Friday, April 28, 2017

Beach Pick or How To Move On With Your Life Pick: Ramona Blue

Ramona Blue
by Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
400 pages (page count taken from arc)
ISBN: 9780062418357

Ramona Blue is author  Julie Murphy's most memorable character yet. A strong female on the brink of discovery, Ramona is learning about life and love and how both can change and that change is okay.

Ramona Blue longs to escape her seedy beach town of Eulogy, Mississippi--Eulogy--even sounds desolate right?  Ramona's world is made up of her pregnant sister Hattie, her inept  father, her idiot mother and no where to go or to be except at one of her jobs. Ramona is the only one who seems to "get" that the family  is struggling for their existence. Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home, they have been living in a FEMA trailer that is little better than sleeping outside.

Ramona is a larger than life figure--standing at over 6' tall, she has to duck and navigate her "home" and showering in the tiny shower is laughable. Ramona, far from a shrinking violet, sports electric blue hair...always. After saying good bye to her summer romance Grace, Ramona realizes that for her, it was more than just a summer fling. She is worried that Grace will go back to her "real" life and forget all about their summer together.

When old friend Freddie arrives back in town, Ramona is happy to spend time with him. It is easy being around Freddie and their friendship seems just right.

Ramona is on the edge of something great--her life is before her, her past behind her. This coming of age story will strike a chord in readers. It is real life. Fiction just says it better! Thank you, Julie Murphy, for making terrible things beautiful.

This book is for anyone who is at the crossroads whatever they may be. Ramona Blue will choose and it will be alright.

Heartfelt and deep, Ramona Blue will pull readers in, and Julie Murphy has another winner on her hands!

Highly recommended grade 9-up. Mature subject matter.

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hot Tech Tools

Here's a short list of some tools that you can use in the classroom and beyond

TASL Talks

Hot Tech Tools for Classroom and Beyond - Some for testing, some for studying, some just for fun!

List by Pamela Thompson, LMS, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, El Paso USD;@PThompson_EMS ;

I originally presented this list at a Tech Conference for a neighboring school district. TASL asked me for a contribution, so here you are!

Monday, April 10, 2017

TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU: National Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 27, 2017

This is a nice article and mention of our upcoming event for National Poem in Your Pocket Day:

TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU: National Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 27, 2017: by Pamela Thompson, LMS,  Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, Socorro ISD (El Paso) ;  @PThompson_EMS  ;  http://booksbypamelathompson.blogsp...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

YA Pick: Blood Family

Blood Family
by Anne Fine
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
291 pages
ISBN: 9781481477734

Blood Family is the gripping tale of a boy who had no chance. Edward's mother is a ghost of a woman who has lost her humanity. Beaten and abused for years, she has lost her will to survive let alone raise a seven year old child. If not for a nosy neighbor, Edward would probably be dead.

Rescued from the home along with his mother, Edward is taken to "safety." The conditions of his childhood home are documented by social workers and police officers. There is nothing to eat and deplorable conditions. Edward has never set foot from the house, never been outside, never talked to anyone before. Everything he knows he has learned from thirty year old VCR tapes of episodes of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."

Edward is grateful to be saved but worried about his mother. She will never be capable of taking care of herself again. Edward is shuttled off to foster homes and never fits in. He realizes his mother's abusive "boyfriend" is really his "blood" father and terrified  that if they share the same DNA, maybe Edward will be evil also. He does not want to become a beast.

After a series of relationships, homes, demons, drugs and failures, he realizes he will be okay.

The chapters are told in first person by a series of narrators: the neighbor who calls the police, the police who respond, social workers, foster parents, teachers and Eddie himself. Readers will get the big picture and not just Eddie's possibly skewed view of things. The book was first released by Doubleday in Great Britain. Blood Family is a tough book about a deplorable subject. It is not a "feel good" book.

Recommended for realistic fiction collections and high schools.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Grammar Pick: Word Play

Word Play
by Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrations by Jared Chapman 
Arthur A. Levine Books
40 pages
ISBN: 9782545934282

On sale date: July 25, 2017

Word Play is a lively and colorful picture book that takes place on the playground where all the types of words come out to play. Verb comes out to "do," Noun comes out to "be," Adjective comes out to "describe." This picture book will come in handy in all English and  reading classrooms and will benefit all learners of grammar--which is a concept so dismally missing from curriculum that students don't have any idea what a noun or verb is let alone an adjective or adverb. An interjection? Never heard of it! 

As a former high school English teacher I can attest to the fact that high school students did not know what a sentence fragment was at the beginning of the year. They had to be "reminded" that a noun and a verb must be present to make a sentence. 

