Friday, April 30, 2010

Los Angeles Festival of Books 2010

Sad to say, I didn't get to the L.A. Times Festival of Books this year. It's always exciting with huge crowds, tons of authors, a jillion booths.  I really enjoyed going last year.
Well, the next best thing to going there is reading about it.
Here are some fellow bloggers take on the festival:

Lee Goldberg at A Writer's Life met a lot of authors and moderated a panel.

Laura Clark at L.A. Story took plenty of video at the Festival, including an interview with The Fresh Beat Band from Nickelodian, as well as a print interview with Caitlin Sanchez, the voice of Dora the Explorer.

Julian Ayres from The Tattler witnessed a foul-mouthed fracas on one of the mainstages!

The Publishing Maven ruminates about publicity opportunities at the Festival.

Notes from Vivace did a week's worth of blog posts about the Festival.

Jonathan Bernstein spent his time with other Young Adult authors.

Andrew Smith at Ghost Medicine says that this was the best Festival ever.

John Matthew Fox at Book Fox posted plenty about the panels he attended.

I'm jealous of Little Willow at ReaderGirlz (a group blog) who ran into Robin Benway, author of one of my favorite books, Audrey Wait!

Carolyn Kellogg from Jacket Copy moderated a new media panel with Wil Wheaton, Pablo Defendini, and Dana Goodyear.  She provides lots of links to yet more bloggers who covered the event as well.

Any other blog entries that I missed? Let me know in the comments, and I'll add you!

*Edit*  The fabulous Candace Ryan at Book, Booker, Bookest photoblogged Jarrett Krosoczka's presentation on the Target Children's Stage.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cool bookshelf

The David Garcia Studio has this piece displayed at the Royal Danish Art Academy. In part, they were inspired by the idea, "How can an individual travel with it’s own library, given that books are so heavy? This is something we can all relate to when moving house." Having moved recently, I can attest that books are frequently the heaviest things one owns. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise that most of my book collection was recently lost to a flood?

I've got quite a knack for walking and reading at the same time, if I do say so myself. Navigating with this rolling bookshelf seems like it would be quite a challenge, though! I much prefer a more relaxed take... check out this second picture.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

For the gamers out there...

Cory Doctorow just released a new podcast reading a selection from his new book, For the Win, about a group of Chinese gold farmers who decide to unionize.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Forever Friends Review

Forever Friends
by Carin Berger
Greenwillow Books

I lov
ed Berger's last picture book, The Little Yellow Leaf, and as soon as I heard about her latest offering, I knew I had to see it.

In this story, a blue bird and a bunny form a fast friendship. Over the course of the year, they enjoy spending time together, until the fall, when blue bird must fly south for the winter. Bunny waits for the return of his friend and blue bird finds their separation just as difficult. In the spring, they are joyfully reunited, with another pleasant year ahead of them.

Collage is one of my favorite mediums, and Berger uses sharp, exactly cut, found media to strong effect. Most of the pages feature lined notebook or graph paper backgrounds. Many of the flowers and trees are cut from magazines with a only a smidgen of the original words remaining. In many ways, Forever Friends reminded me of that old favorite, The Golden Egg, by Margaret Wise Brown; classic, simple, and true. The bunny asleep in the log, especially seemed to hearken back to Brown's original. The theme of friendship despite their obvious differences put me in mind of a much younger version of the Toot and Puddle series by Holly Hobbie, a little bit too. Short declarative sentences, paired with several pages of wordless frolicking make this book a natural for very young audiences.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Non-book blogs

When I'm not reading other kidlit or book blogs, here are a few that keep me entertained.

It's Lovely I'll Take It
Housing snark includes real estate listings that are just plain wrong.

Cute Overload
When you need to be overwhelmed with complete and utter cuteness.

Cake Wrecks
I love their Sunday Sweets posts!  Prepare to be horrified by poor grammar and/or spelling, as well as cakes that are just plain creepy, during the rest of the week, though.

Old Painted Cottage
Incredible before and after photos on this home decorating blog.  It features gorgeous photographs that wouldn't look out of place in any professional home decor magazine.

Television Without Pity
Not a blog, per se, but a massive snarky review site for nearly every popular current television show.

Boing Boing
Tech news and random internet findings.

Stay on top of the latest news regarding fair business practices and consumer affairs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The week in Wordle

Here's how this week's worth of blog posts look, according to  I was surprised, (although, I don't know why I should be) that "book" is the most popular word.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Rarest Find

I never in my life thought I would run across a find like this. It's like a Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot sighting. I mean, you've heard the legends... but you never thought it would happen to you. I found this book, and I couldn't believe my eyes.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present,

Our World
by E. Joseph Dreany
Maxton Publishers

This is a book about the natural sciences, written before manned spaceflight. It's not a bad book at all. It's in surprisingly good shape! There's a small tear on the upper right hand corner, but otherwise is in perfect condition. Our World covers a fairly broad spectrum of topics. Dinosaurs, erosion, earthquakes, planets, each get a page or two. Black and white illustrations are alternated with bright, saturated full-color pictures. The sentences are short and easy to understand. I'd put this at a third to fifth grade level. It's hard for me not to imagine the book being narrated in the deep, sonorous tones that typify the 1950's

Much of the information in the book is correct, but it is amazing how many of our ideas have changed, and how many new discoveries have been made since that time.  For example, my favorite dinosaur, the Brontosaurus is now known as an Apatosaurus. In this book, Pluto is still a planet, of course. The book references "man" throughout, when today, we'd probably use the term, "humankind" or something similar. There are quite a few pages about harnessing the world's resources, and exciting new developments in plastics. Here's a picture of a scientist.

And here, eleven years before the Apollo 11 moon landing, is a picture of what the moon's surface might look like.

There are a few quotes I must share. The first is about the possibility of life on other planets.

It is not probable that there is life, as we know it on the other planets... Only Mars seems likely to permit some form of life, but it is much colder than our earth and has little air and moisture. If life does exist there, it is perhaps in a different form than on earth.
The second quote I'll share is from a portion titled, "How Man Hopes to Conquer Space"

No one has yet seen the world from outside its atmosphere. Now, scientists are planning to send a rocket ship to great heights and build a "space station" that will travel around the earth.
I love that "space station" is in quotes. There's a picture of a very, very phallic looking rocket. Opposite that is a full page color picture of the Earth.

Notice anything missing? No atmosphere! It's a very map-like globe, not the beautiful blue and white marbled sphere that is so familiar to us today.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. A few of my older colleagues were a little miffed, I think, to hear me laughing and gasping in amazement while poring over this title. They reminded me that they remembered seeing the moon landing. No disrespect was intended! I think Our World is an amazing piece of history. The optimism, the enthusiasm for science of that age really come across in this volume. The sense of the inherent rightness of progress is interesting too. Does it belong circulating on the library shelves? No! A thousand times no. There are far, far more current titles for children today.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Radiant Shadows

I have been racing through Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series.  Reviews to come soon.

The newest
, Radiant Shadows, is just out.  I'm debating whether to buy it on my Kindle, or if I should wait for a library copy.  Here's the book trailer.  I think it looks a bit static... I guess using live actors would have broke the bank, so they stuck with manipulated photo (stock?) images.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Council of Evil Review

Council of Evil 

In this book, Briggs explores the origins of the nemeses of the heroes featured in the series. The book's promotional Web site uses unwieldy URLs - and - but the online content is slickly presented nonetheless. Jake Hunter is the leader of a gang of bullies at his middle school. Despite his callous treatment of those he considers beneath him, he is ultimately a sympathetic character. When he stumbles upon a Web site with supernatural powers, the computer screen literally morphs into a gray appendage and taps him on the forehead, imbuing him with up to four powers at a time. Flying and the ability to hurl lightning bolts or acid are a few of the powers that Jake decides to try. Basilisk, his supervillain mentor, manipulates him time and time again into physical showdowns with armed military forces to forward his own nefarious schemes. Epic battles, no doubt inspired by blockbuster action films, crackle with energy, and the excitement pops off the pages. Plenty of stunning reversals are heaped on readers toward the latter half of the book, ratcheting up the dramatic tension. Kids who enjoy DC and Marvel style superheroes will like this superhero comic in novel format. Featuring plenty of fight sequences, secrets, and advanced or prototype technology, this series will appeal to fans of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider or Mark London Williams' Danger Boy series.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Enemy Pie review

Enemy Pie
by Derek Munson, illustrated by Tara Calahan

A clever
dad bamboozles his son into spending the day with the bothersome kid next door, Jeremy Ross, the "one and only person on my enemy list." The pie, dad explains, will rid oneself of enemies, but only if you spend a day being nice to them first. In many ways the book is a wordier, more colorful update of Let’s Be Enemies by Janice May Udry (illustrated by Maurice Sendak) and the story contains the same kind of charm, with a child’s perspective on the difficulty of maintaining friends. The book is illustrated in color pencil and pastels. The characters possess bobble-heads with very wide set eyes. The skewed perspective in the book (crooked, jangled walls, close ups of random objects such as a baseball, during the baseball game where the children are shown far in the distance) is suspended for one scene… that of the two boys, meeting on Jeremy’s doorstep, midway through the book when the boy asks Jeremy if he can come out to play, underscoring that this is a serious moment indeed. This picture book would make a great Father’s Day book, because of the warm relationship depicted between a dad and his son.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book loss

So far, everything's gone well with my move to Atlanta. I donated a lot of furniture to charity before I headed out, and am waiting for delivery of the rest of it. I thought it was very interesting that the first couple of charities I spoke to were reluctant to take my bookshelves and lawn furniture. The shelves were a bit worn looking and dusty -- they told me that they didn't want anything unless it was in "like new" condition, because otherwise they can't sell it. I think because big-box stores have such cheap goods, people don't want to reuse or repair items anymore and that made me a little sad.

