Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New tween reads: the Titanic sinks, time-travel, and the Amazon

Every month the number of fascinating books for tween readers to explore grows larger. Here, for example, are just a few of the new books recently released -- from real-life stories to funny high-school fiction, there's lots to keep up with!

Titanic Sinks! Experience the Titanic's Doomed Voyage, by Barry Denenberg (Viking) Nonfiction. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the disaster, this attention-grabbing book in the form of a newspaper tabloid presents the history of the building, launching, and sinking of the Titanic in a fascinating narrative. Archival photographs, survivor's accounts, and re-creations of Titanic memorabilia accompany the well-researched facts that the author weaves into a riveting story. Those who can't get enough about the Titanic should also check out Allan Wolf's The Watch that Ends the Night, and fans of historical page-turners in general might also try Jim Murphy's gripping Blizzard!

We Dine with Cannibals, by C. Alexander London; illustrated by Jonny Duddle (Philomel Books) Adventure. Last heard from in We Are Not Eaten by Yaks, twins and reality-television junkies Oliver and Celia Navel are -- much to their dismay -- off adventuring again in this exciting and frequently ridiculous sequel. Traveling from the ruins of ancient temples to the shadowy forests of the Amazon, Celia and Oliver ride a llama, race rapids, fly an airplane, and learn the proper etiquette for a cannibal feast before all is said and done. Blending mystery and adventure with silliness and attitude, this second Accidental Adventure is a blast!

The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty; illustrated by Mark Geyer (Harcourt Children's Books) Historical Fantasy. In this fast-paced novel set in an alternate version of early-20th-century New York City, people practice magic in secret and Inquisitors investigate magical crimes and attempt to stamp out enchantment. When his ability to see spells being cast is discovered, young Sacha Kessler becomes the apprentice of the New York Police Department's star Inquisitor, Maximilian Wolf -- and his career as a detective begins with the case of the attempted murder of Thomas Edison. This sophisticated mystery brings both New York and the period to life and features other historical figures as well, making it a good bet for fans of Scott Mebus' Gods of Manhattan.

The Crazy Things Girls Do for Love, by Dyan Sheldon (Candlewick Press) Fiction. In this hilarious novel, attendance is up at Clifton Springs High School's environmental club since the drop-dead gorgeous new guy, Cody Lightfoot, joined. As vegan eco-friendly girls, previously eco-hostile queen bees, and girls from across all social boundaries compete to out-green each other leading up to the Earth Day fair that Cody is organizing, life at Clifton Springs gets a little crazy. This wry, fun, and deceptively deep novel about romance, friendship, and saving the Earth will keep you laughing and is a great pick for fans of Jennifer Cowan's slightly edgier Earthgirl.

Beswitched, by Kate Saunders (Delacorte Press) Time-Travel Fantasy. On her way by train to a school she does not want to attend (even temporarily), spoiled 21st-century English girl Flora Fox is transported not to posh Penrice Hall in the here-and-now, but to St. Winifred's boarding school ... in 1935. At first shocked by the prospect of life without a smartphone, regular hot showers, and lattes, Flora soon warms up to her roommates -- and learns that they have a mission for her to fulfill. First published in the UK in 2010, this highly entertaining novel is one that fans of memorable characters (and magic) should not miss.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Silly, scary and funny stuff for kids

Schoolwork got you down? Here are some new books for kids that are funny or scary, silly or just plain incomprehensible! Look for these books here on BookBag with the Amazon or World Catalog search boxes, and be prepared to laugh ... or shiver!

Bink & Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press) Fiction. Short, wild-haired Bink lives in a tiny cottage nestled in the roots of a big tree; tall, neat-as-a-pin Gollie lives in a sleek house in the big tree's branches. The two young neighbors are best friends despite their many differences, and this book tells three stories of their (somewhat fanciful) adventures in both pictures and words. Involving very bright socks, pancakes, a pet goldfish, and roller skates, these funny, lighthearted tales will tickle fans of Annie Barrows' Ivy and Bean books, Mo Willems' Elephantand Piggie stories, and the Clementine tales of Sara Pennypacker.

The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade Books) Fiction. The infamous class that no one (except the extraordinary Mr. Jupiter) wanted to teach have all graduated to fifth grade...and, once again, none of the teachers wants to take them on. Fortunately, Mr. Jupiter is up to the task, and he's got all kinds of lessons in store for the kids from The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School (including one that involves singing guinea pigs). If you enjoy silly, fantastical stories with a moral--such as those in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books--or wacky school stories like those in the Wayside Schoolseries, you'll have fun with The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.

Framed, by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press) Humorous Mystery. Griffin Bing, "The Man with the Plan," and his mystery-solving friends Savannah Drysdale and Ben Slovak have moved up to middle school, where the new principal, Dr. Egan, is anything but a pal. He's got his eye on Griffin, and when a valuable Super Bowl ring goes missing from its locked display case in the school, Dr. Egan accuses our hero of the theft and sends him away to JFK (jail for kids) ... Can Savannah and Ben clear Griffin's name and spring him from kid-prison? Packed with suspense, misadventures, and action, this third volume in the rip-roaring series (after Swindle and Zoobreak) is a wild, fun ride.

How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Scott Seegert; illustrated by John Martin (Egmont USA) Humorous Fiction. Attention, all you puny, undeserving whelps! I, Vordak the Incomprehensible, deign to bestow my limitless knowledge of world domination techniques upon you! (You should know that, should you actually
one day rule the world, I will be your automatic and highly untrustworthy second-in-command...) Read this book and use my ingeniously diabolical plans, my advice on what to wear as a Supervillain, and my Inconceivably Evil Evil Name Generator as your first steps toward ultimate control of the planet. (Or, if you aren't quite evil enough, you can just laugh at my blowhard manner and many disgusting jokes ... at your own risk.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life, love, friendship: relationship stories for teen readers

A new year can bring lots of new ideas about relationships, school, and family. Here are some recent books that look into life from a kaleidoscope of angles, from fantasy to poetry and points in-between. Find copies using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag ...

A Match Made in High School, by Kristin Walker (Razorbill) Realistic Fiction. At the beginning of Fiona Sheehan's final year of high school, the principal announces a new requirement for graduation: every senior will participate in a mock marriage to a classmate for the entire year. Fiona is appalled when she's paired with Todd, who she sees as a dumb, jerky jock--and even worse, Todd's actual girlfriend is Amanda, a cheerleader who's had it in for Fiona since second grade. Amanda gets matched with Gabe, Fiona's long-time crush, and pranks, misunderstandings, and drama ensue. This laugh-out-loud funny story will make you think twice about stereotypes and is sure to please readers who enjoy great characters and a plot with plenty of twists and turns.

You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems about Boys,by Sharon Flake (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books) Poetry/Short Stories. Lots of books tell stories about the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl; the poems and stories in this companion to the girl-focused collection Who Am I Without Him? are all about guys and their lives. From 17-year-old Tow-Kaye, who's both excited and scared about marrying his pregnant girlfriend, to James, who's contemplating taking his own life after the death of his twin, to Eric, who loves his North Philly 'hood, the African-American young men you'll meet in this book are realistic characters that you'll care about and remember.

The Wandora Unit, by Jessy Randall (Ghost Road Press) It's the Duran Duran 1980s: Wanda Lowell and Dora Nussbaum are two word-obsessive girls, as well as being the two editors of
Galaxy magazine, and between them there isn't an unexpressed thought about literature, love, and how it is definitely better to be weird than boring at Brighton High. Their friendship is surrounded on all sides by doubt, and not just the kind that questions the middle-class values of prom dates and getting into good colleges. Call it the price of being self-aware. Unfortunately for Dora this means watching her friendship with Wanda change until it shatters into a million pieces outward into the expanding universe. It's a clever story told in fractured fragments, with quotes from poets like Diane Wakowski and Gwendolyn Brooks acting as guideposts along the way. The poems that make up the "Galaxy" magazine at book's end are real ones, from the real Brighton High literary magazine of the 1980s, and the authors are duly acknowledged; the poems are made of equal parts teen-age anxiety and aspiration, and they're good, too.

All Unquiet Things, by Anna Jarzab (Delacorte Press) Mystery. Jaded, sarcastic Neily Monroe, a senior at the exclusive Brighton Day School, is still haunted by the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Carly, whose lifeless body he found on a bridge one year ago. But Neily is determined to get through high school and move on--almost as determined as Carly's cousin Audrey, who believes that her father was falsely convicted of the murder, is to find out who really committed the crime. As Audrey and Neily attempt to untangle a web of secrets and lies at Brighton, the dark side of their privileged world is revealed. Those who enjoy deep psychological explorations of a story's characters and smart, tense whodunits will be enthralled by All Unquiet Things.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver (The Bowen Press) Fiction. Samantha Kingston, one of the most popular girls in her high school, dies in a car accident after a wild party...but instead of seeing her whole life replayed before her eyes, she wakes up to live her last day over again. And again. And again. As Sam tries to change her destiny by altering small decisions and acts in the course of that one repeated day, she begins to realize how she has affected other people--and who she really wanted to be. This compelling debut novel is full of realistic characters, believable dialogue, and heartbreaking insights, and the suspense of wondering whether Sam will finally get it right (and what will happen if she does) will keep you turning the pages.

Num8ers, by Rachel Ward (Chicken House) Thriller. British 15-year-old Jem Marsh has got everyone's number. Whenever she makes eye contact with a person, a number--the date of that person's death--pops into Jem's head, making it hard for her to get close to people. But when gawky, troubled Spider doggedly pursues friendship (and more) with her, Jem finds that she can't resist him. When the two of them go to London on a date, Jem has the horrifying realization that many of the people in line to ride the London Eye Ferris wheel share the same death date -- that very day. Like an amusement park ride, this gritty, fast-paced thriller starts slowly, but once it takes off, you won't stop reading until you reach the firework ending.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Animal tales: new stories for tweens

Cats, dogs, birds, goldfish ... the variety of animals that live with humans is astounding (though cats may insist they choose whom they want to live with!) Here's a variety of new fiction and non-fiction books about animals, with settings from neighborhood backyards to Caesar's palace in ancient Rome. Wherever they are, and in whatever home they find themselves, animals (and their humans) have great stories to tell.

Dancing Through the Snow, by Jean Little (Kane Miller) Fiction. Abandoned as a toddler, Min Randall has been rejected by one foster family after the other until she finds it nearly impossible to trust anyone. Then, when Min's current foster mother takes her back to children's services just before Christmas, Dr. Jessica Hart -- who knows Min's history -- surprises everyone by taking her in. It isn't easy for anyone to break through Min's tough exterior, and although Jessica tries, it's really Min's experiences with neighborhood pets and a stray dog that soften her up. If you liked Clay Carmichael's Wild Things, give this emotionally intense yet ultimately uplifting story a try.

Tiger, Tiger, by Lynne Reid Banks (Laurel-Leaf Books) Historical Fiction. Stolen from their home in the wild, two tiger cubs are brought to ancient Rome -- one to be the pet of Caesar's daughter, Aurelia, and the other to kill men in the Colosseum. This "gripping, tantalizing examination of power, sacrifice and mercy" (Publishers Weekly) tells the suspenseful story of the brother cubs' lives with drama and emotion, and the author's descriptive writing brings the tigers' tale, a bittersweet love story (between Aurelia and her cub's keeper), and its third-century Roman Empire setting to life.

Nuts: A Novel, by Kacy Cook (Marshall Cavendish Children) Fiction. A squeaking noise outside 11-year-old Nell's bedroom leads her to a baby squirrel abandoned in her yard, and soon she is convincing her parents to let her rehabilitate not just one injured squirrel, but two. Despite the advice of an online squirrel expert to give the orphaned babies to a certified wildlife rehabilitator, Nell determines to heal and raise the squirrels on her own...but she has no idea what she's getting into. This upbeat yet thought-provoking story presents some differing perspectives on the natural world and is sure to hold animal lovers spellbound.

ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room, by Donna M. Jackson (Houghton Mifflin) Nonfiction. If you're interested in someday working at an emergency vet clinic, or if you just wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a pet ER, this "well-researched and well-written" (School Library Journal) book is one you'll want to read. Illustrated with a wealth of photos -- some sad, others sweet, and some (such as detailed shots of surgery) not for the squeamish -- it offers a glimpse into a typical day for the veterinarians, vet techs, and others who work at a clinic, provides information on the history of veterinary care, and explains how to make a pet first-aid kit.

Animals in the House: A History of Pets and People, by Sheila Keenan (Scholastic Nonfiction) Nonfiction. Ever wonder when people started welcoming animals into their homes? Or how the number of people in America compares to the number of pets? (You might be surprised!) From famous people's pets to animal-related superstitions to which pets are most popular -- dogs? birds? lizards? cats? armadillos? -- this fun, illustrated book covers just about anything you might want to know about the history of people keeping pets.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Strange places, strrage stories: fiction for teens

Sometimes it's good to get away -- even if it's just to get lost in a book. Here are some great recent stories that will make the reader keep turning the pages with anticipation of what happens next! Find them here using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes on BookBag.

Everwild, by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster) Fantasy. Sometimes, children lose their way to the afterlife and end up--at least temporarily--in the bizarre in-between world of Everlost. In this second volume of the Skinjacker Trilogy (after Everlost), deceased teens Allie and Nick are waging a sort of war against Mary Hightower, who wants to keep all of the children of Everlost with her forever. Packed with twists and turns, startling revelations, and even some laughs and a bit of romance, Everwild is a mesmerizing story set in a uniquely creative imaginary world.

Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick (Simon & Schuster) Paranormal Romance. Smart, responsible Nora Grey is irritated by mysterious transfer-student Patch when they first meet, but it isn't long before she finds herself irresistibly attracted to him (despite her persistent doubts about his character). After extremely frightening things begin happening to Nora, she decides to investigate Patch ... and discovers that he is one of the Nephilim, a fallen angel. And he wants very badly to be human. Hush, Hush is a haunting and tantalizingly sexy read that will have you on the edge of your seat--and hoping for a sequel.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner (Delacorte Press) Science Fiction. Thomas wakes up in a metal box that's lurching upward, and the only thing he can remember about himself is his first name. Deposited in the central courtyard of an enormous maze, he meets the boys who were delivered there before him. They've developed a society based on two goals: survival--the maze is populated by deadly mechanical monsters--and escape. But soon after Thomas' arrival, things change, and the need to find a way out of the maze takes on new urgency. This suspenseful novel establishes a fascinating and enigmatic world that's suffused with a creeping sense of doom. Fans of dystopian stories will be riveted--and desperate to learn what happens next.

Goth Girl Rising, by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Fiction. Kyra, the girl from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, has spent the last six months in a mental institution, and Fanboy didn't visit or contact her once. Maybe he was too busy managing his sudden popularity -- the result of publishing his comic in the school's literary magazine while Kyra was away -- but whatever the reason, Kyra is angry, and she's going to get revenge. If you like believable characters and stories filled with raw emotion, don't miss Goth Girl Rising.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford (Scholastic) Fiction. Beatrice Szabo, forced to start her senior year in a new place because of her father's job, is the new girl at a Baltimore, Maryland private school where everyone else has known each other since kindergarten. She's so emotionally deadened that her mother declares her a robot ... but something tugs at her wiry heartstrings when she meets tortured, antisocial Jonah, aka Ghost Boy. Witty, emotionally intense, and at times startlingly funny, How to Say Goodbye in Robot is the perfect novel for proud misfits; fans of quirky, character-driven stories; and anyone looking for an unconventional love story.

We Were Here, by Matt de la Peña (Delacorte Press) Fiction. Miguel Casteñeda has been sentenced to a year in a group home for a crime that he won't talk about--and honestly, he figures it's better than living at home, where his mother won't even look him in the eye anymore. Then Miguel runs away from the group home with two other residents, Mong and Rondell, with a half-baked plan to go to Mexico. Still keeping the journal that he was required to start in juvie, Miguel relates the hardships, adventures, and epiphanies that the trio have along the way. Part survival tale and part friendship story, We Were Here is a gripping, suspenseful read.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shaggy-dog stories, for the canine lover

Some folk are cat people, others are dog people. Which are you? Here are books about "man's best friend" -- they may be furry and all have tails, but they're not all cuddly! Look for these here on BookBag: find a copy at your local library by searching on the WorldCatalog box, or use the Amazon search box to buy a copy.

A Dog for Life, by L. S. Matthews (Delacorte Press) Fiction. Brothers Tom and John are so close that they sometimes dream the same dream at night, and they also share a telepathic connection with their dog, Mouse. When Tom becomes ill and the doctor forbids the family from having any pets, both brothers are horrified by the prospect of losing Mouse. John sets out on a wild and crazy journey, with Mouse in tow, in an attempt to find their dog a temporary home with a long-lost uncle. Full of rollicking adventures, this funny, exaggerated, and magical "tail" shows what lengths a couple of boys will go to in order to keep a beloved canine.

