Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year End Round Up!

It's that time of year again. The round ups and best of lists should be hitting the net. Already Mock Caldecott and Mock Newberys have sprung up. Now it's my turn!

As I was reviewing what I read this year I realized it has been a bit of a great year for kid's books. I only review things that I like here, and while there were quite a few things that I read that didn't make the blog this year, the stuff that I liked, I really liked. So then I was thinking, should I figure out Top 5s that may show up on an ALA list, or should I pick Top 5s that I simply love? The latter won out.

So, without further ado, I present my favourites of 2008.

Top 5 Picture Books

Ladybug Girl, by Soman and Davis
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, by Frazee
Wonder Bear, by Nyeu
Don't Worry Bear, by Foley
Chalk and Cheese, by Warnes

Top 6 Tween Titles (Sorry...I just couldn't whittle it down!)

My One Hundred Adventures, by Horvath
Cicada Summer, by Beaty
A Thousand Never Evers, by Burg
Brooklyn Bridge, by Hesse
Savvy, by Law
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap, by Bouwman

Top 5 YA Titles

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, by Lockhart
Madapple, by Meldrum
Gossip of the Starlings, by de Gramont
Little Brother, by Doctrow
Bliss, by Myracle

So there you have it. Don't see your favourites? Leave a comment and let others know why they should be in the Top 5!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap


Another GORgeous cover. Anytime artist Nicoletta Ceccoli does a cover, I inevitably pick up the book. That said, there are a few that I picked up and did not finish. Lucy and Snowcap, however, had me staying up into the wee hours wanting to find out "what happens".

On the surface, Lucy and Snowcap seem quite different. Snowcap is the newly orphaned, soon-to-be Governor of the land of Tathenland, which was colonized by 3 shiploads of British criminals in 1775. The Colay people, who have been on the land since anyone can remember are banished to the nearby smaller islands soon after the British arrive. Lucy is Colay.

One way in which the girls are similar is in personality. After her parent's deaths, Snowcap becomes rather unlikeable...bratty and over indulged, even. Lucy is a hard girl herself. The women of her Island say that she is as "tough as goat's teeth". Both girls are seemingly untouchable, and unbeknownst to them, they are both integral players in the near future for the Colay and the British alike.

Lucy's mother bears the last child of the Sunset Island. Why the last? Because all of the menfolk have been turned to stone. The lifestone that is native to the islands has claimed every last man and boy. Since Lucy's new sibling is a boy, she is given the task of taking him to the Stone Garden that holds all of the stone forms of the men. Lucy is not scared of this task, but what she doesn't expect is how badly she wants her brother Rob to stay a boy. In fact, she prays over him and bargains with the stone not to take him.

At the same time, Snowcap is trying to survive. She has just overheard her guardian, Sir Markham and his steward Renard, talk about poisoning her oatmeal. It is clear to her why they want her out of the way. Once she is dead, Sir Markham and Renard can take over ruling the land and claim all of the power over their fellow castaways. What they don't count on is Snowcap's feisty nature. It's not that she wants to rule so much as she cannot let them win. Once it becomes clear that the men are anxious to do her in, Snowcap decides to runaway.

While this is happening, Lucy's brother does not turn to stone. Lucy receives a prophecy from the Gray Lady on Sunset, and realizes that she must take Rob to the main island. The two girl's paths cross, and soon a grudging alliance is formed.

Both girls are perfectly unlikable at the start of this tale. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. H.M. Bouwman has written what can only be called an exquisite story. The histories of the two peoples are folded in seamlessly, and it is interesting to notice that the castaway British, the criminals, still thought of themselves as better than and in charge of the Colay people. Quite the sociological angle. What I like the most about this book is the way that the girls grow. Morally, emotionally, and simply as strong girls. The side characters are interesting as well with my favourite being Philip Tutor (aka Robbing Parsons).

The unexpected element of magic plays a primary part in this story. I wasn't sure of its fit at first, but by the end, its placement makes sense. I think it may have been my adult self trying to categorize that hindered me. Is this fantasy? Is it magical realism? Is it another world in an alternate history?

The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap will stay with readers. I find myself thinking about it at odd moments, and wondering about the girls. Another read for the deep readers in your lives.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bird

Hands down, the most fetching cover of the year. Look at this house. Absolutely beautiful. This is kind of the house of my dreams, and the minute that I saw the cover I yearned to live inside.

Until I read the book.

Miranda is a little girl who often gets caught by the wind. She is diminutive in size, and can easily wind up tossed about like a kite without a string. One day she is taken by the wind and lands in some brambles where she is discovered by Wysteria's hounds. Wysteria Barrows is the mistress of this house which is called Bourne Manor. Wysteria takes Miranda in, and sets her to work mending the fishing nets that pay the bills. Wysteria is a bit odd, but Miranda is thankful to have a home. So she overlooks the fact that Wysteria locks her in her room every night and makes her wear heavy iron boots so that the wind no longer takes her.

But Miranda is a child, after all, and she is curious. Over time, she discovers the entry to Wysteria's late husband's study. He was a sea captain, and among all of the expected treasures in the study, Miranda finds a secret room that is filled with kites. Miranda is soon up on the widow's walk flying the kites unbeknownst to Wysteria. When her beloved kite is stolen by the wind and found by a young boy named Farley, Miranda feels a stirring in her soul that she cannot name.

Soon, Miranda finds herself on her own, and is discovering the secrets of the Manor. Chilling secrets. Should she stay with Wysteria who has helped her all of this time, or should she escape and see where her future takes her?

Now, I should preface this by saying that I am very susceptible to books about houses that seem somewhat possessed. I went and read Amityville Horror at the tender age of 9 (which I DON'T recommend!!!) so houses with personalities scare me more than your average reader. I do not want to imply that this is a horror story, but there are ghost story elements to it. Along with a fairytale like atmosphere complete with an otherworldly lead character, and an Irish boy filled with fairy lore.

Rita Murphy has written an interesting and ethereal story about friendship, family, loyalty and first love. It is an odd story. There is no other way to say it. But it is magical and compelling as well. Bird is for the older tween who is a deep reader and will not be put off by something completely different.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

It's been a year since the kids of the Mysterious Benedict Society foiled the evil Mr. Curtain's plans to take over the world with his Whisperer machine. Sticky, Reynie, Kate and Constance are gathering back together to go on a fun expedition, courtesy of Mr. Benedict. It's to be an international scavenger hunt of sorts, that will rely on all of the children's many talents to lead them to the clues. Nothing, however, seems to result in smooth sailing when these four are supposed to work with Mr. Benedict. This time, before the expedition can even start, there is a kidnapping. Mr. Benedict and Number Two are kidnapped by none other than Mr. Curtain.

The police are working on the case, but the children know that Mr. Curtain has followers high up in government, and they are sure that the case will be most likely be foiled. The children take it upon themselves to find Mr. Benedict and Number Two. What else are they to do?

What follows is quite the "Perilous Journey". The children start out on the original scavenger hunt thinking that Mr. Benedict is most likely being held at the final destination. But whereas there was supposed to be adult supervision on the hunt (Milligan and Rhonda were to come), on this dangerous mission the children are on their own. From ship to land to air and back to land again, they get into and out of scrape after scrape, but the action really intensifies as they get closer to their destination.

This is a title that really cannot be read without reading the original Mysterious Benedict Society. While the characterization goes deeper in this volume, readers really do need the history of the individuals as well as the knowledge of their time together at the school. Jumping into The Perilous Journey first, may end up confusing readers as well as make the storyline seem more of a shallow treatment than it actually is.

This is a dense book, as was the first, but I found this to be a bit more of a slow starter. Don't get me wrong, the action starts quite quickly, but readers simply know from the sheer length of the book that the scrapes will be gotten out of. I do think that fans of the first volume will eat this up, and if they slow down enough to listen to some of Mr. Benedict's monologues on the state of the world, they might find a degree of comfort in the seemingly dangerous world of Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And the Winner Is....




Angela!!!!

Just send me your deets at sdillon@lrei.org and I will get this gorg little book off to you asap!

Congratulations.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays Book Giveaway!


The lovely folks at Candlewick have given me a copy of The Secret History of Giants to give to one of you!

This is a gorgeous little book that makes for a perfect gift for the New Year.

"For thousands of years we, the Order of the Golden Quills, have chronicled and collected knowledge and wisdom of the Secret Folk, those races spoken of in legend but little known in our time. Here we present to you our work on one such race of Secret Folk--the mighty Giants. Explore their secrets, discover their lore, and learn where you might seek out the noble Great Folk...for they might be nearer than you think." (Back Cover)

So just leave me a comment telling me who is your favourite Giant in literature! I will randomly draw a winner next Tuesday! (12/23)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Spellbound

"It goes without saying that brothers and sisters often share things with each other, like knock knees, turned-up noses, freckles, the measles, and - if they are kind and generous - toys and bags of sweets; but apart from sharing the same father and mother, Athene and Zachary Enright, aged twelve and six respectively, didn't share anything at all." p.7

So we begin. Athene has a deep rooted hatred for her brother. There's no particular reason for it, but it is there. He says black, she says white. He wants to go on a camping vacation, Athene begs to go to a farm. Athene, as usual, gets her way.

She is bratty enough to convince her parents that they should share a room with Zach, and she should have a room all to herself. Once there, however, she realizes that being alone in a room in a strange space is a bit disconcerting. Athene decides that she will go find Crumbs the farm cat to keep her company, and she heads outside. Upon looking for the cat, Athene notices a kid walking around. She assumes that it is Zach and goes to catch him and tell him what an idiot he is. The thing is, the "person" she catches up to is not Zach at all. Instead, it was the oddest little man that Athene had ever seen. "His skin was striped and speckled, his eyes shone like pearl buttons and his broad, bat-like ears were inclined to flap and twitch." (p. 24)

Athene has happened upon a Humble Gloam. The Gloam are nocturnal creatures who live in seclusion in the country-side. They call humans the "Glare" and they do not interact with them at all. Athene makes sure that she gets befriended by this Gloam named Humdudgeon. It is the most exciting thing that has happened to her. That is until little brother Zach comes along and finds her with the Gloam.

But Athene hatches a plan. There is a group of Gloam called the Low Gloam who live underground and keep anyone who enters their realm bound there with magic. The entrance to the Low Gloam is not too far away. Athene tricks Zach into seeking shelter in the fallen tree entrance. He quickly disappears. Maybe forever.

Athene is quite surprised to be taken by a guilty conscience about Zach. Will her Humble Gloam friends help her find her brother? Will the Low Gloam keep her underground?

Anna Dale has written a magical little story that fans of light fantasy should take to. Athene is quite despicable at first, and the Gloam are quirky and interesting. It's a fun adventure tinged with magic that younger tweens will enjoy.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tales of Beedle the Bard

(Photo courtesy of ABC.com)

Okay. So maybe my cover doesn't look exactly like this, but hey...I thought it might catch your attention.

After catching the enthusiasm of my friend Margaret, I was off to my local chain bookstore between classes to pick up Tales of Beedle the Bard. I hadn't been planning of buying it, but Margaret has a way of upping the ante when it comes to fostering my love for Harry Potter (or Snape, as it were).

I took the advice of Susan over at Wizard's Wireless, and I didn't rush through...I took my time.

When readers open the book they find that it's "Translated from the Ancient Runes by Hermione Granger", has "Commentary by Albus Dumbledore", and has an "Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations by J.K. Rowling". This lends to feeling that the reader is back in the wizarding world and that the tales are part of the cultural reality of Harry and the gang.

Now, I am not one of those HP fans that remembers every last detail of every book. I do know kids like this. They can recite charms, list character facts and draw a map of Hogwarts at a moment's notice. Not me. But it didn't matter.

There are 5 tales within the book, and each tale is followed by Dumbledore's comments with additional footnotes by Rowling. Of the five, my favourite is "The Warlock's Hairy Heart". It's gruesome in the tradition of early Grimm, and is written is such a way that the reader has an amazing visual in mind. I was actually scared for a moment or two as well! What a treat to read fairy tales where I am not sure what is about to happen!

Each story is different than the one before, and I think there is something in there for everyone. There is also an interesting commentary on the censorship of children's stories (hhmmmm...wonder why?). "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" was not only challenged by the Malfoy clan for the mixing of pure blood and muggle bloods (don't want to give the kiddies any wayward ideas), but it was actually rewritten by Beatrix Bloxam who believed that the tales of Beetle the Bard were "damaging to children, because of what she called their unhealthy preoccupation with the most horrid subjects, such as death, disease, bloodshed, wicked magic, unwholesome characters, and bodily effusions and eruptions of the most disgusting kind." (p.17)

Brilliant, I say.

These are fun, scary and sophisticated stories. Followers of Harry Potter would do well to give it a read. I think that fans of traditional fairy tales might want to give these a whirl as well.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ellie McDoodle New Kid In School

Ellie is convinced her life is over. She is moving to a new house, a new town, and a new school. She is sure that she won't make any new friends and that she will have the worst school experience ever.

Ellie and her friends come up with the idea to do a group journal...each friend will draw in it or write in it for one week and then pass it along. Ellie is first.

Ellie's problems start just as soon as she gets to her new house. In this house, she has to share a room with big sister Risa. This means zero privacy, as is witnessed by Risa peering over Ellie's shoulder as she writes in her journal. Ellie comes up with a plan to move to the attic. She has to make the attic unappealing to her sister, yet sell it to her folks at the same time.

Ellie is also exploring her new town. Right off she finds the public library and is quickly befriended by the Children's Librarian Miss Claire. While she is there she meets fellow kid Glenda, and in the neighbourhood she finds Travis. Maybe this whole moving thing won't be so bad.

But throw in an embarrassing situation involving a mall changing room, and couple that with something called "New Kid Bingo", and Ellie's road is a bit rough after all.

Ruth McNally Barshaw started this series with the book Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, and fans of that book should love this one. Confession. I did not read the first book. Result. No big deal. I jumped right in and with the first bit of action being a move, it was smooth sailing.

This is a great book about a great family. The jokes are funny, the characters are realistic, and the diary/cartoon format is JUST what the kids are craving. I shopped this title to my fourth graders just after they had an AMAZING author visit with no other than Jimmy Gownley. They were in the mood for cartoons and drawing, so I grabbed this off my desk and read the first 53 pages. They all wanted to check it out (girls and boys), and they sat silently listening to the read.

Recommended for those looking for a bit of a meatier story than the Grace books, those Wimpy Kid readers, and kids who like realistic fiction friend and family stories.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Dragonfly Pool


So every now and again I get a hankering to order some books from the UK. Better covers, different release dates, and all that. This batch included Vivian French's The Bag of Bones, Oliver Jeffers' The Great Paper Caper, and Eva Ibbotson's The Dragon Fly Pool. Now this was a nice box to receive for sure!

I am an unabashed fan of Ibbotson. She is my go-to author for so many students, and the author of books that I read again and again. The Star of Kazaan is a real favourite of mine, and I was wondering how The Dragonfly Pool would sit with me. Well folks, I have a new favourite.

Tally is living with her father and her Aunts in London. Tally's father, Dr. Hamilton, has just been given an offer that he cannot refuse. A scholarship at a boarding school for Tally. His is not a stereotypical doctor's household. They have very little since Dr. Hamilton only charges his patients what he can afford. With Hitler raving on the radio, getting Tally out of London is a priority.

So off to Delderton goes Tally.

When she gets there she is a little surprised. It is not at all like the boarding schools that her cousins told her about. First off, the children are not in uniform. They address their teachers by their first names, and they only have to go to classes if they care to! Delderton is, after all, a progressive school.

Tally's letters home are reassuring to Dr. Hamilton, and she quickly emerges as a leader at the school. When the school Head throws out the fact that they have been invited to a folk dancing festival in Bergania during a school meeting, it is Tally who rallies her fellow students to form a folk dancing group and even make up a dance in order to go. She's not a bully about it either. She just has a way of getting people to agree and get excited about things.

Once the children are in Bergania at the festival they are quickly tossed into a situation that should be too much to handle. It is up to the children, no matter their nationality, to help Prince Karil in his time of need.

I don't want to give too much plot away here, since Ibbotson manages to dodge and weave avoiding predictability all together. Ibbotson's children and adults are all memorable, and even though Tally is the protagonist, there are others that readers may savour just as much (Matteo, perhaps). Friendship, education, class and character are all themes that show up throughout.

I tend to get a chuckle reading about progressive schools since I work at one. Delderton may be a leap or two away from today's progressive schools, but the heart and soul is really there. That the teachers are so caring and allow the students to discover their passions is spot on and a pleasure to read about.

Fans of Ibbotson should love this, as should fans of Creech, Birdsall, and even Cushman. With strong boy and girl characters and a fast moving story, the appeal crosses gender lines as well. A perfect choice for the tweensters during this season of gift-giving!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Overheard in the library...

"...well C had the cheese touch. But he was really smart and gave it to the tennis coach. Nobody knew him. We think it's in Texas now!"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Antsy Does Time

Antsy Bonano and his buddies Ira and Howie are spending Thanksgiving flipping channels between the big game and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. They are just making fun of a marching band dressed in orange and pink when Ira notices the giant balloon featuring Roadkyll Raccoon is bucking and swinging in the wind. Next thing they see, Roadkyll is heading north with 3 balloon handlers still hanging on! The balloon alights atop of the Empire State Building, deflates, and the handlers are still there swinging from their tethers. Anthony turns to his friends and says, "Let's go".

On the train, they see school-mate Gunnar Umlaut. Antsy has known Gunnar since elementary school, but they don't really hang out or anything. In fact, this is what Antsy has to say about Gunnar:

"Gunnar's got long blond hair he makes no excuse for, and a resigned
look of Scandanavian despair that melts girls in his path. And if
that doesn't work, the slight accent he puts on when he's around
girls does the job. Never mind that he's been living in Brooklyn
since he was six. Not that I'm jealous or anything -- I admire
a guy who uses what he's got.
"

After the attempted rescue is over, Gunnar sways slightly and stumbles and Antsy asks him what is wrong. Gunnar surprises Antsy when he says that it's just part of his condition. He then tells Antsy that he has 6 months to live.

Now, Antsy has never had a friend who was dying before, and he has a need to do something Meaningful for Gunnar. Antsy comes up with the bright idea of donating one month of his own life to Gunnar. Sure it's only symbolic, but it's the thought that counts, right.

The problem is that everyone in the school hears about it and lots of kids want to get involved. Which would be fine, unless Gunnar is not telling the whole truth.

Antsy Does Time is filled with memorable characters, and Antsy's voice will have readers smiling. Even if one hasn't read The Schwa Was Here this title stands on its own. Antsy's family is having problems during this time, and apparently so is Gunnar's. Though the topics are heavy, Neal Shusterman uses his trademark humor to make the reading easier, and to add depth. Funny and sad all at the same time, this read for older tweens will be enjoyed by boys and girls alike.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Around the Blogs

I have been reading, honest! Quite a bit actually. I just pitched a book across the room the other day. Not because I didn't like it, but because it ended just as it began! I will blog about it later once I figure out how to explain the crazy plot that works on a bunch of different levels.

Until then, I am hoping to get going with a new "Around the Blogs" feature. I do enjoy the round-ups at places like Jen Robinson's Book Page, and while this first round up is small, I hope that you find the links interesting!

First off, over at Kane/Miller there is a post about Canadian Children's Book Week. I have been a bad Canadian, obviously, since I hadn't heard about this week before. So head on over and check it out!

Next, Toad Hill has a review of The Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne Duprau. This is a series that I do not need to sell at school, and I have sadly not kept up with it. Those darn "to read" piles!

As part of the Blog Blast Tour, Mother Reader is hosting the fabulous Mitali Perkins. Mitali talks about her First Daughter series, and the companion Sparrow blog, along with her new book Secret Keeper as well as what she is working on currently.

And last but not least, PixiePalace has a piece about favourite fictional rooms. Jen Robinson and she have obviously been thinking quite a bit about this. I am thinking about writing the other side...what fictional rooms would you never want to wake up in? Hmmmm.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Much Ado About Anne

The girls are back! School is about to start and Jess, Emma, Cassidy and Megan are all heading into the seventh grade. Life has been swimming along for the girls, but there have been a few changes along the way. Cassidy's mom is still taping her show "Cooking with Clementine" and on top of this she has a new boyfriend - Stanley Kincaid. Cassidy is not thrilled about this. "Stan the man" is short and bald and an accountant of all things! Not at all like her dad, who Cassidy still misses like crazy. Emma is trying to let go of her crush on Zach. Megan is still finding it difficult to be in the middle of friendships with the book club girls and with the Fab 3. And lastly, Jess is feeling the stress at home. Her mom is back home at Half Moon Farm, but Jess knows there is something going on. She is hoping her mom isn't thinking of going back to the soap opera again.

It is time for the first book club meeting of the year and the girls are in for a surprise. The mothers went and invited Becca Chadwick and her mom to join. They figured the invitation would help "build bridges" between the girls and Becca. Emma especially, isn't pleased with this addition, because Becca does fling an inordinate amount of torture her way.

Once the first meeting is in full swing, they moms and daughters set about the big task of choosing the next bookclub read. Little Women won't be easy to top. Many titles are tossed about, but either Emma has read them already or they don't meet Mrs. Chadwick's criteria for appropriate themes. Finally they settle on Anne of Green Gables.

What will happen to the dynamics of the book club once Becca has access to what really goes on? Will the girls be able to be themselves with Becca around? Can the mothers survive having Mrs. Chadwick in the book club as well?

Along the way Jess discovers why her parents are stressed. Her mom isn't leaving, but Half Moon Farm is in trouble. If they don't raise the money to pay their taxes in time, Jess may be on her way to NYC to live! The girls must band together to try to help out, and they must use their talents along the way to ensure success.

Heather Vogel Frederick has written a delightful sequel to The Mother-Daughter Book Club. Each character grows within the story, and the girls are growing up in a realistic fashion as well. In these crazy times where so many lives are filled with stress, it is refreshing to sit down and read a book that highlights family and simple pleasures like ice-skating, book clubs, and camping trips (ill-fated though they may be!) Heather Vogel Frederick manages to pull this off without seeming too good to be true or treacle in the least. Fans of the first book, as well as those who enjoy Birdsall, and Lucy Maud Montgomery will eat this up.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Sisters 8

Annie, Durinda, Georgie, Jackie, Marcia, Petal, Rebecca and Zinnia are sisters. In fact, they are octuplets. On New Years Eve 2007, their lives suddenly changed. Their mother went to the kitchen to get some eggnog, and their father went outside to chop some wood, and they simply never returned. The girls frantically go around the house looking for their parents but all that they find is a note. An unsigned note telling the sisters that they each possess a power, and will each find a gift, before they can discover what happened to their folks.

How can eight girls (and their eight cats) find their powers, gifts, and parents while figuring out how to do things like paying the bills, making breakfast, and driving to school?

Each book is an adventure that leads the readers through a mystery where all of the sisters are involved, but the action focuses on one of the girls. Annie's Adventures highlights Annie and her power, whereas book 2 Durinda's Dangers highlights Durinda. Each girl has a distinct personality and the mix of all of them together results in something quite hilarious.

Part Snickett, part Dahl with a little dash of Gorey, author Lauren Baratz-Logsted along with Greg Logsted and Jackie Logsted have created a series that is perfect for the younger tween set. I have already test-driven the first two titles with my 4th graders, and they are bugging me for more. With 8 sisters, there is a character for every reader. Fun, fun, fun.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And the winner is ...


First off, a big thanks to the folks who commented regarding historical time periods, and books that they like to share with their kids. I wish I had books for everyone, but I do have the names of the 5 winners this time.

The Grand Prize winner of the books Take Me Back, Do Not Open, Pick Me Up, Cosmic, Dr. Frankenstein's Human Body Book, Cool Stuff Exploded, Eyewitness Expert: Knight, Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia, is Sunny!

The 4 folks receiving a copy of Take Me Back are Kelly, Jen W, Susan, and Librannie. So email me at sdillon@lrei.org with your info and I will make sure the books make it on over to you!

I had so much fun with this give-away that I think I will try to have some more! So stay tuned!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bookfest 2008

Well. Who knew that Brian Jacques was so funny?

After getting up early on Saturday morning, I headed over to the 42nd Street library, to take part in Bookfest 2008. Brian Jacques was the keynote speaker, and if you ever have a chance to hear this amazing author speak, you need to do so. After Jack Martin listed off his job descriptions prior to being an author, I knew that we were in for a treat.

Mr. Jacques told us stories. Stories about growing up in Liverpool. Stories about the library and second hand bookshop that he visited. Stories about his granddaughter Hannah, and about the children at a school for the blind that he used to read to. He told us stories about visiting schools, and the stories of the creations of some of his characters and some of the scenes that are found in the Redwall books. All of this was delivered with panache, and Jen and I found ourselves wiping the tears from our cheeks, we were laughing so hard.

Then it was time to switch gears and move on to book discussion. My group "Stories of Childhood" was well attended with attendees coming from all around New York State, and a few from Pennsylvania as well. We had a great discussion around the books, with Tasting the Sky, and The King of Mulberry Street garnering much of the attention. We were very privileged when Ibtisam Barakat sat down with us and became part of our group. The discussion became very passionate around the ideas of human rights, parenthood and writing outside of own experience.

The hour passed too quickly with a break for lunch where new and old friends could keep on talking books!

The afternoon brought an esteemed panel of Jeannette Winter, Ibtisam Barakat, and Walter Dean Myers discussing the timely topic of War and Peace in books for young people. Margaret Tice moderated, and each panelist spoke eloquently about why she or he wrote on the topic of war, and the tricky business of writing for young people.

Over all the day was inspiring and thought provoking. If you have never attended Bookfest before, do try it on for size if you are in the area. It is an amazing day!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bookfest 2008

Up early on a Saturday morning!

I am heading over to the 42nd Street Library where I am taking part in New York Public Library's Bookfest 2008. I am a discussion leader again this year, and my group is called "Stories of Childhood". We will be looking at five fabulous books including A Thousand Never Evers, Tasting the Sky, The Red Necklace, The King of Mulberry Street and The Dragon's Child. I am so interested to get the participant's take on these titles.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Herbert's Wormhole -- A Novel in Cartoons

I am sure that many school librarians are facing the same plight as me. "I need a book. I want something just like Diary of a Wimpy Kid." Sigh. Sure there are some choices, but not so many of them are boy slanted. So I was delighted when last week at the HarperCollins preview, Herbert's Wormhole was on the table.

When we meet Alex, he is just about to "Blow that slime-sucking freak into a gazillion space-chunks!" (p. 1) You'd think a kid would be super excited about completing a whole video game. Not Alex. At the beginning of the summer, he promised his parents that as soon as he mastered his game, he'd play outside and NOT ask for another video game for the rest of the summer. Of course, right after he made his promise the coolest video game ever arrived in the stores.

Even worse is what his parents bought him in the name of entertainment for the rest of the summer. A jungle gym. Seriously. The Safe-T-Kids Jump n' Jammin' Jungle Gym complete with swing, monkey bars, climbing wall, ladder and a spiral tunnel slide. On top of that comes the announcement that Alex's parents have arranged a play date with nerdy neighbour Herbert Slewg. Herbert likes to invent things, and he and Alex aren't exactly on the same level.

Alex faces his destiny and heads on over to Herbert's place. He finds Herbert in his bedroom dressed in an AlienSlayer:3-D bodysuit! Alex can't believe it. Herbert of all people has THE game. Maybe his luck is changing.

Not quite. Herbert is using the components of the video game for his latest invention. He's trying to figure out how to walk through walls, among other things.

When Herbert and Alex head on over to the jungle gym something interesting happens. Alex is messing around and flipping the switch on the bodysuit that Herbert modified. All of a sudden a weird "wubba-wubba" sound starts to come out of the slide, and Alex feels a strong pull. Before they know it, fwooop! The boys are sucked through time. Not to the past, like they originally think, but instead toward the future.

They are in the same town of Merwinsville, but everything is different. Firstly, there are G'daliens all over. They are hideous tentacled creatures who wear wigs and speak in Aussie accents in order to appear friendly. Then there is the fact that everything is so clean. No cars, no litter, no pollution. Herbert is enamoured, but Alex is wary. What are all these creepy aliens doing, and why are they in charge?

More importantly, how are Alex and Herbert going to get home?

Filled with slapstick humour, and gross-out moments, Herbert's Wormhole is bound to find enthusiastic readers. From zero gravity t-ball, to bumper car pizza joints, Herbert's Wormhole has a bit of something for everyone. While the plot line reminds me more of The True Meaning of Smekday, than it does Wimpy Kid, the cartoon format is reader friendly and will likely inspire some artistically inclined kids to come up with their own adventures with the G'daliens. Since I read the arc, I missed out on quite a bit of the artwork, and I am looking forward to the pub date of 5/2009 to check out the final copy.

(Ed to add: Check out the website!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday -- Contest

Well, welcome to Non-Fiction Monday! We are starting it off with a bang over here at Tweendom with a contest featuring prizes from the fine folks at DK who are celebrating the publication of the title Take Me Back. In their own words:

"History may repeat itself, but there is no need to make the same old history book over and over. From the creators of the award-winning, New York Times Bestsellers Pick Me Up and Do Not Open comes Take Me Back--a journey throughout history like never before! Rock out at a gory Aztec festival, read the blog of Louis XVI’s closest confidant, take a pinball tour of Celtic Europe, and check out Alexander the Great’s fan site. With content that's comprehensive, irreverent and witty, Take Me Back is bound to become a classic."

There is a winning prize pack containing the following 8 non-fiction titles:

Take Me Back, Do Not Open, Pick Me Up, Cosmic, Dr. Frankenstein's Human Body Book,Cool Stuff Exploded, Eyewitness Expert: Knight, Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia.

Pretty cool, yes?

But that is not all! There will also be four winners of the title Take Me Back.

So here's the deal. Leave me a comment telling about your favourite historical time period. A bonus entry will go to those folks who leave the title of a non-fiction book on the topic of history that the kids in their lives love!

This contest will be running on Mondays through November 3rd. Winners will be announced on election day!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Cabinet of Wonders

This book was put into my hands by a colleague who said that it was a much buzzed about title. The cover was cute enough to get my attention, and since I knew I was going away for the weekend, it was perfect timing as well.

Petra's father has just been returned home from the Prince's castle broken, bandaged and bloody. She cannot understand what has happened. Her father was to go to Prague to build a beautiful clock for Prince Rodolfo...what could have made the Prince steal her father's eyes, of all things?

Petra knows that she must get her father's eyes back for him. He needs them in order to work and support his family. He is, after all, a magician when it comes to metal, and besides regular things like clocks, he has made a virtual zoo of animals out of tin. Petra's own pet spider Astrophil was made by her father. Astrophil not only moves independently, but he can also talk to Petra. She keeps him up in her hair, and consults with him on many matters.

Petra comes up with a plan to go to Prague and work at the castle. She figures that she will be able to steal her father's eyes back. What she doesn't count on is Prague itself. She comes from the country side, and it is not very long before she is pursuing a gypsy boy (Roma) who has stolen her purse. As fate would have it, she catches Neel, and is soon befriended by his family. She quickly finds out that her father's magic is not the only kind of magic. The Roma have many different types of magic themselves. With the help of Neel's sister, Petra is soon in the castle, and that much closer to her goal of finding her father's eyes.

What will happen if she gets them? Prince Rodolfo is a vengeful man, and while Petra is only thinking of her father, she is certainly not thinking of the long term.

Marie Rutkoski has penned a magical tale filled with adventure, fantasy, exploration, and drama. I do admit, I had a slow start. The mechanics of the metal animals did not grab me at first. Once Petra was on the road, however, I was hooked. Petra is strong willed and clever, and Neel and his family add intrigue and danger to Petra's adventure. Astrophil is endearing and a scene stealer himself. As a reader I found myself both disappointed and excited about the subtitle of "The Kronos Chronicles: Book I". Sometimes I yearn for stand alone stories...I am a bit impatient that way. The Cabinet of Wonders certainly gallops toward the end, and readers will anxiously await the next installment. An equal opportunity read that will be eagerly snatched up by girls and boys alike.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cybils!

Tomorrow is the last day to nominate titles for the Cybils award. I am one of the lucky judges for the graphic novels committee, and I would love to have lots of titles to argue over...a-hem...discuss! Head on over to the Cybils to nominate!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Diary of A Wimpy Kid - Rodrick Rules

When this FINALLY got checked in at the library last week, I eagerly snatched it up as I knew I wouldn't see it until about May.

"I guess Mom was pretty proud of herself for making me write in that journal last year, because now she went and bought me another." (p.1) And so it begins.

Greg is back, and we start at the beginning of another school year. As with the first installment, each journal entry describes a day in the life of a pretty hilarious family. From Greg's having to wear his brother's hand-me-down Speedo to swim team, to making Chirag the invisible boy, Jeff Kinney certainly has his finger on the pulse of Middle School existence.

So why "Rodrick Rules"? Well, it turns out that Rodrick knows something about Greg that Greg really doesn't want to get out. So now more than ever, Rodrick is in charge. Greg cannot tell on anything! Not even the party when his folks are out of town.

While there is nothing in this second installment that rivals the "cheese touch", it is a read that kid's cannot put down. As I said before, it is constantly checked out of my school library, and my fourth graders have even nominated the first title for their 4th grade book election this year. Perfect for reluctant and avid readers alike.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Teashop Girls

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend Simon and Schuster's Librarian Preview. Many books were discussed, and lots of focus was on the elections, but this cutey patootie cover stuck out for me. I was delighted to have this arc in my goody bag!

Annie, Zoe and Genna used to do everything together. Now that 8th grade is coming to a close, however, things seem to be shifting. Genna is into her acting, Zoe is all about tennis and Annie is nervous about convincing her grandmother Louisa that she is indeed old enough to be a barista at The Steeping Leaf. The Leaf is Louisa's store, and it used to be a hangout for Annie, Zoe and Genna. They even used to call themselves the teashop girls! Now it seems like Annie is the only one interested in the place.

After successfully gaining employment at the Leaf, Annie makes a disheartening discovery. Louisa's shop is in trouble. Since her grandfather passed away and a certain chain shop opened up, business is bad. Leaf hottie and budding entrepreneur Jonathan has a few ideas about saving the shop. Annie doesn't agree with his tactics, but is wary of saying anything to ruin her chances with him.

When things go from bad to worse, can Annie rally her friends in order to save the Leaf? Will Zoe and Genna even be interested in their old hangout anymore?

Laura Schaefer has written a tea filled story about friendship and change. Annie is a girl who hangs on tightly to the past, and her friends are moving right along with their Middle School lives. Friendships are pushed and pulled and there is just the right dash of romance. Chapters begin with quotes about tea, and old advertisements are placed at the end of the chapters. I know much more about tea than I did when I cracked open this book. This is sure contender for a book club choice of the mother daughter variety.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Savvy

Mississippi Beaumont is awaiting her 13th birthday. That's the birthday when the savvy comes for her family. Mibs can't wait to figure out her savvy. Her brother Rocket has electricity, and her brother Fish has a powerful weather savvy.

The other good thing about 13 is homeschooling. Until the kids learn to scumble their savvies, Momma thinks it's best to keep them home. No more Hebron Middle School, and no more snarky comments from Ashley Bing and Emma Flint.

Then they get word about Poppa. Mib's world comes crashing down.

While Momma and Rocket speed away to Salina, Miss Rosemary -the preacher's wife - comes on over with her kids Roberta and Will to take care of the Beaumont clan. Mibs' little sister Gypsy has gone and told Miss Rosemary that Mibs is turning 13. Miss Roberta is determined to whip up a birthday party at the church for Mibs, and she won't take no for an answer.

When Mibs awakens on her 13th birthday, a couple of strange things happen that make her think she has figured out her savvy, and she knows more than ever that she has to make it to Salina and lay her hands on her Poppa. At the church, Miss Roberta's husband is yelling at a Bible salesman, and Mibs starts to hear some other voices as well. She leaves the church and sees the Bible man's pink bus, with a Salina address on the side. She knows how she will get to Salina. What she doesn't count on are the other kids. Roberta, Will, Fish, and little brother Samson are all aboard Lester's Bible bus when it leaves the church parking lot, and makes a turn away from, instead of toward, Salina!

What follows is a road trip adventure of the best sort. Friendships, families and savvies are at the forefront, as the children try to get Lester to speed up his trip to Salina and avoid the police who are soon looking for them at the same time.

I have to say, that this little book may be my favourite of the year thus far. Countrified charm, magical realism, a dash of romance, and a family that left me envious, all make for an utterly charming read. Ingrid Law's Savvy is a sweet book that will leave readers wanting more. Fans of Horvath and Wiles take note!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls


Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat is a book that I have always meant to read. In fact, I was supposed to read it this summer since I had the arc of Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls in my hot little hands. Well, it didn't happen, so I took a leap of faith and jumped right in to the second installment.

Emmy's life is back to normal, and she is trying to distance herself from the rodents. Afterall, who is going to want to hang out with a girl who talks to rats? She knows that it is thanks to the rats that she is back home and away from her awful Nanny Miss Barmy who was only interested in making off with her parent's money. But, Emmy wants to do regular 10-year-old things...things like sleep-overs, parties, going to the park, and make new friends. So when Emmy and best friend Joe are invited to a reception in Rat City, she isn't as happy as she could be.

First of all, she has to get bitten by a rat to shrink down to fit in Rat City. And there is the nasty business of old Miss Barmy being a rat herself now. Unlike Emmy, however, she cannot change her form back to human. What if Emmy runs into Miss Barmy? What will happen?

Now, Emmy isn't the only girl who Miss Barmy took care of. There was Priscilla, Ana, Berit, Lisa, Lee and little Merry. In Miss Barmy's care, they disappeared and their parents mysteriously died. But where are the girls? Closer than you may think.

Before Emmy knows it, she is smack dab in the middle of a mystery and a rescue mission. Lynne Jonell has done the difficult deed of making a second book comfortable to dive into. While I feel like I probably do not know Emmy as well as I would if I had read the first installment, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Readers will feel Emmy's growing pains, and the scenery of Rat City is painted in rich detail. From friendship to nail-biting rescue missions, to a hilarious gopher named Gus, adventure loving kids will not only eat this title up, but will most likely take a second look the next time they see a squirrel in the park!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Waiting for Normal


Addie has it tougher than most other kids, that is for sure. Her parents have split, and she is living with Mommers in the trailer that her step dad Dwight has given to them. When you think of trailers, you would probably think of a cute little trailer park with those wind daisies and picket fences? That's what Addie was thinking of when she heard about moving to the trailer. She was quite surprised to see it on an urban corner of Schenectady, with a gas station on one side, and an empty lot on the other. Not exactly paradise.

But Addie is the kind of kid that makes the best of things. She befriends the workers at the gas station (Soula and Elliot), and manages to make some friends at her new school.

She's not too surprised when Mommers starts staying out late. Sometimes she's gone for days, but Addie knows that her mom is working hard at getting a job. It's better than having her in the trailer chain smoking, surfing the Internet or watching Jeannette for the Judgement on TV. Addie also knows how to take care of herself. How to make food stretch. How to fool her Grandpa when he comes checking in.

Every now and then she gets to see Dwight and her half sisters. The thing is, they are all living in a mansion up in Lake George with Hannah. It's hard to Addie to be there for the weekend and then come back to an empty trailer.

Leslie Connor has written a touching story about a neglected girl who gets by. Addie's attitude is almost to good to be true. She rarely gets angry with her mother, even when a big old rage might be good for her. The outer characters of Soula and Elliot are scene stealers and really made this title come to life. I'd love to hang out in their gas station any day!

Waiting for Normal is a moving tween read. Many readers who think that their lives are "too normal" or "too boring" will curl up with this one and end up with quite a lot to think about.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Pull of the Ocean


This is why I love visiting the public library. This little gem of a book leaped off the shelves into my heart.

Yann Doutreleau is dragged home by Nathalie a social worker with the best intentions. He doesn't speak, at least not with words, so most people do not understand his wants and needs. One of Yann's older brothers (three sets of twins) tells the social worker that Yann's father threw his book bag down the well.

Upon arrival at the rundown homestead and meeting Yann's mother, Nathalie realizes that she has made a mistake. Yann's eyes tell her as much. Yann is yanked into the house and the door is firmly closed.

What follows is a person by person account of everyone who comes into contact with the seven Doutreleau boys on their quest to run away to the ocean. Tiny Yann, though the youngest, is the obvious leader of the group, and he leads his brothers out of their home into the rainy night.

From truckers, to writers, to nosey old women, to loafers, the story of the escape of the Doutreleau's comes forth.

Jean-Claude Mourlevat's Batchelder Award winning title is a gem of a story. This reworking of the Tom Thumb story is magically lyrical and sure to please. Each character as well as the French countryside come to life in the prose.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

All-Season Edie

Meet Edie. She's eleven years old and heading to the lake with her mom and dad, but without her sister Dexter. This summer Dexter's ballet camp conflicts with the family vacation, so she will be staying with Mean Meagan for the 2 weeks that the family is gone. Also, the lake is not exactly the Grand Canyon, but Grandpa just had a stroke, and Edie's dad doesn't want to be too far away.

The lake seems a bit boring at first, but soon Edie's imagination has her in swimming like a whale, and becoming Neptune. She also meets Robert. A fat kid who is at the lake with his mom and a man who is not his dad. Edie and Robert are soon on fishing expeditions, and watching movies. They are just starting to get to know each other when Edie's parents get a call and they leave the lake a whole week early.

Edie is distraught about her grandfather and decides that learning some magic might help him out. Not the bunny out of the hat variety, but the kind of spells that can make people sick or well.

We watch Edie navigate a year in her life as she discovers that the things she always thought were true, suddenly seem less than. Maybe Mean Meagan isn't so mean. Maybe grandpa really is sick. Maybe Edie doesn't hate dancing after all. And maybe Dex isn't so perfect.

This is a wonderful tween book. Annabel Lyon has written a character driven story that is authentic, charming and spot on. Bits of text had me laughing out loud...

"Wow," Robert says for the third time, and I see he's finally starting to believe me. "No kidding?" He squints at me, and I can tell he just thought of something else. "Do you always get caught?" he asks. "Don't you ever get away with anything?"
"No," I say. I figure getting away with something would be like catching a fish: it never really happens, not really.
p. 34.

The relationship between Edie and Dexter grows nicely throughout the book, as does Edie's relationship with herself.

A fun read for those who like to get to know their characters.

(And hey, I managed my first title on my Canadian Book Challenge!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney

Have you ever pretended you were someone else? Maybe lied a bit about a nickname, a boyfriend, a circle of friends, a band you saw?

Well, Devon spent her summer lying to a cool new friend named Lexi, after her folks shipped Devon and little sis Katie off to the grandparents while they tried to get their relationship back in order. Devon (or Devi) told Lexi all about her circle of cool friends, and her hot boyfriend Jared. What's the harm...Devi figured she'd never see Lexi again.

Imagine her surprise when Lexi shows up in Mr. Pritchard's class. Now what is Devi going to do? Jared doesn't know she's alive, all of her cute clothes are summer clothes (from her parent's guilt money), and Kim and the popular girls are not really her friends.

Devi digs in deeper and deeper with more lying, instead of coming clean. Soon she's in a spot where a really cool boy likes her, but she can't let on. And sooner than later, her house of lies starts to crumble.

Lauren Barnholt has written a pitch perfect tween school story. Who hasn't lied? Who hasn't wished for a bit of a different life? The interactions between the characters are authentic and Devi's family (problems and all) makes for a great backdrop for Devi's growth. Fun, fast, and filled with tween-speak, this supercute read should fly off the shelves.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Toad Hill Reviews

FINALLY!

A blog by tweensters for tweensters!

Head on over to Toadhillreviews to check it out.

Thanks to 3 Evil Cousins for the link!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Okay, okay...I know that I am late to the party on this one. The problem is that this book stayed checked out from the moment we got it in at the library until the last day of school! I finally found it at my local public library, and happily read it in anticipation of #3 coming out this fall.

Greg is just a typical kid trying to make a go of it in middle school. His mom gave him the journal (NOT a diary, thank-you-very-much!), and he figures that it'll save him time when he gets older and famous in that he won't have to explain his upbringing. But before he gets famous, he's stuck negotiating the halls, Hallowe'en, the school play, as well as the world of popularity and girls.

Greg is trying to convince his friend Rowley that it is time to grow up a bit. Why can't Rowley ask him to "hang out" instead of "play"? Especially when they are in the hallway at school. The thing is, as much as Greg's big brother and some of the other kids at school aren't so nice to Greg, Greg is not very nice to Rowley either. He mainly uses him to get to play video games when he is punished. Can their friendship survive middle school?

Filled with funny and gross moments (like the cheese on the playground, and the Big Wheel birthday), Jeff Kinney has certainly struck a chord with readers. The comic style illustrations pepper the pages and add extra doses of humor to the book. I can say with authority that both guys and girls love these quick reads, and I myself cannot wait to finally get my hands on the second one.

There is certainly a lack of books for tweensters with male protagonists, and there is a lack of funny across the board. Diary of a Wimpy Kid fills these holes with panache. Do yourself a favour if you haven't already...buy multiple copies!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Graveyard Book

We begin with a murder. A triple murder, in fact. The man Jack was trying for a fourth, but the little baby had a habit of wandering, and he had left his crib, bumped down the stairs, and gone out into the night.

Jack wasn't worried, however. He knew that his keen sense of smell would lead him to the child. He ends up at the graveyard, and he knows that the child is there. What he doesn't know is that after a visit from his newly dead mother, the baby has been taken in by some "residents" of the graveyard, and that he is being protected by a "man" named Silas. Jack is sent off.

The child, named Nobody Owens, exists in the graveyard with ghostly teachers and friends, exploring and learning while knowing that Jack is out there, and is still out for him.

Gaiman has brought a wonderful story in the vein of Coraline. Superbly creepy, outright scary, yet sweet and filled with melancholy. I simply cannot wait to see Dave McKean's art added to the mix for the final copy. Also head on over here for additional information and some incredible illustrations.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My One Hundred Adventures

Jane is living with her poet mother and her 3 siblings by the beach during the summer of her 12th year. Their existence is minimal, yet they really do not want for much. Jane is, however, yearning for adventure. And when she prays one day for Mrs. Parks and not Mrs. Nestor, her energy gets blocked and she feels a need to be redeemed. Following her "healing" preacher to distribute bibles, Jane's adventures begin. From searching for "poodles" connecting the worlds, to babysitting the horrid Gourd children, to catching glimpses of who her father may be, Jane's summer is anything but typical.

In true Horvath fashion, many questions go unanswered. But the sense of place is so compelling that readers won't mind the threads that are left to dangle.

This may be my favourite Horvath title. The writing of course, is superb. There is a dreamy quality to it, and the setting of the beach is just perfect. Horvath really gets the world of children that many adults overlook. Jane is very interesting, as are the old women of the book. A delightful summer read for the deep readers in your life!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tours, meetings, and chicken korma!


*Whew!* I'm back from my whirlwind trip to Anaheim for ALA's Annual Conference. I left almost before it started since my main thrust was my presentation at the Diversity Leadership Institute, which you can read about over at the ALSC blog! A truly inspiring and informative event!

After the Institute was over, I headed out with my colleague Lana for dinner and we ended up in Downtown Disney. It was quite a sight! We ended up having some pretty delicious tapas before calling it a night.

Next up was the ISS sponsored Independent School Libraries tour. We were fortunate enough to visit two incredibly different and amazing libraries. The first was at the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes. A beautiful facility with a reading room featuring beanbag chairs that our middle school kids would die for! Librarian Sarah Knetzer-Davis gave us a fabulous tour, and went above and beyond by delivering some of our ISS members back to conference so that they could make their sessions! Thank you Sarah!

Next up was the Crossroads School in Santa Monica. This felt a bit like home to me as Crossroads is a progressive school, and I have the feeling that many of the students there are quite similar to the ones I have! We visited the Middle and High School library, and it is an amazing site. Most of (if not all of) Crossroads is made up of buildings that used to be used for industrial purposes. The librarians there were great and it sounds like the library is a super active place during the school year, with the students really feeling at home there!

The afternoon was taken up with an ALSC 101 session. Even though I have been a librarian for YEARS (about 12 now), I have been active more with YALSA. Now I am looking to dive into ALSC, so I figured that I would head on over and meet some folks! We had a rousing get to know you fest, and I came away with a better sense of the organization (as well as an author contact for next year! Woot!)

Finding dinner on Friday night was a bit more difficult. Many places had an hour wait. Wandering home I happened upon Gandhi Palace, where I had some really, REALLY good Indian food. So if you are still at Conference and like Indian food, you really should head on over for some dinner!

Then a 4:10 a.m. wake up call this morning, and here I am back in NYC. I'm a bit sad that I didn't get a chance to head onto the exhibit floor, but I am happy to be home!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Off to Cali


Well, like so many of you, I am off to sunny California! I am very excited about this conference because not only am I attending, but I will also be presenting and blogging.

I will be representing my school at the Pre-conference on Diversity. I will be exploring the ways that the library can support school wide diversity efforts, and even spear head some of those efforts!

I will be blogging this for ALSC as well. So if you do not have a chance to come to the pre-conference, head on over to the ALSC blog to read all about it.

I am looking forward to going on some school tours while in Anaheim as well. I love seeing how other folks set things up!

Happy travels!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning

Aaah, a story set in the south read on a hundred degree day. The weather certainly got me in the mood for this one!

Violet Raines is sitting in church, pretty much minding her own business, when in walks the Gold family. They are late, and there is a bit of a buzz. There aren't usually strangers walking through church! Violet's best friend Lottie shoves a note in her hands reading "Don't you think she's pretty? She looks like a model! I wonder how old she is! Let's try to meet her after church!" (arc p.4). So it begins.

Melissa is quite glamorous. She does come from Detroit - the murder capital- after all. Lottie is quite drawn to Melissa and her interest in soap operas, make-up and celebrities. Violet's not quite ready for all of these girlie changes. She still likes hunting down the cups to get free brain freezes, squeezing into the tree cave, and hanging around with Eddie.

When lightning hits Lottie's house, she and her sisters need to find a place to stay. Violet wants her in her house, but Mrs. Gold who has a big house and doesn't have to go to work everyday, insists that Lottie and her sisters stay with them. Violet's heart is fit to break as she tries to navigate what it is to be eleven and not quite ready to move out of being a kid.

Danette Haworth has written a delightful story filled with memorable characters. The push and pull of a friendship between three girls rings so true, as does the subtle shift in the relationship between Eddie and Violet. There is an innocence to the story, but the situation is so universal. Violet is the kind of girl who will stay in your memory for quite some time.

Hate That Cat

I think that this book may have finally gotten me over my fear of sequels for good. The times have changed and sequels seem to be inevitable, and these days, they are often as good, or better, than the first!

Jack is back and lucky for him, Miss Stretchberry has moved up a year as well. (I work in a school and have seen this happen...it's not as rare as you may think. My friend's son had his teacher for 1st, 2nd and 4th grade!). He is back to writing poetry, and even though Miss Stretchberry asks for more words about Jack's dear departed Sky, he has no more words about Sky. Instead, he sets his sites on the mean, fat, black cat that he sees at the bus stop.

There are more poems about poems and about poets as well. Walter Dean Myers is back, as are Christopher Myers, Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, plus mentions of others. Jack's Uncle Bill makes sure that he tells Jack his opinion of the famous poets as well as Jack's own short lines.

Maybe the most poignant piece of the book is the exploration of the relationship of Jack and his mom. Jack's mom is deaf, and Jack wonders how words exist in her head. He wonders how she "hears" his poems. A favourite of mine is Jack's June 5th entry of "This is Just to Say" (pg. 124-125 arc).

Interestingly enough, the mean old cat ends up doing something nice for Jack and his family, and while Sky will never be replaced, perhaps Jack can spread some of his love after all.

Creech has done it again. This book seems so effortless. It is a fast read, and is perfect for reluctant and avid readers alike, but there is so much story...so much meat in the sparse words. I find myself amazed at these little books.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge


Rapunzel is tired of staying behind Mother Gothel's walls. Of course, there is enough to eat, some kind guards to play with, and a bit of exploring to do, but Rapunzel is still drawn to the wall. She thinks that if she can just look over it, she might make sense not only of her world, but of the strange dreams that she keeps having.

One day Rapunzel does get to the top of the wall and she can hardly believe what she sees. Beyond Mother Gothel's lush garden lies a virtual wasteland. Mines are dug out of the earth, and smoke stacks dot the horizon. Everything looks grey. Rapunzel also comes face to face with some of the workers from the mine camps. And one of them looks familiar...like the woman in Rapunzel's dreams. It is her birth mother. Before she knows it, the guards have pulled Rapunzel away from her mother once more.

When Rapunzel does not bow to Mother Gothel's wishes, and calls her a liar, Mother Gothel has her henchman Brute take her away into the forest where she is housed, not in a tower, but in a tree. Mother Gothel's growth magic allows Rapunzel food, but a side effect is that Rapunzel's nails and hair keep growing at an alarming rate. Each year, Mother Gothel returns to see if Rapunzel has repented, and every year Rapunzel refuses. Before long, Rapunzel finds a way to escape, and must navigate a land filled with desperation in order to find her birth mother and save her from the mines.

A quest to rival the best of them is penned by Shannon and Dean Hale. Sidekicks, villains, kidnappers, and giant sea serpents fill these brightly illustrated pages. This is a fun read, that will appeal equally to girls and boys. A fractured fairytale that goes deeper, Rapunzel's Revenge is a must for graphic novel readers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meme of Five

Now, unlike ShelfElf, I love the meme. I realize that I probably shouldn't broadcast this, but here it is.

And away we go.

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?

I had just had my first daughter and was deer eyed in the headlights about it all. In my first month of taking 5 months away from the library and busily learning how to be a mom.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?

1. Watch a demo lesson.
2. Prepare tomorrow's curriculum.
3. Spinning class.
4. Dewey Decimal Bingo.
5. Lunch duty.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1. Chocolate from Vosges
2. Cashews
3. Cheese
4. Strawberry smoothies
5. Oatmeal cookies (no raisins)

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
(not in order of action folks!)

1. Pay all the bills (mortages and all).
2. Buy lots of glass and equipment for lampwork bead making.
3. Give money away to family, friends and causes I believe in.
4. Buy that new car that I like.
5. Travel, travel, travel.

What are five of your bad habits?

1. I have a book habit.
2. I have a shoe habit.
3. Not using those left-overs.
4. Overthinking the obvious.
5. Sliding into a Brooklyn accent every now and again.

What are five places where you have lived?

1. Niagara Falls, Ontario
2. Kingston, Ontario
3. Toronto, Ontario
4. Montreal, Quebec
5. NYC


What are five jobs you’ve had?

1. Short order cook
2. Perfume sniper
3. Waitress
4. Clothing retail
5. Children’s Librarian

Now… for my victims. I shall tag:

Accordion Guy
Propernoun
Wizard's Wireless

(Do with it what you will!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Zibby Payne and the Party Problem


Zibby used to love parties...back when they were fun. Before special coupons and secret sleepovers. Things seem to be changing now that sixth grade started. Amber (of the Grapilicious lip gloss and boy band love) tells Zibby that she is having a party for all of her "peeps". Zibby and her best-friend Sarah gather around Amber to open their invitations. For some reason, Amber wants all of the girls to open their invites at the same time. Some of the girls get special coupons, and some of the girls don't. Apparently, the coupons are for special prizes at the party. Zibby thinks this reeks of unfairness.

Pile on the fact that the next week, Savannah has a party. It's a super fun roller skating party without special coupons. And Zibby can't wait for the sleepover portion. But when she tells Sarah about it, she figures out that not everybody who invited to rollerskate, is invited to the sleepover. Unfair again.

This is when Zibby decides to have her own party. One where everyone is invited to everything, and nobody is left out. She even invites dorky Franny and Vanessa just to make a point. But when Franny insists on having her party planner mom help out with Elmo and princess paraphenalia, Zibby isn't feeling so generous. She just may end up uninviting them.

Author Alison Bell has written a spot on story of negotiating one's way through the sixth grade. Zibby is ultimately likable and is experiencing those middle school changes that make the ride so rocky. A perfect series for the fans of Amelia's Notebook, and for the girl reluctant readers that are out there. Fast and fun, Zibby Payne is a series sure to please.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Fablehaven - Grip of the Shadow Plague

Seth is at it again. After ignoring his grandfather's wishes not to deal with the satyrs, Seth is heading out for a secret meeting with Doren and Newel. Batteries are to be exchanged for gold, and all that Seth has to do is accompany the satyrs and pillage one of the nipsie's Seven Kingdoms. It's not supposed to be too hard seeing as the nipsies are only about an inch tall and have no real defenses. Everything is going according to plan when it is apparent that the ever peaceful nipsies aren't so peaceful anymore. Something has befallen two of the Kingdoms. The nipsies themselves are claiming allegiance to a new master, and have changed in appearance. The dark nipsies have grey skin, blood red eyes and fangs. What can this all mean?

Meanwhile, Warren and Tanu are returning to Fablehaven after trying to find out if Vanessa's accusation of the Sphinx is true. It turns out that all over the world at different preserves, dark creatures are overturning the light. The Knights of the Dawn are supposed to be having a united gathering in an effort to overthrow the Society of the Evening Star, and the big news is that the Captain wants to induct Kendra. Her grandparents are upset, because knighthood pretty much guarantees even more danger than Kendra faces at Fablehaven.

Seth is so jealous he can hardly stand it. Now Kendra gets to go off on more adventures and he is stuck under orders not to go into the woods at Fablehaven. However, it doesn't take long for there to be quite a bit of action on the preserve. The nipsies aren't the only ones choosing the dark. Soon there are dark fairies who are not fallen like the imps, and while humans who are infected do not necessarily turn dark, they certainly disappear.

While this is going on, Kendra (under the supervision of Warren) has travelled to Lost Mesa with the charge of locating a magical artifact and giving it to the captain of the knights. The problem is, of course, the fact that no one really knows who the captain is. Could the Captain be working for the Society of the Evening Star?

In true Brandon Mull fashion, this third installment is fast paced and action packed. By taking some of the action from Fablehaven and bringing it to Lost Mesa, the reader sees the different cultures of the different preserves, and is allowed access to even more magical creatures. I do have to say that I am feeling a bit of Jackie Faber syndrome here. I expected a wrap up with Shadow Plague, and while it continued the journey, the story is not over. We have ended with another cliff hanger, and I am a bit sad about this. That said, I am left happy about the introduction of Gavin, the deeper story surrounding Patton, and a bad taste in my mouth regarding our friend Warren. Maybe next go round, I will see if my suspicions are true!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge


Last week I was lucky enough to attend a preview at Feiwel and Friends in the lovely Flat Iron Building. Many interesting titles were discussed, but the one I simply couldn't wait to read was Brooklyn Bridge, by Karen Hesse.

It's the summer of 1903 and Joseph is sick of bears. Ever since his mom created two toy bears in response to President Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a young bear on a hunting expedition, Joseph has been living and breathing bears. The family candy shop has turned into a bear making shop, and bear parts are all over the apartment. His parents are so busy trying to keep up with demand that Joseph's dream of getting to Coney Island seems like it will never happen.

Joseph's family are immigrants from Russia. First came his Aunt Golda (or the Queen as Joseph and his sister liked to call her) who saved all of her money to bring her siblings over, including Joseph's Papa, and his two other aunts (Aunt Beast and Aunt Mouse accordingly). His aunts stayed in Manhattan's Lower East Side, while the only home Joseph can remember is Brooklyn. Joseph knows that he is lucky...he really does. He knows other kids who don't want to go home because their parents yell, and hit, they don't have enough to eat, or they are falling over the many people crammed into their apartments. Joseph doesn't have to worry about any of these things. Still, he misses how life used to be with the candy shop, and how he used to be just one of the guys.

At least he is not one of the bridge kids. The ones that congregate there every night to try to get some sleep and stay out of harm's way. Some have nowhere else to go, others have run away from horrific situations. These kids watch out for each other, share whatever they have, and simply try to survive another day.

Hesse has penned an intriguing piece of historical fiction with a dash of magical realism as well. Who is the ghost that haunts the children under the bridge, and how can he possibly be related to Joseph's family?

The chapters about Joseph's family are interspersed with chapters telling the tales of the children living under the bridge. I am curious about the degree of fiction of these children's tales. Some are so horrific that I think they must have been recorded in a work house diary. It is amazing to think about NYC back at the turn of the century. The class divide is explored in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The children who are cast aside are struggling every day to survive, and Joseph's family is making it, but suffering the consequence of not quite fitting in with the folks on the block like they used to.

I also love the amount of historical detail that Hesse managed to put into the book so seemingly effortlessly, that readers simply absorb them without feeling like it's work. The comments from newspapers of the day describing Coney Island are so interesting, and left me wanting to read more about the amusement parks (especially with the condo-ization of the area set to begin very soon).

Lyrical and haunting, Brooklyn Bridge is one of those books that stays with the reader. You will find yourself revisiting the characters and the situations time and time again.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Comic Con and Amelia Rules!

Okay. So every year I make fun of it, yet every year I go. I think that going un-costumed says something for a person. And going on professional day makes it totally worth it! No crowds, some interesting panels, and only a few Princess Leias to contend with.

First off I went to a panel conducted by Lana Adlawan and Alison Hendon from the Brooklyn Public Library, who presented a very nice core collection covering kids of all ages and young adults. The panel was well attended, and offered up some great advice to libraries collecting gns and a couple gentle nudges to the comic makers about things that would be great to see content wise (like how 'bout some diversity?).

Then off to the floor, I went. As I said, professional day made life so much easier. Compared to BookExpo and ALA it was as close to heaven as a body could get in the Javits Center.

One of my first stops was :01 (First Second), where a lovely special of $10 books and a buy 2 get 1 free special was on. So I got a personal copy of Life Sucks, some Little Vampire, and some Sardine.

Then off touring all kinds of indie stuff, which I love. And I finally ended up right in front of Jimmy Gownley. He is always so lovely. He signed my new Amelia Rules When the Past is A Present, gave me some posters for my Amelia lovin' kids at school, and had a little bit of a chat. Now I'm kicking myself for not buying an Amelia t-shirt! But back to the books...

Amelia at 10 is at a bit of a cross roads. Not only is her mother going on a date, but Ninja Kyle has managed to invite Amelia to a sports banquet. Amelia's mom is not so sure about this, but Amelia assures her that this is not a date, since Kyle and the other Ninjas go to catholic school, and there will be a jillion nuns present! Amelia figures they have a lot to celebrate since Joan has just announced that she's not moving after all.

But when they are at the banquet, Amelia learns why Joan isn't going anywhere. Joan's dad is going instead, and since he's a military man, where he is going is no place good.

Told partly in the present, and with some flashbacks of Amelia's life in NYC with her friend Sunday, and also including a fantastic family history at the end, this latest installment of Amelia Rules is a winner. Super smart jokes (my favourite is the epi pen one!), witty banter, and spot on family circumstances make this graphic novel ring so true for readers. These are books that kids return to over and over, and for the first time in a long time, I shed a few tears over a gn. And as usual, I am hungry for more!