Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dystopian Pick: The Big Dark

The Big Dark
by Rodman Philbrick
Blue Sky Press
178 pages
ISBN: 9780545789752

Set in a small town in New Hampshire, The Big Dark tells the story of an electromagnetic pulse so strong that it knocked out all  power, including batteries. How will humans react when suddenly faced with a world that seems so different? A world without heat? A world without wi-fi?

Facing the remaining  months of winter, the town must cut enough wood to keep the fires going.  Conspiracy theorist and local loudmouth U.S. government hating  compound owner  Webster Bragg has his own ideas how to handle the outage. He feels like survival of the fittest. Why waste good food and good fire wood for  old or sick people? He plans to take care of his compound and hoard weapons and goods. He's sure the government caused the black out and he says he knows for a fact that there is no more government  left.

School janitor and part time volunteer police officer Reggie Kingman takes his duties seriously. He is able to calm the crowds and helps to silence Bragg. When their only grocery store burns down, the townspeople are distraught. All this hardship and now no groceries?

A medical emergency forces Charlie Cobb to risk his own life by heading to a nearby town to find medical supplies.

Philbrick makes dystopian fiction approachable for middle grades in The Big Dark. Similar to Bick's Ashes and Stephen King's The Dome, the townspeople drive the plot. There is a good versus evil fight and issues are  raised for book clubs to debate.

The Big Dark is likely to earn Philbrick many state recognition lists  and possibly another coveted Newbery Honor. Clever cover design helps market this title.

A quick read (178 pages) for reluctant readers. This book is available on Scholastic Book Fairs and at Scholastic warehouses. Recommended grade 4-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

An Interview With Goldy Moldavsky, Author of Kill the Boy Band

I was lucky enough to sit down with Goldy Moldavsky, debut author of wildly entertaining and wickedly satirical Kill  the Boy Band at the Texas Library Convention in Houston, Texas. It was Goldy's first visit to Texas, but by the looks of her popularity and the book's sales, she will be callin' Texas her second home soon, ya'll. Welcome to Texas, Goldy!

I asked Goldy about her book, YA authors, charity and celebrity interviews.

P: Pamela (me)
G: Goldy (the one and only)

P: Since you interviewed celebrities in college, who is the most memorable and why?
G: I saw Katie Holmes, Amanda Bynes, Sarah Michelle Geller and Kristen Bell. The interview that is most memorable was Joaquin Phoenix. He was openly rude.

P: Who is the friendliest YA author you've met?
G: They are all so friendly, but I'd say Aimee Friedman who is sweet and Adam Silvera.

P:  Who is the funniest?
G: Libba Bray
P: I agree! So funny!

P: Who is the shyest?
G: Nicola Yoon

P: Kill the Boy Band is a funny look at the mania of fans. Do you think boy band enthusiasts will think it's funny? Or mean? Will they recognize themselves as behaving this way?
G: Those who read the book will find it funny if they have a sense of humor. It's about 50/50 for those who haven't read the book. Yes, (Laughs) they will recognize their behavior.

P. Your main character is never referred to by name, yet readers know the other girls' names. What was your motivation in not naming her?
G: I think she's a coward. She's telling the story but not telling on herself. She gives up her friends but not her own name.

P: You tweet inspirational quotes about writing. Do you do this for self-motivation? Or to motivate others?
G: Totally my own. I wouldn't know how to give any advice to others.

P: What is your favorite charity and why?
G: Chai Lifeline. It's a Jewish charity that provides summer camp for children who have cancer.

P: What one YA author do you admire?
G: Libba Bray

P: Name your top children's book of all time and why.
G: Do picture books count? (I nod yes) I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. It makes me laugh every time I pick it up!

P: What is on your reading list now?
G: David Levithan (with Nina LaCour)  You Know Me Well, Jeff Strand's  A Bad Day for Voodoo and Two Summers by Aimee  Friedman

P: If you could give your 15 year old self advice about life, what would you say?
G: Be patient. Keep at it!

