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Maybe I Will

  • Posted on January 13, 2013 at 3:51 PM

MaybeIWillMAYBE I WILL by Laurie Gray. Luminis Books (, March 2013.  Ages 13+ ($14.95 Paperback – ISBN 978-1-935462-70-5, $26.95 Hardcover – ISBN 978-1-935462-71-2, $9.95 eBook – ISBN 978-1-935462-72-9)

Publisher’s Description:  It’s not about sex. It’s about how one secret act of violence changes everything—how best friends can desert you when you need them most, how nobody understands. It’s about the drinking and stealing and lying and wondering who you can trust. It’s about parents and teachers, police officers and counselors—all the people who are supposed to help you, but who may not even believe you. It’s about how suddenly all of your hopes and dreams can vanish, and you can find yourself all alone, with nothing and no one. Your only choice is to end it all or to start over…and all you can think is Maybe I Will. 

Reviews: Mike Mullin, award-winning author of ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER wrote about Maybe I will: “In MAYBE I WILL, author Laurie Gray deals with a difficult topic in a thoughtful, nuanced, and realistic way. A pinch of humor and dash of Shakespeare add flavor to what otherwise might be an overly heavy stew. MAYBE I WILL belongs on teens’ reading lists and bookshelves alongside classics of its type such as Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK and Cheryl Rainfield’s SCARS.”

About the Author: Laurie Gray presents a compelling picture of the realities of sexual assault in MAYBE I WILL, drawing on her years of experience as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, dealing with crimes against children. The twist in the story is that we never know for sure if the victim is a boy or a girl, and we realize that it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about sex.

Round to it

Diane’s Notes: I was scared to read this book and kept putting off getting a round-to-it. I received a request to review Maybe I Will during a time when my world was crashing down. I have been a victim of sexual assault and abuse. I have been in the situation of keeping my worries to myself and wondering if I could handle the depression while trying to hold myself together and pretend to be “good” – just so my family and friends wouldn’t worry. I didn’t want to be seen as just a victim, nor did I want to be seen as a problem that other people would have to deal with. I was even afraid that if I read Maybe I Will, that I might consider giving up. 

I should have trusted the author Laurie Gray and publicist Rebecca Grose. While there is a sexual assault, it is not  graphically over-described. Suicide is not the entire focus of the story. Alcoholism is not the ending of one’s life.  Friends not being there for you is simply another obstacle to survive. The character has to learn to cope, survive, and adjust.

Readers will learn new techniques for surviving the teen years and life’s unfair, unjust events. Maybe I Will is an essential purchase for libraries with young adults requesting books like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin, A Child Called It, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones . 

The hardest part of reading Maybe I Will was that I had read the twist – that we never know for sure if the victim is a boy or a girl – and that I spent the entire first reading looking for clues to prove the character was one or the other. Pulling that perspective off was a dramatic success. By having the character almost gender neutral, this title will be easier to put in both male and female reader’s hands. While some said they were convinced it was a girl because they were female readers, if someone found themselves relating too closely, they could pretend the character was a member of the opposite sex and build in distance.

Perhaps the best parts of Maybe I Will were the poems and the literary references interwoven. How many teen titles link Shakespeare, Peter Pan, and Amazing Grace? The main character uses a journal to write  through the process of discovering the answer to the question “What is character?” The poems are full of angst and speak to teens – particularly to 8th and 9th graders with stanzas like:

Such a bitter seed I swallowed.

No one saw, and no one knew.

I buried it inside myself

Where it took root and grew.

or –

I feel like I have swallowed a black hole.

The cold and empty darkness never ends.

Emotions trample down my weary soul,

No longer trusting any of my friends.

Maybe I Will leaves the reader with hope. There is hope, there are ways to survive the bad, and there are people out there to help. The reality is that the bad is not always sufficiently punished in our legal system. But Maybe I Will may be the title that helps a teen open up and tell someone, rather than continue to suffer in silence. 


Diane’s blog on Cinder by Marissa Meyer

  • Posted on January 13, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Marissa Meyer should be thrilled. Cinder was chosen one of the top ten books of 2012 on these lists:cinder-117x162

Check out a trailer for  Cinder here. I have to admit that I kept setting the book Cinder down intending to get around to it. When Shela wrote her blog post January 8th, I realized that I needed to seize the time to read Cinder. Now that I have read Cinder, Marissa Meyer is on my short list of  authors writing YA fairy tale versions (including Margaret Peterson Haddix, Shannon Hale, Gail Carson Levine, Vivian VandeVelde, Robin McKinley, and Alex Flinn). Marissa Meyer’s biographical information shares how much she enjoyed fairy tales growing up and how this translated into her writing fanfiction for SailorMoon.

