Sunday, September 30, 2007


Empire by Orson Scott Card, 2006.

I read this book for the Cardathon challenge and the R.I.P. II challenge. I have mixed views on this one. It's not that I disliked it, I didn't. But I didn't love it. The characters, well, I liked them. But this was more about premise than action or characters. (There was plenty of action, believe me, but you never forgot that it was action based on a certain premise.) Politics. Media. Scary subjects for those liking to remain neutral observers of the world around them. The novel is about the polarization of America into red and blue. Conservative and liberals. Republicans and Democrats. Radical views. Strict dogmas. Plenty of rhetoric and media coverage. No middle ground. The situation in this future-America is bleak. The country is divided--strongly divided. There are people--hundreds of thousands if not millions--that hate the President and his particular party. Congress is divided as well. These two parties are always at ends with one another. Can't see eye to eye on anything. Determined to disagree on even the smallest issue. Compromise is never an option. They fight and bicker over everything. In this charged environment, a few men in the military are working on a secret secret project. A project that leads to a destructive climax. Well, not a climax so much as an opening premise. Reuben Malich--Major Malich--is working on a top-secret project that supposedly came directly from the White House. He's supposed to write up a plan on how to assassinate the President, so that they can then work on ways to prevent such an attack. He's playing devil's advocate if you will. He's supposed to think like a criminal and find the weaknesses in the system. The problem? He's being used--set up--by the bad guys. His plans become the plan that actually works at crippling the nation as we know it. The president, vice president, and secretary of defense (as well as a lot of other people) are killed--murdered. Now it is up to Reuben and his few friends--including his new assistant Captain Coleman to find out just who these "bad guys" are and uncover the whole plot. The plot is complex, not difficult to dissect afterwards, but a mystery while you're reading it. I can't really go into it here. The characters were okay for me. But none of them were developed that well. None of them were particularly strong or outstanding. The action was fast-paced. But again, it was driven by the premise of "what if????" And while the premise is arguably interesting in and of itself, I don't know that it was enough to carry the novel alone. This one had no tidy ending either. So it's one of those where you have to try to guess what would happen next. So instead of having a rather boring but satisfactory "Ah, America will be okay and everything is back to normal and just as it should be" feeling, you're left with a bit of angst. Am I glad I read it? Definitely. Did it make me think? Sure. Is it my least favorite Card novel? No. But it doesn't come close to my top ten.

Hidden Mountain

DeSaix, Deborah Durland and Karen Gray Ruelle. 2007. Hidden Mountain: Stories of Children Sheltered From The Nazis in Le Chambon.

In Southern France, there was one place of refuge that Jews could find safety--relatively speaking in World War II--a place where the people had open hearts and minds. A place where "loving your neighbor" was actually applied daily. This mountain of refuge was Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Every village and farm on the mountain, every family, did their part in the rescuing of Jews. They provided food, shelter, schooling, and compassion for children and teens. Hidden Mountain is the story of some of those children and some of those rescuers. The authors recorded many interviews, spent countless hours talking with witnesses, gathering invaluable primary resources, creating an important legacy for us all. Much of the book is told through these oral histories, lightly edited, and the rest is thoroughly researched accounts/summaries that provide key background information. The book is well-researched; it's informative; it's interesting.


Imagine having to leave your home suddenly, with only one small suitcase and no more. Imagine being told that you can't say goodbye to your friends, and that you have to leave behind your pets and all your treasured possessions. Imagine walking out of your home, not knowing if you'll ever see it again.
Now imagine that your parents are more frightened than you've ever seen them before. You've seen terrible things, and you're frightened too. Imagine that your parents are powerless to protect you or even themselves.
Maybe you and your family have to board a train, along with huge crowds of other people, and travel far away. Or maybe your family has been torn from you and you are all alone. You have no idea where to go or what will happen next.
Many children in Europe had just those experiences during World War II. Many of them died. But some children were lucky, and they found a safe place to hide while the war raged on around them. Several thousand children were sheltered in the little village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and the surrounding area in southern France. In this book, we tell the true stories of some of these children. Each one came to Le Chambon on a different path from a different place. Each one found a safe haven among the inhabitants of the plateau. Each one has a different story.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What a month

October 2007 Book Releases (Release dates according to Reviewers' Checklist and/or Amazon)
A few of these I have read and reviewed. A few more are in my tbr pile waiting to be read. But most are still on the ever-growing wishlist. If you're the author or publisher of one of these, and would like to supply a review copy. I would appreciate it :)

Picture Books
Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel by Jean Craighead George
Henry the Dog With No Tail by Kate Feiffer
How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow
Dad, I Can't Sleep by Michael Foreman
A Perfect Snowman by Preston McDaniels
Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney
Stone Age Boy by Satoshi Kitamura
Toot & Puddle: Let it Snow by Holly Hobbie
Red Butterfly: How A Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China by Deborah Noyes
The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pinata for the Pinon Tree by Philemon Sturges
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo (illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline)
Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka
The Lord is My Shepherd by Regolo Ricci
This is Actually My Party by Lauren Child
A Gaggle of Geese and A Clutter of Cats by Dandi Daley Mackall
The Blanket Show by Dandi Daley Mackall
The Curious Adventures of the Abandoned Toys by Julian Fellowes
When Harriet Met Sojourner by Catherine Clinton
Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose by Leo & Diane Dillon
The Bearskinner: A Tale Of the Brothers Grimm by Laura Amy Schlitz
Go to Bed, Monster! by Natasha Wing
Nonfiction and Poetry (all ages)
Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer by Deborah Kogan Ray
An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston
Exploring Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials: An Unauthorized Adventure Through the Golden Compass, etc. by Lois Gresh
Chewy, Gooey, Rumble, Plop by Steve Alton
Driven: A Photobiography of Henry Ford by Don Mitchell
Stones, Bones and Stiches: Storytelling through Inuit Art by Shelley Falconer
Out of Line: Growing Up Soviet by Tina Grimberg
Marie Curie by Kathleen Krull
What's Eating you? Parasites: the Inside Story by Nicola Davies
Many Rides of Paul Revere by James Cross Giblin
Fiction Books (all ages)
Something Rotten by Alan M. Gratz
In the Shadow of the Bear: Sorrel by David Randall
Maddigan's Fantasia by Margaret Mahy
George's Secret Key to the Universe by Stephen Hawking
The Highwayman's Footsteps by Nicola Morgan
A Tale of Gold by Thelma Hatch Wyss
November Blues by Sharon M. Draper
Safe by Susan Shaw
Fearless by Tim Lott
Gossip Girl: It Had To Be You: The Gossip Girl Prequel by Cecily von Ziegesar
The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
The Lighthouse War by Adrian McKinty
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-mbachu
Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith
Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
Sure Fire by Jack Higgins
Hiroshima Dreams by Kelly Easton
The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Illustrated by Lauren Child
Taken by Edward Bloor
No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer
The Quantum July by Ron King
Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron
The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins
Mary Engelbreit's Classic Library: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mary Engelbreit's Classic Library: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Underground by Jean Ferris
In the Space Left Behind by Joan Ackermann
The Garden of Eve by K.L. Going
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
Hush by Donna Jo Napoli
Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Sight by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
True Love, the Sphinx, and Other Unsolvable Riddles by Tyne O'Connell
Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller
The Declaration by Gemma Malley
Starcross: A Stirring ADventure of Spies, Time Travel, and Curious Hats by Philip Reeve
Arrival by Shaun Tan
Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick
Click, various authors, short story collection

