Monday, May 31, 2010

A Summer of Silk Moths by Margaret Willey

Seventeen-year-old Pete enjoys his predictable life. It's summer and he's helping his friend Abe at the nature preserve. Enter Nora, Abe's long lost niece. This girl has serious problems. She and Pete don't get along at all. Moths, secrets, and animosity make for an interesting summer in Michigan.

What I thought: I can appreciate Willey's love for Gene Stratton Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost. In high school, it was one of my favorites as well. Distinct similarities exist between it and this tribute--secrets, love of nature, and coming of age. I like that Pete is our narrator. If I'm not mistaken A Girl of the Limberlost was third-person narration. (On a side note, there are entirely too many female narrated books out there. Hearing from a guy is always refreshing.) Pete as narrator ranks right up there with Tyler in Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted and Ethan in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures. The book reminded me a bit of Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road only less complicated and easier to understand. To deal with the present, you have to resolve the past. In short, I liked A Summer of Silk Moths. I wouldn't mind reading other books by Margaret Willey.

(Woodbury, MN: Flux, 2009)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Over My Dead Body by Kate Klise

(Book 2 in the 43 Old Cemetery Road Series)

Things are great at 43 Old Cemetery Road in Ghastly, IL. Mr. Grumpley, Olive, and Seymour have formed their own publishing company and plan to release the next three chapters of their book by Halloween. Their plans go awry when an anonymous someone sends a letter to Mr. Dick Tater. He declares the living arrangements at 43 Old Cemetery Road unsuitable. (Remember, Seymour's parents left him to the care of whoever rented the house. That would be Mr. G--old and grumpy. And don't forget, although she's a lovely woman, Olive is also a ghost.) Mr. Grumpley is carted off to the lunatic asylum and Seymour is packed off to the orphanage. Can the three reunite and meet their deadline?

What I thought: Another great book in this series. Funny and fast-paced. Also raises some thought-provoking questions. For example, what constitutes a family? I look forward to reading more about Mr. Grumpley, Olive, and Seymour in future books. As always, M. Sarah Klise's illustrations are top notch.

(Illus. M. Sarah Klise. Boston: Harcourt, 2009)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black

Bear wants to reach the honey at the top of the tree. The problem: He's not tall enough. The solution: He stacks various other animals on top of one another until they reach the honey. Another problem: He forgot to take the bees into account!

What I thought: Hilarious in its simplicity. No more than 5 or 6 words on each page. The illustrations are great--colorful without being overpowering. Keep your eyes on the ants. I never realized there could so many ways to refer to your rear without being rude.

Story Time Idea: Pair with My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann.

(Illus. Kevin Hawkes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Look What I Got in the Mail!

That's right! I received an ARC of Linger in the mail. This is book 2 in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. It's due out in July. Luckily, I get to read it now. Many thanks to the publisher for sending me the ARC.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Amelia Bedelia's First Valentine by Herman Parish

Amelia Bedelia is excited about Valentine's Day. She has cards for all her friends even though she doesn't quite understand the messages (Nuts 4 You, Sealed with a Kiss). Disaster strikes when she leaves her cards on the bus. Amelia Bedelia thinks on her feet and puts some playing cards to good use.

What I thought: Amelia Bedelia is delightful as always. I love how she takes everything literally. This story will be great for a school age Valentine's Day story time.

Craft Idea: Have the kids make valentines out of playing cards like Ameila Bedelia does.

(Illus. Lynne Arvil. New York: GreenWillow, 2009)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book by Book by Cindy Hudson

Subtitle: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs
(Berkley, CA: Seal Press, 2009)

I believe the subtitle says it all about this book. 21 chapters are divided into 3 subsections

Part 1- A New Chapter: How To Get Your Club Started
Part 2- Turning the Page: Keeping Your Club Thriving
Part 3- Getting Over the Bumps: How to Handle Typical Club Challenges

The book also includes 3 useful appendices: where to find books, books for your book club (an annotated list divided into age groups), and recipes.

Cindy Hudson has the experience and thus the expertise to write this book. She belongs to two mother-daughter book clubs--one with each daughter. This book is one of the best I've read about starting and maintaining a book club. Though it specifically deals with mother-daughter book clubs, I think any book club would find Book by Book a valuable resource. I liked that Cindy mentioned new technologies (i.e. Web 2.0--GoodReads, Facebook, Skype) and spoke fondly of libraries and librarians in the course of her book.

I was lucky enough to win this copy of Book by Book in a blog giveaway. My desire to read it comes from my profession. As a librarian, I may be called on to support mother-daughter book clubs. Reading this book strengthened my ability to do so. I'll be passing Book by Book along to a cousin. She has a ten-year-old daughter who is an avid reader. Wouldn't it be great to have a mother-daughter book club in the family?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Moose on the Loose by Kathy-Jo Wargin

Just what would you do with a moose on the loose? Would you invite him in? Then what?

What I thought: Terrific! This book is a hit. The text reminds me a little of Dr. Seuss only easier to read aloud. The book is funny and engaging. All the questions make it interactive and perfect for story time. The illustrations are great. Soft colors and 2 page spreads that really show off the moose's size.

Story Time Idea: Pair with Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Moose a Muffin for a "moose-tastic" story time!

(Illus. John Bendall-Brunello. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2009)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reading Ramona Take 4

Book 4: Ramona and Her Father
First published in 1975, illustrated by Alan Tiegreen
186 pages, 7 chapters (New York: Scholastic)
Awards: Newbery Honor Book, Notable Children's Book

Happily making out her Christmas list in September, Ramona isn't prepared for the disaster that befalls her family. Her father loses his job. Ramona crosses off most of the items on her Christmas list and adds "one happy family." Can the Quimbys survive Mr. Q's unemployment?

I can totally see why this book was chosen as a Newbery Honor Book. The issues it deals with (unemployment, a mother working full time, a father seeking employment, the fear of the children) are important and need to be addressed. How the Quimby family deals with their situation is great. They meet it head on. This book could be sad and depressing, but it isn't. The moments of humor are perfect (the cat's attack on the pumpkin, Ramona's crown of burs). I love that Ramona learns that happy can mean a lot of things.

Loved Ramona's relationship with her father. Mr. Q is the kind of father any girl would want. He understands things that most fathers ignore (the fads at school for one--the gummy bear fad reminds me of the pickled limes in Little Women). Ramona's crusade against her father's smoking habit shows how much she loves him.

Favorite Quotes:
"Ramona's imagination was excited" (112) [Re: the longest picture in the world]

"'No family is perfect. Get that idea out of your head. And nobody is perfect either. All we can do is work at it. And we do'" (158). [Mr. Q to Ramona]

Favorite Illustration: Ramona sitting beside her father looking content (page 159)

Activities from Ramona and Her Father:
Crowns (out of less prickly materials than burs)
The longest picture in the world
Jack-o-lantern designing
Tin can stilts

Up next, Book 5: Ramona and Her Mother. Nine (9) more weeks until Ramona & Beezus the movie is in theaters. Are you excited? I sure am!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mimi & Lulu by Charise Mericle Harper

Mimi and Lulu are the best of friends. They play together, pretend together, and disagree together.

What I thought: Such a lovely book. Friends everywhere (not just children) will love this book. I loved the illustrations--simple, not busy with plenty of white space. I also like that Mimi and Lulu are individuals. Mimi wears pink. Lulu wears purple. They are also different animals.

Story Time Themes: Friendship, Valentine's Day

(Subtitle: Three Sweet Stories, One Forever Friendship. New York: Balzer & Bray, 2009)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Start Summer Off With A...


You thought I was going to say bang, didn't you? Well, I fooled you!

Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Cat a Cupcake is the perfect book to kick off summer vacation with your story time regulars. Cat is one active little feline. (Note: Here's my review of the book from last summer.)

After reading the book, you could have the kids make summer passports or you can make a checklist for them. They can check off the things they do that Cat did. Here's a sample list:

[] Go to the beach (Swim, Build a sand castle, Look for shells)

[] Go to the gym (Run/Walk on the treadmill, Lift weights, Learn karate)

[] Go to the park (Take a rowboat ride, Ride the merry-go-round)

[] Visit a museum

These activities can be adapted to fit any age group and locale. Let's all go have some summer fun!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

Deidre has a perfectly ordinary life until she meets Luke Dillon. When she's not at her mom's beck and call, she hangs out with her best friend James, works at the ice cream parlor, and plays her harp. From the day she meets Luke, odd things start to happen. Dee finds four-leaf clovers everywhere and discovers she can move things with her mind. Luke says he's there to protect her from them (the faery), but who will protect her from him?

What I thought: The first few chapters were a bit slow as the plot unfolded, but once it was, I couldn't put the book down. The chemistry between Dee and Luke is sizzling. Dee's friendship with James is great. The plot was complicated yet riveting. I can't wait to read the sequel Ballad.

(Woodbury, MN: Flux, 2008)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I don't normally exceed my three reviews per week, but after I read Shiver, I just had to review it immediately. This is one of these books that I can't write a summary for. I'm still reeling from reading the book. This book is one that is best described to one's friends as "YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!!!"

So here's the summary from the jacket description:

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

What I thought: Wow! Let me say that again. Wow. I liked Stiefvater's faery books, but she has surpassed herself this time. I didn't want to put this book down. When forced to (drat work!), my mind would replay the scenes and wonder what happened next. Stiefvater seems to have an uncanny ability to portray male-female relationships realistically. Grace and Sam have more than chemistry. They have a connection. I guess their six years "watching" one another has something to do with that. Sam and Grace's relationship is one that makes single girls teary eyed and then mournfully say, "I wish I had that." Loved the alternate points-of-view. This is what I would have liked in Lament and Ballad. So glad she decided to write Shiver from both points-of-view. Having Grace's and Sam's individual perspectives adds so much to the story.

Stiefvater's werewolves fascinate me. The full moon thing is a bit overdone and I am ecstatic that she moved away from that. The temperature thing makes sense--even seems scientific. This was a beautiful book filled with so many emotions--love, longing, lust, despair, desperation, humor, and always hope. I can't wait to read the next two books in the trilogy. At this point (I've read the blurb for Linger), I think I might give up my firstborn to get my hands on an ARC of Linger. Now that's serious desperation. Bottom-line, after reading Shiver, I was so haunted (in a good way) by the story that I went back to read bits of it again.

My favorite scene was in the candy store when the clerk asks Sam and Grace how long they've been dating and Sam answers, "Six years." I loved Grace's reaction: "I wrinkled my nose to cover a laugh. Of course he would count the time that we'd been two entirely different species" (282). Gotta love that wry humor.

Book 2 (Linger) is due out this year and Book 3 (Forever) will be out in 2011.

Twilight Saga look out. I think (okay, know) Wolves of Mercy Falls is a much stronger series than Twilight. And the writing...beautiful unlike Twilight where you get stuck in Bella's rambling thought process for hundreds of pages.

(Wolves of Mercy Falls Book #1. New York: Scholastic, 2009.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mousie Love by Dori Chaconas

Tully falls in love with Frill at first sight. He asks her repeatedly to marry him, but doesn't wait for an answer. He rushes around (narrowly avoiding the cat) finding her a house, food, and stars. Finally, when he finishes his rushing around, Frill answers. Yes! She will marry him.

What I thought: A cute story with quite a developed plot. I love Tully's bumbling. Ever since reading Emily Bearn's Tumtum & Nutmeg, I've had a fondness for mice couples. The illustrations are bright and appealing.

(Illus. Josee Masse. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle

After her sister's marriage, Penelope goes with her governess to Ireland where she will receive extra tuition in magic. There she meets Lady Keating and her charismatic son Niall. Her association with the Keating family unknowingly lands Penelope in the midst of a plot to harm Queen Victoria. Will she discover the truth before it's too late?

What I thought: Doyle did not disappoint with this follow-up to Bewitching Season. Penelope's story was just as engrossing. I liked that we got to see a little more of the inner workings of Niall's mind than we did of Loch's in the first book. The chemistry between Penelope and Niall is thrilling.

(New York: Henry Holt, 2009.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Cuckoo’s Haiku & Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen

Taking us through the four seasons, these haiku introduce us to each season’s birds.

What I thought: Lovely! The haiku is one of my favorite poetic forms and I am pleased to see so well used here. The poems are a delight to read. The illustrations are pleasing and so realistic. I liked Rosen’s notes about the birds and his poems at the end of the book. My favorite poems are “Cardinal” and “Mockingbird”

And here for your reading pleasure is my own birding haiku:

Under the spruce tree
Winter birds feed on needles,
Waiting for spring to arrive

Story Time Idea: Pair with Birds by Kevin Henkes.

(Illus. Stan Fellows. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2009)

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems by Deborah Ruddell

In this delightful menagerie of poems, we meet a variety of forest animals. We learn their habits and get acquainted with their thoughts.

What I thought: Such a fun collection! The poems have just the right touch of humor to them. Kids will be sure to like them. The illustrations are great—realistic but playful. My favorite poems are:

“Biography of a Beaver”
“Moonlit Raccoon”
“Nobody’s Pet (A Word to the Wise from a Red Fox)”
“Chipmunks, INC”

(Illus. Joan Rankin. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reading Ramona Take 3

Book 3: Ramona the Brave
First published in 1975, illustrated by Alan Tiegreen
190 pages, 9 chapters (New York: Avon Camelot)

First grade doesn't quite agree with Ramona. Her teacher doesn't like her. First grade work isn't as interesting as kindergarten work. Changes take place in the Quimby household as well. They build an addition on to the house--a bedroom for Ramona. To pay for it, Mrs. Quimby goes to work part-time. Ramona must make her own bed, bake cookies if she wants them, and deal with Howie's grandmother if she gets sick. Can brave Ramona can all these changes?

I'm beginning to notice the great words Beverly Cleary uses in her books. Here's a sampling from Ramona the Brave: chagrin, heroine, exasperating, astound, liberated, smithereens, and glorious. What fun it will be for young readers to puzzle out the meanings!

I liked how Ramona's creativity and imagination came out in this book: giving her owl glasses, making her own coloring book, and making a (bunny) slipper when she bravely forfeited her shoe to a dog. I was pleased to find that Ramona attends Sunday school and prays regularly. The prayers of a child are so sweet. These things only underscore the wholesomeness of Beverly Cleary's books.

My favorite quotes:
"She was bored, not napping. She had learned to think about schoolwork, and at the same time think about other things in a private corner of her mind" (79).

"Ramona could make an amazing number of things with paper, crayons, staples, and Scotch tape. Bee's wings to wear on her wrists, a crown to wear on her head, a paper catcher's mask to cover her face" (143-44).

Activities from Ramona the Brave:
Chalk Butterflies
Paper Bag Owls
Make Your Own Coloring Book
Play Brick Factory (Here in TN we have some red rocks we call "chalk rocks" that would make good substitute bricks.)

Up next, Book 4: Ramona and Her Father.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Odd Owls & Stout Pigs: A Book of Nonsense by Arnold Lobel

Here are two recently discovered vignettes from Arnold Lobel of Frog & Toad fame. One about owls, one about pigs. They are delightful in their playfulness.

What I thought: Loved it! The situations in which Lobel presents the owls and pigs will tickle children’s fancy. This book was a pleasure to read. The illustrations are charming and the color just right.

Story Time Idea: Pair with an owl book (Good-Night, Owl! By Pat Hutchins) and a pig book great story time.

(Color by Adrianne Lobel, New York: Harper, 2009)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Top Ten YA Books

Adele of Persnickety Snark has a Top 100 YA Titles Poll going. She was inspired by Elizabeth Bird's Top 100 Children 's Book Poll. I didn't weigh in on the Children's Poll, but I decided to let my voice be heard for the YA poll. I don't think I'm the most discerning person to ask, but I put together a list anyway. I like what Adele said about all the lists: "Lists are very dependant on what you've read, genres you prefer, execution vs memory and any matter of things. It is subjective. It is also extremely difficult." Without further ado, here is my Top Ten List.

10. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (2009)
Fairy tale retellings are on of my favorite YA sub-genres. It was very hard to pick my favorite retelling. I ended up choosing Ice because of its modern setting. Others I considered were Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (Look for the sequel Princess of Glass on May 25! ) and The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli.

9. Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson (2009)
This book was by far my favorite book of 2009. I loved everything about it. I can't wait for the sequel.

8. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (2008)
Awards: Printz Honor 2009, BBYA 2009
This book is one of those great modern realistic titles. It reminded me of John Green's Looking for Alaska and the film Dead Poets' Society.

7. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (2009)
Awards: William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist 2010
This was a beautiful book. I was a bit skeptical when I saw the size. The Twilight books have soured me on long books unless they are fantastic like Inkheart or Beautiful Creatures. I liked that the story was unique. So many of the paranormal teen novels are hit or miss on a unique plot, originality, and creativity.

6. Backwater by Joan Bauer (2005)
Joan Bauer is one of my favorite YA authors. I knew I had to pick one of her books for my Top 10 list. I considered Hope was Here. It's a great book and even won some awards, but I ultimately chose Backwater. This is my favorite Bauer title to date (and I've read them all!). I think the theme is one with which numerous teen can identify. The book is about identity and many teens struggle with that.

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006)
Awards: Printz Honor 2007, BBYA 2007
This book was hauntingly beautiful. I've always enjoyed stories about WWII because my grandmother remembered the era. This is something she lived through. And you can't beat death as a narrator.

4. The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (1990)
Yeah, the Twilight Saga got teens reading again, but the vampire book was around much longer. A full 15 years before the publication of Twilight, Annette Curtis Klause gave us The Silver Kiss. It's my favorite vamp book. While I initially enjoyed the Twilight books, I don't really care for them. If you want a good vampire book, read Klause's.

3. Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (1966)
Awards: Newbery Medal 1967
I discovered this book in my eighth grade classroom. I remember being drawn to Julie and her story. She was a writer. I like to think that I'm a writer/poet. I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry through this book. Little Women and Anne of Green Gables are often touted as the books for girls, but I think Up a Road Slowly is just as important. I need to re-read this one.

2. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (1997)
Awards: Newbery Medal 1998, Notable Children's Book 1998, Scott O'Dell Award 1998
The verse novel (or novel-in-verse or novem) is a growing phenomenon in YA books. This book was my first taste of the form. I read this book in my graduate Children's Literature class. We had to keep book notes--write down the passages that really stood out to us and add an explanation of why. It was a struggle for me not to just copy the book in its entirety. I had read Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, but it didn't strike me as anything more than a prose novel with the sentences separated into lines. Out of the Dust was poetry and it told a story--revolutionary!

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
Awards: Printz Honor 2000
Laurie Halse Anderson is a masterful writer. As a reader, I am drawn into the world and characters she creates. Speak was the first novel I read by her. It remains my favorite. Melinda has such a distinctive voice. Her story is one that deserves to be heard.

So here's my list. I know it doesn't reveal any great truths about YA literature, but I had fun deciding on my Top 10. I can't wait to see the results of the poll.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What’s the Weather Inside? By Karma Wilson

[Summary from Jacket Description]

"Here are more than 120 hysterical, philosophical, rhetorical, and commonsensical poems and pictures that explore the perfectly not-so-perfect world of picky kids, Miss Muffet's revenge, magic homework wands, yellow snow, and Sunday's sundaes!
New York Times bestselling author Karma Wilson and renowned New Yorker cartoonist Barry Blitt have created a brilliantly entertaining poetry collection sure to be a source of pleasure and inspiration to kids everywhere."

What I thought: A great collection. I couldn’t stop reading. I have several favorites. I especially liked the meta-poems. I can relate to “Forgotten Poems” because it often happens to me. Kids will be highly entertained with this collection. The illustrations were great—they almost told their own story. My favorite poems are:

“What’s the Weather inside?”
“Golden Eggs”
“Word Play”
“Forgotten Poems”
“Haunted House”

(Illus. Barry Blitt. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009)