Adam Lehrhaupt makes learning grammar fun and accessible. Colorful illustrations will delight younger learners.  Jared Chapman captures characters' personalities and facial expressions in each two page spread. 

Highly recommended for all English language collections and grammar classrooms. Oh, the possibilities of teaching with this book! 

Grade 3-up and all grades English.

Friday, March 31, 2017

March School Library Journal YA Xpress Reviews: Chemistry

My review of Chemistry appears  here on the School Library Journal YA Xpress reviews.
Chemistry is the 8th review from the top.

I enjoyed this lighthearted romp which is comic clever, romantic  and a satire of zombie and vampire books that have come before.
Chemistry (Stella Blunt, Book 1)
C.L. Lynch
One Tree Hill Press
372 pages 
ISBN: 9780995307001

Monday, March 20, 2017

Picture Book Pick: Tidy

By Emily Gravett
Illustration by the author
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481480192

Charming and intelligent, Tidy is a keeper. Pete the badger likes everything tidy. He is the Felix Unger of the forrest. He does not like dust, leaves, twigs, detritus.  He goes on a cleaning frenzy tidying his ecosystem. Illustrations of Pete's concrete jungle show readers how a forrest can be killed. What Pete  discovers is that messy in a forrest is a beneficial thing. Nature needs "messes" to keep the balance of the system. Pete learns a valuable lesson and makes friends with his forrest neighbors.

Winsome animal illustrations capture each animal's  personality. Pete himself is precious, even when he wields a vacuum cleaner on the folio page. The strong message of keeping wild spaces wild will capture a new audience inspired to save nature.

Highly, highly recommend ages preschool to all grades. The message is inspiring. Emily Gravett amazes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Non-Fiction Pick: Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel

Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk and Feel
by Nancy F. Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
152 pages
ISBN: 9780544633353

Beastly Brains  is a must-have for young scientists, animal behaviorists, and animal lovers. Scientists have  hought crows were smart for a long time, but this book proves other species can think, learn and remember. Dolphins have a language of their own and use "signature whistles" their entire lives. They recognize each other by the whistle even if it's been years since they have seen one another.

Did you know that your dog can feel jealousy? Of course you did! Well, science is now backing you up. Apes and monkeys are studied often. Scientists have learned that apes like to gamble and they show emotion if they lose. many animals use tools including monkeys, dolphins and crows.

Beastly Brains is a must buy for animal behavior sections.

Recommended grade 6-up.

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spy Series Pick: Spy Ski School

Spy Ski School 
by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
368 pages
ISBN: 9781481445627

Spy Ski School is the fourth in this fun series and it's the BEST! Ben Ripley is up to it again. More fun, more gadzooks, more catching evil criminals, more silliness, more hijinks, more tomfoolery,  and more shenanigans within the CIA. Ben, Erica, Zoe  and other spy students from the academy are sent to a ski resort in Colorado to "blend in" and make friends with their target's daughter, Jessica Shang.  The CIA needs to know what the fabled  Chinese gangster is up to and stop him before his evil doings. Jessica and father Leo arrive in a parade of expensive SUVs surrounded by huge bodyguards. Ben is worried how he will ever make contact with all the goons around, but team member and BFF Erica always has a plan. 

It wasn't Ben's fault that once he caught sight of Jessica, it colored his perspective. Erica's reaction to Ben's crush is a cross between angry girlfriend and pouting little girl. The closer Ben gets to Jessica puts Erica on edge. Could it be because Leo Shang wants Ben dead or maybe because Erica truly likes Ben herself? 

Spy Ski School is a laugh out loud novel for middle grades and up. Some scenes are sheer slapstick-- reminiscent of early television's "The Three Stooges" or Charlie Chaplin's skits. Somehow falling down on ice skates and causing a people pile is really funny and trying to walk like a human while wearing ski boots is equally as charming. There really isn't any way to be "cool" on the ski slopes. Ben doesn't have to act like he's undercover; he is a natural, lovable oaf that any bad guy would never expect  he was really  a seasoned spy. 

The electricity between Ben and Erica is heating up to a fever pitch, and working side by side risking their lives on a daily basis heightens their senses. The banter between the two teens is often hysterical and always entertaining. Stuart Gibbs is a master of story telling! Spy Ski School has it all! There is more action, more romance, more friendship, more planning, more plotting, more deception,  and more spying in this book. These bad guys are using real bullets and they are out for blood. 

If you haven't read the Spy School series, you need to get with the program. These are some of my favorite books to recommend at my middle school.

Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up. Buy this series for every reluctant reader, boy or girl They will LOVE it! 

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Graphic Pick: Fish Girl

Fish Girl
by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustratons by David Wiesner
Clarion Books
192 pages
ISBN: 9780547483931

Ethereal illustrations by David Wiesner capture the beauty of Fish Girl and her aquarium home. Colorful sea creatures are realistic and beautiful. A friendly orange octopus is the epitome of a true friend. Fish Girl is a captive in an aquarium. Caught as a baby "mer-son," Fish Girl owes her life and sustanence to Neptune, the sea god. Neptune is the only parent figure Fish Girl has ever known, and he claims he saved her from death, giving her a home at the aquarium. The only thing he asks is that she "perform"--allowing visitors to glimpse a sighting of her. She is not allowed to fully  appear to anyone and cannot interact with the human guests. Neptune warns her that if people really believe that she's a mermaid, someone will come and take her away to study and cut open. This is enough to frighten her into subservience.

One day, this all changes when a curious twelve year old named Livia bonds with her. Fish Girl cannot speak and has no legs to walk, but she dreams of being human. What would it be like to have legs and walk on dry land and wear real clothes and  attend a yoga class? Livia continues to sneak visits with Fish Girl whom she names Mira (short for Miracle) and wonders where Fish Girl came from and just who Neptune really is. After one of her visits, Mira questions her keeper's intentions as well. She searches Neptune's office and finds overdue bills and a photo of Neptune fishing on a boat.Mira realizes her "father" is not the god of the sea but a common fisherman and he's been lying to her about everything.

Mira  decides she wants out and enlists the help of Octopus in her foray. Her friend will do anything for her and does.

Fish Girl is the strange but wonderful story of a mermaid and a human who become friends and later sisters. It is full of friendship, hope, possibilities and love.

Magnificent art will win over even "boy" readers who thinks that Fish Girl is a "girl" story. One reviewer on Amazon reported that her son said, "while he said this was a "girl story" (a huge insult for a 4th grade boy), he eventually succumbed to mom's pleas and read it and called it, "pretty good, but still would have been better with boys" ... Which is basically a rave review for him..." That being said, if boys are led to this book, they will likely enjoy the story and the fantastic graphic content. 

Highly, highly recommended for fans of graphic novels and middle school readers. 

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Memorial Pick: Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder
by Kate Messner
Illustrations by Greg Ruth
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545470124

Available April 25, 2017
Just in time for Memorial Day!

Rolling Thunder tells the story of a brave soldier, a grandfather now, who along with his grandson, visits the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, to honor his friends who were lost in battle. What a message! Illustrations bring America's heartland to readers.Author Kate Messner uses rhyming couplets and creates a tone of quiet, sadness and memories of those lost.

One  illustration depicts a young boy shaking the hand of a vet--it is poignant and full of grace. Other illustrations of the Rolling Thunder ride and the parade of bikes on the front cover are inspiring. One illustration shows the bikes coming head-on at the reader off of the page, This powerful image will have readers feeling the rumble of Rolling Thunder. The Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam wall of names are beautifully illustrated by Greg Ruth. Almost every two page spread shows an American flag proudly on display.

Rolling Thunder arrives just in time for Memorial Day. Finally!  A new picture book that librarians and teachers can use to teach children the importance of the day, of the soldiers who came before, of patriotism, and of being American and of being free!

This is one important little book. In tough times, our children need inspiration. They need to be taught and shown what is right and wrong. Rolling Thunder arrives just in time.

Highly, highly recommended for every classroom and collection. As a librarian, I always got requests for books that helped teach kids the significance of holidays. If you need inspiration for Memorial Day, look no more!

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book and Swag Giveaway: Dog Man Unleashed

I have FIVE FREE copies of Dog Man Unleashed to giveaway to lucky winners! Winners will also get a Dog Man poster and Dog Man tattoos! This is epic, people!

All you have to do for your chance to win is write a comment to this blog. Please include your first name, city, state and email. I need your email contact in case you win. It will not be used for anything else. Comments await publication, so it may take a day or two if you post on the weekend, but your comment will be published in the order it was received. 

Deadline for posting a comment is noon MST Feb. 27. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer and notified on Feb. 27. Please check your email on that date in the afternoon. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books, posters and tattoos will ship from New York . 

Now, good luck and start posting. Hooray for Dog Man! 

Reluctant Reader Pick: Dog Man Unleashed (book 2)

Dog Man Unleashed
by Dav Pilkey
224 pages
ISBN: 9780545935203

Kids don't need to be told: Dog Man Unleashed is the real deal! Dav Pilkey just keeps getting it right for those reluctant readers who just need a reason to pick up a book. This second book is even more fun than the original.Inane, silly, charming, ridiculous, and did I say silly? Well, fun then. Sheer fun!

