Thursday, May 31, 2007

Story of A Girl


Zarr, Sara. 2007. The Story of A Girl.

With authors like John Green and E. Lockhart singing its praises, it's no surprise that Story of A Girl was a remarkably good read. Story of A Girl is the story of one girl's attempt to escape her own story. Deanna Lambert is a sophomore-going-on-junior whose life has primarily been shaped by one bad mistake. When she is thirteen, Deanna becomes sexually involved with one of her brother's drug buddies, Tommy Webber. When the two are caught with their clothes off one night by her father, her whole world begins to crumble. It doesn't help matters when Tommy spreads the word at school the next day. The whole town knows her as that thirteen year old slut. No matter how many years have gone by, people perceive her as that girl. Will she never live this down? Will no one ever see past her past mistakes? Doesn't a girl deserve the chance to rewrite her life story? To begin anew? This book is one girl's attempt to do just that. Can a girl with a crumbling home life--her father has never forgiven her--make peace with her shady past? Or will this burden of shame follow her forever?

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

At the Sign of the Star


Sturtevant, Katherine. 2000. At the Sign of the Star.

Ever since she could remember Meg Moore has wanted more. More than what her society thinks a girl should have. More than what her father and stepmother are willing to allow. She wants to be a girl who is more than just a wife-in-training. She loves to read. She loves books. She loves philosophy. She loves debate. She loves to discuss the important things in life. She doesn’t want to be stuck mending or embroidering. She doesn’t want to be trained in how to run a household...she wants to run a bookshop...or better yet write the books that go into a bookshop. Meg is an unforgettably strong-minded character who endures much in her journey to womanhood. Will she ever be able to achieve her dreams of independence? Will she ever be allowed to speak her mind freely within her home? Or will men always overrule women? Is it true that the only beautiful woman is a silent one?

Set during the Restoration in London, it is a wonderful historical novel that brings this time period to life. As Meg discovers the work of Aphra Behn, a whole new world opens up for her.

In the end I took it away with me, and found a green place to sit in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in sight of the fashionable brick houses there. The play was called The Rover, and had been an amazing success at Dorset Gardens a month or so ago. I settled down to read it, and the afternoon wore on without my noticing, for it was a remarkable play. It was remarkable because it was so little different from a play writ by a man: it was as funny, as bawdy, as silly. And yet the fact that it was not by a man seemed to echo on every page, and filled me with wonder and anger and a secret sense of intention. For if a woman might think so like a man, and write so like a man...then why might not a woman give her views at table without apology? (42-43).

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Borrowed Meme

I read this meme at A Patchwork of Books who had been tagged by CeeCee. I don't know know where it originally came from :)

Next 5 Books On Your To Be Read Shelf

Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr
The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats by Philip Nel
Grief Girl by Erin Vincent

Last 4 Books You've Read

On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
S-P-E-L-L-D-O-W-N by Karen Luddy
Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
Strength of His Hands by Lynn Austin

Last 3 Books You've Borrowed (Library or Friend)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Harmless by Dana Reinhardt
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Last 2 Non-fiction books you've read

The Truth War by John MacArthur
Sweet! The Delicious Story of Candy by Ann Love & Jane Drake

The One Book I Wish Everyone Would Read....

Such a hard choice... If I had to choose just one YA book...I'd choose Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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The Prophet of Yonwood


DuPrau. Jeanne. 2006. The Prophet of Yonwood.

Set several hundred years before THE CITY OF EMBER, The Prophet of Yonwood begins with the childhood of Nickie Randolph. A young girl whose father is away working on some secret project for the government. Nickie and her aunt have come to Yonwood, North Carolina, to settle the estate of her late great-grandfather. It’s Nickie’s dream for her mother to settle down here and live in this wonderful, old house full of memories and stories. Her mother wants to sell it as quickly as possible. Yonwood is an interesting community as Nickie comes to find out. One of its most fascinatingly eery attractions is Althea Tower, the so-called Prophet of Yonwood. Just a few months before, Althea had been out in her backyard when she had been struck with a vision. Ever since she has been able to communicate effectively. A few phrases or sounds come out now and then...strands from the vision...or so her neighbors think. But is there more to this story?
Strange things are happening all over the world. Nations are on the brink of war. Terrorists--or the threat of terrorists--have brought many to hold radical beliefs. Nickie can’t make sense of any of it. What kind of chance does the world have with such crazy people running about? What can she do to help ‘save the world’?
Her neighbor, Mrs. Brenda Beeson, wants her to be a spy. To report who is being good...and who is being bad. To decide who is being moral enough to continue on in their community, and who needs to be purged from the community to strengthen it and save it from impending doom. But who is she to judge her neighbors? Is this really what ‘God’ has been telling his prophet? Aren’t these new commandments a little strange and strict? And aren’t the punishments for not conforming a bit too harsh?
Her desire to ‘save the world’ or ‘make a useful contribution to society’ won’t happen when she’s twelve...but when she’s sixty. She will be one of the founding community members of the City of Ember. Her legacy as a daughter of one of the Builders.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Progress Report for 3 Challenges

This is my FIFTH progress report on the Spring Reading Thing Challenge. The challenge was created by Katrina from Callapidderdays. To see others participating visit here.



    Books Already Completed w/o Reviews Posted
  • At the Sign of the Star by Katherine Sturtevant (started 4/9/07; finished 4/9/07)
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (started 4/10/07; finished 4/10/07)
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord (started and finished 3/29/07)
  • The Black Canary by Jane Louise Curry (started 3/30/07; finished 3/30/07)
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley (started 3/30/07; finished 3/30/07)
  • Millions by Frank Cottell Boyce (started 4/1/07; finished 4/1/07)
  • Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman (started 3/25/07; finished 3/25/07)
  • Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (started 3/25/07; finished 3/25/07)
  • What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson (started 4/15/07; finished 4/15/07)


    Books Remaining in the TBR pile
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
  • How To Be A Baby by Me the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd Jones and Sue Heap
  • One Naked Baby by Maggie Smith
  • Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills
  • The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats: Introduction and Annotations by Philip Nel
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
  • The Decoding of Lana Morris by Laura and Tom McNeal
  • Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Would-Be Diary of a Princess by Jessica Green
  • Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero by Maureen Fergus
  • Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr
  • A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
  • Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt
  • So Not The Drama by Paula Chase


So that leaves 15 books to read by the deadline of June 21rst.

On to the next READING CHALLENGE

The Once Upon a Time Challenge will take place beginning Thursday, March 22nd (I’m late, per usual) and will end on Midsummer Night’s Eve, June 21st. It is a reading challenge to celebrate spring, the time of rebirth and renewal, by experiencing the type of storytelling that connects us with our past. This challenge originated on Stainless Steel Droppings There are several different quest options:

Quest One: Read at least 5 books from any of the 4 genres. This is set up more along the lines of the R.I.P. Challenge. Given the time frame it may not seem to be a big deal to commit to 5 books, but we all know how time, and reading, can get away from us.

Quest Two: Read at least one book from each of the four genres of story-Mythology, Folklore, Fairytale, and Fantasy.

Quest Three: Read at least one book from each of the four genres of story, and finish up the challenge with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

or

Quest Four: Read at least one book from the four genres. This is for those who don’t read much, or those who feel that this type of story is so far out of the realm of what they normally read that committing to anything beyond one story is asking too much.

I haven't decided which quest I'm going for...but here is my reading list...

1) Cupid by Julius Lester
2) Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
3) Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt
4) Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
5) Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Which leaves 2 books to read by the June 21rst deadline.

On to the next Reading Challenge...

I have found yet another challenge to participate in. Books. Lists. Life. has started (quite a while back) the Dystopian Challenge. It started around the first of April and will continue through November 6, 2007. You can read more about it here.

    Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Among the Hidden
  • Among the Imposters
  • Among the Betrayed
  • Among the Barons
  • Among the Brave
  • Among the Enemy
  • Among the Free


    Lois Lowry
  • The Giver
  • Gathering Blue
  • Messenger


    Scott Westerfeld
  • Uglies
  • Pretties
  • Specials
  • Extras (if I can get my hands on it by the deadline; it releases in October 2007, I believe).




Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451

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People of Sparks


DuPrau, Jeanne. 2004. The People of Sparks.
The people of Sparks are about to receive the surprise of their lives when a young boy, Torren, brings word that there people coming. Not just a few people coming--but a LOT of people coming. A little over 400 people. To the post-Disaster community of Sparks, who numbers only 300, it is overwhelming news. How can they turn their backs on fellow human beings--even if they did come up from a hole in the ground? Yet, how can they support an additional 400 mouths to feed? Where will they house them? Where will they feed them? Are they even capable of learning how to take care of themselves? They seemed awfully ignorant. They seemed surprised that the sky was blue. They didn’t know was a tree was. They didn’t know what chickens were. Or eggs. And they were scared of fire. What kind of strange people are they? Will they ever be able to get along with such strange folks?
Lina and Doon’s story continues in THE PEOPLE OF SPARKS. Can these two children work together with the community of Sparks to create a lasting peace? Or is war inevitable?

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

How Could I Have Missed This One???

Yesterday, I wrote a post devoted to highlighting some of this year's nonfiction publications. Some were already available, but most had not been released yet. Today, I discovered one that looks absolutely delicious.

Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus. Publisher RandomHouse (Golden Books). Will be released (according to Amazon) October 23, 2007. THE YEAR 2007 marks the 65th anniversary of a bold experiment: the launch of the Little Golden Books during the dark days of World War II. At a time when the literacy rate was not nearly as high as it is now - and privation was felt by nearly all - quality books for children would now be available at a price nearly everyone could afford (25 cents), and sold where ordinary people shopped. Golden Legacy is a lively history of a company, a line of books, the groundbreaking writers and artists who created them, the clever mavericks who marketed and sold them, and the cultural landscape that surrounded them.

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City of Ember


DuPrau, Jeanne. 2003. The City of Ember.

When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.
“They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years,” said the chief builder. “Or perhaps two hundred and twenty.”
“Is that long enough?” asked his assistant.
“It should be. We can’t know for sure.”
“And when the time comes,” said the assistant, “how will they know what to do?”
“We’ll provide them with instructions, of course,” the chief builder replied.
“But who will keep the instructions? Who can we trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?”
“The mayor of the city will keep the instructions,” said the chief builder. “We’ll put them in a box with a timed lock, set to open on the proper date.”
“And will we tell the mayor what’s in the box?” the assistant asked.
“No, just that it’s information they won’t need and must not see until the box opens of its own accord.”
“So the first mayor will pass the box to the next mayor, and that one to the next, and so on down through the years, all of them keeping it secret, all that time?”
“What else can we do?” asked the chief builder. “Nothing about this endeavor is certain. There may be no one left in the city by then or no safe place for them to come back to.”
So the first mayor of Ember was given the box, told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to secrecy. When she grew old, and her time as mayor was up, she explained about the box to her successor, who also kept the secret carefully, as did the next mayor. Things went as planned for many years. But the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who’d come before him, and more desperate. He was ill--he had the coughing sickness that was common in the city then--and he thought the box might hold a secret that would save his life. He took it from its hiding place in the basement of the Gathering Hall and brought it home with him, where he attacked it with a hammer. But his strength was failing by then. All he managed to do was dent the lid a little. And before he could return the box to its official hiding place or tell his successor about it, he died. The box ended up at the back of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles. There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.
(1-3)

Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow are two twelve-year-olds who team up to try to save the city of Ember as its decay becomes more evident and its failure more imminent. With supplies running low--many items being absent for generations--and the generator beginning to fail...it’s only a matter of time before the city loses electricity and is plunged into eternal darkness. What will they do then? Can anything be done to save their city? To save their lives? The answer may be closer than they imagine as Lina discovers the fragments of paper that were the instructions. The problem? Her toddler sister discovered the box and its contents first--now the fragments have been chewed and sucked on...can they decipher the message and save the city???

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Delicious-Looking Nonfiction for 2007

There is something so wonderful about discovering new nonfiction books. I love fiction, but I love nonfiction too. And sometimes it seems that there is less publicity about nonfiction. I am always finding new fiction titles that I want to read, but it seems I really have to search to see what is new in nonfiction. The list isn't exhaustive, but I may post again later with other findings for the year.

The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the American Home, 1584 to the Present by Steven Gdula. Published by Bloomsbury USA. Will be released December 26, 2007.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that if you really want to understand the workings of a society, you have to “look into their kettles” and “eat their bread.” Steve Gdula gives us a view of American culture from the most popular room in the house: the kitchen. Examining the relationship between trends and innovations in the kitchen and the cultural attitudes beyond its four walls, Gdula creates a lively portrait of over 350 years of American domestic life. The Warmest Room in the House explores major historic themes, including the challenges of procurement in the seventeenth century, preservation in the eighteenth century, industrialization and enlightenment in the nineteenth century, and modernization in the twentieth. Gdula traces the evolution of American foods, recipes, trends, and styles of cooking, beginning with the exchanges that took place between the Powhatan Indians and the Jamestown settlers about nutrition through today’s polyglot international cuisine. Filled with fun facts about food trends, from Hamburger Helper to The Moosewood Cookbook, and food personalities, from Catherine Beecher to Martha Stewart, The Warmest Room in the House is the perfect addition to any well-rounded kitchen larder.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Will be released August 21, 2007. “I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side—the Communist side—of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ’n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities—creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed. By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art.

Many Rides of Paul Revere by James Cross Giblin. Published by Scholastic. Will be released October 1, 2007. Paul Revere is commonly remembered in the Longfellow legend of his Midnight Ride before the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord. In this bright, informative biography, Giblin follows Revere's life from his humble beginnings as a French immigrant's son to his work as a silversmith and a horse messenger amid the mounting pressures of revolution. In precise, accessible prose, Giblin chronicles Revere's daring acts -- both the famous and the overlooked. Along the way, he portrays a brave, compassionate, multitalented American patriot. Paul Revere had a wide range of activities: Besides being a rider for the Revolution, he was a famed silversmith, engraved cartoons and paper money, and practiced dentistry. He was an early American manufacturer, and his silver business is still thriving today. Connections to contemporary times can be drawn from his being the son of a French immigrant, and from his activities in the American insurgency against Britain in the Revolution. James Cross Giblin's major awards include: Sibert Medal 15 ALA Notables 4 Best Books for Young Adults 5 Orbis Pictus Honors 2 Boston Globe/Horn Book Honors for Nonfiction Washington Post Body of Work Award National Book Award 3 Golden Kite Awards 2 Ohio State Awards.

Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II by Tonya Bolden. Published by Random House (Knopf Books for Young Readers). Released May 8, 2007. The 1940's was a time when society thought it improper for women to make a sax wail or let loose hot licks on skins, but with the advent of World War II and many men away fighting the war, women finally got their chance to strut their stuff on the bandstand. These all-girl bands kept morale high on the homefront and on USO tours of miltary bases across the globe while also helping to establish America's legacy in jazz music."Take-off?" Oh, yeah. Several all-girl bands did.This book includes a hip swing CD.

The Real Benedict Arnold by Jim Murphy. Published by Houghton Mifflin (Clarion). Releases September 17, 2007.

Who Was First? by Russell Freedman. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company (Clarion). Releases October 15, 2007.

Marie Curie by Kathleen Krull. Published by Penguin Group USA (Viking Juvenile). Releases October 4, 2007.
Talk about a “glowing reputation”! Marie Curie, the woman who coined the term radioactivity, won not just one Nobel prize but two—in physics and in chemistry, both supposedly girl-phobic sciences. As with her previous star-studded biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Sigmund Freud—all three chosen as ALA Notable Books—Kathleen Krull offers readers a fascinating portrait of this mythic “giant of science” who abhorred publicity. And she also places Curie’s ground-breaking discovery of two elements within the framework of science at that time.

Pocahontas: Princess of the New World by Kathleen Krull. Published by Walker & Company. Released March 20, 2007. She was the favored daughter of the Chief of the Powhatan Indians, and a girl in motion; always laughing, teasing, and dancing. But from the moment John Smith and the colonists of Jamestown set foot into her world in 1607, her life would change forever. She soon became an ambassador and peace keeper between the Powhatan and the colonists. Because of her curiosity and courage, Pocahontas became the bridge between the two worlds. Four hundred years after this world-changing clash of cultures, the true story about America’s original “Founding Mother” is finally revealed. Reunited for the first time since Wilma Unlimited, Kathleen Krull and David Diaz deliver a visually stunning, fascinating birth-to-death account of this true American Princess.

The Flag Maker by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Published by Houghton Mifflin. Released May 14, 2007. Here in lyrical prose is the story of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words that became the national anthem of the United States. This flag, which came to be known as the Star-Spangled Banner, also inspired author Susan Campbell Bartoletti, who, upon seeing it at the Smithsonian Institution, became curious about the hands that had sewn it.Here is her story of the early days of this flag as seen through the eyes of young Caroline Pickersgill, the daughter of an important flag maker, Mary Pickersgill, and the granddaughter of a flag maker for General George Washington's Continental Army. It is also a story about how a symbol motivates action and emotion, brings people together, and inspires courage and hope.

Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer by Deborah Kogan Ray. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Will be released October 16, 2007. Although John Wesley Powell’s minister father always wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, young Wes had different plans for his future. Enraptured by the wonders of the natural world, he was determined to take the path of science. Even after losing his right arm below the elbow in battle during the Civil War, Wes would not be deterred from his dream of leading the first scientific expedition down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. Braving treacherous rapids and perilous waterfalls, Major Powell would surpass all expectations and return home a national hero. With breathtaking illustrations and excerpts from Powell’s own journals, Deborah Kogan Ray brings to vivid life the exploits and explorations of one of America’s greatest conservationists.

The Signers: 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence by Dennis Brindell Fradin. Published by Walker & Company. Will be released May 29, 2007. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”For more than 225 years these words have inspired men and women in countries the world over to risk everything in pursuit of these lofty ideals. When they first appeared in our nation’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, they were a call to action for a colony on the brink of rebellion. The 56 men who dared to sign their names to this revolutionary document knew they were putting their reputations, their fortunes, and their very lives on the line by boldly and publicly declaring their support for liberty and freedom. As Benjamin Franklin said as he signed his name, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately!”Who were these men who are the first heroes of our nation? Award-winning team of author Dennis Brindell Fradin and illustrator Michael McCurdy bring their considerable talents together to illuminate the lives of these valiant men, ranging from the poorest farmers to the wealthiest merchants, whose dauntless courage inspired thousands of colonists to risk all for freedom.


Consider these titles to be all on my wishlist; in other words, I'd love to review them for the site and would gladly accept review copies from the publishers.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Sweet!


Love, Ann and Jane Drake. 2007. Sweet! The Delicious Story of Candy. Illustrated by Claudia Davila.

Sweet is an entertaining, educational book about the glorious story of candy through the ages. With the first entry of their candy/dentistry timeline starting in 6000 B.C. (their choice to use B.C. rather than B.C.E.), noting the Spanish artist depicting the gathering of wild honey on a cave wall to the present day where the authors note that the Jelly Belly Candy Co. makes about 120 million Jelly Belly jelly beans a day, this book truly spans the centuries and the globe. (4, 63) Whether you're interested in chocolate, caramel, ice cream, lollipops, or more international fare, SWEET! offers something for everyone. With informational gems such as the story behind the world's first chocolate chip cookies...it is full of I-didn't-know-that moments.

Ruth Wakefield took chocolate to a whole new level when she invented chocolate chip cookies in 1924. She ran out of melting chocolate and, like any good cook, found a substitute. She chopped up a Nestle's chocolate bar and discovered that the baked cookie had bits of solid chocolate inside. The cookies were a real hit and eventually she sold her recipe to Nestle in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate. It's impossible to calculate the number of chocolate chip cookies made after that first batch, but like many sweet recipes, it started with a lucky substitution. (53)

Or another lucky discovery, fudge:

In the late 1880's, in a New England women's college dormitory, a group of students apparently set out to make caramel. They botched the recipe but found they liked eating their mistake. They called their candy, "fudge," a popular slang word at the time meaning "foolishness." (35)

Speaking of caramel, did you know that Arabs invented caramel in AD 950, but not as a candy or eatable--but as a product for hair removal. (23)

Full of fascinating tidbits both in their prose and timeline, SWEET! gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of their favorite treats.

As a young man, William Wrigley, Jr. sold soap, then baking powder, in the Chicago area. He gave away chewing gum as a gift with every purchase. When he noticed his gum was more popular than the baking powder, he switched products. In the early 1900s, Wrigley was the first to advertise gum on billboards and in magazines. His motto was TELL 'EM QUICK AND TELL 'EM OFTEN. When the telephone became popular, he sent a free pack of gum to every subscriber. By 1910, his advertising was paying off--Wrigley's Spearmint was the top-selling gum in the United States. (27)

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

And in the end...

I have recently been pondering the types of endings there are. Strange pastime, perhaps, but it is the time of year for season finales, series finales, and the like. And whether you're talking tv shows, movies, books, or plays, there are some similarities when it comes to types of endings.

Scenario one: everyone is happy, and usually everything is resolved.
Scenario two: some are happy; some are unhappy. But there is usually a bit of hope in the air for some characters, some situations.
Scenario three: everyone is unhappy. In fact, "unhappy" is too cheerful a word sometimes. Despair is resonating all around.

