November Author of the Month John Coy

John Coy tells us that he decided to become an author after, on a whim, he typed his name into the library catalog and got zero results. “That,” he explains, “is when I realized that if I wanted something to come up, I needed to write.” Today, his fans are certainly glad for those zero results.

Be sure to look for our review of his new book, Gap Life, which received a highly recommended rating in the November-December issue of School Library Connection. Subscribers can see our complete archive of reviews on reVIEWS+.

coyJohn Coy loves writing, and sharing that process with students is one of the things he loves the most about school visits. “It’s so different compared with what many of them imagine, with lots of false starts, mistakes, and rejection,” he tells us. “It’s an amazing process to start with nothing other than an idea and turn it into a book. I love inspiring students to see reading and writing in new ways.”

He also encourages teachers and librarians to try their hand at writing: “Many teachers and librarians enjoyed writing when they were younger but don’t get many opportunities to write for pleasure now. I’ve been in schools lately where teachers and librarians have set up writing groups where they write together and read their writing to each other. These groups have many benefits including giving instructors a stronger sense of what students are struggling with as well as students being able to see their instructors as writers. With writing, we’re all in it together, all of us trying to become better.” Continue reading “November Author of the Month John Coy”

Meet Margarita Engle, October Author of the Month

Margarita Engle has been writing poetry since she was a child. She also spent her summers in Cuba, her mother’s homeland, which sparked a passion for all things Cuban. Put those together and you end up with passionate stories of Cuba written in free verse that pull you in and keep you moving along with the flow of the verse.

margarita-engle-w
Photography by Sandra Ríos Balderrama ©

Margarita Engle’s books for young adults regularly receive awards, which will come as no surprise to those who have read her stories; her latest work, Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words, received a highly recommended rating from our reviewers. Lion Island “completes a cycle of loosely linked biographical verse novels about heroes of the struggle for freedom and social justice in 19th-century Cuba,” Engle explains. “That cycle began,” she goes on to tell us, “with The Poet Slave of Cuba, and continued with The Surrender Tree, The Firefly Letters, and The Lightning Dreamer.” Her books, then, also serve to fill a gap in children’s literature about Cuba.

These sometimes brutal and heartbreaking stories deal with an unstable period in Cuba’s history and Engle’s accounts do not sugarcoat this reality. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano does not gloss over his treatment as a slave; The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom depicts a Cuba torn apart and ravaged by war; and Lion Island speaks to the injustice of slavery, indentured servitude, and racism. But these books also speak to the resilience of the human spirit and how one person can make a difference. In fact, when asked what she would like students to take away from her books, she responded with one simple word: “Hope.” Continue reading “Meet Margarita Engle, October Author of the Month”

August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart

Those tween/teen years can be so difficult and scary—we can all remember feeling lost and alone and like we didn’t fit in. Donna Gephart remembers, and through her books that amuse, touch, and inspire, she helps to make those years just a little less scary.

When the team at School Library Connection and reVIEWS+ met her latest characters, Lily and Dunkin, we knew Gephart was someone we wanted to get to know.
Subscribers can view our complete archive of reviews at reVIEWS+.

gephartLike so many bibliophiles, Gephart’s love of books began at an early age. When her mother took her to the Northeast Regional Library, she “felt like the whole world had opened up for me. Throughout my childhood,” she tells us, “that library was a mecca to me.”

At age ten, Gephart decided to become a writer and, after “only thirty years of writing practice,” she sold her first children’s book to Random House.

When asked what inspires her to write, Gephart replied, “I write for the lonely girl I was, growing up in Philadelphia with my sister and single-parent mom. We didn’t have much money, and I didn’t have many friends back then. Books provided me companionship, wit and wisdom, and roadmaps for how I might navigate a rich, fulfilling, and creative life.” This inspiration is evident in her books. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly frivolous titles, these books deal with some weighty topics—tempered with humor and compassion. Tween/teen angst, broken families and friendships, death, financial difficulties, mental health, and sexual identity are just some of the subjects encountered within the pages where you will also find geeks, factoids (most toilets flush in the key of E-flat, a person must be at least thirty-five years old to become president of the United States, Mount Everest is on the border of Tibet and Nepal), trivia buffs, and a sweepstakes junkie. And no matter the emotional ups and downs throughout her books, you will always be left with hope when you’re done reading. Continue reading “August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart”

Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories

With the return of Harry Potter to bookshelves everywhere, the world is starting to feel just a bit more magical again. However, the story of The Boy Who Lived is not the only one to be told! Check out these great titles recommended by SLC reviewers that take readers on journeys through worlds filled with magic and adventure.

We’re excited to include an exclusive sneak preview of this first title that will appear in our upcoming August/September issue. Subscribers can always find reviews of other great titles like this at reVIEWS+

Auxier, Jonathan
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
2016. 464pp. $18.95 hc. Amulet Books/Abrams. 9781419717475. Grades 4-8

The second Peter Nimble adventure introduces Sophie Quire, a feisty young bookmender who expertly and lovingly restores the pages, covers, and spines of many treasured tales. Storybooks are on the verge banishment in the city of Bustleburgh, and because she cannot imagine a world without stories, Sophie rescues a handful of books from their Pyre Day fate. Just as Sophie is apprehended by the nasty Inquisitor Prigg, Peter Nimble and his companion Sir Tode come to her rescue. Peter presents Sophie with the Book of Who, one of the Four Questions. When complete, this set of books protects stories and holds the world’s magic. Sophie learns she is the last storyguard, entrusted with finding the books of What, Where, and When, stopping Pyre Day, and saving her world. Magical obstacles like quickbramble and kettle bogs can’t stop Sophie from completing her quest, for she is supported by an odd yet impressive cast of characters and creatures—including a talking silver tigress and an old tattooed scrivener. Auxier has created an electrifying and extraordinary story. Middle grade readers will likely wish to reread to appreciate the wonder that is this book. Aimee Haslam, Graduate Student, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
Highly Recommended

 

Black, Holly & Cassandra Clare
The Iron Trial
2014. 304pp. $17.99 hc. Scholastic, Inc. 9780545522250. Grade 3 & Up

If your students were fans of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, they will like this first book in the Magisterium series. Callum has always known about magic and his family’s abilities. He is about to go to the Iron Trial to test and see if he will be chosen to train at the Magisterium. Because of a family tragedy, Callum’s dad does not want him to qualify and has taught Callum to fear for his life if required to attend. Callum does his best to fail, but he is still picked. As the novel progresses, Callum becomes a reluctant hero like Harry and Percy, especially with his male and female companions. Callum and the reader both begin to realize that something is just not right. Can he and his friends survive their first year? This book is perfect for fantasy and adventure lovers. Neely Swygert, Information Technology Specialist/Librarian, Gadsden (South Carolina) Elementary
Recommended

Continue reading “Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories”

ICYMI: September 2015 Author of the Month Bruce Hale

We all know summer and fun go together, but we’re also aware of the not-so-fun summer reading gap. So why not suggest some books from Bruce Hale that will bring summer, fun, and reading all together?

We were thrilled to have a chance to meet Bruce in person last August when he was gracious enough to visit our offices for an author of the month interview. Be sure to look for our review of his new book, The Curse of the Were-Hyena, in the August-September issue of School Library Connection. Subscribers can see reviews of Bruce’s books and our complete archive of reviews on reVIEWS+.

bruce hale“If it’s not fun, why read it?” That’s children’s author and illustrator Bruce Hale’s motto. And fun is a word that definitely describes Hale and his books.

Hale considers himself to be a very lucky man; it’s not everyone who gets to make a living doing something they love to do. He hasn’t, however, always been an author. Hale has worked as a magazine editor, actor, gardener, and surveyor, just to name a few of the careers he has pursued. He won a Fulbright grant to teach storytelling and study folklore in Thailand, and his energetic storytelling comes in handy for his school visits. Despite this rich and varied background, the idea of becoming an author was never far from his mind.

Eventually, Hale took the leap and turned his focus to writing children’s books. Hale has written and/or illustrated over thirty books for kids, from picture books to novels and graphic novels. Many of his titles speak to an affinity for lizards and detectives, which often are one and the same in his stories. Continue reading “ICYMI: September 2015 Author of the Month Bruce Hale”

Great Titles for National GLBT Book Month

Here at SLC we are always proud to feature titles that promote tolerance and diversity in all library collections. In honor of National GLBT Book Month check out this list of titles recommended by our reviewers.

076367382XThrash, Maggie
Honor Girl
2015. 272pp. $19.99 hc. Candlewick Press. 978-0-7636-7382-6. Grades 9-12

Thrash’s graphic memoir presents a love story with which every reader will be able to identify. Told primarily through flashback, Maggie recalls one particular summer she spent at Camp Bellflower, Kentucky when she was 15. After a brief encounter with a counselor, Maggie’s emotions and thoughts become confused; she contemplates her feelings, sexuality, and actions in a way with which most teenagers will empathize. Thrash’s plot and dialogue flow easily, keeping the reader intrigued. Her rough outlines, especially for people’s faces, will hopefully prove more interesting in the final full color illustrations. Honor Girl will be a page-turner leaving readers with many unresolved questions, a scenario familiar to LGBT and straight teens alike. Carrie Randall, Maine-Endwell Central School District, New York
Recommended

 

SimonAlbertalli, Becky
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
2015. 320pp. $17.99 hc. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins). 978-0-06-234867-8. Grades 9-12

Simon hasn’t told anyone he’s gay except for Blue, someone he knows only through emails. When Simon forgets to logout of his secret email account on a school computer, Martin Addison, the class goofball, happens upon the account. Martin blackmails Simon into getting Abby, one of Simon’s best friends, to hang out with him. When Abby doesn’t return Martin’s affections, Simon’s coming out happens more publicly than he wished. The story is told in alternating chapters of Simon’s first-person narrative and his emails with Blue. It is a charming story of coming out, falling in love, and the many changes that happen within families and between friends. Personable, funny, and insightful, Simon is a character that readers can connect with and root for. The novel is utterly delightful and a valuable addition for any high school or public library. Stacy Holbrook, School Librarian, Middlebury (Vermont) Union High School [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format.]
Highly Recommended

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In Case You Missed It: October 2015 Author of the Month Sarah Albee

Pick up a book by children’s author Sarah Albee and you just might be surprised what you can learn about history from bugs, poop, and fashion. Sarah is a favorite of the team over at School Library Connection and reVIEWS+, and she was our pick for Author of the Month last October. Subscribers can access our reviews of her books via the hyperlinks.

albee 187x250“There is so much wonderful nonfiction out there right now. No longer is it the dry, fact-based, expository stuff so many of us grew up with.” So says Sarah Albee, and she should know.

Sarah Albee loves social history and has made it her mission “to get kids to see that history can be relevant to their own lives, and to love it as much as I do.” She’s certainly done her part to draw children in by writing books with attention-grabbing titles like Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up, Bugged: How Insects Changed History, and Why’d They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History. Students who pick these up will find that “societies that paid attention to sanitation tended to be those that survived and thrived,” and that although “insects have wiped out populations…we have co-evolved with them and must learn to co-exist.” Moreover, those who think clothes are just clothes may be astounded to discover how much “fashion reflects the political, social, economic, and moral climates in which people lived.”
Continue reading “In Case You Missed It: October 2015 Author of the Month Sarah Albee”

Get Surreal! Celebrating the Imagination of Salvador Dalí

The paintings of Salvador Dalí grant viewers glimpses into fantastic, surreal locations bound only by the imagination. To celebrate the birthday of the famous surrealist, check out this collection of picture books all about the power of imagination and the potential for even the youngest artists to shape their very own fantastic worlds—and maybe even influence the real one while they’re at it!

 

Campoy, Isabel F. & Theresa Howell
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
Illustrated by Rafael López. 2016. 32pp. $16.99 hc. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780544357693. Grades K-2

Looking around her neighborhood, young Mira sees a dull urban setting devoid of color. Beginning with small paintings, she attempts to brighten the gloomy landscape with little success. A chance encounter with a muralist and his magical paintbrush empowers Mira and her neighbors to create a beautiful community pulsating with colorful murals, rhythmic poems, and vibrant songs. Inspired by the work of Rafael and Candice López on the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, this joyful ode to the power of community engagement encourages budding artists to use their talent to make a difference in their world. The dazzling illustrations invite readers to explore Mira’s multicultural community and discover the transformative nature of art. Pair this with Patricia Markun’s The Little Painter of Sabana Grande, George Ancona’s Murals: Walls That Sing, and Peter Reynolds’ Sky Color for further explorations into creative Latino muralists and street artists. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Associate Professor, University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies, Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format.]
Highly Recommended

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Author of the Month: Don Tate

April is National Poetry Month. Don Tate’s new book, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, received a highly recommended rating in our April issue of School Library Connection/reVIEWS+.

Don Tate

Bill Traylor and George Moses Horton were two men born into slavery; one taught himself to draw, the other taught himself to read and soon after began to write poetry. In two beautifully illustrated books written by Don Tate, you can introduce these inspiring individuals to your elementary grade students.

If you’ve never heard of either Bill Traylor or George Moses Horton, you’re probably not alone. As Don Tate suggests, “So often with books about historical figures, the same stories get told time and again. I think publishers realize that a story about Abraham Lincoln or Dr. Martin Luther King or Harriett Tubman will sell well. But,” he reminds us, “there are a lot of equally inspiring stories out there that haven’t been told.” Continue reading “Author of the Month: Don Tate”

Great Reads for Earth Day

Need some great nonfiction titles for Earth Day? Check out these recommended Nature & Environment titles from the April issue of School Library Connection.

Amazing Biomes: GrasslandsAmazing Biomes
Deserts.  9781781212417
Grasslands. 9781781212424
Oceans.  9781781212431
Polar Lands.  9781781212455
Rivers and Lakes.  9781781212448
Tropical Rain Forests.  9781781212462
2015. 32pp. ea. $31.95 ea. hc. Black Rabbit Books. Grades 3-5

Each title in this series contains a brief overview of its specified biome. All follow the same format including a world map, Climate and Zones, Animals, People, Future, a Quiz, and a Fact File. Attractive stock photos span most pages, and backgrounds complement each book’s theme. Text features include captions, headings, bold print, and books for further research. Some discrepancies regarding Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion were found in identical information across volumes. An enjoyable series for casual research or browsing despite a few flaws. Glossary. Table of Contents. Websites. Index.— Leticia Kalweit, School Library Media Specialist, Cobbles Elementary School, Penfield, New York
Recommended

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