Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cupcake Giveaway!

I just mentioned in a previous post how much I love Jama Rattigan's blog and yesterday she featured chocolate- mmmm yummy. Along with my YA book blogs, I also read some yummy food and baking blogs that inspire me. This morning when I was reading a Cake Spy entry, I was directed to an awesome giveaway on Kitchen Dough Dough (what a cute name). Check out the cupcakes and comment to win. This is truly one of the largest giveaways I've ever seen in the blogosphere. Good luck and good eating!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin-Audiobooks

While driving back from dropping my oldest at her first week-long overnight camp, I listened to Grace Lin's The Year of the Dog. Jama Rattigan has raved more than once about what a great writer she is of both pictures books and longer novels for tweens. Since Rattigan's Alphabet Soup blog combines both children's lit and FOOD, I am drawn to it. I love how she combines my two favorites in life.

So, Pacy is the narrator of The Year of the Dog, and it starts with delicious descriptions of the Chinese New Year food her mother makes for the celebration. The Year of the Dog, according to her parents, portends to be lucky and will help you find yourself as well as a best friend. All of these come true for Pacy, the only Chinese-American in her school until Melody moves in. The audio is enhanced by a Chinese narrator who truly made Pacy's mom sound like a Chinese mother with an accent. Plus, it made my mouth drool! Readers and listeners find out that the novel is autobiographical and depicts how Grace Lin found her calling to write for children. I was able to finish it in exactly the time it took me to drive back home and I can't wait to read The Year of the Rat. My children will be enjoying Grace Lin's picture books right after I pick them up from the library hold this afternoon!

For an interesting article on the importance of food in children's books, look at this Horn Book article by award winning author Linda Sue Park. Still Hot: Great Food Moments in Children’s Literature by Linda Sue Park. The link is no longer working, but see if you can get a copy of this great read!

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Is there anything Laurie Halse Anderson can't write? I am so impressed by the variety of what she produces. As an avid follower of her blog, I am always struck by how down to earth she is (online as well as in person). Truly, I can't think of a better person to win all of the recognition she has. I always tell my 8th graders that every one of them should read Speak before they go to high school, boys and girls alike. It seems odd that I read the ARC of Wintergirls before I even read Chains, but I managed to make short work of it. Isabel is a slave who is sold to a cruel Tory couple (the Lockharts) in 1776 New York where the Revolution is in full swing. She endures the hardships of working for the Lockharts while losing her sister ("sold" the Madam tells her). Isabel finds herself torn between the two sides of the Revolution, not knowing who to support. In the meantime, she becomes a messenger runner for the Patriots. The book ends as she is finally breaking away from her evil owners and I can't wait for FORGE, which is the next promised continuation.

Not only is the novel beautifully written with great characters (I love Mr. Lockhart's ailing aunt who is kind to Isabel)but the research is incredible. Each chapter starts with a primary source quote pertinent to the rest of the chapter. This goes right to the top of my list for historical fiction. Anderson has also started a foray into picture books, which I can't wait to get my hands on!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Amelia Walden Award

The time is coming! I'm anxious to see who the finalists are on Friday! Since I know two people on the 6 person committee, I'm anxious to see who wins this award!

Here is the press release:

Inaugural Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for Young Adult Fiction Launched

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the first annual Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award.

Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author, Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.

Amelia Elizabeth Walden was born in New York City on January 15, 1909. She graduated from Columbia University in 1934 and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. From 1935 to 1945, she taught English and Dramatics at Norwalk High School in Connecticut. Walden wrote over 40 novels for young adults. She passed away in 2002 in Westport, Connecticut.


Over the past year, the ALAN Award Committee members considered 232 young adult titles for this inaugural award. The finalists will be announced on Friday, July 17, 2009. The winning title will be revealed at the November 2009 ALAN Workshop in Philadelphia, PA. A reception will be held in honor of all finalists, each of whom will be invited to participate in a public reading.

For more information about the award, please contact the 2009 AEW Award Committee Chair, Wendy Glenn, at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Poetry Friday- The Words Under the Words by Naomi Shihab Nye

I wanted to post this to go with yesterday's review of Under The Persimmon Tree.

The Words Under the Words
for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem
by Naomi Shihab Nye

My grandmother’s hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat’s new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.

My grandmother’s days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.

My grandmother’s voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband’s coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.

My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”

The poetry round up is here at Jama Rattigan this week.

Under the Persimmon Tree

UNDER THE PERSIMMON TREE by Suzanne Fisher Staples was published in 2005, but I just read about it in a blog (sorry, don't remember which one) that was suggesting good middle eastern titles. I picked it up from the library and was incredibly riveted. The novel takes place in 2001-2002 in Afghanistan right after the World Trade Center bombings. A family living in the mountains (outside of Kunduz) is devastated by what the Taliban does when it comes to their home. The young daughter, Najmah, takes a perilous journey with a neighboring family to find her brother and father in Peshawar, Pakistan. There, Najmah finds a blond American muslim woman, Nusrat, who is holding a "school" at her house while she waits for her own Afghani husband to return from Mazari-al-Sharif where he is a doctor running a free clinic. Nusrat cares for Najmah as the two discover the whereabouts of their loved ones in a very heart wrenching conclusion.

I have listened to the audio versions of SHABANU and it's sequel HAVELI by the same author. The rich cultural background Fisher Staples gives to these novels is outstanding, especially from the viewpoint of someone who knows very little about the region or customs. In this particular novel, Fisher Staples grapples with Sept 11, 2001, from the other side. It was a refreshing way to look at the tragedy- if that's possible. Did we understand, as Americans, what happened to the innocent civilians when we bombed Afghanistan? Did we know how fearful the Afghanis were of the Taliban? This novel really opened my eyes and would be a powerful teaching tool for students. I really want to add this to my collection next year and book talk it in September.

What's In My Shoebox

I read a really interesting post this morning from Carly H. at InkSplot. She picked up a used book called I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Christina Garcia. Then, Carly went on to list 10 items in a shoebox that would represent her. This idea is somewhat like what I did with 7th graders last year when they filled a paper bag with items that represented them. I, too, want to try my hand at this- In my shoebox, there would be:

*small replica of a house because being a mom and wife is the most important thing in my life! Our house represents who we are and where our kids can feel safe.

*cake pan (to represent my love of baking!)

*packet of seeds (to represent my love of gardening)

*diet coke (like Carly, can't go a day without it. How sad :)

*angel statue (I have always felt connected to my angels and know they watch over me everyday)

*The Giver by Lois Lowry (one of the quintessential books, I think, that talks to kids about what it means to be individual and human. Begs the question: just because we can, should we?)

*St. Benedict medal (for those who know me, this is self-explanatory)

*chocolate (my drug of choice)

*notebook (to represent my love of writing- though you wouldn't know it by the blog entries- one a week in summer? sheesh!)

*ipod (how else will I listen to my coveted audiobooks?)

What's in your shoebox?

And, Happy Birthday to my grandfather who died three months before the first child in our family was born (my oldest). He would have been.....81 today. Love you Gramps!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sent by Margaret Petersen Haddix

A huge thank you to Laura Antonacci for getting this ARC to me so fast! I was a big fan of Found (the first book in The Missing series) and I couldn't wait to read the next installment in the series. Sent picks up with the characters Jonah, Chip, Alex and Katherine as they are transported to the 15th century where Chips and Alex are the King and Prince respectively. Jonah and Katherine don't actually have a place in 15th century England, so that presents some problems. The science fiction is woven masterfully into the historical fiction so that there isn't much of a ripple between the two.

I guess the biggest surprise to me was that this novel turned out to be more historical fiction than science fiction. Historical fiction is one of my true loves, but I admit that I had to go back and refresh myself on Richard III. My memory doesn't truly kick in until Henry VIII. I loved the historical viewpoint and the fact that these 21st century kids were worried about the anachronism of their presence. It took me a while to get back into the characters, as I had read Found a while ago. I did really like the novel and am now anxious to read the rest!

If I Stay

Mia's life starts out idyllic: it's a snow day and everyone in her family is home. As Mia's mom, dad and little brother make plans to go out for a drive during the day, we learn that her dad is a former punk band member who gave up much of what he did when children came along. He is now a middle school teacher but the love of music in this family is immense. Mia is waiting to hear if she got accepted to Julliard- as she is an incredible classical cellist. Adam, Mia's boyfriend and love of her life, is also a musician but more along the same lines as Mia's dad.

During their drive, however, the family car is t-boned by a semi truck and Mia is the only one left alive- well, comatose. And, she has been transported out of her body so she can watch all that is happening in the hospital. The book spans only a day, but it is interspersed with Mia's detailed flashbacks of her life before this moment. It is the flashbacks that help the reader understand what her family life was like and what she would be giving up if she decides to stay in her body. It's never really clear how much control Mia has over whether she stays (lives) or goes (dies). The aspect of Mia being able to watch her operations, family grieving, and her own body hooked up to monitors and ventilators is a very unique one. I am reminded of The Lovely Bones, but Susie Salmon is narrating from heaven. I know Elsewhere (Gabrielle Zevin) has sort of the same narration, though I've yet to read it (this summer!). This was a fresh and beautiful look at how a teen can appreciate the beauty in life and how one person can choose to fight for their own life. The language read almost like a poem and I have to say that I inhaled this book and still want more. I can't wait to share it with kids this fall!
P.S. Teri Lesesne ( of Professor Nana fame) just reviewed the audio of this book and I can't wait to get my hands on it. She said it was even more of a tear jerker than than the book!

See what else I'm Reading


This is the first of many posts today in order to catch up on my blogging in relation to my reading. If you are interested in what I'm reading right now, here is my link to my Good Reads page. Happy Thursday- Happy July????? (already?)