Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Research Virtuoso: How to Find Anything You Need to Know by the Toronto Public Library with art by Victor Gad

Research: if you're in school, you're going to have to do it at some point. There will be a class that requires an essay or a project and you will have to know how to find information, assess it, and bring it together in a meaningful way. It can seem like a daunting task, and there are so many different ways that you can go about it. The Research Virtuoso can help you clarify your assignment, collect your thoughts, and follow through with a solid end result. This is one book that could help you get an A - and help you build some skills you can use throughout your life.

This is an updated edition of an earlier publication, which is a very smart move considering all of the ways that today's technology plays a role in information gathering. Online resources are covered (including Wikipedia and the standard cautions around using it as a definitive source) but they are found alongside print resources and subscription databases. In addition to instructions about how to research a topic The Research Virtuoso also includes templates and tips to get you started. There are definitely some ideas that I wish I knew about when I was in school. The tone is authoritative (and it should be, coming from the Toronto Public Library) but not stuffy; if this book was a person, it would be your cool older cousing who's in graduate school. This might not be a book that high school or university students run to pull off of the shelves (or maybe it is), but it's definitely a book that they should look into.

I received a copy from NetGalley courtesy of Annick Press.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Research Ate My Brain by The Toronto Public Library
The New York Public Library's Guide to Research by Deborah Heiligman
Painless Research Projects by Rebecca Elliott

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jinx written by J. Torres, Pencils by Rick Burchett, Inks by Terry Austin

Li'l Jinx is all grown up! She's starting high school... and things are changing. Her friends are going in different directions, she's fighting with her dad, and her attempt to try out for the football team is running into some major opposition. Plus, everyone is talking about romance and boyfriends. It's going to take a lot of strength, patience, and just a little bit of luck for everything to turn out okay! 

I know that I read some Li'l Jinx comics growing up (the ones that you could find in an Archie digest) because she was familiar to me, but I didn't have strong associations or memories of her. The characters are reintroduced in a way that is helpful for people like me - readers with no previous Jinx knowledge. As a character she has a lot of great characteristics;  I like her determination and spirit and awkwardness. One of the guiding principles of the comic is stated that Jinx (and her friends/her world) needs to be real, not ideal, and that completely translates through to the page. She doesn't always make good decisions or say the right thing; actions have consequences, and she has to deal with that. I also really like some of the perspectives and threads that are explored through the supporting cast: people who are your friends but not really close to each other, friendship turning into romance (or unrequited romance), assuming that people will change prompting people to change, support comes in many different forms. Also particularly strong was the illustration style. The way that Jinx would be showing a hard expression in one frame and then softening in another just hit me right in my heart. Make sure to check this one out.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Play Ball by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, and Jackie Lewis
Archie Loves Veronica by Michael Uslan and Norm Breyfogle

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Little Chicken's Big Day by Katie Davis and Jerry Davis

There's so much to do in a day...and so much for a little chicken to remember! It's a good thing that Big Chicken is there to keep Little Chicken on track. But not even Big Chicken can compete with a beautiful butterfly...and soon Little Chicken is all alone!

I particularly love the cover of this book. The bright colours and high-contrast images pop right off the page. The text of the story comes in the form of Big Chicken speaking; the words float and curve all over the pages, sometimes coming from an unseen body. It effectively recreates the experience of being small and not seeing things from the same perspective as bigger, older people. Young children might also start repeating Little Chicken's happy refrain of "I hear you clucking, Big Chicken." This is great to try in storytimes, to read one-on-one with a child, or to talk about getting lost or separation anxiety.

Find it at IndieBound.

No David! by David Shannon
Little Chimp's Big Day by Lisa Schroeder
Party Animals by Katie Davis

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Twins' Blanket by Hyewon Yum

These young twins have always shared everything. They have the same house, the same birthday, and the same blanket. They've slept with that blanket every night since they were born. But now their shared bed is getting too small for the two of them, and it's time for them to each have their own big bed. But who will get to keep the blanket?

This is a very lovely book. The little girls are so sweet and expressive. The illustrations are perfectly balanced; each girl has a side, and each page has one girl's dialogue (this took me awhile to figure out, but once it clicked I immediately flipped back and started reading again). The colours are rich and vibrant. The idea of twins being two individuals isn't new, but it's an important one. Hyewon Yum touches on a very interesting area that combines growing up with growing apart. Definitely check this book out; I can't wait to read more books by Hyewon Yum!

