Saturday, February 4, 2017


I remember when I was a child, probably around 10, I found a blue paperback book with a beautiful image on the cover. The title was in gold and I was so taken by the cover, I had to have the book. It was a collection of Greek Mythology. Did I ever read the book? No. When I tried to read the text, it was, well, Greek to me. I still have the book. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure where it is, but I know I still have it in my vast collection of books.

It wasn't until I heard storyteller Barbara McBride-Smith tell her Texas version of the Greek myths, It's Not Easy Being a Goddess: A Yellow Rose of Texas Tells the Greek Myths in her Native Tongue, that I even thought about that paperback book again. Did I read it then? Heavens no. I had purchased McBride-Smith's recording. I knew it was going to be much easier to understand. We're both Texans! We speak the same language, which is NOT Greek!

The next time the Greek Gods came into my life, it was through Percy Jackson. My son was then nine when my husband and I brought home an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of The Lightning Thief following the Texas Library Association's Annual Conference. He devoured the book and couldn't wait for me. I have to admit, I also enjoyed the book and read the next two as well.

A few weeks ago, I had the awesome pleasure of hearing Newbery medal winning author Kwame Alexander speak during the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. (He was actually speaking while the Atlanta Falcons were playing the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Conference Championship game. We all know how that ended. It was quite a spectacular evening in Atlanta, unless you are a Cheesehead!) While speaking, he creatively promoted his, and other author's books by using the titles. (The only exception for his recent or upcoming titles was Animal Ark. He said he just didn't know how to incorporate it without blatantly doing a promo.) One of the books which was splashed across the big screen was Bull by David Elliott.

by David Elliott
The image was up on the screen so quickly I really did not have a chance to fully grasp what I was seeing. The same evening (after watching the celebrations in the rain soaked streets) my husband and I attended a dinner hosted by HMH Books for Young Readers. As each of the editors introduced their upcoming titles, I made notes on my handout to remember which ones I wanted to read, review, and (if appropriate for my school) order. I was taken aback when I was the cover of Bull. This time, I had the opportunity to read the cover in its entirety while being introduced to this retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur.

I was thrilled when I was able to obtain a digital copy of the book for review. I started reading it alone, but was soon so taken with the poetry, I had to share it aloud with my husband. I felt I couldn't read it fast enough. I wanted to see how each character was going to be developed and the format in which they would shape their words. Since it was so late in the evening when we began this story time session, I sadly had to stop at the end of Book II. I felt let down by my husband's need for sleep. I wanted to keep reading. This was a story I had not heard before and I wanted to know the ending. Thankfully the next evening we got to read. It was incredible to see how each of the character's was "assigned" a poetic form which was carried throughout the book. The break down of each character's specific form and the manner in which they were chosen by the author.

This is a phenomenal book and should be included in public and university libraries. It should also be purchased for school libraries with the knowledge that this retelling of the Greek myth incorporates language of today's youth (no matter how much we wish to think everyone has a clean mouth). Some will be offended by the language, but the verse wouldn't flow or have the impact without those most obvious of profane words.

I have to say when reading the praise for the book on the back cover of the uncorrected, I knew I was going to be hooked when I saw the words of Allan Wolf (author of The Watch That Ends the Night and New Found Land), "Bull does for mythology what Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton has done for U.S. history." I could not have provided greater accolades myself. This was truly a wonderful book and I hope and pray Mr. Elliott presents us with more myths in his brilliant verse in the years to come.

Bull will be released for publication by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 28, 2017.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, HMH Books for Young Readers has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Bull for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Books About Books

I am a lover of books. I am comforted when surrounded by books. I love talking about books, although my taste in books rarely aligns with those of my friends. I started the year by reading books about books. This is very different for me as I have not been an avid reader of non-fiction. I prefer the psychological thrillers, mysteries, or time travel novels.

Will Schwalbe's Books for Living captured my attention when browsing through upcoming book releases on NetGalley. I requested the book, but sadly never got a response from the publisher. Once the book was released, I immediately placed a hold on it through my local public library. I was so excited when I got the text message to pick up the book I left immediately to check it out. It didn't take me long to become completely engrossed in the book. I found a number of quotes which rang as true to me and my love of books and reading as it did for the author. This is one of my favorite quotes from Books for Living (page 175)

"When I most enjoy reading, I'm not really conscious that I'm reading It's at the moments when I'm so wrapped up in a book, so engrossed, so moved, so obsessed, or so fascinated, that the part of my mind that is watching me read - maybe keeping track of the pages or trying to decide how much longer I should keep on reading - that part of my mind has gone away. This is what I hope for every time I open a book. It's something of a paradox. To love reading is to want to achieve the state where you don't know you are reading, where your communion with what you are reading is absolute."
While reading Books for Living, I discovered Schwalbe's first book, The End of Your Life Book Club was available as an audio book through my libraries online book service Overdrive. I quickly checked it out and began listening as I sat in my massage chair twice a day and on my drives to and from work.  I felt a special kinship to Will's mother because I had a slight understanding of her illness, pancreatic cancer. I can in no way compare my experience with my pancreatic condition to her, but I felt a bond. I also felt a bond with her love of reading and books. I would feel completely inadequate to have had the chance to sit and talk with her about books and reading, but listening to the conversations between mother and son was fascinating. I was so sad when the book ended. Not only because of the death of Will's mother, this is really no spoiler - the title kind of gives it away, but also because the discussions ended. I wanted more, as I know did Will.

When I finished The End of Your Life Book Club, I had not finished reading Books for Living and he gave me more of what I was longing for from the book talks. I desperately wanted to write down each and every title I had not read and put them on my own "To Be Read" (TBR) list. I didn't. I know I will never read all of the books on my TBR list. There just isn't enough time. I think one of my worst nightmares is the episode of The Twilight Zone - "Time Enough at Last" where Burgess Meredith finally has the opportunity and time to read without interruption following an H-bomb explosion only to have his glasses shatter on the ground as he is surrounded by books. For most it probably seems silly to think you would be totally devastated by this incident, but for a reader, it is heartbreaking.

I have to admit I have not read most of the books discussed in Schwalbe's books. However, when he began talking about a book for which I had read, my pulse seemed to race a little because I felt a kinship with him. I wanted to cheer and begin my own conversation about each of those titles.

After finishing The End of Your Life Book Club, I went back to Overdrive to see what else I could find on the world of books and reading. I found Larry McMurtry's Books: a Memoir. As a Texas girl, born and raised, I have always known the name Larry McMurty ~ Lonesome Dove, Cadillac Jack, and Terms of Endearment, to name a few of his books. Have I ever read any of them, no, but I knew of his books and of him because he is also a Texan. Now, I can say I have read McMurty, well actually listened to McMurty, well listened to William Dufris narrate McMurty, to be perfectly honest. I was totally engrossed listening to the tales of his book scouting days. His discoveries of rare books, the buying and selling of libraries and collections. It was truly fascinating.

Each year I set a goal to read the number of books which correlates to my current ago. For 2017, my goal was to read 46 books. My Goodreads account already shows I have completed 30 of those books, and we are three days shy of the end of January. Of those 30 books, 21 of them are children's picture books. It's what I do as a professional children's librarian - read and review books. (In the past I have not included my review books on my Goodreads account. This is something I have recently started in order to maintain my online reviewing presence.) But, on the other hand 9 of those 30 books are adult books. I think I will have to alter my Goodreads goal this year to reflect the number of adult books I would like to read (keeping it at 46, but I will always aim higher) and an attainable goal for reading and review books for my professional responsibilities.

I will continue to be a reader. As Schwalbe said in Books for Living (page 7)
" the reader, I become influenced while I'm reading I'm not the same reader when I finished a book....Brains are tangles of pathways, and reading creates new ones. Every book changes your life."
I am a different reader now than I was 28 days ago when the new year began. I may not be an eloquent writer, but I will continue to read and share my love of books and reading as long as I am capable of doing so, if not for the one or two people who read my blog, but for me. This is my chance to reflect and thank the authors who have shared their story and our communal love of the written word.

A few more of my favorite quotes from Will Schwalbe:
"Your favorite books stay with you for your entire life, no matter how long since you turned the last page." - The End of Your Life Book Club
"The technology of a book is genius: the order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on-screen, but the speed at which yourea dthem is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor, and ponder." - Books for Living (page 15) 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ending the year with Dumplin'

Reading the title of this post, you may think I am ending 2016 by eating dumplings. I do enjoy dumplings - old fashioned chicken and dumplings (my favorite meal each Wednesday evening served at church before GAs), as well as the Chinese variety, or pot stickers as they are sometimes known, but this is all about Willowdean Dickson, the main character in Julie Murphy's 2015 YA novel Dumplin'.

by Julie Murphy

I wish Dumplin' had been written when I was a teen. I don't know if it would have significantly changed by life, but it might have made growing up a large girl easier. I was never a badass, but I have always been fat. Like all teens, you go through awkward stages where your peers tease you (now called bullying), but when you're a large person, it never seems to stop. Society does not accept large people. I say large, because I have always hated the word fat.

