Owling: Whoooo Needs This Book? You Do!

Cindy: “You might not realize it, but you need to see an owl.” That’s the opening line of Owling (Storey, 2019) and you not only need to see an owl, but you need to see this book. Starting with a glow-in-the-dark cover, this large square book holds a wealth of fascinating details and gorgeous photographs of the 19 owls species that breed and nest in the United States and Canada. Can owls really turn their heads 360 degrees? How do an owl’s uneven ears help him pinpoint prey? These and other questions are answered in engaging text. Most welcome is the author Mark Wilson’s challenge to common owl “facts” not documented by research studies and his admission when his long study of owls leaves him without sure answers. Research never ends and we rarely have all the answers. 2-4 page spreads feature a specific owl species with a selection of photos, range maps, feather detail, size, behavior, voice, nesting behavior, menu, or other interesting features. The section on Poop and Pellets is sure to be a hit with the target audience, particularly if they’ve ever dissected an owl pellet to learn about an owl’s diet. The section on how to spot an owl has helpful tips that may produce success for young (and old) birders. Lynn heard about this book and then I received a review copy and have been reluctant to hand it over, but we can’t wait any longer to hoot about its publication. Owling is a perfect identification guide for a young birder, but it is so much more, and it has a place in elementary and middle school libraries and elementary science classrooms. Whooooo needs this book? You do!

Lynn: I really appreciate how this outstanding book is organized, the wonderfully researched information presented, and how much is packed into the book. But I need to mention the sheer audience appeal of the production. Talk about a kid magnet! Put this gorgeous book on display and watch it instantly fly off the shelf. Mark Wilson’s photographs almost steal the show. Every single page has a gallery of jaw-dropping pictures that beg to be studied. The images range from small collections illustrating a particular point to full-page photographs that are works of art. The painted illustrations by Jada Fitch are amazing, too.

I learned so much! The small sections showing what each of the various owls eats, “On the Menu,” was interesting and surprising. As a life-long birder, I really valued the identification information, especially tips on what each variety might be mistaken for and how to avoid that. Also as a birder, I loved the section of how to FIND owls in nature with its additional caution of how to also respect and treat them if you do find them or their roosts. Finally, also in the concluding sections, there is information on some of the current and on-going research projects on owls. The back matter includes a glossary and an extensive list of where to find Owls in Captivity by state so that readers can follow Wilson’s advice and become familiar with the appearance of the various owls.

Finally, I am on a mission to find my slides that were taken in the back yard of our first Holland house that sat in an old deeply forested woods. We had nesting Great Horned Owls there and summer after summer, a pair of adults parked their fledged but still dependent owlets on our deck during the day, I’m guessing while they went to hunt. The owlets were almost as big as the adults and absolutely delightful to watch. The squirrels seemed to know how clumsy the owl babies were and teased them by running just out of their reach on the railing underneath them.

Here is my picture of an Eastern Screech Owl but since I am no Mark Wilson, I urge you to find this book and see some REALLY terrific pictures!

The Things She’s Seen: Thriller, Murder Mystery, Ghost Story

Cindy: Fans of We Were Liars are going to want to read The Things She’s Seen (Knopf, 2019), another novel that begs to be read again as soon as you finish. Beth is dead but she hasn’t passed on. Her father is the only one who can see and hear Beth. He is a detective, lost in grief over first losing Beth’s mother a few years earlier, and then Beth. She thinks he needs something to think about so when a new case arises about a mysterious fire at a children’s home, she encourages him to take the case. While they investigate, Beth can observe and overhear things her living father cannot, aiding his detective work. While interviewing a surly teenage witness, Isobel Catching, Beth realizes that Isobel can see her, too. Isobel knows things about the fire and the school’s history but she is not quick to share. She has stories to tell, but is she willing, and are Beth and her father willing to listen carefully? Isobel tells her stories in magical realism verse, poems, and stories based on secrets and hard truths. The Aboriginal brother and sister storytellers weave painful Aboriginal history and racism into this haunting tale, spun from threads of folklore. As the story comes to a close, readers will want to return to the beginning to see how these storytellers wove such an intriguing tale. And, they’ll be begging their friends to read it, too, so they can talk it over. All this in under 200 pages! Yes!

