Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Royal Reflection

This morning I realized that my son is nearly the exact same age I was when Lady Diana wed Prince Charles.  It was 1981 and I was in Maine spending the summer in Waldoboro.  We didn't have a TV so the best I could do was look closely at all the photos in the paper the following day.  It satisfied me enough but boy did I feel left out that I didn't see it live.

I loved Diana.  I wanted to be her.  Even down to her hairstyle.  That year in Seventeen magazine there was a how-to on her hairstyle that you could cut out and hand over to your hairdresser.  I did it and looked awful.  Did my hairdresser know better? Of course.  I can still picture her telling me that it wasn't going to work on my curly, thick hair.  But I insisted. Thankfully, hair grows.

Today when I have a TV and Internet, I didn't set my alarm or attend any parties (I heard about this one at the Kansas City Public Library on NPR yesterday) but I did tune in when I finally managed to get out of bed.  I missed the ceremony but still got my share of the pomp and circumstance. And my tears were flowing. C'mon. Who doesn't cry at weddings?

The news these days is not good so a fairytale royal wedding is medicine for the soul. An escape, even if it's for an hour.  That's what reading does for me, too.  Plucks me right out of my life for a while. It's cliche but true. Take me to another world, another life, please.

Last week I finished Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, a perfect lead up to today's event. Englishman Monty, his younger sister, Felicity and his best friend, Percey embark on a year long "Grand Tour" of the continent sometime in the 1700s.  There's a stolen box from Versailles pirates, parties, drinking, sex, Monty's love for Percey (unrequited or requited?) and quests...this exciting young adult novel has it all. The adventure, the triplet, the English countryside had me thinking it was a more-than-PG-13-but-less-than-R-rated version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Monty, Felicity and Percey seek to find a mysterious cure. The sequel from Felicity's point of view, comes out October 2.

Thank you Royal Family for giving me the opportunity to escape to England for the second time this week and congratulations Harry and Meghan from across the pond, up the Hudson River over in Castleton.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mac B. Kid Spy Mac Undercover

Izzy is back again the second time this week!  Yesterday she went home with Mac B. Kid Spy Mac Undercover, a new book by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Mike Lowery that comes out in September. She read it in one night! Here's what she had to say about it:

"This book is about Mac, just a regular kid. Then he gets a call from the Queen of England! She says that one of the crown jewels has been stolen and Mac has to find it."
One of Izzy's classmates, Gabe, stopped by and was eavesdropping in our conversation.  He started to ask Izzy some questions:

"Who's Mac? Is he cool?" Gabe asked.
"He's the main character and yeah, he's cool!" Izzy said with a smile.
"Who's the dog?" Gabe wondered while stealing a look at the cover.
"He's one of the many Queen of England's corgis! She has them as pets." Izzy replied. "Now back to the book--Someone left a note that they stole the jewel and Mac has to figure out how to get it back. Will Mac find the jewel? If he does, will he be able to outsmart the guards to get it back to the Queen? Read this sneaky spy book to figure it out! I recommend this book to kids in grades 1 and up.  You can't be too old to read a good book.
"By the way, I was on the swings when I was the reading the part when the Queen called Mac and said she wasn't paying him to eat cheeseburgers and she wasn't even paying him! That made me fall off the swing!"


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ocean Renegades!

Izzy is BAAAAACCCCKKKK! This time she's reviewing the first book in a new nonfiction graphic novel series, Earth Before Us: Ocean Renegades due out this August.

"The new book, Ocean Renegades, is an informational book but it's also pretty funny. Miss Lernin is babysitting Ronnie while his parents are away.  But the babysitting turns into quite the adventure.  All Ronnie wanted to do was go to the playground and check out the new swings.  Instead, Miss Lernin and Ronnie ended up at the aquarium. When they were looking at all the fish, they decided to time travel. They end up at the time before the dinosaurs.  They learn that even before land animals existed there were so many living creatures that are still evolving to this day. It would be awesome if when I was babysat for that I got to travel to time before the dinosaurs!
"If you want to learn about before land animals 
existed in a fun way, read this book!"
Earth Before Us: Ocean Renegades! by Abby Howard comes out this August by Abrams.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Serpent's Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond

I saw Sayantani Dasgupta speak on a panel at TLA and bought her book for our library as soon as I returned home.  I haven't read it yet, but put it in the hands of one of my best book reviewers, Izzy. She came in first thing this morning with her thoughts.

First her summary:

"Kiranmala is just regular sixth grader in New Jersey but then on Halloween her parents are nowhere to be found.  Then two boys dressed up as princes point out that there is a demon (aka rakkhosh) right behind her, destroying her house.  They  fight the rakkhosh and escape it when it becomes unconscious. They go to the Transit Corridor in search of her parents and Kiranmala can't go through unless she passes the Transit Officer.  She is able to solve the riddles to get through but she finds out that you aren't supposed to live when you go to the Transit Officer.  So she has to run away and finds herself in a strange city in a different dimension. She's still searching for her parents.  Eventually the two boys find Kiranmala and are surprised to see that she is alive. Together the three of them go to the castle to find Tuni.  They have been told that Tuni can figure out basically anything but you first have to figure out what his poem means. Tuni tells them a poem which they figure out that Kiranmala's parents are in a well of darkness. Will she find her parents?  Read the book to find out!"

Why did you like it?
I liked it because it was a fantasy with some action.  And it was believable, too!  That's hard to do with a fantasy book! 
I don't know about you, but I am going to put this book at the top of my ever growing TBR pile for sure! Thank you, Izzy!

Sidenote: Izzy LOVES Adam Gidwitz and Adam was on the same panel at TLA!  Coincidence that she liked this book, too, then?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My Love for Texas

I am often asked, "Why Texas?"  I still need to figure out a pat answer that I can use over and over again.  It's almost an obsession.  My own kids call me on it all the time.  I dare you to find someone else (not from Texas) who has a postcard of the state flag hanging in her library, more Texas t-shirts than from any other state and whose working on her twang.  I'm proud to be from NoNo Texas.

Where did it stem from?  I can't exactly pinpoint the date but somewhere between a #txlchat and a book stand.  I had already been mildly obsessed when I posted on Twitter a picture of a new book from my library.  It happened to be on a book stand that caught Fort Worth librarian, Kirsten Murphy's eye.  The conversation went something like this:
"Where did you get that book stand?"
"Borders.  When it went out of business, I snagged a bunch of them."
"Can you take a few pictures of it from different angles for me?  Maybe my husband can build me some."
And so our friendship began and so did my love for Texas and all the Texas librarians, authors and illustrators. (I did love Barbara Jordan way before that, Chris Barton). That was nearly three years ago. Since then I have attended two TLAs, made many more Texas friends, fall hard for any character or book that takes place in Texas (thank you, authors Julie Murphy and Benjamin Alire Saenz) and know how to eat queso the right way.

You can only imagine my feeling when I opened up my New York Times Book Review (yes, I am still a Queens native at heart who thinks the NYT is the only paper to read) this morning to see the cover article. It's a review by David Oshinsky of God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright.  It has ME written all over it. Even if you don't read the article, check out this pool I NEED to swim in!

The article (and book that is already on my TBR pile) just validates all the reasons why I love Texas and why my liberal Yankee self belongs there.  Maybe not to live but certainly to visit often.

A side and very embarrassing anecdote

On Friday, Mrs. DeMassio's class held their "Celebrity Ball."  We worked for a month on this project, reading biographies, diving deep into one special person's life and then ultimately dressing up and sharing ourselves as that person to families and friends.  It was a great event.  And no surprise here, the biography I chose to introduce and model the project to the class was of course, a Texan, Lady Bird Johnson.

When Dolley Madison came up to the mic to be interviewed by me, I could tell she was nervous. And maybe I was too.  Or just distracted by the SHeDAISY version of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" Whatever it was Dolley ultimately became a mashup of Dolley and Lady Bird.  I asked her about the parties she hosted and her fourth president husband, James.  We talked about the War of 1812.  It was all going so well until I looked down at her paper and saw the student had written she went to the University of Texas.  Oh boy.  You know where this is going! In that moment, it didn't seem odd to me. So just like that I said, "You went to the University of Texas? You know I love Texas! Go Longhorns!"  Parents laughed and no one said anything afterwards.  Maybe they didn't catch it. It was only yesterday that I realized what happened and so today, rather than die of embarrassment, I will just chalk it up to my ongoing Texas obsession. Lone Star State rules!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

My Own Golden Medal #slm18

I was in the Newbery 2018 Orphan Island camp. Yes, I was left feeling a bit frustrated at the close of book, but that only made the entire experience better.  I wanted to talk to everyone and anyone who had read it so we could commiserate together.  Weeks and months later, we were all still talking, discussing, wondering, debating.  So you can imagine how excited we were when Laurel Snyder agreed to Skype with us before the Newbery announcement.  Then the snow fell and we had to reschedule for "after."

One thing I love about kids is that they are honest and innocent.  They are still learning how to navigate the world of words and what's the right thing to say or ask.  So when they asked Laurel about the Newbery award, I cringed a bit.  Oooh.  Maybe it's too soon, too sensitive.  But Laurel had the right answer that has stuck with me still.  Sure, it is great to win the award, and we all know it is.  But the real win for Laurel was sitting in front of kids like mine, super excited and stoked about her book. My kids (and I) loved her book and were not afraid to express it. That was what was rewarding and fulfilling, not only for Laurel, but me, too.

This came to mind yesterday when I was showered with love in front of the whole school in honor of School Library Month.  No award or contest could ever compare. Second graders shared a "Top Ten Reasons Why We Love Mrs. Rattner". A beautiful bouquet of flowers with books was handed to me.  A couple of fourth graders read their "Choose Kind" essay that they wrote about me. Every student, teacher and staff member signed a copy of The Giving Tree for me. They sang to me.  There was cake. Unbelievable, really.  For me? I can't thank all who were involved enough 🤗

Later a teacher said she was surprised I didn't ball my eyes out at the assembly.  I told her I was just in pure shock.  I'm just doing my job and I love it.  (True confession--I'm crying now as I reflect.) I love my kids. I love their smiling faces. I love all my faculty and staff. I mean, how lucky am I to have the teachers I have?  I ask (tell?) them to have every student sign a record (yes, a 45 RPM). They do. "I'm thinking about having all the students out on the sidewalk to greet Matt Cordell when he arrives," I begin. "Oh, and by the way, instead of a red carpet, let's go out the day before and color the sidewalk gold."  They don't even flinch. (Please don't tell this to Matt!)

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm super competitive.  Why do you think I go over-the-top extra with my author visits (and everything else)? Would I like to "move and shake" some day? Of course.  Be on the cover of SLJ? Who wouldn't?  But seriously, that's all bonus.  For now,  yesterday reminded me that I get my own golden medal every morning I walk into my building, take a leap or two, (or three), put the right book in the right kid's hand, turn the research lightbulb on, foster creativity and inquiry, and so much more.  That's the best award I can ever receive.

Right after morning program, a fifth grader came up to me and said, "Every single thing they said in that assembly is true.  I think you're wonderful, Ms. Rattner." Put that on my mantle.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match

Elizabeth Eulberg was part of a star studded middle grade panel I went to at TLA a couple of weeks ago.  I am embarrassed to admit that I had not heard of her or her books.  But now I do!  And bonus! I got a copy of the 2017-18 Texas Bluebonnet nominated sequel for our "North North Texas" library in upstate New York!

Before I even had a chance to process the book, I passed it on to one of my best readers and reviewers, fifth grader Izzy B.  I'm not kidding! Izzy even has one of her blurbs on Chris Grabenstein's bookmarks!

Izzy, finished The Great Shelby Homes Meets Her Match just a couple of days after bringing it home. By giving Izzy the second in the series without having read Book 1, you can see that it could be a standalone.

What did you like about the book, Izzy?
I liked that it was an adventure and that Shelby was a detective and just a normal kid at the same time. But, not that normal. She can just look at someone and know their life story. 
Tell me a little bit about the book:
There's a missing watch. It belongs to Mr. Crosby, the science teacher.  Shelby and Watson have to find out who stole it. Along the way, they have to break laws to find out who did it. Trespassing, setting off a fire alarm, smoke bombs...It's not easy! To find out who did it, read this mysterious, adventurous book!  You will feel like you were right there solving the case alongside Shelby and Watson!
I can't wait to get this book (and the rest in the series) in the hands of more students!

There is always time for a leap!