Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk + Scholastic Giveaway

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by Dav Pilkey
published August 2010 by Scholastic
176 pages (hardcover), middle grade graphic novel
*copy received from publisher

Meet Ook and Gluk, best caveman friends who are always falling into adventures. They like playing the part of brave heroes, saving a dinosaur from sinking into quicksand, a cavewoman from an unappealing marriage to the Chief, and the whole of civilization from a man out to destroy the world to make a buck.

All I have to say is - kids are going to eat this book up. They'll rip it up, for sure. There are Flip-O-Rama pages in this book, which create seemingly animated scenes, that are destined to be torn to shreds. I'll be taping up those pages in advance.

As for the story, I have many mixed feelings. Obviously, the spelling irks me. Perhaps it's meant to be easy to read, to mimic kids' invented spellings, or whatever - I just don't think it has a place in published works. It gives students the idea that spelling really doesn't matter, and while I'd love to hop on that bandwagon, it's not exactly socially acceptable. But I digress.

What I absolutely loved about this book can be found in the following pages:
You see those arrows on page 9? I love them. Towards the beginning of the book, there were a few arrows to direct the reader to follow the story in the correct sequence. This is much appreciated because contrary to popular belief, not everyone just knows how to read comics.

I also liked the friendship between Ook and Gluk and their ease of making new friends. They had good hearts and wanted to help people, which is nice. But the violence! And the language! A bit too much name-calling for my taste - and I say this because I hear it every day in school, and I can't stand it. Another nasty habit I'd not like reinforced, thanks. The violence is minor, I suppose, but not really, because a kick or a punch is still violence, and again, I don't want to see it in school. But that's just my perspective. Maybe kids are just desensitized to it and won't even notice it the way I did (which I also think is sad, by the way), I don't know.

Anyhow, it seems like this book brought out a whole lot of social commentary in me, and I don't mean to sound so old and cranky. Know that kids will like it and will want more of it. And I do think there was a balance of what I liked and didn't like in it, so I'd certainly put it in one of my student's hands and hope for the best!

Three purple crayons from me - I suspect five from the kiddos. :)

But that's not all! Along with sending me a shiny new copy of Ook & Gluk to review, they are also hosting a ginormous holiday giveaway. I'm sure you've seen these delectable prize packs among other kidlit blogs (I know I have!), so here I am offering you yet another chance to win this boatload of great holiday reads. Here's what Scholastic has to say about it:

Give the gift of reading to your child this holiday season! Scholastic books make the perfect stocking stuffer for any child on your list.
We have a HUGE prize pack filled with the most popular children’s books in the marketplace to offer one lucky reader! Titles include CAPTAIN SKY BLUE, IT’S CHRISTMAS DAVID, OOK and GLUK as well as TONY BALONEY, ODIOUS OGRE and I SPY CHRISTMAS A CHRISTMAS TREE!
Seriously, check out those books! To enter, you must have a U.S. mailing address. And that's about it. 

Fill out the form below for a chance to win! Contest ends Wednesday, December 8, 2010. 


Sunday, November 28, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

Kristi of The Story Siren is hosting the third annual 2011 Debut Author Challenge, which highlights new authors who write middle grade or young adult books. The challenge is simple - read 12 books by a debut author in 2011. Kristi has spreadsheets and lists a-plenty on her blog (and on Goodreads), so finding books and authors should be a cinch. The hard part is narrowing those choices down!

2011 Debut Author Challenge participant information:
  • The objective of the DAC is to read at least twelve novels from Young Adult or Middle Grade Authors. While twelve is the minimum there is no maximum limit! I encourage readers who can read more than twelve to do so!
  • Anyone can join. You don't have to be a blogger, and you don't have to live in the United States. 
  • You do not have to have an blog written in English to participate. 
  • You can join at anytime. The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.
I'm going to attempt this challenge this coming year because I was secretly jealous of those participating in it this year. I was afraid of the time commitment, but honestly, I bet I've read at least five 2010 debuts this year without even realizing it! With a little concerted effort, I know I can manage twelve. :) This will be a good way for me to stay on top of the YA scene too, since the bulk of my YA reading lately has been catching up on series or making sure I read the new one from [insert beloved author here]. As much as I love my K-5 kiddos, the time I spend with them and reading books for them leaves me wishing for and wanting more YA lit.

Here's a list of 2011 debuts that I'm contemplating reading. I'll update it throughout the year to reflect what I've actually read.

And what did I actually read? It's shameful, really. I only managed to read 3 debut novels this year. But many are still on my to-read list! The year flew by, what can I say?

I read...

XVI by Julia Karr (review)

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (review)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (review)

I think I'll join the challenge again in 2012 and make a concerted effort to read more than 3 debuts!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy Haul-idays!

Chronicle Books is hosting quite the fantastic contest for the holidays - they're giving away $500 worth of books to one lucky blogger and one lucky commenter. How absolutely wonderful!

So, of course I chose the books below for my library. A few of them I will most certainly purchase (like Chicken Big!) if I don't win, but the majority will just have to wait for another day and time when money grows on trees in library courtyards. :) It's a pleasant dream, isn't it? Wish me and my students luck!

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

BookBox: embed book widget, share book list

ETA: After visiting some other blogs entering the contest, I noticed that there's a handy Wishlist on Chronicle Books' website that you can use. Not that I spent a ridiculous amount of time composing my bookboxes or anything. Or even more time going back to create a Wishlist. Okay, maybe I did. Here's my Wishlist, including 2 more books because I was a little under $500. Don't make my mistake! Create a Wishlist! Or if you're too lazy and actually like the books I chose, just comment here and you're entered.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
published December 2008 by Walker & Co
368 pages (paperback), YA

We all know the story - good girl falls for bad boy. She's popular, rich and college-bound, the envy of all her friends. He's in a gang, living on the poor side of the tracks, and hoping to at least graduate high school. Inevitably, the two must spend their school days together as chemistry lab partners. On their first day, they're forced to introduce each other to the class:

"This is Alejandro Fuentes. When he wasn't hanging out on street corners and harassing innocent people this summer, he toured the inside of jails around the city, if you know what I mean. His secret desire is to go to college and become a chemistry teacher, like you, Mrs. Peterson."

Brittany flashes  me a triumphant smile, thinking she's won this round. Guess again, gringa.

"This is Brittany Ellis," I say, all eyes now focused on me. "This summer she went to the mall, bought new clothes so she could expand her wardrobe, and spent her daddy's money on plastic surgery to enhance her, ahem, assets. Her secret desire is to date a Mexicano before she graduates."
I don't read a whole lot of realistic fiction or romance for that matter, but I quite enjoyed this one. Perhaps it's because I saw Simone Elkeles speak at ISLMA last month, and she was just so bubbly and hilarious. Perhaps because the trailer for this book is genius and fall-off-your-chair funny. Or maybe because I read it over a long weekend traveling to visit a friend. It made for great airport and plane reading.

One thing Simone mentioned when she talked about her writing career is that she was never great at school and she never saw herself as a writer or even reader. But a trip to the public library and a handful of romances later changed her mind. She loves the happy ending that all romances promise and deliver, and that's what she tried to do with this book. Personally, I could have done without the happy ending, especially in a YA romance, but I liked the rest of the story enough to be okay with it. Brittany and Alex are three-dimensional characters, with complicated family stories and even more complicated friendships, with thoughts and feelings so at odds with each other that they're constantly fighting and trying to figure out what's right. Simone's passion and general emo qualities shine in this book. Honestly, that's what I love most about teens and books for teens - the raw emotion and incessant need to question everything.

So, four purple crayons for a fantastic if predictable story. I smiled and laughed and wanted to hug someone when I was finished reading it. :)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So, I sort of became an aunt last night. I say sort of because my sister surely didn't have a baby, but my cousin-in-law did - and our families are so close that I think aunt is a fitting title. Anyhow, I need help choosing books for this little one!

I have a hard enough time finding books for kindergartners that I am just completely clueless when it comes to baby books. I know that board books are in, especially textured ones. Simple pictures. Not a lot of text. I guess? I really don't know.

Please offer your suggestions of favorite books for babies!


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Zoey Zeta and the Sisters of Power by Robert Simon

Zoey Zeta and the Sisters of Power: Family Secrets written by Robert Simon, illustrated by Tomomi Sarafov
published April 2010 by Zeta Comics
unpaged (paperback), children's graphic novel
*received from publisher

In this first story of Zoey Zeta and the Sisters of Power, Zoey the scientific genius, middle sister Ella the indestructible, and youngest sister Lexi the supersonic are getting ready for an activity-filled summer vacation when evil villain Dr. Impossible thwarts their plans and puts the country-most importantly kids and their parents-on lockdown. But these girls are superheroes; well, they will be, at least, once they come up with a name and a plan to stop Dr. Impossible.

I quite enjoyed this full-color graphic novel aimed at elementary girls who like superheroes too. The dialogue is smart, as shown by one of my favorite lines, "Parents are cautioned not to weep openly or uncontrollably in front of their children," (in reference to Dr. Impossible taking control of the media world). Because it's aimed at a young audience, I was afraid that the text may be too difficult for my students especially, but I don't think that's the case. Where the language is a bit more sophisticated, the illustrations clearly support it so that the story is not lost. The panels are easy to navigate and the colors just pop right off the page. I'm intrigued by the story, but I'm disappointed that it's separated into three parts. It was over before I really got into it.

Here's a part of the letter I received from the author/publisher about the creation of this comic:
I created Zeta Comics to address the lack of science fiction for young girls. You see, fairies are great but they're not cool. Not unless they're packing molecular disintegrators. Girls need more imaginative, science and engineering based fiction and fun. That's where Zeta Comics is positioning its stories and characters. Get ready for an action-packed adventure starring three powerful little girls with big powers, big attitudes and big adventures.
I'm just going to pretend he didn't bad-mouth fairies there. Because you all know my fascination and love for fairies. Mmhmm.

Anyhow, I plan on sharing this book with my students, and we'll see how it goes! From me, it gets three purple crayons. Solid but too short.


Monday, November 1, 2010

October Reading Recap

Did I read more for myself? Yep, I think so. Could always read more, though. Especially since the bedside stack has now split into two for fear of falling over. Oy. Public library, how I appreciate your 4-week loan period and generous renewals. I pretty much decide what I'm going to read based on what book cannot be renewed because it's requested by someone else. Tonight's selection is Blameless because it's due on Wednesday!

What I Read and Why 
Because reading for me makes me happy 
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
The Body at the Tower (The Agency #2) by Y.S. Lee
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

Because the public library buys EVERYTHING
What is Money, Anyway? by Jennifer Larson
A Fairy-Tale Fall by Apple Jordan
The Earth Book by Todd Parr
Flora's Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall
Thanks a Lot, Emily Post! by Jennifer Larue Huget

Because Halloween has so much read-aloud potential
Pumpkin Town! by Katie McTy
Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligot
The Halloween Kid by Rhode Montijo
Hallowilloween by Calef Brown
The Monster Princess by D.J. MacHale

 Because they're nominated for the Monarch Award
Oh, Theodore! by Susan Katz
Help Me, Mr. Mutt! by Janet Stevens
Abe's Honest Words by Doreen Rappaport
Dog and Bear by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

 Because I bought them for my library
Lots of Spots by Lois Ehlert
Big Babies, Little Babies by DK Publishing

Did I really only blog three times in October? I need to get better at blogging quicker. These entries take me hours on end. Anyhow...

Clockwork Angel was by far my favorite. The first book in The Infernal Devices series, which is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series, all books that I have loved. Tessa finds herself at the Institute in London after being imprisoned by demon sisters, with the new knowledge that she's a Downworlder with the unique talent of shape shifting. Woo! Need I say much more? :) 

Just read How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles this weekend because I went to one of her sessions at the Illinois School Library Media Association's annual conference on Friday. She was so full of spunk and spark that I immediately rushed to my mom's public library to get one of her books to read - this was the only one on the shelf. And I rather enjoyed it. I love her easy style - she absolutely writes how she speaks, and it works for her. Can't wait to read more from her!

Not much else to say that I haven't said here, here, or here

November Aspirations
Honestly, I'll be surprised if I get any reading done in November. So much to do! I said that I would revisit The Hunger Games and Catching Fire during Thanksgiving break so that I can finally read Mockingjay, but I don't know that I'll have much free time while visiting family. I do plan on reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because I just got it from the library after waiting months on their holds list. I'm not about to give it back without reading it! Also looking forward to Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld and The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima, both sequels to first books in a series. And I want to read everything Simone Elkeles has written because she's refreshingly honest, funny, a tad silly, and so full of life and emotion. OH! And Harry Potter 7, Part 1 comes out this month?! Goodness gracious, there's no way I'll have time to re-read it. Best I can hope for is to re-watch #6.
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