Thank you. Thank you. Goldy was an inspirational interview and person. You  radiated warmth and intelligence. I am your fan girl forever, Goldy. But not in a creepy way....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
314 pages
ISBN: 9780544570986

Following his Newbery Medal winning book  The Crossover, Kwame Alexander returns to the world of sports--this time soccer--where protagonist teen sports star Nick Hall  loves soccer, daydreams in school, and thinks about having a girlfriend. Everything turns upside down  for Nick when his parents tell him they are getting a divorce. Worse still, Nick's mother is taking a job in another city, leaving him alone with his father. Nick's dad pushes him to study and learn new words, saying that he will have to cram for college in order to make something of himself. Nick has other ideas. He hates all this word study and he hates that his dad is always carping on him.

Nick is going to have to make some grown up decisions. If he wants to continue to compete in soccer, his father insists that Nick read and  study. Lucky for Nick he has a best friend who shares his enthusiasm for soccer.

One thing I loved about Booked is the compassionate and COOL librarian who leads Nick to great reads and gives him advice. Kwame Alexander gives a  shout out to YA title Rhyme Schemer, when the Mac (Nick's librarian) gives Nick one last book before he tells him goodbye. Mac won't be returning to Nick's school the following year as he is dating fellow teacher Ms. Hardwick and transferring  to a new school. I loved the relationship between a teen sports fan and his ex-rapper librarian.

I love the clever placement of words on the soccer ball on the front cover and the larger ball on the back cover.

Recommended for sports fans and fans of books in free verse. Grade 6-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Feel Good Pick: The Lion Inside

The Lion Inside
by Rachel Bright
Illustrations by Jim Field
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545873505

Available May 31, 2016

The Lion Inside is magical, whimsical, and funny! 

A loud and boisterous lion lives atop a giant rock while  his mouse neighbor  lives in a little "tinyful house." The lion lords his loudness and strength over all the other animals and they LISTEN to him. The mouse longs to be heard by the other animals, and one night he  gets a brilliant idea: he will learn to roar like the lion. If he had that kind of roar surely others would be his friends. The mouse sets off to talk to the lion to ask him for lessons in roaring. "It was time to be strong, take a chance...' and then the mouse feels, "It felt like the scariest thing he could do...but if you want to change, you first have to change you." ( My favorite wisdom right here in this book!) The mouse climbs the rock and the lion is terrified of mice! The mouse reassures the lion that he comes in peace as a friend and the two become inseparable buddies, "..that day they both learned that, no matter what your size, we all have a mouse AND  a lion inside."

Green and gold illustrations capture the magic of the African plains. Funny illustrations of the mouse reading a book "How to Roar" and the mouse struggling not be be stepped on by giant animal feet will delight young readers. The best children's books have whimsy, tell a story and teach a lesson without being preachy.  The Lion Inside teaches readers that even if you are small, you can still be heard. The character and fun of the animals is captured by each of Jim Field's brilliant illustrations. This is a true story of an unlikely pair who become friends forever.

Rachel Bright's writing is kid silly and parents will smile as they read that the lion is "toothy" and that on top of his rock it's "LION o'clock." He is also described as "SHOUTY and PROUD." Made up words like "weeniest" and "tinyful" add to the whimsy feel of the rhyming text. I love the fact that the lion's rock is nicer now that he has a friend to share it with. The lion forgets to roar and laughter now comes out when he opens his mouth. What a wonderful concept! 

This little book will be a childhood favorite and on top of the must read before bedtime lists. If you have a child or grandchild, this book is a sure keeper and a gem. The lessons of friendship, bravery, charity, and love are timeless and this book is so much more than a children's book.

Recommended ALL AGES. We can all learn something from this treasure!

Highly, highly recommended. So highly recommended I wish I had a little one to read this to!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Series Pick: A Cold Legacy ( A Madman's Daughter, Book 3)

A Cold Legacy (A Madman's Daughter novel, Book 3)
by Megan Shepherd
Balzar + Bray
388 pages
ISBN: 9780062128089

The third and last book of the Madman's Daughter trilogy ties up loose ends and story lines. Juliet and company are on the run after a bloody massacre in London. They have half of the police force looking for them as they flee north to the badlands of Scotland. Elizabeth Von Stein invited Juliet to her family's castle  on the moors, and Juliet arrives with Lucy, Montgomery, a delirious Edward who is fighting the Beast part of him and losing it seems, and Balthazar, their faithful servant.

