My blog is moving….Yes, it is true.

Though I am not a stick in the mud, never make changes kind of a person, I do like a fair amount of stability.  I anticipated when I started my blog on WordPress that I would be keeping it here for…well…at least a year, hopefully longer.  However, not long after setting up my blog, I began to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to design it the way I imagined.  My friend, Alethea (@frootjoos), spent hours trying to figure out how to do what I wanted to do.  But alas…it wasn’t happening.  So before the start of the new school year, I decided to make a leap over to Blogger.

On Saturday, August 28, 2010, I am going to announce a contest for all my current followers.  If you would be so kind as to follow this blog over to my new site, you will be entered into a special contest just for you.  Sort of a thank you for being flexible and faithful. (Note: New followers – I will do a little something for you too – just different.)

If you are looking for the new site here it is www.kidlitfrenzy.blogspot.com

Thank you’s to those who have already switched over.  And much thanks for those who join in.

Announcing the Winners of the Crescendo ARC Contest

After reading through some wonderful stories about who inspired you to read, or where you enjoy reading or who you love to read to, and then spending what felt like forever tallying up points, there is finally a winner – well sort of two winners.  Let me explain.

I had mentioned that it would be my decision if the person who won Crescendo would also win Matched by Ally Condie.  After much thought and before I selected a winner (using randomizer.org), I decided that if the winner had 30 points or more (based on their various entries) then the person would win both ARCs.  If it was 29 or less, then the winner would get Crescendo only.  My first winner Mayara from Brazil had under 30 points.  Mayara is the lucky winner of the Crescendo ARC.  (Mayara – you have 24 hours to contact me to claim your prize.) Since her points were less than 30, I then selected a second random winner Mandy (@twimom101) who will receive the ARC of Matched.

Congratulations to both winners!  And thank you everyone for being so creative and providing some inspiration for a future blog post.  Some of you may be contacted for permission to use either your pictures or stories in an upcoming literacy post.

On an additional note, I will be moving my blog over to Blogger.  My new web address with be Kidlitfrenzy.blogspot.com It is a bit complicated as to why I am moving, but if you are interested in this blog and upcoming future contests feel free to come follow me there.  I was able to transfer most things over but to all my followers…you must elect to follow or not.  Of course, I hope you will  because there will be some big events coming up over the next several months that I think you will love.

- Aly

Book Review – The Kneebone Boy

Author:  Ellen Potter

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (September 14, 2010)

Reading Level: Grades 4th to 8th

Source: ARC for review

Rating:  5 Stars – Highly recommend

Description from GoodReads:

The book’s set in a small English town and follows the Hardscrabble kids who are relocated to live with their aunt in London, where they discover they might be living next door to “a horribly misshapen boy who has figured in local legend.” It’s the story of the three Hardscrabble siblings and their search for the legendary Kneebone Boy.

There are books that are fun to read.  There are other books that are amazingly well written.  Sometimes, though, it is a struggle to find “fun to read” and “amazingly well written” between the same covers of a book.  However, as I read through Ellen Potter’s newest book The Kneebone Boy, I found myself repeating in this awestruck manner “This book is brilliant”.  Both fun and well written and bound behind a spectacular cover. (Click here to read a post from Potter about the cover of the book illustrated by Jason Chan.)

The Kneebone Boy is a tale of 3 children, siblings, living in an odd home with a somewhat eccentric father in England.  There is a mystery surrounding the disappearance of their mother which permeates their lives and influences their actions.  When they find themselves on their own in London, rather than return home, they set out to find their great-aunt.  Their journey turns out to be an adventure of a lifetime.  One that will challenge and test them on many levels, but will ultimately provide them with new understanding.

I am determined not to spoil this story so if some of the details seem vague it is for exactly this reason.  Potter is a master storyteller and has crafted this novel in a manner that reveals just what needs to be at each step of the journey.  As I read each page, I never felt that I wanted more or less than what was given to me.  Even as I arrived at the end of the book, I was pleased with the manner in which she pulled together all of the aspects of the story and provided the reader with a deeply satisfying ending.