 Pilkey does the amazing: he makes everything possible: a T. Rex skeleton becomes reanimated and dances around , a cat can be an evil genius, a police chief is so bumbling that he needs the assistance of Dog Man to solve even the silliest of crimes. In a graphic novel that reads more like a "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon with evil Natasha and Boris, Dog Man is your hero. Pilkey must have spent every Saturday morning glued to his television watching the roadrunner outsmart Wile E. Coyote.

Poor Dog Man. He is half Dog (the head and dog instincts) and half human (the human body). In a  freak accident, Officer Knight and Greg the Dog get blown up, and  the ambulance takes them to the hospital with the siren sounding, "Wee-OOO-Wee_OOO" --never has anyone found a way to write a siren sound that was legit before Pilkey--so applause for that alone! The ER doctors say that the only way to fix Greg the Dog and Officer Knight is to combine them into one. This seems far-fetched, but it is laugh out loud funny!

Dialog is tongue-in-cheek with 80's and 90's references. It is irreverent and hysterical. Two kids are  passing by, a boy and a girl, and see the cat villain stealing treasure chests. A  mysterious stranger wants to stop him by  using  his mind powers to pick up a phone booth to throw at the cat. The kids ask, "What's a phone booth?" Next he picks up a stack of newspaper and a mailbox then "he grabs some other stuff with his brain" from Lulu's Obsolete Goods. The kids wonder what each obsolete item is and that's the fun of it! Adults will chuckle along with their reluctant readers--if they are lucky enough to be reading along, that is!

Dog Man is the perfect cop...except for the fact that every time he sees a bone, he wants to lick it and every time he sees a ball, he wants to chase it and catch it. Pilkey has included flip pages with instructions for readers to flip the pages and see the "action" cartoon. Readers will be delighted!
How to draw pages in back teach readers how to draw main characters and Pilkey's website has more content to interest young doodlers and dreamers.

Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series made readers out of a generation of reluctant readers two decades ago; Dog Man will take this generation by storm. Hooray for Dog Man!

Highly, highly recommended for all reluctant readers and anyone who needs a laugh. This is sheer silliness for the fun of it! Don't fight it! Give in to Dog Man!

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Picture Book Pick: Watersong

by Tim McCanna
Illustrated by Richard Smythe
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
32 pages

Watersong is a brilliant work of art! They symphony of  watercolors capture the power of a rain storm and a young fox as he wanders his forest home. He watches the storm listening  to the raindrops and the wind. He sees the changes that the rain brings.

Tim McCanna's use of onomatapoeia will excite young readers to follow along and make the sounds on each page. This is book that needs to be read ALOUD over and OVER again. In fact, children will demand it to be read out loud.

Readers will love reading, "Drip, drop, plip, plop, pitter, patter, pat," and the sounds throughout the storm. After the storm, the young fox observes a rainbow before coming home to his mother and family. Facts about foxes and ecosystems are included on the last page.

Kirkus called this book "Beautiful," and no one will disagree.  In fact, Watersong is an early contender for the Caldecott Award.

This book is a must for language arts and poetry. Art classes will be dazzled by the beauty of the illustrations. Young readers will learn a few facts about ecosystems and the water cycle.

Highly, highly recommended for all young readers and all library collections.

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

Perfect Pick: If I Had a Little Dream

If I Had a Little Dream
by Nina Laden
Illustrations by Melissa Casrillon
A Paula Wiseman Book
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481439244

Rhyming verse tells  a sweet story--a song if you will--that sings off the illustrated pages. A little girl narrates, "If I had a little land...." and rhymes the verse. After that first rhyme, she  inserts a new noun: house, garden, pond, boat, bicycle, table, chair, dog, cat, brother, sister, book (my favorite, of course!), nest and dream. The book page reads, "If I had a little book,/I would name it Friend./Friend would go wherever I went,/our story would never end."

Magical illustrations look  like an illuminated manuscript with the borders (marginalia) used effectively to frame the characters and story. The illustrations help to give this little keeper a nostalgic feeling of easier, less troublesome times.

 If I Had a Little Dream is a tender and loving story that celebrates life's simple treasures, Simple children's book magic done right!

Highly recommended for young dreamers everywhere.

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Picture Perfect: Antoinette

by Kelly Dipucchio
illustrations by Christian Robinson
Antheneum Books for Young Reads
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481457835
Available February 14, 2017

From the writer and illustrator that brought young readers Gaston (2014), their new picture book, Antoinette,  is bound to become a new favorite. Charming illustrations capture the beauty of Paris with its parks, cafes, streets and museums, Shop sign names are in French, and young readers will pick up a few French words. The playful puppies  are precious and lovable (just don't tell them!).

