Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A road trip

Book reviews coming soon, promise - and those replies to your great comments which I promised last week.  But for today, I thought I'd show you the outcome of a road trip I took with my friend Mel recently.  We go to places with absurd names, and wanted to visit Kingsbury Episcopi and Curry Rivel (both amazing, no?)  We did manage to see both these Somerset villages, but also stumbled across somewhere rather brilliant on the way... and Mel took this photo:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stranded by Jeff Probst –ADVISABLE

Probst, Jeff A Stranded 192 pgs. Puffin, 2013. $6.29.  Content: Language: G (0 swears);  Mature Content: G;  Violence: G.
Vanessa, Buzz, Carter, and Jane are a new step family. Their parents decide that to help them bond, they will send them on a boat trip together. The kids take to the open seas with two adult crew members sailing the boat. When a storm separates them from their hosts, the kids find themselves on a deserted island alone! Will they be able to set aside their differences and survive?
ARG! This book is the first in a series, which was really aggravating! I thought this was a pretty fun book and I think students will be intrigued by kids their own age in this adventurous situation. This book will span 2-4 grade nicely and the cover art will be a big draw as well. The character are well developed and fun. I will eagerly snag the next book.
EL, Elementary – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Your Food Is Fooling You by David A Kessler MD –OPTIONAL

Kessler, David A Your Food Is Fooling You: How your brain is hijacked by sugar, fat, and salt 192 pgs.Roaring Brook Press, 2012. $8.99.  Content: Language: G (0 swears);  Mature Content: G;  Violence: G.
This book offers an explain for today's epidemic of obesity. It delves into how brain chemistry is manipulated by marketing companies and food producers who ingeniously designed foods that combine sugar,fat, and salt. It includes chapters on how to break the cycle of over-eating and to set rules that work for you.
I was annoyed by this book. I thought that if I read “Sugar, Fat, and Salt” one more time that I would throw the book and never retrieve it.  The content is very repetitive, constantly reviewing, rehashing and reminding. I think the foundational message is wonderful though –food is necessary and good, just not when its out of control, be aware of marketing and manipulation and seek to create your own customized food rules. The question is, will reader survive the gambit of hundreds of “Sugar, Fat, and Salt” mentions to actually finish this book and take its message to heart.
MS, HS –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

My ediction continues...

Remember a while ago, when I told you about my addiction to buying different editions of the Provincial Lady series by E.M. Delafield?  This was cleverly nicknamed an 'ediction' by Susan - and fed by lovely Agnieszka!  This arrived in the post the other day...

Agnieszka, you are very wicked for being my enabler - but very kind as well!  Thank you so much - my edillection (can you work out what that is?) is a step nearer completion...

Thank You, Trees! by Gail Langer Karwoski and Marily E. Gootman - OPTIONAL

Karwoski, Gail Langer and Marily E. Gootman  Thank You, Trees!  Illustrated by Kristen Balouch  Kar-ben, 2013.  BOARD BOOK  $5.95  Content:  G. 
This book is about the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat, a holiday that encourages ecological awareness and the planting of trees.  It explains the different kinds of trees that can be planted-orange, apple, etc.  Then after the tree is planted the people enjoy a picnic in the shade of the tree.  Then the book explains the importance of recycling and taking care of the trees. 
The book has a rhyming cadence that makes it enjoyable to share with young readers.  The illustrations are bright and creative.  My only complaint would be that the book doesn’t explain that Tu B’Shevat is a holiday that celebrates trees, it is inferred which can be a bit confusing for a reader that doesn’t know the Jewish holiday. 
PREK-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Black City by Elizabeth Richards - ADVISABLE

Richards, Elizabeth  Black City, 400 pgs. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.  $17.99 Content: Language: PG-13 (25 swears; 2 God); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13. 
Natalie Buchannan comes from a Sentry family, her mother is an important government official, so it is shocking when she is placed at the local Workboot school, where all the blue collar workers’ kids go.  While at her new school, Natalie feels a physical draw, an actual physical pull on her heart, to a boy named Ash Fisher.  However, any relationship between them is forbidden because Ash is half-human and half-Darkling.  The reconstruction of their city is not going smoothly between the Sentry and the Darklings, and Ash and Natalie can’t seem to fight their feelings for each other, regardless of the legal implications of their relationship.  Because they care about each other, they are more willing to see the truth behind the political uprisings, and they begin to unravel the truths behind the fa├žade put out by the government. 
This book is hard to put down, the storyline revels pieces of the puzzle at just the right time to keep the reader interested.  The characters both carry a lot of baggage so I liked how they were able to use their pasts to show character growth.  The violence is war violence and a lot of blood from vampire deaths.  There is also off page sex.  This is the first book in the series. 
MS, HS-ADVSIABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Otter and Odder: A Love Story by James Howe -- OPTIONAL

Howe, James and Chris Raschka Otter and Odder: A Love Story 40 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2012. $14.00. PICTURE BOOK.

