Sunday, December 31, 2006


Ishmael by Barbara Hambly. Library copy. Originally published in 1985.

The Plot: As explained in my prior post on this crossover book, it's Star Trek meets Here Come the Brides. Spock winds up back in 1867 Seattle, has amnesia, meets the HCTB people. It has something to do with Klingons trying to do yadda yadda yadda....that doesn't matter.

The Good: What matters, or why this book is awesome:

Nowhere in the book, including the book jacket and copyright page, is Here Come the Brides acknowledged or credited. In other words; if you don't know, you don't know.

According to the Complete Starfleet Library, "This was not an officially sanctioned crossover; there was no mention of Here Come the Brides anywhere, and apparently nobody picked up on the author's joke until the book was published."

What's better? That the editors didn't know HCTB, or that the editors knew and laughed and kept quiet about it?

It's not the only crossover in the book. I KNOW. As I was reading, there was a description of someone that sounded like Doctor Who. And then later on, I'm like, huh, that sounds like Little Joe and Hoss.

Don't believe me? Read it and weep in joy. Or, if you want to have it pointed out to you, I found this at a Battlestar Galactica (original series) site, in an archived discussion from about ten years back. It has pages, quotes, and who the unnamed crossover characters are. (It's towards the bottom quarter of the page.)

Know of other books that are crossovers like this? Let me know in the comments! Does original fanfiction count? Hmm... Part of what I love about Ishmael is it is an official Star Trek book. But what the heck. If it's good, let me know.

Clay by David Almond

Clay by David Almond. Copy from library.

The Plot: Davie is an altar boy, living in a small town in England when he first sees Stephen. Before this, it is a typical boyhood; a flirtation with a girl at school, a best friend, a rivalry with the kids from the next town that is a self described "war". But after Stephen arrives, a strange boy living with Crazy Mary, things change. Stephen makes things out of clay. And says he can make them live.

Are they alive? Davie is drawn to Stephen, to this power he has, and other things fall by the wayside. The pretty girl, his best friend. But the war with Martin "Mouldy" Mould only escalates. Stephen's answer? Create a man of clay to take care of Mouldy.

The Good: I adore David Almond. Straight up, let's get that out of the way. Love him. Love his books. So of course this gets onto my Best Books of 2006 list.

OK. On with the good.

Almond writes dialect; but it's not heavy handed. From the first "bliddy hell" I could hear these boys voices, the voices of their world, and I really want to listen to this on audiobook. I'm not a fan of books with dialect, because often heavy use of dialect separates me from the story. Here, I may not know what clarty means when I read "Great clarty footprints all through the hall" it thrills me, nonetheless. Another bit I loved: "the air outside seemed filled with angels."

I adored Davie's family; Almond has created a warm, loving family, very likable, which contrasts all the more with the danger in Davie's life. What is he getting himself into, the conflict with Mouldy, the relationship with Stephen, the man they may or may not create? Why is he making these choices?

Davie is Catholic; he believes in miracles and the miraculous and this story is set at a time when one may start to question those beliefs. Enter Stephen, with proof of miracles; proof of good and evil. And Davie believes; believes in Stephen's power, even when he sees Stephen create and destroy and treat people like toys. Believes because he sees these things.

Stephen pulls Davie into his world, saying that Davie can create, also. The only thing we need to make a real man, Stephen says, is the consecrated wafer and wine. I still get chills as I remember this passage; will Davie commit this ultimate sacrilege? And for me, this choice, and what Davie does, and why, is the heart of the book.

In addition to questions about belief, there are also questions about creation and responsibility (AKA the Frankenstein issue). Is Davie is mad or dreaming? Is this real? And if it is real, now what? What should this man of clay do? "Nothing means he'll crumble back into the earth. Nothing'll be the end of him."

Links: The Gail Giles review.
Bookshelves of Doom review.
An interview at Booktrusted.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cybils Nominations: Young Adult

The Young Adult nominations for the Cybils. If I read it, it's bold.

Abundance of Katherines, An
written by John Green
Dutton Juvenile

Accidents of Nature
written by Harriet McBryde Johnson
Henry Holt

Adios to My Old Life
written by Caridad Ferrer
MTV Press

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away
written by Joyce Carol Oates

Alice in the Know
written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Angel's Choice
written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Simon Pulse

written by Veronica Bennett

Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, The
written by Barry Lyga
Houghton Mifflin

Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
written by M.T. Anderson

Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, A
written by Tanya Lee Stone
Wendy Lamb Books

Bad Kitty
written by Michele Jaffe

written by Ally Kennen
Push (Scholastic)

Becoming Chloe
written by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Between Mom and Jo
written by Julie Ann Peters
Little, Brown Young Readers

Blind Faith
written by Ellen Wittlinger
Simon & Schuster

Book Thief, The
written by Markus Zusak
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Born to Rock
written by Gordan Korman

Boy Book, The: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
written by E. Lockhart
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The
written by John Boyne
David Fickling Books

Braid, The
written by Helen Frost
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, A
written by Dana Reinhardt
Wendy Lamb Books

Christopher Killer, The
written by Alane Ferguson
Viking Juvenile

Dairy Queen
written by Catherine Murdock
Houghton Mifflin

Dirty Liar
written by Brian James
Push (Scholastic)

written by Polly Shulman
Putnam Juvenile

Estrella's Quinceanera
written by Malin Alegria
Simon & Schuster

Eva Underground
written by Dandi Daley Mackall
Harcourt Children's Books

Extraordinary Adventures of Horatio Lyle, The
written by Catherine Webb

Fringe Girl
written by Valerie Frankel
NAL Trade

Going Under
written by Kathe Koje
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Goy Crazy
written by Melissa Schorr

written by Heather Waldorf
Red Deer Press

Hattie Big Sky
written by Kirby Larson
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Hollywood Sisters: Backstage Pass
written by Mary Wilcox
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

How It's Done
written by Christine Kole MacLean

How to Be Popular
written by Meg Cabot

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
written by Ally Carter

written by Alice Hoffman
Little, Brown Young Readers

In the Garage
written by Alma Fullerton
Red Deer Press

It's Kind of a Funny Story: A Novel
written by Ned Vizzini

Just In Case
written by Meg Rosoff
Wendy Lamb Books

Just Listen
written by Sarah Dessen
Viking Juvenile

King Dork
written by Frank Portman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet
written by Kashmira Sheth

Lorenzo and the Turncoat
written by Lila Guzman and Rick Guzman
Arte Público Press (Piñata Books)

Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, The
written by Jack Gantos
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Loving Will Shakespeare
written by Carolyn Meyer
Harcourt Children's Books

More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet
written by Lola Douglas

Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie, The
written by Jaclyn Moriarty
Arthur A. Levine Books

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Notes From The Midnight Driver
written by Jordan Sonnenblick

Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies)
written by Justina Chen Headley
Little, Brown Young Readers

written by Lisa Klein

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You
written by Hanna Jansen
Carolrhoda Books

Paranoid Park
written by Blake Nelson
Viking Juvenile

Plenty Porter
written by Brandon Noonan

written by Kate Brian
Simon Pulse

Pursuit of Happiness, The
written by Tara Altebrando
MTV Press

Queen of Cool, The
written by Cecil Castellucci

written by Pete Hautman
Simon & Schuster

Real Question, The
written by Adrian Fogelin

Returnable Girl
written by Pamela Lowell
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Rules of Survival, The
written by Nancy Werlin

written by Wendelin Van Draanen
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Samurai Shortstop
written by Alan M. Gratz

Simply Divine
written by Jacquelin Thomas
Pocket Books

written by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Margaret K. McElderry

written by Patricia McCormick

Stay With Me
written by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Houghton Mifflin

Tallulah Falls
written by Christine Fletcher

This Is All
written by Aidan Chambers

This Time, Last Year
written by Kitt Raser Kelleher

written by Gudrun Pausewang
Carolrhoda Books

written by Susan Vaught

True and Faithful Narrative, A
written by Katherine Sturtevant
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

written by Lauren Myracle

Unresolved, The
written by T. K. Welsh
Dutton Children's Books

Viking Warrior
written by Judson Roberts

Waiting for Eugene
written by Sallie Lowenstein
Lion Stone Books

Wish House, The
written by Celia Rees

Note: will be updated as I read them

Kampung Boy

Kampung Boy by Lat. First Second Publisher. Copy borrowed from a friend. Graphic Novel.

The Plot: The story of a boy growing up on a Kampung in Malaysia.

The Good: This is a beautiful story of a traditional, Eden-like childhood in Malaysia. It's simple: going to school, a cousin's wedding, sneaking away to go swimming. It's sweet; it's funny; and it's full of traditions of another place and another time (it's set in the 1950s.)

It ends, as all good books about childhood end, with the main character, Mat, going away to school. There are also hints that the family may leave the Kampung for the city; that his boyhood home is truly an Eden that will vanish away forever. But Mat, with the innocence of childhood, an innocence he doesn't know he has, doesn't realize it.

Recommended for all ages. It's going on my Best Books of 2006.

According to Wikipedia, Kampung Boy was originally published in 1979. That's a long time to wait for the US edition. Let's hope there isn't a long wait for the sequel, Town Boy, published in 1981.

Links: Publisher's website includes an excerpt.
The Wikipedia Entry on Lat.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Blog Resolutions

New Year's Blogging Resolutions:

  1. Always mention the source of a book (library, personal, gift, author, publisher, convention, etc.)
  2. Post three to five book reviews a week.
  3. Update my blogroll as I start reading new blogs, rather than once every two months.
  4. Get more organized about review copies. Currently organization: piles and slips of paper in books. In 2007 I plan to computerize it.
  5. Blog more about movies and TV; both of these areas have been seriously neglected.
  6. Podcast. (Ha Ha Ha! I need one resolution I won't keep. Seriously. Don't have the equipment, don't like the sound of my voice.)
  7. Verbose. Teachers have been telling me that since third grade. I'll try to stop being so rambly! But look, I cannot help it. I could have kept it at verbose, but I have to have the little backstory, then my little comment, then the comment on the comment...Darn. Two resolutions I won't keep.
Thanks to Semicolon for the idea of putting my resolutions online.

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday will be here!

It's just that I don't have a poem, myself, not yet. And I'm on the way out the door so haven't begun rounding up. So leave a comment if you have a poem or review or lyric or poet or book.

And I'll be back!

And as I promised, Elvis is in the house. Or, rather, I am. And good deals at Gap & Banana Republic!!

My Poem:

The Tyger
by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

The rest of the poem is here.

Poetry Friday Round Up:


If by Rudyard Kipling at Farm School (offering a positive New Year's resolution and Happy New Year wishes)

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf by Roald Dahl at Miss Erin (I love Dahl's ending -- Go, Red!)

Looking for a Sunset Bird In Winter by Robert Frost at a wrung sponge (I was thisclose to hitting "publish" when this one came in!)

The Passing of the Year by Robert W. Service at Journey Woman (first person with a New Year poem!)

Robin Redbreast by William Allingham at By Sun and Candlelight (continuing a winter bird theme, and offering a bonus verse by Christina Rossetti)

Three Poems are at Scholar's Blog (T.S. Eliot, William Shakespeare, and Robert Burns -- and one of these is the one I was going to post!!)

Poems and Books:

A Gift of Poetry at Blue Rose Girls (what is it with all you overachievers today? Reviews of 4 poetry books, plus some wonderful words on how a book -- the physical copy itself -- can be as important as the words inside; and three poems. Girls, is there anything left for the rest of us???)

Top 5 O'Rama at A Year of Reading (now, this is just showing off: their Top 5 Poetry Friday Poems AND Top 5 Books)


The Prince's Bedtime by Joanne Oppenheim at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (winning the prize for longest introduction that has nothing to do with the actual book; bonus link to a video of Choppin Broccoli)

Edited to Add:

Chicken Spaghetti has Poetry Speaks to Children (which I'll be reviewing soon; it's sitting on my to be listened to next week pile!)

Wing Nuts at What Adrienne Thinks About That (in which I learn about Senryu)

And these just in:

Poetry books by Paul Janeczko at Kelly R Fineman/Writing & Ruminating (not just poetry; but also writing and enjoying poetry)

MotherReader Fibs some books she hasn't reviewed til now (no, not telling untruths fibs; the other Fibs)

Weather edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins at Blog from the Windowsill (an I Can Read Book, so very child friendly)

You by Edgar Guest at Semicolon (an inspirational read)

Little Things by Chantal Kreviazuk at Little Willow/ Bildungsroman (hey, I think this may be the only lyrics for the week)

Hello, Hello

Hello, Hello by Fumiko Takeshita, illustrated by Jun Takabatake. Kane/Miller; copy donated by publisher. Originally published in Japan in 2000.

The Plot: How to use the telephone.

The Good: Seriously. A book about the telephone.

You have no idea how many parents and preschool teachers want simple books like this about basic things for their young children. And how difficult it is to find!

This isn't all techy about phones. Three sentences explains the invention: "It used to be, we could only speak face to face. Later on, we could write letters. But now, we have telephones. 'Hello, hello!' It's fast and easy."

With that set forth, it's all show and tell about telephone manners and etiquette, but without ever using those words. Instead, it shows animals making phone calls in different situations. "[The telephone] can be helpful when we're hungry," and the colorful illustrations show a pig calling for a pizza, with the next page the pizza delivery motorcycle (just like the photos at Here and There Japan!) By the end of this story, even the youngest kid will be shouting Hello, Hello. (Or, as in my nephew's case, saying Hi Hi.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dramacon Vol. 2

Dramacon Vol. 2, created by Svetlana Chmakova. Copy donated by TokyoPop, in support of the Cybils.

The Plot: During an anime convention, Christie, a teenage writer of online comics and manga, meets up with her crush (Matt) from last year's convention and has assorted con adventures.

The Good: LOVED IT. I cannot wait to read the entire series. And I'm adding it to my Best Books of 2006 list.

This is Volume 2; Volume 1 takes place at the previous year's con, where Christie was there with her abusive artist boyfriend, Matt helped her out of a bad situation, and Christie met one of her favorite writers/artists. All that backstory is nicely recapped in this volume; which means, you do not have to read Volume 1 to enjoy Volume 2, but having read Volume 2 you most certainly want to read Volume 1. I cannot wait to read the whole series, and thank goodness, some of Volume 1 is online. I'm assuming that Volume 3, due out next year, takes place a year from Volume 2.

It's a clever storytelling device; a window into Christie's life every year, following her for a few short days.

Do you need to know a lot about manga and anime and anime conventions to enjoy this story? Hell, no! I loved it and have never been to an anime convention (but have been to other conventions) and have no real experience with manga fandom (beyond being a librarian who is aware of manga, read a handful of titles, and have had anime nights with cosplay and DDR and the like). Dramacon is funny, Christie is great (she is constantly getting lost at the convention center); and I also liked that two teenage girls are not just creating a comic, they are out there promoting it.

I loved the convention storyline; the arguments about what is manga (which is being discussed over at A Year of Reading); fans, fanart, and fandom (which is rather universal); being a professional comics artist and writer.

But what really rocked my world was the semi-romance between Christie and Matt. Christie likes Matt, Matt likes Christie, but after last year they each went their separate ways. Meaning, while Christie is single she dated other guys; and Matt is now dating Emily. Oh, the deliciousness of it all, as they exchange looks, and we, like Christie, first hate Emily (just because!) and then find things to like in Emily, and then ---

OK, I refuse to spoil the entire storyline. Both Christie and Matt try to deal with their feelings about each other contrasted with the realities of their lives. And I loved, loved, loved every second of it.

This series is labelled Romance and Teen Age 13 Plus. Tho, honestly? In this volume, at least, I didn't see anything (i.e., sexual content, language, violence) to warrant a 13 Plus rating; I do think it's going to be mainly of interest to those 13 and over, so it's correct in that way. It's also possible that it's a rating for the entire series.

Links: Reading YA: Readers Rants review.
TangognaT review.

Cybils: Review of the Day

While the Cybils nominating committees are busy reading and discussing the books on their long list in order to create a top 5 short list that will then be handed over to the judging committees, the Cybils site is running reviews of the day, highlighting the numerous nominated books.

And today I have the review of the day with my review of Dairy Queen! Yoo and hoo for me. Did you know that my "reviews are candid and light-hearted, yet also cut right to the core of the book that she's discussing".

So keep an eye on the Cybils site -- not only will you get reviews of the numerous books (has anyone done a total across all categories book count?), but you will also get to read reviews from a lot of different bloggers with different voices.

Astonishing X Men: Gifted Vol 1

Astonishing X Men: Gifted Volume 1 by Joss Whedon, John Cassaday. Graphic Novel. Personal Copy.

The Plot: The X Men are putting aside from differences, getting together, and re-opening the school. It doesn't go according to plan.

The Good: Yes, I read Graphic Novels; but I'm such the amateur. I'm still learning about when it's a "real" graphic novel versus when (as here) it's a reprint of work originally released as a comic book. And I rarely read Superhero comics/graphic novels.

Why? They scare me. All that backstory, sometimes going back decades! Melissa has done her best to try to convince me to just jump in. With Joss Whedon writing, and my knowledge of X-Men strictly from the movies, I bought Volume 1 of Astonishing X-Men.

And I liked it! And I was able to follow the story! Sure, I realized that there were certain parts that I didn't quite get; didn't quite appreciate. But Whedon's storytelling was such that I never felt lost; didn't feel like I had wandered into the movie theatre half way thru; didn't make me feel like I wasn't part of the club so should put down the book now and not even try.

Nope; instead, I was told enough of the backstory to go with the flow, enjoy the tale, and get my Whedon fix. Characters are complex, even the secondary ones; the dialogue vintage Whedon. A panel and a handful of words gives me just enough to know the history of these people and this world.

Oh, and the plot. So apparently bad stuff happened, and now some of the X-Men are reopening the school, but someone has found a cure for being a mutant! Mutants can be just like regular folks. Some mutants reject this, others embrace it -- but that's because some mutants have a better time of it than others. In true Whedon form (and, I imagine, this is true of superhero tales), the story has many layers. Should something that is who you are be viewed as a disease to be cured? Or embraced and celebrated?

And, of course, there's the bad guys.

Now I just have to get Volume 2.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

Giles: I have to stay and clean up. I'll be back in the Middle Ages.
Jenny: Did you ever leave?
Ep: I Robot, You Jane

Monster House

To those of you saying, what's up with these pictures? What can I say; I'm an aunt. Cheetah is happy to see her work online. So just move along to all the book review posts.


Surrender by Sonya Hartnett.

There will be spoilers. And it is better to read this book without spoilers. So I will try to have all non spoilers at the top and spoilers afterwards, clearly marked. And I cannot do much more to make you read this book without spoilers short of showing up at your house and forcing you.

The Plot: Gabriel is dying. He lies in bed, aged only twenty, his life slipping by and looks back on his life; his strict parents, his isolated town, his brother, his beloved dog, and his friendship with the Finnigan, a Huck Finn type child who is wild and unruly, the opposite of Gabriel.

But nothing is what it seems; even Gabriel's name isn't Gabriel. Surrender is his dog; but it's much more than that, as Gabriel surrenders to his fate.

The Good: The language is stunning. "The sun's like a coin that's been buried for years." It's the type of writing that you almost forget what you're reading, as you enjoy the words and the language.

I began this book, disliked it, read the last chapter, had a very "meh" response. Because it's an adbooks contender, I picked it up to read the whole thing. Turned out, there was a lot I missed; and while I'm not sure I can say I liked this book, I am fascinated by it, and impressed by the language, which is why I'm adding it to my Best Books of 2006 list (see sidebar).

And now, ladies and gentlemen and readers of all ages....

In order to say why I am fascinated, I have to go into full on spoiler mode.


The Plot: Gabriel's real name is Anwell; and he relates a story of growing up in a small, isolated town in Australia; of meeting a wild boy, Finnigan, who is Anwell's opposite in everything, Bad to Anwell's Good; of strict parents; of a disabled brother; of Anwell, at the age of 7, causing the death of that brother; of his Mother knowing what had happened with enough time to rescue the brother, but not doing so; of his beloved dog, Surrender; of his father making Anwell shoot his dog; and finally, Anwell taking a hatchet to his parents.

But. Gabriel is in a white room (a hospital? a prison? home?), ill and dying; he fears and wishes for Finnigan to visit; and by the end, it is clear that there is no Finnigan and never was, but that Finnigan is very real to Gabriel and Finnigan is killing Gabriel. At this point, almost anything could be argued as not being real and being imaginations and hallucinations of Anwell/Gabriel.

The Good: The part about Finnigan not being real left me very "meh". Seen it, in various stories by Stephen King and in The Other (the book and movie by Thomas Tryon.) And the idea of Finnigan being Anwell/Gabriel's other half, or the ghost of his brother; well, there is plenty to discuss for book discussions.

But I began rereading, this book with beautiful language, that I thought was an inside look at mental illness and suddenly BAM the older brother is locked in a fridge while Mom watches with a hint of a smile and then BAM Gabriel takes the axe -- it was like I was suddenly reading a book version of The Descent but with pretty language. (Yeah, a scary gross horror film; but one that is just as much about the descent into madness as Surrender is not just the name of a dog.) It's not just the metaphor, a frequent horror film device; the language.... it's the equivalent of watching the shooting scene during Face/Off when the Wizard of Oz song is playing in the background. Sort of like Stephen King in a PBS dress.

The killings take Surrender from a psychological drama with plenty of book discussion type questions (who is Anwell? Who is Finnegan? Who is starting the fires? What does Anwell/ Gabriel know about what is going on? Is Gabriel even really dying? Did any of it really happen?) to out right horror, as the mother looks at the refrigerator knowing her son is in there, then turns to back to her nap, or later, as the blood and the brains of the parents spatter the room.

Is any of it real? Is it all the imaginings of a tortured mind? Does Gabriel only think he killed his parents, because that was the only way to be free of them? Or is he a tortured child, driven to the unthinkable?

Who is the right audience is for this book; why teens? Why not adults? Would this get a bigger audience if it was sold adult?

Anyway... it's one of those odd books that I cannot say "I loved it" because it is so disturbing. But I can say it haunts me. And I can say it is one of the best books I've read this past year.

Links: the Gail Giles review. The Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Review.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Carl Brandon Awards

I'm drafting my review of Stormwitch by Susan Vaught and just came across two awards that are new to me, and boy, they look good: The Carl Brandon Parallax Award and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award.

"The Carl Brandon Parallax Award is given to works of fiction created by a person of color. Nominees must provide a brief statement self-identifying as a person of color; creators unwilling to do so will not be considered for this award.
The Carl Brandon Kindred Award is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group."

For 2006, Stormwitch won the Kindred award; 47 by Walter Mosley won the Parallax Award. (Yes, both winners are YA!)

Take a peek at the recommended reading lists for other books and short stories that are speculative fiction by or about people of color. Go here to nominate titles for 2007.

Best Books of 2006

I keep a running list of my Best Books as a sidebar: Best Books of 2006. If you scroll all the way down to my Archives, you'll see a link to my Best Books of 2005.

Some ideas for my Best Books of 2007 List:

Should I include (appropriately marked) books read published in previous years? I read a few non 2006 books this year that I would have loved to add to the current list. Perhaps tow lists, both kept on my sidebar: Best Books of 2007 AND a Best Books Read in 2007?

