Friday, July 3, 2015


How the Modern Detective Novel Was Born.  From PW.

Martyn Ford's top 10 fantastical pets in children's literature.  From The Guardian.
Martin Sheen to star in new Anne of Green Gables TV movie.  CBC News.

The teacher who inspired Terry Pratchett.  From The Telegraph.

Pratchett's daughter rules out Discworld follow-ons.  From The Bookseller.

The Dark Side of Nursery Rhymes.  From the BBC.

Elizabeth Banks in Talks to Direct YA Fantasy 'Red Queen'.  From The Hollywood Reporter.

The Worst Canonical Kids’ Books and What to Replace Them With.  From Flavorwire.

32 Enthralling Summer Reading Books For Kids Of All Ages.  From The Huffington Post.

Pooh and friends – Memorable Animals from Literature.  From Seattle Pi.

Transgender Titles for Young Readers.  From PW.

How FANGIRL Restored My Faith in Humanity.  From BookRiot.

‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ author inspires MNPS students.  From Vanderbilt News.

Jesse Andrews Learns on the Fly to Write ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.’  From The New York Times.

“King & King”—and Teacher Who Read It—Under Fire in North Carolina.  From SLJ.

Fathers not reading enough to their children, says Book Trust.  From The Guardian.
Reality Is Overrated: 5 Completely Insane Books You Should Read with Your Kid.  From Brightly.

Mark Haddon - don't use Curious Incident... as an autism "textbook."  From The Telegraph.

What’s on Your Summer Reading List? | Authors and Illustrators Share Their TBR Stacks.  From SLJ.

Thanks To J.K. Rowling, Dumbledore And Gandalf Got Married This Weekend.  From Buzzfeed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

Years ago orphaned Corinna became Corin and started a new life as a Folk Keeper.  A Folk Keeper is important.  It is they who keep the Folk satisfied so they don't cause the crops to spoil and animals to sicken and die.  Everything changes when she is taken to be Folk Keeper at Marblehaugh Park, a manor house by the sea.  By the sea, Corinna is suddenly overwhelmed by powers she didn't know she had, and begins to piece together who she really is.

I loved Chime by Franny Billingsley but hadn't read anything else by her.  The Folk Keeper has some similarities with Chime, in particular the story twists and turns and keeps you guessing and then all comes together wonderfully in the end.  The Folk Keeper wasn't anywhere as confusing as Chime, which I always warn kids that they won't know what's going on for the first half but stick with it because it gets awesome.

Corinna decides to become a boy because she's suffered through life as a servant for others.  As a boy, she can be a Folk Keeper.  She has no training, of course, but she learns by listening and bribing others and becomes quite a good one.  Corinna has constructed for herself a very careful world devoid of emotions or attachments.  If someone does her wrong, she quickly and quietly gets revenge on them.  This is how she has survived alone for many years.  She is cold and vindictive and careful to make sure everyone respects the position she has so carefully built for herself.

Corinna is thrown when Sir Edward and Lady Alicia come asking for her by her true name, as she's gone as Corin for years.  She meets with Lady Alicia's husband, who speaks with her briefly before dying.  He wants to take her into his household.  She refuses, but agrees to come if she can stay Corin and be their Folk Keeper.  So Corinna, still as Corin, travels to the seaside where Marblehaugh Park is.

At Marblehaugh Park Corinna meets Lady Alicia's son, Finian.  Finian is heir to the estate, but all he wants to do is build boats and sail.  Corinna, for all her boasting and confidence in her abilities finds the Folk of Marblehaugh Park are nothing like anything she's experienced before.  They are ravenous and blood thirsty and Corinna is hardly able to hold them off.  In order to arm herself against them, she makes a deal with Finian.  He will tell her secrets of the estate she might be able to use to protect herself against the Folk, and she will give him convictions to be able to stand up to his mother and stay with the sea he loves.

Corinna has more people in her life then she ever had before.  She is actually beginning to care about people, which she doesn't like at all.  She is also experiencing strange things.  Why did she take to sailing so easily?  Why did swimming in the water feel so natural that one night?  What is Sir Edward hiding?  Why did Lady Alicia's husband want her here in the first place?  Who is the Lady Rona?

Just like Chime, everything comes together in the end.  Corinna pieces everything together and then must make a choice: stay with the people she perhaps has grown to love, or return to her true home.

Great middle grade fantasy with mystery, betrayal, and a little bit of romance.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Elli Woollard’s top 10 re-imagined fairytales.  From The Guardian. 

30 LGBTQIA-Positive Children’s Books That’ll Teach Kids How Beautifully Diverse The World Is.  From Bustle.

Movie Alert: 'Paper Towns'.  From PW.

College Declines Student’s Request to “Eradicate” Acclaimed Graphic Novels from Campus.  From Electric Lit.

Why I Teach Diverse Literature.  From The Toast.

Read an excerpt from new Rick Riordan.  From USA Today.

A look at how the "Family Place" library program is transforming libraries.  From PW.

Where are the children's books with girls in trousers? From The Guardian.

Here's the one word John Green regrets using in 'Paper Towns'.  From USA Today.

Teacher who read gay-themed fairy tale in class resigns after protest.  From Los Angeles Times.

Q & A with Kate Beaton.  From PW.

Meet “Bitch Planet,” your new “bold, beautiful, and baaaad” subversive feminist comic obsession.  From Salon.

Can You Guess The Children’s Book From One Sentence?  From BuzzFeed.

An Ode to School Librarians.  From BookRiot.

RJ Palacio: what is kindness?  From The Guardian.

Jules Feiffer Never Loved His Illustrations For 'The Phantom Tollbooth'.  From The Huffington Post.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Landman, Grill Win 2015 Carnegie, Greenaway Medals in U.K.  From PW.

Carnegie winner Landman condemns library closures.  From The Bookseller.

The Case for a Happy Ending.  From PW.

'Looking for Alaska' Taps Rebecca Thomas to Direct.  From The Hollywood Reporter.
Harry Potter Book Night coming back in 2016.  From Entertainment Weekly.

Why this is a golden age for children's literature.  From The Independent.

The making of a graphic novel.  From PW.

JK Rowling reveals why the Dursleys dislike Harry Potter so much.  From The Guardian. 

Books On Buses: New program helps get books to Roanoke children.  From WDBJ7.

Author Brewer Announces Gender Transition.  From PW.

Selfies, sex and body image – the revolution in books for teenage girls.  From The Guardian. 

English Class in Common Core Era: ‘Tom Sawyer’ and Court Opinions.  From The New York Times.

Cut to the Core: Education Reform and Libraries.  From PW.
If Hollywood won't feature modern superheroines then it's up to YA fiction.  From The Guardian. 

Four authors give the best responses to their Internet critics.  From Entertainment Weekly.

Not Catching Fire: 21 YA adaptations that failed to launch franchises.  From The AV Club.

The Story Of Nancy Drew, Once Far More Ballsy Than The Girl Sleuth You Know.  From The Huffington Post.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster by Matt Phelan

It's 1908, and not much happens in Muskegon, Michigan.  But all that changes when a troupe of vaudeville performers come to summer not far from Muskegon.  Henry can't believe his eyes.  The elephants, zebras, and the kids who travel with their families!  What a life!  Henry befriends Buster, a kid his age who is part of his family's act.  Henry wants Buster to teach him all his tricks, but all Buster wants is to play baseball and pull some pranks.

Henry is a fictional character, but all the vaudeville people mentioned in the book are real, and they really did summer at Bluffton where Joe Keaton, Buster's father, founded The Actor's Colony.  Buster, of course, is Buster Keaton, famous comedian and film star.  Before he became that famous film star, we learn, he was part of a family act where he was "the human mop."  He got throw around, took lots of falls, and got right back up again.

Henry is jealous of Buster.  Henry thinks his life is boring.  Here he is in this nothing little town, where nothing every happens.  His father owns a store.  He helps his father in his store.  He goes to school.  That's his life.  But Buster!  Buster gets to travel the world!  He can do all sorts of tricks and falls.  He can juggle.  He meets all kind of interesting people.  He's personable and friendly.  Henry wants to be like him.

Buster, we the reader can see, does not think he's quite so lucky.  He wants to spend his summer, the only time he doesn't have to perform, playing baseball.  He doesn't want to teach Henry falls and tricks.  He doesn't want to do them when he doesn't have to.  We can tell Buster wishes he'd had more schooling.  Perhaps more of a "regular" life.  That maybe he doesn't want to be in vaudeville forever, but Henry can't see that.

There's a lovely moment in the book where Henry talks to his father about not wanting to be a store keeper.  His father tells him he never expected him to be.  He wants Henry to do whatever will make him happy.

The art is done in lovely pale water color.  It invokes a feeling of "another time."  There are many wordless panels where everything we need is in a look or gesture.  A beautiful book.  Might take some pushing to get kids to read it.  It might not be one they'll just pick up.  Sell it by talking about the elaborate pranks Henry and Buster pull on the school principal.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial by Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham debunks a number of prevalent myths, from the moon landing being a hoax to vaccinations causing Autism.  For each myth Cunningham uses science and proven facts to explain why the myths are just that: myths.

I found this to be a very informative book, but it's also a book that's preaching to the choir.  You're not going to pick up this book if you're a person who thinks climate change doesn't exist or that there's no such thing as evolution.  This isn't going to be the book that manages to convince naysayers otherwise, because the naysayers aren't going to pick up a book on exposing the myths of science denial, even if it's in a friendly graphic novel format.

But if you're a person who's interested in where these myths come from, and how they can scientifically be refuted (so you can impress your friends and be prepared for your next cocktail party when someone says, "So what do you think about fracking?") this is the book for you.

What I liked about it was that it stressed critical thinking and the scientific method.  Cunningham was very clear that just because we find something to be true now using the scientific method, doesn't mean that that will always be the case.  Some new piece of information or research might come along that changes things.  Something new might be discovered.  But we must think critically and base our understanding on facts that come about through careful experimentation and observation.  We can't disregard pieces of information because they don't fit with what we personally think, or what we'd like to be true.

Cunningham provided evidence for each issue he was looking at, as well as explaining how the myth originated, and how scientific data and facts can prove the myth inaccurate.

The writing is clear and straightforward, although I found some concepts easier to understand than others.  I still find the concept of fracking confusing.  Also, frack will never not make me think of Battlestar Galactica (the one with the moral dilemmas, not the one with the laser beams).

The book is arranged in strips, with three rows on each page with two panels per row with little variation.  The art is carrtoonish, and is mixed with real photographs and detailed portraits of individuals mentioned.  It made for an interesting mix.

While younger middle school students might have difficult, I think this would be appropriate for 8th grade and up.
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