How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens: Paul Noth

Book: How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens
Author: Paul Noth
Pages: 224
Age Range: 8-12

HowToSellYourFamilyHow to Sell Your Family to the Aliens by Paul Noth is a lightly illustrated, over-the-top middle grade science fiction novel, possibly the first of a series. Happy Conklin, Jr. lives with his parents and his five sisters in two rooms in the basement of his grandmother's lavish mansion. Although Hap's father actually dreams up all of the inventions that have made the family wealthy, he is perpetually punished/banished because of his choice to marry a poor Romanian laundress (Hap's mother, who is offscreen for most of the story).

Grandma Conklin has tested various inventions on her grandchildren, most of whom possess lingering oddities. Hap, though only 10, has a full beard, and needs to shave every day to even begin to fit in at school. One sister is a kleptomaniac who apparently hides her spoils in some other dimension, because they are never seen again. Other sisters, twins, only look alike because one of them possesses a pair of glasses that can make her look like anyone, and she chooses to look like her sister. Another, Kayla, can more or less see the future (it's complicated). Only the cheerful youngest, Baby Lu, is unmarked. When a threat to Baby Lu from Grandma arises, Hap (with some suggestions from Kayla) springs into action. What follows is a madcap caper involving an intelligent lizard, a less intelligent wrestler, a dwarf FBI agent, and, yes, aliens. 

How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens is a quick, fun read, sprinkled with quirky inventions and occasional scenes related in comic strip format. Here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for Hap's voice. He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he is determined to help his sister.

"My grandma only baked cookies once a week, and even then they weren't for me but for my dad. And actually she didn't bake them herself either--her personal chef id. My dad's inventions paid for her to have a chef, three maids, a butler, a bunch of security guards, a chauffeur, and a footman, who I guess did something to her feet. I don't want to know what." (Chapter 1)

and:

"By Kayla's timeline, I was supposed to be in the Chartreuse Vestibule. But this was just some yellow hallway! I must have made a wrong turn.

Up ahead, a pug-faced man hurried into the hallway, walking toward me, while looking at an expensive leather clipboard." (Chapter 11)

Noth's black-and-white illustrations lend humor throughout, ranging from a schematic of the mansion to various drawings that are not what the aliens look like, but are drawn by Hap "to fool people who are flipping ahead in the book to find out what the aliens look like." 

How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens is a super-fun addition to the ranks of middle grade science fiction. The illustrations should make it accessible to newer readers, and the premise (selling an annoying family to aliens) is hard to resist. I hope that there are other books to follow - I would enjoy spending more time with Hap and his family. Recommended!!

Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: February 16: #Cybils Awards, #ALA Awards, #Library Lovers Month + More

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #ALAYMA, #BookLists, #Cybils, #homework, #math, #STEM, book awards, comics, intrinsic motivation, letter grades, libraries, publishing, sexual harassment, teaching. My daughter is on school vacation, so there will be no roundup next week. I'll be back in early March!

Top Tweet of the Week

Big news, fans! Award Winners will be announced 2/14, at 9:30 am PT | Excellent , , , , , + more

Book Lists + Awards

CharlieAndMouseALA announces 2018 youth media award winners | | Congrats to + all others honored

My Top Ten Books I Booktalk Every Year by | Looks like a good for jr. high

RA RA Read: and other gross and silly books | Jennifer Wharton shares some read-alikes |

Cybils Awards

ArmstrongAndCharlieToday's featured REVIEW: Middle Grade Fiction finalist Armstrong and Charlie by | review by |

Today's featured REVIEW is Fiction finalist After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by | review by

Events + Programs

Happy Library Lover's Month! | bloggers share their special memories of

Growing Bookworms

ReadingZoneIndependent reading: It’s for everyone! | @Scholastic http://ow.ly/YgcJ30ikeI5 | Ideas for strengthening independent in secondary students

Kidlitosphere

Sexual Harassment in the Children's Literature Industry | 's post today is a good starting point to catch up on recent discussions

See also: Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks (w/ many many comments) |

And one more: Sexual Harassment and Post- 2018 Thoughts (not necessarily at the same time) —

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

RefugeeIt’s never too late to become a reader! Sometimes you just haven't found the right medium by |

The True Power of Technology from | Giving kids (+ adults) a way to be seen, to find our remote tribe https://t.co/Au2kucutkI

