Three Authors to Read This Summer

This month, for my teacher newsletter, I recommended three books that I thought would make good summer reading. But, since I don’t read a lot of adult fiction, I mostly took recommendations from other staff members. Which leads me to my list: three authors I’d like to give a try this summer.

13221570_10209714641681558_763693187109588805_nRoald Dahl — Well, this one is actually an “I have to read”, because I’m running a book group for 8-12 year olds reading his books this summer. But, it been a million years since I’ve read his work and so I’m looking forward to it. (I, unfortunately, will miss one for BFG due to a conference, but I’m still going to read it.)

9780062132581Dorthea Benton Frank – She’s coming to Wichita, and seeing her books around the store has got me curious. Seems like a good, light, beachy read. The question is: I don’t know where to start. Any of you read her? Any suggestions?

9780452296299Lev Grossman – The Magicians has been on my radar for years, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve heard a number of good things, and it seems right up my alley, so I don’t know why. Maybe this summer is a good time to start.

I don’t have a lot of extra time to read extra things (I wish I read faster/had more time!), but are there any other authors I should give a try?

Three Books for National Poetry Month

This month’s list was obvious: it’s an easy grab to find a few poetry books for teachers. I did pull the Cybils poetry winner because it’s such a great book. For the other two, I picked a novel in verse (which I’ve read and liked) and a poetry collection that I read had good crossover appeal. How did I do? What else could I have picked?

Here’s the list:


Flutter & Hum by Julie Paschkis


Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton


Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Three Books for Women’s History Month

In other news, before I begin: we’ve got a date, a theme, a logo, AND a hotel for KidlitCon. This being in charge thing isn’t half-bad. 99% of that reason is because I’ve got an excellent team cheering me on, giving me (indispensable) advice and basically helping me manage this. Now, if only I had someone to do the dishes.. (Wait a minute…)

You can check out all the KidlitCon goodies at the website.  I hope to see you there! (Or here…)

I centered this month’s three books (no surprise) on Women’s History month. And even though I didn’t have a choice for older teens, I really like these three books. A lot.

9780786851423Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Faulkner- A history of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffrage movement. It’s not only fascinating, it’s fun to read! (It helps that Matt Faulkner illustrated my favorite Thanksgiving book: Thank You, Sarah!)

9780872866836Rad American Women by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl – When I met the authors (and illustrator? I don’t remember) at KidlitCon back in Sacramento, I thought that this would be a good book. Now, it’s my go-to when people come in looking for a good feminist read for their kids (and surprisingly enough there are a few here in Wichita!). Nominally an alphabet book (“C is for Carol Burnett”), this book also has brief biographies as well as single-sentence statements on each woman, so it can be enjoyed by varying age levels. Be sure to check out the website as well!
978014751812550 Unbelievable Women and Their Fascinating (and True!) Stories by Saundra Mitchell – This one’s not out until the end of the month, but it’s an excellent collection of facts, art and biographies of 50 women from Catherine the Great to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and more. Great for upper elementary through middle school.
There are a ton of great books out there for women’s history month. What would you have chosen?


Three Books for African American History Month

I wrote this in my introduction to my newsletter:

I saw this video on Facebook a while back, and it got me thinking. Especially the part where they say that black history begins with slavery and ends with Martin Luther King, Jr. It helped that it came on the heels of the scandal surrounding A Birthday Cake for George Washington. I especially appreciated this post by author Mitali Perkins is definitely worth checking out. Both things together have made me more aware of the importance of diversity in children’s books, and made me more determined to search out more honest portrayals of black life.

I think that’s true, and as a result, I tried to find books that reflected the African American experience but didn’t have anything to do with slavery or civil rights. The three I came up with are these:

97808075301779780062342331 9781442459489

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carolyn Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Cristoph

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

A confession: I haven’t read any of these. But I think it’s definitely something I can rectify.

What would you have picked?

Three Books for National Mentoring Month

One of the things I do as part of my job is write a newsletter for teachers and librarians. It’s the thing I feel the most inadequately prepared for, not being a librarian OR an educator, so I did some asking around to find out what would be most helpful. One of the things was lists of books on a theme. That, I can do.  So, I started a new part of the newsletter where I highlight three books (new or backlist) on a certain theme. This month was Mentors, since I needed a place to start. If you have any theme ideas, I’d love to hear them as well!

I figured it would be a good idea to feature them here as well. Lists are always fun, anyway.

9780399257629 Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually read this one. I do know it is loosely autobiographical and that people love it. But that’s all I know. What have I missed?




9780399162596Fish in a Tree, Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This one is like so many others: brilliant (male) teacher discovers previously unknown learning disability in a student and makes her shine. But, I enjoyed it anyway.





A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. I’ll admit that this one didn’t readily come up when I was thinking about this list. But, doing some internet digging I came across two things: first, that there aren’t enough books with women mentors (no surprise) and second, that this was an excellent example of strong women mentors. From Meg’s mom to Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, there are strong women guiding Meg in her journey. No, they’re not traditional teachers, but they count.


Any other books with good mentor/teacher figures that I forgot? Particularly ones with women?

The 2015 Cybils EMGSF Panel: The Ones That Got Away

One of the best things about the Cybils is that we have to agree on a shortlist. Sometimes this comes easily — like it did for our panel this year — sometimes, not so much. Even so, there are always ones that we really like (both individually and collectively) that don’t quite make it on to the list.

Here are five books that I really loved but that didn’t make the cut:


Circus Mirandus


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer


The Forgotten Sisters

The Hollow Boy

The Hollow Boy



The Cybils: Why I Keep Coming Back

As I’ve been puttering along on my blog here for nearly 11 years, I’ve seen a lot of blogging communities come and go. I’ve been involved in quite a few of them as well. But none has captured my heart the way the Cybils has. I don’t remember how I became aware that a group of bloggers, many of whom I followed, were banding together to create this award. But, I did, and so when the call for judges came out in 2006, I applied. No one knew who I was, and my blog was super scattered back then, so I was turned down. I became determined then: I wanted to be a part of this. And so I worked hard connecting with the community so when the 2007 call went out, I was actually picked.

Over the years that I’ve been involved, I’ve often thought about what it is with the Cybils that keeps me coming back, year after year, to volunteer my time for this award. There are lots of reasons, but I’m going to try and just pick a few.

The people are fantastic. Some of my best blogger friends have come through the Cybils. I’ve served as both a (first-round) panelist and a (second-round) judge, and both offer unique opportunities to connect with other bloggers. Think of it as the best book group ever. It’s short-lived (2 1/2 months for first round, 6 weeks for second), but you’ll have in-depth discussions about great books, you’ll disagree, you’ll be passionate about books with other people who are passionate about books, and you will come out friends on the other end. (Then you need to come to KidlitCon to put faces to the names!)

It’s a unique opportunity to be really well-read in one area of Kidlit. For me, over the years, that has been middle grade books. I was on the Middle Grade Fiction panel for years before leaping over to Speculative Fiction. I’m not as “expert” in those areas as some others, but I am pretty dang knowledgeable. And it’s all because I read a whole bunch every year for the Cybils.

I like being a part of something bigger than myself. This is perhaps the most important reason. There’s just something about working with a team of people, all who have volunteered their time because they are passionate about kids books and kids in general, for a larger goal. In this case: to create a list, and pick the best, kid-friendly book.

I’ve already thrown my hat into the ring, in spite of my busy schedule this fall, to be a part of the 2015 Cybils. I hope to see you there!

11 #QuietYA Books Worth Checking Out

I was looking for an idea for a list this morning when I stumbled upon the #QuietYA hashtag. I’d seen it around, sure, but it hit me that using it might make a good list. Then I discovered that as of late, I’ve been leaning towards the books that are getting a lot of buzz. It’s the tendency in bookselling, I think, to get on whichever bandwagon (right now? Go Set a Watchman and adult coloring books) is the most current one.

But going through my backlist (nearly 11 years now!) was a good thing. It reminded me that I used to read a lot more contemporary YA (I tend to lean toward the fantasy now), and a lot more smaller books, ones that have less press behind it. Something to think about.

But for now, here’s 11 books I consider flying under the radar (at least here in Kansas) and definitely worth reading.

Kissing in America

Gabi a Girl in Pieces
OCD, the Dude, and Me

Bamboo People
The Chosen One
Ten Cents a Dance
Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature
Fly by Night

What are some other good #QuietYA books that you’ve read?

12 Books You Should Read Instead of Seeing the Movie

I was sitting around, trying to figure out what to do for a list this month, and C suggested bad movies. (We were talking about the new City of Bones TV show, Shadowhunters, and how we have high hopes that it’ll be better than the movie.) In the spirit of goodness (and this Tshirt, which, yes, I do own)  I give you a dozen books that you should read rather than wasting  your time on the movie. (For the record: I always try to read the book first, when I can. But that’s just me.)

In the category of Don’t Even Bother With the Movie:

Twilight – I know: we’re all over the vampires. But, given a choice between reading the books and watching the movies (I never even bothered with the last three), I’d take the books, hands down. At the very least, you can skip the annoying parts.

The Lightning Thief – When the author disses the movies you know it can’t be good. But, aside from the book, this doesn’t even hold up as a movie. Don’t bother. Especially since the book is SO good.

Inkheart – The movie isn’t terrible. I mean, Brendan Frasier is really eminently watchable. But, it’s not good either. It’s just kind of… Meh. Like everyone phoned in their performances and they were hoping to get a movie as fascinating as the book was.

The Three Musketeers – Orlando Bloom is the best thing in the most recent movie. Seriously. It’s not even remotely the book, which is really quite good.

The Hobbit – I loved Lord of the Rings, all three movies and all 12 hours of it. But, after slogging through the FIRST of three movies for this charming little book, I bailed. (That said, the TV movie from 1977 is quite good.)

The movie is okay, but it has Nothing To Do With the Book:

Ella Enchanted – It’s actually a charming movie. I love the music (always have), and there are parts of it that I think are great. But, aside from the title, the character names, and the curse on the main character, it’s not the book. Which is just as charming and fun on its own.

The Great Gatsby – It’s a gorgeous movie. Lush and beautiful. But that’s all it is. It missed the point of Gatsby, of what Fitzgerald was trying to say. If you don’t think about that, it’s a good movie, but I’d rather read the book.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy– the opening minutes of this were brilliant and I had high hopes for the movie, but it kind of just petered out. Alan Rickman as Marvin is brilliant, however.

Tuck Everlasting – C insisted that this one be on the list. She adored the book, and the movie is NOTHING like the book. Except for the premise, there’s really nothing in common with Babbitt’s powerful book.

I know I’m going off the trailer here, which can be misleading. (Bridge to Terabithia anyone?) But, the trailer for these books scared me so much, I haven’t seen the movie. And unless someone convinces me otherwise, I probably won’t.

The Dark is Rising  – I really didn’t think this book would translate well onto the screen, and if the trailer’s correct, it proves me right.

Ender’s Game – Yeah, there are some big blockbuster-y moments in the book, but the movie missed out (or at least the trailer implied this) on the reflective nature of this book, of the underlying themes of brutality and the means we’ll go as humans to reach the ends we want. I know I may be wrong, but I haven’t had the desire to find out.

The True Meaning of Smekday  – This is the one I’m most conflicted about. I want to see Home because of a person of color, girl main character. And because it does look charming. But, I can tell that it’s not the book. I don’t object to that, I just haven’t worked up the courage to see the movie yet.

As a side note, they really shouldn’t make any picture book into a full-length movie. There isn’t a single one (Where the Wild Things Are, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) that’s any good.

What are some of your worst (and best) movies from books?

10 Feminist Books for Kids and Teens

Inspired by Shannon Hale’s resurrection of #BoysReadGirls, I was going to write a post with books about girls that boys should be reading. Then I realized I did that already. But, I wanted to come up with SOMETHING for women’s history month…

After much thinking, I came up with a list of feminist books for kids/teens. Which are also books that everyone should be reading. My standards were kind of loose: if it felt like a feminist book, then I’m calling it a feminist book. Which means, I probably missed a TON. Let me know what you would have added.

The Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale: “Princess Magnolia has a secret. She’s a superhero, rescuing innocent and unprotected goats from the Big Bad Monsters. The thing is: princesses aren’t supposed to be superheroes. They’re supposed to be princesses. Right?  Well, aside from the stuffy Duchess Wigtower, no one tells Princess Magnolia she can’t.”

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly: ” Callie discovers that studying the world around her is what she really wants to do. She spends as much time as possible with her grandfather — in between piano recitals, forced sewing, school, and managing her brothers’ crushes for her best friend — living for and thriving off of the time spent studying and observing. Of course, since this is 1899 and Texas, Callie couldn’t be allowed (allowed!) to proceed this way: good, proper, well-off girls just didn’t tromp through the underbrush looking at bugs. For me, this was the heart of the novel, this pull for Callie to do what she wanted and not what everyone expected of her.”

Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming: “She flew not really because of skill — often she didn’t take the time to learn things thoroughly — but because of determination. She was a feminist: she believed that just because she was a woman didn’t mean she shouldn’t do whatever she wanted to do. Including flying. She resisted the boxes that the time period wanted to put her in, and literally soared. No, she wasn’t the most talented, or even the most skilled, but she was determined, and that made up for a lot.”

No Cream Puffs, by Karen Day: “The second big thing, and probably the more defining one, is that Madison decides to play in the boy’s baseball league. She’s a brilliant pitcher, and is encouraged by her older brother to test her skill in the league (since there isn’t a girl’s league). Because of this, she makes waves in her little town. Some people want to make her a pariah: she’s a girl, she has an unfair advantage because no one will want to hurt her, she’ll bring down the level of the game. Others, her mother included, want to make her out to be a trailblazer, a feminist, someone who stands up for women’s rights. Madison, refreshingly, just wants to play the game”

The Cure for Dreaming, by Cat Winters: “Sure, there’s more plot to this one than that, but who cares? This one has a strong feminist agenda and it’s not afraid of it. The father had me seething. The rich handsy boy whom the father liked made me want to smack him. Henri was nice enough, but I really loved Olivia and her struggle against the system (and the Man) and her desire to be Free. I was just cheering her on: you go girl!”

Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, by Lisa Klein: ” Lady Macbeth is only slightly better; she gives herself over to Macbeth because she knows no other way, and the motivations Klein gives her for encouraging Macbeth in his road to destruction evolve out of her feeling cornered in her life. In fact, Klein gives us an interesting dichotomy with her women characters: Lady Macbeth is what one would think is very traditional, very husband-bound; while Albia, on the other hand, is very modern and feminist, choosing her own path without being bound by men’s expectations”

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E.Lockhart: “Frankie did something big; she proved something to herself — and to her family — that she can do something. Sure, they reacted badly, but then, most people react badly to people who think outside the box. Even if that box is something as simple and silly as a secret boys’ club at a posh boarding school.”

Poisoned Apples, by Christine Hepperman: “I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a weird, wonderful, empowering collection of poems. Hepperman mixes fairy tale retellings with modern issues, from anorexia and photoshopping to the everyday over sexualization of women. It’s a seamless transition from fantasy to reality.”

Gabi a Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero: “It was Gabi’s awakening to the double standard, and her actively trying to do something about it — which came near the end of the book –which endeared me to the book. There was so much crap going on in Gabi’s life that I found it difficult, initially, to relate. But by the end, I was cheering for Gabi, for her attitude toward her life, and for Quintero’s unflinching portrayal of her.”

Glory O’Brein’s History of the Future, by A.S. King: “Glory’s visions are of a horrific patriarchal future, where women’s rights are completely taken away, and the country ends up in another Civil War. This fascinates and terrifies Glory — what’s her role in this future? How does it come to be like this? Will it? — and the act of having these visions pushes her into action.”

And a couple of adult ones tacked on the end:

Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley: “A heady piece of feminist fiction. The first time I read this, I was enraptured by the way she tells the story [of King Arthur] from the women’s point of view. “

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood: “I can’t imagine — more like, don’t want to imagine — a world where women are treated as nothing more than the sum of their bodies, where men get excused for their behavior because of their position, where women hate and loathe each other because of their roles. Wait… that, too much, describes what our world is like now. Without the religious framework, without the robes, without the martial law, there are elements of this world around us”