Saturday, June 30, 2007

Happy Birthday, Lally Dolly

by Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o'war.
I'd rather play at hug o'war.
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Playing Cupid

Lauren Holbrook is a twenty-something who is content with her life. She’s got a best friend, Brandon, who loves her in spite of her quirks. She has a fun job as a photographer. She has an addiction to chocolate and coffee that can’t be matched. She is happy living at home with her dad. Quite satisfied to leave all the love and romance to other people. Not that she’s not interested in watching romance. She can quote Pride and Prejudice and Emma and countless other movies almost verbatim. No, what Lauren is most interested in is matchmaking. She sees perfect couples right and left. She thinks she has quite a knack at playing Cupid. But as Lauren finds out, sometimes God has other ideas. And romance isn’t quite as predictable as it seems.

Read the rest of my review here.

Poetry Friday: Crib Critters

From Dawn to Dreams: Poems for Busy Babies by Peggy Archer, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

Crib Critters

Out of the crib
Teddy drops,
Doggy plops,
Lion falls,
Monkey crawls,
Dolly flips,
Elephant slips,
Kitty flies--
I stop and cry,
and when
Daddy picks them up
and then
leaves the room--
once again
Teddy drops . . .

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Summer Reading Thing????

Yes, I have found another challenge. I don't even want to think about how many challenges that makes me a participant of. But I'm addicted. I can't help it. I see a Mr. Linky sign up page, and I feel compelled to join. It's just so much fun to be part of a community.

So who is hosting the Summer Reading Thing? Inksplasher. You can read the rules and see Mr. Linky for yourself here.
It lasts from June 22, 2007 to September 22, 2007. I'd be happy for some company if you want to join in as well.

I am going to do something a bit unprecedented in making my list:

On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History through the Spirituals by Nikki Giovanni

These are the questions: How did the enslaved Africans live through the brutal period of the Middle Passage--that frightening time of capture, forced march to the African west coast, being put down in places like Cape Coast Castleor Goree Island (like so many cows or horses or any number of life forces human beings pen up)--and come to this newly invented nation sane? (1)

Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During WW II by Tonya Bolden

What is swing? "This is indeed the $64 question of popular music," bopped Bill Treadwell in the opener of his 1946 not-so-big Big Book of Swing. "Finding a hen's tooth...or rolling a peanut up Pike's Peak with your nose--these are all child's play compared to getting a definition of the most debated word in jazz that will make everybody happy." (1)

Enter Three Witches: A Story of Macbeth by Caroline B. Cooney

In the courtyard, soldiers gathered for war, but in the kitchen they were talking of witches. The kitchen staff did not care about kings and their wars.

Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin

My name's Stan, so right there I was more or less doomed from the beginning. You don't think so? Try this: Close your eyes. Clear your mind. Get to a comfortable place. What does the name Stan remind you of? Football star? Lead singer? Private detective? Nope. (2)

Hitler's Canary by Sandi Toksvig

The day the Germans invaded I was asleep on Henry V's throne. It was 1940. I was ten and I was asleep on the throne in the middle of the stage at the Royal Copenhagen theater. I suppose it made it all seem more dramatic. (7)

Converting Kate by Beckie Weinheimer

"Kate?" From where she stands on the back porch, Mom's voice is quieter than the early-morning sounds of chirping birds and scampering squirrels. Still, it pierces through me. Listen children small and tall. Obey your parents. Heed their call. the words of the Sunday School hymn march uninvited through my head. I wish I could just wash my mind, scrub it clean, of all the rules, all the scriptures, and start over. (1)

Salome by Beatrice Gormley

If I'd never hoped to live in a world of goodness and truth--if the priestess of Diana, then Leander, and then Joanna hadn't shown me glimpses of it--maybe I wouldn't have minded being shut out of it. Maybe the preacher's death wouldn't have trapped me in a dungeon, the dungeon of my own self. (1)

Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells

It was my father who found Calvin Trimble's body lying against a stone wall on the Spreckle sisters' land. Pa knew just who it was crumpled up in the hawkweed, still breathing, and somewhere between heaven and earth. (1)

Girl of the Moment by Lizabeth Zindel

This book is my confession of the summer I chose to break all the rules and go after my dreams. Even when it led me inside the backstabbing world of teenage celebrity. I may get in trouble for everything I'm about to tell you, but I can't keep it a secret any longer. (1)

The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Lesley M. M. Blume

"Franny, you throw like a girl," said Sandy with disgust as she expertly tied the end of a water-filled balloon into a knot. "I do not," scowled Franny. "I got Rodney the jail janitor right on the back of the head, and you haven't even hit a single person." (1)

The Society of Super Secret Heroes (SSSh): The Great Cape Rescue by Phyllis Shalant

It was a holiday for most people, but not all. The workers at the fast-food restaurants were still serving burgers and fries. Lifeguards were still guarding swimmers at the town pool. Many busy moms and dads were catching up on household chores. And superheroes were doing their best to save people before the first day of school tomorrow. (3)

Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson

In the history of the world there have been lots of onces and lots of times, and every time has had a once upon it. Most people will tell you that the once upon a time happened in a land far, far away, but it really depends on where you are. The once upon a time may have been just outside your back door. It may have been beneath your very feet. It might not have been in a land at all but deep in the sea's belly or bobbing around on its back. (1)

Why? The War Years by Tomie DePaola

Mom and Dad had a New Year's Eve party last night. Everyone had a good time even though we are at war. Mom let me stay up until midnight. We all stood around the radio waiting for the New Year to be announced. I remembered when our family had listened to the radio together just a few weeks before, when President Roosevelt said that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7. (1-2)

Crazy In Love by Dandi Daley Mackall

Okay, so I do hear voices in my head, but they're all mine. And before you go dialing Psychiatrists-R-Us, consider the fact that I'm going to need all the help I can get just to have a fingers-crossed, fighting chance of getting through today. (1)

Cassie Was Here by Caroline Hickey

"Alaskan husky, Beagle, Collie" I list. "Dachshund, English springer spaniel..." I get stuck on F. I can never think of an F for dogs or cities. For colors I always say fuchsia. I look at Joey. She's smiling triumphantly. I have five seconds to think of an F or she wins. "Fffff," I say. "Time's up," Joey announces. "Foxhound." (1)

Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat

I'm midway from Birzeit to Ramallah, at the Israeli army checkpoint at Surda. No one knows how long our bus will stay here. An army jeep is parked sideways to block the road. Soldiers in another jeep look on with their guns. They are ready to shoot. A barrier that punctures tires stands near the stop sign. I regret that I chose to sit up front. (3)

The Fabled Fourth Graders Of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming

The soon-to-be fourth graders at Aesop Elementary School had a reputation for being--"Precocious," said their former first grade teacher, Ms. Bucky. She ground her teeth. "High-energy," added their second-grade teacher, Mrs. Chen. The muscle beneath her jaw twitched. "Robust," agreed their third-grade teacher, Mr. Frost. He patted his now all-white hair. "Humph!" snorted Bertha Bunz, the lunchroom monitor. "Those kids are just plain naughty." Because she wasn't a teacher, Mrs. Bunz felt free to speak the truth. (1)

Bad Tickets by Kathleen O'Dell

"Admit it, darling. We've got wicked gorgeous legs," Jane says. It's a rare and welcome sunny day. My new best friend, Jane, and I are sitting in the alley behind Rexall Drugs with our socks peeled off, trying to tan ourselves on our lunch break. My legs are freckled and milky and dented with elastic marks from my knee-highs. Jane's legs are in another league completely. (1)

At the Firefly Gate by Linda Newbery

It was the first night away from home. This was supposed to be home now, but it didn't feel like it. Henry stood looking out of his bedroom window into the dusk, at the fields, hedges and trees behind the cottage. (3)

Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull

Sweetheart: I write in haste, and in expectation of being with thee soon after midsummer. I have money enough saved now, and James Martell will shortly give me leave of several weeks so that I may return to Hemsbury and--if thou'rt willing--bring thee back as my wife. (1)
    • Enter Three Witches: A Story of Macbeth by Caroline B. Cooney
    • Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin
    • Hitler's Canary by Sandi Toksvig
    • Converting Kate by Beckie Weinheimer
    • Salome by Beatrice Gormley
    • Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells
    • Girl of the Moment by Lizabeth Zindel
    • The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Lesley M. M. Blume
    • The Society of Super Secret Heroes (SSSh): The Great Cape Rescue by Phyllis Shalant
    • Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson
    • Why? The War Years by Tomie DePaola
    • Crazy In Love by Dandi Daley Mackall
    • Cassie Was Here by Caroline Hickey
    • Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat
    • The Fabled Fourth Graders Of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming
    • Bad Tickets by Kathleen O'Dell
    • At the Firefly Gate by Linda Newbery
    • Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull
    • On My Journey Now by Nikki Giovanni
    • Take-Off by Tonya Bolden

Rockin' Blogger

Thanks so much to Amanda of A Patchwork of Books for nominating me. She said such sweet things about me. And for the record, the feeling is mutual. I love going to her blog and reading it every day. Anyway, it really made my day. It couldn't have come at a better time for me to cheer me up.

Okay, now it's time for me to nominate some people....

1. Emily of Deliciously Clean Reads and Whimsy Books. Her project to offer a resource of clean, family-friendly reads is a blessing to many. And the fact that she is highlighting the positive instead of slamming the negative is commendable.

2. Erin of Miss Erin has always been such a dear. And I really enjoy her postings. The truth is, if I see that she's reviewed a book (and liked it), it makes ME want to read and review it.

3. Kelly of Big A, Little A and The Edge of the Forest. Not to mention the incredible resource that is Children's Book Reviews Index. If she did just one of these three, she'd be worthy of the honor. The fact that she manages to do it all amazes me. She is a great blogger. And a supportive one. I believe she was one of the first to link to me. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Moxy Maxwell

Gifford, Peggy. 2007. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little. Photographs by Valorie Fisher.

Peggy Gifford is brilliant. That is all I have to say about it. Not really. That would be a very short review indeed. But let's just say that I loved, loved, loved Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little. And does my love extend to the incredibly charming and funny photographs? Of course!!! Valorie Fisher is marvelous. Loved, loved, loved those as well. Especially the ones of the messy/clean bedroom. And the mud-splattering ones. Who am I kidding? I loved them all. All I can say, is that in my opinion, Moxy Maxwell is a must read for everyone. I don't care how young or old you are, I think you'll love Moxy Maxwell. She's just that kind of girl.

Chapter 1
In Which
Moxy Maxwell
Begins to Read
Stuart Little

Her name was Moxy Maxwell and she was nine and it was August and late August at that. It was so late in August that tonight was to be the "Goodbye to Summer Splash!" show at the pool. Moxy was one of eight petals in the water-ballet part. She and the other seven petals were going to form a human daisy at the deep end while carrying sparklers in their left hands.

Next year Moxy planned to do a rose solo. Moxy Maxwell was just that sort of girl--the sort of girl who even at nine had big plans. In fact, last April when Miss Cordial asked the class to write a list of Possible Career Paths, Moxy had needed a third piece of paper. Moxy was going places all right.

She was going to her room. And she was going to stay there until she read every word of Stuart Little. Mr. Flamingo, who was going to be Moxy's fourth-grade teacher this fall, had assigned the book for summer reading. They were going to have a quiz on it too--on the very first day of school. And tomorrow was the very first day of school.

Now, Moxy loved to read books. She loved books so much that sometimes she would stay up all night and read. It's just that Moxy liked to read what she wanted to read and not what someone told her to read. (1-2)

Are you hooked yet? Curious to read more? I know I sure was. Moxy had me from the very beginning. The book is her journey of excuses and delays--in other words her procrastination--in facing the inevitable...the reading of Stuart Little. It is very entertaining. It is very funny. It is authentic through and through. The family relationships were dynamic. The book is practically perfect in every way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Which Twelve Would You Pick???

Via Jen Robinson's Book Page's weekly children's literacy round-up, I read an interesting article in The Guardian about every eleven-year-old child (in England) being given one free book. The child would get to choose his/her free book from a list of twelve books chosen by the experts. Why the free books? Experts realized this was the age when most give up reading books for pleasure.

    Here are the books they have to choose from:

  • Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan Children's Books)
  • Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday)
  • A Dog Called Grk by Joshua Doder (Andersen Press)
  • Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay (Hodder Children's Books)
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve (Scholastic Children's Books)
  • I, Coriander by Sally Gardner (Orion Children's Books)
  • Dream On by Bali Rai (Barrington Stoke)
  • Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Macmillan Children's Books)
  • Evil Inventions - Horrible Science by Nick Arnold, illustrated by Tony De Saulles (Scholastic Children's Books)
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (Usborne)
  • The Ring of Words by An Anthology of Poetry for Children selected by Roger McGough, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (Faber and Faber)
  • Unbelievable! by Paul Jennings (Puffin Books)
I don't know about you, but I certainly haven't heard of many of those titles. But the article goes on to say, "The omission of the current crop of big name children's writers such as JK Rowling, Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson is a deliberate attempt to encourage the year seven readers to try something new."

Which leads me to think about this....if this program were adopted here (in the US) what books would I order to promote/encourage a lifelong love of reading...

I think the list should be very diverse and have something that would appeal to as many different kinds of kids as possible...

The Voice That Challenged A Nation by Russell Freedman (nonfiction)
The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler by James Cross Giblin (nonfiction)
The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender (nonfiction)
Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue by Julius Lester (historical fiction)
Crooked River by Shelley Pearsall (historical fiction/poetry)
Holes by Louis Sachar (realistic fiction with some fantasy elements)
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman (realistic fiction)
Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (realistic fiction)
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (historical fiction/romance)
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones (realistic fiction/romance/poetry)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (science fiction/dystopia)
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (fantasy)

Others that I would strongly consider:

Invisible Allies by Jeanette Farrell (nonfiction)
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong (nonfiction)
When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (historical fiction)
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (historical fiction/romance)
Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck (historical fiction)
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (fantasy)
Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (fantasy)
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (science fiction/dystopia)
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (science fiction/dystopia)

What books do you think are essential for that age group? What books do you think best reflects their needs, interests, curiousities?

Tests & Quizzes

Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

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Congratulations, you got 8/10 correct!

