Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hunger Games Challenged

Ugh! Another book to make sure you don't let your kids read. Because, you know, reality TV isn't crossing any lines already. And we certainly don't want our kids to start thinking about how far is too far. We also don't want them to think about any moral issues or what is right and what is wrong or question the government or, or, or.

Either this parent hasn't read the whole book, or she just went through it looking for parts she wouldn't like. Of COURSE it's a terrible thing to pit children against each other to the death. That's kind of central to the whole series, isn't it? If the point of the game were for the kids to taunt each other and then hug at the end, that would kind of kill the whole overthrow-the-government push, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Yes, turtles squee.

And we love being mentioned on other blogs. It makes us feel validated:)

Make sure you check out all the links in the post. Then check out this article in Time. Then go read a banned book! (But you can't read Fallout here, some rude patron already checked it out. The nerve.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, by Ben H. Winters

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman
by Ben H. Winters
Review copy provided by publisher

Ms. Finkleman is just our boring old music teacher. Or is she?

It all starts with a Special Project in Mr. Melville's Social Studies class: Solve a mystery in your own life. For seventh grader Bethesda Fielding, one mystery is too tempting to ignore: Ms. Finkleman.

Bethesda is convinced that her mousy Music Fundamentals teacher is hiding a secret life, and she’s determined to find out what it is. But no one is prepared for what she learns. Ms. Finkleman used tobe . . . a rock star? Soon the whole school goes rock crazy, and a giant concert is in the works with none other than timid Ms. Finkleman at the helm!

But the case isn’t quite closed, and the questions continue to swirl forBethesda. Could there be even more to the secret life of Ms. Finkleman than she already revealed? With the help of her rock-obsessed classmate Tenny Boyer, Bethesda won’t stop until she solves the real mystery of Ms. Finkleman once and for all!
Andrew Clements has some competition. Not that Winters' book is derivative, by any means - it's just that he has that same rare ability to portray typical middle school kids simply and realistically, giving us a glimpse into the thoughts and motivations of an age group that usually has adults shaking their heads, wondering if there ARE any thoughts and motivations behind the actions.
He is also funny! We lost track of the number of times we laughed out loud, at passages such as:
"Tenny! Can you try to pay attention?"
"I need you to focus, Tenny. To try."
"I am. I totally...wait, what did you say?"
"So sorry to bother you, dear. It's just that I slaved away over a hot stove for five to eight minutes, carefully combining all the ingredients as directed by the box. And yet my perfect little child, more precious to me than life itself, won't eat. You hate it. You hate me. I shall stab myself with a salad fork."
Adults who think they are funny usually aren't, but Dad here pulls it off.

One of the things we love about Clements' books, and now about Winters, is that he lets us see adults as human beings with much the same needs and emotions as the kids in the book. Shocking, we know! Nobody is all good or all bad. Everybody grows a little, learns a little. Okay, we kind of guessed the ultimate secret, so the big reveal was bit less dramatic than it could have been, but all in all a thoroughly enjoyable book - and a new name for our "authors to watch" list. We give it a

4 out of 5.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed, by Sally M. Walker

Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed
Sally M. Walker
Carolrhoda Books
review copy provided by publisher

Last year we reviewed a cute little picture book by Walker. A quick search of our catalog, however, will find her name dotted throughout the nonfiction section, everywhere from mosquitos to the Civil War. Today she is bringing us to the very end of the Dewey Decimal system, and the very bottom of the panet.

Of course, 'bottom' depends on your perspective, doesn't it? As soon as we open the book we are greeted by a beautiful picture of the earth with Antarctica front and center. As most of our kids are used to seeing North America most prominently featured, teachers or parents could stop right here and teach an entire lesson. How do you suppose the globe is pictured in, say, a German science book? Australian? Grab a globe and try drawing the continents and oceans from different perspectives. Introduce the concept of hemispheres. Branch off into national or personal egocentrism and how that effects politics, culture, etc. Lots of great learning, and we haven't even reached the text!

The next page, and many many following, give us some breathtaking views of Antarctica. They almost make us want to go there ourselves - and we don't like cold! Need we remind you, we are turtles - cold-blooded - we spend our days basking under a sun lamp. It takes a lot to even tempt us to venture somewhere covered in (shudder) ice!

Walker begins with a description of exactly how cold it is, followed by an account of Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition, then contrasting it with more recent expeditions using modern technology. Vivid descriptions draw the reader in without being overly romanticized. Everything from geology to engineering to dinosaurs is covered rather thoroughly. A reluctant reader might skip around to the 'exciting parts', but any young person into science will devour every word.

A must-have for middle to high school libraries, and a good gift for your budding scientist. We give it a
5 out of 5

Friday, September 24, 2010

Teen Cafe - Talk Like a Pirate Night!

Ahoy, readers! We be realizin' Talk Like a Pirate Day were actually last Sunday, but since Miss Ami insists on takin' her day of rest, we had to wait until last night for our revelries. This year around 23 young pirates split into three crews and designed their very own pirate ships. Each crew was given a box (thank ye' Baker & Taylor) and a semi-identical set of supplies, along with the following guidelines:

Each ship must have a flag.

The boys chose yon bonney lass over the Jolly Roger. Erm...okay...
Each ship must have pirates.

Restin' up after a long day of maraudin'

And each ship must be capable of firing marshmallow cannonballs.

Bottom half a balloon stretched over the bottom of a plastic cup. Capable of shooting great distances, like across the multipurpose room, into the back of Hannah's head. Hypothetically speakin'.
Above ship was created entirely by the lone Captain Mickey, and what it lacked in detail (due to time constraints), it made up for in fire power.

This ship, on the other hand:

had an entire crew of creative lasses. With perhaps a wee bit of a bad attitude towards the male species. Detail from another angle:

The boys, on the other hand, lost interest once they had secured the bonney lass:

although, Pirate L. did a fine job of creatin' the hidden weaponry here (it works, trust us.)

All in all an enjoyable evenin' for everyone. The ships are now on display in the Children's Room, so if ye be local, stop by in the next week and take a gander!

Just Too Cute and Other Adorable Stories for Horrible Children, by Mike Reiss

Ahem. We are having some technical difficulties with this post, as our typist keeps giggling. This is NOT a funny book.

(Okay, Miss Ami, we really find it distasteful when you cackle like that.)
"Just Too Cute?" Try just too demented! Add this to your list of books to keep away from young children.  It would seem even our young picture book readers are not safe from the twisted minds of those who would call themselves writers. The innocent-looking cover hides a collection of stories and poems about cute animals gone terribly wrong. Performing bears who eat the audience? Exploding dodos? Even the penguin story, while nonviolent, promotes a shocking lack of conformity. Penguins are black and white. Period. Oh, and the rhythm on "Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits" is awkward at the end. So there.

Not what our young children should be exposed to. No, animals should always be portrayed as cute, fluffy, and vegetarian.
(Wait...Miss Ami, we did NOT authorize you to add the 'favorites' tag! Remove that at once! Are you even listening to us any more??)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce - or, Boys' Books to Ban

Tuesday we pointed out some books you wouldn't want your daughters to read, lest they start thinking they are as good as boys*. Today we have a series you will want to keep your sons away from.

* See Monday's post re: sarcasm.

Waaaaaaaaay back in May we had a long, convoluted discussion about the first book in this series, Big Nate in a Class by Himself. What were we thinking?! We actually recommended it for classrooms! This book should definitely not be anywhere near, say, upper elementary/middle school boys.

Yes, boys in that age group are notorious for being reluctant readers, and yes, these books would get them reading, and yes, we suppose they are well written and funny. Big Nate Strikes Again even slides in some information about a historical figure and makes him look cool and interesting (which he was). Wait, what was our objection?

Oh, yes! Who cares if they are both funny and educational, they have comics in them! Everyone knows reading books with comics doesn't really count as reading. There is also the matter of  the way the teachers are portrayed - basically, some have brains, some don't. Are we supposed to think that is realistic? They are teachers, that automatically means they are all smarter than the rest of us.

(Slight pause while Miss Ami, a former teacher, tries to control her indelicate snorting so she can resume typing.)

Last but not least, there is Nate himself. He places a much higher value on sports than on education, fails to appreciate the lovely and intelligent Gina, and doesn't like egg salad. Oh, and he gloats. Is this really the type of character we want our young men to identify with? Certainly not!

This book (reviewed from ARC provided by the publisher) is due on shelves October 19. We strongly urge you to run out and purchase a more suitable book, such as Little Lord Fauntleroy, so that you can surreptitiously put that in Big Nate's place should your local library make this sad purchase.

Turtles in a Tizzy!

We are so excited we are practically swimming in circles. We have been chosen as panelists for the YA category of this year's Cybils Awards! Well, okay, technically it is Miss Ami who is named on the panel, but we all know who the real brains are here, don't we? We are in good company, as you'll see by the other panelists (hey, wait a minute...don't we have, like, ALL of her books?)

Make sure you go to between October 1-15 and nominate your favorite Children's or YA book, published in the past year. Don't worry, we'll remind you:) After the 15th, if you happen to see any of Miss Ami's kids, you might want to feed them something - she'll be a bit busy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do Turtles Tweet?

We have decided to tiptoe further into the techno world and start a Twitter account. You can find us at 3tnarblogspot. Catchy, eh? Turtles with a blog and a Twitter handle - what we want to know is, when do we get our own bank account?!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Books You Shouldn't Read

As we noted yesterday, it is almost time for Banned Books Week. Coinciding nicely with the start of school, people with too much time on their hands good folks everywhere are ferreting out literary works that should be read by kept away from our children for their own good.

We are saddened relieved to note the end of a fantastic shocking series of books aimed at preteen and teen girls, written by Nancy Springer.

The Enola Holmes Mysteries begin with the disappearance of Eudoria Vernet Holmes - mother to the well-known Sherlock, his very proper brother Mycroft, and his much younger, very unladylike, sister Enola. Shocking as their mother's disappearance is, the brothers quite sensibly and quickly agree to pack Enola off to a finishing school. There she can be safely ensconsed in a corset and have her delicate female mind cleansed of the scandalous notions her suffragist mother has implanted in it.

Unfortunately, Eudoria's notions of feminine independence are too far ingrained, and an ungrateful Enola flees to London - unescorted! Amazingly, the child not only manages to survive several exciting completely inappropriate escapades, but she sets herself up as the secretary to a fictional perditorian (i.e. detective), and actually ends up in competition with the great Sherlock Holmes! Her successes can only be the result of a strange sort of luck - after all, it is not possible that a female, and a child, could be as intelligent or perceptive as her elder brother....or could there be a thing or two Sherlock could learn from her?

This final book, while even more scandalously improper than the others, does at least offer a satisfying explanation as to what happened to their mother (finally!) and wrap things up in a way that will please many readers. We will admit to laughing out loud during several scenes, mostly involving cabs in some way. Hrmph.

Regardless, we simply can't have girls growing up thinking they are as strong and capable as boys, can we? Of course not. We urge you to run right out to your local library and make sure they have in remove from their collection this abominable series. Then check Ebay for corsets for your daughters.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's the Most Ridiculous Time of the Year...

Hey, it's almost Banned Books Week, and you know what that means - time for the loonies to come out of the woodwork and tell you what you can and cannot read*! We hate to be left out, so here are a few books you should absolutely NOT** read:

First in the news this week is this article, a nicely slanted and wildly inaccurate diatribe against several fantastic books. What's especially 'encouraging' about this article is that the school board is LISTENING to this guy. Here is Laurie Halse Anderson's response. Of course, we know we can't trust HER, she wrote one of them! It's not as if we like any of her stuff anyway.

Anderson mentions the next book for your burn pile, The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. This book has been banned by the wise folks on the Stockton (MO) school board, not just from the school curriculum, but from its library as well. Because it contains profanity. And teenagers have never heard profanity. And it's not as if it's realistic. In an autobiography. Of a teenager.

Hey, but we don't want you to think we can't come up with idiocy on our own! No, sir, we can be quite the loons all by ourselves.

We just finished:

 - the sequel to "Streams of Babel", which we swooned over. You certainly mustn't read either book. Two of the main characters, minors, are involved with hacking computers and spying. They are completely (albeit justifiably) disrespectful to some of the adults in their lives. In this sequel, they have dropped out of school and are living pretty much alone, with just a nurse to somewhat-supervise them. And then there are the four teens infected with a terrible virus by bioterrorists, not related to each other, living under the same roof, again with basically just a nurse around. WAY too much talk of ways germs can spread, if yaknowwhaddamean. Because, you know, we shouldn't expect hormones to be a topic of thought or discussion for teenagers. These kids also don't listen to the adults around them. They really should just sit back and watch TV, and let the big people take care of the terrorists. Who may still be interested in them, btw. Very interested.

We all know the government has only our best interests at heart, and we certainly don't want children reading about subversive adults, so stay away from:

Rachel and her mother live on "The Property", an estate where her mother works as a sort of housekeeper, located dangerously close to "The Line". The Line is a force field, part of the National Border Defense System, keeping the bad things out of the country and the good things in. At least, that is what everyone has been told.

Rachel, of course, can't leave well enough alone, especially when she receives what may be a message from the other side of the Line. What is with all these teens who refuse to blindly follow adults' instructions? If this trend continues, we will have a generation of young people who think for themselves, and are willing to accept the consequences if they are wrong. We can't have that, can we?!

Goodness, there are just so many books out there that people shouldn't read***. We may have to just cover a few each day, knowing we will only hit the tip of the iceberg.
In the meantime, and in all seriousness, here is our take on books with non-Pollyanna content - and this is our take, not that of the establishment in which we reside, blah, blah, blah.

Parents have the right to have a say in what their kids do or do not read. They are their parents. They do NOT have the right to decide what other kids do and do not read. They are not their parents.

Digging ourselves slightly deeper...If a teacher feels strongly enough about the merits of a challenged bok that he still wants to use it in a required class, then he should provide students a different option if their parents want one. Parents in such circumstances should be willing to stop with what their child is reading, and not insist that everyone in class read the same thing (and with the millions of great books out there, why should they all read the same thing? If your goal is class discussion, why not offer three or four books on the same topic, and let the kids compare?)

Of course, there are always those people who will complain about any book. In our library alone, we have had patrons who objected to books with: talking animals, romance of any sort, magic, religious content, defiance against parents or other authority figures, violence, mention of the Holocaust, and death of a person or animal. If the subject of the class is, say, the Civil War, you are going to have trouble finding good quality books don't contain one or more of the above. How do we draw the line between a parent's rights concerning their own child, and where those rights infringe on other students' rights? Your thoughts?

* If you do not 'get' sarcasm, please stop reading here.
** unless, of course, you prefer to think for yourself and make your own informed choices. In which case, carry on.
*** One of the commentors on one of the above articles seems to be under the impression that the ALA's list of banned books is there so that people will know what books to take out of their libraries. Aaargh! And again we say, aaargh!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Talk Like a Pirate!

It's almost here! That day when lads, lasses, and terrapins alike can break out the eye patches and tricorns, and get away with all sorts of scurvy deeds, all in celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

This year our favorite holiday lands on a Sunday, which could make church services rather interesting (note: plundering the collection bucket would be slightly bad form). Here at the library we will be celebrating with the teens Thursday the 23rd, at 6PM - watch for pictures! In the meantime, a tutorial from the head guys themselves to get yer speech in the right mode!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Those Other Bloggers

Now, we know Three Turtles is your favorite blog of all times. Well, okay, it's not even our favorite blog, but of course it's in your top five, right? Ten? You glance at it when you're really bored???

At any rate, there are, we admit, other great blogs out there, and from time to time we would like to point you, our occasional insomniac readers, in their direction. Today we spent some time at A Book and A Hug, where Barb Langridge can help you search for just the right book - by age, by reading level, by genre, or by keyword. What a time saver!

There are special sections for boys (a tough group sometimes, as any librarian can tell you), or kids reading above their age level. Under "Resources", you can find links to other blogs that review books (hey, who is that under Young Adult Resources?), as well as links for parents, educators, and other adult-type persons.

Stop by when you have some time on your hands, because this site requires more than just a quick glance. We'll be bookmarking it especially for the upcoming holiday season, when every grandparent in the area asks us to suggest the perfect literary gift for the grandchild they see once a year. Hope you find it useful as well!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients, by Derek Landy

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant
Ace detective
Snappy dresser
Razor-tongued wit
Crackerjack sorcerer
and walking, talking, fire-throwing skeleton
As well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgely, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.
These two alone stand in the way of an all-consuming ancient evil.

How fun was that!!! We found ourselves on a long lunch hour without the book we were reading, and picked this up to pass the time. We don't even remember what we were in the middle of reading before, because Skulduggery and Stephanie's banter kept our attention to the end. A couple examples:
Skulduggery switched off the engine and looked at her.
"Okay then, you wait here."
He got out. Two seconds passed...she got out and he looked at her.
"Stephanie, I'm not altogether sure you're respecting my authority."
"Yes, I'm not."
"I see. Okay then."
"I try not to depend on magic these days; I try to get by on what's up here." He tapped his head.
"There's empty space up there."
How have Americans by and large missed this one? Harry Potter fans will love it (but it's not like Harry Potter). Lemony Snicket fans will love it (but it's not like Lemony Snicket). Douglas Adams (but it's not) or Gerald Morris (but not). It's sort of a mix of all those, with the tone of the first Men in Black (but no aliens) thrown in.
There are currently five in the series, with the fifth just recently published - unfortunately, only in the UK and Canada so far. Hopefully by the time we catch up it will be available here as well! We read the HarperCollins version we earned from our Scholastic Book Fair last month, which has some extras in the back - make sure you read those, too! In fact, if you aren't sure whether you will like it (as if the word of three turtles shouldn't be enough), just read the short story at the end. If you aren't at least giggling by the time you finish that, put the book down and go out and buy yourself a personality.
We give this an enthusiastic
5 out of 5

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I, Emma Freke, by Elizabeth Atkinson

"I, Emma Freke, am not a freak. Or maybe I am. I just don't know."

What's in a name? I, Emma Freke is a charming search-for-identity story about Emma―the only "normal" member of her quirky family. Her flighty, New Age mom seems to barely have time for a daughter, especially one who annoyingly spoils her mom's youthful fa├žade. Emma's well-meaning grandpa is clueless. And her only friends are the local librarian and a precocious 10-year old adopted by the two old ladies next door.
Smart, shy, and nearly six feet tall, Emma struggles to fit in at school, so she jumps at the opportunity to "home school" until that too turns into another of mom's half-baked ideas.

The real crisis comes when she gets an invitation to The Freke Family Reunion, and her fellow Frekes aren't at all what she expects. While Emma desperately tries to find her niche, she discovers that perhaps it's better to be her own "freak" than someone else's Freke.

Right off the bat, we liked the cover. In retrospect, it doesn't tell you much about the book, but it is eye-catching. It made us feel happy and free, reminding us of lazy summer days basking in the sun by the pond. Well, okay, we were born in a pet store, but you get the point.
This is a very sweet story, one that makes you want to laugh and slap someone at the same time. While it is, yes, a teen searching-for-identity story, it doesn't overdo the angst. A couple predictable bits (guy in the bead store, hello), but also a few surprises. Maybe not entirely realistic, but nothing we can't ignore for the sake of the story flow. You won't need to have felt like a "freak" before to identify with Emma, or to enjoy this nice end-of-summer (or any time) read. We give it a
4 out of 5.