I remember the summer of 1990 driving up to my parent's house and seeing a tall, dark, and handsome young man sitting in the front yard of the house next door. He was playing with a huge rabbit. I'm not sure what prompted me to walk over, unless it was the rabbit. I didn't know this person, but I was brave enough to go over and introduce myself. I was instantly attracted to him, but I knew it would never be possible for someone like him to want to be with someone who looked like me. I saw him outside a few times over the summer, but knew nothing would come of it. He was older and so much more intelligent than me. Again, why would he want to have anything to do with me? I was silly teenager ~ and fat! There's that word again, but it accurately described me (and still does). Thankfully for me, Walter saw through the person I saw in the mirror. We will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary in May of this coming year.

Willowdean embodies the self conscious teen I was, as well as the middle aged adult woman I have become. I don't know if reading this book will help me to remove my own mental insecurities, but she has definitely put some things into perspective for me as we move into 2017. 

I love the quotation, "I think you gotta be who you want to be until you fee like you are whoever it is you're trying to become." To me, it seems like a great mantra moving forward as we open the door to wonderful opportunities and possibilities of a new year. I also need to remember "...half of doing something is pretending that you can". I hope I can embrace my inner Dolly Parton (and Willowdean) to make 2017 the best year yet, no matter what anyone else thinks, says, or does to stop me.

Dumplin' was published in September 2015 by Balzer + Bray. I would highly recommend this book for middle and high school readers. Although the book is listed as #1 in the Dumplin' series, I see no evidence of a subsequent book.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Pattern for Pepper

The first thing I noticed when I open this book was the amazing attention to detail. The title, A Pattern for Pepper has a two-fold meaning in this book. Pattern can mean "a model or design used as a guide in needlework and other crafts" as in to make a dress, or "a repeated decorative design" as would appear on material to make a dress.

Pepper and her mother visit Mr. Taylor's shop to have a very special dress made. After Pepper's measurements are taken, Mr. Taylor takes time to introduce Pepper to a variety of different patterns in the textiles she can choose from for her dress, including herringbone, seersucker, tartan, houndstooth, Ikat, Argyle, pinstripe, dotted swiss, toile, and paisley. This introduction to textiles is extremely child friendly and informative. Mr. Taylor points out the pattern, tells the name, shows an example, and gives a one sentence definition or explanation of the patterns history. It is a perfect amount of information to get the author's point across without providing too much detail.

The illustrations are amazing. Patterns are everywhere and we generally don't take the time to see them all around us. These patterns are very obvious throughout the book in the bolts of materials, the clothing, floor, and even the lamp shape in the shop.

This book will be available for purchase in August 2017.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books has provided a complimentary electronic copy of A Pattern for Pepper for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Can You Find My Robot's Arm?

Can You Find My Robot's Arm?
by Chihiro Takuchi

Chihiro Takeuchi presents a fun story and amazing cut paper illustrations in Can You Find My Robots Arm? The intricately cut designs  force the reader to spend time looking to see if the robot's arm is in the picture or if we are merely supposed to reflect on the possibility of a substitute for the missing arm. Each subsequent page seems to get more complex and requires more scrutiny.

At the end, I came to the conclusion the robot's arm IS actually on each page, however since the arm is black and the background is also black you can't see the overlaying arm. :-) Amazing book to share with young readers.

This title will be available for purchase in July 2017.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Tundra Books, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Can You Find My Robots Arm? for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

TLA Coloring Book - A Disaster Relief Fundraising Effort

This time last year an idea was planted. It took a few weeks for it to take root, but before I knew it a fundraising effort for the Texas Library Association's (TLA) Disaster Relief Fund was blossoming. The culmination of this year long project was revealed at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas on November 5, 2016.

TLA Coloring Book, Volume One & Volume Two
The TLA Coloring Book was unveiled and available for purchase on the first day of the festival at the TLA Booth. It was promoted with a huge coloring banner located in front of the state capitol.

Five images from the coloring book were displayed on the vinyl banner. Adults and children both loved using Sharpies to add their own personality to this collaborative coloring.

As the weekend progressed the backs of the banners were used by the festival attendees to show their own creativity and artistic expression. Even though the banner idea was not my own, I felt a great deal of pride seeing everyone having fun coloring together on images I brought together. The conversations of the young and old and the smiles were powerful to see as the weekend progressed. Everyone who colored on the banner walked away with a smile.

Of the sixty-six images in the two volume set, five were included on the coloring banner.
Image donated by Steve McDonald
(Chronicle Books)

Image donated by John Parra

Image donated by Nick Bruel

Image donated by Melissa Baker

Image donated by Betty Chapman

All of the images in the coloring book were graciously donated by the artists for inclusion in this fundraising effort for the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund.  The fund started in 1999 with a raffle of the art work, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, donated by Rosemary Wells, who also donated a piece to the coloring book. Texas libraries impacted by disasters such as storms, fires, or flooding are encouraged to apply for financial support through the website. Over the years, funds have been used for a variety of reasons in libraries all across the state. Nine libraries received grants following the devastation of Hurricane Rita in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area in 2006 and eleven more grants were given to coastal libraries following Hurricane Ike three years later. In 2015 the Wimberley Village Library received a $2,000 grant to help with their photography recovery program following the devastating floods in the area.

