Friday, September 26, 2014

September Reads

September was a very productive reading month! I managed to get some adult fiction and nonfiction reads in, too.



I picked up All Our Names on a whim; I wanted adult fiction, and since historical fiction from a non-Western perspective intrigues me, I took it home. I was immediately taken with this story of a young revolutionary from an unnamed African country (he immigrates to Uganda early in the story) and the small-town Midwestern social worker who falls in love with him. This takes place in the mid-seventies; an interracial relationship is radical in their small town, so they have to hide their relationship (a scene in which they eat at a local diner is memorable). Things get a little confusing halfway through the book; there's lots of secrets being hidden, and not everything is neatly wrapped up at the end.




For readers who want to learn about elephants but aren't ready to tackle Dr. O'Connell's The Elephant Scientist (one of the exemplary Scientists in the Field books), A Baby Elephant in the Wild's brief (er) text and gorgeous pictures featuring the life of a baby elephant should enchant them. Basic questions about what baby elephants eat, how they are cared for, and how they survive (and why they are endangered) will inform and entertain young naturalists.



Blood Diaries is a funny and fun read for middle-grade readers who want a vampire story, but aren't ready for YA romance or horror stories.  Navigating the world of middle school can be tough at times for most students, but it's doubly so if you're a boy vampire trying to fit in. His parents don't understand why he even wants to attend middle school and wish that he would make more of an effort to befriend the other vampire kids; getting on the bad side of a vegan classmate makes middle school life even more difficult. Readers who gravitate to diary novels such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love this; it's a funny and also realistic (although somewhat exaggerated) look at middle school life.



I finished The Bully Pulpit days before the premiere of Ken Burns's The Roosevelts (the series only briefly touched upon the close and fractious relationship between Presidents Roosevelt and Taft). Although Roosevelt figures heavily in the book, I picked it for my Taft biography read (I'm reading a biography of each president); as Roosevelt figured heavily in Taft's life, it was quite a sensible pick! The friendship between Roosevelt and Taft was strained and eventually broken when Taft did not continue the progressive politics started by Roosevelt, as Roosevelt had thought he would; Roosevelt's disastrous third-party run against Taft nearly ended one of the most fascinating political relationships of all time. This actually about a month to read, as it is quite lengthy, but very much worth it. You probably know that Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals was adapted for film by Stephen Spielberg; he has already bought the film rights for The Bully Pulpit, and I can't wait to see how it turns out (hopefully, it won't take as long to make this film as it did Team of Rivals!).




Fans of British historical fiction definitely need to read The Fortune Hunter. Royalty! Illicit affairs! Debutantes! Add in a beautiful empress married to a much older emperor and hounded by the media wherever she goes and an heiress fighting against the norms expected in her upper-class society, and you have a moving, occasionally funny, and gorgeously depicted Victorian-era historical novel.



Incident at Hawk's Hill was one of five books that received a Newbery Honor citation in 1971. I read it when I was in elementary school and had never reread it until recently. It's a harsh tale of a boy that befriends a raccoon when he goes missing; squeamish or sensitive readers should note that the cruelty and randomness of nature is a big part of the story. Although it says that it was "based on a true story," there's no evidence of research or an author's note backing that up; that would certainly be expected if the novel was published today.

The Planet of Junior Brown also earned a Newbery Honor that year; although it definitely reads like a dated book, this story of a homeless boy and his  overweight African-American friend is worth reading as an example of early multicultural fiction.



Marcus Sedgwick is an outstanding author; his YA books are sophisticated and meaty reads that often have rather involved plots.  She is Not Invisible is no different, and it's one of my favorites (so far) by him. A blind British teenager and her brother run away to find their missing father in New York; unfamiliar with their surroundings and increasingly mystified by puzzles and clues that involve the number 354, the two eventually despair of ever finding their father. Readers (teen and older) who like literary thrillers will devour this.




