Friday, August 31, 2012

Squish: Super Amoeba review

Squish: Super Amoeba
by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matt Holm
Random House Children's Books
May 2011

From the creators of Babymouse, Squish is an easy-to-read graphic novel about a hapless young amoeba, Squish. Just like Babymouse, the illustrations are clear and simple, featuring heavy black lines with a pop of accent color. Where Babymouse is pink, pink, pink, the illustrations in Squish feature touches of green. The story is obviously created for lots of boy appeal, but I know girls will like this series, too.

Squish is kind of the Jerry Seinfeld of middle-grade graphic novels. Nothing really happens, but it's all very, very funny. It's just Squish, his family and friends, and little adventures at school. His best friends, Pod and Peggy (a cheerfully dumb paramecium) must cope with Lynwood, a bully at their school. The text features several humorous asides to the readers.

I'll give this to fans of Babymouse, of course, as well as to readers who enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Frankie Pickle and other such fun, silly fare. My only criticism is that the book is so short - I think most kids will whip through this book in well-under an hour, if not mere minutes. Fortunately, there are two more in the series, with hopefully more on the way.


I purchased a copy of this book.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Zita and Outpost

There are two great books coming out next week, both sequels... I couldn't choose which one I'm looking forward to more, although they are both very different.


Legends of Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke
First Second
September 2012

Zita is determined to find her way home to earth. But things are never simple, and certainly never easy, in space.

Zita's exploits from her first adventure have made her an intergallactic megastar! But she's about to find out that fame doesn't come without a price. And who can you trust when your true self is being eclipsed by your public persona, and you've got a robot doppelganger wreaking havoc . . . while wearing your face?

Still, if anyone can find their way through this intractible mess of mistaken identity and alien invaders, it's the indomitable Zita.



Outpost
by Ann Aguirre
Feiwel and Friends
September 2012

Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out. 


Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Time Traveling Fashionista review

The Time Traveling Fashionista
by Bianca Turetsky
Poppy
April 2011

Twelve year-old Louise Lambert is a total fashionista - she follows all the major designers and reads Teen Vogue like it is her bible. She's quite the savvy thrift-store shopper. I was tickled by a brief mention of Polka Dots and Moonbeams - a vintage clothing store in Santa Monica that I used to go to. After Louise receives a mysterious invitation to a private vintage clothing sale, she finds herself magically transported to a cruise ship. My only quibble with the book is that it seems to take Louise forever to realize that, yes, the ship that she's on is the Titanic. Louise comes across as terribly sophisticated for a twelve year-old; I for one couldn't imagine having half the expertise she has about designer fashion, or having the appreciation for vintage clothing that she has, but then again, I was a giant sci-fi nerd and total tomboy at that age, so what do I know? Meanwhile, back in 1912 aboard the Titanic, Louise finds herself being mistaken for the gown's original owner, her distant relative, silent film star Alice Baxter. Explaining that she has amnesia, Louise finds play-acting at being a famous adult fun at first, but grows alarmed when she realizes she's not sure how to get back to her own time, and she alone of all the passengers on board knows the terrible fate of the Titanic.

I loved this book - it's so fresh and different. It hits the perfect note for tween girls, or young adult readers looking for "clean" fiction.  The numerous clothing sketches included throughout the book are gorgeous, candy for the eyes. This was a quick, breezy read. The sequel, The Time Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antionette is due out in September, 2012.


I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Candor review

Candor
by Pam Bachorz
Egmont USA
September 2009

I picked up Candor after reading Drought, which was such an amazing and weird read, I knew I had to check out more by that author. It turns out that Candor is very easy to pitch to people - it's basically Stepford Wives, only with teens. I think there's an episode of The Twilight Zone with a similar premise, as well. Oscar Banks lives in a gated community in Florida where families move for the answer to all of their problems. His father has created an ingeniously evil system where subliminal messages play on public speakers, controlling troubled teens impulses.

Oscar is sleazy, corrupt and incredibly difficult to like, especially at first. Having figured out his father's system, he sells the cure, personalized songs that counteract the lobotomizing effects of the subliminal messages to local teens, and helps many of them escape... for a price. Naturally, he'll take large amounts of cash, junk food and other contraband, but what horrified me the most is how he demands sexual favors from zombiefied girls. Gross! Thank goodness Oscar finally starts to turn around. Oscar's father, Campbell Banks, has a creepy obsession with control - the scenes with Oscar and his dad over the breakfast table, as Oscar must carefully pretend to be perfect are absolutely chilling. When rebellious and beautiful Nia moves to town, Oscar finds himself genuinely challenged for the first time.

It's the final third of the story where we really start to peel away the layers of the onion - how and why did Oscar's father come to invent this system and how did he go about founding an entire town devoted to it? By the end, readers are rooting for Oscar to get the heck out of there. I do love a story with lots of stunning reversals and surprises, and there were some really good surprises at the end of the story. I can't say anymore, because I don't want to spoil anything! I've been recommending this to readers who enjoyed Neil Schusterman's Unwind and other guy-centric dystopian fiction.


I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on The Demon Catchers of Milan

Sounds very interesting!


The Demon Catchers of Milan
by Kat Beyer
Egmont USA
August 2012

Mia's ordinary life is disrupted in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon--and only saved by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins Emilio and Giuliano say the only way to keep her safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever, in this stunningly well-written novel about an American girl who, fleeing an ancient evil, finds her only salvation in her ancestral home.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Boyfriends with Girlfriends review

Boyfriends with Girlfriends
by Alex Sanchez
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
April 2011

In this contemporary ensemble story, four high school friends; gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning, wrestle with their identities. Lance is comfortably out of the closet and is blessed with a very supportive family. His best friend Allie is straight. He brings her along on a group date to meet Sergio, a new guy that he's interested in. As far as Lance is concerned, Sergio's insistence that he is bisexual is only a minor hitch - surely Sergio will come all of the way out of the closet, soon, right? In the meantime, Allie is intrigued by Sergio's best friend Kimiko. Allie's been dating loveable yet lunk-headed athlete Chip for some time. Allie's always liked manga, and she and bookish tomboy Kimiko connect right away. They do end up kissing, which has Allie wondering, maybe she's not so straight after all? Kimiko's disapproving Asian mother is the main reason why Kimiko decides to remain in the closet for now.

I wished that each of the characters had been more distinctly drawn. Each of the four teens are somewhat socially awkward, and of course spend a lot of time thinking about their sexuality. All of them have a constant, restless scheming quality, "How can I tell if so-and-so likes me?" "If I say such-and-such thing, will that impress the person I have a crush on?" "How far can I get so-and-so to go with me? How far do I want them to?" After a while, the characters collective angst becomes exhausting. While the book is notable for its frank discussion of teen sexuality, plenty of the inner monologues of each of the characters felt a bit repetitive and forced.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Picture book mini-reviews, part 13

Ruth and the Green Book
by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Carolhoda Books
November 2010

Lengthy, this is a picture book for older readers. Soft (digitally altered?) illustrations in muted tones depict Ruth and her family traveling by car from Chicago to Alabama in the late 1950's. They find many establishments will not do business with African-Americans, and rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to friendly vendors. This story was based on historical facts, but fictionalized. The book is appended with an informative afterword with more information The Green Book. This was an interesting slice of history that I might otherwise not known about.

I borrowed this book from the library.


The Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams
by Ann Ingalls & Maryann Macdonald, illustrated by Giselle Potter
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
January 2010

This was a wordy, but lyrical story of jazz legend, Mary Lou Williams. Gouache illustrations looked a little flat to me. There's a brief afterward with additional biographical information about her. Without enough money for shoes to wear to school, little girl Williams plays piano for a neighbor, who, very impressed, gives her a little money. In that way, she's able to gradually stash away some savings. Williams later became very influential in the jazz scene, playing with Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

I borrowed this book from the library.


Interrupting Chicken
by David Ezra Stein
Candlewick Press
August 2010

I didn't love this on the first read, but it really grew on me. Illustrations of the dark green bedroom made me think a little of Goodnight Moon, as Papa reads bedtime stories to Little Chick and is constantly interrupted by with short, happy endings. This story captures the cozy feel of a bedtime ritual, and intersperses lots of book/literature references. I liked the alternating style of the story-within-a-story quasi-Paul Galdone inspired "storybook" illustrations. This is a very nice father/daughter story (Little Chicken is a girl) although wasn't it a little weird to see them sleeping in the same bed at the end? I think this would have lots of kid appeal.

I borrowed this book from the library.


Pout Pout Fish
by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
Farrar, Strauss Giroux
March 2008

With attractive art, and a catchy refrain, "I'm a pout-pout fish/with a pout-pout face/so I spread the dreary-wearies/All over the place./Blub/Bluuuub/Bluuuuuuub" this is certain to have a lot of kid-appeal. Featuring a lonely blue fish, this book felt like a kinder, gentler take on The Rainbow Fish. After recieving a kiss from a silver shimmering fish, the Pout Pout Fish decides he's a "kiss-kiss fish" and cheers everyone up by planting kisses wherever he goes. "Smooch, smooch, smooch."

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on The Sweetest Spell

I love magic. I love chocolate. This book sounds like a winner.


The Sweetest Spell
by Suzanne Selfors
Walker & Co.
August 2012

Emmeline Thistle has always had a mysterious bond with cows, beginning on the night of her birth, when the local bovines saved the infant cast aside to die in the forest. But Emmeline was unaware that this bond has also given her a magical ability to transform milk into chocolate, a very valuable gift in a kingdom where chocolate is more rare and more precious than gold or jewels. Then one day Owen Oak, a dairyman’s son, teaches Emmeline to churn milk into butter—and instead she creates a delicious chocolate confection that immediately makes her a target for every greedy, power-hungry person in the kingdom of Anglund. Only Owen loves Emmeline for who she truly is, not her magical skill. But is his love enough to save her from the danger all around her?
In a departure from her contemporary teen romances, Suzanne Selfors crafts an irresistible re-imagined fairy tale that will tempt readers with a delicious story of love that is sweeter than the richest chocolate.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Pledge review

The Pledge
by Kimberly Derting
November 2011
Margaret K. McElderry

The Pledge takes place in a dystopian world where everyone is strictly divided by castes who each speak different languages. Seventeen year old Charlaina Hart is hiding a secret - somehow she is able to understand any language. She and her family are part of the vendor class; not the lowest class, but far from the top.

They are ruled over by a matriarchal lines of queens, and as readers learn from the prologue, the evil queen has been magically extending her life.

Even though I found it unbelievable that no one seemed to have any curiosity or ability to learn other languages, it was still a really compelling world. I liked Charlie's circle of friends, flirtatious and daring Brooklynn and her best friend Aron. Charlie soon meets a group of rebels and feels an instant attraction to a city guard named Max. When rebels attack the city, Charlie feels she must protect her younger sister Angelina, who is mute. I felt this was very similar to the Katniss/Prue relationship from The Hunger Games.

There was a lot in the story that I found predictable. I had figured out the source of Charlie's ability within the first few pages, and I thought making four-year old Angelina mute was a way to avoid fully fleshing out that character. Angelina was a bit of a McGuffin, you know? Still, there were some really good plot twists and a surprise cliffhanger ending. I'll recommend this to any fan of dystopian who doesn't mind a bit of paranormal edge.


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

Friday, August 10, 2012

Retro Librarian Poem




knitted fresh daily posted this on Flickr. Cute poem, and still true today, I think! I'm lucky I'm a librarian... there's no way I'd have room to keep all my favorite books at home.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waiting on The Treachery of Beautiful Things

I have had my eye on this book for such a long time. Can't wait for it!


The Treachery of Beautiful Things
by Ruth Frances Long
Dial Books
August 2012

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kiss in Time review

A Kiss in Time
by Alex Flinn
HarperTeen
April 2009


First line: If I hear one more syllable about spindles, I shall surely die!


Princess Talia from the kingdom of Euphrasia is somewhat of a drama queen. All her life, she's been incredibly sheltered, because everyone knows that she's been cursed to fall asleep after pricking her finger on a spindle. Under guard at all times, and not allowed to leave the palace, her only way of rebelling is to speak rudely to all of her servants. In a way, she really can't help it when she is finally tricked into touching a spindle -- she's never seen one before and doesn't know what to avoid!


Three hundred years later... spoiled rich kid Jack is thoroughly bored with his all-expenses paid European vacation. While trying to avoid a tour of yet another museum, he breaks the curse and awakens Talia quite by accident. Figuring it will make his ex-girlfriend Amber jealous, he brings Talia back with him to Miami.


One of the aspects to the Sleeping Beauty story which always had me wondering was... how does the princess adjust to the world after she wakes up? Imperious, haughty, totally unprepared for American informality and lack of respect for inherited titles, Talia really struggles to get along, although her mean-girl spirit serves her well when dealing with the popular girls in an American high school. Any and all technology is completely foreign to her, and she has several humorous misunderstandings concerning taking Jack's cell phone messages. To be honest, I found both Talia and Jack difficult to like. Like a lot of Flinn's characters, Talia is a spoiled brat who takes the long way around to finally getting over herself.


Even though I found the main characters a bit trying at times, I think teens who feel stifled by rules, full of energy, ready to get on with their lives and stop being told what to do at every turn by "grown-ups" will find them relate-able. I'll recommend this to anyone who enjoys fairytale retellings.


Compare to:
Spindle's End - Robin McKinley
Wisdom's Kiss - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
A Long, Long Sleep - Anna Sheehan
Briar Rose - Jane Yolen


I borrowed this book from the library.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Read in July



This month I read the following books:

1 Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
2 The Charm School - Susan Wiggs
3 Library Management Tips That Work - Carol Smallwood
4 Bringing Up Bebe - Pamela Druckerman
5 Blood Red Road - Moira Young
6 Jane Austen Ruined My Life - Beth Patillo

Picture credit: Woman Reading, Gustav Adoph Hennig

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Waiting on The Boy Recession

I don't know why, but this book just sounds so funny and interesting to me. A light, fun read, perfect for summer, I hope.


The Boy Recession
by Flynn Meaney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
August 2012

Where have all the boys gone?

Down-to-earth Kelly is always the friend and never the girlfriend. But as her junior year of high school starts, Kelly is determined to finally reveal her true feelings for her long-time crush and good friend Hunter - that is, until the Boy Recession hits.

Over the past summer, an overwhelming number of male students have left Kelly and Hunter's small high school class. Some were sent to private school and others moved away. Whatever the case, the sudden population shift has left the already small Julius P. Heil High in desperate shape. The football coach is recruiting chess champs for his team, the principal's importing male exchange students to balance out school dances,and Hunter is about to become an unexpected heartthrob.

Content with his role as the guitar-strumming, class-skipping slacker, Hunter is unprepared to be the center of attention. Desperate coaches are recruiting him for sports teams, and the drama teacher casts him in the lead role of the school musical. Even the Spandexers, powerful popular girls in tight pants, are noticing Hunter in a new light - with a little work, he could have potential. He might even be boyfriend material...

In order to stand out from the crowd and win Hunter's heart, Kelly needs a "stimulus package" in the form of cougar lessons from a senior girl who dates hot freshman boys and advice on the male mind from her Cosmo-addicted best friend, Aviva. As if dating wasn't hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

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