Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts on Easy Readers (getting ready for Cybils judging)

A little over a week ago I found out I was lucky enough to be selected as a judge for the Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books category of the Cybils. The Cybils awards (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award) are given annually to newly published children's or young adult books in a variety of categories. Nominations are made by the public after which a group of panelists narrows the nominees to a short list, at which point a separate group of judges chooses a winner. The nomination window opens up October 1st. Please take a few minutes on Friday and head over to to nominate your favorite books from 2010.

I am incredibly excited and honored to get a chance to participate in judging this year. Along with four other judges, I will get the opportunity to select the Cybil award winners for both Easy Reader Books and Early Chapter Books. As a second grade teacher these are the books I use with my students every day so I'm excited to get my hands on all the newest titles and test some of them out in my classroom.

Over the last week or so I've been thinking a lot about the Easy Readers. I've thought about the Easy Readers from my youth and the ones that are popular in my classroom. In this post I will summarize my thoughts on easy readers which will hopefully help me prepare for judging this category.

What is an Easy Reader?
The Cybils website defines easy readers as: "those 6"x9" books designed specifically for children learning to read."

Harper's "I Can Read" series of books helped define the easy reader starting in 1957 with the publication of Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak's Little Bear. Through the "I Can Read" banner Harper went on to publish such classics as Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, Syd Hoff's Danny the Dinosaur and 100s of others. Award winning authors such as Betsy Byars, Katherine Paterson and Avi have also written books for the"I Can Read" series. Sadly they have recently begun to publish books based on licensed characters from movies and television.

The other defining series of Easy Readers also debuted in 1957 with the
publication of Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. Published by Random House and founded by Theodor Geisel (Seuss) and Phyllis Cerf. Beginner books would go on to publish titles by Seuss as well as others such as P.D. Eastman (Go, Dog, Go!) and Stan and Jan Berenstain.
Easy Readers often use a restricted number of different words, feature large text size, short sentences and simplified phrasing to help children learning to read. Good Easy Reader books work with in these restrictions without sacrificing literary quality (i.e. they are not Dick and Jane books).

The Easy Readers that made me a reader

I can vividly remember reading a number of easy readers when I was growing up. My bedroom
bookcase contained a number of Random House's Beginner Books. Some of my favorites included Al Perkin's Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumbs and Stan and Jan Berenstain's Inside Outside Upside Down and Bears in the Night, as well as a whole slew of Dr. Seuss books. The great thing about Beginner Books is the use of repetition in the text. A title like Bears in the Night is wonderful for a new reader because the text constantly repeats itself. The illustration also serve to aid the reader when trickier words such as window or bridge appear in the text. Using the pictures is a key word attack strategy for 1st and 2nd grade readers and the Beginner Books all seem to understand this.

I also remember reading a good deal of "I Can Read" books when I was in school. I probably checked out Alvin Schwartz's In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories from my school library 2 or 3 dozen times. For me it was all about the "Green Ribbon" story. I can still see myself in my 1st grade classroom opening up the book to the last page of that story over and over again.
I was also a big fan of Peggy Parish's "I Can Read" series Amelia Bedilia. I remember struggling through the first book quite a few times. I recall loving Amelia Bedilia's Family Album in particular. The horse racing cousin was (to me at least) a joke that never got old.

I was in kindergarten when my younger brother was born and I spent many an afternoon 'reading' many of these Easy Reader books to his blank stare or cries (he was actually a pretty good listener for an infant). One title that I loved above all others was William H. Hooks' Mr. Bubble Gum which was part of the Bank Street Ready-to-Read series.

The Easy Reader titles that had the biggest effect on my development as a reader were from a series of eleven books published by Benfric Press from 1959 to 1972. Written by William Hurley the Dan Frontier series of books used controlled vocabulary, simple sentences and full color illustrations to tell the on going story of a Daniel Boone/Davey Crockett type character as he leads wagon trains, scouts for the army, befriends Native Americans, builds a farm and eventually goes to Congress. The Dan Frontier series was probably my introduction to serialized storytelling. At the young age of 6 or 7 I was enamored by the long form narrative. The idea that characters or plot events from one story could be referenced in subsequent stories was mind-blowing. I loved that there was an order in which to read the stories, it made the fictional universe Dan Frontier inhabited seem real. In contrast series like Frog and Toad seemed to have stories which could be read in any order, events from one book did not really affect later stories. While the Dan Frontier stories are all self contained, reading them in order enhanced the experience. Today Dan Frontier is understandably out of print and copies seem to have been weeded from most public and school libraries. Much of the content is politically incorrect (both the gender roles and the treatment of Native Americans show the series' 1950s roots and have dated badly). Thankfully the PC police did not arrive in full force until a few years after I left elementary school so I was able to enjoy these books again and again. I have to thank my older brother for discovering these titles in our school library. He brought the first one home when I was in first grade (he was in second) and so began our quest to read each and every title. I can still see the spot on the shelves in the school library where I would immediately go to check to see which Dan Frontier books were not checked out. I think my father must have read each title to me 25 times before I started reading them on my own but thankfully he was willing (I actually think he enjoyed them as well).

Easy Readers in my classroom

In the twenty years since I was was reading Easy Readers, the category has made some
significant progress. That said, many of the Easy Reader titles of my childhood are still enjoyed by my students today. My students love the Beginner Books, especially those by Dr. Seuss. They also read a lot of "I Can Read Books" including Frog and Toad, Little Bear and In a Dark, Dark Room. I was so excited the first time I saw one of my students discover "The Green Ribbon" story and then immediately started showing the gory image on the last page to all his friends. It's a good thing I have about 8 copies of In a Dark, Dark Room because every year at some point one of the kids finds the book and then EVERYONE wants a copy for their silent reading boxes. The most popular "I Can Read" books in my classroom are the Biscuit books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. I often have a good number of below grade level readers and the Biscuit books are perfect for these emerging readers.

Other traditional Easy Readers that have been popular in my classroom over the years include Cynthia Rylant's Henry & Mudge and Poppleton series, Ted Arnold's Fly Guy series, James Marshall's Fox series and Kate McMullan's Fluffy series. My students also LOVE Harriet Ziefert's fairy tales published by under the Puffin Easy-to-Read banner. My students (most of which are non native speakers) are less familiar with classic fairy tales so Ziefert's simple retellings and equally simple illustrations are absolutely perfect. I found a bound collection of these stories a few years back and my students read the binding right off the book (I have since purchased a number of copies of each title).

In 2007 Mo Willems published four of the most innovative Easy Readers since the 1957 release of Cat in the Hat and Little Bear. With the publication of Today I Will Fly!, My Friend is Sad, There is a Bird on Your Head!, and I am Invited to a Party! Willems forever changed the Easy Reader model and put his permanent stamp of the genre. By incorporating word balloons and other comic book/graphic novel elements into an simple to read stories, the Elephant & Piggie books became not only wonderful tools for reading teachers, but also hilarious books that students refuse to read just once. Nine more Elephant & Piggie books have been released since 2007 and there is at least one more on the way in 2011. Each and every title is a hit with my students. I've got two or three of each title in my classroom and I can't remember the last time any of the books stayed in their basket on the shelf for more than a few minutes before another students stanches it up for their silent reading box. For a long time There is a Bird on Your Head! was my favorite but last week Willems topped himself with the release of We Are in a Book! a metatextual, fourth-wall breaking, extravaganza of excellence. My students were so excited to see the new book I read it to them so they wouldn't have to wait to read it on their own. I am not exaggerating when I say my students were rolling on the floor with laughter. Next week Mo Willems is coming to town to celebrate the publication of the newest Knuffle Bunny book but I'm thinking I need to have him sign at least one copy of all 13 of the Elephant & Piggie books.

Since the release of Willems' Elephant & Piggie books, more and more easy readers began
to incorporate comic book or graphic novel elements. First among these new comers is certainly the Toon Books published by RAW Junior and edited by New Yorker art editor Fracoise Mouly. Toon Books feature authors and artists from the world of graphic novels and cartooning. The stories are all beautifully crafted and the art is always outstanding. Some of the more popular Toon Books in my classroom are Little Mouse Gets Ready by Bone creator Jeff Smith, Jack and the Box by Maus creator Art Spiegelman and the Benny and Penny series (three titles so far) by Geoffrey Hayes. My students also love the online Toon Book Reader where they can read or listen to all the books in both English and Spanish (or Russian, or French, or Chinese). There is also a comic maker where students can use characters, props and backgrounds from the books to create their own stories. Most of my students do not have computers or internet access from home but we use these resources a lot at school and those with computers take home the website addresses for both the comic reader and the comic maker.