Moving From “Stealing” to “Remixing” With Credit – shares example from

On and the Female Cliches (like "I am weak but he made me strong") that Hurt Us All | from teacher + prolific reader

Parenting

As Examples With Use of Devices & Technology | We need rules for kids AND for us, has suggestions

Schools and Libraries

DrivePinkIn The DRIVEr Seat | Thoughts from Scott Jones on nurturing intrinsic motivation in , inspired by 's DRIVE https://t.co/lb1j8wxfXx

Dear Parents: Here's What You Should Know About Letter - | via

No, Elementary School Isn't Good for Kids | | via

STEM

RT @MindShiftKQED: "This project started as a way to show young children engaged in rigorous mathematics in ways that were play"

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Death and Douglas: J. W. Ocker

Book: Death and Douglas
Author: J. W. Ocker
Pages: 372
Age Range: 8-12

DeathAndDouglasDeath and Douglas by J. W. Ocker is a well-written middle grade murder mystery full of both atmosphere and black humor. Douglas, the protagonist, lives with his parents in the family mortuary. When a serial killer strikes his small town, Douglas and two friends (one the son of the local police chief) take it upon themselves to investigate. Naturally, they get a bit more than they bargained for. 

Douglas is an unusual character. He wears suits and neckties most of the time. He attends funerals partly to help, but mostly as a hobby. His favorite place to hang out is the local graveyard, where the two gravediggers call him Spadeful. The gravediggers regale him with tales of monsters and vampires, which the impressionable Douglas at least partially believes. Douglas, raised in a funeral home, understands that death is a natural outcome of life. However, he finds murder, the deliberate causing of death, shocking. 

There's a mix of introspection (about the nature of murder, about whether Douglas wants to grow up to continue the family business, etc.) and action (sneaking out of the house at midnight, venturing down into the mortuary workroom to look for clues, etc.) in Death and Douglas. The stories from the gravediggers and the general atmosphere of the book made me wonder for a time if Death and Douglas was a fantasy, but it stays just to the reality side of the line. But it's certainly on the over the top side.

What made Death and Douglas stand out for me was Ocker's writing. I could select practically any page to give you an example of a deft description or surprising insight. I stopped highlighting about 1/4 of the way through the book. Here are a couple of examples:

"A small black crow of a boy leaned against the roof of a dead man. The boy's features, where they were black, were extremely black, and where they were pale, extremely pale. A carefully combed slick of thick black hair defined his northern border, three parallel off-shoots of which angled across his forehead like they had been gouged there by the claw of a cat." (Page 1) 

and:

"Around him, Cowlmouth was starting to kindle its autumn fires. It was still early September, and only a few impatient trees lifted a red- or yellow-flaming torch in the midst of their mostly green branches. In another few weeks, every birch, every elm, and every oak would be in full five-alarm conflagration before finally fading to brown and being buried under snow for the winter." (Page 16)

and:

"Murder, that was different. Murder was a puzzle to be solved in stories. A word to be ignored on the boring newscasts his father like to watch. Murder was an adult word. A coffee-drinker's word. The type archaically printed in newspapers. It didn't have a meaning in real life. Not in Douglas's real life, anyway. Not in Douglas's Cowlmouth." (Page 42)

"Coffee-drinkers" is used throughout the book to refer to adults. "What the hockey sticks" is used, by Douglas's best friend Lowell, instead of "What the hell." There's just enough insider-jargon to make readers feel like they are part of the little group that consists of Douglas, Lowell, and new friend Audrey. It's a fun book to read, in terms of writing and characters. Cowlmouth is practically a character, too, a quirky small town with a big carnival, a place where residents go all out for Halloween. You get the sense as a reader that the author put in a considerable amount of time thinking about the setting and characters before writing the book. 

Although Death and Douglas is written in such a way to be accessible to younger readers (Amazon lists it for 8 and up, and I don't disagree), I wouldn't give this to a particularly sensitive, nightmare-prone child. There are real murders that take place, and kids in peril. For most kids, I think that the book is over-the-top enough to not feel real, and thus not feel too scary. For me, it was an enjoyable read, well-written and memorable. Recommended! 

