Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New books for kids: skeletons, zombies, and pirates

Here are some great new books for kids full of thills and fun! Look for them on BookBag using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes -- and get ready for some brand new adventures!

Bones: Skeletons and How They Work, by Steve Jenkins (Scholastic Press) Nonfiction. Most people don't think about their own bones much, but if you do--or if you're curious about how human bones compare with those of other animals--you should definitely take a look at Bones. Artist and author Steve Jenkins, known for his amazingly realistic cut-paper illustrations and his many fascinating and easy-to-understand books on science, compares human bones with those of spider monkeys, elephants, snakes, sloths, and many other animals. And, in addition to showing size differences between various species' bones, Jenkins also explains why other differences have evolved.

The Zombie Chasers, by John Kloepfer; illustrated by Steve Wolfhard (Harper) Humorous Horror. Zack Clarke thinks he's unlucky when his older sister and her friends ambush him, duct-tape him to a chair, and make him the subject of a YouTube video called Hostage Makeover--but then zombies attack! Zack's big sister (along with most everyone else in Phoenix, Arizona) is transformed into a shuffling, moaning, brain-craving menace, and it's up to Zack, his geeky buddy Rice, and super-popular Madison to save the city. Fans of silly yet totally disgusting books will love this gory story and look forward to the next volume, Undead Ahead.

Emily's Fortune, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; illustrated by Ross Collins (Delacorte Press) Historical Fiction. Bashful young Emily Wiggins, suddenly orphaned at the age of eight, has chosen to go and live with her sweet Aunt Hilda out West. But during her stagecoach journey to her aunt's home, Emily discovers that she's inherited a fortune--and that her horrible Uncle Victor has hired Miss Catchum of Catchum Child-Catching Services to apprehend Emily and deliver her to him. Luckily, Emily meets a fellow orphan named Jackson, who helps her keep just ahead of those pursuing her. Combining action, suspense, humor, and adventure, this rootin'-tootin' Wild West yarn will keep you turning the pages.

The Ball Hogs, by Rich Wallace; illustrated by Jimmy Holder (Alfred A. Knopf) Sports Fiction. Ben has never played on a real soccer team before, but he likes everything about being a Bobcat--except for his teammate Mark, who acts like a big shot but doesn't know any more about soccer than Ben. And with Mark and Ben at odds, the Bobcats can't seem to win a game. Combining great on-the-field, play-by-play action with a realistic story about friends (and enemies), this 1st volume in the Kickers series is a fun read that ends with a list of useful tips for soccer players. Fake Out is next.

The Unsinkable Walker Bean, by Aaron Renier (First Second) Graphic Novel. Mild-mannered budding inventor Walker Bean is not the adventurous type. But after his grandfather steals a cursed skull from a pair of evil sea-witch sisters and becomes deathly ill, Walker must make a dangerous voyage to return the skull and save Grandpa. Featuring deadly peril, pirates, fantastic twists, and a dash of comic relief, this imaginatively illustrated, suspenseful swashbuckling adventure is a rip-roaring read. For more action-packed fantasy adventure that involves pirates and works in a good bit of humor, try Judith Rossell's Jack Jones and the Pirate Curse.

As Simple as It Seems, by Sarah Weeks (Laura Geringer Books) Realistic Fiction. Verbena Colter has had a rough fifth-grade year: she's had a hard time with her schoolwork and can't seem to stop being mean to her parents. Then the revelation of some disturbing family secrets makes Verbie wish that she could be somebody else. So, when a gullible boy named Pooch and his
mom rent the house next door for the summer, Verbie pretends that she IS someone else...and Pooch believes her. If you like dramatic, emotional stories that end on a hopeful note, be sure not to miss As Simple as it Seems.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reading especially for boys, from BookDads

Books especially meant for boys to read are sometimes difficult to find. Here's a selection of books for different age groups, most reviewed by BookDads, a unique booksite online since 2008 featuring reviews of material for boys and their fathers. For copies of these books use the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids, by Mike Lupica (Philomel Books) Ages 9-12 Two Minute Drill is an appealing YA book about the importance of sportsmanship, determination, friendship, fatherhood, and reading. Chris Conlan is the coolest kid in sixth grade- the golden-armed quarterback of the football team, and the boy all the others look up to. Scott Parry is the new kid, the boy with the huge brain, but with feet that trip over themselves daily. These two boys may seem like an odd couple, but each has a secret that draws them together as friends, and proves that the will to succeed is even more important than raw talent.

The Very Best Daddy of All, by Marion Dane Bauer: illustrated by Leslie Wu (Simon & Schuster) Ages 4-8 The Very Best Daddy of All is a children’s book about thirteen different animal daddies, and one human daddy. Each two-page spread shows a different animal daddy and single child, along with a description of what each daddy does for his children. Fish daddies build houses, wolf daddies comfort crying pups, and fox daddies take care of mamas so they can care for kits. Admirably, all of the animals in this book are factual examples of good animal fathers and include lesser-known instances such as playful prairie dog fathers and fearless frog fathers. The soft illustrations have a sleepytime fell to them, and make this a good bedtime book. The Very Best Daddy ends with a human daddy and his son, since no one but a child’s own daddy is the very best of all.

Half for You, by Meyer Azaad; Illustrated by: Nahid Haqiqat (Carolrhoda Books) Ages 4-9. This original Persian folk tale is the story of a little bird who is learning from his father. Once the father has taught his son how to fly and taught him how to find grain, he sends him into the fields to find something useful. The little bird finds a strange plant that is prickly on the outside and soft on the inside. The father sends the little bird off to visit the spinner, who tells him that he has found a cotton boll, and spins it into yarn. He then visits the weaver, the dyer, and the dressmaker, giving each of them half of what they have crafted for him, until he has a beautiful scarf to show his father.

My Daddy and Me, by Jerry Spinelli; illustrated by Seymour Chwast Ages 4-8 A Newbery medalist writes a kid's book in praise of both the fun things and the practical things about daddies.

My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts About Me, by Bill Cochran; illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (HarperCollins) Ages 4-8.
Ted’s parents are divorced, but that doesn’t mean he’s weird. Instead, there are a lot of other reasons that he’s weird. Like the fact that his elbows are nicknamed Clyde and Carl, or that he sometimes answers the phone and pretends to be a chicken, or that he wears a cape a lot even when it’s not Halloween. Sometimes he makes soap Mohawks with his hair in the tub and then walks around the house like that. He’s done it at his mom’s house and at his dad’s house, and they both think it’s a little weird.

When the Whistle Blows, by Fran Slayton (Philomel Books) Ages 9-12. Jimmy Cannon lives in the little railroad town of Rowlesburg, West Virginia, and is a boy of his place and time. His world is Rail’s general store, and raising mischief with his pals, and going hunting, and playing on the high school football team. He grows up surrounded by the men of the town, from his troublesome older brothers Bill and Mike, to his Uncle Clarence the biology teacher, to the machinists of the railroad yard. Yet among all these men, the one man that Jimmy can never see eye-to-eye with is his father. Jimmy’s father doesn’t hunt, says that the railroad isn’t a worthwhile career for a man, and doesn’t believe that Jimmy’s football team can ever win the county championship. More alike than they know, Jimmy and his father share a orneriness that builds a wall between them. As Jimmy says, “I know I’ll never understand that man. Even if I live to another hundred All Hallows’ Eves.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

New fiction and non-fiction for teens

From Stonehenge to baseball, alchemy to fantasy, there's bound to be a book here to keep you turning the pages! Here's a wide selection of new fiction and non-fiction books for teens -- look for any of them on the World Catalog / Amazon search boxes here at BookBag ....

If Stones Could Speak, by Marc Aronson with Mike Parker Pearson (National Geographic) Nonfiction. When author Marc Aronson was in middle school, he was entranced by archaeologists and their adventures in digging up history's secrets, but he feared that "everything important [...] had already been found." However, in this clearly written and fascinating book, Aronson explains archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson's work interpreting Stonehenge and uses it as an example of how scientists are constantly looking for (and often find) information that adds to or completely changes our understanding of historical artifacts. So, what IS Stonehenge? Is it a Druid temple? A calendar? Or something else? Read the evidence presented in If Stones Could Speak and decide for yourself.

The Line, by Teri Hall (Dial Books) Science Fiction. Rachel and her mother live and work on a property that abuts the Line, an invisible barrier between the totalitarian Unified States and the no-man's land known as Away. Populated by the mysterious Others, the forbidden land has always fascinated Rachel...and when she stumbles upon a desperate message from an Other, she can't resist trying to help. This suspenseful story of a frightening possible future starts out slowly, but it builds to a cliffhanger ending that will have science fiction and thriller fans alike clamoring for the next volume in this new series.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann, by Karen Cushman (Clarion Books) Historical Fiction. After living with her indifferent mother in a small English village for 13 years, Margret ("Meggy") Swann has come to grimy, bustling London to live with her father, an alchemist whom she's never met--and who, as it turns out, doesn't want her any more than her mother did. But despite her father's rejection and a physical disability that makes people wary of her, Meggy is determined to make a better life for herself. Combining a resilient heroine, vivid depictions of Elizabethan England, and a bit of a mystery (plus loads of colorful period insults!), Alchemy and Meggy Swann is a memorable tale that history buffs will savor.

Falling In, by Frances O'Roark Dowell (Atheneum Books) Fantasy. When she is sent to the principal's office one day for daydreaming in class, oddball sixth-grader Isabelle Bean opens a supply-closet door...and falls into a completely different world! More curious than frightened, she begins exploring and meets a group of children who are fleeing from a supposedly murderous witch. Isabelle, intrigued, marches off in the exact direction that the children warned her to avoid, hoping that she will meet the witch. Suspenseful, often funny, and (like Isabelle) surprising, Falling In is a novel that even those who don't typically like fantasy might enjoy.

Roberto & Me, by Dan Gutman (Harper) Fiction. In this 10th volume of the Baseball Card Adventures series (which began with Honus & Me), Joe "Stosh" Stoshack uses a baseball card to travel back in time to 1969. He means to prevent the untimely death of baseball legend Roberto Clemente by warning him not to board a plane that's doomed to crash, but there are surprises in store for Stosh -- as well as for series fans -- on this journey. With exciting on-field action, humor, and tantalizing bits of history, this fun, fast-paced read knocks it out of the park.

Forget-Her-Nots, by Amy Brecount White (Greenwillow Books) Fiction. Laurel, a new student at Avondale boarding school, has been studying the Victorian language of flowers and handing out bouquets that have ... consequences. The flowers that she arranges for a class project seem to cause her spinster teacher to fall in love, while a classmate starts attracting boys like crazy after receiving one of Laurel's "tussie-mussies." And, as Laurel tries to harness her newfound power, she stirs up enough chaos to make for an extremely interesting prom. This light romance has a magical feel and will charm anyone with an interest in flowers' hidden meanings.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New books for kids: Reversible poems, rat-finks, and Missile Mouse

There's lots of new kids books this month, and whole worlds to explore. Graphic novels, fairies, mysteries ... and even poems that you can read two ways! Look for these here on BookBag using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes ....

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, by Marilyn Singer; illustrated by Josée Masse (Dutton Children's Books) Illustrated Poetry. "Who says it's true -- down is the only view?" Who, indeed? In this clever book, each poem can be read two ways: from the top line down and from the bottom line up. The poems, inspired by familiar folk tales and fairy tales, take on different meanings when read in reverse but still make sense. Some of them give the villain's point of view in a funny way, and others (such as the Snow White-themed poem "Mirror Mirror") are more on the dark and creepy side. Word-lovers and puzzle fans will want to make up their own "reversos" after reading Mirror Mirror.

Nikki & Deja: The Newsy News Newsletter, by Karen English; illustrated by Laura Freeman (Clarion Books) Realistic Fiction. When best friends and next-door-neighbors Nikki and Deja decide to create their own "newsy news" newsletter--one that reports all the really interesting stuff that's happening in their neighborhood and school--it seems like a great idea. But pretty soon, they run out of things to report, and their creative solution to the lack of news gets them into trouble. If you like fun, easy-to-read stories about friends and their everyday ups and downs, you'll love this 3rd book in the Nikki and Deja series, and you might also want to check out the first two books, Nikki and Deja and Birthday Blues.

Ratfink, by Marcia Thornton Jones; illustrated by C.B. Decker (Dutton Children's Books) Realistic Fiction. Logan wants to have a good fifth-grade year, but it's almost as if he has a special talent for getting into trouble. And this year, it seems that Emily, the new girl at school, is intent on getting him into even more trouble than usual. On top of that, Logan's grandfather, who has become forgetful and does some strange and embarrassing things, has moved in with his family. Logan is convinced that "fifth-graders are mean," and he doesn't want them catching Grandpa doing something bizarre. Looks like it's going to be a tough year. This hilarious and heartbreaking story about friends, enemies, and family rings true.

The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz; illustrated by Angela Barrett (Candlewick Press) Fantasy. Tiny Flora, about the size of an acorn, is a night fairy who's still getting used to her wings. When she is attacked by a hungry bat, Flora's wings are destroyed, and she falls into the beautiful garden of a giantess. She decides to make a new home for herself in the cherry tree that grows there--and to become a day fairy to avoid bats ("I hate, hate, hate bats") in the future. But the world is much different in the daytime, and Flora soon learns that she'll have to make friends with the other garden-dwelling creatures in order to survive. This beautifully illustrated book is perfect for readers who like both the magical world of fairies and exciting outdoor adventures.

The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood; illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray) Fiction. Fifteen-year-old Penelope Lumley has a whopper of a first job: she's been hired to be the governess for three orphaned siblings who were, evidently, raised by wolves. Penelope isn't sure she can civilize the children in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball, but that may not turn out to be her biggest concern...for mysteries abound at Ashton Place, from the real origin of the Incorrigible children to the reason why Old Timothy the coachman is always lurking around to whether there is someone living behind the staircase wall. Readers who enjoy droll humor, melodrama, and deep, dark secrets will love this 1st book of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series and be eager for more.

Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher, by Jake Parker (Graphix) Graphic Novel. Tough-talking, no-nonsense Missile Mouse is an agent for the Galactic Security Agency, and he's on a mission to rescue a scientist who's been kidnapped by the Rogue Imperium of Planets (or RIP). The scientist, Ulrich, has information that the RIP needs in order to build a doomsday weapon with the power to destroy the entire universe, and the RIP has an evil plan to extract it directly from Ulrich's brain...but foiling evil plans is Missile Mouse's specialty. With lots of rock-'em, sock-'em action, alien monsters, double agents, and a spectacular finish, this comic-book adventure is a thrilling read.

Tuesday, September 21, 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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The perils of parenting whole plugged in

(photo by Michelle Litvin, the New York Times)

The lives of parents are not one-dimensional: often the needs of children and work and home often intersect, and when they do it can be difficult to find the proper balance. Here, written by Julie Scelfo, are excerpts from a recent New York Timesarticle that explores the risks parents face in this plugged-in world. One of the important factors, experts find, is that reading to a child is more engaging, more involved, and shows more individual affection than other forms of parent-child interaction. You can find copies of any books mentioned here or anywhere on BookBag by using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes.

WHILE waiting for an elevator at the Fair Oaks Mall near her home in Virginia recently, Janice Im, who works in early-childhood development, witnessed a troubling incident between a young boy and his mother.

The boy, who Ms. Im estimates was about 2 1/2 years old, made repeated attempts to talk to his mother, but she wouldn’t look up from her BlackBerry. “He’s like: ‘Mama? Mama? Mama?’ ” Ms. Im recalled. “And then he starts tapping her leg. And she goes: ‘Just wait a second. Just wait a second.’ ”

Finally, he was so frustrated, Ms. Im said, that “he goes, ‘Ahhh!’ and tries to bite her leg.”

Much of the concern about cellphones and instant messaging and Twitter has been focused on how children who incessantly use the technology are affected by it. But parents’ use of such technology — and its effect on their offspring — is now becoming an equal source of concern to some child-development researchers.

Sherry Turkle, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. After five years and 300 interviews, she has found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread. Her findings will be published in “Alone Together” early next year by Basic Books.

In her studies, Dr. Turkle said, “Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after either school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events.”

... “There’s something that’s so engrossing about the kind of interactions people do with screens that they wall out the world,” she said. “I’ve talked to children who try to get their parents to stop texting while driving and they get resistance, ‘Oh, just one, just one more quick one, honey.’ It’s like ‘one more drink.’ ”

Laura Scott Wade, the director of ethics for a national medical organization in Chicago, said that six months ago her son, Lincoln, then 3 1/2, got so tired of her promises to get off the computer in “just one more minute” that he resorted to the kind of tactic parents typically use.

“He makes me set the timer on the microwave,” Ms. Wade said. “And when it dings he’ll say, ‘Come on,’ and he’ll say, ‘Don’t bring your phone.’ ”

... “It sort of comes back to quality time, and distracted time is not high-quality time, whether parents are checking the newspaper or their BlackBerry,” said Frederick J. Zimmerman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health who has studied how television can distract parents. He also noted that smartphones and laptops may enable some parents to spend more time at home, which may, in turn, result in more, rather than less, quality time overall.

There is little research on how parents’ constant use of such technology affects children, but experts say there is no question that engaged parenting — talking and explaining things to children, and responding to their questions — remains the bedrock of early childhood learning.

Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley’s landmark 1995 book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” shows that parents who supply a language-rich environment for their children help them develop a wide vocabulary, and that helps them learn to read.

The book connects language use at home with socioeconomic status. According to its findings, children in higher socioeconomic homes hear an average of 2,153 words an hour, whereas those in working-class households hear only about 1,251; children in the study whose parents were on welfare heard an average of 616 words an hour....

Part of the reason the children in affluent homes she studied developed larger vocabularies by the time they were 3 is that “parents are holding kids, the kids are on their lap while the parent is reading a book,” Dr. Hart said. “It is important for parents to know when they’re talking to kids, they’re transferring affection as well as words. When you talk to people, there’s always an implicit message, ‘I like you,’ or ‘I don’t like you.’ ”

Meredith Sinclair, a mother and blogger in Wilmette, Ill., said she had no idea how what she calls her “addiction to e-mail and social media Web sites” was bothering her children until she established an e-mail and Internet ban between 4 and 8 p.m., and her children responded with glee. “When I told them, my 12-year-old, Maxwell, was like, ‘Yes!’ ” Ms. Sinclair said.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New September fiction for teens: mystery, suspense and fat vampires

Cooler weather is finally here and there's lots of new fall fiction to read, as well as graphic tales and a funny vampire story from illustrator Adam Rex. Find them here on BookBag using the World Catalog and Amazon links, and find reading that's worth sinking your teeth into.

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection, edited by Matt Dembicki (Fulcrum Publishing) Graphic Novel. Many Native American folktales feature a trickster, a mischievous character who often tries to fool others and generally causes trouble. This highly entertaining collection of trickster tales from many different nations (Diné, Yup'ik, Ojibwe, and many more) is a collaboration between Native storytellers and comics artists, and Trickster is the first book ever to present Native American folktales in graphic form. There's a great variety of tales here (many of them quite funny) and an equal variety of art styles; this is a book that no one with an interest in Native cultures, comics, folklore, or just great stories should miss.

Flash, by Michael Cadnum (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Fiction. This tense novel relates 24 momentous hours in the lives of five desperately broke people who are tied together by circumstance. Brothers Milton and Bruce Borchard royally flub a bank robbery that was supposed to fix everything for them; the Borchards' neighbor, legally blind Terrence, overhears them hiding the evidence; and Terrence's girlfriend's brother, a veteran of the Iraq war, takes off after the thieves carrying his handgun. When these characters' stories converge, the details fit together like the workings of a fine watch. If you like books that balance a fast-paced, thrilling plot with beautiful writing and great characters, be sure to check out Flash.

Fat Vampire: A Never-Coming-of-Age Story, by Adam Rex (Balzer + Bray) Humorous Horror. Doug Lee isn't just undead, he's also decidedly uncool. Bitten while attending Comic Con in San Diego, geeky Doug now finds himself "cursed with being fat and fifteen forever." His plan to find a goth girl who'll let him drink her blood fails, and he's forced to drink from animals (cows, mostly) in order to survive. And now the host of the cable-TV show Vampire Hunters is on his trail. If you tend to pass over melodramatic teen vampire novels in favor of funny ones, such as Jessica Abel's graphic novel Life Sucks or Brian Meehl's hilarious Suck It Up, you'll want to surrender yourself to Fat Vampire.

Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman (HarperTeen) Fiction. Sixteen-year-old Tennyson is outraged when he learns that his twin sister, Brontë, is going on a date with Brewster "the Bruiser" Rawlins, a big, brawny loner who was voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" back in eighth grade (and hasn't made much social progress since). But as Brontë and Tennyson soon discover, there's a very good reason why Brewster keeps to himself: when he cares about someone, he literally takes on their pain. Like Rachel Ward's gripping book Numbers, Bruiser is a mostly realistic novel with a supernatural twist, and its thought-provoking story, narrated in turn by each of the twins and Brewster, explores relationships and sacrifice.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New tween reads for fall: fantasy, fiction, and adventure

Here's a short selection of this fall's new books for tweens. New series installments, some familiar authors, and some brand new names too, for readers who like to try something different. Find them here on BookBag using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes -- and discover your next great adventure!

The Suburb Beyond the Stars, by M. T. Anderson (Scholastic Press) Dark Fantasy/Adventure. Best buds Brian and Gregory think that they've returned to normal life after winning a high-stakes supernatural board game -- kind of like Jumanji on steroids -- in The Game of Sunken Places. But when members of the Thusser horde (a sinister alien race) start stalking Brian and Gregory's cousin Prudence goes missing, the two friends realize that something evil is afoot ... again. Soon, they're battling monsters, puzzling out what the heck is going on, and desperately searching for a way to stop it. Readers who enjoy slightly disorienting, action-packed adventures with plenty of creepiness, suspense, and comic relief should set a course for The Suburb Beyond the Stars.

Forgive My Fins, by Tera Lynn Childs (Katherine Tegen Books) Paranormal Romance. Seventeen-year-old Lily Sanderson has been posing as a normal high-school student for the past three years. Not only is she half human and half mermaid, she is royalty--and, as the sole heir to her father's undersea throne, she must find a life mate to rule with her and bond him to her with a kiss...before she turns 18. Lily is sure that she's found the right guy in luscious swim-team star Brody Bennett, even though he's never paid her any attention. Then someone else kisses Lily, bonding the two of them for eternity -- but not if Lily can help it! Ample humor (much of it in fishy puns) combines witha sweet romance to make Forgive My Fins a great catch.

The Other Half of My Heart, by Sundee Tucker Frazier (Delacorte Press) Realistic Fiction. Twins Minni and Keira have been told all their lives that the most obvious difference between them -- Keira has cinnamon-brown skin like their mother's, and Minni has milky-pale skin like their father's -- really doesn't matter. Then, when Grandmother Johnson invites the sisters to come to North Carolina and compete in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen pageant, and the organization's president questions Minni's eligibility to participate, it seems to matter quite a bit. But it'll take more than some official's ignorance or even Grandmother Johnson playing favorites to damage the sisters' strong bond ... won't it? The Other Half of My Heart is a warm and funny story about a close-knit family--and it's sure to make you think.

The Shadow Hunt, by Katherine Langrish (Harper) Fantasy. A 13-year-old boy named Wolf, running away from the oppressive monastery where he was raised, encounters a hunting party on the haunting, windswept moors of Devil's Edge. The party is Lord Hugo's, and their quarry is a strange elfin girl who does not speak. Wolf, seeing a chance to take refuge in Lord Hugo's castle, catches the girl--and earns a place at the castle on the condition that he can make the mute "Elfgift" talk. But what are the secrets that Lord Hugo hopes she'll reveal? And can Hugo be trusted? Briskly paced and beautifully written, this spooky and suspenseful fantasy will please fans of both full-blooded characters and thrilling action.

Found, by Sarah Prineas; illustrated by Javier Caparó (Harper) Fantasy. In this 3rd and most likely final volume of the Magic Thief series, the city of Wellmet is still in grave danger--and not only is thief-turned-magician's-apprentice Conn currently exiled from Wellmet, he's lost his locus magicalicus, the center of his power. Determined to find a replacement magicalicus as well as a way to thwart the coming evil, Conn sets out on a dangerous quest...and is nabbed and carried off by a dragon that was previously thought to be extinct. What's he to do now? This exciting, action-packed fantasy includes fun extras (such as a knitting pattern for a scarf that's perfect for hiding lockpick wires) and has great characters who are sure to please fans of Harry Potter or Septimus Heap.

Wolven, by Di Toft (Chicken House) Fantasy. When Nat Carver's family agrees to let him have a dog, he's hoping for a pedigreed puppy, not the fully grown, "malodorous mongrel" that he ends up adopting from a nearby farm. But Nat had the strange (and, as it turns out, accurate) feeling that the mutt telepathically communicated with him about the dire consequences he'd face if Nat didn't take him home. And then things get really weird: Nat's new dog, Woody, shape-shifts into the form of a human boy. If you're looking for a madcap adventure packed with magic, action, and suspense -- and seasoned with goofy humor and a touch of mystery -- look no further.

Friday, September 10, 2010

If you like "Flipped" ...

Wendelin Van Draanen's book Flipped has been made into a movie that opened in theatres last month. If you liked the novel's humor, well-developed characters, and touch of romance and want to read more books like it, check out the ones listed below. Find a copy of these titles using the search boxes here on BookBag!

Peeled, by Joan Bauer (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Mystery. Apples and apple farming are the center of life and culture in the small town of Banesville, New York...but strange occurrences and wild rumors (which the local newspaper, The Bee, seems to be encouraging) threaten to rot the community to the core. While folks have always whispered about the old Ludlow place being haunted, the talk turns frenzied when a dead body is found on the property. High school junior and aspiring journalist Hildy Biddle is determined to root out the truth of what's going on--but she has some serious digging to do to get to the facts. Readers who enjoy a story with great characters, witty heroines, lots of humor, and a dash of romance should pick this juicy read.

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight, by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler (Dutton Books) Fiction. Calliope was happy until her mom decided to "find herself" and they started moving from one Renaissance fair to the next, camping or living in shabby apartments. Eliot was content before his dad found religion and started a Christian fat camp in the North Carolina woods (the camp's motto is "What Would Jesus Eat?"). After Calliope and her mom arrive in Asheville, NC, she and Eliot meet and are immediately attracted to each other. Theirs is a quirky, funny, and sweet romance--but will it be doomed by Cal's mother's wanderlust and Eliot's dad's disapproval? Like Wendelin Van Draanen's Flipped, this love story is told from both of the main characters' points of view.

Don't Call Me Ishmael, by Michael Gerard Bauer (Greenwillow Books) Humorous Fiction. Ishmael LeSeur is starting Year Nine at St. Daniel's Boys School in Australia, and with a name like his (which is easy to twist into nicknames like "Fishtail LeSewer"), it's going to be a loooong year. The class bully, Barry Bagsley, finds lots of ways besides name-calling to make Ishmael's life miserable--that is, until super-smart, woefully geeky new student James Scobie joins their class. James, as everyone quickly learns, is fearless; he teaches Barry how to deal with bullies and even helps him find starting a debate team at St. Daniel's that competes with a rival girls' school. Hilarious, smart, and great fun to read, Don't Call Me Ishmael is heavy on comedy and lighter on romance, but has something for fans of both.

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, by Erin Dionne (Dial Books) Fiction. Perpetually embarrassed by her parents (they're both Shakespearean scholars who like to dress in 16th-century garb), eighth-grader Hamlet Kennedy is further mortified when her younger sister, a seven-year-old genius, is advanced into middle school and befriended by the very same mean-girl duo who have picked on Hamlet for years. Worse, Hamlet has a crush on the most popular boy in school--who's never noticed her--and her best friend (a guy) seems to have developed romantic feelings for her. Despite numerous "tragedies" along the way, this is a funny, feel-good read.

Spin the Bottle, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Dial Books) Fiction. Phoebe is excited about starting middle school because she'll get to join the Drama Club, which means she can be a part of theatrical productions that don't involve food groups or dancing days of the week. Plus, Phoebe's friend Harper will be right by her side...or at least, that's what Phoebe expects. But after she wins a (very small) part in the club's production of Guys and Dolls, Phoebe has a falling out with Harper, learns about the Drama Club's disturbing tradition of an opening-night game of Spin the Bottle (!!!), and falls for a guy who should be "in the Museum of Boy-tropolitan Art." Phoebe's many missteps, her somewhat obsessive personality, and her very funny voice are sure to charm fans of lighthearted romantic comedies.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, by Lauren Tarshis (Dial Books) Fiction. In Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, readers met extremely intelligent, literal-minded Emma-Jean, who is genuinely puzzled by the social climate of middle school. In this 2nd book to feature Emma-Jean, she is experiencing the first inklings of a foreign emotion: love (isn't that what makes her feel all fluttery when school basketball star Will Keeler is around?). Also, her friend Colleen has another problem to solve--an unidentified boy left a note in her locker--and Emma-Jean is on the case. Will our heroine be able to decode the mysteries of love using logic and rational analysis? Read this warm, funny book and find out.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hispanic readers, immigration issues, and libraries

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.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Truth vs. fiction: books about history

Sometimes truth really can seem stranger than fiction! Here is a selection of books, some non-fiction and others fiction based on fact, for readers who enjoy reading about unusual history -- and the almost-unbelievable stories of some American heroes. Find these books here on BookBag by using the World Catalog and search boxes.

The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum, by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Ray Fenwick (Schwartz & Wade Books) Nonfiction. Lay-dees!... and!... Gentlemen! Children of All Ages!! Step right up and be AMAZED by the story of a man who hauled himself up from the depths of poverty by fooling people for a fee--and making them like it! That's right: this self-avowed "humbugger" made preposterous claims about the wond
ers in his traveling exhibitions, but folks still clamored to see them. He was the infamous P.T. Barnum, and among other things, he founded the circus known as "The Greatest Show on Earth." This entertaining biography presents the facts--both flattering and appalling--of Mr. Barnum's life in stories, pictures, and memorabilia that are almost as much fun as the circus that still bears his name.

Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali
, by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier (Candlewick Press) Nonfiction. As nimble with a rhyme as he was in the boxing ring, world-champion boxer Muhammed Ali is duly honored in this collection of poems and artwork that tell his life's story. Boldly illustrated, Twelve Rounds to Glory tells about some of Ali's most famous fights--not jus
t his rounds against opponents like Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but also his resistance to racism, his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam war, and his ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease.

Riot, by Walter Dean Myers (Egmont USA) Historical Fiction. Desperate for more Union troops, President Lincoln has instituted a draft requiring all able-bodied men--except those wealt
hy enough to pay a $300 waiver--to serve in the Civil War. This doesn't settle well with Irish immigrants who can't afford the waiver and who are already angry because they believe that black people are "stealing" their jobs. On July 11, 1863, the first names are drawn for the draft in New York City, and simmering racial tensions explode--Irish mobs loot stores, set fires, and attack black people in the streets. Told in a screenplay format like the author's book Monster, this powerful story centers on 15-year-old Clare Johnson, who, as the daughter of a black father and an Irish mother, is caught between the two warring sides.

A Season of Gifts, by Richard Peck (Dial Books) Historical Fiction. When 12-year-old Bob Barnhart's family moves in next door to Mrs. Dowdel -- aka Grandma Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago -- he isn't sure what to think of his grumpy and odd new neighb
or. But then Mrs. Dowdel helps Bob get back at the town bullies for pulling a humiliating prank on him, and their friendship is well on its way. Chock full of memorable characters and small-town Illinois charm, this homey story brings the late 1950s (when Elvis was king and not everyone had indoor plumbing) to vibrant life.

Murder at Midnight, by Avi (Scholastic Press) Historical Mystery. Orphan and former street-urchin Fabrizio, newly apprenticed to Mangus the magician, is eager to prove his worth to his master. When Mangus is accused of treason against the king, Fabrizio gets his chance to be useful by proving the charges false--before he and Mangus are executed. Set in Italy during the Renaissance, this fast-paced and suspenseful prequel to Midnight Magic includes fascinating history about the first printing presses, which were thought by some to run on the power of evil magic. [Would-be time-travelers, take note: don't show off any modern technology to citizens of the past--they're liable to burn you at the stake for it.]

The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, by Michael Pollan, adapted by Richie Chevat (Dial Books) Nonfiction. Do you know where your dinner came from? If you'd like to find out, this is the perfect book for you. It explains how many processed foods, like chicken nuggets, "are really corn wrapped up in more corn" and that, if you wash 'em down with a soft drink, "you are drinking corn with your corn." Breaking down what most Americans eat, where their food comes from, and why it matters, author Michael Pollan also answers a nagging and fascinating question: since human beings are omnivores and can eat just about anything, what should we eat? Environmentalists, foodies, and fans of the movie Super Size Me will find plenty of food for thought in this kid-friendly version of the best-selling book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.