Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sometimes I feel like I conceal some parts of me, the tree-hugger, the moon-lover, overall earth lover, and B.A.A.(Bad Attitude Allison--when I am gloomy and moody and glum and hum-drum). I don't know why, but those things just seem to stay close to me and don't get out too much. That's why I enjoyed Ida B...and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid disaster, and (possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan. Ida B is a Nature Loving person. She talks to all the trees that surround her home and she has even given them names. She and her Dad agree that people need to take care of the earth, but she also knows that the earth takes care of us. School is too restrictive for her active imagination and carefree ways, so she is homeschooled by her parents. A short 2 week trial early in her schooling career proved to be too much for her and her teacher! That Ida B can work up a bad mood like no one else. And in this book she has perfect right to pitch a fit or two. Ida B's life is going along just great and her fun is maximized on a daily basis until her Mama is diagnosed with breast cancer. With her Mama tired and sick all the time from her chemotherapy treatments, Ida B isn't getting much attention or much schooling. And those treatments are expensive. The family has to sell some of their land to pay for Mama's medical bills. With the land go several of Ida B's tree friends and the people who purchase the land cut down some of the trees. To make things worse, Ida B has to go back to regular school since Mama doesn't have the energy to teach her anymore. Ida B's heart gets cold and sad and lonely. She is sad for Mama and misses the way things used to be. She is determined to hate school even though that Mrs. W isn't so bad. She eventually admits that reading out loud to her class is ... well, fun. Like great big icebergs, cold hearts do eventually thaw.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Just a few notes...

I just listened to Outlaw Princess of Sherwood by Nancy Springer. It wasn't my favorite book ever, but I like the whole person in a cage theme (because I loved Jane Yolen's book, Girl in a Cage). I found that I could let my mind wander and then when it came back to listening I didn't have to rewind.

Just stayed up really late to finish Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler. Mara Valentine's niece comes to stay with her and her parents. Her niece, who goes by the name "V" is in high schoool just like Mara, but the things they have in common end right there. While Mara is the honor roll student, student council member, 6th grade tutor, possible Valedictorian, college class taking, perfect child, V couldn't be more opposite. V has been traveling the earth with her mom, Mara's sister Aimee, following every love interest and male hobby on creation. This time, Aimee can't take V with her to Costa Rica, so V shows up on Mara's doorstep, cigarettes and bad attitude in hand. Mara and V seem to repel each other at first, but as they say, opposites attract and a friendship eventually develops between the two. During this time, Mara falls in love and starts to see that being an overachiever isn't all she had made it out to be. I still prefer The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, but obviously, since I stayed up way past my bedtime to read it, this one wasn't too bad.

I can admit right up front that I didn't read the entire thing, but I think that How To Train Your Dragon by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III by Cressida Cowell will be a hit with all those TimeWarp Trio, Series of Unfortunate Events, Dragon Slayer's Academy, Captain Underpants readers. I know I'm grouping a lot of diverse readers there, but this book has something for each of them. It's a hero adventure story with great pictures and geez, who could overlook a "Dragon Whisperer" who speaks genuine Dragonese (short gloassary included). The foul and ridiculous names (Gobber the Belch, Fishlegs, Baggybum) got on my nerves a bit, but I'm sure the kids will love them.

Read the book and then you will understand this phrase:
Nee-ah crappa inna di hoosus, pishyou.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Alli...where do you find all this time to read!? And maintain that active social life we all know you have?
I just finished An American plague : the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy. I had heard it was great but then it won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for non-fiction and since I plan on going to the ceremony I thought I should read it. It is definitely a fascinating story... I learned a lot and got grossed out at the same time...a winning combination! It's amazing what doctors did in "those" days... makes you wonder if we'll ever look back on this time in medical history and say "what were they thinking?" I was also interested in learning about the heroic roles of black people during the fever and how badly they were treated afterwards. It's not only a history of yellow fever but also of Philadelphia, the early stages of our government, and society. Sadly, the ending is so grim...I have to say I used to think I would expire of cancer, as many people seem to do...now I am convinced I will fall victim to yellow fever or some other insect-carried disease...thanks a lot Jim Murphy!

These days I am listening to Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by one of my all-time favorite audio book authors, Al Franken. This book has me laughing and crying in the same commute...but it also makes me angry. I am already a liberal so it doesn't affect my political views much... there are no "a-ha" moments of self discovery (well, so far) but I am just appalled at how much our not-so-liberal media gets away with. It's sickening at times. You really must listen/read this book. It is a very important book. IF I had conservative friends I would make them read/listen to it...before I even made them read Candyfreak! I am just hoping for some bit of hopefulness when I get to the end (unlike An American Plague which just scared my pants off) ... I want to know that something is being done about this or that someone else besides me and Al are aware of the problem ... that the media LIES... a lot!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

In Cabin on Trouble Creek by Jean Van Leeuwen, Pa and Daniel and Will travel west to the new state of Ohio to build a cabin where the family will settle. When the cabin is just about finished, Pa leaves the two boys with plenty of supplies to last for about five or six weeks and heads back to Pennsylvania to get the rest of the family. Daniel and Will continue chinking the walls of the cabin, work on the fireplace and become expert fishermen in the nearby creek. Two weeks pass and then three weeks and four and five and six. No sign of Pa, Ma and the other little ones. The nights and then days become chillier and before they know it, Daniel and Will are in the middle of winter and struggling to survive. Fortunately, an Indian man named Solomon befriends them and teaches them some important lessons which help them survive the winter. With Solomon's survival lessons and their own problem solving skills, Daniel and Will take each problem they face and work out answers together. This is a good recommendation for those young readers who liked Hatchet, Climb or Die, and other survival stories.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Thanks to my freaky friend April, I ate my way through David Almond's book, CandyFreak. I am now waiting to try those fancy Bread & Wallet --I mean Bread & Circus -- candybars. What a great travel book, Boston (one of my fave cities), various parts of Midwest, Idaho and California, through the eyes of a candyfreak. And wow, the candyfreaks that we got to meet along the way! Next time I eat a candy bar it will be a whole new experience. I've never been interested in reading about machinery, until now. I've never even heard of the enrobing process, until now. I never knew that candy companies pay about $20,000 to reserve a space to park their candy at cash registers in grocery stores, until now. I never heard of candy with huckleberry in it, until now. And, I can't wait to bite into a Clark Bar lengthwise to see all the layers! Thanks for the delicious, but not so nutritious recommendation, April!

