Monday, December 26, 2005

For Matrimonial Purposes

I always wonder if all women push the envelope on getting married. Is it a social construction? Is it our upbringing?

For Anju it's all she has been striving for. A Bombay girl and a first born at that, her mum and dad have been trying to get her married since her best friend was engaged at 17. But noone seemed quite right for her, and face it, not too many came calling either. Anju was nice enough...educated and sweet, but she had a fierce independent streak as well.

After some convincing, she is off to "Umerica" to stay in Fort Lee NJ with her Aunty and Uncle while attending NYU for further studies. We follow Anju's next decade in NYC with frequent trips back to Bombay during the wedding season "for matrimonial purposes". Once she hits her 30s, will Anju find her husband?

An interesting blend of chick lit meets Indian fiction. The story is peppered with culture and tradition as well as all of the trappings of contemporary chick lit. Anju works in fashion, attends fabulous parties (aside from those Bombay weddings), and is very Sex and the City minus the sex part.

It was a fun little read that sated my post Christmas read need along with a love story jones. Very Beachy, indeed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Al Capone Does My Shirts

So, I have to admit...this is one of those books that I sort of, pretended to have read for about a year now. Whenever the kids at school would ask me about it, I'd say, "yeah...this one is great!" and leave it at that. I had heard Jen's booktalks about it a hundred times, but for some reason, I just didn't feel like reading it. I just picked it off the shelf at the public library last week.

Moose Flanagan is not living a typical life. It's the 1930s and he is living on Alcatraz Island where his dad does double duty as an electrician and a prison guard. Moose is not the only kid there. His sister Natalie, Piper (the warden's daughter), Annie, Theresa, Jimmy and baby Rocky are on the Island too. Everyday Moose takes the ferry into the city to go to school.

The warden has told all of the kids on the island that they are not supposed to talk about the cons. Especially not about notorious gangster Capone. Piper has other ideas... she talks about Alcatraz all the time. She is full of money making schemes that she needs Moose's help for, and they all involve breaking the warden't rules.

Getting in trouble is the LAST thing that Moose needs. He already is stuck taking care of his sister everyday. Natalie isn't a typical sister...she has special needs. Moose knows that the warden isn't too happy having her on the Island at all and he does his best to keep Natalie out of the warden's way. But his family is full of secrets...some of them involving his sister. Can Moose find a way to help his family, or will he forever follow the rules?

This is a fast read with some fascinating facts about prison life in Alcatraz in the 30s. Choldenko has also provided facts about autism in a unnamed and detailed way. While this is not the flashiest book out there, it is a solid read that will most likely open up the mind's of readers to questions of justice on many different levels.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson

Yay! Another great book! A friend recommended this to me and in turn, I am going to recommend it to my grown-up friends!

The seemingly unconnected lives of Olivia, Amelia, Julia, Victor, Jackson, Marlee, Laura, Mrs. Rain, Caroline, Michelle, and Theo (among others) are slowly drawn together in an amazing story about family, love, murder, abuse and self discovery. I know that probably sounds like a bit much, but at first the story is truly overwhelming. I was crying over my eggs benedict at a little cafe around the corner. Let me give you an example of the writing.

" "And anyway," he shouted after her, "maybe I don't want to eat bloody coriander!" She came to an abrupt halt, whiplashing the baby in the pushchair. She turned round and said, "Well maybe I do," and glared at him for the longest time, wishing she had the woodcutting ax with her, the ax that would split his skull like a melon or a pumpkin cleaved in two. No, not a melon, melons were sweet and exotic, not pedestrian enough for his head, and pumkins were vegetables that belonged in fairy tales. A turnip. Turnips were brutal, yokel vegetables. And he would drop like a headless scarecrow, right here in the field, and sink into the soil and never be seen again, and she could give the baby to her mother and ruin another life." (pp. 36-37)

There are so many subplots and characters that I am not sure how to even write about this title to give it any justice. The characters are compelling, they all have secrets and even the ones that I didn't like I still wanted to know.

I am definately going to pick up Atkinson's previous novels.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Indigo*s Star

I have to start off by saying that I have never read McKay's companion Saffy's Angel. I just picked Indigo up off the shelf of the library for something to read.

Indigo is headed back to school after a mono induced semester off. Indigo is not the type of kid who minds missing that much school. He is the target of the red-headed bully and his gang of minions. Upon arrival back, Indigo discovers the bullies are waiting, but there is a new target as well...American Tom. Slowly but surely Tom and Indigo forge a friendship of circumstance that develops further.

The story is as much about Indigo's family unit, as the boy himself. Artist parents living apart (label conscious dad's in London, mum paints in the back shed) and coloured named sibs all weave in and out of Indigo's days. A large part of the story belongs to little sis and art prodigy Rose, who is the most likable of the bunch.

I am really interested in what kid's think of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but saw my adult perspective interpreting every event. It was a nice under the covers and tea read!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

each little bird that sings

Anyone who knows me knows that there are certain qualities that are favourites for me in books. The cover is important, and I love settings in India, the South, and Eastern Canada. I also love a book that will make me cry.

each little bird that sings gives me the South and a close cry.

Comfort Snowberger lives a life that some would consider a bit odd. She lives above the town funeral parlour with her brother Tidings, sister Merry, mother Joy, father Bunch, great uncle Edisto, great great Aunt Florentine. Her best friend is Declaration Johnson. (You HAVE to love these names!)

Soon, everything is changing. Uncle Edisto is the first in the house to die, followed soon by Aunt Florentine. Declaration has been acting real strange and stuck up since she came back from Mobile, and the only comfort that Comfort seems to get is from her dog Dismay.

The day of Aunt Florentine's funeral, Comfort, Dismay, Declaration and cousin Peach fatefully decide to walk to the cemetary instead of going in the car. A thunderstorm and flashflood will change their lives forever.

Now, I know folks who sobbed over these pages. I got a lump in my throat, but I know the reason why I wasn't overwraught. I won't put it here because it would spoil this book for the rest of you. Deborah Wiles has penned a sweet, sad, southern of the best kind, I reckon!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Maya Running

Be careful what you wish for!

How many times has that statement turned out to be true? For Maya Mukherjee, they should have been words to live by.

It's the mid 1970s in Manitoba, and Maya is not a happy girl. Her friends call her lunchtime dal "barf", her parents are making her hang out with the Ghose boys, she has a huge crush on Jamie, and Brian just called her the "N" word. The only bright spot is that Maya has convinced her parents to let her beautiful cousin Pinky come over from India for 3 weeks.

Pinky is beautiful and actually seems exotic to Maya, with her saris, kohl lined eyes and her Kathak dancing. Pinky has also brought along a golden statue of Ganesh. When Jamie's affections turn from Maya to Pinky, Maya turns to Ganesh for help. Little does she know that this sweet loving trickster god will turn her life upside down.

Eventhough Maya starts to live the life she thought she wanted, she is not feeling very good about it. Her parents are shadows of their former selves, and her friends just aren't themselves. And Jamie ... his adoration is becoming downright scary.

This is a clean tween read that would be great for anyone who feels like the odd one out. The story obviously relies heavily on the author Anjali Banerjee's own life, and though it is dated in the 1970s, the journey for self discovery is a timeless one.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

National Book Award


Yay, yay, yay!

Birdsall just won the National Book Award for Penderwicks.

I know there was some talk in the circles about how this book was "young", but not all young people and teens want to read grit all the time. So yay!

I am predicting that this will also be a Newbery award winner at ALA in January. We shall see!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Day Joanie Frankenhauser Became a Boy

I took this off my friend Karyn's pile at work. It was way too young for her highschool audience so I thought I would give it a go. This is a sweet book that I think tomboys in the range of 4-6th grade would enjoy.

Joanie's mom wants her to act more like a girl. Joanie doesn't understand why just because she is in 5th grade she is supposed to give up skateboarding, football and basketball. She simply can't identify with those girly girls at school. You know the ones. They giggle and talk about lipgloss all day?

Well...when the family moves from Boston to Yardville PA, Joannie gets the chance of a lifetime. The first day at her new school, a typo has the teacher introducing her as "John" instead of "Joan". Joannie doesn't correct the teacher and takes the opportunity to enter the secret world of boys.

She starts hanging out with Zane and his buddies, and soon finds herself over her head with dares to prove how macho she is. Zane wants to do crazy stuff like hang upside down from a tree over a ravine, and whip firecrackers at old man Corrolla's place. And she doesn't feel very comfortable making "boobie" jokes at Lucinda. Will she find a way to come clean...or stay a boy for as long as possible?

The writing is breezy and there are chapters written as stories about "Super Kid" that Joanie writes. I would recommend it to 4-6th graders. It's an interesting look at the gender divide without sexual overtones, and helps to show that the grass may not always be so green on the other side.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lauren Child


I just have to take a moment to say how much I LOVE Lauren Child. Especially the Charlie and Lola books.

As a librarian, I most likely would not have picked these books out for my 2.5 year old daughter if I hadn't seen the show. Seeing the stories performed gave me the cadence necessary for reading these aloud. The text is squirmy and swimmy, but all you have to do is put on a bad English accent, and read about pink milk, absolutely positively not going to bed, hippos and invisible friends.

Charming, charming. If you are parents you know that you will have to read certain books hundreds of times. These ones won't make you want to poke your eyes out.

So. Yay for Lauren Child.

The Myth of You and Me

Wow. I LOVED this book! I don't know if it's because I am 35 and at that point in my life where I feel like connecting with old friends and loved ones, or if Leah Stewart is just one heck of an author.

We take a journey through Cameron's eyes back and forth from past to present regarding her friendship with Sonia. Sonia and army brat Cameron became best friends after Cam witnessed Sonia's mother's cruelty. Mme Gray is like no other mother I have ever read.

Cameron was working for, and living with, famous historian Oliver Doucet when Sonia comes back into her life in the form of a letter. Cameron has no wish to contact Sonia because of an unnamed betrayal, but Oliver has different ideas.

The reader feels priviledged to witness this friendship between these girls/women. What they go through is so everyday, yet so poignant that it truly stirs the soul. Friendship between women tends to be dicey and Stewart has caught the very essence of this.

The teenagers looked nothing like Sonia and I had looked at their
age...These girls probably snuck into rock clubs. They did drugs
and went to poetry readings. They knew all about Zen Buddhism
and read articles in The New Yorker. What I recognized was the
way they kept looking at each other even though they were each
talking to a boy. Every so often they exchanged these quick,
knowing glances, each making sure the other one was still there,
still with her. I wondered how long their friendship would last,
and felt sorry for them, because they didn't know it wouldn't. "

Ouch. Yet most likely true. I have so many pages in this book turned down and could quote endlessly, but I won't. I think this is a book that every woman who ever walked away from a friendship or lover should read.

So good.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Ok. So I FINALLY got my copy of Peeps back, with a very nice inscription I must say (thanks Scott!) and got back down to the business of finishing it.

Very interesting take on the vampire novel.

The last vampire story I read was Twilight, by Meyer. A very traditional story. Westerfeld has explored a different angle involving parasites. Which when you think of it we all are in some form or another.

Cal has been working for the NightWatch pretty much since he turned. He has been hunting down the few that he has infected during his year as a peep (parasite positive). The only one he can't find is his progenitor, Morgan. Partly because her name is all he can remember about her, aside from her appearance. A drunken hook-up in Manhattan. It happens everyday. No last name. Can't remember exactly where she lives. Doesn't know where she works.

But she has left Cal with a legecy of enforced celibacy (parasite positivity is sexually transmitted), and a huge craving for protein.

While searching for Morgan, Cal comes across Lace. Lace is looking for her own answers. Like why is her rent so low, and why did someone write "He was so pretty I had to eat him" in what looks like blood on her wall.

What follows is a NYC centric adventure with Cal searching not only for Morgan, but also the deep menace that he feels is stalking the city.

Westerfeld has interwoven chapters about parasites between the plot. Real parasites. Yucky parasites. In exquisite detail. I know I won't be peeing in a tropical river anytime soon.

This is an interesting take on vampirism, and I really enjoyed Cal's character. Lace drove me a little nuts with her "dude"-ing at the beginning of every sentence. The ending was left open.

Is this going to be a series? you know?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Black Hole

I dreamt about highschool last night. I wonder if this gn had anything to do with it?

It's the 1970's in suburban Seattle and a new STD is making the rounds. It's not like the STDs that you can typically cover. This can manifest itself in giving you a tail, extra mouths, webbed hands, facial deformity etc. (Wow! Come to think of it the hardcore bible belters may use this to scare teens off sex before marriage!)

Our story concentrates mostly on Keith and Chris. Keith is a nice run of the mill guy, who hangs out with his friends smoking pot among other things. He pretty much hates his teenage existence. He is searching for something, but he's not sure what.

Chris is in his biology class and she is the object of his affections. She too, is a nice girl, if more popular than Keith.

One night at a party Chris finds herself attracted to Rob. They both drink heavily and head out to the cemetery for an intimate moment. Right before they have sex, Rob tries to warn Chris about something, but she shushes him and continues on. Soon after, Chris is showing symptoms.

I think this is more a story about what it is like to be in high school than it is a sexual warning. Burns has captured those manic highs and lows where every outcast feels like a leper, and falling in love happens fast. I'm not sure that I would have enjoyed this as a may have creeped me out. There are quite a few full frontal pictures, and the deformations are the kind of things that make my skin creepy crawly.

That said, the starkness of the black and white is stunning, and the bold style of the illustrations suit the story perfectly. Some of the art reminded my of the Bongwater album, Too Much Sleep. Upon checking, that artwork was done by Jim Shaw. It's got that same yearbook thing happening.

Overall, I really enjoyed this gn. I sat down and read it in a short period of time, and was very satisfied. I am glad I didn't read it in comic form, simply because the waiting would have been difficult!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Last Book in the Universe

I had forgotten that I bought this book back with Golden and Grey earlier this summer. I picked it up off of my night table last night, and just finished it now. I feel like my old reading self when my 2 year old is at her Nana's!

Rodman Philbrick has written quite the "end of the world as we know it" story.

Imagine a world of extreme class difference. Eden is at the centre, where the "proovs" (or genetically improved) humans live. At least the normals have been told that Eden exists...they can't be sure since it means instant "cancellation" for a normal to try to enter.

Everyone lives in a "latch"...essentially a turf controlled by a latch boss. Spaz, thus named because of his epilepsy, lives under the rule of the Bangers, where Billy Bizmo reigns supreme. Spaz is told to go rip off the Ryter who lives in the stacks at the edge of town. Spaz does as he is told...afterall it's steal or die around here. Little does he know that the Ryter will end up effecting him deeply with his talk about the backtimes.

One night in his crib, a runner comes with a message for Spaz. His foster sister Bean is sick again with the blood sickness. The problem is that Bean lives in a whole other latch...3 latches over. Spaz is sure to be cancelled even trying to leave his own latch. Can Ryter help him find his way?

What follows is a fast paced adventure about priviledge, perfection and hope.

Less intense than Anderson's Feed, and less sophisticated than Westerfeld's Uglies (almost) triology, The Last Book in the Universe seems perfect for the sixth grade and up set. Fast paced and compelling, Philbrick makes the reader stop and consider what s/he might do given extreme circumstances.

Don't look for a happy ending.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


So I had to weigh the pros and cons. Finish the last 45 pages of Peeps, or leave it at work in order to have Westerfeld sign it next week when he comes for a student visit...which of course, I can't attend. My kid has school.

So I left it. And it's hurting me right now. Neither of my colleagues had an arc of it that I could use for the commute home.

So next week, I can write about it.

Last night was our 'tween presentation. Some fab books were discussed. The ones that I chose were:
Golden and Grey, by Arnold
Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer, by Petty
Akimbo and the Elephants, by McCall Smith
Out of Order, by Hicks
Chig and the Second Spread, by Swain
Colibri, by Cameron
Replay, by Creech
Flush, by Hiassen
The Not So Star Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, by Perkins
Leon and the Spitting Image, by Kurzweil

Other books discussed by Jen and Karyn included The Schwa was Here, Penderwicks, Mabel Riley, Mates, Dates series, and Gender Blender...the last of which I am looking forward to reading. I am a big fan of Blake Nelson.

...I am still thinking about Peeps. Ugh.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Penderwicks

Wow. Is 2005 the year of the subtitle or what? Enter The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy.

I had wanted to read The Penderwicks ever since a very hot and pregnant me held it in my hands in the B&N at Union Square. Jen and I had just gone to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and were browsing away enjoying some uber air conditioning. I should have bought it at that very moment, because I could have read it at least 5 times by now.

This is a wonderful story in the vein of Gone Away Lake and A Spell is Cast. The writing is superb, there is a vintage feel to it, and ahhhhhh to bask in the innocence of it all!

Rosalind, Skye, Jane, Batty, and Mr. Penderwick are uspet when their usual Cape Cod summer rental is no longer available at the last moment. Mr. Penderwick manages to find a rental in the Berkshires, and nobody is sure what to expect. What they didn't expect was to be staying in a cottage on a grand estate named Arundal.

