Sunday, May 30, 2010

Great Monologues review

Great Monologues for Young Actors, Volume III
Smith and Kraus

A fresh and challenging collection, ideal for classroom or practical use, this eclectic volume offers more than 50 speeches. A few of them contain language that ventures into mature territory, but most teens will find everything here very accessible. The brief but fantastic introduction includes intelligent advice on how to best make use of the material and to handle auditions professionally. A helpful appendix gives contact information for copyright permissions to those seeking to produce paid performances, but all of the speeches are royalty-free for auditions or study. With selections culled from playwrights such as Shakespeare and Shaw, Beth Henley and Christopher Durang, as well as from exceptional new talents, this is a volume that theater professionals and librarians will definitely want to have.

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

This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pigeon rides the train...

Unable to drive a bus, what's a pigeon to do? Ride the train, I guess. I love how he politely hops off at his stop.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fragile Eternity review

The third in a planned series of five books about the intersection of the mortal and faery realms, I was pleased to see this book return to Aislinn's perspective.  Having defeated the Winter Queen's curse, she has transformed from awkward high-schooler into the faery Summer Queen, taking her place beside her faery king consort, Keenan.  Meanwhile, her all-too-human boyfriend Seth is unfortunately no longer able to bear her burning touch.  Keenan faces a similar problem with his former lover, the Winter Girl, Donia, who has now taken the deposed Winter Queen's place.

In truth, I found Aislinn so very changed by all she had experienced in Wicked Lovely, at times I almost forgot that she was the same character.  Gone is the shy, fearful girl with second sight.  This new Aislinn might be somewhat new to her role as the Summer Queen, but that doesn't stop her from being outspoken and attempting to bully her new faery subjects into submission.

Plenty of political machinations follow, with the Summer and Winter Courts now in accord, and Winter's influence ebbing, the Dark Court (featured in Ink Exchange) is in trouble.  Bananach, a faery patron of War, has long affiliated herself with the Dark Court, but sensing trouble, she goes to her sister, Sorcha, the Queen of the High Court to make threats.

With Keenan's and Aislinn's attraction growing as the summer season waxes, frustrated Seth decides the only solution is to become a faery himself.  Hoping to sow further strife, Bananach brings him before the reclusive High Queen, who agrees to grant him immortality, as long as he agrees to spend part of the year with her.  Much to my surprise, the two of them develop a mother-son relationship, with Sorcha feeling fiercely protective of Seth.  What she fails to tell him is that a few days in her realm equal months on the mortal plane.  When Seth finally returns to Aislinn, he is mortified to discover that nearly half a year, she's finally given up on him, and has begun to settle down with Keenan. 

Readers should definitely start at the beginning of the series, with Wicked Lovely.  This book, the middle of the quintet, shares many characteristics typical of a second book in a trilogy; a complex backstory which requires coming to the book with a firm foundation in the world that Marr has built, a complicated web of romance and intrigue with less plot advancement, and a cliffhanger ending which leaves much unresolved.  Fans of urban fantasy, or teens who want a break from vampire books will find this alternate take on immortality interesting.

The first three in the series are all available in paperback.  The newest, Radiant Shadows, was just released in hardcover.

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mad Treasure Hunt review


It's a pirate-themed holiday for Judy and younger brother Stink as the Moody family makes their way to historic Ocracoke Island, home of legendary pirate Blackbeard. Stepping off the ferry, the siblings enthusiastically tackle a scavenger hunt organized by "Scurvy Sam," a.k.a. Cap'n Weevil. Solving each riddle leads to "pieces of eight" given by locals playing along with the contest. 

As Judy and Stink race around the island, two other kids seem to be hot on their heels. With a bit of ingenuity and perseverance, the Moodys manage to outwit their competition. Their joy in victory is tempered by the realization that the other kids who have been trying hard have inadvertently led them to the answers on a number of their clues. They decide to include them on their prize trip -- a sail around the bay on a real pirate ship. With a mix of pirate slang, silly jokes, Morse code, and tantalizing puzzles, enlivened with full-color cartoons throughout, this book will make for a humorous summer read.

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Catching Fire review

Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins

In a way, I'm glad I didn't get to this book as quickly as I meant to. That means there's less time to wait until the sequel comes out!

Catching Fire picks right up where The Hunger Games left off. Katniss has just won the cruel and terrible "Most Dangerous Game" style competition that the despotic leaders of Panem have devised to keep the peasantry in the twelve districts both entertained and subdued. She saves her fellow district member Peeta with a desperate gambit, pretending to be in love with him so the audience of the Games will take pity on them and spare them both. Katniss is just starting to realize that she doesn't get to go back to life as normal. She's now living in "The Winner's Village" and she and Peeta are expected to keep up appearances. Her erstwhile love interest Gale has been re-cast by the media as her "cousin." Still, she manages to sneak off and see Gale at least once a week.

One thing that really got my attention is when Katniss is pulled in for a secret meeting with evil President Snow. Katniss is intimidated by his vague threat that something horrible will happen to her family unless she can keep up the charade. As he leaves, Katniss can smell blood on his breath. I wondered if we are meant to interpret that scene figuratively or literally. If it's the latter case, then why is the president drinking blood? Just because he's totally psycho?

The 75th anniversary of Panem's Hunger Games means that a new twist is employed, and it's decided that the tributes shall be drawn from the pool of former champions, so Katniss and Peeta are sent back to compete again. This time, the game is set on a deadly clockwork island, with each section of the island timed to unleash a different danger every hour. Finnick, a former winner from one of the other districts makes an unlikely ally, as Katniss decides to use her time in the arena to secure Peeta's safety. Peeta, of course, is trying to do the same for Katniss, even upping the stakes by telling people that she is pregnant, as a way of trying to create more sympathy for her. As the Districts begin to rally around Katniss, they inevitably begin to rebel against the harsh regime they've suffered under.

In Catching Fire, Collins repeats the success that she had with The Hunger Games, taking an unlikely blend of violence and romance and somehow, making it work.   One thing that I love about Katniss is how dense she can be. She's an athlete, a hunter and a young woman of action. She's not a thinker or an intellectual, and many of the political machinations that the other characters are engaged in are frankly, beyond her. This middle volume of the trilogy seems to make a strong case for a genuine romance with Peeta - he's a decent and wonderful person, who truly cares for Katniss. As the book ends, and Katniss is rescued by rebels from the long-lost "District 13" she is reunited with Gale, and I predict that the third book will give Gale plenty of face-time to try and sway readers back to his camp. For all of the excitement of readers who are cheering for either "Team Peeta" or "Team Gale" there is a third option - Katniss, in her heart of hearts, doesn't really want to be with anyone. An underlying theme of the books is "freedom" and as much as I root for Peeta, I think ultimately, Katniss wants to be "free" from any relationship.  With an abrupt and cliffhanger ending, and a few months to wait yet for the finale, many readers will be eager to see how things will play out.

I borrowed this book.

Friday, May 21, 2010

On-line Book Club

I've discovered this neat on-line book club... Well, it's new to me, but has been around for quite a while. They'll e-mail you the first few chapters of a newly published book, and then you can sign on to their message boards to discuss with like-minded people.

They've got a number of different genres featured, mystery, romance, non-fiction, business titles, science-fiction, classics, and more, as well as a separate book club for teens. Check it out!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ink Exchange review

Ink Exchange
by Melissa Marr
Harper Collins

I just finished racing through this series.  All of them were fast-paced, enjoyable reads.  I reviewed the first in the series about a month ago.  I was a little disappointed at first that Ink Exchange wasn't from Aislinn's perspective.  After reading a few pages, I quickly got into it, however.  The story is quite a bit darker than Wicked Lovely.  In the first of the series, Aislinn is coping with the difficulties of being one of the few humans able to view violent and strange faeries in our midst.  She's fortunate to have the support of her grandmother (also gifted/cursed with the same ability) and her too-wonderful-to-be-believed boyfriend.  Aislinn is barely mentioned in this novel, which instead focuses on Leslie, one of Aislinn's classmates, who is struggling with a difficult home life.  Leslie is consumed with depression and self-destructive tendencies after her alcoholic father and missing mother fail to protect her from a rape arranged by her drug-abusing pimp older brother.  Grim stuff indeed.

A lot
of the story here revolves around the tattoo that Leslie decides to get.  I don't know very much at all about tattoos myself, but the description of the tattoo parlor, and the tattooing process all sounded believable to me.  She unknowingly picks a particular piece of art which links her to Irial, the Faery King of the Dark Court.  Her friend Niall, an advisor to the Summer Court, and a former member of the Dark Court tries to protect Leslie, but she gets pulled in to their intrigues anyhow.  The Dark Court feeds off of negative emotions, and soon, bloodthirsty Irial is using his connection to Leslie to subject her to terrifyingly violent, chaotic scenes, as he drains her dry of feelings.  It's scary stuff, but cathartic too, as Leslie uses the horrors she undergoes to purge herself of her fears, and ultimately, to move forward without Irial.

Definitely darker
in tone than the first in the series, the serious subject matter with scenes that range from eerie and mystical to disturbingly violent this horror/fantasy is best for older teens.

