Monday, December 20, 2010

Closing Shop for the Holidays

Hey all!  I am closing up shop here for the holidays.  I will see you back in 2011 (eeek!) for a banner year of book talking.  I'm depending on you all for the 2011s, but I will have lots of reads from the past as well as those amazing books that didn't get the press that ( I thought) they deserved!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Top 5

Well, it's that time of year again.  The time of the lists.  The time that I *love*!  It's been a pretty stellar year in kidlit this year, and I found myself arranging and rearranging my Top 5 list.  This year, unlike previous years, I am sticking to the tween titles.  This list doesn't attempt to be balanced at all.  And of course, there are only the titles that I read that I am considering.  That said, the list is pretty sweet, if I do say so myself!

What Happened on Fox Street, by Tricia Springstubb

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm

So there you have it!

What are your favourite 2010 books for tweens?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

On the Clip Board

Apologies for the absence, but here are some of the titles that our tweens have been checking out!

 The Misadventures of Maude March, by Coulumbis

The Candymakers, by Mass

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls, by Primavera

The Arrival, by Tan

We Are So Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!!, by Rosenbloom

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch

Readers get a sense of who Mirka is from the very first panel in this charming graphic novel.  While Mirka (who would rather be out fighting dragons) is knitting, her stepmother informs her that she dropped a stitch.  Instead of pulling out her knitting to the dropped stitch and continuing, Mirka argues with Fruma that Hashem must have preordained the dropped stitch, so why should she fix it?  That's Mirka; strong willed, a bit against the grain, and her own girl.

Mirka lives with her family in the Orthodox Jewish community of Hereville.  Expectations are clear, and Mirka and her siblings know what is expected of them.  What is unexpected is the tall, narrow house that Mirka finds in the woods one day.  Mirka brings her brother and sisters back to the house to prove to them it's real, but instead of seeing the floating witch that Mirka insists she saw, all they see is a giant pig that appears when Mirka takes a grape off one of the vines by the house. Mirka has never seen a pig before, and this proves very scary indeed, especially when the pig decides to chase her!

Before she knows it, the pig is pretty much haunting Mirka.  Even though her stepsister tells Mirka just what a pig is, Mirka is convinced that it's a monster and even searches through her forbidden Monster book to find information about it!  Mirka becomes obsessed, insisting that the pig has stolen her homework and decides that she is going to catch it once and for all!  She enlists little brother Zindel and they are soon hatching a plan to catch the pig and to rid Zindel of the bullies that have been tormenting him.

What follows is a wonderful blend of fantasy, quest and a window into the Orthodox Jewish world.  Mirka manages to get what she wants without outright rejecting her culture and faith, but finding ways to work them into her desires.  There is nothing that Mirka loves more than her family, and her quest to have a proper sword proves to be an awakening of sorts on this very topic.  Deutsch's portrayal of the relationships between siblings as well as those between children and parents are completely realistic, and readers will be able to identify with the characters regardless of their faith or their cultural background.

Completely different and refreshing, Hereville will quickly rise to the top of the recommendations that kids give to other kids.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Scary Godmother, by Jill Thompson

I have been a fan of the Scary Godmother for some time now.  I loved the cartoons on television, and was bound a determined to find some of Jill Thompson's books of the same name.  It was hard, however, as they seemed to be out of print.  Thanks to Dark Horse Books' release of all of the stories bound together in one GORGeous hardcover edition, I was able to go to my local independent comic shop and pick up this coffee table worthy book.

Found inside are 5 quintessential Scary Godmother stories: "The Scary Godmother", "The Revenge of Jimmy", "The Mystery Date", "The Boo Flu", and "Tea for Orson".  Readers will quickly get acquainted with life on the Fright Side as well as the main characters of The Scary Godmother, Hannah Marie, Jimmy, Skully Pettibone and the rest.  Told with panels, but with straight lines of text as well, Scary Godmother truly blends the lines between graphic novel, illustrated novel and picture book.

The big sell of this collection is, of course, Thompson's art.  She is an accomplished illustrator who has worked on everything from Sandman to Wonder Woman .  Her spooky palette of orange, black, purple, and green will appeal not only to the youngest tweens, but to burgeoning goths as well.  My personal favourite panels are in silhouette with orange background and show such scenes are Scary Godmother swooping down the stairs with Hannah Marie, or a macabre parade of monsters heading over to Scary Godmother's place to find out who she fancies. 

Do yourself a favor and pick this one up!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crunch, by Leslie Connor

In North America we don't often consider what would happen if we couldn't get gas for our cars.  Sure it happened in the 1970s, but it's not going to happen again...right?

Dewey Marriss and his 4 brothers and sisters are waiting on their parents who are on their annual anniversary drive.  Dewey's dad is making deliveries on the east coast, and every July their mom travels with him for a bit of time away from the kids.  All of the pumps are dry, however, and  Dewey's folks are stuck up near the Canadian boarder for the duration meaning that Dewey and his big sister Lil are going to be in charge not only of the little kids, but of the family's other business the Bike Barn.

Since there is a fuel crunch, the bike business is booming, and bikes and bike parts are a bit hard to come by.  Dewey and his brother Vince are doing the best they can to keep the business going, but the fun in fixing bikes is quickly disappearing!

And the fun is not all that is disappearing...Dewey is noticing some of their expensive and hard to come by bike parts are disappearing as well!  But who to suspect?  Could it be old Mr. Spivey who sometimes helps himself to the Marriss' it a goat to munch his grass or some eggs for breakfast?  Could it be one of their increasing number of disgruntled customers who cannot get their bikes back quickly enough?  Could it be a friend of theirs?

Leslie Connor has written a mystery that has an interestingly timeless feel to it.  Dewey and his brothers and sisters are all memorable characters, and having the parents stranded far away made for adventures with a more important feel.  There is equal boy and girl appeal with mechanics of bicycles given as much room as character interactions.  While the "who" in "who done it" comes across pretty quickly, instead of being disappointed, readers will be rooting for the Marriss kids to put the pieces together.

As the folks over at Bookends have stated, Dewey and his family are refreshingly normal even though they are situated in abnormal times.

A pleasure to read!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition, by David Borgenicht, Nathaniel Marunas and Robin Epstein (illustrated by Chuck Gonzales)

I pride myself on having a pretty strong stomach…after all I am a mother, and I do work with other people’s children on a daily basis, but I do have to admit there were a couple of moments during reading that sent my stomach for a twirl.

Broken down into the chapters of “The Human Body”, “Home”, “School” and the “Wild Kingdom” readers are treated to fast paced facts and tips about all things gross and coping with those things. From boogers to farts (and laying the blame), from drinking fountains to finding the cleanest stall, readers will delight in the disgusting mix of facts (did you know we make and swallow 4 juice boxes worth of snot a day?), and techniques for fixing problems from bad breath, to lice, to getting rid of skunk smell.

The perfect ratio of illustrations to text rounds out this quick read that will easily have kids gathered around and exclaiming loudly as they share. Tweens tend to be on the cusp of being worried about cool and delighting in all things disgusting. Being in a classroom with these kids has taught me to expect a myriad of sights and smells from day to day, and The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition will bring some humor and levity to the horrors of everyday puberty and school life as well as bringing cool little known facts about wild animals, insects, and diseases to light. There are also some cool end papers with recipes for making face snot, fake puke, fake poop and fake blood.

Fun, fun, fun.

But be warned.You may not want to read this one on a full stomach!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On the Clipboard

It has been a loooooooong time since my last clipboard post (or my last post for that matter!), but here we are again.  For those of you who do not know, our library has an honour system for the times Jen, Jesse or myself are not at the reference desk.  Students write down their name and the barcodes of the books that they are checking out.  It's an interesting way to find out some of the"hot" titles, as well as those books that kids want to check out when the adults are not around!

 The Unsinkable Walker Bean, by Renier
 Jack Blank and the Imagination Nation, by Myklusch
 President of the Whole Fifth Grade, by Winston
 Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, by Boylan

What are your tweens reading?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pies & Prejudice, by Heather Vogel Frederick

The girls are back, and this time they are tackling some Austen as well as a cultural exchange of sorts!

The girls are 15 now and everyone seems to know what they want to do with their lives except for Jess. She’s throwing herself into her life at the Academy, and things are better since she no longer has to room with snotty Savannah (who is turning out not to be so snotty after all). She’s singing in the MadriGals and now her mom has her enrolled in a cake decorating class. It’s not really her thing, but she feels like she has to do it since she doesn’t really get to see her family as much as she used to.

Cassidy is still into hockey but her nice surprise is that she’s bonding with Stanley more than ever. Who knew her dorky step-dad would be such a sports nut and go to bat for Cassidy with her mom so that she can play with the elite girl’s team in the area? He’s even getting up at the crack of dawn to drive her to practice.

Megan’s passion for fashion is going strong, and she’s adding an anonymous blog to her resume. “Fashionista Jane” is a helpful yet snarky commentator on the world of fashion at her school. Not only is she showing readers how to rework their wardrobes, she also has a fashion faux pas section which is super popular. Too bad it bruises a few egos along the way.

The biggest change is in store for Emma and her family who up and leave for England for a year. At first Emma and Darcy aren’t thrilled with their parents’ announcement. They only got 2 weeks notice! But the allure of England and Jane Austen territory in particular is thrilling for Emma. Yes, she’ll miss Stewart, but it is only for a year.

Vogel Frederick has written another installment that is fun filled yet more grown up than the previous titles. She has managed to keep the girls innocent yet believable, and bringing the Hawthornes to England was a great way to introduce new characters and switch the focus a bit. Romances abound and will keep readers titillated without resorting to choosing “teams”. I don’t want to give too many plot points away, but suffice it to say that the laughter that came with the reading was familiar, while the tears were not. Fans will be delighted, and new readers will be able to jump right in.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Danger Box, by Blue Balliett

Zoomy is a special little kid who lives with his grandparents Gam and Gumps in the same house where his dad was raised. Zoomy’s never met his dad, since he was left on the doorstep, but his grandparents knew without a doubt that Zoomy was theirs by the note taped to the cat carrier that held him: “Buckeye Chamberlain Is My Father My Name Is Zoomy Kep Me Please”. Even though Zoomy looks nothing like his grandparents they have raised him and try to help him manage.

Zoomy’s got a couple of issues. If he doesn’t keep his lists, his days fly apart and he can’t stop tap, tap, tapping at this chin. His eyesight is so bad that Gumps keeps a running commentary of bumps and curbs when they walk to their shop, "Chamberlain’s Antiques and What Nots" in the heart of their small town of Three Oaks Michigan.

Zoomy lives for his summertime routine involving laundry, the vegetable garden, trips to the public library and his grandparent’s shop, but now there is Lorrol – the firecracker girl who doesn’t live in town, but is in the library this summer trying to avoid going to camp. Zoomy has never been too comfortable with other kids, but Lorrol is different. She doesn’t think he’s weird, she actually thinks that he is smart!

Three Oaks isn’t the kind of town that is ripe for mysteries, but this summer isn’t a typical one. Lorrol isn’t the only person who comes to town unexpectedly. Buckeye comes back, driving a truck and bearing a box that he wants his parents to keep. Zoomy is terrified of his father, who seems random and unpredictable and not exactly loving. Shortly after Buckeye, another stranger shows up who is very interested in the box in Gam and Gumps’ shop. And there is also the journal that Zoomy found wrapped in the quilt that was in the box that his dad brought. It’s peaked his interest with the old dates and the strange words, and all of the lists within.

Blue Balliett has written an extraordinarily atmospheric story, with layers and layers to dig in to. It’s not just a mystery, or a story about a special boy. It’s has friendship and family, history and loss. Readers will not be overwhelmed with Zoomy’s unnamed special needs status (outside of the Pathological Myopa) which Balliett presents as a matter of fact. When I closed The Danger Box I was amazed at how Balliett could seamlessly weave all of the components into the story without it feeling disjointed. In lesser hands, the story could easily have fallen apart.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Nice and Mean, by Jessica Leader

Whenever I am in the mood for some tween realistic fiction that is fun yet solidly written, I know that I can reach for a title from Aladdin Mix. I have yet to be disappointed. This time I read the title Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader, and I know I’ll have something to hand off to my tween girls this September.

Marina is mean. There’s no real getting around it. She’s not quite queen bee material, but at Jacobs Middle School she decides what category kids fall into, especially regarding their fashion choices. She does read Seventeen and watch all of the fashion shows on television after all!

