Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
"I begin to think that maybe there are more things in life that seem simple, or even stupid, on the surface but turn out to have so much more . . .."
I read this book quickly, probably within a couple of hours. However, I've gone back to it four or five times in the last few weeks--reading parts out loud to students, colleagues, and generally whoever would listen because there were so many parts that I wanted to share. I loved Lucius' relationship with Nick Greek, the former football star turned security guard at his new school. There's something transformational about being able to help someone else when you are in bad circumstances and their friendship defined that for me. I also tend to believe that one positive relationship with an adult can change a kid forever, even though the impact may not be seen for years.
Although this is a quick read, there is a lot to think about. I'm always advocating for kids to be allowed to read whatever they want, regardless of format or length--this book is an example of a slim volume that really delivers.
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead was published in September, 2009.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"Among the hardships, disappointments, and losses, it's the adventure of it all that has gotten me up each morning."
Lyza and her grandfather have always shared a love of adventure. From the time she was little, he would show her maps and tell her about his travels. When he passes away, she discovers an envelope that says, "FOR LYZA ONLY." She has to decide if she should share the contents of the envelope and, if so, who will understand? Will she be able to figure out the clues her grandfather left behind? Even if she can discover the secret, will she have enough time to complete the adventure?
Told in verse, this is a story of a family figuring out how to change when circumstances demand new ways. I especially loved the relationship between Lyza and her grandfather. I lived with my grandparents twice (once as a teenager and once as an adult), so I got to enjoy a great relationship with my grandfather. Reading about Lyza's adventures reminded me of how much I miss him--and what a wonderful influence he was in my life.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
What Johanna really wants is Reeve Hartt. Reeve is also a lesbian and seems comfortable in her own skin. She doesn't know Johanna is alive until Johanna starts tutoring Reeve's twin brother Robbie. While working with Robbie, Johanna begins to spend time with Reeve and a tenuous relationship develops. What Johanna could not have realized is that Reeve and Robbie lead a messy home life, one which ultimately leads to tragedy.
This is one of those books where I constantly yelled at the main character. I wanted her to understand the destructive nature of her relationship and to realize her own value. In the end, both Johanna and Reeve have to figure out what is best for each of them individually, which will resonate with teens who face decisions about their own relationships.
Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters was released September 8, 2009.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Have you ever wished for something to happen and then when it did, you had that creepy feeling, the one where part of you thinks that you willed it to happen? Now imagine that your wish is that the popular kids at school who are constantly picking on you would die. And then, Lucy, who is #1 on your list, goes missing. This is the set up for Todd Strasser's newest book, Wish You Were Dead.
Our protagonist is Madison, a well-off girl who is part of the popular crowd but also is involved with other kids. She is not one to make fun of other students. But she is one of the 2 drivers who dropped Lucy off at her house the night she disappeared. Madison tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Lucy (and then other students in their clique).
Madison is getting clues from lots of people but will she be able to put them together in time to save her friends?
This book is due to be published on September 22, 2009.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I love a good ghost story and the creep factor that goes along with it. When I was in Chicago for ALA, I snagged an ARC of The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom and looked forward to starting it.
Conrad Harrison is lost in many ways before the book even begins. But as he moves his wife, Joanna and their dogs from LA to Black Earth, his life starts to unravel in ways he could not predict or prevent. The former owners of this "birthing house," the Laskis, are strange and their unknown number of children are just not right. Laski brings Conrad a photo of the women of the house from years ago . . . and Conrad recognizes one of them. She startingly resembles his wife. After Joanna leaves for a work trip and Conrad gets sucked deeper and deeper into the house and those that still inhabit it, he loses track of what is real and what is dream. But is it really a dream at all?
You can watch the video trailer for the book, where the author explains what has inspired him to write it. He and his wife actually moved into a birthing house and after he had a nightmare, he decided to write the novel. Can we say creepy? If I had nightmares like this book, I might hesitate to go to sleep!
The Birthing House was just released on August 4, 2009.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Finally, I learned about Casu Frazigu (a.k.a. maggot cheese) which I had never heard of before. Thank you, enlightening children's books, you may help me win a trivia game one day!
School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari will be published September 1, 2009.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
When I picked up Beautiful Creatures at BEA, I was looking forward to it. It seemed that Little, Brown was very excited about it; maybe hoping for their next Twilight.
It's daunting at first glance: over 600 pages, a lot for most teen readers I know.
Ethan has always wanted to get out of Gatlin but then he starts dreaming about a girl. And the dreams are more like nightmares. When a new girl shows up in school, Ethan knows it's the girl from his dreams. But Lena Duchannes, niece of the county shut-in and rumored creep, is about to complicate Ethan's life in ways he cannot imagine.
Much like the love story of Twilight and other teen books, supernatural and otherwise, there are plenty of things and people trying to keep Lena and Ethan apart.
Slow to get started, it's worth sticking around to the end.
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is due to be published on December 1, 2009.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
"I have a parking fairy. I'm fourteen years old. I can't drive. I don't like cars and I have a parking fairy."
A parking fairy? How undoos can you get? Charlie loves to play sports, especially basketball. She attends a sports-focused high school, and, oh yeah, she has a fairy. Most of the people in New Avalon have fairies. Some, like her friend Rochelle's personal shopping fairy are doos, while others, such as her own parking fairy are decidedly doxy. In Justine Larbalestier's How to Ditch Your Fairy, Charlie is doing everything she possibly can to lose her fairy and gain a new one. She has denied it the joy of parking for months in the hope that it would leave and she could move on with a fairy more suited to her needs and interests.
It sounds simple--don't get into a car, deny the fairy it's usefulness, and it will soon go away. However, everyone wants to use Charlie's fairy to find parking, so it's tricky to avoid being in a vehicle. Plus, she has to contend with earning demerits for all the missteps which she believes trying to rid herself of the parking fairy are causing. In order to erase the demerits, she must do hours of public service at the New Avalon Cemetery. During her service, she begins to spend time with Fiorenze, who happens to have an all boys like her fairy. While Charlie thinks she would like to have Fio's fairy, Fio is trying as hard as she can to avoid all boys and get her poxy fairy to leave her alone as well. Her plan seems to be working until Steffi enters the picture. The boy fairy works especially well on Steffi and Fio can't avoid him.
Since Fio's parents are fairy experts, the girls come up with a plan to rid themselves of their fairies once and for all. However, does it pay to ditch your fairy? Is one really better than another? Some crazy things happen throughout this book as Charile and Fio try to lose their fairies and Charlie tries to land Steffi, the pulchy boy of her dreams. I loved the fun vocabulary used in New Avalon--a glossary is included. As for me, I'm afraid I'm hoping for a pretty boring, but useful fairy who will pair and fold all the socks when I do the laundry!
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier was published in 2008.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Kate is going to have the perfect summer. She plans to take a summer writing class at the U, play tennis with her best friend Laura, and have fun just hanging out. That is, she was going to do those things . . . until her mother decided to take her across the country to stay with her college roommate's family for the summer. Kate's parents have decided to spend the summer apart to evaluate their relationship and she will be with her mother.
Kate is not thrilled to have her summer plans changed. It doesn't get much better when they arrive in Cape Cod and she finds that Sarah, the daughter of their hosts, is not exactly overjoyed to have her as a guest. At first it seems like Kate might have a hard time fitting in, but then she meets Adam. Although Kate has never had a boyfriend, she thinks Adam just might be interested in her. While she continues to write and her parents try to figure out their marriage, Kate attempts to answer one question: is she Girlfriend Material?
I remember that, "Does he like me? Is this going to happen?" feeling of being a teenager. All nervous and crazy! This book tries to capture those moments of wondering that happen when you're young.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog - Getting out from underneath the feed reader.
Beth from Beth Fish Reads - On lists and opinions.
Jill at Fizzy Thoughts - Just when you thought the feed reader was halfway managed.
Emily from Emily’s Reading Room - Are you talking about me?
Deborah from Books, Movies, and Chinese Food - You have a blog? So tell me about it.
Lynn from Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile - Get listed.
Jen from Devourer of Books - Wow. I wrote that when? Let’s update.
Amy from My Friend Amy - I need a friend.
Trish from Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’? - On favicons and gravatars. Huh?
Michelle from GalleySmith - Anchor text. You mean there’s a way this *should* be done?
Andrea from Book Blather - Authorities? What authorities?
Ruth from Bookish Ruth - You’re going to analyze what?
Calli Clark is 7 years old and she is mute. She hasn't spoken since she was 4. But her older brother Ben and her best friend, Petra Gregory, protect her and speak for her. But one morning Calli is dragged into the woods by her father, Griff, unbeknownst to anyone. When Petra's parents discover her missing as well, the stories of the Clark and Gregory families become even more intertwined. As we learn more of the story through the eyes of numerous characters, the tension and mystery builds. What has happened in the woods? And who is responsible? Those looking for the girls (especially Ben and Calli's mom Antonia and Petra's parents, Fielda and Martin) question whether they have let Calli and Petra down, if there was something else they could have done to prevent these young girls from going missing.
Some books stay with you long after you stop reading them. And this is one of those books. I keep going back to the story in my mind and thinking about all the characters and how the choices we make impact not only ourselves, but sometimes also those around us, in ways that cannot be predicted. A story about friendship and family, Heather Gudenkauf, in her debut novel, has written a story that is at once moving and suspenseful. I was not disappointed and can't wait to share this book!
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf will be published on July 28, 2009.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Emily has it all: a loving family, a great best friend, and she's involved in school activities. While her parents are on a trip, Emily has a party. In the middle of the party, her Aunt Jolie shows up. Emily thinks she's going to get in trouble, but the news Jolie brings is much worse: she tells Emily to turn on the TV and Emily finds that her parents have been killed in a plane crash. A reporter at the scene holds up a tray table on which her mother has written in lipstick, "EMILY PLEASE FORGIVE ME." Everyone wants to know: who is Emily? Emily wants to know: why does my mother need to be forgiven?
Now Emily is forced to leave her home in Pennsylvania and move in with her Aunt Jolie, AKA Jolie Jane, make-up artist to the stars. She enters an exclusive private school and begins to make friends with the other students, gets invited to exclusive parties, and tries to deal with her grief. However, can she truly move forward with her mother's cryptic apology hanging over her head?
Through bits and pieces of information she gathers from photographs and her mother's journals, Emily discovers her mother's secret. In Jennifer Jabaley's debut novel, Lipstick Apology, Emily comes face-to-face with the fact that we never really know our parents. Emily's mom was an artist. She painted and even worked in a New York City gallery before Emily was born. These things Emily knew, but she didn't know her mother's biggest secret. Now Emily has to decide: should she leave her mother's secret alone, or confront the truth?
Jennifer Jabaley's debut novel, Lipstick Apology, will be published on August 6, 2009.
PS The funny thing about this book: the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking about how my husband and I traveled on different flights to California last summer because I couldn't stand the idea of being on a plane at the same time when we have small children. Funny enough, Jabaley tells on her website how a trip her sister took without her children inspired this story.
"I do want what I have, but if you don't reach for something more--I don't mean things, I mean more for yourself--how can you grow?"
When I began my career as a librarian, I had taken one Young Adult Literature class and one Children's Literature class. They were both great, but certainly not enough to "cover" what I was going to need. One of the ways I became acquainted with what my students were really reading was paying attention to what they were checking out. As soon as I noticed a trend, I began reading the authors and titles. The first author on my radar was Pyhllis Reynolds Naylor. The middle school girls could not get enough of Alice, while the boys gravitated to Shiloh. I fell in love with Alice and have kept up with her "life in books," as well as the censorship and challenges that have plagued her growing pains. I was thrilled to find out that Naylor had a new title forthcoming and picked up an ARC of Faith, Hope, and Ivy June at ALA Midwinter in Denver.
Ivy June and her family live in Thunder Creek, Kentucky. The people there live simple lives, with many families relying on dangerous mining jobs as a source of income. Catherine and her family live in Lexington, Kentucky. They have a fancy house and Catherine attends private school. Both girls have been chosen to participate in an exchange program. They will stay in each other's homes, attend school together, and document their experiences to share with their respective classmates.
Both Ivy June and Catherine start the exchange with preconceived notions of what the other's life will be like. Although they both try to keep and open mind, they have both grown up with stereotypes about life in Thunder Creek vs life in Lexington. As the exchange begins, Ivy June settles into Catherine's home and school. She realizes that she can keep up with the work at school and enjoys the activities Catherine has planned for her, including seeing a musical and going horseback riding. However, she does notice that Catherine's family lives a life more secluded from one another and more hectic than her own. It's also interesting to get to know Catherine's friends. However, when Ivy June reveals one of Catherine's secrets to her friends, will their relationship survive?
During the second half of the exchange, Catherine comes to live with Ivy June and her Mammaw and Papaw Mosley. Because her parents' home is too crowded, Ivy June lives with her grandparents. They do not have an indoor bathroom or the luxuries that Catherine enjoys in her home. It is evident, though, that they are hard-working and happy people. Catherine adjusts to not being able to take a shower each day, as well as walking a long distance to catch the school bus, but is less accepted by Ivy June's best friend Shirl.
Just as Catherine becomes more comfortable, tragedy strikes both girls' families. They must work together to cope with their fears and have hope and faith that everything will turn out for the best. This is story of love in families, friendship, as well as one of learning to understand the similarities and differences among people. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June is now available from Random House.
PS My Phyllis Reynolds Naylor books now take up an entire shelf and I can't wait to see what she writes next!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Here's a sneak peak at what I will be writing about:
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley
Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee
The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises
Girlfriend Material by Melissa Kantor
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
Feathers (audio) by Jacqueline Woodson
Whew! How did this happen to me? My stack of done, not written about, has grown while I finished school, baseball, softball, and Brownies. This should be an interesting weekend.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
In Joanne Dahme's new novel, Tombstone Tea, Jessie has just moved to a new school in Philadelphia, near the Schuylkill River. Laurel Hill Charter School is named after and affiliated with the cemetery that has become a sculpture garden and park over the years. When Jessie accepts a dare to spend the night in the cemetery to become friends with girls in her new school, she meets Paul, a worker in the graveyard. He becomes her tour guide that first night and protects her from the "actors" that he claims are recreating the Tombstone Tea of years ago. When the actors turn out to not be what Jessie expects, she is confronted with new knowledge of her own abilities and a history lesson that is more alive than dead.
For the majority of the book, Jessie is our narrator. And while it is an interesting story, we learn more about the cemetery and its inhabitants then we ever really do about Jessie. We learn the most about Paul, and the most angry of the cemetery dwellers, Amy and her mother, Jenny.
This book is due to be released in September 2009.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I just finished Justine Larbalestier's new book, Liar.
Meet Micah. She's a liar. And she makes no bones about telling you that, right from the start. But she also promises that she is going to tell YOU the truth. But even that truth keeps shifting. The reader never really gets a sense of what is the truth and what is a lie and what is made up. Even after Micah telling us that she really IS telling the truth this time, we wonder. I mean, really. She IS a liar. What is to stop her from lying about lying?
The reader questions her family life, her friends, her relationship with her after hours boyfriend Zach. I can't say much more, because to talk about her lies too much will give away part of her truths too!
This book is due to be a available in October 2009.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I, like many others, picked up a copy of Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series, at BEA. I couldn't wait to start it. And I was not disappointed! I can't really booktalk it, because the more I think about it, the less I can say that won't give away some major plot point or event. When a co-worker asked what it was about, I stuttered starts to maybe 3 different sentences before explaining that I really couldn't: I don't want to spoil it. It really is THAT good!
I only recently read the Hunger Games, in anticipation of the sequel, even though I have been hearing about it and reading about it since it came out. It was a short wait of only a few weeks then before I was able to read this second installment. About halfway through Catching Fire, I realized that it will likely be over a year before I even get my hands on the next book! So I started to slow down my reading, really savoring each page and each moment.
Catching Fire is certainly worth the wait, even for those who have been waiting longer than I have (at least that is my guess). I LOVED it. And I love Katniss more, if that is even possible. I just want to know what is going to happen next!
This book is due to be published on September 1, 2009.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I was intrigued when I read the back cover blurb of Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me and I quickly got into the story of twelve year old Miranda. Then a former co-worker saw it in my car and said "OH I heard about this book, how is it?" I told her honestly that I wasn't very far into it, but I was enjoying it.
It's set in late 1970s New York City and Miranda's mom is preparing as a contestant for the $20,000 Pyramid, a show that my entire family watched when I was a kid. So immediately, I felt connected to this young girl.
But there is much more to Miranda's story. Her favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time and she carries a worn out copy with her. Her best friend Sal suddenly needs a break from their friendship after getting punched by a new boy, who we later learn is Marcus. Miranda makes other friends and learns that maybe Marcus isn't as awful as she thought he must be. Marcus and Miranda end up talking about A Wrinkle in Time and the possibilities of time travel.
Miranda gets 4 mysterious letters that tell her she will save someone's life. But the writer of the letters knows things that no one else knows, in detail. And Miranda doesn't know who she is supposed to save. A lot for a 12 year old to unravel on her own. As she works through her friendships and the mystery of the notes, Miranda starts to grow up and realize what is truly important.
A pleasure to read and to think about . . . this book will be released on July 14, 2009.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I love debut fiction. Sometimes its the best work of that author but I think that it is often an indicator of authors who will be really great. It's almost like a promise. That's how I am feeling about Megan Frazer's debut, Secrets of Truth & Beauty, due out July 7, 2009: a promise of more great stories to come.
Dara Cohen is a junior in high school. It starts with one English assignment: create a multimedia presentation of your autobiography. When Dara uses footage from the pageant she was in (and won) when she was 7 and uses the audio of her mom and other stage parents as the voiceover, her world starts to fall apart. She is kicked out of school; she is fighting with her parents; and she decides to call her long-lost sister Rachel. When Dara leaves Maine to spend the summer with her sister in Vermont, she learns who she really is and what is truly important.
Dara is believable and likable. Ms. Frazer crafts a story that is not only about Dara but about society's perception and treatment of overweight people and the concept of body image. A quick read that makes you want to know about Dara, her sister and their family, both biological and the one of their own creation.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Mia is talented. In fact, she has auditioned to play the cello at Julliard--and she will probably get in. But one day changes everything. Mia and her family go for a drive on a snowy morning to visit some friends. There is an accident. Now Mia is faced with a horrible choice: stay and feel the suffering and pain of deep loss or go and never again experience the wonders of her life.
Told in Mia's voice, If I Stay alternates from the present to flashes of the past where she describes various events such as how she and Kim became best friends, how Adam became her boyfriend, what caused her father to finally grow up, how she came to play the cello, and details about the relationship she has with her little brother. These alternating scenes make this book even more powerful--it's hard to let someone go when you know all the amazing details that make up her life.
When I started to read If I Stay by Gayle Forman, I was immediately sucked into Mia's life. I made the "oh my gosh I can't believe it" noise out loud (and got caught by a kid . . . ) at about page 11 or 12 and then I had to decide what to do: put it down or read until I reached the end. Yes, it's one of those books. I had to put it down because I didn't have enough time to sit still and finish it all at once, but I quickly devoured it later. I even began wondering about Mia's later life in my head. No, I don't imagine that there will be a sequal (or that I could even stand to read it?), but Mia's voice will stick with me and I think people will continue talking about this book.
**ps Gayle Forman's If I Stay has hit the NYT Bestseller List--what a great honor for a fantastic book!
Saturday, May 9, 2009
"But things were starting to look up. Funny how, at the time, I really did believe that. As it turned out, however, I couldn't have been more wrong."
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
There are lots of issues that are important to people; the library is my cause. The Kalamazoo Public Library is asking for a renewal of its current millage for 20 years. I rely heavily on the public library in both my personal and work lives, but I'm not sure if everyone knows just how amazing KPL is and the services public libraries offer to their communities.
My children (yes, that's them!) love going to the various branches of the library to enjoy not only the special programming, but the unique facilities (their favorite activities include creating puppet shows and completing puzzles!) and kind, caring librarians and staff members who always offer amazing book suggestions and wonderful service. Public libraries often offer author and illustrator visits to their communities. In the picture above, my son is wearing a t-shirt he got during the Nerdfighter Gift Exchange while visiting a stop on John Green and Hank Green's Nerdfighting Tour, an event also sponsored by a public library (Ann Arbor District Library). Thanks to funding and support from KPL, my children met Paul O. Zelinsky and they count Awful Ogre's Awful Day and The Wheels on the Bus amongst their favorite books to read aloud. Each summer, my children participate in KPL's Summer Reading Program and they love getting the opportunity to choose new books and tell the librarians all about what they have been reading.
In my professional life, I know I can count on the KPL librarians to work collaboratively on author visits, programming, and book selection. Sharon Flake and Sharon Draper have visited my students thanks to KPL. Draper's fall visit in 2008, in conjunction with an all-school read, spurred a frenzy of reading which has continued throughout the school year. Students clamour for books both written by Draper and like those she writes. The KPL librarians also spend time promoting the Summer Reading Games to all my students which is so important in order to avoid summer slide. There are frequently books that I am unable to purchase for my students. I know that I can send them to KPL for additional resources that extend beyond my budget. I also check out books from the public library in order to read them before purchasing them for my collection in order to stretch my budget dollars and purchase the most appropriate materials.
Public libraries level the playing field in communities. There are computers with Internet access, allowing job-seekers to find resources they need to empower themselves. Families can enjoy resources and programming selected and planned for their enjoyment. I calculated the cost of the books our family has read in the past year. Without our public library, the cost would have been over $4,000. That is books alone. No programs, concerts, puppets, or professional service. The millage will cost our family about $200 per year, all of which we are already paying since this is a renewal. There is no question that we're getting a bargain. I urge you to support your local public library--and VOTE YES if you live in the Kalamazoo Public Library District. It's amazing what you will find there!