Friday, June 29, 2012

Picture Books mini-reviews, part 8

Beep and Bah
by James Burks
Carolrhoda Books
March 2012

A robot and a goat go on an adventure looking for a missing sock in this very humorous graphic-novel format picture book. Most of the characters have a squarish-robot looking feel (I thought the goat was a robot at first.) A fun intro to comic-book style reading for the younger set.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Take Your Mama to Work Today
by Amy Reichert, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
March 2012

Violet's babysitter can't make it, so she must accompany her mother to work. She manages to make an absolute mess of things: hanging up on phone calls, asking illegal questions in a job interview, hogging the donuts at coffee break time, tipping over boxes of important papers, breaking the photocopier and shredder, all under the guise of being a "big help" to her mother. 

The tone of this book felt a little too twee for me. I would have liked it more if irrepressible Violet was not quite so obnoxious, and if the adults facial expressions of exhaustion, embarrassment, impatience and alarm had not been so obvious. The "joke" of the book, is that Violet is delighted with all the "networking" she's been doing all day, while the adults can't wait to see her out. Ouch.

Check out Bea and Mr. Jones by Amy Schwartz for a much funnier, gentler take on "take your daughter to work day."

I borrowed this book from the library.

Oh, No, George!
by Chris Haughton
Candlewick Press
March 2012

George promises to be good. He HOPES to be good. But when left on his own, and presented with irresistible (to dogs, that is) opportunities like eating a whole cake, chasing the cat or having a lovely dig in the dirt, he just can't help himself! When his human friend Harry returns, George apologizes and turns over a new leaf. A much improved George resists -- up until the very open-ended ending. "There's nothing George likes more than digging in the trash. What will George do? George?"

This was a hit at storytime. Interestingly, most of the kids I've read this to thought that George would continue to be good, while only a few thought he'd give in and dig in the trash. There's a limited palette of colors in the retro-looking art, dominated by burnt orange. I wish the pictures had a little more color or were easier to see when reading to groups. All in all, a really fun book, though.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Baby Bear Sees Blue
by Ashley Wolff
Beach Lane Books
February 2012

A lovely introduction to colors as Baby Bear and his Mama take a walk through nature. Block-printed watercolors are attractive and bright. The story culminates in a summer storm, and a rainbow, just before Baby Bear goes to sleep.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Seraphina

Human/dragon war? Say no more! I am completely sold on this one.

by Rachel Hartman
Random House Children's Books
July 2012

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls review

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls
by Julie Schumacher
Random House Children's Books
May 2012

Presented as an AP English essay assignment, with each chapter heading containing a definition of a literary term, this novel feels like a take on Ann Brashares's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Fifteen-year-old Adrienne Haus is laid up with a fractured kneecap for the summer so her mother forces her to join a mother-daughter book club. Wealthy, rebellious CeeCee; Jill, an adopted Asian girl; and mysterious, secretive Wallis are the other unlikely teen members. Adrienne is a moody, self-conscious girl, and the complexity of the relationship with her unflappable mother is a pleasure to read, especially as she falls further and further under CeeCee's bad influence. Exceptionally strong characterization and attention to detail thoroughly place readers in a summer suburb in Delaware. Teens need not have read all the classics discussed throughout the book (e.g., The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The Left Hand of Darkness, The House on Mango Street , and The Awakening), although some familiarity with them certainly enriches the story. Adrienne is a thoughtful reader, applying quotes from each of the books to real-life situations. However, like Catherine in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey , she lets her imagination run away with her and incorrectly dreams up horrible scenarios that lead to a highly foreshadowed, yet suspenseful, tragic ending.

