Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Futuristic Pirates???

Somper, Justin. 2006. Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean.

Drawing from two of the trendiest trends in young adult literature, vampires and pirates, VAMPIRATES is an exciting adventure set five hundred years in the future. Yes, in 2505, apparently, children will have more than one reason to be 'afraid' of pirates.

Twins Connor and Grace are raised by their father, the lightkeeper on a small island. Their favorite lullaby is none other than a popular shanty about Vampirates. (Lyrics found throughout, but printed for convenience, I suppose, on the end papers of the book).

I'll tell you a tale of Vampirates,
A tale as old as true.
Yea, I'll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
And its mighty fearsome crew.
Yea, I'll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
That sails the ocean blue...
That haunts the ocean blue.


Seven years later (2012), the twins find themselves orphans. After their father's death, they risk a fate worse than death: going to live in an orphanage with a strange village woman OR being adopted by one of the richer couples in town who are childless. Connor and Grace find reasons to dislike--and distrust--them both and the reader agrees with them after an odd scene or two. "Good riddance to them both! Let the sharks get them" (38).

The two opt to steal their father's boat and head to sea. Unfortunately under mysterious circumstances, a storm appears out of the blue and threatens to kill them both. Grace, unbeknownst to her brother, is rescued by a mystery ship. And Connor, unbeknownst to his sister, is rescued by another ship--a pirate ship. Yet in dreams and visions, Connor sees his sister alive and on the most dangerous ship there is--the Vampirate ship. But can he convince the sailors and captain? Will he risk his life to save his sister? Told from alternating perspectives, Grace finds herself treated like a princess. True she's not allowed to mingle with the crew, but she is in the nicest room, fed the most delicious food, and finds herself in the charming companionship of a young man, Lorcan. Yet despite how 'nicely' she is treated by Lorcan and the captain, she is forbidden to even be seen by the crew. Could her life still be in danger? And how far will Lorcan go to protect her if she is?

http://www.vampirates.co.uk/

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Johnson, Maureen. 2006. Devilish.

Jane Jarvis and Allison Concord are two girls who just don't belong in the social hierarchy of Saint Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls. Jane with her spiked blond hair doesn't care. She's her own person and would rather make fun of A3 (Elsie Fast, Tracey Pils, and Lai Barden) than be one of the ever-so-shallow popular girls. Allison, on the other hand, would give anything, risk everything, to be with the in crowd. Unfortunately for her, there's a new girl in town who knows her weakness. Enter onto the scene the mysterious Lanalee who appears just in time to 'save' Allison from dealing with the repercussions of her greatest humiliation--throwing up in front of the entire school at an assembly. Overnight, Allison is transformed into everything she's ever wanted to be...popular, trendy, with beautiful hair and stylish clothes to support her new rise to the top. But more than just the outward appearance is changing, Jane barely recognizes her friend. Can Jane solve the mystery of her friend's strange behavior? And what exactly did Allison bargain with? Is being popular worth paying any price?

Devilish isn't a novel for everyone. But if you're looking for a novel set at a Catholic school where demons and demon hunters battle it out to win human souls (to clarify demons want possession of a soul and demon hunters want to protect humans from such a fate) then this could be the perfect novel for you. Set in Rhode Island, Devilish is an interesting twist to your typical high school drama.

http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Endymion Spring

Skelton, Matthew. 2006. Endymion Spring.

I must confess that ENDYMION SPRING is a book I so thoroughly enjoyed that I'm not sure I can do it justice in a review. It is often the best books that defy brief summary and introduction. Set in Oxford, the plot centers around a mysterious book and its various possessors. In present day England, the book is discovered by a young boy, Blake Winters. Following Blake around is his quirky sister Duck who can sometimes be perceived as overwhelmingly precocious. (But underneath it all is a sweet, vulnerable girl with good intentions.) A team of professors, professors' wives, a homeless man, and a librarian also work their way into the plot line as the mystery unfolds. But the story does not unfold in the present alone, the past is weaved integrally into the storyline. Telling this story is Endymion Spring a young apprentice to Guternberg. Endymion befriends another apprentice, Peter, whose master Fust is very mysterious indeed. His precious treasure is the secret behind it all.

Endymion Spring is a fantasy novel weaving the historical, mythological, and literary into a grand portrait of humanity at its best and worst. Drawing on biblical themes such as forbidden fruit, knowledge of good and evil, etc. the novel is rich and inviting to readers of all ages.

When reviewing a mystery, one finds it hard to decide how much is too much information to share to entice readers to pick up the book. I hesitate to describe the journey more because I would hate to spoil any of the surprises along the way. But I would encourage those who love fantasy OR those who love long books that you can sink yourself into to pick up Endymion Spring and discover the magic yourself.

Random House Authors: Matthew Skelton

Brief Bio of Matthew Skelton

A newspaper article about Matthew Skelton and Endymion Spring

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Shadow Thieves

Ursu, Anne. 2006. The Shadow Thieves.

Written in a light-hearted conversational style, this fantasy-filled adventure features two heroes: Charlotte Mielswetzki and her cousin Zee (Zachary) Miller. Beginning simply with this description: "See that girl--the one with the bright red hair, overstuffed backpack, and aura of grumpiness? That's Charlotte Mielswetzki. . .and something extraordinary is about to happen to her," the book begins by listing why all the obvious clues (such as a the oddly pale, strangely thin, freakishly tall, yellow-eyed, bald-headed man in the tuxedo) have nothing to do with the 'extraordinary' event coming her way, instead it has everything to do with the ordinary-looking stray kitten that meows her way into the story (3). If grumpy, prickly, and independent are adjectives for Charlotte. Her cousin Zee could easily be described as polite, shy, and a bit on the weird side. No it has nothing to do with his personality, the reader learns. But this young teen has had too many close encounters of the freakish variety.

What happens when a bad guy named Phil (Philonecron) decides he wants to overthrow the god Hades and rule the underworld? Apparently, according to this author, huge numbers of kids become mysteriously ill and unable to even lift their heads off their pillows. If not for a definitely bizarre English teacher, Mr. Metos, the heroes (Charlotte and Zee) might never have connected the dots between their greek mythology and this mysterious illness.

As the title indicates, THE SHADOW THIEVES, the kids' shadows are being stolen. But it is up to our young heroes to figure out the how and why of it all and try to save the world.

Shadow-stealing is not unique in children's literature, at least not this year. With Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen, Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and even to some degree Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean all in some way or another have shadow stealing (or losing of one's shadow) playing major and minor roles in the action. Ursu's shadow stealing is a bit lacking in sophistication compared to the others, but sophistication is not what she was aiming towards. With Ursu it is all about humor. (Does that mean The Shadow Thieves is a funny book? No. But the conversational style, the relaxed 'familiar' tone, has a way of stripping the seriousness and in some ways the danger away and drawing attention to itself.

