Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Second Birthday To Us!

Yay!  It's our birthday today!  We are two!  So exciting!  We're in that adorable toddling around phase where strangers and people who don't live with us think we're just so cute but our mother actually knows we're a terror.  But we can be very snuggly when we want to.

In honor of our second birthday, we're going to be having some super fabulous giveaways, so keep checking back!  Right now we have the audio book of Dead End in Norvelt giveaway going on, and later in the week we'll have some fabulous ARCs.

Thanks for coming along with us as we go into our third year!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt Audio Book Giveaway!

Thanks to the kind folks at Macmillan Audio, we have the audio book version of Newbery Medal winner Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos to give away!  I read it recently and loved it.

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

video
Here's a clip from the audio version.   





 


This giveaway is now closed.

reMIND by Jason Brubaker

Cripple Peaks has one claimed to fame.  Sonia's dad maybe saw a lizard man in 1984.  Sonia would be so out of her little town now that her father's died except that she's really well paid to maintain the lighthouse.  One day, Sonia's cat Victuals goes missing.  When he reappears days later, he's changed.  He has stitches in his head...and he can talk.  The story he tells Sonia has her rethinking all the stories her father ever told her.

So.  This was pretty weird, but I think it has the potential to be really good.  This is only the first volume though, so it ends on a cliff hanger and many questions are left unanswered.

It seems that the ruler of the lizard people (yes, they're real) who live underwater has been switching the minds of some of his people with those of common household pets.  But why?  Why?  Well, we don't really know yet!  But for something nefarious most definitely.

Sonia, lucky, just so happens to have an underwater suit that she'd designed for her father before he dies which she refits for Victuals so he can go back and figure out what's going on.

While the focus is mostly on the lizard people, I hope there's more of Sonia too, who seems like a really cool character.  Volume 2 is being published page by page online.

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Glory's mother died when she was 8.  Since then it's just been her, her father, and her piano.  At 17, Glory is now a piano prodigy, known as "The Brecht of the Piano" who travels all over the world to perform.  Then she meets Francisco, and everything changes.

While I liked the format of this graphic novel a lot, I didn't actually enjoy the story.  The entire story is told through photographs. Photographs of pieces of music, or the TV they watch, of notebooks, or notes, of photo albums.  Totally done in photographs.  There are very few words at all.  A few emails.  Some brief IM conversations, sometimes there's some text written over the photos, but for most part it's wordless and it's really cool.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Never Weres by Fiona Smyth

No one has been able to have children for 15 years.  The country is torn between those in favor of cloning to carry on the human race and those who are against it.  Xian, Jesse and Mia at 15 are three of the youngest people in the world.  When Xian begins to find clues about a girls' long ago disappearance, the three friends may discover what's needed to save the world.

OK yes, so it's another book that starts off with "Oh no!  There's a virus and now no one can have babies/all the adults are dead/there's only one men left, etc."  In this case the virus has stopped procreation.  But rather than focusing on a "cure" alternatives are searched for.  What's been landed in on is cloning but there are two problems.  First of all, they can't manage to clone a fully functioning person, and two there are too many people against it, even though it can save humanity.

Xian, Jesse and Mia are all very different, and sometimes seem to have a hard time being friends because of it.  They clearly care about each other and are there for each other when it's needed.  Jesse is well off and his mother is a scientist who was involved in cloning.  His mother is very distant and Jesse is often alone.  Xian lives by herself.  Her only family is her brother who is working on another planet and hasn't been home in a long time.  Xian is adventurous and often reckless.  She's the one who makes the discovery in the sewer.  Mia lives with all her family, who she loves, but they do not see eye-to-eye.  Mia wants to be an artist, but her parents say the time for art has past and she needs to focus on survival.

While Xian makes the initial discovery, it takes the skills of all three friends (plus some help from adults, what a novel concept!) to make the ultimate discovery that might just save the entire human race.

The illustrations are done in black and white, with a lot of gray shading.  I liked this as it captured the darkness or the world.

Fans of dystopian fiction will enjoy this one.  With the added plus of an uplifting ending!

Tina's Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki

Tina has recently been dumped by her best friend Alex which means she has a lot of time to sit and think.  And a lot of time to work on her semester long sophomore English Honors elective in existential philosophy assignment: who are you?  Tina writes to dead French existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre as she tries to figure out who she is, why Alex doesn't want to be friends with her anymore, how to get Neil Strumminger to kiss her and lots more.

This was an interesting read, because it went back and forth between being an illustrated novel and being a graphic novel.  At points it's really text heavy with only a few accompanying illustrations.  Most of the time it's a traditional comics panel set-up, but sometimes it breaks out of that.  I've decided to classify it as a graphic novel because that's what it is most of the time.

I enjoyed this very much.  Tina has so many thoughts in her head and no one to share them with.  Her best friend Alex has suddenly become too mature for her and wants to spend her time buying clothes and putting on makeup and hanging out with people that a week ago both Tina and Alex thought were mean and shallow.  Tina is Indian-American, and she's tired of constantly having people at her predominately white school ask her stupid questions.  Her older brother recently broke off his engagement and Tina thinks he might be gay, and her older sister is dating a younger guy which freaks out her parents.  She's also in love with Neil, who sometimes talks to her and sometimes wants to hang out and even kissed her once but she doesn't know what his deal is.

I loved seeing Tina figure things out.  While it was sad that Alex dumped her, it gave Tina a chance (and also forced her) to talk to other people and branch out.  She joins the drama club and realizes she really likes it and is good at it.  She takes more chances, and even though her romance doesn't have a happy ending she gets a lot out of the experience.  Even at the end, when it seems that Tina and Alex will probably reconcile, we're left knowing that things aren't going to go back to the way they were before.  Tina is now much more secure and confident and has more of an understanding of who she is.

All the illustrations are done in black and white and look like pencil drawings, which was appropriate since it was suppose to be Tina drawing in her diary.  It reminded me a lot of Amelia's Notebook.  Did anyone else read that when they were younger?

Waiting on Wednesday: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats.

 Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.


The Wicked and the Just comes out April 17, 2012.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News

The Hunger Games: what the movie missed about the book.  From EW.

On the other hand...Hunger Games movie is faithful to the book's dystopian vision.  From SLJ.

Matt de la Pena's Mexican Whiteboy has been banned at an Arizona high school for "critical race theory." From The New York Times.

A Massachusetts library finds a creative way to ask for funds.  From the Huffington Post.

Stephen Colbert vents his frustration over The Lorax product tie-ins.  From Gwaker.

Death by media: The Hunger Games and teen authenticity.  From SLJ.

Have you been following the Battle of the Kids Books?  I'm already sad about some that got eliminated.

Boys are closing the reading gap.  From The Guardian. 

Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be available in print.  I know some people are really upset about this, but it totally makes sense.  From The New York Times.

Interview with Suzanne Collins.  From SLJ.

The 10 best authors of children's literature.  Debatable.  From Flavorwire.

A full time school librarian is linked to higher reading scores.  From SLJ.

It's a wardrobe into Narnia!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review




 The much anticipated movie adaptation of The Hunger Games came out this past Friday, which of course you know unless you've been living under a rock and staying away from all social media, TV and news outlets.  I saw it Friday night, along with about six million other people, many who were wearing Hunger Games themed t-shirts.  I did not see anyone totally dressed up as you might for Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but maybe they were at the midnight showing.  Do tell if you were there.

I was very excited about seeing The Hunger Games.  I was also really nervous.  I'd been hearing only positive things about the movie, and I was so hopeful that it was going to be a good adaptation.  I was also half expecting my hopes to be bitterly, bitterly crushed, as, alas, so often happens with books you love that get made in to movies.  But not always!