I purchased
this book.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Improv Everywhere

Improv Everywhere strikes again, this time with a stunt to help save New York Libraries with an homage to Ghostbusters.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Take the Mummy and Run review

Take the Mummy and Run: The Riot Brothers are on a Roll

Less scatological than Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants but just as wacky, this fourth installment about Wilbur and Orville Riot is chock-full of goofy, good-natured fun. The brothers are distressed upon hearing they'll be spending the first few days of their summer vacation with their cousin Amelia.  (Note the aviation themed names in the family.)  All fears are put to rest, however, when they discover that she shares their wild sense of humor. When they're not cracking corny jokes, the youngsters devise boredom-busting games such as "Pufferbelly Pointer Punt," "Holey Cheese-n-Peas," and "Curse of the Mummy" (instructions, along with Riot Brother Rules and parody songs, are appended). Divided into three mini-books with several short chapters that have large type and a generous number of zany cartoon drawings, this offering should be easy for newly independent readers to digest, while the nonstop humor will grab older children. Kids are sure to enjoy the warm family dynamics between the imaginative and exuberant brothers -- along with their like-minded cousin -- and the breakneck pace of this uproariously funny book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Artichoke Boy review

Artichoke Boy
by Scott Mickelson
Boyd Mills Press

"This is the story of Artichoke Boy,/whose life was filled with artichoke joy." In this paean to the edible flower, the eponymous hero stares goggle-eyed at readers as he describes his life: he plays artichoke baseball, sleeps in an artichoke bed, and eats artichoke ice cream. The mixed-media collages incorporate photographs of the plant throughout the colorful pastel-hued pages, and the cartoon drawings feature confident heavy lines. Although the rhyme struggles a bit, the ingenuity displayed in integrating artichokes throughout the book is admirable. Children unfamiliar with this delicacy may miss some of the subtler wit (for example, "Butterdent" brand toothpaste is featured in an illustration where artichoke bracts fill in for the bristles of a toothbrush), but will certainly appreciate the humor of the protagonist smiling slyly as he displays his "artichoke derriere." Paired with titles such as Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers's How Are You Peeling?, Mickelson's offering could be used in a food-themed storytime. The story is fun, but an additional purchase.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Booklist Top 10 SF/Fantasy YA

Booklist has released a list of their picks for the Top Ten Science-Fiction/Fantasy for Youth  this year.

In no particular order, they are:

1. Incarceron - Catherine Fisher. I have heard great things about this one, and it's definitely on my To Be Read shelf.

2. Cosmic - Frank Cottrell Boyce.

3. Fever Crumb - Philip Reeve. Yeah, no interest in picking this one up, sorry to say. I enjoyed the first three Hungry City Chronicles books, but after that... I don't think I could be persuaded to read any more of them. Too dystopian! Even for me.

Fire - Kristin Cashore.  Another book that's been on my TBR list for a while.

5. Enchanted Glass - Diana Wynne Jones. I love her books! I should totally read this.

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins. I just finished reading it.  I'm sure I'll be posting a review, shortly.

The Night Fairy - Laura Amy Schlitz.  I really enjoyed A Drowned Maiden's Hair.  I should give this one a try.

The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness.

9. Finnikin of the Rock - Melina Marchetta.

A Conspiracy of Kings - Megan Whalen Turner. I loved The Thief. I really should take a look at this one.

These are two of my favorite genres, so I was surprised that I've read so few of these. All right then, I guess it's time to get crackin'!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Print Motivation

The first book I ever read was The Wizard of Oz

I was what you call a "reluctant reader." I saw the grown-ups around me reading and they always looked miserable, mostly because they were reading either the newspaper (full of bad news) or their stacks of mail (full of bills, more bad news.)  So, I decided that I wouldn't learn the alphabet. If I could avoid learning that, I could hold on to the carefree, joyous times of childhood forever. 

As I entered second grade, still a staunch non-reader (with a bare understanding of the alphabet, which unfortunately, was a little difficult to avert, considering that we sang the alphabet each morning as an opening to our school day) my teachers were starting to talk about holding me back a grade, or maybe even putting me in special-ed. 

That Christmas break, my parents bought me a goodly number of books and then, they did something they'd never done before. They read me the first chapter and a half or so of The Wizard of Oz, and just as we were getting to a really exciting part, my dad put the book down and said, "Well, that's it. I guess I'm getting tired of reading. If you want to know what happens, you'll have to finish it yourself." And then he just walked away. 