The real tragedy of my move involved a bunch of boxed up books in a storage shed at the end of my driveway. As the movers start lifting those out, we find that the storage shed has had some kind of major flood - probably due to the heavy rains earlier this year in L.A. And the boxes are totally rotten. The books are destroyed. It's a total loss. Some of them were furry with mold. There's no saving them. They couldn't have looked worse if I'd thrown them in a bathtub and simply let them soak for a month or two. They all had to go straight to the garbage bin. This was pretty devastating to me.

I have to say about 75% of my books were lost. I have a funny relation to books, because after a decade or more of working in bookstores and libraries, I have (or should say, had) a pretty impressive collection. And I do get rather a lot of review copies from conferences, from magazines I review for, and occasionally for my blog, so many of them I got for free.

I had been meaning to thin down for the longest time. I was a little concerned that the books in the shed might get a touch of mildew, or something mild. I was not anticipating boxes of mushy pulp, some of them barely recognizable. Most of the stuff in there I didn't care about, but there were a few items that it really broke my heart to lose, especially some of my favorite kids books. I felt like losing them all was some kind of punishment for having too much stuff. If I'd gotten rid of all the stuff that I felt ho-hum about earlier then I would have been able to take better care of the few things in storage that I really treasured.

One item in there was my very first diary which I started in sixth grade. It's all mildewed and soggy. I decided to page through it one last time before consigning it to the trash. Re-reading it was the best thing I could have done. I was bawling with laughter, tears running down my face. So many of the things I cared about then were so ridiculous, so unimportant.

I took a picture for posterity. Here it is.

Oh, my goodness! Unicorns!

I don't know why, but finally tossing it away felt so freeing. All that stuff was years and years ago, and I've been lugging it around since. Very cathartic to let it go.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Double bill

Hello Tilly (series)
by Polly Dunbar
Candlewick Press

In Hello Tilly, well-meaning friends interrupt Hector the pig's quiet moment with Tilly, a pink-cheeked little girl. After a short sulk and some attempts to cheer him up, he is appeased by a painting she does of him and equilibrium is restored.

In Happy Hector, Tilly's reading is interrupted when Tiptoe the bunny asks her to play with him, and she joins her animal companions to "Rooty-toot-toot!" and "Boom! Boom! Boom!" with musical instruments. Doodle the alligator can be seen chewing on anything in sight: cookies, Tilly's book, even the plate. Pru the hen insists that everyone follow her in a pretty-prance parade that leads to a ride on Tumpty the elephant's back until, "Oh dear-too much fun!" Tilly declares that it's time for a story, pulls out her book (mercifully unscathed from Doodle's earlier snack attack), and begins to read about the six best friends who live in a little yellow house.

Both of these books feature lovely, soothing drawings in gentle pastel colors with just a touch of humor and are perfectly suited to toddlers. Varying typefaces communicate changes in volume and move the action along. Fans of Helen Oxenbury's Tom and Pippo series will love these titles.

I received a free copy of these books from the publisher.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

(Don't Be) Tempted

Tempted: A House of Night novel
by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Press

In the latest installment of the House of Night series, Zoey Redbird is once again, grappling with coming of age as an unusually high-powered vampyre priestess while juggling her ever-increasingly jealous male harem.  This sixth book in the series is solely for the fans.  There isn't an overabundance of exposition to catch up new readers, so starting at the beginning of the series is definitely recommended.  My reviews of the prior books in the series can be found here.  A quick recap: Zoey and her friends are "fledglings" - new teen vampyres, sent to train at the exclusive House of Night prep school.  Vampyres gradually gain magical blue tattoos as their powers manifest.  Zoey's nemesis Aphrodite, the former most popular girl at school, has become human; her best friend Stevie-Rae has turned into a new kind of red-tattooed vampyre.

There are
some interesting plot developments in this volume.  Zoey seems to be settling in to a comfortable romantic relationship with her human boyfriend Heath.  They decide to significantly slow down her blood-drinking from him, as it addles her senses and compromises her judgement. Stark, her red vampyre warrior, did not make much of an impression with me in earlier books, but he seems to be taking on a very protective role now.  Zoey gets tired of Erik's jealous nonsense pretty quickly and kicks him to the curb right at the start of the book.