While I have often said that I don't require happy endings in books, I sometimes doubt my own expectations. I have determined that what matters most--either in happy or unhappy endings--isn't that initial emotion of joy or heartache--it is the presence or absence of hope. Scarlett was in despair, but she took a moment...found some hope...and found the strength to smile again. To make a plan. It isn't the unhappiness of an ending that depresses me or angers me, it's the finality of despair. The absence of hope. The rigid certainty that things will be no better a week from now, a year from now, ten years from now. A character can lose the love of his or her life. They could have suffered the loss of a friend or family member. They could have been diagnosed with a horrible disease. But it is how they face these situations that matters. Life isn't always happy. But to live without hope is beyond tragic. I may not need happily ever after to be satisfied with a story. But I do need hope. I need my characters to have the inner strength to face whatever is going wrong in their lives with the belief that one day it will be better.

What do you want in an ending? What satisfies you? What frustrates you?

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Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria


Hicks, Kyra E. 2007. Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria. Illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi.

Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria is the picture book biography of Martha Ann Ricks. Born into slavery, Martha Ann's life seemed predetermined. Not many slaves could expect freedom in their lifetime. It seemed that if you were born a slave, you would die a slave. But Martha Ann's father, who was a free man, was equally determined to buy his family's freedom. The news that excites this family the most is that of an American Colonization Society who helps slaves make a new start in Liberia. Even with that hope--or promise--to help them through the hard times, they know it won't be easy. But determination and hardwork prevails. When Martha Ann is twelve, her father is finally able to buy his family out of slavery for $2, 400. The family begins their journey to Liberia in 1830. Martha Ann's favorite thing about her new home--other than the freedom itself--is her opportunity to learn in a real classroom. Life isn't always easy, but Martha Ann learns to persevere and stay strong. In good times and bad, she learns to stay focused, stay strong, stay true to herself. As the title clearly states, this book is about Martha Ann's creation of a quilt in honor of Queen Victoria. Martha Ann wanted to show her appreciation of freedom to the queen--a queen whose navy protects the shores preventing slave slips from trying to recapture these Africans. She not only wants to make this quilt, she wants to present the quilt to the queen herself. Saving the money for the trip won't be easy, but Martha Ann is used to hardwork. Can determination see her through another impossible dream?

Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria is about a girl (and woman) who dreams big--whether she is dreaming of freedom, of education, or a chance to visit the queen--her heart and mind know no limits. She can do anything she wants because of her inner strength and determination. It is an enjoyable book that tells an important story.

Another review of Martha Ann's Quilt

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Baptism


Moses, Shelia P. 2007. The Baptism.

Narrated by Leon Curry, the 'devilish' twin, The Baptism is the story of one week in the life of an unforgettable family. Leon and Luke are twins that have recently celebrated their twelfth family--and their mother won't rest until she sees her boys safely baptized at their local church. That means one week to learn to be good OR one week to get all the sinning over with....depending on your perspective of course. Leon likes to sin. He doesn't hide that fact. And he doesn't have much use for church or saints. But what he fears more than God's wrath is his mama's switch. Now don't get me wrong, we twins don't do any major, major sinning like stealing. Just stuff Ma would take our skin off for if she ever knew about it. We lie when we need to. That's a sin. We take stuff like an extra cookie out of the jar if we want to. That's a sin. We beat up kids because they white. That's a sin. But the biggest sin that we do is to our big brother, Joe. (8-9) If I have to get saved, I am going to do wrong as long as I can. (21) Told with lots of style, The Baptism is an enjoyable read. My favorite part of the story, I must admit, is when the tornado is coming and Leon's mother still wants to punish him: Then Ma looks up at me and I know that I'm in trouble. "Now, Leon, you the oldest and I told you to stay at Miss Sarah's house if you saw a storm coming. Get three branches, boy." "Ma, it's raining and a tornado out there." "I don't care, get the branches." (70-71)

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Lost It


Tracy, Kristen. 2007. Lost It.

The best thing about Lost It, a new release from Simon Pulse's paperback collection, is the narrative style. Tess Whistle's voice is funny, quirky, and one-of-a kind. While there are many young adult books about first loves and heartaches, not many feature heroines who have best friends that threaten to blow up poodles or have parents that go away 'to find themselves' in Utah at some weird hippie-like six-week seminar, or a grandmother who openly discusses sex and lingerie. So in some ways, Lost It is a complete original. Tess is a junior in high school. Ben, her love interest, comes into her life when she embarrassingly drops a can/bottle of apple juice on his head. Even though he's a senior, she has a top locker--he has a bottom locker. To cover up her embarrassment, she tells a little white lie that will come to haunt her: she's a diabetic with low blood sugar. Embarrassed to be so clumsy. Embarrassed to be drinking a 'babyish' drink. The problem with the lie is that she can't get out of it--she doesn't quite know her. He starts to talk to her. He starts to like her. How can she tell him that their first conversation was a complete lie? So he's always 'helping' her keep track of what she eats...reminding her to take care of herself...and she keeps letting him believe the lie. She doesn't think there is any harm in it. After all, she didn't plan on telling the lie. She didn't use it as an odd flirtatious move. It wasn't a scheme to win his heart. It just slipped out. But their relationship doesn't always go so smoothly. It seems that one of them is always playing hard to get. She wants him most when he is pushing her away, and vice versa. In fact, once Tess realizes that the key to keeping him is to play at disinterest, she begins to be untrue to herself in more way than one. Her life becomes focused on Ben...on keeping him interested...keeping him happy...keeping him focused, and less on being herself....loving herself. So in a way, her relationship that began with a lie, is filled with lies of one kind or another.

The book is enjoyable, but it has a few minor flaws as well. Flaws that make me wonder whether any human reads it--really reads it--before it is published. (The use of 'leaned' instead of 'learned', 'kidnaped' instead of 'kidnapped', and the oddest one of all, 'grocery story' instead of 'grocery store'. (61, 161, 177)

http://www.kristentracy.com/

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Faerie Path


Jones, Frewin. 2007. The Faerie Path.

Anita thinks she is an average teenage girl. She's fifteen-almost-sixteen, and she's fallen in love for the first time. Her boyfriend, Evan, is amazing. They fell for each other because they were cast as Romeo and Juliet in the school play. But on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, something big happens that changes everything. It all starts with a boat accident. It ends with several missing teenagers that disappeared from the hospital. In between, there are some fairly odd incidents. Anita wakes up to find her boyfriend, Evan, is in a 'deep sleep' but is perfectly fine physically. Her 'mysterious' birthday present is an antique-looking blank book whose pages suddenly beginning filling with text. Not just any text, poetry. Poetry that tells the story of a a literal faerie princess, Tania. Then the 'dreams' start. It's normal to dream your flying now and then, but how many teens dream that they are sprouting wings from their back that are tearing through their hospital gowns before taking off in flight? Yet, Anita can't get rid of the feeling that this particular dream was true. And this is just the beginning of Anita's madness, and Tania's rebirth.

Tania is the daughter of Oberon and Titania (from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream). She mysteriously disappeared on the eve of her wedding. Now, five hundred years later...she's back. She doesn't have her memory. But she's back. The very image of her mother, she is back in faerie land...and very confused.

Can this young sixteen year old girl find her real identity? Who does she want to be? Does she want to be an immortal faerie living in a magical kingdom? Or does she wish to go back to high school and be a 'normal' teen with lots of angst?

Full of love, deceit, betrayal, confusion, miscommunication, uncertainty, and hope, The Faerie Path is an exciting read. There will be a sequel, The Lost Queen.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Miner's Daughter


Laskas, Gretchen Moran. 2007. The Miner's Daughter.

Set in 1933 and 1934, The Miner's Daughter is the coming-of-age story of one sixteen-year-old girl, Willa Laura Lowell. As the oldest daughter in an ever-expanding family, she shoulders a lot of the responsibility of taking care of the family and the house. With the Depression going on, it is even more difficult to make ends meet in this mining town. Now the mines are closing--for who knows how long--and the family doesn't quite know what to do to survive. While her father and older brother head off to look for work, it is up to Willa to provide a stable family for her younger siblings. Fortunately, help from an unexpected place is about to arrive. Miss Grace McCartney, a 'missionary' of sorts arrive in town. With a building full of books and a big heart, Grace is there to help this small town survive. Willa finds an unexpected friend who nourishes her thirst for books--especially poetry books--and a woman who knows how to provide a helping hand without being condescending. She is there to teach Willa to dream big. But Miss Grace is keeping a secret of her own....a secret that could be the family's key to surviving these hard times. It is a tale of poverty, love, growing up, and growing wise.

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Carnival, Texas Humor, and Sandwiches

Don't miss the fourteenth carnival of children's literature at ChickenSpaghetti. The theme is fiesta...the setting...Texas.

U R A Texan If:

1. You can properly pronounce Corsicana, Palestine, Decatur, Wichita Falls, San Antonio, Burnet, Boerne, Nacogdoches, Mexia, Waco, Amarillo , and Waxahachie.

2. A tornado warning siren is your signal to go out in the yard and look for a funnel.

3. You've ever had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

4. You know that the true value of a parking space is not determined by the distance to the door, but by the availability of shade.

5. Stores don't have bags, they have sacks.

6. You see people wear bib overalls at funerals.

7. You measure distance in minutes.

8. Little Smokies are something you serve only for special occasions.

9. You go to the lake because you think it is like going to the ocean.

10. You listen to the weather forecast before picking out an outfit

11. You know cow-pies are not made of beef.

12. Someone you know has used a football schedule to plan their wedding date.

13. You have known someone who has had a belt buckle bigger than your fist.

14. You aren't surprised to find movie rental, ammunition, and bait all in the same store.

15. Your "place at the lake" has wheels under it.

16. A Mercedes Benz is not a status symbol; a Ford F350 4x4 is.

17. You know everything goes better with Ranch dressin'.

18. You learned how to shoot a gun before you learned how to multiply.

19. You actually understand this and you are "fixin' to" send it to your friends.

20. Finally, you are 100% Texan if you have ever heard this conversation:
"You wanna coke?" "Yeah."
"What kind?" "Dr. Pepper!"

You Are a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

You live your life in a free form, artistic style.
You are incredibly creative and at times, quite messy.
Deep down, you are a kid at heart. And you aren't afraid to express it.

Your best friend: The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Club Sandwich

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Attack of the Turtle


Carlson, Drew. 2007. Attack of the Turtle.

Last year, I read a nonfiction book about the invention of the first submarine, the American Turtle. (Bushnell's Submarine by Arthur Lefkowitz) ATTACK OF THE TURTLE is a fictionalized account of the invention and launch of the first submarine. David Bushnell, the inventor, comes to town and his brother and cousin (invented, fictionalized cousin) are there to help him every step of the way. Blending history with fine storytelling, ATTACK OF THE TURTLE is a fine story of a young man's coming of age. Nathan Wade, though tall for his fourteen years, has many fears. He's afraid of the local bully. He's afraid of the water. It's not that he lacks the ability to excel, he just lacks confidence in his ability. He thinks he's not good at farming. He thinks he's not good at fishing. He thinks that he'll never find a place where he fits in. And then the war starts. He thinks that there is nothing he can do. He's too afraid to fight--and too young. He feels lost and confused. His father is fighting in the army. His cousins are preparing to fight. Every day more men are joining the army and preparing to fight for what they believe in. Yet he's scared that he'll be picked on by a few local boys? It just doesn't seem fight. Then he decides to fight a war of his own--a war against fear. Can Nathan learn about real courage? Can he make a real difference in his own way?

Attack of the Turtle is historical fiction at his best: a blending of everyday struggles that everyone can understand, and some important 'historical' events.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

More, More, More

"Most Wanted Books of 2007" Picture Books Edition


Mo Willems's Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity will be released September 18, 2007. The publisher is Disney Children's Books (Hyperion). Her Daddy in tow, Trixie hurries off to school to show off her one-of-a-kind Knuffle Bunny to her classmates; but an awful surprise awaits her: someone else has the exact same bunny! Thus begins an exciting, frustrating, and ultimately revelatory twenty-four hours of squabbling, teacher-enforced bunny “time-outs,” bedtime realizations, late-night phone calls, and a special middle-of-the-night encounter.

Anna Dewdney's Llama Llama Mad at Mama will be published September 6, 2007. The publisher is Penguin Group USA (Viking Juvenile). For those of you who know me, you know how excited the thought of a sequel to Llama Llama Red Pajama makes me!!!

Yucky music, great big feet.

Ladies smelling way too sweet.

Look at knees and stand in line.

Llama Llama starts to whine.

<> Does any child like to go shopping? Not Llama Llama! But Mama can’t leave Llama at home, so off they go to Shop-O-Rama. Lots of aisles. Long lines. Mama is too busy to notice that Llama Llama is getting m-a-d! And before he knows it, he’s having a full-out tantrum! Mama quickly calms him down, but she also realizes that they need to make shopping more fun for both of them. Parents and children are sure to recognize themselves in this fun-to-read follow-up to the popular Llama Llama Red Pajama.

Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola: Say Cheese! will be published September 20, 2007. The publisher is Penguin Group USA (Dial). Lola has promised her mother that she will stay clean and tidy for school picture day. “It will be easy peasy, lemon squeezy!” says Lola. But staying clean and tidy is not so easy, especially when there is finger painting to do and a game of puddles to play. By the time Lola poses for her picture, she is covered in paint and pink milk, and her extremely special photograph for Mom is ruined. But then Charlie has an idea that just might save the day.

Other Lauren Child titles coming up this year include: Can You Maybe Turn the Light On (June 14, 2007), I Completely Must Do Drawing Now and Painting and Coloring (June 14, 2007), I'm Really Ever So Not Well (June 14, 2007), Sizzles is Completely Not Here (June 14, 2007), This Is Actually My Party (October 18, 2007), and Boo! Made You Jump (August 16, 2007).

Polly Dunbar's Penguin will be published June 12, 2007. The publisher is Candlewick. A quirky new tale from a rising talent — in which a bossy little boy receives a surprising comeuppance.When Ben rips open his present, he finds a penguin inside. "Hello, Penguin!" he says. "What shall we play?" But Penguin says nothing. Even when Ben tickles its belly, sings a funny song, does a dizzy dance, stands on his head, sticks out his tongue, and resorts to increasingly rude and drastic measures, Penguin makes no response. What will it take for Penguin to say something — or for Ben to understand what Penguin has to say? Fresh, spare illustrations bring whimsy to this wonderful tale, in which a silent Penguin turns marvelously eloquent and a little boy finally gets his heart’s desire.

Mem Fox's Where the Giant Sleeps will be published October 1, 2007. The publisher is Harcourt. Do ogres snore? Do pirates have blankies? Do fairies suck their thumbs? We may never know the answers to these questions. But if we're lucky--and very observant--we might be able to catch a glimpse of some fantastic creatures, all fast asleep. In soothing rhyme, bestselling author Mem Fox explores the sleeping habits of our favorite inhabitants from the world of fairy tales. Vladimir Radunsky fills a dreamy, picturesque landscape with surprising and fun details. Fairies, wizards, goblins, and even children all find peace under the same bright moon.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal's The OK Book was published May 1, 2007. The publisher is HarperCollins.

Kevin Henkes' A Good Day was published March 1, 2007. The publisher is HarperCollins.

More to come...as I find them :)

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How Rare is Your Personality?

Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ISFP)

Your personality type is caring, peaceful, artistic, and calm.

Only about 7% of all people have your personality, including 8% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving.

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Just Ella


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 1999. Just Ella.

Ella Brown is not your typical fifteen year old. Raised by her stepmother after her father’s death, she’s had to put up with a lot from her stepmother and stepsisters. Becoming almost a servant in her own house, Ella determines to decide her own destiny. But little did she know when she gambled with the glassblower that her glass slippers would end up placing her inside another prison cell--albeit a luxurious and grand one. You see, Prince Charming ‘fell’ for Ella and swept her off her feet. Now she’s living in the palace and taking lessons on how to be a charming, graceful princess. The problem? She barely sees her ‘Charm’ at all. When she does see him there is just an awkward silence. She can’t stand all of the tutors who are instructing whose main job is to turn her into a completely different person. It seems not only her habits need changing...but her personality as well. She’s too forward. Too outspoken. Too opinionated. Too everything it seems. And then there is her youngest tutor, Jed. They talk, laugh, and have fun together. Too bad ‘Charm’ can’t be more relaxed. But weeks away from the wedding she makes a startling discovery. She doesn’t love Prince Charming. She doesn’t even know Prince Charming. All he ever says is ‘you look beautiful today’ or ‘you’re the most beautiful girl in the kingdom.’ He never compliments her on anything but her outer appearance. He is boring and above all else he’s too obedient. He never seems to make his own decisions or think of anything original to do or say. How could she possibly have thought he was ‘perfect’ for her? Now Ella is determined to escape her new prison...and return to reality.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Fairest


Levine, Gail Carson. 2006. Fairest.

Set in or near the same land as Ella Enchanted, Fairest is a revisioning of the classic fairy tale Snow White with some major differences. Aza is a young girl, perhaps an orphan or perhaps just an abandoned infant, left at the doorstep of an inn while she’s a baby. Her adoptive parents know nothing of her origins other than the fact that her blanket or clothing looked expensive or well-made. An ugly child, Aza outshines her brothers and sisters when it comes to singing. Fortunately, singing is one of the most important activities in the land. Well-loved, Aza is happy for the most part. Among friends and family, her appearance doesn’t matter. But some strangers at the inn make her feel embarassed and unworthy. Aza’s good fortune, however, is to befriend a duchess. It is her role as a duchess’ maid or companion that brings Aza to the castle for a royal wedding. The king of the land is marrying a much younger woman. Already in his forties or fifties, some are shocked that so young a bride--probably nineteen or twenty--is willing to leave her country and move to a foreign land. More shocking by far is the fact that this bride is a commoner. No one has seen her or heard her. Is she beautiful? And more importantly can she sing? Although she doesn’t know it, Aza’s fate is entwined with the new Queen. Will her adventure among the wealthy and elite and royal be something to treasure or regret?

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pucker



Gideon, Melanie. 2006. Pucker.

When the back of a book is endorsed with a quote from Scott Westerfeld, there is a very good chance I’m going to take it home with me. Chances are, I might have been inclined to pick it up anyway since I devour anything new at the library that says “2006.” But the endorsement from Westerfeld only helped it. Pucker resonates with vital truths about how we challenge our own fate, reshape our own past, and--sometimes--find our own way home. An intense and compelling fable, beautifully told.

There are so many great things going for this book. The book had me at hello with this first paragraph:

Let me say this right up front: this is not a story about kissing, or wrinkles, or things that are sour. It’s a story about redemption. I suppose all stories are, and if they’re not, well, then they should be. For what else do we have in the end--but hope? (1).

Thomas Quicksilver is not your average teen boy. He shoulders adult responsibilities in caring for his mother. He was the victim of a fire which left his face scarred and damaged. Teased and called “Pucker” he has few friends and no experience with the opposite sex. He’s resigned himself to this. Accepted his fate such as it is. But things are about to change when his mother surprises him with an unusual command: “If I’m to live, you’ve got to go back to Isaura and find my skin.” Yes, average teenage boys aren’t from alternate realities (with hidden portals to earth) where parents or adults have second skins with special powers. Thomas is special in more ways than one.

I won’t bother explaining the different worlds and where and how they’re connected. I will say this...returning to Isaura will be the biggest adventure and biggest tempation he has ever had to face. You see, in Isaura he’ll be healed. His face, his scars, his appearance--everything that makes him the subject of teasing--will be erased. He’ll be beautiful. He’ll be perfect. A dream come true. But he’ll have to go there knowing that this isn’t permanent. Knowing that he has to return to Earth to save his mother. Returning to his former apperance after having tasted what life could have been like. Can he do it? Is he strong enough? Does he have the will power to resist his own desires?

http://www.melaniegideon.com/pucker.htm

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Listening to the Walls


Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.

It’s hard to describe Fahrenheit 451. It was a great book. A powerful book. One that is haunting almost. One whose characters and whose world stays with you long after you close the book. Montag, our hero, is a firefighter. His job is to burn houses and books. Books are illegal. Reading is deemed too dangerous. Those who hold onto the past must be destroyed along with these ‘ancient’ relics of books that are said to be ever-contradictory. Montag, it seems, has always gone along with the flow. Always accepted the status quo. Always accepted that this was his job. That this was what firemen did. But then, after a chance encounter with a seventeen-year-old neighbor, a girl named Clarisse, he begins to question everything in his life. Was it true that firemen used to put out fires? That they used to try to save instead of destroy? That they used to save lives instead of destroying them? Are books really that dangerous? Are ideas really that threatening?
Once he begins to question his life, his world, things will never be the same. Even after Clarisse's mysterious disappearance--and apparent death--he can’t stop thinking about her. About her odd lifestyle. About how she and her family would sit around and talk on the front porch. How they thought that talking and thinking were more important that listening to the walls. Or wasting your life away by plugging into whatever entertainment was being thrown at you at the time. About how she liked to go for walks. How she liked to think. Liked to ask questions.
Underneath the surface of Montag, there is apparently a rebel. He has been secretly collecting books and hiding them in the walls of his house. The clues are all there--his boss’ suspicions are right in front of him--yet he seems oblivious to the danger. His books have become so precious to him that he almost would rather choose them than life. Almost. He’s not crazy. He knows that eventually they will have to be burned. He knows that each day brings greater risk, greater danger. But he wants to read. Wants to absorb as much as he possibly can. It is not easy for him to do. There have been generations of people trained NOT to read books. Trained not to think. Trained not to learn or question. But his greatest possession is a copy of the Bible--both testaments.
Full of danger, suspense, adventure, Fahrenheit 451 is an exciting, scary read. A depiction of a society where the people have been brainwashed to focus on themselves. Brainwashed to think only of fun, fun, fun. Brainwashed to forget poverty, hunger, and war. Brainwashed to forget the darker sorrows of life and told to think only of good things, happy things, fun things. Reading is too dangerous in such a ‘perfect’ world. Reading leads to thinking. And thinking leads to....a realm of possibilities really.

