Monday, February 28, 2011

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep! Week 3

Sorry for the delay in posting this week's giveaway!

To win this week's haul, you fill out for the form by 12 midnight Eastern next Sunday night, March 6.

You can win:

Uprising (Star Wars Rebel Force) by Alex Wheeler (paperback)
SPHDZ Book #1! by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita (hardcover)
How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog) by Art Corrveau (ARC)
Crazy Lady! by Jane Leslie Conly (paperback)
The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by Dav Pilkey (hardcover)
Brains For Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K. A. Holt (ARC)
The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop (Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hard Boiled Detective) by Nate Evans and Paul Hindman (paperback)
The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost (Humpty Dumpty, Jr., Hardboiled Detective) by Nate Evans and Paul Hindman (paperback)
Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce (ARC)

Fill out the form below to enter!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, February 25, 2011


NothingNothing Janne Teller, trans. from the Danish Martin Aitken

On the first day of Year 7, Pierre Anthon stands up and announces "Nothing matters...I've known that for a long time. So nothing's worth doing. I just realized that." He then walks out and spends the rest of his days hanging out in the plum tree outside the commune he lives on.

His classmates have been raised to believe that they matter, that they were going to amount to something, to be someone. They have to walk by Pierre Anthon's plum tree to get to and from school. When they pass, he pelts them with plums and his ideas on life "It's all a waste of time... Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you began to die. That's how it is with everything. The Earth is four billion, six hundred million years old, and you're going to reach one hundred at the most! It's not even worth the bother."

His plums and words find sore spots, and they set out to prove him wrong. The best way the class can think of to prove life has meaning is to make a heap of the things they find meaningful in their lives. Some are objects (sandals you waited for all summer) some are symbols (the flag, the church's crucifix). But it's quickly apparent that the students don't want to part with things that really mean the most to them, so the other students decide. Once you're forced to give up what's most meaningful, you pick the next student and what they have to give up.

It gets dark quickly as the students start choosing objects in revenge for what they were forced to lose.

And then... when the heap is finished. Will it still be enough to convince Pierre Anthon that he's wrong?

I love the language in this book.

"Nothing matters," he announced. "I've known that for a long time. So nothing's worth doing. I just realized that." Calm and collected, he bent down and put everything he had just taken out back into his bag. he nodded good-bye with a disinterested look and left the classroom without closing the door behind him.

The door smiled. It was the first time I'd seen it do that. Pierre Anthon left the door ajar like a grinning abyss that would swallow me up into the outside with im if only I let myself go. Smiling at whom? At me, at us. I looked around the class. The uncomfortable silence told me that others had felt it too.

We were supposed to amount to something.

Something was the same as someone, and even if nobody ever said so out loud, it was hardly left unspoken, either. It was just in the air, or in the time, or in the fence surrounding the school, or in our pillows, or in the soft toys that after having served us so loyally had now been unjustly discarded and left to gather dust in attics or basements. I hadn't known. Pierre Anthon's smiling door told me. I still didn't know with my mind, but all the same I knew.

All of a sudden I was scared. Scared of Pierre Anthon.

Scared, more scared, most scared.
(page 5-6)

Agnes is our narrarator, but she's a bit anonymous-- she functions more as an every student. I do, however, love her habit of repeating important words three times at different levels of extreme (hard, harder, hardest).

I love the language. I love when a translated work gives us a flavor of the language it was written in not by sprinkling the English with the original language, but by giving us a different turn of phrase, a different lyricism, a different rhythm-- when it makes us look at our own native tongue differently.

It's almost sparse in places, but that helps with the tension and the loss and the uncertainty.

I also love how damn sure these kids were that Pierre Anthon was wrong, and how much they had to prove it to him. Because they knew he might be right, but they fight his nihilism with everything they have because they can't live in a world where nothing matters.

I like such optimism in such a dark and morbid tale and it's that optimism that drives them to do such things. It's a bit perverse now that I write it out like that.

I also like how well we get to know the students solely by what they were asked to give up and how they react.

This was both a Batchelder and Printz honor title, which I think it deserves. It also won several awards in Europe.

It's one of those slight books that packs a lot of punch. I've been carrying it around for days to write about it, but every time I sat down, I wanted to think about it more. It's haunting that way.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


RevolutionRevolution Jennifer Donnelly

For some reason when everyone was raving about this book my main thought was "probably not for me." Something about the way it was described made me believe that it was probably awesome, but... just not for me.

I can't remember what finally made me pick it up. Just so I could say I had read it? Possibly.

I loved it. I really did.

Basic plot-- Andi's family falls apart after the death of her little brother. Andi blames herself and has fallen into a very self-destructive pattern. Her father wasn't around that much before Truman died, but he's officially left town and is now with his lab assistant. Andi's mother has gone crazy.

When her father finally learns that Andi's about the fail out of school and won't graduate, he comes back to Brooklyn to drag her to Paris so she can write her senior thesis outline-- her one chance at graduation. He also checks her mother into a mental hospital.

Andi's father is in Paris to do genetic testing on a heart that may or may not belong to Louis-Charles, the youngest son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Andi's researches her thesis on the music of Amade Malherbeau and his influence on later musicians to the modern day. While Paris is the best place to research Malherbeau's life (it's where he lived and composed) it doesn't get Andi's mind off things. Louis-Charles has Truman's eyes.

And then Andi finds a diary of Alex, a street performer who was Louis-Charles's companion and caught up in the horrors of the Revolution...

I like that, even though it's two stories in one, the focus stays on Andi. I was also wondering how the two were going to come together. How they did was... unexpected, but I liked it.*

Andi is so unpleasant, but the portrait of someone torn about by grief and guilt is so well done. I loved the solace she found in music and the advice of her guitar teacher.

Also... finding solace in classical guitar? Nice choice.

OH! And I looooooooooooooooooooooooved how human Marie Antoinette was. I haven't read a lot of fictional accounts of the French Revolution, so I don't have a huge basis for comparison, BUT, in popular culture she's portrayed as such a monster. I loved seeing a portrait of her as a mother and person.

I didn't find Alex's story as gripping, but I loved how taken Andi was with it and I think that if we hadn't been able to read what Andi was reading, we would have really lost what Andi was feeling and how important Alex became to her.

I was utterly engrossed in the story, and even though it's pretty lengthy (472 pages) I couldn't put it down and read it quickly (not that it's a quick read, just that when you read it CONSTANTLY...)

I'm not sure how I feel about the epilogue... I think I needed something more immediate and less nice, BUT overall, yes, this is a wonderful book and I'll add my voice to everyone else's.

*Slight spoiler-- I totally thought that Alex would end up being Malherbeau and that Malherbeau's big mystery was that he was really a she. Glad that I was wrong!

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sphinx's Queen

Sphinx's Queen (Princesses of Myth)Sphinx's Queen Esther Friesner

This is the sequel to Sphinx's Princess and I didn't like it as much.

After being accused and found guilty of killing the crown prince's cat, Nefertiti is on the run with her freed slave Nava and Prince Amenophis. They have several harrowing escapes as they make their way down the Nile to the Pharaoh, hoping he'll listen to Nefertiti's case. But even if they reach Pharaoh, it may not be enough.

After everything that happened in the last book and everything that happens in this one, Nefertiti's naivete about court life and her aunt's political machinations starts to be... annoying. Yes, she shows great strength of character, but if she can't see what's going on in front of her, how will she ever be a great queen and keep her household under control, let alone the kingdom? Also, if she can't quickly learn such lessons after everything that's happened to her... dude.I also found the ending a little too tidy and neat.

Overall, I didn't think these two books were as strong as Nobody's Princess and Nobody's Prize, probably because with the Helen books, Friesner had more source material to work with.

It looks like these four books are now labeled as "Princesses of Myth" which makes me think we'll see some more in the coming years. I really enjoyed the Helen books and the Nefertiti ones were pleasant reads even if they didn't live up to the earlier ones. So, I'll be keeping an eye on what's coming next.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Congratulations to Heather of Merlin Writes for winning Week 1 of the My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep giveaway.

