Thursday, June 30, 2011

ALA 2011 Wrap-up

I had a grand time at the American Library Association Annual Conference, held this year in New Orleans. I took the train down from Atlanta which was a truly wonderful way to travel. So relaxing and so much less stressful than taking a plane. I got a lot of reading done on the train! How can I possibly explain the whole conference in one post? It's not possible! This is more of a light recap, rather than a true report of everything. I know it probably sounds like a lot, but there's so much that I know I'm leaving out!

Saturday morning, I went to see Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. He was a mild-mannered yet funny speaker and talked about how he always wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist. He admitted that librarians scared him and joked that "reluctant reader" must be an educational term for "boys." Kinney said he liked keeping busy with his "day job" at poptropica, helping to create children's online video games. When asked how many Diary of a Wimpy Kid books he had planned he said that book six is coming out in the fall (obviously) and he's currently working on book seven. He said that he might want to do as many as ten books and he half-joked about running out of ideas. Kinney did say that he wanted to avoid the syndrome of adding more and more younger and cuter characters to keep things going (he cited Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch and new kids in later seasons of The Cosby Show as examples) which is why he decided to take things back to basics and have the Heffley family snowed-in for book six.

Saturday night I went to a YA Book Bloggers meet-up and was finally able to put faces to names for Parajunkee, Green Bean Teen Queen, Gone with the Words, Kate from YA Highway, Abby (the) Librarian, and The Elliot Review, among others. The highlight of the evening (for me at least) was seeing some 60 and 70 year-old couples tear up the dance floor with some smooth salsa moves. I hope I'm half as cool and in love when I get to be that age.

Sunday morning I went to the YA Coffee Klatch. It was so much bigger than I expected! It was held in a huge ballroom. How many people were there? I'm not sure, but it felt like hundreds. Just as everyone had warned me, the whole event went sooo fast. Even though we had nearly an hour, and five minutes with each author, it honestly felt like a blink of an eye and it was all over.

Just a few
highlights... I loved meeting Franny Billingsly. She talked about her new book, Chime, and how and why she had such a gap from her last book, the beautiful and lyrical Folk Keeper. What I loved about Billingsly is the way that she jumped between talking about her real life, and talking about stories she'd written... she'd be mentioning some family vignette and a moment later, she'd offhandedly refer to an elf lord. It sort of made your head spin, trying to keep up with her conversation, and what was "real" and what wasn't... she definitely seemed like someone who had one foot firmly in another world.

I have to say, I felt terrible for author Joseph Lunievicz. His debut novel sounds like it's supposed to be a sober, gritty, coming-of-age story about an Errol Flynn obsessed boy in New York in the 1930's. I guess the cover kind of fits, but it just screams, "urban fantasy" to me, and I picture many readers throwing the book down in disgust once they learn there's no wizards, time-travel or enchanted swords to be had.

Jamie Kennedy came by and gave us an spirited recap of his book The Order of Odd-Fish and his latest project The 90-second Newbery Festival.

So many authors seem like natural-born storytellers, ready to spin a yarn, but others seem very shy... they write because they value their alone time. Brian Katcher, author of Almost Perfect seemed to be in the latter category. He told us that he wanted to write about a transgendered girl because he hadn't seen anything like it. He talked about how helpful being able to research this on the Internet was.

Just like I've been told, the whole event ends so quickly, and of course, there's always an author or two that you wished you could have seen, but just missed. Just as the final bell rang, Cassandra Clare was one table over, and Cheryl Rainfield was another table over... we would have had the chance to hear either of them if there'd only been one more session. Aargh!

I also went to the Newbery/Caldecott dinner, which was wonderful. School Library Journal was kind enough to offer me a spot at their table, and I had a great view of Erin Stead, the Caldecott winner, who gave a tearful and very humble speech, as well as Clare Vanderpool, author of the dark horse Newbery winner, Moon Over Manifest. Stead talked about e-books, and how a paper book will appear worn and loved after being read many times. She quoted The Velveteen Rabbit, about how being worn out will make something "real" ...maybe you had to be there, but it was a real tearjerker moment. Tomie dePaola won the Wilder Lifetime Achievement award and he gave a great speech, telling us at length how he got his first book published, and joked that he wouldn't describe the path to publication for each of his 200+ books in such detail. It was a really delightful evening, made all the better by hobnobbing with my former colleagues in California and Texas.

This was a great conference: I'm inspired by all the new ideas that I picked up. I feel energized, invigorated and recharged!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weeding Wednesday 2

Weeding your book collection shouldn't be a big project that you devote yourself to, and then, after a few days (or weeks, depending on how long it's been put off) be able to pat yourself on the back, and walk away satisfied, knowing you won't have to tackle that yucky chore for another several months (or years, depending on how much of a hoarder you are). It's something that you should be doing bit by bit, every week, so that it doesn't pile up and get out of control.

Here's a look at what I weeded earlier this week.

Wow, that cover has seen better days, hasn't it? Pretty dogeared, and as you can see, the title has been ripped off. It's an adventure, we know that much!
Let's take a look at the back cover.

Oh my. This book has literally been loved to death. There are holes in the back of this paperback. The pages look pretty yellow, too.