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

Friday, June 22, 2012

Picture Books mini-reviews, part 7

We March
by Shane W. Evans
Roaring Brook Press
January 2012

Using just a sentence per page, this book gives a young African-American child's point of view of the 1963 March on Washington. An empowering celebration of our First Amendment rights. Employing painterly collage-style illustrations, the story ends with a silhouette of Martin Luther King, Jr. It also includes a postscript by the author with historical information.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown
by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Sean Qualls
January 2012

A lyrical take on the fascinating true story of Henry "Box" Brown, who made his escape from slavery by sending himself in the mail to Philadelphia. I loved this line: "Henry was papa proud when his first child was born." The book is appended with a bit of historical information, as well as the text from a letter from an abolitionist detailing the remarkable escape.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Scrawny Cat
by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Allison Friend
Candlewick Press
October 2011

A scrawny abandoned cat finds himself on a boat after a series of misadventures. His amazing journey takes him to a little island where he is taken in by Emma, a lone fisherwoman. I liked one of the final images of "Skipper" - showing that he's finally become a fat and happy cat. Gouche watercolor paintings with lots of blue and brown evoke the Maine coast.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Emily and Carlo
by Marty Rhodes Figley
Charlesbridge Publishing
February 2012

The story of Emily Dickinson's life is told from her dog Carlo's perspective. Beautiful watercolor paintings paired with a lengthy narrative make this a good choice for older readers. Whimsical excerpts from Dickinson's poems are presented in italics. While the story takes place over many years, puppy Carlo is first shown amidst spring blooms, lengthening into summer. Towards the end of Carlo's life, fall leaves are shown in the foreground and the color palette turns to oranges and browns. Purple shadows surround Emily at her writing desk as she contemplates her loss when he is gone. The book is appended with an author's note, biographical information about Dickinson, sources for quotes and a bibliography. If the ending of this book doesn't make you cry, you have no heart!

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting for Tiger Lily

My fellow Waiting-on-Wednesday'ers turned me on to this one. This sounds great - a retelling of Peter Pan from Tiger Lily's point of view. Wendy or Tinkerbell would seem to be the obvious choice for a new version so I love that Anderson chose this lesser known character.

Tiger Lily
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Harper Collins Children's Books
July 2012

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cali Boys review

Cali Boys
by Kelli London
April 2012

A large cast of characters stars in this contemporary story centered around two African American girls new to Los Angeles. In alternating chapters, Jacobi and Kassidy struggle with boys, friendships, and family. Kassidy, a teen model from New York, is busy juggling multiple boys: New Yorker Brent, flirty biker Romero, chivalrous Carsen, and super-hot male model Diggs. Her new stepsister, Yummy, struggles with her weight and is heartbroken when Kassidy snaps up Romero for her male harem. In the meantime, Diggs's younger sister, Jacobi, is an academic achiever, successfully making money in the stock market and producing amateur short films. At 15, she is mortified to be the only girl she knows who hasn't developed a chest or had her period yet. Jacobi's family has worked hard to move away from their rough neighborhood, but she still misses her friend Katydid and her longtime crush, Shooby. Kassidy reaps what she sows when her friend Faith backstabs her over a modeling job. Jacobi discovers a shocking secret that Katydid has been hiding from her and learns that her new friend, Malone, likes her. Up-to-the-minute slang, lots of pop-culture references, and a lightning-fast plot will lure in reluctant readers. This is a welcome addition for most urban libraries.

I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher.
This review first appeared in School Library Journal.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Picture Books mini-reviews, part 6

by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Candlewick Press
February 2012

Rhythmic onomatopoeia makes this construction truck story especially appealing. "Sort the steel. Sort the steel. Heave and toss and bang. Metal can be used again. Clink! Clank! Clang!" After the building is taken down, they install a playground. The story is appended with a page of machine facts. 
I loved the slightly mottled illustrations. This was a real hit at storytime!

I borrowed this book from the library.

When Grandmama Sings
by Margaree King Mitchell, illustrated by James Ransome
Amistad Press
January 2012

Grandmama, a contemporary of Ella Fitzgerald, travels through the racist, segregated South on a singing tour, as seen though eight-year old Belle's eyes. They face discrimination such as club owners who cheat them on pay for their gigs, difficulty entering the buildings where they are to perform, and even at one point, being forced to take their food from a diner out to their cars to eat. While the characters are fictional, the feel is very realistic. I tried to hunt for information about this band, but they seem to solely an invention of the author. The facade for "The Magnolia Theatre" supposedly in Atlanta, looks vaguely similar to The Fox Theatre.

I borrowed this book from the library.
by Mary Lin Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Beach Lane Books
October 2011

This is a beautiful companion to All the World. "Having a star in your pocket is like having your best rock in your pocket, but different." Gentle, measured tones and hand-lettered font are paired with beautiful water color illustrations featuring multicultural kids. This makes for a wonderful bedtime book.

I borrowed this book from the library.
I Don't Want to be a Pea!
by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Simon Rickerty
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
January 2012

Here's a funny story of friendship between two very different friends. This makes for a great successor to Tomie dePaola's Bill and Pete series. Hugo Hippo and Bella Bird are invited to a costume party - but what to wear? Hugo suggests he'll go as a princess, if Bella goes as a pea. Bella insists she wants to do it the other way around. This leads to quite a fight - and they finally decide to go alone. What a surprise when they both arrive looking like two peas in a pod, proving how suited they are as best friends. Crisp, colorful digital illustrations are easy to see from across a room, making this a great book for sharing at storytime.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pink review

by Lili Wilkinson
Harper Teen
February 2011

You ever feel like having a "do-over"? Just picking up, and creating a completely new identity -- a whole new life? The teen years are the perfect time for doing this. And that is exactly what 16 year-old Ava wants to do. She wants to transfer schools and reinvent herself. She's feeling smothered in her relationship with too-cool-for-school girlfriend Chloe. Ava's ultra-liberal college professor parents are excited to embrace her gothic punk-rock style and budding lesbianism. And weirdly, Ava's finding their complete and total support not quite what she was expecting. She was kind of hoping to rebel... and it seems like right now, the best way to be a rebel would be to wear pink, date boys and study hard at school.

The story takes place in Australia, but it didn't feel overwhelmingly "Aussie" at least, not to me. I wondered if some of the Australian slang could have been edited out for the American version?

Ava's attempt to star in the school play at her new school backfires, and she ends up working with the backstage crew. I loved all the characters who made up the backstage crew, or "Screws" as they dub themselves. They seem like a really warm and funny group of friends. Ava begins to develop feelings for fellow crew member Ethan... even though she hasn't exactly gotten around to officially breaking up with Chloe yet. Yikes!

My only quibble with the book is that (spoilers ahead!) because this is a story about Ava questioning her sexuality and discovering that she's bi, I felt like the story was a little heavy-handed in places. Does she still like Chloe, despite Chloe's overbearing and condescending manner? Yes - because she's definitely attracted to women and she and Chloe do have a shared history together. Does she like Ethan? Of course, because he is a total sweetie. She also is attracted to Alexis, one of the popular and very feminine girls at her new school. Why? Mainly, to remind readers that she isn't straight, I think. Ava ends up alone by the end of the book - which is not a bad thing in and of itself. But, I felt that too, was a bit forced - to "prove" to the readers that she wasn't gay (since she didn't go back to Chloe) and that she wasn't straight after all (which is what some readers might think if she had ended up with Ethan.)

I loved this book. It's rare to find a novel that covers bi and questioning teens so believably and so well.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting for Team Human

This sounds like it will amazingly funny. Let's admit it. We're all growing a little weary of vampires. The time is right for a book such as this, no?

Team Human
by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
July 2012

When a vampire shows up at Mel’s high school, it’s up to Mel to keep her best friend from falling in love with him. Add a mysterious disappearance, a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and poignant.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book portraits

Recently, I ran across this awesome set of book portraits commissioned for Dutch Book Week. They are carved out of the biography of the person they are about. I believe this one is Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Outside In review

Outside In
by Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin Teen
February 2011

First line: "My world changed in a heartbeat."

Trella's journey through space continues in this sequel to Inside Out. As before, time is referred to in weeks - characters are so many "weeks old" events happened a certain number of "weeks ago." It gives the whole book a bit of alien flavor - and preventing me from realizing at first, that their ship's estimated time of arrival - one million weeks, means they'll actually be spending nearly 2,000 years in space! The mystery of where they are has been solved: the crew of their generation spaceship will be spending the rest of their lifetimes (and their children's lifetimes) traveling towards a planet where they can finally live "Outside" again.

In the meantime, Trella is facing the hard work of reuniting the "scrubs" and the "uppers" on board the ship. Frankly, the same kind of loner, adventurer spirit that enabled her to explore the ships air ducts for hours on end, eventually discovering the "Gateway" airlock to Outer Space, as well as additional levels of the ship, planned by their ancestors for the inevitable population crowding that they face, is exactly the same kind of spirit that makes her a stunningly inappropriate choice to be on the ruling council. She regularly skips out on council meetings in favor of poking around the ship's tunnels as she used to.

Engine problems on the ship create chaos, just as Trella is dealing with being reunited with her estranged mother Dr. Lamont as well as her deepening relationship with her boyfriend Riley. It turns out that the ship's mechanical problems are due to outside interference. But who or what could be harassing the citizens of Inside from so deep in space? 

I'll recommend this for tween readers who aren't quite ready for Across the Universe by Beth Revis. The plot moves quickly, and the romance is a little tamer than a lot of YA sci-fi dystopian that's out there.

Compare to:
Across the Universe - Beth Revis
Glow - Amy Kathleen Ryan
The Comet's Curse - Dom Testa

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting for Waking Storms

I loved Lost Voices so much! I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel.

Waking Storms
by Sarah Porter
Harcourt Children's Books
July 2012

After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn’t last long: she receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. Anais, the tribe’s cruel queen, wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary. But when Luce and Dorian meet, they start to wonder if love can overpower the hatred they know they should feel for each other. Luce’s new friendship with an ancient renegade mermaid gives her hope that her kind might someday change its murderous ways. But how can Luce fulfill her rightful role as queen of the mermaids without sacrificing her forbidden romance with Dorian? Full of miraculous reunions and heart-pounding rescues, this haunting second installment in the Lost Voices trilogy finds Luce eager to attempt reconciliation with humans—as long as war doesn’t break out first.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Read in May

This month I read the following books:

1 Dragonswood - Janet Lee Carey
2 A Long Way From You - Gwendolyn Heasley
3 Black Heart - Holly Black
4 Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua
5 Of Poseidon - Anna Banks
6 The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister - Charlotte Agell

Picture credit: Smithers Rare Book Catalogue 1896, Aubrey Beardsly

Friday, June 1, 2012

Picture Books mini-reviews, part 4

Annie and Snowball and the Surprise Day
by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
Simon Spotlight
March 2012

The ever-prolific Rylant strikes again with another entry in her Annie and Snowball series. Annie, her pet rabbit Snowball, and her dad take a surprise day-trip to the country for a picnic. Eyecatching pen and ink and watercolor illustrations feel loose and colorful. Written in simple language for beginning readers, this might make a good "additional" book for Father's Day displays. 

I borrowed this book from my library.

Pinkalicious: The Princess of Pink Slumber Party
by Victoria Kann
Harper Collins
February 2012

Pinkalicious has a princess-tastic time when three friends come over for a slumber party. They enjoy a game of musical chairs and decorate tiaras together. This is followed by meal of "princess and the split-pea soup," chicken nuggets a lรก king and castle cupcakes. A bratty younger brother doesn't deter them from enjoying a pillowfight. Alison is nervous about sleeping over, until Pinkalicious reminds her "a princess faces her perils with strength." In the end, they conjure up a sparkly pink dragon to protect them through the night. Personally, I found this one a little overwhelming, but it's perfect for the super-girly pink-obsessed beginning reader. 

I borrowed this book from my library.

The Unruly Queen
by E.S. Redmond
Candlewick Press
February 2012

In wordy rhyme, a bratty princess Minerva von Vyle is finally tamed with reverse psychology from a fearsome nanny and her crew of monsters. This title will draw inevitable comparisons to Mary Poppins. Pen and ink and watercolor illustrations with plenty of cross-hatching and curlique details reminded me a little of a slightly less feminine (read: less pink) version of Fancy Nancy.

I borrowed this book from my library.

Arthur's Dream Boat
by Polly Dunbar
Candlewick Press
February 2012

Dunbar delivers a gem in this imaginative story of a boy who dramatically reclaims the attention of his busy family with a fantastic dream boat. Colorful, yet gentle mixed media illustrations and a variety of typefaces to emphasize certain words create an easy flow for young readers, despite the slightly longer than normal picture book format. I'd give this book a knowing wink as a Caldecott contender, if only Dunbar didn't live and work in Britain!

I borrowed this book from my library.


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