Monday, May 31, 2010

Look Book by Tana Hoban

Take a good look at all of the photographs in this book. First, they're covered up with only a small circle showing, and then the page is turned to reveal the entire picture. Some of them are really tricky! Tana Hoban's excellent photographs are what make this book so fun to explore. It brought back memories of trying to figure out closeup shots of bigger things in the back of a science magazine I used to read when I was a kid. It's a great type of book to read with a kid who thinks reading is boring; looking at this book can seem more like playing a game.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
Just Look by Tana Hoban

Friday, May 28, 2010

Murder, She Wrote: A Fatal Feast by Donald Bain

It's Thanksgiving in Cabot Cove, Maine, and Jessica Fletcher is hoping to show her Scottish friend George Sutherland an old-fashioned American holiday. She hadn't counted on being swept into a murder investigation! When a body is discovered near her home, and she has ties to the victim and the murder weapon, Jessica and George try to figure out exactly who the murderer is, and why the man was killed.

I am a big fan of Murder, She Wrote, the TV show, and I recently discovered this series of mystery novels. They aren't based on the TV shows exactly - they aren't novelizations of the shows - but they do feature the same main character, supporting characters, and settings. Jessica, as usual, comes off like she might be one of your elderly relatives (she sometimes breaks into her narrative to give her opinions on things like social assistance, manners, gossip, food, or anything else). The mystery in this one is fairly predictable; I was expecting there to be at least one more twist and turn. The murder didn't come until more than halfway through the book, and there was one subplot that was more idiotic than compelling. Having said all that, though, I have already put more MSW novels on hold at the library, because these books are like a warm blanket or chicken soup - perfect to curl up with on a rainy afternoon.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Madison Avenue Shoot by Donald Bain
Murder on Parade by Donald Bain
Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
The Murder, She Wrote Cookbook edited by Tom Culver and Nancy Goodman Iland
Mystery! A Celebration : Stalking Public Television's Greatest Sleuths by Ron Miller

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis

A writer vanishes from his home, his papers undisturbed. A woman leaves her boyfriend and their roommate to reconfigure their lives in her absence. A young teacher arrives in the Canadian West with one fiance, but adds a second while she's there. An older man romances an ice-cream scooper named after Nina Simone. Two sisters deal with getting older and the repercussions of their parents' separation. These are just some of the short stories found in Deborah Willis' debut collection of fiction.

I had the pleasure of hearing Deborah Willis do a reading from Vanishing and Other Stories, which was how I discovered the book. She was a great storyteller in person and totally hooked me on this collection. Each story was the perfect length - even with the ones I really loved, I was okay when they ended, because I felt their story had been told. I found I kept saying "Just one more story" before I would put the book down. I can't wait to see Deborah Willis' next book. Vanishing and Other Stories was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Fiction.

Visit Deborah Willis' website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
The Collected Stories by Carol Shields
The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger
Galore by Michael Crummey
The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson is floating, basically, through high school, not caring too much, overshadowed by his best friend Tiny Cooper. will grayson is gay, depressed, angry, and carrying on a year-long long-distance internet relationship with someone who has deceived him. One night, in a porn shop of all places, Will Grayson meets will grayson, and neither of them will ever be the same.

When I first heard that John Green and David Levithan were joining forces to write a YA novel, I thought my head was going to explode from excited anticipation. I love both of these authors separately, and it turns out that I love it when the write together, too. I have a list of fictional things that I wish were real (the Dracula puppet musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Man Inside Me by Tobias Funke, most of Troy McClure's films), but I would really love to see Tiny Dancer/Hold Me Closer.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart
The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan

Rubina has been invited to a birthday party! She's super excited about it - but that excitement comes crashing down when her mother insists that her little sister Sana has to go too! Her friends will think she's weird, and Sana will spoil everything! But when Sana eats Rubina's lollipop, she's gone too far! Can Rubina ever forgive her?

