Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's not you, it's me.

I'm very specific about what I buy for my library. It has to be something the students want AND it has to appeal to me on some level, even if it is knowing that students will like it. A lot of books just don't work for my collection, but I mention them because someone might read this and see exactly what another library needs. Here's why these didn't work for me.

Too Young:
Lyons, Jayne. 100%Wolf. Love the tag line "He's small, He's Pink. He's groomed. But he's... 100% Wolf" and the howling poodle on the cover. Freddy is excited about his first transmutation into a werewolf, but when he turns into a poodle instead of something fierce, he must deal with his family's disappointment and show them he can still be successful. This came down too heavily on the goofy side; 4th graders might love it.

Gordon, Amy. The Gorillas of Gill Park. (2003) The cover and illustrations are going to make this a hard sell, and the story of a boy who spends the summer with a quirky aunt and meets quirky neighborhood people doesn't help. Maybe elementary.

Eland, Lindsay. Scones and Sensibility. Polly adores Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery so much that she dresses in gingham dresses and sees the world through the rose colored spectacles of these books. I'm the biggest Montgomery fan, but I wanted to slap Polly because of her annoying vocal style. "It was upon turning the last delicate page of my leather-bound copy of Pride and Prejudice that my transformation into a delicate lady of quality was complete." Slap her, I say! That said, I have a girl who checked out Anne of Green Gables at the suggestion of someone she really admires. She previously only read Darren Shan. An enthusiastic recommendation can go a long way, but I couldn't give this book one.

Too Old:
Runyon, Brent. Surface Tension. Boy and his family travel every summer to a lake house over a period of four years. I loved this-- lyrical language, great sense of place, evocative of a life I never had but always wanted. "Nothing happened." Yeah, there's that. High schoolers are better with this level of introspection.

Earley, Tony. The Blue Star. In the mountains of North Carolina during WWII, Jim has a crush on his friend Bucky's girlfriend, who is from a lower social class. Bucky is away fighting, and the war has a tremendous impact on Jim's senior class. This was recommended as a romance novel for boys, but it's so sad and filled with larger problems than middle schoolers need to face in a romance novel. Beautifully written, but somehow not right.

Eulberg, Elizabeth. The Lonely Hearts Club. Since this dealt with a girl giving up on romance AND had many Beatles' references, I thought it would be great for my Beatles obsessed 6th grader, but the whole first chapter revolved around girl who has decided to have sex with long time boyfriend until she catches him with another girl. While delicately done, I just couldn't hand it to her.

Skovron, Jon. Struts and Frets. Sammy hangs out with friends, plays with a band, and starts to have feelings for his longtime friend, Jen5. He also drinks beer casually and drops the f bomb. This is set in Columbus, but no.

Too... something:
Viguie, Debbie. The Summer of Cotton Candy. This first book in the Zondervaan "Sweet Seasons" novel looked so cute, and the Melody Carlson books have been popular, but for a fluffy, pink book, this was too dense and I couldn't get into it. 16-year-old also gave up on it.

Griffin, Adele. Where I Want to Be. Jane, who has suffered from mental illness, is killed in a car accident but can't let her sister Lily go. The chapters about Jane "living" with dead grandparents were confusing, and there was sexual suggestion. For high schoolers who wanted a ghost story with serious issues, this would be okay. Middle school ghost stories need more horror to them.

Cooney, Caroline B. If the Witness Lied. Jack Fountain's family has been torn apart by the death of his mother from cancer and the death of his father at the hands of his toddler brother who accidentally ran over the father with the car. Now being raised in separate homes by a step-aunt and godparents, the children come together on their father's birthday to stop the step-aunt from putting the toddler on a reality show by investigating what really happened during the accident. I saw the ending coming, so there was no mystery, just a lot of dysfunctional, confused unhappiness. As I usually love this author, I was very surprised.

The good news is that because our district has saved a lot of money on textbooks, the libraries are all getting some more money to buy books! Now I can finally replace some crumbling favorites and get the new books I thought would have to wait until August!

Report on Super Secret Evil Plan-- Only one boy turned down a pink book and none of the books were returned unread! One boy, who was being ribbed by his football friends, said "Hey, the book is just like a boy one, so I don't see the big deal with the pink cover!"


  1. Hah, we jibe once again! I read 100% Wolf and it's on my "to buy for younger readers who like silly if I have enough money left at the end of the year"

    Never read Gorillas, took one look at the cover and x'ed it off my list.

    I have Scones on my tbr shelf right now. Sigh. I hate "romantic" language, although I do have a complete Montgomery collection...I always skipped Anne's rhapsodies.

    Too bad about Viguie, I had that series on my to buy list, looking for more "Christian" fiction, but maybe I'll invest in some more Melody Carlson instead.

    I sort of buy Cooney automatically - and I think some kids read it the same way. I only read the first chapter when this came in, but yeah, I knew what was gonna happen.

  2. I was annoyed with the SCONES language at first, too, but I grew to like it. It was super cute and charming!

  3. It's funny how often I read your blog and run across something that sounds awesome, but you mention is just not quite right for your collection. I'm both a public librarian (womb to tomb, baby!) and kind of a TBR slut--I'll read anything. Reading your reviews remind me of all the different gradations of ages--always something worth keeping in mind when working with kids!

    Long-winded way of saying some of these sound great and I hope that some of my kids will love them, even they're not right for yours.

    Oh, and on Debbie Viguie: she writes for that adapted fairy tales series that Cameron Dokey also does, and unfortunately those two authors are why I gave up on the series as a whole. And I loooove retellings normally.