School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:40:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 Key eBook Trends for Schools and Districts Going Digital Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:07:19 +0000 Thursday, September 24th, 2015, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PT
Led by OverDrive Director of Education Herb Miller, Ed. M., this webinar will cover how schools and districts are adding digital reading options for the classroom, ways to engage students year round with digital libraries, strategies for incorporating digital titles into ELA programs, and much more!
Register Now!]]>

Presented by: OverDrive & School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Thursday, September 24th, 2015, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
Register Now

K-12 librarians can highlight the importance of their role by coordinating the shift to digital content in the classroom curriculum. To help maximize this critical opportunity, please join us for a free webinar where you’ll learn how librarians from a wide variety of school systems are serving as leaders to get the most out of digital content. Led by OverDrive Director of Education Herb Miller, Ed. M., this webinar will cover how schools and districts are adding digital reading options for the classroom, ways to engage students year round with digital libraries, strategies for incorporating digital titles into ELA programs, and much more!


Herb Miller, Ed. M.  Director of Education, OverDrive

Kate MacMillan – Coordinator of Libraries and Digital Services, Napa Valley Unified School District, CA


Jennifer Prince – Librarian, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

Register Now

Can’t make it on September 24th? No problem! Register now and you will get an email reminder from School Library Journal post-live event when the webcast is archived and available for on-demand viewing at your convenience!

Follow us on Twitter! @SLJournal #SLJOverDrive

Need help getting registered? Send us an email describing your problem.

By registering for this webcast, you are agreeing that School Library Journal may share your registration information with sponsors currently shown and future sponsors of this event. Click here to review the entire School Library Journal Privacy Policy.

]]> 0
Meet the Reviewer | John Peters Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:51:50 +0000 SLJ takes a peek behind the books at the brilliant and passionate librarians who read, evaluate, and review the thousands of books and materials every year. This month we meet longtime reviewer and contributor, John Peters. ]]> Who are the brilliant and passionate librarians behind SLJ’s reviews? Each month we take a peek behind the books and learn about the folks who help us read and evaluate thousands of titles every year.

How and why did you first get into librarianship?

The roots of that go back to a volunteer gig in junior high as a library assistant (I still have my little goldJohnPeters1 pin) and my first encounter with a professional librarian. Hair bun, check. Geeky name, check (Ms. Moody). Passion for matching me (and everyone else) with the right books at the right times, check. I caught that passion and knew that library work was for me long before graduating from high school.

Why do you review for SLJ?

Way back in 1980, when I began at the New York Public Library (NYPL), and for a surprisingly long time after that, no new children’s book could be ordered until it “passed” with a written, strictly in-house review by a staff member. These reviews had to fit everything we had to say on a 3×5 form, and being carefully vetted by the brilliant librarians in the Office of Children’s Services; they were great training for clear, concise criticism. They were often pretty frank, too. I loved writing these but was reluctant to take the plunge into reviewing for publication until Trev Jones sent me a copy of what I still regard as one of the finest books ever: Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, published by Kane Miller and illustrated by the incomparable Julie Vivas. I’ve been happily reviewing for SLJ ever since.

Is there a book that made you fall in love with reading?

I’ve always been a total bookworm and can’t say where that comes from, since there weren’t a lot of books around the house when I was growing up. But I devoured all of Curious George’s misadventures, and he was my first literary hero.

John Peters 2What are you reading (and liking) right now?

I don’t drive, but since retiring five years ago, I’ve been taking long walks and so have belatedly discovered the pleasures of audiobooks. Right now I’m working my way through Laurie King’s Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, and I find their reader, Jenny Sterlin, just an awesome talent.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I share a house in The Bronx with three other ex-NYPLers, and we call it the Yellow Submarine—not because of its color but because we all live there.

]]> 0
SLJ’s Starred Reviews | September 2015 Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:00:25 +0000 1509-Star-list-covers

Picture Books

BARNETT, Mac. Leo: A Ghost Story. illus. by Christian Robinson. Chronicle. 2015. p.112.

DANTICAT, Edwidge. Mama’s Nightingale. illus. by Leslie Staub. Dial. Sept. 2015. p. 118.

JENKINS, Emily. The Fun Book of Scary Stuff. illus. by Hyewon Yum. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. 2015. p. 106.

Beginning Readers

LINIERS. Escrito y Dibujado por Enriqueta/Written and Drawn by Henrietta. Toon Graphics. Sept. 2015. p. 133.

Chapter Books

WILLEMS, Mo. The Story of Diva and Flea. Tony DiTerlizzi. Disney-Hyperion. Oct. 2015. p. 136.

Middle Grade

BAILEY, Linda. Seven Dead Pirates: A Ghost Story. Tundra. Sept. 2015. p. 137.

BRALLIER, Max. The Last Kids on Earth. illus. by Douglas Holgate. Viking. Oct. 2015. p. 137.

MORPURGO, Michael. Listen to the Moon. Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2015. p. 143.

RESAU, Laura. The Lightning Queen. Scholastic. Oct. 2015. p. 145.

SMITH, Sherri L. The Toymaker’s Apprentice. Putnam. Oct. 2015. p. 146.


ALMOND, David. A Song for Ella Grey. Delacorte. Oct. 2015. p. 163.

BARDUGO, Leigh. Six of Crows. Holt. Sept. 2015. p. 156.

FARISH, Terry. Either the Beginning or the End of the World. Carolrhoda Lab. Oct. 2015. p. 164.

HOWE, Katherine. The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen. Putnam. Sept. 2015. p. 166.

MCGOVERN, Cammie. A Step Toward Falling. HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2015. p. 169.

MACKLER , Carolyn. Infinite in Between. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2015. p. 159.

NESS, Patrick. The Rest of Us Just Live Here. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Oct. 2015. p. 170.

REYNOLDS, Jason & Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. S. & S./Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Sept. 2015. p. 171.


ANDERSON, M.T. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. Candlewick. Sept. 2015. p. 186.

MANZANO, Sonia. Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. Scholastic. Sept. 2015. p. 187.

NELSON, S.D. Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People. illus. by author. Abrams. Nov. 2015. p. 188.

SHEINKIN, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2015. p. 189.

SNYDER, Laurel. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. illus. by Julie Morstad. Chronicle. 2015. p. 182.

THOMAS, Peggy. Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation. illus. by Stacy Innerst. Calkins Creek. Sept. 2015. p. 182.

TONATIUH, Duncan. Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. illus. by author. Abrams. 2015. p. 183.

Graphic Nonfiction

WICKS, Maris. Human Body Theater. illus. by author. First Second. Oct. 2015. p. 190.


Animal Childhood. Dist. By PBS. 2015. p. 51.

Facing Fear. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2013. p. 53.

Nazi Attack on America. Dist. by PBS. 2015. p. 54.


KOSTECKI-SHAW, Jenny Sue. Same, Same but Different. Weston Woods. 2015. p. 56.

SUMA, Nova Ren. The Walls Around Us. Recorded Books. 2015. p. 62.


]]> 0
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely | SLJ Review Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:00:20 +0000 REYNOLDS, Jason & Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. 320p. ebook available. S. & S. Bks. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463331.

Gr 8 Up–Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists “there’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.” He heads to Jerry’s corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event [...]]]> AllAmericanBoys_600pxREYNOLDS, Jason & Brendan Kiely. All American Boys. 320p. ebook available. S. & S. Bks. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463331.

Gr 8 Up–Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists “there’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.” He heads to Jerry’s corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event his white schoolmate Quinn Collins witnesses in terrified disbelief. Quinn is even more shocked because the cop is Paul Galluzzo, older brother of his best friend and Quinn’s mentor since his father died in Afghanistan. As events unfold, both boys are forced to confront the knowledge that racism in America has not disappeared and that change will not come unless they step forward. Reynolds and Kiely’s collaborative effort deftly explores the aftermath of police brutality, addressing the fear, confusion, and anger that affects entire communities. Diverse perspectives are presented in a manner that feels organic to the narrative, further emphasizing the tension created when privilege and racism cannot be ignored. Timely and powerful, this novel promises to have an impact long after the pages stop turning. VERDICT Great for fostering discussions about current events among teenage audiences. A must-have for all collections.–Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

See also: Jason Reynolds on Building Houses and Affirming Young Lives

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s September 2015 issue.

]]> 0
Real World Readers: Attention-Grabbing Titles | Focus On Tue, 01 Sep 2015 12:00:45 +0000 1508-FocusOn_opener“Real world readers do not wait for a teacher to tell them what to read. They read what interests them, what suits their purpose….When kids define what they care about, they begin to define who they are.”—Ollman, H. “Choosing Literature Wisely: Students Speak Out.” Journal of Reading 36.8 (1993): 648-653.

Children today are introduced to an ever-expanding array of ideas, information, and entertainment. Bringing books into the lives of these young people is an ongoing challenge, and the term reluctant reader is often used as a negative label, describing kids who do not or cannot embrace reading for pleasure. Rather than expecting these children to enter the “book world,” librarians can and should strive to enter the “real world” of each student. Librarians serve “real world readers” by finding out what each student truly loves and assisting them in locating resources to feed that passion. High interest books may include updated nonfiction, graphic novels, wordless books, and audiobooks. Humor is also an essential collection component for these readers. (A recent Scholastic “Kids & Family Reading Report” found that 70 percent of kids say they “want books that make them laugh.”) For many kids, entering a library can be a daunting experience. Shelf after shelf with rows and rows of spines can be intimidating. Thoughtful organization facilitates a student’s search for appealing books. Libraries might consider the concept of bundling, or grouping materials that are associated in some way. In addition to shelving series together, bundles may include books grouped by topic, author, and or even a distinguishing cover feature. Bundled collection presentation and organization works well for these readers, offering them a reliable tool for book selection. In addition to grouping similar titles together, libraries can serve “real world readers” by displaying books with covers facing out and by creating table displays and small “boutique shelves” that highlight a specific author, series, or topic. Tap into the interests of young library users with these book bundle ideas.

COMICS Adventure awaits

HALE, Nathan. “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.” Abrams.
Gr 3­-7–Hale recasts U.S. history in graphic novel format. Highlighting an unusual and sometimes gruesome historical event, the volumes include One Dead Spy (featuring Nathan Hale, 2012), Big Bad Ironclad (2012), Donner Dinner Party (2013), Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (about World War I, 2014) and The Underground Abductor (about Harriet Tubman, 2015). All present larger­-than­-life characters, incorporate plenty of humor, and live up to the adage “truth is stranger than fiction.”

KIBUISHI, Kazu. “Amulet.” Scholastic/Graphix.
Gr 3-7–The saga begins in The Stonekeeper (2008) as siblings Emily and Navin are lost in a dark new world. They search for their mother, hoping to save her from a hideous tentacled beast. This highly addictive graphic novel series with lush artwork will keep readers anxiously awaiting the next volume, which is currently at Escape from Lucien (Amulet: Bk. 6, 2014).

KOCHALKA , James. “The Glorkian Warrior.” First Second.
Gr 1-4–In The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza (2014), our three-eyed alien hero and his sidekick, a talking backpack, set off on seemingly routine tasks such as delivering pizza. What ensues are a series of bad decisions, comic gags, and gross­-out humor. Large, colorful images enhance the story’s silliness. Follow up with The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie (2015).

