Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges

In 2017 I plan to read more of those books that you’re “supposed” to read in your life. One I read a long time ago and want to re-read. A few are books that I’ve really wanted to read and always say I will, but put it off in favor of any other book that catches my eye. Some are books that never sounded that good to me, but are such staples that I feel like I need to give in and read them, for the sake of being a bookworm and librarian.

I plan to read one classic a month, which still gives me plenty of reading time for whatever books catch my eye on the shelves.

The Classics Challenge books are:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I pulled this list from here, so once I complete this challenge, I will have read 24 out of the 30 books. I’ll leave those last 6 to tackle in 2018…

- - -

I also want to read more diverse books. I am going to make conscious choices with every book I read in 2017, but will read a baseline of 12 diverse books, which again is one a month, minimum. I picked books from We Need Diverse Books’ end of the year booklist.

The Diverse Challenge books are:
Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Nest by Esther Ehrlich
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
Since You Asked by Maurene Goo
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero
The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Are you undertaking any reading challenges for 2017? Do you have any book recommendations I should add to my list, or feedback on the titles I chose?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Picture Books Read in 2016

I was going to splurge and share TEN of our favorite picture books read in 2016 because, let’s be honest, that’s most of what’s read around here, and there are SO MANY GOOD ONES that picking five is impossible. But I had the list and then decided to just share the five most recent in detail, and list the other five favorites.

In order from most recently published to oldest:
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex (2016). Frederick Douglass Elementary is a brand new school, built from the ground up, and he gets used to just having the janitor around keeping him clean. The janitor tells the school that soon he'll be full of children, and school gets very nervous. The school has to learn everyone's names, and how to act, and  how to make friends... Can he do it, or will he be too scared?! Reviewed in detail here.

Monster Trucks by Annika Denise (2016). My son loves monster trucks, but this book is extra fun because the trucks are actual monsters! The monster trucks race each other on a spooky night, but what happens when a new vehicle shows up on the track? This one is included in my Halloween Book Recommendation video.

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield (2016). This book is so sweet and touching! I'll admit, I teared up at the end. The story is great, and the artwork is beautiful. Definitely one I'll keep coming back to, whether I'm reading it aloud to my son, or just reading it to myself!

Here Comes Destructosaurus by Aaron Reynolds and Jeremy Tankard (2014). The whole family loved this cute, witty book. Destructosaurus is trashing the whole town, burping fire everywhere, and not listening to the reader, who is trying to keep him in line. When the reader finds out Destructosaurus was just throwing a tantrum because he couldn't find his teddy, the tone changes...but so does the terrifying main character!

Yoo-hoo, Lady Bug! by Mem Fox (2013). This book is SO cute, I can't stand it. It's kind of like Where's Waldo? for kids, but on a simpler scale. There are illustrations of a crowded shelf, or a staircase with toys strewn about, and the reader has to find the ladybug in each. There is a simple rhyme to say before finding the ladybug, and a "solution" with the ladybug zoomed in on the next page. My son and I both enjoyed this book immensely.

The Runners-Up:
Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino (2012) was previously reviewed in a What We Read This Week post.

Nothing Like a Puffin by Sue Soltis (2011) is a fun book comparing and contrasting a puffin against other animals and objects. It's a great book to read aloud with your kid and let them point out and name all the things they identify and, depending on age, guess at what qualities are similar to or different from the puffin.

A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood and Laura Rankin (2010) was previously reviewed in a What We Read This Week post.

Bee-Wigged by Cece Bell (2008) and Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino (2002) are both reviewed in previous What We Read This Week posts.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Middle Grade Fiction Read in 2016

Call it middle grade fiction, children’s fiction, juvenile literature - I don't care; I love it all! I’ve gotten really into this age level in the past couple of years, and read so much good middle grade stuff this year! A lot of my “regular” library patrons are in 5th to 7th grades, so I like recommending these titles to them, and reading what they recommend to me.

In order from most recently published to oldest:

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015). Ada was born with a clubfoot, and her mother is ashamed of it. Because of that, Ada has never been out of the house, never learned anything, even though she is…or at least THINKS she is, 10 years old. Her little brother Jamie, on the other hand, is their mother’s favorite, and can play outside and attend school. As the war gets closer to London, Jamie is going to be sent to the country to stay safe. Ada sneaks out with Jamie, and they get on a train with the other children from London. People who live in the country are going to take in children until World War II is over, but what if no one wants Ada and Jamie? This was a very engrossing book, and I don’t usually enjoy historical fiction. The ending of this book is one of the most satisfying I’ve read in a long time, with a perfect last line. Highly recommended! See more raving on A BOOK A MINUTE.

