Sunday, July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox 11

I hit the Borders liquidation and picked up a few things. It's sad to see them closing. I'll miss their cafe. I loved their coffee drinks, because of the awesome chocolate sticks and fancy whipped cream toppings they always featured. Lately, I feel that I've been on a bit of a middle-grade fiction kick, so I picked up a few that I've been meaning to read, as well as extra copies of books I've really enjoyed to give as gifts.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hugo trailer

I love this trailer for Hugo, based on the award-winning children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I know there's a huge backlash against movies in 3-D, but I think that may suit this story perfectly, especially to get the feel of swooping through old Paris, the way the book does.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mother Goose Picture Puzzles review

Mother Goose Picture Puzzles
by Will Hillenbrand
Marshall Cavendish Children's
March 2011

In a series of rebus picture rhymes, Hillenbrand shares several classic Mother Goose favorites such as Jack and Jill, Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, Wee Willie Winkie and more. These are short versions of the most popular rhymes in the Mother Goose oeuvre, perfect for one's first introduction to Mother Goose. Large, colorful illustrations make this a pleasant read-aloud for groups, and everything is labeled, Richard Scarry style. The slightly hearty 40 pages makes this a little longer than the typical picture book, but still not too much to read in one sitting. Hillenbrand cleverly interlinks the rhymes by showing tiny figures in the background, who then feature in the next rhyme. For instance, Hey Diddle, Diddle shows a well with a boy and girl running up a hill. Sure enough, the next page features Jack and Jill, tumbling down into a pumpkin patch, and the page after that features Peter, Pumpkin Eater, while the cow that jumped over the moon continues to hang out for several pages. This gives readers the pleasant sensation that they are strolling through Mother Goose Land, observing its inhabitants as they travel along.

Will Hillenbrand, pointing to the cat with the fiddle.
I was fortunate enough to meet Will Hillenbrand at the recent American Library Association convention, and he showed us his process for creating the art. Everything starts from a hand-drawn sketch, which is then scanned into a computer, colorized and tweaked. He showed us mock-ups, with just the background, and then showed us how foreground characters, fonts and rebus-drawings are dropped in.

Artwork layers being added in.

Fascinating stuff! This is a must-have for any library with a Mother Goose collection.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paranormalcy review

by Kiersten White
Harper Teen
August 2010

Kiersten White recently said in a series of interrelated Twitter posts:
"My writing is... not full of quiet grace. It's more like a sparkly pink baseball bat. To the face. But in a friendly way. Mostly. For example, @haleshannon's writing says, 'Oh, hello dear friend. Come with me on a beautiful, thoughtful journey. Drink me in. Savor.' My writing says, OH HI HI HI! LET'S HAVE FUN RIGHT NOW! SHUT UP I DON'T CARE IF YOU'RE TIRED! YOU'RE MY FRIEND WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!"

Honestly, I thought the peppy enthusiasm of the book really carried things and made this a super fun read. It's not nearly as exhausting as White fears. Much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 16 year-old Evie is a petite girly, blonde who happens to be great at taking out supernatural creatures such as werewolves and vampires with her pink sparkly gun, "Tasey" while delivering quick-witted, snappy dialogue. Working for The International Paranormal Containment Agency keeps her pretty busy, and she longs to do normal things, like hang-out at the mall, go shopping, go to school. As the story picks up, you start to see how lonely Evie really is and the pressures put on her by her supervisors who are always ready to "bag and tag" the next creature. I wondered how Evie would manage to have a best friend who was a mermaid - it turns out Alisha's lagoon had become so polluted that Alisha, or Lish for short, jumps at the chance to work for IPCA, in a self-contained water bubble command center. Mermaids have eidetic memories and don't need to sleep, making her the perfect employee to run their switchboard. Neat! She speaks with a voice translator that bleeps out any swear words.

In the meantime, possessive and scarily dangerous Reth, a faery, is always popping in and out, threatening to kidnap Evie. Things get really interesting when Evie meets a new type of paranormal - a shapeshifter who calls himself Lend. Against the orders of her superiors, Evie runs off with Lend to discover that IPCA and her own abilities to see past supernatural glamors isn't what she's always been told. 

