Review: Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

better nate than ever

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Nate lives in Jankburg, Pennsylvania probably as far from Broadway that you can get.  But Broadway is where he dreams of being.  So when an opportunity to go to an open audition for E.T.: the Musical comes around, he and his best friend figure out how to get him to New York City without anyone knowing.  It involves taking an overnight bus from Pennsylvania, taking his mother’s ATM card, and fooling his older brother.  Then when he reaches New York City, he has to figure out how to get to the auditions all on his own.  There’s a lot that can go wrong in a plan like that, but Broadway and being a star is worth the risk! 

Federle has created a tremendously cheery book that is filled with humor and a wonderful light-heartedness.  Nate is a character that will speak to many kids who are interested in theater.  He describes himself as “undecided” about his sexuality which makes this a very friendly book for middle schoolers who are either questioning their own sexuality or gay.   Nate has a wonderful inner voice that he doesn’t allow to speak aloud.  His funniest moments are things that he says to himself about circumstances and other people. 

While the book remains consistently positive, Federle does also deal with deeper issues like bullying, being the kid at school who doesn’t fit in, alcoholism, and broken families.  All of these issues are dealt with seriously and yet at the same time aren’t allowed to make the book dark in any way. 

There is humor and hope everywhere in this book.  It is a delight of a middle school read.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

tree lady

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Kate Sessions is the woman who made San Diego into the green city that it is today.  She was a pioneering female scientist who grew up in the forests of Northern California.  After becoming the first woman to graduate with a degree in science from the University of California, she moved to San Diego to be a teacher.  San Diego was a desert town with almost no trees at all.  So Kate decided to change all of that and began to hunt for trees that survive and thrive in a desert.  Soon trees were being planted all over San Diego, but that was not enough for Kate who then worked to fill entire parks with her trees and gardens.  Kate Sessions was a remarkable woman who helped San Diego become the great city it is today.

Hopkins takes a playful approach to this picture book biography.  From the beginning he uses a format that ends each new event in Kate Session’s life with “But Kate did.”  Not only does this create a strong structure for the story, but it shows Session’s determination to not be swayed by what others thought was possible.  From the beginning, she was a unique person with a unique vision.  It is that vision and her strength in the face of societal opposition that made her so successful.

McElmurry’s illustrations add a beauty to the book.  She captures the lush green of the California forests and then allows readers to experience the transformation of San Diego from a barren desert to the lush green of Session’s many trees.  She also shows all of the hard work that it took to make that transformation possible.

Sessions will be a newly found historical figure for most of us, and what an inspiration she is!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins and Tumbles

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I hope you find interesting:


Thanks to Best-Of List Season, now more than ever.


24 Children’s Books to Help Little Ones Count Down the Days to Christmas | Seira Wilson #kidlit

Better Book Titles for children’s Christmas classics – #kidlit

Celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities With These Books #yalit

A Field Guide to the Eccentric Creatures of Classic Children’s Literature | Robert Paul Weston #kidlit

Holiday High Notes 2013 – The Horn Book #kidlit

Kent University ‘penitent’ after belittling children’s books | Books #kidlit

‘Miss Peregrine’ sequel ‘Hollow City’ trailer reveal | Shelf Life #kidlit

Our 2nd Nerdversary and The 2013 Nerdy Award Finalists | Nerdy Book Club #kidlit

Recommended Hanukkah picture books – The Horn Book #kidlit

Robin Etherington’s top 10 comic books | Children’s books #kidlit

The top 5 scariest children’s books – IOL Lifestyle – 5 unlikely picks! #kidlit

Where Are the Picture Books by Women? | GeekDad #kidlit

Who says children’s books can’t be great literature? | Books #kidlit


Worldreader fights global illiteracy with e-readers #ebooks #literacy


@ALAlibrary members – did you know you can apply for a $1000 award to attend an international conference? Yep –

Libraries fear NSA is targeting their records | TheHill #libraries #privacy #nsa

Mini Book Making at St. Ambrose University Library | Library as Incubator Project #libraries

Toy Libraries: A Place to Play | American Libraries Magazine #libraries

Vatican, Bodleian libraries unite to put ancient texts, Bibles online #libraries

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Quebec to limit discounts on books sold in the province – Montreal #books #reading

Waterstones spoof Amazon drones with owls … < great response!

Why Our Brains Make Us Click on Lists : The New Yorker


8 books that have stuck with Liz Burns from A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy this year – what are yours?

Fluttering Butterflies: YA Books I’m Dying to Read in 2014 #yalit

The Hunger Games, Actual Teen Style: