Friday, June 29, 2007

The True Meaning of Smekday

I picked up this gem at BEA this year, and I was excited and nervous at the same time. I LOVE, love, love Adam Rex's illustrations and his picture books, and I was wondering how he would translate over to novels.

Well, what a bunch of wasted nervousness!

Gratuity Tucci lives with her wacky mom. She tries to keep her mom on track, and like many only children, she seems older than her years. Then one day her mom starts acting really weird. More so than usual. Gratuity notices a mole on the back of her mom's neck, that has turned purple and is now glowing. Her mom keeps saying random words. She heads out the door into the snow, and is quickly sucked up by a spaceship. Yes, a spaceship.

So, now it's just Gratuity and her cat "Pig". They need to travel South. It seems that the aliens (called the Boov) have left humans the state of Florida. Instead of taking a rocketpod, Gratuity decides that she will drive down to Florida. Her car breaks down along the way, and she and Pig run into a Boov named J.Lo at a convenience store. He's not like the other Boov, however, and he offers to fix up Gratuity's car in exchange for a ride down to Florida. Can Gratuity trust a Boov? Especially one named J.Lo?

What follows is a rip-roaring tale that is part science fiction, and part scathing social commentary. Rex peppers the text with his signature illustration and uses the evolution of the Boov to parody our own existence on Earth.

This book is next to impossible to blurb because there is SO much going on. Themes of friendship, racism, celebrity worship, and power are woven in seamlessly. This is a very different book, but different in a good way.

One of our students read it before school ended and she said, "Stacy, you HAVE to read Smekday! It's a little hard to get into at first, cuz it's so weird. But stay with it because it is AWESOME!" I think she had the right idea!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I admit it. I saw the title of this book and just wanted to read it. I am a wordy girl, and I love the way "Fablehaven" looks and rolls off my tongue. Then, when I was at Book Expo, and Brandon Mull handed over a signed copy of the second installment, I was off to B&N for a copy of the first.


I cannot believe this is a first novel.

Kendra and Seth's maternal grandparents just suffered an untimely death and their wish was that Kendra's parents and all of the adult siblings go on a Scandanavian cruise! Kendra and Seth are to go to Grandma and Grandpa Sorenson's place for a two week stay. The kids have hardly ever seen the Sorenson side of the family, and when they do, Grandpa and Grandma are rarely together. Kendra thinks they may be secretly divorced!

When the kids arrive, Grandpa and his help are the only ones there. Grandma is apparently off visiting a sick relative. Grandpa leads the children to the attic where they will be staying. It's bright and sunny and is filled with toys for the children to play with, art projects to begin and puzzles to solve. There is even a pet chicken to take care of!

Then Grandpa lays down the rules. No going in the barn. Ever. No going into the woods. Lots of ticks, he says. There is a lovely pool, and a gorgeous garden with loads of butterflies and dragonflies. Kendra is appeased by the pursuits provided, but not Seth! He takes his emergency kit, and heads for the woods. He figures he can pull off any ticks he sees. The path in the woods leads him to something he doesn't expect. A cabin of ivy. Inside is an old woman, with matted hair. She smells foul and is chewing on a rope. After being invited in repeatedly, Seth gets spooked and begins to run home. He can hear something pursuing him, but he sees nothing.

Kendra, meanwhile, is figuring out the puzzles left in the attic. At the end of the puzzle is the command "Drink the milk". She knows that this must refer to the milk that Grandpa's helper Dale was leaving at the edge of the forest for the butterflies. Kendra, ever timid, gets Seth to do the deed.

Their lives are about to change.

These are not butterflies in the garden, but fairies! And there are not ticks in the forest, but magical creatures of all sorts. Good and evil. That is why Grandpa Sorenson, who is the caretaker of this preserve, has so many rules.

Midsummer's Night is just around the corner, and Grandpa says that anything can happen on that magical night. Seth, per usual, doesn't take the warning seriously, and soon there are serious consequences.

This is a heart-thumping page turner! I loved it from the get-go. The descriptions are lush without being too wordy, and the plot plays like a movie in the reader's mind. Kendra is a remarkable character, and seeing her grow is a pleasure.

I cannot wait to dive into the second installment!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period

"This is lame but I'm actually looking forward to school this year, because every day this summer was like crap: dog crap, cat crap -- I even had a few elephant crap days. Trust me, it was bad."
Kirsten's had a rough summer. Best friend Rory is away in Maui, and Kirsten's parents have been fighting, fighting, fighting. In the midst of all of this, Kirsten has managed to put on 30 pounds. She can't wait to get back to Mountain and get back to normal.

But what is normal, anyway?

For Walk, this is his first year at Mountain. Before that, he went to City. When he took his test at Mountain School, they paired him up with Matteo. They ended up being friends, but sometimes Walk wishes Matteo was black instead of Mexican. Walk doesn't like being the only black kid in his grade. Walk is amazed when he notices that Matteo shuts down every time that uber rich Brianna has anything to say to him.

What can Walk and Kirsten possibly have in common? More than you think.

Told in alternating chapters, the stories of these two kids weaves about and intersects. Interestingly, Choldenko has Kirsten's story in first person, and Walk's in third. This is a powerful tool, and I can only speculate on what she was trying to do with this. To me, it speaks to privledge. Of course, rich, white Kirsten gets to tell her own story, where African American Walk who has just entered to tony world of private school has his story told. Maybe I am way off base, but everytime I started one of Walk's chapters I had to pause and get my bearings. Hmm.

I was lucky enough to attend a luncheon with Gennifer Choldenko during Book Expo, and she let us know where this story came from. The frightening amount of racism that gets couched in class priviledge is astounding.

This is a quick read that would make for some amazing classroom discussions about social justice, racism, and classism.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Mother-Daughter Book Club

Emma, Jess, Megan and Cassidy are all in the 6th grade. Bookish Emma, and farmgirl Jess are friends. Emma and Megan used to be friends until Megan's dad struck it rich and she and her fam moved out to Strawberry Ridge. That's when Megan started hanging out with Becca and her girls. They are truly mean. And poor old Cassidy. What do you do when your mother's a retired supermodel, and your favourite thing is hockey?

Enter the mothers.

During yoga class one day, three of the moms decide that what they need to stay close to their tweenifying daughters is a book club. A Mother Daughter book club. The first title that they will take a year to discuss is Little Women, and they will surprise the girls with the whole thing.

But, these girls wouldn't hang out if you paid them, so how can this possibly work?

What follows is a deliciously clean (as they say these days) story about girl's friendship, family and life in a small town. The four families vary in income and structure, so most readers will find someone to identify with. Told in alternating voiced chapters, Heather Vogel Frederick has written the classic growing pains story that has wide appeal. Heck, even the moms will want to read it!

Monday, June 04, 2007

8 things meme

I've been tagged, by Midwestern Lodestar!

Each participant lists eight facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning of the post, before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags eight people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1) I am Canadian...I'm sure you can tell by my spelling!

2) I am a huge fangirl when it comes to of the best things about living in NYC is the author quotient.

3) I am a fan of cheesey '80s music. I can now admit it, since I was too "alternative" to like the likes of Depeche Mode back in the day!

4) My curry rocks!

5) I am a master procrastinator.

6) My daughter is obsessed with feminist sensibilities are distressed by this.

7) I have too many shoes.

8) I have too many books. (Is this possible? According to my husband it is!)

Everyone I know has been tagged? Instead of retagging, I will tag a couple. Joey! Deb.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Amelia Rules! What Makes You Happy.

Amelia is back, with her gang of superheroes and ninjas. This time she is working on figuring out why everyone is being so nice to her. Even the obnoxious triplets! Then she realizes that her Aunt Tanner's old music career is suddenly getting lots and lots of attention. The thing is, Tanner never talks about her life as a musician. Amelia does some investigating and snoops through her mother's things to try and figure out why Tanner is so quiet about the whole thing.

While this is happening, of course, there is superheroe / ninja drama. Kisses are had, Mary Violet becomes Ultra Violet, and Reggie is drunk with power!

Can I tell you, how much I LOVE these books? Jimmy Gownley does a superb job of writing and drawing such a smart comic. There is adult appeal, but not in an uncomfortable way. (The drawing of Courtney Love is priceless!) The history of the characters is found in comic strips mirroring Peanuts, Doonsbury, and Dilbert. And real things are happening. Kids pick things up...they exist in this world with us, and Gownley just gets it. This is hands down my favourite comic for kids.

And he's a heck of a nice guy to boot. I had a bit of an embarrassing meeting with him at BEA, and he was gracious and lovely, and gave me and Jen signed copies to boot!