Right now I am busy reading all the 2009 Cybils short listed Easy Readers and Early Chapter books that I had not previously read, hopefully I'll get a post up about early chapter books in the near future. Meanwhile please mark your calenders for Friday October 1st when Cybils nominations begin. You can nominate one book per category so don't be shy. Nominate your favorites from any or all of these award categories: Easy Reader/Short Chapter books, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Fiction, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Non-Fiction: Middle and YA, Poetry, and YA Fiction.

Visit to learn more.

You can read more about my fellow judges and the panelists selecting the short list here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review - Turtle in Paradise

Seems like it's that time of year when everyone is making their Newbery posts. Speculating on what might win and trying to position their favorites into the discussion (well the online discussion at least). Last year When You Reach Me jumped right out, grabbed me, and never let me go. Back in 2008 I fell in love with both The Underneath and We Are the Ship and would have been equally happy to see either book go on to win the medal (I was both happy and disappointed that announcement day). I'd been waiting on the sidelines a bit this year because I didn't feel like I had found a horse in the race yet. I've read 23 Newbery type 2010 releases so far (MG fiction or nonfiction from eligible authors) and while I enjoyed many of them and even love some, none had grabbed me the way WYRM or The Underneath had. That is until yesterday when I read Jenifer L. Holm's Turtle in Paradise.

I started Turtle in Paradise with some skepticism. First off their is the main character's name. Turtle's already been taken and she's awesome. Would you write a story about a pig and name him Wilbur? A story about a king and name him Lear? Why invite such a comparison? Hommage I can understand but why so direct?

Needless to say I didn't much like Turtle before I even met her. How dare she steal the name of one of the 2 or 3 best characters in children's literature! I loved Holm's Penny from Heaven so I decided to get over the name thing and give the book a chance. I only had to read three sentences and I'm ready to give both Holm and Turtle a reprieve. Turns out Turtle's not a big fan of children, I'm starting to get hooked already.

A slight hiccup on page 8 when Turtle expresses her hatered for Shirely Temple. I flip back to see check the story's time frame. Its set in 1935 so Turtle has yet to experience the perfection that is John Ford's We Willy Winkie (1937) so I can understand not loving Temple. I will quietly assume that Turtle will change her mind when she does see this masterpiece of American cinema.

After that its clear sailing. Holm's prose reads effortlessly and before I know it the book is finished and I've found my horse! I haven't seen a lot of buzz out their for this book but I am hoping the committee will give it the chance it deserves.

Turtle's story is definitely the type of story that, in the past, has been eaten up by Newbery Committees. In short: Turtle is sent down to depression era Key West to live with her aunt (who she's never met) and cousins while her mother works a housekeeping job in New Jersey. Turtle adjusts and later flourishes in the shoeless, sandy environment dreaming of the day she and her mom can finally reunite.

All of Holm's characters are charming and well crafted. The carefree daily adventures of the (mostly all related in someway) gang of independent young Conchs brings to mind titles like The Penderwicks and The Great Brain. The only thing that didn't really work for me (other than the Turtle thing) was the way Holm shoehorned Hemingway into the story. Yes he was on the island at the time, but the kids didn't really need to run into him there. In the first encounter the character is simply referred to as a writer. I thought it would be obvious to any adult reader that the character was meant to be Hemingway. But later in the book he is introduced by name which felt a bit contrived or at least unnecessary as he doesn't add anything important to the narrative.

The Hemingway thing aside, I really love this book. Each character is both likable and well conceived. The plotting is fast and the narrative is structure in a way that should appeal to many fourth to sixth grade readers. As I stated above, stories like this have often garnered Newbery recognition in the past, most recently with The Higher Power of Lucky. The committee's job is not, however, to make comparisons to books from past years, so hopefully the 'kid separated from his/her parents' thing won't be a factor in discussions. Yes we've seen it before but if it has once again been done in such a perfect way why, one should not discount the book. I think the committee will have to hold this title up next to Appelt's Keeper and really dig into both books to find the more distinguished of the titles. I doubt both will be honored in the same year, which is unfortunate since they are both near the top of my list as of today.

For the record here's my top 5 as of now: (unless I can be convinced that Blink and Gollie somehow fits the criteria, in which case ignore this entire post, give B&G the medal and award no honors!)

1. Turtle in Paradise
2. Clementine, Friend of the Week
3. Night Fairy
4. One Crazy Summer
5. Keeper

Right now I have in hand to read: A Million Shades of Gray, The Water Seeker, Alchemy and Meggy Swann.
I'm still waiting to get my hands on: Forge, Scumble, The Ghostwriter Secret, Sugar Changed the World, Selling Hope.

Here's a list of the 2010 books I've read that aren't (right now at least) making my list: [* next to the rest of my top ten which I'll probably reread soon]

The Celestial Globe
The Mysterious Howling
Out of My Mind*
Falling In
The Dreamer*
Woods Runner
The Boneshaker
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
The Firefly Letters*
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda*
Smells Like Dog
Sir Charlie Chaplin
The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester
Touch Blue
Justin Fisher Declares War

Other than A Conspiracy of Kings, which I'm not planning on reading since I didn't really like The Thief and don't have the desire to catch up with the rest of the series at this point, what books am I missing? What should I read as soon as I can? How can I get Forge sooner?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recapping the (amazing) 2010 Decatur Book Festival

Below you will find a quick recap of each author talk I attended at the Decatur Book Festival. I'll include any news about future books or projects the authors might have mentioned either during the talk, the Q&A or in the signing line. By camera is having some issues so the pictures are all somewhat fuzzy. Also a few others didn't work at all. (Some Penderwick's news near the bottom of this post. Don't miss it.)

The first author I head this year was Bob Shea. He was at the Book Festival to promote his new picture book Dinosaur vs. The Potty. Fans of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime can probably guess how this one turns out. Needless to say Shea has written another winner. While he signed my book I asked him when we might see Dinosaur vs. Kindergarten (now that his son/dino-muse is 6 years old). Shea responded with a quick "Be careful what you wish for." He told me that he had only sketched out Dino vs. Kindergarten but before that we should be on the look out for Dinosaur vs. Library. I can't wait! During his talk Bob read Dinosaur vs. Potty (with some audience assistance for the roaring). He also shared his super secret jelly bean style of animal illustration in which he creates any animal imaginable from the same jelly bean shaped starting point. He made it look so easy.

Next up was Michael Buckley. Buckley drew a very large and enthusiastic crowd. The audience was split about 60-40 between fans of the Sisters
Grimm series and fans of Buckley's new N.E.R.D.S. series there was, of course, considerable overlap as well. I haven't read any of the Sisters Grimm books but after hearing Buckley talk about it I'm excited about giving the first one a read. Buckley's talk featured both series spending a lot of time answering fan questions. Sisters Grimm fans should be excited to hear that Buckley will start working on the 8th and final installment of the series at the end of the month. He also informed the audience that there would be a total of five N.E.R.D.S. books with each book focusing on a seperate member of the team. There is also a chance we might see a book focusing on Hyena (the assassin want to be for the first N.E.R.D.S. book) sometime.

Buckely was followed by the local Atlanta author (and potential 2011 Newbery winner) Deborah Wiles whose Countdown received praise by authors all weekend. Wiles shared the stage with fellow N.B.A. runner up and Coretta Scott King Honor recipient Shelia Moses to speak about writing historical fiction. Both authors did a wonderful job. During the Q&A Wiles shared a little about the rest of 'The Sixties Trilogy'. Wiles said there would a different casts of characters in each of the novels. The novels will have some overlapping characters though. Wiles also said that we will see Jo Ellen (Franny's older sister) in 1964 Mississippi (which I'm guessing will be the next book). Wiles seemed delighted to be in Decatur and sat in on many of the author talks on both Saturday and Sunday.

Quick aside: While attempting to escape the heat for a few minutes I browsed through Little Shop of Stories (the independent children's book store who was responsible for bringing all these great children's authors to town) where I ran into Scholastic editor and author David Levinthan. (he was Deborah Wiles editor for Countdown but could not attend Wiles' talk because his YA talk was at the same time) I of course first asked him about Mockingjay. He said he first read it over a year ago and had to keep everything secret for that long. I asked him if Collins is working on anything new and Levinthan said she is really busy promoting Mockingjay right now but has a few different ideas she is considering. Sounds like it will be a while before we get anything new from the Hunger Games scribe. Oh, and while I was in the bookstore, I read Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer's new picture book collaboration The Odious Orge. It is pretty awesome. Hope it's not another 49 years before they do another one together.

The last talk of the day featured Marie Rutkoski author of The Cabinet of Wonders and its sequel The Celestial Globe. Rutoski did a short reading from The Celestial Globe and then spoke about the role her professional background as a researcher plays in her writing. Rutkoski said that Jewel of the Calderosh [no doubt mutilated the spelling] scheduled to be published fall of next year will be the final book in the Kronos Chronicles. She is also working on a YA novel currently titled Me and the Shadow Society. Rutkoski also tangentially mentioned that When You Reach Me is one of her favorite recent reads and is using in the courses she teaches! I looked it up, she teachers children's lit. at Brooklyn College. I bet it's an awesome course!

Sunday I made it back to the festival just in time to hear author Tom Angleberger talk about one of my favorite books of the year, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Angleberger shared the stage with Star Wars illustrator and toy designer Chris Reiff. Needless to say the tent was packed with kids all eager to hear the authors speak and check out the costumed Star Wars characters who filled the stage (see the picture). After briefly discussing The Strange Case of Origami Yoda's premise Angleberger read from chapter two (the wet pants problem). Then it was time for the main event. Volunteers started passing out small green pieces of paper so that everyone in the audience (all 300+) could make their very own origami Yoda. Angelberger instructed the audience, with the help of one brave volunteer, using a giant piece of paper. The adults and kids in the crowd all had a great time. As I waited in the signing line, I mentioned to a few parents that they should also hunt down Angelberger's first novel The Qwikpick Adventure Society (published in 2007 under the pseudonym Sam Riddleburger). Like Origami Yoda it is a hilarious story (2 words: Poop Fountain) featuring a group of misfits.

Unfortunately I didn't hear any of the presumably hilarious talk by Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle series), DJ Steinberg (Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy series) and Josh Lewis (Super Chicken Nugget Boy). The talk also featured a life size Super Chicken Nugget. It sounded like both the kids in the audience and the authors on stage were having a great time. Laughter and chanting could be heard all the way across the square. I did manage to get a shot of Erick Wright signing some Frankie Pickle books. I'd bet the Frankie Pickle series books are the most circulated items in our school library. Our students just love them, I guess I should give them a try at some point. Both the Loud Boy series and Super Chicken NB also look like a lot of fun so I need to track them down. Can anyone vouch for them?

The next up was Newbery Honor author Ingrid Law. Law got a very warm welcome from the fans in attendance (including author Jeanne Birdsall!). She spoke about writing both Savvy and her newest book Scumble which she called a "companion not sequel" to Savvy. Talked about her writing process and how nervous she was starting Scumble. Law's love for language was easily apparent as one listened to her read from the new book and after hearing her I feel like I need to move Scumble a bit higher on my to read list! Fans will also be happy to know that Savvy film rights have been optioned by Walden Media (Holes, City of Ember, Narnia, etc.) for a major motion picture.

Next up was the event I was most excited about. I knew from watching Jarrett Krososka's hilarious video in which she plays Jarrett's agent that Jeanne Birdsall was a funny lady. The video has once again disappeared from the interwebs but you can see a deleted scene featuring Birdsall about one minute into this video. Once the discuss, which also featured local author Laurel Snyder (Any Which Wall and Up and Down the Scratchy Mountain) Birdsall's humor was impossible to miss. Both authors share an affinity for the novels of Edward Eagers and Enright, Nesbit, C.S. Lewis and Betty MacDonald. Works which take place in a magical or seemingly magical world where characters are safe to explore their own worlds. The two talked eloquently about their works and seem to be kinder spirits. At one point during their discussion about writing fantasy and how characters might deal with magic, Snyder brought up the "Susan problem", which is the idea that Susan Pevensie grew up and forsake magic for lipstick and therefore could not return to Narnia (and beyond) in the final book. Snyder mentioned that this was a problem she considered when assembling her characters for Any Which Wall and a problem she plans to confront in her next novel. I can't wait to read it.

In other news, Birdsall confirmed that there would be five Penderwicks books and gave us some much desired info regarding the third book, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, which Birdsall said would take place in Maine. The author also said that in this story neither Rosalind nor Mr. Penderwick would be around so it's Skye's chance to be in charge. Birdsall did not spend much time talking about her new picture book Flora's Very Windy Day but I'd like to give it a mention again anyway. I have read it a number of times now and as I wrote in my review, I think it is the best picture book of the year.

Birdsall on the left, Laurel Snyder on the right.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another Fantastic Decatur Book Festival!

