Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I love this picture of Michael. Mary found copies of Rob Kidd's Pirates of the Caribbean Series in a used bookstore and brought them home for him. Michael immediately curled up on the couch and was lost in his book. One of the titles, Quest for the Sword of Cortes has a cover that will pique the interest of any pirate loving boy like Michael. He has found his "unconscious delight" reading. The kind of reading that helps create lifelong readers. Books (often a series or those by a favorite author) that a young reader can lose themselves in as they realize that there is pleasure in reading. It is something they choose to do for enjoyment; not sure something they have to do for points or for a class assignment.

This kind of unconscious delight reading is an essential step in becoming a lifelong reader. Sadly, in our zeal to create competent readers who can pass standardized tests, we have created alliterates. Kids who can read but choose not to because they find no pleasure in the process. School librarians are already talking about the upcoming issue of Knowledge Quest that focuses on Readicide - a term coined by Terry Gallagher - to address the killing of reading in our schools. There's a short note about it on the KQ website: The cover art and web content should be there soon for the March/April issue.

Being involved in teaching, reading and reviewing children's and YA books since the 1980s has its perks. I received a signed copy of Mary E. Pearson's manuscript for The Fox Inheritance Even though it won't be out until August 2011, Barnes and Noble has a link to it. Oh my!! I had to force myself to put it down this morning and get on this computer. It is stunning. Locke and Kara died from injuries in a car accident but the content of their brain - memories, intellect, etc. were download to a computer drive. There they floated in a painful limbo for 260 years until an unscrupulous scientist used a much refined version of bio-gel (what was used to bring Jenna - the third teen in the accident - back to life) to create bodies for Locke and Kara. What he doesn't know is how those years trapped in darkness has warped the psyches of the two teens. I am only 63 pages into the manuscript and I have page markers galore so I can go back and read passages. I have gasped aloud and even had the hair raise on my arms due to Pearson's skill at bringing to life the inhumanity of a future where human looking and sounding Bots are only complete to the waist. Put this one on your pre-publication order NOW!!

And, if you have not read The Adoration of Jenna Fox yet, please do so. You won't be sorry. Not only does it tell Jenna's story to help prepare you for Locke and Kara's, it is one of the most haunting futuristic YA novels I've read. I am so impressed with the quality of writing of this novel, as well as the relevance of the bio-gel created teen to today's teens, that it is required reading in my YA Materials course. Jenna is the daughter of the scientist who created the bio-gel that is used to repair his daughter's accident ravaged body. But, is she truly human with only 10% of her brain? How much is required to ensure you have a soul? I've read this book several times since it came out in 2008 and each time it causes me to pause and think. Just what a good book should do! I have the link to the paperback cover above as I like it better than the hardback cover with the butterfly on it, but you'll get why the butterfly when you read it.

I was scrolling back through this blog to 2003 and saw that I had discussed Pearson's Scribbler of Dreams published in 2002. It didn't get great reviews but I liked the modern version of the Hatfields and McCoys family feud. She wrote David v. God back in 2000 but I wasn't writing the blog yet then.

I knew she was a YA author to watch. And sure enough, she knocked one out of the stadium with A Room on Lorelei Street in 2005.
Look at the honors:
WINNER of the 2005 JHUNT AWARD for Young Adult Literature
2006 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
2006 NYPL Best Books for the Teen Age
Bank Street Best Teen Books 2005
Richie's Picks: THE BEST OF 2005
Baltimore Great Books 2005
Capitol Choices Noteworthy Book 2006
Texas Tayshas List 2006 - 2007
2006 California Collection
I couldn't talk about this book enough as we didn't have enough books like this - with totally realistic older teenage characters who were making decisions (not always good ones) to move into adulthood. I cried as I read her joy with having her own room, a safe place, on Lorelei Street. You can explore Pearson's other books on her website: There are links to her LiveJournal Blog and you can even find her on facebook, myspace and twitter. YA authors have to also be Internet savvy as that is where they will meet their readers.

That's it for this morning!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!! Can't wait for Steve to get home from California tonight. He went out to watch the ProAm golf tournament at Pebble Beach. Wish he had gotten Drew Brees' autograph for me. He and a couple of other football players were playing. Bill Murray won this year! Brees is one of my favorite quarterbacks, along with Aaron Rodgers. I was so excited when the Packers won the Superbowl. I would not have been happy if that sleazeball Steelers' quarterback won. The idea of kids looking up to someone like him really bothers me. Brees and Rodgers are different - they give back to their communities and are not abusing their status.

Steve sent hand dipped chocolate covered cherries and strawberries from California for Valentines Day. Glad I was home when UPS delivered them or they would have sat outside and melted. Got into them as soon as I opened the box. The rest are in the fridge waiting to be savored. He spoils me and I love it!!

Now on to a book - my favorite part of these postings. I have an autographed copy of a delightful picture book based on the real life events - Astro the Steller Sea Lion by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Shennen Bersani. Very impressive that the author is donating a portion of her royalties to the Marine Mammal Center and Mystic Aquarium. Astro was found alone on an island off the coast of California. He was brought to the Saulsalito Marine Mammal Center that cares for sick and injured marine mammals. Astro was later released into the ocean but kept finding his way back to the Center. He had spent too long with humans and could not re-acclimate to the wild so he was trained to follow commands and found a home at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. During one of his treks back to the Center after being released he joined a school field trip and even maneuvered his way through their coned walking route. I bet those kids were delighted!!

The illustrator - Bersani -visited both the Center and the Aquarium and spoke to the employees. Her attention to detail in the colorful, quite realistic double page spreads bring the settings, Astro, and the human caretakers to life. This is a Sylvan Dell Publishing title with copyright-free supplemental factual information about sea lions at the back of the book. In addition there is a really cool video about Astro to get kids involved at And, lots of activities for the teachers. The author is currently a Middle School Language Arts teacher and has a cool website of her own: And, a fun blog - True Tales & a Cherry on Top:

Astro is a must have for all elementary school libraries and public library children's collections. Great combination of a read aloud worthy picture book story supplemented by information on Steller Sea Lions. Teachers and Internet savvy kids will love the online content as well. This is a superb example of how the picture book can span the gap between storytime and the curriculum.

That's it for tonight.