’It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’

From Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, p. 109-110

The whole culture’s shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping. Good God, it isn’t as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it’s a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels anymore.

From Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, p. 115

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ruby Oliver


Lockhart, E. 2005. The Boyfriend List.

This past week, among my lighter reading, I have read The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart and its sequel, The Boy Book. Both books were great fun, I must admit. They reminded me, in a lot of ways, of the Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison. (For the record, I love Georgia! So it is meant as a compliment.) The books are full of plenty of drama. Drama over friendships. Drama over boys. Drama over gossip and lost reputations. The books, in some ways, focus on the chaotic and ever-changing world of social hierarchies in high school. Ruby Oliver is a girl who seems to have it pretty good. She's relatively popular--far from being an outcast or loner. She's got a boyfriend. She's got three best friends. But then within a one-week period, everything flip flops. Her best friend, Kim, steals her ex-boyfriend, Jackson. They had only been broken up two or three days. (So you KNOW there is bound to have been suspicious activity beforehand leading to the break up.) Crushed that she has been rejected by both her boyfriend and her former best friend--who essentially tells her that she wasn't any good for Jackson and that she was "the one" for him. What's worse than losing your boyfriend and your best friend? Losing the rest of your friends too. Nora and Cricket take Kim's side. They choose the boyfriend-stealer! (What were they thinking???) And then when Ruby 'accidentally' kisses her ex at a school dance, she's branded as the slut. Never mind that six or seven days before, these two were an established item. They had been going out for six months! Kim has him for two or three days, and he's suddenly branded lawfully hers??? With a slashed reputation, few remaining friends, and no pride...it's no surprise that Ruby finds herself having panic attacks and needing to go to a shrink. (Her term, not mine.) Can Dr. Z help Ruby through her many dramatic issues?


Lockhart, E. 2006. The Boy Book.

The Boy Book, the sequel, begins the next school year. Ruby and former friends are now juniors in high school. Ruby has begun to patch things up with one of her friends, Nora, but the others remain angry, bitter, and vengeful. Jackson is as mysterious as ever. One minute he'll be passing Ruby notes pretending they're still friends. He'll be inviting her to a party on the weekend. Ruby is very confused by the mixed messages. Why is Jackson suddenly remembering she exists now months after their break up? Is it because Kim is out of the country for the semester? Possibly. Is it because he's a dumb boy? More likely. Especially since she sees him with his arms around another girl. So it's not that he's after her...he's after any girl he can get. Which is a relief in a way in Ruby's opinion. It's not about her. It's never been about her. That is HIS pattern. He cheats on his girlfriends. This book is all about Ruby discovering her true self. Realizing her patterns. Realizing how her choices effect her and those around her. There is still a lot of drama about boys and friends and gossip. Overall, it is good fun.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Evil Genius


Jinks, Catherine. 2007. Evil Genius.

Cadel Piggott is a genius. There’s no denying it. But that doesn’t always mean he makes smart decisions. The reader first meets the hero, Cadel, when he is seven years old. Already placed several grades ahead, he is a genius when it comes to everything but people. Alone. Isolated. Cadel rarely makes the effort to make friends. After all, his classmates have always been older than him. Significantly older than him. But luckily, Cadel has one person in the world he can talk to. One person who understands him. That person is Dr. Thaddeus Roth. This “counselor” who helps troubled youth takes a special interest in Cadel. But all isn’t what it seems as the story unfolds. Secrets. Lies. Half-truths. Plots. Schemes. Manipulations. Betrayals. Cadel isn’t always a likable hero, but his story is full of one adventure after another.

Read the rest of my review in May's issue of The Edge of the Forest. Also of note: I made the 'best of the blogs' section as well!

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How To Save Your Tail


Hanson, Mary. 2007. How To Save Your Tail: If You Are A Rat Nabbed By Cats Who Really Like Stories About Magic Spoons, Wolves with Snout-Warts, Big, Hairy Chimney Trolls...and Cookies Too.

Do you like fractured fairy tales? Do you love new retellings of old favorites? Do you like Arnold Lobel’s Mouse Soup? How To Save Your Tail might be the book for you. It had me from the very beginning: “Once upon a time, in a grand castle, there lived a rat named Bob, who was fond of baking and wild about reading” (1). While baking has obvious hazards, it is his love of books which leads Bob into the most dangerous experience of his life.

Read the rest of my review in May's issue of THE EDGE OF THE FOREST. (Middle grade Fiction).

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New Quizzes


Your Score: Tri-Lamb Material


82 % Nerd, 47% Geek, 56% Dork




For The Record:



A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.



You scored better than half in Nerd and Dork, earning you the coveted title of: Tri-Lamb Material.



The classic, "80's" nerd, you are what most people think of when they
think "nerd," largely due to 80's movies like Revenge of the Nerds and
TV shows like Head of the Class. You're exceptionally bright and smart,
and partly because of that have never quite fit in with your peers or
social groups. Perhaps you've realized, or will someday, that it is
possible to retain all of the things that you like about being
brilliant and still make peace with the social cliques around you. Or
maybe you won't--it's really not necessary. As the brothers of Lambda
Lambda Lambda discovered, you're fine just the way you are and can take
pride in that. I mean, who wants to be like Ogre, right!?



Congratulations!
Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST




Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

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Duchessina



Meyer, Carolyn. 2007. Duchessina: A Novel of Catherine de' Medici.

Duchessina is told in first person narrative. This gives the reader an insider-look at being royal...both its ups and downs. As a child, Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de' Medici, aka Duchessina, was orphaned. Being royal, she was raised in great style by relatives--sometimes distant relatives--who loved money more than people. She was often lonely as a child. And often unhappy. She found some friends. But she also learned with each passing year, that her family had many enemies. That being royal could be dangerous. Could be life-threatening. Having a pope for a relation was equally dangerous. She learned that most of the people around her were obsessed with power and crazed for money. Her life was in danger more than once, as rebellions started across Italy. She was 'imprisoned' for her own well being in several monasteries through the years. Depending on which monastery she was living, she found the nuns and other children treated her either kindly or with scorn. Many hated her because of her wealth. Many hated her because of her name. Many hated her for who she represented. She was always viewed as a pawn in a powerful game. Unable to make her own decisions or guide her own fate, she simply reacted to her latest set of circumstances. Sometimes she was dressed in style and living the luxurious life, but other times she was living as a pauper. She faced hunger. She faced poverty. She faced danger. Through the years, she most wondered who she would marry one day. Would he be royal? Would he be noble? Would he be rich? Would he be Italian? French? Would he love her? Or would he treat her as a possession like all of her guardians? Would she ever be loved or appreciated for who she really was? Or would she always be seen as someone representing generations of money and power...and corruption?

It is hard to describe Duchessina. The book, not the person. It covers a wide span of time. Telling the story of her birth, her childhood, her marriage, the birth of her children, and the death of her husband. It is not always easy for YA books to do this successfully. I'll be completely honest here. Duchessina fascinated me. I was drawn into the story. I wanted to know what happened. I cared about what happened. However, I am an adult reader. An adult reader with an obsession for all things Carolyn Meyer. An adult reader with a passion for history. An adult reader with a love of biographies. So while I loved Duchessina, and can happily recommend it to like minded individuals--and I know many--who can't get enough of history, I'm not sure if the typical teenager will be as enthralled with the tale of Duchessina. I certainly read historical fiction as a teen. But it's hard to analyze what teens are reading...and what they might like. It's not really my place to predict though, fortunately.

The book will be released in June 2007.

http://www.readcarolyn.com/
http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/catherine_de_medici.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_de_Medici

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie


Lubar, David. 2005. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie.

Looking for a practically perfect narrator? You may just find it in Scott Hudson. Scott is a thoroughly likeable character. Starting his freshmen year in high school is a little unnerving to Scott. He’s unsure of how exactly he’ll fit in. Oh, he knows he won’t be a popular kid by any means. But he wants...almost above all else...is to get the girl of his dreams to notice him. Watching Scott chase Julia can be fun. When he thinks she’s on the newspaper staff, guess who volunteers? When he thinks she’s going to be class president, guess who runs for student council. When he thinks she’s going to be in the school play, guess who tries out? Scott’s problem, Julia didn’t make any of those activities. So now he’s on the school paper, a sports columnist ; he’s elected to the student council as one of three freshmen representatives; he’s placed on the stage crew of the production of Tale of Two Cities. As his schedule becomes even more chaotic, he starts to realize that maybe just maybe there are other girls out there worth noticing. Girls without boyfriends on the football team.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie is a funny book. It chronicles Scott’s life from the first day of school to the last. It chronicles his love life (or lack thereof), his friendships, and his homelife. For example, Scott finds out at the beginning ot the school year that his parents are having another baby. No longer will he be the ‘baby’ of the family. A new one is on the way, and already things are changing. The most enjoyable parts of the book, at least for me, are the letters he writes to his still unborn sibling. Advice on life, girls, school, etc.

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The Reading Mother

THE READING MOTHER

Strickland Gillilan

I HAD A MOTHER who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Two new reviews

I have begun reviewing Christian books on my website Becky's Christian Reviews.

Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh

and

In Honor Bound by DeAnna Julie Dodson

The first book, Stealing Adda, is a contemporary romance. The second book, In Honor Bound, was a historical romance. Both are excellent books.

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Blue Noon


Westerfeld, Scott. 2005. Midnighters 3: Blue Noon.
The five midnighters are in more danger than ever before. The new threat--besides Rex new struggle for his human-half to remain in control--is that blue time is becoming unpredictable. As far as the lore goes back, the blue time has occurred at midnight. It has been the 25th hour of each day. But now, blue time has been coming and going at random. It’s still at midnight. But now it’s showing up during the daylight hours. Like at the pep rally. These strange events are VERY life-threatening not just for the five midnighters but for the whole world. The five discover that the rip separating the darkling world from the ‘real’ world is becoming larger. Soon ‘the blue time’ will be larger than ever before...and humans everywhere will be in danger of being darkling food. Humans will no longer be at the top of the food chain if the darklings have their way. This Halloween will be nothing but ordinary. This is Dooms Day. The team must find a way to stop the darklings before life as they know it is destroyed forever. Can they work together as a team to save the world? How many lives will be lost because they can’t be everywhere at once? How much sacrifice will be required? And who will pay the ultimate price?

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Authors and Publishers

Are you an author or publisher? Do you write books geared towards kids, tweens, or teens? You might consider submitting your book(s) to me to review. I am always happy to receive ARCs or review copies of new and forthcoming books. (I am most interested in 2007 books, but I'd be happy to review books published earlier as well 2004, 2005, 2006, etc). I read in many different genres and appreciate many different styles. I believe in reading widely, and I rarely judge books by their covers.

You can contact me to find out more:

Gmail account
Yahoo account

Further reasons you should consider submitting books to me to review:
a) I review books for Deliciously Clean Reads, and if you're book passes their test of "clean" then that will be TWO places your review will be featured.
b) My reviews are also featured (listed) on the Children's Book Review Index site.
c) I participate in Texas Woman's University's Librarians Choices project. We select the 100 best titles of the year. These books are chosen BY participants. So by making me familiar with your work, I am able to pass along my recommendations and suggestions to the group.

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Reality Leak


Sensel, Joni. 2007. Reality Leak. With illustrations by Christian Slade.

Bryan Zilcher always thought he was quite an ordinary boy living in an ordinary town, South Wiggot, until one day he saw something quite unordinary happen right in front of his LemonMoo stand. "People did not usually travel down Route 64 stuffed inside wooden crates. Yet here was a crate, a big one, squatting atop the road's dotted line, and somebody odd was about to climb out" (1). Bryan is the only one to witness the arrival of Mr. Keen, the man who arrived in a crate bearing the label: WARNING DO NOT LICK. Yes, Bryan knows that something strange is going on...if only he could figure out what or who this stranger is. "Bryan heard the snick of some invisible latch. Without even a creak, the lid swung open wide. Bryan had nearly jumped out of his sandals. Now, from a few yards away, he watched first an arm and then a long, spindly leg crook over the crate's open edge. Slick as scissors, a man clambered out. His white suit and shoes made Bryan think of a preacher or perhaps Colonel Sanders, the fried chicken king. The shiny, gold object he had in his hand was no drumstick, though. It could have been a small flashlight, except one end tapered to a sharp, curly point like the tail of a mechanical pig. The device reminded Bryan of something unpleasant a dentist might use. He shivered despite the July heat. The tall man looked directly at him. For an instant, Bryan could have sworn that tiny green spirals twirled in the man's eyeballs. Then those eyes blinked and the spirals vanished. The stranger's eyes were simply an odd green." (2-4) Mr. Keen is a mystery or riddle waiting to be solved. Luckily, Bryan is an eleven year old boy who loves to do just that. Keeping his own secret files--with his own unique filing system--Bryan starts his new summer project: figure out the mysterious new stranger, Mr. Keen, and find out the secret behind the new business, ACME. Is this new stranger friend or foe? Bryan knows the man is keeping secrets...he just doesn't know how dangerous those secrets are.

Unique characters, unique plot. Reality Leak is full of one imaginative adventure after another. It is an enjoyable read.

http://www.jonisensel.com/realityleak.html

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