Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka

Between Fuse, 7-Imp, and 100 Scope Notes, I had to read this poetry collection. I can't add anything new to their reviews, so just count me as one of the many fans of this fantastic book o'poems.

The slim volume of 22 poems also doubles as word puzzles. While each poem does indeed get all its words from the single word title, readers sometimes have to piece the letters together to make the words. It takes effort. If you get stumped, turn the page. A more familiar format for the poem is provided. (See my excerpt below.) My 2nd grader had to read them in the easier format. I think he's a little young, but he still liked the idea that the poems came from one word.

 It reminded me of the playful CDB by William Steig. The patient reader is rewarded.

One of my and my 2nd grader's favorites is "Halloween"





The poems are illustrated by Nancy Doniger.

book source: checked out from my local public library

Friday, May 27, 2011

How Amazing is this Cover?

I love it. I love how Kieran's hands are curled into claws.

I'm a huge Tantalize fan so I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth, so to speak, into this new graphic novel by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

Wouldn't it be hard to be just a regular run-of-the-mill kid if both of your parents were superheroes? What would it be like to feel that you're a constant disappointment to your father who not only heads up the Olympiad (the superhero group), but is adored and revered by all (even though privately he's a bit of a jerk)?

Celia, the only daughter of Blaze and Captain Olympus, lets us know it totally sucks in this very fun novel about growing up in the shadow of your super-human parents.

I really enjoyed this book. We get to see behind the mask, and the very human downfalls that even superheros can't avoid. Celia is a fantastic character to follow. She's smart, wry, and embittered in just the right amounts. As a reader, I was rooting for her from the get go. There was quite a bit of humor in this story (Celia gets kidnapped so much she is quite blase about the whole experience, frustrating her kidnappers to no end).

I really think this could be on next year's Alex Award list.

Book Source = Tayshas Review Copy

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Well this was just about the grossest book I've ever read.

After Joey's mother dies he goes to live with his father in a small town in rural Iowa. It stinks. Literally. His dad lives in a nasty decrepit shed of a house, there are piles of papers everywhere, and it is filthy. Not like old food filthy, just dirt and dust and the crud that builds up when you never clean. His dad is sort of like Pig Pen, if Pig Pen not only had his ever-present cloud of dirt, but also happened to stink like dead people too.

So,yeah, his dad stinks because he's a grave robber. And apparently grave robbers don't care that they stink like dead people. To be honest, I think that would probably help to blow their cover, but let's move on because that was the only thing that gave me pause in this entire awesomely engrossing (zing!) book. Let's just say that Joey wants to join the family business and the family business makes for really good reading.

Don't take this as a wacky fun-filled journey. It isn't. This is a dark, dark book and Joey's life is pretty tortured. His beloved mother is recently deceased, he had to move out of the only home he's ever known and move in with a father he didn't know he had, he's an outcast that is picked on at school. But man, once he gets into that grave robbing it really is fascinating. I loved how the author showed a secret group (Diggers to those in the know. Everyone else is just a Rotter) in society that exists on its fringes. I loved the history, the strategy, the internal conflict, the strange men who made up this world. And I especially loved the descriptions of Boggs, the outcast of outcasts, a mentally disturbed grave robber with a mission that endangers the rest of the Diggers. Boggs was the most heebie-jeebie inspiring character that I have read about in a very long time.

Not for the faint of heart, but a wholly original novel.

Book Source = Tayshas Review Copy

What We're Reading at Our House

We have loads of books checked out from the library so I thought I'd post what we have acquired.

  • What to Read When by Pam Allyn (Penguin Group 2009)
    I think this is a lovely basic reference book that makes you think about introducing different topics and types of books at different ages. She does really like Jamie Lee Curtis. Thanks to this article from The Horn Book.
  • Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown 2011)
    Really as lovely as all the zillion glowing reviews.
  • Wanted the Perfect Pet by Fiona Roberton (G.P. Putnam's Sons 2009)
    from the library's "May is Pet Month" display
  • Red Wagon by Renata Liwska (Philomel Books 2011)
    I wanted to like this one more. Very cute.
  • Chicken, Chicken, DUCK! by Nadia Krilanovich (Tricycle Press 2011)
    Reminds me of my storytime favorite Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb. Not quite as infectious, but still fun.
  • Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip (Tricycle Press 1997)
    Picture book artist retro lesson
  • Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker (Disney Hyperion 2011)
    ARC from TLA. My 2nd grader loooves Clementine. Still no name for Broccoli - but it's coming!
  • Calendar Mysteries : January Joker by Ron Roy (Random House 2009)
    Said 2nd grader was introduced to A-Z Mysteries by his teacher a couple months ago. He can't get enough. Checks out a few a week from school. Calendar Mysteries are a spin-off.
  • The Purple Smurfs by Peyo (Papercutz 2010)
  • Pinky & Stinky by James Kochalka (Top Shelf 2008)
  • The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
    Eva Ibbotson passed away this past October. I never read her books. I started this one, but am wondering if I should finish it or read with with my 2nd grader.
  • Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour #6 by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press 2010)
    I have blogged about Scott Pilgrim. I heart him. Lots. But I never read #6. It was published at a bad time for me. I also refused to see the movie because I didn't read it yet. Fast forward to now. We're getting HBO for free these days (we tried to cancel our cable and they offered us this) and the movie is playing almost every day. So I saw it. Before I read it! And you know what? I kind of didn't like it. Then I watched it again. And again with my husband. And again by myself in the middle of the night. And I love it. LOTS! And so I got off my duff to read #6. I then shocked Michelle by saying I liked the movie ending. SHAME! But really, that's how it is.
  • Mathilda and the Orange Balloon by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Jen Corace (Blazer+Bray 2010)
    This is a signed copy gift from our friend Lloyd. Thanks, Lloyd!
  • As far as the 2 year old, he can't get enough Eric Carle/Bill Martin Brown Bear/Polar Bear/Panda Bear. He's really into surprises. Any suggestions?
So what are you reading this week?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Dreaming Collection by Queenie Chan

Two teenage twin sisters get accepted to an exclusive private boarding school. Of course, it turns out they're not at just any ordinary boarding school. This one is located in the remote Australian bushlands (you should see the drawing. It is acceptably ominous). And not only is it remote, but students have been going missing since the 1920s. The first batch disappeared in a group of 12 and then another girl disappears which makes 11 (OMG who will be the 12th?). Cue scary music.

This was a super fun read. Sort of brainless. But with some really nice touches. There are these super freaky paintings hanging all around the school that no one really notices (like, hello, they're chasing a girl into the woods. With knives. And there is that faceless girl. In. Every. Single. One.) Anyhoo, those paintings are awesome. I wish there had been more of them.

The characters were a little slow on the uptake for my taste. I couldn't help but think they could have solved the mystery a little faster if they had, you know, thought about it for more than two seconds at a time (or read the damn book on the paintings that they had the entire time). The ending was a little weak. I would have liked it a lot more had it ended like a horror movie with a sequel on the way (like if on the last page...there was a new painting...only this time with an ax!)

Regardless there was more than enough atmosphere and drama for me. I read it in one sitting and had a great time burning through it.

Book Source = Library Copy

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

I can't tell you how excited I was to learn about this book during TLA. I loved loved loved Kelly Link's stories in Pretty Monsters. Loved them. Loved them. Loved them.

I'm happy to say that I enjoyed this anthology very much as well. There were some really highfalutin authors that participated in this book, Libba Bray, MT Anderson, Garth Nix, Kelly Link (whoo!) amongst others. As with any story collection some were stronger than others, but I thought this was a strong group of stories with the steampunk theme tying them together regardless of how differently each author interpreted it. And believe me, they were all very different.

My absolute favorite was by Libba Bray, a story entitled The Last Ride of the Glory Girls, and the second in the collection. It was a steampunk western and it was absolutely lovely. I loved the dialect and language, I loved the characters, especially Addie our plainspoken heroine. Simply put, it was 36 pages of excellent storytelling.

Short stories are really ideal vacation reading. I read this in Galveston and it was somehow fitting. All those old Victorian houses were a perfect setting for me to sink my teeth into a steampunk book. In fact, I recommend someone write something to that effect and set it there. What a perfect place for a novel. A rundown seaside town that is full of gorgeous old buildings and history. Someone definitely needs to write something set in Galveston beside hurricane books anyway. And lest anyone wonder, I'm a big fan of Galveston.

Book Source = ARC provided by publisher
(thank you Candlewick! You Rock)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Around the World by Matt Phelan - Video update!

I forgot to post this along with the review of Matt Phelan's Around the World (Oct 2011)

The Deedle Deedle Dees singing NELLY BLY

Also on Facebook.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Red Blazer Girls #3 - coming soon!

I am a fan of Michael D. Beil's fun, contemporary Red Blazer Girls mystery books. If there is a young reader about age 10+, these 3 books would make a super summer read. First there was The Ring of Rocamadour and then there was the Vanishing Violin. Next month we get...

The Mistaken Masterpiece!

And they are on Facebook, but they, like, need more friends!

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

I've been waiting for this book for what seems like ages. Sarah Dessen's reliability for smart, funny, contemporary ya chick lit continues its blazing trail of awesomeness with her latest novel - Big #10, due out tomorrow. Statistically, I'm sure there are people out there who do not like her novels. Just like there are people who do not like ice cream. Or kittens. Or having fun.

What Happened to Goodbye offers another female lead who doesn't think she wants to make connections with people. For good reason, though, because Mclean moves every few months. (I made a connection to this book and Pete Hautman's Big Crunch earlier this year.) But she likes the instability which offers her some refuge from the epic public disaster that was her parents' marriage and divorce. Each new place Mclean tries out a new girl - the theater girl, the cheerleader. No ties. No worries.

What could be everyday chick lit in some hands is near masterful in Sarah Dessen's. The spectacular way Mclean meets Dave, the tiny model town, the quirky-but-real cast of characters (including those you don't want to like but then learn that there's more to 'em), her relationship with her parents, the locker mirror of doom, craving for fried pickles (ah, Texas treats), the desire to get to Austin (I totally get it, dudes.) the Gert. The scene in the dark restaurant - one of the several times I laughed out loud on the plane trip from TLA Austin to Jacksonville. And I can't forget the Easter Eggs. (Thanks fine ladies at FYA for the term.) Dessen peppers her later novels with people, places, events from previous stories. I so love that. It makes her stories like visiting with friends back home. Oh yeah, I remember that place. Is that so and so from Colby?

Dessen is one of the more deserving authors who find their books on the NYT bestsellers list with every new publication. She's got a good thing going. Here's to 10 more novels!

Oh and librarians, there's some good librarian action in this one as well.

Book source: ARC from publisher

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Around the World by Matt Phelan

In celebration, I offer a GN review.

Matt Phelan offers another nice addition to non-fiction GN for young readers with his forthcoming Around the World due in October from Random House. As usual, his storytelling and artwork are top-notch and have a wonderful whimsy to them that is signature Matt Phelan.  I like, I like, I like.

I do think that these 3 stories about adults will not have the appeal that The Storm in the Barn has for young readers. Yes, these are biographies so of course they are not children. My favorite story of the three is Thomas Stevens. The scenes of him, and others, "taking a header" off their bicycles really hit my funny bone. I liked his adventures as well has his message about exploring the marvels of the world and the people who live in it. Nelly Bly, tagged as Girl Reporter - why the necessary "Girl"? - became less adventurous and more tiresome. I admit I wasn't as fond of her as I would have liked. Capt. Solcum's story had adventure but also loneliness and sadness. This story is the one that could be the challenge for young readers.

All in all this is another outstanding nonfiction book and should find its place in schools and libraries.

Out October 2011. 
Book Source: ARC from publisher at TLA conference

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

It's picture book time. I picked this one off the shelf of my local library with my 2.5 year old. We sat and read it in the library and we sat and read it at home. He does like owls, but the real fun for him in this book is the silliness of the squirrel trying to help baby owl find mom. Little owl takes a tumble out of his nest and lands on the forest floor. Squirrel comes to his aid and makes it his mission to help owl find mom. Owl describes mom as big and squirrel enthusiastically brings back... a bear. Hm. Not exactly right. My son loved that. "That's not owl!"

I dig the retro illustrations and the overwhelming adorableness of owl. I'm looking forward to seeing more by debut author/illustrator Chris Haughton.

Of note, original title in UK - A Bit Lost

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Knocking out my Alex Award Reading

Book seven and eight on my quest to read all the 2011 Alex Awards.

I apologize in advance for doing some lame double post of two books without actually saying anything interesting about them. I just don't have the energy to actually do any reviews and have to actually, like, think about what I want to write. Seems like too much work at the moment

But, dang it, I still want credit for reading them!

They were both fantastic. It was interesting reading them back to back. They both have the theme of alienation in them, but how the main characters deal with their circumstances couldn't be more different.

I am really glad that I decided to try to read all the Alex Awards this year. I'm really impressed by the list. Only two more to go!

Book Source = Library Copies

Other 2011 Alex Award Reviews:

The Radleys

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Free Comic Book Day Approaches

Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 7.

Here's the webiste - go and find a participating store -or library- near you and celebrate one of the best days of the year!