I had to know what happened next! I taught myself to read, forced myself to figure out the maze of words in about a week and a half, and promptly devoured the stack of books my parents had bought me. I went back to school and my teachers were stunned to see I'd skipped about 5 grade levels, pretty much overnight. And I've been a voracious reader ever since.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Calamity Jack review

Calamity Jack
by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hal

This creative re-imagining of the classic Jack in the Beanstalk tale is set in a steampunk Old West. It is a graphic novel sequel to Rapunzel's Revenge, but stands perfectly well on it's own. Seeing hints of Rapunzel's story in this book made me want to go back and read the first.

Jack is a ne'er do well lad who's always got a scheme or swindle planned. But his heart's in the right place, as he's only trying to make life easier for his momma, a hard-working baker. His best friend, a pixie named Pru, is a frequent accomplice to his hi-jinks. After landing in some hot water with a particularly dangerous heist involving a giant beanstalk, he decides to lie low and leaves his hometown of Shyport.  He soon meets Rapunzel, a lasso-twirling red-headed spitfire and after some adventures, the two of them decide to return to Shyport. Blunderboar, the cruel giant despot, is practically running the city, and Jack and his friends must act quickly to protect Jack's mother from the ant-people attacks that Blunderboar is orchestrating.

My favorite page of the book is the scene where Blunderboar's organic defense shield, consisting of shrieking male brownies, is deactivated by Pru and her friends. In the first panel, we see the lady pixies determinedly soar upwards in their hats, petticoats and Victorian finery. They face-off with the brownies, whose yells are cut short when the pixies pour on the charm, dimpling at them and offering a chorus of, "Hello, live around here?" quickly reducing the brownies to a group of hat-doffing bashful gents.

The Hales have woven a fantastic, yet believable, world where Native Americans, diminutive pixies, giants, pig-like people, invading alien insects and cowboys all co-mingle amidst locomotives, saloons, hi-tech dirigibles, floating palaces, crumbling buildings and run-down theatre districts alike. The colorful twang of the Old West vocabulary and the sure, action-packed, detail-laden full-color art pair very nicely. I would recommend this to graphic novel fans, especially those who liked (or didn't like) Patricia Wrede's alternate magical history Thirteenth Child.

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Boomerang Book Throwing Action

Hilarious! This little video made my day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

48 Hour Book Challenge

The gauntlet has been thrown! Are you up to the challenge? It's Mother Reader's Fifth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, set this year for the weekend of June 4-6. More details, including rules and how to get involved can be found over on her blog.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekly wordle

Confession time. I took out the word, "Herbert" because otherwise it would have taken up half the image.  Here's this week's wordle.  It sort of looks like a footprint to me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Woodruff Arts Center Young Audiences Mad Hatter Event

I spent this morning volunteering at the second annual Woodruff Arts Center Young Audiences Mad Hatter Event. Wow! I have to say, if I was a kid, this whole event would have blown my mind. Over-the-top doesn't even begin to describe how awesome it was. There was an antique car show in the parking lot, along with a live band and a face painting station. Inside, storytellers, illustrators, dancers, a DJ, costumed characters from Alice in Wonderland, including Alice, The Mad Hatter, The White Rabbit, The Red Queen, TweedleDum and TweedleDee. Lots of craft stations: a noisemaker station, a hilarious hat boutique, a puppet-making station, a mural that everyone was working on, and the candy teacup table where I was stationed.

All told, there were at least 400 people in attendance. Here's a view from one of the upper balconies.

Everything was very cleverly tied in to the Mad Hatter theme. Here's a sign near one of the tubs of free drinks.

I was so impressed with the hat-making craft. Basically, you take a simple brown grocery bag. Kind of crunch the bottom of the bag (roll it, if you can) and voilà, you've got an impromptu top hat ready to be decorated. 

These hats definitely had what I like to call, "The Mickey Mouse Ears Effect." They look pretty silly. But, when you see absolutely everyone wearing one, you kind of can't resist. You start thinking, "Hey, where can I get one of those?" I never thought I'd be proudly walking around with a paper bag on my head, but some random kid kindly made this one for me. Stunning, huh?

I liked this food craft, too. Beautiful and edible. The "saucer" is a chocolate chip cookie, the cup is an ice cream cone (with the waffle-portion of the bottom cut off). The handle is a gummy candy cut in half. The "tea" is a spoonful of jellybeans, and we topped these off with a "sugar cube" or two of Starburst candies. The main problem with them was the parents who wanted to snap a picture of their kids' creations before they got eaten!

The whole morning flew by -- with so much to see and do, everything seemed to happen in a flash.  I think the best part was seeing so many kids and families having fun.  Thanks, Young Audiences, for hosting this event, it was a blast!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Frog and Toad

Here's a felt board set I made a few years ago, and got the chance to use somewhat recently at a storytime. I love, love, love, the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.

