Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Review: Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet by various authors

Meet Cute is a collection of short stories featuring couples as they meet for the first time. Each story is vastly different, from a girl who meets her distant crush only to find out he's the son of the man who destroyed her family, to the girl whose challenging client at her new job turns out to be another teen with her same interests and passions. The stories span genres and styles, including a science fiction story about two teens interviewing for a spot to travel to Mars, and one featuring a futuristic dating app with a nearly perfect success rate. The stories also feature a variety of couples, including same sex couples and a couple that includes a transgender teen, as well as a wide variety of people from different races, backgrounds, and religions.

Straight Talk for School Librarians: There are occasional references to teenage drinking, but overall, the volume is relatively tame and could be appropriate down to the middle school level. Romance fans will go crazy for this set of tales, with the only possible complaint being that each story fades to black just as the characters are coming together.  It's the meet cute moments that the volume focuses on, after all.  But all of the slow-burning build-up to the romance is here, the primary topic of each story. This collection might have some potential in a family and consumer science class, like Contemporary Relationships, but is most likely to appeal as a choice novel for students. The short story format may make this volume appealing to busy or reluctant readers, who will appreciate the ability to jump in and out of the stories quickly, or skip over a story that is less appealing. This is a much more representative and modern collection of romantic short stories than one published even five or ten years ago. Your students deserve an upgrade.

by Bethany Bratney @nhslibrarylady
Author Twitters: @nina_lacour, @jocelyndavies, @emerylord, @katharinemcgee, @kassmorgan, @sarabooks, @NicolaYoon, @ibizoboi, @andimJULIE
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt @HMHteen

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

History of LIBRES

After approximately 40 years of being an active group, our current members (2019) tried to find out the history of  how LIBRES was founded.  

In the 1980s, Jan Reelitz, Joanie Thomas and Freda Richards were among the founding members. Jan was working at Birmingham Groves and then at Cranbrook Schools. There was a core group of Birmingham school librarians who were a part of LIBRES. Oakland Schools was chosen as a good central location and a place at which the books from publishers would have a home. There were not as many opportunities for school librarians to get together on a more local level and the school and public library world did not intersect.  

Noni St. Amand said, "Joanie Thomas was the librarian who introduced me to Libres and to Jan. What made it so successful was this method of bringing someone in. Joan’s enthusiasm was so infectious I just caught it." Members would go to Oakland Schools to select the books to review and would meet at Freda’s home periodically in between meetings at Oakland Schools. At one point, during a personnel change at Oakland Schools, all the LIBRES bookshelves were eliminated. Noni moved the 5,000  books to her home and would drag them to meetings that were hosted in various locations. Judy Sima was a huge help by organizing the various meeting places- either a member’s school or home. Thankfully, Karen Becknell and Joanne Steckling stepped in and they became a real team. They used to joke that it seemed to be a group of library retirees that kept it going as they wrote the reviews so that the publishers would continue to send books; which they did -- to Oakland Schools. Then Judy Hauser, at Oakland Schools, found a space for LIBRES again in the Information Center.  Karen, Joanne, and Noni would open the boxes and check them in. When Noni could no longer do so- they kept it going. Jan had a wonderful dream and everyone pitched in to keep it alive.

LIBRES was (and is) a chance for public and school librarians to get together and form a community. This group was a positive force for the public/private school library and public library community, on a personal and professional level. Many friendships were forged talking about books. At one point, the group was so large that they split into elementary and middle/high school. Eventually, as the numbers declined, the group was merged back into one. The focus of the group still aims to write book reviews and provide insight on how the books can be used in schools, both in the library and the curriculum. 

All the books the publishers send us end up in school libraries or otherwise in the hands of young readers. Our current aim is to celebrate the books we enjoy and recommend to other school libraries. We talk about and review picture books, middle grade books, YA books. We share our reviews with the publishers, LIBRES members and anyone who follows our blog and social media accounts.

After four decades of reviews, we are still going strong!

The VanGogh Deception by Deron Hicks book review

This book was a delight to read! The first chapter started in France and then it quickly fast forwarded to Washington DC in the present day. The main character is Art, who is suffering from amnesia and cannot remember anything about himself. When he appeared in the National Gallery of Art, he sat there staring at a Degas sculpture until the police came to try to help him. An ER doctor told Art that his amnesia was probably from a traumatic event. Then we are introduced to Mary Sullivan who agreed to take Art into foster care. Her daughter, Camille, offered this story a lot of humor and spunk. She was a great partner for Art to try to solve the mystery with. As the mystery begins to unravel, Art must know something because he has scary adults chasing him and people in big, black SUV’s trying to grab him. Camille stands by him because she thinks Art needs her. There are some tense moments as they have to fight for their escape. They also quickly realize that they cannot trust anyone and they are somehow being tracked. Readers will not be able to put the book down until they figure out who Art is and what he knows.

So, I typically do not buy middle grade books for my high school library, but I follow the discussions and read a lot of them just for fun. I had not heard of this book, but I immediately loved the cover and decided to read it. Every middle and upper elementary school library should have this book! It is such a great introduction to the art world. I thought it was really unique to have the QR codes throughout the story so that a reader could look up the painting that was being written about. A lot of the QR codes take you to the National Gallery of Art. This is the perfect edtech literacy integration for any librarian. I read this book in one day because it was so good. I like the style of writing, the characters, the setting and the mystery. The publisher did a beautiful job with the inside covers as they contain the most famous VanGogh paintings...in color...

Straight Talk for School Librarians: This book could be tied into Visual Arts classes, discussions about art forgery, the cost of works of art. It could even work for a history class as it addresses the fact that the Nazis stole a lot of paintings and a lot of them have not found their way into the hands of the rightful owners even to this day. If there is a field trip planned for the National Gallery of Art, this is a must read. For IB schools, there are a lot of interdisciplinary connections. There can also be a lot of connections to the IB Learner profile. For example, Art comes across as very knowledgeable and he is definitely a risk-taker. Camille comes across as caring and principled. Students can have a lot of discussions about the Learner Profile traits. It would be a good classroom or book club read. It’s a smart, edge-of-your-seat story that I enjoyed very much. Go out and get this book!

by Klaudia Janek @kjanek
Author Twitter @DeronHicks
Author website http://www.deronhicks.com/
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt @HMHKids

Monday, January 14, 2019

What this story needs is a munch and a crunch by Emma J. Virj√°n book review by Klaudia Janek

As a high school librarian, my life is dominated by YA books. While I love them, they are just as long as adult books and take an hours long commitment. And sometimes you just need to delve into something different for a change or a break. I have found myself choosing to review more picture books and middle grade books, just because it’s fun. I also have a built in audience at home that gives immediate feedback.

So, I just discovered A Pig in a Wig books. They are super cute and a quick read. I was a little slowed down by having to read it 5 times by request. I would say that can be interpreted as a high recommendation from a 3 year old.

A Pig in a Wig elicited giggles (probably because of the rhyme) but I had to explain what a wig was. Pig was preparing for a picnic and a picnic is a 3-4 year olds favorite activity. I think some of the new vocabulary will include wig, punch, and breeze. The major attention grabber was the 2 page spread with the impending storm and the words whoosh, boom, plop, splash accompanied by looks of panic on the character’s faces. They rush to pack up their picnic, but instead of being disappointed by the rain, they just set up a picnic in the living room and continue their fun.

My little reader was especially enthralled by the bees found on several of the pages. She was concerned when they followed the characters into the living room, but then decided it was ok. The illustrations are bright and fun. There are lots of details on the pages, but they are not cluttered so I think it’s great for emerging readers. The rhymes really grab the listeners attention and it’s something that the little ones can identify with. You might need to be prepared for an immediate picnic after reading this book. I think any preK-2 grade will enjoy this book. It’s a great fit for a school library, is an engaging read aloud and I see potential for a lot of literacy based activities at different stations in the library. If you happen to be an IB PYP school, Pig illustrates what it means to be a thinker and a risk-taker.

Authors Twitter: 
Authors website: http://emmavirjan.com/

Reviewed by Klaudia Janek @kjanek on Twitter