Sunday, August 2, 2015

Batty About Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older - Part 1

Batty About Books 
by Daniel Jose Older

Join us as we read and discuss Shadowshaper. My (@thebrainlair) comments are in blue and Maria's (@mariaselke, Maria's Melange) are in purple.

Cover Appeal
Today - pgs. 1 - 140
Saturday, August 8th - pgs. 141 - end.

First Half Discussion - I decided to look mostly at the characters in this first half. These are the things that stuck out for me as I was reading.

Sierra Santiago
Love Older’s description of his main character - her wild fro, combat boots, and sense of style. Sierra’s style extends to her murals, which I wish I could see. I can picture the huge, shiny dragon climbing the side of the Tower. Sierra alternates between knowing who she is and questioning how others see her.

“Sierra felt an invisible thread of possibility hanging between them...” 67

I identify strongly with Sierra. Even though we are culturally different. Even though her artistic skills are something I will never have. There’s something about her struggle to become herself that rings true to my own memories of adolescence.

What to think? On the one hand, he appears to be new to the scene, “..who had shown up midyear” (9) and introduced himself to Sierra at the party but later her brother, who’s always traveling,  says he always thought Robbie was weird and Robbie himself mentions working with Papa Acevedo since he was twelve. He knows about the Shadowshapers but disappears twice when Sierra needs him. Is that significant or a red herring?

Yes! I want to like Robbie. I want to cheer for him. I do like the mystery of his true motivations, though. I want to know what the resolution for this character will be. I missed the bit about him showing up mid-year, myself. That makes it even stranger that he’s claiming to have worked with Papa for so long… hmmm…

Abuelo Lazaro and Professor Wick
Hmm are they friends or enemies? Wick’s notes states he loves the power of the culture behind the shadowshapers but he also seems to want to help by getting Lucera to return. Something profound has happened to Lazaro and his moments of lucidity hold powerful clues. I expected Sierra to pay more attention to him. I have my doubts about Wick’s power because that seems too easy but I will wait to discuss them after the second half so I don’t spoil much. What really happened between Lazaro and Lucera? How does one have a disagreement with a spirit?

The bits with Wick toward the end of this section were the exact spot when my interest in the overall storyline became to intensify. I liked the characters from the start - but trying to figure out what’s going on with Wick and the creepy shadows makes me want to dive back into the book and find out what happens next.

I’m also getting more suspicious about Abuelo’s health problems. I’m wondering now if it wasn’t entirely natural..

Other characters
I want to know about Sierra’s godfather, Neville. He seemed like a cool guy who knows what’s going on. He also helped her get into Columbia’s library. What does her mother know and why doesn’t she want to speak of it? Was Lazaro hesitant to pass his gift to her because she was female? Is that why she pretends not to know anything? What role will Manny play as the story moves forward? He knows something. What families were torn apart? (75)

where lonely women go to dance
come to the crossroads, to the crossroads come
where the powers converge and become one
I’m just going to leave that right there for now.

Yes! The fact that the rest of the family clearly has information that they aren’t sharing with Sierra is intriguing. What, exactly, are they hiding? I will admit to being a bit angry with the family once I realized that BOTH of her brothers had information and NO ONE told Sierra anything. I was also quite amused with Neville’s antics in getting her into the library. I liked how he was willing to play off of the assumptions people make of him. People want to assume he’s a danger? Fine… he’ll use that. But just how dangerous is he really?

The magic is interesting. Throughout this first half, Robbie and Sierra seem to attract random shadows but Robbie mentioned using specific ones for murals. I wonder how he called them? The name Sorrows doesn’t seem Golden to me.

Agreed! That difference in terminology (Golden vs. Sorrows) is so odd. What, exactly, is going on here? Is Wick combining the spirits from different cultures? It sounded like his “Sorrows” were from a research trip that was earlier than the one he did in this city.


When I first read this part, I was confused and I felt the story was jumbled but going back to re-read, I was able to pick up so much more. I was able to get more into the story and can’t wait to read the second half as I have many questions about Shadowshaping and Robbie and how it all fits together.

Come over to our Batty About Books Facebook page and tell us what you thought of the first half of Shadowshaper. What stood out for you?

Maria has a fascinating look at the book through the windows and mirrors frame of diversity. Please stop by Maria's Melange and read her thoughts.

Affiliate Link: Shadowshaper (Amazon)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Batty About Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older - Cover Appeal

Batty About Books 
by Daniel Jose Older

Join us as we read and discuss Shadowshaper over the next two weeks.

Today, July 25th - Cover Appeal
Saturday, August 1st - pgs. 1 - 140
Saturday, August 8th - pgs. 141 - end.

Be sure to check out our Batty About Books facebook page or tweet with the hashtags #BattyAboutBooks and #Shadowshaper as you talk about the book.

Cover Appeal -  I did a quick inventory with my 19-year-old daughter, Jessica, about the cover and here are her thoughts:

  • I love it.
  • It's eye-catching,
  • Her hair looks like mine.
  • The colors draw you in and make you want to know what they mean.
  • She looks scared - her eyes are very expressive.
  • She looks like she is staring something or someone down.
  • I like her skin color - is she mixed race? (my daughter is, btw)
Like Jessica, I was drawn to this cover. I like how the city is superimposed on the main character and that she is a beautiful young lady who looks powerful but afraid. Not so much that she's afraid of someone but of her own strength instead. 

What kind of battle did she start? Does she do graffiti? I can't wait to learn more!

Check out Maria's thoughts on Maria's Melange!
We are also on Twitter - Maria (@mariaselke) and Kathy (@thebrainlair)

Happy Reading!

Affiliate Link: Shadowshaper (Amazon)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Movie Magic by Julie Mata - Guest Post and Giveaway - May 2015

Mata, Julie. Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man. Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 288p. $16.99. 9781423194606.

from Goodreads:
After her huge success with her first feature-length movie, seventh-grader Kate Walden is eager to start on her next film, a sci-fi romance called Bride of Slug Man. When a new kid comes to town from New York City, Kate thinks she might have a new found film buddy-someone to share her interest with. And it doesn't hurt that he's pretty cute. But it turns out that Tristan is making his own movie, and now the classmates Kate thought were eager to join her cast and crew are divided.

With rumors spreading in school and between sets, Kate finds herself juggling more than just call times and rewrites. And judging from the whispers Kate hears about Tristan Kingsley,she suspects that he isn't interested in having a fellow film-buff friend; he just wants to prove himself as the best filmmaker in school by winning the Big Picture Film Festival. Kate vows to enter too, and tries to focus on just making the best movie she can.

But between the cutthroat popularity contest, a bully situation that goes from bad to worse, and several on-set mishaps, Kate is going to need all the movie magic she can get to make sure Bride of Slug Man hits the big-screen

Read on to find out what Julie Mata has learned about director's tips and how she incorporated those into the Kate Walden series.

Movie Magic 


Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man

By Julie Mata

In the movie Super 8, there’s a moment when a band of kids is shooting a movie scene at a train depot late at night. Suddenly, a real train hurtles out of the darkness toward them. The director, a kid named Charles, shouts “Production Value!” and feverishly tries to film while the train is passing by. This scene makes me laugh because it’s so true. Directors will do almost anything to add extra sizzle—also known as production value—to their movies.

In Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man, twelve-year-old Kate is dying to make a science fiction movie but her best friend longs to star in a romance. In Kate’s mind, flying saucers and aliens add sizzle. Romance does not. Throughout the story, she bounces between wanting to keep her friends happy and trying to make the epic sci-fi flick of her dreams.

One of the great parts of writing about a character who makes movies is that I get to research all kinds of fun filmmaking facts. To get ideas for a flying saucer, I laughed through the epically bungling movie Plan Nine from Outer Space, which won director Ed Wood the dubious title of Worst Ever Movie Director. Ed didn’t have a budget for fancy special effects so he tied fishing line to a toy UFO and dangled it in front of the camera. In an homage to Wood, and because it’s exactly what a twelve-year-old would do (sorry, Ed), Kate gets her UFO shots the same way.

Kate even uses a technique called forced perspective to make her flying saucer look life size. It’s all about putting small objects close to the camera lens to make them look huge, and placing people far off in the distance to make them look small. Kate feels pretty pro when she learns that Steven Spielberg used the same technique in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to make a model ship tanker look real. (And I felt pretty pro writing about it.)

Of course, some of the lessons Kate learns can’t be found in a moviemaking how-to manual. She learns the hard way that you don’t have to be a big-time Hollywood director to end up with a big-time Hollywood ego. She also struggles with bullies, friendship dramas, and wardrobe malfunctions while trying to finish her movie.

Writing about Kate has allowed me to combine two of my passions—moviemaking and writing. I’m no Spielberg but I did write and direct a short film once called Bus Driver. You can check it out on YouTube but be warned, it doesn’t have cool flying saucers or alien creatures from Mars. I guess I was out-sizzled by my own MC.

About the Author

Julie Mata grew up outside Chicago and currently lives in Wisconsin, where she owns a video production business with her husband.. She loves movies and once wrote and directed her own short film. She also loves traveling, gardening, and reading a really good book. Her first book was Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens. For more information, including a downloadable curriculum guide and a filmmaking tip of the month, visit her website:

Find Julie on Twitter: @juliehmata

Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man - Book Trailer

Find more Kate Walden videos on her YouTube Channel! 

You can receive a copy of BOTH Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens and Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man! US Only. One entry per person/email. Ends 6/4/15 11:59 pm.

Stops on the Blog Tour

Monday, May 18
Wed. May 20
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, May 21
Read Now, Sleep Later
Fri, May 22
Curling Up with a Good Book
Tues, May 26
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Wed, May 27
BookHounds YA
Thurs, May 28
The Brain Lair
Fri, May 29
Kid Lit Frenzy

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Top Ten Graphic Novels - #FreeComicBookDay

Woot! Today is Free Comic Book Day! Use's store locator to find a store near you!

If you are looking for some graphic novels to buy, here are the Top Ten Graphic Novels checked out by The Stanley Clark School students (summaries from Goodreads):

Bake Sale by Sara Varon
Cupcake’s life is pretty good. He’s got his bakery, and his band, and his best friend, Eggplant. His days are full of cooking, socializing, and playing music. But lately, Cupcake has been struggling in the kitchen. He’s sure the solution to all his problems is out there somewhere. But maybe that solution is hiding closer to home.

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
When cardboard creatures come magically to life, a boy must save his town from disaster.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
From the artist of BSC Graphix comes this humorous coming-of-age true story about the dental drama that ensues after a trip-and-fall mishap.

The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibiushi
Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a giant robot---and two ordinary children on a life-or-death mission. 

The Bone Series by Jeff Smith
After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, are separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert.

El Deafo by CeCe Bell
2015 Newbery Honor. Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends. 

Bad Island by Doug TenNapel
Something on this island is up to no good . . .

Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley
Jimmy Gownley's graphic novel memoir about the "dumb" idea that changed his life forever!

Naruto series by Masashi Kishimoto
Naruto is a ninja-in-training with a need for attention, a knack for mischief and, sealed within him, a strange, formidable power. (technically manga but they love it.)

Trickster: Native American Tales edited by Matt Dembicki
Meet the Trickster, a crafty creature or being who disrupts the order of things, often humiliating others and sometimes himself in the process. Whether a coyote or rabbit, raccoon or raven, Tricksters use cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief.

Today is also Independent Bookstore day! So find your local independent bookseller here and go shopping!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Take 5 for Kids Comics Joey Weiser - Blog Tour

Celebrate kids comics with Q&As with fantastic children’s cartoonists for Children’s Book Week! Join us as great authors talk about their own creative work and the graphic novel industry throughout April and May. Comics for kids are reaching a time of unprecedented acceptance in the American literary scene, and it’s now true that there are comics for everyone. All interviews are conducted by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado (Dragons Beware!).

RAFAEL/JORGE:  Hi, Joey, thanks for
answering our questions. We're both fans of Mermin the Merman from Mer, which incidentally, is a fun thing to say. Mermin the Merman from Mer.  Mermin the Merman from Mer.  Okay, and now for the questions...

QUESTION: We like this quote of yours from an FCBD Interview, "Each book I do is a reaction to the one before it. They use things I’ve learned from the previous experience, building on positives and negatives that I see when analyzing the book I just completed." What did you learn from "The Ride Home" that informed the Mermin series? And what are you learning from Mermin, that's informing your next work?

