Thursday, December 14, 2006

Caldecott discussion

As the American Library Associaton's all-important award announcements loom closer - they'll be announced January 22, from Seattle - discussion has begun to buzz in the children's library community. Who will win the Caldecott medal for illustrated books? Who will win the Newbury for distinguished children's fiction? It is usually a huge and mystifying announcement, no matter how much we discuss and debate the merits of the year's best. Last year's dismaying win by The Hello Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka, threw us all for a loop and makes trying to guess all the harder.

I met with a group of children's librarians from around the Denver Public Library and we discussed books with lovely illustrations and some others that we're not crazy about, but feel could win anyway. Some of these may make great gifts, too!

Flotsam, by David Wiesner. Wiesner is an extraordinarily talented illustrator and has numerous Caldecott honors and medals under his belt for books such as The Three Pigs, Tuesday, and Sector 7. Flotsam is not my favorite of his books, but the committee obviously likes him.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Carol Boston Weatherford. I am a fan of Kadir Nelson's rich and gorgeous illustration style, but I wasn't as crazy about this offering. However, the serious nature of the subject might sway the judges. The critics have certainly given this book lots of praise this year. I would love to see Nelson get an honor, but I liked last year's He's Got the Whole World In His Hands better.

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building, illustrated by James E. Ransome, written by Deborah Hopkinson. We all thought that this one could be a contender since the author writes with such detail about the construction site and the illustrations are so beautiful and painterly. It has style.

So Sleepy Story, by Uri Shulevitz. The line and use of color in this one are really amazing and convey the language beautifully. Shulevitz has won awards and honors for others such as The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and Snow.

Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, by Mo Willems. Willems' books are engaging and fun read-alouds, but I'm not really sure why he keeps getting awards for them. This is one of those where we thought we'd throw it into the mix, but weren't too sure about it. This one would be a great gift book, though. His other honor books are the wonderful Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny.

Beach, by Elisha Cooper. The watercolor illustrations in this book really convey the atmosphere and feeling of an East Coast beach in summer. They are fairly impressionistic and fun to look at. A contender? Maybe not, but we like it.

Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest, illustrated by Ed Young, and written by Robert Burleigh. I really like Ed Young's unique style. I love the way he characterizes the mountain as an animal. Last year I was rooting for Beyond the Great Mountains. I always like to think his books are in the running because they're unusual and exotic.

Snow Sounds, by David Johnson. This was one of my favorites, partly because it celebrates onomatopoeia and makes a good book for a young one. The illustrations are perfect, grainy and pixilated, like snow. Snow books have a history of winning the award, look at Snowflake Bently; Snowy Day; White Snow, Bright Snow; The Big Snow, etc.

Check some of these out and enjoy some of the best illustrations of the year!

Monday, December 04, 2006

On Judging the National Book Awards

Here is a terrific post on Linda Sue Park's personal blog. She is a Newbery award-winning children's author who sat on the children's literature panel of the National Book Awards and discusses the process in depth while maintaining confidentiality. Very enlightening!

Lois Lenski

One of my favorite picture book authors/illustrators is Lois Lenski. Lenski was most prolific during the 1940's and some of her work is out of date, but much of it has stood the test of time and is dear to me still as an adult.

The Horn Book magazine's website periodically revisits contributions from past issues and this month they're featuring a piece written by Lenski in 1946, titled, "Christmas at Huckleberry Mountain Library." It's fun for me to hear Ms. Lenski's adult voice and opinions. And of course it's fun for me to hear about an old, rural library.

Lois Lenski won the 1946 Newbery medal for distinguished children's literature for her novel, Strawberry Girl. I particularly like her illustrated Mr. Small series, especially Papa Small. Colorized reissues of her picture books have come out recently and her seasonal set, with titles like I Like Winter, are still fun to read with kids.

Lenski also illustrated the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace, my all-time favorite children's series.

On a side note, the Horn Book just released their year-end fanfare of children's books, so here's their list for your holiday shopping.

Your Friendly Librarian

Monday, November 27, 2006

National Book Awards Finalists

I am horribly behind the times and super busy right now! The National Book Awards Finalists were announced on November 15. Here's the link to the winners.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sweet Treats to Read

Halloween is only a day away and in-laws are coming to stay so I know I won't get a chance to get on-line for a while. Let me leave you with a list some of my all-time favorite novels. I hope you like them too!

Possession – A.S. Byatt
My Antonia – Willa Cather
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
Fifth Business - Roberston Davies
Peace Like a River - Leif Enger
The Master Butcher’s Singing Club – Louise Erdrich
The Forsyte Saga – John Galsworthy
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
The Jump Off Creek – Molly Gloss
Brilliant - Marne Davis Kellogg
Homestead – Rosina Lippi
Chasing Cezanne - Peter Mayle
Queen of the South – Arturo Perez Reverte
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – Rebecca Wells

Friday, October 27, 2006

New & Notable for Kids

The big fall pile-up of wonderful children's books is underway. I think these are some of the most notable I've seen so far. But I don't feel like writing full-blown reviews right now, so how about you read what the critics have to say instead?

Alabama Moon, by Watt Key - powerful and entertaining writing by a new voice (To read more of my comments on this book, you can go back to the June 9, 2006, entry where I wrote about hearing the author speak.)

“A winningly fresh look at life and culture almost never seen in children’s books.” —The Horn Book

"Key writes honestly about hunting, trapping and the hardships of survival in this rather unusual coming-of-age story." —Kirkus Reviews

"Well written with a flowing style, plenty of dialogue, and lots of action." --The Horn Book

Peter Pan in Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean - the first-ever authorized Peter Pan sequel (for review, follow link)

Not Another Tea Party, by Mark Shulman - simply wonderful, snide, and humorous (for review, follow link)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

1001 Books To Read Before You Die

Earlier this year, a book was released that set out an ambitious list, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, compiled by Peter Boxall, a professor of English Literature at the University of Sussex.

Is it fun to go through the list and count up how many you have read - or not read? Is the glass half empty or half full? Mine is pretty darn empty! I am a regretter. As I counted up my tally, I was thinking, "But what if I own this one and haven't read it yet?" "Oh, I always meant to read this one!" "Why haven't I read that?" "Why aren't the other books I've read by Faulkner, Melville, whomever, on the list?" It was fun and tortuous.