I am loving the many great additions to our easy chapter book collection; they are fun to read, well-written, and are often multicultural. Suzannah longs for a pet, but the rules of her apartment complex forbid pets. Luckily, her mother learns that the local shelter is starting a "Shelter Pet Squad" for kids her age; they make toys for the animals living at the shelter and help the shelter staff (I like that the kids were restricted in what they could do; that makes it much more realistic). Suzannah encounters a family reluctantly surrendering their beloved guinea pig (they are moving overseas and can't take Jelly Bean); Suzannah promises their young daughter that she will help find a good home for Jelly Bean. Not only is this a cute story about kids and adults working together, but Cynthia Lord includes terrific information about pet care, how to make the toys that the kids made in the story, and how to help your local animal shelter. Awwww!  If you love Critter Club, you'll love Shelter Pet Squad.




Oh, man. This book. (I read it a month or two ago, but forgot to blog about it.) Yes, it's a fabulous read and is a worthwhile read in this age of humans and wildlife increasingly encroaching on each other's habitat. A really engaging read. But (SPOILER ALERT) I'll give you three guesses as to what happens to that wolf on the cover who likes to play with the dogs that live in Nick Jans's Alaskan community which is divided between those who have adopted it as a town mascot and those with itchy trigger fingers. Read if you enjoy books that leave you curled into a fetal position at the end. (END SPOILER ALERT)

If you're looking for more reads (that may or may not leave you whimpering like a toddler who just dropped his ice cream cone), check out Wowbrary (back issues are available).

I blogged about "not-so-cozy bedtime stories" on the ALSC blog this month.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library


To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.




Friday, September 19, 2014

Bully Reads

Inspirations for blog posts can come in the most unexpected places. I've been riveted by each episode of The Roosevelts; although I am learning a lot, occasionally I will think, "I remember reading that in X book!" While watching Wednesday's episode, it occurred to me that I should talk about my favorite Roosevelt-related books. The United States underwent a great deal of change and important milestones during the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so I've included books that touch upon those events as well:

Theodore Roosevelt: 




I reviewed The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, And Our National Parks in April 2012:

This is a memorable look at the Yosemite camping trip that ignited Theodore Roosevelt's passion and defense of national parks.  Roosevelt was an ardent conservationist and reader; reading John Muir's plea to preserve the natural landscapes of America inspired Roosevelt to ask Muir to take him on an exploration of Yosemite.  Muir wasn't convinced; truth be told, he was a bit weary of taking people on guided trips, because not much action seemed to come from them.  He was eventually persuaded to do so (Roosevelt was not one to take no for an answer), and the camping trip lead to a lifelong correspondence between Roosevelt and Muir--and the establishment of the national park system. Roosevelt was quite the character; the more I read of him, the more I want to read about him.  This is an excellent depiction of an important but little known event in our nation's history.



Theodore Roosevelt's oldest daughter, Alice Roosevelt, was a force of nature in Washington D.C. society for many years.  What to Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, And Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy is an entertaining picture book biography about this outrageous and unique woman.

Also consider these books by two stellar authors of children's biographies: You're On Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt! by Judith St. George and Bully For You, Theodore Roosevelt by Jean Fritz


Franklin Delano Roosevelt: 







Kathleen Krull's many picture book biographies are superb introductions to important historical figures; A Boy Named FDR: How Franklin D. Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America is a great overview of FDR's privileged childhood, his battle with polio, and his powerful presidency.

Also consider: Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt by Judith St. George and Russell Freedman's biography.



Eleanor Roosevelt: 



Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my favorite biographies by Candace Fleming; it's an involved read, but quite inspiring and informative.

Also consider: Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport and Russell Freedman's biography.

Polio:





Joyce Meyer Hostetter's YA novel about a town stricken with polio is one of my most memorable reads in recent years. I reviewed it in November 2008:


Blue is an enormously moving and emotional novel set during the polio epidemic. When Ann Fay’s father leaves to fight the Nazis in Europe, he tells her that she’s the “man of the house” and is expected to take care of her little brother and sisters. When her four year old brother is suddenly stricken with polio, Ann Fay feels very guilty that she somehow drove him to the illness.

