --Add to your vocabulary! Have you given your brother a wet willy lately?) and learn how to avoid trouble and/or throw suspicion onto your sibling and how best to deal with your parents if you do get caught.
This book has been nominated for the 2011 Quick Picks.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Paul Janeczko's Foot in the Mouth

Foot in the Mouth is a somewhat ironic title for a collection intended to illustrate that poetry is meant to be read aloud (celebrated, really), but it works. Readers not familiar with Paul Janeczko's A Kick in the Head: an everyday guide to poetic forms, and A Poke in the i: a collection of concrete poems, both of which provide teachers and readers interested in poetry with numerous examples from which to draw inspiration, will find in this volume another wide variety of poetry meant to show students that poetry can be anything from fun to beautiful to downright silly.
Many readers will have had a recent exposure to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky via Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland, but they will also be given English/Spanish as well as English/French versions of poems and Charles Follen Allen's "Orthographic Lament," which, given the vagaries of spelling, leaves the poet to contemplate SIOUX-EYE-SIGHED.
This is a book that is meant to be shared, and which encourages the sharing of poetry.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I have been enjoying the posts for some of CPL's programs, especially from Diversity Services, but wish that links on other pages could be a little bit clearer. Sometimes images from our homepage advertise things but don't link to them.

On a side note, yesterday yalsa-bk made mention of using twitter as a networking tool and as a result I was able to find several great new people to follow, in addition to some of the great people (@ReadingRants, @genrelibrarian) and publishers (@TundraBooks, @Scholastic, @EgmontGal) I already did.

I've enjoyed this foray into 2.0 and will now venture back to my review books.

The Hive Detectives: Chronicles of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns

The latest title in Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series is another well-written tale of an environmental catastrophe that fits in with the series.
Burns starts out by introducing readers to Mary Duane, a hobbyist beekeeper, as she inspects a beehive. Mary loves her bees, and as she interacts with them the reader is almost there in the moment with her -- able to see bees as friendly and giving, rather than evil little stinging creatures (sorry, I'm allergic.) The reader is given an understanding of the complex system that is a hive and the necessary care that it takes to maintain it.
When the book then jumps to Dave Hackenburg, whose livelihood depends on the 3000 hives he keeps, it makes it much easier to understand his dismay and the magnitude of the disaster not only for him but also for the bees and the larger ecosystem when Dave discovers that 400 of his hives -- containing 20,000,000 bees -- were empty. The bees had vanished.
Solving the mystery of what caused what came to be called CCD, colony collapse disorder, was assigned to four scientists. Readers are introduced to them in notebook-styled pages that give their specialties and follow them through bee collecting, autopsies, and much pondering over pests, viruses, pesticides and bee nutrition. While these are ongoing considerations, progress has been made and readers will enjoy both the clear and close-up photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz and the lovely, readable prose.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The 500 Kingdom's Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty, the 5th in Mercedes Lackey’s Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, pulls in several different tales, as the “Tradition” is bound and determined to force Rosamund, the princess of Eltaria, down a path that Lily, its Fairy Godmother, would rather it not. In order to save her, Lily joins forces with Rosa’s father, in a sham marriage as an “Evil Stepmother.” If only Rosa had known that Lily was on her side, she might not have been running away when the Huntsman started chasing her, too. Throw in dwarves, dragons, more princes than you can count, add trials designed to find a happily-ever-after for the Princess, and you end up with a book that anyone who enjoys fractured fairy tales will enjoy.

The book is scheduled to be released July 1/2010.

Friday, May 21, 2010

How...Not to?