Apparantly the book itself is well written and argues out why books are included on the list. I haven't actually looked at it! I was pretty surprised to see things missing. What was I reading if they aren't on the list? What was I reading in all those English classes? Oh well. has numerous copies of the list. Here's a link to one of them so you can make the count yourself.

My total is a miserable 79 titles. I have a long way to go! (Maybe if I hadn't been reading so much kid lit...)

National Book Award Finalists

The finalists for the National Book Awards were announced on October 11 and the winners will be announced November 15. Now would be a good time to check some of these books out to cast your own mental vote.

Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions

Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

Richard Powers, The Echo Maker

Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document

Jess Walter, The Zero

Taylor Branch, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone

Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust

Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

Louise Gl├╝ck, Averno

H.L. Hix, Chromatic

Ben Lerner, Angle of Yaw

Nathaniel Mackey, Splay Anthem

James McMichael, Capacity

Young People's Literature:
M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party

Martine Leavitt, Keturah and Lord Death

Patricia McCormick, Sold

Nancy Werlin, The Rules of Survival

Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Horn Book Blog

The other day I stumbled across a blog kept by the editor of the Horn Book magazine, the premier children's book reviewing journal. What a great find! I love having a daily dose of a voice I enjoy so much - and maybe I can keep up with children's book news a little better.

The photographs on the blog from the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards were taken in the Boston Athenaeum, a very special library where I worked in grad school. It's so fun to see these! And the speeches are fun to listen to too.

Check out the blog and check out the Horn Book magazine, possibly available at your local library, maybe behind the children's desk.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tales of the Otori

Over the last couple of years, I have been reading a wonderful series of novels set in a fictional feudal Japan. The Tales of the Otori, by Lian Hearn, are some of the most captivating novels I have ever read. I am not normally a fan of samurais, nor have I studied ancient Asian cultures since undergrad, yet I have found this series to be one of the most fascinating ever.

The series reads as follows:
Across the Nightengale Floor
Grass for His Pillow
The Brilliance of the Moon
The Harsh Cry of the Heron

Looking at Powell's website, it appears that these novels are categorized as "fantasy" and in that respect, they are similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I often think the series would make incredible film. Anyway, the stories follow the fate of an orphaned boy, Takeo, with amazing powers who is rescued when his village is massacred and is adopted by a lord, Otori Shigeru. His new life with Lord Otori leads to the revelation that Takeo has the powers of the Tribe, a network of spies with invisibility, flight, and extraordinary senses.

As the novels progress Takeo is used as a spy, fights in battles,rises in power, and finds epic love with an extraordinary heiress. The inner lives of the characters are beautifully written. The landscapes are gorgeous, the plots are full of intrigue and adventure, the women are powerful - the whole series is just an exceptional treat.

The newest book, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, was just released and was a surprise for me because I thought the end of the third book was a tidy ending for the series. In the fourth novel, we re-join the story after about fifteen years, and watch the unraveling of all that Takeo has built. It is skillfully written and completes the examination of power cycles and the hazards of both war and peace.

Penguin has re-packaged these novels for the young adult audience in a split novel format - making the first three books into six "episodes" - clever marketing!

Try the first novel in the series soon. You won't regret it!

Friday, October 20, 2006

One Book, One Denver

On Tuesday morning, I attended a press conference in the Burnham-Hoyt Reading Room of the Denver Public Library. Mayor John Hickenlooper and officials from the library and the Denver public schools were on hand to announce this year's One Book, One Denver, The Milagro Beanfield War, by John Nichols.

One City, One Book movements have swept the nation since Seattle's Washington Center for the Book came up with the idea in 1998. It's pretty simple - the city will pick one book to focus on for a year and all the reading agencies in the city get behind the title and encourage everyone in the city to read and discuss the book.

This is my first time in a city with this kind of program and I'm excited to see how it works. I'll be leading a discussion group at my library branch and look forward to the varied opinions and points of view that will come out when an entire city reads together.

This is Denver's third year. Past books were:
2005 - Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros
2004 - Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

Additional links:

The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress has a list of all the areas in the country that sponser programs of this type.

One Book, One Denver activities sponsered by the Denver Public Library.

Activities and events sponsered by Denver's famous independent Tattered Cover Bookstore.

Let's read together!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cookbook Confidential

If you're into cooking and cookbooks, my favorite blogger, Heidi at, recently reviewed a number of new books out this season (that would be on her October 16th entry).

This week I read one the most exciting non-fiction books I have read in a long time. The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp, explores the rise of gourmet food in America and traces the history of American food over the course of the last century. Following the rise of French cookery, star chefs from Julia Child to Emeril Lagasse, and the roots of the organic food movement, the author engagingly describes how our national palate has changed. Every chapter was a marvel to me and I found myself discussing each new thing I learned with anyone who would listen. I even find myself contemplating raising my own organic approved cows!!! Maybe this book was especially fascinating to me because while I enjoy cooking and trying new foods, I am certainly not a "foodie" - yet. Sometimes I even want to learn French just so I will know how to pronounce chef terms.

Enough with the confessions! If you're interested in how it seems like there has been a sudden explosion of chain gourment restaurants or how the Food Network got so popular, this is the book for you!

Since I'm discussing food books, let me mention a few things I've been using regularly...

I was already a big fan of Cook's Illustrated magazine, but this summer I started subscribing to Cook's Country, their more down-home version. While Cook's Illustrated was fascinating and informative, I actually try cooking most of the recipes in Cook's Country! I especially love the column where people write in looking for a lost recipe they remember from the past and want to re-create. Then other readers write in with their suggestions, and the editors weigh in with a recipe they create. It's great and unlike with some magazines, the recipes have always turned out.

My husband and I try lots of recipes from James McNair's New Pizza cookbook. We love his cornmeal crust and even experiment with different types of flours as we use his basic crust recipe. We try to make a regular activity of making pizza at home.