See more at Hyewon Yum's website.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Last Night by Hyewon Yum
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin
Dinosaur's Binkit by Sandra Boynton

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gold by Chris Cleave

Zoe knows what winning Olympic gold feels like. She knows what it's like to win the biggest race of your life and to feel like you will die if you don't. Kate knows what it feels like to come just short of the chance that you've been working towards for your entire life. She knows how her life isn't just her life, but how it intersects with the lives of the people that she loves. Zoe and Kate have in each others lives since they were teenagers who met at an elite training camp for cyclists. In the years since they have been teammates, rivals, competitors, enemies, and friends. The 2012 London Olympics, held in their home country, will be their last Olympics, but it will be impossible for both of them to get to compete. This one last competition between the two women echoes their history and has the power to determine the rest of their lives.

I could not put this book down. I loved the insight that it provided into the mind of a highly competitive athlete. Zoe saw nothing as off-limits, including mind games as varied as trying to make a competitor think that her cycle is broken or playing a 'long con' of pretending to steal her boyfriend. While Zoe and Kate are at the centre of the novel, the story in many ways is just as much about the other people in their world. Completing their sphere are Tom (their coach), Jack (Kate's husband and a champion cyclist who has known both Zoe and Kate since that first training camp), and Sophie (Jack and Kate's leukemia-stricken daughter). All five of these people are struggling with things that they hide and avoid until they can't be hidden anymore. The story is told with interspersed flashbacks; remarks and details from the beginning of the story take on a completely different meaning by the end of the book. It's compelling and timely and a great book for readers in this Olympic year.

Learn more about Chris Cleave at his website.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House Canada.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
Inside the Olympics by Nick Hunter

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ruby Redfort: Look into My Eyes by Lauren Child

Clarice Bean's favourite series is finally a book that the rest of us can read. Meet Ruby Redfort: precocious child, code-breaker, and now a secret agent. The super-secret spy agency SPECTRUM has recruited her to help crack a case...but has Ruby bit off more than she can chew?

I love the story of how this book came to be. According to Lauren Child, so many people (kids) wrote to her asking if Ruby Redfort was a real book and if not, could she write it? So she did. Ruby is a fun character and the book has an energy that's like The Myserious Benedict Society mixed with Turtle from The Westing Game (and multiplied by Clarice Bean). I don't think that I fully understood everything that happened in the book (there were a few too many characters and a few too many twists), but it was a fun ride and I never doubted that (does this even need a spoiler alert?) Ruby would triumph at the end. It's easy to see why she's so popular with Clarice Bean, and I have no doubt that this will be a popular book with real-life children, too.

See more at Lauren Child's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Candlewick.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Clarice Bean, That's Me by Lauren Child
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rough Waters by S.L. Rottman

Scott can't believe that his parents are dead. They were killed in a car accident and now his entire life is changing. He and his older brother Gregg are moving away from their home state of California and going to live with their uncle in Colorado. They've never met this uncle and have no idea why he was estranged from his brother (their father). In order to earn their keep, both brothers start working at their uncle's rafting company, learning the ropes and making trips down the rapids. As Scott struggles to make the best of his new life, Gregg becomes increasingly out of control. Torn between loyalty to his brother and his growing relationship with his uncle, Scott will have to make some difficult choices in order to keep his family afloat.

If I was going to booktalk this book for teens, I would describe it as "Ponyboy goes rafting." Despite being set in a different time period and involving different characters, there was a lot in this book that reminded me of The Outsiders (which happens to be one of my favourite books). Scott is facing a number of difficult situations; he makes a lot of important choices, both good and bad, throughout the novel. It's easy to forget that he's not yet fifteen because he is responsible and hardworking, but he also has a hard time standing up to his brother and learning the difference between snitching on someone and telling the truth. I've never had a desire to go rafting before, but this book makes it seem really appealing (while not toning down the fact that it can be a very dangerous outing). When I first read it I didn't know that it was originally published in the 90s; in hindsight this helps to explain the lack of modern technology (cell phones, the Internet, computers) but truthfully I didn't even really notice this while I was reading. I would definitely recommend this to any reader who likes action-based books but also enjoys reading about relationships between people.

See more about the author at S.L. Rottman's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Peachtree Publishers.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Stalker by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
Hero by S.L. Rottman

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher

Adrienne Haus did not picture spending her summer reading books in a mother-daughter book club. Her summer plans included spending time in the Canadian wilderness with her best friend, but that trip was scuttled once her knee brace was slipped on. The book club was her mother's idea, and the three other girls joining them in the club (Jill, CeeCee, and Wallis) are also going into the same AP English class - but they're not friends. Together the girls and their mothers will cover five of the books on their class syllabus, and the girls (without their mothers) will get to know each other in unusual and possibly dangerous ways. By the end of the summer, there will be lots of questions, a few answers...and one dead body.

One of the blurbs that I received along with a review copy said that this is a great book for both people who love to read and people who hate to read. I think it does ably straddle that bridge (can you straddle a bridge? maybe just a fence) by both having characters who read but also having characters who are not thrilled about reading. As a reader who loves to read, I liked hearing the discussions about different books. A prior knowledge of the stories isn't needed (I've only read one of the books that they discuss in the novel, and even on that one I was a little sketchy on the plot), but I think if you have read one or more of the books, you might get something more out of the book. It wasn't as light of a story as I was expecting based on the cover ("You know what they say..."). There is a lot of drama that happens in the book, but it all comes from a grounded, realistic place. Not all of the loose ends are tied up at the end of the story, so we might not have seen the last of one or more of these girls.

Check out Julie Schumacher's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pretty Penny Comes Up Short by Devon Kinch

Penny really wants to donate money to help the animals at Doodle's Animal Farm. She loves animals! But she only has $5.50 saved to give to charity. It's a start, but she wants to do more. She comes up with the idea to raise money by having a drive-in movie fundraiser. It's a big success! But some of the money is missing. What could have happened to it?

This story is written with straightforward language, great for kids who are adjusting to reading on their own but aren't quite ready for longer chapter books. The illustrations match what's happening in the text and there's a fun sense of humour to the characters. I think that adults will respond well to its positive messages about saving money, helping others, and being honest. It's so important to start financial literacy lessons early with children, and the idea of saving money so that you can donate to a good cause is a great idea to adopt at an early age. Definitely check this one out for classroom, school, and public libraries.

I read a review copy at Edelweiss courtesy of Random House Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Easy Money by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
Just Saving My Money by Mercer Mayer
Money: Make it, Spend it, Save it by Jo Ellen Bogart
Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop by Devon Kinch

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Squish is not looking forward to the summer. His mom made him choose between Ballet Class or Swim Class, and he chose the pool. (His friends chose ballet.) He's has some bad experiences in the water before, so he's not that keen on getting 'riding the waves.' He soon makes a new friend, a hydra named Basil. They get along great and Hydra loves to make jokes and play pranks...but Squish doesn't always think they're that funny. Is this summer going to be a big disaster?

If you're not reading the Squish series, you should definitely start now. It has a likeable everyman (or everyamoeba?) main character, lots of humour, and situations that will resonate with young readers. There are meta-fictional elements that will appeal to kids with a certain sense of humour. Squish himself is a reader and there's a story-within-a-story as his comic book parallels the main storyline. The short sentences and large amounts of space on the page (joined with the fun illustration styles) will make this a popular pick for new readers and kids who are transitioning out of reading picture books. You don't have to have read the first two books in the series to be able to follow along with this storyline, but when a series is as good as this one is, why wouldn't you read them?

 For more information about Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, check out their websites.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House Kids' Books.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Squish #1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Squish #2: Brave New Pond by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rush for Gold: Mystery at the Olympics by John Feinstein

Being aspiring reporters means that Susan Carol and Stevie are often in the right place at the wrong time...or the right place at the right time to foil someone else's plot. Susan Carol also has other special skills. She's a top swimmer who is on track to compete at the Summer Olympics in London. It should be a wonderful time, but she's weighed down by agents and coaches and everything that goes along with being an elite athlete. But it's more than that; is it possible that there's an international conspiracy going on in her event? Susan Carol and Stevie have solved mysteries before...but this time it's personal.

This is a great tie-in with the upcoming Summer Olympics. I love reading novels about athletes and the Olympics. Susan Carol and Stevie are both highly motivated, smart characters with believable moments of naivete. It was a little weird to see real life people (mainly swimmers) appearing in the story as fictional characters; I don't know why this strikes me as stranger more than in movies, but it does. Overall, though, it's a fun sports story with a bit of a mystery and a friendship (and possibly more) between two likeable teen characters.

Check out John Feinstein's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein
Beneath the Surface by Michael Phelps

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman

It's the summer before Angel's last year of high school. Her best friend has everything: good grades, a good boyfriend, a good plan for the rest of her life. Angel's grades aren't spectacular, she's having trouble figuring out what she wants from relationships, and has no idea what to do after high school. But a lot can change in a summer, particularly in a place where as much happens as a town on the Jersey Shore.

One of the things that I love about reading is that it can introduce you to worlds you've never experienced, and life on the Jersey Shore is one that's new to me. I used that to explain away things that didn't quite make sense (like why a teenager is allowed to live on her own, just because her mom owns another house next door) and just let that wash over me. There are many things about Angel that made for a great character. She's a strong, confident girl who has a grounded attitude towards sex and love. She doesn't always make the best decisions and she doesn't always think with a clear head. She loves her family and her best friend but has a hard time figuring out where her life is going to go next or seeing. It's not a long book but it doesn't need to be; it dips in and gives readers a glimpse at a point of Angel's life. Given that I felt like I needed to wear sunscreen just looking at the cover, this is a great pick for a summer read; add it to your beach tote bag along with sunglasses and a bottle of water.

Check out Beth Ann Bauman's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Wendy Lamb Books/Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman
A Shore Thing by Nicole Polizzi
Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Taming by Teresa Toten and Eric Walters

Katie has worked hard to be invisible. It's what allows her to slip through the halls at school unnoticed; it's what has kept her safe from some of her mother's boyfriends. Evan lives on being noticed. He knows when people are watching him and just how to keep their attention. He arrives at a new high school - Katie's school - just as the rest of the student body is discovering Katie through her brilliant rehearsals in the school production of The Taming of the Shrew. She's like another person on stage, a confident person capable of commanding everyone's attention. Offstage, she takes on another new role: Evan's girlfriend. Could this be her chance at happily ever after...or will this story take a dramatic turn?

(Spoilers below)

This book definitely surprised me; the book that I read was not the book that I thought I was reading. As the story went along and Evan revealed more of himself and his personality, I was surprised that I hadn't caught on to him before. Was I blinded by his dashing persona and his easy confidence? Maybe. I knew that he had a bit of a murky past, but I thought he would turn out to be the misunderstood bad boy with a heart of gold...not a controlling manipulator with scary ideas about women and sex. My own confusion made it easier to relate to Katie. Reading about her own lack of self-confidence and her shame over her life with her mom was hard. It was great to see her bloom on stage, but awful to see that ripped away from her. Both perspectives - Katie's and Evan's - were very strongly written and I appreciated being able to get inside of their heads and see their perspectives. This is definitely a book that should be shared with any at-risk teen readers as well as anyone who likes novels that look at the psychological aspect of relationships.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Me and the Blondes by Teresa Toten
End of Days by Eric Walters
Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Friday, May 18, 2012

Women Will Save the World by Caroline A. Shearer edited by Sarah Hackley

Inspired by a quote from the Dalai Lama that "The world will be saved by the Western woman," Caroline A. Shearer had a vision to bring together accounts of feminine traits such as collaboration, nurturing, creativity, strength, and intuition. Women Will Save the World is filled with biographies of historical women who made a difference as well as essays written by women of today who have faced many different obstacles - medical, financial, spiritual - and survived.

Many of the women profiled were new to me, and I always appreciate the opportunity to read about successful women and learn how they have accomplished what they have. I also enjoyed the short biographies of the more well-known historical figures. This approach helped to ground the essays in a feminist and historical context. At times I did feel that the focus of the book was narrowing; without taking anything away from the contributors who are profiled in this book, I would love to hear more from other women from many different backgrounds.  I sometimes lost the thread of how this was going to "save the world" while at other times thinking that it veered into self-help territory. I think, though, that ultimately those two go hand-in-hand. How can women 'help' themselves? By using the traits and behaviours of positive female role models. Women Will Save the World isn't trying to be everything to everyone; its focus is on sharing stories of strong, successful Western (in this case, American) women. Read this in connection with some other explorations about female power and see all of the ways that women have been and will continue to contribute to the world.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Absolute Love Publishing.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
No Excuses by Gloria Feldt
Women of Color and Feminism by Maythee Rojas
Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
Dead End Date by Caroline A. Shearer

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle with illustrations by Mike Gordon

Do super heroes have teddy bears? Well, that's really up to each individual super hero. Some lie to have a cuddly friend along for the ride. Some also use a blanket as a cape, make spaceships out of boxes, and try to avoid eating carrots and peas. But no matter how old - or how young - a super hero is, it's important to be kind and caring, honest, and helpful.

There's such a lovely thread running through this book about how it doesn't take a super hero to be a hero who acts in a super way. There are many different ways that kids can make a difference, and there many different ways that imagination can be used in positive ways. I loved the page where the two children are sitting in a tree with a toy shark staring up at them, mouth open. It's such a lovely image and one that's so easily identifiable from my own childhood (I never sat in a tree and I never had a toy shark...but the premise is the same). This is my first time reading a book by Carmela LaVigna Coyle or seeing Mike Gordon's illustration, but I know it won't be the last time.

Check out Carmela LaVigna Coyle's website and also Mike Gordon's website.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Rowman & Littlefield.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle
Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle
My Best Friend by Diane Namm

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Alphabet Everywhere by Elliott Kaufman

The alphabet is fundamental to the English language. It's the basis of how we write words. Learning the alphabet is a big step for children; it brings them closer to being able to read and write. This book explores how letters are everywhere - not just in books or on signs but also in shapes, shadows, and nature.

The photography in this book is lovely. It captures the letters and frames them to show off their alphabetical qualities. Letters that sometimes get the short end in other alphabet books (like Q or X) here have just as much to share as other letters. Each letter gets one big photo and four small ones, showing off the many different ways that it appears in the world. This is a great book to get kids thinking about letters, particularly kids who are already familiar with the alphabet. The more abstract nature might not be the best way to introduce letters to them for the first time, but kids who know their ABCs can have a great time searching for them in their own "everywheres."

See more of Elliott Kaufman's work at his website.

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

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Smiley Book of Colors by Ruth Kaiser
Ruby, Violet, Lime: Looking for Color by Jane Brocket
Building Stories by Isabel Hill
Urban Animals by Isabel Hill
Look Book by Tana Hoban

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey

Kate Crane's life is slipping out of focus. She threw her neck out while dancing Swan Lake and needs increasing amounts of medication just to get through the day. She's a soloist with a New York ballet company but for the last few years has danced in the shadows of her sister Gwen. That was before Gwen had a meltdown and quietly went back to their family home in Michigan. Now Kate must deal with the pieces of her life - and Gwen's life - while considering what she wants to do next.

(Spoilers below)

I really enjoyed this book. I've read a few teen books set in the ballet world, but it was a nice change to see a book about a slightly older dancer at a different place in her life. That doesn't mean, though, that Kate has her life all figure out. The physical toll of her work is draining her body and her relationships (or lack of relationships) is draining her emotionally. The shadow that Gwen casts is so huge that it took me a while to realize that she wasn't even really in the novel as a character in person. The book is filled with great details of the ballet world, but it felt like the book was written by a writer who once danced rather than a dancer who writes. The characters are skillfully created and the story builds nicely. This is a great choice for both adults as well as teens who might be looking to read adult books.

Learn more about Meg Howrey at her website.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Vintage Books/Knopf Doubleday.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
Blind Slight by Meg Howrey

Monday, May 14, 2012

Red Nails, Black Skates by Erica Rand

Erica Rand wasn't expecting a pair of skates to have such an effect on her life. A college professor in her forties isn't usually the person who gets swept up into the world of figure skating...or is she? This access to the world of adult figure skating provides an up-close look at the strong gender assumptions that govern skating along with the way that money, race, and sex play out on the ice. Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash and Pleasure On and Off the Ice, through short essays, looks at how these factors combine in figure skating - adult and otherwise.

I am a longtime fan of figure skating, but adult skating is one area that I've never really explored. I really enjoyed Erica Rand's study of gender, politics, and the pleasure of skating; she has a love for the sport and a critical eye to what is going on at and under the surface. This book and others that have come out recently (including Artistic Impressions) have helped me to place into a context my own thoughts about the sport that I love. I started watching skating in the 90s during the period of hypermasculinity evidenced by Elvis Stojko and Michael Weiss; I watched Johnny Weir's gender be questioned at the 2010 Winter Olympics.  I was in the audience at the Grand Prix final last year where Carolina Kostner came out in a one-piece jumpsuit and saw how immediately people started talking about a skater without a skirt (often in the same sentence as pointing out that it gave her 'cameltoe'). Figure skating is an area where sport, gender, sex, politics, money, and race come together in a fascinating way. Erica Rand's writing combines the personal details of her life and experiences as a skater with research into different aspects of sport and gender theory. Related areas, including roller derby and hockey, are explored as well. The book is accessible to skating enthusiasts and well worth reading. If you're looking for ways to pass the time before the 2012-13 skating season starts, definitely consider picking up this book.

See also her website for more information about her other books.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Duke University Press.

Also check out a great review of the book at The Book Cricket.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Barbie's Queer Accessories by Erica Rand
Artistic Impressions: Figure Skating, Masculinity, and the Limits of Sport by Mary Louise Adams
Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning by Ellyn Kestnbaum
Down and Derby by Alex Cohen and Jennifer Barbee

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Libby is psyched to be spending the summer at a living history museum. She loves history and is sure that this is going to be the best summer of her life. Then she arrives at Camden Harbor and discovers that things aren't exactly like she pictured. Her uniform is way too big, she's forbidden from using modern technology while at work (including cell phones!), and she's living with someone who takes historical recreations way too seriously. There's also an annoying reporter hanging around trying to get the scoop on a ghost that might be hanging around Camden Harbor. On the plus side, though, Libby has caught the eye of a gorgeous sailor who knows all of the right things to say. Maybe this summer can be saved after all!

I love that the main character of a teen book loves Jane Austen and historical recreations. She has a lot more interests, and while  her best friend pokes fun at her for her desire to spend her summer at a living history museum, she stands strong. That's always great to see in teen books. Mixed in with history and drama is romance.  Readers should be able to figure out who the right leading man is fairly early on, but the discovery isn't the point - the journey is. Particularly when it's a journey, to some extent, of Libby getting over herself. I didn't always like how she talked to Garrett, the investigative journalist intent on getting the truth behind the ghost stories. She's not a bad person, though, she just lacked some perspective, and her growth over the course of the novel is great to see.  The setting and story would make for a great filmed version; don't be surprised if you see this soon on a screen near you.

Check out Stephanie Kate Strohm's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Graphia.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Here's Lily by Nancy Rue

When a modeling consultant comes to Lily's school, the last thing that Lily thinks is that she might have the chance to become a model! Her wild hair is what everyone always notices, and it's not exactly something that models are known for. She's excited to learn about beauty, poise, and taking care of herself. Her parents, on the other hand, aren't quite as excited, and wonder if Lily is able to find God in her modeling. Lily isn't sure what that means, and before she has a chance to think about it, she gets sidetracked by dealing with a mean kid in her class who makes other people feel bad. Lily's life has gotten really complicated; is this a chance for her to figure out who she really is?

 Lily is a very likeable character. Yes, she does get up with the whole modeling thing, but her sudden interest comes from a believable place. Less believable to me was the idea of a modeling agent coming to a school under the guise of health, but I'm sure it has happened somewhere at some point. There are some strong messages in this book about standing up for yourself, believing in yourself, and how the important beauty is on the inside. These ideas are woven around the idea of serving God and doing His work on earth. There will be more books in this series, so look for more of Lily's adventures to come.

See more at Nancy Rue's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Thomas Nelson.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Beauty Book by Nancy Rue
S.A.V.E. Squad #1: Dog Daze by Lauraine Snelling and Kathleen Damp Wright
Little Wings #1: Willa Bean's Cloud Dreams by Cecelia Galante

Friday, May 11, 2012

Let's Count Goats! by Mem Fox and Jan Thomas

There are lots of different goats in the world, and they do lots of different things. There are mountain goats and city goats and eating goats and drinking goats. Pilot goats and musical goats and goats who relax by the sea. Do you know how many goats there are?  There's only one thing left to do: count the goats!

I was so excited when I was exploring at the library and discovered this book. Mem Fox and Jan Thomas together in a book? Count me in! Then I discovered that it isn't exactly a new book - it's been released for a few years. Where have I been? Not counting goats, that's for sure! This book has lots of things that would make it a great book for a storytime: rhyming text, counting, predictability (perfect for kids to shout out the next word), colourful pictures, animals... If you're like me and haven't seen this book yet, definitely keep an eye out for it.

Check out Mem Fox and Jan Thomas's websites.

Read it with:
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas
Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

Elizabeth Margaret's life has always gone according to plan. High school valedictorian: check. Summer internship at a law firm: check. Acceptance at an Ivy League university: check. Then she gets the chance to spend the summer with her aunt - an aunt that she barely knows. As Em unwinds at her aunt's resort, she starts to question the direction of her life and wonders about what she really wants. Mixed in with her own self-discovery is the uncovering of long held family secrets that threaten to shake (and possibly destroy) the foundation of her family. It's going to be a summer that Em never forgets.

There's a lot to be mined from the teen on the cusp of something more, particularly someone who has always lived by someone else's rules. I had a bit of a hard time into the novel at the beginning; Em's family (with the exception of her sister) seem to be so cold and formal, and some of the dialogue seemed forced. Then I realized that it seemed forced because it was forced - all of the interactions seemed to be driven by duty and obligation.  But once she arrived at her aunt's place, the change in tone was so complete. There were times when the book reminded me of Gilmore Girls (a single mom, running an inn, a bit of a free spirit, creating family out of friends), but the story very clearly spins into its own space. Fans of Gilmore Girls and summer reads should definitely toss this one into their beach bags.

See more about author Shannon Greenland at her website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Penguin Publishing.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Specialists: Model Spy by Shannon Greenland
The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Ha
Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Long before they took the world by storm, The Beatles were a band working semi-anonymously in Germany. That's where a young woman named Astrid Kirchherr first saw them and fell in love: with their music, yes, but also with musician Stuart Sutcliffe. As the boys dealt with venue issues, legal troubles, and burgeoning fame, Astrid and Stuart became engaged and encouraged each other in their artistic fields. But a happily ever after was not to be, as Stuart died of a sudden brain haemorrhage in 1962.

Not being familiar with Arne Bellstorf's work, I was thinking that this book might be a little like reading about the 'baby Beatles.' While of course the Beatles do appear, it's not like that at all. They're easily recognizable and do have a young appearance, but not in a caricatured way. It's refreshing to see them as supporting players in the story; so often it's their story that's being told, but there are a number of other people who were there at the time that have different stories, perspectives, and lives. Astrid Kirchherr is a fascinating character that I only knew about in a very limited way. The subject matter, approach, and artistic style makes this a book worth checking out.

Here's a video of The Beatles performing "Baby's in Black" in Munich:

Take a look at Arne Bellstorf's website.

I read an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of MacMillan.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Read the Beatles edited by June Skinner Sawyer
The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor
John by Cynthia Lennon

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

Summer is the perfect time for June to work on perfecting her talent: pie making. She's sure that if she can just find the right combination, she can win a blue ribbon in the Champlain Valley Fair pie competition. It's hard to stay focused on baking, though. Vermont has become a state filled with political tension around the legalization of civil unions, and many citizens are determined to "take back" Vermont. This upsets June, her mom, and her mom's girlfriend, and sets them apart from many people in their town. June loves her mom, but she also wants to blend in with other families ...and having two moms is definitely a way to stick out. June is sure of one thing: it's going to be a long summer.

In many ways, this is a very traditional middle grade book. A girl worried about fitting in and making/keeping friends, who doesn't get along with her mom's partner, who has arguments with her parents, who's determined to be successful at something she loves doing. Maybe one day it won't be a big deal if the character is a girl who has two parents of the same sex (sadly, I don't think we're quite at that stage yet). June's struggle felt organic for the character - she loved her mom and wanted her to be happy, but was conflicted because she didn't feel close to her mom's girlfriend and was unhappy about the attention that her mom's relationship brought to the family. I think it's a good thing to have books that reflect a wide spectrum of kids experiences, especially when it comes to GLBTQ families. On a different note, I spent many summers at a cottage not far from Vermont and Lake Champlain, so it was neat for me to read a book set in that area.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Visit Jennifer Gennari's website for more information about her.

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson
The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett illustrated by Ann James

Hannah never goes anywhere without Sadie and Ratz. That's what she calls her hands. They're not animals, exactly, but they can be quite wild...particularly when they get annoyed by Hannah's brother. Then they like to attack! But Baby Boy is up to something. He draws on the wall and blames it on Sadie and Ratz. Then he tries to blame more things on Sadie and Ratz! Hannah's parents aren't happy, and neither is Hannah. How is she going to prove that she - and they - are innocent?

There's something startling about being so deeply in the mind of a young character. The way Hannah talks about Sadie and Ratz (her hands) as independent things completely out of her control made me wonder if maybe some sort of therapy wouldn't help her. It's hard to remember what it was like to be so young and have the bounds of reality and imagination slipping and blurring so quickly. Hannah is a bright, creative child and her parents definitely see and encourage her imagination. The antagonistic relationship that's between Hannah and her brother comes from a place of love and frustration - something many siblings can relate to. The expressive illustrations (I particularly love the characters' faces) and large simple - but not boring - text make this a great book for new readers and a great one to hand to older sisters.

See more about Sonya Hartnett at her website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan
The Boy and the Toy by Sonya Hartnett
Midnight Babies by Margaret Wild illustrated by Ann James

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger

In The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tommy and Kellan created a case file to explore the authenticity of the Origami Yoda. Was the Force really flowing through the finger puppet, or was it all just a hoax run by Dwight? In Darth Paper Strikes Back, Origami Yoda and Dwight face two new obstacles: Darth Paper and Harvey. After Dwight gets kicked out of school is on the verge of attending an alternative school for problem children, Tommy is determined to find a way to help. On the advice of Origami Yoda, he starts a second case file to document all of the ways that Dwight - and Origami Yoda - has actually worked to make the school a better place. The file also has Kellan's illustrations (and Harvey's unhelpful comments), but will it be enough to convince the school board that Dwight should be allowed back to school?

The two Origami Yoda books are built on such a great premise. The books and their covers practically scream 'Read Me!' Darth Paper has great strands running through it about friendship, acceptance, honesty, tact, and authority, but it never hits readers over the head with lessons or morals. You could probably read this book without an extensive knowledge of Star Wars, or without reading the first book, but I definitely recommend reading the first one before checking this one out. The ending of the book makes it very clear that there's going to be another one, and that's confirmed on Tom Angleberger's website. I can't wait!

Check out both Tom Angleberger's website as well as the Origami Yoda website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes

Penny wants to sing her song. She wants to share it with her parents! But her mom says not to wake the babies. Her dad tells her that she has to wait. She tries singing it to herself, but it's not the same. She just wants to sing! Will she ever be able to share her song?

Sometimes you have to wait. Sometimes you can't do what you want to do when you want to do it. Waiting can be hard, but sometimes, if you wait, something really great will happen. I love Kevin Henkes' writing and illustration. I'm a huge fan of his character Lilly, and there were elements of this story that reminded me of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. This is a great book for parents/caregivers looking for books about emotions, frustration, waiting, or dealing with siblings, but it's also got a story that will be great for kids looking for a fun book. Whether you're a longtime fan of Kevin Henkes or are just discovering him, make sure to pick up this book.

Check out Kevin Henkes' website for more information about him and his books. 