In the
meantime, evil demi-god Kalona is now meeting with the Vampyre Council on a small island off of Italy, where he's convinced them he's actually a prophesied good-guy, Erebus.  Zoey and her friends jet out to convince the Council otherwise.

Jack and
Damien, Zoey's gay classmates are good supporting characters.  The characterization of "The Twins" Shaunee and Erin, however, is flatter than ever with nothing to really distinguish them aside from the fact that oh-em-gee, Shaunee is BLACK and Erin is WHITE, yet SOMEHOW they are as inseparable as two peas in a pod!  They finish each other's sentences and remain in fairly bouncy good spirits and that's about it.  Zoey still clings to her favorite curseword, "bullpoopie" -- it made a certain kind of sense earlier in the series, as a way of avoiding "real" swears, but now most of her friends mock her for it, and some use fairly strong language of their own.

A lot
of this book falls into the "so terrible that it's great" category.  Why is this series such a guilty pleasure for me?  There's something about Zoey... she seems kind of... Mary-Sue-ish.  I decided to head on over to The Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test and find out.  Wow.  I was astonished at the results.  I answered very, very conservatively.  When in doubt, or even when the answer was "technically" yes, but perhaps a little complicated, I did not count it.  A number of the questions are about how the author feels about the character, and I didn't presume to know how the Casts feel, so I left those blank as well.  Even so, Zoey Redbird scores a whopping 58 points.  A score of 30+ merits the warning, "Fanfiction authors beware - Mary's on the loose" so a score this high is practically off the charts.  To be fair, the test does seem to be weighted a little heavily against fantasy characters to begin with.  Not every book can (or should!) be an Oprah's Book Club type of novel.

I won't
"spoil" the ending, but there are a few shocking developments at the end of the book. The loss of one of the major characters, along with what looks like a major scaling back of Zoey's supernatural powers may "reset" the series and make future books more interesting.

Tempted is light,
fluffy, pleasure reading.  Teen vampire addicts won't turn their noses up at this one.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mockingjay Counter

I have this long to get caught up and read Catching Fire.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Time Travel Adventure

Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run
by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger

As soon as I heard the premise of this book, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of it.  Stonewall Hinkleman is tired of being dragged to his parent's Civil War re-enactments every weekend.  He'd much rather be curled up at home, eating junk food, and playing Game Boy than sleeping in makeshift tents and roughing it without "farby" modern conveniences.  His father has drilled into him the importance of respecting history, especially since Great-Great-Uncle Cyrus died in the Civil War.  Stonewall sarcastically reminds his dad that Cyrus was shot in the butt and died of infection.  Nothing heroic about that.

My own parents are Civil War re-enactors, so I could really relate.  Like Stonewall, I have found myself drawing blank stares from classmates when trying to explain troop movements on Little Round Top or some such thing.  Here's a picture of my dad, on a Revolutionary War weekend at a local fort.

I actually found Stonewall's whining to be a bit grating at first.  But, I'm glad I stuck out the first two chapters, as things really improve when his bugle magically sends him back in time to the real Civil War.  I love the quote, "I've always hated it in movies when somebody goes back in time and it takes them half of the movie to stop saying, "I must be dreaming." No, you know right away. At least, I do."

Freshly arrived at the Battle of Bull Run, he runs into his ancestor, Cyrus, and realizes that staunch modern-day Confederate Mr. Dupree has traveled back as well, hoping to change the course of history.  Dupree has carelessly brought his daughter Ashby along with him, whom Stonewall is nursing a small crush on.  Cyrus turns out to be much more literate and recklessly brave than Stonewall could have imagined.  I appreciated that the authors took care to point out negative aspects such as the scariness of battle, the racism of the day, the greediness of the sutlers without being too overwhelming.  I felt that Stonewall Jackson's transformation to a modern-day hippie was a bit of a stretch, but anything's possible, I suppose.  This was a satisfyingly fun time-travel adventure.  You know that Stonewall Hinkleman will prevail at the end, but it certainly is fun seeing how he gets there.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Couldn't have said it better myself...

Jo Knowles has an incredible post up about how important it is to support local libraries during harsh economic times.  Art Brodsky voices some similar concerns at the Huffington Post.  I've been struggling for the right way to express my feelings on this important matter.  Having recently left a children's librarian position that I absolutely loved due to looming layoffs in this shaky economic climate for a (hopefully) more stable job across the country has been a recent and extremely personal challenge for me.