Featuring greek gods and mythology in modern-day fantasy (set in America) is not unique either. The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters both by Rick Riordan are two examples of recent successes. Although Francesca Lia Block's newest novel Psyche in A Dress is supposed to feature Greek gods and goddesses in modern contexts as well. (But I haven't been able to read this book yet, although the description makes it sound very worth while). Does this mean that The Shadow Thieves isn't unique enough to be entertaining to readers? NO. Not every book can be the first in its kind. Not every book sets a trend. The Shadow Thieves follows two popular trends in children's literature. And it is often a good thing that there are books that follow certain trends. That way when readers ask for a book that is 'like' another book, the librarian has a long list to suggest. The Shadow Thieves is certainly entertaining enough to recommend to young fantasy readers looking for a new series.

http://www.anneursu.com/

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Incantation

Hoffman, Alice. 2006. Incantation.

With a title like Incantation, one doesn't know quite what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to find the book to be about a Jewish family living in sixteenth century Spain masquerading as Catholics trying to blend in during the Inquisition. But that is exactly what Incantation is about. Mostly.

Estrella deMadrigal is a girl on the verge of womanhood and just beginning to experience life. Her best friend, Catalina, her neighbor is her dearest companion. They've grown up 'Raven' and 'Crow' (both nicknamed for their black hair) laughing and sharing everything until the summer when Catalina's cousin Andres came to live with them. Suddenly, the girls' friendship is threatened. Catalina has every expectation--as does her family--in her making a match with her cousin. Andres has different plans. He's fallen for the attractive neighbor, the best friend, the lovely Estrella. Estrella try as she may can't stop thinking about him either. But what will their attraction mean to everyone in this dangerous time?

Will Catalina's friendship and love turn to bitter hatred? Will she seek the ultimate revenge on her friend and her family?

http://www.alicehoffman.com/

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Dark Hills Divide

Carman, Patrick. 2005. THE DARK HILLS DIVIDE. New York: Orchard. ISBN 0439700930.

Alexa Daley is a young twelve-year-old girl with a heart for adventure in Patrick Carman's THE DARK HILLS DIVIDE. The book is the first in a series called THE LAND OF ELYON. Alexa has lived her whole life in a walled community consisting of three or four towns. Her father is an important figure in the community, and it is during their summer trip to the main town of Bridewell that her adventures begin. Alexa discovers a secret key that opens the door to a secret passageway out of the wall--and the world as she knows it--what will she discover when she leaves her community? Is the world really such a scary place as the townspeople think? Are there monsters outside the walls or within the walls?

http://www.patrickcarman.com/main/index.html
http://www.patrickcarman.com/main/discoverBooks.html
http://www.scholastic.com/elyon/meet.htm
Author Bio and Interview

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Setting the Record Straight

Meet Alyss Heart, Princess of Wonderland. You might think that "Alice in Wonderland" was the mere invention of a strange little man, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote under the name Lewis Carroll. But you'd be wrong, at least according to this imaginative new twist on a classic, entitled THE LOOKING GLASS WARS by Frank Beddor.

Beddor, Frank. 2006. The Looking Glass Wars.

The Looking Glass Wars asks the reader to envision Wonderland not as some harmless, nonsensical daydream of a bored little girl, but as a kingdom being uprooted, overturned, and scarred by opposing forces. Queen Genevieve and King Nolan have raised their daughter Princess Alyss to be the future queen of Wonderland. Tutored by Bibwit Harte, Alyss will be taught above all in the skills of White Imagination knowing that this is partly where the source of strength for the kingdom is to be found. But when the book begins, Alyss is only seven years old. In fact it is her birthday. How could anyone predict that on this day--a day of celebration--there is an enemy waiting to destroy everything and everyone of this peaceful kingdom?

Aunt Redd, sister to the Queen, was banished from the kingdom because of her use of Black Imagination. Having rejected the purity, love, and justice the motto of sorts for the kingdom, she is removed from the line of secession and banished. That is she is banished after murdering her own parents. (Or at least one of them, I can't quite remember). Now it is Redd's time for vengeance. She murders the King and Queen and sets her best kept secret--her top assassin--the Cat on a mission to track down the Princess and the one man left guarding her Hatter Madigan. Can the two escape through the Pool of Tears in time?

Well, it wouldn't be much of a book if the heroine was killed a mere eighty pages into the novel. So it should come as no surprise that the two resurface. Alyss finds herself standing in a mud puddle watching a queenly procession: the problem? She's in England. Hatter Madigan finds himself in Paris, France. As you imagine, a seven year old on the streets of London, I believe, new to this world and straight from Wonderland couldn't possibly survive long on her own. First befriended by a group of pickpockets and other street-thug-orphan types, she stays with them until her imagination is no longer able to make her useful to the group. She is then placed into an orphanage until she is adopted by the Liddell family.

All along Alyss has been holding on to her past waiting for the day when someone somewhere will believe that she is telling the truth. When she confides in a family friend, Mr. Dodgson, she has confidence that he will tell her story properly. But when she reads Alice's Adventures Underground she realizes that her stories have been a mere joke in his eyes. Seeing the book as the work of a cruel man, she rejects her past once and for all...or so she thinks. There is still one man looking and searching for the child and future woman who should rightfully be Queen. But can he find her in time?

http://www.lookingglasswars.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Carroll

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Surviving Antarctica

White, Andrea. 2005. Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083.

Surviving Antarctica is an imaginative combination of genres blending futuristic themes and new sciences often reserved strictly for science fiction with historical content and the feel of 'realistic' fiction. Andrea White's novel envisions the world--particularly America in the latter part of the twenty-first century as a shadow of its former self. Having cut all scientific research for economic reasons AND having stopped all public education systems for the same reason. Every household is required to have their children until the age of fourteen watch a certain number of 'educational' programs on tv per week. At the age of 14, each child is given a chance to win a chance at further education (high school, college, etc.) in a roll of the dice type situation. Money is scarce, and society is literally divided into the haves and have-nots.

One example of educational programming is a series called HISTORICAL SURVIVOR. The producers pick and choose dangerous, significant events from history and applicants desperate for money win their coveted slots on the program only to face the brutality and violence that recreating history can bring in an entertainment-hungry society where REAL drama--including death, blood, pain, etc--only increases ratings.

Historical Survivor Antarctica will recreate the fatal mission of Robert Scott's exploration team led in 1912 in a race to the South Pole. The difference this time? Instead of adults taking on risks and dangers, the game will now be played by five fourteen-year-olds. Told from each teen's perspective and the perspective of one of the editors who chooses to break all the rules, the book is an exciting adventure exploring the ethics and morality of the entertainment industry, society, and the government itself.

http://www.survivingantarctica.com/index_aw.html

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Snow Fire Sword

Masson, Sophie. 2006. Snow Fire Sword.

Described on the cover as 'epic in scale, universally human' SNOW, FIRE, SWORD by Sophie Masson is an imaginative fantasy novel set on the island of Jayangan. While most fantasy novels take place either in ancient times or the far future, SNOW, FIRE, SWORD creates a world where ancient beliefs (spirits, spirit worlds, spiritual warfare) and magic exist side by side with new pop songs and motorcycles. A combination which in my opinion can be a little confusing at least at first. It's odd to see this Asian culture with reverence for spirits and ancestors and traditional clothing side by side with motorcycle gangs and magical cars that drive themselves.

We have two heroes. Adi is a young apprentice, almost a young man, but who still has a lot to learn. Dewi, likewise, is a young girl (14?) who must prove she has a wisdom and strength beyond her years. The two are given the task of saving the world as they know it when the adults close to them are kidnapped by the mysterious hantumu. (Adi's master, Empu Wesiagi, a sword maker on his way to the sultan with the gift of a new kris and Dewi's father, Bapar Wiriyanto). Given vague instructions by a wise counselor in the city of Kotabunga, the two are sent on their way with a car and its driver, Anda Mangil. Told only that they must find 'snow fire sword' in order to have a chance to defeat the nameless unknown enemy whom even the spirits cannot see and rescue their loved ones and keep the world safe. Not knowing if these are objects or peoples, the two set out intimidated but determined.

The adventure that follows is exciting read for those willing to put some initial effort into reading this long, epic tale.

http://users.northnet.com.au/~smasson/

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Peter Pan in Scarlet

McCaughrean, Geraldine. 2006. Peter Pan in Scarlet. Illustrations by Scott M. Fischer.

Those who know me, know I have a weakness for most things Peter Pan. So I was quite excited when a few weeks ago the "first-ever authorized sequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan" was released. I had great hopes, but not much information to go on other than the fact it would take place several decades after the original story ended and would involve a journey back to Neverland to have a series of adventures. You have to accept some things on pure faith, and I sure was satisfied with this one!

Often with 'sequels' written by a different author one only meets with great disappointment as the book fails to meet even the smallest expectations. Not so with PETER PAN IN SCARLET. The story begins simply enough with the reader meeting John and Wendy Darling along with the other Lost Boys one by one. It seems each has been experiencing vivid dreams of Neverland: the pirates, the lagoon, mermaids, the crocodile, Capt. Hook, the birdsong, flying, etc. These dreams aren't just faint memories though, these dreams leave lasting proof: physical evidence that Neverland is reaching out to them and calling them home. Perhaps the most vivid dream comes when the group of men fall asleep during their meeting at the Gentlemen's Club.

They dreamed they were playing tag with the mermaids, while the reflections of rainbows twisted around and between them like water snakes. Then, from somewhere deeper down and darker, came a hugely slithering shape that brushed the soles of their feet with its knobbly, scaly hide...When they woke, the Old Boys' clothes were sopping wet, and there on its back, in the middle of the Gentlemen's Library, was a prodigious crocodile, lashing its tail and snapping its jaws in an effort to turn over and make supper of them. The Gentlemen's Club emptied in the record time of forty-three seconds, and next day Members everywhere received a letter from the management. . . 'We regret to inform you that the Club will be closed for redecoration from 23rd April until approximately 1999.' (5-6)

These 'old' friends now with families of their own and professional careers must make a choice on whether to try to return to Neverland and get to the bottom of all of these crazy dreams. Most however decide to follow the call back to Neverland and youthful adventures.

I do not want to say WHAT happens when they get to Neverland because that would spoil all the fun of reading the adventures for yourself. But old friends are reunited, new friends and enemies are acquired along the way, and it is an exciting journey for the reader full of adventure, danger, and imagination.

http://www.geraldine-mccaughrean.co.uk/

http://www.peterpaninscarlet.com/

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Teacher's Funeral

Peck, Richard. 2004. THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL: A COMEDY IN THREE PARTS. New York: Dial. ISBN 0803727364

With a winning opening line--"If you're teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it" --THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL is off to great start. Set in 1904, Russell Culver, fifteen, narrates this hilarious novel about his family, his community--and above all else--his experiences at Hominy Ridge, the local one room schoolhouse. Miss Myrt Arbuckle, the former teacher, died weeks before school was supposed to begin. And no one could have been happier than the Culver boys Russell and Lloyd. . . that is until they realized that their older sister Tansy would be taking her place as teacher! With Tansy in charge, Russell soon learned that he couldn't get away with anything. THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL has everything you need for a successful novel: great writing (particularly his descriptions and dialogue), great characterization (including both primary and secondary characters), and great pacing. Peck sure knows how to tell a story. THE TEACHER'S FUNERAL is one of the best books of the year. It is a book that begs to be read aloud over and over again. (There is an audio book available as well.)

http://www.richardpeck.smartwriters.com/

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Unlikely hero


Lyga, Barry. 2006. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl.

Released October 2, 2006, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga is an enjoyable read focusing on one boy's adventures and misadventures in life and love his sophomore year in high school.

There are three things in this world that I want more than anything. I'll tell you the first two, but I'll never tell you the third.

Almost from the very beginning I knew Fanboy would be a character I could really get behind and support. In some ways he's your typical misunderstood geek: a fan of comic books, excelling in all things academic, and failing at everything requiring coordination and athletic talent. But the reader soon learns that there is more to this hero. He is creative, talented, sarcastic, insecure, sleep-deprived, driven (focused and determined), and definitely has a dark side he nurtures. Angry at the world, he internalizes his emotions and uses his imagination to seek revenge. Creating "The List" in which he keeps track of everyone who has ever done him wrong. He's been bullied at school practically his entire life. And thanks to his overprotective mother, he finds it more than a little difficult to make friends on a good day.

But what could turn out to be a morbid tale of a loner who goes crazy and unleashes that craziness on his classmates, instead is turned into the bittersweet journey of a young boy's first experience in love. Enter Goth Girl. Goth Girl, whose name is Kyra, is angry at the world too. She sees the injustice that Fanboy endures during gym class, and sees him as noble as an Indian warrior. Goth Girl seems to see it all--the great talent, the great mind, the great soul--hidden beneath the geeky exterior. But Goth Girl is just as flawed and complex as Fanboy. Hiding her own secrets and keeping her own mysterious cover, she seems to uncover Fanboy's secrets without revealing too many of her own.

Life isn't perfect. It isn't a sitcom. There are no happy endings in which all of life's lessons are revealed and all is forgiven and well with the world. And if you expect this novel to be any different, you'll be disappointed. Fanboy's greatest wishes go unfulfilled. But what Fanboy does see is the realization that life sometimes gives you what you NEED and not what you want.

There are two passages that stand out to me in which I and Fanboy really connect:

Stories filled and swelled my mind as I tried to sleep. Characters introduced themselves, told me their histories, then went off in search of tales to inhabit, and I always found a good one. Then I would get caught up in perfecting the narrative, developing the story flow, dictating dialogue in my head, and I would be up, and up, and up forever, the minutes running fast when I was writing in my mind, crawling when I closed my eyes. (43)

I look down at my notes for a moment to make sure I've connected two molecules correctly, and then Iose my eyesight. It's not like a movie, where everything goes black. There's a sudden patch of fuzziness that settles over my notebook, blotting all but the edges. It's like TV static when the cable goes out, only threaded with gold and red, shaped like some amorphous amoeba. At first I think there's something on my desk, and I swipe my hand at it, but my hand disappears as it passes into the patch. I tilt my head to one side. The patch moves, following my line of sight. I can barely make out things on the periphery of my vision. It's like the reverse of tunnel vision. A migraine. A migraine's coming. My stomach tightens. This is how it happens. . . God, the pain. The pain comes later. First the loss of vision. It's like a herald, like a vanguard. an advance scout. I lose my vision and my guts churn. Soon the patch of blindness will start to shrink, and even though I shouldn't I'll feel relief that I'm getting my sight back. But once the patch is gone--in the very instant that I can see again--that's when the pain will hit. (203)


http://fanboyandgothgirl.com/

Video Advertising for Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Defining New Ways To Be Stupid

Gerber, Michael. 2006. Freshman.

If you're worried about losing brain cells, don't bother picking up Michael Gerber's new book Freshman. It is 340 pages spent describing and defining new and old ways of being stupid and wasting one's life. Perhaps that wasn't his outset, I believe his intentions were to create a funny and lighthearted story about a guy and his dumb friends and what they like to do to waste their time their freshman year of college. But essentially there is no difference between the two. Guys might find it funny, I wouldn't know and couldn't begin to judge. But unless you're the kind of girl who laughs at the crudest, crassest humor--essentially 90% bathroom humor at that--then don't bother with Freshman. (If you find pee the most funny fascinating subject in the world, this is the book for you!)

Hart Fox is your average guy. He's smart, but not rich enough to go to the college of his dreams. Trip Darling is his enemy. The rich kid. The jock. The very definition of brainless. But Mr. Darling has a plan. He will pay for Hart to go to college IF he takes all of Trip's classes for him in addition to his own. But he's not a saint. He's running for political office. And his generosity doesn't include funds for living OR for books. But deluded into thinking college life at this particular college so incredible it would be worth doing anything even for his biggest enemy...he agrees.

Whan ensues is a rather long description of random events mostly centering on drinking, doing pranks, having sex, and to some extent going to school and studying--barely. But even at its highest moments where the book is enjoyable, it does not make up for the rest of the journey. Perhaps its weakest and stupidest moments are when Mr. Darling offers several fraternities the opportunity to KILL--literally kill--Hart Fox because he's won the election and he doesn't want him around. And then the reader is forced to read about one botched attempt after another.

The author's description of his book: It's school like it ought to be: loud, eventful, and full of swearing!

http://www.mikegerber.com/

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blue Bloods


De La Cruz, Melissa. 2006. Blue Bloods

Using (fictional) primary source material about the Pilgrims that sailed on the Mayflowers (letters, journals, etc.) to introduce each chapter, Melissa De La Cruz establishes an alternate historical framework in which to begin her novel BLUE BLOODS. (Forget what you know about Pilgrims fleeing to the colonies because of religious persecution, the Pilgrims were vampires fleeing England before their secret could be exposed. And Roanoke? Vampires as well. The mystery only deepens since vampires can rarely if ever be killed.)

The novel is told through multiple perspectives--young teen girls around fifteen or sixteen--who while different (some popular, some unpopular outcasts) all share a legacy: a rich historical legacy: they're vampires but don't know it. Similar to Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, these are vampires that exist to serve the greater good among humans. Our primary heroine is Schuyler Van Alen, an orphan raised by her grandmother. Other key players include Mimi and Jack Force (brother and sister), and Bliss Llewellyn. These young teens are enjoying the finest education--at an elite private school--and most have the money and prestige to break all the rules and get away with it...partying at night clubs, drinking, smoking, etc. But this comfortable existence is about to be shaken up. A dark force is on the move that threatens teen vampires everywhere. The problem? Most lack the foresight to care. Schuyler Van Alen leads the call to action, and in this first book in the series, this fast-paced adventure begins.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Clueless...

Carter, Ally. 2006. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You.

Cammie Morgan thinks she has it all. A second-generation Gallagher Girl, she's always been the best...fluent in fourteen languages AND capable of killing a man in seven different ways. One would think she would be immune to intimidation. But there is one thing they didn't prepare her for at Gallagher: falling in love with an ordinary boy.

What is Gallagher Academy? A school for geniuses, yes. But more than geniuses, a training ground for future spies. Cammie and her friends may be able to carry out some pretty elaborate missions--at least for their ages--but they're clueless when it comes to being 'normal' teen girls trying to blend into the town's high school crowd. Clueless in fashion, flirting, and above all else, matters of the heart. How can a girl trained in lying avoid breaking a guy's heart in the end?

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You is a great book, a fun book, one that will keep you smiling as you read about her adventures and misadventures in life and love.

http://www.allycarter.com/
http://www.allycarter.com/blog.html
http://www.allycarter.com/index_ya.html

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Where The Broken Heart...

Meyer, Carolyn. 1992. Where The Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker.

Where The Broken Heart Still Beats is a historical fiction novel based on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a young girl kidnapped by Comanche raiders from a massacre of their fort shared by nine settler families. The story begins over twenty-five years after her capture when she is captured by Texas Rangers on one of their raids against the Comanches and returned to the white community along with her baby daughter. The book is told from two perspectives: Lucy, a young girl--Cynthia Ann's cousin--and Cynthia Ann herself.

Cynthia Ann (aka Sinty-Ann or Naduah) has forgotten her childhood years--blocked the raid and her capture from her memory--and has thoroughly adopted the ways of her People. She has forgotten the English language, and has only one desire, to return to her People and find her husbands and two grown sons. Forced to live with her Uncle and his family, Cynthia Ann refuses at first to budge. She tries to escape several times unsuccessfully, and she refuses to learn and speak English. But after months of living with her 'family' she is assured that if she tries to fit in with her family, learn English, and learn their culture and faith, that he will help her find her People again and allow her to visit with her family. So relunctantly she begins relearning the ways of the white man.

Lucy has great compassion on Cynthia Ann. She sees her pain and heartache and sympathizes with her loss. She seems not to share her family's deep-set hatred of the Indians and their passion or zeal to see every Indian annihilated. Witnessing these outbursts of her brothers and father disgusts her. She becomes Cynthia Ann's only friend and confidante in many ways. She finally breaks through Cynthia Ann's barrier of distrust and she is allowed close enough to learn and share the memories of her past. Cynthia Ann speaks to her of her past--something she refuses to do with other family members. But both know that Cynthia Ann can never be happy unless she's allowed her freedom to be who she is.

The book is not a complete portrait of the Parker family, it focuses on the Civil War years 1860-1865, but it is excellent in capturing an important time period in Texas history.

The Handbook of Texas Online: Cynthia Ann Parker
http://www.readcarolyn.com/

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Crooked River

Pearsall, Shelley. 2005. Crooked River.

CROOKED RIVER is the second novel for author Shelley Pearsall, winner of the 2003 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Set in Ohio in 1812, CROOKED RIVER tells the dramatic story of an unjust trial of an Indian--nicknamed Indian John--who was captured and held prisoner by one of the white settlers. "Indian John" is accused of murdering a white fur trapper. The story is told from two perspectives: prose chapters narrated by Rebecca Carver, the 13 year old daughter of the white man who captured the Indian, and a series of poems narrated by the Indian--whose real name is Amik. As his formal trial draws closer--although the men in the settlement have already concluded his guilt--Rebecca becomes more and more convinced that "Indian John" is innocent. One other man, Peter Kelley, a lawyer, also believes in his innocence. Kelley tries his best to win the case and set his friend Amik free, but the judge and jury will not be swayed. The trial is a mockery. Evidence or no evidence, they want this man to be convicted and hung.

CROOKED RIVER is based loosely on the true story of an Indian named John O'Mic who was tried and convicted of murder in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1812. He was held captive in a cabin and shared it with the white man and his family--there was a thirteen year old daughter. Using this true story as a basis and framework, Pearsall fictionalized the account to show how these people might have felt. Her research was thorough and impressive as her author's note indicates. While CROOKED RIVER is based on a true story, fact and fiction in this case have two different endings.

I thought CROOKED RIVER was a wonderful book. Although Pearsall is not of Native American ancestry, I believe her research was so extensive that Amik's voice was authentic. The poems narrated by Amik are beautiful. To learn that some of these phrases were borrowed from authentic Ojibwe sources--poems, stories, songs, etc--was fascinating. It made the book even "more authentic" than I originally thought. The narration of Rebecca Carver was equally researched. Pearsall read primary sources--diaries, books, letters, etc--from the time period to capture authentic language patterns and phrases of the whites as well. One source in particular that Pearsall used was an unpublished diary of a young girl named Emily Nash.

I had hoped to be reviewing another Carolyn Meyer book, Where The Broken Heart Still Beats, but I did not quite get it finished in time. Hopefully, I'll get it finished by tomorrow. Regardless, Crooked River and Where the Broken Heart Still Beats work well together as historical fiction novels examining the interaction of pioneering white settlers and Native Americans. Both share a sympathetic young girl character, Rebecca in Crooked River, and Lucy in Where The Heart Still Beats, that is able to connect and interact in a way that no one else can.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

All or Nothing

Meyer, Carolyn. 2002. Doomed Queen Anne.

Doomed Queen Anne is the third book in Carolyn Meyer's series Young Royals: Tudor women. I've already reviewed Mary, Bloody Mary, and Beware, Princess Elizabeth. Reading Doomed Queen Anne does provide more perspective on the situation. Elizabeth grew up never knowing her mother, but her half-sister Mary, unfortunately knew more than she ever wanted of Anne Boleyn. But it is this changing or sliding of perspectives that makes the book series so appealing to me. I think we have a tendency to look at things only through one perspective never considering how 'reality' would look if we were gazing through another's eyes. Doomed Queen Anne does just that. Called the 'Great Whore' and a 'witch' in Mary, Bloody Mary, Carolyn Meyer finally allows Anne to have a voice, to make an appeal, to seek an understanding and forgiving reader.

The book begins with the prologue in which Queen Anne is in the towers awaiting her execution. The book then is a way of having her life flash before her eyes, her recounting of her life to the readers before her death. While the book makes no apologies for some of Anne's actions--her harsh treatment of Mary and her mocking scorn of Queen Catherine--the book does allow the reader to see that her death was nothing more than King Henry VIII getting tired of having her around (both to talk to and sleep with) and wanting to avoid the hassle of another divorce. Although her actions would make her the evil stepmother in the fairytale, her actions did not warrant death.

Does the reader ever feel sorry for Anne? Is she sympathetic even when close to death? Yes and no. (First of all, I can only recount if the author evoked feelings of sympathy from this reader.) Knowing that someone is falsely accused and condemned of crimes they did not commit, one can't help feeling that injustice was done and that Henry VIII was the one that needed punishing...after all he was the one to blame for everything...he's the one who sought Anne out in the first place...the one that fought against his marriage and sought divorce, the one who ignored his children and declared them bastards, the arrogant, selfish man who would deny himself no lust. But the reader is also aware of the fact that Anne was more than a willing accomplice. She sought the fame and glory of being a Queen. She wanted it all and ignored dozens if not hundreds of warnings from her family and friends that she was pushing too hard and too far and that she'd end up destroyed by her own ambition. A reckless dreamer seeking it all--glory, love, fame, power...in some ways proving that you reap what you sow. She showed no mercy, no compassion, no thought of anyone but herself, so none was showed to her. So in a way, the reader can view Doomed Queen Anne as portraying a tragic hero with a tragic flaw--a character trait that led to her own demise. (Although I must admit Henry VIII seems to play the villain in each of these books!)

http://www.readcarolyn.com/

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Royal Soap Opera...

Meyer, Carolyn. 2001. Beware, Princess Elizabeth.

Continuing the story begun in Mary, Bloody, Mary, Carolyn Meyer presents readers with the story of another unhappy princess. Elizabeth, like Mary, was torn away from her mother--in this case her father essentially murdered her, and spent many years ignored by or estranged from her father. The book begins with the death of her father and the crowning of her brother, Edward. It then continues through his brief reign, the nine days reign of Lady Jane Grey, and the bloody reign of her sister Mary. It is during her sister’s reign that her life is in constant jeopardy. Through it all, Elizabeth is determined to persevere with hopes that one day she will finally get to be queen.

I am currently reading Doomed Queen Anne, and hope to post a review of it this weekend if all goes according to plan. I still haven't been able to track down a copy of Patience, Princess Catherine so I can review it, but since Carolyn Meyer is one of my new "favorite" authors, I'll keep on reviewing her books whenever I come across them.

http://www.readcarolyn.com/

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bloody Mary

Meyer, Carolyn. 1999. Mary, Bloody, Mary.

Ever wondered what it was like to grow up as a princess? Have you always thought that princesses always get their own way and never have any problems? Meet Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, and realize that royal blood isn’t always a blessing. This novel based on the terrifying true story presents perhaps one of the most dysfunctional families in history.

Imagine if you will that your father has fallen out of love with your mother and is cheating on her with all the ladies in the neighborhood. Imagine that your father increasingly ignores you and sends you away and doesn’t write for years on end. Then imagine that you’re the first child at least on English soil whose parents have ever divorced. Rejected by the king, forbidden to see her mother, and hated by her stepmother, Mary’s problems are only beginning. Will her father really carry through on his threats to proclaim you a bastard, disinherit you, and leave you penniless? Or worse will he kill you if you don’t agree with his decisions and acknowledge your unworthiness to exist?

Carolyn Meyer’s unique perspective on Mary, often portrayed in textbooks as a bitter, resentful queen bent on murdering all who disagreed with her, offers the reader a chance to sympathize with a princess down on her luck.

Tomorrow I'll be reviewing Beware, Princess Elizabeth. And Saturday I hope to review Doomed Queen Anne.

http://www.readcarolyn.com/

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Spotlight On Carolyn Meyer

Name: Carolyn Meyer
Birth: June 8, 1935 in Lewistown, Pennsylvania
Bio: Grew up loving to read and write. Since adulthood has published around 50 books.
Recent bibliography:
Loving Will Shakespeare (2006)
Marie, Dancing (2005)
Patience, Princess Catherine (2004)
Doomed Queen Anne (2002)
Beware, Princess Elizabeth (2001)
Mary, Bloody Mary (1999)
White Lilacs (1993)

I have already reviewed one of Meyer's books, Loving Will Shakespeare, but I will repost a bit of that review to refresh everyone's memory. It is one of the best books I've read this year.

LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE

Told from Anne Hathaway's perspective, LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE, is her memoir of sorts. Using the framework of her just having received a letter from her husband in 1611, the rest of the book is her recollection of her life up until that point...a sharing of sorts with the reader of how the then-famous Shakespeare had become her husband. Starting with her early childhood she recounts what life was like growing up in a rural village. Meyer provides the reader with a detailed, believable setting. For example, there are certain historical facts that most readers are intellectually aware of to some extent about this time period...the various plagues that were capable of appearing at any time and destroying entire communities and the ongoing struggle both politically and socially of Catholics and Protestants. But Meyer brings these two issues to life in her book. Anne loses not only her mother to the plague, but twenty years later she loses her fiance to the disease as well. And while none of the major plot lines revolve around religion, many of the minor ones do. As far as romance is concerned, Meyer presents a story where two people who have grown up in the same community become friends over a period of time and their friendship deepens and ripens when Shakespeare is beginning to come of age. It is an intellectual, mutual attraction of minds AND bodies when the time comes. That the young man later falls more in love with the stage and writing breaks her heart, but she accepts what crumbs she's given at that point. And although LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE is a more romantic portrayal or perspective of "what might have been"...it is well grounded in that her characters are well-developed. Each character has strengths and weaknesses.

I plan on posting two more reviews of Meyer's books this week: Mary, Bloody Mary and Beware, Princess Elizabeth.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Peter and the Starcatchers

Barry, Dave, and Ridley Pearson. 2004. PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS. Ill. by Greg Call. New York: Hyperion. ISBN: 0786854456.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS is a fast-paced prequel to J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN. Peter is one of five orphans on his way to the faraway kingdom of Rundoon on the rundown ship The Never Land where they will enter the service of a cruel king. As the leader of his gang, Peter takes his responsibilities seriously. He's determined to find a way to save them all from an unpleasant fate. But even Peter couldn't predict how the trip would end. Other ships in on the adventure are the British ship The Wasp and the pirate ship The Sea Devil, which is commanded by the dreaded Black Stache known for his thick black mustache that is over a foot long. While some felt that Black Stache had no heart--the reader knows differently--after all "he had a real soft spot for his ma, and was truly sorry for the time he'd marooned her" (47). The pirates are after the "greatest treasure" that ever sailed on the seas which is hidden away on the ship The Never Land. Molly, a young girl, is a Starcatcher trying to prevent the trunk of Starstuff (a magical dust that falls from the heavens with some falling stars) from falling into the wrong hands. This exciting game of hide and seek takes place on several ships and one small inhabited island full of angry natives and one hungry crocodile (Mr. Grin) who has cultivated a taste for human flesh.

Full of bad guys, good guys, and countless chase scenes, PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS never fails to entertain. Its short chapters compliment the changing narration and the quick pace of the novel. The black and white illustrations by Greg Call capture the tone--particularly his rendering of the evil pirate Black Stache found on page 81. And I think children will find the pirate vessel's sails particularly amusing--the sails are based on a woman's brassiere (page 103). An audio book is available as well.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

John Lennon's Birthday

Delaney, Mark. 2004. PEPPERLAND. Atlanta: Peachtree. ISBN 156145317X.

Pamela Jean Cochran (a.k.a. Star) is sixteen when her mother dies from breast cancer. Struggling to find a way to cope, she turns to her music hoping that if she can write a song to honor her mother then she can finally let go of her anger and pain. While going through her mother's belongings, Star discovers a fan letter to John Lennon and a vintage Gibson guitar--now in need of repair. These two items are the catalyst to Star's healing process. Set in the fall of 1980, Delaney's novel is a wonderful exploration of grief, anger, loss, and confusion. Star and Dooley, her best friend, are remarkably well-developed characters. And Delaney's use of language is impressive. One striking passage occurs when Dooley shows Star his new drawing:

"Before me is a portrait of a young woman. She is strikingly beautiful, her face nearly white and her cheekbones shaded in an ice pale blue. Her eyes are large and pretty, but dark and a little wounded-looking. She's not really smiling. Behind her is a background of burgundy and violet. Within this background, and over the girl's face, are crossing lines, like the squares on a sheet of graph paper. It's as if little parts of her have been painted on hundreds of tiles, and the tiles have assembled themselves to make this image. Except in the upper left-hand corner, the pattern breaks down. The tiles are scattered, the lines no longer forming perfect angles. The pieces seem to be falling, cascading into place. The girl is in the process of becoming a complete picture...And then I understand. I see it. The girl with the wounded eyes, the girl who doesn't quite smile, the girl made of a thousand pieces that are falling, at last, into their proper places...She's me" (105-106).

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Truth About Forever


Dessen, Sarah. 2004. THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670036390.

Grieving the death of her father, Macy Queen buries her emotions behind a mask of perfection not even allowing her friends and family to see her real self. However, what Macy learns in THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER is that "even the smallest fragments can't help but make a whole" (129). When Macy lets go of her need to be perfect and to always be in control, she learns what it means to be free. She learns to just be. "When I was with him I didn't have to be perfect, or even try for perfect. He already knew my secrets, the things I'd kept hidden from everyone else, so I could just be myself. Which shouldn't have been such a big deal. But it was" (187).

THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER is an honest examination of one girl's reaction to the death of her father. Through the character of Macy, Dessen shows that there are many aspects to the grieving process. The novel shows the key role open communication plays in the healing process.

http://www.sarahdessen.com/

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Schwa


Shusterman, Neal. 2004. THE SCHWA WAS HERE. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525471820.

Set in Brooklyn, THE SCHWA WAS HERE tells the story of an unusual friendship that develops between two eighth grade boys: Antsy and the Schwa. Anthony "Antsy" is the middle child of his Italian Catholic family. Calvin Schwa "Schwa" is the only child of his absent-minded father. The "Schwa" is known for being invisible-ish; he goes unnoticed not only by his peers but by most adults as well. Antsy inspired by the scientific method just discussed in class decides to conduct a series of experiments to see if the Schwa truly is functionally invisible. The second experiment is the best. The hypothesis:

"The Schwa will not be noticed even when dressed weird and acting freakishly" (26).
The Schwa is dressed in a cat costume and a orange fluorescent sombrero and is sent into the boys bathroom and told to sing "God Bless America" loudly. Antsy and friends then interview boys coming out of the bathroom to ask if there was anything unusual going on. The resulting answers are comical and lead to the conclusion that "even when acting weird and dressed like a total freak, the Schwa is only barely noticed" (28).

Unfortunately, after three experiments, the science teacher gives Antsy an "F" thinking the whole project to be a scam. But the friendship--odd as it is continues to develop. Since experimentation to document the Schwa effect is off limits, Antsy decides to become the Schwa's agent. Students can hire the Schwa to be their eyes and ears. The Schwa moves about the school unnoticed going into the teacher's lounge, girls locker rooms, and even the principal's office. One student even dared the Schwa to wear nothing but a speedo to school to see if he'd be noticed; he was caught--but not until third period! Although some people seem to find his functional invisibility humorous, the Schwa is not happy. He wants to be noticed. In fact, he thinks that it was his freak "invisible-ish" that led his mother to disappear from a local supermarket. But with the help of his new friend, the Schwa solves an old mystery and gains a chance at happiness.

Narrated by Antsy, THE SCHWA WAS HERE is an often-humorous novel filled with truisms.
"Life is like a bad haircut. At first it looks awful, then you kind of get used to it, and before you know it, it grows out and you gotta get another haircut that maybe won't be so bad, unless of course you keep going to SuperClips, where the hairstylists are so terrible they oughta be using safety scissors, and when they're done you look like your head got caught in a ceiling fan. So life goes on, good haircut, bad haircut, until finally you go bald, and it don't matter no more" (70).
It is an enjoyable read that presents the social hierarchy of middle school in a refreshingly humorous--although not humiliating way. (I hate books or movies with characters who go through such embarrassing situations that you just want to cringe and in the case of movies cover your eyes.)

I absolutely loved the novel. The characterization was great. The writing was excellent. The novel was funny in many places, yet it addressed serious issues as well. I rank this as one of the best books of the year.

Some of the attention this book has received:

It won the 2005 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature in the category of fiction and poetry.

It was one of eighty-six titles on YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults 2005.

It was also one of ALA's Notable Children's Books for 2005 in the category of Books for Older Readers.

http://www.storyman.com/

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Sisters

BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER written and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is an admittedly cute and sentimental picture book describing the special experiences shared between big and little sisters.

The text is simple and straight forward. I would say the text is understated. "In this family, we have two sisters. She's the Big Sister. I'm the Little Sister." And there you have the first three pages of text.
The text utilizes common childhood experiences.

Example 1: "The Big Sister gets all the new clothes. I'm the Little Sister. I get all her old clothes."
Example 2: "The Big Sister isn't afraid of the dark. I'm the Little Sister. Help!"

BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER is a good book because it presents universal truths of sisterhood. No matter which side you're on. "The Big Sister is very neat. I'm the Little Sister. I'm not." And the classic "The Big Sister thinks she's always right. I'm the Little Sister. I know I'm right."

But the text, good as it is could never stand alone. LeUyen Pham was an illustrator before she was an author. In this text, it is Pham's true-to-life illustrations which capture human expressions and experiences perfectly. The text uses color limitedly. Let me explain, she uses several shades of brown--ranging from dark brown to golden brown--several shades of pink, red, and sparing amounts of green--for a houseplant. I think this is quite effective in setting tone and mood. Although illustrations are something that MUST be SEEN rather than described to be appreciated, I will try to describe some of the comic scenes that make this book a success.

On a two-page spread of text which reads simply "The Big Sister usually does things first. I'm the Little Sister. I'm always catching up." There are six or seven illustrated scenes. The first shows the girls at the bathroom sink looking at their reflections. The older sister is proudly showing that she's just lost a tooth. The second scene shows the older sister vacuuming with the younger sister sitting in her way happily continuing to cut paper dolls. the third (and possibly fourth scene) shows a boy giving the older sister a bouquet of flowers. The little sister stands several inches away on the page with her tongue sticking out, fingers in her ears. The next page shows the big sister helping the little sister learn to ride her bike--a banana seat for those truly interested (Side note, if there had been streamers--it would have been perfect!!!). The second illustration on that page involves both sisters on the floor reading. But the older sister is reading a "big-kid" book and the little sister is reading an ABC book. The final illustration on that page shows the two girls measuring themselves on a wall. With lots of inches marked in between the "Big One" and "the Little One." Clearly, the illustrations do more of the talking and conveying than the text does.

http://www.leuyenpham.com/leuyenphamstudios.html

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

No More Cookies! By Paeony Lewis

NO MORE COOKIES is the perfect book for young cookie lovers! Florence, a young girl, and Arnold, a stuffed monkey, are friends who share a great passion: eating cookies. But when Florence's mother sees that her daughter has eaten ALL the cookies in the cookie tin, she says "No More Cookies!" for an entire week. Florence and Arnold's response, "No cookies for a week. That's forever." So they team up and use their imaginations to find creative ways to change her mom's mind. The plans range from Florence and Arnold dressing up as the tooth fairy and fairy monkey who need a cookie so they can fly home to Florence dressing as a nurse and splashing red paint on Arnold--Arnold of course needs an emergency cookie to make him feel better. But none of their plans--as creative as they are--works. But Florence's mother is not completely unfeeling, the book ends with everyone in the kitchen making Magic Monkey Bananas (chocolate-covered frozen bananas with sprinkles).

NO MORE COOKIES is a participatory picture book with a familiar refrain that cookie lovers everywhere will join in on, "It's not fair! All we want is a cookie--just one."

The illustrations are great. An assortment of cookies decorate the green end papers. I love how Florence is portrayed throughout the illustrations. Florence is first shown sitting down holding Arnold, her monkey, on her lap, and one cookie in each hand. Beneath her is a cookie tin holding mainly--if not exclusively--crumbs or broken cookies. The colors are bright and vibrant, red, green, yellow, and purple. Although the reader first sees Florence wearing a red hat, in later illustrations she's shown with black hair that is very tangled. (It looks like she has either given herself her own hair do, or else she won't let her mom near her with a brush!) My favorite illustration of Florence is when she is sitting with Arnold on the front porch. Both are wearing chef's hats. Both have their arms crossed on their chest. Florence has this pouty face, and of course, Arnold's expression hasn't changed any. But I love the fact that Florence has placed Arnold into the same position as herself. But what I especially love are the "drawings" made by Florence throughout the book. (Kid-drawn art is so fun!) Highlights of some of Florence's art include: on green construction paper a self portrait done in blue crayon showing her fierce monster teeth. Her face is surrounded by a circle of seven cookies. Each cookie has an arrow pointing in the direction of her mouth. The caption of her picture: cookie monster! Another great kid-drawn portrait is done on yellow construction paper. Again Florence has drawn herself with blue crayon. The picture shows herself with a ring of chocolate around her face and a bright red tongue sticking out. The caption reads: "For the most chocolate just lick in a circle." Although I won't take the time to describe them individually, each of Florence and Arnold's plans for obtaining cookies is illustrated in one or more plans done on various colors of construction paper.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Can a cookie be a teacher?

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. 2006. Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons. Illustrated by Jane Dyer.

The author of Little Pea, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, returns this year with a wonderful picture book titled COOKIES: BITE-SIZE LIFE LESSONS. What Rosenthal does is define ethics, morality and value-based terms in a language everyone (of any age) can understand: cookies become the true universal language.

I would love to share just a handful of these terms and definitions (although without the illustrations, it is not doing the book much justice).

Proud means, My chin is high, and I sure do like the way my cookies turned out.

Respect means offering the very first cookie to your grandmother.

Trustworthy means, If you ask me to hold your cookie until you come back, when you come back, I will still be holding your cookie.

Envy means, I can't stop looking at your cookie out of the corner of my eye--it looks so much better than my cookie. Boy, I wish it were mine and not yours.

Content means sitting on the steps--just you, me, and a couple of cookies.

The definitions ring true and the illustrations are wonderfully done. (Although skeptics might think they are a bit too cute for their own good.) I absolutely loved this book!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Jane Dyer

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Are you a cow?


Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. 2006. Dairy Queen.

D.J Schwenk is not your typical teen. Sure she loves sports--football and basketball in particular--and she has crushes on guys, but there is something that makes D.J. different from her peers: she, for the most part, is solely responsible for her parents dairy farm. Shoveling and spreading manure, mowing, baling hay, milking cows, feeding cows, etc. is not on the typical teen's to-do list, no instant messaging, no shopping, no manicures or pedicures. Life is hard and dirty when your constant companions bark and moo. But D.J. is a good sport, since her father's accident she has beared the burden alone while watching her two older brothers go away to college on football scholarships. Life gets a bit more complicated though the summer before her senior year. Readers will be along for the ride as D.J. takes on an unusual task--training the rival team's quarterback, Brian Nelson, in exchange in part for some help around the farm. What she never expected was for her enemy to turn into her friend. True, it wasn't easy at first to get along...he tells her she's a cow since she is always doing what other people tell her to do without thinking...but she soon finds out beneath the sting of the insult is a grain of truth. Determined to change her life AND think for herself...she realizes she doesn't want to train others to play football...she wants to play football herself! But what will everyone think? Will she gain the support of the coach, her teammates, her friends, her family, the school, and what about Brian...can he ever forgive her for being on the other team?

http://www.catherinemurdock.com/

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Orphan of the Sun

Harvey, Gill. 2006. Orphan of the Sun.

Set in Ancient Egypt--during the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1070 BC)--Orphan of the Sun by Gill Harvey is an exciting mystery. Meryt-Re is a young girl, an orphan, being raised by her aunt and uncle. While at first life in the village seems relatively normal, strange things soon begin happening. The uncle is quick to blame the family's troubles on Meryt-Re accusing her of "turning the gods" against the family and the village. Could the strange dreams she's been having really be having an effect on the villagers? Or is there a darker force at work. As Meryt-Re unravels the mystery--to clear her own name--she discovers the gods may have a special role for her to play after all.

About Gill Harvey
http://www.orphanofthesun.com/
http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/menu.html
http://www.ancient-egypt.org/
http://www.discoveringegypt.com/

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Here There Be Dragons


When Professor Sigurdsson is murdered on the fifteenth of March 1917, it is up to three Oxfordians--John, Jack, and Charles--to complete the professor’s unfinished business. Their task is to assume the role of caretaker to perhaps the world’s greatest literary treasure: the Imaginarium Geographica. Pursued fiercely by Sigurdsson’s murderers, the three are led by a mysterious guide, Bert, to the relative safety of his ship the Indigo Dragon. But the adventures are just beginning as they set sail for a land most mortals would never dream of reaching: the Archipelago of Dreams which “all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale, can be found within” (21).

As our young heroes find out, however, these imaginary realms are just as real--and just as much in danger--as their own. Are these raging wars a mere coincidence or are these ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’ worlds irrevocably tied together? These mysteries and more lie at the heart of James A. Owen’s novel Here There Be Dragons. Their shared adventures sailing the seas, meeting dragons--along with plenty of other memorable characters--might just inspire each to pen their own unforgettable stories one day for these three are none other than J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.

Whether you’re a fan of the Inklings, or just love fantasy and adventure in general, Here There Be Dragons, the first in a new series entitled The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, is too good to miss.

For more information on the book, go to the official book site. There you will be able to find out more about the background of the Imaginarium Geographica AND you will also be able to read the first few chapters of the novel.

http://www.heretherebedragons.net/

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