There's lots of time to enter week 2, and many more weeks to come, so keep entering! I need to get these books out of my house so I can put in the crib!

Nonfiction Monday: The War to End All Wars

The War to End All Wars: World War IThe War to End All Wars: World War I Russell Freedman

Ok, so, no surprise that Freedman has once again written an outstanding book for tweens. Not only is it wonderfully written, but it's beautifully designed and makes a great use of visual materials, such as photographs.

But all of that was a pretty safe assumption to make before even looking at the book. That's what Freedman's known for.

What we have here is a solid introduction to WWI-- it's causes, how it went, American involvement, and how it ended. I most appreciated the last chapter-- "Losing the Peace" which explores how the harsh terms imposed on Germany and the failure of the League of Nations directly led to WWII.

Freedman makes excellent use of first-hand accounts, letters, diaries, and field orders to really paint what conditions were like in the trenches.

The book mostly focuses on the Western front, but does discuss the Eastern front briefly in the beginning of the war and what led to the Central Powers/Russian peace, both in terms of the war and the revolution. It also covers the Italian front, which doesn't get a lot of coverage! It mentions that Japan declared war on Germany, but doesn't go into what that meant in practical terms. In the last chapter, it would have been an interesting note to include the ramifications of giving Germany's concessions in China to Japan instead of returning them to the Chinese and how that effected the Pacific theater in WWII. I would also have liked a little more information on how soldiers from European colonies were used and a more than a mention of the fact that German colonies were also attacked.

But... that's me nitpicking. I already know a decent amount about WWI and have a special interest in early 20th century Chinese politics and modern colonial issues.  I did really appreciate the coverage that was given to the African-American regiments when the US joined the war. I didn't know that they fought with and were equipped by the French.

Even though I knew most of what this book covers (although I didn't realize that the anti-German sentiment of WWI is what made the royal family change their name to Windsor) it was still an engrossing read.

A word of caution-- there are a lot of battlefield photos in this book. They are stunning and used for maximum effect in an excellently designed package. BUT, battlefield photos means dead bodies. It's not gruesome, but I'm sure some people would like the heads up.

Round up is over at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian (what a great blog name!)

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep! Week 2

Last week's giveaway ends at midnight tonight, so there are still a few more hours to enter.

But! It's time for another one! You have until midnight (Eastern) on February 27 to enter. The books are more early middle grade books for girls.

You get

My Best Frenemy by Julie Bowe (ARC)
Keena Ford and the Secret Journal Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson (Autographed ARC)
Ruby and the Booker Boys: Slumber Party Payback by Derrick Barnes (paperback)
Ruby and the Booker Boys: Ruby Flips For Attention by Derrick Barnes (paperback)

In order to enter, fill out the form below. I'll destroy all information once a winner is picked and I'll never share it. International entries are ok.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


MatchedMatched Ally Condie

In the Society everything is regulated and controlled. In their 17th year, teenagers are matched-- assigned their spouse. Cassia is lucky in that she's matched with her best friend, Xander. Not only is it extremely rare to be matched with someone from your town-- someone you actually know, but Xander's a great guy and Cassia couldn't be happier, even if she is a bit nervous about how this changes their friendship and relationship.

But, after the matching banquet, Cassia sticks in the microcard to learn more about Xander (not that there's anything else to know, but... well... you would too), but it's not Xander's face, it's Ky's. An Official comes to her that night, already knowing what's happened, saying someone played a cruel joke and to forget it. Ky can never be Matched-- his father was an Anomaly (and Anomalies are dangerous), making Ky an Aberration. Cassia's known Ky for most of her life, but now she starts to really see him and starts to fall in love.

Cassia's never questioned Society, but she can't choose Ky, and as she learns more of his backstory, and sees the actions of her parents and Grandfather, she starts to see cracks in the perfection.

In their review of Delirium, Forever Young Adult said "Y’all, I’ve been growing a bit weary of dystopia, esp. since it’s the new vampire." And you know what, IT'S TRUE.

So much dystopia lately. And I'm not anti-dystopia, I actually love it, but there's just been a lot lately. I can't read it all.

