Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review of the Day #3: Stargazer

I guess I've become addicted to vampire novels right along with the rest of the world. First it started with the Twilight series...then I read Evernight by Claudia Gray, then Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (review to come), which I will most definitely be getting the rest of the series to, and now, I've read the sequel to Evernight, which I just LOVE!

If you haven't read Evernight and plan to, you may want to skip this review until you've read that one. Spoilers galore!

Stargazer picks up almost where Evernight left off. Bianca, now a sophomore, has embraced the process of slowly becoming a vampire and has let Lucas, her human, vampire-fighting love, go, knowing they can't be together. When Lucas sends her a letter, expressing his desire to see her, Bianca feels she has to go, still being in love with him, but not understanding how they can make it work.

While dealing with her Romeo-Juliet type romance, not to mention the strange new vampire characteristics she's taken on, Bianca is slightly overwhelmed. Oh and then there's the fact that a ghost seems to be haunting Evernight, searching for Bianca. Oh course there's that.

I enjoyed Stargazer much more than I enjoyed Evernight, definitely leaving me eager for a third installment. A thrilling page turner with just the right amount of scary aspects mixed with some romance to intrigue reluctant readers and vampire addicts alike. Great characters, a good story-line, good for libraries and vampire-book-collectors. :)

My only "complaint" is that of the "blood sucking" scenes that Bianca is involved in. Waaay more overtly sexual than they need to be. Other than that, a very enjoyable book!

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

Stargazer
Claudia Gray
336 pages
Young Adult
HarperTeen
9780061284403
March 2009

Review of the Day #2: Sassy: Little Sister Is NOT My Name review

Ok, ok, so I judged a book by its cover. I did, I'm ashamed, but I did. When I got the book in my mailbox and saw Sharon Draper's name as the author, I admit, I did a double-take. Sharon Draper put out a book that is covered in glitter and has neon-clothed girls posing on it? Really? Sharon Draper? I believed Sassy was going to be fluff-filled, blah blah blah. Was I wrong? Definitely. My apologies to Ms. Draper for ever doubting her writing ability.

Sassy: Little Sister Is Not My Name, is an absolute delight from page 1. We meet Sassy Simone Sandord, a 9 year old youngest sister that is always being called Little Sister instead of Sassy. It's driving her crazy! Sassy will do just about anything to be recognized as a person instead of just a little sister and boy does she. This little girl is so filled with personality, color, brightness, and positivity, that you can't help but fall in love with her as she and her friends find new ways to make their boring lives more interesting and for Sassy to really become Sassy Simone Sanford, instead of just Little Sister.

I ended up adoring this little book for middle graders. Sassy is a fantastic role model for young girls, as she is true to herself no matter what others say, and always has a positive, optimistic outlook. And the Sassy Sack? What a brilliant idea! I need a Sassy Sack in MY life!! The marketers at Scholastic should sell a Sassy Sack with each book...I think it would do very well!

Again, my apologies for judging a book by its cover. Still not thrilled with it...I think glitter should be reserved for picture books, but that's just me. The story inside is wonderful and really, the cover does Sassy justice. Bright, bold, and happy! Sassy would be great for a series.

This is a great choice for a middle grade girl, for a library, or for home. Girls need more role models like Sassy!

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

Sassy: Little Sister Is Not My Name!
Sharon Draper
112 pages
Middle grade fiction
Scholastic
9780545071512
March 2009

Review of the Day #1: Jars of Glass

I have a whole bunch of reviews to finish up for March (and even some from February, yikes), so today I'm going to attempt to get a lot of those completed. Be warned for those that follow this blog...lots of me in your inbox today! :)

My first review of the day is a young adult book that I just adored. Written by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler, Jars of Glass is one of those emotional novels that just "gets" to you. Digging its claws in and not wanting to let go for anything. The characters are beautiful, the plot charming, and the love just seeps out. Go get this one!

Chloe and Shana are teenage sisters, though at first glance they couldn't be more different from each other. Shana, the older sister, spends all of her free time dressing up in Goth clothing and make-up and spending time with her other equally Goth friends, walking around town and doing a whole lot of nothing.

Chloe spends her time taking care of her younger, adopted brother, Micah, making sure he eats things other than sugar from a box and trying to get him to learn more English. All the while, the kids' father is falling apart at the seams and almost taking his family with him.

What the girls do have in common is the fact that their mother is insane. Suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, she moved to a mental rehab center soon after Micah arrived at their home. Neither Chloe nor Shana really know how to deal with their mom being gone, or being crazy for that matter, and they really don't know how to take care of their dad and Micah while just trying to get through life as teens...making the girls much more similar than they initially realized.

I have a favorite passage from the book, which I would like to share, but please take into consideration that this is from an Advanced Reader Copy and may have been changed with the final publication.

"I sometimes wish I could become a single cell again, just divide and undivide all these versions of myself until I'm left with something so simple. But it's a stupid wish, I know. Be a single cell, then divide once and your problems are doubled. That's how it is." Shana pg 40.

The characters in Jars of Glass are incredibly rich and warm. Each is so different from the last, but all are memorable, from each of the girls, to adorable Micah, Vernon who works with the girls father, to Raven the barista at Starbucks. I loved them all and I'll remember them all, the making of a truly wonderful book.

A lot of the subjects dealt with in this novel are not easy ones, but they are written about in such a calm, caring manner that teens will be able to really connect with the story, rather than feel like it's about an "issue." I really enjoyed this one. It was published after the 14th of October last year, so it could still be a Cybils contender this upcoming year!!

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

Jars of Glass
Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
256 pages
Young Adult
Dutton
9780525479116
October 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wonderland review

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels. I've tried, believe me I have...many times in fact, picking up new titles that come into the library and attempting to get into them. Until this book made its way into my mailbox, I really had no desire to read one from cover to cover. After reading Wonderland, I'm definitely more open-minded, wanting to find more and similarly enjoyable. A complete delight from the first page, Maryann and the White Rabbit have me hooked!

Wonderland, written by Tommy Kovac and fabulously illustrated by Sonny Liew. The reader is in for a treat, as we finally get the story of Maryann, the maid that the White Rabbit mistakes for Alice in the beginning of the famous "Alice in Wonderland" story. All of the much-loved characters are back, including the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, the Mad-Hatter, and others. Alice is not involved in the book, but she honestly isn't needed....Maryann is simply charming!

The illustrations that accompany the comics are adorable. The book is going to hold the attention of reluctant readers, lovers of Alice in Wonderland, and kids that just love to read. A great choice for libraries or for boys/girls that love graphic novels. Fantastic!

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

Wonderland
Tommy Kovac
160 pages
Graphic Novel
Disney Press
9781423104513
March 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Astronauts and Apollo 11

I've been continuously finding some great books about space travel lately and had three sitting on my TBR shelf this week, making the perfect Non-Fiction Monday post. The first two are non-fiction, the third is a picture book about the Apollo 11 flight. All of these are highly recommended!

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream is written by Tanya Lee Stone, with a foreword by Margaret A. Weitekamp, the curator of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Already sounding pretty fancy eh?

In the book, the reader gets to learn about 13 women that truly wanted to achieve the goal of becoming an astronaut. The media mocked them constantly, male astronauts wanted nothing to do with their presence in space programs, and NASA denied them access. Occurring about 20 years before women were finally allowed into the NASA space program, these 13 women fought for the right to attend and the right to go into space.

The text is accompanied by amazing photographs from the time period, as well as extensive coverage on women's rights in general and the fight for them that took place in the 50's and 60's.

Almost Astronauts is a great addition to a school unit on space exploration, as well as a nice title for women's history reports or library displays on the solar system.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Tanya Lee Stone
144 pages
Non-fiction
Candlewick
9780763636111
February 2009

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 was wonderfully written by Brian Floca. Told in a story format, readers are able to learn about the famous flight to the moon and its effect on the world. A note at the end of the story explains more about the mission, in greater detail and with more scientific information. Definitely geared towards a younger set than Almost Astronauts, but still with great, usable information.

Very nicely illustrated, simple and clean, just like the text. I really enjoyed this one! Another excellent library title.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
Brian Floca
48 pages
Non-Fiction
Atheneum
9781416950462
April 2009


Finally, my picture book addition to this non-fiction post, Footprints on the Moon, is written by Mark Haddon (wonderful author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and illustrated beautifully by Christian Birmingham.

A simple tale about a boy that dreams about traveling to the moon and having astronauts finally be able to land on the surface, reading books from the library on the subject, creating a scrapbook about it, spending hours looking at the sky with his dad's binoculars. His dreams are realized when he watches Apollo 11 land on the moon and the astronauts walk to the surface.

A very simple and sweet book, this would be a nice introduction to space travel for little ones. The illustrations are beautiful and soft and the text flows nicely. I really enjoyed this one as well.

Footprints on the Moon
Mark Haddon
32 pages
Picture book
Candlewick
9780763644406
March 2009

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

Winner, winner!!

Thank you to everyone who entered my Earth Hour contest! I was so glad to see so many people participating in standing up for conservation and bringing their families into what can become an awesome annual tradition.

My family (the hubby and two dogs) took a nice, long walk and then for the last 15 minutes or so read by our LED booklights. We have even talked about making it a weekly or monthly tradition instead of yearly thing...what a great way to get closer! Shut off the lights, the tv, the computers, etc. and just talk to each other. :)

Anyways...the winner of my special book is Debi! I wrote all your names down on paper and the husband pulled out the winner. Debi, you and your family are winning an extra special prize, as I was inspired to add to it this morning. Here's what you're getting:



Planet Earth: Guide to the Planet by Matthew Murrie and Steve Murrie






Mission Planet Earth: Our World and Its Climate-and How Humans Are Changing Them by Sally Ride and Tam O'Shaughnessy

And.....

a tree planted in your name from the Arbor Day Foundation!!


I just need your mailing info (and email address for the tree info), and I'll get your prizes out in the mail! Email me!

Congrats Debi!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mini-reviews...a new feature?

Each month I attempt to read several books that have forever sat on my TBR shelf (whether physically or virtually), either finally pulling them off my shelf or heading out to the library and picking them up. After reading them, I certainly want to share as I share each book I read with all of you, though so many of you have already read and reviewed these titles (and therefore your fault I have to read them in the first place), I don't see a reason to written a full-blown review on each one of them. Therefore, my new "mini-review" section is born. This will probably be an end-of-the-month feature, if you don't like it for some reason, let me know!

What I Saw and How I Lied is written by Judy Blundell and is the wonderful and much deserved winner of the National Book Award. The main character, 15 year old Evie is forced to grow up a bit quicker than planned one summer when she realizes her parents are involved in some strange business deals with another couple. Evie also manages to find her first love that summer, in a man named Peter. Evie is thrust into a scary world of secrets and lies, suddenly having no idea whom to trust.

Set in a beautiful period in history and filled with great descriptions and intriguing mystery, it's clear why this won such a coveted award. Very enjoyable! Loved the cover of this one too.

What I Saw and How I Lied
Judy Blundell
288 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic
9780439903462
November 2008


The Tale of Despereaux, written by the fabulous Kate DiCamillo, charmed me right into oblivion. I cannot believe it took me this long to actually read it!!! Can't see the movie without reading the book though...

Our little talking mouse friend, Despereaux, is anything but ordinary, enjoying people instead of being scared of them. When he's banished to death for talking to the Princess, Despereaux learns the ropes of the dungeon, which...in the end...will help to save his beloved Princess from her own certain death.

The illustrations, done by Timothy Basil Ering are adorable, beautiful, charming, and fit the story completely. Loved this one, definitely buying it for my own shelves!

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
Kate DiCamillo
272 pages
Middle grade fiction
Candlewick
9780763625290
April 2006


Finally, The London Eye Mystery, written by the fabulous Siobhan Dowd, was one of the Cybils winners this year, making it a shoe-in to be read. The complicated mystery is definitely going to rope in the middle graders it's aimed towards, and even adults as I was biting my nails through the whole thing trying to pretend I knew what was going to happen next (though I really had no clue).

When Ted and Kat's visiting cousin, Salim, disappear while riding one of London's most famous attractions, a seemingly impossible event, the race is on to find him before something even more terrible happens.

Very quick paced and filled with quirky characters, this was a great choice as a winner (nice job Cybil panelists), and a fantastic choice for library shelves. Have a reluctant reader in your family? This is a good one for that too...

The London Eye Mystery
Siobhan Dowd
336 pages
Middle grade fiction
David Fickling Books
9780375849763
February 2008


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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'm celebrating Earth Hour, with a PRIZE for all of you!

Earth Hour takes place today! Tonight at 8:30pm, local time, you can join in with millions of people and business across the country and the world to switch off your lights and support the fight against global warming. The goal this year is 1 BILLION people voting to switch off their lights from 8:30-9:30 pm. Join in!!!

Go to EarthHour.org to add your vote of participation or just simply, shut your lights off! If you DO participate, let me know what you did or plan to do for your hour of "lights out." Did you play a board game by candlelight? Will you have a pillow fight in the dark? Leave a comment, let me know, and I have a very special book to give away to one of you!! You have until Sunday night at midnight to enter!

Don't forget to turn OFF your lights!!!

Picture Book Saturday: Bedtime Books

Every once in awhile I like to use my Picture Book Saturday in a themed way, typically based around a holiday, but often due to the finding of more fabulous bedtime books. This category of the children's book genre is one of my favorites, so I'm also on the lookout for more wonderful titles to add to my bedtime book shelf (which just happens to be filled to the brim already...ahhh I need more shelves). Enjoy!

Good Night, Baby Ruby written and illustrated by Rohan Henry has a concept that many authors have followed before, with a child that is supposed to go to bed, but attempts to escape her parents and stay up later. The unique part of this one is one the very cool illustrations, done in very simple black line drawings with an infusion of baby blue, yellow, and a touch of red color. Definitely going to be attractive to babies looking at the pictures...something I'm always looking for. I want the littlest ones I'm reading the book to, to be interested, even if it's only for a few seconds.

Your kids will enjoy not only looking at the illustrations, but also trying to find out where Baby Ruby went. Very good for bedtime!

Good Night, Baby Ruby
Rohan Henry
32 pages
Picture Book
Abrams Books
9780810983236
March 2009


Sleepsong, written by George Ella Ryan and illustrated by Peter Catalanotto, is definitely a sweet choice for reading to your kids before they go to sleep. Based around an actual song, written by the author and included on the last page, you can either sing it...or talk it, as I did.

Following the simple routine of getting a young girl into bed and asleep, the reader sees the usual tasks: putting away play, turning out the light, but we also get to see animals, on the bottom of the page, doing the same actions as the little girl. Burrowing underground to sleep, flying home to their nests. Very sweet for a one on one reading at night.

Sleepsong
George Ella Lyon
40 pages
Picture book
Atheneum
9780689869730
December 2008


Finally, My Love Will Be with You, written by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Henri Sorensen, is not exactly a "bedtime" book in the sense that it's about going to sleep, but one that I think would be perfect for reading at bedtime, especially between a father and a son.

Different animal daddies explain to their sons that even though, someday, they'll be off doing their own thing, his love will always be them. The different animals are always fun for kids to look at and their sweet promises to their sons are just adorable.

Not only is this great to read before putting your little ones down for the night, but I also think this one would make an awesome baby shower gift. Several friends of mine are expecting now and I'm guessing they'll probably be getting a copy of this with their gifts!

My Love Will Be with You
Laura Krauss Melmed
24 pages
Picture book
HarperCollins
9780061552601
April 2009


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

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Problem with the Puddles review

How funny is this little book?? From the first page to the last I was pretty awe-struck at how absolutely ridiculous almost every single sentence was, but everything was crazy in such a charming way. It's really one of those books that is just plain fun to read and filled with characters that I really think we should be seeing more of in the future. The Problem with the Puddles is just wonderful and SO darn funny!

The Puddle family simply wants to get back to the city (except for the father of course...he looooves the country). After spending some time in the country, everyone is pretty much done with the vacation and wants to get back to their city lifestyle, piling into the family car and promptly hitting the road, forgetting their two dogs (the two Sallies) in the process.

The family quickly realizes they left the dogs behind (well after two hours of driving), but can't decide when to go back for them, probably because they've also realized their car has broken down and tipped over. Their loyal dogs have started out on their own journey anyways, following their family home.

The book alternates between the family and their predicament and the dog's journey to find their family. Both are utterly charming and pretty hilarious! You're going to fall in love with the Puddles and the Sallies, I think it's impossible to not!

Kate Feiffer is the creator of this fantastic middle grade novel and the illustrator is Tricia Tusa whose drawings add adorable humor to the text.

I read this one for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.

The Problem with the Puddles
Kate Feiffer
208 pages
Middle grade fiction
Simon & Schuster
9781416949619
February 2009


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

Poetry Friday: Lists and Birds

I was feeling a bit adventurous this morning (or more likely, overwhelmed by my immense pile of books to read) and have two great choices to share for Poetry Friday. My choices are very different from one another, one title being more on the silly side and the other more on the sweet/educational side, both worthy of your time!

First, my "sweet/educational" choice. The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems is written by Michael J. Rosen and beautifully illustrated by Stan Fellows. Each 2 page spread contains a haiku about a specific bird (owl, bluebird, northern cardinal, etc.), along with some simple facts about that bird, written almost to appear as field notes.


My favorite bird haiku and illustration was that of the European Starling. The haiku is:

"masking the daylight
one wheeling black star explodes
thousands of starlings"

and includes the following information: "bill yellow in breeding season; white spotted feathers take on green and purple sheen."

Very cool! The back contains a section for "Birdwatchers and Haiku Lovers" including more useful information on each bird.

The illustrations are absolutely fantastic and the info given on the birds is simple enough even for smaller children, yet complex enough to be used in a school project or report. A great choice for libraries!

The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems
Michael J. Rosen
64 pages
Poetry
Candlewick
9780763630492
March 2009


My "sillier" choice of the week is in the book Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems, edited by Georgia Heard. This one has super cute poems written by a variety of popular authors including Eileen Spinelli, Jane Yolen, Bobbi Katz, and Kathi Appelt. Now, just because I call this my "sillier" choice doesn't mean that all the poems are silly...but most are. :)

Each poem is a list of sorts, presented in a very original and contemporary manner, making it one of those books you "just have to pick up!" All are loosely school related and the cover definitely gives a great sneak peek at what's inside.

Some of my favorites are "In My Desk" by Jane Yolen, "Are We There Yet?" by Heidi Roemer, and "Test Day" by Kathi Appelt, which I just lovvvved.

You have to go pick this one up for your classroom or library shelves. It's one of those that will get non-poetry readers to really become intrigued by poems...and by the authors that have written them. So many great books have come from these poets!

Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems
Georgia Heard
48 pages
Poetry
Roaring Brook Press
9781596432208
March 2009


To learn more about either book or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World review

I had read a few glowing reviews of this new young adult novel by Francisco X. Stork and even before I got it in my mailbox I pretty much new it was going to be wonderful, and oh gosh was I right. Or rather those bloggers whose reviews I read were right. What a fabulous, amazing, lovely book. I felt like I was glowing when I finished this one, having had a smile on my face throughout the reading of each page, and I have already set off on a determined journey to recommend this to everyone I talk to. You'll fall in love with Marcelo, really.

17 year old Marcelo Sandoval lives with a form of Asperger's Syndrome, possessing qualities such as an obsession with religion, a special relationship ability with animals, and a very literal way of thinking and speaking. He also just happens to hear music that no one else can hear. His emotions come through as music...in a way. Don't ask Marcelo to explain, he can't do justice either. He has arranged for a summer job working with the ponies at his alternative high school, but his father, a high-powered attorney is determined for Marcelo to gain "real world" experience and forces him to take a job in the mail room of the law firm.

Over the course of the summer, Marcelo definitely does begin to learn about the real world. He begins to communicate on a social level with Jasmine, his boss-turned-friend in the mail room, as well as with some rather mean and snobby characters that are employed at the firm. Heartache, hurt, and literal "real life" start to infiltrate Marcelo's formerly innocent life. Though he begins to lose some of the differences that made him previously weird and awkward, Marcelo constantly stays true to himself, not conforming the way his father wishes him to, but also not remaining inside the box as he expected himself to.

I could rave and rave about this book, but instead, just let me share one of my favorite little sections with you. From page 152:

"Aurora told me that when I was little, I would take the daily mail and sort it into different piles. The order of the piles, she said, was hard to figure out. Sometimes it was by the size of envelope, sometimes by the color of the stamp. But there were times when no matter how hard she tried she could not discern my logic. I don't remember doing that, but I imagine it must have been hard to find the one unifying element amongst many possible ones. My CDs come to mind. Sometimes I sort them by composer, sometimes by instrument, sometimes by the length of time I've owned them. Right now they are sorted in a way that no one in a million years could ever figure out. For the past year I have been sorting them by the music's predominant emotion: joy, sorrow, longing, loneliness, serenity, anger. The reason no one could ever figure out the categories is that I myself am often at a loss at how a particular CD ended up in the happy category, for example, when it is clear as I listen to it again that the music is anything but happy."

Such love for this book, such love. Go read it...you will not be disappointed, but rather raving up and down about how everyone else needs to read it. Libraries need it, home shelves need it, adults and young adults. GO GET IT!

To learn more or to purchase (you'll want to, I promise) click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Marcelo in the Real World
Francisco X. Stork
320 pages
Young Adult fiction
Arthur A. Levine Books
9780545054744
March 2009

The Devil's Paintbox review

I'm typically not one to enjoy stories about the "old west," whether it be in movies or in books. Just not really my thing. That being said, I used to absolutely love the show "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" that was on CBS (I think), years ago, for like 10 seasons. Loved that show. And I really, really enjoyed this book. Maybe I'm moving over to the other side when it comes to western-type media!

The Devil's Paintbox, written by Victoria McKernan, follows 16 year-old Aiden and younger sister Maddie, as they fight to survive as orphans in 1865. They've been living on their family farm in Kansas, basically slowly starving to death after their mother and siblings died, their father left, and a fire ripped through their town, resulting in the departure of the rest of the people living remotely near them. Aiden and Maddie were on their own and at the rate they were going, wouldn't be alive much longer.

When a man named Jackson rides into to town, claiming he's a guide to the wagon train, he convinces Aiden and Maddie to come with him, giving Aiden future work at a logging camp to work off the pair's cost of the journey. Over the course of the trip the siblings encounter sickness, harsh environments, and a true struggle for survival. In the midst of all the hardship though, friendship and hope are most definitely the main themes and they stick out loud and clear.

It appears the author did her research pretty well for this little novel. I was really impressed at how true it seemed to the time period, even in the dialogue of the characters, the description of the surroundings, and the difficulty of the situation Maddie, Aiden, and their fellow journey-mates were in. I was pulled into The Devil's Paintbox from the first page and can definitely see this appealing to many in the upper-middle-grade/young adult sector. Boys and girls will both enjoy this gritty, yet hope-filled novel.

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

The Devil's Paintbox
Victoria McKernan
336 pages
Young Adult fiction
Knopf
9780375837500
January 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lucky Breaks review

So much buzz was created for Susan Patron's Newbery Award winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky, not just for the author's use of the word "scrotum" but also for not being entirely worthy of the honor. Now, I've had a lot of issues with past Newbery titles, but I absolutely loved The Higher Power of Lucky and thought it most definitely was worthy of its award. When I heard Patron was writing a sequel, coming back to the town of Hard Pan and all the characters I fell so in love with, I was definitely excited...and when it finally arrived at my door, adorable cover and all, I was charmed a second time.

Susan Patron, along with illustrator Matt Phelan, do indeed bring us back to the Mojave Desert and the town of Hard Pan, returning to the lovable Lucky, her dog HMS Beagle (that is definitely not a beagle), her newly adopted mom Brigitt, her friends Lincoln and Miles and all the rest of the gang. When Paloma, a girl Lucky's age shows up with some geologists, Lucky knows she has to impress Paloma, making the girl want to come back and be Lucky's friend. Her plan works, Paloma likes her, and the pair (along with Miles and Lincoln of course) proceed to get themselves into plenty of innocent trouble.

Though not quite as initially fabulous as the first, Lucky Breaks is still incredibly charming, especially with the adorable pencil drawings done by Phelan. These books are great for family read alouds, inducing giggles from kids and "awwws" from parents. I love them both and can't wait to see what else Ms. Patron has in store for her readers.

Oh and how I LOVE the cover of this...

I read this one for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.

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

Lucky Breaks
Susan Patron
192 pages
Middle Grade fiction
9781416939986

Want a cup of controversy with that book?

I've just completed The Chosen One, a new young adult title by author Carol Lynch Williams and I'm really at odds as to how to review it. I love love loved it. I did. Honestly and completely. However...there's more to it than just love.