I was recently at a bookstore and saw the mammoth Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America and Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame (his restaurant has a cookbook too). It looks amazing and is so detailed. Definitely one for the Christmas list!

Are there any cookbooks you find invaluable?


Here is what is on my bookshelf right now:

The Innocent Man, by John Grisham

The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp

The Medici Giraffe: And Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power, by Marin Berlozerskaya

The Harsh Cry of the Heron: The Last Tale of the Otori, by Lian Hearn

The Right Attitude to Rain, by Alexander McCall Smith

Lucy Rose: Busy Like You Can't Believe, by Katy Kelly

Monday, September 25, 2006

A few of my favorite things...

My library has a staff picks section for books, CDs, and movies. I recently wrote down all my favorites so I could remember them more easily when the display is getting empty and I thought I would share some with you.

Here are some of my recent favorite CDs:

Tambourine, by Tift Merritt

Careless Love, by Madeleine Peyroux

We Shall Overcome, the Seeger Sessions, by Bruce Springsteen

American Folk, a compilation by Putumayo

Lifesong, by Casting Crowns

The Ditty Bops, by the Ditty Bops

I also can't wait to get Diana Krall's newest CD, From This Moment On, she's my VERY favorite artist.

You know, I said "recent" favorties, but most of these are from 2004! I guess I need to start listening to some newer stuff!

Your Friendly Librarian

Friday, September 15, 2006

Overdue library book from 1946 returned

Library Journal has a fun story today. Check it out: "Paying that Big Library Fine, for a Cause."

Your Friendly Librarian

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I have quite a stack beside my bed right now:

Alabama Moon, by Watt Key

The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner

The Third Sister, by Julia Barrett

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Bill Bryson's African Diary, by Bill Bryson

Espresso Tales, by Alexander McCall Smith

The Book Shop, by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram

La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, by Beppe Severgnini

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thirteen Moons

Charles Frazier has a lot to live up to. His very first novel was the highly acclaimed, National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain - a dynamo of a novel that captured the hearts of readers all over America. His second novel, Thirteen Moons, comes out in October, to what response is yet to be seen. I had an advanced reader's copy of Thirteen Moons, so I'll tell you what I think now.

Thirteen Moons is an epic tale set in nineteenth century North Carolina, among the Cherokees and the white men who have settled the land. In a memoir style, the story is told by Ben, who at the age of twelve, was sent off to manage a trading post on the edge of the Cherokee nation. As he forges close ties with the Cherokees, Ben finds family and love among them, and becomes their savior as the government tries to force them to Oklahoma. The sweep of the novel follows Ben to Washington, D.C., into the Civil War, and across the fledgling settlements of the Midwest, through dynamic technological changes and changes in attitudes. Thirteen moons refers to the lunar year, and the cycle of time plays an important role in the novel.

What makes Ben a great character is his unquestionable knowledge that he is just as much a swaggering buffoon as he is full of love, honor, and vengence. He acknowledges his flaws with as much humor as his assets.

Full of memorable characters, yarns, and the same breath-taking scenery that made Cold Mountain such a beautiful book, there is much to recommed in Thirteen Moons. Give it a try and see if you think it is a worthy second novel. I think it is.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Whole World Over

Since it is September 11th, I think it is appropriate to talk about Julia Glass, a truly wonderful author, who has incorporated the events of 9/11 into both of her highly-acclaimed novels, Three Junes and The Whole World Over. While neither novel revolves around the events of that day, both tell the story through their character's eyes, in tender and memorable ways.

Three Junes, Glass's first novel, won the 2002 National Book Award and The Whole World Over lives up to the author's reputation. Glass's strength is in her characterizations. The Whole World Over weaves together the stories of four different New Yorkers and all the people in their lives. Through unexpected connections, the lives of these four come together through love, loss, family, careers, and just running into one another on the sidewalks of Manhattan.

I loved the surprising twists and turns in the plot and Glass is so skilled that her characters live and breath like friends. Now that the novel is finished, I still want more; I'm not ready to let go of these characters, even if the novel has wrapped up well.

Try either Three Junes or The Whole World Over, to commemorate 9/11 or just for a good read. You won't be disappointed.

Your Friendly Librarian

Artist of Detection

Laurie R. King is a very popular mystery writer - she writes the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, the Kate Martinelli detective stories, and has some stand-alone novels as well. Recently a colleague told me that King's newest Kate Martinelli novel, The Art of Detection, has ties to the most recent Mary Russell novel, Locked Rooms. What a wonderful, genius concept! Even though I had never read the Kate Martinelli series, I'm a huge fan of Mary Russell, so I went right out to get this great concept book.

To be honest, to say much more would give away too much. What I will say is that The Art of Detection fills in some gaps left in Locked Rooms where Holmes wanders off on his own investigation while Russell is pursuing her memories. The novel was well-written, highly original and entertaining, and brought even more of Holmes's character to light, King style.

If you haven't read the Mary Russell mysteries, start with The Beekeeper's Apprentice. This is one of my favorite series!

A+ Laurie King!

Enter the world of Laurie R. King at her website.

Your Friendly Librarian

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fantastic Books

I haven't posted in a while, what with family in town, work on the house and other busy summer pastimes. That doesn't mean I haven't been reading, though. In fact, I have read some really terrific books in the last couple of weeks.

The Lost Painting,
by Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action, was an exciting find. I'm a big fan of art history mysteries and true ones are always the best. In The Lost Painting, Harr explores the events and characters surrounding the finding of a long-lost Carravaggio painting. I loved this one because it fully explored the research of the provenance of the painting, academic theories, and the techniques to prove authenticity. Colorful characters from the European art world were delightful to meet and the pacing was quick in what could have been a ponderous outlaying of facts. I highly recommend this book for anyone with even a passing interest in art, or those who enjoyed Harr's style in A Civil Action. This volume, just to note, is considerably slimmer than A Civil Action. :)

I also recently finished reading Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and I've been recommending it to everyone I see. This book was the buzz of the Book Expo America and has a huge following among independent booksellers. After hearing about it, I had a long wait on my library's holds list! It was definitely worth the wait. This is the touching, exciting, and exotic story of a young man who inadvertantly joins the circus and is forever changed by it. Exploring dark themes of insanity, abuse, and the Depresseion, the novel also has tender relationships and a certain sweetness. It has it all, right? Go pick this up before your summer reading time is up, it's the best thing I read all summer.