Ellie McDoodle

Barshaw, Ruth McNally. 2007. Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel.

Ellie McDoodle is an enjoyable read. Ruth McNally Barshaw has created a memorable heroine in Ellie, Eleanor Marie McDougal. She is twelve years old. She loves to draw. She likes to capture her perception of the world in her journals. She uses both text and drawings to communicate to the reader in a unique voice. This book, Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, captures a week-in-the-life of Ellie as she faces the dauntingly unpleasant task of a family vacation with an aunt, uncle, and a vanful of cousins...not to mention her baby brother. You see, her parents are going to a funeral...and while Ellie's older brother and sister--both in their mid to late teens--are allowed to stay home, her and her baby brother are going to be in the care of her aunt and uncle...on a camping trip. So if you like camping/outdoor adventures, family dramas full of games, spats, and sarcasm, or books with heroines that use art to 'find' themselves....then Ellie McDoodle may just be for you.

I loved so many things about Ellie McDoodle. I loved that the text is full of both facts--outdoorsy/nature type things--and how tos--instructions for how to play games both indoor and outdoor. But more importantly I love how Ellie's voice is captured. She seems so authentic. So real. Yes, she's emotional. Yes, she can be a bit of a pain. She can be happy one minute, mad the next. But that IS what it is like to be twelve. And Ruth McNally Barshaw really gets the family a girl can hate her family one minute, and love them the next. How irritations and frustrations can rage one minute, but then there is always time to be soothed and rational again. The rest of the characters--family members--do seem one-dimensional, but I believe this is because we're seeing them through Ellie's eyes. This is her story. This is her drama. She doesn't know these people, so of course they're going to be depicted rather shallowly and harshly until she does begin to know them.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Library Meme

I found this meme on Memegirls several weeks ago, but I hadn't quite found time to do it yet. Until now.

1. How old were you when you got your first library card?

I was in my late teens--16 or 17--when I got my first library card. Let me explain. As a kid, I just checked stuff out on one of my parent's cards--mostly my mom's. And at the school library, cards weren't required. So there really wasn't a need until then.

2. What's the first book you can remember reading from a library?

Who knows. It could have been anything. One I remember. And this is awful--just awful--was one I called the "hoot-to-hoo" book. I think the real name might have been Indian Summer. It has long been banned for being politically incorrect...and rightly so. It was a book about a pioneer family. I remember there being one or two kids in the family. And the first thing that happened was one of their cows is missing. So they go into the woods to try to find it. And I don't really remember quite what happened. But by the end, the Indians were attacking the whites. Or vice versa. It's been probably twenty-three or twenty-four years since I last read it. I don't know why I liked this book. It was overall kind've creepy with black and white illustrations. And it had owls in it. Or Indians pretending to be owls. Or something like that. Anyway, my memory is fuzzy. I just remember mom telling me how she was so relieved when it was time to turn the book back into the library. Only she didn't count on me finding another copy--with a different color cover--to check out that same day. And the thing is, I couldn't read. I don't know how I knew or if I knew. But I did check out other books--good books--I'm sure. I knew how to spot a Seuss even though I couldn't read.

3. Did you ever participate in a summer reading program or other kids' event at a library growing up?

Yes. I don't know if it was a "summer" program or not. But I remember there being a program at the library where if you read so many books (I forgot quite how many but there was a chart to fill out) then you got a certificate for a McDonald's hamburger--but not a cheeseburger. I remember that quite well. I've always liked my cheese. :) Anyway, needless to say my sister and I ate quite a lot of hamburgers throughout this program.

4. Do you remember when card catalogues weren't computerized?

Definitely. I didn't experience an online catalogue until college (1996). I don't remember using the card catalogue at my local library growing up, but I definitely had hands-on experience using it at my school library. I was a library aide for my four high school years. And one of my jobs was filing new cards in the catalogue. Let's just say that I definitely learned to know my abc's.

5. When was the last time you went to the library? Tuesday, June 19th. I typically go to the library once a week. But this wasn't always the case. It's only been since starting Becky's Book Reviews, that I've been this loyal a patron. :)

6. How many books do you usually check out of the library at one time? I've checked out as few as one or two. Or as many as thirty. Once in college, when I was taking a course--an independent study, I checked out about a hundred books within a two or three week period. The assignment: to make an annotated bibliography of French women writers. I didn't have to read all those books. Just browse them enough to write two or three sentences about them. But still. I think my college library had to create a limit of how many books per student after that.

7. Name one great author you've discovered at your library. Too many to count. I check out a lot of books. A lot. And many of them are by new-to-me authors at one point or another.

8. What was the librarian at your elementary school like? Our school didn't have a library until I was in fifth grade. And I seem to remember there was a lot of turnover with librarians. But the librarian that came when I was in eighth grade stuck around. She was the one I would work with for four years. She was the one that would encourage and support me. She had a lot of common sense. She knew that the popular kids. The ones that all the administration and teachers were so hung up on, so in-love with, weren't the ones that really mattered. She actually valued unathletic, smart kids, the artistic, creative kids.

9. How many times a year do you go to the library? Since 2006, once a week typically, probably 48 or 50 times total. Before that, maybe a dozen or so times a year. Some years only once or twice.

10. If you could change on thing about your library, what would it be and why? I would change a lot of things. One policy that I strongly, strongly disagree with is that they charge non-city residents that live within the county $50 per year for a card. Which is just ridiculous. There are no other libraries to service those areas. And for many--they are only outside the limits of free service--by a mile or two. If you live within ten minutes of the library, then you should be able to check books out of it. And it is the people who cannot afford to buy books, that are in the poorer brackets of society, that need the library the most. All this policy is doing is making sure that segments of the population go unserved. Anyway, I think it quite heartless.

Pig Finds Love in NYC

Buckley, Michael. 2007. Sisters Grimm: Once Upon A Crime.

I've made it no secret how much I absolutely adore the Sisters Grimm series. (Just so you know, the first three are now available in paperback. The fourth, Once Upon A Crime, was released in early May. The fifth, Magic & Other Misdemeanors, will be released this fall. Amazon lists a December 1 release date.) Once Upon A Crime features many of the same characters that have appeared in the earlier books, but as always Buckley adds in a generous sprinkling of new characters: Titania and Oberon, Cobweb, Moth, Oz, Ebenezer Scrooge, Mother "Mama" Goose, Sinbad, Long John Silver, a fairy godmother, and a couple of fairy godfathers. And that's just to name a few.

What can I say about Once Upon A Crime? If you love the series and are familiar with the other books in the series--Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives, Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects, Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child--then you are going to want to add Sisters Grimm: Once Upon A Crime and Sisters Grimm: Magic and Other Misdemeanors to your wishlist. No doubt about it. If you're not familiar with the series, quite honestly, you should begin at the beginning. Although technically, the first chapter does it best to orient you to the series as a whole. And it might be able to stand alone. But you'd be treating yourself to begin at the beginning.

Once Upon A Crime opens much where The Problem Child left off. We see Sabrina and Daphne on a trip with Granny Relda and Mr. Canis--not to mention a wounded and possibly dying Puck--to New York City. And also Mr. Hamstead. Ernest Hamstead, one of the three little pigs. The family hopes that they can find the kingdom/land of Faerie and get Puck some much needed medical attention. Why New York City? That's where many EverAfters settled BEFORE the town of Ferryport was sealed to keep them in. They find Faerie sure enough--but it's not in very good condition--but Puck is relunctantly taken in and treated. It seems Titania is happy to have her son back, but Oberon is less than pleased to welcome him back home. But what seems like a good beginning, turns dramatically tragic when Oberon is murdered. Now Faerie is really chaotic. And it is up to the Sisters Grimm to solve another case. And to protect Puck.

The adventure is just beginning, and this holiday season--the book closes on Christmas Eve--will be unforgettable for the Grimm family.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What makes a picture book successful?

Consider this a question-of-the-week if you want. But as I've been reading my stack of picture books...I've been pondering what exactly it is about picture books that make evaluation so difficult. They either work or they don't. And picture books seem more subjective than any other genre/format. It's not just text you're evaluating. It's not just pictures. You can love the story, but hate the illustrations. Or vice versa. There are many times when I'm swept away by the artwork but bored-to-death with the story. For a picture book to be successful, both most "charm" or "hook" the reader. I typically have one of three responses to picture books.

???? or "zah?" -- many picture books leave me confused and asking why. (Why did the author choose to do this or that? Why someone published it? Why someone reviewed it positively? Why no one else is as terrified, befuddled, or confused as I am? And often with these, I'll just be reading along...not really having a strong reaction one way or the other...and then boom...I turn the page....and it's all over for me. Sometimes I would have been really liking it up to that point, but there is just no recovery at times. When a story takes a weird, unexpected turn. When something too dramatic or over-the-top happens. When something just doesn't work for whatever reason.

Oh, that was cute -- this response is better than the first. I at least liked the book. But it always remains to be seen how long I remember liking the book. My mother calls this response the, "Oh, I would have checked out this book from the library for you kids to read. It's a good book. But I wouldn't have bothered trying to buy it." And really who could blame a parent for having this response when hardback picturebooks cost almost $20. This is the kind of book I'd read once or twice. But it wouldn't become my new *favorite* favorite or anything.

I loved, loved, loved it. -- While my enthusiasm can be a bit over-the-top sometimes, I am always sincere with my praise. Yes, I may enjoy everything. I may say I love most things. But three love's is the highest praise you can ever get from me. It means I love completely, thoroughly, forever-and-ever. What kind of books in the past have I loved, loved, loved. Well, there is always my childhood favorite, Umbrella by Taro Yashima. That one is a given. In more recent years, I'd say I loved, loved, loved Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney and Dog Blue by Polly Dunbar. What is it about a book that makes me love it? The most important thing for me is I've got to feel it. It's got to be a book that I see myself in. It's got to capture part of who I am, my soul. That's not to say that the illustrations have to reflect back what I look like. I'm talking emotionally here. The main character could be a human child, a dog, a monkey, or a monster. But I've got to see me. That isn't the only important thing. But it's one of the things I look for first. Of course there are always exceptions. Do I identify with Tikki Tikki Tembo? No. It's just fun to say. Some books charm with words. Sometimes it's the rhythm. Sometimes it's the rhyme. Sometimes it's the repetitiveness that turns reading into a game or group activity. Some books charm with pictures. The very best are able to charm with both. But the reason Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a success--a classic--is because it's something everyone can relate to. Everyone is Alexander. Picture books have to capture a truth about life. At least if they want to become a classic.

Everything seems to be more subjective because there are so many variables. What rhythm flows like music for one person--grates on the nerves of another. What some folks call cute, others call cutesie. Picture books are one thing you have to judge for yourself, it's hard to take another person's word on it. And here's another thing I've noticed. Writers aren't always as reliable in this genre/format. You could love, love, love the author...but be very puzzled by the latest book he/she has written or illustrated. So you can't judge by an author either. Each book has to stand or fall on its own.

Anyway, I want to hear what some of your favorite picture books are. What books make you say "WoW!" and which ones leave you asking "why, why, why was this published???"?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

June Carnival is up!

Be sure to read the newest Carnival at Year of Reading.

Girl Overboard

Ferris, Aimee. 2007. Girl Overboard.

Girl Overboard is part of the S.A.S.S. series (Students Across The Seven Seas). I haven't read (and reviewed) all of the titles in the series, but this isn't my first one to come across. I know I read one last fall--maybe two. I enjoy this series very much actually. While a few readers/reviewers might see them as little more than silly fluff for the masses, I'm always one to give any book a try. And most of them while having a bit of romance to "lighten" them up also deal with some slightly heavier themes as well. For example, The Sound of Munich features a young girl, Siena, who uses her semester abroad to try to find out more about her family history. She's on a quest to learn more about her father, and in the process she finds out more about herself. So it was definitely a book with substance. Girl Overboard is the story of Marina Grey. She is a seventeen year old girl trying to figure out what is most important to her in her life: her education/career OR her boyfriend. It seems she'll have to make a big decision between the two soon. You see her boyfriend wants her to stay at home with him and attend a junior college. But Marina has always dreamed of being a marine biologist--and dreamed of going to Hawaii for her college education. And when the book opens, Marina is genuinely torn between the two. She loves her boyfriend, even if some of the sparks have died down and they're no longer "in love" with one another. But marine biology is her passion. Could she really give up one or the other with no regrets? The book follows her and her peers--both girls and guys--as they set sail on one big adventure. By the end of the book, the decision will have been made...with no regrets. What will Marina choose?

For fans of romance, Girl Overboard has plenty to please.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Reaching For Sun

Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2007. Reaching for Sun.

Josie Wyatt, a seventh grader with cerebral palsy, is tired of feeling different. She's tired of her special ed classes. She's tired of the occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy. She wants--just for once--for her mother to treat her like she's normal.


When poppies first
push themselves
out of the ground
they look like a weed--
hairy, grayish, saw-toothed foliage--
easily a member
of the ugly family.

When I push
sounds from my mouth
it's not elegant either.
I wrestle to wrap
my lips
around syllables,
struggle with my tongue
to press the right points.

When poppies bloom
the same red
as a Chinese wedding dress--
satiny cups with ruffled edges,
purplish black eyes--
they're a prize for patience,
and if I take all that trouble
to say something,
I promise
to try
to make it worth
the wait too.

(p. 43-44)

Josie is being raised by her mother and grandmother on a small farm. Reaching for Sun follows the family through a course of a year as each family member changes and grows. When the book opens, Josie feels excluded and left out. She has no friends her own age--although she doesn't lack for older friends. But in the spring time, the warmth of the sun brings along a new friend, one her own age, Jordan. The summer brings changes as well. Some more unexpected than others. But together this family can make it through anything and everything. With patience AND love.

Reaching for Sun is a verse novel, a very good verse novel. I do recommend this one!!!

And for the record, add this one to the growing stack of 2007 books with the theme of lying/deception.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

5 Things Meme

I found this meme at Who Could Ask For Anything More. I don't know where it originated. But it looked like fun. (And I'm always happy to find a good meme.)

Five Things I Was Doing Ten Years Ago

1) Attending my first summer semester at college. It's hard to believe that ten years ago I was just getting started in college. Now it's three degrees later.
2) I was really into the Teletubbies. It's hard to remember a time when I wasn't called Po (or more correctly pO) by practically everyone.
3) I was attending a lot more concerts. That's for sure. Spring and summer meant two things: Six Flags and concerts. Oh the glory days of concerts with loud music that you could bounce to. Oh the glory days of Lemon Chills and Pink Things. The hot, sticky glory of it all.
4) I was only just beginning to listen to "secular" music. I had grown up listening to either Christian music or oldies or country. But the spring and summer of 1997, I began listening to other stuff for the first time. The joy of discovering Matchbox 20. The joy of Sugar Ray. And late summer, I believe, was when Backstreet Boys hit really really big.
5) I had only just discovered the addictive nature of Bath & Body Works lotion. I think there is something about smelling it in the store (and using the sample displays) that makes you have to buy it...even if you've got plenty of lotion at home. One reason why, ten years later, I won't allow myself to go anywhere near the store. It's just too much temptation.

Five Snacks I Enjoy

1) Natural, Crunchy peanut butter spread thickly on an Eggo homestyle waffle.
2) Pimento cheese sandwich. I love, love, love pimento cheese...or as I call it POmento cheese. Enough to write songs about it.
3) Almonds are good "piggy-backed" with wheat thins OR "piggy-backed" on teddy grahams. Especially chocolate teddy grahams.
4) Cream cheese on graham crackers. Preferably HoneyMaid graham crackers.
5) Here's another snack that isn't quite the norm. I like to make melted Colby Jack cheesesticks inside a hot dog bun with mustard. I love hot mustard.

Five Songs I Know All the Lyrics To

1) Sing (words & music by Joe Raposo) but performed by the Carpenters
2) Brown-Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
3) All You Need Is Love by The Beatles (Did I forget to mention that in the five things I was doing ten years ago section???? I was obsessed, absolutely obsessed, with the Beatles).
4) Do You Believe in Magic by The Lovin' Spoonful
5) I'm Henry the VIII by Herman's Hermits

Five Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire

1) Buy all the Bibles I have ever wanted.
2) Build a bigger house--a dream house--so I could have floor to ceiling bookcases. A place where there would always be more room for books. :)
3) I would probably go a little crazy and buy a big tv, and all the dvds and cds I want :)
4) But I also would want to save a large part of it...I wouldn't want to just have a few weeks of fun and then have it all be gone.
5) I would buy my mom all the fabric she wants so she could make quilts galore.

Five Bad Habits

1) I do have a tendency to be a wee bit messy and unorganized.
2) I do have a habit of being a packrat and not wanting to throw anything (except obvious trash) away. But at least I come by it honestly.
3) Sometimes I'm really bad about starting a book and not finishing it. Not because it's bad or boring, but because I get distracted by another book, a newer book.
4) I check out more books from the library than I could ever read in three weeks.
5) I like to sing songs for attention.

Five Things I Like To Do

1) I love, love, love to watch Stargate. SG-1. I love, love, love Daniel. I love, love, love Jack and Sam together.
2) I love to read books. I am always reading something. Unless I'm sick, it's rare for me not to read at least one book a day. Reading is like breathing and I wouldn't know how to live in a world without books.
3) I love to listen to iTunes. I love to listen to my sermon podcasts. I love to listen to music. All kinds of music. Michael Buble. John Mayer. Jim Croce. Partridge Family. The Beatles. Frank Sinatra. Dean Martin. Rob Thomas. Five for Fighting. George Strait. Tim McGraw. Doris Day.
4) I love Luigi Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, I go out with my friends to Luigis...and then always, always a trip to the library. It's the best day of the week as far as I'm concerned. This fall, it marks the beginning of the fifth year!
5) I like to watch musicals. This week I've been reliving the glory of Calamity Jane. I think I mentioned in another meme a few months ago, but this is a movie that I would watch repeatedly. I don't know how old I was...probably 7-9ish...but there was a summer I would watch Calamity Jane every single day.

Five Things I Would Never Wear Again:

1) Headbands.
2) Bangs. I don't know if this counts under "wear again" or not. But let's just say that this was a mistake I'll never ever make again.
3) Leggings
4) stirrup pants
5) parachute pants

Five Favorite Toys

1) Barbies. I love, love, love Barbies. I could get specific and start naming names. But only my sister would know who was who.
2) Stuffed Animals. Any kind really. Teddy bears. Monkeys. Elephants. Dogs. etc. I love the Ty beanie buddies collection. And I do have quite a stash of beanie babies.
3) I love my electronic travel-size yahtzee game. Love it. It's very addictive.
4) Strawberry Shortcake is always fun.
5) I've always loved dolls. My favorite is a life-size baby. With a "heartbeat."

A few more reviews

I just finished reading a great book Mozart's Sister by Nancy Moser for Becky's Christian Reviews. But the book, I think, is really for any audience--Christian or not. It's just a great historical read.

I've also recently reviewed the following:

In the Shade of the Jacaranda by Nikki Arana
Taking Back the Good Book by Woodrow Kroll
Sophie's Dilemma by Lauraine Snelling
Courting Trouble by DeeAnne Gist

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Final Progress Report: Spring Reading Thing

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

What was the best book you read this spring? This is always a hard question for me to answer. From this list, I'd have to say The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. But including all the books I've read during this time period, I'd have to say Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller.

What book could you have done without? From this list, Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman. I thought I would like it much more than I did.

Did you try out a new author this spring? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again? My favorite *new* author I've discovered this spring is Jeanne DuPrau. I absolutely loved this trilogy: The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood.

If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it? There were ten books that I eliminated from my list within the first week or two. I eliminated them mainly because they were due at the library and had already been renewed one or two times. I had about sixty books out on my card, and I was just too overwhelmed by the library at that time to even think about renewing them again.

Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones?

I'm sure I could find a dozen or more if I had the time to look right now.

What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share!
I learned that it is a lot easier to make a long list of books than to actually read a long list of books. Overall, I enjoyed what I read. A few of the titles went a little outside my comfort zone as far as what I typically read, so I learned a little about myself in that way. I had a few dystopian novels, for example, and I learned that I really typically like that sort of thing. But the absolutely most important thing I learned was that challenges are addictive and I cannot say no.

What was the best part of the Spring Reading Thing? I would have been reading books anyway. That's what I do naturally. What I liked was the sense of community. I liked feeling like I belonged to something. That was fun.

Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this fall? Definitely. I cannot say no to a good challenge. I might be more selective (and realistic) in my process of choosing what goes on my list so it isn't quite as overwhelming. But I would definitely want to participate.

Any other thoughts, impressions, or comments. I loved participating in this challenge. I had a lot of fun. I loved discovering other people's blogs. Some I've added to my "favorites" list and I do check them quite often.

    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
  • Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills
  • The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats: Introduction and Annotations by Philip Nel
  • The Decoding of Lana Morris by Laura and Tom McNeal
  • Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
  • Would-Be Diary of a Princess by Jessica Green
  • Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero by Maureen Fergus
  • A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
  • Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt
  • So Not The Drama by Paula Chase

I did not complete 11 of the titles on my list. However, I did complete a total of 42 books from my list. 42/53 is not bad. Especially considering how many books I've read and reviewed in the past months that were not on my list at all.

There were changes between my final list (see above) and my original list. The original list had a total of 63 books. But in the first two or three weeks, I began eliminating and revising that list. Here are the ten books I eliminated (for various reasons):

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
The Cupid Chronicles by Coleen Murtagh Parator
Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale
The Truth About Sparrows by Marian Hale
Godless by Pete Hautman
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
Playing In Traffic by Gail Giles
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Keys to the Kindom: Mister Monday by Garth Nix

The Black Canary

Curry, Jane Louise. 2005. The Black Canary.

I don’t know that the author, Jane Louise Curry, would appreciate me calling her book,The Black Canary, odd or strange. But I don’t mean it as an insult. It’s the truth. How many books can you think of that feature a young African-American boy visiting London who just happens to keep traveling back and forth in time? Not just any time in history,either, but Elizabethan England. Our character, James, must learn to interact in Elizabethan London where he performs (not really by choice at first) with the Children of the Chapel Royal. (For that matter, how many YA books can you think of that are about the Children of the Chapel Royal?) The Black Canary is a combination realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. Other than the fact that I was slightly confused through parts of the Black Canary, I really enjoyed it. What made it confusing for me, is that he would bounce back and forth through time...and the transitions...weren’t always clear to me. I would end one chapter, and then in the next he’d suddenly be back in modern times. And I had somehow missed the transition. That is probably due more to my sloppy reading than the author. But regardless, The Black Canary is an enjoyable read. One I’m glad I stuck with. (For those not keeping up with all the drama on my site, at one time I had sixty books out on my library card. The time came when I had to sit down and choose which books to send back unread, and which ones I’d hold on to a bit longer. I’m glad I chose to keep The Black Canary.)


McKinley, Robin. 2003. Sunshine.

I didn’t know what to expect from Sunshine. I knew it was a vampire novel. I knew it was either a YA book or an adult book with crossover appeal. I knew that it was supposed to be less romantic and conform more to traditional ‘vampire lit’ than Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. But I didn’t know quite what to expect. It was exciting. It was interesting. I’m glad I read it, but I still don’t know what to think about it now that I’m finished with it. It was good. But I wasn’t blown away with it. I enjoyed it. But it left me wanting more. I guess that says more about me than the book. Has Twilight spoiled all other vampire books for me? Am I expecting every vampire to be as dreamy as Edward? Every heroine as likeable as Bella? Maybe so. But here is a little summary of Sunshine.
Sunshine is a young woman--who has been out of high school for at least a year or so--who finds herself kidnapped by vampires. She is given as a ‘sacrifice’ to a vampire, Con, who is being held prisoner. What their captors don’t know is that Sunshine is not an ordinary human. She is part-Other. She can change objects. She changes a pocket-knife into a key and unlocks the cuffs that hold her. Not content just to rescue herself, she sets the vampire free as well. Now they must work together to gain their freedom. With their combined powers--somehow, she has the power to protect him from bursting into flames in the sunlight--they make their way home. Her life is forever changed, and she can’t help but wonder if that’s the last she’ll hear of her vampire-hero. It wouldn’t be much of a book, if she didn’t. It turns out that their miraculous escape is only the beginning of the troubles ahead for the unlikely duo. Survival means depending on the one person you thought you’d never be able to trust.

Hole in the Sky

Hautman, Pete. 2001. Hole in the Sky.

In 2028, a deadly Flu virus ravages the earth. Only one in two thousand survive the virus, and these “Survivors” are rarely left unaffected. By 2038, only 38 million people remain on Earth. Most of them live in small communities, ever fearful of outsiders who might bring the deadly Flu.

Hole in the Sky is the story of four young teens living in this new world. Ceej and his sister Harryette live with their uncle. Tim is the son of a trader. He comes to stay with Ceej while his father travels from community to community. Bella is a loner. She is half-Hopi. She has come to the Grand Canyon in search of a mystical portal--Sipapuni. Their fates are intertwined in this survival novel.

The Kinka are a dangerous band of “Survivors” who bring death and destruction wherever they go. Knowing that only one in two thousand has the chance to become one of them, they travel from community to community attacking settlements with the virus. The new survivors join the Kinka on their mission to create a ‘better’ human race. You see, the children of the Kinka are immune to the Flu. Their strong enough to survive in this new world. While everyone else lives and cowers in fear. The Kinka are strong enough to be brave and reckless.

Dragon Rider

Funke, Cornelia. 2004. Dragon Rider.

Firedrake, Ben, and their furry friend, Sorrel, are in search of the mythical place where dragons can live in peace forever. Together they embark on a journey that takes them to magical lands where they meet marvelous creatures--and one ruthless villain. Along the way, they will discover allies in odd places, courage they didn’t know they had, and a hidden destiny that changes everything.

Dragon Rider is an enjoyable read cover to cover. A fantasy novel that I found I simply couldn’t put down. 523 pages of pure magic. I loved everything about this book almost. The characters. The action. It was just magical through and through. It is a book about a dragon, a brownie, a human boy, a homunculus, with a few rats now and then who team up to find a forgotten “hidden” valley where dragons can live in peace free from human dangers and pursuits. The journey is dangerous, and there are enemies and spies running about, but friendship, trust, love, and loyalty all come into play in this great novel full of adventure.


Boyce, Frank Cottrell.2004. Millions.

Anthony and Damian are brothers who find a bag full of money in their yard that seemed to just fly right into their hands. The money was bound for destruction--on a train on its way to be burned. But it still seems a bit too good to be true. Damian, a bit more naive than his brother, thinks it’s a sign from God. Anthony is suspicious about where the money came from. But both want to spend the money and keep it a secret. Thus begins MILLIONS. The novel is a book about how money changes people. About how money changes the way you view people, and how people then view you. Damien, ever pure at heart, is the only one who remains virtually unchanged by money. He wants to use the money for the greater good. He wants to feed the poor and house the homeless. He wants to build wells in third-world countries. He wants to change the world. His brother is more interested in buying things. Expensive things. The plot gets rather complicated towards the end, but overall, Millions is an interesting read.
Is it possible to like the style of the book, but not the book itself? To love the flow of the sentences. The language. The rhythm. The uniqueness of it. I was really liking this book up until a certain point. I was about three-fourths through the novel, when it started getting old.
For example, when the boys start trying to protect their money and suspecting all the adults in their lives of being the thief. Conspiracy theories run rampant, but it wasn’t always clear to this reader if the theories had any truth to them...or if they were all lies. I was confused about who was actually after the money. Was it Dorothy??? Or did he imagine her being the bad guy? And what was up with him ‘seeing’ his mother? Was she dead or not??? What was up with that? I know he was seeing visions and all that through the novel, but exactly why???? Anyway, if I could have left the novel understanding some of these unanswered questions, I would have still ‘really liked’ it. As it is, I still enjoyed it. Maybe rereading it will help some if I ever choose to go back.


Lord, Cynthia. 2006. Rules.

Rules is a story of friendship and patience. Catherine is used to having to help her younger brother, David, who is autistic cope with life. She’s accustomed to helping him create boundaries and provide rules or guidelines for him to help him know how to live and interact in the real world. Rules such as, “No toys in the fish tank” and “Keep your pants on in public.” But sometimes Catherine needs a few rules of her own. It is easy for Catherine to blame her friendless state on her brother or her family, but could the truth be that she doesn’t know that you have to be a friend before you can have a friend? It’s a learning process for Catherine as she makes a few new friends, and discovers her own weaknesses. Jason, her ‘special’ friend is wheelchair-bound and communicates by pointing to word cards, but he is the one who ends up teaching her some important life lessons.

What I Call Life

Wolfson, Jill. 2005. What I Call Life.

Cal Lavender knows only one thing: the life she is living is not her life. It all started when her mom had an episode at the local library. Now Cal finds herself living in a group home, sharing a bedroom with other foster kids--none of them ‘normal’--and learning to knit from the Knitting Lady. This environment isn’t home. These strange people aren’t her family. She doesn’t know what to think about anything...but day by day she begins to piece together her life and come to some important conclusions. She’ll have to unlearn some habits, but she might just figure out this thing called life.

I, Cal Lavender, was definitely not myself. A fuzz brain, crying and whiny the night before. Definitely not me. But after I brushed my teeth, checked the mirror, and adjusted My Face for Unbearably Unpleasant and Embarrassing Situations, I felt more myself. Or at least as close to myself as an eleven-year-old can be when she is being forced to live not her real life. (44)

It can happen that way, can’t it?? One day, things are one way. And the next day, the life you are living, what you call life, changes forever. (105)

Once Upon A Time 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.


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 decided to go with Quest One. My original list was as follows:

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

But I decided to make a substitution a few weeks ago to include a Neil Gaiman work, so my final list is now:

1) Cupid by Julius Lester
2) Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
3) Coraline by Neil Gaiman
4) Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
5) Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Zen and the Art of Faking It

Sonnenblick, Jordan. 2007. Zen and the Art of Faking It. (Scholastic)

Coming October 2007

I was very excited to receive an ARC of Zen and The Art of Faking It because I really loved Sonnenblick's previous novels, Notes From A Midnight Driver and Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie. In some ways, all of his books share a similar theme: young teen boys who through the course of the book discover or "find" themselves. His books all have to do with the whole growing-up-to-be-a-man process. While Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie dealt with a teen who had a brother with a serious illness and Notes From A Midnight Driver dealt with a teen who had broken the law and was doing community service, Zen and the Art of Faking It appears to deal with a less serious topic.

San Lee is an eighth grader who is transferring into a new school mid-semester. A boy who is angry at his father, who is in jail, for ruining his life all those years dragging him and his mom from state to state all those years so he could be a con artist. A boy trying to redefine himself. Each new state, each new school, he redefines himself. He tries to "fit in" with a different group and project a different image. In his first few days at this new school, he begins to define himself into someone that this Beatle-girl, Woody, would like. He describes her in this way, "you took one look at her and knew she was hearing a different drummer. Maybe even a different kazoo. For all I know she might have been waltzing to the color of a differnt smell. She was out there anyway" (13-14). During the first stage of his transformation, he becomes--after a lunchroom encounter with his dream girl--a "shy whistler. Not much to pin a whole personality on, but it was a start" (19). But soon after, he becomes a 'zen master' all in the name of love.

It all started like this. He was in social studies. With Woody. The girl of his dreams. San Lee just happened to know the answer to the question the teacher was asking. San Lee had to ask himself, am I a shy kid who is smart and speaks up when the teacher asks a question...or a shy kid who mumbles "I don't know" when called upon. He decides to go for it. He answers the teacher's questions about zen/buddhism. Soon after a classmate, a bullying kind of guy, starts to call him Buddha boy. So San Lee decides to go with that. If people want to assume that he is Buddhist because he is Chinese, then why not go with that? Especially if this Beatle-girl is impressed by his mastery.

So what is the first thing San Lee does? He heads straight to the library to begin his research. If his classmates want him to be a zen master...then he had better get started. And thus begins a small San Lee begins to 'fake' his way through school and make friends in the most unexpected places. Will he be caught in his lies? Is there a price to pay for his deception? Can he really be true to himself and keep maintaining his image?

One of the trends of 2007 that I've noticed is the theme of lying. In one book after another, it seems that each narrator either accidentally or purposefully gets caught up in one lie after another...and has to pay the consequences for his/her deception. We see that in Harmless, Kimchi & Calamari, Lost It, Now You See Her, Tall Tales, and now Zen and the Art of Faking It. The book that most closely parallels Zen and the Art of Faking It is Kimchi & Calamari. Both feature Asian kids adopted by white parents who in the process of finding themselves end up in a tangled deception all in the name of love, friendship, and popularity.

Overall, I enjoyed Zen and the Art of Faking It. I was not disappointed, this is another quality book from Jordan Sonnenblick. While I still feel Notes From A Midnight Driver is my favorite of the three, I think Zen and the Art of Faking It will find many eager readers.

another review of Zen and the Art of Faking It

Monday, June 18, 2007

Looking Ahead...

Several big things are happening this week:

1) Today is the first 'official' meeting for the Librarians' Choices 2007 group. We'll be meeting this afternoon. So I'm looking forward to that. This year it is being taught by Dr. Janet Hilbun. So a chance for a few new books--not that I have a shortage of things on my tbr pile--is always fun.

2) This Thursday marks the deadline for two of my challenges: Once Upon A Time Challenge and Spring Reading Thing Challenge. I still have a bit of work to do to finish up on time. But overall, I'm proud of my participation in both. My Spring Reading Thing challenge list was very long, and if I don't finish all of them, I won't have anything to be ashamed of.

3) The June Carnival of Children's Literature will be up this Saturday. The deadline for submitting is soon--June 19th.

Gathering Blue

Lowry, Lois. 2000. Gathering Blue.

Gathering Blue is the second novel in a trilogy by Lois Lowry. This series, beginning with The Giver, loosely ties together several different future societies. The second novel does stand alone apart from The Giver. Kira is a young girl, recently orphaned, whose life is threatened by her village. You see, technically speaking it is illegal for her to still be alive. She was born with a birth defect, a twisted leg. Many demanded her death before she was even a few hours old. But her mother and grandfather were stubborn. She was not to be harmed. She was special. Kira only hoped it was true that she had been saved because she was special. Returning to the village after her mother’s death, a neighbor brings her to court demanding her death. But the court rules in her favor. She will be brought to live in a special building, a building full of secrets because it was from a time before. Given a special task, Kira must learn her new role. But as she’s learning, she observes quite a few disturbing things. Is everything as it seems? Is the ‘Court of Guardians’ keeping some dangerous secrets?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jeremy Fink

Mass, Wendy. 2006. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.

Jeremy is on the verge of his thirteenth birthday when a mysterious package is delivered by the post office. It seems that his father left an engraved box--with four locks--as his birthday present. The only problem? The keys have been lost. There is no way for Jeremy to open his present--this gift of sorts from beyond the grave. But teaming up with his best friend, Lizzy, he’s determined to find the keys that will open the box engraved: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Can friendship and determination unlock the keys to the meaning of life in more than one way? Expect lots of humor mixed in with heartfelt moments as two young pre-teens tackle the world.

Consider this I AM THE MESSENGER for kids. (In many ways it really is very similar to Markus Zusak's I Am The Messenger except for the fact that our hero/narrator is much younger.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wildwood Dancing

Marillier, Juliet. 2007. Wildwood Dancing.

If I'm honest, I've got to admit a few things about Wildwood Dancing:

a) I had a hard time getting "into" the story.
b) I thought the chapters were definitely too long.
c) Even though it improved greatly after the halfway mark, I'm still not sure how I feel about the novel as a whole.

Wildwood Dancing is the story of five sisters who live in a castle/estate in Transylvania. Each full moon, the sisters join hands and make their way through a portal into the Other Kingdom where they dance the night away with fairy-tale-like creatures. There is some sense of dangers, but the girls (some still children, some in their teens) feel right at home in this world. While some members of the community are scared of the woods/forests and want to be rid of fairies and other-worldly creatures, others show them proper respect and believe that they are an important--though not visible--part of the community. Cezar is a cousin to this family of sisters, and he's the most vocal in the need to eliminate this "other world" that he feels is threatening the human community. Jena is our narrator, and her best friend is a frog, Gogu. Through her eyes we witness the dangers of living in and loving two distinct worlds.

In some ways, it is an odd story. A narrator whose best friend is a frog who sits on her shoulder or lives in her pocket. A frog that she communicates with on a regular basis. He 'sends' his thoughts directly into her mind. A very opinionated frog who likes to boss her around. Seems very odd to me.

But I don't think my feelings are universal. I had a hard time getting into the story...but that doesn't mean that another person would. Reading depends a lot on moods, I think, and my moods were definitely odd when reading this book. It took me over a month to finish.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Gaiman, Neil. 2002. Coraline.

Coraline is an interesting but odd book. The main character, Coraline--never call her Caroline unless you want to get on her bad side--is a young girl who loves adventure. She loves to explore. She loves to hunt out adventure. One day she gets a little more than she bargained for. When Coraline unlocked the ‘fourteenth’ door in her house, she opens up a magical but dangerous world. This other world has her other mother and other father. This seems like fun for a few hours. But soon Coraline is weirded out by the whole otherness of the experience and wants to go home. The problem? The other mother is pure evil and is not going to let her go easily. Sure Coraline makes her get away easily the first time. But that’s only because this other mother knows she’ll be back. When Coraline returns to the real world, she finds her parents are missing. Vanished. But Coraline has a feeling--a bad feeling--that it is all her fault. Could her other mother have kidnapped her parents in order to force her to return? Can she find a way to save her parents--and other lost souls--without losing her own? One exciting, slightly creepy, adventure has begun!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One Naked Baby

Smith, Maggie. 2007. One Naked Baby: Counting to Ten and Back Again.

One Naked Baby is a counting book that tells the story of one cute baby and his very busy day. From morning to evening--getting dressed to bath time--this young baby is always on the go. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, from the bright sky blue sky to the happy yellow daffodils. Whether the baby is munching his "six crunchy fish" or digging around in the dirt with seven worms that wiggle, he is always active and engaged. And the illustrations can keep young kids engaged as well. For example, there are certain pictures (items) that keep recurring in the illustrations: bunnies, turtles, elephants, a mouse, an alligator, a duck, etc.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Which Peanuts Character Are YOu?

Which Peanuts Character are You?

You are Sally!
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Author Spotlight: Anna Dewdney

Anna Dewdney is a children's book author and illustrator. Her works include Llama Llama Red Pajama (2005), Grumpy Gloria (2006), and Llama Llama Mad At Mama (2007). And according to Reviewer's Checklist, she has another book being released in January 2008 called Nobunny's Perfect. And although her website doesn't give a release date, she does mention that there will be another Llama Llama book, this one called Llama Llama Misses Mama. You can read her biography here on her website. Her website is great, by the way, and has activities for little ones and information for grownups. What kind of activities? PDF activity pages! From Llama Llama paper dolls, to connect-the-dots fun, to word searches, to coloring pages, to a maze. You can find those files here. I haven't read Grumpy Gloria for myself, but her other two works I adore.

Dewdney, Anna. 2005. Llama Llama Red Pajama.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney is one my favorite favorite picture books. The reason I haven't blogged about it is simply that I hadn't started my blog yet when it was released. And sometimes it does take a little while to go back to old favorites when there are so many new books being released each month. But with the upcoming release of Llama Llama Mad At Mama in September, I thought now would be a perfect time.

Baby Llama with some separation anxiety issues. As his mother is putting him to bed, he is happy and soothed. But as soon as she leaves the room, he begins to miss her.

Llama llama
red pajama
feels alone
without his mama.

Baby Llama wants a drink.
Mama's at the kitchen sink.

Llama llama
red pajama
calls down to
his llama mama.

Mama says
she'll be up soon.
Baby Llama hums a tune.

But as the Mama Llama becomes distracted with household tasks and phone calls, Baby Llama goes from a little fretting to a full-out llama drama. But soon all is calm once again as Baby Llama is reassured of his mama's loving care as he drifts off to sleep.

I love the rhymes. I love the rhythms. I love the flow of it all. It's just so fun to read aloud. So fun. And I love the illustrations.

I will be reviewing Llama Llama Mad at Mama very soon. It will be released in September 2007.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Alas, Babylon

If I learned one thing through reading Alas, Babylon it is this: never doubt your best friend and her taste in books. When your best friend tells you to read a book, read the book. You won't be sorry. But the truth is, I learned many things from reading Alas, Babylon.

Alas Babylon is set in 1959 in a small, rural community in Florida. In the days leading up to the Day, the day of great nuclear disaster where most major cities and all military bases were attacked, only a few people know the end is coming. One of them is Randy Bragg. Warned by his brother, Mark, who is in the military that danger is very near and extremely life-threatening, he begins to prepare for the worst and to welcome his brother's family into his own home. He may have known, but he couldn't have prepared. Not enough. How do you prepare for a disaster of such catastrophic proportions? All surrounding areas in Florida--most of Florida in fact--has been bombed. It no longer exists....not in any meaningul life-sustaining way at least. The whole state has been zoned contaminated. But this one town survived the initial attacks. But it will take teamwork and organization to survive the effects of that awful Day. With no new deliveries of food and supplies, how long can this one town survive?

You might think that reading this book would be depressing, but surprisingly enough it isn't. It is just as much about the resilience and strength of the human race as it is about the destruction of civilization as we know it. It is only in times of great struggles that human character is shaped and defined. This Day defines and redefines the community as each one person learns what they're truly made of.

My favorite parts of the book:

I liked how the Day redefined the librarian and the library. Before the Day, she felt discouraged and alone. No one in town was interested in books. Interested in reading. Of particular note, she points out that no one liked going to the library because the library didn't have enough money for air conditioning. But now, after the Day, the library is one of the central places in town to not only survive but to thrive. It is now the "best place" in town to be. People not only use it to learn, but reading is one of the few pastimes still possible. No cars (extremely limited fuel supply). No tvs. No radios. Limited supply of alcohol and tobacco. The librarian also becomes the record-keeper for the community.

I also enjoyed the several brief mentions of armadillos. For example, it mentions that since people have stopped driving, the armadillos main threat to survival has ceased...and the population is growing at unbelievable numbers. But soon these little ugly guys have a new worry: the people discover they are a tasty treat.