Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day books for kids

Summer's first holiday is here already, but there is a more serious meaning behind all the parades and picnics that may have children asking questions about the meaning of Memorial Day, originally created in 1868 as Decoration Day to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. Here is a colorful collection of kids' books that will answer some of those questions and give parents the opportunity to discuss broader issues of patriotism and service to America. Look for these using the Amazon and WorldCatalog search boxes here on BookBag.

Memorial Day Surprise, by Theresa Golding, illustrated by Alexandra Artigas (Boyds Mills Press), Ages 4-8. Marco goes to the Memorial Day parade and learns the importance of the holiday beyond picnics and parades. This is a good book for young readers who may wonder what all the excitement is about, with simple and bold illustrations that capture the eye as well as the imagination.

The Wall, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler (Sandpiper), Ages 4-8. A boy and his father have come to the Vietnam War Memorial to look for the boy's grandfather's name among those who were killed in the war. Bunting's understated prose captures the meaning of the memorial to the American people, especially to those who lost loved ones. Himler's gauzy watercolors are a perfect addition. A sensitive and moving picture book, and a great discussion book as well.

F is for Flag, by Wendy Cheyette Lewison (Grosset & Dulap) Ages 4-8. June 14 is Flag Day, but with so many American flags proudly displayed on Memorial Day this book is perfect for reading together with a young child. F is for Flag shows in simple terms how one flag can mean many things: a symbol of unity, a sign of welcome, and a reminder that everyone in America is part of one big family.

Memorial Day, by Jacqueline S. Cotton (Children's Press) A picture book that explains the meaning and importance of the holiday. Large and colorful photographs tell the story in simple and easy-to-understand concepts for young readers that gives parents the chance to talk about the deeper ideas of patriotism and history.

Let's Get Ready for Memorial Day, by Lloyd G. Douglas (Children's Press) Ages 4-8. Some of the first concepts children learn about are those connected to holidays and traditions. In Let's Get Ready for Memorial Day, Amy makes a flag for the holiday and takes it to a war memorial with her father. A strong and important lesson about the sacrifices many people make to keep America strong.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Summer sci-fi and new mysteries for teens

School's nearly over and this means lots of time to read just for fun. Here are some books that will be great summertime reads on the beach, by the pool, or just sitting down in the air conditioning. Look for these titles using the Amazon and WorldCatalog search boxes here on BookBag, and get ready for a summer of fun!

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, by Josh Berk (Alfred A. Knopf) Fiction. Will Halpin isn't just the new kid at Coaler High School, he's the chunky, deaf new kid in a mainstream school for the first time--so adjusting won't be easy. There are neither interpreters nor closed-captioning at Coaler, but luckily, Will is a skilled lip reader who's very observant of his surroundings. It's a talent that comes in handy when geeky Devon Smiley recruits him to help investigate the suspicious death of the school's quarterback during a field trip. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin is a crass, goofy novel with a bit of mystery, a touch of romance, and a fantastically memorable main character.

The Adventures of Jack Lime, by James Leck (KCP Fiction) Mystery. Meet Jack Lime: high school student, private eye, narcoleptic. (No, that doesn't mean he's a tattle-tale--it means he's got a condition that causes him to fall asleep at some very inconvenient moments.) He's the guy you talk to if you've got a problem, and in this book he investigates three of them: a missing bike, a kidnapped hamster, and the disappearance of the star of the quiz bowl team on the night before a tournament. This spoof of hard-boiled detective novels and noir films is a quick, fun read that fans of Jack Ferraiolo's The Big Splash are sure to enjoy.

Stuck on Earth, by David Klass (Frances Foster Books) Science Fiction. Ketchvar III of the planet Sandoval has come to Earth to determine whether the human race is worth saving, or whether his fellow aliens should wipe them all out. Taking up residence in the brain of 14-year-old Tom Filber (Ketchvar is small and rather snail-like and simply crawls up Tom's nose), he reports back to his spaceship everything that he observes...and bullied, unpopular Tom's life is far from peachy. Will humanity be euthanized, or will Ketchvar find something worth saving? Stuck on Earth is hilarious, surprisingly thoughtful, and has some twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages.

Fever Crumb, by Philip Reeve (Scholastic Press) Science Fiction. Fans of the author's Hungry City Chronicles will be thrilled with this prequel set in a bleak, futuristic London still centuries away from the world depicted in that series. Young orphan Fever was adopted by Dr. Crumb of the Order of Engineers and has been raised to be supremely logical. When Fever leaves the order for the first time to assist an archaeologist who may have found remnants of Scriven technology (the Scriven, London's mutant overlords, were overthrown and exterminated many years before), her mind is flooded with memories that aren't her own. Could the murmurings of the city-dwellers be true? Could Fever be part Scriven? Readers who enjoy steampunk fantasy, superb world-building, and fast-paced adventure will love every minute of intrigue in Fever Crumb.

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path: 3,856 Story Possibilities, by Jason Shiga (Amulet Books) Graphic Novel. You never know where a seemingly small decision--say, a choice between vanilla and chocolate ice cream--might lead. In this book's crazy-complicated world, you decide which flavor young Jimmy should choose, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. By following the series of tubes that connect different sets of comic-book panels, you can create thousands of different stories based on which way you go -- it's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only bigger, better, and definitely weirder. With mad scientists, adventure, puzzles, amazing machines, and plenty of surprises, Meanwhile is a funny, absorbing, and mind-bending read -- backward, forward, upside-down, or right side up.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New books for kids: Dogs, hidden boys and one crazy summer

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and that means summer vacation is coming soon! More time to read just for fun ... and just for laughs. Here are some books for younger readers that are sometimes goofy, sometimes beautiful, and always exciting. Look for these on BookBag's World Catalog and Amazon links, and get ready for summer!

Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven, by Graham Salisbury; illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers (Wendy Lamb Books) Realistic Fiction. When Calvin's teacher assigns the class a paper on the topic "What I Want So Badly I Can Taste It," Calvin isn't sure what to write. But after thinking about it, he realizes that he really, really wants a dog. Can he write a paper that's persuasive enough to convince his mom? Like the first two books in the Calvin Coconut series, this 3rd volume is filled with details about life in Hawaii (Calvin's home) and is a fun, feel-good read.

The Very Little Princess, by Marion Dane Bauer; illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles (Random House) Fiction. Ten-year-old Zoey and her mother have always been "a family of two." Then, one morning Zoey's mom tells her that they're going to visit Zoey's grandmother, whom Zoey has never met. When Zoey finds a beautiful doll at her grandmother's house and the doll suddenly comes to life, Zoey thinks it's a dream come true...until the doll, who believes that she is a princess, begins ordering Zoey around. If you enjoy this story, which has a bit of magic to it but is also about real-life family problems, you might also like Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur.

Mokie & Bik, by Wendy Orr; illustrations by Jonathan Bean (Henry Holt) Fiction. Fraternal twins Mokie (who's bigger) and Bik (who's faster) live on a houseboat with their artist mother and their nanny, Ruby, the only one besides the twins who understands their special language. Mokie and Bik's father is off at sea and their mother is often "arting," and when Ruby isn't paying close attention, the two of them get into all kinds of scrapes and adventures. If you enjoy this boisterous romp of a story, be sure to check out its sequel, Mokie & Bik Go to Sea.

The Hidden Boy, by Jon Berkeley (Katherine Tegen Books) Fantasy. Even though no one in Bea Flint's family remembers buying a raffle ticket, the Flints have won a "Blue Moon Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventure Holiday." Departing in a vehicle called a "busmarine" via a local car wash, the Flints are in for an adventure, all right: before they even reach their destination--the very strange land of Bell Hoot--Bea's younger brother Theo disappears. Readers who enjoy bizarre, whimsical imaginary worlds, fast-paced stories, kooky characters, and strong girl heroes will zip through this 1st volume of the Bell Hoot Fables series and be eager for more.

I Barfed on Mrs. Kenly, by Jessica Harper; illustrated by Jon Berkeley (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Realistic Fiction. Poor Cleo; she ate WAY too many pancakes for breakfast on the morning of her friend's swim party, and she gets car-sick in the van on the way there. How can she possibly face her friends or have fun at the party? If you liked the humor and everyday mishaps in the first two books of this easy-to-read series, Uh-Oh, Cleo and Underpants on My Head, you'll love I Barfed on Mrs. Kenly -- and fans of Judy Moody or Sara Pennypacker's Clementine books will like Cleo, too.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad) Historical Fiction. It's 1968, and 11-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are traveling from their home in Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California for the summer. Despite the objections of Big Ma, their grandmother, the girls' Papa believes it's time that the sisters get to know their mother, Cecile--who left them all behind just after Fern was born. Delphine and her sisters are nervous and excited, but when they arrive, it's clear that Cecile didn't really want them to come. Much more interested in her poetry than her daughters, Cecile sends the girls to day camp ... and it turns out to be one crazy summer indeed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More than baseball: Teen sports novels about soccer, stock cars, and rodeo

There are more sports for kids than baseball and football. Here are books featuring stories about soccer, stock-car racing, and even rodeo that readers will find fast and fun. Look for these on BookBag using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes, and discover that competition comes in all kinds!

Bull Rider, by Suzanne Williams (Margaret K. McElderry Books) Fiction. Cam O'Mara comes from a ranching family, but unlike most of the O'Mara men, he's much happier riding a skateboard than a bucking bull. Then Cam's older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq paralyzed and depressed, and Cam decides to carry on the family tradition of bull-riding. He finds out that he likes it--and he sets his sights on prize money that could help Ben get the rehabilitation he needs. This tough and tender small-town story of family, competition, and the wild world of the rodeo circuit is a powerful and affecting read.

Box Out, by John Coy (Scholastic Press) Fiction. High school sophomore Liam Bergstrom is thrilled to have moved up to the varsity basketball team from JV. But when he decides to take a stand against his coach, who leads mandatory prayer meetings before every game and whose racist attitude pushed the team's African-American star player to quit, Liam's position on the team isn't the only thing in jeopardy. With plenty of exciting on-court action and just as much drama off of it, Box Out is a thought-provoking sports novel about an ordinary guy who's just trying to find his own path.

Out of Reach, by V. M. Jones (Marshall Cavendish) Fiction. Thirteen-year-old Philip "Pip" McLeod hates playing soccer--mostly because of his father's obnoxious behavior on the sidelines at games. He's also just not as good at soccer as his older brother, and never good enough for his grumpy, critical dad. So when Pip tries out the rock-climbing wall at a new sports complex in town and realizes that he's a natural, he starts practicing there in secret to prepare for the regional climbing championships. Set in the author's native New Zealand, this uplifting story will have you cheering for Pip as he finds his own way to shine.

Boost, by Kathryn Mackel (Dial Books) Fiction. Thirteen-year-old Savvy Christopher is 6'2" and a talented basketball player; her big sis, Callie, is a cheerleader. When an injury ruins their dad's golf career, the family moves from their swanky New Mexico home to an aunt's sheep farm in Rhode Island, a major adjustment. Savvy is thrilled when she makes the exclusive 18-and-under basketball team The Fire; getting to play on a great travel team makes up for having to share a room with Callie, being teased about her height, and having to work on the sheep farm. But when steroids are found in Savvy's gym bag, she'll have to fight for her spot on the team. A bit of mystery, complex family relationships, and plenty of exciting on-court action make Boost a riveting read.

Throwing Like a Girl, by Weezie Kerr Mackey (Marshall Cavendish) Fiction. When her family moves from Chicago to Dallas during her sophomore year of high school, Ella Kessler falls in love with softball. Ella has never played a team sport before, but she discovers a hidden talent for the game that makes her transition to a new school easier, despite her mean-girl teammate Sally's attempts to ruin things for her. Then Ella gets matched with cute senior Nate, Sally's brother, for a super-secret project, and things heat up both on and off the field. With ample details of game play and the trials and tribulations of high-school social life, Throwing Like a Girl hits a home run.

Super Stock Rookie, by Will Weaver (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Fiction. In this second volume of the Motor series (after Saturday Night Dirt), teen stock-car racer Trace Bonham tries out for corporate-sponsored Team Blu and makes the cut. Torn over whether or not to desert his amateur beginnings, Trace decides to sign on with Team Blu and soon learns that there's a lot more to professional racing than he'd realized--and not all of it is good. Packed with action, authentic racing details, and sharp dialogue, Super Stock Rookie is an exciting story that will thrill racing fans. The next volume in the Motor series, Checkered Flag Cheater, was published in late April.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hispanic readers, immigration issues, and the library

Libraries continue to provide a great service and are wonderful resources to immigrants. Librarians agree that they should continue to provide – or start providing – the tools to address the issues immigrants care about (citizenship, he
alth, education, parenting, business development, and many others). From the site El Libro y Su Mundo, here's part of a post that emphasizes the importance of libraries for all immigrants who need to use these resources in many ways.

Loida Garcia-Ceba asks on her blog how librarians are serving the Latino population. She points out that libraries should continue “trying to figure out how to address topics such as immigration, health, and education, to mention a few,” through their services. This should be done in an inclusive way to “involve publishers, distributors, scholars and professional associations.” (A recent) poll by Library Journal that showcases how immigration is driving changes in the collections and services of the library. Furthermore, according to earlier polls, immigration continues to be a divisive issue in the community. These are some of the findings from past polls (from newest to oldest):

56% of librarians polled believed that immigration is driving changes in the collections and services of the library.
78% believe that immigration is a divisive issue in their community.
71% believe that their library board is getting more political.

60% believe that the library understands the community agenda although only 26% of libraries have an active role on it.
78% believe that their library does not work to solve community issues.
52% measure their library's impact
in the community.

91% believe that their library is more concerned with outreach to the community as opposed to stewardship of the collection.
57% consistently reach out to new groups of patrons.
55% do not believe that their library’s leaders are visible in the community.
55% believe that their library’s mission is tightly woven to the needs of the community.

There are many things that can be discerned from these unscientific, yet just as valid, opinion polls. One thing seems certain: librarians care about their communities and immigration is slowly making its way into the conversation.

Still, according to a 2008 Pew research poll only 13% of respondents use the library to find information about solving their problems. True, that poll dealt mostly with issues that are connected to government agencies, did not focus specifically in the immigrant or Latino population, and did not include other reasons why people use the library. Yet it shows that libraries have a great way to go to regain their place as information sources and helping their community solve their problems.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Problems, problems: teen stories about coping with real life

Stepping into someone else's shoes can help you see your own life more clearly. The characters in the books below -- whether as a result of their own mistakes or due to circumstances totally beyond their control -- all find themselves in chaotic, seemingly unworkable situations. Look for copies of these books using the Amazon and WorldCatalog search boxes here at BookBag; their methods for coping with the chaos, getting a grip, and taking control of their lives make for some great stories.

Marcelo in the Real World, by Franc
isco X. Stork (Arthur A. Levine Books) Fiction. Marcelo Sandoval isn't interested in sticking even a big toe out of his comfort zone; he'd be happy forever just listening to the music in his head, obsessively reading books about religion, and caring for the ponies in his special school's stables. But his dad, a high-powered attorney, insists that Marcelo take a summer job in his law firm's mailroom to get a dose of "the real world." There, Marcelo has to let go of his familiar routines and face challenges: having to tell true friends from false ones, doing the right thing even if it's dangerous, and taking the risk of loving someone. Unpredictable, moving, and memorable, Marcelo in the Real World offers a unique view of life.

Hot Lunch, by Alex Bradley (Dutton Children's Books) Fiction. When blue-haired, smart-mouthed Molly is paired up with her nemesis--blonde, perky Cassie--for a class project, they clash. And clash again. Then they get lunch duty and end up in a food fight, causing the lunch lady to quit. At their private, hippie-run school, punishment fits the crime, so Cassie and Molly have to take over for the lunch lady--but besides not being able get along, neither of them can cook! The two of them find out whether they should spend time around sharp knives together. Hot Lunch is a fast-paced, funny read with some great

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) Adult Nonfiction. This slice of history shows how the way people react to a drastic situation can make a huge difference in its outcome. In 1864, two ships, the Grafton and the Invercauld, wrecked on opposite ends of the same remote South Pacific island. The Grafton's five-man crew, through determination and sheer force of will, overcame the harsh environment and eventually built a small ship to carry them to New Zealand -- but the crew of the Invercauld descended into anarchy. After a year and a half, only three of the Invercauld's original 25-man crew survived to be rescued by a passing ship. Fans of adventure and survival stories (or TV shows) will find this descriptive history

Keesha's House, by Helen Frost (Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Novel in Verse. Keesha's father gets violent when he drinks (which is often), but she has finally found a safe place to live--a house owned by a man whose aunt took him in when he was young and in trouble. Keesha, in turn, invites other teens to take refuge and start fresh there: Stephie, who's pregnant and terrified; Harris, whose dad kicked him out after Harris revealed that he's gay; Katie, whose stepfather crossed a line but whose mother won't believe her; and several others. Heartbreaking yet hopeful and with painfully realistic characters, Keesha's House will mesmerize readers who like emotionally intense, brutally honest books like E.R. Frank's Life is Funny.

Nation, by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins) Fiction. Mau is headed home in a canoe, ready to take part in the ritual that will make him a man, when a tsunami kills every member of his island nation but him. The deadly wave also wrecks an English ship on the island's shore, depositing a girl named Ermintrude there. Soon, refugees from nearby islands begin to arrive, and Mau and Ermintrude must take the lead in establishing a new nation if they hope to survive. But Mau isn't sure who he is without his people, Ermintrude no longer knows what to believe about the world, and great danger awaits them both. Part survival adventure, part fantasy, and full of marvelous characters and comic relief, Nation is a riveting and memorable read.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hidden treasure, family history, and a touch of magic

Discovering the world is bigger than you think is part of being a good reader! Here is a group of novels each having its own take on how complicated life can get. Look for them using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag, and be sure to bring along your sense of adventure.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson,
by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton) Fiction. Two different guys
named Will Grayson narrate this sarcastic, hilariously profound novel that is, as supposedly secondary character Tiny Cooper might say, made of awesome. One Will Grayson is the long-suffering best friend of Tiny Cooper, "the world's largest person who is really, really gay and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large" (and, by the way, "large" refers not just to Tiny's size, but also his personality). The other will grayson -- he doesn't bother to use capital letters -- is cynical and depressed, and lives for his late-night chat sessions with a guy named Isaac. In a stunning coincidence, the two Will Graysons meet...and then things really get interesting. Want to know more? Check out co-author John Green's YouTube book trailer.

The Body Finder, by Kimberly Derting (Harper) Mystery. Sixteen-year-old Violet Ambrose has inherited a talent for detecting the "echoes" of colors, sounds, smells, and even tastes that connect murder victims to their killers. It's an unsettling ability that, until recently, only led her to the dead birds left behind by her cat -- but now a serial killer is on the rampage in her small town, and Violet may be the only one who can stop him. She enlists the help of Jay Heaton, her best friend since grade school ... who, to complicate matters, is suddenly causing her heart to flutter. Combining suspense, paranormal phenomena, and romance, this novel is a great pick for fans of Wendy Corsi Staub's Lily Dale mysteries or Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series.

Mercury, by Hope Larson (Atheneum Books) Graphic Novel. Cross-country runner Tara lives in Nova Scotia and hopes that she and her mom will be able to rebuild the old family farmhouse, which recently burned to the ground; meanwhile, she's staying with relatives and trying to readjust to high school after two years of homeschooling. In a separate but linked story line, Tara's ancestor Josey falls for an itinerant prospector who wants her father to mine for gold on their property. Eisner Award-winning graphic novelist Hope Larson weaves the past, the present, love, hidden treasure, family history, and a touch of magic together to create this leisurely paced yet enthralling story.

The Carbon Diaries 2017, by Saci Lloyd (Holiday House) Carbon rationing in the UK--London college student Laura Brown just wants to focus on her punk band's upcoming European tour and her relationship with her boyfriend, Adi. But the whole world is in crisis due to the effects of climate change, and Laura and her friends have no choice but to deal with the political unrest, riots, and government corruption that have become commonplace. This dark yet exciting story will thrill fans of frighteningly believable near-future dystopias (such as Cory Doctorow's Little Brother) as well as those who like contemporary environmentalist fiction (such as Jennifer Cowan's Earthgirl).

Vegan Virgin Valentine, by Carolyn Mackler (Candlewick Press) Fiction. Mara Valentine lives a strictly ordered and controlled life; she makes stellar grades, participates in all the right extra-
curricular activities, has received early acceptance to Yale, and is a vegan (albeit one who admits to herself, "I LUST after cheese. I DREAM about cheese."). When her niece, Vivian, a.k.a. V--who's only a year younger than Mara--temporarily moves in with the family, Mara's tidy, shipshape world gets seriously shaken up. Charged with sarcasm, angst, honesty, and hope this hilarious and somewhat racy story by the author of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things is a quick and upbeat read.