I had a great time at this year's book festival. It was great to hear so many wonderful authors talk about their work. Thanks to all the authors who gave up their holiday weekend to come to Atlanta. Thanks Diane and everyone else at Little Shop of Stories for once again putting on a fantastic show! (also thank you King of Pops for setting up your cart right next to the signing tent)

A full write up including a bunch of somewhat blurry pictures should be up sometime this week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2010 Decatur Book Festival Preview

The Decatur Book Festival is the largest independent book festival in the nation. Last year I finally managed to not make any plans and freed up my Labor Day weekend. Attending the Book Festival was a new experience for me and I throughly enjoyed it. I got books signed by Kate DiCamillo, Jarret Krosoczka (in the picture to the right quick drawing on demand against Dragon Breath author Ursula Vernon and Secret Science Alliance author Eleanor Davis), local favorite Elizabeth Dulemba and Jon Scieszka. The coolest moment had to be when Little Shop of Stories owner Diane pulled me aside and introduced me to DiCamillo before she went on stage. It was so great having a chance to speak to her about my students' annual reaction to Edward Tulane for a few minutes before her talk.

This year's roster of authors is equally impressive. I'm most excited about Jeanne Birdsall. She's appearing to promote Flora's Very Windy Day, her new picture book illustrated by Matt Phelan. It's my favorite picture book this year. I reviewed here. I'm expecting most of the questions during the session to be Penderwicks related. If I hear anything about the next installment I'll be sure to post it next week.

Also in attendance is Birdsall's fellow 2005 National Book Award nominee Deborah Wiles (Penderwicks won the award. Wiles' Each Little Bird Can Sing was one of the runner ups.) Wiles, who currently resides here in Georgia, released the first part of her sixties trilogy this year. Countdown is a great novel and is garnering plenty of award buzz. I read Countdown this Spring when it was released and had some mixed feelings about it. The more I reflect on the novel though, the more I like the story presented in Countdown. I am a little worried though, about how the story will continue in the two forthcoming novels. I really hope Wiles isn't going to go the Forrest Gump route and hit every cliche moment of the 60s. I really don't want to see Franny marching through Selma or buring draft notices. These were important moments in American history but do we really need our character to find herself in the middle of a History Channel 1960s recap? I'm going to try to get some answers this weekend. Hoping I manage to find the time to read Each Little Bird Can Sing before this weekend. I read Wiles' Love, Ruby Lavender last week and thought it was wonderful.

Ingrid Law will also be at the book festival promoting Scumble, the Savvy sequel. I haven't read it yet but Savvy was a fun read and I look forward to picking up a copy of Scumble this weekend.

I was really excited when I heard that The Strange Case of Origami Yoda author Tom Angleberger was going to attend the festival. Origami Yoda is one of my favorite books of 2010 and I've been recommending it bunches of kids and teachers. I was a little disappointed when I heard that Angleberger was presenting at a "Star Wars Extravaganza" panel. While I love the book, I'm not excited about anything star wars. I was hoping for some news about the chances of a Quikpick Adventure Society sequel but I don't see that happening at a star wars panel. Unfortunately this might have to be a signing line only author.

While The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is my go to 5th grade book recommendation this year, Michael Buckley's N.E.R.D.S is a close second. Thankfully Buckley is presenting here as well. I can't wait to get my hands on the newest volume. Hopefully Hyena gets to actually kill someone in this one. I was so bummed for her at the end of the first book.

Last Summer I was browsing around Little Shop of Stories searching for something new to read. Someone there recommended The Cabinet of Wonders, the begining of a new fantasy series by Marie Rutkoski . I thought the book started a little roughly but had a great second half. Reading The Celestial Globe (the second book in the Kronos Chronicles) this year I had the same feeling. The first 75 pages were not very compelling, but I couldn't but it down while reading final 200 or so pages. I really like the world Rutkoski is building and I'm looking forward to the next installment but I really hope she figures out how to pull me in from the start this time. Would it be rude to mention this while asking her to sign my copies?

I'm going to try my best to wake up early enough Saturday to make it to Bob Shea. I'd love to get a signed copy of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime for my soon to be born nephew.

I tune in next week to get a run down of how things go and for any news I hear.

If you're in the Atlanta area plan on heading over to Decatur for the chance to see some incredible authors. There are a ton of young adult and actual adult authors if you're so inclined. You can also visit booths from rare and used booksellers from all over the south east, and there lots of activities for kids (including a Lady Bug Girl parade on Sunday). You can view the full schedule here: