Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reading can be dangerous...

"I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now. Reading can be dangerous."

The Thirteenth Tale
Diane Setterfield
P. 4

I just finished this novel which I LOVED. It is definitely a novel for lovers of reading, mainly grown-up ones. It's a beautifully written piece.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Spud - John Van de Ruit

This book was recommended to me by another library friend who I really respect, but I have to say, when I first started it, I was really struggling getting through it. I'm not sure if it was because the main character was an adolescent boy or if it was the writer's style, or what, but it was just a really slow start. I actually almost gave up on it, which I hardly ever do, but as I kept reading, I got the hang of it, and now I'm even thinking of reading the sequel...although I think it's only out in South Africa at this point, so that's going to be bit of a journey to get it. I'm willing, though, if I can just convince my husband.

On the back of the book a reviewer described it as the Catcher in the Rye of our time, but I think it's much more like A Separate Peace than Catcher. It's set in a boys' boarding school in South Africa and has a lot of references to things more prevalent in South African culture than in ours, but I don't think that will get in the way for most readers. It's another story about the power of friendship, and this is not a topic often deeply explored in boy books, so I really like that aspect of this book.

The book is written in diary form, so it's easy to read little bits at a time, or it's hard to stop reading because you don't have definite chapter ends, whichever way you look at it. You really get a good look inside the mind of an adolescent boy in this book because it's a diary. For me, that was a little TOO much at times, but it seemed pretty realistic.

I probably won't get this book for our library because I don't think many middle schoolers would be drawn to it, but I think it's a great book for high schoolers, particularly boys.

WOMS Giving Tree tags still available

There are still some needs that need to be filled for some of our students. If you're able to help, please take a look at the list of items we still need at the library homepage:


Thank you, and happy holidays!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Extras - Scott Westerfeld

Special thanks to Lauren W. for loaning me her copy of the book so I could have a chance to read it because we haven't gotten it here yet. We will, though, never fear.

This is the EXTRA book in the series by Scott Westerfeld that was meant to be a trilogy, but fans clamored so loudly (or the publishers saw such a good chance to make a huge profit?) that he wrote a fourth book. It's set farther into the future and has a brand new character, Aya, which some fans will enjoy and others won't (aka Mrs. Van der Meer). Gaining social status is the big thing in this book, and people are so fickle you can basically be wildly popular one day and drop off the face of the planet the next. Aya is decidedly low in the popularity rankings, and she is determined to change that. The Sly-Girls clique is her road to fame.

In the process of "kicking" the story of the Sly Girls and their Mag-Lev flying, yep, lots of strange new words and gizmos in this book just like the other three, Aya discovers there may be more to life than just getting famous, but just in case there's not, she decides to go with the fame thing and turns the whole world upside down. Unfortunately, there are some other people (??) who aren't too happy with this choice of hers....

It's a suspenseful story with lots of action and excitement, even a visit from Tally Youngblood. If you liked the rest of the series, you should definitely read this, but I thought some of the language (sense-missing and the like) got a little annoying. For sure it's no Uglies.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cures for Heartbreak - Margo Rabb

This was a box of kleenex type of book, but really well done. The novel centers around 9th grade girl Mia whose mother was diagnosed with cancer and died just twelve days later. (It's somewhat autobiographical, as the author had a similar experience with her own mother.) This is, of course, heartbreaking and world re-defining, and just as Mia, her sister and her father are beginning to find their way through this new landscape, Mia's father has a heart attack and has to undergo triple bypass surgery. You can imagine how frightening this must be - to have just lost one parent and now to be in danger of losing the other. Poor Mia. Yet this book doesn't make you pity Mia and her sister, you just feel sympathetic. I think this is an important distinction.

Throughout the story Mia is trying to find someone with whom she can share her thoughts and experiences. The things that seem to matter to other girls her age just don't seem to fit, and it is only when she befriends a cancer survivor, who is "kind of cute... despite the baldness and pale skin," that she begins to have someone with whom she truly feels she connects.

This is a sadly sweet story. Lurlene McDaniels fans might branch out here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Duchessina : A Novel of Catherine De'Medici - Carolyn Meyer

Carolyn Meyer has written another of her great YA historical fiction pieces, this one focusing on Catherine De'Medici. I have to say that while it was well done, it didn't have the appeal for me of Mary, Bloody Mary or Beware, Princess Elizabeth. Set in the 16th century, this story takes us through the young life and marriage of Catherine. It tells the story of the political turmoil of the time which forced Catherine to go from being a pampered duchess to having to live in a convent where not everyone was nice to her and times were certainly difficult. I thought the most interesting parts of this story dealt with Catherine and her cousins, one of whom was her first true love, quashed, of course, by the Pope who had political and famly ambitions, not love, in mind. A well done piece of historical fiction for fans of the genre.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Adult mysteries - Seventh Sacrament & Heartsick

Recently I read two adult mysteries, a new one from a great series I've been reading, and the other for my book club.

The Seventh Sacrament by David Hewson. This novel is part of the Nic Costa series that I got hooked on a few years ago. They're all set in Italy, which I love, and the plots are sufficiently detailed and complicated to keep adult readers engaged. This wasn't actually my favorite of the series, however. There was too much flashback for my taste. It seemed like they were really catering to people who hadn't read the previous book because this was a follow-up to it. I had read the previous book, and I really didn't want to re-read it. That might have just been the time I was reading it though. My dad was in the hospital and so I was a bit distracted.

Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain. This is my book club pick for the month, and it is quite a story. For sure an adults only story because it's a serial killer mystery. It is not horribly graphic, but enough that it's not for kids. This was written by a local author who I'll get to meet this week and it's set in Portland which is fun! Well, it's kinda fun, but now I'm kinda creeped out driving by some of the places she talks about...Apparently she did a lot of research before writing this book, so I'm very interested to hear about that process. She got a contract for three books in this series, so I'm eager to hear about the plans for the future as well. If you like a suspenseful read and you're a grown up, I'd recommend this title.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lush - Natasha Friend

I thought this was a really good book, but it deals with the difficult topic of an alcoholic parent, so it's not for every reader.

Sam's father is a good guy...when he's sober. But when he's not, it's no fun, and 13 year-old Sam has to deal with him. She's getting pretty desperate to talk to someone, but she doesn't really want to share this part of her life with her friends, so she reaches out to an older girl by leaving notes for her in a library book where she's sure the girl will find them. This begins an interesting exchange back and forth of letters between the two, with a bit of a surprise when the author of the letters comes clean.

Sam's family is forced to make changes when her father's drinking leads to a dangerous situation at home, and Sam needs to figure out how to deal with her anger, both towards her father and towards her mother, who was in heavy denial about the problems her dad's drinking was causing.

Luckily, I was never in Sam's shoes, but I know some people who were, and growing up in an alcoholic family can be very difficult. I think Natasha Friend does an admirable job of presenting the issues sensitively but accurately and will open some great discussions.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

This book is by the same author as Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy which if you haven't read, you really must.

Anyway, I really, really loved this book. I think I liked it more than some other people will because I used to be an English teacher before I became a librarian and there are many funny references to English teachers in there. There are really so many funny things in this book, and the English teacher jokes are just one part. You've got to figure that if the main character is named Holling Hoodhood, the author has some kind of sense of humor.

This is poor Holling's story, who since he's not Catholic and not Jewish, like EVERY OTHER kid in his class, has to stay at school on Wednesdays when everyone else goes to Catechism or Hebrew school. And if that's not enough, he has to stay with Mrs. Baker who he assumes hates him. He's actually really quie sure of it when she makes him start reading Shakespeare, but it turns out Shakespeare isn't half bad, actually. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Shakespeare's pretty cool. Imagine! Playing a part in a play where he has to wear yellow tights with feathers on his bum, however, not so cool.

This book also has a serious side, as it's set during the Vietnam war and deals with a variety of war-related issues.

This is one of the top books I've read in a while! We'll be getting this title soon.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah.

I liked this book a lot. It's a book about an Australian-Palestinian-Muslim girl who decides, at age 16, that she wants to wear the traditional hijab, the Muslim headdress, as a symbol of her faith. This may have some serious repercussions for her in the form of prejudice, and Amal, who's very concerned with all the typical teenage issues, is worried. It's a serious book on the one hand, because Amal is making a big decision, but it's also pretty funny a lot of the time.

It's not often you find a young adult book where the main character is talking about his or her faith, and I liked finding a book about something new. It also provided some good background understanding of Islam, which I don't know too much about. I always think it's good to learn more about other religions and cultures because it helps to promote understanding.

I highly recommend this book and will be buying it for our library soon. Right now it's available at Multnomah County libraries.

What my Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones.

This was a quick read because it's written in poetry form! It's a sequel to Sonya Sones's What My Mother Doesn't Know. Sonya Sones is really great at getting inside the head of an adolescent, and she does it pretty well here, too.

The narrator of this novel is Robin Murphy, social outcast and boyfriend of the beautiful Sophie. As a grown-up, I found this novel to be sort of sad. I felt really bad for Robin and for Sophie because they are treated really badly by pretty much everyone. But there were many, many funny things, and many sweet things in the novel as well. I loved that Robin had a whole different persona at his art class where his reputation didn't precede him, and that he could see beyond his present situation.

