Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, by Lisa Yee

This super cutie book showed up in the post the other day, and I promptly snagged it to take it home. I constantly on the look-out for all things super hero, and when there is a girl power theme, I'm all for it.  Plus, Lisa Yee?  I'm all in.

Wonder Woman has lived on Paradise Island with her mother her whole life, and she has been happy there. But Wonder Woman actually goes behind Hippolyta's back and applies to Super Hero High. It's not that Wonder Woman wants to leave home and her mother, but she does want to spread her wings and figure out who she is.

Wonder Woman is ecstatic when she finds out she is accepted, and is even more thrilled when her mother lets her go.

The thing is, Wonder Woman hasn't exactly been around the block. Have you ever met someone who takes everything literally?  Well, that is Wonder Woman to a "t"!  When she is told to get a clue she goes looking for one! Imagine moving from Paradise Island to being roomies with vlog obsessed Harley Quinn?

Permeating the school are the regular high school cliquey concerns, but what is on the minds of everyone is the upcoming team selection for the elite Super Triathlon Team.  Whispers around the hallways say that Wonder Woman was recruited for this very task, and that she's a shoe in.  Wonder Woman is starting to believe it too, because someone is leaving her nasty notes encouraging her to leave the school.  Can Wonder Woman live up to her mother's standards while figuring out the ropes of high school?

Readers meet so many characters along the including Beast Boy, Bumblebee, Star Sapphire, Cheetah, Frost, Golden Glider, Katana, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Crazy Quilt, Hawkgirl among others.  I was grateful for an internet search or two to figure out who is who.  Perhaps a back-matter listing of characters and attributes would be helpful.

Overall, this is a super fun start to a series that will fill a gap.  While the characters are over the top in a comic book way, their larger than life characteristics obviously fit the occasion.  Even though the books are branded as DC SuperHero Girls, boys will pick up these titles as well.  The pages are filled with plenty of action and drama, and I can't wait to see what comes next!




Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel

Steve is the kind of kid who worries. He has few friends, but he does have rituals...like washing his hands, reciting his bedtime lists and cocooning himself in his blankets just so before falling asleep. The year before, his parent were concerned. They sent him to Dr. Brown, a therapist, to help him with his worries.

But now there is a new baby in the house, and the baby is sick.  Steve's parents are back and forth to the hospital everyday. There are big words being bandied about. Words like congenital and degenerative.

Soon Steve starts having dreams that are at once alarming and soothing. He dreams of an angel in wasp form who promises to "fix" the baby. Each time Steve dreams he is transported to a gauzy nest, of sorts. This angel soothes Steve into believing that fixing the baby is possible. She demands that Steve offer her a word that would allow her to move on with the new baby. Steve remembers that Dr. Brown has told him that dreams just are that -- and they have no power over him. So he utters the word. Yes.

But not all dreams stay in the slumbering world, and soon the wasp nest that has been growing under the eaves outside of the baby's room, takes on a much more menacing air.  Steve's worries are now compounded, and as he worries about being crazy he must decide how to best save the baby from the events that have their genesis in his dreams.

Oppel has created a mesmerizing modern fairy tale that has a menacing feel but is buoyed up by hope.  The Nest is the kind of book that is best consumed in one gulp. I find myself distracted by the thought of it as time goes on.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon

Robyn is a tinkerer.  She loves building things with her dad, but since her dad's job has taken up most of his time lately, Robyn is on her own.  One night after Robyn sneaks out as usual to head to the junkyard to find a voltage adapter for a project, things seem a bit off.  Usually dodging the guards and scaling the fence are fun endeavors, but this night the guards are more soldier-esque than usual.  And this time when she made it over the fence, there was a dog.

Luckily Robyn is a prepared girl, and has a pocket full of bacon to keep the dog at bay. True, the bacon was orignally for Robyn's friend Barclay who calls the junkyard his home, but Robyn is thankful she packed it.

It turns out that changes are afoot in a much more far ranging way than just upped security in the junkyard.  This night comes to be called the Night of Shadows, and what it is is a coup.  The standing government and all of the members of parliament are rounded up and/or killed. Robyn's father works for the government.

When she races home, she finds a horrifying sight.  Her empty house is in shambles and her parents are gone.  All that is left is a puddle of blood in the kitchen. Robyn is a wanted girl.

Now Robyn is forced to try to remember all of the warnings her father gave her that she only half listened to.  The ones that started with "If anything ever happens to me and your mother...".  Upon hearing strangers back in her house she takes the few items from her safe and takes off into the forest.

What comes next is an adventure that will keep readers up well into the night.  Solitary Robyn must learn that sometimes it's okay (and necessary) to trust others. Her group of friends must learn to live by their wits and manage to help others who may not be so resourceful along the way.

Magoon has reimagined the world of Robin Hood in an alternate time period and has woven in technology and the idea of the big brother very well.  Readers do not need to be familiar with the original tale to have a rip roaring time, but the ones who are familiar will likely be pleased with the reimagining of many of the main characters.  Magoon has also woven in moon lore as an aspect of the world building that brings an air of fantasy to the whole story.

I cannot wait for the next installment of this exciting story!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 5

Creative Commons 5 Search
Well it's that time of year.  Looking back and looking forward.  Combing through my goodreads to look at what I read but didn't have time to blog.  Looking at other people's blogs to see what they have been loving in 2015.

What follows are my top 5 titles.  These are not *the* top five, simply five favorites of mine.

I'd love to hear about your favorites of 2015 as well, so please feel free to use the comments to let folks know what your top 5 titles are!!




First off, we have The Water and The Wild, by K.E. Ormsbee.  This book showed up in the mail for me one day, and boy I sure am glad it did.  There hasn't been loads of buzz around it, but THERE SHOULD BE!  As I've said before this is a charming story filled with magic and friendship and it's right up my alley!  If you don't want to take my word for it, check out Nafiza's review over at The Book Wars!






Next up is A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano.  This book is a slow burn for me.  Of course, I was immediately drawn to the cover, but the story of Pram is a curious one, and she has taken up residence is a corner of my mind.  Perfectly creepy, this one dips its' toes into the truly frightening but has hope woven through all the text. This one gets some love over at Good Books & Good Wine as well!






On to Gone Crazy in Alabama, by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Here's where I kick myself for not blogging this one.  These are my favorite sisters in children's books.  They've even beaten out those Penderwick girls.  I am thinking this summer I may get my hands on the audio books for all 3 titles in the series and share them with my daughters. I feel like they beg to be enjoyed aloud.  Filled with humor, heart and family this was a super satisfying conclusion to the series.





Oh, The Truth About Twinkie Pie, I love you so.  Kat Yeh has written a story about family secrets, family history that is filled with charm and heart.  I love discovering stories that examine class differences, and Yeh does so with aplomb and manages to avoid falling into the didactic.  Every tween I've handed this to has come back raving about it.  Check out this review in the emissourian!






And rounding it out is My Diary from the Edge of the World, by Jodi Lynn Anderson.  This one is all about the world and the journey.  I just loved Gracie's family. The fact that they are slightly broken but hopeful in different ways created a kind of magic for me.  I loved imagining the USA as a place filled with dragons and overgrown cityscapes.  It really made me sit up and notice.






What are YOUR top 5 titles of 2015?

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sunny Side Up, by Jenni and Matthew Holm

Every now and again you come across a perfect book. Of course there's no such thing as perfection for everyone, but for you as a reader, the right book lands into your hands at the right time.  This is how I feel about the Holm's Sunny Side Up.

It's 1976 and Sunny Lewin is being sent down to Florida to spend some time with her Grandpa. But where Gramps lives is no Disney World ... it's a retirement community where Sunny has to wear an ID at all times to prove that she belongs there.

Luckily, Sunny isn't the only kid in the community.  The groundskeeper's son Buzz lives there as well.  He is totally into comics and introduces Sunny to some of his favorites while she's in Florida.  The two of them manage to make some money finding lost cats for the old ladies, and golf balls for the pro shop to fund their comic habit.

These all seems rather bucolic and idyllic on the surface, but readers learn through Sunny's flashbacks that there is a reason that she is spending time with Gramps far from home.  It turns out her older brother is experiencing problems with addiction.  Sunny doesn't understand what's really happening -- she just knows her brother isn't who she remembers him to be and he's causing all kinds of trouble for their family.

Handled deftly, Sunny's confusion and concern are heartbreaking. Based on true events, the authenticity in this title stands out.  The push pull of Sunny's feelings for her brother are obvious and none of the characters are one note.  Little things like the toilet roll doll and lifting buns from the early bird special may go over younger readers' heads, but are perfect for the setting and the time period.

I borrowed our copy from the library, but will be purchasing this one to live on my shelves.  I can imagine future me pulling it from the shelf and shedding a tear or two each and every time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

One Book. Two Perspectives. My Diary from the Edge of the World, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

 Oh, twitter.  Sometimes you are a wonderful thing!  Last July I was at my daughters' swim lesson reading away, and I shared a shot of the book I was reading online.  Barbara, it turns out, was reading the same book and we began somewhat of a back and forth as you are want to do when you find out someone besides yourself is smitten.  We decided we would co-blog closer to the publishing date, and here are our thoughts!

Barbara:  Gracie Lockwood's voice immediately drew me into the story. She keeps a careful record of the family's journey in a diary, a gift from her mother. It is lovingly inscribed with these words, To Gracie, May this diary be big enough to contain your restless heart.  Gracie is a girl with strong opinions, stating from the outset that her purpose in keeping a written record is to "prove that I knew it first." Her friend Oliver's observation, "You're kind of fiery" is an understatement. In addition to Gracie's fire, readers witness her gradually evolving realization that the world is much more complex than she initially imagined it to be.  She begins to temper her original strong judgments. "I've realized I may have been completely wrong about my dad."  "I wondered about the word 'beast.' I wondered if sometimes, the way everything looks - who's the beast and who isn't - depends on where you're standing."  I love this statement of self-realization:  "Every year I realize how dumb I was the year before." 

One of this book’s striking aspects is the comparisons I made to Homer’s The Odyssey.  The book’s 416 pages is itself a reading odyssey.  It requires an investment of time, attention to storyline, and a commitment to the characters. Reading Gracie's diary becomes a personal journey for the reader.

The travelogue aspect is certainly an integral part of this family's epic saga. We follow Gracie and her family on an extended journey to known and unknown places, several described in vivid detail. The mode of travel is symbolic. The family first travels via Winnebago, a name reflecting a Native American Tribe who excel in oral storytelling. Later they board the Weeping Alexa.  Alexa is a reference to Alexander the Great, the “protector”. These modes of transportation give added meaning to the family’s quest. 

​The major characters read like the cast from a Greek drama.
We meet good guys, bad guys, both real and mythical. Sea monsters and mermaids inhabit the waters. Dragons and unicorns take flight through the skies. 
Homer’s motifs take the form of the individuals the family encounters on their journey:  an oracle (Grandma), sirens (Luck City), Penelope’s suitors (Captain Bill).
Not since the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? have I encountered such an imaginative homage to Homer’s epic classic.

Without question, the theme which resonated with me and continues to haunt my thinking is the concept of fate. This also reflects the Greek concept of The Fates: goddesses who controlled the life of every mortal from birth to death and watched that the fate assigned to every being proceeded without obstruction.

Stacy: I read quite a few books.  Especially during the summer when I am fortunate enough to be lakeside and poolside depending on the day. So it’s not everyday that a story really makes me sit up and notice it. In the first few pages of MDFTEOTW I found myself looking up from the pages and grinning.  Reading bits aloud.  And then tweeting this to my friend Barbara -

@moonb2 thanks for the spotlight on this book, Barbara. I'm only on page 7 and I'm already delighted!”

By page 7 we know this: Cliffden Maine isn’t the Maine that we know in 2015. It is a Maine where there are the expected things like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, schools and houses. But people in town are scuttering around because the dragons are on their way to hibernate and they’ve been quite destructive this year. Protagonist Gracie is out at her favorite spot (where she’s not supposed to be) on top of the hill overlooking town and writing in the journal her mom gave her for her 12th birthday.  

Dragons aren’t the only odd things in the sky in Maine. There are also Dark Clouds. These are not the storm clouds we know that release the likes of lightning and rain. Rather they come to town and take away the people who are meant to die.  And now a Dark Cloud is settling right in Gracie’s yard.  Gracie is worried about her little brother Sam, who is often ill.  Complicating family matters is the fact that Gracie’s dad’s crackpot theories about the Extraordinary World have just ousted him from his job.  So when Gracie comes home one day to see a Winnebago in the front yard, she’s not too surprised that her dad means to pack up her mom, sister, brother and Gracie and head out of town.

Obviously this is a story about a journey, but it wasn’t until I had back channeled a bunch with Barbara that I could see the Odyssey’s tracks.  For me, the Lockwood family was running from crisis and desperately grasping at possibility.

Gracie truly makes this books shine. Whether it’s seeing her witchy grandmother’s house through her eyes, feeling her affections for Sam, seeing her longing to have a relationship with older sister Millie, or having those moments of embarrassment followed by yearning to believe in her father, if Gracie’s voice was less Gracie, the story wouldn’t work half as well.

The other high point for me was Anderson’s world building. The magical mixing with the mundane is presented so matter of fact, that readers simply have to buy it.  The journey has them landing in places like Luck City, Big Tex’s Circus, The Crow’s Nest, a broken down L.A. and even Cliffden itself and of the places contain different magic, but the magic follows the same rules. 

And then there’s the idea of hope. Inextricable hope tangled up with fate. Which one rules the day?

What a pleasure it was to virtually read My Diary from the Edge of the World with Barbara across geography and time.  Clearly, both Barbara and I love this book, and though we both approached it differently, it worked for us.  I can’t wait to share this with a big cross section of readers. It works on so many levels that I am sure it will be a crowd pleaser!

************************

A big note of thanks to Barbara Moon for co-blogging with me this time.  Barbara is a retired librarian who reads up a storm! Member of 2009-2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, 2012 Odyssey Award committee, 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award committee. Currently servicing on the 2016 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award committee. You can find Barbara blogging at Reading Style

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Quick Bits

Hello?  Is anyone there?

It's been quiet over here with the start of school and getting back into the swing of living the commuting life again.  Every September, something has to give and it tends to be this blog.

But I'm back! And to make up for lost time, I am sharing short recommendations for three (yes 3!) books with you.

First up is the delightful and different Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones. Now if you know me, you know that the saddest part of my summer was finding out there would be no chickens at the county fair due to avian flu paranoia.  I do have a soft-spot for all things chicken.  And how can you deny that title?  Sophie Brown has just moved with her parents to her late great uncle Jim's farm from LA. It's quite the culture shock. Add on the fact that Sophie's dad has lost her job and money is tight, and there don't seem to be any other brown people in Gravenstein aside from Sophie, her mom and the mailman.  Readers learn about Sophie's circumstances through the letters she writes. Letters to her grandmother, and to great uncle Jim who have passed on.  Letters to the poultry company to help her figure out how to take care of the weird chickens she keeps finding. And letters to the mysterious Agnes. It soon becomes clear that Sophie's chickens are exceptional and that they are wanted by someone else in town.  Will Sophie be able to manage all the changes in her life and figure out how to keep chickens at the same time? Wonderfully illustrated by Katie Kath, this is a book like no other.


Next, the dreamy Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.  My kid's librarian read it aloud to her class last year, but she liked it so much, she asked me to read it for our family read this summer.  After the first few pages I knew that this one is going to be a modern classic.  Beasley manages to get that dreamy feeling, respect the reader and get us to suspend disbelief.  Micah's grandpa Ephraim is very ill.  His sister, Micha's great aunt Gertrudis, has come to live with them and she couldn't be more different from grandpa.  She is pinched, closed off and truly hateful.  She won't even allow Ephraim to keep telling Micah his stories about the Circus Mirandus...a place she is sure is fictional.  But with childlike wonder, Micah vows to find his grandpa's circus and save him.  This is a dreamy adventure that will have readers young and old believing in magic.

Next, Rebecca Stead's Goodbye Stranger.  I'm not going to lie. When I heard there was a new Rebecca Stead coming out, I did a happy dance. Then I harangued my colleagues to hand over any arcs they had forthcoming!  Luckily I got my own eyes on an arc through netgalley.  Stead can capture that moment -- that breath of change that  happens when kids are on the cusp of that place moving from kid to teen.  As usual, I find it difficult to summarize Stead's book.  Suffice it to say there is a character for everyone in here...whether it's Bridge who is resisting the changes of growing up,  strong willed Tab who jumps into life with two feet, Em who is navigating the changes to her body and friendships with a little less grace than folks would assume or Sherm who is a bit like the Duckie of the modern day. There are moments of breathless beauty in the writing, and I found myself putting the book down and just considering the words.