I’m off to ALA after taking a couple of days off.  I’ll be at the Unconference on Friday, leading a discussion on Library Director 2.0 and absorbing all sorts of great information.  It’s my first unconference, and I’m really psyched about it!

I have breakfasts planned for Saturday and Sunday that are children’s book related.  I’m going for what I hope will be a fascinating mix of children’s, intellectual freedom, and technology programs.  And of course, I will be at the exhibits with my family in tow, getting books and other loot.

I may have a chance to Tweet or blog, but it will probably be when I find myself back in my hotel room.

Hope to see you at the conference!

Team Jacob Cheers!

Little, Brown has released the book cover of the movie edition of New Moon. 

Team Edward loses.  Team Jacob wins.

Nothing but Ghosts

Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart

After her mother’s death, Katie lives alone in their big old house with her father who is a bit of a mad genius.  Her summer job is to work in the gardens at the estate of Miss Martine, a recluse who hasn’t been seen by the public in decades.  As the gardeners are told to dig for a new gazebo, Katie realizes that something else may be going on.  They just may be digging for something in particular.  She begins to do research at the local library, hoping to solve the mystery of why Miss Martine disappeared.  Just like her own mother disappeared after her death.  Will solving this mystery help Katie cope with the sorrow and loss of her mother?

There are many ghosts in this book, hovering at the edges of the story, never fully viewed, but felt in every line.  Kephart’s background as a poet shows through her exquisitely written prose.  She manages to create nuance, pain, grief and wonder through her writing, capturing emotions at their most poignant.  Here is one of my favorite lines of the novel, describing the estate they are working at:

Miss Martine’s is quiet as the stones down in the stream, quiet as the robin’s nest that Danny found the other day, which had been lived in, then abandoned.

What imagery, evoking a world unmoving in the river of life, empty, still and immovable.  Yet paired with the fragility and hope of a bird’s nest.  Just this one line offers multiple readings.  The entire novel is like this.

Kephart has also created a mystery that is not a mystery.  The mystery of Miss Maritine is not what this book is about.  It is instead about Katie herself, her personal loss, her mother, her father and how she will find a way to continue beyond her paralysis of grief.  So the mystery is secondary, another ghost in the story, that is useful to chase after but not the real reason we are here.

Katie is a great heroine.  A girl who works as hard as the men, unafraid of dirt, who flies down dark roads on her bike without incident, and who is as brave as anyone could be when surrounded by the past.  She breaks into unique territory as a heroine, a girl who is strong but not masculine, grief-stricken but not tragic.  As a character, she is a testament to the delicacy of Kephart’s writing.

Highly recommended, this book is exceptional.  It is one of the most well-written books of the year, worthy of National Book Award and Printz attention.  Appropriate for 15-18 year olds.

Also reviewed on Charlotte’s Library and The Compulsive Reader.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

Released September 2009.

Return to the world of Moose and his family and friends living on Alcatraz.  Moose’s sister Natalie is heading out to her special school that she got into after Moose asked Al Capone to help.  Now Moose finds a note in the pocket of his shirt after it has returned from the laundry.  The note says, “Your turn.”  Now Moose must decide whether to tell his parents what he did or to do exactly what Capone asks of him.  And where would the fun be in telling your parents?

Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts is used in classrooms across the country for historical fiction.  This sequel will make teachers across the country very happy, because it has all of the same things everyone loved about the first book.  This novel has the same strong voice of Moose as the first.  It is written with such a great tone and spirit as to make it unmistakably the continuing tale of Moose. The characters are vividly written and remain true to themselves even when they are developing and maturing.  As with the first novel, the setting of Alcatraz is integral to the story.  Choldenko has created another fine piece of historical fiction, expertly rendering a complex setting and large set of characters with such panache that she makes it seem simple.  Her writing is worthy of applause, especially with the challenge of a sequel.

Perfection for tweens, this book has a fleeting kiss but nothing more.  Great for historical fiction units and perfect to put right into kids’ hands without hesitation, this book will be gobbled up by anyone who opens it.

Also reviewed by Welcome to My Tweendom and Sarah Miller.