Friday, March 25, 2011

Guy Friday-- Zombie Guys

Turner, Tracy. Dreadful Fates: What a Shocking Way to Go.
I post this on Guy Friday because I suspect it's one of those books I don't get because I Am A Girl. No idea where I saw the review for this, but it arrived in my stack o' public library books right before my SSR group. I have one 8th grade boy who doesn't want to read anything. He'll browse through Sports Illustrated or a Guinness Book but would rather talk. He looked through this avidly and even asked for it the next day.

This is an odd volume of short snippets about the various odd ways people have died. I found it rather disturbing-- I could very well fall into a dishwasher and impale myself on a knife, so reading about such things didn't amuse me at all.

Oddly enough, I don't have a zombie book list posted, so here we go:

Bolger, Kevin. Zombiekins.
Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide.
Emerson, Kevin. The Vampire's Photograph.
Higson, Charlie. The Enemy and The Dead.
Holt, K.A. Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku.
James, Brian. Zombie Blondes.
Jay, Stacey. My So-Called Death.
Lubar, Dave. My Rotten Life.
Maberry, Jonathan. Rot and Ruin.
McMurty, Ken. Zombie Penpal.
Selzer, Adam. I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It.
Sleator, William. The Boy Who Couldn't Die.
Waters,Daniel. Generation Dead.

And, if this isn't enough, go to The ULTIMATE Zombie Book List for books for older readers or Kindle Geeks for a list for younger readers. I'm not going to list the zombie mash ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Just a warning: Spring break is next week, and I intend to reread a lot of sports books and try to do some writing, so the next week may be light on new reviews. That said, I need to plow through some E-ARCs before they expire.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Girl Who Became a Beatle

Taylor, Greg. The Girl Who Became a Beatle.
Regina Bloomsbury has a Beatles tribute band called the Caverns. They are working hard to get gigs, but not having any luck. They are also experiencing some internal tensions that threaten to break up the group. When Regina wishes that her group could be more famous than the Beatles, she wakes up one day to find out that the Beatles never existed, but the Caverns have the Beatles catalog and have become famous playing all of the songs. They are on tour in LA, where Regina's tv star boyfriend lives. Is fame really what Regina wanted, or is there a more complex solution to her desires that includes her estranged mother, her friends, and a different fate for her band?

Strengths: Really intriguing premise for a book, and well-executed, with understandable motivations and likely reactions to fame. Great cover, although how my faux hawk wearing son ended up on the cover, I can't guess!
Weaknesses: Not sure of audience on this one. Picky Reader ADORES The Beatles and would not read this because the premise was that they did not exist. While appropriate for middle school, had the philosophical bent of a high school book. This author's Killer Pizza does okay, mainly because of the clever cover. And, Picky Reader is about three chapters into this and hasn't complained yet.

Zadoff, Allen. Hungry.
Mr. Zadoff's Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have has been very popular in my library, engaging even my most reluctant readers. We are looking forward to My Life-- The Theater, and Other Tragedies, which sadly does not come out until May 10! Hungry is not a book for teens; it is a very personal account of Mr. Zadoff's food addiction, and his story of how he managed to overcome his addiction and regain control of his life. Interestingly, the copy I borrowed came from the Kettering College of Medical Arts, and I think this would be an excellent book for doctors working with people struggling with weight issues. I do hope that Mr. Zadoff continues to write for teen boys, since he has quite a knack for it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not What I Wanted Wednesday

What I wanted today were sports books, mainly football and basketball. Seriously, people. Why so many Victorian fantasy books when I am still pushing worn copies of Clair Bee and Thomas Dygard books because there is so little else? Tim Green and Carl Deuker can't write everything I need, but they are at least trying. More sports books!!! And some skateboarding ones, especially!!!

Disclaimer, again: These are all perfectly fine books, just didn't suit the needs of my students. Maybe they will suit yours. All descriptions from publishers.

Thompson, Holly. Orchards.
"Sent to Japan for the summer after an eighth-grade classmate's suicide, half-Japanese, half-Jewish Kana Goldberg tries to fit in with relatives she barely knows and reflects on the guilt she feels over the tragedy back home."
What I wanted: A multicultural problem novel.
Why it didn't work for me: Only Helen Frost is allowed to write books in verse, because she actually writes verse and not cut up prose.
Manga Maniac Cafe loved it.

