Monday, June 6, 2011

The Great Migration

As you may have noticed, our posts here have been few and far between lately. A large reason for that has been issues with Blogger. Miss Ami actually has two blogs she manages, this one and a more eclectic one titled A Mom's Spare Time . For some reason, Blogger is not letting people log in and out of different blogs for large stretches of time, and since Miss Ami was logged into the other blog on her computer, she can only access this one from random public computers. Not conducive to late-night-everyone-is-finally-asleep posting.

For that and other reasons, we have decided to combine the two blogs, and move everything over to A Mom's Spare Time. We the turtles are going into semi-retirement, but may pop in for an occasional comment. You can still find us here under the sun lamp at the Library, soaking up the rays, and listening to stories read by our faithful younger patrons. If you are one of our regular followers, we encourage you to become a follower of A Mom's Spare Time, and thank you for your readership and your great comments over the past couple years here. We'll see you on the other side!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Where in Town is This?

As part of our Summer Reading Program, Miss Ami zipped around town taking pictures of things you probably pass by every day - so often, in fact, that you probably don't 'see' them any more! We'll have a different shot or two posted at the Library, as well as on our blog, each week. If you recognize one, go ahead and name it in the comments!

To start us off, we have an easy one (we think) and a harder one:



Of course, if you're not from around here, neither of these will look familiar. Fear not - some of our future shots include buildings commonly seen across the country:)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Boyfriend is a Monster - Graphic Novel series from Lerner


I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang: Book Cover
by Evanne Tsang and Janina Gorrisen
Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing)
978- 0-7613-6004-9

Made for Each Other by Paul D. Storrie: Book Cover
by Paul Storrie and Eldon Cowgur
Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing)
978-0-7613-5601-1
You may have noticed that we don't review many graphic novels. As in, we never review graphic novels. There's a reason for that: we don't generally read graphic novels. But who can resist a title like My Boyfriend is a Monster: I Love Him to Pieces, featuring a story line with a zombie apocalypse? And lines like: "There's a difference between a zombie and a high school boy? Well, when you get a zombie's attention, you know that it'll stick with you, at least until it can eat your brains. Regular guys are more fickle."

Definitely one for guys or girls, nerds or jocks (or turtles). It's campy, of course, and moves too quickly to flesh out the plotline much, but - it's a graphic novel! The dialogue and the artwork are the key elements of a book like this, and both work very well in this case. We will be handing this to the first reluctant reader we spot. We would also love to see Tsang try his hand at some non-graphic YA fiction.

The second in the series, Made for Each Other, follows a Frankenstein theme. Not quite as funny as the first, it still has enough of the same characteristics to hold a reader's attention - although it does seem a little more girl-oriented. At any rate, the entire series has promise of being a big hit among middle and high schoolers. We give both books a

4 out of 5.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: The Best Dogs Ever series by Elaine Landau

Pit Bulls Are the Best! by Elaine Landau: Book Cover
978-07613-60780
Mastiffs Are the Best! by Elaine Landau: Book Cover
978-07613-60834
Great Danes Are the Best! by Elaine Landau: Book Cover
978-07613-60797
all from Lerner, who provided review copies
Have we mentioned how much we absolutely love this series? Yes? Can we say it one more time, then?

There are tons of dog books out there for kids, and plenty of series with breed-specific volumes, but most of those tend to be a little fuzzy on the specific characteristics and needs of each breed. Definitely not so with these! In addition to the individual history of a dog breed, we find out about energy level, personality, and pros and cons of owning each type (mastiffs=slobber). We even read about things like legislation issues, for example in the case of Pit Bulls.

Ah, pitties. We are definitely big dog lovers, and the three featured above are among our favorites. Mastiffs have such sweet big lugs, and the Great Dane on the cover of his book looks just like Miss Ami's "Dude" - who considers himself the mother of every orphaned kitten that comes along. We have a special soft spot for pits, though. Yes, we know, many pits make the news in bad ways, and we don't necessarily want to debate that whole issue. We do want to point out two things:
When Miss Ami was little, German Shepherds were the 'evil' dogs. No responsible parent would let one near their child. Then it was Dobermans, then Dalmatians, etc., etc. In a couple years, we'll be seeing news stories about those dangerous Malteses.
Two patrons JUST had a conversation in front of us (really, as we were typing!) about a problem pit that turned out not to even be a pit. Check out this web site and see if you can do better than us (we never get it right on the first try).
Okay, off the soap box. All dogs, particularly big and strong dogs, do need plenty of exercise and training, and these books are very clear about that. They also give other books and web sites to check out if your readers want more information, as well as basic advice about selecting a new puppy and welcoming it into your home. Be warned about previewing these, though - once you hit the pages of puppy pictures, you are going to want every single one of these dogs! Same great Lerner quality with binding and illustration, they get a

5 out of 5.

More more reviews of nonfiction books for children, check out today's post on Simply Science

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Picture Book Mini-Reviews

Believe it or not, there are some books we like that other people (or turtles) don't, and vice versa. Something every library employee needs to keep in the forefront of their mind is that libraries are for everyone, and just because something doesn't suit our taste/opinions/politics/beliefs, that doesn't make it any less worth putting in the collection.

The same applies to reviewers. The following books were some we just couldn't get behind ourselves, but we can see that they are of good quality, and could be appealing to a different audience. In fact, they have both received good reviews elsewhere. As the selectors of books for the library, however, we like to see a mix of reviews before we make ordering decisions. So:

The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring: Book Cover
by Mark Sperring
Andersen Press
9780761374862
Review copy from publisher.
The pictures were very cute, but the message was a bit heavy-handed. A little knight wants a sword "to whoosh and swoosh in the air" and to fight dragons with, but his mother gives him a sunflower instead. Of course, he ends up making friends with a dragon because of it, and soon all the grown-up knights follow suit. Some parents will be thrilled with the pacifist theme, while others will roll their eyes at the lack of subtlety.


