Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Goodbye (for now) Post

Well, friends of the Book Pile, Auntie Karen has decided to take a sabbatical (with an option to retire). This decision wasn't an easy one, but it feels right.  (Thanks to those who took my poll last week and helped me come to this decision.)

Perhaps the Book Pile, in electronic form anyway, since the physical pile of books never seems to get any smaller here in my rooms, will be back. For now, it will remain in cyberspace with approximately 120 books on the pile.

The Book Pile's fate remains uncertain in some ways, while in others, given this post, the results of my recent poll seem clear. Hark! What's that I hear? Some groans and wishes that I were to remain true to the goal of bringing the joy of children's books to the world? Ah, yes. I hear your pleas, and yet, I cannot fulfill those desires. Not now. My current countenance is in disarray - I've so much to do, my toil is a heavy load, and I fear that my strength and energy may give way. (Also, I've been reading nineteenth-century novels and am in love with them, can you tell?)

Anyway. Many thanks to those of you who have visited the Book Pile over the past nine months. It has been a pleasurable pursuit and experience and I shall miss it (although not too much). 

Farewell (for now)!

Auntie Karen

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guest Review by Sian Gaetano: Midwinterblood

by Marcus Sedgwick
Roaring Brook Press | 2013

Marcus Sedgwick’s newest YA novel revels in the dark, the devious, and the destined. Through a series of seven connected but wholly individual tales, the story travels from the year 2073 into the past of long-ago times unknown.

The work begins with a young man, Eric Seven, taking an investigative trip to Blessed Island, where it is rumored that the inhabitants live forever. Despite this obviously science-fiction beginning, the story moves and changes to incorporate realistic fiction, fantasy, and horror in the seven different tales of Blessed Island. Within this one novel, a reader will find Romeo-and-Juliet-like love, a thirsty vampire, a reenactment of the Cain and Abel tale, magical potions, historical connections to WW II, and a tormented artist.

The chapters are short and the writing style simple, creating a read that is both inviting and dangerous—the reader will find herself desperately moving forward while the staccato rhythm of the writing brings to mind the pounding of ancient war drums. The constantly shifting protagonists make it difficult to catch your breath but, as it becomes clear how beautifully and intimately they’re connected, you might be able to regain your footing. This is a story of blood, and beauty; of death and destiny; of fear, and (finally) of love.

Read this book. And make sure you set some time aside for it because, once you start, you will not stop until those drums silence.  

REVIEWER BIO: Siân Gaetano is, before all else, a reader. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Children’s Literature at Simmons College (to be finished in  Summer 2013) and working evenings serving the good people of Boston food and beverage. She was an editorial intern at Charlesbridge for the Fall 2012 semester, and is currently an intern at The Horn Book.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Poll to Assist With Determining the Fate of the Book Pile

Hello, Book Pile visitors: 
I am trying to determine whether to continue with the Book Pile (or not). It's a fair bit of work to make sure three books a week are reviewed here. I can see the stats for visits, and they are good, but not excellent. Hence, I'm soliciting your advice and information about your usage. One lucky responder will win a free book!

Please take a few minutes (it'll only take a few!) to answer my questions on this form.

 Auntie Karen 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The ALA Awards: The Best of the Best 2012

On Monday, January 28, the American Library Association announced their annual award winners and honor books. You know the Newbury and the Caldecott, but do you also know the Coretta Scott King, the Printz, the Sibert, and the Pura Belpré? Here's the list. For any book the Book Pile has reviewed, the title is linked to that review.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:
WINNER: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate | HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

HONORS: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz | Candlewick Press; Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin | Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press; Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage | Dial Books/Penguin

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
WINNER: This Is Not My Hat illustrated and written by Jon Klassen | Candlewick 

HONORS:  Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds | Simon & Schuster;  Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett | Balzer + Bray; Green illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger | Roaring Brook Press; One Cool Friend illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo | Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin; Sleep Like a Tiger illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue | Houghton Mifflin

Coretta Scott King Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
AUTHOR WINNER: Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney |Disney/Jump at the Sun Books.

AUTHOR HONORS: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis | Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin and No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie | Carolrhoda Lab.

 ILLUSTRATOR WINNER: I, Too, Am America illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Langston Hughes | Simon & Schuster.

ILLUSTRATOR HONORS: H. O. R. S. E. illustrated and written by Christopher Myers | Egmont USA; Ellen’s Broom illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons | G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin; and I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr. | Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:
WINNER: In Darkness by Nick Lake | Bloomsbury.

HONORS: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Simon & Schuster; Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein | Hyperion/Disney; Dodger by Terry Pratchett | HarperCollins; The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna | Red Deer Press.

Pura Belpré Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:
ILLUSTRATOR WINNER: Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt | Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

AUTHOR WINNER: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Simon & Schuster.

AUTHOR HONOR: The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano | Scholastic.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:
WINNER: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin |Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press.

HONORS: Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin written and illustrated by Robert Byrd | Dial Books/Penguin; Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip M. Hoose | Farrar Straus Giroux; and Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson | Scholastic Press.

There are other awards, as well. For a full listing, visit here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

City Chickens

by Christine Heppermann
various photo credits
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 2012
Bok bok! Get it here.

This is a truly lovely story about a chicken rescue organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yes, you read that correctly. Mary Britton Clouse and her husband, Bert, run Chicken Run Rescue--devoted to providing rehabilitation and adoption services for chickens in the Twin Cities.

Apparently (who knew?), chickens are often abandoned or abused. Many people discard of roosters after they find out they are roosters rather than hens who will lay eggs. And Mary Clouse has no tolerance for any mistreatment of any animal. She and Bert have a permit to house up to 20 chickens at a time in their home and yard in the city. (Of course, that didn't help the time there were 105 abandoned chicks on the side of the highway--that story is one of the highlights of the book.)

Heppermann is a longtime Horn Book Magazine reviewer, and she tells this story with a deftness and with a clear alacrity for her topic. Any child reader will delight in reading about how chickens are rescued and adopted by families.

The book is appended with Clouse's artwork, a good, long author's note, and information about how to care for a city chicken yourself. There is also info for educators and a source list. 

(L to R): Bert and Mary Clouse, the author's daughter, the author.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure

SPECIAL NOTE: Tomorrow, January 26, 2013, is my 40th birthday. This week, January 22, 2013, was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I've always been proud to share a birth-week with such a momentous moment in women's rights history. This week also now marks the day that the armed forces allowed women into combat roles, opening the entire military up to us. In honor of these two 40th anniversaries and new moment in history, I present a book about a woman of gumption.

by Shana Corey
illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Scholastic | 2012
Buy it now! (It's cookie time, after all.)

This book is the perfect gift for anyone in your life who is currently a Daisy, Brownie, or Girl Scout or for any adult who once was one. We also just passed the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts, in March 2012. Every Girl Scout knows their founder's name: Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low, but how many know about her early life and how she came to found the organization in the United States?

This charming account of a "girl with gumption" tells the story of Low's founding of the Girl Scouts (modeled on the Girl Guides of England). The art is stylized and fun--created with paint, ink, and printmaking along with some digital enhancements. The earth-toned palette is perfect for this story about early environmentalism. If I have any complaint, it's about the somewhat overwhelming design (small primary text, larger secondary text that appear to be quotes from Low and too-varied text placement end up feeling a bit haphazard).

The book includes a "gallery" of famous Girl Scouts, a lengthy author's note including information about her personal Girl Scout connection, the U.S. history era in which the organization was founded, information about conservation efforts, diversity, the Girl Scout Promise and Law, a source list, and acknowledgements.

Add this book to your Girl Scout cookie shopping list this year!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

43 Old Cemetery Road: Till Death Do Us Bark

by Kate Klise
illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin | 2011
Use your pennies to buy it here!

This is book three of the five-book 43 Cemetery Road series. I know this seems sort of random--to review a book in the middle of a series--but considering that I've not read any of the others and this one worked as a stand-alone, here it is.

Told entirely in expository entries--journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings, labeled illustrations, memos, and more--the book opens with an introduction by Seymour who lives with his adoptive parents, Ignatius B. Grumply and the ghost of Olive C. Spence, whose mansion they all live in. Seymour's real parents are in jail for some undisclosed reason (at least in this book).

The story is about the town's richest inhabitant, Noah Breth, who has died. His son and daughter are fighting over his money, but Noah has cleverly set up a secret hunt for the money and townspeople keep stumbling over valuable coins from his collection hidden in unlikely places. Every rare coin in the text is a real rare coin, Google-able and everything, which is a very cool treat.

Because I'm a super-dork, I found one of my favorite things I've ever read in a book--EVER--in this story. Pages 21-23 outline some facts about the U.S. penny that are just awesome and I can't believe I'd never known before. Your kids will LOVE it and will ask you for a magnifying glass so they, like I did, can verify the truth of the coolness of this short chapter.

Your 8- to 10-year-olds will love this book and I bet the whole series. Check it out!