Author Archives: fairrosa

About fairrosa

Children's Librarian for 4 years. Middle School Librarian for 17 years and counting. Love children's books. Favorite genres: fantasy and scifi.

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Ssimonvshomosapiensimon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli

Listening to this book was a bit like watching a John Hughes movie… actually, it was a lot like watching a John Hughes movie. It is kind of sweet, there might be some heart-breaking moments, some misunderstandings, some bullying, but definitely a lot of friendship, quite a bit of sweet-loving, and totally easy to get hooked on and want to know more and want everything to work out at the end — and boy did EVERYTHING get worked out! Mostly believably so but definitely veering toward the hyper-optimistic end of possibilities: which, we all need from time to time!

I was a little sad that once Simon & “Blue” met up in real life, the author pretty much stopped giving us their exchanges of ideas: no more interesting emails to read of their views on the world around them or the quirky questions and answers. In the last part of the book, the readers are left with just observing their physical (sweet) contacts and first explorations: as if all those emails were just a precursor to what REALLY matters: kissing and other physical relationships…  It would have been more fulfilling an emotional journey for me as a reader if both physical and intellectual aspects of their relationship had been more equally represented during the last part of the story.

(And a potential quibble: I am still baffled why the characters refer to Tumblr as “the Tumblr” — was it that the author does not understand the teen-lingo these days or that it is THAT specific Tumblr page reserved for the kids in that particular town/high school — thus the article?)

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A Picture Book for Newbery! Last Stop on Market Street

laststoponmarketstreetLast Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson

I jumped up and down when this book was announced at the Youth Media Awards press conference — after the initial “WHAT? Really?  A picture book text?” Then, it was, “YAY!  Finally.  A real picture book has won the Newbery!”  Great job.  Committee!

However, it was not until today, when I finally re-read the text, blocking out all the illustrations, just paying attention to the rhythm, the word choices, the imagery, the heart and soul of this seemingly simple text for the very young that I realized how marvelous a choice this book is for the award.

By recognizing the text, which allows for so much imagination and chances of deep discussions, especially literary ones, the Newbery Committee has affirmed the significant value of finely crafted text for young children.  I can still recite many passages from Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book because I read that book to my daughter when she was still in her crib.  Every night, for months, and no matter how many times I read it aloud, I found myself admiring the genius writing page after page.  I am quite certain that the reason my daughter appreciates poetry and what she calls “good writing” in the adult books she reads now that she’s 16 is her wide exposure to excellent texts like The Important Book,  So Said the Little Monkeys, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Madeline, and many others.

I am ordering copies of Last Stop on Market Street for my Middle School Library and will encourage middle grade teachers to use the book to inspire students to interpret the text as they envision in their mind.  CJ could be anyone.  Nana could be anyone’s grandma.  The boys on the bus with something CJ envies do not have to share ear-buds on their iPod and the imagery of the large tree “drinking through a straw” was never depicted literally in the illustration anyway.  The students in a language arts class will simply bask in the glory of the text like “The outside air smelled like freedom,” and “rain, which freckled CJ’s shirt” and have a rigorous mental workout to understand the implied interactions and emotions.

And ample discussion opportunities for the ending, when Nana does not give her usual deep laugh… now what is that all about?

De La Peña sure wrote a distinguished book!

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I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

icrawlthroughitI Crawl Through It by A.S. King

It was an intriguing and entertaining read — although using the word “entertaining” to describe my reading experience with a book dealing with mental illnesses, abuse, and traumatic events in teens feels a little crass. Nonetheless, I felt that King, as a writer, really revels in designing and playing “games” with her readers.  Mind games, for sure!

Do we really know what actually happened to each of the four main characters?  What’s with the man behind the bush?  What’s with the invisible (or real?) helicopter?  Nothing was really certain — not during and not after reading the book.  And I’m quite alright with that much ambiguity — I only wish that I had liked and/or could have felt more empathetic toward any of the characters.  Because of the stylistic choice and the hyper-reality setting, the main characters all seem to be more guinea pigs in a giant game of maze on stage, masterminded and controlled by the author for the amusement and perhaps even edification of the audience.  Even the cover design with the standardized test answering sheet reminds me of some sort of “whack a mole” holes in an arcade…

Anyway — to sum up — I admired the workmanship and enjoyed the weirdness but never quite got caught up enough to care about any of the characters or how “the story” was going to end.

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Here by Richard McGuire

hereHere by Richard McGuire

I really love the premise: taking one fixed spot on earth, examining the many years of lives (from prehistoric to contemporary) and living by visually presenting the slices in time: one might see a Native American couple making love and a modern American, white family squabbling on the same or adjacent or consecutive pages, all “cut up” and scrambled, seemingly not following rhyme or reason.  But, of course, there are certain patterns and events clustered by the nature of the happening (holiday celebrations, fighting, loss, new births, etc.)  However, aside from admiring the beautiful and pristine, almost too clinical, artwork and having some moments of revelation (finding out on what ground the current house was built, for example,) I was left not all that impressed or emotionally affected which I definitely was hoping for!

 

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The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

The Nest by Kenneth Oppelthenest

If any book should be called Unsettling and Disturbing, this one is a prime candidate.  The last third of the tale got not only extremely dark and dangerous, it is also filled with vividly described, horror film worthy scenes and imageries.  Expertly done.  I probably would have truly loved the entire book if I wasn’t taken out of the narrative flow a number of times when Steve uses highly literary words and phrases that I thought uncharacteristically older than the character’s age and not quite in keeping with the rest of the tone of the very straightforward and effective telling.  I was hoping and fearing a truly dark ending and was slightly disappointed (because of the very twisted-minded adult reader in me) and very relieved and pleased that there’s some hope and a lot of growth for both the hero and the reader. And what a complex and admirable hero we have in Steve!

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Sunday Select, December 13, 2015

FCLSSQuote of the Week

But in our digital conversion of media (perhaps buttressed by application of the popular KonMari method of decluttering), physical objects have been expunged at a cost. Aside from the disappearance of record crates and CD towers, the loss of print books and periodicals can have significant repercussions on children’s intellectual development.

Perhaps the strongest case for a household full of print books came from a 2014 study published in the sociology journal Social Forces. Researchers measured the impact of the size of home libraries on the reading level of 15-year-old students across 42 nations, controlling for wealth, parents’ education and occupations, gender and the country’s gross national product.

After G.N.P., the quantity of books in one’s home was the most important predictor of reading performance. The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance. (Diminishing returns kick in at about 500 books, which is the equivalent of about 2.2 extra years of education.)


— by Teddy Wayne
from Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves
The New York Times

We Need Books

Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves by Teddy Wayne – from The New York Times

NATIVE VOICES ROUNDTABLE PART 1: SHARING STORIES & TALKING BACK (PART 1 OF 2)  — from We Need Diverse Books

NATIVE VOICES ROUNDTABLE: SHARING STORIES & TALKING BACK (PART 2 OF 2)  — from We Need Diverse Books

Children’s Authors Share Their Favorite Childhood Books Compiled by Diane Roback — from Publishers Weekly

Horn Book Fanfare 2015  — from The Horn Book Magazine

How Kwame Alexander Gets Teens Reading and Writing Poetry — from School Library Journal

WSJ’s Best Books of 2015  — from Wall Street Journal

In the Works: SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books 2016 Edition by Monida Edinger — from Educating Alice

We Need Ideas and Opinions

An American Refrain by Libba Bray – from Libba Bray’s Blog

Novelists team up for teen book on race and police by James Sullivan — from The Boston Globe

THE N-WORD AND MY DAUGHTER by Martha Haakmat — from Raising Race Conscious Children

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, etc.

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Sunday Select, December 6, 2015

FCLSS

End-of-Year Best/Award Lists Round Up

Some lists were already announced and included in other issues of FCL Sunday Select.  They are not repeated here.  It is always of interest to note the varied opinions from different venues: booksellers vs professional review publications vs popular review platforms.

SLJ’s Best of 2015: Books, Apps, and More — from The School Library Journal

Notable Children’s Books of 2015 — from The New York Times (Sunday Book Review)

2016 Morris Award Finalists — from The Amercian Library Association

The Best Books of 2015 — from The Boston Globe

Editors’ Picks: Books for Children and Teens — from Amazon.com

Goodreads Choice Award 2015 — from Goodreads.com

The Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2015 Edition — from The Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education

Best Children’s Books of 2015 — from The Washington Post

Best Children’s Books of 2015 — from The Guardian

Best Children’s and Teen Books of 2015 — from BookPage.com

 

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