Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miss Spitfire

Yeah, yeah, so I'm like 2 years behind on this one. Blame it on life. It's been sitting on my shelf since the Cybils LAST year and I just never was able to get to it, though I often looked longingly at the cover, touching the Braille written on the front, and wondering when Annie Sullivan and I would get some time together. Well, it happened yesterday and I was just delighted.

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller, written by Sarah Miller, is a lovely telling of Annie Sullivan's work with the infamous Helen Keller. Beginning with Sullivan's train ride to the Keller home, worrying about what her life would be like teaching a child that could neither see nor hear, all while being almost blind herself. The reader soon gets an inside glimpse into the exhausting, painful road that was taken to teach Helen that there is such thing as language and that communication must be learned in order to survive and lead a healthy, productive life.

Miller's descriptions of the Keller family and their constant enabling of Helen's bad behavior was based on facts I didn't previously know, and Annie Sullivan's background at a blind school was beautifully rendered and emotion-drawing. The reader will feel for this woman, wondering how she possibly managed to stick it out as Helen's teacher without losing her sanity, all while, for the most part, keeping her composure.

I was thoroughly impressed with Sarah Miller's accounts of the relationship between Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, appreciating the photos, afterword, and chronology found after the story completes. Beautifully written and definitely discussion worthy, Miss Spitfire would be great for a children's book club and/or class discussion.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller
Sarah Miller
240pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Atheneum
9781416925422
July 2007

Picture Book Saturday

I read a HUGE amount of great picture books this week, all of which I want to eventually share with you, but my poor little fingers don't want to write about 20 books today, so you get 4. Be happy with that. :) Enjoy!

Night's Nice, written and illustrated by Barabara and Ed Emberley comes with a cute moon cut-out on the front that your kiddos can play with while you read the story. Each page goes through reasons why nighttime is enjoyable, from having the ability to see the Big Dipper and fireworks, to caroling at Christmas time, and of course, sleeping for lots of animals...and for you and me.

Short and sweet, this is an adorable bedtime book. At first, I wasn't too keen on the illustrations, but after going through the book a second time, I think they're cute and fit the storyline well. Simple lines, bold colors for a simple story with a cuteness punch.

Night's Nice
Barbara and Ed Emberley
32pages
Picture Book
Little Brown
9780316066230
November 2008


Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar is written and illustrated by Janet Pedersen. I've had this one on my TBR shelf for quite some time and now I'm kicking myself, wishing I had gotten to it before Christmas. It would have made the perfect companion to the butterfly farm we bought for our niece. Oh well...I'm sending it for her birthday now!

Houdini is a classroom pet (pet project is more like it) and wants to shine in the limelight. When the classroom plant and other animals start to perform cool acts that are more interesting than Houdini's famous "walking across the stick" act, he knows he has to do something drastic. And what does Houdini do? Well turn into a beautiful butterfly of course!

Absolutely adorable! The illustrations are nicely done and the text will produce tons of giggles. Great for a read aloud and to pair with your life-cycle units.

Houdini the Amazing Caterpillar
Janet Pedersen
40pages
Picture Book
Clarion
978061889332
September 2008


Finally, Monsoon Afternoon, written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi is filled with gorgeous pictures and a sweet story of a boy and his grandfather, doing "nothing" on a rainy afternoon in India.

All a young Indian boy wants to do is go play outside, but everyone in his family has an excuse as to why their too busy to play with him. When his grandfather (or Dadaji) agrees to play with him, the pair enjoy their afternoon, playing in the monsoon rains, sailing paper boats, seeing the simple sites around their village, and climbing a banyan tree.

Not only does this touching story exhibit a wonderful bond between adult and child, it also incorporates small lessons about India, such as what monsoons are, what a banyan tree looks like, and traditional dress. Again, the illustrations are just beautiful...they were definitely my favorite part of this one.

Monsoon Afternoon
Kashmira Sheth
32pages
Picture Book
Peachtree
9781561454556
September 2008


To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Peace, Locomotion

A few years ago, the always wonderful and inspirational Jacqueline Woodson came out with her book, Locomotion, the story of a young boy dealing with losing his parents, being new to foster care, and being separated from his sister, through the writing of poetry. This follow-up entitled Peace, Locomotion continues the story of Lonnie and his sister, though this time through Lonnie's letters to Lili.

Lonnie is now twelve and has started getting used to living with Miss Edna, enjoying his time in her home and in having two older brothers. His younger sister Lili is still living across town in a different foster home, causing Lonnie to decide to write down all the events in their lives, so when they're together again, they can have an account of of their time apart.

Through his letters we learn that Lonnie's foster brother is serving in the war in the Middle East and has been declared missing. The word "peace" begins to take on a whole new meaning to Lonnie, at first simply being a manner of saying goodbye to Lili in his letters, now becoming an incredibly important part of his life. He begins to want peace in regards to the war, and also peace within himself as memories of his family together continue to linger and cause contant heartache.

Another beautifully written story by Woodson. The cover is lovely and conveys the title perfectly. Lonnie's letters are written with the mind of a child, yet show the maturity Lonnie has been forced to exhibit because of his situation. The love for his sister is glowing throughout each letter and the touching accounts of their visits together are beautiful.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Peace, Locomotion
Jacqueline Woodson
144pages
Juvenile Fiction
Putnam Juvenile
9780399246555
January 2009

Elephant & Piggie books

I don't think I have ever written about these particular Mo Willems delights and though I'm sure most of you know about them, I can't help but want to spread the word to those that don't. Wonderful sarcasm and irony fill the pages of these simply illustrated easy readers that just fly off the shelves at the library.

I Love My New Toy! shows the events that occur between Elephant and Piggie when Piggie gets a new toy and her friend breaks it. A complete accident of course, but Piggie is NOT happy. This one even had my husband cracking up...and he is just not into kid's lit like we all are!

Are You Ready to Play Outside? is adorable, showing the pair wanting to do everything they can in a day, but when it starts to rain their plans are dampened (pun intended). When they see worms having a blast in the rain, they decide they just might be able to enjoy themselves in the downpour too.

I Will Surprise My Friend! is totally giggle worthy! The expressions drawn on Elephant and Piggie's faces when they are trying to make a game out of surprising each other are just fantastic. When the pair can't seem to find each other, they each start to get worried...about very different things.

I Will Surprise My Friend!, Are You Ready to Play Outside?, and I Love My New Toy! are all fantastic read alouds, especially if you're good at conveying the sarcasm that proves obvious to adults, but sometimes not so obvious to children. Just like in Willem's famous Pigeon books (ohhhh how I love the Pigeon books), sometimes the lines just are not nearly as funny to kids as they are to us, but if you can read them just right, your kids will be as obsessed as we are!

And the Pigeon making an appearance on the inside back cover of each book? Genius. I love this author and I love the Elephant & Piggie books!

For more info or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 Things meme

So I got tagged for this meme on Facebook...and MySpace....figured I might as well post it here too! It's fun and gives you all a bit more insight into my weird way of thinking about life :)

Feel free to steal it!

25 Things

1. I met my husband at a youth conference when I was 16
2. I own a proud owner of a pit bull and no, she's not vicious
3. I'm ridiculously scared of tornadoes
4. I love anything hot pink (or baby pink, pale pink, pink pink)
5. I collect Willow Tree Angels and books of course...books like it's going out of style
6. I still sleep with a blanket (though it's queen sized, not a baby blanket). It was with me all through my hospital experience and Ronald McDonald House stay last year. It's my comfort
7. I eat odd things for breakfast. This morning I had homemade pea soup
8. I absolutely love to swim...or just sit in the water
9. The smell of lilacs and fresh cut grass are my favorite parts of summer
10. I have a star named after me...and one named after my son
11. My dream would be to own a children's bookstore/cafe
12. I watch a ridiculous amount of reality tv. I love them all
13. I am a Godparent to an amazing little boy
14. I've traveled to 15 states (and not just passing through) and 3 other countries
15. I would put oregano or dill on everything if I could
16. On my first wedding anniversary I was medically flown to Albuquerque. Happy Anniversary!
17. I would love to have 3 children and just as many dogs...if not more of each
18. For our next "big" trip, I want to take an Alaskan cruise
19. My dream house will have a front porch and a huge backyard
20. Someday I want to take a mission trip
21. I've been in 3 weddings and went to 2 proms. Lots of dresses!
22. I have a husband that cooks, cleans, rubs my feet, and sings to me. What more could a girl want?
23. I love to rollerblade, ice skate, hike, swim, walk, fish, camp, anything outdoorsy
24. I love to wear sweaters and jeans...and heels and dresses
25. I still love board games. I'm terrible at them, but I love them

Again, feel free to steal!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Sisters 8: Books 1 and 2

Lauren Bratz-Logsted has come up with a hilarious, unique, and, at times, ridiculous series for middle graders, based on the lives of octuplet sisters. So much is jam-packed into these short little books that at times it seems like a bit much, I mean, we have missing parents, gifts, powers, mystery, weird inventions, humor, and on and on, but overall these are super-cute, quick reads, meant to be made into a series of 9.

In Book 1: Annie's Adventures, we are first introduced to the sisters, Annie, Durinda, Georgia, Jackie, Marcia, Petal, Rebecca, and Zinnia. If you think that's a lot of names to remember, each girl is the proud owner of her own cat...they all have names too. :) These smart, quick-witted sisters are spending New Year's Eve with their parents, when both mom and dad mysteriously disappear, leaving the girls to fend for themselves. After finding a note left behind by an unknown person, the girls understand that each of them has a power and each has a gift, both of which must be found by each girl before they can find their parents.

In Book 2: Durinda's Dangers, the girls are still on the search for each individual power and gift. Annie got her's in the last book, now it's Durinda's turn. While all of the girl's are getting themselves to school, paying bills, running the house, and looking for their parents (they're eight years old remember, a talking refrigerator and a nosy neighbor play keep getting in their way, as does fruitcake. Yep, fruitcake. Intrigued? You should be!

In the Sisters 8 series, we have a cross between the Powerpuff Girls and the siblings in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. The girl's a using powers and gifts to find their parents, who they don't know are mising or dead, and they continue to be quick-witted, funny, and smart. Sometimes names and personalities are difficult to keep track of, as with any series that includes 8 main characters, but it's not too bad. This is a cute new series, great for libraries, as it incorporates self-esteem and confidence into it's main themes.

Annie's Adventures and Durinda's Dangers (The Sisters 8)
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
136pages and 120pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Sandpiper
9780547133492 and 9780547133478
December 2008

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lots of congratulations and a review

Many congratulations to all of the wonderful award winners that were announced yesterday. I'm not going to list each and every award winner, as that has been done on multiple blogs, but I will say that I'm very pleased with the Newbery winner (yay Neil Gaimen!!), as well as the Honor Books. The Caldecott was great too, as were the Printz Honor Books. Now we all have to read as much as we can to get prepared for next year!

Now off to the day's review:

Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange is another book in string of titles about other worlds. This year we've had plenty of vampires, some faeries, and even a werewolf or two, but the characters in this particular title really is going to stick with the reader. Filled to the brim with fantasy, romance, and faerie royalty, I was very impressed with Livingston's young adult novel.

Wondrous Strange introduces us to Kelly, an aspiring actress that has just been accidentally handed the lead role in an off-off-off Broadway production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. While attempting to rehearse the lines she is constantly forgetting, she meets Sonny Flannery, a strange guy that seems bent on protecting her from some unknown evil he feels is after her. At first, being a native New Yorker and knowing there are some really weird people out there, Kelly does all she can to avoid Sonny, but when she ends up with a magical horse in her bathtub, she feels it's time to listen to what this guy has to say.

As the mystery surrounding Sonny unravels, as to just who (or what) he is and just what that has to do with Kelly, the poor girl's world comes undone. A whole new world, a fairy tale really, complete with faery royalty and lots of scary beings wanting to harm those that only want to do good. Slowly finding out more about her past, Kelly isn't sure whether she is now living in a dream or if she can bear her new reality.

The characters in Wondrous Strange are fantastically memorable. Kelly comes off as a real girl, afraid of Sonny and his world, not sure that she is strong enough to be a part of it, rather than being all accepting and fine with her changing like (ahem...Bella). I think the descriptions were also pretty amazing, though at times a lot of fantasy words and people were jammed onto one page and it could get a bit confusing. An interesting confusing though!

This is another great selection for fans of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely or the Stephanie Meyer books. The cover is really pretty too....overall and enjoyable selection.

Wondrous Strange
Lesley Livingston
336pages
Young Adult
HarperCollins
978-0061575372
December 2008

Monday, January 26, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Bodies from the Ice

Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past, written by James M. Deem is a fantastic piece of work for the older set of our kids. Great for plain, old entertainment reading or for reports on the melting of the glaciers, the text and the photographs are both stand-outs.

In 1991 a couple hiking a mountain in Italy discovered a corpse (ummm.....hope this doesn't ever happen to me!) and after testing by the appropriate scientists, it was discovered the body was more than 5300 years old, dating back to the Copper Age. This story is followed by several others, all of accounts of ancient artifacts having been preserved by glaciers, now being discovered due to global warming.

Before reading this, I had no idea so many bodies of ancient people had been discovered in melted ice. The photographs are amazing and really do justice to the stories of the lives the individuals may have led. A huge amount of information has been gained on different civilizations all around the world because of the discoveries, giving at least one positive aspect to the fact all our glaciers are melting!

From Deem's book, the reader will have access to not only very cool photographs, but information about geography, ancient civilizations, and the process of learning about the bodies once preserved in ice. It's a very intriguing read, not at all boring or text-like, which will give appeal to those just wanting an entertaining book to read. Lots of maps, sidebars, an index, and extra info are included as well.

I would definitely recommend Bodies from the Ice for library shelves...might as well get two copies, it's going to be a popular one!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past
James M. Deem
64pages
Non-fiction/MG/YA
Houghton-Mifflin
9780618800452
October 2008

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Another random week of picture books from my TBR shelf. I really enjoyed each of these!

I Know an Old Teacher by Anne Bowen, illustrations by Stephen Gammell is yes, yet another book based on the old classic "I Know an Old Woman," but this one is really awesome. The same elements are there:



"I know an old teacher who swallowed a spider.
It crawled down the wall and then sat down beside her.
She swallowed the spider to gobble the flea
that fell from her hair and plopped into her tea. (4)"

And on and on it goes. The illustrations are really what make this book. Miss Bindley is a completely disheveled mess with crazy, flaming orange hair and frumpy clothes and watching her actually swallow different things on each page is pretty funny. I especially enjoyed when she swallowed the snake!

As long as your children aren't afraid of women swallowing weird things, they should be fine with this great read aloud. Get your voice going faster and faster as the verses get longer and longer with each item she swallows and the giggles will be loud!

I Know an Old Teacher
Anne Bowen
32pages
Picture Book
Carolrhoda Books
9780822579847
September 2008


Transitioning to a more mellow, though still wonderfully enjoyable title, Willoughby and the Lion, written and illustrated by Greg Foley (who should be one of Fuse #8's Hot Men of Literature Series if he isn't already. Goodness!). The illustrations and coloring are fabulous...and just a bit brilliant...and the text is written in a kid-appealing manner, easy enough to understand the "surprise" at the end.

This is the story of Willoughby, a young boy that has just moved to a new house that feels much too small. When an enchanted lion offers to grant the boy 10 wishes, the very first wish just happens to be a huge house, quickly followed by a rollercoaster, friends to ride the rollercoaster with, and so on. The lion wants Willoughby to ask for the "most wonderful thing of all," for if he fails to do so, the lion will be forever stuck on a rock in Willoughby's backyard. As the boy wastes wish after wish on frivolous items, the lion begins to wonder if it's truly his destiny to live on a rock.

With a beautiful story and illustrations done in simple black, white, and stunning gold, (not to mention a...ahem...very attractive author, Willoughby and the Lion is going to be a great addition to this year's list of picture books.

Willoughby and the Lion
Greg Foley
40pages
Picture Book
HarperCollins
9780061547508
February 2009


My sweet story of the week is David Elliott's What the Grizzly Knows, illustrated by Max Grafe. Aimed at a younger crowd than the previous two titles, this one has soft, touching pictures that accompany a text perfect for a bedtime book.

As a young boy falls asleep holding his beloved teddy bear, he begins to dream. The boy's bear turns into a real grizzly bear... and then the boy does too! Together they have the ultimate adventure; fishing for food, playing in the forest, and walking up mountains. When their adventure is over, both morph back into their original beings and continue to sleep, leaving no trace of their journey, except of course...what the grizzly knows.

What the Grizzly Knows
David Elliot
32pages
Picture Book
Candlewick
9780763627782
October 2008


To learn more or to purchase any of these titles, click on a book cover to link to Amazon.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Want to know my great news?!

We are finallllly getting out of New Mexico! The husband got orders to Virginia yesterday, something we've been praying for, and we are set to be there April 30th. This means we will live about 6 hours from home, much better than 2000 miles!

Aaron will no longer be working for a base, so that means finding and buying a house...in 3 months...from across the country. Should be interesting, but I'm excited!

So let's see. I will have everything I could want at my fingertips. Bookstores, libraries (meaning a JOB, imagine that), Whole Foods, family, D.C., the ocean, friends, dog parks, water, civilization! Ahhhh I'm so excited!

Inkdeath

I fell in love with Inkheart over two years ago, after I had devoured The Thief Lord and needed more, more, more of Cornelia Funke. I was enchanted and amazed and in love with that humongous book. The I read the sequel, Inkspell, and was a bit less enchanted. Still, it was wonderful and the characters are so colorful and the scenery so beautiful. Now, I've finally gotten my hands on the eagerly anticipated final book in the trilogy, Inkdeath....and I was oh-so-disappointed. I started "reading" it via an audiobook while I exercised at night and halfway through I had to stop and switch to the print book. I was so confused all the time, constantly having to rewind and listen again...SO bummed.

Inkdeath picks up right where Inkspell has left off. We get roughly 100 pages of backstory (though an index in the back is still needed to explain over 100 characters and their purpose in the plot), and then are led back into the Inkworld where dark magic has taken over. Fenoglio can no longer write, only drink, Orpheous has the biggest ego ever and has taken Fenoglio's words and begun twisting them to make the story his own, with often disasterous results. Mo (or the Blue Jay) has it in his mind to kill the Adderhead with Violante's assitance, but is either in a castle dungeon or somewhere else completely unlucky through the most of the book. Meggie can't decide if she is in love with Farid or just the idea of love and Farid can't decide if he cares more about Meggie or Dustfinger. And Resa and Mo are about to have another child, but poor Resa is more focused on keeping her husband safe and out of the Adderhead's hands and Elinor and Darius come back into the Inkworld and...and...and...

Phew.

Unfortunately, the pages in Inkdeath are muddled with characters and the secondary names characters are called (I swear every single character goes by two names...sometimes three!). If there wasn't an index, I would be lost. Breaking Dawn anyone? I can't imagine how a 12 year old would feel, taking on this enormous book, though that is exactly the age bracket this series is targeted to. There is just not nearly the amount of action as in the previous two novels, and the end was more than a bit disappointing for the completion of a trilogy.

The story-telling is still completely magical, Cornelia Funke truly has a gift and I really hope she continues writing books for kids. Inkheart and The Thief Lord are still two of my favorites, Inkdeath just fell short for me.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Inkdeath
Cornelia Funke
696pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Scholastic
9780439866286
September 2008

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mid-week Non-Fiction and some thoughts on Bearport

I've written about Bearport books before, typically just a single title at a time for Non-Fiction Mondays, but they've been raved about. I love this publishing company. They produce the most well-bound books I have ever seen, having watched them come back from being checked out at the library dozens of times and still looking the same as they did when they were placed on the shelf for the first time. And the books are all worth keeping around for as long as they'll last. Their content is informative, yet simple enough for younger children to grasp onto and the books are on such a wide variety of topics, some of the subjects being completely unique (at least in my experience). And the pictures...oh the pictures! I am always happy after having read and reviewed a Bearport Publishing book. Buy these for your library, you will not be disappointed.

I have four Bearport books to chat about today, just random titles from my shelves that I thought would be of interest. Hopefully you'll see something you like!

Platypus: A Century-long Mystery by William Caper and Arctic Fox: Very Cool! by Stephen Person are two titles from the "Uncommon Animals" series. Beautiful photos and maps fill the pages, accompanied by text that has bolded words throughout. Those bolded words can then be found in the glossary in the back. Did you know that the platypus is a mammal that lays eggs? Or that the arctic fox mates for life?

Also included in that series are titles on the Tasmanian Devil, the Fossa, the Aye-Aye, and the Weddell Seal. What in the world is a Fossa? Can someone share?

Deadly Poison Dart Frogs by Jennifer Dussling and Smelly Skunks by Catherine Nichols are two titles in the "Gross-Out Defenses" series....which is bound to be incredibly popular. What kid do you know that doesn't absolutely love all things gross?

Again, beautiful photographs accompany short, simple facts about each animal, with maps, a glossary, and an index. Did you know that a skunk can spray up to 15 feet (yikes)? Or the poison dart frog has enough poison in it's body to kill 20,000 mice...or 10 adults?

This series is great for beginner non-fiction. They're only about 24 pages long, with more pictures than text and the text that is included is presented in short, concise sentences. These would be awesome for the younger crowd interested in cool animals.

Other titles in this series include Disgusting Hagfish, Bloody Horned Lizards, Prickly Porcupines, and Tricky Opossums.

I'm always impressed with Bearport books and these are just a few that I had to talk about it. I'm sure you'll be seeing more on this blog in the future and if you do have a say at your local library (or you're the librarian), you'll want to check out these books to order. They have a lot of unique animal titles, some awesome dinosaur books, and lots of dog books! We know how I feel about the dog books!

To learn more or to purchase, click on any of the book covers above to link to Amazon or click here to link to the Bearport Publishing website.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Pout-Pout Fish

What an absolutely adorable book! Oh and it is SO perfect for a story time read aloud! Author Deborah Diesen and illustrator Dan Hanna have teamed together to create a laugh-out-loud story about a fish that is just downright pouty.

Mr. Fish can't help but be gloomy, he just has a pout-pout face. It's not HIS fault, no way! As he swims along in the ocean, his friends try their best to change that pout to a smile, with Mr. Fish explaining that he's meant to be a spreader of dreary-wearies...it's just his nature.

From the jellyfish to the squid, the clam and the octopus, Mr. Fish insists he is just "destined to be glum," with no hope to ever be a happy fish. That is until he meets the newwww fish. Aha! The beautiful, shimmery, female fish that plants a kiss right on the lips of Mr. Fish. Now....he just may have something to be cheery about!

The illustrations in this completely giggle-worthy book are bright and imaginative, a perfect compliment to the gloominess of Mr. Fish. The rhyming is cute and kids will love shouting along with the "Blub, Bluuuub, Bluuuuub's!"

The Pout-Pout Fish is a great story time read aloud...pair this with an ocean craft.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Pout-Pout Fish
Deborah Diesen
32pages
Picture Book
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
9780374360962
March 2008

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Need

Most people would think Zara is one strange girl. She collects phobias, knowing what practically ever phobia ever named is. Were you aware that Arachibutyrophobia is the fear that you will "have peanut butter stickage on the roof of your mouth? (1)" I mean, really, who knows that?! Apparently Zara, the main character of Need, does.

Her stepfather has just passed away and her mother believes that Zara would be better off living in Maine with her grandmother, rather than staying at home where Zara feels she belongs. At first completely adverse to the idea, Zara finally gives in, just wanting to make her mother happy, thinking depression has overtaken the woman's life.

After she is shipped off the the freezing cold land of Maine, Zara realizes she's been seeing a man everywhere, in the most random of places and always the same man. She saw him at home, she sees him in Maine. She is beginning to get a tad bit freaked out (I mean, seriously, who wouldn't), especially because the guy seems to leave a small trail of gold dust wherever he is. Uh. Weird.

With the help of some new friends, Zara starts to learn about the world of pixies. Not the nice, friendly, sweet pixies we all know of from fairy tales, but rather angry, evil, murderous pixies that Zara now believes wants her for something. The needs of these pixies are uncontrollable and both Zara and her friends think she is in mortal danger, forcing them all to do research to find out how to fight off the advances of the pixies...and survive.

Fans of Stephanie Meyer and Melissa Marr are going to scramble to get copies of this new paranormal thriller by Carrie Jones. Though I had a really hard time believing what the author was trying to sell me, there was so much suspense I could not stop turning the pages. Action packed doesn't describe and it's even completely and totally creepy at times.

As I mentioned, Jones had a hard time selling me on Zara's feelings about pixies and the fact that they are "real" in the story. Stephanie Meyer seemlessly weaves vampires and werewolves into her books, but the beginning of Need is a little rough. I don't buy the pixie thing. As the chapters go by, that aspect gets better and I'm more and more impressed.

The thing about wearing your clothes inside out to ward off pixies though? Still don't buy that.

Overall, this was good. I loved the concept and loved the suspense. The cover is great (though I only have an ARC, I'm not sure of the final cover) and I really think this is going to be a huge hit with the teens that love their paranormal/supernatural/fantasy books. I would definitely recommend this as a purchase or library shelves.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the above book cover to link to Amazon.

Need Carrie Jones 320pages Young Adult Bloomsbury USA Children's Books 9781599903385 January 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Board Books

I realized today how long it's been since I've posted about board books....too long! These are a couple I've gotten over the past couple of months and have enjoyed. :)

Books Are For Eating Reading is written and illustrated by Suzy Becker. An adorable rhyming book, each page explains a different thing that baby should not eat, from shoes to crayons, books, and the phone. Try telling that to a 6 month old drooling like crazy!

"Books are for reading, not eating. Crayons are for writing, not biting."

Even though the title says otherwise, the edges of the book are absolutely perfect for teething babies. Made of textured rubber for easy gripping and eating, Becker's book is great for a shower gift or just for a little one getting ready to pop some teeth!

Books Are For Eating Reading
Suzy Becker
16pages
Board Book
Random House
9780375874987
January 2009


I have to write about Starfish: A Bedtime Story...it's written by the bass player of one of our favorite bands, Sister Hazel (along with K. Block)! He's taken one of their hit songs and paired it with some great illustrations by Sean Kelley. How cool is that? I love when I can mix two of my favorite worlds...books AND music!

Written about a boy and a lonely starfish that find each other at the beach, though it definitely reads like a song rather than a story. Be ready to sing! A cd of the song, "Starfish Lullaby" is included with the book, so you and the kiddos can listen to it once you're done with the story. A good choice for a bedtime-go to sleep soon book.

I actually couldn't find an image for Starfish, but click here to link to Amazon.

Starfish: A Bedtime Story
J. Beres and K. Block
19pages
Board Book
Sea Tails Publishing
9780978949037
September 2008

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam

Now that the Cybils are over (at least for my part in them), I'm able to get to some of the books that have been on my TBR shelf for quite awhile, Cracker being one of them. Cynthia Kadohata has been iffy with me so far, I really did not enjoy Kira-Kira, but I had pretty high hopes for this one. It does have a dog as a main character after all....

Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam is the story of a German Shepard, bred as a show dog but injured with a broken leg and thus taken out of all competition. He ends up living with Willie, a boy that loves and cares for for the dog more than anything in the world (and renames him Cracker). Unfortunately, Willie's apartment building does not accept pets and Willie and his family are forced to give Cracker to yet another new home, devastating the boy and scaring Cracker.

The dog ends up being enrolled in a military scout-dog program, paired with his new handler, a seventeen year old named Rick that is out to "whip the world." Cracker and Rick will be trained to sniff out bombs and other weapons while in Vietnam, a task that is huge to learn for Cracker and possibly even harder for Rick. As the pair become closer and learn more, an unbreakable bond is formed; a bond that will be put to the ultimate test once they arrive in Vietnam and true war is where they find themselves.

Told first from Willie's perspective, then alternating between Cracker and Rick, all the bases get covered in such a realistic manner. I think Kadohata redeemed herself with me through this wonderfully written and sweet story. The bond between human and dog is extremely hard to describe, but the author has done it absolutely beautifully. She got it. The uncertainty between dog and owner at first is a thin line, but the trust that builds is an awesome thing.

Cracker is a great story, one I will recommend over and over. Just the right amount of heart, compassion, and a plain old good story.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Picture Book Saturday

I have quite the variety of choices for you in the realm of picture books this Saturday!

Walking to School, written by the wonderful Eve Bunting and illustrated by Michael Dooling, is my only serious choice of the week. Based on the Irish conflicts between the Protestants and the Catholics of the country, our main character is a young girl, terrified to walk to school because she's Catholic and must walk through the Protestant territory. Her Uncle Frank, involved in demonstrations against the Protestants, is the one that walks her to school, one day walking right in the midst of a violent demonstration.

Allison is thrown in the middle of the protests and has a button ripped off her school blazer, only to be picked up and returned to her by a young Protestant girl. This allows Allison to believe that religion really shouldn't have to get in the way of people being friends, it's only a characteristic of someone's life and shouldn't be something to judge by.

Bunting has made a very difficult story of Northern Ireland's "Troubles" into a story that can be easily understood by a child and is not told from a single side of the story. This is not a book about the problems Protestants created or the mess Catholics made, but rather an overview of what it was like to be a child, simply trying to walk to school, during that time.

Dooley's illustrations are pretty amazing too...appearing to be done on canvas. This would be a great intro to social studies book, as well as nice addition for homeschoolers.

Walking to School
Eve Bunting
32pages
Picture Book
Clarion Books
9780618261444
September 2008


Mystery Ride!, written and illustrated by Scott Magoon, is definitely a much lighter choice than my first book, featuring three siblings and their often "mysterious" parents.

The kids (or animals of some sort) in the story, have learned over the years that when their parents tell them they are going on a mystery ride, it's never a good thing. Typically a mystery ride means going to the grocery store, the dump, or the hardware store...definitely not fun places for kids. They would much rather just be told where they're going, because those trips are almost always fun!

On one particular afternoon, the family piles into the car and dad announces they're going on a "MYSTERY RIDE!!!!!," which of course receives nothing but groans from the kids. When they slowly pass by all the typical, un-fun "mystery" destinations, they soon realize that they should never assume that all mystery rides will be bad. They just might be a blast!

The story is very simple and cute in this one, easy for children to follow and I'd be surprised if they aren't begging you for mystery rides after you've read this to them. I was not impressed by the illustrations at all (I really don't like not being able to tell what species the characters are), but the story was adorable.

Great for read alouds!

Mystery Ride!
Scott Magoon
Picture Book
40pages
Harcourt Children's Books
9780152060213
November 2008


Finally, Dogs on the Bed is written by Elizabeth Bluemle and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, telling the story of a family that's made up of more dogs than people!

All this family wants to do is go to sleep, but their beds have been taken over by dogs! Scrambling over each other to get closest to their owners, bringing slippers to chew, and making it impossible to sleep. Once dad gives them the "old heave-ho" the dogs howl and bark, make their eyes as sad as possible and then beg to be let out. After a long night of adjusting, everyone finally makes it to sleep, dogs on the bed and all!

The giggle meter with this book is sky-high, I was even chuckling my way through it as I was reading. The illustrations accompany the silly rhymes perfectly and those kids with dogs are definitely going to be able to relate to how little bed space is allowed for the humans in the house.

A great story time read aloud!

Dogs on the Bed
Elizabeth Bluemle
Picture Book
32pages
Candlewick
9780763626082
October 2008

Friday, January 16, 2009

Poetry Friday: Winter Trees

Winter Trees is a beautifully presented book, written by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans. Filled with a lovely poem, featuring a quaint concept, and of course a cute dog and his boy, this title is great for reading while snuggled up with the little ones and letting the snow come on down outside.

A boy and his dog take a simple walk through the wood, learning about different trees as they crunch through the snow.

"The sugar maple's bark is gray. It's twigs are brown. It's buds are stout, with clawlike tips that in the spring will burst to shoot new green leaves out." (10)

Beech trees provide the perfect supplies for creating a snowman and the tall, yellow poplars are great for feeding the deer, looking for food during the winter.

The book reads like one big poem, with each page being it's own stanza. The last page describes each tree mentioned with greater detail, allowing for learning to take place during the reading of the book as well.

A very quiet, peaceful book is really what Winter Trees is, giving parents/librarians a nice setup to make a winter project or teach about different trees found in the forest. After reading, take the kids for a nature walk and have them participate in the same activities the boy and his dog did...make snow angels and snowmen, gather pine cones and maple syrup, or just look for animal tracks.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Winter Trees
Carole Gerber
32pages
Poetry
Charlesbridge Publishing
9781580891684
June 2008

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Apologies and Shooting the Moon review

My fantastic husband spent about four hours last night working on this blog, giving it an extra column and putting in a pretty background...then formatting everything to fit, etc. It's still a work in progress...all my links aren't up (that's the apology part), but the posts are there and that's the important part. Just deal with it for another day or so and it should be the way I want it! A huge thank you and a smooch to Aaron and a big hug and a thank to Becky for sending me the links she used to make her blog so pretty!

On to the review...

First, let me tell you one of my biggest irritations in the book world. When I hear about a book that sounds fabulous, but can't get an ARC, that's ok...a little annoying, but hey, publishers don't HAVE to send me free books right? So I patiently wait for the single library around here to get a copy, but we're so backed up, we get new books 6 months after they have come out, if at all. So that's out. I can't ILL it because they don't allow the ILLs if the books have been published within the last 6 months. Too new. So my only option is to buy. Can't always do that, the budget would be broken and the husband would divorce me. So what happens? I end up having to wait forever to read a book that all of you have been raving about for so long! Urgh! Which leads me to the latest book I've had to wait forever for: Shooting the Moon. And yes, it was worth the wait.

Frances O'Roark Dowell has made the simplest novel into a masterpiece. Beautiful characters with such real emotions are somewhat hard to come by, but our main character definitely is one of the more realisitic, pure characters I've read. Short, sweet, and memorable, I really felt this one was very well written.

Jamie Dexter is an Army brat and a proud one at that. She is filled with Army pride, instilled in her by her father, a Colonel. When her brother decides to enlist, her father is surprisingly against it, wanting him to go to college before heading off to Vietnam. Jamie on the other hand, is all for her brother going to fight! She feels it is a man's duty to fight for his country and if girls could go...especially 12 year old girls, Jamie would be the first to sign up!

When Vietnam is exactly where her brother gets sent, Jamie is all excited to get letters about real war. When her parents get all the letters and she only gets rolls of film her brother wants to develop, at first Jamie is incredibly disappointed, wanting only details on what combat is really like. Once she starts developing the film however, she learns a lot of life lessons...about war, about love, about family. And when her brother goes missing, Jamie isn't so sure that going to war is really an important thing at all.

The ending of Shooting the Moon will stick with you for quite some time. I was really impressed with Jamie's innocence, yet she was mature in the same respect. Proud of her family for being in the Army, mature about what being in the Army means, yet innocent about losing family for a war.

This is an excellent middle grade novel. Could be an awesome choice for a class discussion in social studies.

If you're interested in learning more, click the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Shooting the Moon
Frances O'Roark Dowell
176pages
Middle Grade
Atheneum

9781416926900

January 2008

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blog revision

Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you know that my lovely husband is going to try and make my blog a whole lot prettier tonight, so the links/photo/posts may not be working. Cross your fingers for a nice setup tomorrow!

Animal Heroes: True Rescue Stories

Sandra Markle has created a truly remarkable book in Animal Heroes: True Rescue Stories. I looked at it over and over again, not only for the amazing animal stories that grace the pages, but also for the fabulous photographs that give true justice to the wonderful animals and their owners. I am very passionate about animal rights, especially for animals deemed "unwanted" by a large portion of a population and books such as this really tug on my heart strings!

Readers are able to learn about an amazing gorilla that protected a toddler that had fallen into her cage from other gorillas until zoo keepers could remove the child from harm and a monkey that has been trained to assist his quadriplegic owner. My favorite was probably the story of the rescue dogs trained to find people in natural disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, etc. Dogs have my heart. :). These animals are truly remarkable beings and having such a wide array of unique stories in one volume is a huge plus.

Markle is an award winning author and Animal Heroes shows her at her best. The photographs are striking and beautiful, full of bold color and really focusing on the animals. So many times animals and their heroic acts are glanced over in favor of the human that was in harm's way, but I was pleasantly surprised to see what a wonderful job was done in honoring the true heroes.

Great for all shelves, home, library, school, etc. Also great for animal reports or just plain "fun" reading!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Animal Heroes: True Rescue Stories
Sandra Markle

64pages
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
Millbrook Press

9780822578840
September 2008

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New pictures!

I've had so many comments and emails from those of you wanting to see pictures of Zoey AND Shae instead of just the newest Snow family member. Who am I to deny you all pictures of my babies??

For those of you not quite up to speed on the new dog...we've added a now 9-week old English Bulldog puppy to our family named Zoey. She was 5.5lbs last week and at our vet visit yesterday she's already up to 8! I'm going to have a beast on my hands! She's already 99% housetrained and sleeping until about 5am every morning, so things are going pretty well.

Our older dog, Shae, is a 2.5 year old pit bull mix and the biggest baby you'll ever meet. She's my first dog love and my best friend :).

Enjoy the pictures!







Flygirl

Already, this year is turning out great for children's books. Some of the review copies I've received are just awesome and Flygirl is definitely one of those. A fabulously written book on a unique subject, one I had never read a novel about, let alone a young adult novel, filled with rich, comforting characters that make you want to hug your family and friends. Watch out for this one folks...I hear awards calling!

Sherri L. Smith has created this incredibly interesting story of a young black girl living during the time of WWII and the Jim Crow laws, dying to be a pilot like her daddy. Ida Mae learned to fly from her father, spending hours with him in his plane before he died. Now that her brother has gone off to war and she spends her days cleaning rich people's homes, Ida Mae believes her dreams of being a pilot will never come true. Not only can she not fly the plane during times of war, but she has to help support her family, taking care of her mama, grandfather, and younger brother until her older brother can return home.

When Ida Mae finds out about the WASP program, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, she knows she has found a way to fly. Everyone knows that a black woman can't join, but Ida Mae's skin can almost pass for a white girl's. With that characteristic...and her father's pilot license, a poor, black girl from the South just may make it in a white man's world, flying planes.

Through constant prejudices, both gender and race related, Ida Mae follows her dream, but not without hardship. Her brother is missing in the war, her mother feels Ida Mae's place is at home, and if anyone were to find out about the African blood running through her veins, home is exactly where she'll go. Ida Mae feels she is truly making a difference through the WASP program, but constantly feels she isn't able to be herself. Identity is the theme here, really knowing oneself even when forced to be something you're not.

Readers are going to be continuously rooting for Ida Mae to succeed, but there is so much heart in her family ties, at times you may even want her to fail, just to have her go home and help her family. That's how truly wonderful this engrossing book is. There are two parts to Ida Mae's life, thus two parts to the plot, each of which blends beautifully into the other.

I was really impressed with all I learned about the WASP program during WWII. Even being an Air Force wife, I didn't know much about this program and the manner in which Smith wove the historical information into her story was very smoothly done. I really love when I can be entertained, but learn something at the same time and Flygirl completely fills both of those wants. The writing is great, the info plentiful, and the heart is everywhere.

The only aspect I didn't completely enjoy was that Ida Mae never did reveal her true self to her friends. She became so close with several of the girls, but never let them in on the fact that was black. I'm sure it's because they probably would have dismissed the friendship and that was another story that didn't completely need to be told, but I still would have liked to see what would have happened once they were aware their friend was not truly white.

A wonderful selection for young adults and even those mature middle grade readers. Nothing too violent or inappropriate for that age group.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Flygirl
Sherri L. Smith

256pages
Young Adult
Putnam Juvenile

9780399247095
January 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Encyclopedia of the End

When this title arrived at my door for review, I think my mouth dropped open. Never before have I come across a book completely filled with death...on purpose...for KIDS! But really Deborah Noyes has done a great job of compiling a huge amount of information on all things death related for the middle grade/young adult reader, in a sophisticated and tasteful manner

Encyclopedia of The End: Mysterious Death In Fact, Fancy, Folklore, and More is a comprehensive guide to death. Each chapter is a different letter, from A-Z and is filled to the brim with all sorts of information you never thought you would read about. Descriptions of death related things such as autopsies, body snatching, pet cemeteries, and exhumation are included, as are decomposition, mummies, hospice, spirit photography, and caskets.

Kids are really going to love this, don't you agree? Though the amount of photographs is quite sparse, that may be a good thing considering the subject matter being dealt with. The descriptions are informative, yet interesting, and displayed in a very concise manner, as to not appear to be heavy or boring.

A great guide for a report, I would definitely recommend this for the older kids, though the material is simply informational, not scary or gory in any nature. Completely appropriate for libraries and school libraries.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Encyclopedia of the End
Deborah Noyes
160pages
Young Adult
Houghton-Mifflin
9780618823628

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Black Book of Secrets

F.E. Higgins has created a dark world of intrigue for the middle grade reading sector with The Black Book of Secrets. Fans of Lemony Snicket and his "Unfortunate Events" series and J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter", will be fully satisfied with the mystery, spookiness, and unanswered questions that fill the pages of this book. Plus the edges of the pages are black and that's just plain cool.

When his abusive parents go a bit too far and attempt to rip the teeth out of his mouth to sell, Ludlow Fitch finally runs away from The City and away from his parents. Not knowing where to go, but knowing he has to go somewhere, Ludlow ends up residing with Joe, the mysterious pawnbroker that trades money for the townspeople's deep, dark secrets, having Ludlow record the secrets in a big, black, book.

Having obvious trust issues, Ludlow finds it difficult to trust Joe, though he wants to desparately. Always feeling as if he is not being told very important information as to Joe's intentions, Ludlow tries to find out all he can about Joe, while continuing to be his assistant and transcibe people's secrets, finding out more about his neighbors than he ever would have thought possible. Unfortunately, what Joe doesn't realize is his new apprentice may hold a deep secret of his own.

The setting of The Black Book of Secrets is completely creepy and the different characters, most especially Joe, is incredibly intriguing. Mystery surrounds all the characters and the reader is constantly wondering what the next big secret he or she is going to read will be. Through the course of the story, there are times I wasn't even sure what was going on...who was bad, who was good...such fun! This one is going to be a "stay up late and read under the covers with a flashlight" book!

Though technically marketed towards middle grade readers, the characters will also appeal to young adults, as do Snicket's and Rowling's titles. Very enjoyable! And again...the black page edges are cool!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above and link to Amazon.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

This week is three random selections from my TBR shelf. No pattern today!

Can Anybody Hear Me? written and illustrated by Jessica Meserve, is a straight-to-the-point book about a young lad whose family just won't listen to him. His entire family is incredibly noisy, boisterous, and outgoing and poor Jack is just the opposite. He likes to be quiet and living with the family he does, that means he often isn't heard.

When all Jack wants is to share with his family that he plans to climb to the very top of a mountain, no one can hear him, they simply shout the answers they think he wants to hear. When Jack gets lost on his journey up the mountain, he's scared that no one knew where he was because they didn't listen to him. Once he is returned home safely, he finally builds up the courage to speak up and tell the family what's on his mind.

No beating around the bush here. Can Anybody Hear Me? is great for those shyer children that just don't speak up or for a simple, sweet read aloud.

Can Anybody Hear Me?
Jessica Meserve
32pages
Picture Book
Clarion Books
September 2008
9780547028347


Doctor Meow's Big Emergency, written and illustrated by Sam Lloyd, is part of the Whoops-a-Daisy World series, each of which features a different character within a small town (very similar to the Richard Scarry books). This title focuses on Doctor Meow at the Kiss-it-Better Hospital and her mission to help Tom Cat who has hurt his leg. We get a glimpse inside the hospital, the map of the ambulance ride, and the help given to Tom Cat. All done with huge, bright, illustrations with a very "retro" feel.

I really think kids will love participating in reading a series, even at a young age, and picking up on characters featured in other titles. I was a huge fan of the Richard Scarry series when I was younger and collected all the books and can definitely see this series being just as successful. The story is simple enough for little ones to follow, the illustrations are perfect for the story, and the hospital experience is one every kid can stand to read about.

Doctor Meow's
Big Emergency

Sam Lloyd
32pages

Picture Book

Henry Holt

September 2008

9780805088199


Finally, a title I've been hearing a lot about these last couple weeks is The Tale of Two Mice: A Cat-and-Mouse Tale, written and illustrated by Ruth Brown. Part adorable story, part lift-the-flap, I can see why so many say this is a kid pleaser!

The reader is initially introduced to Billy and Bo, two mice living behind a baseboard in a huge old house. When the brothers run out of food, they have to go on an adventure through the house to stock back up on supplies. Billy is concerned they are being followed by an unwanted guest, but Bo just thinks Billy is crazy, seeing things where there is nothing. The end result is hilarious and will have kids giggling all over the place.

The lift-the-flaps are not so numerous that this couldn't be a good read aloud title, I would definitely recommend for story times. Kids love being in on the joke! Very funny, cute, and sweetly illustrated.

A Tale of Two Mice
Ruth Brown

32pages

Picture Book

Candlewick

December 2008

9780763640156


To learn more about any of the titles, or to purchase, click on any of the book covers to link to Amazon.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Friday: Loose Leashes

So it's almost 8:30 and I just now realized I have yet to post my Poetry Friday entry. Well, better late than never I suppose!

Yes, I have yet another dog book to rave about, but I promise, I only bring the best for all of you. And when I received this week's book in the mail just two days ago, I knew I would love it and I know a lot of you will enjoy it too.

Loose Leashes, written by Amy Schmidt and photographed by Ron Schmidt, is perfect for dog- loving kids. Included are 16 adorable poems, catering to the particular animal photographed and presented on the page. Each portrait is of a different breed of dog that came from a totally different background from one another. In the back pages, the reader gets to learn more about where each dog came from, their likes and dislikes, and "secret facts."

My favorite (yes, I'm a bit biased) is Fluke, a pit bull mix that has spent his life on a sailboat. His slow lifestyle is paired with an equally relaxed ballad, " Anchors Aweigh." I also got a big kick out of "Love" a sweet poem paired with the photograph of Moose and Mini, a teeny dog and a huge dog that are completely in love. How cute is that?!

From my experience, kids love to look at books filled with photographs once in awhile, rather than the typical illustrated book, as well as loving dog books (can't say I blame them!). Loose Leashes makes a great read aloud, as most of the poems are silly, as are the corresponding dogs. Great for libraries and home shelves.

Set to be published on the 13th, you can learn more or purchase by clicking on the book cover above and linking to Amazon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Awww....I got love!

This week I received blog awards from Serena, Holly, and Katie. I received the Premio Dardos Award from Serena, which is described as:

"The Prémio Dardos is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."


How great is that? And she said some very nice things about me, which I appreciate immensely. Compliments will always earn you points ;-).

Katie and Holly gave me the Butterfly Award, described as "for the Coolest Blog I Know." I love the award, thank you both! While I'm mentioning them, Katie is a personal friend of mine from back in Upstate NY. She's been a great friend for years. Head on over to her new blog!


Thanks ladies!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows

I was one of those followers of the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series, written by Ann Brashares, anxiously awaiting each new release. I simply found those books pure entertainment, filled with issues that relate to teen girls and with writing that was simple enough to not cause brain overload while reading.

When I heard Brashares was expanding her sisterhood series with a new selection featuring 3 girls going to the same high school as the original sisters, I was definitely intrigued and looking forward to the book. What I found was definitely easy reading with lots of girly issues freshman in high school often face (acceptance, peer pressure, fitting in, academic achievement), but with a lot of predictability and some poor situations.

In 3 Willows, Jo, Ama, and Polly were friends throughout elementary school and most of middle school, but the summer before they're to head to high school, it's obvious they've grown apart. Jo is set to spend her summer at the beach, with her new and popular friends, working at a restaurant while gaining all important access with the in-crowd. Unfortunately, her parent's separation was not part of the ultimate summer plan.

Ama is super obsessed with her grades and getting into a good school, having applied for a special scholarship to attend an academic camp for the summer. When the academic camp falls through and instead Ama is sent to spend her entire summer in the great wilderness with an adventure group, she is completely terrified and knows she will fail. Working with a group of kids should doesn't know (and doesn't really want to know), Ama has to work through anxiety, fear, and stubbornness in order to achieve a passing grade for her summer course.

Polly, curvy, bucktoothed, Polly, wants nothing more than to be noticed. In her eyes, models have the perfect life style and she wants to attend a model camp for the summer, believing if she takes the right classes and loses enough weight, she'll finally be noticed by her mom. What she learns instead is that her mom is suffering from a drinking problem and all the weight loss and classes in the world won't fix that.

As I'm sure you can all imagine, all the girls' problems are slowly worked out and by the end, they're friends again. Which as cookie-cutter as that may be, is what a lot of middle grade/teen girls enjoy, so the predictability is alright with me. I didn't really enjoy when Jo starts making out with some boy she met 5 seconds ago on a bus. Didn't really seem like a 13/14 year old thing to do. And if it is....I'm nervous for the next generation!

For fans of Ann Brashares "Sisterhood" series, this won't quite match up, but it's a decent new addition of a friendship book and will please the 12-16 age group.

If you would like to learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
Ann Brashares
336pages
Young Adult (though ok for MG in my opinion)
Delacorte
January 2009
9780385736763

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Curse as Dark as Gold

What a great book. Elizabeth Bunce managed to fit thrills, mystery, fairy tales, romance, friendship, and intrigue into one amazing young adult book. I can certainly understand why this fantastic fantasy novel has been included on the Cybils shortlist for the SciFi/Fantasy category. And that's with it being a retelling of a famous fairy tale...a feat often difficult to accomplish successfully.

A Curse as Dark as Gold focuses on Charlotte, a young woman forced to take over as the executive of her father's mill once he passes away unexpectedly. The employees of the mill, as well as most of the townspeople believe a curse has been placed on the mill, as nothing good ever comes within the walls. People die there, family members become ill, machines break constantly, and a boy that has been born to a Miller has never survived to adulthood. Charlotte doesn't believe any of the curse talk and refuses to allow the gossip to take her focus away from the tasks she has to perform, but leaves her feeling incredibly lonely and worried about how she is going to continue to keep the mill running.

When financial problems become more than she can bear and Charlotte is in a complete state of despair as to what she should with a mill practically falling down around her, a strange man appears, offering Charlotte and her sister reels of gold thread, spun from straw of all things, in exchange for a simple gift as payment. Not believing in the man's witchcraft, the girls agree, more out of curiosity than of greed. When the man does indeed spin the gold and it is able to be sold in order to pay the mortgage on the mill, the girls are amazed, though still wary.

As time goes on, the bad events surrounding the mill continue and the strange man shows up on more than one occasion bailing Charlotte out financially with his magic ways. When she agrees to give him absolutely anything he wants for just one more time of magic, the man agrees and once he comes to collect his payment, Charlotte realizes just how deep she has gotten herself into a web of deception and magic.

The writing in this novel is just amazing, sucking me in from the very first page. Though anyone who has heard the story of Rumpelstiltskin knows how the tale goes, Bunce has managed to weave an impressive story into the popular fairy tale. Fans of Libba Bray will go crazy for this one!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

A Curse as Dark as Gold
Elizabeth C. Bunce
400pages
Young Adult
Arthur A. Levine Books
March 2008
9780439895767

Some new things!

I had to post a picture of the newest member of the Snow household, our new puppy, Zoey. Isn't she cute!? I'm a bit biased I suppose...Shae, our other dog, is a bit intimidated by her, which is often times hilarious since she's over 55lbs bigger. Just shows what a big baby she is! Anywho, Zoey is 8 weeks old and an English bulldog though she was 2 weeks younger in the photo, so you can't quite see all the adorable wrinkles in her face. She's got the typical bulldog wrinkles now! Hopefully will grow up to be just as well behaved as her big sister, so far she's a biter and a yelper in the middle of the night. *Sigh*




And in all the excitement of Zoey, I forgot to post about my Blogging Secret Santa Gift! Antonette from Books in Every Room. She sent me a cute book about Santa Claus, a bookmark, and some yummy chocolates from a local shop. And the chocolates are the reason why I don't have a photo...I broke into those almost immediately and figured it would be silly to just take a picture of the two items! Thanks Antonette!