Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Read in May

This month I read the following books:

1 Lost Voices - Sarah Porter
2 Brightly Woven - Alexandra Bracken
3 The Bloomswell Diaries - Louis L. Buitendag
4 Vesper - Jeff Sampson
5 A Long, Long Sleep - Anna Sheehan
6 Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley - Stephanie Green
7 White Cat - Holly Black
8 Cinderella Smith - Stephanie Barden
9 Sidekicks - Jack D. Farraiolo

10 Falling in Love with English Boys - Melissa Jensen
11 Enclave - Ann Aguirre
12 The Girl's Guide to Homelessness - Brianna Karp
13 The Goddess Test - Aimee Carter

Picture credit: Woman Reading, National Media Museum

Monday, May 30, 2011

Little Red Hen feltboard

Here's my latest creation, The Little Red Hen, who plants, grows and cuts the wheat all by herself, grinds it into flour all by herself, mixes and kneads the dough and bakes it into bread all by herself, and when the time is right, eats the loaf of bread, all by herself, with no help from lazy cat, dog and mouse, of course!

Recognize the cat, dog and mouse? I re-used them from my Giant Turnip set I created some time ago. The lovely hen comes straight from the pattern from my beloved Judy Sierra's The Flannel Board Storytelling Book. Oddly, there was no pattern for a stove, or a loaf of bread, so I freehanded those. I experimented with a couple of different looking kinds of bread which all ended up looking lumpy and not-at-all breadlike until I came up with this simple loaf of french bread. As a rule, I don't like to draw on my felt pieces with marker, but I think it works well here. Even though she's a "red" hen, I made her orange, as making her fire-engine red didn't look right, and made her wattle stand out less. I thought about making her all of one piece, to save a little time, but I like the extra dimensionality from having her wing and leg a little separate. This felt board went over very well at storytime. I hewed pretty closely to the Paul Galdone version of The Little Red Hen.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More New Books

Yay, more new books at the library this week. A lot of beginning readers, and more series middle-grade fiction. Let's take a look!

Barbie: I Can Be... A Ballerina - Christy Webster
Tangled: A Horse and a Hero - Daisy Alberto
Toy Story: Move Out - Apple Jordan
Ironman: Panther's Prey - D.R. Shealy
Marley: Farm Dog - Susan Hill
Splat the Cat Sings Flat - Chris Strathearn
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Boba Fett Jedi Hunter - Clare Hibbert
Secrets of a Lab Rat: Scab for Treasurer? - Trudi Trueit, illustrated by Jim Paillot
Dear America: The Diary of Amelia Martin, A Light in the Storm - Karen Hesse
Boxcar Children #127: Monkey Trouble - Gertrude Chandler Warner
Boxcar Children #126: The Clue in the Recycling Bin- Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Library Monster - Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau and Dan Crisp
The Faeries' Promise: Wishes and Wings - Kathleen Duey
The Sisters Eight: Rebecca's Rashness - Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Calvin Coconut: Hero of Hawaii - Graham Salisbury, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers

Lots of popular series here. I wish television and movies didn't have such a grip on youngster's imagination, but they do devour novelizations of all of these franchises. Lots of commissioned writers here too... it looks like John Grogan and Rob Scotton are farming out their latest books to ghostwriters.

Scab for Treasurer has on its' cover one of my biggest, biggest pet peeves. It's the classic words-crossed-out title. What a nightmare. This does nothing but cause confusion to the public, who are now completely uncertain what the actual title is. This will be an easy sell to Dan Gutman fans, though, as it's the same illustrator as the My Weird School series.

Another beautiful looking Dear America book.

The redoubtable Boxcar Children! They never fail to please. These are kinda updated, although I'm surprised that monkey is holding a disposable camera as opposed to a digital camera. And the subject matter for Clue in the Recycling Bin is very current. It goes without saying that these are obviously ghostwritten, as I believe Gertrude Chandler Warner died decades ago.

The Buddy Files is a new series to me, but mysteries do very, very well at my library, so I'm glad to have it. I'll pitch it as the perfect thing for readers who aren't quite ready for Hank the Cowdog.

Fairies are always a sure bet. This is by the same author of the wonderful Unicorn's Secret books.

I had figured that the Sisters Eight series would be dead in the water, debuting as it did right before Octomom mania (and all of the subsequent backlash) hit. Yet, these circ semi-decently, so I figure why not, let's see if kids go for it.

My love for Calvin Coconut is so great, I'm not sure I have words for it. So happy to get my hands on this newest book in the series!

Would I have bought these for my own home library? Or as gifts for friends or family? Eh, probably not, but I'm confident that all of these will circulate well at the public library.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Education of Bet review

The Education of Bet
July 2010

16 year-old Bet is trapped between two worlds... raised in a 19th-century English mansion as a childhood companion to wealthy Will, she is in fact servant class, but used to the life of a lady. She hungers for an education, which of course is not possible. Will attends boarding school -- at least, when he's not being thrown out of them for delinquent behavior. After disgracing himself at his fourth school, Will confesses to Bet that he'd prefer a military career. She thinks of a bold plan: she'll go to school, disguised as him. She tells Will's uncle that she's gotten a job as a governess in order to explain her absence from the family home.

Once at school Bet is overwhelmed by having to get along with other boys who are mostly rough bullies. She thought she'd be entering a paradise, where she could simply concentrate on her studies in peace, instead, she faces hazing at the hands of the other students, with the professors' tacit approval. She starts to develop feelings for her roommate, smart and sensitive James. There is an interesting frisson to their relationship at first. Does James like Bet because he thinks she's a boy or despite of it? There were plenty of elements in the story that strained my credulity. Bet's secret is soon discovered by the school nurse, James and a few others, all of whom wholeheartedly approve of her scheme. Once James knows, they eagerly steal kisses when other students aren't around and even snuggle in the same bed. She rather improbably pulls off a Christmas visit back home where she pretends to be both herself AND Will, changing costumes and coming up with excuses for why "Will" and Bet are never in the same room at the same time.

When the school master and Will's uncle are finally made aware of her deception, the school master's wife quickly leaps to Bet's defense and Will's uncle reveals (spoiler alert) that she is in fact, truly Will's half-sister, and he is now prepared to legally recognize her as part of the family. I wasn't sure whether to be surprised that she wasn't more upset at having been treated as a second-class citizen for most of her life or surprised that the uncle was finally willing to admit that his brother's bastard daughter was family. It seemed unlikely for her to be elevated in status so quickly and easily during that time period. Short(ish) at only 192 pages, this was a light and enjoyable read. I'll recommend this for readers looking for easy, feel-good historical fiction with a happy ending.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Queen of the Falls review

Queen of the Falls
April 2011

Van Allsburg gives us a close-up and personal look into the face of madness in this inspired history of the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Tall pages dense with text contain a story nearly long enough to merit novella status in this exploration of a little known adventuress. Van Allsburg truly shines in his black and white pencil illustrations that lend heart to the story. He perfectly captures the Eureka moment when 62 year-old retired charm school teacher, Annie Edson Taylor, decides her fortunes will be made once she attempts the stunt. Her eyes gleam madly, as a flower vase is heedlessly tipped over at her table.

Taylor's endearing and expressive range of emotions are displayed in full force in the next few pages. An angry scowl when ridiculed at the barrel-maker's shop, her shrewd squinting once the barrel-making is underway, and her quietly smug satisfaction in the office of Frank Russell, who was to become her manager, hint at her obsessive drive to complete a ridiculous and seemingly impossible task. The illustrations featuring her stout frame and grey-bunned head backing into the finished pillow-lined barrel, paired with an alternate view, a close-up of her face, as she cheerfully waves from inside the barrel as they nail her in, play with perspective and can't fail to fascinate readers. Her grimace as she's bandied about inside the claustrophobic environment ratchets up the tension, and the moment when she goes over, with a double-page spread of the Falls in all their glory and the single sentence "'Oh Lord,' she whispered, and then she was gone." stand in stark contrast to the rest of the text-heavy pages.

After surviving the trip, albeit badly bruised and shaken up, sadly, Taylor finds the crowds she'd hoped to impress at state fairs and the like fail to materialize. She finds herself the victim of theft, as first Russell, and then her new manager, Billy Banks, both turn on her, and attempt to steal her barrel. The story ends on an upbeat note with Annie remarking that at least she can say, "I am the one who did it."

The book is appended with an author's note, a list of "successful" barrel riders, a very short bibliography, and a photograph of the real Annie Edson Taylor, looking schoolmarmish posing next to the barrel in question, which is much narrower at the bottom than I'd imagined and covered in old fashioned font declaring Taylor, "Heroine of the Falls."

Pair this unusual offering with Mordecai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers or any biography of Harry Houdini, for a slice of unconventional, dare-devil history. Recommended for ages 5-12.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tower of Babel of Books

Check this out. It's a tower made of books, erected in Buenos Aires in celebration of being made this year's "World Book Capital" My only concern is how those books will hold up under the weather, but I suppose they are probably not meant to last.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Angel Burn review

Angel Burn
May 2011

In this paranormal YA romance, angels are an evil invading force. Their most devastating power is their ability to suck the life force from humans, mesmerizing them all the while, and making them feel enraptured. Disastrously for the human race, this means that those with the most up-close and personal experience of angels are actually the least likely to sound the alarm bells. Despite the cancer and debilitating illnesses that most humans seem to contract from contact with the angels, they remain obsessively devoted, building huge cathedrals dedicated to the new "Church of the Angels"

16 year-old Willow, who struggles with unwanted psychic powers, does a reading for her friend Beth who is thinking of joining the cult and Willow immediately guesses the angels' evil intent. In the meantime, 17 year-old Alex has been living a life on the run, working with an elite group of Angel Killers since he was a young boy. When he's told to assassinate Willow, he's very suspicious, as she has an angel aura, yet clearly is a human girl. With his orders from headquarters growing more erratic all the time, he essentially kidnaps her for a cross-country road trip back to his original base camp to see if he can straighten things out. Along the way, naturally, they begin to develop feelings for each other, despite the fact that Willow is half-angel.

I really enjoyed this book. It's action-packed and the angel mythology is well-thought out. The leader of the angels' invading force, Raziel, is deliciously evil and it's fun to read the scenes where his human secretary, Jonah, slowly starts to put the pieces together from the clues his boss carelessly reveals. The romance between Alex and Willow develops slowly and is very sweet.

The one thing that bothered me about the book was the jarring switches between first-person narration (from Willow's point of view) and third-person narration. On the one hand, I loved the immediacy of hearing Willow's thoughts, especially as she tried to work out her feelings for Alex. If the whole book had been in first-person we would have missed the portions where Alex likes her, but she doesn't know it yet, and of course, I loved all the parts with hapless Jonah. Alex's gruff old mentor, Cully, was also a lot of fun, especially when some shocking twists towards the end of the book are revealed. Overall, switching tenses back and forth gave the writing a very uneven, choppy feel though. I wish the book had been revised so that all of Willow's parts were in third-person. I was concerned at first by the title change and cover change from the British original, but Angel Burn is a more distinctive title than simply, Angel and the new cover design really grew on me.

This is the first in a trilogy, and hopefully the rest of the series will be as thrilling as the first one was.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Better Book Titles

Have you seen this site? Better Book Titles come up with snarky, hilarious takes on all sorts of books. Check it out and see for yourself.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cover Trend: Hearts

Hearts have always been popular on covers. Here's a few pretty recent examples.

Mad Love
by Suzanne Selfors
Walker Books for Young Readers
January 2011

When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother - and she needs one fast. That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth - that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real. -from Goodreads

But I Love Him
by Amanda Grace
May 2011

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved - and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything - and everyone - in its path. This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong. -from Goodreads

The Sweetest Thing
by Christina Mandelski
Egmont USA
May 2011

In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she's decorating a cake. Unfortunately everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable. But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems - only her dad's about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed. -from Goodreads

It's Not Summer Without You
by Jenny Han
May 2011
(paperback edition)

Last year, all of Belly’s dreams came true and the thought of missing a summer in Cousins Beach was inconceivable. But like the rise and fall of the ocean tide, things can change - just like that. Suddenly the time she's always looked forward to most is something she dreads. And when Jeremiah calls to say Conrad has disappeared, Belly must decide how she will spend this summer: chasing after the boy she loves, or finally letting him go. -from Goodreads

by Tabitha Suzama
Simon Pulse
June 2011

She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But ...they are brother and sister. -from Goodreads

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Books

Gosh, it seems like ages since the last time I received any new books at the library. And let's be honest, a big part of the reason why I became a librarian was for collection development... at work, I can "collect" books on a grander scale than I ever could at home.

So, what's new?

Elf Realm Book 3: The Road's End - Daniel Kirk
Indiana Jones: The Search for Buried Treasure - W. Rathbone
Skeleton Creek: The Raven: Ryan's Journal - Patrick Carman
The Zombie Chasers: Undead Ahead - John Kloepfer, illustrated by Steve Wolfhard
Super Sluggers 3: Wing Ding - Kevin Markey
43 Old Cemetery Road: Till Death Do Us Bark - Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
Dear America: The Second Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Cannons at Dawn - Kristiana Gregory
Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist Book Four: The Unicorn's Tale - R.L. LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
The Knights' Tales 3: The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True - Gerald Morris, illustrated by Aaron Renier
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery - Maryrose Wood

Series is the name of the game. Series, series, series. That's what kids clamor for, and so, that is what I shall give them. I'm beefing up the collection of "boys books" and things that seem to have universal appeal for boys and girls. I hate that books, from picture books, right up through YA seems to be so gendered, but that's the way of things, I suppose.

I am in LOVE with the new Dear America covers. They have just a hint of gold leaf -- so elegant! It makes them seem simultaneously more updated and more historical, if that's possible. This picture does not do the book justice.

I am so excited for the new Incorrigible Children book. I can't believe it doesn't have any holds on it. Lucky me, that means I can check it out for myself, right away.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Entwined trailer

I love this trailer... as if I weren't excited enough about this book already!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 6

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

This week's question is:

"If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?"

Gosh, this is a pretty similar question to the last time I participated in the Hop. I don't want to say Hogwarts again, so I've got to pick something else. The only trouble is, I've been reading lots of dystopian lately, and while it's interesting to read about, I certainly wouldn't want to go there, even for a visit. Let me give you a few examples: 
  • a cold and mysterious boarding school filled with undead Latin scholars
  • a miserable slave camp where the inmates are beaten daily yet live for hundreds of years
  • a hoarder's house full of a decade's worth (at least) of muck and trash
  • a high school filled with hyperactive teens who can't wait to whore themselves out to the highest bidder so they can sell their children

Ugh! No thanks! I wouldn't want to spend even an hour in any of those places, much less a whole day.

Let's say
, Rivendell, then. Sure! Tolkien's Lord of the Rings inspired nearly every fantasy that has come after it, so why not visit the original Elven city? Elegant, courtly living in treehouses sounds wonderful.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Pet for Petunia review

Petunia LOVES skunks! Her dream skunk is indeed, cute as the dickens, with a button nose, and darling stripes.  She already has a stuffed toy skunk, but she's certain the real thing will be even better.

Most of the book is her begging, pleading and promising her parents that she'd be the perfect skunk caretaker. When Petunia's parents, who remain unseen throughout the whole book, inform her that skunks stink, Petunia goes off on an epic rant, emphasized with large type that grows smaller and trails away at the bottom of the page. "With such disappointing lunkheads for parents, naturally Petunia must leave home." When she decides to run away to the woods, she happens upon a skunk, and learns first-hand the truth of her parents' warnings. Undeterred, she decides that skunks are awesome... awesomely stinky that is! What kind of pet should she get now... how about a sweet little porcupine?

I loved the clean lines of the illustrations for this book. The black and white illustrations are punctuated with just a hint of purple, and an even more sparing amount of orange. The endpages become a wordless part of the story, with a skunk and a porcupine hiding in the forest.

This was such a silly read. A Pet for Petunia will be a total hit at a "pets" themed storytime. With an endorsement from Maurice Sendak, it will definitely be one that you'll want to have on your shelves.

I purchased this book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sidekicks review

by Jack D. Ferraiolo
Amulet Books
April 2011

Stories with a male protagonist seem to be slim pickin's these days, so I was excited to pick up this comic-book themed novel. Middle-school student Scott Hutchinson, better known as Bright Boy, is the sidekick to world-renowned superhero Phantom Justice. Superheroes are now referred to by the more scientific appellation plus/plus. Supers can have super strength, speed, intelligence, or some combination of all three.

Witty repartee, "punny" insults and other cheesy dialogue is part of the territory, along with standard-issue tights and capes. The problem is, Bright Boy has outgrown his traditional yellow and red outfit, and much to his mortification and dismay, after saving a particularly gorgeous young female hostage from a supervillain, his super-tight tights leave nothing to the imagination. Humiliated, he begs Phantom Justice's permission to update his costume, and is roundly refused. Thus starts his rebellious streak... before he realizes it, he's hanging out with Monkeywrench, the sidekick to Phantom Justice's archenemy Dr. Chaotic. Monkeywrench, aka Allison Mendez, is probably every young man's dream - beautiful, daring, and she knows what she wants. She and Scott share several kisses, nearly all of them initiated by her.

One feature I loved about this book was that the meetings between supervillains use black pages with white type. There were plenty of twists, turns and sudden reversals towards the end of the book, some of which I saw coming, and others which I never could have predicted. I had expected one of Scott's teachers to reveal that she was a superhero, but nothing seemed to come of that, although I was surprised by a few of the other characters' hidden abilities. I'll recommend this to comic book aficionados looking for a lengthier read, or anyone looking for a funny, action-packed book with a hint of romance. I know it's a book that I'll want to read and re-read. Check out the book trailer for an idea of inspired hilarity contained within.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seasons review

March 2011

So often, translated children's books come off as beautiful, but stilted or odd, most certainly having lost something in the translation. Happily, that is not the case with this French import. Each page features an exploration of the season at hand, whether by smell, taste, feel, sight or sound. Spring offers green colors, beautiful smells of budding flowers, and the tickle of a ladybug. Summer brings fireflies, the smell of tomato and basil, verbena and mint, the sound of a summer thunder storm, and a day at the beach. Autumn features the smells of moss, mushrooms and wet ground, and of course, the crackling sounds of leaves. Winter brings the smell of woodsmoke and the silence of snow. The language is simple, clear, effective and universally appealing.

Swiss author Crausaz's background as a graphic designer is evident in her crisp, bright illustrations featuring a rosy-cheeked, pigtailed brunette little girl. Double-page spreads of the girl biting into a sandy peach, a nighttime silhouette of the garden, kids jumping in leaves, or a close-up of a mittened hand holding a snowball are all equally attractive.

Of course, this book would be a natural in the classroom, for a unit on the senses, or the seasons, but it's simple beauty and evocative text would make for a lovely storytime read-aloud as well. This book is so gorgeous, and the writing so lyrical, I wish it was eligible for some kind of award! Sadly, it's foreign pedigree rules it out for the Caldecott, and the brevity of the text means it's not a contender for the Batchelder award either. Can we invent an award specifically for this book? Because it is definitely the-best-picturebook-this-year-that-you've-probably-never-heard-of-but-totally-need. Highly recommended.

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cinderella Smith review

Cinderella Smith
April 2011

Josephine-Kathryn Smith is better known by her nickname "Cinderella" for her unfortunate habit of losing shoes. She's a relaxed, funny, messy elementary school student who is just starting to feel the pressures of shifting alliances in her social circle.

Cinderella welcomes a friendship with her new neighbor Erin, especially once her former best friend Rosemary T. starts to give her the cold shoulder. Cinderella and Rosemary T. are both competing for the starring role in the Pumpkin Blossom recital. The only problem is, will Cinderella be able to find her missing tap shoe in time for the show? If not, the role will default to Rosemary!

In the meantime, Erin asks for Cinderella's help in an area she thinks Cinderella must be expert in: sussing out whether Erin's future stepsisters are wicked or not. Cinderella begrudgingly has to admit that she has no stepsisters of her own, but she still feels equal to the task. She comes up with a hilarious list of criteria on what might put a new stepsister firmly in the evil category. The girls create a checklist including items such as: has a lot of luggage, stares in mirrors, owns too many shoes. Worryingly, Erin seems to have far more of these characteristics than her stepsisters do! I did think it was a very strange family dynamic that the stepsisters were not introduced to each other until the day of their parents wedding. As one can expect from the story's light-hearted tone, all is satisfactorily resolved by the end of the book, however.

I loved all of the exclamations and creative use of language that Cinderella uses throughout the story. Light rain is "dribbly-spit", when she's upset, she has a "problem with a capital P." She even improvises a tap shoe by sticking a flat tack into the toe of her sneaker.

This humorous middle-grade story will be perfect for readers who are reading just above Junie B. Jones level. Charming, quirky and unique, Cinderella Smith is certain to be a favorite with tween readers. Debut novelist Stephanie Barden is coming out with a sequel in 2012.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cover Trend: Red Smoke

I love this trend. It's so pretty, and it's so specific. Why is it happening? I can't say. I definitely approve though!

Claim to Fame 
by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Simon & Schuster 
November 2009 
(this cover is from the 2010 paperback)

Lindsay Scott hit the big time at age five, when she became the star of the television show "Just Me and the Kids." It seemed like she was set for life--until she had a nervous breakdown when she was eleven, because Lindsay had suddenly developed a very dangerous sense of ESP--the ability to hear what anyone was thinking about here, at any time, anywhere in the world. Lindsay's father whisked her away to her long-gone mother's house in small town Springdale, and Lindsay was amazed to discover that within the four walls of the house, she can't hear anything out of the ordinary. And so Lindsay has stayed hidden in the house, safe from other people's thoughts, doing her best to stay out of sight and let the world forget her. When the tabloids print a "where are they now" story about her, claiming that Lindsay's maniacal father has kept her imprisoned in her house for the past five years, a couple of well-meaning teens attempt to "rescue" Lindsay. For the first time in five years, Lindsay is outside the protective quiet of her house. And that's when she hears the one voice she never expected to hear: her mother's.
When she discovers that perhaps her mother didn't leave voluntarily, she has a choice to make: will she risk everything to find the truth about her past--and the source of her ability? -from Goodreads

White Cat 
by Holly Black 
Margaret K. McElderry 
May 2010

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen. -from Goodreads

Shadow Hills 
by Anastasia Hopcus 
Egmont USA 
July 2010

After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles. Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA — a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.  Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town. Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal. Even Zach — the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after — seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills. -from Goodreads

by Jeff Sampson 
Balzer + Bray 
January 2011

Emily Webb is a geek. She’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that... the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered. Soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell... there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human? As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want? -from Goodreads

Warm Bodies 
by Isaac Marion 
April 2011

A zombie who yearns for a better life ends up falling in love—with a human—in this astonishingly original debut novel. R is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listening to Frank Sinatra. He is a little different from his fellow Dead. Not just another zombie novel, Warm Bodies is funny, scary, and deeply moving. -from Goodreads

Any that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dead Beautiful review

Dead Beautiful
September 2010

I'd been meaning to read this book for quite some time, so I was glad to finally get my hands on it. High school student Renee Winters is devastated when she finds her parents, victims of an apparent murder, in the woods. Investigators insist that her parents have died from twin heart attacks however, and the case is soon closed. Renee is sent to stay with her eccentric, very formal, old-money grandfather who promptly shuffles her off to Gottfried Academy, an exclusive prep school in rural Maine.

There are plenty of mysteriously creepy happenings and strongly gothic vibe to this story. I'm a little disappointed in myself for not realizing that before I picked up the book. Hellooooo... the clue is right there in the title, Dead Beautiful. While Renee is busy in philosophy, Latin and botany classes at her new school, she finds she has an uncanny knack for sensing death around her - always noticing roadkill, or a dead deer near campus and the like. She is soon drawn to Dante, a taciturn loner at school. Twilight's Team Edward fans will find a lot to like in the intensely passionate and distantly perfect Dante.

I had a few things to nitpick about the book. Is it petty of me that I was bothered by the fact that the front and back cover show a forest... of the same tree that's been photoshopped over and over again? I wished the setting in the story had been just a little more distinct. We certainly get a feel for the layout of Gottfried Academy campus, but I wished there had been a little more about the fact that the majority of the story takes place in Maine. Some tension between the "townies" and students perhaps? A colorful local with a trademark Maine accent, or more description of the surrounding pine forests would have gone a long way with me. Really, I thought this story could have taken place nearly anywhere.

Slowly but surely, Renee manages to unfurl clues that tie together her parents deaths and the deaths of other students at her school. It turns out that throughout human history, we have created elaborate burial and/or cremation rituals as a way of combating revenants. Anyone who dies before the age of 16 and isn't properly buried will come back from the dead, usually unaware of their undead status. It turns out that Renee is one of a handful of rare individuals who have the ability to sense this, and to put souls to rest for good. This plot point truly strained my suspension of disbelief. If that were true, wouldn't masses of undead children make themselves known every time there was a natural disaster? 
Nevertheless, I'll recommend this to Twilight fans or any other teens looking for paranormal romance featuring true love between soulmates without a love triangle.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Barbie Hunger Games

Hilarious and awesome! Stick with it for the scenes with Katniss and Peeta as kids. I love Katniss's big braid. And, the tissue paper fire in the chariot.

Don't miss the second half.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Goldilocks sign

As I've mentioned before, I'm making an effort to improve some of the signs in my library.
I also recently had the chance to upgrade the children's furniture. We had some old beanbags that were well past their prime, and everyone was glad to see them finally retired. I love these little chairs!


Although, I have to say, the last thing I expected was for so many grown-ups try to sit on these tiny little chairs. They really are designed for toddlers! I wanted to come up with a sign asking adult patrons not to sit on them, that still retained a "friendly" vibe. Here's the result.

The full text says, "Grown-ups! Don't be a Goldilocks. These chairs are for little kids. Thanks for your cooperation."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Drought review

January 2011

I was completely drawn in by this book, despite and probably because of, the fact that the whole world is so alien... so strange. It leaves more questions left unanswered than not.

In the near future, Ruby lives as a slave on a compound with her mother and a rag-tag group of settlers. They are tasked by their cruel ruler, Darwin West, with carefully collecting dewdrops from surrounding scruffy vegetation using tiny pewter spoons. Failure to meet their ever-increasing water quotas results in severe whippings. Incredibly, they've been living this way for over 400 years, as they drink a communion of just a few drops of the water they've collected each week which grants them eternal life. Their encampment contains no more technology than they had in 1812, but thanks to their elixir, they are able to survive with a minimum of food and medical care. Once a year, The Visitor arrives and the congregation are briefly treated well by Darwin, who sells that years worth of work to The Visitor, who is using the water to maintain his own youth.

Ruby's father, Otto, the former leader of their group, left them hundreds of years ago. Now, he is worshipped as a god, and everyone patiently waits his return, when, it is felt, he is certain to save them. Unbeknownst to the rest of the congregation, Ruby has been "blessing" the water with a few drops of her blood. It's an ability she has inherited from her father, who is in fact, solely responsible for their longevity. As Ruby grows increasingly impatient with their hopeless existence and makes futile hints to her adopted grandmother Ellie and other members of the congregation that they should find their own escape, since Otto may never return, Ruby catches the eye of one of the newest overseers, handsome Ford.

I found it unbelievable that Ruby would so quickly fall for Ford. But, in a way, I suppose it's inevitable, as there's no one else close to Ruby's age, and Ford, being new to the overseer job, has not yet had the opportunity to abuse any of the inmates there.

The book leaves sooo many unanswered questions:
  • Is this a Christian allegory? An atheist allegory?
  • How did the congregation come up with the idea to collect water in such a laborious way?
  • Who is The Visitor? -- for one brief, horrible moment, I thought that the mysterious man who arrives to buy their yearly tribute of water might actually be Ruby's father, Otto. When The Visitor arrives, towards the end of the book, it's obvious from a few comments that he makes, that he clearly isn't. So, who is he?
  • How is it possible that the outside world never hears of their settlement, and especially their fountain of youth? They're in a small impoverished town. The overseers are young men without a chance for college. This is one of the few paying gigs in town. So, that's why the overseers are content to stay mum, apparently. Aren't the overseers traumatized at all by the abuse they are inflicting on these people? What do they tell their friends and family they do for a living? Why haven't any of the overseers cracked under pressure and tried to sell the information to outsiders?
  • How did Darwin West come to be in charge of the group?
  • Why on Earth is the congregation content to stay in slavery, once they have a chance to leave? Why does Ruby's mother feel glee at negotiating for something as simple as a few more blankets, when she could bargain for so much more?
  • Would Ruby and Ford be able to make it in the outside world?
This was a fascinating read. I couldn't tear myself away. While it certainly makes you think, it doesn't feel like a sequel is in the works, neccesarily. This reminded me of the ending of Louis Lowry's The Giver... leaving the reader to question what will happen next. I would compare this novel to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, as well, for its existentialist feel. This would be a great book for teen book groups, as there's so much material to mine for discussion. Recommended for older teens.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orange Feltboard

Here is, just about, the easiest felt board that I've ever made. I just traced a circle on orange felt using a large bowl, and drew some dimples with a black marker. I freehanded the leaf. Simple!

Here's the song I sang with it.
It's to the tune of Three Blind Mice.

An orange is orange.
An orange is orange.
It is not red.
It is not red.
It's not pink or purple or yellow or gray!
It's si-mply not colored that way!
An orange is orange.
An orange is orange.

I used this for a food-themed storytime, but I'll probably re-use it for a color-themed storytime.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Latte Rebellion review

The Latte Rebellion
by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
January 2011

After an offhand racist remark from one of her classmates, high-school senior Asha Jamison decides to start a school club for mixed race students. She is part Indian, part Mexican and part Irish and tired of feeling pulled in multiple directions.

I was surprised when school administrators blocked her efforts to create a multi-cultural club at school. They already sponsor an Asian-American club, and several other clubs to support specific ethnic groups. I was mystified that they'd choose not to support her club.

Asha initially starts the underground Latte Rebellion on a lark, just to have yet another thing to add to her already impressive college applications. She and her friends figure they'll sell a few t-shirts, use the money for a vacation and that's about it, really. She soon finds herself spending more and more time on her personal project, however, organizing rallies, giving speeches (while in disguise), and watching in astonishment as her efforts blossom on-line into a national movement. She channels all of her stress about the highly competitive college applications she has coming up into the Latte Rebellion, forsaking her demanding homework schedule and endangering her GPA. Most tellingly, she forgets to dot the i's and cross the t's on her college applications. She fails to apply to a safety school. What I found most fascinating was that after all the hard work she's put into it, ostensibly to impress college officials, she doesn't even mention the Latte Rebellion on her applications

When her college letters come back with rejection after rejection, and she's wait-listed at one college, she's in a near-panic, having no idea how to admit her failure to her parents. In desperation, she asks a friend's advice -- he explains that she can write a letter of appeal, or possibly go to junior college, get her grades back on track and try again. So, after writing a letter to the college explaining her involvement with the now-famous Latte Rebellion, some travel, and an internship, she's able to start college a semester late and get back into the groove of things. This for me, was probably the most powerful message of the book. Not getting into your top-choice college isn't the end of the world. Life will go on. You can do other things.

Asha tries to be a rabble rouser, but in the end, she's no Frankie Landau-Banks. She pulls together some t-shirt sales, and a few rallies, but nothing as creative or daring as I thought she would. Still, I hope that all teens, whether they come from a single heritage, or contain a mixture that would confound any Census worker, will pick up and enjoy this book about a girl trying to find her place in the world. Check out the accompanying website:, where you can buy the t-shirt for real.

I borrowed this book from the library.
I read this book for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Harry Potter Inspired

Lots of Harry Potter inspired stuff on the interwebs this week.

If you haven't already, check out Hark: A Vagrant's Tiny Hermione series.

Emmy Cicierega has a series of Snape-inspired cartoons, including this one, of Harry Potter's son, Albus Severus Potter.

Finally, don't miss out on Lucy Knisley's interpretation of the Harry Potter series in comic book form.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cover Trend: From the Back

Here's a set with girls facing away. There's like eleventy-billion more, as this is such a classic pose, so I've only featured what I think is the best and most recent of them.

by P.C. and Kristin Cast 
St. Martin's Griffin 
October 2007

Fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird has managed to settle in at the House of Night. She’s come to terms with the vast powers the vampyre goddess, Nyx, has given her, and is getting a handle on being the new Leader of the Dark Daughters. Best of all, Zoey finally feels like she belongs--like she really fits in. She actually has a boyfriend…or two. Then the unthinkable happens: Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the House of Night. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey’s old life, she begins to realize that the very powers that make her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night, and Zoey must find the courage to face a betrayal that could break her heart, her soul, and jeopardize the very fabric of her world. -from Goodreads

by Lauren Kate 
Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
September 2010

Hell on earth. That's what it's like for Luce to be apart from her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel. It took them an eternity to find one another, but now he has told her he must go away. Just long enough to hunt down the Outcasts - immortals who want to kill Luce. Daniel hides Luce at Shoreline, a school on the rocky California coast with unusually gifted students -Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans.
At Shoreline, Luce learns what the Shadows are, and how she can use them as windows to her previous lives. Yet the more Luce learns, the more she suspects that Daniel hasn't told her everything. He's hiding something - something dangerous. What if Daniel's version of the past isn't actually true? What if Luce is really meant to be with someone else? -from Goodreads

So Shelly 
by Ty Roth 
Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
February 2011

Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end. -from Goodreads

by Heather Dixon 
Greenwillow Books 
March 2011

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her... beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing... it's taken away. All of it. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest. But there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late. -from Goodreads

by Jeri Smith-Ready 
Simon Pulse 
May 2011
Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to. Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift. As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart. -from Goodreads

Die for Me 
by Amy Plum 
May 2011

My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything. Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent. Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind. While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family's—in jeopardy for a chance at love? -from Goodreads

by Tara Hudson 
June 2011

Can there truly be love after death? Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive. Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world... forever. -from Goodreads

Anna Dressed in Blood 
by Kendare Blake 
Tor Teen 
August 2011

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life. -from Goodreads

Sweet Venom 
by Tera Lynn Childs 
Katherine Tegan Books 
September 2011

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.  Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, especially on a school night, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though. Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they're triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters. These three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned by myth, must reunite and embrace their fates in this unique paranormal world where monsters lurk in plain sight. -from Goodreads

Any that I missed? Let me know in the comments.


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