Thumb Love by Elise Primavera: Book Cover
by Elise Primavera
Random House
9780375844812
Review copy from publisher
A cute book, but we weren't sure if this was for children, or for thumb-sucking adults. The whole format would be familiar to any six-year-old...who has attended a few AA meetings. From the beginning confession in front of a group ("Hello. My name is Lulu and I'm a thumb sucker,") through the twelve step program she develops, and even the manipulations of the thumb ("I don't even know who you are anymore,") the audience seems a bit beyond the preschool crowd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond, Illustrated by Diane deGroat

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond: Book Cover
by Ree Drummond
HarperCollins
978-006-1996559
Review copy from publisher
There's a reason most dogs have big brown eyes. Brown eyes just look sadder, more soulful than any other color, and dogs (kinda like toddlers) often have need of an especially soulful look to either a) get themselves out of trouble, or b) get what they want. Members of the hound dog family have the added advantage of that little droop, and when you add long, floppy ears - well, just look at this cover and tell us who could resist that face!

This is the first of what is expected to be a series of stories about Charlie, a real dog living on a real ranch in Oklahoma. Like everyone else on a ranch, Charlie works very hard from sunup to sundown (with an occasional assist from his friend Suzie). Kids of all ages will enjoy following Charlie through his day, spending extra time looking at all the detail in Diane DeGroat's illustrations. Miss Ami's 5-year-old had fun finding the smiling chipmunk on every page, and pointed out things Miss Ami had missed - like Drummond's sillhouette in the upstairs window.

This book comes with lots of extras, including a lasagna recipe (Drummond is also known as the author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, and her blog, The Pioneer Woman).

On her blog, you can read about the process she went through to get the book published - kids (and adults) may be fascinated by the many steps the illustrations go through, as well as the back-and-forth betweeen author/illustrator/editor. A great tool to use with those reluctant to edit their first drafts!

Finally, Barnes and Noble has a video of Drummond reading the story, so you can either preview it that way or let your kids follow along with their own copy. While some of the extras, particularly the latter, are obviously ways for the publisher to promote the book and attract a wide audience, they work to complement it rather than seeming gimmicky. This is a series sure to have many fans, and we are looking forward to the next installment. We give it a

5 out of 5.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: On the Move with Trains, Motorcycles and Ambulances!

Trains on the Move by Lee Sullivan Hill: Book Cover
by Lee Sullivan Hill
Lerner Publications
978-0-7613-3921-2
Ambulances on the Move by Laura Hamilton Waxman: Book Cover
by Laura Hamilton Waxman
Lerner Publications
978-0-7613-3922-9
Motorcycles on the Move by Lee Sullivan Hill: Book Cover
by Lee Sullivan Hill
Lerner Publications
978-0761360261

Review copies from publisher
We reviewed Big Rigs and Fire Trucks On the Move back in November, and loved them - as have our patrons. We were happy to receive review copies of these three books in the series, and plan to fill in the ones we are missing as soon as the cumbersome end-of-fiscal-year-budget-process will allow us to order things again!

We don't really have a lot to add to our previous review of this series (we shouldn't say that, because now they won't send us any more). Same quality binding and great format, with exciting fonts, easy text, and big attractive pictures.

Ah, but Lerner, beware the eagle eye and sharp memory of a four-year-old! Miss Ami was test-driving Ambulances on the Move with her young son, and he suddenly jumped up and ran to his bookshelf. He returned with this book from Scholastic:

Ambulance by Chris Oxlade: Book Cover

and showed her that the photo on page 9 of that book was the exact same photo as that on page 19 of Waxman's. Nothing wrong with two books using the same stock photos, but THEY WILL KNOW. It's all good, though - he was still excited about the book, and he is, of course, and exceptionally perceptive child.

Another 5 out of 5 for this series, perfect for preschool/beginning readers. For more reviews of great nonfiction books for kids, check out today's post at Shelf-Employed (love that blog name!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

True (...Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Every once in a while there is a character that you, as the reader, 'get' immediately. Unfortunately, nobody else in the boko seems to. Other characters see the outward actions, put their own assumptions on what was behind them, and judge accordingly. And usually wrongly. You want to reach in and grab up that character and wrap your arms around her, comforting her and protecting her from all those condemning adults (and kids) in her fictional world.*

*Note from the turtles: Miss Ami, our typist, is 97 months pregnant and feeling hormonal and maternal, and that may be rubbing off on us just a bit.

At any rate, Hannigan has deftly created just such a character in Delly. Her problems are summed up in this exchange with her younger brother:
Then RB was shouting, "Just quit getting in trouble. Just quit it!"
"I'm not trying to get in trouble!" she shouted back.
RB knew that was true. "What ARE you trying to do?" he asked.
She thought about it. "Have fun. Do something good. Except when I fight."
He said it quiety, so she wouldn't slug him too hard: "Maybe you should try something different."
She didn't smack him. Instead, she rasped, "I don't know how to be...not me."
(pg. 73 HC)
Sometimes it seems the harder you try to improve your character, the more the world seems to conspire against you. Delly wants to "be good", she wants to make her mother proud, she wants to stay out of trouble, but...

Delly is not the only vivid character in the book. With just a few words, we feel we know many of the other characters as if we'd been watching them for years. Hannigan is adept at showing us rather than telling us about someone, whether by their actions, their thoughts, or their conversations. We would love to share an exchange between Delly and her mother as an example, but it might be too much of a spoiler - just nod and agree with us when you get to page 237 of the hardcover!

We loved Ida B (Hannigan's first, bestselling work), and think this one is ten times better. No pressure on the author, but we can't wait to see what comes next!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Want to Do It Myself! by Tony Ross

I Want to Do It Myself! by Tony Ross: Book Cover
by Tony Ross
Andersen Press USA
978-0-7613-7412-1
Review copy from publisher
This is a familiar refrain to any parent, and will resonate with every child. The second children are born, they seem to be trying to grow up faster than we are ready for them to, and the Little Princess is no exception. She is a big girl, and she can go camping without any help from the big people in her life!

She packs her bags and sets off, never noticing the scores of grown-ups following her along the way. Young readers, of course, will easily spot the maid in the tree and the chef in the bushes, long before they pop out in turns to rescue the blissfully unaware young princess. A gentle acknowledgement of the quest for independence, with the security of knowing someone is there to fall back on.

The illustrations as always are charming and fun - and can we say one more time how much we appreciate her not having golden ringlets and perfect gowns? Pick up a copy soon for your classroom, or for your own little princess.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Short Note (Becoming a Long Note) from Miss Ami

This...

The Pioneer Woman by Ree Drummond: Book Cover
by Ree Drummond
William Morrow
978-0-06-199716-7
Copy borrowed from Library after those pesky patrons FINALLY checked it back in.
...may be one of the funniest things I have ever read. And I haven't even finished reading it.

It is also a great romance (and I don't particularly like romances), a wonderful illustration of personal development, a candid look at what happens when you mesh two very different lives, and - oh, heck, it's just a fantastic read!

It doesn't hurt that I am married to my own denim-wearing, shotgun-toting, Sam Elliot look-alike. And there just MIGHT have been some parking in a diesel-powered pick-up truck involved in our courtship as well. And a grass fire. But I never had to stick anything up a cow's...

Anyways. You don't have to be married to or lusting after a cowboy to enjoy this one (although female readers may find that Old Spice guy starting to look awfully effeminate.) My husband wants to read it next (yes, that's right ladies, equally comfortable with a chainsaw OR a good book in his hands - those guys do exist!), then my mother, then half a dozen people at the park who heard me giggling and stopped to hear a paragraph or two.

But they'll have to wait for me to finish. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go take a very extended lunch break. If you need me, I will be in the staff room, laughing uncontrollably.

Later: This is becoming too bizarre. There are a million similarities between this story and mine that I just can't share without spoilers - if you know us personally, you will recognize them. That was 'bad' enough.

This afternoon I finished the book and finally allowed myself to visit her blog, where I saw more. Then I saw posts about a picture book she has out, through Harper Collins. I was JUST ABOUT to e-mail my contact there to request a review copy - and was posting my intention to do so on Drummond's comments section - when the mail came, with - you guessed it! Feeling a bit spooked now! But happy I won't have to wait to read it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Built for Cold Arctic Animals series from Bearport Publishing

Walrus by Stephen Person: Book Cover
by Stephen Person
Bearport Publishing
978-1-61772-133-5
Review copy from publisher.
Sled Dog by Stephen Person: Book Cover
by Stephen Person
Bearport Publishing
978-1-61772-1342
Review copy from publisher.
This is another animal series that will probably NOT be including a turtle or tortoise of any kind - and we're okay with that! We do not do cold (have we mentioned our heat lamp? At least a hundred times?), but that doesn't mean we aren't interested in reading about places like the Arctic.

Any place that runs to extremes of one sort or another is bound to fascinate. For those of us living in a place like southern New Mexico, it is hard to imagine living somewhere with sub-zero temperatures and ice and snow as far as the eye can see. Animals such as Polar Bears and Arctic Wolves, however, are right at home!

This series is written for the upper-elementary range, and has immediate appeal for students with its attractive covers and bright, vivid pictures. The text is age-appropriate, and dramatic in places without damaging its usefulness for report writing. (Loved the story of Isobel, the blind sled dog! We were also happy to see Balto wasn't given credit for the entire race to bring medicine to Nome, as has happened in some children's books.) A note for teachers/parents, though: some of the material and images, while accurate and important, may be disturbing for younger children (walrus calves crushed in a stampede, sled dogs killed by elk, etc.)

As we have come to expect from Bearport's nonfiction, each book includes an index, glossary, extra facts, and a web link for more information. We appreciate the way Bearport puts up a page for each book or series, keeping the web sites up to date. Based on what we have seen, we give the series a

5 out of 5.

For more reviews of nonfiction for children, check out the other Nonfiction Monday posts at Jean Little Library

Friday, April 29, 2011

Black Spiny-Tailed Iguana: Lizard Lightning! by Natalie Lunis

by Natalie Lunis
Blink of an Eye: Superfast Animals series
Bearport Publishing
978-1-936087-91-4
Review copy from publisher.
Yes, okay, it has been a while. We took a small, unplanned break - of two weeks! In between out of town guests and birthdays and relatives in the hospital, we were still reading, but we devoted some time to series we needed to catch up on - the Eldest series is great, but the internet world really doesn't need one more review of them!

Now it's time to dive into some of the shiny new books that have been beckoning to us from the corners of our desk. This first one we found fascinating because, let's face it, turtles are not thought of as terribly fast. Oh, we can scoot along pretty quickly if we want to, on land or in water, but we prefer to take our time or just hang around under the heat lamp, not moving at all. At any rate, we will never be any match for a greyhound or a cheetah!

This entry in the series is at least another reptile - the fastest reptile in the world! Black spiny-tailed iguanas can run almost 22 miles an hour; faster than most people, and much faster than the alligators they are sometimes mistaken for. They are big guys, up to four feet long! They don't need to chase their food (plants), but they do need to run to escape their predators. Personally, we think anything that big and tough-looking should need to run from anyone.

Many other interesting facts are presented in a kid-friendly (think upper elementary) manner. Each two-page spread has a few paragraphs of information with smaller pictures/charts/graphs opposite a larger, close-up photo. The photographs are very clear and attractive. The back includes an illustrated glossary, an index, and an internet link to find more information.

These look like they will be a great addition to the shelves, and we plan to order the rest of the series.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery, by MaryRose Wood

978-006-179112-3
HarperCollins
Copy borrowed from library.
If you haven't read the first book in this series (The Mysterious Howling), stop right now and go find it. Some books in series can be read out of order, this is not one of them! In this case, that's a good thing - some series books are so determined to stand on their own, they spend the first several chapters boring you with back story. This book moves too quickly to bore anyone.

If you have read The Mysterious Howling, and you enjoyed its quirkiness, then you will definitely enjoy the sequel. The children are their same delightful combination of wolf pup and proper lady and gentleman, Penelope is still the perfect governess for them, and an easy heroine to root for. She is a bit innocent and naive, but smart enough that she catches on to clues not too long after the reader does. Is it always realistic and plausible? Of course not! Hello, the kids were raised by wolves! That's part of the fun of these stories, and we already can't wait for the next one. Recommended for upper elementary, middle or high school libraries - or for a fun family read-aloud (homeschoolers especially will find a plethora of lessons to spin off onto!)

We give this a 5 out of 5.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island, by Paul Adam

978-0061-863257
Walden Pond press
Review copy from publisher.
  
We hate to use the word 'formulaic', but we can't help feeling like we have read this before. In fact, as we neared the end, someone asked what we were reading and how it was. We answered by telling them we were about to get to the part where the hero does "x", finds out "y", but won't be able to "z" until the next book at least. Oh, and so-and-so will do such-and-such at the last minute, saving the day. We were right on all counts.

That said, this was well-written enough to appeal to teen and preteen boys looking for a good adventure series, and we do plan on purchasing the sequels. If you are looking for a fast-paced read and willing to contribute a healthy suspension of disbelief, this is a great series to pick up. We give this first title a

3 out of 5.
Max Cassidy can escape from anything


Only fourteen years old, Max is the world's foremost escape artist. Chained, handcuffed, locked in an airtight water tank, there's nothing he can't get himself out of. He learned the art from his father a man who just two years ago was murdered, and Max's mother went to jail for the crime.



Now a mysterious man has shown up backstage after one of Max's shows, telling Max that not only is his mother innocent, but his father is still alive. He can provide only one clue: a slip of paper with eight digits written on it. It is this clue that will lead Max from his home in London to the exotic and deadly Central American country of Santo Domingo and the impenetrable fortress on the sinister Isla de Sombra.


Max Cassidy can escape from anything–but given the chance to finally know the truth about what has torn his family apart, escape from Shadow Island is the last thing on his mind.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guestbooking

As geocaching becomes more popular, we looked into having a cache hidden here at the library. We discovered, however, that we are too close to some other caches in town. Letterboxing is fun, but hiding a box of toys in the library could also turn out badly - or at the very least, require frequent maintaining.

Guestbooking, on the other hand, requires no special equipment or coordinates. You simply hide a guestbook of some sort at your location and disseminate a hint as to where to find it. When people do find it, they sign the book, perhaps adding a quote or picture of some sort. That, we can handle! As we 'speak', our guestbook is being made ready to hit the shelves. If you are familiar with the location of our library, we invite you to stop by and see if you can find it - and as a hint, just think about how you would find anything else in the library! (And no, we don't mean ask Miss Ami.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Teen Cafe - T-Shirt Redesign (or) See, I Knew I Was Saving That for a Reason!

We don't usually blog about events before they happen, but we are hoping to snag a few more ideas from our brilliant readers:) Since Miss Ami is, as they used to say, in a delicate condition, and may or may not be around for the latter half of Summer Reading, we are trying to prepare as much as possible beforehand. This particular program is slated for the end of July - just don't ask us what's for supper tonight, 'kay?

The general plan is to provide ideas and supplies for teens to redecorate/redesign/repurpose old t-shirts. Because many of the regulars to Teen Cafe are also SRP Volunteers, and they have a whole stash of shirts from previous years, and because we also had a stash of SRP shirts that were never picked up last year, those are what you will see featured here. We are mostly looking for no-sew ideas, as the idea of supplying 30 or so sewing machines doesn't seem too feasible.

First, because Miss Ami was a child of the 80's, we have this one:

You can also fringe the sleeves.

Another very simple one - wear a different color tank under it. We may cut more slits around the collar. If you are better at cutting than we are (no opposable thumbs, remember!) you can try cutting shapes instead of just slits.


A necklace/scarf made by cutting horizontal stripes about 1" thick and then pulling them tight to make them roll up. We connected them with a strip cut from the bottom, but we're not sure how to describe the loop-and tuck method...you can just hot glue the ends if you like!

These two are made from the same shirt. For the necklace (or belt) we cut off the bottom hem, then cut around and around so we had one long continuous strand about 1" thick. We cut that into thirds and braided them, then added chunky wood beads that have been sitting around forever.
We didn't want to waste the top picture, so we used fabric glue to attach it to posterboard, then added jewels and glitter. This would be fun to do with a t-shirt that had a funny saying, or a favorite rock band on it. We are trying to find our scrap cork board to make a bulletin board this way.

This is the one that started the whole project. Miss Ami (when she is not fat) and Miss Lisa both like 'skinny shirts', but the SRP shirts always come in 'boy cuts'. Just cut an inch or so off each side, make some slits, and voila! You can lace it or tie it - yes, both look kind of weird together, and the pretty ribbons don't exactly match the shark motif, but you get the idea. Wouldn't those bright yellow shirts for this year's theme look awesome with yellow and red ribbons?
We had seen ideas for shopping bags that required sewing the bottom, but then Karl from Tulsa sent us this idea - just fringe and tie the bottom. That looks even sturdier than sewing. Use strips from the sleeves as added handles. We left the hem on, but you can cut that off and add pony beads to the bottom. 

That gave us an idea for a pillow we wouldn't have to sew, either. We did 'cheat' and hot glue the neckline, but that would be pretty easy to hand sew. Again, we left the hems, but you could take those off and add beads.

Most of these only took a few minutes - the braiding took forever because we kept getting tangled! (Thumbs!!!) Thanks to everyone who sent ideas and web sites to check out - now, what else have you got for us???


Friday, April 1, 2011

A Note on Covers - Patricia Wrede

We finally had a chance to read Thirteenth Child, the first in Patricia Wrede's "Frontier Magic" series. For some books, the author's name is enough to sell it: Patricia Wrede = magic and adventure with great character development = automatic library buy. Still, we're not sure about the cover:

Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic Series #1) by Patricia C. Wrede: Book Cover
paperback
Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic Series #1) by Patricia C. Wrede: Book Cover
hardcover

It's nice, but a bit understated (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). For someone who is already a fan of Wrede, or who already likes the genre, it may be just right. We can't see it catching the eye of someone who is just browsing, though. The sequel, on the other hand:

coming this August

Ooh - we want this book! Fantastic colors, perfect font, and a girl-slash-woman who looks a little bit scary, a little bit scared, but definitely like someone you don't want to mess around with or underestimate. Yep, perfect cover, guys! Now for the dilemma...do we move the series to YA, or leave it in JF? That's the problem with series where the main character grows up on us. Wherever it lands, we get this one first!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blog Links - Homeschooling Carnival


 We turtles are huge fans of both homeschooling and all things green, and wanted to pop in today just to point you towards this month's Carnival of Homeschooling round-up - the Green Edition! Quite an eclectic collection (say that six times fast) of ideas and tips and funny blog posts for homeschoolers, or just parents who want to do something extra to get everyone out of doors for a bit. Enjoy!