Polio was (and still is) a random, painful, and frightening illness. The immediate quarantine placed upon a family affected by polio and the dramatic limitations placed upon communities led to fear of anyone associated with the disease. This is an excellent read, but one that is very rich and very sad at times (a child’s funeral is described at heartbreaking length). The painful treatments of polio are brought to life through Ann Fay’s experiences, and the sorrow of Ann Fay’s father over the separation from his family is very much apparent. 

Blue takes place in Hickory, NC, site of one of the worst polio outbreaks. Joyce Hostetter provides a thoughtful essay and bibliography at the end of her novel. Although not an easy read (emotionally), Blue is an outstanding portrayal of the polio epidemic. 

Also consider: Peg Kehret's memoir of her struggle with childhood polio, Small Steps and Kathryn Lasky's YA novel, Chasing Orion, about a young girl and her teenage neighbor, who is forced to live in an iron lung due to the effects of polio.


Prohibition:




Prohibition was repealed during FDR's administration (Eleanor Roosevelt was an early advocate of prohibition). Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, And the Lawless Years of Prohibition is a fine overview of the era; I reviewed it in July 2011:

Bootleg is an eye-opening account of the Prohibition Era. Prohibition activists, gangsters, bootleggers, repealers, politicians, speakeasies, police and judges who looked the other way....it's all covered in fascinating detail. An epilogue looks at the effects of Prohibition and its repeal, including changes in legislation and advocacy (including MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving). 

Great Depression:




Bud, Not Buddy is one of my favorite Newbery winners of all time; this story of an orphan searching for his father brilliantly evokes the Depression era.





I haven't read one book written by Russell Freedman that hasn't failed to move me; Children of the Great Depression is an eye-opening, heartbreaking, and and incredible look at how children were affected by the Great Depression. It's not all darkness, though; readers learn about children's favorite games and pastimes of the era and the optimism felt by many at the end of the Depression.

Also consider: Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, which highlights the librarians who brought books and informational materials on nutrition, maternity care, and child care to rural parts of Kentucky during the Depression, and Esperanza Rising, a middle grade historical novel about a wealthy Latino family who must find migrant work in order to survive.

Dust Bowl 




Out of the Dust won the Newbery Medal in 1988; it's a hard hitting read centered on a young girl living in Oklahoma during the dust storms.




Older readers should take a look at Don Brown's unforgettable account of the Dust Bowl, presented in graphic novel format.

Also consider: Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp



Japanese-American internment camps:





Although written in 1971, Journey to Topaz remains one of the most affecting children's novels about the Japanese-American internment camps.





Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II was a 2014 finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction and is on Fauquier County's Middle School Battle of the Books list. It is is an unforgettable read that includes many first-hand accounts.

Also consider: Three superb books about the importance baseball played in the camps: Baseball Saved UsBarbed Wire Baseball (nonfiction picture book), and Kathryn Fitzmaurice's middle grade novel, A Diamond in the Desert; also Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese-American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference, about a librarian who kept in touch and advocated for her young San Diego Public Library patrons forced to relocate to the camps.


World War II (American homefront): 






I am fascinated by the diverse ways the American people contributed to the homefront during World War II; Children of the World War II Homefront shows how even the youngest Americans pitched in during wartime.






Coming on Home Soon received a Caldecott Honor in 2005; it's a beautiful and realistic depiction of a young girl and her mother who must cope with their separation after mother takes a job in Chicago. Now that many American men are fighting in Europe and the Pacific, women are needed to take the jobs they left behind.  It's an unflinching look at the hardships experienced during that time, especially by African-Americans, but it's also a heartwarming portrayal of a close family.






World War II brought women into the workplace like no other event had in the past; Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II is a must-read for all those fascinated by the homefront movement.

Also consider: So many choices, but I'll limit to two excellent novels:  Duke by Kirby Larson (reviewed in July)--not only does it depict how household dogs were used during World War II, but it also effectively shows the prejudice faced by German-Americans at the time; and  Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff, about a young girl who befriends a Hungarian refugee.

