Saturday, May 23, 2015

Great First Lines: Middle Grade Edition

The Summer Reading Program is coming, and one of my favorite things about this time of year is visiting elementary schools and talking to the students about books and reading. I love having elementary school students judge books by their covers and first lines. A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on great first lines in young adult fiction; today, I'm sharing the great first lines from the books I took to my elementary school visits, along with the students' reactions.

"The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October."
--The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Not surprisingly, the kids didn't love that first line, but they did love the cover of the book.

"The way I see it, I stopped being a kid on April 12, 1951."
--Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

This was another first line they didn't love, but the students asked me to keep reading, and by the time we got through the first four (short) paragraphs, they were hooked.

"There were so many dead bodies stuffed into Gram's freezer chest that it was kind of like wandering through a cryonics lab."
--Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard

The kids loved this line so much that they asked me to read it a second time.

"'Stay out of trouble.' Kids hear that all the time, and most of the time, we barely pay attention. But when an FBI agent says it, and it's the fourth time in two weeks that you've been to the federal building in Boston? You listen."
--Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting by Erin Dionne

This was actually the first three paragraphs of the book, and this was one book that had a variety of reactions. Some kids liked it, some didn't, and most were undecided.

"Rye and her two friends had never intended to steal the banned book from the Angry Poet--they'd just hoped to read it."
--The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

Most of the kids liked this line, and why not? I'm intrigued enough by characters stealing a banned book from an angry poet, and the kids were, too.

"I was on my tippy-toes, bouncing up and down on the first step of the bus, stuck behind my second cousin, Danisha, and her melon-sized butt."
--Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

This line got a ton of laughs, which was what I was going for. One class had me read it a second time just because they thought it was hilarious.

"Of all the items that can clog your plumbing, an overweight Arctic mammal is probably the worst."
--Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done by Stephan Pastis

Some of the kids liked this line, but most didn't, which surprised me.

"In the shadow of our apple tree, looking out across a river at a city full of glass and whispers, I take my dad's hand and watch our enemy fly toward us."
--The Dark Wild by Piers Torday

Everyone loved this line, which wasn't a surprise.

"'Elliot von Doppler, you come down here right now or I swear, I'll boil you in soup and serve you to your father'!"
--The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston

I've used this book two years in a row at these events, and each time, almost everyone loved it.

What are your favorite first lines in middle grade fiction? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jewish American Heritage Month

President Bush proclaimed May to be Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) in 2006. In 2013, President Obama echoed the first proclamation, declaring that

Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts. Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women's rights to workers' rights to the end of segregation... More than 350 years have passed since Jewish refugees first made landfall on American shores. We take this month to celebrate the progress that followed, and the bright future that lies ahead.

You can read more about New Mexico's Jewish heritage at the City of Albuquerque site,  and New Mexico is featured in 50 States/50 Stories, a collection of  "colorful, enlightening, and surprising stories about the accomplishments and contributions of American Jewish men and women who have helped to weave the fabric of American history, culture, and society."

Here are a few items on Jewish American heritage to consider:

To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico by Stanley M. Hordes

A History of the Jews in New Mexico by Henry J. Tobias

It's a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba: The Latin-Jewish Musical Story - 1940s-1980s [CD]

Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart 

The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America by Beth S. Wenger 

MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman

Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity by Lila Corwin Berman [eBook]

Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History in the American West by Jeanne E. Abrams [eBook]


What To Read During Jewish American Heritage Month [Book Riot]

Essential Readings in American Jewish History [American Jewish Historical Society]

Jewish American Heritage Month 
Portal of the JAHM Coalition, convened by convened by United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America), The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS).

Jewish American Heritage Month [.gov]
 This Web portal is a collaborative project of the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Abq Jew
Your guide to Jewish Life in Albuquerque and beyond.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make a Beautiful Mess!

Because I have trouble cutting a straight line with scissors, I am not much of a do-it-yourself-er, but I revere the art that it is and love looking at books on the subject!  I think it is so special to be able to personalize projects to be just how you want them, and then to make them yourself.  It's magic to me.

My current favorite in this vein is from the creators of A Beautiful Mess, which is comprised of two of the most adorable sisters you've ever seen - Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman.  They have created two books so far, but they were originally bloggers and do a ton of work online at their site, A Beautiful Mess.  They have also created two top selling apps in the iTunes store, their own product line, and their own company.  Whoa!  Not only are these women super cute, they are inspiring in a make-you-want-to-do-what-you-really-want-to-do-with-your-life sort of way.

Let me introduce you to their two books, if you haven't met (and maybe you have; I tend to be a little behind the times).  One is a fantastic photo-inspiration book, the kind that both novices and professionals can benefit from, and the other is a DIY for almost anything you can think of at home, from pillows to party ideas:

As a completely unofficial companion (maybe its subtitle should actually be A Not-So-Beautiful Mess?) there is this highly entertaining book about DIY gone wrong.  I recommend it for craft-lovers and the unskilled alike:

Anybody out there have any DIY stories of joy or horror?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Older Americans Month

When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing. A meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”
~from the Administration for Community Living website

Happy Older Americans Month!  As President Obama, whose  Administration is hosting the 2015 White House Conference on Aging this summer, officially proclaimed,

After a lifetime of contributions, [older Americans] have earned our care and respect, and they deserve to live out their years with dignity and independence... This month, we celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of our elders, and we reaffirm our belief that the promise of our Nation extends to Americans of all ages.

This year also marks several other anniversaries of note: 80 years of Social Security, and 50 years for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act. Why not celebrate Older Americans Month with some items from the library catalog, including:

Love, Again: The Wisdom of Unexpected Romance by Eve Pell

Unexpectedly Eighty: And Other Adaptations by Judith Viorst

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace & Savor Your Next Chapter by Ron Pevny [Large Print]

Sex After--: Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes by Iris Krasnow

Gut Busters and Belly Laughs: Jokes For Seniors, Boomers, and Anyone Else Who Thinks Thirty-Somethings Are Just Kids by Steven D. Price

With a Little Help From Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older by Beth Baker

The Wonder of Aging: A New Approach to Embracing Life After Fifty by Michael Gurian [Large Print]

Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities by Richard J. Leider, Alan M. Webber

For more books with issues affecting older Americans, try a subject search in the catalog of "older people".

Also, consider checking out these feature films with mature characters and themes of interest to older people:

Last Tango in Halifax

Unfinished Song

Still Mine

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Something's Gotta Give

Young at Heart

It's Complicated

Le Week-End


Administration for Community Living

Older Americans Month on Pinterest

AARP Bulletin: Get Into the Act

Presidential Proclamation - Older Americans Month 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Literary Links: Libraries in the news

This April 26th marked the 114th anniversary of steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's gift of 60 library branch buildings to the New York Public Library. Carnegie donated 1,679 library buildings throughout the United States. We feel honored to be part of the library tradition in this country!  Here's some links to recent articles about libraries:

At This Fashion Library, You Check out Clothes Instead of Buying Them [Co.Exist]
"The library currently has 1,200 items in stock at any moment, and another 500 checked out to customers. Eventually, they hope to expand to other cities around the world. 'Our dream is to go on holidays with some hand luggage and your library card, and have access to a big LENA wardrobe wherever you are,' says Smulders."

Baltimore Libraries Stay Open Through Riots, Because 'The Community Needs Us' [MTV]
"With a state of emergency declared and schools closed citywide Tuesday morning, the Enoch Pratt Free Library has chosen to stay open, providing a hub of comfort and community to all Baltimore neighborhoods, including the ones most affected by the mayhem."

A Long Way From Wax Cylinders, Library of Congress Slowly Joins the Digital Age [NPR]
"The Library of Congress has a trove of online content. You can hear Louise Bogan recite a poem... Or listen to a recording of a former slave, Fountain Hughes, recalling his life."

Libraries Make Space for 3-D Printers; Rules are Sure to Follow [NPR]
"And in an age where digital and technical literacy is stressed alongside traditional reading and writing, libraries are setting up plenty of space for the unexpected."

Denying New York Libraries The Fuel They Need [New York Times]
"So the city’s libraries have more users than major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos — combined. No one who has set foot in the libraries — crowded at all hours with adults learning languages, using computers, borrowing books, hunting for jobs, and schoolchildren researching projects or discovering stories — can mistake them for anything other than power plants of intellect and opportunity. They are distributed without regard to wealth."

'Improbable Libraries' Beautifully Depicts the Fun Side of Libraries [Huffington Post]
"Whether it's a bicycle delivering books or a serene literary retreat, these institutions remind us of the ineffable power of holding a book in your hands and seeing the signs left by previous attentive readers -- a power digital texts can never replicate."

Libraries help close the digital divide [Washington Post]
"The people in the 25 million households without Internet access may not know they can get online at their local library. Books are important, but computers are necessary. For people without Internet access at home, libraries fill the gap."

Unusual Library Collections Around the World [Flavorwire]
Includes the Cornell University Witchcraft Collection, the New York Public Library's collection of vintage Valentines, the Betsy Brown Puppetry Collection, and more!

Librarians Versus the NSA [The Nation]
"By 2003, librarians around the country had launched a revolt. Librarians in Paulding County, Ohio, among other places, posted signs warning computer users that 'due to national security concerns,' their 'Internet surfing habits, passwords and e-mail content' might be monitored by law enforcement. Others distributed informational handouts or organized community hearings about the government’s new surveillance powers. Libraries began to destroy computer-use wait-lists, hard- drive caches, and other records."

In the Memory Ward [New Yorker]
"It is a library like no other in Europe—in its cross-disciplinary reference, its peculiarities, its originality, its strange depths and unexpected shallows. Magic and science, evil eyes and saints’ lives: these things repose side by side in a labyrinth of imagery and icons and memory."

Do We Really Need Libraries? [NPR]
"Today's libraries still lend books, he says. But they also provide other services to communities, such as free access to computers and Wi-Fi, story times to children, language classes to immigrants and technology training to everyone."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Beautiful Science

Inspired by an article called "The Art of Science" on Amazon's Omnivoracious blog, we go microcosmic, cosmic, and everything in between with some book suggestions for the science-minded. The following books walk the line between art and science with their painstaking illustrations and detailed photography, taking readers on a fantastic voyage from the black dunes of Noachis Terra on Mars to the fragile mysteries of marine invertebrates, from living organisms 2,000 years and older to the “bumblebee bat”—the world’s smallest mammal.

The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel Sussman

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything by Theodore Gray

Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life by Susan Middleton

Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time by Michael Benson.

Animal Architecture by Ingo Arndt

This Is Mars: Photographs by NASA/MRO by Alfred S. McEwen, Francis Rocard, Xavier Barral

Auroras: Fire in the Sky by Dan Bortolotti

Bats: A World of Science and Mystery by M. Brock Fenton, Nancy B. Simmons     

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Great First Lines

With the summer reading program quickly approaching, I've been visiting elementary schools to talk about the program with students. One thing I do during these visits is have the students judge books by their covers and by their first lines. Some books get great reactions and others don't, and it's always interesting to see what the kids like and don't like.

I love judging books by the covers, and even more by their first lines, so much that I've also done two different displays of young adult books with great first lines in the past. Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite first lines from young adult books.

"We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."
--Feed by M.T. Anderson

"So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high school sucks."
--Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

"I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please."
--Chime by Frannie Billingsley

"The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World."
--Going Bovine by Libba Bray

"The afternoon my parents died, I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson."
--The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

"I'm a sweating fat kid standing on the edge of the subway platform staring at the tracks."
--Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

"One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone."
--Gone by Michael Grant

"It is impossible to know who you really are until you spend time alone in a cemetery."
--Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

"The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath."
--An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

"I was buried alive."
--Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

"A couple things that made that day stand out more than any other: it was my sixth birthday, and my mother was wielding a knife."
--Switched by Amanda Hocking

"The entire world had gone dark, and I had no idea why."
--Arise by Tara Hudson

"In order to tell you what really happened, what you don't know, what the journalists didn't report, I have to start at Mother's annual Christmas Eve party."
--The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

"There's no such thing as a secret in this town."
--Golden by Jessi Kirby

"I wake up. Immediately, I have to figure out who I am."
--Every Day by David Levithan

"Maybe getting drunk and dressing up like a pirate for the masquerade was a bad idea."
--Timepiece by Myra McEntire

"This whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader."
--Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

"It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since scientists perfected a cure."
--Delirium by Lauren Oliver

"Her email didn't move or disappear or do any of the creepy things I'd expect an email from a ghost to do."
--The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

"Maggot said we should go to Times Square to watch the ball drop and pick some pockets, but we never got around to it."
--Can't Get There From Here by Todd Stasser

"Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day."
--Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

"I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body."
--Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

"On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton's Laws of Motions in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road."
--Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

What are your favorite first lines from books? Let us know in the comments!