Another genre conundrum has developed. Reading Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, the book developed from Jen Yates's similarly hilarious blog, it is immediately evident that the book deserves its nomination for the 2011 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list. What I'm not sure about is where in Reality Rules II it should go.
It isn't a cook book, or a how to decorate cakes book. I don't have a cake book (yet) -- although it would be a humourous readalike, should I acquire one. Hmmm.
What is certain, is if a NON-reader or a reluctant reader picks this up, they aren't going to be putting it down in a hurry. None of my colleagues did.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Library Social Networking tools

I have accounts and have tried Library Thing, Shelfari and Goodreads. Of the three I find Goodreads to be much more my cup of tea. I like choosing my own shelves, maintaining my list of books that I want to read and seeing not only what my friends have been reading but want to read.
Goodreads lets me update my friends by twitter, facebook or email and keeps me updated as to what I need to be watching for on our new books shelf.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Online Productivity Tools

While I registered for Google Calendar a while ago, I will admit that I haven't updated it since. I regularly use the calendar attached to my email programs (slave to email that I am) and find it gives me a much more reliable alarm. Outlook or Entourage, I can never find somewhere to log in when I want the google variety.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Youtube can be very useful. It is not just for silly videos -- it's great for finding book trailers and other useful library related information. Here is a video of Angela Carstensen, chair of the 2010 Award of Excellence for Nonfiction for Young Adults, talking about our winner!

I haven't used Flickr very frequently (most of my pictures are on shutterfly), but I have found a few tagged pictures of me. These are both tools with which it is best to become comfortable.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Quiet Moment. Or Not.

A few weeks ago I went into Monkeyshines, Calgary's only children's bookstore -- and a store well worth checking out if you are ever in Calgary -- and found a display of a lovely new picture book, Deborah Underwood's The Quiet Book .
The display points out that there are all kinds of quiet: from soft to deafening. This seemed quite apt to me, as I opened the book to a picture of a child (Renata Liwska's captivating illustrations depict small animals, rather than humans) holding his breath as a nurse was about to give him a needle. The scene, which was indeed showing baited breath on most of the participants, promised quite a lot of imminent noise. As indeed do some of the other pictures, whether the riders of a roller coaster just at the top of a tower, a child having been caught doing something naughty or expressing worry, regret or comfort. The use of "storytime quiet" will make it a popular choice in libraries.
The color palette is done in soft, lovely shades and I lasted almost a day before buying a copy as a present for friend expecting a grandchild. This will be a great book for sharing.

Note -- I am delighted to add that as of November 7th, this book has been chosen by Publisher's Weekly as one of the Best Children's Books of 2010. There will be a Loud Book next year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To RSS or not to RSS

I will admit that I've always been a fan of the bookmark. I tend to keep up with my favorite sites, blogs and listservs (and I've been more of a listserv fangirl, having followed/participated on adbooks almost since its inception and on yalsa-bk for over 10 years now) but there is something nice about having information delivered to me. Assuming I can find somewhere to access it. And remember the password into bloglines.

Recounting Disasters and Epic stories

While adding annotations for Reality Rules II, not only have I come across some great books, but I also have been dealing with a common cataloguer's dilemma: into which sub genre does a book fall? This is why we have editors, per se, and both Jack Batten and Russell Freedman's books about WWI are very good: Batten's book, The War to End All Wars: the Story of World War I, was a nominee for YALSA's 2010 Award of Excellence for Young Adults, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Freedman's The War to End All Wars: World War One is a finalist for the 2011 list.

Should these books be entered in Defining Times? They were for Canada, perhaps not so much for the United States, and they would definitely fit in History's Darkest Hours, under Human Cruelties.

One I don't have any problem entering under that category, and another book I couldn't put down (and hadn't really wanted to pick up) was Dave Cullen's Columbine. The story of what really happened, and what went wrong in the tragedy and the aftermath as the survivors tried to pick up the pieces and the families of the slain fought for years to find out what happened despite the 'myths' perpetuated by the media and the investigators is presented by an investigator who has become the best authority on the subject.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Googling away

While I have been (or am in the process of being) won over by gmail and even google calendar, as it is rather nice to have access to information almost anywhere, I find many of Google's apps to be rather MUCH. I waited for my invitation to Google wave, only to find out that I didn't have any friends/colleagues with which to play.

I do like the map function on google earth, as I find it much easier to locate a strange place when I know what it actually looks like, as opposed to where Mapquest tells me it should be. Too often I'm told that I can turn somewhere that I can't and a street view will let me correct that. Little things like this will help google take over the 'net (resistance is futile...)

Animal Life

While getting ready for summer reading adventure outreach I have found myself drawn to animal books:

Seven-Footer Press's amazing Life Size Zoo, which will not only appeal to the upper elementary school audience that is the bread-and-butter audience for SRA but also a lot of the ESL tweens to whom I speak. The pictures in this book are amazing, making the animals accessible to kids who will never get a chance to come anywhere near them, and the information in this book supplements those pictures in a really fun way.

Kelly Milner Halls gives readers a tale about animals and the people who fought for them in Saving the Baghdad Zoo: a true story of hope and heroes. This moving story centers around Army Captain William Sumner, sent as an archaeologist to Iraq to preserve cultural treasures after the bombing of the city. The treasures he and a team of international volunteers ended up saving were the denizens of the Baghdad zoo, including pelicans, bears, lions, and priceless arabian horses.

One last, compulsively readable nonfiction book that I will admit I picked up solely for the cover is Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs And Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck, And A Few Turtles which, according to the cover, is about to become a reality tv show. This is the story of a group of large, burly and tattooed men who convince abusive animal owners to either treat their animals the way they ought to be treated (helping them to do so) or relinquish their ownership. I was prepared not to liek this book and found myself wondering what Batso, Big Mike, Angel and the guys would do next. Too bad we won't get the show in Canada.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Social Networking

I will freely admit to being a Facebook junkie. I find it very useful, especially as most of my friends and family live in other cities, States and countries. It put me back in touch with people I hadn't been able to reach in years (hi, old boys!) and lets me chat with people with whom I would never otherwise have had the occasion to meet.
I have become quite fond of some of the applications, too - but I can save my thoughts on Goodreads, etc., for next week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dental dramas: Smile

Raina Telgemeier's Smile, a graphic memoir, starts with her going to the orthodontist merely to correct her overbite. This is traumatic enough to her: her sister teases her about her impending status as a "metal-mouth" although her friends tell her that it won't be too bad. She never expects the accident in which she knocks out her two front teeth, setting her on a traumatic orthodontic odyssey that involves a root canal, braces, headgear and successive retainers with fake front teeth while her own teeth were moved into the gap.

Raina is still undergoing the same journey as other girls her age, juggling thoughts of friends and boys while trying to deal with what they must think of her strange appearance. This is a book that will appeal not only to tweens and teens but to anyone who has had braces. My own years with headgear and the teeth I had pulled were painful enough, I can't imagine going through anything like this.

The book is presented in bold, visually appealing colours with an easily-read font and has been nominated for the 2011 Great Graphics for Teens list by the American Library Association.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wikipedia and reference tools

My weekly musing for CPL's 2.0 assignment is to reflect on Wikipedia. I will confess to having used Wikipedia as a reference source (and I do use "confess" here in the full sense of the word), as did Sarah Statz Cords, given that there wasn't a pre-existing definition to be found for 'Micro-history' elsewhere. In such cases, wikipedia can be very useful. Definitions and articles can, unfortunately, be altered by anyone, which makes it a starting point rather than any sort of definitive, authoritative or conclusive source on its own, but it can provide readers somewhere to go when they can't find answers anywhere else.

Who am I to write 'encyclopedia' articles, or even edit them? I am reminded of the Groucho Marx quote, "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."

Friday, April 2, 2010

SLJ's Battle of the Books

The Frog Scientist was announced this morning as the winner of the Undead Poll in the Undead Poll for School Library Journal's Battle of the Books and I couldn't be more delighted. It came as a complete surprise, but Jonathan Hunt, commentator for BOB, points readers to a positive review of the book from a fellow scientist that also pointed them to the vote.

Comments on that page wondered if the other books in the series (Scientists in the Field) were as good, and indeed they are. Almost all of them have been named to award lists. It's a great series and this is a truly terrific book. It shows a scientist with a passion for his work, a great demonstration of the scientific method and some really cool science. It was also one of the more relevant environmental books last year.
That means the final battle on Monday morning, to be judged by literary great Katherine Patterson, will be between Pamela S. Turner's The Frog Scientist, Elizabeth Partridge's Marching for Freedom, and Frances Hardinge's The Lost Conspiracy.

Read about all the battles and the posts from the Peanut Gallery at the SLJ site here.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Let them eat CAKE

The pictures alone in Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes: 100 Simple Recipes for Extraordinary Bundt Cakes, Pound Cakes, Snacking Cakes and Other Good-to-the-Last Crumb Treats brought on a pavlovian response in me that doesn't really need an explanation. I enjoy cook books, and there have been a number of good ones for tweens and teens published recently.

Among the nice things about this one are the abundance of colour photos, a great opening explanatory section that covers equipment, ingredients, and techniques and gives recipes for an abundance of different kinds of cakes that will surely offer something for everyone. Who doesn't like cake? Especially one that is designed to stay moist, offers all kinds of ingredients (but which doesn't require too many fancy ingredients or equipment) AND comes with clear directions? A win-win, all the way around.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I was very glad that CPL was able to move their Best Websites (to which I'd been very attached) over to Delicious. I do find that the tag function can be a bit finicky, but at least the sites I've come to depend upon can still be found.

Canadian Children's Book Week

Given that the CCBC (Canadian Children's Book Centre) has moved their timelines for the TD Canadian Children's Book Week, which will now be held in April rather than October, the time has come for any interested authors to apply for the 2011 tour!

The Canadian Children's Book Centre is looking for authors and/or illustrators with new children’s books being released in 2010 and Spring 2011 who are interested in touring schools, libraries, bookstores and community centres, outside of their home province, during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2011.

The next Book Week tour will run from Saturday, April 30 to Saturday, May 7, 2011.

Information and the application form for authors/illustrators is available at the CCBC site at .

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Patrick's Wish

It isn't often that a picture book can make me cry: I suppose that it is only to be expected that a book about a boy who contracted the HIV virus because of a tainted blood transfusion is bound to provide its fair share of sadness.

Yet, as a friend of mine pointed out, when a "message book" is able to educate without having its message overwhelm the text, it will be a successful book. Patrick's Wish is told from the point of view of his younger sister, Lyanne, who knew that Patrick had hemophilia and needed to have transfusions, but "that was just the way it was with Patrick." The day that Patrick told Lyanne that he had HIV, their lives changed only in that she became one of his "secret keepers," he was the same loving big brother to her and he in turn shared his wish with her, that someday a cure for AIDS would be found.

Patrick went on to tell more people, first family, then friends and his school: reactions differed, as indeed many people are afraid of AIDS. Knowing the truth about AIDS would help keep people from being afraid of the disease, and Patrick, who had once hoped to be a doctor, thought that he in turn could help people by speaking about the disease. Lyanne, in writing her book and sharing Patrick's story, is helping to spread Patrick's wish. The book concludes with a list of Some Things Patrick Would Want You to Know About HIV and AIDS.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

About this blank blog

I am grateful for the chance to learning anything new. It always affords me an opportunity -- while I often feel like more of a twit than a tweeter, capable of routinely saying something pithy or clever -- I am looking forward to trying out new technologies. Bear with me, blank blog, perhaps we can develop together.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Getting Started

As good luck would have it, I arrived home tonight to find my contract for Reality Rules II in my mailbox. I'll take that as a good omen, given that I just created this blog this afternoon, as well as an incidence of good timing (not something for which I'm known.) It also ended up being somewhat ironic, as I couldn't mail it back to my publisher immediately, which I would have preferred, since the self-addressed envelope had American stamps and wouldn't have been accepted by Canada Post. But, exciting nonetheless, and a signed contract will be in the mail tomorrow.