The net proceeds from the sell of the coloring books go to the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. If you would like to purchase your own set of coloring books, they are now available online at the Texas Library Association website. The cost of the two-volume set is $20. However, if you purchase 4 sets, you will get 1 set free.

The coloring books will make a wonderful gift for all ages. In fact, it is two gifts in one because you are providing a one of a kind collection of images to color and you are helping Texas libraries who have been devastated by disaster.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of the talented artists who graciously donated their work for the coloring book. Here is a complete list of artists who contributed to the TLA Coloring Book.

  • Melissa Ann Baker
  • Winifred Barnum-Newman
  • Heidi Berthiaume
  • Sophie Blackall
  • Susan Branch
  • Lisa Powell Braun
  • Nick Bruel
  • Joe Cepeda
  • Betty Chapman
  • Sarah Cox
  • Bill Crawford
  • Christa Crawford
  • Bill DeOre
  • Tomie dePaola
  • Christopher Eliopoulos
  • Mary Ann Emerson
  • Denise Fleming
  • Brian Floca
  • Carolyn Dee Flores
  • Douglas Florian
  • AG Ford
  • Laura Freeman-Hines
  • Shinji Fujioka
  • Charlotte Garrett
  • Xavier Garza
  • Tad Hills
  • Molly Idle
  • CS Jennings
  • Pamela Johnson
  • Lita Judge
  • G. Brian Karas
  • Autumn Kinsey
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • Laura Logan
  • Loren Long
  • Rafael Lopez
  • Jeff Mack
  • Juana Martinez-Neal
  • Steve McDonald
  • Wendell Minor
  • Roxie Munro
  • Lisa Nowlain
  • Jessica Palmer
  • John Parra
  • LeUyen Pham
  • Rylie Philpot
  • Ronel D. PIerre
  • Lizzy Rockwell
  • Lynn Rowe Reed
  • Dan Santat
  • Judy Schachner
  • Maysa Sem
  • Diane Stanley
  • Elizabeth Rose Stanton
  • Mary Sullivan
  • Nicole Tadgell
  • Don Tate
  • Dan Thompson
  • Suzy Toronto
  • Evan Turk
  • Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Rosemary Wells
  • Kate Wiant
  • Salina Yoon
  • Toni Yuly
  • Paul O. Zelinsky

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Suspenseful Family Drama

I woke up extra early this morning so I could finish the book I only put down last night because I was so sleepy I could no longer focus on the words. Have I finished the book yet? No. I could make a long list of excuses, but the fact would remain I have not finished the book because I am too anxious for the ending. Is that not simply ridiculous? I don't want to finish reading the book because I am anxious to find out the ending! You'd think I was crazy.

Faultlines: a Novel
by Barbara Taylor Sissel

I have to admit I wanted to write my review of the book before finishing the book so I wouldn't ruin this wonderful story for anyone. I have never read any other book by Barbara Taylor Sissel, but after reading (almost to conclusion - as soon as I finish typing this review) Faultlines, she will definitely be added to my list of great authors. If I were to compare her to other authors I have read, I would have to say her writing style reminds me of a cross between Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult (which happen to be two of my favorites). I believe these are justifiable comparisons, not only because of the character development, but also because of the twists and turns throughout the story line. In fact, while reading I told my husband, "Wow, that was a HUGE left turn at Albuquerque!" It is one of the tings I love about these authors. You think you know where they are going and then all of a sudden they through you a curve ball.

I have a number of connections to this book. I am a native Texan (I guess that statement is kind of obvious based on the title of my blog!). I have lived my entire life in the North Texas area, but have traveled extensively throughout my life to the areas mentioned in the book. Although I do not hold the position of counselor, as one of the characters - Libby - I have worked with a number of counselors in my position as a school librarian. I know and understand the bound which can be created between a student and their school counselor. Last, but by no means least, being the mother of a son who will soon turn twenty-one, I placed myself in the position of the two mothers in this book, Sandy and Jenna. I pray I never have to actually be in their shoes, but that is one of the realities we face each day as parents. We cannot control the actions of our children, only provide them with guidance, love, and encouragement.

Like I said before I have not finished this book. I want to make that point very clear. I highly recommend this book on the portion I have read thus far (77% of the book). I will not come back and revise my review based on the ending. I don't feel I could convey a fonder appreciation for this book. I know the characters and story line will remain in my thoughts for a very long time. I now need to stop praising the writing of Faultlines and go finish the book.

*To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Lake Union Publishing, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of Faultlines for review purposes. This review is my opinion and is in no way influenced by the author or publisher.