They also didn't expect to meet friends like Jeffrey and Cagney while trying to avoid snooty Mrs. Tifton. Since Arundal belongs to Mrs. Tifton (who happens to be Jeffrey's mother), this is not so easily accomplished.

Each girl is a personality unto herself, and readers are sure to be reminded of Little Women. I am one of those few who cannot stand Little Women, but I obviously love this book.

The adventures are sweet yet real...there are crushes on boys, dreams of being an author, trying to find one's place within a family. The Penderwick's sense of family honour is admirable and it's so refreshing to read contemporary fiction that is so well written.

This is a book that I will recommend and recommend and purchase for all of my friend's children.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Have you ever thought what life might be like if the airplane had never been invented? It never crossed my mind either, until I read Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel.

Matt is a cabinboy aboard the Aurora, a luxury aircraft of the blimp variety. He is in love with the ship. He loves everything about it as well as everything about "sailing". In fact, whenever he is on leave, he feels stifled and out of place. Only in the air is he free.

One day, Matt helps his crew rescue an old man who was trying to circumnavigate the world in a balloon. They find him stranded, his balloon badly damaged. He is close to death when he tells Matt about the creatures he has seen in the air.

Cut to one year later...Matt meets the granddaughter of this old man aboard the Aurora. Kate has her grandfather's diary from his ill-fated balloon trip. The old man obviously believed that he had encountered a new species of flying mammal, and Kate is determined to prove her grandfather was not crazy and that these creatures exist, and she needs Matt to help her.

Before she can do so, the Aurora is boarded by the famous pirate Szpirglas and his crew. Soon, Matt and Kate are in deep in an adventure involving pirates, "cloud cats", shipwreck and manslaugter.

I am glad that I was reading this for a book discussion, because I am not sure I would have stuck with it if I hadn't "had to". This is a bit more of a "boy book" that I normally like. What I mean by this is there is lots of talk about the airship and how it works. Me...I don't care about that stuff so much. Once Oppel gets on to the adventure, the pace picks up and I found myself not wanting to go to sleep until I found out what fate had in store for Matt and Kate. The writing is superb. This book is a Printz honor for a reason!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Serenity Rose

Ahhh the graphic novel. Lovely lovely. I have been a fan of graphic novels and comics since my last year of highschool when my friend Jeff took my to the comic shop and introduced me to The Question. I then moved on to Mr. X, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, Black Orchid, and lucky for me that was the year that Sandman arrived. I had to stop buying in university for a while, as the cash flow was thin. Then, as a grown up I got into more of the indy titles. Last year Blankets blew my mind.

I got Serenity Rose - Volume 1: Working Through the Negativity in the mail to review.

I wasn't sure what to make of it at first. I knew it was a gothy gn, but other than that I wasn't sure what to expect. I was a bit confused. The beginning is wordy. Quite wordy. I then got sucked in to the fun.

Serenity Rose is a witch. A reluctant one at that. Her reputation precedes her, and that has turned her into somewhat of a hermit. She is living in the secluded town of Crestfallen. She does have some friends. There is Tess, Kelton and Mary Ann.

We are slowly introduced to her story...including the unfortunate demise of her mother and father, her disdain for the "scene", as well as the "bus incident" and reasons for it.

This is a fun read, but buried within is a scathing social commentary. Politics, music, pop culture, sexuality and loyalty are all topics that are touched upon or explored.

The illustrations are a bit more "japanime" style than I tend to like. Serenity's nose makes her look a bit like a clown which is a problem for me. (Don't like those clowns!) The black and whiteness of it all really works for the story, but prepared to need lots of light while reading. Remember...lots of text! There are quite a few 80s references to bands that were quite fun (like "Joy Divisor"...wonder who that was!) and there is a great club scene with patrons numbered and their traits outlined along the page edges.

Overall this gn is very clever, cute and a bit spooky at the same time.

Akimbo and the Elephants

Reading the final push before my presentation. Akimbo and the Elephants was recommended to me as something for the youngest on my list. It's an environmental mystery...a genre that I have had some interest in in the past.

Akimbo lives with his father at the edge of a large game reservation in an unnamed African country. Akimbo had a love affair with the elephants more than any other animal.

"It was not the leopards, or even the lions, that Akimbo liked to watch. He loved the elephants best of all. You had to keep clear of them, too, but they seemed more gentle than many of the other creatures. Akimbo loved their vast, lumbering shapes. He loved the way that they moved their trunks slowly, this way and that as they plodded across the plains between the stretches of forest..." (p3-4)

So imagine Akimbo's horror when his father explained what poachers are, and tells him that there are poachers hunting on the reserve - killing elephants for their ivory. This hits home for Akimbo when he accompanies his father and coworkers deep into the reserve and he sees an elephant that has been killed for its' tusks.

Akimbo decides at that moment that he has to do something. He hatches a plan to catch the poachers in the act. It is dangerous and many things can go wrong, but Akimbo knows in his heart that he must act.

This is a fast paced mystery with a heart of gold. McCall Smith writes beautifully and the illustrations by LeUyen Pham enrich the story. This is perfect for the 3rd grade and up set who are so passionate about social justice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 the meantime

I HAVE been reading. Honestly.

Currently I am working on The Big Over Easy, which is much fun so far. The problem is that my 2.5 year old has decided that she is too old to nap. Goodbye reading time.

I am still working on my tween title presentation, which should be ready in the next week or so. I am planning on posting the info about the titles that are not currently on this blog.

I am trying to get my paws on Peeps, by Westerfeld, and Penderwicks, the author's name escapes me right now. These are both supposed to be great (and very different) reads.

Stay tuned!!!

Monday, September 05, 2005


The second in the series by Westerfeld, Pretties starts right where Uglies left off. Tally is back and up to her old tricks. New Pretty Town is never quite the same when she is around. This time, as part of the Crims, Tally is looking for the ultimate rush. She can't understand why she keeps doing unpretty and not bubbly things. Maybe the hottie leader Zane can help her out?

Westerfeld has written the second in a trilogy and written it just as exciting as the first installment. In my reading experience, the second of trilogies tend to just bring the plot along...usually in a very "un-bubbly" way. But again, I was hooked. You don't get too much plot because of course this was an arc that I read. I can't wait to buy a copy for my neice!

...and now I am waiting and waiting for part 3! And I am just as excited about this one as I am about Barker's part 3 of the Abarat series.

Westerfeld is quickly becoming one of my favourite contemporary YA authors.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Golden and Grey

I have to admit that I am pretty proud of myself for finishing this off! I just had a baby 10 days ago. Both girls took a nap at the same time yesterday, and instead of doing the sensible thing (going to sleep myself) I finished this off!

I bought this book based on cover and title alone. The cover art is perfect for the age range (wonky cartoonish, but not over the top). And the subtitle - An Unremarkable Boy and a Rather Remarkable Ghost) is rather intriguing.

Tom Golden has just moved to a new school and somehow gotten the title of "freak boy". He's not sure how it happend...he used to have friends. Now he finds notes on his back, noone will eat with him, and he is constantly trying to avoid bully Big Ben.

Grey Arthur is a ghost without a job. He has tried to be a poltergeist, and a sadness summoner among other things, but nothing quite fits.

One day he hears Tom's angry whispers about school. They are not whispers to Grey Arthur's ears sinces ghosts hear by emotion rather than volume. Grey Arthur knows what he must Tom's Invisible Friend. Whether or not this is a real ghost job description, he does not know, but he does know that Tom needs him. The one problem with this friendship is that it is one way. Tom doesn't know Arthur exists.

An accident, however, leaves Tom with a special power. He can now see not only Grey Arthur, but all the ghosts around him. Will this really help Tom, or make him even more of a freak boy. Afterall who else goes around talking to folks noone else can see?

This is more of a story about friendship and growing up than it is a ghost story. It has a broad appeal, and will prove especially fun to fans of Ibbotson.

Monday, August 08, 2005


The only other book that I had read by Scott Westerfeld was So Yesterday. Eventhough I still can't get that annoying Hilary Duff song out of my head when I think of the title, I really enjoyed it. I have always been interested in the whole advertising/marketing to kids thing, as well as the idea of "trends". One of my husband's friend's ex-girlfriends used to work in fashion and decide on trends for her company. She would tell me a year in advance what to buy, which colours would be "in" etcetera. It was pretty weird.

My friend Jen had been talking about Uglies for months and all the girls at our school (MS and HS) who took it out loved it. So then other day when I was loading up on books, I decided to buy myself a copy (and was appreciative of the original paperback!)

This was a fun book to read, in that big brother 1984 style. It actually reminded me slightly of Feed, by Anderson. Tally is an ugly, but not for long. Her 16th birthday is approaching and that is when she will finally get the operation to turn her into a pretty. You know....the evolutionary positives. Large open eyes, high forhead, full lips, ideal height and weight. Her skin will be replaced, bones shaved and padded. The ultimate extreme makeover.

A couple of weeks before her birthday, she meets one of the only other senior uglies in her dorm. Shay is full of tricks, just like Tally and they really hit it off. But Shay is different. She is not looking forward to being pretty. Tally doesn't understand. Why would anyone want to be ugly?

This is the first part in a trilogy, and is fast paced, interesting and fun. I just gave it to my niece for her 15th birthday, and she asked my sister how I could possibly know exactly the kind of thing she liked to read!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Leon and the Spitting Image

Leon and the Spitting Image, by Allen Kurzweil is exactly the kind of book that I would have picked up as a fourth grader. Not only is there a creepy witchy type boot on the cover, but the title is clever and the premise is great.

Leon goes to what can only be assumed as a Manhattan independent school, The Classical School. The motto of the school is "nimble fingers make for nimble minds" ... read in experiential learning. The problem is Leon is somewhat of a klutz. He lives with his mom in a one star hotel...she is the night manager. So, not only is his life a bit different from the rest, but the Ice Queen (ancient ice maker)keeps him up at night. Top all of this off with his finding of his confidential reports the day before his first day of fourth grade.

"Leon continues to be hampered by a troubling lack of fine motor skills."

Now, his fourth grade teacher, Miss Hagmeyer, is for some reason obsessed with sewing. Not only for herself, but for her students as well. How will a fine motor skills challenged fourth grader get through a year when almost all of his assignments are sewing related?

With the help of his 2 best friends...PW and Lily-Matisse.

A very fun romp for the 3rd-5th grade set. Plus the bonus of this turning into a series, with the next book taking place during Leon's fifth grade year.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer

...there's a title that will grab your attention!

Surfing around the net today, I came across this title and was intrigued. Since my kiddo is over at her nana's today, I decided to go out and give this a read in hopes of finding more tween stuff.

This book is fun, fun, fun!

Clemency is minding her own business, collecting sassafras, when she is stung by a bug. At least she thinks it could be a bug. This bug, however, is relentless. No matter how quickly she runs, or how powerfully she smacks, she cannot get away. Right at the point when she is about to fall into a gorge, she sees that this is not a bug, but a fairy. Having listened closely to her father's stories, Clemency knows what to do. She utters the fateful words, "I don't believe in fairies!" It doesn't work. At least not the first time. It does work the seventh time. So what happend those other six times?

Six other fairies died. Including the fairy of noninvasive surgery, and the tooth fairy. Clemency Pogue is a fairy killer.

With the help of a hobgoblin, enslaved to her by a bit of rumplestiltskin type luck, Clemency sets off to travel the world to try to make things right.

