Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the chosen one: a novel

the chosen one: a novel
by Carol Lynch Williams
213 pages
young adult fiction

Kyra has grown up in a polygamist cult called "The Chosen Ones". For her first thirteen years she doesn't question the fact that she has three mothers and twenty plus siblings. They live happily in three trailers on the edge of the compound. Kyra has always been a little restless and likes to wander all over the compound, even daring to go beyond the fence on several occasions. This is how she comes to discover the Ironton County Bookmobile. She begins a life of secrecy with her treasured books tucked away in her special tree. Her secret life expands when she begins to spend time with Joshua, a boy whom she hopes to choose for herself. Her life falls apart when the Prophet has a vision seeing her married to her 60-year old Uncle Hyrum! She only has four weeks to decide if she is going to submit to a life she does not want or escape and maybe never see her beloved family again.

This is a truly heart-breaking novel. On more than one occasion it brought tears to my eyes both from sadness and from joy at the bravery and heart of Kyra. She is an amazing character who I quickly became attached to. The author's charcterization was so great that I felt a connection with each and every one of them, even Patrick the driver of the Bookmobile. An excellent book on a little-discussed subject. I think just knowing that this really has happened and is happening in many places, some within a few hours of where I live, made it even more emotional for me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not a Box

Antoinette Portis has created a simple picture book that illustrates the complexity of a child's imagination. The young bunny is drawn in various activities involving a plain cardboard box. The unseen questioner asks questions such as, "Why are you sitting in a box?" These questions are accompanied by black and white illustrations of just the bunny and the box. Turn the page and the bunny answers, "It's not a box." The answer is paired with the same illustration with the addition of red ink to show what the bunny is imagining. The question and answer format is carried throughout the book to show the numerous possibilities for a basic cardboard box and a child's active, limitless imagination. Using minimal text and color, NOT A BOX is a book to be read by all. Read it aloud to your young children; let early readers explore it on their own; and as an adult, read it to remember when you were free to make a cardboard box into a race car, a rocket ship or a mansion just with the magic of your imagination.

Originally posted on the Provo City Library Children's Book Blog on March 19, 2007.

A Mirror to Nature: Poems about Reflection

A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection
by Jane Yolen
photographs by Jason Stemple
32 pages
Honesdale, Pa. : Wordsong, c2009

Inspired by the reflective qualities of water and the amazing animals that live in the wild, Jane Yolen wrote some poetry. The photographs are fantastic. However, the poetry doesn't fit the scenic photos, they seem rather silly and childish. For example on page 16 is a wonderful picture of a young buck walking through a marshy area. On the facing page is the poem titled, "The Deer Reflects Himself".

Oh dear, oh deer,
don't stand
on your swift feet.
A deer that stays
too long
is a deer called
That doesn't seem nature-inspiring to me. Unfortunately I feel this was a missed opportunity for the author to share her love of nature with young people. The photographs combined with a different style of poetry would have made a wonderful book. Likewise, the poems accompanied by illustrations or less-serious photography would have been a great book as well.

Grigory Rasputin: Holy Man or Mad Monk?

Grigory Rasputin: Holy Man or Mad Monk?
A Wicked History
by Enid A. Goldberg & Norman Itzkowitz
128 pages
New York : Franklin Watts, c2008

Born a peasant in the cold land of Siberia, few would have thought that Grigory Rasputin would rise to such a prominent position with the Russian Monarchy. Apparently he was a charismatic man who would seem to  hypnotize people, especially women, with his eyes. Some believed him to be a wicked and corrupt man while others believed he was a man of god. Personally, after reading this biography, I would have to agree that he is wicked. The Russian government may have already been in decline, but I believe Rasputin's influence sped up the process and caused a lot of trouble for the Royal family.

This exciting new biography series will fascinate middle school kids who like to learn about the bad guys. The books are in a small hardback format that is very reader friendly. The chapters are short and informative. There are lots of extras in each volume that include a timeline, glossary, and a list of relevant internet sites.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. and Miss Anonymous

Mr. and Miss Anonymous
Fern Michaels
293 pages
New York : Kensington Books, c2009

Pete and Lily both paid for their final year of college by donating their sperm and eggs respectively. They met one time at the clinic and then never saw each other again. However, they both became very wealthy business owners who never got married. They were pining away for each other and didn't even realize it until their paths crossed yet again in the airport. Lily and Pete were both traveling to their alma mater for an important fund raiser. As they got reacquainted in the airport they saw some horrible news on the television. A shooting at a California group home hit close to home when one of the survivors was a young boy who looked exactly like Pete. He knew in his gut that the boy was his from his donation to the fertility clinic years ago. Pete and Lily with their unlimited funds behind them set off on a search to find the boy, discover the owners of the school and fertility clinic and to find their own true love they had neglected all these years.
Never will I read another Fern Michaels book. I was intrigued by the storyline, and that is the only reason I read the whole book. Even then, the story could have been so much better and more exciting. The romance was weak and cheesy. The characters were either boring or they were so overdone (Tessie Dancer the reporter) that it was bothersome and I felt nothing for any of the characters. I don't know if the author typically tries to write thrillers, but it didn't work in this case. If you are looking for a novel with action, suspense, and romance, then read Iris Johansen or Kay Hooper.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Kiss in Time

A Kiss in Time
by Alex Flinn
371 pages
young adult
New York, NY : HarperTeen, c2009

Jack and Talia meet in the most unlikely of circumstances. Talia pricked her finger on a spindle the eve of her 16th birthday thus putting her entire kingdom of Euphrasia to sleep for over 300 years.  Jack's parents sent him on a month-'long European tour. After three weeks of visiting an endless succession of museums Jack is ready to hit the beach. Following some questionable directions they end up in a heavily forested area. Jack and his friend Travis push their way through a vicious hedge only to discover the long-forgotten kingdom of Euphrasia. Of course they explore and discover the beautiful comatose Talia. Instantly drawn to her, Jack gives her a big ol' smooch. This simple little act turns both their world's upside down.
Another cleverly modern twist on a traditional fairy-tale from the author of Beastly. Humorous yet thought-provoking as you witness Talia's introduction to the modern-world. Lovable characters help make this a clean enjoyable read.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My (Unwilling) Witch Goes to Ballet School

My (Unwilling) Witch Goes to Ballet School
by Hiawyn Oram
ill. by Sarah Warburton
Rumblewick's Diary #1
79 pages
New York : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009

Rumblewick has finally finished school to become a witch's familiar. He is now highly qualified to do all the nasty things a witch is supposed to do. He has a really big problem though. His contract is with Haggy Aggy, a very unwilling witch. She prefers traveling to the Other Side (our world) to go shopping. One day as Rumblewick is valiantly trying to get her back to her cottage and interested in casting spells and scaring children, Haggy discovers a ballet school. Right then and there she decides that is what she wants to do, dance around in a fluffy pink tutu! Needless to say, Rumblewick is horrified! He records in his diary everything he does to try to return Haggy to the ways of a witch all the while trying to avoid the wrath of the witches in charge.
A fun new intermediate series with humorous black and white illustrations. Rumblewick and Haggy are both lovable characters who are sure to entertain in many future entries of this series!

The Demon's Lexicon

The Demon's Lexicon
by Sarah Rees Brennan
322 pages
young adult
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009

Nick and Alan are brothers on the run. They are trying to escape the dark magic that is chasing their mother. She is a former magician of the Obsidian Circle who stole something important when she fled from the leader Black Arthur. Now she is borderline crazy and the boys must protect her as they move from city to city trying to avoid the demonic attacks from the magicians. Life becomes more perilous when tender-hearted Alan befriends Mae and her brother Jamie who has been marked by a demon. The bad guys are catching up and there is nowhere else to run. Nick is willing to do anything to keep his brother safe. But when family secrets start surfacing, Nick isn't too sure if that will be enough anymore.
Any exciting addition to the fantasy genre that is so popular with teens. I highly recommend this to fans of The City of Ashes trilogy by Cassandra Clare. There are only demons and magicians in this one, no fairies or vampires or werewolves, but it is entertaining just the same! Nick was a dark and mysterious character who I alternated hating and loving throughout the book. As always, I look forward to the next book from this new author (which will be the second part of the trilogy next summer).


by Andrea Skyberg
picture book
Wauwatosa, WI : Wooden Nickel Press, c2009

Three young sisters are bored one afternoon so their Papa sends them on a treasure hunt. As they try to figure out the silly things on the list, they use their imagination. When they are stumped on the last item, Papa helps them out and even makes them a delicious dinner afterwards.
Can I just say creepy and weird?! The author/creator made the life-size dolls herself and then photographed them throughout her house. The chunky dough-faced dolls are a little frightening. In fact Geddy, my 3-year-old, took one look at the book and said, "Mommy, I don't like this one, please take it back to the library!" The story was also confusing and not very approachable for young children. The author used many slang terms and outdated sayings that our grandparents are familiar with but will have no meaning for kids of today. Now don't get me wrong, I completely appreciate the thought and creativity that went into this work, I just feel it is missing the mark as a picture book for children.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Teedie: The Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt

Teedie: The Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt
by Don Brown
picture book biography
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009

Young Teedie Roosevelt was frail and delicate. He suffered from asthma, poor vision and other ailments. He didn't let this get in the way of climbing trees, hunting with his friends or any other physical activity. In fact, Teedie or Teddy as he became known, worked hard to become physically strong and able to stand up to those who wanted to bully him. After graduating from Harvard he tried several careers before finally getting into politics and we all know where he ended up as a result! As president, Teddy Roosevelt was able to accomplish some very important projects for our country. Don Brown's picture book biography gives a quick glimpse into Teddy's life, focusing on his ability to overcome his weaknesses. The illustrations, while not my favorite style, were subtle and a perfect partner for the story without being distracting.

Adventures in Cartooning: How to turn your doodles into comics!

Adventures in Cartooning: How to turn your doodles into comics!
by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost
109 pages
informational graphic novel
New York : First Second, 2009

Once upon a time there was a beautiful young princess who wanted to make her own comic book. She didn't know how to begin so the Magic Cartooning Elf came to her rescue. The story they create is filled with brave knights, nervous horses, greedy dragons, and a mischievous little elf. Throughout the story the elf informs the characters as well as the reader how to create their own comic book. Definitely a fun way to learn without it feeling like you are learning!

Binky the Space Cat

Binky the Space Cat
by Ashley Spires
64 pages
juvenile graphic novel
Toronto : Kids Can Press, c2009

Binky is a proud, card-carrying member of F.U.R.S.T., aka Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel. The home he lives in with his humans is completely surrounded by unexplored outer space. Binky is determined to explore every inch of it once he builds his special rocket. In the meantime he will have to content himself with defeating all the alien life-forms that invade his home and attack his humans. When the day finally arrives to launch, Binky is faced with his most difficult predicament before leaving home.

Binky the Space Cat was a pleasure to read. I laughed out loud pretty much the whole way through. The illustrations were charming and Binky's personality came through loud and clear in the text. I definitely look forward to joining Binky on more hilarious adventures!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom
by Eric Wight
intermediate chapter book/graphic novel
79 pages
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009

Franklin Lorenzo Piccolini, aka Frankie Pickle, is all set to go to his friends house to play a new video game when his mother says the dreaded words, "not until you CLEAN YOUR ROOM"! Bravely, Frankie tackled his mess. Yet once the closet was dangerously full he was at a loss where to put everything else. Besides, he couldn't really see the point of putting everything away when he was just going to get it all out again. I mean, he really needs all those piles of stuff for his adventures! Will Frankie's abundance of imagination get him in trouble when he strikes a bargain with his mother or will Frankie Pickle save the day?
Wight's black and white illustrations are a fun way to show Frankie's adventures in contrast with the regular text showing his interactions with his family.A fun book for beginning chapter book readers, reluctant readers, and comic book fans alike. Parents who struggle to get their children to clean their room will enjoy this mother's strategy!

The Night Children

The Night Children
by Kit Reed
234 pages
juvenile fiction
New York : Tom Doherty Associates, 2008

The Castertown Megamall is the biggest mall in the world. It is so large that numerous children have taken up residence, sleeping by day and avoiding security by night. Kids of all ages have been lost or abandoned at the mall, or ran away purposely to live in the mall. If they were lucky they were found and taken in by one of the good gangs, like that ran by Tick Stiles. Otherwise one of the not-so-good gangs might discover them and then who knows what would happen to them. Unfortunately for her, Jule Devereaux finds herself in the latter situation. Before she knows it she is caught between two rival gangs and running from security. Who should she trust? Her presence in the mall escalates a confrontation with the kids and the Zozzco corporation. The extremely disturbed founder of Zozzco and the Megamall is putting forth phase two of his plan to destroy all children and overtake the world! Today Castertown, USA, tomorrow the rest of the world!
I found this storyline had some interesting aspects, yet most of them were not developed as well as they could have been. The bad guy reminded me of one of James Bond's enemies, very over-the-top and power hungry all while wearing a mask to cover a hideously scarred face. His motives seemed weak compared to his actions. One last complaint, the cover just didn't seem to fit the story. An interesting idea, but not a book I would recommend.

Wishworks, Inc.

Wishworks, Inc.
by Stephanie S. Tolan
ill. Amy June Bates
146 pages
juvenile fiction
New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009

Max has always wanted a dog. A fabulously big dog with a great plume of a tail. His name is King and Max has him perfectly imagined. One day, Max stumbles upon a curious little store called Wishworks, Inc. A sign in the window says "Wishes - Guaranteed". The storekeeper advises Max to think carefully, but Max just spouts off his heart's desire, "a real live dog". Of course we all know that wishes never come true exactly as you want them to. Will Max make things better or worse by returning to Wishworks, Inc.? These adventures along with recently divorced parents, being in a new school and not having any friends makes life a little stressful for young Max.