Get Happy

WP_20140718_004 (1)

Get Happy by Mary Amato

7 word summary:  Ukulele?  Relationship with dad?  Min can dream…

YA. Realistic fiction. Stand-alone novel. ©2014. Share with ages 12-16.

Living at home with an organizational-focused mom, Minerva wants nothing more than to dress in thrift-shop finds and own a uke (that’s ukulele). To earn money, she signs on with the Get Happy party business with her BFF Fin. Min’s sure it’d be easier if she had a dad around, but her mom shuts down all conversation about him and dismisses him as having never cared for Min.  Meeting new friends Cassie and Hayes at work and discovering long-buried relics of her past, Min works through the teen angst years with raw honesty and emotion. Amato’s written a brilliant portrayal of a teen girl just trying to find her way in the world when parts are purposely hidden “for her own good”.

Advance Reader Copy courtesy of ALA 2014.

The Pet War


The Pet War by Allan Woodrow

7 word summary: Siblings compete, earning money to win pet.

Realistic fiction. Stand alone novel. ©2013. Share with ages 8-11.

Otto loves dogs, and is desperate to get one. His older sister Lexi wants a cat – yuk! Mom’s idea: whoever can earn $500 in a month can choose the pet. Now…how to earn the money? Otto’s ideas are typical 11-year-old boy, from the unrealistic (starring in reality tv) to the boring (hosting a magic show).   Lexi, though, seems to have no trouble. As they both learn, earning $500 in a month is a lot harder than expected. A male protagonist leads a story full of perseverance and determination with only a bit of sugar-coating in the end.

Tuesdays at the Castle


Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

7 word summary: Planning to overtake this magical castle? Unfortunate.

Fantasy, adventure. First in series. Reads well as a stand-alone.  ©2011.  Share with ages 8-12.

When the King and Queen go missing and are pronounced dead, Princess Cecilia can’t believe it. Their home, Castle Glover, hasn’t changed…and Castle Glover is always changing. Expanding and shrinking, it has a personality of its own. It also likes Celie best. When a coup of the throne is planned, Celie and her siblings come together to fight for justice as well as the truth of the whereabouts of the King and Queen. Fast-paced and kid-friendly (read: very little violence), this page-turner will keep even the most reluctant readers entertained.

A quick guide for attending ALA (or any other national conference)

DSCN1570 (1)

I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few major lit-related conferences across the country, including ALA Midwinter, ALA Annual, AASL and IRA.  My rookie conference, in my hometown of Atlanta when I was in library school, was a learning experience in more ways than expected.  I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t prepared. This is what I learned – the hard way – about having a successful and enjoyable conference experience.

Before you go:

  1. Pack/wear comfortable shoes.  Save the flip-flops for another day, since you’ll be walking more than you anticipate (especially if you like to spend time on the exhibit floor, like I do).
  2. Bring band-aids…just in case.  And ibuprofen.  :)
  3. Bring a comfortable bag/pack instead of a purse.  Backpacks and cross-body bags are great for carrying your freebies. No rolling bags are usually allowed.
  4. Pack the right office supplies: sticky notes (for tabbing your conference notebook), pencils/pens, highlighter, business cards (to enter drawings on the exhibit floor), address labels (to enter specific drawings/raffles listed in the conference notebook that require you to write down your info.  Address labels work just as well!)
  5. Bring cash.  Book sales usually accept cash/check, though paying in cash is just easier.
  6. Pack snacks and a water bottle.  Protein-filled bars and jerky are packable body food for the days that you don’t make it off the exhibit floor.  For me, lunches at conference are usually spent waiting to meet an author/illustrator that I love.
  7. Spend some time browsing the conference webpage.  Usually, you can create a virtual calendar of events and speakers to attend/see before arriving at the conference center.
  8. If you’re flying: have a plan on how to get your freebies back home, because you’ll have plenty.  Pack light, pack an extra bag, use the conference post office…

When you get to the conference center:

  1. Pick up your registration ASAP.
  2. Flip through the book and fill out every entry for raffles from vendors.  Use your address labels!  Tear these out and carry them with you, entering the raffles on the dates specified.  (Note: I’ve won a couple of amazing raffles this way, as have friends.  It’s worth your time!)
  3. If you’re from out-of-town, locate the post office.  Most lit-related conferences have one.  Shipping home books at book-rate will save you from lugging them around the exhibit floor.  Plus, your hands and back will thank you.

Once you’re on the exhibit floor:

  1. Be thoughtful in what free bags you pick up to carry your loot.  Those adorable bags with the rope handles will eat into your palms once they’re loaded down with books (and you will be loaded down).
  2. Galleys – pre-publication books – are everywhere.  They’re usually paperbacks and can be in large piles on tables or the floor.  They are free for the taking.  Keep in mind that different galleys are released throughout the conference.
  3. If you want to see a specific author/illustrator, get in line early.  Lines can get very long for the celebrities of the literature world.
  4. Don’t be afraid to talk to publishers and exhibitors!  They more you network, the more you will discover (like that the galley you really want is releasing tomorrow at 12p).
  5. Take pictures!  My phone is my BFF during conference: I take pictures of books, displays, authors…you name it.    Attending conference is such a big deal that you’ll want some pictures to remember it by!
  6. HAVE FUN!  Everyone is there to have a good time.  Don’t fret if you missed the session you really wanted or the author you wanted to see: have a back-up plan and make the best of an amazing resource!

Vegas, here I come!

PrintI’m heading down to the American Library Association Annual Conference tomorrow morning, which happens to be in Las Vegas this year. To say that I am So Excited is a large understatement. I *love* ALA’s conferences, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few. The annual summer conference, though, is the granddaddy of them all: tons of exhibitors, galleys galore, amazing book-themed sessions, networking and connecting, and the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet!

I should be packing right now. I’ve got stuff scattered throughout my house: itineraries, business cards, clothes…and shoes. Always shoes. Too many shoes! In fact, Shoe Dog would love my house! I’m trying to pack super-light: less space for shoes equals more space to bring back books, after all!



No promises, but I’ll do my best to check in and post during Conference. I promise tons of photos of the newest books and ideas out there (my phone’s camera is my favorite note-taking device!). And, of course, pics from the banquet honoring Kate DiCamillo and Brian Flora.

Now, back to packing and shoe de-selection!

Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade


Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade by Stephanie Greene

7 word review: New classmates? Monsters in school? Posey’s worried…

Realistic fiction. Series (Princess Posey #1). Reads well as a stand-alone. Share with ages 5-8.

Almost a first grader, Posey is preparing for the first day of school. As nervous as she is, though, one thing always makes her feel brave and strong: her pink tutu. When Mom tells her that she can’t wear it to school – it’s dress up clothing, after all – Posey is more worried than ever. But when she meets her empathetic first grade teacher and expresses her fear, a brilliantly creative solution to Posey’s problem is created. Appealing type and white space, a scattering of b/w illustrations, a solid plot and a personable main character make this an outstanding addition to the beginner reader genre. Highly recommended.

Side note: my girl J – a rising 2nd grader – was enchanted with Posey!

Grasshopper Jungle


Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

7 word summary: Two teens accidentally create giant mutant grasshoppers.

YA, science fiction, fantasy. Stand-alone novel. Share with ages 14+.

Best friends Austin and Robbie live in the middle of nowhere Iowa, smoke entirely too many cigarettes, and attend Lutheran school. When school bullies attack them for their sexuality – Robbie’s gay, Austin’s got a girlfriend but he’s confused – Robbie’s blood becomes fuel for a soon-to-be-released mutant strain from 1960’s experimentation. This strain takes over human bodies, creating huge praying mantises that do two things: eat (humans, of course) and breed.  As much as the story is a fantasy, the focus is on the characters: Austin and Robbie and Shan (the girlfriend) are as realistic as teens come. Unlike anything ever written, Smith’s story is unbridled, creative storytelling at its best.

Side note: Grasshopper Jungle just won the 2014 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Fiction.  And Sony picked up its rights for a potential movie.