Monday, October 31, 2011

Franklin's Halloween by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark

Franklin is excited for Halloween! He's got a great idea for a costume and he's going to go to a party with his friends and then go trick-or-treating. Everything is set for a great long as nothing too scary happens!

Franklin's Halloween is a book that I can see being read in bedrooms, libraries, and classrooms all over the country at this time of year. There are lots of classic Halloween themes: the importance of choosing the perfect costume, wanting to be scared (but not too scared), the friend who gets sick and has to miss out on trick-or-treating. Franklin's Halloween was originally published in 1996, but it easily speaks to kids' experiences fifteen years later.

I read a review copy at NetGalley courtesy of Kids Can Press and Open Road Media. (They're partnering to bring Franklin e-Books to a new generation of readers.)

See more about Franklin and author Paulette Bourgeois at her website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Franklin in the Dark by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark
Franklin Fibs by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark
Franklin is Lost by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer Part Two by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney and Sho Murase

Picking up where part one left off, Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer Part Two opens with Nancy and Gregor trapped in his castle-like mansion. Bess, George, and Ned watch helplessly from outside, having tapped into the surveillance camera footage. While a mysterious woman seems intent on taking revenge on Gregor, Nancy must figure out how to stop the violence and get to the bottom of the mysterious events. Who is telling the truth? Who is the real threat to her safety? It seems like there’s no way in…or out. Could this be Nancy’s final story?

After the cliffhanger of part one, I knew I was definitely going to be reading part two. Between the two, I think I preferred the first part, mainly because there were three nit-picky things that bothered me about this book. At one point, Gregor tells Nancy he doesn’t have a cell phone, despite having told her he’d been receiving threatening texts (and there being a graphic of a cell phone early in the book). (Although I suppose he could mean he doesn't have a phone on him.) At another point, Nancy repeated something that Gregor had told her in the first part, and he seemed shocked that she knew it (even though, in story time, not much time had passed). And finally, the mysterious woman’s name is revealed through narrative text well before the characters actually learn it, and as the mystery partly hinges on her identity, this ruins some of the suspense of the story. With all of those things aside, though, I liked the art and tone of the story. I particularly liked the panels that showed characters in silhouette against a dark background; those added to the eerie nature of the story. It flowed so nicely; in many places, it really reminded me of an animated story. The story also neatly set up some of the plot of the next book, which was a great hook to keep reading.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer Part One by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney and Sho Murase
Nancy Drew #14: Sleight of Dan by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney and Sho Murase
The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
Hardy Boys The New Case Files #1: Crawling with Zombies by Gerry Conway and Paulo Henrique

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer Part One by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney and Sho Murase

The latest thing to hit River Heights is the supernatural movie "Dielite." George and Bess can’t get enough, but Nancy isn’t so sure it’s her thing. Then the three are attacked in a cemetery by a shadowy figure. It turns out to be a guy with pale skin and a mysterious past. Before long, Nancy is spending all of her time with this new man, Gregor; it’s almost as if she’s under some kind of spell. Ned’s getting impatient, and Bess and George are fearing the worst. Nancy Drew has taken on quite a few mysteries, but is she any match for a… vampire?

I have to confess that I have only a superficial pop-culture knowledge of Nancy Drew. I’ve read only a handful of her books, so I know the general backstory, but that's about it. I picked this book up based on the title alone. It was a fun book, and since I wasn't at all familiar with the series, I had no idea where the story was heading (like, how supernatural is Gregor?) I liked the storyline and the art and I think this would definitely appeal to both an audience that knew and liked Nancy Drew stories as well as one that wasn’t as familiar with her. The story ends on a cliffhanger and is resolved in Part Two (a separate edition).

Read it with:
Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer Part Two by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney and Sho Murase
Nancy Drew #14: Sleight of Dan by Stefan Petrucha, Sarah Kinney and Sho Murase
The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
Hardy Boys The New Case Files #1: Crawling with Zombies by Gerry Conway and Paulo Henrique

Friday, October 28, 2011

Drummer Hoff by Barbara Emberley and illustrated by Ed Emberley

In order to set off the canon, everyone has a job to do. It's Drummer Hoff's job to fire it off. No matter what anyone else does, Drummer Hoff fired it off. This cumulative story won the 1968 Caldecott Award for its illustration (which were done with woodcuts). The colours and style manage to be a bit retro and relevant at the same time, evoking images from the Revolutionary War as well as 1960s-era messages of peace; both of these ideas still resonate in today's era, too. This isn't a book that I've seen on too many "best of" or "favourite book" lists, but if you get a chance do check it out - if for nothing else than to marvel at the detailed illustrations.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Frederick by Leo Lionni
Seashore Story by Taro Yashima
The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Stalker by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Mike runs his own sea kayak tour business in BC. It's pretty successful for him, but right now he's having a hard time keeping his mind on his business. He's just hired a new tour cook, and can’t stop thinking about her. He’s also distracted because he’s been getting some scary calls on his cell phone. The calls are warning him not to take his customers out on their upcoming trip. Someone is watching and doesn’t want them out on the water. He tries to brush it off, but when Mike, his new customers, and his cook are deep in the wilderness, it becomes clear that the stalker is there, too.

I am such a fan of the Good Reads Series. The Stalker isn't a long book, but there's a lot of action packed into its pages. There's action and suspense mixed in with a little romance and a lot of descriptions of Canada's west coast views. This is a great choice for adults who want to practice their reading skills or for anyone looking for a shorter, straightforward story to pick up and enjoy.

See more information at ABC Life Literacy Canada.

Read it with:
New Year's Eve by Marina Endicott
Easy Money by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
In From the Cold by Deborah Ellis
Shipwreck by Maureen Jennings
The Hangman by Louise Penny

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monkey With a Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans by Chris Monroe

Chico Bon Bon is a monkey with a tool belt. He's very handy at fixing things around the neighbourhood. His friend Clark is on vacation, but something's wrong; Clark needs Chico Bon Bon to come right away! Things have been broken in mysterious ways and they could really use a monkey with a tool belt. Chico Bon Bon might just be the monkey for the job - but can he fix the broken things and catch the culprit?

I've always enjoyed monkeys, and I think monkeys with tool belts might just be my new favourite kind of monkeys. This is a title that has loads of appeal. It's got tons of bright pictures, humour, a bit of a mystery, animals, and tools. It's a great combination for lots of kids and the adults who are reading with them. Be sure to check it out.

I read an advance copy from NetGalley courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe
Sneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe
Archie and the Pirates by Marc Rosenthal

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sketch Monsters Book 1: Escape of the Scribbles by Joshua Williamson and Vinny Navarrete

Mandy might be young, but she has an excellent poker face. She never looks excited, or sad, or surprised...or anything, really! She always seems calm and unflappable. When her older sister moves away, Mandy starts drawing in a brand new sketchbook. But then one night the monsters come to life! They're yelling and running and loving and crying all over the place! Will Mandy ever be able to get these monsters back into her book? And how can she get them to stay here?

Sketch Monsters is a really fun book. With Mandy set up as their serious counterpart, the monsters are given a free reign to amp up the zaniness. The art is colourful and dynamic and there are some cool pages at the back of the book that show a 'behind the scenes' look at creating a graphic book. The story skates just up to the edge of becoming too heavy as a 'message' book, but I think that clarity will help children to identify their own experiences within the story. It looks like this might be the first book in a Sketch Monsters series, so I will eagerly be keeping an eye out for new books.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Oni Press.

Check out Joshua Williamson's website and Vinny Navarrete's portfolio.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Is A Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff, Harriet May Savitz and Marie Le Tourneau

Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu
Dear Dracula by Joshua Williamson and Vincent "Vinny" Navarrete
Power Lunch by J. Torres and Dean Trippe

Monday, October 24, 2011

Evelyn, Evelyn by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley

Evelyn and Evelyn were born into a world of pain, death, and destruction. Conjoined twins can make for difficult home births, and they aren’t very common in small town medical facilities. Their mother died shortly after giving birth; their father, their doctor, and the local sheriff followed that same night. The two infant girls were picked up by a chicken farmer, and so began their travels. Never with a permanent home, never with anyone who understood them, the girls were exploited and used for others’ gains. This book, Evelyn Evelyn, is the story of their lives and their life – their journey, their struggle, and their music.