These pieces are from "The Lost Button" featured in Frog and Toad Are Friends. I tried to keep the same color palette; green, brown, earthy. I think the raccoon was my favorite one to make, he turned out really well.

I made sure to match the buttons on Frog's completed jacket with the buttons that are mentioned earlier in the story.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Herbert Review

Herbert: The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog

Based on a true story of an amazing lost-at-sea dog's survival, this New Zealand import is reminiscent of Robert McCloskey's classic stories. There's a timeless, old-fashioned feel to this book, with many full-spread watercolor pages.

Tim and his dog Herbert are heading to a cottage in Marlborough Sounds. Tim will go with his mother by road, and Herbert and Tim's father by boat. It's a beautiful day, with dolphins leaping in the bay. The weather turns quickly though, and  as the waves climb, Herbert is washed overboard.  There's no indication in the text, but the pictures show a dolphin, helpfully nudging Herbert to the surface.  Although Tim's father is certain that Herbert could not have survived, he bows to Tim's wishes, and they sail out anyway. Tensions are high and Tim tells his dad, "This will be the worst or the best day of my life."  Miraculously, Herbert is found, still paddling after thirty hours in the water.

The endpapers are lovely, the front endpapers are decorated with a hand-drawn map of Tasman Bay, showing the route that Herbert takes, along with a collage of found items and photos of Herbert and Tim, the back with newspaper clippings, letters, and photos.

I would recommend this heartwarming dog story for ages 4-8. 

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I'm all registered for ALA's Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., June 24-29.

I'm looking forward to hearing Nancy Pearl speak, to all the great panels by ALSC and YALSA, including the Newbery and Caldecott banquet and the Coffee Klatch with YA authors. And of course, the Exhibition Hall with all the terrific sneak peaks at what's new in publishing.

No matter how many times I've been, it does always feel like an avalanche of information to absorb and process!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Goal Review

Candlewick Press

A friendly game of football (or soccer, as we'd call it here in the U.S.) provides a rare bright spot for some boys growing up in a shanty township in South Africa. The repeated phrase, "Left is clear / Right is clear" underscores the wariness with which they must conduct themselves because, "the streets are not safe."  Ajani has won a new regulation leather ball, and his friends Jamal, Hassan, Magubani, Keto and Badu are persuaded to join him for a game of football in a weatherbeaten alley, using dented metal buckets as goalposts. Just as they begin to relax and enjoy the game however, a group of bullies rides up on bikes. With a bit of inspired thinking, the boys hide their treasured new ball under a bucket, letting the bullies grab their old plastic beach ball instead. Javaherbin's lyrical use of language creates a very readable flow to the story.

Ford's full-spread oil illustrations emphasize the contrast between dusty brown streets and ramshackle buildings with the bright blue of the clear open sky. One of the most striking images is the scowl on the lead bully's face as he rides away the plastic ball. The luminous warmth in the boys skin tones is rendered beautifully, while their grimy and tattered clothing is a clue to the kind of poverty they live in. Their smiles and agile postures as they jump, kick and race about the street will be familar to any sports fan.  Goal! is a thought-provoking story and is sure to be a welcome addition for teachers or librarians who want to increase their collections on bullying and social issues.

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Good ol' Corduroy

At the laundromat today, I snapped this picture.

Makes me think of A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman. I was always fascinated by laundromats as a kid. My favorite page is the one where the artist gets inspired by the shapes he sees in the tumbling clothesdryer. "This would make a fabulous painting!" and he begins sketching.  I like the soap-flake sledding adventure that Corduroy goes on too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Updated Wordle

Here's how last weeks posts look according to

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sad News: Rose V. Treviño

Just heard that Rose V. Treviño passed away yesterday. What sad news.

She was a wonderful library advocate, active in REFORMA, the first Latina to chair the Newbery Committee, the Head of Children's Services at the Houston Public Library and before that, at San Antonio Public.  She chaired the Newbery committee again in 2008, the year the Neil Gaiman was awarded the prize for The Graveyard Book.

I met her once at a Texas Library Association Midwinter Conference.  As a library student I was allowed the opportunity to do some volunteer work for the chance to go to a children's author breakfast.  She was greeting people before giving her opening speech and was very elegant and formal.  She was shaking everyone's hand, almost receiving line style, and when I got the opportunity to introduce myself, one of my colleagues told me, "That is Rose Treviño!  She's famous, in library circles!"  I replied by saying, "I know, I know!"  and then began gushing about how much I admired her work.  I loved her enthusiasm for children's literature.  I know she'll be greatly missed.


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