Growing up I loved Beauty and the Beast because it seemed more realistic for Beauty to gradually realize the Beast had changed to something beautiful underneath. Maybe I didn’t like Cinderella because the Disney version had a blonde star. I couldn’t relate because I wasn’t blonde and I thought she relied on others too much to make her dreams come true. In fact I have always preferred the Kukla, Fran, and Ollie show Three Nuts for Cinderella better than the original versions.

Three Nuts for Cinderella (Tri oríšky pro popelku) is from Czechoslovakia, 1973. You can click here to watch highlights of this updated version of the classic tale, with the fairy godmother replaced by three magic hazelnuts that help Cinderella’s dreams come true. You can learn more about that version here. When I first read Anita Lobel’s Princess Furball, I related it to Three Nuts for Cinderella.

Marissa Meyer’s version has helped me rediscover Cinderella. Adults, young adults, and middle grade students will appreciate this 387 page futuristic sci-fi version. I could relate to the strengths of  Linh Cinder and her work ethic. With the setting in New Beijing 126 years after WWIV, there were Chinese aspects of the story providing flavor yet the story was universal and global. While racial differences weren’t emphasized, the new discriminations revolved around the status of 100% humans, androids, cyborgs, and Lunars. Old enemies like the plague still exist.

Cinder was able to accomplish unusual tasks because she seemed almost invisible due to her status. She was a strong character who refused to continue to let bad things happen to her by others. The growth in her character as she learns more about her past, her body, and her capabilities makes this a wonderful title for coming-of-age stories.

The presence of good vs evil characters was more distinct than in some modern versions so the reader knew who to cheer for throughout. This is a safe YA story that tells a fascinating first tale of four about the Lunar Chronicles. The author did not have to resort to sex, violence, or swearing to tell a good story and I appreciate that.

When I first handed the book to Shela, I wasn’t sure if the title would be appropriate as a read-aloud. I was glad she took it with her in audio format to test it out. When Shela wrote her blog, I was hooked. Having read it myself, I know exactly whose hands I want to place this in next. The hard part will be prying it out of my fingers as I wait for the second book in the series – Scarlet. Scarlet_final_USA-Today-117x162

For boys and girls who like technology, problem-solving, mysteries, and strong characters, Cinder is an excellent choice. Now I’m off to see how quickly I can get my hands on Scarlet. I was able to download the first five chapters as a preview, but I’ll be checking for the Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends booth at ALA Midwinter.

One more aspect of Cinder that endears me to the author and series is that it was originally written as part of NaMoWriMo.

Rescue animals – That Cat Can’t Stay

  • Posted on January 12, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Cat_cover_That Cat Can't StayThat Cat Can’t Stay by Thad Krasnesky. Illustrated by David Parkins. Flashlight Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780979974656

That Cat Can’t Stay is on my list of fun rhyming read-alouds for elementary students. I love sharing this title, but never stopped to think about it in context of rescue animals until I started collecting books about rescues and helping find homes for animals.

Flashlight Press had sent out a newsletter reminding us that many families give puppies and kittens for Christmas gifts, but the thrill wanes and the animals end up in shelters. My beloved Lucy girl from a shelter had a note on her that “the kids don’t want her no more.” It broke our hearts. Fifteen years later we still love our Lucy and laugh when she stands outside wondering which direction is in. Fortunately my son’s German Shepherd Gabby goes out to herd her back in the house while she snaps and argues the entire time. Dogs and cats are lifetime commitments, not just spur of the moment gifts.

The publisher states:  “That Cat Can’t Stay is a wacky story about a family with a pet-adoption dilemma. Mom keeps bringing home stray cats, while Dad comes up with ridiculous reasons why each one can’t stay. Dad grudgingly gives in – 5 times! – but finally finds his perfect pet at the end.”

One of the best parts of this book is finding all the cat-aspects in the illustrations. I was amazed to read snippets from so many reviews and blogs here I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. When my new Promethean board is set up, I’ll be using the sneak peak in pdf form from the publisher to share with my students.

Have you used this title for conflict resolution? Mom always seems to get her way despite Dad’s protests and complaints. Each time she brings home a stray needy cat, she acknowledges Dad’s concerns, states what could happen to the cat if they don’t take it in, and then waits for Dad to give-in. Each time he thinks its temporary, but those cats gather around him just like real cats will rub against people who hate cats (Is it to irritate them?). Those cats seem to be winning dad over, but he does take action in the end to show his preferences.

I’ve paired That Cat Can’t Stay with the poem Cat! by Eleanor Farjeon  before. Look for the blog posts on rescue animals coming this year. There are some wonderful titles and I promise to give you tear-jerker alerts when necessary.

Lady Hahn and Her Seven Friends

  • Posted on January 4, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends by Yumi Heo. Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt and Company, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-4127-9. $16.99LadyHahn

Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends is a lovely picture book  to enhance your multicultural folktale collection, This Korean retelling of a seamstress and her seven tools for sewing provides a message on getting along while giving us a glimpse into aspects of sewing. The question of “who is most important?” occurs often in literature. This classical tale from the 1800s is retold swiftly with subtle touches that will stimulate questions about sewing.

The illustrations and text use a literary device teachers often request, but I get confused whether to call this anthropomorphism or personification. The tools of ruler, scissors, needle, thread, thimble, flatiron, and iron are feminized, talk, and portrayed with human physical features. They talk, have distinct personalities, and their feelings can be hurt. Technically which term should I use? Regardless, I am adding this to my list of teaching texts for literary devices.

The font and the design of text make reading aloud easy. The illustrations incorporate Korean fabric patterns with sweet, subtle details. The double-paged spread showing Lady Hahn coming to realize she needs her friends is sophisticated and worth careful attention. The author studied graphic design and this pleasing rendition joins my shelf with one of my favorites –  The Green Frogs: A Korean Folk Tale.

The terms of flatiron and iron can be confusing to non-sewers, so be prepared with some photos or real artifacts. I appreciate this title for the use of tools which is commonly integrated in second grade education. Often “tools” is related to hammers, nails, and saws rather than more broadly being linked to all the tools necessary to accomplish a task. STEM schools can utilize this title when talking about technology.

Review Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls

  • Posted on January 1, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, PhD. A Snap book from Capstone Press. 2012. part of the Girls Science Club series including:

  • Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls
  • Cool Biology Activities for Girls
  • Cool Physics Activities for Girls
  • Cool Engineering Activities for Girls
Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls cover

Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls cover

Shela Crisler (the current PTO president, a former engineer, and a parent volunteer in the library who puts in more hours than some teachers) and I unpacked books from Capstone Press to preview. Shela picked up Cool Engineering Activities for Girls while I picked up Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls. We looked at each other and both commented on the aspect “for Girls.” Hey! We’re girls. We love science and engineering. Why does this say “for girls?” Is there another series out there of Cool Engineering Activities for Boys? Is this real science or pseudoscience? We decided to both take our books home to read and compare on this blog.

Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls includes ten hands-on activities with “insider info” on each that explains the scientific principles which apply. The bright design is open with very readable and approachable text. Photo illustrations feature girls of middle school age so the interest truly will extend from grades 3-8.

The activities are appropriate for elementary and middle school interest and include many experiments that my STEM school had already planned as part of our curriculum this year. I can’t wait to see the teachers’ faces when I present them with this title. We use the Science NSRC kits and the Engineering is Elementary Kits in our science integration throughout the curriculum. Some of these activities are explored in the kits, but none of them explain and extend the learning in such an exciting way as this series. I wish this set had been available when I was younger. For all my former students who asked me for titles like this before publishers created them, I wish I could hand you each a copy.

STEM schools will naturally want to purchase the entire set. It is essential that more school and public libraries carry titles like this. They walk the line between the craft titles with their practicality and informational scientific titles. It’s an opportunity to inspire a new generation of female (and male) scientists.

My favorite aspect of science is chemistry followed closely by geology and physics. I am an avid reader of anything chemical and constantly seeking titles. After reading Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls, I cannot wait to purchase the complete set and to advocate for more being published. We need geology, botany, astronomy, meteorology, statistics, forensics,… there is so much more to include.

The Capstone website includes reviews for Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls from Science Books & Films – Deborah Stevens, Musselman High School, Warrenton, VA, and Laura McConnell with Library Media Connection.  Junior Library Guild includes a review of Cool Biology Activities for Girls on their website for members only. That title was part of their Science set for grades 6-8. I was happy to see this series noted so highly by JLG.

When I clicked the publisher’s website to seek related nonfiction and related fiction titles, I was disappointed. There are not enough titles out there to sustain a beginner’s interest in chemistry. The related nonfiction titles were primarily heavier-text middle school biography titles and were not designed to draw in new science enthusiasts as these Girls Science Club titles do. While the title Marie Curie mariecurieis an essential middle school purchase, it does not appeared designed to attract my students to extend their interest in elementary school.

The related fiction included lower level graphic titles but the relationship was misleading. One title was to scientists playing rock, paper, scissors. Another to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde which at best could lead to a discussion of science and ethics. The third was to Buzz Beaker and the Speed Secret which describes an invention to make skis faster. All of these are good titles on their own, but they won’t be excellent matches to EXTEND the excitement of discovering chemistry.

I appreciate the links, but, librarians, we have far to go to encourage more publishing efforts of science topics for women. In fact, I’m going to email Capstone tonight and suggest that they link some of their other series to this title like the Kitchen Science books including Science Experiments That Fizz and Bubble: Fun Projects for Curious Kids, Gross Guides series, and of course the Monster Science titles. All of those would have made much more sense if included in the related titles section. Should I assume that Gross and Monster are the answer to my search for “Cool Chemistry Activities for Boys?”  Do I even need to step on my soapbox and start ranting about the equality of the sexes in scientific exploration and research? Or that I have many boys who would also do these “girl” experiments, too? I hope boys will take time to participate in these scientific activities.

I know there are many more exciting biographies of scientists, including chemists that we should be sharing with students. Keep reading this blog and I’ll bring you more titles. You are always welcome to share your ideas, too. I need you to help me communicate my love of science and chemistry with younger students.

Bejeezers uses Squidoo to share lenses like the Top 10 Chemistry Books for Kids which includes a great quiz. For adults who love chemistry and would like to explore the significance of how scientific knowledge relates to history, be sure to pick up a copy of Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History. The Crabtree series “Why Chemistry Matters” was one of my previous middle school picks. I’m hoping others continue to develop more STEM titles for elementary and middle school interests.

Enjoying a new e-reader in your house? Be sure to add Chemistry for Everyone: A Helpful Primer for High School or College Chemistry to your list of ebooks to read. It’s currently available on the kindle for $5.99 but periodically shows up for a discount. It’s worth reading as an elementary teacher because it reminds us of the big picture or how what we do and the way we approach learning will have more impact on our students long down their educational path.

Sprouting Readers Through STEM

  • Posted on October 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM

After taking some time off, I’m ready to hit the keys again and update readers on excellent titles. Today I’m listing some of the tools I’ll be mentioning during the Tennessee Association of School Librarians conference during the presentation “Sprouting Readers Through STEM”. Dr. Regina Etter and Lakisha Brinson, STEM designers at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School, and I will be presenting together Friday, October 26, 2012. We’ll be posting our powerpoint, but you know you are missing the true dynamics and excitement of our “presentation” if you aren’t there with us.

Here are some of the  library tools I use in the school library to support the growth of the STEM initiative at our school.

Netbooks and Desktops (25 in the library)

Pebble Go Databases

Britannica Imagequest

Britannica Online

World Book through TEL

Super 3

PowerKnowledge Life Science

FollettShelf with ebooks

Capstone Interactive Books

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain by Marcia L. Tate. Corwin, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4129-7850-7

PBL in the Elementary Grades: Step-by-Step Guidance, Tools and Tips for Standards-Focused K-5 Projects. Buck Institute for Education, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9740343-1-7

The Super3: Information Skills for Young Learners by Michael B. Eisenberg and Laura Eisenberg Robinson. Linworth Books, 2007. ISBN 158683286-7

Teaching Information & Technology Skills: The Big 6 in Elementary Schools by Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz. Linworth Books, 1999. ISBN 0-938865-81-1

Common Core Curriculum Maps: English Language Arts. Grades K-5. Common Core. Jossey-Bass, 2012. (p67)

Narrative Nonfiction, Biographies and more:

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-86846-7 A Junior Library Guild selection and excellent true story of Irene Pepperberg’s work with an African grey parrot named Alex – short for Avian Learning EXperiment.

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-646-6

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola (also author of Planting the Trees of Kenya) Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-38068-7

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8037-3511-8. True story of 14 year old William Kamkwamba’s perserverance in building a wind mill in his African village.

Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups by Brenda Peterson. Henry Holt Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-9167-0. Seal Sitters in the Pacific Northwest.

Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez. Henry Holt, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8050-8745-1 Architecture in a unique style.

Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game by Chris Crowe. Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7636-5026-1. The first black player in the American League, Larry Doby’s second season playing for the Cleveland Indians helped pave the way for other African Americans in the major leagues.

Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson & Raul Colon. Schwartz & Wade Books,  2012. ISBN 978037585706-5

Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca by Deborah Kogan Ray. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-39897-2

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-397-7

What If You Get Lost? by Anara Guard. Picture Window Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4048-6684-3

Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces by J. H. Everett. Henry Holt, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-8971-4

Write Horror Fiction in 5 Simple Steps by Laura  Baskes Litwin. Enslow, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7660-3836-3

Picture Yourself Writing Nonfiction: Using Photos to Inspire Writing by Jennifer Fandel. Capstone Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4296-6125-6

Nature’s Cycles: Food Chains / Los ciclos de la naturaleza Las cadenas alimentarias by Dana Meachen Rau. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-4789-4


Plants (Investigating Earth) by Kate Walker. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60870-559-7

New Plants: Seeds in the Soil Patch by Emily Sohn and Erin Ash Sullivan. Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-408-4

How Seeds Travel: Popguns and Parachutes by Jane Belk Moncure. The Child’s World, 1990. (Who will publish a modern update to this title?)

Disgusting Plants by Connie Colwell Miller. Capstone, 2007.

The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-30908-4

Grow Your Own Cat Toy (Grow It Yourself!) by John Malam. Heinemann Library, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4329-5110-8

Grow Your Own Sandwich (Grow It Yourself!) by John Malam. Heinemann Library, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4329-5108-5

Freaky Plant Facts: Extreme Greens (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-591-3

Amazing Plant Bodies: Tiny to Gigantic (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-592-0

Cooking with Sunshine: How Plants Make Food (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-586-9

Meat-Eating Plants: Toothless Wonders (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-589-0

Environments: Beetles in the Garden (iScience Readers)  by Emily Sohn and Barbara M. Linde.  Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-423-7

Living Systems: Life’s Inside Story (iScience Readers)  by Emily Sohn and Patricia Ohlenroth.  Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-423-7

People Need Plants! (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3153-1

Plants Live Everywhere!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3155-5

Seeds Sprout!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3154-8

Plants Grow!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3152-4

Little Seeds (my little planet) by Charles Ghigna. Picture Window Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4048-6790-1

The Secret Lives of Plants! (Graphic Library) by Janet Slingerland. Capstone Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4296-7686-1

Food Chains and Webs: Freestyle Express edition (The Web of Life) Raintree, 2012. 978-1-4109-4424-5

Life on Earth (Energy in Action) by Pennie Stoyles and Peter Pentland. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2012.

Articles to be sure to read:

The National Science Digital Library: STEM Resources for the 21st-Century Learner by Daniel Toomey. School Library Monthly. Volume XXVII, Number 2/November 2010.

Collaboration–Programs-Role Models-&-Empowering Girls for Librarians. NorCol STEM Girls.

IMLS-Funded Research Explores How School Librarians Use Digital Content for STEM Learning by Marcia Mardis The Web2MARC Tool.

Review of White Rock & Question “Do authors rely on bloggers for sales?”

  • Posted on July 4, 2012 at 3:00 PM

I enjoy my summer reading of adult fiction and sharing my opinions of the books I read. Sometimes I blog about the books to share with others. This may help you to add titles to your lists for school or personal reading. Seldom do I expect that my blogs will immediately result in your rushing out to buy the book the next day. Even when I read some of my friends’ blogs, I may wait to purchase due to buying cycles of school, or even personal paydays. Even if I click and purchase the title for my Kindle Fire, I may not take a moment to read it immediately because I am working on a large number of products.

Today I finished reading book 2 in The Eternal War series and wanted to share it with my friends after finding out more about the author. The book is White Rock, The Eternal War book 2. Author is J J Westendarp. Imagine my surprise when I found a link to a post he wrote called “Do Blog Reviews Matter?” The author appreciates the positive reviews but doesn’t feel blog posts result in direct sales within 1-2 days. I wonder if I’m the only one who finds that timeline too short? Should I be feeling some kind of pressure to write a review that forces you to immediately purchase? Should I be linking to the online stores so there is a direct record of my readers purchases? I don’t think so.

Here’s part of the description that drew me to this title:  “Cheryl Erikson’s problems never seem to end. After saving a group of Dallas’ social elite from an unusually brazen attempt at robbery by a group of vampires, she discovers it’s not an isolated incident. The normally hidden and secretive vampires are in the midst of an extended crime spree, and working toward something big. Exactly what is anyone’s guess.”

White Rock was a quick fun read with plenty of opening action. Cheryl, the vampire-hunting character was complex, yet I found myself holding back and watching her from a distance as she battled vampires, demons, and her own history of problems. I appreciated the secondary characters the most as they were well-developed and an intriguing part of a much larger picture. Towards the end of the story, Cheryl’s lover and reporter friend Allison writes: <Cheryl>” is one of the greatest unknown heroes living in the metroplex. ..We have to hope that others will learn from her example. Learn that it’s not always necessary to toot one’s own horn in order to make a difference…” Cheryl’s steadfastness for her friends and helping to always do the right thing is one aspect that makes White Rock so appealing. She is a character of goodness who, like a rock, is there for you to provide a foundation and support.

I appreciated the differences in this vampire series in two areas 1) the vampires are evil and they knowingly embrace this without pretence for good; 2) the origin and purpose of vampires is unique.

As soon as I finished reading White Rock, I clicked to go purchase the first book Spiral and to find a free Smashwords novella Split. I want to see more of the big picture of this story and wonder where author JJ Westendarp will take us next. I do not know if what I write about my reading experience with White Rock will cause you to rush out and purchase these 3 books. If you do, you’ll enjoy them greatly and won’t be able to set them down. I hid in the closet so my family couldn’t find me until I finished reading. (Don’t tell the hubby)

Here are the descriptions from Amazon of the first book:

“Cheryl Erikson is a Vampire Hunter with a problem. A dangerous new drug named Plast has found its way onto the streets of Dallas. She would prefer to let the DEA and local law enforcement handle everything, but since the dealers also happen to be vampires, she has no choice but to step in and put a stop to it.

With the help of her best friend Virgil and a fellow Hunter named Tank, Cheryl must work to eradicate Plast from the streets of Dallas. It’s a task that becomes more difficult as she comes under the gun, quite literally, from a contract out on her head. Coupled with a nosy police detective looking to peg her for a triple homicide, and a sudden interest in her activities from a powerful vampire recently arrived in the area, it’s enough to force her to accept help from the least likely of sources, a mysterious Hunter named Rev. Through him, everything she thinks she knows, and everything she stands for, is challenged in ways she never imagined.”


June Carnival of Literature

  • Posted on June 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM

Forget running away to join the carnival, I ran off to enjoy the American Library Association’s Annual conference held this year in beautiful sunny California. I was privileged to hear the 12 authors speak at the ALSC Nonfiction Blast and couldn’t wait to help out hosting this for Anastasia Suen after her hard work of organizing the Nonfiction Blast. After their talk, the authors staged a formal more serious photo,  but I preferred this one I caught when they let their guard down.

This month on the carnival we have posts from bloggers who didn’t run away but are still celebrating life in our Carnival of Children’s Literature including:


  • Jeanne at True Tales & A Cherry On Top asks “Who doesn’t love pandas? Mrs. Harkness and the Panda tells the captivating story of the American adventurer who introduced the world to Pandas.” I, too, loved this book and wrote about it during National Women’s History Month. Illustrator Melissa Sweet was autographing during ALA, but I was busy in Council so missed out on my chance to tell her how much I loved Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. Fortunately I did find Julie Cummins’ book Women Explorers to add to my must read list.
  • Tara at A Teaching Life chimes in: “I’ve reviewed two non-fiction books and one fiction title I plan to use in my classroom.” I found far more on her blog and marvel at her participation level. 
  • Jeanette at SpeakWell, ReadWell writes this month about how “A rat, a pigmy goat and a darling puppy helped my students review a new book by Sue Fliess. Take a look and see them in action!” I took my pet rat before to read to preschoolers so I loved seeing her pictures. My favorite had to be the goat reading along.
  • Lisa at Shelf Employed shares “A review of George Bellows: Painter with a Punch!” The name George Bellows rang no bells for me, but when I saw the illustrations of boxing, I recalled those paintings and reproductions I’d seen of the Ashcan School of painting. Sounds like an excellent addition to middle school biography and art collections.
  • Lisa at Shelf Employed also shares from the ALSC blog “a post to encourage communication between school and public librarians.” I need to go back and share about the success of Nashville Public Library’s collaboration with Metropolitan-Nashville Public Schools called “Limitless Libraries”.  Be sure to leave your comments.
  • Shirley at Simply Science writes about The Science of Soldiers. She says “This book presents the wide range of technology used by today’s military to aid the soldiers as they perform their jobs.” Sounds like a perfect book for our STEM Magnet Middle School Cluster. I love the integration of technology, science and the military from Shirley’s description.
  • Diane at Practically Paradise (Hey, that’s me) praised Space Exploration: An Illustrated Timeline  While at ALA, I visited the NASA booth to gather more materials for teaching my teachers and students that space exploration is alive and well at NASA. We were able to discuss the recent Chinese space craft docking at the International Space Station with a female Chinese astronaut aboard, too.


Early Literacy


  • Erik at Kid Book Ratings states “This is the first book I have reviewed in quite a while that has earned my highest rating…”  I was intrigued to read about The Donut Chef and hope you will, too. Some of my teacher colleagues recently confessed to wanting to quit teaching and open donut and cupcake shops, so I know they’ll appreciate this. 
  • Nichole at Just Children’s Books celebrates the app announcement that  “Reading Rainbow was relaunched and I was there to hear about it direct from LeVar Burton! Fun stuff!”  I’m envious. 


Book Projects


  • Carmela Martino and her co-blogger April Halprin Wayland at share a terrific interview with poet David Harrison featuring a giveaway of his book COWBOYS.
  • Anastasia at Booktalking interviews Kristy Dempsey. She shares “In this interview, author Kristy Dempsey shares the story behind her new picture book Surfer Chick. Illustrated by Henry Cole, this rhyming picture book is a fun read for the hot, hot summer!”
  • Corine at interviews Tarie Sabido “to give readers a glimpse of Filipino kidlit and ya lit.” I learned so much about Filipino bloggers and have added traveling to the  Filipino Reader Conference this August 18 to my “wishlist of places to go when I win the lottery. “

Space Exploration, an illustrated timeline

  • Posted on June 16, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Being a very diverse learner who needs to see the big picture and enjoys assembling pieces to construct new knowledge, I appreciate publishers and authors who try new ways to communicate. Hence my review today of Patricia Wooster’s book An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration, illustrated by Eldon Doty and published by Picture Window Books (a Capstone imprint), 2012. ISBN: 9781404866607. 

