Thursday, December 28, 2006

Scrapbook



Oh Adrian Tomine. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

There are various ways that one can come to Tomine's work. From the New Yorker, from various album covers, or from his comics. I found Tomine through Optic Nerve which remains one of my favourite comics of all time.

Scrapbook is a wonderful collection of early work, later work, rework, and illustration. Eventhough I am familiar with lots of his stuff, this collection was still fresh to me. One of the things that I love, is that his stuff isn't always autobiographical. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole comic scene like that (Joe Matt etc), but as a reader, I really love the characters that Tomine develops. From the hipster to the sociopath (that creeeeeeepy laundromat guy *shiver*), Tomine gets the voice down in such a way that the reader feels for each and every character. You may not necessarily like the character, but doubtless you will feel something.

A wonderful way to spend the afternoon. I will revisit this often!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Year the Gypsies Came


Another book that I wanted to read after my high school librarian booktalked it.

Set in South Africa during Apartheid, Emily's family is falling apart. Mother and Father rarely speak, and when they do it is just to argue. Mother is upset that Father isn't keeping her in the lifestyle that she imagined for herself, and Father is tired of Mother's browbeating. The only time that her parents seem to stop arguing is when other people stay at their compound. This time it's the gyspies.

Not gypsies like one would imagine, her Father assures Emily. This is a wandering family from Australia. Jock, the nature photographer, wife Peg (with her omnipresent snake Opalina around her neck), and sons Otis and Streak. It's plain to see that Otis is simply not right in the head, and Streak is a bit of a wild one himself. Emily immediately takes to Streak, and sister Sarah is so kind and gentle that Otis' ways do not seem to bother her.

The family's night watchman, Buza, has a bad feeling about these visitors. Emily spends her evenings with Buza, listening to his Zulu stories. He is the only person who can make Emily feel whole as her family splinters apart.

***************

This is a beautifully written tragedy. Emily is young enough that her emotions are raw and on the surface and Linzi Glass writes her voice perfectly. In fact there are no weak characters in this story. Each is integral, and everyone grows in some way.

I have a bit of an interest in South Africa as a friend of mine lived there for several years, and I have recently aquired a South African penpal. However, I think that this is a book that will appeal to most fans of the written word. It is not for younger YAs as themes of infidelity, sexual abuse, and death are present. It is, however, wonderfully written and a pleasure (despite the pain) to read.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sold


Our high school librarian booktalked this for a parent night we had at school and I knew I had to read it. Then, I was fortunate enough to hear Patricia McCormick read at Donnell for the YA National Book Award press conference. After that, I couldn't wait to read Sold.

Lakshmi is 13 and living with her mother, baby brother and stepfather in Nepal. They get by, mostly because of Lakshmi and Ama. Stepfather gambles away his nights in the teahouse and does not work during the day. But as Ama keeps reminding her, any man is better than no man.

After a long draught, the monsoon wipes out the meager crops that the family has. Stepfather announces that Lakshmi must go to the city to work. Lakshmi is nervous, but she is looking forward to helping her family. After all, since Gita went to the city to work for a rich family, her own family has a sun in the living room, a new set of pots, spectacles for father, a wedding dress for her sister, and school for her little brother. Lakshmi just wants to earn enough to get a tin roof for her mother.

Four days of travel leave Lakshmi not in a wealthy house in the city, rather in Calcutta's red light district. She has to work until the sum Mumtaz paid for her is gone. But Lakshmi doesn't understand the city math until one of the other girls explains it to her.

"...If I work a hundred days more, I should have nearly enough....Then Shahanna teaches me city subtraction. Half of what the men pay goes to Mumtaz, she says. Then you must take away 80 rupees for what Mumtaz charges for your daily rice and dal. Another 100 a week for renting you a bed and pillow. And 500 for the shot the dirty-hands doctor gives us once a month..."(p. 147)

13, in a strange city, locked in a brothel, speaking little Hindi what chance does Lakshmi have?

This is an amazingly powerful story. Especially since it's based on fact. Sparsely and beautifully written, Sold can open eyes to a world that Western youth generally never thinks about. The Author's Note alone brought tears to my eyes.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Reads Gone By...



You must have noticed that this is the time of year that folks break out the "Best of" lists. I don't feel like I have read widely enough this year to really comment, so I decided to take a little walk down memory lane.

Before Blogspot, I used to keep track of my books in this cute little "Books I've Read: A Reader's Journal". So I pulled out my volumes, blew off the dust, and took to reading about what I have read in the past.

There is some great stuff in there, and maybe I will backtrack and blog them sometime, but for now, here are my "Top 25 Books Before the Blog"!

The Lovely Bones, by Sebold (read 9/10/02)

Skellig, by Almond (read 9/20/02)

The Brothers Grimm, by Hettinger (read 10/21/02)

Abarat, by Barker (read 11/1/02)

The Rope Trick, by Alexander (read 12/11/02)

The Fig Eater, by Shields (read 1/2/03)

God Went to Beauty School, by Rylant (read 2/12/03)

first part last, by Johnson (read 3/12/03)

Paint Me Like I Am, teen writers (read 3/25/03)

Vampire High, by Rees (read 3/26/03)

Mondays are Red, by Morgan (read 5/22/03)

Full Tilt, by Shusterman (read 6/14/03)

Out of Order, by Jenkins (read 7/13/03)

33 snowfish, by Rapp (read 8/10/03)

The Canning Season, by Horvath (read 9/16/03)

Target, by Johnson (read 9/19/03)

Colibri, by Cameron (read 9/30/03)

afterlife, by Soto (read 10/03)

Shutterbug Follies, by Little (read 10/15/03)

Fables: Animal Farm, by Willingham (read 10/17/03)

Hollow Kingdom, by Dunkle (read 10/28/03)

Pirates!, by Rees (read 11/19/03)

A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Bray (read 11/03/03)

Point Break, by Horowitz (read 12/03/03)

Drop City, by Boyle (read 1/24/04)

So there you are. No particular order, but I enjoyed each one. Some got panned in the reviews, but...I like what I like and I rarely apologize for it!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Prom Anonymous


So the prom to the teen is somewhat like New Year's Eve to us old folks. Big anticipation, and a bit of let down. I would know. I went to 3 "formals" as they were called in my hometown, and each was depressing in its own little way.

But I digress.

Laura, Jace and Chloe are bestfriends. At least they were in the 8th grade. Now they've each gone their own way. Laura is the popular, organized one. She is going on a year and a half dating her boyfriend Mike. She went to his prom last year. Jace is the athletic one...the star of the basketball team. And Chloe? Let's face it. She's just weird with her red barrette and Sylvia Plath obsession. It's hard to think that once they were known and "The Three Ts" (It's a last name thing.)

Laura has decided that it is her duty to get her old friends together to have the night of their lives. She has her date, Jace thinks she can get one with the new tennis boy in town, and they will simply have to help Chloe out.

Can these three overcome their differences in time for Prom? Is there really such a thing as a perfect night? What happens when you figure out that your boyfriend is a jerk?

All important questions to be answered.

Blake Nelson's Prom Anonymous will most likely appeal to a younger teen girl. You know how I feel about the super different friends coming together...(see Queen of Cool )But Chloe is so helpless and Jace is so nice and Laura is a mess, so as a reader, I found myself rooting for the night to go well.

Not my fav, but an entertaining read, nonetheless!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cupcake


...so you knew what was coming, right? My tendancy to binge on a series continues.


We follow Cyd to her post highschool year in NYC. Cyd is living in the Village with her half brother Danny, and she is valiantly trying to avoid higher education. Fortunately, she has loads to keep her busy. Friend Autumn is ditching classes at Columbia, there is the search for the ultimate caffeine (not easy, I live in NYC and I know!) , Luis may be back in the picture, and there is the neighbourhood curmudgion to win over.

There is nothing really surprising about the latest in the series. Cyd is trying to find herself and her place in her family. She is trying to put Shrimp behind her, but the fates seem to be working against that little situation.

This is a very NYC-centric story and a very Village-centric story at that. I think, however, the juxtopposition of Cali and NYC is just what Cohn was working on. A big, in-your-face showing of the "then" and the "now"....growing pains included.

This will serve well to the readers who love the Pants and have outgrown the Princess Diaries. The hot pink covers do little to belie the 18-year-old stuff going on inside. My niece will love them!

Shrimp



Ok. So I wasn't a huge fan of Gingerbread. The whole "Sid" and "Nancy" parents offended my somewhat punk sensibilities. I left Shrimp unread on the shelves for a year or so. Then the Cupcake arc showed up at work and I wanted to read it. Jen let me know it wasn't too good of an idea to read one without the other, so Shrimp got read.

Cyd is in San Fran for her final year of highschool. She and Shrimp are no longer together, but she is on the lookout for him when she runs into Helen, a girl from her school. Cyd recognizes Helen, but doesn't really know her, since as a rule, she does not befriend girls. Helen, however, has different ideas, and before Cyd knows it, she is actually friends with Helen and Autumn (who Shrimp actually hooked up with when on break from Cyd!)

Cyd and Shrimp keep finding each other, but Cyd soon finds that she is no longer the hellion she once was. And maybe Shrimp and his wandering ways are no longer for her.

****************

This is a great read for older teens who may find themselves in relationships that they no longer understand. The dialogue, though wonky, rings true and I found my 36 year old self yelling at the book "Break up with him dammit!"

I really did enjoy this book much more than Gingerbread. Did I just get over the Lia Block comparisons and unfortunate character names? I don't know. Maybe I dated one too many "artists" in my youth?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nick and Norah


Now here is a book that many told me my music lovin' self needed to read. And yet, I kept putting it off. Why? I was scared of being disappointed or underwhelmed. Sometimes YA books that discuss music, seem to do it in a grown-up "I still know all the hip music" inauthentic way. Boy, was I ever pleasantly surprised.

Nick is trying to get over Tris. Tris who he confessed his love to only to get dumped. He wrote songs for her. He loved her. And now, here he is in this crappy NYC bar, playing with his band, and who is out in the crowd? Tris. Nick tries not to notice her, but it is impossible.

Norah is trying to keep an eye on Caroline. It's not so easy to keep being the straight-edge friend to the drunk hook up girl. But Norah and Caroline go way back. Caroline is currently trying to get with one of the band boys when Norah notices the bass player from the previous band standing next to her. And that b*tch from her school Tris is coming her way.

Bass boy asks Norah "I know this is going to sound strange, but would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?"

Who knew that one question could change everything? Who knew that 12 hours could shape your future?

This is one of those take the plunge and fall into it books. As a reader, you've got to buy it, or you won't like it. Well...I bought the farm. I LOVE Nick. I don't know why, but I do. He's smart, musical, kind ...(yes, I know this is fiction!) And Norah's not so bad either.

Written in alternating voice chapters, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is fun, passionate and perfect for older teens.

I heart Nick and Norah.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Just Grace

This has a super cutie patootie cover on the arc that I happily snatched out of my coworker's hands!

Poor Grace. She is one of 4 Graces in her class and her teacher does the unthinkable...renaming the girls with Grace "insert last initial here". When one of the Graces volunteers to be Gracie, our Grace says that she can be called just Grace. Unfortunately, her teacher begins calling her "Just Grace". Not happy news to a young girl.

Just Grace's story is all over the place, not unlike most girls in the third grade. She is very concerned with "girl things" and "boy things". According to Grace, the following are boy things: "1)Spitting and making burping noises. 2) Not caring that your shirt or pants are sticky with food or mud or worse...mucus. 3)Really liking big and flashy superheroes...the kind with capes. 4) Drawing comics." [arc pp9-10] The thing is, Grace likes to draw comics. Her comic is called "Not So Super...but still good", and is a collection of her fantasies about her life.

Charise Mericle Harper writes in a wonky voice that takes some time to get used to. Once I started reading in my mind in a Pinky Dinky Do voice (you parents may know what I am talking about), the flow started to actually flow for me.

The book has all the trappings that 3rd grade girls will love. The aforementioned supercute cover, lists and more lists, boy-girl pre angst figuring, wonderings about her teacher/neighbour, a fascination with her flight attendant downstairs tenant, comics, and photos of kitties.

I know a couple of girly girls I will be handing this to once it is published!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

To Blog

...or not to blog.

So do I blog the books that I truly do not like? I have blogged some stuff in the past that I found underwhelming, but is there a point in blogging the stuff that I actively dislike?

I have just read 2 titles that I really do not like. One was for a bookclub at school, and one was just a new YA novel that I thought I might like.

Hmmm.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Think of England, by Alice Elliott Dark


This is a grown up book that has been on my shelves for about a year now. The title makes me smile, and I do love the family story, you know!

Jane is the peacemaker in her rather large family. Via, her mom, is a bit dismayed by how her life has turned out. Emlin, her dad, is always at the hospital busy with his patients. Uncle Francis comes to stay with them from NYC, since Jane's grandparents do not approve of his "lifestyle".

It's 1964 and the family is supposed to have a fun filled night of watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Via slyly slips the phone off the hook so that Emlin won't get called in, but prim Jane places it back again. The night seems to go well until Jane hears her mother's shouts, and her father is off to the hospital, worried they have been calling while the phone was dead. Jane shows her father that it was off the hook, and tells him to call into the hospital instead. Emlin decides to go in anyway. That's the last time anyone ever sees him.

Jane grows up, and goes to England to escape her family. There she meets Nigel and Colette...quite the duo. Jane quickly makes them her family, then manages to fall in love with a man who doesn't believe in love.

The reader follows Jane through her guilt ridden days, and we watch as she slowly peels back the onion skins of her life.

A quiet read. No new ground is broken, but it was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

M. T. Anderson

Go M.T. Anderson!

As you undoubtedly know, Octavian Nothing just won the National Book Award for Youth!

Yay!

I was lucky enough to attend the panel this week at Donnell and hear all nominated authors speak. I had read most of the books at the time (still have to read Sold and Lord Death). I have to say, I am very happy.
I had a bit of a yearning for American Born Chinese as it would be a boon to graphic novels everywhere, but Octavian Nothing really moved me.

So Yay!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Trouble Begins


This is another title that I read expressly for use in our East Meets West book night. I really enjoyed this take on the immigrant experience.

Du and his grandmother have been waiting for 8 years to join the rest of their family in California. They all left Vietnam at the same time, but grandmother and Du had TB, and were left behind.

When father finally gets the money together to bring Du and grandmother over, the rest of their family is pretty much Americanized. Du's brothers and sisters are embarassed by his constant trouble making and odd behaviour. His parents are always at work, and only seem to notice him when he gets in trouble at school. And school. That awful place is where Du feels most alone. He knows he is not stupid, but his lack of English is making everyone else talk to him like he is an idiot.

This is a fascinating story in that the reader is truly in Du's headspace. Eventhough we assume his thoughts are in Vietnamese, we are reading them in English. The reader recognized the very real struggles that Du is facing. This misunderstandings, and miscommunications. Without being preachy, this book makes readers stop and think about their own assumptions.

A thoughtful read.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, In the Belly of the Bloodhound


Ahhhh....I am finished my binge of Jacky Faber.

It was exciting. It was fun. And now I am about done. I am giving Meyer one more book. I simply can't take anymore cliff hangers. Now I know what my little kiddos feel like when I am doing a read aloud and finish just at that spot. You know the one.

These are plot heavy books which see Jacky through boarding school, piracy, and white slavery. There is romance, violence, scandal and a whole lot of things nautical. Meyers has a great ability to set the scene. The reader has enough sensory keys to really be there.

I loved the ride.

But I'm ready for a break!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Meyer

So, it seems like a long time since I last posted. This is for a couple of reasons. First off, I am reading, reading, reading for our booknight at school. "East Meets West" is the theme. So I have read some Yep, and Krishnaswami and I will post some of that stuff later. But for my own recreation, I have been tearing through the Bloody Jack sequels! The Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, and currently In the Belly of the Bloodhound.

I discussed it with my friend Jen, and we thought it may be best if I blogged all 3 titles together.

Let me tell you, L.A. Meyer has written quite the series. I know that some folks complain that the way that Jacky always gets out of situations is too "convenient", but I think it's just plain exciting. Melodramatic, really.

And I am eating up every last word.

Hurrah!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bloody Jack


Now, I know that the whole pirate thing is sort of trendy now, but Bloody Jack, by L.A. Meyer was written before all of the hullaboloo. The kids at my school are crazy for it, and now I know why.

Mary Faber was left out on her doorstep on that dark day that every last one of her family was killed by the sickness and hauled away in Muck's barrow. Alone and in the streets, Mary is cornered by a gang of kids, ridded of her skirts, and given a smelly shift to wear. "Come on", they tell her, and her new family is found. She is a girl in Charlie Rooster's gang now. They beg and have some other tricks to get pennies for food, and kip down underneath the old bridge. They look out for each other, and keep each other alive.

One night, Charlie doesn't come home. It's up to Mary to find him, and find him she does. Prone in an alley with his head smashed in. She takes his clothes and his trusty shiv. She cuts off her hair, and heads out. She has always dreamed of taking to the seas, and knows that a girl never could. She is finding life much easier as a boy.

Mary makes it down to the piers and scrambles up with a mob of boys who want to be taken on one of the King's ships. Calling out the reasons they should be on the ship, Mary pipes up, "I can read!". She is taken aboard, and when asked her name, replies "Jack". A new life is found.

Jacky and the other ship's boys form a brothership, and wonder about the first time that they will track down the pirates. Jaimy brags about how he'll be the first over as he swings his imaginary sword. Then the day comes when they do find the pirates...and Jacky earns her nickname.

But, how long can she keep up this deception?

A fast-paced adventure story that will thrill boys and girls alike. There's action, adventure, mystery and a little romance as well. A nice angle to historical fiction, and with the current pirate craze, very likely to fly off the shelves.

I loved it!

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Last Days


So, my love affair with Scott Westerfeld is over. Sniff. We will still be friends, but I am no longer the gushing fan that I once was. Don't get me wrong, The Last Days was enjoyable...it was good, but it left me a tad underwhelmed. I guess that is the risk you take when you write a bunch of FABULOUS books in a row.

Moz is walking along the street after coming home from band practise with Zahler. All of a sudden he notices a crowd gathering. Some girl is going nuts and throwing everything out of her window...CDs, clothes, and then the mid-seventies Fender Strat. There was noway that Moz was going to let that beauty smash on the sidewalk. Miracle upon miracles, it snags on the fire escape and some girl in the crowd helps Moz catch its' inevitable fall with a blanket. And a friendship and bandship is formed.

We follow Moz, Zahler, Pearl, Alana Ray and the freaky Minerva in a Peeped out NYC try to make it into the music business. Each chapter is told from one of the character's point of view, and alternates in no set pattern. The character I find most interesting is Minerva. I got a real sense of her off kilter-ness.

If you haven't read Peeps you CAN read this title and you will probably enjoy it. Westerfeld simply seems to assume some knowledge from his readers, and true, much of it you can figure out from context.

I guess I can use a Buffy example for how I feel about this book. You know that episode with the creepy smiling floaty guys who steal all of the voices and souls. Well, that episode FREAKS me out, yet I cannot take my eyes off of it. Other episodes are enjoyable, but nothing measures up for me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blog Block

So I have been reading! But not blogging. Hmmm. Curious.

I just read a horror book that I have to review for VOYA, and boy oh boy. Cannibalism. Torture. Abuse. It's got that 364 feel to it, if you know what I mean.

Maybe tonight I will be able to get The Last Days down for you all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl


A super fast read about that boy. You know the one. For some reason he seems to be able to charm every girl. Regardless of what clique she belongs to.

Josie, Nicolette and Aviva couldn't be more different. Freshman, experienced girl and clique hopper. Yet somehow, in a period of weeks, they all end up with the same popular senior. He dates Josie first, and she soon is falling for him. She is wary...she doesn't want to be like one of those girls...the ones who lose their minds over some guy. But soon she is ignoring her friends, and fretting by the phone. When Josie wants to slow things down, she soon finds herself dumped. Knowing now that this boy only had one thing on his mind, Josie tries to warn the other girls. Afterall, if he tried so hard with her, there are sure to be others.

Writing a warning in the back of the school library's Forever, Josie starts a bit of a movement. Unfortunately, many girls have warnings to write about this boy - including Nicolette and Aviva.

Told in free verse, this speedy read will appeal to highschool girls who have been there...and may serve as a bit of a warning to the girls who have not. There is a bit of sex in the book, which I was uber aware of as my 16 year old niece was reading it across the room with me. Her recommendation is for 12 and up. I'll keep mine at 14 :)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Amazing Grace


I read this before I headed out on vacation. I have the arc, and it's about a year old, since the book was actually published in September, 2005.

Grace "Ace" Kincaid has it all. She is a tennis star at the top of her game. She's got loads of sponsors, and is the teen sensation in the sport's world.

Here's the thing.

She wants out.

Away from the pressure and the paparazzi. Away from the practising. Away from being told every moment of the day what to do and how to do it.

She's on the floor, puking the the bathroom when she tells her mom the news. And her mom's okay with it. She is going to take care of everything.

Before she knows it, Grace is chopping off her hair, piercing her nose. changing her name and moving with her "Aunt" Ava to Alaska. To be noone in a nowhere town. Just a girl.

Grace soon meets local hunk Teague, and fireworks abound. Can Grace manage to pretend to be Emily and still be true to her heart? Will the press hunt her down?

*************************

Boy, oh boy, did this book ever read like a screenplay. Not that I didn't enjoy it. It's over the top in that teen movie way. Did author Megan Shull really have to change Grace's appearance and have her go into hiding? I don't know, but it made for a fun read!

A great title for that girl who loves a romance and adventure!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Too tired...

...to blog. 15 hours (FIFTEEN HOURS) in a car will do that to ya!

I only got 2 books read. Which is either a good thing (gee, I was doing so much other stuff, I didn't have time), or a bad thing (lug, lug, lug the books across the borders!)

But I did manage to read A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, and Peeps companion The Last Days. Woohoo!

Reviews to come!

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Vacation...all I ever wanted!"

...So, I am off! To Muskoka! Can't wait.

But I have to reiterate! I love the women I work with. Just got a bag full 'o' books. (Thanks Karyn! Thanks Jen!) Hopefully when I return, you can expect some reviews on some cool books.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shug...


...by Jenny Han is over at Tweendom!

Academy X

Since I work in a private school, and a NYC private school at that, when I read a description of this title in the Times, I knew I had to pick it up. A Nanny Diaries, if you will, for the private school set.

John is an English teacher at the tony Academy X. He explains to the reader the difference between new and old money, between religious groups and their money, and the insane NYC experience of getting your child into the right nursery school, so the child can go to the right elementary school, then the right highschool, and into the Ivy League. We hear of baby yoga and testing as well as ridiculous amounts of extra curriculars.

We are introduced to John's Austen class, and two girls who make his teaching worthwhile. Caitlyn Brie has everything. She is the girl that buys all the designer clothes, has the most popular boyfriends, the penthouse on the park...everything. Laura Sturding is middle class and gets her fashions from the outlet malls in Jersey. She works hard for everything that she has.

Then there are the parents. The parents for whom money is no object and when tution is $27000 they expect a return on their investment. And generally speaking, their kids are not putting in the hard work for the return.

We follow John through the last couple months of the school year, when acceptances have already been given out, new chairs are being appointed in departments, and scandal is sure to hit the senior class.

**************************
I found the beginning of this book very entertaining as it was structured somewhat as an expose of the Manhattan private school scene. I was reading the unspoken thoughts of many folks who work in NYC schools. Then Trees turned the story into John's story of unrequited love, a teacher's worst fear, and the politics behind the scenes at his school.

The degree to which the parents interfere and throw money around to "fix" problems is totally unbelievable and is nothing like I have ever encountered or heard about. It adds to the fun factor of the story, however. Just think, what would you do if a parent offered you six figures to make a problem disappear?

It was entertaining, but not as tightly written as I would have hoped. A first novel. A good summer read...especially if you work in an environment like Academy X!

100th Post! / Winter is the Warmest Season

Wow! Who would have ever thought that I would get to this point? Hurrah!

Now, I need to decided whether to post about a lovely picture book, or an adult book that makes me giggle because of the industry that I work in.

***************************************

Winter Is The Warmest Season is a comfy picture book that my daughter has really taken to. When I first told her the title, she laughed and said, "But Mummy, snow is cold NOT warm!"

But Winter IS the warmest season! It is when wool sweaters and hot chocolate appear! It is when we cozy up around the fireplace and snuggle with our kitties. Baths get hotter and PJs get warmer.

Lauren Singer's rich illustrations make the reader feel like s/he is sitting in a comfy chair with a duvet around the legs. I call them big fat illustrations because of the warmth and richness contained.

My daughter and I have already started playing the Summer is the Coolest Season game. Glasses of cold lemonade, cold sprinkler water and shady spots under willow trees have shown up in our version.

Lovely, lovely!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me


So I decided to post this over here since I think it's too young to be a tween book.

Lucy Rose is the perfect character for those readers who are finished with Ramona and Judy Moody.

Lucy Rose has just made the move to Washington D.C. from Ann Arbor, MI. Her parents are separating and Lucy's mom's folks are in D.C. So this means a whole new school, trying to make new friends, and negotiate the move from suburbs to city.

Lucy Rose is what her Pop calls an original thinker. Outspoken, feisty and fun, she tells her story through journal entries with the boring days left out. Lucy Rose is in 3rd grade in Mr. Welsh's class, and her ambition for the year is to take care of the pet guinea pig, Jake. We follow her throughout the school year - finding friends, rethinking enemies and coming to accept her parent's separation.

**********************

I came to this story through illustrator Adam Rex. Author Katy Kelly has written a fun character who is wonky enough to be interesting in a way that is not a copy of Ramona et al. Lucy Rose's friends Jonique and Adam Melon have interesting homes and families as well.

This book has a decidedly Southern feel to it eventhough it takes place in Washington. The rhythm of language is asking to be read aloud.

A fun read!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Gold-Threaded Dress


The Gold-Threaded Dress, by Carolyn Marsden is over at Tweendom!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Queen of Cool


Libby is the cool girl. She hangs with Perla, Kenji and the almost uncool Sid. Libby decides what happens at school (when she bothers to go). Stuff like "pencil day", or "pajama day". These are not school sanctioned events, rather just her cool clique showing up like everyone else missed the memo.

It feels to Libby like she's already done everything. She comes up with the days, goes to the parties, has her thing with Kenji, listens to Perla go on and on about becoming a reality star. There's nothing really original.

After a bizarre panic attack situation, Libby finds herself signing up for an internship at the zoo. Extra work! From the queen of the cut. The only other person who has signed up is that freak Tina.

Eventhough her friends think the whole situation is lame, Libby starts to see how shallow her previous life was. She starts to see who she may really be.

***************************

Honestly, I didn't want to finish this book. There was nothing about Kenji, Perla and Libby that I even liked. Sid was okay in that Williamsburg indy boy kind of way. Still, I almost put the book away. I am glad that I finished, but still have a few reservations.

I love Perla's name. Did Castellucci name her after the ridiculously expensive underwear? I secretly hope that she did. I like the growth that happens to Libby and her family. And kudos for putting a little person in a YA book. (The only other one I know of is Funny Little Monkey).

But.

Uber self aware teens in a willing to leave the cool clique for the "loser" clique rarely rings true to me. Perhaps Tina and her friends were only seen as losers by Libby and her friends, but somehow I don't think so.

I'd recommend this to YAs who may have enjoyed Castellucci's Boy Proof, and fans of Hard Love.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Death Jr. #3


Here is a cutie patootie gn that I picked up when I was at the Wizard World show (I know, I know) in Phili.

Death Jr. has a hold of dad's (re the Grim Reaper) scythe. The problem is, he has yet to figure out how to release the souls. So as you can imagine, the dead are piling up. The even have to drag their own corpses around since they're still attached and all.

The Grim Reaper has been captured by his evil brother and is stored in a box in a museum. Jr. and his motely crew of friends (conjoined twins, a dead girl, a creepy baby in an aquarium thing, and a spooky little girl) have to go and rescue Grim while somehow avoiding the mean old Uncle.

Not unlike a Scooby Doo episode (I think the reference is even in there), this is a fun little romp to the dark side. Death Jr is really cute, and although I had not read #1 or #2, there's enough back story to get by without a problem.

Fun, fun for your spookier teens.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Good Girls


Audrey has always been a good girl. Not super prissy or nerdy. She's got friends, she's had boyfriends, she gets stellar marks. She's never had a "reputation". Not like that slutty Pam Markovitz. Everyone knows what she has done.

Luke DeSalvio and Audrey have been hooking up at parties since the end of the summer. The Luke DeSalvio. Audrey's best friend, Ash, has been telling her not to get too attached - that Luke's a player. Ash should know. She got burned by her ex. Ash is always saying that girls should be more like boys. Just hook up - no feelings.

It's Hallowe'en and Audrey has decided that she is not going to be with Luke anymore. He doesn't even talk to her in the halls at school. Just a cursory "hey". But Luke looks so good, and Audrey is not sure what comes over her when he is around. It's like her body has a mind of its own. So one last hook up. Who will know? Audrey's in charge. She decides what they will do.

Unfortunately, someone else does know. Someone takes a picture of Audrey and Luke. Audrey's signature waist length blonde hair at Luke's naked torso. Someone emails that picture all over school. Even to Audrey's dad's work.

Who would do this? And why? How will Audrey cope?

Laura Ruby has created characters with such authenticity, I feel as though I know them. My heart ached for Audrey, and I admired her strength. I was pissed off at Chilly, proud of Ash, and hoping that Luke wouldn't be an arse. I feel like I know these kids.

I like, too, that Audrey's family is "every family". Church going (but not fanatical), working parents of the middle class variety, a good kid with good grades. It doesn't take extraordinary circumstances for your kids to start having sex!

What an amazing time to have to grow up when you know that stuff like this happens. When I was a teen, it was just a matter of he said she said. Nobody was carrying around a Kodak 110 camera, running to a photomat to get them developed, paying for prints and distributing! Ruby gets the flavour of the technology, slang, blogginess, and double standard of teen life. There is sex, but there it is. It's not gratuitous...it simply is happening. It's what teens do. Not all teens, but some.


I LOVE this book.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Astonishing Adventures of FanBoy and Goth Girl


How's that title grab ya?

Donnie is a comicbook geek. A fanboy. He goes to school in a sea of jocks and has 1 friend there - fellow comic book fan, Cal. Cal and Donnie, however, couldn't be more different. Cal is a jock and tends to dodge Donnie when he is in the halls at school, but manages to IM him at night about comics.

One day during gym class (the dreaded dodgeball), Donnie is waiting in the Dead Zone when this kid Frampton starts wailing on his arm. Teachers aren't paying attention. None of the other kids notice. Except for one girl who is up in the bleachers.

Donnie receives a mysterious IM from Promethea387 asking "Why do you let him hit you?". Is this another joke? Are the jocks setting him up?

Not this time. It was Kyra up in the bleachers. Kyra with her black hair, billowing black clothes, black lipstick and white skin. Could it be that Donnie just got another friend?

It could never be that simple. This is highschool. It's never easy...not for the fanboy, the goth girl, not even for senior goddess Dina.

I have to admit, I was worried at first where this book was going. As a former goth girl myself, I was hoping that Barry Lyga wasn't going to add the stereotypes to Kyra's character. I understand that all characterisation is somewhat built on stereotype, but when it hits close to home, it matters more. Thankfully, Lyga takes this book into a different place. It's simply the story of some highschool kids. With lots of fun comic book facts thrown in.

I will be interested to see the readership. Is this a boy book? What do you think?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Water Street


Bird and Thomas are growing up in a Brooklyn apartment just as the bridge is rising. Over on Water Street, Bird is the youngest of 3 - daughter of a bridge worker and a healer. Thomas is pretty much on his own - Da being down at the pub all the time.

Thomas dreams of being a writer. He has fashioned himself a notebook and makes sure to write everything down. He has a shadowy memory of a woman in lace sleeves who told him that writing can change it all.

Bird has her own dreams of following in her mother's footsteps and becoming a healer herself. She has a notebook where she writes down remedies ... sliced onion for bee stings, coal from the turf fire held under the nose for sneezing.

Bird always needs to fix things. She needs to get her brother Hughie to stop fighting in the backs of pubs. She needs to get sister Annie out of the box factory. She needs to save all her money to help her mother buy a farm in New Jersey.

Thomas needs to find his past and try to fix his family.

This is immigrant Brooklyn in the 1870s. Patricia Reilly Giff has managed to bring in so many aspects of daily immigrant life without making it seem like school. The streets come alive (especially when Thomas and Bird venture into Manhattan) with sights and sounds and smells. It was a pleasure to read about Brooklyn instead of the Bowery.

This book is equally suited for older tweens and younger teens. There is a bit of detailed gore described in some healing scenes that may have queasy readers blanching. Told in alternating chapters, the stories of Bird and Thomas come to life and are a pleasure to read.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Magician's Boy


...by Susan Cooper is over at Tweendom!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You are SO not invited to my Bat Mitzvah


Find this title by Fiona Rosenbloom over at Tweendom!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Octavian Nothing


Wow.

M.T. Anderson has done it again. This book is so haunting and so horrifying to me that I am happy the ending of book one was a bit abrupt and cliff-hangery, because frankly I needed a break.

Octavian's mother was "brought" over to America at the age of 14 and big with child. She was a princess in her own land, and came to stay at the College of Lucidity -- a school of philosophy of sorts. Princess Cassiopeia and son Octavian are the only two there with names...everyone else is referred to by a system of enumeration. Mr. Gitney, the owner of the house, is 03-01. 03-01 is raising Octavian with a classical education of Greek, Latin, music, philosophy and poetry.

Octavian has many gifts, one being observation. He is indeed encouraged to be observant. It is through these observations that Octavian slowly begins to discover that all is not as it seems. The men of the house often conduct experiments on different animals in order to discover the science of the thing. Many times these experiments seem cruel. Indeed, there is one experimentation room that Octavian may not even enter...it has his likeness on the door drawn skull and crossbone style.

One day he gets the courage to pass through these doors, and his life will never be the same. Within those walls is the evidence that he and his mother are part of the experiment themselves. An opportunity for these "men of science" to study the differences between those of European descent and Africans.

The history within Octavian Nothing is somewhat shocking to me, because I am not American and have not studied much American history. The College of Lucidity is in Boston in the days leading up to the Revolution. M. T. Anderson has an author's note in the back that speaks to the history of the time.

The story is Octavian's, though some of it is told through brief articles and letters, and some through a revolutionary soldier. I don't want to give too much of the plot away since this is still an arc, but suffice it to say that this is a book that will remain in my thoughts for a long time. It made me uncomfortable and sad, shocked and hopeful all at the same time.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Julep O'Toole

Over at Tweendom I have posted a review of Julep O'Toole:Miss Independent, by Trudi Trueit.

What's New

You'll notice I haven't been posting as much lately.

This is because I have started a new venture in the blogosphere called "Welcome To My Tweendom"where I am posting book reviews that fall into the elusive tween category.

What is "tween", people ask.

For me, tween books are the ones that appeal to sophisticated 3rd graders all the way up to 6th graders. The books I would give to the 3rd graders are few and far between, but I am constantly on the search for books for the 4th and 5th graders in my life that are appropriate content wise, yet challenging and "not babyish".

Book marketing has exploded after the Harry Potter phenomenon, and not everything marketed young is suitable (in my humble opinion).

So, from now on, when I post over at Tweendom, I will post a line or two here, letting you all know.

Booktopia will remain it's ecclected mix of picture books, YA and Adult fiction and nonfiction!

Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator


Eighth-grader Gilda lives in Michigan with her mom and brother Stephen. It is the end of the school year and everyone in her class is talking about the trips they are going on and camps they are going to over the summer. Gilda is not paying attention. Instead she is reading her favourite book : The Master Psychic's Handbook, by Balthazar Frobenius. When her teacher asks Gilda what she is going to do for the summer she blurts out that she is going to California to write a novel. This is not exactly the truth. But if Gilda is anything, she is relentless. And before you know it, Gilda gets herself invited to San Fran to stay with her mother's distant cousin Lester and his daughter Juliet.

The Splinter household is very different from Gilda's home. The huge museum-like house is devoid of anything personal, and Lester and Juliet keep to separate wings. The tower in the back is all boarded up. Gilda soon learns this is because Juliet's Aunt Melanie had committed suicide from the tower 10 years earlier.

Gilda is bound and determined to solve the mystery of the boarded up tower, and figure out why Lester refuses to talk about anything. With the help of Balthazar Frobenius, some disguises, and her cousin Juliet Gilda uses her talents as a psychic investigator to do more than just solve mysteries!

This book is appealing on so many levels, yet truly hard to describe. Gilda's character seems so young, but the topics of suicide and depression are sophisticated and give the story more of a YA feel. I really liked Gilda and admired her spunk, and Juliet is intriguing in her teen angst. Some plot points of the ghost story within are scary, then the reader finds herself laughing on the next page.

I think that Jennifer Allison has done an amazing job writing an entertaining and intriguing story. I would recommend this to readers from 7th - 9th grade.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

How It Happend In Peach Hill

15-year-old Annie and her Mama have always moved around. Ever since Mama got thrown into jail in Carling, staying one step ahead has been a priority.

Mama is clairvoyant...or says she is, at least. Peach Hill is Mama and Annie's eighth town. They set up shop, but this time they have a new angle. Annie is pretending to be an idiot. She has perfected a crossed eye and slack jaw. Afterall, people will say anything in front of an idiot. This way, Annie can easily collect the information that her Mama needs for business. Information like the fact that Delia deGroot's Mama up and ran away with the fish man. Or that Mr. Poole's wife was sharp elbowed and sharp tongued.

Annie, however, hadn't counted getting feelings for local boy Sammy Sloane. There was no boy alive who would fall for a drooling idiot! So Annie hatches her own plan and has Mama unwittingly "heal" her in front of some other people. Annie has never defied her mother before, and honestly, she likes the feel of it.

Annie gets to discover Peach Hill and its residents out from Mama's watchful eye. Is Mr. Poole all that he seems? Is his interest in Mama genuine? Will Sammy Sloane notice Annie now that she's "normal"? And who is that bedraggled girl without shoes running around town?

As Annie learns to see using her own eyes, she will face some hard truths. About her Mama and their lifestyle, and about truth itself.

Marthe Jocelyn has written a solid character driven story that is filled with historical detail. While the cover looks young, the story itself deals with themes of first love, abuse, and finding one's path. Fans of Creech will approve.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

This Jazz Man


I am always on the look out for good picture books. They're the heart of what I use at work, and it seems that so many are published, but few of them really speak to me. This Jazz Man, by Ehrhardt and Roth is one of the good ones!

This Jazz Man is a reworking of "This Old Man" ( come on...sing it! I know you know it!). Each of the numbers is represented by a real jazz man. Those included are Louis "Satcmo" Armstrong, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Luciano "Chano" Pozo y Gonzalez, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, Charlie "Bird" Parker, Art "Blu" Blakey, John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller, and Charles "Baron" Mingus.

Each is shown in turn singing, dancing or playing the instrument for which he is famous.

The illustrations mix mediums, and are colourful and accessible. They make me happy!

Then the gem of it all is the set of mini biographies of the jazz men in the back of the book. This makes This Jazz Man more than just a picture book to enjoy. I picture my second graders using this as a starting point for some projects, and I picture myself using it to illustrate just what it is that biographies do!

I am planning on purchasing a copy for my daughters when it is released this fall! What a great companion to Charlie Parker Played BeBop.

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls


Have I raved enough in the past about the women that I work with? Two super cool librarians who have lots of publishing contacts and are willing to share them! They recently went to a breakfast and came back with a book bag full of kid/tween lit for me! So Yay! And thanks to Jen and Karyn!

So, The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls is aWizard of Oz based fantasy for the tween set.

Poor Ivy. A Jinx has followed her since she broke a mirror almost seven years ago. No matter where she and her mother move, bad luck follows. In fact, getting to Gumm Street is the first good thing that has happened in a long time. Ivy and her mom have inherited Aunt V's old house.

Gumm Street happens to be the very street where Pru, Cat, and Franny live. You would think that 3 girls of the same age who live on the same street would be friends. Well, they used to be. Not any more. After all Pru is all stuck up with her nose perpetually in a book, Cat is a great big show off and queen of the cartwheels, and Franny has so many big ideas that she cannot possibly follow through with any of them!

When Ivy moves to the block, a piano is mysteriously delivered and the elusive Mr. Staccato - piano teacher extraordinaire - shows up to offer some lessons. Ivy's first lesson shows her that there is something else to Mr. Staccato besides piano! His dogs seem to talk, and he has a museum room filled with movie memorabilia from way before her time. The prize of which seems to be ruby slippers.

An adventure soon begins with the girls having to get together and work together to defeat the crazy Aunt Cha-Cha and her creepy nieces Bling-Bling and Coco. The girls travel to Spoz, then Spudz and each of them works to find their "unique talent" that Mr. Staccato has told them they possess.

I am not sure how to really describe the plot. Elise Primavera has written lots of plot! I think that kids who have read The Wizard of Oz series will get more out of this book than kids who have not read it. There is a large amount of magical realism, and necessary suspension of belief is required to get through. I did, however, really enjoy the book. I think that it is written on a couple of levels where older readers will get the wry writing style and younger readers will get an adventure story.

I had fun!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pish Posh


This book has got the cutest cover I have seen in a long time!

Clara Frankofile is everything that you would think a pre-teen, Manhattanite snob would be. Daughter of famous restauranteur Pierre and socialite Lila, Clara spends every evening dining alone at the back of Pish Posh and spends her time deciding who has become a Nobody. Pish Posh simply wouldn't be the elegant place it is if they let anyone in!

The times when Clara is not in the restaurant, she is spending time in her own apartment...her parents live in the apartment below her. It's more convenient that way. Clara has everything she could wish for there...a roller coaster room, a Brooklyn neighbourhood room, bumper car room. Her favourite room, however, houses a massive tree from Yungaburra Australia.

After banishing Dr. Piff from Pish Posh, Clara ends up in her tree room. She has just opened the ceiling hatch and is sitting in the branches when she notices a ruckus on the street below. Everyone seems to be pointing to her rooftop. Upon squinting down, Clara notices a girl about her age looking for an escape. Against her better judgement, Clara helps the girl up into the tree and closes the hatch.

Enter Annabelle. Plain, assertive and a thief, Annabelle is not like the people with whom Clara tends to associate, let alone someone who she would befriend. But life has a funny way of taking twists and turns and sometimes you end up in places you would never imagine.

Pish Posh is part adventure, part fantasy, and part friendship fiction. There are many levels to the story, and each, I am happy to say, is delightful as well as thoughtful. It is a NYC-centric story, but I think that the tween set will love it no matter where they live!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Much Ado About Grubstake


Imagine my surprise when just as I finished Once Upon a Marigold, Jen receives a lovely box from a publisher containing Jean Ferris' Much Ado About Grubstake. Happiness, indeed!

It is 1888 in tiny Grubstake Colorado. Grubstake was once a vibrant mining town, and now only the stragglers are left. 16 year old Arley runs the town boarding house on her own ever since her daddy blew himself up in their mine, Never Mine. Arley escapes her dreary life by reading her Penny Dreadfuls that she picks up once a month from the train delivery. In the Dreadfuls, life is so exciting. Arley wishes her life could be exciting too!

You know what's coming...."Be careful what you wish for..."

Soon wealthy Charles Randall rolls into town on the monthly train wanting to buy up all of the mines to make Grubstake into a resort. Arley and friends Everdene, Bridget and Wing are suspicious. Who would want to go to a resort where it rains all the time?

Randall's associate Morgan takes a room in Arley's house. He has no last name, is always dressed in black, and has a scar running the length of his cheek. Just like a villain in a Penny Dreadful! Can Arley's snooping lead to some answers?

A fun romp of a story, filled with quirky characters and action, Much Ado About Grubstake is perfect for younger YAs and sophisticated tweens.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Once Upon A Marigold


I have been looking at this book on the shelf in my library forever. It has that wonky font that I love for the title, and the title itself was intriguing. I know that Jen has been booktalking it to the 5th graders forever. I don't know why I hadn't read it sooner.

Ed is a simple troll minding his own business looking for cast off things in the forest when he happens upon Christian. This little boy in the velvet suit is hiding in a bush with the firm idea that he is running away. He is six and does not like the rules of home. After all, it is hard for a six year old to stay quiet and clean all the time.

It is getting dark, so Ed takes the boy back to his cave for the night. What was to be one night turned into many, many nights.

Christian is now a teenager. He loves to help Ed find his treasures in the woods, and he spends his time looking through his telescope at the unhappy princess across the river. Feeling bold one day, Chris sends the princess a message by p-mail (pigeon). To his surprise and delight, Princess Marigold answers him. Back and forth the messages fly, and a friendship is formed.

Can a regular boy who lives with a troll in a cave truly be the best friend of a princess?

Ferris has written a wonderfully wonky fractured fairytale. There is love, there is comedy, there is action and it is all set in an imaginary time and place that could be past or present. I LOVED this book and will be recommending it to my 4th graders who are fans of Ibbotson!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gender Blender


So, Blake Nelson is one of my favs. He came to do a reading at our high school and he was a great combination of funny, daring and sweet. I have loved many of his books in the past and was very excited to pick up Gender Blender. Cute title, yes?

Tom and Emma were best friends forever. Then as 5th and 6th grade came along, everything changed. Emma is activitied out by her mom and is constantly on the run from piano to gymnastics and back home for school work. Tom has become a bit of a slob, and is definitely not interested in school anymore.

A freak accident on the trampoline after school results in a Freaky Friday style body switch. Emma is wearing Tom's body and vice versa. How will they survive as each other?

Nelson has slyly slipped quite the social commentary into Gender Blender. Tom sees the psychological nastiness girls need to survive, as well as the pressure on them from both sides of the fence regarding relations with boys. Emma notices that nothing is expected of her in school, and that boys have to hold their feelings in and seem to beat each other up as some twisted form of camaraderie.

While terms like "boner" and "perv" along with periods may make some readers uncomfortable, Nelson offers a frank commentary on what it's like to be a middle schooler today.

I can testify to this as I sit in the library in my invisible adultness and hear the conversations of 7th and 8th grade boys every morning! Personally I can think of nothing more horrifying than having to switch bodies with the opposite sex at age 12. While I didn't love this book, I do think it contains some gems that kids will want to think about!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

meme book questions

So over at
  • Jen Robinson's Book Page
  • there are some interesting questions to answer!

    Name 3 children's books you would like to live in.
    1) Penderwicks
    2) Desperaux
    3) Star of Kazaan

    Name 3 schools in children's books that you would like to attend.
    1) HOGWARTS
    2) Spence (A Great and Terrible Beauty)
    3) Culver Creek Boarding School (soley for the philosophy teacher - Looking for Alaska)

    Name 3 books you like that you would NOT want to live in.
    1) Uglies trilogy, by Westerfeld
    2) Coraline
    3) Downsiders

    Name 3 schools you would NOT want to attend.
    1) Crunchem Hall
    2) The Princess Academy
    3) anywhere that Miss Myrt Arbuckle is teaching!

    I know that some of these titles are YA, but hey! That's what I am reading these days.

    What are YOUR answers?

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    Princess Academy


    Miri is one of the Mount Eskel folk who live high up and far removed from the rest of the world. Her people work in the quarry from dawn til dusk mining the precious linder stone. It is a task that has been theirs for generations. Men and women and children work side by side by side, coaxing the stone from the earth. Miri is the exception. In a village filled with large and strong people, she is small and frail. All her friends work in the quarry, speaking to each other through the magical quarry speak and Miri must tend the goats and keep the house because her father won't let her work beside him. There is nothing in the world that Miri wants more than to work in the quarry.

    Miri's life is about to change, as are the lives of many of the village girls. The priests of the king have divined that the future bride of the prince is to be from Mount Eskel! These are girls that sleep with their goats and work in the quarry...they need to be groomed. They are all sent down the mountain to the Princess Academy to be taught by lowlander Olana. Soon a competition is in the works with the girls vying not only for the princes hand, but for the title of "Academy Princess". Eventhough Miri is only 14 years old, she finds herself rising quickly above the older girls in terms of reading and history, poise and conversation. Does she really want to leave her family and live in the lowlands? Would she like to marry an unknown prince, when the only boy she ever thinks about is her friend Peder?

    Throw in some twists of magical telepathy and raiding bandits, and Shannon Hale has penned quite the story. I have to admit, this story started off slowly for me, but by mid-book I was completely hooked! This is another middle grade fiction title that I will be buying and saving for my daughters!

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Jumping the Scratch


    Jamie Reardon longs for the "normal as cornflakes" existence that he used to have in Battle Creek Michigan. The time before his dad left. Before Aunt Sapphy's accident. Before Mister died. Before moving to Wondrous Acres Trailer Park. And definately the time before Old Gray, butterscotch and buttons.

    Jamie is trying his best to forget what happend to him in Old Gray's trailer on Christmas Eve. He is shocked when fellow classmate and trailer park resident Audrey Krouch figures out that he is scared of the driveway...scared of walking by Old Gray's trailer. Audrey claims to have ESP, and is willing to help Jamie try to forget.

    Sarah Weeks has written another story filled with quirky characters and an offbeat setting about an especially serious topic. Again, this title reads deceptively young. Many of our 4th graders would be excited to pick it up, but would not be ready to deal with the themes.

    I have to say that this book hooked me from the very first paragraph. I will include it when I get my hands back on the book!

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Wherlin


    Matt and Callie sneak out of the house one hot summer night in order to enjoy the air conditioning of the supermarket and get a couple popsicles. Little sister Emmy is already asleep and their mom is out on a date. Her dates can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, so Matt thinks it'll be ok. Standing in line to pay Matt and Callie witness a scene that is not unfamiliar to them. A dad is berating his kid at the top of his lungs. Matt and Callie are frozen on the spot and are amazed when a fellow customer intervenes. After the altercation is over, the man and his date leave. All Matt knows is that the man's name is Murdoch. And Matt knows he needs to find him. Southie isn't that big after all.

    If Murdoch helped some random kid, surely he will help Matt and his sisters. Won't he?

    In a series of events that should be unbelievable, a year later Murdoch becomes Matt's mom's boyfriend. At first everything is great. The kids are invited on virtually all the dates, their mom is in a good mood, and life seems to be changing. But then mom's true colours come through. Murdoch leaves. And things get much worse.

    This novel started off hammering me over the head with abuse, but as Wherlin went on I really found myself wanting to know what happened. Matt's character, and those of his sisters really came to life for me. His mother is absolutely despicable, and as a mother she made me sad and mad at the same time.

    This would be a good read for fans of E.R. Frank and even Adam Rapp (22 Snowfish).

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Inexcusable


    Talk about a feeling shift from the last read!

    Keir is a good guy. He does the right thing. People like him and he likes that people like him. He has two older sisters who know that he is a good guy, and he has a dad who knows that he is a good guy. So why is Gigi Boudakian screaming at him? He's known her since kindergarten, for God's sake. He loves her and there's no way that he could hurt her. There's certainly no way that he could rape her! He's not some random pervert - he's practically her best friend.

    Layer by layer the reader gets to see Keir. Or at least see Keir as Keir sees Keir. He does things to the letter of the law. It is all black and white to him.

    Lynch has brilliantly written this character so that he sees himself virtually in the third person. The reader doesn't initially see the drinking and drug use and hazing. The reader doesn't question why his sisters do not return home often. The close relationship between father and son doesn't seem so particularly disfunctional. At first.

    I think this is Lynch's best work since the Blue Eyed Son trilogy way back when I first became a YA librarian. I hate Keir for what he does and who he is, but the s-o-b has me feeling sorry for him. Amazing!

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


    There has been quite a bit of chatter about this title, and I happily picked it up from work when I went in for a staff meeting the other day. I am glad I did. I will be purchasing it to save as a read aloud for my daughter when she gets a bit older.

    Edward is a china rabbit who is used to the finer things in life. His owner Abilene loves him very much, dresses him in the finest silks, and keeps him with her whenever she is not in school. Edward is a bit stuffy, and is not too interested in anything. Of course, this would be hard for anyone to figure out, since he is inanimate, but Abilene's grandmother knows. She is disappointed in Edward and lets him know as much.

    Soon Abilene and her family are off on a voyage on the Queen Mary. Edward comes along, but due to unfortunate circumstances, he finds himself at the bottom of the sea. What follows is a miraculous journey, indeed.

    Charming and begging to be read aloud, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is sure to become a classic title. And for those who think that the story is unbelievable...hey...it's fiction and fairytale like fiction at that! Just enjoy it!

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    The Wright 3


    I eagerly snatched this off the shelf of my bookstore while searching for Specials. I was excited because I truly enjoyed Chasing Vermeer, and the little smartypants kids at my school loved it also.

    I wish I could love the sequel too.

    It is the end of the same school year where Chasing Vermeer left off. Tommy is now back in Hyde Park and part of the same class with Calder and Petra. Ms. Hussey lets her class know about the pending destruction of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hobie House. And in typical progressive school fashion, they abandon the rest of the year's studies and concentrate on trying to save Hobie House.

    I have two problems with this book. The first is that this time, the pentominoes and math aspect of the book seem to be hammered over the reader's head. The second is that unlike the first book, this one didn't get exciting for me until page 277 ( I know because I marked it!).

    The one aspect I really enjoyed was the Fibonacci numbers. This is strictly personal because I had a friend named Greg (no longer with us anymore) who was an artist and he was obsessed with Fibonacci numbers and was busily incorporating them into his art when he died. I do think that some kids may really get into this idea if they haven't heard it before.

    I think that the Wright 3 is definately worth reading, but if you loved Chasing Vermeer don't expect the same excitement.

    Specials!!!!


    Woohoo!

    First there are some people I need to thank. Cindy for calling Jen and telling her it was on the shelf at B&N (The girlie at the B&N where I live said it would be shelved the 9th!!!!) So thanks Cindy and thanks Jen. And also thanks to my little one for falling asleep at 6:30 last night, and my husband for watching the baby so that I had a chance to read this cover to cover sans interruption!! Yay!

    Tally Youngblood is now a Special. And a Special Special at that. She is part of Dr. Cable's elite cutter unit, designed specifically to take down the New Smoke. Shay is there too, of course, as are most of the Crims that Tally ran with when she was a bubblehead. Being a cutter has Tally's senses wired so tightly she notices everything. Even Pretties seem random now with their smells and their watery eyes.

    After Shay and Tally cause a major disaster getting the tools they need to free Tally's love Zane from New Pretty Town, everyone is on the run again. Shay and Tally can't see eye to eye because Tally again is stirring up trouble. When she was a Pretty she wasn't feeling as bubbly as the rest, and now that she is a Special, she can't stay icy...even when she does resort to cutting.

    Tally is soon on her own following Zane and his crew, hoping that Dr.Cable will catch him and make him Special as well. Then they can finally be together. But with a war brewing between New Pretty Town and the New Smoke, things are sure to get interesting.

    I read around the blogworld that some folks didn't find this installment as good as Uglies or Pretties. I disagree. I think the ending was superb...even if it wasn't the one that I wanted to see. (I guess I had my only little crush on our friend Zane.)

    I am pleased, pleased, pleased. I can't wait to see what my friend Josh thinks. He is a recent reader of YA lit, and a huge Westerfeld fan.

    Friday, April 28, 2006

    Three Cups of Tea


    Get ready to break out your cheque book.

    I read about this title in Outside magazine, and was instantly intrigued. In 1993 Greg Mortenson was part of a climbing group scaling K2 when circumstances led to the abandonment of the expedition. Between the altitude and the disappointment he felt, Mortenson was not on point when he was descending, and wound up lost and alone in the cold without his gear. After a freezing night Mortenson reunited with his Balti porter Mouzafer Ali. Mortenson lost his way again, took the "wrong" fork in the road, and ended up exhausted not in Askole where he needed to be, but in the small mountain village of Korphe. This is where Mortenson met Haji Ali - and event that would be life altering in every way.

    While Mortenson was recuperating, he explored the area with Haji Ali. One day he asked where the Korphe school was. Haji Ali took him up the hill where they found 78 boys and 4 girls sitting outside on the frozen ground, trying to learn their lessons without a teacher. Mortenson was shocked and made a promise. He promised to bring a school to Korphe.

    The reader needs to realize that Mortenson was in no way equipped to make such a promise. In the States he had a climber's lifestyle. Working just enough shifts as an emergency room nurse to fund his climbing habit.

    When he got home he started renting time on a type-writer to send pleas for donations to the likely suspects...Oprah, Bernard Shaw, Susan Sarandon. He had found out while he was in Pakistan that he needed $12000 US dollars to fund a school. Nobody responded. After some time Mortenson was told to contact Jean Hoerni the famous physicist who was also a climber. He alone funded Mortenson's first school.

    What follows is a sometimes heartbreaking journey into Pakistani and Afghan culture, politics and war. In the end Mortenson has built (with help) the CAI or Central Asia Institute. This agency built many schools and vocational centers, and has provided all types of aid to those in need. Mortenson is still getting his hands dirty with the work. His belief is that terrorism will never be defeated simply by killing Osama or Sadam. Education is the key. The millions of dollars coming into these countries from Saudi Arabia to fund extremist schools (madrassas), needs to be combated with a non-extreme educational choice. It's an idea that makes sense.

    I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I didn't know if I was going to learn more about climbing, or humanitarianism. I am happy to have learned quite a bit about Pakistan and its history and culture. About the Glacier wars. About the Taliban. About American's unfulfilled promises to rebuild after war. And about places that I had never heard of before like Waziristan. It is humbling to read about people like Mortenson.

    One person really can make a difference.

    Monday, April 24, 2006

    Move Over Neil Gaiman....


    ....Brian K. Vaughan is in the house. I have to say, I think he is my new favourite man of the graphic novel. Sandman will always have a place near and dear to my heart. I started reading it with Number 1 when I was 18, and remember making the trip to the comic book store with my friend Jeff with baited breath each month.
    (A side trip to Poptones happened too, but you had to be from around Niagara to have a clue as to what that entailed!)

    I have grown impatient with comics in my old age, and tend to wait until a whole story arc is combined in a grapic novel before I read it.

    Jen had told me about Y The Last Man a couple of years ago, and I remember thinking, "What a great idea for a story", but I never got around to reading it. Thanks to NYPL for carrying graphic novels. I stuck a hold on it, and the rest is history!

    Yorik is somehow the only male that has survived a sudden plague. All of the men in the world suddenly fall dead in a wash of blood. When it all hits the fan all that Yorik wants to do is somehow find his way to Australia and to the girlfriend he has just proposed to over the phone! The white house has other ideas. Agent 355 is assigned to protect Yorik and make sure that he is able to find a famous genetics doctor who may be able to explain all of this. Women have interestingly divided themselves into clannish groups (wives of republicans, "amazons" etc) Flashes to happenings all over the world give the reader an inkling of what this story will evolve into. All of the characters are fresh, and Vaughan leaves you wanting more.

    Unmanned takes the first 5 issues of this story, and now I am planning to move on to all of the collections.

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Spiral Bound

    I picked up this little gem at the Comicon as well. I was looking for some graphic novels to put on the Summer Reading List for my school. That is on hold, but is a whole 'nother story worthy of its own blog.

    Sprial Bound by Aaron Renier is a sweet little black and white graphic novel for the younger set. The characters are all animals who are hanging out together in the summer. It is a top secret summer for most of them. Turnip and Stucky are in art camp together. Ana and Em are secretly working on the underground newspaper. And everyone is trying to avoid the Pond Monster.

    Easily read by adults on two levels and by kids on one. For the kids, a fun adventure with secrets, monsters and friendships. And for older or more sophisticated readers, the age old story of "the man". What kinds of stories are made up in order to control society? Who holds the power in a town? Is every piece of information just a "spin"?

    With back cover endorsements from Lemony Snicket, Craig Thompson and Dav Pilkey, who can resist? A fun and clean read for 4th grade and up!

    I love Top Shelf Productions!

    Saturday, April 01, 2006

    Becoming Naomi Leon


    Again...a deceptively young cover.

    Naomi and brother Owen have been living with their grandmother in her Airstream for just about as long as they can remember. Grandma's place is comforting and the routines are familiar. Grandma's hair is up in curlers and she is waiting for neighbour Fabiola to come over to watch Wheel of Fortune, when there is a knock at the door.

    Naomi and Owen's mother is back in town.

    Skyla ( formerly Terri Lynn) is back from the halfway house, back with a boyfriend, and back with a big idea about Naomi.

    Naomi is torn and Owen is smitten. Naomi knows how hard her grandma has worked raising her and she has some vague recollections of life with her mom that aren't so sweet. But when Skyla does Naomi's hair, and buys her new and trendy clothes, it's hard not to forgive. Owen, who is disfigured, doesn't see the writing on the wall that Skyla is only interested in Naomi in her future. Can this family sort itself out?

    Set both in Oklahoma and Mexico, readers are treated to detailed descriptions of people and places. Naomi finds her place in this world during her trip to Mexico, and becomes a much stronger girl than she ever could have been if Skyla hadn't appeared at the Airstream door.

    This read a bit like Creech to me, and fans of hers as well as fans of Ryan's Esperanza Rising will not be disappointed.

    Thursday, March 30, 2006

    I, Coriander


    This is a title that I picked up last year at BookExpo, and have been meaning to read for quite some time. Youngish looking cover, but not so young inside!

    Coriander loves her life. Her room is painted with beautiful fairy stories, her mother is lovely, and her father is a wealthy merchant who is teaching her to read and write. One day a beautiful pair of silver shoes arrives at her home with the letter "C" etched onto the sole. Surely they are for her! Coriander is bewildered when her mother puts them away stating that they are not meant for her. Coriander feels her heart pulling her to those shoes, and she actually hears the shoes calling to her! She overcomes her greatest fear to get to them. She actually puts her hand in the mouth of the stuffed alligator that her father keeps in his study to get to the key to his bureau. Coriander knew the shoes were for her...they are a perfect fit! She quickly tries to take them off before her parents can see, and to her dismay they are stuck to her feet.

    Eventually Coriander is able to remove the shoes, but the spell they cast flies far. Before she knows it, her mother is dead, her father is enveloped in grief, and her world is soon to be changed forever. Cromwell is now ruling England, and her father ( a known royalist) is convinced to marry a Puritan in order to keep his land. Maud Leggs is everything that Coriander's beautiful mother wasn't. She is fat, homely, has blackend teeth and finds the devil in every corner. She soon convinces Coriander's father to let a preacher (the Crooked Man) move in. While Coriander's father is away on business, the Crooked Man introduces "Ann" (Coriander is a vain name) to the "hand of wrath" for every "infraction".

    This book had me staying up to the wee hours of the morning to learn of Coriander's fate. Coriander is a strong character, and her friends are equally as interesting. Parallel worlds, fairies, espionage and adventure all make I, Coriander a compelling, fast paced fantastical read for the 6th grade and up set!

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    The Stupidest Angel


    This is not the type of book that I usually would read, (endorsed by Playboy on the back) but a friend of mine recommended it so I thought I would give it a go. Then I put it down, and he told me I had to try again.

    I now know that I am a book snob. High brow friends of mine are probably snorting Cabernet out of their noses, so let me explain. Not high brow in the capital "L" Literature kind of way. Rather, I like what I like, and cliches drive me CRAZY!

    Stupidest Angel is full of a crazy set of characters including Lena and ex Dale, who at the beginning of the book get into a very public argument over Christmas donations while Lena is acting as a Salvation Army Santa. Dale is an s-o-b developer who is not loved by the rest of the townsfolk. There is Theo, the ex-pothead constable. His wife, Molly Michon, the former b-movie star, who has recently gone off her meds. Tucker Case...Lena's new love interest and DEA pilot. Crazy Mavis - the bar owner. An angel, who is absolutely clueless. And my favourite...Josh - the kid who witnesses Santa's murder.

    Confused?

    You shouldn't be.

    This is a fast read, that feels more like a series of vignettes. The reader knows exactly where the story is going (right down to the Dawn of the Dead brains-crazed zombies). It is what it is, and for fans I am sure it is great. It just didn't work for me. (Except for Josh continually wanting to decapitate Tucker...that was fun!)

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Plucker


    This was another purchase from the Comicon in NYC. My friend Karyn and I were walking along, I stopped to get Tricked signed, when Karyn sidled up to me and asked, "Have you ever heard of an artist named Brom?" Suprisingly I hadn't. The cover of Plucker was GORgeous. A quick scan and I knew that I needed to own this book.

    It's 1942 and Thomas' father is off on a ship and his mother is working non-stop. He only has his housekeeper Mabelle and his toys for company. Imagine his joy when his father comes home for a surprise visit. His spirits quickly plummet when he realizes that his father is only home for a few hours. His father, as always, has brought him something...this time from Africa. Unlike the nutcracker and toy soldiers of the past, Thomas' father pulls out a very scary mask. "A spirit mask", he says. Thomas doesn't want this thing hung above his bed, but his father puts it there anyway. Soon after, the mask falls and breaks open. And then all hell breaks loose.

    What you may not know is that toys are filled with gusto (the energy and love that kids put into a toy when they play). Jack (of in-the-box fame) had recently been relegated to the Underbed. He was there when the mask crashed down, smelled that evil smell, and saw the shape of the Plucker scuttle into the dark. Foulthings soon came feeding on the toys...their eyes and gusto. Jack too is taken.

    With Mabelle's help (and a touch of the Dark Arts) Jack is revived. His mission is to destroy the Plucker and save Thomas.

    This is a creepy book. The art is sumptuous, dark, and necessary to the story's appeal. I forgave the choppy dialogue simply because of Jack's beauty. There are no happy endings here.

    Definately for a HS and older audience.

    If I had a coffee table, this would be on it.

    Fans of Abarat should approve.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Dairy Queen


    I know it seems like a long time in between posts, but I have been reading! I just reviewed a series called Great Empires of the Past for VOYA. Very interesting. I learned quite a bit about the Islamic Empire and the Mongol Empire.

    Then I picked up Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I love the title, and embarassing as it is, it gives me fond memories of the Dairy Queen just beside my highschool, where we would go for Ultimate Burgers at lunchtime. Ahh, those were the days!

    But, I digress!

    D.J. has taken up virtually all of the farm chores since her brothers left home and her dad hurt his hip. She never even thinks about it. The milking needs to get done, so she does it. She doesn't think about the fact that noone helps her out, and her little brother Curtis isn't even expected to on the days that he has baseball practise. D.J. had to quit her own basketball playing which may have led to a university scholarship.

    She is shocked when Brian Nelson shows up at her house one day wanting to help. This is small town USA and Brian is from neighboring Hawsley...rival sports town to D.J.'s Red Bend. Brian isn't any football player, either...he's the QB.

    A snotty comment from Brian makes D.J. realize that she is not too different from the cows on her farm. She doesn't question anything. She just does what she is supposed to do. She assumes that there are no choices in life. Soon she starts asking the questions that will change her life. Why doesn't her little brother talk to anyone? Why is her best friend so pissed off at the world? Why couldn't she play football on the boy's team at school? Why isn't her mother home any more?

    I ended up loving this book. I wasn't fond of D.J. at first. She was so self depricating that I was getting annoyed. By mid-book, however, her wit was sarcastic, dry and fun. I found myself wanting her to succeed and wanting her to find her voice. I could picture her farm, feel the hot breezes and just transport myself there!

    I'm going to miss this book!

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Hold the Presses!

    Ok.

    So after the Comicon, I ordered Runaways from an online store. Jen has been telling me about this comic forever, but I never got the get up and go to read it. I purchased the hard cover 18 issue volume 1.

    Wow!

    I have to pull something off my Top Ten because this book is amazing. It has so many elements to love, which could have been cheesy, but some how were not cheesy.

    Evil parents. Teen angst. Teen hormones. Super powers. The chase. The mystery. The mythology.

    Loved it!!!!

    I can't even figure out who I love the best. The former goth girl in me loves Nico, but I love dumb old Chase too. And Molly. And even Old Lace (which I thought would be impossible).

    Thank you Brian K. Vaughan.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Top Ten Graphic Novels

    Now...before you read my list, you should know my preference is for indy stuff. My very first collections were Mr. X, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, The Question and then Sandman. Everything evolved from there.

    10. Fun with Milk and Cheese, by Dorkin

    9. Poor Bastard, by Matt

    8. Kill Your Boyfriend, by Morrison

    7. Hopeless Savages, by Van Meter

    6. Love and Rockets, by Hernandez

    5. House of Secrets: Foundation, by Seagle

    4. Blankets, by Thompson

    3. Ghost World, by Clows

    2. Tricked, by Robinson

    1. 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve, by Tomine

    The Search for Belle Prater

    I remember reading Belle Prater's Boy for the first time and loving it. Not so much this time. I don't know whether it's because I have read much more "countrified" fiction than I had at that point in my reading career, or if it was just a better book.

    I feel that this sequel gives short shrift to the new characters Cassie and Joseph, and is just a bit too tidy in the end. Just MHO.

    We join Gyspy and Woodrow right about at New Years Eve. Gypsy explains the family's tradition of sharing New Years Revelations rather than New Years Resolutions. Just at the stroke of midnight, the telephone rings. Eventhough there is no voice on the other end, Woodrow just knows that it has to be his mother. After contacting the operator to find out where the call comes from, Woodrow is off to Bluefield on the bus to find her.

    On the bus, Gyspy, Woodrow and Cassie meet Joseph. Joseph is the first coloured boy ("call me black") that Woodrow has ever encountered, and in typical Woodrow fashion, he sticks his foot in his mouth several times before winning Joseph over. Joseph is also on a quest to find some family in Bluefield.

    It is a "nice" story, but I certainly wasn't moved. Anyone who has read Belle Prater's Boy by White should give it a read, but it does not warrant a stand alone read.