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Showing posts from October, 2012

The Spy Princess

Sherwood Smith is an author I can always count on for a good tale of magic, suspense, and intrigue so was I excited when my library so quickly obtained a copy of The Spy Princess . Synopsis (from Goodreads): When twelve-year-old Lady Lilah decides to disguise herself and sneak out of the palace one night, she has more of an adventure than she expected--for she learns very quickly that the country is on the edge of revolution. When she sneaks back in, she learns something even more surprising: her older brother Peitar is one of the forces behind it all. The revolution happens before all of his plans are in place, and brings unexpected chaos and violence. Lilah and her friends, leaving their old lives behind, are determined to help however they can. But what can four kids do? Become spies, of course! I was immediately sucked into Lilah's story, and for the first half of the book completely engaged. Lilah is a great young heroine. Resourceful, brave, headstrong, loyal,


If Endangered by Eliot Schrefer had not been named as a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, I probably would not have been inclined to pick it up. So thank you NBA committee. Endangered is a complex book, and as a result my feelings about it are complex. It is well deserving of its finalist status and is a powerful story. Sophie spends her school year living with her American father in Miami. She spends her summer living with her mother in the Congo, her mother's native country, where she runs a sanctuary for the endangered bonobos. Bonobos are endangered and Congo is the only place they still live in the wild. Sophie finds herself the surrogate mother of a young bonobo she names Otto and spends her summer caring for him. Right before she is scheduled to leave again there is a coup and violence erupts in the nearby capital, quickly making its way to the sanctuary. Sophie is forced to flee into the jungle with some of the bonobos and begins


Variant by Robison Wells is a book I probably would have completely ignored if not for the review Charlotte for it over at Charlotte's Library. I'm a sucker for boarding school stories and when there is suspense and strange goings on thrown in I will definitely be all over it. Synopsis (From Goodreads): Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life. He was wrong. Now he's trapped in a school that's surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive. Where breaking the rules equals death. But when Benson stumbles upon the school's real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape--his only real hope for survival--may be impossible . I liked Benson. A lot. He is not a bad kid. He does not rejoice in being a rebel. But when t

The Great Unexpected

I am a big fan of Sharon Creech. I have taught Walk Two Moons and I have book talked her other books an insane amount putting them in the hands of lots and lots of students. I was pretty excited when I discovered she had a new novel, The Great Unexpected , coming out this year. Which is why it is so very hard for me to say I was disappointed by it. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Humorous and heartfelt, this is a story of pairs— of Sybil and Nula (sisters who grew up together in Rook’s Orchard, Ireland) and Naomi and Lizzie (both orphans in present day Blackbird Tree, USA) and unraveling mysteries about family and identity. Naomi and Lizzie’s tragedies turn into a life filled with hope, as old misunderstandings and sorrows between Sybil and Nula give way to forgiveness and love. It is about unexpected gifts—the kindness of neighbors giving away their dogs to protect a little girl, of strangers fostering children, and of young people helping old and old helping young. The Grea

Favorite Read Alouds

I have always enjoyed reading out loud. Which is good because I've been asked to do it a lot in my life. I like trying to get the inflections and attitudes of the characters perfect. (I don't do voices-I have not that talent.) Teachers were always asking me to read in class. My junior English teacher counted on it so much that when I developed a horrendous cough in the spring of that year that was agitated by the reading, I would come into class to find a pile of cough drops in the middle of my desk. I didn't mind though because I enjoyed it. Not so much being recognized by my classmates as the girl who always read. That was not so much fun. But I loved the challenge of making the words come out the way the sounded in  my head. I still do. And now I have a captive audience who adores me in the form of my children. There are some books that just make better read alouds than others. Here are some of my favorites: Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child-Okay

On the Day I Died

Everyone knows the story. Teenager in a car on a lonely road stops to pick up a girl alone, shivering, scared, just wanting a ride home. She gets out of the car and leaves something behind. Teenager, in this case a boy named Mike, turns around and takes her belongings (saddle shoes) back to her house. There her mother opens the door and tells him her daughter is dead and has been for years, but every year someone shows up with a pair of saddle shoes. There are variations of the story, but is a common one and it is with this premise that Candace Fleming begins her book On the Day I Died: Stories From the Grave . Mike, needing to be sure, takes the shoes to the cemetery where, sure enough, he finds a grave covered in years of saddle shoes. And he finds ghosts. Nine of them ready to tell him their death stories if only he will listen. All of them died in their teens and all of them need to have their say before moving on. This is the premise for the collection of tales Fleming has com

Seeing Cinderella

Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist is a light entertaining Middle Grade novel about a girl who learns to see herself and those around her a bit more clearly. With the help of some magic glasses. Callie Anderson is dreading middle school, even more now that she has to get glasses. And not just any glasses either, super geeky big clunky black glasses. But Callie soon discovers that her glasses are special. With them on she can see anyone's real thoughts at any given moment. What does the boy she has a crush on really think of her? What is up with her best friend's attitude? What sort of secrets do her new friends and acquaintances have? Can her parents work things out so her Dad can finally move back home? The answers to all these questions and more are at Callie's fingertips. Once she has them though, what will she do about them? Callie's voice is genuinely MG girl. She is sarcastic,  self conscious, self absorbed, and naive. I don't think any 10-12 year old

Listenting to Gary Schmidt

At the University of Tennessee we have this wonderful entity called the Center for Children's and Young Adult Literature . They are pretty awesome. One of the awesome things they do is bring authors and illustrators to our area and then schools are able to share them for the few days they are here. This time also involves a lecture given at UT. This fall's guest was Gary D. Schmidt the absolutely fabulous author of many amazing books including Okay for Now, The Wednesday Wars, and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy . I was able to go to his talk this past Tuesday and let me tell you, I could have listened to him all night. He speaks as well as he writes. Which is saying something. I didn't bring a notepad with me and so took notes on a pack of post-its that was in my purse. I used a lot of post its.  Schmidt started out by telling us a story about his uncle to demonstrate how a young minds internalize things. He moved on to tell a story of Naaman from the Bible (2 King

What Came From the Stars

I love Gary Schmidt's books. Love. Love. Love. You can find my thoughts on three of them here , here , and here . When I found out his next book, What Came From the Stars , was going to be a fantasy I was so excited. I can see how those who love his realistic fiction might be inclined to dislike this one. I didn't. I thoroughly loved it, but in a different way than I love the realistic ones. It is a very different book and I loved it for what it was. Synopsis (from Goodreads): The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion starsall the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass. Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn't notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of a hanorah. As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymo

2012 National Book Award Finalists

The 2012 National Book Award Finalists were announced today. Here is the place to find all the nominees. I am, of course, mostly concerned with the finalist's in Young People's Literature. I have read one of them. One. This is sort of unheard of for me. I suppose I can console myself with the reminder that one of them just came out last week and one won't come out until next week. The Nominees Goblin Secrets by William Alexander Goblin Secrets has been on my TBR since I saw Betsy Bird give it a 5 star rating on Goodreads, read the synopsis, and realized it was exactly my sort of book. I have been waiting patiently for my library to get a copy. That patient wait just came to an end. Except I just ordered a bunch of books. I may have to wait a couple more weeks to order this one. Budgets-sigh. Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos Out of Reach is one of those contemporary YA novels that I usually go running in the other direction from. Not because I don't think the

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Sun and  Moon, Ice and Snow was the only one  of Jessica Day George's fairy tale retellings I had not read and recently decided that I needed to remedy that. I had put it off for so long because the more I love a retelling's source material, the more critical I tend to be of the book. When it comes to fairy tales that means "Beauty and the Beast" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" retellings are going to be judged harder by me. And I wanted to throw the last retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" I read at a wall. I had no such problems with this one though, it is now my favorite of George's retellings. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But

Cybil's Nominations

The nominations for the 2012 Cybils are now open. They opened on Monday really so they've now been open for five days and lots of books have been nominated. But not all of the books and there is still time to nominate even more before the October 15 deadline. If you want to see a book you have enjoyed nominated here is the form to do so .I have listed some books (I haven't read them all) that I know came out this year and that, as far as I can tell, have not been nominated yet. As far as I know they all meet the eligibility requirements. Here is where you can find what has been nominated in each category: Book Apps Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books Fantasy and Science Fiction (MG is first, followed by YA) Some MG Titles not yet nominated: The Icarus Project by Laura Quimby The Star Shard by Frederic S. Durbin The Grave Robber's Apprentice by Allan Stratton Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lindquist The Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks The Pecular by Stefan Ba

The Brixen Witch

I'm always on the lookout for good retellings and so was interested in The Brixen Witch by Stacy DeKeyser as soon as I heard of it. The book is a retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. How many of those can be found? Synopsis (from Goodreads): When Rudi Bauer accidentally takes a witch’s coin, he unleashes her curse. Accident or not, he knows he’s got to fix things, so he tries to return the coin, only to lose it on the witch’s magic mountain just as the snows come. Plagued all winter by terrible dreams, Rudi tries to find the coin again in the spring, but it has vanished—and a plague of rats has descended on his village. Then a stranger arrives and promises to rid the village of rats—for the price of the missing coin. Desperate to get rid of the rats, the villagers agree—but when they cannot pay, the stranger exacts a price too terrible for anyone to bear. Now Rudi is going to need all his courage—and some help from his savvy grandmother and a bold young girl—to s

The Crown of Embers

You know how so often a sequel is disappointing and doesn't live up to the expectations of its predecessor's brilliance? That is a fairly common experience for me. Uncommon is the sequel that is amazingly better than the book you fell in love with in the first place. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson was such a book. Don't misunderstand me. I loved loved loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns when I read it last year. (You can read all my love filled thoughts here .) The Crown of Embers met that love and raised it to the power of infinity. I needed a book like this. One that I could lose myself in and experience without anything marring the enjoyment. This book made me have all the feelings. I kind of just want to bask in those feeling for days, so forgive me if I fail to do nothing more than fangirl through all of this. NOTE: If you have NOT read Girl of Fire and Thorns , STOP reading  this and go read that instead. Then come back and read this. Synopsis (from Goodreads)