I liked the whole tone and feel of the book - alternating silliness with incredible danger, a great sense of suspense in all of the fight scenes, the slow and gradual dropping of hints, the prophecy and Evie's visions of the disturbing fiery Vivian were really well handled. The sequel, Supernaturally, was just released. I'll recommend these books for any YA readers who like paranormal, but are getting tired of all the dystopians out there.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harry Potter anime

This is an amazing intrepretation of what Harry Potter would look like if it were anime. I think I can tell who nearly everyone is. I wish I knew who the artist was! Does anyone know? Check out this site for the full banner, in all its embiggened glory.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blackout review

by John Rocco
Hyperion Children's Press
May 2011

An urban, multi-cultural family spends a hot summer night glued to the tv set, computer... until the power goes out. The book is in somewhat of a comic book format, with large panels and a few speech balloons. There's a generous use of cross-hatching, and what looks like digitally-added color. I loved the hidden little details, such as Thomas Edison's portrait looking disapprovingly on as the protagonist initially settles in for a night of video games. Once the lights are out, the book switches to a subdued palette of mostly blue. Forced to hang out together, the family tries playing with a flashlight making shadow puppets on the wall, until they decide to go up to the roof, and watch the stars. Then they head down to the street where's there's a block party atmosphere. An ice cream vendor is giving away ice cream (I assume before it melts) and kids play by a splashing fire hydrant. When power is finally restored, "everything went back to normal... but not everyone likes normal." and here we see the family purposely turning off the lights, and playing a board game together.

Personally, I grew up without a television, and without electricity for quite some time, but I remember when I was very little and our family still had electricity. The lights went out one evening, and we were forced to gather around by candlelight, playing card games. In part, because of how my parents saw how much more wholesome our lives were without it, they decided to forgo having electricity altogether. These days, I'm so digitally connected... I know going without my computer would be a bummer, but I don't have a terror of how I'd survive without electricity, since I know from personal experience how possible it is. This book would make a great bedtime story, and hopefully will inspire people to try out a night off-the-grid.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 Debut Authors Challenge complete

I challenged myself to read 12 debut authors in 2011 and I'm simultaneously surprised to be finished so soon, and shocked that I didn't finish earlier, since there were more than 12 interesting debut authors that I wanted to read in January alone.

Here's my list.

Unearthly - Cynthia Hand
Wither - Lauren deStefano
Angelfire - Courtney Allison Moulton
Across the Universe - Beth Revis
XVI - Julia Karr
The False Princess - Eilis O'Neal
Lost Voices - Sarah Porter
The Goddess Test - Aimee Carter
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend - Gary Ghislain
10 The Latte Rebellion - Sarah Jamila Stevenson
11 The Great Wall of Lucy Wu - Wendy Wan Long
12 The Demon Trapper's Daughter - Jana Oliver

I'm pleased I gave this challenge a try... I had thought that it might be the sort of thing I'd be accomplishing already without even realizing it, but going back and looking at my reading logs, that wasn't the case. So, it did take a bit of effort to seek out new authors, but it was definitely worthwhile. I'll post again at the end of the year, and see how many more debuts I read.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox 10

The Smurfs: Off to School
by Peyo
Simon Spotlight
May 2011

Just one title this week. It's an easy reader. I plan to give it away as a Summer Reading prize. I'm pretty sure the kids at my library will go nuts for it! School is fresh on their minds, as school starts ridiculously early here, in August. The folks at Columbia Pictures have been so generous! They also sent along Smurf-themed t-shirts and posters to promote the new movie - more great summer reading prizes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vesper review

by Jeff Sampson 
Balzer + Bray 
January 2011

Geeky Emily Webb has no idea what to make of her recent personality changes after the death of one of her classmates, also named Emily. By day, she's her normal, shy, hoody-wearing, sci-fi loving self. But at night, she finds herself transformed into a dangerous, thrill seeking bombshell, raiding her older sister's closet for racy outfits and taking outrageous risks, slipping out of her bedroom window for late-night shenanigans. She makes some futile attempts during the day to control her Jekyll and Hyde type transformation, but finds herself spending longer and longer as "Nighttime Emily" gaining more super-strength and coordination each night.

While most of the book is effectively a flashback, as Emily is being interrogated by a mysterious intelligence organization regarding her involvement in events leading up to the denouement of the book, Sampson handles the tension exceptionally well. Sampson does a great job of getting inside this young lady's head. Ultimately, Emily's dead classmate, and even her risque nighttime changes turn out to be a huge red herring, leading readers down the wrong track until the sudden reveal close to the very end of the book. It is (almost) a spoiler to say that Emily discovers her nighttime self presages her turning into a werewolf. The mythology of the world was well organized, and readers see everything gradually unfolding from the naive main character's point of view.

The ending of the book sets things up nicely for a sequel, as we begin to see that there are several different kinds of paranormal powers suddenly cropping up, shapechanging foremost among them, and there's a mysterious government organization dedicated to stopping them or at least, capturing and controlling them. I have the idea that the second book will be very different in feel to the first, as most of this novel was about unwrapping the mystery of what is happening to Emily, the next book, surely will be about her working with a new team of helpers against the government consipiracy and testing the limits of her newfound powers. This was a highly enjoyable book. I'll recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal fantasy.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 9

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

This week's question is:

What's the ONE genre you wish you could get into, but just can't?

I'll have to say, adult fiction. I know I should read more... I hear about things that are supposed to be good. The patrons at my library ask me if I've read such and such. I certainly give it a try from time to time. But it just doesn't draw me in! I'm talking about authors like James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly, Sara Gruen, Jonathan Franzen. I've tried, I really have, but ultimately, I prefer at least a few wizards, dragons, angsty teens, first romance and the fast-moving plots that YA usually provides.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heather Landis photography

Check out the complete set of photos by Heather Landis in her Abyss of the Disheartened series. Beautiful! It's so interesting to see those same models in a variety of poses. This one is one my favorites, too. Can't wait for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? Urban Outfitters is selling prints of the photograph from the cover... also available as an iPhone case or laptop skin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Here's a book that looks fascinating to me. I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't come out until this November! Feels like a long wait.

Faking Faith
by Josie Bloss
November 2011

After a humiliating "sexting" incident involving a hot and popular senior, seventeen year old Dylan has become a social outcast - harassed, ignored, and estranged from her two best friends.

 Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's fascinated by their old-fashioned conversation themes, like practicing submission to one's future husband. Blogging as Faith, her devout alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the group's queen bee. But growing closer to Abigail (and her intriguing older brother) forces Dylan to choose: keep living a lie or come clean and face the consequences.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

999 Tadpoles review

999 Tadpoles
by Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami
North South
May 2011

Mother and Father Frog are overwhelmed when their 999 offspring grow up and overcrowd their pond. "We have a situation here," Father intones. When they decide to move, Mother warns them that the world is a dangerous place. Sure enough, they have a long and weary journey ahead of them. They narrowly escape a snake, and when Father is snatched up by a passing hawk, the rest of family comes to the rescue in a surprising way.

The simple figures, generous use of white space and large eyes of the frogs reminded me of Taro Gomi, not surprising, considering that 999 Tadpoles is also a Japanese import. These illustrations made me think of baby peeper migrations when you'll see thousands of teeny-tiny little frogs hopping all over in late spring. I had expected, in a story with 1001 frogs total, that part of the tale would be about losing some along the way, so I was pleased to see the story end so happily. After the hawk grabs Father, the little frogs each grab hold forming a heavy chain, and the hawk ends up dropping them... into a new pond, with room for them all to make their home there. This is a fun story with a great sense of humor, sure to be a hit at storytime.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Demon Trapper's Daughter review

The Demon Trapper's Daughter
by Jana Oliver
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2011

17 year-old Riley Blackthorne wants nothing more than to prove herself as a demon-trapper in a post-apocolyptic demon-ridden Atlanta. There's a gritty, noir feel to the story, as Riley lives in a rat-trap apartment, struggles for money and has to cope with a sexist old boys network amongst the tightly-knit demon-hunter community. Her father dies in the line of duty and it's up to Riley to guard his grave from necromancers who want to reanimate his corpse. Riley is grappling with her grief at losing her father while trying to stay on top of her schoolwork and capture enough demons on the side to pay the rent. Talk about stress! There's a great mystery afoot as well... why has the Demon Trapper's Guild's holy water been so much less effective lately? Why have more and more demons begun appearing in Atlanta, and how do they know Riley's name?

There's a hint of a love triangle - Riley has had a long-standing unrequited crush on her father's prodigy, Beck, but has recently taken an interest in Simon, a fellow demon-hunter apprentice. The main focus of the story though, is plucky Riley's efforts to subdue some of the fast-encroaching demons on her hometown.

I loved the mythology of the demons. The Demon Trapper's Guild rather matter-of-factly divides them into 5 categories, ranging from Category 1 - annoying little imps, mostly harmless, but still definitely worth getting rid of, all the way to Category 5 - rarely-seen super dangerous geo-fiends, capable of creating earthquakes and probably standing several feet taller than the average human or larger. I found it amusing that Buckhead, the Bel Air of Atlanta, has largely been abandoned by humans when it became overrun with demons.

I felt a certain sick thrill reading this book seated at my local coffee shop, as Oliver describes the ad-hoc classroom the embattled Atlanta school system has set up in an abandoned Starbucks in Little Five Points, and I realized I was sitting in the
very same space where this dystopian near-future battle scene was taking place. Freaky!

While a number of the mysteries in the book are solved by the end of the story, there are still a lot of loose ends... this is an inventive and unique series that I am eager to get back to.

I purchased this book.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In My Mailbox 9

I was pleased to find these two books, both waiting for me on my doorstep this week.

by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
June 2011

The creators of Go Fug Yourself have come out with a book! I expect hilarity and viciously catty remarks on the state of Hollywood, when Molly Dix discovers that her father is actually a famous movie star.

Pretty Bad Things
by C.J. Skuse
Chicken House
July 2011

Just from looking at the back cover, this looks like a fast-paced and funny roadtrip crime spree of a twin brother and sister.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cover Trend: Petals

by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Candlewick Press
January 2011

I have been remiss in not reading this, I like to keep up with all the YA vampire/werewolf series out there. Bonus! It's set in Austin, TX.

Kiss of Death
by Lauren Henderson
May 2011

This looks like a murder mystery with lots of interpersonal drama. That cover looks so creepy! This is the fourth book in what sounds like a slow-moving series.

by Jenna Black
St. Martin's Griffin
July 2011

The third in another series that I am already behind on. This features a girl drawn into the Faery court.

by Nina Malkin
Simon Pulse
September 2011

Wow, what an amazing cover. This is the second in the Swoon series. Paranormal romance featuring a bad boy ghost.

Tris and Izzie
by Mette Ivie Harrison
Egmont USA
October 2011

A re-telling of the classic Tristan and Isolde Arthurian legend from Camelot.

Shattered Souls
by Mary Lindsey
December 2011

A girl discovers she has the ability to put the souls of the dead to rest. It sounds like a more romantic version of Garth Nix's Abhorsen series.

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hurricane Dancers review

Hurricane Dancers
by Margarita Engle
Holt, Henry & Co.
March 2011

It's no secret that I am a fan of narrative poetry. As a connoisseur of the genre, I love the way that novels in verse read like any other kind of novel, with the same amount of story arc, but in a condensed, fast-flowing form that cuts directly to the heart of the matter in a spare and beautiful way. I recently read Engle's wonderful picture book treatment of one of the earliest female scientists, Summer Birds, and when I saw she'd written a new book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I was delighted and surprised to find it was a full-length novel in poetry format. Hurricane Dancers was completely different, but just as lovely. A variety of characters each takes turns telling the events of a famous shipwreck in the early days of European exploration of the American continent. Each poem is simply labeled with the name of the speaker, who naturally have very different takes on the turn of events.

Quebrado, whose Spanish name means "broken" has badly used by his Spanish captors. Bernardino de Talavera is a conquistador transporting his erstwhile comrade-in-arms, now captive, Alonso de Ojeda, both very cruel figures in their own right. After the hurricane, the tables are turned when the Spaniards are thrown on the mercy of Quebrado, the one person who has most reason not to help either of them. The dramatic tension is smoothly handled, and Bernardino and Alonso are petulant, self-justifying and guilt-ridden by turns. In the meantime, Narido, a poor fisherman of the village and Caucubu, daughter of the chief, are in love, but forbidden to marry and Quebrado, who changes his name to Yacuyo, must decide if and how he will help them run away together.

Here is an except from the first poem in the book.

a mourning moan
as this old ship
her true self,
her tree self,
and growing
on shore.

I love that imagery, of the boat being a tree longing to return to shore! It really highlights the perilousness of those early ocean voyages.

The book is appended with an author's note, a historical note, and a list of references. I found the list of English words taken from the Taino language simply fascinating. I had no idea that we owe the Taino for words such as barbeque, barracuda, canoe, guava, hammock, hurricane, iguana, papaya, savannah and tobacco.