On one hand, I thought the writing was great, the plot fantastic, and the intrigue was just SO high. On the other hand, I felt that unnecessary jabs were being taken at a culture in America that we know so very little about. Is it unfair? Is it stereotyping? Is it based on a media sensation?? I just don't know. The book is a very successful writing venture, but the fragile topic handled without care. And I'm NOT saying that to be mean or argumentative, it's honestly how I feel!!

The Chosen One introduces us to a book-loving member of a highly protected, isolated polygamist compound, 13-year-old Kyra. She has grown up in this community and the idea of her father and other elder men having multiple wives and dozens of children is neither foreign, nor upsetting to her. It's the way her family's lifestyle is and she accepts it as such. This is not to say that Kyra agrees with everything she's taught. She has an insatiable desire to read books and secretly visits a bookmobile weekly, checking out a different fiction story each time, carefully hiding them from parents and siblings, and losing herself in worlds other than her own.

When it is decided that Kyra will marry her 60-year-old Uncle, Kyra knows that something about her world is no longer ok. She shouldn't have to marry this elderly man, just because the Prophet says so, however when she fights back, she begins a literal fight for her life. Beaten and broken, Kyra is knows that she has to do what she is told. She cannot marry the boy her age that she is in love with. She cannot read her beloved books. And she cannot escape the violence she has slowly learned to accept. Unless, of course, she does something drastic.

So. Fantastic story with a huge amount of advanced praise. With my advanced review copy I received over four pages of positive comments from wonderful people, such as Kathi Appelt (author of The Underneath), Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked), Cynthia Kadohata (Newbery Medal winner), and so many others including columnists, librarians, professors, etc. The quote that I think really struck what I was feeling was by An Na, Printz Award winning author of A Step From Heaven. It was said by this wonderful author: "Truly thought provoking, heartfelt, and just a plain old good read about a culture and religion that we know very little about these days, except through the media."

An Na of course meant this in a very positive way, but I almost take the other side of the quote. We only know what we read in the newspapers or listen to on the news at night about polygamist compounds. Though I felt Kyra's character just bleeding through the pages (a very rare and wonderful quality of a book), I almost felt that it was an unfair portrayal. Do the girls in the compounds really have to marry their 60-year-old uncles if they don't want to? Are they beaten into submission? Are there deaths that are often covered up? Maybe. But I don't know that.

I think, for me, a "disclaimer" of sorts might have made me feel a bit better. When I read Sister Wife last fall, written by Shelley Hrdlitschka, I felt it was a completely unbiased take on the polygamist compound issue, some of the characters fully supported their lifestyle, others did not. The Chosen One was very much an "anti" book....in my opinion. Which is, of course, perfectly fine, however I think I really would have a felt better with a note from the author or something along those lines.

With all that being said, I truly did enjoy this story. I think that Carol Lynch Williams is one heck of a writer and able to channel her characters in a way that not many authors seem to have the ability to do. The writing had me turning pages quicker than I may have ever before and I lay awake after finishing the novel, wanting a sequel immediately. Tell me more about Kyra, give me more about the siblings, I want MORE! And because of that, this novel was incredibly successful in my eyes. I would most definitely recommend it for libraries and for those older teens that can handle really difficult, emotional books.

Oh and a quick note on the cover....LOVED it! Simple and beautiful, just like Kyra.

I suppose I could have just said that, without including my thoughts on bias and possible stereotyping, however, I wouldn't be Amanda @ A Patchwork of Books if I didn't stir something up! I would love to know what others think of this title once you read it, and though it's not published until May, I think some other ARCs are making their way around.

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

The Chosen One
Carol Lynch Williams
224 pages
Young Adult fiction
St. Martin's Press
0312555113
May 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Miranda's Beach Day review

I needed a little "beachiness" in my day today, as it was quite chilly outside for New Mexico in March! By now, we're typically in the 80's during the day and I think it barely broke 55 today...something I usually like, but I was itching for a nice, warm, sunshiny book. Miranda's Beach Day was a very nice choice!

Miranda and her mother are going to spend a day at the beach. The sand is piping hot, the seagulls are flying, and the ocean is nice and cool. Miranda and her friends spot a hermit crab crawling across the sand and decide to build him a huge castle to live in, using the rest of their afternoon to construct the best sand castle they had ever seen, only to see it quickly washed away as the tide came in. Sad about her castle, Miranda's mom explains that she can build one another day for the crab, though the crab will always belong to the sea and the castle will always belong to the sand.

Author and illustrator Holly Keller has created a very nice "beachy" book in Miranda's Beach Day. Simple concepts will keep a child's attention and the very cool illustrations/collages are definitely eye-catching. In a note from the author, Keller's collage methods are explained.

A very nice library choice!

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

Miranda's Beach Day
Holly Keller
32 pages
Picture book
HarperCollins
9780061582981
April 2009

Katie is having a giveaway....

My good New York friend Katie at Katie's Literature Lounge is having a giveaway of what sounds like a yummy Christian fiction title. If you're interested, go HERE!!! Yay for giveaways!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Top Ten Picture Books

Over at one of my absolute favorite blogs (for both it's hugely informative content regarding all things children's books and it's wonderfully sarcastic author), A Fuse #8 Production, we've been asked to compile our top ten list of all-time favorite picture books, with #1 being our absolute favorite. Though given the "assignment" almost a month ago, this was no easy project to take on, as I love so many different titles and let's face it...I may be young compared to a lot of librarians in this world, but for almost 26 years I've been seeing picture books on a daily basis, making the list to choose from huge!

With only a few days left until the March 31 deadline, I've finally come up with my top ten favorites. Yes, I had to leave some out that I love very much, but these were what I most remember from both my childhood and my current librarian lifestyle...books that I am always recommending and will never stop enjoying. I've included a little blurb about why I truly love that particular book.

I did learn something about myself as I was completeing this list. I am obsessed with books about FOOD!!! I read my husband my list when I was done and he says "I haven't heard of half of those, but I can tell you that you think about food just a bit too much." Red-faced me agreed. Hehe.

Oh how hard this was....

10. Curious George by H.A. Rey
-This one narrowly made it. When I think of Curious George, my favorite books were the titles that came later. Curious George Goes to the Hospital for example. However, I really didn't want to choose between those, so I think it is entirely appropriate to include the book that started it all! These Curious George books spent a lot of time in my household when I was younger and they already have a place on the bookshelf for when my own little one comes along.




9. Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal
-I was ALWAYS recommending this one to parents at the library. When it first came in, I read it to screen for patrons and immediately knew I would be buying a copy for myself. I've since bought probably 10 for various kids and baby showers...it's a newer book, but destined to be a classic.





8. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
-I can probably quote this book word for word by now, having read it so many times to children I've babysat and then during storytimes. No matter how many times children (or adults) have heard this one, it is still adorable and still completely giggle-inducing.






7. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
- I knew I had to have a Mo Willems book on this list, but how to choose? I love every single one, so I went with my first experience with the Pigeon titles and that's the bus book. These books never stay on our shelves for very long and I already have multiple copies of each at home, so I can easily lend them out, but never be without them. My husband LOVES these books and when a new one comes out he always has to read it out loud to me first. And if the hubby loves it, we've definitely got a winner on our hands.




6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
-A favorite years and years ago and still a favorite today. I love sharing with kids how the caterpillar eats and eats and finally turns into a beautiful butterfly. Carle's illustrations are always amazing and the education level in this title is definitely top-notch. Love it!




5. Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban
-My mom used to get so mad at me, because we had shelves and shelves filled with books and this is always the one I handed her (until we acquired my #1 title of course). I wasn't a picky eater, maybe that's why I loved reading about one! All the Frances titles were popular in my house, but this was definitely my favorite.






4. Corduroy by Don Freeman
-How could I leave Corduroy off this list? I love the story of the little bear in the department store and it's been reissued so many times other people obviously love it too. I think it's time this bear has his own movie....don't you?







3. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord
-Until about 6 months ago, I had forgotten about this book. I was browsing shelves, looking for some books to take back to the hospital with me to read to Jacob and just about peed my pants when I saw this one. I LOVED it when I was little and just hadn't seen a copy in years. An absolute classic that will never be forgotten by me again!




2. King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood
-The hubby thinks I'm weird for loving this one as much as I do, but I can't help it. Another that I just thought was fantastic when I was younger and I'm always recommending it now. Not too many people have heard of it anymore, but with the funny story and fabulous illustrations, I'm always happy with recommending it. It's a Caldecott Honor book too, so maybe my posting about it will help some of you that haven't heard about it or just forgotten, run back out to your library and check it out for your kids.

And number one you ask?? My all-time favorite book in the picture book realm???



1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
-I cannot tell you how incredibly excited I was to hear a movie is being made out of this book. I have read it so many times I have it memorized and am always so disappointed to learn that a library doesn't have it on its shelves. How can you not love a story about food taking over a city?! I am always recommending this and buying it for people and so many have never even heard of it. I'm a fan, a big one.


SO many titles were close to making this list for me. I almost included The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Steven Kellogg, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and A Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel. I felt bad about not including The Pokey Little Puppy and Where the Wild Things Are and I definitely feel like Madeline, Babar, and sooooo many others deserve places in the top 100. Just not my top ten.

This was fun, thanks Fuse!! Leave a comment with your own Top Ten list if you made one! And go HERE to learn how to do it!

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

Non-Fiction Monday: A Place for Birds

With spring officially here, well at least by calendar standards (sorry to all of you that still have snow), I thought a book on birds was quite appropriate for this week. They've started showing up at my house and hopefully soon they'll be showing up at yours!

A Place for Birds is written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond. This simple, educational book, introduces kids to the manner in which the actions of people can positively or negatively affect birds and their habitats. We get to meet all sorts of different species of birds and the way they live, from the Bald Eagle to the Common Murre, from the Crested Honeycreeper to the Florida Scrub Jay. Each bird has its own full illustration, inside its habitat.

Facts are given about how people affect birds, whether it be by building them nesting boxes or protecting natural areas, and a small fact box on the page explains more about each specific bird. Located at the end of the book is a list of facts on how kids can help birds and how we can help birds help us.

The illustrations really bring the eco-systems to life and the beauty of the birds makes a huge impact. This would be an excellent title for all library shelves, as it is fun and educational, with great illustrations and relevant, yet simple information.

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

A Place for Birds
Melissa Stewart
32 pages
Juvenile Non-fiction
Peachtree
9781561454746
March 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Handle with Care review (sorry about the weird formatting)

Why do I do this to myself? My favorite adult fiction author is, hands down, Jodi Picoult. I absolutely love her plots, her moral issues infused with incredible family ties. Her writing style of switching between different character perspectives throughout the novel. Her intense passion and obvious love for the subjects she chooses to write about. And her characters…boy do I love her characters. But after I read one of her books, I always feel broken. And even angry. The last two books I’ve read, Change of Heart and now Handle With Care, I’ve completed the last page and promptly thrown the book across the room, promptly evoking the following response from my husband “So you finished another one eh?” I think it is absolutely wonderful that an author can get my inner person so involved in her character’s lives that when the story is over, I NEED more. It’s no longer a want, but a need. And when something tragic happens to one of the characters (The Pact anyone…ahem…My Sister’s Keeper??) I feel broken and angry. Goodness, the emotions Jodi Picoult brings out in me are crazy!!! But I absolutely love them.


Charlotte, Sean, Amelia, and Willow O’Keefe are not the typical American family. Though Sean works for the local police department and Charlotte used to be a pastry chef, their entire world changed when their youngest daughter, Willow, came into the world. It was discovered at Charlotte’s 27 week ultrasound that Willow had a very serious disability, called Osteogenesis Imperfect, better known as brittle bone disease. Already having suffered fractures in the womb, her obstetrician and best friend, Piper, wasn’t sure if Willow would survive the birth, let alone life outside the womb, but when she does, her life is filled with broken bones and pain, but a family that loves her incredibly and fully, and will do anything it takes to get her the best resources available.


When it is brought to Charlotte and Sean’s attention that they could very well sue Charlotte’s obstetrician for not diagnosing Willow’s OI at an earlier ultrasound, thus giving the parents a choice as to whether to continue the pregnancy or not, they are both instantly against the idea. Never would they say they would have aborted their daughter, never would they say she wasn’t wanted. Once Charlotte actually thinks about it, however, the idea of money securing a comfortable future for Willow becomes a possibility and she decides she wants to sue. Problem is…she’s suing her best friend of many years…and her husband wants no part in it.


S
P
O
I
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E
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Over the next few months, the O’Keefe family begins to break into many pieces, much like Willow’s bones do. Sean and Charlotte decide they can no longer be together, Amelia begins to harm herself, in more ways than one, because it’s the only way she can feel like a free person, not tied down by her sister’s OI, Willow feels like no one wants her anymore, and Piper completely comes apart at the seams. Broken people with broken hearts, every single one of them. When a decision is finally made, the consequences must be dealt with, by each person, in their own way.


I loved the book, I love all of Jodi Picoult’s books. I think Handle with Care affected me slightly differently than most others I read, in a good way, but also in a “gotta throw the book at the wall when I’m done” way. Read it and you’ll know why.

I also got to meet Ms. Picoult at a book signing a couple of weeks ago when I was in D.C. Such a lovely, down to earth woman! Her talk was interesting and she signed my book...very cool!

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

Handle with Care
Jodi Picoult
496 pages
Adult fiction
Atria Books
9780743296410
March 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Reading Thing...just in the nick of time


Since it's only 10:53 mountain time, I think I'm still in for prizes/giveaways during the Spring Reading Thing. Cutting it close, but I was flying home all day and life got in the way of making my post before my NY trip. Katrina is hosting the challenge again this year...head over to Callapidder Days and find out more details.

Here's my list!

1. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
2. The Problem With the Puddles by Kate Feiffer
3. Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
4. Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
5. Deeper by Roderick Gordan
6. Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian
7. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
8. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
9. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
10. A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
11. Fade by Lisa McMann
12. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I swear...

I'm going to post my Spring Reading Thing list tomorrow. Really really really. Getting home from NY tomorrow evening and I'm GOING TO DO IT. Trying to convince myself here, can't you tell?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Everything is Fine review

When a terrible tragedy befalls Mazzy’s family, her mother sinks into an unshakeable depression. Unable to get out of bed, bath herself, feed herself, or even open her eyes half the time, she has fallen into a scary sense of despair. Mazzy’s father’s method of dealing with his wife’s depression is to run far away, taking a high profile job out of state, leaving Mazzy to fend for herself. Sure, Bill comes over to help nurse her mother and some weird lady her day hires comes by now and then and brings food, but for the most part, Mazzy is alone, left to care for her depressed, invalid mother all on her own.

When a woman from Child and Family Services shows up, demanding to speak with her mother, Mazzy can only hold her off for so long, clinging to random people to try and help her be ok in her situation. Her neighbor, a boy she has a slight crush on, his mother that takes her shopping for new clothes, and a hugely overweight diabetic that crushes Mazzy with her hugs, are all the family Mazzy has left. And they're only her neighbors. Her father checked out, her mother really checked out, her house is a disaster, she has almost no food, and her life is falling apart.

Can we call this book depressing?? Holy cow yes. Though Mazzy is incredibly quirky and has quite the unique thought process, she really does try to make the best of her situation…but even with that, Everything is Fine really lacked hope. I didn’t feel any hope at all, just dark sadness, heartbreak, depression.

There were quite a few humorous moments as Mazzy still has to grow up and start becoming a woman, even lacking a mother's kind words or sense of advice. Mazzy was a weird child, I don't think her actual age was ever stated (though I could be mistaken, I don't have the book right in front of me) and I couldn't tell if she was just immature or if her mother's state allowed her to regress in terms of maturity. I think kids are just going to find her strange.

Nicely written and intriguing, I didn’t have a problem finishing it, wanting to know what happened to Mazzy and her family at the end, however I can’t really say I totally enjoyed this one. It was alright, but to me, nothing more. I wasn't attached to the characters and was confused about Mazzy most of the time.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don't Let Me Go blog tour

Don't Let Me Go: What My Daughter Taught Me About the Journey Every Parent Must Make is not a simple "how-to" book for parents. It really is a journey that father and daughter make together, over the course of years and years, up and down literal and figurative mountains. It was an interesting, heartwarming, and humorous read that I think will be appealing even for those that don't typically read Christian non-fiction.

When David Pierce's 15 year old daughter completes a book about a mountain climber and gets the urge to climb her own mountain, asking her dad to accompany her. This simple question starts a quest for bigger and better mountains, and a whole lot of self-realization. The pair begin with Pike's Peak, slowly moving onto other mountains and even marathons as they gain confidence and stamina. As they complete these strenuous activities, father and daughter create this bond that is quite obviously unbreakable. There are victories and failures, but both Chera and David become stronger people throughout the course fo the book.

I spent a lot of time laughing out loud as I read through this book and most pages was wishing that I had a chance to climb a mountain with my dad, as he passed away when I was only 9. David and his daughter had a great bond that I missed out on. Then I remember that it may not have been with my dad, but I did climb a mountain in Maine with mom, a wonderful memory that we have lots of pictures of. It was hard work, but we go to the top of that mountain and it felt great! So even though it wasn't necessarily with my father, my mama and I made one of those journeys together...making the book hit home even more.

Never preachy or too "homespun" David W. Pierce's Don't Let Me Go is a wonderful example of good Christian fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Don't Let Me Go: What My Daughter Taught Me About the Journey Every Parent Must Make
David W. Pierce
213 pages
Christian non-fiction
Waterbrook
9780307444684
March 2009


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

Monday, March 16, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Earth in Danger

We all know that the name of the series "Earth in Danger" certainly describes the state of our Planet Earth today. Through these books, among many others, we have started to educate our children on the importance of recycling, reducing the amount of energy consumption we personally contribute too, and how to make an impact on conservation.

I've had the chance to review two books in the "Earth in Danger" series, though there are actually six titles. Definitely books that were well thought out, incredibly educational, yet still simple enough for an 8 or 9 year old to gain info from. They both contain valuable and interesting facts about energy and green living, subjects we have all at least heard about by now, if not being actively involved in them.

Energy for the Future, written by Helen Orme, gives brief overviews of where we are most wasting our energy (running appliances) and what steps are being taken to use energy more wisely, including the infusion of wind power, solar power, and even nuclear and coal energy sources. Each different idea. is simply explained, with lots of bold words to look up in the glossary in the back of the book. There is also a big fact section in the back filled with interesting tidbits of info, as to how to create your own energy or a description of biogas plants in India. Very cool.

Energy for the Future
Helen Orme
32 pages
Non-fiction
Bearport Publishing
978157167277
August 2008



Living Green, also by Helen Orme, explains how the people on our planet are contributing to the reduction of natural resources and how to actively conserve them through low energy housing, recycling, and cutting back on the oil consumption. Again, lots of bold words, a great fact section in the back including info on eating green and even a case study of a plastic bag. Very interesting!



Living Green
Helen Orme
32 pages
Non-fiction
Bearport Publishing
9781597167284
August 2008


These two books, as well as the rest of the titles in the series which include: Habitat Destruction, Pollution, Garbage and Recycling, and Climate Change, would make great selections for a library. Very necessary information in today's society, but in a simplistic presentation.

To learn more about either title, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What a year. Seriously.

I don't know whether to be angry, sad, or just astonished, but we've had yet another death in our family. This makes 3 immediate family members in the course of not even 6 months. My little boy, my mama, and now, my grandfather. Goodness.

Though my Grandpa has been ill for awhile with cancer in his throat, his death was completely unexpected, having suffered a stroke early last week. He passed away late Friday night, a blessing after hearing the pain he was in, but still not any easier on my family. Especially my poor grandmother. She just lost my mom three months ago and now her husband of forever. All of this death is really getting hard to take...though I have a strong belief that God has a plan for us all and this is just a test of our faith. It's certainly hard to not be angry at times though.

I'll be flying to NY for services early this week, staying Tuesday through Friday, and will not have internet access, so if I don't answer comments or emails, just bear with me. I'll be back to normal (hopefully) on Saturday. I will have posts scheduled though, so the reviews won't be lacking.

And if you pray, please pray for our family. It's been such a rough 6 months.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Just a random assortment from my TBR shelf this week folks. Enjoy!

With St. Patrick's Day coming up soon, I thought Lucky Tucker would be a good choice to have on the list this week. Tucker the dog has shown up in two other books, one about Christmas and one about Halloween, but this time he's trying his hardest to become the luckiest dog ever. Leslie McGuirk has created a fun-loving, adorable dog, that is appealing to everyone.

Waking up on the wrong paw is never fun for anyone, but Tucker is determined to change his luck. By rolling in a pile of four leaf clovers and then being told he is now the luckiest dog around by a real leprechaun, Tucker knows his luck has turned around and it boy has it! He gets a scoop of ice cream, gets to play with all of his friends, and gets a boxful of toys delivered just for him.

The Tucker books are simple enough for your younger kids and they'll enjoy the pure happiness that Tucker the dog exhibits. This would be nice book to have on your home shelves. Good for practicing reading too.

Lucky Tucker
Leslie McGuirk
24 pages
Picture book
Candlewick
9780763633899
February 2009


Sparrow Girl, written by one of my favorite middle grade authors, Sara Pennypacker, is a great example of an author branching out to different genres.

The tale of a young girl that loves the birds in her Chinese village, but finds out the farmers, including her father, want to kill all of the sparrows, as the tiny birds are eating up their grain. Devastated, Ming-Li attempts to stop the farmers, but is constantly told that she is just a young girl and that no one disobeys their leader.

When the sparrows have been run out of town, the farmers are surprised to learn that their grain is now being eaten by worms, grasshoppers, and locusts; all the insects that the sparrows used to eat and finally realize how wrong they were. Luckily, Ming-Li has a little secret to let the farmers in on.

A really beautiful story, with excellent illustrations by Yoko Tanaka. This selection would be great for older children (there is quite a bit of bird killing, but it's done subtly and gently) and would definitely do well in a library. I very much enjoyed this one.

Sparrow Girl
Sara Pennypacker

40 pages

Picture book
Hyperion
9781423111870
February 2009



My final selection this week is a title that I think every library could use a copy of. My Sister, Alicia May is an "issue" book, yes, but it's one of the best picture books written for siblings of Down's Syndrome children that I've seen yet. Enjoyable, simple, and educational.

My Sister, Alicia May is written by Nancy Tupper Ling and illustrated be Shennen Bersani and is based on the real story of two sisters just like Alicia May and Rachel. The reader is able to easily learn that Alicia May is very much like any other 6 year old girl, loving dogs and horses, and is annoying to her older sister. At times, Alicia May gets made fun of, needs breathing treatments, and doesn't like straying from her routines, but other than that, is just like any other little sister. She isn't different, she just has some amazing qualities that others lack.

Alicia May appears to be a joyful child, happy, and loving her older sister. The illustrations are nicely done and very life-like. This is a great title for libraries and home shelves and would make a great read aloud for a classroom or story time to educate children on Down Syndrome.

This one isn't being published until May, but it's available for pre-order from Amazon now.

My Sister, Alicia May
Nancy Tupper Ling

32 pages
Picture book

Pleasant St. Press

9780979203596

May 2009


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

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cold Hands, Warm Heart review

Call me strange, but I really enjoy books about medical issues. I went to nursing school right out of high school, before the dreams of libraries really set in, and that left me with this creepy yearning for knowledge of all things blood and guts. Jill Wolfson's newest novel for young adults fulfilled my need for medical knowledge, focusing on a heart transplant in a fifteen year old girl, leading to an emotional novel that one can learn from.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart is about two girls whose lives become melted together without them having ever met. Amanda is a tiny, muscular gymnast that loves being active and performing her gymnastic routines. Dani was born with her heart on the wrong side of her chest, resulting in a life of hospitals, doctor's visits, and sickness. When Amanda dies unexpectedly, her family is forced to think about the decision of organ donation, not knowing that Dani is slowing dying as well...needing Amanda's heart to continue to live.

So much more than an organ transplant book, this emotional story tells of first loves in hospitals, crazy families, and hatred for Jello. Dani is incredibly witty and really knows herself, despite not spending much time outside of a hospital. The reader also gets a small portion of the story dedicated to Tyler's perspective, Amanda's brother, allowing insight into what it's like to have to let a family member's organs go to a stranger.

Beautifully written and certainly thought provoking this was a really emotional read for me. It was only a few short months ago that I had to make the decision whether or not to donate my mother's organs, after she passed away unexpectedly. We didn't really have a decision to make, we knew all along that was what she and we wanted and we've already received a letter from one of her many organ recipients. Donation is a beautiful, though difficult path to take.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart is a wonderful book, one I will recommend to all my teens. I do have to make a tiny comment on the cover though...not thrilled with it at all. Pink on red on red? Sooo much could have been done with this cover! I'm looking at an ARC, but Amazon has an image up and it's the same one as I have...maybe they'll change it before the end of the month publishing date.

Despite my lack of enjoyment in the cover, this is definitely one to read.

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

Cold Hands, Warm Heart
Jill Wolfson
256 pages
Henry Holt
9780805082821
March 2009