Monday, January 30, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Word of Mouse

Word of Mouse
illustrated by Joe Sutphin
Fantasy Chapter Book


What makes Isaiah so unique? First, his fur is as blue as the sky--which until recently was something he'd never seen, but had read all about. That's right--Isaiah can read, and write. He can also talk to humans...if any of them are willing to listen! After a dramatic escape from a mysterious laboratory, Isaiah is separated from his "mischief" (which is the word for a mouse family), and has to use his special skills to survive in the dangerous outdoors, and hopefully find his missing family. But in a world of cruel cats, hungry owls, and terrified people, it's hard for a young, lone mouse to make it alone. When he meets an equally unusual and lonely human girl named Hailey, the two soon learn that true friendship can transcend all barriers.

Why You'll Love It:
  • A book by best-selling Patterson or Grabenstein is pretty much a done deal.
  • Sutphin provides black-and-white spot illustrations that recall the great mouse protagonists of the mid-20th century.
  • The authors manage to seamlessly integrate clever wordplay (including Isaiah’s snarky perspective), advanced vocabulary, and basic science information into the story without becoming didactic.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 3rd-6th graders.

What Else You Should Read:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Books By Theme: Artificial Intelligence in YA Lit

The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow

Science Fiction. In the far future, an artificial intelligence called Talis has achieved world holding hostage the children of world leaders. Princess Greta has grown up as one of these "Children of Peace," but now her country is on the brink of war and her life could be forfeit. Enter Elián, a new, rebellious hostage who inspires Greta to question who she loves and where her duty truly lies. With an international cast of characters, Canadian author Erin Bow crafts an intricate world filled with impossible decisions and shocking twists. If you can't get enough dystopian fiction but are tired of the same old, same old, don't miss The Scorpion Rules, the 1st in the Prisoners of Peace series
by Catherine Fisher

Science Fantasy. Finn is trapped in Incarceron, a brutal, futuristic prison imbued with artificial intelligence and so vast that it's like a city. Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron's ruthless warden, is being forced into an arranged marriage for political reasons. The two of them live in completely separate worlds, but each is desperate to escape -- and they may be each other's only hope. Readers of either science fiction or epic fantasy who love twisting plots, intricate world-building, romance, and plenty of political intrigue are sure to be hooked by this riveting read and its sequel, Sapphique.
Willful Machines
by Tim Floreen

Science Fiction. You'd think that being the President's son would offer a life of ease, but things are far from easy for Lee Fisher. For one thing, he's been targeted by a rogue "artificially conscious" terrorist (ironic, since Lee is a robotics geek). Then there are his dad's ultra-conservative politics, which force Lee to hide the fact that he's gay and falling fast for his eccentric new classmate, Nico. And those are just the first of many thorny situations Lee has to face in this near-future techno-thriller filled with star-crossed romance and thought-provoking questions about artificial intelligence. 
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Science Fiction. Ugh, you know that feeling when your break-up is overshadowed by the destruction of your planet? No? Well, it isn't what Kady and Ezra are expecting either, but when their home on the mining colony Kerenza IV is annihilated by corporate rival BeiTech, their personal issues take a back seat to survival. Yet even after they escape on separate spaceships, survival is a tall order: the ships are afflicted with unrest, conspiracies, a crazed artificial intelligence, and a virus that turns people into rage-filled zombies. First in a trilogy and told through message transcripts, surveillance logs, and other "found documents," Illuminae is a gripping, unconventional science fiction thriller.

Monday, January 23, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: If the Magic Fits

If the Magic Fits
by Susan Maupin Schmid
Random House, 2016
Fantasy Chapter Book


Inside an enchanted castle, there's a closet--a closet with one hundred dresses that nobody ever wears. Dresses like those need a good trying-on, and Darling Dimple is just the girl to do it. When she tries on Dress Number Eleven, something unbelievable happens. She transforms into the castle's Head Scrubber! It turns out that each dress can disguise her as someone else. And Darling is about to have an adventure that calls for a disguise or two . . . or a hundred.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Kids who enjoy magical adventures with a healthy dose of sleuthing will like this series opener
  • Darling’s engaging, entertaining first-person narrative is nicely paced, and small illustrations of the dresses, each with a unique design, open up each chapter.
  • The carefully plotted mystery moves along at a quick pace with enough ups and downs to keep readers excited.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 4th-7th graders.

What Else You Should Read:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What They're (Really) Reading: January 2017

By keeping a pulse on what our students are checking out at our middle school library and keeping a close eye on which books are circulating heavily, I feel that I can spend the small budget I have more wisely by choosing books I know will have a greater likelihood of circulating widely.

Each month I'll feature some fiction & nonfiction books that are on the "heavy rotation" list at our middle school library. They're not necessarily new, shiny, or covered with awards -- they're just what the kids want.

This Month's Selections:

by Donna Jo Napoli
Chapter book (Retelling)

Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman.
Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own redemption.

Tarantula Scientist 

by Sy Montgomery
Narrative Nonfiction

Yellow blood, silk of steel, skeletons on the outside! These amazing attributes don't belong to comic book characters or alien life forms, but to Earth's biggest and hairiest spiders: tarantulas. Here you are invited to follow Sam Marshall, spider scientist extraordinaire (he's never been bitten), as he explores the dense rainforest of French Guiana, knocking on the doors of tarantula burrows, trying to get a closer look at these incredible creatures. You'll also visit the largest comparative spider laboratory in America—where close to five hundred live tarantulas sit in towers of stacked shoeboxes and plastic containers, waiting for their turn to dazzle and astound the scientists who study them.

Great Ghost Rescue 
by Eva Ibbotson
Chapter Book (Fantasy)

The ghosts of Britain need a sanctuary. Castles with central heating, bogs drained for motorways, dismal forests cleared for car parks-there are few places left for a respectable ghost to haunt. Humphrey the Horrible (actually his name is simply Humphrey-he added "the Horrible" to help himself become horrible) is a small, mostly unsuccessful ghost in a family of ghastly ghouls. His mother worries. But Humphrey has enough pluck to befriend a smart, politically aware schoolboy, Rick Henderson, who is willing to take the ghosts' cause right to the top, to number 10 Downing Street-home of the Prime Minister.

Spy School 

by Stuart Gibbs
Chapter Book (Mystery)

Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he's already pegged his dream job: C.I.A. or bust. Unfortunately for him, his personality doesn't exactly scream "secret agent." In fact, Ben is so awkward, he can barely get to school and back without a mishap. Because of his innate nerdiness, Ben is not surprised when he is recruited for a magnet school with a focus on science—but he's entirely shocked to discover that the school is actually a front for a junior C.I.A. academy. Could the C.I.A. really want him?

Actually, no. There's been a case of mistaken identity—but that doesn't stop Ben from trying to morph into a supercool undercover agent, the kind that always gets the girl. And through a series of hilarious misadventures, Ben realizes he might actually be a halfway decent spy…if he can survive all the attempts being made on his life!

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity
by Dave Roman
Graphic Novel

Hakata Soy's past life as the leader of a futuristic super team won't stay in the past!
The former space hero is doing his best to keep his head down at Astronaut Academy. Things aren't going so great, though. The most popular girl in school has it in for him. His best friend won't return his calls. And his new roommate is a complete jock who only cares about Fireball.

Hakata just wants to make a fresh start. But how will he find time to study Anti-Gravity Gymnastics and Tactical Randomness when he's got a robot doppelganger on its way to kill him?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Books By Theme: Secret Lives of Superheroes

Marvel Comics originated in 1939, when publisher Marvin Goodman reluctantly expanded his pulp magazine business into the new field of comic books. But the brand didn't really take off until 1961, when writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko helped create Marvel's most well-known characters. In this in-depth, meticulously researched, and "scintillating history" (Publishers Weekly), Entertainment Weekly editor Sean Howe delves into the tangled and contentious personal relationships among Marvel's talented stable of editors, writers, and artists; also taking center stage are their creations, like golden-boy Captain America and lovable (if nerdy) Spider-Man.

by Stan Lee, Peter David, and Colleen Doran

Unsurprisingly, when comic book legend Stan Lee writes a memoir, he does it in graphic novel format in his "inimitably jaunty style" (Kirkus Reviews). Here, he shares his role in creating some of the most iconic comic book creations -- Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and many more. But he also writes of his childhood, his early years in a comic book industry dominated not by superheroes but by cowboys, and his co-creators. Fun and quirky, this is a great read for fans. 

by Jill Lepore

Deeply researched and offering an engaging story, this cultural history of enduring icon Wonder Woman deviates from standard comic book history by concentrating on the rather unusual circumstances of her creation -- especially the unorthodox living situation of her creator, and the controversy that Wonder Woman's appearance inspired. Drawing on both interviews and archival research to unveil the role of feminism in shaping Wonder Woman's existence, historian Jill Lepore's study offers a different yet tantalizing perspective that readers of Tim Hanley's Wonder Woman Unbound (or comic book history in general) may appreciate. 

This comprehensive biography of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster draws on a decade of research and new discoveries to provide the complete story behind the creation of Superman. It details a friendship that evolved into a working partnership, the inspiration for the Man of Steel, and the pair's premature sale of the character to Action Comics. Check it out if you've an interest in the comic book industry or in Superman himself; the collaboration between Siegel and Shuster also inspired Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

As with Brad Ricca's superb biography of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Super Boys), this history begins with two nerdy teenagers who (after six years of false starts and rejections) gave life to a superhero who was everything they were not. But though they deserve the credit for creating the invincible Superman, they sold him to Action Comics for $130 and soon lost artistic rights over him. Over the intervening eight decades, many others have helped influence the changing characteristics of the Man of Steel to better fit the changing times and to let him live on in popular culture. Comprehensive and accessible, this is a wide-ranging history of an American hero.

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