Still want more about the American homefront effort (can you tell this is one of my favorite eras)? Take a look at the amazing online collections of World War II propaganda posters from The National Archives, Northwestern University, New Hampshire State Library, and Hennepin County Public Library (which is one of the top collections; if you click "show more search options," you can browse by subject).


Finally, if you can't get enough of The Roosevelts documentary, "get action" on the companion book.


Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library


To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.
















Friday, September 12, 2014

TBR List (To Be Read)

Many voracious readers keep a TBR list; we never have enough time to read all the books that we want. Whether we keep a list on book-oriented social media sites, in a composition notebook, in a computer file, or by creating lists in our online library accounts, readers tend to accumulate many titles fairly quickly. And with September being a blockbuster month for new releases, my TBR list has recently grown by leaps and bounds!  Here are some September releases that I can't wait to read. They all happen to be adult nonfiction (I have many children's and YA books, as well as adult fiction, that are on my TBR list, but I decided on a change of pace for this week):




I "discovered" Lucy Knisley when Relish: My Life in the Kitchen appeared on several Best of 2013 book lists. My favorite type of graphic novels are graphic memoirs (Persepolis, March: Book One) or realistic stories like The Plain Janes or Smile, so I immediately added her to my "automatic must reads" list of authors. Armchair travelers and gourmands should definitely check this one out; Knisley is a foodie, so her graphic memoirs includes lots and lots of drawings and descriptions of delectable foods. An Age of License covers her travels throughout Europe while attending a Norwegian comics festival.




Cosby: His Life and Times has already received several strong reviews and blurbs from fellow comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld, so I think this will get a lot of attention when it is finally released in a few days, just in time for the 30th anniversary of The Cosby Show.  As beloved as Bill Cosby is by many, he has garnered quite a bit of controversy for revelations about his personal life and for his bluntly presented views on societal issues, so I'm quite interested in how Mark Whitaker deals with those particular areas. (Also really interested in reading perspectives from the former child actors on the show; I think all but Lisa Bonet are still on good terms with him). I grew up watching his version of Picture Pages (Picture pages, picture pages, time to get your picture pages, time to get your crayons and your pencils!) and The Cosby Show, so I'm eager to read this ASAP!





I don't use my Amazon Wish List the way Jeff Bezos probably wants me to use it; I put books on my list and wait to see if they are ordered by our collection development librarian (they usually are; sorry, Amazon). Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King's Final Year has been on my list for some time, with publication dates changing often; I was thrilled when it popped up on Wowbrary recently. You may know Tavis Smiley as a former NPR and current PRI/BET talk show host (and apparently, a contestant on the upcoming Dancing With the Stars season--that was an unexpected find) who usually comments on issues affecting African-American communities. Smiley focuses on Martin Luther King's volatile final year, which was marked with depression over the escalation of the Vietnam War, multiple riots in American cities, and issues with alcohol and marital problems. His increasing involvement with the pro-labor movement and the anti-war movement alienated him from some civil rights leaders, who felt that he should only focus on race-specific issues. We pick certain people to lionize in our society, and King is one of them; in doing so, we forget that they had real problems, real personal struggles, and characteristics that make us uncomfortable, just like every other person. Smiley is, according to the reviews, frank yet not destructive (if anything, a little too informal at times and assumes that he knows what King was thinking at the time). I can't wait to read this.




I'm fascinated by consumer issues (part of my undergraduate degree was focused on consumer issues, but not from a marketing perspective), so any new consumer issues book with a foreward by Paco Underhill, the author of the classic Why We Buy, immediately gets my attention. Underhill's books are still definitely worth reading, but his books were researched and written right before online shopping and online media became a standard part of our lives. I'm intrigued to learn more about Kit Yarrow's research into how we connect with brands and how we shop (in a world in which we are so pressed for time and have advertisements bombarding us online as well as on television and in print media) has changed over the last decade.




SQUEEEEEEE!!!!