Publisher:  Sky Pony Press 
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: February 9: #BookGivingDay, #ReadAloud, Libraries, and Coping w/ Book Blahs

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BlackHistoryMonth, #BookGivingDay, #BookLists, #bullying, #Cybils, #Parenting, #PeterRabbit, #RaisingReaders, #ReadAloud, #reading, #STEM, book awards, homeschooling, libraries, and schools.

Cybils-Logo-2017-Round-SmAlso, please note that the Cybils award winners will be announced on Valentine's Day, February 14, at 9:30 am Pacific Time. Tune in to http://www.Cybils.com/blog to find high-quality, kid-friendly titles honored in categories ranging from fiction picture books to board books to young adult nonfiction, including poetry, graphic novels, and speculative fiction. Bloggers have been reading and reviewing and discussing books in each category since the fall, and the winners they have selected (not to mention the fabulous shortlists) are well worth a look!

Top Tweet of the Week

InfinityAndMeTen about Observation and Perspective | by https://t.co/68AmyiTx2y

Book Lists

18 Biographies | from https://t.co/Staij8p1gs

22 Books That Celebrate Lesser-Known African Americans and Their Contributions to History | Charnaie Gordon

Untold History: 50 Books about Extraordinary Black Mighty Girls and Women | from

Cybils

UndefeatedToday's featured REVIEW: Jr High Finalist Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team | review by

Today's featured REVIEW is MG Speculative Fiction finalist A Face Like Glass by | Review by

Today's featured REVIEW is Elementary/Middle Grade finalist Beauty and the Beak | review by

Events + Programs

BookGivingDay2018International is Next Week (2/14)!!! has the scoop

The 2018 Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award | How neat that the UK celebrates students who support their libraries

Growing Bookworms

NationalAmbassadorStop Using the Label 'Struggling Reader,' Author + National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Advises |

What Does It Mean When a Book Flood Fails? "we should not underestimate the challenge of what we're trying to do" by

: Every Day, Every Student by | We need to model , demonstrate its importance

Some Small Ideas from to Help Students Self-Select Books Better | , TBR lists, + more https://t.co/htFCSXEEIV

5 reasons to to your child, today and always by via | Introduce great stories, bond, + more

Highlights: How We Taught Our Preschooler to Read from

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

PeterRabbitA Suggestion to Read or Listen to with Before Watching the Movie | I always prefer to read the book first

When That Book Won't Do | Some tips for seeing readers through the occasional Book Blahs, from

Parenting

Lessons from the Mother of a Child Who Was Bullied | is generous enough to share valuable lessons learned https://t.co/p1aY00epTc

What is YOUR Earliest Memory? Understanding How Develops in Young Children.

Schools and Libraries

LearnerCenteredLearner-Centered Innovation – new book just released by (whose blog I follow) |

Nice feature about a small-town library stepping in to report community news -

No books at home? Anaheim library’s ‘permanent loan’ program aims to fix that for kids – via https://t.co/TBC1DYcUHb

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 7: Book Reviews, Links, and Reading #HarryPotter Book 5

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have three book reviews (middle grade to young adult) and three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter. I do have a couple of ideas for posts about literacy milestones and some thoughts on reading programs. I hope to get to those soon. I'm still feeling the effects of illness, and my blogging has been sadly diminished. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished five middle grade, three young adult, and five adult titles. I read/listened to: 

ShadowOfLionsI'm currently listening to Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann. I'm reading The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando (ARC). My daughter and I are still reading Harry Potter Five (The Order of the Phoenix). It's going to take us months, of course, because we generally only read during and immediately after breakfast. She's really enjoying it though, and I am enjoying our shared experience. This morning, on learning that Ron was named a Prefect for fifth year, she shrieked in surprise and delight. She's deeply invested in the series, and doesn't seem to mind at all Harry's grumpy attitude in this particular book. We do risk being late for school sometimes, because's it's hard to stop reading, but that's a price I'm willing to pay. 

LosersClubFor her own reading, she's a little bit at loose ends for another series to consume her, and she's been struggling to find books in the school library that she enjoys that are at her permitted AR level (this is a topic for a future post). So she's mostly re-reading picture books, the Lucy and Andy Neanderthal books, and the Babysitters Club Graphic Novels. She's also reading what I think is her first middle grade novel, The Losers Club. by Andrew Clements, but I think it's a tiny bit too difficult and I'm not sure if she'll finish right now. She has a vacation coming up and I have some new titles saved that she can try then. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook