Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Other Mock Printz Reading

We are still deciding on 5 more titles for the Mock Printz. Here, in short, is some of what is being discussed:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Um, well, Libba Bray I love. This book I did not. I thought it was a bit of a slog, which surprised me. I love feminist plots, I love the idea of a bunch of beauty queens washed up on a deserted tropical island having to use their smarts to fight for survival. But it was just too much for me. The girls blended into each other (I had to remember states and names? Oy!) Don't get me wrong, there were parts I liked, but subtle it was not. It does have the best cover of the year hands down though.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

This was a trippy little book. I remember telling someone when I was three quarters of the way through that I would either love it or develop a murderous rage when I got to the ending. It turns out that I sided more on the side of love even though I did not get the explanation I wanted. It was enough to satisfy me. This book was a tense read. The entire time I felt tense and I couldn't put it down. What exactly was Ruby really doing? She was such an interesting character and her influence did seem otherworldly. Or were we just getting Chloe's warped perspective? I feel like this one would make for interesting discussion.

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

I really enjoyed this. Set on Coney Island and full of Coney Island lore. At its base is a regular coming of age story of a girl who comes into her own and learns where she belongs. The setting is really what sets this apart. A more interesting cast of characters I don't believe you've ever found in a teen book. And what I liked most is that they were characters and didn't turn into caricatures. As much as I enjoyed it, I'm not sure it stands out enough for the Mock Printz.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard about this one. I really didn't feel up to a Frankenstein rehash. Luckily, this was something else entirely. It was more of a story of young Frankenstein's youth. And his youth, as you can imagine, was out of the ordinary. This is a story that is filled with adventure, jealousy, secret plotting, and best of all alchemy. Of all the potental titles I've been reading lately, I feel like this one is probably the strongest with plotting.

Book Source = Tayshas Committee Copies

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Dystopian Chicago. Got to love it! No really, you do. Even if you think, "good god I can't take another," pick it up anyway and you won't regret it. This one has a dystopian setting, but the plot doesn't revolve around how the world got that way, it just happens to be set there. Which is the best kind of dystopia, no?

I really enjoyed the world building in this novel. It was extremely well done. This is a world where people recognized that there is something inherently bad about people. We just can't help it. We are greedy, lying, conniving, cruel, power-hungry creatures. So in recognition of that fact, they divided the world into five factions based on the best elements of human nature (there is a thorough explanation in the book so i'll skip it here).

When a person turns 16, they undergo a trial which helps them to pick which faction they will belong to for the rest of their life. Beatrice, our heroine, is about to turn 16. And, of course, once she does, she learns that things are not at all what they seem. The factions are on the point of crumbling. People are not sticking to the original plan and it is going to have disastrous results.

This is really a pulse pounding book. Beatrice is my favorite kind of character. She's tough as nails, she may not want to kill you, but she'll shoot you in the leg if she has to. On the flip side, she's filled with insecurity and self-doubt and yet manages to be deeply moral, loyal, and brave. She's also a bit reactionary and violent and has a lot to learn about friendship.

There is a romance in here which was pretty dang hot. Beatrice was a little slow on the uptake, but the author made it work and then went above and beyond when Beatrice must face her fears (oh fear landscape, how nice a literary touch were you).

This is the first in a series and I'm looking forward to where the author takes the story. There is a lot that happens in this book and the next book will be a whole different set of issues the author will have to tackle. It'll be interesting to see if the tension that was so wonderfully used in this book can be maintained in the second.


Mock Printz

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

Book Source = Tayshas Committee Copy

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Red Blazer Girls: The Mistaken Masterpiece by Michael D. Beil

After 3 books, Sophie Jeanette St. Pierre still holds a place in my heart as one of my favorite 12-year-old narrators. Author Michael D. Beil's 3rd Red Blazer Girls novel brings back the New York girls for another adventure in after-school sleuthing. Previously they solved logic and math puzzles to find a missing ring and a twice-stolen violin.

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

Pintrest: Book & Library Activities

Hi, All!

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


Bottle Cap Snowmen Craft

Stay Put Puzzle (or, another use for book jackets!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mock Printz Titles - Released

Well, half of them anyway. Here are half the titles that will be on our Mock Printz this year:

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

So looky there! I've only read two on the list so far. Falling behind, I am.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

September. The start of fall. The start of the big publisher push before the end of the year. This month brings 2 that I've had my eye on all year: Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone (out 9/27 & a review coming... sometime... soon) and Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done, which came out last week.

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

Behind the scenes and info about some of the landmarks w/ GZ PLUS a sneak peek at where the next book will be set.

Source: book - ARC from ALA sent by Patti, cd - sent by publisher

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

One of my favorite books of 2009 was Ann E. Burg's All the Broken Pieces. So well liked, in fact, that it snagged a Mock Newbery Honor at our library. It also made the Mock Printz but lost in our final honor book vote. I mention this novel in verse because I fondly thought about it while reading the fantastic Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai.

 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
something about
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
what dumb
feels like.

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 by David Almond and Dave McKean

I very much liked the previous collaboration by the author and illustrator. This time the storytelling is more sentimental and positive than harrowing.

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.