Sorry, just had a nerd moment. Star Wars geeks, pay attention! (They're my people, so I can call them that.)  A history of the Star Wars franchise! I haven't dorked out over an upcoming book like this since Jim Henson: The Biography was released last year (and while we're on the subject--Brian Jay Jones is currently working on a biography of George Lucas! He is the IDEAL author for that!) Some reviews say that Chris Taylor includes too much info (NOT POSSIBLE), but praise the writing for being smart and fun. Taylor not only gives the lowdown on the creation of the series, but also chronicles its international success, his experiences visiting the world's largest Star Wars museum, watching one of the movies with a Navajo community (dubbed in Navajo), and the major influence LucasFilms has had on the special effects business. How Star Wars Conquered the Universe seems like a must read for Star Wars fans or those interested film history.




I love everything published by National Geographic, so National Geographic Illustrated Guide to Wildlife  is absolutely on my radar. Last year's Illustrated Guide to Nature is a gorgeous field guide to flowers, rocks, trees, and the weather, so I'm confident that the wildlife edition will be just as amazing.



I also love everything published by DK (both children and adult nonfiction). I am impatiently awaiting Photography: The Definitive Visual History; this collection of famous and/or striking photographs throughout the years (accompanied by essays) will be a browser's delight. Timelines on war photography, fashion photography, and advertising photography are also highlights.



Sorry, but I can't help it:

SQUEEE!

Oh, my goodness! I don't know if I could ever really live in a tiny house, but I am enthralled by them. I'm not the only one, because this has had a long holds list ever since we received our copies. Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building and Living Well in Less Than 400 Square Feet definitely includes many photographs of this phenomenal movement, but also explains why the movement has caught fire and how to embrace the tiny house living lifestyle, even if you don't plan to actually build and live in a tiny house. Very cool. Now I want a book on tiny libraries. (Awww. I want a tiny library.)

Still need more reading ideas? Look through our most recent editions of Wowbrary.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library


To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.





Friday, September 05, 2014

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Fall is my favorite season. I can't get enough of fall.  Fauquier County and the surrounding areas are lovely year round, but it's fantastic in the fall! Apple orchards, fall festivals, Shenandoah Park/Skyline Drive when the leaves change, cooler weather, Halloween, Thanksgiving....I love it all. (Hint: One of the BEST places to visit in Fauquier County is Sky Meadows State Park; it's wonderful year round, but it's gorgeous in the fall.)

Two more reasons why I love fall:
  • Baseball season starts to get super real.
  • FOOTBALL
Let's talk about football books. There's too many awesome books about both baseball and football to fit into one post, so I'll concentrate on football for today's post. (Baseball books will be covered in October, hopefully during a very special super-awesome playoff season.)  This Sunday is the first Sunday for NFL football, so football frenzy will be in full force this weekend. Are you ready for some football? If you are, check out these books (fun for reading during the commercials!):




Want to explain the rules of football to children, but don't want to overwhelm them with the finer points? Starting out with some basic books will help, such as this neat little guide to the rules of the game and important dates and people in the sport. Of course, if you need a refresher on the difference between a complete pass and a forward pass, there's always Football for Dummies. (Don't laugh--those Dummies books are great!)




Recently, there's been some important studies and findings about the impact of concussions suffered by football players. Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment's comprehensive, preteen/teen reader-friendly, and honest account is a must read for fans and players alike. League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, And the Battle for Truth is an eye-opening study by ESPN investigative reporters. Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them for Athletes, Parents, And Coaches is also a great guide for further information (and not just for football players).




This 2013 biography of the famed Redskins quarterback is ideal for young fans. For an overview of the team, check out The Story of the Washington Redskins, also published in 2013. For older fans (teen and up), there's RG3: The Promise (published in 2013).





The Ultimate Guide to Pro Football Teams is a must for fans of multiple teams, or for those who want to learn more about their team's main rivals.

In the mood for football fiction? Or sports fiction in general? You need to get familiar with authors Mike Lupica, Tim Green (he also writes fiction for adults), and John Feinstein (his young adult sports books are also mysteries). Gordon Korman's No More Dead Dogs is a funny and touching novel about a young football player whose detention sentence consists of attending rehearsals for the school play.