Joey Weiser: The Ride Home was pretty straight-forward, following a single character from point A to B to C.  With my next book, Cavemen in Space, I played around with having a big cast of characters and watching their storylines intersect.  Mermin is a little of both:  There is one central character, but the supporting characters have large roles, especially as the series progresses. 

The biggest difference in Mermin might be that it’s a series.  I’m enjoying being able to spend a lot of time developing the characters over multiple volumes, and learning a lot from that experience, but I’m also looking forward to returning to a single-volume graphic novel after I come to a stopping point with Mermin.  I think I’ll try to put as much character development, action, and fun into my next book as I can!

QUESTION (FROM JORGE):  You went to Savannah College of Art & Design.  My nephew is going to start going there this Fall.  What advice do you have for young artists going to art school?  What should they be focus on while at school so they can make a living working in the arts once they graduate?

Joey Weiser: I think that a lot of people know that both your professors and your fellow students are great resources to learn from and grow while in college.  However, I think it should be stressed that it’s up to YOU to push yourself as hard as you can, make the decisions to take the hard classes that may seem like a pain but will ultimately help you the most, and do the absolute best on your work that you can.

QUESTION: What comic would you recommend to a kid starting to read graphic novels today?

Joey Weiser: The first book that comes to mind is Jeff Smith’s Bone.  It’s absolutely one of my favorite comics of all time, great for kids, and made me the cartoonist I am today.

QUESTION: What are you working on now?

Joey Weiser: I am finishing up my next Mermin graphic novel, Mermin Book 4: Into Atlantis.  After the events of the last book, we get to explore Atlantis, the other undersea kingdom besides Mer!  Look for it this Fall!

Besides that I do fairly regular work for SpongeBob Comics, and other things here and there.  I’m also in the middle of a giant sketch project, Daily Dragon Ball, where I am drawing just about every character from Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball in order of appearance.  You can follow that at

QUESTION:  What's on your nightstand?

Joey Weiser: I’ve just begun reading Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, a biography/photo book of the man behind the special effects for classic Japanese monster movies and television like Godzilla and Ultraman.  I love that stuff!

Wait - there's more! Check out this schedule!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dragons Beware! - BATTLE CRY!

Aguirre, Jorge. Dragons Beware. First Second Books (Macmillan), May 2015. $14.99. 160p. 9781596438781.

| Indiebound

Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Cover Appeal: CHARGE! All the kids will want this. All of them.

From the publisher:
Scrappy Claudette sets out once again with her pal Marie and her little brother Gaston to right wrongs and fight evil. And this time, it's personal. Claudette is out to get the dragon who ate her father's legs...and his legendary sword. But as usual, nothing is as simple as it seems, and Claudette is going to need Marie and Gaston's help more than ever. Funny, fast, high-energy storytelling in an inventive and perilous fantasy landscape makes Dragons Beware! a fantastic follow-up to 2012's middle-grade hit Giants Beware!

Are you ready for Claudette! Well, she's back! 

Check out how some kids are helping Claudette come up with the BEST BATTLE CRY! Dragons Beware!!


Are you psyched yet? Hop on over to the Dragons Beware site to see some additional videos and some inside pages! May 12th can't get here soon enough!

Friday, April 17, 2015

My Soul Looks Back

I have read my share of window books.

And your share.

And your share.

And your share.

I have read so many window books,
I'm afraid to read a mirror book.

For fear I may no longer recognize myself,
and the mirror shatters.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Honey Ma'am


Will I Ever
of being upset
The worker half my age
calls me


Isn't it Better


What if they said "thankyousomuchforvisitingourestablishment,werecognizewewouldnothaveajobherewithoutyourcontinuedpatronage, Honey, Ma'am."


No, honey.
No, ma,am.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We The Children - #SOLC 26

When the kid graduated from 5th grade they sang We The Children by Parachute Express. It is a weird song meant to make parents feel sentimental. As we listened to it on our drive home, a few lines really stood out for me:

Every act of kindness has a way of being passed along
we are all a deep reflection of the lessons we've been shown
we the children are golden
and we the children are light
we dance on the top of the mountain
we shine like stars in the night...

And for reasons known only to my neurologist, I started thinking about all the librarians I know. How they are out there shining like stars in the night. How they define what it means to be a school librarian - which has no definition because school librarian work to reflect what their schools need. So your school librarian may not do the things that his or her school librarian does. And that's ok. We are all reflections of the lessons we've been shown. Whether that's a lesson from my friend Sherry and your librarian is out there moving and shaking and post-it noting window displays, or playing guitar like my friend Andy, or maybe your librarian is hosting a podcast like Matthew, or giving you the lowdown like Kurt, or is your librarian showing you the hidden gems of picture book design like Travis? Do you have the kind of librarian that has made all the books easily accessible and gone Dewey-free like Shannon? Maybe your school librarian also teaches English classes like Megan? Is your librarian doing Maker Mondays like Stacey? Providing an advisory resource like Jen? 

Some of my librarian friends head committees and some travel around helping other teachers and librarians. They are book experts,, technology experts, student experts. 

And these things I mention are only a very small fraction of what they do every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

They are the children. They are the light. They are the librarians.

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler- Blog Tour

Hosler, Jay. Last of the Sandwalkers. First Second Books (Macmillan), April 2015. 320pg. $16.99. 9781626720244.

Affiliate Links: Amazon | Indiebound

Genre: Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Cover Appeal: Bug on a skeleton? All the middle school kids will want this!

(from the publisher) Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization—a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. One such scientist is Lucy, who leads a team of researchers out into the desert. Their mission is to discover something about the greater world...but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Beetles are not the only living creatures in the world.

Character Name: Bugs
Species: Atemeles pubicollis
Length: 4 - 5 mm
Color: golden brown.
Habitat: ant colonies
Superpower: Olfactory deception

No one likes a freeloader, but you have to admire the evolutionary adaptations of the rove beetle Atemeles pubicollis. This small beetle has cracked the top secret communication codes of various ant species and uses the information to infiltrate their nests.

Ants communicate with each other using odors. Their eyes aren’t so hot, but they have great sniffers, capable of detecting the difference between family and foes. At least, most of the time they can. The problem with relying on a highly specific code for communication is that if someone else cracks the code, they can really take advantage of the system. Over evolutionary time, Atemeles has evolved the ability to mimic not one, but two of the chemical cues used by certain ants. It can release odors from its appeasement gland to calm guard ants. Most ants are pretty aggressive, so the beetle’s appeasement gland makes it possible for it to approach the colony. Once it has made nice with the guard, it releases another odor that smells just like a baby ant. Since the ant can’t see very well, it trusts its sense of smell and carries the beetle into the colony. Once in, Atemeles can much away on baby ants and enjoy the full protection of the colony.

In addition to being a master of olfactory disguise, Atemeles and other rove beetles are pretty good at origami. Kinda, sorta. Most beetles have long wing covers (called elytra) that extend the length of their bodies and cover their abdomens. A rove beetle has very short elytra. This makes if possible to have a much more maneuverable abdomen (good for waving deceptive odors in the face of ants), but it means you have less space to pack your wings. To that end, rove beetles have become quite good at folding their long wings under their little elytra. You can watch the process in slow motion in these videos (provided as supplementary material for an article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

In Last of the Sandwalkers, our beetle heroes learn the hard way that even though the beetle Atemeles smells fishy to them, ants have a hard time sniffing out the truth.

About the Author
Jay Hosler is a biology professor at Juniata College, and a cartoonist. He enjoys telling stories about science and the natural world, and his first graphic novel (Clan Apis) won a Xeric Award and was selected for YALSA's 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. His latest book, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, was a 2011 Junior Library Guild selection, a nominee for YALSA's 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and has been included in the Texas Library Association's Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and his two little nerdlings.


Tuesday, March 24
Seven Impossible Things
Wednesday, March 25
Great Kid Books
Thursday, March 26
The Brain Lair
Friday, March 27
Supernatural Snark
Monday, March 30
The Book Rat
Tuesday, March 31
Miss Print
Wednesday, April 1
Mr. Schu Reads
Thursday, April 2
Geek Dad
Friday, April 3
Monday, April 6
Librarian’s Quest
Tuesday, April 7
SLJ Scope Notes
Wednesday, April 8
Alice Marvels
Thursday, April 9
The Roarbots
Friday, April 10
Sharp Read


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