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.
    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


    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'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.



    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.