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.

ALA Exhibits: The Ones That Got Away

Cindy and Lynn: We picked up many great upcoming youth books at the recent ALA Exhibits and publisher events, but even so, there were a few that got away either because they went fast or won’t have an arc. The early bird gets the worm, and the hot new books. We try not to be greedy as we receive a bounty of books on our doorsteps throughout the year, but here are a few we are still eager to clutch in our hands.

 

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, by Mildred Taylor (Penguin, Jan. 2020)

The 10th and final book in the wonderful Logan Family Saga that began with Newbery Medal Winner, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. If you haven’t seen the repackaging of this series, with new cover art by Kadir Nelson, check it out.

 

Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters, by Emily Roberson (Farrar, Oct. 2019)

This one sounds like the Minotaur meets Hunger Games! A debut book we really wanted to find!

 

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds (S&S/Atheneum, Oct. 2019)

Reynolds crafts ten tales, one per block, about what happens on the walk home after the dismissal bell rings. We would have been heroes for sure if we’d scored this arc!

 

The Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black (Little, Brown, Nov. 2019)

Book 3 of the Folk of the Air series! Need I say more? We’re grateful that this publishing two months earlier than previously scheduled.

 

The Toll, by Neal Shusterman (S&S, Nov. 2019)

This concluding volume was probably the most begged-for galley from the older focus group and our Best Books Book Club.
(We wanted it too!)

 

The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

Lynn: I loved Ross Burach’s new picture book, The Very Impatient Caterpillar (Scholastic, 2019) from the moment I saw the cover. Burach is totally tuned into an important aspect of young readers. They can be intensely interested in the factual side of a topic while at the same time loving a goofily ridiculous take on it. This picture book presents the important and almost miraculous biological topic of metamorphosis while also managing to yank on the uniquely silly funny bones so typical of little kids.

A rather clueless green caterpillar notices that all his buddies are going somewhere without him. They tell him they are going to metamorphosize. “Wait,” he yells, “You’re telling me I can become a BUTTERFLY?” The caterpillar has no idea what to do and once he finally manages to become a chrysalis he nearly melts down when he discovers he is going to have to wait 2 weeks! My favorite part of this hilarious book is the section depicting the ways the caterpillar tries to pass the time inside the chrysalis.

I’m happy to report that this delightful book has already received 2 big thumbs up from the five-year-old member of our focus group whose teacher had read this to their class as part of a caterpillar unit. He assured me that it was the funniest book EVER!

Cindy: “Are we there yet?” What parent hasn’t heard that refrain from the backseat. Patience is a virtue but is often in short supply these days. This book pokes fun at that while the science and magic spins away and wraps us in a fun information presentation. Burach’s art is a brightly colored mix of pencil, crayon, acrylic paint, and digital coloring. Who knew caterpillars had such expressive tongues and eyes! The art teacher will want to take a look at this one, too! She’s going to need the full 64-pack of crayons for these wild butterflies!

 

Nine Months: A Picture Book for Siblings While They Wait

Cindy: I’m not drinking the water at my school anymore. We have pregnant teachers everywhere you look. In addition, my daughter-from-another-mother just delivered twins and has been helping her two-year-old understand what is happening. Do I have the book for all of them…and for anyone you know who has a baby on the way! Nine Months (Holiday/Neil Porter 2019), written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin, promises to be a new favorite for young families.

Many books feature stories about helping an only child adjust to a new baby in the family, but this one features the baby’s development in utero with detailed illustrations paired with the older sister’s related activities through the seasons as they await the new baby. While showcasing sizes from a 0.1mm fertilized egg to a double page spread with an actual size fetus ready to enter the world, rhyming text documents each stage of gestation. In Month Six (Weeks 22-26), when hearing develops, the sister sings to her mother’s belly:

Grasp.

Clasp.

Ears that can hear.

Sing as she listens.

Tell her you’re near.

Caldecott Honor artist Jason Chin is a perfect illustrator for this blend of fiction and science. His watercolor and gouache art bring to life the tiny features of the fetus and the big scenes outside of the womb with equal success. The backmatter is informative and provides extra discussion opportunities. More About Babies provides extra information, Humans vs. Animals compares gestation times, and a What If…section answers what happens in various other baby development scenarios including more than one embryo, early births, and miscarriage. Whoa, Baby! adds a list of 9 amazing things most babies can do before they’re born, including suck their thumbs and somersault. Whoa, indeed!

Game Changer: A Visit with Tommy Greenwald

Cindy: An email from my Scholastic Book Fair rep diverted my spring break reading this year. Would I be able to host an author event with Tommy Greenwald the week I returned from vacation to fill in for another school that had to cancel? Why, yes. Yes I could. I put aside the adult book I was reading (The Library Book by Susan Orlean) and bought a copy of Tommy’s latest book, Game Changer (Amulet, 2019), and read it on the flight home. I already had the book in my middle school libraries, but the attractive cover had kept it in circulation and out of my hands. I’m glad I have the extra copy as this is going to be a popular booktalk next fall.

Eighth grade football player Teddy is hospitalized in a coma after a head injury during a summer training camp. The story plays out in Teddy’s inner thoughts, dialogue between hospital visitors, texts, newspaper articles, counselor transcripts, and a social media online forum. This format exposes truths, rumors, opinions, and secrets as the mystery of what really happened to Teddy is unraveled. Greenwald, a football fan himself, explores the dangers of the sport along with the traditions of hazing in this all too realistic portrayal of how the game is often played. Lots of white space (due to the multimedia format), in addition to the many discussion points and the mystery make this a great choice for reluctant readers. The pages turn quickly as the truth comes to light.

Tommy’s presentation to our 6th-8th grade students was fun. His idea for the Charlie Joe Jackson series came from his three sons, Charlie, Joe, and Jack, non-readers all. As you can see in the photo, he tried to bribe his boys with ice cream. I don’t know if the book (or the ice cream) worked on his kids, but Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading is popular with legions of middle grade readers. He had our students laughing while also thinking about the writing process. It’s always heartening when kids realize that they are not the only ones who are asked to edit their writing. We didn’t have much time to prepare for the visit, but all of Tommy’s books are in circ now and will be for awhile. Author visits are so beneficial for promoting reading and to remind students that REAL PEOPLE write the books they are reading, or perhaps NOT reading. 😉 Thanks, Tommy!

Hop to It – Cynthia Lord’s New Rabbit Books

Lynn: Things are really hopping at Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord’s house. As proof, we offer her two new enchanting books that both feature rabbits. They also happen to have the most enticing and adorable covers EVER! In fact, we think all you’ll have to do to promote these is to set them face out on the shelf and stand back. And, since you may never get much chance to read them once the kids see them, here’s what is happening inside those covers.

Lord and her family foster rabbits rescued by Maine’s Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue. They help rescued domestic rabbits learn to trust humans and live in a house so they can be adopted. In her new nonfiction picture book, Borrowing Bunnies: A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits (Farrar, 2019), Lord tells the story of when two Netherland dwarf rabbits joined the family. Lord’s husband, professional photographer John Bald, decided to photograph their steps toward adoption. It was quite a surprise when one of the rabbits gave birth to four tiny babies. Sadly two of the babies died but the remaining two, Fezzi and Dodger, prospered.

The book introduces the original two rabbits, explains what fostering is and how rabbits are helped to feel safe and comfortable. The story then documents the surprising arrival of the babies and follows their growth and development. Lord uses clear simple text suited to young readers, focusing on rabbit behavior.

The wide format and white background provide the perfect format for John Bald’s enchanting photographs of these irresistible creatures. And if all this cuteness wasn’t enough, charming sketches from illustrator Hazel Mitchell skip through the pages. What reader will not instantly yearn to add a rabbit to their family immediately? Happily, Cynthia Lord was well aware of this and has provided an important final page titled, ” Do You Want Your Own Rabbit for Keeps?” Here she emphasizes the need to do additional rabbit research and offers 5 important questions to answer before becoming a bunny owner.

Cindy: The cover art drew both Lynn and me to Lord’s fiction title, Because of the Rabbit (Scholastic, 2019) and it’s sure to attract young readers. Each chapter opens with a torn scrap of lined paper with a rabbit fact, which also coordinates with the focus of the story in that chapter. Emma’s homeschooling is coming to an end as the book opens. It’s the night before she is off to start 5th grade at a public school and she is nervous about finding a friend and setting a good first impression. Her school supplies are ready, but is she? That night she accompanies her game warden father to rescue a bunny caught in a fence. When they do, they discover it’s not a wild rabbit that can be released, but a pet breed that may have an owner looking for it. Emma convinces her dad that they should take it home to foster until they can find the owner. In addition to bunny wrangling, Emma gets paired with a boy named Jack for a big project. He is on the autism spectrum and friendship doesn’t come easily. As a storyteller, I really enjoyed the integration of trickster bunny Monsieur Lapin’s tales that Emma recounts from her grandfather’s storytelling. Lord writes books that children connect with, and this one will find a ready audience.

Publisher’s Weekly published a Q&A with Cynthia Lord earlier this month that will interest readers who want to know more about Lord’s fascination with bunnies and other animals and her personal experiences that informed her storytelling.

We’re Not From Here

Lynn: Years of working in a middle school library have taught me that if you want to talk to students about serious issues you have to get and keep their attention first. Geoff Rodkey clearly gets that important fact. Author of the New York Times bestselling Tapper Twins series, Rodkey’s new book, We’re Not From Here (Crown, 2019) takes on timely issues but in a way that is sure to captivate young readers and crack them up even as it gives them much to think about.

We're Not From Here by Geoff RodkeyEarth has been made unlivable and the few who escaped are clinging to survival on the Mars station as food, supplies, and breathable air are running out. Told by 6th-grader Lan, a nick-of-time invitation arrives allowing these remaining humans to settle on the distant Planet Choom. Twenty years in stasis travel later, the human ship arrives only to be told that the government of Choom has changed its mind. Reluctantly, Choom officials agree to a test case—one “human reproductive unit” will be allowed to settle temporarily. Lan’s family is chosen with the future of humanity riding on their shoulders. “No pressure!”

Rodkey knows his audience and this dark-edged story is packed with the sorts of elements and humor perfectly tuned to young readers. It turns out the mosquito-like Zhuri express emotion by emitting odors. Imagine where middle-school senses of humor will go with THAT concept! The Zhuri also love slap-stick comedy and cheezy videos and Lan is an expert on these. Lan’s chatty breezy tone is the perfect vehicle for this extremely funny science fiction tale. Both the humor and the suspense will keep readers turning the pages eagerly and they won’t miss the important issues along the way. Rodkey puts kids squarely in the worn-out shoes of these human immigrants, allowing them to view immigration, refugees, news manipulation, mob violence, discrimination and more from a whole new perspective. Head, heart, and funny bone are all involved in this imaginative, out-of-this-world tale.

Rodkey has some excellent resources available on his website including an interview about the book with the Nerdy Bookclub, a wonderful teacher’s guide, the opportunity for a free Skype visit and more!