Doctorow, Cory. For the Win.
"A group of teens from around the world find themselves drawn into an online revolution arranged by a mysterious young woman known as Big Sister Nor, who hopes to challenge the status quo and change the world using her virtual connections."
What I wanted: Brain Jack or similar dystopian computer novel.
Why it didn't work for me: Too many technical detail, slow start to story.
Byron Clark loved it.

Tanner, Lian. Museum of Thieves.
"Goldie, an impulsive and bold twelve-year-old, escapes the oppressive city of Jewel, where children are required to wear guardchains for their protection, and finds refuge in the extraordinary Museum of Dunt, an ever-shifting world where she discovers a useful talent for thievery and mysterious secrets that threaten her city and everyone she loves."
What I wanted: Slightly different fantasy.
Why it didn't work for me: Slow moving, odd names and situations.
The BookKids Blog loved it; The Book Aunt gave a very compete review,

Ferris, Aimee. Will Work for Prom Dress.
"Quigley Johnson, a senior in high school, agrees to participate in her best friend Ann's Betterment Plan, hoping to become the most fashionable and popular girls in school, and as Quigley works at her job making pizzas and serves as a live model for Ms. Parisi's fashion design class, she meets a cute boy named Zander. "
What I wanted: Girly, fun romance like Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress.
Why it didn't work for me: Too high school for my girls. Not inappropriate, just too much about prom, college, and money. I loved it for myself, though!
I Just Want to Sit Here and Read loved it, too.

Strasser, Todd. Famous.
"Sixteen-year-old Jamie Gordon had a taste of praise and recognition at age fourteen when her unflattering photograph of an actress was published, but as she pursues her dream of being a celebrity photographer, she becomes immersed in the dark side of fame."
What I wanted: Just to see what Strasser has come up with; celebrity book.
Why it didn't work for me: Odd format, some chapters in future tense, and therefore hard to follow.
This is so new that it's hard to find a good blog review on it. Anyone love it?

Bennett-Wealer, Sara. Rival.
"Two high school rivals compete in a prestigious singing competition while reflecting on the events that turned them from close friends to enemies the year before. "
What I wanted: Girl drama, a story with some music in it. The cover is great.
Why it didn't work for me: Too much about music; middle school singers aren't quite that much into it yet.
Books Complete Me and Book-Splot loved this one.

Voigt, Cynthia. Young Fredle.
"Fredle, a young mouse cast out of his home, faces dangers and predators outside, makes some important discoveries and allies, and learns the meaning of freedom as he struggles to return home. "
What I wanted: Saw a review by someone I really trust which I can't remember that said "It's fabulous, just read it." Can't remember who said it. Drat.
Why it didn't work for me: Talking animals. That, and I'm just now getting rid of Avi's Poppy and Rye books because they haven't been off the shelves in 8 years, as well as parts of the Tillerman series that haven't been off in 15 or more. Don't see this moving.
Journey of a Bookseller enjoyed this one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dangerous stuff

Chibbaro, Julie. Deadly.

Prudence decides to leave her fancy school in 1906 to find a job. Her father has been missing in battle for 8 years, and her mother is barely making ends meet while working as a midwife. Ever since her brother's death due to infected injuries, Prudence has wanted to find out what causes people to die. She gets hired by the Department of Health and Sanitation and helps investigate cases of typhoid fever. Mr. Soper, her boss, quickly tracks down the cases to a Mary Mallon, who has cooked for all of the families affected, and works to get her tested and quarantined. Along the way, Prudence decides that it might be possible for her to train to be a doctor, and fulfill her dream of keeping people from dying.

Strengths: Fine for middle school, and more interesting than some of the other turn-of-the-century girls-interested-in-science books that I've seen. Well-researched, and an interesting topic. Notes at the end confirm that events were speeded up to make the book more interesting, which was a good call.

Weaknesses: Would have expected more obstacles in Prudence's way, especially from her mother.

Hobbs, Dylan. Take Me to the River.
Dylan travels to Texas to go on a river trip with his uncle and cousin, but when he arrives he finds that his uncle has taken a job in Alaska, leaving the boys alone. They decide to take some trips on their own, and run into all sorts of problems, including a Mexican kidnapper who has a young boy hostage and a major storm. Like all of Hobbs' books, this has plentiful detail about adventurous circumstances, and Dylan and Rio must rely on their own skills to save not only themselves, but the young boy.

Strengths: Lots of action and adventure.
Weaknesses: Somehow this one lost me when the uncle took off for Alaska knowing that Dylan would be coming. This would not be a problem for students, but I just didn't think the boys should have gone on this adventure at all.

Strong Girls

Leavitt, Lindsey. Sean Griswold's Head.
Payton's world has been turned upside down-- not only by her father's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, but by the fact that her family hid this fact from her. She's seeing a school conselour to deal with this, but has quit the basketball team and is constantly at odds with her family. How does Sean's head come into this? He sits in front of her in many of her classes, and when she needs to find an object to focus on to deal with her anxiety, she picks the back of Sean's head. This evolves into getting to know him better, with the dubious and often misguided help of her best friend, Jac. Sean is an avid bicyclist who talks Payton into training for an MS bike-a-thon, but things don't go smoothly with their romance.

Strengths: LOVED how strong Payton was-- she didn't want Sean to think that she couldn't bike up a killer hill, even if she ended up throwing up at the top of it. Very nice romantic scenes. Fans of Sarah Dessen will like this as well.

Weaknesses: Thought that Payton was overwrought, and the drama interfered with what would have been my 4th favorite romance book. While middle school appropriate, I would be leery of giving this to a girl who had a parent with MS, since cases vary so widely, and Payton's father's case has enough bad moments to be scary. Also, don't like the cover or title. Will buy anyway.

Orenstein, Peggy. Cinderella Ate My Daughter.
Not a middle school book, but since I'm working with a Girls on the Run Group where we had to talk about the "girl box", and yet my 7th grader beat a couple of boys on a four mile run and didn't even blink, I had to read this. I was appalled. Disney Princesses apparently started being a big thing in 2000, when said 7th grader would have been two, but we missed this phenomenon entirely. Sure, we read Little Golden Book versions of Sleeping Beauty, but we made sure we gave the queen a name (Thrimbaba), and made sure that all of the princesses had some career training in case the prince thing didn't work out. Seriously. Don't all mothers do this? This book didn't shed much light on how to stop the tide of pink; it was more of a commentary on it. Maybe mothers of younger children don't remember a time when there weren't a lot of choices for women, and they think this is okay.

*Sigh* Yet another way that I feel old!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guy Friday-- New

Northrup, Michael. Trapped.
This is no ordinary snow storm. School has let out for the day because unprecedented amounts of snow have fallen on the east coast. Six students are left in the school with the industrial arts teacher, who eventually gives up and heads out. The remaining students hunker down, breaking into the cafeteria to find food, finding water, keeping fires burning in trash cans when the building becomes too cold. After several days, the roof of the school starts collapsing, and the kids start to think that they should ignore radio warnings and head out to find help. Taking a go kart modified to travel over snow, one of the boys starts out; things do not go well, and the protagonist, Scotty, finally has to get help.

Strengths: A real page turner, this will be hugely popular. Fast-paced, full of details of what it would be like to be trapped in a school, this will make students stop and think the next time there is a snow day. Great cover and pages, too.

Weaknesses: Sags a little in the middle, and there's no concrete ending.

Yee, Lisa. Warp Speed.
Marley is a bit geeky-- he's member of the school Audio Visual group (which is, oddly, allowed to move televisions around, even though all of my televisions are labeled "Students have been killed by falling equipment".), loves the orginal Star Trek, and not only hands over his homework regularly to Digger, but is frequently hit by "the Gorns" who bully him mercilessly. Marley has a good group of friends, including Ramen (even though he loves Star Wars), and Max (even though she is a she and loves Batman), and has a supportive family, but even so he hides the fact that he is being bullied. The school has an anti-bullying initiative that consists mainly of red rubber band bracelets, so no help is forthcoming from that area. After Max inadvertantly wins a school race, things look up, and he's able to stand up to the bullies and get his life back.

Strengths: Liked the supportive family (including a deaf mother and financially struggling father), and the general amusing tone.

Weakness: Star Trek? The original series? Hmmm. Too bad that such a stereotypical student is being bullied. The bully, too, was rather stereotypical. Just disappointing. Will still buy, and should pick up Stanford Wong, too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Girl Thursday

Messner, Kate. Sugar and Ice.
Claire loves to skate, but she is busy with a lot of other things, including her family's maple sugar farm and her friend Natalie. When she is scouted by a skating coach from Lake Placid and gets a scholarship to study there, she is pleased, but knows that driving her an hour and a half away several times a week is hard on her family. The other skaters are extremely competitive, and adjusting to this world is hard. School projects suffer, and even Claire's skating is not as good because she is so tense. With the help of some of the other skaters, a good team psychologist, and her supportive family, Claire is able to make a decision about skating that is right for her.

Strengths: *Sigh* This was one of those books that was so good that I just couldn't read anything else after it, because I wanted to stay in that world a little longer. While Claire is busy, the book is not confusing. Also loved the shout outs to different authors without giving the titles of the paranormal books one of the skaters was reading; it was fun to guess!

Weaknesses: The cover. This could have been a whole lot better. I know it's similar to Gianna Z., but somehow this one doesn't work for me.

Hapka, Catherine. Something Borrowed.
Ava's boyfriend breaks up with her several weeks before her sister's wedding. The real downside: he's a cousin of the groom, so he'll be at the wedding, so she doesn't want to show up without a date. She asks a wide variety of acquaintances to go, but one after another they aren't able to make it. Finally, she borrows her best friend's boyfriend, and things come to a predictable but fun conclusion.

Strengths: A Sister of the Bride for the new millenium. Fluffy and fun.
Weaknesses: The bridesmaid dress is pink. PINK. What's with the cover?

And do I give in to student pressure and put ALL of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies on the same shelf, under F SIM? So sad that the series ended.

Flinn, Alex. Beastly. (2007)
How did I miss this? I have other Flinn books but didn't have this. With the movie out, I've had students ask, and I just didn't have it. Will soon, because it was middle school appropriate enough. Kyle Kingsbury, the son of a news anchorman, attends a ritzy private school, where he is popular and not very nice. A classmate, who is also a witch, turns him into a beast, complete with fur and claws, because of his nastiness. If he can find a girl to love him as he is within two years, he will return to being human. He finds a girl who needs his help, and he becomes a better person while caring for her. Will this be enough?

Strengths: Flinn does BOY oriented retellings of fairy tales, which is interesting. I love A Kiss in Time and was glad to see a less girly cover for it. Her Nothing to Lose and Breathing Underwater are very popular with my 8th grade boys. I'm looking forward to reading Cloaked.
Weaknesses: Not as much of an original twist as A Kiss in Time, but still perfectly serviceable.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not What I Wanted Wednesday

Bakerella. Cake Pops.
So, so cute. So, so much work. If your idea of a good time is decorating cakes, but it's just not... challenging enough for you, this is for you, but it gave me a huge inferiority complex! I would have bought it for the school library, since it is enormously fun to look at, but it is spiral bound. Those last about six months.

Think I'm done trying to find cake and cupcake decorating books. They just make me feel bad.

Hautman, Pete. The Big Crunch.
From the Publisher: "Jen and Wes, hanging around in the same circles, eventually decide they might like to be a couple, and even then are not sure if a relationship is what they want. "

Why it didn't work for me: For a romance book to work with middle school boys, it needs a little more zip. Humor. Pigs running loose in Victoria's Secret, ala Mark Fink. Just more of a high school title. People who liked it include Rayment's Readings, Teen Book Review Blog, Bart's Bookshelf, and Reading Nook.

Weeks, Sarah. As Simple as it Seems
From the Publisher: "Eleven-year-old Verbena Polter gets through a difficult summer of turbulent emotions and the revelation of a disturbing family secret with an odd new friend who believes she is the ghost of a girl who drowned many years before.

Why it didn't work for me: Weeks' Regular Guy series is hugely popular in my library, and I liked So B. It even though it was quirky, but this just didn't do it for me. Too young, partly. Unfortunately, other readers feel similarly.

Nelson, Blake. Recovery Road.
From the Publisher: "Seventeen-year-old Maddie meets Stewart in a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol abuse, and they begin a relationship, which they try to maintain after they both finish treatment. "

Why it didn't work for me: Just too old. Nelson is always too gritty for middle school, but I keep picking them up because he writes on topics my children want to read about, for whatever reason. Skateboarding, I can understand. The obsession with drugs I don't. And I can't imagine ASKING my librarian for books about people on drugs. Or asking for Judy Blume's Forever when I knew darn well that it was scandalous. Oh, the times, they have changed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Black Radishes

Meyer, Susan. Black Radishes.
Gustave's parents do not think it will be safe to be a Jew in Paris under Nazi occupation, and have the foresight to sell their business and rent a house out in the country while waiting for their affidavit to emigrate to the US. While the situation in France worsens, Gustave becomes involved with local resistance fighters and witnesses first hand the problems with German rule. Based on the true story of the author's father's experiences, this gives an interesting perspective on another facet of this terrible time.

Strengths: Gustave's reactions to the war and its effect on him are realistic. He is angry, sad and bored at times, not always noble.

Weaknesses: This will be a good book for our Holocaust unit, but may be a hard sell because students always want something set in the concentration camps.

Also read part of Boream's Small Persons with Wings, but couldn't get into it because the main character, Mellie, seemed to create so many of her own problems. Maybe it is just a book for readers younger than my middle schoolers; this book has gotten a lot of buzz.

And yes, I fooled with the template again. The yellow was too much, early in the morning. Some soft blue seemed more the thing.

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday was started by Anastasia Suen and, well, quite honestly I've never been quite sure what I'm supposed to do other than post about nonfiction books. It's Monday, after all!

Freedman, Russell. The War to End All Wars: World War I
This nicely illustrated volume is a great companion to Jim Murphy's Truce. There's not as much on WWI as there is on WWII, and it's a subject about which my students need to read. Freedman, as always, does an excellent job at laying out the causes and occurrences of the war. The maps are clear and very useful. The devastation to the military and civilian population is made very clear. This is a must for any middle school collection used by boys who want books about war.

In a side note, I have Mr. Freedman's very first book in the library; Teenagers Who Made History, from 1961. It pongs a bit, but I can't get rid of it!

Jurmain, Suzanne. The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students.

The Secret of the Yellow Death was so interesting that I had to read this book as well. Prudence Crandall had a school for young women in 1830s Connecticut. Inspired by the works of abolitionists and her own conscience, she decided to open up a school for African American girls, much to the dismay of the community, who threatened the school's existence legally and physically, eventually causing her to close. A lot of research has gone into this story, and it is told in a compelling and interesting way.

Just have to say "Shame on the Columbus Dispatch" for buying into the whole "stodgy looking librarians= quiet and unhelpful people" prejudice. Nothing like embracing one stereotype while trying to discredit another. (Shushing the Stereotype) Some of us would rather wear the same clothes we have for the last 20 years and spend our time off work reading books so we can recommend them to patrons. Wearing heels and hose does not make us unhelpful. It makes us look like grown ups.

Being a librarian these days apparently has very little to do with books. Luckily, Westerville's own Becky O'Neil does in fact blog about books as well as all of the Librarian 2.0 topics that the Dispatch prizes so highly.

This is an old rant. I'm off to recommend books to children, after I straighten the seams in my support hose, retie my sensible oxfords, and shove a couple of more tissues up my cardigan sleeve. Sigh.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More randomness

Jurmain, Suzanne. The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing.

Our 7th graders used to read Anderson's Fever 1793 and research viral diseases in science; this would be an excellent addition to the curriculum if it is still in place. This beautifully researched and illustrated book chronicles the activities of Dr. Walter Reed's medical team in Cuba in the early 1900s as they tried desperately to find the cause of Yellow Fever in order to erradicate it. Since many of the team exposed themselves to the fever, and some died of it, this was a real page turner that I enjoyed tremendously. Like Bartoletti's Black potatoes : the story of the great Irish famine, 1845-1850, this might not get checked out a lot, but when I get an interested student, it will be a huge success! I'm definitely taking a look at this author's other titles!

Holmes, Jennifer. Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon
Again, there's been huge student interest in cupcakes, and I even had a sixth grader who was really into Babymouse, so I had to pick this up. Definitely for the younger set. I have my concerns for Babymouse's mental health. I think it's entirely possible that she needs to be tested for an attention deficit disorder, and maybe for her hallucinations! I'll stick with Holm's titles for older students, which I enjoy.

Northeast, Mark. Funky Lunch: Happy Food for Happy Children

Brachman, Wayne Harley. See Dad Cook: The Only Book a Guy Needs to Feed Family and Friends.

I hate to cook. Seriously. And my children are not overly fond of eating, which is why dinner is usually a plain boiled chicken breast, apple, and piece of bread. Sometimes I wave a bowl of broccoli over their heads, hoping the fumes will provide some vicarious nutrients. Funky Lunch gave me a bad flashback to my daughter's 5th birthday, where I created a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Teddy Grahams on Fruit Roll-up towels looking like they were at the beach. Argh. See Dad Cook had some good basic recipes, but I would have been happier if it hadn't been marketed to just dads. I couldn't decide if this was progress or not!

HarperCollins has made up my mind for me

HarperCollins has decided to limit the circulation of its electronic books to 26 times. After that, the book would need to be repurchased. (From Medill Reports Chicago) So far they are the only publisher to impose this stricture, but they have made up my mind that I will not be buying E-books any time soon, even though I appreciate the E-Arcs that they provide via NetGalley.

I pulled a random copy of Darren Shan's
Hunters of the Dusk (2005) from my shelf to count the number of circulations. According to the 26 circulation limit, this book would have had to be repurchased after two years. It has circulated 76 times. (I have a date due stamp sheet in all my books.) It is in surprisingly good shape, so will probably circulate 76 more times. I have a copy of lThe Black Pearl that was here when the building opened in 1969. It's out right now, so I don't know how many times it has circulated in 40+ years.

Below is a list of books in my library that have circulated over three times the limit in the course of ONE year.


The Hunger Games

Collins, Suzanne.



The last Olympian : book 5

Riordan, Rick.



The sea of monsters

Riordan, Rick.



The Titan's curse

Riordan, Rick.



The red pyramid

Riordan, Rick.



Catching fire

Collins, Suzanne




Meyer, Stephenie




Shan, Darren




Horowitz, Anthony



Devil's footsteps

Richardson, E. E.



Diary of a wimpy kid : dog days

Kinney, Jeff.



The lost hero

Riordan, Rick.



Vampire High

Rees, Douglas.




Korman, Gordon



13 little blue envelopes

Johnson, Maureen




Shan, Darren



The battle of the Labyrinth

Riordan, Rick.



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Rowling, J. K.


(Statistics run through Follett's Destiny software: they seem a bit high, but I ran the report several times.)

Notice that some of the titles are older--
Vampire High dates from 2003 and has been consistently this popular. According to Harper Collins, I should have bought 24 copies of this, at a cost of approximately $360, instead of the $15 that I spent.

By the same reckoning, the cost of that number one
Hunger Games book would be $2,520, or OVER HALF of my entire yearly budget!!!

E-books DO have a built in expiration date-- does HarperCollins really believe that the current format will always be compatible with prevailing equipment? If so, they don't have any 5" floppies in their closet.

HarperCollins also has an Open Letter to Librarians. I will be sending them a link to this post.

While publishers certainly should be remunerated for their products, the current guidelines seem completely unrealistic in the context of my library.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Random Randomness

Sometimes I get a pile of books from the public library and don't even know what I was thinking. Last night was like that.

Maclear, Kyo. Spork.
Spork is a combination of his parents, a spoon and a fork, and doesn't fit in with the other utensils until a small child arrives at the house and he turns out to be the perfect eating implement.

Strengths: Interesting way to present multiculturalism for the picture book crowd.
Weaknesses: I expected a bit more of a message that just wasn't there. Don't know what, but felt vague sense of being incomplete after reading.

Griffin, Adele. The Julian Game.
From the publisher: "In an effort to improve her social status, a new scholarship student at an exclusive girls' school uses a fake online profile to help a popular girl get back at her ex-boyfriend, but the consequences are difficult to handle. "

More of a high school book? Maybe the ending was slow. The cover disturbed me deeply? Just couldn't get into this one, and can't explain why. Picky Reader also didn't get more than a few pages, although that's common.

Black, Tracy. How I Made it to Eighteen.
Graphic novel format. Chronicles, in slightly fictionalized form, how the author struggled with depression, bulimia, and other problems when she was a young adult. Probably a must for high schools with manga loving, emotionally disturbed students, but it was too intense for middle school. (Language and situations.)

Also got another cupcake book out from the library, and wonder how my library ended up with so many British imports. Fascinating what candies they use for decorating that are not available here, but not exactly useful to my students.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Constellation of Sylvie

Townley, Roderick. The Constellation of Sylvie.

Look what the dog was reading when I got home!(She must have just finished Into the Labyrinth.)

It's always fun to read about a character with your name, especially when you were actually named after the Princess Sylvie because you were a Great Good Thing.

The Door in the Forest

Townley, Roderick. The Door in the Forest
Publication date 22 March 2011.
ARC provided by Mr. Townley

Daniel Crowley's family runs a store in Everwood, a small, backwoods sort of town, 1923. The most exciting thing to happen is that Grandma Birdsong's unusual granddaughter, Emily, comes to live with her because her mother was labeled a traitor and taken away. This is because of the Uncertainties, which also cause soldiers to arrive in town and be billeted with local families. Captain Sloper doesn't seem too bad, until he burns a map that Emily has. When the map appears on her back in freckles, Daniel, his brother, and Emily try to figure out what it means.

When the three manage to get to a densely foliaged and mysterious island set in an equally mysterious river, things get interesting. Emily's mother and uncle are there-- even though they are dead. Emily finds out that she is in charge of keeping the island, and the magical creatures who live there, safe. This becomes especially important when Captain Sloper decides that there are weapons on the island and starts to fire upon it. Everwood is hiding secrets about the rebellion, and Sloper's insistence on finding them leads to his eventual demise.

Strengths: Mr. Townley writes exceedingly beautiful prose, especially evidenced in The Great Good Thing, one of my favorite books. He has a good eye for writing fantasy that is not horribly long, so that younger or struggling readers are not intimidated by the books, and it is also wonderful to see some fantasy (or any books) that is not in a series.

Weaknesses: I struggled with pinning down the setting; carts and cars were mentioned, but once a specific date was given, I tried to think where there might have been civil unrest in the real world. As I said with Matched, I don't do as well with fantasy when the parameters of the world are not clearly laid out, but that's a personal failing. If I had been able to just accept it as fantasy, I would have been okay.

Stanley, George E. Mr. Rogers: Young Friend and Neighbor.
Out of print.

*Sigh* I'm starting to see why I was SO addicted to these as a fourth grader. But I am going to stop.

Unlike the Dr. Seuss book, this followed the format that I remembered; most of the book was about the person's life before age 18, and then one chapter was devoted to what the person accomplished as an adult. Did this give me more scope for imagination? It certainly gave me a great window into the different historical time periods. Are they great literature? No. But they certainly taught me a lot about history.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Last Little Blue Envelope

Johnson, Maureen. The Last Little Blue Envelope.
E-ARC provided by NetGalley.
Publication date 4/26/11

Tried to wait to read this; couldn't. *Sigh* Ginny gets an e mail from a mysterious Englishman, Oliver, who claims to have her lost backpack and the letters from her Aunt Meg that sent her on her adventures in 13 Little Blue Envelopes and were stolen in Greece. She talks her parents into letting her spend Christmas break in London with her Uncle Richard, and sets off to meet Oliver and get the letters back. The catch? The last letter sends Ginny off looking for more of her aunt's art, but Oliver wants to go along, sell the piece, and get a cut of the profit. Accompanied by Keith, who has been out of touch for a while, and his girlfriend Ellis, Ginny goes to Paris, Belgium and Ireland to retrieve the artwork, encountering a variety of complications along the way.

Strengths: Oddly, I liked the ensemble cast in this, even the the whole point of the first book was for Ginny to be alone. Her struggles with college applications, and her ultimate decision at the end of the book seemed realistic.

Weaknesses: Hard to say, since I really, really want to BE Ginny, and that clouds my judgement. I will have to buy at least three copies of this to keep up with demand. I don't know how many times I have had to replace the first book, since it has been so worn out. Has it really been 6 years?

Condie, Ally. Matched.
Cassia lives in a tightly controlled futuristic world. Mates and jobs are predetermined, food is delivered directly to everyone's home, everyone wears the same clothing, and literature, art and music have been reduced to a preselected "best" 100. After Cassia is matched with Xander, a boy she knows, however, another face appears on her profile-- another boy she knows, Ky. She's confused, because mistakes aren't made, but starts to fall in love with Ky. This causes lots of problems, and the Society starts to crack down on Cassia and her family. This causes, combined with the organized death of her grandfather at the age of 80 and two poems that he shares with her, cause her to questions the Society for the first time. The sequel, Crossed, comes out in November of 2011.

Strengths: This is primarily a romance, and a much more realistic view of a future dystopia than I have read lately. This is how it would work-- we would all be convinced that whatever was being done was good for us. Meals delivered to the house? I'm all for it. So you marry my teenage daughter off to the best possible genetic match? Hmmm. Is the food good?

Weaknesses: I like my world's described and explained a bit more; this drew us in bit by bit, which is probably better story telling but a bit frustrating.

Rainfield, Cheryl. Scars.
I read this knowing that it was not a middle grade novel. Kendra had been cutting herself for six months, ever since memories of being sexually abused have surfaced. She is making it through the day with the help of a caring conselor, but when her father loses his job, her mother threatens to cut that support. Kendra feels like whoever abused her (and she doesn't remember who is was) is following her. She is helped somewhat by her new friend, Meghan, who becomes a romantic interest, as well as by Sandy, an artist friend of her mother's. When Kendra recieves threatening letters from her abuser, her agitation increases, and everything comes to a violent and surprising conclusion.

Strengths: This is a gritty and realistic portrayal of the aftermath of abuse. The characterizations are very well done, from the concerned-but-not-in-the-right-way mother to the supportive therapist. Nothing in this book is done casually. The writing is very good as well, and the list of support sites at the end is very complete and helpful.

Weaknesses: This is not something I would purchase for my middle school, but it's ridiculous for it to be challenged at public libraries.

There are a lot of books with more graphic situations and language that are done gratuitously, but this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book that is extremely helpful in understanding the aftermath of abuse. I may give this to Picky Reader, since she tends to read a lot of problem novels. We would discuss this; I would not want a 7th grader to read this without support.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Spring Cleaning

There's something about March that makes me panic a bit about the end of the year, and also makes me want to clean out things. This tendency was worsened by finding YET ANOTHER laser disk player on a cart of equipment. Sigh. Hottest technology... in 1995.

Welcome to the Inner Sanctum!

I'm getting to the end of the really incomprehensible garbage and reaching a level comprised of recently obsolete equipment. Here is a cabinet of tape recorders, slide projectors, a record player, an 8mm projector, and typewriters. Which I use every day.

Anyone need an entire box of SVID cables? I'm still working on it, but I think they are no longer what connects our monitors to the computers. Used to be I would have to replace at least one a week.

Since I have so little storage for televisions and overhead projectors, I took down some shelving in the back room (that used to hold the magazine archive!) so I have room. When all of that equipment becomes obsolete? Not a problem. I'll have room to move in my bed and easy chair, and just live in the back of the library!

Guy Friday-- Sherlock Holmes

Has there been another adult literary character who has gotten so much treatment in BFYR? I've noticed more and more Holmes retellings lately, and both of my volumes of Conan Doyle's works have been constantly checked out, so the topic must be speaking to students!

Lethcoe, Jason. No Place Like Holmes.
E-ARC provided by Net Galley. Release date May 11, 2011

Griffin is sent unannounced from Boston to London to stay with his Uncle Rupert in the early 1900s. His uncle is a struggling detective with a grudge against his neighbor-- none other than Sherlock Holmes! Rupert doesn't want anything to do with Griffin, but when Griffin is out and about and helps out Mrs. Dent, whose clock maker husband has been eaten by a sea monster, Rupert realizes there is a possibility of some detective work and softens a bit. Mr. Dent's disappearance, they soon find, is the work of Moriarty and company, Holmes' nemeses, who have an evil plan to kill Holmes and the queen! Can Griffin and his uncle solve the mystery of Mr. Dent's disappearance and foil Moriarty? And will the two ever get along?

Strengths: Good, fast-paced mystery, with lots of period details and a nice twist on the Holmes' story. Gadgets for those interested in Steam Punk.

Weaknesses: The relationship between Griffin and his uncle seems a bit forced, especially the back story about the uncle's dog. Also, even though Griffin is the son of a Methodist minister, the inclusion of his religions beliefs seemed agenda driven rather than part of the natural character development.

Lane, Andrew. Death Cloud.
Really, really, really looking forward to reading this but didn't get to it last night. Went to the trouble to contact the UK publisher to get an ARC, then my former principal sent me a copy. Have to admit that the UK cover on the right is a little more Guy friendly.

Peacock, Shane. Boy Sherlock Series.
Eye of the Crow, Death in the Air, Vanishing Girl and The Secret Fiend.

I thought there were some older titles, but can't seem to find them. Wasn't there a Baker Street Irregulars series? It seems to me that at one point I had book3 and 6 or something, so they are long gone.