Friday, November 23, 2007


Today I saw the most beautiful picture book, Yatandou. This one is award-worthy. By Gloria Whelan, who has written beautiful, lyrical novels, it tells the story of Yatandou, a girl living in a traditional Mali village. She spends her days tending her goat and pounding millet. The women in her village have heard of a contraption that will pound the millet for them - if they save enough money they can buy one. Yatandou dreams of learning to read and write and not having to pound millet three hours a day. Soon, all these dreams come true.

Whelan writes, in an author's note, about the "multi-functional platforms" that African women own, operate, and manage to make money for their villages.

The language is simple and beautiful with passages like, "Mother is returning. A water jug has had its little journey on her head."

The richly colored paintings by Peter Sylvadia evoke the heat of the desert and convey a sense of African life.

Not only is this picture book gorgeous, it also supports a good cause - the non-profit Building with Books. Building with Books engages urban youth in after-school programs where the kids engage in community service projects and go to developing countries to build schools. 90 of these schools where built in Mali.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reaching for Sun

The most beautifully-written book I have read all year is Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. This is a novel in free-verse, told in the voice of a young girl with cerebral palsy. While she struggles in the physical world, her inner world is an articulate and light-filled one.

This entry will be filled with quotes, because the writing is far more important in this one than even the plot.

With my odd walk
and slow speech
everyone knows
I've got special ed.
but if I wait
until the hall clears,

taunts like tomatoes
don't splatter
the back of my head.
(pg. 4)

I had to constantly stop to savor the metaphors. Passages like:
But Mom's dreams for me
are a heavy wool coat I
wear, even in summer.
(pg. 46)

I can't get over how carefully selected each word is and how much weight it carries, while not seeming heavy. There are very few words in this 180 page book, yet the story is well-rounded and complete, the characters three-dimensional.

In addition to strong word choices, this is a strong and compelling story. Josie has a hard time with the kids at school, for obvious reasons, but her vibrant home life with a feisty gradmother and always-busy mom help make up for it. When a new boy moves to the neighborhood he looks past her physical disabilities and sees her intelligence and creativity, making him a perfect friend. Josie struggles against her constant therapy sessions and practicing movement and speech. She struggles against a big lie she's telling her mom. And she struggles with the fear that her new friend may abandon her for cooler kids. These honest struggles make for a rich novel set completely in the metaphor of a garden, always growing, always reaching for sun.


Sunday, November 04, 2007


Amy Laura Schlitz’s new adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s The Bearskinner is a well-told tale. It brought back the darkness and mystery that first drew me into classic fairy tales.

A soldier is walking through the woods one winter night, contemplating how he has no family, no food, and nowhere to sleep. He notices he is being followed by the devil. He knows that he shouldn’t make a bargain with the devil, but when a bear appears, he shoots it and that starts the process for the devil to take his soul. Soon the soldier has agreed to wear the bear’s skin and wander the world for seven years without bathing or grooming, but he will have more than enough money. If he doesn’t call upon God or commit suicide, he may have his soul back. Classic fairy tale events follow as the Bearskinner wanders the world, trying not to fall into despair.

Schlitz captures the tone of the bleak story as she begins with the passage,
They say that when a man gives up hope,
the devil walks at this side.
So begins this story:
A soldier marched through a dark wood,
and he did not march alone.
It’s positively eerie.

Max Grafe’s muddy-brown palette for the mixed-media illustrations actually makes them more beautiful and emphasizes the bleak medieval world of the Bearskinner. Only the devil’s coat is a brilliant, emerald green. He is meant to be tempting, and in that coat, he is.

This is one of the most enjoyable Grimm adaptations I’ve read in a while. It would make a beautiful gift book.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

I finished reading A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban, over a week ago and I really wanted to review it here but I got bogged down with other stuff. I am going to say right at the top here that this is my Newbery medalist prediction. It's not my very favorite book of the year, but it has that Newbery vibe going.

More than anything, ten-year-old Zoe wants to play the piano. She wants to be a prodigy like pianists in movies. She daydreams about herself in a flowing gown, sitting at a grand piano, playing on the stage at Carnegie Hall. In reality, Zoe's dad buys her a Perfectone D-60, an electric organ. Not the same thing at all!

Other things are not quite right either. When the cool girl at school invites her to a shoe-themed birthday party, Zoe brings socks as a gift. After that, Zoe has to sit at the boy's table in the cafeteria. The boys turn out to be pretty good friends for Zoe, especially Wheeler. Wheeler starts coming home with Zoe after school and befriends her agoraphobic father. Dad takes lots of correspondance courses on things like scuba diving or bread baking - things he doesn't actually do. While his fear of leaving the house can put a burden on Zoe, he's also a lot of fun and very supportive. Mom is in the picture, but is a workaholic. There are some touching scenes between Zoe and she, but dad is the major parental figure.

Zoe's Perfectone teacher invites her to participate in an organ competition; Zoe thinks "recital". Practicing "Forever in Blue Jeans" for her "recital" is not exactly what Zoe had in mind for her break-out performance, but she discovers that she really enjoys playing, even if it's not classical prodigy stuff. With the big competition to prepare for and fun at home with Wheeler and her dad, Zoe realizes that the strangest things can add up to perfect.

It was the well-drawn characters and quirky situations that made this novel really special. It's the author's first book, so I look forward to seeing more from her.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Robert's Snowflakes

The image galleries for this year's Robert's Snow illustrated snowflake auction are now up for viewing.

If you don't know the really interesting story of these it is. Robert Mercer was the husband of children's book author/illustrator Grace Lin. He had cancer and the two of them wanted to do something to raise money for cancer research, so they began sending out blank snowflakes to illustrators, based on a story by Grace. The illustrators decorate them and then they go up for auction to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Starting in 2004, they have auctioned off the snowflakes, done by different artists every year, raising over $200,000. Unfortunately, Robert lost his fight with cancer this past summer.

For more on the story and to see the galleries of snowflakes, check out the online auction page.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Favorite Blog

There are a number of blogs I check regularly, but my very favorite is Alison Morris' at Publisher's Weekly. Alison is the children's buyer at the Wellesley Booksmith in Massachusetts. This link is a good example of why I love it so: In fact, I loved it so much I just had to share it with you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I recently received an ARC of Click, a fascinating collaboration by authors such as Linda Sue Park, Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Nick Hornby, and Gregory Maguire. It's fantastic! Here's my review:

Maggie is a young girl whose beloved grandfather, a famous photojournalist called “Gee,” has just died, leaving her a special package. Rather than opening it right away, Maggie goes through a grieving process for weeks. Finally, she is ready, and what she finds in Gee’s package sends her on the journey of a lifetime. This is a “jump” story, one where several authors write short stories, all tied together with one “jump character” or “jump object.” In this book, Grandpa Gee is the “jump character” whose story is told by a wide range of popular authors of both adult and children’s fiction. Maggie and her adopted brother Jason show up in some of the stories, aging into mature years as the book progresses. Other installments introduce people and situations from Gee’s past: two Japanese brothers during World War II, a couple of Irish boys who met Muhammad Ali, prisoners in a Russian jail, and a mysterious girl who lives by the sea. The stories work well together and create a fascinating blend of fantasy, realism, science fiction, and historical fiction. Collected by well-respected editor Arthur A. Levine, this collection has something for everyone and each purchase benefits Amnesty International!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Wicked Lovely

I recently read Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. Here is a description I wrote:

Aislynn has the Sight, which means that she can see the faeries, sprites, fey and nymphs that invisibly live in the world among humans. Fun, right? Wrong. These are malevolent creatures that play painful, dirty tricks on humans. Aislynn and her Grans have always had the Sight, but the faeries can't know or they might blind or even kill them. So, Aislynn walks through life, through the faeries, rigidly ignoring them. There are rules that apply to the faeries and suddenly they're breaking a lot of rules. Two of them, royal ones, seem to be following Aislynn. Soon, Aislynn is swept into a battle of wills when the Summer King wants her to be his queen and she must conceal her knowledge and resist his magic. Ancient rules, modern life, and the power of love come together in this gorgeous and richly woven urban fantasy.

This was a truly unique and awesome read. Highly recommended reading from a first-time author. Pick it up for your teenaged friend or yourself.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Picture Book Shelf

Sometimes when you are a librarian, especially a children's librarian, your desk can become overwhelmed by all of the picture books you are saving for upcoming storytimes. Let me give you an example by listing what all is on my picture book shelf right now.

The Hallo-Wiener, by Dav Pilkey
Peek-a-Boooo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti
The Three Bears' Halloween, by Kathy Duval
Sheep Trick or Treat, by Nancy Shaw
What a Scare, Jesse Bear, by Nancy White Carlstrom
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson
Skeleton Hiccups, by Margery Cuyler

Oliver, Who Would Not Sleep, by Mara Bergman
A Splendid Friend Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom
Hippos Go Berserk, by Sandra Boynton
Can You Growl Like a Bear? by John Butler
Peek in My Pocket, by David Carter
If You're Happy and You Know It, by Jane Cabrera
Penguin, by Polly Dunbar
Color Zoo, by Lois Ehlert
Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug! by Ed Emberley
I've Got an Elephant, by Anne Ginkel
The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchins
Adventures of Cow, by Cow (a.k.a. Lori Korchek)
Mother Goose's Little Treasures, by Iona Opie
The Great Gracie Chase, by Cynthia Rylant
Russell the Sheep, by Rob Scotton
What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas
The Boy Who Thought He Was a Teddy Bear, by Jeanne Willis

Some notable picture books that are also there that I'm just reviewing:
What Could Be Better Than This? by Linda Ashman
Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary, by Beverly Donofrio
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal, by Paul Fleischman
Inventor McGregor, by Kathleen T. Pelley
Pssst! by Adam Rex
Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf, by Judy Sierra
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sis

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Nature of Jade

I finished reading The Nature of Jade, by Deb Caletti, a couple of days ago. I felt a real sense of mourning when it finally finished. Not because it was a sad book, but because I hated to end such a satisfying and well-written one. I would follow these characters forever.

Jade is a sixteen-year-old living in Seattle. Senior year is approaching and all of her friends and even her family are going through major changes and growing pains. Jade herself has anxiety, panic attacks. The only thing that helps calm her down is lighting her saint candles and watching the online elephant cam from the nearby zoo. When Jade sees a mysterious boy with a baby who keeps reappearing by the elephants, she becomes interested in him. How can someone you have only seen seem so right? Is that love at first sight?

As the year progresses, Jade’s family falls apart, her group of friends begins to break-up, but Jade becomes more sure of herself, partly due to starting to work with the elephants. And finally, Jade encounters the boy with the baby, who is even more mysterious in real life than he was in her imagination.

The writing in this novel is phenomenal. The characters are so multi-faceted and Jade's parents are especially human. As is so rare in this genre, Jade comes to truly see her parents as the frail human individuals they are, rather than the sterotypes she would like them to be. There are also really deep and tricky moral questions that will leave the reader wondering what things in life are really magnets for our moral compass.

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

Just this very minute, I have finished one of the best children's novels I have read all year! All I can say is, Finally! I feel like it's been months since anything truly wonderful crossed my desk. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, by Lynne Jonell, is extremely well-written, with bathroom humor, pathos, and believable and sympathetic characters of both the human and rodent kind.

Emmy is a very rich, very lonely little girl. Her parents are constantly going off on long trips and leaving her with a horrible nanny, Miss Barmy. Worse, she recently changed schools and no one in her class acts like she exists. When Emmy starts hearing the class pet rat talking to her, a whole exciting and fantastical series of events unfold.

The rat has special powers; in fact, he is one of many rodents with special powers, most of them living in a shop in town where the evil Professor Vole does experiments with them. Soon Emmy begins to learn the powers of the other rodents and she realizes that Miss Barmy is using the rodents to control her, her parents, and even her classmates! Miss Barmy is after Emmy's family's fortune and she will stop at nothing to get it.

Emmy, the rat, and Emmy's new friend Joe join forces to stop Miss Barmy's evil plan. Using the resourcefulness of the other rodents, some ingenious catapults, and a lot of sneaking around, they wage war against Miss Barmy with hilarious and satisfying results.

This book has everything a good children's novel should: abandoned children, talking animals, a truly evil villian, and a little bit of magic. Hooray!

I mustn't forget to mention the terrific illustrations by Jonathan Bean on each page of the novel. As the reader creeps through the story, a rat creeps across a tree branch and then falls, very slowly, into outstretched hands. It is a flipbook and a beautifully done one, too.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Picturebooks

I haven't spent much time in the past, in this blog, talking about picturebooks. I'm a novel reader and that's what I love most. Necessarily, however, I read a lot of picturebooks too and I'm coming to understand the beauty, simplicity, and power of picturebooks more and more. So now you get to read picturebook reviews too. Lucky you!

Orange Pear Apple Bear (Simon & Schuster, 5/07), by Emily Gravett
Orange Pear Apple Bear is a delightfully artistic book designed for children, but fun for adults. It opens as an object book, an orange on the first page, a pear on the next, then apple, then bear. But what comes next makes the book surprising and fun to examine. Next, we have an orange bear. Later, the bear juggles, changing the order of the simple words, apple, bear, orange, pear. So, it's a deceptively simple and clever picture book that will serve a variety of functions in early literacy. On the basic level, there is the vocabulary. Next there is the playing around with the meanings of words, nouns, adjectives, etc. Finally, there is word order and how it changes the meaning of a sentence. Best of all are the beautiful and simple watercolor illustrations.

A Dog Needs A Bone! (Blue Sky Press, 8/07) by Audrey Wood
What is your dog thinking about all day long? Bones! Toy bones, treat bones, squeaky bones. The dog in this story promises to do all kinds of funny, crazy things, if only his mistress will give him a bone! How about a carrot? No? Will this dog ever get a bone? This doggy sees bones everywhere! How many bones can you find in the illustrations? This newest offering from the classic Audrey Wood is full of her humor in both rhyming text and illustrations and is perfect for younger children.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cutie New Picturebooks

I read a lot of picturebooks now, so here are a couple I really liked recently.

Taking a Bath with the Dog and Other Things That Make Me Happy (Candlewick, 6/07), by Scott Menchin.
Sweet Pea is feeling sad today, so she sets out to find what makes other people happy. Taking a bath makes her dog happy. Counting tree rings makes the old man in the park happy. Shoes make the centipede happy. All of these things remind Sweet Pea that there are lots and lots of things that make her happy - especially taking a bath with the dog! What makes you happy?

Big Bad Wolves at School (Simon & Schuster, 6/07), by Stephen Krensky
Did you ever wonder how the Big Bad Wolf learned so many sneaky tricks? He went to Big Bad Wolf Academy, of course! But Rufus the wolf doesn't like going to school and learning how to blow down houses and dress up like a granny. He would rather roll in the grass and run around and howl. The other wolves call Rufus old-fashioned, but when a group of hunters comes to the forest, only Rufus knows what to do! This is a really funny book with great illustrations!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Here is a book review from my archives. I put this in the hands of those boys who play RuneQuest on my computers all day at the library. I must confess, after reading the book, I really wanted to start playing those role-playing games.

Epic (Viking, 4/07), by Conor Kostick.

Long ago, the people of Earth were sent to the planet New Earth to escape the violence and destruction that mankind had wrought. In order to rule New Earth in peace, no violence of any kind would be tolerated – no yelling, hitting, or kicking, no matter how just the cause. Knowing that it would be necessary to ease tension and aggression somehow, the forefathers created a computer game, Epic, where the citizens of New Earth could fight in the arena and settle disputes. Generations later, Epic seems more real than life away from the screen. Children go to school to learn Epic strategies, the only way to earn money is through Epic, and the law is upheld through arena battles. Central Allocations, the government, has an unfair advantage in the game and rules with an iron fist. Erik and his friends spend all of their time playing Epic, like everyone else they know. One day, after dying in Epic, Erik decides to shake things up. He creates a new avatar with a skill set that seems impractical and no one has used before. Surprising things begin happening in the game when the new avatar, Cindella, begins to play. Her unusual skills seem to make the game more vivid and exciting than it ever was before; even fun again. As Cindella plays her way through the levels of the game, Erik and his friends discover a way to take down the entire corrupt system of their government and change the way the game is played, and the way their lives are lived, forever. The first-time novelist is the creator of the world’s first live fantasy role-playing game and brings his expertise in this field to create a compelling alternate universe. The story effectively explores the dangers of living purely in a fantasy world that are timely considering the growing popularity of games like Epic for children and adults. With both well-rounded characters and plot, this novel is a welcome addition to the science fiction shelf.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Into the Wild

I just finished reading Into the Wild . What a creative, fun, and well-written book! Just looking at the other author raves all over the cover got me excited about it and the premise is just awesome. This is the most innovative twist on fairy tales I've seen in a long time.

Into the Wild (Razorbill, 7/07), by Sarah Beth Durst.

Julie is a modern girl who doesn't quite fit in at school. Mainly this is because her modern school world and her world at home are so very different. See, Julie's mom is Rapunzel and their personal lives are overrun with all sorts of fairy tale characters. Puss n Boots is Julie's adopted brother. Snow's Seven come over for dinner all the time and they're so sexist! Cindy is the worst driver ever and she always wants to pick Julie up at school.

To make matters worse, THE WILD lives under Julie's bed and she is its keeper. The Wild is a magical force that is manifest in a thick, enchanted forest, now shrunk down to a pile of hungry vines living under Julie's bed. If The Wild gets ahold of Julie's shoe, it turns it into something else. Same with anything else it grabs. Julie is responsible for keeping The Wild locked up and never talking about it to anyone.

One night, someone makes a special wish at Granny's Wishing Well Motel and The Wild becomes powerful once again. Almost instantly, there is a huge, primeaval forest growing in the middle of town, sucking in anything that gets near it. All of the fairy tale characters are forced to back to their stories, re-enacting them over and over, in their own kind of prison. Only Julie understands enough about the world and the ways of The Wild to rescue her family and put The Wild back in its place. Julie doesn't belong to a story - yet - so she can manipulate what happens, as long as she plays by The Wild's rules.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wecome Back, Me

Ever since I started my new children's librarian job, I've been busy reading tons and tons of stuff, but not posting about it at all! I've missed the blog and now it's time to get back online. I will try to post all the stuff I've been working on and keep up with what I'm currently reading.

This is also going to be come a pretty exclusively kid lit blog from now on. Hope you enjoy it!

On my bookshelf right now, I have:
Greetings from Planet Earth - Barbara Kerley
Book Crush - Nancy Pearl
In Search of Mockingbird - Loretta Ellsworth
In the Shadow of the Ark - Anne Provoost
Into the Wild - Sarah Durst
Me and the Pumpkin Queen - Marlane Kennedy
The Perfect Nest - Catherine Friend
Samurai Shortstop - Alan Gratz
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs - Betty G. Birney

And a review:
The Princess and the Peabodys (HarperCollins, 9/07), by Betty G. Birney
Casey and her grandma love to go yard sale shopping, so when they discover a cheap, mysterious, old box that won’t open, they are sure that there something good inside. When they finally get the box open at home, a princess pops out! Turns out that the royal wizard was supposed to make the box appear and disappear, but he wasn’t very talented and not only did the box disappear for good, but it took the princess with it! Now the princess is stuck living in modern California with the Peabody family until the wizard can learn the right spell. While Gran, Dad, and little Shane seem entranced by the princess, Casey is the one who will have to show her how to get along in junior high! Princess Eglantine bosses people around, speaks a medieval sort of English, and doesn’t have a clue how modern inventions work. Casey is sure that this is going to make her a laughingstock! This very funny premise makes a great fish out of water tale and explores diversity in a new way. I like that the story is told from the point of view of the tomboy who is being imposed upon by the princess, making this is not your typical pink, sparkly princess story.

Friday, May 18, 2007

How to Get Suspended and Influence People

How to Get Suspended and Influence People
Adam Selzer
Leon is one of the kids in the gifted pool of his junior high. While he considers himself a metal-head to avoid being labeled nerd, Leon feels like he comes from pretty pathetic stock. His dad loves to come up with things that have already been invented and his mom’s hobby is to cook really gross food from other eras, like the 1950’s. At least the other kids in the gifted pool are pretty cool, rebellious kids. When Leon’s teacher assigns a project to make new films for the younger grades, Leon chooses to make a sex-ed film. He figures that there are lots of things kids need to know that never get mentioned in the old films and he sets out to make the best, most memorable sex-ed film he can. To get around the censors, Leon decides he will use nudes from famous paintings; no one can object to great art, right? Wrong. Before Leon’s film is even finished, he gets in big trouble. Will his new infamy land him in the doghouse or make him really popular? This hilarious look at censorship is engaging and depicts a realistic school social class system.
BIBLIO: 2006, Delacorte Press/Random House, 12 up, $15.99.

Time of the Eagle

Okay, this one doesn't come out until July, but it may be the best thing I've read in years, so mark it down and look for it this summer!

Time of the Eagle
Sherryl Jordan
The Shinali people have been exiled from their land for many years, but rather than being discouraged, they look forward to the Time of the Eagle, a time when they will rise up with other displaced peoples and take back their land as the prophecy foretold. Avala is the daughter of a healing woman and a peacemaker who came from the enemy Navorans. On her sixteenth borning-day, Avala receives a new prophecy; that she is to usher in the long-awaited Time of the Eagle, as a peacemaker between all enemy peoples. With so much responsibility on her shoulders, Avala longs to shrug off her destiny and follow her own path. But no one can hide from fate; Avala is swept into powerful events that will change the course of history. The award-winning Jordan crafts a sweeping and unforgettable fantasy epic in a world she has created to parallel our own. Full of love, betrayal, adventure, and memorable characters, this sequel to Secret Sacrament can stand alone as a novel in its own right.
BIBLIO: 2007, Eos/HarperCollins, Ages 14 up, $16.99.

Song of the Sparrow

Song of the Sparrow
Lisa Ann Sandell
Elaine lives among the men and boys of Arthur’s Round Table as a sister, healer, and friend. She is happy with her place in that world and her relationship with Lancelot, Arthur, Gawain, and the others, but is afraid of what will become of them all in the never-ending wars. With Picts invading from the north and Saxons from the south, the Britons are constantly at war. When a new woman arrives in camp, Elaine hopes to find a sister and friend to share her life in this world of men. Instead, she meets the beautiful and divisive Gwynivere. What follows traces the beginnings of Arthur’s reign and plants the seeds for the well-known story of love, loyalty, and betrayal. Told in Elaine’s voice and written in lyrical verse, with lovely depictions of the natural world around her, this is a welcome addition to the ranks of Arthurian novels. Elaine of Astolat, or the Lady of Shalott, is a character of Arthurian legend who has inspired poets and artists for generations; this revisionist novel tells her story in an entirely new and humanizing way.
BIBLIO: 2007, Scholastic, Ages 12 up, $16.99.

Dragon Slippers

Here is the official review of Dragon Slippers. I hope you can tell that I love it! Please ignore the clunky cover art, in this case, you really can't tell a book by its cover!

Dragon Slippers
Jessica Day George
Creel is a poor, orphaned, farm girl with a talent for embroidery. When her aunt decides to sacrifice her to a dragon in order to lure a knight or prince who might marry her, Creel sees it as a way to escape her boring life. She doesn’t expect to meet a real dragon in the caves above her village, so she is even more surprised when the real dragon doesn’t want to eat her. Creel makes a deal to keep the approaching mob away from the dragon’s lair if he gives her a pair of fabulous shoes from his hoard. The shoes Creel picks turn out to be the most valuable treasure in all of her kingdom and they enable her to communicate with the dragons. As she sets off on her way to pursue her dream of working in a dress shop in the king’s city, Creel is rescued from bandits by another friendly dragon. Creel and the dragon Shardas strike up a special friendship that becomes the centerpiece of the novel. Creel continues on to the king’s city where she finds work, friends, and adventure. As the story goes on, Creel discovers that her special shoes have the power to save or destroy the kingdom and she must face the future with bravery. The novel’s female characters are spunky, the dragon lore is well-crafted, and the story is a balance of comic and tragic elements. This is a fun first novel from George that would delight fantasy fans of Shannon Hale or Gail Carson Levine.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Library News

I have been catching up on my library-related stories of the day and have a few that were of particular interest to me and so I must share:

"'Shhh' -- the one thing you won't hear in a library" from the L.A. Times

"Trolley book wins odd title prize" from the BBC

"Libraries Must Follow Rules of Secrecy to Get New 'Potter' Book" from Fox News

And finally, a sad one, "Bookstore gets perilously close to final chapter" from the Chicago Tribune

Monday, April 16, 2007


Oh my gosh!

My colleague just forwarded me this great website for Shannon Hale's new adult novel Austenland. If you are a reader of this blog you KNOW what an Austenite I am and this is the book for me! I also just adore Hale's award-winning young adult novels, so this is really going to be a treat.

The novel doesn't hit shelves until May 29, and I'm tempted to make a countdown chain like at Christmas! This book is not only for Austen freaks but also for those fans obsessed with the BBC's wonderful mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. If you check out the website, be sure to read Hale's letter to Colin Firth (the best Mr. Darcy ever). Fun, fun, fun!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Socks

New Socks
Bob Shea
A little chick named Leon wants to show you something new. Is it his glasses? No! It’s his great new socks! They’re orange, they slide on hardwood floors, and they help make Leon brave on the big kids’ slide. Leon thinks the socks can help him do anything. When the President calls and invites Leon to the White House, it seals the deal. Now Leon can’t wait to get new pants too! Simple three-color digital graphics are vivid and eye-catching and give the book a retro feel. While the pictures and text convey obvious enthusiasm, that’s as far as this book goes. The disconnected and overwrought incidents may amuse adults, but kids might not sit through the whole thing or ask for a repeat telling. Similar in design and attitude to Mo Willems’ Pigeon books, the chick central to Bob Shea’s first foray into picture books lacks the humor and sparkle that make Willems’ books so fun for kids. Rather, this title has the feel of an art school assignment, with the text stuck on as an afterthought.
BIBLIO: 2007, Little, Brown, Ages 3 to 6, $12.99.
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 0-316-01357-9
ISBN: 978-0-316-01357-4

My Weird School: Mr. Macky Is Wacky!

Mr. Macky Is Wacky!
Dan Gutman
Pictures by Jim Paillot
A.J. hates school and when he grows up, he’s going to be President so he can outlaw school for everyone! President’s Day is coming up, so the teachers at A.J.’s school want the students to elect a school president and do oral reports about United States presidents. All A.J. wants is the day off from school and maybe a big screen TV! This is a weird school though, so elections and reports are not as boring as they sound–on Crazy Pets Day, a ferret runs for school president against the teachers! Mr. Macky, the wacky reading specialist, dresses up as all of the presidents to help the kids learn quirky facts, like how FDR’s mom made him wear a dress until he was five years old or who was the shortest president. This fun story sneaks in other information too, such as how a democracy works and which famous Americans are on our money. The comic illustrations help the reader get an idea of how A.J.’s mind works. Filled with goofy humor, this fifteenth title in the “My Weird School” series will attract the most reluctant reader.
BIBLIO: 2007, HarperTrophy/HarperCollins, Ages 7 to 10, $3.99.
FORMAT: Chapter Book
ISBN: 0-06-114151-8
ISBN: 978-0-06-114151-5

New Job, New Reviews

Just look at this! It's been well over a month since I last wrote anything! I do have to say that this may have been the busiest month ever, though. I travelled to San Francisco and Seattle, had a friend in from Boston, got a new job, and started reviewing for the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database. Whew!

I'm going back to full-time children's lit, so my posts may start to mirror that again. Sorry adult interest readers! We'll see if I have time to read adult stuff, let alone write about it! And I'll be reading tons of stuff for Children's Lit, so I'll post all that stuff on here too.

Exciting times!

In the meantime, all my favorite authors have had terrific new novels out this spring and they're keeping me on my toes. Why does it happen this way? I mean, I understand the publishing cycle, but even "retired" Maeve Binchy had a new book and how often does that happen? I'm just swamped! Here's a quick list of my favorite people and their new books:

Whitethorn Woods, by Maeve Binchy
Friends in High Places, by Marne Davis Kellogg
Aunt Dimity Goes West, by Nancy Atherton
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith

I'm also currently reading the young adult samurai mystery The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Thomas and Dorothy Hoobler. It's really great so far.

In addition to all this reading, I'm trying to re-design my landscaping and I'm reading tons of dry land gardening books. We'll see how far I get either on the gardening or on the reading! Ha!

This weekend I also finally put my home library in Dewey order. I know, NERD, right? What else is a librarian supposed to do at home for fun! :)

Your Friendly Librarian

Monday, March 12, 2007


I haven't shared my bookshelf in a while. Mainly because there hasn't been very interesting stuff on it. Right now I'm back on an art history kick and I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately. I've also been trying to expand my horizons with some manga. Here it is:

Loot, by Aaron Elkins
The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa, by Robert Noah
Chibi Vampire, Vol. 1, by Yuna Kagesaki
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Tasmanian Tiger: The Tragic Tale of How the World Lost Its Most Mysterious Predator, by David Owen
Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman
Evil Hour in Colombia, by Forrest Hylton
One-Eye! Two-Eyes! Three-Eyes! by Aaron Shepard

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hugo Cabret

I want to talk about the most incredible book I read this week. It is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 1/07), by Brian Selznick, and it's a children's novel with illustrations. Well, at it's most basic, that's what it is. It's like nothing that has been done before, completely original. It is this gorgeous melding of the graphic novel format (sort of) and the written word, with some fantastic historical photos as well. About half of the novel is told in words and half in pencil drawings that could be enjoyed by all ages. It's just so original and the story is beautiful and the illustrations are amazing. Could I rave any more? It's a masterpiece!

Set in the 1930's, the story follows a young boy, Hugo, who has been orphaned and lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris where he continues in the tradition of his dead uncle to keep all of the clocks in the building wound and accurate. He is fascinated with mechanics and clockworks and steals parts from a toy seller in the station to build his own wind-up creations. Hugo is obsessed with repairing an automaton that his father rescued from a burning museum because of the beauty of its design. He is also convinced that it will bring him a message from beyond the grave. What it does eventually bring to Hugo's life is connections to real people and a surprising and wonderful story about the origins of cinema. I really can't do justice to the plot at all, you'll just need to have a look for yourself.

What I love about the use of the illustrations is how cinematic they are. Each image has a specific purpose and they are often zoomed views of the character's face to show an emotion. The text will break and we see what is going on. The text story always resumes after the pictures have finished the story they are telling, fitting together as a cohesive whole. And it works so well because the story partially revolves around the cinema. Rave, rave, rave. This is fine art, folks.

I would love to see this book get a lot of interest, especially during awards season. I read in my Entertainment Weekly this week that Martin Scorsese has the film rights and plans to start working on a film adaptation soon. That will be really interesting. The book made me want to see the original films that are described and maybe those would be incorporated into a film version. It's also super scary to think of this getting into anyone's hands as a film, but you gotta trust Marty, right?

A colleague of mine said this was the best children's novel she'd read in a couple of years and I, too, think it's wonderful. Please try it yourself and pass it on to a young friend.


Here is the official website for The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Here is a link to a photo and story about the automaton that Selznick studied while writing the novel. It is housed at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Here is a link to Brian Selznick talking about the book on NPR.

Here is a link to a Variety article about Scorsese and the film.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cat in the Hat

Today was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat. There was a really great story on NPR today that talked about the history of the book. My favorite professor from library school, Anita Silvey, spoke on the program, which I enjoyed.

I do feel the need to fess up, though. I don't like The Cat in the Hat! In the program, the commentator mentioned that those who grew up with the Cat pass the Cat on to their children, while those who didn't, generally don't. My mom didn't like Dr. Seuss and now I find myself similarly impatient with Seuss. Also, like the fish in The Cat in the Hat, I am made very nervous by the Cat's antics. (Okay, extremely stressed out.)

Enough confessions. Go out and re-read The Cat in the Hat and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I have been extremely lazy about keeping up with this blog! Look at it! Over a month since I last posted. In fact, I'm so lazy that I could write about all of the books that won the big awards, but instead, I'm just going to give you a link to links. (Yawn, stretch)

By the way, the new Pants book was awesome!

And I am reading tons of great stuff. Maybe I'll tell you about it sometime. :)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ann Brashares photo gallery

I just heard this week that the final installment in the popular teen series Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is due out tomorrow. It is called Forever in Blue. I can't wait!

I stumbled across an interesting article with good dirt on Ann Brashares, and a photo gallery of her newly renovated carriage house in New York. Indulge yourself!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


There are a lot of books on my bookshelf now, but I've been spending a lot of time online, watching season 4 of 24 to get caught up, and reading the piles of magazines that came after the snow. Got to start reading this stuff!

The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

The World to Come, by Dara Horn

Framed, by Frank Cottrel Boyce

The Crimson Portrait, by Jody Shields

Insatiable, by Marne Davis Kellogg

London Calling, by Edward Bloor

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter

Blood on the River: James Town 1607, by Elisa Carbone

Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker

I also recently read the amazing and well-reviewed What is the What , by Dave Eggers. It's been reviewed to death by everyone from People magazine to NPR to the New York Times Book Review. Needless to say, I loved it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Newbery Medal Speculation

Last month I wrote about Caldecott award speculation. This week, my colleagues are getting together to discuss the young readers' novels they think may be contenders for the American Library Association's Newbery prize.

Here is the short list, according to Denver Public Library librarians:

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
Victory by Susan Cooper
Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman
The Braid by Helen Frost
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
Drita, My Homegirl by Lombard
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

I have Clementine, Blood on the River, and The Loud Silence of Francine Green on my bookshelf right now, so I'll let you know how they are.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Kiki Strike

I just finished reading the girl-power young adult novel Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller. What an awesome book!

The story follows a group of girls with spy power skills as they navigate an old city under New York and fight crime. It couldn't get any better - with tips on disguises, how to tell if someone's lying to you, and self-defense, this is a sure-fire winner.

I love it!