Thursday, April 29, 2004

Recent recommended non-fiction reads:

Close to Shore: the terrifying shark attacks of 1916 by Mike Capuzzo

The blood-hungry spleen: and other poems about our parts by Allan Wolf

Outside and Inside the Giant Squid by Sandra Markle

Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: a history of burial by Penny Colman

Recent recommended fiction:

The transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle by David Elliott



Saturday, April 24, 2004

Sharon Creech's new book, Heartbeat, is a must read. Just go get and sit down and read it. It's a fast read and a tear jerker and a book you want to just hug close to yourself when you are done reading because you are so glad that you read it but you are so sad that it is over.

If you don't burst out laughing during the first chapter of Wendelin Van Draanen's Swear to Howdy, you need a lobotomy.

Another recent read: Ghost Girl: a Blue Ridge Mountain story by Delia Ray. Liked it a lot! Based on the story of a real teacher and school that was built by President Hoover and his wife during the 1930s.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Heavy-handed messages aside, The Beejum Book by Alice O. Howell is an adventerous read. The chapters alternate between Teak's life as she travels around Europe with her parents and her nightly journeys in the mysterious world of Beejumstan. The lessons that Teak learns (this is where the heavy-handed messages come in) are interesting and important, about becoming an individual, staying true to oneself, and being brave, just to name a few. I think that an author with a little more experience could have integrated these things into the story a little more smoothly. This is a book that I will recommend to fantasy readers, especially those who read above grade level and need something that is challenging but still content appropriate.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Kira-Kira, written by Cynthia Kadohata, is a wonderful novel. Two Japanese-American sisters, growing up the late 1950s, are best friends. Lynn, the older sister, teaches Katie that there are many "kira-kira" (glittering) things on this earth. As their parents struggle to provide for the family and save money to buy their own house, Lynn, Katie and younger brother Sam, play, dream and imagine together. When Lynn grows ill and the hospital bills pile up things become very stressful for the family. Katie helps to nurse her sister and take care of Sam while her parents work at the local chicken hatcheries day and night to make ends meet. Our narrator, Katie, is sweet, silly, honest, brave and a good storyteller. She relates events exactly as I imagine a ten to twelve year-old girl would and gives hope to the reader that even in the saddest of times, there are glimmers of kira-kira to be found.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I read all the Judy Blume books over and over again when I was growing up. I loved them all but was especially attached to Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. Don't know what it was about that book, but I loved it! I'm quite surprised that Deenie was chosen to be made into a movie--it just doesn't seem like a film that will sell. But what do I know?

Just finished a new YA book, Uncommon Faith by Trudy Krisher. It is narrated by all the folks in the town of Millsbrook, Massachusetts and the story pretty much revolves around Faith Common, a most uncommon and rebellious girl in the 1830s. The trick is that Faith Common is not one of the narrators. We never hear her voice-yet much of the action in the story is caused by her courage, intelligence, strength and honesty. This is a remarkable look at feminism in its earliest stages. Women want to be heard, they quit sewing. Women want to be heard, they write unacceptable things in their copy books at school. Women find a way to make things right. This is a historical fiction novel that takes place in the early days of abolitionism. Read it--love it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Oh my gosh...I am not a Judy Blume fan! Is that terrible? When I was younger I read Blubber and Deenie ...I had slight scoliosis so the thought of a brace terrified me ... well of course until she got felt up and I was not thin even then in jr high so Blubber had me cringing all the way thru it... I also read Are You There God...but mostly read in awe that this girls were dying for their periods and I was hoping I would never get mine ... was I some sort of defected teenager? But that's just those three...I have vague memories of my third grade teacher reading one of the Fudge books...I'd like to see them make a great movie based on those.
I read way too much Stephen King as a teen and I listed Rebecca as my favorite book for some thing in my 8th grade English class (so did my friend Sue!) ... I know, I was just not normal.
I know I'll end up seeing the movie Deenie (I watch almost every book-movie adaptation) and as long as they don't massacre it the way they (whoever they are) did with Tuck Everlasting then it's all right by me!

Friday, April 09, 2004

YAY! YAY! Finally a movie based on a Judy Blume book! (I know, there have been series and made-for-TV movies, but not a feature film.) Deenie, about a girl with scoliosis, will be brought to the big screen. My fave Judy Blume book is Then again, maybe I won't (fond memories of dog-eared, marked-up copies of Forever circulating around my middle-school playground notwithstanding). What's yours?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

More commentary, less book review:
I have been wanting to read The First Part Last and Hanging on To Max ... we read Make Lemonade for my librarians-who-like-teen-books group and I expressed the need for some teen parent stories that don't involve sterotypical teen parents... such as poor, black or hispanic, uneducated, unsupportive familes or the reverse...grandparents raising the babies ... because my sister is a teen mom and she isn't any any of the above. Maybe I could get her to write her story! When I was in HS a friend of a friend got pregnant, she was middle class, white, committed boyfriend who did not run off, regular kid with good grades...she had the baby and went to college...is this book out there? Are authors/editors/publishers afraid it would be condoning sex as a teen because if you get pregnant & keep the baby it might not be the end of the world? If they are making decisions like that thinking it effects the morals of teens than they should stop printing Gossip Girls...

... and speaking of Gossip Girls I am reading the second one You Know You Love Me because as I said here before...it is like heroin ... easy to get, cheap, unhealthy and I keep going back for more!

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

You got it--I dig the fairy tales.

Typically I prefer the stories that don't have fairy tale endings, like Angela Johnson's The First Part Last. The reader discovers right away that sixteen-year-old Bobby is raising his newborn baby, Feather, on his own. In swapping chapters titled "Then" and "Now" the story of Bobby's single-fatherhood is revealed. We don't often meet male characters who express such complexity of thought and feeling as Bobby. His desire to be a good father and his conflicting fear of fatherhood are most evident in the moments he longs to be a child again himself, followed the moments when he realizes this will never be the case. This is an interesting and poetic look at a teenage father with heart. It would be great to pair with Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard. Two books showing kids making mistakes and facing the tough choices that follow.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

BUT what about the romance! I just had to keep reading to see where that led. Allison, do you like her fairy tale books better?

I just finished Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli over breakfast this morning. As soon as I got to work I had to jump on the blog and check that this was the same book that April stayed up all night reading. It didn't have the same affect on me. Although I appreciated the independent Donata and her desire to explore the world of Venice outside the family's Palazzo, I felt like finishing this book was an uphill battle. Sometimes there was too much dialogue and other times I felt like the history lesson was a little heavy handed. I wasn't connected to the characters and wished to learn more about their hearts and minds. Sorry April--I wouldn't give up a night of snuggling for this story. :)

Thursday, April 01, 2004

You aren't like other girls? All that sugar and spice and froo-froo crap just grosses you out? Well, you have found a friend in Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist by Jim Benton. She like bats. She likes ooze. She likes Venus Flytraps. She transforms your average doll into a creature with huge pointy teeth called "Chompula." She IS a mad scientist. As you can imagine, it is tough for Franny being the new girl in school. Until one afternoon when a Giant Monstrous Fiend appears in Franny's school. She knows just what to do!

Give this to early elementary school students--especially reluctant readers. It's awesome!

I picked up the new John Grisham novel The Last Juror this week. It has been a while since I read any Grisham titles but this one appeared in my work supply last month and rekindled my interest. I fondly remembered reading The Firm and The Client and hoped for another experience staying up way too late (maybe even all night) to race through the book enthralled.

Yawn.

The legal aspects of the plot aren't really the ones that are on stage here. This is a story about early-1970s small-town Mississippi, the odd characters who people it, and the exploits of a 21-year-old ne'er-do-well Yankee who buys the local newspaper with a little help from his grandmother. Sure, there is a plotline featuring a sensational rape and murder, a trial infused with technicalities and crookedness and a promise to exact revenge, all faithfully detailed on the book jacket blurb. But it is the colorful town characters and the white newspaper owner's friendship with an older black woman from the other side of the tracks that are the salient elements of the story. It's an entertaining read, just not the one I was expecting. Grisham fans who like the direction his fiction has taken in his last few novels will enjoy this book.