Then YALSA-BK had a conversation last month about books we didn't like and a lot of commentators said that Matched had been over-hyped and didn't live up to the hype. I already had it checked out and it was overdue, which I see more as a challenge to READ IT NOW rather than a "just return it and get it later" because apparently I have a messed-up brain (but you regular readers knew that already, didn't you?)

ANYWAY! Between the claims of it being over-hyped and dystopia burnout, I was a little trepidatious but so many people I tend to have similar tastes with loved it and...

I did, too. It doesn't break a lot of new ground-- there's a reason I keep seeing it compared to The Giver-- their societies are very, very similar. But I liked Cassia's awakening, and I liked the tension. I liked that neither Ky nor Xander were perfect, but they also weren't bad boys. Both were excellent choices, which made the tension that much more awesome. I liked the underground economy in deleted material and I liked the ending.

I also liked that, yes, there will be a sequel (it's a trilogy) but this book stands by itself perfectly well. I'll read the next one because I liked this one, but I don't need another one.

Also, I like this trend towards planned trilogies instead of loooooooooooong series. We get a few books to revisit favorite characters and worlds, but aren't strung along For.Ever.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz with 21 Activities (For Kids series)Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz with 21 Activities Stephanie Stein Crease

I'm still working through my backlog of Cybils 2009 reviews-- trying to turn my notes into why or why not a book was on my short list into an actual useful review is hard y'all!

Anyway, this is a biography of the great American composer and band leader, Duke Ellington.

It's comprehensive and does a good job of tying the changes in Ellington's life and career in with the broader social changes happening at the same time. There are several pull-out boxes with extra information on everything from new advances in related technology and biographies of the musicians and composers Ellington worked with to information on broader trends of the time.

The other thing this book has is 21 activities that readers can do to explore different parts of Ellington's story. These activities include everything from baking corn bread (a popular rent party food during the Harlem Renaissance) and designing album covers to building instruments and writing your own jazz improvisations.

Overall though, I found the book uneven. It was interesting, but the tone often seemed to be talking down to kids. Kinda like 'and then Ellington did this! Wasn't that neat?' One random example can be found on page 19 "Many of you might be scratching your heads by now. What kind of role model was Ellington anyway? A high school dropout? A ladies' man? Today, leaving high school would be considered a mistake with a capital "M"! But times were very different then."

Also, I couldn't tell which age group the activities were for. Anything involving a stove or exacto knife was labeled "adult supervision required" and some included blowing across bottle tops and changing the water level to change the sound, or making a toilet-paper tube rhythm shaker. But a lot of the music-based activities assumed a pretty solid background in performance and theory-- like being able to sight-sing or knowing what a B flat 7 chord is. And, when Stein did try to explain more complicated theory concepts (like syncopation) I thought they were confusing, and I'm an adult with many years of music theory study under my belt.

Overall though, I think kids will find it an interesting read, and it's a different type of biography that might appeal to kids who don't like to/want to read a biography, and this time of year, EVERYONE has a biography project to do.

Today's nonfiction round up is over at Wrapped in Foil. Be sure to check it out!

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils 2009 consideration

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep!

I've had to do some serious weeding to make room for our new family member. My loss is your gain! Every week (hopefully) I'll be giving away some of these books to a lucky reader. All you have to do is fill out the form below by midnight (Eastern time), February 20 (so you have until Sunday late night.) I'll use the random number generator to pick and entry and voila!

This week's prize pack has a China theme.

That's an ARC of  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (middle grade fiction)
An ARC of  Year of the Tiger by Alison Lloyd (middle grade fiction)
A hardcover copy of Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution by Moying Li (teen nonfiction)
A hardcover copy of Chenxi and the Foreigner by Sally Rippin (teen fiction)
A paperback copy of Mao's Last Dancer: Young Readers' Edition by Li Cunxin (teen nonfiction)
A hardcover copy of Along the River: A Chinese Cinderella Novel by Adeline Yen Mah (teen fiction)

Book Provided by...

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Melissa de la Cruz Interview!

I'm very excited to welcome the wonderful Melissa de la Cruz back to Biblio File. She's stopping by as part of her blog tour for the latest Blue Bloods book, Bloody Valentine.

I'm loving this in-between books that give us further insight to the Blue Bloods story. Will we see more of them?

Probably not in the near future, right now I am concentrating on the novels, since the story is really heating up in Book Six. But who knows. I always envisioned Blue Bloods as a huge world, a big universe, so never say never.

Will we get more of Allegra's back story? The one included in Bloody Valentine just whet my appetite for more.

Oh yes, there is a lot about Allegra in Lost in Time. I'm starting to peel back all those layers and reveal the core of her story.

You included a recipe in Oliver's story and the book says we'll see more of Freya in your adult summer release, Witches of East End. Do you like to cook? Will you please share your favorite recipe with us?

I love to cook but never have time, and there are a few more spellcipes in Witches of East End. My one go-to dish that I can still make, other than Mario Batali's insane sausage and chestnut stuffing at Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a penne pasta with broccoli and sausage. It's a variation on the one in the Joy of Cooking. Penne, garlic, broccoli, Italian sausage, red pepper. Cook the garlic and the sausage and the broccoli in that order. Cook the penne according to the directions on the box. You can add the red pepper in the beginning or the end. Combine everything and grate Parmigiano Reggiano over the top (the king of cheeses according to Mario Batali - I still miss his show “Molto Mario”) So easy even a writer can make it. :)

So far the mythology of vampires-as-fallen-angels has been very Christian and heavily influenced by Milton. In Misguided Angel, we get to really meet Deming Chen and hear about her twin Dehua. Deming is the Angel of Mercy, whom you name after the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Dehua is the Angel of Immortality, whom you name after the Queen of the West, who's the Chinese goddess of immortality. Why did you decide to bring in other religions? Will we see more of this blending? What steps (if any) do you think authors need to take when tweaking the characters and story of a faith that isn't theirs?

I always envisioned Blue Bloods as the alternate "true" history of the world, so of course other religions, and other faiths would be part of it from the beginning. I don't really see it as blending, since for me Blue Bloods follows a literary tradition - Milton's Paradise Lost is a literary work, not a religious one. So I don't feel tied to a certain religion, Blue Bloods was influenced by myths and legends, most of which are in the Christian tradition since that's what I grew up in. But most of the angel mythology I based it on is from Muslim and Hebrew myths.

I think authors should feel free to do what they want, faith-based stories have resonance, but we should feel free to create our art without worrying about offending, I don't believe in self-censorship at all. It's art, it's not religion.

In addition to Blue Bloods and the spin-off series which will start in next spring, you have a new adult series coming out this summer. What's the difference between writing for teens and adults?

Not much when it comes to my writing. Readers can still expect a fun, romantic, epic story, with great strong heroines and heroes to fall in love with. The only difference for me is that I get to explore more adult issues: pregnancy, adultery, politics, the questions are less "who am I" or "what will I grow up to be" and "I have so much promise" and more "this is who I am, now I have to deal with it."

What's your favorite way to spend Valentine's day?

We always go out to dinner a few days before, just the two of us, I hate going to restaurants and seeing all the couples celebrating V-D day all in row. Something about it feels...robotic and depressing. On Valentine's Day now that we have a kid we usually go to a family dinner which is how I grew up, my parents always took everyone out on Valentine's Day and we all got presents, not just Mom and Pop. It was a fancy dinner and the kids had to dress up too and that was always fun. And presents are always fun of course. Presents in tiny jewelry boxes and a huge bouquet of flowers from a swanky Beverly Hills florist is a must. I'm so practical though, whenever I see flowers I think "that was a lot to spend on something that will last one week." So I'd rather just have a pretty arrangement and not a bombastic one. Especially when it all comes from the same bank account anyway. :)

What's your most horrifying Valentine's moment?

Oh god, probably the time a guy I was good friends with that I had a crush on, invited me to dinner at his apartment and I thought we were celebrating Valentine's Day and I was so excited to take our friendship to the next level but then nothing happened and then later I found out he was dating some other friend of ours and he was calling her on the phone the whole time I was there. What an ego slam! I've forgiven him though, we're still friends, and god we were young then. Now I know better, and since I met my husband fifteen years ago, every Valentine's Day has been great.

What's the funniest Candy Heart saying?

I had to do a little internet digging and found out that one of the sayings they had to discontinue was "You are Gay" (from the 1950s or something). So sad! I would have loved to buy a bunch and given them all out to my main gays. They would say "Yes. Yes I am. Thanks Mel. Happy V-D day."

What's the best Valentine's candy?

I always like champagne truffles from Teuscher.

What's the best song to slow dance to?

We danced to "Seventeen Again" by Annie Lennox at our wedding. That was our song. "And it feeeels like I'm seventeen again...." No wonder I write for teens!

Thanks for stopping by Melissa! Happy Valentine's Day!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bloody Valentine

Bloody Valentine (A Blue Bloods Book) (Blue Bloods Novel)Bloody Valentine Melissa de la Cruz

Taking place after Misguided Angel and before October's Lost in Time, this is another one of the short in-between books, like Keys to the Repository, but better.

Unlike Keys to the Repository, this book doesn't have a lot of background information that fans already know. This is rather a collection of short stories that give deep backstory or move the action forward.

We have one set in New York that shows Oliver's life without Schuyler and gives us a glimpse of de la Cruz's adult summer release Witches of East End. We get the story of Allegra and Charles in high school and the beginning of Allegra's relationship with Schuyler's father. AND! AND! AND! Schuyler and Jack are planning their bonding ceremony, if they can escape all the Venators chasing them!

I loved Schuyler and Jack's story, because I just love Schuyler in general, but I found Allegra's story much more fascinating. We got part of her back story in Misguided Angel and now we're getting even more (with hints back to "what happened in Florence") and I like these clues coming together that I feel are going to add up to something big, but we're still missing some big pieces of the puzzle.

It's a great book for fans to hold us over until October. I like how much this one adds, not only to the Blue Bloods universe, but also to the immediate story arc. In many series, in-between books like this can be filler material that fans will enjoy anyway, because they're fans, but they really aren't important to the overall series. This one is. There are clues and plot points that are going to have huge repercussions in the series, so pick it up!

Also, stop by tomorrow when I'll be interviewing Melissa de la Cruz herself!

Book Provided by... the publicist, for blog tour.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Hi There

No review today, but rather a post of news and the like.

Things in my real life have been cray-cray lately. We had the holidays! Then ALA Midwinter! Then my parents came to visit and rearrange my entire house as we bought new furniture and got rid of furniture and started converting the guest room/office into a nursery (wait, I'm sorry-- it's now called Multipurpose Room 1). Then I went to China for a few weeks.

Hopefully things should settle out here soon. I am really behind in writing reviews and the ones I have written lately are for books that aren't coming out for a few months, so I'm not going to post them yet. (Although I'll tell you know that I loved Withering Tights and Where She Went blew me away even more than If I Stay. And you will all need to read Back When You Were Easier to Love when it comes out.)

I will update my YALSA election page soon. I'm really excited about the opportunity to run for the Excellence in Nonfiction Award Committee and I hope my regular readers know my passion for nonfiction and I hope that new readers will be able to see it.

I'm also working on a big presentation on multi-cultural and international literature for teens for this spring's Maryland Library Association Conference. When I have notes and slides and a book list, I'll post them here. Also, that should give you a hint for what types of reviews you'll be seeing from me this spring.

At Midwinter, I was talking to some fellow librarian bloggers about the possibility of a story time blog. Would you read it? Basically, once or twice a week (depending on my story time schedule that week) I would post what I did for story time-- which rhymes I read, which books I read and any notes on how it went. I do a weekly story time for infants (newborn-12months) and every few weeks do one for 3-5 year olds (it happens 3 times a week at our library, I'm just person doing it every few weeks.) I also envision occasionally posting videos demonstrating how I act out various rhymes. (My Hickory Dickory Dock is not to be missed.) I have to prep all the material anyway, so if people are interested, I might as well share it, right?