This is one of those reviews where I’m torn as to how much to say. Not necessarily in a spoiler kind of way, but rather in a backstory kind of way. Let me put it this way. I knew very little about Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley before I read this book, and that informed my reading experience. An afterword by Neil Gaiman helped to clear some things up for me (as did a series of Google searches), so after reading it I have a slightly different perspective on the story. I want to say stop reading this and go and read the book for yourself, but that will only make you want to read what I write even more. So. I loved the illustrations. It was a beautiful graphic novel even when presenting horrible images. The pictures fit (and maybe even guided) the tone of the story; no matter how dark things got, I never felt that they were truly bleak. Did I understand the book? Not always. Did I like the book? Yes.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

There's also the Evelyn Evelyn website.

Find the book at Amazon.

Read it with:
The Girls by Lori Lansens
The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos
On the Many Deaths of Amanda Palmer (And the Many Crimes of Tobias James)by Robin Kriwaczek
But Who Will Bell the Cats? by Cynthia von Buhler
"Evelyn Evelyn" (the music CD)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert

Where can an umbrella take you? If you're like this little dog, it can take you on an incredible journey: past giraffes and elephants, over forests and rain forests and oceans, north, south, east and west. Where can The Umbrella take you? On an international picture book experience that doesn't come around very often.

Wordless books are wonderful for a number of reasons, especially because children and families can make up their own narratives. I love how the pictures in The Umbrella tell a story without filling in all the dots. There are perfect opportunities for children to answer 'how did...?' or 'what did...?' This book is perfect for sparking the imagination. The one picture I was uneasy about, showing a hut-living tribe throwing wooden spears at the dog/the umbrella, was thankfully shown at a distance. I don't think that this picture ruins the overall effect, but I wonder if it will make the book seem dated rather than timeless. Overall, though, this is a very strong book that deserves to be discovered by readers of all ages.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Like People by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert
The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na
The Umbrella by Jan Brett
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Wave by Suzy Lee

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Murder, She Wrote: Majoring in Murder by Donald Bain

When mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher accepted a position as a sessional instructor at a small college, she had no idea that her life would be threatened by a tornado! Luckily, she's led to safety by others - but not everyone was so lucky. When the dust and debris is settled, one professor is discovered to have been killed. Everyone wonders why he didn't seek shelter, but only Jessica really believes that it was because he wasn't killed by the storm but instead by another person. As she tries to prove this theory, she runs into resistance from the college's Dean, who has her own motives for making sure the truth stays hidden. Will Jessica's quest for justice put her own life in danger?

As far as Murder, She Wrote books go, this one wasn't one of my favourites. The dramatic action (including the murder) happen very early on in the story before I had a chance to bond with or understand many of the characters (and yes, I know that in a recent review, I said that I liked that the murder happened early in another book, but this one just felt too early). The setting, the college, had none of the Cabot Cove regulars, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as there are other books that don't have them that I do like, but it also didn't have the fun place descriptions like other books set in London, San Francisco, or New York. There were scenes that seemed to have giant red arrows pointing at them that said "THIS IS A CLUE," and the solution to the mystery was reminiscent of Encyclopedia Brown. So, ultimately, not one of my favourites of the MSW series (but don't worry, there will be more Murder She Wrote reviews coming up!).

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Sixes by Kate White
Murder, She Wrote: You Bet Your Life by Donald Bain
Murder, She Wrote: The Maine Mutiny by Donald Bain

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Next Day by Paul Peterson and Jason Gilmore and illustrated by John Porcellino

People attempt suicide for many different reasons. When they succeed in ending their lives, their families, friends, and communities must deal with the aftermath. But what happens when someone attempts suicide...and lives? Tina, Ryan, Chantel and Jenn have all been there. Each one of them planned to kill themselves and ended up still alive. The Next Day tells their stories and what it is like to go on living while knowing that there was a definite moment where you chose not to live.

Suicide is often a subject that people resist talking about. Death is a big mystery, and the idea of purposely ending one's life is confusing and distressing and often must include taking a look at underlying mental health issues. In four separate narratives, Tina, Ryan, Chantel and Jenn each describe what led them to the moment of suicide and then what it was like to find themselves alive. Living was not the end of the story; it did not cure or stop the issues that they were dealing with. The line drawings that accompany the story accentuate it but never overpower it; they seem like the perfect illustration for The Next Day. This is not an easy book to read but the story (and stories) are so important. This book is part of a larger project that also includes a documentary. Find out more at

I read a review copy at NetGalley courtesy of Pop Sandbox. This book was available in Canada in May 2011 and is scheduled to be available in the US at the beginning of November.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Map of My Heart by John Porcellino
On Suicide by Emile Durkheim
How I Made it to Eighteen by Tracy White
Skim by Mariko Tamaki
Hello, Cruel World by Kate Bornstein

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Call for a New Alphabet by Jef Czekaj

X is a good letter. In fact, X is a great letter! That’s why he’s so sick of being stuck at the bottom of the alphabet. Why should he always have to hang around with W, Y, and Z? Why does every alphabet book pair him with xylophones and x-rays? Why does A always get to be first? X is tired of all these rules – he’s ready for a new alphabet! After rallying the other letters (aren’t Q and U sick of each other? Why should I and E have to change places when C comes along?), everyone agrees to hold a referendum on the alphabet. But that night X dreams about what it’s like to be other letters: S has confusing rules about how to make things plural, Y is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant, V isn’t allowed to end words on its own… it’s not easy being any of these letters! When it comes to the big vote, what’s an X to do? Will the alphabet be changed forever?

Jef Czekaj is becoming one of my go-to picture book and graphic novel authors. I love his sense of humour and storytelling style. My favourite things about this book were the subtle (or not-so-subtle) jokes and details, like P in the pool, X climbing up on to a literal soap box, houses shaped like letters. Some of the pages had a lot going on in terms of characters, words and speech bubbles, but it never completely crossed the line into too overcrowded. I think there are a number of places where this book would be a great fit: for a kid who feels like it’s not fair that they’re always stuck at the back of an alphabetical line, readers who’ve got the alphabet down and who like word play and puns, a discussion on rules and lawmaking, and a look at how not everyone is the same but everyone has strengths to bring to the table.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and John Archambault
The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies
Hip & Hip, Don’t Stop by Jef Czekaj
Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj
Paulina P (for Peterson) by Lisa Cinar

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Jill has had a big hole in her life since her dad passed away in a car accident. It's been the worst year of her life. She's retreated from everyone - her mom, her boyfriend, her friends - and everything and hasn't found a way to go on living. Mandy had one beautiful moment with a boy that she loved and now she's looking for a family to adopt her soon-to-be-born baby. Jill's mother has made a plan to adopt Mandy's baby, bringing all three of them together into each others' lives. Mandy's keeping a lot of secrets, and Jill is reluctant to open up to anyone. Will any of them be able to find what they need?

I love this book. Jill and Mandy are two such strong characters. Either one of them could carry their own story, but joining them together allows for such a deeper story. We got to see each character through each others' eyes. At first I could completely see Jill's perspective and wondered why anyone would want to enter into an adoption without legal agreements and written protection. But then, as Mandy's story unraveled, her actions and perspective started to make more sense. Her life growing up was awful and Jill (and, at times, her mother) was making assumptions based on her own position of privilege. Solid supporting characters were actual characters and not story-based props. Based on her other books, I'm not surprised that I enjoyed Sara Zarr's latest, but finding out how much I enjoyed it was a fun discovery.

See more at Sara Zarr's website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson
Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Girls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler

Myra's life is dominated by duty and practicality. As the second-oldest child in a large family, someone is always asking her for something. She has to look after the younger kids so her mom can work evenings. She has to keep her pregnant older sister calm so that nothing happens to the baby. Without her, the family would probably implode. After a bad breakup, Myra's even more confused about who she is and what she wants to do with her life. Maybe that's why she's spending so much time researching birds and science and a scholarship opportunity to the Galapagos Islands. The idea of going away to study birds in South America is completely ridiculous...but maybe not completely impossible.

I really enjoyed this book and the way it showed a character becoming interested in science and research. Myra is a main character can easily carry her own story. She's a smart, caring, capable teen who's stuck between keeping her family together and trying to make plans for her own life. This book, though, spins this classic teen dilemma in new and interesting ways. At some parts of the book I was so frustrated by Myra's parents. They were asking so much of Myra that it was coming at the expense of her own future. But they weren't bad people; they just didn't have the financial resources to provide everything they wanted for their children. (Minor spoiler alert) I was really happy to see that at the end there's a moment where, in the midst of blaming Myra for the actions of another person, her parents start to realize what they've been asking of Myra. This is a solid choice for teen readers, especially teen girls who are trying to decide if they have the power to 'fly.'

Check out Kristen Chandler's website for more information on Girls Don't Fly.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Penguin Canada.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Wolves, Boys, and Other Things that Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler
Contents Under Pressure by Lara M. Zeises
Everything I Was by Corinne Demas
Populazzi by Elise Allen

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken and Cat Clean Up by Sara Varon

Chicken and Cat have started a housecleaning service. Chicken is sure that it's going to be a success. But Cat isn't as good at cleaning up as Chicken fact, all it seems Cat can do is make messes! Chicken isn't happy, Cat isn't happy, and their customers aren't happy. Things are looking bad for Cat...but then something happens, and it's up to Cat to save the day! This is a fun, clever book that has a wide appeal. Pre-readers will enjoy the bright, colourful, comic pictures, and readers will enjoy the jokes details in the background writing.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Chicken and Cat by Sara Varon
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
Wave by Suzy Lee
The Boys by Jeff Newman
Flotsam by David Wiesner

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Murder She Wrote: A Palette for Murder by Donald Bain

After a grueling schedule of writing and teaching, famed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher is looking forward to nothing but rest and relaxation in the Hamptons. But she's barely been there for twenty-four hours before someone dies right in front of her! While indulging in her secret passion for art, the model -by all appearances, a healthy young woman- in Jessica's class silently passes away from an apparent heart attack while modeling. Compounding the mystery is that a year ago a promising young artist also died of a heart attack. Two identical deaths in two years is strange, but as Jessica discovers more about the circumstances, could she have uncovered some murders?

A Palette for Murder, first published in the mid-90s, has a quaint datedness about it. Jessica is worried about the media getting a hold of the information that she is participating in art classes with - gasp! - nude models. Would that be shocking these days? I can see it maybe appearing on something like TMZ, but then it would be quickly overtaken with an actual sex scandal or something. Also, she disguises herself with sunglasses and a turban, and in the days before camera phones, it kind of works. Anyway, the actual story was pretty enjoyable. Unlike other MSW novels, the murder takes place fairly quickly, so there are lots of pages for the twists and turns to fall out. And when Jessica is making an indignant speech on the first page, you know there will be more where that came from.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Murder She Wrote: You Bet Your Life by Donald Bain
Murder She Wrote: The Highland Fling Murders by Donald Bain
Murder She Wrote: Destination Murder by Donald Bain
Murder She Wrote: Provence - To Die For by Donald Bain
Murder She Wrote: The Fine Art of Murder by Donald Bain

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Sixes by Kate White

Phoebe Hall’s name has been synonymous with bestselling books and celebrity exposes. But when faced with a plagiarism scandal, Phoebe retreated from the publishing world. Her best friend invited her to come and teach at a small New England college. Phoebe is just settling into the quiet life when a student’s body is discovered floating in the river. Everyone assumes that it’s a tragic accident, but Phoebe discovers that the girl was a part of a secret sorority – and then uncovers that there has been a pattern of student deaths. Can she discover the truth behind the girl’s death? Or will she just be putting herself in danger?

I don’t read mystery/thrillers very often, but the allure of a private school setting and a secret society of young women was too much for me to pass up. The Sixes is twisty and has a lot of action. Some parts are quite scary, and there are other passages that describe brutal violence. Almost all of the characters had something they were hiding, which made everyone seem suspicious.
This is the first book by Kate White that I've picked up, but now I'm interested in taking a look at one of her other books, Hush.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Majoring in Murder
by Donald Bain
by Anita Shreve
by Kate White

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants, as you might guess from the cover, isn't a typical star memoir. It’s a quick look at Tina Fey's childhood and early life and then more on her time at SNL and then at 30 Rock. Mixed in with all of this is a narrative of what it’s like to be a woman in power in the entertainment business. It’s funny and down to earth and honest – in a guarded kind of way (which I respect). Reading this book reminded me that no matter how sick I sometimes might get of Liz Lemon, I want to see more from Tina Fey.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Live From New York by Tom Shales
Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

As a child, Jacob loved to listen to his grandfather’s stories about fantastical things. As he grew older, though, he pushed away from his grandfather’s world of make-believe. Then one day his grandfather dies under horrible circumstances, and Jacob realizes that his grandfather might have been telling the truth all along. Jacob and his father travel to Wales to investigate, and Jacob stumbles onto a world that never even dreamed would really exist.

One of the reasons that this book has received so much buzz and attention has to do with how the book as an object has been put together. Mixed in with the story are real-life photos. Some of creepy, some are bizarre, some are…well, peculiar. [There might be spoilers ahead about the story] The first part of the book seems very much like a horror story. Halfway through, though, it takes a bit of a turn and dives much more into fantasy, leaving the genre lines a bit blurred. Personally, while I found the book to be enjoyable, I think I liked the look and idea of the book more than actually reading it. When I talk about the book with people, I've been saying that the best way to tell if this is a book for you is to look at the front cover. Do you see a girl standing behind a dark patch on the ground, or do you see a child levitating? If it’s levitation, then you might really enjoy this book - or at least parts of it.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Sherlock Holmes Handbook by Ransom Riggs
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Dancing has always been Sara's dream. An audition leads a scholarship to study ballet in another state. She's nervous about leaving her family while still in high school and moves into a new life with her host family. Her new ballet school is difficult and she must constantly prove herself. One bright spot is Remington, a dancer/choreographer who's drawn to Sara. As she takes on a new role as Rem's muse, she struggles to keep her sense of self. How can she make choices about the rest of her life when she doesn't even know who she is? Are the dreams she had as child still her dreams now?

There's something about a verse novel that lends itself so nicely to a book about ballet. The short lines mimic the precise movements of dance while evoking the emotion needed to convincingly play a role. Sara's confusion about feeling like she's continually auditioning will resonate with teens and young adults who aren't involved with a competitive world like ballet as well as those who are. It's very clear that Stasia Ward Kehoe has a deep understanding of the ballet/arts world and it comes across in an accessible way. This book is a nice read-alike to another October release, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, but despite the similarities between the two books I think that each one has enough going for it that it can stand on its own merits.

I received an advance review copy from Penguin Group Canada.

Check out more from Stasia Ward Kehoe at her blog and her website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
Tara Lipinski: Superstar Ice Skater by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Submission by Amy Waldman

Only a short while after 9/11, a selection committee is tasked with choosing a design for a memorial on Ground Zero. After several rounds of contentious debate, a design and an architect are chosen at last. But upon learning the architect’s identity, the group feeling changes - because the architect is a Muslim man named Mohammed Khan. As the story leaks out, people are must face their own pasts and prejudices and the memorial becomes an intersection of politics, public perception, guilt, and intolerance.

I picked this book up because it got a number of positive reviews and coverage in mainstream publications, like Entertainment Weekly. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approached, it seemed like an appropriate time to read this book. There were some pages where I would think, “Oh, that’s too exaggerated, that could never have happened…” and then would remember something I heard on the news or saw on TV. I think this would be a good choice to read with a book club, because then you can talk about the different themes and how people reacted to them.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
We All Fall Down by Eric Walters