If you liked Sonya Sones' other books, this one will not disappoint.

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

This book is the sequel to the very fun Dairy Queen which I read last year. DJ Schwenk is, if you can believe it, a girl on her high school football team! And she's really good, too. I would so have loved to play football in high school. It's one of my favorite sports. Anyway, she's got a lot to deal with, as you can imagine, being a girl on the football team and all. And not only that, but her boyfriend is the star quarterback of the rival high school's team, so that's another big problem. Well, in some ways it's a problem, and in some ways it's the best thing ever.

DJ also lives on a farm and has to help her father out with the farm a lot. Farm life is difficult and non-stop, so there's always something that needs doing, and her father's health isn't the greatest, so DJ's had to pick up a lot of the slack. And then the world sort of comes crashing down when DJ gets hurt on the football field jeopardizing her chance at a basketball scholarship - something her parents say she's really going to need if she wants to have any chance of going to college - and her brother gets hurt really badly playing college football and DJ's the only one who can really go take care of him.

It's a book with a lot of heartbreak in it, but a lot of hilarity and love in it as well. As usual, not as good as the first in the series, but well worth the read.

Some grown up books

I've been interspersing my kid books with some grown up books, and here are a couple I read recently.

The Kabul Beauty School : an American woman goes behind the veil by Deborah Rodr is a non-fiction work that chronicles the story of a woman who went to Afghanistan to do some aid work and ended up opening a beauty school to help Afghani women gain some independence through a career. It's a fascinating story of life from a view Americans rarely see. Highly recommended.

Cane River by Lalita Tademy is a historical fiction work that examines the lives of five generations of women of African heritage from their days as slaves through the Civil War and into the period when they were (supposedly) free. It's quite interesting. I can't even imagine how those women could go on some days. The fear and despair must have been incredible. Either that or they were just so numb they couldn't even (or didn't even) allow themselves to feel. It was also an excellent read that historical fiction fans would enjoy.

Accidentally Engaged by Mary Carter. This was a fluffy grown-up book. I wasn't looking for something deep, just something I didn't have to think much about when I was reading, and this one fit the bill. I can't say it was all that good, but it did have some very funny parts in it and at the end I wasn't sure which way the main character was going to go, so that's a good thing.
This book was an ok read, but I don't really recommend it.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. This was a total bubble gum book that I picked up in the airport when my plane was delayed recently and I just wasn't into the other book I brought with me. I have to say I was a little nervous about it because I really didn't like the one Shopaholic book I read of hers. This one was typically predictable, but a perfect airplane read. If you just want a funny, quick read, this is a decent choice.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Teen Read Week Oct 14-20!

The library has several fun activities going on for Teen Read Week:

Make a comment on this book blog, get a prize. Be sure I know who you are by writing your first name and the initial of your last name. Your comment can be about anything reading related. What's the best book you've read this year? How do you like the Playaways? Did you see The Seeker movie? How does it compare to the book? Make a suggestion to someone about a great book. I look forward to hearing great comments about books from all of you!

Other fun things...

The first 100 students with NO overdues who check out a book outside of class time will get a pencil. The library will be open both lunches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and before and after school.

Try the Teacher Matching game – match teachers to a favorite book of theirs. First twenty-five students that complete the sheet with 75% (or more) accuracy will get a prize. All students with 100% accuracy will get a prize and be entered into a drawing for a $5 coupon at the book fair. Due date: Monday, October 22.

Enjoy Teen Read Week!

Friday, September 28, 2007

More great news for Twilight fans...

So today I'm messing around on the Internet and I decide to just do a quick check of when Stephenie Meyers 4th book in the series is due out. 1/2 hour later, I'm still scrolling through her site, seeing that she and I share a bunch of the same favorite books, wondering if I should or shouldn't buy the Edward Cullen fan club shirt, looking at the FAQs (are you kidding me, someone actually asked her if this story is autobiographical -- did they READ it???), an on and on. And then I finally got to the place where it talked about her next novel (due out fall 2008) and I saw there was ANOTHER ONE!!! Of course I had to check it out.

Turns out, Stephenie is hoping to write the Twilight novel over again, but this time with Edward as the narrator. How cool is that? And how cool is this??? Here' a link to the whole first chapter of that book ONLINE!!!


Gotta go, got vampires to read about!


Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine

I had never read this sweet little story, but after I read the dark Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister for my book club, I was looking into other Cinderella stories, and this title popped up. Did you know Cinderella stories have been told for thousands of years? I didn't. I mean I knew they'd been around for a long time, but thousands of years??

This is a somewhat traditional Cinderella story, with mean stepsisters, a Cinderella figure worked to the bone and covered in ashes, a pumpkin coach, and a handsome prince. But there are differences. One new twist that I really like is Ella has a magical book that I haven't heard of in any other Cinderella stories (tell me if you have). When other people (or elves) look at it, it's pretty much like a regular book. But when Ella looks at it, it will show her people or conversations or letters or whatever, that involve other people in her life. For example, when she gets sent off to finishing school with her nasty wig-wearing stepsisters, she has letters from her best friend the cook, Mandy. Sometimes she sees letter written by those nasty stepsisters to their mother, or letters from their mother to them. It's a bit of a way to spy on them. And she hears from the prince. This books comes in quite handy for Ella.

The story is a little bit different than other versions in that Ella knows the young prince long before the ball and is friends with him...or is it more? She knows him so well that she must hide her face when she goes to the ball. This is actually similar to something that happened in the Confessions tale, although the reasons are a bit different.

And the enchantment of the title is also different from other versions. In this re-telling, Ella HAS to follow any order. It's a "gift" bestowed on her by the not so delightful fairy, Lucinda. Lucinda has a bad habit of bestowing this type of gift, and throughout the story we see her making a mess of many a person's life through her "gifts."

I would definitely recommend this book to readers, and I've heard the movie is good, too, so perhaps a trip to Blockbuster is in my future :)

Happy reading!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

This was my book club book for this month, and it is not one of my favorite books, but I did like it better as I got further into it than when I first started it. It's a revisionist tale of Cinderella, and what I really want to do now is watch the video of the real Cinderella so I can see the differences. I haven't actually read or seen Cinderella for many years, but I am pretty sure this one is significantly different from the original. I need to go to Mr. Massey's and borrow his daughter's videotape of it!

I'm interested to see what others in the book group thought of it because it was really popular, and I'm not sure why...

I wouldn't put this at the top of your "TO READ" pile...

Shackleton's Stowaway - Victoria McKernan

This YRCA novel was a fabulous story! It's a historical fiction piece based on the 1914 journey of explorer Ernest Shackleton to Antarctica where he was hoping to cross the continent. Eighteen year old Perce Blackborow stowed away on that boat, but what he was envisioning as a grand adventure was not exactly how things turned out. Their ship, The Endurance, wasn't actually able to endure, and after getting trapped in the ice, it eventually sank, forcing the crew into three small lifeboats in the middle of nowhere in horrible weather conditions. The story is dramatic and suspenseful, as well as bordering on horrific in some places. I found this to be a fascinating read about exploration in a part of the world where even now it's extremely dangerous and difficult, let alone nearly 100 years ago!

I would highly recommend this novel.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

We Read for the Record!

Mrs. Gardner's 6th graders did a FABULOUS job with their Reader's Theater presentation of The Story of Ferdinand today as part of the Jump Start “Read for the Record” campaign. We were part of a group hoping to get a world record for the most people reading the same book at the same time. Hopefully we got the record. The sixth graders performed for the kindergartners in Mrs. Stinson’s class.

You can see some photos from our event here:

Jinx - Meg Cabot

Now this is the kind of Meg Cabot I like. Funny and a little suspense and GREAT voice. Much better than the other Cabot book I read recently. It’s not her best ever, but it is good.

This story is about a teenage girl who has grown up with the nickname "Jinx" because the night she was born there was a power outage and ever since then her string of bad luck has seemed to continue. She's hoping that will change when she moves to New York to live with her aunt and uncle, but when she arrives and no one is there to meet her, it doesn't look too good.

It also doesn’t look good when her cousin, someone she thought was a nice person, doesn’t seem to be too thrilled that she’s here...and that’s putting it nicely. Her cousin Tory is convinced that she has witchcraft powers inherited from their great-great-great-great-grandmother and she’s convinced Jinx does, too. Jinx refuses to join Tory’s coven, further irritating her cousin who, despite Jinx’s dire warnings, turns to black magic to try and get what she wants.

As in many Meg Cabot books, there’s also a cute boy and a little bit of romance, but that’s not the overriding theme in this “bewitching” novel.


Check out the Maximum Ride blog!

OK, this morning in the car I started listening to the new Maximum Ride book and they said Fang had his own blog. I wasn't sure if it was just part of the story or if it was real, but I checked it out, and it was for real (well, ok, sort of for real, since Fang is, after all, a fictional bird kid...). It's quite cool. If you're a Maximum Ride fan, I'd highly recommend perusing it.


And if you're a Maximum Ride fan you'll also be interested to know that on the blog I read they're going to make these books into a movie! They're looking for a writer - anyone interested?



Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Queen of Babble in the Big City - Meg Cabot

I've read nearly every Meg Cabot novel that's come out, and usually I really like her work. This one, however, one of her books for grown ups, left me flat. This story is about a young woman who wants to design wedding dresses, so she moves to New York to chase down her dream, and about the only thing I really liked was that at the beginning of each chapter there were all these different style/design tidbits about wedding dresses (with drawings), and I thought they were pretty interesting. But I thought the main character was pretty flighty and shallow and the plotline didn't really draw me in. I wouldn't recommend this particular Meg Cabot novel, but you can't hit a home run every time, so I'll cut her some slack beause she really is a fantastic novelist.

Artemis Fowl The Lost Colony - Eoin Colfer

I listened to this book on CD and it was really great because the author is Irish and so the reader they chose is Irish, too, and who doesn't love an Irish accent? I'm always so impressed by all the different voices these narrators can do. I can really tell which character it is after a while just by the voice.

I really like Artemis Fowl books, number two is my favorite, but I'd gotten just a little tired of them, so I was really happy that Eion Colfer put a new twist in this one - a rival for Artemis who's his own age AND a girl. Her name's Minerva and I, for one, think she's pretty fabulous. And so does Artemis (this whole puberty thing is really throwing him off).

This book has all the usual magic and fairies, but things are heating up in this one because a time tunnel is unraveling and if it does, there could be some serious consequences for both the human AND fairy worlds. It's really exciting and by the time I was near the end of the book I was once again inventing places to go in the car just so I could hear more of the story.

A really good story and a great narration of it on CD.

Lean Mean Thirteen - Janet Evanovich

I blame Mrs. McBride for getting me hooked on this series :)

This is the thirteenth novel in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, and these are just great, easy reading, fun and funny mystery books for grown ups.

If you are a mystery fan who is not afraid to laugh out loud, you should snuggle up with Stephanie this fall and be entertained. These are not deep, frightening, highly developed or intricate mysteries, but I love them. And then there's Ranger and Morelli. Wow! I'm not sure how she does it, but Mrs. McBride and I will continue to live vicariously through her as long as we can.

When's the movie coming out???

Romance books - Dream Factory and Girl at Sea

Dream Factory is kind of an interesting premise. All these kids who've just graduated from high school go to work at Disneyworld for a summer because the regular WDW workers are on strike. So it's a little bit of an inside look at Disney World which was kind of interesting. You don't really think about the fact that Cinderella marries the prince twice a day or more every day, and it's always the same people, and do they even like each other? Would they kiss for real? And it's pretty hot in Orlando, but do you really think about how it smells inside those costumes? And who washes them? And how often? Of course you have to take it all with a grain of salt because it is, after all, a novel, not all facts, but there are a lot of WDW facts in there, too. Ever wonder how all the plants stay so green? Where do they keep those hoses? You just don't see them laying around...

Brad Barkley + Heather Hepler wrote this book, and like in Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (which I thought was better than this) they write in alternating chapters from a boy's point of view (Luke) and then from a girl's point of view (Ella). This is, at it's heart, a romance novel, but there's enough other action, some deeper issues, and some very amusing characters, to make it appeal to more than those who revel in the romance genre. I thought it was a pretty good quick read.

Girl at Sea is by Maureen Johnson who wrote Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes which I believe I blogged last school year. This book is also at its heart a romance, but it has as much to do with Clio's relationship with her recently divorced parents and her feelings about that as it does with romance. Clio is a high school junior who is pretty bitter that her father left her and her mother, so when she finds out she's going to have to spend the summer with him, never mind that it's on a yacht in ITALY!, she's not exactly jumping at the idea. Plus it will mean she doesn't get to work a the art store with her mad crush Ollie. When she gets to Italy, she doesn't make it easy, and in fact, she definitely makes it difficult, but the secrets are getting to her and she feels like everything is spiraling out of control.

I thought this book had just a little bit too much that was not believable to make it a great story. I can usually suspend disbelief, but there were just some things in here that were too over the top for me. I'd give it three stars as what I call a beach book - a great book when you don't want to think too much, you just want to be entertained.

A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon 1845 - Linda Crew

Linda Crew is an Oregon author who wrote one of my very favorite YA books called Children of the River. It's awesome. This book turned out to be just as good.

This is the story of Nahum and Sarepta King and their family, one of whom is the narrator, Lovisa, one of their teenage daughters. This is a real family who set forth for Oregon from Missouri, but since there were not many documents about this particular family, most of the details are made up. However, even though they're not real details about these people, they're very historically accurate. The events are things that DID happen to people on the Oregon Trail.

What I liked about this novel was how real Linda Crew made the characters in this novel feel for the reader. I felt like these people were friends of mine when I was finished with the book. I found myself fearful during stressful situations, of which here were many. When people died, I cried. When they survived, I cheered! I was so relieved when they finally made it through the Meek cutoff, although it did not happen without a high price.

This book is a fabulous look at the Oregon Trail, of how difficult this journey to Oregon was and why the people who undertook it were willing to sacrifice everything they had to begin a new life in the West. I am so glad they came here, but I am even more glad that I just get to read about it and don't actually have to DO it becasue those people had to be way tougher than I ever even though of being!

Down the Rabbit Hole - Peter Abrahamson

I just liked the title on this one, plus it mentioned Sherlock Holmes on the cover AND it's a mystery, so I had to read it. It was so much fun. Typical kid super sleuth solves a mystery that's been puzzling grown-ups because she really puts her mind to it. There's lots of action and suspense all written in an easy, enjoyable style.

Ingrid, the main character, finds herself embroiled in a murder when she inadvertently leaves her soccer cleats at the home of "Cracked-Up Katie" who is murdered the same night. Ingrid didn't know Katie well, in fact she had only been in her house because she'd become lost, but she liked her, and she can't believe someone would have murdered her! Even worse, she can't believe HER soccer cleats are at the crime scene. Not to mention she's sort of dating the police chief's son, which makes things a little tricky. Add school, Ingrid's acting career, and some strange goings on with Gramps, and you've got quite a story.

I'd highly recommend Down the Rabbit Hole, the first in the Echo Falls mystery series.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Award winners - Copper Sun by Sharon Draper and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Copper Sun won the Coretta Scott King award and is a story of a young woman taken from her home in Africa and brought to the US as a slave. As with most slavery stories, it is difficult to read because slaves were treated so badly by most people. They were not considered human beings at all, and it's very disturbing to read about the awful things that were done to them. This book is not very graphic in most areas, but even inferring what is being spoken about is hard. That being said, I think books that discuss difficult issues are powerful, and this book is no exception. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to 8th graders who will be studying the Civil War this year.

American Born Chinese is a graphic novel (parents, we used to call these comic books, they're just longer now). There are three sort of different strands to this book - a Chinese fable, Jin Wang, a young man who's trying to fit in as a Chinese American and struggling with racism, and Danny whose very stereotypical Chinese cousin comes to visit him every year. It's a little confusing how these things fit together, but they are tied together nicely at the end. I have to say I'm not big graphic novel fan myself - I'm really into characterization and creating relationship with characters which I personally just don't get with this genre, but it's a well done graphic novel and fans of the genre are sure to love it AND learn from it. 7th grade and up for this one.

Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer

I've been waiting and waiting for this book, but at the same time, I was afraid I'd be disappointed, so I almost didn't want to read it. I am so glad I did!

This is the third book in a series (there is supposed to be one more) - the first two are Twilight and New Moon. These are vampire books set in the present in Forks, Washington. Twilight is the best vampire book I've ever read, and New Moon just really didn't match up to it when it came out. This book, however, may have surpassed it. The characterization, the most important element for me personally, in this series is incredible. Stephenie Meyer has created vampires and werewolves that a reader cannot help but believe in. The action is also intense and non-stop with several surprises.

This is a can't-put-it-down full box of kleenex ending, so be ready. I only had a sweatshirt and the whole sleeve was soaked.

A MUST read series for vampire fans.

See previous entry for a link to an interview with the author.

The Linnett Bird - Linda Holeman

Linda Holeman is the author of Search of the Moon King's Daughter which is in our library and is awesome.

This book is one of her novels for adults. I read another book by her earlier in the summer and really enjoyed it, so I decided to give this one try. It's set in England and India in the late 1800s, and it had very interesting parallels with my book club book for July, An Inconvenient Wife. I have to say that I definitely take my freedom as a woman for granted, and reading these books really reminded me of that. It was disturbing to see the depth of dependence on men women had and the lack of control they had over their own lives. This book was very suspenseful, and although the first fifty pages or so are really bizarre, it's worth it to finish it because a lot of interesting and surprising things happen.

Will you believe it - 10 books in a week! 4 OBOB books

We went camping in the Wallowa mountains, and since I'd just been released from my brace for my broken ankle, I wasn't out doing a lot of hiking. Mostly just hanging out by the lovely creek that ran next to our campsite reading. It was awesome!

Several of the books I read are on this year's Oregon Battle of the Books list, and I enjoyed them

Code Orange by Caroline Cooney is a suspenseful book about a boy who's just doing his homework (for once) and might have just landed himself in the middle of a bioterrorism nightmare. Or not. He's not sure.

The Kite Rider (NOT the Kite Runner) by Geraldine McCaughrean is a story set in ancient China that had great action and suspense plus some history. Good read.