I was saddened, but not entirely surprised when a chatty seatmate on my flight to Atlanta learned of my profession and immediately said something to the effect of, "Well, now that we have Kindle, I'm sure libraries everywhere will be going out of business."  This is exactly the kind of attitude that needs to change.  Technology the end of libraries.  Far from it.  Continued advocacy and education are what's needed to turn opinions like hers around.  In the meantime, I am rooting for libraries everywhere.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top 100

Fuse Eight's complete list of the Top 100 Children's Novels is finally out.  Which left me wondering.  How many of these have I read?  Most of them, as it turns out!

#1 Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
#3 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
#4 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
#5 From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
#6 Holes by Louis Sachar
#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry
#8 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
#9 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
#10 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
#11 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
#12 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
#13 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#14 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
#15 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
#16 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

#17 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
#18 Matilda by Roald Dahl -- I have seen a movie version of this, but haven't read the book all the way through.
#19 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
#20 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
#21 Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riodan

#22 The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo -- I haven't read the original Newbery winning novel, but I did read a graphic-novel based on the movie, which I enjoyed.
#23 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#24 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
#25 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
#26 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
#27 A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett
#28 Winnie-the Pooh by A.A. Milne
#29 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland /Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
#30 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
#31 Half Magic by Edward Eager
#32 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

#33 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl -- I think I might have read this, but perhaps forgot or blocked out the memory?  I'm not a huge Roald Dahl fan.
#34 Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
#35 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire JK Rowling
#36 Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

#37 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
#38 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
#39 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead --Haven't read this yet, but it's been waiting on my nightstand for a while!
#40 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
#41 The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
#42 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#43 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
#44 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
#45 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

#46 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
#47 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
#48 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
#49 Frindle by Andrew Clements
#50 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
#51 The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
#52 The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
#53 Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

#54 The BFG by Roald Dahl
#55 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
#56 Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
#57 Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
#58 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
#59 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

#60 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
#61 Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
#62 The Secret of the Old Clock (The Nancy Drew mysteries) by Caroline Keene

#63 Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
#64 A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
#65 Ballet Shoes by Noah Streatfield
#66 Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
#67 Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
#68 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
#69 The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

#70 Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace -- I know that I've "looked" at this book, and goodness knows, I recommend it all the time for parents looking for wholesome reading for their girls, but I really should give this book a true re-read.
#71 A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
#72 My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
#73 My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
#74 The Borrowers by Mary Norton
#75 Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
#76 Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
#77 City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
#78 Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
#79 All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
#80 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

#81 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
#82 The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
#83 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

#84 Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
#85 On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#86 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
#87 The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
#88 The High King by Lloyd Alexander
#89 Ramona and her Father by Beverly Cleary
#90 Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

#91 Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
#92 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
#93 Caddie Woodlawn by C. R. Brink
#94 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
#95 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
#96 The Witches by Roald Dahl
#97: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
#98 Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
#99 The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
#100 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Okay, so unless my math is wrong, that puts me at... 78 out of a hundred!  And many of the ones that I haven't "read" were ones that I picked up as a kid, and kind of stumbled through, but didn't enjoy, so I didn't count them.  Roald Dahl never clicked for me, but that doesn't stop me from recommending him to kids that I think would get it.  I probably tried to tackle Caddie Woodlawn and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle at too young of an age and then never got back to them.  Sideways School, on the other hand, was probably a bit after my time.  By the time it came out, it seemed too short and silly, too lightweight for me.

There's also a list of titles that almost-but-didn't-quite make it to the Top 100.  Biggest shocker?  Diary of a Wimpy Kid, of course.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sweet Simplicity

Bears on Chairs
by Shirley Parenteau, illustrated by David Walker
Candlewick Press

Nothing can beat this story for it's simple, loveable charm.  Four bears; blue Calico Bear, pink and prim Fuzzy Bear, cheerful Yellow Bear and loose-limbed Floppy Bear each settle down on their own little chairs.  "Four happy bears / on four small chairs. / Not a bear / has to share."  Oops!  When Big Brown Bear arrives, it appears he's out of luck.  In a wonderful double-page spread, Big Brown Bear woefully looks out to the viewer. "What a stare / from Big Brown Bear. / That big bear / wants a chair!"  After much experimentation, the bears are able to jointly arrive at a solution... pushing all the chairs together to form a makeshift bench.  Snuggled up on the bench, they declare "Now it's fair! / The bears all share!"