JT Petty uses some fun and fantastic wordplay, and the vocabulary is fairly sophisticated. I breezed through the 120 pages in less than a couple of hours, and this novel should prove super appealing to emerging fantasy fans.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Back on the hunt for tween titles, I started and promptly left 2 in the dust. One I had high hopes for (an adult author who I now think should stick to adult!), and another with too many sex references for my age group.

Happily, I picked up Sharon Creech's new book, Replay. I absolutely love Ruby Holler, Heartbeat and Love that Dog, so I was hoping that this title would fall into my parameters. I already knew the writing would be good.

Meet Leo and his big Italian family. Sibs Contento, Pietro, Nunzio, and mom Mariana and dad Giorgio. Don't forget Grandparents, The Aunties, The Uncles and The Cousins.

Leo is a dreamer. Those around him actually call him fog boy because more often than not he is in the middle of a day dream, where he is no longer the youngest and forgotten one, but rather the star! One day up in the attic he finds his father's old tap shoes and journal from the age of 13. Leo starts to open up a mystery about his family that he never knew existed. Tie that in with a big, bold family unit plus the lifestyle of a very innocent 12 year old, and what is left is a sweet story.

The end of the book has the play that Leo is involved in at his school, leaving the perfect opportunity for theatre geek readers to act it out.

Again, this is an arc due out in September. I would recommend this for Creech fans, young actors, and the more innocent reader. It is truly a sweet family story.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

So I have always had a bit of a crush on Severus Snape (at least as played by Alan Rickman), but now I don't know if I can carry my torch any longer! Sniff.

I ordered my copy of HP6 after the release date, and I got it sent by Amazon UK. It's hard for me to read a "revised" version for Americans. I don't really get it. I mean, context will help a reader out any day.

I knew that this was going to be the last lengthy book that I read for a while, and I was looking forward to it. It was a MUCH easier go than The Historian, but it was just as enjoyable.

Harry and the gang are coming up on 17 years old now and are in year 6 at Hogwarts. This is the year that they finally get to apparate, Harry is the head of his house quidditch team, and there is still good old Voldemort to hunt down.

I found this a much more enjoyable read than the Order of the Phoenix. The kids are older, the plot moves along effortlessly, and even as an adult reader, there was only one instance when I already knew what was going to happen. As I have written before, sequels tend to scare me, but I am amazed at how Rowling has managed to move this story along in a real time fashion without trivializing her characters.

All I can say is that I hope Snape has something up his sleeve for me next book!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Historian

I admit, that I am not usually a fan of the bestseller. This book only came to my attention because my friend Jen was doing a tandem reading with her friend Lynne. She knows my gothy past, so she gave me a quick plot synopsis. I thought I might read her copy when she was finished. Alas, when I was shopping in Costco, I saw the book for 1/2 price and I picked it up. I started reading that evening and I was hooked.

Now you need to understand that I spend lots of time reading children's and young adult's literature, so whenever I dive into the adult world, it takes a bit longer. Also Kostova did an amazing job weaving fiction and nonfiction together. I found myself underlining places and dates and then going online to do a bit of background reading. (That's the librarian in me!)

The plot starts quickly, which left me a bit worried about being interested for the entire 642 pages, but I was not disappointed. We start with a young woman finding a book containing a bunch of letters that begin, "My dear and unfortunate successor...." The book itself is blank save a woodcut of a dragon in the centre. The book is in her father's study and she asks him about it. Here begins the history told orally and through documents of hunting for Vlad Dracula.

The reader is taken to Istanbul, Budabest, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Amsterdam and France, Greece and Crete. The descriptions are lush and realistic. The reader truly gets a sense of place and culture through Kostova's words.

My friend told me that the last 50 pages were a big payoff for all the time put into the reading. I have to say, however, that I enjoyed the reading. There was only one section where I had to put it down because my mind felt too full of "facts", and I needed a break. I also could have done with out the epilogue, because when the chapter before it ended, I exclaimed out loud, "Oh my way!". Which in my mind is always a great way to end a book!

Apparently reviews are running either hot or cold. All I can say is that I enjoyed this book tremendously and have been recommending it to my friends.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Out of Order

So, I have been trolling the arcs I got at BookExpo looking for reads that may be appropriate for the younger tween set. Since I am due to have a kid in 3 weeks or so, I am trying to get as much reading in as possible. I have a presentation to make in October on the tween subject, and I know how quickly time will pass, and how little sleep I will be operating on once this kiddo arrives.

So I picked up Out of Order, by Betty Hicks.

I had never read this author before, but the cover is appealing and the publisher recommendation (which I know tends to run low), says ages 8-12. I am really looking for some newer stuff for the 8-10 range.

I was pleasantly surprised. This book is presented in 4 voices. The voices are of the kids in the now blended family. We have Parker, the youngest, who now wants to be referred to as "Mud Boy". Then we have Lily...former oldest, now second youngest. She used to be opinionated, but now that she has older stepsisters and brothers she is shutting down. Then there is "V". "V" is for's fav (or at least former fav) who is a girlie girl, smart and Lily's nemesis. Then there is Eric...the aspiring writer who can't seem to get out of his dead brother's shadow.

This is a blended family story that isn't too preachy or too sappy. Younger readers will get into the sibling dynamics as well as the rock, paper, scissors theme, and older readers will enjoy the issues that are effecting both Eric and V. The content is totally appropriate for the younger reader, and the voices of the characters ring true.

I read this arc in a day, and I really did enjoy it. I know that I will be recommending it to the occasional 3rd grader and well as 4th graders at my school.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Orpheus Obsession

I try to get everyone that I know to read Johnny Vodoo, by Dakota Lane. It was one of the books that I read while I was a YA librarian in a public library, and it totally captured me. The essence of Louisiana, as well as Johnny himself just drew me in quickly and kept me there the whole time. Imagine my surprise when my fellow librarian Karyn told me that Lane's newest book had just been nominated for BBYA.

Jen and Karyn just got the book in, and I had the pleasure of reading it over the past couple of days.

I wasn't quite sure what to think at first. I kept Johnny Voodoo too close to my mind and this is a very different book. I couldn't help thinking of Francesca Lia Block when I started to read about Anooshka and her sister Moon. The story starts with a very trippy sojourn to Brighton Beach culminating in a chance meeting with rock star Orpheus while he is on a photo shoot. Originally Moon had introduced Anooshka to his music, and Anooshka ends up struck by Orpheus in a way that develops into the type of obsession that only teen girls can cultivate.

We watch Anooshka fall for, follow, and enter Orpheus' world. Is she the angel that he tells her she is, or simply another delusional, teen fan that would make for an easy lay?

The language is poetic, and true to form, Lane's descriptions are lush and leave the reader with a real sensory feeling of being there. I feel like I have a real picture of Moon and of Anooshkas's friends, as well as the East Villiage through Anooshka's eyes. It's just Anooshka herself that remains partly mysterious to me.

To Kill A Mockingbird

I know, I know. "How could you never have read To Kill a Mockingbird?"

My stock answer is, "I'm Canadian. Have you read Fifth Business?" That usually will stop them in their tracks.

I try to read at least one classic a summer, and since I am working in an American school now, I thought, I had better bone up on my American Classics. So I polled some colleagues of mine, and once TKAM came up, everyone said that was the one that I had to read.

Boy I'm glad that I did.

There is no real reason to give any plot synopsis since it seems like everyone has read it, but wow. A friend at work said to me, "Atticus Finch is the perfect man", and I am inclined to agree. Scout, Jem and Dil are all such authentic characters, as is the illusive Boo Radley. We all had a Boo on our streets growing up, didn't we? Our street definately had a haunted house with a mean old lady living inside. Noone went there on Hallowe'en except on a dare.

It only took me two days to read Mockingbird simply because the story was so compelling. Eventhough as an adult, I knew what was going to happen, I kept hoping that the ending would turn out differently. Amazing writing.

So if any of you out there would like to recommend an American classic to me, feel free to post a comment.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

In the Coils of the Snake

Clare Dunkle. I first received a copy of Hollow Kingdom from VOYA to review last year. I looked at the cover and groaned to my friend Jen about fantasy books. Bad cover. Really bad cover. But I had to read it because I had a review to write.
So I started it on the boat on my way home from school.
I finished it on the boat on my way back to school.
It was that good.
Then VOYA sent along the second in the series, Close Kin. I was excited that Linda was letting me review the series, especially since I didn't get credit for the first review! I gave it a 5Q rating (the highest there is) and someone named Sarah was listed as the reviewer. Oh well.
Now Linda sent me the last in the series.
Another amazing book. It has been 30 years since Close Kin (in the goblin world ...not real life), and Marak is ready to die. His son is being prepped to take on the kingdom, and Marak has even gone to the trouble of finding his son a bride. Traditionally the goblin kings have to steal their brides (preferably elf...sometimes human) to take them below the earth for the rest of their lives. Marak has basically raised Miranda since she was a baby. She is fully fluent in goblin, and has a home life that is making her long to be locked underground as a king's wife.
Marak brings Miranda to his world, and then he dies. The day that she is to be married to Marak Catspaw, the elves return. This time they are led by the mysterious and powerful Nir. And the way that Miranda has been raised has in no way prepared her for the fate to come.

Just as fast paced and exciting as the first enstallment, ITCOTS is a wonderful ending to an amazing story!

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Being a social worker must be a drag. Really. My sister is a sw, so I have heard some of her stories, but E.R. Frank is the queen of the sad story.

Wrecked begins..."The day I killed my brother's girlfriend started with me handpicking leaves off our front lawn". Seriously. The first line.

I almost put it down, but remembered the amazing voices of Life is Funny and kept reading.

Anna is such an interesting character. The reader must wonder if her quirks came less from the accident and more from the years and years of her father's yelling and pushing buttons.
Anna's best friend Ellen is a stand-out and I was left wanting more of her story as well.
I have a crush on Seth.

Again, I love reading the arcs because it feels so great to read early, but then I feel too bad to put lots of plot on here. So I can only leave you with my general impressions.

This is a sad, sad story...but not sad in a Lurlene McDaniel way. Sad in a compassionate and compelling way. You will want to know Anna, and you will want to know how she gets through everything that is put upon her plate.

I would recommend this to anyone who liked Life is Funny, or even 33 Snowfish, by Rapp.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Capt. Hook

What a grand adventure indeed.

I do not profess to be an expert on Peter Pan. I probably know the main points of the story, and I have read books lately like Peter and the Star Catchers. But when I was at BookExpo and saw the cover of Capt. Hook, I knew I had to read it!

I have always been the fan of the villian. In Disney, there are none better than Cruella and Malificent.

James Matthew Bastard is dropped off at Eton by his Aunt Emily. His bastard status preceded him...his father is a Lord and his mother is unknown. His pale skin and Charles II style hair-do set him apart as well.

How does he get from Eton to infamous?

Through a series of adventures involving befriending Roger Peter Davis (Jolly R), exposing his yellow blood, training a pet spider named Electra, being the best swordsman around, attempting to kidnap the Sultana Annanova, and being sent to sea for seven years!