P.S. You can see our own little green (and brown. Mostly brown.) monster and his latest project here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What Can(t) Wait, by Ashley Hope Perez

by Ashley Hope Perez
Carolrhoda LAB
978-0-7613-6155-8
Review copy from publisher.
"Another day finished, gracias a Dios."

Seventeen-year-old Marisa's mother has been saying this for as long as Marisa can remember. Her parents came to Houston from mexico. They work hard, and they expect Marisa to help her familia. An ordinary life - marrying a neighborhood guy, working, having babies - ought to be good enough for her.

Marisa hears something else from her calc teacher. She should study harder, ace the AP test, and get into engineering school in Austin. Some days, it all seems possible. On others, she's not even sure what she wants.

When her life at home becomes unbearable, Marise seeks comfort elsewhere - and suddenly neither her best friend nor boyfriend can get through to her. Caught between the expectations of two different worlds, Marisa isn't sure what she wants - other than a life where she doesn't end each day thanking God it's over.
We are seeing some great debut novels this year, and this one certainly ranks right up there. We picked it up to read during our lunch hour, and ended up sneaking time to read all afternoon until we had finished it. It wasn't next in line to get reviewed, but we can't wait to get it into our teens' hands!

There are so many situations in this book that we see lived out here every day - the cultural clashes, pregnant teens, and mostly the difficulty of breaking a family cycle. It can seem so easy to outsiders, who don't understand why young men and women keep making the 'wrong' choices. Perez shows us that things aren't as easy or as black and white as they seem. No preaching here, an authentic voice teens will appreciate, and a realistic but satisfying ending. We give it a

5 out of 5.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Picture Book Mini-Reviews

978-0-375-84576-5
Random House
Review copy from publisher.
Steve and Carl are ducks. Steve likes cans. Carl likes socks. And WE LOVE Steve and Carl! We want to live in their pond and be their best friends. We also want to read more about them, and soon! Give this one (and what we hope will be some companion books) to fans of Dunrea's Gossie and Gertie books, or Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie. Yes, they are just that cute!

Carolrhoda Books
978-0-7613-5212-9
Review copy from publisher.
Oops! Toss out all those theories about how dinosaurs became extinct - turns out they were just on an interstellar cruise! Now they are back, and you would not believe the laundry that has piled up. Things have changed a bit while they have been gone, though - fun to brainstorm with your little ones how a brontosaurus or two would fit back into your neighborhood!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Virals, by Kathy Reichs

Razorbill
978-1-59514-342-6
Copy borrowed from library.
Another book saved by the lunch hour. We are physically incapable of just sitting and eating, we must be sitting and eating with a book in hand. Every once in a while we, miraculously, don't have any errands to run during our lunch hour. We settle in to our seat in the lounge with lunch and a book and a don't-bug-me-until-12:59 expression.

Sometimes, the book we have grabbed doesn't live up to our first impression. We might normally set it aside, but that would mean either a) not having anything to read, or b) having to waste precious minutes finding another book. Neither is acceptable, so we usually push on.

At first, it looked like Virals was going to hit several of our Top Ten from yesterday. This could easily have gone afoul of the lack-of-science pet peeve, as well as the extraneous romantic figures. There was also a pet peeve we didn't mention: irritating speech patterns. Not so much when Tory is talking, but when she is narrating nearly every other paragraph ends with a funny 'aside'. Which stops being funny after the tenth time.

Fortunately, our mild irritation and pessimism did not last as long as lunchtime, and we were intrigued enough by the end of the hour to take the book home - and then hooked enough to stay up and finish it. The science was just vague enough to be reasonably plausible - yes, diseases can certainly be mutated, although we don't know of any that cause the host to take on other species' characteristics. Some of the characters were  right out of a stock file - we did not believe in Hannah at all, sorry, and both Jason and Chance were cardboard cutouts - but what looked like an obvious love/hate relationship at first did not materialize, for which we are grateful. Yes, there were romantic interests, but they existed to move the plot in a certain direction.

The ending held a few surprises for us, mostly in what didn't happen. We thought a certain dead person wasn't really dead and was still controlling things, for example. Looks like he's pretty much dead. Of course, there are still plenty of loose ends to make a sequel obvious. Will the character who lost it at the end return to take up where, ah...another character left off? Will that person want revenge? (Trying to avoid spoilers here!) What is Whitney's deal? Why is she with Kit? Is there a point to the whole debutante thing, or is Reichs just throwing that in because she thinks it will appeal more to teenage girls? Oh, that does bring up another pet peeve avoided - minimal descriptions of clothing, also much appreciated.

We haven't read Reich's adult novels, but we know they are popular. As her first foray into YA fiction, she seems to be feeling her way about. We recommend a sounding board of actual teens and YA bloggers for her next attempt - this series has good potential, if it can avoid some common pitfalls-slash-stereotypes. We give this first one a

3 out of 5.


Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.



As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot–if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends– they’re a pack. They are Virals.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
As anyone who reads a million books a year, we are bound to have a few pet peeves that crop up every now and then. Some of ours, in no particular order:

1. Science fiction that is sketchy on the science. Now, we are not brainiacs, and we don't need detailed theorems and chemical equations. We are also willing to come in with a reasonable "suspension of disbelief". But, it needs to make sense. If we, with our "C" average in all science classes, can spot problems, you have some serious polishing up to do.

2. Cover art that doesn't match the characters. Would the people who design the books please READ THEM first?! recent example: We Hear the Dead. Who exactly is that supposed to be? Demure, ladylike Maggie, or young, innocent Kate? And we won't even start on the whitewashed covers.

3. Extraneous love interests. Nothing wrong with a good romance, if that is actually part of the story. Too often, however, authors/publishers feel they have to throw one in, ruining a book that was just fine on its own, just because said book is for teens. Author Liane Shaw jumped twenty points in our esteem with her comment on this post, and we are still awaiting news on her next title, still scheduled for this fall we hope...

4. Overly hyped books that don't live up. (Across the Universe - need we say more?) Sometimes, dear publishers, your resources would be better spent on editing than on publicity.

5. Book merchandise. Now, this isn't meant to be a sweeping dismissal of all book-related products - after all, our youngest reader's room is decorated in storybook characters, complete with Curious George wall quilt and stuffed Berenstain Bears. Nothing gets our hackles up, though, like reading a Charlie and Lola book in storytime, and hearing someone (usually a parent) exclaim, "Oh, they made a book out of the cartoon!"

6. Permabound books. Not to disparage the company, but you know the covers we mean - the boring, bumpy, usually beige covers that seldom include artwork and retain dirt like a three-year-old. For some reason, a generation of librarians decided these were a much better option than buying a new copy when things wore out. A subsequent generation of readers was less than impressed, and they are slowly being weeded out (we can't even move them off the book sale cart!)

7. Clothing descriptions, especially in 'contemporary' fiction. "cause, guess what? In three years, your book is no longer contemporary. You shot any chance of kids relating to your characters down the road when you spent a paragraph discussing how her leggings matched her headband. Plus, too much focus on clothing = shallow character = I don't care what happens to her.

8. Stupid main characters. I like to feel a little smarter than the protagonist, but not too much. If I figure out who the bad guy is on page three, I'm not going to read past page ten. (Pleasantly surprised by Virals, btw, which I should be reviewing tomorrow).

9. Fact checking. Does that go without saying? If we are publishing nonfiction for kids (or for anyone) can we please make sure the author knows what he/she is talking about? That the pictures match up with the text? That the grammar is better than that of a third grader?

10. Celebrity authors. For every Julie Edwards (loved Mandy!) there is a Madonna (ugh) or a Jamie Lee Curtis (moralistic obvious blech) or a (cringing-at-fingernails-on-chalkboard) Maria Shriver (speaking of books I can't move).

Whew. Looks like we reached ten just as we were getting a little too snippy. Your turn now! What pet peeves do you have about books - covers, illustrations, storylines, anything? Snipe away, and we'll return with a more positive post tomorrow:)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Thirteenth Princess and A True Princess by Diane Zahler


978-0-06-182500-2

A True Princess by Diane Zahler: Book Cover
978-0-06-182501-9
HarperCollins
Review copies from publisher
As we have mentioned countless times, we love us a good fractured fairy tale. Many of those we have seen lately, however, are more suitable for young adults - great for them, but that leaves out the large number of upper elementary-age girls who love a good fairy tale of any sort.

Both of these by Zahler, fortunately, are perfect for that age group. The traditional fairy tales - The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Princess and the Pea - are fleshed out enough to satisfy the reader who wants some questions answered (WHY do they have to dance all night?), yet still light and full of enough romance and beautiful dresses to satisfy the girly-girl. Characters tend to be fairy-taleish (we are making up words this week) in that they are either all bad, all good, or have one particular flaw that their character must overcome. In a serious YA historical fiction that would bug the shells off of us, but for these it works just fine.

Recommended for elementary or middle school libraries, we give these a

4 out of 5.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai

by Thanhha Lai
HarperCollins Publishers
978-0-06-196278-3
Copy provided by publisher for review
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.


But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.


This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Told in very short free verse diary-type entries, this is a quick read. As such it may serve as an easy introduction to the issues of immigration, loss, clashing cultures, etc. Sensory descriptions are richly done, making for some vivid impressions in the middle of brief snapshots of events. At times that brevity seemed to mirror Ha's own struggles with the language, and we didn't always feel we were getting the full picture.
 
This is one where we would have liked to see the secondary characters more developed. We get to see Ha's inner thoughts and feelings, but just catch glimpses of the rest of her family, as well as the people she meets in the United States. The family's sponsor, his wife, and the neighbor who befriends them remained very two-dimensional, and the story would have been much richer if their characters had been made real to us. The struggles of her mother and brothers are only briefly mentioned, and might not sink in with younger readers.
 
Recommended for upper elementary/middle grades, we give this a
 
3 out of 5.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

We Hear the Dead, by Dianne K. Salerni

by Dianne K. Salerni
Sourcebooks, Inc.
978-1-4022-3092-9
Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

Maggie:
I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions.
Kate:
I do not believe that I have ever intentionally deceived anyone. Maggie has a different understanding of the events that have happened. To her the spirits were always a game. For me they were my life's calling. I have no regrets.
It starts as a harmless prank...then one lie quickly grows into another. Soon Kate and Maggie Fox are swept into a dizzying flurry of national attention for their abilities to communicate with the dead. But living a lie is sometimes too much to handle, even if you have the best intentions. Based on a true story, We Hear the Dead reveals how secrets and lies can sometimes lead you to what's real and what's right. And how sometimes talking with the dead is easier than talking with the people around you.

We had heard of the Fox sisters and were vaguely aware of their roles in the rise of spiritualism, but didn't know many specifics of their life story. There were times when we itched to hit the internet and find out how much of the story was historically accurate, but we didn't want to ruin the ending for ourselves. Of course, a little foreshadowing gave away the basic parts, but we wanted to let the details unfold by themselves. We were not disappointed, and the story held our interest to the end.

The topic of teens getting caught in a web of lies is not a new one to YA fiction, but the end result here is a bit different. There is no huge disastrous event where the heroine is caught in her lies, followed by a chapter or two in which she must make amends and regain everyone's trust, having learned her lesson and repented. In other words, this story is a bit more realistic (go figure, since it's based on a true one!) There is some exploration of whether some lies are better than others, or why they might be seen that way. Differing viewpoints are given on the same subjects, leaving it to the readers to make up their own minds. The girls' deception leads to both positive and negative consequences, and again the readers will have to decide which outweighs the other.

A note about the cover. While it does catch they eye and convey the sense of charlatanry (is that a word?), there is no way Maggie or Kate, as they are portrayed in the book, would have been allowed to dress like that. Kate is constantly put forth to the public as an innocent girl, Maggie as demure and ladylike. The brown roots showing through the red hair are, artistically, a nice way to illustrate looking beneath the surface, but again, this does not match up with either sister.

A very nice first novel, and we are adding Salerni to our list of authors to watch.

4 out of 5.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild, by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

HarperCollins Publishers
978-0-06-186317-2
Review copy furnished by publisher.
 
Hmm. It's hard to review a book when we aren't sure what we have to say about it. This series has potential...but we're not sure for what. This is definitely a niche book - one that will appeal to a select group of readers rather than to a broad spectrum. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it isn't clear what niche the authors are going for. Boys who like adventure and semi-romantic ghost stories equally? Is that a niche?
The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own thrilling, real-life adventures. But there are parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things even he couldn’t set down in writing. Terrifying, mysterious, bizarre, and magical —these are the Secret Journeys of Jack London.


We meet Jack at age seventeen, following thousands of men and women into the Yukon Territory in search of gold. For Jack, the journey holds the promise of another kind of fortune: challenge and adventure. But what he finds in the wild north is something far more sinister than he could have ever imagined: kidnapping and slavery, the murderous nature of desperate men, and, amidst it all, supernatural beasts of the wilderness that prey upon the weakness in men’s hearts. Jack’s survival will depend on his ability to quell the demons within himself as much as those without.


We enjoy Native American legends, which would include the Wendigo who appears in this story, but the adventure/survival parts felt to us like they were stuck in between and didn't fully develop. Character development had a great deal of potential, but also wasn't fully explored, or plausible where there was some.

After we read it, we gave it to a patron who loves mountain man stories, and would have been quite happy trekking through blizzards in unpopulated wilderness areas with Jack London. He reported the adventure parts were "okay", but wasn't crazy about the fantasy bits, which ended up being most of the last half of the book.

The series is marketed as juvenile fiction, but the voice seems to be aimed much more towards adults. We may just not have found the right reading audience for it yet, but for now we're going to have to give it a

2 out of 5 - with room to prove us wrong in a sequel!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea

by Rob Buyea
Delacorte Press
978-0-385-73882-8

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.



Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.

Technically, turtles don't cry. We do have tear ducts, contrary to rumors, but they are just used occasionally for health reasons. So, we were definitely NOT crying when we read this book. Nor were we sniffling. We just...had water up our noses.

Humans, however, may want to have a tissue or two on hand. It's not as if you aren't warned in the description, after all - but things didn't play out exactly as we expected. All we can say there is, yeah for James!

We were a little concerned about the number of voices - it can be difficult to keep two voices distinct in the reader's mind, how would Buyea do with seven? While there is quite a bit of personality overlap - particularly in the girls - their stories help keep them separated. An ambitious undertaking for a first novel, so we won't be too hard on him this time:)

The story itself moves along quickly, and everyone will wish they had a teacher like Mr. Terupt. His excitement is so infectious, it doesn't just affect his students, it carries over to his readers as well. We are itching to start experimenting with the plants in our tank! While parts may have stretched credibility, it wasn't enough to ruin the reading. We give it a

4 out of 5 and recommend you go pick it up next!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Family Project!

When disasters like the Christchurch earthquake happen, and our kids catch wind of it through TV, adult conversations, what-have-you, they often want to help out in some way. (Kinda humbling to the adults who shake our heads and then switch the channel, isn't it?) The challenge can be finding something they can do that a) is really helpful, and b) is tangible enough to make sense to little ones.

Zoe over at Playing by the Book has put together an awesome program that does just that. You can visit this post and have your family matched up with a Christchurch family that has lost everything. You will be given ages of people in the household, and asked to send NEW books you think they might like.

How fun is that?! Picking out presents, especially books, for other people is always a great way to spend an afternoon (and you know if you start browsing in a book store it's going to take the whole afternoon). Your kids will experience the joy of sharing favorites, and reinforce the idea that books are awesome gifts to both give and receive. More details can be found at te link, so stop reading and head on over there!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Draw the dark, by Ilsa J. Bick

by Ilsa J. Blick
Carolrhoda Lab
978-0-7613-5686-8
 
"The things I draw: They tend to die."
There are things the people of Winter, Wisconsin, would rather forget. The year the Nazis came to town, for one. That fire, for another. But what they'd really like to forget is Christian Cage.
Seventeen-year-old Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy. Ever since, he's drawn obsessively: his mother's face...her eyes...and what he calls "the sideways place," where he says his parents are trapped. Christian figures if he can just see through his mother's eyes, maybe he can get there somehow and save them.
But Christian also draws other things. Ugly things. Evil things. Dark things. Things like other people's fears and nightmares. Their pasts. Their destiny.


There's one more thing the people of Winter would like to forget: murder.
But Winter won't be able to forget the truth, no matter how hard it tries. Not as long as Christian draws the dark...
If you are looking for a good spooky/creepy/chilling story with more than a bit of mystery, this one should do the trick! The book begins with Christian waking from a bizarre dream and discovering that overnight he has not only apparently painted some strange things on the wall of his room, but over the entire side of a barn across town, which he has never even seen before. The pace and the strangeness do not slow down from here on out.
 
Christian has the ability to literally "draw out" people's deepest fears. After some early incidents ended in disaster, he tries to avoid using this ability, but is finding he no longer has any control of it. Toss in some good character development, historical tidbits we weren't aware of (we stopped in the middle to look up POW camps in America), and enough mysteries and twists to make your head spin, and you have something for everyone!
 
We give it a 5 out of 5.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: The American Indian Experience, by Liz Sonneborn

by Liz Sonneborn
Lerner Publishing
978-0-7613-4086-7
Review copy from publisher.
As we mentioned last week, we tend to go through books that portray Native Americans with a fine-toothed comb. Two things made us a bit leery of this book right off the bat:

First there is the "USA Today" heading, with the inclusion of several USA Today articles throughout. Mixing other commercial entities with children's books is rarely a good idea, in our experience, and the media in general is not high on our list of truth-tellers.

Second is the idea (not a new one) of putting all Native American tribes together in one book. That is somewhat akin to putting all European nations together - there is just so much difference between, say, the French and the Ukrainians, how do you do justice to any of them?

On the other hand, this is part of a series from Lerner, and we have seldom been disappointed with their research and quality. We weren't this time, either!

Taking our objections in reverse order, Sonneborn does a great job of making sure we don't lump all Native Americans together. The very first page of text says, "American Indians created many different cultures. In North America alone, they lived within about five hundred tribes." Whenever a specific person is mentioned, so is their tribe (or tribes). Where information about, for example, spirituality, may begin in general terms, further sections as well as sidebars and photograph captions draw out differences in specific cultures (and we loved seeing the note that sand paintings are NOT ARTWORK to purchase and use as a coaster.)

Other than the inclusion of a few articles from past issues of USA Today, we did not note any evidence of commercialization. The information we saw not only seemed accurate (and please tell us if we missed something, we are by no means experts), but it went beyond what we find in much 'juvenile' nonfiction, and we learned quite a bit! (Most exciting news: Sherman Alexie is writing a sequel! We were so stoked, we told the woman at the McDonald's drive-thru, who was somehow not as thrilled as we are.) (Yes, we read while we are waiting in drive-thrus.)

While much negative history is not mentioned (for example, the damage done by 'missionaries' in the past), the focus of this book is meant to be on American Indian cultures today. It does cover aspects many non-Natives might not think about, such as why Columbus Day or Thanksgiving might not be cause to celebrate for everyone. At the same time, it presents these conflicting feelings in a way that would hopefully inspire discussion in a classroom, without coming down heavy-handed in one way or another.

We give this one a 5 out of 5, and strongly recommend adding it to your library's collection.

For more reviews of nonfiction books for kids, check out this week's nonfiction Monday host, Rasco from RIF

And the Winner is...

Danica Newton, who upped her chances by commenting on every post last week! Her name was drawn from abucket by Miss Annaly, age 2, whose name we may steal for future offspring or story characters.

Congratulations Danica! Thanks to everyone who visited and entered!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Willow and Willow and the Snow Day Dance, by Denise Brennan-Nelson, Illustrated by Cyd Moore

978-1-58536-3421
Sleeping Bear Press
Copy borrowed from Library


978-1-58536-5227
Sleeping Bear Press
Copy borrowed from Library
Deep sigh of contentment. We have a new favorite picture book character, and Miss Ami finally has a middle name for Baby-on-the-Way (If it's a girl. Which it isn't, because she says so. But, just in case.)

Willow is irrepressibly kind. She is full of creativity and fun, and loves to involve those around her in both. Best of all, she just doesn't recognize when a grumpy adult might be just that: she happily continues being kind to them, until they have no choice but to give in. Wonderful books to help impart the same characteristics to your little ones, without ever sounding like a 'lesson book'. They are also just plain fun! Must-haves for any library, we give them each a

5 out of 5.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Father of Lies by Ann Turner

by Ann Turner
HarperTeen
978-0-06-137085-4

Truth or Lies?
  
Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, L idda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can't, or won't. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?
There were many books ahead of this one in the queu, but we were intrigued enough by the author's note to start it right away:

"The opinions about Native Americans expressed in this novel only reflect the historical record and not this author's beliefs. They are important to understanding this period.In Chapters Nineteen and Twenty-Seven, some of the responses in the witch trials are taken directly from the historical transcripts of the trials."
Because of our patronage and some personal relationships, we have become more sensitive in recentyears to the way Native Americans are portrayed in children's literature. Much has been made lately of the portrayal of African Americans in books like Huckleberry Finn, with little said about similar treatment of characters like Injun Joe. It can be a difficult balance when writing historical fiction - you want the readers to come away with a balanced view of whatever culture you are portraying, but at the same time it would be incredibly unrealistic for all the characters in, say, a book set around the building of the railroads to be polite and respectful to the Chinese workers. In other words, the reader needs to see what many of your characters don't.

Truthfully, there is very little mention of Native Americans at all in the book, and it comes in the form of comments you would expect from the townspeople of that time - (from an 'afflicted' girl) "I vow the Devil was tall, dark, and wicked looking, like our enemies the Indians, with an evil heart inside." At the start of the book, we meet Tituba, the slave born in Barbados. She appears to cultivate an air of mystery and magic, seeming to know what Lidda is thinking, but as readers we can see that it could just as easily be keen observation skills and knowledge of human nature. Lidda envies her free spirit and refers to her in her thoughts as a friend, while most people, her parents included, regard her with suspicion and distaste.

We don't get to know many of the characters, except through Lidda's interactions with them. While this keeps them rather two-dimensional, it is a matter of character development and not stereotyping. Lidda is the only character we get to know, but since the book is mostly about her internal struggles (which the author's note implies may have been the result of bipolar disorder), that is not a huge issue. Readers may be confused as to whether they are supposed to root for or against the mysterious Lucien, all the way to the end of the book. Since many readers will already be quite familiar with the Salem witch trials and how they played out, this struggle and mystery offer a fresh perspective. Give this one to any teenage (or preteen) girls interested in the subject, or in historical fiction.

We give it a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emily's New Friend, by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post, Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman

HarperCollins Publishers
978-006111-7060
Review copy from publisher.
Struggling to make new friends is a timeless topic for children of all ages. Just as Emily is wishing someone her age lived nearby, Ethan is moving in and worrying about making new friends. Emily breaks the ice with cookies and an extra pair of hands, and the two are soon good friends.

There isn't much story here, and as such isn't the type of book you would sit down and read together with your little one. Everyone uses their best Emily Post manners at all times, and there is never any conflict. It is very clearly a lesson on manners, almost belonging more inthe nonfiction section than picture books.

It would work well, however, read out loud to a classroom, as part of a dicussion of ways to make/keep/treat friends - perhaps just before a new student is expected. Illustrations are clear and expressive, and may inspire a classroom project where students make their own posters depicting each helpful hint. Overall we give it a

3 out of 5.

Don't forget to leave a comment and earn another entry in our giveaway! For today's post, tell us your favorite way to break the ice with a new friend, of any age.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Official Giveaway Rules and Swag

To celebrate our 10,000th visitor to the blog, we have raided our stash of goodies, and will send the whole kaboodle to one lucky winner. To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is comment on any post we put up between Monday, February 21 and Sunday, February 27. Each comment (one per post) will earn you one entry, and on Monday morning we will throw all the entries together and let a random child pick the winner at our story time.

Prize package includes the following:

BOOKS
Ranger's Apprentice Book 5: The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (ARC/PB)
The Madwoman of Bethlehem by Rosine Nimeh-Mailloux (PB)
Jane by April Lindner (HC)
Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe (HC)
The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand (HC)
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson (ARC/PB)
Freaks and Revelations by Davida Hurwin (HC)
The Waters Rising by Sheri S. Tepper (HC)
Mary Engelbreit's A Merry Little Christmas (PB)
Snakes! by Melissa Stewart (PB)
Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel (PB)
Action Figures by Bob Raczka (PB)
Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words by Jane O'Connor (HC)

OTHER STUFF
Pinkalicious Perfectly Pink Collection (three books, stickers, poster and crayons)
A Dog Lover's Alphabet Book Jigsaw Puzzle

Something for everyone, we hope:) Thanks for visiting, and good luck!