Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 YA Favorites

I didn't read as much as I wanted to this year, but isn't that always the case?
Here are my favorite YA books of the year:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Werewolf love story.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Dystopian bloodbath... love story.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Identity struggles in historical fiction.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale

The land of Bayern revisited.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Religious extremists and polygamy.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Dystopian visions of the undead.

Fade by Lisa McMann

Falling into others' dreams.

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead

Protecting vampires' lazy, elitist butts.

Envy (Luxe #3) by Anna Godbersen

High society New York a century ago.

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare

Action-packed incestual love story.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lion, Mouse, Ogre

The Lion and the Mouse
written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Displayed above is a side-by-side view of the front and back covers of this book. Generally, I'm not fond of covers without title and author information, but I will make an exception for Mr. Pinkney. This wordless picture book of Aesop's fable "The Lion and the Mouse" is in fact exceptional, and there's nothing else for me to say about it. Go buy it. I think I will too.

And then there's Awful Ogre, who warms my heart in an entirely different way. I first read Awful Ogre's Awful Day written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky about four years ago when I was student teaching in a third grade classroom. I read it aloud to my students, and they gobbled it up. They loved it so much that it inspired us to explore poetry for the next month or more. I recently shared it with my third grade students in the library, which received mixed responses. Nonetheless, I love this book of poetry and wanted to share my enthusiasm for it with a new group of students.

So, how excited was I to find that there's another Awful Ogre book that I have yet seen?! Pretty darn excited, let me tell you. I snatched it up from my free library's new books section and took it home to read aloud (because you have to read poetry aloud!). Awful Ogre Running Wild is indeed a companion book, written and illustrated by the same duo, and it is just as much fun as the first. In fact, there are many parallels between the two books, which makes them very useful for lessons on poetry in the classroom or library. Not having Awful Ogre's Awful Day in front of me, the most obvious correlations I could make were the following:

Running Wild
  • "Awful Ogre's Picnic" with his girlfriend
  • "Awful Ogre Enters a Cook-Off"
  • "Awful Ogre Pays a Visit" to his grandma
  • "Awful Ogre Stays at an Inn"
  • "Awful Ogre Has Insomnia"
Awful Day
  • AO writes a letter to his ogress girlfriend
  • AO wins a gardening contest
  • AO's great-grandnephew (or something of the sort) visits him
  • AO goes out to eat at a restaurant
  • AO dreams
The one problem I have with this new book, however, is that there are some poems that take up four pages instead of a two-page spread. I expected the poem to end, but then I turned the page and there was more! But that's not much to gripe about, eh?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two middle grade novels with strong female protagonists

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
Oh, how this book broke my heart. Over and over again. Aubrey is an eleven year-old girl who has just recently been in a devastating car accident. Her father and younger sister were both killed, while her mom and Aubrey both survived. But Aubrey doesn't consider herself a survivor, and she doesn't think of herself any differently than before. Even when her mom leaves home and doesn't come back. Not that night, not the next day, not even a week later. But after a week of living on her own, Aubrey is whisked away to live with her Gran, her mom's mom, for the summer, while the search is on for her mother. She makes a friend next door, and she writes letters that she never sends, all in the hopes of dealing with her grief and abandonment. Aubrey's voice is distinctly eleven years old - she's emotional yet pragmatic, sensitive and on the brink of a meltdown. But she finds ways to cope.

We received this as a new book a couple weeks ago, and I snatched it up before any students could check it out. I read it in one night and brought it back the next day for fifth grade students to have a chance to check it out. I did pass it on to one girl, warning her that it was a very emotional book dealing with some difficult subjects, but she decided that she still wanted to read it. She came back after Thanksgiving break and told me that she read it over the weekend and cried. She really liked the book, so much that she shared the story with her family - and they seemed to get a bit emotional over it too. I was so happy to hear back from her and especially to find that she had engaged her family in discussion over the book. It was definitely one of those moments that reminded me why I love my job.

Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum
I'm not generally a fan of historical fiction, but I'm always in the mood for girls taking charge of their lives and going out to make it on their own. This book is set in the late 1800s with a girl, her mom, and her mom's friend shipping out from Boston to San Francisco, a ridiculously long and complicated boat journey. They finally make it to the coast with hardly any money left and completely alien surroundings and customs.

I'm about halfway through this book, and I am loving it. Amelia, the 12 year-old girl, is a problem solver. She knows what needs to be done, so she goes out and does it. She sees injustice in the ways that women and girls are treated, and she will not stand for it, even if that means getting bopped in the head or worse. Although the girl disguising herself as a boy story has been played out in many ways, I'm still interested to see where this one goes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

National Book Award nominations...

This year's NBA nominations for Young People's Literature are... diverse? Out of the blue? Strange? I don't know how I feel about it. A part of me rejoices that the author judges have recognized books that may not get a lot of attention otherwise - but how can I say that when I haven't read any of the books? Here they are:

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
by Deborah Heiligman

I actually have this book checked out right now, but I haven't read it yet. It's children's narrative nonfiction, which is a blossoming field. SLJ says it's for grades 8 and up, which is understandable, and my library shelves it in the biography section. I've read many rave reviews, so it looks like I'll have to bump it up on my to-read list.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
by Phillip Hoose

Another biography, this one grade 6 and up. Before Rosa Parks got famous, teenager Claudette Colvin refused to move to the back of the bus. Here's her nearly forgotten story.

Lips Touch: Three Times
by Laini Taylor

Three short stories about kissing. YA. Great cover.

by Rita Williams-Garcia

Realistic fiction about bullying in school. YA.

Stitches: A Memoir
by David Small

Graphic novel memoir of David Small. YA? Some people disagree. I'm intrigued.

So, I don't know if "young people" are being represented here. Young adults surely are. And it is nice to see a blend of fiction, nonfiction, short stories, and even a graphic novel. Too bad there wasn't a novel in verse. There may be a little bit of sarcasm in the previous statement.

The judges who nominated these titles and will be voting on the winner are:

Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath

Coe Booth, author of Kendra and Tyrell

Carolyn Coman, author of What Jamie Saw and Many Stones

Nancy Werlin, author of The Rules of Survival and Impossible

Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese and The Eternal Smile

Maybe it's just me, but I can definitely match this year's nominees to judges' own writing styles and preferences.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two down, many more to go...

I went to the library today to return Fire and Shiver because I read them both over the weekend. That's 744 pages. Woo!

I love reading books back to back because I can rather unfairly compare my reading experiences of the two. In this case, Shiver wins. Okay, fine, it's not a competition, but when I think of which experience I enjoyed more, which book captivated me the most, it's Shiver, no contest. It had several things going for it at the start, though, so again, it's an unfair match. First of all, I love books told in alternating points of view. Especially when one of them is the voice of werewolf boy - oh, how my heart melts instantly. And I'm not a Jacob fan. But this story was so... soft... sweet... gentle. Those words don't quite capture the essence of the book.

You know, now that I think of it, Shiver had a Time Traveler's Wife feel to it. The woods behind the house where the girl finds her one true love - though, in this case, it's a wolf she bonds with and doesn't realize he's actually human until she's in high school. I loved the romance in this story - not quite explicit (this is where "sweet" comes in), just a boy and a girl who spend lots of time together and know that that's all they want to do - be together. Grace and Sam are wonderful together, and yes, I was sobbing by the end of the book. This is one that could have easily been marketed as an adult novel too, had the characters not been in their late teens.

As for Fire, oh what can I say? I wanted to love it. I loved Graceling. But I just wasn't feeling this one. So much war! Fire is an intriguing character, one that I would have liked to know better, but I just felt like all of the war planning and politics got in the way. The romance in this story is sweet too and most of the reason why I kept reading the book. I would have put it down fairly quickly had I not been curious as to who Fire would choose and whether or not her love would be returned. But this was only a subplot to the book, I think, so I can't really love the book for it. There were too many other parts that I would have liked to skip. And maybe it's just because I despise so greatly anything to do with war that I couldn't enjoy it. I don't know. And I also don't know who to recommend it to, which is an even worse problem. Will fans of Graceling like it? Some people seem to think so, but I think it's so far from Graceling that I wouldn't even consider it. Hmm...

Oh, and I couldn't help myself but leave with three more books from the library today...

by Maggie Stiefvater
The Van Alen Legacy (Blue Bloods #4) by Melissa de la Cruz
Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley

That's two faeries and a vampire. I can't help myself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Giddy for new books!

I have a small confession to make. I stalk books. There are some books that I, and I'm sure others do this too, find out about months, sometimes a year, before they are published, and I anxiously await the day when they hit the shelves. Unlike others, I do not purchase books. I don't pre-order books. I humbly put myself on my library's hold list, and I wait it out. And the best feeling in the getting new books world is when I receive that little e-mail telling me that one of the books I requested oh-so-long ago has finally become available for me to check out. Oh, it's like Christmas!

But wait! What happens when FOUR of those highly anticipated, oh I just can't wait to read them, books become available?! Yes, this is my current joy and dilemma.

by Kristin Cashore
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Forest Born by Shannon Hale

What to read first?! How am I to decide?! Can I read all four simultaneously? I know I'm being a little silly, but I am giddy! I have been reading rave reviews of these books since before the summer, and I am just ecstatic that I get to experience them too. :D

And on top of all that, I just finished reading two supremely excellent books that I had also been waiting to read:

A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

My Goodreads review of Flygirl:
Generally, I'm not a fan of historical fiction, and I really don't like anything war-related, but this was a fresh perspective, a different side of the war that I had never seen or heard of before. I think this would be a great addition as a choice novel for students studying World War II - especially those who are like me and are not fond of the actual war side of things. There are always people back at home who may not be directly affected by war but are trying to help in any way that they know how. And that's our Ida Mae Jones. A light-skinned African-American young woman who loves to fly and wants to support her brother who has just been sent off to the war - so she becomes a WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots. But in order to do so, she needs to pass as a white woman. It's complicated and emotional, and at times, frightening. Ida Mae is one of those characters you get to know and love, even if you don't always agree with her.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Folk and fairy tales library rant

I love retold fairy tales. I didn't read many of the classics growing up, living in an immigrant household, but I did watch a lot of Disney movies. It wasn't until college that I realized Disney sure took a lot of liberties with the originals. When I took Storytelling a couple years ago, I was re-hooked.

I'm currently reading A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, a Rumpelstiltskin retelling. Although I'm loving the book so far, I'm finding it hard to remember the original fairy tale. So, I went to the library, and headed for the 398.2s, the folk and fairy tale section, and was disappointed to find that not all Rumpelstiltskins were shelved together. This was rather frustrating since I'm both a librarian and a library patron, and at that moment, I was definitely wearing my patron hat. I want to be able to go the shelf and find what I need without having to hunt around for it. Doesn't it make more sense to shelve all retellings of the same classic together? Wouldn't it be nice to find all Cinderellas next to each other on the shelf? In my future library, I say, forget Dewey - I'm putting all the similar folk tales together. Sure, maybe some people care to group the regions of the world from which the tales originated together, but I think it's far more likely that they want the actual tales together. It definitely makes browsing easier - and honestly, it makes shelving easier too. Isn't that what it's about in the first place? Easy access for patrons that actually makes sense to them. Dewey is hard enough to figure out in the first place - anything we can do to simplify it, I think, will be much appreciated by library users. Myself included!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Checked out (2)

After finding out that all of the Philadelphia libraries are closing, I decided to take a trip to my library and do a little browsing. I came out with a nice mix, if I do say so myself.

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything
written by Lenore Look, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

I've been meaning to read this book since it came out, and now I have to read it because it's one of the Monarch Award nominees this year. Kirkus says it's "reminiscent of Beverly Clearly's infamous Ramona Quimby." I will probably agree.

Prudence & Moxie: A Tale of Mismatched Friends
written by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by AnnaLaura Cantone

Sitting on the new book shelf, calling out to me with its uniquely named main characters and beautifully muted fall colors. Much of the reason I ever pick up a picture book is because of the artwork, especially the color palette and medium - some seem like they were just made for me, and this is one of them. The frantic line drawings with the stitched page borders, bright purples and pinks and muddy yellows and greens - sigh.

Paris Pan takes the Dare
written by Cynthea Liu

I just recently heard about this book on Shelf Elf's blog and was definitely intrigued since I'm currently in a middle school with many mystery fans. Cynthea Liu will also be at the ISLMA conference next month, so I thought I'd check out her book before heading over to one of her sessions on Saturday.

The Naked Mole-Rat Letters
written by Mary Amato

I don't know anything about this book except that it's a Rebecca Caudill Award nominee this year, so I must read it.

My Life in France
written by Julia Child

I meant to read this after I read Julie and Julia, but I never got around to it. It might take me through Thanksgiving break to actually read it, but there it is, my personal choice for this semester.

Me with You
written by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Christopher Denise

I have been waiting to read this picture book since I first saw it on the PlanetEsme blog back in June. Sweet story about a little girl bear and her grandfather. This one has large text (a sentence per spread) and seems to be great for the wee ones, toddlers through kindergarten maybe.

Home of the Brave
written by Katherine Applegate

I am so guilty of judging a book by its cover. This cover creeps me out, and I would have never picked it up had it not been on the Caudill list this year. It also looked like it would be a heavy read, especially at 253 pages, but I was happy to find that it's written in verse. So, I think I'll try it out.

Gone with the Wand
written by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Brian Ajhar

What can I say? My faerie obsession started when I was a little girl the first time I saw Disney's Cinderella. Sure, that fairy was adorable, elderly, plump, and sugary sweet, but the fascination with all things faerie must have started there. So, it's a given that I will read (or watch) any sort of Cinderella remake. Because it's my story; it's the one that reminds me of my childhood.

First Light
written by Rebecca Stead

Another Caudill nominee; it looks pretty. :)

Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand
written by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by David Christiana

I was wandering through the children's section, looking for an entirely different book altogether, but I saw this one protruding from the shelf, took one look at the cover art and author and decided that I needed to read it. Fairy obsessed, I know. But unfortunately, this is a sequel. So, I will have to go back and find Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg before I read this one.

The Faerie Door
written by B.E. Maxwell

It's no coincidence that my recent faerie addiction corresponds with a huge boom of faerie literature in the book market. Vampires, too. And I'm slowly getting on board with the zombies.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
written by Vicki Myron

I've been meaning to read this book for awhile too, but again, I think I might have to put it on hold. This copy smells so heavily of smoke that I need to return it to the library like right now. Blech. I'm looking forward to the picture book though.

The Secrets of Greymoor
written by Clara Gillow Clark

This is a middle grade historical fiction mystery - woo! Thanks to the YA Books Central blog for the tip on this one.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Busy week

I might just be the last librarian in Illinois to read The Time Traveler's Wife, but oh well. I am so happy that I did. Before I gush (and oh how I'll gush), let me explain the kind of week I was having before I decided to embrace this beautiful book.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
What can I say? I couldn't get through it. I couldn't force myself to like it, as hard as I tried. I couldn't love all the wonderful things that so many others have loved about it. I was bored. And I have read a few too many Holocaust books. Wasn't there an article in School Library Journal or maybe VOYA about the over-abundance of Holocaust novels? Yes, well, I agree. And even though I do enjoy Zusak as a writer, I could not get into The Book Thief. And that's after 250 pages!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Oh, what is it with me and award winners? Why can't we get along? Am I the only one who didn't like this book too? I feel ashamed to wear my librarian hat when I say this, but this book bored me too. The style reminded me of something like Heidi or Anne of Green Gables (both favorites of mine), except with a boy character I felt I hardly got to know. And when all the Jacks showed up! Goodness me, I groaned out loud and slammed the book shut. This book gave me a headache to read, but I'm just going to chalk it up to personal preference because it's not as if it was poorly written. Just not my cup of tea.

So, after these two back-to-back awful reading experiences, I was in need of a little pick-me-up. I read the first 20 pages of The Time Traveler's Wife, got weepy, and immediately decided that it was my current favorite book. The next day I read the remaining 520 pages (after a full day at school mind you!) and was so incredibly grateful and pleased and emotional. First of all, a librarian living in 90s Chicago who time travels and falls in love with a beautiful artist who loves him back unconditionally? Um, Ms. Niffenegger, did you happen to write this book for me? Thank you! I loved touring Chicago with Henry and Clare - I've been to just about all of those places too! It's nice to be able to relate, at least in terms of setting, especially since not that many books that I read are set in Chicago. Okay, but it was so much more than the fact that Henry's a librarian somewhat like me and he lives in Chicago at the time that I did too (all happy coincidences) - he's not the ideal husband, I must say, but he's a real guy. Well, minus the time traveling thing. He's broken with too many vices and a generally screwed-up life, but he finds a way to make it work. And Clare! Oh, sweet Clare. Sometimes I wonder if Clare would have loved Henry had he not visited her when she was a child, but ultimately, I think that she would have. It was just a cheating way of seeing the potential in someone. Anyhow, I love love loved this book but can't read it again anytime soon because I cried my eyes out and spent the whole day reading it. I saw the movie the next day, and while it was nice, it couldn't possibly show enough of the story to give it real depth.

Oh, by the way, I started student teaching at a middle school library this week, and tomorrow I will be booktalking the following books:

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
Boy by Roald Dahl
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
Behind the Curtain by Peter Abrahams (maybe - I might switch this one out)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

How exciting!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


After spending a mostly responsibility-free week in sunny Orange Beach, AL without ANY internet interactions (okay, I renewed a book and used Google Maps, but those don't really count), I'm wondering where August came from and why it's passing by so quickly. I start student teaching on Monday, and while I'm excited about the experience, I'm surprised that it's right around the corner. To prepare, I spent most of my summer reading YA and middle school fiction, but recently, I took a break and read books I wanted to read for me. Sometimes it's hard to tell because there's so much overlap (yes, I like faeries and I'm not a teenager), but here are three books I can confidently say that I really wanted to read without any reference to work or school. Woo.

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

I'll admit that I saw the preview for the movie before I had ever heard of the book. That's usually how it goes, eh? And sometimes, most of the time really, I'd rather see the movie than read the book. Hey, if they've gone through the trouble of producing the thing, I should just see it, right? Yes, I know those are all horrible things to say and think, but I'm a book-is-always-better-than-the-movie kinda gal, so I don't mind saying them. In this case, I'm worried, though. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I did read the book (on the beach, listening to the waves crashing, smelling the ocean air), and while I enjoyed it immensely, I think it will translate better to film. Apparently, I'm not the only one. I'm also worried because I don't know if Amy Adams can do Julie Powell - Julie seems like an edgy gal, with a stubborn and fiery streak, sometimes crude, and mostly frustrated, at least in how she portrays herself in the book. And Amy Adams is just so sugary sweet (in a good way, of course). Ah well, I'll go see it sometime soon and maybe post what I think.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Oh, I have so much love for this book! First of all, I never thought I'd like a book written in letters (what's it called... epistolary?) as much as I did. I thought it would be confusing, especially with the introduction of a whole slew of characters, but it wasn't. I'd summarize it, but I really can't. Have you ever stumbled upon a bundle of letters in your parents' attic and just pored over them for hours? Or an old journal at an estate sale? I can't explain the fascination with it - it's just such an intimate way to see into a story, to get to know a group of people. It didn't hurt that I actually enjoyed the story part of it either. What can I say? I love books about books. :)

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This one's at my bedside and next on my list. Rachel McAdams made me want to read it. Sorry, Audrey.
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