A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel (2015). I started this book as an audiobook, and it was wonderfully read - I highly recommend it to those who have time to listen to audiobooks! My 2-year-old doesn’t give me much of a chance to listen peacefully, so after trying for a month I checked out the hardback so I could finish it - which I did in less than a day! I loved Pack of Dorks but I think I might have loved this one more… Alice has albinism so she is practically blind. When her family moves from her familiar Seattle to a new town called Sinkville (but it stinks from the paper mill, so it’s totally Stinkville), she has to try and be independent. Alice has always relied on a friend to help her get around, but now she has to make new friends and fit in, which is hard when you have albinism. Alice is a great character with a great voice, and the book is so realistic I’m still wondering how the characters are doing! Highly recommended.

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (2015). If you never read any other book I recommend, please read this one. I love this book SO much, I already want to re-read it. Codes, hidden books, visiting landmarks in an historical city - what’s not to love? Emily has been an active Book Scavenger for years, so she’s excited when her family moves to San Francisco, even though she’s tired of moving once a year. Now she’s in the hometown of the man who created Book Scavenger, and he’s about to release a new game! But when he’s mugged in a subway station, no one knows if the game creator will make it, and Emily is worried her family will move again before she can participate in the game.

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora (2014). Loved this book! Three best friends try to inspire their classmates to read, specifically To Kill a Mockingbird, by planning a daring project over the summer. I don’t want to give too much away because the plan itself, as well as how they execute it, is of course a major part of the book. But after working in a library and trying to find books that have seemingly disappeared into thin air, I really appreciate how ingenious the kids’ plan really is.

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin (2009). Great book narrated by a boy with autism as he tries to navigate an online relationship via a writing site. This is another book I can’t really say too much about, not because I’d spoil the book, but just because it’s so brilliantly written to allow the reader to really get into Jason’s head and learn to understand him.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best Young Adult Fiction Read in 2016

I typically read a lot of YA, but I felt like I read a lot of diverse YA this year, and have challenged myself to read even more diverse YA fiction next year. My top 5 YA books read this year are typically white, I’ll admit, but there’s a good one about gender identity and one with different races, cultures, and a very eye-opening perspective about being an illegal immigrant.

In order from most recently published to oldest:

Geekerella by Ashley Posten (2017). I don't like scifi or the related conventions, and I'm not a fan of fairy tale retellings, therefore you'd think Geekerella is not the book for me. But it drew me in with the quirky cover, and when I started the first page, I was hooked. You kind of forget it's a Cinderella story because the plot is so interesting, and the characters are great. You're rooting for Elle from the beginning, hating her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and you also get sucked into the story of Starfield and the fandom surrounding the show. I totally loved this book and already want to re-read it! It's going to be a hit.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (2016).  I LOVED this book. Beautifully written, with an amazing storyline that wasn't overshadowed by having a transgender character. Instead of the book only being about a transgender character and using that attention to build hype, this book truly stands on its own as a wonderful, touching story about family and acceptance. The transgender issues were perfectly addressed, though, without being too easily overcome or coming across as too preachy. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016). I loved Everything, Everything when I read it last year, so I couldn’t wait to read Nicola Yoon’s second book. Natasha is all about science and facts. Daniel is a poet and a dreamer. Their paths cross by total coincidence and changes the course of their lives. The book is tied together from different characters’ points of view, as well as different sections of facts about science, coincidence, poetry, and dreams. This book is beautiful and suspenseful because of the ticking clock of Natasha’s family possibly being deported. Nicola Yoon is quickly rising in the ranks to become my favorite author, and I already want to re-read both of her books. I can’t recommend her enough.

Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud (2015). I really loved the concept of this book. The jacket blurb didn’t really explain much so I wasn’t sure what the story was about, but I started it and loved the writing so I kept going and was SO thrilled with the subject matter and how it was written. LOVE. Highly recommend, but can’t say too much because I don’t want to give it away. Read this book without reading too much about it beforehand. Can’t wait for more from this author.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (2015). Love love LOVE this book! I had heard a lot about it but had to wait to get my hands on a copy of it. I read it in less than a day! Murphy is an excellent writer, and I wanted to crawl inside her world and live there for a week or so. Willowdean’s mom was a beauty queen in Texas, and has fit into her pageant dress every year since. Willowdean, on the other hand, is fat and doesn’t try to hide it. After her aunt, who was more like a second mother, passes away, Willowdean tries to find the confidence she used to have in herself, instead of in others.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best Graphic Novels Read in 2016

I felt like I read a lot of graphic novels this year. More than previous years, because I didn’t really think I liked graphic novels at one point. I also felt like I read a lot of great graphic novels this year, but only 4 stood out to me, so I don’t have a full top 5 for this category.

In order from most recently published to oldest:

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (2015). This is a middle grade graphic novel about a girl who is nervous about attending a new school, and fails to follow the rules she made for herself to fit in. Peppi joins the art club but can’t bring herself to speak up and share her ideas, and can’t bring herself to apologize to the boy she hurt on the first day. This is one of the most developed stories I’ve read in graphic novel form, and I’ve been recommending it to a lot of young readers in the library.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (2015). Another middle grade graphic novel (I’m seeing a trend…) about 12-year-old Astrid who finds a new hobby in roller derby. She expects her best friend to come along with her, since they’ve always done everything together, but instead they are growing apart. Loved this book, and can’t wait to read more by Jamieson. The story was really compelling, and the illustrations are gorgeous. Check out my rave review in A BOOK A MINUTE.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash (2015). I really loved this graphic memoir - the story was really compelling, even if the art wasn’t the best. That was before I learned that the author isn’t an artist - she taught herself to draw just to tell this story! It’s basically her coming out story - how she fell in love with a girl at summer camp and realized she was a lesbian. I rave a bit more about this book here.

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim (2011). I love graphic memoirs, and this is a great moment in time, with flashbacks showing how much small things can stick with you through the years. It was a great story, but I also really appreciated how much it made me think of small moments in my own life that related to a bigger picture. A quick read, but I really recommend it, especially if you like reflecting on your own life. (Does that sound narcissistic?)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Best Adult Fiction Read in 2016

I would say I typically read more young adult fiction than adult fiction, and the adult fiction I do read is mostly suspense and psychological thrillers. Surprisingly, the top 5 adult fiction books I picked for the year are pretty different across the board.

In order from most recently published to oldest:

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry (2016). Julie was kidnapped from her house when she was 13, but the circumstances were very suspicious. She was never found, but suddenly appeared on her parents’ doorstep eight years later. Except several people don’t believe that this is the real Julie, and they have evidence. This book jumped around between points of view, seemed to introduce random characters, and basically did a great job at making sure you didn’t know what to believe as truth. It was very well done and very interesting to read.

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes (2016). I love Jojo Moyes' characters because they're so well-developed, so realistic, and so... cozy. The title novella is great to immerse yourself in, and the following short stories are pretty quick, with interesting twists and some surprise endings. I read it in one sitting and loved it.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014). I read this because it was one of Oprah’s Book Club picks and I needed it for my Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. I was SO glad I picked this one, because it was amazing. I’ve read Sue Monk Kidd before and loved it, and this one was no exception. It is based on historical figure Sarah Grimke and how she fought for slaves’ and women’s rights. The narrative was told from her point of view, as well as the point of view of Handful, a slave the Grimke family owned. I’m usually not into historical fiction but this way beautifully done and inspired further research on my part.

Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham (2013). I love Lauren Graham, mostly as Lorelai Gilmore, so I was worried I was going to imagine that character as the narrator in this book. Luckily the story is about Franny trying to make it as an actress in New York, and she’s silly and funny, so imagining Lauren Graham as the character totally fit. I love reading about people trying to make it as actors, so I loved this book. The overall resolution was a little obvious, but there were nods throughout the book that Graham knew what was going on, so it seemed a little less hokey. The ending itself was very well-written. I’d love to read more from her.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011).  I loved this book! It was recommended to me by a friend who said I’d like it even though I don’t like sci-fi. To clarify, I don’t like hard sci-fi. I like things that seem like they could happen, like dystopia and robots and establishing human life on other planets. This book was amazing because it could be read as a statement on the direction society is headed - so much is done online, not face-to-face. Life seems so great on Facebook but it’s not in reality, etc.
Wade basically lives in the OASIS, an online world that’s better than the real world, especially considering that, in the real world, people live in trailers stacked on top of each other. He squats in an abandoned van to log in to the OASIS and become Parzival, an avatar who is still in high school, but is searching for the egg the OASIS creator left encoded in the game before he died. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book totally sucked me in, and I already want to re-read it! I recommend it to everyone, especially people who don’t like sci-fi, because it will blow you away. With the movie version being released in 2018, you might as well read it now so you can see it when it comes out! If the adaptation is well done, I think the movie could be just as great as the book.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Best Adult Nonfiction Read in 2016

I’m pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to reading nonfiction. It’s not what I gravitate towards, but if I’m interested in something, I’ll read about it. I especially love memoirs, anything by Bill Bryson (hilarious!), and anything that reads like fiction (Jon Ronson is really growing on me). I only read 15 nonfiction books this year, so it wasn’t too hard to whittle the list down to 5.

Pictures from my Instagram, except for The Glass Castle, which I apparently didn't photograph.
Also, eBooks are dominating this list, which doesn't make for good photos.

In order from most recently published to oldest:

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (2016). Disclaimer: I love, Love, LOVE Lauren Graham! I love her on Gilmore Girls and I love her on Parenthood and I’ve loved her little cameos on Newsradio, Seinfeld, Third Rock from the Sun, yada yada yada. So I started this book expecting to love it. Actually, I was waiting on pins and needles to get a chance to read it, because my library only got a digital copy and I was #9 on the holds list. Waiting for a book you’re dying to read is NOT easy! I was laughing out loud within the first few pages. It was a great book, and makes me want to be friends with Lauren Graham even more than I already did. Highly recommended if you like the actress, or memoirs, or laughing.

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (2015). Bill Bryson is always a treat, but he’s gotten better with age. Now he detests stupid people more than he used to, and it comes across in his writing. His informative prose is very well-written, but the glimpses into his thought process are more hilarious than ever. I’ve spoken to a few people who didn’t think this book was as great as his others, but I thought his asides were really funny. I also enjoyed the history of England and descriptions of certain locations, but this might be because I visited England a few years ago, loved every second, and think of it often, so this book was a great chance for me to revisit.

I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan (2014). I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone, but I love Love LOVE this blog and the book. So funny. I read it in a single sitting because I couldn’t put it down. I think librarians and civilians will love this book equally because it’s so easy to imagine each scenario happening.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (2011). I love Jon Ronson because he’s witty and somewhat snarky but writes very well, and his nonfiction really pulls you in. This book was incredibly interesting, and referenced a fair amount of Them, which is the next book I will read by him (about conspiracy theories - yay!). I’ve previously read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, which was just as fascinating as it sounds. His subject matter is always incredibly interesting.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005). This book has been on my TBR forever, and recommended to me by countless people. I am so glad I finally got to it. The stories are so interesting, and I love Walls’ writing style. Definitely going to read more from her. Highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

If I Had a Gryphon

If I Had a Gryphon is a fun, beautiful book that parents will love to explore with their children.

Sam's first pet is a hamster, and though she's only had him for a week, she's already bored by him. She daydreams about having a more exotic pet, like a unicorn, a hippogriff, and more.

Even though these animals are more interesting, Sam realizes that they have qualities that might keep them from being the perfect pet.

Vikki VanSickle's rhymes are fun and innovative, and Cale Atkinson's illustrations are as gorgeous as always. The last page sends the reader off with a great joke that will make you realize nothing's as it seems!

As an added bonus, this book is beautiful beneath the cover:

and has clever end papers with squiggly, squirmy creatures all over:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

30 Days of Working for and with Teens for Social Justice

This month on YALSAblog and the Hub, we're focusing on social justice. Be sure to follow along with both blogs as they explore this topic, and how to work for and with teens.
Think about your library’s population: Is it diverse? If you answered no, why don’t you think the population is diverse? Keep in mind that diversity is not always something you can see, like skin color, a hijab, or a wheelchair.   
Read over this site, and try to accomplish the challenge posed: 
“Commit to taking 3 actions in the next month, and share these with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member in order to increase your accountability to follow through on your commitment.  Can you take at least one action in the next two weeks in the Ally or Accomplice category?”
Read the full post here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

New YALSAblog Member Manager!

I'm excited to announce one of my new roles:
CHICAGO — The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has selected Allison Renner, a Teen Services Librarian at the Cordova (Tennessee) Branch Library as its new member manager for the YALSAblog.

“The YALSAblog played a huge part in my life as I earned my Master of Library Science,” said Renner. “I was in an online program, and reading and writing for YALSAblog helped me feel connected to other librarians. As I started my new position as a Teen Services Librarian, I found so much inspiration on the blog, and support from the entire YALSA community. I am eager to bring my hands-on experience as a student and librarian to the position, as well as my interest in promoting diversity and inclusion.”

Renner will serve a one-year term as member manager starting December 1st.
See the whole press release here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It Looks Like This

The teenage years are a time for young people to discover their identities and explore and push the boundaries of structured life. The lucky ones are given room to experiment as they explore. It Looks Like This is a book about what happens when someone is not given that freedom.
See the full review at Cleaver Magazine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Unlock Their Imagination - October #kidlitpicks

During the month of October, KidLitPicks explored picture books that unlock imagination. Magic happens when tiny fingers turn the pages of a beloved book. Stories provide avenues of amusement, entryways to intrigue, and doors through which discovery abounds. The simplest of sentences can launch us to the stars and back again, helping us land safely in our haven of blankets and pillows after completing an expedition to save the earth. Stories can help us learn to fly, travel the globe in mere moments, and go on enchanting adventures with talking animals and magic carpets.

Through story, we can help our children navigate oceans of emotions and experiences. We can provide them a safe place to grapple with difficult topics and challenging feelings. We can give them laughter and comfort, and we can teach empathy and inclusiveness and kindness. Most importantly, we can use books to unlock their collective imaginations.

As Kwame Alexander recently said in a New York Times article, "The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child." Lets give our children a safe space to run free and roam the universe by offering them books that encourage wild, fanciful and meaningful experiences. These imaginative stories may plant the seeds for their big ideas -- big ideas that will one day change our world for the better.

A special thank you to Lauren from Happily Ever Elephants for the theme!

The Forgetful Knight, by Michelle Robinson and Fred Blunt (shared by @readingisourthing) “Story writing involves chops and changes. Not only does The Forgetful Knight accentuate this, but also the idea of endless possibility.”

What Can I Be? by Ann Rand and Ingrid Fiksdahl King (shared by @spiky_penelope) “It explores the power of imagination and the room for potential.”

The Storyteller by Evan Turk (shared by @afriendlyaffair) "The book, which is reminiscent of an ancient parable, reminds us of the power of a great story to quench the thirst for history, imagination, and togetherness."

Cook In A Book: Pancakes!: An Interactive Recipe Book, by Lotta Nieminen (shared by “The illustrations are simple and clean, which fit this book PERFECTLY!”

Journey, by Aaron Becker (shared by @homegrownreader) “With an amazing cameo by a boy with a purple crayon at the end of the book, the pages of this story leaks creativity onto your hands.”

Beyond the Pond, by Joseph Kuefler (shared by @book.nerd.mommy) “This book is a beautiful reminder that imagination is an incredible power that can transform the world from a place of rigid boundaries to a realm of possibilities”

Hey A.J. It's Saturday, by Martellus Bennett (shared by @hereweeread) “Let your kids unlock their imaginations with this imaginative and entertaining book.”

Topsy Turvy Ocean by Wes Magee and Tracey Tucker (shared by @astoryaday) “This book provides a springboard for children to explore their imaginations.”

Shadow, by Suzy Lee (shared by @chickadee.lit) “This wordless picture book shows the power of solitary play, and—with just two colors—creates a magical immersive experience..”

Ursa's Light, by Deborah Marcero (shared by @happily.ever.elephants) “[It] is delightful, imparting to our little ones that even the most seemingly impossible dreams can be realized with hard work, dedication, and the ability to ignore the naysayers.”

The Wonder, by Faye Hanson (shared by @bookbairn) “ I can't think of a better way to unlock doors to different worlds than through books and reading.”

Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies (shared by @bookbloom) “A riot of whimsy and color, this over-the-top book sparks imagination by exploring the components of good storytelling.”

Big Friends, by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies (shared by @howifeelaboutbooks) “So many books came to mind with this theme because picture books are one of the best ways to explore imagination!” (See my full post HERE!)

What Do You Do With an Idea?, by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom (shared by @smallysbookshelf) "The words and illustrations in this book are nothing short of magic."

This Is Sadie, by Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad (shared by @fee_loves_) “A beautiful, beautiful book that encourages our children to unlock their imagination.”

Anno's Magical ABC, by Masaichiro Anno and Mitsumasa Anno (shared by @ohcreativeday) “Such a fun way to introduce emerging readers to the amazing world of letters”

You Choose, by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt (shared by @alittlebookhabit) “This unique book basically offers children all the many options they need to create their own stories by asking a few clever questions and then providing more options than you knew were possible.”

Panda Pants, by Jacqueline Davies and Sydney Hanson (shared by @childrensbooksgalore) “A little panda really wants to wear pants!”