Get a peek inside the book at HarperCollins.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Cat the Cat, Who is That? by Mo Willems
Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells

Friday, May 4, 2012

Teen Boat! by Dave Roman and John Green

 Life isn't easy when you're a Teen Boat! That's what TB (Teen Boat, of course) has discovered. He's busy trying to navigate life as a high school student, but the slightest amount of water can send him changing into a nautical device. Sometimes it's a drag, but sometimes it works out to his's all part of being a Teen Boat!

I first heard about Teen Boat! during a School Library Journal webcast of upcoming titles. The minute I got to the subtitle ("The angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!") I knew I had to get my hands on this book. I loved its easy humour and improbable action; the art style and writing work so well together. It's a smart, funny read for reluctant and eager readers alike.  With a book like Teen Boat! Dave Roman and John Green have gone right to the top of my "immediately check out anything they publish" list. Don't miss this book!

See more about Dave Roman and John Green at their websites.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman
Nursery Rhyme Comics
Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden by Dave Roman and John Green

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Undone by Her Tender Touch by Maya Banks

Pippa knew the rules. Cam wasn't looking for love; he wasn't looking for a relationship. He just wanted one night of incredible sex. That's what she wanted, too. But when she discovers that she's pregnant, all of the rules are out the window. Pippa is scared: how is she going to support herself and a baby? But Cam is scared too, because he once lost the only people that were important to him. Pippa and the baby are bringing back terrible memories. Will he ruin everything by pushing her away?

It's been a long time since I've read a romance novel, particularly a Harlequin Desire. Undone by Her Tender Touch wasted no time in getting to a racy sex scene (there was one in the first thirty pages of the book, and it was by no means the only one). There are a lot of ideas about sex, gender, and relationships to explore in this book. Cam's idea for solving most things is to throw money at things, and it's very interesting to see when and where Pippa accepts that as a solution. There are some nice twists and roadblocks on the way to true love, and the characters are grounded in ways that make their actions understandable.  In Hollywood terms, it's a bit Sex and the City-meets-Bridesmaids-meets-Knocked Up, and if you like reading romance stories about power, money, and pregnancy, give this one a try.

Check out Maya Banks' website.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Harlequin.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Pregnancy Contract by Yvonne Lindsay
His Heir, Her Honor by Catherine Mann
Enticed by His Forgotten Lover by Maya Banks

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marlow and the Monster by Sharon Cramer

There's a monster who crawls backwards into Marlow's room. He keeps coming in and Marlow is tired of it! He tries to tell his mom, but she just tells him to pick up his dirty laundry. He tries to tell his dad, but his dad says monsters aren't real. Marlow doesn't know what he's going to do! It's up to his sister Sarah to find a way to deal with this monster.

There are so many great stories based on the idea of a kid telling his/her oblivious parents about something that they can't understand. This book can lead to a lot of great conversations for caregivers and kids: do you think monsters are real? Why do you think Marlow's parents didn't believe him? Have you ever thought one way about something and then changed your mind? There are some great story threads running through it, particularly around friendship, making friends, first impressions, and telling the truth. I love the way that the Monster is shown. The style of the black-and-white illustrations didn't stand out for me (they had incredible detail but seemed to fade into the background), but the pictures of the monster completely steal the show (particularly the spread of the Monster peeking out between the legs of Marlow and his mother). Add him to the list of picture book characters that I would love to see as a plush toy.

Note: My review is based on a galley with only part of the illustrations; I have not seen a final copy of the book.

Marlow and the Monster won't be released until July 1, 2012, but you can get a sneak peek at the book and some of the illustration at the Talking Bird Books website.

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of B&F Publishing/Talking Bird Books.

Read it with:
Marlowe the Monster by Shing Yin Khor
Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Death of a Dreamer: The Assassination of John Lennon by Alison Marie Behnke

The world was used to seeing headlines about John Lennon. As a member of the band The Beatles, he had sold millions of albums and had fans all over the globe who wanted to know his every move. Attention continued over the years, from his relationship with Yoko Ono to the breakup of the Beatles to his solo career and his appeals for world peace. But in December 1980 people were shocked by a new headline: John Lennon was dead. He had been murdered outside of his home in New York. How could this have happened? Death of a Dreamer looks at John, his legacy, and his untimely death.

Death of a Dreamer isn't just the story of John Lennon, even though he's the only one on the cover; a closer reading of the title makes this clear. It's about his death, or his assassination, and in order to tell that story it's necessary to tell the story of his assassin, Mark David Chapman. While many of the details of Lennon's life (both before and after the Beatles) were familiar to me, the information about Chapman was new. While still carefully written for a young audience, it's a chilling look at a very disturbed man. When the story of this man is combined with the story of a man who wanted to change the world with his music, the tragic results just seem so senseless.

I read an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Lerner Publishing.

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
Real Love: The Drawings for Sean by John Lennon
John's Secret Dreams by Doreen Rappaport
Pope John Paul II by Alison Behnke
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger