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Thursday, March 28, 2019

KidLitCon by the Books!

Well, I'm back from KidLitCon 2019! This year the conference was held in Providence, Rhode Island. This was my third KidLitCon, because I attended in NYC in 2012 and in Baltimore in 2015. See my previous posts about KidLitCon here.

New books I bought at KidLitCon
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul - My new favorite picture book.
Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper by Debbie Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vuković - I helped select Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl as the Cybils winner this year in Early Chapter books, so I'm excited to read another book in the series.
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson - recently read and was very impressed by The Parker Inheritance, so I thought I'd pick up another one by Varian Johnson.
The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare (#6) by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham - Y'all know I love the Princess in Black. Aaaand my husband is a scientist. So.


Free Books I got at KidLitCon
Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles (advance readers copy)
Ballpark Mysteries #15 The Baltimore Bandit by David A Kelly - a gift from the author! How kind. He spoke on two panels that I enjoyed.
Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale (advance readers copy)

Books I want to read now that I've been to KidLitCon
see above! Also...
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor
The Truth According to Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney - I started reading this picture book at the booksellers table, but someone distracted me and now I really want to finish!
Me Myself and Him by Chris Tebbets - It was fun to hear about his work with James Patterson on the Middle School series.
We Are Grateful by Traci Sorrell
The Infamous Ratsos series by Kara LaReau
Science Comics: The Brain by Tori Woollcott and Alex Graudins
Following Grandfather by Rosemary Wells - I adore Rosemary Wells and apparently she asked Christopher Denise to illustrate this one on her behalf, since it was too close to her.
Grounghug Day by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise
Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee and Christopher Denise
Also there was a book about emanata mentioned, but I can't find it anywhere... Emanata are the bits that come off of characters heads in comics.
Bruce Block apparently writes great books about filmmaking which one should read if they plan to make graphic novels.

Books I gave away at KidLitCon
Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale -- I brought the advance readers copy I got home on Friday night and read it, then passsed it along for someone else to read when I arrived on Saturday. Loved it! Much apocalypse! Many taco! Look forward to seeing it in it's final form, since the arc was uncolored and the final will be two-toned. It's a horror story and I imagine it will be a big hit with fans of his Hazardous Tales books.

The Book of Mormon -- Eight Copies, wow! I brought many copies to KidLitCon Baltimore, but only one was taken from the table. This time all 8 of the copies I brought walked away. I wonder how many people would've taken one if I had brought more.

Books LeUyen Pham loved, as a child new to the USA.
Amelia Bedelia ("Finally someone worse at English than me!" and "So helpful for learning idioms")
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (In 4th grade, her teacher gave it to her with the words, "you are a tropical flower among daisies and roses.")

Other highlights

Seeing sketches for PiB #7 and Best Friends:

Bethany and I drove back and forth to the conference because it was held at Hotel Providence, just about an hour from where we live. I wanted to be certain to be on time for the very first talk on the program -- a keynote speech by LeUyen Pham. Well, sick kids prevented me from leaving as early as I had hoped to, and we arrived right at 9:00 and quickly ducked into the dining room for breakfast. I had planned to inhale my scone and carry my juice with me, so that I could be on time for the keynote, but who should appear right behind me at the breakfast buffet? Uyen Pham! Tada! I said, "If you're here, I know I'm not late!"

Bethany and I sat down with Uyen and ate our pastries. I introduced Uyen to Bethany and reminded Uyen that we had met before, in Decatur, GA (see my post about that, here) and reminisced that she had showed me the Princess in Black book before the first one had come out. "Wow, I can't remember my life before the Princess in Black!" Uyen said, and then, "Well, I'll have to show you the sketches for book 7!" I couldn't turn that down, and made sure to follow through with her when she had a moment the next day. She also showed some slides of artwork she has done for Best Friends, the sequel to Real Friends, in her presentation on Saturday. I sat by her while she was signing and took photos of her with attendees on Friday evening. What a pleasure! Uyen is so gracious and spunky! When she popped across the hotel lobby to hug me goodbye at the end of the conference, I felt like I had made a friend. 


Meeting online friends:

Speaking of friends, it was such a pleasure to meet some friends that I had only known online to this point. I got to meet several fellow Cybils panelists, including Mel Schuit, Ben Hutchinson and Heidi Feidler. And I loved reconnecting with friends I had met at previous KidLitCon conferences! Ten fabulous pictures are on my instagram. There are always a few that I accidentally miss taking pictures with. That's life, I guess! And don't let me forget to mention meeting so many amazing authors and illustrators. I feel like KidLitCon this year had a higher percentage of authors attending this year than any other year I have attended.

How about you? Been anywhere lately? Got any books on your radar?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

What I've been reading!!

Hey! Hi! Howdy! Happy New Year!


I don't really have time to blog, but then when did I ever? But I can't resist. I've gotta tell ya what I've been reading.

So.

Firstly, Cybils shortlists just got announced. This year I've been the Graphic Novels chair, but not on the Graphic Novels panel. So I've been listening in on all their discussions about the best books and now I'm reading like crazy to catch up on all these great graphic novels!

So far I've read the following that are on the shortlists:



Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation - this one was SO GOOD. I read the Diary of Anne Frank back in 9th grade and thought it was amazing, of course, but had no particular interest in rereading it. So I thought I'd give this a shot and just abandon it if it was meh. Oh. I could not put it down. Perfect marriage of text and illustration. Amazing job condensing the diary and disclosing what was condensed. I highly recommend it for adults and young adults.



On a Sunbeam - I just finished this one moments ago! It's about a girl, Mia. The setting is the far future. It's a coming-of-age/adventure/romance. One of the panelists described it as a whole trilogy in one book, and I could totally see that. It's quite thick, and I found it compelling to read until the natural breaking point in the narrative, then compelling again. Another panelist said it had a Firefly vibe -- yep. Super well done, and lotsa spaceship adventures. Many of the characters are LGBTQ+, including the main romance and all the relationships of supporting characters. Lots of swearing, which I suppose probably made the dialog more believable, but I like living in my bubble where swears are few and far between. If it were a movie, it'd be PG-13 but with more F-words. Still, I recommend this one for appropriate audiences, because of its excellent plotting, pacing, character- and world-building. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be buying it for my home library.


The Cardboard Kingdom - My kids loved this book. I checked it out of the library and they read it first of the whole stack. I got a little ways into it, and it got heavy for me. The story of the whole neighborhood -- the kingdom -- is told in short stories. Some of them have themes like fitting in, being creative, working things out with a friend, but others have heavier themes like same-gender attraction, parents splitting up, and bullying. Soo, I guess I needed a little more time to digest it than my kids did. Which exactly mirrors the kids and adults in the book. Haha. Anyway, it came due at the library before I finished it, so I returned it, but checked it out again a couple of weeks later. I did want to finish it. Once again my boys snatched it up and both of them reread it. Safe to say it's got kid appeal! And it is well done.


Anne of Green Gables - This one I read a while back -- I had heard good things about this adaptation, including from trusty Amy at Sunlit Pages. So I picked it up. It was really good. I read the whole series of books when I was a kid, and watched part one of the mini-series a couple of years ago, but I had definitely forgotten a lot of the plot. The art is beautiful in it's own right and I don't feel like I can really compare the graphic novel to the actual novel since it has been so long since I've read the original. But I loved the graphic novel and I hope they make a sequel and do the rest of the series in graphic format too.


Tea Dragon Society - This one is a large format, so it's bigger than a big picture book. It's gorgeous. I liked it but didn't love it. It's been a while since I read it, actually, and I'm having a hard time remembering all the details, except that I found it a little bit preachy, like it had something to prove. Since I can't remember more I'll leave it at that. It is available as a webcomic, but I hear that holding the paper version makes it even better. I've only read it on paper, and it was indeed beautiful.


Be Prepared - This is a memoir of Vera Brogsol's time at Russian Orthodox summer camp. It was really good! I could relate, having been to some religious summer camps, and I bet kids who haven't been to religious summer camps could relate, too. It's on the Elementary and Middle Grade list, but I'm guessing it will appeal most to middle schoolers and high schoolers. It has a "looking back" vibe at the end that wouldn't really be applicable to elementary schoolers, I don't think.


As the Crow Flies - Read this one quite recently and wow! It's a good book with some interesting things going on. Would make for a good book club discussion. Gorgeous art. The main character in it is a half-black christian lesbian. The scene is a christian young women's hiking trip, led by a woman with a big feminist chip on her shoulder. So themes of faith, race, weight, gender, sexual identity, and more are explored. And I think what I liked about it is that they were explored and not preached. The book doesn't guide you to a lot of conclusions... in fact even the plot itself ends quite suddenly. But, I liked it. It felt very realistic. 


The Prince and the Dressmaker - I read this one a while back and wanted to loved it, but it employed some "movie moments" -- some of those plot devices that seemed a little too unbelievable. I mean, I just can't imagine being surprised by a kiss and having it go over that well. And the fashion show? Ehhh. But I'll tell you what I loved. I loved absolutely true-to-life way that friendship and deception played together. I loved how things couldn't work out right until people were being honest.

That's all the ones on the shortlists that I've read so far! Will keep you posted as I read the rest. And I'll be reading all of the Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter books, but becuase I'm a round 2 judge I won't be allowed to tell you my thoughts on those until after Feb 14.

Not on the Cybils shortlist, but still a really good graphic novel that I recently read:


All Summer Long by Hope Larson. This one also explored themes of friendship, through the eyes of 13-year-old Bina. I liked how Bina's family was a big part of her experience, because families so often are (unless you're away at summer camp, ha!) I liked her personality and how she was figuring out boundaries and relationships, learning to babysit and becoming an aunt and getting good at her hobbies. I recommend this book and would totally love to own it.


And I also read the entire Book of Mormon in 3 months! I participated in a challenge extended by the worldwide president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M Nelson. So glad I did this. It was a completely different experience to attempt to read the book at this pace. It's sort of like I was accostomed to walking in a flower garden, and all of a sudden I started running on the race course that happened to be in it. At first I was like "I'm tired and this is so hard and I can't see the flowers!" but then it was like "oh, this is exhilarating and I can see connections I never saw before and I'm stronger than I thought I was!" So, it was great! The Book of Mormon is available free online, and hard copies are also available for free. If you order one, a missionary might deliver it to you! My little brother Abe is on a mission right now. He's serving in Argentina.

Before Christmas I read a couple of great non-fiction books from the children's section of my local library. Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Young Readers Edition) and Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.


Proud (Young Readers Edition): Living My American Dream is the memoir of the first Olympic Athlete to compete for the USA in hijab (the Muslim modesty practice uder which women cover all but the face). It was fascinating! I read a lot of it aloud to the kids and they loved it and took off with it, so I had to finish it on my own. I wonder how the Young Readers Edition (which I read) compares to the regular. There was one part where there were a bunch of generalizations and I was like "hmmm, I wonder if there is an interesting story at this point..." Ibtihaj is Afican American, Muslim, and a woman, and talked at various points in the book about the discrimination she faced because of each of these (and, sometimes, the intersection of them). Part of me wants to read the regular version, another part of me is fine. Anyway, I highly recommend it.



Terrible Typhoid Mary is about the discovery of what are now known as healthy carriers -- people who appear to be well, but are spreading infectious germs. Mary Mallon was the first healthy carrier discovered in the US, but her discovery and treatment was unethical. The pace of this book didn't clip along as quickly as Proud, so I found it a little tougher to love, but I'd still recommend it. Absolutely fascinating story, but I guess I felt like it could have been condensed into a good long article? Or really expanded into a meatier book? The book as it is is good, and I'm sure it will hit a sweet spot for some. My 10 year old read it and we talked about it a little bit.

What've you been reading lately?


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