(Spoilers, because the ending is the best part)

Everyone, this book made me cry. It was just so great. Years later, Sana gets invited to a birthday party, and her mother insists she takes her younger sister with her. But Rubina realizes how bad this will be, and says to her mother that Sana should be able to alone, and she does, and then she gives Rubina a lollipop! It's so (no pun intended) sweet, and just a perfect sister moment. I love Rukhsana Khan's story but also Sophie Blackall's illustrations. Excitement, jealousy, anger, frustration, confusion, and so much more are expertly captured. (My favourite is the two-page spread where Sana, after eating Rubina's lollipop, offers her the little triangle stuck to the end of the stick, and then, after Rubina throws it behind the sofa, Sana sneaks off and eats it). Definitely seek this one out. I think it's a story that kids will love, but also one that would be a great present for a younger - or older - sister.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Silly Chicken by Rukhsana Khan
I Want Two Birthdays! by Tony Ross
Lizzy's Lion by Denis Lee
Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Monday, May 24, 2010

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Four students are selected to represent the sixth grade in the Academic Bowl. They have been chosen by their teacher, who has seen something special in all of them. But when they beat the seventh grade, and then the eighth grade, she starts to realize exactly how special the group is. As we learn more about what brought them all together, she starts to wonder: did she choose them, or did they choose her?

I was on a quiz team in high school, so I loved that aspect of the story. I also really like stories where characters and events weave in and out - much likeLost, where characters would show up in other peoples' backstories and stories and events would end up being connected to so much more.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Q & A by Vikas Swarup
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo by Ayun Halliday

Guess what you can find at the zoo? Animal heinies! This rhyming picture book takes you on a journey through the zoo, pointing out all of the animals that just let their rear-end hang out.

Heinies are a great topic for humour, especially for young children. This book isn't graphic, really, it just shows a lot of animal backsides. I think that this book could be used as a great title for helping to talk to children about why we wear clothes. Dan Santat's illustrations are a standout, and I love the attention paid to the details of the book (especially the front and back inside covers).

Find it at IndieBound.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Pssst! by Adam Rex
Does a Pig Flush? by Fred Ehrlich
Clothes by Kathleen Petelinsek
Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop

Snake and Lizard have a unique friendship. They have their many differences, but they also really care about each other. The short vignettes in this book by New Zealand author Joy Cowley are perfect for young readers to read on their own or out loud with adults. It reminded me of the best parts of the George and Martha or Frog and Toad books - books about friends and the ups and downs of friendship. Definitely also check out Gavin Bishop's illustrations and the general look and feel of the book.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
George and Martha by James Marshall
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
Snakes and Lizards: What They Have in Common by Sara Swan Miller

Friday, May 21, 2010

Num8ers by Rachel Ward

Jem sees numbers. Whenever she looks a person in the eyes, she can see a number. This is their date of death. She's tried to change the date, but it never works; there's nothing she can do to stop it. Spider is a guy in her class at school. His number is coming up fast - it's only a few weeks away. After getting into some trouble at school, they run off to spend some time in London, just having fun. Jem sees that a lot of the people have the same number - that very day. Unnerved, she forces Spider to leave with her, just before a bomb explodes. It isn't long before Jem and Spider are persons of interests in the explosion, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to stay free.

I think this book has one of the most misleading covers and front jacket blurbs that I've ever read. The cover in particular makes it seem like it's about some kind of cyborg-type character, or artificial intelligence (at least to me). The blurb makes it seem like Jem and Spider are going to be frantically trying to stop a horrific explosion. While a blast is a part of it, it happens in the first third of the book, and not in that way. Jem does have this mystical power, but it's not normal or understood in anyway. But all that aside, I do hope that Num8ers (I always think of it as "Nummers" in my head) finds an audience that likes it for what it is, because there is a lot of great stuff in it. The story of Jem can be heartbreaking at times - a girl who is constantly reminded of people's mortality, and knows exactly when people will leave her. She and Spider have to fight for everything, never letting their guards down, never trusting anyone. I was surprised to see that Ward is writing a sequel to Num8ers...I'm not sure where this sequel will take it, but I'm interested in reading more of the story.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
I Am David by Anne Holm
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl

Veronica loves vintage clothes, so it’s perfect that she gets to work in the consignment section of the local used clothing store. It’s a great job, and a great chance to hide away from her image-obsessed mother (who is not so happy with Veronica’s plus-sized image). During the day, two wild girls rule the sales floor and one weird guy does all the odd jobs. As Veronica finds herself drawn in by all three of them, will she be able to figure out who to trust – and how to trust herself?

I first picked up this book because it was mentioned as being part of the new world of “Fat Lit,” a term that will be discussed at an upcoming ALA panel discussion on YA books. (If anyone knows any other details, it's something I'd really like to know more about) I felt that Erica Perl knew her world of vintage clothes inside and out, and that level of detail helped to make the story stronger. I wasn't completely sold on aspects of Veronica, but I think that's because there are so few positive plus-sized heroines that I wanted her to be all things to me (and that's not Erica Perl's fault). Veronica, as the heroine, was at times not a very sympathetic character, and at times it was hard to convince myself to keep reading about her, but I always came back to the book because of the strength of the supporting cast.

Find it at IndieBound.

Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff
Vintage Style by Tiffany Dubin
Lizards by Margery Facklam
Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers by Kelly Bennett

This little girl has two fathers. Dad and her stepfather, Pop, are quite different. One wears glasses, the other doesn't. One is bald, the other isn't. One rides a bicycle, the other rides a motorcycle. They have different styles of cooking, like different styles of music, and have different ideas of fun. But they have one important thing in common: they both love their daughter very, very much.

This picture book has a simple premise, but Bennett and illustrator Paul Meisel are able to do a lot with the words and images. (The pretty marked differences between the two men made me wonder about the girl's mother, and how she came to be in relationships with two such different men. I have a feeling there's a story there, too.) I haven't seen a lot of books at this age level that have to do with stepfathers or stepfamilies, although I'm sure they are out there. This would be a great book for helping children to see that there are all kinds of families out there, but what families have in common is love.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
My Mom's Wedding by Eve Bunting
Daddy Loves Me! by Marianne Richmond
The Fathers Are Coming Home by Margaret Wise Brown
Daddy, Papa and Me by Leslea Newman
The Family Book by Todd Parr

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Freefall by Ariela Anhalt

Hayden is definitely the big man on the boarding school campus, and Luke is happy to be his best friend and roommate. Then when a new guy shows up at school, everything changes. The new guy, Russell, starts challenging Hayden at everything from his relationship with his girlfriend to his position on the fencing team. During a fencing team tradition of jumping off a cliff into a lake, Hayden, Luke, and Russell all go up the cliff, but only Hayden and Luke come back down alive. What happened up there? Who is responsible? And can Luke deal with this on top of everything else that has happened in his life?

I love reading novels about boarding school, particularly is scandalous things happen here. There's something about being away from home (and parents) but not being an adult that makes it so great for stories. The adults in this book mostly lurk around the edges, and I didn't have a problem with that. At times I got frustrated with Luke - he saw the incident, why was he so confused as to what had happened? But then I realized that I, too, had 'seen' the incident, and I didn't know what was going on. I liked that Anhalt just put it out there for readers rather than hiding it or making it a big reveal at the end. This book made me very curious to see what Anhalt (currently a college student at Dartmouth) comes out with next.

Find it on IndieBound.

Read it with:
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monday, May 17, 2010

Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant

Robyn Okrant was a casual Oprah viewer who was used to Oprah urging her viewers to live their best lives. She wondered what all of that advice added up to, in terms of time, money, and happiness. So for one year (2008), Robyn decided to do everything that Oprah encouraged her viewers to do. Some of this was easy: talk with your spouse, do online quizzes on the Oprah website, see specific movies. Some of it required a long-term commitment: declutter your house, be more active, read along with her book club. Some of it was free, some of it was expensive. And as Robyn lived her year, she documented it on her blog, Living Oprah.

I have to admit that I've never really been an Oprah viewer, not for any particular reason, but mostly because it was never on when I was able to watch it. I was curious, then, to see what kind of advice Oprah gave out. Robyn (I'm not sure why I keep calling her by her first name, when I would normally call authors by their last name - maybe because I feel like I've spent some time with her?) kept track with charts and graphs of all of this information: what Oprah said, how much it cost, how long it took, and any notes. I really liked the tone that Robyn took with the whole exercise. She seemed willing to give most things a try, and there wasn't really any of that anti-Oprah snobbery that I thought a book like this might have. My favourite parts of the book were the passages where Oprah and Okrant's paths crossed. This is a great look at current pop culture in America; I thought it was a great read that just flew by.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Not Buying It: A Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine
Live Your Best Life: A Treasury of Wisdom, Wit, Advice, Interviews, and Inspiration from O, the Oprah Magazine
Oprah by Kitty Kelley
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Craft Rubin
Reading Oprah: How Oprah's Book Club Changed the Way America Reads by Cecilia Konchar Farr

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

A new neighbour has just moved in next door to Benny and Penny. Penny hopes it's a girl; Benny hopes it's a boy. But they are both quite surprised when all they see are big, scary, muddy footprints. Could the new neighbour be a monster? Meanwhile, Benny's pail is missing. Could the new neighbour have anything to do with that? Going into the neighbour's yard is a big no-no, but that might be the only way that Benny and Penny can find out what's going on...

When I picked this book up, I only intended to thumb through it to get a sense of what it was like, and the next thing I knew I was reading from page to page, unable to put it down. The illustrations and the story worked together to keep me interested. I liked the way the characters talked with each other; the language, though simple, tells a very sophisticated story. If Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith hadn't already worked its magic on me, this book would convince me to pay attention to any book that TOON releases.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith
I Spy Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold
Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na

One day an elephant found a thingamabob. He didn't know what it was; he didn't know what it was for. That didn't stop him from trying to find out, and he put his imagination to good use trying to think of just what exactly this thing could be used for.

The first page drops us right into the action: "One day, he found the thingamabob." I loved this - we get right to the heart of the story. I think that this will be a book that kids could respond to, because they will easily identify the thingamabob, and that could build their confidence about reading and identifying objects. I love the umbrellas on the front and back inside covers and I really like the way Il Sung Na plays with shapes, sizes and colours. This book has inspired me to pick up Il Sung Na's debut picture book, A Book of Sleep.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
Robert the Rose Horse by Joan Heilbroner
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems
Un-Brella by Scott E Franson

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shrek! by William Steig

Shrek's mother was ugly. His father was ugly. But Shrek was uglier than the two of them put together. And with that warning, William Steig has kicked off the tale of the foul-smelling, fire-breathing, lightning-belching ogre. This story turns other fairy tales right on their heads and leaves you wondering whether you should cheer or fear the main character.

Shrek has become a famous character since the Mike Meyers-voiced movies started, and with the upcoming 4th Shrek movie about to hit theatres in 3-D, he's likely to return to the media forefront. People who turn to the William Steig original will find favourite characters like Shrek and Donkey, but they might be surprised by the storyline (it differs from the original movie). Like other Steig books, it plays with fun language and vocabulary and has great illustrations. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you're only familiar with the movie versions.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Shrek: The Essential Guide The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Ogre Eats Everything by Bethany Roberts
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa was born with a special power - a Grace; she can fight anyone (or anything) and win. People think she's a monster because as a young girl she killed an older cousin. They avoid looking at her; they think she's an animal. People with Graces are not understood and treated as outcasts or worse. Her uncle, the king, uses her as an enforcer to inflict harm on people. Katsa is determined to use her power and her strength for good, and while on a mission she crosses paths with another Graced person. She's never met anyone like him, and she being with him is unlike any other time in her life. With him she finds herself drawn into a mysterious situation in a neighbouring kingdom; she learns that there may be more to her Grace than she had once thought.

[Warning: spoilers below, because I just want to talk about this book!]

I originally picked up this book because I was curious about Fire by Kristin Cashore. It's billed as a companion book to Graceling, and I wasn't sure if that meant it was a prequel, so I decided to start with Graceling first. I'm glad that I did, because I just loved this book. Katsa is a great, strong heroine; she is determined to live her life on her own terms. She has very feminist points of views about things, including marriage - she does not want to ever marry or have children, and she is very vocal about her opposition to being married off by her uncle (even when such a marriage would appear to save her life). I love finding feminist characters in books, especially ones who believe that their life does not revolve around a man, or that they have to change their own life to fit into someone else's. That said, I also loved the character of Po, and the way that he loved Katsa for who she was. I was not at all disappointed by ending; I found it very satisfying. The beginning of the book was a bit confusing, because it plunges right into an action scene, but by page 20 I was pretty much hooked on the story. I'm even more looking forward to reading Fire, and I'm also excited about Bitterblue, the book that Cashore is currently working on.

Read Kristin Cashore's blog This Is My Secret.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Savvy by Ingrid Law
Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
Fire by Kristin Cashore

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Archie and the Pirates by Marc Rosenthal

After being separated from his ship, Archie finds himself on a strange jungle island. He sets out to make the best of the situation, quickly creating a home and finding some new friends. But then the island is under attack by pirates! Can Archie and his friends find a way to protect the island?

I love books about monkeys, so I was not surprised when I really enjoyed this book. Archie is clever, industrious, and resourceful. (There are a lot of great tips in here for people who ever find themselves shipwrecked on a strange beach). I could easily see this becoming a series. It's a great title for fans of monkeys, pirates, or fun children's books.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Curious George by H.A. and Margaret Rey
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
Gumption! by Elise Broach
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For Keeps by Natasha Friend

Sixteen year-old Josie has a lot going on. A few months ago, she made out with a guy even though he already had a girlfriend; he said that they had kind of an open relationship, but did they really? Now he's single, and she's not sure what's going to happen. Her best friend has just started another casual relationship with a guy she met online. Her mother has panic attacks whenever she sees anyone related to her high school years - which is difficult, because they live pretty close to where she grew up. And Josie has just recently realized that the parents of the father she's never known live in the same town, and that means that her father might be making an appearance something in the near future.

Is it a coincidence that this books shares its name with a 1980s movie starring Molly Ringwald as a pregnant teen (and then as a teen mother?) Maybe not, considering all of the late-80s/early 90s stuff that Josie's mom loves. Anyway, this was a nice read that had a lot of teen angst but had a story that clipped along at a good pace. The ending had a number of twists and turns before it all shook out but there was some great depictions of many characters, even the small, incidental characters. I found myself thinking that at times Josie's parents' story might have made for interesting reading, and I think that's how it is in real life, too - you're caught up in your own story, and you don't realize that your 'supporting characters' have full stories of their own.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Not Suitable for Family Viewing by Vicki Grant
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
Coffee at Luke's edited by Jennifer Crusie

Monday, May 10, 2010

Think Again by JonArno Lawson

This collection of poetry from a Canadian author (and a Canadian illustrator) follows a young couple as they meet, are together, and then go their separate ways. I was thinking of doing a review in poetry, but somehow my efforts just seemed disrespectful. Most of the poems in this collection are four lines long with various rhyme schemes, perfect for dipping in and out or reading from cover to cover. I just adore Julie Morstad's illustrations. I thought they were a perfect balance to the poetry and would really help poetry newcomers to connect ideas, themes, and emotions together. This would be a great book to give to a teen (or tween) who loves and/or writes poetry or lyrics, but also a good book to share with someone who thinks that poetry isn't for them.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
So Cool by Dennis Lee
When You Were Small by Sara O'Leary
Where You Came From by Sara O'Leary
A Voweller's Bestiary by JonArno Lawson
I Can't Keep My Own Secrets edited by Smith Magazine

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner

There's no other way to say it: Miss Brooks loves books! She loves reading books, she loves sharing books, she even loves dressing up like book characters! One little girl, though, does not understand what's so great about books. She hasn't found a story that she loves - and when she has to do a book report in front of the class, she doesn't know what to do. Will she ever find a book that she likes?

This is a wonderful story about a reluctant young reader and an enthusiastic librarian. The message, that there's a book out there for everyone, is a really important one, especially for children who haven't found theirs yet (and their parents). The language in the book is wonderful - great vocabulary words.
This book has gotten handed around from person to person by everyone I know who has read it, usually with a recommendation of "You HAVE to read this." The Michael Emberley illustrations are a perfect counterpoint to Barbara Bottner's great story. If you're looking for gift for your favourite school teacher, librarian, book seller, or book lover, this should be #1 on your list.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Shrek! by William Steig
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk
The Librarian from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians by Carla D. Morris

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

This chameleon just wants to fit in. He tries all sorts of colours, but he never seems to make the friend he's looking for. Follow him as he tries to find the perfect look to make him happy.

This will be an amazing book to use in storytimes. There aren't a lot of words, just colours and labels of objects (sort of similar to Gravett's Orange Apple Pear Bear) in big, clear type. I think that chameleons are creatures that capture the imagination of children: they can change their appearance, they can hide in plain sight, they can create a whole new identity. It's not a surprise that I loved a book by Emily Gravett; I just hope that this book can help others to see how great her books are.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Dogs by Emily Gravett
Sylvie by Jennifer Gordon Sattler
Chameleon by Jennifer Stefoff
Orange Apple Pear Bear by Emily Gravett

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin

The Pomeroys seem like the perfect family. Roger has a job in education and has recently decided to get his doctorate. His wife, Georgia, takes care of the family and the finances. Son Vinny has just graduated from Yale, daughter Helen is about to get married, and youngest daughter Patsy has her whole life ahead of her. But behind the carefully constructed image there are some major structural cracks. Roger is in over his head with his thesis; Georgia is swimming in debt and has started committing identity theft against her own children (Helen's wedding is one of the major financial stresses). Vinny was excommunicated from the family's church for attending a non-Sabbath Day Adventist university, and Patsy, after a misunderstanding, has been sent across the country to live with her grandmother. The entire family is sinking, and it won't be long before the hole that they are in threatens to swallow them up entirely.

I had only read Gabrielle Zevin's young adult fiction before, but I really loved what she did with this book. The characters were infuriating and so vulnerable - I just wanted to knock some sense into them, but I knew it wouldn't make any difference. The book spans a number of years - Roger and Georgia grow older, their children have children, things change in the world. I found this to be compulsively readable. The parts about the political environment of the future really scared me, as did most of the financial sections. It's definitely fiction, but at some times it might be easy to think of it as non-fiction, too.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Margrettown by Gabrielle Zevin
Start Over, Finish Rich by David Bach

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lawn to Lawn by Dan Yaccarino

Betty, Flo, Norm and Jack are lawn ornaments. They live in Pearl’s yard. But when Pearl’s family moves away, they forget to take the lawn ornaments with them. The four friends set out on a journey to the new yard, but they will have to be one step ahead of the trash collector in order to get there safely.

This is a great spin on the story of ‘inanimate objects that come to life.’ The colours and imagery are playful. I loved the way that the ornaments used the secret lawn/statue community to gather information. Looking at Pearl’s old house and her new house, I wondered if Pearl’s parents had maybe ‘forgotten’ the ornaments on purpose, and what it might say about outward displays of economic classes. It’s a fun book that I think children could really respond to.

Find it at IndieBound.
Read it with:
The Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
The Boys by Jeff Newman
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
Savvy by Ingrid Law

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Kyle Kingsbury is high school royalty. Rich, handsome, smart, and the son of a famous TV journalist, he rules the hottest and most popular kids at his private high school. He thinks nothing can touch him - until he crosses paths with Kendra, a new girl at school. She's not wearing the hottest clothes and she's not a size zero, and when Kyle plays a cruel trick on her, she gets her revenge. Kyle is transformed into a hairy wolf-like animal creature and there's only one way that he can change back: he has to find someone who will fall in love with him as a beast, kiss her, and love her back - all within two years.

(Possible spoilers follow, mostly related to the traditional Beauty and the Beast story structure)

Kyle was as unpleasant a character as I've come across. Arrogant, mean, self-absorbed and fake, there was almost nothing that seemed redeeming about him. I really liked Alex Flinn's modern twists to the story, especially how the beast came to be parent-less and roaming a big (urban) castle. Updating to a modern setting did make the part where his intended love is forced into living with him sort of unsettling (it felt like it bordered on human trafficking in a way). I did wonder what would have happened if the two of them weren't compatible: sure, he's changed, and yes, she cares about more than appearances, but what if they just didn't fall in love? Maybe that's a set-up for another story. At any rate, I really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to seeing how the upcoming movie does (the trailer looks like it changes a lot of details, doesn't it?)

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead
Roses by Hazel White
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg
Shrek! by William Steig

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Claudia has decided to run away. Being a practical child, she has decided to run away not to a forest or a park, but instead to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She's taken her brother with her, which was a great choice, because he has some money saved up. When they reach the museum, they are excited to be at such a beautiful place, but it isn't long before they find themselves in the middle of a mystery. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, they might just be in over their heads. And how does Mrs. Frankweiler fit in to everything?

I really knew nothing about this book before it showed up on the Fuse 8 Production Poll list. I enjoyed Claudia and Jamie's practicality (especially in the unpractical situation of running away from home at the age of 11). I liked their belief that they could and would solve the mystery, which was something I think I would have believed at the age of 11 as well. I also love that E. L. Konigsburg (a recent discover for me - where have I been?!) won both the Newbery Medal (for this book) and the Newbery Honor (for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth) in the same year - and for her first two books! That's just incredible.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser
The Master's Apprentice by Rick Jacobson

Monday, May 3, 2010

Me and You by Anthony Browne

You know the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, right? A little girl with blond hair breaks and enters into the three bears' cottage, eats their porridge, sits in their chairs, and sleeps in their beds? And she's a wicked little girl who needs to learn a lesson? That's the story we've all heard, but in Me and You, Anthony Browne tells us a different story. Why did Goldilocks go looking for food and shelter? Why would she go into someone else's house? What were the bears really like?

Fans of Browne's Voices in the Park will love this book. The use of different drawing styles, layouts, and voices results in characters that made an impact on the readers and challenge them to think of an old story in a new way. This is a title that I highly, highly recommend.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
Me and You by Genevieve Cote
Goldilocks and the Three Martians by Stu Smith
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Jan Brett