When an otter falls in love with a fish, it seems their relationship is doomed. After all, you're supposed to eat your food source, not love it. Indeed, that's what everyone around Otter and Myrtle says -- loudly and often. In a perfect world, the pair would be free to love each other without complications, but the world is not perfect, and they must decide if their relationship is worth such sacrifices as Otter not eating fish again and Myrtle standing up to her scared family -- or if they must go their separate ways. Just what are they willing to do for love?

I love the premise and, as an adult reader, I can see that the book does contain a number of gems. In fact, I enjoyed it very much and thought the romance was quite sweet. Unfortunately, Otter and Odder is intended for children, not adults. When taking that into consideration, the text was far longer, wordier and more complicated than necessary. The length risks losing children's interest, while the wordiness and inexplicable illustration choices make it difficult for children to comprehend what are actually simple messages about love and acceptance. While some may enjoy the artist's style, I felt the extremely juvenile illustrations did not fit the rather mature-sounding story at all. Rather than complementing the text, they pulled me out of the story on numerous occasions, and my daughter kept stopping me to ask, "What is that?" and "What are they doing?" Unfortunately, I couldn't answer her much of the time because I myself couldn't figure it out either. Perhaps it wouldn't matter so much if the story itself were simple and clear, but in a complicated tale such as this one the illustrations could have carried far more weight than they did and would have gone a long way toward helping children understand the complicated text.

EL -- OPTIONAL; Adults -- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: Caryn

The Kindhearted Crocodile by Lucia Panzieri -- OPTIONAL

Panzieri, Lucia and Anton Gionata Ferrari The Kindhearted Crocodile 24 pgs. Holiday House, 2013.  $16.95. PICTURE BOOK.

A lonely crocodile wants so badly to be someone's pet that he crawls through the pages of one family's picture book every night and into their home. He spends the time until dawn washing dishes, fighting monsters in bad dreams, and preparing breakfast for the family in the hopes that they will overlook the fact that he's a big, scary crocodile and take him in. But when they do discover him, the "frantic mother" is terrified and the "courageous father" wants to fight him. Only the children want to keep him. It's up to the kids and the kindly crocodile to convince the parents that he should stay. When the mother realizes that having the crocodile around means less housework for her, she relents. But first, she has to convince her husband, who has the final say.

Although the story itself was a bit convoluted and some of the workings of this imaginary world were unclear, the fun, creative illustrations went a long way toward explaining what the text did not. Children may also enjoy the thought of their picture book characters coming to life in the night, doing their chores and frightening away the monsters in their bad dreams. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get past the outdated gender roles, which are a product of the original 1960 copyright date -- complete with a mother wearing high heels and a dress while struggling under mounds of housework and a father relaxing in his easy chair while reading the newspaper.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr. -- ESSENTIAL

Smith Jr., Charles R. and Floyd Cooper Brick by Brick 32 pgs. Amistad/HarperCollins, 2013. $17.99. PICTURE BOOK.

The original White House was was so big that its construction required the help of local workers, immigrants, and even slaves, whose masters hired them out for five dollars a month. This book highlights the plight of the slaves, who didn't earn a penny for their help in clearing the forest, making the bricks, and carrying the stones. It was back-breaking work that did have one payoff in the end: some of those who stayed on were trained to do more detailed work, thus becoming specialists and finally earning the pay that let them buy their freedom. All because they helped build the White House.

Brick by Brick imparts some little-known information about the original White House. The ending is inspirational, as some of the slaves did earn their freedom, although it may be unclear to younger readers and could require more explanation. Although the rhythm was off in some places, and the rhymes didn't always work, for the most part it's still a pleasure to read, both aloud and silently, and the pictures are a nice complement to the narrative. An afterword provides further information.