How long should I keep my Best Books of 2006 going? I am thinking for at least a few months, because (a) I have read books that I intend on adding, I just haven't blogged them yet and (b) I may still be reading some 2006 titles, especially as I hope to read all the Cybils final fives.

Anyhow, here is my current list of Best Books for 2006:

Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party, The by M.T. Anderson

Babymouse: Rock Star by Jennifer L. Holm

Book Thief, The by Markus Zusak

a brief chapter in my impossible life by Dana Reinhardt

The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer

Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233

Corbenic by Catherine Fisher

Don't Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems

Hugging The Rock by Susan Taylor Brown

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller

King Dork by Frank Portman

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Learning To Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

The Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

One White Wishing Stone by Doris K. Gayzagian, ill. by Kristina Swarner

Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud

The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

Rash by Pete Hautman

Sir Thursday by Garth Nix

Witch Catcher by Mary Downing Hahn

Edited to add:

Kampung Boy by LAT

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by Stassen

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett

Clay by David Almond

Wolves by Emily Gravett

Reviews will be coming!

Witch Catcher

Witch Catcher by Mary Downing Hahn. Copy from library.

The Plot:
Jen's widowed father inherits a castle in West Virginia; well, actually, it's an old house that looks like a castle. And it is full of antiques and treasures and strange things; including a tower in the back, with a padlocked door. Jen, 12, cannot resist the temptation to go exploring and discovers a strange glass globe. Moura, a friend of her father's, asks Jen if she's seen a glass globe -- a "witch catcher."

Jen doesn't like this new woman, and doesn't admit it's upstairs in her room. It turns out that there is something trapped in the globe; something that looks like a girl. Jen's cat, Tink, breaks the witch catcher, releasing what was trapped inside.

Is Moura a friend, or foe? What about the witch -- or thing -- trapped in the globe? Who should Jen trust?

The Good: This is the type of book I adored as a kid. Inheriting a big old house, full of rooms to explore and treasure to uncover? A dream come true.

It was such a disappointment to look at my family tree and realize that while books were full of people who were the only living relative of distant, barely known rich relatives, I was doomed to a life of knowing all my relatives and even if a distant, rich one existed somewhere, and died, plenty of other relatives would have dibs on the house. Life just isn't fair.

Jen soon figures out that Moura has bewitched Jen's father. It's not just that her father has fallen for Moura, and that Jen, an only child, is jealous; it's that her father has started acting strangely (meaning rudely and mean) towards Jen. Jen knows enough to know that her father would never change towards her just because of some woman; there has to be something more going on!

Now, this is another point that is well done. Because while it turns out Jen is right -- Moura is a witch and has evil reasons for wanting the witch catcher and her power over Jen's father in an attempt to get the witch catcher -- many kids do have parents who change dramatically once a new partner (or potential partner) enters the picture. While Witch Catcher is a fantasy, it realistically depicts Jen's sense of outrage and betrayal at having a "new person" enter her tight family circle and having her father "choose" someone else.

Witches and fairies, good and bad, enter the picture. Jen has to battle Moura, protect her father, and also figure out that while Moura may be her enemy, are the enemies of her enemies (that is, the creatures that were trapped in the glass globes) really her friends?

One more cool thing: along the way, Jen gets turned into a variety of animals. As I said, I would have loved this book as a kid. She's a cat, she's a squirrel, she's a bat.

Last thing: Because I know how much the child me would have liked this book, it's a Best Book of 2006.

Links: An interview with the author. Photos of "witch balls." The Planet Esme Review.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ancient Egypt: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Egypt's Past

Ancient Egypt: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Egypt's Past by Jill Rubalcaba with Janice Kamrin, Consultant. Series: National Geographic Investigates. Copy from Raab Associates.

The Plot: Don't you love a title that explains it all? It's about Egypt. Ancient Egypt. And how archaeology unlocks Egypt's past. Including the secrets of it's past. Sometimes it's difficult to write these short plot summaries; other times, not so much.

The Good: Long time readers may recall that I once wanted to be an archaeologist. But then reality sank in; I am horrible at languages. Goodbye, dream. Thank goodness for books like this, that may inspire someone else, someone who is good at multiple languages. (As some of you may guess, every single one of my female characters in the fiction I wrote as a teen could speak multiple languages. They also had green eyes.) At the same time, I am as intrigued by the past as ever, as my frequent History Channel watching proves.

But back to the book. Colorful photos! Maps! Timelines! I wanted to be an archaeologist back in the day when we had black and white pencil sketches (and we were happy!) and if we were really, really lucky black and white photos (and we still were inspired!); perhaps if I'd had this type of gorgeous inspiration I'd have done better at Latin. (Hey, aren't there trips were annoying people like me can go and pretend to be archaeologists on digs?)

Back on topic.

I especially liked Chapter 4, The Tomb Builders, because it includes the daily life of ordinary people. One scrap of pottery found at a site was a spell to prevent nightmares: "Come out with what you have seen so that your dumbness ceases and your dreams retreat. May fire come out against the thing that frightened you!"

Also good: new technologies; new discoveries; protecting monuments and other artifacts. The bibliography includes books, articles (all from National Geographic), and web sites.

Yes, The Scanner Is Fun

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Having fun with the scanner.

Learning To Play Gin

Learning To Play Gin by Ally Carter.

The Plot: Sequel to Cheating At Solitaire. It's ten months since Julie and Lance got together and for two people who are dating, they barely see each other. His acting career has taken off, so he's either filming or promoting his movies; her career has come to stand still (who wants to read a self help book about how awesome it is to be single when the writer is now in a picture perfect relationship?), so Julie spends her time renovating her house and being with her family and friends in her native Oklahoma. Julie is surprised to hear via a TV interview that Lance has bought a house in LA, and even more surprised when he asks her to go to California. She's not sure what to do or where she belongs; but she goes. Can someone who was so good at Solitaire learn how to play Gin? Is it possible for Julie to be happy in a relationship?

The Good: As with CaS, what works best is the friendship between Julia, Caroline (her sister) and Nina (her best friend.) These are people you enjoy hanging out with, even if it's pretend.

I also liked how Julie, so good at being single, now has to learn how to be part of a couple.

The writing is funny; some of my favorites include the observation that "Barbie messed everybody up." And how's this for a description of someone attending dinner: "When Wes walked into the kitchen, he didn't look like someone who was ready for Thanksgiving -- he looked liked someone who was celebrating Thanksgiving in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie." Julie's mother is present in this one in pithy emails: "Daddy kind of hurt his leg, but the vet was here and said it was nothing, so he's not going to the doctor. We're so lucky to have such a good vet nearby."

This book takes place over a fairly short period of time; but what I missed was Julie's career. I wonder if Carter knows how she is going to resolve this dilemma. What was raised is that Julie feels that she cannot honestly write for "single women power" since she is no longer single. At the same time, she respects and honors those single women she wrote for and cannot see herself writing "90 Days to a Wedding Ring" type book or a "now that I'm in couple it's the best! thing! ever!" book.

Julie muses that she wrote books for women to be happy just as they are.... what will she write now? A novel is mentioned, but not much is said about the plot. I felt as if Julie was dancing on the edge of a great idea for a non fiction book, one that wouldn't be "single power," wouldn't be "unless you're married, your worthless," but would be honest and about being happy with your life without dieting or pretending or manipulating, regardless of significant other status.

But -- no such new nonfiction book idea happened. Which makes me convinced there will be a third book.

While these are books about grown ups -- the main characters are all in their 30s, with thirtysomething lives; Nina is twice divorced, Caroline also has some issues with her husband -- the humor is all ages. Julie goes thru the "normal person in the world of LA" experience, trying to find clothes that fit a normal person instead of anorexic twelve year olds and adjusting to all the people in Lance's life (assistants, assistants to assistants). I'm not sure if it's just Carter's style, or if she was aware that despite this book being clearly marketed towards adults her teen fans may read it; either way, this is a clean romance. You could read it aloud to Grandma and not blush.

Links: the Bookburger Between The Buns interview.

Cybils: Non Fiction Picture Book Nominations

The Cybils Non Fiction Picture Book nominees.

If I read it, it's bold.

3-D ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet
written and illustrated by Bob Raczka
Milbrook Press

A Place for Butterflies
written by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Higgins Bond

Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account Of The 1938 War Of The Worlds Radio Broadcast
written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

Almost Gone: The World's Rarest Animals
written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis And Clark Expedition
written by Laurence Pringle; illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu
Calkins Creek

An Egg Is Quiet
written by Dianna Aston; illustrated by Sylvia Long
Chronicle Books

An Island Grows
written by Lola M. Schaefer; illustrated by Cathie Felstead
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters
written and illustrated by Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart
Candlewick Press

Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth
written by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Neal Layton
Candlewick Press

George Did It
written by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain; illustrated by Larry Day
Dutton Books

Great Estimations
written and illustrated by Bruce Goldstone
Henry Holt

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook
written by Georgeanne Brennan; illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House

Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas
written by Cheryl Bardoe; illustrated by Jos. A Smith

Honky-Tonk Heroes & Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country and Western Music
written by Holly George-Warren; illustrated by Laura Levine
Houghton Mifflin

The Illustrator's Notebook
written and illustrated by Mohieddine Ellabbad

I'm a Pill Bug
written by Yukihisa Tokuda; illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahasi

It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends
written by Robie H. Harris; illustrated by Michael Emberley
Candlewick Press

Little Lost Bat
written by Sandra Markle; illustrated by Alan Marks

M Is for Masterpiece: An Art Alphabet
written by David Domeniconi; illustrated by Will Bullas
Sleeping Bear

The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition
written by Joanna Cole; illustrated by Bruce Degen

written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Harcourt Children's Books

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor
written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
written by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Jump At The Sun

Near Mama's Heart
written and illustrated by Colleen Newman

Nobody Gonna Turn Me 'Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement
written by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Candlewick Press

Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin
written and illustrated by Gene Barretta
Henry Holt

Oh, Rats! The Story of Rats and People
written and illustrated by Albert Marrin
Dutton Books

Our Seasons
written by Grace Lin; illustrated by Ranida T. Mckneally

Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship
written by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff & Paula Kahumbu; illustrated by Peter Greste

Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World's Greatest Jockeys
written by Patsi B. Trollinger; illustrated by Jerome LaGarrigue

Selvakumar Knew Better
written by Virginia L. Kroll; illlustrated by Xiaojun Li
Shen's Books

The Story of Salt
written by Mark Kurlansky; illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius
written and illustrated by Demi
Lee & Low Books

The True Story of Stellina
written and illustrated by Matteo Pericoli

This Jazz Man
written by Karen Ehrhardt; illustrated by R.G. Roth
Harcourt Children's Books

What Athletes Are Made Of
written and illustrated by Hanoch Piven
Atheneum/Ginee Seo

What Is Science?
written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Henry Holt

What the Sea Saw
written by Stephanie St. Pierre; illustrated by Beverly Doyle

written and illustrated by Taylor Morrison
Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine

The World's Greatest Elephant
written by Ralph Helfer; illustrated by Ted Lewin

If a Dolphin Were a Fish
written by Loran Wlodarski; illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein
Sylvan Dell

The Edge of the Forest, Issue 10

The Edge of the Forest, Issue 10 is up!

Highlights include a podcast, Sounds From The Forest, from the creators of Just One More Book!!. I will be podcasting at Tea Cozy and Pop, just as soon as I (a), buy the equipment and (b) get over hating the sound of my own voice.

This month's interview is with writer Karen English; and children's writer, Debby Dahl Edwardson, is the focus of the monthly "A Day In the Life" column.

Little Willow has her Best Books of 2006 list. Must ... resist... the ... power ... of .... the .... I CANNOT RESIST. Counting, counting... I've read 11 of the 24 titles.

And I'm back in the game, with two YA book reviews, Cathy's Book by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman (copy donated by publisher) and The Life Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty (personal copy). Both books are getting added to my Best Books of 2006 (see sidebar); Cathy's Book for it's innovative storytelling that works; and Bindy because it's Jaclyn Moriarty. D'uh.

As you look over the latest edition, consider submitting something! Big A little a is seeking submissions for the January 2007 issue.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa Knows

Santa Knows by Cynthia & Greg Leitich Smith; illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. Personal copy.

Let us pause as we all realize that yes, I managed to review something timely.

The Plot: Alfie F. Snorklepuss doesn't believe in Santa Claus. He's more than just a little annoyed when his younger sister, Noelle, insists on believing (and insists that he believe), so Alfie sets out to prove there is no Santa. When you know you're right, you want the world to agree.

The Good: Alfie is quite the little zealot as he sets out to prove there is no Santa. He not only researches Santa (and flying, flying reindeer, the North Pole, etc.); he tells the kids at school, the editor of the local paper, the radio DJ, etc. I love his determination to prove what he knows to be true; and how that also becomes his insistence that what he believes is something everyone should believe.

And, of course, any grown up knows how this story ends: Alfie doesn't just realize the error of his ways. Nope, it's shown to him by not only meeting Santa but also taking a trip to Santa's workshop. And for all you disbelievers who may be inclined to say that it was all a dream... well, as the pictures show, it was real.

Bjorkman, the illustrator, has details in his pictures that quick readers may miss (you know how I love pictures that reward careful viewing). In the library, book title include Santa: Too Fat to Fly and North Pole to Everywhere: Is it Possible? Alfie's pajamas contain Christmas pictures (snowman, Santa, Christmas tree) with a red circle and line through it. Meanwhile, his classmates (a multicultural group) have Christmas sweaters and festive red and green shirts.

Alfie's sister's full name is J. Noelle Snarklepuss. I'm betting the J stands for Joyeaux.

Another reason I loved this book falls under pure coincidence. My niece, Cheetah, has one of those names (her real name, not blog name!) that does not appear on any of those magnets, pencils, etc. that are found in stores. Yet her nickname and her middle name appear in this story. She's going to be thrilled.

Links: the official Santa Knows website. The Planet Esme review. Authors interview at One Writer's Journey. The Book Moot review. Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast review.

Meme For Book Bloggers

Started by Confessions of a Bibliovore. Picked up by Kids Lit and Fuse Number 8.

How many other kidlit blogs do you read?
A lot. I think they are all on my blogroll, but I sometimes add something to my Bloglines account and don't update my blogroll. About 150; I have 331 blogs on my blogines.

What's the most recent add?
Blue Rose Girls. As I said, I have this habit of adding to my bloglines but not taking the time to update my blogroll. I guess one on of my resolutions should be to do update as needed, rather than every other month.

How often do you post a book review to your blog?
It depends; I like to post about 5 a week, but some weeks are tough and I feel like I'm lucky to get one.

Do you post about anything else?
Yes; I post about news, discussions at other blogs, interviews, books, TV, movies, whatever captures may fancy -- and it also depends on when I have time to craft the post. And, of course, my Buffy Quote of the Week!

Do you only blog books you like, or the stinkers too?
Life's too short to blog about bad books. Seriously; I have about 20 books to blog about that I like, and where are those posts? Half written, still in my head, waiting to get out.

That's not entirely true; I sometimes don't "like" a book but a certain part intrigues me enough to motivate a post. I posted about a silly Disney Cuties book because it fascinated my niece, Cheetah.

I also think "like" is too narrow a word; I post about books that I consider are "best" or well written or exciting; it's not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate hot chocolate, also. There's a certain Big Fat Important Book getting a lot of acclaim despite it's very Mary Sue main character (and some other things that didn't work for me) so I was not going to blog about it. In discussions about the book, and my own rereading, I've been rethinking this position. Oh, I still see the character as a Mary Sue; the things that didn't work still don't work. But there is enough that I did like, enough good bits, that I may blog about it, while still mentioning the things that didn't work for me.

And, upon occasion, a concern about a book prompts a negative post; for example, the sexism in last year's Theodor Seuss Geisel Award books.

How do you keep track of what you want to read?
Piles. Upon occasion I sit down and shift the piles. The piles are as follows: "have to read" (for work or an award or other committee or discussion group; right now, I'm on the NJLA GSTBA reading group) and "want to read" are in piles, while "would like to read" are in a bookshelf. I shift the piles based on changing reading commitments, new books that are sent to me, reviews I read online, etc.

How do you keep track of what you've read?
Old fashioned writing journals. Right now, I'm averaging one blank book every two months. I blog about some of them, and keep a best books list on my sidebar. The Best Books of 2006 is limited to books published in 2006; I think next year, it'll be Best Books Read in 2007 with a notation as to publication year.

Do you work with kids?

In the age group of the books you mostly blog about?
Since I'm the Branch Manager & sole librarian at a small branch, the answer is yes -- I work with kids of all ages and adults.

Do you read grown-up books?
Yes, but I tend to stay away from "literary" books as I find them over-written and self important. I like mysteries, romance, historical fiction, and non-fiction; sometimes family sagas. For some reason, I love J and YA fantasy but not so much love with the grown up titles.

Poetry Friday

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
Next year,
All our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the yuletide gay,
Next year,
All our troubles will be miles away.

The rest of the lyrics.

Round up here; I'll be posting as the day goes on.

How early did you have to get up to claim The Night Before Christmas?

A Year of Reading wins: 1:38 AM. Year shares her favorite sections.

The "short but it's still a poem" crowd:

Big A little a and Choose by Carl Sandburg

Little Willow and part of Primary Education by Daniel Coudriet

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Poem by Thomas McGrath

The Simple and the Ordinary with a short verse from Madeleine L'Engle

Holiday and Seasonal poems:

The Old Coot shares A Dubious 'Old Kriss' from James Whitcomb Riley

WATAT: Adrienne is thinking about Wallace Stevens (hey, it's The Snowman, so it's holiday, right?)

Writing and Ruminating highlights Winter-Time by Robert Louis Stevenson

a wrung sponge and little tree by e.e. cummings

The lyrics crowd:

Blog from the Windowsill and the lyrics to Who Needs Art?

Journey Woman and Christmas Time is Here (aka the Charlie Brown Christmas Song)

The saying goodbye to a loved tree poem:

Susan Taylor Brown and The Tree That Used To Be

The multiple poems crowd:

Blue Rose Girls share seven Christmas poems

Farm School shares two poems that make Christmas magic

One poem on weather, one on Christmas at Scholar's Blog

Poems about writing:

Wordy Girls share Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost

So early I missed her:

Chicken Spaghetti had Poetry Friday on Thursday, with Bagel by Billy Collins.

For your listening pleasure:

Podcast of a book review at Just One More Book

Mind reader:

Gregory K knows I had off today AND I woke up with a headache, in his original I Crawled Out of Bed Today

Let me know in the comments when you've posted & I'll add you to the links.

New Harry Potter Title!

So the title for the last Harry Potter book has been announced:

Harry Potter and the Vampire Tooth Fairies!

What do you mean, that's not it? Wouldn't it be awesome, tho, if HP and company had to fight tooth fairies gone bad?

OK, the "real" title is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As reported in every other blog in the world and all newspapers.

So, what would you have picked for a title?

Wow, 100 Subscribers!

I just wanted to share that I now have 100 subscribers on Bloglines. When I started this I thought it would just be for friends and family.

Thank you all!!

(Of course, the moment I post this, people will unsubscribe.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Buffy Quote of the Week

"Well, you know what they say. Ninety percent of the vampire slaying game is waiting."
Giles, Ep: Never Kill A Boy On The First Date

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Pop! by Aury Wallington.

The Plot: Marit has made a decision: she's going to lose her virginity. She's also going to get a boyfriend. The thing is, she has also decided that these two things have nothing to do with each other. She has a crush on the new guy at school, Noah; but she believes her nervousness about sex is getting in the way. Luckily, there's her best friend Jamie. She doesn't love him, but she trusts him. Things don't always go according to plan...

The Good: I think Pop! is one of the frankest books I've read about someone losing their virginity; I'm not surprised to find out that Wallington was a writer for Sex and The City. (She also wrote for Veronica Mars! How cool is she!) What's weird is it's also the second book I've read recently where a teenage girl makes this decision based on society. Here, Marit is convinced that she's the last virgin in her class; in This Is All, Cordelia wanted to go against statistics and have sex before teens statistically have sex. (Another interesting point -- in neither of these books are those assumptions questioned; Marit truly believes she's the last virgin, Cordelia truly believes the stats about the average age a teenager has sex; and both use it as a jumping off point for action. It's treated no differently than someone saying, the average age people learn how to swim is 16 and I need to start lessons now!)

Anyway, while the sex is explicit, it is described in an almost clinical way; it's not a romance novel version of sex. There was some controversy about this title; I think realistic first time sex is a lot healthier for a teen to read about than those books that are all romance novel sex. (And I say this as a reader of the romance genre; I'm not putting down that genre. I'm just saying, what is better, the myth of romance novels of the realism of Pop?.) The book is the upper YA range, it's not for middle school. As a comparison, it's no more explicit than This Is All, Doing It, or King Dork.

I liked Marit; but I did find her choices a little odd. Sex with one boy, dating another.... It's like she fears the emotional intimacy of sex, so enters into a sexual relationship with someone who is a friend to keep a certain emotional distance from it. She creates a relationship where she can create physical intimacy with one person without emotional intimacy; and emotional intimacy without physical intimacy. Of course, nothing works out the way she imagines it will, or hopes it will, and the ending... I don't give too much away about the ending, but there is much to chat about in the comments, if you like.

I have to say, when Noah finds out what's been going on, I felt sympathy for him -- and I hope he doesn't get together with Marit. And I feel sorry for Jamie. Marit realizes the dilemma: "Because sleeping with one guy when you were trying to get something started with another? Ranked right up there on the Top Ten Tackiest Ways to Ruin a Friendship."

Are you wondering why I'm reviewing this, as it's a bit clear that personally I was a bit surprised by Marit's motivation and choices? The thing is, whether or not I agree with her moral choices, it is depicted realistically, with respect, and with humor. And this is a very funny book because Marit is funny. On looking at a self portrait she's drawn, she muses that "It was supposed to be a pop-art portrait, but in it, I looked more like a Japanimation action hero. Apparently, when I looked in a mirror, what I saw was Sailor Moon."

Not surprisingly, I kept on picturing this as a movie or TV show and I think with a good actress in the lead role, I would have a better understanding of what Marit did . Things I liked: the dialogue between the characters, the stuff they did for fun (watching movies, hangout out), I even pictured Noah as Jared Padalecki while Marit was a young Claire Danes.

What I liked best about this book is that Marit and her friends are outsiders, deliberately not involved in school. Noah, on the other hand, is Mr. School Spirit. But guess what? This is NOT a makeover story!! Marit attends a few rah rah events because of Noah's involvement, but never does she have to compromise who she is or change her hair. It's nice to see the Popular Guy/ Arty Girl done in a way where the Arty Girl doesn't have to become someone else.

Links: Bookshelves of Doom review. The interview. Dispatches from an MFA Seeking Writer's take on the controversy and then more thoughts from Dispatches.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Joe Barbera Dies

Hanna Barbera is responsible for half of my childhood TV viewing (the other half? TV shows from the 50s and 60s.)

Joe Barbera died today at age 95. (Bill Hanna died in 2001).

So as a thank you to them, a little Scooby music.

Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you?
We got some work to do now.
Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you?
We need some help from you now.

Come on Scooby-Doo,
I see you, pretend you got a sliver
You're not fooling me,
cause I can see, the way you shake and shiver.

You know we got a mystery to solve
And Scooby Doo be ready for your act.
Don't hold back!
And Scooby Doo if you come through
you're going to have yourself a scooby snack!
That's a fact!

Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you?
You're ready and you're willing.
If we can count on you Scooby Doo,
I know you'll catch that villain.

I'm An Elf

I'm an Elf!

Thanks to A Year of Reading. If you decide to Elf Yourself, why not leave the link over there in the comments.... soon we'll have a whole army of dancing Elf bloggers!

Chick Lit, Mommy Lit, Crone Lit

But when it's written by a man... it's literature.

So sayeth an interesting article, Chick Lit, The Sequel: Yummy Mummy, in The New York Times.

The quote that had the biggest impact on me is "Little Children,” a novel whose themes are touchstones of mom lit — adultery, competitive parenting — was praised in reviews as a great suburban novel. Its author, Tom Perrotta, has been compared to Chekhov in reviews. “If Tom Perrotta had been Tina,” Ms. [Jennifer] Weiner asked, “would they have put a pink cover on that book?”

More than that is addressed in the article; there is also a discussion of what types of mothers are being portrayed in Mommy Lit and blogs about motherhood.

What intrigues me the most is the idea that it's not so much the book itself that is looked at but the label. Calling something "literature" elevates it; removes it from limiting publishing labels, whether the label is chick lit or young adult or horror; and, then gets the book and the author treated with more respect.

Blood On The River

Blood On The River: James Town 1607 by Elisa Carbone.

The Plot: It's James Town in 1607. OK, OK, you want more? It's told by Samuel Collier (based on a real life person) is page to Captain John Smith; Sam relates the story of James Town, from the time the ships left England up till 1610.

The Good: Sam's reasons for leaving England make sense: he's an orphan so is unwilling (he's been made a page to Smith) but he also has no options or future in England and this journey gives him an opportunity for a future that is lacking in England.

This is a great mix of history and adventure; or should I say, a good retelling of history because it includes adventure and facts. Carbone captures the claustrophobia of being stuck between decks during the voyage; addresses the many problems of James Town (the fortune hunters, the class divisions); and also captures Sam's joy at seeing the Caribbean for the first time and his willingness to learn about the Powhatans and their language and ways.

Does this book offer balance? It's easy to just tell one side of the story, and Sam is obviously an English boy speaking from an English perspective; would it even be possible to tell two sides in this story? The author tries, by including Sam's extended stay in the Warraskoyack village and the time spent learning their language and culture. Carbone includes the things the English believed at the time (Indians were cannibals and savages), yet pointing out (in text and notes) that what the English believed wasn't the truth of the matter; she also points out that the English are themselves savage: they keep Smith in chains and almost hang him. Sam's stay in the village also refutes those erroneous beliefs.

That's a delicate thing for an author to do: some of the English believed things that were factually incorrect, but the person of the time would not know it. An author needs to transmit that the information was wrong; but cannot rewrite history to make the English believe the correct thing. Adults known (or should) that at the time the English were calling the Native Americans savage the English were hanging, drawing and quartering people and using the body parts as street decorations. When Sam is living in the streets in London, he mentions heads on poles on London Bridge.

I like that a real person is used to narrate, and Sam is a popular person to use. He's also featured in Surviving Jamestown and Sam Collier And the Founding of Jamestown. I think it's because he's a kid friendly age during the time period (about 12 to 15) and even though he died in 1622, that was a pretty good survival back then. Plus, Collier really did spend time in the Warraskoyack village and this allows the author to explore life outside of the settlement itself.

Carbone includes notes, links, including what is real, what is not.

Once again, please share in the comments other books you know about set during this time period; including any books scheduled to come out in 2007.

Links: Carbone has a great study guide including links. My review of a middle grade non fiction book about John Smith, John Smith Escapes Again! includes many links to historical information, including info on the upcoming 400 year Anniversary of James Town.

Name Changes

So my nephew was being called Skater Boy in this blog.

Have I mentioned his Spider Man obsession? A few days ago he shared with us the news that when he was born, his name was Peter Parker and that we changed it to his name, and we should start calling him Peter Parker in real life.

Interestingly, he goes to preschool with another little boy, Dylan, who also insists his real name is Peter Parker.

While we have had to tell my nephew no, your name is not Peter Parker, in honor of his choice of name, and his belief that he was born to have a secret identity, from now on he is Peter Parker in this blog.

Queen Lucy could not be left out of the action, of course, and said she should now be called Cheetah (actually, her first two choices were too close to her real life name.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

John Smith Escapes Again!

John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer; National Geographic. Grade Level: about 2nd to 5th.

The Plot: John Smith, 1583 to 1631, is the ultimate real life escape artist, whether it's escaping being a pirate, being a slave, or escaping jail.

The Good: This biography of Smith is told via the framework of his many and varied escapes. Each escape is introduced by brief facts of Smith's life.

I didn't know anything about Smith other than his association with Jamestown, and this is great way to discover the rest of his story. For example, I hadn't realize that Smith was so well traveled, or the number of things he had done both before and after Jamestown.

I liked the format; it is colorful, with plenty of maps, and when it says what year Smith did something it gives his age.

Now, here's the thing about Smith, and about this book: it is told, and acknowledges it is told, from Smith's point of view, based on his own writings. In the final note from the author, she explains that "Smith's tales are told only from a Western European, Protestant point of view" and that "he may have embroidered his escapades." She also notes that the Pocahontas story (if it happened at all) may have been a ceremony.

One thing that works for me for this book is that not only is it an exciting adventure story, but it is also a way students to discuss first hand documents (Smith's own writings) and how they, too, need to be evaluated.

About the illustrations: Schanzer says that she did research regarding the authenticity of the portraits, whether it was regarding a Turkish warrior, French pirate ship, or Indian tattoo. A nice bibliography is included.

For a historical fiction view of being captured by pirates and enslaved, check out the recent YA book, A True And Faithful Narrative, which also talks about the way 17th century narratives embroidered the truth to create a good story.

Links: more about John Smith; the wiki entry about Smith. Keep this book in mind for the upcoming 400th Anniversary Of Jamestown. This PDF is about the discovery myth of Jamestown. Finally, Was John Smith A Liar? A January 2007 Workshop with Schanzer.

If you have other books (fiction and non-fiction, and all ages) that can be used for the 400th Anniversary, please share them in the comments.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cybils Nominations: Fiction Picture Books

The nominated picture books for the Cybils. If I read it, it's in bold.

Across the Alley
Written by Richard Michelson; illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Adele & Simon
Written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon
Written and illustrated by Mini Grey
Knopf Books for Young Readers

The Adventures of Margaret Mouse: School Days
Written by Cherokee Wyatt; illustrated by Angela M. Redmon

The Adventures of Odysseus
Written by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden; illustrated by Christina Balit
Barefoot Books

AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First
Written by Alethea Kontis; illustrated by Bob Kolar

Ancient Thunder
Written and illustrated by Leo Yerxa
Groundwood Books

Are You Quite Polite? Silly Dilly Manners Songs
Written by Alan Katz; illustrated by David Catrow
Margaret K. McElderry

Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press

Bats at the Beach
Written and illustrated by Brian Lies
Houghton Mifflin

Written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
Orchard Books

Black? White! Day? Night!-A Book of Opposites
Written and illustrated Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press

Boo’s Dinosaur
Written by Betsy Byars; illustrated by Erik Brooks
Henry Holt and Co.

Bringing Asha Home
Written by Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Jamel Akib
Lee & Low Books

The Buffalo Soldier
Written by Sherry Garland; illustrated by Ronald Himler
Pelican Publishing Company

Caleb’s Birthday Wish
Written by David Villanueva; illustrated by Edmundo Sanchez
A Better Be Write Publisher

Carrot Soup
Written and illustrated by John Segal
Margaret K. McElderry

Ceci Ann’s Day of Why
Written by Christopher Phillips; illustrated by Shino Arihara
Tricycle Press

Cheep! Cheep!
Written by Julie Stiegemeyer; illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books

Christmas at the Candle Factory
Written by Barbara L. Johns; illustrated by Carolyn R. Stich
Steeple Ridge Publications

Christmas in the Trenches
Written by John McCutcheon; illustrated by Henri Sorensen
Peachtree Publishers

Written and illustrated by Peter Brown
Little, Brown Young Readers

The Closet Ghosts
Written by Uma Krishnaswami; illustrated by Shiraaz Bhabha
Children's Book Press

A Coach’s Letter to his Son
Written by by Mel Allen; illustrated by John Thompson
Creative Editions

Destructo Boy and Spillerella…We Are Who We Are!
Written and illustrated by Howard Shapiro
Trafford Publishing

Duck and Goose
Written and illustrated by Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade

Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Emily’s Balloon
Written and illustrated by Komako Sakai
Chronicle Books

Estelle Takes a Bath
Written by Jill Esbaum; illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
Henry Holt and Co.

Fish Kisses and Gorilla Hugs
Written and illustrated by Marianne Richmond
Marianne Richmond Studios

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
Written by Julia Rawlinson; illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Written and illustrated by by David Wiesner
Clarion Books

The Flower Ball
Written by Sigrid Laube; illustrated by Silke Leffler
Pumpkin House, Ltd.

Fly, Little Bird
Written and illustrated by Tina Burke
Kane/Miller Book Publishers

For You are a Kenyan Child
Written by Kelly Cunnane; illustrated by Ana Juan
Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books

The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights
Written by David A. Uffer; illustrated by Kirsten Carlson
Sylvan Dell

Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese
Written by Frank Hollon, Mary Grace, Dusty Baker; illustrated by Elizabeth O. Dulemba
MacAdam/Cage Publishing

Granny Gert and the Bunion Brothers
Written by Dotti Enderle; illustrated by Joe Kulka
Pelican Publishing Company

Gwango’s Lonesome Trail
Written and illustrated by Justin Parpan
Red Cygnet Press, Inc.

Half of an Elephant
Written by Gusti
Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Hippo! No, Rhino
Written and illustrated by Jeff Newman
Little, Brown Young Readers

Hop! Plop!
Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Tali Klein; illustrated by Olivier Dunrea
Walker Books for Young Readers

How the Moon Regained her Shape
Written by Janet Ruth Heller; illustrated by Ben Hodson
Sylvan Dell

If You Were a Parrot
Written by Katherine Rawson; illustrated by Sherry Rogers
Sylvan Dell

I’m Not a Baby
Written and illustrated by Jill Mcelmurry
Schwartz & Wade

Im Not Cute!
Written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen

Jack and the Beanstalk
Written by E. Nesbit; illustrated by Matt Tavares

John, Paul, George, and Ben
Written and illustrated by Lane Smith

Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel
Written by Anthony D. Robles; illustrated by Carl Angel; translated by Eloisa D. de Jesus
Children's Book Press

Learning to Fly
Written and illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Library Lion
Written by Michelle Knudsen; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Little Bunny Kung Fu
Written and illustrated by Regan Johnson
Blooming Tree Press

Little Dog
Written and illustrated by Lisa Jahn-Clough
Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin
Written by Michelle Lord; illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Lee & Low Books

Lucy Goose Goes to Texas
Written by Holly Bea; illustrated by Joe Boddy
HJ Kramer/New World Library

Lost and Found
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Love, Ruby Valentine
Written by Laurie B. Friedman; illustrated by Lynne Woodcock
Cravath Lerner Publishing Group

Love You When You Whine
Written by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Mama, I’ll Give You the World
Written by Roni Schotter; illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher
Schwartz & Wade

Max’s Words
Written by Kate Banks; illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Mia’s Story
Written and illustrated by Michael Foreman

The Mice of Bistrot de Sept Freres
Written and illustrated by Marie LeTourneau
Tanglewood Press

Mine! Mine! Mine!
Written by Shelly Becker; illustrated by Hideko Takahashi

Mom and Dad are Palindromes: A Dilemma for Words...and Backwards
Written by Mark Shulman; illustrated by Adam McCauley
Chronicle Books

by Maurice Sendak, Arthur Yorinks, and Matthew Reinhart
Michael di Capua Books / Scholastic; Pop-Up edition

Written by Henry Selick; illustrated by Peter Chan and Courtney Booker

The Mountain that Loved a Bird
Written by Alice McLerran; illustrated by Stephen Aitken
Tulika Books

The Munched-up Garden
Written by Nancy Allen; illustrations by K. Michael Crawford
Red Pebble Press

Museum Trip
Written and illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Houghton Mifflin

Ninety-Three in My Family
Written by Erica S. Perl; illustrated by Mike Lester
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Written and illustrated by David Lucas
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Oh No, Not Ghosts!
Written by Richard Michelson; illustrated by Adam McCauley
Harcourt Children's Books

Once Upon a Banana
Written by Jennifer Armstrong; illustrated by David Small
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

On Top of Spaghetti
Written and illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson
Scholastic Press

Written by Elizabeth Kann; illustrated by Victoria Kann

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
Written by Amy Lee-Tai; illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Children's Book Press

The Plight of the Queen Bee
Written and illustrated by Simone Fairchild
Better Be Write Publisher Llc

The Prince’s Bedtime
Written by Joanne Oppenheim; illustrated by Caroline Pedler and Miriam Latimer
Barefoot Books

The Princess and the Pea
Written and illustrated by Lauren Child; photographs by Polly Borland

Written and illustrated by by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin

Red Fox at McCloskey’s Farm
Written by Brian Heinz; illustrated by Chris Sheban
Creative Editions

The Red Lemon
Written and illustrated by Bob Staake
Golden Books

Rock 'n' Roll Dogs
Written by David Davis; illustrated by Chuck Galey
Pelican Publishing Company

Sadie Can Count
Written by Ann Cunningham
Sadie Concept Books

Sail Away, Little Boat
Written by Janet Buell; illustrated by Jui Ishida
Carolrhoda Books

Scaredy Squirrel
Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press

Shadow: The Curious Morgan Horse
Written and illustrated by Ellen F. Feld
Willow Bend

Written by Stacy A. Nyikos; illustrated by Shawn N. Sisneros
Stonehorse Publishing

The Shivers in the Fridge
Written by Fran Manushkin; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Dutton Juvenile

Silly Suzy Goose
Written and illustrated by by Petr Horacek

Singing Shijimi Clams
Written and illustrated by Naomi Kojima
Kane/Miller Book Publishers

So Few of Me
Written and illustrated Peter H. Reynolds

Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination
Written and illustrated by Jimmy Liao
Little, Brown Young Readers

Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point
Written by Mary Quattlebaum; illustrated by Leonid Gore
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Stanley Goes Fishing
Written and illustrated by Craig Frazier
Chronicle Books

Stoo Hample's Book of Bad Manners
Written and illustrated by Stoo Hample

The Talking Vegetables
Written by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert; illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Henry Holt and Co.

The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers
Written by Caroline Arnold; illustrated by John Sandford
Boyds Mills Press

The Three Witches
Written by Zora Neale Hurston; illustrated Faith Ringgold

Tudley Didn’t Know
Written and illustrated by John Himmelman
Sylvan Dell

Uno’s Garden
Written and illustrated by Graeme Base
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Waiting for Gregory
Written by Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Henry Holt and Co.

Walk On: A Guide for Babies of All Ages
Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee
Harcourt Children's Books

When Giants Come to Play
Written by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Abrams Books for Young Readers

When You Were Small
Written by Sara O'Leary; illustrated by Julie Morstad
Simply Read Books

Winter is the Warmest Season
Written and illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Harcourt Children's Books

Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Wrestler Oddie
Written by Grant Slatter; illustrated by Taylor and Wearin

Year of the Dog: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac
Written by Oliver Chin; illustrated by Jerimiah Alcorn

Yesta's Sweater
Written by Sylvia Olsen; illustrated by Joan Larson

Written by Rolandas Kiaulevicius; illustrated by Bruce Glassman
Red Cygnet Press

Note: edited as a I read them