Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Magician's Boy 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


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 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.