EL -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewed by: Caryn

One place; many Simons

I find the importance of places very interesting - as I'm sure we all do.  In literature, I am particularly fascinated by the resonances of houses.  I will rush towards any novel where a house is significant for itself, especially if staircases are involved (don't ask me why I love staircases so much, I have no idea.)  But recently I've been pondering about places which are neither very familiar nor unfamiliar - the sorts of places I go a dozen times over the years, but couldn't be considered a home, and how they may thus witness different stages of life, quite coincidentally.

There are lots of places in Oxford which act as a metaphorical palimpsest in this manner, but I've picked Wellington Square Garden - tucked away parallel to St. Giles, it's a neat, sweet little park - often filled with office workers enjoying their lunch in summer, or ice cream eaters on a Saturday - but, foolishly, with only one bench.

The first time I went to it would have been before I went up to Oxford as an undergraduate.  Wellington Square is right next to Kellogg College, which runs courses and lecture days for non-students.  As a sixth-former, I sometimes stumped up £30 to spend a day with my Mum and our friend Barbara, listening to lectures on various English literature topics - it's how I first heard about my beloved Katherine Mansfield, for instance.  It was an early sign of how much I loved studying literature - and my introduction to Wellington Square gardens, where we wandered in between lectures.

I've witnessed many strange and eccentric things while in Oxford, and probably done a fair few myself, so it's only one example from many that I could mention (and the only one which happened in this park.)  A pirate asked me to take his photo.  Well, a man dressed as a pirate, I assume... but, still.  I was innocently reading a book on the bench, and was approached... I expected to be asked to give money to a charity but, no, just the photograph, and... they went on their way.

Wellington Square Garden does have a literary connection for me, too - well, that is, I read a much-loved book there for the first time.  Just around the corner, on Little Clarendon Street, there is a charity shop (I forget which.)  In the basement, they have a selection of books - and in 2007 I decided to buy the slim Virago Modern Classic I picked up, because the synopsis sounded interesting and it was only about 50p.  I toddled round to Wellington Square Garden and, since it was a nice day, lay down on the grass to read it... and was instantly in love.  The novel was The Love-Child by Edith Olivier, which I have read many times since - and written about at length in my doctoral thesis, as well as putting it on my 50 Books You Must Read.

Most recently, a little over a year ago, I came here after I'd been told that the first test I'd done was positive, and I'd have to be tested for cancer.  Everything turned out to be fine, but it was a terrifying and frustrating time.  I walked from the GP down St. John Street to this park, sat on the bench and cried and cried.  And then I mopped myself up and went to work, because it was 8am and I hadn't taken the day off.

So, Wellington Square has seen quite a lot of disparate emotions and memories - and it's still one of my favourite places in Oxford.  Who knows what it'll see in the future?

This isn't the easiest meme to transfer to your own blogs, because it requires a bit of thought and memory - but I'd love to see other people picking a spot which has proved significant over their lives, but still not home or deeply familiar.  Just a place you sometimes go, which has coincidentally been the site for different moods and different events.  There's your challenge - pop a link in the comments if you take it up.

Book Review: Lady Iona's Rebellion by Dorothy McFalls

Author: Dorothy McFalls
Published March 7th 2010 by Barking Dog Press
Age: Adult
She was looking for freedom....
When the always obedient Lady Iona is pressured into accepting a husband of her father's choosing, she seeks out the notorious rake, Lord Nathan Wynter, for his help in learning how to standup for herself.

He was looking for respect...
While Iona is seeking adventure, Lord Nathan is doing his honest best to reform his ways in order to repair his reputation and his disastrous relationship with his family. Winning the very proper Lady Iona for a wife would go a long way to achieving that end.

They found each other.
The more Nathan tries to protect Lady Iona from running head-long into disgrace, the more he admires her daring spirit and unpredictable antics. Instead of returning her to the obedient world to which she was raised, he encourages her blossoming passions. Such a move is surely going to lead them both to ruin.

But for love he is willing to risk everything.
I downloaded Lady Iona's Rebellion free from Amazon a couple of days ago, and it's the story of Lord Nathan, who has a very bad reputation, and Lady Iona, who is the perfect lady. Nathan's plan is to win Iona's heart, and that way earn a better reputation and his family's respect, but Iona wants the exact opposite, she wants passion and freedom.

It's a game where none of them are going to win. Nathan wants to protect her, even from himself, and Iona is starting to fall in love with him, but is he also in love with her?

It was a passionate romance, sexy sometimes. Nathan and Iona were the perfect couple but sometimes too insecure, which gave the story some twists before having their HEA. But I didn't like Nathan's family, specially his brother and father, and I wanted Nathan to be stronger, he apparently had a strong character but with them he always was very soft and let them offend him.

Overall, I enjoyed Lady Iona's Rebellion, it's a good choice if you want to read historical romance.

More about this book at www.dorothymcfalls.com, Goodreads, Amazon.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Yay! Blog Award!

So, apparently, we were nominated for the Liebster Blog award by the ever-awesome Emaginette.

The rules for the Liebster Award are:

* Each nominee must answer the 11 questions.
* Create 11 questions for the next nominees to answer.
* Link back to who nominated them.
* Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
* Go to their page and tell them.
* No tag backs!

So it goes without saying that I'm so thankful for this, and without further ado, here are my answers!

Favorite breakfast?

Bacon and Eggs, definitely.

Muffins or Cupcakes?

Chocolate cupcakes, definitely.

Dog or Cat?

Dogs, definitely. The meat is way more tender and cat whiskers keep getting caught in my teeth.

Autumn or Spring?

Spring. It’s just so full of promise, promises of backyard barbecues, and camping trips, and days at the beach. Autumn is just a reminder that soon we will be buried in another brutal Canadian winter and the mayor will be forced to send polar bears out to clean up the frozen corpses again.

PC or Apple?

I can't hear you over ALL the Apple products that are around me right now.
Beer or Wine?

Well, I’m Canadian, so the answer must be beer. If I were to say wine, people would accuse me of being FRENCH Canadian, and nobody wants that.

Your goal for 2013?

Get an R&R (Revise & Resubmit) for Little Miss Evil.

What do you like to read?

Holes by Louis Sachar, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I love anything gritty, twisty, and unique.

What is your all time favorite character? (Be it from books, films or cartoons.)

The Joker (Heath Ledger) from Dark Knight, Chigurh (Javier Bardem) from No Country for Old Men, and Col. Hans Lada (Cristolph Waltz) from Inglorious Basterds.

What do you like to write about?

If it isn’t obvious from the above list, I like writing about bad guys. They always seem to be the most interesting person in the movie.

What makes your day brighter?

Making people laugh. Seriously, if on any given day I can make someone, somewhere in the world stop what they’re doing and chuckle, my day is officially made.

So to all subsequent nominees, here are my 11 questions:
  1. What's the dream?
  2. How are you going to make that dream happen?
  3. What crazy awesome thing are you going to do when that dream comes true?
  4. Who is your favourite hero?
  5. Who is your favourite villain?
  6. Which one would you rather be?
  7. What turns you on?
  8. What turns you off?
  9. What is your favourite curse word?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
  11. What are you doing tomorrow, and more importantly, how are you planning on making it more awesome than what you're doing today?

You Can Do It! by Betsy Lewin -- ADVISABLE

Lewin, Betsy You Can Do It! 28 pgs. Holiday House, 2013. $14.95. PICTURE BOOK.

When a little crocodile sees a sign announcing a race, he tells his friend that he can win it. A nearby bully overhears and informs him that he can't. With his friend by his side, however, the determined little crocodile begins training, reminding himself, over and over again, "I can do it!"

A simply written story that shows you can do most anything if you have a concrete goal, hard work, determination, and a friend to encourage you when you begin to doubt yourself. I especially appreciated that the crocodile didn't just have a healthy self-esteem, but worked hard to achieve what he wanted -- an important ingredient that some books of this type lack. I also admire the crocodile for getting back at the bully by trying harder and becoming more determined to succeed, instead of resorting to yelling or physical retaliation. The repetitive phrasing does become a bit tedious -- for example, over one three-page spread the crocodile gasps out, "One, two...I can do it" nine times while exercising. Probably wouldn't be much fun for a read-aloud, but children who are struggling with limited vocabularies should appreciate the repeated words and simple phrasing. Would make a great intro for discussions on goal-setting and how to deal with bullies.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewed by: Caryn

Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin - ADVISABLE

Austin, Mike  Monsters Love Colors  Harper, 2013.  PICTURE BOOK  $15.99  Content: G. 
In this creative book about colors, monsters love to scribble, mix and wiggle.  They scribble and mix their way through the primary colors of red, yellow and blue while associating rhyming words to the colors, such as “Blue is the color of scribble, and dribble and nibble, nibble, nibble.  Then they decide to make new colors for four grey monsters who want new colors.  They mix and make orange, green and purple, with the final monster becoming rainbow colored.
This is a bright colorful book that will attract the attention of young readers.  It’s a creative way to talk about colors with lots of sound effect words while mixing, such as “mash, squish, squash”.  The colorful mess that the monsters make is bright and helps the reader see the fun that can be had with color.  Great for preschool and kindergarten. 
PREK, EL (K-3)-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Innocents by Lili Peloquin - OPTIONAL

Peloquin, Lili  The Innocents, 288 pgs.  Razor Bill, 2012.  $17.99  Content: Language: R (45 swears; 17 “F”; 11 God); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG. 
Alice and her sister Charlie are best friends, but since their mother has married the very rich Richard Flood, their lives have changed drastically.  This new change for Charlie involves fitting in with the upper class kids that have known each other most of their lives.  For Alice, the change has made her question the history between her mother and her new stepfather, as well as her stepfather’s previous family, who all happens to be dead now.  Alice digs into the mystery while falling for her dead stepsister’s boyfriend.  Charlie takes risks to be a part of the new crowd.  Will their sisterhood survive this crazy new social world?  
This is a great story with romance, mystery and a ghost story all mixed in.  The characters have depth and I found myself caring for them.  I would put this as advisable and in the middle school, except for the language makes it optional and for the high school.  The swearing frustrates me, especially the “F” word, because they aren’t necessary and the story is so good, but you don’t feel like you can recommend it to all your students because of the language.  That being said, I am excited for the next book in the series. 
HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad by David Adler - ESSENTIAL

Adler, David A. Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, 129 p. Holiday House, 2013.  $19.  

Adler turns his remarkable talent to chronicalling the life of Harriet Tubman.  You can tell that Adler has done extensive research and he has written a book that is detailed and interesting, but still at a level that is appropriate for students.  While most students will probably not read the book from cover to cover, it is a valuable research source for the Civil War, the Underground Railroad or just the history of this very brave woman.  

MS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

I Say, You Say Animal Sounds! by Tad Carpenter - ADVISABLE

Carpenter, Tad I Say, You Say Animal Sounds! LB Kids, 2012 $6.99. PICTURE BOOK. 

Brightly colored animals teach little ones what sound they make through liftable flaps. The pictures are bright and fun and would keep kids engaged and wanting to read this book over and over again. 

PRE-K, ADVISABLE. Shauna, Teacher.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Boy in the Box by Cary Fagan - NO

Fagan, Cary The Boy in the Box, 283 pgs, Clarion Books, 2012. $16.99.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G. 

Twelve-Year-Old Sullivan Mintz is a very ordinary boy. So ordinary, that kids at school barely notice him, except of course the school bully.  Sullivan helps his parents run their old folk’s home where his best friend is Manny, an 81-year-old resident, who encourages him as he learns to juggle.  He’s pretty good and when an old fashioned Medicine Show comes to town, (remarkably out of time period but no one seems to care) Sullivan and his sister set off to watch the kids perform and he is kidnapped by the owner.  Is Sullivan good enough to perform with the show? 

Sullivan’s story, while unlikely, is interesting, however the minor characters, the bully, the police, even the school principal are buffoons, complete with ridiculous names and situations.  In this scary age when kidnapping is such a serious issue, this book which takes the subject so lightly might be best left off the shelves.  

NO Lisa Librarian

The Originals by Cat Patrick - ESSENTIAL

Patrick, Cat The Originals, 296 p. Little Brown, 2013.  $18.  Content: G.  

Lizzy, Ella, Betsy – 3 girls – 3 sisters – who share one life.  For years they have been taking turns going to school, having a job and just hanging out.  No one can tell the difference between the girls, until one year two of them fall in love with different guys.  Until now, the girls have never really questioned their existence, but now they are willing to question their mother and shake up the status quo.  But will they really like the answers?  

Patrick hooked me from the start and carried me along until I was finished.  What more can I say?  

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever by Ferber - ESSENTIAL

Ferber, Brenda A. The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012 $16.99. PICTURE BOOK.  

When Leon decides to proclaim his love for Zoey Maloney, the valentine that he creates has a different idea. Follow Leon through the town as he chases his valentine card to see if Zoey Maloney will ever get it. 

This book is super cute. It’s written in a comic book style so all the text is written in word and thought bubbles. 

ESSENTIAL, EL. Shauna, Teacher.

Ender’s World edited by Card - PUBLIC

Card, Orson Scott, ed.  Ender’s World, 304 p. BenBella Books, 2012.  $15.  Violence: PG (recountings of violence in the original book).  

So, I picked this up thinking that Card had written another book in this much beloved series.  Instead, it is a series of essays about the books.  Which is fine, just not what I wanted.  From Neal Shusterman, David Lubar, Hilari Bell and Alethea Kontis, among others, the essays and intriguing, thought-provoking and certainly open for argument or interpretation – but I don’t see this getting much traffic in a school library, unless it is picked up by a teacher for classroom use.  

PUBLIC - Cindy, Library Teacher

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell - OPTIONAL

Rockwell, Anne Apples and Pumpkins. Aladdin, 1989. $5.99. PICTURE BOOK.  

A little girl and her family practice the tradition of picking apples and pumpkins from an orchard.  This quick little read will get any little one excited about harvest, autumn and Halloween. 

OPTIONAL, Pre-K, EL (K-3). Shauna, Teacher.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Archived by Victoria Schwab –ESSENTIAL

Schwab, Victoria The Archived 336 pgs. Hyperion Book CH, 2013. $11.35.  Content: Language: G (0 swears);  Mature Content: PG13 ;  Violence: G.
Mackenzie is a teen with a secret job to do, she is a Keepers, a job passed down by her Da. She helps maintain the Archive, which is a place where copies of everyone that has died are cataloged like library books. They slumber silently, well usually, until they are wake up and find their way into The Narrows, a sort of in between place. Its Mackenzie’s job to hustle them back through a door into the Archive so they can be shelved. But something is wrong, really wrong, both with the Archive and the new building Mackenzie and her family just moved into. Mackenize must risk her life to seek answers. 
This book was like a breath of fresh air, a fresh fantasy concept that was a bit grim but mostly just incredibly haunting. The multifaceted plot was placed central, not a cheesy romance like most teen fantasy books. I thought this book was pretty incredible. I was a bit confused at first, but once I was hooked, I couldn't put this book down. Teens are going to love this creepy and intriguing murder mystery!
MS, HS –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Bones Never Lie by Elizabeth Macleod –ESSENTIAL

Macleod, Elizabeth Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve Histories Mysteries 156 pgs. Annick Press, 2013. $17.96.  Content: Language: PG (0 swears); Mature Content: G ;  Violence: PG.
This is an in depth look at some incredibly interesting forensic CSI. Each case details the historical background behind the mystery and includes simple-language explanations about the crime solving techniques used. It gives definitive answers about some mysteries –like how King Tut and Napoleon died. Other mysteries just become more mysterious or speculative like what happened to King Rama of Thailand.
I loved this book! I think its a perfect for Middle school students who have some of that foundational history knowledge and want an introduction to forensic anthropology/crime solving! I didn't even realize when I was getting to the end of the book- so when I read the last page, I was almost dumbfounded –I couldn't believe that more pages simply weren't there. An immersive and engaging read that I read from start to finish in one sitting! Students are going to love this one!
MS- ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

A couple of quick things...

I've never used a blog reader, but I know a lot of you do - and are probably aware that Google Reader will be shutting down soon.  Well, I've seen a few bloggers link to Bloglovin', which apparently does the same sort of thing (and you can import to it from Google Reader.)  If you'd like to add my blog to a Bloglovin' account, you can do so here.

[cartoon by John Taylor, borrowed from OxfordDictionaries.com]

The other link is from work - I put together a quiz called Bible or Bard?  As you might be able to gather, you have to work out whether a quotation is from the King James Bible or the works of Shakespeare.  I had great fun putting it together - and it's pretty difficult, I have to say!  There are 30 quotations to test you... have a go here, and let me know how you do.

[Oops, link was to the wrong site - have fixed it now!]

I'm off home for the weekend, so I'll be back blogging next week! (And that's when I'll reply to your lovely comments too - sorry I've left it for a while...)

False Sight by Dan Krokos - ESSENTIAL

Krokos, Dan False Sight, 336 p. Disney-Hyperion, 2013.  $18.  Violence: PG-13,; Mature Content: G; Language: G.  

Miranda and the other Roses are trying to build alife for themselves in hiding – disguised as regular suburban teenager.  At the group’s first school dance, however, Sequel loses control of her mind and body to an implanted personality – Nina, a direct clone of The Director.  Now The Roses are on the run and into a different dimension, where they MIGHT find the answers they need to save their Earth from total annihilation from True Earth, the whole planet of the Originals. 

Krokos has moved from earth-based science fiction and straight into trans-dimensional travel.  I was not disappointed by the ride, however – in fact I loved it!  

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer - ESSENTIAL

Sauer, Tammi Princess in Training.  Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012 $16.99. PICTURE BOOK. 

When Viola Louise Hassenferrer needs a little polishing on her princess skills, she was sent to Camp Princess where she learned to wave, dress, dance and be as prim and proper as possible. Even Camp Princess can’t help Viola turn into the lady that everyone wants her to be, but the girls at the camp learn something from Viola. 

The story gives girls the idea that they are a princess no matter what they do and that they don’t have to be perfect which is such a great lesson with all the media and social pressure put on girls at younger and younger ages. 

ESSENTIAL, PRE-K, EL, Shauna, Teacher.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross - ADVISABLE

Cross, Kady The Girl with the Iron Touch, 384 p. Harlequin, 2013.  Violence: PG-13, Mature Content: PG (clothes off, no details), Language: G.  

Emily has been kidnapped by the mechanical minions of Garibaldi.  Yes, Garibaldi survived, but only barely.  The automatons insist Emily place their master’s brain in a part-mech body prepared for him, but Emily has sympathy for 312, the girl who has been created.  Meanwhile, Finley Jane and the rest of Emily’s friends are desperate to find and rescue her.  They will risk everything to do so.  

Kady Cross is the perfect steampunk writer.  I love her books the best of all I have read.  This is an excellent introduction into the genre for girls.  

MS, HS – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Apple Cake: A Recipe of Love by Julie Paschkis - OPTIONAL

Paschkis, Julie  Apple Cake: A Recipe of Love  Harcourt Books, 2012. $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

Ida loves reading and can’t imagine anything more wonderful than her books.  Alfonso loves Ida, but regardless of what he does, he can’t get her to look up from her book and notice him.  So he decides to bake an apple cake.  The book illustrates Alfonso cooking the cake in imaginative and creative ways.  He collects the salt from the sea and bakes the cake with a dragon’s fiery breath.  In the end the apple cake smells so delicious that Ida looks up from her book and notices Alfonso.  

The book is creative and the illustrations are pretty.  The storyline has simple one sentence lines for each page layout.  I like the moral that sometimes we need to look up from what we are doing and notice what is going on around us, because we may see something beautiful.  Although I like this book, I wonder if it might not have the visual appeal to younger readers.  

EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett - ADVISABLE

Arnett, Mindee Nightmare Affair, 368 p. TOR, 2013.  $18.  Language: PG (9 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.

  Dusty is a dream feeder – in order to maintain her energy, she must feed on other’s dreams.  The person whose dreams draw her most is, unfortunately, Eli, one of the most popular boys at school.  And the way she has been taught to draw the dreams is down right embarrassing, should she be caught.  When the pair share a dream where they watch a fellow classmate get murdered, Eli and Dusty are packed up and sent to the Arkwell Academy, a place for people with powers like Dusty’s.  There, Dusty is still an outcast, while Eli, who has absolutely no value except as Dusty’s “dinner”, is still popular.  Bu the pair are supposed to be working together to solve a murder – or several murders.  Now Dusty’s absent mother has returned, the twists an complications have deepened and the danger is even greater than anyone expected.  

I thought this was a very good, tense horror/fantasy book.  It held my attention and I am looking forward to reading more.  Then was nothing overtly ‘mature’ in the book – just that whoever taught Dusty to feed told her she had to straddle her victim’s chest to do it.  Weird. 

MS, HS – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Ring of Bright Water - Gavin Maxwell

You know how I don't shut up about Miss Hargreaves?  (Have you read it?  It's great.)  Well, Hayley is (in a rather better mannered way) equally enthusiastic about Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Water.  Since Hayley and I often enjoy the same books, I've been intending to read it for ages - but every copy I've stumbled across in charity shops has been rather ugly.  I wish I'd seen the beautiful cover pictured.  When Hayley lent me her copy (as part of a postal book group we're both in) I was excited finally to read it.

Well, I say 'excited'.  There was a part of me that was nervous - because I rarely read non-fiction when it's not about literature, and I have no particular interest in wildlife rearing.  If it didn't come with such a strong recommendation from Hayley, I doubt that I'd ever have considered reading it.  And I would have missed out.

Gavin Maxwell doesn't really structure Ring of Bright Water in a traditional beginning-middle-end sort of way, which I imagine the film adaptation probably does - it isn't encircled by the life of any single animal, or his occupancy of his remote Scottish home, but instead meanders through many of Maxwell's countryside adventures.

I'm going to concentrate on the ones which made Ring of Bright Water famous - the otters - although (cover aside) you wouldn't have much of a clue that they were coming for the first section of the book, which looks at the flora and fauna of the middle of nowhere in Scotland, and such matters as whale fishing (Maxwell is strongly against, despite having run a shark fishery - there is a constant paradox between his love of his animals and his killing of animals).  The only cohesion (and it is quite enough) is that it's Maxwell's opinions and voice, and connected with marine and rural life.

And then the otters come along.

The first otter only lives for a day or two, but after that comes Mij.  He is really the star of Ring of Bright Water, and the high point in Maxwell's affections.  I can't give any higher praise than to say that someone like me, interested in the animal kingdom chiefly when it concerns kittens, was entirely enamoured and captivated, and briefly considered whether it would be practical to get a pet otter.
Otters are extremely bad at doing nothing.  That is to say that they cannot, as a dog does, lie still and awake; they are either asleep or entirely absorbed in play or other activity.  If there is no acceptable toy, or if they are in a mood of frustration, they will, apparently with the utmost good humour, set about laying the land waste.  There is, I am convinced, something positively provoking to an otter about order and tidiness in any form, and the greater the state of confusion that they can create about them the more contented they feel.
Er, maybe not.  Maxwell sets out to tell you how incomparable the otter is as a pet - cheerful, companionable, spirited - and only slowly does he reveal that they are completely untameable, very destructive, and occasionally (if repentingly) violent.

But Mij is still a wonder - or, rather, Maxwell is a wonder for the way he tells his story.  He is certainly a gifted and natural storyteller, and the reader is easily lulled into similar levels of affection towards Mij, and a complicit sympathy with Maxwell (and never for a moment what a novelist would subtly ask - that we would pity the loner, or wonder at his isolation.)

I don't want to spoil the high-jinks (yes, high-jinks - and tomfoolery, mark you) of the book, and I don't think I can capture Maxwell's tone - so I will give my usual proviso for books I didn't expect to enjoy so much: read it even if you don't think you'll like it!  (And if David Attenborough is your bag, then you'll probably love it even more.)

It is a beautiful book, for the rhythm and balance of its prose alone, quite apart from the topic or the setting.  I'm really pleased that, years down the line, I've finally taken up Hayley's recommendation - even if she had to lend Ring of Bright Water to me to make that happen.

Marvin Makes Music by Marvin Hamlisch - ADVISABLE

Hamlisch, Marvin  Marvin Makes Music Illustrated by Jim Madsen  Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. $17.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.  

Marvin loves the piano and he loves music.  He likes the music that he makes up in his head best, so he has a hard time when he is supposed to practice his lessons because he doesn’t like to play “old music”.  He also has a hard time performing in front of other people.  His parents think that he is good enough at the piano that they want him to audition at a special musical school, but he is nervous.  They arrive to the audition early enough that Marvin and his father go to the roof to take a deep breath and look at the city.  They get locked on the rooftop and by the time someone helps them get down they are late for the audition.  Although he is flustered, Marvin imagines that he is on the roof with his father when he plays for the judges, plays his piece great and is accepted into the music school.  The illustrations are great and this book is telling a story from the real composer, Marvin Hamlisch’s life which makes it even more interesting.  

I think this is a great book for inspiring kids to keep practicing their instruments even though the songs they may have to practice aren’t always what they want to play.  It also discusses what Marvin did about his stage fright, which also could help kids talk about ways to overcome their fear of performing in front of others.  

EL (K-3) (4-6)-ADVISABLE.