If your looking for more football-related literature, check out the book display at the Warrenton library coming next week - or watch for Book Notes, another Fauquier County Public Library blog with highlights on books, movies and more. The next installment of Book Notes will feature football-related titles great for adults! 

Here's to a great season!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library


To learn more about Fauquier County Public Library's collectionevents, and programs, visit us on FacebookTwitter (Kiddosphere's feed is here), or on our website.

































Friday, August 29, 2014

August Reads

It's the end of the month, so time for my monthly wrap-up of reads. August was a fabulous month! Here's what I read:



All the Light We Cannot See is one of the hottest titles circulating in Fauquier County; no surprise there, as author Anthony Doerr has received incredible reviews for his exquisitely told historical novel of two young people coming of age in Germany and France during World War II. The terror of French citizens during occupation and the manipulation of German youth (to the point that minors are forced to lie about their age in order to fight for a rapidly deteriorating Germany) is depicted through the perspectives of a blind French preteen and a German orphaned teenage boy. This is historical fiction at its best. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Unforgettable.  (Adult historical fiction)



Claudia Mills's Franklin School Friends is a precious, funny, and realistic series ideal for young elementary school students. Each title focuses on the strengths of a Franklin School Friend; Annika Riz, Math Whiz follows Annika as she prepares for a sudoku contest at the library (in between trying to convince her friends that math is fun, and getting ready for and attending the school's carnival).  ADORABLE. We have excellent books about kids that love to read (such as Annika's friend, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen) and kids that love science (Franny K. Stein series), but not so much math lovers. Although Annika Riz is the second title in the Franklin School Friends series, you do not need to read Kelsey Green, Reading Queen first. The third title will feature Franklin School Friend Izzy and her love of track and field (out in Spring 2015).



YES! Science fiction that's not a 400+ doorstopper! Plenty of young readers would love to read stories about aliens and space travel, but too many are either too long or too mature for their level. After reading Blast Off!, I have high hopes for Nate Ball's Alien In My Pocket series. When a small alien crashes into fourth grader Zack McGee's bedroom, he causes a ton of mischief and aggravation for poor Zack. Not only is it super funny (there's some gross-out humor, but it's very mild), there are also scientific explanations tucked into the story (a science experiment that illustrates a key component in the action is also included)!



What comes to mind when you think of China? Probably Beijing and people that belong to the Han ethnic majority. In fact, China is bordered by 14 countries and includes 55 ethnic groups that speak 292 languages, ranging from ethnic Koreans near the North Korea border, Muslims in the Xinjiang province, to Russians living near the Russian border. David Eimer traveled to areas that are rarely visited by Westerners (including disputed borderlands), and chronicled his travels in his revealing account, The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China.  Although the entire book is fascinating, I found the descriptions of Tibet, the expatriate North Korean community, and the underground Christian community most unforgettable. I love in-depth accounts of countries and cultures; this one is exceptional. (Adult nonfiction)




I have put off reading Enchantress From the Stars for some time, because I really wasn't in the mood for literary science fiction. However, I want to get back to my Newbery reading project, and it was next on my list (it received a Newbery Honor in 1971).  To my surprise, I was engrossed in this science fiction/fairy tale/Romeo & Juliet story of sorts.  Will definitely keep this in mind for science fiction recommendations!



