Thursday, January 30, 2014


Can you make kids love books?  From Salon.

ALA signs library declaration in Philadelphia.  From SLJ.

Lies my kid's books told me.  From Chicago Parent.

Georgia teacher librarians aim to strengthen role as state revamps public schools.  From SLJ.

Do Jewish children's books have a problem with gender?  From Tablet.

Rather than focusing on the Common Core, critics should look at Race to the Top.  From SLJ.

Adult stories told as Little Golden Books.  From io9.

PA students protest classroom probe.  From SLJ.

Reading books is fundamental.  From The New York Times.

Harvard study examine youth view of on technology use in schools.  From The Digital Shift

These Broken Stars heads to television.  I liked the book a lot, even though the cover is awful, as is the title.  I wonder how it will translate to TV.  From PW.

25 novels everyone should read.  Kind of a weird collection, in my opinion.  From Flavorwire.

Children's publishing is thriving in China.  From People's Daily Online.

Why patting the bunny is better than swiping the screen.  From The Washington Post.

Fault in Our Stars trailer!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

"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 Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

The Geography of You and Me comes out April 15, 2014.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan, illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil

Lewis' works with his mother, Cate, running estate sales; sorting through dead people's belongings and getting them ready to sell.  Anne lives with her mother, Danica, and a house stuffed full of all the things Danica is unable to part with.  Lewis and Anne get to know each other after meeting at an estate sale.  Anne is trying to understand why people keep things and leave things, and what makes something important.

Such an interesting story.  I liked the juxtaposition of Lewis and his mother running the estate sales, and Anne and her mother, who live in such disorder.  One family whose job it is to clean up and arrange and get rid of things, and another incapable of getting rid of things.

I found myself strongly empathizing with both Anne and Lewis, but Anne is particular.  Maybe because I like to keep thing pretty neat and clean.  I felt her shock, horror and betrayal when she found her mother and filled her room with junk in order to clear out the living room so she could invite her new boyfriend over.  Anne's room was her one safe space, where there was no clutter or mess.  Now her safe haven had been infiltrated and there wasn't any place left for her.

I was frustrated at both Lewis and Anne's parents for their selfishness, even though I knew that there was a lot more going on than selfishness.  I wanted to shake them and say, "Can't you see what this is doing to your kid?  Don't you care?!"  Of course they cared, but they had their own issues to deal with as well.

We have two stories going on.  We have the story of Lewis and Anne, who meet and start dating and fall in love, and struggle with their own personal problems, and we have the story of Cate and Danica, or in particular, their back story, and how what happened in the past is effecting what is happening to Lewis and Anne today.


Monday, January 27, 2014

ALA Youth Media Awards 2014

It's that time of year again.  The Oscars of the book industry.  The time when we find out which books we've never even heard of have won prestigious awards.  The ALA Youth Media Awards!  The really only interesting thing that happens at Midwinter!  Here we go!

Let's start off with the big one!  The Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for children went to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell.

There were four Newbery Honor books:
Doll Bones by Holly Black
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Hankes
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Paperboy by Vince Vawker

The Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children went to Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca.

There were three Caldecott Honor books:
Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle
Mr. Wuffles, written and illustrated by David Wiesner

The Printz Award for the best book written for young adults went to Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick.

There were four Printz Honor books:
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Coral
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Oh Printz awards.  The only one I read was Eleanor & Park.  I've never even heard of Navigating Early.  I'm sure they're all lovely books.

Other winners:
The Belpre Award goes to Meg Medina for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
YALSA Nonfiction Award goes to The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
The Morris Award goes to Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
The Coretta Scott King Author Award goes to P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

You can see the full list of all wniners at  When they get around to putting them up, that is.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bandette: Presto! by Paul Tobin, art by Colleen Coover

Bandette is the greatest thief in France.  She's also a teenager.  Other criminals despise her, and Police Inspector Belgique can't stand her, but will still call on her for help.  When a rival thief warns Bandette about a dangerous criminal group determined to get rid of her, Bandette laughs it off.  But will she be able to survive the evil Finis?

Bandette is kind of a Robin Hood figure, but not quite as selfless.  Yes, she does rob bad guys and resteal stolen items, but she's also totally OK with snatching things she likes and keeping them for herself.  She helps the police when it suits her.  She has a band of "street urchins" she calls on for help.  It is unclear if any of them actually live on the street.  I don't think so.  I think it's just a pet name.

I didn't love.  It was cute and all.  Fast paced.  I thought the level the book was written at was a little odd.  I had thought this was a middle grade book.  It had that appearance, and the language was fairly simplistic, as was the story.  But then we had pictures of people in their underwear in sexual situations and some profanity which took it out of the middle grade range and put it into YA.  I just wasn't grabbed by the story in any way, or cared very much about any of the characters.

Bandette is very caviler about the danger to her, which is fine, I guess, but she also seems totally fine with putting all her friends in danger as well!  Less cool.  We really didn't learn anything about Bandette.  We just know she's a flirty thief.  I guess I didn't really care very much about her or worry that she might possible in danger because she clearly didn't care, and I didn't have anything to care about.

Not sure who I would recommend this too.  It really does seem too young for YA, but not quite middle grade either.

I liked the art, it was cute, but again, it just had a middle school look to it.  It reminded me a bit of Raina Telgemeier, if Raina Telgemeier drew an action comic.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Questioning the Common Core.  From PW.

Why we should stop teaching novels to high school students from Bookforum, and a rebuttal from the NY Daily News.

Chloe Grace Moretz will be playing Gayle in the movie adaptation of If I Stay.  From

The training bras of literature.  From The Believer.

13 YA books for talking to teens about tough stuff.  From The Huffington Post.

The super creepy Alice in Wonderland drawings of Ralph Steadman.  From Brain Pickings.

Looking at the Hundred Acre Wood from a therapists point of view.  From boingboing.

What we learned from YA books (about sex).  From CNN.

Laurie Halse Anderson on her new book The Impossible Knife of Memory.  From NPR.

Telling the middle school story differently.  From The Atlantic.

Best kid's bookstores.  From Daily Candy.

What an exuberant culture of reading can teach us.  From SLJ.

This warms my heart.  Young protesters march for a library in Chinatown.  From The Boston Globe.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

"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 Here and Now by Ann Brashares.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
Thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking, The Here and Now is a twenty-first-century take on an impossible romance. Ann Brashares’ first novel for teens since The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.
Meet seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when she falls for Ethan Jarves. 

The Here and Now comes out April 8, 2014.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Twins Cather and Wren have been Simon Snow fans since the very first book came out.  More than fans, they both used to write fanfiction, and Cath still does.  In fact, her fanfic is some of the most popular in the entire world.  But now the girls are going to college, and Wren wants everything to be different (starting with not being roommates), and Cath wants everything to stay the same.  But things won't stay the same; things keep changing, and Cath isn't sure if she can make it.

Simon Snow seemed to me a mixture of Harry Potter and Twilight.  It's got the intense, crazy fandom and the massive fanfic network they both have, Harry Potter's magical wizarding world, but with the writing full of descriptions of clenched square jaws and tousled golden hair which is pure Twilight.

I didn't find Cath, our main character, especially likable.  She grew on me, but until I better understood what was going on I just found her sullen and a pain.  She was way past someone who's shy, or a little antisocial, or who's nervous about starting college.  Cath went to extremes to not talk to or interact with people.  Even when they were being nice to her.  Cath was pretty unpleasant to anyone who tried to talk to her.  She had no interest in making new friends, having new experiences or doing anything she hadn't always done before.  She hid in her online world, where she was safe and secure and didn't have to look at or talk to anyone.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

12 year-old Georges moves into a new apartment building and meets a strange boy his own age, Safer.  Safer claims to be a spy and an expert at observation.  He recruits Georges to help him spy on a possible murder who lives in the apartment above Georges.  Georges is happy to have found Safer.  He has not friends at school, and home has been stressful lately, with his mom working late and his father losing his job.  But there's something odd about Safer, and Georges isn't sure he's comfortable doing the things Safer asks him to do.

I'd been wanting to read this since it first came out, since I loved Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me SO MUCH!  I mean, along with everyone else.  It did win the Newbery and all.  It's the only book I've ever read where I finished, sat there, said "Whoa," and immediately started reading it again from the beginning.  I was cautiously optimistic about this one.  Of course, it couldn't possibly be as fabulous, but probably still good.

It was good.  I enjoyed it certainly.  It did not blow me away, but it was a good read.  There was a dramatic twist at the end.  Not quite as dramatic, it didn't involve time travel.  I saw this one coming, unlike with When You Reach Me.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mara by Brian Wood, illustrated by Ming Doyle

We're in a world that holds soldiers and athletes in the highest esteem.  Mara is the best of them all, an incredibly talented volleyball player, she is known the world over.  Everyone loves her, no matter what side of the war they are fighting on.  When Mara begins showing signs of superpowers, her fans turn on her.  Now Mara isn't sure the world has a place for her any more.

Lots of spoilers.

This collects Mara #1-6.  I didn't love it.  I was kind of interested in the world, except there wasn't enough information to understand the world very well.  It seems to be a world that's constantly at war but we don't know why.  We don't know who's fighting who.  There are special schools to groom athletes.  Everyone is expected to do their duty to the country.  But why?  And how does it all work?  No hints.

Mara is the perfect specimen.  Physically, intellectually.  She is perfect.  She would be a perfect solider or athlete.  Everyone loves her.

Mara essentially turns into superman.  She can do everything.  She can fly.  She can move things with her mind.  Bullets cannot harm her.  She seems to know no weakness, which isn't very interesting.  While she's been groomed for a secrete branch of the military, her brother is captured (by her own country) and tortured to see if he will manifest superpowers too.  Mara goes rogue and easily breaks out of the training facility.  When she discovers her brother has been tortured to death, Mara is done with humanity.

I'm not really sure where it's going.  Mara has rejected the human race and now she's floating around in space.  So what's next for her?  There weren't really any clues.  And is this series continuing?  Or was that the end?  If that was the end, it was a pretty weak ending.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

"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 Love Letters to the Dead  by Ava Dellaira.

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

Love Letters to the Dead comes out April 1, 2013.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki

A young boy and his family are forced into the Warsaw ghetto, along with all the Jews of Poland.  After years, the Nazis prepare to liquidate the ghetto, and some of the Jews prepare to fight back.

It's not a graphic novel, exactly.  Although I think I'd shelve it with graphic novels, because I think that's where someone would look for it.  It's more an illustrated novels.  It's a beautifully put together book.  The words and illustrations are kept separate.  I found this allowed me to focus deeply on both words and images without getting distracted by one or the others.  Sometimes words appeared on black pages, all alone.  Sometimes the text was very short, other times it would be a whole page.

The illustrations were powerful.  They were done in black and white and were made up of hundreds of individual line strokes.  The illustrations were so full of emotion.  You could feel the pain and despair, the hopelessness and darkness these people were feeling.

In the story we follow the young boy and his family, first as the Nazis move into Poland and restrictions are put on Jews, and then to the entire Jewish population being moved into the ghetto.  The ghetto was so crowded, and there was so little food coming in, everyone was slowing starving to death, or being wiped out by disease.  People actually volunteered to get on the Nazi trucks (which took them to concentration camps) in the hopes they were being taken somewhere better.

The boy uses the sewers to sneak out of the ghetto and bring food to his family, until the Nazis begin using flame throwers to kill the smugglers in the sewers.  Then he is afraid to do anything, until he meets Mordechai Anielewicz, who is organizing Jews to fight back.  They know they cannot win, but they decided they will not quietly submit to death any longer.

Very powerful and beautifully done.

Monday, January 13, 2014


SLJ's Battle of the Kid's Books starts on January 15.

Vampire Academy will be released in theaters this February.  How do you think a vampire movie is going to do long after the vampire craze is over?  From PW.

Creepy Brother Grimm photography project.  From The Huffington Post.

The must-have kidlit manicures of 2014.  Also eye makeup.  Want.  From marjorieingall & Envionmental grafitti.

The definitive ranking of all 131 Baby-Sitter's club cover outfits.  Finally.  From BuzzFeed.

Tablets - what's ahead in 2014.  From The Digital Shift.

So librarians are back in secondary schools in Washington State's Bellevue School District!  Yay!  Only we can't call them "librarians."  They're "research technology specialists."  No one needs a librarian, but a research technology specialist is a whole different story.  From SLJ.

But in other places, school libraries are actually expanding!  So that's nice.  From SLJ.

So Shi LaBeouf is plagiarising from, like, everyone.  But in particular cartoonist Dan Clowes.  From PW.

Veronica Roth on sex in teen fiction.  From The Independent.

North Caroline school board retains The Color Purple...for now.  From SLJ.

Children's authors read reviews of their own works.  From Noblemania.

A review from The New Yorker on Saving Mr. Banks. They did not love.

A student argues against the Common Core.  From The Huffington Post.

YALSA envisions the future of libraries and teens.  From SLJ.

The top ten library stories of 2013.  From PW.

What it takes to serve on the Newbery, Caldecott committees.  From SLJ.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Moses (Mo) LoBeau has been looking for her Upstream Mother ever since infant Mo washed up in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina during a hurricane.  Not that she's unhappy with her life with the Colonel and Miss Lana and helping to run the cafe, far from it.  The summer's looking great, but then one of the regulars turns up murdered.  Of course Mo and her best friend Dale are convinced they will solve the case before the questionable city-slicker detective.

Three Times Lucky had been on my "to read" list since it came out.  Everyone was saying how fabulous it was, and it did get a Newbery honor.  It was just as great as everyone said.

What wonderful character voices!  For everyone!  Each character, no matter how important they were to the main plot, had a rich, distinct voice.  From Mo herself to Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton.  The fact that this small town was a close-knit community was important to the story, and it was clear right away that this was the case from the way the different characters spoke to each other.  Everyone knew everyone else.  Everyone knew everyone else's business, troubles, secrets, problems.  They annoyed each other and were there for each other.  It was like a gigantic family.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

This is the review to the sequel to The Hobbit: There and Back Again (which we didn’t review). I think Ari and I felt that this deserved something extra because of our strong feelings about this movie adaptation. So let’s start with a little personal history lesson:

I am a big Tolkien fan; not a dress up, name my children after a character, read all of Tolkien’s books fan but I’ve read The Lord of the Rings series more than four times and The Hobbit twice. I’ve seen the cartoon adaptations of both of these books that were made back in the 80s and have seen the Peter Jackson adaption of The Lord of the Rings more times than I can count. It’s a love that stems from my dad, who ‘discovered’ Tolkien before anyone else did in the 1970s while perusing a paperback spindle in a drugstore in South Dakota. So yes, I was excited to hear that The Hobbit was getting its own adaptation. Super excited when it was originally announced that Guillermo del Toro was going to direct, and understanding when it was announced that the movie was going to be split into two. Then the changes happened. I thought it would be okay that Peter Jackson was directing, I have faith in him after the LOTR. Okay, I get the financial reasons why they split the movies into three and I’m sure in Peter Jackson’s capable hands that there will still be some amazing storytelling going on….

I liked the first Hobbit. It was fine, not exceptional but fine. I thought there were some unnecessary things (like the necromancer storyline, working the infatuation Gandalf has for Galadriel, the white orc) but it was okay. Still beautiful cinematography, and the actors were great. Who doesn’t love Martin Freeman? There was a hope that we would see more character development with the dwarves because of the extra movie and they wouldn’t just be hood colors. It was all very optimistic with the first movie, there were some let downs but so much hope tied to it too.

Then we got to The Desolation of Smaug. There will be spoilers following.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

"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 Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor.

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. 

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

Dreams of Gods & Monsters comes out April 8, 2013.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

American ATA pilot Rose Justice is flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England for repairs when she is captured by the Nazis.  She is sent to Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp where women have been used like rats for medical experimentation.

This was a companion book to Code Name Verity.  It picks up not long after the events of Code Name Verity, in 1945.  It focuses on a new character, Rose, but Rose works for the same Air Transport Auxiliary organization that Julie did and where Maddie still is.

I had some issues with Code Name Verity, mainly the framing device.  I just couldn't buy into it, and while I thought it was great how it all came together, I never really got into it because I found the whole premise completely improbable.  I was worried it would be the same with this one.  The book blurb tells us that Rose is captured and sent to a concentration camp.  I was worried that Rose was actually going to be journaling from the camp!  But she was not.  The diary starts before she's captured, and after she escapes uses her journal to tell her story.

There were a couple instances that took me out of the story and didn't seem to fit in with the terrible realism the story was showing.  The dramatic sacrifice one of the girls makes for Rose, for example.  Rose's number is called and she knows that means she's going to sent to be gassed.  This happened to other girls before, and they were hidden, which is what happens for Rose.  But this time, for some reason, another girl has to sacrifice herself by wearing Rose's number.  Why didn't they cause confusion, like the other times they hid people?  Why didn't they just let the count come out wrong, like the other times?  It seemed like that scene was just there so Rose would feel the weight of someone else's death personally.

The escape was also kind of overly dramatic and unlikely, with Rose and Irina stealing a plane and dragging Roza aboard and crash landing in Belgium.  It would have been more realistic if they had hidden in the outer camp and waited until it was liberated by the Soviets.

Despite that, it was well done.  And it looked at a camp that doesn't often get a lot of attention, Ravensbruck.  This is probably because Ravensbruck wasn't actually a death camp, but a work camp, but was also where experimentation of prisoners went on.  The conditions of the camp were horrifying, as is the story of the Ravensbruck "rabbits," the women who were experimented on.

Something that Rose struggles with afterwards is her promise to tell the other girls' stories.  She wants to, but she's afraid.  She doesn't know how to make people understand what went on there.  The things that she saw, and the things that she did herself, no regular person could ever, ever possibly understand.  She promised to tell the world, but she can't even tell her closest friends.  

Rose finds her strength when she attends the Doctors' Trials in Nuremberg and sees her friends testifying against the people that did the terrible things to them.

Those who liked Code Name Verity will love that they can find out what happens to Maddie, as well as continuing on with the story that takes them through the end of the war.  Rose Under Fire stands well on it's own, and is a great recommendation for lovers of historical fiction.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reality Boy by A. S. King

Gerald Faust was an angry little kid, but his family being part of the reality show Network Nanny, supposedly designed to help families with problem children, made things even worse.  Now Gerald is 17 and as angry as ever.  In his small town, there is no way to escape the child that everyone saw acting out on TV.  Gerald has been working to control his anger, but it doesn't matter.  Everyone is just waiting for him to do something crazy, and Gerald is becoming tempted to give it to them.

It's hard to describe this book.  It's hard to describe the level of fucked-upness that is Gerald's family.  His older sister, Tasha, who tried again and again to kill him and his other sister, Lisi.  His mother, who seems to have no real feelings for him.  His father, who has long ago given up trying to make any changes.  Gerald is trapped in this world.  And he is so, so angry.  It's easy to see why.  Who wouldn't be?  The people around him expect him to fail and to end up in jail. Gerald is clinging to the idea that if he can just get through high school he can get away like Lisi did by going to college.  Except his mother finds the idea of him going to college laughable.

The book does a good job of showing how reality TV is far, far from reality.  We only see what the producers want us to see.  Everything else, they cut or manipulate.  They can make people look a certain way.  Make people look good or bad.  And then we think we actually know something about these people we see on TV, when we know nothing at all.

Gerald meets a girl, Hannah.  I was worried at first.  I was worried Hannah was going to be Gerald's manic pixie dream girl.  The one who would lift him up and show him how to live and solve all this problems.  And then probably die in some tragic way.  And yeah, she was a little manic pixie dream girlish, but not full on.  Not in the main way, which means she didn't fix everything.  Gerald and Hannah wanted each other to be able to fix each other's problems.  But of course they couldn't.  Due in part to that they weren't being completely open about what their problems actually were.  And in part because you can't just fix people.  People aren't broken things that can be easy repaired.  Hannah and Gerald were able to help and support each other, but they had to take actual action to make their lives better.  They had to make hard choices and difficult decisions.  And sure, they did it all while on a wild and crazy road trip that involved staying with a circus family, but it was still there.  There was work involved.  Not everything was perfect.  They did stupid things to each other and had fights.  Hannah was dealing with stuff that she wanted to run away from too.  She wasn't just there to make Gerald feel better.  She wanted things from him too.

The book didn't turn away from difficult topics, like Hannah admitting to Gerald that she was afraid he might hit her.  Gerald is so angry, of course he would never hit her!  But then thinking about and realizing that he just doesn't know.

Excellent.  Probably the best YA I've read all year.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Poppy, Zach and Alice have been playing the game for years.  With actions figures, dolls, and toys of their own creation the three friends have been telling an ever-expanding fantasy story.  And ruling over them all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll in Polly's house no one is allowed to touch.  But now the three are in middle school, and Zach's father wants him to spend more time with his guy friends and playing basketball.  Before the game came can end, Polly insist the Great Queen has come to her in a dream, and the three must head out on a final quest.

This was a perfect mix of realistic fiction and a tiny bit of horror.  It's never clear if, in fact, the Queen really is speaking to the children.  Is she really moving around in the night?  Is she really sending them dreams?  Do other people really see her as a person?  It's not clear.  It might be all pretend.  Or something creepy might be going on.  You get to decide.  So it's a little dark and spooky, but not too spooky.  It can be as spooky as you make it.

Each of the three kids are dealing with their own private family issue.  Alice's parents are dead, something she doesn't talk about very much, and her grandmother is so over protective it's hard for Alice to do the things that she loves.  Alice envies Polly, whose parents are hardly ever around and aren't very involved in Polly's life.  Polly, however, feels this parental lack of interest in what she does.  Her parents can't even come and get her after she's disappeared.  And Zach is dealing with his father returning to his life, after growing up with just him and his mom.  Zach resents his father suddenly trying to act like a father and tell him what to do.  The nerve of this man saying he knows what's best of Zach, when he's been gone for years.  Despite their years-long friendship, the three can't tell each other what's really happening.

When Zach's father throws away Zach's characters, he can't bring himself to tell Polly and Alice.  Instead he just says he doesn't want to play anymore, that it's a baby game and they're too grown up for it.  Polly, always the leader, then tells Zach and Alice that the bone-china doll has appeared in her dreams and told her a terrible story.  Zach and Alice are both skeptical, but use to following Polly, agree to go along.

Things, of course, do not go as planned.  Strange things happen, and ultimately, the three end up revealing secrets to each other they have been keeping.

Toward the end, the three are sleeping in a library (where they go to try and figure out the location of the graveyard they're trying to find) and are discovered by the librarian.  The librarian with pink hair and green glasses.  Thanks, Holly Black.  Thanks for sending the kids to the library when they need to figure something out and having a librarian who isn't a 80-year old women with a bun and orthopedic shoes.  Thank you.

Great, slightly creepy middle school read.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


In memoriam 2013.   We remember the authors and illustrated who died in 2013. From SLJ.

An agent's perspective on trends in YA books.  From PW.

Changing characters in books to female until the children's publishing industry catches up.  Thoughts?  From Slate.

Why are YA books divided up into genre in bookstores?  From Bustle.

Page to screen: a year's worth of adaptations.  From SLJ.

Nostalgia drives Polish children's book boom.  From Publishing Perspectives.

Inside stories about memorable books.  From PW.

The Fault in Our Stars movie tagline, too glib?  From Entertainment Weekly.

Why kids think reading sucks.  From SLJ.

PW's Best Children's Books of 2013. 

Seeking  wonderful young adult novels that deal with race.  From NPR.
Can problematic vintage texts still be valuable for kids?  From Tablet.

Colorado school librarians hopefully and wary after education tax bill defeat.  From SLJ.

What your favorite children's book series says about you.  What if you were into a bunch of those series?  From The Huffington Post.

Reading a novel changes the brain.  From SLJ.

10 beloved book series we still get nostalgic about.  From BuzzFeed.

So you want to be a librarian?  Why don't school librarians get a number!  From Book Patrol.

Kate DiCamillo is the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  From SLJ.
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