Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Summer Reading, Tween Reads

Fun Summer Challenge with author Adam Perry!

With Summer Reading in full swing, I thought this may be a fun challenge for middle grade and tween readers!

Adam Perry, author of The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, has a summer challenge that just sounds like too much fun. I’ve got his book coming up shortly – I’m finishing a few graphic novels and two more middle grade books at the moment – and it sounds like just the sort of lost-in-a-book-adventure that I adore. Think The Ninja Librarians, the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, or Book Scavenger.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, by Adam Perry,
(March 2021, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781499811247

Ages 8-12

Hey, how about a readalong? Read The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books along with me, right here! I’ll aim to start it next week; I’ll post when I start it, and can post every few chapters, to see if we can get a discussion going!

So while you’re waiting for me to get my act together, watch this video where Adam Perry talks about his book and his fun Summer Challenge, with very cool goodiesAnd download your Adam Perry Summer Reading list here: your kids have until September 22nd to read just one of these books!

 

Psst… if any of my library families are reading this? Our library system has the book in 8 of our branches (all requestable!), and an ebook available.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books has a starred review from Shelf Awareness. Read John Schu’s interview with the author here!

Posted in programs, Summer Reading

Summer Reading: Which theme to choose?

Summer Reading’s coming! How many different themes are there, and how does your library choose?

This year, my library system is doing the Reading Takes You Everywhere theme. After a year in relative quarantine, we thought it was time to indulge some armchair wanderlust! Our Summer Reading site has links to our booklists, programs, and our Reading Challenge site, through ReadSquared, for the second year running. I mean, when you think of it, travel can be to so many places – through a book, you can visit outer space as easily as you can visit your neighborhood library.

 

I know so many library systems are part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, and their theme this year, Tails and Tales, is just adorable! Also, home run – animal stories are always a win with the kiddos! The CSLP site has great resources, downloads, and ideas. If you have an access code, you can download the whole manual, which has booklists, programming ideas, and templates for early childhood, children, and teens.

 

For older tweens and teens who like the spookier side of life, a side theme you can run is Summer Scares, a program created by the Springfield-Greene County Library District, the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Booklist, and United for Libraries. I first found out about Summer Scares through the RA for All blog, and love the idea of having some extra offerings for my older readers who may be more interested in thrills and chills. The free programming guide features three suggested books for adults, for teens, and for tweens/middle graders, along with readalikes and programming ideas. A friend of mine who works in a different branch in our system is a horror/spooky books fan, too, and we’re both thinking up some ways to introduce Summer Scares programming and displays, with some QR codes to link our libraries’ (our libraries are in the same system, but about 13 miles apart) programming and Bitmoji collections.

Those are the three Summer Reading programs I know about – tell me about yours!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, geek culture, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Reading Rundown, Reading Challenge!

There are SO many great books coming out over the next few weeks, WOW. My reading mojo came back with a vengeance, thankfully, about a month ago, and I have been working on the TBR; everything I pick up has been really good stuff. I’m also starting to come out of an overall blue period (like Picasso, but not as talented), so I’m hoping my blogging can keep up with my reading habits. Let’s give it a whirl.

Con Quest, by Sam Maggs, (June 2020, Imprint), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250307279

Ages 9-13

The first book is Sam Maggs’s middle grade novel, Con Quest. If you already know Sam Maggs, I welcome you, my geek friend. If you don’t, this is a great place to start. She’s a geek girl who’s written comics, nonfiction about fandom, and awesome women in history, but this is her first middle grade novel. And what a novel it is. It’s a love letter to fandom and con life; to Supernatural fans and quests for charity; to friendship, family, and that first blush of a new crush. If you dig fandom, are in fandom, or are fandom-adjacent, you’ll recognize the players here. At a con that’s remarkably similar to San Diego Comic Con, twin siblings Cat and Alex are competing in an intense quest, run by one of their fave celebs, to benefit a charity. The big prize is getting to meet the celeb, but first, they have a gauntlet of geeky challenges to complete, all while dodging their older sister, who is SUCH a drag. There are great, realistic characters here – con life is truly stranger than fiction, friends – and moments you’ll recognize and love. The characters are fun and diverse, with a diversity in gender identity and culture; one of the main characters, Alex, is autistic and Sam does a good job at describing how he experiences things, as opposed to his slightly intense (and sometimes frustrating) sister, Cat.

Introduce Cat and Alex to your readers, then get a (virtual) library con up and running to introduce them to the joy that is fandom. Hey, Free Comic Book Day is running for most of the summer!