MAIHACK, Mike. “Cleopatra in Space.” Scholastic/Graphix.
Gr 3-5–The spunky Egyptian princess is transported to a planet in the future where the evil dictator Xaius Octavian is conquering neighboring civilizations. This high fantasy/adventure, complete with a talking cat in the sidecar of a flying sphinx, is chock-­full of action and attitude.
Charming characters with expressive faces seem younger than their 15 years. Look for Target Practice (Bk. 1, 2014) and The Thief and the Sword (Bk. 2, 2015)

1508-FocusOn_Covers1HUMOR Bundle of laughs

CRONIN, Doreen. “The Chicken Squad.” illus. by Kevin Cornell. S. & S./Atheneum.
Gr 1-­3–The stars of the “J. J. Tully Mystery” books star in their own series with two entries, The First Misadventure (2014) and The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken (2014). The spunky chickens, Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, are detectives who spend their days in the barnyard solving mysteries and fighting crime. Cornell’s comical black-and-white drawings provide a pitch-perfect accompaniment. Audio versions available from Recorded Books.

LACEY, Josh. “The Dragonsitter.” illus. by Garry Parsons. Little, Brown.
Gr 2­-5–Eddie has been enlisted to care for his uncle’s pet dragon. What follows is the email correspondence from nephew to uncle, chronicling the hazards of attempting to “housebreak” a dragon. Plenty of laughs ensue as disaster ensues in the wake of this wild babysitting experience. The Dragonsitter will be available in September, while The Dragonsitter Takes Off is due in November.

O’HARA, Mo. “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.” illus. by Marek Jagucki. Feiwel & Friends/Square Fish.
Gr 3­-6–Due to a science experiment gone wrong, Tom’s pet goldfish, Frankie, has become a mutant fish with a killer attitude and hypnotic zombie eyes. Tom must constantly protect his pet from the machinations of his older brother, Evil Scientist Mark. Detailed black-and-white drawings complement their wacky escapades. To date, three titles are available, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (Bk. 1, 2014), The SeaQuel (Bk. 2, 2014), and Fins of Fury (Bk. 3, 2015).

PICHON, Liz. “Tom Gates.” Candlewick.
Gr 3-5–Fifth-­grader Tom Gates copes with family disasters and school assignment pressures by telling fantastic tales and chronicling his life in a journal illustrated with clever doodles. Tom’s often hilarious observations are sure to appeal to “Wimpy Kid” fans. These imports include a glossary of British words and phrases. See The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (2014), Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses (and Other Good Stuff) (2015), and Tom Gates: Everything’s Amazing (Sort Of), coming out September 2015.

RODKEY, Geoff. “The Tapper Twins.” Little, Brown.
Gr 3-7–Twelve­-year-­old fraternal twins Claudia and Reese, who live on New York’s Upper West Side and attend Culvert Prep, engage in a full-scale prank that moves from home to school and eventually online. Their sibling rivalry is told as an oral history through text messages, screenshots, interviews, digital gaming art, and smartphone photos. Look for The Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each Other) (2015) and The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York, coming out September 2015.

VERNON, Ursula. “Dragonbreath.” Penguin/Puffin.
Gr 2-4–Danny Dragonbreath is one discouraged dragon: he cannot breathe fire. Danny’s failed attempts finally meet with success when he saves his friend Wendell. Comic panels and spot drawings in black, white, and green highlight Danny’s adventures which began in Dragonbreath (Bk. 1, 2009) and have continued to appeal to readers, most recently in Knight-napped! (Bk. 10, 2015).

MAKERS Things to make and do

EGAN, Kate & Mike Lane . “The Magic Shop.” illus. by Eric Wight. Feiwel & Friends.
Gr 3­-5–In The Vanishing Coin (Bk. 1, 2014), Mike stumbles onto a strange magic store where the owner teaches him a magic trick. Soon Mike’s hooked, learning tricks to impress his friends and confound his detractors. Yet, he wonders, is the shop’s magic just an illusion? The likable fourth-grader’s story continues in The Incredible Twisting Arm (Bk. 2, 2014), The Great Escape (Bk. 3, 2014) and The Disappearing Magician (Bk. 4, 2015). All include instructions for simple magic tricks.

LIPKOWITZ, Daniel. The LEGO Ideas Book. DK. 2011.
––––. The LEGO Book. 2012.
––––. LEGO Play Book. 2013.
Gr 2-­5 –Perennially popular LEGO bricks encourage children to think, build, and play creatively. Detailed photographs of models will inspire young enthusiasts. Each volume contains tips and tricks to get the most out of these construction pieces.

PFLUGFELDER, Bob & Steve Hockensmith. “Nick and Tesla.” Quirk.
Gr 4-6–Eleven­-year­-old twins Nick and Tesla use deductive reasoning to build gadgets, solve mysteries, and outsmart evil­doers in these STEM-­themed, adventure­-packed mysteries. Titles include step-by-step instructions for readers to make their own gadgets. Introduced in Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab (Bk. 1, 2013), the twins are currently creating new designs in Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular (Bk. 5, 2015).

WARNER, Peggy. “The Code Busters Club.” EgmontUSA.
Gr 3-6–Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. have their own club, along with a secret hideout and passwords that change every day. This interactive mystery series, which begins with The Secret of the Skeleton Key (Bk. 1, 2011) and includes The Haunted Lighthouse (Bk. 2, 2013), The Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure (Bk. 3, 2014) and The Mummy’s Curse (Bk. 4, 2014), features numerous codes and puzzles to decipher. Answers are provided in the back of the books.

REAL LIFE It’s all true

BISHOP, Nic. “Nic Bishop.” Scholastic.
Gr 2­-5–Bishop’s stunning animal photographs, many pictured larger than life, fill each page with realistic intensity. Although readers will be captivated by the images, the accompanying simple descriptions and explanations enrich their viewing experience. These standouts include Spiders (2007), Frogs (2008), Butterflies and Moths (2009), Marsupials (2009), Lizards (2010), and Snakes (2012).

BRAUN, Eric & Jeff Savage. “Super Sports Infographics.” Lerner.
Gr 3-­5–Braun tackles Super Football Infographics and Super Baseball Infographics, while Savage handles Super Basketball Infographics and Super Hockey Infographics, all published in 2015. Engaging graphics present facts related to each of these popular sports, while detailed “data art” allows readers to visualize important concepts. The vibrant, information-packed format will appeal to sports fans and help them analyze and interpret facts and statistics.

“Weird but True!” National Geographic Kids.
Gr 2-­5–Kids discover fun and quirky facts (such as “A bat can eat 3,000 insects in one night.” and “A sneeze travels one hundred miles an hour.”) in these books which serve up 300 snack­-size trivia per volume, complete with simple explanations and bold graphic design. Perfect for sharing with a friend.

SCREEN TIME Media connections

DITERLIZZI, Tony. The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. illus. by Ralph McQuarrie. Disney Press. 2014.
Gr 1-3–Luke Skywalker’s journey from farm boy to Jedi Knight is brought to life with art from Ralph McQuarrie, concept designer for the original movie trilogy. This picture book introduces the galaxy from “far, far away” to a new generation of Star Wars fans.

FARWELL, Nick. Minecraft: Redstone Handbook. Scholastic. (Updated ed. 2015).
MILTON, Stephanie. Minecraft Manual: Essential Handbook. Scholastic. (Updated ed. 2015).
––––. Minecraft: Combat Handbook (Updated ed. 2015).
NEEDLER, Matthew. Minecraft: Construction Handbook (Updated ed. 2015).
Gr 3-­6–Official handbooks cover essential information, construction tools, combat techniques, and protection from monsters. Tips from Minecraft experts, including developer Jens “Jeb” Bergensten and creator Markus “Notch” Persson, make this collection of volumes an excellent introduction to the wildly popular game.

WEST, Tracey. Temple Run: Race Through Time to Unlock Secrets of Ancient Worlds. National Geographic. 2014.
Gr 3­-7– In this epic story based on the Temple Run mobile gaming app, readers learn about the ancient world as they travel through cultures and civilizations in Cambodia, England, China, Jordan, Mexico, and more, seeking to unlock secrets and save the world from demons. Color graphics and photos combine with engagingly formatted blocks of information to build excitement.

WILDER, Chase. “Temple Run: Run for Your Life!” EgmontUSA. 2014.
Gr 3­-5–Travel with adventure-­seeking Guy Dangerous and Scarlett Fox in this survival story series based on the popular app. Readers determine their fate by deciding what will happen next. Choices change the story and provide a different adventure every time. Exciting escapes happen in locations ranging from ancient temple ruins to the frozen Arctic. See Jungle Trek (Bk. 1, 2014), Doom Lagoon (Bk. 2, 2014), Arctic Rescue (Bk. 3, 2015) and Pyramid Peril (Bk. 4, 2015).

Barbara Moon is a Librarian at PS 110 in New York City.

Digital Picks


America’s CryptoKids: Future Codemakers & Codebreakers. . National Security Agency. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 5 Up–Information about code and cipher systems includes opportunities for visitors to make their own ciphers. Additional pages of games and activities feature brainteasers, cryptograms, Morse code, and more.

Funbrain. Family Education Network. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 1-6–Kids will find loads of arcade-type games, math games, comics, and web versions of popular books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Galactic Hot Dogs . Games are grouped by type and grade.

Science Bob. . Science Bob. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 5 Up–Bob Plfugfelder is a science teacher and coauthor of the “Nick and Tesla” series. His website offers science fairs ideas, experiments, research help, videos, and projects for gadget makers and tinkerers.


Comic Life 3 . Plasq LLC. 2015. Version 3.0.4. iOS, requires 7.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. $4.99. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 2 Up–Users can create comics with their own photos or drawings. Templates, panels, fonts, and balloons are provided along with filter effects and customizable lettering options. The program is also available for Mac and Windows with a special edition for schools. See for trial subscriptions and pricing.

]]> 1
Guinness World Records Asks Kids to Think Big in New Contest Tue, 01 Sep 2015 11:16:13 +0000 Guinness World Records wants to know what records children would try to set in the next 20 years if they had the chance. The “Records of the Future Challenge” is open to 7- to 12-year-olds and runs through December 1.

For the contest, participants can enter an original poem, song, video, rap, poster or short essay. Entries must be a maximum of 100 words. Submissions can be made online. The grand prize winner receives $750, a 2016 Guinness World Records book, and a mention in the 2017 edition. The winner also gets to nominate a teacher to win $250 for classroom supplies. Ten semifinalists will each receive the 2016 book.

Guinness World Records is holding the contest in partnership with By Kids For Kids, which runs challenges and educational events designed to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in students and to support the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards .

“The Records of the Future Challenge is a fun and creative way to encourage kids to read and write,” Tavia Levy, a spokeswoman with Guinness World Records, said in a press release. “I am looking forward to seeing some of these kids break these records in the future.”


Guinness contest 600





]]> 0
Nicola Yoon Spills “Everything, Everything” About Her YA Debut Mon, 31 Aug 2015 17:49:19 +0000 Everything, Everything. ]]> Debut author Nicola Yoon’s much-buzzed-about Everything, Everything (Delacorte, 2015) about a teen girl born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) will officially release on September 1. Maddy’s stirring story of adversity, love, and the importance of living life to the fullest has already garnered multiple starred reviews (including one from School Library Journal) and a movie deal. Yoon talked with SLJ about her inspiration for the novel, her experience collaborating with her husband, and more.

everythingWhere did you get the idea for the novel? How long did it take for you to write?

I started writing Everything, Everything when my daughter was just four months old. I was a new mom, and I worried about everything! I worried about her getting a cold, eating dirt, or falling and bumping her head. My new mom protective instincts were in overdrive, and it got me thinking: What if there were a girl who needed constant protection, not just as a baby but for her whole life? What would that do to the relationship between the girl and her mom? What would happen when that girl got older and started wanting to form other relationships? It took me about two and a half years to write the book.

Did you always envision having Maddy’s artwork, the IMs, and other mixed-format elements in the novel?

I didn’t envision all the formats when I first started the book, but it happened pretty early on during the writing process. One morning I just had this thought that Maddy would draw the world as a way of trying to understand it. The first drawing that my husband did for me was of the Hawaiian state fish—the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. After that, all the other elements just sort of fell into place.

What was it like to collaborate with your husband? Did you discuss the images in the early stages, or did he illustrate once the manuscript was finished?

It was great! My husband and I get along very well, and he’s a fantastic artist. It was such a pleasure to work creatively with him. We worked together on the images as I was writing the book. Usually, it went like this: I would get to a place in the book where I thought an illustration would fit. I’d then draw my very terrible version of it. I’d show it to him and tell him what the image was (it wasn’t always clear!), and he’d draw something incredible and beautiful.

Which character do you most identify with?

I identify the most with Maddy. She’s really struggling with living life in the moment. It’s something I struggle with as well.


Photo credit: Sonya Sones

The protagonists, especially Maddy, are often caught in a “bubble” between living and half-living.  Why do you think this is a theme that today’s readers should embrace?

In today’s technological age, we do tend to have more mediated experiences. What I mean is, technology can sometimes get in the way of having real-life, authentic experiences. I often notice people taking picture after picture of something scenic. They’ll take the picture (usually with a phone) and spend most of the time looking at the phone to see how the picture came out instead of enjoying the actual scene. Believe me, I’m guilty of doing this too, but I do think it’s a way of only half-living in the world.

The swoon-worthy romance will of course thrill lots of teens. Were these scenes difficult to write for you?

Those were some of the easiest and my most favorite to write! I’m pretty swoony over my husband.

Did you have to do any research? (Like go to Hawaii?)

Hawaii is one of my favorite places. My husband and I went there on our honeymoon, and we’ve been there a couple of times since. I also did research on SCID.

Who have been some of your major author influences?

Too many to list! I’ll just name a few: Toni Morrison, Anne Beatty, Alice Munro, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger.

One of the photos that gained national attention when the We Need Diverse Books movement began in May 2014 was that of your biracial family. Do you believe that much has changed since then?

Yes, I really do think that some things have changed for the better! Just being able to have the conversation on a national level is a big and important step. Having said that, we still have a ways to go, especially with getting more representation at all levels of publishing.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on another YA book that I can’t say too much about, except to say that there’s love involved!

]]> 0
Set the Right Course for Back to School Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:00:02 +0000 Illustration By Richard Faust/

Illustration By Richard Faust/

During my first week back at my public high school in New York City, I’m always running in 10 different directions. I do library tours, scavenger hunts, introductory emails, workshops, meetings—and more meetings. I want to reach out to faculty while they’re shaping their curricula. I also want to welcome students back and help newcomers fall in love with the place that many of them call “home away from home.”

Students test boundaries and rules in the first weeks, too, especially if the library feels comfy and homey. That’s when librarians need to show that they can manage the group in creative ways.

How do you set yourself on course and set the right tone amid the September scramble? I asked librarian colleagues to share their best tips.

Matthew Winner’s students create rule books with the app Comic Life.

Matthew Winner’s students create rule books with the app Comic Life.

Classroom management isn’t often covered in library school, but librarians have invented creative ways to keep the peace. Matthew C. Winner, library media specialist at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, MD, aims to make “something interesting out of boring information”—i.e., rules. His first graders make a rule book with Comic Life including photographs of themselves pretending to eat, spill drinks on books, do karate punches, etc. Winner counts down—“One, two, three, FREEZE!”—when taking their pictures. His library is a “lively, noisy, exciting” place, he says, and this activity helps them remember rules. They often come back to look at the pictures, and Winner uses older kids’ books as show-and-tell for younger classes.

Winner also reads aloud Mike Thaler and Jared Lee’s The Librarian from the Black Lagoon (Scholastic, 1997) to introduce the library. He uses the refrain “OR ELSE!” to make kids laugh as he cites examples of misbehaving from the book and students’ imagination. Don’t throw books, OR ELSE, you’ll be dropped in a swamp!

Lauren Soucy, a former elementary school librarian in New York City, introduced students to book care basics through Oliver Jeffers’s The Incredible Book-Eating Boy (HarperCollins, 2006). “I’m trying to shift away from a ‘rules for rules’ sake’ approach,” she says. Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness (Penguin, 2012) helped Wolf teach a lesson on showing consideration in the library.

Musical management

It can take years to build a fully stocked classroom management toolbox—which can even contain a variety of musical instruments. A former dean of my school, from Burma (now Myanmar), gave me a gold gong imprinted with an elephant, and a striking stick that was carved from a tree branch. When students’ voices are rising, or someone is eating or dancing, I strike the gong. Its rich sound lifts students out of the moment and invites them into a more reflective space. I’ll ask them to look around. Is someone using a book as a coaster for soda? Is there a group practicing their Shakespeare lines a bit too dramatically? The gong helps us refocus.

Some elementary librarian colleagues use chimes or wrist bells, or clap three times to pull a group together. “Hands on top, now we stop!” Cheryl Wolf, librarian at the Neighborhood School and S.T.A.R. Academy in New York City, will call out, and the children will all put their hands on their heads and look at her. Many elementary librarians prevent chaos by setting up a careful structure for browsing and book checkout, with built-in rewards for those who follow instructions. Soucy assigned seats and called one table at a time to check out books. She called with a normal speaking voice. If a table was too talkative and didn’t hear, they missed their chance for the week.

At checkout time, Wolf gives a select group of students a shelf marker (a wooden paint-stirrer stick decorated by students). The others sit at the table and page through magazines and books. Only the students holding shelf markers can roam the library. This lets Wolf offer book-selection guidance to small groups and creates a calmer environment.

Lauren McBride (left) takes to Twitter (above) and her school library web site to get students and the community involved in events like a shelving party at her brand-new library.

Lauren McBride takes to Twitter and her school library web site to get students and
the community involved in events like a shelving party at her brand-new library.
Photo by Sapna Venkatachalam/Loudoun County Public Schools.

Setting the stage for September

Lauren McBride uses Twitter during the summer to take the pressure off the first packed week. McBride, incoming librarian for a new library at Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA, has tweeted summer reading lists and retweeted tidbits from the Library of Congress and shared book publication news and items about the Paper Towns movie. “My goal is to establish the library as an essential place, both physically and virtually,” she says.

No matter how many new forms of social media we have, bulletin boards still offer a lot of mileage. Vanessa Nutter, librarian at Democracy Prep Endurance Middle School in New York City, is a serious “boarder.” She creates spreadsheets to plan how displays will align with teaching units.

Nutter also posts “student shout-outs” when her students reach their goal of reading one million words, or whatever their word-count target is. Students who reach their goal win free T-shirts. Her “Read-with-me board” includes an image of the book the librarian is reading, inviting conversation. A “Now Playing” board showcases posters of film adaptations of library books. Nutter’s carefully planned boards remind us that the display areas are for more than decoration; they can create a culture of reading.

Vanessa Nutter’s bulletin boards involve students and help create a culture of reading at her school library.  Courtesy of Democracy Prep Public Schools.

Vanessa Nutter’s bulletin boards involve students and help create a culture of reading at her school library.
Courtesy of Democracy Prep Public Schools.

Objects that engage

As incoming head librarian at the Girls Division at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO, Jamie Lee Schombs will pay special attention to new students and will bring an assortment of puzzles to welcome everyone, including “metal hand puzzles, Rubik’s Cubes, Tangles, [and] gel timers.” She also posts a “library riddle of the day.” These things make students feel more comfortable visiting the circulation desk.

I also devote energy to newer students and decorate my circulation desk with objects that welcome conversation. A large, flat rock has the words “Turn me over” written in black. Students flip it over to find the message: “In research, leave no stone unturned.—Librarian Jess.” New students are always curious about the rock, and returning ones gravitate towards this object, literally a touchstone. “It’s still there!” they say, pleased. Some turn the rock over and over every time they visit the desk; it helps them feel relaxed as we chat.

During my first week of school, ninth graders participate in “personalized scavenger hunts” in which students find titles that interest them. My questions might ask them to locate a book on an artist, country, or language they are curious about. I also ask subjective questions: What is the book in the library with the weirdest title or cover? I use different sets of questions for different groups. This means that a wider variety of books circulate, and I can run back-to-back hunts. I learn a lot about ninth graders by finding out who likes Andy Warhol or Frida Kahlo and who wants to read about Nebraska or Hawaii.

Teacher outreach

Nutter contacts her principal during the summer to request a professional development hour with teachers during the first week; last year, all the teachers attended. Winner offers modules for teachers to learn about Kindles, databases such as PebbleGo, and the MackinVia platform. McBride hosts a Bring Your Own Device workshop for the whole school community to learn how to access library resources via phone and tablets.

Winner enjoys a “grassroots approach” to connecting with teachers and asks them to chat for “three minutes” after lessons. In that time, he’ll demonstrate a new tool they haven’t used in class, whether it’s Skype, Google Docs, or computer programming. He may also invite teachers to watch their students demonstrate something they’ve learned.

Teachers are more willing to take risks when they know that curricula have succeeded previously, either in their classroom or a colleague’s. Winner likes to build on previous lessons, taking a template that worked before and making the lesson more sophisticated. I also like to start the school year by building on last year’s accomplishments. “Your bilingual reading program was so awesome last year,” I might say to our Spanish teacher. “Do you want to do it again? Should we tweak the lesson a bit?”

Map out the year

Planning collaborative projects with many teachers can be overwhelming. Why not start with three? At my school, a health teacher does her infectious disease research project in September, a teacher in our Literature Department likes scavenger hunts linked to his curriculum, and one of the science teachers assigns the environmental studies project in December. That’s already a fairly hefty schedule.

Continue sending emails reminding teachers that you’re available; have lunch or friendly hallway chats with colleagues; and ask teachers about their curriculum and offer ways to be involved. Send faculty online resources or recommendations after you’ve heard about their classes to show that you were really listening and that you can be a resource. I also secure interlibrary loan books and purchases for teachers to supplement their own scholarly work.

Also, remind everyone about the different ways you can work with their students. I have three modes of teaching: in the main library area; in different teachers’ classrooms using a whiteboard for full periods or mini lessons; and with one-on-one research instruction by appointment in the library office. Sometimes teachers want to send me three students who are struggling with citation, or they prefer that I stop by their classes for 10 minutes. Teachers have a harder time declining your help if you give them many options and are flexible.

“Hands on top, now we stop!” is Cheryl Wolf’s upbeat call to order.

“Hands on top, now we stop!”
is Cheryl Wolf’s upbeat call to order.

Showcase students

Many librarians create activities that give students a feeling of ownership of the library experience. Soucy’s elementary students designed colorful library cards that they would use every time they checked out a book. I make time during my first few weeks to promote the role of student interns, who often teach others basic library skills during the beginning of the school year. Recruiting and signing up volunteers can be quick with Google Surveys, where I obtain helpful data (about students’ favorite books and movies) and create a database of volunteer contact information. McBride used Twitter and Sign Up Genius to invite student and community volunteers to a shelving party to get her library ready for the first day of school, with donuts for all.

Tapping into a larger school initiative can invigorate a library orientation. My students have a special writing workshop, following Bard College’s Writing and Thinking model ( instead of regular classes during their first week, and they produce notebooks full of creative and analytical writing. I teach creative writing workshops, participating in the school culture of contemplative writing.

McBride’s school district uses the One to the World instructional initiative, encouraging students to create projects for an audience beyond the classroom. Many of her orientations for staff and students focus on how the library can support these projects.

Schombs will co-teach with a partner librarian during a larger school orientation program. They will follow a school tradition in which librarians meet and greet the new faculty over refreshments. “I am a new faculty myself,” she says, so the event has extra purpose.

Each fall, there are always many new faces and names to learn, and returning students arrive full of new ideas. You never know where someone’s summer has taken them. A student may have been obsessed with cookbooks and zombie novels last year, but now he could be all about detective novels and learning Swahili. Students will always surprise you, especially in September. Try to surprise them back.

Jess deCourcy Hinds is the librarian at Bard High School Early College Queens in New York City.

]]> 0
Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler | SLJ Review Mon, 31 Aug 2015 13:00:12 +0000 MACKLER, Carolyn. Infinite in Between. 480p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061731075.

Gr 7 Up–What are the four years spent in high school made up of? Teens tend to focus on the big moments—midterms and finals, homecoming and prom, first dates and first loves. But what about those unexpected battles and victories that truly shape and change them? Mackler follows five young adults from freshman orientation to senior graduation. Jake, Zoe, Whitney, Gregor, and Mia all have their own expectations [...]]]> InfiniteInBetweenMACKLER, Carolyn. Infinite in Between. 480p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061731075.

Gr 7 Up–What are the four years spent in high school made up of? Teens tend to focus on the big moments—midterms and finals, homecoming and prom, first dates and first loves. But what about those unexpected battles and victories that truly shape and change them? Mackler follows five young adults from freshman orientation to senior graduation. Jake, Zoe, Whitney, Gregor, and Mia all have their own expectations for where they want to be at the end of high school. With shifting viewpoints among the five of them, readers get short but insightful glimpses at each of the protagonists. It can feel clunky to follow a character through high school in just one book, but Mackler does it deftly here with all five. This work even takes on several tough topics, including death, coming out, and addiction. Instead of feeling like a “very special episode,” each situation is presented in a genuine and gentle way. This title is a slow burn: the author expertly illustrates how all moments, little or huge, have an impact on who we are. Readers will empathize with and cheer on Zoe, Whitney, Mia, Gregor, and Jake as they change, grow, and reevaluate who they are and who they want to be. VERDICT A wonderfully written peek into adolescence gushing with relatability.—Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s September 2015 issue.

]]> 1
Hot Read-Alikes for “Maze Runner” and “Mockingjay” Film Fans | Media Mania Mon, 31 Aug 2015 12:41:24 +0000 Maze Runner and Mockingjay Part 2 films, hand them these thrilling sci-fi read-alikes. ]]> It’s a sizzling season for YA sci-fi/dystopian literature on the silver screen. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers face another treacherous ordeal in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (PG-13; premieres September 18), based on James Dashner’s series (Delacorte), and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her crowd bring The Hunger Games to a soul-stirring close with Mockingjay: Part 2 (PG-13; Nov. 20), the final chapter in Suzanne Collins’s epic trilogy (Scholastic). Not to mention The Martian (not yet rated; October 2), a stranded-on-inhospitable-planet thriller starring Matt Damon, inspired by Andy Weir’s adult best-seller (Crown, 2014). Also coming soon are two TV adaptations of literary works scheduled to premiere on the SyFy station beginning in December: Childhood’s End, a miniseries retelling of Arthur C. Clarke’s first-contact classic (1953), and the debut season of The Expanse, a futuristic space-opera based on the book series written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen name James S.A. Corey (Orbit).

Steer teens toward the source material for all of their screen favorites (see media tie-in editions below), and make sure to place a few of these hot new sci-fi, dystopian, and/or post-apocalyptic YA titles on their must-read radars.


Out of this World…Literally

Set in 2575, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae (Knopf, Oct. 2015; Gr 7 Up) takes readers on ailluminae_ remote-space voyage that soars with scintillating suspense, shocking secrets, and spellbinding story spirals. Readers take an active role in decoding the plot, which is completely conveyed through eye-grabbing dossier-style documents including interviews, emails, IMs, ship schematics, diaries, and more. When their illegal mining colony is obliterated by a rival corporation, teens Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are evacuated to different ships (a good idea, since they also recently survived a bitter break up). Badly damaged and burdened with refugees, the fleet is limping toward the nearest jump gate, a seven months journey, while BeiTech’s heavily armed dreadnaught follows in hot pursuit, determined to eliminate all witnesses. If that’s not bad enough, a virus that transforms people into flesh-eating zombies is running rampant on one of the ships, and the Alexander’s Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network (AIDAN) has begun to take extreme—and lethal—measures to keep the fleet safe. Through all the turmoil, Kady and Ezra reconnect, rekindle their romance, and work together to uncover the truth behind unfolding events, but will they survive long enough to be reunited? Rich characterizations, gripping action, and heartfelt emotion leach vividly through each and every page of the “Illuminae Files,” making this series opener a thrilling and chilling ride.

Dove ArisingKaren Bao’s Dove Arising (Viking, 2015; Gr 7 Up) is set on a Moon colony distinctively drawn with a solid sense of place, site-suitable technologies, and a believably regimented way of life. Noticeable only for her gray-streaked hair, a trait inherited from her born-in-China great-grandmother, intelligent and introverted Phaet Theta, 15, lives on Lunar Base IV, where she tries to remain off grid. Easier said than done, since all residents have handscreens fused to their skin (a device used for communications and information access that also transmits conversations directly to officials) and power-drunk Militia soldiers patrol public areas and callously enforce stringent government rules. The family is barely getting by since her father’s death nine years ago, and when her journalist mother is unexpectedly (and suspiciously) quarantined, the only way to keep her siblings out of the squalid and crime-prone poverty district is to enlist in the Militia training program and hopefully earn a high-paying rank. Despite rigorous (and often unscrupulous) competition from older cadets, Phaet is determined to succeed, and finds an unexpected ally in Wes, the mysterious but magnetic boy who is also her number-one competitor. Her journey not only leads Phaet to discoveries about her own abilities and strengths, but also to alarming revelations about her government and the colony’s contentious relationship with disaster-plagued Mother Earth. A high-octane ending will have readers clamoring for the next installment in the “Dove Chronicles” series.


The Past Becomes the Future

Set in the Sunken City, a place once known as Paris, Sharon Cameron’s mesmerizing Rook CAmeron_Rook(Scholastic, 2015; Gr 9 Up) begins, fittingly, with a beheading. Unbeknownst to city officials watching from velvet chairs and the roiling mob, in a subterranean prison far below the thirsty guillotine, the daring Red Rook works to liberate political dissidents destined for execution, leaving behind only a feather tipped in brilliant red. It’s 800 years in the future, shifts in the Earth’s magnetic poles have resulted in a major technological meltdown, and European civilization has defaulted to the candlelit, horseback-riding, sword-hefting days of the French Revolution, complete with political oppression and intrigue. Sophia Bellamy, 18, has resolved to marry the wealthy René Hasard in order to save her family’s estate in Kent. However, a different man seems to lurk beneath the exterior of this foppish and fatuous Parisian, one to whom she feels unexpectedly and deeply attracted. A woman of secrets herself, she will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. Meanwhile, the ruthless and ambitious LeBlanc, Ministre of Security, is determined to discover the Red Rook’s identity and have the rebel’s head. Complex plot twists, crackling romance, swashbuckling action, and deftly handled post-apocalyptic tropes make this well-written homage to “The Scarlet Pimpernel” a remarkably unique and satisfying read.

scorpionThe stakes are high when humanity is forced to play by The Scorpion Rules (S&S, 2015; Gr 9 Up). When climate change caused global crisis 400 years ago, Talis, the powerful AI placed in charge of “conflict abatement” (and orbital weapons) by the UN, put a resounding end to the resultant wars by wiping out several cities. Determined to “make it personal,” Talis forced world leaders to send their offspring to live as hostages at monastery-like enclaves and immediately forfeit their lives should their country declare war. Greta, Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederation, has lived at Precepture Four for all but 5 of her 17 years, dutifully following the rules and resigned to the axe that hangs over her head. When Elián Palnik, hostage for the newly formed Cumberland Alliance, arrives, his rejection of the system and refusal to be cowed (despite torture) is eye-opening. Though their two countries are barreling toward war over water rights, Greta finds herself wanting to help Elián, and begins to question everything. Erin Bow blends old-fashioned ceremony with cutting-edge tech, humor with heartbreak, and gripping action with philosophical quandary. Greta’s journey of emotional, intellectual and sensual self-discovery unfurls like a rose. Other robust characterizations include Princess Xia, Greta’s compassionate best friend/eventual love interest, and the once-human Talis, whose voice cascades with megalomania, irreverent wit, and biting sarcasm. Like Greta, the author never takes the easy or expected path, weighing individuality against the greater good, depicting impossible choices, and eloquently questioning the price of peace. Simply dazzling.


Startling New Steps for Humanity

Wheelchair-bound due to the worsening effects of his muscular dystrophy, 17-year-old computer whiz the six-PRAdam Armstrong volunteers to become one of The Six (Sourcebooks, 2015; Gr 8 Up), a group of terminally ill teens who agree to have their minds downloaded into hulking, built-for-combat U.S. Army robots that contain the necessary neuromorphic circuitry. Highly experimental, the Pioneer Project has been fast-tracked, since a new kind of warrior—one that bridges man and machine—is the only hope for combating Sigma, a rogue artificial intelligence that threatens to destroy the world. The Pioneers, consisting of a diverse group of teens (“strong, resilient personalities” are prerequisite), must quickly learn how to operate their new platforms, adjust to their unfamiliar metal-encased manifestations, and work as a team. Mark Alpert mixes cutting-edge scientific concepts, themes exploring the role of technology and what it is that makes us human, video-game-style battle action, and touches of teen angst into this roller-coaster read.

SLJ1502-Fic9up_Buckley_ UndertowThree years ago the Alpha, strange humanoid sea creatures, walked out of the Atlantic Ocean and onto the beach of Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Kept in a containment camp ever since, some of the Alpha are now being integrated into local schools, touching off hostility in an already intolerant community. Since discovering that her mother is actually a Sirena, a species of Alpha, 17-year-old Lyric has vowed to keep a low profile for her family’s safety, but this becomes more difficult when the new school principal singles her out to build Alpha-human relations by spending time with Fathom, the emotionally volatile, physically formidable, and surprisingly charismatic Alpha prince. As tensions grow at school and in her neighborhood, Lyric’s secrets begin to drift to the surface, and her options begin to run out. Though fantastical, Michael Buckley’s Undertow (HMH, 2015; Gr 8 Up) is anchored in dark realism: his Coney Island is fraught with political maneuvering, examples of ethnic and cultural prejudice, and ripped-from-the-headlines violence. The Alpha are surprising, and other worldly, and the book also features culturally diverse characters, a strong heroine, and a steamy romance. Lyric will find her self-perceptions, beliefs, and courage tested as this wonderfully unusual series launch torpedoes toward its cliff-hanger climax.