Picture Book Parade

Kleven, Elisa. 2007. The Apple Doll.

Lizzy is a young girl with a common fear: the fear of starting school, the fear of not being able to make friends. But with the help of the girl's favorite apple tree and some creativity, both fears are overcome rather well.

Lizzy loved her apple tree. She loved to pretend it was a skeleton rattling in the autumn wind...a gingerbread cake with snowy frosting...a blossomy springtime cloud...a leafy summer circus. She loved to eat its apples. Apples for crunching, apples for munching, apples for applesauce, cider, and pies. The day Lizzy started school, she picked her favorite apple of all. It was round as a ball, warm as the sunlight--too happy to pack in her lunch box.
This apple is too special for munching. No, it is about to have a special honor--becoming the girl's friend and starting life as an apple doll named Susanna. Susanna also accompanies Lizzy to school--at least on the first day. Soon, the girl realizes that there are plenty of friendly children she can play with instead of an apple doll. But Susanna is no less important. As the weeks pass, Susanna's looks begin to fade away. And I began to fear the worst. (After all, how long can a piece of fruit with a twig body last?) Luckily, her mother remembers how her grandmother made her a dried-apple girl when she was growing up. And fortunately, she still remembers how it was done. Now this special doll can last a lifetime.

The book concludes, as you can imagine, with instructions on how you can make your own apple doll. I really enjoyed this one, and I think that others--kids and adults--will like it as well. It is the perfect read aloud for this time of year.

O'Keefe, Susan Heyboer. 2007. Hungry Monster ABC. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.

I have a weakness for monsters. Particularly hungry monsters. Cookie Monster. Hungry Thing. My secret alter-egos. So I was very happy to see Hungry Monster ABC on the shelves, and eagerly grabbed it up. What happens when ten hungry monsters visit Ms. Tubbins' classroom? A lot. Most of what happens is quite messy. All of it quite fun.

Ten hungry monsters
visit school today.
They're here to learn the alphabet
the hungry monster way.

The "hungry monster way" is a fun, messy, hands-on learning experience. Sometimes it is the children--particularly the little boy in the red and blue striped shirt--giving the instruction, and sometimes it is the monster matching letters and words together.

L is always lunchtime
when monsters are around.
They want their grilled cheese sandwiches
with bacon nicely browned.

They hope that M's for Mango,
a messy, juicy treat,
because they like to end their meals
with something very sweet.

When the alphabet is exhausted--and by the time they reach X, Y, and Z, everyone will be exhausted--the teacher frightens them away with scary words: homework, grades, and test.
Overall, Hungry Monster ABC is a rhyming picture book that offers fun and giggles to those just getting ready (or starting) school. The book does come with flashcards, but don't let that frighten you away. There is plenty of story along with the "educational" aspects of the story.

Coffelt, Nancy. 2007. Fred Stays With Me. Illustrated by Tricia Tusa.

Fred Stays With Me is the story of a girl and her best friend, Fred. Fred, in case you haven't noticed, is a dog. A rather playful and sometimes troublesome dog. But in all cases a loveable one. The girl, I'm not sure if she's ever named, has parents who are divorced. Sometimes she lives with her mom; sometimes she lives with her dad. The book shows that even though she's bounced back and forth from one loving home to the other--one is never viewed as "better" than the other--one thing is constant. Fred. Fred goes with her everywhere. He is hers and hers alone. While some things change, Fred never does.

When my mom and I have pizza,
or when my dad and I eat peanut butter sandwiches,
Fred waits for crumbs.

At my mom's, Fred barks at the poodle next door.
At my dad's, Fred steals socks.
But Fred always has time to play.

The text is simple. The illustrations are great. Tricia Tusa has done an excellent job there. Overall, Fred Stays With Me is an enjoyable picture book. It really captures what love and affection there is between owners and pets.

Mama's Saris by Pooja Makhijani. Illustrated by Elena Gomez. 2007.

Mama's Saris is a sweet story of a mother and daughter bonding. In preparation for the daughter's seventh birthday, the two are in the mom's room getting all dressed up. The mother is looking through her trunk of saris, looking for one that is just right for that special day. With each sari in the trunk, comes a story--a memory. Along the way, the daughter begins asking her mother to let her wear a sari--to dress in "grown-up" clothes, to be just as beautiful and special as her mom. She wants nothing more than to 'look just like' mom. It is a beautiful, sweet story that every person can relate to regardless of culture.

I really enjoyed this one. The illustrations are beautiful.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cybils Press Release

Cybils Press Release


Cybils2007whiteCHICAGO – Will Harry Potter triumph among critical bloggers? Will novels banned in some school districts find favor online?

