Sunday, June 26, 2011

Too Many Books!

My library lets patrons have 50 items on request at a time, and I'm usually maxed out. It really only turns into a "problem" when I get a flood of books at once. Then, I play a juggling game, deciding what I have to read first, because I won't be able to renew it (others on the waiting list) and what I could possibly return without having read and then request it again.

Here's what I got the other day:

Through Her Eyes - Jennifer Archer - time-travel ghost story; I must have read a really great review of this somewhere. (young adult)
Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India - Miranda Kennedy - travel narrative; I'm always drawn to tales of people packing up and moving off somewhere foreign. (adult)
State of Wonder - Ann Patchett - Bel Canto was amazing. I read and read and finishing was like coming up for air, in a good way. I read Run a little differently - one chapter each night, to really savor it. Have been anxiously awaiting this one. (adult)
Exposure: A Novel of Truth - Therese Fowler - has gotten mixed reviews, but I'm curious about this; drawn from real events, about sexting (adult)
Blink & Caution - Tim Wynne-Jones - 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, Fiction winner (young adult)
Sweet Jiminy - Kristen Gore - Gore's Sammy's House was a light, enjoyable read. This is really different, but I'm intrigued. (adult)
Cloaked - Alex Flinn - the author Beastly and A Kiss in Time, who always writes enjoyable fairy tale re-imaginings. (young adult)

And here's what will probably arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday:

Bumped - Megan McCafferty - I loved the Jessica Darling series. This is so completely different, but I can't wait to read it. (young adult)
Divergent - Veronica Roth - getting LOTS of buzz (young adult)
Moonglass - Jessi Kirby - Sarah Dessen blurbed this. It's got to be great. (young adult)
Sweetest Thing - Christina Mandelski (young adult)
Summer of Firsts and Lasts - Terra Elan McVoy - All I needed to know about this book to make me put it on hold is that it's about summer camp. (young adult)
Dreamland Social Club - Tara Altebrando - saw an ARC of this at TLA (young adult)
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake - Michael B. Kaplan - a picture book that looks and sounds adorable! She loves chocolate cake so much wants to marry it.

So many great books!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Books From My Childhood

  • Any L.M. Montgomery fans? I thought I had read all of her books way back when, but I found one the other day that I haven't read - At the Altar: Matrimonial Tales. I'm guessing it's not as well known as some of her other books.
  • I did read the Emily of New Moon books, and just discovered it was made into a television series; there are four seasons that aired in Canada from 1998-2000. I'm going to give it a try. It's been so long since I read the books, I figure I won't really notice any major differences between the two.
  • I read on A Fuse #8 that Albert Whitman and Company are reprinting Flicka, Ricka, Dicka And Their New Skates by Maj Lindman, and, it will come with paper dolls! I read all of these books and the boy ones (Snipp, Snapp and Snurr), too. So, so excited! Watch for this in August and buy a copy for every little girl you know.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Thingamabob

The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na
Alfred A Knopf, 2008

Awhile back, Il Sung Na's A Book of Sleep was getting lots of great reviews, so I put it on hold at my library. When it came in, I read it, really liked it, and wanted to see if Na had done any other books. I found this, and it is wonderful!

An elephant finds a thingamabob. (While he doesn't know what it is, kids will delight in immediately identifying it as an umbrella.) Sometimes the thingamabob doesn't do anything; sometimes it surprises him. His friends don't know what it is, and he wonders about the things he might be able to do with it. Can he fly with it? Can he swim with it? Can he hide behind it? As he discovers he can't do any of these things with it, he cries out in frustration, "What are you, then?!" As rain drops begin to fall, the elephant and his friends finally find a use for the thingamabob.

The illustrations are gorgeous, and have a beautiful, textured pattern to them. The bright red thingamabob always stands out, and the illustrations are big enough for a group, and yet invite a closer look for individual readers. Elephant is a lovable character with such expression!

If you're in need of another bedtime book, definitely check out A Book of Sleep. And, don't miss Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons. Both have the same delightful illustrations and perfectly composed prose.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Amelia Earhart

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic
by Robert Burleigh, illus. by Wendell Minor
Simon & Schuster, 2011
grades 2-5

This beautifully illustrated book (gouache and watercolor) provides an account of Earhart's stormy 1932 flight across the Atlantic ocean. In the night pictures, you see a full moon and the gorgeous blues of the sky, and the vastness of crossing the ocean is very apparent. When the storm hits, lightning splits the sky, and then in the morning, as dawn breaks, "splinters of sunlight stab down through cloud slits and brace themselves on the vault of the open sea," and you see the golden hues of the rising sun. This is a perfect example of the text and pictures of this book melding completely and perfectly.

It's a shorter book, and, perhaps because of that, I'm even more appreciative of the afterword, bibliography, list of internet resources and quotes by Earhart included at the end. There is also a technical note by the illustrator, Wendell Minor, about the exhaust system on this plane of Earhart's. It was replaced when the little red plane was donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. (It was later gifted to the National Air & Space Museum.) Minor writes that on the sketch of the plane on the end papers, he included both exhaust systems, but that the replacement version was used in the paintings since that is what will be familiar to museum visitors. Would anyone have noticed this? I don't know, but the book scores huge points with me for mentioning this.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming                                       Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House   2011                                                                          For older readers seeking more biographical information on Earhart, this is the book to choose. Fleming writes a chronological biography of Amelia Earhart, interspersed with the story of her disappearance. Written on gray pages to distinguish the story within a story, Fleming captures the fascination and mystery of Earhart's last flight.
The book begins with a chapter called "Navigating History." In it, Fleming writes, "Sometimes it's hard to tell fact from fiction," and that Amelia Earhart was a "celebrity with an image to maintain." The reader knows from the start that myths are going to be debunked - Fleming writes about just how carefully crafted Earhart's image was, and how she and her husband sought publicity and raised funds for Earhart's flights. Earhart endorsed various products, wrote a magazine column, and even had her own clothing line for a short period of time.

We see the training and preparation that went into Earhart's flights, as well as the times when she didn't seem to be as prepared as she could/should have been. Starting this book, I knew very little about Amelia Earhart, and I appreciate that with this, I had the chance to, as Fleming said, separate fact from fiction.

Also included in the book are sidebars, providing everything from a brief history of flight to an explanation of morse code, which serve to fully round out the story. There is a bibliography at the end, as well as websites for further information, source notes by chapter, picture credits and an index. These are great for readers wanting more information, but also give credit where it is due, and show just how much time and research Fleming invested.

For all of the information included, this book never overwhelms. It draws the reader in and provides a fascinating look at this pioneer of flight.

While very different from one another, both of these books are highly recommended.

Both titles reviewed from library copies


Friday, June 17, 2011

Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley

Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley
illus. by Roberta Angaramo
Holiday House, 2011

Dog is reading a book about a cat who wore "truly magnificent boots." (Puss in Boots, but you don't need any knowledge of that story to enjoy this one.) After finishing the book, he thinks for a bit, and then decides to make a visit to the shoe shop. (He's British, so it's a shop, not a store, which makes me love this book even more.) He shows the shopkeeper a picture in the book, and asks for something similiar. The shopkeeper has just the thing. Excited about his new boots, Dog heads home to dig up his very best bone, only to discover his boots are not that great for digging. And, not only are they not good for digging, they've gotten all muddy.

He takes them back to exchange them for something better for digging. His new rainboots turn out to be perfect for digging, and on top of that, the mud washes right off. But, they're not so great for swimming. Back to the shop he goes. Dog tries three more types of footwear, but there is a problem with each one. On his final trip to the shop, he asks for something good for digging and swimming and scratching and running and nice and furry. Dog leaves completely satisfied, and digs, swims, scratches and runs. Then, he begins a new book...about a girl with a red cape.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, and will work well with a group. The layout is perfect: on one page, you read what his footwear is good for, such as the rain boots being wonderful for digging, and then you turn the page and find out what they are not good for (swimming). Dog is adorable - he is always so excited when he gets each new set of shoes, and tackles each of his activities with lots of enthusiasm. Such fun!

Reviewed from library copy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paisley's Pick - Dog Friday by Hilary McKay

Dog Friday by Hilary McKay
Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, 1994

Hi, it's me, Paisley! It has been awhile since I have had a book pick. Have you missed me? Are you ready for a good dog book? Amy really likes this book so I have been wanting her to share it with you.

Hilary McKay has become one of my favorite authors, but when I first picked this book up years ago, I hadn't read The Exiles, and Saffy's Angel, the first of the fabulous books about the Casson family, hadn't been written. And, I'm not sure why I picked this book up - it involves an abandoned dog, and a boy recovering from a dog attack, but I'm so glad I did.