AND! As we rearrange the house (and our lives) to make room for the upcoming birth of our daughter (yes! it's a girl!) this June, I've had to do some serious weeding of my books. Starting this weekend I'm starting a HUGE! GIVEAWAY! SERIES! titled "My baby needs a place to sleep" it will hopefully happen every week and let me find a new home for my books.

So that is the news from here. I should be back on schedule soon. Thanks for bearing with me!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

Good Morning All!

What's the first thing you do when you wake up? Is it groan and moan while you reach for the snooze button? Blindly make coffee? Grumble about everything you have to do that day and how you don't want to do it? (Ok, maybe that's just me)

Do you ever take the time to wake up and appreciate the gift of each new day? To thank God for giving you such a blessing?

I know I don't. But such thanks are part of the Jewish morning prayers, a daily ritual for many Orthodox Jews, but many of us more liberal Jews don't necessarily say it, especially not every morning.

Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book (Hebrew Edition)In her Sydney Taylor Honor Award winning book for Young Readers, Sarah Gershman gives families a gorgeous picture book to read in the morning, making the morning prayers, Modeh Ani, accessible for young children. Her Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book pairs nicely with her previous book, The Bedtime Sh'ma.

I'm delighted to have Sarah Gershman here this morning to talk about her new book!

You have a bedtime book of the Sh'ma for young readers. While many Jews are familiar with the Sh'ma, they might not be as familiar with the Modeh Ani. What tips can you give to parents who want to start working this morning ritual into their lives?

There are some wonderful artistic interpretations of Modeh Ani. Find one you like and hang it over your child/ren's bed. This can serve as a beautiful reminder to being the day with this prayer of gratitude. In our family, it also helps to say it right when we first wake up, before beginning our other morning rituals (getting dressed, etc.)

How did you choose which selections from the morning prayer to include in this book? How did you decide which ones to do only in interpretation and which ones to include in Hebrew? What special considerations do you think should be taken into account when teaching religion to young children?

I tried to choose excerpts that young children would most connect to. The theme of the book is really gratitude. So I tried to find prayers that lent themselves to being interpreted as expressions of gratitude for the most fundamental blessings in our lives.

We chose only to have the Sh'ma itself in Hebrew - so to parallel with the Bedtime Sh'ma.

I have found that talking about God comes very naturally to young children. When talking to my own young children about God and religion, I try to keep it simple. There is plenty of time for later for more complex understandings.

Many Jews do not write out God and instead use a substitute, such as G-d. However, throughout your book, you use God. Why did you make this decision and do you have a response to those who are critical of it (I noticed it came up in the Amazon reviews of the Bedtime Sh'ma.)

My main motivation was to make the book accessible to people of all backgrounds. That being said, there are also Rabbinic opinions that say that writing God in English is not the same thing as writing God's full name in Hebrew. We were careful not to do that in the Hebrew portions of the book, as well as on the Bedtime Sh'ma CD.

Blogger's Note: This is what my Rabbi says, too. He has a very long and fascintating explanation that I would butcher if I were to share it here, so I won't, but in case you wonder why I don't write G-d, that would be why.

The illustrations of a young child waking up, getting ready, and going about her day bring this prayer to life. Were you able to work at all with the illustrator or have any say over the illustrations? What's it like to see your words come back with someone else's pictures attached to them?

Just as in the Bedtime Sh'ma, Kristina Swarner understand the vision for the book with relatively little guidance from me. I wrote a sentence or two with each page - suggesting my vision for an illustration and she took it from there. My biggest worry was that the book would look too similar to the Bedtime Sh'ma. I love the way it turned out. I think Kristina manages to have a consistent style, while still making it clear that this is a morning book.

What's your favorite breakfast food?

Poached eggs and toast! Oh, and a delicious fruit smoothie.

Thank you so much for stopping by and congratulations again on the well-deserved award!

Everyone be sure and check out the rest of the blog tour for interviews with all the winners and honorees in all the categories. It's a great list of books this year-- don't miss out!

Book Provided by... my wallet

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