With 90 volunteers poised to sift through hundreds of new books, the second annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards launches on Oct. 1 at Known as the Cybils, it's the only literary contest that combines both the spontaneity of the Web with the thoughtful debate of a book club.

The public's invited to nominate books in eight categories, from picture books up to young adult fiction, so long as the book was first published in 2007 in English (bilingual books are okay too). Once nominations close on Nov. 21, the books go through two rounds of judging, first to select the finalists and then the winners, to be announced on Valentine's Day 2008.

Judges come from the burgeoning ranks of book bloggers in the cozy corner of the Internet called the kidlitosphere. They represent parents, homeschoolers, authors, illustrators, librarians and even teens.

The contest began last year after blogger Kelly Herold expressed dismay that while some literary awards were too snooty – rewarding books kids would seldom read – others were too populist and didn't acknowledge the breadth and depth of what's being published today.

"It didn't have to be brussel sprouts versus gummy bears," said Anne Boles Levy, who started Cybils with Herold. "There are books that fill both needs, to be fun and profound."

Last year's awards prompted more than 480 nominations, and this year's contest will likely dwarf that. As with last year's awards, visitors to the Cybils blog can leave their nominations as comments. There is no nomination form, only the blog, to keep in the spirit of the blogosphere that started it all.

See you Oct. 1!

My Mother The Cheerleader

Sharenow, Robert. 2007. My Mother the Cheerleader.

There are many words to describe this historical novel: brutal, violent, memorable, harsh, emotional, bold. But even all together, they fail to depict the heart and soul of hatred in the American South for desegregation in New Orleans the year Ruby Bridges begins her first grade school year. Our narrator, Louise Collins, is the daughter of one of the cheerleaders. What is a Cheerleader in this context? Grown women--mothers and wives--who daily stand on the sidewalk, the sidelines, and chant nasty, hateful words to the brave little black girl on her way to school. Louise has never thought about segregation and integration. She only knows that her mother has pulled her out of school. That instead of being overworked with school, she's burdened with caring for her mother's boarders in their boarding house. She's in charge of emptying bed pans and cleaning up after an older man--a legless diabetic--who is grumpy, grumpy, mean. Life might have gone on dismally and stagnant except for the arrival of an outsider--a man, Morgan Miller--who unknowingly changes everything for this family. Who is Morgan? Why is he in town? Morgan was born in New Orleans, he has family there, but he lives in New York. He is here to witness the harshness and brutality of racism. It is a dangerous place to be. The world is a cruel, cruel, place and this atmosphere is deadly serious about staying segregated. There is language--strong language, racist language; there is violence--even sexual violence. So this novel isn't for everyone. But while the pictures it paints are never pretty, it captures the brutal reality of America's past. The good. The bad. The ugly. It is all here.

Poetry Friday: Janet Wong: Noodles

by Janet S. Wong

Noodles for breakfast,
Noodles for lunch,
Noodles for dinner,
Noodles that crunch,
Noodles to twirl,
Noodles to slurp--
I could eat Noodles
all day! Burp!

From The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury. Selected by Jack Prelutsky.

Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Secret of Priest's Grotto

Taylor, Peter Lane and Christos Nicola. 2007. The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story.

I love a good Holocaust story. Especially if it's a true Holocaust story. The Secret of Priest's Grotto is a nonfiction account of how several families in the Ukraine survived the Holocaust by hiding for more than one year in underground caves. The book tells two stories. One of the stories is how Taylor and Nicola came to be researching and exploring the cave. How the men discovered that this cave had once housed Jews during World War II. Once that discovery was made, the search was on to find the survivors. To see if any of them were still alive. To see if their history could be recorded and preserved. The survivors were found. They were interviewed at length. And their stories were shared. The second of the stories is how the Jews came to find the cave(s), how they fought to survive, what life was like underground, etc. The stories are told together, bit by bit. Each one is interesting. Each one is important. I liked the behind-the-scenes approach to research. How it detailed the steps, the tiny steps, along the way finding a great story. I think it is important to show all the journey along the way. Not just the final destination. History can really come alive that way when it is at first a puzzling mystery. But the legacy--the oral history--of these survivors is amazing. One of the survivors had written an account in the seventies to preserve the family's history. And of course there were new interviews as well. Anyway, the story is incredible. And it is very nicely done. The pictures in this book--both from the past and present--are fascinating. Overall, I recommend this one highly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carnival of Children's Literature

The latest Carnival is up. You can read it here. It is great fun, and it's a great theme!

Cowboy and Octopus Trailer

Travel the World: United States: Emma's Turtle

In today's edition of Travel the World, I am presenting an American publication, Emma's Turtle by Eve Bunting. Eve Bunting is a prolific author with many 2007 publications. This one happens to be published by Boyds Mills Press. Why the United States? After all, it isn't traveling very far to stay in your own country...but why not? That is what Emma's Turtle is ALL about: traveling the world without leaving your backyard.

Emma has a turtle. A pet turtle. She keeps him in a pen in the backyard. "She sits in her swing and reads to me of the world and places that are far, far away. She shows me pictures of elephants in Africa and kangaroos in Australia. There are tigers in India and panda bears in China. It is all quite amazing. My life is good. But I often dream of the world that is far, far away."

One day Emma's turtle decides to stop dreaming and go. He tunnels under the pen and begins his quest to travel the globe. Basing his wherabouts on the descriptions Emma has read him, he knows he's been to Africa, Australia, and India. "I am walking in this place I've never walked before. My legs are short and the grass is long. I think I must be in the jungle." As he's merrily going on his way--his way to China--he hears a familiar voice calling for him. It's Emma. Soon he's safe at home in his pen eating strawberries...but he'll never forget his global adventure...and he might just go exploring again one day.

Emma's Turtle is all about imagination and perspective. Why perspective? It shows you the "world" through different eyes. What would it be like to be a turtle? To travel the familiar landscapes of your own backyard as a turtle? Different height. Different pace. Different perspective. You could easily start imagining what it would be like to see the world through the eyes of any animal--ants, bees, cats, etc. The best books offer readers a chance to see the world--some aspect of life--through a different perspective, a new perspective. What does it feel like to be this, to do that. Emma's Turtle does just that. Why imagination? There is a wonder in childhood that allows you to become anything, to do anything. Your backyard can transform into anywhere in the world you want it to be. With imagination you really can travel anywhere on and off the globe. Reading can be key to inspiring this kind of imaginative travel. Reading books can take you to India, China, Australia, Africa, or even Narnia. The book shows that traveling, that having adventures is just a state of mind.

I loved Emma's Turtle. I love the story. I love the illustrations. I love the message.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two Mini-Challenges

These two mini-challenges are compatible--very compatible--with the Cardathon Challenge. But you don't have to be a participant in the Cardathon to join one of the mini-challenges. These "mini-challenges" are not as open-ended as most challenges. But they're not strict either.

One would be to read and/or watch at least two Jane Austen novels/movies in 2008. Masterpiece Theatre is showing all 6 movies in the 2008 season. I am going to be aiming for all 6. But if you want to just watch two movies and blog about them, that is fine too. It would still be participating. For those that may not get PBS, rent (or buy) two Austen movies--any version--and you'll still qualify as a participant. Want to read an Austen biography as a substitute for one of the novels, go for it. Or watch Becoming Jane as a substitute for one of the movies. I'll allow it. Just read two Austen-related books. OR watch two Austen-related movies. You can always read more or watch more. What about audio books? Sure. Listening would count as well. Whatever you want. It's supposed to be fun.

The second challenge would be an Inkling-related challenge. One would commit to reading at least two books by C.S. Lewis (I suggest the Chronicles of Narnia, a seven book series) and reading two books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Movies once again are acceptable. If you want to watch the somewhat new and forthcoming movies The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian that would be fine. A biography of Lewis or Tolkien can be substituted for one of the books. You can watch a mix of Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies. Or you can stick to the books. Whatever you want. I'll be wanting to read all seven of the Narnia books. The Hobbit. And the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Want another book substitute? Try Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen. And the sequel, The Search for Red Dragon. These books have Lewis and Tolkien appearing as fictional characters.

If you're interested in either please leave a comment. (But be specific as to which one you're considering.) These challenges *officially* start in January 2008. The Masterpiece season begins then. But you could begin whenever you want. But I'm not planning on starting until the new year.

DailyLit is a service that may or may not appeal to you. You can have various classics including the six Austen novels in question delivered bit by bit daily into your inbox.

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. Illustrations by Garth Williams.

What can I say about Charlotte's Web that you don't already know? Really. It is a must read for each and every person. If by some chance you never discovered it as a child, you really must read it as an adult. Charlotte's Web is all about the wonder of living. The wonder of life. Seeing the world around you in terrifically radiant ways. Of seeing magic in the small things, the ordinary things. Finding miracles in unexpected places. It captures the beauty of innocence, the heartache of loss, and all the finer points of life in between the two. Wilbur, a spring pig--the runt of the litter--is saved by Fern, a girl who sets out to rid the world of injustice. Fern raises this pig for his first month of life. Bottle-feeding him, caring for him, pampering him. But then it's time for Wilbur to learn to be a pig--to learn about farm life. So he is sold to Uncle Homer. Luckily, the farm is within walking distance and Fern can visit her friend regularly. Wilbur has to make the adjustment to life in the barn. And that adjustment isn't always easy. What Wilbur wants more than anything is a friend--a true friend--but the other animals just aren't interested in providing solace and comfort or entertainment to a pig. Just when Wilbur is at his lowest, he hears a voice whispering soft words of hope and promise. With the dawning of the day, Wilbur learns that his new friend is a spider. What can a spider do for a pig? Well, if that spider is Charlotte--anything and everything imaginable. As the two become friends, as they learn and grow together, Charlotte imparts many words of wisdom to the pig who is innocent, naive, and oh-so-lovable. Charlotte's Web is about life and death and everything in between. It is about the ebb and flow of life. The changing of seasons. An illustration that there is a time and place for everything...things must pass away, must change...because that is the nature of things. Fern can't always be a little girl. She can't always be there for Wilbur. Nor can Charlotte. But some things--like love, friendship, and hope--never pass away. Some things are eternal. It is a beautiful, beautiful story.

I had the pleasure of listening and reading to Charlotte's Web in the past week or so. I first listened to it on audio. It was narrated by E.B. White. It was a special anniversary edition, and I presume that the narration had been restored or put onto cd for the first time most likely. I thought that was very well done. White was especially good at rendering the dialogue of the animals--particularly the gander. There was something so touching, so beautiful about listening to the author read his own book. I know that not every author can be talented in that regards. Sometimes it is better to let professionals do the job, but this one was nicely done.

What can I say about the movie? Well, I loved it. I cried. Who cannot be touched by Charlotte's love and sacrifice? Her devotion, her goodness, her compassionate and wise soul? And Julia Roberts did a great, great job in that role.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cybil Announcements

Panels for the Cybils have just been announced. The posting started this afternoon. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one anxiously awaiting the news. To read the announcements for yourself, go to the official Cybils blog. I see familiar names (and blogs) on every panel in every category. And I really can't wait to see what this whole process is like. I was excited to follow the news last year, but I'm ecstatic to be a part of something this big :) (I am on the nominating panel in the YA division).

Nonfiction Picture Book
Fiction Picture Book
Nonfiction Middle/YA
Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Graphic Novels

The Dark Dreamweaver

Ruth, Nick. The Dark Dreamweaver.

The Dark Dreamweaver is the first in a new fantasy series, The Remin Chronicles, by Nick Ruth. It features an imaginative young boy, two cats, and a talking caterpillar that is an enchanted wizard. Of course there are many other characters, both good and bad, that make this magical read worth the time. Thane, the evil villain (you may hiss and boo if you like) has stolen the Imaginator in the land of Remin. (An other world very different from Earth). And he is using this to gain power both over Remin and Earth. His obsession with power and the dark side is causing millions of people--young and old alike--to have nightmares every night. Houdin, the caterpillar, is a wizard trapped by a reincarnation spell to go through endless cycles as a monarch caterpillar/butterfly. Only one boy in his endless cycling has had the ability to hear his cries for help and intervention, David. Together the two travel back to Remin where David becomes a wizard-in-training and stands in with the magic wand while Houdin provides assistance. There they make plenty of new friends and encounter various enemies. Overall, it is an enjoyable fantasy.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Borrowing Good News...