A family of bulldogs and poodles are friends and playmates. Antoinette's brothers all have a special asset: Ricky is fast, Bruno is strong and Rocky is clever, but Antoinette still has not found her secret talent. Mother bulldog tries to cheer Antoinette (who looks like the poodle family) up and tells her not to worry, that her talent will emerge some day.

One day at the park, the youngest poodle wanders off chasing a butterfly. Antoinette goes into high gear searching for Ooh-la-la! Using her incredible tracking skills and a nose that knows, Antoinette is able to track and save the little puppy from danger. Antoinette later becomes one of Paris's beloved police dogs!

Although the puppies are the main characters, the people who appear show ethnic diversity. Friendship, belonging, family, courage and taking a stand are embraced in a sweet story of fitting in and finding one's own voice.

Highly recommended ages 1-up.

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fun Pick: Trouble Makes a Comeback (book 2)

Trouble Makes a Comeback
by Stephanie Tromly
Kathy Dawson  Books
298 pages
ISBN: 9780525428411

From the front cover: "Digby's back. Trouble never looked so good."

Zoe Webster is finally getting her life on the "normal" high school track. She is starting to date the quarterback, she is making excellent grades, she has a "life," and for those kids on the outside looking in, it's a pretty sweet one at that. She might even  be said to be a popular girl. Just when Zoe's life is normal and she thinks she is happy, Digby returns! And oh, readers, you will be so glad....

In book one, Digby exits leaving Zoe dumbfounded and confused. They kissed! What did that kiss mean? Did it mean anything to Digby? Because Zoe remembers it quite well. Poor Zoe--with the handsome, popular but clueless quarterback by her side, she simply can't quit replaying that kiss with Digby.

Digby's back and in a big way. He's found more clues in the case and he feels that with Zoe's help, they can solve the mystery. Zoe is an unwilling participant who doesn't drag her feet for even an instant. Pretty soon, Digby is a guest in her home and her parents could not be happier because they think Digby is a fine young man. Cute boyfriend Austin couldn't disagree more. He is mad that Digby is now his girlfriend's roommate and BFF. This triangle thing is not even a triangle.
Readers know that the dynamic between Digby and Zoe is too strong for a third side--even if that side is a cute, popular quarterback. Austin can't match Digby in the brains, wit, personality, or banter departments.

The novel rollicks along at a breakneck speed with plenty of teen appeal, snarky dialog, Digby-isms, and the near slapstick smoldering romance in every scene is a thing of cinematic glory! Digby and Zoe may be the greatest pairing since "The Thin Man"  duo of Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy). --Hey, kiddies, if you  want to see Hollywood magic, check out "The Thin Man" series of movies! And no, I wasn't born then, either! I just appreciate true film making!

For readers who love a mystery and so much, much more,  this series is comic romance gold. If this does not get made into a movie, there is something wrong with the world. Readers are sure to laugh out loud at Digby's mannerisms, quirks and antics, and shake their head with wonder at the smart, spot-on  dialog. Tromly has mastered her characters and she could write for any comedy show anytime. I can't get enough of the rom-com chemistry of Zoe and Digby.

This is as much fun as you could ever have reading a book! Seriously.....

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. Some mature conversations.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Surviving/Thriving Your Book Conference or Book Festival--Tips,Tricks & Hacks

Surviving/Thriving Your State Library Conference or Book Festival

Texas Library Association   San Antonio 2017

B4 the Conference: 

1. Plan early! If your conference is in April (like Texas's), you need to begin planning in October.

2. Make sure and write down  the dates of the conference and plan your flight, drive or bus ride to the conference.

3. I have to travel over 9 hours (at least!) by car or fly the day before the conference to arrive in time for the kick-off day. Events on the first day start at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.

4. Reserve your hotel room. I've always liked to have my own room, but if you don't mind, you can share with someone else. Make sure to find your roommate in advance and have a stand-by plan in case something falls through. If your roommate backs out, you are still on the hook for the cost of the entire room.

HELPFUL TIP: I don't like to stay at the Conference hotel that is right next to the event. There is so much foot traffic in and out of your hotel. Eating at the hotel is nearly impossible. Room service super slow. Elevators crowded and seem not to be in order. I stay at a hotel a bit further away for less traffic, quicker service, nicer eating experiences and instant elevators.