J.V. Hart has out-Snicketed Snicket with the play of language, and use of slang that rolls so sweetly off the tongue. ("scugs", "ripping", "a bit of the various"). This book is begging to be read aloud. Don't be fooled, though. It's not for the young reader. The vocabulary is high, as is the emotional content (dealing with "bastard" status, to hazing, to the slave trade). One of my favourite quotes that sums up Hook is found on page 63 of the arc:

"This was the fear James had to face throughout his days, that amorphous abyss between what people say they want and what lengths they are actually willing to go to, to risk achieving their heart's desire"

I really would like to meet James Matthew!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Holy Cow. Book Expo.

It's like ALA on steroids AND speed! I went with colleagues and friends, Jen, Margaret and Karyn and Sarah. We did the split up, and go through the booths and grab the galleys thing, and we did the autograph thing as well. I got books signed by Tomie de Paola, Mark Teague, Rosemary Wells, Adrian Tomine(!!!), Libba Bray and a couple more. We talked to some of Jen's publishing buddies as well.
But mostly we got trampled! My 7 month pregnant self garnered no pity or extra space from those in the book biz! I was happy to leave, lug my galleys to school, drop them off and meet some friends at Cowgirl Hall of Fame for some well deserved grub.

Look forward to hearing about some of the following books...

Capt. Hook, by J.V. Hart (I am VERY excited about this one and started it on the ferry last night!)
I, Coriander, by Sally Gardner
Spook, by Mary Roach (Stiff was soooo good...I have high hopes for this one!)
The Witch of Cologne, by Tobsha Learner

I do have more, but decided only to bring one backpack's worth home last night!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rebel Angels

Ahhhhh. God bless the advanced reader's copy! I read A Great and Terrible Beauty , by Libba Bray mainly because of the corset on the front cover (even on the galley). That was a great read. And I was sad when my friend Jen told me, "'s only the first in the trilogy!" I tend not to have high hopes for sequels. Sorceress, by Rees gave me hope. After loving Witch Child so much ( awesome cover!) I had been worried. So this is the hope I clung to waiting for Rebel Angels to come out.
I love having friends on the BBYA and Printz committees because it means that I can get my hands on EVERYTHING that is getting published BEFORE it gets published. To a librarian, this is dreamy. So, after Jen got RA, I got to read it.
I was disappointed. At first. It did start slowly for me. I wasn't sure that I could believe in Gemma and Felicity's friendship, seeing as only 2 months had past since the last novel. But then Libba did it again. I read and read and read, and only slowed down at the end because I wasn't ready for it to be over yet.
Gemma has smashed the runes in the realms and the magic is no longer contained. Pippa is still trapped in the realms and is dead and buried in London. I don't want to tell too much of the plot until the book is released in the fall, but the reader learns much more about the Order, the Rakshana, Kartik and London society.
It is fast paced, exciting and as a reader I really feel that I know Gemma a lot better than I used to!

4 stars!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

David Levithan

I remember first reading Boy Meets Boy during the furious reading year that I was on the Quick Picks committee. At first I wasn't sure what to make of it. I mean, come on, drag queens in high school? But then I just relaxed and went with it, and really enjoyed the ride.
That's how I approached Are We There Yet. Some friends of mine have criticized it as being too convenient in it's poignancy. But I just enjoyed the writing, and I loved the characters. Since I was reading the ARC I meant to underline some passages that I found moving, or that gave me pause...but I didn't want to stop reading to search out a pencil!
I was fortunate enough to hear the author read a passage from Realms of Possibility that was also amazing.
I don't like to gush. Really I don't. And that is not what I am trying to do here. I am not sure that Are We There Yet will find its audience with YAs...but as an adult reader I truly enjoyed it.
4 stars

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Perfect Book

Have you ever read the perfect book? Or at least perfect for the time? The first time that I remember it happening as an adult was when I read High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby. That was the book that my music loving self wished she could have written. I love the music, I love the relationship angst...I loved it all.

I just finished reading The Minister's Daughter, by Julie Hearn. Instead of music, this book is full of fairy lore, herbalism, magick, religious fervor and intergirl relationships.

Nell is a merrybegot and the granddaughter of the local midwife/healer. She is wild, opinionated and strong...qualities that are not found in girls in Puritan society.

Those girls are like Grace and Patience...the minister's daughters. They sit in the parlour doing their cross stich, remain with heads bowed in church, and are above suspicion.

Grace proves to be human afterall, and instead of being truthful or facing up to her circumstance, she calls upon the hysteria over witchcraft to explain away her actions.

As reader I experienced so many emotions while reading this book, and found myself entranced and repelled by this world. What a time for a girl to live!

I recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Witch Child, by Rees or A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Bray.

An amazing read.
5 stars

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green

So, this book is on my friend Jen's top 10 list from last year. I have tried and tried to check it out from the library, but those darn kids always have it. So I stuck it on hold at NYPL, and got it a week later. I started it at 8pm read til 11 and then finished the next morning.
Face it, we all have unthinkable thoughts...mine most often happen while taking the subway!
Jacob's unthinkables are poignant, scary and hilarious.
Take a boy with a psycho dad, out-of-the-picture mom, rebellious brother, emerging libido, stick him in Hebrew school and crank open his brain!
Jacob's dad is obsessed with Jacob's Jewish upbringing. Since older brother Asher got kicked out of Hebrew school due to graffiti involving rabbis, pork and a lobster, Jacob is the only hope. And in dad's eyes, reading Hebrew is the only thing Jacob is good at anyway. Jacob has more on his mind, however. Things like spooning with his hot babysitter, escaping to Rhode Island with Asher, surviving public school after yeshiva...and staying out of dad's way.
I haven't read a YA book that so thoughtfully looks into the lives of boys in a long time. 3 Clams and an Oyster comes close, but Jacob's younger age somehow makes him more appealing.
5 stars

Friday, March 25, 2005

Blogger's block

I always want to be the queen blogger, but then life gets in the way. After viewing some long lost friend's blogs, I am inspired again! I will have to add to this when my girl goes to sleep, but I just wanted to get a start!