Monday, September 20, 2004

I'd never read any of Meg Cabot's books until last week. One of my favorite 11-year-old patrons, who is not into the Princess Diary thing, said that she loved All-American Girl. And you know what...I did too. The characters are so likeable and fun and surprisingly unpredicatable. The plot itself is a modern day fairytale. Misfit middle child is in love with the boyfriend of her older sister, Miss Popularity. One day she skips her art class and accidentally saves the president from being assassinated. Then she becomes a National Hero and a teen ambassador to the United Nations. She gets the popularity she's never had and more attention than anyone needs. And, she is quite surprised when the big crush doesn't turn out to be quite what she thought, but the President's son is ALL THAT. This book is just plain fun.

All kids seem to have a crush on at least one of their teachers. It's no different for Howie Crispers in Avi's Don't You Know There's a War On. Turns out that his favorite teacher is being fired because she is expecting a baby. It just doesn't seem right to him or to any of his classmates. Miss Gossim is the best teacher he's ever had. She cares about each of her students and shows interest in their families and makes a point of emphasizing that even the littlest things can help in the war effort. He does everything he can to make sure she will keep her job. Howie also spends a great deal of time worrying about his merchant marine father and about his friend's father who is fighting in Africa. He watches his sister after school while his mom works at the factory and looks forward to the 25 cent kids movies on the weekends. This is a great book to listen to with all the 1940s slang and the official news reports of the war. Yeah for great books on tape!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Polly Horvath has come out with another winner. The Pepins and Their Problems is a great book for kids who like Roald Dahl, Louis Sachar and Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books. The Pepins are funny, goofy, idiotic, and doofy. Horvath tells their story in episodes, speaking conversationally to the characters and to the reader in a Baudelaire style (also familiar to Lemony Snicket fans). Horvath is able to communicate telepathically with the readers so that when the Pepins are having a problem--a new one in every chapter--the readers can help to solve the dilemma. My favorite episode in the story is when the Pepins host a "Neighbor-Off" to decide once and for all who the better neighbor is, the very fine Mr. Bradshaw or Miss Poopenstat. The neighbors compete in a variety of contests: bringing chicken soup to the sick neighbor, rescuing the neighbors injured pet, purchasing items from the neighbors children etc. It's hysterical. My second favorite episode if when the very fine Mr. Bradshaw falls in love with a.......sorry dear reader. You will have to read the book yourself to find out about the object of Mr. Bradshaw's affection.

Put this book on your humor bibliography list and hand it to the kids who like those silly books.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

William Wise recently published the book Christopher Mouse: the tale of a small traveler. Young Christopher Mouse is quite content in his wire cage with his mom and family, but he knows that one day he will be separated from his mother and his dear sister Anna. Always hopeful, he is determined that he will not be taken to one of these dreadful laboratory places he hears so much of. He'd much rather be taken to a pet shop. And so he is. A young boy named Freddy adopts him from the pet shop and treats him wonderfully until the day that he trades him to the lying, mean and terribly profit-driven Aubrey. Luckily, the careless Aubrey loses Christopher in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stalked by a shadow ghost and starving to death, Christopher is finally rescued by some nice folks visiting the museum.

The story was a little sappy sweet for me even with the obstacles and hardship the small mouse encounters. This is a great one for those third and fourth graders who like Poppy, The World According to Humphrey and other rodent tales.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Recent Reads:

For Matrimonial Purposes by Kavita Daswani--I loved that this book was a great escapist chick-lit novel but that it really dealt with issues of blending cultures.
The Dewey Decimal System of Love by Josephine Carr--Just a fun read.
Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella--Another fun, and a little predictable, read.
Doing It by Melvin Burgess--Love this book. LOVE IT! My friend is making her senior in high school daughter read this.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Warning: Shameless Gushing Follows
If I could make everyone in the world follow one rule it would be to read Candyfreak by Steve Almond. OK...actually If I had such power I would make everyone follow a whole bunch of rules including, but not limited to: drive right dammit, stop thinking just about yourself (and in a related vein, stop thinking everything is about you), vote against Bush, be nice to people behind counters, and bless the beasts and the children... and of course read Candyfreak. This book has made me a Steve Almond freak! This book is fascinating and hell-arious ... I cannot believe I enjoyed non-fiction so much! I wanted to eat candy ... specific candy ... for three days now...it's one of the biggest reasons to finish the book ... to drive away the cravings. And I did spend $4.40 on just 2 candy bars at Bread & Circus today to try the 5 star bars featured deliciously on pages 100-115. Plus I now must search online for hard-to-find regional & discontinued candies. I liked this book so much I was reading bits of it outloud to anyone who would listen. I had to commiserate with everyone I talked to, just as Almond does, about eating Baker's chocolate... I was not the only child who did not learn from the first mistake nor did I heed my mother's warnings! It smells so damn good! So, anyway, after reading a few drab tomes lately I am so glad this book breathed back some life into my literary world. Thank You Steve Almond...my hero!
Please, I beg of you all...since I know you won't drive right, the least you could do is read this book!