They arrive at the Frankenstein (Elizabeth Von Stein's) castle and are rudely greeted by sullen servants who grudgingly allow them to stay. Lucy and Juliet take turns nursing Edward, but his outcome is grim. Elizabeth finally comes home and shows Juliet her father's secret workshop and library. Taking pieces of the Mary Shelley story, Megan Shepherd weaves together The Island of Dr. Moreau and Frankenstein.

There are secrets in the castle that Elizabeth is not willing to share with anyone: the strange servants and their near worship of Elizabeth, the bodies in the basement, the strange pale boy who travels through secret passageways and a gypsy troupe that seems to always be nearby.

If reanimation is possible, should it ever be used? Juliet struggles with ethical and moral dilemmas and questions her own ability to do good. She is, after all, her father's daughter, a fact that Montgomery seems to keep reinforcing. 

There's just enough gore to balance out the romance here. Readers of the series won't be disappointed with this last book.

The cover art is once again ethereal. The gothic castle looming over the girl, the long gown, the beautiful red sash, the color of the stormy sky and the red title lure readers to this read. The art marketing team has done a great job with all three of the covers in this series.

Some early reviews gave the cold shoulder about the medicine/science facts/nonfacts of the book, but don't let that bother you. One pointed out, "That's not how science works!" Well, Mary Shelley didn't care about science and neither did H.G. Wells. It's a work of science fiction and should be enjoyed as that, not as a medical textbook.

Highly recommended for fans of the series and others. If you haven't read book 1 and 2, A Cold Legacy will be confusing. I highly recommend the first two books. Grade 7-up. Gore, guts, grisly operations, on their wedding night, Juliet and Montgomery have a "moment," fade to black. 

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for the library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Come Home, Angus
by Patrick Downes
Illustrations by Boris Kulidov
Orchard Books
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545597685

Available July 2016

Angus wakes up angry. He is quite the personality! He tells his dog to walk faster, he yells at his bird for singing too loudly, and scolds the cat for purring. When he refuses to eat breakfast because his pancakes are too thin, his mother admonishes him to apologize to the pets. Angus refuses and talks back. His mother tells him that there are rules. She reminds him that being angry is not reason to be rude, and Angus decides it's high time he left this house and all its rules. He packs his bag to run away. I am pleased to say he remembers to pack  a favorite book!

Angus sets off and as he walks we see his figure get smaller and smaller on the page. In the angry pages, the figure of Angus takes up the entire page dwarfing his animals and even his mother. His anger is a giant. He walks many blocks and realizes that he's in a part of the city that he doesn't recognize. He sits down and watches people all the while feeling more lost and more afraid. He realizes he forgot to pack a lunch. He turns back home and when he gets there, he is greeted by his happy pets and is handed a  sardine sandwich from his smiling mother.

This little charmer of a book  has a decidedly British feel. The names of the pets: Clive, Pennycake, Arthur and main character's name  Angus are all names that children may not be familiar with. Also, the idea of a child craving a sardine sandwich is whimsical, although sardines are a popular deli choice. Young readers will love Angus and his temper, his meltdown and the realization that home is where the love is: the pets, his mother, and sustenance.

Highly recommended for pre-school and anyone who's ever thrown a temper tantrum or left home for a few minutes. This one is a ton of fun.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

This Is Why Libraries MATTER...This Is Why Reading MATTERS...This Is Why Books MATTER

I think it'd be great to have a moment for those who want to...reflect on one moment this year that they thought....this is why libraries MATTER....this is why reading MATTERS....this is why books MATTER....

Here's mine, just happened....

I just had a I Love Libraries moment.

2 of my super great readers were discussing Anna Carey's Eve series. One girl explaining to the other girl the cliffhanger at the end of book 2...conversation went on over ten minutes as I eavesdropped. They were both so into the book, they didn't notice me. When they looked over, I had my hands in a heart and said, "This is why libraries MATTER!"

I wish I had it on video...we may have to reenact it....pure gold....

Post your comments here or Tweet to #NLW16 #LibrariesTransform and #SISDheartsLibraries

I hope to hear your shares!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Memoir Pick: Dimestore: A Writer's Life

Dimestore: A Writer's Life
by Lee Smith
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
200 pages
ISBN: 9781616205027

Lee Smith's collection of personal essays embeds her as  the voice of Appalachia. Her life story reads like a country song of religion, love, life, birth, death, pain, suffering, and joy. She grew up the only child of a hard working shopkeeper and his wife. Smith's town was full of kin: cousins, uncles, aunts, and twice removed more distant cousins. Everybody who wasn't related to each other at least knew each other. There were no secrets in least no long kept secrets. Church was the center of their lives: revivals, services, church suppers, prayer meetings, funerals, and baptisms.

Children ran though the hills, swam in the river, caught fish in the stream, played up and down in  all the hollers, and came home with a hand full of wildflowers or a jar of lightning bugs. Smith conjures up the magic and wisdom of a time and  a place so distant that most of us can't recall. Folks went to church on Sunday or faced the rest of the town's scorn. People stood at attention for the pledge and celebrated being American and free.

Mothers cooked three meals a day, kids ate a lunch packed in a brown paper bag, fathers sometimes sat down to dinner late, but they always had their dinner at the table. Main street consisted of the dimestore, the post office, a movie theatre, a fire house and not much else. Some topics were never talked about. Mental illnesses were called by gentler terms, "a bout," "an episode," "kindly nervous."  When someone died, the whole town took notice and brought dishes of food. Think "Mayberry RFD" with Loretta Lynn thrown in. The town of Grundy doesn't exist anymore having been flooded by the Army Corps of Engineers, but Lee Smith's love letter to a bygone town and time live on as an endearing place of love and family.

Smith pays tribute to writing and the love of reading. She includes passages of fiction and poetry written by some of her adult students. She celebrates the life and poetry of Lou Crabtree and spoke at her funeral. Lou was an elderly lady when Smith met her at a writing workshop she was teaching. Lou had suitcases full of poems and fiction and she wrote to please herself never once thinking of publishing. She wrote to soothe herself, to calm herself, to see something on the page that made her happy. That is what writing should be! Later, Smith includes a quote from Anne Tyler who said, "I write because I want more than one life." Not to get rich, not to be famous, not to travel or to be on television. Writing for the people in Smith's essays is the essence of their being.

Thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, this short read (200 pages) is satisfying for the soul. Smith presents a simpler way of life in the glowing halo of wistful nostalgia, but it's beautiful and ethereal.

Highly recommended for adult and mature readers and all book clubs. Anyone who loves small town America, the South, and Appalachia will love this book.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Giveaway: The Kid From Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton

I have THREE FREE copies of this great title up for grabs! For your chance to win, post a comment to the blog. Please include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is April 11, 2016, at noon MST. Winners are selected randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified via email on April 11. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting!
Here is a quote from my review:
Fascinating, full of facts, well researched, easy to read and understand, and entertaining, this story of a girl who dared to love the game of baseball and break that "grass ceiling" gaining access into an all male sport is an incredible read and fine addition to any sports section or women's section of your collection and is a must read for sports fans and all young girls.  
What Reviewers are Saying:

    "An engaging story that reminds readers that “baseball isn’t just numbers and statistics, men and boys. Baseball is also ten-year-old girls, marching across a city to try out for a team intended for players twice their age."
–Horn Book

"Salerno's illustrations, variously rendered in charcoal, ink, and gouache, as well as digital color, lovingly evoke the time period and the settings. Much fascinating information about Edith's long and adventurous life is added in an author's note. A forgotten star shines anew."
–Kirkus Reviews

"[The Kid from Diamond Street] should especially appeal to those who enjoyed Vernick and Salerno’s Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team. The compelling story and energetic illustrations make this an excellent addition."
–School Library Journal

"Salerno’s mixed-media illustrations are a lively amalgam of action and scenic panorama..."

"Choice quotations from [Edith] Houghton bring her personality and love of baseball to vivid life, while Salerno’s mixed-media artwork channels the footloose energy of the Jazz Age..."
–Publishers Weekly

"This timely message about playing simply for the love of the game, as opposed to personal glory or celebrity, comes through loud and clear."