4. Get your travel request in. Every school district is different. Check what your district requires you to submit. Your district will probably pay for the conference fee, your plane ticket, hotel and per dium  for meals. Keep your meal receipts--make sure you have the itemized ones...not the credit card printed out fee. Your receipts can be turned in after you are home for payment to you. Be sure to turn in hotel itemized receipt as well. Your district may pay for Internet fees and parking fees if you used the garage.

5. Plan if you are attending any ticketed events. Texas offers all the colleges dinner nights, dinners with authors, Bluebonnet luncheon, several ticketed sessions, Texas tea with YA authors and other events. Payment is made in advance of conference. Make sure you have printed out your receipt of paid tickets. Take the receipts with you to events in case there is any mix-up.

6. If you have a blog or library web page, make sure that you print out business cards. Include your twitter handle on your cards and your website!

7. Take one extra rolling bag.  You will need it for free books that you take home! Not a problem if driving. If you are flying. Put your smaller bag inside your empty larger roller. Southwest allows two free bags.

8. Check shuttle bus schedules. If you are at a large state conference, shuttle buses may run a.m. and p.m. but shut down after 12 noon to 4. Make sure you are on the bus before noon or you're hoofing it back to your hotel. Not a problem unless you picked up too many free books!

9. Check downtown restaurants sites and menus. You want to have some idea of where to eat. Your hotel desk also has a map to downtown eateries and streets.

10. The city library or high school libraries may have events for visiting librarians. Check before you go.

11. Exchange phone numbers and email addresses with traveling buddies. It's important if you are staying in different hotels to text your friends and let them know of upcoming events. Sometimes tickets become available SUDDENLY and you can alert your friends. Last year, they let extra people in at one of the ticketed breakfast for FREE! 


1. Check in at your hotel. Plan your conference if you have not already done so. Mark your program and download to app for your conference. Also check the Twitter feed to see news and tweets about the conference. Twitter can get you some great swag and you'll meet up with other librarians, bloggers, writers and publishers.

2. Visit the conference site and check in/register the day before the event. If you wait until the morning of the conference, lines are LONG and you may miss your first event standing in a line. In Texas and other states I'm sure, you can pick up your badges and ribbons that designate what round tables or events you belong to. Also, if you don't have it already, and you are with the press, make sure you pick up your press passes.

3. Check with your hotel to see if you can get Internet for free or free breakfast. Some hotels offer snacks at happy hour as well.

4. Figure out where/when you will eat breakfast. Snacks and breakfast are offered at the convention center, but lines are long (Starbucks lines impossible, of course!). Your hotel may offer complimentary breakfast. Eat something because your options are limited. The snacks and meals at convention centers are overpriced. 


1. Day one is usually the Keynote speaker. In Texas the Keynotes have been AMAZING! I always go the the Keynote event. Librarians will be tweeting about this! If you're a Twitter fan, make sure to look up from your phone! Don't miss the entire conference because you are too busy tweeting it for someone else to experience it!

2. Make sure to leave several hours open for shopping/visiting booths at the conference. Publishers are eager to GIVE away free books!

3. Check your program for giveaways and signings. If it's a "hot" title or author, you may have to get in line over an hour early to get a book signed or a free copy.

4. Watch the Twitter feed for freebies and author sightings.

5. If you are invited to any free breakfasts, lunches, dinners or happy hours, be sure and attend. Free food and authors. Cool!

6. Network!

7. Have business cards to hand out and get cards!

8. Check your empty rolling bag at bag check when you enter the convention center. Use a backpack or over shoulder bag to collect free books. If they get super heavy, go by bag check and empty your carry bag into the rolling bag. Go back for more free books.

9. Most convention centers have a mailing center. If you are flying, mail your free books home to yourself from the conference. Airlines charge for heavy bags. If driving, then no problem. Also, hotels may have a mailing center.

10. Most downtown conference centers have restaurants near the convention center. You should plan ahead and know where you will eat lunch.

11. Be sure and go  to the Welcome party and fun events. In Texas, there is a book cart drill (hilarious), artist sketch off, night parties and dinners. There is also a golf tourney and a fun run. Sometimes there are yoga events and walking tours. One of the greatest and most fun and FUNNY classes is laughing yoga! Downward dog, anyone?

12. Don't over schedule. If you plan to visit back-to-back events all day every day, you can't network and you'll be to busy to enjoy the books/authors.

13. If you chose a session and realize that it's not for you, don't be afraid to get up and walk out. It is not considered rude at all. I know it seems so, but it happens constantly throughout all the events. If it's not for you and it won't help you, find another session that will.

14. Sometimes sessions are billed as one thing, but then the content is something else. Maybe you were looking for elementary ideas and the presenter(s) are giving high school content only. Don't be afraid of leaving.

15. Twitter has opened the door to a lot of new learning and sharing. Use the app!

After the conference: 

1. Get home and relax!

2. Look at your loot! I regularly come home with 100+ books!

3. Turn in all receipts to your secretary.

4. Make a file on your computer for all email addresses from business cards you collected.

5.  Blog or tweet about conference. Help others in your district attend next year.

6. Present what you learned to your district or city.

7. Plan new events for your program.

8. Plan your next conference.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sure to Become a Classic Pick: Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Children's Books
291 pages
ISBN" 9781101994825

Wolf Hollow is sure to become a classic of children's literature. It is the triumphant story of a rural childhood during World War II set in the hills and hollows of Pennsylvania's mountains. Annabelle lives on a farm where life is defined by the rising and setting of the sun and the passing of seasons. There are always chores to do before and after school: stock to be tended, stalls to be cleaned, food to be prepared, clothes to be washed. The list is never-ending, but Annabelle never complains. It is expected of children to help in the home and on the farm.

Life seems idyllic besides the work, but when Betty Glengarry moves in with her grandparents, she threatens Annabelle's quiet life. Betty has been shipped off to her grandparents in the country because she is "incorrigable." Annabelle thinks that Betty is just plain mean and evil.  Betty tells Annabelle to bring her something, or she will hurt Annabelle and her two younger brothers. Annabelle brings a penny, all that she has, and Betty laughs and hits her with a stick.

Annabelle decides she is not going to back down to Betty's threats after that. She does not want to tell her parents either. She decides that she will have to stand up to Betty. A silent witness who makes his home in the woods sees all. Toby, a silent loner who arrived after World War I, roams the hills around Annabelle's farm. She is not afraid of him. Toby is gentle and quiet. He just wants to be left alone. He leads a simple life, hunting what meat he can find, and Annabelle's mother makes sure to send a plate of food with Annabelle up the road where she will leave it for Toby to find. The next day the washed plate is always left right where Annabelle set it, and Annabelle knows that Toby got a decent meal.

As the taunting and bullying from Betty comes to a head, suddenly Betty finds another ally. Farm boy Andy comes to school and soon Betty is too smitten by his attentions to bother Annabelle until the day that someone hurts Annabelle's friend Ruth. A rock thrown from the trees on the hill  changes Ruth's life forever and affects the entire community.

Betty blames Toby by saying that he was probably aiming at Mr. Ansel's wagon or Mr. Ansel. Annabelle knows Toby would never hurt anyone, and she wants to prove his innocence.

The life lessons contained in Wolf Hollow are reason enough for everyone to read this book. WWII changed the landscape of America forever. Many boys did not come home, and those who did never talked about the horrors of war they faced. They became silent witnesses, like Toby. Maybe some became scapegoats for others' crimes and misdeeds.

It is brilliant that a child like Annabelle could see the shining light in Toby when the adults could not. Maybe they did not look for it or did not look deeply or long enough. Adults can  be too quick to judge. They can form opinions of a quiet loner. They may think he is crazy, or stupid, or a lazy bum or a threat. But a child sees his honestly, his care, and his grace.

Bring tissues. Wolf Hollow will both break your heart and refresh your spirit!

This is the BEST childhood classic I have read in a very long time. It reminds me of Charlotte's Web and A Secret Garden. Every child and every adult should read this book. Do NOT miss this one.
School book clubs and reading clubs must read this book!

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

World Read Aloud Day

                                           World Read Aloud Day February 16, 2017

                                                             Skype in the Classroom 
                                                                Tips for Skype here
Be sure and sign up to Skype with an author with your kids! It's free! It's EPIC! 
Don't be left out....get out there and READ ALOUD! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Teen Tech Week Coming Soon: March 5-11, 2017

Sign up for Teen Tech Week March 5-11 
Create your Profile (you will receive an email with the link)
Download logos to use on your webpages, blogs, posters 
Teen Tech Week encourages students to use all the technology that the Library Media Center has to offer! Try something new!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Out of This World Pick: Mission To Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt

Mission To Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt
(Scientists in the Field book)
by Mary Kay Carson
Photos by Tom Uhlman
Illustrations by Jennifer Goldstick
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
73 pages
ISBN: 9780544416710

Editorial Reviews 

What a book! What a mission! It will make readers proud to be an American!

The first voyage to Pluto is the farthest that a mission has traveled at 3 billion miles, 4.8 billion kilometers) and it took 9 1/2 years! The mission is NASA's New Horizons Mission and is led by Alan Stern who dreamed of the mission for over 30 years.

Pluto and the Kuiper Belt has been shrouded in mystery since its discovery. Because it is so distant, scientists were unable to see it with telescopes until newer technology of the 2000's. New Horizons (the spacecraft) found that Pluto is covered with ice, carbon monoxide frost and snow with methane. Science believes there may be an underground ocean as well. It may take years to sort all the information gathered by New Horizons, but that is what excites NASA.

There are many firsts for this mission including the fact that New Horizons is the first mission to include an instrument built by a student. The spacecraft is able to get to Pluto and beyond because most of its electronics are in "hibernation" mode for years.

The book contains illustrations explaining the equipment and helpful diagrams enhance the text. Although cutting edge technology allowed the spacecraft to "hibernate," downloading photos from 3 billion miles away took two entire years from space! Imagine trying to view a photo on your phone that took two years to download!

Many early Pluto theories have been debunked by New Horizons Mission. Pluto is much larger than what scientists thought. Not just an ice planet, Pluto is changing planet geologically and may have ice volcanoes.

The mission is not over. New Horizons is currently on its journey to the Kuiper Belt. NASA estimates that New Horizons will arrive sometime in 2019 and then travel beyond into deep space until it runs out of plutonium.

Space enthusiasts will devour this fascinating book! Readers will be CAPTIVATED  by Carson's narration as she  presents scientific data in a accessible manner  and makes this a story worth reading. Photos from New Horizons are life-changing!

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Non-Fiction Pick: Animals By the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics

Animals By the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
48 pages
ISBN: 9780544630925

*“Compelling visual presentation makes the information accessible and exciting. Highly recommended for all science collections.”
--School Library Journal, STARRED review

*”A special treat for all who love animal statisitcs.”

--Kirkus, STARRED review

Animals By the Numbers is a visual treat for the eyes. Visual learners and ELL/ESL students will love Jenkins's eye-catching infographics, charts, pictures and captions that convey  information about animals. Cut  and torn paper collages make up most of the infographics, and the design shines off the pages! 
Who doesn't want to know what animals live in the coldest places on earth (emporer Penguins or the little known tardigrade, known as the water bear, who can live at temperatures varying from -328° to 304° F) or what animals are the leading cause of death of humans (mosquitoes have the record)?
The colorful illustrations are a feast and the facts are surprising in many cases and educational in every case. 
This is a MUST HAVE for any science or animal buff and should be included in all library collections. I am gifting this book to a dear young reader I know.  
Bravo, Steve Jenkins, for making science super cool! 
Highly recommended grade 4-up. Any animal lover of  any age will love this book. 

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

World Building Pick: The Reader

The Reader
(Book One of Sea of Ink and Gold)
by Traci Chee
437 pages
ISBN: 9780399176777

If you read one book this entire year, make it this one! The Reader is that special. Master storyteller Traci Chee takes readers on a journey through time where anything can happen and what seems impossible is suddenly possible. To call this book an adventure book or a fantasy  or a pirate book or a dystopian book does it discredit. The Reader is...well, everything!

Sefia is on the run with her Aunt Nin. They hunt and trap, selling pelts at the market and sometimes stealing to stay alive. Sefia witnessed her father's brutal murder and vows to find the people responsible. When Nin is kidnapped and tortured, Sefia is on fire. No longer will she keep quiet. She will find those responsible and make them pay no matter what the cost is to Sefia herself.

Reading and books are unheard of in Sefia's world. It is a wonder then that she carries a square object in her pack, an object her father prized and hid from the world. When Sefia realizes that it is in fact a book, she knows to keep it hidden. Sefia studies the book's strange symbols and tries to unlock its secrets on her own. When she crosses paths with a strange boy in trouble, she helps him to safety and he seems bound to her forever.

The two meet legendary pirates when they accidentally stowaway on the pirate ship. Other forces are at work--dark forces that want the book. And there are librarians who will risk everything to save the book (my favorite!)

From the first page prologue, "Hello, If you're reading this, then maybe you know you ought to read everything. And maybe you know you ought to read deeply. Because there's witchery in these words and spellwork in the spine..." the reader will be swept away by the magic that is author Traci Chee.

Give this book to every reader! There is something in here for everyone. The premise of looking deeply...REALLY looking...reading deeply...searching for clues is genius! The Reader is that book that others will be compared to. It is that book that will win countless awards and rightly so.

One can only hope that book two will live up to book one's success.

So highly recommended I'm shouting it: READ THIS BOOK! READ IT NOW!
Grades 6-up. Violence, some bloody battles, no profanity, no sexual content.

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