Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Devi Banks has no idea what she should do now. Her boyfriend of four years just broke up with her - right before they graduate high school. She has no other friends. She has no other goals. She has no idea how to be her when she's spent so much time being an 'us'. Through a fortuitous accident, she finds herself able to call her Freshman self on her cell phone, and she hatches a plan to save herself from heartbreak. If she never dates her boyfriend, she could have a completely different life! She could still have other friends! She could have no idea about what she's about to do...

The story started out kind of slowly for me, but before I knew it I was completely wrapped up in the story. (I even woke up early to finish it before work, and I almost never do that) The plot kind of reminded me of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with the idea that you can just erase parts of you to avoid being sad or however you feel. In this story, though, when Devi changed the past, she also changed the present. So that it's not just that she wouldn't be sad about being dumped - she'd never be dumped! Or would she? There are lots of interesting ideas on free will and inevitability, as well as chaos theory and time travel.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Karma Club by Jessica Brody
Hell Phone by William Sleator
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Friday, July 30, 2010

Last December by Matt Beam

Things are easy for Steven. His mom is pregnant; her boyfriend took off. They don't have much money - not even enough to play Ms. Pac-Man at the local donut shop. He didn't make the high school hockey team. He's not sure what he's doing with his life. Then he meets Byron, a guy who shows him how Ms. Pac-Man can help explain the mysteries of the universe, and nothing really seems the same. Following in Byron's advice, Steve starts writing a letter to his unborn sibling (he calls her Sam in his mind) that reflects Byron's "balls-to-the-wall" style.

I really liked that I had no idea where this book was going. I couldn't guess how much distance Steven had from what he was writing. At one part Steven starts thinking about his dad (he died when Steven was young) and how much better it was that he didn't know his dad, and maybe his sister would be better off if she didn't know her brother. At that part I started thinking maybe it was a suicide note, and things started seeming pretty dark. The historical aspect of the novel comes through (it's set in the early 80s), but it doesn't hit you over the head; I was a number of pages in before I even realized it. This novel is an interesting look into a guy's mind as he starts feeling more and more untethered in his own life.

Find it on IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Knife that Killed Me by Anthony McGowan
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Party by Tom Leveen
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne M. LaFleur
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Thursday, July 29, 2010

America and the Pill by Elaine Tyler May

On the fiftieth anniversary of the FDA approval of the birth control pill, Elaine Tyler May has created a very readable history that traces how the pill went from wishful thinking to medical reality to centre of controversy to an everyday reality. I was expecting this to be a dense, heavy look that emphasized the science part of it, but it wasn't that at all. Instead, it focused more on the history, the social implications, and the people involved with the development of the pill. The book was at its strongest when detailing the conflicted attitudes that people had about the pill and when talking about why there isn't yet a male birth control pill. At times some aspects did seem a little bit glossed over (such as the information on the original clinical trials), but the trade-off of this is a book that's approachable for many people. I hope that people do pick this book up, especially women like the ones who contributed to the last chapter in the book on the pill today - it shows how far things have come, and all the changes that had to happen for it to be that way.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
This Man's Pill by Carl Djerassi
The Moral Property of Women by Linda Gordon
Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
BITCHfest edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler
Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists by J. Courtney Sullivan and Courtney E. Martin

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sky-High Guy by Nina Crews

Jack and his action figure Guy are quite a pair! They love to team up and have great adventures. But when Guy gets stuck in a tree, will Jack be able to get him down? Is this the end of Jack and Guy's adventures?

Imagination is one of the main characters in this book; the whole story either celebrates the characters' imagination or engages in 'what if?' thinking. The photographs that accompany the story could be great for children who respond to more realistic imagery. There's also a nice message about brothers and cooperation. I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but it took me right back to when I was playing with my own 'action figures' (Barbies, in my case) and how much fun I had.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Below by Nina Crews
Look Book by Tana Hoban
The Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett
Mattland by H. J. Hutchins

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver

One of my favourite things about the summer is that it becomes socially acceptable to eat hot dogs. The rest of the year, there's a sort of defensiveness about it, but once the hot weather, baseball games, and street fairs roll around, it's like the hot dog season has started. In this book, Adrienne Sylver traces the history of the hit dog from its origins to its current incarnations. Elwood H. Smith has created illustrations that engage the reader - and made my mouth water. There are all kinds of fun facts, trivia bits, and added details that take this beyond a simple book about hot dogs (look for information on ketchup and mustard, too, for instance). I think this book has appeal for kids of all ages - as well as adults looking forward to grabbing a hot dog at a ball game, parade, or barbecue.

Find it on IndieBound.

Read it with:
More Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems
This Book is Called the Burger and the Hot Dog by Jim Aylesworth
Stan the Hot Dog Man by Ethel Kessler

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

An origami Yoda can't really predict the future...can it? One class believes that it can. Tommy isn't so sure, and he's decided to be as scientific as he can in finding out the truth. He asks the class for their experiences, has them record it in a notebook, has a friend add illustrations, and gives space for a known skeptic to refute the magic of Origami Yoda. This is that notebook.

This was such a fun book to read. I really love stories that are incorporating a number of different styles, including the hybrid of pictures and words; there are some really great books like that these days. This book perfectly captured the feeling that you have a child and you're pretty sure about something, but not quite, and you think it's impossible, but maybe there's a way? The perfect space for a story.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom! by Louis Sachar
Dodger and Me by Jordan Sonnenblick
Party by Tom Leveen
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
Yoda in Action! by Heather A. Scott
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Big Nate in a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

Genevieve is a modern twenty-first century tween. She has never milked a cow, churned butter, weeded a cornfield, or washed clothes by hand on a washboard. That all changes when her mom signs them up for a summer at an authentic 1890s farm, where they have no electricity, no modern conveniences, and no idea what they're doing. Genvieve figures out how to send out messages to her friends back home, updating them on her farming misadventures - and everyone is in for a surprise when the messages turn out to be a worldwide sensation.

When I started this book, it made me really glad that I was an adult; that way, no one could force me to spend a summer recreating the 1890s on a farm. That stayed with me through most of the book, but once I could get past that, I started to get interested in the farm lifestyle and politics. There's a sweet tween romance running through the book, too, along with some interesting family dynamics.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Big Swim by Cary Fagan
Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Party by Tom Leveen

The quiet girl that's hiding a big secret. The football star. The guy who works at the pizza place. The girl holding it all together. The guy looking to hook up. The guy who was just dumped. The girl who dumped him. School's out for summer, and they're all heading to the same party.

People never experience the same thing in the same way, so Tom Leveen tells this story through everyone's eyes. Each character gets a chapter to explain what they saw and what they did. Characters make appearances in other chapters, of course, because they're all part of the story. I really love this idea and structure for a book. Some of the characters got to me more than others, but I kept reading because I need to know what happened to everyone - at least on this one night.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Party, After You Left by Roz Chast
I Am Invited to a Party by Mo Willems
House Party by Eric Walters
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

If you had a garden, what would you plant in it? Carrots? Flowers? This little girl would definitely have jellybean bushes, giant tomatoes, magicly regrowing flowers, and chocolate rabbits. Kevin Henkes accompanies the delightful fantasy with soft, colourful illustrations that bring this dream world to life. Henkes is one of my favourite writers for young children (Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is one of my absolute favourite picture books), and this is a lovely addition to his books for preschoolers. The story reminded me of the song that says if all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops, oh what a world it would be!

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Birds by Kevin Henkes
A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli
Harry and Horsie by Katie Van Camp

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Samantha is not sure exactly what happened. She was at a party, something happened, there was an accident, and now she's repeating that last day over and over again. She sees new things, though, that make her question how she acted before. Is it too late to change things? Is there anything that she can do to save herself from whatever fate she met that night?

As I read this, I kept thinking, "What would you do if you knew today was your last day?" A question like that is often used as a justification or a call to live life with no regret, but really, if you knew today was all you had, how would you spend it? What choices would you make? Would you tie up loose ends? Could you make amends for past wrongs? And, running parallel to that question: "If you understood how your actions shape others, would you change how you act?" Taking these questions and putting them in high school is I think one of the reasons that Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall has been so successful.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim is living exactly the life he wants to live. He's in a band, he lives with his best friend (yeah, they have to sleep in the same bed, but that's totally just a space issue), he's dating a cute girl, and at 23, he has his whole life ahead of him. Then he meets Ramona Flowers, and she changes everything. Scott learns that in order to be with her, he will have to defeat all of her seven evil exes. And he wants to be with her. So things are going to get interesting.

I will fully admit that I picked this up because of the upcoming movie (I'm a big fan of Michael Cera and am curious to see what he does with the role). I liked the storyline, I liked the artwork, I liked the concept, and I liked that it's recognizably set in the Toronto area.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Skim by Mariko Tamaki

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga

Two awesome concepts come together in this book: graphic novels, and choose your own adventure. There are over 3000 different ways this story could go - and it's up to the reader to decide what happens. Stories jump from page to page, forwards, backwards, right to left, left to right, and sometimes they end unexpectedly. Who knew that so much could start with an ice cream cone?

I don't even know if you can say that you've read this book, because I only went through one possible story. Still, it was enough for me to see this is a seriously cool book. It's the kind of book that just screams out for "show this to a reluctant reader!" because it's kind of like a game, but there's a lot of sophisticated reading strategies that this book draws from. This was my introduction to Jason Shiga, but it's a name I'll be looking for in the future.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Bookhunter by Jason Shiga
Meanwhile by Jules Feiffer
Agent Mongoose and the Hypno-Beam Scheme by Dan Jolley
Project UFO by R.A. Montgomery

Monday, July 19, 2010

Murder She Wrote: Madison Avenue Shoot by Donald Bain

Jessica Fletcher is back, in book form. This time she's off to Madison Avenue to shoot a credit card commercial. She hadn't counted on running into...murder! And with her nephew Grady and his son accidentally part of the investigation, she will have her hands full trying to solve the murder while reading her lines.

If you like either Murder, She Wrote the TV series or low-impact mysteries, these are excellent choices. And I have to admit, one of my favourite things about the books are the way that they just stick Angela Lansbury's head on different bodies on the matter what she faces, she's still smiling away!

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Nashville Noir by Donald Bain
Murder Never Takes a Holiday by Donald Bain
Panning for Murder by Donald Bain