It's really more than just a dog book, and the dog in question isn't really around for most of the book...we're calling it a Paisley's Pick anyway. :)

Ten-year-old Robin is recovering from a dog attack and in the process of making himself unafraid of dogs when a new family moves in next door. The Robinsons have four children - twins Ant and Perry, their younger brother Sun Dance (who marches to the beat of his own drum) and their younger sister Beany - as well as a dog named Old Blanket, who is probably the least threatening dog ever. He's so patient and good, the kids put socks on him and paint him to look like a tiger.

Robin befriends the kids, and whether creating Chop Bone Man, standing up to a bully or cooking for guests at the bed-and-breakfast Robin's mother runs, there is never a dull moment with his new neighbors.

One day, Robin finds a starving and abandoned dog on the beach. With the help of his friends, Robin takes the dog, now called Dog Friday,  home where his mother insists on notifying the police in case someone is missing him. The policy is that the dog will be kept at the shelter for a week, and if no one claims him by then, Robin can keep the dog. And of course, this leads to other adventures and mishaps.

This is really just madcap fun, and I feel like my review doesn't do it justice. There's lots going on in the hilarious book. It's British, slightly quirky and has an utterly delightful and charming cast of characters. If you've read McKay's other books, you're sure to like to this one as well. And if you haven't read anything by McKay yet, add some of her books to your summer reading list.
There are two more books in this series: The Amber Cat and Dolphin Luck (warning - Old Blanket dies in this one).

Reviewed from library copy

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Reading & A Confession

I still haven't read this book:

I know. Here's the thing - I was just getting started on the Lone Star Reading List committee when this book came out and I was busy reading other things. I could have fit this in, but I really wanted to go back and read book six before this one...and then I decided I should go back and re-read them all in a row before reading the last one...and then, I just never got around to it.

So, my goal for this summer is to read the entire series, and I'm really looking forward to it. What's on your summer reading list?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Owly & Wormy

Owly & Wormy, Friends All Aflutter!
by Andy Runton
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but last year I got hooked on the Owly series by Andy Runton, and I was delighted to find this wordless picture book featuring the same cute characters!

Best friends Owly and Wormy decide they want butterflies and head off to the nursery looking for a plant that will attract them. Once home, they create their little patch of garden to welcome the butterflies, even going so far as to make welcome signs. But all they end up with are green caterpillars. Wormy tells the green guys that the plants are for butterflies and the plants are not for caterpillars. Because this is a wordless book, the thought bubbles have pictures in them, and so for this conversation, we see a picture of a plant, an equal sign, and a butterfly. Then we see a picture of a plant, an equal sign with a slash through it, and a caterpillar.

While a little disappointed to not have butterflies, and a little puzzled as to why they don't, Owly and Wormy soon make friends with the caterpillars, only to have them disappear. And then the friends don't understand why the caterpillars left, and once again they're left wondering.

I've never tried a wordless picture book with a group, but I think is perfect for one-on-one reading; it gives the child a chance to help tell the story. I love these characters, their friendship, their facial expressions, their adventures...I hope we get more picture books of the two!

Reviewed from library copy

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Chime by Franny Billingsley
Dial Books, 2011

     "I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please. I don't mean to be difficult, but I can't bear to tell my story. I can't relive those memories - the touch of the Dead Hand, the smell of eel, the gulp and swallow of the swamp. How can you possibly think me innocent? Don't let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart." (p.1)
And so begins the story of seventeen-year-old Briony Larkin: daughter of a village clergyman, twin sister, keeper of a terrible secret. She's a witch, and she called up a wind that injured her sister, and she killed her stepmother. She can't share her secret or ease her burden - they hang witches.

We meet Briony at her trial, and then flash back to the day Eldric arrives in town ("That's where proper stories begin, don't they, when the handsome stranger arrives and everything goes wrong?" p.2). As the two become friends, Briony struggles to continue to keep her secret when faced with someone who wants to not only know it, but to help.

When Briony decides she must sacrifice herself to save her sister and the children taken ill by the swamp cough, her secret comes to light - which leads us to her trial, where, as it turns out, Briony is not the only good at keeping secrets.

The first chapter sucked me in...but, beyond that, it didn't transistion into an easy read - with a world and creatures to learn, and the way Briony narrates, but I quickly became engrossed. The latter half flew by, and by the end, the book had been such a rewarding experience.

It's a gorgeously written tale of witchcraft and otherwordly creatures, with mystery and a sometimes rocky, but swoon-worthy romance. But, it's also about discovering the truth, and seeking redemption and forgiveness, and most importantly, learning to love yourself.

Reviewed from library copy

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker

The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker
Sourcebooks, 2011

Kate's best friend Grace died over a year ago, in a tragic accident at their private school. And when Grace died, her other best friend Maddie started hanging out with a new group of girls, without any explanation. Kate's kind of on her own, still reeling from the death, when she starts receiving emails from Grace. Emails from a dead friend? That contain clues? Convinced that her friend's death was not an accident, she begins to follow the clues. And then, she begins to catch glimpses of Grace.

The clues lead Kate to start exploring her exclusive private school, and researching its history. Along with the boy next door, who'd be like the brother she never had, if he didn't keep asking her out, and the boy with a bad repuation, who gives her that "I-need-to-kiss-this-boy-or-I-will-die type of feeling" (p.299), Kate discovers that some really big secrets are being kept by some really powerful people.

Kate has a great voice, with just the right amount of sarcasm. Here's one of my favorite examples: "Liam struggled with the door, trying to pry it open with one of the shovels, a flashlight, and even a stick (yeah, I wasn't impressed either), but the door wouldn't budge." (p.261

It's a page-turner of a mystery with a dash of romance and lots of fun. It had unexpected twists and I enjoyed every minute of it! Try this if you're still mourning the loss of Veronica Mars, and hope for more from the Roecker sisters.

Reviewed from library copy


Monday, June 6, 2011

48 HBC - The Final Stats

I finished last night at 8:45. I read for 10 hours and 15 minutes yesterday! I started at 6:30am and pretty much all I did yesterday was read.

Final Stats
Total Time Read: 21 hours, 15 minutes
Total Time Blogged: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total Time Spent Social Networking: 45 minutes (a goal to do more of this next year!)
Total Books Read: 6 (The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity; Bullet Point; Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator; The Midnight Tunnel; The Liar Society; Girl's Best Friend) (started Desires of the Dead but didn't finish)

Total Challenge Time: 23 hours, 15 minutes

For Next Year (because I had a blast and of course I'm doing this again!):
  • I was so, so focused on reading. I've got some notes and passages marked, and have a couple of reviews to write and post soon. Next year, I want to work harder to blog more and post more reviews during the actual 48 hours.
  • I really only listen to audiobooks in the car, so I didn't have one on hand because I knew I wouldn't completely finish one. Next year, I'd like to have the same book in print and on audion, so I can listen and then pick up reading where I left off, and go back and forth between the two.
Many thanks to MotherReader for all her work hosting this challenge!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

48HBC - Brief Thoughts On What I've Read/Quick Update

Finished Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams yesterday after work - not the ending I was all! After this I needed something with less grit and hard-crime, so I moved on to:

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Allison Joyce - geared toward an older audience than I expected...while it touches on some heavier things like depression and suicide, it never feels like a heavy issue book...and it has some laughs...spunky Gilda is a riot!

The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery by Angie Frazier - This had the misfortune of being the book I picked up late last night...whether it really started off slow or just seemed that way because I was tired, I can't say...I almost put it down and picked up something else, but I'm so glad I didn't...great middle-school read...everything a mystery should be...if boys can get past the cover, they might like it, too...guessing this is the start of a new series...reminded me of the Enola Holmes series.

At this point, I really had to get some sleep. Two late nights of reading, combined with a crazy week of work (kids out of school, the start of summer reading programs, an air conditioner that has worked off and on, and an outreach program yesterday) had begun to take their toll. But, I woke refreshed this morning and reading to keep reading.

This morning's choice: The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker - so, so good...more thoughts coming when I finish.

My time ends at 8:45 tonight - must keep reading!

Total Time Read: 13 hours, 22 minutes
Total Time Blogged: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total Time Social Networking: 45 minutes
Books Completed: 4

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reading List for the 48 Hour Book Challenge

I really love seeing the stacks of books people are choosing from this weekend, but alas,  I just have a list:

The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity by Mac Bennet - completed

Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams - in progress

The Curse of the Ancient Mask & Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire - sounds great for Encyclopedia Brown fans (juvenile fiction)

Death Cloud by Andrew Lane - young Sherlock Holmes (young adult)

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting - second in a young adult series, about a girl who can find dead people (That's about all I remember about the first one, but I do know I enjoyed it!)

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Allison Joyce - the start of series; I've been wanting to read it for ages and just haven't. (juvenile fiction)

The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker - I read a review of this somewhere (Booklist, maybe?) and it sounded great. (young adult)

Girl's Best Friend by Lisa Margolis - a girl, a dog, a mystery (juvenile fiction)

The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery by Angie Frazier - early 1900s, girls dreams of becoming a detective (juvenile fiction)

Judy Moody, Girl Detective by Megan McDonald - I threw this in because JM is a  hugely popular series and I haven't read any of them. And she's got a movie coming out soon. I'm usually that person that has to read series in order, but I may make an exception here. (juvenile fiction)

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton - my "grown-up" choice - It's been on my list for awhile - I've heard good things about all of her books.

We'll see how many I actually get read!

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #1

I got started reading a little later last night then I had originally planned...I managed to make it until 12:15 before calling it quits for the night. I finished one book and started reading Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams, and it is so good that I didn't want to put it down, but I knew if I didn't, I'd be regretting it today at work. (I felt like I needed some kind of focus for the weekend, and in choosing mysteries, I hoped to find books I wouldn't want to put down, making it easier to keep reading.) I did get to read 30 minutes this morning, and have spent 30 minutes checking in on some of the other bloggers who are participating. I want to give the link to the starting point again - even if you're not participating, this is a great way to find some good blogs. I've already added a few new ones to my Google reader, and have found several great books to add to my TBR list.

I finished The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett, and illustrated by Adam Rex. This has been sitting on my shelves since it first came out, in 2009! It's also on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List 2011-2012, a recommended reading list for kids in grades 3-6. It's a little Hardy Boys, a little Encyclopedia Brown, and loads of fun.

Twelve-year-old Steve Brixton is an aspiring detective, a huge fan of the Bailey Brothers detective series. When he innocently checks a book out from the library, he's mistaken for an actual detective, captured by secret agent librarians, and wanted for treason. I guessed the identity of Mr. E fairly quickly, but you know, I've read a lot of books and I'm way past the 5th grade, so...Still, getting to the end was a fabulous read.

It was a great choice to start with - lots of action and lots of laughs. Seriously, it's funny! And now I'm left trying to figure out why my library system doesn't have the second one in the series. ???

I'm about halfway finished with Bullet Point. Abrahams writes adult novels (has anyone read any?), but I first became acquainted with his books through Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery. Geared toward middle schoolers, it's a fantastic read, and one of my favorites to booktalk. He's written several others in that series, and Bullet Point is his first for older teens. It's grittier and edgier, and if I hadn't known who the author is, I never would have guessed it was the same guy who wrote the Echo Falls mysteries. That's a compliment - both are equally good, they are just very different and I'm really impressed with how versatile of a writer he is. This will probably appeal to adults, too.

Total Time Read: 4 hours
Total Time Blogged: 0.75 hours
Total Time Spent Social Networking (reading/commenting on other blogs): 0.5 hours
Books Completed: 1

Friday, June 3, 2011

MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge - Off & Reading!

48 Hour Book ChallengeIt's 8:45pm, and I'm starting MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. I am excited for a weekend of great reading! I do have to work tomorrow, but I'm hoping for 20 hours of reading this weekend.

As of right now, I plan to read mostly mysteries, several of which have been hanging around my house too long.

Happy Reading!

Summer Fun!

How Will We Get to the Beach? A Guessing Game Story
by Brigette Luciani, illus. by Eve Tharlet
trans. by Rosemary Lanning
North-South Books, 2000

I'm always excited to do a beach-themed storytime because this book is so much fun! It is great for audience participation (particularly preschoolers), and would also work for a transportation theme. Or, just enjoy it at home with your kids.

Roxanne has five things to take to the beach: her baby, a ball, a book, an umbrella and a turtle. They can all "be counted on the fingers of one hand." I always hold up my fingers and have the kids count with me when I introduce the items, and ask if they can help me remember them.

The problems begin when Roxanne's car won't start - how will they get to the beach? Various modes of transportation are tried, but there is always one thing that can't go on the bus, the hot air balloon, etc. And so Roxanne, being unwilling to leave anything behind, seeks out another way to get to the beach. The illustrations are big enough that a group can clearly see the items, and observant readers/listeners will be able to tell what is missing. On the following page, you get confirmation of your guess (or find out the correct answer as to what can't go) and are given a reason why. For example, when Roxanne attempts to get on the bus, you see her baby, the ball, the book and the umbrella. The turtle is missing. Turn the page, and you learn he can't go, because animals aren't allowed on the bus.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, and there is such great facial expression, even in the turtle! It's sure to be a hit!

Reviewed from library copy