Tuesday, October 21, 2014

News

No Shortage of Kids' Comics at New York Comic Con.  From PW. 

29 Moments Any Librarian Knows Too Well.  But it feels so good when you figure out the book from, "I think it was blue..."!  From BuzzFeed.

After Some Victories, the Time Has Come to Legally Define ‘Fair Use’.  From The Open Standard.

Highland Park, Texas censoring books based on ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged List.  From OIF Blog.

Sita Brahmachari: the importance of diverse names in children's books.  The Guardian.
Finalists for 2014 NBA in Young People's Literature Announced.  From PW.

CNN predicts what teens will be reading next.

And then the queen kissed the princess: fairytales get a modern makeover.  From The Guardian.
S. E. Hinton and the Y.A. Debate.  From The New Yorker.

Warner Bros. is making more 'Harry Potter' movies — possibly a lot more.  From The Verge.

Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen Time?  From The New York Times.

Madeline, the Everygirl who never grows old.  CBS News.

On the Books: John Green celebrates 10 years since debut 'Looking for Alaska'.  From Entertainment Weekly.

Where are all the disabled characters in children's books?  From The Guardian.

'SNL' Parodies Every Young Adult Novel Ever Made With 'The Group Hopper,' And We'd Totally See It.  From Bustle.
 

A World of Beloved Books (According to Facebook).  Harry Potter wins everything.  From The Atlantic.

How Videogames Like Minecraft Actually Help Kids Learn to Read.  From Wired.

Diverse voices: the 50 best culturally diverse children's books.  From The Guardian.

How Canadian Jon Klassen became one of the most sought-after children's book illustrators in the world.  From The Globe and Mail.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow

It's 1942 in Berlin, Germany.  Wendy has just arrived in Berlin with her newly found mother, Adrie.  Wendy's grown up her whole life in America and speaks no German.  As happy as she is to be with Adrie, it is hard for Wendy to transition to being a German girl.  The war, which seemed so remote in America, is the focus of everything in Berlin, and many things Wendy doesn't understand.  It seems she has two choices.  She can close her eyes to what's happening, or she can do something about it.

The Watcher is a companion novel to Shadows on the Sea, which I hadn't read.  Wendy was a supporting character in that book, and I guess at the end she disappears with her newly discovered mother to Germany.  I went a lot of the book thinking that it was going to turn out that Adrie wasn't actually Wendy's real mother, that it was a trick to get Wendy to Germany because they needed an American girl for some secret task.  Adrie works for the German military intelligence unit as a spy.  I guess if I'd read the other book I would have know that it was true that Adrie was Wendy's real mother.  Although honestly, I think it would have made more sense if my idea had ended up being true.

This book didn't work for me very well.  I thought it was confusing and choppy.  I didn't think it made sense for Adrie to decided that 1942 was the time to let Wendy know she was her real mother and bring her to Germany.  Even if she was completely convinced Germany was going to win the war.  Why wouldn't she have waited until after?  The story of Wendy's father didn't really make sense.  Wendy's father was Jewish and they were married briefly but then her father was jailed and Adrie got a divorce and someone was able to make it look like their marriage had never happened and then Adrie got remarried and his name is the name on Wendy's birth certificate, but then Adrie decided to send her daughter to America to be safe, and also to pretend that she was her aunt and that her sister and her husband were Wendy's parents.  Yeah.  Confusing.  And also, it's Germany.  You think a member of the Germany military intelligence unit wouldn't have been carefully investigated and it wouldn't have been found out she was married to a Jew?  I don't think so.

So the whole premise I found a bit shaky.  I liked that the book focused on a couples aspects of WWII that many people would not have heard about.  Wendy ends up volunteering at a Lebensborn Nursery.  These were places were children who had been kidnapped from other countries because they had the correct Aryan look were taken to be raised to be good German citizens.  Lebensborn also housed the children of unwed German women and German soldiers who had been approved as having German ancestors.  The children born were taken from their mothers and were considered to belong to the state.  At the nursery, Wendy meets Johanna, a girl who has been assigned to Lebensborn for "reeducation."  She is a Jehovah's Witness (Bibelforscher), one of the many groups considered undesirable by the Nazis.  All Johanna would have to do would be to sign a piece of paper swearing her loyalty to Hitler and Germany and renouncing her religion, but she refuses to do so.

As Wendy befriends Johanna and realizes that Johanna could be sent off to a concentration camp, or killed, for refusing to renounce her religion, Wendy begins to question whether her plan of ignoring the bad things happening around her is going to be possible.  Wendy also becomes friends with a blind young man she meets in the park, whose grandfather knows all about Wendy's real father.  Wendy also adopts a German Shepard puppy that couldn't make it as an SS dog.

Wendy decides she must escape from Germany and get back to the United States, and the rest of the book is planning and executing the escape.  I didn't find it especially gripping or interesting.

So, thumbs up on looking at aspects of WWII that we don't often see in middle grade books.  But the books itself I would pass on.

The Watcher comes out November 4, 2014.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy

She's never had a name, and she's never known a friend.  She takes care of her father's house and is treated brutally.  Everything changes when Zenobia, a runaway slave, stumbles into her home.  Zenobia names the girl Lark, and the two set out together, determined to find their freedom.

Such an interesting story.  Very different from other middle grade of YA stories I've read about slaves running during the 1800s.  First there is the aspect that Lark is white, but no less a slave than Zenobia is.  She realizes though, that while she was cruelly treated, it was still nothing like what Zenobia and other Black slaves suffered.

Unusually, story begins and ends in Virginia.  Zenobia and Lark run, but they never actually get very far away from Lark's home, despite all their traveling and hardships.  This book really showed the ruthless determination that slave catchers had, especially when a big reward was involved.  And Lark's father is not about to let her go so easily.  We never actually see any of the characters safe to freedom.  We never see them get out of Virginia.

Zenobia knows about the Underground Railroad, but despite that, it's not so easy to jump on.  And even when they do find a safe house, they're not safe.  That was definitely a theme of the book, looking for safety and freedom, never quite finding it, never stopping hoping it's out there somewhere.

Zenobia and Lark are taken in by a Quaker woman, Auntie, who shelters them and arranges for Zenobia's escape to Canada.  Canada, at this point in history, is pretty much the only safe place to run to, because even if a slave made it to the North, they could still be captured and returned.  The Quakers believe in nonviolence and are against slavery.  Many in the Quaker community are becoming reluctant to help runaways, because the runaways' harsh treatment is coming down on them too.  Indeed, when Zenobia is discovered and taken, Auntie is taken too.  She never stops believing that nonviolence is the only answer though.

Lark undergoes some changes throughout the book.  At first, she's too afraid to have anything to do with Zenobia.  She doesn't want any more trouble then she already has.  But she can't help but see Zenobia's fear is similar to her own.  And Lark starts to think about why she's never left the people who hurt her.  She realizes she's been a slave too, and that she doesn't have to anymore.  She can care and help other people, too.

The book ends with hope.  And we are left so wanting these characters to find their Promised Land, after everything they've been through.  Great historical fiction read.

Running Out of Night comes out November 1, 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

News

The Right to Read: The How and Why of Supporting Intellectual Freedom for Teens.  From In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

School library make the difference.  From ilovelibraries.org.

How bookstores survive in the age of Amazon.  From PW.

More nonfiction writers adapting their books for children.  From The New York Times.

John Krokidas will direct Lionsgate's YA adaptation Wonder.  From The Hollywood Reporter.

Best practices for teaching in the cloud.  From SLJ.
 
Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who received three Newbery Honors for her middle-grade novels, including The Egypt Game, has died at 87.  I actually just finished reading The Egypt Game this month.  From PW.

Interview with Jacqueline Wilson.  From The Guardian.

Scott Westerfeld on his novel-within-a-YA-novel.  From Los Angeles Times.

Philadelphia Museum and a library lose Maurice Sendak collection.  From SLJ.


Writing Native lives in YA.  From PW.

Why adults are buzzing about YA literature.  From PBS.org.

Picture book adaptations that sort of need to happen.  From Book Riot.

Q & A with Bob Shea and Lane Smith.  From PW.

The Guardian's children's fiction award shortlist 2014.  

97% of school librarians have spent their own money on their libraries.  From SLJ.

Oh Jon Klassen.  You are so adorable.  Even when you're filling a window full of dirt.  From The Guardian.

Perseplolis challenge fails in Illinois.  From SLJ.

I'm Back!

Hello world.  I return to you.  I'm sorry I haven't posted a single thing in over a month.  I started my new job as a public middle school librarian, where I am the only librarian, and spent the month of September being totally overwhelmed and trying to keep my head above water.  I know it's old news for lots of people, being the only librarian in your library, but it was quite the transition, moving from an all girls' independent school where there were three librarians to public middle school!  I feel like I'm getting in the swing of things now, and I'm really happy I made the switch.  Things I've learned about middle school students:  They kind of smell; 8th grade boys are (still) super annoying. 

Anyways, I shall do my best to return to the book reviews.  I've still been reading stuff, just haven't had the time for posting.  You'll notice that my book choices are now much more middle grade than YA, for the obvious reason, but the 8th graders are all about the YA, so it won't go away entirely. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

Joy is fifteen and until three months ago she lived a terrifying existence with her mother.  Now her mother is in jail, and Joy is safe, living with her aunt, uncle and two cousins.  But Joy doesn't feel safe, even though she knows she is.  She can't stop the panic attacks when she has to talk to someone, especially men.  She feels completely crazy and out of control and isn't convinced that things will ever get better.

For most of the book, it isn't stated explicitly what happened to Joy.  Depending on the maturity of the reader, you might make different assumptions.  Joy has a very hard time speaking to men.  Being alone with a man, even her uncle or cousin, can cause a panic attack.  She's afraid of the smell of beer.  She can't stand people looking at her.  I assumed she's been emotionally and physically abused by her mother, and raped by her mother's boyfriend, which we find out at the end of the book, at the trail of her mother, that's what happened.  The word "rape" is not mentioned the entire time until one sentence at the very end.

Because of this, this book might be a good choice for upper middle grade looking for a serious issues book.  It's not graphic or explicit.  It deals mainly with the aftermath and Joy trying to work her way through what happened to her and try and learn that she's safe now.

It does not happen all at once.  When the book starts, Joy has been with her aunt and uncle for three months and hadn't made very much progress.  She's not convinced she'll ever make progress.  But she slowly begins to.  She's able to be in the same room as her uncle, and then she's able to talk to him.  They eventually become close and he becomes her biggest advocate.  Joy starts making friends.  She is able to speak up a little more, and discovers new things about her personality.

It isn't all smooth sailing.  Joy has lots of stops and starts, and sometimes she falls backwards.   She worries what an imposition it must be to her aunt and her family to have to take her in.  She is surprised to learn her aunt feels horrible guilty for not getting Joy away from her mother earlier.  Joy has to deal with one of her cousins who is tired of everyone tiptoeing around her and doesn't understand why she can't just be normal already.

I thought Stronger Than You Know did an great job showing the aftermath of trauma and how it is truly a process to overcome it.  The book ends with hope, and we know, that even as Joy continues to struggle, she'll come out on top.

Stronger Than You Know came out September 1, 2014.
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