Sachi, on the other hand, is a nice girl. So nice, in fact, that she got voted “Nicest Girl” in nasty Marina’s poll of kids in their school. By why do people think Sachi’s so nice? Sure she lends out enough pencils that she has to dip into her own allowance to replenish, but she doesn’t have too many friends who really know her. She’s all about school because that is how her parents want her to be. They moved from India and sacrifice to stay in Manhattan for Sachi and her two sisters, and they expect the best.

Ironically enough, Sachi did something not so nice in order to get into video class. Her folks want her in Test Prep to give her a leg up in a couple of years to get into Stuyvesant (Manhattan’s super competitive academic high school). Sachi forged her parents’ signatures and now finds herself paired of with Marina of all people for her video project. A video based on the fashion show Victim/Victorious was not was Sachi had in mind when she was going to all of the trouble of getting into the class.

Marina does have a knack of getting her way, but at the last minute Sachi lets her video teacher know that she is interested in another angle of the fashion question. Namely, why are some things in and some out? Who decides? In fact, why are some cultures considered cooler than others? Their teacher lets the girls work separately in the name of getting things done, but when Marina breaks some rules and brings a copy of her rough cut of video home to work on and some of her friends see the way that her fashion victim Rachel is treated, everything hits the fan.

Marina’s actions have lots more consequences than she ever could have foreseen. One being that she needs Sachi more than she ever could have imagined. Will Sachi be able to find her own voice and speak up for what she needs?

Jessica Leader has gotten the multiple worlds of the middle schooler down pat. Seventh grade tends to be a time of big changes…of kids figuring out who they want to be and where they are going to fit in. Marina and Sachi, while seemingly opposites, illustrate this beautifully. Round out the cast of their satellite friends and many types of kids are shown without seeming like Leader simply lined up types and put them in. Nice and Mean shows readers that most likely, the kids they think of as mean aren’t all mean, and the kids who seem nice definitely have some back story of their own!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The 2011s Are Coming! The 2011s Are Coming!

It's hard to believe, especially since there are plenty of exciting 2010s left to read, but it's true.

So what does that mean here at Welcome to My Tweendom?

Usually it would mean I start blurbing those books, but this year is a little different.  I am very excited to be on the ALA 2012 Newbery Committee.  This means that if it's a children's book, and comes out in 2011, chances are I will be reading it.   In the name of staying as far away from  a conflict of interest as possible the focus at Welcome to My Tweendom will shift for the year.

What you won't find here are reviews and blurbs of the 2011s.  What you will find are reviews and blurbs of past Newbery winners, my still enormous pile of 2010 titles, and books that I feel have been overlooked in the past.  Once school is in session there will be lists of what our tweens are checking out on the clipboard.

I am super excited about this next reading year, and I can't wait to troll the blogs and find out what you all are reading!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Karma Bites, by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

Franny Flanders isn’t exactly in love with her life. Her two best friends no longer speak to each other, her trippy grandmother has comes to stay since her parents split, and her mother is in meltdown mode.

In an effort to have more fun, Franny decides to dye her naturally red hair blond. Anyone who knows anything about hair dye knows that getting red to blond should be left to the professionals, and Franny in turn is left with neon orange locks. Not exactly the look she was going for. In an act of desperation, Franny goes to her grandmother for help. Her friend Joey reasons that since Gran is old, maybe she’s wise as well and can help with the hair situation!

Well, Granny does decide to help and frankly, Franny is a little embarrassed about the production that involves beakers, tinctures, olive oil, smoke, sparks and alchemy?! Somehow it works and Franny asks her Granny what the heck happened, but she refuses and simply warns Franny that there may be some side effects

What she doesn’t mention is that the side effects are of the social suicide variety! Franny’s middle school is completely divided by cliques and there is a set of unwritten laws about who to talk to, where to eat et cetera. Franny’s side effect has her talking to kids who shouldn’t be talked to and talking back to the Queen Bees!

When she finally gets her Granny to spill about her recipe for fixing her hair, Granny introduces Franny to the Hindi Help Box…a magical box that helps fix problems with different recipes. Franny can’t believe it. There are loads of problems in her life and her middle school that need fixing! She can’t understand why Granny won’t hand over the box and let Franny go to town.

But Granny is too trusting, and soon Franny is “fixing” the relationship between her two best friends Joey and Kate. She’s “fixing” boring teachers. And she’s “fixing” her dad’s girlfriend. But what Franny hasn’t counted on is the butterfly effect…the fact that all of this messing around she is doing affects everything else in her world. Can Franny fix all of the fixing that she has done? What are the outcomes of using magic to further her own ends?

Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas have written a breezy story that reads like a television sit-com with over-the-top characters and situations. But that’s not a bad thing! The underlying message of being careful what you wish for is loud and clear, but is presented in a thoroughly entertaining way. While Franny’s middle school has more cliques than I have personally ever encountered, the archetypes wear their characters well. The one pause I was given was with the character of the Lama who comes to Franny and Granny’s aid…he is given quite the Hollywood treatment and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. But if readers take his character in the spirit with which he is given, I think that his character works for this book.Liz Burns over at A Chair A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy gets it right when she explains who this book is for.

Another fun piece of this title that needs to be mentioned are the recipes from the box that are provided ranging from the “Sensationally Sexy Smoothie” to the “Forget it Fudge”. Tweens looking for fun will eat this up!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror

While I was at ALA in DC, I was fortunate enough to attend a breakfast hosted by the kind folks at HarperCollins. I was doubly fortunate to have the whirwind that is author Jennifer Finney Boylan sit down next to me, slap her hands on her copy of  Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror and launch into an extraordinary book-talk. Falcon Quinn made it to the top of my pile, due in large part for her enthusiasm for the book.

Falcon is waiting for the bus as usual, accompanied by quiet Megan and not-so-quiet Max. As they board the bus, Falcon notices a new driver, but doesn’t think too much about it, as he is distracted by some creepiness in the graveyard across the street. Before they know it, the 3 are careening through the streets, skipping stops and are soon deposited through the Bermuda Triangle and into another world.

They find themselves in the quad of Castle Grisleigh, where they are met by Mrs. Redflint who tells them that they are actually monsters and that Castle Grisleigh is an academy for monsters…a place where they can learn how to suppress their true natures and live among humans. At the Castle, the monsters are divided up by types with the sasquatches staying with sasquatches, vampires with vampires et cetera. Mrs. Redflint isn’t exactly sure what kind of monster Falcon is yet and Falcon finds himself feeling just as out of place at the Academy as he had on the outside. He doesn’t know what kind of monster he is, and even if he did, he’s not sure he would want to suppress his monsterness anyway! Just look at Max…he is loving his life as a sasquatch, why should he pretend just to be a big, hairy boy?

Jennifer Finney Boylan has written a fun and funny story about the nature of fitting in and finding friends. While she has said that Falcon is not a metaphor, the message about categories and acceptance comes across loud and clear. I have found over time that most kids do not mind the apparent messages found in many books, and I doubt that they will have an issue this time, as they themselves are in the heart of trying to figure out who they are and how to treat other kids who don’t identify as they do.  It is a big book at 486 pages, but it starts nice and quickly, and over-the-top characters like Perla (La Chupakabra), and Weems (the ghoul) will keep readers laughing out loud and wondering what will happen next.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter

As fellow readers, I am sure that some of you have experienced this. The siren song of a book simply from title and cover art alone. This was my initial experience with The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter. Now, I have enjoyed Potter’s work in the past, so I wasn’t worried at all about experiencing the dreaded feeling of, “but I wanted to like this book!” that happens when readers fall for covers and titles sometimes. From the creepy dark haired young children staring out with their older blond brother wrapped in a scarf and holding a cat, to the bare feet hanging from the tree, I was simply intrigued.

Upon opening the arc, I was greeted with Chapter 1 followed by a bit of foreshadowing of the upcoming chapter: “In which we meet the Hardscrabbles, unearth a triceratops bone, and begin to like Lucia even more.” The Hardscrabbles are siblings Otto, Lucia and Max, who all live in the town of Little Tunks with their artist father Casper. Their mum is simply gone. She had been there, then she wasn’t. As in most small towns, the rumours began to spread…especially when Otto gives up talking aloud (he has invented a sort of sign language that he and Lucia use) and takes to wearing his mum’s scarf everywhere.

Casper is a peculiar sort of artist in that he paints portraits of royalty…exclusively exiled royalty. Casper says, "...there is something extraordinary about the face of a person who has fallen from greatness. They remind me of angels tossed out of heaven who are now struggling to manage the coin-operated washing machine at the Scrubbly-Bubbly Laundromat" (arc p.23) As you can imagine, exiled royals are not big on settling up their bills, so the Hardscrabbles don't live a luxurious existence by any means, and it means that their father is often traveling to wherever it is that the exiles are.

Usually when their dad goes away, the children stay with kooky Mrs. Carnival from down the way, but this time Casper tells them that they are to stay with their cousin Angela in London. Lucia especially is quite excited about this turn of events, and some time in London would be great if cousin Angela were actually at home.  Stuck on their own in London, the kids come up with a plan that doesn't involve staying back in Little Tunks with Mrs. Carnival.  Instead of trying to head home, the kids go on another adventure to find their Great Aunt Haddie in Snoring-by-the-Sea.

It turns out that not-so-old Haddie is renting a castle folly that is chock-full of its own secrets, including the entrance (a Tyrolean traverse), a parent castle (named the Kneebone Castle), and some pretty interesting rats.

I don’t want to go too deeply into the plot and get all spoiler-y. Suffice it to say there are some twists and turns that will make readers want to start flipping back through the text looking for clues. From the beginning where readers are told that the narrator is one of the Hardscrabbles, but not which one, to the very big reveal, Potter has woven together a plot that flows pretty seamlessly. The characters are all well developed (I grew particularly fond of Otto) and their personalities will draw readers in. This is the kind of book that captures readers at the beginning and keeps them in its thrall all the way through. Emily Reads captures the essence in her haiku review found here.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

Emma Freke doesn’t have it easy.Why couldn’t her mother have at least said her name aloud before naming her: “am a freak”?That is exactly how Emma feels.She doesn’t fit in with her expressive Italian mom, Donatella, who likes to leave out the fact that she has a daughter while she is meeting potential suitors.Her Nonno, who lives with them above their bead shop, is either asleep in his chair or out walking the dog. And you can imagine what school can be like for a 5’ 10’’ tall 11-year-old with her name.

Donatella, in a rare instance of maternal action, gives Emma a thoughtful birthday gift this year. Home-schooling! Donatella says that Emma’s Nonno will help out with the teaching by bringing Emma to the library daily, as home-schooled kids generally do.Emma realizes that the materials her mom gave her to use are a bit dated, so she enlists the librarian Stevie, to suggest some more recent workbooks at a higher grade-level. Stevie makes a few phonecalls, and Emma isn’t really surprised to hear that Donatella didn’t exactly go through the proper channels to get Emma into home-schooling in the first place. This makes Emma think on something that her neighbor and best friend Penelope planted in her brain…maybe Emma, like Penelope, is actually adopted. It would explain a few things. She doesn’t look like her mom or her other relatives, and she certainly doesn’t act like them.

No such luck. In an unexpected turn of events, Emma is soon whisked off to the Freke family reunion. She knows that her own father who she has never met will not be there due to a rift in his own family relations, but maybe Emma will find some sense of place in her namesake family.

Elizabeth Atkinson has written a story about family and finding your place in it. What is a family, after all? Can you ever fight how you fit in yours? What traits do you pull from the folks who raise you, and what do you get from genetics? It’s also a story about finding your voice, your courage and your confidence. Diversity of all sorts is woven into the story, from Phoebe’s lesbian moms, and Phoebe’s own Liberian decent, to Emma’s own inter-generational family and her cousin Fred’s non-conformity. Feeling like the square peg is very understandable for tweens, and readers will be charmed by Emma’s journey.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Love and Pollywogs from Camp Calamity, by Mary Hershey

Effie Maloney is dying to go to camp! Ever since her big sister Maxey had come home from her end of 4th grade experience at Camp Wickitawa, Effie has been excited. She can’t imagine anything better than a week away from home, her sister and her family with her 2 best friends Nit (short for Trinity) and Aurora at camp! She is super happy that the Principal of her school is letting one of her bffs Aurora go to camp with them, since Aurora doesn’t even go to St. Dom’s anymore!

Effie has been planning and planning, but there are a couple of things that she definitely is not ready for.  The first is that big sister Maxey will be at camp with her. Sure she will be working in the kitchen, but still…Effie really wanted this to be her year at camp. Secondly, she is stunned when she finds she doesn’t even want to get off the bus! All the planning, all of the reading of the camp handbook, all of the anticipation seems to have evaporated.

Effie is beside herself. Here she is at Camp Wickitawa with Aurora and Nit and Effie can tell that there is something terribly wrong. She feels like she can’t breathe and she’s cold all over. She is trying to be excited, but she’s finding it incredibly difficult. Add the fact that everyone else seems to be finding their place with ease, and Effie is feeling more like an outcast than ever! She’s not liking the food, she’s not connecting with her friends, she’s the only 4th grader who can’t swim, and the only thing that she seems to be good at is walking her bunkmates to the biffy in the middle of the night.

Effie’s CIT Cricket says that soon she’ll be so busy that her mind will be off of feeling badly. Effie’s not sure she believes Cricket, but since her mom is away from home at a well deserved retreat, there’s not much she can do about it but try.

The funny thing is, things do get a bit better without Effie even noticing.First, there is Chica who lives at the camp and decides that Effie is going to be her friend. Next, there is the cute boy Swat who works in the kitchen and always remembers that she likes to drink iced tea. Then there is the fact that her friends are rallying behind her when they realize that she is uncomfortable. There is nothing like having 2 best friends!

This is the third book featuring Effie Maloney, but readers will have no problem picking it up if they have not read the first two (Effie Maloney: My Big Sister is So Bossy She Says You Can’t Read This Book and 10 Lucky Things That Have Happened to Me Since I Nearly Got Hit by Lightning). Effie is a super likable, if somewhat worry filled, character who readers will root for. This installment sees her getting a little deeper in her judging of other people as well as her understanding of herself.

Mary Hershey writes with a truly hilarious voice that had me laughing out loud several times during my read (starting with one of the funniest first lines I have come across in a long time)! Effie and her friends are heartfelt and believable, and most readers will see themselves somewhere in these pages.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze, by Alan Silberberg

Milo and his family move around a lot. He is currently on House #5, which seems nice enough, but you never know. He has to change schools again and this time he’s headed to Junior High. With a name like Milo Cruikshank he knows he will never be part of the “Cool Name Club” like all of the Bobs, Ricks, Steves, Daves and Mikes, but nonetheless, he’s trying to look at all of these changes as opportunities.

For example, he’s already spied a super cute girl at the corner store, and it doesn’t matter too much that he was buying toilet paper when he saw her.

But there’s a heck of a lot more to Milo than the regular nerdy kid moving and going into middle school. See, house #4 was coined “the fog house” for a very good reason. That’s where Milo was living when his mom was sick and went into the hospital. Everything from that house is a bit blurry because really, who wants to remember that time?

Milo’s dad has even gone as far as trying to erase his mom.  The clothes, the pictures, the jewelry boxes, even the pots and pans are gone. It just kind of happened. It was never discussed.

Meanwhile, Milo has managed to find himself some friends. He has Marsh (aka One Eyed Jack), and Hillary from next door. Milo’s not too sure about Hillary and her sticky notes at first, but Marsh doesn’t question Milo’s freak flag, and even seems to like the same stuff as he does. Things almost seem good.

But then there’s Sylvia…the lady across the street that seems to think that Milo should work on remembering his mom, instead of just letting his dad erase her. After all, Milo is feeling that not only his mom is gone; his dad has turned into someone that he doesn’t even recognize.

Alan Silberberg has written an astounding illustrated novel that deals with the loss of a parent. Milo’s feelings are real and raw, and he’s busy coping with trying to be in 7th grade, while sorting out needing a parent who is no longer there. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, readers will effortlessly be drawn to Milo and his friends and family. This is not simply a book about losing a parent…it is a pitch perfect story of being in middle school, the push/pull of need and independence, and the story of a boy.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Vordak The Incomprehensible: How To Grow Up and Rule The World

I first saw this book at ALA in Washington DC.  You’ve got to give it to the publisher who puts “Not for Wimpy Kids” directly on the cover.  Not only will it attract the inevitable push backers for that phenomenon, it will likely peak the interest of Kinney’s faithful readers to find out what the heck that means!

Vordak the Incomprensible is a Super Villain who has decided to share the wealth with the rest of us mortals (“As Seen on TV" style), by giving readers, through the scribing of his minion Scott Seegert,  a step-by-step guide towards world domination!  For a guy who hasn’t actually defeated his own arch-nemesis (the superhero Commander Virtue), he has an awful lot of bravado as is evident in the prologue simply entitled “Glorious Me”.

Beginning with the idea of “Bringing out the EVIL”, to an absolutely hilarious acrostic definition of superhero (Stupid, Underwear munching, Pig kissing…), to amazing plans for “Diabolically Clever Yet Extremely Slow-Acting Death Traps”, Vordak will have readers laughing out loud.  Every action movie/mystery cartoon stereotype gets the send up, and the delivery is spot on.

The visual appeal of this title cannot be easily matched. John Martin’s illustrations run the gambit from yearbook photos with barred out eyes to files on heroes and villains; from advertisements to quizzes.  The text to illustration ratio is seemingly perfect, and will keep reluctant readers interested, and voracious ones zipping along.

While the cover does look young, and the age rating is the ever-popular 8 and up, I’d say that the perfect range for this one is 4th-7h grade.  There is a media savvy that the reader needs to have to truly appreciate the Tick like humor in the pages.  I have a feeling that the Punisher-esque pronged out logo will be gracing the margins of some notebooks in the days to come.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb

Mo loves Fox Street but she especially loves it in the summertime.Sure she has to look after little sister Dottie, aka The Wild Child, but it was also the time of year that Mercedes comes to stay with her grandmother Da across the street.Mo cannot wait til Merce gets to Fox Street so they can hang out in “The Den” and drink Tahitian Treats together.

But this year, something has changed with Mercedes.She looks very grown up for one thing, what with her shaved head and her designer clothes. Mo knew that Mercedes had a new step father, but she didn’t know that they were “comfortable”. When Mercedes tells Mo that she’s starting to notice how run down Fox Street looks, and how even Da’s house isn’t what it used to be, Mo feels a distinct shift.And that is not a good thing.

Mo does not like change.

So when she takes a special delivery envelope for her Daddy one day, instead of passing it on like she promises she will, she opens it. It’s an offer on their house. Mo knows that her Daddy doesn’t like his city job, and she knows full well of his restaurant dream, and there’s no way she’s going to let him get this letter!

But no matter how much Mo wants things to stay the same, Fox Street is bound to change.Her Daddy’s dream is mighty big, neighbors may not be who Mo thinks they are, and her own sorrow about her mother is a shifting think in her chest.

Tricia Springstubb has written so much more than a simple story of growing up.She has written a whole neighbourhood full of folks so real readers will feel like they know them. Strong women like Da and Mrs. Steinbott bring the history of the street to life. The crazy Baggott boys bring vitality and movement. Mercedes brings progress and Mo herself is one of those kids that comes along every now and again who makes folks say, “she’s got an old soul”.

With hints of magical realism, and extraordinary turns of phrase that will give readers pause, What Happened on Fox Street is sure to generate buzz this year. There is something magical about this little book that will have readers looking for a flash of red in the ravines of their own lives.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Ivy's Ever After

Ivy has never fit the mould of a typical princess. Since her mother passed away during Ivy’s birth, the King has not been much for putting on airs and standing by tradition. Ardendale was never a flashy kingdom anyway, made up mostly of peasants and farmers. The one standing tradition that is left is that of the tower.

Ivy learned about the tower by accident. A couple of her friends (the daughters of servants) told her that she was to be locked away in a tower at age 14 and guarded by a dragon. Whichever prince could slay the dragon would not only be Ivy’s betrothed, but also the new ruler of Ardendale.

Ivy cannot believe that her father, befuddled as he is, would keep this important information from her, but when she confronts him, she learns not only that it’s true, but that the King has every intention of standing by this tradition that is part of the Dragon Treaty.

Not long before Ivy’s 14th birthday, a strange ship made of bone with hide for sails, enters into the harbour, carrying Prince Romil of far off Galacia. The Prince claims that he is in Ardendale to slay the dragon that is to guard Ivy’s tower and then to take on leadership of the land. But Ivy thinks there is more to Romil than meets the eye. Why would someone who complains so bitterly about the backwater state of Ardendale want to rule here?

Just before Ivy is to enter the tower, she learns of Romil’s overarching plans, but due to her wild ways of the past, nobody believes her. There is no way she can stay in the tower until she must marry Romil. When Ivy unexpectedly is rescued by an unlikely source, she is in for the adventure of her life.

What follows is a quest that will keep readers on edge over mountain tops, through swamps, into the fairy realm and the dragon’s den. Ivy is filled with pluck, and is desperate to prove that while she may not be the most refined princess, she is indeed brave and true.

Dawn Lairamore has written a fun-filled fantasy for the younger end of the tween set. Filled with trappings of dragons, treasures, fairies and trolls, readers will delight in getting their feet wet in some wizard free fair for a change. At times light and and other times filled with peril, Ivy’s Ever After is a satisfying tale that honors family, friendship and the idea of the greater good.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Princess of Glass

Poppy is just getting used to having her own room.  She is staying with her late mother’s cousin Lady Margaret Seadown and her family in Breton.  It has not been so long since Poppy and her 11 sisters were cursed to dance every night Under Stone, and Poppy is still suffering some lasting effects of that dark magic.  The primary one being that under no circumstances does Poppy want to dance again. But family curses aren’t exactly the type of thing that people in Society talk about, and Lady Margaret wants Poppy to attend the upcoming ball hosted by the Thwaite family.  After all, this shuffling around of princes and princess was meant to end with several marriages and thus the uniting of different areas, and the way to meet suitors is by attending party after party.  As awkward as this would be (what with several princes having died trying to rescue Poppy and her sisters – including the sons of families who would be attending these parties), Poppy acquiesces to her hostesses wishes, and is soon attending the fete at the Thwaite’s mansion. Poppy creates much intrigue when she refuses to dance, but ends up doing quite well in the card salon of the gentlemen!

Christian is one of the princes who has been sent to Breton on a marriage mission.  Unlike Poppy, however, he is welcomed into Tuckington Palace.  After his host Prince George gives him a tedious tour of the palace, Christian is shown to his room just as a rather frazzled maid was trying to lay the fire.  She is jumpy and covered in soot, and receives a scolding from Prince George for not laying the fire earlier.  Christian feels a bit like a fish out of water here.  His own court is much more casual, and they certainly treat their servants more kindly.

Ellen Parker, meanwhile, is not too happy with her existence as a maid.  This isn’t her life…at least it shouldn’t be.  She had once been Eleanora Park-Whittington, meant to be served, not a servant.  But that was a long time ago, before her father had lost everything.  The Seadowns are not the first family that Ellen has worked for, but they might be her last.  She is abysmal as a maid; prone to dropping, spilling, smashing and messing things up with the soot that she seems to trail around.

These three didn’t end up together in Breton by accident.  There is magic afoot, which becomes apparent when a spectacular stranger starts attending the balls of the season.  This beautiful woman who arrives unescorted in an extraordinary carriage calling herself Lady Ella, seems to throw everyone into a thrall.  She is dressed exquisitely right down to her astounding shoes that seem to be made of glass!  All of the men in attendance are soon clamoring to dance with her, but she only has eyes for Prince Christian.  Only Poppy, who has been so intimate with magic, seems to understand that something dark is at play.

Jessica Day George has written a beautiful blend of romance, mystery and re-imagined fairytale.  Ellen Parker certainly gives a new twist to the Cinderella character, and will make readers think about wishes and entitlement.  Princess of Glass is part of a series, but is easily read as a stand alone.  I had not read Princess of the Midnight Ball that features Poppy and her sisters, and I had no trouble jumping right into this title.  Filled with magic, both dark and light, as well as memorable settings and characters, Princess of Glass is sure to have readers up late into the night, turning pages to find out what happens!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Last time I had a book in hand on the train to ALA, it was Grace Lin's Where The Mountain Meets the Moon.  This time I took along One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and was pleased as punch when I closed the book upon arriving at Union Station.

Delphine is trying to keep her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern calm as they jet through turbulence on the way to go meet their mother Cecile in California.  Delphine has an inkling of the turbulence she and her sisters may be in for once they get to Oakland.  She has vague memories of being with Cecile in their kitchen in Brooklyn while she wrote on the walls and muttered to herself.  She also knows that Cecile left soon after Fern was born.  After that, Big Ma moved from down South to Brooklyn and took up right where their mom left off.

Now the girls are about to spend their summer with Cecile, just because Daddy says it's time.  Cecile didn't send for them, or ask about them, but they are coming anyway.  When they finally land, the stewardess hands them off to Cecile -- a strange woman in a pair of man's pants, gigantic sunglasses and a scarf.  Not one for affection, she tells them to follow her and strides off.  After a commute that involves a particular taxi and a bus ride, the girls enter into Cecile's house.  It's more than the girls thought it would be based on all of the talking that Big Ma had been doing.

But it's not quite homey.  The girls are banished from the kitchen, and are told to head to the back bedroom that they would all be sharing.  There's no food in the house, no television, and it becomes obvious quite quickly, that the girls won't be depending on Cecile for any entertainment this summer!

The morning after they arrive, Cecile directs Delphine and her sisters to the People's Center to get some breakfast.  She tells them that it will be easy to find.  After all it's "black folks in black clothes rapping revolution and a line of hungry black kids." (p. 57)

This sets the stage for the slow reveal.  The story is one of family, of politics, of race and friendship.  Williams-Garcia has seemingly effortlessly woven in the feel of the time period (1968), and allowed a window into Oakland and the reality of the Black Panther movement; whether it be senseless arrests or educating children.  There are enough jumping off points to bring on a study of the time period, but the story never veers into message territory.  Delphine is the epitome of the 11 year old.  She's a responsible first born who is trying to figure her mother out, while finding her own self at the same time.

I was amazed upon finding the reality of Cecile's existence.  All of the characters in this book are multifaceted, and remind the reader to look a little deeper.

A must read.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children

It’s not often I get to listen to an audio book. With my own young children around who aren’t quite ready for the books that I review, I end up listening catch as catch can. I was bound and determined to finish The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children, not just for the story itself, but for the excellent performance by Laural Merlington.

When brainy Sol and precocious Connie move with their “dad” and their stepmother to Grand Creek, Sol isn’t too broken up about it. He is hoping that the move can give him a fresh start far away from “the terrible day”. True to form, Sol is already in possession of bus maps and some knowledge of their new town.

When they meet neighbor Fay Holaderry and her dog Swift they have no real reason to think that she’s anybody other than the sweet old lady she first appears to be. But Fay Holaderry has a deep, dark secret. She’s been taking misbehaving children out of families at the request of their parents for generations and generations. Yes, the methods have changed (big donation boxes outside of movie theaters have replaced the dark, spooky woods), but Holaderry’s still on her game, and thanks to a call from Sol and Connie’s parents, they are next on her list.

But Holaderry’s not counting on Sol’s genius or Connie’s pluck. Once they realize that their folks have it out for them, the combination of their personalities seems unbeatable! But can they outsmart a witch who has magic on her side and who has been cooking up children since the days of Grimm?

Keith McGowan has written a clever twist on Hansel and Gretel that modern kids will eat up! Since I listened instead of read, I did not get to see the accompanying illustrations. But I did get to enjoy Laural Merlington’s masterful performance in the Brilliance Audio edition.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Radio Silence

I have to apologize for the radio silence that seems to have taken over this blog! Not only am I scrambling around to get ready to attend ALA's Annual Conference in Washington DC, but the ending of this school year has been particularly busy! Sometimes wearing the hat of the commuting, working mother of two doesn't mesh schedule wise with the wearing of the volunteer blogger hat!

But I have been reading, rest assured.

In the near future you will be seeing posts about the following, fabulous books!

* The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter
* Museum of Thieves, by Lian Tanner
* What Happened on Fox Street, by Tricia Springstubb
* The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, by Danette Haworth
* Princess of Glass, by Jessica Day George

All of these titles were a pleasure to read, and some were even outstanding!

What have you been reading lately?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Nola's Worlds #1

This super cute pink haired girl just about jumped off the galley table at the Lerner Publishing preview during BEA. I wanted to read it, for no other reason than the super cute Nola and her friends on the cover. I wasn't disappointed. (note: the US cover is slightly different from this one...Nola's hair is longer, the title is different and there is a blue wash to the whole thing)

Nola lives home with her uber busy Mom and her cat in the town of Alta Donna. In Nola's words, "This is my hometown, my world, a peaceful and pleasant little paradise. In a word...absolutely boring." (p. 3) Her days are filled with trying to get to school on time, and trying not to be disappointed when her mom shows up late again. All of that is about to change thanks to classmate Damiano.

Nola helps him save face during math one day, and as they walk down the hall together they run into Damiano's sister Ines, who is being *incredibly* rude to a teacher. After Damiano excuses himself to talk to Ines, Nola does a bit of eavesdropping and shortly becomes obsessed with the sibs. Are they spies? Runaways? Witness Protection kids? Add to that the fact that the school librarian has just been attacked, and Nola has herself a full blown mystery to solve.

She starts trailing Damiano to see what she can find, and soon becomes enchanted with Ines' beguiling ways. Nola's bff Pumpkin is a bit worried, and hopes that her friend will be alright.

Just when Nola is starting to get the answers that she originally set out to find, the book comes to a crashing, cliff-hangering stop which may me cry, "Noooo! I need book 2!!!!"

Just the way I like it!

The art has a manga edge, but it's not too much. There is lots of movement in the panels as well, but what makes the book sing are the colours. Incredibly vibrant (in the Magic Trixie vein), just looking at the pages is bound to make readers happy.

Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Secret Lives of Princesses, by Philippe Lechermeier & illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer

Okay. So I have to begin with an admission. I am not that into princesses. I was always more of a curled up in the corner with a mystery hanging out in the treehouse kind of gal. But here's the thing. You don't have to be into princesses to adore this absolutely stunning book by Lechermeier and Dautremer.

The Secret Lives of Princesses fits into that format of book that is set up as non-fiction, but is all fiction all the time. Topics are given their own pages, and are generally set up with one page of text paired with one exquisite illustration. Topics explored are familiar fairytale finds such as "The Cradle", "A Confidante", "The Garden", and "Royal Cuisine". Between the pages of topics are minibiographies of the princesses themselves. Will you find Cinderella here? Oh, no. But you will find such intriguing young women as Princess Anne Phibian, Princess Quartermoon, and this librarian's favourite, "Princess Paige".

Readers will delight in the fast facts that are provided in sidebars throughout the text. Did you know that the tears of a pricess are prized and "are used to compose the sweetest songs, the most beautiful poetry, and the most adoring love letters." (p.16) Did you also know that "the ruby heals dizziness, and the diamond helps avoid the brushing of teeth"? (p.30)

So what makes this a perfect picture book for tweens? First off, the gorgeous illustrations beg to be poured over. There is also an edge to the writing that may go unappreciated on the younger set. (The Practical Guide in the back of the book is a perfect example of this). These aren't your cookie cutter princesses, and readers are bound to find themselves in at least one of these fair ladies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie: Dead Spy Guy-- by David Lubar

Nathan and his pals are back. The good news is he’s still “alive”, the bad news is he’s still a zombie. But that may be about to change!

While Nathan and Mookie are walking to school one day, something odd happens. It seems that a bush is following the boys! When Nathan goes to check it out, a guy stumbles out of the bush and denies following the boys. They chalk it up to the weirdness of their town and head on to school. The weirdness doesn’t stop once they hit school, however, as Nathan spies a squirrel filming him with a nut-cam! Something is definitely up!

After discussing everything with Abigail and Mookie, it’s decided that someone is following Nathan and seems to be very interested in his new found zombie self. Nathan can’t imagine why anyone would want to follow him, but Abigail (who is seldom wrong) is convinced. What are they going to do about it?

The kids don't have much time to work on a plan, because ever since Nathan helped his school out with the track and field meet, the gym coach is on the muscle, and his new idea is to form the best middle school wrestling team ever! Mr. Lomux is looking to toughen them up, and Nathan is desperate to find a way to convince the other guys not to really wrestle him. It would be awkward if he lost a finger or an arm in gym class!

While Nathan is trying to avoid getting clobbered, the followers approach him, give him a bagel phone, tell him they know what he is and that they will be in touch. Before long, the phone rings and Nathan is sent on a wild goose chase to a meeting place where he is blown away by what they want him to do. And by the fact that the scientists who they are working with, can fix him so that he no longer falls apart. Seems too good to be true, right?

David Lubar keeps this series trucking along with fun characters, fast moving action, and the gross out moments that zombification naturally brings! Nathan struggles with his moral code in this installment and realizes that his actions have a larger effect. The gym scenes are hilarious, and all I can say is that I don’t want to be anywhere near the socks of Mookie and his pals!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Tommy is just trying to get through sixth grade. He’s not the most popular guy, but he’s not the biggest weirdo either. That particular title belongs to Dwight. Dwight is always doing odd things that aren’t helping his social status; stuff like “barfing in class because he ate thirteen servings of canned peaches as lunch” (p.4), or answering Tommy’s questions simply with the word “purple” over and over again.

Dwight’s latest thing is wearing a origami Yoda finger puppet and doling out advice. Tommy’s not sure what to make of this. On one hand, it’s the kind of odd Dwight behavior that fits Dwight’s profile, on the other hand, some of the advice that’s been handed out has been good advice. Tommy decides along with his buddies Harvey and Kellen to make a case file documenting origami Yoda’s successes and failures so that Tommy knows whether or not to trust origami Yoda with his own big question!

The “files” are all told by the people who asked Yoda for advice in the first place and each segment ends with Harvey’s two cents (he’s kind of like a control since he doesn’t believe in Yoda’s powers at all), and Tommy’s own opinion. Throughout the case file, readers are treated to a full serving of life in middle school, including embarrassing pant stains, pop quiz ethics, Shakespeare bust mysteries, and the ever nerve inducing school dance (renamed “Fun Night” to take the pressure off).

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a laugh-out-loud funny read, and captures that same essence of The Diary Wimpy Kid books without trying to imitate them. Tommy is a quintessential middle school kid, and the push-pull of his relationships with Dwight and Harvey will feel familiar to many readers.
The book has equal girl and boy appeal, as the advice that is asked tends to be universally middle school in scope.

If some of you doubt the possibility of a kid pulling off a month of wearing an origami Yoda puppet, I say you just haven’t spent enough time in a middle school. This is exactly the kind of thing that goes on in the cafeteria and hallways.

Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Goddess Girls : Athena the Brain

In this kicky new series, authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams have taken the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus and given them the tween treatment by placing them at Mount Olympus Academy -- a private school located on the Mount.

In the first book, Athena is busily hanging around with her best-friend Pallas when a message scroll from Mount Olympus breezes through her bedroom window. When she opens it, she cannot believe what it says! The scroll is from Zeus himself, and it says that Athena is his daughter and that she is commanded to journey to Mount Olympus to attend the Academy with the other godboys and goddessgirls. She isn't a hundred percent sure that she wants to leave her best friend and the life that she knows, but she doesn't have much choice in the matter.

Before long, Athena is whisked by chariot up to Mount Olympus by Hermes himself, where she finds herself before a nine headed secretary (Ms. Hydra) who wants to know what classes she is taking. She chooses the first five that sound interesting, then is whisked into the hallway where she sees all kinds of intriguing folks including a trio of girls with shimmery skin.

These girls turn out to be none other than Artemis, Aphrodite, and Persephone and soon they and Athena are hanging around and trying to stay out of Medusa's way.

This is a fun, breezy series with the background of Greek Mythology that isn't too heavy, but is filled with the trappings that readers will recognize. Ambrosia, a teacher named Mr. Cyclops, a cute godboy name Poseidon and many more make multiple appearances in this installment. With its super cute cover and perfect drop of drama and romance, I predict this series will fly off the shelves and be passed hand to hand.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Copper, by Kazu Kibuishi

I picked this graphic novel off the shelf at school not really knowing what to expect, and ended up with quite a bit to think about.

Copper and his dog Fred are living in a seemingly post apocalyptic reality. They are living on their own among various landscapes peppered with city-scapes, mountain ranges, giant mushroom fields, and where air travel (blimps, helicopters, and do-it-yourself planes) are mainstream forms of travel. Each single and dual page spread is titled and offers up a piece of Copper and Fred's life together.

Copper starts his journey expecting the worst, in part because of Fred's constant worry and fear. By the end of this volume, however, it is evident to readers that Copper's load has been lightened somehow.

This is a deep read that will give thoughtful readers pause. In turns heartbreaking and life affirming, Copper is the kind of book that readers will want to own, and return to time and time again.

Friday, May 07, 2010

On the clipboard this week...

100 Percent Pure Fake, by Lyn Thomas

Thirteen Plus One, by Lauren Myracle

If You're Reading This It's Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch

Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan