Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

Screenshot 2019-07-13 13.49.04

In this fantastical universe, our protagonist, Elsa, has the superpower EVERY bibliophile wants (whether they know it or not!)  And that is why I was compelled to read Ink, Iron and Glass…. ‘cuz I too really want to be able to write things into existence.

While set up as a YA book, the characters seemed younger than their years.  Perhaps Elsa’s isolation in growing up has given her an innocent bent or maybe I have just been reading more racy YA recently.  Aside from a few “damns” and a handful of passionate kisses, this story would almost be appropriate for competent Middle Grade readers.

One of my favorite parts of this novel though is when the characters pursue a plan of action, convinced that they understand their antagonist’s plan – only to discover that they are quite wrong.  This air of believability is refreshing in a genre where coincidence sometime plays a contrived replacement for plot.  It shows a willingness to grind on the part of the author and made up for the almost limitless power our Elsa was given in the form of a version of a literary Room of Requirement.  Mind you, I mean this with only a tiny bit of judgment.  I still would love to write myself One Million Dollars…..  nothing?  nothing? Bummer.

 

The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra & illustrated by Eric Comstock

Screenshot 2019-01-21 20.16.57.pngNoah Webster is back in the spotlight in this brightly colored picture book intended for older elementary students. The story is simple and loose.  Words were bored in the dictionary and decided to bunk off for a bit. On each spread (and sometimes each page) a particular type of word is showcased in multiples along with their label – synonyms, palindromes, action verbs and so on. Each word is given its own personality, usually suggestive of its meaning, through the use of cleverly added eyes, noses, and expressions.

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 8.38.01 pmTwo things stand out for me here. First, the art work is compelling. Though there is a limited (albeit BRIGHT) palette and simple line art throughout, the illustrations are not simplistic. Instead the book sets a very appropriate, fun-loving and zealous mood. Second, how brilliant is it that this book handles a subject that is usually so BORING? Who cares to memorize the definition of a conjunction? Instead, we are allowed to move on from telling children what words are to visually showing them what they are. When that happens, students get incredible insight along with a fun book to read.

This is a great book for about grades 2 and up. It might be difficult to do as a read aloud because the images of the words as a whole need to be seen to fully appreciate the meaning. Consider using a camera and projection device if you go that route. This would pair nicely with a low prep activity where students came up with their own escapee words to illustrate.

Lastly, I want to thank the Phoenix Public Library and the librarians there who keep up to date on new releases. I actually borrowed this book from my own library from over 8000miles away!  Thank you Phoenix Public eLibrary! I plan to put “The Great Dictionary Caper” on my “every library should have” list and I highly recommend its purchase for k-12 libraries.

@pwisemanbooks
@EricComstockATX

@PhxLibrary

Cretaceous by Tad Galusha

It is unusual to find a wordless book that aims for middle grades and higher.

Cretaceous is a vibrant and wordless graphic novel that tells the story of dinosaur life in all its gory glory. And there is Darwinian gore – so clearly this wasn’t meant for a young audience. The story is remarkably clear considering the wordless nature of the book. Our graphic narrator follows one dinosaur for a time, when after some encounter, we split off to follow another. The story can be read at multiple levels – the interconnected nature of life, the story of a species, or the story of a single dinosaur T Rex who appears both as our first and last narrator. With a helpful endnote Field Guide to dinosaurs (the only worded part of the book), this graphic novel will appeal to all of those dinosaur hunters who have exhausted the Nat Geo books and who might be interested in branching out. If a reader likes this, they may be willing to try one of the many dinosaur themed fiction series. The anthropomorphism of the dinosaurs is likely wildly fantastic but may be a good bridge from fact to fiction for some of our readers who naturally lean toward being strongly grounded.

I recommend this book for school and youth libraries where a librarian can use it to engage both purely fact readers, readers of graphic novels, and those struggling to read (such as English Language Learners) in middle and upper grades as the content and style are mature enough to engage older readers while still allowing non or struggling readers to understand and appreciate the story.

My only concern is that the audience that would benefit and enjoy this the most might not find it. This would be a great series to use with students on the autism spectrum as many are very drawn to dinosaur and similar factual books but could use that angle to start to understand and appreciate story and fiction.

#NetGalley @Taddman @OniPress

Moon Mission by Sigmund Brouwer

4506A514-2748-4781-83B7-7BD013859B98This black and white tome is a history of the moon missions but written in a rare second-person narrative. Using accounts of the actual missions, this novel (reading like a choose you own adventure) amalgamates the experiences of several moon mission astronauts.

69FF5B85-7695-4D1B-9FB4-A1CB9B9EC792

While the facts and images seem well researched, it takes a particular kind of reader to enjoy the second person perspective. Younger readers might be more open to this style. Indeed, I would consider this a High-Lo reading level – relatively high reading skill but rather low emotional age needed to appreciate.  Overall, the book is an interesting read and should be considered for any young space enthusiast. For the average collection, buy if you have space or history readers or are lacking in this topic area.

The Voice in My Head by Dana Davis

This is a ‘coming of age’ story about African-American twins who diverge in mind and heart when one decides to end her life with dignity after a severe, incurable lung illness and the other starts to hear the voice of “God” in her head.

I am not a big fan of grief reading. I enjoy the occasional Jodi Picoult novel but it isn’t my first choice. So I when I picked up The Voice, I did it to resolve the ‘problem’ I had in needing to find out what actually WAS the voice in Indigo’s head (spiritual, religious, insanity, alien?) While I won’t spoil this answer, I will say that this is definitely one of those books where the journey is the gift. While I went in just to find out this one answer, I left feeling like I had met and shared with Violet and Indigo and their complex and fierce family. The characters here are so realistic in their flaws, so true to their creation and so distinctly individual that I believe they could exist. It is rare that an author can hit the right combination of plot intrigue and character development and beautiful writing to support the story fully but Dana Davis has managed it in spades. I fully expect to see this novel on awards lists next year and frankly, I will question our industry if this book does not receive the accolades it deserves! #TheVoiceInMyHead #NetGalley

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

I read a lot of escapist books. I am definitely after that thousand lives they say readers get to live. More if at all possible. But there are characters who I am glad to not be. And Hannah Gold is one of them. I appreciate that she exists in a kind of abstract way but dang – is there anyway to keep her purely theoretical?

Hannah is the center of our story universe in A Danger to Herself and Others. She is our narrator and our point of view. So we learn, bit by bit, what has come before, what brought her to her small institutional cell, almost as she seems to learn it herself. Which means, that for the course of the book, we readers are living the life of a confused, disturbed, enigmatic teenage girl who is confined in an institution for some unknown but unjust reason. We are surrounded by odd personalities that flit in and out of the story, clearly marred by our character goggles.

The link between this novel and the books I usually pick up to read is the puzzle, the unknowing. I don’t often read thrillers or high drama or romance. I have a sense that I know how the story in these will resolve. I like speculative fiction, magical realism, YA, fantasy and sci-fi because the resolution is not just unknown but not guaranteed. Seriously. Who else had to stop reading after Ned Stark bit it? I had to pause because I was so shocked an author would do such a thing. And then I dived in, ravenous.

That is what ended up happening here. What brought me to this story was the complete uncertainty of what had already happened. Our narrator, who should be our omniscient leader in this, is anything but. Being brought into her world is unsettling and disquieting. This is not exactly the escapism I generally crave. But if YOU do, this is a worthwhile read. The story is well written with believable characters. Even a bit too believable for my taste. While I am usually avoid this genre because of my own bias of perceived predictable endings, I realized as I started to read that with such an unreliable and unfocused and un-remembering narrator, I had no idea where we would end up. But I went along for the dangerous ride because I just had to find out. #netgalley @AlyssaSheinmel #ADangertoHerselfandOthers

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

I am a sucker for Anastasia stories, I do admit. When I was a young girl, her remains had not yet been discovered so there was still significant mystery about what happened to her and I sucked up the Anna stories. I was looking forward to this read and it did deliver. Romanov is the tale of magic being stamped out under the Red Revolution of Lenin. Considering all the other policies, I suspect that if magic had existed, Lenin would have considered it anathema to the Soviet way. This is also a love tragedy, the tale of a princess and a pauper and their ill fated affection. There are brutal moments in this story. They aren’t made any easier by the magic that is supposed to exist. But overall the writing was so well done, the world and character building so lovely, that it is worth the tough moments, even for those of us who read to escape. I was left wondering though…. if the royal family were so lovely, why were they so hated? Was the Tsar really the dedicated humanist we read about? I supposed Romanov did it’s job – now I have to go find out. #netgalley #Romanov