Over all, I was really happy with the movie. In terms of plot, it was surprisingly true to the book.  I don't know if I've ever seen a book-to-movie adaptation that was closer.  The things they did change I could absolutely see and understand why they were changed.  It was emotional and action-packed and I thought the acting was excellent.

Spoilers ahead!

Breaking Dawn: Part 2 Trailer

Here it is.... in all it's glory. The trailer for the final Twilight movie. I would just like to say that I am relieved that the end is in sight.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Host Trailer

On the wings of the Hunger Game movie coming out, The Host trailer is now available. I have to admit that I think this might be all right. But let's be honest a lot could go horribly wrong. Thoughts?

The Returning by Christine Hinwood

It has a been a long, long war, and the Uplanders have triumphed over the Downlanders.  Cam comes home from war missing an arm and not sure why he was spared.  Graceful Fenister was engaged to marry Cam, but now will be web to an Uplander lord.  Diido is a victim of war, even though she was on the winning side.  An unusual and thoughtful look at the aftermath of war.

I had a hard time getting in to this at first.  The Downlanders' have a stylized way of speaking that it took me a while to find the flow off, and at first I found the constant switching of point of view distracting.  I wasn't sure whose story it was, or if it was anyone's story in particular and if there was suppose to be a single storyline or many.

Once I found the rhythm I ended up enjoying it.  It was an unusual story, and I don't think this is one that's destine to be very popular.  I classified this as fantasy but there's no magic in it.  It's in an imaginary world though, so I guess that makes it a fantasy?  There really wasn't any one story, although they all connect.

If I had to pick one character to give the story to, I guess I would say it's mostly Cam's story.  Everyone else's story connects to his in some way.  Cam's life was spared by the Uplander Lord's son, and Cam is restless to figure out why, eventually leaving his home again to find out the truth.  His leaving has an affect on many people, including his little sister Pin and his friend Ban, who is secretly in love with him.

After Cam leaves, the focus of the story moves more to the Lord's son, Gyaar, who's also a very conflicted young man.  Women are shown to be pawns of war, as Graceful's father breaks her engagement to Cam (now a cripple) and then gets her engaged to Gyaar despite her protests.  I really enjoyed Graceful coming in to her own after her marriage and changing thing for the better.  The saddest story was probably Diido's who is an Uplander herself but that didn't protect her from violence from soldiers.

Some character's stories were left hanging, and the end seemed opened for more which makes me wonder if there will be another book taking place in this world.

I would definitely recommend giving this one a read, it's strangely beautiful.  I think it will be a hard sell to middle school students thought.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Jack had big summer plans which end when he gets grounded for mowing down his mom's corn, even though is dad told him to do it!  Now Jack is stuck in the house.  The only time he gets to leave is to help Miss Volker write obituaries.  And there are a suspicious amount of obituaries to write.  Is someone knocking off little old ladies in Jack's quite little town?

Dead End in Norvelt was the winner of the 2011 Newbery Medal.  While it didn't have the same mind blowing quality of a When You Reach Me, it was a great book.  Dead End in Norvelt is semi-autobiographical, and it isn't clear how much of it really happened to Jack Gantos and what he made up.

Jack is a dorky little kid. He likes reading and history and his nose bleeds whenever he gets upset or too excited.   There aren't a lot of kids in his small town.  The town is dying.  Jack's best friend is Bunny, and she's a total jerk to him.  She goes out of her way to try to scare him and make his nose bleed.  Jack lets people take advantage of him.  He constantly finds himself in bad situations, and they're usually not of his making.

Jack's dad is a bit of jerk too.  His dad was more of a kid than Jack was, really.  He seemed to have no qualms about doing stuff that he knew would have consequences for Jack (but not for him) and did them anyway.  That's how Jack ended up grounded for a whole summer.  Jack's dad isn't around very much though, and Jack is desperate to spend time with him and impress him, so he does whatever he says.  It's 1962, and Jack's father wants nothing more than to move out of Norvelt which he feels is full of communists.  Communists to him seem to be people who try and make sure all the old people have enough food.

Then there's Miss Volker, who lives down the street and is one of the original members of the two-hundred and fifty families that founded Norvelt.  She was made the chief nurse and medical examiner of the town by Eleanor Roosevelt herself and therefore Miss Volker will never leave Norvelt until the last original Norvelt founder has died.  She's quite the character.  She cooks her hands in hot wax to help her arthritis, gives Jack a nose operation (a minor one) to make his nose stop bleeding and doesn't suffer fools kindly.

What made this book special was Jack's voice.  Jack was a thinker, and really did want to do the right thing, but he's a kid and sometimes made stupid decisions.  Jack reads his history books about people coming in a taking other people's land and killing people and people wiping other people out.  He finally figures out that it's OK to make mistakes.  It's when you keep doing the same dumb thing over and over again that it's a problem.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Enchanted by Alethea Kontis.

It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.


The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?
(Summary from Goodreads)


I have a not so secret love for fairy tales, and this sounds quite lovely. It sounds like a sweet yet fraught little twist on the "Frog Prince." Awesome.

Enchanted comes out May 8th.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvay

Jasper Jones comes to Charlie Bucktin’s window one night, asking for help.  No one has ever asked Charlie for help before, let alone Jasper Jones and Charlie is pleased and flattered.  Jasper leads Charlie into the woods shows him something.  Now Charlie knows a terrible secret and he isn’t sure what to do.  As fear and dissatisfaction in his small Australian mining town grows, Charlie decide what to do with his secret and if he can really help Jasper Jones.

This was some book.  It dealt with some very serious topics - there’s a girl who’s been killed and beaten, and a town with incredible prejudice against people who are looked on as “outsiders.”  And yet, sometimes it was laugh-out-loud funny.  And it worked perfectly together.

Some spoilers ahead.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Ismae has grown up in the convent of St. Mortain, the saint (or god, according to the old beliefs) of death.  As a handmaiden of death, Ismae is an assassin - she finds the men marked by Mortain and kills them.  Ismae never doubts Mortain or the convent or questions why the men she kills are marked.  When Ismae is sent out of the most important mission of all, protecting the duchess of Brittany from an unknown traitor, she encounters one who makes her question her beliefs and her blind faith in the convent.

I thought this was going to be terrible.  I was completely underwhelmed by the description, sounded like a typical "how will she do what she has to do when she's fallen in love with the hot guy she was suppose to do something bad to" whatever and also snore.  WRONG.  This was, in fact, awesome.  I was delightfully surprised.  I love when that happens.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Ha has lived in Saigon all her life.  While the war might be over for the Americans, it carries on for those who live in Vietnam. Ha and her family are forced to flee to America, and now Ha must learn to speak a strange language and adapted to the strange place that is Alabama.

Inside Out & Back Again is written a verse.  Books written in verse can sometimes be really annoying if there isn't any reason for the character to be writing in that fashion.  In this case, it made perfect sense, it was beautiful and I loved it.  Ha is ten years old and is writing is a journal or diary.  The short sentence structure helped me to better picture a child her age.  While I know that it doesn't make sense that Ha would be writing in English, at least not from the very beginning, the structure also seemed to reflect someone who did not have a strong grasp on language, so she was writing very simply.

While the language was simple and the sentences short, there were beautifully painted descriptions, from the other children at school to her papaya tree in Vietnam.  Ha writes about her sadness at leaving Vietnam and everything she knows, her brothers who tease her, wishing for her father who she doesn't remember and the hardships in America.  Ha has a very hard time at school and is mercilessly teased by the other children about how she talks and how she looks.  Many people in town will have nothing to do with them until they get baptized at church.

There was no happy ending to this story, but it does end with hope.  Ha and ever family begin a new year accepting the sad things they cannot change and are ready to move forward.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

After the terrible death of her friend Caroline, Portia runs away from Mister and the McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls and ends up in a traveling circus.  Portia works in the sideshow, where she gets to know all the strange "freaks" that work there.  Secretly, Portia hopes that she'll find her father, or better yet, that he'll find her.  But Portia has more pressing problems to worry about, and Mister never lets anyone get away for long.

This was interesting.  I enjoyed reading it, mostly because there was an excellent sense of place. It's the 1930s, and like most people, Portia's people have fallen on hard times and one by one drift away looking for work and money.  Portia's father finally leaves, leaving Portia to her aunt Sophie, who eventually brings her to McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls, run by the creeptastic Mister who has all the girls working like slaves for him.

When Portia runs away and joins the circus, we get up close and personal with a 1930s freak show.  As Barnaby mentions in her author's note, but the end of the 1930s sideshows had begun to fall out of favor, as people were beginning to feel that staring at "freaks" was perhaps inappropriate.  But, as Barnaby also notes, for many of these people being able to work in a circus sideshow was one of the few paying jobs they'd be able to get.  While most of the story focuses on Portia, we do get to get inside some of the heads of the other people who make up the sideshow, and I really enjoyed that.

As for the story itself, it strangely all felt like a set-up for future stories.  I checked to see if this was the first in a series, but I couldn't find anything about it.  That's definitely what it feels like though.  We've met all these interesting characters with all sorts of different things going on.  The sideshow people ultimately rescue Portia from Mister and become her family.  We know that the ghost of Caroline is still floating around Portia.  So...what now?  Most of the story was just setting everything up and getting us familiar with the many characters.  The plot seemed almost secondary.  Is there going to be more? 

If Wonder Show is a stand alone, it was kind of odd.  If it's the set-up for a series I think it has the potential to be really interesting.  I'll have to wait and see.

Wonder Show comes out March 20, 2012.

Soulless: The graphic novel by Gail Carriger and Rem

Alexia Tarabotti is the model Victorian lady, as long as you overlook her rather strong Italian features, overabundance of curves, age, and lack of soul. And if you're the werewolf Lord Maccon you also have to overlook the hedgehog incident and the annoying habit of showing up at the most inconvenient times and places, such as the parlor beside a dead vampire. As Alexia skirts the travails of disappearing werewolves and vampires, her best friend's hats, and rather unseemly urges toward Lord Maccon, she must also decide what her place is in supernatural London society and if she'll be alive to claim it.

I'm not sure if we here at Wandering Librarians have really gone in depth about our love of Gail Carriger and all things Parasol Protectorate. Ms. Carriger is an absolute gem, who maintains a persona at all times and has blatantly above-average intelligence. We were quite excited about this being re-released as a graphic novel (I won't call it a manga because neither the artist nor the writer are Japanese, nor was the book created in Japan). I can't say that I was disappointed, or that it didn't meet my expectations, but for some reason I felt like something wasn't present.

I loved the illustrations, they were quite wonderful at encompassing the personalities that I got from the prose. The storyline had all the important bits of the book, and the not-so-important parts that made it delightful. I loved Lord Akeldama, he was just as magnificent, if not more so, in the graphic novel as the novel.

I think what I missed, having read the novel first, were the detailed descriptions of Alexia's thoughts and the explanations behind everything. I think if I had read this first, I still would have enjoyed it but not had the passion to recommend it to everyone I know that I have now. So what I suggest is that you read the novel first (or read the entire series straight through) and then read the graphic novel. You'll appreciate it more that way.

News

Hunger Games roundup.  From the Washington Post.

What?  The Hunger Games already previewed in Los Angeles?  No fair!  From the Huffington Post.

In the UK, The Hunger Games lost seven second to make it more teen friendly.  From Deadline London.

How The Hunger Games appeals to everyone, from teen girls and boys to adult men.  From the Wall Street Journal.

