Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Helene used to be friends with a group of girls at schools.  But now they all make fun of her, calling her fat.  Helene has no one now.  She finds comfort in reading Jane Eyre.  Jane had no on either, but she was still smart and capable.  The final straw comes when Helene is humiliated in front of everyone on a school trip.  Not even Jane Eyre is enough anymore.

This was lovely.  A heartfelt story about bullying, the feeling of isolation, and the impact a single person can make by reaching out to another.

Helene takes things especially hard because the girls who are now tormenting her were once her friends.  Helene doesn't really know what happened, but now she has no one.  No one will talk to her.  She is a social outcast.  Helene works her way through Jane Eyre, finding a companion in isolation and comfort that things can work out OK, even for someone who is friendless.  Helene begins to despair when things take a bad turn for Jane, and she has to go on a retreat with her whole class.

It's on this retreat that Helene, feeling more alone than ever, sees the fox.  The fox is beautiful and approaches her.  But even this magical moment is ruined and makes her feel like a freak.

I was confused throughout the book by how Helene was draw.  All her ex-friends are calling her fat.  She's sure her mother is ashamed of her.  But she didn't look overweight at all.  It all becomes clear toward the end when Helene goes for her yearly physical and her doctor informs her she's right on track.  Helene insists she's fat.  The doctor informs her she isn't anything of the kind.  The kids at school calling her fat got into her head until Helene truly believed that she was.  And the kids calling her fat were just being cruel.  It was based on nothing.

The illustrations were for the most part in gray and black, reflecting Helene's depression and feelings of isolation.  The only color was when we saw Jane Eyre.  Jane's life had a little color in it, although Jane herself was still all black and white.  For Helene, everything is gray until the fox appears.  The fox is bright with color.  A fleeting brightness in Helene's life.  But then it's gone and everything is black again.

As Helene makes friends with Geraldine, color begins to come into Helene's world.  Not right away.  But after making a friend and realizing she isn't actually overweight, we begin to see a few spots of color.  On sneakers and tee shirts, in the trees, and it ends with Helene walking into a world of color.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


John Green to Wi10 Booksellers: Life Would 'Suck Without You'.  From PW.

"I Am Malala" Wins Grammy For Best Children's Album.  From Forbes.

Pennsylvania: Budget Cuts Take Toll On School Librarians In Philadelphia.  From Library Journal.
My inspiration: Jennifer Niven on Virginia Woolf.  From The Guardian.

Someone Is Writing The Ultimate Generic Dystopian YA Novel On Twitter.  From io9.

Which YA character would be your BFF?  From BuzzFeed.

2015 Battle of the Kids’ Books Battle Plans and Brackets Unveiled.  From SLJ.

Interviews with some of the Battle of the Kid's Book contenders: Candace Fleming, Cece Bell, Gregory Maguire, Jacqueline Woodson.  From SLJ.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Twig isn't allowed to have friends.  She can't invite any over to her house.  Then they might find out the secret.  A witch placed a curse on Twig's family two hundred years ago.  The curse effects the men of Twig's family.  No one must find out about her brother.  But this summer strange things are happening.  There are rumors of a monster in Twig's town of Sidwell.  A family moves back to town with an ancient connection to Twig's.  The time has come to break the curse.

This was a lovely, strange, little fairy tail.  It's a slim book, and honestly there wasn't a whole lot of character development going on, which added to the fairy tale feel of it.  We don't really get to know any of these people very well.

Twig's older brother, James, is not suppose to leave the house.  No one in town even knows the Twig has a brother.  She isn't allowed to get close to anyone.  Accepting an invitation would eventually mean inviting someone to her home, and that is not allowed.  Twig's mother, a baker, keeps to herself as well, even though she grew up in Sidwell and at one point had many friends.  When Twig's family returned to Sidwell after both children being born and living in New York, they returned after dark and without Twig's father.  Twig doesn't know much about her father.  But she can guess the reason why he left.

Twig's isolated world is shaken when Julie and her family move into the abandoned Mourning Dove Cottage.  Julie's family is warm and welcoming and open, and Julie seems to like Twig right away.  But then Twig's mother forbids her from having any contact with the family.  They are related to Agnes Early, the Witch of Sidwell who had cursed the family two hundred years ago.

For the first time, Twig disobeys her mother.  She and Julie become friends.  James is also disobeying his mother.  He leaves the house at night.  It is during one of these evenings that he is seen by Julia's older sister Agate.  The two fall in love.

It seems that a tragic destiny is going to repeat itself.  But then Twig, Julie, James and Agate decide to try and break the curse.

We really don't know very much about James, and even less about Agate.  Just that she's beautiful and makes her own clothes.  There are a few other characters, mysterious Collie and Dr. Shelton, both who have large impacts but we really don't know much about.  Twig's father appears, with a reason for his long absence which, I just didn't buy.  Maybe he stayed away out of respect for his wife's wishes.  But you'd think he's still want to see his kids.