It should be noted that The Kneebone Boy is written in a style that fans of Lemony Snickets’ Series of Unfortunate Events or Pseudonymous Bosch’s Secret Series will be familiar with. Yet, the story begins in a very different voice and style from other novels by Potter. If you are not familiar with Snickets’ or Bosch’s stories, and more accustomed with Potter’s traditional writing style, then I would suggest that you give the story a couple of chapters to acclimate yourself to the narrator’s manner. Once in the rhythm of the story you will find yourself, enjoying the interjections and information provided by the book’s narrator. I will make the argument that I truly felt as if Potter has taken her writing to a whole new level with this story. There is a richness and complexity with the story that will appeal to older Middle Grade readers and even adults who are reading along with their children.

Kudos to Ellen Potter for an amazing new book and for continuing to write outstanding literature for middle grade readers.

For more information about Ellen Potter and her books, you can check out her website here: www.ellenpotter.com

Book-A-Day Challenge Week 7

The Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisper) has been one of my favorite challenges.  Not only did it really help me focus on my reading goal for this summer, but using the #bookaday hashtag on twitter introduced me to some great teachers and school librarians and added a whole community feel to the challenge.  I just want to give a shout out to some of my favorite  Book-A-Day folks: Kathy (@thebrainlair), John (@mrschu81), Jamie (@fiteach), David (@tkslibrarian), Elisha (@elishakarr), Denise (@ddigiova), Paul (@paulwhankins), and Donalyn (@donalynbooks).  If you are on twitter, go follow them.

Now onto my update, I will preface this and say it was a big picture book week.  A bookseller friend of mine gave me free reign to go through her galleys for new releases coming out in late fall/early winter. The only thing that kept me from reading more is that I actually had to get to a meeting and ran out of time.

You will also notice a lot of books by Melanie Watt included below.  When I had admitted that I hadn’t read her stuff before, my friend pulled everything off her shelves for me to read.  Just for references purposes, I have indicated below the release dates for the ones not yet out.

Picture Books

The Monster Princess by D.J. MacHale, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger – This is a debut picture book by MacHale.  Written in typical fairy tale style, MacHale tells the story of a little monster who really wants to be a beautiful princess.

Will It Be A Baby Brother? by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Beth Spiegel – A mom and her preschooler discuss the pending birth of the new baby in the family.  This big brother wants a “James” (brother).  Mother assures him that whatever he gets will be just right.

Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castellucci, Illustrated by Julia Denos – A debut picture book by YA author Castellucci and a very wonderful one at that.  Get out your box of tissues.  There will be tears.  Castellucci does a beautiful job with telling one child’s story of losing her grandmother and how she deals with her grief.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt – Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of just about everything.  One day things don’t go exactly as planned and Scaredy learns something new about himself and takes a risk.  Funny and wonderful.

Scaredy Squirrel At Night by Melanie Watt – In a similar vein as the first book in this series, Scaredy is afraid of his dreams.  What will happen to him if he falls asleep?  As with the first one, Scaredy learns a lesson and conquers a fear.

Scaredy Squirrel At The Beach by Melanie Watt  - This may have been my favorite out of the three.  Scaredy tries creating the beach at home but he is missing something that he can only get by going to the actual beach.  Once there, things don’t go as planned but then readers have learned that this is the best thing for Scaredy.

Chester by Melanie Watt – I love Scaredy Squirrel but I might even love Chester more.  Chester is a very fat, orange tabby who is snarky and difficult and loves to challenge Watt.  Chester, along with his red pen, is very funny but Watt usually has a surprise and Chester gets his comeuppance at the end.

Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watt – As if Chester couldn’t get any funnier, this time he has hidden Watt’s writing and drawing materials and is writing his own story.  But never fear, Watt has the last laugh or does she?

Have I Got A Book For You! by Melanie Watt – Though this book really is having a little fun with our “hard-sell” advertising world, I couldn’t help thinking about all the teachers and librarians out there who spend hours trying to find just the right book for the right kid.

You’re Finally Here! by Melanie Watt  Release Date: March 1, 2011 – Bunny (a new character) is so excited that the person he has been waiting for is finally here.  To make his point, he goes through all the agonizing moments leading up to the arrival.  But there is a twist.  Read it to find out.  As with her other books, readers will delight in her humor.

Cuddle Up, Goodnight! by Katie Cleminson Release Date: February 1, 2011 – A toddler picture book for bedtime.

Pirate vs. Pirate by Mary Quattlebaum, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger  Release Date:  March 22, 2011 – This one I want.  Two pirates compete to see who is better.  A fun book, great illustrations, and a nice lesson about what really make someone better. Boiger also  illustrated MacHale’s The Monster Princess – equally well done but also very different.

What’s Special About Me, Mama? by Kristina Evans, Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe Release Date: January 18, 2011 – Another one that I would like to have.  A nice addition to the category of books for preschoolers about “what is special about me?”

Before You Came by Patricia MacLachlan, Illustrations by David Diaz  Release Date:  February 8, 2011 – Fans of David Diaz will recognize the artwork in this book.  Unfortunately, there are many books for preschoolers that deal with the theme of waiting for a baby’s arrival and this one does not really add anything new.

Baby Says Moo! by Joann Early Macken, Illustrated by David Walker Release Date: March 1, 2011 – This one was a nice twist on the typical toddler/preschool animal sounds.  A young toddler learning to talk refers to all animal sounds as “moo” much to the parent’s frustration.

Ten Little Puppies/Diez Perritos by Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy, Illustrated by Ulises Wensell  Release Date: March 1, 2011  - On each two page spread is a poem first in Spanish and then in English. This is a nice twist on the traditional “Five little ducks” where each verse subtracts one. Illustrations are lovely. A nice addition to a bilingual Spanish classroom.

A Lot of Beans by Barry Varela, Illustrated by Sebastia Serra Release Date: March 1, 2011  - I really loved this one.  Aside from the multi-cultural aspect of the story (representing the Latino culture), the theme is very well presented.  The main character places a white bean in a jar if it is a good day, and a black bean if it is a bad day. After a series of really bad days, the boy decides to count all of the beans to see if his life is mostly good or bad. Don’t want to give away the ending. But wonderful resolution and ending.

Mama and Me by Arthur Dorros, Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez Release Date: March 1, 2011 – There was something about the illustrations in this book that made it stand out.  The story about the little girl and her mother – though not especially unique – is well constructed and offers a twist on others in this category. One that I will definitely find once it is published to see if I still feel the same way.

Non-fiction Picture Books

Miss Dorothy’s Book Mobile by Gloria M. Houston, Illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb  U.S. Release Date: January 25, 2011 –   This is a biographical picture book about  Dorothy Thomas who drove books to people all over the Appalachian during the 1940′s.

The Great Migration by Eloise Greenfield, Illustrated by Jan Gilchrist  Release Date: December 21, 2010 – Some picture books do an amazing job of mixing text and illustrations to tell a story. I loved the combination in this book. The Great Migration tells of one African American family’s migration from the south to the north. One that I will definitely look for upon it’s release.

Early Chapter Books

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald, Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds – I’m not sure how I have avoided reading Judy Moody but I thought it was time to catch up.  Judy is not in a good mood.  It is the first day of school and things don’t look like they are going to get any better any time soon.  Teachers will recognize the characters in the book.  The Judy Moody series is a great one for 2nd and 3rd graders and for fans of Ramona.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee – I am behind in my 2nd & 3rd grade chapter books.  Probably because many of them annoy me.  However, I loved Clementine.  I think I might love Clementine as much as or maybe even more than Ramona.

Felix Takes the Stage (The Deadlies) by Kathryn Lasky – I think all I know about brown recluse spiders I learned from reading this book.  A family of brown recluses live in a music hall.  Felix wants to conduct an orchestra but gets a little too close to the conductor in an after hours practice and the conductor gets a surprise.  What’s a spider family to do when they are forced out of their home by exterminators?  A fun early chapter book which includes a reference about spiders at the end.

Two more Book-A-Day Postings for the summer and then I will be switching over to Book-A-Week during the school year.  So how’s your summer reading going?

- Aly

Book Review – The Red Umbrella

Author: Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Publisher: Knopf Book for Young Readers (May 11, 2010)

Reading Level: Upper Middle Grade/YA

Source: Personal Copy

Rating: 5 Star (A definite must read)

Description from GoodReads:

The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl’s journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro’s revolution.

In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution’s impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía’s parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

In late November 2009, I signed up for  The Story Siren’s 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  The challenge – to read at least 12 novels by debut authors in 2010.  With this review, I will be logging in on #12.  WooHoo!  I still plan on continuing with the Challenge for at least another 12 books.  Now on to the review….

History does not have to be dry and boring and Christina Diaz Gonzalez proves that to us in her debut novel The Red Umbrella.  In this powerful and personal story of a young teenage girl named Lucia, readers learn about the events that took place in Cuba and the United Stated in the early 1960′s. Gonzalez used the stories of her parents and mother-in-law as the original seed for telling the world about Operation Pedro Pan, when families in Cuba sent their children to the U.S. to avoid Castro’s revolution.

According to Gonzalez, there were nearly 14,000 children who arrived in Miami during the years of 1960 to 1962.  Some were met by family and friends while others were placed in a camp until a foster home could be located for them.  Her research uncovered that of these 14,000 children nearly 90% were reunited with their families over a period of time.

With this as her background, Gonzalez paints a vivid portray of what life would have been like for a teenager in Cuba in 1961.  What might she have worn, or what music she listened to, or even what movie she might have seen.  This attention to detail and desire for accuracy rather than slow down the story allows the reader to image what life would have been like.  Lucia, along with her younger brother Frankie live a comfortable life with their parents.  Initially, their parents seek to protect them from the realities of Castro’s revolution.  However, there comes a point when their parents are no longer able to keep out the atrocities that are occurring.  In a final attempt to protect them, Lucia and Frankie are sent to the United States in hopes that they will eventually be reunited as a family.

The book is divided into two parts – the first half of the story provides you with the background and what is happening in Cuba.  The second half explores the reality of what it is like for Lucia and Frankie to live in a foster home while they wait and hope for reunification.

As I read The Red Umbrella, I was emotionally moved by the story of the Alvarez family.  Their story is one of loss, love, grief, and hope.  I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but keep a box of tissues near you as you read this book, and you do need to read this story.

For me, the story of the Alvarez family was made even more real when I had an opportunity to see Gonzalez at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.  The audience was filled with predominately Cuban Americans.  Many of these individuals had either been Pedro Pans or had left Cuba in some manner during the 1960′s.  The Red Umbrella was not just a story, but it was their story.  Some had hardly shared this story with their families.  Others were using this book to share a piece of their personal history with their children or grandchildren.

This is a powerful story, and an amazing debut novel by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.  I look forward to her next book whenever it is released and I hope that this book will receive the attention, accolades and awards that it is due.  If you don’t have this on your “to-be-read” pile, then get it on there.

You can find out more about Christina Diaz Gonzalez on her website here: http://www.christinagonzalez.com/home.html

You can find her on Twitter @christinadg or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/christinadiazgonzalez?ref=ts

You can purchase of signed copy of The Red Umbrella (while copies last) at Borders Glendale.

Win an ARC of Crescendo & Support Literacy

Author: Becca Fitzpatrick

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster (October 2010)

Reading Level: YA

Description from GoodReads:

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can’t figure out if it’s for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father’s death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn’t answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Recently, I acquired an ARC of CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick.  I am pretty certain that the person who had it was clueless about how many people would do just about anything to get their hands on it.  I started to think about it and decided that rather than keep it solely for myself I would hold a contest.  But I didn’t want to hold any contest.  I decided I wanted to connect it with something that is really important to me.  Early literacy is a big concern of mine.  How do we help children get excited about books and reading?!

Rather than just have people comment about why they want this ARC or have you follow the blog.  There will be some challenges which will help support literacy and earn you entries.

Here are the rules:

1.  All participants must complete an entry form.

2. You must be 13 or older to enter.

3. On the form, there are some required items that anyone can complete in order to enter.  To earn additional entries, there are some challenges that I believe most people can complete but are not required in order to enter.

4. The contest is open internationally.  International participants – if you are unable to complete something because it does not apply to your country, please email me at: kidlitfrenzy(at)gmail(dot)com.

5.  To encourage people to do more than just comment and follow the blog, I will also throw in an  ARC of Matched by Ally Condie .  What does that mean?  If the selected winner only did the basic and wins, you get the ARC of CRESCENDO.  However, if the selected winner did many or all of the items, then s/he will also win MATCHED. (Note:  Judging this will be at my discretion.)

6.  The contest will end at 11:50 P.M. PDT on August 23, 2010.

Click here to complete the entry form.  Please email me at kidlitfrenzy(at)gmail(dot)com if you are unable to access the link for the form.

Book-A-Day Challenge Weeks 6 & 7 Update

It is already August and I know in some places people will be returning to school soon.  My school; however, did not get out until June 23rd so I still have about another month to reach my Book-A-Day goal of 80 books.  if you don’t know about the Book-A-Day Challenge you can check out Donalyn Miller’s (The Book Whisperer)  blog post about the Book-A-Day Challenge . Several educators and librarians have been sharing our reading on Twitter, GoodReads, and through our individual blogs.  Currently, I have read 54 books towards my total goal of 80.

During week 6, my sister came out to California to visit me.  With all the running around, I was left with little time for reading.  Hence a combined two week post.

Book-A-Day Weeks 6 & 7 reads:

Picture Books:

Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme, Illustrated by Olivier Tallec and translated by Claudia Bedrick – This is a beautiful story of friendship between a big wolf who is use to being on his own and worrying about no one and a smaller wolf who manages to make a big impression.  Children will enjoy this tale.   Bedrick’s translation work earned the book a Batchelder’s Honor Award.

Fancy Nancy: Hooray For Beauty Day! by Jane O’Connor, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser – Fancy Nancy books are always fun.  I enjoy the way it introduces children to a variety of vocabulary.  My only minor concern with this book is that the pages seemed very “full” almost distracting.  In addition to the wonderful illustrations and regular text, there were “tips” for how to perform certain things (i.e., applying nail polish, or doing a facial).

Animal House by Candace Ryan, Illustrated by Nathan Hale  - This is a fun story about a boy who lives in a Gorvilla and where everything is not what you would expect.  The classroom teacher thinks Jeremy just has an overactive imagination until she does a homevisit. This will make you laugh out loud.  Click here to read my review.

The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily, Ordinary First Day of School by Albert Lorenz  - This book was different.  There appears to be an attempt to deal with a child’s fears with the first day in a new school but instead it turns out to be an overly busy book.  Every page is filled with elaborately detailed illustrations, speech bubbles, text, and vocabulary definitions.  Click here to read my review.

Graphic Novels, Middle Grades

Over My Dead Body (43 Old Cemetery Road) by Kate Klise, Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise – This is the second book in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series by the Klise sisters.  I need to start a writing petition for more books.  Nine & ten year olds will love the story of a boy, a ghost, and a grumpy old writer who all share a home.  Click here to read my review.

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi  - Readers are introduced to Copper & his dog Fred in Kibuishi’s Flight Explorer Series.  In this book, it is all about Copper and Fred.  The book is composed of a series of short stories (similar to a weekly comic strip series).  Copper & Fred are a bit of an odd pairing but compliment each other nicely.  I have become a huge Kibuishi fan this summer.

Middle Grades:

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes – I can’t say enough wonderful things about this book.  A beautiful debut novel that features a young Latina girl who learns to deal with loss and grief through family, stories, friendship, and love.  Grab a tissue when reading. This Click here to read my review.

Young Adult

Sprout by Dale Peck – Sprout Bradford moves from NY to Kansas.  This is a story about loss and discovering one’s self.  The book deals with the theme of homosexuality and does include sexual content which may make some parents uncomfortable.  Though there were some things that I really appreciated about this book, I was disappointed that many of the characters seemed flat and not well developed.

White Cat by Holly Black – Think of this book as a bit of the Sopranos, a bit of Leverage all done with an element of the magical.  Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers (people who with a touch can either make you forget something, or change your feelings, or even kill you).  But more than that Cassel’s family are really a bunch of Grifters and Cons.  Book one of this trilogy sets the stage and explores the world of Curse Workers.  Cassel must come to learn his own role in his family.  I loved this book and want book 2 now not in 9 more months.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez – There is a little piece of Cuban and American history that is not well known.  In 1960 to 1962, families in Cuba sent 14,000 children under Operation Pedro Pan to the United States to avoid Castro’s Revolution.  Gonzalez combines her family’s history with the history of others to create a beautiful story which give voice to the experience that many older Cuban Americans lived through.  This book is not just for teens.  A wonderful read.

Graceling by Kristen Cashore  - High fantasy done well.  I have had this on my TBR list since forever and finally got to it.  It certainly reminded me of why I love fantasy.  Strong female protagonist, a well-matched ally in the form of a swoon-worthy male paired with action, adversity, and challenge.

Maybe not 14 books in the past two weeks but there were some really long YA novels.  :-)  Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.  Would love to hear what fun books people are reading.

-Aly

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