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Showing posts from February, 2012

The Undead Poll

The Undead Poll for the 2012 SLJ Battle of the Books is open! What does this mean to you? It means that you can now vote for the book you would like to see most in the final round, in case by some misguided judging strange twist of fate it should be defeated in an earlier round and not be able to go on. Let us say  you are a fan and you really want to see a certain book win. Like this one:  What do you do? First go to this page of the SLJ site. Second, click where it says "enter voting page here". It will take you to a survey site with a list of all 16 books with little circles next to them like bubbles on a multiple choice test. Third, click on the circle next to Chime by Franny Billingsley. Be sure you don't click on any of the other circles. That would mean you were voting for the wrong book. Finally, click on the submit button on the bottom of the page and it will take you to another page assuring you your vote has been counted. You must trust this assurance an

Life: An Exploded Diagram

I don't normally write posts on books that I don't finish completely but am making an exception for Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet. As it is a 2012 BoB contender I want to have a place to link to my thoughts when it is up for competition. Also I thought it might be helpful to some to know why I put it aside and decided to not read it entirely. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside--just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive.  I was really excited about this when it was first listed as a contender in the Battle of the Kid's Books. A YA book about the Cuban Missile Crisis from a British perspective? I was

The Ogre of Oglefort

I have read a couple (and reviewed one ) of Eva Ibbotson's historical romances, but had never read one of her MG fantasies until now. The Ogre of Oglefort was the last fantasy Ibbotson wrote prior to her death in 2010. After reading it I'm very interested in her other such works, particularly as I have a daughter who would gobble them up like chocolate I think. (The copy of Ogre is already in her excited hands.) This book has all kinds of kiddie appeal. Synopsis (from Goodreads): For excitement-hungry orphan Ivo, a mission to save Princess Mirella from the dreaded Ogre of Oglefort is a dream come true. Together with a hag, a wizard, and a troll, Ivo sets out, ready for adventure. But when they get to the ogre's castle, the rescuers are in for a surprise: the princess doesn't need saving, but the depressed ogre does!  The book starts out with a witch needing a familiar because hers has gone on strike. Orphan Ivo volunteers and finds himself on an adventure of

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I don't know the last time I  was so torn in writing a review as I am for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I have never before enjoyed a book so much that I didn't really enjoy. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes o

The Humming Room

Last year I read and loved The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter ( my review ). When I discovered she had a new book out this year and that it was a reworking of The Secret Garden I as eager to see what she would do with it. The Humming Room is faithful to the original plot while bringing the story into a more modern world. Synopsis(from Goodreads): Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life. As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild bo

Gil Marsh

It is hard to write a review for a book when I have the sort of reaction to it that I had for Gil Marsh by A.C.E. Bauer. I was disappointed in it, but not through any fault with the actual writing. This is one of those cases where the author's vision for her story did not match my expectations as a reader. Keeping this in mind I'm going to try and split this into two parts. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Good looking, athletic, and smart, Gill Marsh is the most popular kid at Uruk High School, even though he is only a junior. When Enko, a new kid from Montreal, shows up, Gil is wary. Yet Enko is easy going and matches Gil's athletic prowess without being a threat. Soon, the two become inseparable friends, practicing, studying, and double-dating. Then suddenly, to everyone's shock, Enko succombs to an aggressive cancer. When Enko's parents take his body and return to Canada, Gil is unable to even say good bye. He is inconsolable. Determined to find Enko'

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

 Featuring Bit, age 7 Looking back at my reading history I am pretty sure I can trace my love of political intrigue to Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, which I read for the first time while in the sixth grade. It was my gateway drug. It might seem strange to some that I decided to do at as a read aloud with my second grader. It is a twisty book with a complex plot, but she can pretty much tackle easier MG offerings completely on her own and I wanted to try something that would challenge her brain a bit. She is loving her history unit on Ancient Egypt and was really excited about this book. The Story Slavery is the only life Mara has ever known. One master taught her to read, write, speak Babylonian, and use her head. When Mara finds herself with  a harsher master who cares naught for any of those skills she amuses herself by escaping the manor grounds and stealing pastries from unsuspecting bread boys. Mara's skills capture the attentions of a dangerous man

Between Shades of Gray

Quite honestly I probably never would have chosen to read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys if it had not been chosen as a contender in the SLJ BoBs . Even after my friend Betsy (of Literaritea ) read it and said it was a good read I remained stubborn (and I trust her opinion of books implicitly). I am glad that I was finally pushed into reading it. It is a powerful story about events in history that are not discussed often enough. Synopsis (from Goodreads):   Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for


Warning: If you read Pie by Sarah Weeks you had better either eat first or have pie on hand. You should probably have a pie on hand either way. This is book will make you want to eat one or three. Synopsis (from Goodreads): When Alice's Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily surly cat Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.Suddenly Alice is thrust into the center of a piestorm, with everyone in town trying to be the next pie-contest winner ... including Alice's mother and some of Alice's friends. The whole community is going pie-crazy . . . and it's up to Alice to discover the ingredients that really matter. Like family. And friendship. And enjoying what you do. Pie is a Middle Grade historical fiction set in a small Pennsylvania town in the 1950's. The plot of the  book covers just a couple of days in the

Literary Dads

When I wrote my Literary Moms post last month I said that I would tackle the fathers next. I thought this might be a little easier (even though, as with my mom, no fictional father can come close to the awesomeness that is my dad). It wasn't though. Again I thought of several that were good "types", but again not very many that actually stirred me enough to place the label favorite on them. (Charles Ingalls and Mr. Quimby fall into this category for me.) Here are the ones that I have grown attached to enough to truly care about: The Minister of War Funny that a character who doesn't even have a name, just a title, was the first to pop into my head. He is, of course, written by Megan Whalen Turner who can make you want to know every detail of a character she mentions in one paragraph. As this is the father of her amazingly awesome hero he doesn't actually need a name to make him well loved. The MoW gets awesome points for being Gen's father and surviving to

Graffiti Moon

I have wanted to read Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley since it was released in Australia and started making waves all over the book blogoshpere. Everyone who read it only had praises for it and I became more and more eager for the US release (which is February 14). I was graciously given access to an e-galley by the publisher via NetGalley. It has been downloaded and ready to read for a few weeks but after I had it in my hands I became nervous, worrying I would be disappointed and that it would never live up to those high expectations others praise and months of waiting had built. It did. Oh how it did. And I really wished I hadn't waited until after 10 at night to decide to start reading it. Lucy is out with her two friends celebrating the end of Year Twelve. Her friends are out for the boys, Lucy is out for just one, the mysterious Shadow who has decorated the city with his beautiful graffiti art. She knows a boy who sees the world like that, who can paint like that, will be a b

Dead End in Norvelt

The book with the new shiny medal affixed on its cover, the 2012 Newbery winner.  I had not read it before now because, while I admire author Jack Gantos's talent and versatility, I don't particularly enjoy his work. Just a matter of personal taste. I did enjoy Dead End in Norvelt , not enough to love it, but enough to appreciate it. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a stran


Ever Wake Up in Someone Else's Body? That is the tag line for Martyn Bedford's Flip . The body switching concept is nothing new. Sometimes it is done in a comedic fashion, sometimes in a creepy thriller fashion. Bedford's novel is closer to the creepy thriller side, but it is mostly a story about a boy named Alex who wants nothing more than to have his own life back. Synopsis (from Goodreads): One December night, 14-year-old Alex goes to  bed. He wakes up to  find himself in the wrong bedroom, in an unfamiliar house, in a different part of the country, and it's the middle of June. Six months have disappeared overnight. The family at the breakfast table are total strangers. And when he looks in the mirror, another boy's face stares back at him.  A boy named Flip. Unless Alex finds out what's happened and how to get back to his own life,  he may be trapped forever inside a body that belongs to someone else.    Alex, an asthmatic awkward teen, wakes up

The Shadows

I have been meaning to read The Shadows by Jacqueline West since it won the Cybil  in MG Fantasy and Science Fiction last year. I finally got around to it now that the new winners are about to be announced. I can see why this one was chosen as a winner. This is a story sure to appeal to children who like their fantasy on the slightly creepy side. For adult fans of the genre there is also quite a bit of nostalgia on offer in the book. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there's something odd about the place—not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that's strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets—and

School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books 2012

From now on referred to as SLJ's BoB, or just BoB. For any unfamiliar with this particular celebration of children's literature you are in for a treat. They start with 16 books and in the end they have one winner, and authors do the choosing. Watching this unfold is one of the highlights of my year. It is that much fun. They released the 16 titles today and you can view the brackets to see who will be competing against who in round one. Here is the list of titles: Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming ( my Goodreads review ) Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys Bootleg by Karen Blumenthal The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright ( my review ) Chime by Franny Billingsley ( my review ) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos Drawing from Memory by Alan Say The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami ( my review ) Heart and Soul by Kadir