What prompted this weed? A nearly-new donation of a few Goosebumps titles to take the place of this busted-up bad boy. Although, in truth, this is something that could have been deselected a while ago, just based on condition. Shabby looking shelves are never good for business.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memoirs of a Goldfish review

Memoirs of a Goldfish
by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers

Sleeping Bear Press
April 2010

I recently acquired a 10-gallon aquarium and have stocked it with some adorable cherry barbs. Now I've got fish on the brain - PH levels, nitrate cycle, potential future tankmates for my fish. This book caught my attention right away and I enjoyed the story a lot. A goldfish lives a solitary existence in a small, boring bowl. Soon, he's joined by a tankmate or two: first a diving man bubbler, then some plants, next a snail named Mervin. The goldfish's deadpan delivery comes across in lines like these:

"Day Five.
Mr. Bubbles still hasn't said a word.
He just looks at me. I said 'Hello' today.
And he said, "Ggggllllggggllll."
He's creepy."

Pretty soon they're joined by a crab, a glamorous angelfish, a sunken pirate ship and two guppies (with more on the way). The goldfish can't wait to get out of there, but when he's transferred to a new bowl, he finds he misses the whole crazy crew after all. And he's super relieved to be returned to them... this time in a huge new aquarium, with a new friend, Gracie, another goldfish. Pair this book with any version of the Jewish folktale Too Much Noise for a humorous look at how sometimes the people that drive you nutty are the people you want around the most.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pig Feltboard

I was getting ready for storytime the other week, and suddenly realized that I don't have a pig for my feltboard. I created this guy in a jiffy -- maybe if I'd had a little more time, I would have tried something different. Still, this did the trick!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Authors: It Gets Better

How cool is this? Plenty of authors and illustrators getting together to remind gay teens (or anyone who is being bullied) that "it gets better."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cover Trend: Swooning

Apparently fainting, swooning and lounging is a popular trend in YA book covers these days. Check it out!

The Dark and Hollow Places
by Carrie Ryan
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
March 2011

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters. Annah's world stopped that day and she's been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn't feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.  
Except, Catcher has his own secrets - dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah's longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah - can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction? -from the publisher


Falling Under
by Gwen Hayes
New American Library
March 2011

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before - not around town, but in her dreams.
As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear. And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul. 
-from the publisher

by Meg Cabot
April 2011

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone... because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back. But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid. Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away... especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most. But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld
-from the publisher

The Day Before
by Lisa Schroeder
Simon Pulse
June 2011

Amber's life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets. The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now - he’s living each moment like it’s his last.
-from the publisher

Haunting Violet
by Alyxandra Harvey
Walker Children's
June 2011

Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose. Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies? 
-from the publisher

Shattered Souls
by Mary Lindsey
December 2011

Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries. Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon. 
-from the publisher 

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

Friday, June 24, 2011

ALA'ing 2011

I'm going to be at the American Library Association's Annual Conference this whole weekend. I'm looking forward to hearing Dan Savage speak about the "It Gets Better" project and going to the YA Coffee Klatch where I'll get the chance to have coffee with over 25 YA authors including Cassandra Clare, Sarah Dessen, Claudia Gray, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Cheryl Rainfield and Maggie Stiefvater (I promise myself I will not oversleep and miss it like I did last year!) I'm also attending the Caldecott and Newbery banquet, and of course, I'm looking forward to hitting the Expo room, meeting publishers and seeing all the great things that are about to be published.

Just like last year, I'll be livetweeting @madiganreads which is an awesome way to meet up with folks, keep up with events and panels that I can't make it to (since I can't be everywhere at once) and record my own thoughts and impressions throughout the weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thunder Over Kandahar review

Thunder Over Kandahar
by Sharon McKay
Annick Press
October 2010

To be fair, I thought I should warn readers of this review that it's fairly spoiler-ish, more so than usual, even for me. If you want to know, in short, what I thought of the book I can only say that it's an action-packed young-adult melodrama exploring the oppression and hatred of women in modern-day Afghanistan. I happened to read this novel back-to-back with Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, and much preferred the latter. Okay! On to the full review!

Yasmine is very unhappy about her parent's decision to return to Afghanistan. Having been raised in England her whole life, teenaged Yasmine finds the idea of leaving Britain daunting. Her parents still have so much love in their hearts for the beautiful mountains of Afghanistan, though, and they feel that it's up to people like them: educated, liberal, native Afghans, to reclaim their country and help rebuild it.

On the whole, this is a fairly unsympathetic look at the culture of Afghanistan. Yasmine's complete ignorance of local customs provides the perfect excuse to give readers plenty of exposition. Living in a city, the family suffers the claustrophobic effects of coping with Taliban edicts, enforced by brute squads of local bullies. Yasmine is initially dismayed that she must cover her hair at all times. Soon though, she misses her old veil, when the new restrictive burka, allowing only a narrow strip for her eyes to peep through, is demanded. Before she knows it, her pretty blue burka with silver thread is also considered "too immodest" and she is forced to trade with an old beggar woman for a plain yet filthy burka.

When her mother is beaten within an inch of her life for singing in the street (women are supposed to be silent) and no doctor will see her, the family decides to retreat to the Afghani countryside. It's extremely lonely there for Yasmine, and her father hires a local village girl, Tamanna, to be her companion. Tamanna leads a difficult life, with a brute of a father. Yasmine teaches her to read. The girls are excited that a new school is being built, and here the fast-pace and melodramatic events truly start to pick up. No sooner do they meet with some friendly American soldiers who are setting up the school, but they are intercepted by a Taliban raid... led by no other than Tamanna's long-lost brother. Dramalicious enough for you? It gets better.

Tamanna wants to escape her arranged marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather and in all the confusion and fighting, the girls try to make an escape. Friendly French forces are delighted to meet a "local" who speaks perfect English and carries a British passport. They put the girls in a cab, and the sexist cabdriver decides not to take them to their location. Instead, the girls are faced with an incredible journey through the mountains, on foot. They are once again reunited with Tamanna's brother, who confesses that he was made to serve as a "dancing boy" - sort of a male prostitute - by the Taliban but he's working his way back to respectability with the military missions they're giving him now, including a possible suicide mission. All of this backstory with the brother was a bit of a throw-away, and honestly deserved some more thought or attention.

Yasmine hits her head and has amnesia. She is taken in by a nice family and changes her name. In the meantime, Tamanna uses Yasmine's passport to escape to England to be reunited with her "parents." Obviously, there is a lot here that stretches credulity with the twists and turns of this soap-opera plotline. I found it interesting that Yasmine, the only person seriously arguing that it would be a good idea to leave Afghanistan, is the only one who ends up staying.

While the break-neck pace this book may draw in reluctant readers, on the whole, the flat characterization and lack of warmth or good sense from many of the adults in the novel make this a tough read to get through. For a more sensitively drawn portrait of a girl struggling with an arranged marriage in Pakistan I'd recommend Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, as well as the sequel, Haveli. For another recent take on modern-day Afghanistan, I'd recommend Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weeding Wednesday

It's no secret that I'm a pretty big proponent of weeding books in the public library... and in our own private lives as well! My own hoarder-ish tendencies cost me most of my book collection when the books I had in storage succumbed to a flood. (I promise you, my greed for ARCs has abated in the meantime.) Since then, I've made a (mostly successful) rule that everything has to fit on ONE bookcase. If I want more books, then I've got to figure out which ones I'm going to have to get rid of.

Weeding is
a sad, but necessary, fact of life for most librarians. Your collection won't be as enticing as it could be when it's cluttered and weighed down with stuff that no one wants anymore. When books haven't circulated in years, and maybe even decades, it's time to let them go, and make room for other exciting books on the shelf. I love it when you thin out a collection, and then sit back and listen to the exclamations of patrons who are certain that you must have bought a lot of new books (when in fact, your collection only looks newer, because of the dead weight that you've shed.)

With that in mind, I decided to take a critical look at our juvenile fiction, and found a few candidates for weeding. Most of these I'd weed on condition alone: yellowed, falling out pages, broken spines, scribble marks, scuff marks or worse on the cover. Not to mention dated topics and outmoded, unappealing covers. Most of these books have been in the library since 1989 or earlier, and have NEVER been checked out, not even once.

Here's my selection for this week.

Let's zoom in on this one: Trapped Beyond the Magic Attic by Sheri Cooper Sinykin. Wow. What's up with those girls? They look very poised... as if they'd like to get in a fight over that one-armed purple dress, but they're far too polite. This is actually one of the "newest" books in the lot, released in paperback in 1998, but its' ratty condition and abysmal circulation rate mean that I feel comfortable weeding this one.

How's your weeding going this week?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not a moment too soon...

Ah, arrived in the nick of time. I'm going to ALA Annual in New Orleans at the end of this week. Can't wait! Hurrah for last minute plans coming together! I'm really looking forward to taking the train down. I'm anticipating a wonderful stretch of uninterrupted reading during the trip and unabashed geeking out with my fellow librarians for the duration of the conference.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji review

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji
by Farhana Zia, illustrated by Ken Min
Lee & Low Books

When Aneel hears that his grandfather, Dada-ji, used to wrestle buffalo, tie cobras together and practically juggle elephants with the help of the roti bread that gave Dada-ji the strength of a tiger, he decides to cook up a huge batch himself. Thinner than naan, thicker than crispy papadum or chapati, roti is an unleavened flatbread made with just the barest hint of butter and salt, in many ways pretty similar to a tortilla. I must admit, I haven't thought much about this staple of my diet... I'll usually have roti in a wrap, and I'm thinking more about the filling, be it aloo gobi or some other curry. At first, Aneel's roti turn out uneven and a bit lumpy, one even looks kind of like a map of America, but with some practice, they turn out round and perfect.

Acrylic and colored pencil illustrations with razor sharp edges almost look like collage. There's some great variety in the layout of the brightly colored full-bleed pages... some of them are comic book style and there are a few two-page spreads. Min does a fantastic job of getting grandfather's rascally personality across in his facial expressions, both as a young man in India, and as a grandfather in present day.

I liked the symmetry as the grandfather's exploits: making the earth shake (a boy pulling a plow in a field is pictured), shaking the giant mango tree, and touching the sky with his feet (he climbs a palm tree, much to the consternation of the village) are echoed by his American grandson who stomps in the yard, shakes apples from a tree, and touches his feet to the sky on his swingset.

Make no mistake, this is a lengthy picture book, meant for older children. Still, the repeating refrain of the villagers, "Arre wah! Wah! Wah!" at Dada-ji's feats of skill makes for a fun read-aloud refrain.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In My Mailbox 7

What a random assortment of books I've acquired this week.

The Unwanteds
by Lisa McMann
August 2011

Here's the book I'm most excited about. It sounds like a dystopian, magical adventure story. I've heard it described as "The Giver meets Harry Potter"

Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace
by Eric Wight
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
July 2011

I haven't read many of these. (They are never on the shelf!) but I like the looks of this one already. There's a dog in a wizard outfit, that's got to be pretty good right?