The Hunger Games from page to screen.  From PW.

Hey!  Pottermore is officially launching in April!  Finally!  From Cambio.

Cute!  Free customized "go away I'm reading" book covers.  From GalleyCat.


Four YA authors share their secrets.  From Bullet Media.

Scholastic launches a new digital platform.  From PW.

Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes to be a movie.  From Entertainment Weekly.

Waiting on Wednesday: Unterzakhn by Leela Coman


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Unterzakhn by Leela Coman.

 A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York's Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths.

For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York's Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life's lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the telling details of that street life, Unterzakhn (Yiddish for "Underthings") tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the "golden land," where the difference between just barely surviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions.


Unterzakhn will be out April 3 2012.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alan November at MSLA

It's been a week since Anna and I were at MSLA, but I still haven't done my write-ups due to the fact that last week was INSANE!  And because of this I have not gotten to tell you about the fabulousness that is Alan November.  That will be fixed now.

Alan November (who for whatever reason I always refer to using both first and last name) had a three-hour slot to speak, and I could have listen to him talk for hours more.  Alan November, would you be my mentor?  He was not only incredibly inspirational, but also gave concrete strategies to use in the classroom.

He started off talking about the Internet, and how now the Internet is actually used in a less creative way than it was in the 80s.  It had become a place to cut and place and do things quickly and not have to think.  Alan November stressed that technology should not be misinterpreted to be innovation.  Thank you, Alan November, for saying that.  I worry about this.  I've certainly seen it in my school, and I know others are concerned as well.  It's hard not to get excited about the newest, shiniest thing.  We want that new shiny thing, because then we are cutting edge and using technology in the classroom and so forth.  But what's the point of announcing "We've bought a whole cart of iPads!" if there is no curriculum in place to actually use those iPads?  If there's no instruction in place to teach the teachers who are suppose to use those iPads in their classrooms?  Yes, it's exciting when something comes out that might possibly have educational potential, but we need to stop and think and plan and decide if it's going to enhance learning.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Deuce has just ascended the ranks and reached her goal of becoming a Huntress, someone who gathers meat for the Enclave and protects the other citizens from the Freaks who prey on the unwitting who cross their paths. She lives in a society where everyone has their place in order to capitalize on the few decades that they are alive. Things become less straightforward when she and her enigmatic Hunter partner Fade discover that the Freaks are getting smarter and the Elders are misleading the people to keep their own power. Eventually she and Fade are banished Topside, and they must survive gangs, winter, and aggressively intelligent Freaks. All of a sudden Deuce must deal with a developing romantic relationship with Fade, the reliance of a helpless girl that they save from the gangs, and a distant hope that there will be a safety up north. If they can survive the trip.

I really loved this book. It was dark, gritty, and Deuce's evolution was remarkable. Ann Aguirre has created a well conceived universe, where the research behind the story is evident and yet never explicit. The different communities/cultures  have obvious rules that work well within the post-apocalyptic setting.

Here's the thing I enjoyed the most, Deuce's evolution from focused Huntress to someone who must make up her own rules and develop stronger ties to the people she meets. Her new perspective on what she is allowed to do, her own developing ideology, and her confusion on how she is to behave, is unbelievably engaging. I can't say how much I loved this character. She was so incredible; she was flawed and yet strong. Really amped up the heroine traits that I adored in Darkness Becomes Her. I mean honestly, this could not have been done better.

The secondary characters were equally well done, I loved Fade. He is mysterious and angsty without being obnoxious. The development of their relationship is so well-shaped and I loved how they are so cautiously sweet with one another. Then there's Tegan and Stalker, their back-stories are stark and gripping.

I am actually going to stop here. I could go on and on about how great this was, but I'd rather you just go and read it and see for yourself. Ann Aguirre did an incredible job. Loved it. I can't wait for the sequel Outpost to come out in September, though you can go and read the first two chapters here.

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Ari has been in the foster system since her mother died fourteen years ago and though she is now with a loving (albeit unconventional) family she searches for more information about her mother and father.The newest clue has sent her to privately owned and supernatural New 2, which in the past has been known as New Orleans. It seems that her mother left New Orleans before the hurricanes destroyed the city and she has ties to the elite Novem that now run the city. Taken in by a group of misfits, she becomes close to two: strange and sweet Violet, and gorgeous Sebastian. As she unravels exactly what she is, she discovers that she has found the only place that she truly feels like she belongs is also the only place that can protect her from a destruction from a goddess.

This book does a weird twist on Greek mythology, supernatural, and dystopian themes. It works, you wouldn't think it does, but it all comes together in this rather exotic fantastic way. I found Ari to be ridiculously intriguing, her thought process and experiences are engaging. She is the type of protagonist that I hope we see more of: smart, self-reliant, and capable. She is someone that obviously will be a leader but because of her age is coming into her own. She isn't a Mary-Sue, but she also isn't Wonder Woman. She is a well developed character. I found this quite refreshing.

Spoilers ahead...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Cullen lives in a tiny southern town, where the most exciting thing to happen is the possible reemergence of the believed-to-be-extinct Lazarus woodpecker.  That's the same summer and Cullen's younger brother, Gabriel, disappears without a trace and Cullen and his family have figure out how to carry on with their lives.

There are two seemingly unrelated stories being told.  The first is Cullen's story, which is told in first person.  I like Cullen's voice as a narrator very much, and the matter-of-fact way he spoke about things.  The other story is first that of a boy named Brenton Sage and then switches to his roommate, Cabot Searcy.  It is not clear for much of the book how these two stories are related or will come together.

As I'm sure you know, Where Things Come Back won the Printz award.  So I was waiting for everything to come together in an awesome and mind blowing way.  Something that was going to take this from being an enjoyable and thoughtful read to something amazing that would justify it winning the Printz.  It didn't happen.  Things came together, but there was nothing amazing or mind blowing about it.  Things were explained, wrapped up and then it ended and I was left staring at the covering and thinking, "what was so special about that?"  Thanks a lot, Printz committee.  You've ruined what would have been a perfectly good reading experience.  Because Where Things Come Back was a good book, and I'm glad I read it, but I didn't think there was anything especially amazing about it.

I still think Chime was the best thing I read all year and I'm cranky it didn't even get honored.

What's interesting is that Where Things Come Back isn't exactly about anything in particular, and I usually don't really like those books.  It's kind of about how people cope with the terrible things that happen in life.  I did want to know what happened to Gabriel, I think that helped keep me involved, but most of the story is just what happens over the summer as the town goes crazy over the thought that a bird may have come back to life and Cullen's family and friends try to deal with Gabriel being gone.  Each character deals with grief and stress in a completely different way, from disengaging from life to pretending everything's fine, to keeping busy, to taking care of other people and so on.  Everyone keeps themselves together in different ways, and so work better than others.

So I quite enjoyed Where Things Come Back and totally recommended it, it's just that I was expecting something completely amazing and didn't get it.  I should have known.  The Printz committee and I have been in a fight for several years now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Purity by Jackson Pearce


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Purity by Jackson Pearce.

A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.


 This seems like a really lovely book about self-discovery and family dynamics. Not my usual fare, but pretty excited for this one.


Purity comes out April 24. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lori Cooney: Web 2.0 Tools

Lori Cooney did a fantastic job recommending different websites, apps, and software, that further collaboration and teaching. I cannot wait to implement them ALL! I am hoping to embed her presentation in this post, because the amount of stuff she talked about would take forever to write down. For now I'll just link it.




Char Siddell: Char Shares

Char did a really lovely job recommending new books (as in published in the past year) for kindergarten through fifth grade. I'm linking the list and I'm just going to highlight a few that I really liked.