Familiar Yet Fantastic

 “How could you look the end of the world in the face and not go crazy?” An asteroid is on course Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallachtoward Earth’s orbit with a 66 percent chance of striking and obliterating all life on the planet in the next two months. Set in present-day Seattle, We All Looked Up (S&S, 2015; Gr 10 Up) vividly depicts the impact the impending event has on four high school seniors. Popular jock Peter struggles with the realization that playing basketball and marrying the longtime girlfriend he doesn’t really love just might not be enough. Photographer Eliza, whose dad is terminally ill, longs for more than the comfort she finds in one-night stands. Well on her way to fulfilling her father’s expectation of being “a good little black girl with an Ivy League degree,” overachiever Anita wonders if she can truly give up her dream to sing. Andy has been content to coast along with his stoner friends, but it might be time to start making his own choices. As Ardor draws ever closer and order dissolves into anarchy, the lives of the teens intersect in interesting and emotion-packed ways, as each begins to question relationships, dreams, values, and priorities. Told in alternating voices that cleverly overlap, Tommy Wallach’s novel provides plenty of realism and grit, dabbles affectingly in matters of the heart, and masterfully takes on big existential questions.

levellerThe next generation of video gaming has arrived, and kids spend hours in the virtual-reality world of MeaParadisus Inc., utilizing their minds to play while their bodies lie unconscious. Parents who want their offspring off system and heading toward jobs, chores, or studies hire The Leveller (HarperTeen, 2015; Gr 7-10), aka Nixy Bauer, a teenage bounty hunter (and daughter of two game developers) with an unfailing ability to infiltrate the MEEP (as it’s called by most) and drag reluctant-to-disconnect gamers home. When she is hired by the very wealthy head honcho of MeaParadisus to locate his gone-missing son, Nixy jumps at the chance, but soon discovers that Wyn has actually been kidnapped, and now both of them are trapped. Nixy is a self-confident and intelligent heroine, and her first-person narrative resonates with snarky humor, effervescent energy, and can-do attitude. The cleverly envisioned cyber setting is fleshed out with alluring delights as well as unexpected “traps and torments.” Powered by pulse-pounding action, lighthearted humor, and heady romantic tension, Julia Durango’s techno-thriller is fast-reading joy-ride.

For most of her life, Alina Chase, a half-Hispanic 17-year-old, has been confined on a secluded island,Soulprint not for a crime that she committed in this lifetime, but for the past incursions of her soul. In this not-to-futuristic world, scientists have discovered a way to make a Soulprint (Bloomsbury, 2015; Gr 7 Up)—analyzing spinal fluid to create a fingerprint of a particular soul that allows them trace its passage from individual to individual. A study shows “a high statistical correlation in criminal history from one generation to the next,” and Alina happens to possess the soul of the late June Calahan, notorious for hacking into the Soul Database and blackmailing public figures with nefarious past lives. Broken out of prison by three individuals not too much older than she is, Alina hopes to finally escape from June’s shadow and begin to live her own life, but her rescuers have ulterior motives. The authorities are hot on their trail, every path seems to lead her back to June, and she’s not sure whom she can trust, sometimes even doubting herself. In this thriller, Megan Miranda keeps the pace moving with titillating action scenes, grabs readers with heart-soaring moments of new-found affection and self-discovery, and raises thought-provoking questions (Are there ethical limits to scientific study? What makes us who we are? Do we control our fate? Are human beings quantifiable?).


Publication Information

ALPERT, Mark. The Six. Sourcebooks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492615293.

BAO, Karen. Dove Arising. “Dove Chronicles” series. Viking. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451469014; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9780698152779.

BOW, Erin. The Scorpion Rules. S&S/Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481442718; ebook $7.99. ISBN 9781481442732.

BUCKLEY, Michael. Undertow. HMH. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544348257.

 CAMERON, Sharon. Rook. Scholastic. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545675994.

DURANGO, Julia. The Leveller. HarperTeen. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062314000; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9780062314024.

KAUFMAN, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. Illuminae. “The Illuminae Files” Series. Knopf. Oct. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553499117; PLB $21.99. ISBN 9780553499124; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9780553499131.

MIRANDA, Megan. Soulprint. Bloomsbury. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802737748.

WALLACH, Tommy. We All Looked Up. S&S. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418775; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781481418799.


Media Tie-in Editions

CLARKE, Arthur C. Childhood’s End. Random House. Oct. 2015. Pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781101967034.

COREY, James S.A. Leviathan Wakes. Hachette/Orbit. Nov. 2015. Tr. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9780316390682.

DASHNER, James. The Scorch Trials. With full-color movie photos. Delacorte. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553538229; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780553538410; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9780553538427.

WEIR, Andy. The Martian. Broadway Books. 2015. Pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781101905005;  pap. $15. ISBN 9781101903582.


]]> 0
Taking It to the Kids—Middle grade author visits Mon, 31 Aug 2015 12:00:39 +0000  

Oh boy! An author visit.

It’s a lot of work, to be sure. And we know it’s work that most often falls to the school librarian or to the children’s or YA librarian in a public library.

In this and in a series of articles that will follow, authors who often visit libraries and schools will reveal that there’s plenty of work on their sides, too. They’ll also let you in on some of their best practices, missteps they’ve encountered, and lots of lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Here you’ll meet three authors of middle grade fiction who’ve been there: Kirk Scroggs, Nikki Loftin, and Shelley Moore Thomas. We hope their experiences will let you know that the work—on all sides—is worth it, because an author visit inspires young people to read, to read more, to enjoy books in a new way, to write, to talk about books with friends, and to look to authors for inspiration and possibly aspiration. So move over professional athletes and movie, TV, and music celebrities—make room for these rock stars!


Kirk at Westwood Charter Bedtime Story Jam, Los Angeles, CA.

Kirk at Westwood Charter Bedtime Story Jam, Los Angeles, CA.

My name is Kirk Scroggs, and, even though I’ve written 17 books to date, I’ll be the first to admit—I am not a confident writer. I overthink and analyze and hem and haw over each and every paragraph. Heck, just writing that last sentence took me 28 hours. But I’ve got a secret weapon, a fallback: visuals. I like to fill my books with loads of goofy, action-packed illustrations, often with plenty of details for readers to hunt for. It’s a crutch, I know, but it pulls the kids in by involving them a little bit more in the creative process.

That creative crutch comes in handy during my school visits as well. When I stood before 300 fifth graders for my first Wiley and Grampa presentation years ago, I was a nervous wreck. As I recited the first few sentences, my knees and my voice were in a race to see which was wobblier. I quickly deduced that not only was I not a confident writer, I was not a confident read-alouder either. So, instead of standing there like a trembling kangaroo mouse, I whipped out the ol’ crutch—visuals! I nixed pressing on with my reading and invited the kids to help write a secret chapter to the book, Mad Libs–style, which I scribbled out on a giant pad. Instead of just listening, they got to participate, shouting out ingenious words to fill in our tale, some of which I had never heard before (broccolucious is my favorite so far) and others that were more expected. (Teachers and librarians: it’s OK for kids to say poop, at least in my presence. Of course, I have very low standards.) When I read back the story we had co-created, they were roaring with laughter. Then I drew some pictures and all bets were off. I had them in the palm of my hand, and, on the flip side, they had whittled down my case of the jitters.

I’ve incorporated Mad Libs and illustrations in every school visit since, drawing Muppets and monsters across the country. The secret chapter has been especially fun with the “Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet” books (any chance to draw Gonzo is all right by me), and with my new series, “Snoop Troop,” since it’s in the mystery genre and chock-full of oddball critters and intrigue. I also make sure to leave a good chunk of time at the end of the visit for kids to ask me any questions about writing or drawing or being creative. That way they can leave feeling, at the very least, like reading a book, and perhaps that they, too, can write or illustrate their own story someday. And you know what? They can!

Kirk Scroggs is the author of four “Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet” books and the new “Snoop Troop” series (both Little, Brown). Check out for more school visit info.


Nikki with students at Brykerwoods Elementary, Austin, TX.

Nikki with students at Brykerwoods Elementary, Austin, TX.

When I visit elementary and middle schools as an author, I often teach writing workshops. I love those “aha!” moments when the participants figure out how to make a character leap off the page, how to ramp up the tension in their stories, and—most important of all—how to get their students to do the same things back in the classroom.

Oh, did I mention I teach these workshops to rooms full of teachers?

The idea of adding optional teacher workshops to my author visits started when I was promoting my debut novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, at a school outside Tokyo. I was asked to speak to all ages of kids, even ones who were a bit young for my dark and scary book. For these younger groups, I created a large-group character and story-generating exercise, with parting instructions to go back to their classrooms and write or draw what they’d come up with.

These days, when I finish talking, usually the kids come running up for autographs. That day? The teachers mobbed me, asking for clarification, possible extensions, and advice on using the lessons in the classroom. I realized that teachers everywhere are hungry for new ways to teach writing—and linking the author visit to relevant and interesting writing lessons excited teachers and students alike.

After decades of work doing public speaking and teaching, I feel 100 percent comfortable presenting to and working with kids. But the first time I was asked to teach writing to a room full of librarians and teachers, I was pretty intimidated. Would they be able to let go and get into the creative, even silly, aspect of brainstorming character traits as easily as kids did? Or—and I knew this was a distinct possibility, as I was once a teacher myself and had sat through endless hours of professional development that bored me to tears—would they fall asleep? I shouldn’t have worried. These engaged, passionate, creative people, who spend their days focused on kids—these teachers are also amazing students.

I love it when librarians ask me to work with their staff—or, if time doesn’t permit, when they encourage the teachers to stay for the kids’ writing workshops or large-group presentations. If I can light a fire in a writing teacher’s imagination by sharing what I know really works to make a story come to life, then that teacher can keep the spark glowing for a whole classroom full of kids for months…or years.

So, the next time you plan for an author to visit your school, ask if he or she would mind having a few more “mature” students, whether during the students’ workshop, or after the bell rings. You might find that, in a few years, not only are your students writing their own novels…your teachers may be as well.

Nikki Loftin is the author of three novels for young readers: Wish Girl (2015), Nightingale’s Nest (2014), and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (2012, all Razorbill). For more information about her award-winning books or school visits, visit


Shelley kicks off Read Across America at Jefferson Elementary School, Carlsbad, CA

Shelley kicks off Read Across America at Jefferson Elementary School, Carlsbad, CA

Student readers are like detectives—they want to know the story behind the story.

When I visit young readers in their schools or libraries, I try to give them clues about how my stories came to be. I share that I’ve spent a good part of my life in the 398.2 section of the library, researching the stories of the world because…well…because I love them. And then I show them. I whip out my velvet cape and my fancy storytelling sneakers and take on the role of storyteller. I don’t want students to connect just with me, the author. I want them to connect with the story.

Story is how we pass down our humanity from generation to generation. It has always been this way. My goal is for children to become thoroughly enchanted by stories—enough to keep reading them. Enough to start writing them.

Bits and pieces of beloved folktales have found their ways into my stories, woven in with parts of my own experiences, to create something new. When I visit a school, I like to take them behind the scenes to the tales that inspire my novels. For The Seven Tales of Trinket (Farrar, 2012), it is rather easy—there are seven to choose from. My favorite is an old Celtic version of The Stolen Child. Students who have read my book can see where Trinket’s harp of bone and hair came from, and students who have not read the book might now be curious enough to do so. Sometimes, I’ll share a faerie story, for faeries are renowned tricksters and cannot resist a wager, much like the Faerie Queen in Trinket’s tale. When I talk with students about Secrets of Selkie Bay (Farrar, 2015), I start with the story of my daughter’s visit to the zoo when she was in first grade, and how her class got on the bus and left her behind (accidentally) at the seal pool. Mommy, I just wanted to stay with the seals. I couldn’t stop watching them. They wanted me to stay. Then, I follow with a mystical legend of the selkies, the charmed seals who can shift their shape into human form. Listeners quickly “get” the connections.

Even my fantastical easy readers featuring the Good Knight have stories behind them—but this time not folklore-based. Crafty student detectives figure out that in Get Well, Good Knight (Penguin, 2004), the little dragons who will not take their potion are completely based upon my own children. Yes, I have often played the role of the Good Knight at home.

When I finish my session, students often ask, “Are those stories true? Are they real?” My answer is always the same: Every story is real if you can feel the truth of it in your heart. n

Shelley Moore Thomas can be found hanging around her blog,, and occasionally on twitter as @story_queen. She is the author of the “Good Knight” (Penguin) series of easy readers as well as various picture
books and novels. Her latest, Secrets of Selkie Bay (Farrar, 2015), was published in July.

Lauren L. Wohl is a consultant with New Leaf Literary agency. She can be reached at

]]> 0
This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Beam | SLJ Review Sat, 29 Aug 2015 13:00:30 +0000 BEAN, Jonathan. This Is My Home, This Is My School. illus. by Jonathan Bean. 48p. Farrar. Oct. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374380205. LC 2014040682. PreS-Gr 1–In his second semi-autobiographical picture book, Bean introduces young audiences to one family’s homeschooling experience. The well-paced narrative draws clear connections between the details of a traditional school environment—with a teacher, a cafeteria, and classrooms—and a homeschool setting—Mom and Dad are the teachers, the kitchen becomes the lunch room, and the house, the yard, the nearby [...]]]> this is my homeBEAN, Jonathan. This Is My Home, This Is My School. illus. by Jonathan Bean. 48p. Farrar. Oct. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374380205. LC 2014040682.
PreS-Gr 1–In his second semi-autobiographical picture book, Bean introduces young audiences to one family’s homeschooling experience. The well-paced narrative draws clear connections between the details of a traditional school environment—with a teacher, a cafeteria, and classrooms—and a homeschool setting—Mom and Dad are the teachers, the kitchen becomes the lunch room, and the house, the yard, the nearby pond, and the garage are all used as classrooms. In Bean’s depiction of homeschooling, every moment of the day becomes a chance to learn, from outdoor art classes to evening star-gazing to the “homework” of helping out with farm chores. Watercolor illustrations with loosely defined borders perfectly capture the jumbled chaos of a dual-purpose household, while pen-and-ink lines and plenty of white space provide definition and space for viewers to take in the many details. In this home, towering piles of books, scattered papers, and canning jars share space with butterfly nets, chemistry beakers, and art supplies, reinforcing the family’s philosophy that every experience has educational possibilities. The simple sentence structure and vocabulary make this a great choice for emerging readers, and the strong sense of place, anchoring the school experience to a family’s beloved home while also opening it up to embrace the wider world, will resonate with young children just beginning to navigate the home/school divide. VERDICT Bean’s introduction to a free-spirited yet structured homeschool lifestyle offers a warm and accessible perspective on an increasingly common educational choice rarely seen in children’s books. A first purchase.–Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

]]> 0
Six Back-to-School Goals for Teacher Librarians | Tech Tidbits Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:00:41 +0000 memopad_Back2School_webLibrarians can jump-start the school year by setting some essential goals. Here, teacher librarian Phil Goerner tackles his top six objectives and lays out a plan for achieving these goals, which range from creating new maker space projects to engaging teachers in professional development.

  1. Collaborate with teachers

I think this is one of the most important parts of our jobs. I know it always takes a while to build momentum in the fall and get into classrooms. One of the best ways for me to get started is to stay organized. I have been using Google Tasks to keep my lists handy and streamline my day. It synchronizes with my school Gmail no matter what computer I’m logged into, and there is even an app for my smart phone.

I’m working on “sneaking” into as many classrooms as I can to line up team teaching jobs, demonstrate a tech tool, or just to promote the library resources. Since my students have just gone 1:1 with iPads, we are supporting our teachers who are using the heck out of Schoology for their learning management system, Nearpod for delivery of information to students, and Noteability for note-taking, sharing, and learning.

  1. Promote the library

Letting teachers and students know about the library resources is vital in the fall. We’ll be creating and sharing virtual SMORE Newsletters and using Canva graphics to promote our library resources. We’ll even print some old school–style color fliers we post for the students in their bathrooms. We call them the weekly “potty papers.”

  1. Take a lead on professional development

Wow! Who knew teaching teachers would become such a big part of our lives as school librarians? At our school, we have launched the SAMR technology model in hopes that our teachers will strengthen their 21st century skills and support student achievement in deeper ways. I find Google Chrome’s Screencastify to be a strong tool for creating tutorials to support skill-building and understanding. is a great animated GIF creator to create step-by-step instructions. We have been collaborating as a group of teachers after school during our “Tech Tuesdays” to share ideas and insights. Perhaps most importantly this fall, I am excited to spearhead the planning of edcamp Longmont, which will be held at my school using the “unconference” model. We have lots of learning planned, donated goodies to give away, an Apps Smackdown scheduled, and even an active Makerspace to be explored.

  1. Meet with clubs

For our book club, student leaders and I help all members create Goodreads accounts to share their reading. We take and post pictures of #bookface Fridays on Instagram, and set up Skype time with our sister book club at Monarch High School in Louisville, CO, led by teacher librarian Beatrice Gerrish. We also schedule movie premiere visits (Scorch Trials on September 18—are you psyched?), and we’ll be introducing our students to the Somewhat Virtual Book Club using the video from New Cannan (CT) High School (#SWVBC). That should get them off and running for the fall.

  1. Engage in making

My student leaders and I will determine our focus soon, but we are already committed to a few major projects. They are teaming with the student club Peace and Service for Africa to build lanterns with our 3-D printer and getting involved with the One Million Lights project. Secondly, we are collaborating with the local maker space in town and meeting with them during lunch on a weekly basis. We’ll also be organizing a LEGO drive to collect pieces for our middle school, where the students there are creating their own LEGO wall.

  1. Celebrate “freadom”

Don’t forget the special celebrations that kick-start our fall library world! To celebrate ALA’s Banned & Challenged Book Week (September 27–Oct 3), we are coordinating visits from the social studies teachers to attend presentations on First Amendment Rights and the freedom to read.

A highlight of that week will be Banned Websites Day, when we’ll raise awareness for Internet filtering and digital citizenship, which are especially important topics for our 1:1 school. During the week, our readers will be preparing and submitting videos in the Fifth Annual Virtual Read Out, in which students and authors post YouTube videos sharing the importance of freedom to read. What a week!

September’s activities will roll you right into October with Teen Read Week (October 18–24), homecoming festivities, and, of course, all the wonderful celebrations surrounding Halloween.

Once you have your to-do lists started, your projects in motion, and your ducks in a row, make sure to have a formal meeting with your principal to share your annual goals, request their support, and ask them for advice and resources to make things happen.

I’d love to hear what’s on your back-to-school lists.

]]> 2
Four NYC Publishers, One Epic Season: Rocco Staino’s Peek at Upcoming Fall Titles Fri, 28 Aug 2015 14:25:33 +0000 This past spring, SLJ contributing editor Rocco Staino attended several previews for major publishing houses based in the New York City area. From a get-together at the funky triangular-shaped offices of Macmillan in the Flatiron Building to the posh conference space at the Random House tower on Broadway, Staino offers an insider’s view into hot and buzz-worthy titles coming out this fall.

Deer, dogs, and library Olympics from Random House

Ask any children’s librarian what’s the most popular animal in children’s stories and you’re likely to get Only Childa variety of answers ranging from dogs and cats to bears and monkeys. But surely deer would not be at the top of the list (beside, perhaps, Bambi). Surprisingly, there are two books featuring deer coming out this fall from Random House. Both Guojing’s The Only Child (December) and Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen’s The Reindeer Wish (October) feature girls discovering a magical deer in the woods—but that is where the similarity ends. The Reindeer Wish is illustrated with stunning full-color photography featuring the couple’s daughter, Anja. The young girl, impeccably styled to look like a cherubic folktale character brought to life, helps her baby reindeer become part of Santa’s team. In the wordless picture book The Only Child, Guojing captures loneliness and beauty through a strong visual narrative utilizing softly shaded black and white charcoal drawings.

Happily for canine fans, there are several soon-to-be popular dog titles coming out in the upcoming months, including Space Dog (October) by Mini Grey and two titles in the “Puppy Pirates” series by Erin Soderberg—featuring cover art that had even jaded librarians producing a few “awwwws” of appreciation. But it was A Dog Wearing Shoes (September) by Sangmi Ko, a doggy adoption tale about a pooch who wears bright yellow booties, that received the most notable “Oos and aahs”.

It appears that this holiday season publishers will have a few cross-cultural titles that combine Hanukkah and Christmas as plotlines. In Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer’s Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein (October), which is illustrated by Christine Davenier, readers meet a Jewish girl who is determined to celebrate Christmas—even going so far as to leave latkes for Santa’s reindeer (Oh, here’s another deer!).

BalloonVeteran picture book creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has decided to illustrate the old adage of “always look at the bright side,” in his latest book It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon (September). Another veteran illustrator, Paul O. Zelinsky, has taken Emily Jenkins’s Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic from her “Toy” chapter books and portrays them in glorious full-color for their picture book debut, Toys Meet Snow (September).

Illustrators help bring real people to life for young readers in two new picture book biographies. Illustrator Vanessa Newton’s subject is folk artist Harriet Powers in Barbara Herkert’s Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist (October). Raúl Colon joins with author Jonah Winter to create Hillary (January, 2016), just in time for the upcoming presidential race.

Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder will surely welcome Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories (August). The three stories are a peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep. Middle grade readers who prefer fiction that focuses on current events and social issues will find Patricia Rielly Griff’s Until I Find Julian (September) of interest. It is set along the Mexican border and Arkansas and centers on the story of a young boy journeying to the United States to find his brother. Middle graders will also be happy to see Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics (January, 2016) which is the follow-up to Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Random, 2013).

For teens well versed in the art of texting and emoji-vocabulary, Courtney Carbone and Brett Wright , two children’s book editors, have teamed up with the Bard of Avon to retell Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet via texts and emojis. The first two titles in this new series are srsly Hamlet (May) and YOLO Juliet (May).

Young adults who enjoy something a bit more along the lines of John Green will want to check out
debut author Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything (September) about a girl who is allergic to the outside world. Readers who lean more toward bad boy angels and supernatural adventure/romance may want to pick up Lauren Kate’s Unforgiven (November).

Librarians and young readers looking for a reason to celebrate have two this year. Dr. Seuss’s Horton GravesHatches the Egg will be turning 75 this year and Random House is offering a free Bullying Prevention and Friendship Educator’s Kit. Also, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of The Golden Compass, Random House is planning a lavishly designed slipcase anniversary edition that will include a conversation between Philip Pullman and Lev Grossman, author of the “Magicians” trilogy (Viking).

The highlight of the Random House event was hearing author Jennifer Donnelly talk about her upcoming book, These Shallow Graves (October). The story is set in 1890 Gilded Age New York City where the rich and beautiful Jo Montfort enlists the help of a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter to help find the truth about her father’s death. See this clip from her talk:

A Musical Ode to School Libraries at the Candlewick Preview

Each season presents new books and with them, new opportunities to learn and expand one’s knowledge. Candlewick’s fall season offers titles about little known historical personages, transgender issues, and the immigrant experience. And that’s just to start.

FannieUnless they are members of the Mayflower Society, most readers have probably never heard of John Howland. He, as the title of the upcoming picture book by P.J. Lynch states, was The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune (September). In this book for readers in grades two to five, Lynch tells the Pilgrim story from the young man’s point of view. In Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer (August), author Carole Boston Weatherford uses poetry to tell the story of a woman who was a champion of the civil rights movement. The book is illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Teens will learn about the Siege of Leningrad and the role composer Demitri Shostakovich played during that event in M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (September).

Two new Candlewick works center on the LGBTQ experience: Maggie Thrash makes her debut with the graphic memoir Honor Girl (September), in which she recalls her first love with her counselor at a girl’s Christian summer camp.  Pat Schmatz tackles the issue of gender nonconformity in Lizard Radio (September). Based in a futuristic society, Kavili has to struggle with defining what she is: a girl or boy, human or lizard.

Several new titles explore Latino culture, including Mango, Abuela, and Me (August) a picture book by MangoMeg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez, which blends two cultures as grandmother and granddaughter overcome a language barrier with the help of feathered pet. In the debut novel by Judith Robin Rose, Look Both Ways in the Barrio (September), middle grade readers are introduced to Jacinta who crosses the line from the barrio to affluent society.

Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz has written about the complexities of crossing societal lines in her new YA novel set in 1911 Baltimore. A Pennsylvania farm girl moves into the home of an affluent Jewish family in The Hired Girl (September).

Fans of Charlotte Zolotow will be happy to know that Candlewick is reissuing Zolotow’s Say It! , a picture book featuring a mother and child taking a crisp, autumn walk. This edition is illustrated by another Charlotte, Charlotte Voake.

Librarians who attend previews and author events are, like me, likely quite familiar with authors telling them how important librarians are to them and to their work. However, I’ve never witnessed an author compose and perform an ode to the blight of school libraries. Yet that is just what happened at the Candlewick Librarian Preview in New York City this past spring. Todd Strasser, the well-known author, was there to talk about The Beast of Cretacea (October). The book is a science fiction retelling of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. In addition to describing his new book, Strasser picked up his guitar and serenaded the group with an Ode to School Libraries. Check out this clip:


Sequels, Famous Names, and Debuts Galore for Penguin

Have you been wondering what Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s crayons have been up to since The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) or asking whether David Lubar’s Scott of Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (2005) ever moved on? Readers will be pleased to see some favorite characters return in sequels this fall.

thedaythecrayonscamehomeDuncan is again entangled with another group of crayons, but this time these colors are in need of an understanding friend. Who likes pea green or a maroon crayon broken in two? Duncan handles these and other colorful situations in The Day Crayons Came Home (August). After 10 years, readers will find out how Scott is coping with a baby brother and his sophomore year in high school in the long-awaited sequel to Sleeping Freshmen, Sophomores and Other Oxymorons (August).

Young people will have the opportunity to delve into adult best sellers with editions specifically tailored for them. Daniel James Brown has adapted his New York Times best seller The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics (September) for middle grade readers. At the age of 10, many children are beginning to make their own food choices so Michael Pollan’s young reader’s adaption of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (August) will give those readers the inside scoop on the personal and global health implications of their nutritional choices.

Chelsea Clinton, a recognizable name, is also encouraging young people to get informed and take action with her book It’s Your World (September). Clinton introduces such topics as poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, access to education, gender equality, epidemics, non-communicable diseases, climate change, and endangered species.

In addition to celebrity authors and anticipated sequels, Penguin also has some notable debuts coming out this season. Writer, comedian, and entertainer Justin Sayre pens Husky (September), an LGBTQ-themed middle grade story. Historic preservation, crooked politicians, and the Underground Railroad each finds its way into Lisa Lewis Tyre’s debut novel Last in a Long Line of Rebels (September). Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s debut YA novel The Accident Season was described by editor Kathy Dawson as having the “Best Kiss Ever.” That said, its protagonist Cara and her family mysteriously suffer from accidents every October. Why? Sonja and Charlotte also suffer accidents in Juman Maulouf’s debut middle grade novel The Trilogy of Two (November). These twins who were adopted by the tattoo lady in the circus accidently levitate the audience in this Wes Anderson-esque story. Meanwhile, a fundamental Christian group and the summer before college play a major part in Pratima Cranse’s  All the Major Constellations (November). Famed fashion illustrator Donald Robertson joins the ranks of debut authors. He is bringing Mitford, the fashionista giraffe that he made famous on Instagram (@Drawbertson), to the children’s picture book world with Mitford at the Fashion Zoo (August). One of Robertson’s frequent subjects is the hat-wearing musician Pharrell Williams. Williams also has his own picture book based on his song Happy (October). The book will feature photographs of children across cultures celebrating what it means to be happy.

Speaking of cross cultures, there are a number of titles will give readers insights into other cultures. Crossing social economic lines is the subject of Kaul Hart Hemming’s Gilmore Girls-like novel, Juniors (September). Set in Hawaii, some may find it reminiscent of the film Sabrina. The picture book Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Leslie Staub tackles the subject of a girl whose mother is in an immigration detention center. Meanwhile, Haifaa Al Mansour’s middle grade novel The Green Bicycle (September) features a fierce Saudi Arabian girl who wants to ride a bike despite its cultural taboo.

Librarians may want to take note of Loren Long’s Little Tree (September), which is a tender exploration Littleof a late bloomer. Also of note is C. Alexander London’s The Wild Ones (September). London, a former librarian, was inspired by Brian Jacques’s “Redwall” series (Philomel).

The preview ended with author Adam Rubin and illustrator Daniel Salmieri entertaining the librarian crowd with their wacky new book, Robo-Sauce, which actually turns into Robo-Book. The duo used book technology and foil to accomplish the trick. Readers will just have to wait until October to get their hands on the book to see the clever book engineering in action.


Macmillan: New Titles by Gantos, Applegate, and More Award Winners

Wondering what Newbery winners Jack Gantos and Katherine Applegate have been up to? How about Arbuthnot lecturer Michael Morpurgo and The Horn Book-Boston Globe winner Steve Sheinkin?

Gantos explores the dangerous side of conformity and loss-of-self in his upcoming autobiographical novel, The Trouble in Me (September). Crenshaw (September) is Katherine Applegate’s latest middle grade title. It centers on Jackson, a boy living in poverty and his imaginary giant cat named Crenshaw.  “This is his masterpiece” is how editor Liz Szabla described Listen to the Moon (October) by Michael Morpurgo. The author of War Horse (Kaye & Ward, 1982) has again set his latest book during World War I. Sheinkin examines the Vietnam War era in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (September) that editor Simon Boughton called a “primer in that period of history”.

CCq6J6kUgAAB2iSOther pop culture names from the era also appear this publishing season. There’s Susan Reich and Adam Gustavson’s picture book biography of the Beatles, Fab Four Friends (August); Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound (September), and Sondheim: The Man Who Changed Musical Theater (March) by Susan Goldman Rubin.

Editor Neal Porter introduced one of his stars, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as the “queen of the die cuts” as he presented her I Used to be Afraid (September) and he compared his husband and wife team Philip C. and Erin Stead’s new book Lenny & Lucy (October) to the Brothers Grimm and Neil Gaiman. Nerdy Book Club members take note: Nerdy Birdy (September) by Aaron Reynolds & Matt Davies is a picture book featuring an adorkable, book-loving bird who has trouble fitting into the cool crowd.

There were titles presented that helped shed light on some social issues. Phil Bildner presents a character with autism in A Whole New Ball Game (August), a middle grade story illustrated by Tim Probert. Mixed Me! (October) by celebrity Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans is a picture book about a young biracial boy. The topic of home schooling is featured in Jonathan Bean’s new picture book, This is My Home, This is My School (October). And in the YA space, Hellraisers, the first book in “The Devil’s Engine,” a new horror trilogy by Alexander Gordon Smith, features Marlow Green, a kid with asthma.

For kids interested in computer programming there is Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding (October) by Linda Liukas that features a female main character.

Macmillan previews are noted for their tempting food treats; indeed some of the titles alone caused Baconmouths to water. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s Rachel Bright’s Love Monster and the Last Chocolate (December). We know that Everyone Loves Bacon (September) and that is the title of Kelly DiPucchio and Eric Wright’s book about the price of fame.

Can you believe that famous canine of both book and screen, Lassie, is turning 75 this year? She looks great. In October, Henry Holt will release the anniversary edition of Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home with the original Marguerite Kirmse illustrations. This year also marks some other notable anniversaries: Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron turns 50. The anniversary edition (September) has a foreword by Rebecca Stead.

Librarians looking for December holiday books that work for more than one type of celebration will embrace Oskar and the Eight Blessings (September) by Richard and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel. The story is about an immigrant boy searching for his aunt in 1938 New York City. Eleanor Roosevelt, Count Basie, and Macmillan’s headquarters, the Flatiron Building, all make cameo appearances in this holiday tale.

]]> 0
Hand in Hand: Kathryn Otoshi on Her Collaboration with Bret Baumgarten for “Beautiful Hands” Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:25:06 +0000 SLJ chats with picture book artist and publisher, Kathryn Otoshi, about her latest book and the inspiring story behind its creation. ]]> Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten

Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten

Kathryn Otoshi, best known for her striking concept books, One (2008), Zero (2010), and Two (2014), partnered with Bret Baumgarten, a father and husband battling cancer, to create the timeless and affecting new picture book, Beautiful Hands (2015, all KO Kids Bks.). SLJ asked Otoshi to share the story behind the book.

How did you first meet Bret?
Bret and I met through Brian, a close mutual friend of ours. Bret had mentioned to me before that he always wanted to do a children’s book. When he was diagnosed last year with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I remembered this. A week later I went over to his house and asked Bret if he wanted to do a picture book together for his children, Noah (age nine) and Sofie (age seven). He was really excited and loved the idea. Thus the collaboration began!

How did the words come together?
It was just last spring that Bret told me he would hold his children’s hands in his every day and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?” This question sparked the rest of the book for me. Little hands can do so many wonderful things—TOUCH… LIFT…STRETCH…REACH. When Noah and Sofie were just babies, he would marvel how their tiny hands would reach out—they could barely squeeze a single finger. But soon they were holding his hand. And before he knew it, their hands were drawing, playing the piano, and creating all these amazing things! As a parent, you watch in wonder as your children grow, not just physically, but as they come into their own as individuals into this world.


Kathryn Otoshi assembling a Spirit Bird from the many handprints.

Otoshi assembling a Spirit Bird from the many handprints.

Tell us about the process for creating this artwork. Who was involved?
I work with symbolism in my stories. For Beautiful Hands, I saw there could be wordplay between the tangible and the intangible—TOUCH hearts; LIFT spirits; REACH for love. Since this was a legacy book for his family, I thought it would be nice to have Noah, Sofie, and his wife, Deborah, to be physically engaged in the book’s process as it all came together. So all their handprints, including Bret’s and my own, are in the story.

Tells us about some of the other hands that are part of the artwork.
Beautiful Hands embeds the handprints of over 100 loving family members and friends, both young and old, who are now in the rainbow art at the end of this book. Even Mocha, the Baumgarten’s dog, got in the book. She’s family too!

How did the art go from initial paint on paper to final artwork as it appears in the book?
At the party, we had trays of different paint colors with huge stacks of large poster-sized paper. Each person’s hands was painted with varying thickness of paint. It’s amazing to see how everyone’s fingersprints and handprints are so unique! All of these handprints were scanned in to the computer and overlayed together to create the art. Hand textures, thumbprints for the wings of bees, hand drawn type—every part of this book is somehow hand-done.

How has Bret’s family reacted to the finished book?Beautiful Hands
It’s been fun involving his children and family from the first initial sketches to the final book launch. I’ve been going to schools across the country in Bret’s memory, making these Spirit Birds out of hundreds of children’s hands. I talk about how we can use our hands to take action and do something creative and loving for others. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Bret. We all miss him—his big heart and encouraging message will always live on in the pages of this book.

“My hope that this story empowers love, creativity, compassion, and a
connection to you and yours, in the fulfilling and remarkable way it has for me” 

~ Bret Baumgarten, 1970–2014

]]> 0
Stand-Off by Andrew Smith | SLJ Review Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:43 +0000 SMITH, Andrew. Stand-Off. 416p. ebook available. S. & S. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418294. Gr 9 Up–In this sequel to Winger (S. & S., 2013), Ryan Dean West’s senior year at Pine Mountain Academy is off to a rough start. Still grieving over friend Joey’s death, he’s saddled with Sam, a 12-year-old freshman roommate he dismisses as a “larva in soccer pajamas.” Adding to the pressure, his rugby coach wants him to take Joey’s position on the field and as [...]]]> standoffSMITH, Andrew. Stand-Off. 416p. ebook available. S. & S. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418294.
Gr 9 Up–In this sequel to Winger (S. & S., 2013), Ryan Dean West’s senior year at Pine Mountain Academy is off to a rough start. Still grieving over friend Joey’s death, he’s saddled with Sam, a 12-year-old freshman roommate he dismisses as a “larva in soccer pajamas.” Adding to the pressure, his rugby coach wants him to take Joey’s position on the field and as team captain. Resulting panic attacks and visions of a Grim Reaper–esque guy he names Nate (Next Acciden+al Terrible Experience) make Ryan Dean aware he needs help, but he can’t bring himself to ask for it. Hot girlfriend Annie offers sex and parental-sounding advice, but two male relationships finally help Ryan Dean open his heart again. Sam is able to see the pain behind Ryan Dean’s facade due to his own past trauma. Bound by their mutual grief, Joey’s brother Nico and Ryan Dean begin a fragile friendship. The novel’s heavy issues are tempered by Ryan Dean’s wickedly funny ruminations and good-natured male crudeness. An ingeniously conceived subplot provides teens with a practical lesson on sexual consent. Readers are left with the reassurance that no one can be expected to handle their problems alone. VERDICT The novel succeeds not only as an emotionally satisfying sequel but as a hopeful, honest account of coping with a devastating loss.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

]]> 0
First-Ever “Public Libraries & STEM” Event Forges New Alliances Thu, 27 Aug 2015 20:10:34 +0000 STEMLibrariesProfessionals from the library, education, and STEM fields gathered last week in Denver to participate in “Public Libraries & STEM,” the first conference of its kind to convene leaders from these arenas to examine current and future practices at the intersection of librarianship and science, technology, engineering, and math.

“We were really trying to foster giving [participants] networking opportunities galore,” says Paul B. Dusenbery, the director of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL), based in Boulder, CO. It, together with the Houston-based Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), organized the August 20–22 event attended by about 150 people. “If you look at the potential for STEM subjects in libraries, it is a beautiful fit.”

Dusenbery also directs the STAR Library Education Network, which he describes as a community of practice where professionals can find resources and examples of library-based STEM initiatives across the country. LPI has worked with libraries for more than 15 years to develop space science learning opportunities. The two organizations received funding from the National Science Foundation to hold the event. Representatives from several other library, education, museum, and science organizations also participated in organizing the conference.

“Sometimes you go to conferences and you meet people in passing, but this was a little bit more intimate,” says Sharon Cox, the manager of the Queens Library Children’s Library Discovery Center in New York City.  “We had more time to sit down and really talk about what each of our organizations is doing and things we’d like to do in the future.”

One idea generated at the event is the possibility of an annual public engagement campaign focused on bringing families into libraries for STEM activities. The key, Dusenbery says, is effectively marketing these opportunities to diverse communities. He points to how Cox uses social media, partners with other community organizations, and holds events such as an annual “discovery street fair” to pull in families from a wide range of cultures and ethnicities.

A pre-conference survey gathered information on what libraries are currently doing and areas where they feel they need support. The results showed that roughly 80 percent of libraries are developing and implementing STEM-related programs.

While Dusenbery says that might sound encouraging, he cautioned that the quality of these efforts is unclear. For example, if public libraries want to work with K–12 schools, the activities or programs they are organizing should be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, which 15 states and the District of Columbia have now adopted, according to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). The NSTA, along with the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, led the process of developing the standards.

The survey also showed that library staff members generally feel comfortable working with students in elementary and middle school, but that leading STEM programs for high school students or adults takes them out of their comfort zone. That’s why partnerships with content experts are important, Dusenbery stresses. “You don’t have to be an educator, but we want you to learn how to be a great facilitator” and show children and adults how to find the information they want, he says.

Participants expect the conference to spark a variety of new relationships focused on increasing STEM education opportunities.

“The event was the most helpful conference that I have attended in recent memory,” says David Keely, who is coordinating a $1.2 million effort to create a guide for state library agencies on how to provide patrons “engaging and meaningful informal science and technology experiences.” Cornerstones of Science, a Maine nonprofit, and the Maine State Library, are leading the effort. “If there is the demand, excellent programming will follow.”




]]> 0
SPONSORED: Stars for Kat Spears’s “Breakaway”! Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:06:00 +0000 Breakaway, which has already garnered several starred reviews.]]> BreakawayNOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan

Last year we fell hard for librarian Kat Spears‘s debut novel, SWAY. Everyone else did, too: it received two starred reviews and was a YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick!

Her new novel, BREAKAWAY, is about a young man who finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his younger sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on.

Reviewers love it as much as we do—it already has two starred reviews:

“There’s not a single canned emotion to be found; each boy’s pain is visceral and true to his character. Readers will be hard-pressed to find a more realistic portrait of friends finding themselves while losing one another. A rare study of growing pains that gives equal weight to humor and hardship.”— Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A painfully honest and powerful depiction of the changing nature of friendships in the face of hardship and an exploration of what it means ‘to be human and alive.’” — Booklist, starred review

Download and read this pup already! Don’t see the green button? Get whitelisted.

For more information about our teen titles, download the 2015 Books for Teens poster now or request a copy by e-mailing your full name, title & mailing address to

]]> 0
Reviewers and Bloggers: Prepare for KidLitCon 2015, October 9–10, in Baltimore Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:50:45 +0000 KidlitconLogo2015The annual festival of book love known as KidLitCon, for people who write about children’s and young adult literature, takes place in Baltimore this year on October 9–10 at the Hyatt Place Inner Harbor hotel. Registration is now open for the two-day conference, which will include author panels, inside information on evaluating and reviewing books, and bowling.

The 2015 keynote speakers are Tracey Baptiste, the Trinidad-born author of The Jumbies (Algonquin, 2015), and Carrie Mesrobian, author of  YA novels Sex and Violence, Perfectly Good White Boy (Carolrhoda, 2013,  2014), and the forthcoming Cut Both Ways (HarperTeen, 2015).

Here are some highlights from the conference program.

Those wanting to take their reviewing game to the next level can hear from three bloggers-turned-writers for national publications, along with SLJ associate editor Mahnaz Dar, who will demonstrate  best practices in writing for publication.

Offering insight on how artists’ choices influence the experience of reading a picture book will be blogger Minh Le, Caldecott committee member and children’s literature consultant Susan Kusel, and artists Matt Phelan, illustrator of Marilyn’s Monster (Candlewick, 2015), Shadra Strickland, illustrator of Bird (Lee & Low, 2008)  and Kevin O’Malley, co-creator of At the Ballpark.

Participants can learn how to defend and promote books that some people might find “too scary” from certified coward Karen Yingling and authors Mary Downing Hahn (Took; HMH, 2015), Baptiste, and Ronald L. Smith (Hoodoo; HMH, 2015).

Matthew C. Winner, librarian at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, MD, and host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, will show what’s involved in putting together an entertaining, star-studded podcast month after month.

A panel of current and former Caldecott, Newbery, Eisner, Sidney Taylor, Printz, and Cybils (Childrens and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) committee members and judges will indulge in some Awards Committee Real Talk. The Cybils turns 10 this year; conference registration includes a Friday night buffet dinner at bowling alley Mustang Alley’s.

Other panels will address STEM-related books, intersectionality in children’s and YA literature, and issues of authentic representation, especially concerning LGBTQA+ and differently abled people.

]]> 0
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick | SLJ Review Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:00:10 +0000 WINICK, Judd. Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. 208p. (Hilo: Bk. 1). ebook available. Random. Sept. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780385386173. Gr 2-5–Daniel Jackson Lim, aka DJ, is an ordinary boy in a family of overachievers. He meets Hilo, a robot boy who fell to Earth from space and doesn’t know where he came from or what he is doing on this planet. DJ, along with his best friend, Gina, help Hilo unlock the secrets of his past [...]]]> HiLoWINICK, Judd. Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. 208p. (Hilo: Bk. 1). ebook available. Random. Sept. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780385386173.
Gr 2-5–Daniel Jackson Lim, aka DJ, is an ordinary boy in a family of overachievers. He meets Hilo, a robot boy who fell to Earth from space and doesn’t know where he came from or what he is doing on this planet. DJ, along with his best friend, Gina, help Hilo unlock the secrets of his past and stop the destruction of the planet. The first installment in this graphic novel series is a fast-paced adventure that is beautifully illustrated in full color and aimed at readers who would love to have a superhero friend. Captivating, silly, tender, and, most importantly, funny, this title will be popular with all readers—from reluctant to avid. The strength of friendship and cooperation is a theme throughout. With a cliff-hanger ending, the book will have kids eager for the sequel. VERDICT Diverse characters, good friends, and humorous dialogue coupled with colorful illustrations and plenty of action make this a must-have for all children’s graphic novel collections.–Paula Huddy, The Blake School-Highcroft Campus, Wayzata, MN

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

]]> 0