Cages by Peg Kehret. I have to say I really didn't want to read this one, but I ended up being pretty impressed with it. It had a good message and was an easy read. It's about a girl (I think she's in 9th grade, but maybe 8th) who makes a bad choice and gets caught. Notice there is a picture of a dog on the cover...and you know what that probably means.

Eleanor's Story - Eleanor Ramrath Garner. This is a WWII non-fiction memoir about an American girl who lived in Germany during the war and how difficult things were during that time. It's a different approach to the time period from most WWII books I've read. It was pretty interesting.

I've now read 13 of this year's BOB books, and I have to say, it's an excellent list. I'm looking forward to getting our team together for the regional competitions! It will be open to 6-8th graders. Keep your ears open for more info.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

This is one of the Oregon Battle of the Books books, and I am going to be recommending it right and left this year. It's so fabulous! This is book one in the story of Percy Jackson, who just may be your next Harry Potter. Well, he's no Harry Potter, but if you're as sad as I am about the end of the HP series, this series may help fill the void. You see, Percy is a direct descendant of a Greek god, although he doesn't know that at first.

The novel's premise is that something has been stolen from Zeus, and Percy has to help get it back. This is a true quest/journey novel, and all the 7th and 8th graders out there better be able to tell me that always in a journey novel we have... say it with me ...obstacles to overcome. And when you're dealing with Greek gods and goddesses and their descendants, those can be some pretty significant obstacles.

The book is full of non-stop action and excitement, prophecies and power. I think it's pretty cool how Rick Riordan has brought the ancient mythology into the modern time period and woven them together so easily. Well, probably not so easily, but so smoothly would be a better term maybe. The one thing about this book that will make it challenging, is that there is no glossary of the Greek gods and goddesses (big mistake leaving that out if you ask me, which clearly they did not...), so I'm thinking about a way to help with that - maybe a bookmark or something. It could be a little confusing if you didn't know who all the Greeks were.

I really, really liked this book and I discovered there are two more in the series that have already been published, so I went out and bought them this week as well and they'll be in the library come September!

Happy reading!

So Totally Emily Ebers - Lisa Yee

This is the third book Lisa Yee has written in a sort of trilogy. I say sort of trilogy, because unlike many trilogies, this series can be read in any order. I'd actually call them companion books more than a trilogy.

The three books are Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time; and now the Emily Ebers book. They all take place during the same time period, but they're told from each character's point of view, which are decidedly different. All three are decidedly funny, but Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time is the funniest.

Emily's story is written in short letters from Rancho Rosetta, California to her father who is living on the East Coast and touring again with the band he was in a long time ago, the Talky Boys. Since Emily can't send her letters while her dad's on tour, she puts them all into one journal which she says she'll send him when he's done with his tour. Emily's parents have recently decided to divorce, and many of her letters are about her feelings about this. If your parents or your friends parents are getting a divorce, I think this would be a really great book for you. If it's your parents, I think you will really relate to Emily and perhaps learn some things from her about going through such a tough thing. If it's your friend who's going through a divorce of their parents, I think you might get some good perspective about what your friend might be thinking and feeling, and how you might help (mostly, probably by being there and listening).

Although Emily's parents are getting divorced, this book still has lots of laughs and some really great lessons about the importance of honesty in friendship.

I really have enjoyed this series, and I think you will, too!

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation - M.T. Anderson

OK, This book won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature AND a Printz Honor, and to be honest, I really don't get why. I mean, it was sort of eerie and interesting, but I didn't really enjoy it. And if you look back at the rest of my posts, you'll see that doesn't happen that often. The language and syntax in this book are really quite unusual and bizarre, and it took me at least 50 pages to get into the swing of it. And even then I didn't necessarily like it. Unless you're a VERY strong reader with a really good vocabulary, I think this book would turn you off immediately for that reason alone. This book is set during revolutionary times and I also think that you need quite a bit of background knowledge about that time period for this book to make sense because there are a lot of events which require inference. We have this book in our library, but it's not going to be one I recommend to very many readers, award winner or not. I think older high schoolers would enjoy it more.

An Inconvenient Wife - Meagan Chance

Well, this is certainly something I hope my husband never calls me, that's for sure! I read this for my book club, so it's a grown up book, and I don't think many middle schoolers would like it, but for wives especially, I'd highly recommend it. All ten of the women in my book group loved it, and we had so much to talk about. It's set in the 1880's and the main character is a society wife who has some serious emotional issues. Enter a newfangled doctor and let the events unravel. It's suspenseful and surprising, appalling and thought provoking. A fabulous novel, and I'd highly recommend it to book clubs.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer author interview

For those of you who loved Twilight and New Moon, you'll be very excited to hear that book three in the series, Eclipse, is now out. There's an interview you can watch with Stephanie Meyer on Amazon if you're interested. Here's the link:


Happy reading, and don't let any vampires bite you...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hummer loves Harry Potter 7

Even my cat Hummer was getting in on the fun of reading Harry Potter 7 when I brought it home last week. (I think he may be enrolled at Hogwart's for night classes or something - I'm not really sure where he learned to read...)

I can't say much about the book except that it must be read, if it hasn't been already, by all Harry Potter fans. I'm afraid I'll give something away if I say any more...But if you have finished it, I would LOVE to talk with you about what you thought about this final installment. I'm pretty sad it's the last one.

If you want to watch a cool trailer for the book (never have I seen a trailer for a BOOK before!), try this link (it doesn't give anything away):


I will say that I bought four copies of the book for the library and I bought it on CD for the library, too. So if you haven't had a chance to read it yet, it will be waiting for you at WOMS on the first day back See you there!

4 weeks in Costa Rica = 14 books for me :)

Usually when I go on vacation I really don't get much of a chance to read, but with four weeks to spend in Costa Rica, I could see birds, monkeys and lizards in the morning and spend my afternoon lounging around reading. It was awesome. We had a really great time on our trip - I'll post some pictures when we get back to school, and I read some really great books, too. I also read some not so great ones, but when you're doing the trade a book at your hotel, you've gotta take what you can get.

The best books I read out of the fourteen were (most of these are grown up books that I doubt middle shcoolers would like, but your parents might enjoy them).

•The Bookseller of Kabul (a depressing but very interesting book about Afghanistani culture)
•The Memory Keeper's Daughter (thanks, Ms. Fulsher)
•Longitude (fascinating non-fiction about how they learned how to measure longitude)
•When the Emperor Was Divine (about Japanese internment camps in WWII - it's in our library, and if you like historical fiction, I'd recommend it)
•How I Paid for College (by very funny Portland author Mark Acito)
•The Moonlit Cage (one of the free exchange fabulous finds!)

In just my Costa Rica trip I spent about 62 hours reading, so I think I've got my reading road trip taken care of! Hope you're finding some great things to read this summer also! If you need new (or more) forms for the reading road trip, go to this webpage http://westorient.gresham.k12.or.us/~fitzpatrick/Summerreading07.html

Friday, June 01, 2007

Multnomah County Reading program starts today!

If you didn't already sign up at school, you can go to your local branch to sign up starting today. Materials for people who signed up at school have been given to teachers at WOMS, so they should be delivering them very soon if they haven't already. Happy reading!

Anahita's Woven Riddle - Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Phew! I'm finally caught up. I've been reading a lot lately, but I haven't done the best job of writing my review right when I read the book and they sort of got piles up. But I saved the best for last. I LOVED, loved, loved this story.

This story is set in 19th century Iran and revolves around the nomadic family of Anahita, who is, herself, like many in her community, a weaver of rugs. As is typical of her people, when she was 15 years old, her father said she needed to get married. I cannot even imagine! He also told her that there was a rich and powerful man, one who could affect the welfare of her people in important ways, who had asked for her hand. This rich and powerful man is also quite old and not kind, and Anahita really does not want to marry him.

Anahita tries and tries to think of a way out of her situation, and finally she decides to ask her father if she can create a riddle inside of her weaving and hold a contest to see which man can guess the riddle and its answer. She says she could not be happy with a man who did not enjoy riddles, and since this is one of the joys she and her father share, he eventually consents to her contest, even though it may, and indeed does, cause some problems.

There are several men who vie for her hand, and their stories are woven through Anahita's story in clever ways, person by person. As I read about each one, I found myself rooting for that one. Then when I'd read about the next, I'd be rooting for him. Except the old khan, I never wanted him to win. In the end I was torn between tow, but I think the better choice was made, and not without some tension and excitement.

This was fabulous, beautifully written story. I would highly recommend it to readers of all ages. It is on the order list for the WOMS library, so you can look for it there in the fall, or go to your local branch of the Multnomah County Library now.

Twisted - Laurie Halse Anderson

I'd read some reviews for this book and was excited to see that a young adult author whose work I really enjoy had a new book coming out, particularly one from the male point of view, so I was happy when it finally came to my turn on the library hold list. I was not disappointed, and this book will definitely appeal to both girls and boys.

Tyler Miller has never been a popular boy, and so he creates a plan that he thinks will turn him around...a little graffiti painting on the school ought to do the trick. That is, unless you drop your wallet at the crime scene and are apprehended and assigned to community service the judge. Oops.

There is a bright side to his manual labor, however. Tyler turns into a pretty studly lookin' senior with lots o' muscles. Enter Bethany Milbury. She's cute, popular, and the girl of Tyler's dreams. And she's diggin' him. things are going well for Tyler. Until he makes a big mistake and shows up at a party where there is a lot of drinking and other bad things happening, and he gets accused of a crime that happened there. He did NOT do it, but it's difficult to get other people to believe that. This is an important lesson in how one bad choice can follow you around for a long time and make things pretty miserable for you in ways you never imagined. In making a choice about how to deal with everything that's happening, Tyler considers suicide as one of his options.

This is a book for mature, older readers because of the content, but it is another book from this author that really makes readers think about many important issues, and I appreciate that there is someone out there addressing these things for young adults.

The Higher Power of Lucky - Susan Patron

this was the Newbery medalist this year, and I really enjoyed it, although I personally did not like it as much as I liked the Honor book Rules by Cynthia Lord. this was a sweet and also a little bit sad story about Lucky, age ten, who lives in a TINY desert town under the guardianship of her father's former girlfriend. Got that? Her mother died, and her father wasn't ready to take on parenthood full time, so he asked his former girlfriend to come over from France to take care of Lucky. And this was quite lucky for Lucky, indeed. Brigitte loves her very much, although it is sometimes difficult for Lucky to realize this. She lives in fear that one day Brigitte will decide she's had enough and return to France, leaving her all alone.

In order to try and cope with her fears, Lucky, who overhears parts of Alcoholics Anonymous and other various "Anonymous" meetings by sitting outside the hall where they have them and putting her ear up to a hole in the wall, attempts to search for her Higher Power. She's not really sure what that means, but it sounds hopeful. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Lucky encounters a giant duststorm and one tiny tennis shoe that throw her whole plan into chaos.

This short book packs a bunch of life's lessons into a small package and is a good read. This book is available in the WOMS library.

In Real Life: Six Women Photographers - Leslie Sills

If you've read my bio, you know that I also have a portrait photography business, so I was very interested to read this book about six women in the field, some of whom I've heard about and whose work I've admired, and some of whom I've never even heard of. the artists were Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Carrie May Weems, Elsa Dorfman, and Sindy Sherman.

My work focuses primarily on people, although I do a little landscape work, but these women have a very broad range, and so it was interesting to read about a variety of approaches to photography and an array of possibilities out there that I don't normally thin about with photograph. Imogen Cunningham, for example, likes to focus on natural objects up really really close, looking at textures and patterns. I do that sometimes, but often if I do, it wasn't really my intent. Dorothea Lange and Lola Alvarez Bravo were recording events to enlighten people. One as an activist, one as a historian.

I liked how this book was put together with lots of pictures interspersed with a good amount of text. Some photography books are really heavy on photos but without much information about them, and sometimes that's ok, but often I want to know more, and this book gave me that.

If you're interested in photography, as a hobby or a career, you can learn a lot from this book, and I'd definitely recommend it.

Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult

This book was hard for me to read as a teacher because it was about a school shooting, but it was very compelling and I was reminded of some things that teachers need to think about. Peter, the main character in this story, the school shooter, was a teenage boy who all his life was teased, humiliated, and bullied at school. This does not justify his going into his school and killing ten people and injuring many more, but it does help explain it. And the adults around him did not give him the help he needed. It was really sad - for Peter, for the families who lost children in the shooting spree, for the other students who were there, for the whole town that lost its feeling of safety. There were very few good outcomes, although there were some.

Picoult is a fabulous writer - her novel My Sister's Keeper was a senior division young Reader's Choice nominee - and like this one, both had shocking endings. I would not recommend this book to middle schoolers because it is too raw and too real. I would recommend it to other educators and adults. Available at Multnomah County Libraries.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief - Wendelin Van Draanen

I’ve heard people talk about Sammy Keyes before and what fun she is, and we have several Sammy Keyes mysteries in the library, so I decided it was time I read one. See, I told you I’d been reading a bunch of grown-up books and now I was going to read some more kid stuff, and here I am delivering on my promise. This is the third book I’ve written about tonight already, and I have four more I’ll have to write about later. Seven books in just over a week. That’s pretty good!

OK, back to Sammy. Sammy is a young woman who’s pretty gutsy but who doesn’t always make the best choices. For example, when she sees a criminal stealing something from a hotel room across from her grandmother’s apartment through her binoculars, she waves at him. And when a bully at school pokes her with a pin, she punches her right in the nose. Things like this lead Sammy into some bad situations. But they make for great reading, I will say that.

Sammy is funny and spunky, and smart enough not to get herself into anything TOO dangerous, just dangerous enough to keep you reading more. I’m looking forward to reading more of Sammy Keyes’s adventures in the future.

As soon as I get my copy of this book to Mrs. Carney it will be available at our WOMS library, or you can pick up other Sammy Keyes novels there now.

P.S. Flipped by the same author is a really great book, too!

Betrayal: Booke the Second - Patricia Finney

This is the second (booke, yes, it's really spelled that way in the book)of the Lady Grace mysteries I’ve read and it was as much fun as the first. Lady Grace, if you’ll remember, is a Maid in the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. Her mother was one of the Queen’s Ladies in Waiting who was accidentally murdered by a drink meant for the queen, so she’s a special favorite of the queen and she gets special favors, like being allowed to investigate mysteries. And this mystery had a bit of the pirate in it because Grace ends up stowed away on a ship, so it’s jolly good fun. (BTW, did you know the new Johnny Depp movie comes out THIS WEEKEND???!!! I can barely contain my excitement!) The ship she stows away on turns out to be the completely wrong ship, but in the end it all turns out right…although not without some stress along the way.

There’s lots of action, suspense and adventure in this novel, and it’s another I think both boy and girl readers would enjoy. We don’t have this one in our library yet, I got it from Multnomah County, but I do plan to buy it, so you can look for it in the fall!

Rules - Cynthia Lord

Rules – Cynthia Lord

This book was Newbery Honor winner this year and it is laugh out loud funny and get me the box of Kleenex sad all at once. Catherine is a twelve-year old girl who just wants, like most teenagers, to be like everyone else. But Catherine has a little brother who’s autistic. Which leads her to have to make some RULES. For example, “A boy can take off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts.” This book does give good insight into the difficulties someone faces when living with someone who has disabilities. And it also has good insight as to what a person with disabilities goes through. More importantly, however, this book gives good insight into what someone with disabilities has to offer even though they might be different and how someone with disabilities really is just a person like everyone else who wants to be cared about.

I really, really loved this story, even though I was crying my eyes out at the end. I would highly recommend it to both girls and boys, kids and grown-ups. It’s a fabulous read!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson

This is one of those crossover books - an adult book some teen readers might enjoy. But honestly, after all the hype about this book, I expected a little more. This is what happens when you set your expectations too high. I should know better. It's not that it was a bad book. I didn't quit reading it, and I really did want to know what would happen next, but it just didn't thrill me.

The premise of the book is this: Ginny (of unknown age but old enough to travel Europe alone without her parents completely freaking out) has an eccentric aunt. Or she had an eccentric aunt, but the aunt died. Now she's sending Ginny on a quest, via a packet of 13 Little Blue Envelopes. At each stop on her journey, Ginny opens the next envelope and it has instructions about where to go, what to see, who to look for. Sort of, if it works out. This structure, if the 13 envelopes with instructions is what I enjoyed most about this novel. As a reader, I really wanted to know what was coming next. An although I was never thrilled with an installment, I always hoped the next installment would be better.

There is a trace of romance in the novel, definitely some adventure, for sure more questions than answers. The book is interesting and a bit of a psychological study of the dead aunt, but it fell short of my expectations, so I could recommend it as what I call a "beach book" - one with not so much substance but an okay way to pass the time.

been reading grown up books of late...

So I haven't been making many posts, but I'm ready to read some more YA titles, so look out...I'm sure to be burning up the blog in the next few weeks. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

I recently finished this book written by the boy soldier himself, now grown up at 26 years old and living in New York City. The non-fiction piece is very well written for a non-native English speaker. The power of this book, however, does not come from the quality of the writing, but from the incredible, heartbreaking story.

Ishmael was born in Sierra Leone,on the west coast of Africa, in 1980. In 1992 his country was in the midst of a brutal civil war and Ishmael became separated from nearly all of his family. He and several other boys, including his older brother, roamed the countryside, hiding from the violence as best they could, and surviving on whatever they could beg off of someone, or, in most cases, steal. It was a miserable and terrifying existence, but those turned out to be some of the better times, because eventually Ishmael was captured by the army and forced to join the fighting.

From ages thirteen to sixteen Ishmael fought beside his friends, high on drugs the army gave all the boys to keep them amped up for killing. The acts they committed were horrific, and many are recounted with a fair amount of detail which is pretty disturbing, even for an adult, so I will not be putting this book in our library. However, the realities of war are not very nice, and this is a good reality check for those whose vision of war is what we often see in the movies. War is a horrible thing, and the inclusion of children in its violence is unforgivable.

At age sixteen UNICEF pulled Ishmael from the fighting, but I was disappointed to read some of the things that happened after the "rescue". The children in the shelter were, of course, in a better place than being out in combat every day, but it seemed like UNICEF had very little in the way of a plan of what to do with these children once they rescued them. It was not much more safe in the shelter at some times than it had seemed outside it.

However, once the drugs wore off and the children got more used to their new surroundings, most of them did seem to adapt. IT was not, however, easy for them, and I believe it had to be much more difficult than was alluded to in this book. There were mentions of some of the young people being withdrawn, rarely speaking, having difficulty adjusting, but it wasn't very deeply addressed, even for the author himself. That is, I'm sure, a coping strategy, and undoubtedly necessary, but I would have liked to read more about the depth of their thoughts and underlying struggles.

Ishmael is one of the lucky ones; he ended up being able to come and live in the United States, finish high school at the UN International School in New York, attend and graduate from Oberlin College, and he is now a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee. Unfortunately, as soon as he is leaving Sierra Leone, the book ends, and we do not hear anything about what happened once he got here. There are a few mentions of things in the course of the story, but overall we know very little about what happened when he left. I'm not sure why this is, but I thought it was a very unsatisfying conclusion, and I was very disappointed. However, it was still definitely worth reading and will provide lots of really great discussion among people who read it. I would not recommend this book to middle schoolers unless they are reading it with an adult so they can talk about it together. It is available at Multnomah County Libraries.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Forever in Blue - the Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood - Ann Brashares

This is the book where we're saying goodbye to Lena, Tibby, Camen and Bee, young women who I've spent the last several years reading about and who even though they're not real, surely seem to be. Ann Brashares has done a masterful job of character development in these Sisterhod of the Traveling Pants series, and she does not fall short in this last of the series. I will say, however, that knowing it was the last one, I think I read it differently and probably because of this it's not my favorite of the four. I didn't want to become as invested in the characters because I knew they wouldn't be coming back. It's sort of like when you meet someone that you really connect with, but you know they live far away or move in different circles or whatever so you won't be seeing them again, and so you don't really let yourself get close to them so that you won't miss them later. Have you ever done that? It's actually interesting, because it's sort of like one of the things that's happening in the novel, too.

In this novel, the girls are in college, and there are too many things that happen that aren't really appropriate for a middle school library book ,so I'm not going to get it for our library, but you can get it at Multnomah County if you've read all the rest and want to read the conclusion. Get your box of Kleenex handy, though.

Assassin - Patricia Finney

This is the first of "The Lady Grace mysteries, from the daybookes of Lady Grace Cavendish" and I found it to be a delightful story, even if it was about murder. Lady Grace is an orphan girl, favorite maid to Queen Elizabeth I whose mother died accidentally when someone attempted to kill the Queen.

Grace, at thirteen, must choose her betrothed at the Valentine's ball, and so she does. But when one of the other suitors is found murdered and the man she has chosen is accused, Grace decides she must act to save him. She and two friends, with the secret permission of the Queen, engage in some very tricky sleuthing, getting themselves into more than a few close scrapes along the way. Ultimately, of course, Grace and her friends do discover the villain and he is brought to justice by the Queen. Grace also receives some justice in the end, which I was happy to see.

This is an exciting and interesting historical fiction narrative that I think both girls and boys would enjoy. This is the first in a series which is written, interestingly, by more then one author. The first three books are written by Patricia Finney, but then books four and five are written by other people - sort of like the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. I'm interested to read the different authors and see if I can tell a difference between them.

Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder

the subtitle of this book is "The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World." This is the story of an incredibly gifted man who chooses to use his knowledge and skills to fight for some of the poorest people on earth, primarily in Haiti, but also in Peru, Russia, Cuba, and, ultimately, all over the world. Dr. Paul Farmer is a Harvard medical school graduate and professor who has founded a charity called Partners in Health (PIH). His speciality is infectious diseases, especially TB and AIDS, prevalent problems in many parts of the world which, with aggressive care and appropriate drugs can be cured. And yet many agencies, governments, corporations, people are unwilling to put resources toward fighting these diseases in poor regions. The commitment and dedication Farmer has for his work is unflagging, uncommon, and incredibly inspiring. I found myself wanting to quit my job and join the Peace Corps or something as I read it. It is an amazing story and I highly recommend it to high school students and adults. If you want to be inspired by someone who lives his passion and is doing incredible things for impoverished people all over the world, you must read this biography of Dr. Paul Farmer by Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder. Available at Multnomah County libraries.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Well, I haven't made a post here in quite some time because I've been taking a little break from kid books and reading some grown-up books that probably wouldn't be so interesting for kids, but I'll tell a little bit about this one because it dovetails with Things Not Seen. This was a book my book club (yes, FINALLY I joined one) chose, and I was pretty excited that it came along just at the time we were reading about Bobby who had become invisible, like the protagonist in this novel. But I have to say, Bobby's story was SO much better. This novel had too much detail, went on too long, and was just too implausible for me. Yeah, being invisible is impossible, I know, so I should have had a problem with it in Things Not Seen, but I really didn't. But in Memoirs of an Invisible Man a lot of pretty high powered people knew about him and were after him, but for over a year they never captured him. I mean, come on. And there were just too many ridiculous things he did that I couldn't buy. So if you're really fascinated with invisibility, you might try this novel, but otherwise, I really don't recommend it. How often do you hear me say that????

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #16

This is our last Things Not Seen trivia question. Thanks for playing trivia!

When Bobby sneaks into the offices at Sears, how many people does he discover have made a complaint about the blankets, and what does he do once he finds this information?

DUE DATE: April 6

Things Not Seen Trivia #15

This is the second to last Things Not Seen Trivia Question!

What law is Bobby referring to when he tells Alicia “Companies love it when…um…people like you apply for jobs…because they actually have to prove that they try to hire everyone. It’s a federal law or something.”

DUE DATE: April 6

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #14

What company made Bobby’s electric blanket?

DUE DATE: April 5

Monday, April 02, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #13

How many hits does Bobby get when he plugs in "invisible people"?

DUE DATE: April 4

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #12

What classic novel by H.G. Wells does Alicia read because of Bobby?

DUE DATE: March 22

Monday, March 19, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #11

Being an astronomer, what scientific phenomenon does Alicia’s dad compare Bobby to?

DUE DATE: March 21

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #10

How does Alicia figure out Bobby’s telling the truth when he tells her he’s invisible?

DUE DATE: March 20

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #9

Happy St. (Fitz)Patrick's Day!

When Bobby sees Alicia at the library for the second time, he overhears the book she’s listening to. What’s the title of that book and how does he know?

DUE DATE: March 19

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #8

Bobby says that he and which famous actor are “men of action”?

DUE DATE: March 16

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #7

Why does Bobby say, “fear doesn’t need doors and windows.”?

DUE DATE: March 15

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

This 552(!) page novel is a Printz Honor book for this year and is a fascinating and at the same time very distressing book to read. The book is about the Holocaust, and though it has very little in the way of graphic violence, I find most books about this time period to be distressing simply due to the nature of waht was happening. Adding to that, the narrator of this book is Death, a point of view which I have never encountered in a novel before. It's really an intriguing perspective. Dark, but very compelling. Death appears quite compassionate in this novel, not what one might think.

The story is set in Germany during World War II and when nine-year old Liesel, the main character, arrives at her foster home she does not know how to read. Despite this fact, she has begun her career as a book thief already, stealing the gravedigger’s manual from the graveyard where they buried her younger brother on the journey to her new home in Molching with Rosa and Hans Huberman.

Hans Huberman helps Liesel through this most difficult transition in her young life by teaching her to read, and via the Gravedigger’s Handbook she learns the power of words, a power which she will use to get not only herself through difficult times in a war torn country but also those in her neighborhood who must join her frequently in their air raid shelter. There, Leisel helps to calm everyone’s nerves by taking their minds off the bombing with the stories she reads aloud. Her sources for books are varied. A few she is given, like the one the Jewish refugee Max who is hiding in their basement makes for her, but others she steals, from Nazi book burnings and even from the mayor’s wife (well, she sort of steals these).

This beautifully written book is powerful and intense, but should be read only by mature readers because of the mature themes in the story.

Things Not Seen Trivia #6

Who is Bobby’s friend whose dad owns a funeral home?

DUE DATE: March 14

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #5

What room is Bobby’s mom in in the hospital and how does he find this out?

DUE DATE: March 13

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia Contest update

Several students have participated in our trivia contest so far. Congratulations to:

Isaac M.
Josh M.
Haley T.
Jessica M.
Tim B.

for correct answers so far. All these students have earned entries into the special drawing for 5 tickets in our fundraiser drawing. There's still time for you to enter. Take a look at past postings, some of which can still be answered, and watch for new ones almost every day!

Also congratulations to Rachel W. who filled out a Quote Note and also has earned an entry into the special drawing. Every student who fills out a Quote Note will get an entry into the special drawing.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #4

What is Bobby’s Aunt’s name who lives in Miami?

DUE DATE: March 9

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #3

Answer BOTH questions to be eligible for a ticket in the drawing and be sure to put the page numbers where you find the answers on your sheet.

1. Where does Bobby leave his clothes in the 5th floor bathroom?

2. Why does Bobby like the third floor at the library the best?

DUE DATE: March 8

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Hummingbird's Daughter - Urrea

This is a book for any parents out there who are reading my blog. Kids could read it, but I don't think many middle schoolers would enjoy it. It's a beautifully written historical fiction novel about Mexico in the 19th century centered on Teresita, a young woman who becomes a healer on a ranch in Mexico. Teresa clearly has a gift for healing and is called a saint by many of her followers, who swarm the ranch in legions, but she never accepts this title herself, remaining humble to the end of the story.

The book has religious and political themes woven throughout a compelling storyline with many surprises along the way. I constantly found myself gasping out loud as the events unfolded in ways I never expected. This story is based on the life of the great-aunt of author Luis Urrea, an author who has won awards for his non-fiction writing and who spent nearly twenty years researching this novel. This book was recommended to me by someone who was reading it for a book group, and if you have a book group, this would be a fascinating choice. the history alone is interesting, and there is a lot of richness to be discussed.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Things Not Seen Trivia #2

What college/university is associated with the Regenstein Library? (only the name of the library is given in the book, you’ll have to research to find this answer)

BE SURE YOU INCLUDE PAGE NUMBER IN YOUR ANSWER (in this case, on what page is the library mentioned?)

DUE DATE: March 7

Things Not Seen Trivia Question #1

March 2 – Answer BOTH questions to be eligible for a ticket in the drawing

1. Bobby’s mom has a special “voice” she uses when she thinks Bobby is messing around. What does he call this “voice”?

2. Bobby’s dad has a favorite word he uses, especially when he gets excited. Bobby even suggests his dad needs a shock collar like they use on dogs to cure him of using the word. What is the word?

DUE DATE: March 5

Fill out your little blue answer sheet (cut one out from the bck of your activities handout) and turn it in to the library. More answer sheets avaiable in the library if you don't have any.

Congratulations Haley T. and Jessica M. and Isaac M. for your correct answers!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rules of Survival - Nancy Werlin

This was an excellent book but a difficult one to read because it deals with children who are being abused by their mother. For those of you who are Dave Pelzer fans, this would be a good fiction choice.

This is Matt's story which he is writing down as a letter (one that's the length of a book, but anyway...) to his youngest sister trying to explain to her what happened when she was little, why he did some of the things he did, what kind of person their mother was (probably manic depressive and definitely dangerous), etc.

It's a story in which the main character really delves into himself to try and answer some tough questions. On the one hand, he's not sure he did the right things for himself, for his sisters, for his mother, for anyone. On the other hand, he knows he did the best he could, which is all anyone can ask of anyone else, really, but sometimes it just doesn't seem to be enough.

This book was sad to read because I know there are kids out there, probably kids I even know, who are going through really traumatic, difficult situations just like Matt and his sisters. They struggle every day to try and get through. They dream of just one day when things are normal and hope every night that tomorrow will be better. The insights to these children captured by Werlin are hauntingly realistic.

This book has very short chapters, lots of action, and harrowing suspense. This 2006 National Book Award finalist is definitely another fine piece of writing by Nancy Werlin, and I would recommend it to mature readers 7th grade and up because of the nature of the content.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King - Jenny Nimmo

So I thought this was the last of the Charlie Bone books, but then a student said they thought there were more coming, so I looked on the Internet (how did we ever survive without it I often wonder), and what do you know, there IS another one coming out this summer. It's called Cahrlie Bone and the Beast. So now you know.

I listened to this book on tape in my car; as you might know if you've read some of the other entries I've done, it's the only way I can stand driving. Anyway, it was a great book to listen to, but it was a hard one to listen to because you have to stop listening when the car stops, and there were MANY times when I wanted to keep going. It's a VERY suspenseful story. Well, I guess I could have sat in my car and listened more, but probably someone might have thought that was a little strange, so I didn't.

The Flames, the three cats who have appeared in other Charlie Bone books, and who are really swell kitties, appear early on in this book and warn Charlie to be watchful because something ancient has awoken. This cannot be good news he knows, but what has awoken, and who and where should he watch? And then all the animals disappear, including Benjamin's beloved Runner Bean. And Charlie's mother seems to have forgotten who his father was and even takes off her wedding rings which she's NEVER done before even though his father has been missing so long. And then there's Grandma Maisie who's frozen solid as a rock and dripping on the carpet. What to do, what to do? It's non-stop action and suspense.

Needless to say, Charlie ends up in some very dangerous spots. Will the help of his uncle, several very good friends and an ancient spell be enough to find the hidden king and perhaps even his ever elusive father? Read this page-turner and find out.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Abundance of Katherines - John Green

John Green won the Printz for his previous book Looking For Alaska which I liked a lot but which is pretty much a downer all the way. He has done a bit of an about face in many respects with this next novel, and I loved it. This one won a Printz Honor. Pretty impressive for such a young author to have won the award AND an Honor! It's one of the kind of books I kept reading parts out loud to my husband and one I was often laughing out loud while reading. This book is hilarious and if you are into math, even just a little, this book is even better. This book is definitely a book for more intellectual readers, though.

Child prodigy Colin Singleton (perhaps better named SingleONE) has had nineteen girlfriends, and ALL of them have been named Katherine. How weird is that? Colin is bereft after the last one, Katherine XIX, dumps him and his best friend Hassan decides that the only way to cure it is to take a road trip. Since he has no better ideas, Colin goes, and when he sees a sign saying that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is buried in Gutshot, TN, he HAS to go there. See Colin has a LOT of information in his brain, and things he thinks other people will see as interesting, frankly, to most people, just aren't. Which Hassan is repeatedly telling him. Which Hassan tells him in this case, but Colin insists. In Gutshot, they're hired by the wacky Hollis, mother of the beautiful Lindsey, girlfriend of TOC, the other Colin, to do an oral history project. Got all that?

While he's there, Colin decides that he's going to find the mathematical formula that underlies all these relationships with Katherines. He figures there has to be a logical answer. Because logic defines pretty much everything for Colin. This happens to really smart people I guess. I wouldn't know. I'm plenty smart, but I was no child prodigy. And get this, one of the other things this child prodigy can do is anagram pretty much anything. Anagramming means to mix up the letters in a word or phrase to make other words/phrases. Like for example, Erin Fitzpatrick Bjorn can be anagrammed to A BRR INJECT FORK TIN ZIP (and, surprisingly, a WHOLE bunch of other anagrams - try wordsmith.org/anagram to see what your name can be made into). As I write this, this book sounds kind of kooky, but it really works!

Anyway, what Colin wants most in life is to matter, and this book takes him on a journey of self-exploration to try and figure out how he can do that, why he wants it so badly, what does it even mean, and, in the end, is that really what he wants? The trip to Gutshot takes Hassan on a similar journey, and Lindsey, who they meet there, ends up on one as well.

This is an incredibly tightly written novel which I adored, but I don't think most readers will appreciate it until they're at least in high school if not later.

Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I believe I checked this book out of the public library because it was listed in Booklist as one of the best first novels for young adults of the year, and I would agree. It is funny, thought provoking, will appeal to girls and boys (really, title aside, it WILL appeal to boys - it's all about football!), and is set in Wisconsin. Who could ask for more? I'm going to suggest it to Mr. Arn since he's a cheesehead.

This is the story of JD Schwenk (tough last name, don't you think?) who is a pretty incredible girl. She basically singlehandedly runs her family's dairy farm AND goes to school. Unfortunately, she doesn't have much of a life outside of school because of it, but she's ok with that.

Brian Nelson is the star quarterback from the next town over and he comes to supposedly help out on the farm - basically because his coach is making him. He doesn't last long, at least at first. He's lazy and working on a farm is not easy. Ask anyone who's done it. So he bails. But he actually comes back and with DJ's training help becomes a decently hard working guy who can really throw a football.

See DJ has helped her older brothers practice football since she can remember, so it's a pretty natural fit for her to help out Brian. But she discovers a lot about herself along the way, and one of the things she discovers is that SHE wants to play football for her high school's team this year. You can imagine that this causes some hubbub, not the least of which is with Brian who she sort of doesn't tell about it until after it's a done deal. Not her best move, but her people skills really aren't the best. She's really good with cows, though!

I enjoyed reading this book a lot. There were lots of laughs and the characterization is quite excellent. I'm very impressed that this is Catherine Gilbert Murdock's first novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

The True Darcy Spirit - Elizabeth Aston

Anyone know what book I have on my READ poster at school? Pride and Prejudice (along with Keira Knightly!). This book is written by Elizabeth Aston and is a sort of copycat book of Jane Austen's style. It's quite remarkable how well she does imitate the style. Clearly she has read all of Jane Austen's works QUITE closely. It's pretty cool that someone can do that. I wonder if Jane would be flattered or freaked out that someone was doing this.

Anyway, you really have to love Pride and Prejudice to enjoy this book, but if you did like it, I'd highly recommend this story set in 1819 (Pride and Prejudice was set in the late 170os) and focuses on one of the daughters of Anne de Bourgh (Lady Catherine REALLY wanted Mr. Darcy to marry Anne in P&P, remember?), Cassandra Darcy.

It's a fun, romantic mystery that's pretty predictable, but still pure pleasure for fans of the genre.

Monday, January 29, 2007

ALA Award books announced

For Immediate Release
January 22, 2007

American Library Association announces literary award winners

SEATTLE – The American Library Association (ALA) today announced the top books and video for children and young adults - including the Caldecott, King, Newbery and Printz awards - at its Midwinter Meeting in Seattle.

A list of all the 2007 literary award winners follows:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature

“The Higher Power of Lucky,” written by Susan Patron, is the 2007 Newbery Medal winner. The book is illustrated by Matt Phelan and published by Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson.

Three Newbery Honor Books were named: “Penny from Heaven,” written by Jennifer L. Holm and published by Random House; “Hattie Big Sky,” by Kirby Larson, published by Delacorte Press; and “Rules,” by Cynthia Lord, published by Scholastic.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children

“Flotsam,” illustrated by David Wiesner, is the 2007 Caldecott Medal winner. The wordless book is published by Clarion.

Two Caldecott Honor Books were named: “Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet,” written and illustrated by David McLimans, and published by Walker, and “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom,” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Hyperion/Jump at the Sun.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults

“American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang is the 2007 Printz Award winner. The book is published by First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership.

Four Printz Honor Books were named: “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party” by M. T. Anderson, published by Candlewick; “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.; “Surrender” by Sonya Hartnett, published by Candlewick Press; and “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.

Coretta Scott King Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults

“Copper Sun,” written by Sharon Draper, is the King Author Book winner. The book is published by Simon & Schuster/Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

One King Author Honor Book was selected: “The Road to Paris” written by Nikki Grimes and published by G.P. Putnum’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

“Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom,” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book was written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children.

Two King Illustrator Honor Books were selected: “Jazz,” illustrated by Christopher Myers, written by Walter Dean Myers and published by Holiday House, Inc.; and “Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes” illustrated by Benny Andrews, edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad, and published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

“Standing Against the Wind,” written by Traci L. Jones is the Steptoe winner. The book is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences

“The Deaf Musicians,” written by Pete Seeger and poet Paul DuBois Jacobs, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons wins the award for children ages 0 to 10. “Rules,” written by Cynthia Lord and published by Scholastic Press is the winner in the middle-school category (age 11-13). “Small Steps,” written by Louis Sachar and published by Delacorte Press, is the winner in the teen category (age 13-18).

Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book

“Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways,” written and illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky is the Geisel Award winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.

Three Geisel Honor Books were named: “Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride,” written by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen and published by Candlewick Press; “Move Over, Rover!” written by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jane Dyer and published by Harcourt, Inc.; and “Not a Box,” written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis and published by HarperCollins.

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults

Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver,” is the 2007 Edwards Award winner. “The Giver” is published by Walter Lorraine Books/Houghton Mifflin Company.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children

Author-illustrator James Marshall is the 2007 Wilder Award winner. Marshall was the author and illustrator of the “George and Martha” books, the “Fox” easy reader series, “The Cut-Ups” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children

“Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon,” written by Catherine Thimmesh, is the 2007 Sibert Award winner. The book is published by Houghton.

Three Sibert Honor Books were named: “Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement,” written by Ann Bausum and published by National Geographic; “Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea,” written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop and published by Houghton; and “To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel,” written by Siena Cherson Siegel, artwork by Mark Siegel and published by Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson (hardcover) and Simon & Schuster/Aladdin.

Andrew Carnegie Medal for excellence in children's video

Author/illustrator Mo Willems and Weston Woods Studios, producers of “Knuffle Bunny,” are the 2007 Carnegie Medal winners. The DVD is based on Willems’ book “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” and is performed by Willems, his wife Cheryl and their daughter Trixie. It is directed and animated by MaGiK Studio, with music by Scotty Huff and Robert Reynolds.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for the most outstanding children’s book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States

Delacorte Press is the winner of the 2007 Batchelder Award for “The Pull of the Ocean.” Originally published in France in 1999 as “L’enfant OcĂ©an,” the book was written by Jean-Claude Mourlevat and translated by Y. Maudet.

Two Batchelder Honor Books also were selected: “The Killer’s Tears,” published by Delacorte Press, and “The Last Dragon,” published by Hyperion/Miramax.

Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences

“The Book of Lost Things,” written by John Connolly and published by Simon & Schuster/Atria
“The Whistling Season,” written by Ivan Doig and published by Harcourt
“Eagle Blue: A Team, A Tribe, and A High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska,” written by Michael D’Orso and published by Bloomsbury
“Water for Elephants,” written by Sara Gruen and published by Algonquin
“Color of the Sea,” written by John Hamamura and published by Thomas Dunne
“The Floor of the Sky,” written by Pamela Carter Joern and published by the University of Nebraska
“The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” written by Michael Lewis and published by Norton
“Black Swan Green,” written by David Mitchell and published by Random House
“The World Made Straight,” written by Ron Rash and published by Henry Holt
“The Thirteenth Tale,” written by Diane Setterfield and published by Simon & Schuster/Atria

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time - Lisa Yee

Finally, I finished Stanford Wong which I have started and interrupted several times this year. Things just keep coming up, you know? Anyway, it was awesome. I loved Millicent Mi,n Girl Genius, which is Lisa Yee's companion novel to this book, but I really think this book is much funnier. You may have heard me say before that for me as a reader, character development is the most important element of a book, and Stanford Wong is QUITE a character. He's hilarious and he can be quite serious, as well. But mostly he's hilarious.

Stanford isn't so big into schoolwork. He's into basketball. Which is why he's the first 6th grader who ever got placed on the top team for Rancho Rosetta Middle School. And he is SO excited about it. He's all ready to go to summer basketball camp where he can learn even more about how to be a great basketball player. Unfortunately, he doesn't pass his English class, and so instead of going to basketball camp, Stanford gets to go to summer school. Let's just say he's less than enthusiastic. If he doesn't pass summer school, he's going to get kicked off the team!

But this is not the worst of Stanford's summer, it's really just the beginning. For one thing, his grandmother's getting senile and she has to go live in a care facility instead of with Stanford's family where she's been living. You could say that like Stanford about summer school, Yin-Yin, his grandmother, is less than enthusiastic about the move. And then there's the thing of his parents fighting all the time and his dad never having anything good to say about him. Plus he's lying to his friends the Roadrunners about the whole summer school thing but Digger, the bully of the group, somehow finds out. Not good. And worst of all, his parents arrange for MILLICENT MIN, of all people, to tutor him. Less than enthusiastic...

One thing Stanford does get enthusiastic about is Emily Ebers, Millicent Min's very cute friend. Oh, yeah, he's VERY enthusiastic about her. But does she just like him or does she LIKE like him?

Just as Millicent Min gets herself into quite a pickle by lying to people around her - that always seems to blow up in your face, have you noticed? - Stanford Wong ends up in a pretty fine mess as well. Have you ever heard this quote from Sir Walter Scott, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."? Yeah, that pretty much sums up both Millicent and Stanford. You will have to read this book to find out if and how they manage to get untangled. And when you do read it, you'll also get some fine recommendations for other books to read from none other than Stanford himself, who I will tell you, actually starts to LIKE books. Maybe not LIKE like, but at least like. Miracles never cease.

This was a really delightful book, and I would highly recommend both Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sticky Fingers - Niki Burnham

Earlier this year I read a couple of Niki Burnham books that were lots of fun but nowhere near seeming like they could be true. This story was completely different from those. It's almost a little bit too real. As a grown up, what happens in this story worries me, although I do think it's a really powerful and important story to tell. The book deals with mature topics, so it's definitely for older readers, both girls and boys, and I haven't yet decided if I'm going to get it for our middle school, but for now you can get it at the public library which was where I picked it up.

This is the story of Jenna, a high school senior who works really, really hard at school and at being "in control" of her life. Jenna is super smart - she knows what she wants for herself, and she knows she doesn't want anything to get in the way of her plans. Once she gets early acceptance to Harvard for college, a lot of people think she should just sit back, relax, enjoy life a little. And Jenna thinks on the one hand that they're right. In the other, she's afraid if she lets go just a little bit, it's all going to go up in smoke. And then suddenly it does. Jenna has one drink at a party, and her life spins wildly out of control in the space of an instant.

The good news is, Jenna learns some really valuable lessons about relationships and the importance of not trying to get through everything by yourself as a result of what happens to her. The bad news is, they're hard lessons and they hurt. Jenna's story needs to be told, and hopefully readers will learn some of these important lessons the easy way (by reading the book).

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl - Tanya Lee Stone

*If you were the person who sent me a comment asking me about this novel - it's available at Multnomah County libraries. You didn't put your name in the question, so I'm sorry I couldn't get back to you personally.*

This book has way too much sexual stuff to have in our library, but there were some things I really liked about this book. It's a novel told in poetry, and if you've never read a novel in poetry form, I think you're missing out. Out of the Dust is the best one ever, and Sonya Sones and Sharon Creech also have some good ones. They read really quickly and because poets don't have a lot of words to spare, they get right to the heart of the matter. No time or words are wasted. I really love novels in poetry form.

This book is really three girls' stories that are all intertwined and connected by one boy. One boy who drives girls crazy and makes them do or want to do things they really know they shouldn't or they can't ever imagine they would have wanted. Well, he and their hormones combined cause this phenomenon. But in the end, they've all learned something about themselves. About their own strength. About being in control of their destiny. About what they want...and what they don't. About what love is and what love isn't. Important lessons for life that have changed them and will help them become who they want to be.

And one last thing I really liked was how Tanya Lee brought other girls in at the end, giving them all strength and power through a shared experience. It's very important to remember that no matter what happens to us, there's probably someone else it's happened to, and connecting those people together can be a valuable, strengthening thing. And it didn't hurt that she brought them together via a library book, either :)