I admit that I am crazy about this title and the way it’s presented. I would be one irritating librarian to anyone unwilling to learn as I share new books hourly with people – even complete strangers. Whenever “bigwigs” show up in school and I notice people deferring to them, I usually find an interesting book and approach them to look. They don’t scare me and I’ll use every opportunity I get to convey why printed books are vital to elementary and middle schools. I showed this to a STEM leader in our district.

Have you ever just sat and read timelines? Why not? Perhaps you have never had anyone relate the timeline to how you learn, how information is organized, or how we construct knowledge. Timelines can be difficult for teachers to relate to their students. Once they have students create a timeline of their life, most classes lose interest and move on. Not with this title. An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration will keep them asking questions and at the end, seeking more titles in this format.

The entire book is a timeline from Early Space discoveries in 2773 BC to current events. The first double-page spread takes you through moments in time for 2773 BC, AD 1543, 1608, 1687, 1781, 1846, 1929, and 1930. There are some big gaps on this page alone, but if I remember to focus on the word exploration it is a little easier to understand why this page is minimized. There is also a significant gap between the end of that page 1930 and the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. It takes someone to share with readers that other events were happening at this time, but the authors chose not to focus on them.

The illustrations are appealing to my graphic novel readers. There are a myriad of details throughout that will keep the students reading and re-reading. I found myself stumbling on the first few pages and had to actually place my finger on the timeline to follow the links of information to keep myself in order. This is an excellent skill for students to acquire in reading intricate scientific and historical information as they get holder and here is a safe way to practice.

Some of the topics addressed include: Early Discoveries, The Space Age, The Space Race, Testing the Skies, Walking on the Moon, Another Station in Space, Reaching Farther into Space, Living in Space, A Telescope in Space, Space Records, Touring Space, Private Space Flight, The Future of Space Exploration and Building your own timeline.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths is how the illustrations and text will inspire students to ask questions and do research.

I do have a criticism to share that I have heard from some of the scientists involved. Some ask where is the rest of the information that is so vital such as the star charts of ancient nations, and the contributions of Wernher Von Braun and the V2 rockets. Another asked why we used BC and AD on the first page instead of the B.C.E. and C.E.

According to the Marshall Space Flight Center in nearby Huntsville, Alabama’s biography page for Werner Von Braun.

Wernher Von Braun is well known as the leader of what has been called the “rocket team” which developed the V–2 ballistic missile for the Nazis during World War II…. The brainchild of von Braun’s rocket team operating at a secret laboratory at Peenemünde on the Baltic coast, the V–2 rocket was the immediate antecedent of those used in space exploration programs in the United States and the Soviet Union.”

As for the BC and AD distinction, there are always controversies as you can see in this blog from the Free Republic (no endorsement intended) “Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms Before Christ to Before Common Era and anno Domini (Latin for “year of the Lord”) to Common Era. In short, they’re referred to as B.C.E. and C.E.” Even Wikipedia addresses the controversy

I found that neither of those points deterred me from gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge from this title. In many schools in the United States during the 70’s and 80’s space exploration was taught as a race against the Soviet Union which we “won” because we landed a man on the moon first. When you read An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration, the focus is on world-wide space exploration so you are exposed to a more realistic depiction of space exploration with events from Russia (the former Soviet Union), China, and the business community.

When I showed someone this title, she asked me if NASA wasn’t really closing down all the space programs. SHOCK!!!! What?! How could I let anyone in my school think this? I must contact the NASA booth at the American Library Association conference and gather as much material and links as possible to correct this error in perspective.  Just because the Space Shuttle program ended, does not mean the end of space exploration.

Today I saw the headline news from CNN that China sent the first female astronaut into space – People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang.  Perhaps you have not been following the Chinese aspirations to ” conduct a manned mission to the moon”. In addition to the People’s Republic of China the European Union, Japan, and India have also planned future manned space missions to the Moon (and in the EU’s case to Mars) during this century. Manned space travel is ongoing.

Other Links that I like and which help understand our space program is alive and functioning include:

NASA’s Education Materials Finder will help teachers locate resources that can be used in the classroom. My favorite link it helped me find was What’s next for NASA? The U.S.

NASA’s People and technology page (intended for K-4)

NASA’s topical index page with exciting links guaranteed to keep students clicking, learning, and shouting out to their friends “Look at this!”

Fortunately this book is part of the FactHound site so students can access NASA and spacekids links like From the spacekids site I learned this and wondered who else is missing:

“In 1989, Helen Sharman entered a competition to become the first British astronaut in space. After 18 months of intensive training, Helen was part of a Russian mission to the MIR space station. “

The need to convey exploration and innovation as part of a continuum is one reason why I will purchase all the titles in this series:

  • An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors,
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Transportation
  • An Illustrated Timeline of U.S. States
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration
  • An Illustrated Timeline of U.S. Presidents
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Dinosaurs

Those of you who know me may have been forced to sit and watch the DVD’s of Apollo 13 with all of the background information, narratives, commentaries, etc. I wanted to be an astronaut growing up and remember watching hours of space documentaries – until I realized with my horrible ears and bad eyesight that I was never getting close. If I’d lived closer to Huntsville, AL, then I would have realized I could have been a valued scientist supporting the work and part of the team. With my work at a STEM school, perhaps I will be able to motivate others and open their career paths to broader avenues.

It is important for our future to provide continuums of learning, timelines of history, and the links for our students to understand their importance. Books like An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration help us set the path for learning.

What else do I need now? I need biographies. Here are some names of people that we should be reading more of their research and work in the field of space exploration:

  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
  • Robert Goddard
  • Hermann Oberth
  • Reinhold Tiling
  • Wernher von Braun
  • Kerim Kerimov
  • Sergey Korolyov
  • Valentin Glushko
  • Vasily Mishin
  • Robert (Bob) Gilruth
  • Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.
  • Maxime Faget

Did you know that “Initially the race for space was often led by Sergei Korolyov, whose legacy includes both the R7 and Soyuz—which remain in service to this day. Korolev was the mastermind behind the first satellite, first man (and first woman) in orbit and first spacewalk. Until his death his identity was a closely guarded state secret; not even his mother knew that he was responsible for creating the Russian space program.” If that isn’t enough of a hook for some author to start writing, I don’t know what you need. I’m waiting. Start writing.

Adult Reads – Forged in Fire

  • Posted on June 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM

I had a friend say she teaches elementary level, but sometimes she likes to put on her big-girl panties and read for just herself.   Since I know that feeling I have decided to “allow” myself to review, talk about, gush, or pan some of the hundreds of adult titles I read every year. Let’s start with one of the hottest self-published books out this year by Trish McCallan called Forged in Fire

This book caught my eye on my birthday in January with a free opportunity to download it on my Kindle.  I kept running across the title and telling myself to get around-to-it and do it. Today I opened the book and I couldn’t put it down til I was finished. I meandered the house overfilling the coffee and burning my toaster patries while I read with my left hand and tried to function with my right. The dogs made it outside and I like warm pastries, so no harm done. The bruise on my knee from banging into the doorway while walking and reading WILL heal eventually. But I’m going to continue to suffer until late this 2012 when the sequel comes out.

Military men are so sexy. Add one that’s psychic and looking for his soulmate — then you’ve got a secret weapon. Beth dreams of a terrorist attack on an airplane then rushes to the airport to prevent it. Instead of laughing at her, Zane and his equally hot Navy Seal brothers take her seriously and leap into action.

This mystery adventure novel keeps the reader involved and guessing what’s going to happen next. While the heroine begins timidly, she “puts on her big-girl panties” and because an active part of the solution, not just a fainting diva victim. Other women portrayed also show courage and the ability to take action. The military aspects and conspiracy theories are intriguing. The romance sizzles. And, the secondary characters are fleshed out enough for the reader to care about them and want to read more

The only flaw I could mention is how diabolically the author has us hooked so when the book ends suddenly with plenty of cliff-hangers, we want to jump off and find the sequel. I visited the author’s facebook page, blog, and website to find out more. I even found myself chastising the author to stop blogging and get back to writing the next books in this series.

As soon as I was finished reading, I followed the author’s advice and shared my kindle addiction with the fabulous Debbie W. – my reading partner, Kindle-lender, and a great P.E. teacher, too. When will you get your copy? The series will include:

  • Forged in Fire to be re-released by Montlake Publishing on July 1st of 2012.
  • Forged in Ice to be released December 1st of 2012
  • Forged in Fury to be released July 1st of 2013
  • Forged in Betrayal to be released December 1st of 2013

Because of the steamy sex scene, I’m not including this in my YA reviews, but did think I should mention it was hot. Did I say anything about the room getting a little warm? Mm Mm Mm. Fun reading and the cover isn’t too romantic looking to alert anyone reading near me. Our secret will stay between just you and me.