 

Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed, (July 2020, Random House Children’s), $16.99, ISBN: 9780593174470

Ages 9-13

All hail the middle grade superhero novels! We are – hopefully – getting our long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 movie this October, so TALK THIS UP. Our tweens and teens have Tempest Tossed, a phenomenal Wonder Woman original graphic novel; middle graders and tweens now have Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed. Here, Diana is a tween herself, a princess forbidden to learn to fight, despite living on an island of warrior women. She’s hoping to persuade her mother, Queen Hippolyta, this year… maybe during the festivities, when her best friend, Princess Sakina arrives, they can plan an approach? Before the festivities begin, Diana discovers a stowaway – a BOY – on Sakina’s mother’s ship, and learns that the entire island of Themyscira has been put under a sleeping spell. Diana and Sakina, the only two awake on the island, must travel with this boy to his island, where a demon lies in wait, wanting to capture Diana.

This is the first in a Wonder Woman trilogy, and Aisha Saeed wastes no time getting to the action. Diana and Sakina’s friendship is well-written and realistic; she creates larger-than-life figures and makes them very human; the girls are giggly best friends who plan to sleep in the same room so they can stay up all night, and yet also ready, at a moment’s notice, to go on a dangerous mission to fight a demon and free their mothers. It all comes together beautifully, with great world-building, pacing, and storytelling. I can’t wait for the next book.

Follow the DC Comics Kids Twitter and Instagram for DC Kids Camp activities. There are coloring sheets, videos, and crafts that everyone will love: you know you want to color, too.

 

Rise of Zombert (The Zombert Chronicles), by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Ryan Andrews, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201062

Ages 8-12

This first book in a new middle grade series is a good one for kids who want to read something creepy, but not TOO scary. In a corporate town where everything is owned and run by YummCo Foods, a black cat escapes a lab. He’s found by a girl named Mellie, who discovers the filthy, ragged cat in a dumpster and takes him home to nurse back to health. She names him Bert and decides that he’s going to be the pet she’s always wanted… but Berg wants blood. He has a taste for heads, in particular; after decapitating Mellie’s stuffed animals, he heads out for less stuffy game. As cats would do, Mellie discovers Bert’s version of sharing a meal with her, when she keeps finding headless birds and mice left for her. Mellie’s best friend, Danny, is convinced the cat is a zombie, and readers will get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on at YummCo than the oh-so-friendly representatives will let on. And Bert? Well, he can’t really understand why Mellie isn’t appreciating his gifts, he still feels something for the girl, but nothing can stop him from his mission: revenge and freeing the other animals in the lab.

I loved how this book built and built up the suspense, but it ended so abruptly, I had to check and make sure I wasn’t reading an excerpt. It’s a fast-paced read, and will definitely invest readers right away. The black and white sketches add to the moody atmosphere of the book, and the ending will leave everyone waiting for the sequel. Kara LaReau is the author of the Infamous Ratsos series, so she knows how to write for a younger audience and get things moving along quickly. Ryan Andrews illustrated another book I love, The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

 

The Mulberry Tree, by Allison Rushby, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536207613

Ages 9-13

I LOVE a good creepy book, and this one is amazing. If you’re a Mary Downing Hahn reader, run to your computer and request or buy The Mulberry Tree. Ten-year-old Immy (Imogene) and her parents have moved from Australia to the English countryside as her father battles depression. They decide to rent an adorable thatched English cottage, but the realtor – and the town – have their misgivings about anyone living there. You see, there’s an cursed mulberry tree in the backyard; a tree that’s rumored to have stolen two girls away on the eves of their 11th birthdays. People cross the street rather than walk by the tree, and when Immy’s father speaks out on the ridiculousness of a tree kidnapping girls, Immy finds herself even more of a pariah at school. But when she starts hearing a strange song in her head, and seeing the tree move, she begins to wonder whether the rumors may be true after all. What’s the story of the tree? Immy’s going to have to do some investigating to find out, and she’d better hurry… her 11th birthday is coming.

This book hooked me from the first page. It deals with depression and grief, and how it can drive a wedge into a family; a spooky tree with a cursed history, and mean girls. If you have readers who love a bit of the creepy, with some supernatural thrown in, give them this book. I read this one in one night, because I refused to put it down until I was done. The setting, the pacing, everything built at such a wonderful pace, and the resolution… chef’s kiss good. One of my favorite Quarantine Reads so far.

Allison Rushby wrote 2018’s The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery; an historical fiction ghost story. It’s a good one; pick it up if you haven’t had the chance yet.

 

Last but not least, a reading challenge! What better way to keep track of all of the great books you’ve been reading with your kids (you are reading with them, aren’t you?) than by working through reading challenges together? I just received an email with seven printable challenges, all free, all downloadable, through Redbubble. There’s Book Bingo; a Cross-Genre reading list; a Habit Tracker; a Create Your Own Reading List; and my favorite, a Reading Coloring Sheet where you can color in books on a bookshelf as you read (and, if you’re like me, try to write itty bitty names on the spines). These add a little bit of color to the same old boring reading logs the kids get sent home with every summer, so try one or two out. You can view all the reading challenges here.

As always, I received eArcs of all the books I talked about in exchange for reviews. Thanks for reading, and go get some books!

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, programs, Summer Reading, Tween Reads

Summer Reading Programs: Spy Week

My second big Summer Reading programming theme was Spy Week. Again, Pinterest was my co-pilot, as I created dossiers and came up with activities to keep the kids happy and thinking that week.

First, I put out any kind of books with spy/espionage themes, and booktalked them as I introduced Spy Week. Favorites were Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders (and they’re excited that the second one is coming out), The League of Unexceptional Children, Harriet the Spy, The Fourth Stall, Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache, and Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist all went over really well.

Secret-Decoder-printableI made up dossier folders for the kids to keep their materials – I ended up using all 50 sets, so whoo hoo! I printed out Confidential and Top Secret-type stamps to glue on each cover. The first day, we took on secret coding. I gave the kids copies of a code wheel, a breakdown of Morse Code, and an info sheet on PinPrick Code, along with a secret message written using the Code Wheel and PinPrick Code. I used a page from an old book (destined for the trash pile) for the PinPrick Code, and I used dots with a pen rather than pinpricks. The message was the same using both the Code Wheel and the PinPrick, so the kids could use either method and get the same message: “Congratulations! See Miss Rosemary for a prize!” I gave out stickers, bookmarks, and temporary tattooos as prizes and everyone was happy.

fingerprintsDay Two was Fingerprints and Secret Messages day. I gave the kids a printout on fingerprinting, a small sheet describing the different types of fingerprint styles (arch, whorls, loops), and showed them how to take the own fingerprints by scribbling on a piece of paper with a pencil, rolling your finger around on the graphite, and then applying their prints to paper. We also talked about the fact that no two people have the same fingerprints, and that’s why taking fingerprints is helpful in finding criminals, missing people, and identifying employees like folks that work in schools. After the kids took their own fingerprints, I mixed up lemon juice with water, handed out cups of the solution, along with small paintbrushes, and let the kids write their secret messages. When they got home, I told them to hold the message over a heat source like a hair dryer or a light bulb, with an adult, so the message would be revealed.

Day Three, we showed the first Spy Kids movie, and the attendance was strong! I was pretty happy about it, and the kids loved seeing all the wacky gadgets used in the movie. My partner in crime and co-children’s librarian had a Spy Crafts table after the movie, where kids made fake mustaches and paper plate masks.

20160714_163905Day Four was Spy Training Camp, and that’s where things got fun. I created a laser maze in our meeting room using yarn, and the chairs and tables. I ended up having about 30 kids going through the maze again and again, and then they came out to try their hands at TNT Hot Potato. 20160714_163316I wrapped up toilet paper rolls in red tissue paper, taped them together with black duct tape, used a yellow pipe cleaner as a fuse, and we had TNT. We played the Mission: Impossible theme as the kids tossed them back and forth; everyone got prizes for competing.

Finally, the fifth day was the big Spy Hunt – I told the kids that secret agents for the Bad Guys were loose in the children’s room, and they had to locate them. I hid five of these guys, below, throughout the children’s room and gave them code numbers like 007, 009, and so on. I also had a bonus – a giant Classified stamp – that went on my desk (I always give them a “free zone”). The kids found the agents, wrote the numbers on their sheets, and, you guessed it, got prizes. We like prizes here. Everyone who took part received a Spy ID card and Spy School certificate to close out their week.

spy_318-64610

I was thrilled with the success of Spy Week! The kids were so into it, and it really gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep topping myself in terms of creating exciting programming. One of the most amazing things about this profession is the openness and willingness to share information with one another; I have a huge debt to both The Show Me Librarian and Bryce Don’t Play, both librarians with amazing blogs and wonderful Spy programs that I borrowed liberally from to make my week a success. Thank you so much for sharing your work with everyone!