I found this via A Reader's Journal, I have exciting news for all Austen fans :) Masterpiece Theatre is going to broadcast all six of Austen's novels in 2008! Isn't that absolutely thrilling???? They also say they're going to broadcast a brand new "drama" based on her life. Be sure to enter the contest to win a free 6-in-1 collection of Austen novels. They're giving away 100 copies. To enter, just sign up for their newsletter. Not only will they let you know when the shows are airing, you might just win a free book!

Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility

Anyone else see in this the potential for a great challenge?

The Declaration

Malley, Gemma. 2007.The Declaration. New York: Bloomsbury USA.

It’s a familiar saying that the children are our future. That is why the role of parenting and educating our children is seen as important--as vital--for the health of our nation and the world. But what if it wasn’t true? What if the children weren’t our future? What if there was a way to live forever. To live forever without aging another day?

The Declaration by Gemma Malley envisions such a world...and such a future. The year is 2140. In this new world, to be young is a crime against Mother Nature. The cost of living forever comes with a heavy cost. To receive the drug--the Longevity drug--you must promise to never have any children. For some, this promise can be made and kept without a thought. But for others, it’s asking the impossible. And thus, surplus children continue to be born. But born into what? If a surplus is found--depending on the country--they are either a) killed or put down or b) taken to a place like Grange Hall where they are trained to be Useful servants to the Legal adults. The children--ranging from Small, Middle, to Pending--are indoctrinated to believe that they don’t have a right to exist. That the very fact that they’re alive and breathing is a crime, a sin. A sin that must be atoned for with obedience, hard work, and humility.

To read the rest of my review, visit September's issue of The Edge of the Forest. (Check the archives under "fantasy" after September.)

The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

I picked this one up at the suggestion of Chris from Stuff As Dreams Are Made On. He reviewed it last week, and really how could I not look for it at the next trip to the library? Anyway, this rather long novel is quite good. I won't say it's the best thing I've read for the R.I.P. II Challenge, it would be hard to match The Thirteenth Tale or Dracula. But it was good. Like most novels over six-hundred pages, it has a complicated and twisted plot. The story is told through many narrators, and the "action" occurs across several decades. Primarily, the story is of a Professor Rossi in the thirties, of Helen and Paul in the fifties, and of the primary narrator (I can't recall if she's ever named), the daughter of Paul and Helen, in the seventies. Of course these characters' lives intersect at many, many points. And other characters play significant roles in the unfolding drama. The premise of the novel is simple: vampires are real; Dracula is an active threat to humanity. A series of men (and women) "discover" a book with a dragon in the centerpiece. A mysteriously "old" and unusual book. The bravest of these follow sets of clues to discover the vampire threat. Who is leaving this book where it can be found? Who is leaving the clues? Who is manipulating the drama? Well, I'll leave that for you to figure out. It is a mystery, a puzzle, a race. Can "good" finally overcome "evil" for good? Can this dangerous threat finally be wiped off the face of the earth? The "heroes" in this book are ordinary men and women. Librarians. Scholars. Graduate students. Professors. Not your typical sort to go on quests around the globe. The action happens in libraries, rare book vaults, and monasteries. Overall, I enjoyed it a great deal. I liked some parts better than others. Some times the pacing was great, other times I wished it would go faster or slower. Some details I thought were a bit much, others I thought weren't detailed enough. But generally, I liked it. I read it in two days.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Back to History Challenge

I have *found* a new 2008 Challenge. You're probably thinking, "Becky, is SO challenge-deprived. She'll have nothing to read ALL year." This challenge that I don't-really-need, but can't-say-no-to is the Back to History Challenge. It lasts all year. January 2008-December 2008. The post mentions nothing about being able to list alternates or about the 'freedom' to change your mind. But I'm going to hold on to both. The challenge is to read twelve books, but I'm going to make my list MUCH longer than that and choose twelve from it as I go. Let me repeat, I will not be reading each and every book on this list. I am not insane. I will be picking and choosing from this list. I will probably read 12-20 from this list.

These are "borrowed" from the "In Their Shoes" Challenge making these all nonfiction:

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
I Have Lived A Thousand Years by Livia Bitton Jackson
(My Bridges of Hope by Livia Bitton Jackson)
(Hello, America by Livia Bitton Jackson)
No Pretty Pictures by Anita Lobel
Night by Elie Wiesel
Until We Meet Again by Michael Korenblit and Kathleen Janger
Alicia My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman
The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender
To Life by Ruth Minsky Sender
Isabella From Auschwitz to Freedom by Isabella Leitner
The Tale of The Ring: A Kaddish by Frank Stiffel
Dry Tears: The Story of A Lost Childhood by Nechama Tec
A Special Fate Chiune Sugihara: Hero of the Holocaust by Alison Leslie Gold
In My Hands: Memories of A Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke
I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman

These are borrowed from the Book Awards Reading Challenge

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I'm definitely wanting some Laura Ingalls Wilder:

Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years

These would be *new* reads without being part of any other challenge--yet.

Patience, Princess Catherine by Carolyn Meyer
Hang A Thousand Trees With Ribbons: The Story of Phyllis Wheatley by Ann Rinaldi
A Ride Into Morning: The Story of Tempe Wick by Ann Rinaldi
Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer
Escaping Into the Night by D.Dina Friedman
Shanghai Shadows by Lois Ruby
The English Governess and the Siamese Court by Anna Leonowens
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor
The Road to Memphis by Mildred D. Taylor
The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
White Lilacs by Carolyn Meyer
Jubilee Journey by Carolyn Meyer
An Unlikely Friendship A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley
*one or more of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
the Hawk that Dare Not Hunt By Day by Scott O'Dell
Christy by Catherine Marshall
Savannah by Eugenia Price
To See Your Face Again by Eugenia Price
Before the Darkness Falls by Eugenia Price
Stranger in Savannah by Eugenia Price
Bright Captivity by Eugenia Price
Where Shadows Go by Eugenia Price
Beauty in the Ashes by Eugenia Price
Maria by Eugenia Price
Margaret's Story by Eugenia Price
Don Juan McQueen by Eugenia Price
The Beloved Invader by Eugenia Price
New Moon Rising by Eugenia Price
Lighthouse by Eugenia Price
London by Edward Rutherfurd

If Carolyn Meyer and/or Ann Rinaldi publish ANY new books in 2008, they're automatically on this list. Even though I don't know the titles or if there are any forthcoming at all. Maybe I should just say *any* novel by Ann Rinaldi or Carolyn Meyer to be absolutely clear should count for this challenge.

I am also *considering* reading biographies of Margaret Mitchell, Jane Austen, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don't know if I will. But if I do, I'd want them to *count* in this challenge.

Another loophole, ALSO ANY HOLOCAUST RELATED BOOK FICTION OR NONFICTION PUBLISHED IN 2008. This is my "subject" area of interest and if there are any new books out there that I want to read, I want them to count.

Yet another loophole, I reserve the right to indulge in any book related to Henry VIII and or any of his wives regardless of whether they're YA or YA-friendly. :)

Pride and Prejudice

This post is going to make the rounds. It qualifies as a "Christian" read since this edition was printed by Bethany House. This "insight edition" features notes relevant to everyone, generally speaking, but has a few targeting the Christian crowd specifically. It qualifies as appealing to the young adult crowd--which means I'll be posting it on Becky's Book Reviews. It also qualifies for three challenges I'm participating in: the Something About Me challenge, the book to movie challenge, and the Cardathon Challenge.

Why did I choose to read Pride and Prejudice? I love the novel. I haven't always *loved* the novel. There was a long period of my life where I was unfamiliar with this glorious work. I knew I wanted to read it one day. But I didn't have any immediate plans to make it happen. I picked up a copy--I believe it was a Dover edition--a really cheap edition, by the way, for under three bucks. I got to it in December 2005. Years after buying the book. My motivation then? Well, my best friend, Julie, loved the book. And we were discussing the movie. (The most recent movie had just reached theaters and I wanted to go see the movie...but not until I had read the book.) I read it in probably two to four days. I devoured it really. It was just so wonderful. I was graduating with my degree in library science at the time and had some gift cards to spend, so I bought the A&E DVD version with Colin Firth. If I hadn't been convinced of its wonderfulness before, I certainly would've been after seeing the movie! I remember spending the 23rd and 24th of December watching the movie and wrapping presents and feeling all wonderfully giddy. That January, I introduced the movie to my dad. I didn't know if he would like it. It is rather long. It does have a lot of dialogue. But as soon as Mr. Collins came into the scene, Dad was hooked. That summer, June or July 2006, I introduced the movie to my sister. She was skeptical at first. She thought the first hour or so rather boring. But soon she was a fan as well. Then I introduced everyone to Bride and Prejudice. Of course, Julie was the one who first introduced ME to Bride and I can't take all the credit. So there was much fun and love being spread all around in the family.

But why reread Pride and Prejudice now? Well, I saw it on the Something about Me challenge. It was tempting. But when I saw that Bethany House was releasing a special edition of the book along with their novel Just Jane by Nancy Moser--and that this edition would feature book club type questions--I really couldn't resist it. So I did request a review copy. And it came late last week. As soon as it arrived, I began reading it.

Did I discover anything new the second time around? Well, I don't know about "new" discoveries, but I certainly appreciated it more. I was able to savor it more. I knew what to expect, what was coming. I knew which bits were the "best" parts. I knew the characters. I knew their strengths and weaknesses. I love the language, the style, the romance, the characters. It really is just oh-so-magical.

For those that are unfamiliar, the plot is relatively simple. Jane and Elizabeth are the two oldest sisters in a family of five daughters. It's Regency England. Their family connections aren't the greatest, and it's really imperative that at least one or two of the daughters marry well so that they can be provided for after their father's death. Mrs. Bennet is all about getting her daughters matched up and paired off. And she's a very silly woman. Mr. Bennet is a caring father, who dotes on Elizabeth and merely tolerates the three younger sisters--who rather take after the mother. Jane is a sweet dear. Elizabeth a wit. And the book is about the complicated courtships of the two oldest children. Of course, Lydia, the youngest has her moments as the center of attention. But this isn't her story, thank goodness! Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham and, of course, the unforgettable Mr. Collins play the love interests.

It's a story of love, hate, friendship, family, disdain, disgust, joy, regret, and jealousy. Lots and lots of jealousy. It is a read I recommend to everyone!

What is it about the "Insight Edition" that makes it special? It does feature notes. Mostly cultural notes--not scholarly ones. It likes to comment on the various movie versions of the book. It likes to add in tidbits about Austen's life and time. It points out that Jane is a good "Christian" girl. And it does feature discussion questions. The only thing I am disappointed about in this edition was the fact that I found four typos. One on the very first page. They misspelled first. They even misspelled his on one occasion as "vhis." This is sad, but hopefully it will be corrected with subsequent printings. Typos do happen. But all four could have easily been caught even with spellcheck, and they definitely would have been caught with a human proofreader.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just In Time for My Birthday....

I just discovered this gem on Amazon. Releasing November 27th (Just 2 days before my birthday--and Lewis' birthday, by the way) The Chronicles of Narnia Pop-up: Based on the Books by C.S. Lewis. Robert Sabuda. Matthew Armstrong. Matthew Reinhart. The publisher is HarperCollins. (Oh how I wish I had a contact in HarperCollins in the publicity department. Not only do I want this book, I want to review so so many of their children's books!!!!!)

Book Meme

I was tagged by Josette of Books Love Me to do this meme on how many books I own. If you are reading this and want to do it, then consider yourself "tagged" by me.

Total number of books owned: Too many to count. For one thing, I'm horrible at math. Seriously though, I probably own several thousand at least. More than I have room for. :) I'm not complaining. I like having books around.

Last book bought: In September, I bought a 7-in-1 Science Fiction Novels of H.G. Wells at the used bookstore. I bought Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer in August. Before that I bought Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan back in May. I'm fortunate that I'm a reviewer, or I would be in serious trouble :)

Last book read: I have listened to Charlotte's Web this week. And Little House in the Big Woods. The last book-book I finished was Dramarama by E. Lockhart. I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice. And I'm reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

1) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
2) Anne of Green Gables (and series) by L.M. Montgomery
3) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
4) Umbrella by Taro Yashima
5) Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I could really list 500 books that mean a lot to me. So that one was hard, I can already think of a dozen I'd like to add. :)

Poetry Friday: English Grammar

Shields, Carol Diggory. 2004. Brainjuice: English. Illustrations by Tony Ross

Divided into three sections (rules, tools, and school and beyond) Brainjuice English presents 40 poems on some of the essentials taught in the English classroom. Don’t think there is a way to make grammar fun? Read some of these poems, and you might just be surprised to see yourself smiling.

Today's roundup is at Read, Write, Believe

Sentence Romance

by Carol Diggory Shields

A verb and noun met up one day.
Said the verb, “I think you’re sweet!
Together, you and I could form a sentence that’s complete.”
Noun winked. Verb grinned. A simple life they lived.
She gave him several adverbs, he brought her an adjective.
They added a conjunction, and when the time was ripe,
They had a little clause, of the independent type.
Prepositions followed, and then, without a pause,
They found they were the parents
Of a cute dependent clause.
The noun and verb both smiled and sighed,
“Our sentence sure has grown.
Though it is now compound-complex,
It’s still our home sweet home.”

From Brainjuice: English by Carol Diggory Shields, 22.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What's In a Cover????

Have you seen the new Narnia covers yet? They're illustrated by David Wiesner. The covers (link shows the covers BIG) are sparking some interesting discussions in the blog world including this great article by Bookslut. "Weisner’s a superb illustrator, but the Narnia books, with their weird pagan/Christian allegories, pocketknife-carrying children, and genuine moments of terror, are a poor match for him. It appears that a whole new generation of children will be traumatized by bad cover art -- much as I was, as a tender youth, by the disembodied lion’s head on the cover of the '70s paperback edition of Wardrobe sequel The Horse and His Boy. Beloved book, regrettable cover. These are the tragic intersections that beget design critics." I'm not one that is opposed to change just because it's change. After all, these books have seen many covers come and go through the years. Many styles. Many tones. Many moods. I've read the books in various covers. I'm not necessarily attached to any one of them. I would actually if picking a list of my 'favorites' probably mix and match a set between the various illustrators. (Okay, maybe that's not exactly true. I'll let you know my real favorite later on.) My point is that there is not one "right" way for Narnia to be depicted. Though there can probably be concensus on how it shouldn't be done.
I was introduced to Narnia by my fourth grade teacher. A formidable woman under most circumstances. But I will always, always appreciate her for the fact that she read The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe aloud to her class. The set of books that I got soon afterwards were the aforementioned paperbacks from the seventies. I devoured the series. My sister and I shared them, though I was the biggest fan by far. We added a few more copies now and then when we saw them at the used bookstore or a garage sale. You can never have too many copies of a favorite. Especially when they're paperback to begin with. So I was familiar with Pauline Bayne's cover of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child. It had a completely different mood. It depicted children gayly playing--leaping, skipping, and dancing around the lion. It is springtime. Not winter. It's happy, yes. But it doesn't really let you know that the book is about the struggle of good and evil. It has no dark overtones. There is no oppression. But the art is nice. She was the first. Some might argue that she was the best. She is the one who illustrates the stories inside the books after all. Pauline attended the Slade School of Fine Art, where her sister was completing a diploma course, but after only a year she volunteered to work for the Ministry of Defence, painting camouflage. However, since her kind of attention to detail and accuracy were skills essential for map-making, she was soon transferred to another department to draw maps. This experience was very helpful when she later drew maps of Narnia for Jack, and of Middle-earth for his friend J.R.R. Tolkien. Over the years Pauline Baynes has created many new illustrations for use on book jackets, as well as colouring the original illustrations. In addition, in 1989, she made a series of full-page colour paintings for two books, one called The Land of Narnia, and the other a beautiful, deluxe version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. She was awarded the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal in 1968 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to children's illustration.
I do like the fact that she drew the maps for both Narnia and Middle-earth. But if I had to pick a favorite and best illustrator for Narnia it would be the series of covers done by Chris Van Allsburg. They're beautiful. They're moody. They're practically perfect in every way.

To see the various covers for each one:

The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe

Prince Caspian
Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Silver Chair
Horse and His Boy
Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle

That being said, I really love Wiesner's version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I love the depiction of Eustace as a dragon--a weeping dragon. It is perfect for the book. I also enjoy his cover for The Silver Chair.

I continue my discussion at Reading with Becky. I plan to do this with each one of the series. Today is The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.

More of the seventies versions:

I don't think any of the others come close to the "traumatizing" nature of these. It's amazing that anyone would pick them up and read them unless they already knew what treasure awaited them inside. They definitely don't say "read me."

The Tale of Despereaux

DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux.

I didn't know what to expect from The Tale of Despereaux. I had read both positive and negative reviews. I had HEARD both positive and negative reviews from people I know and trust. Yet I knew I would have to read it myself to see where I was in the spectrum. I really enjoyed The Tale of Despereaux. If you like stories with talking animals--particularly talking mice--then this book will probably appeal. (I know there are some folks that don't like the 'animal fantasy' genre as a whole. People who like their animals to be realistic.) Despereaux is the smallest and youngest mouse in his family. He was 'odd' from his birth. Odd because he was said to be born with 'his eyes open.' Many in the mouse community dislike him. They seem him as odd, different, weird, un-mouselike. He's an outsider among his own. The Tale of Despereaux is about conformity and nonconformity. About being different, about being unique, about finding love and acceptance. About searching for that love and acceptance--because often it is NOT freely given. Yes, Despereaux is different. He is not interested in mousey things. He is drawn to music that only he--and his big ears--can hear. He is drawn to the beautiful world of humans. He is drawn to the Princess. Princess Pea. But this is not Despereaux's story alone. It involves a rat, a princess, a grief-stricken king, an abused and abandoned peasant girl, a prison guard, and a hardened prisoner. The book is enjoyable. And I think many will enjoy it. It did win the Newbery after all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Lockhart, E. 2007. Dramarama.

I really don't have much to say about Dramarama. It was good. I'm not saying it wasn't. But it's not really something I got excited about. I think this is the perfect book for those interested in performance arts--singing, acting, dancing, etc. And even if you're not, it still has plenty to offer along typical lines. It is the story of a girl who feels alone, isolated, unsure of who she is and what she wants. She wants to be famous. She wants to be brilliant. She wants to razzle dazzle. But she's just not sure she has what it takes. Many YA titles tackle this issue of esteem and identity. It's also a story about a girl and a guy--a gay guy--her best friend. Their friendship is put to the test time and time again through this drama-camp summer because of her insecurities, jealousies, and obnoxious attitudes. She has a habit of talking-back to her teachers and coaches, and a way of talking behind people's backs about her classmates and roommates. She also makes a habit of making everything about her. All the time. So when things don't go her way, you'll hear about it. Nonstop. Again many YA titles deal with issues of friendship and self-centeredness. And many of these offer whiny heroines. So nothing new there. Did I like the narrator? Sometimes. But mostly I was indifferent. I didn't love her. I didn't hate her. Her friends? Well, nobody was perfect. It was realistic. Our heroine was neither all-victim, or all-abuser. Everyone had a bit of attitude. Everyone talked bad about one another. Everyone was shallow in some circumstances. I think this title will mean more to readers if they have an interest in this subject. If not, then it may seem all too typical rather than extraordinary. Just like you could take these same situations and make it about a girl who loves sports, or a girl who loves to shop and watch Sex in the City.

Travel the World: Australia: When Mum Was Little

In today's edition of Travel the World, I bring you When Mum Was Little written and illustrated by Mini Goss. This picture book comes courtesy of Australia. Kane/Miller is the American publisher; it was published in 2004.

As you can see from this bright cover, When Mum Was Little takes the young readers back to the psychedelic sixties--1969 to be precise. (Who knew that I could spell psychedelic without looking it up?) A little girl is asking her mother to tell her stories about when she was a little girl. And through words and pictures, today's young readers find out about this 'groovy' time. The text begins, My mum wasn't always a mum. She was little once, just like us. That was in the olden days. Things were different then. The picture shows a mom with three children gathered near. Closer observation of the illustrations show that this is a special occasion--the mother is turning thirty-nine. (For the record, at my house it doesn't take a birthday for "tell me a story about when you were...." to get started!) What are some of things the mom remembers and shares with her children? Roller skates, the moon walk, going to the hairdresser with her mom and grandmother, watching her mother get dressed to go out, the birth of her baby sister, going to the beach, buying candy when it was cheap, etc. The book ends with the mother telling her children that for really interesting stories they should ask their grandmother what life was like when she was a little girl. And I think the illustrations show a pause. Like a pause before a really long story. The grandmother has a look on her face like she is getting ready to talk, talk, talk!

What do I love about When Mum Was Little? Well, though it's set in Australia. I think it rings true for any time and place. I think it is natural for children to want to hear stories about when their parents were children. Stories about their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Growing up--and even to this day--there is nothing I like better than listening to family stories. "Tell me about the day I was born...." "Tell me about what you used to do...." I love to hear my mother talk about her childhood. Especially I love to hear about what she did when she went to visit her grandma! I also love to hear her tell stories on her brothers and sister! I think When Mum Was Little shows positive family interactions and a healthy love for family traditions. It will be easy to transition from reading this aloud to creating your own family story time. While the books intended age group is probably too small for any large-scale family tree/family history project. The sharing of simple stories, looking at photographs together, etc. would be quite appropriate. Especially if the parent could share pictures of what they looked like when they were the child's age!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall Into Reading 2007 Challenge--My List

The challenge is hosted by Callapidder Days. It runs from September 23rd through December 21rst.

Epic by Conor Kostick
Runemarks by Joanne Harris
The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It by Lisa Shanahan
Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes
The Silver Cup by Constance Leeds
Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner
Total Constant Order by Crissa Jean Chappell
Before, After, and Somebody In Between by Jeannine Garsee
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Leonardo’s Shadow by Christopher Grey
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Memoirs of A Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
If A Tree Falls At Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

What do I love about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl? Everything. This is one of my childhood favorites. (I don't know how many times--more than two less than six--I probably read this one growing up.) But I recently, last week, read it for the Book to Movie Challenge. I loved the story. I loved the characters. (Especially Charlie and Grandpa Joe.) I loved the humor. Those oompa-loompa songs are just too much fun! I loved the illustrations. (For the record, the illustrations were by Joseph Schindelman). So when I said everything, I meant everything.

For the few that may not be familiar with the story, Charlie Bucket is a young boy, a poor boy, who wins a Golden Ticket--one of five--and is allowed into the ever-so-mysterious chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka. Why is it so mysterious? The factory closed down years ago--spies in the company selling secrets--and it reopened years later. But no one ever goes in or out of the factory. The gates remain closed. Who are these "mystery" workers? Is Wonka as 'out there' as he seems?

I love the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie as well. The new one. Not that dreadful, dreadful one. Why? It follows the book better. It capture the *essence* of the book. It has the heart and soul of the original even if they change a few details now and then. What do I love most about the movie? A lot of the dialogue comes straight from the book. Not all of it. But enough that when you reread the book you see examples on practically every page. The songs especially are authentic to the book. When you read the book, you hear the songs from this movie. They have brought it to life. What they added to the movie that wasn't in the book was the fact that Willy Wonka's father was a dentist and that they had a strained relationship was an odd twist. In the movie, he had a reluctance to embrace families. He was a loner. In the book, he didn't have this 'odd' quirk and was more than willing to embrace the whole Bucket family from the start. Even though the movie didn't get it quite right at the end, they redeemed it enough where I could accept it.

Do I love Charlie and the Glass Elevator? No. Not really. Not at all. But the first one is classic. It's an unforgettable rags-to-riches story of a deserving boy who finally gets a break.

Of interest: