Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Foster McFee has a dream. One day, she's going to be a star, host of her own cooking show. But right now the only star in sight is the one on her apron. Foster and her mom are on the run from the disaster that was her mom's boyfriend. They land in Culpepper, West Virginia, a small town just right for big dreams. Foster's baking skills are soon famous. She's made friend. Is all too good to be true?

What I thought: Well, I've read every novel Joan Bauer has ever written and her latest didn't disappoint me. I think Close to Famous will garner a Newbery Honor or maybe a mention on ALSC's Children's Notable Book List. Foster has a great voice. She's a well rounded character complete with flaws, fears, and talents. I think Close to Famous might join Backwater, Squashed, and Hope Was Here on my list of Bauer favorites. The only thing that could make this book better would be recipes. After reading it, I wanted to bake. A cupcake cookbook is on my "to buy" list.

Here are a few other food books I've read and reviewed: The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler, It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder, and Eggs Over Evie by Alison Jackson.

My reviews of Joan Bauer's other books:
Stand Tall

(Viking, 2010)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stork by Wendy Delsol

For Katia (Kat) LeBlanc, moving from L.A. to Minnesota is quite an adjustment. Being inducted into the Stork Society isn't her idea of fun. Katia's not sure she's ready for Minnesota, let alone finding homes for new souls. Add to this a charismatic guy named Jack who doesn't seem to like Katia very much.

What I thought: A thoroughly interesting book. The Stork Society is unique. The incorporation of Hans Christian Andersen' s "Snow Queen" and other Norse mythology is great. I want to know more about it now. Stork is a great book. I love Kat's relationship with Jack. I can't wait to read the sequel, Frost, due out in September.

(Candlewick, 2010)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

The Time: 1935
The Place: Key West

Eleven-year-old Turtle is spending the summer in Key West with her aunt and a multitude of boy cousins. Turtle gets to know the locals and joins her cousins on their neighborhood rounds. They even find a pirate treasure map before the summer is over.

What I thought: I enjoyed Turtle in Paradise. The 1930s is a time I like (probably because of The Waltons and my grandma who grew up during the depression). Turtle is an interesting character and a good narrator. Her toughness makes her quite reliable. The supporting characters are great. The Key West Culture was so interesting to read about. Cut ups and the other food mentioned made me hungry with a capital "H." When the book ended, I wanted more. That's always a good sign. Will we be reading more about Turtle in the future?

(Random House, 2010)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Around the World in 100 Days by Gary Blackwood

You know the story. You've likely seen the movie. You might have read the book. Yes, you've heard about Phileas Fogg and his quick 80 day trip around the world. A few years later (1891 to be exact), Fogg's seventeen-year-old son Harry has made a wager much like his father did. Drive his automobile (steam powered, of course) around the world in 100 days. What's a stake? £6,000 and Harry's freedom to be a tinker. His traveling companions: his friend Johnny, slow with people, but fast with machines; Charles, son of one of the betters; and Elizabeth, a newspaper reporter. Will they make it around the world in 100 days? Only time will tell.

What I thought: A fun, action packed book. A hint of steampunk that can't go wrong. The characters were great. I liked the interjection of Charles' journal entries and Elizabeth's dispatches. This book will appeal to both guys and girls who crave adventure filled books. Fans of Oppel's Airborn series will like Around the World in 100 Days.

(Dutton, 2010)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sun & Moon, Ice & Snow by Jessica Day George

Unwanted and unnamed, the girl simply known as Lass leads a quiet life until the white reindeer come. After rescuing one, she finds that she can understand and communicate with animals. Her gift is important when the ice bear comes calling. She's asked to spend one year in his palace. She says yes, but when her curiosity gets the better of her, she finds herself on a quest to win back her prince. It's a quest that could end in death.

What I thought: Yet another wonderful retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." I really enjoyed the chapters that established our heroine's early years. Her stay with the ice bean and her quest definitely give a nod to the original tale. I loved what her brother and his story added to the book. Sun & Moon, Ice & Snow was action packed and hard to put down. I think Jessica Day George is fast becoming my favorite fairy tale reteller.

(Bloomsbury, 2008)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

You know I normally write my own summary, but I like the one from the dust jacket and want to include it, too.

From the dust jacket:

Five adventurous sisters...
Four dark creatures...
Three magical gifts...
Two forbidden lovers...
One enchanted frog...

Cross the threshold into the Wildwood, and enter a land of magic, daring, betrayal...and true love.

My summary:

Jena, the second oldest of five sisters, has established herself as protector while their father is away for the winter. Jena musty guard her sisters with only her faithful friend Gogu the frog in this work and the other realm. Every full moon, the sisters travel through a hidden portal to the Wildwood, where the Queen of the fairies holds dancing. The sisters enjoy their secret excursions until darkness comes. The night people are visiting the Queen's court. One oft heir party has caught the eye of Jena's sister Tati. Meanwhile, their cousin Cezar is slowly usurping their father's place and he means to raze the forest. Is Jena strong enough?

What I thought: I really liked this retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. (I've also read Princess of the Midnight Ball and The Night Dance.) I like how the girls aren't cursed. They simply have fun at the Full Moon Dances. Cezar definitely gets the award for the most unlikeable villain. Even before he went crazy over the power/control, he wasn't a nice person. Jena and Gogu were my favorite characters. I just knew Gogu was more than a frog. I don't read fairy tales for nothing, after all! I didn't however guess who he was. Nice nod to the Frog Prince. I look forward to reading more books by Juliet Marillier.

(Knopf, 2007)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

If you thought you knew the story of Hansel and Gretel, you were wrong! The story doesn't begin with bread crumbs or end with the oven. Here is the true, unabridged story of the two children, complete with an intrusive narrator to guide through this new tale.

What I thought: Wow! Gidwitz has done something that I don't think I've ever seen done with fairy tale retellings (unless you count Eudora Welty's The Robber Bridegroom). I went back and skimmed the original tales that Gidwitz wove together so skillfully. They go together perfectly. I think A Tale Dark and Grimm will revolutionize fairy tale retellings as we know them. Gidwitz wasn't joking about the dark and grimm part. This story is truly gruesome in parts. I almost stopped reading, but the narrator egged me on. I don't think I've ever met such an intrusive narrator, but it worked (sort of like The Princess Bride movie). I can't wait to see what Gidwitz writes next.

(Dutton, 2010)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Larklight by Philip Reeve

Art and Myrtle expect tomorrow to be like any other day at Larklight, their house in outer space. A visitor soon relieves them of their expectations. With their dad captured by huge spiders, Art and Myrtle are own their own. Rescued by pirates, they still aren't quite sure why they were attacked and and why they are now being pursued by the spiders.

What I thought: Larklight is a fun book. I don't think I would have picked this book up on my own. My search for steampunk books led to its discovery. Art and Myrtle's adventures are great--fast-paced and exciting. The steampunk elements are very evident in this story. Larklight strikes me as a Victorian Star Wars. I look forward to reading the other books in the series: Starcross and Mothstorm.

I read Larklight for the Full Steampunk Ahead Challenge.

(Illus. David Wyatt, Bloomsbury, 2006)

Friday, June 10, 2011

#FlannelFriday: Hot Air Balloons

These hot air balloons will be my constant companions during the Summer Reading Program. I plan to use them to create interest in the upcoming story times and remind the children where we've already traveled to. I'm still working on my "Where We've Been, Where We're Going" Hot Air Balloon Flannel Board Story. It's going to be pretty simple--mention the countries and the things we'll do while we're there. We're starting the summer off in North Carolina and the United States. From there we're going around the world.

Week 2: Mexico

Week 3: The UK--England, Scotland, Ireland

Week 4: France & Italy

Week 5: Africa

Week 6: India

Week 7: China & Japan

Week 8: Australia

This same idea could be adapted to suit any countries. Instead of hot air balloons, you could use airplanes, boats, even cars.

Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes

Little White Rabbit likes to imagine things. Just look at those trees. What would it be like to be tall?

What I thought: A great book. Little White Rabbit will pair perfectly with My Garden for a fantastic imagination story time. I love the story and the illustrations. My favorites are green rabbit, tall rabbit, rock rabbit, and butterfly rabbit.

Story Time Themes: Rabbits, Imagination, Mothers

(Greenwillow, 2011)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

Lily is a mermaid in a human world. Her goal--find her true love and bond with him before her 18th birthday. Every princess has to have a prince. Lily has two dilemmas. She's painfully shy around her crush Brody Bennett. Add to that her annoying neighbor Quince who always seems to thwart her plans to get closer to Brody. Can Lily meet her deadline? Will she find her true love?

What I thought: Okay, wow! I enjoyed this book so much that I read it a total of three times in a week. Mermaid books are quite popular (Lasky's Daughters of the Sea: Hannah and L. K. Madigan's The Mermaid's Mirror), but Childs' Forgive My Fins is the best I've read yet. The magic is in the palpable tension between Lily and Quince. They bicker nonstop, but occasionally you get a hint of something more. I freely admit to being a reader of romance novels. Lily and Quince's relationship is what most of those authors covet. The mermaid mythology was interesting without being overdone. I particularly liked the messenger gulls and the flash freezing. The epilogue was a cliffhanger, but even without it I would still be eager to read more about Lily and Quince. I hope I haven't given anything away in my review. I sincerely tried not to. The second book, Fins Are Forever, is due out on June 28.

(Katherine Tegen, 2010)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

From Back Cover Blurb:

Seven kids.
One class.
One amazing teacher.
And the school year that changes their lives.

What I thought: Because of Mr. Terupt is something special. I wish I would have known about it earlier because I think it deserves recognition as a notable book. The seven narrators Buyea creates are wholly unique. Their thought, actions, and perceptions of their teacher blend to create the controlled chaos that is a classroom. My favorite narrators were Anna and Jessica. The shortness of the sections makes the book a quick read. The format will likely appeal to reluctant readers. Mr. Terupt is a great teacher. I can see that Buyea is such a teacher. I'm lucky to have had a few special teachers in my life. I loved that the narrators are a mix, 3 boys and 4 girls. This will make for a wider appeal. I wouldn't call this a boy book or a girl book. I call it a great book. Jessica and her books were wonderful. Beacuse of Mr. Terupt was a beautiful, inspiring book. I highly recommend it to everyone--kids, teachers, parents, librarians.

(Delacorte, 2010)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Maude March on the Run! by Audrey Couloumbis

Maude's re-entrance into regular life is short lived when she's recognized as a wanted criminal and arrested. Sallie couldn't be more thrilled to be back on the trail with her sister and their friend Marion Hardley. Their journey isn't easy. It's all filled with adventure. Will Maude ever be just Maude or will the infamy of "Mad Maude" follow her forever?

What I thought: Another great installment in Maude and Sallie's adventures. Trouble seems to follow them. I continue to enjoy Sallie's frank narration of events. I hope this isn't the end of their escapades. Maude and Marion's relationship is still uneasy. Maybe another book will clear it up.

I read Maude March on the Run! for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.

(Random House, 2007)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

"I mean really. Who sends their kid to boarding school? It's so Hogwarts. Only mine doesn't have cute boy wizards or magic candy or flying lessons" (5).

Famous last words, Anna, my dear.

Her SOAP (School of American in Paris) may not be up to Hogwarts magical standards, but it does have cute, charismatic boys (Etienne St. Clair), location (Eiffel Tower, anyone?), great food, and cinemas on every corner.

What she first thought to be exile soon becomes fun. Anna and St. Clair bond over Paris, food, and movies. Like the good friends they are, they help each other through some rough times. I have one question for you: Can friends be too friendly?

What I thought: I purchased this book for my library because 1) people in the blogosphere were raving about it and 2) I thought it would appeal to Sarah Dessen fans (having never read her, I can't be sure). What I do know--I liked, maybe even loved, this book. I read it twice before I gave it back to the library. Anna's relationship with Etienne/St. Clair (read the book and you'll understand the slash mark!) is perfect--friendship, angst, and a hint of romance. Anna and the French Kiss is a promising book from new YA author Stephanie Perkins. And did I mention she lives near me in the North Carolina mountains? Too great having a sensational author that close. I can't wait to read her other books: Lola and the Boy Next Door (September 2011) and Ilsa and the Happily Ever After (Fall 2012).

(Dutton, 2010)

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. She lures vampires and stalks hags. Evie is great at her job. Her secret: she can see beyond the glamours that paranormals project. Today was a day like any other. Vampire tagged and given marching orders. Nasty run in with ex-boyfriend, a faerie named Reth. A chat with her best friend Lish, a mermaid. Watched her favorite TV show Easton Heights. Then, a guy who's unlike any paranormal Evie's ever dealt with breaks into HQ. Lend brings Evie a prophecy that's certainly a death wish. Can Evie and Lend work it out before every paranormal on earth is dead?

What I thought: Wow! I liked this one. Evie's one cool girl. Lend is a great male lead. This book will turn some off faeries and with good reason. Evie's fascination with high school is quite humorous. (Note: Lend thinks she's crazy when it comes to high school.) The prom scene was good--better, I think than Twilight. A quick look at Kiersten's blog shows that there are two more books coming in this new series. The second book, Supernaturally, is due out this year. I can't wait.

(Harper Teen, 2010)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na

What do animals do when winter comes? Some fly away. Some swim away. Some sleep. Some burrow.

What I thought: I love Na's books. The story is great and the illustrations are brilliant. I love his style--so bright, colorful, and quirky. My favorite illustration is spring. Children will love naming all the animals.

Story Time Themes: Seasons, Animals

(Knopf, 2010)