I’ve made my Spy Week programming folder on Google Drive shareable, if anyone would like to use some of the stuff. I’ve got just about everything I handed out here, and a few things I didn’t get to. There’s also a really good booklist from the International Spy Museum that helped when I was putting together my own booktalking list. Check it out!

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Sync AudioBooks for Teens is back for Summer Reading!

Great news! SYNC 2016 will give away 30 titles — two paired audiobook downloads a week, starting May 5th and ending August 18th!

For anyone who doesn’t know what SYNC is: SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens. Starting May 5th 2016, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. Sign up for email or text alerts and be first to know when new titles are available to download at www.audiobooksync.com.

160x600-sync-2016

Titles from award-winning authors such as Chinua Achebe, M.T. Anderson, Laura Ruby, Andrew Smith, David Levithan, and Tamara Ireland Stone. Check out the ToolKit, offering printable poster options (I’ve already got mine up in my Teen section) and posters with QR codes that will enable users to play sound clips.

This year, there’s a great SoundCloud link to an audio sampler – I’ve embedded it here for your listening pleasure. Get ready for Summer Reading and Listening!

Posted in Teen

Blackout Poetry in the Classroom

I’ve been working on Summer Reading programs to bring into my libraries, and the concept of Blackout Poetry in the Classroom grabbed my eye (thanks, Hushlander!). It reminded me of the book Rhyme Schemer, which I enjoyed, and think that my teens and tweens may get a kick out of using a Sharpie and an old newspaper or book page to create some art. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Does anyone have any Summer Reading programs for teens to talk about? I’d love to hear!

Posted in Teen, Tween Reads

Summer Reading for Tweens and Teens! Refeatured Reviews!

The New York Summer Reading Lists for Tweens and Teens Summer Reading look pretty fantastic this year. I’ve read a few of the books on the list, so I thought I’d reshare those reviews to get you started.

city-of-ember

The City of Ember is a great beginning to a hugely popular series. Imagine a post-apocalyptic society that went underground to survive. They live off the meager light produced by generators. But after so long underground, the power is going out in Ember. There’s been rumor that there’s a way out… who will be brave enough to uncover the truth about Ember?

 

 

icefall

Icefall is an amazing book that I was lucky enough to read when I was on the Cybils Awards panel a couple of years ago. A Viking warrior king’s children are sequestered away while their father is at war. A storm encloses their stronghold in ice, and they learn that there’s a traitor in their midst.

 

 

 

zita

Zita the Spacegirl is a graphic novel series that I’ve evangelized from day one. I love the story, I love the art, and most importantly, I love the character. Zita is a spunky Earth girl who finds herself in space on an adventure. Her adventure continues in Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and Return of Zita the Spacegirl – don’t miss out on this series.

 

 

indarkness

In Darkness won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2013, with good reason. This taut story of a young Haitian gang member trapped in the rubble of a hospital in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake is compulsively readable, equally parts fascinating and brutal.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Summer Reading is Here! Refeatured kids’ reviews to get you started!

It’s that time – Summer Reading Time! My library is taking part in the Fizz, Boom, Read! Summer Reading program, and I’ve got reading logs and bulletin boards ready to go. I’m super excited, because I also have two storytimes! On Fridays in July, I’ll begin my Toddler storytime and my Picture Book storytime, so I’ve been getting my storytime plans together and taking a lot of inspiration from some great sites on the web (Storytime Katie and Hushlander are great blogs with great ideas)!

tubby

In the meantime, I noticed that a few books I’ve reviewed here have landed on the Summer Reading List, so I’ve decided to refeature those reviews, for anyone interested in learning a little about the books, starting with Leslie Patricielli’s board book, Tubby. I’m a huge fan of Leslie Patricelli and the baby featured in her board books (No No Yes Yes, Yummy Yucky, Toot, and more!); any parent would get a kick out of these.

 

 

chicka_chicka_boom_boom

Next up is Bill Martin Jr.’s Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom. If you haven’t read this one to your little ones yet, I urge you to pick it up! There are great toys and games that go along with the book, and with the companion book, Chicka Chicka 1,2,3, too.

 

 

 

t-is-for-terrible

 

Now, to the picture books. I’ve only read one on the list so far – T is for Terrible, by Peter McCarty. It’s an adorable book that features a T-Rex, musing over his T-Rex-ness. He can’t help that he’s not a vegetarian.

 

 

That’s all for the little ones this time around – stay tuned, as I read my way through the Summer Reading list this year!