Archive | June, 2017

Calling all Hamilfans!

30 Jun

With the phenomenal  success of the musical Hamilton,  it was inevitable that we would see books about the eponymous hero.

I can make no comment on any of the nonfiction books, but I can tell you that I really enjoyed Melissa de la Cruz’s Alex and Eliza: A Love Story, which fictionalizes the story of how Alexander Hamilton met ad wooed Elizabeth Schuyler.

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From the  author’s website:  1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Hardcore Hamilton fans and fastidious historians might not appreciate this fictionalized account, but it is a great book that lets the reader escape the woes of the present for a while and see what it took to meet and marry your soulmate during the Revolutionary War.

The Upsides of Summer Vacation

29 Jun

Of course, having unlimited free time is one of the best upsides of summer vacation. There are other perks – few responsibilities, unlimited walks with Lucy, puttering about in the morning. The greatest upside is unlimited reading time. Ah, sweet summer reading! My local public library, like many nowadays, has a summer reading program for adults, too.

I’ve mentioned before that 4 of the 5 Morris finalists my committee selected have books coming out this year. So far, I have only read one of the 4, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, but I now possess the other 3.

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Publisher’s Summary: From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Molly is a real “every teen” – just an ordinary girl with no super powers, unless you count cookie dough. The book maintains the same lively tone we encountered in Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda without seeming repetitive or trite.

A Day in the Windy City

27 Jun

 

images Although the ALA Annual Conference runs through Tuesday, Monday was all about visiting Chicago.

The day opened with breakfast, a few blocks from my hotel,  at the Eleven City Diner on S. Wabash.

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There were many good things to choose from, and I finally settled on Lox & Latkes, with cream cheese.

The service and food were both excellent.

 

 

Full and happy, my sister and I walked over to the Field Museum, enjoying the panoramic vistas along the way.

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As we entered the Field Museum, we were greeted by Sue.

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We arrived just after opening and left just after noon, and our timing was great. The museum was pretty empty and was only just starting to get busy when we were ready to leave. There were lots of amazing things to see but the unexpected treasure was a display of the sculptures of Malvina Hoffman.

Museum Summary: In the 1930s, The Field Museum commissioned talented sculptor Malvina Hoffman to create bronze sculptures for an exhibition called The Races of Mankind. A gifted artist who studied under Rodin—and a woman in a male-driven art world—Hoffman travelled the globe in order to sculpt many of her subjects from life. The resulting sculptures were intended to portray “racial types,” as the theory of the day categorized them.

These sculptures have recently undergone conservation treatment, and fifty of the most beautiful are now featured in The Field Museum’s new exhibition Looking at Ourselves: Rethinking the Sculptures of Malvina Hoffman. The new exhibition is a rich inquiry into the concept of race, which has changed drastically over the past eighty years but is still very much with us today.  Hoffman’s artworks embody the complicated ways we look at culture and race, but they are also detailed and nuanced portraits of individual persons.

My sister had to take a conference call. so we returned to the hotel, walking along the lakefront before cutting across through the park.

After the call we headed out again, taking a water taxi to Navy Pier, where we took an Architectural River tour. Several people had recommended this tour and it was well worth it. I learned about architecture in general, in addition to the history and architecture of Chicago.

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Although it was a long walk – we ended up with over 22,000 steps for the day – we walked from Navy Pier, down the Magnificent Mile to the Lou Malnatti’s pizza near our hotel. I was a little hungry, tired and cranky, so the wait for a table was hard, but the deep-dish pizza was delicious.

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I am probably at some point in my return journey as you read this, happy after an excellent visit to the  Windy City, but looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

 

A jam packed day #alaac17

26 Jun

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All of Monday morning was taken up with a very productive Sibert committee meeting. After the meeting most of us piled into taxis and headed over to the Palmer House for a lunchtime presentation on the creation of art in picture books, hosted by Simon & Schuster.

Peter Brown, Jessie Sima, Marla Frazee, and Brendan Wenzel were four of the six artists who explained the process they went through to create the art for these books.

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After the luncheon, I went to meet my sister in the exhibit hall , where she had saved a place in line for us for the 2 p.m. book signing by Anna-Marie McLemore. I got an arc of Wild Beauty, which will be out later this year.

While in line, I noticed Little, Brown was nearby so I had my sister hold my place while I popped over to ask for, and receive, an arc of Jade City by Fonda Lee.

 

 

 

 

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From there we attended Booklist’s  on 50 years of YA, which featured  a panel of YA authors including Daniel Jose Older, Nicola Yoon, Kristin Cashore, Neal Shusterman, and Megan Whalen Turner.

We returned to our hotel after the presentation to rest, then get dressed for the Caldecott Newbery Wilder dinner. Although the speeches were excellent, the best moment of the evening occurred as Ashley Bryan was being escorted off the stage after receiving his Caldecott Honor Award. He turned to the audience and recited, in call and response style, Langton Hughes’ Motto:

I play it cool
I dig all jive
That’s the reason
I stay alive
My motto
As I live and learn
Is dig and be dug in return

Monday will be our day to pack in as much of Chicago as we can…and get some Chicago style deep dish pizza!

Work & Play #alaac17

25 Jun

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Saturday is always the busiest day of the conference. Mine started with the always excellent “Rise & Shine” breakfast with MacMillan. Several great authors spoke and we learned about some great books that will be coming in the fall.

Then my big mistake happened. Breakfast wrapped up around 8:30 and my first meeting didn’t start until 10:30. I knew where my meeting was and figured it would either be a two shuttle bus ride or a 15 minute walk. I decided to walk. It wasn’t until I arrived at the WRONG Hyatt Regency that I realized I had walked in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I was early and the shuttle buses were right where I needed them.  When I got on the shuttle to, I learned I wasn’t the only one to have made this mistake. Finally, at the right Hyatt Regency, my first meeting was excellent and productive.

Lunch with Penguin Random House followed. Then a quick tour of the Exhibit Hall. I had a list of arcs I wanted and got a few of them. The exhibit hall can be overwhelming, so I headed back to the hotel to drop off the books and have a little quiet time before my second meeting. It, too was productive and I feel that we are really getting a sense of ourselves as a group.

Saturday’s highlight was dinner with MacMillan. Four authors, Katherine Applegate, Gene Luen Yang, Steve Sheinkin and Jennifer Chambliss Bertman each sat at one of our tables and we got to question them, talk and just generally enjoy a pleasant evening together.

I slept well last night.

 

 

#alaac17 – Day 1

24 Jun

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The coolest things about this year’s conference is that my twin sister is here with me! This is her first ALA conference and we started off with a bang.

After checking in at our hotel, we headed over to the convention center to pick up our badges and take a swing through the exhibit hall.

 

downloadAfter that, our first stop was the Holiday House reception at the Park Grill in Millennium Park. It was a nice reception and, afterwards, we went up top to the Bean. After a few photos we wandered over to listen to the end of concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. We got to hear the Grant Park Orchestra, conducted by the Portland Symphony’s Music Director Carlos Kalmar, and pianist Conrad Tao play the end of The Firebird. It was a great introduction to Chicago.

From there we walked to an ice cream social hosted by Penguin Random House at the Chicago Athletic Association’ Stagg Court, a converted basketball court!

We ended the evening at a MacMillan dessert event, where lots of authors were on hand My favorite comment to my sister was, “Lemony Snicket is right behind you!”

Tomorrow is chock full of meetings for me, but there will be some fun author sightings and other fun conference events to tell you about.

 

 

On my way to Chicago #alaac17

23 Jun

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It’s been a whirlwind of a week. I said goodbye to my students, checked out with my principal, and flew out the school parking lot so I could get home in a timely manner. I needed to feed Lucy before dropping her off at Sniff Dog Hotel.

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When I got home I packed my bag. I like to do it after Lucy is settled at Sniff, because seeing the suitcase makes her nervous.

I was up earlier than I needed to be this morning and plan on getting to the airport earlier than necessary. It is just my nature. It is a four-hour flight to Chicago and I have a good book to read.

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And that is how I spent my first day of summer vacation. Tomorrow I’ll start posting about the conference itself.

 

 

The Dynamic Duo

22 Jun

First, they gave us Extra Yarn.

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Then, they gave us Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

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And now, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have given us Triangle.

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See how the cover ha no title and doesn’t list the author or illustrator? The back cover tells us more.

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Between the covers zaniness of the Laurel and Hardy variety ensues.

Publisher’s Summary: Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . With this first tale in a new trilogy, partners in crime Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen will have readers wondering just who they can trust in a richly imagined world of shapes. Visually stunning and full of wry humor, here is a perfectly paced treat that could come only from the minds of two of today’s most irreverent — and talented — picture book creators.

This is the first book in a picture book trilogy. You can learn more in this video from the publisher.

 

Is this illegal?

20 Jun

I had a list of errands a mile long. That’s why I was sitting in my car, in front of the library, waiting for it to open. I was running a bit ahead of schedule, but, as this was only stop number two of eight, I wasn’t cocky over over-confident. I knew this was temporary.

I had a few minutes to kill, so, as I sat listening to The Underground Railroad, I decided to look through my wallet to see what Items I should remove before my upcoming trip to Chicago. I usually only like to carry the cards I need, and an emergency credit card. As I riffled through the items tucked into pockets, my eyes caught sight of my car insurance card, and they bugged out of my head. The expiration date was two weeks ago.

I calmed myself down, closed my eyes and tried to remember if the new cards had come in the mail. I couldn’t see them in my mind’s eye, but remembered receiving the list of   E-Z Pay dates and amounts that would be deducted from my account. Okay,  I thought, calming a little, they haven’t closed my account, so I’m still good.

I tried to remember receiving the big envelope that arrives annually, but couldn’t. That didn’t mean it hadn’t come. Knowing they were planning to deduct the payments, I was sure it had to be at home. I was nervous, but planned to look for the cards as soon as I got home. If they were there, they’d be in one of two places.

The library opened and I got my holds. Driving to complete the next six errands, I was nervous, worrying that, with an expired insurance card in my car, this would be the time something happened. Nothing did.

When I got home I looked in the first of the two places…and there was that lovely large envelope that I;d never opened. I tore it open and there were the cards. I carefully tore along the perforations and put one card in my wallet and another in an enveloped labelled  INSURANCE 2017-18, to be placed in the glove compartment later. Then, I sat, and finally relaxed.

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Title twins: Epic Fails and Brilliant Falls

19 Jun

Sometimes the title of one book makes me think of another.

I just checked out The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. It reminded me of Kate Messner’s The  Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

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Both are solid middle grade novels that tackle issues of family. Both have strong grandmother characters, of which I am a little jealous, never having really known mine well. Both would make excellent summer reads for kids if late elementary, early middle school age.

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Publisher’s Summary: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

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Publisher’s Summary: Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project-or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country sectionals race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Biana Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy- as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.
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