Plenty of white-space and pastel colors, along with a unique personality to each of these adorable bears and the gentle repeating rhyme gives this book an easy, very readable appeal.  The values of sharing, inclusion and problem-solving readily come across without being didactic for an instant.  A great book for sharing with toddlers, I highly recommend this little gem.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leviathan review

by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson
Simon & Schuster

I was very excited to tackle the first book in Westerfeld's new planned series, a steampunk adventure set during an alternate history of World War I.  The British, who style themselves as "Darwinists" have a formidable air force composed of genetically modified "beasties."  Their German opposition, known as "Clankers" use over-sized metallic walkers and tanks.  The story follows, in mostly alternating chapters, two young protagonists, Deryn a.k.a. Dylan Sharp, a midshipman in the British air navy and Aleksander Ferdinand, son of the murdered Austrian Arch-Duke and budding Clanker pilot.

Deryn, the
new Darwinist recruit, is hiding a secret -- "he" is actually a "she."  Her brother and recently-deceased father have given her an unconventional upbringing and encouraged her interest in flying, even though only men are allowed in the air service.  I felt that Westerfeld really hit the right note with Deryn.  It's such a common science-fiction and fantasy trope to have a young girl disguise herself as a boy in order to go off and have adventures... but it's pretty uncommon to see characters address this problem with the seriousness that it deserves.  Deryn spends the first three-quarters of the novel terrified that she will be found out.  Being caught is her number one concern, and it drives most of her decisions, including her impetous piloting and her foul mouth. (Westerfeld's gritty street vernacular includes terms like, "clart," "boffin" and "barking spiders.")

Alek is
the son of the recently murdered Arch-Duke Ferdinand of Austria.  He is on the run, aided by two of his loyal retainers, one step ahead of the war-mongering Germans, as he attempts to re-group and prove his legitimacy.

The thing
that surprised me the most about Leviathan was my own reaction to the Darwinists.  I found myself thoroughly skeeved out by the description of the living airships, with their attendant symbiotic life-forms creating a self-sustaining biosphere.  A typical ship would be mostly whale, with perhaps a bit jellyfish and a number of other "life threads" mixed in.  It would be accompanied by double-nosed hydrogen sniffing dogs, flocks of bats and birds, messenger lizards and more.  Plenty of thought went in to how the living airships would be fed and how waste management would be handled.  Oddly, the "Clanker" steam-driven technology, appealed to me much more.  How awesome would it be to pilot one of those?  From the description in the book, they sound just like the AT-AT walkers from Star Wars.

The last
book I read which dealt with similar gender issues was Allison Goodman's Eon: Dragoneye Reborn.  Leviathan would be my go-to recommendation to steampunk enthusiasts everywhere and fans of Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles or Jeanne DuPrau's Books of Ember series.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Simon Bloom review

Simon Bloom's life is turned upside-down when he discovers the "Teacher's Edition" of his classroom physics textbook, which magically gives him power over the laws of physics. He manipulates gravity and friction, allowing him to float, fly, zoom or slow down. After accidentally eavesdropping on a group of excessively silly senior wizards sporting wacky psuedo-medieval names, he finds himself unavoidably caught up in the action.

The evil Sirabetta is able to control several different branches of science (magically) with various tattoos that seem to writhe all over her body. Of course, she is hoping to add the book of physics to her collection. Simon's two best friends, Owen and Alysha join him in trying to keep the magic book out of the hands of villains.

Owen has a rather annoying habit of speaking-so-quickly-that-all-of-his-sentences-are-rendered-in-dashes, and Alysha is a bit of an outsider at school who joins them in their expeditions to Dunkerhook Woods. Only towards the very last third of the book do Owen and Alysha start to come in to their own, gaining the power of velocity and electricity, respectively. In a way, I was disappointed to see Owen and Alysha lose their powers so quickly.

Plenty of inside-jokes seemed geared towards Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans, which might go over the heads of the intended audience of 9 to 12-year-old boys. In many ways, Gravity Keeper reminded me of the Angie Sage's Septimus Heap books, but with a more scientific bent. An omniscient narrator, similar to one in The Series of Unfortunate Events provides comic relief. Fast-paced, inventive and fun, I'd recommend this new series to any budding science-fiction fan. The sequel, Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect is already out, and the third book, Simon Bloom: The Chaos Effect is slated to be released later in 2010.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Andrew Clements' Newest

I ran across this book trailer for Andrew Clements' new series, Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School.  Looks interesting!  A little bit Series of Unfortunate Events-ish, but it reminded me a little of Avi's Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society books also, because of the school setting, and the sense of mystery.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chasing George Washington review

Chasing George Washington
adapted by Ronald Kidd, illustrated by Ard Hoyt
Simon & Schuster

This story was adapted from a play developed by the Kennedy Center. Three children on a tour of the White House awaken a portrait of George Washington, and make their way through its rooms. The founding father's role in selecting the original design is touched upon, as are the modifications that have taken place over the years. Hopscotching through history, the kids visit Susan Ford's prom; Dolley Madison, who saves George's portrait; as well as Jackie Kennedy and President Martin Van Buren as they debate a White House restoration. Mr. Flower, a secret service agent, functions as the "baddie," chasing the "Children of Today" from room to room. Readers who have exhausted Mary Pope Osborne's "Magic Tree House" books (Random) might be persuaded to give this story a try, but it's strictly an additional purchase.

