Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

I know, in my heart of hearts, that books have changed my life. My mother taught my brother and me that we were no better than anyone else. But no one was better than us. No matter what. To Kill a Mockingbird proved that to me in a way that she couldn't.
Books have let me experience things that I literally cannot. Or let me live through things I would never WANT to or should HAVE to. Books have shown me empathy, tolerance, compassion, kindness, and understanding. They've shown me that I am not the only one, and the "what ifs".
Some books make you feel EVERY single emotion possible. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt is one of these.
Here's all you need to know about the story: A rural family fosters a 14 year old who almost killed a teacher. It's the "why's" you'll want to discover.
Don't read the book jacket....don't read reviews....they ALL give away too much! Just pick it up, start reading and you won't want to stop until it's finished.
I'm so glad that I've found another author who excels at putting words together in a way like no other. I WILL be reading more of his!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

A parent is telling the story to its child about the witch who wants children. They don't know why she takes them. But the town is so fearful, so sorrowful, that each year the Elders take the youngest baby and leaves it at the edge of the forest so the witch will leave their town at peace. No one in the town ever refuses. It is just how it is, how it has always been. 

Unbeknowst to this town, the witch, Xan, is actually most kindhearted, living in the forest with her friends: a giant green bog beast, Glerk, and a tiny dragon, Fryian, whom she loves more than anything else in the world. As like every year, she knows not why, (she is not one to judge) a baby is left in the woods. And again. like every other year, she makes sure to find the baby, and takes it through the forest, across the road, to the Free Cities, to make sure it gets to a loving familly. But on the way she accidentally feeds her moonlight, instead of just starlight. Xan realizes she will have to raise her, not a family in the Free Cities. Because moonlight equals MAGIC. 

I am still verklempt, and my eyes are still red, but my heart is full. First of all, isn't the title just delicious? Oh, and the cover, created by Yuta Onoda...so entrancing. And the words, the sentences...so playful...so gorgeous. Even the chapter titles are divine. 

Another one of those books where I gasped, and cried, and laughed as I discovered the real truth, which of course involes evil, deceit, magic, and the unwavering love of family and friends. 5 stars and I predict many, many awards. I wouldn't be surprised if it is nominated for a Newbery. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford andIllustrated by Ekua Holmes

Wow....just WOW! I rate a book on how it makes me feel....I wept through this book. Wept for the people, for Fanny and everything she went through, and everything she accomplished. But I also wept for my naïveté. Last Feb I visited Charleston, SC. We toured plantations. I came away with the feeling that I had never really known the depth of prejudice and racism until I heard the stories of the slaves and seeing their cemetery. My best friend has the kindest soul, and when she entered the cemetery she started coughing horribly. I know she was affected deeply by just the sight of the cemetery and the wrought iron archway at the entrance. The depressions in the ground where the rotting wooden coffins had sunk were the only indication that it was a cemetery, there were no markers of any kind. Of course now there is a sign explaining all of this. Injustice should affect people this way. In the children book world right now, talk of the need for diversity is strong, as it should be. It reminds me of when the picture book about George Washington's chef had smiling slaves on the cover. There are NO smiling slaves, and book people everywhere protested that cover. Scholastic pulled it from it's inventory after the criticism. Another book that makes me believe that reading and books can change your life. Please, please read this book, & then when you think your children are ready, read it to them.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


I don't buy books...I'm a library rat. But if I love a book, I want a copy...and I usually buy copies for friends and family, too. So I lied...I DO buy books. I also buy books if I KNOW that I love the author and/or it's a series I love & have to have ALL of them! This author and her books will be THAT kind of buying I will be doing!!! 

I did the ugly but good cry SO many times in this book. (I tweeted Bonnie-Sue that I was crying so much I had to finally go take my eye make-up off.) I read it in a little over a day. I started it one night and finished it the next day.

I love a writer that makes me think, "how does she do this...how does she have this life experience that makes her so wise?"

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock shows us what it is like to live in 1970 Alaska through the eyes of many characters, four in particular. It's a small fishing town where everyone is poor, just trying to survive. We weep and cheer for these people because Bonnie-Sue makes us feel like we know them, inside and out. And, boy, are we glad we do!

I judge a book on how quickly I start reading it aloud to my husband. "George...listen to this". Here's what I read to him, p. 13 & 14.

It was the tutu daddy had bought me Outside. You couldn't get a tutu like this in Fairbanks and I don't think Gran knew that it was special, or she never would've let me have something the other girls didn't. I was so excited, and as I came up to the studio, I remember another girl and her mom going inside, too. Alyce was wearing a black leotard and pink tights. I could tell she was jealous, eyeing my tutu as she held open the door let me in, and her mother said, "You have the prettiest long hair I've ever seen."
"I know. I'm pretty all over," I said to her without a second thought.
Alyce's mother smiled at me, but then her face changed quickly as Gran's fingers gripped me by the arm and yanked me inside. I didn't even have time to wonder what I'd said that was wrong. Gran marched me into the bathroom, and said through gritted teeth, "Oh, you think you're something special, do you?"
She pulled a huge pair of orange-handled scissors out of her bag, as if she carried them around waiting for moment just like this. They looked like a bird with a silver metal beak. And they were loud. I can still hear the sound of my hair being chopped off with just a few mad snaps of the bird's jaws.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

More Book Recommendations, Mysteries and More

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith...that's the first title in the series, audio is wonderful. I love how Smith, a Scottish older white male, writes from a black Botswana                     woman's point of view...such great wisdom...always thoughtful and kind. 

Flavia deLuce series by Alan Bradley #1Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, English gifted girl who has inherited her Grandfather's science lab in the 1950's to solve crimes, I like the audio on this one, too.

Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George...I love books about books...main character is trying to heal after his girlfriend left....21 years ago...lives in a boarding house full of characters & he owns a bookshop on the river Seine. 

The Smells of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock- author grew up in Alaska on fishing boats so takes place in Alaska, coming of age, family doesn't always mean by blood, raised by a village...full of characters, each having their point of view per chapter. Such wisdom in these. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - WWII, much like ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, but more from the view of the German's who didn't want Hiltler. The narrator in the book is death. 

The Spellman Files #1...Lisa Lutz, dysfunctional family runs a detective agency in Cali. HILARIOUS! Crazy mother and father, oldest son is not in the business, oldest daughter late 20's is a former juvenile delinquent, and even the youngest 13 year old daughter does surveillance and such. LOVED this entire series, great audio, the last book in the series was so well done! 

If you liked Janet Evanovich at all, Sparkle Hayter's Robin Hudson's series is smarter and funnier...#1 What's a Girl Gotta Do? Sparkle worked for CNN back in the day and her protagonist works for a tv news outlet. Audio is fun, older series should be easy to get at library. 

John Dunning, from Denver, has a great little mystery series set in a book shop in Denver. #1 Booked to Die (Cliff Janeway #1) older but great series...used to email him and chat with him...such a nice man. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Favorite Series!

Another great Nerdy Book Club post today all about favorite series. Hubby and I LOVE series so I had to put in my two cents...or three or four!

It’s as if I wrote this post…although I’m a retired librarian and have quite a few years on you. =) But Little House & Boxcar were my first series, too. Wrinkle in Time came in junior high but I’ve never read the rest of the series. My first series when I was a library assistant was The Golden Compass by Pullman, we visited Oxford because of it. A parent brought us the first book from his London trip about a boy named Harry. I sent it to cataloging but didn’t pick it up myself for a few years. I’ve always wondered if that library kept it…it could have been a first edition. Wow! When hubby retired & said he was bored, I handed him Victoria Hanley’s (a friend & fellow Coloradoan) Violet Wings, a wonderful world of fairies. He finished and was distraught that it seemed like it wasn’t finished. I informed him it was a series & said, “Welcome to my world.” That was eight years ago and we’ve devoured so many series that it would take quite a while to list them all. Because I was an elementary librarian who had a Young Adult section, hubby & I are HUGE ya fans. Maggie Stiefvater, Scott Westerfeld, Marissa Meyer,

Brandon Sanderson, Cassandra Clare, Cat Patrick (a teacher friend’s sister in law) Jennifer Albin. Not to mention middle grade books…the year Mr. Schu was on the Newbery committee we read ALL of the honor books besides Flora & Ulysses. Paperboy by Vince Vawter, in audio, was my favorite, although not a series. Charlie Fletcher’s Ironhand series, set in London! The Magyk series by Angie Sage…LOVE the audio versions.
My son in law took a LONG time finishing Mockingjay. I can’t even remember the author or title of a series I was reading when it just went sideways for me. I remember stopping & thinking, “Wait a minute….WHAT is happening here? Nope….I’m DONE!” My adult daughter had me read Twilight. I threw the second one across the room…will NEVER finish it! As a librarian, I read Donalyn Miller’s books on reading & introduced many, many books to my students but also told them that if it didn’t grab them, don’t read it. But maybe try it again at a later time…or not. 
Thank you for being a librarian! Enjoy the end of your year & have a great summer! KEEP READING!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Favorite Books for Baby Showers

This is a comment I posted on the wonderful Nerdy Book Club blog. 

Being quite a bit older than you, Annie, I have favorites I give at baby showers, too. Your list is impressive, indeed. Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, is one of the original "touchy-feely" baby books, copyright 1940. And the plush bunny can be found in stores to accompany the book. It's a bit politically incorrect...dad's scratchy beard, etc., but it is still beloved. But the books I make sure I give to new parents are Brad Meltzer's Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter. They are one page, often one paragraph, bios of famous people that are Brad's favorites. My daughter tells me that she often tears up during the reading. He also writes biographies of famous people for children. The illustrations of the famous person stays a child throughout the book. My grandloves, 7 & 4, LOVE all of these books. Another GREAT book for babies up to adults, especially if you love dogs, is Ball by Mary Sullivan. The only word in the whole book is "ball" but her hilarious illustrations perfectly show the life of a family's dog. If you have ever had a dog, you laugh at all the things the dog does...his dream sequence is a hoot! The next book she wrote is titled Treat...just as cute! Deborah Underwood's the Quiet Book and The Loud Book are great baby/toddler books, too. Being a former librarian and now a grandparent, I could go on and on and on. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Library Bag Fave: Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

Oh! My! Gosh! I love it when the first glance of a book cover makes me start laughing! Well...let me tell you I roared through this unique, silly, unpredictable gem!! A favorite picture book of the year for sure!

Another Reason I LOVE The Nerdy Book Club Blog.


ruby lee and meHome is where the heart is, and mine is in North Carolina. My roots run deep, stretching from a hundred-acre farm to the graveyard where generations of my family are buried.
Though my roots are in North Carolina, I now live in Florida. But every time I sit down to write, I become a Carolina girl. My pen takes me back there. In my latest book, RUBY LEE & ME, my pen took me back to the 1960’s.
When I closed my eyes, I could smell flue-cured tobacco. I could feel the hot sun beating down on me. I could hear the southern accent of a teacher whose voice reminded me of poetry.
The 1960’s were a turbulent time in my family and in my town. ThoughBrown v. Board of Education became the law of the land in 1954, our public schools remained segregated until 1967. I started first grade that year, and my school’s first African-American teacher taught in the classroom beside mine.
Mrs. Porter had a special gift for working with reluctant readers. So every afternoon, she changed classrooms with my teacher and worked with those of us struggling to read.
As a first grader, my relationship with Mrs. Porter was all about me. Our class was divided into reading circles. The blue birds were the best readers. The red birds were the second best, and the lowest reading group was the yellow birds. Our chairs were painted to match our reading level. Mine was yellow, and I was ashamed of it. Mrs. Porter promised that if I worked really hard, I could become one of the best readers in our class. With her help, I advanced to the red birds and finally to the coveted blue bird circle. I went on to excel in elementary school, in high school, and in college. I shudder to think what might have happened if I’d never caught up.
Nearly forty years passed by, and my teacher’s health faded. I paid Mrs. Porter a visit because I wanted her to know what an impact she had made on my life. As an adult, it wasn’t all about me. This time I reflected on what it must have been like for her. She must have faced discrimination, been called the N word, and treated like a second-class citizen. Yet when asked to teach in a mostly white school, she did so with grace and dignity.
During my visit, Mrs. Porter reminded me that white children had been uneasy about having a black teacher. To ease our concerns, she had invited each of us to touch her face and hair. Mrs. Porter said, “Blacks and whites are a little different on the outside, but we’re all God’s children, and he loves us just the same.” That was a message children often weren’t receiving at home.
There were lots of heroes during the Civil Rights Movement. Many of the heroes made the nightly news, but some were like Mrs. Porter. Their stories have never been told. Over her teaching career, Mrs. Porter taught hundreds of white children. She taught us not only how to read, but how to be better people.
I knew immediately that I wanted to write this story. I had read several accounts of school integration, but never one that dealt with a black teacher’s experience in stepping into a mostly white school. I asked for Mrs. Porter’s permission to tell her story. She said, “honey child, you can write anything you want to about me.”
I penned a picture book called CORN SILK. My editor, Andrea Pinkney encouraged me to expand the story into a Middle Grade novel. When I did so, Mrs. Porter’s story converged with another event from my childhood. In the summer of 1969, my younger sister was struck by a car. As I wove the story of Robin’s accident together with school integration, I was struck by the themes they have in common: courage and forgiveness.
Both my sister and Mrs. Porter are dead now, but I hope young readers will be challenged when they read about them. Challenged to be brave, challenged to treat others with respect, and challenged to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s been said, “Nobody an author loves is ever really gone.” The dedication to RUBY LEE & ME reads, “In memory of Mrs. Pauline Porter who first taught me to read, and my sister, Robin, who once said, “Make up a story about us.”

Shannon Hitchcock is the author of two historical novels, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, (2013), and RUBY LEE & ME, (2016). You can connect with her on Twitter @ShanonHitchcock or through her websitehttp://www.shannonhitchcock.com.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Amazing Principal Shares Her Love Of Books!

Yes, I started crying while reading today's post in Nerdy Book Club. Tears of joy! But tears of sadness, too. If only ALL principals cared more about the reading culture of their schools instead of test scores. When I was finished reading, I wanted to un-retire and teach at her school! GO SHEILA! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Finally finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Fantasy/sci-fi...it's 2044, earth has used up all the energy & basically gone to crap. The most famous video game inventor, Halliday, has died and will leave his billions to the person who beats his last game. We find out from the start that the young main character, an online high schooler, has won the game but the media's coverage got it all wrong. So he's telling his story. No one actually meets in person anymore...gasoline is way too expensive, cars rot on the side of roads, everyone lives their lives online. Not too hard to imagine, eh? But the fun part of this book is all the prolific references to the '80's. From video games, movies, music, television...it's all here. As we read, we find ourselves wanting to go back and watch all of these movies, hear all the songs, play all the games. But it's the characters that make this book. Rooting for the underdogs is what will keep you enthralled! 4 Stars! Audio by Will Wheaton is superb. Spielberg to direct movie! We have hope.