Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coming Soon!

Being a Middle School Librarian IS all it's cracked up to be. Seriously. There isn't a sparkly, pink book that I can't read, always using the disclaimer, "It's for work." It's especially fun to connect the right kid with the right book. This week I have had two girls in looking for the same book, Airhead by Meg Cabot. One checked it out and the other went on the waiting list. The good news is, the first girl read fast. She came back today and said, "Remember yesterday when I checked this out and you said you have Being Nikki?" Well, yes, in fact, I do have Being Nikki. Meg Cabot has asked that reviews of her new book be held until its release date (May 5!) in order to avoid spoilers (which we all HATE!!). But, I can tell you I have read it (and shared it!) and I loved reading more about Em Watts and Nikki Howard. So, come back May 5, 2009 and check it out!
(PS the envelope the book arrived in was stamped with the lovely statement above. I'd like to think so!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"I can't wait to tell them. And I can't wait for the day when adults take kids seriously."

In honor of Earth Day, spring, and My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald, we have changed our look--we hope you enjoy it! Coming soon: an awesome picture of us somewhere in Chicago! I have been reading a lot of great debut fiction in the past month and I'm especially happy to come across a title which includes three great qualities: 1. It's appropriate for kids in Middle School (where I spend most of my time!), 2. It addresses several important issues without being obnoxious, and 3. It has a cool, kick-butt girl protagonist.

Lucy Desberg's family is in trouble. Big trouble. They own and operate a local pharmacy, but business is not good. Her mother and grandmother are unable to pay their bills and there is a chance that they will lose their livelihood. Lucy has always loved owning the pharmacy and spending her time working there. She can't imagine their lives without it. While doing research for the Earth Club, which her best friend Sunny has encouraged her to join, Lucy comes across a local grant for businesses that are willing to "go green." Although she sees the grant as an opportunity to save her family's business, no one but her sister Claudia, who is going to school hundreds of miles away, and Sunny will take her seriously.

My Life in Pink & Green addresses the idea of supporting local businesses in a meaningful way, rather than just paying lip service to shopping locally. Lucy works to make the experience of shopping at Old Mill Pharmacy unique to their customers. She continues on, even when the adults around her seem to think she's "cute" rather than serious. Can she come up with the perfect idea for the grant? Will the adults who will ultimately make the final decisions take her ideas seriously? Is it too late to save Lucy's home and family business?

Lisa Greenwald's My Life in Pink and Green was published March 1, 2009.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"But deep at the bottom of our conflicting desires and confusions there is the sense of what is right and what is wrong."

Ok, ok, I'm probably the last person to read Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. I know this because I read about it here and here. Then the amazing Karen S-M, who has a Galley Group at KPL, told me I had to read it and, while I was picking it up at the library, I ran into Ed Spicer and we chatted about it--he also wrote about it here. So, I read it. And I stand amazed.

Marcelo is a teen with Asperger's Syndrome. He craves his routine and has a "special interest" in religion. It is his dream to spend the summer before his last year in high school working with the ponies at the special school he has always attended. His father, however, insists that Marcelo should work at his law firm to gain experience in the "real world." While Marcelo is not happy with this turn of events, he is glad that he will be allowed to choose whether to attend his familiar school or the regular high school during his senior year if he completes the tasks set before him throughout the summer.

While working at his father's firm, Marcelo discovers that the real world is much different than the life he has been living. He is confronted with trying to understand the world in a different way. He has to witness and try to make sense of sexist behavior, ethical dilemmas, and being forced to make decisions about things he never imagined. He also has to figure out how to work with Jasmine, his supervisor in the mail room, as well as Wendell, the offensive son of his father's partner.

However, it wasn't just the plot, which was part mystery, part legal drama (and just maybe a little romance?) which caught my attention. I was even more drawn in by the language (Marcelo frequently slips into the third person) and the characters. Every time I put the book down I kept thinking, "What if?" and, "But how?" and, "If he does . . .." It was ridiculous, but I couldn't get Marcelo out of my head. I had to keep saying to myself, "It's ok, he's a paper person!"

Will Marcelo make it in the "real world?" Will his life be different after he spends the summer working for his father? Marcelo in the Real World was published March 1, 2009.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"It was brand new. Just like I wanted my life to be."

I am not a plant person. I often tell the story about how I thought about majoring in Biology so that I could become a nurse but knew I would never pass botany because my college only offered it at 8 am. The combination of an early morning class and plants?? That was enough to make me re-think my career plans.

But this book, Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin, is about so much more than the plants!

Meet Lila Grace Nova. She is a recently divorced ad exec who is ready to start her life over. She meets a man, who sells her a plant. A tropical plant, a bird-of-paradise. And she will never be the same. Lila's misplaced trust leads her down a path with which she is very unfamiliar. Follow Lila as she leaves New York because of her guilt and strange feeling pulling her to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Her journey is an educational excursion about the plants that comprise the elusive, mythical 9 plants of desire. At the same time Lila's on a spiritual path to rediscover who she really is.

I didn't want to put this book down! I woke up in the morning (all 2 days it took me to read) and felt that I had to read a chapter before getting up to start my day. I needed to know what was going to happen with Lila, Armand, Sonali and Diego.

Everywhere this book is being described as Eat, Pray, Love meets The Orchid Thief. This book is due to be published on June 16, 2009. The film rights have also been purchased by Julia Roberts and she plans to star as Lila. This book is definitely not one to miss!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

"It happened and it was impossible and beautiful and then it ended before it even really began, leaving nothing behind but secrets and broken hearts."

I'll admit it: when I saw the title Twenty Boy Summer, I thought I was getting a fun, light read like 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley. However, Sarah Ockler's debut novel is much more than a fun boy-searching romp. On Anna's birthday, she and her best friend Matt share a kiss. One simple kiss changes everything. They begin sneaking out at night to steal moments together. It's what Anna has been longing for. However, Anna's other best friend is Matt's sister Frankie. They are an inseparable trio. Matt makes Anna promise not to tell Frankie about their relationship--he wants to do this himself on their vacation in California. In a tragic turn of events, Matt suddenly dies before he has a chance to tell Frankie about his feelings for Anna. Anna and Frankie are caught in the grief of Matt's death with an unspoken secret creating a distance between them. Anna has promised Matt, so she is left to wonder what might have been and suffer the loss of the unknown on her own through a difficult year.

Then, the following summer, Frankie's parents decide to help heal the wounds by taking the girls back to the family vacation home in California--the trip that Matt and Frankie were supposed to take the year before. Frankie, who has gotten out of control over the year, challenges Anna to a "20 boy summer." They should meet and date 20 boys on their carefree vacation. Anna hesitantly agrees. Throughout their days at the beach, Anna confronts the difficult task of moving beyond her grief and the reality of revealing her secret to Frankie. This is a story of loss and grief, for sure, but also a story of how healing begins and what friendship means. Twenty Boy Summer will be published June 1, 2009.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"The place might need to change once in a while, but the part that was the same was the three of us. Together."

When your parents name you Harper Lee, you have a lot to live up to, straight from birth. Fortunately, Harper Lee Morgan loves to write poetry and the words of her poems form themselves in her head, begging to be written on paper. In Also Known As Harper, Harper's family is going through hard times. After her father leaves, the family is evicted from their rental home and forced to find shelter in a local motel. At the motel, Harper and her brother Hemingway meet other families who are also struggling. In fact, many of the families live in a tent city in the woods. While Harper's mother tries to find employment, she is forced to stay home from school with her brother, missing the school's poetry contest, which she is sure she can win this year.

In her debut novel, Ann Haywood Leal brings to light the invisible homeless who are amongst us every day. People who work hard, but aren't able to save enough money to keep themselves off the streets. As Harper's mother explains, "Houses and apartments cost money. You need first and last months' rent and a damage deposit, right up front. And you need deposits for the electric company and the phone company." However, Leal also displays the humanity of those who help the homeless, offering showers, sharing what they have, and how they often rely on kindness and one another to keep their secrets safe. Also Known As Harper will be published May 26, 2009.

"The past was a lot easier to imagine than the future."

At Midwinter in Denver, Ann Brashares was at the Random House display signing copies of 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows. My friend Kristin and I were thrilled to be able to meet Ann and enjoy the newest "sisterhood" saga. She was gracious enough to pose for this photo while she signed Kristin's book. This book is going to cause excitement among Sisterhood fans--even the lady at the post office in Denver was excited when I told her about getting my copy!

Polly, Jo, and Ama became fast, yet unlikely, friends when their parents forgot to pick them up after school on the first day of third grade. After waiting as long as they could stand, the girls broke free of the school and walked one another home, carrying the baby willow trees they received in science class. They cared for the trees over the coming years and cemented their friendship. However, middle school has tested their ability to stay close.

Jo has a new and more sophisticated group of friends. She wears the latest fashions and hangs out with the beautiful people. She and her mother are planning to spend the summer at their beach house where she will work as a bus person at a tourist restaurant. Is this a relaxing summer vacation or a way to hide from their troubles? Jo's family is struggling, but when she kisses a mysterious boy, will her summer suddenly become interesting?

Ama is focused. Her sister entered Princeton two years early and her parents have very high expectations. She loves getting "A's" and following the narrow path forged by her smart and hard-working sister. She has applied for a scholarship to attend a summer academic program and will surely be accepted. However, when the program turns out to be the exact opposite of what she expects, will she be able to see through her disappointment and enjoy the new challenges she encounters?

Polly wants to change. She thinks she must or she will be left behind by her friends. If she can just get her mom to let her go to modeling camp, she will become more glamorous. People will look at her and pay attention to her. Will Polly's plan work?

The girls start the summer far from the close friendship they once shared. However, their experiences apart just might be able to draw them closer together. 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows was released on January 13, 2009.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Am I nuts, or did my boyfriend just fly?"

Morgan Sparks is psychic. She can tell your future. You might not like it, but she'll tell you the truth. And she's never wrong. She and her boyfriend Cam have always been together. Literally, they were born on the same day and have lived next door to one another ever since. It's almost as if they were meant to be together. Almost. As their sixteenth birthday approaches, Morgan is planning an amazing Sweet Sixteen party for them. However, strange things start to happen to Cam--is he really sprouting wings and shrinking? Then unexpected visitors show up next door claiming that Cam must return to Otherworld and his rightful place as King of the Fairies. What will Morgan's visions show her? Is she willing to give up her true love? It seems like every book I pick up lately has some sort of love triangle pulling the characters in several directions and Fairy Tale (the title has been changed from Fairy Lust since the ARCs were printed--fortunately the GORGEOUS cover, which will draw in many readers, was not changed) by Cyn Balog is no exception. Will Morgan follow her heart? Maybe her heart is wrong. This is a fun read with a little fantasy and a little romance. Fairy Tale, Cyn Balog's debut YA novel, will be realeased June 23, 2009.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two for Tuesday!

Confession: I. LOVE. CAMP. Seriously, it's kind of ridiculous. I think I only missed going to summer camp two summers from the time I was in first grade until I got married. I went to camp, worked at camp, and read books about camp. The first book I can remember purchasing for myself is I Want To Go Home! by Gordon Korman. I checked out Bummer Summer by Ann M. Martin so many times that the library should have just given it to me. I did my eighth grade English book report on Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood by Ellen Conford. This explains my excitement about two ARCs I picked up at ALA Midwinter in Denver: Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita and The Lost Summer by Kathryn Williams. In honor of the fact that it's spring break and summer, along with all its fun camp possibilities, is close at hand, I'm writing about BOTH of these books today!

In Sleepaway Girls, Sam has never been to camp before. However, she knows her mom is going to be busy working all summer and she doesn't want to spend the summer watching her best friend Mallory drool all over her boyfriend Mark, so she decides to become a CIT at Whispering Pines. Ashley, the daughter of Whispering Pines' director, is used to getting lots of attention. She is not thrilled to have Sam join the camp staff--especially when Sam is recognized from a commercial she did for her mom's ad agency. Add to this a love triangle--does Sam like Hunter? Will Hunter like her back? Wait, why is Cole paying so much attention to Sam? And, learning all the "rules" of camp which will allow her to function for the summer will keep Sam very busy. Sam makes new friends and learns that she can be more independent and less of a doormat during her summer at camp. Calonita's new title will be released May 1, 2009.

Helena, in The Lost Summer, unlike Sam, has been going to the same camp each summer for nine years. Southpoint is her home. She is finally old enough to be a junior counselor, but her best friend Katie Bell is a bit younger and must stay a camper for the summer. Will their friendship be strong enough to bridge the gap between Helena's new role and Katie Bell's camper status? Hel loves the challenge of working with her campers. She is included in nighttime counselor activities that were previously off-limits to her such as sneaking off to meet up with counselors from the boys' camp on the other side of the lake. Helena has had a crush on Ransome for years. He has been unattainable. However, this summer he begins paying more attention to her and she wonders if they might possibly have more that just a little flirtation. Several struggles throughout the summer, as well as one near-tragedy, change the way Helena views camp forever. Williams' The Lost Summer will be released July 14, 2009.

Oh, by the way, if you can get me a copy of Slept Away by Julie Kraut, there's a s'more in it for you. Seriously.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"The sun will rise tomorrow."

Hannah is invisible. She works hard at staying invisible in order to avoid the reality show that her life has become. Although her parents never married, she still has to deal with her father who is an Internet celebrity, in his seventies, with "special girls" in their late teens and 20's who surround his 24/7 party lifestyle. Her mom uses her former B-list celebrity status to run her own website on which she wears lingerie and chats with her "fans." It makes sense to hide from that kind of chaos.

At the same time, Hannah likes Josh--he's the ideal unattainable boy. Perfect in every way . . . or at least that seems to be the case. They work together at a call center and Hannah has plenty of time to study Josh. He seems so deep and interesting and, for some reason, he starts bringing her little gifts. Could it be that he likes her?

Finn is more of a goofy sidekick. Annoying Hannah by throwing notes at her in class and entertaining her through the boredom of the call center job. He questions Josh's sincerity and depth and tries to help Hannah determine how to handle her crazy circumstances. Is Finn a better match for Hannah?

Though a series of events surrounding Hannah visiting her father, we find out why she chooses to have no contact with him. We also get to see the burden of sadness her mother carries. Will Hannah choose Josh or Finn? Will she remain invisible? Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott was released in March 2009.

PS I received the copy of this book that I reviewed from Elizabeth Scott via the YALSA-BK listserv. This generous donation will be added to my library for my students to enjoy! Thanks, Elizabeth!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"I've turned into a one-episode-only girl."

I've been noticing lately that I have a zombie theme thing going on. I started reading Jailbait Zombie and had to set it aside for another reading obligation. Afterwards, I picked up Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby instead. (I've also been discussing zombies, randomly, with other librarian colleagues lately, especially in regards to the new "Jane Austen" Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).

But Amanda Ashby's book was the perfect zombie choice for me at the moment. It is a YA book, about high school and fitting in. However, how many people can say that they have turned their entire senior class into zombies accidentally by performing a love spell on your date for the prom? At first Mia notices that everyone is being really nice to her (and, being kind of a nerd, she enjoys the attention). Then the new boy in school, Chase, informs her that everyone is literally trying to fatten her up because she is the queen of the zombies she has created . . . which means she is top on their list to eat!

Mia is smart and unlucky. She is a huge fan of Buffy and Angel and has all these ideas about how the zombie curse SHOULD be fixed. But Chase has an inside track to these things and sets about trying to help Mia undo the spell and save the senior class.

This book was published on March 5, 2009.