Much like Paul Fleishman's Bull Run or Laura Amy Schlitz's Newbery winning book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, Engle's latest offering of poems would lend itself well to being read aloud in a reader's theatre format. Engle won a Newbery Honor for her 2008 novel, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom, and I could honestly see Hurricane Dancers as a serious contender for the Newbery this year. Highly recommended.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Passport Craft

I had fun creating this passport themed craft for our summer reading program. The kids really enjoyed it. I made photocopies from one of the pages of clip art included in our Collaborative Summer Reading Program binder to use as inspiration images on the covers. The cover is simply blue paper folded in quarters. Most of the kids needed help with the hole-puncher - luckily I had plenty of parents and teen volunteers to help me out in that regard. I suppose yarn would have been easier to tie, but I had this ribbon left-over, so decided to use that up. For an added touch of authenticity, I printed up some pages for the middle of the passports with watermarked graphics from the summer reading theme of "One World, Many Stories" -- I was able to use the few pages I had left over as scrap paper for the library. I encouraged participants to get creative and design the cover of their passports however they liked. To finish up, we brought out some stamps and stamped the passports to represent all the countries we'd like to go to one day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eliza's Freedom Road

Eliza's Freedom Road
by Jerdine Nolan
Simon & Schuster
January 2011

12 year-old Eliza lives as a slave in the 1850's in Alexandria, Virginia. Her life is not horrific, but readers will see right away a few of the injustices she is forced to endure. She is friends with the house cook, and therefore eats well. Her half-blind mistress has taught her how to read (an unusual advantage for a slave) so that Eliza can read her letters and newspapers. Eliza even has a small diary that she is able to keep. Her mother has sewn her a beautiful quilt, with each quilt square representing a traditional folktale. But Eliza's mother has recently been sent away, and there is talk that Eliza may be sold next. She decides to make a break for it, and the bulk of the story is about her year-long journey northward to Canada by night. Alternating between stories of Eliza's escape and traditionally-inspired folktales, this book reminded me just a little bit of The Wanderer by Sharon Creech.

Eliza is an oddly formal little girl - her tone is a bit stilted, and she never uses contractions, but that may be a reflection of the proper speech of the 1850's. As a "house slave" with a bit of education, she doesn't employ colloquial slave speech. The book culminates in a meeting with the legendary leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman. True to history, Tubman is a gruff, no-nonsense figure.

An impressive amount of backmatter helps young readers put everything in perspective. There is an author's note, as well as some information about the background of the folktales within the tale. There's also a bibliography of other resources and a list of websites, which I always think will date a book quickly, but certainly have plenty of use at the moment.

The book wraps up very quickly, with a few amazing coincidences that leave our heroine safely reunited with her mother, who has also escaped by the story's end. I'll recommend this to anyone who has exhausted the Dear America series or for those readers who might appreciate the formal prose that takes you to another century.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow review

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?
by Susan A. Shea, illustrated by Tom Slaughter
Blue Apple Books
March 2011

A charming story in rhyme, about which things are alive, and which are not. Funny and inventive, the book asks, "If a duckling grows and becomes a duck, can a car grow and become... a truck?" "If an owlet grows and becomes and owl, can a washcloth grow and become... a towel?"

Every few pages or so, readers are treated to another surprising set of rhymes, letting them know (if they weren't sure already) the answers to these little riddles: "YES to ducks, bears, and owls. NO to trucks, chairs, and towels. YES to cats. NO to hats. YES to goats. NO to coats."

Bright, easy to see, bold illustrations complement the text nicely, and the illustrator has made nice use of the fold-out pages which visually transform the items into something else: cupcakes into cakes, or dresses into coats for instance.

The fold-out pages are certain to take a beating for library, or even home use, but I still think this is a worthwhile purchase because the predictive rhymes are so enjoyable. This is a sure-bet for a fun storytime.

Best of all, I was reminded strongly of this song:

I borrowed this book.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wookie the Chew

Adorable! It's a mash-up of two of my favorite things: Star Wars and Winnie the Pooh. Check out James Hance's website, where he's selling poster prints of his reimagined Star Wars universe.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What's NOT in my Mailbox

This past month at ALA Annual, I had the opportunity to snag a number of ARCs... but there were just as many books, tantalizingly out of reach, that I didn't get copies of.

I snapped some photos on the exhibition floor of books that I want to add to my TBR list.

Sass and Serendipity
by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Press
July 2011

A contemporary story about two very different sisters with a nod to Jane Austen. There are so many Austen-inspired books these days, it really could qualify as its own genre.

Siren's Storm
by Lisa Papademtriou
Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers
July 2011

Yay! Looks like a murder mystery mermaid book.

The Other Countess
by Eve Edwards
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
July 2011

A historical fiction novel set in Queen Elizabeth's time.

by Elizabeth Miles
Simon Pulse
August 2011

A paranormal loosely based on Greek mythology. Wow, I love the cover. What I wouldn't do for hair like that. Early reviews are lukewarm, but I don't care, I still want to find out what this book is all about!

Blood Wounds
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt Children's Books
September 2011

The author of Life as We Knew It makes the apocalypse personal in this story about a girl who is coping with the fact that her estranged father has murdered her stepmother... and may be coming for her and her mother next.

The Name of the Star
by Maureen Johnson
September 2011

A whole new paranormal series, which draws on the legend of London's Jack the Ripper.

Don't Expect Magic
by Kathy McCullough
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
November 2011

A girl discovers she's a fairy godmother. I love this premise... seeing things from the fairy godmother's side. I'm pretty sure it's set in current day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cover inspiration

Here are a couple of covers, obviously all taken from the same stock photo. 

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers 

by Julie Anne Peters
Little, Brown Young Readers
February 2006

The Ice Queen
by Alice Hoffman
Little, Brown & Company
January 2006

When I saw them, I wondered if the photo could have been inspired by this work of art.

The Butterfly by Johann Georg Meyer von Bremen (1813-1886)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 8

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

This week's question is more of a challenge:

Promote a book giveaway (not your own!)

This is easy, because I've never done a book giveaway. In fact, I rarely enter a book giveaway either. I usually give away ARCs as prizes at my library. Or, if it's a finished book, I might add it to the library collection. Once in a while I keep them... but I do try to keep things under control. I don't want to turn into one of those hoarders who ends up crushed under their own pile of books! But, I have to admit, I've been considering doing a book giveaway and meaning to check out a lot of other bloggers' giveaways so that I might figure out the best way to go about it. So, this week's Blog Hop is a great excuse to do that!

I'm going to recommend A Backwards Story's Giveaway of Lost Voices. I just read the book and loved it. My review is here. Bonnie at A Backwards Story has really gone all out though, with author interviews, guest posts, book trailers, and reviews of awesome mermaid books. Check her out!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Words in the Dust review

Words in the Dust
by Trent Reedy
Arthur A. Levine Books
January 2011

13 year-old Zulaikha lives a hard life in rural Afghanistan. She has a cleft palate - a split lip that disfigures her face, making it difficult to eat or talk. Her beautiful sister Zeynab is her best friend and strongest ally. Her overwhelmed and grouchy pregnant stepmother prays for a son, and her much-adored father is scornful of his houseful of girls. By chance, Zulaikha runs into an American soldier who offers to pull in some favors and get her surgery, for free. Zulaikha is on an emotional roller-coaster as she copes with her sister's upcoming wedding as fourth wife to an uncaring older man, and her hopes and dreams are dashed when there's a problem with the helicopter flight that is supposed to take her to the doctor. Reedy does a great job of portraying the complexities of her father - a powerless yet very, very proud man, who wishes the best for Zulaikha, but can't or won't understand something as simple as a weather delay, taking it as a personal affront. This is a man that Zulaikha looks up to and adores, who is regarded as a liberal and kind man, but also doesn't hold back from brutally punching his pregnant wife in a fit of pique.

The inclusion of a few Dari language terms: inshallah meaning God willing and tashakor for thank you, lend an authentic foreign feel to the text without being overwhelming. Ironically, Zeynab's beauty does her no favors as her marriage quickly goes sour and her sister-wives burden her with all the household chores until she finally succumbs to a "kitchen accident" burned alive in kerosene. The story wraps things up quickly, with an unusual opportunity for Zulaikha to get an education. This is a sophisticated and sympathetic look at the problems and opportunities in modern-day Afghanistan. Reedy fairly presents the facts, and trusts the readers to draw their own conclusions. Highly recommended for classroom use.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weeding Wednesday 3

Lest I create the impression that I am a heartless destroyer of books, I thought I'd feature this week, some books that I've decided NOT to weed.

Look at this! The Third Planet from Altair by Edward Packard! This is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. Normally, I can't keep these on the shelf. I'll have to double-check and make sure it's been cataloged correctly.

Now imagine my surprise when I ran across this old gem. It's an older book, and hasn't checked out of the library in a ridiculously long time, but I can't bear to part with it, because it was a childhood favorite! Konrad by Christine Nöstlinger. This was the first book that I ever sat down and read all in one go. I stayed up 'til four in the morning, with flashlight hidden under a blanket racing through this story. I'm not sure, if I re-read it now as an adult if it would hold up, but I was enchanted with this book when I was in fourth grade.

No one is more surprised than Mrs. Bartoletti when she receives a large mysterious package on her doorstep... it turns out to be Konrad, a made-to-order, perfectly-behaved robot boy, who emerges from his barrel once a little water has been added. Mrs. Bartoletti is a bit of an eccentric grandmother type, but she soon grows fond of him, and is horrified when she's informed that Konrad's been delivered by mistake and the company that made him wants to ship him to his "real" parents. She and the neighbor girl hatch a plan to teach Konrad how to be naughty and full of mischief - in other words, more like a normal kid and less like a perfect robot, so that she can keep him.

As a child, this premise absolutely tickled me! A wacky old grandmother teaching a perfect kid to be naughty? This turned everything I understood about the world on its head. I'll definitely have to try "handselling" this title and see if I can get it circulating again.

Finally, we have a copy of Elmer and the Dragon. I didn't read the My Father's Dragon trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett until I was an adult, but I love the sense of magic and adventure in them. Why hasn't this book circulated in years? Well, if you look closely, you'll see the whole spine is torn off. Ouch. I know that makes this a candidate for weeding, just based on the condition, but it's such a classic... I'm going to wait until I get some money in my budget to replace it before I let this copy go.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Perfect Square review

Perfect Square 
by Michael Hall 
Greenwillow Books 
April 2011

A perfect red square makes several amazing transformations, moving through the color wheel and the days of the week. The versatility of the art work, as the square is divvied up differently on each page, either cut, torn, or shattered into pieces and rearranged into another pleasing configuration is something to admire. Cut up and poked full of holes, it makes itself into a fountain that "babbled and giggled and clapped." Shredded into green strips, the square becomes a park. Turned purple and crumpled up, the square becomes a mountain. After becoming a perfect red square again, the square feels "confined, rigid and cramped"... and so transforms into a window to look upon a scene that pulls everything together: the mountain, the river, the park, flowers, and fountain with children playing nearby.

The slightly variegated texture and the collage-like nature of the artwork made me think of Eric Carle. The trim size, logically, is square and shows how much thought that has gone into little details in the book's design. Simple yet appealing, with large, easy-to-see pictures, this book is sure to be a hit as a read-aloud. Highly recommended.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lost Voices review

Lost Voices 
by Sarah Porter 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's 
July 2011

Such a fantastic
book, I don't even know where to begin. I've always loved mermaids, and I couldn't have been happier to learn that mermaids are supposed to be The Next Big Thing in paranormal fiction. 14 year-old Luce is living in a horrible home situation, and after narrowly escaping an assault by a family member, she falls from an Alaskan cliff into the sea. It doesn't seem like a direct suicide attempt, but she doesn't seem to particularly want to cling to life, either. Much to her amazement, she finds herself transformed into a mermaid. She joins a tribe of similarly transformed abused girls. The book mainly focused on the mean-girl social dynamics of the group. Catarina, a Russian girl, is the queen bee. She takes Luce under her wing... with the condition, of course, that Luce assist her in taking down ships. It turns out that Luce is a terrifically gifted singer and her siren song allows the tribe of mermaids to go after larger vessels than ever before. Catarina is harboring a secret... her goal in sinking ships is to find good looking men to briefly canoodle with before their inevitable death by drowning. Luce loves singing, but despite her rough treatment by all the humans she's known, she still clings to human morals of right and wrong and the wanton murder of shipgoers doesn't sit right with her. The introduction of Anais, another new mermaid, further upsets the balance of power, as the girls get greedy and start sinking ships for material gain.

The book
does a marvelous job of really immersing you in a new underwater world. The mermaids live in an abandoned bay, and rest occasionally in nearly inaccessible underwater lagoons. Luce worries at first that she won't find raw seafood appealing, but when she tries it, she finds it salty, smooth and delicious. Remembering her human memories Luce thinks that a rain shower will feel refreshing, but finds the fresh water raindrops feel dirty after the  clean salt water that is her new habitat.

The mythology
of mermaids is fairly well-thought out. Abused girls who are in a near-death situation make the transformation. I thought the journey through pipes or whatever waterways were available was a bit of a stretch for girls who are inland. I wondered why boys in a similar situation never turn into mermen. Babies or toddlers become what the girls contemptuously call "larvae" - helpless little mermaids who are quickly picked off by other ocean life.

The book
ends abruptly. It's not a cliffhanger exactly, but it definitely doesn't wrap things up neatly. Happily, the book is supposed to be the first in a trilogy. I'm eager to pick up the next in this dark and lyrical series.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

ALA Swag 2011

Here it is, the bounteous swag that I obtained at the ALA Annual Convention in New Orleans this past week. Breathtaking, right? I am so amazed that I snagged so many books that I've been dying to read... items from my To Be Read list, as well as books that I hadn't heard about but look wonderful. I got the last copy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns at the booth! I got a copy of the long-awaited Super Diaper Baby sequel (already given away as a Summer Reading prize to a much delighted kid at my library), Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell, Lauren Oliver's Liesl and Po. Yeah, I made out like a bandit. Not pictured: about 30 or 40 posters I picked up to decorate the children's area of my library with. And several dozen bookmarks. There were a few things that I had hoped to pick up, that I didn't get my hands on. I wanted a copy of Allie Condie's Crossed! But, there was a huge line for it, and I didn't have time to wait. I really wanted to get a peek at Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck, and someone tweeted when they were doing the Wonderstruck giveaway, but by the time I got to that part of the convention floor, they were all gone. Not as many tote bags this year, either. I love this READ bag which I think I got from Demco, a library supply company, but there was a TinTin bag that I absolutely lusted for and couldn't find. Rats.

The feeling on the convention floor was surprisingly negative! Lots of librarians grousing that they wanted MOAR FREE STUFF. Lots of publishers charging for books that they once might have given away for free. There was even one publisher (I won't say who, but it was a small press) who was selling ARCs. They said they believed in charging for content. ARCs have come a long way. These days they look like glossy paperback editions. I remember when ARCs had no cover art, plain blue or tan covers, tons of typos and cryptic messages like "Art TK" instead of illustrations. Publishers definitely spend a lot more time and money creating ARCs nowadays. Still, I feel if a book has the words Advance Readers Copy, Not For Resale printed on it, I shouldn't have to pay money if I'm not supposed to resell the book. Although, shamefully, some people do just that, as any trip to ebay will tell you. Most publishers were having author signings with finished hardcovers selling for $5... still an amazing bargain.

Weirdly, there were a lot of books there that I could have gotten, but didn't because I already had the ARC at home. I had several publishers try to push books into my hands, mostly romance novels and adult crime fiction.  I politely explained that I wasn't picking up anything I couldn't use for work or my blog and they all exclaimed with astonishment how "honest" I was. Gosh! I don't know about that... but I can tell you, I do try to keep the size of my book collection to a (somewhat) reasonable level. And with my TBR list as long as it is, I certainly didn't need a copy of everything on the convention floor. I'm just grateful that I get any advance copies of books at all!

What I did appreciate was that there seemed to be more authors than ever on the convention floor. It was awesome meeting so many famous writers. Authors are totally my rock stars! I liked that there were so many stages in the back of the Expo hall, with graphic novel panels and new fiction readings, and even cooking demos from cookbook authors. Overall, it was a great time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend review

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend
by Gary Ghislain
June 2011

With a decidedly European sensibility, this French import takes readers on a madcap, quirky adventure with nerdy 14 year-old David Gershwin, who quickly falls for Zelda, a hard-case patient in his father's therapy practice. Zelda appears to be suffering from the delusion that she is a warrior from the alien planet Vahalal, and must meet with her "chosen one" Johnny Depp in order to save her Amazonian race from extinction. Beautiful and feral, Zelda's emotionally stiff manner and brash, violent behavior, even her wardrobe of designer bathing suits, seems to come straight from 1930's sci-fi serials. David uses his life's savings to bribe his (sort of) step-sister, sophisticated urbanite Malou, into taking them on a boozy road trip to gatecrash a Parisian party where Depp is rumored to be going. What Zelda doesn't count on is developing feelings for David before she has a chance to meet up with her on-screen idol. The already strange novel takes a turn towards the surreal at the end. An interesting debut, shorter and more accessible than Libba Bray's
Going Bovine, this should appeal to mature YA readers looking for short, humorous, action-packed science fiction.

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

Read in June

This month I read the following books:

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

5 The Time Traveling Fashionista - Bianca Turetsky
6 Words in the Dust - Trent Reedy
7 Sinister Scenes - P.J. Bracegirdle
8 The Last Dragon - Jane Yolen
9 God No! - Penn Jillette
10 A Conspiracy of Kings - Megan Whalen Turner
11 Outside In - Maria V. Snyder

Picture credit: Woman Reading, Gustav Adolph Hennig


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