Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: High School Edition

Cloaked by alex Flinn book cover
by Alex Flinn


Seventeen-year-old Johnny is approached at his family's struggling shoe repair shop in a Miami, Florida, hotel by Alorian Princess Victoriana, who asks him to find her brother who was turned into a frog.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Because it's the sequel to Beastly! Haven't read it yet? Go read it now.
  • Instead of a well-known classic, several lesser-known tales combine here to give the book a nice blend of the familiar (the frog who needs a kiss to transform) and the novel (how will a puny kid best two giants?).
  • Rapid action and amusing situations make it a quick read that will easily entice even reluctant readers.

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone book cover
The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us
by Tanya Lee Stone
Genre: Nonfiction


Explores how Barbie has influenced generations of girls, discussing criticisms of the doll, her role in fashion, and her surprising popularity during her first fifty years.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Direct quotes from women and girls showcase the variety of feelings that Barbie engenders.
  • Stone discusses Barbie's cultural relevance at length, from her numerous careers and the many races and nationalities she's represented to debates about her effect on girls' body image and even her resonance in the art world.
  • There's a whole chapter on how kids sometimes destroy their Barbies!

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison book cover
I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend: A Secret Diary
by Cora Harrison
Genre: Historical Fiction


In a series of journal entries, Jenny Cooper describes her stay with cousin Jane Austen in the 1790s, and her entrance into Jane's world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance.

Why You'll Love It:

•A novel reminiscent of Jane Austen’s own works, with sharp analyses of the British class system and societal expectations, as well as misunderstandings that hamper romances.
•Cora Harrison strives to create a balanced picture of the Austens—while they are a warm-hearted, fun-loving family for the most part, they also left Jane’s mentally disabled brother to be raised by neighbors. Harrison doesn’t demonize them for this but neither does she gloss over it.
•Provides a detailed portrait of life during the Georgian period. The extensive author’s note offers greater insight into Jenny’s story and Austen family history.
•Numerous drawings and copied bits of correspondence lend an air of authenticity to this fictional diary.

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart book cover
Real Live Boyfriends
by E. Lockhart


As a senior at her Seattle prep school, Ruby continues her angst-filled days and copes with the dilemmas of boyfriends, college applications, and her parents' squabbling, but comes to realize that her "deranged" persona may no longer apply.

Why You'll Love It:

•Real Live Boyfriends maintains the unique charm of the previous Ruby Oliver novels while taking Ruby and her parents, friends, and goats into new emotional territory.
•A spot-on portrayal of the loving gestures, calamitous miscommunications, and nerve-racking uncertainties of a serious relationship. Ruby and Noel make an especially believable, endearing couple.
•The book’s themes of love and self-image come to life in candid documentary transcripts, revealing footnotes, and Ruby’s ruthlessly honest voice.
•E. Lockhart has written a gratifying, moving finale to an outstanding series.

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux book cover
A Time of Miracles
by Anne-Laure Bondoux


In the early 1990s, a boy with a mysterious past and the woman who cares for him endure a five-year journey across the war-torn Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life.

Why You'll Love It:

•An enchanting novel that mixes grand storytelling with an unflinching look at the harsh realities of poverty.
•Kouma├»l is endearingly earnest and has a great eye for detail. His winning voice comes through clearly in Y. Maudet’s translation of Anne-Laure Bondoux’s novel, originally published in French.
•Set in the Republic of Georgia, the Caucasus, and Europe around the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse in the early 1990s, the book offers glimpses of a dramatic time in history and fascinating locales that will be new to many readers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Books By Theme: Retell it to me

The times may change, but the tales remain eternal. Classic literature and folktales are given a makeover in these retellings.

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman book cover
Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty
by Jody Gehrman
Retelling of: Much Ado About Nothing

Sixteen-year-olds Geena, Hero, and Amber spend the summer working at a Sonoma, California coffee shop, where they experience romance, identity crises, and newfound friendships.

Read the Reviews:

The YA YA YAs | Reader Rabbit | The Book Muncher

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors book cover
Saving Juliet 
by Suzanne Selfors
Retelling of: Romeo & Juliet

Seventeen-year-old Mimi Wallingford's stage fright and fight with her mother on the closing night of Romeo and Juliet are nothing compared to the troubles she faces when she and her leading man are transported to Shakespeare's Verona, where she decides to give the real Juliet a happy ending.

Read the Reviews:

Teacher Girl's Book Blog | Read This Book! | The Magic of Ink

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison book cover
My Fair Godmother
by Janette Rallison
Retelling of: Cinderella

High school sophomore Savannah wants to find the perfect prom date after her boyfriend breaks up with her to date her older sister, but when a godmother who is only fair becomes involved, Savannah finds herself in trouble in the Middle Ages, along with a boy who would like to be her charming prince.

Read the Reviews:

Deliciously Clean Reads | Presenting Lenore | Book Nut

Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst book cover
Into The Wild
by Sarah Beth Durst
Retelling of: Rapunzel

Having escaped from the Wild and the preordained fairy tale plots it imposes, Rapunzel, along with her daughter Julie Marchen, tries to live a fairly normal life, but when the Wild breaks free and takes over their town, it is Julie who has to prevent everyone from being trapped in the events of a story.

Read the Reviews:

Teen Book Review | And Another Book Read... | Jen Robinson

Monday, February 7, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Elementary Edition

Madlenka Soccer Star by Peter Sis book cover
Madlenka Soccer Star
by Peter Sis


Madlenka plays soccer in her city neighborhood--with the mailbox, a dog, a parking meter, and some cats.

Why You'll Love It:

  • Young female fans will appreciate following a girl who kicks a ball through the pages.
  • The international passion for soccer provides an ideal subject for Sis's Madlenka series, which connects a young girl's daily life with goings-on in the larger world. 
  • Global enthusiasm becomes visual in the final pages where a brief soccer history and fun facts are written on the face of a large soccer ball. The circular shape is mirrored on the opposite page with a globe surrounded by conversation balloons speaking "soccer" in more than 40 languages. 

April and Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham book cover
April and Esme, Tooth Fairies
by Bob Graham


On their first assignment, two young tooth fairy sisters journey by night into the huge world of humans to collect Daniel Dangerfield's tooth and fly it safely home.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Young audiences will linger over the detailed illustrations that bring to life Graham’s gentle tale: inside the tooth fairy family’s tiny thatched cottage, teeth dangle from strings like wind chimes; tiny animals made with teeth adorn shelves; the bathtub’s a milk pitcher, the toilet’s an eggcup, the sink’s a thimble.
  • A major treat is Graham’s detail-filled artwork, here punctuated by a fairy toilet made from an egg cup and ceiling decorations of hanging teeth.

Rubia and the Three Osos by Sussan Middleton Elya book cover
Rubia and the Three Osos
by Susan Middleton Elya
Genre: Folklore


Retells the story of Goldilocks and the three bears in rhyming text interspersed with Spanish words, which are defined in a glossary.

Why You'll Love It:
  • The narrative includes bouncy rhythms and smoothly intersperses Spanish words into the English. This technique helps children use context to determine their meaning.
  • Spanish is printed in a purple font, and a glossary is provided in the back.
  • An excellent read-aloud for storyhours and family reading times.

Mouse and Mole by Wong Herbert Yee book cover
Mouse and Mole: A Winter Wonderland
by Wong Herbert Yee


Best friends Mouse and Mole enjoy playing in the snow with Sno-Mouse and Sno-Mole, two more best friends.

Why You'll Love It:

  • This installment is filled with onomatopoeia, repetition, and the occasional rhyme.
  • Young readers will likely enjoy the simple irony and straightforward plot, while the many color illustrations reinforce the action and help them in in their transition to beginning chapter books.

Who Stole Mona Lisa by Ruthie Knapp book cover
Who stole Mona Lisa?
by Ruthie Knapp


Mona Lisa discusses her life in the homes and palaces of artists and kings, and as the object of admiration by visitors to see her at the Louve in Paris, tells of her time in the hands of a thief, and shares the secret of why she smiles.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Short sentences gain momentum from internal rhymes, repeated opening phrases, and humorous details. Beginning with da Vinci’s approach to the portrait sitter’s plight, a museum guide quips: “If she scratched, he asked if she had ants in her pants! When Mona was moody, he hired musicians and clowns to amuse her.”
  • McElmurry’s gouache scenes are lively and varied.
  • The text is rhythmic, but not rhyming:  “If she scratched, he asked if she had ants in her pants! When Mona was moody, he hired musicians and clowns to amuse her.”

Ogg and Bob: Life with mammoth by Ian Fraser book cover
Ogg and Bob: Life with Mammoth
by Ian Fraser


Two cavemen, Ogg and Bob, capture a mammoth and then try to train him as a pet.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Relatively spare text and full-color cartoons, some covering a spread and some full page, will serve reluctant readers well, while in-between readers will pick up on the irony of the sticky situations Ogg and Bob elude. 
  • The books straddle that fine line between early readers and early chapter books, offering very short chapters that still contain a lot of meat and action.

Nora and the Texas terror by Judy Cox book cover
Nora and the Texas Terror
by Judy Cox


When Nora's uncle loses his job and house in Texas, he and his family come to stay with Nora's family in Portland, Oregon, and Nora must try very hard to adjust to her cousin Ellie, who is loud, stubborn, and a tease.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Cox concisely conveys a sense of family dynamics and resolves the crisis of the story—a storm that imperils Ellie’s little brother—as neatly as she dispels Nora and Ellie’s differences.
  • This book would be useful as bibliotherapy for children whose families are having financial difficulties.
  • Realistic situations coupled with modern economic problems make this a familiar story for today's young readers. Humorous black-and-white drawings pepper the story, deepening understanding. Fans of Beverly Cleary should try this one.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

5 Minute Factoids: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nien. Nien would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nien ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nien was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nien. From then on, Nien never came to the village again.

Check out these books on the Chinese New Year:

In D Is for Dragon Dance, Ying Chang Compestine provides an alphabetical look at holiday customs from “A is for Acrobats” to “Z is for Zodiac.” Yongsheng Xuan’s large-size artwork, rich in sun-bright hues, conveys anticipation and exuberance as two children participate in family celebrations. The paintings are layered atop uniform-colored backdrops of Chinese calligraphic characters, adding depth and texture. Some of the entries include brief explanations, facilitating classroom discussion. An afterword offers “Tips to Ensure Good Fortune in the New Year” and a recipe for dumplings. 

A young girl describes her family’s preparations for Bringing in the New Year as “Jie-Jie sweeps the old year out of the house,” “Ba-Ba hangs the spring-happiness poems,” “Ma-Ma makes the get-rich dumplings,” and “Mei-Mei gets a fresh haircut.” After the narrator dons her fancy “new qi pao dress,” the big moment finally arrives with firecrackers, lions “to scare away last year’s bad luck,” and the appearance of a dragon (spread gracefully across a lushly hued three-page fold-out).

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