Wild Dogs: Past & Present, by Kelly Milner Halls (Darby Creek) Nonfiction. If you're only acquainted with Pekingese, poodles, or other pets, you've met merely a twig's worth on the family tree. Wild dogs of today and their ancestors, who have traversed the planet since right after the dinosaurs, are the subject of this book filled with pictures, fascinating facts, and even a bit of folklore. Taking a close look at the various sorts of dogs living in habitats all over the world--from wolves to dingoes to coyotes and more -- Wild Dogs will give you an appreciation for your pampered pooch's untamed relatives.

Waggit's Tale, by Peter Howe; illustrated by Omar Rayyan (HarperCollins) Fiction. After running frantically all day around the big city park where his owner abandoned him, a small white puppy is taken in by a pack of wild dogs who live there. Learning how to survive from pack-leader Tazar and the rest of the strays, Waggit also earns a name when he can't seem to stop wagging. It's a hard life in the park; food is scarce, and Tazar's crew competes with another pack for it. But as long as they steer clear of the park rangers who want to send them to the Great Unknown (the pound), Tazar and his hardscrabble pack are, at least, free. If you like tales of adventure and survival, this dog story is the one for you.

White Star: A Dog on the Titanic, by Marty Crisp (Holiday House) Fiction. Twelve-year-old Sam Harris is sailing on the Titanic to America, where he is to see his mother for the first time in six years and meet his new stepfather. He's understandably nervous about his new life--but luckily, there are dogs on board the ship, and Sam spends most of his time hanging around the kennels and wishing that one special Irish setter named White Star could be his. But then disaster strikes--and amid the watery chaos, Sam is determined not to leave White Star behind. With bits of little-known history woven into its story, White Star is a gripping tale of survival for dog lovers and adventure fans alike.

City of Dogs, by Livi Michael (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Animal Fantasy. When Sam gets a puppy from Auntie Dot on his birthday, he has no idea that his new companion has been charged with saving the universe. As it turns out, Jenny, the scared little dog that Sam's aunt nearly ran over with her car, had just been fleeing the end of the world in another dimension. Now the peril of Jenny's former world threatens this one, and she must recruit help--a raggedy bunch of neighborhood dogs--to prevent the ultimate destruction of all Nine Worlds. With many wonderful canine characters, a dizzyingly complex plot, and elements of Norse and Greek mythology woven into its story, this exciting book is a sure bet for dog-loving fantasy fans.

Hachiko Waits, by Lesléa Newman; illustrated by Machiyo Kodaira (Henry Holt) Fiction. Every day, Professor Elizaburo Ueno tells his dog Hachi the same thing: "Hachi, you are the best dog in all of Japan." And every day, Hachi follows Professor Ueno to the train station, returns home, and later shows up promptly at three o'clock to greet his master and walk home with him. After the professor dies suddenly at work one day, Hachi is at the train station at 3:00 pm as always. Although friends of Professor Ueno's try to take Hachi in, he is unswerving in his loyalty and his hope that his master will return--so much so that he waits at the station every day for ten years. This fictional version of a true story, while heartbreaking, is also a great tribute to one very noble and faithful dog.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The perils of parenting while plugged-in, from the NY Times

(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 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.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

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 theInvercauld descended into anarchy. After a year and a half, only three of theInvercauld'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.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Books about history: truth vs. fiction

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.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Graphic novels you might have missed

Graphic novels can be great fun! Some are even based on movies and stories you may know. If you're a fan of graphic novels and looking for some new reads, here are some to check out from your local library (use the WorldCatalog search box to see if your library has them) or find a copy using the Amazon search box also here on BookBag.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, written by F. Scott Fizgerald & adapted by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir; illustrated by Kevin Cornell (Quirk Books) Classic. Perhaps you've seen the 2008 movie starring Brad Pitt as a man who ages backwards after being born a full-grown, elderly man in Baltimore in 1860. This witty and handsomely illustrated graphic novel sticks closer to the original F. Scott Fitzgerald short story than the somewhat melancholy film does, preserving its satirical humor (among other things). Literature buffs--and anyone who enjoys tales about people who fail to meet society's expectations of them--should thoroughly enjoy this version of the story that Fitzgerald himself declared to be "the funniest thing ever written."

Prince of Persia, created by Jordan Mechner; written by A.B. Sina; illustrated by LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland (First Second) Adventure. Based on thePrince of Persia video games and composed by the game's creator, Jordan Mechner, and Iranian author A.B. Sina, this "magnificent and complex" (Booklist) graphic novel illuminates the underlying legend of the games' world. Make no mistake, there's plenty of action, adventure, and mayhem here--but players who appreciate the substantial storylines of the games will be eager to delve deeper into the mythology laid out in the book, which should also please fans of historical fantasies rich with political intrigue, battles, and elemental magic. Both the newPrince of Persia gameThe Forgotten Sands and the movie The Sands of Time (which stars Jake Gyllenhaal) will be released this May, making April a great time to check out the book!

Aya of Yop City, by Marguerite Abouet; illustrated by Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly) Fiction. This sequel to Aya plunges readers right back into the "good-humored soap opera" (Booklist) of studious, responsible Aya and her boy-crazy friends, all of whom live in the Ivory Coast of the late 1970s. Aya's friend Adjoua has had her baby...and he looks nothing like her rich, slacker husband, Moussa. Meanwhile, Bintou thinks that she's found the perfect man--but is he too good to be true? Once again vibrantly bringing all of Yop City's characters and their day-to-day drama to life, this 2nd of three graphic novels in the series -- Aya: The Secrets Come Out is next -- will have readers laughing, crying, and sighing as that drama unfolds. (New to the series? Be sure to start with Aya, or you'll be lost.)

Kin, by Holly Black; illustrated by Ted Naifeh (Graphix) Urban Fantasy. Goth-girl Rue Silver ("like kangaroo or like 'you'll rue the day we met, MWA-HA-HA!'") claims that she's not a worrier--but when her mom goes missing, her father is accused of murder, and she begins to see impossible creatures that no one else sees, worrying might be sensible. Rue thinks she's going crazy, but in the course of this darkly compelling graphic novel, the existence of the faerie world and the source of Rue's connection to it are revealed. Fans of Charles de Lint's books (such as Dingo) or of Neil Gaiman's highly imaginative and menacing Neverwhere will be entranced by this first volume in the Good Neighbors series--and will clamor for the second volume, Kith.

Emiko Superstar, by Mariko Tamaki; illustrated by Steve Rolston (Minx) Realistic Fiction. Being a geek never really bothered Emiko...but now her geeky friends are excited about attending a young executives' retreat over the summer, and Emi isn't interested. Then, just when it seems that her summer will be all babysitting, all the time, shy Emi is handed a flyer advertising weekend performance-art "Freak Shows," and she's both intrigued and terrified. After she finally works up the nerve to go to one of the shows, her whole life changes. Check out this slightly angsty, gently funny, and completely engaging read to see how Emi goes from geek to superstar on the road to becoming herself.

Pride of Baghdad, by Brian K. Vaughan; illustrated by Niko Henrichon (DC Comics) Fiction. As American bombs rain down on Iraq in 2003, four lions escape from the Baghdad Zoo--only to struggle for survival in the battered, unfamiliar city. Having relied for so long on their keepers, the lions ponder the benefits of their captivity and the price of their freedom as they wander in search of food and safety. Both a gripping adventure and "a thoughtful allegory about the war in Iraq" (Library Journal), this provocative, expressively illustrated, and occasionally violent graphic novel was inspired by a pride of lions' real-life flight from captivity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recommended childrens' readers in Spanish

This recommended list of books for kids from WETA's Reading Rockets project includes favorites for Hispanic students and for those interested in learning a bit of Spanish. The books are written by today's most notable Hispanic and Latin American children's authors. The diverse sampling includes traditional songs, bilingual poetry, and much more. Some of the books are bilingual while others come in Spanish or in English editions peppered with Spanish words. Look for these books by using the World Catalog / search boxes on BookBag.

Esta lista de libros recomendados para niños de los cohetes de WETA Reading Rockets proyecto incluye los favoritos para los estudiantes hispanos y para aquellos interesados en aprender un poco de español. Los libros son escritos por los más notables hispanos y latinoamericanos de hoy los autores de los niños. La toma de muestras diversas, incluye canciones tradicionales, poesía bilingüe, y mucho más. Algunos de los libros son bilingües, mientras que otros vienen en español o en ediciones Inglés salpicado de palabras en español. Puedes buscar estos libros utilizando el Catálogo Mundial y los cuadros de búsqueda en

Abuela, by Arthur Dorros (age level: 3-5; reading level: beginning reader). Rosalba imagines flying over New York City with her much loved abuela. The young girl uses a lovely mix of English and Spanish to describe their journey, moving from the busy streets of Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty. Brightly colored illustrations detail what Rosalba and her grandmother glimpse as they fly, and the rich tales of Abuela's memories. (Available in both English and Spanish).

Arroz con Leche, by Lulu Delacre (age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). These traditional rhymes and songs from Latin America are presented in both English and Spanish. Gentle illustrations accompany the short verses, and show both cities and the countryside. Children and adults from Spanish-speaking backgrounds will recognize many of these fun songs and rhymes.

Barrio: José's Neighborhood (Barrio: El barrio de José) by George Ancona (age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). José lives in a diverse neighborhood where he's just as likely to hear Spanish, English, or Chinese. The appealing photographs in this book document José's life at home, at school, and on the streets of his barrio in San Francisco, a city that is a vibrant mosaic of different cultures. (Available in a Spanish edition and in an English edition with a Spanish glossary).

Chato's Kitchen (La cocina de Chato), by Gary Soto, illustrated by: Susan Guevara (Age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). Chato, along with Novio Boy, are the coolest cats in their East Los Angeles barrio. When a family of mice moves next door to Chato, he invites them to dinner. He's going to eat them for dinner, but the mice bring a friend along – a dog – to surprise Chato and foil his plans. The text and pictures show the funny situation and the satisfying solution. (In English sprinkled with Spanish. Includes a glossary of Spanish words used in the text.)

De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, by Jose-Luis Orozco, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). Bursting with color and spirit, this book is a bilingual collection of Latin-American folk songs. The songs were selected and translated by popular Mexican performer and songwriter Jose-Luis Orozco. The book includes traditional tunes, rhymes, and hand games. An accompanying music CD is also recommended.

From the Bellybutton of the Moon and other Summer Poems (Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano), by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. (Age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). The poet remembers summers growing up in Mexico in poems presented in both English and Spanish. Readers meet his family and join them in the everyday joys of the sunny season. Illustrations are as colorful and evocative as the words.

In My Family (En mi familia), by Carmen Garza (Age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Kingsville, on the border of Mexico and Texas, comes to life in words and pictures in this book. Readers will share the simple joys of eating, dancing, and celebrating as the artist remembers her own childhood. Her stories, presented in both English and Spanish, are accompanied by her bright paintings.

Roadrunner's Dance (El baile del correcaminos) by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by: David Diaz (Age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). Snake terrifies children and their parents. He claims to be the "king of the road." But with gifts from the animals, Desert Woman fashions Roadrunner to defeat Snake. In the tradition of a folktale, this original story explains why rattlesnakes have their rattle and how cooperation can save the day.

The Most Beautiful Place in the World (El lugar más hermoso del mundo), by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Thomas Allen. (age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Now that Juan's mother has left him with his grandmother, he shines shoes to earn a living. More than anything else, though, 7-year old Juan wants to learn to read and go to school. Guatemala comes alive through the daily lives of Juan and his grandmother and the detailed black/white illustrations.

The Rainbow Tulip, by Pat Mora, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles (Age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Stella and her brothers speak Spanish at home but English at school. Being different is both scary and exciting. Stella learns this when she prepares for the school's celebration of May Day. She finds a way to honor her Mexican background by wearing a special skirt that is both alike yet different from the other girls'. Stella, like many children, can take pride in being part of two cultures. (In English sprinkled with Spanish).

Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba (Bajo las palmas reales), by Alma Flor Ada (age level: 9-12, reading level: independent reader). In writing about her childhood growing up in Camaguey, Cuba, the author evokes all the senses. Readers will smell jasmine, coffee, and grandmother's perfume. They will see the bats flying overhead and hear adults talk. When parents and other adults read this memoir with children, they may start to share their own family stories.