Lynn: As Cindy says, remarkable young writers, Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, have packed a lot in this slim book! It somehow manages to be thriller, murder mystery, and supernatural ghost story with Palyku traditional tales all in one. Woven in are threads of dealing with grief, finding one’s voice, the powerful strengths of family bonds, the healing nature of storytelling, historical tragedies, and the monsters that lurk in our midst. This is a debut novel and the Kwaymullinas write with a powerful maturity, skillfully blending all these elements into a remarkable whole that is totally absorbing from start to finish. This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time.

Gather some snacks, settle into your reading chair, take a deep breath, and open to the first page. You won’t want to stop ’til the book is done!

A Book for All Those Square Pegs: Sweety by Andrea Zuill

Cindy: Sweety is an awkward retainer-wearing naked mole rat and I have the biggest soft spot in my heart for her. Andrea Zuill, thank you for creating Sweety (Schwartz & Wade, 2019) with the *best* illustrations to bring Sweety to life! When her friends share their dolls’ names, Sweety’s response (delivered with great enthusiasm), is:

This is Warrior Princess Zorna! Friend fo the friendless, destroyer of evil, lover of chocolate-beet cake with cream cheese frosting! Her favorite color is aubergine* and my mom made her for me!

*Grammarly didn’t know this color. You will be more worldly, or you can look it up!

Sweety sometimes wishes she were more like her friends, or even is jealous (For instance, Deb’s hair, and I do mean singular—ONE hair). Other times, she is content to be herself enjoying her hobby of fungi identification. The illustrations make me giggle and laugh…but always with Sweety, not at Sweety.

It’s Aunt Ruth who helps Sweety to understand that being a “square peg” is not a bad thing. She advises her niece to stay true to herself and promises that one day she’ll find her people. Zuill dedicates the book to “all those who have accepted their inner oddball.” We all know a Sweety or two…and perhaps some of us have our own inner oddball. Here’s to Square Pegs everywhere!

Lynn: I fell hard for Sweety too. The illustrations just crack me up! Don’t miss Sweety’s family album or vignettes of Sweety trying a different hobby. Even a “normal” hobby like knitting gets its own Sweety style.

But as much as I love the illustrations here, I love Andrea Zuill’s message to kids even more. We’ve said the same thing to the Sweety kids seeking refuge in the library over the years! Be true to yourself and hang in there. You will find your people. Happily in this charming book, Sweety doesn’t have to wait too long before she finds a kindred fungi-loving friend. Queue the secret handshake and make sure to share Sweety and her message to kids everywhere!

Cover Trend: School Supplies

Cindy: I love buying office supplies and like many of my students and teachers, I enjoy shopping the back-to-school sales. There’s always the feeling of a fresh start and the illusion of being really productive and organized when you have newly sharpened pencils, some fun markers, and empty notebooks ready and waiting. Even in the digital age of Chromebooks and phone apps, there’s something special about school supplies. Perhaps that’s why I was attracted to this new Swoon Reads YA book, Rules We’re Meant to Break (Feiwel/Swoon, 2019) by Natalie Williamson. I haven’t read it yet but the cover art reminded me of an older favorite middle-grade title, The Meaning of Maggie (Chronicle, 2014) by Megan Jean Sovern. We’re a month into our new school year so if your back-to-school supplies are starting to lose their shine, consider one of these novels to slip into your backpack!

Back to School Book Cover Trends: Classroom Desks

Cindy and Lynn: While store flyers have advertised Back to School sales since July 5th, the reality is just setting in here in Michigan. Cindy heads back officially on August 26th. Students are charging their Chromebooks and perhaps still sharpening a few pencils and figuring out what to wear next week on the first day. Some can’t wait, and others are dreading getting up early. Last year, we put together a cover trend of books featuring lockers and suggested putting together a display with directions on how to master that Masterlock. This year, we give you books with classic school desks on them, although in many schools, familiar rows of identical desks with attached chairs are being phased out and replaced by “flexible learning spaces.” For the vintage look, though, line up these titles for a back-to-school display:

 

The Unteachchables, by Gordan Korman

Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt

Cryer’s Cross, by Lisa McMann

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

What titles did we miss? School us!! Leave us a comment.

Hello, I’m Here!: A Sandhill Crane Family

Cindy: Author Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder have teamed up again to create another gorgeous and informative nature book, this time about a Sandhill Crane family. Hello, I’m Here! (2019) is told in Frost’s rhyming verse from the view of the chick, starting with his imminent hatching:

It’s getting crowded
inside this egg.
I can’t flap a wing
or stretch out a leg.

The young chick has much to learn before it becomes a colt but mama and papa and a sibling are there to help in the journey. Habitat, food, and dangers like the threat of snapping turtles are presented in the verse and Lieder’s intimate photography.  The journey of the crane chick mirrors the growth and learning of a young child with all of its new adventures and challenges making this a great choice to read aloud in large groups, or within the comforting nest of a caregiver’s lap. Sandhill Cranes are frequent fliers over the bayou behind my house. Listening to their prehistoric sounding call as the mist rises from the water in the early hours is a favorite treat, while a friend down the way usually has a nesting pair in her yard each spring. Frost and Lieder provide an even closer look for those of us who aren’t so lucky to see them in the wild.

Lynn: Frost’s first-person text uses simple vocabulary that is immediate and engaging and yet manages to pack in all sorts of interesting information about cranes including what they eat and what poses a danger to the chicks. A full page of additional information is provided in the back matter as well.

Rick Lieder’s remarkable photographs give young children an on-the-nest look at this enchanting family. Close-up views of the chicks fill the pages, making this one a joy to use with a group or as a lap book. Few children, or adults for that matter, have ever seen a nesting crane family and Lieder’s skill and patience provide this gift to everyone. Be prepared for demands for multiple readings!

On a personal note, Cindy and I belong to the Michigan Bird Watching group on Facebook where other gifted photographers have been posting pictures of a Sandhill Crane family at the Kensington Metro Park that includes an adopted Canada Goose gosling that is being lovingly raised along with their own chick. Here is what some are calling the “Abbey Road” photo of the family, by photographer, Jocelyn Anderson. She has more looks at this incredible family on her website. Thank you, Jocelyn, for allowing us to share your photo with our readers. Heart melting!

Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Anderson Photography, all rights reserved.

ALA Exhibits: Books, Books, Books

Cindy and Lynn: Bookends Blog here, reporting from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Yeah, we know the exhibit hall included technology and furniture vendors, library suppliers, and a food court, but our favorite aisles are the ones with booth after booth of youth books and our familiar school and library marketing reps. While we tried to follow our own advice about not being greedy in the aisles, we are delighted that these books made it into our suitcase:

 

Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden (Penguin/Putnam, Aug. 2019)

We raved about Small Spaces last year, and it has become a middle school favorite. Its sequel, Dead Voices, was one of the books we most wanted to get and it was the arc that we read on the flight home. If you want middle grade creepy, this is your series. Dead Voices finds Ollie, Coco, and Brian who survived the scarecrows and spooky cornfields of the first book now snowed-in at a haunted ski lodge that did remind us a little of the setting of Stephen King’s The Shining. We gotta believe he would love this book, too.

 

White Bird, by R. J. Palacio (Random, Oct. 2019)

Palacio, the author of the wildly popular Wonder, has written and illustrated her first graphic novel, White Bird. We were so excited to receive a gorgeous color galley and cannot wait to read it! This story is about a young Jewish girl who is hidden from the Nazis in occupied France during WWII.

 

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers, by Celia C. Perez (Penguin/Kokila, Sep. 2019)

One of our favorites of 2018 was Perez’s debut, The First Rule of Punk (Penguin, 2018). We stood in a very long line to get our hands on her new book and it sounds fabulous. The cover blurb says, “When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure is too intriguing to pass up.”  See, you’d stand in line too!

 

Free Lunch by Rex OgleFree Lunch, by Rex Ogle (Norton, Sept. 2019)

Rex Ogle was looking forward to starting sixth grade. Things are tough at home, though, with his mom and her boyfriend out of work and so she signs Rex up for free lunch. Then Rex discovers he has to announce that fact out loud every day to the lunch lady. Our school district has almost 60% of our students on a free lunch program and we think this is one that is truly important for them and everyone else in the district as well.

 

Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe, by Josh Allen (Holiday, Sept. 2019)

A debut author collection, blurbed by Gary Schmidt: Wonderful and weird, compelling and unsettling…These stories are scary because they are so very true.” We’re in!

 

While there was no lack of swag at the booths, our favorite item this year was a button promoting Jessica Pan’s new book, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come (Andrews McMeel, 2019). We can think of lots of places to sport this…staff meetings, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

allthe rest of our student population.