Friday, July 31, 2015

Read in July 2015

This month I read the following books:

1. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World - Malala Yousefzai

picture credit: Portrait of Charlotte Bronte

Friday, July 24, 2015

Picture book mini-reviews 36

Dino Bites!
by Craig Algy H
Boxer Books
March 2013

Simple, loud and funny, this story is a total triumph. One dinosaur chomps another in this food chain cumulative story, and all is well until, "The bite buzzed..." causing T-Rex to rather loudly "BUUURP!" the other dinos free again. Dino Bites has enormous kid appeal, large, colorful illustrations with bold dark outlines and a very simple text, sometimes only one word per page. This story is perfect for reading aloud to large groups.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Clarion Books
March 2013

A little green duck has lost his new blue socks, and searches high and low for them, asking everyone he meets if they've seen the erstwhile footwear in this rhyming tale. Having checked his box, his friend Fox, Mr. Ox and some peacocks, he goofily realizes... he's been wearing them this whole time. I loved the quirky hidden details such as Fox sitting down to eat a bowl of grapes and in Duck's messy house, presumably a baby picture of him as an egg.
Colorful pen, ink and watercolor illustrations hint at a Dr. Seuss-like sensibility. I highly recommend this not only as a read-aloud but for beginning readers as well.

I borrowed this book from the library.

That's Mine!
by Michael Van Zeveren
Gecko Press
January 2013

A frog, a snake, an eagle, a lizard and all fight over an egg they find in the jungle. After accidentally bonking an elephant on the head, all the animals are very quick to disavow their connection to the egg. When the egg finally hatches a baby crocodile, she knows exactly who to go to: the frog that originally found the egg. The ending is ambiguous enough, we weren't sure if the crocodile is planning to eat the frog, or simply claiming the frog as a parent. A funny translation from the French language original.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Steam Train, Dream Train
by Sherry Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books
April 2013

Here is a soothing bedtime train book all in rhyme. Oil pastels give a textured look to the illustrations. Zoo animals and a dinosaur load up their train with toys, balls, paint, ice cream, sand for sand boxes... a bit random, but in short, everything a boy could ever want. End pages feature engineer coverall stripes.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy Families review

Happy Families
by Tanita S. Davis
Knopf Books for Young Readers
May 2012

First line: "The surge of chattering, pointing, gawking people pours into the massive auditorium, and I feel a shiver crawl up my arms."

Twin high school freshman Ysabel and Justin Nicholas are leading perfectly normal, happy lives until they discover their father is hiding a secret. Ysabel is a talented artist, hoping to eventually get an art school scholarship with her glass bead designs, while her younger brother Justin is a straight-A student with his eye on the Ivy League and law school. In short, they are both high-achieving, intelligent kids and their father's secret truly turns their lives upside down.

When their grandfather discovers that the twins' father has been renting an apartment several hours away, initially the family suspects that the possibility of an affair with another woman. Nothing could have prepared them for the truth... their father has been living as a woman and is in the process of transitioning to her new identity as Christine.

This is a short little book, that covers a weighty topic in a unique way. Alternating chapters between the twins take you through their turmoil, surprise and hurt that their father isn't who they thought he was. The family suffers from the secrecy and a total lack of communication. As their parents work issues out in therapy, the teens are left in the dark about how this change will affect their lives. It's not until the end of the book, that their father tells them that they are not necessarily divorcing, that the twins won't have to change schools and so on. The whole family eventually makes their peace with the complicated situation. The book is appended with a glossary and guide to speaking respectfully about people who are transitioning to another gender.

Compare to:
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom - Emily Franklin
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M. Danforth
Freak Show - James St. James

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cover Trend: Post-Its

Here's a trend I've noticed... covers with post-it notes on them. I could swear I remember more books with post-its on the cover than just these. Are there more titles that I've left out?

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things - Ann Aguirre
The Last Time We Say Goodbye - Cynthia Hand
The Boy Problem: Notes and Observations of Tabitha Ready - Kami Kinard
All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living - Rebecca Rupp
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze - Alan Silberberg

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Breathe review

by Sarah Crossan
October 2012

First line: "Breathing is a right not a privilege, so I'm stealing it back."

Alina, Quinn and Bea live in a world where oxygen is hard to come by. Many citizens live in safely protected domes, where oxygen is carefully controlled. The wealthy, known as Premiums, are able to afford more, of course, while poorer members of society known as Auxiliaries must move slowly and breathe cautiously in order not to run out.

Alina is working with a group of rebels who are hoping to use plants outside the domes to increase oxygen in the air. At the very least, they want to break down some of the unfair class structure that is currently rigidly enforced.

Bea is a lower class citizen. After she flunks the very challenging set of tests to be raised to a higher position, her parents are left to hope that she'll make a good marriage and raise the entire family's status so that they can all breathe easier.

Wealthy Quinn is up for a bit of adventure and he readily agrees to a camping trip on the outside of the dome.

The story features a love triangle between Alina, Bea and their love interest Quinn. Love triangles can frequently move a plot along with plenty of opportunity for conflict, but here, I just felt sorry for the two girls. Quinn is overcome by Alina's beauty, even though he's been best friends with Bea for ages. I enjoyed the alternating chapters format which pivots between the three main characters and their unique voices.

The lack of oxygen is fairly well-thought out - exercise becomes a privilege for the wealthy who are able to afford to get their heart rate up. Poorer people age faster and tire easier in the oxygen poor environment. Fans of dystopian will find a lot to like here: an oppressive government, citizens who are kept in the dark about what is really going on, brave teens who are ready to challenge the status quo, a love triangle and some daring chase scenes.

Compare to:
Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi
More Than This - Patrick Ness
The Pledge - Kimberly Derting

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Picture book mini-reviews 35

Jasper and Joop
by Olivier Dunrea
HMH Books for Young Readers
March 2013

Simple sentences compare and contrast neat, Felix Unger type Jasper with his best friend, a slovenly Oscar Maddix type. Illustrations make clear that even when they say the same thing, their reactions are opposite. For example, "Jasper jumps over the puddle. 'Too wet,' he says." readers see Jasper smartly hopping over the puddle with nary a feather out of place. "Joop splashes into the puddle. 'TOO wet!' he honks." with his wings and legs akimbo, gleefully splashing about. A nice gentle adventure for young readers, the book's small size is perfect for tiny hands.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Bye-Bye Baby Brother!
by Sheena Dempsey
Candlewick Press
April 2013

This story takes sibling jealousy head on with a British sensibility. Ruby is sick of her little brother Oliver taking up all of her mother's time. Playing with the dog, Rory, isn't enough to distract her. She dreams up ways to get rid of Oliver even imagining a "Yard Sale. A nice squashy baby in full working order. A bit noisy, but quiets down when given some brown mush to eat. 50c Good Price." After finally getting some quality time with mom, once Oliver's been fed, they pretend to go to the moon, and Ruby gets a story read to her. After the baby is finally put down for a nap, Ruby decides that maybe the baby isn't so bad after all. Endpages feature cute baby toys. This book offers a tender and sweet story for any growing family. 

I borrowed this book from the library.

Peace, Baby!
Linda Ashman
Chronicle Books
May 2013

A diverse group of kids in a wide variety of situations each find something to fight about, but resolve things with the repeating phrase, "Peace, baby." This is a great conflict resolution book to add to your library. Light but colorful digital illustrations retain the feel of pen and ink. Celebratory banners decorate the endpages.

I borrowed this book from the library.

I Dreamt...: A Book About Hope
by Gabriela Olmos, translated by Elisa Amado
Groundwood Books
April 2013

Strong anti-violence/anti-war message in this book, created in collaboration with Mexican artists. Red endpapers feature dried dandelion puffs (as if to make a wish for peace.) A fairly heavy message, which gets a bit dark at times, "I dreamt of pistols that shoot butterflies... and of drug lords who only sell soap bubbles." Varying typefaces in different sizes and colors lend emphasis to the poetic dream images and unite the diverse artistic styles employed. Profits from this book will go to the International Board on Books for Young People for Children in Crisis.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Linger review

by Maggie Stiefvater
July 2010

First line: "This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one."

This sequel to Shiver continues with Grace enjoying her relationship with Sam, newly cured of his lycanthropy, while Grace's best friend Isabel still grieves over the recent death of her brother. Sam is struggling to deal with the permanence of his new situation, while still worrying over which of his wolf "family" will return to human form in the spring. In the meantime, a few of the new wolves that Sam's adoptive dad Beck recently created are having troubles. Recovering addict and famous rocker Cole is angry that his wolf change doesn't seem to be sticking... he'd been hoping to escape his human life by turning wolf. Cole's friend Victor, unwittingly turned wolf, seems to be having trouble staying in one form.

Sam is, in every way, the perfect boyfriend... sensitive, poetic, genuinely thoughtful, undemanding. There is some tension as he's been sneaking into Grace's bedroom every night, not for prurient reasons, but just to snuggle. It isn't explicitly said, but implied, that despite their attraction, their frequent kisses and and despite their absolute rightness for each other, Grace and Sam are probably still virgins. When Grace's parents discover him in their daughter's bed they react with feelings of hurt and rage. They promptly assume the worst and ban Sam from their household, letting Grace know in no uncertain terms how disappointed they are in her. In the meantime, Grace and Sam both feel strongly that they want to get married. I thought this was interesting, because it's plenty common for high school girls to fantasize about marrying their boyfriend... but I'm not sure if young men usually harbor those same thoughts.  Grace, predictably, feels embittered that her neglectful parents choose to get involved in her life at this late date.

Grace, and to some extent, Sam, become desperate and emotional during their enforced separation. With Grace's 18th birthday only a few months away, they have very little to lose by simply lying low and waiting a little while until they can be together, even without Grace's parents blessing. However, they both feel the pain of separation keenly, and unable to bear even a few days without him, Grace runs away to stay with Sam at Beck's place at the edge of the woods.

Linger adds the viewpoints of Cole and Isabel, who play counterpoint to Grace and Sam.  While it's clear that Grace and Sam are meant to be, together forever, soulmates; Cole and Isabel, on the other hand, have a purely animal attraction, lending a dangerous feel to most of their interactions.  Cole questions the whole premise that the change to wolf is caused by cold temperatures... he sees too many exceptions to the rule.

Heavy foreshadowing with Grace's exposure to a werewolf bite as a girl made the ending totally predictable, but surprisingly I didn't mind.  Even though I knew, pretty much from the second page, where the book was going, I still enjoyed the journey.

Compare to:

Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce
Vesper - Jeff Sampson
Nightshade - Andrea Cremer
The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group - Catherine Jenks

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 3, 2015

ALA recaps 2015

I didn't go to the American Library Association's Annual Conference in San Francisco this year, much as I might have liked to. I lived in San Francisco for a brief while (and worked in the TransAmerica Pyramid!) and have always enjoyed going back for visits. But, I've done the next best thing, and read up on other conference-goers experiences there.

Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes gives a three-part wrap-up. One, two and three.

The ALSC blog is a treasure trove of conference related posts.

Abby Johnson at Abby the Librarian shares her experiences, especially the Newbery Caldecott banquet.

Paul Signorelli at Building Creative Bridges talks about the warmly supportive and hug-worthy excitement being in San Francisco during Pride Week, as the historic Supreme Court decision on gay marriages was released and has more resources for those who are #alaleftbehind.


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