Archive | July, 2017

Happy birthday, J. K. Rowling

31 Jul

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She is 7 months younger than me and a lot richer. That’s okay, though. We each have our own path to tread in this world and our job is to walk it well.

Ten days ago, J. K. Rowling, it was announced that two new books would be added to the Harry Potter canon. Harry Potter UK publisher, Bloomsbury and the British Library are creating two  books to accompany this autumn’s exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the library in London,  to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first book.

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From J.K. Rowling’s Website: Harry Potter: A History of Magic will be the official book of the British Library’s exhibition.

A collaboration between Bloomsbury and the brilliant curators of the British Library, the book promises to take readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – from Alchemy and Potions classes through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition including Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic is a family edition of the first book, geared at younger readers.

I will honestly admit that I did not read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  I see it as sort of semi-canonical. Yes, Rowling was in on the original idea, but she was not really part of the writing. And, I don;t want to see Harry as a haggard middle-aged dad.  I see enough of those in my real life.

Although I did not read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I am curious to see these two books. Both books will publish in the UK on 20th October 2017 when the British Library exhibition opens its doors to visitors in London. I have no idea when they will publish this side of the pond.

 

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A little bird told me to read this one

30 Jul

“Give me stretch-waist shorts and a T-shirt any day of the week, please.”

Oh, how I laughed when I read this line in Sally J. Pla’s debut middle-grade novel, The Someday Birds.  It describes my preferred summer wardrobe. And excellent summer wardrobe  choices isn’t the only reason why I like the main character, Charlie. He is a sensitive soul, clearly somewhere on the autism spectrum, but incredibly likable.

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In addition to sympathizing with his wardrobe choices, I connected with his seemingly irrational belief that things will be okay if he can see all the birds he and his dad recorded on their “Someday Birds List”.  When I was an exchange student in Denmark, I convinced myself I was a jinx because, just before I moved to my second host family, a family tragedy struck. A few weeks later, a second tragedy occurred. I understood neither were my fault, but I couldn’t help thinking they were.

Publisher’s Summary: Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan.

When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.

Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

The Someday Birds is a debut middle grade novel perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree, filled with humor, heart, and chicken nuggets.

The mysterious new family member, Ludmilla, is a Bosnian war orphan with a connection to their father that Charlie and his older sister, Davis, want to uncover. When we finally hear her story, it is enough to break a reader’s heart, but brings everyone closer together.

This is a highly readable, beautiful story, full of humor and pathos – and it might just be a Newbery contender.

A Strong YA Debut

28 Jul

While Angie Thomas is getting a lot of media attention for her debut novel The Hate U Give,  there is another debut novel you should read that addresses issues of immigration, assimilation, violence, and drug dealing in Detroit.

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Publisher’s Summary:

In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

American Street  is grittier than The Hate You Give.  Like Starr in The Hate U Give, the main character in American Street, Fabiola, is caught between two worlds. Woven throughout the narrative is Haitian Voodoo. And the narrative voice here is very strong. We spend a lot of time inside Fabiola’s head, where she is trying to make sense out of this strange world she finds herself in, and trying to find away to make her family whole again.

If you have read The Hate You Give,  be sure to pick up American Street.

First read aloud of 2017-18

27 Jul

I found my first read aloud for the new school year.

It’s an important choice to make because it sets a tone for the entire school year.

That is why Posted by John David Anderson is perfect.

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Anderson knows how to build great characters – and he creates realistic middle school boys. He did so in Mrs. Bixby’s Last day and he does so here.

He gets middle schoolers in general. All the stereotypes are there, but hey, they are in the middles school I teach at. In the characters he fleshes out more fully, he shows that people aren’t just they stereotype you think they are.

He is not afraid to tackle tough topics. In Mrs. Bixby,  he tackled death. In Posted,  he tackles bullying. We became a one-to-one school last year, but before that we let kids use devices for educational purposes. Despite our best efforts, things still happen. I think reading Posted aloud will give us one more way to tackle tough issues and safe examples to use.

He knows how to balance serious topics with humor. There are enough goofy middle schooly bits peppered in the conversations among the main characters that there will be laughs. It is good to have some balance. Although I don’t think it will win the Newbery, I have this one on my Mock Newbery list because I tink it is one kids will really gravitate towards.

Publisher’s Summary:

From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.

In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

 

Veni, Vidi, Vomit

25 Jul

Nothing makes me move faster than that URP URP URP sound of a dog about to vomit.

Louie used to find and eat all sorts of nasty things. He vomited often and help speed up my reaction time.

Fiona was less opportunistic.

Lucy, like my first basset Clara, rarely vomits. And yet, it happened yesterday.

There we were, curled up on the sofa on a hot summer afternoon, enjoying the cool of the air-conditioned house. I was engrossed in the book I was reading. Lucy was curled up sleeping deeply – until she wasn’t.

In a flash she was off the sofa and the URP URP URP began.

I threw aside my book (Posted by John David Anderson) and leapt to action. I grabbed the paper towels, a trash can, and the Nature’s Miracle spray. By the time I returned, Lucy had finished, but had not yet begun the canine “ritual” that often follows. I was that quick.

Although I am a gagger, I have mastered the art of cleaning dog vomit without gagging. It mostly involves lots of paper towels and turning my head to one side. And lots of breath holding.

Within a few moments, Lucy was curled up again, none the worse for wear. I washed my hands a few times, changed out the paper towels covering “the spot”, and washed my hands a few more times. Then, I, too, was curled up on the sofa, reading as if nothing had happened.

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Per ardua ad astra

24 Jul

Once a week, Mr. Glaesner, my high school Latin teacher, taught us Latin mottos and phrases. I have forgotten much, but these have stuck.  One such expression is per ardua ad astra…through hardship to the stars. It would be a great motto for the CatStronauts,  the heroes of a graphic novel series by Drew Brockington.

We met the heroes in April, with the release of CatStronauts: Mission Moon.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

CatStronauts, you are needed!

When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!
In this graphic novel, debut author and illustrator Drew Brockington breathes life into a world populated entirely by cats, brimming with jokes, charm, science, and enough big boxes and tuna sandwiches for everyone!

 

Volume 2, CatStronauts: Race to Mars came out at the same time.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

Fresh off of their heroic mission to save the world, the CatStronauts–Major Meowser, Pom Pom, Blanket and Waffles–are taking a well deserved victory lap. Parades and fancy awards dinners are the new norm!
But around the world, other cat space programs are watching–in particular the CosmoCats, the first cats to go to space! With national pride and scientific research on the line, the world’s space programs rush to be the first cats to Mars, and the CatStronauts are starting months behind! Can they catch up and prove their first mission was no fluke?
In this graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington takes the CatStronauts further than they’ve every gone, adding in mounds of jokes, charm, science, and enough yarn and scratching posts for everyone!

 

 

October will see the release of the third book, CatStronauts: Space Station Situation.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

When chief science officer Pom Pom rejoins the CatStronauts on the International Space Station, she has to get to work right away–the Hubba Bubba Telescope isn’t working, and CATSUP is losing funding by the day!
But as the CatStronauts and Mission Control race to find answers, the unthinkable happens and pilot Waffles is forced to orbit the Earth in nothing but his space suit. Even though he’s no scaredy cat, Waffles has a hard time staying out in space. When disaster on a global scale rears its head, will a fractured CatStronauts team be enough to save the day?
In this full color graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington takes the CatStronauts to the brink, adding in mounds of jokes, charm, asteroid showers, and enough tuna for everyone!
If you have young readers who love to laugh, they might enjoy spending some time with the CatStronauts.

Escaping reality

23 Jul

Summer is a time when I escape into the things I love.

Escaping isn’t only for the happy. It is also a refuge for those who don’t want to face difficulties, as john Boyne shows us in Noah Barleywater Runs Away.

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Goodreads Summary: In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, bestselling author John Boyne explores the world of childhood and the adventures that we can all have there. Noah is running away from his problems, or at least that’s what he thinks, the day he takes the untrodden path through the forest. When he comes across a very unusual toyshop and meets the even more unusual toymaker he’s not sure what to expect. But the toymaker has a story to tell, a story full of adventure, and wonder and broken promises. And Noah travels with him on a journey that will change his life for ever.

A thought-provoking fable for our modern world from the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

This was John Boyne’s second novel. It followed his hugely successful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although a very different sort of book, more magical realism than fairy tale, it also carries a sadness. Noah’s mother is ill. The toymaker has regrets. But Noah’s story has a happier ending than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

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