Saturday, October 31, 2009

Interview :)

Go check out my interview with the lovely Booklogged from A Reader's Journal. She features a blogger from every state, and I'm her Tennessee!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: Every Soul a Star

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass book cover
by Wendy Mass
Publisher: Little, Brown 2008

Summary in a Sentence:

Ally, Bree, and Jack meet at Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, to watch a total eclipse of the sun; but soon they begin to learn a great deal about themselves, each other, and the universe.

 My thoughts:
Let me begin by saying that I found out about this book because of my (former) babysitting charge's hearty recommendation. She just finished reading this with her mom and they both loved it. I love it when 13 year olds tell me that I simply must read a book!

Ally, Bree, and Jack tell their stories in alternating chapters of their experiences at the Moon Shadow campground, building up to a solar eclipse. I was immediately drawn to Jack and really found his thoughts resonating deeply with me. I think he reminded me a little of myself at 13 or 14. Mass includes just enough elements of astronomy to pique your interest without making you feel like you are -gasp!- learning something, which is just perfect for the target audience of middle schoolers.

Ally lives at the campground with her family where she is homeschooled. Bree, dragged to the eclipse by her family is the stereotypical mall-bound and materialistic tween, which leads me to my only complaint of the novel. I felt that Bree's character was too one-dimensional and predicable for most of the book. It isn't until about three quarters of the way through the book that her character begins to show some multi-dimensional characteristics that the reader can begin to relate to,and she really turns out to be the surprise character twist of the novel. Where the novel shines is with the character of Jack. He reluctantly agrees to go to the campground in order to pass his science class. More interested in drawing and keeping to himself, Jack undergoes a transformation to become a leader of sorts among the campground's inhabitants.
As the story progresses, we see the characters grow and develop as they form unlikely friendships and become more comfortable with themselves.

Lastly, I loved how the book was built around the facts of astronomy in general, and solar eclipses in particular (the author includes some informative endnotes on astronomy and also provides some helpful websites). Mass is very engaging and keeps the reader on their toes throughout the entire novel.

Also Recommended: 
Other Reviews:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday: La's Orchestra Saves the World

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

"Among his many talents, Alexander McCall Smith plays the contra-bassoon in the Really Terrible Orchestra, which he helped to found in Edinburgh. From the title of his new novel, the reader might expect a light-hearted romp about the formation of a scratch orchestra in the Second World War. What we get is a rather melancholy and subdued account of La (short for Lavender) Ferguson's life."
 I've never read any of McCall's work; might as well start with this one!

What's your "waiting on" pick this week? Leave your link here!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Things Kid Lit: The Life and Times of Corn

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

The Life and Times of Corn
written and illustrated by Charles Micucci
ISBN: 9780618507511
Published October 2009
32 pages

Did you know that corn leaves absorb 97 percent of the plant’s nutrition from the air? Or that corn was first popped in the year 2300 BC? How about that a single ear of corn can yield eight hundred seeds? That’s “an a-maize-ing grain!”

Kirkus Reviews

Who knew those little kernels contained so much history and lore? In a conversational and lively narrative, the author follows the growth, cultivation and shocking number of uses of this "a-maize-ing" plant. Sensitive to children's sensibilities, he delights in explaining large statistics-bushels are stacked high, each equaling 100,000,000, to represent leading corn producers. Plus, he carefully explains, if all 125,000 square miles of cultivated cornfields were put together, "corn" would be the fifth largest of the United States! In a clear, logical order, punctuated by timelines, maps and fun corn facts, the author introduces the history and life cycle of this staple. Columbus sought gold when he came to the New World; little did he know how much those yellow kernels were really worth.

  • The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
  • Corn by Gail Gibbons
  • Corn is Maize by Aliki

Top News in Children's Lit:

Kansas City Jewish Chronicle (KS)
October 20, 2009
Greater Kansas City, KS will be the site of a Curious George convergence over the next several weeks. An exhibit about the creators of the beloved children's book character, "Saving the Little Brown Monkey: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey," will be displayed from Oct. 21 through Dec. 1 in the art gallery at the Jewish Community Campus.

Wes Anderson's Urbane Mr. Fox is Truer to Roald Dahl Than Most
The Guardian (UK)
October 21, 2009

The vision of rural England in the new animated Fantastic Mr Fox may be Buckinghamshire channeling Berkeley, but its sensibility is unmistakably British.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Books by Theme: New York

The Black Madonna by Louisa Ermelino

Teresa, Magdalena, and Antoinette become friends and raise families in New York's Little Italy. Taking place from the 1940s through the 1960s, this finely written novel, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, offers a realistic glimpse of life in the city.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

After losing his father in the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, precocious nine-year-old Oskar Schell embarks on a pilgrimage after discovering a mysterious key in his dad's possessions. This quirky, powerful novel ends with an emotional punch.

Forever by Pete Hamill

Connecting eighteenth century Irish immigrant Cormac O'Connor to the 9/11/2001 disaster is no easy feat, but readers willing to suspend belief and go along for the ride will be richly rewarded by this fascinating, wonderful novel. Great story telling and terrific characters make this book a page-turner.

Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney

Vividly drawn characters and detailed descriptions of the city put the reader in 1860s New York with German immigrant Frank Harris. By turns harrowing and rewarding, Harris's life is a great adventure.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Monstrosity Gazette: A weekly smattering of all things literary...

Bookish Quote of the Day:

"The multitude of books is making us ignorant."


MySpace Codes

Today in Literary History...
On this day in 1854, one of the most famous battles of military history was fought at Balaclava, in the Crimea. Upon reading reports of the disaster in the Times five weeks later, Tennyson wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade," composing the poem while raking leaves, he later said, and taking both the phrase and the idea that "someone had blundered" from the newspaper account.

For more literary history, click here.

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Literary Pic of the Day:

The British Museum Reading Room, situated in the center of the Great Court of the British Museum, used to be the main reading room of the British Library. In 1997, this function moved to the new British Library building at St Pancras, London, but the Reading Room remains in its original form.

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New Book On My Radar:

The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble
Published Sep. 2009
368 pages

Summary in a Sentence:

Margaret Drabble, an English novelist, describes spending time as a child with her aunt in Long Bennington and her life-long fondness for jigsaw puzzles, along with her thoughts on the importance of childhood play, art, writing, aging, and memory.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: The Kin by Peter Dickinson

The Kin 
by Peter Dickinson
Publisher: Firebird, 2003
ISBN: 9780142501207
628 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Library copy

Summary in a Sentence:
Dickinson's Kin series, Suth's Story, Noli's Story, Po's Story, and Mana's Story, novels about four prehistoric children, are published here in one edition along with Pourquoi tales interspersed throughout the novel that provide a folkloric heritage and belief system for the Kin and also explain character motivation.
My Thoughts:

After reading a few just so-so books, I really wanted to get lost in a great tome of a story. The Kin was just the ticket. The book is actually four novels published in one volume, weighing in at just over 600 pages. The story is paced really well, so I would look up from reading and realize I had just knocked out 50 or 75 pages in no time. I'm a huge history fan and have always been interested in the history of early mankind. Set in prehistoric Africa, this novel imagines what life was like for the clans of people surviving in the African deserts.

The stories of Suth, Noli, Po, and Mana are interspersed with Oldtales, or creation stories about the Kin's First Ones, which I found to be really interesting and illuminating as to how the characters behaved and reacted to life in the wild. Each First One is an animal, such as a monkey or a pocupine, and each Kin is named after a First One. The mixture of myth and history was just perfect and very entertaining.

A most interesting aspect of this book is how Dickinson imagined communication between speaking and non-speaking humans. The four children the stories follow belong to the Moonhawk Kin, which consists of highly verbal humans. Along the way, they encounter the Porcupine Kin, who are nonverbal but are still very communicative through sounds and gestures. Some of the Moonhawks say that the Porcupine Kin are not really 'people' because they can't speak words, but others, particularly Noli, are convinced that the Porcupine are just as human as anyone else even though they are different.

All in all, this novel is a very interesting and thought-provoking work of 'prehistorical' fiction.

P.S. This counts toward my Random Reading Challenge.