It's a nice, quick fairy tale.  Romance and drama and friendship and a happy ending.

Nightbird comes out February 26, 2015.

Friday, February 6, 2015


School board will yank abortion mention in biology book.  From USA Today.

Exploring the African Continent in Children’s Books.  From Publishing Perspectives.

Does YA Mean Anything Anymore?: Genre in a Digitized World.  From The Horn Book.

Can Young Adult fiction go too far?  From The Irish Times.

Stanford Libraries unearths the earliest U.S. website.  From Standford News.

Kids Should Feel Free to Read Kids' Books, Because That's What Kids Do.  From Bustle.

Young Adult Fiction Doesn't Need to Be a 'Gateway' to the Classics.  From The Atlantic.

London Hotel Creates 'Harry Potter' Themed Rooms.  From The Hollywood Reporter

The rise of climate fiction: When literature takes on global warming and devastating droughts.  From Salon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Twins Jude and Noah once shared everything.  But when they were 13, a chain of events pushed them apart.  Now at 16, the two hardly speak, each having knowledge of something that would make the puzzle pieces of the last three years fit together.  But each is trapped in their created world of lies and jealously and fear.

I'll Give You the Sun just won the 2015 Printz Award.  So convenient since I'd just read it the week before and it was my favorite YA of the year.  The Printz Award has never gone to my favorite YA of the year, so it was all very exciting.

This was really beautiful.  The framing device worked perfectly, the characters were relatable, and even when they did some pretty terrible, I cared about them and wanted everything to work out in the end.  I actually ruined it for myself by flipping around and reading things out of order to find out what happened.  Don't do that!  It all comes together quite nicely if you let it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 ALA Youth Media Awards

It's that time of year again!  The time of year when I'm usually all cranky and ragey because books won awards I don't agree with.  But not this year!  The patriots won the Super Bowl and it's a snow day and I listened to the awards in my pajamas and nothing made me angry.  Hurray! 

You can see the complete list of all Youth Media Award winners on the ALA website.

This year's Newbery Medal goes to The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

There were two honor books: El Deafo by Cece Bell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

I got The Crossover for my library but haven't read it yet.  I was surprised Brown Girl Dreaming didn't win.  It seemed like it was in the bag.  I am delighted about El Deafo getting an hour.  It's a great story and huzzah for graphic novels getting some recognition.

The Caldecott Medal went to The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated (and written) by Dan Santat.

There were SIX Caldecott Honor books: Nana in the City, illustrated by Lauren Castillo, written by Lauren Castillo; The Noisy Paint Box: The  Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock; Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnet; Viva Frida, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Yuyi Morales; The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant; This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamak.

Yay for This One Summer!  More graphic novels and an amazing book besides.

 The Coretta Scott King (author) Award went to Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson.

There were three Honor Books: Kwame Alexander for The Crossover, Marilyn Nelson for How I Discovered Poetry, illustrated by Hadley Hoope, and Kekla Magoon for How It Went Down.

The Printz Award!  The one that usually makes me feel oh so angry.  But not this year!  This year the Printz Award went to I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.  I just read this one last week, and it was my favorite YA of the year.  Nice job, Printz committee.  Finally picking something not only good, but that kids will actually want to read.

There were four Honor Books: And We Stay, by Jenny Hubbard; The Carnival at Bray, by Jessie Ann Foley; Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith; This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.

This One Summer gets honored for both words and pictures!

Schneider Family Book Awards go to A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chien for children ages 0 to 10; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin for middle-school and
the teen award winner is Girls Like Us, by Gail Giles.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award goes to I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín, illustrated by Lee

There was one Honor Book: Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Raúl Colón.

Stonewall Book Award winner is This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman.

There were three Honor Books: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin; I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson; Morris Micklewhite and The Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchio.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


CBC and ECAR Revamp Children's Choice Award.  From PW.

Who Was the Real Lewis Carroll?  From New Republic.

10 Random Facts About Lewis Carroll.  From PW.

Ebooks Will Surge in Classrooms, Study Says.  From SLJ.

Mom: Common Core wants kids to develop reading skills at the same pace. My daughters didn’t.  From The Washington Post.

The 22 Best Feminist Picture Books, Because You're Never Too Old To Be Saved By A Princess.  From Bustle.

Teen opinion: how bleak should dystopian fiction be? From The Guardian.

Children’s book industry discusses diversity charter.  From The Bookseller.

Two Books Challenged Again in Highland Park Schools in Texas.  From SLJ.

The Story Behind Sundance Smash Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  From Vulture.

Illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham Dies at 94.  From PW.

Critics of 'vulgar' book for young adults want Governor General's award rescinded.  From Ottawa Citizen.

The World's Darkest Children's Book Illustrator Receives Long Overdue Exhibition.  From The Huffington Post.
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