Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A friend of mine from grad school posted on Instagram that she was approved for a NetGalley copy of Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan and I decided I had to try as well. I am so pumped about the third installment of Crazy Rich Asians! Anyway, once I got into NetGalley (it had been a while) I poked around and found a few more books that might fit into my goals of 1) reading more juvenile books this year and 2) could fit the PopSugar Reading Challenge checklist. One of which is Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George.

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The story centers around orphaned mouse Mona who finds herself carried away in a storm and finds refuge in a fantastical hotel called Heartwood Hotel. Readers meet sweet woodland creatures (like Mrs. Prickles the cook, Tilly the squirrel maid and owner Mr. Heartwood the badger), go on brave adventures with Mona, and learn about Mona’s family and past.


One Goodreads reviewer compared Heartwood Hotel to The Wind in the Willows, and while I see his point, I disagree. Mostly because the writing and characterizations are lacking. While Heartwood Hotel is no The Wind in the Willows it is a sweet and enjoyable read. I foresee those who like Critter Club and Puppy Place and The Saddle Club snapping these up. The fact that the book is an ARC and already a “book one” tells me publishers are also seeing the connections.

Mock Caldecott

I attended my very first Mock Caldecott discussion on the 8th (this really delayed, I know). Fortunately, I’d read most of the titles in my rush to read all the Goodreads best of picture books, and in my perusal of other “best of” lists. It’s interesting, however, to note that the actual winner (and only one of the four official honor books was included) was not discussed at all in our meeting. The titles discussed are as follows:

Medal winner: Erin E. Stead for The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

Honor: Brendan Wenzel for The All Saw a Cat

Honor: Beth Krommes for Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

Honor: Nick Wroblewski for Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova

Honor: Yuyi Morales for Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Honor: Christian Robinson for School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

Tessa Blackham for Monday is Wash Day by Maryann Sundby

The Fan Brothers for The Midnight Gardner

Dan Santant for Are we There Yet?

Evan Turk for The Storyteller

While I don’t agree with the winner (I liked Before Morning and School’s First Day of School) much more, the process was fascinating! We each voted for four titles, with a weighted vote (our first choice gets more points etc), so there’s less of a chance for ties. We also discussed in great detail, the gutters, continuity (in School’s First Day of School a little girl draws a picture and on the next page, when it is hung up on the teacher’s bulletin board, the sun has changed locations), and whitespace. Many things I have to admit, I had not looked at before.

Hopefully next year, I can also participate in the Mock Newbery! I hope to be more on top of things this year, read the books as they come out.

And the Winner is….

Today is the day! The Youth Media Awards (YMA) were announced this morning at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta. For more information on the awards themselves and the various honor books, check out School Library Journal, The Horn Book and The American Library Association.

The Newbery goes to… 

Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon

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(Goodreads summary)

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

The Caldecott goes to…

Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

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(Goodreads summary)

Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message and art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

The Printz AND the

Correta Scott King Award go to

John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for March: Book Three

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(Goodreads summary)

Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

Upcoming 2017 Releases

Now that we’ve gone through all (or most of) the Best of 2016 books, it’s on to 2017! Forever Young Adult released their “Most Anticipated Books of 2017: Sequels and Follow-ups” list.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

I have to admit, I have no interest in the majority of these titles. However, I am all about Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You) and I need to know what happens! Stephanie from Forever Young Adult pretty much sums up my feelings on the third book in the series: “Why I’m Excited: More Lara Jean, what the what?! But I’m so torn, y’all! On the one hand, I love Lara Jean and her family, and I will absolutely jump at the chance to see more of them. But on the other hand, she and [REDACTED] ended the last book in a good place, and if there’s anything we know about telling a story, is that there must be some kind of conflict to keep it interesting. And, guys, I don’t want there to be any more dramalama for Lara Jean and [REDACTED]. Why do you do this to me, Jenny Han?”

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

I LOVED Code Name Verity so I’m super pumped about the prequel, The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. It has a lot to live up to, and I don’t think it will pack quite the same punch as Code Name Verity (for obvious reasons), but Wein created such wonderful characters I’m excited to spend time with them again.

I also checked out Forever Young Adult’s list of upcoming YA standalones, in addition to various Goodreads lists, and found myself a few more intriguing titles.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

This is an incredibly niche genre, but I find I enjoy fantasy most when it’s set in historical time periods. Think The Night Circus. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue seems to fit this niche nicely. And there’s a boy-boy love story, which I still (unfortunately) do not see a lot of in literature.

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Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

New Sarah Dessen! Hooray! I love her. Once and for All promises to be just as delightful as all the rest of Dessen’s novels. I can’t believe she’s written 13!

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is billed as a “laugh out loud, heartfelt, YA romantic comedy about two Indian American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.” I think that pretty much sums up why I want to read it. Also #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices

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Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

First, amazing cover! Second, I really enjoy middle grade novels in verse. Add that to our main character having Tourettes Syndrome and changing schools, and I’m officially intrigued.

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Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

I really enjoyed A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers (side note, interesting that the YA novels are under A.S. King and this MG novel is Amy Sarig) and I’m interested to see how she writes for Middle Grade. Me and Marvin Gardens is about a lonely boy who befriends a secret creature who eats plastic, and only plastic. The Goodreads blurb describes it as “her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.”

Brightly also has a list of 2017 Picture Books. I’m very excited about the Jim Henson biography and Anna Dewdney’s latest. I was so sad to hear of her passing!

Worth Reading: Round 2

Another collection of articles and blog posts about libraries and librarianship that are particularly relevant today.

#OwnVoices

Kayla Whaley writes elqoently on the subject in “#OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Author’s in Children’s Literature.” Whaley writes, “Sometimes the characters and stories they create are wonderful! But many times, they’re rife with stereotypes, tropes, and harmful portrayals. Time and again, marginalized people have seen their stories taken from them, misused, and published as authentic, while marginalized authors have had to jump hurdle after hurdle to be published themselves.”

“The Power of a Series”

I needed this post. I often lament the plethora of series in Juvenile and Young Adult lit. I want to tell kids, “read outside of Magic Treehouse or The Selection!” Part of it is because I want our young readers to experience different books and different characters and part of it is because I think it’s a marketing ploy on the behalf of the publishers (especially with The Selection series). However, Katie Muhtaris makes an excellent argument for the necessity of series.

Muhtaris wrote, “I wasn’t a reluctant reader, but I was a fair weather one.  Reading came easily to me. It was no effort, it was just there.  It seemed to please others when I read aloud nicely.  It wasn’t for me.” This description sounds an awful lot like my brother, who was a steady series reader (Bailey School Kids and Captain Underpants when he was in elementary school and Redwall and Harry Potter as he grew older). I can’t say he is an avid reader now, but it took investment in those series to encourage his individual pleasure reading, and make reading his.

Just like the box of Nancy Drew books opened up Muhtaris to reading for her: “That, my friends, is the power of the series.  The power for stories to become a part of who we are.  As a teacher I know that to help readers I often need to get them hooked on a series.  The predictable plot structures, the familiarity with characters, setting, and genre all help support developing readers.  But they help kids like me, too.  I was a developing reader.  Maybe my assessments were high, my letter was good, my lexile was fine, my standardized numbers were acceptable.  But I was still a developing reader until the moment when I realized I could take charge of my reading life.  That reading wasn’t for anyone else but me.”

“The Secret Life of the Librarian”

My friend over at No1Librarian posted this article on her blog. The outreach librarian vision is something my current library is working towards (although we all still have desks), and I love this mentality. We serve the community, not just those that walk in our doors, and with library usership dwindling, we need to make our presence known even more.

Anonymous writes, “The only regret I have about my long career in public libraries is that I have not been able to convince more librarians that they should be less book-focused and more people-focused; that they should look outward to the community rather than inward to the library; that they should get rid of desks and counters and do more active roving inside the library and outside in the community; that they should put less emphasis on the excellence of the collection and more on providing books that people actually want to read; and, most important of all, that libraries should be community-led and based on the needs of the public they serve.”

Best Books of 2016: Goodreads (picture books)

While voting on the Goodreads Best of 2016 lists this year, I realized I’ve read very few. Given that I noticed this in late November or early December there was not a lot I could do to alleviate the problem. The wait list for The Underground Railroad and Truly, Madly, Guilty and The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo are massive! I could, however, read all the picture books my library owned. And so I did.

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My thoughts are as follows. Starting with the winner:

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

I love Elephant and Piggie, I really do. I’m so sad they are leaving us. And while I think The Thank You Book is a sweet tribute to the readers of the series, it’s not my favorite of the bunch. However, We are in a Book! Is pretty hard to top.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, illustrated by T. Ryder Smith

The concept is great– everyone sees the same thing a bit differently. The illustrations are also wonderful. But, for whatever reason, it didn’t wow me like it did my coworker.

Are We There Yet? By Dan Santat

This is a very clever story about boring car rides and the passage of time. I especially enjoyed the use of the book itself (having to turn the book itself upside down).

What do you do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

I’m torn, because I love the illustrations and the idea of facing problems is something kids should learn and discuss. I especially like that the problem is not named, so it can be anything.

However, it seems overly didactic to me. Not all problems affecting kids can be tackled as simply as this book implies.


Ida, Always
by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

An absolutely beautiful story about friendship and and the loss of said friend. I cried.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Sam Winston

My library doesn’t carry this book and I apparently am awful about remembering to pick up holds at non-work libraries.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

A fun story about a goblin and other fairy tale villains. While not bad, it wasn’t anything special.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

This is another my library doesn’t carry, which is unfortunate, because I’m already loving the female scientist.

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton

How did I not know about Otter until now? She’s adorable! I want an otter! I love the clever humor that’s fun for adults but still accessible to children. Also, the illustrations are amazing! To me it reads very much like Winnie the Pooh (which makes sense, Garton is also British).

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Not bad, but hard not to compare We Found a Hat to the previous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, which are delightfully dark.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

I absolutely love Alexie’s YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but this is the only other piece I’ve read by him. This picture book about a boy who doesn’t like his name is a fun, relatable read. However, there are some criticisms, which are worth mulling over.

When Green  Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad

I love the illustrations! Many of the poems are wonderful.

I especially like “December 29.”

“and I woke/ to a morning/ that was quiet/ and white/ the first snow/ (just like magic) came/ on tiptoes/ overnight.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

When I first started reading I was bored. The words are simple and so are the illustrations. However, as I kept reading, it struck me. This book is deep! It also subtly promotes acceptance of different sexualites and orientations and differences in general, without being “a teaching book.” The worms are what they are.

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

This was by far my least favorite of the  bunch. It felt like Falatko and Miller tried to be Mo Willems and failed. This type of humor is difficult to pull of successfully and breaking the fourth wall is oftentimes very confusing (unless you’re Mo Willems or William Goldman). Also, the illustrations were way too busy, with no clear focus.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

I’ve already written about this picture book, but it’s seriously one of my favorites. Almost makes me want to go back to school. Also, I adore Christian Robinson’s collage like illustrations.

A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

The title alludes to it all. Gotta love a dark picture book when it’s so tongue in cheek.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

This is a very sweet bed time story, but the best part is the diverse family. It’s just there. I love that it’s never mentioned because diverse families are everywhere and books with diverse families shouldn’t only be “issue books.”

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

Beautiful wordless picture book. The only issue I have (solely  from a library point of view), is that those poor pull out pages will get destroyed. Other than that, the illustrations and dance tell a lovely story about sharing and friendship.

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Yet another (only three!) that I did not get my hands on.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

I like that this book is based on true events, and the illustrations are very interesting (and very reminiscent of the original murals). However, the story is so-so.

The Ms. Elizabeth’s Libraryland winner? It’s hard to choose, because many are so wonderful. But, currently, my favorite is Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso.