Wednesday, September 28, 2011
1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Patti's Review)
2. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt (Joanna's Review)
3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
4. Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Patti's Review)
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Father Julian enlists the Red Blazer Girls Detective Agency (Sophie, Becca, Margaret & Leigh Ann) to help him determine the age of a painting. He asks the girls to sort through a box of old family photos to find images of the painting in hopes of being able to date it. See, if the picture is older than 1961 then it's an original Pommeroy. If it's later, it's a fake.
Add to this sub-plots about a couple of young movie stars and a dog with strange behavior, Sophie's rocky relationship with classmate Livvy, and Sophie's very own mystery of mysterious packages arriving at her house for her. A pot of dirt? Huh?
Beil returns with the clever chapter titles ("So, who wins in a fight between a crocodile and a unicorn?" and "In which I set loose an army of killer ants on Livvy. Okay, not really, but a girl can fantasize, can't she?"), vocabulary words, puns, and literature references. The girls are reading short stories about conflict and irony in their English class. One in particular is "The Interlopers" by Saki. How's that for light middle grade reading? And don't worry, he's also brought back the Charles Dickens references. Speaking of references, the movie filming is called "No Reflections" which is based on a best-selling teen paranormal romance. Ha! And the shady art dealers? The Svindahls. Double ha! Everything is a puzzle to figure out.
Sure there are many convenient plot developments and many times someone just happens to see someone or something, etc. I also marvel at the girls schedules: homework, school, swim practice, band practice, solving mysteries. This book took a little bit more time to engross me, but once the mystery kicked into full gear it was another exciting ride to the finish. This time the reader is shown 4 photographs and the answer to the mystery is solved by figuring out the clues that link them together. I loved flipping back to those pictures each time an "Ah ha!" moment came up.
These are fun, fun books. I eagerly await the next one.
Red Blazer Girls on Facebook with links to articles about the author and series.
Monday, September 19, 2011
I'd like talk a bit about my latest online time waster: Pintrest. In addition to looking at lots of pretty pictures and wishing I a) had a sewing machine/knew how to sew b) had a craft closet of unlimited supplies AND a totally cool workspace that I -of course- made myself from Ikea hacks and goodwill finds c) had lots of time to putz around the kitchen ...there are loads of great ideas to use in a classroom or library.
I find fun craft ideas that I wish I knew about when I was doing storytime or having a teen craft. Here's a sampling of library, book, kid related pins.
Have fun and remember - it's for work! :)
Pintrest: a beginner's guide
PAGE CORNER BOOKMARKS
Bottle Cap Snowmen Craft
Stay Put Puzzle (or, another use for book jackets!)
Friday, September 16, 2011
1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
2. Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
4. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Patti and I flip flop on Gabrielle Zevin. We both loved Elsewhere. She was a fan of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and I suffered from not liking the main character's BFF. Zevin next wrote another adult novel but she's back this month with the first book in a new YA series: All These Things I've Done.
Anya Balanchine is a common enough YA heroine. You've read the story before: teen girl with no parents working hard to keep it together so she can finish school and take care of her siblings. Okay, so Anya and her younger sister witnessed their father's murder... their father the notorious Russian crime boss. Mom? Murdered. Older brother? In the car when mom was murdered and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Grandma? Okay! Grandma is fine. Confined to her bed with a breathing machine and likely to die at any moment, but still sort of sharp. Add in a great BFF Scarlet and a very swoon-worthy (and possibly too perfect) Win and we're off!
For this book, Zevin set her story in the future - 2083 NYC. In the 72 years between now and then, things have gone to hell in a hand basket. Empty buildings, abandoned parks, major landmarks re-purposed into nightclubs ...or juvie. I really enjoyed the NYC wasteland setting. Bleak and foreboding.