I recently reviewed this book for School Library Journal. You can get the complete list of April reviews on their website.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More good times, courtesy of Scope Notes

I thought I'd give Travis Jonker's picture book generator a whirl, and here are the results.

I think this is hilarious!  From the image, we can obviously see that he IS an owl and not an elephant at all.  So, I picture a whole bunch of animals patiently trying to explain to Harry his obvious elephant-hood.  The real question is, how does it end??  Does he finally buy their into their silly scolding?  Or does he remain secure in his owl-ness?  If I was going to recommend this imaginary book, I'd pitch it to fans of Mo Willem's Pigeon books, Jeremy Tankard's Grumpy Bird, or even Zhaohua Xi's No, That's Wrong!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cheesy but fun

Have I Got a Book for You!
by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press

Now here is a book that sells itself!  No, literally, it really does.  Al Foxword is such a slick salesman, he can sell a refrigerator to a penguin, an umbrella to a fish, a dirt-buster vacuum to a mole... but that's not his mission today.  No, today he is ready to sell YOU his book.  In a fast-paced, silly patter that will be familiar to anyone who's ever stayed up late and seen one of those late-night infomercial, Al treats readers to a good-natured, persistent, hard-sell.   The loveable, plaid-wearing Al continually sweetens the pot -- one book sounds pretty good?  What about TWO books?  Purchase now, get a FREE bookmark!  How about 747 books!  What'll you do with 747 copies of the same book?  Why, it's the book fort you've always dreamed of!!! (duct tape not included.)

When all else fails, Al's got a surefire trick to get his book sold. "You break it, you bought it!" with a realistic looking die-cut "ripped" page at the end.

I read this at a toddler storytime, and it was a little over their heads.  The parents were nodding and smiling, though.  I think older kids, especially those with a budding skepticism of commercialism will enjoy this offering.  Put this in the hands of kids who've been bugging you for every last thing they've seen on TV and see if the message sinks in.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kids Book to Film generator

Travis Jonker, of 100 Scope Notes fame, has created a new children's book to film headline generator.

I got some pretty funny headlines when I tried it, including: 

Frances McDormand and Clark Gable to Star in Bawdy Film Adaptation of 'Kitten's First Full Moon'

Robert Downey Jr. and Steve McQueen to Star in Hindu Film Adaptation of 'Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!'

Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Redford to Star in Melodic Film Adaptation of 'Bridge to Terabithia'

Monday, April 5, 2010

Taming the TBR list

Earlier this year, I promised myself that I'd give myself until March to get "caught up" on my "to be read" list. Whenever I stumble across something that sounds good, I add it to my list. And, as a librarian I stumble across interesting sounding things ALL the time. Last year I did quite a bit of reading... but there was even more that I didn't get to. Sad to say, there just isn't enough to time to read them all. So, I'm culling the list. Here are some titles that I don't believe I'll have a chance to get to. So, what do you say, people? Are there any that I should absolutely not miss and add back?