Rating: 4/5

Read Alikes: 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

"An inventive and richly visual novel about young lovers on a quest to find a cure for a magical ailment, perfect for readers of Alice Hoffman"
I am wild about this one...I just heard about it today from Booklist magazine.
It will be released in Janurary 2010.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week? Leave your link here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All Things Kid Lit: A Birthday For Bear

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

by Bonny Becker
illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
ISBN: 9780763637460
Candlewick Press, October 2009
56 pages

“Bear pulled himself up to his full height and roared, ‘I do not like presents. I do not like birthday cards. I do not like balloons. I do not like parties. I do not like BIRTHDAYS!’” Still, Bear’s friend Mouse is sure he can convince Bear to celebrate. Full-color ink and watercolor illustrations.

From School Library Journal:

Grumpy old Bear is totally uninterested in celebrating his birthday, but his cheery friend Mouse doggedly dons several comical disguises to trick and cajole him into enjoying the festive trappings of a party invitation, balloons, and a present. It is all to no avail, until Mouse leaves a beautiful homemade cake on Bear's doorstep; it's hard for him to ignore his favorite flavor and the fact that no one has ever made him a cake before. Mouse, hiding in the cake, brings back the balloons, the party hats, and the gift, and Bear's birthday is celebrated, at last, in fine and joyful style.
Read Alikes: 

Top News In Children's Lit:

New York Times
October 13, 2009

This is a big week for the grade-school set. Greg Heffley, the crude and clueless protagonist of Jeff Kinney's wildly popular book series, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," is back. The Internet is filled with testimonials about children who were frustrated readers until they got their hands on a Wimpy Kid book. Some parents have been less enthusiastic. But given the books' powerful appeal among both girls and boys, child development experts say parents have a lot to learn from Greg and company. While books like the Harry Potter series create an imaginative fantasy world, the Wimpy Kid books give us a rare glimpse into a child's ethical mind.

Austin American-Statesman (TX)
October 13, 2009

The publicity material that came with Kate DiCamillo's new book, "The Magician's Elephant," says it's for ages 8-13. And it is. And those young readers will certainly enjoy it on their own levels, just as they enjoyed DiCamillo's first novel, "Because of Winn-Dixie," and her Newbery Medal winner, "The Tale of Despereaux." But what a shame such a label will keep many adults from discovering an extraordinary book from an exceptional writer. Of the books you read this year, "The Magician's Elephant" could very well be the one that lingers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Arrival!

I don't usually post about new book arrivals, but this one is quite special to me (my mom got it for me):

Contributors include Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Anita Diamant, Jay Leno, and so many others.
I might just have to sit down tonight and read it from cover to cover! I'll let you know more soon :)

Books by Theme: Halloween Reading

"This is Halloween, everybody make a scene
Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright
It's our town, everybody scream
In this town of Halloween."

MySpace Codes

The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn
The minister’s two daughters accuse the village healer’s granddaughter of witchcraft in this rich novel of magic and suspense.

Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
Ten stories delve into the crevices of nightmare, temptation, and helplessness with a mixture of earthy dialect and inventiveness that makes this sometimes horrifying, occasionally funny, and always mesmerizing.

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding
A alternate-history tale of Gothic London, complete with a possessed amnesiac girl, a young demon-hunter, and the countless terrifying creatures who haunt the night.


The Bone Collector’s Son by Paul Yee
An unusual ghost story blends East with West against the backdrop of anti-Asian protests in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vancouver.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Monstrosity Gazette: A weekly smattering of all things literary...

Bookish Quote Of the Day:

"The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Today in Literary History...

On this day in 1896 Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, the first of his masterpieces, premiered in St. Petersburg. The opening night was such a disaster that by Act Two Chekhov was hiding backstage from the jeering, and by 2 a.m., after hours of walking the streets alone, he was declaring, "Not if I live to be seven hundred will I write another play."

For more literary history, click here.

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Literary Pic of the Day:

Alice, from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1869), illustrated by John Tenniel

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New Book on my Radar: 

Summary in a Sentence:
Lieutenant Daniel Rooke sails to Australia and begins to work on charting the stars and makes greater discoveries when he bonds with Tagaran, an Aboriginal girl, but when a violent conflict arises between the Englishmen and the native tribes, Daniel is force to choose where his allegiance lies.

Read the Reviews:
Literary License
Reading Adventures

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