As I mentioned in a recent blog, I've read enough books about the Romanovs that any new book has to have something unique about it in order for me to want to read it. The assassination of reform-minded Alexander II, the ascension of his revenge-minded son, Alexander III, the ineffectual and wholly unprepared Nicholas II, the immediate hatred of Tsarina Alexandra, the exponentially rising despair over the birth of four daughters, the hemophiliac heir, Rasputin, riots, war, exile, execution, and trading the misery of life under imperialism with the misery of life under communism....it's all too depressingly familiar. I'll read anything by Candace Fleming, so I automatically got on the wait list for this book.  If you're familiar with Candace Fleming, especially if you've read her biography of Amelia Earhart or her biography of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, you know that she presents history in a revealing, singular, and thought-provoking way. She has OUTDONE  herself with The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia, and as extraordinary as I thought Amelia Lost was, this is even more so.  Although most books about the Romanovs do touch upon the extremely difficult lives of ordinary Russian subjects at the time, Fleming fully shows the desperation, extreme poverty, and lack of civil rights endured by both peasants and urban workers through diary accounts, letters, and other first-hand accounts, often including those from young children and teens. The (extremely) close-knit nature of Nicholas II's family is strongly depicted (although Tsarina Alexandra's chronic illnesses, isolation, and growing paranoia caused strong conflict at times with her daughters). The extreme and immediate dislike of Alexandra by the Russian elite is notable. Although there was growing disappointment and despair with the birth of each daughter, the pride and love for each infant daughter (expressed in their parents' diaries and letters) is very sweet. The aftermath of the executions and the DNA testing of the family's remains during the 1990s and early 2000s (and the controversial sainthood of the family and their servants by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) is also discussed. Don't be fooled by the fact that this is written for young people; this is an involved, difficult, and very sad read at times. But an amazing read.




If you want something much brighter, you must read Half a Chance. I adore it and have it on my Newbery list (as much as I love it, I do think there is a part of the story that might cause some debate).  As can expected from Cynthia Lord,  important lessons about family, friendship, and self-discovery are learned and conveyed in authentic and endearing situations. Lucy and her family have recently moved to a quiet lake community in Maine; luckily, she soon makes friends with a boy who shares her interest in photography. Entering a photography contest judged by her noted photographer father brings a multitude of ethical concerns; I have mixed feelings on the conclusion of the story, so I'm eager to learn what the readers of School Library Journal's Heavy Medal blog will have to say about it when the blog is revived in September! A subplot about early dementia is accurately and heartbreakingly portrayed. This is another winner from Cynthia Lord (and will make you want to book next year's summer vacation in Maine).



Henry Winkler is famous for his "Fonz" character from the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, but he's made a fine second career as a children's author. I recommend his Hank Zipzer series to reluctant and avid readers alike, as many children can relate to Hank, regardless of their academic success. Winkler conveys the frustrations of a child's academic struggles accurately because he knows it first-hand; he has been open about his unhappy childhood due to undiagnosed dyslexia during his school years (he was diagnosed with it after his stepson was diagnosed).  I'm thrilled that Winkler and longtime Hank Zipzer collaborator Lin Oliver have started a chapter book series about a young Hank Zipzer (the original series features Hank in middle school).  Hank deeply wants to be a part of the big school play, but he is overcome with stage fright during his audition. His understanding teacher creates a new role for him; good thing, because the star of the play (and a mean bully) has to be saved during the performance by Hank! This is funny, touching, and authentic--just like the first Hank Zipzer series.  Here's Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too!  is printed in a special font called Dyslexie, which was created by Dutch graphic designer Christian Boer specifically to help readers with dyslexia.




Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy has been bestowed with FIVE starred reviews, which is incredible. (Don't include this in your Newbery predictions, as Karen Foxlee lives in Australia; only authors currently living or maintaining a residence in the United States are eligible for the Newbery)  As you can guess, I'm not a huge fan of fantasy stories; I tend to go for realistic stories, but the impressive reviews require that I not neglect it. Happily, it's deliciously creepy and immeasurably readable. PLUS....it's under 250 pages, which is unusual for a fantasy novel. (Could the fat novel fad for children's fantasy novels be dying down? Please say yes.) Ophelia is strictly scientifically-minded and has no time for anything hinting at magic or fantasy; while exploring the museum at which her father works, she meets a boy who is locked in the museum and finds that she will play a key role in his release (and in fulfilling an ancient mission). Fans of fairy tale-like stories (an evil queen plays a big role, and Ophelia, like many fairy tale heroines, is mourning her deceased mother) will love this.



Steve Sheinkin's nonfiction is often centered on events that had major social changes or implications. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, And the Fight for Civil Rights focuses on a little-known event in American civil rights history.  As in all wartime conflicts in American history, African-American men were eager to serve their country in World War II; due to discrimination, many were relegated to segregated conditions that were unfair and even dangerous. Unsafe conditions at the Port Chicago in California lead to a massive explosion that killed more than 300 servicemen, of which many were African-American. After the explosion, 244 African-American servicemen refused to return to the port until the harmful and discriminatory conditions were addressed; they were charged with mutiny, jail time, and even execution. While some supporters have attempted to have their names cleared by presidential pardon, many survivors rejected that, as they felt that being pardoned reaffirmed their guilty sentences. It is so vital to have books about black history that teach history outside the slavery era and the 1960s/70s civil rights era; researching, reading, and learning about those two specific eras will never not be important, but books that highlight other important times in American history are very much needed.  This is published for the YA market (what a great year already for YA nonfiction!), but older history buffs will definitely want to read this.



Battle of the Books readers who were moved by Shooting Kabul will be happy to know that Saving Kabul Corner is a worthy companion novel to N.H. Senzai's first book. (You do not need to read Shooting Kabul before reading Saving Kabul Corner.)  Ariana and Laila are cousins, but they do not get along at all; Ariana is all-American, while Laila, recently arrived from Afghanistan, is more like the traditional Afghani girl that Ariana's relatives would like her to be. Laila cooks Puktun food expertly, sews, and can recite classic Puktun poetry beautifully; more than that, she forms a close bond with Ariana's best friend, Mariam, who can relate to the Puktun culture and the upheaval in Afghanistan, unlike Ariana.  Ariana's family owns and operates an Afghani grocery store; like many ethnic grocery stores, it is the heart of the Fremont Afghani community, where customers linger to chat about current events and loved ones left behind....until a rival Afghani grocery store opens in the same shopping center.  Age-old rivalries that were thought to be left behind in Afghanistan erupt, with disastrous results. Ariana, Laila, and their friends take it upon themselves to find the culprit behind the ongoing circulating falsehoods and destruction of property that threaten their family's livelihood.  The "kids save the day" element does strain credulity, but this is such a rich story of family, friendship, and the immigrant experience (not to mention such likable kids) that the overall charm and mystery makes that minor point immediately believable in this story. (And children understandably love "kids save the day" stories.)   Afghani-American culture is lovingly depicted, and the pride that Ariana's family takes in family and work is admirable and realistic. One of my favorite 2014 reads.



Another short science fiction chapter book series! Yes!  Archie Takes Flight is the inaugural entry in the Space Taxi series; Archie knows that his dad is a taxi driver, but what he doesn't know (until "Take Your Kid to Work Day!") is that his dad drives a space taxi for aliens. How cool is that?! As Archie accompanies his dad on a late night shift, they encounter all sorts of aliens, a weird cat, and a mastermind determined to ruin everything.  This is great fun.



Oh, wow. Can you say MIND BENDING? Because that's what We Were Liars definitely is. Cadence and her cousins have spent every summer at their family's exclusive island near Martha's Vineyard; lazy days on the beach, shopping in the Vineyard's quaint downtowns, and luxurious dinners fill the endless days of summer.  Cadence suffers a life-changing brain injury when she is fifteen; the extent and the reason behind her amnesia and crippling headaches is slowly revealed in flashbacks and hints scattered throughout the story. (Can't say much without ruining the story.)  Make sure you have time set aside to delve into the story; this YA novel will grip you until the very last page.  This has received five starred reviews, which is quite an achievement. Definitely putting this on my Printz 2015 short list.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15-October 15. I recently blogged about some of my favorite picture books that highlight Latino culture on the ALSC blog (the Association for Library Services to Children is the professional organization for children's librarians; they are the ones that bestow the Newbery, Caldecott, and other great book awards).

Get ready; September and October are strong months for releases of new books. (Last chance to be noticed by the awards committees and the "Best Of" lists!) Make sure you are subscribed to Wowbrary to be among the first to know what titles have been ordered. We just ordered a bunch of awesome books (children's, teen, AND fiction/nonfiction for adults), so get ready!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library


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