Abrahams, Peter - Reality Check 
Adoff, Jaime - Small Fry 
Allison, Jennifer - Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator 
Arnosky, Jim - Pirates of Crocodile Swamp 
Avi - Seer of Shadows 
Barkley, Brad - Jars of Glass 
Baskin, Nora Raleigh - Anything but Typical 
Beckett, Bernard - Genesis 
Birdsall, Jeanne - The Penderwicks on Gardham Street 
Blundell, Judy - What I Saw and How I Lied 
Bosch, Psedonymous - The Name of This Book is Secret 
Bradley, Alex - 24 Girls in 7 Days 
Bradley, C. Alan - Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie 
Brian, Kate - Fake Boyfriend 
Broach, Elise - Masterpiece 
Bunce, Elizabeth C. - A Curse as Dark as Gold 
Burd, Nick - Vast Fields of Ordinary 
Calame, Don - Swim the Fly 
Catanese, P. W. - Happenstance Found 
Cochrane, Mick - Girl Who Threw Butterflies 
Cornish, D.M. - Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling 
Cowley, Joy - Snake & Lizard 
Cresswell, Helen - Ordinary Jack 
Crutcher, Chris - Angry Management 
Crutcher, Chris - Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes 
Dean, Claire - Girlwood 
Dessen, Sarah - Along for the Ride 
Dionne, Erin - Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies 
Downham, Jenny - Before I Die 
Efaw, Amy - After 
Feiffer, Kate - Problem with the Puddles 
Fletcher, Christine - Ten Cents a Dance  
Forman, Gayle - If I Stay 
Freitas, Donna - Possibilities of Sainthood 
Freymann-Weyr, Garret - After the Moment 
Gallagher, Kelly - Readicide 
Gardner, Sally - Magical Kids: The Smallest Girl Ever 
Giff, Patricia Reilly - Wild Girl 
Griffin, Paul - The Orange Houses 
Haig, Matt - Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest  
Hannigan, Katherine - Emmaline and the Bunny 
Harper, Jessica - Underpants on my Head 
Headly, Justina Chen - North of Beautiful 
Henry, April - Torched 
Hiaasen, Carl - Scat 
Hollyer, Belinda - Secrets, Lies and My Sister Kate 
Hostetter, Joyce Moyer - Comfort 
Ibbotson, Eva - Dragonfly Pool 
Ives, David - Voss: How I Come to America and am Hero, Mostly 
Kandel, Charlotte - The Scarlet Stockings 
Kelly, Katy - Melonhead 
King, Daren - Sensible Hare and the Case of Carrots 
Knowles, Jo - Jumping Off Swings 
Korman, Gordon - Pop 
La Fevers, R. L. - Theodosia and the Staff of Isiris 
LaFleur, Suzanne M. - Love, Aubrey 
Landy, Derek - Skulduggery Pleasant 
Le Guin, Ursula - Powers 
Le Guin, Ursula - Voices 
Leal, Ann Haywood - Also Known as Harper 
Levine, Kristin - The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had 
Levithan, David - Love is the Higher Law 
Lockhart, E. - The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks  
Lytton, Deborah - Jane in Bloom 
Mackler, Carolyn - The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things  
Mackler, Carolyn -Vegan Virgin Valentine 
Magoon, Kekla - The Rock and the River 
Mangum, Lisa - Hourglass Door 
Marchetta, Melina - Jellicoe Road 
Marcus, Leonard S. - Minders of Make Believe 
Marino, Nan - Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me 
Matthews, Andrew - Way of the Warrior 
McDonald, Abby - Sophomore Switch 
McKay, Hilary - Saffy's Angel 
Mills, Claudia - How Oliver Olson Changed the World 
Mitchard, Jacqueline - Look Both Ways 
Mitchard, Jacqueline - Midnight Twins 
Moers, Walter - Wild Ride Through the Night 
Moriarty, Jaclyn - The Spellbook of Listen Taylor 
Murdock, Catherine Gilbert - Princess Ben 
Myers, Edward - Storyteller 
Napoli, Donna Jo - The Smile 
Ness, Patrick - The Knife of Never Letting Go 
Ockler, Sarah - Twenty Boy Summer 
Osborne, Linda Barrett - Traveling the Freedom Road 
Parry, Rosanne - Heart of a Shepherd 
Perkins, Mitali - Secret Keeper 
Platt, Randall - Hellie Jondoe 
Portman, Frank - King Dork 
Quigley, Sarah - tmi 
Rubens, Michael - Sheriff of Yrnameer 
Rune, Michael - Genesis Alpha 
Ryan, Amy Kathleen - Vibes 
Scalzi, Jon - Zoe's Tale 
Scott, Elizabeth - Love You Hate You Miss You 
Seth, Vikram - Golden Gate 
Shusterman, Neal - Antsy Does Time 
Shusterman, Neal - Full Tilt 
Slayton, Fran Cannon - When the Whistle Blows 
Sleator, William - Test 
Smith, Sherri L. - Flygirl 
Sorrells, Walter - Erratum 
Spradlin, Michael - Youngest Templar: The Keeper of the Grail 
Stead, Rebecca - When You Reach Me 
Stewart, Trenton Lee - Mysterious Benedict and the Perilous Journey 
Stork, Francisco X. - Marcelo in the Real World 
Tan, Shaun - Tales from Outer Suburbia 
Taylor-Butler, Christine - Sacred Mountain: Everest 
Wall, Carolyn - Sweeping Up Glass 
Weiss, Laura - Such a Pretty Girl 
Whitney, Kim Ablon - The Other Half of Life 
Williams-Garcia, Rita - Jumped 
Wilson, Martin - What They Always Tell Us 
Wilson, Nathan D. - 100 cupboards 
Wollman, Jessica - Tell Me Who 
Woodson, Jacqueline - Feathers 
Woodson, Jacqueline - Locomotion 
Woodson, Jacqueline - Peace, Locomotion 
Yang, Gene Luan - The Eternal Smile 
Zarr, Sara - Story of a Girl


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