Fannie Flagg's newest novel set in Elmwood Springs, Missouri, Can't Wait to Get to Heaven is just as full of sweet and sassy characters as the last couple, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and Standing in the Rainbow. In this installment, set in current times, Aunt Elner and company ponder the meaning of life after a near-death (or back from death) experience. Without the bite of her previous novels, Flagg still creates rich and humorous characters. Of the trilogy, my personal favorite was the second, Standing in the Rainbow, but I love seeing how Flagg wraps up the lives of these beloved people in the last of the trilogy. It's definitely worth checking out.

Today I picked up the second installment in the Newbery award-winning children's series about Crispin, an orphan in the middle ages. Crispin: At the Edge of the World, by Avi, continues immediately where Crispin: The Cross of Lead left off. Crispin and Bear must flee for their lives when a brotherhood of spies believes that Bear has betrayed them. Bear is injured, and while they are hiding out in the forest, the two meet some colorful and interesting characters who join them in their further adventures. This is a worthy sequel to the first, highly acclaimed volume. Full of compassion, insights, and growth, I enjoyed this newest edition by Avi. While the publication date in my advance copy said September, it appears that the book is on the shelves now, so check it out and pass it along to your young reader.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


My bookshelf is over-flowing right now. Here are some of my current picks:

A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, by Joan Anderson

A Glancing Light, by Aaron Elkins

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, by Fannie Flagg

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

Tenderwire, by Claire Kilroy

The Patriot, by Piers Paul Read

Eating Heaven, by Jennie Shortridge

Elements of Style, by Wendy Wasserstein

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hollywood Nanny

This past week I picked up a frivolous little book called You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again!: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Hollywood Nanny by Suzanne Hansen. I would guardedly recommend this as a beach read, but not much else.

This book is a memoir, a non-fiction mud-slinger, that is both defaming and titillating, but is NOT well-written. Suzy went from a small Oregon logging town to Hollywood where she quickly found work as nanny to the uber-powerful Michael Orvitz, a Hollywood agent who had only recently started his firm when the book takes place, in the 1980's. Her naivete is grating and the writing moves from gossipy to whiney as the story progresses. As one might expect, the family's attitudes and behavior are shocking and dehumanizing to any other than the powerful and the story follows the lines more entertaininly set out by the authors of the Nanny Diaries...nanny loves the kids and sees them more than the parents, nanny makes some trifling mistakes that are blown out of proportion, nanny is fired unfairly.

With the movie version of the fictional, but based in reality, Nanny Diaries coming out soon, I would stick to that one if you're going to choose a nanny expose to read this year. Suzanne Hansen's just seems mean-spirited as she names names all over Hollywood.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Amazing Blogger

I saw this story about the most amazing blogger today. Apparently, he started a blog to track his bartering and started with a paper clip...and ended with a house!

Check out this really interesting story.

And here's a link to his blog One Red Paperclip.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Vegas, Baby, Yeah!

I've been away in Las Vegas for the past few days and I didn't read a thing...unless you count the absolutely indispensible Best Places Las Vegas. I love the Best Places guides, which started in the Pacific Northwest and are published by Seattle-based Sasquatch Books. Written by locals and full of actually useful and in-the-know reviews, these are my must guides anywhere they publish. I had the 1st edition Vegas guide, published in 2001, which was a bit out dated in a city so in flux. Unfortunately, it looks like there hasn't been a newer edition. I hope one comes out soon.

Speaking of Vegas, I found a cool website from the UNLV libraries that has a bibliography of books, films, and photographs of Las Vegas architecture.

My personal Vegas bibliography is not too extensive, since I'm not such a fan of Mob histories or road trip books or things like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Here's mine:

Bad Kitty, by Michele Jaffe - even though this one is for teeny-boppers, it is soooo much fun for adults.

Bringing Down the House and Busting Vegas, both true stories of MIT kids with blackjack tricks by Ben Mezrich.

Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker, by James McManus; the title has it all, what more could you ask?

Your Friendly Librarian

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Apparently, I'm not the only one interested in YouTube this week. Along with Entertainment Weekly, NPR picked up some buzz about it too.

This morning on Morning Edition there was a story about YouTube and NPR's blog, Mixed Signals, features some comments on it as well.

I always enjoy finding out even more about the things the interest me (I guess that's why I'm a librarian).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Entertainment Websites and Blogs

The June 23 issue of Entertainment Weekly had a terrific list of 100 entertainment sites to "bookmark now". They approached their 25 favorite sites to recommend their 4 favorite sites and the results were pretty interesting. I would suggest checking the issue out for yourself.

I highlighted websites that sounded interesting to me and here's my list of cool entertainment websites and blogs, with annotations by EW.

I'll start with my very favorite find:
Just pictures of celebrities eating.
A reliable music database of albums and songs by artists ranging from Gnarls Barkley to Shakira.

Internet Movie Database
The unofficial bible of the entertainment world, and also the best way to cheat at the Kevin Bacon game.

National Public Radio
"The radio station that's always erudite but with a sense of whimsy." - Col Needham
The ultimate source for viral videos, from dancing babies to Brokeback spoofs and beyond.
Think of it as a one-stop resource for summaries of film, DVD, television, book, game, and music reviews from various outlets.
Pop culture with a scientific and tech bent.
Nobody does snarky Hollywood gossip like these bloggers, who recently influenced the artwork for Snakes on a Plane. (Snakes on a Plane is its own internet phenomenon, to hear a story about it, check out one that aired on NPR back in April.)
Cultural commentary.

Saucy attacks on celeb fashion foibles with annotations of red-carpet pics of Lindsay Lohan, etc.
Studios' release schedules for the next two years.

Blog of a Bookslut
Guide to lit-world scandals.
The best source of national concert listings, broken down by venue.
A collection of cartoon shorts, emails, and inane games starring the animated antics of Strong Bad and Homestar - I love Strong Bad!
Schrab makes coller F/X with cardboard than Industrial Light & Magic, and posts it for free.
Witty pop-culture coverage from critiques of Beyonce's iTunes picks to "why Tom Cruise should disappear for a year."

Arts & Letters Daily
The site "catalogs every piece of high-brow cultural criticism." - Slate

Arts Journal: The Daily Digest of Arts, Culture and Ideas
I stumbled across this one while following links and it's a really cool journal of all kinds of things of interest to those of us in liberal arts.

Enjoy this mixed bag of sites to entertain and educate.

Your Friendly Librarian

Monday, June 26, 2006

Autism and Al Capone

In one of those amazing coincidences, I read Al Capone Does My Shirts , by Gennifer Choldenko, today in one sitting and then listened to an incredible feature on autism and Asperger's Syndrome on NPR's All Things Considered.

In the 2005 Newbery honored book, Choldenko tells the story of Moose, an otherwise normal kid who happens to live at Alcatraz. Set in Depression-era San Francisco, the story weaves together cool facts about the real families of guards and staff who lived in quarters on the famous island, regular juvenile high jinks, and the special relationship between a boy and his autistic sister.

The story has the typical conflicts of making new friends at a new school, impressing girls, and family disagreements, but the unique setting puts a whole new spin on things. I loved the titular episode where Piper, the warden's scheming daughter, sells Al Capone's laundry services to the kids at school. Al Capone ran the wringer in the laundry room at Alcatraz, where all of the employees' laundry was done, as well as the prisoners'.

Autism was not a broadly recognized disorder until 1943, a fact that makes the story of Moose's sister Natalie all the more poignant. Natalie is 16, but the kids' mother refuses to admit that she has aged beyond 10 years old. The mother's denial is based partly on the fact that treatment centers viewed children past the age of 12 as beyond help and partly because of a harsh comment a relative made when Natalie was 10. A side story in the book deals with the family's attempts to get Natalie accepted to a special school that might help her get past the various obsessions and behavioral disorders that rule her life. A reader now would recognize Natalie's obsession with numbers, her ability to place birthdates, her rocking, and her inability to connect with people as traits of autism, but at the time many people just saw her as crazy and suggested that she be put away. The family's difficult daily decisions and the gentleness between the 13-year-old Moose and Natalie are a wonderful introduction to younger readers of a problem that affects more and more people all the time.

According to the Autism Society of America, autism now affects 4.5 out of every 10,000 live births. To read more about these statistics click here.


My bookshelf right now is overflowing with teen reads like these:

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko

A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass

The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner

Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli

24 Girls in 7 Days, by Alex Bradley

Second Sight, by Gary Blackwood

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Darcy and Elizabeth

For those of you who know me or have seen which direction my tastes lean over the reading of my blog, you will know that I am a big fan of Jane Austen sequels, no matter how dubious they might seem. Well, imagine my joy to find a sequel to my favorite and the most dubious sequel of all, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. The new sequel is Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley and just came out in May. I can't wait to get my hands on it! Racy stuff!

Running around online, I found the Austen fan site, The Republic of Pemberley, where most sequels to all the different novels are listed. Pretty cool.

A Death in Belmont

I have to credit Sebastian Junger for writing a masterful and terrifying memoir of how the Boston Strangler touched his life. A Death in Belmont makes a great non-fiction thriller for summer reading!

I first read an excerpt from the book in April's Vanity Fair, complete with eerie photographs. When I picked up the book, I was looking forward to reading it, but found after about two chapters that despite knowing what was to come, the book was actually a little too scary for me to read alone in my house at night! Knowing as much as I do from the excerpt, I will highly recommend it, but I could not get any further. Try it for yourself.

Read an interview with Sebastian Junger from his visit to Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon.

Your Friendly Librarian

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Here are the books sitting on my to-be-read bookshelf right now:

A Death in Belmont, by Sebastian Junger

The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Althea Darcy, by Elizabeth Aston

Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, by June Casagrande

The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman

Friday, June 09, 2006

More from BEA 2006

I have a little time now, so I can continue telling you about the exciting new books coming out in the fall that I saw at Book Expo America, and the authors I met.

I am really excited about a novel called Alabama Moon (FSG, 09/06), by first time author Watt Key. This is for middle grade to teen readers and is about a boy who grew up in the wilderness with an anti-establishmentarian father. When his father dies, Moon must make his own way in the world, trying his best to follow his father's philosophy of not taking anything from anyone. Full of adventure, hunting, and survival skills, this will be a favorite of reluctant reading boys and fans of books like Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. I attended a lunch with Watt Key and he was a fun and engaging speaker. Most of the skills and scrapes that Moon experiences are things that he experienced himself, growing up in the swampland of the Deep South and during a survival project in college. The writing is tender and tart and smacks of true experience. Look out for this one, it should be a winner.

New author Obert Skye visited a group of school children I was involved with in Alexandria, Virginia, when he wrote Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, (Shadow Mountain, 4/05). This fantasy novel completely grabbed the imaginations of these kids, as did the author's own sincere belief in every aspect of the world he created. Months later, these kids were still talking about the book and saying it was their all-time favorite. Well, the second book, Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret, will be released this fall and the series has been picked up by Simon & Schuster with a big advertising campaign behind it. I hope more readers will pick up the series and get sucked in to the world of Foo.

A new mystery series for young readers, Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin, will open this fall with The Fall of the Amazing Walendas (Scholastic, 9/06). Written by the editor of Chasing Vermeer, the book uses many of the same techniques to draw kids in, with ciphers, mysterious artwork, and a fairly mature tone. It has been a number of years since a kids book took up the story of Holmes's child spies and this one should be welcome. The book's design is really beautiful, with old-fashioned art and tooling. I am eager to read more of this chapter in the series and hope to see more to come.

Other new books to watch for:
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull (Shadow Mountain, 8/06)

Kiki Strike, by Kirsten Miller (Bloomsbury, 5/06)

I've Got an Elephant, by Anne Ginkel (Peachtree, 9/06)

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin, 10/06)

Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo (Orchard, 9/06) UK edition available now.

One of the highlights of my trip to BEA was the private pop-up book making workshop I attended, taught by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. There were about 20 people in attendance and we all were offered personal help as we learned to make creative cuts in paper and create our own pop-ups. These guys are so much fun! The team's most recent pop-up is Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters (Candlewick, 4/06). They also have Castle (Orchard Books) coming out in August. Matthew Reinhart's new book this fall will be a pop-up version of The Jungle Book (Simon & Schuster, 10/06). I can't believe how many new books they have coming out with so much detail! They are so passionate about what they do.

Your Friendly Librarian

Powell's Books Passes the Mantle

I want to thank my grandma and my loyal reader, Libby from Bellingham, Washington, for sending me an article from the Seattle Times profiling the Powell family and the store's changing hands from father to daughter. Powell's is my favorite bookstore in the country and I use their website and online ordering for this blog. If you're ever in Portland, Oregon, it's definitely worth checking out.

Emily Powell is just 27 years old, but she has been planning on running the store since she was 8. I look forward to seeing how she guides the store and hope it continues to be the successful book mecca it is today.

You can check out the article from May 21 on the newspaper's website. You will need to set up a free account to access the archives.

Your Friendly Librarian

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

A colleague of mine in Boston let me know that the 2006 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards have been announced. This award for excellence in children's literature is considered prestigious among librarians, authors, and children's literature professionals, but is little known outside of those circles. The Horn Book is the premier journal reviewing children's literature and a starred review is highly coveted.

I highly recommend the journal, which is published out of Boston bi-monthly. Many of my colleagues in Boston, where I attended library school at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, are involved with the Horn Book one way or another. The Boston Athenaeum, where I was an intern, annually hosts the award ceremony. This year, as in years past, people I know sit on the jury for the awards. This year my favorite professor, Margaret Bush, was on the jury. Obviously, I really like this resource and hold it close to my heart.

Anyway, I was excited to see that Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (see my review in March's archive) won the prize in the category of fiction and poetry. Other winners include the gorgeous Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert, in picture books and If You Decide to Go to the Moon, by Faith McNulty, for non-fiction.

To see a list of the winners and honor books, follow the link to the award page of the Horn Book's website.

Your Friendly Librarian

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Book Expo America 2006

Exactly two weeks after I set foot at BEA 2006, I am finally recovered enough to write about it! What a whirlwind! New books, famous authors, gala dinners...what more could a book lover desire?

I'm trying to think where to begin...I attended BEA to check out new books for children and teens, but along the way I did discover some neat new books for adults as well. All of the buzz this year was about a recent book called Water for Elephants (Algonquin, 05/06), by Sara Gruen. All of the independent booksellers had read it and were really excited to tell people about it. Apparently it is a love story set in a travelling circus during the 1930s. I always love circus books, ever since reading Geek Love in high school. I can't wait to get my hands on this!

I also met Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain, and picked up an advance readers' copy of his book Thirteen Moons, due out in October from Random House. I picked up so many galleys, I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but it's at the top of my pile.

For teens, Gail Carson Levine has a new fairy tale novel coming out in September called Fairest. This is a surprising version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that definitely twists in ways the reader will not suspect, much like Ella Enchanted. The cover art on this book is gorgeous too, so it will make a great gift come the holidays.

In audio books, Random House Audio acquired the library of read-aloud stories published by Rabbit Ears. They plan to keep the Rabbit Ears imprint and re-release old favorites such as Robin Williams reading Pecos Bill as well as new recordings. Random House plans to have all of the backlist back in print by the end of 2007. Collections of stories will be available in August, such as fairy tales, world folktales, and American tall tales, all read by celebrities. These are eagerly awaited by those of us who remember the series fondly. Also interesting, during BEA, Random House annonced that it is teaming up with Starbucks to release two classic audio books during the holidays, The Velveteen Rabbit and The Night Before Christmas. For more information on this corporate partnership, check out the article in Publisher's Weekly.

My favorite "porcine wonder" has returned in two new stories, Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride and Mercy Watson Fights Crime. These hilarious books are appropriate for those who are starting to feel confident reading on their own. My 6-year-old friend is a big fan. These easy and fun stories show that Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie, has a wide range of writing talents. Chris Van Deusen's art is also especially bright, expressive, and reminiscent of by-gone days. Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride came out earlier this month and Mercy Watson Fights Crime will be out in September. If you're not familiar with the series, be sure to check out the first book, Mercy Watson to the Rescue.

I think that's all the reviewing I have in me right now. Believe me, you will see more upcoming fall season books on the blog as I work my way through the boxes I sent home.

Other cool authors I met?
E D Baker, author of the Tales of a Frog Princess series, which includes the upcoming fourth novel, No Place for Magic.

Kevin O'Malley, an author and illustrator of such books as Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude and the Miss Malarkey series, among many others. I sat next to him at dinner and have a personalized drawing he did for me! What a cool dude!

The wonderful and prolific Walter Dean Myers, author of tons of African American history stories, novels, graphic novels, and picture books. This time he was touring for The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage.

Meg Cabot, whom I've just begun to love, author of the Princess Diaries series and other awesome books for teens and adults. I picked up How To Be Popular, due out in July.

Sandra Boynton, the rock star of baby books, signed a copy of her newest songbook, Dog Train, for my little friend Dominic. She has a new board book titled Your Personal Penguin, coming out in September.

Andrew Clements was signing his two newest books, a picture book titled A Million Dots, and a new novel called Room One: A Mystery or Two, both are due out in July from Simon and Schuster.

Avi gave me a copy of his new Crispin book, Crispin: At the Edge of the World, due out in September. This is a sequel to the Newbery Medal winning Crispin: The Cross of Lead.

I want to tell you more of what I picked up and whom I met and what I saw, so stay tuned. For today I'm out of time.

Your Friendly Librarian

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Webby Awards

The Internet's most prestigious award, the Webby Award winners were announced yesterday in 69 Internet categories. Winners are voted on by industry experts and also people around the world, with the People's Choice award. According to the press release, 300,000 people voted for the People's Choice this year. Incredible!

You can sign up now to be a part of next year's competition, voting on what sites should be nominated early in the year. It's always fun to have a say when the official nominees are released. I have discovered some of my favorite websites and blogs this way. Check out the nominees and winners from this year's competition on the Webby website.

The Webbys got me to thinking about what Internet sites I visit most frequently, besides the search engines and my email. Here are my top five, in no particular order:

Google Maps
The Daily Candy
101 Cookbooks
Craig's List
Powell's Books Review-a-Day

What sites do you enjoy most?

Your Friendly Librarian

Sunday, May 07, 2006


With Book Expo America around the corner - this year in Washington, D.C. - I have to get back into children's/teen literature mode since that's the reason I'm attending.

What's on my bookshelf to get me back into the spirit of things? I have been loving Anthony Horowitz's teen spy series about Alex Rider. I also recently discovered Robin McKinley, who has won numerous awards and honors for her teen fantasy novels, but whom I had not read before.

Eagle Strike, Anthony Horowitz

Scorpia, Anthony Horowitz

Evil Star, by Anthony Horowitz

Rose Daughter, Robin McKinley

The Door in the Hedge, Robin McKinley

The Wish, Gail Carson Levine

Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko

East, Edith Pattou

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Busy Times

I find myself much busier than usual right now and I am interested to note my reading choices during this time. For example, non-fiction resources with useful snippets are more appealing than the more concentrated non-fiction I had planned to read. I also find that I am reading comfort fiction rather than new and meaty fiction (the sort I might review on the blog).

My light fiction of choice right now is anything by Joan Aiken. In the last week I have wolfed down two of her Jane Austen inspired sequels. I find her ideas and writing style aren’t that divergent from my idea of the Austen spirit. I just completed Mansfield Revisited and The Youngest Miss Ward. The second was especially enjoyable as it followed the histories of very minor characters in Austen and so was mostly original.

Ah non-fiction! Right now I feel the need to sing the praises of The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn. Moving to a new home in a high altitude climate, but being very busy, it is welcome to find a cookbook that embraces cake mix – an element easily converted to a high altitude receipt. I have always enjoyed this cookbook, but this week I am especially appreciative. Try the Bacardi Rum Cake (pg. 292) or Banana Cake with Quick Caramel Frosting (pg. 72), two of my favorites.

Other indispensable non-fiction right now?

Sunset Western Garden Book, edited by Kathleen Norris Brenzel. This is THE guide to growing anything in the western half of the country. Covers Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. This exhaustive volume lists EVERY plant that will grow in the western zones, when to plant, when to water and really special sections such as what to plant under your oak tree, deer resistant plants, and plants for windy areas. It also includes a how-to section for gardening novices such as myself that explains things like planting cuttings or how to compost.

Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes, by George Nash – very useful for wiring projects, remodeling your basement, and examining the quality of your roof.

And for dreaming, I have been enjoying Creating the Not-So-Big House, by Sarah Susanka. Her ideas are complimentary to my own, namely that many newer houses are bigger than the average family really needs and waste space and resources in pursuit of cubic feet. She advocates the use of quality materials and design to create personal spaces that reflect the families that live in them and to eliminate empty, wasteful space. Her ideas mesh well with existing, older homes and remodel projects and her books are full of gorgeous house photos.

What kinds of reading do you do most during busy times?

Your Friendly Librarian

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006


This week's pile includes:

Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell

Apex Hides the Hurt, by Colson Whitehead

Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan

The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Jailed for Overdue Books

I picked up this little snippet and thought I'd share. Remember, folks, overdue library books are no trifling matter!

Patron Receives Jail Sentence for Overdue Books - Library Journal

Your Friendly Librarian

Friday, April 07, 2006

Create Your Own Platial Map

Librarians don't just share books, they also find resources on the Internet. In this vein, I want to share a website/service I learned about through National Public Radio.

Platial is an Internet map service with which one can create meaningful, personalized maps! How cool! I just learned about it today and am playing with it at the moment. This is just too fun not to share. One can create maps of favorite places in Boston, romantic lookouts, future vacation destinations, or the quickest way home from the airport. It's both a practical and whimsical tool.

Check out the website for Platial.

Listen to the NPR story about Platial.

Now, go make some maps of your own!

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Here's what's on my bookshelf today:

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

The Not So Big House and Creating the Not So Big House, by Sarah Susanka

China, Inc., by Ted C. Fishman

A Year in the World, by Frances Mayes

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell (still there, still worth reading)

Of adult interest...

I have currently been taking a brief, and welcome, respite from children's literature to catch up on some adult reads. As much as I love kids' books, it is wonderful to chew on some mature issues and longer novels now and then.

In fact, the word "chewy" came to mind as I was finishing up Sigrid Nunez's new novel The Last of Her Kind. The trajectory of the novel follows the lives of two Barnard College roommates through the tumultuous 60's and 70's. Drugs, politics, murder - what almost sounds like a spy novel is actually a remarkably beautiful story of friendship and loss. Loss of family, loss of idealism, loss of friendship and loss of innocence. Although it was more a loss of innocence for me, the reader,(especially after so much kid lit), rather than characters, who started out pretty hardened by the world.

Ann is a political activist from a wealthy Connecticut family who spurns everything and everyone that made her and wishes she could be poor and black because that would make her more "pure" and not the oppressor/agressor of the masses. Georgette comes from a very poor and abusive background and only made it to college with a teacher's glowing aid. She wants nothing to do with the era's politics and longs for the things Ann spurns, or at least some stability. While the two girls could not be more different, they are able to teach each other about the world as they experiment with the laidback and open lifestyles of the late 60's.

After leaving school, the girls settle more and more into their opposite worlds, until they can no longer relate to one another. But this does not keep them apart in thought, and the story weaves aspects of their lives together, even as they are apart.

I'm not really doing the story justice, but it was a wonderful, thought-provoking book for me, as it opened up aspects of the hippie movement I had not considered before; examined social justice issues from a new perspective; and highlighted mental illness and its effects on family.

Grade: A-

I also recently completed The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama. This is a beautifully written, peaceful story, set in Japan at the beginning of the second World War.

A young Chinese man, Stephen, is sent by his parents to their beach house in Japan to recover from tuberculosis. As the Japanese offensive in China picks up momentum, Stephen becomes more and more attached to his Japanese friends and lifestyle.

The contrast of the peaceful landscape and peace-loving personalities of the Japanese characters to the seemingly war-mongering Japanese government is striking and is a confusing issue for the Chinese Stephen to deal with; especially as friends and loved ones back in China are killed and forced to flee their homes.

Tsukiyama is half each Japanese and Chinese and grew up in San Francisco. I'm curious to read more of her novels. She is a truly talented writer.

Grade: A

Last night I was thinking about how I usually only post positive reviews on the blog. And the true is that I only like to write reviews of books I love...otherwise, why bother talking about them. I also will put down a novel if I'm not enjoying it or think it won't hold my attention. Case in point, last night I started reading Arturo Perez-Reverte's newest novel, Purity of Blood. Something about the styling of the characters or the tone just didn't do it for me and I decided not to read further. He is an odd author for me - The Queen of the South and The Flanders Panel are both novels I devoured and ones that have really stuck with me, while I have also put down his Club Dumas and The Fencing Master. Maybe it has something to do with the translations (Perez-Reverte writes in Spanish) or my ignorance of Spanish history. I don't know. I think it's mystifying because most authors are not that way for me.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Here's what I have on my bookshelf right now:

The Last of Her Kind, by Sigrid Nunez

The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell

The Samurai's Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama

Point Blank, by Anthony Horowitz

Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea, by Nancy Atherton

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Last night I read the amazing new book by Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie and others, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Now, DiCamillo is a children's author and this is billed as a children's book, but really, I believe this is a powerful love story for readers of all ages. The book, very appropriately, came out on Valentine's Day, and it explores the importance of loving and being loved.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit who belongs to a little girl named Abilene. He was made in France of the finest materials, has a whole trunk of exquisite clothes, and is very vain. Abilene loves Edward with all her heart, but Edward is not really interested in being loved or interested in the things around him. He is only interested in himself. One night, Abilene's grandmother tells the story of a princess who loves no one but herself and the story sticks with Edward for the rest of his "life".

Abilene and her family, including Edward, leave on a journey and Edward is lost. Thus begins Edward's journey through America and his spiritual growth. As Edward is handed off from family to family through the years, he learns to understand what it is to be loved and how to love others.

I always eagerly await new novels by Kate DiCamillo because she is such a wonderful storyteller, and really brings something special to children's literature. This one may be her best yet. The writing and the sentiments are so beautiful!

Your Librarian

Friday, March 10, 2006


I am trying something new...even if I don't have time to blog, I can keep you abreast of what I'm reading, so you can check it out too. This is also a good way for me to keep track of the breadth of my reading for my own information.

So here are the books I have either just finished or current reads.

The King of Torts, John Grisham

Evil Star, Anthony Horowitz

Takedown: the Fall of the Last Mafia Empire, Rick Cowan

Busting Vegas: the MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to their Knees, Ben Mezrich

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

City of Ember

Hello Friends,

I just finished listening to the audio version of The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau and WOW was it a wonderful book with the most dramatic and suspenseful ending!!! I was jumping up and down and had to tell my husband all about it.

Back when City of Ember was first published in the States (2003), a librarian friend of mine had read it and loved it, but I had never picked it up until I needed an audiobook for my trip to NYC this weekend. Needless to say, there was plenty of time for listening this weekend while snowbound, so I listened to the whole thing. I think this was a powerful and well written book, as well as a good audio reading.

The citizens of Ember live in a dark world lit only by lightbulbs during certain parts of the day. They are fed with canned goods from a warehouse and live in a city that was planned with their every need in mind. The people have always been taught that they are the only people in a world of darkness. Now, in the year 241, the electricity keeps flickering and supplies are running low. The Builders left a plan for the citizens, but it was lost a long time ago and time seems to be running out for Ember.

In this post-Apocolyptic young adult novel, the hero, Doon, and heroine, Lina, are two twelve-year-old friends who have just been assinged their new careers and who want to make a difference in a world that seems to be collapsing into chaos. Against all odds, they will be the saviors of their people.

Duprau has written second and third volumes that follow the characters through immense changes in a world both confusing and amazing to them. The People of Sparks is the sequel to The City of Ember and a third volume, The Prophet of Yonwood, is due out later this year. A colleague told me that she thought The People of Sparks was even better than The City of Ember, but so far (about six chapters in) I don't agree. Pick up this engrossing series and let me know what you think.

Your Friendly Librarian

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And the winners are...

Well, I was happy to see that Criss Cross won the Newbery medal this year...I've never been even close to predicting a winner before! Congratulations also to The Hello Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka, which won the Caldecott medal.

To see more links and information, check out the website of the Association for Library Service to Children, the division of the American Library Association that hands out the awards.

Your Friendly Librarian

P.S. As with so many award winners, Criss Cross seems to have gone temporarily out of print, so it's unavailable for purchase. Check it out at your local library instead!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Children's Book Awards

With the most prestigious of the children's book awards, the Newbery and Caldecott, to be announced on Monday morning, I want to get my two cents in before it's too late. I have checked out lots of other people's pick lists and find both common ground and canyons of difference.

Probably my favorite book of the year was The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall, which won the National Book Award for children's literature. I also really enjoyed The Schwa Was Here, the fiction winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book prize. But I am of the camp that thinks it is very rare for a children's novel to win two prizes. (I say rare, not impossible, since Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion did just that a couple of years ago.) So to give my vote to a third terrific novel, I am going to cast my vote for Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins.

Criss Cross is a really unique and wonderful novel. It follows five teenage friends through various mundane and exciting experiences during a spring and summer. The writing is experimental; one chapter is written entirely in haiku, another is written in two separate columns detailing events as they happen to two characters simultaneously. And the writing is just gorgeous; phrases and images leap off the page. This was a really special book.

For illustrated books, I especially enjoyed He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson (for review, see November 14th entry) who has been recognized by the award board before with a Coretta Scott King award recognizing African American authors and illustrators. These illustrations are lush and gorgeous.

So there they are, my picks for the awards. We'll see how I did on Monday.

Your Friendly Librarian