Coffee and chocolate are illegal in this future. (Also paper and a slew of other rules too numerous to remember and more than enough to keep the corrupt and overworked law enforcement busy.) Anya's mafia family deals in chocolate and Anya finds herself at juvie when one of her family's chocolate bars inconveniently brings a lousy ex-boyfriend to near death. Oh, that is just the first half of the book.
First novels in a series can be a mixed bag and that's what I found here. So much to like: the descriptive chapter titles, Anya, her siblings, the mafia mysteries - who do you trust-do I even trust Anya. But there are also the things that make you go Huh?: how coffee and chocolate are illegal but not beer, what in the heck happened in 72 years, and Anya conveniently remembers wise sayings from her dad. For me these bumps were not so much that I was distracted from the story. I was far more involved with what could be going down with the mafia and the knowledge that there will likely be more questions than answers by the last page. And of course there are. So I'll have to wait and see when book 2 arrives. (Hopefully next year?) ARGH. Waiting! Things that I'm looking forward to: maybe more Mouse, following in her father's footsteps by choice or force, Kyoto, the D.A., water war, and the location hint at the end of the video below.
Note: I also listened to part of the novel on CD. The narrator is Ilyana Kadushin who is widely known for reading the Twilight series. I used to listen to audiobooks all the time to and from work. Not so much since staying at home, but this CD reminded me how much I like being read to.
P.S. Read a recent post mentioning my 2011 Russian-American Trend. AND PLEASE, if you live near Austin, catch Gabrielle Zevin at the Austin Teen Book Festival on October 1. IT'S FREE. Years ago Patti and I saw her give a reading at BookPeople and she is just terrific.
Gabrielle Zevin on Tumblr
Official FB Fan Page
Source: book - ARC from ALA sent by Patti, cd - sent by publisher
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Inside Out & Back Again takes place from Tet 1975 - Tet 1976. Unlike Matt in All the Broken Pieces who was given up by his mother to fleeing American soldiers, Ha leaves Saigon on a ship with her mother and three older brothers. Her American-trained Navy father has been missing for 10 years. Also unlike Matt, Ha does not have guilt-ridden memories of the horror of war. She loves Vietnam. When her Alabama teacher shows the class iconic images of war-ravaged Vietnam, Ha wishes she would have shown something different.
She should have shown
papayas and Tet.
No one would believe me
but at times
I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama.
Everything is seen through Ha's young eyes and the author's ability to express Ha's emotions so acutely through the brief poems is remarkable. In the poem "Feel Dumb", Ha is asked to recite the alphabet and when she finishes the teacher instructs the students clap for her. How infuriating for a student who knows fractions and then on top of that she has to endure the forced pity acknowledgement of her classmates.
So this is
I hate, hate, hate it.
I think young readers (9-12) will very easily follow Ha along on her American journey. There's racism and fear and hope. And humor! I loved when Ha would bemoan English grammar rules because who as a child had not been been stumped by plurals like "knives"? I hope that a young reader, or really a reader of any age, takes a moment to reflect on what it would be like to be a refugee and an immigrant. What it would be like to find yourself in a culture so completely unlike your own? Here's a good exercise: Ha wears a nightgown to school one day. Now imagine how that would play out in your 4th grade class.
So yes, look for this one on the Mock Newbery lists.
Read an interview with the author on Kirkus Reviews. Much of Ha's story is her own.
Fun Fact!: the author received a journalism degree at UT Austin. Another outstanding author writing for young people to add to the Austin ranks.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Slog’s dad died after a sudden illness where he lost each leg, one at a time, starting from his toe and working up to his thigh. Slog, his mum, and indeed the whole town liked this man who sang hymns while collecting their garbage. Slog’s grief leads him to tell his astonished best friend Davie that he thinks that’s his dad sitting over there on the park bench. That homeless guy? Yes! Davie thinks Slog is crazy, but maybe... Is that his dad who said he would come back? Good, beautiful stuff. The images of Slog clipping the legs off a paper doll threw me a punch in the gut. I loved this 50 page illustrated novel. I think I would be great in a middle school.