Picture Books
  • Neville by Norton Juster - Really cute story about being the new kid in town. I generally enjoy Norton Juster's books. He has a nice sense of humor.
  • This Plus That: Life's Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - A book about "math." Except it's more about connecting actions and realizing how they result. Clever.
  • The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye by Jane Yolen - I hadn't known that Jane Yolen's husband died this past year. This book is about death and dealing with saying goodbye. Very sweet and soft.
Fiction
  •  Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry - As the church mice prepare for the Blessing of the Animals, they must deal with being driven out of their home and the oncoming cats that are also going to be blessed in their church home.
  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin - I did a review of this and really enjoyed it. It's sweet and thought-provoking. 
  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos - A quirky semi-autobiographical story about a boy with a nose-bleed problem that must work for a woman that writes obituaries. Newbery winner.
Non-Fiction/Biography
  • World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky -  Kurlansky wrote the adult books Cod and Salt, and how these two things had a HUGE impact on our history. He now does a look at what the impact of fish is on our present ecosystem and how we need to have greater concern for fishes' depletion.
  • The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon by Carla Killlough McClafferly - This book brings together science, technology, detective work, art history, and American history; and makes a Founding Father approachable. Ms. McClafferly follows the work of the historians at Mount Vernon's Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center and relates the project of creating three life-size models of Washington to actual events in Washington's life. This book goes beyond the standard biography.
  • Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell - A biography of Jane Goodall, with special attention to her childhood and how her love of observation and chimpanzees developed. 
Char did a lovely job, but she ran over so didn't get a chance to book-talk all of the books on her list.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tim Green: Reading is weightlifting for your brain

Tim Green is a writer, lawyer, and used to play for the Falcons as an NFL lineman. He has written nine books for kids, with two more coming out in the spring and fall, and one autobiographical book for adults. He gave a somewhat motivational/self-promotional speech about reading and how it betters the characters and minds of children.

Really great message not well implemented. He did a nice job tying it in to sports and his own experiences, but poor Tim has had one too many hits to the head. There were a couple times that he lost his train of thought, and his stories tended to wander. He also had a lot of stories about running until he puked, concussions and badly bruised heads, and sticking needles into knees (which we learned about during lunch). Gross. On a positive note, he would be a wonderful school speaker. He has a great demeanor that would really connect with kids of ALL ages. He has a fantastic passion for reading, education, and how this affects a person as a whole. Nice.

MLSA Conference 2012: Hyannis

Hello all! Ari, Jamie, Alana, and I are at the Massachusetts School Library Association's conference. We will be blogging about what's going on here, but if you need more immediate satisfaction you can also follow us on Twitter, #msla12. Tweet us if you're here as well!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Read Across America Day

Happy Read Across America day!  This year Read Across America is brought to you by The Lorax....and Mazda.  Does anyone else find it really weird that the Lorax is trying to sell you a large SUV (and how many Truffula trees had to be chopped down to put that road in)? If the Lorax was going to partner with anything commercial, you'd think it would be an environmentally friendly product.  I laughed at loud when the Lorax tried to sell me a breakfast at iHop the other day.  It was just so ridiculous.  And then it made me sad.  The Lorax of my childhood would never have done such a thing.  
It's very nice that Mazda has pledged $1 million to school libraries.  I wish it wasn't through having people test their cars though.  "For each test drive of a Mazda vehicle between Feb. 21 and April 2, Mazda will donate $25 toward public school libraries nationwide, up to $1 million (www.nea.org)."   Sure, Mazda isn't going to do something for nothing (although it would be nice) but this just feels strange to me.  Thoughts?

It just makes me crazy when books and education get commercialized like this.  Stupid commercialization.  Just read a book. Whatever book you want.  I believe you can find a book that you'd like, even if it doesn't involve movie characters, famous people, cars or ice cream.

So let's read kids!  Also test drive cars.  Because those two things go together.  Like environmentalism and iHop.

P.S. The Lorax movies looks AWFUL.
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