Atlanta's Stone Mountain: A Multicultural History
by Lora Pond Mirza and Paul Stephen Hudson
The History Press
June 2011

Okay, not my normal fare, but I'm excited about this book, because my mother-in-law co-wrote it! I went to her book launch this week, and they gave an incredible talk about the history of the mountain, including some scathing commentary on the KKK.

God, No!
by Penn Jillette
Simon & Schuster
August 2011

I don't read
very many adult books, but I'm reading this one now. Jillette is surprisingly tender and hilariously crass by turns, as he shares his atheist values in this interesting memoir.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Read Your Bookcase

I found this on It's a bookcase you can read! I like the way the letters create lots of interesting little nooks. This would work well for folks who have lots of different sized books in their collections, from large art books from to tiny gift books. Plenty of room for decorative tchotchkes as well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 7

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

This week's question is:

"How many books are currently in your To-Be-Read (TBR) pile?"

Well, I could answer that question in a couple of different ways. I find my TBR list on Goodreads to be hands-down, THE best way of organizing what books I want to read next. I thinned down my list last January and only had 50 books on it. Then, I promptly started adding books right back! Now I've got 313 books listed on it.

Currently, I have about 16 books by my bedside. I guess I'm always ready for insomnia to strike, so I can power through all of them, but that hasn't happened yet. I have another 25 or so books in my theatre, and the rest of the books listed on my TBR either haven't been published yet, or are books that I'm confident I can quickly obtain at the library where I work. I'm trying to read all my library books this week, so that I can load up my nook with all the e-books I have on deck for my trip to ALA Annual in New Orleans next week.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pegasus review

by Robin McKinley
Putnam Juvenile
November 2010

This book feels like it's written for a YA audience, but the very subject matter: a princess! And her loyal pegasus! are certain to have appeal to a younger crowd as well. I was entranced by the cover, with that majestic pegasus swooping down and the promise of a high fantasy magical medieval type of setting. This book certainly did not disappoint on that score. 12-year old Princess Sylvi is set to be pledged to her pegasus, Ebon, in a traditional ceremony that keeps the peace between the two nations. Everyone is amazed when she somehow manages to break the communication barrier by speaking telepathically to her counterpart, a feat that has never-before been achieved.

The "grass is always greener" aspect of the story played very well. The humans, of course, are jealous of the pegasi ability to fly, their regal equine beauty and superior skill in the magic arts. Pegasi are envious of humans' hardiness, their ability to effectively wage wars and of course, their strong hands capable of grasping and tool-making.

For generations, the two species have had a strong alliance. The humans live in the rich valley lands, protecting the borders from dragon-like beings and other hostile creatures. The pegasi, who have the earlier claim to the land, keep to themselves on the plateaus and occasionally gift the humans with finely wrought pegasi goods. To keep their diplomatic relations strong, they pledge to be bound to each other in a ceremony where they refer to each other as "most excellent friend."

Despite centuries of trying, there still isn't a perfect communication system between the two species. They can manage a bit of sign language to get across crude ideas. When an important occassion really calls for it, they can laboriously attempt to speak a few words in the difficult to reproduce sound of the other's language, but that's about it, really. There is something mildly ominous in the human/pegasi inability to communicate. A few of the characters briefly puzzle over it... after years of study, each species still finds itself forgetting hard-won vocabulary as soon as it's committed to memory.

The one thing that really bothered me about the book is that the pegasi DO have hands... weak, tiny spindly fingers on the pinions of their wings. The idea of a gorgeous race of pegasi with creepy little claw hands on their wings grossed me out. I wished so much that they didn't have hands at all! Any work they needed to do that couldn't be done with hooves, wings or mouth, could have been accomplished with a mild telekinesis that leaves the pegasi weary and unable to do much.

Because she's young and doesn't know any better, Sylvi breaks a lot of taboos, for example, touching her pegasus, when such contact is forbidden. Eventually, of course, she even sneaks out to ride her pegasus at night. The story takes place over many years, with Sylvi and Ebon growing ever more devoted to each other. Obviously, a romance between them is impossible, as their species are so different, and yet, there's an odd frisson between the two, with Ebon's family growing concerned when Sylvi visits the pegasi homelands (a first for humans!) and they see firsthand how inseparable the two truly are. I liked Sylvi's warrior mom - a bit unsuited for royal life, her's was a political alliance, but the relationship between the queen and her daughter was quite nice.

If this review doesn't cover much of the plot, that's because there isn't one. This is more of an atmospheric book that leans heavily on the hook, "OMG, best friends with an awesome pegasus!" Still, it was an enjoyable read for all the hints that it lays down: Why haven't the species been able to communicate until now? What's going on with the human magicians? Why have other monsters started encroaching on human lands again? What's going on outside of the wonderful little protected dell of Sylvi's kingdom?

The book ends rather abruptly with Sylvi distraught at being separated from her beloved pegasus. Her father has commanded her to give up this pegasus nonsense and get to the serious business of helping to run the kingdom. Meanwhile, Sylvi pines for Ebon like an addict removed from their drug of choice. Will there be more books set in this world? The door is certainly open - as a stand-alone the ending leaves a bit to be desired. I'll recommend this book to fantasy lovers, and to girls who love horse stories.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wee Willie Winkie

Long before Go the F**k to Sleep jumped to the top of sales charts there was a nursery rhyme about the same problem faced by many exhausted parents.

I'm performing Wee Willie Winkie for a storytime today, and what I didn't realize is that there are many more verses to the original!

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Upstairs and downstairs in his night-gown,
Rapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it's past eight o'clock?

Hey, Willie Winkie, are you coming in?
The cat is singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,
The dog's spread out on the floor, and doesn't give a cheep,
But here's a wakeful little boy who will not fall asleep!

Anything but sleep, you rogue! glowering like the moon,
'Rattling in an iron jug with an iron spoon,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crowing like a cock,
Shrieking like I don't know what, waking sleeping folk.

Hey, Willie Winkie, the child's in a creel!
Wriggling from everyone's knee like an eel,
Tugging at the cat's ear, and confusing all her thrums
Hey, Willie Winkie, see, there he comes!"

Weary is the mother who has a dusty child,
A small short little child, who can't run on his own,
Who always has a battle with sleep before he'll close an eye
But a kiss from his rosy lips gives strength anew to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Explaining e-books to Dickens

This is hilarious, and I can't imagine having the patience to individually create all of these tiny little masterpieces. Art student Rachel Walsh made this awesome project, which attempts to explain what an e-book is to the Victorian age Charles Dickens. Check out the Illusion Now magazine article on her for more photos, including some fantastic comparisons of the tiny novels next to their full-size counterparts.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Goddess Test review

The Goddess Test 
by Aimee Carter 
Harlequin Teen 
April 2011

High school senior Kate Winters is devastated by her mother's impending death from cancer. To grant her mother's final wish of being able to die at home, they relocate from New York to the tiny hamlet where her mother grew up. Once there, Kate discovers that many of the students at her school are actually Greek gods. After Kate's classmate Ava plays a mean hazing prank on her, and loses her life in an accident, Kate begs Henry, otherwise known as Hades, God of the Underworld, to bring her back to life. In exchange, Kate agrees to live with him for half of the year.

This was a book that I wanted to love, that I tried to love, but that didn't quite win me over. I love the Persephone myth and I had assumed that being the love interest of Hades would put Kate in the Persephone role. I expected her to embody some of the things from the original myth, particularly the idea of eating/not being able to eat. I thought it would be great if Kate gained some skill in working with the dead and/or comforting the grieving, especially considering her own history of having dealt with her mother's cancer. And, part of the Persephone story is the idea that she has to finally learn some independence from her mother. Persephone, in addition to being the Queen of the Underworld, is also the goddess of spring, so I hoped that Kate might gain some kind of superpower over plants. Nothing I had speculated could have prepared me for the actual book, however.

To start with, Ava seemed like a terrible friend. I could understand why it was noble for Kate to make a sacrifice to bring her back to life -- she's bringing Ava back to life, even though she totally doesn't deserve it. But, then, Kate continues to stick by Ava's side, who is as unrepentantly bitchy and difficult to like as ever.

Kate must pass a series of tests to prove herself worthy. If she makes it through, then she'll be granted eternal life as Henry's bride. If she doesn't, it's implied that she'll die. I kept waiting for the tests to start... and more than half-way through the book, we learn that several of the tests have already been applied, and Kate doesn't even know what they are. What a let-down! Much later, it's finally revealed that the tests are based on the Seven Deadly Sins. Again, I was really baffled as to why the Greek gods would want to use a Biblical test on Kate.

Henry seemed dark and brooding, which seemed appropriate for someone who works in the underworld. I love a male hero who is shy and sensitive, and was excited for him to slowly win over Kate with his gentle charm. That never happened though! There is such a thing as wanting to be a gentleman to a fault, experiencing some misunderstandings and miscommunications between romantic leads, and even being terribly inexperienced and lacking confidence. Henry seemed to take things beyond that level though and really came across as a cold fish. Of course, it's understandable that he's terribly hung up on Persephone, which obviously didn't work out well for him. But he doesn't seem to like Kate, at all. After months of living in his mansion, Kate screws up the courage for a kiss, which is really more like a dry peck, and he doesn't even kiss her back. He doesn't even seem tempted! Later, much later, under the influence of a aphrodisiac potion they sleep together, but even that does not seem terribly passionate.

More than anything I wanted this book to be much more literal in its' interpretation of Greek myths. I was so ticked when I read the endnotes and saw that Calliope, one of the servants in Henry's house assigned to work with Kate is supposed to embody Hera. That makes no sense! Shouldn't Calliope be... well, Calliope, the muse of poetry? Ella, another servant who runs Kate's wardrobe in the mansion delights in stuffing Kate into uncomfortable corsets, which struck me as quite odd as well. Wouldn't Greek gods have a preference for hymations and other loose, flowing Greek clothing?

After three years of cancer treatments, Kate is still shell-shocked at the thought of losing her mom. Later, when it turns out her mother was a goddess all along, I wondered why the whole "I have cancer" game was necessary. If I was in Kate's shoes I would be so, so angry at having been put through three years of hell, by a mother who knew darn well that she was not, in fact, dying of cancer, since she was an immortal being.

For readers looking for a darker, more lyrical take on the Persephone story, I would recommend Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls. Readers looking for a decent paranormal romance will find many of the same themes, especially the girl who must undergo tests to achieve immortality, in Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series. Younger readers looking for a clean take on the Greek gods with a look at the Seven Deadly Sins will flock to Carolyn Hennessy's Pandora series.

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

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I got some terrific titles from NetGalley this week.

Wisdom's Kiss
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 2011

I love a good fairy-tale retelling. This one looks like fun.

Inquisitor's Apprentice 
by Chris Moriarty, illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer
Harcourt Children's Books
October 2011

Magic crimefighters! This book puts me in mind of Dianna Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series, or even Michael Reisman's Simon Bloom books.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
by Jonathan Auxier
Amulet Books
August 2011

A blind boy thief in an Dickensian environment. I've heard rumors of a cover change. I like this cover best.

by Jon Skovron
August 2011

Teen girl struggles with her half-demon heritage. Hello? Why not just title this one, "Madigan, please buy this." because this sounds totally up my alley.

by Wendy Delsol
October 2011

I loved the first book in this new series, Stork. I was surprised that it didn't get more attention! I can't believe I get to read the sequel months before everyone else. I am such a lucky duck.

Last Dragon
by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Dark Horse
October 2011

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but the cover on this is gorgeous, and I like Jane Yolen, and Dark Horse Comics has a really good reputation. I hope it's good!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Transportation feltboard

I made this one in kind of a hurry. I love the way the train turned out. I wish I had made it a little bigger though. Recognize the car? It's from a whole car feltboard set I did a while back. I got a little lazy on the plane. If I'd had more time, I would have used grey felt on a black backing and cut out the windows. Instead, I simply cut out the plane in grey, and glued the black windows on top. Still, it worked rather nicely, and the kids enjoyed it.

I sang this song with it, from one of my favorite websites:

Sung to: She'll Be Coming Around The Mountain
Oh we're goin' on vacation on a plane (zoom zoom)
Oh we're goin' on vacation on a plane (zoom zoom)
Oh we're goin' on vacation
Oh we're goin' on vacation
Oh we're goin' on vacation on a plane (zoom zoom)

Oh we're goin' on vacation on a train (choo choo)


Oh we're goin' on vacation in our car (honk honk)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lemonade review

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word
by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
Roaring Brook Press
March 2011

What a fantastic and intriguing book! Raczka has accomplished something completely new to me, in these poems made up of letters from a single word. This may be as revolutionary and ground-breaking as Marilyn Singer's reverso poems, introduced in last year's poetry hit, Mirror, Mirror.

Raczka credits Andrew Russ for his introduction to this poetry form and explains how each letter appears beneath the letter of the original word. The overall effect is that of looking at a stuttering typewriter, or letters falling down like rain, forming words. There's a look to these poems almost like concrete poetry, with the careful typography proving that no additional letters have snuck in. It also means that each poem is a bit of a challenge - words and sentences aren't necessarily spaced in a traditional way. I think kids will love puzzling out what each poem says. Each poem is presented in its' original format, with a 2-color (red and black) line drawing on one page, followed by a page in red with white type, deciphering the poem in a more traditional way.

Here is one of my favorite poems in the book:





Simple, spare, effective and so true! I think this book would work well in classrooms, and I'd love to see the kind of one-word poems that this book will inspire. I highly recommend this amazing work.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Press Here review

Press Here
by Herve Tullet
Chronicle Books
March 2011

What a delight! This book is purely wonderful. It has such a playful sense of fun. The book begins by directly addressing the reader "Ready? Press here and turn the page." Readers are instructed to press a yellow dot, sitting lone in the middle of the page. One dot soon turns to three. Three yellow dots soon turn different colors, and soon, after being invited to rub, shake, tap and tilt the book, viewers are given a visual treat as circles appear to magically move about.

When I read this aloud, my listeners loved that they felt "in control" of the book. You tilt the book... and on the next page, all the circles are on the other side of the page! Blow on the book, and on the next page circles are scattered about, clap and the circles grow bigger. What I loved about this book was the constant sense of positive reinforcement. Readers are constantly being told, "Great!" "Perfect!" "Well done!" and "Excellent!"

In an age of digital books and games, this book hits exactly the right note of engaging the reader and creating a non-narrative story that is really enjoyable. I thought this book might be perfect for one-on-one reading, or even for a young reader to read themselves, but I'm told that several librarians and teachers have read this with groups with great success. Perfect for ages 2 to 5, or for anyone with a youthful heart.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stephen Fry video

I love the message in this video (people, let's not get too hung up on grammar) AND I love the concrete way the words slam together. Check it out, you'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Falling in Love with English Boys review

Falling in Love with English Boys 
by Melissa Jensen 
October 2010

I had hear
d so many wonderful things about this book - a contemporary teen romance, fun and light-hearted, I really expected to be swept away. Unfortunately, I think my expectations may have been too high, as the only things that stood out to me about this book were the glaring holes in the plot.

16 year-old C
atherine Vernon is devastated to find out that she's being dragged off to London for the whole summer by her professor mom who is doing research at the British Museum. She gives her daughter a copy of the diary she's researching, written by Katherine Percival, a Napoleon-era socialite.

I found
the style of the book quite jarring. In alternating chapters, 21st century Catherine and 19th century Katherine each relate her boy problems, the parties each of them plans to go to and the friends that she makes. I found myself racing through the book, desperate to get back to the other girl's story... and then, just as I'd slowed down, and decided to enjoy the narrative from a certain character's point of view, we'd be switching back again.

I suppose that
the main point of the book is how Catherine, and her 19th century counterpart Katherine Percival are not so different after all; they are both fairly shallow, obsessed with cute boys, fashion and the social scene. Somehow though, Katherine Percival's bubble-headedness comes across as charming. Partly, it's because she uses flowery formal language of course, but a big part of it as well, is that we excuse her for not being well-educated or able to keep up in a serious conversation of politics or philosophy, because we know that women in that era had less opportunities. In Catherine Vernon's case, she has no excuse for being such a boy-crazy bimbo.

One thing
that bothered me about the book was Catherine's fluent use of British slang. I found myself flipping back and re-reading the first part of the book, certain that I'd missed something. I thought that maybe she lived in England for part of the year (which would explain why she finds it so boring and tedious -- if it's familiar to her, naturally she wouldn't be as giddy as a game show contestant about the trip, as I imagine lots of girls would be.) No, no, she's not British and this is her first trip to England. Which means that her extensive use of British terms for everything come across as pretentious and a little pathetic. I was really surprised that none of the characters called out her on it. The English are notorious for "taking the piss out of someone" as they say, and while they do tease her for being a "Yank" here and there, nobody ribs her about her faux-British accent which I found pretty unbelievable.

In fact, one of the reasons
why Catherine is so loathe to go to London for the summer is because she's leaving her circle of close-knit friends behind. She does manage to instantaneously bond with a new group of wealthy warm-hearted English girls, however, who swoop in to comfort her when it turns out the dreamboat she's crushing on, William, has a "it's complicated" relationship with an ex-girlfriend, impeding their romantic progress. The girls coo over Catherine, while their butler plies them with whatever junk food their hearts desire. We all should be so lucky when a crush doesn't work out!

Catherine and William soon surpass any previous obstacles however, and enjoy a few awesome make-out sessions before Catherine heads back to the States. Finally hooking up with the guy by the end of the book seeme
d like a hollow victory to me. I'm not advocating a "twoo wub forever" ending, which does seem unlikely in what is supposed to be realistic fiction about a young couple. But for all Catherine's emotional drama over this guy, she seems to leave him behind pretty blithely once her European trip is over. Oh, sure, she has some vague plan about maybe going to college in England or Scotland and seeing him again, but reading this with older, wiser eyes, I felt like this character was going to look back at this period in her life as "the one that got away" - wrong place, wrong time, but a happy memory to look back on, even if her own behavior was fairly cringeworthy at the time. Who will I recommend this book to? I'm not sure. There are a lot of realistic fiction romances that will have this one beat in spades. Any Sarah Dessen title would blow this one out of the water. Maybe I'll put this in the hands of serious Anglophiles who would enjoy the British slang, and would certainly keen in disapprobation over the main character's complete lack of appreciation for her good fortune.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, June 6, 2011

48-Hour Book Challenge Finish Line 2011

This year I only managed a paltry 10 hours or so for the 48-Hour Book Challenge. Nowhere near as impressive as the 30+ hours I managed to log last year. I got off to a nice strong start... but then, it turns out, hammocks are truly ideal for napping, and I slept for a good bit on Saturday. Summer Reading Club at the library started this past week, so I must have needed to recharge after a week of hard work making sure our kick-off events all went smoothly.

What a crazy weekend! One thing after another kept coming up. An aquarium emergency that needed my attention... a family wedding on Sunday... some friends from out of town, and this was my only chance to see them for a while.

I did get some reading done, however, and managed to polish off the following books.

The Demon Trapper's Daughter - Jana Oliver
Hurricane Dancers - Margarita Engle
Skinned - Robin Wasserman
Thunder Over Kandahar - Sharon E. McKay

Ah well. There are those times that "real life" just takes over, and this was one of them. I'm sure I'll get more done next year!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Hurrah, our YA order is finally here. Some great new books at our library this week, many of them long overdue, in my opinion. I can't wait to dig into Recovery Road, which I should have included in my Cover Trend: Hearts post. And the cover for Blessed is so pretty... I haven't read this series, but I may have to go back and read the others in order to catch up on it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Don't bother me...

...I'm reading. Why am I so excited to do so much reading this weekend? It's Mother Reader's 6th Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. And, I have a brand-new hammock! It's a beautiful day outside, and I'm going to enjoy it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sixth Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge

Hurrah, it's that time of year again! It's Mother Reader's Sixth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, set this year for the weekend of June 3-5. That means for some people, they'll be starting today. As for me, I'm getting started on Saturday.

In years past, I've taken the 48-Hour Book Challenge as an opportunity to catch up on creating blog posts. Friends, I cannot even begin to describe to you the deliciousness of having a full month's worth of blog posts all ready to go. This year, my pile of books to be reviewed is as tall and scary as ever... and yet, I think I may be decadent and devote most of my marathon this year to simply reading, since my TBR pile shows no sign of abating, either. 
Can't wait!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Enclave review

by Ann Aguirre 
Feiwel and Friends 
April 2011

I loved this dystopian novel. It was an absorbing read... I can't say that I read it quickly, but rather, it pulled me in to the universe so completely, that I found myself devoting a nice solid five hours or so to solidly reading through this imaginative journey into a dark future.

Much like the heroine Katniss from The Hunger Games, Deuce, the star of this book, fancies herself a tough, unemotional sort, who lives for the hunt. Her underground home, about the size of a tiny village, is situated in an abandoned New York city subway station. To eke out their meager existence, the community lives by rigid roles which define one's status in the social stratum. Physically capable Hunters, obviously, provide food for the community. Beautiful and smart, Breeders are tasked with birthing and raising the next generation. Intelligent yet ugly Builders are in charge of what little remains of their technology. Children are raised in creches, and are referred to by a number until they "earn" their name in a coming-of-age ceremony where they receive scars showing their place in the community. Their fierce protectiveness of each other is only reinforced by the constant dangers... they are told above ground is a nuclear wasteland, and they are hemmed in by what they call "Freaks" sharp-toothed, zombie-like creatures who will feed on any humans they can catch.

The day that Deuce is officially raised to Huntress is the happiest day of her life, until she is paired with Fade, an outsider taken in by their clan who is still mistrusted by many. In a way, Deuce's loyalty and optimism are what undoes her, as she is very, very shocked when certain misdeeds of the elders come to light. When she thought her enclave was trading fairly with other groups, in fact, they have been taking things by force. Innocent citizens have been framed for hoarding, a crime punishable by banishment and certain death. Unable to stay, she and Fade set out for aboveground to try their luck.

The novel becomes a story of travel, adventure and survival as she and Fade make their way across a ruined cityscape with Freaks, also known as Eaters or Muties in hot pursuit. They have their hands full fighting off rival gangs of humans, who are just as vicious but more cunning than the Freaks. As Hunters, they are forbidden from forming romantic attachments, but now that their lives in the enclave are behind them, they do start to develop feelings for each other, and a large part of the story is Deuce's struggle to overcome her aversion to romance. Interestingly, Breeders are a somewhat privileged position - they lead relatively soft lives compared to others in the enclave, and not everybody is allowed to have children. The enclave has a somewhat rudimentary understanding of genetics, and know that they want to have the healthiest children possible. But at the same time, Breeders are looked down upon, especially by the Hunters who consider themselves elite.

As a lifelong vegetarian, I found the importance of hunting meat pretty overstated in this book. It seems that everyone in the enclave survives on a diet consisting solely of meat from small animals and the occasional mushroom for flavor. Wouldn't such a diet make one incredibly ill? Well, duh, with lifespans maxed out at 45 or so, and many people passing away in their late 20's, poor nutrition could definitely be to blame.

The Freaks reminded me of the zombies from The Forest of Hands and Teeth, although no one seemed to exhibit an understanding that they were mutated plague victims -- former humans. The underground enclave, and the characters' dependence on ancient canned food reminded me a lot of The City of Ember. Despite the nondescript steel door cover, I think dystopian fans will flock to this book. Honestly, I had planned on skipping this book until I saw the incredible book trailer for it. I'm glad I gave this book a chance, and I'm now looking forward to the sequel.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Barbie: A Fairy Secret review

Barbie: A Fairy Secret
adapted by Christy Webster, screenplay by Elise Allen
illustrated by Ulkutay Design Group
Random House
January 2011

I don't normally review a book like this, but I feel that I must as the story is absolutely CRAY-ZEE. Friends, I had no idea how truly whacked out the world of Barbie is. Reading this book felt like being a spectator in a nonsense dream, where one strange yet amazing event followed another, seemingly with very little or no narrative follow-through.

The story opens with Barbie, a famous movie star on the red carpet. Ken is by her side, of course, looking quite babyfaced with a "Beiberized" haircut. Barbie's bitchy costar Raquelle "accidentally-on-purpose" rips her gown. Days later, Barbie and Raquelle get in a catfight, but are rudely interrupted, when Ken is suddenly kidnapped by winged fairies! Soon, Barbie is off to the fairy city to rescue Ken from love-spell ensorcelled fairy princess Graciella, who wants Ken to marry her.

Graciella's ex-boyfriend Zane doesn't like this at all. He's a real alpha-male, muscles bulging, with a curly pompadour, costumed in a purple tracksuit, lace-up boots, ugly psychedelic wings, and a random "mean-girl" female fan hanging off his arm. Zane challenges Ken to a magic duel, which of course, completely overwhelms poor Ken. Ken appears meek and feminine, but I've always thought of Ken as being pretty milquetoast so this didn't surprise me.

In the meantime, Barbie is busy riding flying ponies! Yeah! Sparkling rainbow pegasi provide the final leg of her journey to the fairy city. As soon as she arrives, Graciella traps her in a magic bubble, and heartbroken Barbie looks on as a humiliated Ken is forced to bend on one knee and ask Graciella to marry him. Trapped in floating bubbles with random household junk like a lamp, a teddy bear, sunglasses and a set of dentures, Barbie and Raquelle finally make amends. The love force of their friendship bursts their prison and turns them into real fairies! Ringed by acid trails, they save Ken and release Graciella from the love-spell. Now that Graciella is ready to marry Zane, she sends Barbie and Ken home.

Despite a few obvious plotholes (whatever becomes of Barbie's friends Carrie and Taylor, from the beginning of the book? Who put that love-spell on Graciella in the first place?) this short little book offers an action-packed thrill ride (Hollywood glamour! Catfights! Kidnapping! Fairies! Magic battles! Flying ponies! Imprisonment! Betrayals! Unlikely alliances! Girl power! Defeating evil!) that would put any soap opera to shame. Short sentences, simple vocabulary and super girly-girl themes with an abundance of exclamation marks makes this a breathless tour-de-force. Highly recommended.

I borrowed this book from the library.


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